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Straw Man Scientism

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Scientism

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today's guest post is from atheist blogger Qu Quine who writes at Quine's Queue. Qu is also a frequent commenter here at Strange Notions. After reading this post, be sure to read the reply by Catholic contributor Dr. Chris Baglow: "Scientism vs. Methodological Naturalism: Responding to Qu Quine".


 

As an atheist, I've had to get used to being accused of "Scientism" in my online discussions with religious people. It also came up very early on while walking with my missionary neighbor. It is human nature to want certainty over uncertainty, and this gets projected from people of faith onto us, non-believers. It is a false dichotomy to take our position of wanting to have evidence to support positions accepted as true, as meaning that positions without such must, therefore, be false. No, it is not like that. Ideas without evidence may be true. There is no part of the Scientific Method that says it will eventually result in working out the truth of every idea that is true, and every scientist starts with things that he or she suspects are true in hopes of getting the evidence to back that up.

This misunderstanding leads to the red herring that faith need be invoked to depend on the Scientific Method, but that such depending is ruled out by the Scientific Method. Daniel Dennett ran into that in this discussion and dealt with it there. The Scientific Method is not a property of Nature that we analyze as true or false using the Scientific Method. We use methodological naturalism because we have found it to be useful. We have no proof that there is no better way, we just have not found a better way. The importance of the Scientific Method is that it gives us a way to find out new things about the world that we can depend upon with a bounded uncertainty. That uncertainty gets smaller over time as the self-correcting property of the Method keeps testing what we think we know. This produces knowledge that we can turn over to the developers of technology with reasonable expectations of results that work (such as the screen that you are reading).

The other thing I have had to work on my neighbor about is understanding that most of the power in methodological naturalism is to show what is demonstrably not true. Things that are shown by clear evidence to not be true almost never come back, later, to be shown to have been true all along. Thus when the data from scientific measurements tell us that the Earth is not flat, or that the Sun does not revolve around it, is likely not going to be found mistaken, ever. This tends to give scientists more authority when debunking the untrue with clear counter examples than when they show what they think is true because the search for counter examples has found none (yet).

Sometimes I am pressed by the extreme examples. For example, Science cannot disprove Solipsism or even Last Thursdayism. But if you take these positions you can't go any further. I can't prove that philosophical dead ends are necessarily false; I can't justify the assumption of the existence of the external world, but I live with it because it allows me to get access to thoughts and experiences beyond just myself.

I let my neighbor know that I do expect there are truths that are not yet known to science (that is why there are still jobs for scientists). But we do know many things with near certainty and know a great more about what is not true, with clear certainty. We know the Earth did not form in six days. We know there was no "Adam and Eve" as first humans because the human population (and that of our common ancestors with other apes) was never below a few thousand. We don't know by scientific evidence that Jesus did not rise from the dead, but the need for extraordinary evidence for that level of extraordinary event (against the very definition of "death" itself), together with the problem of false stories coming from the same scriptural sources, causes me to put that in the most probably fictional category until positive evidence can be produced.

These days "Scientism" is used as a pejorative that may be deserved by some who improperly make claims of the Scientific Method beyond its true scope. I am not one of those.
 
 
(Image credit: Fast Company)

Qu Quine

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Qu Quine lives in the San Francisco Bay area where he is semiretired from a long career in the high technology sector of Silicon Valley. That career having interrupted his study of Philosophy from an early age, he now spends much of his time catching up. Follow his blog at Quine's Queue.

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  • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

    Thanks for this thought-provoking article, Qu! I always appreciate your insights. A couple things in reply:

    "It is a false dichotomy to take our position of wanting to have evidence to support positions accepted as true, as meaning that positions without such must, therefore, be false.

    In my experience, those accusing atheists of Scientism don't do so because they demand evidence or because they have faith in science. Both of those things are good in themselves. After all, Catholics demand evidence, too, and are also big fans of science. The reason atheist are accused of Scientism, which is the belief that science is the only source of true knowledge, is because they demand only scientific evidence even when considering non-empirical phenomena.

    I've seen that belief dozens of times here in the comment boxes. Many atheists have said, "Show me the evidence for God." And when I ask, what sort of evidence would you need to determine whether (the immaterial) God exists? The typical reply is something like, "We would need scientific evidence, testable and empirically verifiable." The hidden assumption, of course, is that God's existence cannot be determined through non-scientific means, like through reason, logic, or philosophy. Yet this is an unproven assumption, an unscientific belief that science itself cannot validate.

    "We know there was no "Adam and Eve" as first humans because the human population (and that of our common ancestors with other apes) was never below a few thousand."

    This assertion would, of course, depend on what you believe about "Adam and Eve." The Catholic Church doesn't teach that the entire human race can be traced back to two, and only two, homo sapiens known as "Adam" and "Eve". Instead, she teaches that at some specific point in history, God created the first two humans by infusing their bodies with human souls. Since Catholics maintain that Adam and Eve were the first human beings for this reason, and not necessarily the first homo sapiens, there is no conflict between the Catholic view of human origins and what modern science suggests. More specifically, this article shows why polygenism is perfectly compatible with what the Catholic Church teaches:

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

    Therefore it's wrong to say that "we know there was no 'Adam' and 'Eve'."I ag

    • 42Oolon

      I am one atheist who has never asked for a scientific standard of proof. I would be happy with a civil law legal standard of proof. Give me credible evidence that stands up to cross examination that a judge would accept.

      • Rationalist1

        I agree. Just evidence that is not subjective. When I asked about the efficacy of prayer and maybe that can show it, I was told here that God doesn't answer prayers in that way and people prayer for the wrong things. When I asked about the prayers for the cure of infirmities I was told here that God only cures diseases and not the effects of diseases.

        We look around the world and see billions of sincere people following thousands of different religions and offering the same explanations of why their religion is true.

        It all comes down to people follow a religion because it makes them feel good, gives them a purpose in their lives and in a majority of cases, their parents followed the same religion too.

      • BenS

        I don't think I would. Legal standards of proof are waaaaay below that which scientists expect and I would no more extend the courtesy of lowering my standards for claims about a god than I would for those about homeopathy.

        That's if I want to know the actual truth of the matter. If it's just a question of 'Well, personal revelation convinced me so I'm going to believe in god' then fine, that person is welcome to their beliefs, I don't care. It's when those personal beliefs are to be stuffed into science classrooms, laws discriminating against people et al that I say people should hold their horses and prove their claims.

        • epeeist

          I don't think I would. Legal standards of proof are waaaaay below that which scientists expect and I would no more extend the courtesy of lowering my standards for claims about a god than I would for those about homeopathy.

          It surely depends on the particular domain of discourse. Given a laboratory experiment in physics we can control individual variables very tightly, a high standard of verification is available in this case.

          But what about the case where experiment is not possible and all we have is observation of a population with many confounders, would the same standard of verification be available?

          If you like this is the problem of verisimilitude, a notable problem in the philosophy of science.

          • BenS

            If you like this is the problem of verisimilitude, a notable problem in the philosophy of science.

            I don't think I would have anything further or new to say on the subject that hasn't already been covered by greater minds than I, but I would simply add that the concept of god gets no free passes over, say, the concept of ghosts etc.

            It seems that people are willing to give more leeway to claims of a god than they are to space ponies and 'evidence' that would be rejected if put forward as a proof for space ponies is considered seriously as a proof for god.

            I dislike this.

          • Latitude89

            By equating the concept of God with 'ghost's and 'space ponies', you're demonstrating a misunderstanding of what we mean when we say God. We aren't talking about some powerful man in the sky, a being among beings. We're talking about the transcendental foundation of existence itself. That is what we mean by God when we have philosophical discussions about Him. (Now, that doesn't mean that we can't go on from this initial point to ultimately deduce more details about God's Being/Source of all being- but it only makes sense to start at the beginning when discussing God with a non-believer, as its senseless to discuss the details of something without first coming to a mutual understanding of the reasonable demonstrations for its existence).

            Any serious thinker is aware that there is a difference between discussing the existence of God (understood as a metaphysical source of all being) and mythical creatures like leprechauns, fairies, or the infamous flying spaghetti monster. Those are merely straw man arguments, very often used in a mocking fashion.

            The truly serious and consistent atheist thinkers of ages past understood that God's existence is not a trivial matter by any means, to be mocked or easily dismissed. It is nothing like discussing whether Big Foot exists or not, because Big Foot, if he did in fact exist, is just a being among other beings. God is not like that. Ultimately the question is about the nature and source of existence and being itself. Whether you are a believer in God or not, the discussion merits serious and respectful arguments, not off-hand dismissals with little substance.

          • BenS

            We aren't talking about some powerful man in the sky, a being among beings. We're talking about the transcendental foundation of existence itself.

            Poetic, but utterly devoid of meaning.

            Any serious thinker is aware that there is a difference between discussing the existence of God (understood as a metaphysical source of all being) and mythical creatures like leprechauns, fairies, or the infamous flying spaghetti monster.

            By 'serious thinkers' you mean 'serious theist thinkers'. Well, obviously they attempt to frame god as something different, they don't like to think they have the same evidential support as space ponies. What they do, is retreat behind word salad and poetry... utterly devoid of meaning.

            The truly serious and consistent atheist thinkers of ages past understood that God's existence is not a trivial matter by any means, tobe mocked or easily dismissed.

            Largely because they could be set on fire for mocking it. Fortunately, most of us live in more sensible climes, where mocking and easily dismissing things that are easily mocked and dismissed no longer carries serious repercussions because the church is largely toothless these days. Hence, people are much more vocal about it.

            Whether you are a believer in God or not, the discussion merits serious and respectful arguments, not off-hand dismissals with little substance.

            You've given absolutely no reason beliefs in god merit serious and respectful discussions because you have provided absolutely no substance (evidence) that such a thing exists. Your comment fails on the find / replace test. I could post your entire comment right back at you with 'god' replaced with 'bleb' and it would have precisely the same content. Except my bleb is better than your god and you can't prove it isn't.

          • Latitude89

            "Poetic, but utterly devoid of meaning."

            How is this devoid of meaning? You merely dismissed what I said without actually responding to it. Also, I was hardly trying to be poetic- my poetry is crap!

            "By 'serious thinkers' you mean 'serious theist thinkers'."

            No, I meant what I said: all serious thinkers, be they theists or atheists. You don't have to agree that an idea is true to see that it's worthy of discussion. For example, one could either agree or disagree with premises like "the universe we experience is real" or "nature is intelligible" or "humans have free will," but no one would argue that these matters are unimportant or that their truth/falsehood don't matter.

            "Largely because they could be set on fire for mocking it."

            Haha, okay. That is probably true. However, here I really meant thinkers like Nietzsche, Camus and Sartre who understood that recognizing the non-existence of God is an utterly earth-capsizing event that requires a fundamental redefinition of human existence. They were aware that most atheists laugh off the concept of God without actually considering what this means or what the consequences are of a world without objective purpose or truth. The existence or non-existence of God isn't something they scoffed at.

            "You've given absolutely no reason beliefs in god merit serious and respectful discussions because you have provided absolutely no substance (evidence) that such a thing exists. Your comment fails on the find / replace test. I could post your entire comment right back at you with 'god' replaced with 'bleb' and it would have precisely the same content. Except my bleb is better than your god and you can't prove it isn't."

            You're proving the point of my initial post here. You're asking for proof of God as if 'God' is a being among beings. What we're talking about is the foundation of reality, or the being that is the source of all beings. "God" is the word we generally use to describe the source of all being, but we can instead use 'bleb' if that would get you to actually address the point.

          • Max Driffill

            Latitude,
            This simply isn't true what you say about serious thinkers. Betrand Russell famously compared the idea of gods (and explained the burden of proof in the by) by utilizing the idea of a teapot orbiting around some suitably distant body. Its the same type of problem.

            And your last point: You're proving the point of my initial post here. You're asking for proof of God as if 'God' is a being among beings. What we're talking about is the foundation of reality, or the being that is the source of all beings. "God" is the word we generally use to describe the source of all being, but we can instead use the 'bleb' if that would get you to actually address the point.

            There is simply no reason to take this seriously. But even if we granted it, would say nothing at all about the Christian conception of god or any Christian doctrine.

            But again and I have to stress this, we are not required to take this business about foundation of reality or the rest of it seriously until you can demonstrate, with more than mere stories and reflections on those stories that you are actually discussing a real agent.

          • Latitude89

            "This simply isn't true what you say about serious thinkers. Betrand Russell famously compared the idea of gods (and explained the burden of proof in the by) by utilizing the idea of a teapot orbiting around some suitably distant body. Its the same type of problem."

            I unfortunately haven't read much of Bertrand Russell, though I intend to. However, I have listened to his 'orbiting teapot' analogy, and find it to be lacking- in fact, it's lacking in the very same way that your analogies of ghosts and space ponies are lacking. The existence of an orbiting teapot is not a good analogy to the existence of God. A teapot, regardless of its size, its distance from earth, or the strength of our measuring instruments, is a material object that, in principle, can be discovered and measured empirically by our senses. What we mean by "God" can't, even in principle, be measured by the same method.

            "But even if we granted it, would say nothing at all about the Christian conception of god or any Christian doctrine."

            I agree. I wasn't talking about the Christian conception of God or Christian doctrine. Christians believe that God revealed himself more fully to the world through revelation, but also that God's existence (and some logically deducible characteristics) is accessible in a less personal way to humans by means of reason (through philosophy). When atheists and theists are first discussing the possibility of God's existence, it only makes sense to focus on the metaphysical understanding of God that can be approached by way of reason, our common ground.

            "But again and I have to stress this, we are not required to take this business about foundation of reality or the rest of it seriously until you can demonstrate, with more than mere stories and reflections on those stories that you are actually discussing a real agent."

            I appreciate that at least here you're not using the 'space pony' rhetoric to dismiss me. But when we're discussing whether something is 'real' or not, it seems like maybe you are required to take this 'foundation of reality' business seriously.

          • Max Driffill

            Latitude,

            A couple things.

            Reason isn't our common ground, evidence and repeatability are. We can all reason spectacularly, and directly into error if our reasoning isn't checked by systematic observation. In science we can have competing hypotheses about a phenomena, People working on these different hypotheses are both utterly brilliant, lets say, and yet the hypotheses are mutually exclusive. Now how do we distinguish among these brilliant hypotheses. We cannot do it by philosophy, or metaphysical musings. Because human brains are quite capable of being wrong the only thing we can do is devise tests and experiments to see of these hypotheses. One or both of them can be wrong. But we can't just reason about it and hope we have stumbled on to truth.

            Consider theology, not just Christian theology, there are thousands of deep thoughts about myriad religious ideas. THey all look convincing to people on the inside. And yet there is no reason to assume any of them are right. They could all be wrong. The only way to distinguish would be to test these hypotheses out, which you emphatically say we cannot do?

            To return to the point about space ponies, unicorns and bigfoot. These are only brought up to demonstrate the burden proof. I don't mean to make light of your cherished beliefs, but you share the same burden of proof for you positive claims as do those who believe in bigfoot, or space ponies and the rest of it.

            When atheists and theists are first discussing the possibility of God's existence, it only makes sense to focus on the metaphysical understanding of God that can be approached by way of reason, our common ground.

            There metaphysical understandings of god do not establish the reality of that which they posit. We can approach them via reason, but reason alone cannot help us to establish the fact of theological hypotheticals. They simply cannot. We can entertain premises, but that isn't the same as establishing them as accurately reflecting reality.

            And finally:

            I appreciate that at least here you're not using the 'space pony' rhetoric to dismiss me. But when we're discussing whether something is 'real' or not, it seems like maybe you are required to take this 'foundation of reality' business seriously.

            I'm actually not required to take your assertions about a being that is not any where in evidence seriously. Any more than you are required to take the assertions of Mormons, or Scientologists seriously. You are merely asserting that your god is the foundation of all beings, etc. There isn't any evidence that this is so. It doesn't appear so when looking at nature. And you say your god is invisible to scientific methodology. If this is the case then you can't say anything concrete about such a being. Because there is simply no way for you to know if your ideas were correct.

          • BenS

            How is this devoid of meaning?

            Because it doesn't mean anything.

            You merely dismissed what I said without actually responding to it.

            Because it doesn't mean anything! There's nothing to respond to becuase it's an unevidenced, bald assertion plucked from absolutely nowhere that also means NOTHING. It's just words.

            They were aware that most atheists laugh off the concept of God without actually considering what this means or what the consequences are of a world without objective purpose or truth.

            No-one has ever credibly proven there IS an objective purpose or truth. The world alreadt looks exactly like we'd expect if there weren't so the lack of them is hardly world shattering.

            You're asking for proof of God as if 'God' is a being among beings. What we're talking about is the foundation of reality, or the being that is the source of all beings.

            And what I'M asking for is something to back this up other than word play and hot air. Until you can show that such a thing actually exists and has some effect on the real world it's just a concept and makes absolutely no difference to anything.

            "God" is the word we generally use to describe the source of all being, but we can instead use 'bleb' if that would get you to actually address the point.

            You don't get it. My bleb is better than your god. Your god was merely the source of all being. My bleb is the source of your god (and also cheesecake, which is better than all other cakes).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I did the find/replace test you suggestion for 89's post and the meaning didn't change one little bit. If "bleb" is the being who is the transcendent cause of the universe, than what you call "bleb," we call God.

          • BenS

            If "bleb" is the being who is the transcendent cause of the universe, than what you call "bleb," we call God.

            Except my bleb is not your god because it has other attributes as well that yours doesn't. It's better, for one.

          • severalspeciesof

            Ha, I just wrote pretty much the same thing... guess we're onto something eh? ;-)

            Glen

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If your bleb is better than my God, then my God isn't really God. Yours is.

          • BenS

            Well, I KNOW that. It says it right here in my holy book. So... do you now renounce your catholicism?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. God is the supreme being greater than whom none can be conceived. We would be talking about the same thing.

          • BenS

            No, no, no. Because bleb is even greater than that. Bleb is the supreme being even greater than that which no greater being can be conceived.

          • stanz2reason

            Blasphemy. FSM > Bleb > Christian God.

          • severalspeciesof

            Except Kevin, you forgot this part of BenS comment, which is very important: "Except my bleb is better than your god and you can't prove it isn't."

          • epeeist

            We aren't talking about some powerful man in the sky, a being among beings.

            Fine let's accept that then.

            That is what we mean by God when we have philosophical discussions about Him.

            So what are we talking about?

          • Latitude89

            That's very fair. I do think it's possible to philosophically arrive at the conclusion that the transcendental source of all reality is a "person" (understood not as 'human', but in the sense of a being with the ability and willingness to relate to others), and thus, after logical deduction from first principles, God can be referred to in a "Him"/"Her" fashion by analogy. However, I agree that it is not immediately self-evident that the "transcendental source" is a "Him," and that I was mistaken for presupposing the personhood prematurely in the argument. I sincerely appreciate your correction!

          • Max Driffill

            Latitude89,

            It is exactly like discussing bigfoot and space ponies and ghosts when believers want to make positive claims like "God exists" and then want me consider and be convinced of this claim.

            You can make loads of philosophical assertions about gods, and these can make for interesting discussions. But these assertions themselves don't demonstrate that they have any referent in the universe (or outside it). So as demonstrations of fact or "truth" they fall spectacularly short. We could have vast and fascinating discussions of the Norse gods, but that wouldn't even hint that they existed.

            Any serious thinker is aware that there is a difference between discussing the existence of God (understood as a metaphysical source of all being) and mythical creatures like leprechauns, fairies, or the infamous flying spaghetti monster. Those are merely straw man arguments, very often used in a mocking fashion.

            You are making a factual claim about the nature of the universe are you not? If so then you are not justified in trying to make your asserting your god is unlike other mythical creatures. You have to demonstrate that with some kind of scientific evidence. It isn't strawmaning at all to note that the evidence for the Christian god, is equal to the evidence for any other gods.

            In some ways gods are like string theory, the multiverse hypothesis. These are interesting ideas, and workable models can be made of them, but as yet there is no evidence for the validity of string theory, or the multiverse hypothesis. A crucial difference is that those people who make hypotheses about string theory, or multiverse theory, are not demanding that we take seriously a vast literature on the nature and being of the different universes, or quantum strings and demanding we bow to their revealed authority on the details of these multiverses, held together possibly by quantum strings. They are not, on the basis of these tentative hypotheses trying to arrogate the authority to tell us how to live, or tell us even what to believe about these ideas. Because they are, well highly tentative, speculative even if the math works. It doesn't mean they have hit upon something. Workable models of group selection can be made to work, but it is unclear that the starting conditions for them are ever found in nature.

            Christian theological ideas are not held nearly has speculatively. Though they are vastly less precise and have never demonstrated that they refer to anything real at all. Indeed what any study of mythology seems to reliably show is that the gods exist because humans exist, and our mythologies reflect our wants and needs, and desires and local, parochial concerns.

          • epeeist

            but I would simply add that the concept of god gets no free passes over, say, the concept of ghosts etc.

            Agreed, no free passes at all.

        • 42Oolon

          Sure, but this forum isn't a science classroom, it is about what we personally believe. Theists complain, that we are looking for scientific certainty or consensus. I am not. I would accept Jesus even if he were to reveal himself to me personally. I think the civil law standard makes good sense. This is essentially an objective basis to accept that something is more likely than not to be true. Theists are still miles away in my view.

          • BenS

            Sure, but this forum isn't a science classroom, it is about what we personally believe.

            I made the distinctions clear when I said if we were trying to find the actual truth of the matter. If it's just about what we believe then who gives a monkey's? Any old crap will do if the result (whether someone believes) doesn't matter.

            I would accept Jesus even if he were to reveal himself to me personally.

            But how will you know he's revealed himself to you personally? That's the issue. Even if I got the feeling Jesus HAD revealed himself to me personally, I still wouldn't be happy. I've been on the receiving end of hallucinations before - when I was young, I once heard my sister answer a question I asked only to find out she wasn't in the house at all, she was miles away with Dad. I was both certain that I had heard her voice and knew fully that it couldn't have been her because she wasn't there.

            The most rational explanation isn't that she teleported back to answer me or spoke to me through a quantum tunnel... it's that my brain was playing tricks. Why would Jesus revealing himself to me be different? If it flies in the face of everything that's known and provable, the most likely explanation is not Jesus, it's hallucination.

          • 42Oolon

            Ben, you yourself are using a standard of evidence that is lower than science, and even lower than civil legal standards. You determined that your sister was not there, not by replicated tests put to peer review. That is all I am saying. But of course, there would be more certainty if we have empirical evidence put to the scientific process. Even then, however, we would not be completely certain of the "actual truth".

          • BenS

            Ben, you yourself are using a standard of evidence that is lower than science, and even lower than civil legal standards. You determined that your sister was not there, not by replicated tests put to peer review.

            How do you fathom that? My sister was known to be elsewhere at the time (at an after school event with Dad), she was seen by many people and captured in several photographs. Given the preponderance of reliable evidence that my sister was not there and the slim (but utterly convincing to me) and unreliable evidence that she was (my hearing her voice) the rational approach is to presume she wasn't.

            What you're saying is that you would hear a voice and go 'Oh, Jesus!' just because it felt right to you. That's the worst kind of evidence ever.

          • 42Oolon

            Well aliens have been seen by many witnesses and been photographed too...

            I assumed that you did not conduct a scientific study to establish where your sister was and publish this in a journal. You did not then await for others to look at the same data and publish the same result, controlling for any limitations in your initial study. This would be when science starts to say that we can be confident about a fact.

            What you described is more like how a civil court would assess the evidence. And I agree with you that it is reliable. But when you use words like "actual truth" you open yourself up to setting too high a standard, one that even science would not use.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Well aliens have been seen by many witnesses and been photographed too...

            No they really haven't. You are proving Ben's point.

            A couple of wee girls photographed "real" fairies at the bottom of their garden in a place called Cottingly, and some otherwise sensible folk fell for it...is there "real" fairies?

            "The recognition of their existence will jolt the material twentieth century mind out of its heavy ruts in the mud, and will make it admit that there is a glamour and mystery to life. Having discovered this, the world will not find it so difficult to accept that spiritual message supported by physical facts which has already been put before it." A.C. Doyle.

            One Major John Hall-Edwards, photographer and pioneer of X-ray treatments said...

            "On the evidence I have no hesitation in saying that these photographs could have been "faked". I criticize the attitude of those who declared there is something supernatural in the circumstances attending to the taking of these pictures because, as a medical man, I believe that the inculcation of such absurd ideas into the minds of children will result in later life in manifestations and nervous disorder and mental disturbances."

            No shit Sherlock!!! (pun intended)

            " Public reaction was mixed; some accepted the images as genuine, but others believed they had been faked."

            Yep, you read it right, some people really believed in fairies.

            One educated person said...

            "... the fact that two young girls had not only been able to see fairies, which others had done, but had actually for the first time ever been able to materialise them at a density sufficient for their images to be recorded on a photographic plate, meant that it was possible that the next cycle of evolution was underway."

            But you don't believe in fairies do you? If not, why not?

            The level of probability of something being real, as opposed to being imagined, doesn't solely rely on the most rigorous of scientific investigation. Bayes' Theorem can be employed.

            Ben's sister being with her father was the more rational explanation of all the facts when all were considered, rather than Ben heard her at home. No need for peer reviewed papers on this occasion. Of course anyone is free to posit a plot to put Ben's head away...or just a practical joke was being played, but that hypothesis would need some support too.

          • 42Oolon

            The point is that all we have here is Ben's claim that he has photos of aliens, not the actual photos. Claims of photos are not science, neither are anecdotes.

            Something is accepted as a scientifically proven fact once it is published in a well-respected journal AND been replicated.

            This hasn't happened for Ben's sister or the fairies. If I were to only accept things as "actually true" if they are scientifically proven, I would not be able to accept either claim.

            Theists are complaining that we are setting the standard too high. I think it is fine to require this standard, given the extra-ordinary nature of the claim. I do not require this level of proof. I would accept the same proof as we require in civil law cases.

            What this is really about is calling the theists bluff.

          • epeeist

            Something is accepted as a scientifically proven fact once it is published in a well-respected journal AND been replicated.

            Caloric, a scientific fact or not?

            "Proof" is for logic, mathematics and whisky.

          • Andre Boillot

            Which is weird because initially it was for rum.

          • epeeist

            Which is weird because initially it was for rum.

            You stick to your rum and I'll stick to my Bruichladdich.

          • Andre Boillot

            Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm a whisky man through and through (and the Bruichladdich bottle alone looks amazing). I'm just saying, history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_proof

          • Ignorant Amos

            The point is that all we have here is Ben's claim that he has photos of aliens, not the actual photos.

            Did Ben claim to have photos of aliens?

            Claims of photos are not science,

            Maybe not science, but supporting evidence when verified.

            Anyway, tell that to those studying the CMB.

            "The CMB was later mapped in greater detail by NASA's COBE and WMAP missions. The European Planck mission, launched in 2009, is currently creating the most detailed map yet."

            "On December 20, 2012, the Nine-year WMAP data and related images were released."

            ...neither are anecdotes

            Oh I know...funny thing is, the gospels ARE anecdotes which the theists want to present as facts.

            "An account regarded as unreliable or hearsay"

            Something is accepted as a scientifically proven fact once it is published in a well-respected journal AND been replicated.

            Ah, nope...almost, but no cigar.

            "In the most basic sense, a scientific fact is an objective and verifiable observation, in contrast with a hypothesis or theory, which is intended to explain or interpret facts."

            Peer review via a well respected journal is not a pre-requisite to the hypothesis being rational. Scientific discoveries throughout history should have shown you that. Peer review is okay on its own.

            This hasn't happened for Ben's sister or the fairies. If I were to only accept things as "actually true" if they are scientifically proven, I would not be able to accept either claim.

            Agreed. But it isn't an issue to prove beyond the doubt of Ben's own cognition on the subject of his sisters voice being an illusion.

            As for the Cottingly Fairy tales, it just demonstrates the ability of the cognitive dissonance of even the most respectable in society. A person intelligence is never a marker for their compartmentalization ability when faced with belief in the most ridiculous.

            Ben couldn't give a fiddlers, his point was to demonstrate the frailty of the human mind when it comes to fooling oneself...a multitude of other examples are available.

            Theists are complaining that we are setting the standard too high. I think it is fine to require this standard, given the extra-ordinary nature of the claim.

            While I understand completely where you are coming from, in throwing them this bone, you are granting an undeserved respect to a theses that deserves none. It is a slippery slope.

            I do not require this level of proof. I would accept the same proof as we require in civil law cases.

            Well, given the subject, I would agree with you if it wasn't giving a kind of succor and a sop to a particular subject. But if it works for you, knock yourself out. The result should be the same anyway.

            What this is really about is calling the theists bluff.

            Agreed, but like epeeist said elsewhere, am paraphrasing here, "When we set the bar so high for science, we shouldn't then lay it on the floor for theism to step over"

            Anyway, regards.

          • 42Oolon

            'Maybe not science, but supporting evidence when verified."

            AND THIS IS MY WHOLE POINT! SCIENCE IS NOT THE ONLY STANDARD OF PROOF THAT IS SUPPORTED BY EVIDENCE AND VERIFIED. SCIENCE IS THE HIGHEST SUCH STANDARD.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Science is what one does with the evidence/data collected though. A photo is not science on it's own, it's what one uses the photo for that can be construed as part of the method.

            As you already said, a photo on it's own is not any standard of proof, as evidenced by the Cottingly Fairies. A photo in this day and age is very dubious given the science of photoshop and computer graphics. But a photo that has satisfied all the checks and balances is something else entirely. It has to pass a certain rigor depending on it's usage and context to other data. In Ben's case, he had eyewitness accounts from his a father and the object of the discussion, his sis, that was as far as it was required. But no one is living their lives on the veracity of a delusional message in his head from his sis, so the level of the bar wasn't even relevant.

            What's all that shouting about though?

          • 42Oolon

            Sorry, for the all caps. My only point was that I do not require scientific proof for everything. Not even a god. I think this discussion has been an unhelpful tangent. Probably my fault.

          • Ignorant Amos

            My only point was that I do not require scientific proof for everything.

            Nor me.

            Not even a god.

            Good job, there doesn't appear to be any way of getting it given Gods obscurity. Anything less than scientific evidence I would have to ascribe to an almost infinite number of alternative propositions before the God hypothesis.

            I think this discussion has been an unhelpful tangent.

            I disagree. It is necessary to explore other folks perspectives to advance from ones own ignorance. so thanks.

            Probably my fault.

            Also guilty as charged.

          • BenS

            Are you taking the urine?

            I'm not making specific claims where my sister was at all, I'm simply saying that the chances I heard her voice are extremely slim when the evidence is all against it.

            I'm not stating it's a scientific fact she was anywhere so your continued insistence on trying to frame it that way is beginning to annoy me.

            Let me make it abundantly clear.

            What I am saying is that if you say you would believe in Jesus if he revealed himself to you then the evidence you are accepting is piss poor. You got it now?

      • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

        42Oolon, first, which judge? Yourself? Would you agree that different judges accept different levels of evidence and thus if we are each our own judge, the same would hold true for us, too?

        Second, it seems to me that the classical arguments for God's existence--particularly Aquinas' Five Ways--do hold up to the civil law legal standard of proof. They comprise credible evidence, the premises are all things we observe in our natural world, and thus no judge would reasonably doubt them. And since the conclusions necessarily flow from the premises, they should have no problem concluding that God exists on philosophical grounds.

        • primenumbers

          Except we'd bring in the expert witness of the professional philosopher who would demonstrate the logical flaws in the reasoning behind the Five Ways, and the court would have to go with the expert.

          "They comprise credible evidence" - are arguments evidence now?

          "the premises are all things we observe in our natural world" - that is a statement of faith, not fact. Careful analysis of cosmological arguments notes that they are constructed to hide the desired outcome in the premises. Formally present a cosmological argument (just pick one) and we'll show you where the "slight of hand" occurs.

        • 42Oolon

          No, not me, a common law judge in the western tradition.

          No, I do not think different judges apply different standards of evidence. If they do they are subject to appeal and reversal. They are expected to apply the appropriate standard for the issue, usually either a balance of probabilities or beyond a reasonable doubt. I am asking for the lower threshold.

          I do not agree that a virgin birth or resurrection is something that a civil court judge would accept as reasonable and would expect extensive evidence. Such claims would in fact likely be dismissed before evidence as an abuse of process or failing to specify a claim. This should tell you something about how reasonable these claims are. For example, how far do you think a woman fighting to keep a child from a man claiming to be the father would get, if she asserted that she was a virgin at the time of the birth and that a god was the father? Why should we apply a lower standard of skepticism to the Bible story?

          I am not familiar with Aquinas' "proofs" so I won't comment.

        • Vicq_Ruiz

          Aquinas' five ways - even presuming they would stand up in court - "prove" the existence of an uncaused first cause.

          From my atheist position, proving the existence of such a first cause would be a short step across the sidewalk. Proving that this first cause is personally involved in human existence would be like a foot trek around the world. Proving that the first cause is, in addition, as defined in the Nicene Creed, would be like setting out on a hike to Alpha Centauri.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Vicq, two questions:

            1. So would you then admit to there being a First Cause? If it's just a "short step across the sidewalk", are you willing to take that step?

            2. Are you aware that Thomas Aquinas spends over 100 pages in his Summa Theologica showing how his First Cause demonstration reveals God's specific divine attributes? Have you read those sections of the Summa?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            1 - I can say that I have no reason to rule out a first cause.

            2 - I have read only excerpts from that work. I will put that portion of the Summa on my reading list for the next few weeks.

    • Rationalist1

      You can't be a cafeteria Catholic, polygenesim is not compatrible with Catholic belief.

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

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

      • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

        Rationalist, it's clear that what Pope Pius XII meant by "polygenism" was not the scientific idea that our race emerged from multiple homo sapiens. What he was disputing was the idea that any human beings (as distinct from homo sapiens) could exist after Adam without a soul. This is because by definition, in the Catholic view, all human beings have souls.

