Richard Dawkins interviewed by Hugh Hewitt

Did any of you hear Richard Dawkins on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show tonight?

It was interesting to hear Hewitt, the lawyer, pick Dawkins apart on the level of his reasoning and evidence. 

In any event, I found Dawkin’s argument against God and especially against Christian faith in God to be a little odd.

Dawkins holds that the God people claim to believe in would have to be a terribly complicated being.

?

This certainly isn’t the way the best thinkers of the West and certainly in the Christian tradition see God.

Most people who think about God hold that God is perfectly SIMPLE.

God knows things perfectly by perfect knowledge of Himself.  And His knowledge and being are identical.

So, doesn’t Dawkins set up a sort of straw man by saying that God is complicated?  Isn’t he arguing against a position thoughtful Christians, at least, don’t hold?

UPDATE:

The Transcript of Dawkins on Hugh Hewitt’s show.

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129 Responses to Richard Dawkins interviewed by Hugh Hewitt

  1. MenTaLguY says:

    From Dawkins’ strictly materialist point of view, he sees properties like intelligence etc. as requiring complex material structures. Of course Christians don’t believe that God (absent the Incarnation, at least) is in any way material, but Dawkins doesn’t seem to be able to wrap his head around this. I imagine Dawkins is probably thinking something like “well of course an immaterial being can’t exist, so I’ll be generous and assume that we’re talking about some omnipotent material being…”, and he pretty much misses the point from there.

  2. Irenaeus says:

    Here’s what Terry Eagleton famously wrote about Dawkins a couple years ago:

    Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster. These days, theology is the queen of the sciences in a rather less august sense of the word than in its medieval heyday.”

  3. Interesting… but that wasn’t on tonight’s interview.

  4. amylpav22 says:

    Dawkins hold that the God people claim to believe in would have to be a terribly complicated being.

    Okay, maybe I’m reading this wrong…but don’t people like Dawkins pride themselves on being much more complex and intellectual than those of us who believe in God? Aren’t we told, time and again, that faith in God is simplistic, bordering on stupid?

    And now Dawkins says God is “complicated”? Does this not sit with other statements he’s made?

  5. MrTipsNZ says:

    But Dawkins also likes to sing Christmas carols. Go figure.

    At any rate, Dawkins must contort his logic to fit his ideology. What he really means is “I don’t understand this God fella, and therefore he must be terribly complicated”.

    And he is a plagiarist, having stolen the Socratic rhetorical protoethymeme and presented it as his own idea (memes as an genetic evolutionary mechanism of thought/belief transmission).

    Indeed, Dawkins could set up shop “StrawMen R’Us”

  6. James Locke says:

    Dawkins himself has said that he has never ever read any theology in his life. Not that h would understand any of it. but again he is demonstrating his complete lack of reason and civility. Wasnt it newman who said that atheists would attack the church from comfy armchairs while being ignorant all the while?

  7. Let me return to the top entry for a moment.

    Did anyone tonight hear Dawkins on Hugh Hewitt’s show?

  8. Frank H says:

    My answer would be “no”. But I wish I had! Wonder if it is archived somewhere?

  9. “No”, Father Z., I did not.
    But I did watch an exchange between Bill O’Reilly and Dawkins and was, “not impressed”.
    Dawkins is rather caught up in his own intellectual “spiral”.
    God as complicated?
    I don’t think so.
    Not as the very source of being,in Being in and of itself.
    But then, again, I’m basing this on the Western philosophical/theological tradition that is the basis of our understanding of reality.
    His understanding?
    I don’t have a clue.

  10. Brian Day says:

    No, but I did listen during the previous hour. Partial credit? :p

    Transcript here: http://www.hughhewitt.com/transcripts.aspx?id=77fe9a0d-d15d-4f33-af90-d4685976f8e0

    I think that there is a podcast, but you have go to the “pay” side of his website.

  11. GordonB says:

    Original Sin is what caused complexity, but only from the human perspective. I suspect things weren’t so “complicated” before the fall.

  12. Read the transcript.
    That man has serious,I mean serious issues.
    His arguments hold absolutely no water. None. Not even by an atheist’s standard. And this man is a “great intellectual”?!?!
    His disavowal of the Gospel’s credence is rubbish. How about some of the pagan records of the existence of Jesus and His followers?
    And we’re supposed to take Darwin over the two thousand years of tradition of the Church?
    I don’t think so.

  13. robtbrown says:

    Original Sin is what caused complexity, but only from the human perspective. I suspect things weren’t so “complicated” before the fall.
    Comment by GordonB

    Complexity, i.e., the Distinction of Things, is a manifestation of God’s Infinite Wisdom. Because no limited being can adequately reflect God, various limited beings reflect God in various distinct ways. And so bees can make honey, but nothing else. Likewise, beavers can build dams in streams, but will die in the desert.

    In fact, ontological (not moral) evil (i.e., things going out of existence) is also a manifestation of His Wisdom, which is found both in the goodness of things and in the Order of the creation.

  14. Me thinks it’s a metaphysical crisis.
    Dawkins is out of his league. Really. Out out his league.
    Science as the “Saviour of the world”?
    Uh uh.

  15. Mike Morrow says:

    No, I don’t get the Hugh Hewitt Show around here. I read the transcript on his web site after Fr. Z called attention to it.

    In 2003, Dawkins failed miserably in his campaign for what had been proposed as a clever and positive catch-phrase for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, etc. A morale booster, something that would do for those folks what he supposed the term “gay” did for homosexuals (?!?). That word was “bright.” He was a “Bright”! I thought the idea was ridiculous and self-congratulatory, and so did apparently most of the community to which it would have applied. No one would know what a fellow was talking about if he said “I’m a Bright!” today.

    About 15 years ago, another prominent leader of in the atheist/agnostic intellectual community, Paul Kurtz, tried to popularize a new term for “secular humanism”. Paul is an academic, so the bizarre word that he coined was not entirely unexpected: Eupraxsophy! One wonders what problem substituting this term would have solved. The success of that effort can be judged by how universally accepted and familiar that word is today…NOT!

    To give credit where due, people like these often appear in the pages of a couple of very fine and respected “skeptical” publications, the “Skeptical Inquirer” and “Skeptic” magazines. However, Paul is also the driving force behind “Free Inquiry” magazine, which while often interesting and well-researched, is definitely in the anti-religion camp. It also is extremely partisan and hostile to non-Democrat party political positions. I support their frequent articles against such nonsense as Creationism (a.k.a. Intelligent Design) of which our fundamentalist breathern are so fond. I’m thankful that Roman Catholicism never embraced such. In the U.S. South, I was able to present student “papers” in high school science class presenting Darwin’s work 45 years ago, while remaining firmly Catholic. That was something most of my Protestant friends could not do with their religious outlook.

  16. MikeM says:

    I’m looking forward to reading the transcript. This summer I heard a discussion he had with the author of “The Evolution of God.” I enjoyed it.

  17. Rob Cartusciello says:

    We did not see the show. It does demonstrate, however, why Aquinas addressed the simplicity of God:

    PRIMA PARS, QUESTION THREE:

    OF THE SIMPLICITY OF GOD (EIGHT ARTICLES)

    When the existence of a thing has been ascertained there remains the further question of the manner of its existence, in order that we may know its essence. Now, because we cannot know what God is, but rather what He is not, we have no means for considering how God is, but rather how He is not.

    Therefore, we must consider: (1) How He is not; (2) How He is known by us; (3) How He is named.

    Now it can be shown how God is not, by denying Him whatever is opposed to the idea of Him, viz. composition, motion, and the like. Therefore (1) we must discuss His simplicity, whereby we deny composition in Him; and because whatever is simple in material things is imperfect and a part of something else, we shall discuss (2) His perfection; (3) His infinity; (4) His immutability; (5) His unity.

    Concerning His simplicity, there are eight points of inquiry…

  18. Norah says:

    It doesn’t matter that educated people can see through Dawkins just as it didn’t matter that educated people could see through Dan Brown: the great mass of the people aren’t educated in the areas of theology, evolution and Church history and they are the ones who loose their faith. If Catholic schools don’t stop the rot and start teaching their students the orthodox Faith they will continue to be easy pickings for the likes of any Christopher Dawkins or Dan Brown who happen along.

  19. marcolanscomo says:

    This is Dawkin’s whole problem.

    The ‘god’ he argues against isn’t the God Christians are talking about.

    Dawkins sees God as some very complicated ‘thing’ in the universe among all the other ‘things’, whereas of course God is eternal and self-existent and not part of the universe.

  20. Rob in Maine says:

    God is simple?

    I find Him ineffable.

  21. Gregory DiPippo says:

    To anyone who is interested in the topic of modern atheism, I heartily recommend a very interesting book, “The Gods of Athesim” by Fr. Vincent Miceli, S.J. Fr. Miceli demonstrates with the thoroughness of an old-school Jesuit academic that “atheism” is really just a form of idolatry. The so-called Enlightenment worshipped a god called “reason”, Marx worshipped a god called “the proletariat”, Dawkins worships a god called “science”.

    “And their unwise heart hath been darkened, for saying that they are wise, they have become foolish.”

  22. DNA is complex and Dawkins believes in that.

  23. Jack Hughes says:

    As Edward Feser argues in “the last superstition” there is no war between science and religion, only between the classical philosophpy of Plato, Aristotle, Augastine and Aquinas and the modern mechanical nightmare of Descarte, Locke, Marx and Kant.

  24. G DiPippo: Great reference. Fr Miceli does a great job on this.
    While in seminary I took a class on “Atheism”…got a “B” because I could not articulate very well their arguments…I told the prof; “I’m too stupid to be an atheist”. He laughed. Hard.

  25. mpm says:

    “Art imitates nature” (Aristotle). Science is included in the ancients’ understanding of “ars/techne”, and for human art/science to imitate nature, takes greater and greater amounts of complexity, because our “art” only shapes what already exists, it cannot “create” anything new. God’s art, what we call Creation or Nature, does not evince such complexity; it is our mathematical models, and programming techniques, attempting to simulate or explain nature, that do. Nature is what has its source of motion from within, the artificial simulates nature but it relies on structures we construct from outside.

    Since no man can create a spiritual being, our “art” doesn’t extend that far, so spiritual beings are regarded by “us” (i.e., materialists) as non-existent, and for thinkers like Dawkins, as “nonsense”.

    God, philosophically in Thomistic terms, is pure spiritual (no-parts) being without any potency (ipsum esse subsistens). Thus God is maximally simple to the point where his being, and his acting, are indistinguishable. Being composed is the sign of creaturely being. We have being, God is. Augustine says as much himself (the Nature of God is ipsum esse). This is ancient Christian doctrine.

    So Dawkins is right in one sense, but wrong about the fullest sense. Complexity follows being in the creaturely, especially material, world; but God just is, he is neither “art” nor “nature”.

  26. Scott W. says:

    As Edward Feser argues in “the last superstition” there is no war between science and religion, only between the classical philosophpy of Plato, Aristotle, Augastine and Aquinas and the modern mechanical nightmare of Descarte, Locke, Marx and Kant.

    Funny that you mention that because I recently read someone arguing in favor of homosexual acts by telling us to stop reading the Bible with a Platonic understanding. It wasn’t quite the using-logic-to-discredit-logic argument, but pretty darn close.

  27. mpm is spot on. I didn’t hear the show, but Dawkins has been banging on about this argument for a while – he obviously thinks it’s the ultimate put-down to the Thomist reasoning (with which he is remarkably badly acquainted). He rightly points out that complexity is something that requires an explanation, and God must be very complex, failing to realise that something may be perfect beyond comprehension and yet at the same time utterly simple in form; although he should realise this given that the development of complex forms out of simpler ones is a key tenet of his evolution theories.

    I’m surprised he hasn’t given up on it though, since I think fr. Thomas Crean OP rubbished the theory comprehensively in *A Catholic Replies to Professor Dawkins* (may have a different title in the US). I guess he’s arrogant enough to assume that he doesn’t need to listen to opponents. What a wonderful evangelising tool he is for Christians!

  28. mpm says:

    Athanasius of Alexandria,

    (Your avatar is one of my favorite Fathers, BTW. Would that I could read him in Greek!)

    Ignatius Insight has the following on its website:

    Dawkins’ Delusions | An interview with Fr. Thomas Crean, O.P., author of God Is No Delusion: A Refutation of Richard Dawkins | February 14, 2008

    Thanks for the heads up.

