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Charles Darwin’s discovery was surely great. But let’s not dismiss all other thinkers – Aristotle or Socrates, say – who came before him

G G Simpson, quoted by Richard Dawkins, suggested that the great thinkers of antiquity are now worthless

By on Monday, 6 August 2012

A sculpture of Darwin outside Bradford Town Hall made out of sand (Photo: PA)

A sculpture of Darwin outside Bradford Town Hall made out of sand (Photo: PA)

This is the opening paragraph of Professor Richard Dawkins’s famous book The Selfish Gene, quoted in its entirety.

WHY ARE PEOPLE?

Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilisation, is: “Have they discovered evolution yet?” Living organisms had existed on earth, without ever knowing why, for over three thousand million years before the truth finally dawned on one of them. His name was Charles Darwin. To be fair, others had had inklings of the truth, but it was Darwin who first put together a coherent and tenable account of why we exist. Darwin made it possible for us to give a sensible answer to the curious child whose question heads this chapter. We no longer have to resort to superstition when faced with the deep problems: Is there a meaning to life? What are we for? What is man? After posing the last of these questions, the eminent zoologist G G Simpson put it thus: “The point I want to make now is that all attempts to answer that question before 1859 are worthless and that we will be better off if we ignore them completely.”

I said the other day that there was something about it that made me sit up and take notice.

Working out the reason for your own existence is certainly the mark of an advanced society or an advanced individual. This is what Socrates did – he reflected on his own existence, and he came to a remarkable degree of self-understanding. He was the one who remarked that the unexamined life was not worth living. Aristotle, too, believed that self-reflection, what he called phronesis, was the highest possible human activity. Aristotle was of course a biologist, and much of his life was spent in observing not just himself, but nature too.

But neither of these men knew of evolution, though they may have had inklings of the truth. In fact the Greeks, though very advanced in mathematics and philosophy, were at a practical level poor scientists. They did not even invent the arch, even though they could predict eclipses and study the planets (quite an achievement, considering they had no telescopes).

My point is that the Greeks, though ignorant of many scientific achievements of later generations, were not the sort of people that one should dismiss; yet that is exactly what the quotation from G G Simpson, within the quotation above, seems to do.

The year 1859 – the year of Darwin’s great scientific discovery – surely is an important year, even a watershed. But to dismiss all the centuries that come before seems mistaken. But it has to be said that this is a common mistake. Human beings love to see certain events as key, and somehow changing all that went before. Perhaps one can see the Darwinian moment as marking a paradigm shift (I have no problem with that), but should one see it as the greatest paradigm shift ever, which is clearly what Professor Dawkins believes?

All this reminds me of the way that his contemporaries reacted to Isaac Newton. Alexander Pope wrote:

Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night;
God said “Let Newton be” and all was light.

This implies that Newton’s discoveries were more or less the most important thing since the creation of the world – though it is worth remembering that Pope was famous for his irony.

The problem I have with seeing Darwin as the inaugurator of a new age (though he undoubtedly was that in a sense) is the implication that everything that went before was gravely lacking. Not only are Aristotle and Socrates worth treasuring – they represent human achievements never bettered in certain important respects – but it is also true to say, surely, that Darwin did not come from nowhere, and that he, too, like all of us, was a product of his time. In other words, without the pre-history, without those who went before him, Darwin himself would not have been the man he was.

So, in reply to G G Simpson, one would have to say that what preceded the year 1859 simply cannot be ignored. Not even Darwin started from scratch. No one does.

  • Acleron

    You haven’t answered why the label evil can be applied differently in different situations. Even though a counter example was given you, you persist in saying it is universal. Well it isn’t. That is not to say that certain actions and events are not considered favourably by all people. These cases such as appreciation of children, altruism and cooperation are being explained quite adequately by biology and game theory. Their appearance in many animals including Homo spp is also explained by evolution.