        Instead of pulling one quote out of context , I encourage you to actually read the sentences immediately following your excerpt, which give a clear picture of what the Pope meant to reject:

        "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."

        Again, I'll point you to this article which provides a clear and coherent explanation of how the scientific idea of polygenism is not logically or theologically problematic for Catholics:

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

        • Rationalist1

          So God infused the soul into two homo sapiens and then killed off the rest or allowed them to die without procreating or allowed their offspring. Did Adam and Eves children breed with other non souled homo sapiens and if they did non of those they bred with could have any claim to ultimate patrimony?

          It just get so complicated when there is a much easier, simpler, scientifically supported theory rather than the imprecise writings from 2500 years ago.

          • Michael Murray

            It doesn't make clear if god did both muggles and wizards either?

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Rationalist, you refer to a scientifically simpler theory, yet I wonder two things:

            1. What scientific theory proposes to answer how and when human beings developed souls? Science cannot answer this question. The material origins of human beings is a different question than the theological origin of their souls.

            2. Pcae Ockham's Razor, does complexity necessarily invalidate a particular theory? Qu's original post claimed that we *know* Adam and Eve could not exist through science. I explained at least one way that the Catholic view of Adam and Eve exists without conflicting with genetic polygenism. That would seem to disprove Qu's original claim.

          • Rationalist1

            Souls are a religious invention. Science has nothing to say about it except that there is as much evidence for souls as there is for ghosts.

            As to Adam and Eve why do you need to twist your revealed truth to comply with science? Don't you have the courage of your faith and just say it happened as your Church tells you it happened?

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "Science has nothing to say about it except that there is as much evidence for souls as there is for ghosts."

            The first part of your sentence is right: science has nothing to say about whether souls exists and, therefore, should not make any definitive pronouncements.

            But I'm confused about the last part of your sentence. Ghosts, if we understand them the same way, are empirical. If by ghost you mean something like Casper the Ghost then we should be able to see them. Therefore science, being an empirical tool, *does* have something to say about whether ghosts exist.

            It's legitimate to use science to explore things we can see (like ghosts) but not to explore the possibility of immaterial things.

          • BenS

            Ghosts, if we understand them the same way, are empirical. If by ghost you mean something like Casper the Ghost then we should be able to see them.

            Souls are exactly the same in that if they exist, we should be able to test for them. Not necessarily see them, that's being too simplistic, but in the same way we can measure for ghosts by sight, sound, ectoplasm scrapings etc, we should be able to measure for souls by the affect they have on the brain / body or other matter. If they do not affect anything in the real world then why bother saying they exist?

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "Souls are exactly the same in that if they exist, we should be able to test for them."

            I'm very confused by this statement and therefore have three questions in reply:

            1. What do you mean by the word "soul"?

            2. What do you think Catholics mean by the word "soul", if different than your definition?

            3. Why do you believe that if souls exist, they must be testable?

          • BenS

            1) Don't play silly buggers Brandon. YOU're positing the soul, you provide the definition.

            2) See one.

            3) Because if they have ANY effect at all in the real world then we can test for that effect. If they don't affect the real world then they exist only as a concept and therefore, whilst interesting, are useless.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Ben, you suggest we should measure souls "in the same way we can measure for ghosts by sight, sound, ectoplasm scrapings etc".

            But by "soul" Catholics refer to the immaterial essence of man which is, by definition, invisible and inaudible.

            Therefore I can't understand why you think we would be able to detect the soul by measuring sight, sound, etc. That would be a very misguided pursuit.

          • BenS

            But by "soul" Catholics refer to the immaterial essence of man which is, by definition, invisible and inaudible.

            Therefore I can't understand why you think we would be able to detect the soul by measuring sight, sound, etc. That would be a very misguided pursuit.

            I thought it made it perfectly clear with 'extoplasm scrapings' but I can see I'm going to have to spell it out.

            If this 'soul' of yours interacts with the real world then it will have SOME measurable attribute. It HAS to otherwise it isn't interacting with the real world.

            Measure that attribute.

            If it doesn't interact with the real world then it, to all intents and purposes, doesn't exist.

            So, you tell me. Does it interact with the real world or not?

          • Ignorant Amos

            But by "soul" Catholics refer to the immaterial essence of man which is, by definition, invisible and inaudible.

            "[T]he soul is a substance, but an incomplete substance, i.e. it
            has a natural aptitude and exigency for existence in the body, in conjunction with which it makes up the substantial unity of human nature;"

            Substance? Incomplete substance? Natural tendency? Urgent need for existence?

            Surely detectable by empirical methods one would've inferred.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            But by "soul" Catholics refer to the immaterial essence of man which is, by definition, invisible and inaudible.

            It seems to me this is one of those areas where the Catholic Church goes out on a limb, setting up a possible conflict between religion and science. It is true that a spiritual soul could not be detected by taking x-rays, under a microscope, or by measuring electromagnetic radiation. However, there are certain human abilities the Catholic Church attributes only to a spiritual soul. If it can be demonstrated that nonhuman animals have some of those abilities, that those abilities can be created in the lab, or that any one of those abilities can be fully accounted for by a part of the human brain (say, the brain of a dead person), then it sill have to be acknowledged that at minimum, those abilities do not require a soul.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The soul is the form of the body.

            Take away the soul and the body disintegrates.

            Wow!

            This actually happens!

            All the atoms are still there.

            But something has changed; something we can not measure or see under the microscope.

            The rational soul- proper only to humans among observed species- is capable of discovering actually operative principles in nature, and employing those principles to increase in an implicitly measurable way the power of the species to survive.

            This does not exist in animals, as we notice in the case of our nearest genetic relatives- the "96% genetically identical" orangutangs- demonstrably declining to provide us empirical evidence of their ability to produce 96% as good of symphonies, airplanes, or arguments in favor of materialism.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I sympathize with the materialists in this matter. The notion of the soul as the form of the body--whether it is a vegetative, an animal, or a rational soul--can just be equated with "life."

            When a human being dies everything that matters is gone. But whether what has departed has gone into eternity or oblivion is not evident, and the materialist will say plausibly, oblivion.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The simple fact remains:

            Whether we nominatively ascribe "life force", or we nominally ascribe "soul", there exists a certainly-real and physically-determinative entity which preserves the body in its integrity, and this is scientifically observed by the loss of bodily integrity upon its departure.

            This entity cannot be measured or seen under a microscope.

            Which was to be demonstrated.

            Beyond that we depart science and enter the realms of metaphysics and theology.

            Until then, we are entirely within the legitimate operational domain of (Duhemian) science.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            You are arguing that we and our nearest animal relatives differ in kind, not degree. I don't think that has been established beyond a doubt. Two-year-old humans have souls, and they do not write symphonies, build airplanes, or make arguments in favor of materialism. It seems perfectly plausible that human abilities attributed to the soul are present in animals in some kind of rudimentary form. Remember that people with capacities basically identical to our own have been around for about 50,000 years, but symphonies, airplanes, and philosophical arguments are really quite new.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "You are arguing that we and our nearest animal relatives differ in kind, not degree. I don't think that has been established beyond a doubt."

            >> "Beyond a doubt" is not a category of certainty accessible to the scientific method.

            But all scientific evidence is perfectly consistent with the assertion:

            We differ not only in degree, but in kind, from our closest genetic relatives, and the empirical evidence of this is the inability of our nearest genetic relatives to hypothesize and experiment in order to discover and validate universal principles actually operative in nature.

            "Two-year-old humans have souls, and they do not write symphonies, build airplanes, or make arguments in favor of materialism."

            >>But the potential exists for the two year old human to do so, and the potential does not exist for a two year old orangutang to do so; that is, there is a difference of kind, and not degree, in the nature of the orangutang and the nature of the human.

            "It seems perfectly plausible that human abilities attributed to the soul are present in animals in some kind of rudimentary form."

            >> There is no empirical evidence of this, and unanimous empirical evidence to the contrary.

            No symphonies, no airplanes, no arguments for materialism, even in rudimentary form, have ever been observed in any species other than humans.

            "Remember that people with capacities basically identical to our own have been around for about 50,000 years,"

            >> This assertion can be granted for sake of the exchange, but is not in any way experimentally established.

            "but symphonies, airplanes, and philosophical arguments are really quite new."

            >> Just as in the case of the two year old human, the potential exists within human nature to develop these things, just as the potential does not exist in orangutang nature to develop these things.

            This is established on empirical grounds, by the simple act of observation.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Beyond a doubt" is not a category of certainty accessible to the scientific method.

            I'll rephrase: You are arguing that we and our nearest animal relatives differ in kind, not degree. I don't think that has been established. I think there is a very good chance it may not be true. I also don't assume our nearest animal relatives are as close to having human capabilities as it is possible for animals, in theory, to get.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            Not just the Church, but some scientists too. Not all of them think that rational consciousness is emergent from the brain. What you are saying, I think (correct me if I'm wrong), is that if some brain states can be correlated to mind states, then they all can. But that's just not true. How do you even begin to map mind states? If I told you I was furious, you would have no way to prove it. It is an inner thought, I could act furious, but I could be pretending; I could act calm, and be raging mad on the inside. This isn't to say that the mind and brain don't affect each other though (being furious could cause my cheeks to flush). The physicist Brian Pippard had some interesting things to say about this.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            What you are saying, I think (correct me if I'm wrong), is that if some
            brain states can be correlated to mind states, then they all can.

            I am saying, to put it very simply, that if some capability that is now considered to be only a human capability (not something an animal or all the computers in the world connected in parallel could do) is shown to be a capability that an animal has, or that network of computers can have, then it will have to be admitted that that capability can exist on a purely material basis, without the necessity of assuming a spiritual soul.

            If the materialists are correct (and I believe the majority those trying to unravel the mystery of consciousness reject the idea of a spiritual soul), then in principle everything about the mind—whether you are furious or not, despite your visible demeanor—would be a brain state that could be determined from observation. But in actual practice, it might very well be a task that was far too complex.

            I am not asserting consciousness can be accounted for in purely materialistic terms, but I wouldn't rule it out, either. Nobody really knows.

            I have asked what the difference would be between the most "highly evolved" pre-human ancestor and the first true man would have been, and nobody has attempted to answer. But based on what I know of what the Catholic Church imputes to the soul, it seems to me that gap between almost-man and true-man would be something on the order of the gap between humans and chimps. So it seems nonsensical to me that Mike Flynn would suggest interbreeding between almost-humans and "Adam" or his offspring.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            Nobody really knows if our knowledge is limited to science. Catholic theology deduced the soul and its powers from the revelation of the Blessed Trinity. Another topic...

            It's not a scientific question though.

            I have asked what the difference would be between the most "highly evolved" pre-human ancestor and the first true man would have been, and nobody has attempted to answer."

            I think I did, but my answer was a non-answer. I said I don't know, but it's an excellent question. You are right to push it. It's a question that will have to be addressed if anyone accepts the polygenism-but-not-polyhumanism theory because interbreeding is exactly what it will entail. I'm all for discussing it, but we're in no man's land here, so to speak.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            BTW, I'm currently taking a graduate theology course on Evolution and Catholic thought. My professor is a Catholic deacon and an evolutionary biologist. He is open to this theory. It also begs the question about when the soul of Adam was created. At his conception? Some other time?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            >"Catholic theology deduced the soul and its powers from the revelation of the Blessed Trinity."

            The revelation of the Blessed Trinity sheds light on the human soul, but the Church teaches that the existence of an immortal and rational human soul can be known by nature.

            The outline of the argument (not the proof) is that human reason and freedom are in human nature but these powers cannot be reduced to the physical body, so there must be a spiritual soul as part of a human nature.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            Thank you, Kevin.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            No, we are not in no man's land here.

            The Catholic Faith is not some philosophical proposition, to be perfected over time by the investigations of human reason.

            The Catholic faith comes to us from God, as a deposit to be protected.

            Among the dogmatic Truths of that deposit is that the entire human race descends from one original pair.

            Another is that original sin is transmitted to every descendant through that pair.

            The contrary proposals- whether polygenism, or polyhumanism, or non-human humans interbreeding with human humans- are all of them condemned until the end of the world by those who hold the Catholic Faith not as philosophy but as Truth revealed by God.

            Here is a Pope, as opposed to some philosopher, on the question, condemning the proposition:

            "Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to continuous and indefinite progress of human reason."

            Here is a Council, a Dogmatic Constitution of the Church:

            "For, the doctrine of the faith which God revealed has not been handed down as a philosophic invention to the human mind to be perfected, but has been entrusted as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ, to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted. Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be a recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding."

            The Church may indeed be much smaller than appearances might suggest, but the gates of Hell shall not prevail against Her.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            And the recent popes admit it a possible theory. No Catholic is forbidden to explore the question as long as it doesn't contradict dogma.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It does contradict dogma, no Catholic has ever been allowed to admit polygenism as a possible theory, nor could they ever be allowed to do so, since polygenism is an heresy, a direct denial of the dogma of original sin.

            I challenge you to provide a magisterial teaching that reverses and sets aside Humani Generis, which explicitly states, as an authentic exercise of the disciplinary power ofm the Apostolic See:

            "7. 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."

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            See #36 of that same document.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            It depends on what polygenism means. If it only refers to material genetics, it does not contradict dogma. If it refers to the human person, body and soul, it does.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            A human being is a composite of a body and a soul.

            There are no human bodies without human souls.

            This is also infallibly defined dogma.

            There are no exceptions to this.

            Therefore, it is heresy, always, to deny the dogma of original sin by proposing polygenism.

            Full stop.

          • Corylus

            There are no human bodies without human souls.

            Fascinating.

            Does a human body with tetragametic chimerism (a squished together twin) possess one soul or two? Accordingly to your viewpoint I would assume this person had two at at least one point.

            Does the liver have one soul and a kidney another? Do they both go to hell if one part commits a mortal sin?

            Doesn't seem fair... or is it instead possible that there exists a body without a soul, residing within?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Either:

            1. There were two souls and two bodies, one of which departed when the absorbed body died, or

            2. There was always one body, the foreseen outcome of a merger between genetic material contributed by two ova.

          • Corylus

            1. There were two souls and two bodies, one of which departed when the absorbed body died,

            Which one? If they are unlucky enough to be a hermaphrodite do they have a male soul or a female one?

            ....or ....

            2. There was always one body, the foreseen outcome of a merger between genetic material contributed by two ova.

            That would be two fertilized ova (by definition).

            I must say, Rick, it is good to see you consider the possibility that ensoulment does not occur instantaneously when sperm meets egg.

            Progress.

          • Corylus

            Note to moderators: apologies if the above seems off thread.

            However, I am making a point here in that; while scientism is indeed something that makes no sense; it can be demonstrated that scientific inquiry often shows us scenarios that dogma would not have allowed us to consider as possible.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            To the contrary- the exchange instead demonstrates the moral superiority of thinking like a Catholic, even in those rare and uncommon cases where dogmatic definitions, or the infallibility of the ordinary magisterium, cannot supply us with conclusive and immediate direction.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It is not a dogma of the Catholic Faith that ensoulment occurs instantaneously when sperm meets egg.

            I am always willing to progress- just so long as I do not trade in the Truth for the philosophical speculations of human reason :-)

            Since we do not have the benefit of a dogmatic definition- theological Truth, utterly certain and reliable in a way no philosophical truth can be, and certainly no scientific theory could ever possibly be- we are left with a moral choice, based on the fact that, if allowed to develop normally, a fertilized ova will self-develop, and a human being will pass through all of its developmental stages.

            To willfully disintegrate that process, on any grounds whatsoever, constitutes an act of premeditated murder.

            See how easy that was?

            Evil will be avoided, and good will be done, the instant such sound Catholic reasoning replaces the indescribable evil of atheism.

            Over half a billion murders would have been avoided, had the civilization listened to the Popes, instead of the atheists.

            This makes Stalin Mao and Hitler combined look like small potatoes.

          • Corylus

            It is not a dogma of the Catholic Faith that ensoulment occurs instantaneously when sperm meets egg.

            Well that is nice, but don't think I didn't notice you avoid the hermaphrodite question.

            I am always willing to progress- just so long as I do not trade in the Truth for the philosophical speculations of human reason :-)

            No analytic truths for you I see. I'm getting why you don't like Kant.

            Since we do not have the benefit of a dogmatic definition- theological Truth, utterly certain and reliable in a way no philosophical truth can be, and certainly no scientific theory could ever possibly be- we are left with a moral choice, based on the fact that, if allowed to develop normally, a fertilized ova will self-develop, and a human being will pass through all of its developmental stages.

            To willfully disintegrate that process, on any grounds whatsoever, constitutes an act of premeditated murder.

            To not 'disintegrate' that process can itself be an act of premeditated murder. Clue: ectopic pregnancy.

            Rick, each time you make a 'no exceptions' or 'on any grounds' statement you set yourself up with weak point.

            Making these statements may make you feel calm, but the resulting vulnerability isn't worth it.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Well that is nice, but don't think I didn't notice you avoid the hermaphrodite question."

            >> I see no evidence of an hermaphroditic question ever having been asked. Ask it and I will essay an answer, perhaps :-)

            "No analytic truths for you I see."

            >> Quite to the contrary. Analytic truths are wonderful, insofar as they pertain to matters susceptible of analysis.

            The moment of ensoulment is not one of these.

            "I'm getting why you don't like Kant."

            >> Only just now?

            "To not 'disintegrate' that process can itself be an act of premeditated murder. Clue: ectopic pregnancy."

            >> Ectopic pregnancies can be treated in accordance with sound Catholic principles. Most of these pregnancies resolve naturally. Those that do not, can be addressed so long as the death of the child is not the willed intention of the procedure.

            If the death of the child is directly willed, then that is of course murder.

            "Rick, each time you make a 'no exceptions' or 'on any grounds' statement you set yourself up with weak point."

            >> To the contrary. Every time anyone allows an exception to the absolute prohibition against murder, half a million dead babies is a perfectly lawful and predictable outcome.

            Every time anyone adheres with good faith and free will to the absolute prohibition against murder, half a billion babies get to live and the extremely rare and difficult challenges such as ectopic pregnancies can be resolved without adopting the moral code justifying wholesale slaughter of children in the womb.

            "Making these statements may make you feel calm, but the resulting vulnerability isn't worth it."

            >> To the contrary.

            "He who endures to the end shall be saved".

          • Corylus

            >> I see no evidence of an hermaphroditic question ever having been asked. Ask it and I will essay an answer, perhaps :-)

            I asked you if a hermaphrodite (occurring as a result of chimerism) had a female soul or a male one.

            Ectopic pregnancies can be treated in accordance with sound Catholic principles. Most of these pregnancies resolve naturally.

            Hmm. Remind me never to employ you as my obstetrician.

            Those that do not, can be addressed so long as the death of the child is not the willed intention of the procedure.

            If the death of the child is directly willed, then that is of course murder.

            That being the case the prevention of ectopic pregnancies would also be the prevention of opportunities/temptations to commit murder would it not?

            Fun fact: safe sex can help with this.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "I asked you if a hermaphrodite (occurring as a result of chimerism) had a female soul or a male one."

            >> That would depend upon whether the hermaphrodite (occurring as a result of chimerism) had a male body or a female body.

            "That being the case the prevention of ectopic pregnancies would also be the prevention of opportunities/temptations to commit murder would it not?"

            >> You can establish in advance whether a given pregnancy will be ectopic?

            I didn't think so.

            "Fun fact: safe sex can help with this."

            >> Your link suggests cessation of smoking and avoidance of STD's.

            It does not seem to follow that sterile sex is required to achieve either outcome.

          • Corylus
            "I asked you if a hermaphrodite (occurring as a result of chimerism) had a female soul or a male one."

            That would depend upon whether the hermaphrodite (occurring as a result of chimerism) had a male body or a female body.

            And we have yet another avoidance.

            You can establish in advance whether a given pregnancy will be ectopic?

            I didn't think so.

            Rick, you can establish risk factors. This is why looking at both necessary and sufficient causation is rather a big thing in health research.

            Your link suggests cessation of smoking and avoidance of STD's.

            It does not seem to follow that sterile sex is required to achieve either outcome.

            Don't be a silly sausage, I am talking about a cluster of risk factors. Of course, you can say that you find some risk reductions strategies against your moral code: what you cannot deny is their efficacy.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It is certainly the case that risk factors can be adduced in every possible pregnancy.

            What is devoutly to be wished, is that no one should ever be so catastrophically mush-minded as to suggest that pregnancies are therefore to be avoided or terminated in advance.

            God has decreed that each and every human life is precious, and each and every conjugal act is ordered to the possibility of the generation of another of the greatest of this universe's miracles:

            A human life.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Evil will be avoided, and good will be done, the instant such sound Catholic reasoning replaces the indescribable evil of atheism.

            Eugenio Pacelli anyone?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Polygenism means polygenism.

            It means the human race descends from more than one original breeding pair.

            It does not mean anything else than that.

            So long as words can be asserted to mean something other than they mean, polygenism is not heresy.

            So long as words mean what they mean, polygenism is heresy.

            Full stop.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            It means the human race descends from more than one original breeding pair.

            Actually, in the "real world," it means that the different races have different origins, and so black people and white people (for example) would not share a common ancestry no matter how far back one looked. But when Pius XII speaks of polygenism, he is contrasting it with monogenism, which is the belief that two human individuals are the parents of the entire living human population.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            Then call it something else. Did you read #36 of Humani Generis?

            "For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God."

            Discussing this theory doesn't violate any magisterial teaching.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Then call it something else".

            Oh my. Nominalism on steroids. We shall avoid incurring the sin of heresy, if we call our heresy something else.

            Remarkable.

            Next you quote the passage dealing with evolution, and suggest that it pertains to the section discussing polygenism, which it doesn't.

            Here is what the section on polygenism says:

            "37. 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."

            But of course I agree that just so long as we choose to ascribe different meanings to the words, the problem certainly vanishes altogether, and everything is allowed, in just the sense that your proposed solution above suggests.

            Wow.

            I sincerely hope your teachers are not actually teaching you this balderdash.

            But it would seem plausible that they are.

            You didn't used to sound like this.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            Are you calling Pope Benedict XVI a heretic then?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I have asked already for the magisterial teaching proceeding from any Pope which sets aside, reverses, or contradicts Humani Generis #37.

            Do you suggest you possess it in some exercise of the Apostolic Authority by Pope Benedict?

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            The theory we were discussing does not violate magisterial teaching, it doesn't violate HG. It is licit to explore questions about a population of "humanoids" (to use Benedict's and the ICL's language) with only one body having a soul and that in no way violates magisterial teaching because the "humanoids" would not be "true men" which is the context Pope Pius XII uses polygenism in. If that theory said the humanoid population all had souls, then they would all be true men, but it doesn't say that. It says bodies evolved.

            Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II both thought it was licit to explore this question. Are you calling them heretics?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Excuse me, I desire to see the magisterial act which reverses, sets aside, or contradicts Humani Generis #37.

            If you mean to suggest that a document of the International Theological Commission does this, may I insist it does not.

            If you mean to insist that the term "humanoids" has ever appeared in any magisterial document of the Holy Catholic Church, may I insist that, to the very best of my knowledge, it does not.

            Therefore, Catholics who take the Church's magisterial acts of binding and loosing seriously, will recognize in Humani Generis #37 precisely what they will not recognize in the speculations of the International Theological Commission; that is, the authentic voice of the Holy Catholic Church, which will never, by heaven's decree, contradict or pervert the dogmatic definitions of our Holy Faith.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            See Section 63.

            http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20040723_communion-stewardship_en.html

            This is not a magisterial document, it is opinion. Neither is it heretical to explore that question because it does not violate HG or magisterial teaching.

            For the third time, are you calling our popes heretics?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            1. Since heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some doctrine which must be believed with divine and Catholic Faith; and since

            2. You have provided not the slightest evidence of any magisterial teaching of any Pope, including Pope Benedict, denying the dogma of original sin, and since

            3. You have provided not the slightest evidence of any magisterial teaching of any Pope, including Pope Benedict, allowing polygenism, and since

            4. The failure to produce this evidence constitutes, for purposes of this exchange, an admission that it cannot be found, then:

            1. No heresy can be imputed, since no denial of the Faith has been shown to exist.

            2. The answer to your question, therefore, is "no".

            3. Popes are not similarly heaven-protected in their prudential decisions; these are not acts of binding and loosing.

            4. To the extent that the prudential governance of any Pope can be seen to have contributed to, or failed to sufficiently resist the spread within the Church of unorthodox, unsound, or heretical doctrines, then the result will predictably be seen in a spread of such doctrines through the Church.

            5. The spread of gravely erroneous, heterodox, and even explicitly heretical doctrines within the Church has manifestly increased dramatically in the modern era, and especially since the Council.

            So I do accuse the Popes of failing to sufficiently resist the spread of the unorthodox, unsound, and even, in some formulations, heretical doctrine of polygenism.

            May God deliver the Church from this present awful disaster and restore Her to unity in Truth.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Rick--question for you: Has the Catholic Church ever taught that there was a way for a human person to "inherit" original sin through a means other than "natural generation"?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Propagation is the dogmatically defined means for the transmission of Adam's sin to all his descendants- that is, to all human beings.

            I can get you a reference if you require it.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Then can you please explain how *Eve* (obviously a human being) experienced original sin and its effects to her nature *without* having been a naturally generated or "propagated" descendant of Adam???
            You are completely correct that original sin is the sin of *Adam* (not Eve), for the Council of Trent clearly teaches that it is *Adam* who was given the gift of sanctifying grace lost through original sin, not Eve....
            So, how was original sin transmitted to *Eve*??

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Then can you please explain how *Eve* (obviously a human being) experienced original sin and its effects to her nature *without* having been a naturally generated or "propagated" descendant of Adam??? "

            >> I am afraid you have failed to correctly understand Revelation concerning Eve's participation in original sin:

            1 Timothy 2:

            "For Adam was first formed; then Eve. [14] And Adam was not seduced; but the woman being seduced, was in the transgression."

            Your assertion that Eve did not sin is false.

            I challenge you to provide any magisterial teaching which states that Adam only, and not Eve, sinned.

            Over to you.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Yes, of *course* Eve sinned. But that's not the point. Her *personal* sin is not the sin of Adam and is not the "trigger" for original sin--Adam's sin is, for it is in *Adam's* sin that the gift of sanctifying grace intended by God for all humankind is lost--this is from Trent.
            So can you please explain how "original sin" is "transmitted" to Eve if the *only* way it's transmitted is through natural generation? (You do agree that Eve experienced all the effects of original sin, too, right?)

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Yes, of *course* Eve sinned. But that's not the point."

            >> It is the exact point.

            "Her *personal* sin is not the sin of Adam and is not the "trigger" for original sin--Adam's sin is, for it is in *Adam's* sin that the gift of sanctifying grace intended by God for all humankind is lost--this is from Trent."

            >> And Adam's sin is transmitted by propagation, which, if you will notice, necessarily involves Eve, and which, if you will notice, involves an Eve who had committed original sin.

            "So can you please explain how "original sin" is "transmitted" to Eve"

            >> It is not transmitted to Eve. It is committed by Eve.

            "if the *only* way it's transmitted is through natural generation? (You do agree that Eve experienced all the effects of original sin, too, right?)"

            >> Eve experienced the effect of original sin by action- just as Adam did.

            Original sin is not "transmitted" to either Adam *or* Eve, obviously, since they themselves were not propagated, but instead directly created.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Eve's *personal* sin had personal consequences--the deprivation of original holiness and justice. But my point remains: it is through *Adam* that the human race--including Eve--loses access to the grace God had pre-gifted to all humankind. Eve finds herself subject to the consequences of original sin--and not because she's a natural child of Adam.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Eve's *personal* sin had personal consequences--the deprivation of original holiness and justice."

            >> Agreed.

            "But my point remains: it is through *Adam* that the human race--including Eve--loses access to the grace God had pre-gifted to all humankind."

            >> Completely false. Eve sins first, then Adam. Eve does not contract the deprivation of access to grace through propagation, but through direct action.

            "Eve finds herself subject to the consequences of original sin--and not because she's a natural child of Adam."

            >> Obviously. Because Eve actually sins.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Let me offer a few things to think about regarding this. "Natural generation" or "propagation" is the phrase or expression used by the Church historically regarding the transmission of original sin *not* because this transmission is tied *directly* to anything "material" like marital relations, physical conception, pregnancy, or birth. Rather, this phrase is *necessarily* tied to something else Pius mentions--the *immediate* creation of the soul by God--when?--we don't know for sure, but most likely at conception, right?

            Original sin--this *absence* of grace--is the very condition God Himself creates each soul "immediately" into...it is the condition resulting from what Adam *personally* (not Eve) lost for us. Which is precisely why it was lost for Eve as well, despite Eve not being a descendant of Adam through natural generation.
            That's the whole point. It's not the "biological" component that drives original sin--it's the ancient loss of grace as the condition under which God continues to this day to immediately create human souls at conception...
            But wait--what if "conception" isn't a result of "natural generation" or "propagation"? Cloning? In Vitro? An in vitro baby has a soul, created immediately by God under the yoke or condition of original sin, yet it's hardly "propagation" as envisioned by the Church Fathers (or probably Pius XII!).
            Bottom line--is there a way to consider how to preserve the "material" human bond represented by the phrase "natural generation" as well as the "spiritual condition" every human soul (except Jesus' and Mary's) is immediately created in--original sin? A way that preserves Pius' intent in Humani Generis and helps more clearly reconcile faith and science on this question?
            Yes, I think there is.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Let me offer a few things to think about regarding this. "Natural generation" or "propagation" is the phrase or expression used by the Church historically regarding the transmission of original sin *not* because this transmission is tied *directly* to anything "material" like marital relations, physical conception, pregnancy, or birth."

            >> False. Propagation means propagation. Human beings are not propagated apart from propagation. Human beings are not propagated apart from material means including marital relations, physical conception, pregnancy and birth.

            "Rather, this phrase is *necessarily* tied to something else"

            >> To the contrary. It is tied to nothing else. Original sin is transmitted by propagation. When humans propagate, it involves all of the following things:

            1. Physical conception

            2. Pregnancy

            3. Birth

            No human being is propagated apart from these things.

            "Pius mentions--the *immediate* creation of the soul by God--when?--we don't know for sure, but most likely at conception, right?"

            >> Original sin is not transmitted by ensoulment. It is transmitted by propagation.

            "Original sin--this *absence* of grace--is the very condition God Himself creates each soul "immediately" into...

            >> The soul is not created in original sin, God forbid. The soul contracts original sin as a consequence of its unity with a body, in a person who has been propagated as a descendant of Adam.

            Original sin is transmitted by propagation, not by ensoulment.

            "it is the condition resulting from what Adam *personally* (not Eve) lost for us."

            >> We are descended, by propagation, from both. The Church refers to this propagation as the transmission of Adam's sin, which it is, but the propagation involves propagation through Eve, who also sinned.

            "Which is precisely why it was lost for Eve as well,"

            >> False. Eve did not receive original sin by propagation, but by direct action.

            "despite Eve not being a descendant of Adam through natural generation."

            >> Which is why Eve does not receive original sin by propagation, but by direct action.

            "That's the whole point."

            >> It sure is.
            " It's not the "biological" component that drives original sin--it's the ancient loss of grace as the condition under which God continues to this day to immediately create human souls at conception..."

            >> God forbid that the heresy that God creates sinful souls should ever be acquiesced in by any Catholic.

            This is blasphemy.

            "But wait--what if "conception" isn't a result of "natural generation" or "propagation"?"

            >> There is no possible means of generating a human being that does not involve the transmission of Adam's sin through propagation.

            "Cloning?"

            >> Involves physical conception by other means, but still from the flesh of Adam.

            " In Vitro?"

            >> Involves physical conception by other means, but still from the flesh of Adam.

            "An in vitro baby has a soul, created immediately by God"

            >> God forbid that any Catholic should ever believe God creates a soul in a state of sin. Original sin is transmitted by propagation, not by ensoulment.

            " under the yoke or condition of original sin, yet it's hardly "propagation" as envisioned by the Church Fathers (or probably Pius XII!)."

            >> It is certainly propagation, and it is irrelevant whether the techniques were "foreseen" or not.

            All human beings are propagated by physical conception of the seed of Adam.

            All human beings are involved in Adam's since by propagation.

            "Bottom line--is there a way to consider how to preserve the "material" human bond represented by the phrase "natural generation" as well as the "spiritual condition" every human soul (except Jesus' and Mary's) is immediately created in--original sin?

            >> God forbid that any Catholic should ever believe that God creates souls in original sin.

            Original Sin is transmitted by propagation, not by ensoulment.

            "A way that preserves Pius' intent in Humani Generis and helps more clearly reconcile faith and science on this question?
            Yes, I think there is."

            >> You think a great many very strange things.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            CCC 404--***By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed"--a state and not an act.***
            Original sin is the "fallen *state*".
            Propagation is the transmission of a human nature.
            Human nature necessarily includes the human soul immediately created by God.
            The remedy for original sin--baptism--is a remedy for the *soul*.
            Therefore original sin is an ailment of the soul even moreso than it is of the body...
            God doesn't create a "sinful" soul--He creates a soul already and immediately deprived of the sacramental grace (His gratuitous gift to us) that is restored at Baptism.
            Take a look at the CCC on original sin--it may help you understand the point that I've made, which I stand by, that the dogma regarding original sin and its "transmission" as the fallen state of human nature can be preserved intact even while pondering how God began the human race via pre-existent forms...

          • Ignorant Amos

            1 Timothy 2:

            "For Adam was first formed; then Eve. [14] And Adam was not seduced; but the woman being seduced, was in the transgression."

            Yes, but who wrote the Pastoral epistles Rick?

          • Max Driffill

            Zeus?

          • severalspeciesof

            Propagation is the dogmatically defined means for the transmission of
            Adam's sin to all his descendants- that is, to all human beings.

            So then Mary was not a human being?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Mary, as the Catholic Church dogmatically teaches, was miraculously preserved from original sin, by a special intervention of God.

          • severalspeciesof

            in other words, you were wrong to say "all human beings"...

