William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Summary Against Modern Thought: Human Souls Begin At Conception Part II

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

Review is a must. We are a third of the way through a chapter this week, so please read the Previous post first (link above).

Chapter 82 That the human soul begins to exist when the body does (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation.

15 Now, the argument may be raised that union with the body is natural to the soul, as well as separation from it, according to various periods of time. But such a notion seems impossible. For changes that take place naturally in a subject are accidental, such as youth and old age; so that, if its union with, and separation from the body are for the soul natural changes, then union with the body will be an accident of the soul. The human being constituted by this union therefore will not be an essential but an accidental being.

Notes It takes an iron constitution to resist these straight lines.

16 Then, too, whatever is subject to alternate phases of existence according to various periods of time is subject to the movement of the heaven, which the whole course of time follows. But intellectual and incorporeal substances, including separately existing souls, transcend the entire realm of bodily things. Hence, they cannot be subject to the movements of the heavenly bodies. Therefore, it is impossible that they should be naturally united during one period of time and separated during another, or that they should naturally desire this at one time, and that at another.

17 On the other hand, the hypothesis that souls are united to bodies neither by violence nor by nature, but by free choice, is likewise impossible. For no one voluntarily enters into a state worse than the previous one, unless he be deceived.

But the separate soul enjoys a higher state of existence than when united to the body; especially according to the Platonists, who say that through its union with the body, the soul forgets what it knew before, its power to contemplate truth in a pure manner thus being checked. Hence, the soul is not willingly united to the body unless it be the victim of deception. But there can be nothing in the soul that could cause deception, since, for the Platonists, the soul is possessed of all knowledge. Nor can it be said that the soul’s judgment, proceeding from universal scientific knowledge and applied to a particular matter of choice, is overwhelmed by the passions, as in the incontinent; for no passions of this sort occur without bodily change, and, consequently, they cannot exist in the separate soul. We are, then, left with the conclusion that, if the soul had existed before the body, it would not be united to the body of its own will.

Notes Don’t race by this conclusion. Why move from paradise to Cleveland?

18 Moreover, every effect issuing from the concurrent operation of two mutually unrelated wills is fortuitous, as in the case of a person who goes out to shop and meets his creditor in the market place without any prior arrangement between the two. Now, the will of the generative agent, whereon the body’s production depends, is independent of the will of the separate soul which wills to be united. It follows that the union of the soul and body is fortuitous, since it cannot be effected without the concurrence of both wills. Thus, the begetting of a man results not from nature, but from chance, which is patently false, since it occurs in the majority of cases.

Notes A proof of improbability! Not a proof, really, but a darn good argument. So is the next paragraph, which will be less convincing to some.

19 Now, again, the theory may be advanced that the soul is united to the body by divine decree, and not by nature, nor of its own will. But such a supposition also seems inadmissible on the hypothesis that souls were created before bodies. For God established each thing in being in a mode congruent with its nature. Hence, in the Book of Genesis (1:10, 31) it is said of each creature: “God saw that it was good,” and of all creatures collectively: “God saw all the things that He had made, and they were very good.” If, then, God created souls separate from bodies, it must be said that this manner of being is more suitable to their nature. But it is not becoming to the ordering of things by the divine goodness to relegate them to a lower state, but, rather, to raise them to a higher. Hence, it could not have been by God’s ordinance that the soul was united to the body.

20 Moreover, it is inconsistent with the order of divine wisdom to raise up lower things to the detriment of higher things. But generable and corruptible bodies have the lowest rank in the order of things. Hence, it would not have been consistent with the order of divine wisdom to ennoble human bodies by uniting pre-existing souls to them, since this would be impossible without detriment to the latter, as we have already seen.

21 Having this point in mind—for he asserted that human souls had been created from the beginning—Origen said that they were united to bodies by divine decree, but as a punishment. For Origen thought that souls had sinned before bodies existed, and that according to the gravity of their sin, souls were shut up in bodies of higher or lower character, as in so many prisons.

22 This doctrine, however, is untenable, for, being contrary to a good of nature, punishment is said to be an evil. If, then, the union of soul and body is something penal in character, it is not a good of nature. But this is impossible, for that union is intended by nature, since natural generation terminates in it. And again, on Origen’s theory, it would follow that man’s being would not be a good according to nature, yet it is said, after man’s creation: “God saw all the things that He had made, and they were very good.”

Notes Yet, given our experience these days, it is not unnatural to be sympathetic with Origen.

