« Teens, blogging, homeschooling and murder | Main | All trails lead to Camarillo »

November 17, 2005

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451be0d69e200d8346230aa53ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference ID Me:

Comments

Ian

Amy,

Let me address your second point:

On the other hand, self-professed theists who are dismissive of Intelligent Design - are you saying that the traditional Argument from Design is baseless? That the hand of God is not evident in creation? That creation tells us nothing about God other than...God started it, I guess?

(a) The "traditional" argument does not employ the word "Design," so we really have a non-starter here. The "traditional" argument is that our Father is the Creator of the Universe. Most biologists and scientists would agree with you on that, but that statement is the beginning of the Credo, not a scientifically determined fact. It is not an argument in the logical or scientific sense.

(b) The "self-professed theist" opponent of ID does not claim that "That the hand of God is not evident in creation." Rather he or she states that the hypothesis "the hand of God is evident in creation" is not a scientific hypothesis, because it cannot be disproven by any experiment: not because it is true, but because it is ill posed.

For instance, if I tell you that God created the world (as it is) merely five minutes ago, there is nothing you can do to disprove my "hypothesis." It is a nonscientific hypothesis because it can't be tested. Behe's hypothesis is similarly ill posed. Worse, it contains a critical logical error: "If A implies B and B is wrong then C is right." Since there is no relationship between A and C, this is a fallacy. It is, unfortunately, an ancient logical fallacy that persists in all sorts of junk science.

As to your last question ("That creation tells us nothing about God other than...God started it, I guess?"), science is not concerned with God. This dosn't mean that science is "anti-God" but rather, the scientific method does not lend any tools to the study of our Father, because it is impossible to run experiments on Him.

I would be happy to explain "randomness" to you over e-mail: in fact it is my area of research. It suffices to say that most people - including scientists - don't understand randomness and how it can spontaneously result in order in physical systems. I know that sounds counterintuitive but it is in fact true.

Chris

To me, the evidence (especially DNA sequence similarity across species) backing evolution is very much the easiest way to understand our history.

Natural selection and random genetic mutation and alteration is the easiest most straightforward and likely explanation to me.

But here's where it get's tricky (well, not tricky per se, but rather, tricky for the mainstream media and anti-faith zealots) - we know from Mother Church that we cannot possibly be the result of a cold, thoughtless or loveless creation process. We know God created us - He tells us so. How can we reconcile this with the science?

In essence, the athiests in general do not stop where the science stops. Science can only say with statistical figures that evolution is how we got to be how we are today and that random population and genetic events are the best model for explaining this. The athiest then procaims that random equates to God not being in the picture. That's an enormous metaphysical jump to take on the part of the athiests!

In reality, it is quite possible for God to be present in seemingly random and stochastic events - we must strive to remember that God isn't like us, constrained by space/time/energy. Just because we cannot see God's hand in them, we shouldn't believe that it is not. Nor should we be so scared that we're unable to face observable consequences.

To me, evolution is merely proof of the incredibleness of God, the unending extent to which he exends beyond our ability in this world to fully know and appreciate him, and his true power and love.

That's just me though.

Rich Leonardi

Like many Catholics, I don't really feel compelled to put a dog in this fight, and I'm in line with what Amy wrote. I do notice a strong hint of glibness from a number of Catholic experts on this subject, especially those on university staffs.

The usual routine is for a reporter to write up a story about an extreme example of creationism, e.g., the Cincinnati museum which "demonstrates" how the earth is only 6,000 years old, and then fetch a contradictory quote from a Catholic professor (in the case of the story above, Xavier) who on cue tsks, tsks the fundamentalist bumpkins.

Regarding the latter, instead of using it as a teaching moment, an impression is created that either all views of evolution are equal or that the Church has no particular problem with the atheism which lurks behind some of those views.

Ian

Amy,

To answer your other question that I'd missed before (the last long sentence of your post), I say this: say what you want about our Father as long as you're not making things up about Him and and as long as you don't call your theories "science" when they are untestable.

There is no doubt in my mind that He is the "Creator of Heaven and Earth, of all things seen and unseen."

There are many ways He may have done this: One might have been to set Plancks's constant, the masses and changes of protons, neutrons and electrons and the speed of light in a way that permits molecules to exist; molecules that can interact and spontaneously (and randomly) assemble under certain conditions to produce complex structures.

Who are you and who am I to say how He has created this world and how he takes care of it? I can posit my theory and you can posit yours, but neither of us can prove our theories because they get at "meaning" and "purpose" which the scientific method cannot address.

Caroline

I was taught the classic "Argument from Design" in college apologetics. Maybe some people call it a "proof". I learned it as an argument and a good argument because design points in the direction of a Creator and makes it not unreasonable to believe in a Creator. The same was taught of the other arguments: first cause, unmoved mover, and ultimate end. None of them were proofs for the existence of God but rather proofs that it was not unreasonable to believe in the existence of God, and, to the contrary, that it was resonable to believe in the existence of God. Evolution does not prove that it is reasonable to believe in the existence of God nor does it prove that it is unreasonable to believe in the existence of God.

Seems to me that the discussion needs to clearly distinguish between proof of there being a Creator and proof of the reasonableness of believing there is a Creator.

Caroline

I was taught the classic "Argument from Design" in college apologetics. Maybe some people call it a "proof". I learned it as an argument and a good argument because design points in the direction of a Creator and makes it not unreasonable to believe in a Creator. The same was taught of the other arguments: first cause, unmoved mover, and ultimate end. None of them were proofs for the existence of God but rather proofs that it was not unreasonable to believe in the existence of God, and, to the contrary, that it was resonable to believe in the existence of God. Evolution does not prove that it is reasonable to believe in the existence of God nor does it prove that it is unreasonable to believe in the existence of God.

Seems to me that the discussion needs to clearly distinguish between proof of there being a Creator and proof of the reasonableness of believing there is a Creator.

T. Chan

If by the traditional argument for design we are talking about St. THomas's fifth way, then ID and the traditional argument are not the same.

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/100203.htm

Here St. Thomas is talking about how things without intelligence act for a purpose, and they therefore must be directed towards their purpose by something endowed with Intelligence. This is the same thing that endows them with their nature, and is God.

"Rather he or she states that the hypothesis "the hand of God is evident in creation" is not a scientific hypothesis, because it cannot be disproven by any experiment."
Scientific reasoning does not necessarily involve hypotheses, and a hypothesis does not necessarily need to be disprovable in order to be a valid hypothesis. Both assertions involve specific understandings of science that are contestable. If science = reasoning from naturally knowable premises, then science is much more (or less restrictive) than the hypothetical-deductive method (with falsifiability thrown in) or the accounts of science provided by other contemporary models.

"Behe's hypothesis is similarly ill posed. Worse, it contains a critical logical error: "If A implies B and B is wrong then C is right." Since there is no relationship between A and C, this is a fallacy."

Behe's basic argument does not fall under this--rather it is framed as an a posteriori demonstration, reasoning from the nature of the effects. The nature of the effects excludes neo-Darwinistic mechanisms as a cause, because that mechanism is insufficient to yield the effect. Only a designer can account for the effect. Now it may be the case that Behe needs to separate and distinguish between formal and efficient causality, and show how one is dependent upon the other, but if the argument is problematic, it is not because it is a simple fallacy.

"Science is not concerned with God." If this is taken simply to mean that God is not the direct subject of science, this is true, whether it be natural science or even of natural 'theology'/metaphysics (according to the teachings of St. Thomas). However, if this is taken to mean that the existence of God cannot be proven through science (~reasoning by unaided reason alone) then it is wrong, and we have Vatican I as support.

T. Chan

Caroline:

The five ways of St. Thomas are strict demonstrations/proofs (according to the canons of Aristotelian logic), not merely arguments to show that belief in God is reasonable. Not sure if your course was trying to be tactful or if it was influenced by some modern epistemological theory.

Ian

erm, "charges" not "changes"

Tom Haessler

Yes, Ian, is correct here, IMHO.

I received a traditional Catholic parochial school education back in the late forties and early fifties. Being a precocious little snot, in fourth grade I asked Sister if it was true that "people came from monkeys". "Well, Tommy, it may have been true that God prepared the bodies of our first parents from living lower animal forms, but then he created their souls out of nothing." Never once in sixteen years of Catholic education and then in graduate theological studies did I ever have a teacher who suggested that their was incompatibility between evolution and Catholic doctrine.

I received the old fashioned kind of Thomistic education in a Jesuit and Benedictine college. We always distinguished WHICH discipline was responsible for answering which kind of questions. Questions about when, where, and how hominids first appeared are scientific questions. Questions about whether the evident awesome order, beauty, and design are clues to a Cause outside of the visible universe that is infinite in intelligence are philosophical questions. Questions about how to interpret the first three chapters of Genesis or whether the First Cause has revealed Himself not only though nature, but also through history are theological questions. It is wrong for science to deal with God issues because its methodologies are not adequate for the task. It is not wrong for scientists to be concerned with God issues. It IS wrong for scientists to use the prestige associated with their education to pontificate on non-scientific issues like whether the arguments from reason alone for the existence of God are valid or invalid. If they present their atheism or agnosticism as in some way connected with science, then they are out of their field, in the same way as the fundamentalist strays from theology and exegesis when he reads into (eisogesis) Genesis answers to modern scientific questions.

Catholics have much to learn from fundamentalists and evangelicals in the area of how to share faith with others, but the proper exegesis of the first and last books of the Bible is not the strong suit of many in this tradition.

Tom Haessler

Tom Haessler

Hello, T. Chan,

You use the word "science" in the older scholastic sense of knowledge through causes. Vatican I insisted that God's existence could be established through reflection on the universe, not through modern empirical scientific methodology.

Tom Haessler

 Touchy Technician

Re the touchiness of Biologists and other Darwinists:

If you think that this little dustup over evolution is bad, just take a look at the history of Archeology. As one archeologist pointed out, when someone digs up a human bone, something in them just goes crazy. There have been many famous feuds in that field that have descended to breath-taking pettiness on both sides. I think that it can be stated as a general rule that the closer a scientists work comes to the meaning of what it is to be human, the less likely that the openness to new ideas that ones sees in Physics or Chemistry, for instance, will be evident.

Thus, Darwinism takes on some of the trappings of a religion for many of its adherents because it fulfills some of the functions of a religion in that it tells a story of where people came from and why they are the way they are.

John Farrell

I think Tom's point is excellent. Among other Cardinals of that period, John Henry Newman was particularly unimpressed by William Paley's argument from design.

Amy, if you want to read a not long but excellent overiew of evolutionary theory, than the late Ernst Mayr's What Evolution Is is a great place to start.

Kevin Jones

I'll point out that contemporary ID has a school of thought that actually tries to quantify design. So some IDers are actually trying to quantify something essentially qualitative. This strikes me as very odd, and indeed logically impossible. Since modern science prides itself on being quantitative, it is necessarily blind to design.

Yes, trying to bring qualitative concerns back into our incredibly utilitarian public philosophy is a good thing, but ID is an awkward way of doing it. ID makes far too many concessions to scientism by trying to pass off what is essentially natural philosophy(and a nineteenth century school of natural philosophy, at that) as science.