            But this brings up a question: Why hasn't god preserved everyone from 'original sin'? It's a serious question...

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Because it were impossible for Him to do so.

            Only Christ could remove the consequences of Adam's sin, and Christ needed to be born of a woman.

            That woman was selected from all eternity to bear the Saviour, and she was preserved for the purpose of bearing Him.

          • severalspeciesof

            Because it were impossible for Him to do so.

            It would seem then, you have just now preached a heretical statement, since god's omnipotence is a dogma of the church... (It is not an illogical situation to have more than one person conceived free from 'original sin')

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            God's omnipotence extends to respecting the free will of His rational creatures.

            It is not in the slightest illogical to have exactly one person conceived free from sin- that would be the Mother of the Redeemer.

            All the rest of us are, under that circumstance, provided the means to be freed from original sin, exactly as God's omnipotence decrees, and exactly as God's omniscience foresees.

          • severalspeciesof

            It is not in the slightest illogical to have exactly one person conceived free from sin

            I never said as much, please re-read what I wrote. I'll let you figure it out...

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Happy Fourth, then!

            There is nothing inconsistent with God's omnipotence, in selecting a means of salvation that respects the free will of His creatures, and allows for the definitive separation of the just from the unjust at the Judgement, to have been the result of the free choice of those creatures.

          • severalspeciesof

            OK, one more time.

            You made this statement: "Because it were impossible for Him to do so." in response to my question: "Why hasn't god preserved everyone from 'original sin'?"

            Now I'm assuming that you have in mind that the idea of 'transmission of original sin' is somehow tied in with freewill. If god can interfere with the freewill of one person, "Mary", he should be logically able to interfere with more than one. It's not 'impossible' as you claim. Plus, according to Christian faith, Adam and Eve did not have original sin, yet still had freewill...

            Glen

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Now I'm assuming that you have in mind that the idea of 'transmission of original sin' is somehow tied in with freewill."

            >> There is a connection, of course, since original sin is the result of free will; that is to say, absent free will, sin is impossible.

            "If god can interfere with the freewill of one person, "Mary",

            >> He does not interfere with the free will of any person, ever.

            This is why He justly saves the just, and justly condemns the unjust.

            "he should be logically able to interfere with more than one."

            >> Since He has never interfered with one in the first place, your argument is in smithereens, having been predicated upon a false assumption.

            "It's not 'impossible' as you claim"

            >> See above. It is indeed impossible for God to deny the freewill with which He has constituted His rational creatures.

            "Plus, according to Christian faith, Adam and Eve did not have original sin,"

            >> Until they sinned.....

            "yet still had freewill..."

            >> Of course. Otherwise they could not have sinned.

          • severalspeciesof

            Propagation is the dogmatically defined means for the transmission of Adam's sin to all his descendants

            Those are your words Rick.

            That is original sin.

            That is what I've been referencing to all these comments.

            Original sin.

            Mary didn't have it.

            According to church dogma, Mary was prevented from having 'original sin'.

            You said it was impossible for god to let this happen to any other person with regard to my question: "Why hasn't god preserved everyone from 'original sin'?",

            with these words: "Because it were impossible for Him to do so". I disagreed and pointed out that your idea that god couldn't do it would be contrary to the dogma of the omnipotence of god.

            You have yet to address this point...

            "Why is it impossible for god ("impossible" is your word) to prevent the transmission of original sin for others, since he did this for Mary"

            BTW, Happy 4th to you too...

          • Ignorant Amos

            "[T]he doctrine was not dogmatically defined until December 8, 1854, by Pope Pius IX in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus."

            Of course papal infallibility didn't become dogma until 1870.

            Make it up as ya go along....or as epeeist says, "Ad Hoc".

          • severalspeciesof

            Yes, to paraphrase the turtle creation story: 'Ad Hoc all the way to the beginning'

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            Good, glad you understand that it is not heretical.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The Popes have taught nothing heretical.

            Polygenism is certainly heretical.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            If it is "heretical" to believe in polygenism, as Rick DeLano insists, then all the talk about science and faith being perfectly compatible must be taken with a grain of salt. Polygenism is a matter of science, not faith. If it is necessary to invent bizarre, ad hoc theories to reconcile Genesis with what is known about human evolution, then science and faith (or at least the Catholic faith) are not compatible. I prefer to believe that Benedict really meant what he said, and that the findings of science do not have to be modified to accommodate doctrine.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "If it is "heretical" to believe in polygenism, as Rick DeLano insists, then all the talk about science and faith being perfectly compatible must be taken with a grain of salt."

            >> Only true science is perfectly compatible with the Faith, David.

            Polygenism is not true science.

            "Polygenism is a matter of science, not faith."

            >> Polygenism is a false proposition of science which proceeds from materialistic premises contrary to the Faith.

            It asserts that the vast majority of the genome is "junk", which assertion has already been falsified, by the observed participation of so-called "junk" DNA is regulating the function of coding sections of the genome.

            "If it is necessary to invent bizarre, ad hoc theories to reconcile Genesis with what is known about human evolution, then science and faith (or at least the Catholic faith) are not compatible."

            >> Quite to the contrary. The bizarre, ad hoc theories involve spontaneous generation of life from non-life, and then the generation of the stupendous complexity of cell structures from prior forms which did not have the genetic information present in them in the first place, by random mutation and natural selection.

            Ridiculous.

            "I prefer to believe that Benedict really meant what he said, and that the findings of science do not have to be modified to accommodate doctrine."

            >> The findings of science can never contradict Catholic dogma- unless they are wrong.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            The findings of science can never contradict Catholic dogma- unless they are wrong.

            The problem here is that if you think you see a threat from a scientific finding, you will not evaluate it as a scientific finding. You will simply declare it is wrong. There can never be a conflict between Catholicism and "science" if Catholicism gets to determine, as a matter of faith, which scientific findings to accept and which to reject. The problem is, thought, that then there is no such thing as science. No amount of empirical evidence will be enough to prove a scientific theory if you think it conflicts with dogma.

            I really don't think this is what Benedict and John Paul II meant when they spoke of science and faith not being in conflict, so I don't take you to be speaking for Catholicism here.

          • epeeist

            The problem is, thought, that then there is no such thing as science. No amount of empirical evidence will be enough to prove a scientific theory if you think it conflicts with dogma.

            This is a standard one with bible literalists and creationists. With science, if you have solid data which contradicts a theory then the theory is wrong. With the kinds of people I have mentioned the schema seems to be that if there is solid evidence which contradicts their dogma then the evidence is wrong.

            A small quibble by the way, you don't prove scientific theories. They are our current, best explanation for particular phenomena but they are always contingent and corrigible.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            A small quibble by the way, you don't prove scientific theories.

            I almost accept your quibble, but let me quibble a bit with it. It's not uncommon to hear people who don't like the idea of evolution but are wary of rejecting it say, "Evolution is only a theory." On the other hand, people like Richard Dawkins will respond, "Evolution is a fact." I'll go with the latter, even given the provisional nature of scientific theories. I think some things move from theory to fact. Heliocentrism was once a theory, but now it is a fact. Of course, when we talk of scientific theories like relativity or evolution, we are talking about comprehensive explanations that generally go beyond simple questions like whether the earth revolves around the sun or the sun revolves around the earth.

          • epeeist

            On the other hand, people like Richard Dawkins will respond, "Evolution is a fact."

            Which it is. It has been observed both in the laboratory and in nature.

            The attempt to describe how evolution works is a theory.

            Evolution is the explanandum, the theory of evolution is the explanans.

          • Max Driffill

            David, epeeist, I would only add, because there is a trend toward confusion, the theory of evolution is a scientific theory, and not a theory in the way, "My uncle has a theory about UFOs."

            Generally a scientific theory is a body of explanatory ideas that has been well tested and supported by a robust body of evidence and experiment. And as epeeist has noted it explains some fact.

            Relativity explains the fact of gravity. Plate tectonics explains the fact of continental drift. You get the idea.

          • severalspeciesof

            A small quibble by the way, you don't prove scientific theories. They
            are our current, best explanation for particular phenomena but they are
            always contingent and corrigible.

            I think I would also add that well established theories do not automatically get overturned if a particular paper happens to be published (even in a bona fide peer reviewed journal) that would call the theory into question...

          • epeeist

            I think I would also add that well established theories do not automatically get overturned if a particular paper happens to be published (even in a bona fide peer reviewed journal) that would call the theory into question...

            Accepted. If one takes a Kuhnian view then one can live with small anomalies to the current paradigm. It is only when the number becomes significant that change is required.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "I don't take you to be speaking for Catholicism here."

            >> Good. I don't. I speak for Rick DeLano here.

            "The problem here is that if you think you see a threat from a scientific finding, you will not evaluate it as a scientific finding."

            >> More precisely, I am Catholic, and hence grasp that Faith is above reason, though never in conflict with right reason. Therefore, any provisional conclusion of science which can be shown to directly contradict a dogma of the Fsith can be known with one hundred per cent certainty to be based upon some error of procedure or- far more likely- error of interpretation, based upon false metaphysical assumption embedded within the scientific model through which the data are interpreted.

            "You will simply declare it is wrong. There can never be a conflict between Catholicism and "science" if Catholicism gets to determine, as a matter of faith, which scientific findings to accept and which to reject."

            >> Not exactly. One of the lessons of the Galileo affair is that science really does possess, if honest to itself, a corrective mechanism which will, inevitably, lead it to confront the metaphysical errors of assumption which are embedded in its then-current provisional consensus.

            The Church was prepared to permit heliocentrism as an hypothesis.

            The Church was not prepared to grant the status of theological truth to the ridiculous arguments of Galileo, all of which have been subsequently falsified.

            By science.

            So the Church is quite happy to allow science to pursue its various hypotheses, but the Church can never remain the Church- the Church has nothing to offer the world- unless She holds fast to Her dogmas until the end of the world, because the Church possesses in Her dogmas knowledge never accessible to science, or to human reason, apart from revelation.

            The long game requires the Church to give science time to reach the dead ends at which science is now arriving in spades- dead ends in particle physics, dead ends in cosmology, and dead ends in evolution theory.

            The Church also seeks to save souls, and souls these days generally are pretty effectively hornswoggled by the PR of the Scientistic Goliath.

            So it is a difficult path, a fine line to tread.

            As a Catholic, I know where the line is.

            I will, please God, die before ever denying a defined dogma of the Catholic Faith, and I will, please God, never shirk from defending a dogma of the Catholic Faith, especially in the face of blowhards who allege science to have somehow disproven them.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Such an educated human, even Catholic, might know, or have learned, how to quote....pizza time!!!!

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Here's how to quote, Old School, Amos:

            "......"

            "What more could I say?
            I wouldn't be here today
            If the old school didn't pave the way"

          • Ignorant Amos

            Poor Jim's tail is disappearing down Rick's theological rabbit hole...I was well behaved there I hope ya noticed.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            But for the one belch there, Amos, a veritable blueblood ya were........

            Rick, The Roadrunner

            Movin' faster miles an hour.........

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Pope Benedict has taught nothing heretical as an exercise of His heaven-protected magisterial authority..

            Polygenism is heretical.

            Pope Benedict has never taught polygenism.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,

            The spread of gravely erroneous, heterodox, and even explicitly heretical doctrines within the Church has manifestly increased dramatically in the modern era, and especially since the Council.

            Best thing for it really.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Yes, the atheist is consistent with his principles in saying so.

            The Catholic is consistent with his principles in both acknowledging this, and in decrying the disaster which has befallen us......

            AND in recognizing that the long game the Church is playing gives science time to arrive at the dead ends at which science is now arriving in spades.

            The multiverse, the Higgs boson with no supersymmetry, dino bones with soft tissue, blood cells, collagen..........

            It may well turn out to be the case that the Popes, who think in terms of centuries, not decades, were right.

            The chaos and devastation had to be permitted, in order for the moment of truth for science to be reached.

            The moment of truth for science has been reached:

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2011/12/why-has-science-gone-crazy.html

          • Max Driffill

            That blog you linked to is written by a crazy person.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The atheist is consistent with his principles in saying so :-)

            But even the atheist is confronted with difficulty in selling the notion that even Alex P. Lightman is a crazy person, and so your situation is probably not adequately rescued by having recourse to simple slander ;-)

          • Max Driffill

            The content of the blog does not reflect reality. The content of your last post to me, the one where you crowed about the end of science's fight with religion, also, does not reflect the picture of science, or realty.
            You are a pretty smart guy, but you have to ask yourself, how intellectually honest are you being. Nothing it seems could even in principle convince you that the catholic Church was wrong. I get it, you love the church, but that doesn't mean that it is above critique or cannot be wrong.

          • severalspeciesof

            It is safe to say that his faith is immovable.

            'Science in it's current state is crumbling, a truer and better one awaits those who have faith'

            Sounds a lot like a preacher...

          • Ignorant Amos

            The atheist is consistent with his principles in saying so :-)

            I'm glad you couldn't keep a straight face in saying that.

            Catholics are being seen to be consistent with their principles though...

            "The New York Times has launched a strong attack on Cardinal TImothy Dolan over his alleged shifting of $57 million in funds when he ran the Milwaukee diocese to avoid paying off child abuse victims."

            http://www.irishcentral.com/news/New-York-Times-editorial-calls-allegations-against-Cardinal-Timothy-Dolan-shocking-214266971.html

            Same old same old...corrupt to the core.

            Don't dare to preach your morality to me Rick...it is less than shallow.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            So it is immoral for the Cardinal to protect his assets against the wholesale marauding seizure of the State?

            Sheesh, my problem with His Eminence is his dereliction in breaking up the pederast ring in the priesthood, not trying to protect my donations from the long arm of the lawyers.

            Rick, the Straight Edge

            "I'm a person just like you
            But I've got better things to do
            Than sit around and smoke dope
            'Cause I know I can cope
            Laugh at the thought of eating ludes
            Laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
            Always gonna keep in touch
            Never want to use a crutch

            I've got the straight edge"

          • Ignorant Amos

            So it is immoral for the Cardinal to protect his
            assets against the wholesale marauding seizure of the State?

            Well, why doesn't that surprise me coming from you?

            Sheesh, my problem with His Eminence is his dereliction in breaking up the pederast ring in the priesthood, not trying to protect my donations from the long arm of the lawyers.

            Never mind the victims...it's all about the mother church.

            Like your hero Pacelli...you are in rotten company.

            Are the assets the Cardinals, the diocese, or the Vatican's?

            “The release of about 6,000 pages of documents provided a grim backstage look at the scandal, graphically detailing the patterns of serial abuse by dozens of priests who were systematically rotated to new assignments as church officials kept criminal behavior secret from civil authority.”

            "The Times writes that “It is disturbing that the current Milwaukee leader, Archbishop Jerome Listecki, said last week that the church underwent an “arc of understanding” across time to come to grips with the scandal — as if the statutory rapes of children were not always a glaring crime in the eyes of society as well as the church itself."

            "The Times editorial concludes “The documents showed how the Vatican slowly took years to allow dioceses to defrock embarrassing priests. Yet the same bureaucracy approved Cardinal Dolan’s $57 million transfer just days after the Wisconsin court allowed victims’ damage suits.”

            Okay then lets start again...

            The atheist is consistent with his principles in saying so :-)

            Catholics are being seen to be consistent with their principles though...

            From yesterday....

            "Serial sex offender priest told 7-year-old victim he could get dead grandfather into heaven."

            http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Serial-sex-offender-priest-told-7-year-old-victim-he-could-get-dead-grandfather-into-heaven-214118031.html

            Same old same old...corrupt to the core.

            Don't dare to preach your morality to me Rick...it is less than shallow.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I am mortified indeed.

            You are right.

            Justice must be done.

            Let us begin with....hmmmmmm...wait, I know!

            Let us begin with the foul homosexual pervert in Ireland.

            Now you are very moral, we have your very own word that you are much more moral than I am, so I will defer to you and ask:

            What should be done to this homosexual child predator masquerading as a priest of Jesus Christ?

            This ought to set the bar, so to speak, for consideration of justice further up the chain......

          • Ignorant Amos

            Let us begin with the foul homosexual pervert in Ireland.

            Yer a nasty piece of work Rick, and you just exposed yer bigoted wee hand.

            Homosexuality is not synonymous with Pedophilia or perversion.

            Now you are very moral, we have your very own word that you are much more moral than I am, so I will defer to you and ask:

            Compared to you, I'm a beacon of morality. Fred Phelps could call ya out.

            What should be done to this homosexual child predator masquerading as a priest of Jesus Christ?

            Ya poor soul, ya just can't see the bigger picture in all this can ya? That's why your insidious belief system is doomed.

            "Irish lesbian makes history as first woman to receive green card after her same sex marriage"

            http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Irish-lesbian-makes-history-as-first-woman-to-receive-green-card-after-her-same-sex-marriage-214465031.html

            It's collapsing around about yer ears and ya haven't the foggiest.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Are you surprised Max?

          • Max Driffill

            No

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Rick--we *do* have to consider the kind of "polygenism" Pius XII had in mind in Humani Generis (or the kinds of polygenism). He seems to cover both the version that theorized a sort of "racial" polygenism (that each of the races has its own first parents) as well as the more common view today that not all humans descend from Adam via natural generation. So there is more than one kind of polygenism to consider.
            More importantly, the phrasing used by Pius XII does not completely shut the door on this question: at the time of Humani Generis, it's true that the faithful could not embrace "that opinion" because it wasn't at all a "safe" opinion particularly at that time because it was not at all apparent, Pius says, how to reconcile such an opinion with the Church's dogma on original sin and natural generation.
            All that is true--but should it be said that Pius' intention here was to bind future successors to this prohibition against proposing opinions that address the evidence of the future? That's very doubtful.
            Rather, Pius himself identifies the value that must be preserved: no opinion can disturb the dogma of original sin (a sin of our first parent-couple) being passed through the human race via natural generation.
            There are ways to view this question today that may be safe opinions to consider, ways that preserve the integrity of Pius' teaching in HG.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Rick--we *do* have to consider the kind of "polygenism" Pius XII had in mind in Humani Generis"

            >> Yes, we do. Fortunately, His Holiness tells us exactly what kind of "polygenism" he had in mind:

            "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"

            "He seems to cover both the version that theorized a sort of "racial" polygenism (that each of the races has its own first parents)"

            >> There is no reference at all to "racial parents".

            " as well as the more common view today that not all humans descend from Adam via natural generation. So there is more than one kind of polygenism to consider."

            >> The only kind of polygenism to consider is polygenism; that is, the doctrine that the human race does not proceed from one original pair.

            There is no other kind of polygenism to consider, since polygenism is just that:

            Polygenism.

            It is heresy.

            It denies a fundamental dogma of the Catholic Faith.

            Full stop.

            "it was not at all apparent, Pius says, how to reconcile such an opinion with the Church's dogma on original sin and natural generation. All that is true--but should it be said that Pius' intention here was to bind future successors to this prohibition against proposing opinions that address the evidence of the future?"

            >> Of course it was exactly His intention to do exactly that. This is seen by counterposing His words concerning evolution, which he forbids to Catholics to consider, but allows theologians and specialists to consider, *only on the condition that arguments for and against be carefully examined*, which they are not being carefully examined, since only pro-evolution arguments are considered within the PAS and the ITC.

            Would that His Holiness had been heeded, but it is clear that He has not been.

            The catastrophic consequences are evident, not least in the subsequent, predictable extension of this disobedience to a direct contradiction of His *complete prohibition* of consideration of polygenism, since, as He says, it contradicts the dogma of original sin.

            "Rather, Pius himself identifies the value that must be preserved: no opinion can disturb the dogma of original sin (a sin of our first parent-couple) being passed through the human race via natural generation. There are ways to view this question today that may be safe opinions to consider, ways that preserve the integrity of Pius' teaching in HG."

            >> To the contrary. All such proposals involve disfigurements of Catholic doctrine or simple logic.

            We must suppose that the Garden of Eden comprises a troop of humanoids, two of which are infused with a rational soul, produce children, and these then continue to interbreed with the animal-souled beasts in their midst.

            It is appalling beyond imagination that such blasphemous insanity could have escaped the immediate condemnation of the dicasteries charged with the defense of our Holy Faith.

            It is certain they would not have escaped it in the time of His Holiness Pope Pius XII.

            The disaster continues.

            At some point, God, please.

            Have mercy on us, restore us to unity in the Truths of our Holy Faith.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            "Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to continuous and indefinite progress of human reason."

            From the Syllabus of Errors condemned by Pius IX.

            Also condemned:

            The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church.

            Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.

            In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.

          • Michael Murray

            However, there are certain human abilities the Catholic Church attributes only to a spiritual soul.

            What kinds of abilities are these David ?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            What kinds of abilities are these David?

            I wish I had a good answer, but it seems that people who believe in the soul shy away from giving a detailed response. I think they believe that the soul is what makes human beings "rational animals." I take that to mean that the gap between humans and the smartest animals (dolphins, chimps, elephants) is basically unbridgeable. That is, those animals are basically at a dead end in terms of intelligence and can't go significantly farther unless they get "spiritual souls." This, of course, makes the idea of "Adam" and his offspring mating with "almost-humans" preposterous, since the "almost-humans" would be much like chimpanzees.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks. I assume you know there is a thing in anthropology called "The Great Leap Forward" which is supposed to be a blossoming of homo-sapien culture around 50,000 years ago. Some people also dispute it happening at all. Others like Jarrod Diamond tie it to the development of language. Has anyone tied this to souls ? Like all attempts to tie religious events to natural ones it carries the danger of course that we might decide the natural event never really happened.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Leap_Forward_%28evolution%29#Great_leap_forward

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            The first part of your sentence is right: science has nothing to say about whether souls exists and, therefore, should not make any definitive pronouncements.

            This, it seems to me, to be one of those areas where the concept of nonoverlapping magisteria comes into play. According to the Catholic Church, as I understand it, science would have nothing to say about the soul properly understood. But if certain faculties are attributed by religion to the soul, and it is claimed they cannot exist without the soul, then if science discovers those faculties—say, abstract thought—in our nonhuman relatives, the notion of the soul must be scaled back, because in religion's definition of the soul, something was attributed to it which was really within the realm of science.

            I would love to hear some informed speculation by those who believe in the soul what the differences would be between the almost-humans-without-souls and the first humans with souls. It seems to me so much of "true human" capability is attributed to a spiritual soul that the gap between the ensouled and the non-ensouled would be very much like the gap between men and chimps.

          • Rationalist1

            By Ghosts I am referring to the Metaphysical concept of Ghosts that science is unable to measure. A quick search of "ghosts metaphysics" will turn up a multitude of metaphysical explanations of their presence and how science is powerless to validate r invalidate their existence.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            "My Church" has *not* told me precisely how it happened. And if it's actually *my* revealed truth, then I'd appreciate it if you let me decide whether it's "twisted" or not... :-)
            "My Church" actually claims that faith and science, faith and reason, can *never* truly conflict, so it is up to me to seek understanding regarding how they ought to be reconciled (as opposed to "twisted")....

          • epeeist

            2. Pcae Ockham's Razor, does complexity necessarily invalidate a particular theory?

            Necessarily? No. But if one has a theory that explains a set of phenomena perfectly adequately then unless adding an entity improves the explanatory power of the theory then we leave it out.

        • Max Driffill

          Brandon,
          Why do Catholics still speak about Adam and Eve as if they existed?

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Because they did. Where have I (or the Catholic Church) denied that?

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,

            I explained at least one way that the Catholic view of Adam and Eve exists without conflicting with genetic polygenism. That would seem to disprove Qu's original claim.

            The existence of Adam and Eve is then an empirical claim. And if you, or the Church are making that claim then you cannot claim then that all that is required are metaphysics, philosophy and theology to demonstrate this pillar of the Christian hypothesis.

            Biology indicates there was no Adam and Eve. We can reject the hypothesis of Adam and Eve, and reject it completely and utterly until, and only until, positive evidence is produced that allow us to reject the null hypothesis (Adam and Eve did not exist). You have disproved Qu's claim. When making positive claims the claimant cannot defend their hypothesis by challenging its critics to prove a negative.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "The existence of Adam and Eve is then an empirical claim. And if you, or the Church are making that claim then you cannot claim then that all that is required are metaphysics, philosophy and theology to demonstrate this pillar of the Christian hypothesis."

            I have never claimed that; you are misrepresenting me. Please show me where I said what your attributing to me.

            What I did say was that the question of *God's existence* (not Adam and Eve) should be properly explored--and can only be explored--through metaphysics, reason, and theology.

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,

            Read what I wrote. I was referring to you claims about a real and existent Adam and Eve, not your god claims, which I will get to in a moment.

            You claimed to disprove Qu's claim about Adam and Eve. You cannot say anything, well not anything that need be taken seriously and nothing you can claim is fact, about Adam and Eve or the implications of their actions for all of humanity until you demonstrate that they actually existed. Why should anyone take this claim, however deep and rich with theological meaning it may be, upon which much Christian theology is built, seriously?

            Earlier you accused me of merely asserting a case.

            What I did say was that the question of *God's existence* (not Adam and Eve) should be properly explored--and can only be explored--through metaphysics, reason, and theology.

            Pot. Kettle. Black.

            The above is mere assertion. And most probably wrong to boot. If your god can and does interfere, and affect the daily lives of people, and the world, or has historically done so, then it is possible, in principle to test at least some god claims, empirically. We cannot, say anything about gods and claim we are speaking truth as it relates to reality unless we can actually test what we are saying, outside the text and its interpretation. We can certainly speak honestly about premises, what we think about the premises and have interesting discussions but we are left with no way to verify if such musings reflect reality. We cannot, by reason alone discern the limits of reality. Nor by philosophy, And certainly not by theology. Reason and philosophical discourse can allow us to hone clear definitions and frame problems in useful ways. I'm not honestly sure what theology does. We cannot verify Catholic metaphysics, which is informed by reading and interpreting the bible, and your theology is based on your metaphysics, and vice versa. In fact it is deeply troubling feed back loop, in which reading and interpreting the bible, influence the metaphysics, which influences the theology and so on in a distressing, highly recursive cycle. If you have no reliable testing methodology your hypotheses can become very far from an accurate representation of reality indeed.

            -Max

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          It is truly scandalous that Brandon has Memoryholed my correct and relevant observation concerning the laughable "proposal" of Flynn.

          I reiterate:

          1. Flynn's proposal leads to absurdities- check and see.
          2. Flynn's proposal is the product of a science fiction writer. It represents precisely zero status as Catholic theology, doctrine, or metaphysics.
          3. Flynn's foundational absurdity is his invitation to you to accept the contradiction:

          Non-human humans.

    • primenumbers

      "And when I ask, what sort of evidence would you need to determine whether such a (immaterial) God exists?" - perhaps we should be asking what evidence and/or methods YOU are using to determine such an immaterial God exists? We can examine the evidence you show us to see if it actually does point to the God of Catholicism, or of other religions, or a deistic God or no God at all. We can look at any methods you may use, and perhaps apply them to things that are not in dispute and see if they work well and are reliable?

      It's not wrong to demand objective evidence and methods. Subjective evidence or methods can and do prove anything, including things we know are not true. They're going to do this because of known cognitive biases.

      "Or that science is even an appropriate tool to validate metaphysical claims" - what is the appropriate tool to validate (as in check) a metaphysical claim? And how do we validate that validation method?

      The reason scientific evidence is demanded is that science has a proven track record of producing working results. It's the best method we know. Whatever method you propose for proving God has to be a method that has proven reliability in practise, or why use it?

      • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

        "[P]erhaps we should be asking what evidence and/or methods YOU are using to determine such an immaterial God exists? "

        We theists have been very clear. When proving God's existence we rely on logic, reason, and philosophy, particularly metaphysics. This is because the question of God is necessarily a metaphysical question.

        We take note of observed phenomena like "everything that begins to exist has a cause" or "things change" and reason our way to a perfect, self-existent, eternal, omnipotent First Cause (or First Mover.) We've outlines this reasoning in several articles and it's the same reasoning used for thousands of years to come to God, from pagan philosophers like Aristotle to theological giants like Thomas Aquinas.

        "It's not wrong to demand objective evidence and methods."

        I totally agree. But who is doubting this? What's under discussion isn't whether objective evidence is necessary but whether *scientific* evidence is always required (or appropriate.)

        "The reason scientific evidence is demanded is that science has a proven track record of producing working results."

        Again, I agree. The scientific method has been wildly successful at helping us determine many scientific truths. But how does it necessarily follow that this method can therefore help us find *all* truths? That's like saying, "Stephen Hawking is a renowned physicist therefore we should turn to him when determining how to heal a sick dolphin." The conclusion simply doesn't follow. Just because something or someone is excellent at solving *some* problems doesn't make it ideal (or even appropriate) for solving all problems.

        • Rationalist1

          And it's the same argument Muslims use to prove their God, Jews used to prove their God, Hindus use to prove their God, Buddhists use to prove their God. And even within the Christian religion you have thousands of denominations all claiming the truth using their own take on " logic, reason, and philosophy, particularly metaphysics."

          Is it unreasonable of us if we ask for a bit more clarification?

        • primenumbers

          Ok, so how do we validate metaphysical results?

          "everything that begins to exist has a cause"" - can't say I've ever observed anything "beginning to exist", especially in the sense that the argument wants us to think of a universe beginning to exist. Beginning is temporal word, and if "exists" doesn't mean "exists in time and space", then it's essentially meaningless. So when you say "self-existent, eternal, omnipotent First Cause" you're not using the word "existent" in the same sense that you're using it for the universe - you're equivocating. "We've outlines this reasoning in several articles" and it's fallacious reasoning built on un-evidenced premises. "theological giants" - appeal to authority.

          "I totally agree. But who is doubting this?" - I'm doubting this. Although it's said that people believe in God purely on the basis of such arguments as the cosmological argument, I don't actually believe it. I don't think any significant number of the total who believe have done so purely through the presentation of such an argument.

          "But how does it necessarily follow that this method can therefore help us find *all* truths?" - no, it's doesn't follow that all truths can be determined via the methods of science. But that's not the argument. The reason why we use science is because it works. We are asking that any other method you propose to find true knowledge (which would be your epistemology) can be similarly demonstrated to work and be reasonably reliable. We're just using scientific method as the prime example of reliable and useful epistemology - a gold standard so to speak.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            prime, you don't have to observe something beginning to exist to know that it does. For example, would you agree that you yourself began to exist even though you didn't observe your conception? And if so, would you agree that you couldn't have caused your own existence?

          • primenumbers

            As far as I'm aware the component stuff that make me up has always existed. That they're currently in this present form is utterly irrelevant to the question we have in hand, which not about the form that matter takes, but the creation of the universe from nothing what-so-ever (not a rearrangement of pre-existing material).

            Talking about cause though means we're talking about agency. To know cause we must know the agent. We cannot go from effect to cause to agent. We can go from agent to cause to effect. Show me first the agent.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            prime, you say:

            "Although it's said that people believe in God purely on the basis of such arguments as the cosmological argument, I don't actually believe it. I don't think any significant number of the total who believe have done so purely through the presentation of such an argument."

            You continue to make unfounded leaps. Nobody anywhere in this thread has argued that "people believe in God purely on the basis of such arguments as the cosmological argument." I'm not sure why you're beating against that claim when nobody has proposed it.

            It's true that the large majority of theists believe in God because of personal, subjective experiences of him. Now there's nothing wrong with that. Subjective experience of God is personally persuasive and is a valid way of knowing he exists.

            However, this evidence cannot always be used to persuade *other* people that God exists, precisely because its not objective. Therefore to convince others that God exists in an objective way, we turn to logical and metaphysical demonstrations (like Aquinas' Five Ways.)

            The fact that most people don't base their faith on these demonstrations does not invalidate their truth or efficacy.

          • primenumbers

            You're the one who suggested the evidence for God is the cosmological argument, in response to my asking of "what evidence and/or methods YOU are using to determine such an immaterial God exists? " - Yes, you just give the cosmological argument as one example of the type of evidence for God. Given the categories of evidence you list "When proving God's existence we rely on logic, reason, and philosophy, particularly metaphysics", and the example I gave, was I wrong to assume cosmological argument or similar represent the evidence by which most Catholics believe on?

            "Subjective experience of God is personally persuasive and is a valid way of knowing he exists." - well I agree it's persuasive, but I cannot agree to it being valid as a method it is incapable of being validated. After all, isn't that what valid means in this context?

            "However, this evidence cannot always be used to persuade *other* people that God exists, precisely because its not objective" - lack of objectivity is one reason. The other is lack of validation method, which applies not just to *other* people but to the person who has had the experience themselves too.

            "Therefore to convince others that God exists in an objective way, we turn to logical and metaphysical" - and because such arguments (if indeed they're not flawed or built on un-evidenced premises) rely on metaphysics and metaphysics cannot be validated, we once again face that issue.

            "The fact that most people don't base their faith on these demonstrations does not invalidate their truth or efficacy." - so they resort to faith? What of course invalidates them is that metaphysical arguments cannot be validated.

          • Rationalist1

            It;s certainly the cosmological argument that is being promoted here. If most theists believe in God because of subjective experience, please share yours.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            prime, I think I'm beginning to understand your position better, and I'm very thankful for that. it seems your whole issue boils down to this claim: "metaphysical arguments cannot be validated."

            This, of course, is a presumption I and almost all philosophers reject. Metaphysical demonstrations *can* of course be invalidated by showing 1) the premises are flawed or 2) the logic is flawed so that the conclusion does not follow from the premises.

            In fact, in Thomas Aquinas' "Summa" he actually lists out objections to his metaphysical demonstrations. He says, in essence, if true, these objections would invalidate my truth claims.

            Metaphysicists validate and invalidate such demonstrations every day so I find it very shocking, yet clarifying, that you would believe such work is impossible.

          • primenumbers

            "Metaphysical demonstrations *can* of course be invalidated" - because what you're talking about here are premises and logic, or in other words they can be invalidated because they're a logical argument. But I'm actually saying that metaphysical truths cannot be validated.

            "Metaphysicists validate and invalidate such demonstrations" - I"m not talking about logical arguments being able to be validated or invalidated, but metaphysical truths.

