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‘A blog? I don’t like it.’

My mother should be a national treasure, not Sir David Attenborough. Just don’t mention blogs to her

By on Friday, 25 January 2013

Sir David Attenborough is considered a national treasure. This must be because he is the long-established public face of all nature and wildlife programmes on the BBC, has the surname “Attenborough” (shared with his distinguished actor brother, Richard) and is thought to be a fount of wisdom. But even popular pundits and media gurus can sometime say remarkably silly things. An article by Marcus Roberts on the “Demography is Destiny” website has drawn my attention to a recent remark made by Sir David to the Radio Times. Talking about his own species, he said: “We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now.”

What a Jeremiad. Roberts points out that Attenborough is a patron of the Optimum Population Trust. This outfit is now known as Population Matters “perhaps because the Trust couldn’t decide what our ‘optimum’ population should be”. It seems that, as patron, this national treasure has warned about the “frightening explosion in human numbers” which is outstripping the planet’s resources. On the subject of Ethiopia he has further commented that “We keep putting on programmes about famine in Ethiopia; that’s what’s happening. Too many people there. They can’t support themselves… Until humanity manages to sort itself out and get a coordinated view about the planet it is going to get worse and worse.” Another Jeremiad.

Roberts accurately points out in response to Sir David’s gloomy prophecies that “We are not running out of food. Our famines are not due to there being too many of us, but due to wastage and politics and war… We are able to feed more people on the same amount of land due to our technological advances and those technological advances are driven by people, of course. Humans are not only consumers; we are also producers and a resource!”

Roberts also quotes Tom Chivers in the Telegraph: “The most likely outcome at the moment is that the world population will peak sometime around 2050 and at a population between eight and ten billion. Obviously that’s more than we have now, but not so many more that we couldn’t feed everyone.” Someone should tell Attenborough that humanity is not a “plague”. In Roberts’s words, “It is a collection of over seven billion individuals. Each of those individuals has his or her hope, fears, dreams, loves and each is more valuable than we could possibly imagine.”

Reading the Telegraph obituary of the late film-maker Michael Winner, I feel he was more the kind of national treasure I like; yes, he was clearly an old rogue and full of vices, unlike Sir David, and he didn’t make films about cuddly polar bears – but he was also a colourful character, generous to his many lady friends, a collector of Ernest Shepard ‘s Winnie-the-Pooh illustrations, a gourmet and good to his old Mum – even though it seems that she once stole and then sold the deeds to Winner’s penthouse to fund her gambling addiction. “What can you do” asked Winner rhetorically; “You can’t sue your aged mother.” I don’t think he ever described humanity as a “plague”; indeed, he deeply regretted at the end of his life not to have added to the world’s population himself. The Telegraph obituary records him once admitting that not having children was “the one mistake that wipes out everything I have ever done.”

In place of Sir David and now that Michael Winner is dead I would like to propose a new national treasure: my own old Mum. She came to live next door to me over two years ago and will be 89 next week. She has a weakness – I mean fondness – for whisky and cigarettes, gets very hoity-toity when other people refer to her as “old” and has an opinion on everything – most especially on subjects she knows nothing about. As an example of this, she asked me last week to run off down to the local shop on yet another unnecessary errand. I made some lame excuse, saying that I had to write a blog for the Catholic Herald. “A blog?” she repeated witheringly, in exactly the same tone of voice that Dame Edith Evans used when, as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of being Earnest, she repeated “A handbag?”: “A blog? I have never come across that word and I don’t like it. It sounds very vulgar. You were never brought up to use it by me – I can assure you of that. I don’t want to hear it used again in my presence!”

A plague on all those doom-mongers who think there are too many people in the world – especially Ethiopians or old people, like my mother.

  • JabbaPapa

    Thanks, but I’ve already read a great deal of science fiction.

    And you’re mistaking the point of my remark — quite simply because it is not intended for yourself.

  • Peter

    I don’t know…   Quantum mechanics has uncovered the non-locality principle.  One thousand years of exponential technological advancement will no doubt uncover much more.  The universe is out there waiting to be explored.

    A physicist – I can’t remember his name – said recently that knowledge of the universe is like a vast deep ocean and we are just standing on the shore wetting our feet.

    Evolution shows that, because of the mutating effects of cosmic rays from distant stars and galaxies, it took an entire universe to make us.  By exploring the universe we will be going back to our roots.

  • Jonathan West

    Even if there were a policy of population reduction, that isn’t the same as what you originally spoke of, which was that “nothing of this earth’s ecological problems will be solved until human beings disappear”.

  • Dysacre

    I winced a bit at Attenborough’s phrase “plague on the Earth”, but it’s ovious enough  that what he meant was we are behaving like a plague on the Earth, and calling for us to rise up to a better, more  human, level of responsibility.  If  drawing attention to the error of our ways is suddenly anti human, what is the Christian church for?  By pretending not to see this Francis Phillips is  running away from the serious questions Sir David raises.  Tom Chivers, on the other hand hides behind is misunderstaning of what a projection is.  The figure he quotes is taken from a range of UN  projections, and the 2050 figure was effectively based on the assumption that the kind of measures Sir D and Population Matters call for will be generally adopted: basically education for women and provision of family planning services.  Unfortunately it is now out date.