23 Furthermore, good does not issue from evil save by accident. Therefore, if the soul’s union with the body were due to sin on the part of the separate soul, it would follow that this union is accidental, since it is a kind of good. In that case the production of man was a matter of chance. But such a thing is derogatory to God’s wisdom, of which it is written that “It ordered all things in number, weight, and measure” (Wis. 11:21)

24 That notion also clearly clashes with apostolic doctrine. For St. Paul says of Jacob and Esau, that “when they were not yet born, nor had done any good or evil, it was said that the elder shall serve the younger” (Rom. 9:11-17). Hence, before this was said, their souls had not sinned at all, yet the Apostle’s statement postdates the time of their conception, as Genesis (25:23) makes clear.

25 Earlier, in treating of the distinction of things, we leveled against Origen’s position a number of arguments which may also be used here. Omitting them, therefore, we pass on to others.

Notes Which we’ll pass on to next week, since we are already running long.

It’s Worse Than You Thought

Despair is not the answer to the following confirmations of gloom and decadence about which you might have been unaware. Recognition of the depths to which Western liberal culture has sunk is a good, because knowing what is so (as opposed to believing what is not so) is a good, and any good is to be greeted with cheer.

Headline: Drag Queen Makes Powerful Statement By Wearing Tiara Coated With HIV+ Blood.

And that statement is that the drag “queen” looked at Reality, found it wanting, and then fled from it. Far from it.

In case you wondered or worried, the diseased blood was taken from a “consenting individual”.

Speaking of HIV, have you heard of “bug hunting”? Not that which an entomologist or software engineer might do. No, the sort a drag “queen”, or similar such person, in search of infection with the HIV virus might do. The practice also goes by the names “bug chasing” or “gift giving”. The term “liquid gold” is sometimes used, but I will not explain it.

Headline: Police find male escort ‘cooking’ transgender wife on stove

The story is that these two men, both of whom worked as prostitutes, and one of which pretended to be a woman, had a bit of a falling out. Just like out of the old cartoons of cannibals and kettles, the first man cooked up the second, but the pot spilled over and shorted out the electricity. The chef called an electrician, who discovered the kettle, and so the chef fled and killed himself with a knife.

Headline: Is having a loving family an unfair advantage?

The power of the family to tilt equality hasn’t gone unnoticed, and academics and public commentators have been blowing the whistle for some time. Now, philosophers Adam Swift and Harry Brighouse have felt compelled to conduct a cool reassessment.

Equality is a (small ‘g’) god, and it demands victims, though it is never appeased. It never can be sated: what this god wants is impossible.

Said the academic philosopher: “One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.”

We have seen this before.

Headline: Can conversion therapy get a fair hearing in mainstream press? Short answer: No

“Conversion” is a poor choice of name for the therapy that seeks to talk men out of their errors. There are no such things as “gays” or “homosexuals”—or even “heterosexuals”. There are only men and women, with varying sexual desires. So it really is impossible to “convert” something which does not exist (a “gay”) into that which also does not exist (a “heterosexual”).

But, as the late Joe Nicolosi has proved time and again, men who are tired of acting on their same-sex attraction can be convinced to stop and to become normal. Yet government officials, bullied and mollified, or themselves enjoying unnatural sex, outlaw this kind of therapy. This, quite literally, makes seeking Reality a crime.

Headline: US Support for Gay [Gmarriage] Edges to New High

Accepting there is always error in surveys, the estimate is that some two-thirds of adults now accept gmarriage. By an (admittedly crude) extrapolation, this proportion will break 90% around 2025. Once a democracy goes that far wrong, there is no chance voting will restore Reality.

This is not similar to another situation in which the country lost it mind. With prohibition, the majority of citizens did not want the no-alcohol law imposed on them from above. The rebellion of the citizens against the law was enough to snap government back to Reality.

With gmarriage, there is every reason for politicians to support the majority. Those opposing the majority will have a difficult to impossible time getting elected. Reality will fade fast, becoming a Forbidden Zone a desolate land where only daring criminals venture.

But at least you’ll be able to vote!

Headline: White Harvard students holding a graduation of their own

White students at Harvard University are organizing a graduation ceremony of their own this year to recognize the achievements of white students and faculty members some say have been overlooked…

Harvard joins a growing number of universities that have added graduation events for students of different ethnicities. Some have offered white commencement ceremonies for years, including Stanford University, Marshall University and the University of Washington. Some have added them more recently, and are also adding events for a variety of cultural groups.

