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How to respond to a young friend who has come under Dawkins’s spell

Neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield makes an interesting critique of “scientism”

By on Friday, 30 November 2012

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I have recently been in email conversation with a young friend. He is a bright chap but to my dismay he seems to have become an ardent disciple of Richard Dawkins and his kind. He has become quite convinced that “science” has solved the question of “God” – that irrational and improbable deity dreamed up by people long before science came along to enlighten them and to explain to them how the brain works. I have tried to get him to see that the (entirely legitimate) pursuit of science is a different activity from that of theology; there is no reason why they should clash rather than offer mutual, though independent support. He is having none of it: it seems the creation of “Hamlet” is simply the result of lots of cells composing the grey matter being in a happy conjunction; indeed, he thinks the sorrows of the great apes are not far removed from our own. I am simplifying his argument but this is the gist of it.

For this reason, it was good to read “What science can’t answer”, an interview in The Tablet last week between Jack Valero, communications director of Opus Dei in Britain (and co-founder of Catholic Voices) and Baroness Susan Greenfield, a neuroscientist at Oxford University. Lady Greenfield is neither an atheist nor a straightforward believer; but she accepts there are questions which are outside the competence of science to answer. She rejects “scientism” which she describes as “this unshakeable belief, which is as strong as any religious belief, that science is the only approach to understanding the world around you.” She recognises that people can have an experience “that is above and beyond the material.”

Greenfield admits that she has not had this experience – yet. “I have a sense of the spiritual and glimmers of it from time to time, but I cannot say I am a believer in the sense of subscribing to any particular religion.” In 2008 she accompanied Valero and a very sick friend and his wife on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. This was Greenfield’s idea, though she is not sure where it came from. Believers might call it the unconscious prompting of the Holy Spirit. At any rate, the experience did not deter her, as it does some outside the Church, who notice all the souvenir shops full of religious kitsch and conclude the whole place is riddled with superstition and mere trade. Greenfield was deeply impressed by the fact that “sick people were the norm and that…everybody was a volunteer.” She adds that she was also greatly moved by, “the amount of love and altruism and removal from the normal things…people being kind to each other, rather than witty or hostile or defensive”.

In general she robustly rejects the idea that science and religion are in contradiction as “intellectually bankrupt”, mentioning scientists such as Francis Collins of genome fame, who “speaks freely and openly…about being a Christian.” She points out that much of science is not strictly logical but is approached by “a hunch and an instinct”. Science answers some questions but not others “such as the meaning of life, or what is love.” Of course, people might describe love as “when you have a rise in the hormone oxytocin ” – but this does not invalidate or detract from the subjective state.

Apart from her pilgrimage to Lourdes, Greenfield has been on a three-day retreat at Ampleforth. She told the monk looking after her that “I truly don’t know why I’m here”. This didn’t bother him; I suspect he might have heard that remark before, even among supposed believers. When she got home Greenfield felt “super-charged and super-detoxed…bursting with energy and positive.”

I am going to refer my young friend to this interview and see what he makes of it. To be or not to be a chimpanzee; that is the question.

  • JabbaPapa

    Where does Rabelais answer these questions?

    You’re the one claiming familiarity with his writings — please back up that claim of yours by demonstrating your position in relation to the contents of his novels.

    How many more times do I have to keep asking?

    Once was sufficient, as I have pointed out to you FOUR times now.

  • JabbaPapa

    You need to make a distinction here between natural theology and
    revealed theology. Both agree in their object (God) but differ in their
    methodology: natural theology works by reason unilluminated by
    revelation; revealed theology works on the deliverances of revelation as
    well.

    erm, that’s inaccurate — natural theology deals with those parts of the Revelation that are amenable to examination by the rational mind ; revealed theology deals with those parts of the Revelation that inherently transcend the internal limitations of that rationality.

    ALL of theology is OTOH illumined by Revelation.

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

    Karl

    If you are hungry and see someone eating then it is natural to want what they have.
    If you want to make an argument that various character-traits are inherited instead of conditioned, then please put up some evidence, but from recollection, the evidence collected so far is thoroughly contradictory, with studies pointing in both directions.

  • JabbaPapa

    On your second point, I don’t see why my description of ‘pure religion’ needs to take account of the philosophical views that you mention.

    Because you’re just ignoring his foundational points about the extremely close relationship between factuality, opinion, doubt, and belief — but positing them instead in a state of natural opposition towards each other that is psychologically and philosophically unrealistic. (and BTW linguistically)

    I disagree with your third point

    I’m unsurprised, but my point here was to characterise the nature of your disagreement, and thereby point out its inherent flaw.

