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Bill Nye, Ken Ham, and the Catholic Third Way

HamNye

Did you watch the big debate last night between Ken Ham and Bill Nye? It was an excellent exchange with good points made on both sides, but decidedly missing from the debate was the fuller and traditional Catholic view. Thus for the purpose of our dialogue here at Strange Notions, I'd like to explore the "third way" absent from last night's event.

How are Catholics taught to view the world? To quote the apologist Frank Sheed, in the very beginning of his book Theology and Sanity: “There is the intellect: its work is to know, to understand, to see: to see what? To see what’s there.” Ken Ham represented the young earth creationist view, arguing that historical science should be interpreted literally according to the English translation of the Bible. Bill Nye represented the “science guy” view, arguing that historical science should be interpreted according to the laws of nature that can be observed. Yet the Catholic view could summarily be described as natural realism.

The question under debate last night was, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” Let's compare the positions.

Ken Ham, Biblical Creationist

 
Ken Ham argued that terms must be defined correctly. He defined “science” as either observational or historical. The science that develops spacecraft, smoke detectors, and antibodies, for instance, is observational, based on experiments in the present. The science that deals with origins is historical. “Molecules to man” he said, is not about technology. No one was there to observe it.

He accused the secularists of imposing the “religion of naturalism” on kids when textbooks teach that “molecules to man” is scientific fact. But since the Bible teaches something else, evolution and creation are two opposing world views. His strongest point was that “observational science confirms creationism,” because if Biblical creation is true then we should expect to find evidence of intelligence, we should expect to find that animals produce offspring after their own kind, we should expect the human race to be one race, we should expect from the Tower of Babel for different groups to have different languages, and we should expect to find evidence of a young earth, and he furthered, we do. We do find that the world is ordered by laws of logic and laws of nature, we find that finches beget finches and dogs beget dogs, we find that the human race is one and that people have different languages, and he believes we find scientific evidence of a young earth. If kids were taught this, then they would accept the moral laws of the Bible too, such as those regarding marriage, abortion, euthanasia. The teaching of the “religion of naturalism” is responsible for moral decay in our culture. Ham wants children to be taught the right foundation, namely that they are special and made in the image of God.

Bill Nye, the Science Guy

 
Bill Nye, on the other hand, argued that scientists do not make the distinctions Ham makes, and that even most of the billions of people who are religious do not believe in a 6,000 year old earth. He mentioned the limestone and the fossils everywhere, millions of layers of ancient life. “How could those animals have lived their lives and formed these layers in only 6,000 years?” he asked.

He mentioned the snow-ice rods found in Greenland that contain 680,000 layers of packed ice, trapping ancient pockets of air, and the California bristlecone pines that are over 6,000 years old. Old Tjikko in Sweden? That tree is 9,550 years old. How could that be? Even more, the Grand Canyon features layers upon layers of ancient rock containing fossils of sea animals, trilobites, clams, oysters, and mammals, but without any of the “higher” animals mixed in with the “lower” ones. Nye challenged Ham to find one example anywhere in the world where all forms of animals were mixed together in the layers of rock. He argued that observational experience does not support the creation account.

“Here’s the thing,” Nye said, “what we want in science is an ability to predict, a natural law that is so obvious and well-understood that we can make predictions.” In the fossil record, we find a sequence of animals. Historically, when there were missing links and people wondered if there was a fossil that filled that gap. For example, after finding reptiles and amphibians people wondered if there was some animal in between that had characteristics of both. But then that which was predicted was indeed found.

Nye later argued that, “Ken Ham’s model doesn’t have prediction capability!” He claimed that kids were not being taught to appreciate observational science, but instead to believe an account in a book that could not be observed. Therefore, he argued, such teaching hinders education and produces future adults who cannot innovate new technology. He pointed out that scientists now can use a drug based on Rubidium to do heart imaging without having to cut open a patient. “There’s no place like that in Kentucky [where Ham’s Creation Museum is located] to get a degree to do this kind of medicine. I hope you Kentuckians find that troubling. You have to go out of state for that.” This, I think, was rhetorically powerful but probably his weakest point.

The Traditional Catholic View

 
There is another way to view this whole discussion, though, and it is how Catholic scholars have traditionally viewed the order in nature. I described it earlier as natural realism. It is a Biblical worldview, the same worldview of the early Christians and the same worldview of the Christian scholars in the Middle Ages when modern science was born.

Throughout the Old Testament, the naturalness of the universe, the predictability and order, the power of God as Creator and Lawmaker are emphasized: “The Lord...the God of hosts, the same who brightens day with the sun’s rays, night with the ordered service of moon and star, who can stir up the sea and set its waves a-roaring.” (Jeremiah 31:35) The prophets spoke of God as the Creator of the universe, the one who “measured out the waters in his open hand, heaven balanced on his palm, earth’s mass poised on three of his fingers” (Isaiah 40:12). This naturalness, by which I mean the rationality in reality, is densely featured in the Wisdom literature, in the references to God’s wisdom in the created world and its stability:
 

"The Lord made me [wisdom] his when first he went about his work, at the birth of time, before his creation began. Long, long ago, before earth was fashioned, I held my course.
 
Already I lay in the womb, when the depths were not yet in being, when no springs of water had yet broken; when I was born, the mountains had not yet sunk on their firm foundations, and there were no hills; not yet had he made the earth, or the rivers, or the solid framework of the world." (Proverbs 8:22-26)

 
The Old Testament is the story of the unity between cosmic and human history, describing how the Maker of the World is also the Shepherd of His People.
 

"Sure knowledge he has imparted to me of all that is;
how the world is ordered, what influence have the elements,
how the months have their beginning, their middle, and their ending,
how the sun’s course alters and the seasons revolve,
how the years have their cycles, the stars their places.
 
To every living thing its own breed, to every beast its own moods;
the winds rage, and men think deep thoughts;
the plants keep their several kinds, and each root has its own virtue;
all the mysteries and all the surprises of nature were made known to me;
wisdom herself taught me, that is the designer of them all." (Wisdom 7:17-21)

 
This naturalistic mindset was present in the Old Testament, as well as in the New, and it thrived among the early Christians. For instance, Athenagoras in the second century noted that “neither is...it reasonable that matter should be older than God; for the efficient cause must of necessity exist before the things that are made.” Irenaeus, also in the second century, emphasized that faith in the Creator of all was the basis of Christian belief. Clement urged in his Exhortation to the Greeks a confident attitude toward nature, a view of the world created by a rational Creator:
 

"How great is the power of God! His mere will is creation; for God alone created, since He alone is truly God. By a bare wish His work is done, and the world’s existence follows upon a single act of His will."

 
St. Augustine in the fourth century showed an appreciation for quantitative relationships. His view was that knowledge of the quantitative exactness of the natural world, including the cosmos, could not help much in understanding the biblical message. Augustine also rejected any biblical interpretation which denied or ignored the established conclusions of natural studies. He was explicit on this point. Read this with the Ham and Nye debate in mind:
 

"It is often the case that a non-Christian happens to know something with absolute certainty and through experimental evidence about the earth, sky, and other elements of this world, about the motion, rotation, and even about the size and distances of stars, about certain defects [eclipses] of the sun and moon, about the cycles of years and epochs, about the nature of animals, fruits, stones, and the like. It is, therefore, very deplorable and harmful, and to be avoided at any cost that he should hear a Christian to give, so to speak, a “Christian account” of these topics in such a way that he could hardly hold his laughter on seeing, as the saying goes, the error rise sky-high." (Sancti Aureli Augustini De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim, in Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinoram, Volume XXVIII, Section III, Part 1.)

 
Augustine realized that when statements of the Bible conflicted with hypotheses of the workings of nature, and when reason and observation provided no clear solution and decisive evidence, nor did Scripture seem to be explicitly literal, then the matter was open to further inquiry. Whenever scientific reasoning seemed to settle a matter, however, he urged that Scripture would have to be reinterpreted. When it could not be settled, he said that questions which “require much subtle and laborious reasoning to perceive which the actual case” he had no time for because “it is not needed by those whom [he wished] to instruct for their own salvation and for the benefit of the Church.” In other words, he knew that salvation did not come from knowledge of the natural world.

This is to show that, traditionally, Christians have not rejected reason and observation in favor of a literal Biblical interpretation. They had a natural view of the cosmos and sought to understand it as far as reason could go. It seems, in other words, they would have rejected Ken Ham’s view.

The Catholic scholars in the Middle Ages, when modern science was born, continued this worldview, guided by faith in a rational Creator. They rejected conclusions drawn beyond observations that contradicted the Christian Creed, such as pantheism and animism, but whatever they observed and measured, they viewed it all as a work of Creation and asked questions about how these created things worked. This is covered in much more detail in my book, Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. Jaki's writings, of course, cover this in even more detail. So rather than belabor the point, I will move on.

Even into the twentieth century, this view has been maintained. In 1909, the Pontifical Biblical Commission issued a document, Concerning the historical nature of the first three chapters of Genesis. The decisions are summarized below, taken and highlighted from Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.
 

"a) The first three Chapters of Genesis contain narratives of real events, no myths, no mere allegories or symbols of religious truths, no legends.
 
b) In regard to those facts, which touch the foundations of the Christian religion, the literal historical sense is to be adhered to. Such facts are, inter alia, the creation of all things by God in the beginning of time, and the special creation of humanity.
 
c) It is not necessary to understand all individual words and sentences in the literal sense. Passages which are variously interpreted by the Fathers and by theologians, may be interpreted according to one’s own judgment with the reservation, however, that one submits one’s judgment to the decision of the Church, and to the dictates of the Faith.
 
d) As the Sacred Writer had not the intention of representing with scientific accuracy the intrinsic constitution of things, and the sequence of the works of creation but of communicating knowledge in a popular way suitable to the idiom and to the pre-scientific development of his time, the account is not to be regarded or measured as if it were couched in language which is strictly scientific.
 
e) The word “day” need not be taken in the literal sense of a natural day of 24 hours, but can also be understood in the improper sense of a longer space of time."

 

How Does "Natural Realism" Fit Into the Debate?

 
The Catholic view is, as Frank Sheed said, to see “what’s there.” It is an open-minded, curious, and confident view that science, the application of mathematics to objects, can reveal the laws of nature—and it is a humble view that admits those laws are profound and not fully known. The goal is to reconcile faith and science, but as long as our knowledge is incomplete, then it is acceptable to clarify where the incongruities seem to be with an attitude toward reconciliation.

If there is an apparent conflict, it is the result of partial knowledge, not actual conflict. We must keep searching.

So what's the answer to the debate question, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” The answer is yes, if creation is taken to be "creation of all things by God" as understood by the Old Testament and Christian authors. Also, the answer is yes so long as it is understood that man, as a rational creature made in the image of God, is capable of discovery, but is also a discursive creature who learns in steps, and therefore does not possess omniscience.

This attitude seems to be missing in both Ken Ham’s and Bill Nye’s arguments. Perhaps there is some truth to both of their arguments, and perhaps some error. The fuller and balanced Catholic view admits this and says:

“Keep going, keep studying, keep researching, keep debating. Teach kids science in science class and religion in religion class. Instruct kids in the virtues, to will to do good an to avoid vice. Encourage kids to use their intellects, to think and learn, to discover and innovate because they were made for it. Teach them to pervade all willing and learning with a confidence in a Creator who ‘ordered all things by measure, number, and weight’ (Wisdom 11:20), a God who holds everything in existence and interacts in the history of mankind in the same manner as He rules the cosmos. For that is your origin.”
 
 
(Image credit: Chicago Now)

Dr. Stacy Trasancos

Written by

Stacy Trasancos is a wife, mother, and joyful convert to Catholicism. She has a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Penn State University and a M.A. in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She worked as research chemist for DuPont before becoming a full-time homemaker in 2003, and has advanced knowledge in the fields of nanometer-scale composite materials, photoreactive polymers, and elastomeric fibers. She designed and served as Editor-in-Chief (2011-2014) of Ignitum Today, a website for young adult Catholics, and is currently Editor-in-Chief of Catholic Stand. She is a contributor at Integrated Catholic Life, and has published in refereed science journals and Catholic magazines. She teaches chemistry classes for Kolbe Academy, and serves as Alumni Association President and Adjunct Professor at Holy Apostles. She is the author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. Most of her time is devoted to raising her youngest five children, and worrying about her two oldest, with her husband in a 100-year-old lodge in the Adirondack mountains. Follow Stacy's blog at StacyTrasancos.com.

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  • SmilingAssassin27

    Excellent, Brandon. Why will these naturalists not take on a legitimate Catholic like you or Father Spitzer, who can present a full picture?

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Thanks for this, Stacy.

    Would you say if the debate were between you (or another Catholic who adheres to "natural realism") that there would be virtually nothing to disagree upon?

    • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

      Good question. I think there might be plenty to disagree on, but the nature of the disagreement would be different. If the Catholic confidently assents to the dogmas and Creed, then he/she can debate the scientific details as a matter of searching for truth. The disagreement wouldn't be over opposing worldviews beyond the science because the faith of the Catholic is not dependent on science. That's one reason it makes so much sense to clearly define what is science and what is not.

      • Aldo Elmnight

        It would come down to the Truth that the science is pointing to. For the Catholic the science is pointing to God. For Bill Nye the science is pointing to him.

        • Peter Piper

          In what sense do you see Nye as claiming that science `points to him'? Can you give a quote from Nye in which he says something like this?

  • David Nickol

    There are still a few areas where it at least appears there is conflict between Catholic thought and scientific discoveries. I should note, however, that on these issues there may not be definitive statements of the Catholic Church that are infallible and not subject to to some kind of reinterpretation or development.

    First, there is the matter of human origins. It appears to me that scientific findings clearly rule out the possibility that the human race descended from one man and one woman (whether the biblical Adam and Eve or two unknowns who lie behind the figurative story of Adam and Eve). (Some Catholics cite the International Theological Commission document Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God, notably paragraph 63, as leaving behind the Adam and Eve story as a thing of the past. Maybe.)

    Second, there is the matter of human nature. Although it is sometimes claimed that Original Sin is the most obvious of Christian doctrines, there is no human characteristic for which some kind of "Fall" is needed to explain. There is no evidence that there were ever "unfallen" human beings who "fell" and changed human nature or nature in general.

    Third, and somewhat related, evidence points to the brain being responsible for the mind. It seems to me that while a spiritual soul cannot be ruled out altogether, it is not necessary to explain the mind or consciousness. Of course, consciousness has not been fully explained and possibly may never be fully explained, but positing a spiritual soul as the source of phenomena of conscious as yet unexplained is (in my opinion) a resort to the "God of the gaps."

    Fourth, as has been endlessly debated here (and is nowhere near being resolved), it seems to me both the theists and the atheists are perhaps letting their ideas and opinions about the origin of the universe be influenced more by their religious beliefs (or lack of them) than if they had an iron resolve and vowed to investigate cosmological theories with a completely open mind and let the chips fall where they may. As human beings investigating the frontiers of human knowledge, and with many of us having our advanced degrees in physics and cosmology from "Google University," this is completely understandable.

    • Moussa Taouk

      Hi David. I didn't think your first point was correct. How has science ruled out that we descended from more than one man/woman?

      Thanks.
      MT

      • David Nickol

        I didn't think your first point was correct. How has science ruled out that we descended from more than one man/woman?

        Science has ruled out that we descended from only one man and woman—Adam and Eve or, if they were not the Adam and Eve of the story, "our first parents," as the Catechism calls them.

        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.

        Genetic diversity is too great for there ever to have been only two people in the ancestral population. From a scientific viewpoint, there could not have been a couple who were "our first parents."Some have invented rather bizarre hypotheses to show how it is possible that we could have descended from only two parents, but they are not scientific hypotheses. Who is to say the human race did not begin with two parents, and that God did not create new genes with every new generation that was born until the population achieved its current genetic diversity? You can't prove it didn't happen (as far as I know), but that is not a scientific hypothesis.

        • Moussa Taouk

          "Genetic diversity is too great for there ever to have been only two people in the ancestral population."

          That point doesn't hold if you apply it to living creatures in general. To say that "genetic diversity is too great for there ever to have been only one common ancestral organism" is to say a similar thing to what you said, but a potentially incorrect thing according to most scientific views.

          In fact, it would seem to me only logical that human dna must trace itself to some common point in history.

          I saw a documentary confirming that finding a few years ago. This page presents the concept of that documentary:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve

          • Michael Murray

            That pages itself points out why Mitochondrial Eve is not the Biblical Eve.

          • Moussa Taouk

            "... Eve is not the Biblical Eve."

            I would be surprised if she WAS in fact the Biblical Eve! But "this Mitochondrial Eve" suggests that it IS possible (in response to David's first point) that human origin could be traced back to one set of parents.

            This article supports the possibility (and I would even say logical necessity?) of a common human ancestor.

          • Michael Murray

            No there is absolutely no evidence that human numbers got as low as two. As David says you would see that in the DNA. You can see numbers got down to the tens of thousands at one point. Possibly when the Toba volcano in Indonesia exploded.

          • Moussa Taouk

            "No there is absolutely no evidence that human numbers got as low as two."

            I agree if, by that, you're saying there is no evidence pointing directly to one set of parents. I agree that the evidence shows that 7 billion people came from 10,000 people (for argument's sake).

            But the next step (which isn't scientific, but I think it's logical) is to ask whether those 10,000 people had parents, or whether they were the first of their kind in 10,000 different places. Logically I can only think they had parents, and therefore you can go one generation back. Then if I apply the same question, I go on again. And again. Until eventually there must have been one set of parents.

            Not sure where the flaw in that thinking is, if there is one.

          • Michael Murray

            Then if I apply the same question, I go on again. And again. Until eventually there must have been one set of parents.

            Not sure where the flaw in that thinking is, if there is one.

            The flaw is in the "there must have been one set of parents" :-) Why ? You are assuming I think that previous generations are always smaller. No reason for that. If the 10,000 bottleneck was caused by a catastrophe the previous generation was almost certainly bigger.

            As you go back slowly these people would change and look less like us and eventually become small mammals scrabbling amongst the dinosaurs. Then further back they are in the sea. Further back they are multi cellar organisms. Further back there is no sexual reproduction and we are talking simple multicellular organisms. No need at any point for a single pair of humans from which we all descend.

          • Moussa Taouk

            Is there a definition of "human"? Aren't humans a species? Is there something that defines that species? Isn't there a point where one can say "that's definitely not a human"?

            I guess you say no. If so I can agree without too much difficulty. But certainly I would go on to say that if we go back and back, there is one point where you can say "this specimen is definitely a human". Go back further, and you can safely say, "there are definitely no humans around".

            Then there's a grey area where perhaps you're not sure. Maybe at that time the group you're left with are both human and non-human? Are they a species of their own or are they two or more species simultaneously? Hmmm... mysterious.

          • Michael Murray

            Is there a definition of "human"? Aren't humans a species? Is there something that defines that species? Isn't there a point where one can say "that's definitely not a human"?

            Usually species is taken to mean can reproduce and have fertile off-spring. I guess you could make a definition with DNA. It becomes more difficult when you look at fossils.

            I think the thing to bear in mind is that we are the same species as our parents, grandparents and back a few generations. But we are not the same species as our great, great, great, great ..... , great, grandparents because they were single cells.

          • Moussa Taouk

            I think we're in the realm of considerable speculation. We're in the realm of beliefs. I don't know the exact scenario that led to the 10,000 humans, and I guess you don't either. So in the absence of firm evidence we maintain our faiths. I believe that at some point there WERE two people (according to faith in Catholic teachings) and you believe that there were NOT two people that gave rise to subsequent humanity. We can both imagine scenarios that illustrate either position.

            But I think at the core of the difference is whether or not humans have souls, free will etc.

            If humans have free will, I don't get how free will slowly emerged. Surely there must be a point in history where one creature said to himself, "that girl-looking creature looks awfully sexy, and I would like nothing more than to help myself to a treat, but nevertheless I won't because of how she might feel about that". Is there any in-between? Either he resists the urge of his instinct or he doesn't. Either he has the freedom to do so or he doesn't. If at some point in history some man pronounced his intent to over-ride his instinct for the good of others, then perhaps that's the point where we can say "there's Adam". Surely there must have been that point in the past! One point before which every creature acted on his instinct, and after which at least one creature consciously denied his instinct.

