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Scientific Geniuses and Their Jesuit Collaborators

Jesuits33

Herbert Butterfield, the influential twentieth-century historian, identified the Scientific Revolution as “one of the great episodes in human history,” which, along with the rise of the empires of Alexander the Great and ancient Rome, deserves a place “amongst the epic adventures that have helped to make the human race what it is.”1 Numerous Catholic scientists, both laymen and churchmen alike, made valuable contributions to science before, during, and after the Scientific Revolution.

The scientists and mathematicians of the Jesuit Order hold a special place in this story, and a multi-volume work would be required to catalogue their contributions to a variety of scientific fields. In this article, we examine only one aspect of the Jesuit contribution, namely, their collaboration with the greatest minds of the Scientific Revolution.

Jesuit historian Joseph F. MacDonnell discusses the scientific influence of the Society of Jesus in his book Companions of Jesuits: A Tradition of Collaboration, where he writes that “it is a challenge for historians to find a single significant scientist of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries who was not in some way involved with Jesuits and their colleagues: as students, as teachers, as relatives, as collaborators, as adversaries, as rivals or simply as personal friends.”2

The Jesuits had a close and often complex relationship with Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). While the Galileo Affair holds a prominent place in the history of science, the relationship between Galileo and the Church is more nuanced than often presented in standard histories. The same can be said of the relationship between the Jesuits and Galileo.

While the Jesuits often embraced Aristotelian science and the Tychonic model of the solar system, they still influenced Galileo in important ways. The historian William Wallace, for instance, has shown that many of Galileo’s views were inspired by several Jesuits teaching at the Roman College.3

After Galileo described his observations of the Moon and the Medicean Stars in his Starry Messenger of 1610, the Jesuits confirmed his discoveries. Furthermore, Galileo’s interest in the study of falling bodies originated with the Jesuit Niccolo Cabeo (1586-1650).4 Another Jesuit, Honore Fabri (1608-1688), was the first to explain Galileo’s experiment demonstrating equal time for falling bodies.5

Galileo’s lifelong friendship with the Jesuit astronomer and mathematician Christopher Clavius (1538-1612) began in 1587.6 Clavius, who introduced plus (+) and minus (-) signs to Italy,7 and is remembered for his work on the Gregorian calendar, was a great influence on the Father of Modern Science. In 1588, Galileo wrote a letter of admiration to Clavius, in which he also inquired about a center-of-gravity demonstration.8 A letter from Clavius brought Galileo enough joy to occasion an immediate recovery from a sickness that required Galileo to be bedridden.9

Another close collaborator with the Jesuit Order was Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), whose laws of planetary motion hold a special place in the history of scientific discovery. When Kepler found himself in financial difficulty and lacking a telescope of his own, the Jesuit mathematician Paul Guldin (1577-1643) encouraged fellow Jesuit Niccolo Zucchi (1586-1670) to provide Kepler with the needed instrument. Kepler, who was very appreciative of the gift, dedicated his last book to Guldin.10 The dedication reads:

“To the very reverend Father Paul Guldin, priest of the Society of Jesus, venerable and learned man, beloved patron. There is hardly anyone at this time with whom I would rather discuss matters of astronomy than with you. Even more of a pleasure to me, therefore, was the greeting from your reverence which was delivered to me by members of your order who are here. Fr. Zucchi could not have entrusted this most remarkable gift – I speak of the telescope – to anyone whose effort in his connection pleases me more than yours. Since you are the first to tell me that this jewel is to become my property, I think you should receive from me the first literary fruit of the joy that I gained from trial of this gift.”11

This dedication from Kepler to Guldin came at the end of a long history of friendship with the Order. When Kepler was banished from the University of Graz, after a decree from the Emperor of Austria, the Jesuits Decker, Lang, and Guldin interceded on his behalf. The Jesuits at the college at Ingolstadt assumed responsibility for the publication of Kepler’s Almanac, after the scientist was unable to get it printed.12

The influence and encouragement flowed in both directions. For instance, Jesuit missionaries in China sought out his expertise on difficult mathematical problems, and Kepler encouraged the astronomical work of Zucchi.

The Jesuits also influenced Kepler’s fellow countrymen, Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) and Otto von Guericke (1602-1686). In a 1703 letter to Bernoulli, Leibniz attributed his original interest in mathematics to the writings of the Jesuits Clavius, St. Vincent, and Guldin.13 Indeed, Leibniz credits Gregory St. Vincent (1584-1667) as one of the founders of analytic geometry.14 After a meeting with Jesuit Chinese missionaries, Leibniz sent a suggestion for explaining the Trinity to their soon-to-be Chinese hosts.15

Guericke, who invented the air pump, was a friend and correspondent of the Jesuit Gaspar Schott (1608-1666). “It was Schott’s publication of von Guericke’s research,” writes Macdonnell, “that stimulated Huygens and Boyle as well as others to extend the experiments and thus to improve the vacuum pump.”16 Schott was also the first to make Boyle’s subsequent investigations of the air pump known in Germany.17

As suggested above, the Jesuits also greatly influenced members of the Huygens family. The Jesuit Francois d’Aguilon (1567-1617) composed a work entitled The Six Books of Optics, which not only influenced Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695), but also the mathematician Girard Desargues (1591-1661), who is credited as one of the founders of projective geometry.

The Six Books of Optics, which was illustrated by Peter Paul Rubens, was praised by Constantijn Huygens, Christiaan’s father. Constantijn, who thought The Six Books of Optics was the best book on geometrical optics he had ever read, compared d’Aguilon to Plato, Eudoxus, and Archimedes.18

The Jesuit influence was not limited to Continental scientists, but extended to important thinkers in England as well. The Jesuit Francesco Maria Grimaldi (1618-1663) discovered the diffraction of light and published his findings in 1665,19 and Isaac Newton became interested in optics as a result of Grimaldi’s work.

Newton first learned of the discoveries of Grimaldi through Fabri.20 Robert Hooke (1635-1703) performed experiments with diffraction after reading of Grimaldi’s discoveries in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.21 Hooke also translated the first treatise on lighter-than-air flight, which was written by the Jesuit Francesco Lana de Terzi (1631-1687), and presented Terzi’s plan to the Royal Society.22

The Englishman Robert Boyle (1627-1691) also appreciated the work of the Jesuits:

“Among the Jesuits you know that Clavius and divers others, have as prosperously addicted themselves to mathematics as divinity. And as to physics, not only Scheiner, Aquilonius, Kircher, Schottus, Zucchius and others, have very laudably cultivated the optical and some other parts of philosophy, and [also did] Ricciolus himself, the learned compiler of that voluminous and judicious work the Almagestum Novum.”23

Similar histories could be written for Cassini, Fermat, Descartes, Harvey, and Torricelli. The influence of the Jesuits on the illustrious thinkers of the Scientific Revolution is only one chapter in the long story of their incredible contributions to science. These contributions are only now beginning to be fully appreciated by historians of science.
 
 
(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Notes:

  1. Butterfield, Herbert. The Origins of Modern Science. New York: The Free Press, 1965.191.
  2. MacDonnell, Joseph. Companions of Jesuits: A Tradition of Collaboration. Fairfield, CT: Fairfield University Press, 1995.65.
  3. See Wallace’s Galileo and His Sources: The Heritage of the Collegio Romano in Galileo’s Science and Galileo’s Early Notebooks, among other works.
  4. Jesuit Geometers, 51.
  5. Jesuit Geometers, 59-60.
  6. Jesuit Geometers, 51.
  7. “Christoph Clavius.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Vol. 3. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008. 312.
  8. Companions of Jesuits, 82.
  9. Jesuit Geometers, 53.
  10. MacDonnell, Joseph. Jesuit Geometers: A Study of Fifty-Six Jesuit Geometers During the First Two Centuries of Jesuit History. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1989.20.
  11. Companions of Jesuits, 86.
  12. Fulop-Miller, Rene. The Power and Secret of the Jesuits. New York: The Viking Press, 1930.400.
  13. Companions of Jesuits, 93.
  14. Jesuit Geometers, 30.
  15. Jesuit Geometers, 56.
  16. Companions of Jesuits, 75.
  17. “Gaspar Schott.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Vol. 12. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008. 210.
  18. Jesuit Geometers, 9-10.
  19. “Francesco Maria Grimaldi.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Vol. 5. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008. 543.
  20. “Fabri, Honoré, or Honoratus Fabrius.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Vol. 4. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008.506.
  21. Jesuit Geometers, 52.
  22. Companions of Jesuits, xv.
  23. Jesuit Geometers, 77.
Andrew Kassebaum

Written by

Andrew Kassebaum is the Evangelization Coordinator for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Before stepping into this role, Andrew earned a Master's degree in theology from Ave Maria University. After years of skepticism and reductionism, Andrew's life changed forever upon reading Pope Saint John Paul II's writings on the human person. Andrew is fascinated by the question of why science developed in Western Europe at a unique time in history.

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  • I really don't understand why these connections between Catholics and early scientists are being advanced in to forum.

    I am sure that we could have discussions over the relative influence of Christian institutions on these scientists etc. if am sure there were influences and help. Of course, we are talking about a point in time when literacy and education was virtually monopolized by religion. Various churches held enormous wealth and influence in all sectors of society.

    However, what I am not reading in these pieces is what it was about Jesuit philosophy or theology that is said to have assisted Kepler for example in his scientific advancement, if any. My understanding of Kepler's breakthrough was, after years of trying to fit observation into his hypothesis that planetary motion was related to Platonic solids, he followed where the evidence led, a less beautiful, but much more accurate theory. The most important assistance to him were the years and years of careful observation of Tycho Brahe. In other words, Kepler made a huge advance in science by applying empiricism not theology.

    It feels to me that these attempts to demonstrate a connection to science are an attempt to gain credibility by association. This is because it is quite clear that science is credible, religion is not.