  • CullenD

    I was thinking in terms of science facts, not fiction.

  • CullenD

    There is a problem, we are not speaking of problems which will arise in 1000 years time, or even 300. This is a problem which we are facing now.

    Exponential technology, whether it’s Moore’s Law, or any other rise in technology, cannot solve the problem of lack of resources. 

    BTW evolution tells us nothing about the cosmos, it is just the model that demonstrates variety amongst species. 

  • JabbaPapa

    … including much so-called “hard” SF :-)

    All that I mean, is that I have a good enough awareness of the problematic already.

  • CullenD

    In hindsight, perhaps we are in the genre of survival horror, rather than sci-fi. Impending doom, limited resources, frantic scrabble to stay living …. 

  • TreenonPoet

     Recall that I wrote, as an aside in one of my comments, ”If a religious person makes a scientific argument based on scientific evidence, then that is not a religious argument, even though it is made by a religious person.”, to which your response was

    Therefore religion is not in fact “antithetical” to Science, contrary to your ludicrous claim, because if it were, that religious person would necessarily be deprived of the ability to make scientific arguments.

    I pointed out that I had only intended the paragraph as a clarification, and responded ”Some scientists have religious beliefs. The proposition on which science is based is is what would hopefully guide the scientist in his/her job. If the scientist was to present a report in which the basis of his/her conclusion was that he/she deeply and sincerely believed it, the report would be rejected. The proposition on which religion is based might guide his/her religious thoughts, but is useless in the process of doing science. It is demonstrably true that some religious people can do science, but that only infers a compartmentalisation in their thinking, not a merging.

    Rather than accepting or rejecting that explanation, you posted

    something I had intended as a clarification

    In what way does simply repeating ad nauseam the same false views of religiuon for the umpteenth time constitute a “clarification”, given that I have completely denied the veracity of your claim ?

    When I wrote my original paragraph, I could not possibly know that you were going to deny its veracity. That obvious fact seems to have escaped you. I certainly did not expect you to challenge it because I had thought it was uncontentious. I cannot remember ever expressing it before, yet you accuse me of repeating ad nauseum the same false view for the umpteenth time! As other readers could easily follow the thread, I merely replied ”I said it was intended as a clarification. I had thought it was rather uncontroversial and I was surprised that you challenged it.

    Now we come to your post to which I am now responding which begins by quoting ”I was surprised that you challenged it”. I would not have responded to it if it had not been made clear to me that not everyone followed the posts that led up to it…

    Good grief !!!

    That means nothing to me.

    Do you NEVER actually read people’s statements ?

    That is rude rhetoric that also contributes nothing.

    How can you be possibly be surprised by a central point in my whole argument against your ludicrous “2+2=5″ “argument” ???

    I had already told you what I was surprised about. I have no idea what “central point” you are talking about.

    It occurs to me that you might not have understood the thinking behind the last comment that I posted regarding the main theme of that branch of the thread (science vs religion) which read ”You seem to know a lot about God, and all through a process that is not antithetical to science!”. Please note the exclamation mark at the end of the comment; I was not making a statement. Your intimation that scientific experiment cannot determine whether intercessory prayer works puts science at odds with your own religious belief that such prayer works (at least sometimes). Your apparent knowledge of God’s mind regarding His attitude to prayer cannot therefore, by your own admission, be based on science. (And do not reply that it is “scientific speculation” because that would be to admit that it could be tested.)

  • Skypilot

    Have to think I am now serious – my fairly innocuous comment, below, compared to many here has been removed. Let me replace flim-flam with strawman; T.S Eliot afterall!

  • Jonathan West

    Response to Peter

    Again the Church does not claim that all intercessory prayers have an effect.

    No, but the church claims that the prayers have an effect at least sometimes, otherwise there would be no point in having intercessory prayer in the first place.

    If intercessory prayer works sometimes, then statistical analysis of trials of prayer should be able to detect evidence of this. But so far no such evidence has been found.

    There are three approaches you can take to such inconvenient evidence.

    The first is to conclude that in all probability intercessory prayer has no effect on the patient. If you want to pray for the sick by all means do so, but realise that it will have no effect on the patient, but only on the person doing the praying.

    The second is to claim that the effect is so small as to be undetectable by statistical methods.

    The third is to claim that God organises everything in such a way that the statistics will never show anything, because God doesn’t want there to be scientific evidence of his existence.

    This last approach is what is known as “the retreat to unfalsifiable propositions”. Nobody can prove that proposition false – as you yourself have said “science can never disprove the effectiveness of intercessory prayer”, and if you define in these unfalsifiable terms you are quite right.

    But claiming that it is not possible to prove conclusively that a proposition is false is a very thin justification for believing it to be true.

  • Margaretallain

    This has given me fresh heart.   So agree, not quite as old as your Mother but so like the sound of her.  Somwhere there is a poem, ‘when I am old I will wear purple and run my stick along the railings, etc.    best wishes

  • JabbaPapa

    If intercessory prayer works sometimes, then statistical analysis of trials of prayer should be able to detect evidence of this.

