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Fathers of Science

Lemaitre-Einstein

On March 12, 2008, the John Templeton Foundation made the announcement of the winner of its annual Templeton Prize, which honors achievements engaging the great questions of life and the universe. The $1.6 million prize for 2008 went to Michał Heller, a Polish cosmologist and professor in the faculty of philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Cracow, Poland. What makes Heller additionally remarkable is that he is a Catholic priest.

The 72-year-old planned to spend the prize money to establish a research institute—named in honor of Nicholas Copernicus—that will seek to reconcile science and theology. Fr. Heller said:

"If we ask about the cause of the universe we should ask about the cause of mathematical laws. By doing so we are back in the great blueprint of God's thinking about the universe; the question on ultimate causality: Why is there something rather than nothing? When asking this question, we are not asking about a cause like all other causes. We are asking about the root of all possible causes. Science is but a collective effort of the human mind to read the mind of God from question marks out of which we and the world around us seem to be made."

As a priest-scientist, Fr. Heller is not unique. Rather, he stands in a long and great tradition of learned priests who were both scientists and men of faith. Some are well-known to history, such as Roger Bacon, the 13th-century Franciscan who stressed the concept of "laws of nature" and contributed to the development of mechanics, geography, and especially optics. Others are obscure. All, however, left a lasting legacy on their eras in learning, science, mathematics, and practical progress.

These priest-scientists affirm what Fr. Georges Lemaître, discoverer of the "Big Bang", robustly proclaimed in 1933: "There is no conflict between religion and science." What follows is a survey of a few of the many priests and scientists who have bettered our world over the centuries. The list does not pretend to be exhaustive, but it serves to undermine the long-perceived conflict between science and religion, evolution, and cosmology.

Fr. Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175-1253)

 
The Suffolk-born Englishman, Robert Grosseteste of Lincoln, grew up in a poor family but became arguably the most learned figure in England because of his unquenchable desire for knowledge, a deep faith, and personal humility. He was educated in theology and began teaching at Oxford, where he enjoyed an association with the recently arrived Franciscans and where he perhaps served as chancellor. Elected bishop of Lincoln in 1235, he was deeply concerned with reforming the Church in England. He renounced corrupt or unsuitable abbots, reduced ecclesiastical benefices, and authored a series of statutes to provide specific guidelines for the behavior of the clergy and the administration of dioceses.

His achievements as a Church leader, however, were eclipsed by his reputation as one of the most learned men of his age. He was a master of mathematics, optics, and science, foreshadowing the experimental methods of his pupil Roger Bacon. Historians of science claim that Robert was the founder of the scientific movement at Oxford University and so sparked a pursuit of excellence that has continued to today. Among a few of his achievements was a commentary on the Physics of Aristotle, a critique of the Julian calendar that anticipated the reform of the calendar under Pope Gregory XIII 300 years later, and treatises on optics, music, and mathematics. Such was his reputation for genius and knowledge of the natural world that he was also reputed in some unlearned circles to be a wizard and sorcerer.

Fr. Ignazio Danti (1536-1586)

 
One of the inheritors of the tradition of learning encouraged by Grosseteste was a relatively unknown Italian bishop, Ignazio Danti. The son of an artisan, he was born in Perugia and studied perhaps at the university there before joining the Dominicans in 1555. He went on to earn the patronage of the leading figures of his era, including Cosimo de'Medici in Florence and Popes St. Pius V and Gregory XIII. The latter pope named him bishop of Alatri, where he displayed great zeal for advancing the reform of the Church.

Much like Grosseteste, Danti enjoyed a wide-ranging set of interests, including astronomy, mathematics, optics, architecture, civil engineering, hydraulics, and cartography. He was especially renowned for his skills as an astronomer. In 1574, he made a set of important observations that found the equinox to be 11 days earlier than the calendar. He consequently played a role in the reform of the Julian Calendar under Gregory XIII.

But Danti left his real mark as a cartographer. Cosimo de'Medici commissioned him to prepare maps and a large terrestrial globe for his own collection. He had commissions from Pius V to map Perugia and from Gregory XIII to map the Papal States. His maps can still be seen today in massive murals in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence and on the walls of La Galleria delle Carte Geografiche of the Belvedere Palace in the Vatican.

Finally, Danti perfected the rado latino, a surveying instrument, and he crafted designs for a canal across Italy that would link the Adriatic and Mediterranean through Florence.

Fr. Marin Mersenne (1588-1648)

 
The French priest Marin Mersenne began his long career at the recently established Jesuit School in La Flèche—the only school he could find that allowed poor students to attend. Among his fellow students was the eight-year-old René Descartes, who would become a friend. Mersenne entered the Order of the Minims in 1611 and was ordained a priest the next year. After theological studies, he became known in philosophical and theological circles for his fiery works against atheism and deism. History remembers him most, however, for his work in mathematics, especially the so-called Mersenne primes and his effort to find a formula that would represent all prime numbers.

In La vérité des sciences (Truth of the Sciences), he argued for the value of human reason. He corresponded with the foremost figures of his age, including Pierre Gassendi, René Descartes, Pierre de Fermat, Thomas Hobbes, and Blaise Pascal. He organized colloquia of scientists from around Europe to read their papers and exchange ideas. The gatherings became known as the Académie Parisiensis but were also nicknamed the Académie Mersenne, and the number of scientists whose careers were given direction by the colloquia is impossible to underestimate. In keeping with his commitment to science, he left instructions that his body be used for research.

Fr. Jean-Felix Picard (1620-1682)

 
A contemporary of Mersenne, the French Jesuit Jean-Felix Picard earned the title of founder of modern astronomy in France even as he labored as a priest. Born in La Flèche, where he studied at the Jesuit Collège Royal Henry-Le-Grand, he was fascinated from an early age with the heavens, and he gave his intellectual life to the cause of astronomy. Picard introduced new methods for watching the stars and improved and developed new scientific instruments.

Picard was the first person in the Enlightenment to provide an accurate measure of the size of the Earth through a survey conducted 1669-1670. His calculation of a terrestrial radius of 6328.9 km is off by only 0.44 percent, and his continued progress in instruments proved essential in the drafting of Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation. Picard also worked and corresponded with a vast number of scientists of the time, including Isaac Newton, Christian Huygens, and a great rival, Giovanni Cassini.

Deeply respected by his contemporaries but overshadowed by Galileo, Newton, and Cassini, Picard was a founding member of the French Academy in 1666. He was honored in 1935 by having a moon crater named after him. (A less-elevated honor was bestowed in 1987, when his name was used for the character Captain Jean-Luc Picard on the television show Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

Fr. Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)

 
Far better known than Picard, of course, is the Augustinian abbot Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics. Born in Austria to a peasant farmer family, he entered the Augustinian Order in 1843 and was ordained a priest four years later. Mendel was largely unheralded during his life and accomplished his phenomenal work in considerable obscurity while teaching natural science in a boy's high school in Austria. Only in his last years, in fact, was he named an abbot.

Mendel earned his place in science by working with simple pea pod plants. He loved to take walks around the monastery and noticed that some plants were radically different in their traits and growth patterns. As any high school student today can attest, Mendel spent years examining seven characteristics of the pea pod plants and determined the basic laws that govern the passage of traits within a species. Especially crucial was the discovery of dominant or recessive genes, a key to modern genetics and the study of dominant and recessive traits, genotype and phenotype, and the concept of heterozygous and homozygous. Sadly, Mendel was so ahead of his time that science did not recognize his contribution until early in the 20th century. Today, he is world-famous—and often resented by students who must do their own experiments based on his work.

Fr. Armand David (1826-1900)

 
Around the same time that Mendel was taking his walks around the monastery, the missionary Lazarist priest, zoologist, and botanist Armand David was at work halfway around the world, in China. A native of Bayonne, France, he entered the Congregation of the Mission in 1848 and was ordained a priest in 1862. Sent to the missions in Beijing, he served with distinction in the community. He found China a remarkable opportunity for exploring the natural sciences. Such were his finds in the areas of zoology, botany, geology, and paleontology that the French government asked him to send specimens of his finds back to Paris for further study. These samples, seen for the first time in the West, aroused such a great interest that Fr. David was commissioned by French scientists to explore China in the search for other new discoveries.

Upon his return to France in 1888, he gave a celebrated address in Paris at the International Scientific Congress of Catholics in which he documented his study of more than 60 species of animals and more than 60 species of birds, all of which had been previously unknown. Of particular interest were his "discovery" of the Giant Panda (unknown in Europe) and the Milu Deer, a species of deer subsequently called Père David's Deer (Elaphurus davidianus) in his honor.

Fr. Julius Nieuwland (1878-1936)

 
The Holy Cross priest Julius Nieuwland was concerned with practical solutions in his field of chemistry. The son of Belgian immigrants, Nieuwland grew up in South Bend, Indiana, and studied at the University of Notre Dame. Ordained a priest in 1903, he went on to graduate studies at The Catholic University of America, where he specialized in botany and chemistry.

Returning to Notre Dame in 1904, he served as a professor in botany and then chemistry, a post he held until his retirement in 1936. In the quiet halls of scientific study, he successfully polymerized acetylene into divinylacetylene. Elmer Bolton, the director of research at DuPont, used this basic research to achieve the development of neoprene. In effect, this humble priest was the inventor of the first synthetic rubber.

Embraced by the DuPont Company, the invention had a major impact on many industries and our daily lives. For example, neoprene is used for electrical cable insulation, telephone wiring, rug backings, and roofing. Fr. Nieuwland also nearly had a major impact on the history of college football when he tried, unsuccessfully, to convince the future coaching legend of Notre Dame, Knute Rockne, to be a chemist instead of a football coach. Not to neglect his botany, Nieuwland roamed throughout swamps and woods looking for suitable specimens for study, and he was famed for using a pistol to shoot them down from high branches. For his work in chemistry, not marksmanship, he was given the Morehead Medal for research in acetylene, the American Institute Medal, and the Nichols Medal, the highest honor of the American Chemical Society.

Fr. Georges Lemaître (1894-1966)

 
Fr. Georges Lemaître, a Belgian priest, physicist, and mathematician, first proposed the Big Bang Theory for the birth of the universe. Born in Charleroi, Belgium, he studied math and science at Cambridge University after ordination in 1923 and specialized in the then-most-current studies in astronomy and cosmology, especially Einstein's general theory of relativity.

The accepted idea in physics at the time was that the universe was essentially in a changeless state—a "Steady State." Where Einstein saw that the universe was actually moving—either shrinking or expanding—and devised the cosmological constant that maintained the stability of universe, Lemaître concluded that the universe was expanding. Not only that, Lemaître proposed that from this it could be concluded that all matter and energy were concentrated at one point. Hence: The universe had a beginning.

This theory, at first met with great skepticism, was termed rather sarcastically the "Big Bang." For his part, Lemaître elegantly described this beginning as "a day without yesterday." He presented his theory in January 1933 to a gathering of scientists in California, and at the end of his presentation, Einstein applauded and declared, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened." Lemaître's ideas subsequently gained ground. Today, astrophysicists readily accept the Big Bang and the continuing expansion of the universe. For his labors, Lemaître was made a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium and a canon of the cathedral of Malines. In 1936, Pope Pius XI inducted him into the Pontifical Academy of Science.

Fr. Stanley Jaki (b. 1924)

 
Fathers Nieuwland and Lemaître made manifest that faith and science are not incompatible. The Benedictine priest Stanley Jaki has argued with great eloquence that science itself could develop only in a Christian culture. For his work, he earned the Templeton Prize and in 1990 was named to the Pontifical Academy of Science by Pope John Paul II. Born in Hungary, he earned doctorates in Systematic Theology and Nuclear Physics, is fluent in five languages, and has authored 30 books. A Distinguished Professor at Seton Hall University, Jaki's work in the history and philosophy of science has brought him a wide audience around the world. In a modern scientific world so steeped in Enlightenment philosophy and so opposed to a relationship with religion, Fr. Jaki's assertion that science and religion are consistent and that scientific analysis can shed light on both scientific and theological propositions is a bold one.

As Jaki contends, discoveries of nuclear physics and astronomy have given confirmation of an essential order within the universe. While it is true that our understanding of both fields is incomplete, the Christian perspective demonstrates that the order of the cosmos is entirely consistent with the biblical view of Creation.

Traveling in the footsteps of Lemaître, Jaki has tackled one of the greatest questions in science, cosmology, and has concluded that science permits us to gain insights into the events that followed the instant of creation but offers nothing about what happened before it, when matter itself was created from nothing. He thus boldly challenges the assertions of cosmologists and astrophysicists such as Stephen Hawking that the origins of the universe offer proof for the non-existence of God; rather, the very proposition cannot be proved scientifically because there is nothing to observe. At the same time, God's created order reflects a Creator who is totally rational and infinitely superior to our own way of thinking. Little wonder, then, that such a balanced and positive approach to the natural world that is found in authentic Christian teaching and culture permitted science to flourish.

Fr. Michal Heller (b. 1936)

 
The great cosmological questions are also the personal field of the Polish priest and physicist Michal Kazimierz Heller, a professor in Cracow, Poland, and a member also of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences since 1990. Fr. Heller is engaged in the highest regions of mathematics and astronomy. Currently, he is researching the singularity problem in general relativity and the use of non-commutative geometry in seeking the unification of general relativity and quantum mechanics. He also concerns himself with philosophy and the history of science and science and theology. In Heller's view, all of these different facets of science point to something truly important about the "blueprint" of Creation.

Other Notable Catholic Scientists

 
St. Bede, the Venerable (d. 735) An Anglo-Saxon priest, historian, biblical scholar, and one of the greatest of all chroniclers of the Middle Ages. Aside from his historical writings, he was the author of On Time and On the Reckoning of Time.

Pope Sylvester II (d. 1003) A pontiff and scientist who promoted mathematics and astronomy in the Church’s schools.

Hermannus Contractus (d. 1054) A monk and author of works on geometry, mathematics, and the astrolabe.

Pope John XXI (d. 1277) A pontiff and author of an influential work on medicine prior to his election.

St. Albertus Magnus (d. 1280) One of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church and the patron saint of scientists. He is called Universal Doctor.

Roger Bacon (d. 1294) An English Franciscan who helped to establish the laws of nature and wrote on geography, mechanics, and optics. He is honored as the "Amazing Doctor".

Theodoric of Freiberg (d. c. 1310) A member of the Dominicans best known for explaining the rainbow in On the Rainbow.

Thomas Bradwardine (d. 1349) English archbishop who helped advance the principles of mechanics. He is honored as the Profound Doctor.

Nicole Oresme (d. 1382) French philosopher, bishop of Lisieux, and mathematician. He wrote on economics, mathematics, and the natural sciences, and his studies with Jean Buridan of moving bodies foreshadowed the work of Leonardo da Vinci and Copernicus.

Nicholas of Cusa (d. 1464) A German theologian, humanist, mystic, expert in canon law, and a cardinal, he also made contributions to the field of mathematics by developing the concepts of the infinitesimal and of relative motion. His philosophical speculations also anticipated Copernicus’ heliocentric worldview.

Bl. Nicolas Steno (d. 1686) A convert from Lutheranism, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987. He brought advances in the areas of anatomy, geology, and paleontology.

Bl. Francesco Faà di Bruno (d. 1888) An Italian priest and spiritual writer who made immense contributions to mathematics, including a famous formula. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

 
 
Originally posted at Catholic Answers. Used with permission.
(Image credit: Evolution News)

Dr. Matthew Bunson

Written by

Dr. Matthew Bunson, Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, is one of the United States’ leading authorities on the papacy and the Church. His many books include Pope Francis (Our Sunday Visitor, 2013); The Encyclopedia of Catholic History (Our Sunday Visitor, 2004); and The Angelic Doctor: The Life and World of St. Thomas Aquinas (Our Sunday Visitor, 1994). Dr. Bunson is on the faculty of the Catholic Distance University where he teaches Church History, including Catholic-Islamic relations and Medieval and American Catholic History. Dr. Bunson has also served as a consultant to MSNBC, NBC News, CBS Radio, and the BBC, as well as other media outlets. He was special consultant on Catholic affairs for USA Today during its coverage of the 2005 and 2013 papal conclaves. He earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from the Graduate Theological Foundation, and also holds a B.A. in History, an M.A. in Theology, and a Master of Divinity degree. He is presently working toward a Ph.D. in Church History from the Graduate Theological Foundation. Follow Dr. Bunson online through the Our Sunday Visitor blog.

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  • M. Solange O’Brien

    There is no conflict between a person being both religious abs a scientist - the brain seems to compartmentalize quite well.

    But there is an absolute and irremediable conflict between religion and science as disciplines of thought. They are fundamentally opposed over the nature of evidence and the viability of models.

    Simply creating a long list if religious scientists does nothing to resolve the opposition of these two disciplines.

    • Steve Law

      How are they in conflict? They are different certainly, just as science and philosophy differ in their methods, but that doesn't mean they conflict - unless every other possible mode of human thought or knowledge "conflicts" with science too.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        I just explained why. Please refresh the post. Thanks.

        • Steve Law

          You said "they are fundamentally opposed over the nature of evidence and the viability of models". On the nature of evidence I refer you to my comment above: religion differs from science in its methods, that doesn't mean it conflicts unless everything else that is not science conflicts too. In that sense science must be like a belligerent drunk picking fights with everyone....

          What does "viability of models" mean?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            What science accepts as evidence and what theology accepts as evidence are fundamentally different. And religious models are not testable. (Otherwise we wouldn't have so many faiths.)

          • Steve Law

            "What science accepts as evidence and what theology accepts as evidence are fundamentally different. And religious models are not testable. (Otherwise we wouldn't have so many faiths.)"

            Which is no more than to say religion is not science.

          • Ben Posin

            Accupuncture isn't "western" medicine, but is in conflict with the principles and knowledge base of "western" medicine. Reading entrails is not meteorology, but is in conflict with the principles and knowledge base of meteorology.

            Religion is certainly not science, and (depending on your religion, of course) is typically in conflict with the prniciples and knowledge base of science.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Yes. Was this in debate?

          • Tim Dacey

            Is epistemic disagreement absent in science? And for that matter epistemic disagreement (religious or not) is not evidence against religious claims

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            We're not talking about religious claims. We're talking about the fundamental and irreconcilable difference between science and theology. But science is better: it's claims are testable.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not of the nature of epistemic disagreement between science and religion. Here there is a qualitative difference.

          • Ben Posin

            "On the nature of evidence I refer you to my comment above: religion differs from science in its methods, that doesn't mean it conflicts unless everything else that is not science conflicts too"
            I have a hard time taking your objectons seriously, and think you're being more than a little disingenuous. They conflict because they use inconsistent methods to determine the nature of reality; science conflicts without anything else that also strives to make truth claims about the nature of reality and does so with inconsistent methods. Science doesn't conflict with things that use different methods, but don't have this same aim.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But the evidential problem still blows out the overlapping magisteria concept: fundamentally different evidential requirements.

          • Steve Law

            I am perfectly serious. There are other modes of thought and knowledge that also strive to make truth claims about the nature of reality - philosophy, for example. If they did not make truth claims about reality they would not be modes of knowledge.
            You seem to be arguing for scientism, the claim that science is the supreme source of knowledge and can fully address and answer all questions. In that sense science really is in conflict with everything that isn't science.

            Seems to me that atheists want to cling on to the idea of science and religion being automatically in conflict due to their methods and aims because the original conflict thesis that history shows a continual resistance to and resentment of science by religion has been shown to be unsupportable. But the 'methods and aims' conflict thesis is trivial, showing only that science conflicts with not-science.

          • Ben Posin

            'Seems to me that atheists want to cling on to the idea of science and religion being automatically in conflict due to their methods and aims because the original conflict thesis that history shows a continual resistance to and resentment of science by religion has been shown to be unsupportable."

            This strikes me as a very strange thing to think, and, like this article, glosses over some history. But really, I think Solange has hit the nail on the head: people are able to compartmentalize and be both scientists and religious, but that's a testament to the flexibility of people. Religious faith is pretty much the antithesis of scientific thought.

            "There are other modes of thought and knowledge that also strive to make truth claims about the nature of reality - philosophy, for example. If they did not make truth claims about reality they would not be modes of knowledge."

            Well, perhaps my position will seem more consistent to you given that I am not really a fan of the idea that philosophy can make truth claims about reality in the sense that science does, any more than I am of religion making such claims. I talk a bit about this in the comments of the recent article "nothing is the matter with atheistic materialism." I'm not convinced that philosophy is a valid "mode of knowledge" when it comes to the nature of physical reality. Where philosophy appears to tread on science's territory, philosophy must give way.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I agree with your take on philosophy.

          • Steve Law

            "This strikes me as a very strange thing to think, and, like this article, glosses over some history."

            Not at all. Religion isn't entirely unblemished in this regard (and neither is science), but the extravagant claims concerning the 'Conflict Thesis' that were endlessly promulgated in the early days of the New Atheism have been debunked over and over again. The conflict thesis is not supported by modern historians.

            "But really, I think Solange has hit the nail on the head: people are able to compartmentalize and be both scientists and religious, but that's a testament to the flexibility of people."

            Of course people can do different things at different and appropriate times! That's not a sign of delusion or cognitive dissonance - we all do it all the time. I don't cook like I play the piano or read a poem like I help my son with his maths homework, or troubleshoot my computer like I might help my wife deal with her difficult childhood. These all require different methods and conceptual frameworks and different human responses.

            "Religious faith is pretty much the antithesis of scientific thought."
            If by "religious faith" you mean the absurd atheist formulation of "believing something in spite of and in the teeth of the evidence". then I agree. But of course that's not what religious people mean by the term.

            "I'm not convinced that philosophy is a valid "mode of knowledge" when it comes to the nature of physical reality. Where philosophy appears to tread on science's territory, philosophy must give way."

            "Physical reality" is science's special focus. Earlier above we were talking about "reality". They are different things.