          • Corylus

            Sorry, to butt in here, but Brandon could you look at your post above and tell me where you legitimately moved from a discussion of methods of invalidation to a discussion containing proofs of metaphysical validation

            I do appear to have missed a step.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            primenumbers and Rationalist1, you both have repeatedly claimed in the comment boxes that the cosmological argument(s) from Aristotle and Aquinas has been refuted. Though I disagree, if you believe they have I invite you to submit a guest post showing how one (or all) of them are flawed.

            I, for one, would be really interested and I think others would appreciate seeing such a definitive refutation.

            Please send it to contact@strangenotions.com.

          • primenumbers

            Presumably you've read on the subject of the cosmological argument and aware of the various forms it's been proposed in and the various refutations of those forms from philosophers throughout history? For me to refute the arguments I'd merely be repeating the work of those philosophers that have already done so, and as I expect you're very well read, perhaps it would be better for you to discuss why those refutations don't work for you? Our discussion below was enlightening when you asked "For example, would you agree that you yourself began to exist even though you didn't observe your own conception?" you seem to be making an argument from analogy to support that the universe was caused into existence from nothing. Yet as I point out, your analogy is too weak as I'm just a re-arrangement of pre-existing stuff, so I neither came into being analogously to how you propose the universe came into being. I also point out serious issues with the temporal nature of "beginning" and "cause", and the equivocation on "exists". Do you accept these as problems?

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            ""Presumably you've read on the subject of the cosmological argument and aware of the various forms it's been proposed in and the various refutations of those forms from philosophers throughout history?"

            I am well-read on the cosmological arguments, I am very aware of the various refutations, and I've found them all wanting. I haven't yet seen a refutation of *any* of the cosmological arguments that didn't suffer a fatal logical misstep or a serious misunderstanding of the argument as originally proposed.

            I'm totally open to the possibility that I just haven't found the "right" refutation, however, which is why I proposed that you (or Rationalist) compose an article highlighting the strongest refutation you can find.

            If the arguments have been so definitively refuted as you suggest time and again in the comment boxes, composing an article should not be that difficult.

            "Do you accept these as problems?"

            I accept them as proposed problems, but ones that are easily solved. You first claim "I'm just a re-arrangement of pre-existing stuff" which is not true. There is a discernible difference between the "pre-existing stuff" that existed moments before your conception and the "you" that exists now, just as there's a discernible difference between the "you" that exists now and your lifeless material body moments after your death.

            You then claim to "also point out serious issues with the temporal nature of "beginning" and "cause", and the equivocation on "exists." I don't see these as serious problems--for one reason, "cause" is not necessarily a temporal phrase and, in the case of Aquinas, is explicitly not--but if you'd like to make a deeper case that these pose real threats to the cosmological arguments I'd welcome a full-length post at contact@strangenotions.com.

          • primenumbers

            "I am well-read on the cosmological arguments, I am very aware of the various refutations, and I've found them all wanting." - fair enough, but "suffer a fatal logical misstep or a serious misunderstanding of the argument" is exactly why the cosmological arguments fail.

            "If the arguments have been so definitively refuted as you suggest time and again in the comment boxes," - absolutely they have, but obviously not to your satisfaction.

            So what if the matter when I'm dead is dead and I'm alive now? What has that got to do with extending your argument from analogy to the universe. I didn't wink into existence from nothing which is the proposed notion of universal creation and what a cosmological argument is trying to demonstrate. But we never normally see anything just appear out of pure nothing, we never see anything remotely like a universe begin to exist. I am indeed an arrangement of pre-existing stuff, and the universal creation you're proposing isn't. There is basically no analogy here to work with and analogies are weak arguments to begin with. Then there's the direction of causality from agent to cause to effect. The type of cause you're wanting to prove for the universe is a cause by an agent. Such causes we can only discern in one direction, from agent through cause to effect. It doesn't work the other way to observe effect, infer cause and presume agent.

            There is a trinity of equivocations on "exists" in the usual arrangement of a cosmological argument - the exists that we're used to of physical things in time and space, the "exists" of the universe which is time and space, and the "exists" of God which is not-material, not in time, and not in space. Yet the argument uses "exists" and conflates all three meanings together, yet they're three entirely different concepts.

            I know you're like a full post, but as I said above, you've read the various refutations, probably more than I have. You find them wanting, I don't. What more is there to it? I'm sure if you'd put up a succinct cosmological argument as a post, we'd all dive in an engage in debate, but what I think we'll hit is that the theist has some pre-assumptions that we just don't take as given. - It's like when you start above with "everything that begins to exist has a cause"" - for which I don't take as given, you dive into an argument from analogy with an attempt at induction to go all the way to the universe with an arbitrary stopping point of God.

            So I"m happy to do this as a discussion with you, but not otherwise.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "I know you're like a full post, but as I said above, you've read the various refutations, probably more than I have. You find them wanting, I don't. What more is there to it?"

            primenumbers, I think there's a lot more to it. Obvously one of us is right, and one of us is wrong. If I'm right, I'd like to help show you the truth--Thomas Aquinas actually considers it the supreme act of love to help someone toward the truth.

            But if I'm wrong, I'd like more than anything for you to correct my error.

            I think we both agree that the intricacies of the cosmological arguments (and their proposed refutations) require a lengthier treatment than we can give them in the comment boxes. That's why I've invited you to write a full-length post where you pick just *one* cosmological argument and present what you consider the clearest, and most devastating refutation. Then commenters can wrestle with your points and I can post a full-length article in reply.

            I think this sort of deeper engagement is the best way to get at the truth of God's existence, and the truth is all I'm interested in. I assume you are, too. So when you're ready, please send the article to contact@strangenotions.com.

          • primenumbers

            Thanks Brandon. I'm actually beginning to think the intricacies of such arguments as somewhat irrelevant as there's something much more fundamental that appears flawed, and I need to some time to dig into it.

            "But if I'm wrong, I'd like more than anything for you to correct my error." - great attitude - that's how we all learn. And of course showing flaws in any particular argument for God does not invalidate your belief from personal experience.

          • Sid_Collins

            I hope you can take Brandon up on the exchange he proposes. I am very interested.

          • Sid_Collins

            I'd be very interested to read the articles you propose.

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,
            No refutation is required. It hasn't been demonstrated that they represent anything that is true. I suppose they are interesting thought exercises, but they are not, of themselves reason to hold gods consistent with what we know of the universe and even more importantly they do not establish any particular sect's god even if they somehow did represent reality.
            They are not proofs. They do not constitute evidence even if they were 100% accurate. Because we have no way to test them, or verify them.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "No refutation is required. It hasn't been demonstrated that they represent anything that is true."

            That second sentence is, in fact, a proposed refutation. You need to show why that is true; you can't just assert it.

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,

            It isn't a refutation to point out that we aren't really obligated to treat these philosophical "proofs" as evidence. They beg numerous questions, and it isn't clear that they refer to anything concrete, or real. Until such time they remain, merely interesting ideas.

            And it is a bit cheeky for you to accuse me of just asserting things, when you do that here on a nearly daily basis. In fact I don't need to prove that your claims philosophical claims don't represent anything true. The onus, the burden is on you to demonstrate that your premises are sound and based in reality.

            You cannot establish this via thinking alone.

        • robtish

          "That's like saying, "Stephen Hawking is a renowned physicist therefore we should turn to him when determining how to heal a sick dolphin." The conclusion simply doesn't follow."

          No, it's not like saying that at all. Stephen Hawking is a person, while science is a method of finding things out. Those are two very different things. A better analogy would be, "People have used the scientific method to great pracitcal effect, so perhaps we should try using it to learn out to heal sick dolphins."

          And that doesn't sound unreasonable at all

          • Rationalist1

            Absolutely. It's better than using metaphysics to heal sick dolphins.

          • josh

            Metaphysician, heal thyself! :)

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            I agree that your analogy is true, but it's unfortunately not analogous to the original question--and thus irrelevant. Let me try re-framing the analogy:

            "People have used the scientific method to great practical effect, therefore we should use the scientific method to determine whether life has inherent, objective value."

            Since the question of inherent value is a metaphysical question--not a practical question--the scientific method is simply the wrong tool.

            I don't know how to say it any more clearly than this:

            The scientific method is limited to empirical exploration. It therefore cannot be used to explore non-empirical questions.

          • BenS

            Since the question of inherent value is a metaphysical question--not a practical question--the scientific method is simply the wrong tool.

            Not really, because 'value' is a subjective attribute. What's an 'objective value'? Give me an example, please.

          • epeeist

            What's an 'objective value'? Give me an example, please.

            Just giving an example is insufficient, how he knows it is objective is of interest.

          • BenS

            See, if I were smarter, I would have added that as well. :)

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "Just giving an example is insufficient, how he knows it is objective is of interest."

            You're actually proving my point by asking this question. Neither you nor I can provide *any* scientific reasons why anything has inherent value (i.e. non-subjective value.) This is because the scientific method, by definition, cannot explore questions concerning non-empirical realities.

            However, I can appeal to metaphysical demonstrations to show why humans, and not animals, have rational souls. Or I can appeal to Divine Revelation to show why all humans have innate dignity, since they're made in the image and likeness of God. But while philosophy, metaphysics, and theology can answer these questions about value, and adjudicate non-empirical questions, the scientific method is simply incapable of doing either.

          • Rationalist1

            "Philosophy, metaphysics, and theology can answer questions about value, or adjudicate non-empirical questions, the scientific method is simply incapable of doing either." You can just pick your philosophy theology and metaphysics and get the answer you want and absolutely no one can argue with you, whether they use the scientific method or not.

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,

            Here are a few thoughts about your statements:

            <b.You're actually proving my point by asking this question. Neither you nor I can provide *any* scientific reasons why anything has inherent value (i.e. non-subjective value.) This is because the scientific method, by definition, cannot explore questions concerning non-empirical realities.

            1. The question of god is an empirical one. God exists is, in fact an empirical claim. I'm not sure why you think it is not.

            2. What do you mean by inherent value? Is there any evidence that can be independently derived by people not infatuated with Roman Catholicism that indicates that inherent value is a real thing? If it is a real thing then I suspect that science could be brought to bear on the subject.

            Is unclear to me that things do have inherent value. But they do have value to human beings (that is to say humans value specific things, and the scope of those values can widen or narrow), and science can elucidate the hows and whys of our values without any appeal to unseen and indemonstrable gods. If you want to claim gods act in the world, you are, whether you admit it or not, making an empirical claim that will need to be justified by evidence.

            However, I can appeal to metaphysical demonstrations to show why humans, and not animals, have rational souls.

            No you can't . You can talk about what souls might look like if they existed and why you think non-human animals probably don't have rational souls (whatever that might mean). But you can't say, in anyway that you are offering evidence of the existence of this state. What you would be doing is no different than any other religious tradition (which are you are not convinced by). Your method, if we allowed that it was sound, would essentially make everyone's theology correct. Because all your arguments about making god claims off limits to science, are available to the Hindu, and Muslim, and Scientologist etc.

            Or I can appeal to Divine Revelation to show why all humans have innate dignity, since they're made in the image and likeness of God.
            1. You cannot do this until you first justify your premises with evidence. First you have to demonstrate with empirical evidence a god exists, that it is the Christian, specifically Catholic version of gods. THen you would have to establish that we are indeed made in its image an likeness. Etc.
            YOu would then have to establish the veracity of the revelation. Was the person receiving the revelation really hearing from the gods or were they hearing voices in their heads.

            But while philosophy, metaphysics, and theology can answer these questions about value, and adjudicate non-empirical questions, the scientific method is simply incapable of doing either.

            They cannot answer these questions. They can only speculatively discuss them. That is not to say that these discussions cannot be useful, or enlightening.

          • epeeist

            This is because the scientific method, by definition, cannot explore questions concerning non-empirical realities.

            Assuming these "non-empirical realities" exist of course.

            However, I can appeal to metaphysical demonstrations to show why humans, and not animals, have rational souls.

            But how do you justify those appeals? If you can't justify, then it doesn't count as knowledge.Or I can appeal to Divine Revelation to show why all humans have innate dignity, since they're made in the image and likeness of God.

            Another opportunity to advertise my book The Treatment of Hoof Rot in Unicorns. You do realise that logic has moved on since the time of Aristotle, enormous changes were made in the 19th century by Boole, de Morgan and Frege. You really ought to do some reading about existential import.

            But while philosophy, metaphysics, and theology can answer these questions about value, and adjudicate non-empirical questions

            And I will repeat again, only if they can justify their claims.

            the scientific method is simply incapable of doing either.

            What you are doing here is a variety of special pleading. Essentially you set a high bar for science to justify its findings but a very low bar for the claims of theology. To put it at its mildest, this is disingenuous.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do unto others as you would have other do unto you.

            Um, I want to be treated well by others, and my experience is that everyone else wants to be treated well by others, so if I expect others to treat me well they have the right to expect the same from me, and if everyone treated everyone else well everyone would be happier.

          • epeeist

            Do unto others as you would have other do unto you.

            You are claiming this to be objective, in other words independent of mind.

            Um, I want to be treated well by others

            But the reason you give is purely subjective. It doesn't tell us why it is purportedly objective or how you know it is objective.

          • BenS

            What if a sadist wanted to do unto others what they didn't want others to do to them?

            If everyone treated everyone else well then the sadist wouldn't be happy so 'everyone' being happier is false.

            Hence, subjective. Try again.

          • epeeist

            What if a sadist wanted to do unto others what they didn't want others to do to them?

            Which is why the logician Harry Gensler produced a new version of the Golden Rule derived from a mixture of doxastic and imperative logics. The formulation he comes up with is:

            Treat others only as you consent to being treated in the same situation

            This avoids me insisting that I be allowed to insert that a plate and seven screws into the left arm of the surgeon who put the same metalwork into my arm.

          • BenS

            That helps narrow it down some.

            But then what if the person is a sadomasochist? What if they have a self defeating personality disorder?

            They absolutely might consent to being hurt or locked up 'for their own good'.

            I imagine this Harry fella has given it a bit more thought that that, though. Do you have a link to where he's expanded on it or should I just get his book?

          • epeeist

            Do you have a link to where he's expanded on it or should I just get his book?

            Here is his web page on the Golden Rule

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Any psychologically healthy person. A sadist is disordered.

          • BenS

            A sadist is only 'disordered' because they fit outside the norm. That's circular reasoning. The majority of cats toy with their prey. They are not disordered amongst cats because they are the majority.

            And even if they ARE 'disordered', there is no getting away from the fact that they still wouldn't be happier being nice to everyone so it's STILL subjective.

            Also, your god apprently made them that way...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I know you like to argue but are you really serious?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            His position is entirely consistent with his premises, Kevin.

            Which is one reason atheism is so deadly in its effects upon human civilization, as Max Planck noted:

            “Under these conditions it is no wonder, that the movement of atheists, which declares religion to be just a deliberate illusion, invented by power-seeking priests, and which has for the pious belief in a higher Power nothing but words of mockery, eagerly makes use of progressive scientific knowledge and in a presumed unity with it, expands in an ever faster pace its disintegrating action on all nations of the earth and on all social levels. I do not need to explain in any more detail that after its victory not only all the most precious treasures of our culture would vanish, but – which is even worse – also any prospects at a better future.”
            ― Max Planck

          • BenS

            Of course I am. You reject sadists as being exceptions to your objective value of morality and yet they're only exceptions because they're not the norm.

            Say we come across a species from Omicron Persei 8 to whom sadism, violence and wanton cruelty is a virtue because it means they're more likely to procreate than the meek - competition for survival was so tough on their world that evolution rewarded such brutal behaviour. Hence, cruelty being 'wrong' is subjective - they would consider it only fitting and correct.

            The 'disordered' ones would be those who were gentle and kind. You'd still be trying to explain your 'objective morality' to them as they feasted on your bone marrow.

          • Andre Boillot

            Just because something may admit of some specific exceptions doesn't disqualify it from the realm of objectivity.

          • BenS

            Not sure I follow, Andre. If there some exceptions then surely it's not objective.

            Surely 'Truth makes everyone happy' cannot be objectively true if there exist people whom truth does not make happy.

          • Andre Boillot

            If I say that eating food is necessary for health is an objective truth, and you bring up peanut allergies, is my claim now entirely subjective?

          • BenS

            No, because that person still requires food to remain in health* so the statement is correct - it's just a subset of food they cannot handle.

            "Do unto others as you would have other do unto you."

            Cannot be objective as people want different things.

            ---

            *In the interests of discussion, I'm putting to one side that one does not necessarily need to eat food to be kept 'in health'. You can drink it or acquire the necessary nutrients and calories in other ways. But I see what you're saying and I'll respond appropriately.

          • Andre Boillot

            ["one does not necessarily need to eat food to be kept 'in health'"

            I'm glad that my assumption you would take the point as intended paid off :)]

            "No, because that person still requires food to remain in health*"

            Couldn't a person be disordered and view health differently that the norm? Would that person's disorder have any bearing on what is objectively healthy?

            I understand where you're coming from, but I think you're viewing objectivity as needing to be universal, when I'm not sure it does:

            Objective:

            relating to or existing as an object of thought without consideration of independent existence

            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/objective

            I think objective truths can admit of exceptions. For example: lying is bad...though not when it saves your life.

          • BenS

            Couldn't a person be disordered and view health differently that the norm? Would that person's disorder have any bearing on what is objectively healthy?

            This is another reason why I think virtually objective anything is near enough impossible. Views of 'in health' will also be subjective. I might consider 'in health' the ability to run for 30 minutes without collapsing. Someone else might consider 'in health' the ability to get out of bed.

            I think you're viewing objectivity as needing to be universal, when I'm not sure it does:

            You're right, I think I am. And, if I think about it, it needs to be - because if there are exceptions then it's not objective.

            "Lying is always bad, except when it isn't" doesn't really tell us much about anything, I'd say. :)

          • Andre Boillot

            This is another reason why I think virtually objective anything is near enough impossible. Views of 'in health' will also be subjective. I might consider 'in health' the ability to run for 30 minutes without collapsing. Someone else might consider 'in health' the ability to get out of bed.

            To me this is pendulum swinging too far. Things like 'health' are difficult to define in terms of one ultimate, universal standard of health would constitute at any given stage of human / medical development. However, that's not to say that we can't make objective statements about what is healthy and what isn't.

            "Lying is always bad, except when it isn't" doesn't really tell us much about anything, I'd say. :)

            I disagree, in fact I find the conversations surrounding the exceptions for general truths are often quite helpful to understanding why we have those truths to begin with.

            At the risk of seeming like a broken record (sorry, I'm half way through one of his books), I think Sam Harris does a pretty good job talking about how to figure out objective truth. Another example he gives is that, in chess, a good principle to go by is keeping your queen "alive", if at all possible. Which isn't to say that there aren't times when it's useful or even necessary to sacrifice it. Just that you're more likely to win if you have your queen around.

          • severalspeciesof

            "Do unto others as you would have other do unto you."

            Cannot be objective as people want different things.

            An aside here... This is why I prefer using both the negative: "Don't do to others as you would not have done to you" and the positive: "Do unto others as you would have others do to you" of the Golden Rule...

            Glen

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Truth is better than falsehood.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Is that always the case then?

            Perhaps you should take a look around you at the religion you so adore Kevin if you really believe that. Both today and in the past. Joseph Ratzinger's complicity in the abuse scandal. Eugenio Pacelli's deceit was instrumental in facilitating both world wars.

            But is it ever better to tell a lie?

            Of course there is, many, and I don't think you would struggle to think of just one.

          • BenS

            "How did my father die? Was it free of pain?"

            Falsehood: "Your father died a hero; he was helping the women and children onto the lifeboat but slipped and was lost."

            vs

            Truth: "Your father died after kicking a pregnant woman down the stairs and trampling three children to death as he scrambled off the boat. He slipped on some blood and banged his head."

            'Better' is subjective. Try again.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't agree. But maybe the problem is the comparison which calls for a judgment.

            Let's try "justice." Giving others what you owe them.

          • BenS

            I don't agree.

            Not being funny here, but it doesn't matter a whit whether you agree or not. To the teeange girl who doted on her father and who asked how her father died the first answer is absolutely better to her. The fact that it's not true doesn't change that.

            Let's try "justice." Giving others what you owe them.

            How about we stick with the one I put forward rather than you just throwing up whatever pops into your head. Go back and tell me why objectively the truth is 'better' than fiction in that scenario. Hint: it involves defining what you mean by 'better'.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay.

            An objective value is something which has a certain value regardless of what we think about it. So in the example you came up with, we're looking for what is the case regardless of what the girl or her father's victims thought.

            Wouldn't the concept of "value" itself fill the bill? People want "the good." Isn't that the reason you think the girl would prefer to be in ignorance of her father's real character?

            I would say in the case of the cowardly, selfish father, if the girl really thought it was better to be in ignorance of how he died, that would be an apparent good and so not a real value.

            If we add the inter-subjective element, in other words, if we add the rest of the people on the boat and their families, justice demands the truth be told.

            I wish I was a better philosopher but we are creatures with the natural faculty of reason so we want to know and what we want to know is the truth. If I love smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, I might prefer to be kept in ignorance of the truth of the health risks but I'd certainly regret ingnoring it when I have cancer.

          • BenS

            An objective value is something which has a certain value regardless of what we think about it.

            I know what it is.

            So in the example you came up with, we're looking for what is the case regardless of what the girl or her father's victims thought.

            What we're looking for in this case is that the truth is 'better' for everyone concerned in all possibly ways. That it is objectively better for everyone than the lie. Of course, it isn't. That girl finding out her father was a monster is not 'better' for her at all.

            As for the rest of your post, I couldn't make head nor tail of it. You SEEM to be saying that whether the truth or a falsehood is 'better' in individual cases depends on who's getting which... but that can't be right because that would be subjective and you'd be agreeing with me and disproving your claim that 'truth is better than falsehood' is objectively true...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let's try something different before I forget what we are talking about completely.

            I assume you post on STRANGE NOTIONS not simply for the fun of showing how dumb Catholics are (I know that's a blast) but because you think atheism is true and it is better for Catholics to know this than not to?

            If that is the case, don't you agree that truth is better than falsehood?

          • BenS

            I don't show catholics up for being dumb, they do that themselves. :)

            If that is the case, don't you agree that truth is better than falsehood?

            Not in every situation, no. There are numerous situations where telling a lie is subjectively better for the recipient.

            Additionally 'atheism is true'. I think you're trying to paint atheism as something it's not. Atheism makes no claims to be true or false.

            But in the case of showing how dumb some catholic beliefs are, I'm all for that. If it means they stop considering unevidenced nonsense as truth and stop telling women how they must behave with their bodies, stop discriminating against homosexuals and all the other crap that goes with their religion then I'm all for pointing out how their beliefs are false or simply not needed.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Look at what you just wrote, BenS. Despite your distortions of what Catholics "say" about women and homosexuals, you are saying some things are true and some are false. You can only do that legitimately if some things are objectively true or objectively false. Otherwise you are just voicing a subjective opinion.

          • BenS

            you are saying some things are true and some are false

            Actually, I'm not in that post but you don't tend to read my posts properly anyway so there's seldom any point in correcting you. You just read what you want to read, whether I wrote it or not.

            Otherwise you are just voicing a subjective opinion.

            Actually, you know what, I think you're finally getting it.

            Yes, my view that discriminating against homosexuals is wrong IS only a subjective opinion. Mine, in this case. You may disagree and think you're right, I would consider you wrong.

            Congratulations; have a biscuit.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thank you.

            Atheism makes no claims to be true or false?

            Don't atheists make the claim "God does not exist" and agnostics say "We don't know whether or not God exists"?

          • stanz2reason

            I think the position most atheists would ultimately take is a dis-belief in god, rather than a straight up denial. Starting with null as your default reasoning point is a more rational stance.

          • BenS

            Don't atheists make the claim "God does not exist" and agnostics say "We don't know whether or not God exists"?

            I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that's a genuine question, but be aware on the scale of understanding the person you're talking to, that's like me asking you "How can you be fine with Mohammed shagging nine year olds?".

            Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. It is not the belief that gods do not exist.* In this regard, it makes no claims.

            Most atheists are such because there is simply no credible evidence that a god or gods exist. The basic position everyone holds on almost all subjects is that of lack of belief - much like the lack of belief in fairies or space ponies - as this is the most rational position to take unless evidence to show belief to be reasonable is provided.

            ---

            * There are those who state that god does not exist but unless a definition of god has been provided and they can demonstrate it to be logically impossible, they're pretty much making a claim as untenable as those of most religions. I pull these atheists up on their claims in the same way I would collar a religionist too.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I see. I accept your definition because I respect you and your definition sounds perfectly reasonable. I also like that this position leaves the atheist open to evidence in favor of God if it can be produced.

            At the same time I hope you understand that Catholics will tend to think atheism means the claim that God does not exist. After all, the word means "not-god." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy begins its discussion on atheism in "Atheism and Agnosticism" with "‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God."

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            In other words, just so long as words can be asserted to mean what they do not mean, then atheists can be agnostics.

          • BenS

            I also like that this position leaves the atheist open to evidence in favor of God if it can be produced.

            You'll find that most atheists - especially those who have arrived there due to the lack of evidence for god - would shift their position if such evidence would be produced. I know I certainly would, although I would have high standards of evidence for such a remarkable claim and I would be more skeptical than in other subjects because of the sheer volume of claims for a god that have proven to be false.

            At the same time I hope you understand that Catholics will tend to think atheism means the claim that God does not exist.

            Then I hope they follow your fine example and learn what it does mean and what it does (and does not) imply. :)

            After all, the word means "not-god."

            If it does, then you're an atheist too - unless you're actually god in which case I have a bone to pick with you about suffering... ;)

            It actually means 'not theist' and as a theist is someone who believes that a(t least one) deity exists, it means 'not someone who believes in a deity.

            The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy begins its discussion on atheism in "Atheism and Agnosticism" with "‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God."

            This is taking it too far and I'd be surprised if this level of overkill is applied to other subjects. Atypical would not be considered the denial that typical things exist, anaemia is not the denial that blood exists etc. I wonder why they chose to treat atheism differently?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Kevins definition is being somewhat insincere. The Stanford paper opens with this paragraph...

            The main purpose of this article is to explore the differences between atheism and agnosticism, and the relations between them. The task is made more difficult because each of these words are what Wittgenstein called ‘family resemblance’ words. That is, we cannot expect to find a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for their use. Their use is appropriate if a fair number of the conditions are satisfied. Moreover even particular members of the families are often imprecise, and sometimes almost completely obscure. Sometimes a person who is really an atheist may describe herself, even passionately, as an agnostic because of unreasonable generalised philosophical scepticism which would preclude us from saying that we know anything whatever except perhaps the truths of mathematics and formal logic.

            The sentence he quotes continues...

            I shall here assume that the God in question is that of a sophisticated monotheism.

            It also says...

            As the Romans used the word, ‘atheist’ could be used to refer to theists of another religion, notably the Christians, and so merely to signify disbelief in their own mythical heroes.

            Which to my mind, applies to Christians also.

          • robtish

            "Since the question of inherent value is a metaphysical question..."

            But can you prove that? And if so, what tools are you using to do so? Your begging the question a bit when you simply label something a non-empirical question. Science does have a way of expanding the limits of what we can explore empirically.

            It would be more accurate to say that science does not now have the tools to answer your question about inherent value, and we don't know whether or not this may someday change

          • Christian Stillings

            How would you suggest that science might come to have the tools for assessing "inherent value"? I'm willing to accept that science will find things that it hasn't yet, but it'd be helpful to have some idea of how scientific means would ever come to the point of assessing something like "inherent value". If one wantonly applies the "God of the gaps" accusation, one may suggest that science should be expected to find things like "inherent values", even though (as far as I'm aware) nobody actually knows how that would work. Many recent developments of science may have been unforeseen, but they certainly weren't unforeseeable. How do you foresee science being able to answer questions of "inherent value"?

          • Andre Boillot

            "How do you foresee science being able to answer questions of "inherent value"?"

            Well, for one thing, science is based on the assumption that valuing evidence is inherently good. That's science's leap of faith. It's a weird reversal of the is/ought distinction, that until you accept that you ought to value evidence, you'll have a very difficult time discovering what anything else is.

            As far as using science to answer questions of "inherent values", I think we're seeing a lot of progress in terms of figuring out how certain things we experience tend to affect our mental states and well-being in specific ways, and whether or not those experiences lead to more or less well-being. I think expanding our knowledge of these things can serve as the basis for answering questions of value scientifically.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            >"Well, for one thing, science is based on the assumption that valuing evidence is inherently good."

            This is a metaphysical conclusion and a presupposition of scientific inquiry! Congratulations, you are doing metaphysics.

          • robtish

            FIRST -- not sure what you mean by "unforseeable" or the criteria you use to judge it.

            SECOND -- I'd say many recent scientific developments were unforseeable. Quantum physics is a series of utterly bizarre, predictions that baffle scientists, yet have been verified experimentally -- that's sounds like a good standard for "unforseeable."

            THIRD -- It's easy to see how assessing inherent value MIGHT be open to scientific analysis, especially if materialism is correct (not something I necessarily buy, btw) and value is a function of brain chemisty. Even from a non-materialist viewpoint, the experience valuing something is empirical and thus could be open to scientific study.

            FINALLY -- The burden is not on me to demonstrate how science might study value. The burden of proof is on the person making a claim, and the claim at issue is "the question of inherent value is a metaphysical question." That means the person making the claim must demonstrate that science CANNOT study the question.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "Your begging the question a bit when you simply label something a non-empirical question"

            I'm not begging the question. Questions about the existence of God or inherent values are necessarily non-empirical for neither God nor values are empirical.

            And since they cannot be detected, measured, probed, or validated through any of the five senses, the scientific method has nothing to say about either thing.

          • Rationalist1

            "Questions about the existence of God or inherent values are necessarily non-empirical for neither God nor values are empirical." You say they because they can't be measure with the senses they must be non-empirical. But if God ever made a effect on this material realm then it would invalidate everything you said. God must therefore never answer prayers (materially), never cause material miracles (like Fatima) or never interact materially with his creation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is an unwarranted conclusion to draw.

          • robtish

            The experience of valuing something is empirical, indicating that it may be something we will be able to study with the scientific method.

          • Rationalist1

            I guess the certain people here think only religious people can have values. News to me.

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon:

            And since they cannot be detected, measured, probed, or validated through any of the five senses, the scientific method has nothing to say about either thing.

            Then you cannot really make any factual claim about such claims, and anything you tried to say about such a thing would have to be couched in the most extreme speculative language, the language of the extreme hypothetical.

            Also, if your god is like this that is to say a thing that cannot be detected, measured or probed, or validated by any of the five senses, in what way can believers be said to experience said being? In what sense could be say we experience the love of gods, or feel their touch. All such things are products of our five senses, and yet you have just said your god cannot be validated by such things. You cannot say anything about souls either, because they fall into the same category as gods in that they are also not measurable, or detectable.
            The moment you try to say they are then you are violating your own premise.

            It seems like you are trying to have it both ways here.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Brandon would do a better job of answering than I would, but here goes . . .

            Everything in our intellects is first in our senses, true. That is, our knowledge gets into our minds through the five senses.

            However, our intellects can reach the forms of things, that is, we don't just see this bunny and that bunny and the other bunny, we form the concept "bunny!"

            We can form concepts of not just material things like bunnies but immaterial ideas like "being". We form not just truth concepts like being but also moral ones, like justice and the imperative do good and avoid evil. There are even practical concepts like cause and effect.

            Through reasoning based on these concepts, which exist only in our minds, philosophers have formed highly sophisticated concepts like contingent being, necessary being, soul, immortal soul, uncaused cause, and so on.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,

            Nothing you have said negates my points.

            Everything in our intellects is first in our senses, true. That is, our knowledge gets into our minds through the five senses.

            In one way or anther yes. Or our ideas originate in our brains as we mull over information we have gleaned from our various experiences of the world. We can think our way in to some very odd and wrong-headed spaces indeed.

            However, our intellects can reach the forms of things, that is, we don't just see this bunny and that bunny and the other bunny, we form the concept "bunny!"

            Our minds can form categories, but so what? Our minds are not the only minds that can do this. Crucially though, as your category bunny demonstrates our categories maybe errant. Evolutionarily bunnies exist as a statistical cloud of forms with a bell shaped curve where most of a species (say Eastern Cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus ) resides (in form, behavior, diet etc). But there are the ends of the curve and the whole curve can be shifted, or divided by selection pressure. So any species exists for only a time in and our categories, we find don't really have hard edges. This is a bit of an aside, but the point I am trying to make is that simply because our minds form conclusions and create categories about the world, it doesn't necessarily follow that those categories reflect a profound understanding of nature.

            We can form concepts of not just material things like bunnies but immaterial ideas like "being".
            Please don't use such an imprecise word. Define being clearly.

            We form not just truth concepts like being but also moral ones, like justice and the imperative do good and avoid evil. There are even practical concepts like cause and effect.

            Our world is filled with positive and negative outcomes, it doesn't seem unreasonable to me that a species like ours would need to come with a frame work to discuss these ideas. This doesn't mean that the idea of justice, kindness and thrift, to name but a few, exist outside of us, but rather reflects our preferences for how we wish to be dealt with by others. These concepts refer to the way we feel when wronged, or righted. All of which reside in the biological activity of our brains. Again these cultural developments, which did not occur over night, do nothing to establish the presence of gods.

            Through reasoning based on these concepts, which exist only in our minds, philosophers have formed highly sophisticated concepts like contingent being, necessary being, soul, immortal soul, uncaused cause, and so on.

            None of which actually establishes the reality of contingent being, necessary being, soul, immortal soul, uncaused cause and so on. Sophistication doesn't mean a thing. It simply does not. Until someone can actually demonstrate that these words refer to things outside the halls of theology classrooms they remain mere speculation, and speculation untethered to reality at that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks for taking all my points seriously enough to refute them all!

            It tells me I must become a better philosopher and understander of science.

