Note on “science destroys creation myths”

Mike Williamson:

Religion has really become a bad joke. Physics destroys creation myths. Biology destroys creation myths. Geology destroys creation myths. Either Creation is a tale told to Bronze Age peasants as a way to explain a universe they couldn’t grasp, or this God person is running a serious long con.

But given that “destroying a creation myth” means “showing that the myth is not true”, why does one need a science to do this? We don’t need sciences to know that myths are, well, myths. Or is the claim that no one recognized that (the relevant) creation accounts were myths until science told us so? But then the claim is just false: we didn’t need the sciences to know that creation accounts are mythical. Millions of people could recognize creation myths as such before any of the modern sciences. It takes no knowledge of science at all to recognize a myth for what it is and to take intellectual satisfaction in it and this, if anything, should show us that myth is a different way of satisfying intellectual curiosity than science is and therefore is not the sort of thing that science destroys.

True, some took creation myths as more or less scientific truth, and they were mistaken. But to wonder if a myth is also a scientific truth is a reasonable thing to wonder and to hold as a hypothesis, and the worst that can happen is that our hypothesis fails and we are left with the same myth we started with.

But is this the problem, sc. myth itself? Are we no longer able to take intellectual satisfaction in myth, which makes us think that to see something as mythical is the same as to say it has nothing to offer our intellect, i.e. it is not true? Is “science” the only thing that is allowed to satisfy the intellect now and give us an account of the way the world is? Quite the opposite seems to be the case – far from wanting to do away with myth it seems we’re more interested in advancing a scientific mythology. Science in the popular imagination is idealized (science cannot explain everything or solve all our problems now, but just give it time!); and only its successes are seen as integral to it (i.e. vaccinations, space travel, and computers are seen as the direct and proper work of science while Hiroshima, Tuskegee, Mustard gas, scientific eugenics and sterilization programs, Josef Mengele, climate change, industrial pollution, etc. are never seen as the necessary products of “science”). IOW, this is obviously not a scientific view of science but one that makes it into an exalted, inerrant  messiah that will set everything right if we only give it our total devotion.  Ultimately, it’s not that we want to destroy creation myths with science but that we want to replace an ancient creation myth with a modern one.

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66 Comments

  1. Engel Uctor said,

    April 26, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    This is spot on. It seems to me that “science” is as empty a word as “religion,” both of which signifying a confluence of highly disparate “systems” of thought and practices of engagement with “reality” (whatever that is). It is almost like someone suggesting that now that we know what “digestion” is (another generalized term for a host of processes that generally encapsulate the transformation of food into waste) we can look upon those epochs which believed in the four humors as ridiculous. “Science” has disabused them of this silly explanatory paradigm. But this is rubbish. Every Greek knew intuitively how digestion worked (references to heartburn are numerous and Plotinus died from an impacted bowel). This leads me to a frustrating point that I would very much welcome your thoughts on: I am not terribly sure that we can characterize our modern “scientific” construal of reality as really even remotely on the same epistemic page as what previous epochs were doing. I think we too often underestimate the degree to which our forbears thought in fundamentally different ways than we do. Thus characterizing their epistemic world in terms of ours does little in way of re-creating comprehensively past understandings of the world. In many cases, we would simply have to admit that certain thought patterns of the past are impossible for us to grasp (that is, characterize in strictly so-called mechanistic and scientific terms). Thoughts?

    • April 27, 2013 at 9:48 am

      I think we too often underestimate the degree to which our forbears thought in fundamentally different ways than we do

      There are natural beliefs and naturally known truths that any rational agent will have (cognitive science has done a pretty good job giving specifics of what they are), but these are the ingredients or skeletal structure of thought and the combination or fleshing out of these fundamentals, even if not infinite, is pretty wide. I wanted to say more than this (this seems like a truism).

      Thus characterizing their epistemic world in terms of ours does little in way of re-creating comprehensively past understandings of the world.

      This can often be blatantly obvious: see any contemporary presentation on, say, religion in the middle ages. It is always gloomy, stern, leaden, dirty, robotic, etc. – IOW, it is what you expect a modern university professor would feel at the prospect of a world where everyone went to mass. It is what Nietzsche called the “subconscious memoir”, written using historical events as mere matter for the form of our contemporary feelings and mode of consciousness. This is the most insidious sort of anachronism.

  2. tildeb said,

    April 28, 2013 at 10:05 am

    True, some took creation myths as more or less scientific truth, and they were mistaken.

    Do you realize what you’re saying here, Dale? You admit to being mistaken to believe that Adam and Eve were an historical couple because you forgot they were characters in a creation myth (and, conveniently, we can show this cannot be an accurate historical claim thanks to population genetics). This will be big news to anyone who assumes an historical and literal connection between us and original sin…

    How can we differentiate between the veracity of contrary claims? This is where the method of science is very useful, to give more or less weight to the likelihood of which claim is better supported by compelling evidence from reality. In this sense, we can look at the main creation myth, say, of Genesis and identify the mythic symbols by their supernatural features. As soon as we become confused about how to read myths, and presume a literal and historical account, then we have fooled ourselves into believing where we have no good reason based on compelling evidence from reality; we have made the mistake of inserting our belief alone to be sufficient. That’s how mistakes you describe are made, and it’s so common that there really is a mass confusion produced that confuses faith-based belief with reality.

    I love myths. I think they are one of the best teaching tools we have about how to live well and wisely. Of course they are not true in the scientific sense of describing reality and how it works, but because so many believers have missed this memo and assumed them to be true in the scientific sense, we need to be reminded that myths are myths BECAUSE they are not literally but symbolically true.

    Raising the specter of scientism to be the false dichotomy to religiously inspired faith-based beliefs is not a way to confront legitimate criticism about the myth-reality confusion.

  3. E.R. Bourne said,

    April 28, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    You have to be careful here, as is obvious from the above comment. In what sense in the creation myth “not true.” It isn’t accurate to say “The creation story is mythical, therefore God is mythical.” It also isn’t accurate to say “The creation story is a myth, therefore there is no original sin in man.” To say this is to simply misunderstand the sense in which the author is using the word myth.

    • tildeb said,

      April 28, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      It – the genesis creation myth – is not true in the sense it is not a literal and historical account of our common ancestry (in spite of John’s insistence it is). It is a story in the form of a myth, the meaning of which is intended to be extracted from its symbols on how to live and affirm life (or, at least, this the common purpose of myth, one used even by Plato in The Republic to drive home the intention of his work). The intention of the creation myth is to teach about meaning and not an account shown to be false by population genetics. Beliefs based on it representing an historical and literal account are unjustified, revealing the beliefs to be based in error.

      To attribute original sin to the meaning is exactly backwards, in that a later (disputed) event is is used to justify the interpretation of establishing a prior need for a particular kind of redemptive act to explain the meaning. This is an obvious mistake in that the myth was around since Babylonian times doing its narrative duty in the absence of the much later event. That it stuck around for thousands of years prior to Jesus shows us that the typical christian interpretation must be wrong; the meaning has nothing whatsoever to do with redemption because the story has nothing to do with a ‘fallen’ nature and everything to do with an explanation why we must have suffering if we are to live as people engaged with real adult life.

      I find it deeply amusing that one must work hard to gerrymander the meaning of the ‘myth’ to try to make the square term that describes the Genesis creation story to fit the round hole of christian theology.

      That humanity never had a founding couple is revealed in our DNA… unless one is willing to reject this science, it reveals an impossible-to-resolve conflict with the central tenet of christianity, namely, that Jesus died a real death to redeem us from a poorly interpreted metaphor. This is simply incoherent.

      • April 28, 2013 at 5:13 pm

        You’re raising a good number of questions that, while related to the original post, can’t be dealt with by the things that were said in it. I don’t have any clever, quick refutations of any of these objections, most of which are so interrelated that even giving a satisfying answer to one of them makes one painfully aware that it does not solve other, related objections. Original sin is a tremendously difficult thing to understand even apart from the mythos/logos distinction, the problem of monogenism(s), the intention of ANE creation myths, etc.

        To address a few of your criticisms:

        Raising the specter of scientism to be the false dichotomy to religiously inspired faith-based beliefs is not a way to confront legitimate criticism about the myth-reality confusion.

        Why not? Scientism is a very intelligible form of myth; and clear examples of what one is talking about are good. More to the point, if one wanted to assert an antipathy between science and myth, scientism shows him this is not just impossible but undesirable. The early Positivists knew this very well – Comte drew up blueprints for temples to science.

