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Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 | ISSN 1556-5696

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Announcing the Spring 2014 Season
of Distinguished Science Lectures

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! The Skeptics Society is pleased to announce another season of our Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech. All lectures will take place in Baxter Lecture Hall on a Sunday at 2 pm. Events include an author book signing. Tickets are sold first come, first served, at the door. Seating is limited. $10 for Skeptics Society members and the JPL/Caltech community, $15 for nonmembers. Your admission fee is a donation that pays for our lecture expenses. First up…

Jennifer Ouellette (photo by Ken Weingart)
Me, Myself and Why: Searching for the
Science of Self

with Jennifer Ouellette
Sun., Jan. 26, 2014 at 2 pm

POPULAR SCIENCE WRITER Jennifer Ouellette has tackled math in The Calculus Diaries and physics in both The Physics of the Buffyverse and Black Bodies and Quantum Cats. In Me, Myself and Why she turns her attention to the science of the self and delivers a fascinating survey of the forces that shape who we are and why we act the way we do. Ouellette acts as both journalist and subject, as she takes a battery of personality tests, has her genes sequenced and an MRI brain scan done, and even goes on her first and only LSD trip, all the while taking the reader along for the ride. As an adoptee, with basic information about her biological parents, Ouellette considers what traits she undeniably has inherited through genetics and what traits she has in common with her siblings (also adoptees) and her parents, which leads to a fascinating discussion on synapses and how the brain is wired and continues to change as we grow older.
Order Me, Myself and Why from Amazon.

Followed by…
  • Wizards, Aliens, and Starships:
    Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction

    with Dr. Charles Adler
    Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 2 pm
  • Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes
    with Dr. Svante Pääbo
    Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 2 pm
  • The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History
    of Social Mobility

    with Dr. Gregory Clark
    Sunday, March 16, 2014 at 2 pm
  • Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity
    with Dr. Edward Slingerland
    Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 2 pm
  • Humble Before The Void: Western Science Meets
    Tibetan Buddhism

    with Dr. Chris Impey
    Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 2 pm

Read about all upcoming lectures


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Out of Iraq

With the coming anniversary of Isaac Newton’s birthday, Derek sat down to have a chat with Faisal Saeed Al Mutar. Until about 9 months ago, Faisal was living in Iraq where he was at odds with the Sunni, Shai, and Al-Qaeda. He now lives in the United States after being granted asylum. In his short time living in the United States, he was gone on to help build an amazing community of people dedicated to making society a better place through the promotion of humanism, secular values, and skeptical thinking.

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Cryptozoologicon: Volume I (detail of book cover)

Cryptozoologicon
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Darren Naish returns to MonsterTalk to discuss his latest book, Cryptozoologicon: Volume I. From the well known to the very obscure, this book takes three looks at monsters. It critically examines them, but also speculates on what they might be like if they were real — combined with fantastic illustrations by science illustrators John Conway and C. M. Koseman.

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Where the Conflict Really Lies (based on a detail of the book cover)
About this week’s eSkeptic

All scientists are naturalists, taking for granted that we live, experiment and study nature in a closed universe where God never intervenes. This is a first principle of science. But Alvin Plantinga says that there is deep conflict between naturalism and science but deep concord between theism and science. In this week’s eSkeptic, William S. Moore reviews Plantinga’s Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism.

William S. Moore is an evolutionary biologist and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biological Sciences, Wayne State University. He has published numerous scientific articles on natural selection, speciation and molecular phylogenetics.

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Debunking Plantinga

by William S. Moore

All scientists are naturalists. When we do experiments in the laboratory or field we assume that the phenomena we study are guided by natural law and solely by natural law, and that natural law acts the same way at all times throughout the universe. We are uniformitarians; uniformitarianism holds that natural law is universal and eternal. We take for granted that we live, experiment and study nature in a closed universe where God never intervenes. This is a first principle of science. So reading a book by Alvin Plantinga, a highly respected philosopher and epistemologist of religion with a great deal of savvy about science, that reaches the conclusion that there is deep conflict between naturalism and science but deep concord between theism and science, is a journey into a spooky intellectual landscape where this first principle of science is violated.