    Although the early universities were sponsored by religion, after all who else had the finance, it is quite obvious that the results of rational thought were not to their liking. The point you miss is that although some scientists are religious, it has never helped their rational thought and on occasions has actively hindered it. 

    Fabri wasn’t criticising the church, he was merely pointing out a fact that was disliked to the extent of imprisoning him. A fact that hundreds of years later your religion admitted. He also demonstrated how careful a rational scientist had to be to avoid the irrational responses, often violent, of his religious overlords. This means one can dismiss many of the pro-religious statements made by scientists when publishing their work. It would not surprise me to find that they considered it a regrettable but necessary act.

    But the interference of religion with rational discourse continues to the present. In 1981 in a meeting with Wojtyla, a group of scientists including Stephen Hawking were told that they could explore the evolution of the universe after the big bang but not inquire into the moment of creation because that was god’s work. Fortunately, they ignored him.

  • theroadmaster

    So “Good” and “evil” are merely biological constructs that have been hardwired into our DNA and not transcendent conditions regarding our moral behavior. I think this does not answer the question what is their source as we instinctively know by reason that they are part of a natural moral framework which was not created by man. We can grasp it but we are not it’s instigator Some scientists who ascribe behavior to a purely evolutionary understanding ascribe the functions of altruism or selflessness to a “survival” mechanism. But again, there needs to be a source to explain this. It just did appear suddenly from nowhere and it begs the question of it’s value if we are just the sum of our material parts without a spiritual reality. You state that religion hampered the careers of religiously inclined scientists. Tell that to Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton or even a scientist of the modern era like William Thomson Kelvin, the famous physicist. Karol Wottyla, the late Great, Blessed Pope John Paul 11, has not real need to worry, as scientists can continue to explore the possible causes for the creation of the universe and will more than likely will find no evidence to invalidate the belief in a God Creator. Geraldo

  • Acleron

    The fact that altruism and other such behavioural systems increase survival is all the explanation that is required and that survival characteristic is the source. If they didn’t, they would have been selected against. This is the essence of the theory of evolution. No guiding hand or other entity is required. Other species have evolved different survival strategies. For example, the sea turtle is pretty solitary except for mating and especially egg laying. The congregation of these wonderful animals for egg laying is not primarily because they like company, but the safety of the genes in the great numbers presented to the local predators. Sea turtles could be considered to be a-altruistic. Spiders that eat their mates could be considered to be anti-altruistic. Because humans are capable of high levels of thought we can examine these various mechanisms, much as we examine our own behaviour. There is advantage to ascribing the ill-defined labels of good or evil to animals as there is to humans. And because we can think with high levels of abstraction there is no particular reason we have to continue these behaviours if we consider them to be harmful in our present circumstances. After all, because evolution is not guided it can progress down blind alleys to the detriment of the species, making them sensitive to minor changes in the environment.

    Like your mention of Einstein, I wouldn’t bring in Newton to support your argument. His views on his beliefs were well hidden because he would have been declared a heretic if he had exposed them at the time. He certainly didn’t believe in trinitarianism. He, unusually for that period for educated men, refused to to take holy orders and similarly refused to accept the sacrament on his death bed. He also believed in the occult and alchemy. It appears he was very much a god of the gaps man.

    “Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done.” 

    Part of that belief was because he understood that the orbits of the planets were inherently unstable, a massive feat of understanding, but he thought that the evidence was that they were eternal and unchanging and thus required your guiding hand to nudge them back into position. Now we know they are not only unstable but that tremendous changes have happened in the solar system and will happen again. Incidentally, Einstein made a similar error and introduced the cosmological constant into his theory to make the universe static, but yet again the evidence is now in and we know it is continually expanding.

    We can now understand what set the planets in motion, we have pushed our lack of understanding and thus any place for any deity back to the point of creation of the universe and contrary to  Wojtyla’s demands, we are exploring beyond that point.