        This will be big news to anyone who assumes an historical and literal connection between us and original sin

        This might well be true. People believe all sorts of silly things. But if your claim is that the fact of original sin requires that Gen 3, 1-18 is a literal, historical description as opposed to a myth, then I disagree. Christianity does require that God intended human beings to be blessed and this blessedness was lost by human fault, but this can be taken as the moral of the myth just as well as the moral that you claim was intended by its ANE author sc. “why we must have suffering if we are to live as people engaged with real adult life”. Let’s grant this is the point the author(s) were trying to make – and thus that the Christian reading was not how its ANE author understood it. I don’t see that this would be a problem since Christians see scripture as having a divine author as well as a human one – and that the intentions of these two might be quite different. Christianity only claims to tell you what God intended the moral of the myth to be.

      • tildeb said,

        April 28, 2013 at 6:52 pm

        Why not raise the specter of scientism? Simple: no one practices it! That’s one reason why it’s a false dichotomy; it’s imaginary (science isn’t about finding meaning; myths are). It’s used only by apologists (and this most excellent example of sophisticated theology at work) who attempt to raise the confidence in their own faith by attacking the confidence of another even if they have to create it (ignoring the fact that it isn’t the only other option available). Sure, a few people try to sell the notion that science should help us make meaning and replace religion in this task but most working scientists ignore the call knowing full well that science is about figuring out how reality operates. Only fools spend time trying to answer the why questions (regarding imaginary purpose and intention) with the method of science. The charge of scientism can aptly be applied to them – to the Comtes and de Bottoms of this world – but has no descriptive power over those busy figuring out better explanatory answers to the how questions.

        Of course, when presented by scientific results that are in conflict with a central religious tenet – that man exercised free will and disobeyed a creative god – and so is responsible for bringing sin into the world which can be overcome only by redemption of a sacrificial messiah – any sophisticated theologian worth the title will dismiss its importance to the tenet only after it is shown to be false by science with a wave of the dismissive hand (figuratively speaking, of course). Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of believers (and their religious leaders) will continue to insist to believe what is literally false – like the historicity of the Genesis myth. I suspect you, James, will never admit publicly to the likes of me that your faith-based belief rests on the literal and historical event of A Fall even if you can no longer rely on THE Fall described in Genesis. But you know, and I know, that it does rest on exactly this. Without this event being an historical event somewhere, someplace, at some time, you have no claim to believe what you do, that man committed this act intentionally and directly disobeyed a creative god. You can pretend all you want that the Adam and Eve myth shown to be myth doesn’t affect your belief in this tenet, but I think if you are honest even with just yourself, you’ll admit it had to have happened in a literal and historical place and time or it was never an event. Without the event, you’re just making up stories. And this you will never admit, blowing a very great deal of smoke in the process.

  4. MarcAnthony said,

    April 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Just so you know Mr. (Doctor?) Chastek, I quoted this excellent article in my new blog.

  5. David said,

    April 28, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    “But you know, and I know, that it does rest on exactly this… I think if you are honest even with just yourself, you’ll admit it… And this you will never admit.”

    Of course, if one gets to define in advance what exactly they disagree with, without actually engaging the substance of the disagreement, then one is safely immunized from the horror of being wrong.

    • April 28, 2013 at 10:00 pm

      Precisely. If you can’t give a rational refutation, merely make up a situation where you think you could, and attribute it to your opponents; that way they get to be wrong no matter what they might say.

      One wonders about people.

      • tildeb said,

        April 28, 2013 at 11:00 pm

        Your accusation is quite correct in that I presume an answer I think I already know (because I’ve encountered it repeatedly by sophisticated believers. I may be wrong. But I don’t do it out of a desire to ‘immunize’ myself from being wrong nor to falsely paint you as being wrong no matter what you say. I do it to cut to the chase, namely, that you are avoiding having to face the fact established by population genetics that we have no founding couple nor a population bottleneck smaller than about 10 thousand, that our oldest male ancestor lived some 50-70 thousand years later than our oldest female ancestor, that your avoidance of dealing with the theological ramifications of this information means that there was no historical and literal Fall, which undermines a central tenet of your faith. Is my cutting to the chase incorrect? If so, please, explain on what basis you hold a belief in the need for redemption if there has never been any historical evidence to indicate an historical Fall nor any means or evidence of some transference of an actual, inheritable, literal sin that is in any way qualitatively different from a made-up story that asserts such a scenario.

      • Engel Uctor said,

        April 28, 2013 at 11:25 pm

        tildeb,

        I don’t think you have a proper grasp of what historical Christianity has taught about the fall. You, like many others, are responding to a caricature of a poor theology (literalists). But even if we were to postulate the type of scientific epistemology you place on a pedestal, on what grounds do you think any principle of “rationality” or “scientific truth” makes sense in this cosmos? This is why people have a hyper-essentialized view of what “science” is. In reality, even within the type of world you would prefer, there is no there there. At best, there is really only a long string of events and practices where people purporting to do science play around with the physical world in a mechanistic way. Extrapolating any larger ideas about what these actions signify for the nature of reality as such is perhaps the greatest (and most fatuous) myth of all. The actions of the scientist are more meaningless in this scenario than any religionist because within the naturalist scientist understanding of the world there is no meaning that could possibly be ascribed to a meaningless world simply full of discrete “scientific facts” that really don’t do anything in a gran scheme of things.

      • Crude said,

        April 28, 2013 at 11:40 pm

        I do it to cut to the chase, namely, that you are avoiding having to face the fact established by population genetics that we have no founding couple nor a population bottleneck smaller than about 10 thousand, that our oldest male ancestor lived some 50-70 thousand years later than our oldest female ancestor, that your avoidance of dealing with the theological ramifications of this information means that there was no historical and literal Fall, which undermines a central tenet of your faith. Is my cutting to the chase incorrect?

        You’re asking if you’re correct? As a matter of fact, yes, you are.

        That’s just one way you’re incorrect, of course. Another would be that the ‘fact’ established by population genetics is not a fact, but a very reasonable estimation given various assumptions related to science, one that – like most science – is capable of being overturned in the future. Yet another would be that a historical and literal fall is, in principle, entirely possible with 2, 10, or 10000 individuals. Do you really think a ‘fall’, even a spiritual and moral fall, absolutely requires two and only two people?

        Now, here’s where things really get interesting. Everything I just told you absolutely undercuts one myth – the one you’re propagating. It does so demonstrably, and it’s not even an exhaustive list of why you’re wrong. No, population genetics does not undercut a literal, historical fall. Not of Adam and Eve, and not generally. No, there are a variety of reasons that you’re utterly wrong about your claims on this topic, and a variety of ways to maintain a real and literal fall given our scientific knowledge.

        But I have a prediction: You will not sacrifice your myth.

        It’s too important to you, and really, that importance is just one facet of the scientism you claim does not exist, and is not actually a problem. You need, absolutely need, science to have put a stake through the heart of this religious claim – or, at the very least, it has to be capable of doing it in principle (preferably ‘any year now!’). Because if it doesn’t – if science really is not just limited, but limited in such a way that makes it incapable of giving you the intellectual certainty (and with it, authority) you desperately want it to… well, what a tremendous disappointment that would be. It’s so disappointing, that it’s an understanding that simply cannot be accepted.

        Which is why, despite being shown you’re wrong – that you have overreached dramatically on this point to say the least – it’s easy to enough to predict what will happen. Your guard will go up, you’ll insist science has demonstrated what it did not, will not, and cannot, and maybe we’ll get another quote or two cribbed from the ever lackluster Jerry Coyne about ‘sophisticated theologians’. Because the real sin of sophisticated theologians – the damn annoying thing about them – is that you rush at them armed with poorly understand, awkwardly wielded (and often pseudo-)scientific facts… and so often, the factoid bounces off of their arguments, harmlessly, and you’re left unarmed.

        That’s the great sin of the “sophisticated theologian” in the eyes of the scientism adherents: disarming them of the one thing they were so sure, absolutely sure, would work against those damn, scary religious beliefs.

      • Crude said,

        April 28, 2013 at 11:49 pm

        You’re asking if you’re correct?

        Whoops. Incorrect, of course. :D

      • Engel Uctor said,

        April 28, 2013 at 11:56 pm

        Mr. Crude:

        Exactly. Very well put.

      • tildeb said,

        April 29, 2013 at 7:32 am

        EU writes But even if we were to postulate the type of scientific epistemology you place on a pedestal,

        No, we are not postulating scientific epistemology here. You’re typing on its product.

        on what grounds do you think any principle of “rationality” or “scientific truth” makes sense in this cosmos?

        On the (very shaky, apparently) grounds that the method produces applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time.

        This is why people have a hyper-essentialized view of what “science” is.

        I’m doing my bit here trying to correct your misunderstandings about what science is so that we can get back to the point of the post.

        Extrapolating any larger ideas about what these actions signify…

        Only you are trying to do this and then blaming ‘science’ for your pseudo-answers and pseudo-explanations. I have stated that science isn’t about meaning and purpose and intent. You are trying to argue that it is, that it does, that this is scientisim and that it is another kind of ‘myth’. You’re arguing with yourself here.