Also, I'll point out that Edward T. Oakes, SJ sees a vast difference between Paley's ID theory and Aquinas' teleological argument: click here

I've been thinking that perhaps more of this effort would be better spent fighting amoral sex ed, which I think causes far more damage, but then I realized that amoral sex ed is based on a Darwinian anthropology--namely that man isn't qualitatively different from other mammals, and thus humanity is irresistably driven to spread his genes. Darwinism has a very thin conception of culture and indeed human agency. Both are epiphenomenal manifestations of genetics and natural selection at work. Hence from Darwinism itself arises the banal cliche that the kids "are gonna do it anyway." So people try and keep these natural nigh-irresistable desires from doing too much damage not through cultural constraints or self-discipline but through technology. So I have to grudgingly agree that Darwinism, or at least its widely-held libertine interpretation, needs a strong counter.

T. Chan

"You use the word "science" in the older scholastic sense of knowledge through causes. Vatican I insisted that God's existence could be established through reflection on the universe, not through modern empirical scientific methodology."

Yes, I am. Is modern empirical scientific methodology intrinsically hampered from attaining the First Cause? Perhaps, perhaps not. But, if researchers were willing to admit that they were relying primarily on quantification or measurement in their reasoning, ignoring certain causes (final and formal), and failing to distinguish between efficient and material causes, AND that their methodology isn't the only valid means for attaining knowledge of the natural world, then we wouldn't have a problem.

The problem is that scientists don't understand what science should be about and are hampered by self-imposed restrictions, either because of bad philosophy or bad training or both.

Tom Haessler

IMHO, statements by Benedict XVI and recent (corrected) statements by Cardinal Schoenbrun about order and beauty in the universe as clues for a transcendent Creator belong to the genre of intelligent appeals to Western intelligentsia to reexamine their facile rejection of traditional theism that they picked up along with knowledge of modern science. They are not magisterial interventions on the the subject of evolution and theology. Benedict XVI has never had much interest in the details and internal squabbles of Thomistic natural theology (he much prefers the Augustinian tradition). He's a very strong proponent of ongoing discussions between theologians and philosophers and scientists about issues of mutual concern. And he's given every indication that he believes that theologians and philosophers need to learn science from the scientists.

Tom Haessler

Tom Haessler

Hello again, T. Chan,

Indeed, there is a serious problem with the lack of philosophical education among many scientists. Many of them have never been exposed to the kind of science of the sciences (scholastic critique of the modern empirical and behavioral sciences) that abounded in most Catholic colleges in the forties and fifties. This is why many scientists leave these international meetings in Rome with renewed respect for the capacity of the Catholic tradition to examine issues from a rich profusion of perspectives with respect for many different slants.

Tom Haessler

Mike Melendez

Re Touchy's comment, scientists are people too.

Amy's concern about God only "starting it" touches an idea I keep struggling with but which I find explains (or at least makes acceptable) much. God is not constrained by time. God created time.

Being a creationist (I believe God did it) who finds evolution science (as opposed to evolution philosophy) compelling, I have difficulty with Creationists who claim that if God did it, they know how. Conversely, I have the same trouble with Evolutionists who claim that they know how, so no God could have done it.

I am still thinking about the idea of Intelligent Design as embodied in the Discovery Institute and have yet to make up my mind. It seems that the adamantly anti-ID scientists object to the phrase "Intelligent Design" and only that phrase. What gets lost is the problems (limits?) of evolution which "ID" points out. On the other hand, I wonder what the same scientists think about SETI. What if the Intelligence in ID is not divine? Does that make the idea more palatable?

All that being said, I don't think I could believe in a God who could be scientifically proved. Such a God would be much too small for my liking.

Tom Haessler

Kevin, thanks so much for the link to Father Oakes' brilliant refutation of ID.

Tom Haessler

Todd

Do scientists behave like human beings? Yes. The scientific debate on evolution ended decades ago. If scientists seem huffy about revisiting evolution, consider how bent out of shape people get about core Christian issues like the divinity of Jesus or the Immaculate Conception.

Proponents of evolutionary theory went through the ringer in the 19th and early 20th centuries. So evolution is pretty well established as a model and all the other challengers have fallen to the wayside. I don't blame scientists for treating ID with grave suspicion, especially given the political clmiate, the popularity of practices such as astrology, and other trends hostile to science.

A lot of things complement science education. And scientists would certainly benefit (and some have) from studies in philosophy, religion, and other disciplines. But that's a separate issue.

Getting back to the theology thing, if I'm relaxing at home and a fundamentalist rings my doorbell, I might be inclined to get into a discussion on the Eucharist or Mary. If I'm on the "job," and teaching a class or something and some individual wants to debate me off topic on the Real Presence or something, then yes, I might not allow the session to get derailed.

ID people don't have a scientific leg to stand on. Which isn't to say the philosophical and religious questions shouldn't be asked and scientists and ID folks sit together to have that discussion. But I can't blame scientists for being impatient or even a bit testy about intrusions and assumptions and even attempts to alter the definition of science itself.

DarwinCatholic

Amy,

I'll go ahead and take a shot at 1) I guess...

Whether or not evolution is "questioned" tends to have a lot to do with what you mean by "evolution". It's true that within the science community there's really not much of any serious question of the basic concept of biological common descent with modification. This is for much the same reason people don't spend a lot of time questioning gravity or the expanding universe. Discarding the entire concept of common descent would be a huge change within biology, and so it would take some really, really incredible new evidence to suggest to people this was well worth considering.

However, there is a lot of debate that goes on in the scientific community about how exactly all this takes place. The gradualists and punctuated equalibrium supporters constantly go back and forth and sometimes even get down to personal insults and claims that the other side is "unscientific".

Although I don't know as much about genetic and cellular biology (and I'm not any sort of scientist, just a reading laymen with a particular interest in evolution and anthropology), from what I've read there's also all sorts of lively debate about what sorts of factors produce variation in the first place and how they work.

Now, as to the openness to questioning by laymen, it's true that scientists often get snippy with people who confront them wanting answers to all the "evidence against evolution" or the "holes in the evidence". A lot of this, I think, is just that they get really tired of fielding the same questions all the time, sometimes from people who don't seem to care much about the answers. I used to volunteer at the planetarium where my dad worked, and one of the things you got to dread after a while was all the people who would show up with their own "theories" they'd want to tell you about and have you take seriously. Seeing as we dealt with astronomy at the planetarium, of these were UFO/X-Files types, with the occasional unshaved fellow who claimed to have disproved relativity and discovered a whole new physics. It got really, really old -- especially because no matter how much you explained they would reply, "Yes, that's what they tell you. But don't you ever wonder if they're lying?" (Kind of the astronomical equivalent of Dan Brown fans...)

Certainly, some people are willing to blast any questions about evolution as fundamentalist idiocy, but I would say that the majority of evolution proponents (both full time and recreational) are willing to answer questions politely assuming that the questioner seems to be interested in the answer rather than simply establishing well defined areas of doubt and uncertainty. I think what does tend to cause a lot of frustration is when someone tosses out a comment like "I don't think evolution has account for the second law of thermodynamics" or "There are no transitional forms" but has no particular interest in learning more about the field in order to understand the answers to those questions -- which sometimes seem to be a stand-in for "I really don't want to think about evolution, and I've heard these are standard excuses for ignoring it."

Sorry to run so long...

On question two, Marriage as a Vocation had a really good post on this the other day. (The author is a Catholic geology PhD married to a paleontology grad student. Bearing blog had another. And (tooting own horn) DarwinCatholic did as well.

Peter

Man oh man, I finally found the gold mine. I am a Catholic who is a scientist, and have been wondering why people either have to support evolution OR ID. I think religion needs science and science needs religion. THAT is the only way which can lead us to truth. To me eveolution is a solid "scientific" theory, which makes no attempt to explain "purpose".

THose evolutionist you talk to who present their evidence for natural selection and then go further and claim that this happened without a God are not being true to themselves. Like Ian says, its not testable, therefor its not a valid "scientific theory".

Those ID proponants who at the same time present their evidence for design and then go further and claim this could not have happened by chance and that a God was involved, are doing the same.

Although I would love for the existance of God to be proven "scientifically", I think we need to make sure and understand that we're trying to merged two fields that can't be merged, however compliment each other perfectly when used in the right context.

george

I guess many of the above will not put much value in what I believe but here goes. First of all, God did creat the universe and everything in it. Why would He go through an evolutionary process to creat us. Certainly He could creat us in a matter of seconds if He wanted to.
I look at evolution in a practical sense.Why do we see the man evolving from the ape and never anything from where the ape came from? The obvious reason is no one knows. If we evolved,what was the order of parts that we have, come into being. It seems to me we need almost all our parts to begin with.You cannot live without a liver or kidneys,etc. The best I could get from people defending evolution to this question is that the parts evolved at the same time. That sounds like creation to me.

Joe

I'm with Amy here:

"I am far less interested in Intelligent Design than I am in simply asking questions about evolutionary theory. It seems to me one could be done with out the other, and, in fact, need to be."

To this layman, there seem to be a number of unanswered, difficult questions with evolutionary theory. Insofar as ID helps to pose challenges to the status quo, I'm all for it. Is ID itself the answer? I don't know and, at this point, I don't much care one way or the other.

And I think Tom's post above is right on the money -- particulatly this part:

"Catholics have much to learn from fundamentalists and evangelicals in the area of how to share faith with others, but the proper exegesis of the first and last books of the Bible is not the strong suit of many in this tradition."

Amen. Part of the genius of Catholicism is that it does not fall prey to 'Pat Robertson' syndrome.

Mark

I studied physics at the feet of the great men of that field, but decided to leave when I realized that they were preaching a heresy against right reason. I wanted to do a thesis questioning the two fundamental theories of modern physics, relativity and quantum mechanics. I realized that these two theories are mutually contradictory, and wanted to do a critique, and propose some alternatives. But I was told that if I pursued this line of thought, I would never get a job in academia. Now I understand why they support these theories: relativity supports the idea of subjectivity, while quantum mechanics supports the idea of a pure, ontological randomness. In other words, these two theories say that objective truth and Divine Providence are not possible; however, these theories are most likely wrong. This is relevant to the evolution controversy since obviously God can direct genetic mutation as well as everything else in the Universe; but the evolutionists have to back up their theory with an appeal to pure randomness.

Jeff

George strikes me as a completely humble, unsophisticated person, easy to ignore. But I wonder if he hasn't got something. The older I've gotten, the less sure I am that we have to bend the scriptural account to accomodate science.

Scientists generally tend to be a whole lot surer of themselves than they ought to be and one generation's idiot tends to be the next generation's prophet. We can be skeptical of scientists' verities and open-minded to the more "fundamentalist" approach of our Fathers without insisting on one or the other approach.

Science, it seems to me, HAS to posit evolution. It WORKS by assuming materialistic explanations exist and then looking for them. What kind of experiment could show that God created something: "Zap!" But...that might mean that at some point, it becomes hamstrung by its own assumptions; that beyond a certain point, it no longer works.

