You Lie! Said the Geocentrist to the Catholic Scientist — Guest Post by Bob Kurland

Note: this post first appeared on Reflections of a Catholic Scientist.

“People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but the sacred scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, not the earth.” –Martin Luther, Table Talk of Martin Luther
“The plain and obvious sense of these verses [Gen 1:14-19] is that God created the celestial bodies immediately and instantly, solely by His own omnipotent power and without support from natural processes over long ages of time as the idea of cosmic evolution suggests. That this is indeed the way the Lord created the universe is confirmed by the commentaries of the church fathers like St. Ephrem the Syrian…”–Dr. Thomas Seiler, Cosmology, Thermodynamics and the Christian Doctrine of Creation (KolbeCenter.org)

Last night I dreamt that I was judge, prosecutor, defense attorney and defendant in a trial in which I was accused of heresy, because I believed in the scientific evidence for cosmology and evolution, rather than the literal truth of Genesis: my conversion to the Catholic faith was, therefore, a fraud. Here, as best as I can recall (having fudged the details) is an account of that trial. (I’m not learned in the law, and it was a dream, so …legal beagles, please excuse the deviations from procedure.)

The Indictment

PROSECUTOR, GEOCENTRIST [Opening Case]: The defendant has foresworn the baptismal vows he made on conversion to the Catholic faith; he has traduced the role of Scripture in the Dogma and Doctrine of the Church by proposing allegorical interpretations consistent with unproved scientific theories–the Big Bang, evolution. The defendant, Mr. Kurland, has attempted to hoodwink faithful Catholics by presenting nonsensical arguments of scientists who refuse to accept the limits of science and the reality of the single universe that God created for us, created at a single time, to adore as part of His overall creation.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY, JESUIT SCIENTIST: Objection, m’Lord, Judge Kurland! Please ask the prosecution to refer to the defendant by his proper title, “Dr. Kurland”.

JUDGE: Prosecutor Kurland, please refer to the defendant by his proper title, Dr. Kurland.

PROSECUTOR: To continue after this untimely interruption! Further, he has falsely declared that our Holy Mother Church approves of these heresies, by taking arguments from recent Encyclicals out of context and ignoring edicts of Church Councils from Medieval times. He has tried to reconcile the teachings of the Catholic Church with fallacious modern scientific theories, particularly those of quantum mechanics (1, 2,3, 4, 5, 6).

For these offenses and others too unspeakable to mention, we demand that the defendant be banned from blogging and writing, and sentenced to hard time in a room where he will encounter his secret fear.

The Defense

DEFENSE ATTORNEY, JESUIT SCIENTIST: Cross-examination of Prosecutor [Question (defense attorney)]: My learned geocentrist—what would you say about this comment by a fourth century sage:

Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,… and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.

Response (prosecutor): I would say that “sage” was probably a pagan, and knew nothing about Christianity.

Response (defense attorney): Then you would be surprised to learn that the sage was St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the great theologians and interpreters of our faith. The quote was taken from “De Genesi Litteram (The Literal Meaning of Genesis)”.

Question (defense attorney): You said the defendant

falsely declared that our Holy Mother Church approves of these heresies, by taking arguments from recent Encyclicals out of context and ignoring edicts of Church Councils from Medieval times. He has tried to reconcile the teachings of the Catholic Church with fallacious modern scientific theories.

How do reconcile that comment with following quotes from Pope St. John Paul II?

[T]here is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points.

Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.

nterjection (judge): You’re getting off-track, Defense Attorney Kurland. Get to the point!

Reply (defense attorney): My apologies, M’Lord, Judge Kurland. I was trying to show that the prosecutor’s statement is not correct if he means to imply that the Church does not approve of scientific discoveries. May I continue?

Reply (judge): Proceed, but keep it relevant.

Question (defense attorney): According to posts on the web site of a group you represent, both evolution and the Big Bang cosmology are false, heresies that contradict scripture. Is that correct?

Response (prosecutor): It is indeed. Unscientific, false, heretical.

Question (defense attorney): What do you say then to the fact that cornerstone, ground-breaking theories underlying evolution and the Big Bang cosmology were produced by Catholic religious: genetics by Br. Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian Friar, and the Big Bang hypothesis by Abbe Fr. Georg LeMaitre (which he called “The Primeval Atom”).

Response (prosecutor): I’d say that religious can commit heresies too. Look at Giordano Bruno.

Interjection (judge): That is quite enough.

Interjection (defendant): The prosecutor is showing a bias and a disregard of reality.

Interjection (judge): Mr. Kurland, that last comment was entirely out of order (although I agree with it). Be careful or I’ll eject you from the court.

Objection (defense attorney): M,Lord, Judge Kurland, again, just to keep the record straight, the defendant’s title is Dr. Kurland.

Reply (judge): duly noted.

Question (defense attorney): You said the defendant has attempted to reconcile the teachings of the Catholic Church with contemporary science, including quantum mechanics. Can you point out any errors in theology he has discussed?

Response (prosecutor): No I can’t, but I bet there are some.

Question (defense attorney): Are there any parts of modern science you think are valid representations of how the world works? And following that, if some parts are valid, why are others not?

Response (prosecutor): I can’t in a limited space answer that question.

Comment (defense attorney): In other words, you can’t answer the question and the charge is not justified.

Interjection (judge): This farce has gone on long enough.

Verdict

At this point the dream ended, as the Judge was pronouncing the verdict “I find the defendant ——” (Dear reader, you fill in the blank.) And I never did get around to finding out whether I was guilty of heresy, but I hope and pray that I am not, asking God for guidance.

58 Comments

  1. I don’t know dr Kurland, the View is like exposure to infection that creates antibodies that make you stronger, like a flu shot.

    Five minutes in to watching the view, I grew a beard, somehow sprouted a Viking war axe in my right hand, and had the song of war in my heart.

  2. Orrite, Bob!
    What business does this emotive spiel have in a philosophical (scientific) argument?

    Rightoh! none at all! because you are not proposing a reasonable argument. It is a sophistry trying to sell an irrational ideology.

    Geocentrism would be perfectly acceptable if its proponents could demonstrate that gravity and inertia don’t exist or don’t apply.

    Evolutionism would also be acceptable if its proponents could demonstrate that logic and entropy don’t exist or don’t apply.

  3. Not sure what, or if, there’s a point in the essay. A couple of themes can be extracted:

    1) Some of the topic make very clear that, over time, the official Church position has evolved; what was true long ago is now known and accepted to be false, with that acceptance no longer a heresy.

    2) “The bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go” — so said Galileo 100s of yrs ago, presumably correctly yet still many work diligently to reconcile Biblical theology with science. I.E., to resolve perceived conflicts, a form of a search for proof for the faith. As many Catholic and non-Catholic theologians have remarked for generations, matters of faith do not lend themselves to proof; thus, if one is doggedly seeking proof one ought to be asking themselves, “why?” — this is, typically, an indication of one’s deep-seated doubts about their faith. The search for proofs will never resolve the nagging underlying motive for proof [with will always be just a bit insufficient] until the specific beliefs held are acknowledged as potentially flawed, objectively assessed, and perhaps rejected.

    Catholics for example can easily accept a multi-billion year universe & Earth (e.g. as espoused by Reasons to Believe), while most evangelicals are wedded to a notion of a 6,000 or 10,000 yr old Earth (and many of those cannot accept either as potentially correct, so narrow is the Bible-based belief). To those of us that accept the evidence for a billion yr universe, those evangelical beliefs, and their scientific rationalizations, seem naive and deeply flawed. They need to abandon the literal interpretations of the Bible and the contrived “proofs” of corrupted science and geology to support those beliefs. As is rather clear from their behavior on such topics, many/most of those don’t really believe their flawed science-based explanations either* but strive to delude themselves it is correct and that they truly believe it. But they will persist because they insist “the Bible says so” …

    * This is very apparent when their scientists/geologists (people who ought to, and do!, know better), as one example, try & explain the many varied layers of sediment/limestone, each with distinct types of shells, fossils,…, in places like the Grand Canyon as having been deposited in one single flood.

  4. Oldavid,

    “Evolutionism would also be acceptable if its proponents could demonstrate that logic and entropy don’t exist or don’t apply.”

    Could you please be more specific and explain exactly what your argument against evolution actually is?