        The actions of the scientist are more meaningless in this scenario than any religionist because…

        Again, science isn’t about meaning; it’s about figuring out how reality operates and using that knowledge in practical ways… like producing the computer you are using and the network to which it is connected. It is YOU alone who keeps asserting it is about meaning. It’s not. It never has been. Get over it.

      • tildeb said,

        April 29, 2013 at 9:02 am

        You use Feser’s argument to show I’m wrong?

        Good grief.

        He writes:

        “So there is no problem of reconciling the claims in question. On the scenario proposed, the modern human population has the genes it has because it is descended from a group of several thousand individuals, only two of whom had immaterial souls. But only those later individuals who had this pair among their ancestors (even if they also had as ancestors members of the original group which did not have immaterial souls) have descendents living today. In that sense, every modern human is both descended from an original population of several thousand and from an original pair.”

        Why the need for this ex post facto rationalization? Because there is no genetic evidence all of us carry that we come from an original founding couple. Feser can wax poetically all he wants about inheriting souls as the heritable trait but his attempt to dispute Coyne – a professor of genetics – on such grounds is very silly. If you and I and everyone else living today had inherited souls from a single couple no matter the size of the population from which they come, then we should share genetic information through common ancestry to them. This evidence, as Coyne quite rightly points out, is missing in action.

        Linking to Feser’s argument as if it is a compelling case that shows me to be incorrect is insufficient. Feser is wrong in his genetic scenario to accommodate both an original couple creation myth and genetic evidence to the contrary.

        You continue this ex post facto rationaliziation by claiming it is I who insist on a single couple! Hey, I’m just responding to the ideas put forth in the creation myth in Genesis, the kind that heads up this post. What you have provided in no way ‘absolutely undercuts’ the contribution science has made towards clearing up the confusion over certain claims contained in these myths, components like a founding couple, a common ancestry to a single couple. Didn’t happen. That means theology based on assuming it did are wrong. Nor does your diversion mitigate the problem this contrary and conflicting creationist understanding has with our scientific understanding. After all, if genetics is wrong, then so too is the understanding applied to how you’re able to read these words on this machine at this time and in this place. And before you blame me for being unsophisticated enough to call the myth of Adam and Eve a problem, I’m just saying what nearly half the population in the US actually does believe, that the reality of a founding couple is an essential plank in christian theology they hold (no matter how well contrived an alternate sophisticated interpretation may be presented by you). As Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist University wrote and not without some sway over many of these unsophisticated believers,

        “The implications for biblical authority are clear, as is the fact that if these arguments hold sway, we will have to come up with an entirely new understanding of the Gospel metanarrative and the Bible’s storyline.

        The denial of an historical Adam and Eve as the first parents of all humanity and the solitary first human pair severs the link between Adam and Christ which is so crucial to the Gospel.”

        And that from someone you can not possibly accuse of ‘scientism’! If you want to argue with him, and the millions like him that believe similarly, then feel free to do so. But don’t pretend for a moment that scientism is to be blamed for a theological conflict with your DNA. That’s your problem, not mine. And if you want to make positive rather than tortured but sophisticated claims about the reality we share and the role your theology plays in gaining access to understanding how it operates, then you better be prepared to appreciate that your ex post facto rationalizations are not an equivalent method to obtaining knowledge about it. In fact, these rationalizations are no method at all because they produce no knowledge whatsoever; the level of sophistication you grant to these tortured reinterpretations s still just a brand of lipstick you’re applying to the pig.

      • April 29, 2013 at 9:23 am

        If so, please, explain on what basis you hold a belief in the need for redemption if there has never been any historical evidence to indicate an historical Fall nor any means or evidence of some transference of an actual, inheritable, literal sin that is in any way qualitatively different from a made-up story that asserts such a scenario.

        Don’t think I don’t notice that you’re trying to do the same thing with me that you were attempting to do with James, and paint my position before I’ve actually stated it; your response shows the lie to your claim not to be trying to immunize yourself from wrong and to assign wrongness to other people before you know what they’re saying. This is precisely what you’ve done, yet again. It is an irrational mode of proceeding, and you should know that it makes you sound more stupid than you probably are. If you already have evidence in hand, then you can reason on the basis of it; before that, you don’t know anything, and should stop pretending that you do.

        The need for redemption arises from the recognition of sin and wrongdoing; recognition of it now, the need for it now. Your comments make the usual mistake of conflating the doctrine of original sin, which is about the common capacity to sin and is integral to the doctrine of redemption, with that of the Adam and Eve story, read as straight history. But the traditional Catholic interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve in the garden is that it is not strictly historical (as St. Jerome says, everything at the beginning of Genesis is told in the manner of a folktale) and is at least partly allegorical as telling us something about all human beings (as St. Augustine says, we see in the story the common course of temptation in general). One can speculate about how human beings historically came to have sufficient moral recognition to be able to recognize themselves as falling short of the moral mark; and people have. But a wide variety of possible answers are at least potentially consistent with Catholic doctrine, from the early Neoplatonist accounts popular among most of the Church Fathers to the Augustinian/Thomistic version that became very popular in the West to more modern accounts of very different kinds; and a similarly acceptable response is to suspend judgment in the absence of further evidence.

        Even the terms in which you put your question are defective: neither Roman Catholics nor Protestants even of the most literalist sort hold that we actually inherit Adam’s own sin; even the most literalist just hold that we inherit the liability of it and a tendency to be tempted. Nor does it get better for your question if we look farther afield: Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics tend to repudiate the idea of a heritable sin even more vehemently. It sounds to me like you are either talking to a very narrow group of people, and mistakenly treating their answers as generalizing universally, or else that you have just not understood the answers you’ve been given.

      • tildeb said,

        April 29, 2013 at 10:06 am

        Well, Brandon, consider Eric MacDonald’s reply to this “wide variety of possible answers (that) are at least potentially consistent with Catholic doctrine”:

        But can that work (taking the Adam and Eve story figuratively)? The problem is this. God created us. If we are in need of redemption because of our misdoings, then we must be responsible, otherwise God created us evil. Now, while it is just possible to see, given the logic of sacrificial offering, how one man might be taken as representative of the whole human race, so that, as Paul says, we have all been made alive in Christ; does it make sense to say that a representative human being was chosen by God to take responsibility for, and in some sense to be the cause of, the general sinfulness of human beings? I don’t think so. And this is precisely the problem that Augustine was trying to solve by his idea of the Fall of Man, in terms of which everyone inherited Adam’s nature as a kind of genetic infection, as if Adam’s sin caused a genetic flaw which was inherited by all subsequent members of the human race. While the idea of representative man might work in the case of sacrificial offering, representative man cannot work in terms of attributing sinfulness to all human beings, which is what the doctrine of original sin attempts to do (if, indeed, we cannot take the story of Adam and Eve literally).

        You still face the same problem – regardless of how stupid you think me to be – to a central tenet of your faith now that we know we share no common ancestral couple.

      • tildeb said,

        April 29, 2013 at 10:09 am

        Edit fail: the central paragraph is the quote and the link is here.

      • April 29, 2013 at 10:27 am

        Who in the world is Eric MacDonald, and why should I consider him to know what he is talking about?

        His argument is wrong for precisely the reasons I already gave you; but if you actually read his answer properly, you would see that he attributes this to Augustine as trying to solve a particular problem, and he is merely raising the question of whether Augustine’s problem can be solved by a figurative reading — and that ‘s all he’s doing, at least in the passage you give. (This is an at least controversial reading of Augustine, but that’s perfectly legitimate in the context of simply raising questions.) Raising questions is not providing refutations; you would know that if you actually reasoned matters through rather than spending all your time telling other people what they believe.

        You still face the same problem – regardless of how stupid you think me to be – to a central tenet of your faith now that we know we share no common ancestral couple.

        Prove it. Lay it out in black and white and prove</i? to me that this problem arises on the basis of theological principles I hold. Otherwise you're all talk. Let's cut through the bluster and see the actual rational argument.

      • April 29, 2013 at 10:28 am

        Whoops! Revision error leading to HTML bleed.

      • tildeb said,

        April 29, 2013 at 11:50 am

        Who in the world is Eric MacDonald, and why should I consider him to know what he is talking about?

        Well, Brandon, I provided the link so you could find these answers yourself. He was a long time anglican minister and now a very active New Atheist. I think he’s an excellent writer, a clear thinker, and I always learn new vocabulary from him. I find his criticisms well worth reading.

        Raising questions is not providing refutations;

        Perhaps you missed the beginning of my comment: I asked that you consider his reply to the notion that the Adam and Eve myth can still be theologically useful if interpreted only figuratively. The content is a refutation to your assurance that the lack of an historical Adam and Eve is not a theological problem. It is. And it remains so “as you would know that if you actually reasoned matters through…”

        You demand that I “prove to (you) that this problem arises on the basis of theological principles I hold. Otherwise you’re all talk. Let’s cut through the bluster and see the actual rational argument.”

        Sure.