The die for Plantinga’s argument is cast on the first page of the preface where he proclaims: “Naturalism is stronger than atheism: you can be an atheist without rising to the full heights (sinking to the lowest depths?) of naturalism; but you can’t be a naturalist without being an atheist.” Between this opening salvo and his conclusion on the last page (350)—“naturalism is at least a quasi-religion, there is indeed a science/religion conflict all right, but it is not between science and theistic religion: it is between science and naturalism”—is an arduous trek through evolutionary biology, quantum mechanics, historical biblical criticism, intelligent design, divine fine tuning of physical constants, and epistemology. The trek through epistemology is a steep climb through the peculiar cultural lexicon of philosophers, with diversions to establish the nature of warranted belief, rebutting defeaters (of arguments), undercutting defeaters, deflectors of defeaters and defeater-defeaters. A distinction he makes that actually has little influence on the practice of science is between methodological and rational naturalism. All scientists are at least methodological naturalists—we all make the assumption that God is not manipulating the experiments we do. But Plantinga identifies strident atheist-naturalists like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchins and Sam Harris as rational naturalists whom, he writes, as “the Four Horsemen—not of the Apocalypse, nor of Notre Dame, but of atheism with the goal of riding roughshod over religion.” (Plantinga retired recently from Notre Dame University.) This distinction is central to his argument; rational naturalists are atheists, and so naturalism must be in conflict with theistic religion, but being a scientist requires only that you be a methodological naturalist. You can be an agnostic or even a theist and be a methodological naturalist.

The theory of evolution by natural selection looms large in Plantinga’s analysis, and he is particularly critical of Dawkins, who he says is not warranted in claiming that the science of evolutionary biology, as successful as it is, disproves the existence of God. He argues that the claim evolution is a process unguided by an intelligent, theistic force is a metaphysical “add-on,” an assumption evolutionists make rather than a conclusion that can be drawn from the theory of evolution or a fact proven by empirical science. In my opinion, Plantinga’s argument is actually right. Neo-Darwinism—the modern theory of evolution resulting from the conjunction of Darwin’s theory of natural selection with modern genetics—does not debunk theism in an absolute sense, but it certainly fails to confirm it. Life has been intensely studied from a Darwinian perspective for over 150 years, and not one shred of scientifically creditable evidence has emerged that is inconsistent with the theory or that would suggest theistic intervention. And we are talking about millions of experimental results, millions of observations—millions of bits of information. So in defense of Dawkins’ conclusion, how long does one wait at a bus stop before concluding that there no longer is bus service along this route? At some point you decide you would do well to find another mode of transportation.

Plantinga accepts evolution as the mechanism by which the diversity, complexity and specialization (design) of life has come to be, and he even believes that there is a role for natural selection. What he rejects is the premise that evolution is completely unguided. He believes that God intervenes episodically, for example, to generate specific mutations that would cause the evolution of a designed anatomical structure, physiological process or behavior in a specific lineage. Among the array of elements he views as having been designed are human cognitive abilities for doing mathematics and inductive reasoning. From Plantinga’s perspective, which is that of Christianity, God not only created the universe, He created man in His own image, which Plantinga extends to mean He endowed humans with His cognitive skills to comprehend and understand His creation. In an appeal to William Paley’s (and Michael Behe’s) design arguments, he asks how else could you explain mathematical and inductive abilities that have no obvious adaptive value in the hunting-gathering cultures in which humans evolved.