  5. In all seriousness, as an old Christian physicist from Germany told me in college

    “Does za Bible zay how long betveen genesis Vun Vun und genesis Vun Two?”
    “Well…no”
    “So vee continue”

    The age of the universe could be something quite different from the age of life on earth.

    Creation.com has an excellent case against geocentrism while preserving a belief in biblical inerrancy.

    Some of this stuff is also not doctrine proper. It’s not a conciliar truth, or an ex cathedra statement, or a biblical necessity.

    You can’t read the Bible like a legal document, or a scientific treatise, at least not all the time, in that the use of language varies. Every scientist when not on the clock says “the sun rises”. Are they all just lying or are they mistaken? By no means, they’re speaking accurately regarding observation and convention. The sun did stand still in reference to Joshua. It’s just shorthand.

  6. In the case where Geocentrism is ruled on (say by some future Pontifical Biblical Council) then these defenses would not work. Indeed, St. Augustine wouldn’t desist from supporting Church teaching even if he could not prove it scientifically:

    Augustine in De Genesi Ad Litteram:

    “When they are able, from reliable evidence, to prove some fact of physical science, we shall show that it is not contrary to our Scripture. But when they produce from any of their books a theory contrary to Scripture, and therefore contrary to the Catholic faith, either we shall have some ability to demonstrate that it is absolutely false, or at least we ourselves will hold it so without any shadow of a doubt. And we will so cling to our Mediator, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” that we will not be led astray by the glib talk of false philosophy or frightened by the superstition of false religion.”

    Also would that it were that Pope St. John Paul II’s 1996 address on human origins was actually taken seriously, he indicates that Humani Generis (of Pius XII) taught that right now there is a valid debate and that recent findings lead him “toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis”, lead toward: not confirm:

    “Taking into account the scientific research of the era, and also the proper requirements of theology, the encyclical Humani Generis treated the doctrine of “evolutionism” as a serious hypothesis, worthy of investigation and serious study, alongside the opposite hypothesis. Pius XII added two methodological conditions for this study: one could not adopt this opinion as if it were a certain and demonstrable doctrine, and one could not totally set aside the teaching Revelation on the relevant questions. He also set out the conditions on which this opinion would be compatible with the Christian faith—a point to which I shall return.

    Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis.* In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.”

    https://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP961022.HTM

    Also the claim about “no conflict” is about no conflict regarding the doctrine of the faith regarding man, there is also doctrine of the faith regarding creation which was not given or analyzed. Moreover, it is not stated whether the conflict is between “doctrine” is to be taken now and forever (i.e. whether the lack of conflict is a definitive declaration about the interpretation of Scripture and a lack of conflict with any theory of evolution) or whether it is “doctrine” in the sense of what has so far been ruled on by the Church. Here’s that full quote from John Paul II:

    In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points.

    Since he is quoting Humani Generis we can read what Pius XII said about the debate about evolution and scripture and use that to resolve this question:

    For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith.[11] Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.

    37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.

    So it looks like right now, there is liberty of discussion (but by no means perfect liberty since we must reject polygenism) and evolution (also evolution need not be Darwinian), but that this can be settled at any time by magisterial action of the Church. Moreover, only the Church can resolve these matters not even the Kolbe Center. So no fear of being called a heretic Bob 🙂

    Also that same encyclical Humani Generis reaffirmed by Pope St. John Paul II teaches about how the scriptural discussion should proceed:

    Further, according to their fictitious opinions, the literal sense of Holy Scripture and its explanation, carefully worked out under the Church’s vigilance by so many great exegetes, should yield now to a new exegesis, which they are pleased to call symbolic or spiritual. By means of this new exegesis of the Old Testament, which today in the Church is a sealed book, would finally be thrown open to all the faithful. By this method, they say, all difficulties vanish, difficulties which hinder only those who adhere to the literal meaning of the Scriptures.

    Everyone sees how foreign all this is to the principles and norms of interpretation rightly fixed by our predecessors of happy memory, Leo XIII in his Encyclical “Providentissimus Deus,” and Benedict XV in the Encyclical “Spiritus Paraclitus,” as also by Ourselves in the Encyclical “Divino Afflante Spiritu.”

    The norms of intepretation given by Providentissimus Deus are shown here:

    There can never, indeed, be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long as each confines himself within his own lines, and both are careful, as St. Augustine warns us, “not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known.”(51) If dissension should arise between them, here is the rule also laid down by St. Augustine, for the theologian: “Whatever they can really demonstrate to be true of physical nature, we must show to be capable of reconciliation with our Scriptures; and whatever they assert in their treatises which is contrary to these Scriptures of ours, that is to Catholic faith, we must either prove it as well as we can to be entirely false, or at all events we must, without the smallest hesitation, believe it to be so.”

    And thus we see Providentissimus Deus, affirmed by Humani Generis, affirmed by Pope St. John Paul II teaches the first quote given by Augustine: that the Catholic is bound by the scriptures and most defer to the scriptures even if they can’t prove the contrary doctrine false using science.

  7. Dr. Bob Kurland,

    As a scientist, how can you take seriously a book containing angels, demons, dragons, giants, nephilim, satyrs, unicorns and people living to 969?

  8. I think it is telling that ideological Materialists seem to have abandoned specious scientism to justify their beliefs and have embraced, instead, a rather vague anti-rational emotionalism.

    Bob, if your “Christian Faith” is based on some “becoming” “Evolutionary” perfection then I think that your “God of the world” is most likely found in de Chardin/George Soros’ ambitions.

  9. @swordfishtrombone

    Great men of science have always been present who believe in all those things. Why do think science precludes these things? Specifically?

    Incidentally the biblical use of unicorn is most likely talking about a one horned animal not the mythical creature. Same goes for satyr.

  10. To Swordfish Trombone: I take Scripture seriously in its moral teachings, but not as text of science, or as Sander van der Wal appropriately remarked, the Lord of the Rings is taken seriously, not as a factual description of Orcs and Elves, but for other reasons.
    To Oldavid and Mark:
    1)Why do the genetic similarities and differences between species, groups and genera not show similar origins? Please be specific.
    2) Wherein is the scientifi picture of the evolution of matter and the cosmos deficient? No expanding universe? No creation of the elements in big stars and subsequent dispersion through space by supernova events? etc? The Standard model for particle theory not correct? Please be specific.

  11. @ Hoyos,

    “Great men of science have always been present who believe in all those things. Why do think science precludes these things? Specifically?”

    Because there is no evidence for any of them.

  12. @Bob (genuinely and truly always enjoy our discussions–hopefully I can provide an interesting perspective)
    Firstly, I hold to St. Augustine and that I will defend what the Church teaches over anything else, and I hold to JPII and Pius XII authoritatively teach that the Church does not hold a specific position on evolution other than a few fixed points such as no polygenesis–so one can take a range of positions without incurring heresy. Also, if a particular evolutionary theory is taught by the Church as the correct interpretation of Genesis then I will learn it and defend it. As to your questions:

    1) Shared structure is consistent with a designer. If each organ is an example of degenerated ideal organ fitting a particular purpose (degenerated due to the Fall) then because different animals share common ends among themselves and with people we would expect to see similar mechanisms. This is not dissimilar to the machines built by civilizations that have no contact.
    2) General computational bottlenecks to evolution. E.g. on the theoretical side: https://eccc.weizmann.ac.il/report/2011/114/download/
    Also John Sanford Genetic Entropy: http://ge.tt/7mN7K6O/v/0
    On the practical side
    “As a chemist, and one that builds functional molecular nano-systems, I can give some informed input. For several decades I have been building molecular cars with functional motors, wheels, axles and chassis, and molecular nanosubmarines with light-activated motors and fluorescent pontoons, where many parts have to work in unison, and be planned to work in unison during redesign of major features. Even small changes in desired function can send the synthesis all the way back to step 1. In biology, the mechanisms for such transformations are complete mysteries. I posit that the gross chemical changes needed for macroevolution (defined here as origin of the major organismal groups, i.e., of the body plans, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_plan) are not understood and presently we cannot even suggest the mechanisms, let alone observe them. Any massive functional change of a body part would require multiple concerted lines of variations. Sure, one can suggest multiple small changes ad infinitum, but the concerted requirement of multiple changes all in the same place and at the same time, is impossible to chemically fathom. One day the requisite chemical basis might become apparent so that the questions can be answered. But present-day biology is far from providing even a chemical proposal for body plan changes, let alone a data-substantiated chemical mechanism. ”
    http://www.jmtour.com/personal-topics/evolution-creation
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Tour T. T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry, Rice University

  13. To take Mark’s analogy just a little further. All motor vehicles have things in common; like wheels, power pack (engine), control mechanisms, to name just a few. These are all necessary to make it do what it does and be what it is… a good system that is adapted to the various utilities that is intended for the machine. That there is an enormous variety of machines with some similarities does not indicate that one primitive machine spontaneously turned itself into all the other machines. One primitive motorbike did not turn itself into an enormous dump truck that can carry 400 tons of dirt out of a huge hole in the ground.