    • “However, what I am not reading in these pieces is what it was about Jesuit philosophy or theology that is said to have assisted Kepler for example in his scientific advancement, if any…”

      I’m not sure that there would be anything that you would find within Jesuit philosophy or theology that would specifically explain why they have been particularly successful in the area of academia in comparison with some of the other religious orders. It could potentially be something found within their rule… I recall when we were talking about the ways different religious communities gather for meals in one of my formation classes, I was told that Carmelites (my religious community) use meal time as a very big community gathering with lots of socialization. I was told that Jesuits generally use their big meals of the day as a time to “refuel” and then go off and get back to work. Very little talking at all during the meals and then back to your ministry for the day… This was what my experience was the only time I went on a Jesuit retreat. It was a silent retreat, but many of the Jesuits I saw during meal time who were not on the silent retreat were very silent during their meals as well. Maybe there is a different approach to ministry/academics/etc. that is not found within other religious orders? Just a thought. The Jesuit Post blog might have something more in depth on that if you were interested in looking.

      Ignatian spirituality-the spirituality of the Jesuits-deals very much with the discernment of spirits and God’s will for one’s life. While this might have had an influence on many Jesuits in their choices to pursue academia, it would not explain their success in the academic world.

      “It feels to me that these attempts to demonstrate a connection to science are an attempt to gain credibility by association. This is because it is quite clear that science is credible, religion is not.”

      I think that might be a little too glib of an analysis. Many within the scientific community consider religion and science to be incompatible. By showing that there were individuals who were both extremely religious and also very knowledgable within academia, the author is showing that the two can be compatible with one another. Whether or not religion in actuality is credible is another story, but at the very least there have been many people throughout history who have thought the two are quite credible.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      One reason the Jesuits could make contributions to scientific advances is that they were totally into reason and education with the desire to do both of these to the highest level possible. One example was Christopher Clavius, one of the leading mathematicians of his time who basically invented a new mathematics curriculum that adopted at all the Jesuit schools and colleges which benefited everyone who learned math in this way.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I think the import of articles like these is to counter the common libel that the Catholic faith is an enemy of science. A step-child of this libel is your final sentence.

    • Andrew Kassebaum

      "This is because it is quite clear that science is credible, religion is not."

      In the comments section of my article on the Jesuits and China I inquired about your definition of religion; you did not have one formulated at that time. Where do we stand today?

      While I do not think your last sentence adds value to this conversation, you do raise several important points in your post. I hope to provide you with a few answers in the next day or two (when time allows).

      Thanks for reading.

    • Andrew Kassebaum

      "I really don't understand why these connections between Catholics and early scientists are being advanced in to forum."

      One of my motivations for writing this article was/is to encourage Catholics to fully embrace science, by showing the important contributions made by Churchmen in history.

      "Of course, we are talking about a point in time when literacy and education was virtually monopolized by religion. Various churches held enormous wealth and influence in all sectors of society."

      You have stated that literacy and education were virtually monopolized by religion and that various churches held enormous wealth and influence in all sectors of society. What is this “point in time” that you mention? Are you referring to the Scientific Revolution that is discussed in the article? If so, you seem to be making a correlation between religion and the development of the Scientific Revolution, or at least stating that they both occurred at the same time and in the same milieu. Correct me if I am wrong in my assumptions.

      "However, what I am not reading in these pieces is what it was
      about Jesuit philosophy or theology that is said to have assisted Kepler for
      example in his scientific advancement, if any."

      We simply have to look at the first part of Nicene Creed: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” If God created the universe and everything it contains, then it is worthy of study. Why do the Jesuits stand out among the Catholic religious orders? This is due, in part, to the fact that the Jesuits were approved by Pope Paul III in 1540, 3 years before what is generally considered the beginning of the Scientific Revolution. I can expand upon this, if you are interested.

  • David Nickol

    I am most happy to sing the praises of the Jesuits of history and the Jesuits of today. However, many "conservative" Catholics look upon them with suspicion or even contempt.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I think St. Ignatius of Loyola would look at many contemporary Jesuits in the West with suspicion and take a whip of cords to them.

      • Michael Murray

        Why Kevin ? I've been out of Catholicism too long to understand this comment. Thanks.

        • Chad Eberhart

          Michael, within the neo-Catholic (this site) and traditionalist Catholic worlds the Jesuits are persona non grata due to their apparent heterodoxy and liberalism.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks Chad

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            What is a neo-Catholic?

          • Chad Eberhart

            Peoples' definitions vary. My definition is Catholics who were influenced by Lutheran convert Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and his journal First Things. Other famous neo-Cath intellectuals are George Weigel and Michael Novak. A lot of their effort was to square Catholicism with capitalism and America, or at least the neo-conservative version of America - hawkish military policies, social conservatism and economic liberalism. I would say EWTN is definitely neo-Catholic.

            Other attributes are a fondness for evangelicalism, John Paul "The Great" and uncritical acceptance of the Novus Ordo and Vatican II. Although I think things are changing on this front, many neo-Caths are anti-traditionalist and generally find liturgical discussions distasteful.

          • Chad Eberhart

            I'd also add a preoccupation with sex a la Theology of the Body, as it's popularly distilled by people like Christopher West and Jason Evert, and the Pro-Life movement.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Ah yes, the obsession with Theology of the Body. Although I do think there are a lot of Catholics who distrust West and consider him to be a pervert.
            It seems like neo-Catholicism is a way to categorize Catholics who vote republican.

          • Chad Eberhart

            Ignatius Reilly! I loved Confederacy of Dunces. Traditionalists absolutely loathe Christopher West. Alice Von Hildebrand published a take-down of him several years ago. In fact, it wasn't long after that it was told to me West took a break from public speaking.

            ToB may be enlightening for some, and I don't doubt it has benefits for a few Catholics, but too often I've seen it enable those with perfectionist tendencies. And, as you probably already realize, people who take their faith seriously are often times those with perfectionist tendencies. Who else is going to confess every impure thought, near occasion of sin or "questionable" film they've seen?;-)

            So what ends up happening is there are a ton of Catholic young adults (you have people in their 30s and 40s still considering themselves YAs) who either don't get married till really late (which we all know what that usually means in reference to concupiscence) or just forgoing it all together. No one is simultaneously Catholic or attractive enough for them to commit. It's actually sad to see so many once young and attractive people begin to get old and flabby as they get into their 30s because they just couldn't find someone perfect (i.e., ToB enough) yet still adamantly holding onto how wonderful Christopher West is. They just keep pounding their head into the same wall over and over again waiting for God's grace.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            "as they get into their thirties....."
            thanks

          • Chad Eberhart

            Hey, I'm a few months away from 40 so I'm one of the flabby, self-deprecating Louie CK types, full of self-loathing about my declining years;-)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Think of yourself as becoming distinguished.

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            This comment is not entirely wrong...

          • Chad Eberhart

            It's good to finally be "not entirely wrong...."

          • Chad Eberhart

            Oh, and yeah, roughly speaking you're right about neo-Caths being Catholics who vote republican, except I think traddies - if they vote at all (democracy is not Catholic in their minds) - would probably vote Republican based on the "life" issues alone.

          • David

            But, what about Republican support of capital punishment? That's a life issue or is that not as important?

          • Chad Eberhart

            Often times capital punishment is not as important to them because the Church officially allows for it, even though JPII and probably other recent Popes have spoken out against it.

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            Thank you for providing this explanation. I have seen the term neo-Catholic used occasionally, but, as far as I can discern, rarely in a uniform way. You have mentioned neo-Catholics and traditionalists. Do you have other categories for organizing Catholics, at least those in the United States?

          • Chad Eberhart

            Like I said, peoples' definitions vary. I don't think they vary so much, though, that the term is useless anymore than liberal or traditionalist are useless.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        Kevin, you might be right, but here is how I look at it:

        As in a human body, there is a part of the Church's brain (the parietal lobe, let's say), where many Jesuits live, that is ready to reach out and interact with the world. Then there is a part of the brain (the frontal lobe, let's say) that includes the magisterium, which has the final responsibility for maintaining the integrity of the whole organism. Those two parts of the brain will always be in tension, but they need each other . They need to learn how to respect each other. I don't think the Jesuits are entirely to blame for their (partial) disconnect with the rest of the Church. The other parts of the Church, including many conservative Catholics, need to take some responsibility for this as well, for not fully respecting that which the Jesuits have to offer.

        I am hopeful that Papa Francis will help repair the lack of respect that exists on both sides.

    • Andrew Kassebaum

      There are many Jesuits doing great work in a number of important fields. My complaint is that there are not enough Jesuits. Their numbers have been in free-fall since the Second Vatican Council.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I think you are right, and I think that is regrettable.

      On the other hand, one should also note that our most recent conclave was hardly dominated by wild-eyed liberal theologians, and yet (to my personal delight) elected a Jesuit pope.

  • Hooray for science! It's so great; anyone can do it!

    • Andrew Kassebaum

      Can you further explain what you mean, Paul?

      • Have you seen the movie Ratatouille? "Anyone can cook", "a great chef can come from anywhere." Science is a wonderful discipline. Its method doesn't favor race, creed, sex or color. Christians can be excellent scientists. Muslims can be excellent scientists. Atheists can be excellent scientists.

        That's what this article shows so well. And that's what I mean.

        • Estevao Bel

          Actually if you take a glance at history, science seemed to favor Christendom for its theological assumptions (such as a "law of nature", an idea theistic through and through) and Church founded and funded university system. Although this is no longer really the case in modern universities, the medieval Catholic university was a place of remarkable freedom of inquiry and debate. These are historical factors wholly different than what you found in Asia, pagan Europe pre-Christendom, or in Muslim lands.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So you contend that medieval universities had greater freedom in inquiry and debate than modern universities?

          • Estevao Bel

            Honestly that point was premature, although I would argue that the modern university has some pretty restrictive currents (speech codes, the vast majority of professors being left-wing) The comparison between the two isn't my point, so I'd be happy to allow that the modern university is a place of more intellectual freedom.

          • Michael Murray

            You have arrived just a bit too late it seems. Have a look at the articles starting with titles like "The Stillbirth of Science in ... "

          • Estevao Bel

            I just came across this website and it seems that atheists are the majority in the comments on the site so I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents.

