William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Evolution & The Big Bang Are Perfectly Consistent With Christianity (And Catholicism)

Now that'sa biga bang.

Now that’sa biga bang.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blogcast Summary Against Modern Thought to bring you breaking news: Evolution & The Big Bang Are Perfectly Consistent With Christianity.

In what should have been a non-story, Pope Francis last week confirmed to the world what Catholics already know—or rather, what they already should know—that evolution, the Big Bang, and other firm findings of science are consistent with Catholic faith.

Yet the news startled some Catholics. Why? Perhaps because they have been saturated by Protestant-Atheist propaganda which insists Science “disproves” Christianity. “It’s either Science or fantasy,” crow shallow secularists, unaware they are trumpeting the dismal fallacy of the false dichotomy.

Of course, those folks who proclaim the world is only 6,000 years old (or whatever) and that men used to ride saddled dinosaurs are not helping the cause of Christianity, either. Atheists are only too happy to join with these sects in their hyper-literal interpretation of the Bible, because why? Because if this is the proper way to interpret scripture, then scripture is provably nuts. And if scripture is provably nuts, then so is the idea of Christ sacrificed himself for our sins and all that that entails.

In plain English: a literal interpretation of scripture confirms atheism.

The Catholic church from the beginning was careful not to insist on fanciful meanings of scripture. Sometimes the literal translation is best and sometimes she ain’t. To decided which passage merits which flavor of exegesis depends on a host of conditions the majority of folks never bother to learn. This includes nearly one-hundred percent of atheists who will resist all tutoring so that they can hold fast to the literal myth.

Now I have seen this week on Catholic blogs some of the same cheesy so-called criticisms of evolution and the Big Bang that are found on creationist or intelligent design sites. For example? One critique went that since the Piltdown Man was a hoax, so was evolution. Exsqueeze me? What does the Piltdown Man have to do with the price of duck-tongue1 in Peking? If we had to reject a theory because of hoaxes, every time some crank touted a perpetual motion zero-point energy machine, we’d have to dump all of modern physics. Chiropractory would falsify modern medicine. And so on.

We don’t need creationism or intelligent design to explain how God works in the universe. See this highly educational roundup from Ed Feser on why.

Listen: there is nothing wrong, and it is to your great credit, to criticize any theory with cogent and unanswerable queries. Some people claim that evolution implies all changes to a species are gradual. This must be false based on observing non-gradual changes. But because any change is abrupt and multifarious does not mean a miracle was required to bring it about. It merely implies that we don’t understand all there is to know about how mutations occur and in what magnitude.

If you really want to bite into absurdity go after Evolutionary Psychology. What a dismal field! One Just So story after another, much of it backed up by (ugh) “statistics.” Yesterday we learned large breasts are an evolutionary advantage because men lust after them. But today we are taught that large breasts are an evolutionary disadvantage because of increased cancer rates and caloric costs.

All creatures including man are trying to maximize their genes (or whatever), eh? Then explain to me, Mr Scientist, why: contraception, abortion, infanticide, adoption, medicine, homosexuality, priesthood and other forms of celibacy, the touting of the mental illness wherein a man pretends he is a woman, bestiality, and many, many other forms of dissipation and clearly non-self-eugenic behavior.

Answers come there none. You bigot.

Best books to read on this subject are from three self-proclaimed atheists (no conflict of interest here, fella): David Berlinkski’s The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions, David Stove’s Darwinian Fairy Tales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution, Mary Midgely’s The Solitary Self: Darwin and the Selfish Gene (both Midgely and Berlinsky have more than one book on the subject). And there are others—if only you’d bother to look for them.

Evolution pushes too far when it tries to explain rationality, free will, and morality. That evolution creates morality is disproved in one line: if evolution creates all behaviors then there is no way to externally judge (a behavior) any behavior. To know anything about rationality etc., we need metaphysics, which naturally leads to God. Nothing else will do.

The Big Bang? I’m unable to understand the distaste Catholics have with this theory—discovered by a Catholic priest!—other than some might believe the world really is only 6,000 years old? Readers can enlighten me on this. I recommend Alan Guth’s The Inflationary Universe. Of course, it might be true that inflation will turn out false, but the smart money is on this theory. Anyway, how beautifully consonant is the Big Bang with Catholic faith!

Of course, there were frequent theological quibbles from our best minds whether the universe always existed or was created, and thus began time. See Denys Turner’s lovely Thomas Aquinas: A Portrait, Chapter 7. St Thomas said, “That the world has not always existed can be maintained by faith alone, and it cannot be conclusively proved…” (where by “world” he meant “the universe”). The beginning of the universe is the beginning of time. And much more!

Don’t forget the question, which should ever be put to atheists: why is there something rather than nothing. The Big Bang does not explain this. It explains how something evolved. On how that something got here, this and all physical theories are forever silent. Thus is just doesn’t matter whether the universe started with the Big Bang or whether it was always around. Neither view can say word one about how the something that is could have come from nothing that isn’t. (Incidentally, quantum fields are not nothing: nothing is no thing, and nothing else.)

Know what? It’s actually atheism that’s anti-science. How any motion or change occurs can only be explained via meta-physical principles. There must be an Unmoved Mover or physics is impossible. Not unlikely. Impossible. (And so we’re back to Summa Contra Gentiles after all!) And have you seen some of the interpretations of quantum mechanics? What the Romans did to the Sabine women pales next to what these theories do to causality. Men jousting on the backs of pterodactyls are more plausible than atheistic science. It’s atheistic science which proclaims the obviously absurd anti-observational fruity idea that free will doesn’t exist. It’s atheistic science which insists morality can be discovered by what are in essence polls. It’s atheistic science which is on the ropes, sisters and brothers. Let it be on the defensive where it belongs. You play offense.

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1Hao hao chu.

94 Comments

  1. Everyone knows that life had to have an origination just like the universe. No one believes that humans and animals popped up I Dream of Jeanie style. Things had to start somewhere. The problem with so much of the Neo-Darwinians is that they are committed to an unguided and unintelligent process. Everything has to be filtered through this Neo-Darwinian view. A real scientist would say whatever the universe and all that is in it reveals to me is what it reveals. Real science should have no stake in what the answers are. The answers are just the answers. Whatever is is and whatever isn’t isn’t, even if we thought it was and turned out to be wrong. This radical Darwinian view is not proven. They filter everything through it and put contrary evidence on hold in the hope that they will get an explanation that complies with their world view. Darwinism has become a religion. These people excommunicate you if you do not tow the line, they reject anything that flies in its face, are dogmatic as hell, and their God is Charles Darwin. Never mind the fact that Darwin thought black people were a link of lower life leading to more evolved white people. Never mind that Darwin spouted such stupidity as people will only sacrifice their lives for the life of a full blood relative, 2 half blood relatives, 4 cousins, and on and on down the line. Just thinking about this drivel for two seconds makes one understand how wrong and stupid some of this is. If Darwin was this wrong on these things what else can he be wrong about? The Darwinians won’t even consider it. Evolution is the primary engine for atheism. Without it their whole worldview falls to pieces. Not only without it, but without it as they wish it to be their views fall apart. It is the only thing holding their nihilistic and materialist worldview together. The problem is so much of it makes no sense. As Stephen Meyer points out, DNA is information, and without an information source life could not exist. What is the source? The idea that the unbelievably complex and sophisticated information that goes into creating intelligent life just happened at random and unguided takes a hell of a lot more blind faith than those who believe in a source for that information.

  2. Briggs. Finally something religious we can agree upon!

  3. It’s fire and brimstone time for sermon Sunday. I have always found it curious that you, and others, will loudly claim that evolution is perfectly consistent with Christianity, or is it the other way around, and then go on a rant about the evils of evolutionists. Very curious, I might be tempted to believe that there is a secret wish that the whole question would just go away. And while we are at it those quantum mechanic theorist have been getting uppity lately. They definitely need to be put in their place. Oh, let’s not forget the evil Protestants. The only confort there is that they will get theirs on judgment day. Now, don’t get me going about the wayward Catholics who have recently started to think for themselves. They must learn to parrot doctrine. This does bring up an important question though. What is the Catholic faith? Is it contained in a few musty documents filed in the Vatican, is it the sum total of the homilies given at Mass, or is it the weighted average of the beliefs of all Catholics? The same question has recently become important with respect to the Moslem faith.

    In my more somber moments I think that many problems could have been avoided if only those Sumerian myths weren’t tacked on to the front of Genesis, you know everything before Abraham. While we are at it, Revelation could go as well. I heard that it was a near thing. You bring up another curious question as to what should be interpreted literally and what must be creatively interpreted. The literalists that you castigate are not so different. Religious sects differe in the interpretation of many parts of the Bible with the eucharist being a case in point.

    Somethimes when I am in church the thought has crossed my mind that someone should give a rebuttal to the sermon. It would liven things up. Well this is my rebuttal Briggs.

  4. Evolutionary psychology is one of the silliest fields that has ever existed. There is absolutely nothing to it except imagining how things might have come about. There is no way to prove or disprove any of it, and common sense is not allowed as a check on event its strangest claims.

  5. Nullius in Verba

    November 2, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    “Yet the news startled some Catholics. Why?”

    Perhaps because they were taught a different Christianity.

    “Of course, those folks who proclaim the world is only 6,000 years old (or whatever) and that men used to ride saddled dinosaurs are not helping the cause of Christianity, either.”

    Depends on what you think the cause of Christianity is. A lot of people think Christianity is about the literal truth of the Bible. If the Church was a bit louder about that during the Sunday service, or at Sunday school, atheists might be a bit happier.

    “Because if this is the proper way to interpret scripture, then scripture is provably nuts. And if scripture is provably nuts, then so is the idea of Christ sacrificed himself for our sins and all that that entails.”

    Not really. The issue is how you tell the bits you’re supposed to interpret literally from the bits you’re not in such a way as to maintain it’s divine authority. If it comes down to “we only take literally the bits we still believe in”, the message is essentially defined by the interpreters, not God. It also means that when different interpreters pick different bits to take literally, nobody can decide who is right. That’s why some people choose to take it all literally – they see maintaining a single fixed interpretation as more important than mere logical or scientific consistency – because the Bible’s moral message is more important than it’s scientific one and morality has to be a universally accepted constant to work.