    Should we tell Mark that he’s wasting his time and effort trying to obtain the materials and expertise to construct nanomotors? Just sit on your hands, cobber, it will happen all by itself!?

    To those that speciously demand that I “explain myself” I reply that I have done so many, many times on this blog thingy but you refuse to comprehend it. It is against your ideological prejudice so you pretend that it doesn’t exist.

    I have always argued on realistic observational (scientific) grounds but the scientistic codswallop has always tried to turn it into an argument between Biblical and Pontifical statements vs. scientistic fashions. Hey! it’s an argument between what’s possible or impossible according to logic and observed reality. Bibles and Pontifications are irrelevant at this point.

    If entropy is a “natural law” then it is logically impossible that what we see now is not a degeneration from an antecedent higher order.

    Like I said: “Evolution” could be reasonably acceptable if you could demonstrate that logic and entropy do not exist or do not apply.

  14. [quote=Bob]2) Wherein is the scientifi picture of the evolution of matter and the cosmos deficient? No expanding universe? No creation of the elements in big stars and subsequent dispersion through space by supernova events? etc? The Standard model for particle theory not correct? Please be specific.[/quote]
    Do you expect that all of fashionable scientism’s claims should be refuted in minutiae in a comments section of a blog thingy?

    In general, contemporary ideological Materialism is a fantastic conjecture “supported” by even more fantastic conjectures that become even more fantastic as they are discredited by real science.

    For example, some ideologues who are forced to admit that the observed World as it is does not “self perfect” propose another fantastic (unobservable, untestable, but supposedly Naturalistic) “solution”…. Our Universe was dropped through a “worm hole” from another Universe where entropy works in reverse. “Science???” Ideological fantasy, I contend!

  15. @ Oldavid:

    “If entropy is a “natural law” then it is logically impossible that what we see now is not a degeneration from an antecedent higher order.”

    Dr. Kurland can probably explain this a lot better than I can, but I’ll have a go.

    Entropy only applies to closed systems. Given an external source of energy, a system can ‘swim against the tide’ and become more ordered. In the case of life on Earth, that external energy source is the Sun. In the case of my kids’ bedrooms, it’s me.

    Think of a house. If you leave it it will gradually decay and fall apart but if you expend energy fixing it, you can keep it in an ordered state. That energy is coming from the Sun, either from food or fossil fuels.

    In other words, entropy doesn’t offer any barrier at all to evolution.

  16. @swordfishtrombone

    There’s only no evidence if you refuse to accept eyewitness testimony, internally consistent textual evidence corroborating said testimony with archaeology, and the received wisdom of mankind regarding the existence of the supernatural. I’m not just saying eyewitness testimony from the Bible either, we also have testimony from men and women considered sane about supernatural experiences that line up with Biblical experiences. Read about the Vatican team that authenticates visions and miracles, they do not go easy on them.

    Additionally many respectable scientists of the modern day see evidence consistent with design in the fabric of the universe. We also believe in realities we can’t see or touch all the time, like time and space.

    It’s like refusing to accept the existence of say, Kinshasa, just because you’ve never been there and no one can produce Kinshasa in a lab.

    Now you may not be convinced by said evidence, or may believe it to be fabricated or deluded, fair enough, but saying “no” evidence is manifestly and completely false.

    You strike me as having less of an argument and more of a “sense” that a “real” man of science must be a materialist and anyone who isn’t doesn’t fit the image, therefore it’s not real. Am I wrong?

  17. OldDavid, Hoyos excellent points. Second Hoyos’s question to
    swordfishtrombone.

    @Bob

    On the genetic scars issue. I agree that’s evidence, but I argue its weak evidence at best because I don’t believe assumptions about non-functional areas. During the course of my lifetime the number of non-functional areas has decreased almost year by year as scientists have come to understand the genome better. Moreover, most scientifically sophisticated arguers for creationism believe that mutations are harmful and that there is genetic degeneration. This degeneration may also plausibly happen in a consistent manner across organisms with similar DNA (couple of mechanisms for doing so: e.g. transposable elements).

    In parallel this is like the “vestigial organs” approach, if one looks at original lists of vestigial organs most of them have been found to have some function as we understand better.

    I’m in greater favor of humility because we don’t really understand the genetic causes of human development, in the sense that we can’t map out a diagram for how genes enable biological function like the Krebs cycle or other functional, causal understanding of human biology. We can truly find problems or disease when the Krebs cycle does not perform normally in an organism because we have a causal understanding–this is not available in genetics so I’m dubious about functional examples. For a deeper understanding of what a causal understanding of something actually is I highly recommend our gracious host’s book:
    “Uncertainty: The Soul of Modeling, Probability & Statistics”

    On the page linked an example of scars given is genes for vitamin c synthesis. This is a great response paper: “The Human GULO Pseudogene”, Jeffrey Tomkins, 2014

  18. @ Mark, exactly so. I hold a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Chemistry. I was a class or two short of earning one in biology. Biology, for the bulk of its history, is agnostic of chemistry at best and ignorant at worst. Biochemistry is a young shoot off both fields. What you said is something that I noticed 40 years ago. I see nothing much has changed. I sometimes am credulous that no one has noticed that the ‘common ancestor’ may be nothing else but God Himself and not something that ever existed in material form.

  19. Here’s the thing that I am aware of with respect to mutations, having a foot in both camps. The system is designed to work using wet chemistry. It is thus ‘sloppy’ and must have in-built error detection and repair plus have a robustness in the face of variation. Mutations are mostly neutral. Some are beneficial right now. Some are not. Some will be beneficial in the future even if detrimental right now, but in the present, most organisms don’t and can’t know that. The system, in my opinion, conserves information through change, because it must, if it is to be fruitful and multiply and be seen by its Designer as “very good”.

  20. @ Mark, about mapping how genetics maps out the Krebs cycle, well, that was done 60/70 years ago by biochemists. The chemical part was done through isolating the enzymes involved and doing tracer studies. The genetics part began in earnest once the crystal structures of DNA and RNA was done (via x-ray crystallography, plus the enzyme folding topology was figured out this way, as well). Then, once we got a handle on DNA/RNA replication and RNA to protein transcription, that issue, in general terms, is known.

  21. swordfishtrombone asks “how can you take seriously a book containing angels, demons, dragons, giants, nephilim, satyrs, unicorns and people living to 969?”

    It’s probably in my DNA. The exact “how” I leave to those who consider themselves experts in such things. But to speculate it is probably related to risk triggers in my limbic system; a claim of danger or risk ought not to be ignored; neither should be ignored claims to better food, shelter, health and happiness.

    Occasionally such claims may turn out to be unfounded or untrue; in which case you weigh the expenditure of energy in finding out the truth with the proposed benefit or avoidance of harm.

    Religious scripture exists for both purposes: To avoid harm and to find happiness. There is very little demanded of a person and the benefits are enormous. Some of that benefit is here-and-now, the big promise cannot be known by most persons in this lifetime.

    As it happens, “Lord of the Rings” serves a similar purpose; exploration of good and evil, duty, honor, friendship.

  22. About said great work of literature, the author was a Professor of Anglo-Saxon and a philologist. A philologist is someone who studies how pronunciation changes, that is how the sound changes, in spoken languages. Said professor was a practicing Catholic and his great opus was based on and derived from the ancient Germanic myths and legends, that were lost to the descendants of the Anglo-Saxons. He wrote the story as a work of legendary history, as if it could have been told in Edwardian English had they survived. All such works that I am aware of are fictional but based on actual events told in oral histories.

    So yes, swordfish, I take the Bible seriously, not as a definitive how, but as a definite who, what and why. As mentioned previously, archeology has shown much of the historical truth of the places mentioned.

    Knowing how telomerases work, it is not a stretch to think that humans didn’t and couldn’t live in chemical bodies for 1000 years. We know that there are trees that are older than that and are still living. And yes, the people who told the stories knew what a year was and is. That people today don’t exceed the “And the span of a man’s years shall be 120” does not mean that they didn’t live longer than that previously.