  29. The Transcript of Dawkins on Hugh Hewitt’s show.

  30. Mark Pilon says:

    I did not hear the interview but read the transcript at the link that Brian Day posted above.

    There are two quotes of (Richard Dawkins) RD that really struck me, both fairly early in the interview, and I have taken them somewhat out of context here. The first question centres on the debate as to whether there are sufficient transitional forms in the fossil record to support the theory of evolution:

    (Hugh Hewitt) HH: But in terms of the fossil record, has there been anything that is the central discovery of the last three decades that you think fill in…

    RD: There’ve been lots of nice, new fossils have been discovered. We don’t need fossils in order to demonstrate that evolution is a fact. We, I mean, it would be an obviously true fact even if not a single fossil had ever been formed.

    This was in the context of recent discoveries in molecular biology too, however I get the sense that RD has always held this view.

    Regarding the origins of the universe via the Big Bang (a la atheist):

    HH: And what preceded the big bang?

    RD: Well, physicists won’t answer that question. They will say that time itself began in the big bang, and so the question what preceded it is illegitimate.

    Richard Dawkins himself skirts the latter question when confronted by Hugh Hewitt. Draw your own conclusions. Mine is: 1. That the line between scientific theory, which is supported by evidence, and personal opinion which is not as constrained, can be very easily crossed if one is not careful; 2. Rational science clearly has its limits in explaining the world and in my opinion RD has either failed to acknowledge that fact, and/or acknowledge its implications.

    One last point. I find this one made by Hugh Hewitt towards the end of the interview very intriguing:

    HH: …that God created a world in which faith was possible by an order of its complexity, to allow for the Richard Dawkins of the world to exist, and be completely, absolutely convinced that He did not, that that’s the only situation in which faith is real.

    Again, it should be read in context.

  31. Jack Hughes says:

    my one concession to dawkins is that he realises (unlike, dennit, hitchings and Harris) that if your going to mouth off about what a gang of idiots religioius people are then you at least have to take some of their arguments seriously, the fact that he mis-represents their arguments in the G-d delusion is another matter entirely, also the fact that he’s not willing to go toe to toe with his opponents speaks voulumes, at least Russel was man enough to debate Fr Copplestone even if he did get his ass whiped

  32. Dan says:

    Having read the transcript, it is fascinating to note just how lacking Dawkins is in knowledge of Christian philosophy/theology. I don’t hold him entirely responsible for this, since it isn’t his area of expertise, but if he is going to expatiate on the subject he ought to conduct a serious study of it. The idea that God must be simple dates at back to Aristotle, doesn’t it? Similarly, he doesn’t seem to understand Hewitt when he says (a paraphrase, near the end) that there must be room for doubt so that there might be room for faith. Dawkins takes this to mean that God intentionally deceives us.

    All these questions in the Hewitt interview sort of dance around what I see as the main one: What are Dawkins’ reasons for holding to philosophical and scientific naturalism? This discussion is one I would prefer to fossil records, the historicity of Jesus, etc.

    The other option is this: he is, in fact, well read on these subjects and can understand them in a sympathetic light, yet refuses to admit them into the discourse. He is attempting, by means of forceful repetition, to establish his naturalism and atheism as the default view. This is certainly not anything new within atheism, but something to be aware of.

  33. Salsta says:

    Re: “how lacking Dawkins is in knowledge of Christian philosophy/theology”.
    His viewpoint is – do you have to be an expert on fairyology / leprechaunology to reject the existence of fairies / leprechauns?
    Or: Do you have to know what the Egyption high priests believed in order not to believe in Ra, the sun god.
    He does have a point there.

  34. Leonius says:

    Perhaps he meant God is incomprehensible.

  35. ASD says:

    Some points I thought were interesting, with some paraphrasing:

    HH: God is unlikely, but so is the universe itself.
    RD: I think there is a difference there.

    RD is correct here. The difference is evidence, indisputable on the one hand and ambiguous at best on the other hand. But, are questions about God empirical?

    RD: I mean, for the universe to come into existence, physicists are working on understanding that.

    Sounds a little like faith in science to me.

    I would have thought that whatever caused the big bang would have to be something outside nature and, hence, beyond the reach of science.

    RD: The book of Genesis, after all, was not written by any philosopher or scientist of any great wisdom. The book of Genesis was written by tribesmen who had no privileged information at all.

    That’s a pretty dopey remark. IMHO RD is correct that literal readings of Genesis don’t work. But, that’s not the only way to read it.

    HH: Gould said science can’t disprove faith.
    RD: That was just politics.

    I have no idea whether SJG was sincere or not. I’m inclined to think he was correct. In any event, that’s a ratty remark from RD.

    HH: Professor Dawkins, you won’t debate Dinesh D’Souza. Why not?
    TD: I don’t like him very much. He shouts, he’s loud, he’s rude.

    Hmm.

    HH: All right. At the outset of your book, early in your new book, The Greatest Show On Earth, you write about science teachers, “when they explore and explain the very nature of life itself, they are harried and stymied, hassled and bullied, even threatened with the loss of their jobs.” How often has that occurred?

    Touché.

  36. ASD says:

    Having read the transcript, it is fascinating to note just how lacking Dawkins is in knowledge of Christian philosophy/theology. Dan

    Dan, can you be a little more specific? TIA. ASD

  37. Salsta says:

    ASD: You say, “Touché.” Why?
    What I heard as a reply to the question of science taechers being harried was that the professor offered to show his collection of letters but Hugh ignored the request.
    We should be fair about this. If Hugh really didn’t beleive him, he should have taken up the offer.
    After all, the Dover trial in Pennsylvania was all about science teachers having trouble teaching evolution. That’s a fact.
    I don’t know why people here are anti Dawkins on this issue. The Pope has said that the Church accepts Darwin was right and agrees that evolution was God’s way of creating life.
    We shouldn’t be disagreeing with everything he says automatically – that just makes us look stupid.

  38. Evolution is the changing of one thing into another. Adaptation is quite another thing; it means that things that can exist in an environment may adapt to that environment without changing what they are in essence.
    For instance, birds that are more likely to be predated by their color are put out of existence; the birds that have a color that helps them to be hidden from predators survive and populate.
    That’s not evolution. That’s adaptation.
    Darwin had some pretty strange conclusions. And his followers, even more strange.
    In my humble opinion.

  39. Oh, and as a snarky aside (I’m of English heritage so I can say this), the English DO NOT like shouting or aggressive arguments. Believe me. I grew up in an English family. That will kill any kind of exchange (sorry Dinesh D’Souza)…for some English, even raising one’s voice or having any kind of demonstrative behavior will kill the conversation. Believe me, I know.

  40. Salsta says:

    Nazareth priest.
    I am English – and I don’t like Dinesh’s manner either. Professor Dawkins, whatever you may think of his opinions, is always personally polite and courteous. (As is often the case, the image of him as militant etc is untrue- he’s a typical Oxford academic). Dinesh on the other hand comes across as appallingly strident and rude.

    However, I think from your comments that you don’t actually understand evolution. I have actually read The Greatest Show on Earth (Professor Dawkins’ new book) and I can say that it is fascinating. If you read that and also The Ancestor’s Tale then you will be less confused. It is not anti Catholic (it is not The God Delusion) and it is very readable.
    In England the churches are not opposed to Darwin and evolution. I don’t really understand why so many of you are. The Holy Father (John Paul II) accepted it some time in the 1980s on behalf of the Church.

  41. ASD says:

    Salsa, I think HH scored a hit there. It was a pretty good question. Public school teachers are put upon by religious folk? HH took the opportunity to ask for some concrete specifics, and RD didn’t answer very well.

  42. Salsa: I am always ready to learn more and to be corrected.
    But I must say, the evolutionary argument, from an atheist’s position, leaves me very perplexed.
    God can do whatever He wants to do. But I’m very reluctant to leave this to chance. The complexity of creation is an argument, in itself, for a Creator.
    Evolution by the Creator? Okay, I’ll be ready to accept that.
    By accident?
    No way.

  43. And sorry: I should have written Salsta.

  44. Salsta says:

    Ah! That’s what the problem is. You say you don’t want to leave it to chance… Well evolution is emphatically NOT a theory of chance! NOT accident! (So it’s ok!)

    The best and most succinct description of evolution is: ‘The non-random survival of randomly varying replicators’. The only randomness comes in the very rare mutations that occur in the genes over the millennia, and then only such as actually affect the phenotypes (=bodies) in a manner that proves beneficial to the survival of the organism. (Most genetic effects on bodies are actually deleterious and lead to death). The business of survival is entirely down to suitability to the environment as in a plant, on the very edge of a desert, that is able to conserve water or as in a prey animal’s ability to evade prey. Ironically it is also seen in the predator animal’s ability to catch the prey!
    Everything depends on successful reproduction and the passing on of those genes that gave that tiny advantage to the next generation. It can be understood only in the context of vast amounts of time. It has been approximately 3 and a half billion years since the first bacteria (and more than three quarters of all living things are still bacteria!)
    I personally find this quite wonderful and amazing.
    I had thought it was only the fundamentalist protestants that didn’t like it, not Catholics, who have always been more sophisticated in our understanding of the Bible.

  45. Salsta says:

    ASD.
    I don’t agree. HH was offered a chance to see the letters for himself!
    He’s a lawyer – he knows that’s real evidence – and he backed off!
    I was not very impressed at that.
    Professor Dawkins apparently meets a lot of these science teachers when he tours and give slectures. I don’t suppose HH meets any.
    I don’t see the point in disbelieving this. In places like Texas and Louisiana, they have huge battles over evolution with the school boards. That’s all documented.

  46. Salsta: Sorry, I’m very simple.
    God is the Author of creation. If he wills evolution, so be it. Otherwise, forget it.
    Sorry, but that’s all my little mind can take!

  47. Salsta says:

    I have to say that I am hurt (as an English person, and as an Oxford graduate who greatly respects the Professors and fellows of the University) at the unfair depiction of Professor Dawkins.

    I found these two short videos from CBC (Canada?) which I think show what he is actually like. He is talking about Darwin, the man and I think everyone should look at this. (It’s ok, it’s NOT an anti-religion thing!)

    http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Shows/The_Nature_of_Things/Darwin's_Brave_New_World/ID=1296281939

    and

    http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Shows/The_Nature_of_Things/Darwin's_Brave_New_World/ID=1296281945

    I think you will agree that in these short films he is shown properly as a calm and brilliant teacher who loves his subject.

  48. Salsta: I am not out to deprecate Prof. Dawkins. But I saw him with Bill O’Reilly and he just did not convince me that he had intellectual honesty or an understanding of Christianity. He may well be an expert in his particular field; but he does NOT understand the philosophical/theological foundation of Christianity/Catholicism. His statements about Jesus Christ were absolutely outrageous.
    If he speaks within his field, that is one thing. But he better get some background about Christianity before he makes any more public statements.

  49. Salsta says:

    Do you really think Bill O’Reilly is the best venue to judge anyone? I saw that too on the internet and was horrified – at the domineering shouting rudeness of Mr O’Reilley. (Is that what passes for journalism?) How can anyone think that that was any kind of fair hearing?

    Incidentally, I have tested my links and discovered that you only get the website, not the right page. You need to put ‘Richard Dawkins’ into the search at the top and then you’ll get them. (Hold your breath – just writing the name won’t defile you!)They’re about 5-10 mins each.

    Anyway, I must go – it’s nearly 2am here in England!

  50. Bill O’Reilly is not the point here; Dawkins was not convincing, even “under fire”. Sorry. The transcript of HH show did not help at all in making him credible when it comes to God and the Christian/Catholic religion.

  51. MenTaLguY says:

    Dawkins certainly isn’t credible on theology! But I didn’t get the impression that Salsta was arguing that he was…

  52. ASD says:

    Dan: Having read the transcript, it is fascinating to note just how lacking Dawkins is in knowledge of Christian philosophy/theology.
    MenTalquY: Dawkins certainly isn’t credible on theology!

    I have read through all comments a few times looking for specifics on this. What exactly is it that RD doesn’t understand about Catholic or Christian theology? I would like to know more about that.

    More importantly, why does it matter to his basic idea, which is that scientifically educated modern people are justified in rejecting God based on their knowledge of science and nature?