          • Max Driffill

            As should we all.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Why not invest a few days carefully working through the highly sophisticated metaphysical proofs in Spitzer's "New Proofs for the Existence of God"?

        You'll see metaphysical claims, metaphysical methodology, metaphysical conclusions, and tests for measuring their validity.

        • primenumbers

          Why not use his arguments here so we can discuss them together?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            'Cuz they're freaking long and hard!

          • primenumbers

            Best response I've had all day Kevin and you've made me laugh! Thank you very much.

          • primenumbers

            Well I can read a significant amount on the Amazon preview..... I get up to pg45 on metaphysical considerations and I'm met with the metaphysical premise: "From nothing, only nothing comes", but with the explanation on nothing that "there is no such thing as "nothing". I cannot reconcile a metaphysical premise which has "nothing" as a subject, with being told that this subject, "nothing" is "no such thing". The analysis on nothing that we must say "there is no such thing as nothing" or lead directly to contradiction is true, but it also renders the metaphysical premise utterly meaningless.....

    • stanz2reason

      I'm curious why the church didn't immediately come up with the explanation that Adam & Eve were simply the first homo-sapiens to be granted souls until the 20th century, though perhaps it was prior to this as I'm not as well versed in Catholic theological doctrine as others here. How might you explain to a skeptic how this is not simply a case of attempting to reconcile ancient beliefs with modern knowledge, rather than some sort of revealed truth?

      • Christian Stillings

        The biological populations of different organisms at the time of the Fall aren't part of Divine Revelation, because that kind of information isn't pertinent to God's relationship with Man. The book of Genesis tells the story of the first organisms in a unique kind of relationship with God, not the story of anthropological population genetics, because its point is theological and not scientific. I agree that Flynn's work couldn't have been done without the hypothesis of " there were more than two biologically-equivalent-to-humans organisms", but I'd prefer "fitting ancient theology into modern scientific knowledge frameworks" to "[reconciling] ancient beliefs with modern knowledge".

        Also worth noting: I don't think Flynn addresses it in his particular post, but the book of Genesis actually suggests other biologically-human organisms which existed at the time of Adam and Eve: Cain is spared from destruction by others in the land and he apparently goes out and finds a suitable wife somewhere. If one doesn't go Young-Earth Creationist and presuppose that ""All humans are descended from only one man," a sensible reading suggests that there may have been other beings in the land who were at least biologically very similar to Adam, Eve, and their offspring.

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          a sensible reading suggests that there may have been other beings in the land who were at least biologically very similar to Adam, Eve, and their offspring.

          But of course according to Flynn, the difference between biological humans and "real" (ensoulled) humans is "sapience" and abstract thought. Biological similarity is one thing, but according to Flynn's theory, the not-quite-humans Adam and his immediate offspring could have encountered would not have been capable of abstract thought. As I and others have pointed out numerous times, breeding with not-quite-humans who have no souls and are incapable of abstract thought is bestiality. Procreation with soulless not-quite-humans is about as repugnant a thought as it is possible to come up with. Imagine the mother of Cain's son Enoch, a female not-quite human without a soul and incapable of abstract thought. A creature incapable of abstract thought could not understand the concept of wife or marriage. She could not speak anything resembling human language. She would be something like a chimpanzee.

          • Christian Stillings

            I'd suggest that Flynn's most important contribution to the whole matter is that Adam & Eve may be best understood as "metaphysically human" in a way which set them apart from other biologically-similar organisms which were present at the time. As to what constitutes "metaphysical human-ness", he went with the Aristotelian-Thomistic idea of humans having "rational souls" versus non-human organisms having "non-rational souls". The specific capacities afforded "rational animals" and "non-rational animals" in this scenario do lead to some interesting hypotheses about the relationship between "rational" and "non-rational" animals at such close biological proximity, as you note (and others have noted in prior conversations on this matter).

            However, I don't think Flynn's particular quality of hypothesized "metaphysical human-ness" ("rational souls") is necessary for the situation to still work out coherently. St. Thomas was a sharp fellow, and his idea about "rational souls vs. non-rational souls" is a hypothesis worth considering, but Catholics certainly aren't bound to understand the unique qualities of humans ("made in the image of God") in exactly those terms. I agree that the scenario you detail is difficult, and I'm personally inclined to imagine that the difference between "metaphysical humanness" and "metaphysical non-humanness" in the Adam & Eve situation wasn't quite like Flynn thinks of it. The "metaphysical human-ness" which was unique to Adam & Eve could be feasibly hypothesized in a number of ways, and "capacity for abstract thought" is only one of them.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I am still curious to know what the observable difference between an almost-but-not-quite human, and a just-got-a-soul human would be. I believe it is authentic Catholic teaching that the soul is necessary for rational thought. I also believe it is the Catholic position that the differences between humans and, say, chimps is a difference in kind not a difference in degree. Evolution could modify the chimp brain endlessly and the chimp would never attain human capabilities. And, in fact, human brains do not account for human capabilities. The difference between an almost-but-not-quite human and a just-got-a-soul human is not anything natural at all. It is an act of God, not of biology or evolution. And, of course, without a soul, a human being is dead.

          • Christian Stillings

            I am still curious to know what the observable difference between an almost-but-not-quite human, and a just-got-a-soul human would be.

            So am I. However, I'm not sure that we have to know exactly what the two organisms would look like side-by-side in order for a Flynn-ish hypothesis to be true. One could easily accept the basics of Flynn's hypothesis ("Adam and Eve were the first two metaphysically human beings among many biologically similar organisms") without knowing exactly the kind or degree of metaphysical difference between the "metaphysically human" organisms and the "metaphysically non-human" organisms. To say "we don't know exactly what the difference was at that specific time" doesn't negate or even reduce the capacity of the hypothesis to harmonize the genomic data and the theological content.

            I believe it is authentic Catholic teaching that the soul is necessary for rational thought.

            I'm not saying that you're wrong, but I can't say I've come across this in my own studies. A citation would be nifty.

            I also believe it is the Catholic position that the differences between humans and, say, chimps is a difference in kind not a difference in degree.

            A citation of the specific doctrine and the specific language used therein would be helpful to further this conversation. I'm also not sure how precisely we're going to be able to talk about "kind" and "degree" without being more precise about the meaning of each term and what sort of quality or qualities we're thinking of when we apply terms like "kind" or "degree".

            Regarding the rest of your content: the obvious Scriptural and doctrinal issue at stake is the idea that, unlike other organisms, humans are made "in the image of God". However, we're not going to get very far in any direction without being more specific about what's meant by that, and I'm not sure that the doctrine on the books has the kinds of precise philosophical definitions which would be helpful to this conversation.

            If God allowed an organism to develop a sufficiently complex mental life before bestowing "the image of God" upon it (again, whatever that means), I don't think there's any reasons that chimps or non-primate organisms couldn't develop the requisite "hardware" for that kind of mental life. What exactly is between that kind of "hardware"-having and bearing "the image of God", if anything specific, is still up in the air.

        • stanz2reason

          What made Adam & Eve worthy of having souls? Why were they, out of populations of thousands, chosen over others to be first inline for souls? Were a human with a soul to mate with one without, would the child have a soul? It would seem the biological populations are more important to God's relationship with Man than you're letting on.

          I'd prefer "fitting ancient theology into modern scientific knowledge frameworks" to "[reconciling] ancient beliefs with modern knowledge".

          I'm unclear what the substantive difference between the two are. Call it reconciles ancient beliefs or fitting ancient beliefs into modern scientific knowledge frameworks. Doesn't seem to matter much. It appears that the answer to my question is that it has nothing to do with revealed truths.

          a sensible reading suggests that there may have been other beings in the land who were at least biologically very similar to Adam, Eve, and their offspring.

          Couldn't a sensible reading also be that the story is entirely allegorical in nature and doesn't reveal any truth about anything?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The whole point of an allegory is to reveal truth, s2r!

            Genesis reveals all kinds of truths which people generally didn't believe at the time. Here are a few:

            God creates.
            Creation is ontologically good.
            Human beings are made in the image of God.

            Marriage is the natural stage of human beings, the original social unit.
            Man is the steward of creation.

            The world exists for mankind who has the right to "subdue it," that is, develop it.
            It is God's intention that we fill the earth with human beings.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The whole point of an allegory is to reveal truth, s2r!

            Are you sure?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yup.

            "a poem, play, picture, etc, in which the apparent meaning of the characters and events is used to symbolize a deeper moral or spiritual meaning"

            ripped off from dictionary.com

          • Ignorant Amos

            "a poem, play, picture, etc, in which the apparent meaning of the characters and events is used to symbolize a deeper moral or spiritual meaning"

            Oh I understand the definition of the word okay, that's why I asked "Were ya sure?"

            "Allegory: The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form."

            Also ripped from an online dictionary.

            "For those within the religious traditions of Judaism, Islam, or Christianity, allegory is based on the inspired character of scripture into which God has inserted many layers of meaning."

            So, not a "truth" after all then?

            Example....

            "Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. This story of a boy abandoned on an island and raised by a gazelle recounts the boy's survival and progress in understanding from what is necessary for survival, to a grasp of the laws of the universe, culminating in a mystical experience. The boy's progress symbolizes the path and powers of unaided human reason, able to advance from complete ignorance to union with the divine."

            Still not a "truth" then.

            "Truth: That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality."

            Also ripped from an online dictionary.

          • epeeist

            "Truth: That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality."

            A simple definition of the correspondence theory of truth.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Not such a simple definition }80)~....thanks for the link all the same. Deep stuff indeed.

          • epeeist

            Not such a simple definition

            I actually meant that yours was the simple definition...

            As with a lot of other things, it starts with Aristotle:

            To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.

            But if you want it brief then you might like to frame it in terms of a Tarski sentence:

            'S' iff p

          • epeeist

            God creates.

            Assertion

            Creation is ontologically good.

            Assertion

            Human beings are made in the image of God.

            Assertion

            Marriage is the natural stage of human beings, the original social unit.

            Assertion

            Man is the steward of creation.

            Assertion

            The world exists for mankind who has the right to "subdue it," that is, develop it.

            Assertion

            It is God's intention that we fill the earth with human beings.

            Assertion

            You might believe all of these, but that doesn't make them true.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I wasn't claiming that asserting them made them true. I'm claiming these are truths which are implied by the two creation narratives in the first chapters of Genesis.

    • Andre Boillot

      "But it's worth noting that the Catholic Church doesn't teach that the entire human race can be traced back to two, and only two, homo sapiens known as "Adam" and "Eve"."

      When did the Church begin making this distinction? It seems that, even according to the Catholic version of the Galileo controversy, that the sticking point was proposing theories in opposition to a literal interpretation of Genesis, no? I mean, not being able to demonstrate his theory conclusively was a part of it, but it's hard to imagine that there would have been an issue if the theory had been in line with a literal interpretation of Genesis. When was it apparent that Genesis was myth, not history?

      • Rationalist1

        I thing Galelio was more the sticking point that the Sun revolved around the Earth. And before anyone says the Church never taught geocentrism - "the judgment of this Holy Office vehemently suspected of heresy, namely, of having believed and held the doctrine—which is false and contrary to the sacred and divine Scriptures—that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west and that the Earth moves and is not the center of the world; and that an opinion may be held and defended as probably after it has been declared and defined to be contrary to the Holy Scripture;"

        http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/galileo/condemnation.html

        • Andre Boillot

          "I thing Galelio was more the sticking point that the Sun revolved around the Earth."

          That's what I was referring to when saying the problem was proposing something contrary to the existing, literal interpretation of Genesis.

          • Christian Stillings

            Where does Genesis speak about the cosmological relationship between the earth and other "heavenly bodies"? I'm not saying that it doesn't, but I don't know what particular portion you'd be thinking of.

          • Andre Boillot

            Quite right Christian, I was mistaken. Apparently he was in conflict with:

            "1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, Psalm 104:5, Ecclesiastes 1:5 (in contrast with Job 26:7)"

            Not Genesis.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair

          • Kevin Aldrich

            These are statement from the observer's viewpoint.

          • Andre Boillot

            Not sure I follow.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            From earth, the earth appears immovable, with the sun, moon, and stars moving around it.

            Even we still say, let's go watch the sundown.

          • Andre Boillot

            Sure, what's that to do with what Christian and I were discussing, I guess was my question.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sorry. I think I misinterpreted the import of you Scriptural quotes.

            I'm giving the interpretation Galileo's supporters and the Church herself accepted for the difference between the words of Scripture and the Copernican explanation.

    • epeeist

      In my experience, those accusing atheists of Scientism don't do so because atheists demand evidence or because they have faith in science.

      To use "faith" here is to commit the fallacy of equivocation. The "faith" that scientists have in science is trust or confidence derived from its results. If you like, a variant on the "no miracles" argument about scientific theories. It certainly isn't the second form of "faith" in the Oxford Dictionaries definition of the word.

    • Andre Boillot

      "After all, Catholics demand evidence too, and are also big fans of science."

      Honestly, I'm going to start a drinking game for every time Catholic apologists link to this list of scientists who happened to be Catholic as proof that Catholics love science. It's a composition fallacy. Should we do a list of famous Catholic criminals, and suggest Catholics love crime?

      • Rationalist1

        And Catholics are quick to embrace science when it supports their cause such as a Big Bang, but when science differs from their a-priori conclusions they generally defer to their religion.

        • Mary Kay

          how so? do you have a specific example?

          • Rationalist1

            The obvious one would be the Shroud of Turin although some Catholics are admitting now it was a 14th century fabrication. The other would be the dancing of the sun at Fatima. Clearly that never happened. More pertinent is the pronouncement of the retired pope on a trip to Africa that condom use increases AIDS transmission.

    • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

      More specifically, the article below shows why polygenism is perfectly compatible with what the Catholic Church teaches . . . .

      Brandon,

      I would be interested to know what exactly the Church teaches about human origins. It seems to me there is no definitive teaching. Further regarding the article you like to, I would like to know if there is any reasonably authoritative Catholic source that even hints that such a "solution" to the "first parents" theory of human origins is compatible with Catholic doctrine. I have never run across the "theory" that true human beings (Adam and his descendants) mated with biological "almost-true humans" except in Internet arguments. There seem to me to be a number of very grave problems with the theory that, in my opinion, rule it out as compatible with either science or Catholicism. So what is the "Catholic connection" to this strange and very ad-hoc theory?

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

        The OP above states that science makes clear there was no "Adam and Eve" because the populations of homo sapiens and its nearest predecessors never dips below a few thousand.

        But here's the thing--the Catholic view of our "first parents" Adam and Eve is all bound up in the concept of homo sapiens as "true" humans, body and soul. And Pius XII's "Humani Generis" makes clear that a Catholic can believe that the *physical* human form comes from pre-existing forms (a la evolution and even polygenism), as long as this does not contradict the *immediate* creation of the human soul by God.

        Keep in mind that we Catholics believe that God is *still* to this very day *immediately* creating human souls from nothing, at the moment of conception--Creation continues in our very midst...

        So, while there are unique theological circumstances surrounding our first parents, original sin, and the fall, there are ways of reconciling these aspects of Catholic belief with the scientific evidence. I therefore disagree with the QQ suggestion that "science" has somehow made clear that what the Church teaches about Adam and Eve is somehow obviously false....

        • Andre Boillot

          "I therefore disagree with the QQ suggestion that "science" has somehow made clear that what the Church teaches about Adam and Eve is somehow obviously false...."

          Are you confident the early Church did not believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis - God creating man from clay and woman from man's rib?

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Yes, so long as by "early Church" you mean "the Church's official teaching magisterium" and not "a small handful of early Catholics."

            The Church has simply never endorsed a literal interpretation of Genesis--not in the early centuries nor in recent times.

          • Andre Boillot

            "The Church has simply never endorsed a literal interpretation of Genesis--not in the early centuries nor in recent times."

            I suppose I'm failing to see how the below rebuke of Galileo is not a counterpoint:

            Invoking, therefore, the most holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ and of His most glorious Mother, ever Virgin Mary, but this our final sentence, which sitting in judgment, with the counsel and advice of the Reverend Masters of sacred theology and Doctors of both Laws, our assessors, we deliver in these writings, in the cause and causes at present before us between the Magnificent Carlo Sinceri, Doctor of both Laws, Proctor Fiscal of this Holy Office, of the one part, and your Galileo Galilei, the defendant, here present, examined, tried, and confessed as shown above, of the other part—

            We say, pronounce, sentence, and declare that you, the said Galileo, by reason of the matters adduced in trial, and by you confessed as above, have rendered yourself in the judgment of this Holy Office vehemently suspected of heresy, namely, of having believed and held the doctrine—which is false and contrary to the sacred and divine Scriptures—that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west and that the Earth moves and is not the center of the world; and that an opinion may be held and defended as probably after it has been declared and defined to be contrary to the Holy Scripture

            http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/galileo/condemnation.html

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks for posting what the judges actually said.

            What kind of statement is this?

            It is a judgment of reason by a group of theologians. It is not a Magisterial teaching of the Church. The teaching authority was not proposing anything. The court took the position that a literal reading of Genesis was the correct one when it came to astronomy. This position was not the only one current, since plenty of churchmen of the time supported Galileo, including popes.

            I hope this does not sound like I'm just trying to be clever or explain this matter away--but maybe I'm a fool--but these judges said something very specific, that in their judgment Galileo was "vehemently suspect of heresy." That means they "suspected" very strongly that Galileo's views were contrary to Scripture. To say his views were "suspect" means by definition that the judges thought their suspicion could be wrong.

          • Rationalist1

            They were Cardinals and I assume Bishops. I guess we both feel we are both free to ignore what Cardinals and bishops say.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Did Galileo actually say the Sun was the center of the *world*? Or is this just the Holy Office's descriptor? Did Galileo believe there were other solar systems with planets like ours out there, or just *our* solar system?

          • Rationalist1

            Galileo discovered the 4 large moon of Jupiter orbiting not around the earth or the sun but around Jupiter, like a little solar system. It was Bruno who declared there were other solar systems and we know what happened to him.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Bruno is the true martyr of the Scientistic religion.

            Galileo recanted, since he was, after all, a Catholic.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Bruno's famous words to the Inquisition at his sentencing are incredibly powerful, and I consider them to be among the most prophetic ever uttered by an heretic:

            "It may be that you fear to pronounce judgement upon me, more than I fear to receive judgement."

            Wow.

            He certainly nailed that one.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            As far as the science of it goes, it just strikes me as ironic that Galileo, as a heliocentrist, wasn't exactly "right" since the Sun is not in fact the center of the universe, he was just "less wrong" than the geocentrists. I'm going to have to look into the Bruno history, as I'm not familiar with it...but at least it appears he is credited with a more expansive view (and more "correct view") regarding the "center of the world" concept (or lack of center)....

          • Rationalist1

            That's just it. science never claims it is entirely right, it only hopes for more accurate theories. Religion, on the other hand, never admits it is wrong.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Galileo, like everyone else at the time, assumed the world was centered on our location.

            His theory was based on a purported set of proofs for the mobility of the Earth, and hence the centrality of the Sun.

            All of which have, of course, been experimentally falsified.

          • Andre Boillot

            Kevin,

            "It is a judgment of reason by a group of theologians."

            They don't seem like just any theologians though, do they? I'm seeing lots of fancy titles and holy offices.

            "It is not a Magisterial teaching of the Church."

            That may well be, but so far I'm not seeing much in the way of examples of what the Magisterial teaching was. In light of examples of literal Biblical cosmology being used to formally censure people in the 1600s, I'm not sure what to make of claims that the Church never held to literal interpretations of Genesis.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            This is not a fair summary of the case, Kevin.

            The court was constituted in the first place, because the geocentric model was explicitly attested to by Scripture, and affirmed as the authentic meaning of Scripture by a unanimous interpretation of the Fathers.

            Galileo's ideas were not merely opposed by some ecclesiastical court.

            Galileo's ideas constituted a mortal threat to Christendom itself (as subsequent developments have magnificently affirmed).

            The silver lining is that he was wrong, and the Church was right, and this fact will, very soon now, prove to be of potentially major impact upon this dying culture.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            I'm as confident as St. Augustine was--my recollection is that he himself is on record as saying as much--saying that such a "literalistic" (as opposed to "literal" in the sense that "literalistic" would mean an inflexible or "wooden" view of what is literally said) approach is inaccurate...

          • Andre Boillot

            So, what was the early Church's view of Genesis? Just a myth?

          • Rationalist1

            For the majority of the Catholic Church's histery it taught that the sun orbited the Earth and that there was a literal Adam and Eve.

          • Andre Boillot

            Jim, Brandon, and R1: I'm genuinely interested in this, and I'd prefer to see actual examples rather than assertions, either way.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Augustine wrote a work titled "On the Literal Meaning of Genesis"--not sure what link might get you to it, but that would probably interest you. Also, Pius XII's encyclical "Humani Generis" would be worth reading.

          • Rationalist1

            St. Basil in his
            Hexameron held to a literal 6 days of creation.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Actually, for the majority of *human* history, *humans* taught that the sun orbited the Earth....why pick on the "Church"? It's not as though there were centuries and centuries of enlightened non-Catholics trying to convince *Catholics* exclusively that the sun didn't orbit the Earth....
            As to "literal Adam and Eve"--yes "literal" Adam and Eve--but not *literalistic* Adam and Eve....

          • Rationalist1

            Jim - Because the Church killed, tortured and imprisoned people for saying differently.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Got evidence?

          • BenS

            You do realise you're supposed to ask that rhetorically when the answer is 'no', right? When the answer is a resounding 'yes' then it kinda makes you look a bit daft...

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            So there is evidence that the *Church* actually *killed* people for saying the Sun did not orbit the Earth?
            If the answer is a resounding "yes," then I will admit to being "daft" as soon as I see the resounding evidence....

          • BenS

            The church has absolutely killed people for saying differently to accepted church teachings. As for saying differently on the specific teaching of the sun orbiting the Earth they most certainly imprisoned people, though I can't speak to torture or murder. That said, given the church's past and future form, I would imagine it likely, but those tortured and murdered weren't as high profile as Galileo.

            If your clinging to the idea of a good church because it might not have tortured and killed people about this specific teaching then your argument has a piss poor foundation.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            I for one prefer grappling with the facts of Church history more than I do grappling with what you may or may not "imagine" is likely about Church history. So I think my original comment stands accurately--why single out the *Church* for accepting geocentrism when it was accepted by the whole of the population and taught by the whole of the population and believed by *scientists* during the same time it was believed by Churchmen....

          • Rationalist1

            I'm not singling out the Church except the Church formally declared that geocentric was its teaching and that obviously is wrong. Unlike science which admits its error the Church never admits errors in teaching.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            So the Church has never admitted error regarding geocentrism and the Galileo affair?

          • Rationalist1

            "The Church at the time of Galileo kept much more closely to reason than did Galileo himself, and she took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo's teaching too. Her verdict against Galileo was rational and just, and the revision of this verdict can be justified only on the grounds of what is politically opportune."

            Cardinal Ratzinger

            And it was only the theologians that made the error

            "Thanks to his intuition as a brilliant physicist and by relying on different arguments, Galileo, who practically invented the experimental method, understood why only the sun could function as the centre of the world, as it was then known, that is to say, as a planetary system. The error of the theologians of the time, when they maintained the centrality of the Earth, was to think that our understanding of the physical world's structure was, in some way, imposed by the literal sense of Sacred Scripture...."

            Pope John Paul II

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Slow down, R1. Paul Feyerbend said that, not Ratzinger. R was quoting PF.

          • Rationalist1

            Correction noted,

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            So the Church was right when it forced Galileo to recant his theories, and the Church was right when it admitted error, too? Apparently the Church is always right.

          • Rationalist1

            The Catholic Church never admitted it was wrong. Pope JPII said theologians were wrong even though the pope at that time issued the decree.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. The Church did not formally declare that the universe is geocentric. The judges who condemned Galileo ruled he was "vehemently suspect of heresy" for his heliocentric view. "Suspect" admits fallibility and in fact it was wrong.

          • BenS

            I for one prefer grappling with the facts of Church history more than I do grappling with what you may or may not "imagine" is likely about Church history.

            Do you admit or deny the church has, on numerous occasions throughout its history, imprisoned, tortured and killed those who it declared went against its teachings?

            why single out the *Church* for accepting geocentrism

            Because it didn't just 'accept' geocentrism, it imprisoned proponents of heliocentrism as being against the teachings of the church. We're going round in circles here.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Recap--

            1. I asked why it's always the Church that gets singled out for believing in geocentrism when *everybody*--including scientists--once did.

            2. I was told "Because the Church killed, tortured and imprisoned people for saying differently."

            3. I said "got evidence?"

            Two observations: First, I shouldn't have asked "got evidence?" since it is a bit of a rabbit hole leading away from the original point. It just gets us arguing cases and evidence of specific claims of the Church's treatment of specific people, which can be highly subjective. Second, my original point is much more interesting: And so I ask again of our contemporary scientists: why was it that *scientists* as well as Churchmen *both* once accepted geocentrism? What was it about the *science* at the time that permitted this?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Bruno was tortured and murdered.

            His treatment was pivotal in Galileo's recanting. Though I've read that Galileo's problems had more to do with taking the piss out of the Pope than his cosmological beliefs.

            As for others who were condemned for heresy...

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

          • Rationalist1

            I would have been killed, as would all the atheists here, 400 years ago for saying the things we freely say now.

          • epeeist

            Bruno was tortured and murdered.

            You have to wonder whether that was where the British got the idea. As Voltaire said "Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres"

          • Ignorant Amos

            "In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others."

            Poor Byng....scapegoating is a time honoured tradition among the weak and feeble minded.

            Incidentally, Richard Kane the most important British governor of Minorca, came from my home town of Carrickfergus. He is still affectionately thought of in Mahon.

            "In Minorca, against the interference of the Roman Catholic Church and always short of funds, Kane reformed the legal system, drew up a new constitution, built a road connecting the old Spanish capital, Ciudadela, with Mahon, the new capital, and improved trade by making Mahon a free port. He introduced new agricultural methods and imported new varieties of cereal, new breeds of cattle and drought-resistant clover to feed them."

            A wee bit of useless for ya.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I know of no evidence that the Church tortured and killed anyone over the orbit of the earth, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

            I don't think Bruno was tortured but he *was* burned for all kinds of " thought crimes." To me he is a sad figure who while intellectually brilliant probably had some kind of mental disorder which kept getting him in trouble everywhere he went and which nobody knew enough to spot.

            The bigger point, certainly true, is that the Church, along with every other authority at the time, tortured and killed people over ideas.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I don't think Bruno was tortured but he *was* burned for all kinds of " thought crimes."

            Bruno was tortured alright...

            " It was strict Holy Office practice to keep detailed records of all its proceedings from the first summons to the final sentencing. This was intended to discourage the inclination to ask leading questions which would suggest to the accused how they should reply. A permanent member of every court of inquisition was the Notary, who took down in writing every question and every answer, including the exclamations of pain emitted by the victims of torture."

            http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/brunolinks.html

            To me he is a sad figure who while intellectually brilliant probably had some kind of mental disorder which kept getting him in trouble everywhere he went and which nobody knew enough to spot.

            Conjecture...but if true, makes the case worse.

            The bigger point, certainly true, is that the Church, along with every other authority at the time, tortured and killed people over ideas.

            Precisely. Ideas that challenged the ignorance of the church and scriptures. The church, given it's claim to the moral high ground and claim to the divine knowledge...that Godly objective morality you all cock and crow about. Were no different than any other human institutions ignorance.

            The same "whataboutery" defence is being used to this very day in the sex abuse scandals.

          • Ignorant Amos

            So there is evidence that the *Church* actually *killed* people for saying the Sun did not orbit the Earth?

            In part anyway...yes...while the church did the condemning to burn for heresy, they didn't get their hands bloody, that was left to their partners in crime, the civil authourities.

            I'm thinking Giordano Bruno on this occasion.

            "The numerous charges against Bruno, based on some of his books as well as on witness accounts, included blasphemy, immoral conduct, and heresy in matters of dogmatic theology, and involved some of the basic doctrines of his philosophy and cosmology."

          • Max Driffill

            My reason for picking on the church is because of the way in which it chose to silence the debate, via threat of force, torture and loss of freedom. It isn't that they were wrong that is the problem (humans are often wrong). It is that the methods of the religious often leave them unable to accurately distinguish from correct vs incorrect hypotheses and the leads to acrimony, and vitriol,and when possessed of political power it can lead to violence, and censorship.

            As to "literal Adam and Eve"--yes "literal" Adam and Eve--but not *literalistic* Adam and Eve....

            Unlikely unless you can demonstrate it.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Not "myth" per se, but the Church Fathers well understood that Genesis was neither science nor history in our modern sense of those terms but rather was a text possessing both "figurative" and "literal" elements asserted not only by the human author but by the Holy Spirit "through" the human author. Genesis is *story*, and just as in every story, particularly one based on "real" events, one will find traces of "literal" (even historical) truth as well as the truths that emerge via the "figurative" telling of the tale...

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Jim,

            Fundamentalists, when faced with an unreconcilable contradiction between generally accepted science and a given Biblical account, double down on the Bible and attempt (usually feebly) to dismantle the science.

            It appears that Catholics, when faced with the same contradiction, take one of two stances.

            (1) If the scientific consensus is overwhelming, they simply discount the Biblical account as "figurative". Example: the creation of the universe in six 24-hour days.

            (2) If the scientific consensus does not exist or no scientific analysis is possible, they continue to hold out the Biblical account as literally true. Example: Christ's resurrection.

            The Catholic approach seems to be a rather facile way of papering over Biblical errors and I am not sure it is more intellectually honest than the fundamentalist approach.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            But here's the thing: Catholics obviously don't buy into a "sola Scriptura" view of the Bible as does the fundamentalist.
            Since it is the authority of the Catholic Church upon which the "Bible as Bible" actually stands (the Catholic Church is the authority that declared what is and is not the inspired Word of God for Christians), it doesn't need to "double down" on fundamentalist interpretations. Rather, the Catholic approach helps *reconcile* the meaning of Scripture with the meaning of the observable universe. This includes a consideration of the style and purpose of source material (literary forms) and considerations of what the Biblical authors really wish to assert in using those forms. Thus it's no error to say something is "figurative" if the literary form of the work is clearly figurative in many respects...
            As such, there is no "papering over" the content of Scripture when compared with facts of the material universe. The Catholic approach is quite helpful in considering these questions....

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          And Pius XII's "Humani Generis" makes clear that a Catholic can believe that the *physical* human form comes from pre-existing forms (a la evolution and even polygenism), as long as this does not contradict the
          *immediate* creation of the human soul by God.

          Thanks for the response. I would say that Humani Generis, while no doubt carrying the same weight as any other encyclical, does not enforce any particular belief about human origins. Note this passage (apologies for its length) from Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God, a document from the International Theological Commission, approved by then-Cardian Ratzinger in 2002, on science and human origins. Notably absent is any assertion that God chose two and only two proto-humans to receive souls and become "our first parents."

          63. According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the “Big Bang” and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Later there gradually emerged the conditions necessary for the formation of atoms, still later the condensation of galaxies and stars, and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets. In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life. While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5-4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution. While the story of human origins is complex and subject to revision, physical anthropology and molecular biology combine to make a convincing case for the origin of the human species in Africa about 150,000 years ago in a humanoid population of common genetic lineage. However it is to be explained, the decisive factor in human origins was a continually increasing brain size, culminating in that of homo sapiens. With the development of the human brain, the nature and rate of evolution were permanently altered: with the introduction of the uniquely human factors of consciousness, intentionality, freedom and creativity, biological evolution was recast as social and cultural evolution.

          64. Pope John Paul II stated some years ago that “new knowledge leads to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge”(“Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution”1996). In continuity with previous twentieth century papal teaching on evolution (especially Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Humani Generis ), the Holy Father’s message acknowledges that there are “several theories of evolution” that are “materialist, reductionist and spiritualist” and thus incompatible with the Catholic faith. It follows that the message of Pope John Paul II cannot be read as a blanket approbation of all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe. Mainly concerned with evolution as it “involves the question of man,” however, Pope John Paul’s message is specifically critical of materialistic theories of human origins and insists on the relevance of philosophy and theology for an adequate understanding of the “ontological leap” to the human which cannot be explained in purely scientific terms. The Church’s interest in evolution thus focuses particularly on “the conception of man” who, as created in the image of God, “cannot be subordinated as a pure means or instrument either to the species or to society.” As a person created in the image of God, he is capable of forming relationships of communion with other persons and with the triune God, as well as of exercising sovereignty and stewardship in the created universe. The implication of these remarks is that theories of evolution and of the origin of the universe possess particular theological interest when they touch on the doctrines of the creation ex nihilo and the creation of man in the image of God.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Humani Generis helps set the essential theological parameters which a Catholic must adhere to when addressing these questions--namely that we have in at least the theological sense two "first parents" who fall, and that "souls" do not evolve but are "immediately" created by God from nothing (at conception). A lot of the rest is pretty wide open...

        • Ben

          Since about half of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion at a very early stage, God is making a lot of wasted souls. What a weird sick freak He is.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Making such mockingly absurd comments about theistic belief does very little to foster actual understanding, Ben.
            1. The statistical data on spontaneous early abortion remains the equivalent of a wild guess. Is it a third? Half?
            2. There is no such thing as a "wasted soul."
            3. God is not a "weird sick freak".
            I recommend you figure out a way to communicate without resorting to calling God names, not because a theist might see that as blasphemy, but because a theist *would* see it as the weakest possible kind of statement against God's existence. "So's your old man" didn't work on the playground in pre-school, and it certainly doesn't work here....
            But to respond: Existence with God forever is infinitely better than non-existence. Regardless of the rate of spontaneous abortion (and regardless of the child mortality rate in any historic period), God doesn't "waste" human persons....

          • BenS

            1. The statistical data on spontaneous early abortion remains the equivalent of a wild guess. Is it a third? Half?

            Does it matter? Even one in a million is still an embedded soul that literally had no chance at a human life.

            There is no such thing as a "wasted soul."