  23. @ Mark, you’ve made some interesting comments about biochemistry, but you’ve not answered the other question I put about the evolution of matter, the Big Bang (origin from a singularity), expanding universe, standard model for particle theory. What I was (and am) trying to find out is whether you don’t believe in that science, but do believe in a literal account of Creation given in Genesis, or whether you do believe in that science and also in a literal account of Genesis 1; if the former, I can understand it although it seems that you have a selective belief in what in science is “true” and what is not; if the latter, then I wonder how you can achieve the required cognitive dissonance.

  24. @oldavid. I will try in this comment to let my Benedictine Oblate alter ego take hold, and squash the sarcastic, nasty side. So let me first state some general considerations. In replying to comments, I have three purposes in mind: 1) to learn something from the comment to which I’m replying; 2) to educate the person who made the comment; 3) to inform readers of a fallacious or nonsensical comment of its lack of merit. In your case, it’s clear the first two objectives can’t be met; with respect to the third, Swordfish Trombone has already commented on what entropy actually is about–I’ll say some more below. Now you say you’ve already commented on the science of cosmology, etc. in previous posts. That’s not so, or if you have it’s in a way that I don’t find comprehensible. You keep saying evolution (and I’m not talking about the Darwinian model for how evolution occurs) violates scientific principles. I’ve asked for particulars, but the only specific you’ve mentioned is entropy; however, I’m not sure if you understand the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It says that for an isolated system (no transfer of energy, matter) the entropy will never decrease (i.e. it may stay the same–system at equilibrium, or it may increase–system not at equilibrium). Only the universe is a truly isolated system. Animals are not isolated systems, nor is the world. To quote Clausius statement of the Second Law: “Die Entropie der Welt strebt einem Maximum zu”. (For “Welt”–read universe; in the 1860’s Clausius’s knowledge of cosmology was limited.) Here’s an example of a change of state in which the entropy decreases, via a reversible (equilibrium) process: 100 ml of liquid water at 0 C in a beaker in a temperature bath at -0.01 C changes to ice, system being the 100 ml of water. A more stringent thermodynamic requirement is that the Gibbs free energy change of a system (at constant pressure) or the Helmholtz free energy change (for constant volume) will never be positive if no external work is done on the system.
    If you would like to educate yourself as to what science is all about, there are a lot of online resources. I won’t promote any of my own posts, but you can Google “What science is all about”. So this will be the last of my replies to you, Oldavid. Good luck to you and good fortune.

  25. @Bob
    I believe in the literal account account of Genesis as taught by the Church. The Church has not ruled on whether the days are 24 hours or much longer time periods, indeed, she has specifically taught that the question of the meaning of “yom” in Genesis has not been settled. I hold by that position.

    I am much well less educated on the Big Bang theory and the related physics/cosmology (although I have given a go at it as it is a fascinating area). One may perfectly logically think of the creation of life on Earth as a miracle (not dissimilar to what God did with Even from Adam, or Jesus with Lazarus), but the Earth could be quite old (with observed geology/paleontology accounted for by catastrophic sedimentation). Similarly, we don’t really have great causal models that get us from the Big Bang to where we are now. My limited understanding indicates that there are problems of contradictions in explaining all of these phenomena such as “Gravitational Field Equations and Theory of Dark Matter and Dark Energy” Tian Ma,
    Discrete and Continuous Dynamical Systems – Series A, 2014 shows contradiction between Big Bang Theories and black hole theories. A lot of work has been done in string theory attempting to reconcile quantum mechanics with relativistic accounts of gravity:
    “Despite near unanimous agreement among physicists that a quantum theory of
    gravitation is needed to reconcile the contradictions between general relativity…”
    from “Is Quantum Gravity Necessary?”, James Mattingly, 5th International Conference on the History and Foundations of General Relativity, July 9, 1999.

    I think it is important, per Augustine, that I attempt to resolve contradictions as best I can, but the state of knowledge in most scientific fields is such that there are open problems and tensions between the several theories that are working on those problems. Truth can’t contradict truth, so there will have to be theories that move beyond current standard ones for relativity and quantum mechanics (maybe string theory?). These theories, on the other hand, are the basis for how people work out how the Big Bang happened, so I think its possible for our understanding to change a great deal as we develop better, more consistent physical theories. It’s certainly an area I find interesting and I like reading your work to understanding it better, Bob.

  26. OK, Mark your reply make a certain amount of sense. Let me say that you’re talking about conflicting “theories’ . I’m talking about observations: 1) the red shift that shows an expanding universe; 2) the lack of elements other than hydrogen and helium in young stars; 3) the COBE microwave background radiation that show an initial high energy event. Those are the observables–it can be explained in a general way using concepts from general relativity that are confirmed experimentally (e.g. detection of gravity waves by LIGO). When it comes down to the instant of creation–make that Creation–where distances are of the order of the Planch distance, then it gets tough because quantum mechanics and general relativity are based on different sorts of assumptions. But science is descriptive, not prescriptive, so all the science is about is trying to construct an ordered picture of what God has given us. There is and will probably continue to be, as Bernard d’Espagnat put it (he was one of the French physicists who ran the experiments disproving Bell’s Theorem), a “veiled reality” which we will never penetrate.
    And if you’d like a better view of what the evidence for all the cosmology is, you can go to my posts, Philosophic Issues in Cosmology, which summarizes a very fine article by George F.R. Ellis, a South African Cosmologist and winner of the Templeton Prize, see
    http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/2014/07/creation-what-science-can-and-cannot-say.html
    or better yet, go to his article, see
    https://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0602280v2.pdf

  27. Rightoh, Bob. You can be offended if you like; you can put on your prettiest delicate little princess dress and burst into tears but my personality “defects” are not much susceptible to “political correctness” gone mad.

    Many of the philosophy of science issues lurking here have already been generally addressed here:
    http://wmbriggs.com/post/19075/#comment-157287

    Once again, briefly, the “open/closed system” fallacy, diversion, evasion. A nearly closed system is very hard to achieve. Scientists and engineers work very hard trying to create localised closed systems in which to conduct experiments, observations, measurements etc. Any system working on another is itself a system. That Earth receives energy dissipated from the Sun is a system and entropy prevails. Input of energy does not spontaneously create order. To divert normally “randomly” dissipated energy into local systems ordered to extract “useful” work requires metaphysical inputs of intellect and will.

    The “expanding Universe” conjecture or speculation is based on the mere assumption that the “red shift” is caused by the “Doppler Effect” on light emitted from a receding body. Even the original proponent of the hypothesis had serious and increasing doubts about the viability of the idea. There is at least one more credible (in my opinion) possible explanation for the phenomenon but the “Big Bang” ideologues have seized on the Hubble hypothesis and presented it as an established “fact” simply because it suits the assumed ideology.

    However, getting bogged in pernicketies in the comments section of a statistician’s blog will not solve the general problems of a woefully degenerate philosophy of science.

  28. Just by the way, Hydrogen and Helium only exist in the Sun’s atmosphere… the rest of it (according to present best guess) is a blob of seething liquid plasma; not a lump of Deuterium turning into Helium.

  29. @ Hoyos:

    “There’s only no evidence if you refuse to accept eyewitness testimony, internally consistent textual evidence corroborating said testimony with archaeology, and the received wisdom of mankind regarding the existence of the supernatural”

    There is no eyewitness testimony in the Bible, full stop. Even if there were, eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable and is given low weighting in modern day court proceedings. The Harry Potter books are ‘internally consistent’ to a far greater extent than the Bible is, and there is no archeological evidence for anything supernatural.

    “Read about the Vatican team that authenticates visions and miracles, they do not go easy on them.”

    I’ve read about some of those investigations and they didn’t strike me as the least bit convincing. In addition, where are the miraculous healings of amputees?

    “Additionally many respectable scientists of the modern day see evidence consistent with design in the fabric of the universe.”

    Where are their peer-reviewed papers presenting said evidence? You need to find evidence which is inconsistent with naturalistic explanations, not just evidence which is ‘consistent with’ design.

    “Now you may not be convinced by said evidence, or may believe it to be fabricated or deluded, fair enough, but saying “no” evidence is manifestly and completely false.”

    If you want to be pedantic then yes, there is ‘evidence’, but it’s less credible than that for UFOs, bigfoot or the Earth being flat. I wrote ‘evidence’ as a shorthand for ‘credible scientific evidence’.