    Consider: As RD said, with only an elementary knowledge of science one experiences a certain cognitive dissonance reading about miracles (dynameis?). But can science, which is all about explaining nature, explain:

    * Why is there something rather than nothing?
    * How does life arise in a material universe?
    * What about beings that are open to Being itself?

    My understanding is that science can’t explain any of those at this time. Further, I was under the impression that it cannot, in principle, explain the first because the answer would lie outside nature. However, RD seems to have faith that it will. Unclear.

    For the record: IMHO Salsta is correct that evolutionary biology does not represent the same kind of threat to the Catholic tradition that it does to various fundamentalists and literalists. Nevertheless, there obviously is some tension. In a word, telos. Catholics see life as a gift with a purpose, full of meaning in a way that evolutionary biology does not.

  53. ASD says:

    The elephant in the living room: It seems to me that Christians aren’t RD’s real problem. If biology teachers in Texas think they’re put upon, let current demographic trends in UK and the rest of Europe continue for another decade or so . . ..

  54. Salsta says:

    I think it is important to represent him fairly, in the interests of understanding the argument properly: (I’m playing Devil’s Advocate!)

    I think that Professor Dawkins’ position is that it is not necessary to understand theology in order to conclude that there is no evidence for any God.
    He is emphatic that this argument applies to all Gods equally, including ‘extinct’ Gods such as the Greek, Norse, Roman, Egyptian, Aztec, Inca, Hindu and pagan Gods.
    As he says, ‘How many people think that it is necessary to read up on the ‘theology’ of those Gods before dismissing them?’
    He is fond of saying that, ‘We are all atheists about all the other Gods that humans have ever believed in, I just go one God further’. (Quite witty, really!)

    As in a court of law, it is up to the person putting a proposition to provide the proof of it. The burden of proof (of existence) is therefore on those who say that there is a God, not on those who say there isn’t. He is, after all, a scientist – for whom no idea is ever accepted without evidence.

    When we try to argue against his ideas (not him as a person! Ad hominem arguments are ineffective and a sign that logic is being abandoned) we should remember that it is only objective evidence that will convince him.

  55. mpm says:

    Relative to the interesting points made here by Salsta, ASD, and others, I would make the following points. And I do so not as an adherent of any of the Intelligent Design schools, but merely as one with some formal philosophical formation:

    (1) Richard Dawkins (RD) speaks as a materialist, by which I mean someone who believes that there is nothing but matter in the universe. That is not a scientific fact, but a belief. Discussing it rigorously belongs to philosophy and metaphysics, not modern quantitative science.

    (2) Catholics have nothing to fear from the scientific theory of evolution, but Catholics cannot possibly believe in a pure materialistic science, whether biology or physics. To my mind, there is no conflict between a sense of wonder at scientific evolutionary biology, and a sense of wonder at the immaterial God who is its Source.

    (3) What any modern human science can do, is to bring man to the threshold of asking the philosophical question of Why, What is the cause for the being of these rules? It cannot cross the threshold without denying its own scientific principles (cf. Goedel’s theorems) but it can legitimately debouche at the facts that serve as the starting points for one or another of Aquinas’s five ways, since those five ways address the overall “causes” of being.

    (4) RD (I attribute it to his materialistic belief-system), and if not RD, then certainly legions of American popularizers of “evolution” do in fact attribute “the whole process” to “chance”. But evolution is not a testimony to pure chance: adaptation and eventual evolution occur according to very specific rules (which biology has been working out ever since Darwin), and rules are not evidence of randomness, but order. Order is something intellectual, abstract, which only man grasps. Without the ability to reason to the rules, there would be no science. “Probability distributions” are very specific, formal, mathematical functions that describe regularity within apparent chaos. To assert that something occurs following the Normal distribution, or the Chi-Squared distribution, or the Lognormal distribution, is to apply that formalism, and the rules it encapsulates, to a real-world set of facts, which enables man to “understand” the facts better. It is to make man see the lawfulness within apparent chaos. This is nothing new: one of the principles of Aquinas is that “there is no science of individuals”.

    (5) The specific problem in the United States between biology teachers who want to teach biological science, and school boards and educators who think that the manner in which it is taught is innapropriate, is due more to the over-reaching on the part of writers of biological textbooks, who often make the “materialist claim” right along with the evolutionary facts. It is the materialism which is the issue, and that is not a part of biology, but rather philosophy (cf. #1 above).

    (6) Why are American evolutionary popularizers so “touchy” about using the term “theory” along with Evolution? The name for Einstein’s “Theories of Relativity” has remained the same for 100+ years without a bit of controversy arising therefrom. It is not less accepted for retaining the name “Theory”. Why do the American popularizers make such a big issue about evolution not being a “theory”? I would say, “Because they mean by Evolution, the scientfic theory of evolution PLUS something more” the unscientific “belief” that it disproves that man originates from God, and that he has a spiritual soul, a natural law, and a morality that is based on absolutes. THAT’s what the arguing is all about. That also is not a “scientific” matter, but properly one of metaphyics, and yes, if necessary, faith (cf. #1 above).

    (7) Finally, as to RD’s delicate “Englishness”, one must note that often he does not accord his interlocutors the benefit of “peerage”. One of his stock terms in dealing with what he thinks of as “religion” is “superstition”, and surely that is, even for Englishmen, intentionally rude. And in the English saying, “What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.”

  56. mpm says:

    I think that Professor Dawkins’ position is that it is not necessary to understand theology in order to conclude that there is no evidence for any God. He is emphatic that this argument applies to all Gods equally, including ‘extinct’ Gods such as the Greek, Norse, Roman, Egyptian, Aztec, Inca, Hindu and pagan Gods. As he says, ‘How many people think that it is necessary to read up on the ‘theology’ of those Gods before dismissing them?’ He is fond of saying that, ‘We are all atheists about all the other Gods that humans have ever believed in, I just go one God further’. (Quite witty, really!) [Salsta — 22 October 2009 @ 5:57 am

    Agreed, it is witty, along the lines of an (American) priest I know who, when preaching to married men about living chastity, used to point out that he had given up all the women in the world, while they had given up all the women in the world except one.

    The big difference between the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, i.e, the God-man Jesus Christ, is that He is NOT a material God like the "false gods", and is not a part of the Universe. If you look at the earliest myths from virtually all cultures about their "gods", they are all about "making" aspects of the world from pre-existing stuff, like turtles, and so forth. The "Myth of the Eternal Return" implies that their gods are actually "parts" of the world, responsible for controlling its impact on man. These are, in fact, "gods of the gaps". Even Aristotle's "Unmoved Mover" can be thought of in this pantheistic way, which may be why the early Church Fathers seem to have been "allergic" to Aristotle's Natural philosophy ("Physics") and Metaphysics, though not his Logic.

    The Catholic Christian dogma of the Creation holds that God is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible from nothing and in time. Nothing external to Him, and nothing "of Himself, either". So, a materialist can easily dispose of such "nature-gods", and never lay a glove on the God we believe in.

    In fact, we believe that God creates individual human souls, which are immaterial (spiritual) realities, so that humans are in some way a sign of God's ongoing "creatio ex nihilo", even if science cannot get a handle on that.

    Thus, I sense that Fr. Coyne mispeaks here,

    In his remarks, [Msgr. George V. Coyne, S.J.] also criticizes the cardinal archbishop of Vienna’s support for Intelligent Design and notes that Pope John Paul’s declaration that “evolution is no longer a mere hypothesis” is “a fundamental church teaching” which advances the evolutionary debate.[http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=18503]

    since the “fundamental church teaching” is the Dogma of Creation, not this-or-that reformable scientific theory.

  57. rod-the-farmer says:

    Goodness’ sake. So many tiny minds, and not enough space to counter all their arguments. I copied selected bits, and have responded to them as best I could, before my brain cramped up. MPM, I venture to suggest you are beyond help. Your arguments are so silly, I found myself shaking my head at many of the paragraphs you wrote.
    ——————————————————
    “I’m too stupid to be an atheist” (says another)
    Sounds about right.
    ——————————————————
    HH: …that God created a world in which faith was possible by an order of its complexity, to allow for the Richard Dawkins of the world to exist, and be completely, absolutely convinced that He did not, that that’s the only situation in which faith is real.

    OK, I had to read this about four times,each time trying hard NOT to get myself tangled up in this nonsense. Worse than walking through a patch of grapevines. Eventually I gave up. HH seems to be saying that because Dawkins (and others) don’t believe in god, that proves god exists. Well, I’m convinced. (Not).
    ——————————————————
    As for Richard being unwilling to debate certain selected opponents, he is on record as saying he takes this position so that he does not give these particular individuals any credibility. There are other prominent atheists who will debate them, and have done so in the past. His refusal to debate individual X, when he has already debated individual Y, does not mean that individual X can say “I win !”. Any one of us, should we be confronted with an eight-year old, who wants to argue that travel to the nearest star will only take a week, will not likely get a debate. He does not have the scientific background, or the knowledge, to substantiate his claim, or to understand your points. So you don’t debate him. It is a waste of your time, and you are unlikely to teach him anything because his mind is made up. He needs to become educated.
    ——————————————————
    “you at least have to take some of their arguments seriously,”

    No, you only have to take arguments seriously if they are rational. Irrational arguments are ignored, no matter who makes them. The same applies to some of the questions HH raises. It is like asking “What is the color of thought ?” Or “What sound does yellow make ?” Meaningless questions. The mere fact that language can assemble those words does not mean they say something.
    ——————————————————
    HH What preceded the Big Bang ?
    That is like drawing a line on a piece of paper, 8.5 x 11 inches, extending from top center to bottom center, and then asking what is 8 inches off to one side of the paper. The question is meaningless, and HH is so obviously trying to trap Dawkins into something he can later quote-mine to “prove Dawkins doesn’t know what he is talking about.”
    ——————————————————
    All these quotes from Aristotle and the other ancient philosophers are of no value in this discussion. Compared to that eight-year old, they are ignorant prehistoric figures who didn’t understand the simplest of concepts, like the germ theory of disease. Their arguments of thousands of years ago were possibly enough to convince the illiterate peasants of their day. But this is the 21st century. Mankind has made enormous progress in every field since then. Except biblical study. These ancient arguments are almost always no longer relevant, any more than is a detailed description of how to carve a wooden plow blade. The scientific method says “Go ahead, make observations of the natural world, develop a hypothesis of what is going on, promulgate a theory to explain it so others can test your theory, make predictions of what will be found and under what circumstances as more people investigate the subject, and maybe over time and after many experiments & tests by others, it will be shown to be the best description of what is going on. Should anyone come up with a situation that your theory does NOT cover, then maybe the theory needs to be adjusted in light of the new evidence, or replaced by something different that covers all the observations.” If what you propose is not of the natural world, then it is up to you to figure out a way to explain it so that others can observe exactly what you see, in the identical way, under identical circumstances. Plus it has to be repeatable if someone, anyone, everyone does the same experiment. If none of this can be done, then you are imagining things.
    ——————————————————

    Claims of a god who created the universe are akin to me claiming my car gets 1,000 miles per gallon of gasoline. You would surely say to me “Prove it”. I would have to show the proof, or be discarded as a fruitcake. But when I tell you that you MUST put certain additives in your tank, you MUST drive the same car I do, and you MUST buy your fuel from me, that is when you say “Enough”. When/if I try to force my delusions on you, you will tell me to push off. Dawkins I think is operating in the same mode as you would be if I tried what I suggest. Your rights end at his or my nose. Believe what you will, but forcing your un-proven beliefs on me and my children, is not acceptable.
    ——————————————————
    RD: I mean, for the universe to come into existence, physicists are working on understanding that.
    Sounds a little like faith in science to me.

    This seems like a criticism. It is OK to have faith in the supernatural, but because rational people say that scientists are working on understanding something that happened such a long time ago, before there even COULD be any observers, well that is just “faith like we are criticised for”. Good grief. Tell you what. Next time your car needs repair, try ignoring the science involved in analysing the problem by your local mechanic, and fixing it. Better still, DON’T go to the doctor or dentist when you are in pain. You sure wouldn’t want to have faith they might cure you. Wait, I take that back. There have already been recent situations where parents preferred the power of prayer instead of medicine (oops, that’s another science) regarding the health of their children. DO visit the doctor, dentist, or mechanic. Please.
    ——————————————————
    HH: All right. At the outset of your book, early in your new book,
    The Greatest Show On Earth, you write about science teachers, “when
    they explore and explain the very nature of life itself, they are
    harried and stymied, hassled and bullied, even threatened with the loss
    of their jobs.” How often has that occurred?