            But if we don't have free will, then I can't easily imagine how that moment in history came about. Some guy (out of the 10,000) one day came up with an idea to resist his urges of procreating? Maybe I'm thinking of the whole thing in a simplistic way. But it's hard to imagine how that point in time didn't exist.

            If it did, then the next time that the same man said, "nah bugger it... i'm gonna go with my instinct" and consciously went against what he perceived to be good... well, that would be the "fall".

            How's that for a theory?!

          • Michael Murray

            I think we're in the realm of considerable speculation. We're in the realm of beliefs. I don't know the exact scenario that led to the 10,000 humans, and I guess you don't either. So in the absence of firm evidence we maintain our faiths. I believe that at some point there WERE two people (according to faith in Catholic teachings) and you believe that there were NOT two people that gave rise to subsequent humanity. We can both imagine scenarios that illustrate either position.

            No we aren't in the realm of speculation and I'm not maintaining my faith. I'm looking at the evidence provided by the experts in DNA analysis. They tell us that there was a time in the past when the number of human ancestors got down to tens of thousands but not down to single digits. That's the evidence. Not my belief or my faith just the evidence.

            You're of course fee to discard the evidence and go with faith. But don't pretend the evidence isn't there.

          • Moussa Taouk

            "You're of course fee to discard the evidence and go with faith."
            No, I'm not keen to discard evidence. But I don't get that because scientists said the numbers got to tens of thousands but not single digits, that that's evidence that there was never two individuals whom we can call our parents.

            I'm not familiar with the actual data used to make the claim, nor the way the data was interpreted, nor whether or not other possible scenarios are acceptable.

            Here I am thinking of G.K. Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man" where he points out that scientists sometimes draw all kinds of fanciful theories and treat them as fact because they find an ancient painting in a cave.

            I find I'm becoming more and more skeptical of scientists' claims. Sometimes (as per the theist debater linked to in the article) it does seem like an ideology is being pursued rather than pure investigation.

          • DarcyMarais

            But you are claiming to be skeptical of science that you know nothing about, research you haven't read, and analysis you've not even looked at.
            Sure that is not a reasonable basis for skepticism?

          • Moussa Taouk

            Given my level of knowledge, what would be a more reasonable position for me to take? I gather it would be to trust what scientists say? And following from that... the point I'm making is that because of the feeling of a certain push of ideology being sometimes mingled in with the presentation of scientific discoveries, there is less and less willingness to put my trust in scientific theories. Of course I still take those theories on board, but I have a greater willingness to treat them as ideas that could be right and could be wrong. Which, now that I think of it, is probably no more skepticism than what scientists themselves should have about scientific theories!

          • Michael Murray

            Which, now that I think of it, is probably no more skepticism than what scientists themselves should have about scientific theories!

            No scientists, if regarding a theory in their area of specialist knowledge, will look for the evidence supporting it and the degree of fit with other theories which are supported by lots of evidence. If looking at a theory far from their area expertise they will do what all lay people should do which is try to assess the degree of support in the specialist community for that theory: the "scientific consensus" as it were.

          • Moussa Taouk

            "If looking at a theory far from their area expertise they will do what all lay people should do which is try to assess the degree of support in the specialist community..."

            Ok, so basically "trust the scientific community" or the near consensus of scientists.

            Well, I'm saying I have less trust for such "experts" because they seem to be increasingly hostile to alternative theories and because of the risk that "group think" is easily a possibility in a world where intellectual prestige is at risk if one doesn't comply.

            At the end of the day trust is something you win from others. Scientits have recently given me reason to limit the level of trust that they command from me.

          • Michael Murray

            It's not trust the scientific community so much as trust the process that is science. Scientific mistakes are self correcting over time because of the emphasis on evidence and the rewards given for challenging old ideas with new evidence and new ideas.

            The computers we are typing on are really sufficient evidence it works.

            Scientits have recently given me reason to limit the level of trust that they command from me.

            Do you want to elaborate ?

          • Moussa Taouk

            "It's not trust the scientific community so much as trust the process that is science." - Ok, I agree.

            The "scientific method" is a good way of studying material reality, and so I do trust the results of the scientific method.

            "Have you got an example?"
            An example of "group think" happened in the Challenger Disaster leading up to the launch. I don't have examples of particular scientists doing the group think thing, but I extrapollate that because they're humans prone to weakness, and because their funding depends on their status as "respected scientists" that it's only natural that they can toe the line in order to conform.

            "Do you want to elaborate ?"

            A few years ago I thought the question of climate change was resolved, and there were no doubts in the minds of reasonable people that it is happening, it is critical to respond NOW, and it is due largely to human activity. I thought so because that's the only view that I ever saw anywhere. Skeptics were ridiculed as being backwards and ignorant of the science.

            Then by chance I watched a talk by Lord Monckton when he visited Australia about the subject. I was amazed at how coherent and intelligent and reasonable this man seemed AND how thoroughly he disagreed with the theory of man-induced climate changed. The argument he presented completely altered my view on the subject. that was the first time when I realised in a black and white way that what I hear as being the "widely accepted" scientific theory could actually be incomplete, one-sided, and being used by a group to push some agenda.

            Another example is a debate I heard recently on the internet called "Evolution and Origins of Life". (Before hearing this I was gun-ho about evolution and left not much room in my mind for other ideas... BECAUSE same reasons as the climate change thing). The first speaker was the pro-evolution man, and he utterly ridiculed the whole notion of intelligent design (which I thought was somewhat ridiculous before I heard the debate). He really hooked in. Then the other got up to reply, and he gave a calm and genuine talk about some fundamental areas of the living world that are not sufficiently addressed by the theory of evolution. He addressed all the other guy's issues and he simply made a lot of sense. In my eyes he actually totally trampled the other guy in the debate.

            I thought, hang on a minute. This guy isn't an idiot. He's actually a clever scientist. Why is his view ridiculed when he has done a great job and justifying his position?! Why isn't his view given air time out there?

            Finally the third thing that comes to mind is when certain scientists refer to humans as "plagues" and "viruses" and propose that we need to drastically reduce populations etc. That's when I think "hang on buddy. Go and reduce yourself into non-extence if you will, but go jump with your "scientific" theories". I think it's at these points that the two world views clash. When there are real consequences resulting from either view.

          • Michael Murray

            This article supports the possibility (and I would even say logical necessity?) of a common human ancestor.

            What do you mean by a common ancestor ? Do you mean a great, great ..... grandparent that everybody alive today has ? Or do you mean all of us are descended from a single pair of humans. There are quite different things. This first is what is usually meant by a common ancestor. Common ancestors are pretty much a logical necessity but unrelated to being all descended from a single pair of humans. If you look at the wiki page for MRCAs = Most Recent Common Ancestors it says

            The MRCA of everyone alive could have co-existed with a large human population, each of whom either has no living descendants or is an ancestor of only some of the people alive today. Therefore the existence of an MRCA does not imply the existence of a population bottleneck, let alone a "first couple".

          • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

            And a surprisingly recent one- at about 5000 years ago.

          • Michael Murray

            I think this is an important point to bear in mind:

            It is important to remember that we all carry the DNA of other women from Eve's era too. What is special about Eve is only mitochondrial DNA, which is transmitted only through women. Eve, like other women, had descent lines that included men, but her mtDNA came to an abrupt halt at any male link. A woman's nuclear DNA (as opposed to her mitochondrial DNA) is transmitted through both her daughters and her sons. But in the simplified research world of mtDNA, having a male child, like having no child at all, represents the end of a line. Thus a woman can have millions of descendants after a few hundred generations, and still pass on no mtDNA at all.

            From here

            Of course perhaps original sin is in our mitochondrial DNA in which case women really did bring sin into the world.

        • Sheila Connolly

          It seems to me that there is a first pair of every species. Isn't any given mutation an incredibly unlikely event? And once a favorable one takes place, the creature that has it will quickly outcompete others of the species from which it arose, so there will be little chance for another similar mutation to take place.

          If you don't accept this, you will have to say that some larger number -- ten thousand?! -- simultaneously were born with the same mutation. That seems a lot less likely.

          Of course, in this case we are not dealing entirely with science. Even if, in other cases, species arose in big batches (which seems quite unlikely to me), in this case we believe that God intervened to add a spiritual dimension to a creature that had previously been merely a rather intelligent animal. And we believe he did this with two homonids, male and female. It doesn't have to be *likely,* because God wasn't playing the odds here. It simply has to be possible, and it's never been proven that it isn't.

          (By the way, I think there's a lot more evidence to deny the first pair theory if you assert that the first humans in the theological sense are homo sapiens sapiens. There just doesn't seem to be enough time to reach that level of genetic diversity, and of course we know we have Neanderthal genes. But I think Adam and Eve may just as well have been homo habilis or homo erectus. There is no reason why evolution should have stopped when Adam received a soul.)

          • David Nickol

            It seems to me that there is a first pair of every species.

            No, in many ways just the opposite. A new species is always a population, not one or two individuals.

            Isn't any given mutation an incredibly unlikely event?

            A mutation is a random event. It makes no sense to assign it a probability after it has happened.

            And once a favorable one takes place, the creature that has it will quickly outcompete others of the species from which it arose, so there will be little chance for another similar mutation to take place.

            One mutation in one individual doesn't make a new species. If a pre-kangaroo mother gives birth to a baby that has a mutation that makes it a true kangaroo, and the species kangaroo comes into existence, with whom does the kangaroo breed when he or she reaches sexual maturity?

          • Sheila Connolly

            A new species may be defined and separate from others after a population has been built up, but that population is always going to come from a limited ancestry.

            Take breeding cats. Cat breeders get excited about unusual mutations, for instance, the Rex cat that has curly hair. All Rex cats come from an original Rex cat which randomly appeared with the curly-haired mutation. In all the population of cats, there is NO cat with exactly that type of curly hair that does not descend from the original cat. (In order to preserve the mutation, the breeders bred the original cat to its siblings and offspring, which may or may not have happened with humans. Doesn't bother me if it did.)

            Now the Rex is not a species of its own. However, if its curly hair was an advantage to it, it would eventually build up a population of curly cats which would drift genetically (through further mutations) away from other cats, limiting the breed as its own species. At that point, yes, there is a large population with a great deal of variation, but still every single Rex cat can be traced to the single ancestor who had the original mutation.

            In the same way, every individual mutation which separates man from protohumans -- from opposable thumbs to a hyoid bone to each increase in brain size -- presumably happened in one individual, each of whom became the ancestor of all humans. Which of these special mutated individuals was "Adam"? It's impossible to say. A soul doesn't show up in the fossil record.

            Who was Eve, then? My guess is Adam's sibling or daughter (after mating with another hominid). Yes, that's embarrassing, but it's not contrary to the Church's account. Alternatively, God could have ensured the same mutation would arise *twice,* independently, within the same very small timeframe. However, it seems to me this answer would require God's direct intervention, since it would be so unlikely.

    • Josh

      To the 1st: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2011/09/adam-and-eve-and-ted-and-alice.html

      To the 2nd: what would count as evidence in this case? The idea is that what God created was good, and we corrupted it. Seems simple enough.

      To the 3rd: philosophical arguments such as summarized in this link below preclude intellect/brain identity. The so-called "hard problem of consciousness" is, for Scholastic/Thomistic philosophy at least, a red herring one can expect post-Descartes: http://rocketphilosophy.blogspot.com/2013/11/immaterial-aspects-of-thought-james-ross.html

      To the 4th: I agree. We should take F. Sheed's advice to heart and do the work of thought: "There is the intellect: its work is to know, to understand, to see: to see what? To see what’s there," as Stacy quoted. Catholics believe sound philosophy will support a sound theology, as its handmaiden, and a sound philosophy of nature is absolutely essential for sound Natural Sciences.

      Hope that helps. Bonne chance!

      • David Nickol

        Let me say bluntly that I don't believe Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice on The TOF Spot is compatible with Catholic thought, although apparently some Catholics take it seriously, nor is it compatible with the theory of evolution. Aside from that, it attempts to reconcile Catholicism with evolutionary theory by "making stuff up" that can't be classified as either science or religion. You can harmonize any scientific finding with any religious doctrine if you are willing to "make stuff up." If the earth appears to be 4.5 billion years old, for example, it was created 6000 years ago to give every sign of being 4.5 billion - 6000 years old, fossils and all!

        Just a couple of brief points. The TOF post says:

        Darwin tells us that at some point an ape that was not quite a man gave birth to a man that was no longer quite an ape.

        No, Darwin didn't say that at all. The TOF post says:

        There is an argument similar to Zeno's Paradox of Dichotomy that holds that sapient man arose by slow, gradual increments. That is, arguing from the continuum rather than from the quanta. Now, "a little bit sapient" is like "a little bit pregnant." It may be only a little, but it is a lot more than not sapient at all. There is, after all, no first number after zero, and however small the sapience, one can always cut it in half and claim that that much less sapience preceded it.

        To be blunt, that is nonsense. There is no scientific concept in evolutionary theory that says "sapience" is a yes-or-no characteristic. And how in the world can anyone not consider cats, dogs, horses, dolphins, elephants, and so on "a little bit sapient"?

        The TOF post says:

        So, Adam may be considered the first man no matter how many man-like apes there were on his family tree. And that includes those among his 9,999 companions. It is not clear how
        Dr. Coyne envisions the same sapient mutation arising simultaneously in10,000 ape-men. It is not impossible, I suppose; but it does seem unlikely.

        Neither Dr. Coyne nor anyone else who understands evolution thinks there was a "first man" who differed from his parents because he had a "sapient mutation"!

        The list of objections to the TOF post is almost endless, but let me say very briefly why I think it is incompatible with Catholic thought. It requires bestiality to get the human race going. It requires the interbreeding of "homo sapiens" who are "sapient" with those who are not. In Catholic terms, it requires the interbreeding of "homo sapiens" with souls with beings who do not have souls. The Catholic position is that every act of sexual intercourse must be both procreative and unitive. How can sex between a "sapient" homo sapien and and a not-quite-human with no capacity for abstract, rational thought be unitive? How can such a creature give consent? What kind of mother would a creature incapable of abstract, rational thought be to a human child?

        • Andy Thomas

          Hi David, are you aware that Catholic theology considers human beings as rational animals with at least a component of their form requiring immateriality? Is it not the case that immateriality is an yes-no proposition?

          • David Nickol

            Hi David, are you aware that Catholic theology considers human beings as rational animals with at least a component of their form requiring immateriality?

            I am well aware of that, which is why I think there is a grave problem claiming that there can be two physically identical "species," homo sapiens with souls and homo sapiens without souls. According to the Catechism:

            365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

            The TOF post claims that if the body of a homo sapiens is infused with an "animal soul," it will be an animal, and if it is infused with a spiritual soul, it will be a human person. I find it very difficult to pin down the exact meaning of soul in Catholic thought, but I don't think it is consistent with Catholic thought to think of a human body as an animal body with a soul put into it.

            If you accept the TOF post, it seems to me you have to accept the possibility that not all human beings have immortal souls. How would you have any idea, for example, that a "person" who was mentally disabled was a person at all and not a human body without a spiritual soul?
            To repeat the old phrase, the TOF post seems to understand a human being as a "ghost in a machine." And it is a machine that will function without the ghost! Without the ghost, it will just be an animal, not a human person.

            Do you see the problem?

          • Andy Thomas

            But David, isn't it the case that evolution allows incremental changes within a species that still allows cross breeding? So what is the problem with an incremental change that allows rational (immaterial) thought - this is the human form that we are now all familiar with / possess. It seems such a mutation would be advantageous and would eventually spread through the entire population, thus with no reasonable risk that there are any such non-rational human forms left. What would be the problem here in your view?

          • David Nickol

            What would be the problem here in your view?

            In my own personal view, there would be no problem with human beings evolving to the point where they were capable of rational, abstract thought. However, in the Catholic view (or at least in the view of the TOF blog post), the difference between homo sapiens capable of abstract thought and those—physically identical homo sapiens—incapable of abstract thought is that the former are given immortal souls by God but the latter, while homo sapiens in every physical respect (including brain structure) don't have souls.

            I see little problem with the idea that human beings evolved to be exactly like we are today (capable of rational thought, abstract thought, creativity, language, poetry, and so on) and that God chose some of those to received immortal souls, and the ensouled eventually took over, while the soulless gradually died out and have no surviving descendents. But according to Catholic thought, human beings could not evolve to the point of being capable of abstract, rational thought. That would be to admit to a certain kind of materialism. So in my view, it is Catholic thought that does not allow for an ancient community of, say, 10,000 homo sapiens, with only two (Adam and Eve) having souls.

            As Mike Flynn (of TOF) himself argues, the move from soulless homo sapiens to ensouled homo sapiens was a qualitative leap, not a quantitative one. Adam and Eve (if we accept the whole concept of "first parents") weren't just improved homo sapiens. They were radically new kinds of beings. They had to be two beings capable of rational, abstract thought among 10,000 ape-like animals incapable of rational, abstract thought. They also had to be capable of moral reasoning, otherwise it would have been grossly unfair for God to punish them (and all their descendents) for committing whatever transgression Original Sin was.

            I am baffled by those who see no problem with the idea of ensouled humans, capable of rational and moral reasoning, breeding with ape-like creatures incapable of rational, abstract thought or moral reasoning. It would have been sex with animals. Think what it would be like to be married to a very bright gorilla or chimpanzee. That's what we are talking about. Think of being raised by a human father and a chimpanzee mother! Presumably we are to imagine Adam's daughters marrying (or breeding with) the equivalent of very bright gorillas or chimpanzees. Aside from all the other possible objections, could that have been God's plan for propagating the human race?

            The problem is the soul. If it actually means something, and if it actually does what Catholic thought seems to claim it does, then soulless homo sapiens and ensouled homo sapiens, physically indistinguishable in every way, really can't be true. If "the soul is the form of the body," God just can't take any body and stuff a human soul into it. As I keep saying, this is the idea of the "ghost in the machine." Human beings in Catholic thought are unique creatures, not just advanced apes with infused souls.

          • Andy Thomas

            Hi David, what is the issue with the following? A small mutation occurs (remember evolution is incremental) in a single individual which brings up our "hardware" to a slightly higher level and said individual can still breed with other humans. However, this new form is such that God deigns one way or another that it is capable/ready for at least some immateriality. This being is still physically basically like the other "humans" (but with maybe a slight physical difference) can still breed with others yet is now capable of rational thought. Here we have a slightly new physical makeup, embodied with a form that incorporates immateriality/rationality. It seems to me TOF never said that said human beings were physically identical to the other, just that they were physically very similar

      • Susan

        Hi Josh,
        David has addressed your first point very well and I'll leave you to respond to that.

        As to the second:

        To the 2nd: what would count as evidence in this case? The idea is that what God created was good, and we corrupted it. Seems simple enough.

        It doesn't add up at all. Hundreds of millions of years of suffering existed on this planet due to flood, famine, predation, disease, tooth decay, injury, forest fires, very likely a giant asteroid collision and all manner of things that were not "good".

        Humans have been around for the blink of an eye. Things were not "good" before humans showed up to corrupt it. Things were what they were and much of it was horrible. To this day, much of the suffering encountered by sentient beings is a result of the natural scheme of things. I'll agree that humans contribute greatly to that suffering but this is an entirely separate idea from your suggestion that things were inherently "good" before human corruption.

        • Peter

          Susan, if I understand you correctly, you are saying that Catholics fail
          to account for animal (and plant?) suffering which occured before
          humans even walked the earth. I disagree with your line of reasoning for two reasons. First, you are premising that suffering is inherently evil, which doesn't seem obvious to me. For example, I would (or should) take on suffering--the cold, the dark, the heat of battle, etc.-- if it is necessary for a higher end. But the end doesn't justify evil means (I realize not everyone agrees with this); therefore suffering is not inherently evil (although it might sometimes be caused by evil).

          Secondly, I think there is an equivication on "good". A Catholic believes that all things are good insofar as they exist (since God causes existence). Further, purpose is defined as the subject's movement toward its proper good (intimately connected to existence which is why God is said to bestow purpose). Given these definitions, a bad act would have to be defined as that which stifles good and hence purpose (again I realize you may not agree with all premises; I'm just trying to show Catholic thought is consistant here). So could we apply this definition of a bad act to a lion eating a gazelle? How could we possibly know?

          • Michael Murray

            A Catholic believes that all things are good insofar as they exist (since God causes existence).

            The Loa-loa worm ? I guess I'm not seeing the big picture as they say.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            Lol!