            The scientific method is a philosophical concept. Anyway, how do you know that philosophy must always give way to science - which experimental result in a peer-reviewed paper proved it?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Ultimately, where both modern philosophy and all theology fail is their inability to establish the validity of their models: philosophy because it fails the empiricL validation test; religion for that reason AND its acceptance of personal belief as evidence.

            Of the three, science, religion, and philosophy, only science can demonstrate the validity of its models with something more than "my logic is sound."

            Nietzsche had a glimmer of the right way to apply science to make philosophy something more than arguing about angels and pins, but nobody seems to have followed up on his ideas.

          • Ben Posin

            I think you and NicholasBeriah should put your heads together and let us know what the proper definitions of religion and faith are, and how they differ from those as normally used by run of the mill religious folk and by atheists. From the outside looking in, "faith" sure looks like "giving greater weight to a belief than that supported by the evidence." A number of theists on this board have gotten upset at this formulation, and have proposed a variety of other descriptions and definitions, and you're welcome to provide your own--but playing games with words doesn't change the mental mechanisms actually at play in religious belief.

          • Martin Sellers

            "people are able to compartmentalize and be both scientists and religious, but that's a testament to the flexibility of people. Religious faith is pretty much the antithesis of scientific thought."

            I'm not sure your statement is true. People may be flexible in order to allow for faith, but only to a degree.

            For example: If an alien race were to land on earth and produce indisputable evidence indicating they were in fact our creators and introduced religion into our society for a big joke of which their current revelation is the punchline- I doubt many people would remain religious

            Likewise, if the Christian Jesus were to arrive for a second coming in a blaze of glory to take the righteous to heaven and the unrighteous to hell- I doubt many atheists would remain so.

            Our ideas about faith are to some degree based on what we observe- Thus, not totally unscientific and certainly not the antithesis of science.

          • MattyTheD

            "Where philosophy appears to tread on science's territory, philosophy must give way." I assume you realize that's a philosophical assertion, not a scientific one.

          • Ben Posin

            " I assume you realize that's a philosophical assertion, not a scientific one."
            No, can't say that's obvious to me. Feel free to explain though, and, if it is, why it matters.

          • MattyTheD

            Sure, Ben. It's a philosophical assertion and not a scientific one because, ultimately, it can *only* be arrive at by philosophical tools (i.e. reason, values) and not by the scientific method. "Must give way" is a value judgement. You are saying Process A is *preferable* to Process B. You are also (implicitly) saying "Other people should subscribe to my value system", which is also a value judgement. Value judgements cannot be empiricized or systematically falsified.

          • MattyTheD

            Sure, Ben. 1) It's a philosophical matter and not a scientific one because if it's true -- and it may be -- the truth of it can only be established using philosophical tools, not the scientific method. "must give way" is a value/moral judgement.

            2) As for "why it matters". It matters, in my opinion, because the growing inability among radical empiricists to distinguish philosophical methods from scientific methods has produced, and continues to produce, some incredibly socially destructive ideas.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It's not a philosophical assertion, really. if philosophy claimed the moon was made of green cheese, then science would disprove that - on purely scientific grounds. Where philosophy is making truth claims within a system (i.e. given moral code X, then action Y is morally correct), then it's just a question of applying logic. Science uses logic, too, but when philosophy makes empirically verifiable claims, then science can adjudicate the truth value of that philosophical assertion.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Atheists don't "cling" to that concept; the ones who think about simply point out a fundamental fact. All scientists practice provisional atheism in the course of their work; they have to.

          • MattyTheD

            M. Solange, the vast majority of your comments on this page are not scientific claims. They have not been, and could not be, verified empirically. They could not be proven or disproven through the scientific method. Why do you hold these positions?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            My immediately preceding comment is entirely verifiable. Indeed, I would venture to say that most of my comments are verifiable. Perhaps you could point to some examples of comments you are concerned with.

          • MattyTheD

            That's very slippery of you. I didn't say your arguments are not verifiable. I said they are not verifiable *empirically* or scientifically. Nor could they be. I could pick any of them to illustrate my point, but let's use the assertion that seems to be the core of your argument:

            "religion and
            science... are fundamentally opposed over
            the nature of evidence and the viability of models"

            Can you back that up empirically? Is that a question that science can even adjudicate? How would you quantify or measure "fundamentally" or "opposed" or "nature of evidence". Please explain, because it seems to me that your entire argument is self-contradictory. You are rejecting non-scientific modes of thought with an argument that is entirely outside the study of science.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Apparently you don't understand what empirical means. I was making a statement of fact. Science demands empirical evidence; religion accepts unverifiable assertions.

            These are facts; which of them would you like further explained.

          • MattyTheD

            How do you know they are facts? I mean how do you know *scientifically* and/or empirically? Hint: do you mean that your claim I cited is true *definitionally*, by general agreement? If so, I'd agree, but that's not scientific. That's linguistic, social, logical and philosophical. All of which are non-empirical and non-scientific ways of knowing truth (somewhat like religion). I'm asking for scientific verification of just that *one* assertion of yours that I cited.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Really? Definitions are not empirically verifiable?

          • MattyTheD

            Ah, being slippery again, M. Solange. I didn't say definitions are not verifiable. I said that definitions (and language, or social agreement) are not scientific/empirical evidence. So I ask how is your argument different from a religious claim to truth? You are making a non-scientific argument to condemn non-scientific thinking. Self-contradictory.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm afraid you're going to have to explain. That made no sense at all.

          • MattyTheD

            Sure, M. Solange. (Step 1) You condemn religion for claiming "truths" that are not empirically verifiable, non-scientific, opinion, etc. And yet, (Step 2) Your argument is based almost entirely on non-scientific, non-empirically-verifiable assumptions. Just as you claim religion is. (Step 3) Therefore, your argument is self-contradictory.

          • Pedro Dias

            You beat me to it, my friend, I was about to assert what you did! Plus, I don't know how can Solange define the range of acceptable "modes of knowledge" as to simply empirically-verifiable convictions without stubbing his toe on epistemology...

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Sure, M. Solange.

            Thanks.

            (Step 1) You condemn religion for claiming "truths" that are not empirically verifiable, non-scientific, opinion, etc.

            False. I point out that the fundamental conflict between religion and science is the nature of the evidence they accept.

            And yet, (Step 2) Your argument is based almost entirely on non-scientific, non-empirically-verifiable assumptions. Just as you claim religion is.

            False. My "argument" such as it is, is entirely based on observations and inductive logic.

            (Step 3) Therefore, your argument is self-contradictory.

            False. See above.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You're the one who introduced the claim that my claims were 'scientific' as opposed to 'empirical'. Feel free to show me where I made that claim.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Since I didn't say "scientifically" I don't understand why you choose to inject this claim.

            We observe what kind of evidence science and religion accept. We observe that they fundamentally differ. We observe that scientific explanations are verifiable and that religious explanations are not.

            I made no self-contradictory argument.

            And depending on how you choose to define 'truth', then I would say that there are no non-scientific ways of determining truth that are reliable.

          • Phil

            Hey Solange,

            From what I'm gathering, it seems like you argue that science does not accept philosophical and religious evidence, therefore science is in conflict with religion and/or philosophy.

            I actually don't think that conclusion would follow. It is perfectly possible to say that science uses X evidence to come to Z conclusion, while philosophy and/or religion uses Y evidence to come to Z conclusion. They can both come to the same conclusion using differing methods.

            The only way this would be an issue is if one also held that the scientific method is the only way to come to actual truth about the world--but it doesn't sound like you would argue for this.

            Now if there is a true difference in conclusions then one has to work out where the issue is.

            -----
            As an interesting aside, in actuality there is no hard line between the methods of both science and philosophy. There is no such thing as pure scientific proof--both come down to the fact that they rely on good judgment, which can't be examined under a microscope.

            Good scientific theories avoid ad hoc assumptions, but there is no purely logical or experimental way to distinguish good assumptions from ad hoc ones. In the end, both science and philosophy, when done properly, can discover objective truth about the cosmos.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            From what I'm gathering, it seems like you argue that science does not accept philosophical and religious evidence, therefore science is in conflict with religion and/or philosophy.

            I'm saying their standards for evidence are fundamentally different - that's what's incompatible.

            I actually don't think that conclusion would follow. It is perfectly possible to say that science uses X evidence to come to Z conclusion, while philosophy and/or religion uses Y evidence to come to Z conclusion. They can both come to the same conclusion using differing methods.

            Well, they could, but generally they don't.

            The only way this would be an issue is if one also held that the scientific method is the only way to come to actual truth about the world--but it doesn't sound like you would argue for this.

            That depends on how you're using the term, "truth". Science is the only method we've got right now to establish verifiable truth about the world.

            Now if there is a true difference in conclusions then one has to work out where the issue is.

            Ah, but here is where science has the advantage. It has verifiable evidence; this makes determination of truth much simpler.

            Good scientific theories avoid ad hoc assumptions, but there is no purely logical or experimental way to distinguish good assumptions from ad hoc ones. In the end, both science and philosophy, when done properly, can discover objective truth about the cosmos.

            Of course we can use experiment and logic to distinguish ad hoc assumptions - I'm not sure what you're getting at here.

          • Phil

            I'm saying their standards for evidence are fundamentally different - that's what's incompatible.

            You would agree then that history and science are also incompatible since their standards of evidence are fundamentally different? Science ultimately relies upon experimental data and evidence that is either repeatable or mathematically predicted, but there is no way one can "re-view" history or let it play out again running a certain test or use mathematical formulas to predict specific outcomes.

            I'd say history and the physical sciences are both valid ways to figure out truth, they just use different methods and are viewing slightly different sides of reality. (Like on viewing the belly of an elephant and the other the head.)

            Well, they could [agree], but generally they don't.

            In actuality, I have yet to find something that the Catholic church holds/teaches that is in direct contradiction to something confirmed by the physical sciences.

            That depends on how you're using the term, "truth". Science is the only method we've got right now to establish verifiable truth about the world.

            Truth is truth is truth. Truth simply means coming to know reality the way it actually is. You may be biased towards scientific truth, but that doesn't make other truth less valid. I know it is true that my mother loves me. I can't put her under a microscope and run a test, but she has shown through actions and words that she does. This is a valid truth of reality that is not scientific truth.

            Of course we can use experiment and logic to distinguish ad hoc assumptions - I'm not sure what you're getting at here."

            This is getting at the fact that we are able to throw in certain assumptions into our scientific theories to save their plausibility and it isn't a scientific experiment that tells us if this is an absurd assumption--its reason. Reason determines if something is causally relevant.

            As a silly basic example, think of a American Indian museum of history. Every time someone walks in that knows the Indian language, Inuit, they do not speak it in the museum. We have a perfect correlation and we could keep observing this over and over again. But this does not mean that this museum causes them to not be able to speak the language anymore. We know this through reason that a museum, as such, does not have the casual power to cause someone to not be able to speak an old language anymore. Science doesn't tell us this, reason does, the same reason we use in formulating philosophical theories based on experience.

            Ric Machuga's, "Life, The Universe and Everything", does a good job at explaining this. I highly recommend it!

          • Jeff Boldt

            uhuh. Science never accepts unverifiable assertions? Panspermia? Spontaneous creation? Multiverse? The majority of Macro-evolution for cosmology and biology? Good ole science and it's testable ideas.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, it doesn't. Scientists generate conjectures, try to turn those into hypotheses which can be tested, and eventually try to develop theories (models) to explain observations. Those theories are always accepted as provisional, subject to revision as new observations or new models come to light. That's why it's science - it deals with the facts on the ground and changes its models as needed. Religion can't and won't.

            And anyone who things macroevolution is not a testable hypothesis is simply and utterly ignorant of evolutionary biology. And macroevolution has no connection whatsoever with cosmology.

            The multiverse is actually a natural consequent of the mathematics of certain interpretations of quantum theory.

            And science disproved spontaneous creation over a century ago.

          • Jeff Boldt

            I'm simply addressing the words you used. You're the one that said, 'unverifiable assertion'. Anyway, as you know, Directed Panspermia was espoused by Nobel winner Francis Crick who, after being faced with the stunning complexity and order of the DNA molecule, was willing to assert that aliens from other worlds planted life here. This idea is still taken seriously today by scientists such as Richard Dawkins (anything and anyone other than God, I guess). Moving on. If spontaneous creation was disproved, why did Stephen Hawking defend it in his latest book, The Grand Design? And why is it currently espoused by other scientists as well? In your estimation, are these scientists 'dealing with facts on the ground and changing models as needed?' Next. No matter how much you couch it in scientific terms, multiverse is an untestable assertion (one that fails Occam's Razor quite badly by the way). On to evolution. And yes, excuse my error, you're correct, I meant to say evolution in general for cosmology and macro-evolution for biology. Is the whole idea of the universe going from simple to complex by random, unguided forces not an evolutionary one? Yet, as we know from scientific observation, random unguided forces can't tie their own shoes if they had to, much less organize a law-abiding, complex system like the universe. Before we get to macro-evolution in biology, let's deal with these, if you don't mind.

          • Jeff Boldt

            M Solange, still awaiting your reply to previous response.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm sorry - what about my reply above doesn't respond to your response?

            In fact, scientists loathe unverfiable assertions. And NONE of the things you list were unverifiable. In fact, we've discarded or verified most of them.

    • NicholasBeriah Cotta

      I find it hard to believe that you use the scientific method for everything that you do in your life and with your life. You have to have metaphysical principles that you start with that are not grounded in anything more than personal inclination. Science doesn't really confirm or deny these truths about your life.
      How do you decide what to study? How do you decide routines that you enjoy? How do you enjoy art?
      I would prefer to define religion as "the purpose of your life," and for Catholics, we simply have a very intricate and organized purpose for our life; science is something we can use to attain certain goals within that greater purpose. What determines the purpose in your life? How do you use science to determine those questions?

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Where did I say I used science for everything in my life?

        • NicholasBeriah Cotta

          Well given religion as I defined it, you must have two compartmentalized methods for existing yourself then, correct?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why such an odd definition of religion?

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            How you decide your purpose in the universe or the purpose of anything you do is not an odd definition I would say; it's the fundamental principle behind every decision you make with your intellect. Do you have a different one?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But that's not "religion" as anyone understands it.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            I think everyone should understand it that way. Because these answers have in the past been solved by particular religions does not mean that there is a basic definition of all of them. How do we make sense of our existence and what should we do with our life?
            dictionary.com explains pretty well what I'm getting at (i just extend it to the individual) so someone out there must think of it similarly-
            "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Just because you think everyone should accept your redefinition of a common word doesn't mean it should happen. Nice try, though. I give you points for chutzpah.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I might also note that this a discussion for another time; it's not relevant to the OP which still fails to demonstrate that religion and science are compatible.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Well I am just trying to demonstrate that we all lead a life that we don't use science for - I will call it religion for you even if you don't wish to call it that, because it is an organized belief system that guides your life. You can use science to inform how you make choices, but you have to use your intuition and other more metaphysical principles to lay the groundwork. This is the space that "religion" fits in to for Catholics - we can use science in all its finite glory - we don't have to somehow disconnect our "standard of evidence" when we engage in science, but when it comes to our life's purpose we accept the story of Jesus Christ as being the right one and we have faith that He is the purpose of our existence.
            I just want to be clear that it is not cognitive dissonance. It is strange to me that an atheist like yourself goes to such lengths to deny that the principles, intuitions, and beliefs about your existence don't perform the same unscientific role in your life as our religion does for ours. Science is a method for discerning the truth, but it is after all inert. Without inputs from you, it says nothing about axiomatic values.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But I've never claimed to use science for choosing life goals.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Yeah, but you said they are "not compatible disciplines" of thought and I'm saying that they are two different fields of study so their compatibility is irrelevant. Religion answers questions about purpose while science answers questions about the world - you can't scientifically diagnose your purpose so of course you have to have a separate discipline to discern it. They don't have to be in opposition; they are simply different methods to answer different questions.
            Religion has a scope more akin to "does this proposed system of beliefs address my day-to-day life in a systematic and true way?" It can't be tested more than that because that is what it claims to do. The Christian story is lived and discerned that way, not quantified and tested.
            The usefulness of the scientists is that there have been many people to listen to and follow Jesus yet understand how to use the logic and systemic approach to the sciences. The two approaches have been complementary to many people, not strictly oppositional.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But religion makes many claims about the world. Those can be tested and discarded if false. Many religious claims are untestable and unverifiable - why should we accept them?

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            They are not untestable and unverifiable, the scope of the claims is just so grand that you would need to die in order to test them. If there is a God, you will know when you die. Or if you have an honest faith in Him right now, you would verify His existence through prayer and the witness of your life.
            By not acceptiong anything you couldn't verify and test, you are limiting your world view to only things that have happened in the past (with enough evidence to prove it to you in the present) and those things in the present that given your limited space, time, and mental capacity, can be proven to you.
            The Christian claim is two fold - the first is that God exists and he is outside of space, time, and definitely our mental capacity to fully understand so you will not be able to test Him (and this claim was made before modern science, not after as some sort of philosophical caveat to the sciences).
            The second claim is that God became man and came at a time in human history to ground His claims of existence, yet not give you overwhelming evidence as to corrupt your free will to believe He exists. This second claim is "testable" and "verifiable" by actually being open to the claim that it is true, and then investigating from there. I would argue that almost every person has already dismissed the possibility of the story being true before actually investigating its truth. That's how I was before I converted and that's how many people's reactions strike me.
            Basically, there is something qualitatively important to God's "plan" that you live your life by having faith and trust in Him first. That's how he created the world - he wants us to trust one loving God above all, and he's given you enough to make that leap.
            The view that one wouldn't believe anything not "testifiable" and "verifiable" is just a metaphysical principle itself that makes faith an impossible concept, not something that makes faith, or anything you have faith in, false.

          • David Nickol

            But certainly there are aspects of the Catholic religion that should have real, measurable effects. It would be very difficult to design "experiments" to test them. But surely there must be something that is empirically measurable to at least some degree. In Catholicism, would prayer and the sacraments "work" as well if there were no God as if there were the God Catholics believe in? Is there no discernible difference between people who have been baptized and people who haven't? Is there no difference between a sacramental marriage and a natural marriage? Shouldn't there at least be empirically measurable "hints" if prayer and the sacraments are efficacious?

            Crude "experiments," like praying for people in one hospital but not another and seeing if there is a difference in recovery rates strike me as silly. But nevertheless if Catholics get supernatural help through prayer and the sacraments, shouldn't that help have measurable effects?

          • C. J. W.

            But nevertheless if Catholics get supernatural help through prayer and the sacraments, shouldn't that help have measurable effects?

            What effects would you propose?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That would depend on the specific prayers, wouldn't it?

          • Susan

            What effects would you propose?

            What effects would you propose?
            What claim does your church make? How would we recognize that its claims were even partially true?

          • C. J. W.

            I asked first.

            Frankly, I think the notion is sophomoric.

          • Susan

            I asked first.

            If you are claiming that catholics get supernatural help through prayer and sacraments, the burden is yours. I'm not making that up. That is a claim of your church. Do you support that claim?

            Frankly, I think the notion is sophomoric.

            Then, your response should be effortless and utterly convincing.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think it is fair to ask for empirical evidence of the effects of prayer. It is a claim of the Church that prayer aligns us with God (*), and it is claim , or perspective, of the Church that reality is not dualistic, so greater alignment with God should be in some sense observable in the physical world. Roughly speaking, the causal effect should be detectable via observations that Catholics in some sense make better use of their lives than non-Catholics. As to whether we have at least anecdotal evidence of this, I think it depends quite a bit on who you ask.

            The ideal clinical trial would randomly assign subjects to either placebo or an intervention that caused them to freely accept Catholicism and pray accordingly, but the free acceptance bit makes the randomization difficult.

            (*) To my understanding, this is really the only claim that the Church makes about prayer. Prayer is very explicitly not a trick for getting God to do what you want. It is meant to change us, not change God. Fr. Barron has a good video about that somewhere.

          • David Nickol

            What effects would you propose?

            That, of course, is a very difficult question. I think it would be interesting to see if baptized people commit crimes at a lower rate than people who were not baptized. Also, I think it would be interesting to measure the success (or lack of success) of "sacramental" marriages against "natural" marriages. If prayers of petition are efficacious, there should be some measurable effects. However, detecting the "supernatural" component (if there is one) would require some very subtle investigation. For example, it would not surprise me at all to see that "sacramental" marriages end in divorce less often than "natural" ones, for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the supernatural.

            If I understand your comment below, you think the notion of looking for measurable effects of prayer and the sacraments is "sophomoric." But would you really say that the world would be exactly the same whether there is a God or not? Would you say that praying for a sick friend or relative to recover instead of die is as efficacious if there is no God? I think most people who engage in petitionary prayer are convinced by anecdotal evidence or personal experience that prayer "works."

            I have told this story before, but it is relevant here. The parish I belonged to before I went away to college began a campaign urging parishioners to tithe (5% of income to the parish, 5% to other charitable causes). Our pastor would preach sermons in which he would tell of the alleged consequences of tithing for various parishioners. I remember the story of one family who needed a new roof, but when they started tithing, their roof stopped leaking. So tithing actually saved them money! There was another family who claimed their household appliances, which had had various problems, all began working flawlessly when they started tithing. If it is a fact that people who tithe get real, concrete benefits from it in this way, it should be detectable. If it is true that prayer helps the sick to recover, it should be measurable. However, I think trying to verify the efficacy of prayer experimentally is pointless. Praying for the people in the "experimental" hospital to recover while not praying for the people in the "control" hospital isn't prayer, in my opinion. It is trying to test God.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            The roof story is a good one to focus one aspect of the discussion.

            Let's assume for the sake of argument that the coincidence did actually occur: the family started to tithe, and the roof stopped leaking.

            From a scientific perspective, this is just an unpredictable coincidence, and I think there is not much more to say at that level. There wouldn't seem to be much that can be inferred with regard to efficient causality.