    Sorry. I am sure Richard did not have a personal internet conection to check this out instantly, and provide examples, but here is one. She did not even TEACH evolution, she just passed along a note saying there would be a presentation on the subject.

    Texas Science Curriculum Director Canned for Mentioning Evolution
    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/12/texas-science-c/

    There are many more, which we can dig up for you.
    ——————————————————

    I doubt ANY of the commenters on this blog have even read Darwins book, “On the Origin of Species”. Still less have any of them spent several years traveling around the world, making observations of the natural world, collecting and comparing samples, nor have they thought about these for several years before daring to write what conclusions they might support. The problem with evolution deniers is they offer nothing to replace it. They have no tests anyone can do, no predictions that could be matched with new discoveries, nothing. Their response is “I don’t like what you are saying, because it contradicts my view of the world that I get from a book written several thousand years ago by bronze-age sheep herders, and therefore it must be wrong.”

    Gee. I’m convinced.

  58. rod-the-farmer: What the hell?
    Just let me give you a background on my statement, “I’m too stupid to be an atheist”.
    What I meant by that was that the convoluted, “over intellectualized”, and just plain idiotic reasons that men profess atheism, and I have studied it, just is too much for someone who has a normal intellectual capacity. Paul Vitz, Ph.D. has a book on some prominent atheists and holds that it is a psychological phenomenon rather than an intellectual one (absent or abusive fathers…go figure).
    R. Dawkins may be the most proficient person in his field of science. Fine.
    Evolution may be able to be integrated into the understanding of creation, (pace “Fides et Ratio” by JP II).
    But this man has no business dealing with metaphysics, philosophy or theology if he is saying such (gasp!) stupid things. No business.
    I’m no brain; but I’ll tell ya’: I have no patience for people who are “out of their league” when it comes to dealing with science and faith. They need to take some classes, no matter how “smart” they, and others, think they are.

  59. I want to apologize for my intemperate and inappropriate beginning to my last comment…rod-the-farmer, I am very sorry I used that kind of language. But I still stand behind what I said.
    Thanks.

  60. ALL: You knew that eventually some less then cogent arguments would be proposed here.

    Be patient and charitable.

  61. Thanks, Fr. Z.
    I have mostly English blood but enough Irish that causes…well…outbursts. I’m workin’ on it.

  62. RAmenPirate says:

    “ALL: You knew that eventually some less then cogent arguments would be proposed here.

    Be patient and charitable.”

    Funny . . . Richard often has the same comment.

    Something to consider by “ALL”:

    “We seek to confirm, not to question, our ideas. Everyone wants to be right and no one wants to be wrong. This may be the primary driving force behind the fact that when people look at neutral evidence before them, they almost invariably focus on what seems to confirm what they already believe while ignoring what might count against their beliefs.” – Thomas E. Kida

  63. rod-the-farmer says:

    “Too stupid to be an athiest.” Atheism is a psychological phenomenon, too much for a normal intellectual capacity ? Give me a break. You are describing religions beliefs, not rational thinking. [No rational person will accept this premise, namely, that there is a conflict between faith and reason.]

    Richard has every right to “deal” with the issues of god. As he has said, once someone claims god created the universe, that enters the field of science, and is therefore subject to all the challenges applied to any other claim. You can waffle on as much as you want about philosophy, moral truths, and an ethereal being who watches over us all, etc. etc., but claims re the creation of the universe immediately enter the world of science, where the big dogs run. I won’t even start on the existence of hell, an afterlife, and all the other stuff. [You can't imagine the places big dogs run until you are into metaphysics.]

    The problem that atheists have with believers is that claims for the truth of their beliefs are never – not once – proven. Miracles ? Nope. Never saw one. Prayer ? Doesn’t work. You don’t agree ? OK, pray for an amputee to regain his/her limb. [You mean, except for those extremely investigated cases of incredible phenomena which cannot be explained by any natural causes.] And since there is a wide spectrum of beliefs, from absolute bible literacy/inerrancy, to cafeteria-style pick-what-you-want-to-believe, pinning down any single believer is difficult. There is always the comment “Oh, well, that’s not what WE believe, those others are a radical fringe…” The bottom line is very simple. Nobody cares WHAT you believe, as long as your beliefs don’t interfere with the rights of others to NOT believe. If believers (in any faith) would just leave the rest of us alone, there would be no problems. But believers keep insisting that the rest of the world has to believe the same things, behave the same way, treat women different than men, even force on them their choice of clothing. [And the second part of this leaves me wondering why I don't switch off your ability to post here. After all, do we care what you think?]

    Now we come to teaching evolution. Anti-evolutionists claim it is we supporters who want to force OUR beliefs on their children. Fair enough, IF we are comparing apples to apples. But we are not. Darwin discovered evolution by natural selection 150 years ago. It has been challenged many times over the years, and it gets stronger every day. Predictions he made have been proven true, and new evidence like DNA and the molecular clock (which he could not even have imagined) have proved his theory beyond any doubt. But. There are some who refuse to accept it, for lack of an education in the many sciences involved, or for deliberate refusal to accept the proofs. Those people cannot be reached by reason. Their minds are closed. The rest of the educated world just has to walk on by, and leave them to their tiny, little world. [And now you are all over the place.]

    So, for evolution deniers, come up with YOUR explanation for the variety of species, the existence of fossils, the DNA similarities between species, and all the rest of the supporting sciences. “Teach the controversy ?” Go ahead. I have often asked for the deniers to come up with their beliefs, and to PUT THEM IN WRITING, so we can all see what they are. I bet it all fits on one lined page.

    Yet when non-believers (in religion) challenge believers, they are subject to abuse and complaints that they don’t show the proper “respect”. Respect is earned. Show me your theory, how you came up with it, what tests you did to see if you could falsify it, what predictions you made that worked out to be true, THEN you have my respect. But when you can’t do any of these, then you are just imagining things. You are no better than a UFO believer. It would be neat if space aliens were here visiting, and I am a big fan and SETI supporter myself, but until you can show me their vehicle, and maybe a dead body, sorry Charlie.

    The comments about people like Richard “not understanding theology” are amusing. You don’t have to be a deep student of something to say “This sounds fishy.” When what one believer claims, is not identical to what another believer claims, the warning lights are all on. When neither of them can provide ANY proof, ANY evidence, the rational person simply turns away.

    When I was younger, while I had no faith myself, I suppose I respected those with a strong faith. That was before I found out about clerics who abuse children, and how their religion concealed them from the law. Sorry if I derail this thread, [I think you are now dissembling. I think you want to derail this. That is your purpose here.] but how can ANYONE trust what ANY religious person says anymore ?

    [You need to learn to write brief and cogent comments. Trust me. You haven't a clue.]

  64. rod: please calm down.
    I am not in the habit of abusing anyone, chiefly those who claim to be atheists.
    Until the Prof. Dawkins shows some kind of understanding of the tenets of the Catholic Faith, including its metaphysical and philosophical underpinnings, there can be no discussion of faith and reason.
    The two thousand year old tradition of holy theologians, martyrs, and saints is the testimony of Christianity’s/ Catholicism’s Truth.
    Science and reason do NOT have to be at odds, as long as science is subordinate to faith’s tenet:
    God is the Creator; God does what He wills. That’s all that’s involved here. You are making mountains out of molehills. Am I not right?

  65. rod:”Too stupid to be an atheist”:
    If you want more info; I read Sigmund Freud, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Sartre…and had them analyzed to death…what do they all say, in common?
    Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
    We can learn from them, but God help us, if we succumb to this demonic, life-sucking influence.
    “Too stupid to be an atheist” was a facetious, sarcastic comment that those who choose to deny God have to be much more “brilliant” than the average ‘Joe-six pack’ to deny what is already very apparent.

  66. rod-the-farmer says:

    I apologise for “dissembling”, but there is so much woo here it would take me a book to refute it. [Then write one if you are so sure of yourself. But don't think you have to do it here.] Carry on, smoke if you got ‘em. Just stay out of the lives of others who do not share your beliefs. [Like... you are doing. Right?]

    “those extremely investigated cases of incredible phenomena which cannot be explained by any natural causes.”

    So….this means…that there are SUPERNATURAL causes ? Well, I’m convinced. Examples please. [In my copious free time I may post an example or two in separate entries. This discussion is being derailed (review the top entry).]

    “those extremely investigated cases of incredible phenomena which cannot be explained by any natural causes KNOWN AT THE TIME BY THOSE WHO TRIED TO EXPLAIN THEM .” (There. Fixed. Most if not all of the ‘modern’ phenomena ARE explained. See Randi, James. And it is funny how the number of ‘modern’ miracles drops right off, once those who promote them know their claims will be examined carefully, by people who have a scientific education and training.) [Amusing, but no. We have suffice knowledge of the causes of many phenomena to know when something out of the ordinary has happened.]

    The Book of Prayer does not have a footnote at the end saying

    “Note: do not use in cases of amputation of limbs. Application of prayer may conflict with reality and be ineffective. Consult an expert in the field of prosthetics.” [Fine. But Catholics don't generally use the Book of Common Prayer... unless of course they have come into the Catholic Church under special provisions. ]

    How about sudden, spontaneous remissions of cancer ? Or statues that weep blood ? How about faith healers who reach into your abdomen, extract chicken guts and claim it is a miracle ? [This is like the game "Which One Of These Doesn't Belong". you are failing around.] People who claim they can suddenly walk again, after being smacked on the head by some religion peddler ? Boeing 747′s actually fly. Stand underneath such a massive thing, and it is immensely hard to believe it does, but then there is that pesky thing called evidence.

    Life is wonderful, and marvelous in the extreme. [You really have no basis, given what you write here, to make that claim. You cannot honestly ascribe meaningful value to anything or call anything marvelous (review what the word means) if you don't also hold that there is a reference point for the good, true and beautiful.] But the idea that a celestial being created the universe some 14 billion years ago, with stars beyond counting, just so he could create one obscure planet around some nondescript star, and populate it with people who look just like him, so they can worship him ? Sorry, I forgot the fossils. You have to be seriously deluded to even come up with such an idea, let alone base your life on worshiping such an imaginary friend. [So... the universe doesn't really exists, I suppose. No... don't bother. This is tedious.]

  67. mpm says:

    rod-the-farmer,

    Let’s forget all about UFOs. I for one have no time for them. Let’s consider a more terrestrial matter.

    A number of commenters on this thread, “Mark Pilon”, “Jack Hughes”, “Dan”, “Salsta”, “Leonius”, “ASD”, “nazareth priest”, “MenTaLguY”, and “mpm” (me), all have posted comments in which not a single one of them has denied that the scientific theory of evolution is a scientific fact.

    Thus, we have a datum (since you like being scientific). The datum is a) there are several individuals who believe in God (theists), AND b) said individuals also express to some degree or another acceptance (not denial) of the scientific theory of evolution.

    Given your apparent views, is there a problem or contradiction here? If not, how do you explain that datum?

  68. NOTE:

    A distant descendant of Epicurus, Darwin’s theory of natural selection can effectively be boiled down to the phrase “survival of the fittest”: the strongest survive and breed descendants life themselves. This became the paradigm also for eugenics, of course. The problem is that human beings are not simply critters. Nevertheless, this is what Darwin did in his Decent of Man: he applied the evolution theory, with its ghastly “fittest” core belief, to man and society. This “evolution” not only does apply to man, it should apply to man. Only the best ought to be allowed to reproduce. The weak should not be helped. Compassion must be eradicated as a pernicious weakening of the race. Let people die off so that the race be made stronger. As a matter of fact, the concepts of mercy and compassion for the weak were themselves merely details that somehow still survived the process of natural selection. Ethics or compassion were neutral, without moral content. Compassion or sympathy for the weak could be and should be bred out because it interferes with the goal of a stronger race. This is a side of Darwin that his fans don’t spend much time on. Well, some fans did.

    The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, from general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks often occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies—between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridae between the elephant, and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and all other mammals. But these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla. – From Descent of Man

    The point is that, according to this view – and Darwin holds that it is inevitable and morally neutral – just fact – races will be sorted according to superiority, inferiority, the stronger or better adapted will simply eliminate inferior competitors. But we also see that Darwin considers, for example, the black race and Australian aborigines as closer to manlike gorillas. Given that Darwin thought humans would eventually wipe out manlike ape species, he thus held that white people would wipe out black people. Effectively, that is what was supposed to happen.