          • Michael Murray

            Welcome!

            I am not sure if atheists are in the majority. Perhaps we are just the noisiest ones. They cull us every now and again. If you are interested in the history of science and the role of Catholicism we have recently had lots of articles here on it which was what I was referring too.

          • Estevao Bel

            Thanks! Yea maybe you guys just post the most talked about comments.

          • We aren't talking about the method of science, or what's necessary for it. We're talking about individual scientists. That's at least what I was talking about. It's a complete mystery to me how we came upon this method, and it's one that Stacy and Flynn have convinced me can't be solved.

            So we can talk about scientists. There's scientists of all beliefs and no beliefs. Anyone can be a great scientist.

            Many of the best scientists are atheists. There is this argument, a bit of a tasteless argument, in my opinion, from Jerry Coyne, about how many more scientists are atheists compared to the general population, and so there's something the matter with religious people and science. It's not really true as far as I can tell. Serious Christians can be excellent scientists as can committed atheists: Lamaitre and Dirac, for example.

          • Estevao Bel

            I'll agree with you about Jerry Coyne being tasteless lol. However I don't think we should stop ourselves from drawing historical conclusions about the origin of science in Christendom. Historical arguments might not have the probative force of a syllogism, but I think we should still try to draw conclusions about the causes of things in the past.

        • Andrew Kassebaum

          You have presented some important observations. I do not see, however, how my article makes those points. You are giving me too much credit!

          • I think that the article is much to your credit; you don't need to be modest. It's a well written description of Jesuits in science, and I found it quite educational.

            I do agree that you didn't say all these things about science in your article, so I took the liberty of saying them.

            EDITED TO ADD: And I'll be happy to take all the credit and all the blame for my words. Sorry if I imputed your article with too much that it didn't say (but maybe what I wish it had said). My original comment was meant as a complement.

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            Thank you for clarifying and thank you for the compliment. Initially, I just wasn't sure what you meant.

  • Estevao Bel

    To be honest, while I fully support bringing to light the work of professional historians over the factually suspect wishful thinking of atheist polemicists like T.H. Huxley which have become ingrained in the modern consciousness, whether or not modern science was helped or hindered by the Catholic Church is irrelevant (although it appears that, judging the numerous works of many professional historians writing since the 1950s on the matter, it is the former). To think that the respectability and legitimacy of the Catholic Church rests on its support of science presupposes that modern science, which has produced nuclear weapons, potent neurotoxins and the machinery of deadly modern warfare (to name but a few "acheivements"), is totally benevolent phenomenon in human history. It clearly is not.

    • VicqRuiz

      To think that the respectability and legitimacy of the Catholic Church rests on its support of science

      Good point. Whether Catholicism has been on balance pro-science or anti-science is completely irrelevant when judging the evidence for its doctrines.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    Exactly how does: there exist Jesuits who collaborated with scientists imply that the RCC is friendly to science? Just because believers happen to be scientists does not mean the RCC is friendly to scientists, especially when most believers do follow lock step with the church's teachings.

    The problem with the RCC is that it can, but not always be anti-knowledge. The RCC has several tenants that are based not on science or logic, but on dogmatism. And anytime a more reliable source of knowledge discovers information that conflicts with the established dogma, the dogma is considered factual. Fortunately for the Church, its dogmas rarely enter into the realm of physics or mathematics.

    Here are some examples of questionable beliefs:

    1) The RCC believes, without evidence that life begins at conception

    2) The RCC believes, without evidence that we are all descended from two first parents

    3) The RCC believed, until there was overwhelming evidence to the contrary that the Sun revolved around earth

    4) The RCC believed and maybe still believes, without evidence that homosexuality is a choice

    Dogmatic belief is not only antithetical to science, it is also antithetical to knowledge. It certainly slows the development of truth:

    http://billmoyers.com/2014/09/09/study-science-and-religion-really-are-enemies-after-all/

    • Estevao Bel

      "1) The RCC believes, without evidence that life begins at conception"

      It is a biological fact that human life begins at conception:

      https://www.princeton.edu/~prolife/articles/embryoquotes2.html

      However what the Church would be speaking on here is the time at which a human soul comes into existence. This would be a matter of metaphysical inquiry.

      2) The RCC believes, without evidence that we are all descended from two first parents.

      "without evidence"

      Not really, unless you aren't going to count philosophical considerations and divine revelation as evidence (which would be odd to attack the Church for not being a naturalist/empiricist, since it's, y'know, a religious organization).

      If you're interested in this matter these two posts would help:

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09/modern-biology-and-original-sin-part-i.html

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09/modern-biology-and-original-sin-part-ii.html

      "3) The RCC believed, until there was overwhelming evidence to the contrary that the Sun revolved around earth"

      That's called not believing something until enough evidence has been made to support the assertion. This is what science is based on. It's this same kind of cool-headed rationality that also made sure that the Catholic Church didn't fall into the hysteria surrounding the execution of witches in protestant lands.

      "4) The RCC believed and maybe still believes, without evidence that homosexuality is a choice."

      It would be good to quote the section of the catechism dealing with Homosexuality here:

      "Chastity and homosexuality

      2357
      Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who
      experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons
      of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the
      centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains
      largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents
      homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142
      They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the
      gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual
      complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

      2358 The number of men and women who have
      deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination,
      which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.
      They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every
      sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These
      persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are
      Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the
      difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

      2359
      Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of
      self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of
      disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and
      should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection."

      So the Catholic Church does not really take a side on whether or not homosexuality is innate or not (or both). What it concerns itself with is homosexual acts, which are sinful (on the basis of scripture and sacred tradition) and against the natural law (on the basis of philosophical reasoning open to anyone). The inclination/orientation is not sinful.

      I would also like to point out that when the Catechism talks about homosexuality being a "disorder", that doesn't mean some kind of psychological illness, but rather the technical meaning or the word, i.e. that which is not properly ordered to its end (The Catechism is a book written by and for bishops). To fully understand the meaning of this section one would have to acquaint oneself with what is meant by the "natural law" (which a bishop would know).

      • Ignatius Reilly

        It is a biological fact that human life begins at conception.

        So a Zygote is a human being? What happens if the Zygote splits into two embryos? One soul splits into two?

        This is also a case of different definitions. There is a difference between saying that a Zygote is the beginning of human life and a Zygote is human life. I have no problem with the first, but the second is what the Catholic Church claims.

        However what the Church would be speaking on here is the time at which a human soul comes into existence. This would be a matter of metaphysical inquiry.

        My claim is that the church is anti-knowledge. This includes metaphysics.

        Not really, unless you aren't going to count philosophical considerations and divine revelation as evidence (which would be odd to attack the Church for not being a naturalist/empiricist, since it's, y'know, a religious organization).

        If divine revelation contradicts other evidence, which suggest a different theory, what do we accept? For instance, if it was divinely revealed that the earth is flat, but physical evidence suggests otherwise, what should a believer believe?

        I do count philosophical considerations as evidence, but I have serious reservations about accepting divine revelation as evidence. First of all, how do I know that a given revelation is divine? For instance, in the case of Scripture, how do I know that Genesis is divinely inspired, but the Illiad or the Epistle of Barnabas is not? As I understand Roman Catholic teaching, the Bible is inspired because the Catholic Church has authority from Jesus, and the Catholic Church says that the bible is inspired. How do we know that the Catholic Church has authority from Jesus? The bible tells us. This seems very circular (unless I am setting up a straw man). Are there philosophical considerations that will enable me to know what books are inspired?

        In my conversations with believers, if I push back on claims made about human life or homosexuality, they will almost always fall back on this is what the church teaches or an ambiguous its just wrong, after all its bad to kill babies and homosexuals are gross. Certainly, in my conversations with believers, I am also told that homosexuality is a choice. If feel like there is a correlation between religious belief and not accepting evidence that your beliefs are flawed. If somehow the evidence completely flipped and we discovered that homosexuality was in fact a choice, it would not be something that I would have trouble accepting, as long as my objections to the theory were sufficiently answered.

        I do have a problem with the church claiming to be the ultimate arbiter of morality:

        So the Catholic Church does not really take a side on whether or not homosexuality is innate or not (or both). What it concerns itself with is homosexual acts, which are sinful (on the basis of scripture and sacred tradition) and against the natural law (on the basis of philosophical reasoning open to anyone).

        I have found very little justification in the way of proclaiming the church a source of moral teaching.

        That's called not believing something until enough evidence has been made to support the assertion. This is what science is based on. It's this same kind of cool-headed rationality that also made sure that the Catholic Church didn't fall into the hysteria surrounding the execution of witches in protestant lands.

        What evidence did the church have that the sun revolved around the earth? I don't problem with the church not endorsing a position till the evidence comes in, what I do have a problem with is the church suppressing thought that goes against their notions. They kept a list of banned books. This is anti-science and anti-knowledge.

        I will read those articles and respond with why I think biology is inconsistent with the genesis account.

        • eddie too

          I guess we all have a choice. we can believe in Jesus Christ as the sole arbiter between God and man; or, we can abandon that belief and believe in Ignatius Reilly's view of reality. that he is the final arbiter of what is real and important.
          aside from the fact that Reilly's writing lends us to incredulity about his knowledge and understanding, I think the Lord's sacrifice and resurrection give Him the clear victory and gives us an easy choice.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I guess we all have a choice. we can believe in Jesus Christ as the
            sole arbiter between God and man; or, we can abandon that belief and
            believe in Ignatius Reilly's view of reality. that he is the final
            arbiter of what is real and important.

            That is a false dichotomy. Either the catholic church is the final arbiter or I am. I can think of many other possibilities. Certainly I would never claim to be the final arbiter of anything. I would never die for my beliefs, because I might be wrong.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          1) The RCC believes, without evidence that life begins at conception

          It makes no sense to say that it begins before conception. And after that there is an essential continuity in Minkowski 4-space: it's the same space-time worm all the way through.

          2) The RCC believes, without evidence that we are all descended from two first parents

          Humans reproduce bisexually. It makes no sense to say there was only one.