    “To decided which passage merits which flavor of exegesis depends on a host of conditions the majority of folks never bother to learn.”

    Yes! A detailed exposition of these rules, and how you know them to be true, would be a powerful argument! This is just the sort of thing the less political atheists have been asking for.

    “Some people claim that evolution implies all changes to a species are gradual. This must be false based on observing non-gradual changes.”

    Agreed. Catastrophes and near-extinctions are not gradual. But we already know how this works.

    “All creatures including man are trying to maximize their genes (or whatever), eh?”

    “Then explain to me, Mr Scientist, why: contraception, abortion, infanticide, adoption, medicine, homosexuality, priesthood and other forms of celibacy, the touting of the mental illness wherein a man pretends he is a woman, bestiality, and many, many other forms of dissipation and clearly non-self-eugenic behavior. Answers come there none.”

    There are answers to all those – for quite a lot of them they are easy and well-known.

    First, because there’s more required for reproduction than to simply reproduce – it also requires economic resources, protection, education, territory, alliances, etc. There is a classic trade-off between producing a few young and investing an enormous effort into improving their chances of survival to near unity, and producing billions of young each with only a tiny probability of survival. Producing billions of young is not necessarily, or always, the best answer as far as producing future generations goes.

    And the other reason is that the machinery is not perfect, nor does it have to be. There is another trade-off here. The extra resources needed to guarantee every offspring is heterosexual are not worth the extra reproduction rate doing so would achieve. Reproduction is not limited by the availability of heterosexual partners, anyway. And the complexity of programming in the precise genetic aims of an organism are not worth the cost of the extra DNA. More complexity means there are more things to go wrong, so it is more sensible to design something simple that works well enough than something far more comlicated and intricate that works perfectly. Any factory-line owner knows that it’s never sensible to go for a zero failure rate. You are always trading the costs of failures against the costs of achieving them.

    “That evolution creates morality is disproved in one line: if evolution creates all behaviors then there is no way to externally judge (a behavior) any behavior.”

    Morality is an instinctive system for jointly converging on a set of behavioural rules to enable a large social group of organisms to live in close proximity and cooperate. It involves a conflict between different groups of genes – those that code for individual genetic advantage, and those that code for the social behaviour. Either extreme is evolutionarily unstable, so you always get a mixed strategy where both sorts of behaviour occur together.

    Some organisms have the specific rules built in – social insects, pack animals, etc. Humans get more flexibility from leaving the specific rules open and only building in the mechanisms through which groups converge on a common set. It enables a far more powerful and adaptable range of cooperative social behaviours, but it does mean that groups isolated from one another usually converge on different solutions, which leads to conflict when they meet. It’s another trade-off.

    “Don’t forget the question, which should ever be put to atheists: why is there something rather than nothing.”

    Because anything that can be, is. Since something can be, something is.

    “Neither view can say word one about how the something that is could have come from nothing that isn’t.”

    It doesn’t say that it does.

    “Come from” is the wrong way of putting it. The universe is something that is, and it has these constraints and these boundaries. Causality is a relationship that applies between things within the universe, defined by and because of those constraints – there is no requirement for it to apply to the universe as a whole, or to the rules and constraints themselves.

    Causality is a local relationship between events in the world. It is like saying that any patch of ground must have ground surrounding it in all directions, to support it. If there was an edge – the pressure would cause it to collapse into the abyss. Causes apply at the edges of a region, defining how it relates to its surroundings. But this does not apply to the whole – since there is no outside for it to be in any relationship to. The whole Earth does not need to be surrounded by a ring of land outside it to support it – it is self-contained and self-supporting. Likewise, the univertse does not need to be caused by anything outside it – each part of it causes all the rest.

    “How any motion or change occurs can only be explained via meta-physical principles. There must be an Unmoved Mover or physics is impossible.”

    Yep. According to the Everett-Wheeler interpretation, everything is an unmoved mover. There is no potentiality – only actuality.

    But if this is ‘God’, then you must be a pantheist.

    “As Stephen Meyer points out, DNA is information, and without an information source life could not exist. What is the source?”

    Death.

    Evolution is like topiary. The tree grows in all directions without guidance, but the hedge is shaped (and the information provided) by the bits that are snipped off. Some bits get trimmed more vigorously than others, so the tree grows into those spaces where it is not cut back. The information about what designs survive best comes from the selective survival of some parts over others. The design is not guided by the random spreading of the tree, but by the hand that wields the clippers – by death.

    Death is not random. Evolution by Natural Selection (i.e. selective death) is not random. That’s the whole point.

    If you want to maintain God’s role in evolution, all you have to do is point to death and disaster as God’s handiwork. The lightning bolt, rain of fire and brimstone, or Egyptian plague that erases the wicked and leaves only the virtuous is the means by which moral order is created. There is no point in looking at the DNA, that’s the wrong place to find him. Evolution happens out in the world. We are shaped by our environment. So that’s where you need to look.

  6. @Nullius in Verba:

    “Because anything that can be, is. Since something can be, something is.”

    You have just conceded the major premise in the modal ontological argument, ergo God exists.

    “According to the Everett-Wheeler interpretation, everything is an unmoved mover. There is no potentiality – only actuality.”

    This is just wrong. Everett-Wheeler asserts the reality of the wavefunction and denies wavefunction collapse; this is completely orthogonal to the distinction between act and potency. Aquinas cosmological arguments would still go through even if Everett-Wheeler were correct.

  7. I see the following argument often:

    Christians by definition take the Bible literally.
    The Bible, taken literally, establishes the age of the universe to be 6000 years.
    The age of the universe is indisputably more than 6000 years.
    Therefore the Bible, and by extension, Christianity, is falsified.

    My question is: Does the Bible, taken literally, in fact establish the age of the universe to be 6000 years? If not, how did the 6000 years become the ‘clinching argument’ of atheists against Christianity?

  8. Nullius in Verba

    November 2, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    “You have just conceded the major premise in the modal ontological argument, ergo God exists.”

    Yes, I know. I did that deliberately. 🙂

    And since it implies that God is Everything (since the argument applies to everything), what we have here is Pantheism!

    If you just redefine ‘God’ to mean ‘the Universe’, then of course God exists. Nobody is going to deny that the universe exists! There are and have always been a lot of ‘atheists’, like Bertrand Russell, who would happily go along with that. But that’s not the sort of god people are arguing about. The one people are complaining about is the tablets-of-stone/pillar-of-fire/throwing-thunderbolts/answering-prayers/judging-the-dead sort of God, the one people go to Church to pray to, and teach to the kiddies. The old guy with the white beard.

    And since you guys say you don’t believe in that sort of god anyway, we should all be happy and, like, totally best friends, yes?

    “Everett-Wheeler asserts the reality of the wavefunction and denies wavefunction collapse; this is completely orthogonal to the distinction between act and potency.”

    ‘Potency’ is stuff that could be but isn’t. According to Everett-Wheeler, there isn’t any. Everything that could be, is.

  9. Nullius in Verba

    November 2, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    “Does the Bible, taken literally, in fact establish the age of the universe to be 6000 years?”

    No. The Bible lists the ages of every generation in the male line from Adam down to Solomon, (although different Bibles apparently give different numbers). The interval from Solomon to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem is done by cross-dating events in the Bible with other records – Persian and Chaldean and so on. The period from the destruction of the temple to Jesus is not covered in the Bible at all, and is entirely from external sources.

    Getting an exact figure from the Bible is somewhat dubious, but it’s certainly not consistent with billions of years.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_Bible

  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dating_creation

    “After the Masoretic text was published, however, dating creation around 4000 BC became common, and was received with wide support.[70] Proposed calculations of the date of creation using the Masoretic from the 10th century to the 18th century include: Marianus Scotus (4192 BC), Maimonides (4058 BC), Henri Spondanus (4051 BC), Benedict Pereira (4021 BC), Louis Cappel (4005 BC), James Ussher (4004 BC), Augustin Calmet (4002 BC), Isaac Newton (4000 BC), Petavius (3984 BC), Theodore Bibliander (3980 BC), Johannes Kepler (April 27, 3977 BC) [based on his book Mysterium], Christen Sørensen Longomontanus (3966 BC), Melanchthon (3964 BC), Martin Luther (3961 BC), Cornelius Cornelii a Lapide (3961 BC), John Lightfoot (3960 BC), Joseph Justus Scaliger (3949 BC), Christoph Helvig (3947 BC), Gerardus Mercator (3928 BC), Matthieu Brouard (3927 BC), Benito Arias Montano (3849 BC), Andreas Helwig (3836 BC), David Gans (3761 BC), Gershom ben Judah (3754 BC) and Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller (3616 BC).”

  11. Sander van der Wal

    November 2, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    Oh dear, Atheists and Protestants, but what abouth the Hindu’s with their multimillion year Universal cycles. Not quite 13.7 billion years, but much closer to the mark than the 6000 years or so calculated by Catholic bisshop Ussher.

    Secondly, if the Big Bang and Evolution are perfectly in Iine with Catholic Faith, why didn’t Catholic clergy invented these theories? Being the first person to notice that a universe in GR isn’t stable is not quite the same. And Einstein wasn’t Catholic, more a Spinozist in his views of God.

    Finally, Thomism does not explain *why* the universe exists either.

  12. Briggs,

    “Evolution pushes too far when it tries to explain rationality, free will, and morality.”

    This is weird. There is no free will, that’s just nonsense, an argument invented to prove the existence of God, but morality and rationality? Of course evolution plays a role in these. To say otherwise is silly.

    JMJ

  13. @Nullius in Verba:

    “And since it implies that God is Everything (since the argument applies to everything), what we have here is Pantheism!”

    The modal ontological argument certainly does not “apply to everything” neither it entails Pantheism.

    “According to Everett-Wheeler, there isn’t any. Everything that could be, is.”

    Everett-Wheeler does not say that everything that could be is.

  14. Okay—I’m back asking how evolution explains metamorphosis.

    Also, JMJ, how did you determine there is no free will? And why do we need God to explain free will? If evolution can explain metamorphosis, surely it can handle free will.

    Nellius: I thought the old man with the white beard was Santa Claus. (So sorry but I just could not resist. JMJ says it’s not my fault—I don’t have free will! :))

  15. Sheri, “metamorphosis”? You mean like werewolves?

  16. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 2, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    loudly claim that evolution is perfectly consistent with Christianity … then go on a rant about the evils of evolutionists.