            As for the deeper reality that this observed phenomenon is pointing to, I see several options:

            1. God expressed his will through the coincidence, and His will was to reward the family for their tithing.
            2. God expressed his will through the coincidence, but His reasons for doing so are not clear, and maybe they are not even meant to be known in this case.
            3. The coincidence is meaningless.

            For the Christian, and for the theist generally I think, option 3 is off the table. Every last grain of sand is imbued with meaning. Nothing is meaningless. So the Christian has to use prayerful discernment to decide between option 1 and option 2. The danger in always defaulting to option 1 is that we are not God, and we do not know his mind. Humility is called for. As Papa Francesco said in his famous interview, "If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him.". On the other hand, the danger in always defaulting to option 2 is that it implies that God is completely inscrutable and cannot be know through human reason.

            In the absence of additional information I would tend to go with option 2, but who knows. I am not God.

          • David Nickol

            2. God expressed his will through the coincidence, but His reasons for doing so are not clear, and maybe they are not even meant to be known in this case.

            The point I am quite sure our pastor intended in telling these stories was that if you tithe, God will reward you. The stories were told in an ongoing campaign to persuade people to tithe. (The campaign, by the way, was designed by a third-party organization that pastors could engage to help them carry on more effectively raise funds for the parish church and school. The outside group provided the outline of the campaign for the pastor as well as brochures and other literature to be handed out to the parishioners.) Whether they encouraged the pastor in any way to offer the possibility that those who tithed would actually benefit materially I do not know.

            I have just found a web site that has a large collection of the kinds of stories out pastor told. Here are two:

            Day 31 – The $44 donation and the $45 dentist bill
            My friend George was tens of thousands of dollars in debt. I shared with George and his wife that to experience God’s help in their finances they'd need to learn to give at least 10% of their income to God’s work whenever they got paid. The next time George got paid, he looked at his stack of bills, looked at his checkbook, and then with a shaking hand wrote his first check to the LORD’s work for $44. He called a few days later and told me that his wife went to the dentist and the receptionist commented that they had an outstanding bill of $45 but that the dentist had made a decision to forgive this debt. George and his wife were amazed at the creative way God had made up the amount they had given as they began to trust Him with their finances.

            Day 32 – The miracle provision of a washer and dryer
            My friend George was tens of thousands of dollars in debt. I shared with George and his wife the importance of faithfully giving to God, not going further into debt, and learning to pray about their needs. A few weeks later, their washer and dryer broke on the same day and they couldn’t afford to fix or replace them. So, instead of going further into debt, they decided to pray about this need. A few days later, George was helping his neighbor, who was moving out of state. After they loaded the moving truck, they realized they'd forgotten the washer and dryer. When they tried to load them in the truck, there was no room. The neighbor then sold this 2-year-old washer and dryer to George for $100! Through George’s faithful giving and prayers, he learned that Jesus could be his Provider.

            I think the message is quite clear. If you give money to religious enterprises, you will be repaid. I don't think it is going too far to say that the implication is that God will influence events in your favor, which is basically to say that he will work miracles.

            I think this is one example of the Christian message that if you pray or do good works, you at least have a chance of concretely and materially benefiting by it. I don't think any Catholic religious figure of any prominence would say it is futile to pray that a sick loved one will recover. There may be many reasons to pray for the sick to get well, but surely one of them is to ask God to intervene where he would not have otherwise to heal a sick person. In the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, the USCCB promoted a novena, the intention of which was to pray that the election results would be pleasing to God—that is, that Obama would lose. :P

            It seems to me it is a fundamental aspect of Christianity to believe that through the sacraments, through prayer, through the use of various "sacramentals" (special medals and scapulars), God will provide "grace" (strength or enlightenment to help people through difficulties that they could not handle on their own) and even work miracles (fixing a leaky roof) for people who are properly disposed to him.

            I think this is a tenet of Catholicism, and I think a great many religious people claim to see it happening all around them with great frequency. Catholics do not pray to St. Anthony to find lost objects if they do not believe that St. Anthony will not or cannot help them. Many Catholics are quite willing to tell their own stories of why they believe in the power of prayer and grace. So my question would be how such things could be so devoutly believed in and yet not be in some way discernible or verifiable, especially statistically. If it makes no difference whether the recovery of sick people is influenced by prayers on their behalf, then it makes no sense to pray for them. And if prayer works, its efficacy ought to be detectable in some way, although not, in my opinion, through contrived experiments.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree with a lot of what you wrote, in particular your assessment of how your pastor, and many Catholics, and Christians generally, think prayer works. It very often does shade into thinking that one can in some sense control the outcome by petitioning God, as a sort of magic. I would just point out that interpretations of prayer that lean too far in that direction (i.e. too often invoking my "option 1", either prospectively or retrospectively) can be readily criticized from *within* the tradition. One need not go outside of Catholicism to find problems with those perspectives on prayer.

            I am somewhat in disagreement with the statement that, "If it makes no difference whether the recovery of sick people is influenced by prayers on their behalf, then it makes no sense to pray for them." If I visit a friend in the hospital, it is not necessarily because I think my visit will affect the odds of their recovery. It may indeed affect the odds of their recovery, but that is generally not a primary consideration for me. I just go because I feel like it is important for me to be with them. I believe that prayer for a sick person is meant to be thought of in similar terms: it may help, it may not, but in either case it is a way of "being" with them, and that is important in itself.

            Having said all that, I still agree with your premise that the efficacy of prayer, and the sacraments, should be detectable in the physical world. Either we are dualists or we are not. And we are not.

          • C. J. W.

            David,
            Thank you for sharing.

            Regarding *petitionary* prayer, I do not think it works, although I am a Catholic. If prayer can produce measurable change, it's only through the medium of the person who is given galvanized to act because his or her prayer life.

            Truthfully, this is what I've been taught by churchmen for whom I have the greatest respect. I've also heard other churchmen urge the need for petitionary prayer, but I don't find their logic or anecdotes any more compelling than you do. A belief in the efficacy of petitionary prayer to obtain the thing for which you are praying in a causal manner is not elemental to a Catholic faith, and you will find a heterogeneity of opinion among Catholics.

            The reason I say the question is sophomoric is because, from the standpoint of sound experimental design, it's practically impossible to examine prayer itself while controlling for important cultural confounders. I'll illustrate what I mean below:

            American Catholic couples have a lower divorce rate than American non-Catholic Christian couples (about 28% versus 38%, overall) and both have a lower divorce rate than American couples who are non-religious (about 40%).
            "That makes sense," you might say. Christian churches in general and the Catholic church in particular place a lot of emphasis on maintaining a marriage, come what may. In a survey of 811 Catholic couples, the divorce rate of couples who pray regularly was the lowest of all other subgroups at only 0.3%. We have the same issue here as we do with comparing Catholics, Protestants, and the non-religious. These couples are more devout, and probably have an increased conviction to "stick it out" in marriage. Maybe this conviction is maintained by the grace they receive from prayer, but there's no way to determine if that is or isn't true. There's no dependent variable I can think of that doesn't have this problem when the independent variable is the practice of one's faith.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I will reply in more detail later - but the main response to your post is the simple question: why should I believe any of that?

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Yes, I apologize for my lack of brevity, and hesitated posting it but that was the best I could do without cutting short an explanation. I don't mean to drown you in long posts, only to explain myself fully.
            As for why, there are many reasons: it's the largest religion in the world, so many people have examined the tenets, lived them, and found them to be true. Of the few falsifiable truths of the religion, none of them have been found to be false. For instance, Catholicism has long recognized that while the story of Adam and Eve is not a historical account (with a modern timeline), it is absolutely a historical event, and that all of humanity can trace their family tree back to these two individuals. Modern evolutionary theory at first thought that we may have developed in different regions (regional hypothesis), but now has pretty much conclusively found that every person can trace their DNA back to one woman (mitochondrial Eve) and one man (y chromosome Adam) and that the projected dates for their existence overlap by a large amount of time. Also, just take a look at the Genesis account - how would an ancient Jew know to say that life developed in the ocean first? If you can understand that the authors of the Bible didn't have a conception of history and time like we think of it, they got things remarkably correct about origins in which they should have had no business knowing about - http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2014/04/genesis-enigma

          • Michael Murray

            For instance, Catholicism has long recognized that while the story of Adam and Eve is not a historical account (with a modern timeline), it is absolutely a historical event, and that all of humanity can trace their family tree back to these two individuals. Modern evolutionary theory at first thought that we may have developed in different regions (regional hypothesis), but now has pretty much conclusively found that every person can trace their DNA back to one woman (mitochondrial Eve) and one man (y chromosome Adam) and that the projected dates for their existence overlap by a large amount of time.

            A couple of points of science:

            (1) It is not true that mitochondrial Eve and y-chromosomal Adam of sciences are even fixed people so they cannot be the Adam and Eve of Genesis. They change as the current population changes.

            (2) More importantly it is not true that every line of ancestors back from every person currently alive goes through a single pair of breeding humans. The DNA evidence is that the group of breeding humans has never got smaller than tens of thousands of pairs.

            Michael

          • C. J. W.

            "More importantly it is not true that every line of ancestors back from every person currently alive goes through a single pair of breeding humans. The DNA evidence is that the group of breeding humans has never got smaller than tens of thousands of pairs."

            This depends on where one draws the line for calling an organism a human. Surely the lineage of all people can eventually be traced back to a single humanoid primate with one or more partners?

          • David Nickol

            Surely the lineage of all people can eventually be traced back to a single humanoid primate with one or more partners?

            I don't see why. Please explain why you say "surely."

            Also, remember that Adam and Eve had to be capable of sin. In fact, they would have had to meet the criteria for mortal sin—do something seriously wrong, know it is seriously wrong, and give full consent to it. How far back can you go in human ancestry and still have people capable of making moral decisions essentially on the same level as we do today? It would be grossly unfair of God to punish the whole human race for the actions of two people with only a primitive understanding of right and wrong.

            Adam and Eve in Genesis seem more like children than moral agents who are fully responsible for their actions and capable of making a decision that would have consequences for all of humanity!

          • C. J. W.

            "How far back can you go in human ancestry and still have people capable of making moral decisions essentially on the same level as we do today?"

            I don't know; this is why I brought up "drawing a line." I'm sure if we had a time machine we'd be unable to reach a consensus on exactly when humans ceased to become proto-humans. I think it's likely that our moral culpability emerged as gradually as our more tangible features.

          • C. J. W.

            In truth David, I think the Genesis story of Adam and Eve weaves multiple themes together:

            -the beauty of the Earth (or perhaps of life and the cosmos itself?)
            -its despoilation by Man's activity (in the leaving of the garden)
            -the fullness of a life lived without ego (Adam naming the animals, naked and unashamed of himself)
            -the delusory, misery-stoking concept that the subjective Man can be judge of good and evil (the eating from the Tree)

            -and others.

            To me, it's more about these things than about sound cosmology. It must be. No rational religious person believes in the particulars of Genesis cosmology anymore, but neither is that cosmology essential.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not to mention that when they ate the apple, they had not yet eaten from the tree if knowledge. They were DEFINITIONALLY not moral agents. An interesting quandary.

          • C. J. W.

            They were DEFINITIONALLY not moral agents. An interesting quandary.

            In fact, Adam (and I mean Adam allegorically, as the prototypical Man) was a moral agent when he was imbued with a soul. The eating of the apple is a symbolic casting out of God in the attempt to privatize Good, and to define it idiosyncratically. This is why the tree is called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The eating of its fruit represents an attempt to decide for oneself what is Good, when from a Judeo-Christian standpoint this is impossible and leads to self-harm, because we believe that Good is a property of an immutable, absolute God.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's very interesting. Just as valid as mine, of course.

          • C. J. W.

            I disagree. I think it's more valid than your interpretation. This is because, as you pointed out, your interpretation is a kind of catch-22.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So what? Can you prove one or the other is more correct?

          • C. J. W.

            It's definitely a lot less compelling.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Which has nothing to do with it's truth value. This is the problem with theology: lack of verifiability.

          • Michael Murray

            This depends on where one draws the line for calling an organism a human. Surely the lineage of all people can eventually be traced back to a single humanoid primate with one or more partners?

            I've never seen that suggested and I can't see why it would be true ?

            There is no line to draw of course. If you follow your parents, grand-parents, etc all the way back to multi-celled organisms a billion years ago each generation will look pretty much like the one before and the one after. The changes are slow.

          • C. J. W.

            I'm not sure how to quote here but I'm going to avoid the theology of Adam and Eve, which is theological poetry, and just talk about the population genetics and paleoanthropology.

            Regarding the common ancestry of man, this is pretty standard fare in my reading: that all humans share a common hominid ancestor from which we are all descended. Unless you believe that there were multiple separate speciations and secondary admixture. My understanding is that the genetic evidence currently suggests a true common ancestor (and not multiple speciations). This implies -at some point- a common parentage from a single breeding pair or a single individual which mated with several others, from which all currently living humans are descended. If my reasoning is invalid, please correct me, but my understanding is that this is also the paradigm for *all* life, which can be traced back to a hypothetical LUCA.

            I agree no one's really "drawing a line" to decide precisely when our ancestors were fully human, just as you can't draw a line to delineate yellow versus green, but you can decide on two points that are clearly green and clearly yellow; so it would be for human and proto-human, and perhaps somewhere in that interval is our Adam(s) or our Eve(s).

          • Michael Murray

            that all humans share a common hominid ancestor from which we are all descended.

            Have you got a link or something ? I would be interested to see that.

            For quotes do (blockquote) text (/blockquote) but make the brackets pointy like . It's HTML code if you are familiar with that. Disqus supports a subset of HTML depending on what the site maintainer allows.

          • C. J. W.

            For quotes do (blockquote) text (/blockquote) but make the brackets pointy like . It's HTML code if you are familiar with that. Disqus supports a subset of HTML depending on what the site maintainer allows.

            Thanks.

            http://www.sciencemag.org/content/278/5339/804.full

            The abstract should be free. If you are a subscriber, there are some useful graphics in the article.

            There's no reason that the mitochondrial Eve and the Y-chromosomal Adam had to be mates; they could have been seperated by many thousands of years.

            At some point, all humans must have *some* individual common ancestor; the question is if that ancestor was another human, a proto-human, or a plankton. The data suggest that it was a human proper, anatomically modern. Granted, this isn't the first human, just the most recent common ancestor. We've already spoken about the impossibility of agreeing on what the first true human was. But, if hypothetically we could, parsimony suggests that that this "True Adam" individual led eventually to our mitochondrial Eve or our Y-chromosomal Adam. If that is not true, then humans necessarily evolved multiple times from a proto-human substrate.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks. I can't see that article or the abstract. I thought by common ancestor though you meant someone with the property that every line of ancestors from a human currently alive goes back though that person. People like mitachondrial eve are common in the sense that everyone alive has at least one line of ancestors going through them.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't think evolution has to funnel through a single breeding pair like this. I would expect a population and as time passes the frequency of various traits in the population changes leading to them looking more and more like us.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In fact evolution did not ever funnel through a single pair if hominids; the minimum population size was in the thousands (probably after Toba). You don't have to be reduced to a single breeding pair to get m-Eve and Y-Adam.

          • C. J. W.

            "You don't have to be reduced to a single breeding pair to get m-Eve and Y-Adam."

            Actually, you do have to be reduced to *less* than a single breeding pair.

            What population geneticists mean when they talk about the mitochondrial Eve or the Y-chromosomal Adam is -specifically- the *individual* female and male (respectively, and not necessarily in the same breeding pair) from whom ALL living people are descended. Not a group of thousands, not a group of ten, not a pair. One individual.

            In fact evolution did not ever funnel through a single pair if hominids; the minimum population size was in the thousands (probably after Toba).

            I sense a misunderstanding here, and I suspect that you do understand the concept. So you know that the mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam *cannot be* the First Humans, and no one is arguing that they were.

            However, there must have been, at some juncture, a general time of speciation of hominids apart from non-hominids, and a speciation of humans apart from non-humans. Somewhere in these periods must be a single breeding pair from which all the successive generations descended. It's true for your family, and it's true for an extended family including all humans, non-human hominids, and non-hominid mammals.

            Thus, the "true" Adam could not have been an anatomically modern human, nor could the "true" Eve, but there was certainly at some point a single breeding pair that was "the first". But that pair is not the "mitochondrial Eve" nor the "Y-chromosomal Adam".

          • C. J. W.

            I don't think evolution has to funnel through a single breeding pair like this. I would expect a population and as time passes the frequency of various traits in the population changes leading to them looking more and more like us.

            I disagree. If we think about it in terms of a family tree, going back in time and ramifying into a phylogenic tree, every living thing can in principle be traced to a single breeding individual or pair of individuals *at some point* (even if that individual is the first ribozyme to replicate itself in a mud pool 3 billion years ago). Just think about it: you and your cousins and your second cousins are, at some point, descended from the same breeding pair. Why would this not hold true when looking at an extended family tree including all humans and our closest historical relatives?

          • Michael Murray

            If you want to go back to the first mud pool sure. But I've not seen an argument for how much further forward you can bring it. The DNA evidence suggests there was nothing like that in the last few million years.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_bottleneck#Humans

          • C. J. W.
          • Michael Murray

            Thanks. That's interesting. But it doesn't tell us that there was a single breeding pair from which we all completely descend (i.e. all our DNA comes from them)?

          • C. J. W.

            Actually, it's even more specific than a breeding pair. It tells us that there was a single woman from whom we are all descended. Whether or not that woman had one partner or many we can only speculate.

            The same goes for the Y-chromosomal Adam.

            What I mean by "single-breeding pair" makes sense if you think about it concretely. Think of your extended family, including cousins, second cousins, etc. All are descended ultimately from a single breeding pair. Now elaborate on that family tree including all humans ever to live, and our closest historical non-human hominids. Somewhere, there is a single breeding pair that is the ancestor to all of these.

          • Michael Murray

            I still think you are confusing

            1. a breeding pair back to whom we can all trace at least one line

            2. a breeding pair back through whom every line of our ancestors passes.

            I'm happy with the existence of a quite recent (1) but I'm not convinced that the latter is going to occur other than a long long way back. I've never seen anyone give an estimate for how far back that is. An MRCA is an example of (1).

            If you just consider one gender there is only one line back into the past e.g. me, my father, my grandfather etc. If you consider the whole family tree then the number of paths backwards in time from me grows exponentially with how far back you go. So the y-chromosomal Adam and mitochondrial Eve situations are easier to understand.

          • C. J. W.

            I still think you are confusing [...]

            I'm not confusing them at all. I've clearly separated the concepts in my posts.

            I've never seen anyone give an estimate for how far back that is.

            If the paleoanthropology doesn't convince you, we can estimate the timeframe based on the "mitochondrial clock", which is based on the rate of mutation in highly-conserved mitochondrial genes. I'll see if I can find you a paper...

          • Michael Murray

            OK so you say

            Think of your extended family, including cousins, second cousins, etc. All are descended ultimately from a single breeding pair. Now elaborate on that family tree to include all humans ever to live, Somewhere, there is a single breeding pair that is the ancestor to all humans. Now include our closest historical non-human relatives. There's a common breeding pair for this group, too. It's a concept called the Most Recent Common Ancestor, and it's the basis of the biological validity of constructing phylogenetic trees.

            When I look at my immediate family it's a type (2) situation --- a single unique breeding pair. My understanding of MRCA is that is not what is being discussed (wikipedia)

            Eventually a generation may be reached where one of the many top-level ancestors is the MRCA from whom it is possible to trace a path of direct descendants all the way down to every living person in the bottom generations of the graph.

            Nothing about it being the unique top-level ancestor or every line of ancestors from the bottom generation going back up to the MRCA.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Most_recent_common_ancestor#MRCA_of_all_living_humans

          • C. J. W.

            My understanding of MRCA is that is not what is being discussed (wikipedia)

            Any group of organisms has an MRCA. The difference between the mitochondrial Eve and the "true Even" is in the parameters of the group you chose to examine. The former is the MRCA for "all living humans", and the latter is the MRCA for "all humans ever to have lived."

          • Michael Murray

            My point is that the MRCA is not an example of an ancestor for whom every ancestral line from a living person must go back to. Contemporaries of the MRCA can have descendants who are alive today.

          • C. J. W.

            If you consider the whole family tree then the number of paths backwards in time from me grows exponentially with how far back you go.

            I don't understand the validity of the "number of paths backwards" concept you're invoking here. Literally any family tree you can construct will stem ultimately from one breeding pair.

          • Michael Murray

            Literally any family tree you can construct will stem ultimately from one breeding pair.

            But how far back ? The DNA evidence suggests at least millions of years back so well back past M-Eve and Y-Adam which is why I am confused about why you are introducing them into the discussion ?

          • C. J. W.

            The DNA evidence suggests at least millions of years back so well back past M-Eve and Y-Adam which is why I am confused about why you are introducing them into the discussion ?

            See:

            More importantly it is not true that every line of ancestors back from every person currently alive goes through a single pair of breeding humans.

            If we believe the data establishing a mitochondrial Eve, then the breeding pair that made *her* is a single pair of breeding humans from which every person currently alive is descended.

          • Michael Murray

            If we believe the data establishing a mitochondrial Eve, then the breeding pair that made *her* is a single pair of breeding humans from which every person currently alive is descended.

            But not uniquely. That's my point. Some of m-Eve's daughters may marry men amongst whose ancestors are contemporary's of that breeding pair.

          • C. J. W.

            And so on for multiple previous generations. I see what you're saying and it's a very fair point. It's getting late but I'll think on this for a bit.

          • Michael Murray

            OK. Thanks for the conversation.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't understand the validity of the "number of paths backwards" concept you're invoking here. Literally any family tree you can construct will stem ultimately from one breeding pair.

            Sorry let me come back to this comment again. Let's do the example you were doing of my grandparents say. Then they have descendants my parents, uncles and aunts, me, my siblings and cousins. But all these cousins will have other grandparents who are contemporaries of my grandparents. My grandparents are not the unique breeding pair from whom all my cousins, siblings and I descended. But they are MRCAs for us.