    You are not very good at mathematics, statistics, nor scientific method, are you …

    If intercessory prayer works sometimes, then the already existing data would be a function of that reality.

    It is irrational to suppose that simply gathering these or those and then declaring this, arbitrarily, to be “lab conditions” might necessarily provide any kind of meaningful differentials whatsoever.

    Don’t quit the day job.

  • Jonathan West

     You obviously don’t understand or don’t want to understand how a clinical trial works.

  • Peter

    If you intend to look for evidence that intercessory prayers are effective, you must stipulate the following parameters:
    How do you define intercessory prayers and by what criterion are they judged to be effective?When and only when you have done this is it possible to take the matter further. 

  • Jonathan West

    There are plenty of online examples of intercessory prayers for the sick. One example I picked up from Catholic Online runs as follows.

    “Almighty and eternal God, you are the everlasting health of those who believe in you. Hear us for your sick servant [name] for whom we implore the aid of your tender mercy, that being restored to bodily health, he may give thanks to you in your church. Through Christ our Lord.”

    It’s quite clear what is being asked for, that the person being prayed for be “restored to bodily health”.

    Effective would be in terms of the people being prayed for recovering from their illness more quickly and/or fully than those not prayed for. Medics have long-established ways of measuring such things for different categories of disease.

    And this has been done, there have been quite a number of clinical trials of intercessory prayer.

    You might not have heard of the Cochrane Foundation. They have saved innumerable lives by reviewing medical research, particularly clinical trials. Where multiple trials of a particular treatment have individually proved inconclusive, it has frequently happened that Cochrane have been able to take all the trials together and statistically process them as if they were one large trial instead of several small ones and demonstrate that there is an effect for a treatment that the individual small trials had not noticed. As an example, it was my this means that an effective cure for pre-eclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy) was discovered – large intravenous doses of magnesium sulphate. That has saved a great many lives.

    Cochrane is as independent as they come. They are interested solely in evaluating medical interventions with a view to saving lives. That is what they do, it is the only thing they do. Cochrane have of course reviewed the clinical trials for intercessory prayer. This is their conclusion.

    “These findings are equivocal and, although some of the results of individual studies suggest a positive effect of intercessory prayer, the majority do not and the evidence does not support a recommendation either in favour or against the use of intercessory prayer. We are not convinced that further trials of this intervention should be undertaken and would prefer to see any resources available for such a trial used to investigate other questions in health care.”

    This bit is the key phrase: “the evidence does not support a recommendation either in favour or against the use of intercessory prayer”. What this means is that there is no compelling evidence of prayer having any effect, either to improve or harm somebody’s health. They are sufficiently convinced that there is no effect that they don’t want to see money wasted on any further tirals on this subject.

    Cochrane takes no position on the existence of God. Their view is expressed as follows “The question of whether this may contribute towards proving or disproving the existence of God is a philosophical question lying outside the scope of this review of the effects of prayer.”

  • Peter

    In recent years many who lived lives of heroic virtue have been canonised and beatified, because of medical miracles which occurred after praying for their intercession.

    These miracles are well documented and rigourously tested for their authenticity.

    This is indeed evidence that intecessory pray is effective.

  • TreenonPoet

     Peter, you write:

    Geocentrism for example has never been a part of Catholic doctrine.  Galileo was never acccused of heresy for his heliocentrism

    This English translation of the condemnation of Galileo by seven cardinals in 1633 includes the following:

    Whereas you, Galileo, son of the late Vaincenzo Galilei, Florentine, aged seventy years, were in the year 1615 denounced to this Holy Office for holding as true the false doctrine taught by some that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable and that the Earth moves…

    and

    The proposition that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from its place is absurd and false philosophically and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scripture.

    and

    …the declaration made by His Holiness and published by the Holy Congregation of the Index has been announced to you, wherein it is declared that the doctrine of the motion of the Earth and the stability of the Sun is contrary to the Holy Scriptures and therefore cannot be defended or held.

    and

    have rendered yourself in the judgment of this Holy Office vehemently suspected of heresy, namely, of having believed and held the doctrine—which is false and contrary to the sacred and divine Scriptures—that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west and that the Earth moves and is not the center of the world; and that an opinion may be held and defended as probably after it has been declared and defined to be contrary to the Holy Scripture; and that consequently you have incurred all the censures and penalties imposed and promulgated in the sacred canons and other constitutions, general and particular, against such delinquents

    I would suggest that the impression that you have formed is a result of the deliberate management by the Church of a situation in which the Church was shown to be wrong. The Church did not always believe that the Earth orbits the Sun, so its claim of the veracity of revelation is false. Do you have an alternative explanation?

    (I note, by the way, that the Church is still not averse to ‘blasphemers’ being sent to prison. Although Galileo was sentenced to prison, this was relaxed to house arrest for the rest of his life – hardly lenient!)

  • TreenonPoet

    By ‘medical miracle’, do you mean something like a new limb growing in place of an amputated one, or just something unlikely but scientifically plausible?