    It was the atheist philosopher Michael Ruse who made the distinction between evolution (which is a scientific field of investigation) and evolutionism (which is a quasi-religious commitment). He made a similar distinction between creation and creationism.

    if only those Sumerian myths weren’t tacked on to the front of Genesis

    Actually, the Sumerian myths are quite different in their telling. (At least we think they were: we only have them in an Assyrian translation of Old Babylonian versions. Of course, in that day and age, prose had not yet replaced poetry as the preferred mode of writing, and ancient peoples (unlike moderns) knew how to deal with such things.

    A lot of people think Christianity is about the literal truth of the Bible.

    Then a lot of people are wrong. A lot of people think evolution is about cats giving birth to dogs.

    The issue is how you tell the bits you’re supposed to interpret literally from the bits you’re not in such a way as to maintain it’s divine authority.

    Simple: you read the text in light of the Christian faith which came down from the apostles. We’re not talking sola scriptura here. Two-thirds of Christians are Catholic and Orthodox, so if you’re looking for guidance check it out with those churches. Some assistance can be found in Augustine, On Christian doctrine.
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1202.htm

    when different interpreters pick different bits to take literally, nobody can decide who is right.

    It’s not done whimsically or haphazardly, as atheists and other fundamentalists suppose. That’s why the Christians held regional and ecumenical councils and such, although you might notice that “interpreting the scriptures” was not typically their main concern.

    Catastrophes and near-extinctions are not gradual.

    Neither are many speciation events.
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080421-lizard-evolution.html
    Gradualism was an a priori metaphysical assumption of the Synthesis. It was not something that came out of the data. (The data always did show new species occurring suddenly, but they were so terrified that this would lead to you-know-who that they pushed gradualism into the gap and declared most of the transitional species had appeared elsewhere than at the dig site.
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/Shapiro.2013.Rethinking_the_%28Im%29Possible_in_Evolution.html

  17. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 2, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    why didn’t Catholic clergy invented these theories?

    a) Because no one invents a scientific theory blooming full-blown from their forehead. It’s always a cumulative effort, often involving generations.
    b) Both Fr. Lemaître and Br. Mendel were in fact Catholic clergy and their discoveries were instrumental. In fact, Mendel’s discoveries (the first use of designed experiment in biology — Mendel had trained as a physicist) were crucial to salvaging Darwinism from the scrap heap.
    For further detail on Lemaître and the Big Bang and his prediction of the red shift, Hubble’s Law, and the cosmic background radiation, see John Farrell’s The Day Without Yesterday.
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1560259027/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=35022216684&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=10056077384078090344&hvpone=10.42&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_6gn8idq98a_b

    There is no free will, that’s just nonsense, an argument invented to prove the existence of God

    a) Freedom of the will is a consequence of the incompleteness of the intellect. It is not an argument used to prove the existence of God. Of course, ever since the triumph of the will post-Nietzsche, the old Greco-Catholic notion that the intellect is prior to the will has been lost.
    b) Just as they messed up the idea of “soul” (anima), the Early Moderns also messed up the idea of the will. It is this messed up Cartesian-Humean-Kantian Rube Goldberg will that causes such agita among Late Moderns. It is not the concept of will that the medievals were working with. Proving Descartes wrong doesn’t lay a glove on Aquinas.

  18. Would have been a more useful and factual essay if the author knew more about intelligent design, rather than trying to lump it in with scripture-based origins interpretations.
    Also, the head title question of whether “evolution . . . [is] perfectly consistent with Christianity” depends primarily on what one means by “evolution.” There is hardly a more slippery word in the English language, and it is quite clear that in its grandest, most far reaching, version in which it functions as the atheist creation myth for life and the cosmos and everything that exists that evolution most certainly is at opposition with Christianity, and with the entire concept of deity generally, as well as the concept of objective morality, intelligence, and everything else that a rational person would realize cannot be ascribed purely to a series of particles bumping into each other.
    Can the idea of man descending from some ape-like creature be squared with Christianity. I think so. Can the idea of this or that organism turning into some completely different organism over time be squared with Christianity. Sure.
    Can the idea that everything we see around us is the result of a purposeless process that did not have us in mind and that there is no plan or purpose in life or the cosmos — can this idea be squared with Christianity? No. It is diametrically opposed.
    So if someone asks whether Christianity is compatible with evolution, the right answer is not “yes” or “no.” The right answer is: “Depends. What do you mean by ‘evolution’?”

  19. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 2, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    There is nothing in the science of evolution that requires that it be unguided. That was an a priori metaphysical commitment on the part of many of its practitioners, not a scientific conclusion from the facts.

  20. Nullius in Verba

    November 2, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    G Rodrigues,

    Heh! 🙂

    Shari,

    “Nellius: I thought the old man with the white beard was Santa Claus.”

    Ho! Ho! Ho!

    I wonder, in that case, why they painted Father Christmas on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel…
    🙂

    Scotian,

    “Sheri, “metamorphosis”? You mean like werewolves?”

    I think she means like “How did insect metamorphosis evolve?”

    The answer being, nobody knows for sure, but a plausible mechanism has been proposed. That the first step was insects that could eat their own egg case, which led to selection for mouth-parts that could do so more easily, which led to selection for mouthparts that started off with the egg-chewing form and then changed to the adult form, which allowed the specialisation that led to selection for mouth parts that could chew other foods initially before transitioning to the adult form and foodstuffs, which led to selection for a longer and longer juvenile state to build up body mass, which provided the spare resources to allow a longer transition period from juvenile to adult with intermediate-form mouthparts without being able to eat, which led to selection for individuals that could hide and go quiescent during the transition, to evade detection by predators, which provided the opportunity to evolve a more extensive transition of body form, as the intermediate stages didn’t need to be practical, and better protective measures during the transition.

    It’s not a difficulty for the theory, but without hard evidence for which of the many possible paths it took, we don’t know.

    YOS,

    “Then a lot of people are wrong.”

    Then let’s correct them!

    “Simple: you read the text in light of the Christian faith which came down from the apostles.”

    OK. So what did the apostles say about, for example, Numbers 31? Is that sort of behaviour good or bad?

    “Some assistance can be found in Augustine, On Christian doctrine.”

    Thank you. But that has the sort of problem I was talking about. “The author lays down rules by which we may decide whether an expression is literal or figurative; the general rule being, that whatever can be shown to be in its literal sense inconsistent either with purity of life or correctness of doctrine must be taken figuratively.” In other words, anything that’s known to be wrong, which would thereby be inconsistent with the correctness of doctrine, must be figurative. It reflects the interpreter’s degree of knowledge or ignorance, rather than the divine author’s. You can’t deduce anything you didn’t already know.

    “Neither are many speciation events.”

    Exactly!

    “Gradualism was an a priori metaphysical assumption of the Synthesis.”

    Gradualism was a consequence of the belief that a child organism has to be very much like its parents – and for species that reproduce sexually, close enough to the pool of its potential mates to be able to reproduce. (Topiary is the combination of the slow growth of the tree and the fast pruning of the clippers. In the short run it can go very fast, but in the long run it can only go as fast as its slowest component.) However, we can be misled by the vast timescales involved – ten thousand generations is an evolutionary blink of the eye, and a 0.01% change per generation can yield an 2.7-fold increase in that time. The fossil record wouldn’t even see it.

    “Because no one invents a scientific theory blooming full-blown from their forehead.”

    Interesting thought. The Indian mathematician Ramanujan was noted for producing astounding mathematical theorems without any apparent working or proof. When asked how he did it, he replied that the goddess Namagiri whispered them to him in his sleep. That would make it divine revelation, and (arguably) holy scripture. I would think that an ability to present scientific theories in full bloom would be strong evidence of being inspired by the creator of the universe and designer of the (notably mathematical in character) laws of physics. As Namagiri demonstrates, it’s clearly possible.

    Don’t you find it odd how little advanced mathematics there is in the Bible?

  21. Scotian: Whatever! 🙂

    I will agree that what one means by evolution is quite varied. I have had on numerous occasions had people tell me “no, that’s not what evolution is” right after another had just told me it was what evolution was. The changes over time are generally what people seem to be referring to, though the coming from a common ancestor is sometimes mentioned. I’m not sure a “common ancestor” can be reconciled with Genesis, however. Humans were special and distinct from the rest of creation. Just my idea–others may not agree, of course.

  22. The Big Bang? I’m unable to understand the distaste Catholics have with this theory—discovered by a Catholic priest!—other than some might believe the world really is only 6,000 years old? Readers can enlighten me on this.

    OK, but let me generalize to the antipathy both biblical literalists and atheists have for the beliefs held by the opposition. My observation is that the primary motivation is fear of the other camp. First, in the presumed political consequences of the other side “winning.” and second, of the other side actually being correct. Literalists fear the social upheaval resulting from the atheist world view. The horrors of the eugenics movement in all its manifestations are chilling evidence supporting the literalist side; atheists, not without some justification, fear a theocratic government restricting their freedoms. One coin; two sides very much alike. The stakes are high so the fear is great.
    The second reason is more subtle, but more important. The beliefs of people on both sides are wholly wedded to their self-worth and a defeat of their side would be personally devastating. Hence, the rigidity of their positions and the fierceness of their struggles. The general distaste of some to the BBT may reflect the same fear of loss of personal worth should it contradict a belief and prove correct. Very few people really want to know the truth when they can have comfort instead.

  23. I have always though only a fool would believe God would not use Evolution to achieve his ends, after all, a all knowing being could set the table so that life and human life would evolve. I liken it to a very elaborate computer program and the our university is partition where is is running. I also think just because there is evolution that does not rule out God. That is the hope of the Darwinist. Next we know both intelligent design and evolution does work with DNA, Evolution inside species we can see, intelligently design we are already doing, the real problem is where and how did DNA come into existence, to that the question and no one even has a good idea how DNA came into being after all it is digital code in an analog world. The Darwinist like us to believe Evolution is proven, sorry guys we are a long way from that best idea going but definitely not proven and if it was, that would not rule out God sorry for pissing on your parade, well not really, after all I cannot fix stupid! God can but I am not God, oh I forgot you don’t believe in God so there is no hope for you then, you great intellectual atheist will just have to remain stupid.