          • Susan

            If the paleoanthropology doesn't convince you,,

            Of what and why?

            we can estimate the timeframe based on the "mitochondrial clock",

            The tim

          • Susan

            the scope of the claims is just so grand that you would need to die in order to test them.

            Then on what basis can you or your church assert them and why should anyone accept them?

            if you have an honest faith in Him right now, you would verify His existence through prayer and the witness of your life.

            Honest faith? Verify? Really? Please explain.

            the first is that God exists and he is outside of space, time, and definitely our mental capacity to fully understand so you will not be able to test Him (and this claim was made before modern science, not after as some sort of philosophical caveat to the sciences).

            How should we evaluate this claim? Many claims were made before modern science. Are they all true? Are they truer if they are defined in such a way that they are untestable? Should existence claims be exempt from evidence? What about all those other deities? Ever think about them as viable because science can't explain everything? What is the difference between things that aren't true and deities which are defined beyond evidence?

            The second claim is that God became man and came at a time in human history to ground His claims of existence, yet not give you overwhelming evidence as to corrupt your free will to believe He exists. This second claim is "testable" and "verifiable" by actually being open to the claim that it is true, and then investigating from there.

            Yep.

            I would argue that almost every person has already dismissed the possibility of the story being true before actually investigating its truth.

            Then, argue it.

            there is something qualitatively important to God's "plan" that you live your life by having faith and trust in Him first.

            Wholly unsupported statement based on an unsupported premise.

            The view that one wouldn't believe anything not "testifiable" and "verifiable" is just a metaphysical principle itself that makes faith an impossible concept, not something that makes faith, or anything you have faith in, false.

            Elves made the universe. Immaterial elves. They were having a contest to see who could invent the most beetles.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But they make conflicting claims, and the religious ones that you assign solely to religion are not testable. That is the issue.

          • Susan

            Well I am just trying to demonstrate that we all lead a life that we don't use science for

            First of all, what do you mean by science?
            The fact that we all are faced with choices that we do not submit for peer review is true.
            To equate that to your religion's tendency to assert ultimate claims about reality without supporting evidence is an entirely different thing.
            What I want for dinner is an entirely different thing from "there is an immaterial mind who has revealed itself through this one religion among all human religions and it has explained what it thinks is moral and what humanity's role is in the universe".

          • MattyTheD

            Susan, "What I want for dinner". Is that *really* the extent of the non-scientific thinking you do? I hope not! That would be tragic. (Though I can't demonstrate that empirically).

          • Susan

            Susan, "What I want for dinner". Is that *really* the extent of the non-scientific thinking you do?

            Of course not. I was choosing an example. Nicholas used these examples:

            How do you decide what to study? How do you decide routines that you enjoy? How do you enjoy art?

            Neither my example nor Nicholas's examples seem like reasonable approaches to ultimate claims about anything.

            Our intuitions are useful, though not completely reliable tools for making those very local decisions

            Now, if you'd like to think they're completely reliable about making ultimate claims and call that "philosophy" as separated from "science" then you seem to be undermining what can be useful about philosophy, which is to make sure we are using the right tools for the situation.

            Just because religion is not science does not mean it is an appropriate "philosophical" approach to reality.

          • MattyTheD

            Susan, I understand it was just an example. But "what I want for dinner" seems like an intentionally distorted (or belittling) example of non-scientific thinking. It's seems like you're using a sneaky rhetorical device, like "sure, intuition is fine for decisions about dinner, but let's keep it on the margins and away from big questions". But should we really keep non-scientific thinking on the margins? Take a big question like, "Should I participate in the extermination of 6 million Jews? Or should I, perhaps, oppose it?" I submit that empiricism will be utterly useless in answering that question. I'd submit that the correct answer could *only* come from non-scientific thinking. I'd also submit that this question is easily more important than, say, "How does the cell replicate DNA?"

          • Ben Posin

            We have kind of lost the thread here.

            Susan (and I) are suggesting that religious methodology for forming beliefs and scientific metholody for forming beliefs are different. We've been choosing to call it a conflict, and I can't speak for Susan, but when I use that word it's because some of the beliefs put out by religion are truth statements about reality, such as the origin and age of the earth, the origin and history of mankind, the existence of a God/designer, etc. The evidence based approach of science frequently leads in a different direction than the faith accomodating approach of religion, and the two are pretty clearly in conflict.

            Do we use capital letter SCIENCE for everything we do? No, I guess not. But that doesn't make the methodologies of religion and science any more compatible.
            Does science tell you that the Holocaust was wrong? Not exactly by itself. As even Sam Harris acknowledges, down at the bedrock one must first embrace some sort of unevidenced moral principle, such as that we should seek to minimize suffering (he has some formulation of his own I don't recall right now). But once you're standing on that bedrock, I do think that evidence based reasoning should play a pretty huge part in deciding what "moral" actions to take.

            It's that sort of reasoning that makes me, for example, oppose the Catholic church's views regarding gay marriage and homosexuality. And I'd argue it's the same sort of mindset that has brought me to that moral place that has also resulted in answering questions about how cells replicate DNA.

            But to try to bring us back where we started: do you disagree that the way one forms and maintains beliefs in religion tends to be in conflict with what's considered the scientific way of forming and maintaining beliefs?

          • MattyTheD

            Ben, I don't think we've lost the thread *at all*. I think that folks are pointing out some important holes in your argument(s).

            I'll address what seems to be your main point:

            "do you disagree that the way one forms and maintains beliefs in religion
            tends to be in conflict with what's considered the scientific way of
            forming and maintaining beliefs?"

            I agree marginally, but I think it *vastly* misrepresents and over-simplifies two great systems of thought. It's a kind of caricature of the two systems. And the error can have *huge* consequences.

            As brief as I can be, here's the three main errors I usually find associated with the portrayal you present of science "vs" religion. 1) Radical empiricists are usually blissfully unaware of how science is loaded with non-scientific thinking, and built upon non-verifiable assumptions. Questions of, say, a study's meaning, whether a study was rigorous enough, questions of interpretation, questions of adequate verification - these are value judgements, philosophical questions, sometimes moral questions. And science is *built* upon them, and cannot function without them. Or, another example, radical empiricists will often say something like "we should reject non-scientific thinking because the scientific method is the best system we have for discovering truth" and they won't seem to have the slightest awareness that "best" is a non-scientific moral/philosophical question. The second objection I have is, 2) Religion has *far more* "evidence-based-thinking" than is usually recognized by radical emipricists. The philosophy of St. Thomas (perhaps central to Catholic thought?) is largely *reason-based* and not, say, miracle based. But even oddities like miracles can be a form of evidence. (If I'm Paul of Tarsus, and I'm utterly convinced that I saw the risen Jesus, then, for me, that is a piece of evidence). Or, for example, if I find that the more I pray, the more caring I seem to become, THAT too is a kind of evidence in the laboratory of my life. It seems to me a special kind of dangerous totalitarianism that would want less of that in society. And it did great harm in my life. 3) Radical empiricists, in my experience, seem to vastly underestimate how much of The Good in society was arrived at by non-scientific thought processes (largely religious, philosophical and artistic). And to be aggressively dismissive of non-scientific thinking is, in my opinion, probably the most dangerous philosophy to emerge in the last 100 years.

          • Susan

            1) Radical empiricists are usually blissfully unaware of how science is loaded with non-scientific thinking, and built upon non-verifiable assumptions.

            If you mean that science proceeds on certain assumptions that have proven effective for making maps of reality and that as long as those assumptions yield results, we should continue to proceed on those assumptions, I don't think we're "blissfully unaware" at all. Apologists bring it up all the time. Science can't tell us everything but Yahweh can.

            2) Religion has *far more* "evidence-based-thinking" than is usually recognized by radical emipricists.

            For instance?

            for example, if I find that the more I pray, the more caring I seem to become, THAT too is a kind of evidence in the laboratory of my life.

            A personal anecdote is not a laboratory.

            3) Radical empiricists, in my experience, seem to vastly underestimate how much of The Good in society was arrived at by non-scientific thought processes (largely religious, philosophical and artistic).

            Most of us agree that science cannot answer questions it was not designed to answer. That doesn't mean religion provides us with accurate answers to those questions.

            Your church makes ultimate existential claims about a particular unevidenced deity. That is an empirical claim despite all the vague deepities about transcendence and immaterial and mysterious.

            To be aggressively dismissive of non-scientific thinking (as we might find from, say, the Dawkins of the world)

            Show me where he is dismissive of non-scientific thinking in general. He challenges unevidenced assertions and champions evidence and reason. That is not a dismissal of all non-scientific thinking.

            is, in my opinion, probably the most dangerous philosophy to emerge in the last 100 years.

            It would be a disturbing philosophy if it existed in any signicant way in reality. We can all sleep tonight. It is just a strawman. Suggesting that your religion makes claims it cannot support is not equivalent to dismissing all "non-scientific" thinking.
            Four mentions of "radical empiricists" without defining the term, "blissfully unaware", "the most dangerous philosophy to emerge in the last 100 years"...
            And you accuse me of rhetorical devices?

          • MattyTheD

            Great, lively points, Susan. Wish I could address all, but I only have time to address a few. (By the way, "having time for something" is yet another of the many value judgements we have to make in life entirely without the help of the scientific method. It's also a lot more important than "what's for dinner?"). For time constrains, I'll address what seems to me your most important point, and not the entirety of your shotgun pellets.

            In response to my point about how much of what you call science is actually not science, but philosophy, you said:
            "If you mean that science proceeds on certain assumptions that have
            proven effective for making maps of reality and that as long as those
            assumptions yield results, we should continue to proceed on those
            assumptions, I don't think we're "blissfully unaware" at all.

            That, to me, is a *perfect* example of "blissfully unaware". Even as you defend radical empiricism (forgive me for not knowing whatever title you'd like to give your position), you *load* it with value and/or philosophical interpretations which can never be definitively established by the scientific method. In other words, you're making a Definitive Claim of Truth about science which you couldn't possibly defend using the scientific method. Look at the words you use - "proven effective" "maps of reality" "results" "we should". I submit that the method you are championing cannot even establish the truth of that sentence you came up with. How can you -- scientifically -- establish an empirically definitive meaning of "effective", or "reality", or "results"? Those are philosophical and value judgements. Just one example. Let's say, hypothetically, that the physical world is an infinitesimally "small" (or distinct) fraction of a larger non-material reality (which is a potentiality we haven't the slightest clue about) well then your "maps of reality" are vastly mistaken, barely effective and, perhaps, greatly deceptive. They are not "proven" at all. And yet you make that claim it as if it's obvious. *That's* blissfully unaware. And self-contradictory, to boot :)

            2) I'll combine three of your points here. You said:
            "Most of us agree that science cannot answer questions it was not
            designed to answer." Good! But I've seen radical empiricists (my term) who would disagree with you. For example, I've seen Peter Atkins, Oxford Chemist(?), and prominent atheist, say that "science can, in theory, account for everything" and "science is omnipotent". Both of which are laughably falsifiable claims. Or, when asked "Does the universe have a purpose?", Richard Dawkins said (roughly) "It's a meaningless question. It's like asking 'what color is jealousy'?" Which, to me, is a stunningly unscientific claim to make. It's meaningless to *him* and therefore It Is Meaningless. If he were a *real* scientist -- ie knew the limits of science -- he simply could have said "As a scientist I cannot answer that question." But he didn't. He made a Truth Claim which cannot be supported via the scientific method. That rubs against your claim that Dawkins "challenges unevidenced assertions", because, in that case, he was proudly *advancing* one. Which he does almost constantly in his advocacy (philosophical, non-scientfiic) work.

          • Susan

            By the way, "having time for something" is yet another of the many value judgements we have to make in life entirely without the help of the scientific method. It's also a lot more important than "what's for dinner?"

            Yes. You don't have to keep explaining the point that there are decisions we make that require thinking other than the scientific method. No one has contested that.

            That, to me, is a *perfect* example of "blissfully unaware". Even as you defend radical empiricism

            I've defended nothing of the sort. It's a phrase you either made up or accepted from somewhere else without asking them to define their terms. Explain what it means for the sake of dialogue or stop using it.

            I've seen radical empiricists (my term) who would disagree with you.

            See above.

            you're making a Definitive Claim of Truth about science which you couldn't possibly defend using the scientific method.

            I never suggested that it could be defended using the scientific method. I suggested that there was some philosophical grounding for it (it works and grounds our philosophy with evidence! that we all agree on and that grounding has demonstrated itself to be effective!).

            I said "proven" to be effective as that's the common phrase but I certainly did not mean to imply that I meant it in a deductive sense.

            If he were a *real* scientist -- ie knew the limits of science -- he simply could have said "As a scientist I cannot answer that question."

            He didn't answer it as a scientist. He answered as a human being who was very familiar with the evidence. Better if he answered as a human being who was unfamiliar with the evidence?

            Evidence is useful in approaching any problem, including moral ones. I would suggest it's crucial. Reliable tools are key.

          • MattyTheD

            Susan,
            "You don't have to keep explaining the point that there are decisions we
            make that require thinking other than the scientific method."

            I didn't say "decisions", I said "value judgements" also "moral judgements". The distinction is important to the overall argument. It gets right to the heart of what I think you're not following. Here's why - "moral judgements" suggest the possibility of "moral truths". And if "moral truths" exist (e.g. "the Holocaust was evil") that's part of the evidence that there are some truths which cannot be established via the scientific method. Did you catch that? Some truths may not be verifiable via the scientific method - but they are *still* true.

            Can you guess where I'm going with this? If some truths exist which cannot be verified via the scientific method, why do so many anti-theists demand that theists must establish proof of God exclusively through the scientific method? When they, themselves, constantly assume truths that cannot be established via the scientific method.

            That's what I mean by radical empiricism - the assumption that empiricism is the only real way to establish truth. You deny doing that? You, yourself, said (somewhere) in this thread that there is "no evidence" for the existence of the Christian God (if I remember correctly). Sound to me like you are equating "evidence" with "scientific evidence". Because there is *loads* of evidence for the existence of God. But there is no *scientific evidence*. Just as there is no scientific evidence that the Holocaust was evil. There is no scientific evidence that your life is worth living. There is no scientific evidence that 1+1=2. But the lack of scientific evidence doesn't mean they aren't true. Christians have for 2000 years claimed that God was *that* kind of truth.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Those judgements are true only in that particular moral system. They are applications of a specific logic - definitionally true. That doesn't make them objectively true, which is the quality you're claiming for god. 1+1=2 is also definitional; in some mathematical systems it's not true.

          • MattyTheD

            M. Solange, I largely agree. That's part of the point. That many of the things we take as true are, in fact, very difficult to prove as true. And they require different methodologies than the scientific method. So I'm suggesting that if science is "allowed" -- in fact needs -- to use non-empirical tools (like logic, reason, argument, even personal subjective experience) in order for science to "work", then we ought not freak out when the Argument for God employs many of the same tools.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            "What is truth?" As you are using the term here.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But you won't explain why you don't accept them or which ones you won't accept? That's not conducive to discussion.

          • Susan

            Can you guess where I'm going with this?

            Anyone can guess where you're going with this It's becoming repetitive and it was unnecessary from the get go. You're flailing at windmills.

            the assumption that empiricism is the only real way to establish truth.

            No one said that. Not sure how "truth" can escape empiricism entirely though. Or we can just make stuff up. Not that you've explained what you mean by "truth".

            You, yourself, said (somewhere) in this thread that there is "no evidence" for the existence of the Christian God (if I remember correctly). Sound to me like you are equating "evidence" with "scientific evidence".

            I'm asking you support your claims. As I would ask anyone to support their claims directly or indirectly.

          • MattyTheD

            Susan,
            "No one said that" [empiricism is the only real way to establish truth.]

            No one said that? Ever? You sure about that?

          • Michael Murray

            And if "moral truths" exist (e.g. "the Holocaust was evil") that's part of the evidence that there are some truths which cannot be established via the scientific method.

            In what sense is that a truth ? If you start from the assumption that all humans should have a right to life then you deduce that the Holocaust is evil. Of course one death would have been evil. If you start from the assumption that the German or aryan race must be preserved you deduce a different conclusion.

            There is no scientific evidence that your life is worth living.

            No we decide it is and we see what follows.

            There is no scientific evidence that 1+1=2. But the lack of scientific evidence doesn't mean they aren't true.

            Usually mathematicians set up the axioms for the integers in such a way that 1 + 1 = 2 is a tautology.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peano_axioms#Addition

          • MattyTheD

            Michael, let me put it this way. Do you believe in the existence of even
            a single truth which cannot be empirically verified? For example, would
            you say it is true that you don't want to be robbed? And, if so, would
            you grant that you cannot prove it scientifically?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why would you think that a person's personal opinion was not empirically verified? They are expressing a statement about their own condition. If we think they're lying, we can using various techniques for detecting falsehood.

            Eminently verifiable.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I note that despite having been asked numerous times, you continue to avoid defining your terms, such as radical empiricism. Why?

          • Michael Murray

            To be aggressively dismissive of non-scientific thinking (as we might find from, say, the Dawkins of the world) is, in my opinion, probably the most dangerous philosophy to emerge in the last 100 years.

            What exactly do you mean by "aggressive dismissal" from someone like Dawkins? Telling someone they are wrong? Telling someone they are wrong aggressively? Writing a book? Making a TV series? A twitter post? A strong letter to the editor of the Times?

            Do you really think that is worse than the millions and millions killed for their ideas in the last 100 years?

          • MattyTheD

            Michael, 1) by "aggressively dismissive" I mean none of the things you suggested. I mean a combination of the following kinds of examples a) Mockingly equating Christianity with a belief in the flying spaghetti monster. (To me that's "aggressively dismissive" because it shows no recognition of what an ill-informed comparison he's making). b) Dismissive of questions like 'Does life have a purpose?'. Then claiming -- as if it is a scientific truth -- that the question is meaningless. In other words, under the mantle of "science" he makes sweeping non-scientific claims, rather than limiting his Scientific Truths to those that can actually be supported by science. c) During a particular skeptics forum, (according to one source I read) he encouraged attendees to mock religions people in comboxes, in public, etc.

            2) "Probably the most dangerous...". Good catch. I misspoke. I meant "potentially the most dangerous". And, yes, down the line, I think it could be *potentially* more dangerous than Nazism, Stalinism and Maoism. (All of which, by the way, were foundationally anti-Christian. Yeah, I went there.) The radical empiricists I've experienced seem dangerously unaware of how limited a tool empiricism is. And how little it has contributed to our best social values (when compared to religion, art, philosophy and law).

          • Michael Murray

            Well to me what you call aggressively dismissive sounds a bit like just exposing religion to the usual rough and tumble of political debate.

            As for potentially the most dangerous I think there are things in that basket. Personally I think our continuing inadequate response to climate change has the potential to lead to a civilisation destroying apocalypse with matching political upheavals as we struggle to cope with the disaster. Or maybe just extinction by run away methane clathrate release. I guess we all have something that we think about when we lie away in the early hours.

          • MattyTheD

            Michael,
            1) "what you call aggressively dismissive sounds a bit like just exposing
            religion to the usual rough and tumble of political debate."

            You may be right. Though, in my opinion, most adults would probably concede that the third one, "encouraging mockery" ought not be part of political debate, and is more characteristic of, say, drunk assholes.

            2) Climate change. I totally agree. And while there are definitely some anti-science "Christians" dragging their feet on that, it seems to me, though, the driving force of climate change is the idolatry of economic efficiency. Which is not terribly dissimilar to scientific materialism. Both propagate the idea that material criteria ought to be the final arbiter of morality. The Catholic Church has, in my opinion, very responsible positions on environmental stewardship which it arrived at outside of material value systems.

          • Michael Murray

            Which is not terribly dissimilar to scientific materialism. Both propagate the idea that material criteria ought to be the final arbiter of morality.
            The Catholic Church has, in my opinion, very responsible positions on environmental stewardship which it arrived at outside of material value systems.

            On that we will have to disagree as I think science has been telling us for a long time what is going to happen if we let the economy and population continue to grow on a finite resource base. It's not clear what size population is compatible with a renewable first world standard of living but one billion seems a commonly suggested figure. We are way over that and a good part of the blame has to go to the Catholic Church's negative attitude to effective birth control.

          • MattyTheD

            Michael, I'll readily admit that's the conventional wisdom. I'll also admit I haven't studied it enough to refute it. But I would raise some questions. Like: is the problem *truly* the size of the population? Or might it be *how* we steward the earth's resources? On what basis are you (and others) accepting that we should have a "first world living standard"? What social/emotional/psychological effects are we trading off when we regard additional life as inherently bad?
            Again, I don't disagree, but I'm wary of facile, techonocratic, materialist answers to something as complex as human life.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Consider your unevidenced belief that suffering should be minimized. I assume you don't think it is possible for science to ever prove that this belief of yours is wrong. Suppose a capable scientist claims that this belief of yours is in fact wrong, and cites his study of the genetics of fruit flies as evidence that suffering should be actually be maximized. I assume you would be comfortable telling him, without even considering his research methods, that he had used science to answer a non-scientific question. Suppose he disagrees and says that actually it is you underestimate the power of science. How would you explain to this scientist the category mistake that he was making?

          • Susan

            "what I want for dinner" seems like an intentionally distorted (or belittling) example of non-scientific thinking.

            I thought it fit right in with "How do you decide what to study? How do you decide routines you enjoy? How do you enjoy art?"

            Take a big question like, "Should I participate in the extermination of 6 million Jews?"

            Well, if that had been raised, I wouldn't have brought up what I want for dinner. You're talking about ethics. Moral reasoning.

            I submit that empiricism will be utterly useless in answering that question.

            It's ultimately not going to give us the answer but it would have been extremely useful in cutting through the layers and layers of lies about the Jews and all manner of things that led to that unspeakably horrible chapter in human history.