          • Peter

            Michael, that is very funny and more that, a good point too. I would have more to say except I need to know this: Are you saying that the Loa loa worm is intrinsically evil?

          • Michael Murray

            I don't believe things are intrinsically evil. The Loa-loa worm does what it does and I would want anyone infected by it treated. If I thought someone had created it deliberately and released it on humans I would call that action evil. It's a good example of why the universe was not created by a compassionate being. But I have to admit to borrowing it from David Attenborough.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Attenborough#Religion_and_creationism

          • Peter

            "I don't believe things are intrinsically evil."
            Yes, few people would, myself included. The point is, there is some aspect of a "bad" thing (e.g. Loa-loa worm), not the thing itself, by which we call it "bad," and I argue this is characterized by a lack of existence.

            I address both this point and the argument against a compassionate God to some extent in my posts below, so if you want talk about this, I'd find it easier if you did so there. Thanks.

          • Michael Murray

            The point is, there is some aspect of a "bad" thing (e.g. Loa-loa worm), not the thing itself, by which we call it "bad," and I argue this is characterized by a lack of existence.

            What has it's badness got to do with existence? The bad thing is that by it's nature (or by design ?) it has to live in humans. Like a lot of bacteria and viruses. Worms are just a bit more unpleasant to most peoples sensibilities because we can see them moving under the skin or through the eye-ball.

          • Peter

            "What has it's badness got to do with existence?"

            Suppose not all evil is characterized by a lack of existence. This is logically equivalent to saying that some evil is characterized by existing thing(s). In other words, some thing(s) are of themselves (i.e. intrinsically) evil, which is what you said you don't believe in.

            "The bad thing is that by it's nature (or by design ?) it has to live in humans."

            There could exist, at least potentially, an alternate living source for the Loa-loa worm. So yes, it has to live on humans, but not by nature. As for design, I could know unless God decided to reveal it to me.

            "Worms are just a bit more unpleasant . . ."

            You allude my answer by the use of the word "un-pleasant." What makes the Loa-loa worm bad is the unhealth which it causes. I think you'd agree that unhealth is characterized a loss of the usual order to the body's functions. This lack of order could be understood as a type of non-existence.

          • Susan

            Susan, if I understand you correctly, you are saying that Catholics fail
            to account for animal (and plant?) suffering which occured before humans even walked the earth.

            Yes.

            First, you are premising that suffering is inherently evil, which doesn't seem obvious to me.

            I am suggesting that any agent that willfully chose natural selection as a method is unthinkably cruel. The hundreds of millions of years of suffering by sentient non-humans who have no stake in the outcome is utterly inconsistent with a "good" world that became corrupted by humans. It doesn't add up.

            Secondly, I think there is an equivication on "good". A Catholic believes that all things are good insofar as they exist (since God causes existence)

            Who's doing the equivocating?

            So could we apply this definition of a bad act to a lion eating a gazelle?

            We certainly couldn't apply it to the lion who has no choice in the matter, but we would have to apply it to any agent that created the system in the first place.

          • Peter

            Thanks Susan. I think I understand better what your saying.
            First, about equivocating, my main reason for bringing it up is that if atheists are going to criticize the Catholic position that humans corrupted the world by sin, they'll have to use the senses of the terms "good" and "evil" which Catholics use or at least know them and make clear their own different definitions. That's why I brought up equivocation, but I was rather unclear. This was my fault, and I'm sorry about that.
            About God being cruel to have created a system dictated by natural selection and such, I'd be tempted to call this a case of anthropomorphizing. This is easy for me to say because I believe that humans have a distinctly different conscience from animals and that physical suffering is merely a drop in the bucket for humans. But you probably would disagree with me, and therefore I'm somewhat missing the point.
            More to the point, you think that suffering is intrinsically (i.e. in itself) evil? I don't think the answer is obvious. I'm a type 1 diabetic, which is hard, but I wouldn't have things any other way, since the disease has in some ways made me a stronger person. And I understand that this type of experience with disease isn't uncommon.
            In short, if you think suffering is intrinsically evil, I'd like to hear some reasons. If not, then I don't think that the existence of suffering in the world is in itself a justification to call God cruel.

          • Susan

            if atheists are going to criticize the Catholic position that humans corrupted the world by sin, they'll have to use the senses of the terms "good" and "evil" which Catholics use

            I certainly have tried. Maybe you could explain.

            About God being cruel to have created a system dictated by natural selection and such, I'd be tempted to call this a case of anthropomorphizing.

            How is acknowledging the suffering of our fellow earthlings anthropomorphizing?

            More to the point, you think that suffering is intrinsically (i.e. in itself) evil?

            It's not good. Burning to death in a forest fire is not good. Starving to death, succumbing to rabies, being torn apart by predators, dying of thirst, dying of exposure to extreme heat or cold. I can't call any of it good. No.

            I'm a type 1 diabetic, which is hard, but I wouldn't have things any other way, since the disease has in some ways made me a stronger person.

            Thanks to modern medicine, you've had a chance to become a stronger person. I'm glad of that.

            And I understand that this type of experience with disease isn't uncommon.

            It's also not uncommon to watch your baby die of cancer and see no good in it, whatsoever.

          • Peter

            "I certainly have tried. Maybe you could explain."

            I am using "good" and "evil" in the broadest possible sense of the terms (i.e. evil = not good). I should mention my claim a day ago that their is an equivocation on "good" is incorrect. While it's true that Catholics see the goodness of something as dependent upon adherence to purpose, I suggested that this belonged to the Catholic "definition" of goodness. That would be to define a more known in terms of a less known, which is just plain wrong. (Whether there can even be a definition of "good" is a question in itself.)

            "It's not good. Burning to death in a forest fire is not good. Starving to death, succumbing to rabies, being torn apart by predators, dying of thirst, dying of exposure to extreme heat or cold. I can't call any of it good. No."

            I won't deny that there are aspects of these things which are not good. However, I think you'd agree with me that what characterizes these things as bad is a lack of something (i.e. dis-order, mal-nourishment, etc.). In other words, evil is characterized by non-existence. So a direct line of causality cannot be drawn from God (cause of existence) to evil.

            "Thanks to modern medicine, you've had a chance to become a stronger person. I'm glad of that."

            I should have used the word "happier," not "stronger" -- that's not for me to judge. The fact is though, it's diabetes, not modern medicine that made me happier.

            "It's also not uncommon to watch your baby die of cancer and see no good in it, whatsoever."
            One cannot assume that though. I foster the hope that there is.

      • Susan

        And to the third: (apologies if disqus puts this out of order, your link doesn't help.

        The so-called "hard problem of consciousness" is, for Scholastic/Thomistic philosophy at least, a red herring one can expect post-Descartes

        I don't see the red herring. Sorry. This leap is not explained.

        formal thought is determinate. Because if it isn't, then everything we think we know, science, math, everything, is gone.

        III. Therefore, no Formal Thought is Physical

        And the conclusion follows logically: no formal thought process is a physical process.

    • Erick Chastain

      Hi David, I am of the let the chips fall where they may variety, and Humani Generis (origin from a single man) troubled me greatly for a while. This has taken me far from the hallowed halls of Google university.

      The solution from Karl Rahner is that though the phenotype for the species homo sapiens phylogenetically points to multiple origins, not all of the original homo sapiens have the same formal cause. In particular, mankind has the power of reason (the ability to reason with second-order logic or classical logic), but these other "early" homo sapiens we are grouped with phylogenetically don't have this power. As a colleague recently admitted at his talk on speciation "species are a cluster from a clustering algorithm."

      For original sin, the human characteristic which would need some explanation is virtue. How is the lack of virtue initially and the "learnability" of virtue as a habit with some spiritual support not in some way pointing to original sin?

      As for your point about mind and brain, actually for the most part St. Thomas Aquinas agrees with you. Cats and dogs have P-consciousness according to him (which he gives a theory for). And they don't have a spiritual soul.

      • David Nickol

        The solution from Karl Rahner is that though the phenotype for the species homo sapiens phylogenetically points to multiple origins, not all of the original homo sapiens have the same formal cause.

        I would be very interested if you could point to something in Rahner's work itself, or could point to a discussion of Rahner's work that touches on these ideas. Based on the little you say, it sounds similar to the idea that the whole human race descended from an original group of homo sapiens, but only two among that group were given souls.

        • Erick Chastain

          I read this in Theological Reflections Volume I, chapter 8 (Theological reflections on monogenism). I tried to find a good summary of it online but to no avail. A lot of people misunderstand him as an advocate for multiple human origins but that article is a defense of human origins from Adam & Eve in a way that you described. Adam & Eve were given reason + free will and all humans are their descendants.

          • David Nickol

            While I have not been able to find much on Rahner's "Theological Reflections on Monogenism," I have discovered that he changed his mind after he wrote it. The following is from The Theology of Original Sin: Recent Developments, by Brian O. McDermott, S.J.:

            For almost fifteen years Rahner held onto the doctrine of monogenesis. Recently his thinking on the subject has reversed itself, and he now suggests a form of polygenesis which he feels can serve the understanding of original sin even better than the traditional view of humankind's beginning. Rejecting a polyphyletic origin of the race as contrary to its unity, Rahner posits a single original group at the beginning. The group constituted a physical-historical unity. Four considerations lend support to this contention: (a) the unity of the physical and biotic habitat, the unity of its ancestral animal population, (c) the unity of concrete human-personal intercommunication existing among the first humans, and (d) the unity that is given to the group by virtue of its unitary supernatural orientation to Christ. Unlike monogenesis, polygenism takes seriously the basic anthropological fact that the human person cannot exist as a solitary individual, that coming to freedom is always a social as well as personal adventure.

          • Erick Chastain

            Ah. Well I quite like his older theory. In his older work he rejects polygenism as being impossible to hold thanks to Humani Generis. I think in much of his later work he dispenses with much of what we call catholicism (such as transsubstantiation in the eucharist), so I would take that work as speculative rather than as something that would be considered consistent with the magisterium and Catholicism.

          • David Nickol

            . . . . so I would take that work as speculative rather than as something that would be considered consistent with the magisterium and Catholicism.

            What I am trying to discover is exactly what is the position of the Church on human origins, and if there is a position, whether it can be reconciled with modern science. The critical doctrine at stake is clearly original sin. The Catechism says:

            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. [Italics in original]

            As I read it, once having acknowledged that the language describing the fall is figurative, the rest of the paragraph must almost certainly be taken as literal, since it is describing the alleged truth to be gleaned from the figurative account. It does not say "the original fault committed by our earliest ancestors" or some other such noncommittal description of who is responsible for Original Sin. It says "our first parents." It hardly seems likely to me that the authors of the Catechism can at some later point claim that they were speaking figuratively and that "our first parents" does not really mean "the man and woman from whom the entire human race descends."

            While I believe that it is not necessarily an infallible teaching of the Church that "our first parents" were two people whose descendents are the entire human race, it seems to me it is difficult to interpret the current teaching otherwise. And even though it may not be infallible, it seems very basic, with a lot of other doctrines in danger of falling like dominoes if Original Sin is knocked over (or reinterpreted too drastically). Actually some of Benedict XVI's writings on Original Sin are quite fascinating, and prompted some more-Catholic-than-the-pope Catholics to accuse him of heresy. See also <a href="http://www.mostholyfamilymonastery.com/catholicchurch/francis-must-considered-pope/&quot;Why Frances Must Not Be Considered The Pope. Apparently the last pope was Pius XII.

          • Erick Chastain

            If you ever have doubt about what is the standard teaching, the catechism contains it. Theologian's speculations are not canonical. In CCC 360 it is made clear that there is a common origin of all mankind in Adam, and given the context, Eve. This is monogenism. The specifics of how this works according to Humani Generis give the possibility of human phenotype (body) being evolved from pre-existent matter but the spiritual soul being created by God and infused into Adam and Eve. Then Adam and Eve commit original sin (CCC 379) and give rise to the human race afterwards. Karl Rahner's old theory is a possible mechanism which is consistent with this reading of monogenism, and I would say the most scientifically compatible. When the magisterium is silent on something, it is because they accept anything that is consistent with what has been stated so far. Since nobody has spoken against Rahner's old theory it can thus be taken as a position of the catholic church.

            I think that the multiple homo sapiens and giving of a soul to two of them, from which all humans descend theory is compatible with modern science. And thus that the church's position is compatible with modern science.

          • David Nickol

            I think that the multiple homo sapiens and giving of a soul to two of them, from which all humans descend theory is compatible with modern science.

            This is not compatible with modern science unless—as I understand the Church's teachings—the two homo sapiens who were ensouled ("Adam" and "Eve") had children who, being brothers and sisters, married each other and had children who, being cousins, married and had children, etc., etc,. In other words, if any human being traced his or her ancestry back far enough, that person would come to a dead end with "Adam" and "Eve" as his or her great-great-great-great . . . great grandparents.

            In other words, the smallest "bottleneck" in the evolving human population would be 2, not 2000 or 10,000.

            Otherwise, you have to posit that true-human homo sapiens (with souls) bred with their immediate ancestors, who were not true humans and who lacked souls.

          • Erick Chastain

            Indeed the first thing you wrote, about adam and eve being ensouled and then having children who God chose to ensoul and so forth is correct. To be precise before we rephrase this in terms of phylogeny is as follows: the spiritual soul being infused doesn't mean a phenotype change. So if one looked at phylogenetics of the phenotype of modern humans, they would conclude rightly that the smallest bottleneck in the evolving human population would be more than 2, since presumably the other homo sapiens stuck around for many generations until finally dying out and leaving only humans. Remember that an ensouled human would evolve just like a non-ensouled homo sapiens, since they are phenotypically distinct and the spiritual soul did not evolve by Humani Generis. This account is consistent with modern human genetics.

          • David Nickol

            Remember that an ensouled human would evolve just like a non-ensouled homo sapiens, since they are phenotypically distinct and the spiritual soul did not evolve by Humani Generis. This account is consistent with modern human genetics.

            You are assuming that a non-ensouled member of the species homo sapiens is physically identical to an ensouled member of the species homo sapiens. And yet a member of the species homo sapiens is dead. Death is defined in the Catechism as when the soul leaves the body.

            You are also assuming that non-ensouled homo sapiens and ensouled homo sapiens interbred and, presumably, the offspring of an ensouled person and a non-ensouled person is ensouled. You are also assuming, it seems to me, that a human child could be raised by, say, a non-ensouled mother and an ensouled father. The plausibility of all of this rests on what the difference is between an almost-but-not-quite, non-ensouled person and an ensouled person. Even if we accept that an almost-but-not-quite, non-ensouled person can be alive, based on the very significant function Catholics claim is the job of the soul, a person without a soul would be incapable of abstract, rational thought.

            Imagine having a spouse who is incapable of abstract, rational thought! Aside from managing to understand a few command in the manner of a trained chimpanzee—"Fetch slippers!" "Get banana!" "Off the couch!"—a spouse incapable of abstract, rational thought could hardly fill the role of husband or wife. When God said, "It is not good for man to be alone," he created woman, not Koko the Gorilla!

            One might imagine that an almost-but-not-quite, non-ensouled person would be something like this.

          • Erick Chastain

            With regards to...

            a member of the species homo sapiens is dead. Death is defined in the Catechism as when the soul leaves the body.

            This is false. But an understandable error. It is the fault of super-overloaded terms. Homo sapiens have a soul too, as do all living things. The soul as used in the catechism, is just the difference between living and non-living things (for non-humans, the properties of functioning DNA would be part of this). So homo sapiens are indeed alive. God infuses the spirit into a soul to change it into a rational soul, rather than going from homo sapiens with no soul to one with a rational soul.

            with regards to...

            You are also assuming that non-ensouled homo sapiens and ensouled homo sapiens interbred and, presumably, the offspring of an ensouled person and a non-ensouled person is ensouled.

            This assumption is possible if you are saying that this happened after the first generation. God could definitely choose to infuse spirit into the children of a rational soul and a non-rational soul. And this would still preserve both monogenism and original sin.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks Erick and David for you discussion which I am following with interest. Can I clarify one thing:

            If we start with any currently living person we can pick a parent then a grandparent then a great grandparent and so on backwards through time. There are lots of such choices of paths of ancestors. Assuming the existence at some time in the past of a couple called Adam and Eve there are two possibilities as I see it

            (a) For any person alive today EVERY such path of ancestors goes back through Adam and Eve

            (b) For any person alive today AT LEAST ONE such path of ancestors goes back through Adam and Eve

            I think David's reading of the Catechism is that the Catholic Church believes (a) because this is what is meant by 'our first parents'. Erick you seem to be suggesting (b) or am I misunderstanding you ?

            The scientific evidence as I see it is against (a) as it would represent a bottleneck of 2 people which we don't see in the DNA of currently living people.

            Thanks - Michael

          • Erick Chastain

            Hi Michael,

            The idea me and David have been just discussing is both part (a) (assuming I understand it rightly as saying that if one looks far enough back in one's ancestors, one has Adam and Eve) and also doesn't require a population bottleneck of size 2 (since Adam and Eve's descendants mate with homo sapiens and Adam and Eve are phenotypically identical to homo sapiens).

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks Erick. If its (a) there must be a bottleneck. Because everybody currently alive has all their DNA from Adam and Eve. That's what a bottleneck means.

          • Erick Chastain

            I think we are talking past each other, so I won't use your "two possibilities." Adam and eve are the originators of humans, who then bred with other homo sapiens. So there is more DNA than Adam and Eve in the descendants, but the first parents of the early humans were only descended from Adam and Eve. Now the population didn't segregate mating long enough for a founder effect to take hold or a different population bottleneck to arise, and the population of humans and homo sapiens were physically identical. So to a phylogenetics approach, one wouldn't detect a speciation event, just homo sapiens with its descendants, and with a bottleneck of size > 2.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't see how that can happen and still have everybody today a descendant of Adam and Eve (A&E). Here is my argument. Assume I have some DNA not from A&E and that came from the mating of an ancestor of mine D with an ancestor X. Say D is a descendant of A&E and X is one of your other homo sapiens. Where did X get that DNA ? If X is a descendant of A&E they can't have any non A&E DNA so X must descend from a contemporary of A&E. But then there is a path of ancestors from me back to X and back to someone who is contemporary of A&E. So not every path of ancestors back from me goes to A&E contradicting (a).

          • Erick Chastain

            The only requirement for monogenism is that Adam & Eve are the only two humans at the top layer. Kenneth Kemp mentions this when discussing the theory I told you (A&E produce early humans, they interbreed with non-human homo sapiens sapiens) as a valid form of monogenism on page 231-232 of "Science, Theology, and Monogenesis" from the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, available here: http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/kemp-monogenism.pdf

          • David Nickol

            The only requirement for monogenism is that Adam & Eve are the only two humans at the top layer.

            I have only taken a quick look at the linked article, so I won't attempt to discuss that yet, but I would say one of the fatal flaws of the whole enterprise is that monogenism is "saved" by redefining it. The "new monogenism" is not that all human beings alive today are descended from Adam. It is that all human beings alive today have Adam as a common ancestor no matter how indirectly. If this is monogenism, then it is true several times over, since we know (with a certain degree of confidence) that there existed a "Y-Chromosomal Adam" and a "Mitochondrial Eve" whom all living humans have as common ancestors.

            Also, the "New Monogenism," while not being monogenism at all, is not a scientific theory. For it to be so would require accepting the idea of an infused soul as within the realm of science, which of course it is not. It is completely untestable by any scientific means, since according to the "New Monogenism," a soulless homo sapiens and an ensouled homo sapiens are physically indistinguishable. Science cannot distinguish between them.

            The theory requires that there coexisted on earth two populations, soulless homo sapiens and ensouled homo sapiens, who could and did interbreed. It is difficult to imagine a time frame for what, according to this theory, is supposed to have happened. But it would of course take some time for all the descendents of Adam and Eve to intermarry with soulless homo sapiens and then (as required by the theory) soulless homo sapiens to die out. This could mean that ten, twenty, thirty or more generations could pass between the time of Adam and the time a particular ensouled homo sapiens mated with a soulless homo sapiens and produced an ensouled son or daughter. Indeed, it would seem to be theoretically possible that a small isolated band of soulless homo sapiens has survived to this day and "New Monogenism" would not actually be a fact until they died out or were exterminated.