But these cognitive abilities are easily accommodated by natural selection theory. To engage in inductive reasoning is to draw generalizations from a few specific observations—in more mundane terms, it is to learn from experience. This obviously has considerable adaptive value in the struggle for existence and even occurs in many other species. It takes just one bad experience with a snake that rattles its tail to learn to stay away from snakes that rattle their tails, and humans, to their benefit, also transmit this kind of information from generation to generation through culture. Mathematical aptitude is more likely a “spandrel,” which is an incidental by-product of another function. (In a classic 1979 paper entitled “The Spandrels of San-Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Program” (Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 205, 581–59) Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin compared many biological structures to the spandrels of San Marco cathedral in Venice, which serve admirably as surfaces for mosaics depicting features of Christianity. The spandrels are triangular areas of ceiling formed by intersecting arches but are by-products of the church’s architecture. Given that they are there, why not fill them with glorious Christian iconography?) But doing mathematics involves cognitive aptitudes for logic, envisioning objects in spaces, enumeration and strategic thinking, which are very plausibly adaptive even in hunting gathering societies. Humans engage in many activities that are likely spandrels of natural selection, for example, playing golf, which some humans do with amazing ability. Clearly natural selection did not directly select the best golfers during the Paleolithic, but presumably favored individuals that were athletic, had the best hand-eye coordination, were able to judge distances accurately, etc. That is at least as plausible as the notion that God designed humans—in his own image—to play golf.

Where the Conflict Lies (book cover)

Using the combative lexicon of epistemology, Plantinga introduces the concept of an undercutting defeater with this example: He sees a person that looks like his neighbor Paul emerge from the house across the street, and he forms the belief that Paul is leaving his house. But, he then learns that Paul has an identical twin brother, Peter, who arrived the previous night to stay over. This additional information undercuts Plantinga’s original belief, and so he must reform his belief to either Paul or Peter left the house. These are now alternative hypotheses that could be tested by gathering additional information such as learning idiosyncrasies from their respective wives that distinguish the brothers. By analogy, the posited, evolved adaptive values of inductive and mathematical abilities are alternatives to the hypothesis that God created man in his own image, and hence has access to these tools for acquiring knowledge. In a much broader realm, this is what neoDarwinism is: a successful alternative hypothesis to theism.

Plantinga continues his argument that science and theism are compatible suggesting that the omnipotent God of Christianity created a universe with sufficient regularity that it has the appearance of uniformitarianism—quasi-uniformitarianism (my term). If that were not the case, we couldn’t do science. But Plantinga’s model is that of an open universe, open to occasional moments of guiding intervention, when for example, God might cause a series of mutations guiding evolution to the complex anatomical and cognitive changes that enable human speech. Well, this is a plausible idea if you grant the possibility that God exists, but it is not testable. The God described throughout Christian literature and by Plantinga is omnipotent and omniscient and capable of causing the mutational changes necessary to guide evolution but to do so with such subtlety that we cannot detect His actions. But this violates another principle in the epistemology of science, which is that scientific theories must be testable and, more specifically, falsifiable. A major redirection of the philosophy of science in the latter half of the 20th century was instigated by Karl Popper, who argued that the line of demarcation between science and non-science is falsifiability. Plantinga’s hypothesis that evolution has been subtly directed by mutations divined by God is simply not falsifiable. This is an irreconcilable conflict between science and Christian theology and is an epistemological conflict rather than a defeater offered up by science. Plantinga does not cite Popper nor discuss this fundamental aspect of science.

Plantinga discusses two areas of conflict between science and Christian theology, which he deems superficial: evolutionary psychology and historical biblical criticism (HBC). In the practice of HBC, biblical scholars have adopted the uniformitarian principle from science, rejecting the notion that the miracles portrayed in scripture—including Jesus’ resurrection—actually occurred. Of course this is a direct contradiction to traditional Christian, faith-based analysis centered on the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection. Not surprising, these biblical scholars interpret New Testament scripture as narratives that reflect cultural, religious and political attitudes as Christianity emerged and then diverged from Judaism during the tumultuous time of oppressive Roman occupation rather than as historically reliable accounts of Jesus ministry.

Evolutionary psychology is a logical extension of neoDarwinism that provides a theoretical framework for understanding human behavior. Its premises are that major aspects of human behavior are genetically determined and have evolved as adaptations to natural selection. Given that elements of modern religions (belief in spiritual beings, life after death, spiritual or divine intervention in events, providence, demons, worship, rituals, sacrifice, etc.) are cultural universals, occurring in hunting-gathering, agrarian and modern societies, it is sensible to think that religiosity is also part of evolved human nature. One of its proposed values in the face of natural selection is that it promotes group cohesion. Accordingly, religious beliefs, to include belief in god, miracles, life after death, etc., are unreliable reflections of reality—they are delusions, but they are reliable adaptations for enhancing the transmission of genes to future generations. Obviously this is a blatant conflict with the Christian worldview. Plantinga does not dwell at length on these superficial conflicts, but rather turns to his most surprising and original argument for deep conflict between science and naturalism, which is based on the unreliability of beliefs generated by our cognitive faculties (the human mind) given that they evolved under the guidance of natural selection.