          3) The RCC believed, until there was overwhelming evidence to the contrary that the Sun revolved around earth

          It was not a belief of the church; but it was universally believed by physicists for some 2000 years and the church simply assumed that the "settled science" was correct when they used the imagery to explain other things.

          4) The RCC believed and maybe still believes, without evidence that homosexuality is a choice

          It is the inclination that is today supposed to be not-a-choice, but someone may be born with an appetite -- kleptomania, for example, or youth-oriented affection -- without necessarily acting on it.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It makes no sense to say that it begins before conception. And
            after that there is an essential continuity in Minkowski 4-space: it's
            the same space-time worm all the way through.

            But it does make sense to say that it begins after conception. Is a Zygote human life? If so, what evidence does the church have?

            Humans reproduce bisexually. It makes no sense to say there was only one.

            But it does make sense to say that there was at least 10,000. See minimum viable population. Regardless, what evidence does the church have that we all descended from exactly two people?

            It was not a belief of the church; but it was universally believed by
            physicists for some 2000 years and the church simply assumed that the
            "settled science" was correct when they used the imagery to explain
            other things

            However, there are certain passages in the scriptures that imply a geocentric solar system, and they were used to justify that belief. Furthermore, the church did imprison Galileo, for ascribing to beliefs not in accord with church
            teaching. Certainly the concept of settled science did not exist in the 17th century.

            It is the inclination that is today supposed to be not-a-choice,
            but someone may be born with an appetite -- kleptomania, for example, or
            youth-oriented affection -- without necessarily acting on it.

            And why is acting on that inclination intrinsically wrong?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But it does make sense to say that it begins after conception. Is a Zygote human life?

            Certainly, if you mean a human zygote. It is alive (it is a self-organizing system) and it is human, and not a horse, a dog, or a petunia.

            Humans reproduce bisexually. It makes no sense to say there was only one.

            But it does make sense to say that there was at least 10,000.
            The idea that some mutation occurred in 10,000 individuals all in the same generation is mind-boggling -- and surely asks for a miraculous explanation more so than that some such mutation first occurred in one person and gradually spread to a larger population.

            Besides, the supposition that all metaphysical humans alive today are descended from the same individual does not imply that there were no other individuals around at the same time. Nor, for that matter, that there might have been two metaphysical humans does not preclude the possibility of any number of biological "humans."

            The Church only requires belief in descent from an "Adam."
            The belief that all men today are descended from an original metaphysical human essentially means that we are not allowed to believe in "untermenschen" and are brought to the notion that in their essential humanity "all men are created equal."

            +++
            There are certain passages in the scriptures that imply a geocentric solar system, and they were used to justify that belief.
            So what? Neither the Orthodox nor Catholic Church trolls the Bible for proof texts to find out what they believe. As Cardinal Dini pointed out at the time -- and to which Cardinal Bellarmine concurred -- such passages could be regarded as being phrased in the manner of common speech: this is how it "seems" to us. The scriptures were not used to justify the science; the science was used to justify a certain way of reading the scriptures.
            ++++
            the church did imprison Galileo, for ascribing to beliefs not in accord with church teaching.

            No, he was accorded house arrest in his palatial villa outside Florence, where he was a pet courtier of the Grand Duke. The closest thing on earth to an immovable object in those days was Galileo on his villa. He hated to leave the place, and his sentence was... not to leave the place without permission. It was the last part that griped him. It was a public humiliation: his old BFF's retaliation for Galileo having publicly humiliated him in his book. The actual charge was failure to obey the injunction of 1616, and there is evidence that fraud was involved -- because the Summary did not accord with the Interrogatories. The affair was far more complex than the Modernist myth.
            ++++
            Certainly the concept of settled science did not exist in the 17th century.

            You really think so? The term that was used back then was "absurd in philosophy." If anyone had had empirical proof, Bellarmine wrote, it would be a different story. But the empirical proof was not had until the mid-late 18th century.

            ++++
            why is acting on that inclination intrinsically wrong?

            Ask a kleptomaniac. But more to the point, indulging in appetites that arise in the more primitive parts of the brain "vulcanize" neural pathways that interfere with pathways originating in the cortex. IOW, they interfere with rational thought; and since rational thought is what makes us intrinsically human, such things lessen us.

            The Late Modern has a helluva time imagining not indulging an appetite. Hence, an epidemic of obesity and single motherhood.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Certainly, if you mean a human zygote. It is alive (it is a self-organizing system) and it is human, and not a horse, a dog, or a petunia.

            So, if I look into a microscope and see some cells, and I not that it is not a horse, a dog or a petunia, can I conclude that it is a human?

            Just because a Zygote could become human - does not make the Zygote human. Is an acorn an oak tree? Is a funnel cloud a tornado? Furthermore, we cannot say that ensoulment happens at conception, because in the case of fraternal twins, the twinning happens after the Zygote stage.

            Finally, Zygotes lack almost every human quality that makes humans human. Are they sentient? Do they have free will?

            The idea that some mutation occurred in 10,000 individuals all in the same generation is mind-boggling -- and surely asks for a miraculous explanation more so than that some such mutation first occurred in one person and gradually spread to a larger population.

            That's not how evolution works. It is a slow, gradual, and imperceptible. We don't have a group of ape like ancestors, which suddenly mutates into homo sapiens. What we have is species slowly changing over long periods of time to become something different.

            Besides, the supposition that all metaphysical humans alive today are descended from the same individual does not imply that there were no other individuals around at the same time. Nor, for that matter, that there might have been two metaphysical humans does not preclude the possibility of any number of biological "humans."

            So God took two biological humans and gave them souls? Then what happened? Do they mate with the other humans?

            The Church only requires belief....

            The church shouldn't be requiring belief.

            It is a historical fact that the church made Galileo recant his beliefs. The church chose to cling to traditional beliefs rather then scientific knowledge.

            It seems the Galileo controversy has been revised by those wishing to claim that the church has never done anything wrong. In the end, the church punished Galileo for some sort of heresy; and it does not matter to me if the punishment was a five dollar fine, because the fact that the church punished Galileo (and many others) for what amounts to a thought crime is immoral and stifles thought.

            But more to the point, indulging in appetites that arise in the more primitive parts of the brain "vulcanize" neural pathways that interfere with pathways originating in the cortex. IOW, they interfere with rational thought; and since rational thought is what makes us intrinsically human, such things lessen us.

            So, sex is still immoral even in the married state, because it "vulcanizes" neural pathways? I cannot think rationally while sleeping, is sleeping immoral.

            Regardless, I reject the premise. Rational thought is only part of what makes us human. Sexuality is another part. Compassion and empathy seem a lot more important the cold rationality of a logician. I am also not aware of a brain mapping that divides the brain into primitive and non-primitive parts. Nor am I sure that the distinction has meaning.

            The Late Modern has a helluva time imagining not indulging an appetite. Hence, an epidemic of obesity and single motherhood.

            This is false. The Late Modern does not feel guilty about indulging in an appetite, this does not mean that a late modern will not forgo indulging in an appetite. For instance, I wont eat that donut for breakfast, because I want eat healthier. Furthermore, you cannot classify all non Catholics one group.
            Obesity has genetic and environmental components. Single motherhood has multiple causes, such as poverty and lack of proper sexual education. However, if those things can be blamed on the modern man, can pedophilia be blamed on the church's distorted view of sexuality?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            if I look into a microscope and see some cells, and I not that it is not a horse, a dog or a petunia, can I conclude that it is a human?

            There is more to it than that. But a DNA analysis should suffice to show whether it is a human tissue. Whether it is a human being depends on whether it is a self-organizing (self-assembling) system.

            Is an acorn an oak tree?

            Certainly. It's not a petunia, is it? Think in terms of Minkowski 4-space. What you see about yourself at any given time is simply 3-dimensional intersection of a continuous 4-D being with a time slice. But each temporal part of the being is still a part of the same being. Imagine a cone on its side and designate the long axis "time." At any particular time t, the projection of the 3-D cone onto the 2-D plane looks like a circle; but the series of circles at t1, t2, t3, etc. are not distinct geometric figures

            Is a funnel cloud a tornado?

            A tornado is not alive. It is not entirely clear that it is a substantia in the relevant sense. It may be a "heap" rather than a "thing." It may be that the human definition of a tornado imposes a distinction that does not exist in nature, such as the one between hurricanes and tropical storms.

            Furthermore, we cannot say that ensoulment happens at conception, because in the case of fraternal twins, the twinning happens after the Zygote stage.

            "Soul" (anima) simply means "alive." It is an organizing principle for living matter, not a substantia in and of itself. Monozygomous twins may mean:
            a) a single soul which goes out of existence with the original zygote, to be replaced by two souls for each of the two separately living things
            b) a single soul which persists after the division in one of the two twins, while a second soul organizes the second twin, with the division being the moment of conception for the second twin.
            c) two organizing principles existed from the get-go and were in fact the reason for the splitting of the matter into twins.
            There may be other possibilities as well.

            Zygotes lack almost every human quality that makes humans human. Are they sentient? Do they have free will?

            Do you have sentience and free will when you are asleep? Let's not confuse the existence of a potential with the successful exercise of that potential. Even for mature humans, not every act is a freely willed act. And sentience applies to most animals, not simply to human animals. Newborn babies lack these traits as well, but only a few bien pensants have suggested we might freely dispose of them.
            +++++++
            That's not how evolution works. It is a slow, gradual, and imperceptible.

            Except for Mediterranean wall lizards, which can evolve an entire new organ in less than twenty years. The idea that evolution is gradual was a metaphysical choice made a priori back in the 19th century. It has no actual empirical foundation.

            We don't have a group of ape like ancestors, which suddenly mutates into homo sapiens. What we have is species slowly changing over long periods of time to become something different.

            A species is not a thing but a group of things to which (as Darwin said) we give a common name for convenience. How does a species change? Why, because the mixture of individuals X and Y changes in proportion over time. You are still thinking in terms of the origin of biological species. (Which actually, the fossils say, occurs fairly suddenly and then persist indefinitely so long as the niche remains unchanged.)
            ++++++

            So God took two biological humans and gave them souls? Then what happened? Do they mate with the other humans?