  • Peter

    “The intercessory power of the person being studied is usually established through the proof of a miracle. The subject of a miracle is usually the cure of an organic illness so that there can be scientific proof of the fact.
    A second miracle is presently required as verification that this person is worthy of universal cult. For a cure to be declared a miracle there are two aspects to be examined – the theological and the medical.TheologicalDid the cure take place and did it happen in the context of prayer to God through the intercession of the holy person? It is God who does the curing.MedicalWas the cure beyond normal medical and scientific explanation? This proof is by documentary and anecdotal evidence. Six elements need to be examined:Did the person really have the illness? Was there a valid diagnosis?
    Is there proof, that at another point in time, the illness was gone?
    Is there proof that the cure was not brought about by medical or surgical means?
    Is there proof that it was outside the normal curative process?
    Is there proof that the cure was complete?
    Is the cure permanent?Before a cure can be examined, for most illnesses, 5 years must elapse from the time of cure for an adult and 10 years for a child.”http://www.marymackillop.org.au/canonisation/index.cfm?loadref=11

  • TreenonPoet

     

    Is there proof that it was outside the normal curative process?

    That sounds rather ambiguous. What constitutes ‘normal’? For example, a phenomenon not previously observed could be classed as not normal and thereby enable the cure to be classed as a miracle. Where is the rigour in that?

  • TreenonPoet

    One of the recommendations of the Royal Society ‘People and the planet’ report is

    Reproductive health and voluntary family planning programmes urgently require political leadership and financial commitment, both
    nationally and internationally. This is needed to continue the downward trajectory of fertility rates, especially in countries where the unmet need for contraception is high.

    Lawmakers in the Philippines passed a reproductive health law in December that the Catholic Church had fought against vehemently and delayed for years. Now the Church is attempting to punish those members of Congress who supported the law! I imagine that some Catholics will think such opposition is not only acceptable, but laudable.

    I would use a different adjective to describe a Church that would trash the planet, or rather its inhabitants, for its own ends (let alone do so in this manner).

  • JabbaPapa

    ”Reproductive health and voluntary family planning programmes urgently require political leadership and financial commitment, both nationally and internationally. This is needed to continue the downward trajectory of fertility rates, especially in countries where the unmet need for contraception is high.”

    Propaganda from out of the Rothschild and Soros -financed anti-life brigade.

    “unmet need for contraception” indeed !!!!

  • JabbaPapa

    You falsely imagine that I do not understand the nature of that pseudo-clinical “trial”, that was organised as a publicity stunt and nothing else.

    The results of that “trial” are neither verifiable nor falsifiable, so that by definition it did not constitute a scientific “experiment” — in fact, it’s one of the more blatant examples of pseudo-science that I’m aware of.

    Apparently, you fail to understand that trials can only be meaningful in comparison to normative data — except that the numbers of prayers from the sick that God responds to (including such simple cries of anguish as “I wish it would stop !!”) is a completely unknown quantity, which might vary between none of them and all of them — as is His propensity to intervene even without prayer. There is no reason whatsoever to assume that such interventions could in any way be predictable — and more importantly, it is absurd to think that they might be statistically significant in the framework of God’s overall actions in this universe, including the Laws of Physics.

  • JabbaPapa

    When I wrote my original paragraph, I could not possibly know that you were going to deny its veracity.

    Oh good grief, how many times exactly do I have to point out that I utterly disagree with your irrational contention that Science and Religion are “antithetical” before you accept that this is my opinion ?

    You are engaging in magical thinking — you believe the above to be true, thus you imagine that it must be simply accepted as such with no need whatsoever to supply any supporting evidence of the contention — and that it’s magically up to others to “prove” you wrong.

    Your characterisations, again, do NOT resemble any contents of mainstream religious thinking ; so that your very silly notion that people somehow “compartmentalise” this or that is unacceptable.

    It occurs to me that you might not have understood the thinking

    … and this is what it boils down to, you are dogmatically convinced that religion is a quality of lesser intelligences.

    How can I have rejected your implicit nonsense (for the umpteenth time BTW !!!) if I didn’t “understand” it ???

    Your intimation that scientific experiment cannot determine whether
    intercessory prayer works puts science at odds with your own religious
    belief that such prayer works

    No, it does NOT — no more than a cookery manual is at “odds” with The Origin of Species.

    Science is not a god — it is the sum total of human understanding and theorising about how and why observable phenomena occur in material reality.

    It is not all-pervasive — it is limited by the existing observational faculties and technology, by the inherent limitations of human consciousness itself, by the physical contingencies of our various points of view, and various historically determined contingencies.

    Therefore, there are realities that exist which are beyond the scope of Science, some of them impenetrably so — and it is unscientific to claim otherwise.

    Questions concerning these realities simply do NOT belong to Science and they are NOT a priori “antithetical” to Science.

    This is VERY basic Metaphysics.

    The notion that Science and Religion might be “antithetical” is a MYTH (they are simply DIFFERENT) — and any developments based on that FALSE notion are therefore intellectually unacceptable.