  • theroadmaster

    The fact that we can discern “Good” and “evil” behaviors shows that our mental capabilities are such that we can discern a higher moral code that we should not breach. This is more than a “survival” mechanism as it entails something that is transcendent and spiritual. We have only to consider the Holocaust inflicted on European Jewry by nazi criminals, an act of unspeakable evil. This really brought home the very dark side of humanity. It was something which could not be explained away in simplistic, evolutionary terms. It was something that tore at the heart of universal morality. We are not simply reactive beings like other animals, we can reason our existence and recognize the validity of abstract conditions outside materialist atoms and sub-atomic particles . This goes for the concepts of “Good” and “evil” and acting with a sense of altruism, expecting nothing in return. We are not biological automatons, held hostage by our genes and past evolutionary changes
    You make good points about Newton, and some might call him a Deist and not an orthodox Christian. But he was nonetheless a believe in a Divine Intelligence and his scientific endeavours in his view, did not clash with his religious inclinations Geraldo

  • Acleron

    ‘We are not simply reactive beings like other animals, we can reason our
    existence and recognize the validity of abstract conditions outside
    materialist atoms and sub-atomic particles’

    Of course we can reason as such. But the implication that other animals are simply reactive is wrong. Much work with primates, cetaceans and even dogs has shown that they also have concepts of right and wrong and their concepts are just as malleable as your labels of good and evil. Also nobody says, and I didn’t, that we should be captive to our heredity, in the same way we should not be captives of our history. But evolution, biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics explains how we acquired those concepts. It wasn’t something spiritual even though it may seem that to you. It wasn’t out of an old book and it wasn’t from a group of itinerants wandering around looking for some land to grab. It came from something much grander and more beautiful than a religion It came as emergent properties from living in the same space as others of our species and having to evolve mechanisms for both competing to spread our particular gene-set better than anyone else’s and also gain by cooperation. The distribution of this compete/cooperate system can be see throughout the animal/plant kingdoms, from almost full cooperation as in meerkats to the solitary nature of the jaguar. Our strategy is pretty much in the middle with competition and cooperation evenly mixed. Now, to overcome these inherited characteristics we have to know where they came from. Not understanding our origins means we could easily cause ourselves problems so making up vague words and then ascribing fantastic origins to them is not conducive to bettering ourselves.

    You and I can agree that the Holocaust was indeed an abominable act. Others however can and do say it wasn’t, there are plenty of neo-Nazis around the world who think it was necessary. As it happens, they are very religious. So their definition of good and evil is different from yours, that is what makes such labels particularly useless and in fact dangerous. Hitler plugged into the fact that his population was programmed to react with repugnance if evil was mentioned. Have a look at how many times he called the Jews, evil. He may have been a monster, but he knew as much about manipulating people as your church does. The act has to be explained in context, not just labelled inadequately. There is too much pseudo-absolutism about religion and not enough discussion on evidence and actual events. Good, evil, morals etc are all changeable.  Personally I think it is quite wrong to beat small children. Should I condemn the Christian Brothers as evil for their actions? Fortunately I take a more nuanced view and although some of them were just sadists, others actually thought they were doing the children good by indoctrinating them to be obedient to irrationality. Therefore I can assess them as being misguided and heavy handed. My assessment may be wrong when judged in the future, we may have returned to an oppressed theist state and such actions will be considered reasonable. But my recording of their brutality and how it is assessed at the moment will always be correct. Can you see the problems of assigning inadequate and vague labels now?

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    You’ve totally failed to demonstrate that the Bible shows that St Paul or Christ were “creationists” (an anachronism in this context: creationism is a nineteenth century development). Your question is a non-sequitur.

    As I posted on the earlier thread:

    I do feel for you, Karl: you’ve clearly given a lot of thought to this line of argument, but you need the cooperation of your interlocutor to make it work.