            Why not? For all we know lots of ape-men were "given souls" (in your quaint idiom). The only dogmatic belief is that all present humans are descended from one of them, designated "Adam." But surely it is more likely that the ability to reason proved reproductively advantageous and spread throughout the breeding population over the course of multiple generations. Unless one supposes there was some genetic mutation involved that occurred to 10,000 individuals in close order or which occurred independently 10,000 times in sundry births. There are grave statistical difficulties with both these possibilities.

            The church chose to cling to traditional beliefs rather then scientific knowledge

            Actually, the Church clung to scientific knowledge and insisted on a demonstration before she would agree to read the Fathers in a different sense. Remember: there was no empirical proof refuting the twin falsifications until the mid-late 18th century.

            the church punished Galileo (and many others) for what amounts to a thought crime

            Which "many others"? Galileo had been asked not to run around giving advice on how to re-interpret scriptures, since he was an amateur layman in that area, until and unless he had a convincing demonstration that his mathematical model was physically real. Then he came out with a bogus proof and put his old friend's Popperian cautions into the mouth of Simplicio. Those were overt acts, not thought crimes. He was guilty of lese majeste and (for Machiavellian Italy) was actually treated quite leniently. [Recall what Galileo himself said (in a letter to Pieresc) about the "true motives" that hid behind the "mask" of religion.] We need only note that no thought was actually stifled and scientific inquiry continued unabated in Italy and elsewhere.

            What was the importance in the matter of Florentine claims on the Duchy of Urbino or of the defeat of the Swedes at Lützen?
            +++++

            So, sex is still immoral even in the married state, because it "vulcanizes" neural pathways?

            No, but one must take care not to let eating and copulating become obsessions. "Vulcanization" is modern science-talk for "habituation." Strength, the pagan Romans said, stands in the middle. Eating and copulating are powers of the vegetative soul (a/k/a nutritive, or reproductive soul). Too much obsession with them reduces us quite literally to a vegetative state. For a discussion of the neurobiology:
            https://www.pni.princeton.edu/ncc/PDFs/Neural%20Economics/Cohen%20%28JEP%2005%29.pdf
            ++++++
            I cannot think rationally while sleeping, is sleeping immoral.

            No, but deliberately putting yourself into a persistent stupor would be. In fact, sleep deprivation would eventually affect your ability to act rationally.
            ++++++

            I reject the premise. Rationa l thought is only part of what makes us human. Sexuality is another part. Compassion and empathy seem a lot more important the cold rationality of a logician.

            Sexuality does not distinguish us from most animals or even from some plants. Compassion can be seen in many higher animals. (Empathy must be imagined.) So these are not definitional of humans.

            You are confusing rational thought with logic (which used to well-thought of by those inclined to admire science). The intellect is the power to reflect on percepts and so abstract concepts. This is not "the cold rationality of the logician" but the essence of human capacities -- including compassion and empathy, informed as they are by our reason. However, others have marked the Late Modern propensity to abandon reason in favor of emotions. Nietzsche proclaimed the triumph of the will over the intellect in opposition to Aquinas and Aristotle placing the intellect prior to the will. Already in the 1950s, Barzun noted that the phrase "I think that...." was being replaced by "I feel that...." Well, the Age of Reason had a good run, though I'm a little sorry to see it go.
            ++++++++
            I am also not aware of a brain mapping that divides the brain into primitive and non-primitive parts. Nor am I sure that the distinction has meaning.

            Think in evolutionary terms.

            +++++++

            Obesity has genetic and environmental components. Single motherhood has multiple causes, such as poverty and lack of proper sexual education.

            That explains all those fat people a hundred years ago, and the vast numbers of abandoned women in prior ages when there was no sex "education."

            However, if those things can be blamed on the modern man, can pedophilia be blamed on the church's distorted view of sexuality?

            No. I know of no moral code other than the extreme liberal who endorses pedophilia. Since most cases of pedophilia involve relatives, mothers' live-in boyfriends, etc. it's hard to see how the Church views would be relevant. The Church did have a crisis between 1965-85 with homosexual priests acting out with teenage "chickens," but that was a period when traditional views of sexuality were being overturned all over the place.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            There is a clear difference between the ability to become a human and actually being a human. The catholic church teaches that ensoulment (i.e. an immortal human soul) occurs at conception, therefore that life is sacred, therefore we should not do anything that would result in the termination of said life. There is no evidence of any kind for this. Furthermore, if I do accept that a Zygote is human life (i.e. ensouled with an immortal human soul), then I have at least three inconsistencies.

            1) Somewhere between 50-80% of Zygotes are spontaneously aborted. Why does God abort so many humans? This seems like poor design.

            2) Back to the twinning. When I say soul, I mean an immortal human soul. Why not d) human life does begins no earlier than the embryo stage?

            3) Human life has multiple attributes that are absent in a Zygote: free-will, ability to feel pain, sentience, rational thought, appreciation of art, and we are moral agents. These attributes are more important then DNA and self-organization.

            Why not? For all we know lots of ape-men were "given souls" (in your quaint idiom). The only dogmatic belief is that all present humans are descended from one of them, designated "Adam." But surely it is more likely that the ability to reason proved reproductively advantageous and spread throughout the breeding population over the course of multiple generations. Unless one supposes there was some genetic mutation involved that occurred to 10,000 individuals in close order or which occurred independently 10,000 times in sundry births. There are grave statistical difficulties with both these possibilities.

            Suppose we have the trait intelligence. If that trait is beneficial to survival, over time that trait will become more pronounced in the population group. Do you think this Adam was that different from the rest of the ancestor population?

            What are you saying happened? At some point God gave Adam (but not Eve) an immortal soul, and he then mated with the other humans and his offspring inherited an immortal soul from him?

            Which "many others"?

            For starters: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_burned_as_heretics

            No, but one must take care not to let eating and copulating become obsessions.

            Fine, but why is sex intrinsically wrong when it happens to be homosexual? This still has yet to be demonstrated. Obfuscation is not demonstration.

            Sexuality does not distinguish us from most animals or even from some plants. Compassion can be seen in many higher animals. (Empathy must be imagined.) So these are not definitional of humans.

            So what? Just because sexuality is an important part of the human psyche does not mean that it is exclusively human. Ditto for compassion.

            You are confusing rational thought with logic (which used to well-thought of by those inclined to admire science). The intellect is the power to reflect on percepts and so abstract concepts. This is not "the cold rationality of the logician" but the essence of human capacities -- including compassion and empathy, informed as they are by our reason.

            I have great regard for logic, mathematics, and philosophy; what I have little regard for is assertions without evidence (i.e. theology). If the intellect is the essence of humanity, it seems many of us our not very good at it. Unless I am misunderstanding. Can you give me a couple of examples of "reflecting on precepts and so abstract concepts"?

            Modern thought is not as homogenous as you make it out to be. Nor does modern thought discard reason. It reason that tell us that the Church's antiquated views on sex are psychologically damaging. Furthermore, the Church also makes claims based on emotion and not reason. I remember reading a book called the evidential power of beauty.

            That explains all those fat people a hundred years ago, and the vast numbers of abandoned women in prior ages when there was no sex "education."

            Yes it does among other factors. Is this sarcasm?

            No. I know of no moral code other than the extreme liberal who endorses pedophilia. Since most cases of pedophilia involve relatives, mothers' live-in boyfriends, etc. it's hard to see how the Church views would be relevant. The Church did have a crisis between 1965-85 with homosexual priests acting out with teenage "chickens," but that was a period when traditional views of sexuality were being overturned all over the place.

            1) It is a scientific fact that the homosexual tendency has nothing to do with pedophilia.
            2) It's not about endorsing pedophilia. It's causing pedophilia and covering pedophilia up. The church's repressive attitude towards sex is a causative factor. Are you familiar with the Legionnaires of Christ?

          • Mike

            Very interesting, thanks...you have to write a big book of question answer, kinda like the summa for post moderns.

          • Michael Murray

            Certainly, if you mean a human zygote. It is alive (it is a self-organizing system) and it is human, and not a horse, a dog, or a petunia.

            Ditto for a sperm from a human male. It's alive and it's not a horse, dog or petunia.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Actually, the sperm is not alive. That is, it's not a self-organizing system. To be alive, at the very least it must have:
            1. Metabolism
            2. Growth/development
            3. Homeostasis
            4. (upon maturity) Reproduction

          • Mike

            Rem acu tetugisti.

          • Michael Murray

            2) The RCC believes, without evidence that we are all descended from two first parents

            Humans reproduce bisexually. It makes no sense to say there was only one.

            Mary -> Jesus ?

          • mriehm

            A new species never comes into being abruptly, with two first parents. Larger populations shift over time. It is not possible to identify a time in the development of a species and say that, before that time, the creatures were species X, while after it they were species Y.

            If you accept evolution (as the RCC does), you cannot state that there were "two first humans", and that all humans are descended from those first two. It's just not the way evolution works.

          • Michael Murray

            I think that "two first humans" doesn't mean "two first homo sapiens" for a Catholic. It probably means "first two homo sapiens to be given souls" or maybe "first two homo sapiens to evolve rational souls". There is a belief that rationality is not a gradual thing and it's either all or nothing. So someone was born rational without rational parents. Or God decided to ensoul someone who had a parent without a soul. It's hard to get precise answers to this kind of thing.

            Who got ensouled first ? That's not clear to me but I usually assume Adam and Eve. There is certainly agreement that Adam and Eve got original sin so they must have had rational souls or they couldn't sin. But maybe their ancestors where ensouled so there was a few happy generations without original in until the woman messed it all up for us.

            The problem of course is how does all this fit with the scientific evidence that Adam and Eve had maybe 10,000 odd contemporaries all of whom have descendants alive today.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So, did Adam and Eve then mate with the humans without souls?
            Two ensouled humans is not a viable population.