    As to the Big bang, seem to Genesis describes rather nicely albeit without an time scale. That was the big problem the originator had bring it forward, after all how could a book written so many years ago describe it so well!

  24. I sorry I am a damn poor proofreading, my mind does not really read the words that are on the paper/screen. it puts them in where they are missing and twist them to fit how I think, which is not like most people. I read ” seem to Genesi” as “it seems to Genesi” and in retrospect it should say “it seems that Genesi”.

  25. G. Rodrigues,

    The modal ontological argument certainly does not “apply to everything” neither it entails Pantheism.

    NiV’s statement, which you said concedes THE major premise of “THE major premise in the modal ontological argument” was: Because anything that can be, is. Since something can be, something is. Note his use of a very broad, all-encompassing term: something. Can there be multiple Gods? Little green men from Mars? Pink unicorns? Um, sure, why not? Various ontological proofs attempt to avoid such absurdities, but logical reasoning is only as good as its axioms. Common axioms in modal ontology lead toward one and only one Necessary Being. Unfortunately, to get there they set up and do not resolve (to my satisfaction) the problem of infinite regress. FWIW, neither does purely secular Big Bang cosmology.

    In the face of such unresolved mysteries, we tend to make up stories. Whether those stories are wrapped in inferential mathematics and empirical physics or modal logic and theological metaphysics, to me the end result is the same — no compelling explanation for how, we got to be here, at least not one I’ve thus far been able to comprehend and/or accept. To say nothing of why.

    In sum, I see little difference between abiogeneisis and adiogenesis except that one is more parsimonious than the other, which is not a QED by a long shot. The only thing I’m 100% certain of is that I exist; I take your existence as axiomatic, and I could be just as wrong about that as St. Anselm’s axioms might be.

  26. Sheri,

    I have had on numerous occasions had people tell me “no, that’s not what evolution is” right after another had just told me it was what evolution was.

    I’ve had the exact same experience with both God(s) and evolution. And with the implication of God(s) for (not-)evolution as well. If I may run with the parallel a moment, gradualism is to Catholicism what punctuated equilibrium is to Protestantism. Or if you like, Constantine is to Luther what Darwin is to Gould.

    Speaking of the Hebrews, when I was 11, a Jewish rabbi visited our classroom and told us that different religions represent nothing more than different and imperfect perspectives of the same God. I rejected that at the time, and still balk at it since that is not the way I had been taught. I don’t have the same problem with gradualism vs. punctuated equilibrium because I learned both of them as mutually compatible with each other.

    I cannot rule out that evolution and Divine Creator(s) are mutually consistent, though every time I put on my glasses or the lumbar region of my spine starts squawking at me I do wonder whether God is a poor engineer or just reminding me of my sins in some forgotten past.

  27. Fletcher Christian

    November 3, 2014 at 5:34 am

    A few points, some of them mostly my opinion:

    First of all, believing in the literal truth of the Bible (including the implied claim that the cosmos is a few thousand years old) necessarily means believing that a great deal of the Universe is a lie. All manner of indicators of age (radioactive decay, the CMB, sediment deposition rates…) point to an age six orders of magnitude greater than that. Although of course God could have deliberately created the Universe so that the error was encouraged, why would She?

    Second, evolution is not a matter of random variation with no direction. It’s random variation with direction given by the necessity to leave descendants. And that makes all the difference.

    Third, aging and death are a problem for theologists but not for evolutionists. The simple fact is that once you’ve created at least a replacement number of offspring that survive to adulthood and reproduce themselves, you are surplus to requirements. And the repair mechanisms that might keep you in working order for longer (or even indefinitely) would have a metabolic cost which would detract from the energy needed for reproduction. So people who live to 300 would have fewer children, and would eventually die out. (In any age before maybe the 20th century in the West, that is.) Arguably, the reason why humans have a maximum lifespan so much longer than other animals of comparable size is that it’s useful to have Granny and Grandpa around to look after the kids while you go out hunting or gathering. And this fact is, in turn, bound up with the slow development of humans from infancy to adulthood. (A chimp is fully adult at age 4 or so.)

    Fourth, and this really is just my opinion: The competing theories, at the extreme ends, appear to be that God created the Universe more or less as it looks now, not very long ago, and continues to tinker – and that God created the Universe as a set of embodied equations and a seed of energy at the Planck scale, thirteen billion years ago, and with characteristics calculated to lead to the inevitable evolution of all the Universe’s complexity and then to life and intelligence. Personally, I find the latter far more elegant.

  28. @Brandon Gates:

    “NiV’s statement, which you said concedes THE major premise of “THE major premise in the modal ontological argument” was: Because anything that can be, is. Since something can be, something is. Note his use of a very broad, all-encompassing term: something. Can there be multiple Gods? Little green men from Mars? Pink unicorns? Um, sure, why not? Various ontological proofs attempt to avoid such absurdities, but logical reasoning is only as good as its axioms. Common axioms in modal ontology lead toward one and only one Necessary Being. Unfortunately, to get there they set up and do not resolve (to my satisfaction) the problem of infinite regress. FWIW, neither does purely secular Big Bang cosmology.”

    I was not defending the ontological argument (for the record, I do not think it works), I simply pointed that NiV conceded the major premise in it. He could have rejected and then go on to prove that God is impossible, but he did not, he repeated the concession. With a Smiley. So why are you directing questions about pink unicorns and green men from Mars to *me* instead of him? It is NiV after all, who from a controversial interpretation of QM, entailing limited existential claims, goes on to make the extravagant modal claim you quote. And what have pink unicorns and green men from Mars have to do with the ontological argument? Nothing, absolutely nothing. And in God’s name, what infinite regress? But since I am not particularly interested in defending the argument, shrug shoulders.

  29. Evolution & The Big Bang Are Perfectly Consistent With Christianity.

    Yes! Just like the increase in Antarctic sea ice and the lack of warming over the last 15 years Are Perfectly Consistent With the theory of man-made global warming!

  30. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 3, 2014 at 8:26 am

    nobody knows for sure, but a plausible mechanism has been proposed.

    Alas, the proposal of plausible mechanisms seems to be the rule. Thank goodness for genetics.

    However, we can be misled by the vast timescales involved

    The Mediterranean wall lizards evolved into a new species in about 20 years. We mustn’t ignore the epigenetics and the internal genetic mechanisms that can produce mutations that are “sudden, massive, and particular.” The assumption that “natural selection” operates on a matter of “random” variation was another of the a priori metaphysical assumptions made by the Synthesis. They were in awe at the accomplishments of the then-cutting edge thermodynamics and suffered from physics envy. So they assumed that evolution worked sorta kinda the way that thermodynamics did. But that is a question of disorganized complexity, while evolution is a matter of organized complexity. If mutations truly were “random,” the timescale is not vast enough. Fortunately, it is not, and “natural genetic engineering” may be more important than “natural selection.”
    +++++

    “The author lays down rules by which we may decide whether an expression is literal or figurative; the general rule being, that whatever can be shown to be in its literal sense inconsistent either with purity of life or correctness of doctrine must be taken figuratively.” In other words, anything that’s known to be wrong, which would thereby be inconsistent with the correctness of doctrine, must be figurative.

    Exactly! The Christian Faith is ontologically prior to reading the Bible. You don’t “discover” the Faith in the Bible; you read the Bible in light of that Faith. This in turn means collegiality, not solitary cranks looking for “codes” or for “new discoveries.” (Especially new discoveries about inanimate matter!) That’s why Augustine says that different interpretations are entirely permissible, so long as they are consonant with the Faith and not inconsistent with things known for certainty. Whether the sun goes around the earth, as the settled science of the time taught, or the earth goes around the sun, as new discoveries in the mid 1700s to early 1800s demonstrated, is simply not important to the purposes toward which the Scriptures were used. Neither is the question whether 6000 BC marks the beginning of the physical universe or the beginning of human civilization.

    “In the Gospel we do not read that the Lord said: ‘I send you the Holy Spirit so that He might teach you all about the course of the sun and the moon.’ The Lord wanted to make Christians, not astronomers. You learn at school all the useful things you need to know about nature.” — Augustine of Hippo, Contra Faustum manichaeum

    The Indian mathematician Ramanujan was noted for producing astounding mathematical theorems without any apparent working or proof.

    But mathematics is not natural science. It is an expression of logic.

    Then, too, many people have intuited all sorts of theories that were so badly wrong, they didn’t even make the tabloids. It’s like the prophetic dream: we only take note when they turn out right.

    Don’t you find it odd how little advanced mathematics there is in the Bible?

    No. Why would we?

    aging and death are a problem for theologists

    a) What’s a theologist?
    b) Why is it a problem?

  31. Briggs

    November 3, 2014 at 8:57 am

    All,

    Just to back up YOS’s latest comment: mutations cannot “be” random. Nothing can “be” random. Some thing or things cause each mutation. The misunderstanding of randomness is probably what led to the “gradual” theory.

  32. Brandon: I’ve crept into your examples–pink unicorns! 🙂
    I often wonder if various religions are indeed worshipping the same God under different names. I know many are offended by the idea, but when you start to study various religious groups, they do seem to be very much saying the same thing, right up to the part that you must use the correct words to describe something. It’s God, or Allah, or Yahweh, or Jehovah. I often think it’s all the same and the language is more a hang-up for people than it should be.

    Fletcher: Evolution does have “direction” by the necessity to leave descendants, but that is strictly chance. If the organism is in the right place at the right time, it continues until it is not. No real difference as far as I can see. Things last as long as they last. You can’t predict it, you can’t even explain much of it. (Again, waiting on how caterpillars become butterflies explained by evolution……)
    Aging and death are problem for theologists? I missed that part in theology, I guess.

    Paul: You understand global warming!!! (Or misuderstand Christianity???)

  33. Briggs et al, random may be a poorly chosen word. The question concerns the existence or non-existence of direction. Stephen Jay Gould said no in his book:

    http://www.amazon.ca/Full-House-Spread-Excellence-Darwin/dp/0674061616

    Others have expressed different ideas.

    An aside: I often get a 500 error when I try to access your site.

  34. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 3, 2014 at 9:46 am

    The question concerns the existence or non-existence of direction. Stephen Jay Gould said no in his book:

    But of course there is direction: it is toward greater reproductive success in a given niche, as the very word “adapt” signifies.