The essence of his argument is that if you accept naturalism (and thus atheism) and you believe in evolution by natural selection (unguided evolution), then the probability of your beliefs being reliable (true) should be low because selection operates to maximize survivorship and reproductive success, not accuracy of beliefs about reality. But he then turns this argument around, claiming our beliefs are in fact reliable; therefore unguided evolution (naturalism) must be wrong—this is a defeater for naturalism! So he claims.

I disagree. For the sake of discovering reality, let’s set aside philosophy and look at the empirical evidence. The reliability of beliefs varies widely. Many Americans believe Barack Obama was not born in the United States, for example. That’s not a very reliable belief. As another example, self-esteem is a belief about one’s worth and is notoriously unreliable. Many people I know underestimate their esteem, some overestimate theirs, and a few have it about right. Of course, my estimate of someone else’s self-esteem may be unreliable. As another example, the essential narrative of Christianity—the story of Jesus’ ministry and resurrection—is supported by little if any objective empirical evidence, which is the conclusion reached by historical biblical critics, and yet the Christian narrative is held to be true and accurate by millions of people. So, obviously many beliefs are unreliable, including the essential beliefs of Christianity. Of course some personal beliefs are reliable, but the reality of personal beliefs is hit-and-miss at best. On the other hand, the belief that DNA is the genetic molecule, the earth orbits the sun, and E=mc2 are reliable beliefs and are held to be true by essentially all knowledgeable, rational human beings. The difference between the two sets of examples is that beliefs like Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. and self-esteem are subjective beliefs reached by single individuals in the absence of, or even in spite of, evidence to the contrary, whereas the latter are objective beliefs reached by the culture of science though application of the scientific method. These objective beliefs are usually reliable—that DNA is the genetic molecule is as close to absolutely true as anything we claim to know.

Plantinga argues further that if you believe naturalism and (unguided) evolution, you have a defeater for your own belief—you have a belief that “shoots itself in the foot” because natural selection would evolve cognitive faculties “designed” to maximize survivorship and reproductive success and not the veracity of beliefs about where we came from, why we are here, or the meaning of life. By contrast, he argues, cognitive faculties designed in the image of God would be reliable in those respects. He then turns the argument around and says that our beliefs are, in fact, for the most part reliable, and if that is true then the conjunction of naturalism and unguided evolution must be false.

What Plantinga does not seem to recognize is the vast difference between the reliability of personal beliefs and beliefs derived from the practice of science. The belief that all organisms came to be the way they are through the process of evolution by natural selection is as reliable as any scientifically based belief, including relativity and quantum mechanics.

There are concordances and conflicts—deep and superficial—among science, religion and naturalism, but they do not match well the pattern Plantinga suggests. If you accept Plantinga’s stipulation that you must be an atheist to be a naturalist, then obviously there is a conflict between theism and naturalism. But, many—I suspect most—scientists are not atheists, rather they are agnostics. They say “we just can’t know.” All scientists are naturalists, at least to the extent of being methodological naturalists. It would make no sense to do experiments if one concluded that God had intervened when the results were not as expected. Rather, we rethink the theory, modify it to accommodate the unexpected results and go on to test the theory further. The distinction between rational (hard-core, atheistic) naturalism and methodological naturalism is actually superficial. To do science, you must be a uniformitarian when you are in the laboratory or field—you must leave theism at the laboratory door. What difference does it make if you are a theist, an agnostic or an atheist in your “other life”?