            Says you. So, if god can create souls and then abort them himself so they never have to live human life with the potential for suffering, why bother with humans at all? Why not just make souls that can live in bliss and never have to suffer?

            Suffering that has no need - and it clearly doesn't if some are naturally aborted and still go to heaven - is sick and weird. It's not a statement against god's existence, just an observation that he's a bit of a shit.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            First, souls aren't "embedded". Second, saying that those miscarried have "no chance at a human life" misses the point entirely, as the destination of life lived "humanly" is eternal life with God. Earthly existence is prelude to the fulfillment of "human life".
            As to suffering, I'm not sure why you would view the fact that some innocents may go to Heaven without suffering (whether via miscarriages or perhaps via a painless but early death after birth ) as evidence *against* God's goodness. Rather, if the origin of pain and suffering is a result of sin and *not* God (as Christians assert), this would be precisely the kind of fact that would seem to *support* the theistic view that God is all good--He has *not* consigned every human person to experience pain and suffering in this life--on the contrary, His plan and purpose ultimately *spares* many from such effects of sin and evil. And that's a good thing, isn't it?

          • BenS

            First, souls aren't "embedded".

            Substitute whatever word you wish then. I have little time for messing around with word play.

            Second, saying that those miscarried have "no chance at a human life" misses the point entirely, as the destination of life lived "humanly" iseternal life with God. Earthly existence is prelude to the fulfillment of "human life".

            So why bother with life on Earth, then?

            As to suffering, I'm not sure why you would view the fact that some innocents may go to Heaven without suffering (whether via miscarriages or perhaps via a painless but early death after birth ) as evidence *against* God's goodness. Rather, if the origin of pain and suffering isa result of sin and *not* God (as Christians assert), this would be precisely the kind of fact that would seem to *support* the theistic view that God is all good

            Most ridiculous mangled thinking ever. If god is the uncaused cause, the prime mover and the source of everything then sin absolutely comes from god in one way or another.

            Tell me how a child born with horrific defects and lasts for just a few hours in all consuming pain before finally expiring is a result of it sinning. After you've done that, tell me why god couldn't have just naturally aborted it and whisked it to heaven without it having to suffer. After you've done that, tell me why god created the concept of sin in the first place.

            His plan and purpose ultimately *spares* many from such effects of sin and evil. And that's a good thing, isn't it?

            The obvious issue here is that an all powerful, all knowing being could spare ALL from such effects of suffering but simply can't be bothered. That makes him a bit of a shit, doesn't it?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            ***Most ridiculous mangled thinking ever. If god is the uncaused cause, the prime mover and the source of everything then sin absolutely comes from god in one way or another. ***
            Not so. Just as I am personally the "cause" of my children (along with my wife) coming into being, so God is personally the "cause" of all creatures with free will coming into being. And yet, if my child decides to go out and rob a bank, I'm not the one who gets arrested and sent to jail...

            ****Tell me how a child born with horrific defects and lasts for just a few hours in all consuming pain before finally expiring is a result of it sinning.****
            Didn't say it was. I said suffering and evil comes from sin, not from God.
            *** After you've done that, tell me why god couldn't have just naturally aborted it and whisked it to heaven without it having to suffer.***
            He could have--and that's the point which *you* raised in our discussion--that God actually *does* effectively do this when spontaneous early abortion occurs. As to why some suffer and some don't--in *this* life? Not easy to say--but at its root is the origin of suffering in sin. And what is easy to say is that God's perfect justice and mercy will be brought to bear upon every soul who suffered in "this" life.
            ***After you've done that, tell me why god created the concept of sin in the first place.***
            The concept of sin arises from the reality of free will. The choice to love is meaningless if it is not really a choice. Hence, free will affords creatures the opportunity for both choosing to love God and choosing *not* to love God. Sin (choosing "not God") arises therefore from creatures, not the Creator.

            ***The obvious issue here is that an all powerful, all knowing being could spare ALL from such effects of suffering but simply can't be bothered. That makes him a bit of a shit, doesn't it?****
            Can't be bothered? Are you kidding? Christians believe that God indeed was "bothered" enough to save us all from ourselves by *dying* for us so we could live with Him forever *free* from all suffering. The fact that He did so in a way that you've apparently chosen not to respect is not *His* problem, is it?
            Regardless of what one thinks about the origin of the "problem of evil" (which we are discussing now), we Christians do have the *answer* to the "problem of evil"--Jesus Christ....

          • Ben

            Maybe it's only a third of pregnancies which end up in spontaneous abortion.

            That still means that heaven is filled with billions and billions of people who died after only a few weeks of gestation. They've had no chance to form a personality or acquire language skills - since we know that human interaction is required to develop that. Moreover, they probably have terrible chromosomal imbalances or other problems, which is why they aborted early in the first place.

            Do they float about heaven as tiny embryoes, but with a human awareness crammed into them by God? Or does God perhaps extrapolate their physical forms from the embryonic stage to what they would have become in their physical prime, say aged 18, complete with all the terrible deformities that even cruel Nature balked at bringing to full term? Do they drag themselves around heaven bleeding from their gills or leaking spinal fluid from their gaping neural tubes?

            If I kept a lot of people with severe congenital defects around to worship me, the police would get involved, but apparently that's all part of God's plan? It seems weird and sick to me. Far better to ensoul people after they come out. If God isn't a weird freak, that must be what he's doing. If God had a problem with abortion he wouldn't design the world so that abortions are so common.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Your questions reveal a very materialistic view of questions that go well beyond time, space, and matter. What Heaven will be like is obviously not something vividly known, but it is in the Resurrection of Christ that we have our glimpse of what happens to our bodies. Our bodies will reveal in themselves our perfected and immortal human nature. That's at least what *I* know about it. As to the rest, let's both ask God to explain it in greater detail once we get there....

          • Ben

            Well, Jesus resurrected in a body pretty much the same as his normal body, as far as I can tell. Although I do remember that in one of the resurrection accounts, some of his disciples don't recognise him at first, so maybe his resurrection body was upgraded by God?

            Are you suggesting that Christ had chromosomal defects in his first body, which God fixed when he was resurrected? I guess that would explain why he said so many crazy things.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Mortal bodies are raised to immortality. Jesus' Resurrection from the dead was the first. What does it mean to be "raised to immortality" body and soul? I'm curious to find out. The Risen Christ offers us a glimpse--If you want that glimpse, take a look at the Gospels and a few of Paul's letters....

          • Ben

            Yeah, I have actually seen the Gospels. I went to Christian-controlled schools so we were preached to about them for over a decade. Luckily it was C of E, not Catholic, so it never went further than talking.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            but it is in the Resurrection of Christ that we have our glimpse of what happens to our bodies. Our bodies will reveal in themselves our perfected and immortal human nature.

            If you read John 20:24-27 (the story of "Doubting Thomas"), the resurrected Jesus still had nail marks in his hands and a spear wound in his side large enough to put a hand in. Now, I wouldn't read this part of the Gospel of John as evidence of what a "glorified body" (if such things exists) would be like, but nevertheless, that's what it says.

          • Ignorant Amos

            That's at least what *I* know about it.

            It might be more accurate to say...

            "That's at least what *I* believe about it."

        • epeeist

          Keep in mind that we Catholics believe that God is *still* to this very day *immediately* creating human souls from nothing, at the moment of conception

          So, one presumes that mono-zygotic twins only get half a soul each.

          • Michael Murray

            Don't you keep the other half in a horcrux ?

          • Andrew G.

            And do chimerae have two souls? Inquiring minds want to know.

          • epeeist

            And do chimerae have two souls?

            I think the more urgent question when it comes to chimera is whether, when bombinating in a vacuum, they devour second intentions.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Epeeist, you got me. I wasn't going to admit it, cuz it's so embarrassing, but since you figured it out, I guess I have to. Yep--Catholics believe that some monozygotic twins are just soulless zombies. The difficulty is figuring out which one to baptize, since baptism requires a soul. :-)
            OR, maybe we believe something much more obvious and rational--that, upon the point at which not one, but *two*, distinct members of the human species are formed via the cell division that results in monozygotic twinning, God immediately creates the soul of the second person.
            The first moment of the material existence of both the *first* and the *second* twin is understood to be the moment at which God creates their souls....

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            You're funny, Jim! Great explanation.

          • Ignorant Amos

            OR, maybe we believe something much more obvious and rational--that, upon the point at which not one, but *two*, distinct members of the human species are formed via the cell division that results in monozygotic twinning, God immediately creates the soul of the second person. The first moment of the material existence of both the *first* and the *second* twin is understood to be the moment at which God creates their souls....

            There is nothing like witnessing a bit of theological retcon pretzelmania in light of scientific discoveries. Is there really people that figure this stuff out in order to smash a square peg into a round hole? I despair, I really do.

            Wouldn't an omniscient god have been aware of the forthcoming cell division and just left two souls at the point of conception in anticipation of the impending split? It's just as unreasonable a ridiculous hypothesis as the one you've asserted after all.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            What is unreasonable and ridiculous about the idea that the time of ensoulment corresponds precisely to the time at which a unique individual human being is physically formed? The "hypothesis" is quite consistent, applicable to conception, to twinning, to in vitro, to cloning and embryonic stem cells.
            No square peg, no round hole.
            It's so very simple--where one finds a unique individual human being, one will find both body and soul.

          • Andrew G.

            So when two embryos fuse to form a chimera - what happens?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            If there were once two individuals and chimerical fusion results in one individual, then clearly one of the original two has perished.

          • BenS

            So, are Abigail and Brittany* one person or two? Do they have one soul or two? If one gets married, is the other commiting a sin by having sex out of wedlock (they only have one set of reproductive organs).

            ---

            * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abigail_and_Brittany_Hensel

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Ben, these are interesting questions, but not problematic. Each person would have a distinct soul since they each have unique intellects and wills. And no, if Abigail gets married Brittany would not be necessarily committing a sin since the would (obviously) not will to have sex outside of marriage.

          • BenS

            Thanks, but I'm just asking what - to me - seems obvious.

            So it's will and intellect that determines whether a soul is granted? Why do non-humans animals that show these traits not get granted souls? I asked elsewhere if a human mind is copied, exactly, into either a machine substrate or another biological substrate (another human brain) will that also have a soul? It will demonstrate intellect and will exactly like a human being (being that it's an exact copy).

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            The case of conjoined twins? The answer is in the question--they are *twins*--TWO. Two persons, two souls, *two* bodies compromised in development.
            As to marriage and "sin," my intuition would be that their situation likely precludes entering into marriage, as the autonomy necessary for full freedom to consent to marriage may not be possible given their circumstances....But I'm not sure on this...

          • BenS

            *two* bodies compromised in development.

            How do you come to the conclusion that it's two bodies when they're not separable? What criteria are you using to decide what a body is? If it's two bodies, whose vagina is that?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Seriously? If there are not two, then there can be nothing to "conjoin", right? This is the common sense of observation here--two heads, two spines, two spinal cords, two hearts, four lungs, etc. Two human individuals partially merged physicaly during development....

          • BenS

            Then answer my last question. Whose vagina is that?

          • Andre Boillot

            The age-old question...

          • BenS

            In my house, it crops up far more often than you'd think....

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            They both share that body part; it's both of theirs.

            I fail to see how this is problematic or is at all relevant to the questions at hand.

          • BenS

            Well, I'm being told there is two bodies but no-one seems quite clear where one ends and the other begins - despite this all being so terribly simple and all. I'm being told these are 'individuals' despite not actually stopping to consider what the word actually means...

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Well now, I don't know. Part of the anomaly of being conjoined is that only one twin's body part may have developed more fully while the other's did not. But this obviously doesn't mean two bodies are not involved in conjoined twins...

          • Ignorant Amos

            "In the case of conjoined twins, a woman only produces a single egg, which does not fully separate after fertilization. The developing embryo starts to split into identical twins during the first few weeks after conception, but stops before the process is complete. The partially separated egg develops into a conjoined fetus."
            Problems to resolve for the theist abound.

          • Ignorant Amos

            What is unreasonable and ridiculous about the idea that the time of ensoulment corresponds precisely to the time at which a unique individual human being is physically formed?

            So let's try and tie it down then. When exactly is the, "a unique individual human being is physically formed"?

            It appears that there is no hard and fast rules.

            Declaration on Procured Abortion which was issued by the Vatican in 1974, Footnote 19, states:

            “The present Declaration deliberately leaves untouched the question of the moment when the spiritual soul is infused. The tradition is not unanimous in its answer and authors hold different views: some think animation occurs in the first moment of life, others that it occurs only after implantation. But science really cannot decide the question, since the very existence of an immortal soul is not a subject for scientific inquiry; the question is a philosophical one. For two reasons the moral position taken here on abortion does not depend on the answer to that question: 1) even if it is assumed that animation comes at a later point, the life of the fetus is nonetheless incipiently human (as the biological sciences make clear); it prepares the way for and requires the infusion of the soul, which will complete the nature received from the parents; 2) if the infusion of the soul at the very first moment is at least probable (and the contrary will in fact never be established with certainty), then to take the life of the fetus is at least to run the risk of killing a human being who is not merely awaiting but is already in possession of a human soul.”

            The "hypothesis" is quite consistent, applicable to conception, to twinning, to in vitro, to cloning and embryonic stem cells.

            Quite consistent with making it up as ya go along ya mean.

            The oft quoted around here, Aquinas, postulated...

            "[T]he rational soul is produced by special creation at the moment when the organism is sufficiently developed to receive it. In the first stage of embryonic development, the vital principle has merely vegetative powers; then a sensitive soul comes into being, educed from the evolving potencies of the organism — later yet, this is replaced by the perfect rational soul, which is essentially immaterial and so postulates a special creative act."

            ...but...

            No square peg, no round hole.

            Really?

            "Many modern theologians have abandoned this last point of St. Thomas's teaching, and maintain that a fully rational soul is infused into the embryo at the first moment of its existence."

            So not a zygote then?

            "In humans, the term embryo refers to the ball of dividing cells from the moment the zygote implants itself in the uterus wall until the end of the eighth week after conception."

            Natural monzygotic twinning occurs when the blastocyst collapses causing the cells that do the hard work of genetics to split forming two fetus to form...or if you like, eventually two "unique individual human beings", but prior to that is where you have the peg and hole quandary.

            Yep, make-it-up-as-we-go theology will always work.

            It's so very simple--where one finds a unique individual human being, one will find both body and soul.

            It isn't quite as simple as you are implying though, is it? Again, when is this "unique individual human being" moment? Clearly not at conception as the monozygotic twinning enigma has posed. Clearly not in the case of cloning I'd also suspect.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Footnote 19 is a good summary as to why there is no definitive teaching on ensoulment from the Magisterium, *other* than to point out that it is actually the *biology*--not the "spirituality"--upon which we Catholics based our understanding of the sanctity of human life at its earliest stage.
            That's kind of the point, ultimately--"when" the soul is created by God is an interesting theological question, one that is utlimately incapable of being demonstrated. But it's the material existence of individuated human beings that forms the basis of our understanding of the sanctity of human existence.
            Oddly, though, you seem to be missing an important aspect of this--"monozygotic twinning" poses *no* enigma whatsoever. At conception, *one* soul is created, as there is *one* individual present at that time. At twinning, the *second* individual comes to be, both body and soul (soul created at the moment of "being" for the second twin).
            You seem to presume that when a theist says "life (souls) begins at conception" that this means that life begins (or souls begin) *only* at natural conception (when egg and sperm nautrally unite), but this is demonstrably a false presumption...

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            I like your explanation. If there's a human body, there's a human soul.

          • Ignorant Amos

            That's kind of the point, ultimately--"when" the soul is created by God is an interesting theological question, one that is utlimately incapable of being demonstrated.

            As I said, you all make it up as you go along...or as said by epeeist, it's "Ad Hoc".

            You seem to presume that when a theist says "life (souls) begins at conception" that this means that life begins (or souls begin) *only* at natural conception (when egg and sperm nautrally unite), but this is demonstrably a false presumption...

            I'm presuming no such thing, I'm scouring Catholic sources for a straight answer, which I can tell you, is not "simple", "consistent" or "concise". The goalposts are continually being shifted to accommodate science.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Not accurate--the "goalposts" are not being "shifted"--rather, the *harmony* that exists between science and faith is continually being demonstrated. In the Catholic Church, there is most definitely what is known as "development of doctrine"--and the more we know about the material universe via science, the more refined our expressions of faith may become. Likewise, the definitive truths we know via divine revelation will never be "undone" by science, so this is far from making it up as we go along--it's rather respecting both reason and faith in pursuit of truth...

          • epeeist

            Likewise, the definitive truths we know via divine revelation will never be "undone" by science

            But you made the definitive statement "Catholics believe that God is *still* to this very day *immediately* creating human souls from nothing, at the moment of conception", you placed no caveats on the statement whatsoever.

            But as soon as science provides information on the how identical twins develop you are driven to retrench, your definitive statement seems no longer to be definitive.

            As I said before, there is no problem changing your stance when new information comes to light. All it requires you to do is to say, "yes, we were wrong about that".

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Let's review:
            1. Is God still to this very day immediately creating human souls from nothing, at the moment of conception?
            I of course say yes.
            2. Does saying this is true *exclude* the idea that God ensouls a twin that arises *after* the moment of conception that gave rise to the first of the twins?
            No, it doesn't.
            Honestly, folks, it's not like today is the first day I've had to consider how twinning affects this question and that I'm merely trying to answer objections on the fly. I've been neither surprised by nor flummoxed by such questions today, which I asked of myself and investigated many many years ago...
            Does God immediately create the human soul for every human being? Yes.
            Therefore, it follows that wherever one can identify a living growing individual human being by virtue of its physical/genetic form, one can *also* state clearly that God has immediately created a human soul, from nothing, which completes the human nature of that individual...

          • epeeist

            1. Is God still to this very day immediately creating human souls from nothing, at the moment of conception?
            I of course say yes.

            I would, of course, disagree, but that it is not the point of the argument.

            Therefore, it follows that wherever one can identify a living growing individual human being by virtue of its physical/genetic form, one can *also* state clearly that God has immediately created a human soul, from nothing, which completes the human nature of that individual...

            Which is quite different to your original assertion.

            What I was pointing out was that your bare assertion did not stand up to a particular corner case, while others raised other corner cases.

            You seem to have expected your assertion to be accepted as authoritative. Were you, perhaps, disconcerted when it was not?

            one can *also* state clearly that God has immediately created a human soul, from nothing

            You might be able to "state clearly", but to be blunt, unless you can justify that statement then it counts as nothing more than opinion.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You say "development of doctrine", I say moving the goalposts, very much of a muchness really.

            We know doctrine isn't supposed to change, so "development of doctrine" is just a swanky way of circumventing that predicament.

            Likewise, the definitive truths we know via divine revelation will never be "undone" by science,..

            I've news for you Jim and it's all bad.

            so this is far from making it up as we go along--it's rather respecting both reason and faith in pursuit of truth...

            Just a poetic way of saying the same thing. Flannel all you like, it'll make no difference in the end.

            I'm guessing this is why Canon Law once said...

            "Caveant Catholici ne disputationes vel collationes, publicas praesertim, cum acatholics habeant, sine venia Sancttae Sedis aut, si casus urgeat, loci Ordinarri."

            "Catholics are to avoid disputations or conferences about matters of faith with non-Catholics, especially in public, unless the Holy See, or in case of emergency the [bishop of the] place, has given permission"

            That was 1325:3 of the 1917 edition, superseded by the revised 1983 edition, where it has been omitted, that'll be "development of the Canon" in action..

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            I think most people understand the difference between *reversal* of doctrine and "development of doctrine"....

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "As I said, you all make it up as you go along...or as said by epeeist, it's "Ad Hoc"."

            >> Says pot to kettle, whilst busily boiling up "dark matter", "dark energy", "inflaton", "curvaton"........

            Out of nothing of course :-)

          • epeeist

            The first moment of the material existence of both the *first* and the *second* twin is understood to be the moment at which God creates their souls....

            So not "at the moment of conception"?

            This really is completely ad hoc isn't it.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Not ad hoc at all. In recent times, it *has* come into vogue to use the term "inception" rather than "conception" in order to more precisely include cases (more frequent in modern times) that do not involve *natural* conception (in vitro, cloning [which is essentially what "twinning" really is, but twinning is "natural cloning"]). But I personally haven't completely crossed over to that language.... The benchmark here is simple--at the beginning of individual physical human existence, God immediately creates the human soul.

          • BenS

            The benchmark here is simple--at the beginning of individual physical human existence, God immediately creates the human soul.

            You do like claiming things are simple when the discussion is showing they're anything but.

            What about a human clone? Would they have souls?

            How about if a human brain is directly modelled in a computer and, at point of activation, is indistiguishable from the human brain it was modelled from? Does that have a soul?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            *Natural* human clones--twins--have souls. Lab-conceived singletons (in vitro) have souls. Lab-conceived human clones have souls. Like I said, simple....
            A computer, regardless of what it is "modelled" upon, does not have a soul.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Lab-conceived human clones have souls.

            How in the world could you or anyone know this? At most, cloned human embryos survive to the stage where they are a couple hundred cells. Assuming you consider something like rational thought to be a sign (although not proof) that a human being has a soul, there is simply no way of supporting your statement. Even the Church does not claim to say when after conception a soul is present.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Tell me then--how does one distinguish a lab-conceived "cloned human embryo" from a *naturally* conceived "twinned" human embryo?
            Twins *are* clones. Twins have souls. Therefore *other* clones, indistinguishable from twins, have souls...

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Twins *are* clones.

            Identical twins are the result of an unusual but natural splitting of an early embryo. Human clones of more than a few hundred cells have not been created yet, and in fact those that have been produced are not called clones. They require taking the nucleus of a somatic cell, transplanting it into an emptied out egg cell, and chemically tricking it into thinking it is a fertilized egg. I see no reason to consider them exactly equivalent.

            In any case, my point is that no one knows, and the Catholic Church doesn't say, when a soul is "infused." Is it at the moment of conception? Or is it somewhere past the point where human "clones" have developed (as I said, a few hundred cells)? How is it possible to know?

            I think what you are saying is that if human cloning is successful, and a cloned cell is implanted in a woman's uterus and develops into a baby, is born, and grows to an adult, it will have a soul. It seems to me that if Catholic teaching is true, and God directly creates each soul, it is possible that he would decline to create a soul for a clone. Why should God cooperate with modern technology that, at least according to the Church, is evil? I think it is at least possible that, for undiscoverable reasons, human cloning will not be achieved. It may just bee to complicated. And if it is never achieved, certainly religious people could claim that it doesn't work because God declines to create souls for clones. Of course, for those who believe in souls, I don't think anyone has suggested that babies conceived through IVF have them, so the question would occur why, if God creates souls in some instances (including cases of rape, incestuous rape, and IVF), why would he decline to do so in the case of cloning?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Even under the rubric of Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, I continue to ask my earlier question: how does one distinguish a lab-conceived "cloned human embryo" from a *naturally* conceived "twinned" human embryo?
            If you place two embryos under a microscope, and you know that one is a natural "twin" and the other is a lab "clone", how are you supposed to tell them apart? Do they not possess the same structures, and do they not follow the same process of human development?
            I guess I'm not sure I get your point, since I'm certainly not one who is saying God might not create souls for clones.
            I'm saying He *does* (twins) and I'm saying that, while the timing of ensoulment is un-measurable and therefore un-knowable apart from something doctrinal (e.g., the dogma of Mary's Immaculate *Conception*, her conception being the point at which her soul was clearly presumed to be present), it is this very "unknowability" that results in the Catholic Church's view that the dignity and sanctity of all human life must be protected from the moment at which there is present a discernibly distinct individual living and growing human form--the human body.
            This requirement for protection exists in *all* arenas--natural and articificial--in which such human life is to be found.
            And there is no arena in which it can be said that God is somehow incapable of (or unwilling to) immediately create the human soul at the moment an individual living, growing human body of any age is clearly present, including laboratory cloning....

          • BenS

            A computer, regardless of what it is "modelled" upon, does not have a soul.</blockquote?

            What's the human brain but computing hardware?

            Alright, what if a human brain was assembled, molecule by molecule by nanomachinery by arranging organic cells to mimic exactly a previously scanned human brain. It would be identical to the previously scanned human brain.

            When would this have a soul? When the last cell is added? Halfway through construction? When?

          • epeeist

            In recent times, it *has* come into vogue to use the term "inception" rather than "conception" in order to more precisely include cases (more frequent in modern times) that do not involve *natural* conception

            Which is fine, circumstances change, our observations become finer, our capabilities become more refined so we alter our position.

            But it does mean that "God is *still* to this very day *immediately* creating human souls from nothing, at the moment of conception" is either necessary or certain.

      • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

        David, here. This is a link to my blog, but it summarizes a document from the International Theological Commission. See #62-63 specifically about humaniods. http://stacytrasancos.com/do-catholics-affirm-evolution-or-creationism/

        The Church teaches that the human race is united and that we came from our first parents whom we call Adam and Eve. How exactly this happened is still a matter of incomplete knowledge.

        Essentially, polygenism poses no conflict if it only refers to genetics. Science cannot answer the question about the soul.

        • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

          Full disclosure: The International Theological Commission is a great resource on many such topics, yet it is probably good to point out that it serves in an advisory capacity and does not in itself possess the authority of the Church's Magisterium. Not saying this to diminish anything it says on this or any other topic (which I happen to agree with), but in case other readers did not know this, it's good to be aware of its place in the "constellation" of entities associated with the Holy See. ...

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          Interesting. I just cited the International Theological Commission to demonstrate the opposite! I would read the references to Adam outside of the sections you cite as references to the story of Adam and Eve, which the Catechism acknowledges is in figurative language. Note that the document says

          In its original unity – of which Adam is the symbol – the human race is made in the image of the divine Trinity. [Boldface added]

          Certainly the document we both cite rejects a purely materialistic account of human origins, but that is a far cry from insisting that God infused souls into two and only two individuals, from whom we all descend. And it is a far, far cry from the idea that "true humans" mated with the not-quite-humans around them who had no souls!

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            I don't see how what you wrote contradicts what I wrote.

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          One more comment. I am looking for any evidence that the Catholic Church, in any way official or sem-official or in any way authoritative, endorses the idea that "true humans," the sons and daughters of the "first true man," reproduced with soulless almost-but-not-quite true humans.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            There aren't any that I know of. This, as I said, is an area of incomplete knowledge, therefore, people are free to explore opinions. This is a possible explanation.

    • GCBill

      Regarding the Catholic idea of Adam and Eve:

      Am I correct in saying that the human soul is responsible for our rational and moral faculties? If so, I think it logically follows that human rationality and morality were not gradual developments. Rather, they appeared at whatever discrete point in history at which God infused homo sapiens with souls. I'm not sure if this idea could be supported or undercut by archaeological evidence, or if it could only be established indirectly through the establishment of Catholicism. Either way, it's interesting.

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        You are correct, GCBill, it is hard to support the idea that there ever was a sudden change (in just a few generations) of any human characteristic across the population of our ancestors, intelligence or moral impulses included. I like to ask those who think that souls were, somehow, phased in during the process, "Which came first, souls or language?"

    • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

      Polygenism is explicitly condemned by the Catholic Church, for the very excellent reason that it denies the foundational dogma of the Catholic Faith:

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

      Pius XII, Enc. Humani Generis, 37.

      Now it is true that such liberties are nonetheless regularly taken these days, and please, go ahead and read the linked "proposal" by Flynn, which is completely laughable.

      Notice, as you work through its truly absurd consequences, that it is the work of a science fiction writer, and possesses precisely zero status as a statement of Catholic doctrine, metaphysic, or theology.

      • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

        Polygenism is explicitly condemned by the Catholic Church . . . .

        Polygenism is a matter of science, and the Church does not (any longer) take positions on scientific matters. Polygenism is neither a matter of faith nor morals. Pius XII says, "Now it is no way apparent . . . ," which is different from saying, "Now it is impossible . . . ."

        I don't think anyone is bound by Humani Generis to disbelieve in polygenisis. Certainly Pius XII is not speaking infallibly here. And as I said, the question of polygenism is a not a matter of faith and morals, so no pope could make an infallible pronouncement on it.

        "proposal" by Flynn, which is completely laughable

        I couldn't agree more on this. It kind of reminds me of one of the most absurd Fundamentalist Protestant attempt to cope with Jesus saying, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church." Here's how it allegedly happened, Jesus said, "You [Jesus points to Peter] are Peter, and [Jesus points to himself] upon this rock I will build my Church." Problem solved! Perfectly consistent with the inerrant text!

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          "the question of polygenism is a not a matter of faith and morals,"

          >> You are explicitly contradicted by Pope Pius XII on this point.

          " so no pope could make an infallible pronouncement on it"

          >> I agree that the Humani Generis statement is not an infallible statement of Faith or morals.

          It doesn't need to be.

          The dogmatic teaching concerning original sin *is* an infallible statement of the Faith.

          Humani Generis simply reiterates that fact, and points out that polygenism is incompatible with it.

          Humani Generis then proceeds to a disciplinary decision, that Catholics do not enjoy liberty to profess polygenism.

          Which Mike Flynn and his promoters completely ignore.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            The dogmatic teaching concerning original sin *is* an infallible statement of the Faith.

            I don't believe it is infallibly taught by the Church that a man and a woman, who were to become the literal parents of the human race, committed a sin that was passed down in much the same manner as a genetic trait. To assert that there were two and only two humans who are the "parents" of the human race in the sense that all humans alive today descend from them and only them would be a matter of science, not faith or morals.

            Mike Flynn's explanation is nonsense. A much simpler explanation is that all human beings are descended from two and only two parents, but God rapidly multiplied (in any number of possible ways) the number of genetic traits in the first several generations. Every offspring could have thousands of "mutations," either harmless or beneficial, so that marrying even one's sibling would, genetically speaking, be like marrying someone totally outside the family. I don't for a minute believe that happened, but it is a better theory than Flynn's. It doesn't require mating between humans and nonhuman animals.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "I don't believe it is infallibly taught by the Church that a man and a woman, who were to become the literal parents of the human race, committed a sin that was passed down"

            >> To the contrary, it is a dogma of the Faith, retained and reiterated in the Catechism:

            "By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all humans. Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called "original sin". As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence")."

            in much the same manner as a genetic trait.

            >> It is transmitted by propagation. This is also a dogma of the Catholic Faith:

            "If any one asserts, that this sin of Adam,--which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propogation, not by imitation, is in each one as his own, --is taken away either by the powers of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath reconciled us to God in his own blood, made unto us justice, santification, and redemption; or if he denies that the said merit of Jesus Christ is applied, both to adults and to infants, by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the church; let him be anathema"---Trent, Session V, Decree on Original Sin

            "To assert that there were two and only two humans who are the "parents" of the human race in the sense that all humans alive today descend from them and only them would be a matter of science, not faith or morals."

            >> To the contrary, this assertion is conclusively falsified above.

            "Mike Flynn's explanation is nonsense. A much simpler explanation is that all human beings are descended from two and only two parents, but God rapidly multiplied (in any number of possible ways) the number of genetic traits in the first several generations. Every offspring could have thousands of "mutations," either harmless or beneficial, so that marrying even one's sibling would, genetically speaking, be like marrying someone totally outside the family. I don't for a minute believe that happened, but it is a better theory than Flynn's. It doesn't require mating between humans and nonhuman animals."

            >> Completely agreed as to Flynn, certyainly possible as to the mechanism.

            There are others I find more plausible but the dogma is satisfied under your proposal.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            >> You are explicitly contradicted by Pope Pius XII on this point.

            Completely untrue. I am contradicting him. It doesn't bother you to criticize and contradict popes, so why on earth should it bother me?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            " I am contradicting him"

            >> Thank you, this will be helpful.

            "It doesn't botheryou to criticize and contradict popes, so why on earth should it bother me?"

            >> I have never contradicted any Pope in the exercise of the heaven-protected magisterial office.

            You have done so above.

            That is why, for example, you slander Pope Benedict, who explicitly delimits his personal opinions from his Apostolic charism.

            You claim He taught heresy to the Church, that the Jews ought not be converted to the Faith.

            You have never, to this day, ever substantiated this.

            I, however, have substantiated- and you have just affiremd- that you contradict Pope Pius XII.

            Good to know.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            You claim He taught heresy to the Church, that the Jews ought not be converted to the Faith.

            Nonsense. I did not claim Benedict XVI "taught heresy to the Church." He did, however, quote with obvious approval in Jesus of Nazareth—Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection Bernard of Clairvaux to Pope Eugene III:

            "You have an obligation toward unbelievers, whether Jew, Greek or Gentile . . . " Then [says Benedict] he immediately corrects himself and observes more accurately: "Granted, with regard to the Jews, time excuses you,; for them a determined point in time has been fixed, which cannot be anticipated. The full number of the Gentiles must come in first . . . "

            Benedict then says

            Hildegard Brem comments on this passage as follows: "In the light of Romans 11:25, the Church must not concern herself with the conversion of the Jews, since she must wait for the time fixed for this by God, 'until the full number of Gentiles come in' (Rom 11:25). On the contrary, the Jews themselves are a living homily to which the Church must draw attention, since they call to mind the Lord's suffering (cf. EP 363) . . . "

            If is clear that Benedict's personal opinion is that, for now, "the Church must not concern herself with the conversion of the Jews." If that is heresy (which I am quite sure it is not), then whether or not Benedict officially taught it to the Church in his official capacity as pope, he was nevertheless a heretic himself, which I hope you will agree is preposterous.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Not that it matters much now....

            http://holywar.org/Ratzinger.htm

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "If is clear that Benedict's personal opinion is that, for now,"the Church must not concern herself with the conversion of the Jews."

            >> This is completely false. It is, instead, Hildegard Brem's opinion, and it is found nowhere in Scripture, or Tradition, or the Fathers.

            It is, by the way, one thing to say the Church "must not concern herself with" something, and quite another to affirm that the Church considers the Jews saved apart from Her.