  35. Side question on “random” which most people take to mean without a pattern: is there any large set of numbers or occurrences that can be without any pattern whatsoever? Or does every set have a pattern of some kind?

  36. YOS, if I remember correctly Gould was more concerned with long term direction, e.g increasing complexity or the (non)inevitability of evolutionary progress. A similar point was made in another of his books:

    http://www.amazon.ca/Wonderful-Life-Stephen-Jay-Gould/dp/039330700X

    I have read and enjoyed both books. The idea isn’t as new as Gould claims but there are still many people who disagree with the thesis. I do not have a strong opinion either way. No doubt there is a better plot summary on Wikipedia.

  37. YOS,

    But of course there is direction: it is toward greater reproductive success in a given niche, as the very word “adapt” signifies.

    Some (likely most) mutations are deleterious, and the frequency of those alleles in a given population will therefore tend to remain low if not go away altogether. When the niche changes, once deleterious mutations may become favorable — or some wild type alleles may become unfavorable as well. Lactose tolerance in non-infant humans is a fun example of this: http://www.nature.com/news/archaeology-the-milk-revolution-1.13471 We Americans descended from northwestern Europeans consider lactose intolerance a fault, but those of us who can drink liquid milk past a few years of age represent only ~35% of the present worldwide population.

    OTOH, being a carrier for sickle cell anemia offers little survival advantage in most of the 1st world, but in sub-Saharan Africa being homozygous for the wild-type allele makes one more susceptible to malaria so the mutant allele is seen there (and in descendants of Africans elsewhere) with greater frequency than in other populations.

    In sum, there is an observed direction in outcome which we call adaptation. The underlying mechanisms — such as mutation — themselves appear directionless and effectively “random”, though I understand how that word might ruffle feathers in some quarters.

  38. G. Rodrigues ,

    I was not defending the ontological argument (for the record, I do not think it works) …

    My mistake, apologies.

    So why are you directing questions about pink unicorns and green men from Mars to *me* instead of him?

    Because it was clear to me that he was pointing out the absurdity of ontological arguments which make it possible to argue that Flying Spaghetti Monsters are essential beings.

    And in God’s name, what infinite regress?

    Creation requires a Creator. Lather, rinse, repeat. If you don’t believe a Creator is necessary, you’re well on your way to becoming agnostic. Maybe you already are, and I’ve been misreading you for quite some time now?

  39. Sheri ,

    I’ve crept into your examples–pink unicorns!

    I’d like to give you credit, but I’ve slummed around enough atheist boards that I can’t not have picked that one up.

    I often think it’s all the same and the language is more a hang-up for people than it should be.

    Too true. I’d be happy if more theists would express a lot less certainty in their beliefs … but same goes for a lot of atheists. ‘Tis tiring being intolerant of intolerance.

  40. @Brandon Gates:

    “Because it was clear to me that he was pointing out the absurdity of ontological arguments which make it possible to argue that Flying Spaghetti Monsters are essential beings.”

    He was arguing that? Well, in all fairness, I stopped reading with any attention once he conceded the major premise — everything else is just irrelevant waffling.

    And please stop with the patently absurd and ignorant claim that “ontological arguments which make it possible to argue that Flying Spaghetti Monsters are essential beings.” Ontological arguments do not allow any such claim, since they go from possibility to necessity and from necessity to actuality, the crucial move being the former, and for *that* you really do need God; merely Flying Spaghetti Monsters or pink unicorns or green men from Mars or whatever other sillyness you care to mention cannot do the work that is needed in the argument. Or to put it in other terms, if the ontological arguments fail (and to repeat myself, I am inclined to think they do fail) they do not fail for such obviously silly reasons.

    “Creation requires a Creator. ”

    And? For the infinite regress to go through, it would have to be the case that the Creator is likewise a creature and part of the created order, something that is explicitly *denied* by just about every believer in God — certainly it is for the specific set of believers dealt with in the Briggs’ post. Since it is explicitly denied, you have to actually show that what you need is entailed by the commitments needed to propel the specific arguments for the existence of God. I suspect that we have as much chance to see that as I have the chance to win the lottery.

  41. Brandon: Atheist boards? That would never have occurred to me to be the source.

  42. Because it was clear to me that he was pointing out the absurdity of ontological arguments which make it possible to argue that Flying Spaghetti Monsters are essential beings.

    I’m not sure this is true, although it is asserted with regularity. I would like to see how Anselm’s argument does make it possible to argue that FSM’s necessarily exist, or to anything other “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” As an aside, I take Aquinas’s objection which concentrates on the word ‘conceived’ in the proof to be the strongest.

  43. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 3, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    But of course there is direction: it is toward greater reproductive success in a given niche, as the very word “adapt” signifies.
    Some (likely most) mutations are deleterious

    It’s not mutation that has the direction, it’s evolution. You’ve got to include that ol’ ‘survivors survive’ part.

    Also, keep in mind the level: generic processes have generic reasons; specific processes have specific reasons. So that while for a species the direction is toward adaptation, that is not the case for any particular individual.

  44. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 3, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Keep in mind that Anselm’s argument was a lot more finely-tuned than modern parodies. (The same goes for Aquinas’ fourth argument.) In fact, think of the “rebuttals” to the argument from motion that depended on a misunderstanding of what medievals and ancients meant by “motion.” Rather than laugh ho ho at what we believe to be Anselm’s obvious inadequacy, we might instead ask ‘What did he mean by that?’ It was certainly an argument that intrigued Kurt Gödel (no mean thinker, he). It’s just that from Aquinas’ existentialist POV, the ontological argument is superfluous and pops out as a consequence of other arguments. Once you have demonstrated that First Mover is a Being of Pure Act and that for such a being its essence just is it existence, the whole ontological thingie pops out: Of all the things that might exist, existence itself must exist. (You can’t just say that Flying Spaghetti Monster is essential. You have to demonstrate that.

  45. “You can’t just say that Flying Spaghetti Monster is essential. You have to demonstrate that.”

    Rather, if one arguments that such a FSM could be essential, there could be nothing “Flying”, “Spaghetti” or “Monster” about it. Well, since nothing composite could have necessary existence for once. If one were willing to sacrifice all of this characteristics, to make an FSM essential, that seems to be one way to gradually turn even the most villagy of Atheists into a Theist.

  46. Nullius in Verba

    November 3, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    “Note his use of a very broad, all-encompassing term: something. Can there be multiple Gods? Little green men from Mars? Pink unicorns? Um, sure, why not? Various ontological proofs attempt to avoid such absurdities, but logical reasoning is only as good as its axioms. Common axioms in modal ontology lead toward one and only one Necessary Being. Unfortunately, to get there they set up and do not resolve (to my satisfaction) the problem of infinite regress.”

    If the Everett-Wheeler interpretation is correct, little green men from mars and pink unicorns certainly exist. (We could easily make some ourselves with a bit of genetic tinkering…) Genuine flying spaghetti monsters ought to be possible; if it could be done with animatronics and hydrogen balloons, there’s evidently no physical law against it. Things with at least the appearance of more conventional gods must too, depending on how you define the term. Prince Philip certainly exists, and he’s been declared a god by certain south sea islanders, and the more powerful gods are basically only more of the same from a more highly technological perspective. Depending on your viewpoint, godhood is a very low bar to pass. Other people will never be satisfied, though, and will simply shift the definition beyond whatever bound is found to be possible by natural means.
    🙂

    There is only one necessary being, which is Everything. “Everything that exists” must exist. And it does. The universal set is the biggest. There’s no infinite regress because there’s nothing left over to regress to. There’s no need for a “cause for everything” since there’s nothing else it could be, and nothing to explain. (A cause explains why the effect is one thing rather than another, but “everything that can possibly be” cannot be anything else; anything else is impossible by definition.) We avoid the regress by never even taking the first step – we do not posit anything outside the universe to cause it, so we do not have to posit any further cause to explain the first one.

    That’s one of the problems with the conventional ‘prime mover’ argument – it presumes the universe could be other than it is – that there is actuality (what is) and potentiality (what could be but isn’t) and ‘motion’ is about what wasn’t but will be. To say why it is one thing and not another requires an explanation; a cause. Something to break the symmetry. But if everything that can be already is, then there is no potentiality, and everything is actuality and the problem goes away. It’s perfectly understandable that Aristotle would have missed it – it’s only common sense that the universe has only a single definite state; the idea that it could be in many different states all at once is difficult to understand and believe even today. It’s the fault of our limited perspective – we only see a part of the whole. It’s only the bit we can see that is asymmetrical – when you add the rest of it back in, the symmetry still stands.

    Since the argument now applies to the universe itself, and we no longer need anything else to stand apart from the universe, it is the universe that becomes the subject of the existence proof. If you want to define that as ‘God’ (words mean what we define them to mean), then that’s basically pantheism – an intellectually respectable position. You might even get a few scientists on side – it’s more or less what people like Einstein and Feynman were thinking of when they used the word. Bertrand Russell supported it explicitly, and he was at least as good a thinker as Godel.

    This is only possible in the Everett-Wheeler interpretation, of course – wavefunction collapse eliminates all but one alternative, thereby choosing one actuality from the many unrealised potentialities and thus restoring ‘motion’. That’s another good reason to like Everett-Wheeler.

  47. @Nullius in Verba:

    “If the Everett-Wheeler interpretation is correct, little green men from mars and pink unicorns certainly exist.”

    Wrong; it is logically possible that little green men exist on Mars; but it does not follow that there exists a branch in the universe’s history in which little green men exist on Mars. In other words, you are just muddling different modalities. In particular, modal collapse and necessitiarianism are a complete non-sequiturs.

    “There is only one necessary being, which is Everything. “Everything that exists” must exist.”

    This is a highly controversial thesis, entailing modal collapse and necessitiarianism. Arguments? None.

    “The universal set is the biggest.”

    Wrong; it is trivial to prove that the universal set does not exist.

    “that there is actuality (what is) and potentiality (what could be but isn’t)”

    Wrong; this conception of potentiality is explicitly denied by Aristoteleans and Thomists. Potentialities are not only real, they ground the possible, not the other way around.

    “But if everything that can be already is, then there is no potentiality, and everything is actuality and the problem goes away.”

