Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

Natural Law is a fundamental element of Catholic moral teaching. Here I am going to set out my understanding so that readers can correct me or develop my ideas. In fact, the concept is based on a very straightforward, and perhaps undeniable, principle.

I start with my washing machine. I realise that it has its own nature, and if I want it to wash my clothes, and indeed to continue to do so into the future, I must respect that nature. For example, I must connect it to the right voltage of electricity, and I must use the right programme for the items I want to wash, and so on.

I can work out its nature by observation based on my general knowledge, but I will be particularly helped by the maker’s handbook. There is no moral question here because it is my machine. But if I have borrowed the machine from you, I have a moral obligation to use it in accordance with its nature.

Now let’s look at human beings. Through observation I see that human beings are, by nature, social animals. There may be exceptions but broadly we live in, and depend on, our membership of social groups. So our nature requires such behaviour as telling the truth, respecting other members property or the right to life. And as it happens these fundamental requirements can be found in the maker’s handbook. We call it the Bible.

The Bible is a somewhat old-fashioned handbook. It takes for granted that human beings were directly created by God. An understandable assumption from this is that we can ascertain aspects of the natural law of human beings from biology. The simplest example is that the sexual organs are constructed (by God) for heterosexual intercourse. To use them for homosexual intercourse would ipso facto be contrary to the plan of the creating God. Similarly, the fundamental nature of sexual intercourse is based on its structural design to fertilise. Thus, to artificially prevent fertilisation is against the natural law. It directly interferes with God’s creation.

A minor, but telling, example can be found in the modern Catechism. It tells us that lying must be condemned as a profanation since “the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth.” — thus a biological basis. However, one may get around this in suitable cases by using “discretion”. This sounds like a suggestion that we may effectively deceive providing that we don’t actually tell a lie.

In recent times there has been a development in our understanding. We are more inclined to look at other aspects. Using the homosexuality example, some would argue that, notwithstanding the nature of the sexual organs, there are those whose sexual orientation is directed towards their own sex. Whatever the reasons for this anomaly may be, it is not a result of God’s direct creation.

But, of course, what we know now is that we are not the result of direct creation. At the biological level we are the result of evolution. At the centre of that is our identity as person with its capacity to think and choose. While these characteristics are spiritual, in that they are not caused, they are most certainly strongly influenced by genes and experience. And it is effectively impossible to discern free decisions from influenced decisions. We are free but we never know how free we are.

On this Blog we have plenty of examples. Contributors present a range of views. However well they have been considered before posting, conclusions remain influenced by inherited genes and by experience. And neither the contributor nor the reader knows the line between evidenced logic and subjective influence. The latter may go back to infancy. Hence the value of disagreement and argument. This perhaps is why we should pay most attention to those who disagree with us: this is taking contradiction as more valuable than affirmation because it gives us the opportunity to review the principles we should otherwhile see as infallible.

About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in evolution, Moral judgment, Neuroscience. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

  1. Martha says:

    “Effectively impossible to discern free decisions from influenced decusions. We are free but we never know how free we are.”

    ” . . . the line between evidenced logic and subjective influence.”

    Thank you, Quentin, for expressing this so succintly. I find this very helpful in making judgements and consideration of guilt and blame, and the balance between the objective and subjective realities of specific situations in relation to myself and others. I think it underlies Our Lord’s words from the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” I think it also helps in understanding our need to trust in God.

  2. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    // And it is effectively impossible to discern free decisions from influenced decisions. We are free but we never know how free we are. //

    Natural language is a curse. By abusing it to deceive ourselves into proving whatever pleases us – which every fool can do – virtue can be turned into evil and responsibility can be made to disappear, leaving only a pile of rights in its place.

  3. Martha says:

    David, there have to be objective rules and standards, and society could not function without them, but only God knows in each case, how much an individual is responsible for how he lives up to them. Realising this can go either way, deceiving ourselves into proving whatever pleases us, as you say, or alternatively, feeling guilt and shame when there may be none in the eyes of God. Alongside the pile of rights I am sure there is another pile, at least equally high, of injustices, which is part of the vale of tears in which we live. I imagine Ignatius sees this frequently in his prison work.