    Does that answer you question?

  30. swordfishtrombone, without whom we wouldn’t be having much of a conversation, writes: “There is no eyewitness testimony in the Bible, full stop. Even if there were, eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable and is given low weighting in modern day court proceedings.”

    Why then do courts bother with witnesses?

    You use them for ephemeral evidences. What did I have for supper last night? It’s gone; eaten! I can declare it and perhaps someone witnessed it. Did I see lightning last night? Yes, and I might have been the only one that just happened to be looking in that direction at that moment.

    “The Harry Potter books are ‘internally consistent’ to a far greater extent than the Bible is”

    That is fairly normal for fiction by a single author.

    “and there is no archeological evidence for anything supernatural.”

    Hence the word “supernatural”. But I wonder what, in your wildest imagination, such archaeological evidence would be, and why you consider it useful or important?

    “In addition, where are the miraculous healings of amputees?”

    I have no idea. This is where witnesses enter the picture. I cannot think of any evidence that cannot be faked. It is easy enough to determine that a person is not an amputee, but whether he was in the past an amputee is not so easily determined in an absolutely non-falsifiable way.

    “Where are their peer-reviewed papers presenting said evidence?”

    I have no idea. I don’t need no steenkin gatekeepers on my testimony. Can you imagine the difficulty I would have getting peers to certify that I did indeed see lightning last night? They have no idea whether I saw lightning (or God) last night.

    “You need to find evidence which is inconsistent with naturalistic explanations”

    Now we are getting somewhere. You have no idea how many years I have waited for someone to explain what it is they are looking for; and how absurd is the request.

    It is like one fish trying to prove the existence of “water” to another fish. It would seem impossible for as long as both have lived in it their entire lives. You become aware of water only upon leaving it: “Oh, THAT was water!” gasps the fish, and then dies.

    Whatever sorts of things God does, he does it regularly and has been doing it for billions of years. We are *immersed* in God evidence, and thus, do not and cannot see it, until we leave it.

    “If you want to be pedantic then yes, there is ‘evidence’, but it’s less credible than that for UFOs, bigfoot or the Earth being flat. I wrote ‘evidence’ as a shorthand for ‘credible scientific evidence’.”

    Then you ask the impossible; a fool’s errand which is fun sometimes to argue about but you’ve already decided on your personal definition of God, and you demand proof for a God that *you* have defined, knowing that it is unlikely.

    A wiser man would ask others that believe in God why they believe in God. It is unlikely that merely someone’s word would change your mind, but at least you would be a more interesting conversationalist than demanding something that cannot exist: Proof sufficient to *your* standard; when that standard does not exist and cannot exist.

    If God moved mountains, then they would move every day, and it would be normal, and you would still be looking for something “supernatural” since moving mountains would then be natural. Everything God does is “natural”.

    What you want is something special, just for you, distinctive and meets your particular test. Well, if it was important to God then your terms would be met and you would know. Since it seems you do not know I conclude that your belief is not as important to God as some here might suggest ought to be the case.

    As for me, I have many evidences ranging from slightly unusual to definitely supernatural; but in all cases, ephemeral. I cannot give you peer reviewed scientific evidence, I have no intention of doing so, it serves no purpose. God’s sheep know his voice and if you don’t know his voice then you aren’t one of his. That seems a bit uncharitable and some people do hear his voice and simply don’t recognize it for what it is. That is where personal testimony comes in; people describe their experiences and you might say, “That has happened to me!” and if a thing that seems mostly ordinary has happened to many people, then maybe there’s more to it than meets the eye.

    Parables of sifting wheat from chaff tell me that God does not intend for all people to be “wheat” but does intend to discover which is wheat and which is chaff; and for that, there cannot be “peer reviewed scientific evidence” lest someone unworthy nevertheless believe (the parable of the believing devils).

    To assist in this sifting, there must be opposition, a wind that blows away the chaff. That seems to be where you come in so I encourage you to continue your questions and opposition.

  31. @swordfishtrombone
    There’s a recognized process involving scientists for medical miracle investigation.
    Consider “The Role of the Physician in Certifying Miracles in the Canonization Process of the Catholic Church III”, JC Harvey, 2007
    and the Royal Society of Medicine has identified medically inexplicable cures at Lourdes: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/014107688407700803 in a 1984 paper. There’s others if you google.

    The most major miracle is probably the miracle of the sun which appeared at Fatima on Oct. 13, 1917. That the event happened is supported by the fact that many skeptics (including the Editor of an anti-catholic newspaper) and many people in the surrounding villages saw it. Indeed, there has even been a Journal of Meteorology paper on it: S. Campbell, “The Miracle of the Sun at Fátima,” Journal of Meteorology, Vol. 14, No. 142, 1989. There were a number of other things such as the fact that the muddy field dried up, which were miraculous about it.

    One aspect of the miracle is the fact that the three shepherd children predicted the event in advance, that they did so is well-documented and one of the most inexplicable aspects of the miracle.

  32. Mark writes: “One aspect of the miracle is the fact that the three shepherd children predicted the event in advance, that they did so is well-documented and one of the most inexplicable aspects of the miracle.”

    If you make enough predictions eventually one or more will “come true”. We see this in global warming predictions. What would make it more persuasive is showing that predictions of this kind always “come true” so that it isn’t just a random bit of luck.

    I suppose I too was/am a seeker of signs; but the best most reliable sign is one that I have not declared in advance to anyone! If God knows the thoughts of my mind; then he knows what will be persuasive.

    There are ways to “objectify” a claim but such ways can be used only once and then collusion kicks in and it becomes impossible to tell the difference between a genuine (but small) miracle and an agreement between people to defraud others for a moment of fame. That’s why I seldom go into the details; it persuades only the already persuaded and the gifts were for me.

  33. I suppose I should add that the enemy of God also knows what signs you are seeking. So obtaining that sign only shows the existence of God or his enemy, but not which one in particular you just encountered. If you know the difference between love and fear that can certainly help distinguish.

  34. @swordfishtrombone

    I cited the Campbell Fátima article because it lends credence to the event occurrence, but the article’s theory makes predictions about the event which contradict eye witness testimony–such as the fact the stratospheric dust would not produce the sun zig-zagging which was reported by the witnesses. Most other reports also fail on this account (there has been other peer-reviewed work on the topic as well e.g. “The Dynamic Behavior of the Electrically Charged Cloud of the Ice Crystals”, Artur Wirowski, J. Applied Mathematics and Physics, 2014).

  35. “Michael 2” so which other specific time-bound predictions did the shepherd children make that didn’t come true? Out of those miracles that have been confirmed as genuine by the Vatican, how many other predictions did those same seers make that didn’t come true? Usually seers with confirmed miracles don’t make specific time-bound predictions and when they do they come true (plenty of medieval examples of this, fewer such seers more recently).

    Moreover, there is a tremendous consistency in terms of the messages from these miracles (e.g. Marian apparitions), that tips against the random luck hypothesis, since one wouldn’t expect consistent messages if the mechanism for confirming predictions was luck.

    I would agree, though, that there have been many heretics and others outside the Church who have not had successful predictions.

    The enemy can do preternatural things (e.g. Tsarevich Alexei’s treatment by Rasputin) where the cures are not miraculous are require long periods of convalescence so are not fully “inexplicable”. But, we should expect wonderous signs coming from false prophets according to the Bible so you are right to be skeptical Michael 2 without an investigation, one is also free, for grave reason, to not believe in any confirmed miracle by the Vatican.

    These miracles are important because they help us better understand the supernatural events of the Gospel and those recorded by Moses and the prophets after him. Also St. Paul specifically says: “despise not prophecy” 1 Thessalonians 5:20.

    Augustine indicates the importance of miracles for spreading the faith and he witnessed a few personally: see City of God ch. 8-10 (he also handles signs from demons as well).

  36. Mark asks “so which other specific time-bound predictions did the shepherd children make that didn’t come true?”

    Perhaps these children don’t exist. All I have is your word of your belief; and that’s the point. All any of us have, for others, is our words. The best kind of words are first person experience; you tell me your stories, I tell you mine. Up close and personal; I can see your eyes and feel the passion in your voice. Here on the internet I don’t have those things so instead consistency of viewpoint and story is about the best I can do.

    If many people have the same or similar word (or experience), and were not in collusion, then the idea they all agree on is more likely to be factual. But in any top-down hierarchy the problem of collusion is automatic. Fruit of the same tree.