        You have zero causal evidence from reality that humans have inherited a need for a messianic redemption so your belief that they do is based solely on a faith-based belief severed from reality. In other words, you are imagining things about reality and assuming these imaginings have any rational merit in reality without any means to causally connect the two.

      • thenyssan said,

        April 29, 2013 at 11:56 am

        I don’t want to step in the way of Brandon dismantling you, but I have to say…

        That’s not an argument.

      • tildeb said,

        April 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm

        Thenyssan, you may not like the form of it but it is set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that the notion of humanity inheriting – figuratively or literally – original sin as narrated by the Genesis creation myth is wrong.

      • Crude said,

        April 29, 2013 at 12:55 pm

        tildeb,

        Well, I said that despite being shown to be wrong, you would not give up your myth – and God bless you, you just didn’t have it in your heart to deny me an accurate prediction. Let’s sort through the wreckage.

        Now, I nowhere denied that science is in principle entirely capable of undercutting some religious claim X. It’s entirely capable of doing that, just as it’s entirely capable of undercutting atheist claim X. In fact, it’s done both in the past. To believe as much isn’t “scientism” by a longshot, and I’m pretty sure every single person in this thread would agree with THAT claim. In fact, I’m sure quite a number would both disagree with Albert Mohler (obviously Feser does, clearly I do, or starters), and would further agree that, say… a 6000 year old earth, as far as science is concerned, is simply not tenable based on the evidence we have.

        But that’s not acceptable for you, and this is where one of those facets of scientism come in. It’s not enough to have Mohler’s or some other specific position shot down. You need science to shoot down the fall of humanity and original sin, period – after all, THAT is where the ‘sophisticated theologian’ target is, that’s exactly where you desperately need science to be able to land a blow, and it’s also exactly where you swing and miss, again and again.

        It doesn’t matter to you, because you literally cannot free yourself from the mythology you’re clinging to. You *need* science to falsify the fall, even if science is completely incapable of doing that. So when it fails, well, clearly someone must be lying to you or fibbing or misunderstanding something. It can’t possibly be that you have a crippled understanding of the specific situation in question, of the scientific claims in question, or of the reach of science generally. God, what kind of a nightmare would that be?

        Anyway, let’s get to the real wreckage here: Jerry Coyne. Now, he’s a fruit fly specialist, which is great – he’s an actual scientist, unlike Dawkins and PZ Myers. You say his reply is that Feser’s view is untenable, on the following ground:

        If you and I and everyone else living today had inherited souls from a single couple no matter the size of the population from which they come, then we should share genetic information through common ancestry to them. This evidence, as Coyne quite rightly points out, is missing in action.

        Wonderful. Here’s my question: what genetic information should we have that is ascertainable by science?

        Before you answer, keep this in mind: replies of ‘well mitochondrial Eve and y-chromosomal Adam should all converge on a single couple!’ won’t work, because nothing about the claim being made requires an unbroken matrilineal or patrilineal line. If you’re operating under the idea that the claim is ‘two ensouled humans were present in a larger population, and then exclusively interbred with their descendants’, you have been misled. Quite possibly intentionally.

        Now, having a reply here still wouldn’t be sufficient to undercut Original Sin and a fall, because it’s not as if we have a list of the exclusive requirements for humanity to suffer a fall or be in need of redemption. But if you can’t give a reply on this front, well – you’re going to see yet another example of why scientism is a bad idea and just leads to people fooling themselves.

    • April 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      (1) Your link was published while I was writing my comment. It still doesn’t address the issues. Being an “anglican minister” is not expertise in Augustine nor does it show that he has done the research on the subject to make general claims about (for instance) Calvinist, Catholic, and Orthodox views. That’s fine, but all it means is that we have to stick with the argument as we get it, which is very, very limited, and not, as you seem to think, a general argument.

      (2) As I already noted, MacDonald’s argument does not apply generally. (a) It requires a particularly Augustinian reading of the doctrine. Augustinian accounts are not the only accounts. (b) It requires more than that a particular reading of Augustine, one that is quite controversial. There are certain Calvinist readings of Augustine that are fairly close to MacDonald’s, but Calvinist theologians have an easy answer to the problem he raises, because they typically see original sin as federal in character; the logic of sacrifice is merely one form of the more general logic of federal responsibility, and the problem MacDonald raises doesn’t apply to all forms of federal responsibility — e.g., there is nothing necessarily inconsistent or problematic about children being liable for their parents’ contractual obligations, and depending on the circumstances groups of people can be liable for contractual violations of individual members. (c) And it is clear from the context that MacDonald is considering one specific kind of figurative reading, namely figurative readings involving the concept of representative man. And (d) he doesn’t actually establish that there is no possible response; he just raises the problem. None of this is sufficient for your argument.

      (3)You have zero causal evidence from reality that humans have inherited a need for a messianic redemption so your belief that they do is based solely on a faith-based belief severed from reality. In other words, you are imagining things about reality and assuming these imaginings have any rational merit in reality without any means to causally connect the two.

      Wow. That you think this is an argument says a lot about the incoherence of your notion of “rational merit”. We aren’t talking about inheritance of need for a messianic redemption; we’re talking about whether the need for redemption, however we have it, requires a specific story about a first originary couple, who seem to have dropped completely out of your argument, apparently showing that they contributed nothing to begin with. So: Incapacity to present relevant reasons for previously stated conclusion, check. You haven’t established anything whatsoever about what I have evidence for or not: you didn’t even ask what my evidence was for this point, or whether you had correctly interpreted my own views. So: Incapacity to recognize that an argument requires marshalling of reasons for conclusion, and not merely dogmatic assertion, check. Incapacity to recognize that it is the actual views of one’s opponents, in their own understanding, and not one’s own beliefs about what they probably are, that is material, check. Incapacity to recognize what an argument is and what it is not, check. Incapacity to recognize that merely using the words “rational” “reality” and “evidence” a lot does not actually mean you are dealing with any of the three, check.

      It’s not hugely difficult. An argument consists of premises that result in a conclusion. In order to have a valid argument, i.e., one where the premises actually require the conclusion, the argument has to have an appropriate logical structure showing that it is a contradiction to accept the premises and reject the conclusion. Since you are making a strong modal claim, you need to show argument validity. So, again: If you are going to claim to have anything to do with reason, lay out the premises, and show that they yield the conclusion you claim. Otherwise, we all recognize you for the fraud you are.

  6. MarcAnthony said,

    April 29, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Exactly our point. Science has never been about meaning. So why are people like Dawkins and Dennet trying to get meaning from it? Puzzling indeed.

    • tildeb said,

      April 29, 2013 at 9:12 am

      Source please?

      • MarcAnthony said,

        April 29, 2013 at 11:23 am

        http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1194.Richard_Dawkins

        “The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable… It is truly one of the things that make life worth living…”

        You’re welcome.

        Slightly different, but related: Another one of the famous “four horsemen”, Sam Harris, believes science can solve moral questions: http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html

      • tildeb said,

        April 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm

        Yeah, that’s what I thought.

        You claim people like Dawkins and Dennet trying to get meaning from it (science).

        Bollocks.

        Dawkins – like everyone else – feels awe and wonder. He didn’t get that from science; he got that from his biology. His awe and wonder is deepened and his appreciation is increased as he learns more and more about the universe we inhabit. No belief and false attributions to agencies of Oogity Boogity is necessary for this very human experience.

        And yes, Harris claims that the tools of science can inform the comparative moral values we assign in the same way that the tools of science can be used to inform comparative altitude (analogy for values) from elevation (analogy for morality). In nutshell, he is explaining why we can do so with accuracy independent of our relative standards of these measurements. This is not to say, as you have written, that he insists science can solve moral questions but that it can help us to determine which values in comparison yield the desired effects. Nowhere in this does Harris suggest that we get meaning from science.

      • MarcAnthony said,

        April 29, 2013 at 12:59 pm

        You’re kidding, right? He just said that the awed wonder that SCIENCE gives us makes life worth living.

        If you don’t count that as “getting meaning from science” I’m not sure what to say. I’d say “an outright quote from him”, but I, you know, got that.

        Look, Harris is applying science to morality. I know you apparently agree with him but that’s not what was at question.

      • tildeb said,

        April 29, 2013 at 3:14 pm

        MarcAnthony, you’re quire correct. Dawkins did indeed say that. A surface glance might even convince the non critical of the intentional misrepresentation you are making here.

        In fact, he followed “The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable” with, “It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver” before ending it with, “It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite.”

        Is he actually telling us that awe and wonder comes from science as you say he says? Well, if he is, then the next sentence seems very odd in that the “It” you think he’s referring to means ‘science’ for your point to stand. In other words, you’re asserting that Dawkins is claiming that science – and not the understanding and deepened appreciation that comes with it as I explained – is a deep aesthetic passion, equivalent to the science that now supposedly produces music and poetry. Obviously, the ‘It’ to which Dawkins is referring is the feeling of awe and wonder and not the science that provokes it.