    • David Smith says:

      Martha writes:

      // Alongside the pile of rights I am sure there is another pile, at least equally high, of injustices, which is part of the vale of tears in which we live. //

      I suppose so, yet the definition of “injustice” is much more likely than not to be purely personal. We see that daily in the “news”. “It’s not fair!” is probably one of the first things most children learn to say, and it’s one of the first things out of the throats of people with political axes to grind. Claims of justice and fairness imply an appeal to a universally applicable standard of right and wrong, yet that standard is, I imagine, on examination, almost always a standard created inside the mind and heart of the claimant, rather than one embodied unambiguously in religious texts or government laws and regulations. Religious laws are likely to be so broad that they can comfortably accommodate conflicting claims, and temporal laws, which are likely to be much more specific, are still vague enough to support battalions of lawyers on all sides of an issue. Thus, declaring that something is unjust is making an appeal from pure emotion.

  4. ignatius says:

    The question of free will and choice has long been a source of interest to me. I don’t think it is possible to base natural law fully on anatomy…sounds a rather dangerous line of thought to me.
    As Martha says I don’t think it is really posssible either for a person to be their own judge; which is why we will all need one at the end of days. Beyond the simple morality of the decalogue, which is the fundamental blueprint for truly human being, it all gets a bit cloudy. I have to preach on ‘The first shall be the last’ this weekend in my parish. As I was walking round our multifaith room in prison with my rosary group yesterday I couldnt help notice that, walking in a long circle as we all were it wasn’t possible to see who was the first and who was the last, me included.

  5. ignatius says:

    Sorry to ‘hog the blog’ as it were but I would like to make another point and I would be interested to hear other’s views. It seems to me that there is a kind of corollary to ‘natural law’ or indeed the basis of it. We have to take the basic position as Catholic Christians that we are made in the image of God. God is not a human being nor is God shaped like one. In my view this simple fact pulls the rug from under the anatomy argument at least a little. On the other hand it is true to say that if we really are’made in the image of God’ then our form, both outer and inner, should reflect that making.
    Jesus Christ told us that ‘he’ was ‘the way the truth and the light’. This implies that ‘truth’ is not a set of facts or rules but rather truth is a person. If the truth inhabits us then it inhabits our person and our bodies will express that truth which is deep within our make up.
    We see Christ ‘doing all things well’ and so understand that a large part of what we call truth is right relationship, with ourselves with others and with the world; in other words truth is a manner of being. Yes we have rules to measure our ‘way of being’ and instruction for our souls because we are fallen but fundamentally truth is in the way we act from the inside outwards.If we are ourselves intrinsically disordered but nonetheless do a fractured best (which most of us probably try to do) then even our faltering attempts to act according to the truth within us, though they fail in the eyes of most, even the least flicker of good intent put into practice has some level of integrity. This means that , for me, the ” line between evidenced logic and subjective influence” is a complete irrevelance.

    • David Smith says:

      Ignatius writes:

      // fundamentally truth is in the way we act from the inside outwards //

      That sounds very individualist, completely in tune with these times. Yet, I suppose it always comes down to that in the end. When we respect authority, we convince ourselves that we’re wrong in bucking it, and when we despise or distrust authority, we create an imaginary higher authority to which we claim allegiance.

      • ignatius says:

        David writes:
        // That sounds very individualist, completely in tune with these times. Yet, I suppose it always comes down to that in the end.//
        I think that encapsulates the tension between immanence and transcendence very well.

  6. Alasdair says:

    “I start with my washing machine. I realise that it has its own nature, and if I want it to wash my clothes, and indeed to continue to do so into the future, I must respect that nature”
    On the other hand two young guys from down my way started using their washing machine as part of the processing equipment of their microbrewery in their 2nd floor flat.
    Within two years they won the Tenon Entrepreneur of the Year Award for demonstrating exceptional vision and leadership at the 2008 National Business Awards.
    Their business is now multinational and is worth millions.

  7. galerimo says:

    So this guy goes to see a blockbuster movie at a big downtown cinema and on his way in, he buys himself an ice cream.

    He spends the entire movie in front of the screen, struggling to read the small print on his ice cream wrapper

    – even on a few occasions holding it up to catch the light from the movie, squinting his eyes to read the tiny print – all to the annoyance of those around him.

    Didn’t see any of the movie. And it’s a big screen, ‘soundaround’ event.

    That’s the same guy who thinks that being present with Jesus requires understanding transubstantiation.

    He’s the guy who thinks morality is what creation is all about. Just look for the laws.

    He’s the same guy who knows nothing of the reality of sex, ever in his entire life, because he read somewhere, or somebody told him it had to be appropriate.