I might have got the races backwards. Also: “The University of Delaware held its first LGBT ceremony this year, joining dozens of others across the country.”

Update I cannot recommend anybody click on this link. But it reaches a depth of idiocy to which I thought we’d have to wait at least two more weeks to reach.

Update Reality officially illegal in NYC (again). You will pay a hefty fine for telling the truth.

One Christ, One Christianity: Part I — Guest Post by Ianto Watt

This year marks the 500th Anniversary of the protest which split an already split Christianity. Let’s instead think of what we have in common, says Watt, both in faith and duty.

Have you ever noticed how every discussion of the divisions within the realm of ‘Christianity’ eventually degenerates into a food fight over who did what to who, and when? And like that guy with Irish Alzheimer’s (who forgets everything but his grudges), no progress towards true reconciliation is ever seen? And the Irish are the perfect example. Green versus Orange. South versus North. Whiskey versus Scotch. And both sides have a continuous hangover. What gives, brother?

Now I have my own weird perspective, as you well know. And because I was not the eldest or the youngest in my clan, I believe I can view those two extreme points on the familial horizon with a little more equanimity than those two privileged endpoints. And I contend that the real reason we can’t all get along is because we never go far enough back to find out the real origins of our first falling-out. But that’s what I’m going to do for you now. I’m going to tell you where the real fight should be fought. And who we should be fighting against. Together. Because the real fight is inside the walls, my friend. Not outside.

Josephus knew this, as he sat, under guard, watching the siege of Jerusalem. He sat there, along with his Roman captors, as they both watched Old Israel crumble from within. One watched in wonder, the other in horror. Guess who was amazed? It was the Romans. They could not believe what they saw. But Josephus could believe it. He knew the factionalism inside the walls. He knew what had led to this. To the impossible struggle. But not against the Empire. No, it was a struggle against itself. A struggle it could not win, because any victory would also be a suicide. Josephus knew Old Israel was dead. Still walking, but yet dead. And all of this before the Romans ever breached the walls.

And what was it that both sides saw, each in their respective state of mind? They saw the ruin of power. The power that all three sides inside the walls struggled to exercise. But more precisely, because of each faction’s failure to exercise it with justice, let alone mercy. And because they were divided, they would fall. Inevitably. It had to be. Why? Because their faith was in man. Which man? Any man. Any man but that man. That’s right, the man who The Talmud refuses to name. But we know who they mean when they call him ‘that man‘. The very fact that they call him (only) ‘a man’ tells us all we need to know. They denied His divinity. And because they refused to believe their own prophets, that man’s last prophecy came true. Not a stone would be left upon a stone. In this generation, no less.

And now we are at that time again when, as history mockingly repeats itself for the benefit of the willfully blind, we will see it again. See what? The fight inside the walls, of course. Inside the walls of the New Jerusalem. You know—Holy Rome. Eh? What am I talking about? Well, since you can’t seem to see it, let me explain. And the first thing we have to understand is how there came to be those who are not inside the walls. Those Josephists who are not within the besieged city. But nevertheless, these are men whose loyalties seem to be with those inside. But they never join the real fight.

So let’s ask the silly question; what is a Samaritan? You know, those good guys, right? The Good Samaritan, right? What? What am I burbling about? Well, I’m talking about a lot of things, as usual. But let’s get started, while there’s still time. And let’s back up. I love driving in reverse. I could have been an Egyptian tank commander back in ’67. Remember my reference to the Good Samaritan? The term can also be stated another way. Like this; THE good Samaritan. Same words, different emphasis. But notice one thing: both phrases reference the singular. The (as in one) Good Samaritan. In other words, as in the exception. The exception to the rule.

And what was this rule? Simple: Samaritans are bad. And who held this belief? The Jews, of course. But not all Jews, it seems. At least, there was One who didn’t think all Samaritans were bad. And He singled out the Good Ones for us. The ones who had real faith. Why? To teach us a lesson. Or three, actually. Because He actually spoke of three of this condemned species. Yes, I know, I’m getting even more obscure. Sorry, but it has to be this way. For now, at least.

Let’s get back to the story, which is this. The Samaritans are the descendants of the Ten Tribes of Israel. Back before the first schism, when the Twelve Tribes were one nation, when there was One King and One Priest. Right after King Solomon, the Son of David. Whoops, scratch that. Somebody else owns that title now. Why? Because Solomon wandered off the reservation. You know, with his 300 wives (a sure sign of insanity), and his temples to their gods (a sure sign of apostasy). So forget him being a son of David. At least for now.