            Making stuff up doesn't help us make better moral choices. It's an obstruction.

            If the holocaust question was brought up, I could have responded in the same way.

            "Should I participate in the extermination of 6 million Jews?"

            Asking that question is an entirely different thing than asserting that "there is an immaterial mind who has revealed itself through this one religion among all human religions and it has explained what it thinks is moral and what humanity's role is in the universe and we'll all live forever after we die, lots of us in eternal fire and it's OK to teach that to young children even though there's not a speck of evidence for it."

            Still works.

          • MattyTheD

            Susan,

            1) "You're talking about ethics. Moral reasoning."

            Exactly. One the many domains in life for which radical empiricism is not only unhelpful, it's very possibly obstructionist.

            2) "Empiricism is ultimately not going to give us the answer but it would have been
            extremely useful in cutting through the layers and layers of lies about
            the Jews and all manner of things that led to that unspeakably horrible
            chapter in human history."

            If empiricism were used *correctly* -- ie within a moral framework -- then, yes, that is true. If used *incorrectly* -- ie immorally -- then it is false. Empiricism could not give us the moral framework. We need other tools for that. And thank God we used them.

            3) "Asking that question is an entirely different thing than asserting that 'there is an immaterial mind who has revealed itself through this one
            religion among all human religions and it has explained what it thinks
            is moral and what humanity's role is in the universe and we'll all live
            forever after we die, lots of us in eternal fire and it's OK to teach
            that to young children even though there's not a speck of evidence for
            it.'"

            If your quote above were an *accurate* distillation of Christianity, then, yes, I would agree with you. I would object to that kind of cartoonish Christianity which, I've actually never heard from any Christian writer, theologian or friend. If we define Christianity as that kind of Saturday morning cartoon level summary, then I too would get all angry about it. If, on the other hand, you're interested in how the greatest Christian minds understand Christianity, there are better sources than, say, pop-culture anti-theists (which is all you've read, no?).

          • Susan

            One the many domains in life for which radical empiricism is not only unhelpful, it's very possibly obstructionist

            I have no idea what radical empiricism means. I am going to go ahead and assert that reliable tools for mapping reality are important when we make any decision. Is that controversial?

            If empiricism were used *correctly* -- ie within a moral framework -- then, yes, that is true.

            Which moral framework? Here's a thought experiment:

            Once upon a time, someone believed that arresting someone for being a witch, putting them on trial, sentencing them to death by flame, leading them to the stake and setting them on fire, while cruel on the surface, is justified by the belief that they are rescuing the witch's soul from eternal flames. A worse fate. It is a compassionate moral philosophy aimed at a greater good but is it correct?

            If empiricism were used *correctly* -- ie within a moral framework

            Yes. And if moral frameworks subjected themselves to evidence... what a wonderful world.

            If your quote above were an *accurate* distillation of Christianity, then, yes, I would agree with you. I would object to that kind of cartoonish Christianity which, I've actually never heard from any Christian writer, theologian or friend.

            Fair enough. I certainly have, including all the time I've spent here at SN looking for an argument that made sense.

            What did I get wrong? You don't assert that there's an immaterial mind? That is has truly revealed itself through this one religion? That it has communicated its moral position through "divine revlation"? That we'll all live forever after we die? That many of us will perish in eternal flame?

            If, on the other hand, you're interested in how the greatest Christian minds understand Christianity, there are better sources than, say, pop-culture anti-theists (which is all you've read, no?).

            No. You underestimate how many atheists you're addressing are ex-theists. I certainly took the issue seriously for a very long time

            I've been here at SN since the beginning and that's just a little bit of it. Is SN pop-culture anti-theism?

          • Michael Murray

            No. You underestimate how many atheists you're addressing are ex-theists.

            I know it's strange isn't it. I once calculated that I must have spent 500 hours in Mass by the time I stopped going around 18 years old. Plus First Holy Communion, Confirmation, two years with the Marist Brothers and many visits to the Confessional. Surely that has to count for something even if I haven't read Aquinas ?

          • Susan

            Surely that has to count for something even if I haven't read Aquinas ?

            I'm not convinced that half of the people here who tell us to read Aquinas have read much Aquinas.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Michael,

            In all sincerity, your experience and Susan's experience counts for a lot with some of us. It sounds a lot like the experience of my bitterly ex-Catholic mother, father, and five of my seven aunts and uncles (the remaining two are still practicing and happy Catholics). I don't like the attempts of some to whitewash the past or to claim that, "that wasn't Catholicism". It was Catholicism! Either we are one body united in baptism or we are not. So, to me, all that bad stuff IS part of our corporate history. Still, I think it can be said: many of the things you object to about the Catholicism of your youth (and I would acknowledge that that flavor of Catholicism is still alive today in some places) can be criticized from WITHIN the tradition. The tradition, I believe, contains its own corrective. Contrary to the approach that some take, I don't think it is as clear cut as looking up lines of the Catechism and saying, "aha, boyhood pastor wrong!". The work to be done is much more like the work of an African griot, finding a way to re-tell the ancient stories in a new way, grafting on your own experiences.

            When I go to teach religious ed, I try to remind myself of the experiences of my mother and father and aunts and uncles. I use that memory to remind myself that I should only speak what I believe is true, that I should not claim certainty where I have uncertainty, and that I need to be very careful about how I work with explosive imagery and ideas. So anyway, for what it is worth, yes, your Catholic experience counts for something.

          • MattyTheD

            Susan,

            "Which moral framework?"

            My point was only that empiricism must be subsumed within *some* moral framework. And that whatever moral framework is used, it will not been constructed by the scientific method. Maybe you take that as a given, but I've heard atheists who argue that that the scientific method is the only way to discern ultimate truth, including moral truths. I happen to disagree. So when you say "empiricsm" would have helped cut through the lies about the Jews, I say, only if one *wanted* to cut through lies about Jews. Which is a moral desire.

            But if I *had* to propose a moral framework, I'd start by being very wary of any moral framework that was specifically anti-theistic. Because anti-theism seemed to be a key component of the most explosively genocidal "moral" frameworks in all human history, in the shortest time span. Burning witches was terrible. But, like the inquisition, it was a comparatively small, and obvious, contradiction of Christ's teaching (which is why it was aberrational). Whereas the most prominent of humanity's anti-theist moral frameworks -- Stalinsim, Moaism -- had no such transcendent moral grounding, no such presumption of an ultimate truth. Thus, in my opinion, the explosive genocide. Roughly like Salem witch trials, but without the trials, and multiplied by several million. So that, for me, would be a helpful guide.

            "What did I get wrong"

            I wouldn't say "wrong", but I would say very over-simplified
            and stripped of the dynamism that grabs so many millions of people. I can only give you my personal, inarticulate take. (For much, much better take you might want to check out the brilliant blog "New Apologetics" or "Mere Christianity," by C.S. Lewis. There are many others, depending on your particular intellectual inclinations).

            "there is an immaterial mind"

            Yes. But far more than just "mind" as we understand it. It also has will and certain traits akin to our personhood.

            "who has revealed itself through this one religion among all human religions"

            Over-simplistic, in my opinion. I'd say (and I
            think the Catholic Church teaches?) that God reveals himself in many
            ways, including, *partly* in many religions. So the numerous
            religions are each, in their own way, a partly-correct attempt to
            understand a great mystery. Some are closer to the full truth than
            others. Personally, I would never claim that "my Church has the
            full truth" and I don't like it when people do. However, I find
            more truth in the RCC than in any other system of thought I've
            encountered in my life. And the more I dig into it, the more
            astounded I am. to me, it's a much more nuanced and rich dynamic than "God revealed himself in this one religion".

            "it has explained what it thinks is moral"

            I think that, too, is over-simplistic and reductionist. I understand it more like, "God has revealed -- partly in the Old Testament, and more fully through
            Christ -- the radical truth that we are beings created through, by, and for love. This truth becomes the ground for discerning what it means to be 'good'" The fun, mysterious, and challenging part, for me, becomes the quest to live out that love. To me, that's profoundly more dynamic and engaging than "God explained what's moral".

            "[It has explained] what humanity's role is
            in the universe"

            Ditto the above response. It strikes me as over-simplistic and reductionist. You are suggesting a revelation
            that is simple, static, boring. "Humanity's role" suggests
            a God that's mostly interested in social studies. I think the more biblical interpretation (especially as explained by the saints who understood this revelation more clearly) would be something like this, "God is passionately in love with you, Susan. God wants you, Susan, to be immensely happy, in this life and the next. He is inviting you to join into what is, ultimately, a kind of festival of love. But he will not force you to join. All he asks is that you respond to
            him with an open heart." That, to me, is a lot different than a God who "explained humanity's role."

            "and we'll all live forever after we die"

            Well, "live forever" is kind of an earth-biased phrasing. It might be better understand as existing outside of time. Which, to me, is no more strange than many of the discoveries of quantum physics.

            "lots of us in eternal fire"

            Again, over-simplistic portrayal of a very complicated, multi-faceted, revelation. I understand it a bit more like this. We can choose to enter into a loving relationship with the source of love. Or we can choose not to. The rejection is a choice we're permitted. Though many saints suggest that God zealously pursues each soul in a kind of "desperate" attempt to prevent a permanent separation from Love. Zealous, that is, up until the point of violating your free will, which is not done as it would be a contradiction of his nature as Love. Christ seems to have compared
            that ultimate rejection of love, separation from the source of love, as like being in a fire. I'm not saying hell is not real. But I'm saying that when viewed through earth-bound, empirical eyes, we put way too much meaning into the human ideas of "location" "fire" "and divilish horns". Those are earthly "translations" of non-earthly realities. The more important point is the choice of whether or not we want to be loved by God and joined together with the source of love.

            "it's OK to teach that to young children"

            Not just Okay. It's a great act of love. Speaking personally, there has been no greater source of joy in my life than having been introduced to God by authentically loving parents. And seeing those "claims"
            slowly, incrementally, verified through my life via thousands of little tests, quests, searches, choices, etc. But introducing children to God is only an act of love if it's actually done as an act of love. Not if it's done to control, manipulate, cause fear, etc. Which, sadly, is a temptation too many of us humans failed to resist.

            "even though there's not a speck of evidence for
            it."

            There's loads of evidence for this revelation.
            There's just no definitive scientific evidence. Which is entirely consistent with a God whose nature prohibits him from violating your free will. (You aren't, for example, free to disbelieve in Mt. Everest. Love it or hate it, its reality is imposed upon you. God seems to give us more latitude to accept or reject him by not imposing himself as a physical reality).

          • Martin Sellers

            "But that's not "religion" as anyone understands it."

            What is you basis for this claim? And its certainly a big claim to make. Most religious people I know wouldn't find fault with NicholasBeriah Cotta's definition. I certainly don't.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Really? I find no dictionary that would support that. For some people, religion is their purpose in life. But that's not what religion is.

          • Martin Sellers

            You are right. After a quick Google search I could also not find a dictionary definition similar.

            But perhaps you should adjust your statement to "everyone" instead of "anyone"- as you seem to have found at least two people who use that definition.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The phrasing "religion gives some people purpose and meaning for their life," might fit everyone?

          • Martin Sellers

            Sure I can agree with that. At least it does for people who really believe what they are saying and practice what they preach.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Of whom there are fewer than I would like.

          • Martin Sellers

            Of that, we most certainly agree.

          • C. J. W.

            I would say it's an important aspect of religion as most people understand it, but perhaps not those who don't.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Certainly it's an aspect for many; though I'd suspect not a majority. But it's not what religion IS, it's something religion CAN DO.

      • Moussa Taouk

        I would prefer to define religion as "the purpose of your life"...

        Is that religion, or is that more philosphy?

        I think religion should involve some kind of reference to a divine being. I always wondered about whether Buddhism is a religion or whether it's a philosophy. By your definition it's a religion, but I always thought it's not really a religion. But I guess most people might agree with your definition regarding Buddhism, so maybe you're right.

        Although... it would seem strange to refer to atheists as religious people.

        Also... doesn't your definition extend to everyone? And therefore wouldn't that make it meaningless?

        Thanks.
        MT

        • Susan

          doesn't your definition extend to everyone? And therefore wouldn't that make it meaningless?

          Yes.

        • NicholasBeriah Cotta

          Re: buddhism, I agree (or even deism or pantheism). I would argue that there is a modern religion borne out of modern Atheism that seeks to create stock answers that religion used to answer. This set of stock answers is what religion is- what should you do with your life? what is good and what is bad? why do we exist at all? How should I treat my fellow man?
          I see more and more the phrase "atheistic humanism" which is a religion in the sense I described above and which sets down metaphysical principles/goals and seeks to develop them to order any adherent's(and society) life. I think most atheists are, by default, atheistic humanists, and we could argue about the specifics of each beliefs, but in general they have formed a cohesive group. Every person makes up some sort of moral philosophy and how they choose to put it in to practice I would call their religion. Religion can be just any "systematic practice of life based on certain metaphysical principles."

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I don't think it is logical to compare science and "religion" as disciplines of thought because science can generally be defined as one thing (even though a very complex thing), "religion" refers to hundreds if not thousands of different things (e.g., animism and Buddhism).

      Why don't we compare science and the Catholic faith? Within the Catholic faith there are numerous disciplines of thought: for example, natural theology, moral theology, systematic theology, sacramental theology, and many others. What is an example of an irremediable conflict you see?

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        You are missing my point. It is in method that the fundamental conflict lies. And yes, religion is too broad a word: theology would be a more useful word.

        Science and theology do not agree on what constitutes evidence, and only science permits objective adjudication between models.

        You seem to wish to discuss particular conclusions, though. So let's pick one. Adam and Eve as Christians speak of them never existed.

        Here science wins and theology loses.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Roman Catholic dogmatic theologians study the content of the Deposit of Faith using rational tools proper to theology.

          Modern scientists study the content of the physical world using rational tools proper to it.

          [Historians study the content of human history using the rational tools proper to it.

          Psychologists student the content of human behavior using the rational tools proper to it.]

          Since each field of knowledge studies different content, it should not be problem if they employ different methods.

          There does seem to be a difficulty in reconciling the Catholic doctrine of original sin with what anthropology is currently saying. The Catholic Church says the difficulty is an apparent but not real conflict even if the conflict cannot be resolved today.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And Islamic theologians produce entirely different answers. Judaic theologians produce different answers. Etc. science can adjudicate between its answers, theology can't. And history and psychology are sciences. Only religion accepts person opinion as evidence.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What do you mean the Catholic religion accepts personal opinion as evidence? No one in Catholic theology sees the personal opinion of theologians, bishops, or even the pope as any more than a personal opinion whose validity is based on his or her standing to speak on that question.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            My apologies. I was trying to find a less loaded word than "revelation", since the critical question is how to distinguish "revelation" from "opinion" or "unverifiable belief".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Catholic faith thinks that before you accept revelation, you must be convinced of the preambles of faith. Here is how Father John Hardon, S.J., explains them:

            The main premises of reason on which the act of divine faith depends as on its rational foundation. They are mainly three: 1. the existence of God; 2. his authority, or right to be believed because he knows all things and is perfectly truthful; and 3. the fact that he actually made a revelation, which is proved especially by miracles or fulfilled prophecies performed in testimony of a prophet's (or Christ's) claim to speaking in the name of God.

            This is why opinion and unverified belief play no part whatsoever.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Mohammed was given revelations from god via Gabriel. Truth? Opinion? Madness? How do you discriminate?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The other problem is that those three premises are themselves assertions of faith without verification.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Not so. The Catholic religion does not expect you to believe anything it asserts unless you are convinced those three claims are true.

          • Susan

            Not so. The Catholic religion does not expect you to believe anything it asserts unless you are convinced those three claims are true.

            I don't know, Kevin. They start making these assertions when we are very young. They taught me about Adam and Eve and Jesus being the son of the one true deity dying for my "sins" and rising from the dead as though it were as well demonstrated as the Milky Way.

            Long before I could possibly have had the capacity to be convinced that those three claims are true.

            The way they get you to believe that those three things are true is by claiming that they are true when we are young and have no choice but to take the statements of adults very seriously.

            If they taught science, history, math, literature, critical thinking, for the first few years, eventually world religion, so we saw religion from the outside of the tens of thousands of religions that humans have invented and catechism last, I would accept your point.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I hope it is clear that the preambles of faith and apologetics are for persons who have reached a certain level of maturity.

            On the other hand, it would be inhuman not to teach your children what you believe is most important.

            For better or worse, human nature is such that children *do* believe what their parents tell them until they reach sufficient maturity to consider these matters for themselves.

          • David Nickol

            For better or worse, human nature is such that children *do* believe what their parents tell them until they reach sufficient maturity to consider these matters for themselves.

            I can't speak knowledgeably about the present, but in my day, if you went to Catholic school and even very respectfully declined to believe some tenet of Catholicism, you were in big trouble. It is not that children necessarily believed what their parents taught them. It was that they were required to believe.

            Although the following had nothing to do (directly) with religion, it illustrates a point. In 7th or 8th grade, we read the poetic masterpiece Main Street, by the toweringly great Catholic poet Joyce Kilmer. It began:

            I like to look at the blossomy track of the moon upon the sea,
            But it isn't half so fine a sight as Main Street used to be
            When it all was covered over with a couple of feet of snow,
            And over the crisp and radiant road the ringing sleighs would go.

            Then, one by one, we all had to stand up and tell why we liked it. I didn't like it, so I just stammered and finally said, "I don't know why I liked it. I just did." It would never have occurred to me or anyone else in the class to say we didn't like it. If we were told to explain why we liked it, then it was clear we were required to like it and explain why. And the teacher—Sister Marion—was by no means a bad teacher. In fact, the English grammar she had drilled into our heads served me very well in the grammar and usage course I had to take as an English major in college.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, David, when you were a junior high student, the culture was about to or was already undergoing a wrenching revolution. And people like Sr. Marion (not her personally) were going to go from mindless acceptance of authority to mindless rejection of it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Really? I don't notice any mindless rejection of authority in Catholics in general.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm talking about the 1960s and their aftermath in the entire culture.

          • David Nickol

            If true, was it a result of Vatican II? I graduated from high school in 1965, and those of us who kept in touch with the school learned of one of our former teachers after the other leaving the order (Christian Brothers). The school is now "in the tradition of," with no Christian Brothers at all.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In my opinion, it was not at all a result of Vatican II but it happened at the same time and delayed the implementation of Vatican II. "It" affected Catholics like it affected everything else in Western culture.

          • David Nickol

            I think the switch from Latin in the Mass to the vernacular was a very profound change for many people that caused them to be alienated from Catholicism. Latin Masses and Gregorian Chant gave Catholicism a "mystical" feeling that simply vanished with the use of English. I remember when I first came to New York City and dropped into St. Patrick's Cathedral there was a priest with a fairly pronounced New York accent saying Mass, and it sounded sacrilegious even to my ears. I knew people who grieved for the Latin Mass. The first time the "kiss of peace" (people were asked to shake hands) was introduced in our parish Mass, my sister told me she was so upset she began to cry. When certain rules were relaxed (meat on Friday) I remember a Catholic friend saying with real distress, "We're becoming just like Protestants!" A friend of the family who was a Christian Brother told us that at this time, many things in his community that had been mandatory became optional (for example, getting up for prayers very early in the morning). He said that when every minute of the day was no longer scheduled, people realized how lonely they were, and they left. He eventually left, too. I don't think the mass exodus from the priesthood and religious orders after Vatican II was a coincidence at all. It also seems to me that "modernizing" was the right thing for the Church to do. I don't think the point of the Church was to keep people busy with 5:00 A.M. prayers, or keep them mesmerized with Gregorian Chant or make them feel "mystical" by conducting services in a dead language. I rather doubt that they expected what happened, and if so, I wonder if they would have gone through with it if they had foreseen it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There are a lot of things we could say about being a Catholic in America in the 1960s, but they are far afield of the relationship between faith and science.

          • Susan

            when you were a junior high student, the culture was about to or was already undergoing a wrenching revolution.

            I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say here, how it connects to David's point that respectfully declining some tenet of your church's teaching would get you in big trouble

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Generally in the 1950s, people obeyed authority. But the anthem of the 1960s was "question authority." Things flipped.

            Plenty of people who in the 50s would would never question authority become the ones who in the 60s overthrew authority. This didn't *just* happen in the Catholic Church in America, but it *did* happen in the Catholic Church in America.

          • Susan

            I don't see the connection, though.

            David made the point that "It is not that children necessarily believed what their parents taught them. It was that they were required to believe."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Teachers are only human. Sometimes they make the error of requiring certain beliefs. Sometimes they make the error of requiring questioning belief.

            My understanding of the way things are on many college campuses today is that if you do not accept "progressive" beliefs, you had better keep your mouth shut or you will be in big trouble.

          • Susan

            Teachers are only human.

            Are you saying that it is a few misguided teachers, that your church has always encouraged children (and adults) to freely question its tenets, the a

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To believe it a teaching of the Catholic Church that a lay person should never question anything a Catholic priest says is certainly misguided.

          • Susan

            It may not be an official teaching of your church but to suggest that it comes from a few teachers in one decade of the twentieth century seems to ignore the way things have played out in reality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not suggesting that.

            I'm saying the reality is far more complex and has varied greatly depending on the time and place. Just to give a few examples, St. Augustine's mother was a Catholic and his father was not. He certainly was not indoctrinated into never questioning what priests said. Chaucer records all kinds of foibles of clerics and nuns. Luther, who was an Augustinian priest, had no problem dumping what his superiors told him.

            Even when it comes to the 1950s, I will go out on a limb and opine that many people did not question authority because the culture told them not to and in the 1960s those same folks did question authority because the culture told them to.

          • Moussa Taouk

            They taught me about... Jesus being the son of the one true deity dying for my "sins" and rising from the dead...

            Susan, just a curious question for you if you don't mind my asking. Would you prefer that teaching to be true? Or would you prefer for it to be false? Putting aside evidence etc for a moment, if you could have it your own way which would you prefer to be true?