    To say that doubt is an essential
    component of religious faith seems to me to be irrelevant if the outcome
    is that religious faith is maintained even if the doubts are valid

    But you are in a state of misunderstanding of the very nature of religious faith in the first place !!!

    Your foundational assumption that scientific facts exist in opposition to religious faith has never been accepted by any religious person who has ever contributed to these discussions, because such an idea is very simply incoherent with the nature of religious faith as such.

    The bottom line here is that you are quite simply wrong in this assumption. That you have made a false statement about the nature of religious faith, notwithstanding that you appear to believe that statement.

    Hence your utter rejection of the *fact* that every religious faith has a necessary component of doubt.

  • JabbaPapa

    That would seem logical, yes.

    (great link BTW)

  • JabbaPapa

    karlf : We don’t feel hunger in a similar way to other animals.

    ????

    What a weird statement !!!

  • Jonathan West

    My perception is of a reality which is sustained at every moment at the smallest scale, otherwise both it and I would cease to exist.  

    You are not observing that sustenance happening. You are merely observing what you interpret as the results of that sustenance, and which might have a quite different cause.
    However far down it goes, the principle still stands that, because of the inverse square law of gravity, the universe will never be infinitely small

    You don’t need to work on principle, we can see that the universe is rather large. But you obviously know very little of mathematics, otherwise you would know that finitely large numbers can be the sum of an infinite series, which means of course that some members of the series are infinitely small.

  • TreenonPoet

     Not necessarily.

    There are many more fallacies committed by the document that you linked to, as I said. That is my basis for dismissing it. The three that I chose were relevant to the aim of the document. I chose them because they were easy to deal with and should not result in a long discussion (about semantics, for example).

    It would be surprising if The God Delusion did not have a single fallacy. If there are any that are relevant to the aim of the book, then they do have to be weighed. If you find a fallacy in an argument on which the whole book rests, then that single fallacy might be enough to allow the whole book to be dismissed. It depends on the seriousness of the fallacy.

  • Peter

    You are pulling the old Enlightenment trick, adopted with vigour by neo-atheists, that the default position of reality is that it is unsustained, when for centuries before it was always believed to be sustained by God on the philosophical grounds I described above.

    Using Louis Pasteur’s maxim that “a little science takes you away from God and a lot of science brings you back”, we have now come full circle with the discovery that gravity prevents the universe from being infinitely small, which means that at some point there must be an original action for every action that takes place in the universe.

    Consequently, my perception of reality is no different from how reality was perceived before the Enlightenment, the philosophical justification for doing so having been reinforced with scientific evidence.

    When I observe grass grow over time, I image cells splitting and all the processes taking place at progressively smaller scales, but since the universe is not infinitely small, I imagine an original action which does not depend on a smaller scale within our spacetime, and which must therefore, by default, originate elsewhere.

    Finally, your comment on mathematical infinity is not too clear.   Could you provide a concrete example so that I can evaluate it?

  • Jonathan West

    You are pulling the old Enlightenment trick, adopted with vigour by neo-atheists, that the default position of reality is that it is unsustained, when for centuries before it was always believed to be sustained by God on the philosophical grounds I described above.

    No I’m not. I’m making no assumption one way or the other. I’m simply pointing out that you are making an assumption, and it is one not supported by evidence.

    As for an infinite series having a finite sum, just think of the following, the most simple and famous such series

    1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + …. 1/(2^infinity) = 1

    Mathematics is chockful of such infinite series.

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

    No, I think I’m right!

    1) The IEP article certainly backs up my understanding: “Theology (in the Thomistic sense), as it later came to be called, is the program for inquiring by the light of faith into what one believes by faith to be truths beyond reason that are revealed by God. Natural theology, as it later came to be called, is the program for inquiring by the light of natural reason alone into whatever truths of natural reason human beings might be able to find about God. Theology and natural theology differ in what they inquire into, and in what manner they inquire. ”

    2) That understanding seems in accordance with STh Ia, q1, a4:

    ” I answer that, It was necessary for man’s salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed by God besides philosophical science built up by human reason. Firstly, indeed, because man is directed to God, as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason: “The eye hath not seen, O God, besides Thee, what things Thou hast prepared for them that wait for Thee” (Isaiah 64:4). But the end must first be known by men who are to direct their thoughts and actions to the end. Hence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation. Even as regards those truths about God which human reason could have discovered, it was necessary that man should be taught by a divine revelation; because the truth about God such as reason could discover, would only be known by a few, and that afte
    r a long time, and with the admixture of many errors. Whereas man’s whole salvation, which is in God, depends upon the knowledge of this truth. Therefore, in order that the salvation of men might be brought about more fitly and more surely, it was necessary that they should be taught divine truths by divine revelation. It was therefore necessary that besides philosophical science built up by reason, there should be a sacred science learned through revelation.”

