How odd of God…

From time to time I receive letters on the subject of evolution from, presumably, readers of my Catholic Herald column. One which I received this week starts:

Dear Quentin,

Evolution is a lot of nonsense… and the consequence of sexual sins.

Man, each man, as we know him, is an uniquely created being with an inbuilt intelligence, memory, and soul. All made possible by the almighty power of the Father Creator: God, One and Triune, and not by an evolutionary one. The soul always carries a remembrance of its Origin: God. Evolution is an offence to God.

“And what iniquity is greater than deducing that God, the Almighty, had to wait for spontaneous evolution to create His masterpiece, which is man? What thought is more senseless than that of someone thinking that God was powerless to create the most beautiful work of His creation directly?…”

There is usually no useful way of answering this approach since I have to assume that such writers are guided by such a strong personal view that any reference I make to empirical evidence such as the fossil record or DNA sequences is likely to be unacceptable.

I have rather more sympathy with those who broadly accept evolution but hold that there are examples in biology which could not have come about through a biological development. Four common examples crop up from time to time.

The first is the bombardier beetle. In brief, this beetle shoots out an explosive charge in self defence. Since this is caused by two chemicals which are inert on their own but explosive when mixed, it is argued that the beetle could not have developed itself without being blown up in the process.

A second example is the flagellum. This is a rotating tail to be found in some bacteria. The claim here is that there is no evolutionary sequence which could plausibly provide the steps necessary for this ingenious development.  Similarly the very complex process whereby blood clots in order to staunch a wound requires stages which would not in themselves contribute to survival.

Perhaps the most attractive example is provided by the eye. Anyone who has studied the biology of the eye will know that it is marvellously complex and efficient. The idea that it could have developed thus through the random processes of evolution beggars the imagination. No wonder that such examples are described as irreducible complexity. Surely, some would argue, the direct hand of the Creator, sometimes known as Intelligent Design, is needed here?

Even if we accept that these difficulties can in some instances be explained, or that an absence of explanation may be the result of incomplete scientific knowledge, we are still left with the deeper question of why God, who could presumably have created directly if he chose, selected a method which depends on random outcomes, albeit filtered by the need for such outcomes to promote survival. It is almost as if he used a method of creation devised to conceal his work. A test of faith, perhaps?

In our secular and scientific age such doubts about evolution, or its particular aspects, are unfashionable, Indeed to state them publicly is to invite a scoff rather than applause.  So I think it would be interesting to know whether any contributors, old or new, have difficulty with the question of evolution, and if so, whether others can correct them, or accept that they have a powerful point.

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105 Responses to How odd of God…

  1. milliganp says:

    Einstein said “God doesn’t play dice” but outside of evolution we also have quantum mechanics (Pauli exclusion principle) and entropy as “impossible to explain”. My response is that perhaps God is the dice or that the infinite wisdom of God can create a system that can “randomly” create the universe we inhabit.

    • agnophilo says:

      When we “intelligently designed” the airplane we didn’t do so by scratching our heads and magically knowing how to do it. We did it in a messy, ongoing process of trial and error and experimentation. We expect a god, if it exists,to be magical and not need to make sense, but everything real has a mechanism, and if the mind of god is real it has a mechanism. And I doubt it would be omni-anything.

      • milliganp says:

        If there is a thing we that deserves the name God, it has to be omni-everything; otherwise it’s just a higher intelligence and we are just an experiment.

      • agnophilo says:

        It’s an arbitrary title and an arbitrary quality.

      • milliganp says:

        As long as “it” doesn’t exist. The fundamental problem with atheism is that you can no more prove that god doesn’t exist than that He (forgive me, I’m a theist) does. The thing that moves Christians to believe is the story of Jesus told in the Gospels, for Jew’s it’s the god of Abraham and Moses and for Muslim’s it’s the God revealed in the Koran. For atheists this multiplication of God might be an argument against Him, but all three theologies allow for the confusion of humanity by evil.

      • agnophilo says:

        “As long as “it” doesn’t exist.”

        I would want to know if a god existed just as I would want to know if goblins, unicorns, vishnu or anything else I don’t believe in was real. I just see no reason to assume he, she or it does that seems to hold any water.

        “The fundamental problem with atheism is that you can no more prove that god doesn’t exist than that He (forgive me, I’m a theist) does.”

        That is a problem with positive atheism which I do not subscribe to and couldn’t tell you a single person who does. Virtually all atheists are agnostic atheists, which is to say they believe the existence or non-existence of a god is unknowable but not currently substantiated. And you can’t prove that unicorns don’t exist either, is that a good reason to believe they do or a “problem” for someone who doesn’t believe in unicorns?

        “The thing that moves Christians to believe is the story of Jesus told in the Gospels, for Jew’s it’s the god of Abraham and Moses and for Muslim’s it’s the God revealed in the Koran. For atheists this multiplication of God might be an argument against Him,”

        There are far more gods than that. And far more versions of your god than those three.

        “but all three theologies allow for the confusion of humanity by evil.”

        Yeah whatever. If you believe that not believing what you do is the result of “evil” go join the taliban, you’ll fit right in.

      • milliganp says:

        Please don’t allow my misuse of ‘ to make you think I’m ignorant, it’s late in my day!

      • agnophilo says:

        I figured it was a typo.

      • milliganp says:

        Agnophilio, I’m comfortable with agnosticism because, as a Christian aware of the multitudinous failures of organised Christianity I can understand our failues, just as those of Judaism, Islam etc. I’m inclined to think of my God saying – with friends like this, who needs enemies.