Fr. Brian Harrison--a "fundamentalist" Catholic of sorts, but also a brilliant and sophisticated theologian--has a fascinating critique of contemporary Catholic notions about the Genesis narrative. I'm not sure I buy all of it, but it's one of those things that bears pondering. Especially for someone like me whose a bit afraid of appearing to be an unwashed unsophisticate. Read it if you don't shy away from such embarrassing stuff. If you leave aside the pressure from science, he argues, there is very little doubt that Holy Tradition and Sacred Scripture irrefutably establish that Genesis 1-3 is a historical account in the modern sense of the term. The stuff directly pertinent to this is in Part II, but the whole thing is fascinating. It's called, "Bomb Shelter Theology":

http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt52.html

Kevin Jones

But I can't blame scientists for being impatient or even a bit testy about intrusions and assumptions and even attempts to alter the definition of science itself.

Todd,

Exactly what is the current definition of "science," and why should scientists or even laymen regard the current definition as authoritative? I've dabbled in the philosophy of science, and those scholars can't quite agree what science is. People will invoke falsification, repeatability, and who knows what else as the marks of true science, but generally they do so in an incoherent manner.

Christopher Sarsfield

I think that both the Evolutionary Atheist Scientist and the Fundamental Creationist are both suffering from the same mistaken principle. Both are trying to make science prove a first cause. Scientists and Creationists have to realize that science can only deal with secondary causes. Once science ignores that limit bad things happen.

For myself I believe with pious faith that God created the world in the exact way described in Genesis. Until science proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it did not happen this way, I will continue to believe the biblical account. However, unlike a creationist I admit that I believe this based on faith. As a Catholic I must believe that God could create a planet out of nothing with full grown trees and carved river banks, etc. However, it would be unfair of me to force a scientist to turn off his intellect and conclude that a full-grown oak tree is only 5 minutes old. If you brought a fish from the miracle of the loaves and fishes to a scientist (or any rational man) he would have to conclude the fish was a few seasons old. You cannot expect him without faith to conclude that the fish was a couple of hours old, having just been created by Christ. This seems to me to be what creationists insist on.

Finally, if the belief in Christ were the equivalent of 2+2=4, a person could never make an act of faith, and there would certainly be nothing meritorious in such an act. Again creationists seem to want faith to be intellectually compulsory, instead of intellectually compatible. I believe this demonstrates a fundamental weakness in the fundamentalist’s faith.

john di

Fr. Stanley Jaki, who holds PhD's in theology and physics, has written an article (http://www.ignatius.com/magazines/hprweb/jaki.htm) on Genesis that concludes with "...No theological defense of the strict createdness of all can, however, be made without a defense of Genesis 1. It should not be defended under any circumstances as a cosmogenesis, with any reference, indirect as it may be, to science. Its genuinely biblical meaning can, however, be fully defended by that reason whereby, as Genesis I tells us, man is created in the image of Almighty God...".

Fr. Jaki understands that scientific reasoning is a small subset of human reason and one that has zero metaphysical content.

Loudon is a Fool

Ian, if the observation that irreducable complexity suggests design is unscientific, why are Our Holy and Sacred Scientists involved in devoloping theories about the origin of life? Either "science" in our fashionable modern use of the word is concerned only with empirical issues that are fully testable and provable in the laboratory (in which case Our Holy and Sacred Scientists should simply be silent about origins, all they can tell us is "here is a bone," "here are some interesting patterns of mitochondrial DNA," etc. and leave their ultimately untestable hypotheses to those better suited to tasks requiring the use of reason), or biology and chemistry and physics and philosophy should be recognized as branches of the sciences the queen of which is theology, and should be ordered to their ultimate end accordingly.

Nick Frankovich

"I am far less interested in Intelligent Design than I am in simply asking questions about evolutionary theory. It seems to me one could be done with out the other, and, in fact, need to be."

The fossil record supports microevolution but not macroevolution. You can see how, over time, this species of bird becomes exclusively big-beaked because the small-beaked members of the species gradually died off, presumably because they lost out in the competition for food.

But there is no evidence that an entire species ever morphs into another. You can group similar species (even species that are now extinct) into a genus, but you can't demonstrate that one evolved from another.

At least that's my understanding of how things stand with the current state of the theory of evolution.
____________

As for ID, a frequent objection against it is that it's not empirical, that it's only theoretical. But isn't a lot of what gets done in science like that? I'm thinking of physics and astronomy. You can build evidence to support your theory (about, say, the origin of the universe), to make it more plausible, but we don't expect that in our lifetime it will be proved or disproved.

To the scientists here: Is the paragraph above true? If it is, it applies to ID, doesn't it?

Michael Behe and David Berlinski seem to do a good job of defending ID. I've begun some of their articles in Commentary and First Things, but I never persevere to the bitter end. They tend to provoke lengthy and agitated replies, and then the editor gives the author a chance to reply to the replies.

Yootikus

I keep waiting for Old Zhou to get here and put all this in proper perspective ...

JPK

Interested scientifically-minded Catholics might want to look at a piece on my website on this subject:

http://www.catholiclearning.com/malevolent.html

One problem is that "Design" can be quite "Intelligent" indeed -- and also utterly malevolent. "Designed" and "Good" aren't equivalent terms. That turns out to have implications.


David

O.K. you anti-ID guys, take
this and this.

john c

Yootikus: Me, I want Zippy!

John Farrell

Once again, it might be a good thing at this point to interject a little humor. (apologies to those who have already seen this elsewhere).

This week's New Yorker has a cartoon, alas not online, showing the doorman at a strip joint called:

All Nude Hi Hat All Nite

Between two portraits of hot babes on the front face is the sign:

"Random Mutation or Intelligent Design?
You Decide!!"

Hilarious.


:)

Ian

Mark,

I'm a bit disheartened by your post. Quantum mechanics and relativity don't "support" anything beyond the scope of their predictions, namely, the properties of matter. When people "go Deepak" and try to say we live in a subjective world because of Einstein's theories, they're either (a) really overextending themselves or (b) off their meds.

Nick: there is an abundance of evidence for a species becoming another one (particularly humans from apes), and several posts in the comments boxes at Mark Shea's blog by John Farrell illustrate them. When it comes to cosmology: data is collected (stellar motions, redshifts, etc), hypotheses are generated, and then they are tested. If a sufficient number of hypotheses produce results consistent with a model, we call it a theory. Theories can crumble, but only under evidence. Theories that withstand all experimental evidence are often called "Laws." And sometimes the scope of those laws are changed when new evidence conflicts with one or more of the underlying theories.

"Loudon is a Fool": The theoretical, hypothesis-driven study of Man's and life's origins have nothing to do with Creationism. "A" and "C" are unrelated. Moreover, philosophy is not science. And I fail to see why "science" would fall below "theology" but I don't see why it's important to begin with.

David: your links are neither here nor there. That a scientist says or does something dosn't make it scientific. For example, I can tell you it's wrong to lie to someone but that dosn't mean it's a "scientifically tested result" just because I'm an engineering professor.

Tom Haessler

Interesting point, JPK! Fr. Benedict Ashley, in his fascinating book THE THEOLOGY OF THE BODY (not JPII's themes, but much broader areas of theology) opines that the angels play a role in evolution. In Thomistic angelology the angels have an intimate relationship to the unfolding of the material cosmos - something that is embedded in some of the more arcane aspects of Saint Thomas's metaphysics and angelology. Just as there is a history of the human race (and a salvation history of the human race), why should their not be a history of life and even of the entire universe that involves the participation of bodiless spiritual agents both good and evil? Perhaps SOME of the "tooth and claw" aspect is a kind of foreshadowing of something that surfaces later in the phenomenon known biblically as "Cain". At any rate, contrary to progressivist optimism, the spiritual history of mankind is embedded in the spiritual history of the angels and demons as became evident toward the end of the Old Testament period. Which brings me to Jeff's link to Father Brian Harrison's efforts to resurrect the pre-critical period of Catholic biblical scholarship. Jeff, IMHO, the major difficulty here is trying to imagine that every expression of magisterial teaching, regardless of degree of authority (even the older responses of the Biblical Commission), must be absolutely harmonized with every other one. But this simply cannot be done. There are elements of continuity and also elements of discontinuity in authentic doctrinal development. So, for example, Pius X's Instruction on Sacred Music is based on the (bad) theology that women cannot sing in choirs and scholas because they can't "hold a liturgical office". Of course, this is before the liturgical movement had solidly established that the entire assembly necessarily plays an active role in worship. This bad theology was later corrected by Paul VI's Instruction on Sacred Music which explicitely authorizes women to sing in choirs and scholas. It's fascinating to remember that the last castrato, Allesandro Moreschi, made a recording (available on a fascinating CD put out by Pavilion Records) at the request of Pius X in 1904. Despite the condemnation of castration (excommunication was the canonical penalty, execution was the civil penalty) by moral theologians, the Vatican had no less than eight castrati in the Sistine chapel choir throughout the nineteenth century (Moreschi the last of a dying breed). They were euphemistically called "male sopranos" meaning, not "boy sopranos" or "falsetti", but castrati! It was the decision of Pope Sixtus V to formally ban women from appearing on the stage (in his capacity as civil ruler of the papal states) that led to the widespread use of castrati for soprano voices. [The CD with Moreschi's last performances also contains Leo XIII praying an Ave Maria!] Don't you just LOVE the way the Church EVOLVES in its understanding of the utility of female vocalists. Of course, the opera lover will no longer hear enraptured audiences at a Rossini performance chant "eviva il coltello" - "long live the knife" as the superstar castrato takes a bow!

Tom Haessler

meteorologist

An honest question, I'm not trying to be snarky: What is the difference between ID folks looking at creation and saying, "Someone did this" and archaeologists looking at stone tools and saying the same thing, i.e., ruling out the possibility that wind, rain, etc., weathered this rock into an arrowhead shape? Is archaeology viewed as unscientific?

Old Zhou

Can somebody tell me what I believe?
I mean, what is it called in the current debate?

This is what I was taught, what I taught, what I would still teach if I was in the business, and what I believe.

Basically:

(1) Science is true. Our universe is 15 billion years old, give or take a few billion years. The earth is 4.5 billion years old, give or take a few million. The "evolutionary record" of fossils, etc., is true. But science veers off into anti-Christian opinion when it gets to human evolution.

(2) Human beings are a relatively recent invention, of just several thousand years, less than 10 thousand. The chronology of the Bible is correct. Ussher was not that far off.

(3) Genesis 1:1 is a synopsis of the billions of years before the creation of human being. It includes all of that angelic history that predates humanity, including the rebellion of Satan and his followers, origin of demons, etc.. This is also why you find the brutality of the dinosaurs, etc. No mistake that "dinosaurs" and "demons" look a lot alike in human imagination.

(4) God presses a "reset" button of watery judgment between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, to open the way for his work of creating humanity in his image to subdue and rule the earth. The rest is history.

(5) One distinction of humankind is language. Angels and demons don't need to use psycho-physical language to communicate, as they are spirits. Humans do. There is no record of language more than 10,000 years old, at most. As soon as humans are on the scene, human language is manifested in the archeological record. "Word" is a distinguishing feature of humanity in the image of God.

---

So, what do you call what I believe?