    And:

     “Sciences are differentiated according to the various means through which knowledge is obtained. For the astronomer and the physicist both may prove the same conclusion: that the earth, for instance, is round: the astronomer by means of mathematics (i.e. abstracting from matter), but the physicist by means of matter itself. Hence there is no reason why those things which may be learned from philosophical science, so far as they can be known by natural reason, may not also be taught us by another science so far as they fall within revelation. Hence theology included in sacred doctrine differs in kind from that theology which is part of philosophy.”

    3) The Ite ad Thomam blog (which is pretty reliable as a source of manualist Thomism) also has:

    “First expounded by Plato, developped by Aristotle and his tradition, natural theology (as is called by St. Augustine and Varro)…is a philosophical investigation of truths about God. As such, it is indeed, like Sacred Theology, a “science concerning God.” However, in natural theology God only insofar as He can be known by natural reason. Sacred theology, on the other hand, considers God under the light of Divine Revelation. (cf. St. Augustine, De Civ. Dei VI.5).”

    http://iteadthomam.blogspot.co.uk/2006/05/definition-of-theology.html

  • Peter

    On the contrary, I arrive at my conclusion supported by three kinds of evidence – philosophical, scientific and observational – which I have outlined in my comments above and which, for some unfathomable reason, you have trouble accepting.

    Regarding your mathematical example, it is a typical texbook neo-atheist ploy with little bearing on reality.

    Lets say I am walkng a mile.  

    If we apply your principle, I will never get there!  I will walk half a mile, then a quarter, then an eight, then a sixteenth, then a 32nd, then a 64th, then a 128th and so on, covering decreasing fractions but never arriving at the end.

    But in reality, people do complete miles; they are not left in an infinite limbo of ever decreasing fractions.  They arrive at their destination.

    The same applies with the reality of the universe, in that it is not infinitely small and at some point the smallest scale will be reached.

  • JabbaPapa

    Mathematics is chockful of such infinite series

    … which have a purely virtual existence only.

    They cannot actually be produced as such in material reality.

    Oh !! and actually :

    1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + …. 1/(2^infinity) < 1

  • JabbaPapa

    Theology (in the Thomistic sense), as it later came to be called, is the program for inquiring by the light of faith into what one believes by faith to be truths beyond reason that are revealed by God. Natural theology, as it later came to be called, is the program for inquiring by the light of natural reason alone into whatever truths of natural reason human beings might be able to find about God.

    That’s what I said !!! :-)

    Apart from the quibbling over precise definitions, the one statement of yours that I disagree with more strongly is the suggestion that natural theology is not illumined by Revelation — whereas from a theological POV, and certainly the Thomist one, *all* of Science and therefore all Theology is illumined by Revelation.

  • JabbaPapa

    1. There is no barrier between microevolution and macroevolution.

    No such “barrier” is suggested by the contents of your extract. In fact, exactly the opposite.

    2. There is evidence of macroevolution, both in the laboratory and in the field.

    So what ? there is no suggestion otherwise in your extract

    3. Why bring abiogenesis into this if the subject is evolution?

    The subject is not evolution, it’s flaws of logic.

    Simply put, the existence of evolution does not demonstrate the truth of abiogenesis — but Dawkins does in fact suggest as much in his writings.

    A theory of the evolution of life is not a theory of life itself, but only of one part of it ; hence, Dawkins is indeed assuming that what is true of the parts of something must also be true of the whole.

  • JabbaPapa

    Not good enough, sorry — the textual analysis in the article is both cogent and coherent, and it demonstrates the flaws in the figures of thought used by Dawkins quite effectively.

  • Acleron

    The scientific method was in existence long before christianity and wasn’t even a Western development. Methinks you claim too much.

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

    1) Forgive me for allowing the Old Adam free rein for a moment, but intellectual pride compels me to point out  that it isn’t quite what you said, which was:

     ‘erm, that’s inaccurate — natural theology deals with those parts of the Revelation that are amenable to examination by the rational mind’.

    In fact, natural theology operates not on truths achieved by revelation, but  on ‘truths of natural reason’. 

    But enough quibbling!