            The author himself acknowledges and dismisses possible objections that I find fatal to the theory. He acknowledges, for example, that it raises serious questions about the soul. Under this theory, it really is a "ghost in the machine." When a new member of homo sapiens is conceived, it will be a human person if God infuses one kind of soul into it, and it will be an animal if God infuses another kind of soul into it. If we go with this theory, a perfectly reasonable assumption would be that certain kinds of mentally disabled people don't have souls. The author also acknowledges that the theory requires sex between ensouled humans and soulless animals, which he does not want to characterize as bestiality, but which is certainly something very much like it, and which he acknowledges would be sinful. Perhaps the mating of the two groups might be compared to necrophilia. Sex with a dead person is, after all, not sex with an animal. It is sex with a human being who has no soul. In any case, if the human race could get off to a start only by the sinful breeding of humans with animals, how can it not have been God's plan that it do so?

          • Erick Chastain

            monogenism means that all humans have had at least one common couple from which they all descend and inherit their humanity. That doesn't exclude descent from other couples in other lineages. It means that of all their ancestors, there is one couple from which they take their humanity. Remember this is important for original sin. If there were more than one human couple in common from which they all descend, original sin would possibly not exist.

            Clearly infused souls can't be studied scientifically, agreed. But it isn't inconsistent with what we know of genetics though.

            As for sin in the early humans mating with non-humans. There was a lot of sin in the book of Genesis, so it makes sense. That God planned it, I think that is a question of why human free will chooses sin or why God gave man free will, which is far afield from this conversation.

          • David Nickol

            monogenism means that all humans have had at least one common couple from which they all descend and inherit their humanity.

            Actually, here's the dictionary definition:

            the doctrine or belief that all human races have [1] descended from a single created pair or [2] from a common ancestral type — compare polygenism [Definition divided into two parts by me - DN]

            No reputable scientist today believes in polygenism, and all believe in monogenism as described in part [2] of the definition. To the extent that it was a "scientific" theory, polygenism was the belief that different races had different origins and that, say, black people and white people could trace their ancestries all the way back to their beginnings without any overlapping. When Pius XII used polygenism in Humani Generis he was not referring to the "scientific" concept of polygenism. He was referring to monogenism as in part [2] of the definition above.

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

            I think the phrase "first parent of all" is an important one. You are positing that Adam, in effect, had a "superdominant" heritable characteristic, ensoulment, which was passed along from anyone who had it to all of their offspring. Does the fact that this characteristic may have been passed along by a descendent, say, 20 generations after Adam to the child of a 20th-generation descendent of Adam and a 20th-generation descendent of one of Adam's soulless contemporaries make Adam the "first parent" of the 21st-generation descendent?

            Remember this is important for original sin. If there were more than one human couple in common from which they all descend, original sin would possibly not exist.

            Are you saying scientists studying human origins are obligated to find a way for original sin to have been transmitted? The doctrine of original sin has no place in science, particularly because not all scientists are Christian, and the doctrine of original sin is a Christian religious belief, and science in no way is obliged to invent scenarios about how original sin might have been transmitted.

            By the way, what I am calling the "New Monogenism" theory has no way to demonstrate what actually happened. There is simply no biblical, historical, or scientific evidence for it. At its most successful, the best it can do is show one possible scenario that would account for the transmission of a characteristic to Adam to all humans today. There is no way that I can think of to demonstrate that what is hypothesized in the theory is what actually happened.

            As I have said before, there seem to me much less problematic ways of solving the problem, although none of them are scientific. For example, was it beyond God's power once the population grew from 2 to 10,000 to simply create the genetic diversity in that 10,000 that would have existed if that 10,000 had actually descended from previous generations, all of which were 10,000 in number?

            That God planned it, I think that is a question of why human free will chooses sin or why God gave man free will, which is far afield from this conversation.

            The point here is that by your theory, God created the human race knowing that the only way it could perpetuate itself was by breeding with animals. Also, it would have had to be God's "decision" that the offspring of a soulless homo sapiens and an ensouled homo sapiens was an ensouled homo sapiens. It can't be maintained, I think, that God was required to ensoul the offspring of a soulless and an ensouled creature.

            Also, you have not dealt with any of the "practical" issues of unions between humans and animals. Did ensouled homo sapiens formally marry soulless homo sapiens? Who cared for the offspring of an ensouled man and a soulless woman?

            Also, the author of the paper notes (as I recall) that there are timing issues. What is the earliest an "Adam and Eve" could have existed, and what is the latest? Exactly how far advanced can homo sapiens without a soul be? Are burial rituals and cave paintings "proof" of ensoulment? There are a million such questions to be answered.

          • Erick Chastain

            it is monogenism and "first parents" according to other catholics who are smarter than me who I will direct you to now. I am above my paygrade with this. Here's a defense of criticisms of the theory I presented in a blog post by Ed Feser (it was also his theory, he presents in more detail there): http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09/monkey-in-your-soul.html

          • Michael Murray

            monogenism means that all humans have had at least one common couple from which they all descend and inherit their humanity

            OK that was the option I earlier called (b). At least one ancestral line going back to A&E. That was not what you said earlier. But no there is interbreeding with non-souled homo sapiens and all David's earlier objections come into play.

          • Erick Chastain

            it is monogenism and "first parents" according to other catholics who are smarter than me who I will direct you to now. I am above my paygrade with this. Here's a defense of criticisms of the theory I presented in a blog post by Ed Feser (it was also his theory, he presents in more detail there): http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09/monkey-in-your-soul.html

          • Michael Murray

            OK. If the Church is willing to accept that as a definition of first parents I won't argue with that. It's their Catechism. I think like David this is stretching the meaning of monogeism. I guess you could argue for a soul-monogeism. Thanks for the chat.

          • Erick Chastain

            Thank you too.... It's been great fun using coalescent theory to talk about this. Thanks for bringing it up!

          • Michael Murray

            That would mean some lines of ancestors going back through us do not go through A&E. So not my (a) which you agreed was the Churches position. I remain confused about what the Catechism means by 'first parents'.

          • DarcyMarais

            David's reply is correct: this speculation is not compatible with modern science. It also opens up the unpalatable options of incest vs. relationships to creatures without souls. I presume that the Church would not be accepting of either position.

          • Erick Chastain

            the church of course accepts adam and eve's children being the basis for the human race which you call incestuous. But read Genesis and it is there.

    • Sean Alderman

      Hi David, I have to say I do very much appreciate the tone of your comments! On your second point...

      Second, there is the matter of human nature. Although it is sometimes claimed that Original Sin is the most obvious of Christian doctrines, there is no human characteristic for which some kind of "Fall" is needed to explain. There is no evidence that there were ever "unfallen" human beings who "fell" and changed human nature or nature in general.

      Please forgive me for not being able to cite the origin of the theology, but I'm fairly sure it was developed in Blessed JPII's Theology of the Body. To explain the concept...the first man and woman had much that we do not. Its important to understand the concept of original innocence, it is most evident in both the relationship between God and Man as well as the relationship between Adam and Eve. Another way of looking at it is original nakedness, it is not just physical nakedness but represents the nakedness of consciousness that there is "nothing" hidden. Adam and Eve "knew" each other as they "knew" God. They looked upon each other with out shame, with out lust, or any other concupiscence. After the fall, they were ashamed of their nakedness and hid both from each other and from God. We certainly do that today, even with the one we are most intimate with.

      Father John Riccardo (Archdiocese of Detroit) has a number of podcasts where he discusses what was lost in the fall. As a non-expert in most everything, I've found him to be very good at presenting the subject matter in a meaningful way. Unfortunately I couldn't tell you which one in particular, there are so many.

      • DarcyMarais

        Regrettably, there is no scientific evidence of any fallen state, or any abilities possessed by 'pre-fallen' humans. Theological speculation is not evidence. it is speculation.

    • Carson Leverett

      With regard to point one, plenty of Catholics do not read Genesis literally-- Augustine and Origen, for example. This is an important point that you are overlooking. In fact, reading OT scripture only literally is a recent development in the history of Christian thought. Reading Genesis as a science book is even more recent, ungrounded, and, imo corrosive to the vitality of a wonderful religious tradition.

      • David Nickol

        With regard to point one, plenty of Catholics do not read Genesis literally-- Augustine and Origen, for example. This is an important point that you are overlooking.

        I am not critiquing my own reading of Genesis. I am going by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says the the account of the fall in Genesis uses "figurative language" (that is, it is not to be read literally) but nevertheless 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.

        I am also going by Humani Generis, which says the following:

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

        To the extent it can be said that the Church has an official position on human origins, it appears to me that it holds the human race began with two "first parents," who may not have been named Adam and Eve, and who may not have eaten forbidden fruit, but who nevertheless were the first two human beings and who committed some transgression that affected all of their descendants—that is, the entire human race.

        If you can cite some source contradicting the above that carries the same weight as the Catechism and Humani Generis, I'd be happy to take a look.

    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

      I can see unfallen human beings in the Amazon jungle today. I think you've missed out somehow.

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

    Shorter version:

    Literalism: To explain the observed regularities of the world, keep the simplest theory compatible with a literal reading of the Bible.

    Science: To explain the observed regularities of the world, keep the simplest theory.

    Catholicism: To explain the observed regularities of the world, keep the simplest theory compatible with the teachings of the Church.

    Trasancos is right that the official Catholic way is a middle way, because the Church puts much milder constraints than Ham does on the theories it will accept. But it's still the case that the constraints required by Catholicism haven't been justified.

    The official Catholic way is also a middle way in terms of how much it engages with science and scientists versus how wary and distrustful it should be of them. Ham's constraints are such a heavy burden of improbability to explain away that his best remaining theories require rejecting nearly all of biology, geology, physics, astronomy, etc. as conspiracies or entrenched errors. Catholicism's current official constraints are mild enough that Catholics mostly just misrepresent quantum and theoretical physics and ignore historical applications of Bayesian hypothesis testing and massive social studies showing, for example, that prayer doesn't work and that LGBT relationships are psychologically and socially healthy.

    As emphasized by Nye, however, the predictive capability of the theories is where the difference really lies. Ham's literalism only successfully makes retrodictions ("predictions" of things that were already known before the current version of the theory was specified). Similarly, the current official Catholic is mostly right about retrodictions where it agrees with the scientific consensus, but it does differ from the scientific consensus on some points in the rigorous sense that it makes different predictions. And where they differ, the Catholic predictions have been systematically incorrect.

    • Jonathan Easlick

      "As emphasized by Nye, however, the predictive capability of the theories is where the important difference sits."
      "And where they differ, the Catholic predictions have been systematically incorrect."

      Could you provide please,

      1.
      Examples of scientific examples made by the Catholic Church (not just Catholic Individuals)

      2.
      Examples where these claims by the Catholic Church go wrong.

      Because from what I gathered from the post is the Catholic Church does not give reasons why our Universe works the way it does but that the Catholic Church tells us "why there is something other then nothing" and "What am I suppose to do now that I am here in this big ol' place?"

      • Richard Mehlinger Jr

        Bingo. Noah's critique is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the kinds of things the Church teaches in the first place. Quite simply, the Church does not teach science, and it does not claim to. What it teaches are primarily ethics, and theology, spheres which can be enlightened by the sciences but which are also logically distinct from them. It's the old is/ought dichotomy: Science is the problem of what is; ethics is the study of what one ought to do about it. And theology is much more metaphysics than physics.

        • Michael Murray

          But what is rather affects what one ought to do. If what is is no Adam and Eve and no original sin there was no need for Jesus sacrifice. If what is is Jesus wasn't resurrected or maybe didn't even exist then the Catholic Church's theological positions would be affected. If what is is we don't have souls ...

          • Richard Mehlinger Jr

            Certainly true. But those questions are ultimately of history rather than science; they are essentially unfalsifiable, which is why they themselves fall into the category of theology rather than science. They are matters of faith, not reason. You either believe in Christ or you do not; whether He rose from the dead or not is a question science cannot answer. The existence of the soul, again, is a question science cannot answer.

            The existence of a literal first man and first woman...? Well, science can kind of answer that, and seems to be leaning against. But, I do not believe that the need for Christ rests upon a literal Adam and Eve, or a single particular act of Original Sin. Original Sin as it exists here and now is essentially the capacity for and inclination towards evil. How it came to be is rather less important than our need to be redeemed from it.

          • Michael Murray

            But, I do not believe that the need for Christ rests upon a literal Adam and Eve, or a single particular act of Original Sin. Original Sin as it exists here and now is essentially the capacity for and inclination towards evil.

            But I thought that was the Catholic Churches position ? There is a quote above by David Nickol from the Catechism

            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.

          • Richard Mehlinger Jr

            I'm not speaking for the Catholic Church, I'm speaking for myself. Now my guess is that if the Church were confronted with overwhelming evidence that the theory of a first couple was untenable, it would find some way to adapt the teaching. As it stands, however, even though the idea seems to contradict the general theory of evolution, it's a relatively small contradiction, and maintaining it isn't currently putting the Church in an untenable position.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't mean the following to be argumentative. I was a Catholic myself once and I was always confused by my relatives who seemed to thing Catholicism involved choosing which bits you followed. Particularly on contraception.

            So why is the Catholic Churches position on this not also yours ? I thought the Catechism contained what things you had to believe

            What exactly is in the Catechism?

            The Catechism contains the essential and fundamental content of the Catholic faith in a complete and summary way. It presents what Catholics throughout the world believe in common. It presents these truths in a way that facilitates their understanding.

            Or is this the distinction between dogma and doctrine and the Catechism is doctrine ?

          • Erick Chastain

            It is. Literal Adam and Eve. And it is compatible with evolutionary theory. See my response above to David Nickol.

      • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

        Sure, I'd be happy to.

        First I'll briefly point out that you're changing the goal posts. If you're presenting the challenge as an argument against my position, that makes it an informal logical fallacy. Trasancos' article was all about how Catholics, as individuals and as scientists, are to approach science and faith, and she used the writings of individual Catholics as her evidence. I was responding to what Trasancos wrote and so I kept to the same topic.

        The topic you propose is slightly different but it's also of interest. So here are the first few examples that come to mind.

        1. The Church early on developed doctrines that Jesus was a real, historical man who received his human nature from his mother Mary. Because human nature is taken to include (but not be limited to) a real human body, we can reasonably take the doctrines as having implied a prediction that human biology should not later turn out to be structured in a way where the doctrine literally makes no sense. But 20th century study of genetics did turn up just such a problematic structure. To be a fully functional male human means having genes that a fully functional female human does not have: a Y chromosome, under normal circumstances. Mary couldn't have passed on a Y chromosome to Jesus. So at least one of the three things in the doctrine has to go. If Jesus was real and male, then his human nature wasn't exclusively from Mary; or if he was real and his human nature was exclusively from Mary, then he was female or intersex; or if he was male and his human nature was exclusively from Mary, then he wasn't real.

        2. The Church teaches that Adam and Eve were the first parents of the human race, from which all humanity came. We may reasonably take this as implying a prediction that human genetics should not be incompatible with this doctrine. But science found that it is; the genetic diversity among humans is too great to have come from a single breeding pair of humans.

        3. The Church has also formally taught for many centuries that the existence of God can be known with certainty by human reason. We may reasonably take that doctrine as implying a prediction that human brains should not turn out to be structured in a way where that literally makes no sense. But 20th century cognitive sciences did turn up just such a problematic structure. Human reasoning makes use of highly fallible neural pathways, is prone to many biases, and relies on memories which get changed every time we remember. Certainty isn't humanly available. (At best, the cognitive sciences have shown how and why we can achieve extremely high confidence when we use formal mathematical methods or hypothesis-testing scientific methods.)

        4. The Church teaches that the world is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance, but of God's free will. We may take this as implying a prediction that physics should not turn out to be structured in a way that appears to be exclusively necessity and chance. That's exactly what physics did find. (Note that this disproves the Church's teaching only with extremely high confidence, not with certainty, because it's still logically possible for God to be choosing every quantum waveform evolution in a way that just looks exactly like necessity and choosing every quantum waveform collapse in a way that just looks exactly like statistically regular chance.)

        5. The Church teaches that sin injures human solidarity, impedes the exercise of virtues, engenders vice, clouds the conscience, and leads to violence and injustice. (Oh, BTW, those phrases, as well as ones for the paragraphs above, are verbatim from the Catechism.) It also teaches that, for example, homosexual intercourse is sinful. Consequently, we can take this as implying, and countless Catholics in the most execrable verbiage have taken it to imply, predictions that homosexual intercourse should have the effects that sin supposedly has. But decades of studies all over the world have resoundingly lead to the opposite conclusion: homosexual intercourse is a physically and psychologically healthy part of the lives of gay people with no ill consequences for society.

        6. The Church teaches that God sometimes answers prayer by intervening in the natural world. We may take this an implying, and countless Catholics do take it to imply, the prediction that God will sometimes intervene in the natural world. (That one should be pretty obvious!) Yet the many, many studies of prayer, some of them massive enough to reveal even tiny effects, reveal no effects of prayer distinguishable from chance.

        OK, that's enough to give the general idea. The Church doesn't make teachings for scientific purposes, but the Church's official teachings aren't airy abstractions, and they do make contact with the mundane real world in countless ways. Wherever they do so, there will scientifically testable predictions.

        • Danny Getchell

          Nicely marshalled points, Noah.

        • Nicholas Hesed

          I'd like to see a picture of a quantum waveform and a movie of how it moves. Lol!

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            Photographic pictures can't really be done, of course, but YouTube has some nice videos like this one. :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imdFhDbWDyM

          • Nicholas Hesed

            looks pretty irrational to me.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            Huh? How is a wave irrational?

          • Nicholas Hesed

            he's positing this hogwash as a physical mechanism that works in the real world??? What do those discrete lines represent? What is inducing that 'thing' to twirl. This stuff does matter because they waste trillions on this quantum religion.

        • Erick Chastain

          I can respond to each of these in turn.

          The sciences are "business as usual" outside of a divine context (God revealing himself to us, keeping his covenantal promises etc). Let us call "business as usual" natural context. God keeps faithful to a natural context due to his being rational, which is why creationism is bunk. (I got this distinction and idea from an article by Stephen Meredith, here: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/02/looking-for-god-in-all-the-wrong-places . Apologies for the pay-wall, that is just a citation and taste of the article)

          1) divine context is in effect here, and conditioned on that, God is not bound to keep to any regularity or law found in natural law (in this case, Genetics).

          2) Here we have more of a natural context. But the church teaching on monogenism doesn't predict the necessity of having only two original homo sapiens (that is, first ancestors phenotypically similar to humans). Instead one can have a pool of homo sapiens from which two are chosen to become humans by investment of a spiritual soul (which doesn't change the phenotype according to Karl Rahner SJ). That is more the model.

          3) Well by that reasoning, how can anything be known with any certainty, for example the results of cognitive science? In all seriousness, what is meant by this is that logic, when we apply it with external support, not relying just on our own brain, but also on pen+paper, can prove things which we know with certainty because we can check its accuracy. For God, we have a posteriori proofs whose accuracy has been checked and verified to be accurate by specialists in medieval and classical logic (which is the kind of logic they were written in).

          4) What you are describing as the Church's view on the natural context is in fact occasionalism, a heresy held by Malebranche. We believe in chance and necessity for law in the natural context.

          5) Let's take a step back with this issue. Sin is something which might actually give one peace and happiness psychologically, if one is oriented away from God (according to St. Ignatius). But it isn't good for the spiritual part of the soul, though it may not impact the body. The church is mainly concerned about the spiritual part of the soul, and in particular if it is in a good state, not really as much physical/mental health.

          6) as for the power of prayer, see the section on infertility at the bottom of page 10 in the following document: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/medical-research/upload/cmr-2002-v13-01-02-winter-spring.pdf

          • David Nickol

            Instead one can have a pool of homo sapiens from which two are chosen to become humans by investment of a spiritual soul (which doesn't change the phenotype according to Karl Rahner SJ). That is more the model.

            I have pontificated at length elsewhere, so just let me say that if God picked one man and one woman from any size population of "almost-humans" and ensouled the pair to make true humans, if the descendents of those two (and only those two) make up the human race, the genetic consequences are exactly the same as if the story of Adam and Eve were literally true. If God ensouled two "almost-humans" out of 10,000, and the human race is descendant only from those two, it doesn't matter if there were 10 billion "almost humans" alive at the time, 1 million, 10,000, or a mere 10. The "bottleneck" is still 2.