    This only makes sense, by conflating Everett-Wheeler with a certain view of time, which while it may be held and defended, it does *not* follow from Everett-Wheeler and is logically independent of it.

    “It’s perfectly understandable that Aristotle would have missed it – it’s only common sense that the universe has only a single definite state; the idea that it could be in many different states all at once is difficult to understand and believe even today.”

    Aristotle did not missed anything, because neither QM nor Everett-Wheeler entail, imply or otherwise suggest that the universe is “in many different states all at once”. In fact, the branching in Everett-Wheeler explicitly denies it.

    And here I lost my patience as there is only so much crankery that a sane man can endure.

  48. Briggs, Orthodox protestants will tell you that if you throw away biblical chronology, then you have stepped on the slippery slope to atheism. And they are right, I am the living proof.

  49. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 4, 2014 at 7:54 am

    if you throw away biblical chronology, then you have stepped on the slippery slope to atheism.

    “Orthodox” protestants are wrong about so much else, it is no surprise that they are wrong about this. Neither the (actual) Orthodox Church nor the Catholic Church has ever embraced that sort of numerology. For so long as there was no reason to believe otherwise, there was no-harm-no-foul, but such things were not articles of faith. At least one Eastern Orthodox theologian commented that Protestantism was the last step before atheism, so perhaps it matters more if one throws away lots of other stuff.

  50. “Of course, those folks who proclaim the world is only 6,000 years old (or whatever) and that men used to ride saddled dinosaurs are not helping the cause of Christianity, either. Atheists are only too happy to join with these sects in their hyper-literal interpretation of the Bible, because why? Because if this is the proper way to interpret scripture, then scripture is provably nuts. And if scripture is provably nuts, then so is the idea of Christ sacrificed himself for our sins and all that that entails.

    In plain English: a literal interpretation of scripture confirms atheism.”

    What? I take the resurrection as fact, based on my faith. Yet, science disproves any resurrection. Period.

    The Bible is literal when it is meant to be literal. And Genesis is but one of those instances.

    (Note: Even Satan knows God exists, as do all atheists, regardless of their outward statements.)

  51. Hans: It is invalid to extrapolate from you (one example) to a huge number of others which may or may not have anything in common with you and your reasoning. It is interesting to note there are creationists who do believe the earth is very, very old and found it more likely that the use of the term “day” in the Bible was a unit with which the writers were familiar rather than insisting the “day” was 24 hours and physics is all a lie or illusion. It’s really not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Also, you assume the goal of religion is to keep converts at all costs. People who are atheists become so because of their own choices, not what religion teaches.

  52. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 4, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Yet, science disproves any resurrection.

    And the laws of grammar disprove “ain’t”. So obviously this comment ain’t true.

  53. “Even Satan knows God exists, as do all atheists”. Thus atheists are satanic.

    “Protestantism was the last step before atheism”. Another Protestants are damned statement.

    Where is the christian charity? Some people on this site should be ashamed of themselves.

  54. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 4, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Another Protestants are damned statement.

    I did not see where the Eastern Orthodox theologian said that Protestants were damned simply because they were the last step on the road to atheism. I think you are being unkind to Orthodoxy.

  55. Scotian: Your conclusions are very, very tenuous. As for Christain charity, your definition thereof also seems very tenuous.

  56. To paraphraes Reagan: Scotian, tear off that pearl necklace.

  57. Oh dear, which part of the Bible is to be interpreted literal and which part is allegorical? It looks like a time table: you can go any direction you want with it.

  58. Hans: Far too complex a subject for a comment section.

  59. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 4, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Oh dear, which part of the Bible is to be interpreted literal and which part is allegorical?

    It’s not that hard. There is a 2000-year history of exegesis for a guide. See the Orthodox and Catholic Churches for guidelines. One needn’t rely on amateur individualism. For some guidelines, see Augustine of Hippo:
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1202.htm

  60. Fletcher Christian

    November 5, 2014 at 5:09 am

    There appears to be a bias in evolution towards increasing complexity, but Dawkins (or Gould, I’m not sure which) handled that rather well. First of all, it’s a mistake to say that increasingly complex organisms gradually become dominant in the biosphere. Bacteria and Archaea (not quite the same) are dominant in biomass and even more so in numbers, and they always will be.

    Secondly, the apparent bias towards increasing complexity is a consequence of the brutally simple fact that there is a lower limit to complexity below which an assemblage of organic molecules isn’t alive at all. (Viruses are arguably below it, because they can only reproduce by hijacking the molecular machinery of living things.) So what’s actually happening is that the tail at the right-hand end of the graph, so to speak, is getting longer.

  61. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 5, 2014 at 7:54 am

    it’s a mistake to say that increasingly complex organisms gradually become dominant in the biosphere. Bacteria and Archaea … are dominant in biomass and even more so in numbers

    Evolution does not necessarily mean that prior kinds are replaced. There are still apes, after all. So it is no great surprise if single-celled organisms are still around, even though multi-cellular organisms are better at the game of life. (Although Darwin required that new mutations reproduce more successfully than the predecessors they were emerging from. “Differential reproductive success.”)

    Gould and others were so committed to an a priori metaphysic of “no direction” (even though this makes natural selection incoherent as an efficient cause) that they had to cast about for some way, any way, by which to dismiss the obviously increasing complexity of life by pointing out that not every single species has become more complex. Twice. Because after peaking in the dinosaur era and getting most of the top end species wiped out, the “tape of evolution” was re-run and a new mammalian climb to complexity commenced. This is because empty niches tend to get filled, and some life form will grow and change to fill them, thus increasing the complexity through a diversity of species.

    Nor is biomass or number of individuals an indicator of “dominance.” The peasants always outnumbered — and outweighed — the aristocrats in Modern Europe (and in fact elsewhere), but there is no sense other than the trivial in which we can say that the peasants “dominated” society. Again, when Michelangelo carved the David, it is likely that the marble chips knocked off in the quarry and in his workshop outweighed (and outnumbered) the statue that he brought out.

    So it is no strange thing that as the biosphere becomes more and more complex, both in the number and kind of species and in the complexity of the “cutting edge” species as well.

  62. The Eastern Orthodox Church believes the Roman Church to be the Beast and the Pope to be the anti-Christ.

  63. swordfishtrombone

    November 6, 2014 at 4:59 am

    I’d like to ask those people who (pretend?) to accept evolution exactly how they think God actually created us using it?

    1. Tinkering with mutations.

    2. Killing specific species.

    3. Killing most species with asteroid impacts and letting it run over and over.

    4. Just letting it run.

    5. Exactly the same as 4 but without God.

    Occam’s razor suggests 5.

    If God did create us using evolution, I have to say it was a pretty wasteful way of going about things. Think of all the gazillions of animals that have died just so we can be here – cruelty and suffering on an unimaginably vast and evil scale.

  64. Fletcher Christian

    November 6, 2014 at 5:56 am

    swordfishtrombone – Your #4 is the Deist position, I believe. Create a set of equations and other mathematical entities (symmetry groups, for example), insert arbitrary constants as required, embody the resultant structure into a “seed” and breathe the Fire into it. And then let it run. Elegant, no?

    The problem of suffering is a real problem for anyone who believes in an omnibenevolent God. Even if you believe the sufferings of humans are their own fault (and I find it hard to figure out what a 4-year-old with terminal leukemia has, or could have, done to deserve it, just as an example) there is still the small matter of the undoubted fact that most animals die in terror and agony. One only has to watch some random wildlife programme to witness that.

    The suffering didn’t only happen to animals of species that are now extinct; it always has happened (at least, since sufficiently advanced animals evolved) and always will.

  65. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 6, 2014 at 8:57 am

    I’d like to ask those people who (pretend?) to accept evolution exactly how they think God actually created us using it?

    Evolution is the result of some physical mechanism. It is not the mechanism itself, except through loose lips. Natural selection is believed by many to be the privileged mechanism.

    God does not create through evolution because evolution is not a mode of creation. Neither is gravitation or electromagnetism. All of them are modes by which matter is pushed around, whereas creation is a bringing into being from non-being. New species evolve from old, which is transformation, not creation.

    Occam’s razor suggests 5.

    Late Moderns do not understand Ockham’s Razor. It is a pragmatic, epistemological principle, not a fact about the universe.

    If God did create us using evolution, I have to say it was a pretty wasteful way of going about things.

    Think of all the marble chips, rags, and broken tools that littered Michelangelo’s workshop to make one statue; or all the dandelion seeds scattered to make one dandelion. Or for that matter, all the stars and galaxies needed to make a world. Of all the arguments against God, “I woulda done better” is a weak one. Carve us a David first, then we’ll talk.

    Besides, there is one soul per living being. Where is the waste in that?

  66. Sword: Occam’s razor is not science or statistics. You might want to check out http://scienceblogs.com/developingintelligence/2007/05/14/why-the-simplest-theory-is-alm/ or even the beloved Wiki where it clearly states: In the scientific method, Occam’s Razor is not considered an irrefutable principle of logic or a scientific result. So your example is just your use of a rule of thumb, nothing more.

    Fletcher: The argument against God using Evil is mostly a circular one. It’s like a four-year-old demanding new parents because he can’t eat a whole chocolate cake, run the neighborhood and stay up till 3 in the morning, all of which is VERY unfair. From his perspective, his parents are just evil and mean.
    The argument from evil assumes we have knowledge of the entire workings of the world, from why God created it onward. We do not. So demanding God let us eat all the cake we want and run wild as being the ideal world is basically the level of that four-year-old.

    I would not say that God created us with evolution, but that evolution is not contrary to God creating us with the exception of the relationship of man and apes (God clearly stated humans were created different than all other species.) That is not really the claim here, but rather that the process of evolution is not at odds with God creating us. Rather than having created a static world that was fully formed and rigid, God chose flexibility and changes over time.

    Oh- the wildlife question. That is what humans made up in their head by assuming wildlife is equal to humans and has the same emotions, etc. There is no evidence that this is true–only that we want it to be and interpret as such. (Google now claims dogs dream and about the same things we do. That is a LIE and completely unscientific, but great propaganda for animal rights activists.)

  67. swordfishtrombone

    November 7, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    YOS:

    ‘Evolution’ is the name of a process which includes natural selection unless you’re being very nitpicky indeed. I infer from the first part of your reply that your choice amongst my answers is (4). Presumably though, you believe that God has interfered with natural selection at least once?