  • Jonathan West

    Which trial do you think is a publicity stunt? The Cochrane Foundation has done a meta analysis of several different trials, all published in medical databases such as MEDLINE and EMBASE. Were they all publicity stunts?

    Your objection that God’s response is not predictable is irrelevant. The claim is that God responds at least sometimes, even though we don’t know who he will respond to. A clinical trial doesn’t attempt to predict ahead of time who God will respond to, it merely checks after the event to see if there is any evidence that God has responded to anybody.

  • TreenonPoet

     The basis of the recommendations of the well-respected Royal Society are explained in the report (PDF). What is the basis of your serious accusation that it is propaganda? (I’m sure you know that ‘propaganda’ does not mean stuff that you disagree with.) The report does not mention Rothschild or Soros, so please link to your evidence for the connection. (An overlap in proposals does not imply collusion.) I think your use of the term ‘anti-life’ rather identifies who is really putting out false information.

    I don’t see what your sentence about avoiding pregnancies has to do with the real world in which the sexual instinct is compounded by the goading of religion.

  • Jonathan West

    You’re engaging in what is known as the “Texas sharpshooter fallacy”.

    What is happening here is that you are taking a group of unusual events with some feature in common, and assuming that they also have a specific common cause. It’s a bit like spraying a wall with hundreds o bullets, and then looking carefully, finding three which happen to be really close together, drawing a target round them and declaring yourself to be a crack shot because you put three bullets into such a small target.

    In these cases, even if the cure were to be accepted to be miraculous, there is no evidence that the cure was brought about by the prayer and wouldn’t have happened anyway. You need to look also at all the cases where intercessory prayer occurred and a miraculous cure didn’t happen.

    That is what the clinical trials are designed to discover: i.e. whether prayer has any effect. The results are negative.

  • Peter

    The method of establishing a miraculous response to intercessory prayer is vigorous as described in my response to TreenonPoet below.

    Here re Wiki lists of recent saints and blesseds.  You can google their names and find that miracles are attributed to their intercession in response to intercessionary prayer.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronological_list_of_saints_and_blesseds_in_the_21st_centuryhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronological_list_of_saints_and_blesseds_in_the_21st_centuryThere are many of them and therefore many miracles.  Since these miracles have been authenticated by the most vigorous means possible, the onus is on you to debunk each and every one of them. 

  • JabbaPapa

    There are in-depth investigations at the Michael Voris website of the fact that the Rothschilds and Soros are MASSIVELY financing a bewildering array of mutually supporting pro-abortion groups that lobby Governments and parliamentarians and multinationals worldwide, making use of just such rhetoric.

    Despite any negative feelings one might have about Voris, this presentation of evidence is extremely convincing.

    http://www.churchmilitant.tv/cia/06Rockefeller/

    (sorry, can’t remember where the more specific data about Soros and his involvement in these lobbies is available)

    What is the basis of your serious accusation that it is propaganda?

    The definition of that word :

    propaganda  n.
    1.
    The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information
    reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine
    or cause.
    2. Material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine or cause

    (and YES the above video is, obviously, propaganda)

    the goading of religion

    ???!!??

  • JabbaPapa

    Were they all publicity stunts?

    Obviously — given the blatantly pseudo-scientific nature of the whole proceedings.

    Your objection that God’s response is not predictable is irrelevant.

    In fact, it is a direct objection to the very basis of the “trials”, given that they sought to objectify such responses according to predictive schemes.

  • Jonathan West

     “… miracles are attributed to…”

    Says it all really. If you choose to attribute things, then I’m not going to stop you. But don’t kid yourself that the decision is based on anything as mundane as evidence.

  • Jonathan West

     Publicity stunts in favour of or against religion?

  • JabbaPapa

    anything as mundane as evidence

    ooooh now you wouldn’t want to dirty your hands assessing any evidence that you might be wrong, eh ?

    Carry on up your ivory tower !!!

  • JabbaPapa

    What difference ? Pseudo-science is pseudo-science. End of.

  • TreenonPoet

     There were a lot of sentiments expressed in that video that seem close to some that you have expressed. The tricks used were so transparent that the video must be an embarassment to the Catholic Church. The video did not identify any direct links to the Royal Society, but it is true that the Royal Society have used data from institutions that the video says Rockefeller Foundation has connections to.

    If different institutions of integrity use the same data, it is not surprising if they come to the same conclusions.

    I noticed that the video did not actually deny climate change, but did give some tone-of-voice hints that anyone concerned about climate change must be part of a conspiracy. Maybe this is because Earth’s oceans and atmosphere are shared across the globe, so action to tackle it requires global co-operation of the sort that the video claims is ”working against America”. And because the action required does not completely conform to Catholic teachings, or because Catholics must be persuaded against practices that exacerbate the problem, its advocates must be part of a conspiracy against the Catholic Church? Really?

    It did not seem to occur to the Catholic Church at the time of Galileo that any number of astronomers could make the observations that Galileo made and independently come to the same conclusion (or perhaps they thought they were powerful enough to suppress all would-be Galileos until such time as they could deny that geocentrism had ever been a doctrine).