    It is a very small step from this to local or global atrocities.

    When people go rapturous on Charles Darwin, it is good to know some of the other ways his ideas were applied – by him. This is not to say that there is not something to the various theories of evolution (there are more than one). This is to say that the core ideas within these theories can have other implications.

  69. ASD says:

    In addition to its amoral character mentioned by Fr. Z. above, for me one of the least appealing aspects of modern naturalism (the -ism that claims to know that nature is all there is) has to be the arrogance it so frequently involves. Something like what used to be called hubris. Sometimes it can be ironic because scientifically sophisticated people are often philosophical naifs. Consider, e.g., the following question:

    What came before the big bang?

    I’m pretty sure I know what RD et al mean when they answer:

    Well, time started with the big bang, so before the big bang doesn’t make sense.

    Ludwig Wittgenstein put that point nicely in his Tractatus Logico-Philisophicus, a book about the limits of language, etc., c. 1918:

    7. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

    The question, of course, is what follows from that observation? For the record: Wittgenstein himself was an ardent Christian.

    The big question: What does it mean to take the Roman Catholic Christian tradition seriously in the modern world? To my mind, the question has several parts, all of which RD mentioned:
    + In a multicultural world, why that tradition rather than any other?
    + In the world of modern scientific rationality and personal liberty, is tradition a legitimate authority for knowing or acting?
    + What about the claims made by tradition that are not consistent with modern science?
    + Related: What are the limits of science? Is it the only way of apprehending reality?

    These are serious questions, but IMHO, they shouldn’t be allowed to obscure the main point: Jesus didn’t found a religion of knowledge; He founded the religion of love. I think John 20:29 is a good text here; there are many others. In a word, Jesus isn’t really interested in our cleverness, our powerful evidence crankers; He wants our love. Curiously, whereas claims to know are strengthened by evidence and reasons, pure love doesn’t really have reasons at all.

  70. rod-the-farmer says:

    I have exhausted my interest in discussing this issue. [Let there be sung Te Deum and Non Nobis.] Remember, this all started with Hewitt interviewing Dawkins about his book, The Greatest Show On Earth – Evolution. You may well be correct that none of you challenged the truth of evolution by natural selection. But Hewitt did. So I was most of the time dealing with evolution deniers and their lack of an alternative that will stand up to the scientific method.

    Best wishes to you all in your search for knowledge. Please just try opening books written in the last 50 years, or even better, the last 5. Human knowledge did not stop increasing. with the printing of the bible.

  71. Please forgive my insolence: but how, pray tell, does one get something out of nothing?
    It just does not hold any water, in common wisdom, that the earth, in all its beauty and complexity just “happened” by chance. If there is no Designer, how does anything work, at all?
    I mean, really? The absolute miracle of the human body, no less other creation, is just astounding in and of itself. How can this just be materialism?
    Evolution, as a process, as long as it includes the action of God, is something that can be debated. But didn’t this whole discussion turn into whether God exists or not?
    And who, out of all of these posts, said that “human knowledge…stop[ped] increasing with the printing of the bible”?

  72. NOTE: Someone here is quoting Wittgenstein. Another is talking about chicken guts.

    Yet the chicken guts guys is now saying that the people quoting Wittgenstein are not literate.

  73. Fr Z: Go figure.
    I’m afraid Saint Thomas Aquinas is absolutely correct about the darkening of the intellect and the weakening of the will; I don’t know if the Sixth Commandment, in its various violations, is the reason here, but I would put money down on it…in a minute!

  74. Okay, maybe that was a rash judgment…I apologize if it is, in fact, wrong. But how does someone come up with all this complicated, intangled reasoning to deny the existence of God and of the hypocrisy of those who believe in Him?

  75. mpm says:

    Fr. Z,

    Clearly, Darwin had issues. In fact, he came from a family of well-known vocal atheists, and Darwin himself was an atheist (which his wife knew, but not many others). Academic Germany had been a hot-bed of racialist “theories” for a while before the Origin of Species (some of those theories were used by John C. Calhoun in his orations favoring slavery in the US Congress), where Darwin published his main thesis, “adaptation with differences that enter the new phenotype”. However, Darwin knew nothing of genetics (Gregor Mendel whose ihneritance laws were not recognized for what they were until about 1900), so he was never able to describe the mechanism whereby adaptive changes could be passed on to future generations.

    “Evolution” is frequently called “Darwinism”, probably in tribute to his insight, much as the “Theory of Relativity” is often referred to as “Einstein”.

    While it is true that there are, or at least have been, various (sub)theories of evolution, and to its credit, it ought to change as new insights, sciences, and facts come into focus, there is, in my humble and inexpert opinion, a valid sub-set of all the theories which is of the nature of “fact”. A case in point is DNA and all that (the mechanism Darwin did not discover!).

    Another thing, of course, are the many evolutionary pseudo-explanations of non-”scientific” realities (such as God, or Jesus Christ) which are rubbish, but which one hears at times on television.

    P.S. It’s good to see that Darwin’s stuff is online.

  76. mpm: And Gregor Mendel was a Catholic religious!
    If people would only consider what they have to credit the Catholic Church with (as Fr Z said in a previous post): universities, hospitals, science, grammar schools, etc. etc. etc.

  77. Jack Hughes says:

    I’m looking foward to the debate on the 5th of November between Dr William Lane craig (protestant I.D theorist) and Dr Fransico Ayala (Catholic – Biologist – Theiestic Evolutionist) about the viability of the intelligent design theory.

  78. mpm says:

    Fr. Z,

    “Te Deum” made sense to me, but “Non Nobis” really made me laugh!

  79. robtbrown says:

    Salsta,

    I don’t know why people here are anti Dawkins on this issue. The Pope has said that the Church accepts Darwin was right and agrees that evolution was God’s way of creating life.

    If you’re referring to JPII, that is not what he said. I read the speech in the original French and the particular paragraph is ambiguous (intentionally, I think).

    BXVI acknowledges micro-evolution as a possibility, but not macro-evolution. Generally, this means that all differences among living things cannot be reduced to material structure. Thus: The difference between a leg and a wing is quantitative (i.e., arrangement of matter). But there is no qualitative difference between the function of the two (both are appendages that move) and so, it is possible to attribute the difference to some process of mutation.

    The difference between a human brain and, say, that of a brute animal (or for that matter, a hominid), is not only quantitative, but the functions of the two are qualitatively different. Human intelligence functions in a way that animals cannot. Such a difference, then, is said to refer to macro-evolution, which I consider impossible.

    Macro-evolution would also apply to the qualitatively different functions between vegetation and animals. Even though the higher of the former is very close to the lower of the latter, it still doesn’t cross the line. Thus the sides of a polygon inscribed in a circle can be increased infinitely, but the polygon never becomes the circle.

    To put it another way: It makes no sense that blue green algae, through a process of billions of years, could eventually mutate into a being that could produce Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

  80. Jack Hughes says:

    Thinking about Rod’s comments about “reading a book written in the last 50 years, or even better, the last 5″ I can tell him with great Joy that Professor Feser’s book was released late last year, Fr Clarke’s book “The One and the Many” in 2001 and if we really want to go back Jacques Maritain’s “Degrees of Knowledge” (4th Edition)in 1959, reprinted in 2001. To round it off I am currently reading (in the free time that I should be using to type up my lecture notes from University) David Olderbeg’s “Real Essentialism” published by routlidge in 2007.

  81. robtbrown says:

    Well, time started with the big bang, so before the big bang doesn’t make sense.

    I agree that Time didn’t exist before matter, but there is a distinction between priority of duration (which is based in Time) and ontological priority. And so we say that God is ontological prior to all limited being.

    Ludwig Wittgenstein put that point nicely in his Tractatus Logico-Philisophicus, a book about the limits of language, etc., c. 1918:
    7. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

    That is exactly my objection to evolutionists.

    The question, of course, is what follows from that observation? For the record: Wittgenstein himself was an ardent Christian.

    Sorry, I don’t buy that.

    The big question: What does it mean to take the Roman Catholic Christian tradition seriously in the modern world? To my mind, the question has several parts, all of which RD mentioned:
    + In a multicultural world, why that tradition rather than any other?
    + In the world of modern scientific rationality and personal liberty, is tradition a legitimate authority for knowing or acting?
    + What about the claims made by tradition that are not consistent with modern science?
    + Related: What are the limits of science? Is it the only way of apprehending reality?
    Comment by ASD — 23

    I don’t consider this to be a question of tradition. It concerns Cosmology.

  82. robtbrown: Touche. If we are the evolution, “by accident”, of blue green algae, I will eat my shirt, or rather, my habit…and that is a LOT of material to ingest!

  83. robtbrown says:

    Rod,

    1. No, Aristotle was not pre-historic. In fact, by definition, he is not.

    Are his works old? Yes, but so are the works of Euclid and Pythagoras. And I doubt that you deny that a triangle has 180 degrees or object to the Pythagorean theorem just because they are old concepts.

    And of course, we both know that Einstein’s revolution in physics returned the notions of Time and Place to the more ancient concepts=-and away from Newton’s concepts of Absolute Time and Place.

    2. I accept the entire fossil record. In fact, I’ve read various works by Gould as well as Donald Johanson’s “Lucy”. I am also familiar with the disputes between the Leakey family and other paleoanthropologists.

    I do not, however, accept the explanation for the fossil record. Although I applaud evolutionists for seeking to unify all the sciences, I think they have failed because they limit themselves to analysis of material structure. IMHO, it is a case of what was quoted above from Wittgenstein: 7. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

  84. robtbrown says:

    Jack Hughes,

    The Degrees of Knowledge is back in print.

  85. Jack Hughes says:

    robtbrown

    I know, I have a wonderful copy sitting on my bookshelf not 2 feet away with all of the other books I mentioned.

    NB I really need to go as I’ve got 3 papers due in nxt week :)

  86. robtbrown says:

    robtbrown: Touche. If we are the evolution, “by accident”, of blue green algae, I will eat my shirt, or rather, my habit…and that is a LOT of material to ingest!
    Comment by nazareth priest

    Michael Crichton, Harvard educated with a degree in anthropology and then medicine, has an interesting line in one of his books. Crichton was pro evolution but acknowledged lots of problems with the theory. Anyway, he said that human evolution is like a tornado going through a junkyard and spontaneously assembling a 747.

  87. robtbrown: Excellent analogy. I also like the one about chimpanzees (if they are in fact, our relatives) composing Shakespeare. We’ll wait awhile for THAT one to happen!

  88. mpm says:

    robtbrown,

    I’m not so sure that ASD doesn’t have a point in asking about Wittgenstein’s dictum.

    Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. — Ludwig Wittgenstein

    I get Wittgenstein’s point, it is well-expressed.

    And I cannot speak “on my own account” of what it means to come into being from nothing, or to produce something from nothing. However, if someone else who I find credible assures me that there was a beginning of time, when all things were brought into existence, I am not being unreasonable to believe him, on the contrary, it is very reasonable for me to do so. Christ stands in relation to me as such a person, but as mediated through His Church, who is the actual agent who communicates this to me. Why so? Because “I believe in the one, holy, Catholic, apostolic Church.” Not just believe Her, but believe in Her, in Her mission as created by Christ.

    So, Christ came to teach us to love, but he also gave “content” to that love. The Gospels are full of his instructions to do this, and avoid that. So, while the “greatest of these is love”, I do need to have the ability to understand what that phrase actually means in order to do Christ’s will (“He who loves me will keep my commandments”), so when I discuss it, I do not attribute the knowledge to myself. That’s why Catholics are always going on about “the teaching of the Church”, and why that is more important to us than our own personal opinions.

  89. mpm: I’m sorry. You lost me. Probably because I am not so bright…really. Could you please elaborate? Thanks!

  90. robtbrown says:

    mpm,

    St Thomas’ Five Ways do not depend on Time having a beginning. In fact, in another place in the Summa, he says that it cannot be known from reason that Time had to have had a beginning.

    Your approach seems to be from the faith, which is obviously fine. But I am speaking about reasoning to knowledge of the existence of God.

  91. mpm says:

    Well, I seem to have confused two separate people at the same time. Not quite the trifecta, but heh.

    robtbrown,

    I concur about Aquinas. Perhaps you are right, that the question involves the “proofs” of God’s existence.