    And you cant feel a thing when you’re trying to be appropriate.

    His greatest intellectual breakthrough, which he understands to be God’s revelation of Godself, came with the brilliant illumination of everything in terms of evolution.

    And now he requires no further enlightenment from anyone or no deeper knowledge of any truth for he has found ultimate Truth.

    And the truth is God is a front loader Hotpoint Activecare (a snip, if I may add, at just £379).

    The reason I don’t listen to him any more when he wants to tell me all about the movie he went to see – is not because I am unwilling to have what I consider to be true, challenged.

    Its because he never did see, not even when it was on the wide screen and on full volume, the big picture of our shared reality.

    • Martha says:

      Galerimo, your illustration is a really good one. Maybe it could be completed, with a friend advising your guy that he should read all the small print on the ice cream carton carefully before going in to enjoy and appreciate the film, as he probably has dietary needs, and perhaps allergies to certain ingredients. That way he can be sure the ice cream is OK and then he is free to appreciate the film and admire its producer.

      • Alasdair says:

        But on the other hand someone with an asinine preoccupation with the small print on the wrapper is probably incapable of big picture thinking.
        John 3:16 “For God so loved the world ——“ is big picture. Most everything else is wrapper small print.

  8. G.D says:

    ‘There is none so blind as them that say they ‘see’ ( can ‘know’ the Truth) ……. Do we not continually need to adjust our ‘focus’ … (free will) … so we can peer though the glass darkly, as in reality we do? … (this ‘fallen’ existence) … And so, be enabled to live the love & acceptance we experience is given – when we look beyond the glass?

    By NOT condemning those who don’t see through the same part of the glass, we imitate that grace ….. Without that acceptance there is no ‘Free’ will; we continue ‘choices’ from judgement(s) …

    Accepted unconditionally by ‘God’, and by imitating that accepting, is what enables ‘discernment’ of ‘ who’s “right” and who’s “wrong” ‘ …. or rather ‘what is Truth’. … Without condemning either, in ourselves or others, enables us to accept the healing of that graced ‘acceptance’.

    Did not Jesus live that? (‘Father forgive them ….’) without loosing his focus to be the Son of God, and son of man ….. ‘focused’ beyond the glass as he was. ……Would that we could too!!

  9. ignatius says:

    Personally speaking I’m very fond of ice cream…!..😊

  10. David Smith says:

    Not entirely unrelated to this thread:

    // [Nietzsche] would write to his sister that, although it would be easy to continue believing in the comforting tales of their youth, “the truth is not necessarily in league with the beautiful and the good.” //

    https://www.firstthings.com/article/2002/08/nietzsches-truth

    • ignatius says:

      Or, if you prefer it:

      Joshua ch 5 v13
      13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
      14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord[e] have for his servant?”

      I quite like Nietzche, but he was mad. 🙂

  11. ignatius says:

    Or, if you prefer it:

    Joshua ch 5 v13
    13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
    14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord[e] have for his servant?”

    I quite like Nietzche, but he was mad. 🙂

    • Alasdair says:

      I like icecream but wouldn’t read the wrapper. I don’t think I like Nietzche, but then I’ve only read the cover, not the book. I’m a bit of a lightweight really.

      • ignatius says:

        No, I came to the same conclusion about the wrapper..that WOULD BE wierd…unless I was very interested in the sourcing and the content….You should have a flip through Nietzche, personally I prefer Kafka but I haven’t read him for awhile either…I’m a lightweight too..I usually get as far as the first chapter though…

  12. ignatius says:

    One other point on this rather interesting thread:

    Quentin writes:

    “…But, of course, what we know now is that we are not the result of direct creation. At the biological level we are the result of evolution. At the centre of that is our identity as person with its capacity to think and choose. While these characteristics are spiritual, in that they are not caused, they are most certainly strongly influenced by genes and experience. And it is effectively impossible to discern free decisions from influenced decisions. We are free but we never know how free we are….”

    Actually it seems to me that evolution IS direct creation. The world of matter and spirit IS direct creation, direct and continuing creation with the presence of God both immanent and transcendent.

    The glaring error in Quentin’s paragraph is firstly to seperate spiritual and personal life from each other and then to insert a ‘proposition’ that there is somehow some source of ‘objective’ freedom of decision making somehow ‘beyond’ the miraculous mix that we are.