    Your accusation against the Royal Society seems similarly naive.

    By ‘goading’ I meant the encouragement to have children as built into religions (purpose of sex, “Go forth and multiply”, etc.).

  • TreenonPoet

     Regarding the first part of your post, I shall just refer readers to the relevant comments in this thread. No amount of ”good grief”s or ”how many times exactly do I have to point out”s will change the facts.

    In the next part of your post you proceed to misrepresent me again. I had earlier posted the (sarcastic) exclamation ”You seem to know a lot about God, and all through a process that is not antithetical to science!”. You did not reply to that post. I’ll repeat that: You did not reply to that post. Yet you write:

    How can I have rejected your implicit nonsense (for the umpteenth time BTW !!!) if I didn’t “understand” it ???

    You did not reject it. I’ll repeat, for the third time: You did not reply to that post. Not once, let alone umpteen times. I was surprised that you did not reply to it, and wondered whether you might (repeat: might) have misunderstood it. You take offence to this, yet you repeatedly respond to posters by telling them (in no uncertain terms) that they do not understand.

    It [science] is not all-pervasive — it is limited by the existing observational faculties and technology, by the inherent limitations of human consciousness itself, by the physical contingencies of our various points of view, and various historically determined contingencies.
    Therefore, there are realities that exist which are beyond the scope of Science, some of them impenetrably so — and it is unscientific to claim otherwise.

    The problem arises in matters to which science can be applied, but where religions oppose the science. It is true that conclusions drawn from scientific observations (when expressed accurately) do not claim to be the absolute truth. The limitations you cite are recognised. The justification of a scientific conclusion should be based on logic. Justifications for competing religious claims never are (or apply logic to false premises), and yet they are sometimes allowed to derail scientific progress or antagonise those of other religions and none. This is vandalism against civilisation.

  • Jonathan West

    The clinical trials were designed to find out whether there might be something to intercessory prayer.

    But you have dismissed the trials as publicity stunts.

    What was that you were saying about ignoring evidence that you might be wrong?

  • JabbaPapa

    The clinical trials were designed to find out whether there might be something to intercessory prayer

    It is ontologically dishonest to base “trials” on a blatant category error.

  • JabbaPapa

    I noticed that the video did not actually deny climate change

    You’re changing the subject — Voris’ ranting about climate change is not something that I agree with.

    Nor am I impressed with the theatricality.

    You asked for “evidence” — provided. What you do with it is your own business ; whether you believe it or not, also ; nevertheless, the factual evidence provided is verifiable.

    It points to a concerted attempt to produce propaganda in favour of contraception and abortion, and ultimately eugenics.

    It did not seem to occur to the Catholic Church at the time of Galileo
    that any number of astronomers could make the observations that Galileo
    made and independently come to the same conclusion (or perhaps they
    thought they were powerful enough to suppress all would-be Galileos
    until such time as they could deny that geocentrism had ever been a
    doctrine).

    You have obviously failed to understand that the issues of the Roman Curia with Galileo did not concern his scientific theories, but rather that his book describing them was gratuitously insulting and derogatory. Of his financiers.

    By ‘goading’ I meant the encouragement to have children as built into religions (purpose of sex, “Go forth and multiply”, etc.).

    Ludicrous.

    Not only is this a pointless generalisation, but it appears to be ignorant of any meaningful specifics of comparative sexual morality in religions.

  • TreenonPoet

     

    You’re changing the subject

    Climate change is related to population level in a complex way. This is mentioned in the report that I linked to. For example, the relationship between population and total energy requirements is a concern given current (greenhouse-gas-producing) technology.

    It points to a concerted attempt to produce propaganda in favour of contraception and abortion, and ultimately eugenics.

    (Using the definitions of ‘propaganda’ that you supplied, information disseminated in the cause of increased balance and honesty would constitute propaganda. My understanding of the word was (is?) that propaganda implied a degree of misleading or false information.) Whether or not the Rockefeller Foundation have been supplying misleading or false information has no bearing on the integrity of the Royal Society report unless you can show that the data on which the report is based are data supplied by the Rockerfeller Foundation in the knowledge that the data are false. You do not supply evidence of this.

    You have obviously failed to understand that the issues of the Roman Curia with Galileo did not concern his scientific theories, but rather that his book describing them was gratuitously insulting and derogatory. Of his financiers.

    That is not consistent with this account of the judgement which imprisoned Galileo.

    Not only is this a pointless generalisation, but it appears to be ignorant of any meaningful specifics of comparative sexual morality in religions.

    I am not as concerned here about exactly what the religious doctrines are as I am about the impressions that can form in the mind of a spouse in a congregation (such as that women should submit to their husband).

  • JabbaPapa

    My understanding of the word was (is?) that propaganda implied a degree of misleading or false information

    No — while there *is* an underlying degree of dishonesty in all propaganda, because it seeks to manipulate the opinions of others, the information that it vehicles is not necessarily false in every case.

    My point was that these people are producing massive amounts of pro-abortion and pro-contraception worldwide, and that this is therefore a massive manipulation of public opinion.

    false

    This is a question of right and wrong, not true or false.