      • agnophilo says:

        I can easily imagine that. I saw a video on youtube about the “what if you’re wrong” question atheists get asked that basically said the video’s author doesn’t assume that if there was a god that being would be angry at him for not being christian, and that he could easily imagine that being actually preferring people who don’t do things in his name and make claims about him and speak for him and so on.

        Thank you for thinking outside the box, I really appreciate it.

  2. agnophilo says:

    The bacteria flagellum has been broken down into about a dozen fully functional intermediates. As for the eye here ya go:

    Anti-evolution folks use outdated and even deliberately misleading information all the time, buyer beware.

    (Note from Quentin. The link to this excellent video will be found in the Agnophilio comment below)

    • Quentin says:

      Contributors will know that we do not as a rule have videos on the Blog. This is an exceptional case because of the specific information it provides. I will let it stand for a day or two, and then substitute the relevant link.

      • agnophilo says:

        When I post the link it embeds the video automatically. This is the link (with spaces so hopefully it won’t embed):

        http:// com/watch?v= Stb9pQc9Kq0

        Also I understand not wanting people to just copy/paste at each other, but as you said this is not me doing that, the video just illustrates visually very powerfully something that would be very hard to describe with words.

    • milliganp says:

      I have to say I’m not a fan of “too complex to be an accident” arguments as it creates a “God of the gaps” subject to extinction if future more detailed science gives us the answer.

      • agnophilo says:

        True. Plus it’s an argument based on ignorance. Plus it is self-contradictory because god by that definition must himself be designed, and his designer must be designed and so on into infinity. And if you say “everything complex must be designed but god doesn’t count” then you’re just engaging in special pleading.

      • milliganp says:

        Is this “there are turtles all the way down” argument.

  3. Geordie says:

    In my early teens, atheists were all in favour of the Steady State Theory and discounted the Big Bang Theory, because they didn’t want a beginning nor an end. Now that the Big Bang Theory has a strong scientific basis, they say that universes have always existed and just re-form ad infinitum.. Anything will do as long as it is not God.
    Evolution to me, just shows the majesty and power of Almighty God. The Big Bang backs up the claims of Genesis. There was a void; in other words nothing; and God created every thing out of nothing. Awesome. How long it took is totally irrelevant.

    • agnophilo says:

      This sort of thing seems to me to be theists projecting their attitudes onto atheists. Atheists aren’t atheists because they want to be, and they generally don’t get anything out of being an atheist. I don’t want there not to be a god any more than I want there not to be a loch ness monster, I’m just not convinced there is one. Atheists tend to rail against religion (at least the ones who do are the only ones you recognize as atheists because how else would you know if someone wasn’t one, just like it wouldn’t be immediately apparent whether someone believed in unicorns unless it came up frequently for some reason). Anyway, the atheists that rail against religion do so because they see religions themselves as being harmful, not because the idea of a god frightens them. I am no more frightened of yahweh than you are frightened of allah.

      And neither the steady state model nor the big bang model support the bible. Nor by the way would a big-bang-big-crunch model, if that were currently accepted you would say “See, the bible says ashes to ashes, dust to dust, that’s referring to entropy and the collapse of matter, see how much advanced science there is in the bible!” You can read anything into anything. The bible doesn’t espouse modern scientific concepts, if it did they wouldn’t be modern, would they?

  4. Quentin says:

    I have received the following message from Daphne McLeod of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice. I reproduce it here:

    Dear Quentin,

    I find your comments on Evolution very interesting. I understand that several learned Professors in various countries, including America, are having serious doubts about Evolution. For one thing we know much more about the structure of the cell and how complicated it is whereas Darwin and others at that time saw it as a simple structure.

    Also I have heard that Darwin was troubled on his deathbed, saying “We should have found some of the fossils of creatures who existed to bridge the gap between various species as they developed.” Even now so many years later none of these fossils has ever been found, which makes you think.

    Sadly Evolution is still taught in Catholic schools as a fact not a theory although Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical “Humanae Generis” said this should never happen as it is only theory. At the same time the Fall and Original Sin are rarely taught leaving our young people with very little chance of keeping the Faith.

    Lots of prayers still needed, God Bless you and your work, Daphne.

    • Vincent says:

      It is certainly true that scientists in the field argue continuously about the details of evolution — and new information arrives almost every week. But I do not know of any scientific authority who disputes the broad principles of evolution; the evidence for this is overwhelming.
      There were of course many gaps in the fossil record in Darwin’s day. There are far fewer now, but since they occur and have survived by chance, this will always be so. However the sequence from the last common ancestor we shared with the ape is well established, even if all the gaps cannot so far been filled.

      Pius XII may well have been prudent at the time at which he wrote, but things have moved on.
      From the New York Times October 25, 1996
      “Pope John Paul II’s statement yesterday acknowledging that evolution is ”more than just a theory” is unlikely to change significantly the teaching of evolution in Roman Catholic schools, where it is already a standard part of the curriculum.
      But as the teaching of evolution and creationism in (US) public schools has re-emerged as an increasingly contentious issue, the Pope’s statement is being viewed as a powerful support for the idea that religious faith and the teaching of evolution in the country’s schools can easily coexist.”

    • agnophilo says:

      I don’t know if she will ever read this, but I will reply briefly to a few points:

      “I understand that several learned Professors in various countries, including America, are having serious doubts about Evolution.”