        Come on.

      • MarcAnthony said,

        April 29, 2013 at 4:05 pm

        Yes, the “it” refers to the awe and wonder. That SCIENCE GIVES him.

        I don’t see a way around this.

        Let’s put it another way. Do you not agree that Dawkins believes that one day science will be able to answer the questions that religion has tried to answer in the past?

      • MarcAnthony said,

        April 29, 2013 at 4:12 pm

        And let’s go further-this post is all about creation myths. Dawkins believes that evolution disproves creation myths. The point that our blogmaster is making is that Dawkins, who I’m using as one example, believes that evolution explains the origin of man. This is the equivalent, he argues, of a new creation myth, just one that the new atheists claim is backed up by “science”.

        If I’m misinterpreting you, Dr. (I think) Chastek, please step in.

    • FZ said,

      April 29, 2013 at 12:26 pm

      Wait, what definition of “scientism” are we using here? Scientism, as far as I know, is not the attempt of getting existential meaning out of scientific study. Rather, scientism is the philosophical position that only scientifically derived conclusions/findings count as “real” or “rationally acceptable” knowledge.

      • MarcAnthony said,

        April 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm

        Right, and this would mean that the only way to find any meaning in life would be through science.

      • tildeb said,

        April 29, 2013 at 4:09 pm

        You’re quite right to bring this up. It’s important.

        Scientism, in the strong sense, is the self-annihilating view that only scientific claims are meaningful, which is not a scientific claim and hence, if true, not meaningful. Thus, scientism is either false or meaningless. This is the way sophisticated theologians like to portray respect for the method of science and this is what we’re seeing here. The tip-off is the use of terms like “naturalist scientist” and trying to pretend that this is the faith-based starting position scientists assume.

        But real scientists use the weak sense of term you mention, the broad view that the methods of the natural sciences and its single epistemology allows reality to arbitrate what’s claimed to be true about it rather than faith claims imposed upon it. In this sense, this method of honest inquiry – honest in the sense that reality rather than faith determines what’s true – should be applied to any subject matter that can yield satisfactory and reliable natural explanations for phenomena. Furthermore, the incompatibility of any epistemology that allows for faith claims to be equivalent in truth value is shown to be so when we gain no further knowledge from inquiries that include supernatural and paranormal speculations equivalent to made up stuff… speculations which have a very long and ‘rich’ theological history of claims about reality being startlingly inaccurate, unnecessary in complexity, untrustworthy in results, and claims assumed to be true but without any means for independent verification. The ontology reached by scientists adduced from reality does not share a similar epistemology of the kind that informs faith-based beliefs as sophisticated theologians would have us wrongly and intentionally believe – but one that is founded on a method of inquiry that extracts evidence from reality to inform truth claims made about it. This is why the epistemological differences between science and faith are insurmountable because they are in direct epistemological competition.

        And we see this when we face certain claims about reality like a creator god, a tinkering causal agent, an intentional agency that inserts specific kinds of human capabilities and tendencies. For none of these is there adduced evidence from reality and so, quite rightly, science has no call to try to disprove or falsify them; however, it’s quite embarrassing when evidence that should be there – such as a common genetic link to a founding couple as supported by theological claims made by christians and muslims for dozens of centuries based on their scriptures – is absent. It’s just not there and it should be if the claims made by so many for so long were, in fact, true. That’s when sophisticated theologians must step forward and blame everyone else for the problem their beliefs have created while playing the courtier’s reply to divert attention away from the glaring absence of supportive evidence that should be present of the belief were true. This is what we’re seeing unfold here.

        For two millennia christians assumed a founding couple brought sin into the world and the rest of us inherited it and so were in need of redemption. Only now, when population genetics shows the claim to be not just baseless but factually wrong, do sophisticated theologians come out of the woodwork to begin their intellectual gymnastics routine, trying with big words and fuzzy yet incredibly complex definitions most of us will never quite get to explain why this was never really the case, that no one really thought this literally true, that it wasn’t really> a central tenet, that there was just this low level confusion by, you know, the less theologically educated among us, that the science actually supports the real theology, yada, yada, yada… and, besides, Look Over there! Science is the new religion! Dawkins is the new Pope! They’re causing harm to the comfort of little old ladies with cats! They’re bad people. Don’t listen to these materialistic worshipers! And they worship scientism rather than Jesus! They’re the real myth-makers!

        And that’s why it’s important to grasp how the term ‘scientism is used to be pejorative in the capable hand of those not concerned with what’s true but with what can still be believed to be true in the service of some religious faith claim. And that’s the definition of a how to spot the sophisticated theologian in his (and occasionally her – I’m looking at you, Karen Armstrong) natural habitat.

      • Crude said,

        April 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm

        More of the scientism mythology dance, I see. Let’s go down the list.

        But real scientists use the weak sense of term you mention

        Actually, “real scientists” are every bit as capable of having a warped understanding of science, its powers, its domains and more. This is actually part of the modern scientism mythology, something James touched on – when a scientist does something we like, when science shows us something we like, well, that’s Science at work ladies and gentlemen (even if it’s barely or not at all related to science.) But when a scientist says something stupid, or does something wrong, or science is used inappropriately… well, that’s not really science, or the man wasn’t really a scientist.

        The ontology reached by scientists adduced from reality does not share a similar epistemology of the kind that informs faith-based beliefs as sophisticated theologians would have us wrongly and intentionally believe – but one that is founded on a method of inquiry that extracts evidence from reality to inform truth claims made about it. This is why the epistemological differences between science and faith are insurmountable because they are in direct epistemological competition.

        And here’s yet more nonsense. The proper ‘epistemological differences’ is not between ‘science and faith’ (and I’m willing to bet your definition of faith is the usual Cult of Gnu absurdity) but science and metaphysics, or science and religion, or – oddly enough – science and theology. It’s not as if belief in God, or even belief in religion, is all fideism, anymore than atheism or other metaphysical and theological positions are. In fact, they’re often in even better shape than those alternatives.

        And we see this when we face certain claims about reality like a creator god, a tinkering causal agent, an intentional agency that inserts specific kinds of human capabilities and tendencies. For none of these is there adduced evidence from reality and so

        No, this is more Cult of Gnu atheist pipe dreams. There is evidence for those claims, and others. You’re operating under the delusion that if you happen to believe X, that means you’re committed to the belief that there exists no evidence for !X. Unfortunately, that’s not the case: theism and various religions have all manner of evidence going for them. Atheism has some evidence going for it as well. Just which view has the better part of the evidence (the arguments, the observations, etc) is the stuff of debate, but you have to be pretty deep into your brainwashing to argue that no evidence for these things exists.

        Only now, when population genetics shows the claim to be not just baseless but factually wrong,

        Yet another myth. Questions about Genesis and to what degree it is literal, to what degree it’s symbolic, etc, have existence since before the dawn of modern science. Period, end of story, to argue otherwise is to be wrong. What’s more, the relevance of those stories – what was centrally important, and what was far less important – was also discussed far in advance of modern science. It turns out that what genetics discovered was incompatible with one particular view. Unfortunate for people who believed that, but it’s also pretty easy to rectify – “Oops, that turned out to be wrong or likely wrong – which means one of the other interpretations now have more merit.”

        See, this is part of the hypocrisy. One the one hand we are told, repeatedly, with much dramatics, that one of the great sins of religion is that it tends to not change with time. ‘They act as if everything they needed to know what figured out 2000 years ago!’ Oh, but if you actually not only change your views in the light of new evidence – if you, contrary to the speculations of desperate atheists, say ‘Oh, well, evolution is true.’, then the freakout gets even *worse*, and suddenly it’s the most horrible thing in the world that you would dare change your understanding in light of new evidence. Which is why your time here has been spent defending the Incredibly Shrinking Claim – first, science was supposed to have smashed a historical fall and a need for redemption. But now, since you suddenly are finding that it in no way does that, the complain is that it did away with one interpretation and how dare anyone not regard that interpretation as the one and only option of truth. (Also, Karen Armstrong as an example of ‘sophisticated theologian’? Do you just pull these names out of a hat? Are you really under the impression she’s regarded highly here?)

        Of course some people thought that, say.. the world was only 6000 years old. Many people did, and do. They’re wrong. Now, the idea of a 6000 year old earth being ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to the faith? Certainly among Catholics that’s been far, far less of an issue, even throughout those hundreds or thousands of years. What does it matter to our beliefs about God or Christ or sin? Very little, it turns out. And the things that do matter, science either hasn’t overturned, or has actually strengthened in various degrees. (You like to act as if the only people whose expectations were upended by science are those of the religious, but atheists have had quite a number of scientific setbacks – in fact, arguably more.)