          • Erick Chastain

            indeed. And for the information of other readers besides David, I have responded above.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            1. How do you determine when to invoke "divine context"? Is it just whenever doctrines appear to be falsified? In any case, the problem for this example was logical more than genetic. Was Jesus "made of woman" or not? The way the ancients described the sexes, there didn't seem to be anything wrong; they thought fetuses became female rather than male because of some weakness or flaw in the parents. So they didn't foresee a problem. (You can also see why they thought Mary had to be sinless, as in their thinking that's how she could contribute a human nature not only male but also suitable to be joined with the Divine Nature.) To say God threw genetics in the wastebin in this case would just be to deny that Mary was Jesus' human mother. (BTW, when I was still Catholic I took this logical problem to mean that Jesus was intersex and not male after all, as it was the most minor of the three ways in which the Church could be in error.)

            2. Are you saying that Catholics think the early humans interbred with nonhuman apes, and that all humans share ancestry not only in Adam and Eve but also in other contemporaneous nonhuman apes?

            3. You missed the point; the point is that human reason can't lead to us knowing anything with certainty, but that the Church incorrectly teaches that there is something that can be known with certainty by human reason.

            4. What you say is heresy is quoted verbatim from the Catechism.

            5. No, Catholics defending Catholicism don't get to step back from the teaching of the Church in the Catechism. Ignoring the errors doesn't make them go away.

            6. Page 11 of that document lists the problems the author finds with the two studies mentioned on page 10. Among those problems was that science requires that such studies replicate, because studies using statistical methods will occasionally turn out wrong. And in fact, these results don't replicate. There have been lots studies on prayer.

          • Erick Chastain

            1) divine context is when God is revealing himself to us, as was the case for the nativity. Not "whenever I feel like it."

            2) not exactly, but almost. The first parents of the early humans were adam and eve before they started mating with non-human homo sapiens.
            3) you completely ignored my proposal for how even according to cognitive science one could use human reason to arrive at complete certainty. By the use of external aids, and then verifying the logical consistency of the argument. This is the process we use in mathematics. If the argument checks out with logical consistency then we know it is correct with 100% certainty.
            4) Sure, that God willed the existence of the universe freely, that is in the CCC. I wasn't targeting that idea. I was saying the other idea you had which supposedly followed from that, which had something other than chance or necessity in natural law. That is a heresy (and thus I disagree it follows from the former and so does the church).
            5) What I said is not stepping back from the teaching of the church. It is indeed true that homosexual actions are a sin, though not same-sex attraction. And I asserted that previously. I said in fact that with any sin, it can feel good psychologically if one truly hates God.
            6) the "problem" identified is that it hasn't been replicated yet, but not because people have tried. So clearly they should try. For this particular study. When we hear about that and it isn't replicated I will be more convinced about this being a real problem with the study. Your assertion that this result won't replicate has no grounding because you haven't tried to replicate it.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            divine context is when God is revealing himself to us, as was the case for the nativity.

            How do you decide without circularity when God is revealing himself and so logical explanations are not required, versus the alternative possibility that there was not a god revealing himself and so the ordinary explanation stays most plausible?

            Not "whenever I feel like it."

            I didn't write that; you made up the quote.

            Mary gave him an egg and the holy spirit shepherded the entry of the Son of God into it, which prevented the duplication of the X chromosome. And then the sex was not female. The male nature of Jesus came from his divine nature. But nonetheless his humanity came from Mary (if not his gender).

            So you're saying the divine nature has a human Y chromosome?

            The first parents of the early humans were adam and eve before they started mating with non-human homo sapiens.

            So is it fine to mate with soulless people? Is there any way to tell which people have souls and which don't? Should it bother the children when Daddy has a soul but Mommy doesn't?

            you completely ignored my proposal for how even according to cognitive science one could use human reason to arrive at complete certainty. ... If the argument checks out with logical consistency then we know it is correct with 100% certainty.

            I ignored it because it's wrong. Do you think you can also be perfectly certain that you did not misremember, hallucinate, or suffer brain damage, and were not influenced by cognitive biases, deceived, or just ordinarily mistaken multiple times in a row? Do you think you can also be perfectly certain which, if any, of the many formalizations of logic applies to the situation at hand? Back when people thought intellect was some sort of subtle substance or operation of the soul, certainty seemed within reach, but no more. Such possibilities can't be eliminated entirely, so certainty is unavailable to human reason.

            I was saying the other idea you had which supposedly followed from that, which had something other than chance or necessity in natural law.

            I made no such claim. I quoted verbatim from the Catechism about the creation of the world and pointed out that it is at odds with the scientific description of the formation of the world.

            What I said is not stepping back from the teaching of the church.

            Yes, it is; you're stepping away from the topic of the fact that homosexual intercourse does not have the consequences predicted by the Church. You shifted the topic to whether it also has some other consequences the Church didn't mention. I'm not disputing that it has other consequences besides those mentioned. I'm pointing out that the Church made a clear prediction and the prediction is wrong.

            Your assertion that this result won't replicate has no grounding because you haven't tried to replicate it.

            I didn't assert that it won't replicate. I asserted that it has been tested and hasn't replicated. (The paper described there is available on PubMed.)

          • Erick Chastain

            divine context requires some kind of overt self-revelation of God or direct interaction of God with humans. For example, the creation of corvus corax was in a natural context because corvus corax wasn't God himself and its creation wasn't promised by God to mankind (as opposed to Jesus).

            The divine nature did not have a Y chromosome, but the Holy spirit "translated" the gender of the son of God to its human counterpart by creating a Y chromosome.

            Well whether or not its fine, mating between humans and non-rational homo sapiens sapiens happened, probably because of Cain's children.

            As for reason. Let me ask you a question. Say that I know I am trying to prove a theorem in classical logic from some premises (I am given the conclusion and the premises). Say that I have a candidate proof. Can I not check each individual step with the list of rules for inference in classical logic? Thus I can detect a single error if it exists in the proof. Doesn't require much memory. I mean I know this is possible because my math undergrads seem to do fine with it. But if you disagree, it seems that you are an enemy of reason and even the possibility of doing logic. It seems that you disagree with Bertrand Russell who said "Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty."

            I think w.r.t the creation and laws of physics you are referring to CCC 284. But you are taking the quote out of context. It is talking about the meaning of the universe, not the "how" of the universe, when it says there is no necessity or chance. In fact many Evangelicals call us Deists because they are such fans of an interventionist God in a natural context.

            Could you point to me where in the catechism it specifically predicts that those who engage in homosexual acts will have physical and psychological problems?

            The link you pointed me to seems to describe an 1872 study by Francis Galton completely unrelated to the one I pointed you to. That doesn't count as a failed replication of the particular study I pointed you to.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck
            divine context is when God is revealing himself to us, as was the case for the nativity.

            How do you decide without circularity when God is revealing himself

            divine context requires some kind of overt self-revelation of God

            Since your response circled back around without answering the question, I think it's clear that your notion of "divine context" is indeed invoked based merely on circular logic.

            The divine nature did not have a Y chromosome, but the Holy spirit "translated" the gender of the son of God to its human counterpart by creating a Y chromosome.

            So your conclusion is that God is gendered and Jesus' human nature was not received from Mary but was a mixture of Mary's human nature and the Divine nature. These are not Catholic positions; I'm here to talk with Catholics.

            Well whether or not its fine, mating between humans and non-rational homo sapiens sapiens happened, probably because of Cain's children.

            Wait, are you claiming that the soul transforms the brain from non-rational to rational, despite not changing anything about how it develops or functions?

            Can I not check each individual step with the list of rules for inference in classical logic?

            Yes, you can not check them if you choose. You can also check them.

            Thus I can detect a single error if it exists in the proof. Doesn't require much memory.

            Actually, it requires a great deal of working memory, visual associative memory, language associative memory, and motor memory. So you're wrong on the basic facts. And you only addressed memory, whereas I listed five other objections. But more importantly, I notice that you didn't attempt to carry the argument through to a logical conclusion of the style "Therefore, human reason can reach certainty," because the argument doesn't lead to that conclusion. Instead, you carried it through to...

            I mean I know this is possible because my math undergrads seem to do fine with it. But if you disagree, it seems that you are an enemy of reason and even the possibility of doing logic. It seems that you disagree with Bertrand Russell who said "Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty."

            ...condescension, insult, and appeal to a famous non-authority. I don't accept those as demonstrating logical certainty.

            I think w.r.t the creation and laws of physics you are referring to CCC 284.

            No, the quote is from CCC295. "We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom. It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance. We believe that it proceeds from God's free will"

            Could you point to me where in the catechism it specifically predicts that those who engage in homosexual acts will have physical and psychological problems?

            Sure.

            Here are the predictions about the consequences of sin that I mentioned. CCC1849 and CCC1872: "Sin is an act contrary to reason. It wounds man's nature and injures human solidarity." CCC1863: "Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul's progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good". CCC1865: "Sin creates a proclivity to sin; it engenders vice by repetition of the same acts. This results in perverse inclinations which cloud conscience and corrupt the concrete judgment of good and evil." CCC1869: "Thus sin makes men accomplices of one another and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among them. Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness."

            Homosexual intercourse is taught to be a sin in CCC2357 and CCC2396.

            The prediction regarding the consequences of homosexual intercourse is thus straightforward, demonstrated by the accusations of countless Catholics worldwide who appeal to these teachings. And the predictions turned out false.

            The link you pointed me to seems to describe an 1872 study by Francis Galton...

            Hah, oops. I had multiple windows open and pasted the wrong address. Thanks for the heads up. I've edited and fixed the link.

          • Erick Chastain

            circular means self-referential. My definition didn't use "divine context" as a term. How is it circular?

            Jesus' human nature was received from mary but his gender was from the divine nature, which was translated by the holy spirit to a human gender.

            yes the spiritual soul doesn't change the body at all.

            I understand your doubts about reliability. We have to know our biases to reason well. The church is mainly saying though that we can prove logically "God exists" with the same certainty that we can other logical propositions.

            CCC295 only says something about how the universe was created, not about what kind of universe was created. I don't see how it bears on whether the natural law is nothing but chance and necessity.

            the passages you have there don't say anything about physical or psychological well-being, just about moral behavior from the Catholic perspective.

            the new link points to some info about a columbia study. Not the same study, again.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            circular means self-referential.

            Nope. Circular reasoning is someone beginning with what they try to end with.

            My definition didn't use "divine context" as a term. How is it circular?

            The circularity of your argument above was repeating an assertion in response to a question about the assertion. That question was about whether your "divine context" notion gets invoked in circular fashion in order to escape the problems caused by invoking it in the first place.

            Jesus' human nature was received from mary but his gender was from the divine nature, which was translated by the holy spirit to a human gender.

            That is only consistent if gender is not part of human nature. Do you think that gender is not part of human nature?

            The notion that the divine nature has a gender seems incompatible with CCC370, "He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes."

            Wait, are you claiming that the soul transforms the brain from non-rational to rational, despite not changing anything about how it develops or functions?

            yes the spiritual soul doesn't change the body at all.

            OK! That implies loads of testable predictions and retrodictions. :) Firstly it retrodicts, and is wrong, that no neural basis for rationality should be found. Another fun one is that it predicts either that people should not be able to build an unsouled general AI. So if people do successfully build a general AI in coming years, then that will be either another falsification of your faith or you'll be committed to the idea that Ctrl-C,Ctrl-V can duplicate souls.

            The church is mainly saying though that we can prove logically "God exists" with the same certainty that we can other logical propositions.

            Actually, I find that to be an acceptable interpretation. It's not what they originally meant, of course, but it's a charitable development.

            (That there are no known sound deductive arguments for God's existence still shows that the teaching is wrong, but that's not a scientific matter, which was the topic of this thread.)

            CCC295 only says something about how the universe was created, not about what kind of universe was created. I don't see how it bears on whether the natural law is nothing but chance and necessity.

            It says world, not universe. Interpreting it as "universe" makes it weirdly irrelevant. The theologically relevant notion of world is the much more common sense of "humanity and surrounding phenomena", because the theological purpose is to say in strong terms that we were God's free choice, and not the result of necessity or chance. But the physics describing how the human world formed is all necessity and chance, and that's why the two accounts are at odds in the way described earlier.

            the passages you have there don't say anything about physical or psychological well-being, just about moral behavior from the Catholic perspective.

            Right, they make explicit claims that there will be consequences quite different than physical or psychological wellbeing. Claims that are observably wrong in this case.

            the new link points to some info about a columbia study. Not the same study, again.

            First, No, the post is about a Hertford College at Oxford study which "puts together a statistical analysis of all the studies conducted to date that have looked at whether praying for sick people helps them get better (or at least stay alive)."

            Second, toward the end of the article there was a link about the same Columbia study that you linked to earlier, and mentioned that it was a fraud.

          • Erick Chastain

            ok. I think we are talking past each other on divine context.

            the Son of God has a gender, which is male. A Son isn't a Daughter. The gender of a human child doesn't determine whether they are human or not. Think of intersex children. So if the holy spirit provides the gender, then the holy spirit isn't giving any more humanity than wasn't already there.

            reason at work looks at the results of high-order sensory judgments according to St Thomas, so you would see some neural correlates for the latter and thus the former (which is true for motion direction discrimination judgments and the lateral intraparietal sulcus for example). I agree that if general AI is verified to exist then this is wrong. I am a general AI skeptic, to say the least! And so is most everyone in my field.

            necessity & chance: ok, so God infused the soul of a homo sapiens sapiens with spirit and made humans. That isn't chance + necessity, and made the human world. But it leaves the origin of homo sapiens sapiens itself up to chance + necessity.

            morality & sexuality: I think testing for what is moral activity is fraught with subjectivity, and is definitely not scientific, and not as clear as psychological and physical health. So it is not clear to me at all that it has been shown in an objective fashion besides anecdotally. I think objective morality exists, but there is difficulty showing something like this nonetheless in a way that everyone agrees on it (one could do it within a certain moral system, like natural law or virtue ethics, though).

            prayer studies: But I wasn't talking about other studies. I was saying that the infertility prayer study needs to be replicated. You answered with other studies, saying they somehow were relevant to the infertility study.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            Son of God has a gender, which is male.

            That's avoiding the criticism. In Catholic teaching the person, the Son of God, is not the same as the Divine nature. Catholic teaching says clearly of the Divine nature, "God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes." So the Divine nature wasn't the origin of the Son of God's gender. That would have had to come from his human nature, because gender is part of human nature.

            The gender of a human child doesn't determine whether they are human or not. Think of intersex children. So if the holy spirit provides the gender, then the holy spirit isn't giving any more humanity than wasn't already there.

            Every human has a gender. For the many different kinds of intersex people, their genders don't have common names, but they're not genderless. They have genes for primary and secondary sexual characteristics and they have sexual organs. Someone who literally did not have anything like that would indeed not be fully human. You can't just arbitrarily declare that a major, critical chunk of human DNA and anatomy isn't part of human nature. So that scientific objection to Catholic doctrine still stands.

            I agree that if general AI is verified to exist then this is wrong. I am a general AI skeptic, to say the least!

            Hooray, an agreed-upon definite prediction! I guess we'll have to wait 50-ish years to make a decision about which way this prediction goes, though. Oh well.

            ok, so God infused the soul of a homo sapiens sapiens with spirit and made humans. That isn't chance + necessity, and made the human world. But it leaves the origin of homo sapiens sapiens itself up to chance + necessity.

            I think that's much too weak a reading of the Catholic doctrine that God freely chose our world. If that's what they meant, wouldn't the doctrine have merely said that God found us in a world of necessity and chance but freely chose to ensoul us?

            I think testing for what is moral activity is fraught with subjectivity, and is definitely not scientific, and not as clear as psychological and physical health. So it is not clear to me at all that it has been shown in an objective fashion besides anecdotally.

            Right. The Church's teaching that homosexual intercourse is sinful is subjective and definitely not scientific. What is objective and scientific are the measures of psychological and physical health of homosexual couples and the societies around them, and that's what contradicts the Church's teaching.

            But I wasn't talking about other studies. I was saying that the infertility prayer study needs to be replicated. You answered with other studies, saying they somehow were relevant to the infertility study.

            Why does a fraudulent study need to be replicated? I didn't say the other studies were relevant to infertility, because that's not the topic; I said they "reveal no effects of prayer distinguishable from chance" and so disprove the Church's teaching on prayer.

      • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

        Another scientific implication of Catholicism came to mind. It seems to me that Catholics are required to reject, a priori, the scientific hypothesis called the "many-worlds", Everett, or pure-wave interpretation of quantum physics. Now of course that hypothesis hasn't been scientifically proven or disproven yet, but there are some interesting experimental tests that have been proposed and that will help settle the question for scientists when the experiments can be run. Since the results of those experiments are still a future prediction, they are unusually interesting in that they threaten to possibly falsify Catholicism.

        The reason I think Catholicism would imply rejecting the Everett interpretation a priori has to do with its consequences for souls. Suppose I go to the ANU quantum random number server website and pull up a random quantum bit. I decide that if I see a 0, I will drive north, and that if I see a 1, I will drive south. If the universe is best described by, say, the Copenhagen interpretation, then I either drive north or south. No problem. But if the universe is best described by Everett's interpretation, then the decoherence of the quantum bit decoheres me too, and one version of me drives north and another version of me drives south, and in general they have different experiences and different lives and (since they would be independently acting "rational animals") different souls. Oh! More importantly, not only would the Everett interpretation imply duplication of souls with every quantum bit extracted from experiments, but it would also imply that there should be some Everett branches where there was no Jesus and no Church. I can't see how these consequences would be acceptable for Catholics.

        (Amusingly, I can imagine some Catholics deciding that all this means "souls" are the particles riding the waves in the de Broglie-Bohm interpretation.)

    • Kevin Aldrich

      You wrote, "Catholicism: To explain the observed regularities of the world, keep the simplest theory compatible with the teachings of the Church."

      No.

      The Catholic view is to explain the observed regularities in the world according to the way they really are and to account for them with a theory which really explains them.

      • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

        Hi Kevin,
        You're just smuggling "compatible with the teachings of the Church" into your phrase "the way they really are", because you determine what you are willing to accept as the latter by use of the former.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          What does the even mean?

          • David Nickol

            What does the even mean?

            What does the following, from Pius XII's encyclical Humani Generis, mean for the Catholic scientist?

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

            If you are a Catholic scientist working on the issue of human origins, do you accept that it must be a fact that all human beings are descended from Adam alone and no other man? Or do you say, "Well, this is how it looks from a purely scientific point of view, so we'll teach 'polygenism' as science but we'll teach 'monogenism' as religion"?

            How do you decide "the way things really are" when there is a conflict between the religious "requirements" of human origins and the findings of science?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't see how it would affect a Catholic scientist as scientist at all.

            If polygenism is the way things really are then I think it is a theological problem to make it "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."

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            It means that there's no way to use "the way things really are" as a constraint on possible theories unless you already know the way things really are. Catholics think they do, and that the way things really are is described by the Church's teachings. So Catholics use the Church's teachings as their constraint on possible theories. So your reply to my post used different words that merely hid exactly the same meaning that I expressed.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I really don't know what your are getting at, Noah.

            If you use "the way things really are" as your guide, then in terms of physical science you are always looking to discover and account for reality. The simplest theory or explanation is only a good constraint if the simple account is correct.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            Alright, let's take this slow then. Do you recognize that if you tell one person "Observe this phenomenon and come up with an explanation for it" and you tell another person "Observe this phenomenon and come up with the real explanation for it", that the person in the second case is going to want to know what you meant by "real"?

    • Erick Chastain

      The problem with this characterization is that under your description the distinction between Science and Catholicism becomes meaningless. According to the Catechism what you call Science is compatible with church teaching, and if it were not then it would not be a church teaching. And thus there is no distinction between Science and Catholicism in your model (according to the catechism).

      • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

        Hi Erick,

        The distinction isn't meaningless to me. "The simplest theory" and "the simplest theory compatible with the teachings of the Church" are only equivalent if "compatible with the teachings of the Church" has zero information content. I think it is safe to say most Catholics agree the Church's teachings contain rather a lot of information.

        • Erick Chastain

          I'm catholic, and I would say that for regularly observed patterns the teachings of the Church have as you say zero information content as you define them. Contemporary science isn't what you call Science though. What you call Science is more like Natural Philosophy, Scientia.