      There are historians who claim the holocaust took place. There are not many of them however. The number of scientists who accept a literal interpretation of genesis is around 5% (despite most of them being christian) – this includes engineers and experts with PhDs who do not actually study the natural world though, the number of earth and life scientists (physicists, biologists, geologists etc) who accept a literal interpretation of genesis as being scientific is around a tenth of one percent, and in my experience they do so for religious reasons with no sound empirical basis. This doesn’t mean genesis is a “lie”, it could simply be meant to convey a non-literal truth such as a moral or spiritual truth. I went to a catholic school where they taught me about different forms of literature, they taught me how to tell the difference between truth, fiction, parables, fables, allegories etc. They told me the simplest way to spot a fable is that it usually has some sort of moral and it contains obviously impossible plot elements – the most common one being talking animals…

      “For one thing we know much more about the structure of the cell and how complicated it is whereas Darwin and others at that time saw it as a simple structure.”

      Yes, but we also know a lot about how cell pathways evolved and we can break down cellular mechanisms into simpler, less complex forms that still function. Imagine if you took a car engine apart piece by piece and as you did it became a steam engine (a more primitive version of itself) then it became a transmission (another part of the car) and so on. This is the only way things can evolve by natural selection, by being cobbled together out of other mechanisms. And it’s the same thing we see in cells just like we see it in animals and plants. There is other evidence as well I can go into if you want.

      “Also I have heard that Darwin was troubled on his deathbed, saying “We should have found some of the fossils of creatures who existed to bridge the gap between various species as they developed.” Even now so many years later none of these fossils has ever been found, which makes you think.”

      Two things – one, this is a false claim that was debunked by darwin’s family over 150 years ago, google “lady hope” and you will find two kind of web pages, one claiming darwin “recanted” his scientific theories and converted to christianity, and the other pointing out that several members of his family that were with him when he died said they had never heard of the woman who supposedly visited him and witnessed his conversion. It’s an urban legend that was debunked long ago and still keeps being repeated. People also claim einstein was christian when he wasn’t, they also claim anthony flew converted to christianity when he actually became a deist.

      The second thing is the claim about transitional fossils never having been found – it amazes me how people never bother to just google “transitional fossil” and click the image tab, you can find countless examples of intermediate fossils. Wikipedia has an article listing transitional forms between fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and mammals, mammals and primates, and primates and humans and many other groups. Intermediate fossils predicted specifically by darwin (like birds with separate digits in their wings) were found in darwin’s lifetime. Literally everything in the fossil record (which contains trillions of fossils) is an intermediate between what comes before and what comes after, all fossils are transitional. The ones we call “transitional” are just the ones at major branches of the evolutionary family tree that are at the crossroads between two huge groups of species like mammals and reptiles. But in reality everything is intermediate, the way you are a “transitional form” between your parents and your children.

      “Sadly Evolution is still taught in Catholic schools as a fact not a theory although Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical “Humanae Generis” said this should never happen as it is only theory.”

      The word “theory” doesn’t mean the same thing in the scientific sense that it does in the everyday sense, in science gravity is a “theory”. Atoms are a “theory” even though we can see individual atoms with electron microscopes the class is still called “atomic theory”. It will never be called “atomic fact” because in science theories are actually higher than facts because what theories do is unify and explain facts. The theory of gravity explains the fact of gravity just as the theory of evolution explains the fact that life evolves. If you don’t think it’s a fact then you don’t even have to open a science book just read the newspaper – bed bugs are coming back in america because they’ve acquired a resistance to our pesticides. Antibiotics only work for a short time because the bacteria adapt to them. If you get cancer your doctor has to monitor you carefully for any sign that the cancer cells have developed a resistance to the chemotherapy so he can switch to radiation treatment, and even the cancer cells adapt to that too. Where do you think new viruses come from? They are new versions of old viruses. When you get sick your body learns how to fight that virus and keeps making antibodies against it for about ten years – so how can people keep getting the flu year after year? The answer is it’s not the same flu, it’s changed. And we understand how and why it changes so well (thanks to the “theory” of evolution) that we can predict how it will evolve and make vaccines for a version of the virus that doesn’t exist yet, but will exist by the time we manufacture, distribute and administer the vaccines. Evolution is a fact, the theory explains the fact.

      “At the same time the Fall and Original Sin are rarely taught leaving our young people with very little chance of keeping the Faith.”

      Or a better chance if they are presented with the dichotomy of “either this story is literally true or the bible is false”, in which case the bible would be false. Or they can take it as an allegory and keep their faith. But eventually observable reality wins out over dogma. If you cling to an interpretation of scripture that says the world is flat eventually people will figure out it’s not and then where will you be? This is why galileo said that when asking questions about nature we should begin first with observations and demonstrations (ie science) and then let that inform scripture. Because after all there is just the one reality.

      “Lots of prayers still needed, God Bless you and your work, Daphne.”

      Is something wrong?

      • Quentin says:

        Long term contributors will know that the ‘house rules’ for length of comments is 600 words (and then rarely). Our new, and welcome, contributor could not know this in advance — so this comprehensive comment will remain. By the way I suspect that his ” There are historians who claim the holocaust took place.” should have read ‘deny'”

      • agnophilo says:

        That pretty much rules out in-line responses.

    • milliganp says:

      I am personally certain of the existance of God, but I’m not convinced of the sanity of Daphne McLeod. At the time of Pius XII encyclical there were still 3 years to elapse before our knowledge of DNA was to be enlightened by Watson and Crick, so to quote it is scientifically anachronistic. It is also important to realise that the DNA record makes monogenism impossible, which lays waste to the whole adam-and-eve myth.

      • Quentin says:

        Daphne McLeod may be right or wrong, but we never doubt the sanity of our guests on Secondsight.

      • milliganp says:

        I doubt my own sanity and I’m not the least possesive about the doubt.

      • Ignatius says:

        “…I am personally certain of the existance of God, but I’m not convinced of the sanity of Daphne McLeod…”

        “..I doubt my own sanity and I’m not the least possesive about the doubt…..”

        I think you miss the point completely here, which is a shame because the point is an important one.