    What Trombone wants is corroboration by someone that isn’t in ANY religion. That would be pretty good corroboration; but what would it mean? Not much. It is unlikely that any person would suddenly become a Catholic, abandon all of his sins, just because of, say, raising the dead. This person would be impressed, say, “Wow, how did you do that?” then go back to his lifestyle. The scriptural example is http://biblehub.com/matthew/12-44.htm

    A change in heart and mind comes first, then come signs and miracles if appropriate to help this person understand his choice. People are converted by the spirit of God, not by outward signs (although signs might get someone’s attention).

    “Out of those miracles that have been confirmed as genuine by the Vatican, how many other predictions did those same seers make that didn’t come true?”

    I have no idea and neither do you since failed predictions seldom make news, nor are they counted, unless they are outlandish such as “children just won’t know what snow is” (Dr. Viner’s Famous Prediction). Confirmation bias exists.

    How many predictions or beliefs have *I* made that turned out exactly so; versus how many did not? My score seems pretty good but quite often when I feel inspired to do or not do something to avert disaster it is then unknowable whether the disaster would have taken place, or not, without heeding the warning. This is a problem for conditional prophecies (which most are). You avoid the condition and avoid the doom. Was there really a doom potential? Who can say for sure?

    But in one instance I heeded a warning and the proof of it was nearly instantaneous. I heard words, plain as can be, “change lanes now”, so I did. I changed lanes and a second or two later coming over the hill at high speed, in the opposite direction, a drunken driver in the lane I had just vacated. This was before cellphone but I’m an amateur radio operator so I called the police. The fact of them having been notified, and catching the drunk driver, is a matter of record. What is not a matter of record is why I was alive to make the report.

    “Moreover, there is a tremendous consistency in terms of the messages from these miracles (e.g. Marian apparitions), that tips against the random luck hypothesis, since one wouldn’t expect consistent messages if the mechanism for confirming predictions was luck.”

    I expect consistent messages from a hierarchical, highly structured mystical church that places great value on such things.

    “The enemy can do preternatural things”

    And that is why Jesus’ counsel was to plant the seed and see what fruit grows from it. There is no simple obvious formula for distinguishing God from his enemy. Signs and miracles are fine things and ought to follow belief; not precede it.

    “you are right to be skeptical Michael 2 without an investigation, one is also free, for grave reason, to not believe in any confirmed miracle by the Vatican.”

    Belief in God seems to be a Christian requirement. Faith, hope and charity are requirements. Miracles aren’t usually intended to be public affairs.

    “These miracles are important because they help us better understand the supernatural events of the Gospel and those recorded by Moses and the prophets after him. Also St. Paul specifically says: “despise not prophecy” 1 Thessalonians 5:20.”

    I treat them as gifts intended for the recipient; often ONLY for the recipient. How often did Jesus work a miracle and then tell the beneficiary to tell no one about it? Most of the time, I think. Of course they did go tell others so I don’t know how serious was Jesus about such things since he had to know the natural behavior of people.

    These are things that are shared in a group of already-believers; to strengthen their belief and build community. I’ve had some pretty remarkable things happen; to share it in a group of believers opens a door to them also sharing their experiences, and together we become stronger and we learn from each experience. To share such experience with disbelievers (not merely non-believers, but actively opposing such things) is “casting pearls”. It is the duty of a few prophets now and then to do exactly that so as to establish a witness against ungodly belief and behavior but is not a duty (in my opinion) of the members to each go against the enemy of God. Some of Jesus’ disciples attempted it and were rebuked; they were not prepared for it and it wasn’t their duty. There is a gift of God; the discerning of spirits (presumably before they have discerned YOU).

    “Augustine indicates the importance of miracles for spreading the faith and he witnessed a few personally: see City of God ch. 8-10 (he also handles signs from demons as well).”

    As you point out, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of that sort of thing recently; and with modern technology it would be remarkably difficult to convince anyone that any documentation wasn’t just “CGI”.

  37. Michael 2
    There’s lots of non-catholic witnesses to the shepherd children, the miracle was in 1917 you can google to find lots of information about witnesses: there were accounts in Diario de Noticias and O Seculo on October 15, 1917 relating the number of witness > 50,000 and describing the event (O Seculo had an editor there), if you read about those papers you’ll find they were anti-Catholic. I’m not sure whey you’re questioning their existence, this is rather bizarre.

    I think you need grace to believe, miracles lend credibility to testimony: (John 10:38): “Though you will not believe Me, believe the works”; and (John 5:36): “The works which the Father hath given Me to perfect . . . themselves . . . give testimony to Me.”

    St. Paul furthers this for the particular miracle of speaking in tongues: (1 Corinthians 14:22) “Thus talking with a strange tongue is a sign given to unbelievers, not to the faithful; whereas prophecy is meant for the faithful, not for unbelievers.”

    I expect consistent messages from a hierarchical, highly structured mystical church that places great value on such things.

    If these inexplicable events were random chance or a random process, they wouldn’t be expected to align with the Catholic Church. The fact that they do is what is miraculous.

    I have no idea and neither do you since failed predictions seldom make news, nor are they counted, unless they are outlandish such as “children just won’t know what snow is” (Dr. Viner’s Famous Prediction). Confirmation bias exists.

    Actually the statements of seers associated with confirmed miracles by the Vatican generally have all of their public statements compiled so that their cause for sainthood/beatification can be examined. We actually have very good records of things like this, so you can get estimates of time-bound predictions. I’ve studied a lot of saints and a lot of prophecies. It’s very easy to just say that one can’t know something, because then that excuses sloth.

    And that is why Jesus’ counsel was to plant the seed and see what fruit grows from it. There is no simple obvious formula for distinguishing God from his enemy. Signs and miracles are fine things and ought to follow belief; not precede it.

    Its not simple and always obvious, but the enemy is not capable of the same things that God is capable of such as the Miracle of Calanda (where God healed an amputee).

    I’m also not saying miracles will convince everybody. I’m just repeating what Jesus and St. Paul said about miracles being helpful.

  38. Mark writes “I’m not sure whey you’re questioning their existence, this is rather bizarre.”

    It is “Socratic”. I used to question my own existence until Descartes showed the way out of that quagmire.

    Question yourself ruthlessly; after all, everyone else will. The bible proves itself. Well, very likely so does the Urantia Book (TL;DR).

    “I think you need grace to believe, miracles lend credibility to testimony”

    Yes, that’s kind of what I have been saying but not perhaps with Catholic words.

    St. Paul furthers this for the particular miracle of speaking in tongues: (1 Corinthians 14:22) “Thus talking with a strange tongue is a sign given to unbelievers, not to the faithful; whereas prophecy is meant for the faithful, not for unbelievers.”

    I should study this a bit more; I’m not sure what people make of it a bunch of people standing around suddenly speaking Swahili. In fact, it almost seems backwards; prophecy (such as the Revelation) is written for future generations most of whom will be unbelievers SO THAT when these things happen, people can see that it had been written, and thus *become* believers. Speaking in tongues serves no purpose upon non-believing audience but can be compelling on a group of believers particularly if anyone knows what anyone else is actually saying at such times. I tend to be extremely suspicious of that particular sign; if you’ve got something to say, speak in my language, unless you can’t, in which case either you will get a gift to speak in mine, or I will get a gift to hear yours (I’ve experienced that one briefly).

    “If these inexplicable events were random chance or a random process, they wouldn’t be expected to align with the Catholic Church. The fact that they do is what is miraculous.”

    I evidently didn’t make myself clear. Perhaps you have noticed that peculiarly Catholic miracles happen in, and are reported by, the Catholic church. If a miracle happens that falls outside the realm of acceptable miracles, you simply don’t report it. The doctrines of any church establish the boundaries of acceptable reporting of miracles. It becomes somewhat self-fulfilling.

    Suppose you saw God and his Son Jesus, as Saul of Tarsus did, and report it that they were two distinct, individual persons. What then? Well it depends. The Catholics have quite a few unpronounceable (to me) latin words trying to explain what seems simple enough to me; but some born-again evangelists take it to an extreme, basically saying it didn’t happen that way because it cannot happen that way; Jesus *is* God.

    So whether you declare what you believe to be your personal miracle depends a lot on the consequences, rewards or punishments, for doing so. I suspect that many more minor miracles exist than are reported for this very reason.