Anyway, Solomon passes on, and the kingdom lands in the lap of one of his sons. Rehoboam was his name. Not a bad guy, but not his own man, as will be seen. And here’s what happened. One day, while he was busy sitting on the throne of his father, his cousin, Jeroboam, comes in and asks if he may speak. Now keep in mind that King Rehoboam is from the Tribe of Judah. And the Tribe of Benjamin is allied with Judah, because…well, just because. That’s another story. Anyway, Jeroboam on the other hand, is representing the other 10 Tribes.

So, King Jeroboam says sure, speak to me, my cousin. And so he does. Jeroboam says (and I paraphrase here) ‘Oh great King, the Temple is built. Nothing like it on the earth. Covered with gold. Unmatched anywhere.’ King Rehoboam says, ‘So what?’

Jeroboam then says (I Kings, 11:26) ‘Oh great King, the Palace is built. Nothing like it in all creation. Covered with gold. Fabulous’. King Rehoboam again says ‘So what?’ So Jeroboam says, ‘Well, since these are the two grandest things on the earth, and they are now done (and paid for, mind you), can’t we lower the taxes?” Oh my. He wants a tax-break! Can you imagine? The Chutzpah! Pandemonium breaks out. Outrage is everywhere. Time for an Official’s time-out!

So King Rehoboam convenes the War Council. He asks his councilors what he should do. The old men, who know a crisis when they see one, tell him to listen to his cousin. Sure, cut the taxes. Nothing big, though. Show some mercy, some understanding for the little guy. But the Young Turks, they say no. Hell no! Who is this upstart, speaking to you like that, Oh Great King? Show him and all the rest of these ungrateful pigs just who’s running this show. Mercy? God forbid!

So Rehoboam comes out from his War Room and announces to Jeroboam that, yes, things will now change. The tax rates will change. They are going up! Take that, you piglets! That’ll teach you, you ungrateful swine! And now we get to the real action. The point when history is made. Because that’s when Jeroboam speaks the phrase, the same words Joshua would shout, when Moses would signal him to blow the ram’s horn, telling all the tribes. ‘Every man, to your tents!

Well, what did this mean? Isn’t it funny how all the Judaizers never know anything from the Old Testament? Huh? Judaizers? You know, Protestants. Round-Heads. And these days, that description of scriptural ignorance also fits most Catholics too. So, we’re actually closer now than we’ve been for centuries, right? Wrong.

Here, let me explain. This phrase that Joshua would shout simply meant this: pack your bags, brothers, because the Glory Cloud is moving! Yes, the Shekinah was on the move. The cloud that shielded the Twelve Tribes from the burning rays of the Sinai sands during their forty-year jog in the desert was moving. The cloud that shielded them during the day, while the pillar of fire guarded them during the night. And whenever Moses detected that the cloud was moving (because he was always watching God, not man), he told Joshua to alert the tribes to pack their gear, and get ready to move, in order to stay within the shadow of the Glory Cloud. And they, of course, would bitch about it. ‘We gotta move again? Damn! I wish we were back in Egypt!’ Be careful what you wish for.

Anyway, when Jeroboam sounded the Call of Joshua, the intent was clear. Pack it up, brothers, we’re moving! And so they did. The Ten Tribes, under Jeroboam, moved their allegiance from Jerusalem to Samaria. Into the realm of Ephraim & Manasseh. The sons of Joseph. Remember him? No? Oh well. Anyway, the point was this: God had sent Jeroboam to confront his cousin King Rehoboam for his pride. The pride he inherited from Solomon, his proud father. Why? Because this pride led him to abuse the sheep of his flock. And this political rebellion of Jeroboam was sanctioned by God. King Rehoboam was not being faithful to the Law of Moses. Which is to say, to the Law of God. King Rehoboam would not show his brothers any mercy. And there would be a price to pay for that if he would not listen. Which he didn’t. And so, the political rebellion began. And once rebellion starts, it never stops of its own accord.

But Jeroboam then sinned as well. He came to see that the people of Israel (the Ten Tribes) who, while loyal to him politically, were still at one with the practice of their faith. That is to say, they still went to Jerusalem to worship. And so there were two kings (Rehoboam and Jeroboam), and two kingdoms (Judah vs. Israel), but still one Temple. And one High Priest.