      • Quentin says:

        Can you give chapter and verse for the impossibility of monogenism? Leaving aside the very fertile myth of Adam and Eve, the experts all seem to hold that we can in fact trace our line to a common male and a common female.ancestor — although they did not live at the same time.So we are all cousins if somewhat distantly removed. Indeed we are all blood relatives of Jesus. What exactly happened prior to these first ancestors I do not think we know.

      • milliganp says:

        Firstly I accept the rule of “non criticism” of other bloggers so I apologise for the comment about Mrs. McLeod. The monogenism contradiction came, I believe, from BBC documentary looking at the populating of the world from Africa about 60,000 years ago. If I remember it stated that the DNA variety in humans required that the “transitional” species poulation to be at least 100 strong. I am, however in no way anything other than an interested amateur. My area of science is electronics so I get occasionally excited by quantum mechanics. Some of the underlying mathematics behind the behaviour of semiconductor materials is every bit as contradictory to “intelligent design” as our knowledge of genetics but no-one gets excited about it as it doesn’t call into doubt the matter of human ancestry.

      • Quentin says:

        You might like to glance at a recent post of mine on the subject of first ancestors. Put Body and Soul into the search box.

      • milliganp says:

        Quentin, this article popped up in the “you might like to read” section on Ars Technica: it redates the mitochondrial Eve and the Y chromosone Adam to potentially the same era.

  5. johnbunting says:

    For this discussion, I take ‘evolution’ to include the pre-organic evolution that must have preceded the appearance of life. From a theological standpoint, I can’t see that it matters whether God created things instantaneously or over millions of years. From a scientific standpoint, it does matter, because a scientific explanation of anything must assume some passage of time.
    To regard creation and evolution as mutually exclusive alternatives is to make a distinction without a difference. The real difference is whether the origin of life, the universe and everything is accidental or intentional. Is the Watchmaker Blind or not?

    • agnophilo says:

      Abiogenesis and evolution are distinct from each other the same way abiogenesis and my interpretation of what caused the american civil war are distinct from each other. Both are based on entirely different avenues of evidence, attempt to explain entirely different events and are also logically independent, because the civil war being caused by x, y or z is not dependent on life having arisen on it’s own or being created. Neither is any aspect of evolution dependent on life having originated one way or another. Darwin assumed it was created “in one or several forms”. Others don’t. It doesn’t matter.

  6. Mike Horsnall says:

    Its an interesting issue. If you take the notion of evolution then by definition the process is atheistic because it is fundamentally random. However if you stand the argument on its head you have the position which says that which now exists depends neccessarily and entirely on those tiny ‘random’ incremental steps which were themselves governed by laws we take to be pretty much immutable eg gravity, time, duration,half life etc. So it then becomes possible to see that what appeared ‘random’ was not but produced the human being at the crown of the creation.
    When God ‘purposed’ the creation it was a real event and so neccessarily outworked in time, space and matter thus the ‘creation’ could not in any case have been immediate. Since biblical interpretation no longer demands that Genesis be literal then the whole argument of an instantaneous’ big bang type’ immediate appearance of the garden of Eden is long since redundant anyway. Hoyle seemed to understand this when he professed amazement that anyone could believe in a process which involved random existence suddenly organising itself into a series of immutable laws which would henceforth govern it.

    I don’t think there is much mileage in arguing about the curvature of the lens or the bombadier beetle-both are outmoded in their own way as they represent attempts to ‘disprove’ a theory which is still in truth only a hypothesis at best and open to much conjecture particularly when set against wider thinking on the nature of entropy,gravity, time etc. We should move on from such sterile kinds of discussion really.

    • RAHNER says:

      “If you take the notion of evolution then by definition the process is atheistic because it is fundamentally random.”
      The genetic variation on which natural selection acts may occur randomly, but in what sense is natural selection itself “random”??

  7. Vincent says:

    Mike, no scientific statement can claim to be the last word for, speaking philosophically, there will always be the possibility of new evidence. But it is not useful to refer to an issue for which there is abundant evidence as mere hypothesis. That the sun will rise tomorrow morning is no more than hypothesis — but you wouldn’t want to take any bets that it won’t!

    We use the concept of randomness to describe an outcome we cannot predict and cannot control but that is a human limitation not a divine one. God can see and predict every minute occurrence of evolution, and so he can create the outcomes of his universe through evolution and the interplay of other natural forces precisely according to his will. And he can do so without breaking sweat. We can only marvel at such magnificence but we cannot get our imaginations around it.

    • agnophilo says:

      If that were true why not simply produce the end product ex nihilo? I think because if there were a god it would not necessarily be the totally ridiculous, magical god we imagine, like the genie in aladdin, but one that had to make sense on some level and have some mechanism the same way everything else that’s real does. And if we can’t be creative without making mistakes and trial and error why should we imagine a god could? Maybe natural selection is the external equivalent of what happens in our own minds. It’s not like we always magically produce the best idea first.

    • Ignatius says:

      I didn’t say ‘mere’ hypothesis I said hypothesis…nothing ‘mere’ about an unprovable best guess- that’s what the total theory of evolution amounts to.

  8. RAHNER says:

    Surely the most difficult problem for current evolutionary theory is accounting for the emergence of sentience/consciousness? We could have had a “zombie” world in which Darwinian variation and natural selection etc occurred without the need for sentience/consciousness in any organism.

    • agnophilo says:

      We did, for billions of years. Skulls with brains sufficient for anything like intelligence appear relatively late in the fossil record. As for it being a “problem” for evolution anything that is useful is in principle evolvable, and there is no element of consciousness which is not clearly beneficial in some environment. Suggesting that intelligence is not useful in nature is like saying computers aren’t useful in society, it’s self-evidently absurd. The same principle applies to special creation, why would god create cognition or imagination or memory capacities if they had no intrinsic value?