    I do understand Occam’s razor. I said it “suggests” 5, not enforces it.

    You say that “I woulda done better” is a weak argument but I disagree. It isn’t so much that evolution is a wasteful and cruel way of going about things (although it surely is – why would a loving creator choose a method involving killing and suffering on a stupendous scale?) as that it’s entirely consistent with there being no God at all.

  68. swordfishtrombone

    November 7, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Sheri:

    As I said in my reply above, I understand perfectly well that Occam’s razor is a general principle, not a rigid law of nature. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply in the context I used it in.

    I’m baffled by your suggestion that animals don’t experience the same emotions as we do. I have cats and can assure you that they do experience emotions and also dream. I’m sure most pet owners would agree with me. They act as if they’re experiencing emotions so the obvious conclusion to draw is that they do. Unless, that is, you don’t believe the evidence of your own eyes.

    “Stop purring kittycat, I know you’re not really happy to see me, just pretending!”

  69. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 7, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    ‘Evolution’ is the name of a process which includes natural selection unless you’re being very nitpicky indeed.
    No. I think it is useful to distinguish between the facts to be explained (evolutions) and the theory proposed to explain them (natural selection). The theory (if it were scientific) would be falsifiable.

    Presumably though, you believe that God has interfered with natural selection at least once?
    When? If God is the author of natural selection (assuming it to be a true theory), what exactly would constitute “interference”? Does an author interfere with his own book?

  70. Fletcher Christian

    November 8, 2014 at 5:21 am

    Sheri – “God clearly stated humans were created different than all other species.” How do you know? God told you Herself? Well, these days we have meds for hearing voices. Read it in a book? Not good enough; the argument from authority is one of the better known logical fallacies, and in addition some human wrote down those words; it is quite possible that said human was deluded, insane or high on hallucinogens (perhaps inadvertently – the wrong sort of mushrooms or ergot-contaminated grain maybe) when experiencing his own voices in the head.

    No, what you mean is something like: “A man writing a book three thousand years ago clearly stated that he had heard God say humans were created differently.” And let’s not forget that you are highly unlikely to be reading the book in its original language, so successive mistranslations enter the mix as well. Also copying errors.

  71. Fletcher: Yes, God Himself did indeed tell me. I noted in a comment on the “Intro to Uncertainty” thread that I am aware that there are drugs for that now.

    Yes, I am going by a three-thousand year old book and the history that follows it. Yes, it is possible that whoever wrote it was delusional. I just don’t find sufficient evidence for that claim. Many things are possible—so your contention that it “could be” wrong is very similar to the climate change crowd’s contention that it could be possible the earth is overheating and dying. I need evidence. Probably not enough room on this thread, but I did cover a lot of this in varies studies and discussions with philosophy professors, religious teachers, etc. It is possible you have a new idea, but odds are against. You can give it run, though—I could be wrong…….

  72. Sword: Okay, you understand that Occam’s razor is not hard and fast. So what kind of application does it have in your context? An unscientific way to decide? I thought we were trying to avoid that.

    Most people have a very strong belief that animals have emotions. There is no evidence that they do. Humans ascribe that belief to what they see the animal do. It’s purely for the human being’s comfort and is a favorite among the animal rights crowd. One’s own eyes can easily be clouded or fooled when one wants to believe. As in the case of one’s pets–humans need the adoration, the cat does not.

    Do you think your cat does not purr if you’re not there? Of course it does. For a number of reason, many of which have nothing whatsoever with your presence. Cats can purr when frightened, when threatened, etc. Large cats also purr. Humans attribute the behaviour to adoration because it makes the human feel important. The cat has learned that purring can lead to petting and sometimes treats or food. It’s a means to an end for the cat.

  73. Fletcher Christian

    November 9, 2014 at 1:08 am

    Extraordinary assertions require extraordinary evidence. And the assertion seems to be the existence of a being who is not only omnipotent, but meddles constantly with its own creation. Extraordinary indeed – and I haven’t seen any evidence at all.

    On the other hand, there are many possible rational explanations for the visions and voices reported seen and heard by various self-proclaimed prophets down the years.

    Reported by same, in most cases. There is another possible explanation, the one mentioned by Voltaire: “When the first knave met the first fool, then was born the first priest.” Being a religious figure is a great way not to have to work for a living.

  74. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 9, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Ockham’s Razor — the medievals used razors to scrape ink off a parchment. Today we say “eraser” — was known long before Ockham as the “Principle of Parsimony.” Aquinas appealed to it. And in fact Aristotle enunciated it long, long before:
    We may assume the superiority, all else being equal, of that demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses.
    — The Posterior Analytics

    Billy Ock’s formulation was:
    It is vain to through many what is possible to be done through fewer.
    (Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieriper pauciora)
    — Summa totius logicae, i.12

    But this was an epistemological principle, not an ontological one. It meant — in terms pertinent to this here blog — don’t have too many terms in your models or you won’t understand your own models. The Real Worldâ„¢, Bro William said, could be as complex as God wished, but we had to keep our models simple for the sake of our own understanding.

  75. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 9, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Extraordinary assertions require extraordinary evidence.

    You mean like “quantum events occur without causes”?

    When will people recognize the claim, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” for what it is: a shoddy cliché, with no rigorously specifiable meaning, based on a confused and unimpressive philosophical analysis of the way evidence actually supports claims, relying for its ‘ring of truth’ more on rhetorical parallelism than on serious thought about evidential reasoning, used by lazy-minded people as an excuse for not doing the hard rational work of real meta-evidentiary analysis? Will we really have to wait until they start realizing that it’s the sort of nonsensical stupidity that can be turned against any position, any time, for any reason?

    http://branemrys.blogspot.com/2005/07/rant.html
    In particular, what does “extraordinary” mean? Is it the same meaning when applied to claim as when applied to evidence? Is an extraordinary claim simply one we find personally incredulous?

    In Change Management, it is well known that people exhibit a range of resistance to change, from innovators and early adopters all the way to die-hards. For example, Galileo accepted the extraordinary claim that the earth had a dual motion on the basis of no evidence whatsoever beyond an (actually) incorrect mathematical model. Others later accepted the claim (based on a better model) simply because the Rudolphine Tables were easier to use. Still others held out for empirical evidence, which was not forthcoming until the mid-1700s, the 1790s, or even the 1830s!

    But these are contingent on the psychology of the individual, not on the “ordinariness” of either claim or evidence.

    And the assertion seems to be the existence of a being who is not only omnipotent, but meddles constantly with its own creation.

    Meddles? Did Melville “meddle” with Moby Dick?
    Besides, its a deduction, not an assertion.

    On the other hand, there are many possible rational explanations for the visions and voices reported seen and heard by various self-proclaimed prophets down the years.

    It is in the nature of science that any finite set of “evidences” will support multiple theories. Why should the other theories about visions and voices be any more credible, if the basis is only that “there are other explanations!” In fact, the objection only amounts to “I am personally incredulous.”

    There is another possible explanation, the one mentioned by Voltaire

    But where is the extraordinary evidence required for his extraordinary claim, which runs counter to what we know of the history of society? In evaluating personal testimonies, such as Voltaire’s, one factor to take into account is whether the witness is biased, and in which direction.

    Being a religious figure is a great way not to have to work for a living.

    Well, unless the plague strikes Paris or Alexandria. Then the “religious figures” die like flies as they care for and nurse the sick. Sometimes it’s hard work feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and all that stuff.

  76. Fletcher: How can a creator meddle with their own creation? Answer–they cannot. They created it, they can do what they want with it. Meddling occurs when someone else gets involved. You are assuming God intended to whip up the earth and then walk away or stand back and watch. Isn’t that one of your “extraordinary claims”? Basically, if we are talking about Christianity, God created children and then you expect to just take a hike? What parent stops being involved in their children’s lives?

    Yes, there are “rational explanations” for hearing voices, though hearing voices is considered psychotic, so rational is an interesting term. However, not every case of hearing voices is irrational and psychologists don’t define religious experiences as being mentally ill. They did, however, use that term for homosexuals, and now removed it, so even if they did call religious experiences mental illness, they could always vote that out. Only in the case of true psychoses is hearing voices considered mental illness.

    There are many ways not to have to work for a living. Government employee comes to mind. Your argument is irrelevant anyway–whether or not one “works for living” is not relevant to the truth or falsity of religion. If we count all areas where people were duped by charlatans, there goes pretty much all of the world into the trash heap due to exploitation.

  77. swordfishtrombone

    November 9, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    YOS:

    How are you not nitpicking? I say ‘evolution’, meaning ‘evolution by natural selection’, you want to separate it into ‘evolution’ [fact] and ‘natural selection’ [theory] – so what? This is a meaningless linguistic distraction.

    I assume from your third sentence that you are actually attacking evolution [natural selection] by employing the old ‘pretending that it isn’t scientific because it isn’t falsifiable’ tactic. Rubbish. The question is: Is it true? Does it make successful predictions? Has nature evolved [via natural selection]? The evidence says it has. There is mountains of it which I’m sure you’re aware of, ranging from fossil records to genetic sequencing. It has been directly observed in operation in laboratory experiments. Was it Dawkins, or someone he quoted from who said something like: “What would falsify evolution? Fossilised rabbits in the pre-cambrian.”

    When did god interfere with [evolution] natural selection? Virgin birth.

  78. swordfishtrombone

    November 9, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Sheri:

    Okay, I’ll simplify Occam’s razor out of the picture 🙂 Let me put my point another way: If the universe is exactly consistent with there being no God then it’s simpler to assume there isn’t a God.

    I’m still baffled as to why you think animals don’t experience emotions. You say there’s no evidence they do but it’s clear that behaviour such as purring (awww!) is evidence in itself. If outward behaviour isn’t evidence, how do you know people other than yourself experience emotions? I also think the specific example you choose is tellingly wrong: Cat’s don’t purr to get food, they purr when they’re happy – what would the point of that be? Also, why would the fact that cats purr when no humans are around be evidence against their expressing emotion?

    Simplified, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

  79. If one believes the universe is exactly consistent with there being no God, then yes, it is simpler to assume there is no God. However, if one does not believe the universe is exactly consistant, then the assumption is not true. There in lies our difference. I do not see science explaining the universe as being consistent with the absence of God or a creator.