    2) I’d draw a distinction between the nature of the subject in principle, and how in fact, given our human condition, it needs to be practised. In principle, natural theology is unillumined by revelation. In practice, given the fallibility of our fallen selves, we need the guidance of revelation. (And even in principle, natural theology is incomplete: it cannot, for example, achieve knowledge of the Trinity or Christ’s divinity.)

    3) I was just about to come back and add a coda to what I’d said anyway for Jonathan’s benefit. I suspect part of what’s at stake between Jabba and me here is a substantively different theological approach. I tend to be rather more influenced by a neo-Thomism that draws a relatively sharp distinction between what can be known by unaided human reason and what requires supernatural intervention, whilst Jabba (I think) tends to emphasize the way that all human reasoning needs divine guidance. This is a long running tension within Catholic theology and is a sign of the intellectual fertility of the tradition (and indeed traditions). But where we’d both agree (and thus mark the abyss between those who think faithfully and those who do not) is that we accept that we require the guidance of the teaching authority of the Church. Whilst we may disagree about some of the intellectual backdrop, we will both accept with joy the divine gift of the Church’s authority.

    And that acceptance isn’t a matter of blind faith. What brought me into the Church was the discovery again and again that issues I found intellectually intractable were dealt with by the Church in a way that both resolved them and opened up fertile paths for further exploration. Entering the intellectual world of Catholicism is really like emerging from a dark, cramped tunnel into a world of light and reason. Do try it!

     

  • Jonathan West

    I arrive at my conclusion supported by three kinds of evidence – philosophical, scientific and observational – which I have outlined in my comments above and which, for some unfathomable reason, you have trouble accepting.

    I wholly accept your observational evidence that the universe exists. I am simply pointing out that what you think is observational evidence of it being continually sustained in it existence is not observation but rather interpretation. In essence, what you are saying is a minor variant on “The universe is as it is – therefore God exists!”, which you could claim irrespective of how the universe really is.
    If we apply your principle, I will never get there!That is Zeno’s paradox. But you do get there, and later generations of mathematicians resolved the paradox. That is actually the point I was making.

  • Jonathan West

    You need to make a distinction here between natural theology and revealed theology. Both agree in their object (God) but differ in their methodology: natural theology works by reason unilluminated by revelation; revealed theology works on the deliverances of revelation as well.

    Fine. Tell me what either does in terms of a contribution to a multidisciplinary effort on (say) evolution, which is what Dennett was asking about.

  • Jonathan West

    Because I think that the morality of an action is dependent on the intended and foreseeable outcome of that action. I don’t think it is justifiable to claim that an action is good if its reasonably foreseeable consequence is bad.

  • Jonathan West

    When you say, “To that extent, it doesn’t really matter whether it is real or not,” I think you are in fact dodging the question you say you didn’t want to dodge – either that or you don’t think people are really alive, and since you speak as an atheist, this answers my question.

    No, because I previously clearly gave you and answer “I don’t know”. I then went on to suggest how we can cope with not knowing.
    On the second question, my “why not?” perhaps went over your head. I was pointing out that you were engaging in the logical fallacy of “begging the question”. By asking “why would atheists” rather than “why do atheists” you were implying that atheists do not value human life below their holiday home.

    Let me explain something. The words is not divided into two categories of Christians and bad people. There are bad Christians and there are good non-christians. It might be worth your while to try exploring what motivates the good non-christians.

  • Peter

     “I am simply pointing out that what you think is observational evidence of it being continually sustained in it existence is not observation but rather interpretation.”

    It is more than observation and more than interpretation.  It is perception.  That is the way I perceive reality.  

    I have broken out of the post-Enlightenment brainwashing which I and millions of others have been subjected to in our modern 20th century education, a brainwashing which has conditioned us to accepting reality as unsustained.

    Now I see that every single thing in the universe, animate and inanimate,  is kept in continual existence in its nature, so that through its nature it can act as a secondary cause of creation.

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

    Certainly. 

    Evolutionary biology shows something about the history of human development. It does not show the purpose of that development or the moral implications of that development.

    (I know you won’t like that answer because, by your naive naturalism, you’ve ruled out ex hypothesi anything that can’t be couched in terms of efficient causes. But, for what it’s worth, that’s the answer.)

  • TreenonPoet

     1. The barrier that the extract implies is that which allegedly allows microevolution to happen but not macroevolution. The barrier does not exist. There is nothing to prevent a mutation that will result in the first instance of what may later be classed as a new species.

    2. In the extract it says ”However, there is no such evidence for change between species”. In what way does this suggest there is evidence of macroevolution, either in the laboratory or in the field? The extract is stating the opposite of the truth.