      • RAHNER says:

        Of course sentience/consciousness is useful to an organism!
        The issue is how it arose originally. I accept there is some plausibility in claiming that consciousness emerges once you have a certain degree of molecular complexity in an organism – but that is a long way away from any comprehensive explanation….

      • agnophilo says:

        We don’t yet understand what consciousness really is on a nuts and bolts level because you can’t take a brain apart without destroying it and our scanning technology is not well refined.

      • Quentin says:

        Perhaps you could explain what a ‘nuts and bolts’ analysis of consciousness might look like, when we have sufficient knowledge of the workings of the brain. It would seem that you would have to assume consciousness in order to do this — thus creating a circular argument. All the ideas I have read on this focus on the ways in which the different brain responses might be harmonised, they do not touch the central issue of my or your conscious awareness. Or even our awareness of our conscious awareness (ad infinitum).

      • agnophilo says:

        Yeah now we’re getting into “what if we’re in the matrix” territory.

  9. johnbunting says:

    A small point, but worth mentioning, is that evolution, and any other scientific theory, might be called ‘non-theistic’ rather than ‘atheistic’. God, or any other supernatural concept, is not within the terms of reference of natural science: thus science, as such, cannot either assert or deny the existence of God.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Jesus did not only as God come to save us from our sins,but also that we would believe in the One who sent be a witness so that we would believe There were plenty of witness’s and unexplained miracles even today. Who can explain the 100;s of Eucharist Miracles and His Rising from the dead,

      • agnophilo says:

        I can’t explain them unless I know about them. And not understanding an event means just that – that we don’t understand it. That doesn’t mean it was a miracle from a particular god any more than not knowing what a glowing object in the sky is means it’s aliens from the pegasus galaxy who like broccoli and long walks on the beach.

        Drawing specific conclusions from a lack of understanding is a fallacy in my opinion.

    • agnophilo says:

      Checkers is also “non-theistic”. Now that I’ve said it bill o’reilly will declare the “war on checkers” and demand that all checkers boards be chiseled with christian sayings and scripture passages, lest the long persecution of christian checkers players go on for another year…

      • stormdog1 says:

        agnophilo.Who does not know about the Bible,today, Understanding is the Gift of the Holy Spirit./
        This is why it is important to read the Word of God-so that we can become enlightened..
        There is only one God
        The ‘Eucharist Miracles’ is worth a read.
        Drawing specific conclusions from a lack of understanding is a fallacy in my opinion ‘you say’.
        That depends on where our understanding lies! And to whom it is that is enlightening us!., ..

      • agnophilo says:

        It is ignorance to think your culture and your religion is the only one that has records of supposed miracles.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Not stormdog1, again sorry the gremlins are in my computer.

  10. ionzone says:

    “This sort of thing seems to me to be theists projecting their attitudes onto atheists.”

    This is incorrect, scientists rejected Big Bang Theory for a very long time specifically because it sounded like a ‘moment of creation. The Catholic Church actually accepted evolution about 15 years before it became the accepted mainstream model for how the universe began. Indeed, the man who coined the term ‘Big Bang’ was very famously an atheist who did so to mock the theory. Personally I stand with the Catholic Church in believing Theistic Evolution to be the most likely answer.

    “If that were true why not simply produce the end product ex nihilo?”

    When people ask this I tend to point to how scientists and game programmers have been evolutionary theory to breed AIs for a couple of decades now. Maybe they should consider the idea that if it’s good enough for them, maybe it’s good enough for a God with an infinite amount of time on their hands. Personally I think the Cambrian Explosion is a bigger problems for atheists than evolution is for Christians.

    “Suggesting that intelligence is not useful in nature is like saying computers aren’t useful in society”

    But that simply doesn’t account for how it is possible for intelligence to exist at all. Or for life to exist. The fact that these things do exist is not evidence that they can evolve on their own.

    Incidentally, I have a little video of my own, from an esteemed and respected scientist on the problem of a fully mechanistic and materialist universe:
    (remove NOT from this link before using.Q)

    • ionzone says:

      You may also want to check out the this other video explaining why it was taken off the main TED site. I’m sorry that came up as an embedded video but I think it may just be wordpress doing something to the link.
      (remove NOT from this link before using. Q)

      • St.Joseph says:

        You say’it is ignorance to think that your culture and religion is the only one has records of supposed miracles.

        Tell me one that was crucified, died in 3 days rose again from the dead, and has so much history of miracles as Jesus Christ.

  11. milliganp says:

    The really good news is that this topic is much more exciting than marketing! Perhaps there is hope.

  12. John Nolan says:

    I have just heard Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Proms. No doubt some clever-dick scientist could analyse it in terms of sound frequencies, but that would not add one iota to our understanding of it.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Nolan. I don’t think the Holy Spirit would give us that gift of understanding if it was not necessary for Eternal Life.

    • milliganp says:

      Drat, I missed it. I’ve always wished I had a good enough voice to sing the “ode to joy”. 50 years ago my dad brought home a stack of 78rpm 12″ records – you had to have an auto-changer and reverse the stack half way through. Anyway the point is its utter beauty and the shiver that goes down the spine. Perhaps it’s an evolutionary trait.

  13. milliganp says:

    I’d like to introduce a different argument – that of learning difficulties. Those who espouse intelligent design or monogenesis – where humans have always been “intelligent – capable of understanding the natural law, right and wrong”; where does that place people with learning difficulties. I know several young men with Down’s syndrome; their IQ might be similar to that of a Neanderthal but, in their limited way, they still understand right and wrong. If we insist on intelligent design we argue against some of these difficulties unless we cast them with the “sin of the parents” (having sex too late in life?).