            "If that is heresy (which I am quite sure it is not), then whether or not Benedict officially taught it to the Church in his official capacity as pope, he was nevertheless a heretic himself, which I hope you will agree is preposterous."

            >> It is not heresy, since it does not constitute a denial of any dogma of the Faith.

            It is not taught by Benedict, it is reported by Him as an opinion of a theologian.

            It has precisely zero dogmatic authority to overturn a solemn definition, such as:

            "Pope Eugene IV, Cantate Domino (1441): "The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not onlypagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the "eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church."

            In fact it does not contradict it, but rather addresses prudential considerations of how the Jews are best to be saved.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      The hidden assumption, of course, is that God's existence cannot be determined through non-scientific means, like through reason, logic, or philosophy. Or that science is even an appropriate tool to validate metaphysical claims. Yet both of these are unproven assumptions, unscientific beliefs that science itself cannot affirm.

      It depends on what you mean by "determined." I think deduction cannot establish the existence of anything independent of empirical evidence. For example, suppose I want to determine the existence of the dragon in Sagan's Garage. He can't deduce it into existence by any logical or philosophical means, and I can't determine it is not there without empirical evidence of having tested beyond any possible goal post moving. The assignment of mutually conflicting attributes to a deity is logically determinable, and any conflict with the empirical evidence generated by working out the real world implications of given attributes throws doubt on those attributes or the existence of said deity, at all. The hidden assumption you mention may simply be a mischaracterization of the recognition that no means has been found outside of science to do so.

      In light of these facts, it's misguided to say that "we know there was no 'Adam' and 'Eve'."

      I am referring to the persons of Adam and Eve as the first human beings together with the Biblical story about them as understood by the vast majority of Christians, Jews and Muslims. This story conflicts with known facts in many, many ways. Cardinal Schönborn asked for "... a genuine creation theology that can see eye-to-eye with the natural sciences on the intellectual level."[ref] but none is in sight. I recommend the book "Evolving out of Eden" for a detailed presentation of the problem for apologists. Perhaps we could have a thread on this topic, here at SN.

      • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

        "I think deduction cannot establish the existence of anything independent of empirical evidence"

        But the existence of deduction is itself established apart from empirical evidence.

      • severalspeciesof

        Q,

        When you say:

        " I think deduction cannot establish the existence of anything independent of empirical evidence." could you define "anything" a bit more clearly?

        Glen

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Thanks Glen, I meant it as in "any thing." That is about physical things that exist. That would include all beings that exist in the world, but not include those of mythology and fiction. Greater detail can be found in the famous essay by V.W.O. Quine, "On What There Is."

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            But you do agree that there are things that exist, like, deduction for example, that are not physical things?

            And it would be a poor metaphysics that could not account for the existence of such things, merely because they did not provide us physical evidence of their existence?

            And that it were certainly not a self-evident matter, that only material beings could be asserted to exist, since the material universe, and all its beings, cannot have brought themselves into existence, and hence depend, for their existence, on the necessary existence of a non-material...being?

  • JamesonC

    Thanks for the post, Qu Quine. A few observations:

    "It is a false dichotomy to take our position of wanting to have evidence to support positions accepted as true, as meaning that positions without such must, therefore, be false. No, it is not like that. Ideas without evidence may be true."

    Belief, or assent that a proposition is true, must be based on evidence. I suggest there is general agreement about that. So it seems the real issue is not about if we need evidence for belief in God, and further for Christianity, but what counts as evidence. Naturalists/materialists restrict evidence to what is quantifiable, observable, measurable, predictable. This is fine for the physical sciences, but it goes nowhere in the realm of natural theology, natural philosophy, ethics, metaphysics. As science itself relies upon fundamental concepts like cause, change etc, which themselves cannot be discovered by the scientific method (as you say, the scientific method is "not a property of Nature that we analyze" but an investigative tool we have developed to study nature), there must be some other criterion for truth i.e. for evidence. The evidence that change is a feature of reality cannot be discerned through the scientific method, because the method presupposes it. Mind you that does not mean it's completely divorced from experience, but epistemology is a whole other discussion. Ultimately it's a question of what really counts as evidence.

    "I let my neighbor know that I do expect there are truths that are not yet known to science (that is why there are still jobs for scientists)."

    Absolutely, there are unanswered scientific questions. But it seems here the relevant question is if the scientific method can be employed to answer all kinds of questions, or just some. As you point out, "there is no part of the Scientific Method that says it will eventually result in working out the truth of every idea that is true...", so is that because of a practical or a principled limitation? If the only things that are real are physical bodies in space, then physics has a shot, in principle, to answer them. But it is not clear that materialism is true, thus there is no way in principle that the scientific method can be a wholly universal tool of gaining knowledge. This in no way denigrates the scientific method, or the value of the natural sciences. It simply seeks an understanding of the limits of the method, which ultimately saves it from incomprehensibility.

    "But we do know many things with near certainty and know a great more about what is not true, with clear certainty."

    Yes the natural sciences have dispatched of innumerable explanations of phenomenon. But does not science deal in probabilities, instead of certainties? The law of gravity, say, is a near certainty. We have a high confidence that it is correctly describing the regular behavior of reality when it comes to forces and bodies etc. However, we cannot know this with certainty, because it's possible in principle that some bit of evidence will be found to overturn it. Do we expect that to happen, of course not. Science is in the business of formulating theories to explain evidence, and conceivably one piece of counter-evidence will destroy the theory. We can be 99.99% sure it's true, but there's always a possibility it will be debunked because of new data, or even that something changes. The only true certainties are fundamental self-evident truths like the the law of non-contradiction; all of our other knowledge is highly informed opinion supported by reasons and evidence.

    • epeeist

      So it seems the real issue is not about if we need evidence for belief in God, and further for Christianity, but what counts as evidence. [...] This is fine for the physical sciences, but it goes nowhere in the realm of natural theology, natural philosophy, ethics, metaphysics.

      Which is why in these cases we ask for justification.

      For example Brandon makes the metaphysical claim that "everything that begins to exist has a cause". How are you going to justify that, especially since it is using the universal quantifier?

      But it is not clear that materialism is true, thus there is no way in principle that the scientific method can be a wholly universal tool of gaining knowledge.

      Did you miss the phrase "methodological naturalism"? I am sure that there must be scientists who are ontological naturalists, but that position is one that philosophers espouse rather than scientists.

      Is science the sole method of gaining knowledge, we can admit logic and mathematics of course. After that where do we go? I often see claims that there are "other ways of knowing", but I have never actually seen one described and its successes demonstrated.

      The only true certainties are fundamental self-evident truths like the the law of non-contradiction;

      Which does not apply in fuzzy, paraconsistent or tensed logics. Nor would mathematical constructivists accept its complement, the law of excluded middle.

      • JamesonC

        Hi eeepist, thanks for the reply.

        "Which is why in these cases we ask for justification.

        For example Brandon makes the metaphysical claim that 'everything that begins to exist has a cause'. How are you going to justify that, especially since it is using the universal quantifier?"

        If by justification, or verification (if you will), you mean proof via the scientific method, then I'm afraid you will be disappointed. The point is that the scientific method cannot prove itself valid; it cannot certify its own presuppositions. Insofar as the scientific method rests upon natural philosophy (which seeks to formulate coherent concepts like change, cause, effect etc), it cannot prove or disprove it.

        Here's a brief, yet no doubt lacking, sketch about arriving at the metaphysical claim Brandon mentions: As for developing a maxim like "everything that begins to exist has a cause", we start with simply observation of nature. It is naively formed by seeing even something like an apple falling from the tree; in considering why that happened we find see that the stem broke because of the weight (and eventually we may arrive at the more sophisticated explanation utilizing forces of gravity etc). One such effect is the coming to be of the apple, as it has not always actually existed. Effects are always found to have a cause in our experience (I realize there is a nuanced discussion to be had about quantum mechanics). At the end of the day, if anything must assume this maxim, it is science itself, right? How can the endeavor to explain the workings of the natural world, or how things happen, not presume this principle?

        "Did you miss the phrase "methodological naturalism"? I am sure that there must be scientists who are ontological naturalists, but that position is one that philosophers espouse rather than scientists."

        Granted. So if we're simply discussing methodological naturalism (MN), then any conclusion science attempts to formulate on, say, the existence of God must be taken with a "grain of salt", right? For instance, if we employ MN to find the cause of a liquid turning into a gas, we rule out that God was the efficient cause of the action. So, since we now know that heat is the efficient cause of turning water into vapor, how can we regard this specifically as weighing either for or against the ontological reality of God? Yes, if one's conception of God is that he's pantheistic and the immediate cause of all natural phenomenon, then I see the problem. But that's a God of the gaps idea, which is not the Christian God. People have used this idea, but ultimately it's unsound to think of God in terms of a scientific hypothesis. This is just a convoluted way of saying that an assumption underlying a method (MN) cannot be proved by the method, which I suspect you might agree with.

        "Is science the sole method of gaining knowledge, we can admit logic and mathematics of course. After that where do we go? I often see claims that there are 'other ways of knowing', but I have never actually seen one described and its successes demonstrated."

        "After that" is misleading, I think. The point is that there are fundamental ways of knowing that undergird the scientific method itself. Must we employ the scientific method to "verify" that we are typing on a computer? Or that I just saw a bird fly by my window? Or any immediate experiences of reality? The scientific method could illuminate things about these experiences, but it cannot serve as proving that I had them. I realize this isn't a comprehensive answer, but the point is that there is prerequisite knowledge to the scientific method. We have to observe change, and then consider what change actually means (is it simply locomotion, or does it include qualitative, quantitative, and coming to be and passing away?), and only then investigate how it happens. Not all knowledge can be verified scientifically, but that does not mean it is not objective or at the mercy of our whims.

        • primenumbers

          "The point is that the scientific method cannot prove itself valid" - it doesn't need to because it works. It is practically and pragmatically validated.

          ""everything that begins to exist has a cause", we start with simply observation of nature." - but as I pointed out to Brandon, we have never observed anything actually beginning to exist. We know of causes because we are causal agents. Find the agent, then see the cause follow through to effect. We cannot show agent from effect, we can only show effect from agent via cause.

          "if anything must assume this maxim, it is science itself, right?" - not at all. Scientists figure out math models by looking at effects. The math model isn't a causal agent, the math model of gravity doesn't cause the apple to fall, the math model just models what happens. Although we talk in terms of cause and effect, that's a human level abstraction that has most meaning when we're talking about a causal agents like a person.

          "Must we employ the scientific method to "verify" that we are typing on a computer?" - our experience with reality is a process of constant verification.

          The reason we want to and need to verify metaphysical truth claims is purely because by their nature we lack constant experience of their reality. But we have a serious problem here because there is no method by which we can verify metaphysical truths. That brings us right back to your first point about science, but this applies even more to metaphysics - it's unable to verify itself.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Will you provide a metaphysical claim that you think cannot be verified?

          • primenumbers

            Existence of God, of souls, that God created the universe for example.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay. And by verified, you mean what? Empirically proved? Established logically?

          • primenumbers

            Well, what we want to know is if metaphysical truths are actually true. Why don't you tell me how we can test metaphysical truths against reality? I don't know how to do it, hence my issue.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay. Tomorrow.

        • epeeist

          The point is that the scientific method cannot prove itself valid; it cannot certify its own presuppositions.

          Accepted, hence all science is both contingent and corrigible. However if your wish to deploy this kind of sceptical argument against the foundations of science then it would be disingenuous if you did not also deploy it against other domains of discourse.

          As for developing a maxim like "everything that begins to exist has a cause", we start with simply observation of nature.

          And then use induction to get to the general case. In other words you are trying to get from particular and corrigible observations to something that is universal, necessary and certain. In other words, you cannot justify your claim in this way.

          So if we're simply discussing methodological naturalism (MN), then any conclusion science attempts to formulate on, say, the existence of God must be taken with a "grain of salt", right?

          It depends on the god. If one posits a deist god then science has no traction. If however one posits a god who intervenes then, in principle at least, science does have some traction. Of course if this god intervenes by flapping the wings of a particular butterfly in a certain way in order to limit the effects of a hurricane then it is going to be difficult to spot, but if, for example, it causes the sun to stop in the sky then that is a different kettle of fish.

          Not all knowledge can be verified scientifically, but that does not mean it is not objective or at the mercy of our whims.

          Again I repeat, I didn't ask for scientific verification. I asked for justification. If you have a proposition that you believe to be true then unless you can provide justification for that belief it does not count as knowledge.

    • stanz2reason

      Naturalists/materialists restrict evidence to what is quantifiable, observable, measurable, predictable.

      I don't feel that's entirely accurate. Claims based on things 'quantifiable, observable, measurable, & predictable' are just better suited for making certain truth claims. It's not so much as limiting that as 'evidence' as it is far more rational to defer to empirical evidence when there is a conflict between what the evidence says and what someones theological tradition says. Physical evidence provides an objectivity that you're simply not going to get anywhere else. You can reason certain things when lacking sufficient physical evidence, but this doesn't validate reasoning off propositions that are highly questionable, which includes all the 'proofs' for God that I've ever encountered. Empirical evidence is solid. Everything else is varying levels of opinion.

      As science itself relies upon fundamental concepts like cause, change etc, which themselves cannot be discovered by the scientific method (as you say, the scientific method is "not a property of Nature that we analyze" but an investigative tool we have developed to study nature), there must be some other criterion for truth i.e. for evidence. The evidence that change is a feature of reality cannot be discerned through the scientific method, because the method presupposes it.

      Change can't be discovered by the scientific method? So we can not dig up fossils and compare them to older or newer fossils to note evolutionary change? We can't note where certain objects in the sky are (say Jupiter) and note it's orbit due to changes in position? We can't document global temperatures and speak of climate change? And for all of these systems, are we unable to reasonably demonstrate some level of causality for each? What you noted seems so incorrect I feel as if I must be missing something.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        >"it is far more rational to defer to empirical evidence when there is a
        conflict between what the evidence says and what someone's theological
        tradition says."

        If it is a physical question, I totally agree. If we want to know why people have bellybuttons, empirical evidence is far more valuable than metaphysical arguments. The same holds true for non-silly examples.

        However, when it is a question of values, like "should people who hold views that those in power abhor be tortured, imprisoned, and killed?" empirical evidence cannot help you at all. Empirical evidence does nothing to advance understanding of this question.

        • stanz2reason

          However, when it is a question of values, like "should people who hold views that those in power abhor be tortured, imprisoned, and killed?" Empirical evidence cannot help you at all. Empirical evidence does nothing to advance understanding of this question.

          Not necessarily so. Were we to factor in biological truths such as the state of pain being less preferable to one without any, or the psychological truths of the mental effects of torture or captivity, we could perhaps begin to answer ethical questions based of empirical evidence.

          In addition, were you to find this line of thinking insufficient, it still would not place a Christian believer in a better more knowledgable position to make ethical claims than a non believer. Some historical ethical claims by the church are questionable, others are flat out poor. Some of their positive positions aren't unique to the church nor did they originate there. Those that originated in the church don't belong to the church but to the collective humanity. In the end we're armed with access to the same ideas regardless of a position of the supernatural being a truth or a byproduct of delusion wrapped in tradition and superstitution.

  • Rationalist1

    Here's what it boils down to scientist use the Scientific Method because it works and it works remarkably well and science continues to make progress in discovering things about the entire universe and its contents all the time. If someone tries to denigrate science by calling it scientism, so much the better.

    Religion can't use science because they claim religious claims are metaphysical. But even with that statement what result from metaphysics has any effect on the world we live in outside of the particular religion making that metaphysical assertion. Metaphysics doesn't make progress, there are countless metaphysical claims none of which can be verified and worse, none of which can be disproven. Yest it's the lynchpin is every theological argument, it's metaphysicism.

    • primenumbers

      Which is why I ask below "By what method is a metaphysical truth verified?"

      • Rationalist1

        The most common way metaphysical proofs are verified is if those truths are believed by your parents or your society.

        Buddhists rarely verify Catholic metaphysics or vice versa. Whereas in science someone in a different country, in different culture, speaking a different language can verify a scientific truth.

        • primenumbers

          From what I understand there is actually no verification method. What you suggest would be funny if it wasn't so serious.

          • Rationalist1

            Yes, we can make light of it here now in the west but in our not too distant past, people were tortured and killed for subtle differences in metaphysics.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Buddhists make the metaphysical claim that suffering comes from desire.

          Isn't that a claim we can rationally discuss?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Metaphysical claims can be proven or disproven by examining their premises and the logic or lack of it that they employ.

  • Rationalist1

    "For example, Science cannot disprove Solipsism or even Last Thrusdayism." Neither can philosophy.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Indeed.

  • Loreen Lee

    After having read the comments so far (80) I am wondering if a different 'tactic' can be taken. I am reminded that the question concerns whether or not the scientific is a 'strawman'.
    Rather than argue, again, about the proofs of God's existence, can we perhaps entertain the notion that what is at issue here is a 'dualism' between mind and body.
    Granted there are such philosophies as Russel's neutral monism, but my personal reaction to this when I read it was that Russel had a 'personal comprehension' of some alternative ultimate 'design'. My 'opinion'!!
    May we assume that the scientist takes the empirical position, often to the point of attempting to refute or reduce even human consciousness to matter. Daniel Dennet or Hofstadter, in I am a Strange Loop proposes for instance that every conscious concept can be contained within a material neuron. Well, best of luck, especially cosidering that Neuroscience is in a marked infancy, that we are likely to find confirmed evidence of such a theory in the near future, or if ever.
    On the consciousness side of the equation, we have idealizations which range from materialist based thesis that are as diverse as that which distinguishes economic determinism, from the esse est percipi of Berkeley. Religion extends the conception, belief, awareness of human consciousness to a definition which places the experience of humanity within an 'ultimate context'. A third alternative, which in humor I may compare to Russell's neutrality on the subject. grin grin

    There are thus two possibilities with respect to reaching an all inclusive unity between mind and matter. Can the scientist reduce consiousness to matter? Or is this a straw man endeavour. Is there a greater possibility of finding within consciousness an explanation for both mind and matter?

    I shall leave this question for you to argue out, if you take me up on it. It's just that I'd like to 'provoke' a discussion which extends beyond the continual reference to the 'proofs' of God's existence, and God, generally.
    Anyone willing to discuss matter and consciousness: scientifically of course? Will this keep us on the topic of the 'straw man' ?

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Well Loreen, we can do a consciousness thread. Those tend to get very long. We had one at the Richard Dawkins site that covered all of what you mention, and it was quite long.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    QQ argues we should not tolerate a strawman view of scientism.

    Agreed. But let's also not tolerate *real* scientism.

    Real scientism is a philosophy that claims that experimental science is the *only* valid method for knowing reality. Closely related, naturalism is the philosophy that denies the existence of non-material entities because these cannot be known through the experimental sciences. That is another philosophy we should not tolerate.

    QQ discusses methodological naturalism. Science operates on the basis of methodological naturalism, meaning it looks for natural explanations when it examines nature. That is legitimate. It's more than legitimate. It's freaking awesome.

    However, science and methodological naturalism become corrupted into scientism and naturalism when it is demanded of them that they are the only legitimate ways of knowing everything.

    • Rationalist1

      The scientific method is not the only way of knowing but is arguably the best. At it's simplest it
      1) makes observations,
      2) formulates a hypothesis,
      3) test the hypothesis against new data especially if the hypothesis can be used to make predictions on unknown effects.
      4If the hypothesis passes the test, it is viewed as confirmed but still fundamentally tentative and will be subject to new tests.when available. If the hypothesis fail, one either tries to tweak it or throws it out and starts a knew.

      Note, nothing here says anything about applying only to science or only to the material world.

      Can anyone formulate the theological methodology for learning?

      • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

        The scientific method is not the only way of knowing but is arguably the best.

        With all due respect to the scientific method, it is of limited usefulness for everyday survival. And of course human beings got along without it for tens of thousands (or perhaps a couple hundred thousand) years. A lot of the ways we "now" the world are "quick and dirty," and human knowing is optimized for survival. For example, when a snake slithers near a human being, the human being doesn't formulate a hypothesis. Human beings tend to either freeze or run, both of which are good ways of dealing with a snake. If what appears to be a snake nears an animal or a human being, the reaction is the same—freeze or run. This may sometimes result in the "unscientific" reaction of reacting when there is no snake, or when there is a harmless snake. But it is this kind of human knowing that got human beings to where they were up until the scientific revolution.

        There is a new book, which I haven't read yet, called Probably Approximately Correct: Nature's Algorithms for Learning and Prospering in a Complex World by Leslie Valiant. The Amazon description is as follows:

        We have effective theories for very few things. Gravity is one, electromagnetism another. But for most things—whether as mundane as finding a mate or as major as managing an economy—our theories are lousy or nonexistent. Fortunately, we don’t need them, any more than a fish needs a theory of water to swim; we’re able to muddle through. But how do we do it? In Probably Approximately Correct, computer scientist Leslie Valiant presents a theory of the theoryless. The key is “probably approximately correct” learning, Valiant’s model of how anything can act without needing to understand what is going on. The study of probably approximately correct algorithms reveals the shared computational nature of evolution and cognition, indicates how computers might possess authentic intelligence, and shows why hacking a problem can be far more effective than developing a theory to explain it. After all, finding a mate is a lot more satisfying than finding a theory of mating.

        I doubt that we will be better off, ever, if we are able to replace "probably approximately correct" knowing and thinking with the scientific method. I doubt that it could be done while remaining human.

        • Rationalist1

          How did people learn not to pick up a snake, what berries to eat, what water to not drink. They experimented. They didn't make a a-priori decision on the safety or harm of any of these issues and then stick to it and seek to justify it no matter what.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            They did not use the scientific method, either. It would be extraordinarily anachronistic to read the scientific method back into the learning behavior of earlier humans. Animals learn what to eat and what not to eat, and they certainly don't do it by the scientific method! No animal learning is attributed to the scientific method. Rather little human knowledge is either, if you count the sum total of everything humans know.

          • Rationalist1

            SM is nothing more than trial and error. And animals certainly "learn" it through evolution. The bird that doesn't take to wing upon seeing a snack doesn't leave many descendants.

            Again formulate another way of learning that's effective.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            SM is nothing more than trial and error.

            Really!

          • Rationalist1

            At it's basic level yes. You try and the success or failure that results refines or discards your hypothesis.

          • BenS

            I was all set for disagreeing with you but I stopped and had a think about it and I see what you're saying.

            Essentially the modern scientific method IS, at its most basic, simply a highly refined version of the 'try it and see if it works' approach. It just has an awful lot more checks and verifications before the answer 'yes, it works' is accepted.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There might be something in your definition because then the invitation, "Try Faith and see if it works" would be scientific.

          • BenS

            In a manner of speaking, yes. You'd be putting forth the hypothesis 'Faith can do X' and then you would test it to see if it really can do X. You would test it using the scientific method, of course.

          • Rationalist1

            You would have to define "how it works". But if you define it at does it make you happier, more fulfilled, makes you feel like a member of the community, then that's fine and it would most certainlty be true, for all sorts of religious faiths. But it says nothing about the truth of the faith.

          • clod

            I thought faith was a gift? You can't try it if you haven't been given it. How does Hindu faith work if their gods are unreal?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I was responding to BenS's and R1's rapturous musings.

            I have no idea how Hindu's define the act of faith.

          • Rationalist1

            Yes. It's try it and see if it works, but then if it doesn't work discard that idea.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            They experimented.

            Did they form a hypothesis beforehand? Are you telling me you claim the scientific method was used by prehumans and is used by nonhuman animals? How do nonhuman animals form a hypothesis?

            You are selling the scientific method very short if you claim all it is is trial and error! Even single-celled organisms "learn" (through evolution) by trial and error. Are you claiming single-celled organisms are scientists?

          • BenS

            Did they form a hypothesis beforehand?

            I would imagine so, although it was very rudimentary and they probably didn't write it down on notepaper.

            "That snake looks good enough to eat." is a hypothesis, even if it's only expressed in whatever non-language the brain uses internally.

            "No, oh my, no, AAARRRRGHHHH MY EYES!!" would be a conclusion drawn, again, even if they didn't write it down.

            They might have had a primitive form of peer review, though, as the rest of their troop scampered for the trees.

          • Rationalist1

            Again David, the scientific method does not have to apply to scientists. An animal sees a berry, it knows berries are food, it eats it, it dies. Another animal sees a berry, but through some genetic reason, doesn't eat it, it lives. What trait is dominate in the population.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            So everyone and everything uses the "scientific method" all the time. It seems to me that by your definition, religion is also a product of the scientific method—just the scientific method inadequately applied. If I pray to God that I recover from a sickness, that is an implicit hypothesis, and if I get well, the confirms my hypothesis that God answers prayers. So that is the scientific method. If I am afraid, I pray for courage, and I calm down. God must have done it.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            They experimented.

            I still think you are defining science and the scientific method so broadly as to make them almost meaningless, claiming that the scientific method was used not only long before the "scientific revolution," but but by animals. I came across this passage last night as I was finishing Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction, by Samir Okasha:

            If we want to know whether the methods of science are applicable to every subject matter, or whether they are capable of answering every important question, we obviously need to know what exactly those methods are. But as we have seen in previous chapters, this is much less straightforward a question than it seems. Certainly we know some of the main features of scientific enquiry: induction, experimental testing, observation, theory construction, inference to the best explanation, and so on. But this list does not provide a precise definition of 'the scientific method'. Nor is it obvious that such a definition could be provided. Science changes greatly over time, so the assumption that there is a fixed, unchanging 'scientific method', used by all scientific disciplines at all times, is far from inevitable. But this assumption is implicit in both the claim that science is the one true path to knowledge and the counter-claim that some questions cannot be answered by scientific methods. This suggests that, to some extent at least, the debate about scientism may rest on a false presupposition.

            Obviously, if you define the scientific method as "trial and error," it's going to cover a lot more territory than if you define it as "systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses" (Wikipedia).

          • epeeist

            Science changes greatly over time, so the assumption that there is a fixed, unchanging 'scientific method', used by all scientific disciplines at all times, is far from inevitable.

            Excellent, now since you provided a quotation from an authoritative source then I guess we will have less of the references to the scientific method which spatter the site.

          • Rationalist1

            I;m trying to contrast science with religion. At there most fundamental level the difference is science admits it makes mistakes, learns from them and grows, religion never admits its wrong in its beliefs, doesn't learn and doesn grow.

            Yes it's a simplification but science and religion are chalk and cheese. You can learn if you're never wrong and you spend all your time justifying and nuancing your beliefs.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Not quite, Rationalist.

            The Church often admits She is wrong in her prudential decisions, and can occasionally admit Herself to have been wrong even in theological doctrines which do not proceed directly from Revelation.

            But the Church could never, obviously, be in error in any datum proceeding from Revelation; that is, from God Himself.

            To admit such an absurdity would be to self-falsify Her very Nature.

            The issue which confronts you is how to account for the fact that the Church now constitutes the oldest continuously operating institution of the human species; that is to say, evolution has selected for Her despite the impedimentia you allege Her foundational elements to represent.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I think R1's idea is that every aspect of the scientific method belongs to science alone, even if it's used by history or birds.

          That makes the scientific method epistemologically greedy?

          • Rationalist1

            No but it makes the trial an error method better than reading of tea leaves, consulting ones horoscope or authoritarian pronouncements.

        • epeeist

          The key is “probably approximately correct” learning, Valiant’s model of how anything can act without needing to understand what is going on.

          So, take the curve shown in this cartoon.

          I can fit a Chebyshev polynomial to the curve and get as exact a fit as is wanted. Now that saves the appearances, but one has to ask whether it provides any explanation, whether it is extensible to other situations or has any empirical strength at all. In each case the answer is no.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Would you say that "probably approximately correct" learning does not account for a tremendous amount of human learning, particularly outside of formal education? Would you deny the fact that the human race evolved and survived without the scientific method until about 500 years ago?

            Also, would you deny that we are bombarded with "scientific" information every day that confuses as much as it clarifies? Should I take vitamins? Should I eat eggs? Should I have back surgery? Should I get regular PSA tests? When should women start having mammograms? Should I take a baby aspirin every day? Drink fruit juice? Should I eat a low-carb diet? Are artificial sweeteners safe? Do they help you lose weight?

          • epeeist

            Would you say that "probably approximately correct" learning does not account for a tremendous amount of human learning

            Oh, I am quite happy to admit that we take a phenomenological, rule-of-thumb view of many things and that in lots of cases these save the appearances. However, what they don't provide is any explanatory power. The curve I linked to was the black body spectrum of the CMB. Now, which has explanatory power, a curve fit using a Chebyshev polynomial or the Planck theory of energy distribution of a black body?

            Would you deny the fact that the human race evolved and survived without the scientific method until about 500 years ago

            You see, I am never quite sure what people mean when they take about the scientific method, as if it was a flow chart that one followed when doing any kind of science. That kind of mechanistic process outlined by Bacon has long been shown to be inadequate.

            Now, Bacon may have formalised some kind of process, but does this mean the likes of Eratosthenes wasn't doing science when he measured the size of the earth, or even earlier when Aristarchus hypothesised a heliocentric system?

            Also, would you deny that we are bombarded with "scientific" information every day that confuses as much as it clarifies?

            I am glad you put scientific in scare quotes. The problem being that most of the examples you give are either given in newspapers with no qualifications (a recent press release in the UK had the headline "Painkiller increases chance of heart attack", as though it was a general problem, when you actually read the report from the regulatory authority the increase was limited to those already at risk of heart attack), or it is on a web site with an agenda to push (I am thinking of sites like "Natural News").

            I can recommend Ben Goldacre's Bad Science as a purgative for this kind of publishing.

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          We have effective theories for very few things. Gravity is one,

          >> Effective, of course, as a bootstrap, close-enough-for-engineering approximation at local scales.

          Fails completely at scales larrger than a stellar cluster- literally requires addition of 96% of the mass/energy of the universe in by hand, out of completely unobserved and exotic "dark" entities, which entities exist only as mathematical terms invented to bridge the otherwise-insuperable gap between our gravitational theories, and scientific observations.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        For knowing the existing physical world I would agree that the scientific method is the best.

        However, history has method of knowing that does not rely on the scientific method. Historians use reason to look at historical evidence to try to find cause and effect relationships. I don't think there is any way to test a historian's thesis with an experiment.

        Catholic theology has a method which is to use reason to examine the contents of Divine Revelation. In a sense it is akin to literary criticism in which one reads texts to see what they say, discover the ideas they contain, and compare one text to another.

        Ethics has a methodology that does not use the scientific method either.

        Metaphysics seeks to discover principles and then reason logically based on them.

        • Rationalist1

          Does History ever make errors and corrects itself when new evidence is discovered? Sure, lots of times. It uses the scientific method.

          Does Catholic theology and teaching (ethical or dogmatic) ever correct itself. Never. So you're right they don't use the scientific method.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let's be rational, okay? Just because trial and error are part of the scientific method does not mean that trial and error belong to science.

            Galileo is one example of the Church correcting herself. I'd venture to say that Catholics assumed that the way the heavens were described in the Bible (the sun going up and down, etc.) was an accurate description of the motion of the sun. This is why those ecclesiastical judges suspected vehemently that Galileo's view was heretical. In time the Church saw Copernicus' hypothesis corrected by Kepler was correct.

            That said, I don't get the import of requiring the Church correct herself.

          • Rationalist1

            I never said the Scientific method belonged to science and in fact said it's used by many disciplines. If the Church never corrects itself it's either always right or is fooling itself and its many fallowers who have to believer everything it teaches in matters of ethics and doctrine.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I just gave you an example of the Church correcting herself.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The Church has never corrected hersel in the sense of accepting the Copernican hypothesis as true.

            Mighty good thing too.

            It isn't.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The Church has never accepted the heliocentric hypothesis as correct.

            Mighty good thing too.

            It isn't.

        • epeeist

          However, history has method of knowing that does not rely on the scientific method.

          History is empiricist. It builds hypotheses on the available material, using consilience to align them with other, well evidenced hypotheses.

          If new information comes to light which the hypothesis cannot explain then it is discarded or modified.

          It may not have the tightness of, say, general relativity but that doesn't mean to say that it isn't open to test.

          There is a nice appendix in Diamon's Gun's, Germs and Steel which discusses history as a form of science

          • BenS

            Additionally, the evidence that is used by historians to piece together history is gathered using the scientific method - otherwise any old crap would be accepted, like Roman coins dated '6 BC' etc.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You really need the scientific method to know that a Roman coin dated 6 BC is bogus?

          • BenS

            No, but do try to separate the humour from the example. If we found pots that were made using a technique that we didn't think was invented until 200 years later then how do we know if a) the pots are fake or b) our knowledge of the timeline of that particular potmaking technique is incorrect?

            We assess the evidence to determine if it's genuine. And which method would we use for that? It's not gut feeling or revelation.

          • Rationalist1

            BenS - or worse using authority to determine the answer.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Unless we carbon date it or something along those lines, it is a matter of building arguments based on other things we know.

            Often there's lots of conjecture. There is no scientific experiment.

          • BenS

            Unless we carbon date it or something along those lines, it is a matter of building arguments based on other things we know.

            You're missing the point. Yes, we can build on other things we know... but how do we know THOSE things? Until we have some sensible, credible evidence to build from, applying reason and arguments is utterly worthless. It's all just castles in the sky.

            To determine what we know to be true (so we can build on those things using arguments) we use.... what?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So you mean archeology can be a science because it deals with stones, and bones, and clay pots? But philosophy and theology cannot because they don't deal with anything real?

          • epeeist

            So you mean archeology can be a science

            Does it make hypotheses which lead to testable predictions? Not a particularly good example, but look at Schliemann's discovery of Troy.

          • BenS

            Theology as a method of understanding the real world is junk. Philosophy is a bit broad to pin that tag on but most of it is junk for real world applications (as opposed to consideration of concepts).

            If you want to determine whether a clay pot belonged to the Julii or Livii family, theology and philosophy are - to my mind - worthless.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            If, on the other hand, you want to determine how it is that a clay pot can have possibly come to be in the *first place*, then science is- by its own methodological procedures- worthless.