    3. The test for the fallacy being discussed in the extract is, as you acknowledge, whether it is impled that parts of something must also be true of the whole. The whole of evolution (in the sense that the extract uses the word) does not include abiogenesis, which is why I flagged it.

    If you have a criticism of what Dawkins says about abiogenesis, could you please quote what he says so that I can see in what way you think he ‘suggests’ what you are refuting.

  • Acleron

    Chance and probability are interchangeable. 

    At the quantum level all events are unpredictable. Only their probability or chance can be either measured or calculated.

  • Jonathan West

    If you want to call it perception you are welcome. But it isn’t observation. 

    If you want to believe your ideas to be true, I shan’t stop you. But it is self-deception to believe you have evidence for it.

  • Peter

    That is your opinion, but you are still mired in the post-Enlightenment mindset which gives you to a superficial perception of reality.

  • Jonathan West

    It does not show the purpose of that development or the moral implications of that development

    In what way does theology show those things, and by what means can a scientist tell that the theologian’s answers are correct?

    For instance, your use of “purpose” suggests a conscious mind at work, i.e. something that can decide on the purposes of things. Clearly a lump of inanimate rock has no means of deciding purposes at all.

    So, your first step is to demonstrate (rather than merely assert” the existence of a conscious agent whose purposes are served by evolution.

    Please carry on with your answer.

  • Jonathan West

    I have serious doubts as to whether God exists at all as you conceive him. If my doubts are correct, then God isn’t like anything because he doesn’t exist. That being the case, there is no way of knowing him.

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

    Now you’re just being silly!

    You are a naturalist which means you have a methodological commitment to deny anything other than methodology of natural science. (I shall put aside for now the well known difficulties of defining what the ‘methodology of science’ might be.)

    You ask then what theology has to contribute to the conversation about evolution. I explain. You then reject this explanation on the ground that theology does not follow the methodology of natural science.

    Well, duh! 

    It doesn’t surprise me that we are no further forward: the problem is your naturalism. (And that isn’t confined to the existence of a ‘conscious agent’: First Philosophy (ie natural theology) attributes immanent goals to natural substances).)

    I’d ask you to justify naturalism, but I fear that your naivety in this area might convince you that this is possible in the space of a combox and I don’t want to waste either your time or mine.

  • JabbaPapa

    This even has a name in Physics ——> Inertia.

  • JabbaPapa

    In principle, natural theology is unillumined by revelation

    I did understand that this was your position, and I disagree.

    No discourse about God is possible without being informed by Revelation — but there are some parts of that Revelation that are themselves amenable to an examination by the rationality in a deductive manner.

    But where we’d both agree (and thus mark the abyss between those who
    think faithfully and those who do not) is that we accept that we require
    the guidance of the teaching authority of the Church. Whilst we may
    disagree about some of the intellectual backdrop, we will both accept
    with joy the divine gift of the Church’s authority.

    Yes, indeed (I could quibble with the specifics in your description of my approach, but that’s only because there’s a personal revelation in the middle messing up the ordinary theoretical categories).

    What brought me into the Church was the discovery again and again that
    issues I found intellectually intractable were dealt with by the Church
    in a way that both resolved them and opened up fertile paths for further
    exploration.

    A very opposite experience to my own, but leading to the same conclusion :-)

  • JabbaPapa

    The barrier that the extract implies is that which allegedly allows microevolution to happen but not macroevolution.

    No, that’s not true, that’s a personal interpretation that you’re reading into the text — which does not at any point deny the existence of macroevolution.

    In the extract it says ”However, there is no such evidence for change between species”.
    In what way does this suggest there is evidence of macroevolution, either in the laboratory or in the field? The extract is stating the opposite of the truth.

    “such” actually represents “overwhelming” grammatically — but here it’s not as well phrased as it could be.

    It’s nevertheless true that the evolution from one species to another has never been empirically observed in vivo, so that whilst theories abound, so do counter-theories ; and so that affirming the truth of one of these theories against all others is to commit the logical fallacy being referred to — but what you’re missing is that this comment does NOT invalidate, nor attempt to invalidate, the scientific theories in question.

    So no, the extract is NOT stating the opposite of the truth, it’s far more simply pointing out that Dawkins’ own preferred theoretical explanation of macroevolution is NOT the only such theory in existence — and more topically, that this multiplicity of theories seriously undermines Dawkins’ claims concerning the relevance of his own evolutionary theories to his discussion of the question of God.

    The test for the fallacy being discussed in the extract is, as you acknowledge, whether it is implied that parts of something must also be true of the whole.