  14. Ignatius says:


    “….f that were true why not simply produce the end product ex nihilo? I think because if there were a god it would not necessarily be the totally ridiculous, magical god we imagine, like the genie in aladdin, but one that had to make sense on some level and have some mechanism the same way everything else that’s real does. And if we can’t be creative without making mistakes and trial and error why should we imagine a god could? Maybe natural selection is the external equivalent of what happens in our own minds. It’s not like we always magically produce the best idea first.””

    This is closer to it I think. ‘Ex Nihlo’ ,as you say, speaks of magic and we almost instinctively shun thee idea because we inhabit a reality which speaks of process. I wonder how much of Catholic belief you are familiar with or have experience of? If you have much then you will know that there is a sense in which the purposes of God are understood to be still unfolding in time and space rather as we imagine ‘evolution’ to be doing. Almost as if the whole thing is an intention in the becoming. Our minds seem to reflect this creativity in science, in art and in theology. The point in the end is whether we accept that this points us to a God who ‘is’ or we simply decide that human beings produce their own reality. Personally I would say the ‘proof’ of this lies in prayer as much as experiment.

    • Singalong says:

      Ignatius, as far as I understand it, this seems to be the essence of the work and thoughts of Teilhard de Chardin. I have just looked up a quote which seems to be on much the same lines, “Religion represents the long unfolding, through the collective experience of humankind, of the existence of God.”

      • Ignatius says:

        Yes. He was a Jesuit and a geologist. He mapped parts of China. Oddly enough I’ve read quite a lot of his stuff and would strongly recommend Hymn of the Universe which is quite beautiful in parts. His stuff gets a bit wacky here and there mind you and for a period of time he was rather out of favour – I’m sure our resident ‘hammer of heretics’ John Nolan could give us details on this.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I said this somewhere above or similar.,that Jesus came show us and tell us about God.
      If I understand your meaning!

  15. Ignatius says:

    PS I’d like to stay on this topic if possible-its complex and requires attention but could, just perhaps be fruitful for all concerned.

  16. Nektarios says:

    I agree with you Ignatius, this subject is interesting.
    Ill though I am, I could not resist adding a little to the debate.

    The missing link is humanity. He is first and foremost `spirit’, but the trouble is we have focussed on the material matter side of us and that does have a beginning, a middle and an end. The `spirit’ aspect of us on the other-hand, seeing we are from God, so like God, has no beginning or end.
    Also the material and matter side of us are subject to the laws of the universe, but that which is `spirit is greater, does not change and not subject to the laws of matter and has no end.
    It become clear, that we are preoccupied with the material and matter body side of things more so than the `spirit’ side of things.
    It is hardly surprising, therefore, focussed on that which does grow, change and die, that we are hooked by the arguments of Science and Biology about evolution.
    Look within, we are greater than the material and matter that our bodies we occupy are made of – we are `spirit

    • St.Joseph says:

      We continue to pray for your recovery.
      You have hit the nail on the head. The worldly are continually ruled by the unnecessary use of non essentials. A must have society in the West.
      Perhaps the countries that are the most spiritual are those who have no need for those things that take up so much time that neglect the soul. Our young people are living in a advanced technology age even as young as pre school. ‘Must have the latest’!!
      Father Christmas doesn’t bring oranges and apples and bananas in their stocking.Like during the war times-so we had more time to pray that people- our house would be still standing in the morning. Sadly so many were. . I seem to be a ‘spoil sport’ however we do need sometimes to look back and ‘thank God, and prayer.

  17. St.Joseph says:

    Your question on on the 7th above at 10.14- was that to me?

  18. ionzone says:

    Quint – if you want it occurs to me that we could replace all of our video links with tinyURL links to the video. For example, here is my video again in a way that should just come up as a link:

    That should solve it, but if not sorry in advance!

    • Quentin says:

      Sounds sensible. People should go to; it’s simple to use.

      However I think we should be sparing in our videos, and indeed in our use of links. Discussion’s the thing!


      • St.Joseph says:

        I agree with you.
        I know if I wish to read up on something -I may not find the blog useful,as I believe it is in discussion that we learn-or at least with me it is.We have to use our our minds to ‘think’ and work things out. I have never used a computer until my husband died(and with your help),a few years ago, I can say that my thoughts are my own! With the help of discussion on SS.

    • Nektarios says:


      I don’t know if it solves anything really, but it certainly produces a healthy scepticism regarding scientific theories – no bad thing!

  19. John Nolan says:

    There was an item on Charles Darwin on the television news last night which suggested that his well-known misogyny might have been tempered in his later years. I liked the way they put it: “His attitude to women seems to have evolved … “

  20. Singalong says:

    I find it quite hard to understand the attitude of the Church to scientists, in the sense that those who selflessly devote their lives to legitimate, important and necessary work, researching and increasing knowledge about God`s creation, never seem to be honoured or considered for canonisation on account of their work in that field, in the same way as people who have been holy in other ways, usually by dedicating their lives to prayer, and to the service of the poor.

    If “to work is to pray”, and their work shows forth the wonders of God, and is their calling from Him, they must have the potential to be just as “holy” as those whose lives are more consciously devoted directly to spirituality.