Caroline

T. Chan

Call the 5 Thomistic reasonings for the existence of God proofs if you like, but they still don't prove anything to ordinary folk except that it is reasonable to believe in the existence of God according to purely Aristotelian ideas of what is reasonable.

Perhaps there is some infallible Church document that tells me that the existence of God can be proven by human reason. All I know is that I can't prove it with my human reason, I've never met anyone who could prove it with his human reason to anyone except to himself. I doubt that the vast majority of mankind have ever been able to prove with human reason that God exists although I am convinced that with due reflection anyone can see that it is reasonable to believe in the existence of God, which I belieive is what the Pope is was reminding us of. However if the Church says that human reason can prove the existence of God then I will believe that there are a certain number of high intellects who can do so at least to their own satisfaction even if the vast majority of mankind can't rise to that level. Is that enough to make me right with the Magisterium?

Kevin Jones

Perhaps there is some infallible Church document that tells me that the existence of God can be proven by human reason. All I know is that I can't prove it with my human reason, I've never met anyone who could prove it with his human reason to anyone except to himself.

That God can be known by reason is a de fide doctrine defined by the First Vatican Council. The Counci Fathers prudently did not endorse any particular proof, nor did they hold that such proofs can be done easily and by anybody.

Still, I'd warn against bashing reason. That's bad theology.

Jeb Protestant

It seems to me that many Roman Catholic bloggers and self-proclaimed apologists are in opposition to the RC church due to their advocacy of ID or creationism.

Tom Haessler

Yes, Caroline, you are right with the magisterium.

1. Vatican I taught that it is possible to know the existence of God independenty of revelation.

2. It also taught that this knowledge was difficult due to the time involved in this deep reflection and also due to our propensity from Original Sin to be weaker in intellect and will than we would have been had we not fallen.

3. Knowledge of the existence of God is easier through faith in supernatural revelation.

4. None of the existing philosophical proofs for the existence of God was endorsed by Vatican I - apart from the statement that God can be known from the things He's made. This was to endorse (in a very general and non-specific way what philosophers call cosmological arguments as opposed to the ontological argument of people like Saint Anselm).

5. Your experience of connecting knowledge of God with reflection as opposed to "proof" is something that Catholic theologians have commented on for a long time. Philosophers try to thematize this more common human experience of having a vaguer, more intuitive, sense that God exists based on "reflection" about the world and how it got here.

6. The five Thomistic proofs (really only one) are very difficult. The typical bright Catholic undergraduate, in the days when Thomistic philosophy was taught and taught well at the undergraduate level, would usually have an "aha" type experience long after the proofs were presented. For most people they are not immediately able to be understood.

7. All five proofs are based on the principle of causality - everything needs to be explained, to have a cause. God is the cause of the EXISTENCE of worldly causes. He is the answer not to How did the world become what it is? but rather How is it that there IS a world rather than nothing.

You could be a perfectly orthodox Catholic and believe that none of the existing proofs (in their exact form) really establish God's existence. The teaching is about the POSSIBILITY of knowing God's existence from reason, not about the ACTUALITY of anyone having done so. But I must follow this up with my strong conviction (not a faith conviction) that Saint Thomas's proofs are quite valid.

Tom Haessler


T. Chan

Caroline:

"Call the 5 Thomistic reasonings for the existence of God proofs if you like, but they still don't prove anything to ordinary folk except that it is reasonable to believe in the existence of God according to purely Aristotelian ideas of what is reasonable."

The demonstrative character of the 5 ways cannot be seen unless there is a solid foundation in natural philosophy and a proper understanding of change and its principles and causes.

"Purely Aristotelian ideas of what is reasonable" reinforces my opinion that the apologetics course didn't address modern epistemology.

Frederick

I hope this doesn't sound too odd, but where do angels fit into the Theory of Evolution? I don't think we would say that they evolved from human beings, and yet they are a higher form of being than we are. They have celestial bodies which can move in time and space, in ways which we can't. As we are more "refined" than other animals, so are they much more refined than we are. If God created them just as they are, then it seems to me very likely that He did the same with us. What do you good folk think?

Christopher Sarsfield

Dear Mr. Haessler,

You claimed:


"It (Vatican I) also taught that this knowledge was difficult due to the time involved in this deep reflection and also due to our propensity from Original Sin to be weaker in intellect and will than we would have been had we not fallen."

Could you please back this statement up? It is my understanding that Vatican I taught that anyone of normal intelligence can reason to a God. It is true that they will get many attributes of the one God wrong, however, reasoning to the fact that there is one and can only be one God is possible to all. No reasonable person who is of good will can be an atheist. Only by sin clouding the intellect, or malice can a person of normal intelligence not believe in God.

chris K

Perhaps it is that science has been given an all too exalted position in the ranking of the disciplines. From the human standpoint that seems logical since the built in survival instinct always comes home to papa. But when one begins to include things like the angels or miracle cures that were not supposed to happen, scientifally speaking...or even with measured data necessary to at least admit that some kind of supernatural event has taken place, then the universe gets bigger than one's own boundaries of explanations and the world moves beyond the scientific proof. I believe that science is always the begger to the greater unknown. From what did the "beginning" evolve? And what within the beginning directed it to begin evolving? Then, instead of looking backwards, purpose is introduced and one is forced to speculate forward.

Christopher Sarsfield

To be clear in my post above, when I refer to sin clouding the intellect, I mean grievous actual sin, not original sin.

T. Chan

Frederick:

Angels aren't covered by evolution theory because they are not material and don't have bodies. I believe that whether they were created before material creation or at the same time is open to discussion.

Old Zhou

Dear T. Chan,

It seems that nobody commented on my post of 5:28 to help me understand what I been taught.

In regard to the question of angels and bodies and the evolutionary record, what about demons? Demons can inhabit bodies and "possess" them, even driving them to death (such as the herd of pigs in the gospel). The abyss, the deep waters, were the evolutionary records has its beginnings, is the home of these Pre-Adamic demons, or so I was taught.

MaryW

Jeff,

Like you, I believe Fr Brian Harrison is a brilliant and sophisticated theologian but am puzzled by your description of him as a 'fundamentalist' Catholic of sorts. What do you mean by that?

Frederick

Yes, angels don't have material bodies, but they have celestial forms - it seems more likely to me that if God created their celestial forms as they are, then He would have done the same for all forms, whether material or not. There is that idea of the Golden Chain of hierarchy - that angels have dominion over humans, humans over animals, animals over lesser animals and vegetables etc. and that this chain has always existed. That has always seemed a more likely explanation of things to me, than the idea that we evolved from nothing into more complex forms.

Tom Haessler

Hi, Frederick,

I believe that I may have contributed to some confusion by my reference to Father Ashley's speculation about angels and evolution. He did not (and I do not) believe that angels evolved. They were created out of nothing either before the material universe or simultaneously with the material universe. The are pure spirits (something that came to be understood only in the very late Patristic and early scholastic period). Many of the Fathers erroneously believed that angels had ethereal bodies, but most dogma books insist that the pure spirituality of the angels is a truth of faith. The opinion that I was suggesting was that the angels have a relationship (through their knowledge and will) to the material universe, and since the material universe unfolds progressively and is not realized in a moment, as it were, then the angels might well have contributed (NOT to the being of the material universe) to the becoming of the material universe. Most theologians hold that angels can move matter. So perhaps both the good angels and the demons played a part in the evolution of the material universe and also in the unfolding of various life forms. Suppose for a moment that ALL the angels had remained faithful to God. Would the universe still look like it does and did? The biblical imagery associated with the New Heavens and the New Earth speak of the lion laying down with the lamb. Would evolution have taken on more pacific and less violent forms if there were no demons? Possibly. I believe that when the New Testament speaks of the principalities and powers, it is partly concerned with what we today call -isms (Naziism, Facism, Communism, nihilism, etc.). Whole elements of the social fabric can be "possessed", as it were, by evil spirt. If angels and demons can influence us, why can they not influence currents of thought, zones of sensibility, patterns of custom and fashion? Ultimately, why could they not influence the development of hominids, etc.? All this, of course, is just speculation.

Hello, Christopher,

My library is still not completely unpacked, so I'm not prepared to quote chapter and verse of Vatican I and the discussions at the time. I was relying on my memory of exegesis of Vatican I given in a number of theology courses I'd taken. When the Council spoke of knowledge of God's existence from reason, "reason" is not specified as the way it is found in the average person. Theoretically, I suppose, a normal person (and what exactly is that - LOL), given sufficient leisure and time for reflection and time to pursue the subject in depth could arrive at this knowledge. Difficulties don't make this natural knowledge of God impossible, but, in my opinion, they make it more difficult, and this is part of the reason why God's existence can be known much more easily through revelation.

Tom Haessler

Tom Haessler

Hello, Mary W.!

Jeff will answer for himself, but my impression after dipping into Fr. Brian Harrison's writings was that he made every effort to harmonize even very slight discrepancies in different expressions of the magisterium on creation (especially in the area of biblical exegesis). I would agree with you that he's very intelligent. But his intelligence is more focused on finding a complete harmony between Providentissimus Deus, Spiritus Paraclitus, and Divino Afflante Spiritu, rather than appreciating the DEVELOPMENT of Catholic teaching. This allergy to history is part of what is sometimes meant by fundamentalism. It moves in the direction of a non-historical orthodoxy. My example of the change in Catholic understanding of women and church music between Pius X and Paul VI (and the discussion of the castrati), was intended to find a relatively painless and somewhat humorous area where passions won't run to high. Development, unfolding, deeper insight, whatever, is CHANGE. The deposit of faith is not a static body of propositions, but the Christ Event. The Church will continue until the Parousia to tease out ever new doctrinal formulations of what this means - always in some continuity with the past because something that has been presented as dogma will not be rejected, although the understanding can be deepened.

Tom Haessler

T. Chan

Frederick:

I see you are asking if there are natural kinds with respect to the natural world--whether species are set or not. Unfortunately, there is an abundance of literature on the 'problem of species' within biology, and this is one that evolutionists tend to ignore. (Some have tried to show how evolution is consonant with certain understandings of what 'species' is while admitting that the word is used equivocally--nonetheless such solutions have not made it into mainstream academia, and the problem is seldom discussed in the classroom.) I have not come across anyone who has addressed the problem of species while looking at that passage of Genesis that talks about 'kinds'.

T. Chan

btw, when I say "abundance" I mean there are many books and articles presenting diverse viewpoints and solutions, not that the amount is comparable to the discussion of neo-Darwinism.

T. Chan

Old Zhou:

"(1) Science is true. Our universe is 15 billion years old, give or take a few billion years. The earth is 4.5 billion years old, give or take a few million. The "evolutionary record" of fossils, etc., is true. But science veers off into anti-Christian opinion when it gets to human evolution."

Disputable, as it relies on dating methods relying upon particular non-provable assumptions. That there are fossils, this is obvious and accepted by all. What the fossil record implies, that's a different story.

"(2) Human beings are a relatively recent invention, of just several thousand years, less than 10 thousand. The chronology of the Bible is correct. Ussher was not that far off."
I don't think this is an opinion accepted by mainstream anthropologists and biologists.