    That is not consistent with this account of the judgement which imprisoned Galileo

    OK fair enough.

    such as that women should submit to their husband

    No, that passage from St Paul is consistently misinterpreted.

    His advice was that wherever the civil laws required women to be subservient to men, then married couples should ensure equality between them in the home, but obey that law in public. He provides practical advice to such couples to ensure that the woman’s voice can be heard in public anyway, with help from her husband. At no time is such a law praised by St Paul.

  • JabbaPapa

    That is not consistent with this account of the judgement which imprisoned Galileo

    OK fair enough.

    hmmmm, well actually — it can be interpreted both ways.

    http://it.wikisource.org/wiki/Sentenza_di_condanna_di_Galileo_Galilei

    Che il Sole sia centro del mondo e imobile di moto locale, è
    proposizione assurda e falsa in filosofia, e formalmente eretica, per
    essere espressamente contraria alla Sacra Scrittura

    To be fair, this is not pure and simple wrong — it *was* a “formal” heresy, in that Galileo’s theory was not published in proper “form”.

    Concerning the Earth not being the centre of the world – e considerata in teologia ad minus erronea in Fide is a far more qualified statement. The central point (pun not intended) here is that the other proposal was theologically unsound — which again, is a formal not a substantive question.

    Confessasti che, diece o dodici anni sono incirca, dopo esserti fatto il
    precetto come sopra, cominciasti a scriver detto libro; che chiedesti
    la facoltà di stamparlo, senza però significare a quelli che ti diedero
    simile facoltà, che tu avevi precetto di non tenere, difendere né
    insegnare in qualsivoglia modo tal dottrina.

    This is the nature of Galileo’s rebellion that I mentioned — betraying an earlier, solemn promise.

    As for the condemnation itself, it is NOT a formal condemnation for heresy :

    ti sei reso a questo S.o Off.o veementemente sospetto d’eresia, cioè
    d’aver tenuto e creduto dottrina falsa e contraria alle Sacre e divine
    Scritture, ch’il sole sia centro della terra e che non si muova da
    oriente ad occidente, e che la terra si muova e non sia centro del
    mondo, e che si possa tener e difendere per probabile un’opinione dopo
    esser stata dichiarata e diffinita per contraria alla Sacra Scrittura

    Note — the condemnation puts the proposals of Galileo in the subjunctive mood, and he is condemned under the suspicion that these proposals might be heretical — guilty of heresy would be “colpevole d’eresia”… he would also have been formally excommunicated if found guilty of heresy, but he wasn’t. (though it’s clear that he was under that threat)

    OTOH, there’s no doubt that their science and their scientific methodology is, in hindsight, quite wrong.

    hmmmmm OK, objectively both my version and yours could be accurate simultaneously.

    He was not formally condemned for heresy, and his manifest crime was in fact that of disobedience and rebellion — but the motivations of his judges are certainly coherent with your presentation of them.

  • JabbaPapa

    A discussion of Galileo’s condemnation from a more theological POV can be found HERE :

    http://catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0033.html

    Galileo confused revealed truths with scientific discoveries by saying that in the Bible “are found propositions which, when taken literally, are false; that Holy Writ out of regard for the incapacity of the people, expresses itself inexactly, even when treating of solemn dogmas; that in questions concerning natural things, philosophical [i.e., scientific] should avail more than sacred.”

    Hence, we see that it was Galileo’s
    perceived attack on theology (which is the unique domain of the Magisterium and
    not of scientists) that elicited the alarmed response from the Church.

    That opinion of Galileo’s is, in fact, wrong ; the proposal that theology should be subjected to philosophy/science, rather than informed by its findings, is objectively false.

    At best, one can make a strong case that the Catholic Church of that day was under-informed in its views on physical science — but then so was the rest of the world.

    Although Galileo’s heliocentric theories were contrary to the understanding of the Church of his day, it wasn’t just with the Church that he found himself at odds. His ideas were contrary to the Ptolemaic school of thought, which was accepted by virtually all contemporary scientists. The ideas he pushed had been challenged by such notable thinkers as Michel de Montaigne (d. 1592), Blaise Pascal (d. 1662), and Alessandro Tassoni (d. 1635), who said, “Stand in the middle of a room and look out at the sun through a window opening toward the south. Now, if the sun stands still and the window moves so quickly [referring to the speed at which Galileo theorized the earth rotated], the sun will instantly disappear from your vision.”

    Besides, Galileo may have been right so far as the basic scientific theory went, but he got the reasons for it all wrong.

    As Frs. Rumble and Carty explain in their three-volume work Radio Replies
    (1979):

    Galileo could not prove it [heliocentricity] and not one of the arguments he advanced for it is accepted today as scientifically demonstrative. All his arguments gave a probability only.

    In the present state of general education,
    we all know that there is no doubt on the subject, and that the movement of the
    earth is in no way opposed to Sacred Scripture rightly understood. But people
    did not know that then, and they were not ready for the new knowledge. Its general publication could result only in widespread disturbance due to a lack of preparatory knowledge. Galileo made the mistake of going outside the realm of science to invade the field of theology. He set himself up as an exegete of Scripture and thus brought upon himself the censures of lawful religious authorities.