    Trying to understand ASD’s whole post, which has some very good questions, and then some fairly confusing questions also, I was focusing on the possiblity that what he was really asking could be answered by acknowledging the difference between certain knowledge by reason (the intrinsic logic of the reasoning), and certain knowledge by the gift of Faith (part reason, part love/will).

    nazareth priest,

    Sorry, you are certainly bright enough to understand what I had to say if had I expressed myself correctly.

  92. Salsta says:

    Good grief!
    Such a lot here since I last looked in. —-
    mpm says: “The big difference between the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, i.e, the God-man Jesus Christ, is that He is NOT a material God like the “false gods”, and is not a part of the Universe.” —- I can see a problem with this amongst those who require evidence. As it stands, this is just an unfounded statement, and an all too convenient way of dismissing the question of how theists can dismiss all Gods except their own.
    What arguments do we use, for example, in dismissing Allah (or another present day ‘major’ God)? Why is it not legitimate for them to use the same argument back at us?
    Also, It seems to me that the theology does not become important until AFTER the proof of the existence of the God. Therefore it is not illogical for Professor Dawkins to dismiss the theology, because he has not accepted the first premise on which the theology is based.
    What do you think?

  93. What do I think: Do you really want to know? I mean, really:
    Jesus Christ is the “Logos”…the meaning of what it is to be human and to be divine.
    He makes present the Truth of the universe, the reality of human existence, and the life of the world to come.
    He is the “Beginning and the End” (Alpha and Omega)…He makes present what “man is to become and what man is in himself”.
    Evolution: that is something to be reasoned within the realms of science and faith, respecting the rights of the Divine Creator.

  94. Salsta says:

    Oh dear.
    To me, ‘Logos’ and the whole human centredness of the argument is negated by the 13.2 billion years of the universe. We have been around (as homo sapiens) for only 200,000 years. I’m having trouble with the idea that it’s all been created with us in mind. I mean, for 13,199,800,000 of those years, we weren’t even here! —
    And I haven’t even touched on the size of the universe and the numbers of galaxies etc… Ok – 50 to 100 billion galaxies, each with at least 50 billion stars, with no one knows how many planets. I’m having real trouble believing that we have any significance at all, let alone that we are somehow the point of it all.

  95. Salsta: Read “Hebrews” and “The Letter to the Romans”…Saint Paul, even if current historical-critical scholars/theologians tell you otherwise.
    If our Lord Jesus Christ is not the “Logos” and the very meaning of what it means to be human…we are lost; lost.
    We might as well, as Mother Angelica once said, “Hang up our habits and join the circus.”

  96. Salsta says:

    Since that doesn’t help me with our insignificance in the face of the universe, then I suppose I’d better find a circus. (No habit to hang up)
    The writers of the bible didn’t know any of the things that trouble me now. They were people who didn’t know where the sun went at night!
    I think religion is harder in the light of what we know now.
    I’m sorry, I’ve just noticed the time! (3.03am) it’s another very late night for me.
    Thanks anyway.

  97. And I might add: read the Prologue to the Gospel of Saint John, which, wonderfully, is a part of the EF Low Mass. There is the basis of our understanding of what life on this earth really means.

  98. Oh Salsta: Please read the Scriptures I cited. I don’t want to be a horrible “fundamentalist”…but please read them. God will give you the grace. I am sure of it. Prayer and blessing. FrJM.

  99. Jordanes says:

    Salsta said: I’m having real trouble believing that we have any significance at all, let alone that we are somehow the point of it all.

    The Psalmist had similar questions — cf. Psalm 8

  100. Salsta says:

    Sorry, but I hardly think the psalmist had the full (Hubble telescope aided) facts at his disposal… The sun was just a light in the sky and the stars were just little holes in the upturned bowl of the firmament. Very pretty and poetical, but no help in today’s world.
    Neither did bronze age goat herders understand our very very late appearance on the evolutionary tree…
    Sorry, but this is what I mean about how modern knowledge about our REAL place in ‘the scheme of things’ makes belief in God hard if not impossible.

  101. Oy!
    Is this still going on here??
    Salsta: you are trying just too darned hard. Give it up, already! (As they say in New York).
    God is God. He is the Creator. Whatever He wills, He does.
    Evolution is not incompatible with religious belief.
    But you have to stop “over-intellectualizing” everything. Sorry for the spiritual direction, but that’s what I do.

  102. Salsta says:

    Give up thinking?!
    Over-intellectualising?!
    What you are saying is that the Faith will not survive real thought?
    That’s not spiritual direction, that’s dishonesty. That makes me feel even worse.

    It’s no good. I’ve been having trouble with this for some time.
    How come it’s only church people who tell me not to think? Friends who don’t believe don’t say that.

    -And I haven’t even mentioned the sort of things that people in England are saying over here about Catholics. On 7 November the debate between Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Fry, Ann Widdecombe and The Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, will be broadcast worldwide (on BBC World) to an audience of about 70 million people. I have already read a lot about what was said (I was not there) and think it will be very damaging. It was the biggest defeat that that debating organisation has ever seen. The Catholic side of the argument floundered and failed. One commentator said that if the Pope had walked in at the end he would have been in danger of being lynched… I think / hope he was exaggerating…

    It is hard to read and hear all that and even feel it’s worth trying to hold on to the Faith. Quite honestly, after hearing all that, I would have been one of the 770 -odd people in the audience that switched sides.

    I think you are a bit cut off where you are – (out in small town Wisconsin? I think I’ve got that right?).

    Even the move by the Vatican to take on disaffected Anglicans is seen here as the exodus from the Church of England of the most misogynist and homophobic reactionaries going to where they will feel most at home!

    I don’t like to be identified with that. (I’d like to think you wouldn’t either).

    I’m going to ‘take a holiday’ from it all – see what it’s like no longer trying to believe. It has been an effort for too long. If it’s really true, it shouldn’t be like trying to see in the pitch dark. I’m beginning to appreciate the saying – the invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.

    Bye for now then.

  103. Jordanes says:

    Salsta said: Sorry, but I hardly think the psalmist had the full (Hubble telescope aided) facts at his disposal…

    So you’re saying that if the Psalmist knew that the universe was even more awesome that he could have imagined, it would have made him question the existence of God, instead of intensify his awe and bewilderment?

    The sun was just a light in the sky and the stars were just little holes in the upturned bowl of the firmament. Very pretty and poetical, but no help in today’s world.

    How does better scientific knowledge of the sun and stars make anyone a better person, cause sinners to repent, save us from sin and death and secure us a blessed life of grace today and in eternity?

    Neither did bronze age goat herders understand our very very late appearance on the evolutionary tree…

    They didn’t need to, and neither do we — that knowledge (assuming it is knowledge, which it seems to be) doesn’t change who and what we are, who and what God is, and how we are liberated from the predicament of sin and death through Jesus.

    Sorry, but this is what I mean about how modern knowledge about our REAL place in ‘the scheme of things’ makes belief in God hard if not impossible.

    If “modern knowledge” makes belief in God hard if not impossible, then it is not knowledge at all, but must logically be erroneous.

    But it doesn’t make belief in God hard. A crisis in faith is not an intellectual crisis, something solved by facts or knowledge.

  104. Salsta says:

    None of the points above give any proof of a God!
    Neither is there any obligation on scientific knowledge to make anyone a better person etc. However, even if something DOES have that effect, it’s still not a proof of a God.
    And as for knowledge not being knowledge if it makes belief in God hard if not impossible… I’ve hardly ever heard such a circular argument. It is nonsensical.

    For me, faith without intellect – and evidence – is something to be distrusted. Anything that expects me to turn my brain off is to be distrusted.

  105. Salsta: A small town hick I might be; don’t live in Oxford, Cambridge or wherever. And I don’t have a fancy degree or a bunch of letters after my name. So what?
    My point, and I repeat this again, is you cannot think yourself into believing. You pray, you do spiritual reading, you reflect.
    Why are you attacking me?
    I’m just giving you an opinion. Take it or leave it.
    But one more piece of advice: read John Paul II’s “Fides et Ratio” and see if that doesn’t help.

  106. Salsta says:

    Try this lecture on astrophysics:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo

    It’s Lawrence Krauss, making it as palatable as possible for non scientists. He’s a good talker and it’s funny in parts. You won’t like the fact that he is introduced by Richard Dawkins, but just grit your teeth through that bit.
    I challenge you to listen to it!

    – “Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded – and the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. … The stars died so that you could live!” —
    There’s lots like that – really mind-expanding stuff.

    I’m just plain tired of medieval thought being applied to the present day. Religions are not coping well with an age where people actually know things.

  107. Jordanes says:

    Salsta said: Give up thinking?!

    No, he didn’t say that. He said you’re trying too hard. You are.

    Over-intellectualising?!

    Yes, there is such a thing as over-intellectualising, and you’re doing it — which is to say you are misusing your intellect and thus coming to nonsensical, illogical conclusions.

    What you are saying is that the Faith will not survive real thought?

    Of course that’s not what he said. You know better than that — or you ought to know better. If you don’t, you have no business demanding proofs of God’s existence that you claim would satisfy you.

    That’s not spiritual direction, that’s dishonesty. That makes me feel even worse.

    No, what is dishonest is your twist Nazareth Priest’s words.

    It’s no good. I’ve been having trouble with this for some time.
    How come it’s only church people who tell me not to think?

    Maybe because you only hang out with church people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

    But then there is good reason to doubt that any “church person” has told you not to think.

    -And I haven’t even mentioned the sort of things that people in England are saying over here about Catholics.

    People in England have been saying nasty, untrue things about Catholics for 500 years, Salsta.

    I have already read a lot about what was said (I was not there) and think it will be very damaging. It was the biggest defeat that that debating organisation has ever seen. The Catholic side of the argument floundered and failed.

    Perhaps. Or perhaps that’s just what your atheist associates and writers have told you, and what you are already inclined to believe.

    Debates are seldom of any use. There are no new arguments for or against God’s existence — these debates always recycle the same proofs of God’s existence and the same atheist fallacies that atheists always deploy. Furthermore, no one is ever converted through intellectual proofs alone. For one thing, we aren’t purely intellectual creatures. For another, original sin has damaged the human intellect.

    One commentator said that if the Pope had walked in at the end he would have been in danger of being lynched… I think / hope he was exaggerating…

    If true, then it would indicate that the arguments against God’s existence must have been irrational. Any debate that ends that way, with the crowd having been whipped into a mindless frenzy of anti-Catholic bigotry, could not have been a truly intellectual debate.

    It is hard to read and hear all that and even feel it’s worth trying to hold on to the Faith. Quite honestly, after hearing all that, I would have been one of the 770 -odd people in the audience that switched sides.

    Someone is pulling your leg. Hardly anyone ever leaves a debate having changed his mind.

    Anyway, you keep talking about the way you feel. It’s clear that this isn’t an intellectual problem for you. You have something much deeper going on in your life. Address that first, and then you’ll find the eyes of your intellect will have cleared, and things will start to make sense again.

    Even the move by the Vatican to take on disaffected Anglicans is seen here as the exodus from the Church of England of the most misogynist and homophobic reactionaries going to where they will feel most at home!

    Yes, we’re well aware that atheists and secularists viciously attack us for believing what God says about womanhood and human sexuality. This is nothing new.

    I don’t like to be identified with that. (I’d like to think you wouldn’t either).

    Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs in the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

    If you are ashamed of the Son of Man, He will be ashamed of you at the Judgment.

    If it’s really true, it shouldn’t be like trying to see in the pitch dark.

    That’s a non sequitur.

    I’m beginning to appreciate the saying – the invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.

    DNA is invisible. So are atoms and subatomic particles.

    None of the points above give any proof of a God!

    You are not in a psychological, emotional, and spiritual state where you can be moved by the evidence for God’s existence. You are looking for reasons not to believe, and we humans have a way of finding what we look for, whether it is there or not.

    Neither is there any obligation on scientific knowledge to make anyone a better person etc.

    True, but irrelevant. You keep talking about modern scientific knowledge supposedly making it so hard to believe in God. As if our increased knowledge of the physical workings of the universe have the slightest bearing on the most important facts of human existence. What is the benefit in knowing more facts than the Ancients when we’re all going to be worm food? Science gives us a lot of great technology — it makes our lives better in a lot of ways . . . until we die and our carcasses rot away. Science also has made our lives a lot worse in many ways (just ask the millions of victims of “scientific” totalitarian programs and modern wars that use modern technology to increase their body counts beyond all imagining).