        Like it or not, Dawkins really is an ex-scientist who does, in fact, abuse science left and right. What’s more, it’s not “science” that anyone is complaining about, but the abuses of it – like when Dawkins starts suggesting that God’s existence is a question science can settle, or he shifts from talking about the importance of basing one’s beliefs on science to his view of ‘well, sexual abuse isn’t as bad as raising a child to be Catholic, my anecdotes tell me as much!’ to otherwise.

        Really man, spend a little time reading something other than the Daily Hate at Myers’ swamp or Dawkins’ twitter, or Coyne’s inanity and actually read what those ‘sophisticated theologians’ you’re going on about are saying. It’ll save you from being exposed as utterly wrong when you swallow their claims (See: Coyne on Feser and others’ views about the first couple in light of our current genetic estimates). Though really, what you probably want to do is figure out just who is and isn’t a ‘sophisticated theologian’, since if Karen Armstrong is topping your list… well, that’s a little like me being asked to name a top-tier scientist and responding with ‘Richard Dawkins’.

      • tildeb said,

        April 29, 2013 at 9:25 pm

        Crude, you’re not addressing the points I raise but substitute your very poor comprehension of them. Your responses are just a Gish Gallop.

        Look, you can pretend all you want that the Adam and Eve story is fine and dandy as just a story. Go teach it to the hundreds of millions of believers who think you’re full of it.

        You can pretend all you want that your beliefs about original sin still make sense now that we know it’s just a story. Go teach it to the hundreds of millions of believers who think you’re full of it.

        You can pretend all you want that the christian interpretation of it and its use as a central tenet of your faith never really mattered. Go teach it to the hundreds of millions of believers who think you’re full of it.

        And you can pretend that its christian interpretation isn’t an ass backwards exception to how we read and find teaching value in all other myths. That’s fine. Prostitute your intellect all you want servicing your faith-based beliefs. Your call.

        But you really must stop pretending that those who respect the method of science to produce practical applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time are believers in another kind of myth, another kind of religion. It’s patently disingenuous.

      • Crude said,

        April 29, 2013 at 11:16 pm

        Tildeb, at this point I can’t really tell if you’re just plain not understanding what anyone is saying here, if you’re you’re merely trying desperately to ignore the points. It doesn’t really matter in the end – at most it’s going to determine just how poorly you’re doing, and in what way – but still, it’s remarkable.

        The fact that you keep repeating that “Adam and Eve is just a story” under my view – really, over the views of most people here – just shows your problem. I never said it’s “just a story”. I pointed out that the truth contained in the story – the pivotal truth – does not depend on a strict, literal reading. Indeed, the “central tenet” was never “humanity had no physical precursors” or “it took place at point in time X”. Not in terms of Church dogma, and not even directly in terms of the views espoused by people.

        Really, it’s a lot like how most people – even people who swear up and down that they ‘believe in evolution’, even people who are atheists – actually have a poor picture of evolutionary theory in their minds. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. They understand, hopefully, the central aspect, the important part. That’s all many people who are not theologians – ‘sophisticated’ or otherwise – can be expected to know. The only people they think are “full of it”, for better or for worse, are guys like yourself.

        But like I said at the start, Tildeb – you are utterly, wholly committed to your myth. Anything that runs contrary to it, you huff about or pretend does not exist – such as, exposed in this very thread, the hilarious incompetence (and potential dishonesty) of Jerry Coyne. No, science absolutely MUST have slain these big, scary religious dragons. It can’t possibly be the case that science not only failed to do so, but quite often is utterly incapable of doing so either in practice or principle.

        That’s your nightmare. That’s the worry that dogs you every day. Because you don’t actually love science. What you love is your idealization of science, the imaginary authority you think science grants you. A science that does not disprove the central tenets of Christianity is distasteful to you. Revolting, in fact. All the practical applications and technologies in the world mean little if at the end of the day the source doesn’t give you the ‘practical application’ you want: a way to bolster your confidence in your faith.

        So you discard real, actual science for science mythologized. Just another form of scientism.

        But please, on the incredibly outside chance you actually do science (unlikely Dawkins or PZ Myers or the rest), keep at it. Because that science is going to be used by Christians to heal the sick, feed the poor – oh, and spread our sophisticated theology far and wide.

        That’s the key difference between you and most of us, man. We love what science actually is. You only love your mythologized science. For your own sake – give up your faith in what demonstrably really doesn’t exist. Accept science for what it is. You can still be an atheist, you know. You’ll just have one myth less to bolster your faith.

      • Crude said,

        April 29, 2013 at 11:26 pm

        Oh, and by the by.

        While the creationist view supposedly took a nice jump, that shows just how many people believe that humans evolved, with God guiding the process. Which is vastly more similar to the views being espoused here, despite being vague, than what’s being offered.

        So much for those people being unable to accept the reasoning. Those theologians aren’t called sophisticated for nothing. ;)

      • tildeb said,

        April 30, 2013 at 10:35 am

        I pointed out that the truth contained in the story – the pivotal truth – does not depend on a strict, literal reading. Indeed, the “central tenet” was never “humanity had no physical precursors” or “it took place at point in time X”. Not in terms of Church dogma, and not even directly in terms of the views espoused by people.

        Yes it does. You’re just too enamored and mixed up with your own religious sophistication to realize it. It is absolutely dependent on this connection between god and us. Without this connection in real time at a real place to cause a real effect you’ve got nothing. Nothing but what you imagine… no matter how sophisticated the lipstick may be you apply to your imaginary pig.

        You make empty claim about reality after empty claim convinced that I’m the one doing the claiming based on mythologizing science. This, too, is exactly backwards. Obviously. It takes sophistication to make ‘up’ be ‘down’ and ‘black’ to be another kind of ‘white’, to paint me the one relying on myth, paint me the one doing the worshiping. None of this is true, of course, but who cares about what’s true in reality when sophisticated theology is at work busying painting!

        Your idiocy, your ignorance, regarding evolution is an obvious result of your confusion, your mythology, your imagination – not mine; to claim that god guided the process of evolution is to claim this necessary connection. Without a literal connection you – not I – have severed the necessary mechanism for causal effect to occur. That’s why it’s a necessary event. That you cannot wrap your head around this need for this literal and historical connection in order to support any claims about causal effect by such an agency shows you cannot wrap your head around the method of science because inquiries into our ancestry shows no evidence for such a literal and historical connection. There is no evidence for it.

        Out come you paint brushes!

        To overcome this trivial problem, you’re just covering stuff up by painting it to agree with your faith-based beliefs. This is equivalent to making stuff up, but you’re too determined supporting your religious faith not with evidence from reality but appearances that you make up sophisticated answers to over come reality’s constraints – like the trivial matter of an absence of evidence – to think clearly about what is, rather than what you imagine it must be. I can’t help you in this willingness you have to cover up the importance of what’s reality shows us to be true about it. By doing this covering up, this painting of reality, you engage in delusional thinking, confusing reality with your imaginings. The epistemology is identical.

        You’re going to have to overcome it yourself – this willingness to be deluded – if you want to come back to the grown-up’s table here in reality where evidence and it’s lack actually matters to those of us who make claims about reality respecting the method of science to help us dfo just this, to arbitrate and adjudicate these claims independent of our imaginings and desires to shape reality to reflect our wishes about it. You do not respect science because its single epistemology that allows for this adjudication and arbitration is a paint stripper, is a means to expose the empty claims you espouse. The method of science – respecting reality – is antithetical to your religious claims, and this is what you cannot stand. So you work to undermine science by pretending it’s actually compatible with your incompatible claims.

        You’re a hypocrite because you entrust your life to the relibale products of the scientific method right up until your religious beliefs stand contrary to and in conflict with it. That’s when you activate your hypocrisy and busy yourself painting science to be the problem, but hey, at least you’re a sophisticated painter n the eyes of those who do not, will not, and cannot grasp how you can such a blatant hypocrite and be respected for it from fellow believers. They cannot grasp how you can be so because they – like you – have already rejected reality’s role in arbitrating claims made about it, so all they really have is faith-based belief and the pretty colors of your sophisticated painting of it to realize the belief and anti-reality position you support rest only on the sands of appearances. Not reality.

        Reality is not your friend. And you can reveal this to yourself with the example you raise about evolution.

        Look, by definition evolution is an unguided process. The key term – the subtle hint – you keep missing in your quest to paint the incompatible to seem compatible is the central idea of natural selection. Note the term. We cannot have evolution if we believe some purposeful and intentional agency guided it. We have different terms to describe different ways this can be done: selective breeding, animal husbandry, and so on. These are not natural, you see; they intervene, they guide, they interfere with natural selection. That you believe this can be done by an agency of Oogity Boogity and still be considered ‘evolution’ shows the depth of your confusion. You do not respect the method of science when you pretend it allows room for your confusion and empty faith-based inserted beliefs and still be science. It’s not. A god-guided ancestry is not evolution. The claim is not compatible with evolution; it’s only compatible with creationism (perhaps set further back in time but still an obvious kind of creationism nevertheless). Sure, many confused people assume it can true and still be good science be but they are wrong. Either evolution by natural selection OR some form of creationism. There is no middle ground. There is no room for compatibility. This is an either/or reality we face with such a claim about god guiding evolution; either it’s true or it is not true. You can pretend, yet again, that there is room for compatibility that both accepts and rejects reality’s role here but, yet again, you’d be wrong. That you can’t see why you’re wrong, why you do a disservice to respecting reality enough to let it arbitrate the accuracy – the truth value – of your painting of it is a real shame because you’re simply fooling not just yourself but others into accepting your ignorance as an equivalent kind of knowledge about reality.