"(3) Genesis 1:1 is a synopsis of the billions of years before the creation of human being. It includes all of that angelic history that predates humanity, including the rebellion of Satan and his followers, origin of demons, etc.. This is also why you find the brutality of the dinosaurs, etc. No mistake that "dinosaurs" and "demons" look a lot alike in human imagination."
This is not evident from the text itself, but is rather an explanation of what the text means. It does not talk about the rebellion of Satan and his followers explicitly (this is to be found in other texts of Scripture). It is debatable whether dinosaurs are explicitly mentioned in Scripture--if they are, it's not in Genesis but in other texts ('leviathan,' etc.)

"(4) God presses a "reset" button of watery judgment between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, to open the way for his work of creating humanity in his image to subdue and rule the earth. The rest is history."
I'm curious why you included "subdue and rule the earth" here.

"(5) One distinction of humankind is language. Angels and demons don't need to use psycho-physical language to communicate, as they are spirits. Humans do. There is no record of language more than 10,000 years old, at most. As soon as humans are on the scene, human language is manifested in the archeological record. 'Word' is a distinguishing feature of humanity in the image of God."
The use of language does set human beings apart from other animals and follows upon their rationality. Now, just because there is no record of language beyond a certain time does not imply that human beings did not exist before then, since there are other possible causes that would explain the absence of evidence.

T. Chan

oops -- if leviathan is translated as 'sea monster' it's in Genesis--I was thinking of the 'behemoth' of Job.

chris K

In regard to the question of angels and bodies and the evolutionary record, what about demons? Demons can inhabit bodies and "possess" them

Well, demons are fallen angels....spirits, who (angels) with the Creator's permission can take on at times material form....Raphael who journeyed with Tobit, Gabriel, often times seen guardian angels, the various guardian angels of individual nations..the angel of Portugal at Fatima. That is why evolution theory, the way most limit it, is a very small way of attempting to find the greater meaning to all of creation...which itself is still constantly being explored. Evolution, as I said before, is backward "seeking" and does not answer well for positing from it what is yet to be known. There are also the non-corporeal bodies (souls of purgatory or saints) that are permitted to be seen materially by the still living. These other realms seem to have been neglected in the whole discussion of ID creation...unless one is to assume (and I do) that they are included in the recent statements of the pope on the topic. That gets us into the separate motivations of the various methods for creation believed, due to the secular or spiritual persuasions of the speculators/scientists. And to throw other "above nature" factors into the mix, we have the incidences of bi-location, speaking in ancient language by the uninstructed, levitation...all things that evolution does not play a role in...nor, in fact does ID in the limited use that is being questioned here.

anonymouse

-----1)I am far less interested in Intelligent Design than I am in simply asking questions about evolutionary theory. It seems to me one could be done with out the other, and, in fact, need to be. There is not one aspect of science which should go unquestioned, even by members of the unwashed such as me,

Of COURSE. But the problem is, there are *Always* questions in science left over. That doesn't make a theory wrong. Even correct theories don't have evey single bit bolted down.

The other problem is: to really understand the questions, you have to be educated in science. This may seem like a trick, or unreasonable, but it isn't.

Let me give you an analogy: quantum mechanics.

Quantum mechanics supposedly explains the scientific laws that account for magnetism, for semiconductors working by tunneling, for thousands of other things that scientists all accept as true. And yet there is no coherent explanation for why it's true. There are lots of things taught to undergrads and high school students about quantum mechanics; some of them are true, and some of them are "mostly true" or are true, except that they hide a bunch of questions under the rug. That doesn't make QM not true. It just means that for all we know (And we KNOW that EVERY SINGLE experimental prediction of QM has been verified, from things as small as 10^23 meters to things as big as 10^20 meters), we still don't understand the theory.

But QM is still true. Now, to really explain Quantum to you, you'd have to learn a lot. And until then, you might learn a little and then find some "paradoxes" or "controversies". But they aren't--they are merely the kinds of questions that arise until you can learn the more sophisticated answers.

So, when people say "Quantum is true" that's shorthand for "there are certain equations that describe certain behaviors that we can prove are true; there are other equations that can justify the first set of equations; there are other issues that are still open to interpretation, and we don't know how to resolve them yet, and we have numerous theories founded on enormous amounts of theory and experiment." So if you ask me in particular about the current state of belief in Quantum Chromodynamics, the answer is that some portion of the theory about it may have been disproven of late, but that doesn't invalidate this abstraction we call "quantum mechanics."

Similarly, when people talk about 'evolutionary theory' they are talking about a large bulk of matter--like talking about "The Classics" or "the Works of Shakespeare." Finding out that a certain sonnet wasn't written by Shakespeare doesn't change all of the analysis done on Shakespeare to date. And the people who are in the field know the specifics in that large bulk, and understand that esoteric portions are under debate without the whole body being invalid.

And so, in evolutionary theory, there are questions that you, the smart-but-not-knowledgeable person come across first, and think that those are real problems. But as you would gain more knowledge, you'd receive answers to those questions.

Going back to Quantum: No IDer has come along and said "These physicists can't even agree on quantum mechanics! None of them have the faintest idea how this thing called "the wave function collapse" happens, and hundreds of them don't believe it happens at all! Some of them believe there's only one electron! Others think there are an infinite number of parallel universes! They obviously HAVE NOT PROVEN quantum mechanics is right! This is bogus rubbish--and there's a solution: God intervenes and makes the quantum mechanics work out correctly."

Strangely, though, the IDers aren't doing this. Why not?


--- It would be quite interesting for cultural permission to be given, as it were, for this particular dogma to be held up to scrutiny and for an honest discussion to be had about the explanatory power of evolutionary theory as well as its weaknesses, flaws and gaps - without anyone getting defensive.

Honestly, the evolutionary theorists ARE giving you permission. But they find that the questions that keep getting asked are questions that require a bit of scientific sophistication to answer, and people aren't really willing to do the work to get there. Of course there are "flaws" and "gaps"-- just like in theory about quantum mechanics. It doesn't make quantum wrong, and it doesn't make evolution wrong. It just means that people aren't understanding the enormity of the work they are trying to evaluate.

anonymouse

Re: the other issue: how to reconcile an involved, theistic God with evolution, which seems to imply a kind of Deist/Blind Watchmaker God:

I think this is a much more important and fascinating question. I think we resolve it by expanding the question outward, not looking inward.

What if we discover alien life? Did they have original sin? For what? Can they become Christian? Did Jesus' suffering save them, as it saved us?

How would finding that alien life change what we understand our Christian role in God's plan to be? How would it change our notion of Earth as the centerpiece of God's creation?

Personally, would it make you doubt your religion? Or would you believe that somehow, this was part of God's plan for us humans to find this life, to participate with it in some way, to evangelize to it, even? If they had monotheistic religion, how would that change our answers to the above?

When I think about that, I realize that I am SO FAR from understanding The Christian God, my God. But I can, for an inkling, believe that other sentient beings have a place in God's universe too, and a purpose, and I don't see how allowing them somehow diminshes those of us on Earth. Similarly, I can fathom the truth of random selection and see that it has a purpose for God far beyond what I can see.

I think we look at evolution and realize that we haven't the faintest idea how God's plan for us works. If God can intervene in our lives at any moment, why doesn't he? Ultimately, the question of how to view evolution is the question of THAT, to me--if we can reconcile that God doesn't deliver us (Each Of Us, as in individual) from pain or chance at every possible moment, and yet we accept that he is playing a role in our individual lives, I see no reason why we can't reconcile that God didn't have to deliver "evolution" or "random selection" from chance or pain either.

I can't understand His intervention. I can't understand His Lack of Intervention. I still barely understand how His intervention and my free will work together. But if I accept those as tenets, I see no reason why evolution isn't simply another example of the same experience.

anonymouse

Dear Meterologist,

---What is the difference between ID folks looking at creation and saying, "Someone did this" and archaeologists looking at stone tools and saying the same thing, i.e., ruling out the possibility that wind, rain, etc., weathered this rock into an arrowhead shape?

Because a modern archaeologist does a bunch of work and says and says "we've found 5 of them over here, and we've found the chipping off of the tools in this pile right next to it. And we've found it in a 700 different locations, even though the weather wasn't the same in all of them. And statistically, given the above data, the likelihood of ALL five in this location and the 6 in each of the other 700 locations ALL not being made by a human is about 1 in a billion." He has other evidence than just the arrowhead, it's just that part isn't usually mentioned so explicitly.

Then, the archaeologist when talking to lay people, or when writing in a textbook for non-archaeologists condenses that to "humans made these."

Now, the creationist looks at the human species without the supporting evidence of the stone clippings in the corner, and the repeated finding of the stone arrowhead in a 100 different caves. They don't have the shavings--the side effects or "Results" of the actions of making the arrowheads--(what are the supposed side effects of "making" humans? only supposedly a LACK of intermediate fossils, but a LACK of something isn't a positive proof, and the most evo. folks think those intermediate fossils have been found.) They also don't have multiple instances of arrowheads popping up in different circumstances regardless of the weather patterns. Humans weren't found on Mars or in Alpha Centauri yet. If there were more copies of humans, it would seem much more likely that humans were "made" and "seeded" in the universe.

Another issue is the 1-in-a-billion part. a creationist says "Someone did this" but they didn't do the math on the 1-in-a-billion. It sure LOOKS like MORE than one in a billion that humans exist! We've got billions of galaxies! Of them, 1 in a billion has a star with planets. Of them, 1 in a billion exists with a planet with our temperature and atmosphere. Of them, 1 in a billion has signs of life on it: OURS. of ALL the species on the planet, we've only got one that appears to be sentient. So, here, the "extremely unlikely" odds are born out by our current experimental view. We appear to be that unlikely.

Now, to get around this, SOME of the creationists actually think this supports their argument. "Well, then we shouldn't be here at all! the probability should be 0! but it isn't!

Well, that's not scientific--we don't know that the probability should be zero of sentient life occurring randomly.

I hope that helps. Again, the issue is that most sciences, even archaeology, are condensing their evidence without explaining it all to you. but a careful study of the field finds it.

I would be happy to continue this offline if you like. for spam reasons, I don't use my email here, but if you respond to this, I'd be happy to email you directly.

Jeff

Mary W.:

I call Fr. Harrison a "fundamentalist" in quotes only because he tends to a belief in something close to Biblical literalism. That's usually disparaged today by intelligent Catholics and the term for it used by the wider culture is usually "fundamentalist." I would say that it's a perfectly respectable position.

Tom Haessler:

No, I don't agree with you. Fr. Harrison is concerned to show that what is taught today is CONSISTENT with what was taught before. Doctrines change, but they aren't just provisional notions that are tossed out after we find better ones. They are TRUTHS.

The Church specifically condemns the notion that it can teach "novam doctrinam." John Pual the Second asked theologians to do a better job, for example, of showing how Vatican Two was consistent with previous teaching. Because of the universality and strength of previous teaching, the Popes have taught that women cannot be ordained priests and that artificial contraception is intrinsically evil. I think Fr. Harrison is asking how universal and how clear the consensus of Holy Tradition was on these questions. That's a question that can't be gotten around simply by saying, "Church teaching CHANGES." As Fr. Harrison points out in the first part of the essay I cited, if the Church teaches one thing today authoritatively and another thing tomorrow, then no one should listen to Her.