    • Nektarios says:


      What can be attained by the elimination of privilege? That is really the work before the whole world. In all social lives, there has been that one fight in every race and in every country. The difficulty is not that one body of men are naturally more intelligent than another, but whether this body of men, because they have the advantage of intelligence, should take away even physical enjoyment from those who do not possess that advantage. The fight is to destroy that privilege. That some will be stronger physically than others, and will thus naturally be able to subdue or defeat the weak, is a self-evident fact, but that because of this strength they should gather to themselves all the attainable happiness of this life, is not according to law, and the fight has been against it. That some people, through natural aptitude, should be able to accumulate more wealth than others, is natural: but that on account of this power to acquire wealth they should tyrannize and ride roughshod over those who cannot acquire so much wealth, is not a part of the law, and the fight has been against that. The enjoyment of advantage over another is privilege, and throughout ages, the aim of morality has been its destruction. This is the work which tends towards sameness, towards unity, without destroying variety.

      Let all these variations remain; it is the very essence of life. We shall all play in this way. You will be wealthy, and I shall be poor; you will be strong, and I shall be weak; you will be learned and I ignorant; you will be spiritual, and I, less so. But what of that? Let us remain so, but because you are physically or intellectually stronger, you must not have more privilege than I, and that you have more wealth is no reason why you should be considered greater than I, for that sameness is here, in spite of the different conditions.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I think perhaps the Church is more concerned with a persons soul and eternal life.
      We all hope as Christians to get to Heaven sometime when we die.
      I think years and two miracles ,first to become Blessed and a recognised saint.
      The Church does not make a Saint. We are all meant to be saints in our own way by doing Gods work even in little things,through our own gifts.There must be millions of saints unrecognised by the Church who is known only by the Lord.Also those who died for it..
      The Vatican I understand are very much advanced in their scientific knowledge and programmes.

      • Singalong says:

        St. Joseph, of course you are right, but my thinking is that canonisation is really intended to present very holy people to us as an example for us to follow, and as an encouragement, to show us that their sanctity is possible for us.

        Sanctity can be achieved in many different ways, by loving God and doing His Will in very many different circumstances and areas of life. For some, it is in living very specifically religious lives dedicated to God as monks, nuns or priests, for others in living very holy family lives, bringing up children to love and serve God, or doing good and charitable work for others.

        This week`s post has made me think about people who work for God by using their talents in the field of science, exploring His Creation, and enabling discoveries about the unfolding of His plans, and processes, whether it be evolution or more direct involvement, which must be a specific vocation or calling from Him. Perhaps some of these people should also be held up as saints, for us to follow. When children are being educated, particularly, it would emphasise for them, that learning about, investigating and researching all aspects of the life God has given them, is a holy thing to do, something which God has inspired, and wants them to do.

      • Quentin says:

        Singalong, you were quite right to note above that few scientists have been canonised (few journalists too, I think). But, if you Google ‘Catholic scientists,’ you’ll get a list of these. You may also find a quote from JPII who said, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” I subscribe to that.

  21. stormdog1 says:

    Why is it when I read Agnophilo above I get into his web site? Just interested to know

    • St.Joseph says:

      That is supposed to be St Joseph!!I don;t like this new computer Windows 8

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you.
        I understand what you are saying. But not all scientists are people who Holy Church would be in a position to canonise.
        I am trying to think of an example who I would perhaps be a canonised saint.One person in my mind would be Dr Billings and his wife who discovered the mucus method for woman’s fertility, a wonderful breakthrough for family planning. However that would most probably need a miracle or whatever it needs for the Church. to make him a blessed and another to make him a saint.Then perhaps in a lot of years ahead But it would be a wonderful example for married couples to follow..
        Can you think of someone years ago who Holy Mother Church would consider if one was to be put forward..

  22. Horace says:

    I remember a lecture from my student days in Medicine.
    When we entered the lecture room there was a set of half a dozen models on the desk. [Some of us recognised them as models of a human embryo in successive stages of development].

    Prof M arrived with his usual panache and began –
    “Ladies and Gentlemen, . . . there was a time when those of us who were to be most beautiful (here indicating with a sweep of his hand the girls, who always sat in the first two rows). . . looked like THIS!”.

    The model that he picked up was a particularly hideous one with ,inter alia, gill-like slits at each side of the neck, so that it resembled a rather ugly fish!

    He then went on to consider the saying “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” – ie. the successive stages of an embryo’s development can be seen as resembling the successive stages in the evolution of humanity.

    To expect God to have created Adam miraculously and instantaneously from the dust of the earth but not to be impressed by the evolution of a human baby from a single cell in mother’s womb seems, to me, a little illogical.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Horace I know I am ignorant of these things,but I always thought that the dust was meant to mean the ‘earth as a place’ not actually ‘dust’.
      How would you describe the ‘rib of Adam’? Developing into a female.
      I like to think God made Adam and Eve the first humans-our first parents ‘of the earth’,How He did it remains a mystery.Science could be used for a better purpose for the human race than Adam and Eve. How will that help disease and hunger and war?
      Maybe if I knew that I would understand why all the bother of evolution v Creation.

      • JohnL says:

        St.Joseph, Faith is a supernatural gift of God (I read that somewhere), but God gives us reason, and our Faith cannot be contrary to reason. Those who would attack Faith find that the biblical Adam and Eve strory is unreasonable, while very powerful evidence supports evolution as a reasonable sequence of events. The bible is “true” in what it teaches us about God and our relationship with Him, but the Genesis account was written by people who knew nothing of either evolution or cosmology, and those subjects were not part of their purpose. The “bother” about evolution v creation is is no more than an attempt to approach more closely to the truth. The Genesis writers get closest to modern science when they speak of God, amidst nothingness, saying “Let there be light”. It corresponds pretty closely to what the scientists call “the big bang”. An earlier contributor to this blog pointed out that one reason why some scientists resisted the big bang hypothesis was that it seemed too close for comfort to a creation statement.
        It is important that we discuss and ponder on these matters.