    The thing we call ‘evolution’ is actually part of humanity’s puzzling on itself in the presence of God as per psalm 8 v 4-8; ..in the process of still growing,still becoming. So in a sense the thing that we are is not as lop sided as it seems but seems more so when we excessively individualise it. By this I mean that the potential of created humanity is so vast that the variegated product of ‘ genetics’ is the only means that ‘matter’ can be harnessed into the glory of creation…when we say we are God’s handiwork it is pretty much a literal truth.
    I’m not over keen on Richard Rohr the Catholic Franciscan mystic, but he does elaborate very well the broader vision of what might be termed Western Catholic Mysticism (my label) His slim and very readable books ‘The divine dance’ and ‘The Universal Christ’ are well worth reading , particularly for anyone who has even a basic biblical literacy. I strongly reccomend him.

    • Quentin says:

      Possibly the problem here starts with the use of the word ‘spiritual’. This tends to carry religious overtones. Possibly ‘metaphysical’ would have been better.

      Freewill is by definition free. It is God’s gift to us. Scripture makes clear that the moral law is founded on love (including love of self). It is sensible to identify love through following the natural law. However, identifying the natural law as it applies to a particular case may be difficult. Historically, the Church in many cases has used biology – originally on the assumption that humans were created directly. Nowadays we accept that homo sapiens biology is the outcome of evolution. And that evolution may mean some degree of change. That realisation, plus our better understanding of psychological and genetic influences, all need to be taken into account.
      Perhaps we should follow Pope Francis in saying, of a homosexual, “Who am I to judge?”

      • FZM says:

        I’m not sure how important the idea of direct creation is to Natural Law. Natural Law certainly depends on an Essentialist metaphysics (i.e. the idea that natural kinds exist and are differentiated by their essence) and on the idea of intrinsic teleology (the idea that part of the essence of the different natural kinds includes the final causes or telos of their activity).

        It seems to be the case that evolution does not effect these issues; things still have essences and their activity is still orientated towards their final causes.

        If something changes too much it may cease to have one essence and gain another, though I don’t think any essential change has happened in humans yet, the essence is still rational animal, mammal, bipedal etc.

        The problem in respect of modern biology is that sometimes its interpretation assumes an anti-essentialist metaphysics that also ignores/denies intrinsic teleology.

        I think homosexual behaviour can still be seen as deviant/disordered and contrary to the real telos of sexual behaviour in humans, but that we now understand more about how this can be the result of factors beyond the control of the individual and their will (though even in the past this was recognised, maybe not to the same extent.)

        Obviously at the moment in Western countries this kind of Aristotelian essentialism will be a relatively controversial position to hold to.

      • David Smith says:

        FZM writes:

        // The problem in respect of modern biology is that sometimes its interpretation assumes an anti-essentialist metaphysics that also ignores/denies intrinsic teleology. //

        The problem, for me, in respect of the text of your six paragraphs is that I lack the academic preparation necessary to make sense of almost all of it. Might it be possible to put it briefly in non-academic prose? I realize that much of the subtlety and power would likely be lost, but at least I’d be a lot further along than I am now.

  13. ignatius says:

    Quentin,

    Yes, this is partly a question of nomenclature and not by any means one of ‘judgement’ But there is a naivete in the assertion of ‘direct creation’ against ‘evolution’ that bears a lot of unpicking. The gradual movement of the church into a wider appreciation of ‘what a piece of work a man is’ has probably been a response to the equally gradual shift, these past two centuries, of science away from the ‘static’ view of the universe which was, in itself, originally the premise of the Church. This gradual shift in itself tends to indicate that the revelation of God -in -us (creation in other words) deepens, in history as in the individual life.

    Equally, your assertion that “freewill is by definition free” needs some considering.

    By analogy we could say “water is free to go where it wills ” superficially we might think this true, pour out water and it goes all over the place. But in fact water is governed by physics. rivers follow courses, oceans are held by their shores though these may recede or shift. Clouds drop rain only from certain heights and evaporation only takes place at certain temperatures. So ‘freewill’ is governed by the vessel in which it is contained and the means there are to implement it. The assertion that free will is by definition free, must, by definition, include the caveats of form so that all free will is imperfectly demonstrated, apart from God who alone is free.

  14. ignatius says:

    FMZ:

    “..The problem in respect of modern biology is that sometimes its interpretation assumes an anti-essentialist metaphysics that also ignores/denies intrinsic teleology….”

    Ok, I think I get this, could you supply an example please…just to check my understanding?