          • Susan

            Would you prefer that teaching to be true? Or would you prefer for it to be false? Putting aside evidence etc for a moment, if you could have it your own way which would you prefer to be true?

            This is what I love about the scientific method. It understands that that question is an obvious obstruction.

          • Moussa Taouk

            Yeh, I know, but go on. Have a shot. I'm curious to know. It's an innocent question. I actually am not real sure how I'd answer it myself. I'm curious to know your (and others who are reading this') answer.

          • Michael Murray

            blockquote not blockquotes :-)

          • Moussa Taouk

            Haha. Oops. Thanks for that.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm clearly not explaining myself well.
            Since those three claims are not verifiable, accepting them does nothing for the atheist in terms of distinguishing "Catholic" revelation from "Islamic" revelation.
            Theology - all religious theology - accepts "revelation", "miracles", and "sacred texts" as evidence despite the fact that they are not verifiable.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Before getting to the question of whether a particular claim of revelation is valid, could you clarify what you mean by "verifiable"? Do you mean just by the scientific method or by any means at all?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The reason I put "revelation" in quotes is simply because history is full of "revelations", "miracles", and "sacred texts" (essentially records of revelations and miracles). Since any particular religion discounts a huge set of these revelations", "miracles", and "sacred texts" - the ones that don't conform to that religion's dogma.

            I realized late that my terminology might be confusing.

          • Susan

            No one in Catholic theology sees the personal opinion of theologians, bishops, or even the pope as any more than a personal opinion whose validity is based on his or her standing to speak on that question

            On what do they base their ultimate assertions? Tradition? Authority? Divine revelation?

            How can I distinguish those terms from personal opinion on any level?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            When the Church defines something to be held by the faithful, it is on the basis of the apostolic faith, that is, what the apostles passed on as coming from Christ. That is the basis of Divine Revelation (Scripture and Tradition) and the authority of the pope and bishops.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In other words, the person opinions of folks interpreting documents written by non-eyewitnesses to events thousands of years old. Whatever their belief in their own authority, that authority cannot be shown to exist.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In other words, the person opinions of folks interpreting documents
            written by non-eyewitnesses to events thousands of years old. Whatever
            their belief in their own authority, that authority cannot be shown to
            exist

            I've having a hard time understanding what you wrote. Could you be more concrete?

          • Tim Dacey

            So is your opinion that (only religion accepts personal opinions as evidence) itself a religious claim???

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No.

          • Martin Sellers

            History and psychology do not accept a person's opinion as evidence?? Are we sure about this?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Yes.

          • Martin Sellers

            Historical memoir is certainly historical evidence, even though it it is full of bias. In fact, the best historical evidence are first hand accounts (memoirs).

            Psychology- "the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, esp. those affecting behavior in a given context." - I think this certainly includes peoples opinions.

          • Susan

            Modern scientists study the content of the physical world using rational tools proper to it.

            And follow the evidence where it leads..

            Historians study the content of human history using the rational tools proper to it

            Using a methodology that follows the evidence where it leads.

            Psychologists study the content of human behavior using the rational tools proper to it

            Using a methodology that follows the evidence where it leads.

            Roman Catholic dogmatic theologians study the content of the Deposit of Faith using rational tools proper to theology

            And shoehorn the evidence to fit divine revelation, and authority to support one mythological tradition among many.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            And shoehorn the evidence to fit divine revelation, and authority to support one mythological tradition among many.

            This is kind of an amorphous statement coming from your usually sharp mind. In this claim, what do you mean by "the evidence," "divine revelation," and "authority"?

  • Cubico

    Congratulations to Fr. Heller.
    "The 72-year-old planned to spend the prize money to establish a research institute—named in honor of Nicholas Copernicus—that will seek to reconcile science and theology. "

    The 72-year-old planned to spend the prize money to establish a research institute—named in honor of Nicholas Copernicus—,that will seek to reconcile science and theology., This is a baffling redundant thing for him to say.

    :Reconcile...: to find a way of making (two different ideas, facts, etc.) exist or be true at the same time.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      What is redundant or baffling?

      Also, why do you get to post without using your real name, O Cubico?

      • Susan

        why do you get to post without using your real name, O Cubico?

        That rule has never been consistenltly applied. No reason to call out Cubico and not Iraeneus and others. Not picking on Iraeneus. First one that came to mind.

        It is not fair to ask people to use their real names on the internet. There are so many good reasons not to that have nothing to do with being dishonest.

        If they show up and represent themselves fairly and use their net name consistently, and they are not trolls, it's not necessary that they use their real name.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It must be my attitude to authority.

          I think if a just authority makes a reasonable rule, people under that authority should obey it. That is my problem with Cubico and Iraeneus and even with you (50% at least ;)).

          On the other hand, my attitude toward authority is that if it makes a just rule it should enforce it. So that is my problem with Brandon!

  • Susan

    The $1.6 million prize for 2008 went to Michał Heller, a Polish cosmologist and professor in the faculty of philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Cracow, Poland. What makes Heller additionally remarkable is that he is a Catholic priest.

    Why is that remarkable?

    • Steve Law

      It isn't, or shouldn't be, remarkable.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Certainly it's not remarkable given the Templeton foundations current agenda.

  • Loreen Lee

    Schema (Kant) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Kant's Doctrine of Schemata
    The above two links are in response to the position taken that science and religion are incompatible. The difficulty is analyzed, conceptually, in these philosophical presentation of the Schemata of Kant. May you know that there remains much obscurity on this subject, and that consequently there is much work to be done in the field of philosophy as well as science. I merely trust that you will be open enough to read up on the issue, as thus presented, with an open mind.
    Note: The link disappeared when I posted it. I will attempt to get the other kind of link. Thank you.

  • Danny Getchell

    The list does not pretend to be exhaustive

    Since it fails to include Teilhard de Chardin, that's readily apparent.

    • David Nickol

      Since it fails to include Teilhard de Chardin, that's readily apparent.

      I would think that the case of Teilhard de Chardin is an example of conflict between science and religion. Here are a few items from Wikipedia:

      1939: Rome banned his work L’Énergie Humaine.

      1941: de Chardin submitted to Rome his most important work, Le Phénomène Humain.

      1947: Rome forbade him to write or teach on philosophical subjects.

      1948: de Chardin was called to Rome by the Superior General of the Jesuits who hoped to acquire permission from the Holy See for the publication of his most important work Le Phénomène Humain. But the prohibition to publish it issued in 1944, was again renewed. Teilhard was also forbidden to take a teaching post in the College de France.

      1949: Permission to publish Le Groupe Zoologique was refused.

      1955: de Chardin was forbidden by his Superiors to attend the International Congress of Paleontology.

      1957: The Supreme Authority of the Holy Office, in a decree dated 15 November 1957, forbade the works of de Chardin to be retained in libraries, including those of religious institutes. His books were not to be sold in Catholic bookshops and were not to be translated in other languages.

      1958: In April of this year, all Jesuit publications in Spain (“Razón y Fe”, “Sal Terrae”,“Estudios de Deusto”) etc., carried a notice from the Spanish Provincial of the Jesuits, that de Chardin’s works had been published in Spanish without previous ecclesiastical examination and in defiance of the decrees of the Holy See.

      1962: A decree of the Holy Office dated 30 June, under the authority of Pope John XXIII warned that “... it is obvious that in philosophical and theological matters, the said works (de Chardin’s) are replete with ambiguities or rather with serious errors which offend Catholic doctrine. That is why ... the Rev. Fathers of the Holy Office urge all Ordinaries, Superiors, and Rectors ... to effectively protect, especially the minds of the young, against the dangers of the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and his followers”. (AAS, 6 August 1962).

      1963: The Vicariate of Rome (a diocese ruled in the name of Pope Paul VI by his Cardinal Vicar) in a decree dated 30 September, required that Catholic booksellers in Rome should withdraw from circulation the works of de Chardin, together with those books which favour his erroneous doctrines. The text of this document was published in daily L’Aurore of Paris, dated 2 October 1963, and was reproduced in Nouvelles de Chretiente, 10 October 1963, p. 35.

      Note that de Chardin died in 1955, so the suppression of his work continued after his death. If there's no conflict between Catholicism and science, why was Teilhard de Chardin treated in this way and why were his books suppressed?

      • ladycygnus

        Also from wiki "Teilhard was ordered ... to sign a statement withdrawing his controversial statements regarding the doctrine of original sin." Seems it was the *theology* that caused the church to "suppress" his books.

        Not a conflict between religion and science, but a scientist who made a theological statement that appeared heretical, and thus was in conflict with the standard theology.

        • David Nickol

          Seems it was the *theology* that caused the church to "suppress" his books.

          First, it was in the early 1920s that de Chardin was forced to sign a statement about original sin, yet his work was suppressed until the early 1960s. Second, while de Chardin was a practicing scientist, I don't believe what he is famous for can really be considered scientific. He is known for his philosophical and religious interpretations of evolution. (So I am not really sure he belongs in a list of Catholic scientists.) Third, since he has been totally "rehabilitated" in the Catholic Church, whether the Church was suppressing scientific or theological ideas, they were apparently wrong in doing so. To quote Wikipedia:

          Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said in July 2009: "By now, no one would dream of saying that [Teilhard] is a heterodox author who shouldn’t be studied."

          • ladycygnus

            You stated, "I would think that the case of Teilhard de Chardin is an example of conflict between science and religion."

            Did you mean to write, "not an example"?

          • David Nickol

            Did you mean to write, "not an example"?

            I may have painted myself into a corner here, so I will evade the question. :P

            I think the case of de Chardin is a case of the Catholic Church wrongly and unjustly suppressing new ideas. Whether or not the ideas were scientific, pseudoscientific, theological, or a combination, it is clear that either the Church was wrong to suppress them or is wrong today to welcome them.

          • ladycygnus

            The church does not claim infallibility in action, only in doctrine. In the 1920's the understanding of what Chardin said made it appear that what he said was in conflict with the doctrine of the church. Since the man is a priest (and thus in a position where teaching false doctrine would be very bad), the church thought it wise to ask him to recant and stop teaching it.

            Is it suppression to ask those who hold positions of authority in an organization to stay consistent with the teachings of that organization? It seems more like an attempt to maintain consistency so the people in the pews do not become confused.

            Analogy. Suppose there was an Awesome Atheistic Organization (AAO) who had a number of official speakers who did events. Let's say one of the speakers started saying that it was possible to be an atheist and to believe in God. AAO tells the man to recant and stop giving talks - and tells their bookstores to not publish his books anymore. Would this be an "unjust suppressing of new ideas" or good organizational practice?

  • David Nickol

    If there is no conflict between science and religion, does that mean the conservative Christians who reject evolution and insist on intelligent design aren't practicing Christians? Or does it mean that Christians who take the Bible very literally and are young-earth creationists aren't practicing Christians? For those who insist that there is no conflict between science, properly understood, and religion, properly understood, who gets to decide the proper understanding of religion and science?

    • NicholasBeriah Cotta

      Well, you've stumbled on the protestant-Catholic divide my friend. Protestants use the Bible as their sole authority and piece their theology from it while Catholics believe that the Church controls those questions through time through the bible, councils of bishops, and the ultimate authority in the pope. The Church doesn't really speak on conflicts of science and religion unless there is a question of faith and morals.

      • David Nickol

        You do not mean to imply, do you, that the doctrine of sola scriptura, for those Protestants who adhere to it, requires them to be Biblical literalists/fundamentalists?

        The Church doesn't really speak on conflicts of science and religion unless there is a question of faith and morals.

        I think that is roughly true for all religions. It's just that a fundamentalist may believe it is a matter of faith that, say, Noah and his family were the only survivors of a great flood, whereas other Christians (Protestants or Catholics) do not take the story of Noah as a historical event. As we have discussed numerous times before, Pius XII in Humani Generis took it as a matter of faith that the human race descended from two "first parents." Scientifically minded people would say the question of human origins is a matter of science, not faith, and here science and faith as defined by Pius XII seem to disagree.

        • NicholasBeriah Cotta

          Don't you think it's a remarkable fact that when science and religion did overlap, the Pope took a risk in boldly stating the religious position that genesis was a definite historic event and that we all descended from two people? At the time, evolutionary biologists thought that it might be the case that we didn't and we subsequently found out that we all do indeed share a common male ancestor (y chromosome Adam) and a female ancestor (mitochondrial Eve) and that the projected dates for their existence overlap quite a bit. Not only do we share one male and one female ancestor as told by science, but we know that there was something different about each one of those individuals that we didn't inherit their particular DNA from any ancestor they had.
          So far, of the doctrines that have overlapped science, Catholcism has been proven Not False, which is the best you could say about extra-scientific claims. Big Bang beat Steady State theory (re: astronomy) and Original Pair beat regional hypothesis(re:evolution) - I don't want to say "Catholicism was right" per se because science continues, but so far the few places where our doctrine has become falsifiable, they have yet to be falsified and have shown to be remarkably close to our scientific understanding.

          • Michael Murray

            Not only do we share one male and one female ancestor as told by science,

            Science doesn't tell you that. It tells you that the groups of ancestors we share never got smaller than probably 10,000 pairs.

            You really need to get the science correct before claiming that it agrees with the Bible.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            I stated that science tells you that every human shares a common ancestral female and ancestral male. The Catholic doctrine is not that two people started it all but rather that everyone has two shared ancestors. What about the science disproves that notion?
            It leaves open the possibility that Bible is true, not that it confirms the possibility. " I don't want to say "Catholicism was right" per se because science continues, but so far the few places where our doctrine has become falsifiable, they have yet to be falsified and have shown to be remarkably close to our scientific understanding."

          • Michael Murray

            The Catholic doctrine is not that two people started it all but rather that everyone has two shared ancestors.

            So when you say

            the Pope took a risk in boldly stating the religious position that genesis was a definite historic event and that we all descended from two people ?

            do you mean that every line of ancestors back from every living human goes back through those two people ? Because the science says that is wrong.

            Sorry to be pedantic but it makes a difference exactly what the Pope is saying here. We've been over this before here at length and it seems hard to get a precise statement.

            Thanks - Michael

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Yes, every human on Earth share a common female ancestor and a common male ancestor. Do you have a succinct explanation for me how that has been proved wrong or a link to something that would explain that the science as we know it doesn't allow for that possibility?
            Be pedantic as you'd like - I am not an evolutionary biologist. Are you?

          • Michael Murray

            If we all descend from one couple and from nobody else who was a contemporary of that couple then all our DNA comes from that couple plus mutation I guess. Experts (no I'm not one !) can measure the variation in our DNA and there is too much variation for this to have happened. It is possible for us to have descended from maybe 10,000 or around that order of magnitude. There is a discussion in

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_bottleneck#Humans

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            I really don't think you understand the doctrine - it is not saying that we can not have DNA from contemporaries of Adam and Eve, only that every family tree of modern man would include them. We all have one pair of humans that we have in common, NOT that one pair of humans are solely responsible for all humans. Are we still miscommunicating? Like let's take my cousin Art. We have two humans in common ancestry, my grandfather and grandmother Cotta, but clearly there were a pair on my mother's side and a pair on his father's side that we don't have in common. We have two common ancestors, not two people solely responsible for our entire ancestry.

          • Michael Murray

            I understand what you are saying. I hadn't been able to get a clear statement before that this was the Pope's position. Thanks.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Well it's not just the Pope's position, it's the Pope's interpretation of the marriage of the doctrine of Original Sin and modern scientific understanding of human evolution. Basically the Council of Trent confirmed that original sin spreads through "propagation" and not "imitation" meaning that Adam and Eve must've spread orginial sin to the rest of humanity by birth, not by imitating actions or words. The Pope then clarifies the original proclamation re:evolutionary theory by saying it can only be acceptable to Catholics if it includes the possibility that we share two common ancestors.
            At the time, this was risky from a scientific standpoint if the regional hypothesis was true - it would falsify the Council of Trent's teaching as understood by the Pope, who made it a pretty hard understanding of the Church. Subsequently, not only do most scientists reject regional evolution, they even point to the fact that it is falsified by the fact that there must have been a single pair of humans that have some trait "x" unique to them (one which they didn't inherit themselves) but shared by the rest of modern humans.
            Mitochondrial Eve and Y chromosome Adam theories have been widely accepted and allow scientifically for a doctrine laid down in the 1500s. It's remarkable to me as a Catholic that the two fit so tidily. IF Catholciism made doctrine only in response to science, (as in only claimed truth so that science couldn't disprove it) they certainly wouldn't have been so bold as to make this particular theolgocial claim (with scientific implications) before evolutionary science discarded regional evolution. Many leading scientists assumed regional evolution (like many assumed steady state universal origins) and laughed at prevailing theology for being "unscientific". Turns out, the theologically based theory still has yet to be falsified (and I would say is significantly corraborated) and their theories have been relegated to the trash heap.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I don't see how the pope could have made a claim about evolutionary theory 400 years before it was developed. Do you have a reference?

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            The Pope in 1950 was just explaining the modern scientific implications of the theological doctrine definitively laid down by the council of Trent 400 years earlier.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In other words, the pope didn't explain that the words if the council were a match for modern science until modern science had already made the nature of reality quite clear.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In addition, the council of Trent makes it quite clear that Adam was the FIRST man, and that he only incurred death because if sin.

            There was nothing challenging, risky, or unusual about the council's declaration in any way.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Well at this point we, you me and a few other are arguing about Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice and not this article, so I will agree to let you have the last response.
            The Council could've said that "orginal sin" was just something that was imitated so that the first people could just "teach" it to each other, but it didn't It says it was propagated through generations meaning it had to be passed on through birth which has a limited scope. If the regional hypothesis of evolution was true, it would have been a huge contradiction. Instead, there still is none.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            We are somewhat off topic; though I've enjoyed this exchange. Thanks.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Thank you too, M. O'Brien.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            I don't think so. The regional hypothesis of evolution was still prominent at the Pope's time - it's clear he was making a bold statement predicated on theological doctrine using the language of science, not the other way around.

          • David Nickol

            I hadn't been able to get a clear statement before that this was the Pope's position.

            Pius XII never offered as an opinion what NicholasBeriah Cotta claims. I personally think Pius XII would have found the above interpretation entirely wrongheaded.

          • David Nickol

            We all have one pair of humans that we have in common, NOT that one pair of humans are solely responsible for all humans.

            My understanding of what Pius XII meant, although he didn't spell it out with genealogical charts, is that considering Adam and Eve to be the first generation of humans, the second generation of humans all had both Adam as their father and Eve as their mother. Adam and Eve were the first and only humans. Any human being tracing his or her ancestry back to the origin of humanity would find their family tree converged and ended with Adam and Eve (or in any case, "our first parents").

            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 that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent 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 with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.

            We are all by now familiar with the conjectures of Michael Flynn and others that Adam and Eve were not the first human, but the first humans with a spiritual souls ("ensouled humans"), and that "ensouled humans" interbred with "soulless humans." The offspring of an "ensouled human" and a "soulless human" always produced an "ensouled human" who, by inheriting a soul, also inherited original sin. I know some take this as a serious conjecture, but frankly I find it preposterous.

            Regarding Y-chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial Eve, there is a limit to how far back in human (and pre-human) history one can go and credibly suggest that there were individuals who were capable of moral decisions. If the story of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel has any relation to historical events whatsoever, Cain as a farmer and Abel as keeper domesticated animals could only have lived 12,000 years ago at the earliest.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Mike Flynn's conjecture is exactly what I'm talking about - why is it preposterous?
            And you can't just say "domestication of animals happened 12,000 years ago" and Abel domesticated animals so therefore the story is false. The story isn't establishing facts in a modern historical manner, and the 12k number is the best we have from digging things up; not the definitive time of domesticated animal introduction.

          • David Nickol

            Mike Flynn's conjecture is exactly what I'm talking about - why is it preposterous?

            I think that first, you have to focus on the story of Adam and Eve and ask exactly what it is trying to convey. One important thing to remember is that it is not mentioned again in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), and its significance in Judaism is negligible.

            Then you have to look at the Christian doctrine of original sin and see what that is meant to convey. It is not a story about heritable characteristics and DNA. Trying to come up with a theory of how it could have been propagated (like a bad gene) throughout the whole human race doesn't come anywhere near the heart of the doctrine. It it just a way of trying to reconcile "monogenism" with contemporary theories of human origins.

            What is most preposterous about Mike Flynn's conjecture, it seems to me, is that it requires God's plan for the propagation of the human race to require, unavoidably, human beings to breed with animals. According to Catholic thought, even the most highly evolved human ancestor, poised to be ready to have a soul infused and become an Adam or an Eve, would be incapable of abstract thought or moral reasoning. Such beings would be the equivalent of bright chimpanzees. They would be no more capable of consenting to sexual intercourse with a human being than any other nonhuman animal. They certainly wouldn't be capable of marriage. At best, they could be faithful pets, and sex with them would be bestiality. Why? Because according to the Catholic Church, sex must be procreative and unitive, and a human being can't have unitive sex with an animal. From a Catholic (or biblical) point of view, God's plan for the propagation of the human race, if it required sex between humans and nonhumans, would be an abomination. Of course, human beings are sinners, but the bestiality they would have to commit if this theory were to be taken seriously would have required bestiality in order for the human race not to die out.

            It also requires the assumption that sexual intercourse between a pre-human ancestor and an ensouled human would be fertile, and further assumes that when a human and a nonhuman conceive, the offspring is human and has a soul.

            I think many people who find this scenario plausible downplay or ignore the Catholic understanding of the difference between an animal with no soul (no matter how "highly evolved") and an ensouled human being. While I seriously doubt Catholic thought here, it seems to me quite clear that according to the Catholic idea of the soul, there would be a profound difference between the most highly evolved pre-human ancestor and the first human. The difference would be so great as to make the thought of interbreding obscene.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hi David,

            I think you have a valid criticism of Flynn's proposal.