    No, no, no, no, no, you’re completely barking up the wrong tree — the author hasn’t even attempted to invalidate Dawkins’ theories of evolutionary biology in the first place…

    He has instead attempted to discredit Dawkins’ use of logic. NOT the same thing, not in the slightest !!!

    If you have a criticism of what Dawkins says about abiogenesis, could you please quote what he says so that I can see in what way you think he ‘suggests’ what you are refuting.

    Why on Earth do you think that I’m disagreeing with any particular points in Dawkins’ scientific work ???

  • JabbaPapa

    Chance and probability are interchangeable

    Wrong — probability has no physical existence whatsoever. It is an analytical tool, not a reality.

    Chance is empirically observable.

    At the quantum level all events are unpredictable

    Wrong — at the quantum level, observation of quanta will alter their behaviour, because the physical means of observation used will interact with the position and/or speed of those quanta.

    SOME quantum events are unpredictable, for various reasons (including the above), but certainly not all quantum events.

  • JabbaPapa

    Can you please define “good” and “bad” objectively ?

    Or is this another question that one should add to the list of those dodged by atheists ?

  • Jonathan West

    Since your supposedly superior mindset doesn’t offer any means of making predictions about how the world behaves from day to day, predictions which might turn out to be incorrect, you are in the happy position of knowing that you can never be proved wrong.

    On the other hand, you also have no means of ever knowing that you are right. 

    Have you ever heard of the 5-Minute Hypothesis? This is the hypothesis that the entire universe sprang into existence 5 minutes ago (created by God if you like) and that the join is so perfect that you have no way of distinguishing your real memories of the last 5 minutes from the synthetic ones from earlier.

    You’ll find that it is actually impossible to disprove the Five Minute Hypothesis. The hypothesis is defined in such a way as to be unfalsifiable.

    So is your Continuously Sustaining God Hypothesis. Nobody can disprove it, but I have as much reason to accept it as you have reason to accept the 5 Minute Hypothesis.

  • JabbaPapa

    Since your supposedly superior mindset

    ????? !!!!!!!!!

    … good grief …

  • JabbaPapa

    Exactly

  • JabbaPapa

    In fact, you utterly deny the existence of God.

  • Acleron

    Acleron wrote ‘if you don’t have any evidence’
    JabbaPappa wrote ‘This is a false premiss (sic) — there is a functionally infinite quantity of evidence.’

    Unless you can prove that statement then you are wrong. As counter examples of subspaces of evidence that are bounded exist and therefore finite it would appear you are wrong.

    But this may be a problem with the definition of the word evidence. You consider, from previous conversations, that evidence is anything including whatever goes on in your mind. A more scientific definition, and we are talking science here, is a fact that is either/or incontrovertible or repeatable. Somebody’s opinion, no matter how strongly held, is not evidence.

  • Acleron

    I have seen that you consider it quite polite to denigrate and defame those who who despise, however in real society is correctly labelled hate.

  • karlf

    Is that really the best you can come up with? You want me to point out where things don’t exist?
    As I have said, Rabelais does not answer my questions. That is my claim, and one which is firmly supported by the contents of Francois Rabelais’ books. What more can I say?
    Why do you expend so much effort in order to avoid facing up to the truth Jabba? You make a perfect illustration of why Catholicism is a hindrance to the understanding of human nature – and ‘sin’

  • karlf

    “If you are hungry and see someone eating then it is natural to want what they have”
    That is not a description of envy, or even covetousness, but the experience being hungry. I suggest that you look up the meaning of the word ‘envy’. (try: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Envy )
    .
    “If you want to make an argument that various character-traits are inherited instead of conditioned, then please put up some evidence, but from recollection”
    Your lack of knowledge on this topic supports my point about Catholics’ misguided attitudes regarding ‘sin’. You believe that we are taught sexual desire? It is only too obvious that lust can be exacerbated and it can also be suppressed, but to believe that it is conditioned, or taught, rather than inherited shows great ignorance. Babies don’t learn to be hungry, or to cry when they are. Crawling babies have also been shown to display an aversion to heights in experiments using optical illusions.

  • JabbaPapa

    No — you stated that Rabelais doesn’t even mention animality and sin.

    I have no idea why you are refusing to support this statement of yours by quoting from his novels, by showing us what sort of conception of sin you think is present in his novels. After all, you have claimed to have some significant familiarity with his writings !!!