    So tell us: what has science discovered that makes it so darned difficult to believe in God?

    However, even if something DOES have that effect, it’s still not a proof of a God.

    Neither was it offered as a proof of God’s existence. In your current state you are inaccessible to rational proofs.

    And as for knowledge not being knowledge if it makes belief in God hard if not impossible… I’ve hardly ever heard such a circular argument. It is nonsensical.

    You’ve hardly ever heard such a circular argument because it’s not a circular argument. It would be if it were offered as a proof that God’s exists, but instead it is merely applying the law of noncontradiction after accepting God’s existence as a given.

    For me, faith without intellect – and evidence – is something to be distrusted. Anything that expects me to turn my brain off is to be distrusted.

    If you are serious about that, then you ought to find the Catholic Faith most satisfying, and it perfectly integrates both faith and reason, shunning both the errors of rationalism and of fideism. Catholicism sure beats the self-lamed rationalism of atheism. One of the things I like best about Catholicism is that it gives me the liberty to think about the most important things. In atheism all the big questions and the things about our lives and experiences that matter to us most all have to be ignored and suppressed . . . and then we die. Atheism is unimaginably stultifying. It’s no wonder so few people can manage to keep it up for very long.

    “Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded – and the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right han. … The stars died so that you could live!”

    Yes, as the Psalmist says, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

    I’m just plain tired of medieval thought being applied to the present day.

    On the contrary, one big reason we’re in such a mess these days is because so few people are applying medieval thought to the present day.

    Religions are not coping well with an age where people actually know things.

    That would be, well, every age. When have people not actually known things?

    Human salvation is not effected by knowledge, Salsta.

    Anyway, all indicators show that religions seem to be coping rather well with the present age. About as well as they have coped with the preceding ages.

  108. ASD says:

    I think we have to accept that, for the most part, Salsta’s position is entirely coherent. I might even say that it’s correct, as far as it goes. However, for all the solidity of his edifice, there is a tangle of confusion in the foundation. Consider a few remarks:

    None of the points above give any proof of a God!

    Right. But, AFAIK, there are no stories in the Gospels about Jesus approaching people and saying, “Here, let me prove to you that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart…” On my reading, He never says that one enters the Kingdom by thinking and debating clearly. In fact, He makes it abundantly clear that He has no interest in any human will to power, including intellectual power.

    Well, why would that be? Here’s the problem: To “convince” a person is, in a sense, to take away his freedom, to corner him, to compel him. Love, on the other hand, is our most perfectly free act.

    I mean, imagine somebody saying, “She proved to me that I must love her.” Love doesn’t work that way. Actually, it’s a kind of category mistake, not entirely unlike “before time began.” :-)

    The same point: Jesus didn’t lecture people with reasoned arguments; he told stories. Why? Partly because He wasn’t interested in compelling conclusions; He wants a personal response.(Here students are invited to contemplate The Great Pedagogical Triangle).

    For me, faith without intellect – and evidence – is something to be distrusted.

    Hmm. Trust and love are at the center of Christianity. I always tell skeptical students to replace the words faith and believe in the New Testament with the Old Testament word: trust. See, e.g., Dt 6:4 ff. However, by definition, trust and love are not conclusions reached in some evidence-based reasons game.

    Here’s a classroom exercise for clever kids who think they’re way past faith and all that old stuff:

    Q: Do mentally competent grownups ever accept any claims without evidence?

    Naturally, in the current intellectual and ideological climate, students’ first response is negative. I mean, a person can’t cross the street without playing a little evidence-based reasons game, right? Implicitly, they say that Christians are like little children who, with no understanding of any evidence-based reasons games, believe in Santa Clause.

    So in order to show the difference between knowledge and trust, we do a role-playing thing:

    + One student is The Accused.
    + Another student is The Defense Attorney.
    + A third student is The Friend.

    Both Defense Attorney and Friend maintain the innocence of Accused. However, Defense Attorney’s position is based entirely on evidence and reasons. Friend, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about reasons; she has made up her mind to trust the word of Accused, come what may.

    A fascinating aspect of this game, to my mind, is that as the strength of Defense Attorney’s case increases, the significance or power of Friend’s position diminishes; its importance to both Accused and Friend shrinks as the proof of innocence mounts. The point: Trust and knowledge are two different things.

    As William Faulkner put it (approximately): We don’t love because, we love despite.

    In fact, I claim the following sentence is incoherent: “I trust because I have irrefutable evidence.” It confuses knowledge and love; it mixes up the reasons-based position of the Attorney with the Friend’s gesture of love.

    Crucially, it seems to me that Jesus wants what the Friend gives, a free act of love, not what the Defense Attorney does, more-or-less mechanical drawing of evidence-based conclusions.

    Honestly, I think I can read all the well-known Bible stories this way:
    + Eve was just using her head, perfectly sound common sense. What should she have been doing? Trusting and obeying.
    + Build a big boat in a dry field? It doesn’t take much reasoning power to reject that.
    + Leave your father’s house and go…someplace; I’ll show you. Does this Abram guy know anything about evidence and reasons?

  109. Jordanes says:

    ASD said: I think we have to accept that, for the most part, Salsta’s position is entirely coherent.

    If it is “entirely” coherent “for the most part,” that means his position is incoherent.

    I agree with the remainder of your comment, however.

  110. robtbrown says:

    To me, ‘Logos’ and the whole human centredness of the argument is negated by the 13.2 billion years of the universe. We have been around (as homo sapiens) for only 200,000 years.

    What is first in the order of intention is last in the order of execution.

    I’m having trouble with the idea that it’s all been created with us in mind. I mean, for 13,199,800,000 of those years, we weren’t even here!—-And I haven’t even touched on the size of the universe and the numbers of galaxies etc… Ok – 50 to 100 billion galaxies, each with at least 50 billion stars, with no one knows how many planets. I’m having real trouble believing that we have any significance at all, let alone that we are somehow the point of it all.
    Comment by Salsta

    A few comments:

    1. From the standpoint of the materiality of the human body, you are quite right–man is a tiny part of the universe. Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

    2. From the standpoint of human rationality, however, man is unique and far superior to everything else in the universe.

    3. Because of this unique power of rationality and its superiority it was appropriate that the universe undergo a long process of preparation (billions of years, as you say) before the coming of the rational creature.

    4. Further, the age of the universe and its immensity are, IMHO, more of a sign of the immensity of First Cause than a universe that was, say, 5000 years old that can be measure by tidy three dimensional limitations. To put it another way, Einstein’s replacement of inertial frames of reference with Space-Time better represents the First Cause.

  111. robtbrown says:

    I’m just plain tired of medieval thought being applied to the present day. Religions are not coping well with an age where people actually know things.
    Comment by Salsta

    Are you forgetting that Einstein returned the concepts of Time and Place to a more medieval understanding?

  112. Jack Hughes says:

    salsta

    As a ‘reasonably’ intelligent university student who is also a Catholic I have no problem with the Theory of Evolution or the age of the Universe (these are scientific questions), however I do have a problem with the mechanistic metaphysics that so many scientists associate themselves with (funny that they deny formal and final causation even as their empirical work points to it). For a demonstration of how science points to aristotelian metaphysics and how that metaphysics points to God I would recomend Edward Feser’s “The Last Superstition” to you. Also as I have said before there are a number of PROMINENT scientists e.g. Dr John Polkinhorne, Dr Francis Collins and Dr Fransisco Ayala who accept the theory of evolution and see no conflict between it and their confession of Christ as Lord

  113. Nathan Barley says:

    MPM: “Richard Dawkins (RD) speaks as a materialist, by which I mean someone who believes that there is nothing but matter in the universe. That is not a scientific fact, but a belief.”

    I don’t think this is quite accurate. There is a difference between saying ‘there is nothing but matter in the universe’, and ‘Science can only deal with things that are scientifically testable’. The former may well be a belief, the second is virtually a tautology. It is the latter position that Dawkins holds. There may be other things in the universe but matter, but RD has yet to see evidence for them. Also, he doesn’t reject concepts, which aren’t made of matter. In fact, it was RD who originated the idea of ‘memes’.

    MPM: “Why are American evolutionary popularizers so “touchy” about using the term “theory” along with Evolution? ”

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘touchy’. Any decent scientist would want to make sure people don’t confuse the term ‘theory of evolution’ – which is natural selection, with the fact that evolution happens. The former is the mechanism by which the latter occured. It would be like confusing the theory that JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, with the fact that JFK was murdered. There is also widespread confusion among creationists between the colloquial use of the word theory, often meaning ‘something close to a guess’, and the scientific meaning of theory.

    If you are still confused as to the difference, google for Stephen J Gould’s explanation, “Evolution as Fact and Theory”

    “Facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome.”

  114. Nathan Barley says:

    Father

    I wanted to respond to your post of 23 October 2009 @ 11:05.

    You say:

    “Darwin’s theory of natural selection can effectively be boiled down to the phrase “survival of the fittest”: the strongest survive and breed descendants life themselves. This became the paradigm also for eugenics, of course.”

    Eugenics is the opposite of natural selection. It is selective breeding, or animal husbandry, which pre-dates any theories of evolution by thousands of years. The whole point of natural selection, as the name suggests, is that it occurs naturally, lacking the goal that selective breeding entails. Hitler figured that if he killed off the Jews, they couldn’t have any more kids. He didn’t need Darwin to work this out.

    In fact there is nothing in eugenics that depends theories of natural selection. Hitler never mentioned Darwin or any of his books, and neither were they discussed in the Nuremberg Trials.

    It should also be noted that the ‘fittest’ does not refer to the strongest, merely the ones that survive, which can be (and often ARE) the smallest, weakest or slowest. That a sloth burns fewer calories than a monkey can give it a distinct advantage. Likewise a mouse will survive a drought better than an elephant, and sheep have covered the world while many fiercer and stronger animals have died out.

    “The concepts of mercy and compassion for the weak were themselves merely details that somehow still survived the process of natural selection”

    Darwin argued the opposite of this – that mercy and compassion HELPED the species. He saw it as no accident that these traits survived.

    Regarding the lengthy quote you posted from Descent of Man, I’ve emailed you a thorough Podcast discussion of the quote.

    As I said, you are probably too busy to listen to it, but at least it goes against your claim that “This is a side of Darwin that his fans don’t spend much time on”. I’m also unconvinced that Darwin saw it as morally neutral that races would be wiped out, given that he was famously a fervent slavery abolitionist. The latter is something that creationists tend not to spend much time on.

    Finally, it wouldn’t make any difference to the veracity of evolution or natural selection if Darwin had been virulently PRO slavery rather than anti it. Any more than Einstein’s ideas would be affected if we found out he maintained nuclear holocaust was inevitable or even laudable. In both cases, the evidence stands apart from its originator.

  115. ASD says:

    Nathan Barley: There may be other things in the universe but matter, but RD has yet to see evidence for them. Also, he doesn’t reject concepts.

    Right. I think it’s naturalism rather than naive materialism. There’s nothing but nature, but nature very well may include “things” that aren’t material.

    The big issue is: RD has yet to see evidence for them.

    I claim RD is making a category mistake.

    Here’s a proposition, loosely quoting Luke Timothy Johnson:

    The universe is something like a gift created by God the Father.

    Crucially, emphatically, that proposition is not a conclusion reached in some kind of evidence-based reasons game. I mean, what, in principle, could count as evidence for or against it? What would an experiment be like? IMHO, to look for evidence for that is to commit a category mistake.

    (Lots of errors follow from this. E.g., one starts to view committed Christians as mentally child-like, like children who believe in Santa Claus, naifs who don’t know how to play evidence-based reasons games, people who draw totally unwarranted conclusions.)

    However, I claim it’s more like an attitude toward the universe, an existential stance in life, prior to all evidence or reasons.

    Of course you’re correct that terrible moral implications have nothing to do with truth claims. But, it is good to be clear about implications.

  116. Nathan Barley says:

    ASD, I agree that atheists should not view theists as child-like and naive, just as the latter should not view atheists as evil, unfeeling or emotionless. Such stereotyping helps nobody.

  117. ASD says:

    Nathan: Fair enough.