          What catholic teaching has additional information about is non-regular observed patterns, the deposit of faith. It theorizes about that in theology, and Science just doesn't go there. So when one conditions only on regularly observed patterns there is no difference. When one conditions on non-regular observed patterns there's a difference because Science doesn't deal with non-regular observed patterns.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            So are you claiming that the Church's teachings never make contact with those parts of reality that we can test?

  • http://nathaniel-campbell.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel M. Campbell

    Just one thing to add: this "third way" is embraced by most mainstream Christian churches, not just Roman Catholics. It is the way embraced by Anglicans and Methodists, by mainstream Lutherans and the eastern Orthodox.

  • Rachel Gehring

    Check out "The Reason Series: What Science Says about God" by Fr. Robert Spitzer at the Magis Institute. Excellent.

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

    The goal is to reconcile faith and science

    If we were taking that goal as an assumption, I would then agree that the Catholic position described by Trasancos (or Ham, for a different choice of faith) could count as rationally justified.

    But as usual for these discussions, there's no good reason to take a goal like that as an assumption.

    • http://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/ Bob Drury

      The goal is not to reconcile faith and science, but to reconcile our understanding of faith and our understanding of science. This is apparent from what Stacy wrote following the quote.

      • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

        Context doesn't turn a phrase into its own negation. It's not an either/or situation in this case: Trasancos wrote both the part I quoted and the part you referred to, and she presumably meant both.

    • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

      Word choice is much less important than mutual understanding, but still "natural realism" strikes me as not the clearest choice of names. Given Trasancos' sentence...

      The goal is to reconcile faith and science, but as long as our knowledge is incomplete, then it is acceptable to clarify where the incongruities seem to be with an attitude toward reconciliation.

      ... I'd propose "reconciliationism"* (between Catholic doctrines and consensus science facts) as the most charitable and accurate name for the position she describes.

      [* Google shows that the word does have another religious meaning. I don't mean to refer to that one. I mean to propose letting the word have the meaning Trasancos gave to "natural realism" in contexts like this.]

  • Nicholas Hesed

    "The Catholic view is, as Frank Sheed said, to see “what’s there.” It is an open-minded, curious, and confident view that science, the application of mathematics to objects, can reveal the laws of nature—and it is a humble view that admits those laws are profound and not fully known. The goal is to reconcile faith and science, but as long as our knowledge is incomplete, then it is acceptable to clarify where the incongruities seem to be with an attitude toward reconciliation."

    If there is an apparent conflict, it is the result of partial knowledge, not actual conflict. We must keep searching.

    Stacey,

    I agree with most of what you say. Me I'm a long time Roman Catholic. I've been around block. Been in the racket for a while. I'm not a Creationist or an Evolutionist or whatever petty labels people love to give. Obviously the young Earth creationism is ridiculous. Similarly evolutionists build some of their own myths.

    But the problem as I conceive, is that this 'third way' is mediocre and dull. What happened to critical thinking and rational analysis? What happened to problem solving? What about creativity? What about radical concepts and taking chances? Some Catholic thinkers used to be so fresh with insight. But now the Church seems to settled in a lukewarmness in these issues. Lukewarm and mediocre theologians, philosophers, scientists, and thinkers who regurgitate ad infinitum.

    We are at the end of technology. We will not discover or observe much more than we already have. What does CERN need to build another billion dollar particle accelerator to unlock the mysteries of nuclear physics? And will representatives from the Vatican go and pay another visit when they should be visiting the slums and helping the poor? The truth is that we will never be able to see the inside of an atom or that which mediates light, gravity, electricity and magnetism. We will always have to suppose mediators and fundamental entities in order to explain. And those suppositions and explanations are either rational or irrational but NEVER validated until God gives us some sort of supervision where we could see fine structure. A simple critical thinking destroys all their subjective validations. They can validate anything they want too using any artificial method or logical system apart from true authority coming from God (Priest, King, Prophet). But I was taught that you have to think outside of the box. Logical systems cripple mind. Math may or may not describe reality, but faith and reason together now that is a formidable ability that can explain reality.

    Does NASA need to spend another gazillion dollars to prove that space curves like the belly of a pregnant woman, or to find aliens??? Do they really need to launch the Planck telescope and see again for the millionth time that the galaxies are distributed asymmetrically? They will go on in circles til Christ Returns. And I wonder whether we will ever have a definition of Genesis before Jesus Returns.

    Meanwhile why should I, a child of God, have to just let mediocre theologians and biased scientists shove their ideas down my throat? Why should I have to be bullied by them? Why should I have to wait for them to come up with more nonsense.

    Similar with the history of our planet. We will never be able to see it all unfold. What do scientists need to dig up the entire Earth and sequence every genome before we can solve problems? All their sophisticated guesswork is a castle in the sand. It can easily be destroyed using reason, and conceptual tools all guided by faith.

    Me I don't want to be reconciled with the modern scientific community. In my experience I am completely unimpressed by them. They have no physical interpretation of light and gravity, they have no GUT and yet they go predicting the age of the Universe. What arrogance! They practically steal peoples hard earned money to get funded for idiotic projects like Gravity B probe. What waste.
    I want to solve problems using faith and reason. Reason is an activity happening within. It is beyond empiricism. One starts where empiricism ends. One has to put together all the pieces of the puzzle and destroy irrational ideas. One has to be critical and creative.

    Now is a time to purge and to get creative. We have all the tools and information we could possibly need to solve the most difficult problems. And the question is why aren't they being solved??? Who is going to step forward and take some responsibility here??? Who is going to risk being ridiculed and losing friends? Who is going to take some chances?

    • Moussa Taouk

      Hi Nicholas,
      "They practically steal peoples hard earned money to get funded for idiotic projects like Gravity B probe. What waste."

      Are you saying there's no point studying science any more because we basically now have all we need?

      I do agree with you on some things (like the search for extra terrestial life), which seems to me to be just an excercise of curiosity and (but hopefully not) so that if life is found then some people can say "there you go... another proof that your god doesn't exist".

      But other than those kinds of projects... I'd be very hesitant about cancelling scientific enquiries even into things like gravity etc that doesn't seem to have any immediate benefit to us. I guess because the human mind is oriented towards Truth, and it's something that should be encouraged rather than discouraged.

      "And the question is why aren't they being solved???"

      Are you talking about theological questions (such as creation type questions)? Or sociological issues like the poor or AIDS etc?

      • Nicholas Hesed

        Hi Moussa,

        Are you saying there's no point studying science any more because we basically now have all we need?
        . . .
        Lol! Define science.

        Not at all. I love science. I just think that certain field like physics and cosmology have gone insane. We don't need to spend any more money on research into light, gravity, electricity magnetism, Big-Bang, nuclear physics, etc. We have all the information we could possibly need. They cannot even figure out the Slit Experiment so why go making more problems?

        The scientific method needs to be reworked. They have gotten lost in math and proofs and ideas. It has gone too empirical and idealistic. And like I said we will never be able to see that physical entity which mediates light, gravity, electricity and magnetism thus a sensory validation in the experiments they run at LHC or gravity B probe are useless. They can interpret them in any way they want in order to support whatever hypoth and theory they want in order to get funded for more toys and labs and continue their myths and so on.

        Its important not to be naive. The scientific community is a racket. They need to be criticized, but its hard because they have a lot of influence and power.

        I do agree with you on some things (like the search for extra terrestial life), which seems to me to be just an excercise of curiosity and (but hopefully not) so that if life is found then some people can say "there you go... another proof that your god doesn't exist".

        Well I'm glad you agree with me on the search for aliens. It is foolish. According to my reading of the Sacred Script and study of 'science' aliens are impossible. The Spirit has not been sent forth to any other exoplanet (or star) in the Universe and a living entity is too complex to originate from the phenomenon of light, gravity, electricity and magnetism. Plus their ideas of life are based on Darwin's single prototype idea, an idea he inferred from analogy, and their suppositions are tied to the irrational nebular hypothesis and the artificial concept of 'habitable zone.'

        Another reason they are seriously going after aliens is that they have no definition of life. They cannot commit to a definition of life thus they think that finding aliens will help them solve their problem. And they do not know how living entities originated on Earth. We as a Church only have vague responses to give, but if our greatest minds came together and found the correct interpretation to Genesis 1 and the Sacred Scripts we would be able to launch a strong criticism.

        "But other than those kinds of projects... I'd be very hesitant about cancelling scientific enquiries even into things like gravity etc that doesn't seem to have any immediate benefit to us. I guess because the human mind is oriented towards Truth, and it's something that should be encouraged rather than discouraged."

        Define truth.

        High Science is not a search for a validated proposal. Physics is a study of causes and of physical objects. Philosophy is a study of reasons and of concepts. They have spent trillions, and yet they still cannot tell you what causes an apple to fall to the ground. They cause more problems than they solve.

        "Are you talking about theological questions (such as creation type questions)? Or sociological issues like the poor or AIDS etc?"

        Just the radical problems posed by the first few chapters of Genesis and some of the problems in fundamental physics.

        • Danny Getchell

          According to my reading of the Sacred Script and study of 'science' aliens are impossible. The Spirit has not been sent forth to any other exoplanet (or star) of the Universe

          If your (depressing) analysis is correct, and of course it's not impossible that it is, then the universe seems to be disproportionately large for its purpose, which you seem to limit to the working out of mankind's relationship to God.

          In that event, the stars and galaxies might just as well be painted onto a crystalline dome a few hundred miles up, as I imagine the Biblical writers thought it was.

          • David Nickol

            The director of the Vatican Observatory, Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, a Jesuit priest, has no problem with the idea of life elsewhere in the universe.

          • Danny Getchell

            Clearly this is then an issue on which Catholics can disagree.

            I will continue to challenge those Christians (of all flavors) who limit their understanding of God's scope of creation to what their narrow reading of the Bible permits. Rev. Funes is clearly not among that number.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            appeal to authority. Who cares what he thinks?

          • Danny Getchell

            Father Funes' "reading of the sacred script" leads him to a different conclusion than yours. This does not necessarily make him right, but it appears he would be likewise allowed to ask "who cares what Hesed thinks??"

          • Nicholas Hesed

            true. But hey I'm being a little polemical and trying rouse some stimulation. Peace man.

          • David Nickol

            appeal to authority

            If you are implying that what I said is the logical fallacy appeal to authority, you are incorrect. I did not claim that because Fr. Funes is open to the possibility of extraterrestrial life, it must be the case that extraterrestrial life exists. I also did not claim your reading of scripture is wrong because Fr. Funes does not agree with you. I merely noted Fr. Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, is quite open to the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life. Also, note the following:

            It's important to note that this fallacy [appeal to authority] should not be used to dismiss the claims of experts, or scientific consensus. Appeals to authority are not valid arguments, but nor is it reasonable to disregard the claims of experts who have a demonstrated depth of knowledge unless one has a similar level of understanding and/or access to empirical evidence. However it is, entirely possible that the opinion of a person or institution of authority is wrong; therefore the authority that such a person or institution holds does not have any intrinsic bearing upon whether their claims are true or not.

            You ask, "Who cares what he thinks?" I thought his comments were quite interesting. He does not necessarily speak for the Catholic Church, but as a Jesuit, an astronomer, and the long-time head of the Vatican Observatory, his thoughts are not irrelevant to the discussion.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            just trying to be polemical and stimulate some independent thought. Thanks for the refresher on appeal to authority.

            Personally I don't think his comments are too interesting. They are pretty much a dampened version of what everyone else in those fields are saying. Mediocre. In light of Faith, there is no reason why a living object would exist on other planets. Plus how about define life and come up with a better assumption of our Earth's history than nebular hypothesis. All the discoveries of the exoplanets, strange systems, free floaters, rogue planets, and now exomoons have pretty much debunked nebular hypothesis. They got a lot of hills to climb but now all of a sudden everyone wants to go chasing aliens??? This isn't the X-Files.

          • DarcyMarais

            Actually, none of these discoveries have 'debunked' the nebular hypothesis. Are you referring to any particular scientific publications?

          • Nicholas Hesed

            Well I was being a bit loose there. :)

            To me nebular hypothesis is dead. Their simulations and math equations cannot save them. But it will die a slow death because they've put so much work into that artifice.

            Just out of curiosity Darcy, and lovely name btw, could you possibly think of any other suppositions about how gazillion ton spherical iron-nickel cores like the one under our feet can form? ;) Other than in a left over swirling disk?

          • Nicholas Hesed

            I don't understand how you could think this depressing! Earth is favored by God.

            The Universe has no size since it is just an idea. UNIVERSE refers to a shapeless concept.

            The Biblical writers did not imagine a crystalline dome. That is a Grecian concept.

          • Danny Getchell

            For a truly moving and truly Christian response, I suggest you do a quick search for "Christ in the Universe" by Alice Meynell. It's readily available and a two-minute read.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            Earth has been showered by graces from God. And God has promised that in the future He will transfigure it into a New Earth. And it will be connected to a New Heaven and there will be a New Jerusalem with walls built of precious stones. I imagine that God will take those who rise and enjoy the New Earth on a tour across the galaxy. Jesus and Mary will be there. It is even said that God will miraculously light it up by His Presence.

            What more could you want?

          • Nicholas Hesed

            Earth is elect among all the astronomical objects of the U. God chose Earth, not Mars or Gallifrey. He made a connection with the Earth that will last forever. No other star or planet has this favor.

        • Mike

          I would strongly disagree with your assessment of the exploration of particle physics, and contemporary science.

          EVERY increase in the standard of living that I can fathom from the start of modern science to today is a result of a better basic understanding of the universe and the ways it works. Just because we don't have an immediate application doesn't mean there couldn't be one in the future.

          Two examples, your cell phone, computer and the internet work because of quantum mechanics, relativity, and electromagnetism. None of these were studied as a means of producing this technology, but here it is. Your GPS wouldn't work without relativistic corrections.

          I'm not advocating that science is the final answer to theological questions and I'm not advocating for scientism, but bad mouthing science is the completely wrong approach in my book!

          • Nicholas Hesed

            science & technology are two distinct fields. Technology works by trial & error. GPS has nothing to do with relativity. That is a bloody lie regurgitated a million times over to support the love affair with relativity. Argumentum ad ignorantum. Quantum, and relativity refer to sets of ideas. They don't actually make things work!!! Holy Cow!

            Particle physics is zoo or an assylum (depending on which way you look at it). Discrete particles cannot possibly mediate gravitational tension or attraction and they certainly cannot hold all things together as we observe so wonderfully. Discrete particles cannot possibly wave or travel in rectilinear paths over billions of miles, etc.

            I'm not bad-mouthing science. That is your superficial reading. I'm trying to stimulate some response and raise concerns. I mean heck its embarrassing that they've spent trillions on ideas and they cannot even draw for you a rational picture of a proton or tell you what causes magnets attract or repel. Embarrasing. Until they can draw up and explain the architecture of light and unify light with gravity supposing a rational physical 3D entity they have no right
            to 'predict' the age of this idea called Universe.
            .

          • Nicholas Hesed

            as far as increase in standard of living. That is toying around with materials. Heck what good is higher standard of living when we are aborting and euthanizing or when we are lazy? We have a predominant service sector that cannot possibly support families in the long run because it is a viscous cycle.. We hang on thread and the world has gone to the dogs. We live in an age of bachelors.

            What is science going to save us?

          • Mike

            But now you're mixing apples and oranges. I would agree that we should defend life even among the most vulnerable and those with no voice.

            Do you really think that a lack of new technologies will change the service aspect of the economy in the industrialized parts of the world?

            Who ever said science was going to save anything? I said that understanding of basic science has lead to the increase in the standard of living in the past few centuries. Where was that assessment wrong?

          • Nicholas Hesed

            I was being a little polemical. Sorry. I'm just trying to raise some concerns.

            But I do think that unhindered use and development of technology has helped to lead us into the desert. In the three sector hypothesis a service dominated economy is the last phase and that can only be brought about by implementation of new technologies for the underdeveloped countries. I'm not suggesting that these countries should not receive new technology, its just interesting. And you see that most countries have rapidly passed through their industrial ages. Its like they are going from agriculture straight to services. Pretty crazy.

            As far as the CMB. Their interpretation of that billion dollar map rests on some pretty strange assumptions. I would even say blatantly irrational assumptions. I always thought that God created a reasonable universe. Not one that can do magic. :) Peace man.

          • Mike

            You are free to raise your concerns, but when you raise these issues here, you'll get me fired up every time. I'll do my best to be cordial, but science is something I'm passionate about, and will defend here and elsewhere when necessary.

            All science assumes certain things, the question is whether they are valid assumptions. Almost every competent scientist will accept the assumptions around the CMB as valid. As always it's subject to revision based on better evidence, but that said at this point given the data available seem valid.

            To the best of my understanding the universe is reasonable. I don't believe in a magic universe either, and I don't think any real scientist would argue such a thing. I'll do my best to be polite, but I'll call you out, what SPECIFIC assumptions surrounding the CMB are irrational?

          • Nicholas Hesed

            Mike,

            First peace man. I'm pretty easy going with this stuff because I'm a minority. No one cares about what I think. I've got nothing to lose.

            Evidence is subjective. It invokes an observer. Physics, IMHO should be observer independent in as much as possible. For me rationale begins where empiricism ends.

            I'm passionate about science too. I have a nuclear physics forum on FB. You're welcome there.

            I gave up on the Big-Bang. I've had enough of it. Its just a bloated nonsensical theory to me. Too many contradictions. Poe came up with the idea on opium and Irish Whiskey before LeMaitre and Einstein were conceived. Einstein didn't like it but he collapsed to peer pressure. I don't know if this is the time or place to argue over Big-Bang.

            I dont reject the existence of microwave background signals and the supposed mediators that propagate these signals, I reject the mainstream interpretation of CMBR. So I think the so called 'radiation' however you would define that, originates from distant source objects (the most distant stars and galaxies or perhaps from neutron decays between stars and galaxies),and is red-shifted due to the change of the physical architecture of the supposed entities that mediate light phenomenon and are intrinsically tied to all H atoms (and heavier elements) (not spacetime mind you), So for me the CMBR does not originate in a mythical Big-Bang + Big-Bang nucleosynthesis.

            I have issues with pretty all the ideas associated with Big-Bang.

            Copernican/Cosmological Principle.
            Photons (and any sort of discrete particle): invalid hypothesis. How do photons stretch and travel in straight/rectilinear paths? How does does a photon wave? What is its architecture?
            Inflation/Expansion: (what is inflating/expansion? Space? Space has no shape, a conceptual nothing)
            Mainstream model of the hydrogen atom (discrete electron, proton and neutrons bowling balls), Quantum ideas, etc.
            That a binary concept such as the Universe could possibly have a shape like a woman (what is outside of the bounds, more space??? what is the Universe expanding into? What ensures that this objective Universe has a shape)
            Expansion (what is expanding?)
            Dark Matter & Dark Energy (both ad hoc hypotheses with no physical interpretation)
            neutrinos: no physical interpretation
            A OD Singularity giving birth to objects
            infinite energy density whatever the hell that is.
            Endless reification of concepts. Endless esoteric math.
            Hierarchies of nothing.

            And so on and so forth. I'm done with them. If you want to convince me draw me a picture of the particles and make me a movie of recombination and the photons journey to WMAP or COBE. Its ridiculous to me. Sorry.

            My understanding is that it is impossible to naturally form a proton or an H atom (other than through the unique decay of a free neutron). A proton is a crisscrossing convergence of Electric Threads originating from all the H atoms of the Universe. Charge is the rubbing of the Electric Threads in the center of the nucleus. It would be easier to create something from nothing than to make a proton ;). And it is impossible to date all the hydrogen. For all practical purposes matter, the network of all H atoms is built to last forever. I think matter's creation ex nihilo was much more elegant and that has to do with what I think mediates light and gravity.

            And you don't have to tell me I'm crazy. Its already been done. I've lost friends over this stuff.

            But I'm done with Big-Bang.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            And just for the record. To all Catholics. I understand how not everyone cares about BB and fundamental physics. But I've always been into this stuff. In terms of intellectual and spiritual life and sanity, rejecting the Big-Bang was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It actually helped my relationship with God and others.

            Those guys played me the fool for way too long.

          • Mike

            If I read too much into your "bad mouthing of science" I apologize. From where I sit science and technology are two sides of the same coin. Can you give me an example of where technology isn't supported by a basic science understanding of how the world works?

            You claim that technology is done by trial and error, and my perspective is that without the scientific breakthroughs in the last 150 years random chance wouldn't have resulted in the technology we have today.