    I simply don’t accept that your reading of your proof-texts is supported by the texts themselves: use of a cultural commonplace in an allusion, simile or metaphor is not evidence for a belief that the source material is reportage of a literal event; and we know enough about exegesis in the first century to dismiss your assumption that literalism was the normal mode of interpretation at that time. 

    Asking Catholics our views about Christ’s “beliefs” is nonsensical: we believe that Christ is the second person of the Trinity;  he would not have “believed”, he would have known. 

    I appreciate that the current version of Hinduism draws on traditions that can be traced back a long way, but none of that is relevant to Biblical exegesis: I have no idea why you have tossed that red herring into the argument. 

    You need to look for an argument that doesn’t rely on your own subjective opinion and emphatically doesn’t rely on recruiting your interlocutor to your assumptions. 

  • karlf

    I’ve hardly “totally failed” when they are both quoted making matter of fact statements about Adam, but never mention the process of evolution, or our animal ancestry. This evidence is all there in the Bible, rather than in post Bible theology.

  • karlf

     

    “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” Mark 2:27

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    You’re arguing from silence.

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    And?

  • theroadmaster

    “..Of course we can reason as such. But the implication that other animals are simply reactive is wrong. Much work with primates, cetaceans and even dogs has shown that they also have concepts of right and wrong and their concepts are just as malleable as your labels of good and evil. Also nobody says, and I didn’t, that we should be captive to our heredity, in the same way we should not be captives of our history. But evolution, biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics explains how we acquired those concepts. It wasn’t something spiritual even though it may seem that to you. It wasn’t out of an old book and it wasn’t from a group of itinerants wandering around looking for some land to grab..”
    I grant you that primates, cetaceans and even dogs have varying levels of intelligence, but it is rather stretching things too far, to attribute an understanding of such concepts as “Good” and “evil” to them. These animals operate in essentially instinctive and reactive modes and do possess what we call “intelligence”. But it has never developed into the higher reasoning of man and thus mankind is equipped mentally to discover the moral codes that we take for granted. Evolution through “Natural Selection” could explain the processes which matures our brains, but cannot cover such abstract conditions as moral absolutes, mathematics or even emotions like love or jealousy. These are more than the results of biochemical actions in the brain as they all have intrinsic values of their own, outside our subjective view points.
    “..You and I can agree that the Holocaust was indeed an abominable act. Others however can and do say it wasn’t, there are plenty of neo-Nazis around the world who think it was necessary. As it happens, they are very religious. So their definition of good and evil is different from yours, that is what makes such labels particularly useless and in fact dangerous..”
    The true adherents of the cult of nazism developed a deep hatred of the established religions in Germany and sought to destroy or subordinate them to their warped wills Their “morality” was completely at odds with the general understanding of it-the willingness to use torture, mass-murder, war, concentration camps to eradicate whole peoples from the face of the earth in order to impose an evil ideology. There can be no ambiguity here in relation to what “Good” or “evil” consists of. The subjective, twisted version of nazi “morality” surely amplifies this point, as it caused a whole coalition of nations to oppose and defeat it. Geraldo

  • Acleron

    Morals are merely enunciated rules by which we socialise. There is nothing absolute about them and I tire of giving you examples where your rules of conduct have changed, just like everyone else’s.

    Your portrayal of the reasoning powers of animals as purely instinctive is not correct. They may not have developed the ability to communicate their thoughts in speech on this matter but they are certainly not purely instinctive by any reasonable measurement. They make decisions based on their group or tribe, they can cooperate, they can plan and they have a list of rules of conduct. Just like humans, they can change these behaviours and can learn both through their own experience and from others. There is no qualitative difference between any of for example the primates. Believing that you are unique or special just reduces your ability to understand exactly why you behave in the manner you do. it also leads you down paths of justification that others find wrong. 

    The nazi’s may have been antagonistic to established religion, new regimes often eliminate competitors. the religions have and at present, do the same. But they believed in a god and it was pretty close to your god, so if you can say, in the discussion of pascal’s wager, that the American Indians gods are equivalent to yours and everything is ok, you will have to accept the nazi god. This is an example of these so called absolute morals, same god, different morals, how does that happen?