Donald R. McClarey

The bitterness of this debate is well demonstrated by frequent letters to newspapers in which critics of ID attempt to prove that it can't be taken seriously because of imperfections in the design of creatures. Leaving aside for now the fact that this argument proves precisely nothing what strikes me is the barely concealed contempt for God and anyone who believes in Him percolating just below the surface of many of these letters. Many opponents of evolution are motivated by religious belief but many of the proponents of evolution are motivated by dime store atheism, recycling shop-worn arguments that were old when Julius Caesar was young.

sheila

Way back at the beginning of these comments, Tom Haessler noted the simple explanation he was given by his 4th grade teacher as to how people could have "come from monkeys." This answer--that it's possible that humans evolved gradually from lower forms; at some point God stepped in and engendered a soul, thereby "humanizing" them--has always been what I've believed, the way I've understood (as a person of faith) the whole evolution/creation issue. I've never expereinced, in my own thinking, a conflict between the two.

Theologically speaking, am I wrong? Out of line with Church teaching? Many of these comments are fascinating, but as someone who is not terribly interested in the minutae of scientific questions -- though very interested in the meeting of faith and reason, ala St. Thomas -- I would like a sort of "bottom line" answer on this, to the extent that one is available.

Do I need to retool my whole understanding of this issue or risk eternal damnation? If so, someone tell me -- it's already 8:00 am, I've got to get started!

Ambrosius

sheila,

the human soul, being pure spirit, must be made by God in an act of direct creation for each and every human that is ever born. So indeed, if the evolutionary account of the way in which man's body came about is correct, at some point a purely material animal was ensouled and hence became human, in the image and likeness of God.

sheila

Thank you, Ambrosius. I think the bottom line I'm looking for is that my understanding of this issue is, in fact, in line with the Church's postion vis a vis evolutionary theory, and that if, in spite of its simplicity, it satisfies my unenquiring (on this particular question) mind and I don't feel the need to probe further, then that's fine.

Joe

Anonymouse,

Informative, well reasoned posts...thank you.

In keeping with our theme here, has anyone read and/or does anyone have thoughts on this:

http://www.geraldschroeder.com/age.html

And no, I'm not for or against. I just thought it was interesting and he seems like he could be a credible source.

Tom Haessler

Hello, Jeff!

It's not clear to me exactly where we disagree. I agree that theologians need to do a better job of showing how Vatican II is in organic continuity with Tradition. I also strongly agree that doctrine and dogma express truth. But all doctrine and dogma express eternal truth in a temporal modality. So it becomes necessary to examine carefully the historical aspects of doctrinal expression. To take just one example. There is clearly something novel, and something traditional, in Vatican II's teaching on religious liberty. Those who objected to it at Vatican II were correct in pointing out that error has no rights and also in pointing out that the newer expression of doctrine was, indeed, new, and not just expressing the old teaching in different words. What the conservatives did not understand is that PEOPLE in error have rights. The older expression of Catholic teaching did not sufficiently rise to the challenge posed by the Enlightenment of finding EVANGELICAL (revealed) grounds for affirming together with secularists the right not to suffer sanctions by the state for expressing publicly and in private one's religious views. The search (and finding) of the truth is important and a duty imposed by God on his rational creatures. The older polemic against religious indifferentism appreciated this fully. But the subjective factor - appreciating that the search for truth involves rhythms and cycles of debate, doubt, partial insight, etc. - and that all during this process people are to be given respect - was insufficiently understood and, above all, practiced in the Catholic past. We rightly deplore Saudi Arabia's lack of respect for the rights of Christians to worship even in the privacy of their own homes. But even in my own lifetime, Catholics in Spain and South America used the police power to prevent Protestants from worshipping - sometimes even in private. Yes, there were integralists in America that defended the Spanish practice. COMMONWEAL protested and said that rights were being violated. COMMONWEAL was right and the conservatives were wrong. COMMONWEAL understood that the teaching on religious liberty was on the way to being given a new expression that would acknowledge the right of people to worship in accordance with their own conscience without having the state intervene.

Jeff, on the two points you raise, I think there's sufficient data from Tradition on the immorality of contraceptive marital intercourse and the impossibility of ordaining women that both these issues could be the subject of a dogmatic definition. So we agree on this point. But Father Harrison's effort to revive a pre-critical mode of biblical exegesis (criticizing even early expressions of the newer Rome mandated historical critical method like Bruce Vawter's A PATH THROUGH GENESIS) is not compatible with a whole series of documents from the pontifical biblical commission. This sort of thing gives orthodoxy a bad name. We need to remember that when ultra-conservatives attacked Raymond Brown, Cardinal Ratzinger said "I wish the Church had a hundred Raymond Browns."

Tom Haessler

Tom Haessler

Hi, Sheila,

Let me add my voice to Ambrosius's and assure you that your position is completely in accordance with Catholic teaching.

Tom Haessler

Christopher Sarsfield

Dear Anonymouse,

Let give a few problems I see with your position. First, the problem of science itself, scientists make an a priori assumption that there is no God, or if there is He does not do anything but get the whole thing going. The first conclusion science draws from this assumption is that everything that happens is the result of randomness. So they see that all creatures that have vision share common traits in their vision organs. They say, well the odds of different creatures developing similar vision organs randomly and separately are astronomical, so therefore all creatures that have any vision ability must be related, and descend from some original source. I would propose that most of the theory of evolution proceeds from similar logic. But as a catholic you must admit that God could have created each species individually, yet decided to use similar vision receptors. If this occurred there would be no need for a common source from which things descend.

You say ignorance keeps certain Catholics from embracing this theory. If only we had the time to do in depth study, we would see the truth of the theory. So what are we to do, who have not been called to be scientists? I personally do not trust scientists. I feel that they are operating on false foundational principles (like the above mentioned), and therefore that will skew their results. I do not hold that true conclusions are likely to flow from false principles. Also even if I were to study science deeply, whom would I be studying from but these same sources that are not trustworthy, and I would be forced to accept the same false principles in order to advance in my studies. I also could be influenced to embrace these false principles, by studying under brilliant fools (the fool in his heart says there is no God). I have seen many orthodox Catholics lose their faith because they become mesmerized by men of great knowledge, being unable to recognize that having great knowledge and being a great fool are not incompatible.

Finally, I would say from your posts that you do not seem to have the theological background to know where the bounds of science’s probability must end, if you are to remain a faithful catholic. Look at your excitement concerning Extra Terrestrials. You are basing your enthusiasm on science’s probabilities as if God did not exist. If God did not choose to create other rational creatures, there will be none, no matter what the scientific probability. It seems from God’s revelation that he has given us, that the probability of other creatures with free will and intellect and material bodies is very small, I would say almost zero. So whose probability should a faithful catholic follow? God’s or atheistic man’s? So in conclusion I would say that nothing that science has found proves evolution. It only proves that if you assume no God and therefore randomness, this theory could be true. However, if you assume a God that takes a direct role in His creation all bets are off. Since the latter is a correct assumption and the former a false assumption, I reject evolution.

Tom Haessler

Hello, Christopher,

It is a mistake to think that Catholicism has a position on the existence of extra-terrestials. There is nothing in Scripture or Tradition that would make this problematical. And conservative theologians have discussed both the theological and Christological implications of possible extraterrestials. A recent (amony many) by an orthodox Catholic theologian is Roch Kereszty's JESUS CHRIST (Fundamentals of Christology), Appendix II: Christ and Possible Other Universes and Extraterrestial Intelligent Beings. The PROBABILITY of extraterrestials is debated among scientists and the Church has no stake in either possibility.

Tom Haessler

Tom Haessler

Scientists do not make an a priori assumption that God does not exist. They DO make an assumption that there are questions about the universe that do not require philosophical or theological expertise to provide answers. The scientific method arose in a Christian culture and has close connections with that culture. The notion that faith is needed to address every question is a new form of fideism that is not Catholic. Suspicion of the scientific method is obscurantism, not Catholicism.

Tom Haessler

Christopher Sarsfield

Dear Tom,

I would say you are wrong about science and their assumptions. God cannot be measured, He cannot be proved to exist scientifically, therefore, science must find natural explanations (explanations that do not assume God) for everything. That is at the heart of evolution. The example I gave about vision is an example that any scientist would recognize as a proof of evolution.

Kevin Jones

First, the problem of science itself, scientists make an a priori assumption that there is no God, or if there is He does not do anything but get the whole thing going. The first conclusion science draws from this assumption is that everything that happens is the result of randomness.

Christopher,

Scientists make no such atheistic assumptions. Those who make the assumptions you describe are acting as atheists, or deists or Epicureans, and not scientists proper.

True, Science in its present form doesn't concern itself with final causes or purpose. This is often a pragmatic assumption for the sake of simplifying one's field of inquiry. Though atheists have mistaken this pragmatic limitation of the field of inquiry for the boundaries of reality itself, it's not inherent in science as such.

The most common thing many scientists assume are things like the regularity, predictability and knowability of the universe, and the ability of man to know and describe it. Many, if not all of these assumptions were nurtured by the Christian belief in a provident God who doesn't just change reality on a whim and who has created man a rational creature in His image.

Christopher Sarsfield

Dear Tom,

With regard to the possibility of intelligent life on other planets, the questions and problems that would arise from this fact make this conclusion very unlikely and very dangerous. I have seen many “conservative” theologians that get into this and end up professing heresies. For example one conservative theologian professed the possibilities of multiple incarnations of Christ, which ends up denying the defined dogma that Christ has only two natures; human and Divine. But the author would have us believe that Christ could have an infinite number of natures; human, Divine, martian, vulcan, etc. Because of the problems that would arise, and lack of any revelation of such creatures, the theological probability is very small that they exist. BTW the reasons theologians talk about this question is because of the great problems it would cause in theology some of which Anonamouse has mentioned.

T. Chan

"For example one conservative theologian professed the possibilities of multiple incarnations of Christ, which ends up denying the defined dogma that Christ has only two natures; human and Divine."

You mean like Aquinas?
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/400307.htm

One should be careful--it is not defined that Christ has only two natures, only that the Christ who came in human history is both God and man, etc..

T. Chan

Also, one needs to keep in mind the distinction between "science" which is an abstraction and scientists. Are all scientists believers in naturalism? No. Are some? Yes.

T. Chan

"But Father Harrison's effort to revive a pre-critical mode of biblical exegesis (criticizing even early expressions of the newer Rome mandated historical critical method like Bruce Vawter's A PATH THROUGH GENESIS) is not compatible with a whole series of documents from the pontifical biblical commission."

the historical critical method is not mandated

there is a difference between criticizing the method and the conclusions one reaches through using the method

the PBC is no longer an official organ of the papacy

Christopher Sarsfield

Dear T. Chan,

Thomas is only saying that Christ could assume another human nature as a possibility. But the fact is that Thomas teaches with the Church in the Summa that there are only two natures in Christ. He is dealing with possibility. If Christ assumed an alien nature, than Christ has more than two natures as a fact not a possibility. That would make the definition of Nicea false. Nicea taught that there *are* two natures in Christ. Thomas in no way denies this. He is only saying that it was possible for Christ to have taken more (it is not against the nature of God). However, what if Christ had incarnated in another planet before Nicea? That would make the statement of Nicea false. I hold that the Nicea definition was correct and that it is still Church teaching that there are only two natures in Christ. Are you saying today at this moment that there could be more than two natures in Christ?