            Just for kicks, I wonder if you personally see a way to play "angel's advocate" (as opposed to "devil's advocate") on this issue?

            Perhaps -- since I believe you are at least somewhat sympathetic to certain strands of Catholic theology -- you believe in the theological truth of The Fall, at least in terms similar to those proposed by Ratzinger (http://payingattentiontothesky.com/2013/03/26/original-sin-pope-benedict-xvi/)? Even you if you do not, I imagine that you have the sympathetic imagination that you can at least put yourself in the shoes of someone who does buy into the Fall. Do you think it is possible for a person to imagine that all of humanity is connected to the The Fall, and to each other through The Fall, while at the same believing in the key consensus elements of modern evolutionary theory? I personally believe in both The Fall and modern evolutionary theory, but I know I am not currently capable of reconciling the two in an intellectually satisfying way. I understand that as a non-Catholic you may not see a need to reconcile these things, but I figure it's worth asking.

          • David Nickol

            I have read a bit of what then-Cardinal Ratzinger has written about original sin, and I find it brilliant. But as you may be aware, there are "conservative" Catholics who consider his ideas about original sin (and other topics) to be heresy, to the extent that they do not consider him to have been a legitimate pope.

            As I understand and recall what Benedict (as Ratzinger) wrote, human beings are "relational." It is impossible to conceive of human being who was totally isolated from the moment of conception onward from all human contact being a functioning human person. We are only persons in relation to other persons. It is very slightly (in my mind) like the concept of "next to." In an empty universe, there could be no concept of "next to." In a universe containing only one item, there could also be no concept "next to." It takes at least two things for "next to" to have any reality.

            So if we are persons in relation to all other persons, anything we do (even one person) affects others, at least potentially. To use a very imperfect example, it may be the case that there initially was only one human individual infected with the AIDS virus. If so, that person's behavior literally affected almost the whole world—the people who were infected, their friends and relatives, people who may not even have known someone with AIDS but helped raise funds for research, and so on.

            So it is not too crazy, it seems to me, to imagine the misdeeds of some of our earliest ancestors back in a bottleneck somewhere where the numbers were around 10,000, committing misdeeds or making decisions that echoed down through all of humanity and still affect us today.

            Contrary to what NicholasBeriah Cotta and some others here seem to believe, I don't think it is anywhere close to infallible Catholic dogma that the human race had two "first parents." Germain Grisez, for example, says:

            5. Following Genesis, Christians have usually thought of the human race as being descended from a single pair of individuals. This view is called “monogenism.” However, evolution theory points to the need for a sizable, interbreeding population at the origin of any organic type as complex as the human.20 This theory is called “polygenism.” Both Pius XII and Paul VI warn that polygenism, which evolution theory seems to demand, appears incompatible with the Church’s teaching. However, it is not clear that either of these popes proposed monogenism as the position to be held definitively. Hence, if a Catholic can show how polygenism is compatible with the essential elements of the Church’s teaching on original sin, then he or she may admit polygenism on the basis of the evidence in favor of it.

            6. There is nevertheless no evidence requiring us to suppose that the present human race descended from more than one interbreeding population. Like Genesis, biological theory points to a single group at the beginning of humankind. Question F below will explain why the size of this group is not important.

            And here is a bit from the answer to Question F:

            Third, while the biological evidence indicates that humankind emerged from a very large, widely scattered, interbreeding population, theology must assume that the spiritual capacity for free choice was given initially by a special divine intervention, which completed hominization, to a group of individuals small and cohesive enough to function socially as a single body. In this way, solidarity in sin by the whole of humankind was possible at the beginning. As additional groups were hominized, they emerged into an already-given existential situation, and so shared prior to any personal act in the moral condition of humankind. In this sense, they shared “by propagation not by imitation” (DS 1513/790), even if not all humans were lineal descendants of a single couple.

            3. No matter how a group is organized, someone’s action is decisive. (In a group which operates by simple majority voting, for example, the vote which makes the majority is decisive.) Primate hordes are structured socially, with a single dominant leader; supposing the transformation of a primate group into a human extended family, it is reasonable to suppose that it would have a similar social structure. Thus, there is no obstacle to thinking the original human community had a single leader whose action was decisive for its action as such. We can call this individual “Man.”

            So if I were a Catholic, I would find no need to concoct stories about "red clay" men (and women) interbreeding with ensouled humans.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thanks David. So far as I can tell, that is an elegant and entirely valid resolution of the apparent tension between the theology and the science on this issue. I like it. Much appreciated.

          • Loreen Lee

            The way I have heard it 'philosophically' expressed is that 'the individual is in the species and the species is in the individual. It is held that this holds only for the human condition. Sorry, I don't have the source, but it would be applied not only to Adam and Eve, but Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin, I believe.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Well, we are fully in to a different debate here so I will say one last thing and give you the last response. I only meant this treatise as one example of the overlap and the Catholic doctrine taking a bold stance. I stand by that statement.
            Your objections to Flynn's interpretation don't understand what sin is (a knowingful rejection of God's will) and they assume a linear view of time, i.e. that the world would like it does had Adam not sinned. I also don't understand the relevance of what current Jewish thought is re: Adam and Eve.
            You assume that the difference between an ensouled human and the red clay human that came before it would be represented by a large genetic change. I don't see that being the case at all (and neither did Flynn). A small genetic change could produce the self-awareness God requires for the creation of a human being.
            Also, "Interbreeding" is kind of a silly term when it comes to genetic drift and Adam's descendants breeding with the other red clay humans would hardly represent God's will (as if God's development of creation necessitated sin). Matter of fact, God said his descendants would incur sin as a result of his actions, not that sin would be avoided so even "sinful" interbreeding could be a result of Adam's sin, God didn't mandate that portion. This is a microcosm of the "problem of evil" in general.
            There are many many assumptions here that create contradictions that don't exist in Catholic dogma not to mention that I repeated Flynn's own caveat that matching dogma to science is tumultuous because of how flaky updated scientific understanding is - it is merely a story on how it could happen, not exactly how it happened. The real point is that science has yet to falsify any teachings of the Church, even the ones with scientific implications.

          • David Nickol

            You assume that the difference between an ensouled human and the red clay human that came before it would be represented by a large genetic change.

            I do not assume the difference between an ensouled human and a "red clay" human would necessarily be genetic at all. When I say there would be profound differences between the two, I am going by Catholic thought (and some of Mike Flynn's own conjectures) that the "addition" of a rational soul to a nonrational animal makes a profound difference. Mike Flynn himself says it means the difference between the inability (for the "red clay" human) and the ability (for the ensouled human) to think abstractly.

            Darwin tells us that at some point an ape that was not quite a man gave birth to a man that was no longer quite an ape. [Absolutely false! -DN] He was H. sapiens - or at least he likes to call himself that.(^5) He had the capacity for rational thought; that is, to reflect on sensory perceptions and abstract universal concepts. He could not only perceive this bison and that bison, but could conceive of "bison" -- an abstraction with no material existence of its own. Poetically, we might say that a God "breathed" a rational soul into a being that had previously been little more than "red clay."

            It seems to me that you are ignoring the tremendous difference (in Catholic thought) that a soul makes. As I argued previously, the most advanced pre-human ancestor (without a soul) would have been a "dumb animal." If you see no moral or practical problems with a man "marrying," conceiving, and raising children with a chimpanzee, then I guess you would see no problem with Flynn's conjecture. But I really can't believe anyone who gave it serious thought would not have a problem with a man or woman breeding and raising children with an animal, no matter how much that animal looked like a human being. Without a soul (according to Catholic thought) it would not be a human being. It would not act like a human being.

            I think you have to take your choice, if you want to stick with monogenism, between the children of Adam intermarrying with each other and the children of Adam "marrying" animals. It seems to me the former has generally been the assumption within Catholicism, and the "rules" for licit sex in Catholicism could, I think, remain unbroken if God gave a dispensation for close relatives to marry. But according to the "rules," not even God could give a dispensation making it licit for humans to have sex with animals.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta
    • Kevin Aldrich

      Why do you equate thinking about something with practicing something?

      The claim "no conflict between faith and science" means that when both terms are properly understood, there will be no conflict. When either or both are misunderstood, there will be an apparent (but not real conflict).

      As for who gets to decide, practically speaking nobody gets to because there is no all-wise universal human magisterium everyone submits to. What is relevant is that the Catholic Church is making this claim.

      • David Nickol

        You seem to be saying that in theory there is no conflict between faith and science, but when conflicts do happen, it is because either faith or science is being misunderstood. That's fine, but all it tells us is that when there is a conflict between faith and science, one of them is wrong! This is a pretty basic assumption wherever there is conflict—one side is wrong.

        What is important is that when there appears to be a conflict between faith and science, there is some way of telling which one is correct. And of course a religious body such as the Catholic Church that sees a conflict between Catholicism and science is going to assume it is science that is wrong.

        So I am not convinced of the usefulness of saying that in principle there can be no conflicts. It is clear that there are conflicts.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          David, it is not that science or the Catholic faith has to be wrong. It is that the person claiming there is a conflict is wrong. If I make the claim based on some particular issue, then either I don't understand the physical world properly or I don't understand the Catholic faith properly.

          In the case of Galileo, the learned doctors of the Inquisition got both the physical world wrong (the earth does move) and the Catholic faith wrong (a heliocentric solar system does not conflict with Sacred Scripture).

          The claim "no conflict between science and the Catholic faith" does not mean there cannot be hundreds of difficulties in reconciling the two.

          As a Catholic, I find the claim useful because it tells me that there are answers to questions, even if they are not now answerable.

          • Susan

            David, it is not that science or the Catholic faith has to be wrong. It is that the person claiming there is a conflict is wrong. If I make the claim based on some particular issue, then either I don't understand the physical world properly or I don't understand the Catholic faith properly.

            So, if evidence conflcts with catholic "faith", anyone who points out the conflict is wrong? And an explanation will some day surface that will reconcile the two?

            I find the claim useful because it tells me that there are answers to questions, even if they are not now answerable

            Although that is possible, it is not a given. There might not be answers.

            There is no reason to accept that your "sacred scripture" is any more sacred than any other human-made mythology.
            It doesn't explain anything and it claims to explain everything.

            Never a good sign.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > So, if evidence conflcts with catholic "faith", anyone who points out the conflict is wrong?

            If you think you have evidence that some doctrine of the Catholic faith is false, then yes. There could be something wrong with your evidence, you could be misunderstanding the evidence, or your understanding of the Catholic faith is in error.

            That is the Catholic claim, as I understand it.

        • Martin Sellers

          "What is important is that when there appears to be a conflict between faith and science, there is some way of telling which one is correct. And of course a religious body such as the Catholic Church that sees a conflict between Catholicism and science is going to assume it is science that is wrong."

          I believe the catholic church in particular has changed its perspective many times in lieu of new scientific discovery (example: the world is flat)

    • [---
      If there is no conflict between science and religion, does that mean the conservative Christians who reject evolution and insist on intelligent design aren't practicing Christians?
      ---]
      No less a practicing Christian than Einstein was a practicing physicist for pushing a static universe.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Einstein was not a practising Christian. He was, at best, agnostic. Certainly he didn't believe in a personal god.

        • Michael Murray

          He was also Jewish and I don't remember anyone before claiming he had converted.

        • Martin Sellers

          I think you missed his analogy. Read it once more.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The analogy didn't seem valid, so I made a parsimonious judgement.

          • Martin Sellers

            I think the analogy is valid.

            Conservative Christians who reject evolution have an incomplete understanding of what God has revealed about the world just as Einstein had an incomplete understanding of how the universe works. Even though you may not agree with the equation of the subjects in the analogy, how can you question it's validity? Or have you reconsidered? I'm not sure from your post.

          • Michael Murray

            Ah I see. The practicing Christian was not Einstein but the person rejecting evolution. Got it.

      • Susan

        No less a practicing Christian than Einstein was a practicing physicist for pushing a static universe

        How is one like the other?

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          The analogy is incorrectly stated. And still false: Einstein did not reject a static universe because of a religious doctrine

      • David Nickol

        If I understand your meaning, it is that conservative Christians who reject evolution and insist on intelligent design are no less practicing Christians that Einstein was a practicing physicist for "pushing" a static universe. (I would say Einstein assumed the universe was not expanding.)

        The problem here when discussing whether or not there is a conflict between science and religion is that we are being very vague about what we mean by science and especially by religion. Clearly there has been a lot of conflict between science and "religion." What was the whole Galileo affair about?

        The following is from the Pew Research Center:

        A majority of white evangelical Protestants (64%) and half of black Protestants (50%) say that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. But in other large religious groups, a minority holds this view. In fact, nearly eight-in-ten white mainline Protestants (78%) say that humans and other living things have evolved over time. Three-quarters of the religiously unaffiliated (76%) and 68% of white non-Hispanic Catholics say the same. About half of Hispanic Catholics (53%) believe that humans have evolved over time, while 31% reject that idea.

        I would call this a conflict between science and religion, particularly when it results in the conservative Christians battling to get evolution out of public school curricula or at least to get "equal time" for special creation and intelligent design.

        I believe I understand the Catholic position that there can be no conflict or contradiction between Catholicism, properly understood, and science, properly understood. It is not that Catholicism deals with certain things, science deals with other things, and there is no overlap. It is that (according to the Church) Catholicism, properly understood, is truth, and no finding of science that is also true can contradict truth.

        But the problem, even if that is accurate, is that Catholicism (broadly speaking) can be wrong. Even granting the Church's claims to infallibility, not everything the Church teaches is guaranteed infallible. And of course there is no guarantee that the prevailing opinion of scientists is right, either. So there is plenty of room for prevailing (non-infallible) views within Catholicism to be in conflict with prevailing views in science.

        So it can be said that what is true in Catholicism cannot contradict what is true in science, and vice-versa. But it can also be said that what is true in Islam, or Buddhism, or Mormonism cannot contradict what is true in science. It can be said that astrology, properly understood, does not contradict science, properly understood. It can be said that whatever is true in any discipline or area of thought does not contradict whatever is true in any other discipline or area of thought. So basically such statements boil down to a tautology—whatever is true is true.

  • Relatively speaking these do no seem to be terribly significant contributions other than Mendel, and possibly Lemaitre. Thought I must admit that I struggle to see the point of this list being published on a site like this.

    One question that springs up is where are all the Catholic scientists who advanced our knowledge and understanding in the 600 years or so when Catholic priests were pretty much the only people in Europe who could read or were educated? My guess is that for its first 600 years Catholicism was pretty monastic and did not inquire much into the natural world, but when others began, this population of literate individuals (still rather uncommon in the eleventh century) also made some minor contributions, but no breakthroughs.

    It is interesting to note that you would never see a scientific organization trying to make a point by listing the scientists who made advances to Catholic theology or any religious pursuit. Science seems of great concern to religious apologists, but never the other way round.

    • Martin Sellers

      "It is interesting to note that you would never see a scientific organization trying to make a point by listing the scientists who made advances to Catholic theology or any religious pursuit. Science seems of great concern to religious apologists, but never the other way round."

      I would consider writers on this site to be part of a "scientific organization" (made of people interested in science)- and certainly this site heralds the exploits of people who promote catholic doctrine- It's matter of perspective I suppose.

      • Susan

        I would consider writers on this site to be part of a "scientific organization" (made of people interested in science

        Some people on this site are certainly interested in science but many don't seem to be.

        This site Is not organized around science. By no stretch, can it be called a scientific organization. It is organized around apologetics.

        • Martin Sellers

          "This site Is not organized around science. By no stretch, can it be called a scientific organization. It is organized around apologetics."

          I think that is a bit harsh. I was attracted to this site because of its emphasis on science. As a practicing catholic I feel I do not need to be evangelized (however I should always be looking to learn more). I came to this site because it offered me a venue to discuss science, philosophy and politics through a religious lens. People use this site for different reasons. I see no reason why I cannot consider it a scientific organization since I glean scientific knowledge from it.

      • Michael Murray

        That's a heck of a stretch of any sensible definition of scientific organisation. Certainly I am sure it is not the definition Brian Green Adams intended. Surely at a minimum a scientific organisation would be expected to be made up of scientists. Not just people interested in science. Would you call us a health organisation ? Surely all of us are interested in our own health ?

        • Martin Sellers

          "Surely at a minimum a scientific organisation would be expected to be made up of scientists."

          Perhaps my conjecture was too broad. I simply meant to raise a possible argument to Brian Green Adams's statement. Perhaps consider this a better example: a catholic university, such as DePaul where I attend. The university is made up of scientists, and no reasonable person would argue it is not a scientific institution. Yet the university trumpets the exploits and philosophy of St. Vincent de Paul, and other saints very openly in both it's mission, curriculum and those it hires. As a student, researcher and employee of the university I know firsthand this is the case. To my knowledge other catholic universities do the same for their patron saints and Catholic philosophy they value.

      • I certainly would not call us a scientific organization. I am not a scientist, I have a high school education in science. My father is a scientist and my best friend is a very prominent scientist and I am confident

        This isn't a list of people who are Catholics or just interested in Catholicism, they are all priests or monks.

        I wonder why some Catholics feel the need to trumpet priests who have contributed something to science (Father Barron did this recently responding to Cosmos 2.0). But you would never see anyone try to list members of the Royal Society who had made contributions to Catholicism.

        It sure seems to me that the author of this piece and the editorial decision to publish it here six years later is an attempt to gain some kind of legitimacy by associating Catholicism and science.

        • Martin Sellers

          "I certainly would not call us a scientific organization. I am not a scientist, I have a high school education in science. My father is a scientist and my best friend is a very prominent scientist and I am confident"

          Here's a stretch for you- I liken this forum to the pre revolution salons of 18th century France: a group of intellectuals who gather to discuss the social impact of philosophy, economics religion, and science. I would consider this forum of equal scientific value to those gatherings. Alas- i doubt the posing here will lead to the beheading of our social elites- fortunately for Miley Cyrus lol- I also doubt our first lady would speak of "eating cake" ;) haha

          • You are missing the point. Even if it is a scientific organization, the science promoters here don't care if any scientist has made a contribution to Catholicism. We don't feel the need to say "here is a list of scientists who made a contribution to theology".

            However, there seems to be a need on the other side to prove that priests and monks have contributed to science and secular pursuits. I say this an attempt to gain legitimacy for Catholicism, not by pointing to their achievements as priests, but as scientists. It is telling that Catholics seek legitimacy in this way.

          • Martin Sellers

            "I say this an attempt to gain legitimacy for Catholicism, not by pointing to their achievements as priests, but as scientists."

            You are right. Apologists here ARE trying to change the way people view Catholicism- but not the way you suggest--> legitimizing untruth (superstitious religion) by likening it to real truth (science). Rather, they are trying to correct the incorrect popular notion that religious people don't care about science. They do so here by listing a few popular examples from history.

            "Even if it is a scientific organization, the science promoters here don't care if any scientist has made a contribution to Catholicism. We don't feel the need to say "here is a list of scientists who made a contribution to theology".

            You speak of all scientists as being totally secular.
            Perhaps "you" don't care if any scientist has made a contribution to Catholicism. I am a scientist (albeit a social scientist) and am interested in such topics. I would certainly like to see a list of scientists who have made a contribution to theology. In fact, I am sure many scientists on the list above would fall into that category.

          • I don't think Catholics or various Christian apologists aren't interested in science. Neither do I think that many scientists are not religious. I would have thought it obvious that thousands of religious people are excellent scientists. As are thousands of atheists.

            I would say Cathilicism is currently one of the best Christian religions as far as not contradicting science. Of course I would hope that Catholics understand the frustration atheist fans of science feel when your Protestant cousins vehemently deny the science of evolution and the age of the Earth. Or as in a few posts on this site have done
            , when scientific findings are improperly used as to "point to" the existence of a God. But see my comments on the previous article for that kind of discussion.

          • All very true Brian. To clarify, which I'm sure you're aware of, many Protestant denominations do not deny the science behind the theory of evolution or the age of the earth. The ones that do deny are the ones that get the most attention though.

            As I noted in a posting a few months ago with another blogger, the Catholic Church is quite open to the scientific discoveries of atheists/agnostics and those of other religious persuasions. If this were not the case, I don't believe Stephen Hawking would be part of the pontifical academy of sciences

            http://www.casinapioiv.va/content/accademia/en/academicians/ordinary/hawking.html

            This particular website deals with the contribution of Catholics to the sciences and also has numerous links. Something to add to your library of websites.

            http://www.catholiclab.net/TheCatholicLaboratory/Home.html

  • David Lukenbill

    Great list Dr. Bunson, but how did you forget Fr. Teilhard de Chardin?

    In the luminosity of his theological writings, it is also forgotten that he was an eminent scientist, as Theodosius Dobzhansky, prominent geneticist and evolutionary biologist, writing in Chardin’s Letters to Two Friends (1968) notes:

    “Between 1908 and 1949, Teilhard published sixty-seven major scientific papers on geology, between 1907 and 1952 a total of fifty-three papers on paleontology, and between 1913 and 1955 a total of thirty-nine papers of paleoanthropology. His complete bibliography amounts to some five hundred titles. His geological work covers a wide field; his studies on the geology of China stand out as a fundamental contribution to the understanding of the geological history of the heartland of Asia. As a paleontologist, Teilhard has concentrated his attention on the study of fossil mammals, again chiefly on those of China. A whole generation of Chinese geologists and paleontologists had him as one of their mentors and leaders. Together with Davidson Black, W. C. Pei, and F. Weidenreich, Teilhard worked on the famous fossil remains discovered in the Chou-kou-tien locality near Peking, and named Peking Man (Homo erectus pekinensis). Teilhard was not the actual finder of the skull of this most ancient Prometheus (Peking Man is the earliest known user of fire), but his was nevertheless a key role, since he studied the geology of the locality and the associated fossil animals, making it thus possible to arrive at an approximate geological age of the Peking Man.