And Jeroboam, the newly minted King of Israel, thought that this common religious loyalty meant political trouble. For him, that is. For his new dynasty. After all, if the people of his new kingdom still went to Jerusalem to offer their sacrifice, then they weren’t totally in his control. And so he committed his own sin: he refused to show obedience. Obedience to the High Priest. The rest is history. The Assyrians took Samaria and the Ten Tribes of Israel away in 740 BC. Which was about 150 years before the Babylonians took Jerusalem and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin into exile. So, guess which sin must have been worse? Guess whose sins were accorded an additional 150 years of patience? Which sin is worse, political, or religious?

And so now we are at that same point of all history, in its continual repetition. Who is supreme, church or state? Who blesses whom? Who speaks for God? King or Priest? Whose will be done? We know what King Jeroboam decided. His political will must rule everything. Completely. And so, he decided to become Solomon the Second. He built his own version of The Temple. In Samaria, of course. Which is why we call them Samaritans.

Jeroboam tried to mimic the real Temple in every detail, although we have no proof that he did so, architecturally. We do know that he then instituted ‘The Sacrifice’ at his version of reality, in order to keep his own tribes on the reservation. To solidify his royal rights, he needed ‘authentic’ religious rites. ‘Hey, Komrades, no need to make that treacherous journey back to Jerusalem for the annual Passover. Check out my new and improved Temple, here in downtown Samaria. Same great menu, same great service! Come on down!’

So the Samaritans became the Old Testament Protestants. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, ‘You worship what you do not know‘. Think about that. How could the Samaritans know God? After all, He didn’t live there. He lived in Jerusalem. Literally. And yet, Jesus seemed to be giving her a pass on her past. He seemed to be saying that she could (and would) be saved. Why? Because of her faith. Because of her blind faith. The blind could be healed. Right? Just like He healed the Samaritan leper. So what is going on here? Quite a lot, actually. But at its core, there was one simple thing. Obedience. To God, through His appointed Priests.

Not seeing this yet? Let’s look at the next example. The Samaritan leper. And the lesson is clear, in so many ways. He was a leper, but so were the other nine he was with. Were they Jews, or Samaritans? No word in Scripture on that, but the overall total seems clear, ten. As in the Ten Tribes? Maybe; maybe not. Maybe leprosy was the only thing that could erase the distinction between a Samaritan and a Jew. Otherwise, what were they doing together? Anyway, these lepers call upon The Judean for mercy. And He extends it. And says, not as an afterthought, for them to all go and show yourselves to the High Priest.

So what’s this mean? Scripture is clear. You were not officially cleansed until the Priests (of Jerusalem, not Samaria) declared it so. So what’s the point? It’s an institutional one. And Jesus was enforcing it here. Explicitly. He was saying that your cleansing from corruption was a function of The Church. Whether it is Old Israel or New, it is His officially sanctioned hierarchy that is to give official witness to the miracle of your absolution, whether physical or spiritual. And our part in this process is our submission to this hierarchy. Bless me Father, for I have sinned. So, am I just being a power-freak here?

No. I’m simply stating the obvious, for those who will see. And just what is it that is so obvious? Well, it is the fact that there are stations in life. And not all are equal. In fact, none are, if you believe in the individuality of each soul. After all, how can the last be first unless there is a difference between first and last? And all those in between. So what am I driving at? The fact that when we accept our lot in life, we gain His favor. Why? Because that is what He did. He was submissive to this same demand of hierarchical order. All the way to the end. He didn’t die at the hands of the shepherds, you know.

I know what you’re thinking. The answer is no. I don’t think one man is better than another simply because of his station in life. Quite the opposite, in fact. And again, Scripture is replete with the examples of those in power who abuse this same power, to the detriment of those under them. Just look at King Rehoboam. Conversely, contrast David the shepherd (the lowest station in life) to proud King Saul. The same Saul who sought to kill David. And yet David refused to lift his hand against him.

Anyway, the one leper in ten who goes and shows himself to the priest is the only one who returns to thank his actual benefactor. Who? Jesus, the new High Priest. The first Priest of New Israel. So the lesson here is simple: you must show your obedience to the divinely ordained hierarchy before your gratitude for your blessings will be well received. And I believe we can infer that those who did not return to offer their gratitude probably didn’t go and show themselves to the old High Priest. But this one leper does. So, mark it down; that’s one good Samaritan.