Christopher Sarsfield

T. Chan,

Council of Toledo (Dz 283):

"In this Son of God we believe there are "two* natures, one of divity, the other of humanity."

Council of Lyons II (Dz 462):

"We believe that the same Son of God, the Word of God ..in *two* and from *two* natures."

Christopher Sarsfield

In my above post I meant to say that Chalcedon defined that there are two natures and Christ. Sorry for the confusion.

T. Chan

Mr. Sarsfield: The modifier 'only' makes all the difference. The conciliar teachings assert what I have said--that in the Christ of history and of faith there are two natures, human and divine. However, there is no "only." Yes, Aquinas was talking about the possibility of a Divine Person assuming another human nature, and that as far as we know and believe, the Second Person has not done so (and I don't think it is problematic to say that He will not do so). Nonetheless, Aquinas' argument can also be used to advance the possibility of Christ assuming the nature of a rational alien, on another planet, etc. etc., which possibility we do not have to reject as it has not been excluded so by official teaching/Tradition.

Christopher Sarsfield

Kevin,

Two points: I would distinguish between the science, which came from Catholic culture and that which came from the Enlightenment. Pre-Enlightenment science for the most part realized that true science had to account for a God Who gets involved in the universe He created through His providence. Post Enlightenment science does not.

Second point. You say that true science does not rule out God. I say that in reality it does. The vision example I gave shows this. Since all things that have a form of vision, have commonalities in their receptors, they developed from a common ancestor. Why? Because the odds of random separate development leading to the commonalities are astronomical. Why is random chance assumed? Because there is no Divine Providence directing the world. If you assumed a God with the traits described in Genesis, this conclusion would not necessarily follow.

Christopher Sarsfield

T. Chan,

I guess we will have to disagree. When the Church says there are two natures in the Second Person, I assume they are ruling out that at the time of definition there could be three or four or more (even if they do not say “only”). Much like if I said a person possesses two apples. If when I said he possessed two apples, he actually had five, most people would rightly think that I made a mistake. So I guess when I was taking my theology exams, when I was asked how many natures in Christ, I would have been correct to say two or more, as opposed to just two? While my teacher may have chuckled at the reasoning, I still think I would have got the question wrong.

T. Chan

http://www.yahoo.com/s/262308
Unfortunately, it seems to me that Fr. Coyne is speaking on a subject beyond his competence, and it wouldn't be the first time.

Tom Haessler

I'd like to make my own the clarifications of T. Chan. The Chalcedonian dogmatic definitions have to be interpreted (like all dogmatic definitions) in the context of the problematic at the time. There was no discussion at Chalcedon about the possibility of extraterrestials and their relationship to God and Christ. Catholic theology simply notes that one incarnation does not exhaust the hypostatic function of the Word. It does not suggest or imply that there ARE other incarnations (although, if there are, this would pose no serious problems for Catholic Christology). There's a long, recent article in THEOLOGICAL STUDIES on all this that shows that this is not a recent discussion.

With respect to the historical critical method, it is one of several methodologies that has received official approval from the Church. In no way does it give an exhaustive understanding of the text, but it's an important starting point. The method, as you point out, can lead to false conclusions. For example, using just the historical critical method alone, some Catholic exegetes find arguments from Scripture for the perpetual virginity of Mary uncompelling. This is actually a service (although in my view there are strong hints in the New Testament of the perpetual virginity) because it leads to a refining of the Scriptural arguments or possibly even to the view that there is no solid argument sola scriptura (not a problem for a Catholic who understands that Tradition must be consulted also).

To say that the PBC is not an official organ of the Vatican does not mean that its documents are not official. It simply means that its documents are not teaching documents. They are official documents that guide Catholic exegetes. They do not have as their purpose the resolution of issues legitimately debated by Catholic scriptural scholarship. I suspect that it's their recent long statement about different methodologies and their limitations that has bothered Fr. Harrison's defenders. Only the "fundamentalist" methodology was cited for outright rejection.

Tom Haessler

T. Chan

Mr. Sarsfield,

To me that is an unwarranted assumption. The Church was defending the truth of the faith that Christ was both God and man, against the various Christological one-nature heresies, whether it be those positing a creaturely nature or those holding a divine nature or any other variation. Assumptions like that allowing us to add the modifier 'only' leads to problems--for example, what are we then to do with variations in the Gospel narratives. Did Christ really ride 'only' one animal 'continuously' into Jerusalem? If so, then Scripture contradicts itself and contains error.

Kevin Jones

Christopher,

Your position is, to be blunt, preposterous. Do you consider any science class to be an occasion of sin? Do you counsel people to never take science classes or go into scientific fields? Is the Vatican observatory, or the Pontifical Council of the Sciences, proof positive of apostasy? It's the logical conclusion of your condemnation of all modern science.

Oh wait, are you an atheist arguing that scinece disproves religion?

T. Chan

Mr. Haessler,

'Official' implies possession of a certain authority. By itself, the PCB has no authority (and I would hold no more authority than any theological commission or committee). It does not have the weight it had before the reform of 1971, as an official organ of the papacy, the PCB was involved in questions of the nature of Scripture how Scripture was to be interpreted, giving answers to questions of authorship and so on. Rather, it is subject to the authority of the CDF--in which case the limitations of the scope of infallibility apply. Finally, the method is not a divinely-revealed tool and if it is more than reasoning logically, it is open to critique, even if it receives endorsement, partial or whole, from a bishop or someone working in the curia or even the head of a congregation.

Christopher Sarsfield

Dear Mr. Jones,

You say:

"Your position is, to be blunt, preposterous."

Well what you freely offer, I freely reject.

Why is my position preposterous? You seem to believe that the tail should wag the dog. Science is one of the lowest philosophical sciences, and should be pursued as such. Which means it should be pursued within the limits of good philosophy and theology. I gave you my example of vision. This is common evolutionary proof, which can be found in almost any biological textbook. This proof requires as a presumption that there is no hand guiding the evolutionary process. It is only the “theistic” evolutionists (let us be honest you are vast minority of scientists) that will not admit that science ignores God and providence because they cannot be materially measured. Why don’t you go to the next conference on evolution and try to discuss the impact of angelic and demonic beings on creation? You would be mocked out of the room.

As for the pontifical Academy of the Sciences and the Observatory, after reading the comments of the head of the observatory saying that creation does not point to a creator, in direct contradiction of Vatican I, I say the man appears to be a heretic and to have lost the faith, which would tend to favor my position.
With regard to going into scientific fields, I would say that it is very dangerous. Just as I would say going to a Pontifical Institute and studying scripture would be very dangerous. I have friends who are studying/have studied at the Gregorian and Angelicum and they were mocked because they believed that all men descended from Adam and Eve, or that there is such a thing as original sin. So I have no problem telling people who go to study science to watch out. Many of the your teachers will hate the Church and what she stands for and will allow that hatred to influence their conclusions. How many of your instructors believed in original sin, and that all men have descended from Adam and Eve?

I will not minimize all the definitions of the Church, because I fear science. Look at this discussion. In order to be able to stay within the bounds of science, we have to admit that there could be more than two natures in Christ, there could be more than seven sacraments (after all the other planets could have their own), there could be another priesthood and sacrifice for sin (women can not be priests, but perhaps Vulcans can). Hey when you go to adoration next time maybe you can make an act of faith to Christ’s other possible natures in the Blessed Sacrament, after all the Church said that Christ is present body, blood, soul, and divinity, it did not say He is only present in these ways. Maybe in the future when we go to other planets they will tell us how their incartnation of Christ revealed that there is a fourth or fifth or sixth Person in the Blessed Trinity, after all the Church has never defined that there are *only* three. When we get to heaven we will probably see all types of different Christs based on his different incarnations – a little green Christ for the martians, one with pointy ears for the Vulcans, etc – all because science says it is probable that there are other intelligent beings in the universe.

Finally, give me one accepted textbook of science (accepted by the scientific community) that says that science should take into account God and His Providence as opposed to seeing things as random chance.

Tom Haessler

Mr. Chan,

The concept of authority is analogous. There is an "authority" connected with distinction in one's field. The scholars connected with the Pontifical Biblical Institute are all world class who have earned their distinction the old fashioned way - learning many foreign languages, mastering the history of biblical studies, learning the various methodologies, etc.

Despite the authority of the earlier decisions of the PBC, very few of the decisions connected with authorship, for example, would be defended by Catholics prepared by long study to engage in discussion of these questions. The PBC was mistaken about the unity of Isaiah, the substantial identity of Hebrew or Aramaic Matthew with Greek Matthew, the chronological order of the synoptics, the notion that the Pentateuch was composed principally by Moses, etc. Throughout the world imprimaturs have been given by conservative bishops to Catholics attacking each of these positions. The defense of the original PBC positions in works like the Navarre bible are so weak that they become arguments in favor of the new positions. The current pope strongly identified with the newer form of scholarship all during his theological tenure and never once censured the mainstream work of Catholic biblical scholars which rejected the earlier PBC positions. He did start serious discussion about the limitations of the historical critical method, but nowhere does he reject it as one possible approach to the text. Is there tension between systematic theology and some schools of Catholic biblical studies? Yes. Just as there was tension between Antiochian and Alexandrian fathers. But the Church fully endorses the work of Catholic biblical scholars who join the mainstream of Jewish, Protestant, and secular scholars in insisting that the Bible must be understood as literature.

Tom Haessler

T. Chan

Mr. Haessler:

"Despite the authority of the earlier decisions of the PBC, very few of the decisions connected with authorship, for example, would be defended by Catholics prepared by long study to engage in discussion of these questions. The PBC was mistaken about the unity of Isaiah, the substantial identity of Hebrew or Aramaic Matthew with Greek Matthew, the chronological order of the synoptics, the notion that the Pentateuch was composed principally by Moses, etc. Throughout the world imprimaturs have been given by conservative bishops to Catholics attacking each of these positions. The defense of the original PBC positions in works like the Navarre bible are so weak that they become arguments in favor of the new positions."

Judging that previous decisions of the PBC are erroneous based on conclusions which cannot intrinsically be certain, and whose premises are open to doubt rather than being probable is rassh. The method by its very nature cannot achieve certitude.

"The current pope strongly identified with the newer form of scholarship all during his theological tenure and never once censured the mainstream work of Catholic biblical scholars which rejected the earlier PBC positions. He did start serious discussion about the limitations of the historical critical method, but nowhere does he reject it as one possible approach to the text."

An absence of censure does not imply that there is nothing objectively wrong with the method or with the works of the authors in question. There are manifestly heretical works published by Catholic presses or which purport to be "Catholic" but which have not been condemned by the CDF.

T. Chan

As it is somewhat relevant -- distinction in one's field, as it is gauged by passing the standards of the institution or being accepted by one's colleagues in the field, does not immediately confer authority -- this is the same sort of appeal to authority that neo-Darwinists make, which does nothing to redeem their poor reasoning.