          • Michael Murray

            Yes definitely otherwise it doesn't work as you say. So you have to argue that when an ensouled person interbreeds with a non-souled person the result is a souled person. Otherwise you end up with lots of partially souled people and lots of partially originally sinned people.

            David Nickol has raised a number of times the question of ensouled and souled people having sex. Isn't that humans having sex with non-humans i.e animals ? How could they have the spiritual sex that the Catholic Church demand if only one of them has a spirit ?

            Some of this is supposed to be covered here

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

            But I am never quite sure what it means

            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 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.[10]

            I take it "true men" are men with souls or otherwise it is in immediate contradiction with science.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            But I thought the Catholic Church teaches that we are all descended directly from Adam and Eve, without any intermingling with the native population?

          • David Nickol

            The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following:

            390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

            Nevertheless, I personally would argue that there is enough "wiggle room" in official Church statements about human origins that there is no official, infallible teaching that "first parents" must be interpreted as "the first two human beings from whom the entire human race is descended."

          • Michael Murray

            If you search for "Catholic" and "polygenism" you will find lots of Catholic blog posts on this topic. This one

            http://blog.adw.org/2013/10/polygenism-is-problematic-a-catholic-caution-on-another-aspect-of-evolutionary-theory/

            is an example. It seems to end up after a couple of ducks and a weave saying nothing!

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            While I certainly have an interest in this subject, it is not something I have been able to study in-depth. I did, however, read this article about a year ago: http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/kemp-monogenism.pdf. It addresses some of the problems with monogenism.I thought it may be of interest to you.

            EDIT: Sorry, I didn't realize that the link had already been provided by another poster.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks Andrew. I also missed the first posting of that link so thanks for posting it again. So Kemp is positing the idea I alluded to earlier. There is a biological species of humanity (homo sapiens or one of their precursors) and it at no time gets below probably tens of thousands or at worst thousands. At some point in time God infuses into two of them souls and makes them fully human. That full humanity is then transmitted to offspring following the rule that as long as at least one parent is fully human so are all offspring. After some time everybody is fully human. He disposes of the problem of fully humans interbreeding with non fully humans as not really a problem. He raises some additional problems he also disposes of to his own satisfaction.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            All living creatures have souls. What you mean to say is that when their children went out and took mates they were mating with others who were biologically the same but metaphysically lacking in the ability to abstract universal concepts from concrete particular percepts.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So did they mate with these biological humans?

          • mriehm

            "Biologically the same but metaphysically lacking in the ability to abstract universal concepts from concrete particular percepts." There is no evidence whatsoever for such a state of affairs. Pure conjecture.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            There are plenty of critters that cannot abstract universal concepts from concrete particular percepts. Do we need to ask if petunias have arts? Or if elephants have systems of speculative mathematics? If humans did evolve from earlier animal species, then they had ancestors incapable of speculative wisdom.

          • mriehm

            Of course. But they would not have been biologically the same. There would have been differences in their brains.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            That's an assumption. That's like saying birds would not have wings until they could fly.

            Further, such differences need not amount to a difference of species.

          • mriehm

            No, it's the exact opposite - it's like saying birds could not fly until they had wings. The behaviour depends on the biology to support it.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            So if we assume that intellection has something to do with brains, then the brain structure must be prior to the intellection. As you say, "no wing; no flight." But it is entirely possible to possess something that is exactly like a wing but not yet used for flight. Hence, a creature might be biologically human without yet being metaphysically being human.

          • Michael Murray

            biologically the same but metaphysically lacking in the ability to abstract universal concepts from concrete particular percepts.

            By Catholic belief they lacked an immortal spiritual soul. So I ask again how could they have spiritual sex together ?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            What the heck is "spiritual sex"?

          • Michael Murray

            Don't ask me I'm not a Catholic. Catholics believe sex is a spiritual experience.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You brought it up. Sex is simply fact of biological plumbing. Unless you believe that the spirit is inherently male or female?

          • Michael Murray

            I am talking sex as a verb not as denoting gender. That was the context of "having spiritual sex together".

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Gender is a grammatical construct.

          • David Nickol

            Sex is simply fact of biological plumbing.

            This seems totally incompatible with the Catholic insistence on "gender roles."

            Women are "mother types," and men are "father types," and you can't have a "mother type" as a priest. I don't think the Catholic Church says to women, "You can't be ordained because you don't have the requisite plumbing."

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            They also don't say it because they are "mother types."

          • David Nickol

            They also don't say it because they are "mother types."

            Sure they do. If you claim they don't, and sex is just a matter of plumbing, then why can't women be priests? Is the "complementarity of the sexes" merely about plumbing?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            As I understand it, the priest stands in for Jesus, not for Mary. Whatever God the spirit is, Jesus himself was a man.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Human sex is sacred, but animal sex is not. Correct?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Are you talking about "sex" or about "copulation"?

          • Michael Murray

            I think that, like I was, Ignatius is using the word sex in the common manner of "would you like to have sex tonight". I think it is somewhat unusual to say "would you like to copulate tonight". Unless you have just been reading Ursula Le Guin's book The Dispossessed.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            People do prefer euphemisms, don't they? Still less do guys say, "Hey, I wanna have an orgasm and need a receptacle."

            However, in a philosophical discussion it is usually better to be precise and not colloquial. Hence, the clarifying questions. For one thing, people are sometimes wont to include or exclude various orgasmic acts from "sex." cf. Bill Clinton, "I did not have sex with that young woman" because he did not regard blow jobs as "sex."

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Copulation.
            Is human copulation sacred? Is animal copulation sacred?

            Also, I understand you saying that there was suffering and death before Adam received an immortal soul, however our ancestors were not aware of it, because they were just animals without immortal souls. Is this correct?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Is human copulation sacred? Is animal copulation sacred?

            No and no. See, for example, forcible rape.

            There also seems no evidence that animals experience existential angst. For Rover to encounter a dead body that looks a lot like Fido may be disconcerting, but neither Rover nor Fido seem to have pondered the matter much beforehand. IOW, it has not entered their mental world.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'm pretty sure that the Catholic Church teaches that sex is sacred - I take it that you do not agree with this? Or are you saying that there are exceptions to this rule?

            But Rover can still suffer. My question is this: If God is all-good and all-powerful, why is there evil? As I understand it, Adam and Eve's sin brought evil into the world, but the suffering of dogs is also evil. Animals suffered before the fall and God allowed it. How is he still all-good?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            As I recollect, marriage is sacred, inasmuch as it provides a stable environment for the raising of any possible children that might result from the coupling. In addition to this secular purpose, there is a religious purpose of perfecting the mutual love of the conjugal unit -- but that is "love" in the proper sense, not the Late Modern corruption of "making love" as a euphemism for copulation. There is also a third purpose, another secular one: that of domesticating young men. However, sexual union between two metaphysical humans is likely a different matter than in earlier evolutionary times.

            Of course, Rover can suffer; but only at the moment of suffering. He does not spend time beforehand worried about potential suffering to come. Of course, pain comes with the sense of touch and without pain, animals would not know to avoid certain things in the world. An animal that felt no pain would soon die.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Descent from a single individual does not preclude other ancestors. About 0.5% of males living today have evidence of descent from Genghis Khan, and this rises to 10% of males within the old bounds of the Mongol Empire. And that had been only about three dozen generations. All of my cousins and I share a common descent from the same grandfather; but we all have other grandfathers.
            ++++
            "Soul." The Latin word simply means "alive." All living beings have souls. Those of plants being simpler than those of animals. All modern humans, by dogma, have a rational soul; that is, there are no "untermenschen" among us. A rational soul is one which possesses, in addition to the nutritive and sensitive powers of plants and animals, the rational powers of intellect and will. The intellect reflects on the perceptions of the imagination and abstracts universals from which it forms conceptions. This is not the same thing as "sentience," "consciousness," "intelligence," or "problem-solving." Obviously, one can either abstract even a tiny little bit or one cannot. Hence, there must have been a first individual with the capacity.

          • Michael Murray

            Obviously, one can either abstract even a tiny little bit or one cannot.

            I don't see the "obviously" at all. Why can there not be a range of mental activities which when you put them altogether amount to what we call abstraction.

            To make a slightly facetious remark many of my students can only abstract a tiny bit others can abstract more.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Taking a materialistic approach: Do we suppose some mutation occurred in the same generation to 10,000 individuals at the same time? Or do we suppose that for a larger population to "shift over time" that the capacity for rational thought might occur first in one person, then in some of his children, then in some of his grandchildren, and so on until they form the whole of surviving individuals. Pretty sure that's what "evolution by natural selection" actually means.

            One person does not a species make, at least in biology, but this is a metaphysical issue and one person might well be sui generis. If your mode of inquiry can only "see" larger populations shifting over time, don't be surprised if you can't see anything else. More to the point, it might be that we are talking about the origin of sin, not the origin of species.

            There is a discussion here:
            http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/kemp-monogenism.pdf

          • mriehm

            Mutations occur randomly in individuals, of course. Genetic mutations which prove beneficial to an individual will tend to be spread within a population over a period of a few generations.

            I believe you're making an assumption: that "rational thought" is a binary attribute: a creature either possesses it in totality or not at all. That viewpoint is (I believe) less prevalent in modern biology than it was a few decades ago. More and more, we are coming to understand that other species of animals exhibit cognitive abilities not so dissimilar from ours, in some ways (including emotions, empathy, toolmaking, and friendship, and intelligence). The separation is one of degree, not of fundamental kind.

            It seems to me to be very unlikely that "rational thought" is the product of one gene which was switched on in one mutation in our species' distant past. Instead I imagine that our cognitive abilities are a result of many, many mutations, which accumulated over millions of years - arguably back to the first creatures that possessed central nervous systems, I suppose. Having written that, it seems very obvious.

            I don't believe in the notion of sin, or of evil. I read the tale of Adam and Eve as pure allegory - that through his acquisition of knowledge, man abandoned an earlier, primitive, innocence. It's a rather good story, when read that way.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I believe you're making an assumption: that "rational thought" is a binary attribute

            I said that the capacity to abstract universal concepts from concrete particulars is something a creature possesses even the tiniest little bit, or not at all. What after all is "half" an ability to abstract a concept?