    Agreed, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck, not an emotional animal that people create in their heads. As for why cats purr:http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-cats-purr/

    It’s interesting that a frequent argument for the existance of God is to “look around—you can see this did not happen by chance. Anyone can.” You are using the exact same argument to support your belief that cats have emotions.

  80. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 9, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    This [the distinction between fact and theory] is a meaningless linguistic distraction.

    Really? It seemed important to the likes of Poisson, Duhem, Heisenberg, and others. But then they were actual physicists from generations that received a liberal education. The distinction is a foundation stone of modern science.

    it isn’t scientific because it isn’t falsifiable’ tactic.

    Don’t look at me. Blame Popper.

    Was it Dawkins… who said …: “What would falsify evolution? Fossilised rabbits in the pre-cambrian.”

    Presenting an absurdity simply reinforces the non-falsifiable contention. Such rabbits would be dismissed as redeposition, a hoax, or something of that sort; and whoever announced it would be denied tenure.
    What would falsify natural selection would be to find an example where an evolution occurred for reasons other than natural selection, such as natural genetic engineering.
    (http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/ExtraRefs.MolecularMechanismsNaturalGeneticEngineering.shtml)
    One might also look for examples of evolutions that were not accompanied by overbreeding followed by massive culls, or where genome changes are not random, but follow physical and chemical laws.

    When did god interfere with [evolution] natural selection? Virgin birth.

    How does that interfere with natural selection rather than say reproductive biology?

  81. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 9, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    If the universe is exactly consistent with there being no God then it’s simpler to assume there isn’t a God.

    Not necessarily. You may wind up having to assume a whole passel of different “brute facts” to compensate.

  82. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 9, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    You are using the exact same argument to support your belief that cats have emotions.

    Cats do have emotions. All animals do. Without e-motions (sensory appetites), there would be no motions. Human emotions are modulated by their intellect and will, so we experience them in a different way.
    Brennan, Robert E. Thomistic Psychology (Macmillan, 1941)

  83. YOS: I was not familiar with Thomistic Psychology and the theories therein. It appears to be a product of the Catholic church/faith. I will check this out when I have more time.

    For now, my claim is based on biology and psychology as it was taught to me in college and further readings.

  84. Fletcher Christian

    November 10, 2014 at 5:13 am

    YOS – The virgin birth of Jesus certainly interfered with natural selection, assuming it happened. How? Well, Joseph was selected against despite (presumably) being fit – he was a carpenter after all, not a profession usually followed by people with congenital defects.

  85. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 10, 2014 at 8:31 am

    psychology

    Psychology is unique among the modern sciences in that it denies the existence of its own subject matter: the psyche.
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/07/in-psearch-of-psyche-some-groundwork.html

  86. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 10, 2014 at 8:35 am

    The virgin birth of Jesus certainly interfered with natural selection, assuming it happened. How? Well, Joseph was selected against despite (presumably) being fit – he was a carpenter after all, not a profession usually followed by people with congenital defects.

    By this argument, automobiles also interfere with natural selection, as does modern medicine.
    “Fit” in evolution is evidenced by successful reproduction, not by a third party’s opinion of the individual’s health. If evolution had been called “an interesting side-effect of death” no one would likely get excited.

  87. YOS: Interesting blog post. However, if we start dissecting language, we can never actually have a conversation. It’s quite common when enters the realm of climate science. Add to that the ever-changing nature of psychology, psychiatry and medicine and we really can’t talk about anything without hours, days, month and possibly years of defining terms. It’s not an approach I consider useful and generally do not participate in.

  88. Fletcher: The virgin birth did not interfer with natural selection. If you follow the teaching that Joseph and Mary had more children, then natrual selection was not affected. If you follow the teaching that the children were actually Joseph’s from a previous marriage (unrecorded, it seems), again, Joseph passed on his genes. Mary did not, but all women do not have children, so that really isn’t relevent either. Actually, if we insist natural selection is “ruined” by not reproducing, then my husband I have “ruined” it, my sister “ruined” it, etc. I have read evolution actually is “survival of the reasonably fit”—species that managed to keep producing enough offspring that the species continues. It never referred to individuals any where. As far as I can see, your “natural selection” argument is pretty much not surviving here.

  89. swordfishtrombone

    November 11, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Sheri:

    The argument I made in regard to the (supposed) virgin birth is that it interfered with evolution by natural selection “at least once”. It doesn’t make any difference if Mary (or Joseph) passed on their genes through other children (or not). Mr. Brigg’s claim is that evolution and Christianity are “perfectly consistent”. I disagree.

  90. swordfishtrombone

    November 11, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    YOS:

    You’re just playing word games with me. My suggestion that:

    “This [the distinction between fact and theory] is a meaningless linguistic distraction.”

    Was directed at your splitting of evolution into evolution [fact] and natural selection [theory] which was completely pointless. You said it was “useful” but don’t appear to have made further use of it. I am clearly not suggesting that there is no distinction between ‘fact’ and ‘theory’ in general scientific terms.

    With regard to Popper: I’m sure that, word-games (and name-dropping!) aside, you accept that science is not in practice rigidly bound by the ‘falsifiablity’ criterion. It is more to do with evidence and reasoning. In any case, you haven’t established that evolution [by natural selection] is unfalsifiable, indeed you go on to provide an example of something which you claim would falsify natural selection but in fact it would only provide a single counter-example – just because one evolutionary event might be established as having occured due to “natural genetic engineering” (whatever that means!) or other non-natural selection reasons does not mean any other example of evolution [by natural selection] would then be falsified.

    Your comments about the pre-cambrian rabbits quote also agree that evolution [by natural selection] is falsifiable. Just because such evidence would be challenged in practice does not mean that it would not constitute a falsification in principle.

  91. Swordfish: Evolution is a theory that can neither be proven nor falsified. It assumes knowledge that we have no way to assess the accuracy of–no one witnessed the birth of the universe, no one has ever seen a dinosaur, etc, and no one ever will. It’s a theory that seems to fit enough facts that scientists use it. The single most reason for its advancement was to “prove” we don’t need God in the equation. Unless we build a time machine, evolution will remain an explanation that may or may not be correct. (Dinosaurs are a perfect example—put together “wrong”, assumed to be cold blooded, but maybe not, etc. We only have bones and a few other clues as to what the creatures looked like, nothing more. The rest is imagination.)

  92. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 11, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    Distinction between “evolution [fact] and natural selection [theory] which was completely pointless.”

    Precision of thought is never pointless. It’s important to distinguish between what you actually know for a fact and the narrative you set up to explain it. It’s too easy to arrest the wrong suspect and then dig in one’s heels. Look at the theory of gravitation for an example in the hard sciences: the motions of physical bodies are the facts. Gravity is a story we tell to explain those facts. But we have gone through several different stories in the course of time, the most recent one being told in the early 20th century.

    Natural selection has been criticized by some atheists because of its inherent teleology and its ability to explain all things. It is logically impossible to determine that any particular trait was “selected” versus it being a “free rider” for something else.
    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n20/jerry-fodor/why-pigs-dont-have-wings

    “natural genetic engineering” (whatever that means!)

    It’s the application of modern knowledge regarding genetics and cellular biology to the problem of evolution. It has the benefit of providing specific material causes rather than hand-waving plausible just-so stories.
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/Shapiro.2013.Rethinking_the_%28Im%29Possible_in_Evolution.html
    ####
    The use of such absurdities as Precambrian rabbits indicate a faith that the principle is not falsifiable. It’s bad philosophy because it confuses the imaginable with the possible. Besides, while a Precambrian rabbit might be taken as genuine (rather than evidence that people in the future, experimenting with time travel, sent a rabbit into the remote past) it would falsify only the timing of the phylogenetic tree. It would not falsify natural selection (i.e., that over-breeding+massive death caused the evolution).

  93. The greatest tragedies of religious grifts are the potentially brilliant minds reduced to spouting the con artists’ drivel. I am not claiming that Briggs and the numerous religious commenters here are idiots: they can organize morphemes grammatically and have a Mesopotamian facility with logic, after all. I just wouldn’t trust any of them with any decisions which could substantially affect those I care about.

    The reasoning here is not quite as good as that of the good Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, the Inquisitor of Galileo, in his letter of April 4, 1615 to Father Foscarini:

    “But to want to affirm that the Sun, in very truth, is at the centre of the universe and only rotates on its axis without traveling from east to west, and that the Earth is situated in the third sphere and revolves very swiftly around the Sun, is a very dangerous attitude and one calculated not only to arouse all Scholastic philosophers and theologians but also to injure our hold faith by contradicting the Scriptures….

    Second, I say that, as you know, the Council of Trent forbids the interpretation of the Scriptures in a way contrary to the common agreement of the holy Fathers. Now if your Reverence will read, not merely the Fathers, but modern commentators on Genesis, the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Joshua, you will discover that all agree in interpreting them literally as teaching that the Sun is in the heavens and revolves round the Earth with immense speed and that the Earth is very distant from the heavens, at the centre of the universe, and motionless. Consider, then in your prudence, whether the Church can support that the Scriptures should be interpreted in a manner contrary to that of the holy Fathers and of all modern commentators, both Latin and Greek….

    Third, I say that, if there were a real proof that the Sun is in the centre of the universe, that the Earth is in the third sphere, and that the Sun does not go round the Earth but the Earth round the Sun, then we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of Scripture which appear to teach the contrary, and we should rather have to say that we did not understand them than declare an opinion to be false which is proved to be true. But I do not think there is any such proof since none has been shown to me. To demonstrate that the appearances are saved by assuming the sun at the centre and the earth in the heavens is not the same thing as to demonstrate that in fact the sun is in the centre and the earth is in the heavens. I believe that the first demonstration may exist, but I have very grave doubts about the second; and in case of doubt one may not abandon the Holy Scriptures as expounded by the hold Fathers…”

    And THAT ends THIS debate.

    Briggs, religion is making you stupid. Your otherwise serviceable brain has been colonized by a religious grift run by con artists. They did it to extract wealth from and exercise power over you. More tragic still, you have become a victim/perpetrator of the fraud that has you and are doing your masters’ work.

    Stop. Take a deep breath. Use whatever functional intelligence you have and work your way out of this. You are welcome.

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