Tom Haessler

Hello, again, Mr. Chan, my worthy opponent!

Let me start by agreeing with you that there are some books published by putatively Catholic publishers that contain heretical opinions. However, the issue we were discussing was the positions taken by the older PBC on critical questions pertaining to authorship, dating, provenance, etc. These are not doctrinal issues. For prudential reasons, at certain times in history, the Church has intervened in its disciplinary role to protect the faithful from positions that may be dangerous (at the time) to the faith of little ones. However, the doctrinal authority of the Church extends only indirectly to these areas of authorship, dating, etc.

Another area of agreement is that on these questions there is no intrinsic certitude. The priority of Mark is very well-established in biblical scholarship, despite some highly intelligent defenders of Matthean priority. Neither position is intrinsically certain, both are probable. But Markan priority is much, much more probable (at this time). In my opinion, we unnecessarily expose the Church to ridicule from those who otherwise might be sympathetic if we continue to defend positions with the magisterium does not impose nor even recommend (any longer). The fact that one of the posters above worries about biblical courses taught in Rome at the Angelicum and the Gregorian is disturbing to me. These scholars are vetted for their orthodoxy. This kind of thinking leads to bizarre conspiracy theories about Jews and Freemasons who are moles in the Vatican.

Tom Haessler

Edmund Moore

I'd just like to add my agreement to Christopher Sarsfield's comments here on the nature of modern science and modern scientists. He is quite right, of course, that philosophy and theology constitute the higher sciences and that modern science is an inferior study in comparison. Philosophy and theology discuss questions vitally relevant to us in the long run, whereas tinkering around to discover the workings of the material world - where we reside for such a short time - is hardly of great importance, in the light of eternity.

God is inconceivable and infinite; how arrogant to think that with our tiny brains, we can possibly uncover His mysteries! No matter how much we may discover, there will always be much more that is still unknown, and until we know everything, our knowledge is useless - that last piece of knowledge could be the clue to all the rest.

I don't say that studying science is a waste of time - it's useful for many practical purposes, but it should be seen for what it is; not mistaken as a method for discovering the mysteries of the Universe.

And scientists are not trustworthy. Not that they are deliberately deceitful, but they are conditioned and impure and therefore unable to attain the objectivity they lay claim to. There are very many nowadays who are excited at the idea that science can disprove the existence of God - and that's the bias with which they searh for and examine their evidence.

T. Chan

Mr. Haessler:

[quote]However, the issue we were discussing was the positions taken by the older PBC on critical questions pertaining to authorship, dating, provenance, etc. These are not doctrinal issues.[/quote]
They are not doctrinal issues if questions of authorship, dating, etc. is not a criteria for historicity and historical reliability and is not related to the proper understanding of what Scripture is saying. On the other hand if it is, then it is obviously within the competence of the Magisterium. For example, is the fall of Jerusalem foretold in the Gospels? If it is, then the position that particular parts of the Gospels in question could not have been written until after the fall of Jerusalem is wrong. One can dispute whether that understanding of the text is ultimately a part of the deposit of faith, but I would argue that it is hasty to conclude that it's a settled question because of historical-criticism.


For prudential reasons, at certain times in history, the Church has intervened in its disciplinary role to protect the faithful from positions that may be dangerous (at the time) to the faith of little ones. However, the doctrinal authority of the Church extends only indirectly to these areas of authorship, dating, etc.

[quote]Another area of agreement is that on these questions there is no intrinsic certitude. The priority of Mark is very well-established in biblical scholarship, despite some highly intelligent defenders of Matthean priority. Neither position is intrinsically certain, both are probable.[/quote]
This I deny, because the premises themselves are not probable.

[quote]But Markan priority is much, much more probable (at this time). In my opinion, we unnecessarily expose the Church to ridicule from those who otherwise might be sympathetic if we continue to defend positions with the magisterium does not impose nor even recommend (any longer).[/quote]
Ultimately those who have difficulties with the Magisterium will be judged by God--there is no indication that the rulings of the PCB have been abrogated.

[quote]The fact that one of the posters above worries about biblical courses taught in Rome at the Angelicum and the Gregorian is disturbing to me. These scholars are vetted for their orthodoxy.[/quote]
I disagree. If the Angelicum is doing better than the Gregorian, it's because the Dominicans have not declined as much as the Jesuits. There is no guarantee of infallibility or inerrancy when it comes to the selection or approval of those who are to fill teaching posts. A judgment of whether someone is acceptable or not is only as good as the personal orthodoxy of the one judging, and it is not outside of the realm of possibility that not more than a few within and without the curia are incompetent to judge.

Julia

thank you, thank you - anonymous, Tom Hessler, Ambrosius, Kevin Jones, Old Chou, et al. And a special thanks to Joe for the link to the professor in Israel.

The Jewish professor's take on how the world and humans came to be really knocked my socks off. He points out that Moses (if you are really reading him correctly) refers to an old time and the time from Adam. Also - that Rosh Hashanna is the birthday of humankind and the beginning of our history - God's making of Adam. The first six days (the old time) are separate and could each be infinitesimally long. Whereas time as we know it begins with Adam. Cool. Why didn't I think of that?

Here's a really fascinating nugget from one of the Talmodists he's citing:

"But Nachmanides points out a problem with that. The text says "there was evening and morning Day One... evening and morning a second day... evening and morning a third day." Then on the fourth day, the sun is mentioned. Nachmanides says that any intelligent reader can see an obvious problem. How do we have a concept of evening and morning for the first three days if the sun is only mentioned on Day Four? We know that the author of the Bible - even if you think it was a bunch of Bedouins sitting around a campfire at night - one thing we know is that the author was smart. He or she or it produced a best-seller. For thousands of years! So you can't attribute the sun appearing only on Day Four to foolishness. There's a purpose for it on Day Four. And the purpose is that as time goes by and people understand more about the universe, you can dig deeper into the text.

Nachmanides says the text uses the words "Vayehi Erev" - but it doesn't mean "there was evening." He explains that the Hebrew letters Ayin, Resh, Bet - the root of "erev" - is chaos. Mixture, disorder. That's why evening is called "erev", because when the sun goes down, vision becomes blurry. The literal meaning is "there was disorder." The Torah's word for "morning" - "boker" - is the absolute opposite. When the sun rises, the world becomes "bikoret", orderly, able to be discerned. That's why the sun needn't be mentioned until Day Four. Because from erev to boker is a flow from disorder to order, from chaos to cosmos. That's something any scientist will testify never happens in an unguided system. Order never arises from disorder spontaneously. There must be a guide to the system. That's an unequivocal statement.

Order can not arise from disorder by random reactions. (In pure probability it can, but the numbers are so infinitesimally small that physics regards the probability as zero.) So you go to the Dead Sea and say, "I see these orderly salt crystals. You're telling me that G-d's there making each crystal?" No. That's not what I'm saying. But the salt crystals do not arise randomly. They arise because laws of nature that are part of the creation package force salt crystals to form. The laws of nature guide the development of the world. And there is a phenomenal amount of development that's encoded in the Six Days. But it's not included directly in the text. Otherwise you'd have creation every other sentence!

The Torah wants you to be amazed by this flow of order, starting from a chaotic plasma and ending up with a symphony of life. Day-by-day the world progresses to higher and higher levels. Order out of disorder. It's pure thermodynamics. And it's stated in terminology of 3000 years ago."

Thank you all for several hours worth of intriguing argument.

What wonders we are learning in blogs - and from this relatively conservative blog!! I don't think there was even one combox poster who was here only looking for comfort and like-mindedness for his ideas. To the contrary, what a wide range of opinions and sources have been put forward here.


Tom Haessler

Mr. Chan, my worthy opponent,

Fr. John Ford, in his two volume work on fundamental moral theology, has a long piece on how documents of the magisterium are to be interpreted - a sort of hermeneutic for this sort of thing. He's earned his stripes by his courageous defense of HUMANAE VITAE against all comers. He points out that one criterion is how often the magisterium intervenes and whether there are continuing interventions despite the dissent. So, for example, Pius X's Instruction on Sacred Music, based on the theology of the time (women cannot hold a "liturgical office"), logically concluded that women should not sing in choirs and scholas. This particular provision was never enforced and there were no diatribes from Rome complaining about non-compliance. In 1967, Paul VI, operating on an improved understanding of how Baptism and Confirmation equip one for liturgical roles not requiring ordination, reversed the position of Pius X and said women can be in choirs and scholas.

The view that the earlier decisions of the PBC are "certain" until alternative views are proven to be more than probable is based on the view that they were "certain" to begin with, rather than provisional.

Actually, the work of some form critics would establish that the prophetic "prediction" by Jesus of the destruction of the temple could be an IPSISSIMUM VERBUM of Jesus Himself. If this is the case, then historicity is not connected with the date of the Gospel. I believe that even if Mark is to be dated in the early seventies (which I believe to be too late), the historicity of Jesus prophesying the destruction of the temple is assured by the very methods which you deplore and regard as optional.

I can assure you that the biblical professors at the Angelicum would be astounded to learn that people as learned as yourself continue to imagine that the decisions of the PBC on non-doctrinal issues are binding on Catholics. The Angelicum is not a branch of Navarre!

Orthodoxy is not judged by private individuals. If I worried as much as you do about the large numbers of people with heterodox views in the Vatican and in pontifical universities, I'd be tempted to sedevacantism - a very dangerous place to be spiritually, if I should succomb to the temptation.

The hostility to science in a number of the posts is an attitude that is throughly unCatholic and completely contrary to the teaching of John Paul the Great on the role of reason in the search for truth. It's the resurrection of a kind of fideism that many had thought disappeared after Vatican I. Those who want to hitch the Church to bad science like "Intelligent Design" have not learned the lessons of the Galileo case. It is true that Galileo's "proofs" for heliocentrism were defective, but it's also true, as John Paul the Great acknowledged, that the Churchmen involved with the Galileo case were wrong about Scripture and theology. They imagined that one could find a solution to a scientific question in the Sacred Text. They were wrong. As the Pope put it, the Bible was written not to teach us how the heavens go, but how to get to Heaven. Many here have said "evolution is not proven yet" (something that is simply untrue if we're talking about the major contours of the theory). This is EXACTLY what certain churchmen at the time of Galileo were saying (and they were right about the science, but wrong about their own field - theology).

Certain of the concordist views above are incorrect. The Hebrew word YOM in the first creation account in Genesis 1:1 to 2:4a means a "day" of twenty-four hours, not a long period of time. The Priestly author of this poetic account would be astounded that people were imagining that he was giving a literal account of exactly how and in what order God created the material universe. Here we have a presupposition that is explicitely repudiated by the PBC itself! As he would be astounded to learn that some people today think that he was Moses!

Both creation accounts are filled with deep religious and doctrinal implications, but these do not yield themselves to those who are uncurious about what these texts meant to their original audiences.

Finally, I'd like to suggest that the reason that the PBC's position statements on dating, authorship, etc. are no longer regarded as doctrinal in character is due to the major difficulties that the wrong answers on critical questions caused the Church earlier in the twentieth century. The Church is learning from its mistakes.

Tom Haessler

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.