    ‘the willingness to use torture, mass-murder, war, concentration camps to eradicate whole peoples from the face of the earth in order to impose an evil ideology.’

    Lets look at this in detail.
    Torture: the catholic’s use of torture is well documented.
    Mass-murder: Remember the Aztec civilisation? No, not many people do after your priests mopped up after Cortez. The catholic church fully supported the subjugation and elimination of this culture because it was a great job opportunity for evangelising priests.
    Concentration camps and genocide: Have to give you pass on this, but then you never had the weapons for it but given your record elsewhere…

    So can I now accuse you of trying to impose an evil ideology?

    Now don’t for one moment try and say I’m condoning the abominable acts of the nazi’s, I’m not, merely pointing out that trying to simplify actions into black and white, or in this case good and evil is futile and counter-productive. But when you get your views from a book written before we found it useful to be able to discuss these matters in detail, wrongful simplicity is all that’s available to you.

  • karlf

    I think people may have been interested – and could of benefited from some of his knowledge about infectious diseases too, but clearly Jesus just kept it all to himself.
    There is nothing in the Bible that an ordinary mortal could not have known at the time it was written.

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    His mission was to save our souls, not satisfy our curiosity.

  • theroadmaster

    “Morals are merely enunciated rules by which we socialise. There is nothing absolute about them and I tire of giving you examples where your rules of conduct have changed, just like everyone else’s.
    Your portrayal of the reasoning powers of animals as purely instinctive is not correct. They may not have developed the ability to communicate their thoughts in speech on this matter but they are certainly not purely instinctive by any reasonable measurement. They make decisions based on their group or tribe, they can cooperate, they can plan and they have a list of rules of conduct. Just like humans, they can change these behaviours and can learn both through their own experience and from others. There is no qualitative difference between any of for example the primates. Believing that you are unique or special just reduces your ability to understand exactly why you behave in the manner you do. it also leads you down paths of justification that others find wrong.”
    But your examples have not undermined my original premise that there is a discernible higher code of morals which civilized nations abide by. They have been encoded in such declarations as the “UN Declaration Of The Rights Of Man”(1948) and the First Geneva Convention{1864). These landmark events were not the culmination of subjective,socially agreed customs or conventions, but rather the concretization of universal norms to be applied by countries regarding their own citizens, in terms of their alienable rights and dignity. They grew out of appreciation for a higher moral set of moral values for people to aspire to. Because individuals or nations contravened these morals over the centuries, does not in anyway undermine the non-negotiable status of them.