      • Crude said,

        April 30, 2013 at 12:59 pm

        tildeb,


        Yes it does. You’re just too enamored and mixed up with your own religious sophistication to realize it. It is absolutely dependent on this connection between god and us.

        No, tildeb – you are simply too desperate in your hope that the idea requires ‘man had no physical precursors’ or ‘it took place exactly 6000 years ago’, because you’re intellectually spooked of the whole thing. I nowhere denied that there was a ‘connection between God and us’ – in fact, no believer here seems to have done that. I’ve been defending a real fall, even first parents! But wait, it’s a real fall that observation is not only consistent with, but actually supports in some ways – contrary to your original claims – so it spooks you. So here you are, lashing out again.


        You make empty claim about reality after empty claim convinced that I’m the one doing the claiming based on mythologizing science.

        Empty claim after empty claim? I’m the only one who’s rallied actual facts to his side to defend his view. You pulled a Jerry Coyne quote, I pointed out the fatal flaws in his reasoning, and now you avoid it as if it’s a hot coal. You insisted that belief in a supremely literalistic interpretation of Genesis was absolutely essential to a fall, I’ve pointed out how it isn’t. You’ve implied that few will ever accept that the first couple evolved, I pointed at data that strongly suggests millions in America alone believe exactly this. A reasonable atheist would have said ‘Okay, clearly I was misinformed on these points. I’ve learned some new things. I still am not a believer, but not every criticism of religion ultimately has merit.’ Oh, but Cult of Gnu sorts? The mythology is too important. So, here we are. Just as I predicted.

        Your idiocy, your ignorance, regarding evolution is an obvious result of your confusion, your mythology, your imagination – not mine; to claim that god guided the process of evolution is to claim this necessary connection.

        To claim that God guided the process of evolution is a claim that science is completely and utterly incapable to rule on. If you believe otherwise, well, you just show me the peer-reviewed research that says “Here we test for whether or not the evolutionary process is guided by God”. Seriously, that would be hilarious. And I’ll trot out Eugenie Scott of the NCSE during the NABT controversy to show why your view is not only mistaken, but by that measure literally an abuse of science.

        There is, by the way, plenty of evidence for the claim that God exists, that God oversees the evolutionary process, etc. Now, *scientific* evidence? No, those questions are outside of the scientific purview. By the way: so are claims that God does not exist, or that the evolutionary process is utterly unguided. Welcome to the world of philosophy and metaphysics – if you’re an atheist, you’re already in this world, whether you accept it or not.

        To overcome this trivial problem, you’re just covering stuff up by painting it to agree with your faith-based beliefs.

        Nah, the problem (‘lack of evidence’) doesn’t exist to begin with. I have a wide variety of evidence to call on – philosophical, metaphysical, basic reasoning and common intuition, observational, testimonial and more. You, meanwhile, have been patently dishonest – you rolled in here insisting that science has falsified the fall, you quoted Jerry Coyne and others to the effect showing that there could not have been ‘first parents’. When I pointed out that ‘first parents’, in the relevant sense, were not falsified by the scientific data, you banished the claim to the void and now are desperately searching for some response, any response, you can make. Because that’s how science works in your mind, apparently: when you make a claim that turns out to be false, you bury it and ignore it and never, ever cop to it lest you or something precious to you be exposed as wrong. Yet more mythology on your part. And goddamn, it is so, so predictable.

        The method of science – respecting reality – is antithetical to your religious claims, and this is what you cannot stand.

        Wow, you are just determined to completely wreck yourself in this conversation, aren’t you? You define science’s method as “respecting reality”? Thanks for making the “scientism” charge come through even louder and clearer than ever, tildeb. Science is a fantastic tool – with considerable limits, both in practice and in principle. But those limits are too much for you. You desperately need your science-abusing authority figures to pat you on the head and tell you that science shows what it does not show, and never can show. So, when faced with the choice between science as it truly is – the sort of science I embrace and accept – and a mythologized, fake science as you want it to be – science as you wish it was – you go for the mythology. You embrace the fake every single time, and in the course of it, you attack actual science as some kind of cowardly, craven thing. It’s sad, tildeb. It’s also not necessary.

        Now, I cannot cure you of what drives you. Maybe it’s a Paul Vitz kind of thing. Maybe some religious people were mean to you – I don’t doubt that. Maybe a million things. I am no mind reader. But I will say that man… you are in the deep grips of a delusion. One that makes it impossible for you to truly appreciate science, and probably makes it extremely difficult to function outside of what amounts to online Cult of Gnu atheist swamps, the likes of which have succeeded in giving atheism a bad name even among atheists and agnostics. Whatever the source of your emotional turmoil and psychological delusion is, I cannot ultimately say. But the fact that you’re subject to both is plain to all. And the worst part is? Chances are, science won’t be able to help you too much with this, outside of – perhaps – some minor medication.

        You’re a hypocrite because you entrust your life to the relibale products of the scientific method right up until your religious beliefs stand contrary to and in conflict with it.

        Reliable products like spellchecking software? ;)

        I entrust my life to a variety of things. I entrust my life to individuals in my family and community, despite knowing from experience that they are not always ‘reliable’. I entrust my life to technology that is as much the product of human imagination and pure engineering thought than ‘science’. I am actively skeptical of various scientific claims that have absolutely nothing to do with my religion for a variety of reasons – because of the behavior of scientists to the shortcomings of the field to the difficulty of the questions and more. I also – unlike you – recognize that science’s reach, its ability to be useful, has some severe limits. That doesn’t bother me at all. You, it apparently drives bonkers. Unfortunately for you, my view of science is the reality-based one. Yours is mythological.

        Look, by definition evolution is an unguided process.

        No, by definition evolution is descent with modification. Dear Lord, are you ignorant of even THIS much? A guided evolutionary process is still an evolutionary process. You’ve spent too much time among atheists who like to kid themselves.

        Now, the scientific theory of evolution absolutely does not include the claim that evolution is, say… personal and supervised. The problem is, it also doesn’t include the claim that it’s impersonal and unsupervised. It’s easy to see why it couldn’t: there is no way to test for the activity of God in the evolutionary process. Certainly not if someone subscribes to supposed “methodological naturalism”, which rules God out of scientific explanation straightaway. At best you can test for, say… “does evolution favor sunshine and kittens?” or the like, but since God wasn’t necessarily overseeing the process in the hopes of such results, it’s moot.

        You see Eugenie Scott ruling as unscientific claims that evolution is “unsupervised” or “impersonal”, and that should indicate to you why the “natural” in natural selection isn’t going to do the work you’re desperate for it to do: because ‘natural’, mundane events are entirely under the purview of God anyway. It’s not a surprise to God, certainly not the God most people (and even most ‘Sophisticated Theologians’) believe in, when something natural and mundane takes place. Those too are things that can either be arranged to occur since the dawn of time, etc. Which is why science as science stays utterly, entirely mum about the ability to detect God’s role in the evolutionary process, along with much else.

        See, now I understand at least part of your problem, tildeb: once again, you have been dramatically misinformed about science. Too much time over at Myers’ blog or in Coyne’s swamp. The fact that you can’t even give an actual definition of the mere term ‘evolution’ illustrates the extent of your damage. Now, I know better than to think being corrected is going to help you out here – just as you need the mythologized, delusion of science to get you through the day, you need the mythologized, delusional version of evolution too. Maybe one day, you’ll give it up and accept both science and evolutionary theory for what they truly are. And when you do, reality will be waiting for you.

  7. FZ said,

    April 29, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    It seems like Dawkins is talking not about any feeling of awe and understanding, but the feelings of awe and understanding the results from scientific inquiry.The appreciation and awe towards science essentially depends on the practice of science. Obviously, the appreciation and awe towards science would not exist if science did not exist. Taken this way, you cannot seek these meaningful experiences/feeling without seeking or performing science.

    • FZ said,

      April 29, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Correction: “the results from” should be “that results from”

    • MarcAnthony said,

      April 29, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      Right…this is my point. It’s all dependent on science.

      I mean, this is incredibly clear cut. I doubt even that Dawkins would deny that he believes without science life wouldn’t be worth living.