    “Its not simple and always obvious, but the enemy is not capable of the same things that God is capable of such as the Miracle of Calanda (where God healed an amputee).”

    I agree with you; the enemy of God is not god nor does he wield that power. It is clear from the book of Job that the enemy of God is permitted some liberty on Earth and is by all reports the master of cunning; which means he also won’t always lie (tell untruth) or always anything by which you could easily detect him or his kind. Having your own sense of right and wrong, faith hope and charity, is probably the best defense.

    “I’m also not saying miracles will convince everybody. I’m just repeating what Jesus and St. Paul said about miracles being helpful.”

    Agreed; they are helpful, particular upon the beneficiary of the miracle.

  39. Agreed; they are helpful, particular upon the beneficiary of the miracle.

    I mean Mexico was converted by the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

    It is “Socratic”. I used to question my own existence until Descartes showed the way out of that quagmire.

    Question yourself ruthlessly; after all, everyone else will. The bible proves itself. Well, very likely so does the Urantia Book (TL;DR).

    It is not Socratic–he never questioned his own existence. St. Augustine hit upon the idea that you can’t doubt your own existence 1000 years before Descartes made mention of it. Anyway the miracles were known to the Jews and the Romans: John 11:47-8: “So the chief priests and Pharisees summoned a council; What are we about? they said. This man is performing many miracles, 48 and if we leave him to his own devices, he will find credit everywhere. Then the Romans will come, and make an end of our city and our race.”

    The miracles were known to lots of people. And Jesus also rebuked people who didn’t trust eye-witness testimony: Luke 24:9-25 ending with “Then he [Jesus] said to them: O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken.” and John 20:29: “Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.”

    Also your whole point about we can tell the difference between demons and God is similar to the accusations leveled by the Pharisees against Jesus. But only God can cast out demons:

    Matthew 12:21-30

    And in his name the Gentiles shall hope. [22] Then was offered to him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb: and he healed him, so that he spoke and saw. [23] And all the multitudes were amazed, and said: Is not this the son of David? [24] But the Pharisees hearing it, said: This man casteth not out the devils but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. [25] And Jesus knowing their thoughts, said to them: Every kingdom divided against itself shall be made desolate: and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.

    [26] And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself: how then shall his kingdom stand? [27] And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. [28] But if I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come upon you. [29] Or how can any one enter into the house of the strong, and rifle his goods, unless he first bind the strong? and then he will rifle his house. [30] He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.

    On your point about “self-fulfilling”, if there was such self-fulfilling we should have lots of documents of miracles from other groups as well, shouldn’t we? This simply does not seem to be the case. I’m talking about predictions associated with seers who have confirmed miracles. On your point about not-reported, failed predictions are precisely the sort of thing that the Advocatus Diaboli (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_advocate) would be looking for to prove against the cause of sainthood. The Catholic Church often rejects people with apparent miracles because there was something off in their personal history. Confirmed miracles are reported, so you’re saying there’s a lot of failed predictions by these saints, whose papers, statements, etc. are collected for their cause of sainthood. I’ve never seen such evidence, but maybe you could produce some. I think its reasonable to request you provide some evidence for these accusations you are making against the Church. The Church has many enemies who are constantly looking for mistakes she makes, if she made lots of bad predictions then we would never hear the end of them (indeed that’s how it works with cults that have predicted doomsday events that don’t come to pass).

    Moreover, unique to Fátima was the large crowd gathered, so it wasn’t just a matter of prediction it was a public prediction known to many people. When seers with confirmed miracles make specific, public predictions we don’t run into your not-counted phenomenon.

  40. @ Sander van der Wal: (and assorted others)

    “That would be the “The Lord of the Rings”?”

    No one claims that LotR is a true historical account, bases a religion on it or engages in mass murder because of it.

  41. @ Mark:

    “OldDavid, Hoyos excellent points.”

    Haha – wait, are you being serious?

    “On the genetic scars issue…”
    “I believe in the literal account account of Genesis as taught by the Church”

    It’s instructive that religious believers try and pick at minute perceived inconsistencies in scientific theories, but ignore gigantic gaping holes in their own account(s).

    Why did an omnipotent god have to rest on the seventh day of creation? What happened on the eighth day – more time off? Why did God allow the Fall of Man? Why did it take God more days to create just the Earth than the entire rest of the universe? Why did it take him any time at all? Where did the authors of Genesis get their information from? Also, talking snake!

  42. swordfishtrombone wrote “it’s instructive that religious believers try and pick at minute perceived inconsistencies in scientific theories, but ignore gigantic gaping holes in their own account(s).”

    Beams and motes is the religious equivalent concept.

    “Why did an omnipotent god have to rest on the seventh day of creation?”

    He chose to. In fact, he chose to make it six days when it could have been instantaneous.

    “What happened on the eighth day – more time off?”

    The record does not specify.

    “Why did God allow the Fall of Man?”

    An omnipotent, omniscient God arranged the fall of man. As to his reasons you’d have to ask the Mormons 😉

    “Why did it take God more days to create just the Earth than the entire rest of the universe?”

    Lots of fine detail. Everything else is just blobs in the sky.

    “Why did it take him any time at all?”

    Indeed. See my first comment.

    “Where did the authors of Genesis get their information from? Also, talking snake!”

    Why not? Harry Potter has them.

    I have little doubt that nearly impenetrable answers exist for thousands of questions; fodder for straining at gnats.

    As for me, I have a doubt that God is as “Omni” as portrayed; yet while he might be more “Omni” than he routinely demonstrates it is clear that he allows natural processes to proceed. After all, that very same Genesis does not say God created all life; it says the EARTH brought forth every living thing and God saw that it was good. The intervention appears to be limited to Adam and Eve.

    As to days, well, the sun was created on the third day so they aren’t solar days. As it happens, apparently they aren’t days at all. Hebrew didn’t have a word for “day” as in 24 hour period; they denoted time by the separation of evening and morning and you actually see that construction. So I use “epoch” for “day” in reading it.

    It is very likely Sumerian in origin and that’s an interesting topic.

    Your mileage probably varies.

  43. @ underwater noise pollution

    Your entirely spurious heckling from a position of no credibility should be a lesson for all. I hope you are the only one who pays any attention to your irrational pot shots.

    You silly fellow, God (by definition) doesn’t need to “rest”… He was just indicating that you do according to the Order of Creation.

    He allowed Man to fall just because one cannot be wise without the option of being foolish… one cannot be good without the option of being bad.

    I don’t think it took Him any “time” at all.

    “Talking snakes” are with us everywhere everyday. You are a prime example.

  44. @ cdquarles:

    “I take the Bible seriously, not as a definitive how, but as a definite who, what and why. As mentioned previously, archeology has shown much of the historical truth of the places mentioned.”

    The fact that there’s archeological evidence that some places mentioned in the Bible actually existed is not exactly surprising and not any sort of evidence that any of the events (supernatural or otherwise) described in it actually happened. In addition, why mention it when you claim that it doesn’t matter in your previous sentence?

    “That people today don’t exceed the “And the span of a man’s years shall be 120” does not mean that they didn’t live longer than that previously.”

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  45. @ Michael 2:

    Your comment is too lengthy to reply to, so I picked out these quotes:

    “you would be a more interesting conversationalist than demanding something that cannot exist: Proof”

    I apologise for being an uninteresting conversationalist, but I’m interested only in what is true.

    “Everything God does is “natural”.”

    Then god is consistent with no god, which then becomes the preferred explanation due to being simpler.

    “Parables of sifting wheat from chaff tell me that God does not intend for all people to be “wheat” but does intend to discover which is wheat and which is chaff;”

    Why would god arrange things so as to preferentially save easily convinced people rather than sceptics? That’s another feature of religion which seems to have been placed there to discourage scepticism and which is strongly suggesive of it all being a lie.

  46. @ Mark:

    “The Miracle of the Sun at Fátima”

    If the Sun had zigg-zagged across the sky, we’d all be dead, so I can safely assume that didn’t happen, or was a misinterpretation of a natural event. The extra embellishment of having three children predicting this is a particularly unconvincing addition.

    Even if the whole thing were true, I have to ask why god would be messing about with silly aerial displays while millions of people have cancer or are starving?

    Also, as per Michael 2’s comment, don’t miracles encourage ‘uworthy’ people to believe in god?