    For example, how would you interpret the following extract from Tiers Livre chapter XXXI :

    Quartement, par fervente estude. Car en icelle est faicte incredible resolution des espritz, tellement qu’il n’en reste de quoy poulser aux lieuz destinez ceste resudation generative, & enfler le nerf caverneux: duquel l’office est hors la praiecter pour la propagation d’humaine Nature.
    Qu’ainsi soit, contemplez la forme d’un home attentif à quelque estude.
    Vous voirez en luy toutes les artères du cerveau bendées comme la chorde d’une arbaleste, pour luy fournir dextrement espritz suffisans à emplir les ventricules du sens commun, de l’imagination & apprehension, de la ratiocination & resolution, de la memoire & recordation: & agilement courir de l’un à l’aultre, par les conduictz manifestes en anatomie sus la fin du retz admirable, on quel se terminent les artères: les quelles de la fenestre armoire du cœur prenoient leur origine, & les espritz vitaulx affinoient en longs ambages, pous estre faictz animaulx. De mode que en tel personnaige studieux, vous voirez suspendues toutes les facultez naturelles: cesser tous sens exterieurs: brief, vous le iugerez n’estre en soy vivent, estre hors soy abstrait par ecstase. & direz que Socrates n’abusoit du terme, quand il disoit Philosophie n’estre aultre chose que meditation de mort. Par adventure est ce pour quoy Democritus se aveugla, moins estimant la perte de sa veue, que diminution de ses contemplations: les quelles il sentoit interrompues par l’esguarement des oeilz. Ainsi est vierge dicte Pallas: Déesse de Sapience, tutrice des gens studieux. Ainsi sont les Muses vierges. Ainsi demeurent les Charités en pudicité eternelle. Et me soubvient avoir leu, que Cupido quelques foys interrogé de sa mère Venus, pour quoy il n’assailloit les Muses? respondit, qu’il les trouvoit tant belles, tant nettes, tant honestes, tant pudicques, & continuellement occupées: l’une à contemplation des astres, l’autre à supputation des nombres, l’autre à dimension des corps Geometricques, l’aultre à invention Rhetoricque, l’aultre à composition Poëticque, l’aultre à disposition de Musique: que approchans d’elles, il desbandoit son arc, fermoit sa trousse, & extaignoit son flambeau par honte & craincte de leurs nuire. Puys houstoit le bandeau de ses oeilz pour plus apertement les veoir en face, & ouyr leurs plaisans chantz & odes Poëticques. Là prenoit le plus grand plaisir du monde.
    Tellement que souvent il se sentoit tout ravy en leurs beaultez & bonnes graces, & s’endormoit à l’harmonie. Tant s’en fault qu’il les voulsist assaillir, ou de leurs estudes distraire. En cestuy article ie comprens ce que escript Hippocrates on livre susdict, parlant des Scythes, & au livre intitulé, De geniture, disant tous humains estre à generation impotens, es quelz l’on a une foys couppé les artères parotides, les quelles sont à cousté des aureilles, par la raison cy davant exposée, quand ie vous parlois de la resolution des espritz, & du sang spirituel, du quel les artères font receptacles: aussi qu’il maintient grande portion de la geniture sourdre du cerveau, & de l’espine du dours.

    ???

    Or chapter XIII :