    “..Lets look at this in detail.
    Torture: the catholic’s use of torture is well documented. Mass-murder: Remember the Aztec civilisation? No, not many people do after your priests mopped up after Cortez. The catholic church fully supported the subjugation and elimination of this culture because it was a great job opportunity for evangelising priests. Concentration camps and genocide: Have to give you pass on this, but then you never had the weapons for it but given your record elsewhere…” It was not the Church, which slaughtered millions of indigenous people in Central or Southern America, but rather the soldiers of the Spanish or Portuguese empires. In fact, there were clergymen who appealed for the dignity and humane treatment of the native Indians of these areas. These priests were acting in accordance with their Christian formation. The most famous example of this is Bartolomé de las Casas O.P. (1484[1] –1566). I am not excusing atrocities committed in the name of religion in any sense, but putting the context into which colonization operated albeit with a religious input. Cortes and his fellow conquistadors seen their mission as wiping out the pagan and blood-sacrafice elements of the people that they were trying to bring within the boundaries of the Spanish empire. Their methods to us seem repugnant now, but this was the mindset of many empires of this period in the 15th-16th centuries. This type of violent coercion in the name of Christianity is the complete antithesis of what the Religion is about which is rather different from the murderous policies of the nazis, who had no moral scruples in that regard. Europe in the early part of the 20th still has broadly Christian values and thus members of the nazi party in Germany would have come from a Faith background however nominal. Many of them did indeed do abominable things as nazis, but we cannot judge the values of Christianity by those who deviate from them in such a perverted fashion. In effect, many of those who became card-carrying nazis renounced their Catholicism or protestantism in favor of the program of hitler’s regime. So please, do not compare like with unlike here, nazism is as distant ideologically from Christianity, as night from day. nazi absolutes are not universal norms, but rather the perversion of them.
    Now don’t for one moment try and say I’m condoning the abominable acts of the nazi’s, I’m not, merely pointing out that trying to simplify actions into black and white, or in this case good and evil is futile and counter-productive. But when you get your views from a book written before we found it useful to be able to discuss these matters in detail, wrongful simplicity is all that’s available to you.
    The “Book” as you describe it is crystal-clear regarding the right behavior of humanity. The Ten Commandments and Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount in Matthew’s Gospel are good examples of this. So do not blame the bible if so-called practitioners of Christianity fall below these ideals. We have all a tendency to do wrong and this is why society has to regulate against certain behaviors, based on a higher code of ethics i.e penalties against murder, robbery, rape, etc. Geraldo

  • Acleron


    Their methods to us seem repugnant now, but this was the mindset of many empires of this period in the 15th-16th centuries.’

    Precisely. Nothing absolute then.

    ‘We have all a tendency to do wrong’
    Do we? More like we have a tendency to be selfish which requires regulation as population density rises.

     ‘and this is why society has to regulate against certain behaviors, based on a higher code of ethics i.e penalties against murder, robbery, rape, etc.’

    Yes and what happened in England the first time anything like this was formulated in England? Your leader, Innocent III, condemned it. So, much as I’ve heard catholics argue about the debt we owe religion in this country, the reverse is actually true. In actual fact, because you start from the wrong premise, ‘society has to regulate’, your methods go in the wrong direction. For example, we see that crime rises as social inequality rises. The solution is not more regulation but more equality. We find this by examining the evidence, thinking about the evidence and drawing conclusions based on the evidence, not by consulting an out of date book. We can also see that penalties do not cut crime, but getting caught does. Unfortunately, too many are of your, to borrow your excellent word, mindset are caught up in the penalty business.

    Having a list of rules to aspire to is a very fine aspiration but the list of rules that suited the itinerant bronze agers is not that which is appropriate for us and no amount of wishful thinking will make it so.

    Several of your ‘ten commandments’ are admirable and if you want to live your lives by it then please do so within the constraints of law. But the rest of your bible is so self-contradictory that you can draw any result from it you wish, and you do so. Another example of the absolutely flexible morals. This is what Honore Fabri indicated, for which he was penalised. Hmm, penalties for telling the truth, now how does that happen?

    Your wish to impose an outdated and cherry picked list of rules on the rest of us is little different than any other religion. We have seen the excesses that occur in unrestrained theocracies and we can see exactly the same problems today. Your ability to enforce this particular set of rules has become severely limited and I hope society prevents it ever happening again. The rest of us wish to move forward, not backward 100, 1000 or 2000 years. But I’m optimistic that you will eventually move on, somebody will rework the meaning of the words in your book to accept the changes, the problem is that it will be many years after the rest of us and you will blight quite a few lives in the meantime.