            More and more, we are coming to understand that other species of animals exhibit cognitive abilities not so dissimilar from ours, in some ways (in cluding emotions, empathy, toolmaking, and friendship, and intelligence).

            All of which were known to the medievals and denied by the Enlightenment -- and none of which require the intellect. Imagination is sufficient to account for a great many behaviors. Hence, specifically: abstract thought rather than concrete thought. There is a comment on it here:
            http://thomism.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/what-really-are-uniquely-human-traits/

            It's nice to see the PostModern backing away from the purely mechanical view of animals inherited from the Enlightenment and the notion of "purely human" traits that aren't. Slowly, we edge back toward Aristotle, though with much better data.
            ++++++

            I don't believe in the notion of sin, or of evil.

            An evil is defectus boni, a defect in a good. Unless all goods are perfect, there must be evils in the world. Not all of them are moral evils; but when we say that too much chocolate is bad for you or we speak about what makes a bad doctor versus a good doctor we begin to grasp the point. Life is a good; death is an evil. And so on. When we look at the basic strengths which we try to add onto our nature as a "second nature" -- understanding, knowledge, wisdom being perfections of the intellect; justice, temperance, and courage being perfections of the will; and prudence being the linchpin that connects them -- it also becomes clear what defects can exist in them. A defect of courage is cowardice, and another is foolhardiness. If we were to see someone strike his fiance and turn away in silence, that is an evil of cowardice. If a 90-lb weakling objects to the same and wades in swinging on say a massive player of sport, he is perhaps a shade more admirable, but has fallen into the evil of foolhardiness. That is, he has chosen a course that is unlikely to restore the good.

            Surely, you cannot deny that some people are cowardly in the face of racism or sexism or that others are foolhardy in the same context!

          • mriehm

            I said that the capacity to abstract universal concepts from concrete particulars is something a creature possesses even the tiniest little bit, or not at all.

            No, you didn't say that.

            What after all is "half" an ability to abstract a concept?

            Now you're arguing like the fundamentalist evolution-deniers, who ask, "What is the purpose of half of an eye?" That's not the way it works. You are still trying to cast it in a binary form, on or off, and attribute it only to humans. Please cite relevant scientific literature.

            Thirty seconds of searching on the Internet leads me to this: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/many-animals-can-think-abstractly/ .

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No, you didn't say that.

            And here I thought I had. What did you suppose I said?

            What after all is "half" an ability to abstract a concept?
            Now you're arguing like the fundamentalist evolution-deniers, who ask, "What is the purpose of half of an eye?"

            I said nothing about the purpose of such a capacity. (I thought you guys denied purpose in nature entirely.) I asked what "half" the ability would be. According to Aristotle and Aquinas, the proper object of the eye is light, so the ability to detect light, no matter how well refined (more or less) would constitute an "eye" at least of some sort. Of course, it does not become "sight" until the impression of light on the organ is recognized by the organism. A camera cannot "see," even a sunflower cannot "see," although both will react to light.

            Now the proper analogy, eye-wise would be to ask what does it mean to be "half" sensitive to light. The organism can perceive light (even dimly) or it cannot.

            Please cite relevant scientific literature.

            There is scientific literature relevant to a metaphysical question? Who knew. Some things, however variable they may be if they exist, either exist or not. For example: a leak in the sidewall of an aluminum beverage can may be a large leak or a small leak and we may measure the leakage under specified pressures. But in order for a leak to be large or small, it must first be a leak. A can that does not leak is not one that contains a hole of zero diameter. The same is even true of variable qualities: the diameter of the can may be larger or smaller, but it must first be a diameter, even though the quality of "diameter" is fabricated simultaneously with its size. This is the ontological priority of existence over any attribute (accident) of its existence.

            Thirty seconds of searching on the Internet leads me to this: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/many-animals-can-think-abstractly/

            Congratulations. You have discovered what I read a couple months ago in an old textbook entitled Thomistic Psychology, ©1941. It's in the section on the inner senses in It's always nice to see science catching up and discarding the old Enlightenment myths. The main flaw is that the researcher used the word "abstract" to mean "imagine." Even so, what we saw was that through operant conditioning, the animals could be trained to group together those pictures that humans thought they should group together. Suppose they had rewarded the animals whenever they paired a picture of a snake with a picture of a big blue bouncy ball? It would not take too long before the scientist would announce that animals had a Dali-esque power of surrealism. Aquinas gave animals a lot more credit than that.

          • mriehm

            I did not say I didn't believe in good or bad - I said that I did not believe in sin or evil.

            Let me be clear by capitalizing the words. The capitalized forms refer to metaphysical forms: some eternal struggle between opposing supernatural forces in the universe.

            I do not believe in Sin, or Evil. Or Good, for that matter. But I do believe in good, and in bad. And perhaps even in evil (Hitler, say).

            The conversation started out in the metaphysical ("origin of sin"), but then you began conflating it with the daily and mundane. Very misleading.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I'm not sure why you think the metaphysical ground of good and evil has something to do with an "eternal struggle between opposing supernatural forces in the universe." The Catholic Church, for example, defines an evil as "defectus boni," a lacking in a good. It is more akin to a hole than to some "opposing force." That is, evils have no independent existence, Hollywood notwithstanding. There cannot be death without life, although there could be life without death. That is, the evil is parasitic on the good.

            "Sin" is thus a deliberate turning away from a moral good. You mentioned Hitler, who always seems to turn up in these sorts of things, so you must know that there are those who turn away from the good and hence that there is sin. But here is the kicker: Hitler believed he was doing the good: restoring prosperity to Germany, uniting the German Folk, improving "racial hygiene" by eliminating the "less fit," and so on. Under the Late Modern belief in relativism, there is no basis for telling him he is wrong. For that, there must be an objective standard of the good, not simply the beliefs of the victorious.

            Tell you what. Start here and get back to us:
            http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.html

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So let's talk about the origin of sin. As I understand Catholic teaching, original sin brought death into the world. Why is their all sorts of death and suffering in the world before man's fall?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You fundies sure do read things pretty literally.

            If the origin of sin corresponds to the human faculty to know good and evil, then it would correspond to the human faculty to know of death, which is a major evil. Animals, so far as we can tell, do not spend a great deal of time worrying about when they are going to die.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So there was suffering and death before Adam's sin, but our ancestors did not realize it was there?

    • eddie too

      I am fairly certain that the RCC is not anti-science and even on those occasions where it may be perceived as anti-science, the perception is narrow and uninformed.
      is there anyone more anti-science than the modern anthropomorphic climate change contingent? they create computer models based on incomplete understandings and nebulous data while lacking all of the pertinent relationships between even the factors they do include in their models. then, they call their results science. if it is science, then the scientific method is not science.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        There are ways to test computer models.

    • Andrew Kassebaum

      You claim that the Church is anti-knowledge, no matter how you qualify it, is nonsensical. There are nearly 200 Catholic colleges and universities in the United States. Many of these universities are academic powerhouses: Notre Dame, Georgetown, Boston College, Fordham, etc. There are also 5,400 Catholic elementary schools and 1,200 Catholic secondary schools.

      Two other pet peeves: 1) I assume by RCC you mean Roman Catholic Church. The proper term is simply Catholic Church. I can forgive this one, since many Catholics make this mistake. 2) Dogma has a very specific meaning in the Catholic Church. It is not synonymous with doctrine.

      • David Nickol

        You claim that the Church is anti-knowledge, no matter how you qualify it, is nonsensical.

        I agree.

        Many of these universities are academic powerhouses: Notre Dame, Georgetown, Boston College, Fordham, etc. . . . .

        Were I of college age, I would be most happy to attend any one of these schools, but once again, a great many "conservative" Catholics (and I don't mean only extremists) would scoff at the idea that Notre Dame or Georgetown has a right to call itself a Catholic school.

        • Andrew Kassebaum

          There may be some truth to this. I, for one, fully embrace these universities!

      • Ignatius Reilly

        You claim that the Church is anti-knowledge, no matter how you qualify
        it, is nonsensical. There are nearly 200 Catholic colleges and
        universities in the United States. Many of these universities are
        academic powerhouses: Notre Dame, Georgetown, Boston College, Fordham,
        etc.

        Have you studied at any of these universities? They are certainly not bastions of orthodox Catholicism. Certainly, their success in academic endeavors has very little to do with their affiliation with the Catholic Church. Furthermore, most Catholics that I come across consider those institutions to be heretical.

        Let me back track a little bit. What I meant by that claim is that the problems I have with Catholic truth claims do not stem from whether or not the Church is pro-science or anti-science. I am saying that the catholic method of thinking can and does hinder the search for truth. The anti-knowledge statement I said off the cuff, and will acknowledge that it is incorrect.

        The catholic church teaches that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and because it is the inspired word of God we can make truth claims based on the contents. However, how do we justify the bible's place as an inspired text? What does it mean for a text to be inspired? What criteria can I use to establish that Genesis is inspired, but Shakespeare is not?

        So if I have evidence that the earth is round, but biblical cosmology dictates that it is flat, am I more or less likely to dismiss the aforementioned evidence based on my biblical belief?

        • Andrew Kassebaum

          Thank you for clarifying your remarks. Since we are in the clarifying mood, can I ask you what you mean by "the catholic method of thinking"?

          Your questions on the inspiration and the role of the Bible are important. They are, however, outside of the realm of my expertise. I will say that the Catholic approach to Scripture is quite rich and quite different from the non-Catholic understanding(s). As for the term inspired, I believe you are using it in an equivocal way. Paragraphs 105-108 of the Catechism may be of some help with your questions about inspiration.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I think there are a couple of issues with catholic methodology. Firstly, it was my experience in Catholicism that encouraging doubt is sinful. I don't think you can know (as much as we can know anything) that particular proposition is true or false unless you are encouraged to investigate the proposition from all angles. However, in my experience, reading "bad books" was said to put one in peril of losing their immortal soul.