            It is certain the clay pot did not bring itself into existence.

            Et cetera.

            Et cetera.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree about theology because it has nothing to do with archeology. It would be like studying archeology with the tools of musicology.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            History is both inductive and deductive. Not every use of reason belongs to the scientific method. You need all the steps for it to be the scientific method.

          • Rationalist1

            Name one aspect of historical inquiry that is not open to the methodology that epeeist describes.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            epeeist's methodology is not the scientific method. The scientific method finds a way physically to test its hypothesis and then measures the results numerically, right?

            I think the problem is that you are conflating all valid knowledge into science.

            The original meaning of science is simply knowledge. In the Middle Ages there were many sciences: philosophy, theology, natural philosophy (what we call natural science), mathematics, medicine, and so on.

          • epeeist

            History is both inductive and deductive.

            So is science, one of the models for science is the hypothetical-deductive method originated by Karl Popper. Explanation is often framed in terms of a deductive-nomological covering law described by Carl Hempel.

            You need all the steps for it to be the scientific method.

            And you would have a list of all these necessary steps?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Rationalist1 posted the "steps" in simple form above. The key one was an actual test that yielded measurable results that could be compared to the hypothesis.

          • epeeist

            The key one was an actual test that yielded measurable results that could be compared to the hypothesis.

            What do you mean by "measurable". The team that discovered Tiktaalik predicted where they it would be likely that they would find such a fossil.

            Does the finding of the fossil count as a measurement?

          • Max Driffill

            I think this is a precisely excellent riposte.

            One thing you never see in a history class is 20 Arguments for the Trojan War. What you see is people adduce evidence for or against the hypothesis that the Trojan war occurred and no metaphysical pleading.

          • epeeist

            I think this is a precisely excellent riposte.

            Well, ripostes are my sort of thing you know. Though I tend to prefer those that work by second intention.

        • josh

          History can test it's ideas. New evidence can refute a historical hypothesis or support it. Hypotheses without evidence should be considered speculative at best.

          Literary criticism of the Bible and Catholic doctrine as a whole has determined that it is a mixture of historical fiction and fictionalized history. Catholics are, unfortunately, not particularly good at reason and are mostly engaged in rationalization.

          Ethics does not produce knowledge.

          Physics attempts to discover principles and reason logically based on them, which reason leads us to test our principles in order to know if they have actually been discovered. Metaphysics is, in practical terms, the dregs of intellectual effort, lacking the definitional rigor of math and the extraneous testing which makes science rigorous.

    • ZenDruid

      My impression of scientism is that its adherents are not inclined to respect the premise that science's results are, as Epeeist said, contingent and corrigible. I see it as the political fringe of science followers, as Gnu Atheism is the political fringe of those who are against theocracy or religious dominionism.

    • epeeist

      Real scientism is a philosophy that claims that experimental science is the *only* valid method for knowing reality.

      And you can point us to a selection of people who advocate this kind of scientism?

      • Kevin Aldrich

        One comment I read on this website was something to the effect that all evidence besides empirical evidence is crap. But I have no memory for names.

        • BenS

          I'll spare you the trouble (or the problem of you being too polite to mention it).

          That would be me. I think I actually said that all evidence other than that gathered by the scientific method was crap and it was in context but yes. 'Twas I.

        • epeeist

          One comment I read on this website was something to the effect that all evidence besides empirical evidence is crap.

          Experimental evidence is only one form of empirical evidence of course.

          But it would seem that all you have in terms of actual people who commit to scientism is a vague anecdote.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Disqus, the capricious god of this website, is evidently hiding the post of that comment from you.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Kevin, I am not criticizing a straw man view of scientism, I am writing against those who use scientism as a straw man argument against what we can know by the Scientific Method.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Thank you for responding. I got you.

        As I said, the scientific method is freaking awesome.

        However, in the wider world people have made and continue to make unwarranted claims about science and methodological naturalism.

        That is damaging, too.

  • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    Scientism is the belief that the only real kind of knowledge we can have is scientific knowledge. It seems like Qu is saying that he adheres to this belief. Can someone clarify this?

    • Rationalist1

      Last sentence "These days "Scientism" is used as a pejorative that may be deserved by some who improperly make claims of the Scientific Method beyond its true scope. I am not one of those."

      • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

        But that's not how the word is used. It's not a claim that the SM can make claims beyond its scope, but rather the belief that scientific knowledge is the only real knowledge.

        • Rationalist1

          The SM is not the only way to knowledge but it is arguably the best methodology.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            But is scientific knowledge the only real knowledge? I do hear people say this, a lot. So I'm surprised that it's being called a strawman, which is why I was hoping for some clarification.

          • Rationalist1

            No because you can apply the SM to other subjects like history, or archaeology or even economics and get results. You can get knowledge other ways but it's not as accurate.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            No because you can apply the SM to other subjects like history, or archaeology or even economics and get results.

            Can you apply it to choosing a mate, finding friends, reading or writing a novel, deciding which restaurant to go to or which movie to see, deciding whether to have children or choosing their names, if you do?

          • BenS

            Sure you can, but these are personal decisions where determining the 'true' answer is not necessarily the one you're interested in.

            You can look at the effects of excessive alcohol consumption (acquired using the scientific method in numerous studies) and know that a night out on the tiles is going to do your body no favours. But you can choose to do it anyway.

            Having knowledge doesn't tell you how to use that knowledge - or even if you should.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Having knowledge doesn't tell you how to use that knowledge - or even if you should.

            You mean the scientific method can give you knowledge but not tell you how to use that knowledge? If the scientific method is the best way of knowing, why should it not be used to determine what the best way of using existing knowledge is? Why would you not want to apply the scientific method to "personal" decisions?

          • BenS

            If the scientific method is the best way of knowing, why should it not be used to determine what the best way of using existing knowledge is?

            Well, perhaps it can be. Depends on what you call 'best', I suppose. I believe some people are applying it towards morality to try and work out an objective morality. I wouldn't know much about such things.

            Why would you not want to apply the scientific method to "personal" decisions?

            Because, being a subjective animal with my own free will, I might not always want to take the optimal path as a personal decision. Statistically, if I go on the mat to test myself against a skilled opponent, I've a good chance of getting at least some form of injury. We can use the scientific method to work out the chances of this but as to whether one should go ahead and do it anyway is a subjective decision.

            I might think the personal challenge of sparring with someone is worth the risk of light physical damage. You might think I've already taken that damage, probably somewhere between the ears. Subjective.

            This does not, however, mean the scientific method isn't the best way of gathering knowledge, it just means that humans don't always do what's 'best' and the concept of what's 'best' will vary from person to person.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            Are you saying that the "best" is beyond you?

          • stanz2reason

            Say we were to say that 'working is the best way to acquire money'. Does this say anything about how the money should be spent? The choices you are suggesting are matters of subjective personal taste.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            The choices you are suggesting are matters of subjective personal taste.

            Are you saying there is no "scientific" way to determine what will best satisfy your personal tastes? I thought the scientific method was "just trial and error." Can't trial and error be used to determine what will satisfy subjective personal taste? Where does subjective personal taste come from? Are you saying subjective personal taste is irrational? I would think that materialists would say that subjective personal tastes are matters of brain states, and that scientists who were able to examine brain states fully (which of course is not technologically possible currently) would be able to determine a person's subjective personal tastes. So I don't know why they should be outside the reach of the scientific method, at least in principle. Certainly the way you choose to spend the money you earn is a matter of your brain state, is it not?

          • stanz2reason

            Can't trial and error be used to determine what will satisfy subjective personal taste?

            Sure. Trial and error can help you determine what is best for you, but the results wouldn't necessarily hold for anyone else. You might try chocolate & vanilla and decide chocolate is for you. That does not suggest what the next guy should prefer.

            Where does subjective personal taste come from?

            Subjective tastes are the influenced by many sources. Biological factors that play a role. Siblings who are separated at birth seem to have uncanny similarities (say they both play piano or both are pitchers), which suggests some pre-determined inclinations toward 1 thing or another. Experience also plays a large part. A person who grew up eating one type of cuisine might be more inclined to prefer that taste. A person who grew up listening to hip hop might prefer it to rock n roll. A person whose parents often brought them to Disney world might enjoy it more than someone who'd never been. A person from Colorado might prefer mountains and the outdoors more than someone who's never been out of Manhattan.

            Are you saying subjective personal taste is irrational?

            I haven't said or suggested any such thing. I'm not even sure I how I'd evaluate any preference as irrational in itself. Regardless I do not think that is the case.

            I would think that materialists would say that subjective personal tastes are matters of brain states, and that scientists who were able to examine brain states fully (which of course is not technologically possible currently) would be able to determine a person's subjective personal tastes.

            I'd hypothesize that theoretically were we able to perform such an examination that that's what we'd find. Sam Harris mentions in one of his books ('Free Will' I think) that experimenters monitoring peoples brains were able to predict with a high rate of accuracy things people would choose prior to them actually making the choice (or more accurately before the subjects were conscious that their brains had already made a choice). That what we experience as 'preference' is a result of subconscious processes of the mind weighting variables we're not even aware of. However, the level of technical ability to chart the mind in such a way appears to lie so far outside of what we're currently capable of that I'm not comfortable saying whether or not this is even possible to do, nor do I speak with any notable confidence in the result of such an experiment.

          • Mikegalanx

            Yes, there are ways of determining what will best satisfy your personal tastes. I don't like sweet things; I suppose a detailed investigation of my brain chemistry, physiology, personal history etc. might turn up why, but it still wouldn't make me like chocolate.

            "If the scientific method is the best way of knowing, why should it not be used to determine what the best way of using existing knowledge is? "

            Because the SM can tell you what the best way of using existing knowledge is to achieve a desired goal; it can't give you the goal in the first place.

            As David Hume said, "Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions,"

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            I think you are saying that the scientific method does not apply to the inner life.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've tried to define it as a false philosophy below.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            Yes you sure did! I think we were typing at the same time. Good comment!

    • Rationalist1

      The opposite is metaphysicism that maintains that metaphysical knowledge must always trump scientific knowledge. When the tow are in conflict the metaphysical viewpoint is the one that will be ultimately proven to be true.

      • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

        I'm just asking for clarification about how you are using scientism. I don't think it's being used the way people normally use it.

        • Rationalist1

          I don't use the word scientism so I don't know what it means. I would assume it's the religious equivalent of the faithist epithet ( That I do not use wither).

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Who says this? Metaphysicism?

        However, I'll say there is a realm of knowledge above science, that science relies on. That realm of knowledge is reason in general or the epistemology of science, which is a brand of philosophy, which relies on metaphysical principles.

        That is not to say that this realm of knowldge which justifies methodological naturalism can actually do any work in the field of natural science.

      • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

        Science depends upon metaphysics, and not the other way around, so yes.

        We can't have science without metaphysics, because the scientific method itself is a metaphysical thing.

        We can have metaphysics without science, in fact at some point we have to, since metaphysics must do its preparatory work in order for a scientific method to emerge from it,

        Which is what those doctors Feynman mocks in his address were up to.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      No, Stacy, it is not the "only real kind of knowledge we can have," it is the most reliable we have found. We all have abilities to find patterns in things that we may call knowledge, and may use to make decisions. However, the problem is always finding out if we are fooling ourselves. Richard Feynman spoke about this in a famous address to students at Caltech.

      • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

        "It is not the "only real kind of knowledge we can have,"

        >> True.

        "it is the most reliable we have found"

        >> About what? Science can tell us nothing about things like deduction, hypothesis...these are important aspects of the scientific method itself, and yet science cannot operationally tell us a single thing about them.

        So it would seem the correct statement would be:

        "it is the most reliable we have found concerning its domain of operations, which is admittedly limited".

      • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

        Love that Feynman address.

        Science can't go all that terribly wrong as long as the scientists are like Feynman.

        My favorite atheist was one of his students.

  • Corylus

    Thank you, Qu, very clearly written.

    -=-=-

    I have been fascinated with the discussion on Adam people have been having on here. If any of you want to look at a side other than a Catholic / Atheism dichotomy, then insight can be had arguing with Muslims that Adam is an allegory, metaphor, archetype etc.

    He is the first Prophet of Islam and in many circles not to be denied.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Thank you, Corylus.

  • Steve Zara

    Sorry to be late. I don't know if this point has been made (so many comments!) but I find scientism to be rather strange term. I have only come across it when dealing with religious faith. Few others have any worry at all in allowing science to be the way to find truth. There also seems to be confusion about science - what it is and what it is not. Science is extremely simple: science is what we do to find out what is true about what is real. Neanderthals testing flint flakes against a deer hide to see which cuts best were doing science. These days we have extremely well-developed scientific procedures and techniques that help us avoid problems of interpretation and bias, but in principle, we are doing the same thing as those brainy Neanderthals - trying to find out what is true about what is real by testing against reality. There is no other way to do this. Metaphysics and philosophy won't get us to what is true about reality because we can philosophise all we like but we don't know if our conclusions are true unless we go out and test them. There are truths that we can't use science to get to, such as mathematical truths, but we can't get to reality without science, not because science is a way of testing against reality, but because science IS testing against reality. Science is having sufficient humility to accept what reality says.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      This sounds really wise, Steve, until your realize that nothing you have said here is scientific. It's all philosophical musings.

      • Steve Zara

        No, it's not philosophical musings. It's the exact opposite of philosophical musings. As far as we can tell Neanderthals didn't do much philosophical musing - they banged the rocks together to find which rocks it was productive to bang together to find which bits of rock were really, truly effective at skinning deer or stabbing mammoth. We do the same when we want to know what's truly 'out there' in the world, but these days we do things like banging protons together. As our banging has got better we have gone far, far beyond the parochial realms of religious ideas, and as we have moved beyond those realms we have come into domains where human ideas fail. That's not surprising - there is no reason why our ideas should work on the scale of gigalightyears or femtoseconds. And yet our world now runs on the strange physics that we found by exploring these realms. We navigate our cars with devices tuned to relativity. Our computers operate due to quantum effects in transistors. Faith was never an option to explore these domains, as the light of unaided human intelligence was far too faint to reach them. And yet still we have believers claim that their beliefs leap over the chasm of our ignorance and predict that the universe was created. We don't have a problem in our societies of scientism - instead the real crisis is religionism - claiming that antiquated beliefs have predictive power way beyond their initial design limits. Faith in the Sun God may help predict how crops will grow if you built the temple right, but faith in the son of God doesn't get you Planck's Constant, and so is useless in our scientific culture today.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Not what science does. What you are doing.

          You are reasoning about what is better and more useful, empirical science or (your caricature) of metaphysics and religion.

          You are not doing science, you are philosophizing.

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          How strange then that Planck got the Planck constant precisely as a consequence of his pre-existing metaphysical assumption of the existence of God:

          "As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.-----Max Planck

          Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], speech at Florence, Italy (1944) (from Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797)

          So, here we have a classic instance of Scientism proper- it will take the work of a genius, who produced that work from a profoundly theistic metaphysical world view, and then adduce it as somehow suggesting that the theistic world view is useless for science.

          Go figure........

      • Ignorant Amos

        I'll give you a heads up Kevin...you are way out of your depth, but please do continue.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Steve, thanks for the excellent comment! You make a very interesting statement: "Science is what we do to find out what is true about what is real."

      If that's what science really is, then I'd completely agree that science (so defined) is the only way to determine truth.

      Yet I've never seen science so broadly defined. If science simply means "what we do to find out what is true" then *every* question or *every* act of curiosity could legitimately be considered science. A prayer, even, so long as as it's done "to find out what is true about what is real", would be considered science by that definition.

      You then say:

      "Metaphysics and philosophy won't get us to what is true about reality because we can philosophise all we like but we don't know if our conclusions are true unless we go out and test them."

      I disagree, and I don't believe you really hold this to be true. For example, I assume you agree that both of these statements are true: "two plus two equals four" and "our minds are trustworthy" and "this world is real and not merely an illusion." Yet how would you "go out and test them"?

      The bigger problem with this assertion is that it's simply untestable and thus, by your definition, unscientific. Which test have you performed to verify that "metaphysics and philosophy won't get us to what is true about reality"?

      "There are truths that we can't use science to get to, such as mathematical truths"

      I'm very confused by this later admission--which I wholly agree with it, by the way--because it seems to conflict with your earlier definition of science as "what we do to find out what is true about what is real." It also seem to conflict with your claim that "we don't know if our conclusions are true unless we go out and test them." On the one hand you admit that there are such things as mathematical truths, but on the other hand we can't "go out and test them."

      • primenumbers

        We can certainly test 2+2=4. Speaking as an ex-math teacher we'd get out the math cubes and the kids would use them for basic sums and they'd count the total cubes one by one to check they'd got it right. So when there's a correspondence between math and reality, we can and do check that the math is accurately modelling reality.

        • Andrew G.

          The way I generally put this is that pure mathematics is the study of abstractions, but that applying mathematics to the real world requires verifying that you have chosen to start from abstractions that correctly capture the features of the real world that you are studying.

          For example, Euclidean geometry can be constructed as an axiom system (one which is complete and decidable, even), but that doesn't tell you whether the real world is Euclidean or not. The only way to test that is empirically.

          • primenumbers

            You're correct Andrew.

          • epeeist

            For example, Euclidean geometry can be constructed as an axiom system (one which is complete and decidable, even)

            Is it? Even with the parallels postulate?

            I only ask because I want to know.

          • Andrew G.

            The axioms actually required for the axiom system called "elementary Euclidean geometry" don't look much like the ones Euclid used, because his set was incomplete (and it took everyone 2000 years to notice this fact, which is nothing to do with parallel postulates).

            For example, when constructing an equilateral triangle from a line segment, Euclid's axioms don't actually prove the existence of the points at which the two circles intersect. That requires additional axioms to specify the completeness of the underlying set of points; all constructable points must exist. This wasn't noticed until people started studying Euclidean geometry in terms of modern standards of proof and formalization.

            But the result is that there is an axiom system based on first-order logic which captures as much of Euclidean geometry as can be done in a first-order theory, including an equivalent to the parallel postulate. This theory is known to be decidable, that is there exists an algorithm which determines in finite time whether any sentence in the system is or is not a theorem. It is also known to be complete, that is to say every possible statement in it is either a theorem or the negation of a theorem, i.e. "true" or "false" within the system. (This obviously implies that it doesn't capture enough arithmetic to permit Gödel's incompleteness theorems to work.)

          • epeeist

            Many thanks for that.

          • Rationalist1

            "Euclidean geometry can be constructed as an axiom system (one which is complete and decidable, even)" No Godel's therom put an end to that.

          • Andrew G.

            False.

            Gödel's incompleteness theorems cannot be constructed in the language of elementary Euclidean geometry, or (equivalently) in the language of real closed fields, because there is no concept of primality or factorization in either. You can use them to add numbers, subtract them, multiply, divide, and take square roots, but there is no way to express the question "is X an integer" or "does X divide Y". This means that there is no construct usable to encode proofs within the system, which is required for the incompleteness theorem to work. (For example, in PA you can use 2^x+3^y to encode an ordered pair (x,y), but you can't do that in real closed fields because there is no way to recover unique values of x and y.)

            This makes both systems strictly less powerful than first-order Robinson or Peano arithmetic (which are subject to Gödel's incompleteness theorems).

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Andrew, I am not sure that is true. I think it should be possible to construct Peano arithmetic out of Euclidean geometry. However, I might need a unit length to do it (I think that is allowed). A point has zero length, and if you have a unit length you have 1, and adding length gives you all the natural numbers. Length additions are transitive and lengths of successors (unit length plus) are equal. Also if any line 'l' is in set k, and the successor of any line in k is in k, then all lines of natural number length >= to l are in k (induction).

            Alternately, I think Russel and Whitehead showed that Peano arithmetic could be constructed out of first order logic, if you have true, false, not, or and a test of equality. If those can be encoded by geometric operations, then you have arithmetic, if you have arithmetic you can encode analytic geometry, and theorems about that geometry. Now, no way am I going to spend the time to figure out the Gödel numbering in that representation (a huge mess), but think it is conceptually possible.

          • Andrew G.

            Yes, you're allowed a unit length (the theory of real closed fields contains all the field axioms, including the existence of a multiplicative identity). You're not allowed induction unless you define it yourself, though.

            But that doesn't help you, because we're talking about a first-order theory here, so you have no way to specify "the smallest set containing 0 and closed under the operation of +1". If you could specify that set, then it would be a model of PA, but it's a general issue with first-order logic that although you can define "the set containing ...", you can't define "the set containing only ..." for an arbitrarily large or infinite set. Therefore there is no way to pin down first-order PA as a substructure of first-order RCF or elementary Euclidean geometry.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Thank you, Andrew, I am going to have to give that more thought.

          • Andrew G.

            I'm sure your fame in the mathematical community will be assured if you manage to refute one of Tarski's proofs :-)

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Thanks, Steve. You remind me of what Phillip K. Dick said, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."

  • Bob Drury

    'data from scientific measurements tell us that ... the Sun does not revolve around it (the Earth)'. In geometry, if B can be depicted as in motion around A, then A can be depicted as is motion around B. Why is it that if A is replaced with 'Sun' and B is replaced with 'Earth', then A cannot be depicted as is in motion around B? The common expression quoted says nothing about a simpler depiction. It is a flat out denial. Before the space age, all of the scientific measurements were geocentric.

    • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

      Thank you, Mr. Drury. Qu Quine's assertion above is simply false, as a matter of geometry, and as a matter of Relativistic physics.

      This dramatically false assertion is embedded within an even more troubling, more general, and more dramatically false assertion:

      "Things that are shown by clear evidence to not be true almost never come back, later, to be shown to have been true all along."

      Oh my. Let's start with Einstein's assertion of a constant speed of light in Special Relativity, abandoned for General Relativity.

      Let's continue with the abandonment of the aether in SR, replaced in GR.

      The abandonment of a cosmological constant, followed by it's replacement....

      Newton's proof of absolute space, followed by its observational falsification....

      Scientific knowledge is provisional, and is provisional not because the observations are wrong, necessarily, but because the observations are *always* interpreted through the lens of a model which in turn constitutes a series of metaphysical assumptions about reality.

      The degree of unwarranted confidence attached to such metaphysical assumptions can often be noticed to correlate to the degree of intimidation one can reasonably assume can be gotten away with, as here:

      "We know the Earth did not form in six days."

      >> We do not know this in any scientific way whatsoever. The conclusion is, as I have recently encountered the delicious term, *model-dependent*.

      " We know there was no "Adam and Eve" as first humans because the human population (and that of our common ancestors with other apes) was never below a few thousand"

      >> We also do not know this in any scientific way whatever. The assertion is dependent upon the prior assumption that junk DNA is junk, that our present understanding of genetics is correct, and both assertions are scientifically challenged by direct observational evidence.

      Mr. Quine actually provides us with these specific assertions precisely on grounds of Scientism, which will be seen to be an actually-existing thing, taking the form of an assault on elements of Christian revelation which can be expected to be abandoned without a fight by "Christians" who seek an embassy to Goliath for peace; after all he is so large and frightening.

      • severalspeciesof

        "We know the Earth did not form in six days."

        >> We do not know this in any scientific way whatsoever. The
        conclusion is, as I have recently encountered the delicious term,
        *model-dependent*.

        So apparently your own personal 'model dependent' idea is a variant of 'Last Thursdayism'?

        Glen

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          "Last Thursdayism" is not involved in any way at all.

          The age of the universe is determined based on several assumptions, involving the postulate of a constant speed of light in vacuo, and a derived assumption of expansion evidenced by redshift.

          The first is an assumption which is called into serious question by several experimental results, notably including GPS correction for a one way Sagnac effect.

          The second is problematic because redshift can be generated by gravitational effects in addition to recession effects.

          Observational evidence of high redshift quasars physically connected to low redshift galaxies is an example of serious scientific challenges to the redshift=expansion hypothesis, as is the necessity to introduce 96% of the universe in exotic and unobserved forms of matter/energy (the "dark sector") in order to bridge the gap between theory and observation.

          Additionally, consider the observational fact that quasars simply do not show the predicted time dilation effects of Relativity.

          So, no.

          Not at all to do with anything remotely verging on "Last Thursdayism".

    • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

      Interestingly, the following paper recently posted on the Cornell preprint server deals with exactly this question:

      http://arxiv.org/abs/1304.7290

      Excerpt:

      "We have presented the mathematical formalism which can justify Mach’s statement that both geocentric and Copernican modes of view are “equally actual” and “equally correct” [3]. This is performed by introducing two potentials, (1) vector potential that accounts for the diurnal rotations and (2) scalar potential that accounts for the annual revolutions of the celestial bodies around the fixed Earth. These motions can be seen
      as real and self-sustained. If one could put the whole Universe in accelerated motion around the Earth, the potentials (3.1) and (3.5) would immediately be generated andwould keep the Universe in that very same state of motion ad infinitum."

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Bob, before the space age we did not have a view from outside the Earth's orbit. Having sent spacecraft to the outer planets we have had the opportunity to look back and see our little world going around our star. Here is that view:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlJHHRyzUPM

      • Bob Drury

        Suppose the heliocentric reference frame were not a logical construct arbitrarily chosen for simplicity in depicting the relative motion of the sun and its planets. Suppose it were a physical absolute. That would have meaningful consequences. We would have to ask, ‘Why did the chicken not cross the road?’ Answer: ‘Because the relocation of the chicken can only be depicted relative to the absolute location of the sun’. Similarly, a stewardess could not move to the rear of an airplane as it circled an airport. Heliocentric absolutism raises the nagging question, ‘Why do we measure time geo-specifically?’ Presently the measurement of time is the logical comparison of one motion with another. If location is absolute in the depiction of relative planetary motion, why is the measurement of time arbitrarily geo-specific and not somehow absolute in the depiction?

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Suppose you picked a point on or in yourself as the physical absolute stationary center of the Universe, lets call this the "CoB" (Center of Bob). As you have pointed out, there is nothing mathematically from preventing the adoption of this reference frame. Now suppose that you are going to run an Olympic race in a stadium. You know that when you run you are not actually moving, but rather, you are stationary at the CoB and your legs are pushing the entire Universe behind you, and then by pushing a bit harder with one leg, you rotate the stadium (the Universe, and all the people watching) around you until you position the finish line under your feet.

          Now suppose a flea jumped on you just as the race started. Of course, that flea is not going anywhere (much) because it is mostly stationary to the CoB. It sees the stadium and all the people go around, and from its flea brain the idea of Bobcentrism works perfectly fine. However, the people in the stadium all have the view and agreement that you ran around the track.

          Always remember that heliocentrism is not about any absolute frame, it simply holds that the planets rotate around the Sun in our solar system (even as the Sun is moving around the galaxy). If any point in the Universe may be chosen to locate a reference frame, then no point has any special standing, and the concept of absolute motion is without evidence.

          • Bob Drury

            Thanks. Your CoB vignette clarifies the issue. I mistakenly thought you had proposed a conflict between the geocentric and heliocentric depictions. In a vignette I prefer to use motion picture cameras as observers rather than humans and fleas. Also I prefer a bicyclist to a runner. That way a camera can be mounted on a rotating wheel of the bike with a view perpendicular to its plane of motion. In the vignette each of the several records of the motion is true because the others are true and mathematically equivalent. We agree. No reference frame has any special standing except simplicity.

        • severalspeciesof

          ‘Why do we measure time geo-specifically?’

          Probably for the same reason that if someone comes up to us and asks for direction to the nearest coffee shop, we start with the assumption that the person asking wants to know the direction, from where he/she is located at the moment, and not from some other place where he/she is not...

          In other words, it's extremely convenient...

          Glen

  • clod

    By the by.....what is the catholic position on mitochondirial transfer treatment? This will prevent the development of some horrendous diseases. There are two methods: pronuclear transfer (done after fertilisation) and maternal spindle transfer (done before fertilisation).

    Are there any occasions in which God would decline to inject a soul at fertilisation? How could you tell if this was or wasn't the case?

    • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

      By the by.....what is the catholic position on mitochondirial [mitochondrial] transfer treatment?

      Since the Catholic Church opposes IVF, it necessarily opposes any treatment that involves IVF, and MTT would.

      It sound like human experimentation to me. It's one thing to genetically modify corn. It's quote another to genetically modify human beings. There have been a number of incidents of genetically modified crops "escaping," and it's anybody's guess what the eventual results will be. As for genetically modifying human beings (or anything that reproduces), the risks are unknown.

      • BenS

        As for genetically modifying human beings (or anything that reproduces), the risks are unknown.

        KHAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!!!!!

      • BenS

        It's one thing to genetically modify corn. It's quote another to genetically modify human beings.

        Just out of curiosity, where's the line drawn? Corn, trees, rabbits, chimps, humans?

        I have a sneaking suspicion is going to be somewhere silly like 'Don't modify things with souls'.

        I, for one, would have no problem genetically modifying humans to remove inherited diseases or correct perceived flaws. Probably also for cosmetic reasons.

        "Why do you insist that the human genetic code is "sacred" or "taboo"? It is a chemical process and nothing more. For that matter -we- are chemical processes and nothing more. If you deny yourself a useful tool simply because it reminds you uncomfortably of your mortality, you have uselessly and pointlessly crippled yourself."

        -- Chairman Sheng-ji Yang,
        "Looking God in the Eye"

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          I have a sneaking suspicion is going to be somewhere silly like 'Don't modify things with souls'.

          Your sneaking suspicion is wrong. I am simply pointing out that there is danger involved in genetically modifying any self-replicating organism, be it corn or human beings. I think genetic engineering of human beings is inevitable, so it is rather pointless to oppose it. But that doesn't mean it can't have disastrous consequences. It very will might not, but it is certainly a risk. Of course, if you think of human beings as "chemical processes and nothing more," then a genetic engineering catastrophe is no more serious than, say, a global nuclear war. If people are chemical processes and nothing more, that puts them on the same level as, say, rust. The oxidation of iron is a chemical process and nothing more.

          • BenS

            Your sneaking suspicion is wrong.

            It was only sneaking but you failed to answer the question anyway. Would you like to go back and try?

            But that doesn't mean it can't have disastrous consequences. It very will might not, but it is certainly a risk.

            I'm not being funny but so what? Just about everything in high level science these days can have 'disasterous consequences'. Genetics, power generation, nanotechnology, medicine.

            Saying 'That could have disasterous consequences' is on a par with saying 'look out!' or 'be careful!'. Rather empty.

            Of course, if you think of human beings as "chemical processes and nothing more,"

            Take that up with Chairman Sheng-ji Yang.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Saying 'That could have disasterous consequences' is on a par with saying 'look out!' or 'be careful!'. Rather empty.

            I don't think it is empty at all. Would you say there should be no government guidelines on genetic engineering? No ethical guidelines? The other day on television I saw a genetically engineered cat that glows in the dark. If someone wants to try that with a human being, would you say, "Sure, why not?"

            I believe it is pointless to call a halt to genetic engineering, but I see no reason not to say, "Proceed with extreme caution." Very few characteristics are controlled by a single gene. Results of more complex genetic engineering will inevitably have unintended consequences. I fully acknowledge that practically every technological advance has unintended consequences, but that does not mean science should just plow ahead without careful consideration of the consequences they can predict or imagine. I would hate to see drugs put on the market without some period of careful testing for safety and efficacy. Disasterous drugs (like thalidomide) make it to market, and two of the drugs that worked best for me (an antihistamine and a decongestant) were pulled from the market years ago for potentially fatal side effects. But I would never argue that because hazardous drugs sometimes make it to market, we might as well do away with drug trials.

          • BenS

            Would you say there should be no government guidelines on genetic engineering? No ethical guidelines?

            Don't be silly. I'm saying it's empty because 'that could have disasterous consequences' is an empty phrase. It doesn't tell what or how or why or how to avoid or anything.

            Like saying 'look out!'. For what? Which direction? What height? 'Look out' on its own contributes nothing. People are looking out anyway or they'd forever be getting killed.

            The other day on television I saw a genetically engineered cat that glows in the dark. If someone wants to try that with a human being, would you say, "Sure, why not?"

            Long as they have that person's consent... sure, why not?

            but that does not mean science should just plow ahead without careful consideration of the consequences they can predict or imagine.

            Nor do I, but it seldom does. Specifying proper guidelines and limits is what we need to do, not just say 'look out'.

            For example, I think all research on self-replicating nano-technology should be conducted off planet in orbital labs. The chances of that shit going nuts and turning the whole world into gray goo are going to be pretty slim... but the consequences if it does would be horrific. Keep that kind of stuff off the only world we have to live on.

      • clod

        Perhaps an article on this issue then? When and under what conditions might gene therapies be permissible in the fight against the transmission of mitochondrial diseases? Or not?

        • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

          The Vatican issued a response to the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights from 1997 to address those concerns. Basically, the Church urges that human dignity be protected.

          http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13177&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

          http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdlife/documents/rc_pa_acdlife_doc_08111998_genoma_en.html

          • clod

            The Vatican article seems a little short on specifics. If, after normal fertilisation, an embryo is removed for gene therapy and then re-implanted to term, does that offend human dignity - (not sure what that term means exactly though)?

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            Yeah, it is short. It's the only one I know of though. Try to see it as a Catholic and reason through the questions by treating the embryo as a child. You would remove it for therapy only if you had a high degree of certainty that it would be beneficial. You would not use the child as experimental material.

          • clod

            This issue needs a thread to itself sometime. As a parent faced with the choice between the certainty of a child with an inherited mitochondrial disease and the possibility of a healthy child through gene therapy, what would you do? (Assuming all risks were minimised to the degree that medical science could do so).

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            If there were minimal risk and absolute assurance of disease, of course we'd treat the child. However, there is still so much unknown about transferring genes. Scientists don't understand how inserting genes affects the rest of the genes or other phenotypes and usually mutations are not beneficial, so at this point there is more potential for harm than good.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I would do exactly what the Faith requires, of course.

            Somatic gene therapy for therapeutic purposes is licit, given sufficient protection against disproportianate risks to the well being of the patient.

            Germ line therapy is of course illicit.