  47. @swordfishtrombone

    I have no idea what happened at Fatima, if it were an astronomical phenomena then you’re right there would be other effects. The point is that 70,000 people saw something, including people not expecting to see something (“O Seculo” editors, random village people who happened to be nearby). A particularly unconvincing addition? All those 70,000 people showed up without somebody predicting their would be something there? I mean, why would a bunch of people show up in a field out in the countryside if there wasn’t a prediction? There’s plenty of documentation of the prediction anyway since the shepherd children were also briefly held by the government and threatened prior to this miracle as well. Plenty of eyewitnesses account say that the clothes and field were dry immediately following the miracle despite the rain prior to the miracle (which was only about 20 minutes). The dry clothes is a very odd part, since people didn’t mention any particular thing about heat.

    As to why God would do this miracle rather than some other thing: at the outset, religious folk do not claim that religion answers all questions about God’s motivations or plans for things. His plans might only be known much later. Why do this miracle rather than others: He was warning us about Russia spreading her errors and being an instrument of chastisement. Russia definitely became a threat when the communist revolution happened shortly after and the Soviet Union was a menace to the West.

    Also, while stopping suffering and cancer in this life is important. Given the afterlife is infinite, not sinning is infinitely more important. Doing things for the sake of God is good for all time, forever. In terms of personal utility, going to Heaven and not Hell is infinitely more important than anything else one can do. So, warnings about spiritual dangers are vastly more important, indeed, it would be irrational to think about anything else in this framework. With that said, as shown in the Royal Society of Medicine paper He does do healings. And since God is the unique self-subsistent being that sustains the Universe as it is right now, all people who do get healed are healed through His power anyway, so we give credit where credit is due. The argument given on this account doesn’t even require revelation, all it requires is clear metaphysical thinking.

    God knows who to show a miracle to such that it is best for them, and everybody is called to God. Michael2’s comments do not fit well with the 2000 year tradition of the Church (which is in continuity with the 4000 year Hebraic traditions before that). Nobody is inherently unworthy and we can atone for our sins through sacramental baptism and confession. Including you swordfishtrombone, and you have my prayers.

  48. Also @swordfishtrombone
    my recommended process for understanding these issues (which closely mirrored my own conversion and was laid out by Pope Gregory XVI) is:

    1. Understanding immateriality of the soul. Dr. Briggs’ intro to Summa Contra Gentiles is excellent here. Dr. Edward Feser’s argument using Ross’ paper on the immateriality of thought is also important here.

    2. Understand the ontological proof of God. Feser “Last Superstition” is the recommended resource here. This gets you a starting point for natural theology (i.e. no divine revelation). To get the full details comprehensively handling the contrary arguments Garrigou-Lagrange, God, His Existence and Nature.

    3. Learn the natural law and its metaphysics (Feser Last Superstition is good here, Garrigou-Lagrange is better for going deeper).

    Then learn about miracles since they are easier to interpret in light of these things. Its sort of like, one can’t appreciate the beauty of a physics experiment without the necessary background. Sure, somebody unschooled in physics might not be impressed with the Higgs Boson experiment, but it means a great deal when you understand its context.

    Its worth it, we have peer-reviewed articles in top journals about these phenomena.

  49. Mark writes: “Michael2’s comments do not fit well with the 2000 year tradition of the Church”

    No intention existed to do such a thing. SFT’s questions are worthy and I don’t mind acknowledging such things. An Omni-everything God could easily zap every human being with Belief and Obedience. So why is everyone not a believer or obedient?

    William Briggs has leaned toward “Omni” with a more nuanced view, I think, that it means everything that is possible not “everything”. I lean toward that also, but perhaps with a sense that some things may simply not be possible and choices must be made, even by God, depending on the Ultimate Goal.

    It is the identification of this ultimate goal that distinguishes some of the churches.

    Every living thing on Earth makes more of its own kind. This is a universal pattern. Adam was made in the image of God. Part of the pattern.

  50. swordfishtrombone writes “…but I’m interested only in what is true.”

    As am I. But to find diamonds one must dig through a lot of dirt, and the diamond might itself be dirty; they don’t look like much in the raw.

    “Then god is consistent with no god, which then becomes the preferred explanation due to being simpler.”

    That is your preference. It is not mine. Either way it is evident that God does not manifest himself dramatically; for if he did, it would cease to be dramatic, it would be ordinary. No matter what anyone thinks of God, whatever it is will seem to be ordinary! People seek extraordinary and by so seeking fail to find God. He’s “not in the whirlwind” says the old testament, but a “still, small voice”. Barely detectable.

    “Why would god arrange things so as to preferentially save easily convinced people rather than sceptics?”

    You are mixing religions but that’s okay; the nuances that seem important to me have not been studied by you. “Easily convinced” people are also easily convinced into error. They don’t STAY convinced. There’s a parable for that, too. Also, these demonstrations aren’t all from God. Some might not even be from his enemy; some might be purely natural phenomenon. But there’s no harm in believing God arranged for something that may well be purely natural and random. There’s no harm in believing God knows that something perfectly natural is about to happen and announces it in advance. That doesn’t mean God *caused* it, just anticipated it; but in some thought methods God causes everything: good, bad and ugly. I don’t think that way but it is a very common way.

    When you’ve made your choices after a long hard search, you (or I) tend to stay with the choice.

    “That’s another feature of religion which seems to have been placed there to discourage scepticism and which is strongly suggesive of it all being a lie.”

    Rather a lot of it *is* a lie. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out which parts are true (the wheat) and which parts are not (the chaff).

  51. @Michael2

    I’m just clarifying for SWT where different perspectives are coming from. Also free-will means that we have a choice, if God compelled us we wouldn’t have free will and, necessarily, have an intellect since the operation of the intellect is tied to choices and judgements we freely make. Being ‘zapped’ as you say would be unconscious, and the decisions flowing from it would be unconscious or in violation of our will. Existence is a good thing (we know since God is good and he created us). So to enforce that ultimately we must obey Him, and since we exist in the end we will either freely choose to love God (heaven) or we will be opposed in everything and suffer punishment (hell).

    St. Thomas has an excellent analysis of how free-will is necessitated for our intellect as a rational creature:
    From the Summa Theologia, I, Q83, a1

    On the contrary, It is written (Sirach 15:14): “God made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his own counsel”; and the gloss adds: “That is of his free-will.”

    I answer that, Man has free-will: otherwise counsels, exhortations, commands, prohibitions, rewards, and punishments would be in vain. In order to make this evident, we must observe that some things act without judgment; as a stone moves downwards; and in like manner all things which lack knowledge. And some act from judgment, but not a free judgment; as brute animals. For the sheep, seeing the wolf, judges it a thing to be shunned, from a natural and not a free judgment, because it judges, not from reason, but from natural instinct. And the same thing is to be said of any judgment of brute animals. But man acts from judgment, because by his apprehensive power he judges that something should be avoided or sought. But because this judgment, in the case of some particular act, is not from a natural instinct, but from some act of comparison in the reason, therefore he acts from free judgment and retains the power of being inclined to various things. For reason in contingent matters may follow opposite courses, as we see in dialectic syllogisms and rhetorical arguments. Now particular operations are contingent, and therefore in such matters the judgment of reason may follow opposite courses, and is not determinate to one. And forasmuch as man is rational is it necessary that man have a free-will.

  52. @SWT

    No god is simpler.

    This actually isn’t true, as the cosmological and ontological arguments show: e.g. http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/so-you-think-you-understand.html
    The point is simplicity is a property of physical theories, and God is not a physical theory. This is why understanding the immateriality of the soul is important before addressing God.

    I didn’t assert that the Riemann integral is simpler than the Lebesgue integral, therefore the latter “doesn’t exist”. Both are implied by the axioms of mathematics. The existence of God is shown by metaphysical first principles: basic statements about causation, identity, non-contradiction, motion, essence, which are necessarily assumed in any rational dialogue in order for the concept of a rational dialogue to be coherent.
    One of my favorite approaches (due to Garrigou-Lagrange) is to divide beings into contingent beings (things that exist potentially and are then actualized) v.s. non-contingent beings (everything else) and then show that the set of non-contingent beings necessarily has only a single element which is the root cause of all the non-contingent beings. There are, however, many other variations of that proof, and Edward Feser knows these much better than I do.

  53. @ Mark:

    Q: Why did it take God more days to create just the Earth than the entire rest of the universe?

    A: “Lots of fine detail. Everything else is just blobs in the sky.”

    Easily the best answer I’ve ever had to a question about the Bible.

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