    Souvenir assez vous peut comment Gargantua mon père (lequel par honneur ie nomme) nous a souvent dict, les escriptz de ces hermites ieusneurs autant estre fades, ieiunes, & de maulvaise salive, comme estoient leurs corps lors qu’ilz composoient: & difficile chose estre, bons & serains rester les espritz, estant le corps en inanition: veu que les Philosophes & Medicins afferment les espritz animaulx sourdre, naistre, & practiquer par le sang arterial purifié & affiné à perfection dedans le retz admirable, qui gist soubs les ventricules du cercerveau. Nous baillans exemple d’un Philosophe, qui en solitude pensant estre, & hors la tourbe pour mieulx commenter, discourir, & composer: ce pendent toutesfoys au tour de luy abayent les chiens, ullent les loups, rugient les Lyons, hannissent les chevaulx, barrient les elephans, siflent les serpens, braislent les asnes, sonnent les cigalles, lamentent les tourterelles: c’est à dire plus estoit troublé, que s’il feust à la foyre de Fontenay, ou Niort: car la faim estoit on corps: pour à laquelle remedier, abaye l’estomach, la veue esblouit, les vènes sugcent de la propre substance des membres carniformes: & retirent en bas cestuy esprit vaguabond, negligent du traictement de son nourrisson & hoste naturel, qui est le corps: comme si l’oizeau sus le poing estant, vouloit en l’aër son vol prendre, & incontinent par les longes seroit plus bas deprimé. Et à ce propous nous alleguant l’auctorité de Homère père de toute Philosophie, qui dict les Gregeoys lors, non plus tost, avoir mis à leurs larmes fin du dueil de Patroclus le grand amy de Achilles, quand la faim se declaira, & leurs ventres protestèrent plus de larmes ne les fournir. Car en corps exinaniz par long ieusne plus n’estoit de quoy pleurer & larmoier. Mediocrité est en tous cas louée: & icy la maintiendrez. Vous mangerez à soupper non febves, non lièvres, ne aultre chair, non Poulpre (qu’on nomme Polype) non choulx, ne aultres viandes qui peussent vos espritz animaulx troubler & obfusquer. Car comme le mirouoir ne peult repraesenter les simulachres des choses obiectées & à luy exposées, si sa polissure est par halaines ou temps nubileux obfusquée, aussi l’esprit ne recevoit les formes de divination par songes, si le corps est inquieté & troublé par les vapeurs & fumées des viandes praecedentes, à cause de la sympathie, laquelle est entre eulx deux indissoluble. Vous mangerez bonnes poyres Crustumenies, & Berguamotes, une pome de Court pendu, quelques pruneaulx de Tours, quelques Cerizes de mon verger. Et ne sera pourquoy doibvez craindre que vos songes en proviennent doubteux, fallaces, ou suspectz, comme les ont declairez aulcuns Peripateticques on temps de Automne: lors sçavoir est que les humains plus copieusement usent de fructaiges qu’en aultre saison. Ce que les anciens prophètes & poëtes mysticquement nous enseignent, disans les vains & fallacieux songes gesir & estre cachez soubs les feuilles cheutes en terre. Par ce qu’en Automne les feuilles tombent des arbres. Car ceste ferveur naturelle laquelle abonde es fruictz nouveaulx, & laquelle par son ebullition facillement evapore es parties animales (comme nous voyons faire le moult) est long temps a, expirée & resolue. Et boyrez belle eau de ma fontaine.

  • karlf

    Yes, Aquinas does claim that humans and animals share the same emotions, so why not follow this through? I still think you’d be better off listening to what modern psychologists have to say, rather than medieval monks.

  • TreenonPoet

     1. Macroevolution is evolution at, and above, the level of species. The mechanism is no different to evolution below that level. Merely giving a name to that level of evolution does not make any difference to the evolutionary process. When discussing the scientific principles involved, there is no need to distinguish between evolution just below that level and evolution just above it. Yet the extract takes this artificial boundary and falsely declares that the principles that apply below it cannot be assumed to apply above it. It compounds the error by suggesting that there is no basis for extrapolating the science into zones for which there is not yet any supporting evidence. The fact is that there has to be a good reason for suggesting a barrier beyond which the principles do not apply. (Religious belief is not a good reason.) Even if macroevolution had not been observed, the evidence for its existence would be microevolution. In accusing Dawkins of misapplication, the extract denies this evidence and therefore implies that macroevolution is not even theoretically justified!

    2. The difference between “no such evidence” and “no overwhelming evidence” is vast in the context of this extract. To say that there is no overwhelming evidence is, by using that adjective, admitting that there is such evidence. Compare “there is no such evidence” with “there is such evidence”. (Elsewhere in this thread, you equate the assertion that amateurism does not imply incompetence to the assertion that amateurism implies incompetence, and you interpret my saying that Buddhism is a religion as my saying that Buddhism is not a religion.)

    3. You write that the author hasn’t attempted to invalidate Dawkins’ theories of evolutionary biology. The principles that you refer to as ‘Dawkins’ theories’ apply to both microevolution and macroevolution. The author is attempting to suggest that they might not. And why do you suppose the author is attempting to discredit Dawkins’ use of logic if not to discredit Dawkins’ conclusions?

    You have failed to discredit any of my criticism of the extract.

  • JabbaPapa

    Yes, Aquinas does claim that humans and animals share the same emotions

    I see, so the Church HAS in fact linked us with these animal emotions ?

    Do make up your mind !!!

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

    Sexual desire is not necessarily lust, Karl; inclinations are not necessarily sinful; and I didn’t claim that envy was the same as hunger – that’s you trying to bash my words into the framework of preconceptions that you’re bringing to the conversation.
    And the jury is very much out in the nature/nurture debate. Perhaps you ought to brush up on the question?

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

    I am glad that you have conceded the point, Karl.

    As to modern psychologists, their theories are sometimes interesting, but why are they relevant to a discussion about philosophy or theology?