  8. FZ said,

    April 29, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    tildeb,

    “But real scientists use the weak sense of term you mention…”

    You mean this?

    “Scientism is the philosophical position that only scientifically derived conclusions/findings count as “real” or “rationally acceptable” knowledge.”

    This is self defeating too. The claim is not scientifically derived, so we can’t accept it. It undermines itself.

    “Scientism, in the strong sense, is the self-annihilating view that only scientific claims are meaningful, which is not a scientific claim and hence, if true, not meaningful.”

    Actually, I would say that this is not scientism, but rather logical positivism. The two are closely related, but not exactly the same.

    • tildeb said,

      April 29, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      No. I mean this: scientism in the sense that the methods of the natural sciences and its single epistemology allows reality to arbitrate what’s claimed to be true about it rather than faith claims imposed upon it. This is what real scientists practice.

      • FZ said,

        April 29, 2013 at 9:40 pm

        You have it backwards:

        “If a certain method of studying nature affords us a high degree of predictive and technological power, all that shows is that the method is useful for dealing with those aspects of nature that are predictable and controllable. It does not show us that those aspects exhaust nature, that there is nothing more to the natural world than what the method reveals. Neither does it show that there are no rational means of investigating reality other than those involving empirical prediction and control. To assume otherwise is fallaciously to let one’s method dictate what counts as reality rather than letting reality determine what methods are appropriate for studying it. If wearing infrared night vision goggles allows me to perceive a certain part of the world remarkably well, it doesn’t follow that there is no more to the world than what I can perceive through the goggles, or that only goggle-wearing methods of investigating reality are rational ones.”

        http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1184/

        “Indeed, that science is even a rational form of inquiry (let alone the only rational form of inquiry) is not something that can be established scientifically. For scientific inquiry itself rests on a number of philosophical assumptions: that there is an objective world external to the minds of scientists; that this world is governed by causal regularities; that the human intellect can uncover and accurately describe these regularities; and so forth. Since science presupposes these things, it cannot attempt to justify them without arguing in a circle. And if it cannot even establish that it is a reliable form of inquiry, it can hardly establish that it is the only reliable form.”

        http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174/

        This is why we still need metaphysics and philosophy.

      • Curio said,

        April 29, 2013 at 10:12 pm

        What was that quip of Chesterton’s? “evolution . . . does not especially deny the existence of God; what it does deny is the existence of man.”
        The gradual phenotypic changes that constitute what modern biologists call ‘speciation’ is not a qualitative, or even discrete shift but a blurring of shades of grey.

        Tilded, of course there can be no original couple by this reckoning. There was never even a first man. I once watched a video of Dawkins shocking a creationist by telling him how proud he should feel to be an African ape. What an arbitrary imposition of human values and ideas on the valueless facts of nature. We’re not African apes anymore than we’re freshwater fish or four-legged mammals from the Middle Jurassic period.

        The point is that evolutionary biology, wonderful science as it is, is utterly unequipped to discover the essences of things.

        Even more interesting still is Chesterton’s opinion that Original Sin is the only empirically verifiable Doctrine of Christianity. To deny sin and our proclivity toward it is a patent absurdity.

  9. Ryan said,

    April 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    Keep it up tildeb ;)

    You’re the only one making any sense to me.

    • BLS said,

      April 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      • Ryan said,

        May 6, 2013 at 2:14 am

        Boom. I’ve found the perfect video response to the claim ‘God loves me’.

        Cheers :)

    • Crude said,

      April 29, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      You’re the only one whose side I was on in advance, and thus who I’ll admit makes any sense at all.

      Fixed that for you. ;)

      • Ryan said,

        May 6, 2013 at 2:22 am

        I see your fix and raise you a megafix.

        You’re the only one whose side I was on in advance due to vast amounts of reading, thinking, exploring, researching during my journey of becoming a weak agnostic. Knowing this blog is full of smart people, I hoped I would find helpful, intelligible comments. Sadly this wasn’t to be the case, except for tildeb. His comments made sense to me. Everything else seem vague and/or to be convoluted wishful thinking.

        You believe an eternal entity loves you and wants you to be eternal to. I don’t. Deal with it ;)

      • David said,

        May 6, 2013 at 2:49 am

        Sorry, I wasn’t aware the subjective apprehension of an arbitrary internet commentator was now the ultimate criterion of argumentative rigor. Question: when you sleep, are we all relativists?

      • tildeb said,

        May 8, 2013 at 8:02 am

        There is no such subjective apprehension as far as I am concerned, David; when faced with the metaphysical musings and sophistry untethered to reality that informs sophisticated theology, it is useful to maintain a personal relationship with reality. I highly recommend it and can assure you that this relationship causes me no apprehension whatsoever.

      • David said,

        May 8, 2013 at 10:24 am

        “There is no such subjective apprehension as far as I am concerned, [tildeb]; when faced with the [pseudoscientific] musings and sophistry untethered to reality that informs [dogmatic atheism], it is useful to maintain a personal relationship with reality. I highly recommend it and can assure you that this relationship causes me no apprehension whatsoever.”

        Care to try again? I haven’t seen so much rhetoric desperately attempting to make up for a dearth of any argumentation since, well, your last comment.

      • tildeb said,

        May 8, 2013 at 11:36 am

        When you finally figure out that what you call ‘dogmatic atheism’ is simply non belief in the kind of stuff you find so illuminating (because there are no compelling reasons adduced from reality to support them and much adduced from reality to reject them) then we can have a grown-up conversation.

      • David said,

        May 8, 2013 at 11:56 am

        Uh, you may have missed my point. I was illustrating how devoid of genuine substance your comment was, given how easily one could invert its meaning with a few superficial alterations (dare I say, emendations?).

        PS: given the way you’ve been deploying “reality”, I do have to ask – are you at all familiar with a certain Immanuel Kant?

    • BLS said,

      May 7, 2013 at 11:56 pm

      Explain the basis for your claim. Point out the “wishful thinking.” Did it ever occur to you that the apparent “vagueness” may be due to your own unfamiliarity with logical argumentation, metaphysics and philosophy of religion?

      • BLS said,

        May 8, 2013 at 11:59 am

        @tildeb: “Reality” is a philosophical concept. See FZ’s post at April 29, 2013 at 9:40 pm.

  10. FZ said,

    April 30, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Crude, I don’t think this is worth it, because regular readers of this blog, (and those familiar with Thomism in general) will recognize that tildeb is trying to argue against your position without even knowing the details and arguments. I don’t even think tildeb is aware of his/her own philosophical assumptions and the history of philosophy of science (Primarily, I’m talking about the Moderns’ metaphysical revisions, revisions which have been unwittingly inherited today by both scientists and non-scientists). This is evidenced by things like:

    “Without this connection in real time at a real place to cause a real effect you’ve got nothing.”

    If tildeb knew that “cause” is a metaphysical issue, he/she wouldn’t be begging the question like this.

    “That’s when you activate your hypocrisy and busy yourself painting science to be the problem…”

    If tildeb knew what we were talking about, he/she wouldn’t be creating a strawman out of our position. Science isn’t the problem. It’s the Modernist philosophy behind it that’s the problem. Like almost everything, science cannot be interpreted without any philosophical/metaphysical assumptions.

    “These are not natural, you see; they intervene, they guide, they interfere with natural selection.”

    Intervention? Interfering? Again, this is a strawman. Yes, clearly, we think that God was out there, millions of years ago, going “Oh, I better induce a mutation right there, oh, and one in that species… oh, it’s time to create a speciation event! Now I can just sit back and relax!” Because clearly, God is just a clever engineer.

    • April 30, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      What I’ve found remarkable is how increasingly vague and nondescript the original claim has become; it was originally about the need for an originary couple, which couldn’t exist for bottleneck reasons, to have the need for redemption, but instead of making it more precise and ruling out equivocations in the face of objections, tildeb has made it more and more vague, and ruled out fewer and fewer equivocations, so that now the argument is that there’s a need for some ‘connection’ in order to have a ‘causal effect’ (in both cases, there is no recognition of the fact that the connection and the causal effect have to be the specific ones the discussion began with, and that these are what has to be argued for), and that it can’t be had because ‘evolution is by definition not guided’. I’ve never seen anyone take their own argument and systematically break it down to the point that it was no longer specific enough to have any force or address any of the original objections raised against it. Quite extraordinary.

    • Crude said,

      April 30, 2013 at 3:34 pm

      FZ,

      Oh, I’m under no delusion that I’m saying anything new to most of the regulars here, much less that this guy is going to learn a lesson, or admit he learned one. I could say that I’m doing this for the edification of disinterested onlookers, but that’s not true. Really, analyzing and pointing out Cult of Gnu flaws is just a fun distraction. Sometimes I play Team Fortress 2. Other times, I do this.

      Either way, I think it’ll die down soon. I don’t want to clog up James’ blog too much with this, but the opportunity was there and I didn’t want to let others have all the enjoyment.


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