            You complain about particle physics not having a coherent picture of reality, and purely for the sake of argument lets agree on this point. To date we don't have a good coherent picture of how cancer works, and have spent just as much if not more money on it, should we stop funding NIH (National Institutes of Health) in the US?!

            Science is always subject to revision upon better evidence, but the error bars on the age of the universe from the CMB are quite small.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            Above I was being a bit polemical.

            I mostly attack fundamental physics, so the cancer argument is not my concern.

            Evidence is subjective. They assume that their technology is measuring As far as the CMB.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            wait let me edit that

          • Elonkareon

            Well, you've clearly never programmed any GPS applications. Maybe you should keep your prognosticating to fields you actually have some knowledge about.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            ?

            You are welcome to explain how programming atomic clocks in orbit proves that spacetime curves like the belly of a pregnant women. Just draw it up. And you are welcome to posit your rational physical mediator of gravitational tension and attraction and explain why the atoms of the clock spin slower in orbit as opposed to the surface.

            GPS doesn't prove the irrational and impossible. They are lost in ideas.

          • Mike

            I know you've said you are trying to be polemic, but I don't think you are advancing your point by just saying that relativity is irrational and impossible. What aspects? That the speed of light is constant in any reference frame, and is the fastest anything particle can travel? That general relativity does an adequate job explaining gravity for most scientists?

            GPS would be off by several miles after a couple of days without relativistic corrections! Furthermore relativity and quantum mechanics are two of the best tested scientific theories to date. If we considered a thought experiment where everytime I drop something it falls towards the earth indicates gravity is a force, then my job, what I'm doing right now requires me to verify quantum mechanics every 3 seconds or so!

            If you really have evidence that relativity and quantum mechanics aren't correct, or could be improved (and I'm a scientist I'm completely open to that possibility given better evidence), please write up your results, publish them in a scientific journal, and collect a decades worth of Nobel prizes in Physics! I'm not being flip or snarky (at least I'm not trying to be) but science could benefit from knowing that principles considered to be defacto true aren't. Einstein wrote his some of his work as a patent clerk, so anyone can contribute to the scientific field.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            "I know you've said you are trying to be polemic, but I don't think you are advancing your point by just saying that relativity is irrational and impossible. What aspects? That the speed of light is constant in any reference frame, and is the fastest anything particle can travel? That general relativity does an adequate job explaining gravity for most scientists?"

            True. But that is just the thing no disciple of Einstein has ever explained gravity in a rational manner. I don't care how pretty their math equations are. All they've done is described gravity. Math, logical systems, laws, etc. describe.

            In order to explain a phenomenon, such as gravity, you need to suppose an object that mediates dynamic causal relations between objects. What is relativity's rational physical mediator (go between) of gravitational tension and attraction? What 3D physical entity keeps the Earth tied to the Sun??? What is that mediator's relation to light phenomenon? How is this mediator tied to the H atom? Why is the speed of light constant? Why is the speed of light so fast? What is the physical interpretation of E=mc squared? Can you or any follower of Einstein make a picture or movie of gravity at work illustrating the precious mediator that Newton was afraid to posit? Is spacetime an entity or a bandaid concept?

            By the end of his life Einstein knew deep down that he had figured out nothing and his axioms never led him to a GUT. He would go to the chalk board but people thought he was crazy. But by that time he was already an idol. Now the world of physics is a three ring circus.

            That is the problem. Until you actually explain to me how an apple falls to the ground and what physical mediator causes the apple you are not doing science pursuant to my definition (science assumes and explains). One is doing data collection, mathematics, technology, etc. That is what this is about. And it is important, because without an actual explanation one can give to another there is NO science.

            "GPS would be off by several miles after a couple of days without relativistic corrections!

            Hogwash. There is evidence that the programmers do not even use relativistic corrections! I can't believe you keep on saying this!!!

            Furthermore relativity and quantum mechanics are two of the best tested scientific theories to date.

            What is a theory? A bloody math equation? Symbols? Tested? You mean by colliding protons like cavemen collided rocks? Quantum mechanics is like a religion with surreal and supernatural explanations. Quantum cannot give a rational explanation of the slit experiment, a rational picture of nuclear force, etc. Its a whitewash. All their equations are describing the motion of fundamental entities, but they have no idea what they are.

            Of course these are going to be the most tested and proven theories because they want to PROTECT THEM and keep on getting funded.

            "If we considered a thought experiment where everytime I drop something it falls towards the earth indicates gravity is a force, then my job, what I'm doing right now requires me to verify quantum mechanics every 3 seconds or so!"

            Gravity is a force? Great what have I learned? So this concept called 'force' actually pulls atoms and attracts objects made of two or more atoms??? I didnt know concepts could perform actions, impart causal relations, etc. What does this force look like? How does this force fit into Newton's inverse square law? What is your supposed mediator of this force? Is it like the Force from Star Wars?

            When you are talking Big-Bang they say they've measured the temperature of

            See this is what I'm getting into? I'm not interested in awards or money. The scientific world has a vice grip on what gets published and who gets awarded and funded. And besides billion dollar experiments cannot be reproduced by an array of independent scientists. And they have yet to give a rational interpretation for the Slit Experiment.

            This is about fundamentals, justice, sanity, and real science. Its not about truth or opinion, etc. In terms of science what is true to one is lies, blasphemy and insanity to another. Evidence is a concept that invokes an observer. The object of evidence is subject to a puny sensory system. And we cannot even see that which mediates gravity so obviously evidence, exhibits, statement of facts (and definitions), experiments are just the first step in the scientific method. What good are all their experiments if they never break the code? And there is no excuse that they couldn't have done it by now. There is more than enough evidence from which to assume the unified DNA-like physical mediator of light, gravity, electricity and magnetism intrinsically tied to and interconnecting all atoms of the U. They already have a reconstructed image of the mediators bifurcating to form the H atom compliments of LHC but they cannot understand the picture. Strong Interaction/Force, Weak Interaction, and Nuclear Force is a cinch one one understand what a proton and a neutron is comprised of.

            I know you are not being snarky. Maybe I am. But its all good. Big-Bang, quantum, relativity, and neb hypothesis need their Angel of Death.

          • Elonkareon

            "explain why the atoms of the clock spin slower in orbit as opposed to the surface" -- Why would I want to explain something that is the opposite of true? The orbital clocks are ticking faster, not slower.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            Alright so I got it mixed up.

            I'm still waiting for that drawing.

          • Susan

            Alright so I got it mixed up.

            Yep.

            So, how does a GPS work then?

    • Danny Getchell

      Personally, I would like to know what's under the ice layer on Europa. Can "faith and reason" provide the answer??

      • Nicholas Hesed

        who cares? We live and die on Earth.

        But I'm sure reason can provide the answer (if not Sci-Fi). What do you think? Let me ask you this. What is Europa and where did it come from? How did it develop. It looks a lot older than Jupiter to me.

        • Danny Getchell

          'Bye, Nicholas.

        • Nicholas Hesed

          Jupiter looks younger than Europa. Looks like it is in a transitional phase. Like it is transforming into something. The surface colors remind me a lot of the grand canyon. But I guess the planetary scientists are all up on this.

        • DarcyMarais

          So your answer is no, faith and reason cannot provide an answer. Certainly faith provides no information about the nature of the universe. Only science does that.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            what? I just said that one can use one's brain to figure out what is underneath the ice on the surface of Europa.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            I would assume more water and chemicals.

          • Michael Murray

            Chemicals would seem like a pretty safe assumption.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            I like how you always seem to be sipping coffee :)

  • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

    As long as Catholics accept that the theory of evolution is science, that the earth is billions, not thousands of years old, and that humans and animals have common ancestors, I think I would not have much to argue about.

    I did watch Hams presentation and I cannot agree that he made any good points. There is no relevant distinction between historical and observational or experimental science. All science makes inferences baed on observations of things in the present about the past, and makes predictions about the future.

  • http://xcontra.wordpress.com X Contra

    Good, Stacy. And I can only wish that both of these goombahs, Ham and Nye, could have been in Stanley Jaki's classroom. That would've been a treat!

  • tz1

    What is truth? Something even more absent.

    The "Question" as stated is either true or false. Unless you are arguing the question is simply nonsense, or has no answer, then asking other, different questions is not relevant to the debate.

    We do not seek "a third way" of understanding abortion between life and death. If it is a human person from conception, then any other understanding is simply wrong.

    My problem is there is a big amorphous blob labeled "science". It includes things which are experimentally verifiable with precise mathematics. It also includes myth, speculation, guesswork, and a lot of other junk.

    The age or date of the universe is an extrapolation from a lot of such guesswork. Over several million years? Certainly. 4.5 billion? I can say scientifically and correctly, I don't know and you don't know nor does Bill Nye. But there is a greater problem. Bill Nye is what I call a "Young Earth Evolutionist". In order to build the first organism, or complex life forms or parts, the only mechanism is rolling a bunch of chemical dice and hoping to score a thousand Yatzees in a row with no break (half a fix in asia and the other half in the americas does no good).

    This is pure mathematics, probability, physics and chemistry. Real science. So you have a bag of chemicals and stir. Let me simplify it. If you take a shaker of salt and one of pepper and put it into a big jar and shake it, eventually all the pepper will end up on one side and all the salt on the other. It may take as many times the 16 billion years as if it were a day, but you can calculate the probability of random shaking producing something complex (not merely ordered, as in the case here).

    Take your bag of chemicals and shake while you run your calculator (or read the classic Coppedge "Evolution Possible or Impossible?).

    Don't talk about "third ways" or other epistemological or metaphysical stuff. That avoids the simple, direct, dialect and arithmetic from the seven medieval studies. Just do the math. It will either show that 4.5 or 16 billion years suffices, or that the odds against organic life forms are so many orders of magnitude greater that 6000 or 4.5 billion are both infinitesimally small.

    You challenged everyone to adopt the Catholic approach. Well, that to me is to find the truth of the matter, not find more extravagant methods of speculation.

    I should note this does NOT establish the nature of a designer/creator, only establishes that life is as much an artifact of design as a computer chip or a modern vehicle.

    But that is an equally valid question. If the "scientists" are promoting an agenda using something other than science, it should be rejected as any other lie. Ether there is a designer, or creator, or there is not. It can be established that known hard science - physics, chemistry, mathematics - either say that a few billion years across the known universe is sufficient for life on N>=1 planets, or it is so improbable to indicate there is either a creator or some kind of "magical" undiscovered force that can take the place of one.

    Just do it. Do the math. That is what neither side in the debate has done or will do and is a true scientific "third way" that can answer the question.

    • Mike

      Hi Tz1,

      I would respectfully disagree with you concerning the "amorphous blob of science" as you describe it. Science is very good at what it does, and I don't think it does any good to bad mouth it. Please cite examples where science (not individual scientists) engage in myth, guesswork and a lot of other junk! If you are going to make such outlandish claims you are going to have to show your work! Science makes assumptions, true but currently they appear to be justified. I and I think many other scientists would be willing to change our minds about the age of the universe if the evidence presented itself. Science has a history of doing so, see Relativity, Einstein vs Mechanics, Newton.

      I'm not sure where your math calculating your probabilities is coming from but I'd be interested to see it.

      As far as science is concerned the age of the observable universe isn't a million of a billion ish, but can be extrapolated with significantly better accuracy. The age of the earth is known from radioisotope dating, and the age of the universe from the cosmic microwave background.

      The origin of life might never be fully understood, but it only requires a self-relicating molecule.

      • Elonkareon

        I'd be interested to see his math as well. To my understanding the chances of random molecules forming even the simplest proteins (just one of thousands of components necessary for the simplest functional lifeforms) under ideal conditions (let alone the decidedly not ideal proto-earth environment evidenced by ancient zircons) are nonexistent. It just won't happen, ever, without minutely controlled intelligent direction. Evolution made a sort of sense in Darwin's day when we still thought cell's were lumps of chemical soup, but it's highly irrational now that we have glimpsed its depths.

        As to guesswork and myth, look a little more closely at how exactly radioisotope dating is calculated.

        • Mike

          I don't know if probability has anything to do with it, and I would be hesitant to claim it as proof of God. Low probability events happen all the time.

          Also, I would like to clearly state my opinion for the record on intelligent design. Intelligent design is not science, it makes no predictions, and cannot be tested or verified. Intelligent design should rather be described as metaphysics. Now don't get me wrong metaphysics is important and many of the conversations here involve metaphysics, but it's not science. Creationism is science in the aspect that it makes predictions that can be tested and verified (or rejected), just like the aether is science even though it isn't seriously considered anymore. Additionally the Catholic church (as I've stated here before) endorses the cornerstone of evolution, i.e. random genetic mutation and natural selection.

          As far as I'm aware radioisotope dating is calculated using mathematics that could reasonable be taught Junior year of high school. Cosmology I'm no expect in (Chemistry and biophysics) but the current understanding seems to make sense especially the CMB. We as scientists CRAVE to be proven wrong as a means to better understand reality. If anyone has real objective evidence that the current level of scientific understanding is flawed I humbly ask that they write it up and have it published in a reputable science journal and collect their Nobel Prize.

          • Elonkareon

            Singular low probability events happen all the time, yes. We're not talking about one event here, though, but rather many billions of equally improbable events happening at roughly the same time. It may not be proof of creation (though if it, and the design evident in all life, *isn't* I have to wonder what you *would* consider proof of creation), but it is certainly not proof of evolution.

            As for prediction, Creation is as predictive a paradigm as evolution. Reasoning from creation, we would (and creationists have) predict(ed) that organs and sections of DNA without obvious function (vestigial organs, junk DNA) did and do in fact have function, aside from the occasional recent deleterious mutation. Evolutionists for a long while predicted that most of our genome would be non-functional and non-selective, and thus open to freely mutate until a functional, beneficial new gene miraculously appeared. Guess what our current understanding is? Hint: It's not what was predicted by evolution.

            _Natural selection_ is useful as a source of predictions, but this is not evolution. Selection can only operate on existing genetic information. Evolution requires novel genetic information (as opposed to the random noise produced by mutation), which no known mechanism can produce.

          • Mike

            ::sigh:: I really don't understand why this argument keeps occurring, but here it goes.

            You're right that creationism would make predictions the same as evolution, I totally agree. However, at this point in time most (all credible) scientists agree that evolution fits the data better. The Catholic Church also agrees (see JPII's comments to a group of scientists in the mid 90's).

            You are talking about the origin of life, I'm talking about evolution, related but different. I don't see a good way to ultimately answer how life began on earth, so I would think it to fall into a metaphysical argument not a physical one. That said I don't see a compelling reason why life couldn't have risen spontaneously.

            What design is inherent to all life? I'm not an evolutionary biologist (I'm a chemist) but the rate of evolution seems to roughly match the rate of random mutations. I don't think evolutionists claim that DNA is sitting around waiting to magically be mutated, but rather all of it serves a purpose (which we might not understand at this point), and hence many random mutations are bad, see cancer; causes. Evolution doesn't require novel information, it requires the mutation to be useful at the time of selection.

            It appears to me that you are against a theory that no self respecting scientist is advocating. I continue to maintain that Intelligent Design is not science, but rather metaphysics.

            I have and will again assert that God may be redundant to explain the physical world, in fact I expect him to be, and so does the Church. The Church says God is the creator, not that we couldn't fully understand his creation. Intelligent Design makes the God of the gaps argument, which you are free to make, but it means that "God" is an ever smaller amount of ignorance about our physical world. I prefer the "I am who am" God to the "I don't know therefore God" variety.

          • Elonkareon

            "That said I don't see a compelling reason why life couldn't have risen spontaneously."
            1) It's impossible, regardless of time frame, and certainly within the narrow window afforded by even our longest predictions.
            2) The God in Whose Word we have staked our eternal fate says otherwise.

            "What design is inherent to all life?"
            A better question. What human designs were not first pre-figured in living organisms? How can we claim to design anything and yet maintain that cells, the simplest of which put our greatest achievements to shame, let alone the complex interactions between cells and tissues in multi-cellular life forms, are NOT designed? It is absurd.

            "the rate of evolution seems to roughly match the rate of random mutations"
            Because the one is calculated assuming the other, and vice versa.

            "I don't think evolutionists claim that DNA is sitting around waiting to magically be mutated."
            Kind of do. To quote rationalwiki:
            "Nonconserved, noncoding DNA inside the chromosome, ie. what we classically think of as "junk", can mutate rapidly and extensively without harm to the organism. It has been hypothesised, and extensively researched, that these noncoding regions can serve basically as sandboxes for gene evolution, where changes can occur randomly without altering the organism, and then be brought into play all at once, producing entire new amino acid sequences in an existing protein."

            "I prefer the "I am who am" God"
            So do I. And also the "My Word is above My Name" God.

          • Mike

            But why is life impossible to occur by natural means? Why couldn't God have designed the laws of the universe to permit life to flourish? Why must their be direct intervention by God for life to occur?

            Furthermore there is nothing in the Catechism that prohibits such an assertion. As far as I know the Catholic Church accepts darwinian evolution (random genetic mutation and natural selection) and posits on top of it that Human beings have an eternal spiritual soul, which did not arise from natural means. The Church takes no position on how life arose, mechanistically.

            Would God's intervention be a one time event, or a continual fussing with his creation? I would think that if God's creation is good and designed he wouldn't have to fuss with it continuously.

            Lastly I think if you want to maintain that life arose as a result of God's intervention as a purely metaphysical argument I wouldn't have an objection as a scientist, but its not a science argument.

          • Elonkareon

            "Furthermore there is nothing in the Catechism that prohibits such an assertion."

            301: With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:

            For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured, if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living.

            308: The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Far from diminishing the creature's dignity, this truth enhances it. Drawn from nothingness by God's power, wisdom and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for "without a Creator the creature vanishes." Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God's grace

            The Scriptures and the Teaching of the Church are completely opposed to Deism.

          • Mike

            Sure, I never meant to imply in a far away God who made the universe and then left it to be. I too believe in God "the alpha and omega). What I'm arguing is that God could setup the universe (first cause), laws of physics, etc and then produce what is observed today through secondary causes. All of which could be done by natural means.

            Additionally God's existence would be redundant to our understanding of creation. I can hold that God is necessary for it, but that I can understand all that he has created, can I not?

          • Elonkareon

            Your last sentence is in no way incompatible with intelligent design. Sure we can understand His works, but that is only because we were created in His image. Materialism and evolution provide no such assurances of the reliability of human reason. ID is not about closeting ourselves in ignorance, but recognizing the design evident in the universe, the design which "declares the glory of God", and acknowledging the designer in our work, rather than burying our heads in the sand so we do not have to be accountable to Him.

          • Mike

            But I'm not sure that's my understanding of intelligent design, it sounds like Catholicism (evolution + man being made in the image and likeness of God, and being imparted with an immortal soul). I would call what you describe as theistic evolution rather than intelligent design. A mix of physics and metaphysics to describe reality.

            How about this, can we agree that intelligent design is better designated as metaphysics, rather than science? I would simultaneously argue that claims of evolution regarding God (presence of absence) would also be metaphysical arguments.

            I'm not a materialist, so I wouldn't want to claim what they do or do not imply. If there is a materialist who wants to chime in I'll welcome the input.

  • justin

    Two excellent books on this are Genesis,Creation and Early Man by the late great Russian Orthodox monk Father Seraphim Rose and the other The Doctrines of Genesis Chapters 1-11 by the Catholic priest Father Victor Warkulwiz. Both show that evolution and Biblical literalism are false and that we need to interpret scripture through the lens of Tradition. Natural Science can tell us nothing about Creation Week, it's of the Divine Order. Both books will strengthen your faith and arm you to defend the traditional Patristic doctrine of Creation against everything from "theistic evolution" (what the late Catholic philosopher Dr. William Marra called the "halfway house to atheism") to the equally misguided Protestant Biblical literalism to the utterly absurd views of men like Bill Nye,Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking. We need the Fathers and saints to help us interpret Genesis, not just "science" and the Bible.

  • Iam mom

    "Keep science in science class and religion in religion class"? The secular textbooks claim to do so. But they do not. They push Darwinism down our throats and dumb things down to rhetoric. We need Catholic science textbooks!

    • Mike

      Hi Iam mom,

      Respectfully, can you give me an example where Darwinism is being pushed down someone's throat? Everyone seems to have different definitions so can you describe for me what Darwinism means to you, sometimes we use the same words to mean different things, and we should be clear about what we mean.