     

  • theroadmaster

    I never stated that societal regulations were a final solution in themselves to criminal activity, but rather that they were a necessary part of it. Human motivation for crime can vary and “social inequality” can drive people to commit acts that they would not do otherwise. But this is only a partial explanation, and the majority of families who have to depend on low incomes or social security do not resort to this. There are members of society who are “career” criminals and will not change their live styles, even if the national income level went up. All civilized societies in history had anti-crime legislation and this was evident in the pagan Roman empire of ancient times. So we cannot dispense with such laws otherwise we have the law of the jungle, which would not be dissimilar to the “survival of the fittest” criteria which Darwinists would recognize.
    Your disparagement of the Bible or “out of date book” as you call it, is no less than to ridicule the source for much of the common law and universal rights that have been created in Western societies over the centuries. I am sure you’re familiar with the 10 commandments e.g thou shalt not kill, steal etc. These are now enshrined in law systems right across the globe. The Magna Carta which barons and knights in Medieval England used to halt the overweening powers of monarchy, derived much of it’s inspiration from the Bible. The authors of the great constitutional documents like the French Constitution of 1789 and the US Constitution of 1787 were in turn inspired by the Magna Carta.
    I’m not in favor of theocratic enforcement of any rules as I value constitutionally guaranteed freedoms too much, but any civilized society worthy of the name should take note of the 2000 yr old wisdom of the “Good Book”, as it understands human motivation and behaviour better than most of today’s experts. Geraldo

  • Acleron

    Agreed, there will always be people who are greedy and accumulate wealth in a way we don’t like, but not being aware of the causes of all the rest is just one way we do not operate as the best society possible.

    Thou shalt not kill etc, are not exactly great insights and just because someone had to write them down indicates that their society was pretty dysfunctional. Animals know about stealing and the Scrub Jay has  behaviour it uses if it notices it is being observed while hiding food that indicates quite an insight for so small a brain. We also know in awful detail the times when these rules have to be ignored. Trying to claim that a document that was written to protect the power base of the barons, not at that time the common man, was a function of the bible is just ridiculous. The power of the king, fully supported by your church, needed curbing. In itself, the Magna Carta hasn’t contributed to the law in the way you suggest. It only applied to at most 25% of the population. The common man slowly and often bloodily, dragged freedom from oppression both from the secular and church leaders over a long period of time, that struggle still continues to the protest of the church and the wealthy who have replaced both kings and barons. The most important part of that campaign was democratic parliament. There is nothing democratic about your deity or the church. In fact theists still sit in parliament not having put their views to the vote. You actively campaign to treat different parts of society with inequality.

    But the Magna Carta is a good example of the way the church behaves. When King John taxed the church they ex-communicated him. When he paid back the wealth they supported him. A good example of how religion works. It is just another power base. 

    And to claim your old book has much to offer as an insight into modern society demonstrates the blindness you must have to the differences between a society where the fastest communication was the horse and the modern pace of living. Oh, I’m sure you can interpret some phrase to vaguely correspond to some modern phenomena while ignoring the contradictory passage, usually found on the next page, but an insight?

    By the way, I keep seeing this nonsense word Darwinist. Should we call an electrician a Faradayist. Science and the laws and theories it encompasses are generated by evidence, that evidence and the logic surrounding it is scrutinised to a degree that puts bible scholars to shame. Absolutely nothing is beyond criticism in science, that is why it has demonstrated such power to predict the universe. Evolution is just an observable fact. Evolutionary theory is a multi-level explanation of those facts. Darwin had the insight into the first layers but was totally unaware of all we have worked out since then. No similarity at all exists between the ‘Law of the Jungle’ and evolutionary theory. Actually, you should read the poem, it is a list of pretty random rules by which the inhabitants live, as such they bear a striking resemblance to your list of rules but it is still a good piece of poetry.

  • theroadmaster

    The Ten Commandments have pretty much remained with us since Moses received them from the Creator some 3000 years ago. Their influence is unparalleled in terms of how they formed the basis for the juridical and parliamentary laws of western nations The Magna Carta was indeed a landmark document created to stop the greed and trampling of rights by the monarchy, and was heavily based on Christian concepts.of justice and freedom. It in it’s turn influenced heavily the US Constitution formulated in the 18th century and so we can see the lineage for most of our rights and just laws. At times, members of the Church may disobey these precepts, but this does not make them any less irrelevant, but reinforces their values.
    The Bible has been instrumental in the formation of much of the culture and moral laws of the west, that we now take for granted. Phrases from it can be taken out of context and distorted, but it has been an influence for Good, when it’s influence is measured in the round.
    The “law of the jungle” is the logical outcome of Darwin’s evolutionary thesis, as the fittest of the species wins and imposes their will over everything else with reference to a moral code outside of their subjective ideologies. Geraldo

  • Acleron

    So the rules in the 10 commandments are pretty obvious, even animals, who you think only have instincts have their own versions.