Here’s another. The Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus commands her to draw water for Him. She is amazed. Not at the command, which she willingly performs. Rather, she is amazed He would speak to her at all. After all, He is a Jew, and He obviously knows she is Samaritan. Because they’re in Samaria, right? And Jesus tells her of her past (many husbands and live-ins) , without condemning her. She in turn, goes and tells everyone she can find that the Messiah is here, in the flesh. Jewish flesh. Now keep in mind, this activity of hers will not sit well with King Jeroboam when he hears of it. Why? Because it undermines his own religious/political authority.

There will be a price to be paid by this woman. A price for her submission to the Jew who says that salvation is from The Jews. Specifically, this one particular Jew. The same Jew that says there is only one place to worship, and that place is not in Samaria. Otherwise, you don’t actually know whom you worship. So, she does as He says (‘draw me water’), she hears his judgment (about her many husbands), and she acts on His promise (salvation is from the Jews) based on his Jewish nature. Mark it down. Another good Samaritan.

And let’s not forget the best Samaritan of all. The Good one, of course. The one who obeys the command to love thy neighbor, even if he is a Jew. And who gave this command? A Jew, of course. And so the Good Samaritan did as he was commanded to do. Even to his own cost, in both social and financial ways. In other words, he submitted to the authority of the High Priest of Jerusalem, who would surely say that a Samaritan (that is, a rebellious Israelite) has a duty to save a Jew.
So what then is the lesson of these three Samaritans? Simple, my friend. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Obedience to superiors is half of the recipe for salvation. And it’s the hard half. Ouch.

Brain Damage Increases Religious Fundamentalism—Or Scientific Hubris?

Stream: Brain Damage Increases Religious Fundamentalism—Or Scientific Hubris?

You didn’t hear it coming. You didn’t even feel it. Yet there you were on Hamburger Hill, 12 May 1969, praying you’d come through the battle, when a piece of shrapnel dug into your skull.

It’s still there today. Doctors couldn’t, didn’t dare, take it out. Maybe it doesn’t hurt; the doctors said it shouldn’t. But you swear you can feel it in there.

Suppose this permanently wounded Vietnam veteran was you, dear reader. Now I ask you the obvious questions: How does this make you feel? Would this injury—just perhaps—incline you to deepen your religious faith?

If you answered that question—no matter how you answered it—you’re one up on the scientific researchers Wanting Zhong, Irene Cristofori, and three others who studied the religious commitment of Vietnam vets with brain injuries. These scientists thought brain injuries caused vets to become more religious, not because of the introspection harrowing life-threatening experiences like that imbue, but because the scientists thought the injuries themselves caused the vet’s brains to, in effect, misfire and induce these unfortunate men to become more fundamental in their religious beliefs.

Don’t scoff. This was peer-reviewed research in the journal Neuropsychologia, published in the article “Biological and cognitive underpinnings of religious fundamentalism“.

What’s this about religion? The authors say “Religious beliefs are socially transmitted mental representations that may include supernatural or supernormal episodes that are assumed to be real.” That they might even be real did not enter the authors’ minds as a possibility. Never mind. The real object is religious fundamentalism, which they say “embodies adherence to a set of firm religious beliefs advocating unassailable truths about human existence”. Unassailable truths like the scientific method?

“Fundamentalism requires a departure from ordinary empirical inquiry: it reflects a rigid cognitive strategy that fixes beliefs and amplifies within-group commitment and out-group bias”. If that’s not bad enough, “Recent studies have linked religious fundamentalism to violence [and] denial of scientific progress”.

To these authors, that the brain is responsible for religious fundamentalism is a given. “Evolutionary psychology explains the appeal of religious fundamentalism in terms of social functional behavior”, they say. Yet the “neurological systems that enable such inflexible, non-disastrous beliefs [such as fundamentalism] remain poorly understood.” So they studied it.

But if evolution made the brain cause religious belief, did evolution cause the authors’ brains to believe religion can be explained by the brain? What part of the brain is responsible for bad science?

It is an old observation, but a good one, that if the brain is causing our thoughts, then it cannot be trusted, because what guarantee is there that if it misleads us in one area it is not misleading us in another? There is none. If the brain is causing spurious religious beliefs, it could also cause spurious science beliefs. And there is no way to tell the difference.


If you’re not brain damaged, go there to read the rest.

Since this critique appeared at Stream and not here, I went light on the details. If there is interest, and if I have time, I can expand criticisms here. There’s not much need, though, since we have seen this kind of paper come and go hundreds of times.

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