    • ignatius says:

      FMZ
      Just to continue…
      I guess that the key to your elegantly concise phraseology is the word ‘ interpretation’ I take it that your general drift is that modern biology makes possible many changes which can run against the natural schema of things. This ability, particularly surgical and in the field of genetic modification, allow alterations to the human being and other organisms which run contra to the organisms fundamental orientation towards a goal which is internally and intrinsically predefined biologically in terms of structure and function.

      The most obvious examples I can think of are sex change surgery and the hormonal suppression of puberty in a young individual convinced of their transgender status? Would my interpretation of your intended meaning be an accurate one?

      • FZM says:

        I take it that your general drift is that modern biology makes possible many changes which can run against the natural schema of things. This ability, particularly surgical and in the field of genetic modification, allow alterations to the human being and other organisms which run contra to the organisms fundamental orientation towards a goal which is internally and intrinsically predefined biologically in terms of structure and function.

        The most obvious examples I can think of are sex change surgery and the hormonal suppression of puberty in a young individual convinced of their transgender status? Would my interpretation of your intended meaning be an accurate one?

        Yes, this is true, the main implications are probably moral ones. For example, transgender people are still possible within the essentialist/teleological understanding, and surgery could be useful to them, but transgenderism would be considered a kind of illness or the result of something going wrong with their natural development.

        Advocacy for things like bestiality and necrophilia (at least one major contemporary ethicist argues that these things can be morally beneficial) would be another example.

    • FZM says:

      Ignatius,

      “..The problem in respect of modern biology is that sometimes its interpretation assumes an anti-essentialist metaphysics that also ignores/denies intrinsic teleology….”
      Ok, I think I get this, could you supply an example please…just to check my understanding?

      A good example I have seen discussed involves animal organs, say the heart or kidneys. Part of the explanation of the existence and presence of organs like this involves explaining their function, like pumping blood around the body or purifying the blood. But function is a teleological concept; the theory in a lot of contemporary interpretation of biology is that in reality nothing has a function and that it is possible to rewrite descriptions of the working of the heart and kidneys in a way that eliminates all reference to teleological concepts like function.

      The counter argument, which I found strong, is that it is actually impossible to reduce or replace teleological concepts like function with non-teleological ones and still provide meaningful descriptions or explanations of animal/plant behaviour and anatomy.

  15. ignatius says:

    “The counter argument, which I found strong, is that it is actually impossible to reduce or replace teleological concepts like function with non-teleological ones and still provide meaningful descriptions or explanations of animal/plant behaviour and anatomy…..”

    Yes, we are a long way away from those earlier anatomists seeking to find proof for the existence of God in the ear of a vole. Its difficult to argue a non teleological basis to a discussion of function since the question of ” function for what purpose?” would seem pretty intrinsic to meaningful discourse. Even where metabolic pathways might be multi functional the overall purpose of a liver is fairly clear.
    I guess the roots of these arguments will, in themselves though have a kind of telos in that the ends most certainly determines the means. So in other words we will use the framework that suits our purpose best. On the other hand I would guess that, in general, ethical decisions are considered with an end in view that must be at least consonant with the view of what might be called that of the ‘reasonable man’.

    • ignatius says:

      Which leads me to a thought I have been considering for quite some time now. We discuss ‘natural law as a foundation for Catholic moral teaching’ quite a lot on here…what is the secular equivalent does anyone think? Is there such a thing as an atheists or agnostics Natural law underpinning secular morality?

      • FZM says:

        This is an interesting question, I think some legal systems do assume the existence of something like Natural Law, even if they are officially secular. Also people, atheists and agnostics included, sometimes discuss whether a particular behaviour is ‘natural’ and seem to include in this some kind of value or moral judgement.

        The big problem I see is that a lot of atheist and agnostic worldviews tend to assume the truth of some kind of reductionist, mechanistic philosophy, from which, in theory at least, natural teleology is totally absent. This makes it hard to find a grounding for a strong objective Natural Law, perhaps some kind of Kantianism could provide it but I’m not sure.

        Natural teleology has been making something of a return in secular philosophy in recent years, if this trend continues it might give rise to some strong agnostic basis for Natural Law.

  16. David Smith says:

    Everybody, secular, religious, or other, has a moral sense, probably based mainly on fairness and loyalty. If you did a study of all the stated moral foundations of all the governments through history, I imagine you’d find that nearly all are based on an assumption that might makes right combined with an appeal to some common-sense definition of fairness. Whether you call your rationalization “natural law” or something else or nothing, if it’s to convince the people to go along quietly, it has to *feel* fair.