    By 1633, he was again summoned to Rome to face the charges that he had persisted in promoting his theories as though they were matters of faith and provable by the Bible

  • TreenonPoet

     As I say, it is the impressions that I am concerned with. From time to time, I read of a criminal action ‘justified’ by the perpetrator by reference to scripture, followed by the statement of a representative of the relevant church claiming that the scripture has been misinterpreted.

    I had a look at the catholiceducation.org site that you link to in another post in this thread. Here is an excerpt from an article about contraception by Janet Smith:-

    Remember that the first commandment God gave mankind was: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Those are our working orders right there. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Also remember that one of the miracles that Christ performed was multiplying loaves and fishes. Shouldn’t we have a little trust in the king of the universe, that if we were to meet His commandment of be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth, He would provide?

    In fact, the whole article contains many false/wrong statements. Some of her delusions are dealt with on this thread. The publication of her article is, to say the least, highly irresponsible. Regarding the excerpt, I don’t care whether the official interpretation of the Bible differs from hers; her message is plain enough and dangerous.

  • TreenonPoet

     Thank you for that link. I read the whole of Patrick Madrid’s piece and I have too many quibbles with it to discuss here. What surprises me most is the suggestion that the Catholic Church was not opposing science because it was only condemning Galileo’s criticism of theology, as if silencing anyone on any subject that it deems to be part of theology was excusable. Such censorship is still attempted today.

    You highlight the part about proof and probability as if science ever claimed that its conclusions from scientific observations were 100% proof of its explanations (hypotheses). To condemn lack of certainty is to condemn science.

  • TreenonPoet

     Whatever the motive behind the treatment of Galileo, there was, as I understand it, a suppression of the printing of books supporting heliocentrism until 1822. Whether or not that is said to be based on doctrine, I think that the Catholic Church’s characterisation of the Bible as inspired by God carries with it an implied doctrine, and I can see why the Church might want to keep quiet about a fact that contradicts biblical claims (such as regards the stopping of the motion of the sun). Therefore I think my original comparison between the suppressing of heliocentrism and the dismissal of the Royal Society report still applies.

  • JabbaPapa

    What surprises me most is the suggestion that the Catholic Church was not opposing science because it was only condemning Galileo’s criticism of theology, as if silencing anyone on any subject that it deems to be part of theology was excusable. Such censorship is still attempted today.

    More on this below, but the fact that this turned out to be a methodological error does not prevent it having been understood at the time as the normal methodology of its day.

    But no generally accepted philosophical/scientific realities and discoveries can ever be simply denied by any philosopher or scientist.

    Biblical literalist Young Earth Creationists OTOH might do all sorts of very silly things, including the above.

    To condemn lack of certainty is to condemn science

    “condemn” ???

    Who said anything about doubt being condemned ?

    They were pointing out to Galileo that he was presenting his scientific **theories*** (remember !!! his theses had NOT been demonstrated at the time !!!) as if they were absolute truths.

    Doubt and lack of certainty about scientific claims is instead being pointed out as basic philosophical methodology to Galileo in the condemnation !!!

    Also remember — philosophy and science had not yet separated into separate disciplines at the time, so that philosophers, including moral philosophers and theologians, were most certainly not intruding outside of their own areas by commenting on scientific methods and theories. It would be VERY easy to hold some perfectly anachronistic opinions on this subject that would not be coherent with the actual historical circumstances.

  • JabbaPapa

    From time to time, I read of a criminal action ‘justified’ by the
    perpetrator by reference to scripture, followed by the statement of a
    representative of the relevant church claiming that the scripture has
    been misinterpreted.

    You’re arguing from special cases and exceptions again, as though they were generalities.

    Psychotics and schizophrenics are not known to be spontaneously obedient nor even respectful of any sources of moral authority whatsoever — whether any church organisation, or simply “the Common Good” or the Law.

    Or what — shall I argue on the basis of a special case that many completely unintelligent atheist bigots like to infest online discussion topics about religion to spew forth their ignorant-minded bile and insult believers in this or that religion that ALL atheists are like this ? Including yourself and my own brother, for instance ?

    The publication of her article is, to say the least, highly irresponsible

    Opinion.

    Again, you’re assuming that your own opinions should be considered as being truthful a priori. Notwithstanding my specific disagreement with them.

  • TreenonPoet

     We are already seeing the consequences of complacency, and even animosity, in response to scientific projections regarding climate. How could deliberate mendacity by deniers such as Heartland Institute not be considered irresponsible? Now you could argue that Janet Smith’s denial of population problems is not a good parallel because she may genuinely believe what she has written, but her publishers should read what she has written and check its factual claims. If they don’t, then that is irresponsible; if they do, then they will know that she is making false claims. Perhaps they think that publishing such claims would be justified on the basis that it promotes Catholicism and they rate that above civilisation. That is just passing the buck of reponsibility, saying, in effect, it is not us telling you to be fruitful and multiply, it’s God. (Don’t tell I, tell ‘e.)