            Secondly, I think that faith should be subservient to reason. I do not think this is the case in Catholicism. If reason comes into contradiction with a doctrine of faith, the doctrine of faith should be reconsidered. There are those who believe on faith (with some reasons) that every pope after Pious X is an anti-pope, others are protestants, and others take a more liberal view of catholic teaching (usually Jesuits it seems). Unless we allow reason to adjudicate over faith, I do not see how we can decide which faith (if any) is correct.

            Finally, many believers will make various political, scientific, or moral claims on the sole basis of the authority of the church, or in the case of protestants the authority of Jesus. This does not seem to be very adequate justification.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            faith should be subservient to reason. I do not think this is the
            case in Catholicism.

            Although, oddly enough, the Catholic Church is the only such body to insist on subjecting its beliefs to reason. There is a continuous tradition of asking questions and poking into different ways of understanding the same material. For example, in De genesi ad litteram Augustine looked at all the many different ways that Genesis could be read literally, accepting that the primary reading would always be allegorical.

            The Church teaches that there is only one Truth, and that when reason and faith seem to come to different conclusions then one or the other, or both, have been misunderstood.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So then why do I need faith at all?

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            I do not "doubt" that some Catholics discourage a deep spirit of questioning. I, for one, believe being Catholic means embracing everything that is true about reality, including the various mechanisms for discovering those truths. Again, this is just my own view, but I think that censorship is sometimes a sign of weakness, at least this appears to be the case when I reflect on various events in Church history.

            In regards to the relationship between faith and reason, have you had an opportunity to read Pope Benedict's Regensburg Address and Pope St. John Paul II's Fides et Ratio? While you will probably disagree with some of what is presented, it would be worth reading the Church's most recent treatments.

            Regensburg Address: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060912_university-regensburg_en.html

            Fides et Ratio: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_15101998_fides-et-ratio_en.html

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            In this vein, I would offer 2 Corinthians 12 as a foundational text for the Church's relationship with uncertainty.

            From the moment of his conversion, Paul was absolutely certain that he had encountered the risen Christ. And yet Paul also returns again and again to discussions of his own weakness (which includes his own stupidity, in the worldly sense). He is only able to proclaim the power of Christ in the weakness of his own life.

            That seems like a model for how we should all approach truth. We should let the truth disorient us, as happened at the moment of Paul's conversion. We should let our preconceptions be nailed to a Cross. Even our preconceptions about "what actually happened" at the resurrection need to be nailed to a Cross. Let God do the resurrecting.

            This is why I see the resurrection as the absolute and perpetual guarantor of free thought.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I read it a 7-8 years ago as part of a retreat. I don't remember all of the finer points though - unfortunately, I am not one of the lucky few that remembers everything they read.

      • Doug Shaver

        The proper term is simply Catholic Church. I can forgive this one, since many Catholics make this mistake.

        Those Catholics have included Pope Pius X. They are aware that their church is not the only church that calls itself Catholic.

  • Doug Shaver

    If the church were claiming that it could prove its core doctrines scientifically, I would be more interested in the history of its relations with science. But I don't think it's claiming that. What I hear the church saying is that there are some things I should believe even though they have no scientific support. The scientific contributions of a few Jesuits, however significant they were to the scientific enterprise, have no bearing on that issue.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      there are some things I should believe even though they have no scientific support.

      That would include most of mathematics.

      But it also includes some physical things, like the existence of an objective world, the rational order of that world, the existence of motion/change, and so on. No scientia can demonstrate its own assumptions using its own methods. Euclidean geometry cannot prove the Euclidean parallel postulate. It must simply assume it. Physical science must use empirical evidence, but to say evidence is "empirical" you must assume a priori that an objective universe exists. And so on.

      Mathematics has shown that in any system of first-order arithmetic or greater, there must be true statements within the system that are not provable within the system.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Playfair's axiom seems fairly self-evident. There is nothing inconsistent with accepting self-evident axioms and rejecting the teaching of the catholic church, which are not self evident.

      • Doug Shaver

        Oh, all right. I'll amend my observation. The church says there are some things I should believe even though they have no support in either science or logic.

        That would include most of mathematics.

        Not any more. Russell and Whitehead showed us how to infer mathematics from logic.

        But it also includes some physical things, like the existence of an objective world . . . .

        We do have make a few assumptions, yes. Logic alone cannot lead us anywhere. But we can derive science by applying logic to some minimal assumptions.

        Euclidean geometry cannot prove the Euclidean parallel postulate. It must simply assume it.

        Euclidean geometry also assume four other postulates. So what?

        Physical science must use empirical evidence, but to say evidence is "empirical" you must assume a priori that an objective universe exists. And so on.

        Fine. But to say we must assume A, B, and C is not to say we must also assume D. Every assumption needs its own justification.

        Mathematics has shown that in any system of first-order arithmetic or greater, there must be true statements within the system that are not provable within the system.

        I'm familiar with Godel's work. It is not a problem for my worldview.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Euclidean geometry cannot prove the Euclidean parallel postulate. It must simply assume it.
          Euclidean geometry also assume four other postulates. So what?

          Well, just because we must assume A, B, C, and D is not to say we must also assume E. The parallel postulate always had the appearance of being a provable theorem (which is why it is the one hauled up for special attention) and much effort was spent trying to prove it from the other postulates until it was finally shown to be unprovable.

          Russell and Whitehead showed us how to infer mathematics from logic.

          Alas, they abandoned their project after Gödel's Theorem sent a torpedo amidships. Besides, prior to amendment, the contention was "science" not "logic." If you allow logic, you allow metaphysics, and the Summa theologica.

          • Doug Shaver

            The parallel postulate always had the appearance of being a provable theorem (which is why it is the one hauled up for special attention) and much effort was spent trying to prove it from the other postulates until it was finally shown to be unprovable.

            Not just unprovable but unnecessary. What was demonstrated was that it could be denied without contradiction.

            Russell and Whitehead showed us how to infer mathematics from logic.

            Alas, they abandoned their project after Gödel's Theorem sent a torpedo amidships.

            Not their entire project. They were hoping that their system would prove everything. Godel showed that no system could prove everything. He did not prove that nothing was provable.

            If you allow logic, you allow metaphysics, and the Summa theologica.

            Allowance is not equivalent to justification. You can assume any metaphysical proposition you wish, but that doesn't mean I'm making an epistemological mistake if I don't assume it.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No, it is still a necessary postulate to Euclidean geometry. It can be replaced with a different postulate to create a non-Euclidean geometry. A more abstruse example: You cannot prove the Axiom of Choice (AC) from the other axioms of ZF set theory. Nor can you prove the Continuum Hypothesis (CH) from the whole of ZF. However, if you remove AC and replace it with CH, you can prove AC from the modified set of axioms. To me this says that CH is more basic than AC; but in any case what you wind up with is not ZF anymore.
            ++++
            The initial demand was that "evidence" required a scientific demonstration. But to allow mathematics in the door, we had to back off and allow logical deductions from first principles to be "evidence." But then, since allowing the prior analytics to give math a stage door pass, we must come up with a different reason to deny metaphysics an entry. No one says you have to accept the conclusions of any particular metaphysics any more than you have to accept the conclusions of proximity theory. Although it is often helpful if you understand what your metaphysics is and whether it is logically coherent.

          • Doug Shaver

            it is still a necessary postulate to Euclidean geometry.

            I have made no claim to the contrary.

            But to allow mathematics in the door, we had to back off and allow logical deductions from first principles to be "evidence."

            I did not use the term "first principles." We need a few assumptions. You can call those assumptions anything you like -- axioms, postulates, presuppositions, self-evident propositions, first principles, whatever sounds good to you -- but the bottom line is that any chain of deductive arguments has to end at some point with a few propositions that we are compelled to believe even though we cannot prove them.

            But then, since allowing the prior analytics to give math a stage door pass, we must come up with a different reason to deny metaphysics an entry.

            If you want to allow metaphysics into your epistemology, I'm not telling you you can't. If you are telling me I should allow metaphysics into my epistemology, you need to tell me why.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            If you are telling me I should allow metaphysics into my epistemology, you need to tell me why.

            Because you cannot avoid it, and the worst metaphysics is that which you are not aware of relying upon. As Midgley wrote:
            "People who refuse to have anything to do with philosophy have become enslaved to outdated forms of it."

          • Doug Shaver

            What made you suspect that I'm refusing to have anything to do with philosophy?

            I studied some metaphysics while getting my philosophy degree. The questions it deals with are arguably unavoidable, but I don’t have to accept any of your answers just on your say-so.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But you don't have to accept any of "my" "answers" any more than you have to accept evolution by natural selection, the beauty of the Parthenon, or the postulates of ZF set theory.

          • Doug Shaver

            I have reasons to accept evolution by natural selection, the beauty of the Parthenon, and the postulates of ZF set theory. And I think they're good reasons.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The initial demand was that "evidence" required a scientific demonstration. But to allow mathematics in the door, we had to back off and allow logical deductions from first principles to be "evidence."

            So what are your self-evident first principals?

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    I went to a Jesuit college (Holy Cross), after growing up in a family of lapsed Catholics in a fairly vanilla secular milieu.

    My first semester there, I had the pleasure of taking calculus with Father Andrew Whitman . He was absolutely on fire with his love of mathematics. The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus was the most profound poetry to him. It was a pivotal event in my life. Prior to that, I had never really taken much interest in either mathematics or Catholicism, but following on that experience, I eventually went on to get a Ph.D. in Statistics, and I also went on to become a joyful and active member of the Church.

    • Garbanzo Bean

      Thanks Jim, your comment made my day. I too remember learning the Fundamental Therorem of Calculus; we had to prove it on our final exam that year. It has always been an example of transcendent beauty to me. Another favorite is the incommensurability of the diagonal of a square with its side, and the even deeper incommensurability of the diagonal of a circle to its circumference. These are some of my favorite examples of truths which are beautiful, can be known indisputably with absolute certainty, and which cannot possibly be demonstrated empirically.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        So nice to hear that it provoked that response! Thanks for sharing that.