    I doubt that prior to universal “higher” education – that is, until very recently – many people were hung up on the taxonomy of abstractions the way non-technical “educated” people in the West are today. I suspect it’s just a phase we’re passing through. It has no practical use beyond the academy.

    And as for natural law, isn’t it pretty much whatever the people who play with ideas decide it is? As I see it, the Catholic Church is fast losing its grip on ex cathedral positions of just about any kind. Sad, but, considering that it’s run by intellectuals, probably inevitable.

    • FZM says:

      If you did a study of all the stated moral foundations of all the governments through history, I imagine you’d find that nearly all are based on an assumption that might makes right combined with an appeal to some common-sense definition of fairness. Whether you call your rationalization “natural law” or something else or nothing, if it’s to convince the people to go along quietly, it has to *feel* fair.

      This seems to be the case mainly in Anglo-Saxon heritage countries (and possibly some of the other Nordic ones). Where I live at the moment the basis of government was more like might is right plus mysticism and/or utopian idealism.

      I doubt that prior to universal “higher” education – that is, until very recently – many people were hung up on the taxonomy of abstractions the way non-technical “educated” people in the West are today. I suspect it’s just a phase we’re passing through. It has no practical use beyond the academy.

      I started reading about philosophy due to the influence of the New Atheist movement and changing attitudes to religious belief in the UK in the 2000s, there was definite ‘spill over’ of trends from within academia into wider society. I don’t think this has stopped, it may be even increasing as more change happens and deeper political and moral divisions start to emerge as a result.

      • ignatius says:

        “.. in the 2000s, there was definite ‘spill over’ of trends from within academia into wider society. I don’t think this has stopped, it may be even increasing as more change happens and deeper political and moral divisions start to emerge as a result…”

        Yes, I think this is definitely the case. Idea’s pour downwards generally speaking. You have the whole base/superstructure relationship of culture and economy analysis of which was and is the heart of marxist thinking. I was at university in the 80’s, age twenty five from a working class background. The whole place was in a kind of foment of competing arguments with the Miners strike going on not many miles away and trade union leaders coming to create uproar in the students union, thus provoking an outpouring of articulate protest into the newspapers to be digested nation wide
        The same thing is happening now at the interface of exploitation and new wave mysticism where you see a kind of forced individualism – as a result of the relentless trend to view all thing as business stirring up a back lashof protest and resentment between the young and
        the middle aged. Resentment rises at base in a kind of angry oily sludge but it is ignited and given voice usually from above.

  17. ignatius says:

    ” He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end….” Ecc 3 v11

    The Catholic view of natural law is quite specific. It is well discussed in the catechism 1954-60
    There is a natural law (small “n” ) which is
    ” written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin…..The natural law is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the creation.” CCC p426

    The most ethical and moral man I know is not a christian nor has any defined religious conviction. He is a lawyer and a climbing buddy of mine so we have debated over ethics over much of the Lake district where he lives. Also in the prison where I work I come across strongly moral men who have sat weeping before me because of their inability to keep to the moral conviction they adhere to in their conscience. I have respected those me their trying and mourn with them their failing.

  18. milliganp says:

    Two points on which I beg to differ.
    “The purpose of speech is to communicate known truths” – This leaves no space for literature, imagination, humour or the myriad ways in which speech is used to decorate, entertain or inspire.

    It is a serious jump to go from one of the ends of sexual intercourse being procreation to an absolute ban on all forms of contraception.

    Finally (sorry, third point), there is now plenty of science to question evolution as the ultimate cause of our complex natures and, despite anything materialists may say, we are a long way from understanding how our minds work and indeed, how culpable we are for everything we think.

    • Alan says:

      Milliganp

      Besides chemistry, I’ve seen one or two articles talking about complexity or order/patterns having some unexpected sources – feedback loops or quantum influences for example. Are there others that I haven’t heard of or is this the sort of thing you were referring to?

      • milliganp says:

        This is a link to an interview on a conservative website but it’s worth watching and then following up with other sources.
        http://tiny.cc/vg46bz
        The best argument, from my point of view as an information scientist, is the near infinite improbability of the sequences in proteins.

  19. ignatius says:

    Yep, I agree with all three points….now there’s an unusual thing. I’m glad MilliganP picked up on these, especially the purpose of speech bit..makes us sound like robots.

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