    Anybody who thinks about these issues as much as I do may have noticed that at Mass today we heard St. Paul on the difference between knowledge and hope (or love or trust):

    For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for? Rm 8:24 (http://latinvulgate.com/verse.aspx?t=1&b=6&c=8#8_24)

  118. robtbrown says:

    Anybody who thinks about these issues as much as I do may have noticed that at Mass today we heard St. Paul on the difference between knowledge and hope (or love or trust):
    Comment by ASD

    Are you saying that knowledge is love?

  119. ASD says:

    robtbrown: No, pretty much the opposite.

    Sorry, I’m probably not being very clears, but forum comments aren’t the best place for sustained, coherent arguments.

    My response to RD interview: Christianity is a religion of love, not knowledge. It is a category mistake to judge the trust of a Christian by the same criteria we use to judge scientific knowledge claims.

    In a previous post, I said that the following sentence is totally confused: “I trust because I have irrefutable evidence.” Romans 8:24 seems to make roughly the same point: If we see it, it ain’t hope.

  120. robtbrown says:

    ASD,

    St Thomas would disagree. The Church–and Revelation–is primarily about the knowledge of the nature of God.

  121. mpm says:

    MPM: “Richard Dawkins (RD) speaks as a materialist, by which I mean someone who believes that there is nothing but matter in the universe. That is not a scientific fact, but a belief.” I don’t think this is quite accurate. There is a difference between saying ‘there is nothing but matter in the universe’, and ‘Science can only deal with things that are scientifically testable’. The former may well be a belief, the second is virtually a tautology. It is the latter position that Dawkins holds. There may be other things in the universe but matter, but RD has yet to see evidence for them. Also, he doesn’t reject concepts, which aren’t made of matter. (Nathan Barley — 27 October 2009 @ 7:22 am)

    Nathan Barley,

    I too subscribe to the proposition that “Science can only deal with things that are scientifically testable”. But, all such things are material and, hence, have quantitative and measurable properties that allow them to be scientifically tested.

    Whatever RD himself believes or expects, what would material evidence (quantitative, measurable and testable) of a non-material being consist of? If a being has no parts, what part should one measure first?

    I’m well aware of the difference between facts, and explanations of the facts. The popularizers I am referring to are those who believe, and attempt to convince others, especially the young in school, that the fact of evolution implies that God does not exist, or that the Bible is false. This is scientific cross-dressing, and inappropriate. Perhaps that is a fact unique to USA, but it is a fact. I’ll leave the theory of it to others.

  122. ASD says:

    robtbrown, You’re right. I don’t know that the arguments I have been making square well with Catholic Tradition. Still working on that part. :-)

    Some remarks about two seemingly unrelated points that have been made along the way here, both of which seem to me to be important & essentially correct:

    + RD et al: People with modern scientific knowledge of nature can’t really accept miracle stories.
    + Fr Z et al: Understood as a kind of atheistic naturalism, evolutionary biology has terrible moral implications.

    Consider: When I’m reading the Gospels and I encounter a miracle story, something about one of Jesus’ astonishing, explosive acts of power (dynameis?), I have a choice.

    + With RD et al, I can snort & slam the book shut. That is, like a mathematician who shows that certain premises lead to 1 = 0, the premises are disproved & I’m done. Or, maybe more precisely, like a scientist faced with a claim that contradicts the fundamental laws of physics, I maintain that overwhelming evidence indicates that the laws are true & so the claim must be false.
    + Or, I can acknowledge that I have absolutely no idea how the story could be true, but because I really want to know what the author is trying to teach me, I keep reading anyway. That is, instead of asking, Is that really true? I decide to ask, What is this guy trying to teach me?

    Now, I imagine that a naturalist who slams the book shut does so in the conviction that he is simply preserving his intellectual integrity. In the view of the naturalist, the believer who keeps reading has committed an intellectual foul by refusing to think the problem through. So, he will think that the believer has, with a kind of bad faith, thoughtlessly allowed incoherence into his understanding of the natural world.

    Maybe so. However, from the point of view of the believer, the naturalist who slams the book shut has thoughtlessly allowed incoherence into his understanding of the moral world. That seems like a comparable loss of intellectual integrity.

    I mean, is it really better to insist upon thinking through the implications for our understanding of nature, but to refuse to think through the implications for our understanding of moral life?

    (Aside: IMHO, people who think modern liberal philosophies can take the place of God in our moral lives are not reading the history of the twentieth century attentively.)

    However, the naturalist might say, with people who read the Bible as mere literature, we can snort at the miracle stories & nevertheless keep reading for the wisdom & other kinds of insights, if we want to do.

    Maybe so. But it’s not clear that it will be worthwhile. Consider what the editors of the NAB call “the axiom of practical wisdom” (see notes for Matthew 13): If we believe & have faith, our understanding increases. (That is roughly the opposite of science, which would say something more like: As our understanding of X increases, we are warranted in believing that A, B & C are true of X.)

    Bottom line:

    + They say: It’s impossible to take the Christian tradition seriously & simultaneously retain one’s intellectual integrity :re natural world.
    + We say: It’s impossible to abandon our Christian tradition & simultaneously retain one’s intellectual integrity :re moral world.

  123. robtbrown says:

    Nathan Barley,

    Gould’s article, which I read some time ago and just re-read, is a fine illustration of what I consider to be error in the thinking of evolutionists.

    What he says is the Fact of Evolution unfortunately contains an assumption–which disqualifies it from the category of fact. The assumption is that all differences among living things can be reduced to differences in material structure. As I noted above, I think this is seriously wrong-headed. According to this assumption the same action of nature can produce both the quantitative difference between the function of the wing and the leg and the qualitative difference between the function of the human brain vs that of an animal. Of course, of late, this has all been reduced to differences found in the DNA of various creatures.

    His assumption, therefore, is that there is a generative link among all species, even the qualitative differences I noted above. My position is that generation cannot explain those qualitative leaps between living things.

    That assumption, therefore, is necessarily a part of the Theory of Evolution–not the Fact of Evolution.

  124. Nathan Barley says:

    “My position is that generation cannot explain those qualitative leaps between living things.”

    robtbrown: I’d clasify your position as an argument from incredulity. If you think you have proof for your claim then you’ve got in hands the biggest upset in science since Einstein overturned Newton. Don’t waste time posting here – go out and claim your Nobel Prize!

    In the meantime, Gould’s point stands.

  125. ASD says:

    I don’t know if anybody else is still hanging around here. However, I think this stuff is so important that I want to make the following general remarks:

    We need to understand what we’re up against, what the stakes are, & what kind of response is still possible.

    What we’re up against: To me it seems obvious that RD and other polemicists for atheistic naturalism have launched what they intend to be the final assault on Theism in any form. They intend to delegitimize any kind of faith in God. (As an aside, it also seems obvious to me that, given current demographic trends, the Europeans involved in the assault are terrified. Hence their urgency & virulence. They are desperately trying to remove all respectability from Theism before it’s too late. If I’m right about that, then their focus on fuzzy Christian fundamentalists in Texas is craven & contemptible.)

    The stakes: Will the generation of students who grow up hearing the arguments of RD et al someday rear their children in the Church? Already, in 2009, eighth grade students whom I teach seem to find the arguments & attitudes of RD much easier to appreciate than, say, the Gospel of Mark.

    So, what kind of response should we make? IMHO, we should be thinking in terms of tradition, in the literal sense: handing on (trade?, trad?re, tradu?, traditus). What we must do is hand on what was given to us. (Cf. 1 Cor 11:23) In the current circumstances, to do that we have to stake out some ground that can be defended from current attacks so that there will still be a space for our grandchildren to be Christians.

    It’s worth repeating: RD et al want to convince everyone that no well-informed, mentally competent grownup who has any understanding of modern science can have faith in God. More generally, they want to convince us that no well-informed, mentally competent grownup who has any understanding of how reasoned, evidence-based explanations work can have faith in God.

    What kind of response to make? To begin with, I think we need to recognize that certain kinds of responses simply are not helpful.

    + I have misgivings about this or that scientific claim. So, I am content to ignore various inconvenient scientific claims.
    + I find various extraordinary claims about Lourdes, or whatever, convincing. So, I think there is actually something like factual evidence for my religion.

    To my mind, those moves are like the soldier who jumps into a hole in no-man’s land & lets the enemy attack roll by. He wasn’t shot down or taken prisoner. But, neither did he defeat the enemy or hold the field.

    Instead, in order to do our duty and hand on our tradition, to actually hold some ground for our grandchildren, we need to argue in ways that might convince other well-informed, mentally competent grownups that faith in Jesus as Lord has not been & cannot be invalidated by natural science or philosophical naturalism.

    IMHO, that means we have to convince well-informed, mentally competent grownups that there is a space that is legitimately impervious to the kinds of knowledge or reasons that natural science or philosophical naturalism can give.

    But, wait. At a certain level all of this is old-hat, right? Since the European Enlightenment, smart guys have been telling us that science has burst the bubble of religious tradition. And, for just as long, believers have asserted that there is a realm for faith that the scientific knowers can’t touch. However, for some time it seemed like believers could retreat into their own areas & avoid attacks from atheists.

    The point is that the armistice is over. RD et al are out to exterminate, eradicate, eliminate faith. It no longer suffices to stay in our trenches & keep our heads down. We have to respond to their charges in ways others find convincing, or plausible, or at least minimally reasonable. Otherwise we will be wiped out in a generation.

  126. Jordanes says:

    Nathan Barley said: In the meantime, Gould’s point stands.

    As does Robert Brown’s . . . .

  127. mpm says:

    ASD,

    I hear your “call to arms”. I agree that Catholics should not be complacent.

    The resources for addressing Dawkins et al. exist, but they take time to learn, and it takes study and time to respond at the level of a Dawkins (at his best, and not his polemical worst), or better. In the western Catholic tradition where modern science, and Protestant-based thinkers like Dawkins originate, there was an intellectual tradition (epitomized in, but not limited to, St. Thomas Aquinas) that was able to address the issues of modern science and its assumptions and limits. With the surrender of the Catholic “teaching orders” after the 1960s to Teilhardian indifference to “all that” some generations have been lost. But there are realist philosophers arising again. For those who feel up to this challenge, such work(s) should be emphasized, perhaps even more than strictly “religious”, theological or biblical studies.

    To proceed against individual errors, however, is a difficult business, and this for two reasons. In the first place, it is difficult because the sacrilegious remarks of individual men who have erred are not so well known to us so that we may use what they say as the basis of proceeding to a refutation of their errors. This is, indeed, the method that the ancient Doctors of the Church used in the refutation of the errors of the Gentiles. For they could know the positions taken by the Gentiles since they themselves had been Gentiles, or at least had lived among the Gentiles and had been instructed in their teaching. In the second place, it is difficult because some of them, such as the Mohammedans and the pagans, do not agree with us in accepting the authority of any Scripture, by which they may be convinced of their error. Thus, against the Jews we are able to argue by means of the Old Testament, while against heretics we are able to argue by means of the New Testament. But the Muslims and the pagans accept neither the one nor the other. We must, therefore, have recourse to the natural reason, to which all men are forced to give their assent. However, it is true, in divine matters the natural reason has its failings. Now, while we are investigating some given truth, we shall also show what errors are set aside by it; and we shall likewise show how the truth that we come to know by demonstration is in accord with the Christian religion. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, book 1, chap 2.) [emphasis added]

  128. ASD says:

    Thanks for citation, mpm. I would be the first to applaud if somebody could mine those sources for effective arguments.

  129. robtbrown says:

    brobtbrown: I’d classify your position as an argument from incredulity.

    If you think you have proof for your claim then you’ve got in hands the biggest upset in science since Einstein overturned Newton.

    Don’t waste time posting here – go out and claim your Nobel prize.

    In the meantime, Gould’s point stands.
    Comment by Nathan Barley

    Your response indicates that you capabilities are limited to rote recitation of the Evolutionist catechism, which is set up to answer the Creationist argument. When someone challenges what you say without reference to Genesis, you can only offer snide ad hominem remarks.

    I have thought for a long time that the difference between evolutionists and those opposed is simply causality.

    The evolutionists basically adopt Hume’s empiricism–there is no difference between causality and sequence. Thus they see via material structure (material causality) the similarity among species (including fossils). Unfortunately, they cannot see–as Hume did–that such a method is by definition limited in what conclusions can be drawn. That is why it is obvious that the so-called facts of evolution in fact contain an assumption.