      Although I am a practicing Catholic and a Scientist I am very disturbed by the idea of "Catholic science textbooks". What would they teach that is different from the textbooks used now? I foresee two problems with this idea immediately. 1.) why not Jewish science textbooks, or wiccian, or pan-animism etc. Science is Science irregardless of one's religious convictions, or lack thereof. 2.) It implies that there is a conflict between the Catholic church and science. Although many disagree both believers and non-believers I have yet to find any in my own life, and profession.

      • Iam mom

        I don't understand your 2nd point about finding "any in your own life". We use the textbooks by Apologia and find the Creationist model to be a stumbling block. So even though religion is a main element of these texts, we really appreciate a different approach, identifying problems with both polarized versions of creation and God's involvement in our world. I agree with Frank Sheed, in terms of not putting God "in a box" and inspiring wonder and questions and digging deeper. But to say keep science in science class and religion in religion class suggests we keep our faith in a tidy little box. Hundreds of scientists throughout history have been Franciscan priests/brothers. Like the man who came up with the Big Bang theory. He was a priest but a secular textbook conveniently leaves that out.

        • Mike

          I hear you. But you didn't answer the first part of my question. How do you define Darwinism, and how is it being shoved down someone's throat?

          I'm not advocating sequestering God from any aspect of one's life, but we teach math in math class, and history in history class. I would be opposed to teaching math and not teaching history. Furthermore I don't want a public school to teach any particular religion, that duty, responsibility and privilege falls to their parents, and catechists of the Church.

          To me God is not a science question. I don't want to box God in either, I pray during my day while I'm running experiments, and read and respond at this website.

          I never said that many scientists weren't also Catholics, I'm ONE of them. The Catholic Church has embraced the fundamental aspects of evolution, random genetic mutation and natural selection, JPII said himself that evolution is "more than a theory".

  • James Patton

    The real issue here is that many that have issues with evolution do not know what it is. Evolution does not make any extraordinary claims that are not supported by extraordinary evidence. NO scientific theory makes moral conclusions, anyone that does is not doing science.

  • Mike

    This entire topic of "creationism" vs. "evolution" has never made sense to me. Usually it is the topic people mean when they describe the desire to reconcile "science vs. religion", at least its been my experience as a Catholic scientist.

    It hasn't made sense to me because modern science as we know it emerged say 300-500 years ago, but the Bible was compiled at least 1500 years ago, and the individual books of the Bible were written centuries (millenia) earlier. Why would I even expect the Bible to be a science book? I think its a big mistake for anyone to expect the Bible to be a science book. Catholics and non-Catholics should argue and discuss its theological content, but we should all agree that the Bible is not a science book.

    When people ask me about the Bible as a science book I tell them "The Bible is as much a science book as Virgil's Aenead is a Shakespearean play". Both have their own value, but the Aenead was written 1500 years before Shakespeare wrote plays, and to expect it to have the same form is nonsense.

    Just my two cents

    • Nicholas Hesed

      No not a science book. But there are some legitimate problems when faced with the Sacred Script that need to be solved. Especially Genesis 1.

      • Mike

        I'm curious, please elaborate.

        • Nicholas Hesed

          The problems of interpreting the first few chapters of Genesis are well known, and as far as I can see there is no definition or standing resolution. Gen 1 is probably one of the most analyzed and talked out Sacred Texts in history. I've done a lot of research over the years and a lot could be said. But I always like this quote from Jaki:

          As will be seen, the subsequent grappling of the theologians and exegetes with this task did not improve a bit on the dismal picture that had emerged from their previous efforts. No one at that moment painted that picture more realistically than F. Hummelauer, Jesuit professor of Old Testament exegesis at the Gregorianum, who helped the Pope in drafting that Encyclical: “In the end, what is left of so many systems of explanation? Diluviansim is guilty of ignoring the geological evidence; restitutionsim, whose aim it was to satisfy the geologists, is rejected by them; periodism does violence to the text, poetism to the context, mythism to the idea of revelation, whereas idealism is destroyed by its own instrinsic absurdity. All is darkness and chaos, when let light come forth at long last!” (From Genesis 1 Through the Ages by Stanley Jaki p. 238-239; internal Hummelauer quote from Commentarisus in Genesim p. 68)

          So what is everyone's interpretation of the Light-Event (Gen1:3) as I like to call it?

          • Mike

            Ouch, Its too early for my brain to deal with this, I think it's broken. I'm obviously not as familiar with the text you reference above. In all serious I'm not understanding your point, and its unclear to me what you are driving after.

            Why don't I tell you how I view the early chapters of Genesis, and you tell me where I'm going wrong?

            The take away message I get from Genesis is that God is the source of all creation, that God's creation is good, and that humans are made in the "image and likeness of God". I'm not concerned with mechanistic details of how the creation happened (once again the framework necessary to probe the mechanistic details emerged millenia after Genesis was written). I do think that the overall message as stated above is important. Also, I seem to remember JPII stating something similar at some point while he was Pope. I'm too busy at work to find the exact reference but it sounds familiar.

          • Nicholas Hesed

            no that is fine. And your interpretation is fine but I think its a bit too general.

            Basically I'm driving to get people interested again.

            I think this Text has a clear and powerful meaning intended by God and the sacred author waiting to be unleashed. Similar with Gen 2 & 3. And there are a lot of implications. Its not as simple as it may seem. I assume that Gen 1, 2, & 3 are prophecies, what I call postdictions: descriptions of past events without error. And I don't deny evolution and all that. In fact I think its a great challenge.

            But I do reject Darwin's single prototype idea. Its doesn't make any sense to me. And I have a pretty radical interpretation of Adam and Eve. But basically I just want to get people stimulated and thinking again.

  • Aldo Elmnight

    The secular wolrd always seek caricatures of Chritianity to represent all of Christiantity: "Look at those Westboro Baptist people, aren't Christians crazy?"
    This debate is par for the secular course. Having a Spitzer or even Thomas E. Woods would be a more accurate and useful debate.

    • Anton

      You have a point.

      The Ken Ham brand of anti-evolutionism is ostensibly well-meaning crackpottery, and so overtly Bible-based that it has no chance of making it into public school curricula. The Intelligent Design construct, though still vague and of questionable scientific value, purports to be a valid scientific theory and doesn't have the religious trappings that would automatically exclude it from public education courses.

      Biologist Ken Miller (author of Finding Darwin's God) and philosopher of science Robert Pennock (author of Tower of Babel) have both engaged with the Intelligent Design claims and demonstrated the weakness of the construct. They realize that the old school creationist model has been superseded by a much more sophisticated and tech-savvy brand of pseudoscience.

  • DarcyMarais

    I must fundamentally disagree with Stacy here: Ham presented no points of value.

  • David Nickol

    Here's a thought. It has been argued, not unreasonable (from a religious point of view, I think) that the "dark passages" in the Bible are at least partially explained by the fact that God was ever so slowly leading his Chosen People to an understanding of right from wrong. And yet Catholicism teaches that two human beings, long before Abraham or Saul or David, committed an offense that resulted in the "fall" of the entire human race. At what level of moral development were "our first parents"?

    I anticipate that some will say they were at a very high level of moral development, because they had preternatural gifts from God. But in the story we read in Genesis, the preternaturally gifted Adam and Eve resemble children, and do not even have the "knowledge of good and evil." And yet it is the behavior of these two that is said to have negatively affected all of humanity (not to mention nature itself, or at least this is sometimes the claim).

    • Hegesippus

      They didn't follow the clear, basic and simple instruction given. No need for a particularly high level of anything. Your point seems to require a high level of moral understanding that you show was probably not there. Ergo, I seem to have the smell of burning straw wafting around.

      • David Nickol

        They didn't follow the clear, basic and simple instruction given.

        Actually, since even the Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges that the story of Adam and Eve is in figurative language, we don't know who "they" are or what they did.

        Your point seems to require a high level of moral understanding that you show was probably not there.

        Bingo!

        According to the idea of the Fall, 7 billion people today are suffering the punishment for the transgression of two people, and every person who ever lived suffered for it as well. It was so momentous that to repair the damage done, God had to become a man and die a terrible death to make up for it. Does it really make sense for all of that to have been the consequence of two individuals with a childlike understanding of morality doing something like disobeying a simple command? Is there any sense at all in the story of Adam and Eve that they are aware they are acting on behalf of everyone who will ever live?

  • David Peters

    Stacy what a wonderful article! I like the Catholic view for sure. The quote from 1909 is awesome.

  • Grtgrandpa

    Time is a function of motion of the stars and planets in their fixed places in the heavens which we can clearly observe. Orion appears in the heavens at the same time in the east every year as an example. This is how time on earth is measured. It seems like the computers of today could simply run time backwards to determine the age of things. The motion of the universe was set into motion by Love (God) who is infinite perfection who moves the sun and the stars like a wheel revolving uniformly.

  • Alden Smith

    Great Article. This is one of the reasons why I be pushed or driven to the Catholic Church. But its going to take me a long time to become one I'm going have to slowly pull myself out of current Church to join the Catholic Church

  • The_Monk

    Where the evolutionist sees random results, the creationist sees carefully crafted and engineered outcomes. Most people don't stop to think through what Einstein was trying to convey in his argument with Neils Bohr and the rest of the quantum mechanics advocates when he asserted that the Old One does not play dice. That un-riddles the entire pot of spaghetti that is the evolution argument, and in a very fundamental way. Randomness is not the event, but simply the stop-motion, instantaneous observation of the event (and it's out of context). But few in any field of science yield the point, and so the battle rages on....

    • David Nickol

      Einstein's statement that God doesn't play dice has nothing to do with evolution. Einstein would not have had a problem with random events (such as mutations) happening in nature. Almost all scientists believe Einstein was wrong about quantum mechanics. It appears God does indeed play dice in the way Einstein said he didn't. (Einstein, by the way, was an atheist, so when he referred to "God," he was basically personifying nature, not talking about a supreme being.) However, if someone should prove Einstein right about quantum mechanics (by, say, finding "hidden variables") that will have no bearing whatsoever on the theory of evolution. You seem to believe there is a connection, but there isn't.

      • The_Monk

        Claiming that evolution is suspended, separated and alone, in the milieux of physical processes is nonsensical. And it doesn't matter how many scientists believe the "randomness" inherent in quantum mechanics is real, they are simply ignoring what randomness is or trying to paper it over.

        Randomness is merely an observational gambit, since all events are results of previous events. Randomness is not a function of reality; it is an investigational aid. We humans prefer to cast an event as 'random' because the equations and number of variables required to reverse-engineer the event are beyond our means of computation, so we contrived the mathematics of statistical analysis to provide us a glimmer of comprehension. But that doesn't change the nature of reality.

        And in quantum mechanics, any given particle knows precisely its spin, its momentum, etc. It is we who can't know, instantaneously, because our measuring equipment is too intrusive, and so we have adopted a nomenclature and methodology, couched in terms of randomness, to cover our lack of definitive means.

        And, in modern parlance, Einstein seems to have been a proper Deist, rather than a baked-into-brick atheist....

        • Michael Murray

          Randomness is merely an observational gambit, since all events are results of previous events. Randomness is not a function of reality; it is an investigational aid. We humans prefer to cast an event as 'random' because the equations and number of variables required to reverse-engineer the event are beyond our means of computation, so we contrived the mathematics of statistical analysis to provide us a glimmer of comprehension. But that doesn't change the nature of reality.

          You are confusing randomness due to variability in a large number of observations or approximating large numbers of variabilities with randomness in quantum systems which is inherent.

          And in quantum mechanics, any given particle knows precisely its spin, its momentum, etc.

          No this is not correct.

          It is we who can't know, instantaneously, because our measuring equipment is too intrusive, and so we have adopted a nomenclature and methodology, couched in terms of randomness, to cover our lack of definitive means.

          No this is wrong. Often people try and explain the uncertainty principle isturbing the measurement. This is not the case. The inability to measure position and momentum at the same time is fundamental. To quote wikipedia:

          The original heuristic argument that such a limit should exist was given by Heisenberg, after whom it is sometimes named the Heisenberg principle. This ascribes the uncertainty in the measurable quantities to the jolt-like disturbance triggered by the act of observation. Though widely repeated in textbooks, this physical argument is now known to be fundamentally misleading.[4][5] While the act of measurement does lead to uncertainty, the loss of precision is less than that predicted by Heisenberg's argument; the formal mathematical result remains valid, however.

          Michael

          • The_Monk

            Since the science is far, far from complete, I'll simply stand by what I say....

        • David Nickol

          Claiming that evolution is suspended, separated and alone, in the milieux of physical processes is nonsensical.

          Are you a determinist? Do you believe that from the moment of the big bang, everything that has happened could, in principle, have been predicted mathematically? That if we could know the exact state of the universe at any given moment, given powerful enough tools, we could calculate what is going to happen from then on? That God, as the ultimate mathematician, can know based on physics (and chemistry) everything that is going to happen next?

          Claiming that evolution is suspended, separated and alone, in the milieux of physical processes is nonsensical.

          Well, I suppose we can think of two kinds of randomness—the truly random and unpredictable in principle, and the for-all-practical-purposes randomness that is actually determined but by so many variables that to mere mortals, it must be dealt with as random. I don't see any problem in thinking of evolution as being in the second category. To the best of my knowledge, Einstein would not have had any problem putting evolution in that category.

          As I understand what you are saying, you are mixing up the two kinds of randomness. Einstein rejected the idea that quantum events were truly random and unpredictable in principle. Few believe he was correct about that, but it really makes no difference for our thinking about evolution. I am no expert here, but I believe it is a matter of debate to this day (and a matter that probably can't be resolved) as to whether evolution falls into the category of truly deterministic or simply so complex that the only way it can be looked at is probabilistically. But if Einstein were proven right about the nature of quantum events, this would not change anything you object to about the theory of evolution.

          Also, Einstein considered human behavior to be deterministic, too. Which means there is no such thing as free will.

          • The_Monk

            You wrote, "...the truly random and unpredictable in principle..." Perhaps you can give an example of such.

            Physical reality can never be reverse-engineered to completion due to the fact that 'will' is at play. For example, if my son and I are playing catch in front of the house, and he throws the ball towards me, I can freely choose either to catch the ball, or to not catch it and let it sail by, crashing through the front window. Once will has been factored in to any physical system, a whole new paradigm is unwrapped.

            Whether Einstein believed human behavior to be deterministic or not is irrelevant to the infusion of free will into humankind's nature....

          • David Nickol

            Perhaps you can give an example of such.

            Before I try, here's something something to keep in mind, from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry for Causal Determinism:

            Causal determinism is, roughly speaking, the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature. The idea is ancient, but first became subject to clarification and mathematical analysis in the eighteenth century. Determinism is deeply connected with our understanding of the physical sciences and their explanatory ambitions, on the one hand, and with our views about human free action on the other. In both of these general areas there is no agreement over whether determinism is true (or even whether it can be known true or false), and what the import for human agency would be in either case. [Emphasis added - DN]

            It is possible that lotto mechanical mix draw machines aren't truly random. It might be possible to take every bit of data about the construction of the machine, and every bit of data about the ping pong balls, and a number of other factors, so that if the precise state of the machine is known when it is turned on and then triggered, a supercomputer (more powerful than anything we have now or perhaps could possibly ever build) could predict the numbers the machine would generate. Even with that possibility, I don't think anyone who buys a lotto ticket would complain that the randomly chosen numbers aren't really random. If they are not truly random in the sense that, given every possible bit of data, they could be predicted, that computation would be so far beyond the ability of any device—even one as large as the universe—to successfully carry out, that they may be called random. I don't think anyone would quarrel with using random to characterize events that are determined but are far beyond being predictable even using all the matter and energy of the universe to calculate them. So evolution might fall into this category, in which what we mean by random mutations are mutations that are determined but far beyond our ability to predict (or even account for in hindsight). It seems to me even the most "devout" determinist would have no problem saying that evolution takes place by random mutations.

            However, it appears to be the case that events on the quantum level, such as radioactive decay, could not even be predicted given all the relevant data and a computer (or other data manipulating device) of unlimited size and complexity, because quantum mechanics is not deterministic. It is not just that quantum events are too complex and there would be too much relevant data needed to compute them. It is that they are probabilistic by their very nature. Given all data about, say, an object made of a million atoms of Iodine-131, you could easily calculate that half of the atoms would have decayed in about 8 days, but given one atom of Iodine-131, no matter how much you know about it, you cannot predict when it will decay. This is not due to lack of knowledge on your part. It is that radioactive decay is not deterministic, but probabilistic. It is not because of a lack of data that most scientists believe that nature is probabilistic at this level. It is not just that scientists just haven't found the factors that determine radioactive decay, so they work with probabilities until the day when they understand better. It is that it appears to have been proven mathematically that no determining factors exist. Einstein spent decades driving quantum physicists nuts coming up with arguments as to why it couldn't be true, but he never succeeded in raising an objection that couldn't be shot down. It was his intuition that told him it wasn't true, and Einstein's intuition is not to be dismissed lightly. But he could never demonstrate that his intuition was true.

          • The_Monk

            Quantum theory and quantum mechanics are far from settled science. The biggest problem with the lack of perceived determinism is that every physical process has to be grounded - foundationally - on the theory, and we can see both at the Newtonian and relativistic levels an exceptionally coherent system. By reduction, we can know then that quantum theory is missing large pieces.

            I'll leave it at that because I have been away from the studies for too long, but even thirty and forty years ago when studying and reviewing the efforts made in the field of quantum theory, I was unconvinced that it was anything more than a stop-gap measure in a larger understanding of the physical realm. Too little is understood of the nature of the fabric of space itself to have a firm grasp of interactions therein.

            But rationally and logically, we can know that any given event is simply a snapshot of some process in an open-ended system (in the continuum). And we can know, through solid experiments, that 'will' is not any type of packaging of randomness. And we can see the massive size of the numbers required for the randomness ascribed to evolution to be anything more than an interesting game. I'll leave it at that.

            Thank you for the thoughtful and courteous discourse, and God bless....

  • http://www.carmelites.net/ James

    It is truly amazing and sad what a big deal the creationism espoused by Ham is and what a stumbling block it is for so many people. I recall speaking with two brothers who left Christianity all together (I believe they were southern baptists) because science contradicted what they had been taught as children. Honestly, if there is a God and a heaven (which I absolutely do believe), I find it hard to believe someone would be there because they believed in creationism. Creationism just comes across as this distracter that is likely to push people away from Christianity and religion all together and highly unlikely to bring anyone into a religion.

  • John_QPublic

    Hitler's cosmology gig is up!
    http://bit.ly/LPX1XE

    • David Nickol

      It looks like the forces of evil—Hitler and all the others who have tried to convince people Copernicus and Galileo were right—are terrified at the prospect of Rick DeLano and Robert Sungenis's forthcoming film, The Principle.

  • John_QPublic

    There is a fourth way. A reasonable literalist view of the Scriptures. Jaki was a liberal, and betrayed earlier literal interpretations of the Scriptures. Many Catholics assume that for instance science has demonstrated that the earth moves around the sun. This has never been demonstrated. Take no opinion, fine, but don't reinterpret the Scriptures in light of today's scientific opinions, which will be overturned tomorrow.

  • Inciteful

    Perhaps the "third way" (as I've come to believe) can be best understood, if "evolution" (science) were accepted as "intelligent design" (Creator).

  • Randall Ward

    It is hard for students to get a real science education because the science lobby has put politics first. No one can question that Darwinism is "the truth".

  • Randall Ward

    The science lobby is out to destroy religion. I am sorry but that is the truth. Evolution is not compatable with Christianity and even more Evolution is a lie. It is a lie because the best science says it is a lie, not because of Christianity. There is no middle ground; if you don't understand that, then your understanding of God is flawed and you think God is too small. Man loves man and until the grace of God through the Holy Spirit gives you eyes to see, you will believe man, which is such a poor thing to believe in, when God is right here with us.
    I recommend the movie "Expelled" to help you open your mind, if not your eyes.

  • Doug Shaver

    Fifty years ago, I was a Pentecostal fundamentalist, convinced of the Bible's inerrancy (and that all Roman Catholics were going to burn in hell). Even so, I came to believe that there was no necessary contradiction between Christianity and a scientific view of life's origins. Not long afterward, I abandoned fundamentalism, but my acceptance of evolution didn't make me do that. I had other issues with that particular variety of Christianity, but I remained a liberal Protestant for several more years.