  23. John Nolan says:

    Singalong, I believe that St Bede the Venerable took a great interest in natural sciences; he knew, for instance, that the earth was a sphere. There are problems with using the canonization process as a sort of posthumous honours system. How many musicians are canonized, apart from St Hildegard of Bingen?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Or Composers of Sacred music!

      • St.Joseph says:

        John L.
        Thank you.
        But Jesus came to tell us about God,,did he question Adam and Eve,when He spoke about a new Creation and the ‘real message how it can be achieved’.? .
        That makes sense to me
        He was sent by the Father so that we could become part of that Creation and return there
        ..Paradise prepared for those who love Him and listen to His Word in the New Testament.
        That is Faith and Reason to be.Jesus paid the price for that!,

  24. St.Joseph says:

    Jesus spoke about the food that our ancestors ate-and now they are ‘dead’It is the Food that He give us now.
    The Old Testament is History well worth reading-and enlightening especially the Psalms.

    • JohnL says:

      St Joseph. I don’t disagree with the principles of what you are saying. However, Jesus came to teach us about God, not to teach science. Just because He did not discuss scientific matters does not imply that they are irrelevant. Likewise, the Old Testament as history. It is indeed a history of our relationship with God, but what it means in terms of physical events is open to discussion. For example the destruction by volcano of the island of Thera created a tsunami which would have struck the Nile delta and “the way of the sea” into Canaan as a wall of water, after having first withdrawn, tempting people to cross places normally submerged. Anyone who witnessed this and survived would certainly include it in their “history” but, not understanding the physical process, would apply all sorts of interpretations as to its cause. I don’t want to pursue an unprofitable argument, but it is important to keep the subject matter in context.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John L
        I understand what you are saying. What I don’t understand is what has Adam and Eve got to do with it.. I can not see the connection, or the importance of it. We have to look at science as to how it will help for survival physically and spiritually.
        Jesus did not only come to tell us about God but how we can save our souls.
        How will knowing how God created us in the beginning do that only maybe prove something to the evolutionists-that we had it right or wrong in Genesis. Who gives two hoots about that.?There are more important thing to use our scientific knowledge on like you say,.and I said earlier, hunger poverty, disease, disasters and wars!.
        To me it is meddling in the Lords territory and our science is better placed on more important issues, as Jesus said to Martha, you worry about things,, all that is not necessary, Mary has chosen the better Life.
        As far as keeping the subject matter in context- that is what I am trying to do with my ‘opinions’, and not my arguments.

      • JohnL says:

        The importance of Adam and Eve lies in the fact that we are charged with evangelisation. With the best will in the world, some people see Adam and Eve as a fairy story, and see evolution as the factual form of creation. Those who doggedly stick to Creationism do the Faith no service – it behoves us to show that Faith and Science are not incompatible. Despite opinions to the contrary, there is really no conflict between them. Faith is about what God does; Science is about how He does it. You quite rightly point out that there are other matters of importance, but I don’t think that they are what this particular blog is about. Anyway, I am now signing off – Pax tecum.

  25. Nektarios says:

    Out of what has this universe been produced then? From a preceding fine universe. Out of what has men been produced? The preceding fine form. Out of what has the tree been produced? Out of the seed; the whole of the tree was there in the seed. It comes out and becomes manifest. So, the whole of this universe has been created out of this very universe existing in a minute form. It has been made manifest now. It will go back to that minute form, and again will be made manifest. Now we find that the fine forms slowly come out and become grosser and grosser until they reach their limit, and when they reach their limit they go back further and further, becoming finer and finer again. This coming out of the fine and becoming gross, simply changing the arrangements of its parts, as it were, is what in modern times called evolution. This is very true, perfectly true; we see it in our lives. No rational man can possibly quarrel with these evolutionists. But we have to learn one thing more. We have to go one step further, and what is that? That every evolution is preceded by an involution. The seed is the father of the tree, but another tree was itself the father of the seed. The seed is the fine form out of which the big tree comes, and another big tree was the form which is involved in that seed. The whole of this universe was present in the cosmic fine universe. The little cell, which becomes afterwards the man, was simply the involved man and becomes evolved as a man. If this is clear, we have no quarrel with the evolutionists, for we see that if they admit this step, instead of their destroying religion, they will be the greatest supporters of it.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I am following you there ,your very clear comment, So that I can understand a little more-where does the female come into this-in fact what came first the chicken or the egg,
      How would a seed split and at one point-concerning humans to female or male. Forgive my question if it sounds silly!

    • St.Joseph says:

      John L.
      You say some people see Adam and Eve as a fairy tale. Some people see Jesus Rising from the dead as a fairy tale.So they will always have difficulties with God!!.
      Christianity and evangelism in my ‘opinion’ is Jesus Christ Incarnation. and His, and our Blessed Mother’s Assumption into heaven.-because that is what gets us there in the end.
      I believe this blog is about ,faith and science’ and.this post is how odd God is-perhaps that is how odd God is when He made us in the beginning.. and we can express our faith in things we don’t understand’.And Satan;s way of confusing us.!

  26. Nektarios says:

    St. Joseph

    God says, and where necessary become manifest, so it is with the female. Where does she come into this? God saw, `that it was not good for MAN to be alone. God spoke, and commensurate
    with that, the action – another, a female -out of man, is made manifest.
    How is a mystery. One can posit all sorts of arguments from the sane sensible and rational to the
    ludicrous, but none really knows yet. We know about the X and Y of it but that is about as the limit.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Thank you for your reply.
      I expect that is why the second time around God thought He might have some witnesses or else we will be forever doubting His Resurrection.
      Perhaps the scientists could find out ‘how He did that too’!So that they may believe!!

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