    You now claim the Magna Carta as your invention although it was neither fair to all people but just the result of a power struggle and was condemned by your church.

    The bible is not read by over half the world’s population and yet they can still operate societies that while not my ideal are certainly fairer than those described in your bible.

    The theory of evolution certainly doesn’t predict any scenario that you suggest. An emergent characteristic of the ToE is ecology. That’s rules of engagements between totally different species, again no god or bible required.

    But let us look at your bible and its ten rules.

    They appear in Exodus 20. They contain the endearing plea to not covet your neighbour’s slaves. It does say manservants but reading on to Exodus 21 we see the complete manual for slave ownership. This includes the disposition of the slaves children. Interestingly, if you killed another Jew then the punishment was death but not for killing a slave.

    Passing onto Ex 22 we find ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’. You might remember that this caused the horrific death of several people in Europe and N. America. All down to your bible.

    And then in Ex 23 we get to the guts of the matter. The Jews are out for land and they have the permission of their god to get rid of anyone in their way. Again of interest is the mention of the names of other gods, it often amuses me to read that you claim the one and only god etc when your god is claiming the opposite

    You say that phrases cannot be taken out of context, sorry, but that is precisely what you do. When your leaders are convinced they cannot win over society because contrary to the bible, a particular freedom is accepted by too many people, you just re-interpret the same words over and over again or pick up on a contradictory phrase that better fits the present circumstances. You might remember who gave the greatest opposition to the KJV, project. Yes, the clergy, they didn’t want the common man understanding the bible because it would disclose the nonsense they had been spouting.

    What’s worse is that we also have people who don’t re-interpret the bible, they want to live it word for word. They ignore that it was written for Jews and think they are the chosen people. Only disaster awaits everyone when a group believes that nonsense. While you are just not too conversant with the ToE, they see it, and the rest of science as a threat for contradicting the more ridiculous passages and they lie and cheat to convince others. Bizarre behaviour from a bizarre belief.

    Yes, we have learned a lot from the bible, we have learned that it is written by savages and that we should ignore it at every turn. It may have been suitable for a load of nomadic tribesmen but offers nothing for our society except some rather good bits of prose but then not up to the standards of a Byron, Shakespeare or even a drug addled Coleridge.

  • karlf

    You consider imparting a little information on infectious diseases, which would have saved millions of lives, to be merely satisfying curiosity? How daft!

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    How would passing on germ theory have helped a society without the technological wherewithal to utilise it?

  • Acleron

    Hygiene?

  • karlf

    durrr? Basic hygeine – avoiding passing on infection etc. etc.

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    Perhaps you ought to read up about the practice of hygiene in this period (bath houses, public toilets, Jewish laws on ritual cleanliness and washing, rules and laws about persons carrying infectious diseases).

  • Jonathan West

    You haven’texplained the link between God’s definition and his necessary existence.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    Hi Jonathan

    1) Yes I have. Unlike contingent beings where their existence is not part of their nature -their essence- God’s is. (Of course that needs unpacking, but it’s such a well known part of Thomist metaphysics that the claim can hardly come as a surprise to you.)

    2) You’re rather confusing two issues here. The issue we began on is the nature of the proofs of God’s existence -which I have described as a metaphysical arguments, viz, non-scientific arguments based on the nature of things. You’re now shifting onto the specifics of those arguments: that they require the existence of a necessary being.