    “Teilhard’s work as a research scientist brought him ample honors and recognition from his scientific colleagues. Among his other publications, Early Man in China (1941), Chinese Fossil Mammals (1942), New Rodents of North China (1942), Le Neolithique de la Chine (1944), Les Felides de Chine (1945), and Les Mustelides de Chine (1945) may especially be mentioned as having established his reputation. After his return from China to France in 1946, he was invited to become a candidate for a professorship at the College de France in Paris, one of the most prestigious positions to which a scientist can aspire in that country. His ecclesiastic superiors discouraged him from accepting this position; some of the letters in the present collection refer to this melancholy event, as well as to the still heavier blow that fell on him in 1950, when a permission to publish his major works (Le Phenomene Humain and Le Groupe Zoologique Humain) was withheld by the authorities in Rome. His greatest honor, election in 1950 to membership in the Academie des Sciences (Institut de France), came however at about the same time.” (pp. 223-224)

    • Peter

      Teilhard de Chardin's mid 20th century thesis that the universe is destined to evolve towards greater complexity and achieve consciousness has been supported by recent evidence.

      Of course, the final precursors of life and the establishment of life itself, as well as any signs of complex life, have yet to be observed. However, through our observation of spaceborne compounds which constitute the building blocks of life, we recognise an irreversible pattern in the universe which is the progression from lesser to greater complexity as de Chardin predicted.

      de Chardin cites planets as the vital points of the universe, the axes where complexity finally progresses to the point of life and beyond towards complex life and eventual consciousness. This resonates harmoniously with our current expectations that the precursors of life will be found within protoplanetary discs in the vicinity of newly forming planets, before taking hold on those planets and becoming transformed into life itself.

      Only time will tell if de Chardin is completely right and that time is coming upon us. Very soon orbital and terrestrial telescopes will be peering deep into protoplanetary discs to look for the precursors of life, and even into exoplanetary atmospheres to look for signs of life itself.

      If these facts are borne out rendering his predictions accurate, Teilhard de Chardin will stand alongside Georges Lemaitre as the two most outstanding priest scientists of the 20th century.

      • C. J. W.

        I think this is quite apt. It's often countered that biological evolution doesn't have an arrow pointing towards increased complexity. This is true to a point; now that we understand its mechanisms, we know that evolution doesn't necessarily have to point towards increased complexity, but historically it has.

        Even as the *overall* free energy of the universe decreases, our cosmology is clearly one of focally increasing complexity, from nebulae to stars and planets to simple replicators to complex multicellular tissues, organisms and communities. This is shown when you estimate the energy flow per unit of mass for these different structures; the more complex a structure, the more energy is required to maintain it. Nebulae are at one extreme, and brain tissue is at the other.

        • Peter

          Indeed, and also his prediction that human consciousness, once achieved, would evolve further into a collective consciousness is being borne out by the facts.

          The rapid growth of globalisation in recent years, of human interaction at all levels driven by technology, is a phenomenon which, like it or nor, is here to stay and lead humanity to a level of collective self-awareness.

          It is de Chardin's thesis that the universal law of increasing complexity will create many instance of life across the cosmos which, having attained individual consciousness as humans have, will then go on to develop their own collective consciousness.

          He paints the picture of a universe inexorably driven from its inception to achieve widespread collective self-awareness. While gaps still remain, our observations increasingly suggest that it could be true.

    • Loreen Lee

      I remember from reading Teilhard Chardin's rather 'mystical' work in the sixties his concept of a noesphere, (Sp?) the idea of the thoughts of humans creating a though-o-sphere, (or something) and also the idea that the earth is our altar, and many other such ideas. Maybe it was these ideas and not his scientific endeavors that were the reason for his works being censored. Needless to say, I named my daughter after him, making a little change to capture her French ancestry - i.e. Jardine.!!!!

      • David Nickol

        Maybe it was these ideas and not his scientific endeavors that were the reason for his works being censored.

        To the best of my knowledge, Teilhard de Chardin is famous not for his scientific contributions to evolutionary theory, but for his religious interpretation of evolution as directed toward an "Omega point." According to Wikipedia:

        The Omega Point is the purported maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which some believe the universe is evolving. The term coined by the French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955).

        In this theory, developed by Teilhard in The Future of Man (1950), the universe is constantly developing towards higher levels of material complexity and consciousness, a theory of evolution that Teilhard called the Law of Complexity/Consciousness. For Teilhard, the universe can only move in the direction of more complexity and consciousness if it is being drawn by a supreme point of complexity and consciousness. Thus Teilhard postulates the Omega Point as this supreme point of complexity and consciousness, which in his view is the actual cause for the universe to grow in complexity and consciousness. In other words, the Omega Point exists as supremely complex and conscious, transcendent and independent of the evolving universe.

        Since the prevailing scientific view is that evolutionary change is random (except insofar as natural selection picks winners and losers), Teilhard de Chardin seems (to me) to incorporate a version of evolution into a religious theory, or perhaps outline a theory of "theistic evolution."

        I do not think his work is taken seriously by scientists interested in the modern evolutionary synthesis. He wanted to interpret evolution in religious terms, and whatever worth of his religious ideas, religious interpretations of science are religion, not science.

        • Loreen Lee

          Thank you so much for this. It puts my reading in perspective, as what was available to me was likely taken from this larger context. I have given as a comeback to 'materialists' who hold an evolutionary theory of consciousness, that a supreme point of perfection or consciousness (Chardin's omega point?) could never be reached, if it did not already 'exist'. My 'proof of God's existence' as it were. I guess I got this idea from the synopsis which was what was available regarding Chardin. In any case, I am with the religious 'theories' that hold that we can never attain a 'God consciousness'.

          • Peter

            Even if consciousness can never reach a point of perfection, it is still a comeback to materialists who hold an evolutionary theory of consciousness. The reason for this is that a universe which is destined to acquire widespread consciousness denotes a universe which is imbued with a strong sense of purpose.

            There is nothing random about a universe which starts off as a haze of subatomic particles and then goes on to attain a collective sense of self-awareness and self-understanding. There is nothing random about a universe which is configured from the outset to create on a potentially vast scale its own capacity to comprehend itself.

            Therefore, even a materialist understanding of the cosmos has no defence against the sense of purpose built into the universe. The only way they can wriggle out of this inevitable conclusion is by claiming that consciousness is not potentially universal but a uniquely freak occurrence at one time and in one place.

            However, time is against them because observations reveal a universe of increasing complexity where conscious life is plausible. Rather than invoking the God of the gaps as creationists do, what materialists do is hide within those gaps and obstinately hold on to positions which become increasingly untenable as the gaps become smaller.

          • Loreen Lee

            I found after posting the above comment: (that perfection entails existence) that I was merely representing Descartes ontological argument. The concept of purpose is also I believe contained within another proof: that of design. This is based on the order found in nature, the evidence found in our intuition of 'beauty'.
            Kant expanded on all of these arguments raising the element of proof into a presentation of the structure of such seeming disparate arguments into a coherent whole. Thus his ontological morality consists of four parts, each one related to the others, in which the purpose of humanity, based on the moral argument that the 'purpose' is to attain a 'kingdom of ends', is given a parallel format based on the order of the cosmos.
            It has only become apparent to me in the last while, that Catholicism/Christianity is indeed unique in that it is a 'rationalist' perspective, and possibly the underlying philosophy that is presented even in such works as that by Kant and Hegel. I have thus put the empirical within this context, seeing the 'phenomena' of miracles within this context as 'evidence' of that 'world' which would correspond to the given 'rationalist perspective' of the Western world view, be it philosophical or religious.

            Science I understand is a method, therefore, limited by the constraints of the phenomenal world. Discoveries must therefore remain provisional, as since they are based on the limitations of observation, do themselves depend on a developing understanding of what constitutes the 'rationality' of man. (And indeed we trust our ability to reason and our logical methods are also developing). In this regard did not computer science develop out of the philosophical work of Frege, etc? Did not the 'non-scientific' development of historical analysis develop out of Kant and then Hegel's development of the dialectical method. (As did Marx's communism!!!) (I hope M. Solange reads this!!!) Science may be about the physical universe, but philosophy and religion are about 'ourselves'.

        • Peter

          The evolution of the universe from primeval protons and electrons to complex carbon compounds is not random but an irreversible process built into the fabric of the universe.

          Furthermore, as far as the evolution of life is concerned, how can evolutionary change be random If winners and losers are determined not by chance but by natural selection? And how can the process of natural selection be random if it is governed by mutations? And how can mutations be random if the radiation causing them comes from a non-random source like the sun and the stars?

          de Chardin's scientific contribution is immeasurable in predicting the unstoppable march of complexity from the simplicity of the first cosmic particles to the intricacy of a living brain capable of attaining consciousness, and even beyond to the establishment of a collective consciousness whose first signs we recognise as globalisation.

          • David Nickol

            The evolution of the universe from primeval protons and electrons to complex carbon compounds is not random but an irreversible process built into the fabric of the universe.

            It seems to me it is quite mistaken to think of the "evolution" of the universe and the evolution of life on earth as the same kind of evolution. Darwin did discover that life evolved. That was widely believed. Darwin discovered the mechanism—natural selection. And later it was discovered why there were changes in living things so that natural selection could "choose" between different individuals of the same species—random mutations. If the universe "evolved" in anything like that sense, it would not look fundamentally the same in all directions.

            Furthermore, as far as the evolution of life is concerned, how can evolutionary change be random If winners and losers are determined not by chance but by natural selection?

            Evolutionary change is random because mutations are random, not because natural selection is random.

            And how can the process of natural selection be random if it is governed by mutations?

            Natural selection is not "governed" but mutations. Random mutations occur, which generally are either harmful or unimportant, but some are beneficial, and natural selection chooses those. And a mutation that is beneficial in one environment (say, a very dry one) is harmful in a different environment (a very wet one). So evolution is not a matter of organisms "improving" in some general sense. It is a matter of them becoming adapted to a particular environment.

            And how can mutations be random if the radiation causing them comes from a non-random source like the sun and the stars?

            You seem to believe in some kind of determinism. Do you believe that if a cosmic ray causes a mutation in a gene, it was destined to do so from the moment of the big bang? (Mutations can be caused by radiation, but they can be caused by a number of other factors, too.) In the case of radiation, we know that radioactive decay is truly random, so unless you have another theory of radioactive decay that quantum theory, cosmic rays are random.

            de Chardin's scientific contribution is immeasurable in predicting the unstoppable march . . . .

            That is not science, nor has it been shown to be true. It is, it seems to me, quite the opposite of what people like cosmologists and evolutionary biologists believe reality to be like.

          • Peter

            Just as the universe looks fundamentally the same in all directions, so too is life on earth fundamentally the same in all directions. If it were not, it wouldn't be life on earth.

            Of course natural selection chooses the beneficial mutations, otherwise it wouldn't be natural selection. The selection of beneficial mutations over harmful mutations is the process which drives evolution.

            As regards the destiny of cosmic rays, the extreme low entropy of the early universe leads scientists to remark not how fortuitous it is that complex life has arisen in one instance, but how strange and inexplicable it is that countless examples of complex life have not arisen elsewhere. It seems cosmic rays were expected to do far more, not less as you imply.

            Mutations are caused by cosmic rays and by chemical processes which themselves are originated by cosmic rays, making cosmic rays the fundamental drivers.

            Finally, as time goes by, observational evidence increasingly supports de Chardin's prediction. Only yesterday we had news of Kepler 186f, the first earth sized planet within the habitable zone of its red dwarf star. Red dwarfs make up the bulk of the stars in the galaxy. The potential for life is enormous and with it the likelihood of complex life.

          • Michael Murray
  • Michael Murray

    A completely off-topic question for the Americans. I've twice in these comments lately seen a remark referred to as sophomoric. Although we don't use the word in Australia we do get lots of American TV so I understand the allusion to a second year college student and the dictionary tells me the implication is intellectual pretension. But I don't understand why it's second year rather than first year? Is there a reason? Maybe first years don't know enough even for the pretension?

    • Alypius

      Maybe first years don't know enough even for the pretension?

      Right on, mate. The etymology of the word comes from "wise fool". With a year under the belt they think they're getting smart. But, all in all, they're still pretty clueless. :-)

      • Michael Murray

        Thanks Alypius. I've added it to my armoury !

    • Cubico

      Hmm...best be careful lest you become too top heavy with intellectual superiority, and fall off the edge of that big cup and drown in your coffee....;-)

  • Linda

    I didn't get through all the comments yet, so maybe this was addressed somewhere further on, but I am wondering, for those who are more materialist, how we determine how to use the information we get from science. For instance, what criteria is used to determine whether a new product or innovation should be used? Plastic bags, silicone implants, artificial sweeteners? Which form of power is best: nuclear, wind, solar, pedal, steam?

    • Mike

      Well, I'm not a materialist, but solar is clearly the best form of power.

      • Michael Murray

        Lately I've started to think thorium fueled nuclear power might not be a bad option in the medium term. Given how pathetically slow we seem to be a species in responding to reducing C02 emissions.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium-based_nuclear_power

        It gets around the problems with solar being only available when the sun is up.

        • Mike

          The problem with Nuclear is scale-ability. We as a species currently use something like 15 TW of power a year. This is predicted to double by 2050 and triple by 2100. Mostly driven by 3rd world countries becoming industrialized. Solar power is the only option capable of yielding this amount of power.

          If I remember the arithmetic right, we as a species would need to build one nuclear power plant per day for the next 30 years to come close to what we would need.

          Also if I remember correctly the sunlight that strikes the earth's surface in an hour is sufficient to power the planet for an entire year. As you said there are two problems with solar. 1.) cost. Given current state of the art silicon solar cells produce electricity at 18 cents/kwh, and in the US the price for electricity is 7 cents/kwh and has been steady since the 1950s accounting for inflation. 2.) storage and transportability. We as scientists need to develop catalysts with earth abundant metals capable of producing solar fuels, either water splitting, or CO2 reduction.

          Sorry for the long post, I did my PhD on artificial photosynthesis.

          As a personal side note, when discussing this I've found best not to lead with climate change, or CO2 emissions. There are too many people who are unwilling to accept these for political reasons. However, there are other ways to get the point across. 1.) Other health effects, i.e. asthma from smog, and health/environmental issues associated with the procurement and transportation of fossil fuels. See BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and lung problems with coal miners. 2.) economics. People are most likely to respond to economic issues. We've all seen the famous hockey stick graph from Al Gore fame, but if we plot CO2 emissions (a measure of energy utilization) and per capita GDP as a function of time there is a 1:1 correlation. The world's economy assumes abundant cheap energy. If this assumption fails bad things happen. With an increased energy demand costs will rise, and new energy resources need to be produced to offset this new demand for prices to stay relatively cheap.

          • Linda

            A point I heard many years ago that I've often wondered about: if we spent dollar for dollar on solar what we've spent on nuclear, would we perhaps have hit on more efficient solar power options?

          • Mike

            Hi Linda,

            It's a hard question to definitively answer. We need money, true, but also talented people to work in the field. Efficiency isn't really an issue, we can produce solar energy at better than 20%, whereas natural photosynthesis is about ~1% effecient. In plants photophysics is about 100% effecient, but the biology is slow. The real issue it cost, we need to figure out how to make solar energy more cost effective.

          • Susan

            Hi Mike,

            It's a hard question to definitively answer. We need money, true, but also talented people to work in the field

            Nice to see you weighing in on one of your areas of expertise.

            Thank you for your input. It's a terribly important subject and the more information, the better.

          • Michael Murray

            Sorry for the long post, I did my PhD on artificial photosynthesis.

            Don't apologise. It was an interesting and well informed read.

          • Cubico

            Ahhhh.....Perhaps the criteria for posting in this forum should be a minimum of a Phd....or some otherAcademic
            degrees, lest the riff raff somehow gain entry to this August
            discussion forum.....after
            all, we would not want the intellectual element of this forum to be
            reduced to the blase' meanderings of the the pedantic. Personally...I
            would wish to have as many degrees from any number of universities as
            possible.....but given the promotion and self-aggrandisement as goes on here in this forum..... is truly laughable.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Nope. Too inefficient. Artificial black hole kinetics is more efficient (around 10%, I believe.)

    • Michael Murray

      I'm not sure how a materialist would view these thing any differently ? You would assess the effectiveness, dangers they present, usefulness, etc, etc ?

      Is pedal a serious alternative power source :-)

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        I think Linda's point was that pure materialism doesn't provide a value system. For example, science can tell us what actions will help us survive, and it can tell us that our brains and endocrine systems are naturally wired to seek survival, but it can't tell us whether we *should* seek survival (just to take a rather extreme example of a value judgement). You need a philosophy for that bit.

        • Linda

          Yes, thanks, Jim! I imagine most people have an opinion about things like this, but I don't see how your opinion could be only scientifically based.

        • Michael Murray

          Sure you need to decide what your values are and then apply the science to see if various options are consistent with your values.

      • Linda

        It wouldn't necessarily be different but I think a materialist would still need some kind of subjective weighting system to evaluate things. Is it better to take the bus, ride my bike, walk? Time, cost, environmental impact - what factors should even be considered? Is The Greater Good a scientific factor?

        • Michael Murray

          Ah sorry Linda I just saw your reply. I've sort of replied already here to Jim.

          https://strangenotions.com/fathers-of-science/#comment-1342240270

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          You assume a materialist has a purely utilitarian ethical system. Not necessarily. "intelligence is a tool to be used towards and end, but ends are not always chosen intelligently."

          • Linda

            I don't know. I am trying to understand, for those who insist that science is the only way to go, how to make value judgments about the information science provides. If we stick to science for the information, we still need a framework in which to interpret the facts it provides, and to provide direction on how to use the information we gather. It would seem that we would need a value system to determine which direction to even begin studying anything. Why should a person learn about botany instead of physiology? What are you trying to achieve by learning anything at all? To what end?

          • Susan

            If we stick to science for the information, we still need a framework in which to interpret the facts it provides, and to provide direction on how to use the information we gather

            What does this have to do with materialism? That's the confusing part.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Sure. I agree. Science can inform certain categories of decisions, but it does not make certain decisions. No one is disputing that.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        I believe that in terms of kilocalorie/kilogram/kilometer, bicycles are the most efficient mode of transportation ever.

        • Michael Murray

          I agree. I cycle to and from work every day. I just wasn't sure it was a viable "form of power" which I took to mean a way of generating electricity. Maybe I misunderstood that.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            She probably wasn't thinking transport, but as some of our energy needs are in moving people and goods around... I've got a friend traveling the world by bicycle; he's the one that did the calculation; I'll see if I can get it from him.

          • Linda

            Actually, besides cycling, I've seen televisions hooked up to stationary bikes so that the only way to power the telly is to pedal, which I've always wanted to do, but the vidiots I live with won't go for it. :(

      • Linda

        Yes to pedal!

  • David Nickol

    Is String Theory a religion?

    I am currently reading Lisa Randall's book Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, and at various times I have had two (probably irreconcilable) thoughts. One, when Randall was discussing various human endeavors, was that religion (especially when compared to science) seems a great deal like the arts (especially literature). Another was that String Theory at present has certain elements of a religion.

    Christianity seems to me to be largely about interpreting stories and other kinds of texts. A whole edifice (Catholicism) has been built on the Bible, particularly the New Testament. The story of Adam and Eve is interpreted as the "Fall" of man and estrangement from God, and the story of Jesus is interpreted as God's plan to heal the breach. There is actually nothing in the story of Adam and Eve about Jesus, and there is nothing in the story of Jesus about Adam and Eve's "Fall" or the need for the healing of the breach, but it is essentially literary analysis that finds this as the underlying theme of the Bible.

    Regarding String Theory and Catholicism, it is often argued that Catholicism is "rational," and this seems not to be a totally wrongheaded claim, since the doctrines that have accumulated in Catholicism for almost 2000 years are often the result of multi-sided arguments in which a majority was eventually reached that in the case of dogma eventually became a unanimous view (although only among the "magisterium"). This is in some respects the same as String Theory (although the analogy is far, far from perfect), in which there is a logically coherent account of reality which may be either unverifiable, and if not unverifiable, may be wrong.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      It is definitely my experience that Catholic theorizing is much more like literary analysis than it is like science. Of course, it is not just a literary analysis of the Bible, or even just of texts. If one views all of reality as a story, than all of reality can be subjected to something like literary analysis. That is basically my understanding of what theology is.

      I can't comment intelligently on string theory, but I would say that in biomedical research (where I have made a living for the past 15 years), narrative is essential. You can't just go making stories up of course, because no one will listen to stories that are contradicted by the data and prior knowledge. But if two people have different theories that are more or less equally consistent with the totality of the data, the best storyteller will win. If I extrapolate my experience and assume that something similar happens in string theory research, it suggests that the two insights that you mention are actually very reconcilable.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      It is definitely my experience that Catholic theorizing is much more like literary analysis than it is like science. Of course, it is not just a literary analysis of the Bible, or even just of texts. If one views all of reality as a story, then all of reality can be subjected to something like literary analysis.

      I can't comment intelligently on string theory, but I would say that in biomedical research (where I have made a living for the past 15 years), narrative is essential. You can't just go making stories up of course, because no one will listen to stories that are contradicted by the data and prior knowledge. But if two people have different theories that are more or less equally consistent with the totality of the data, the best storyteller will win. If I extrapolate my experience and assume that something similar happens in string theory research, it suggests that the two insights that you mention are actually very reconcilable.

  • Cubico

    Ahhhh.....Perhaps the criteria for posting in this forum should be a minimum of a Phd....or some otherAcademic degrees, lest the riff raff somehow gain entry to this August discussion forum.....after
    all, we would not want the intellectual element of this forum to be
    reduced to the blase' meanderings of the the pedantic. Personally...I would wish to have as many degrees from any number of universities as possible.....but given the promotion and self-aggrandisement as goes on here in this forum.....it is truly laughable.

    I really don't expect to survive on here....as the fact is, that the emperor truly has no clothes on!