So, where does the conflict really lie? There is no conflict between naturalism and science—you must embrace naturalism at least while you are doing science. But there is an irreconcilable conflict between the epistemologies of science and religion—in what constitutes knowledge and how to obtain knowledge. Choosing between the epistemologies can be addressed only by passing judgment on what each has accomplished. Science has produced technology, religion has not. END


Philip Zimbardo, On Demand
The Lucifer Effect: Understanding
How Good People Turn Evil

Philip Zimbardo

How is it possible for ordinary, average, even good people to become perpetrators of evil? Dr. Zimbardo, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, ran the famous “Stanford Prison Experiment” in the late 1960s that randomly assigned healthy, normal intelligent college students to play the roles of prisoner or guard in a projected 2 week-long study that he was forced to terminate after only 6 days because it went out of control, with pacifists becoming sadistic guards, and normal kids breaking down emotionally. More…

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13 Comments »

13 Comments

  1. Bob Pease says:

    “Naturalism is stronger than atheism: you can be an atheist without rising to the full heights (sinking to the lowest depths?) of naturalism; but you can’t be a naturalist without being an atheist.”

    “Naturalism is stronger than atheism: you can be an atheist without rising to the full heights (sinking to the lowest depths?) of naturalism; …”

    …”; but you can’t be a naturalist without being an atheist.”

    WHAZZUP with THIS??

    If Moore is accurate and complete in his evaluation of this book,
    Why is Plantinga so “respected??”

    Unless some peculiar semantic balderdash can can be assigned to the phrase

    “rising to the full heights” ,it looks like he is saying that naturalism and atheism are subsets of each other without being the same thing.

    Try drawing a Venn diagram on THIS !!

    Dr.S

  2. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    When I was a grad student I was very interested in how religious scientists reconciled their faith with their ‘day job.’ Stephen Jay Gould laid out the non-overlappig magisteria model that seems to explain the most popular means – more or less. The older I get, the smaller this conflict appears to be: we do not do *scientific* research on the supernatural and so can draw no scientific conclusions about it. Religions which make claims about natural laws are on thinner ice than scientists who prove or disprove supernatural beings.

    There is no conflict when both sides stick to their knitting.

    Further, if a person chooses to draw non-scientific conclusions about god that is fine… as long as they realize that the conclusions are non-scientific. Before anyone dismisses non-scientific conclusions, literary experts draw non-scientific conclusions about the meaning(s) of Shakespeare’s plays. Art & music experts draw non-scientific conclusions about those fields. In fact, some of the most meaningful and inspirational things in life are inaccessible to empirical approaches. Science can say nothing about “Who’s the best doggie?” That is OK. Most all dogs are the best dog to someone. There is a subjective reality as well as an objective reality to that – we do not understand it without seeing both of them.

    In-my-not-so-humble-opinion when anyone claims a person cannot simultaneously hold a particular scientific view and a belief in god, they are merely displaying their lack of imagination… about both people and god.

    To end on a joke, a comedian friend of mine, Mark Nadeau quipped “Aren’t religious wars kind of like getting into a fight over who has the best imaginary friend?”

    • Bob Pease says:

      Sadly, many folks think it’s OK to believe in exclusive things simultaneously.

      For the more deranged holders of “Magickal” worldviews, the stock reply to a challenge is
      “You are just “Close” (sic) minded!!”

      often, inquiry is defined as pathology .
      “Only a very sick person would even ASK a question like that !!”

      Sic Transit

      Pease’s Twelfth Law
      “Any question that shouldn’t be asked, MUST be”

      Bob Pease

      • Bad Boy Scientist says:

        Agreed. And I suspect the true issue is magickal thinking vs empirical-based reasoning (and not Religion vs Science).

        Magickal thinking is not intrinsically bad – what options do we have when we consider the realm of non-empirical & nebulous things (gods, love, beauty, honor, etc). Evidence-based reason doesn’t work on these things … just like hammers & nails don’t work on Jelly. In that sense, these things are ‘Magick’ and thinking about them entails some magical thinking.

        Where I think the conflict arises is when people use the wrong way of thinking for a topic. Rationally proving or disproving god or honor is as foolish as using prayer for the proof of a solution for a differential equation.

        God, honor and all those nebulous things _are magickal_ and attempts to make them accessible to evidence-based reasoning necessarily force the conclusion of the reasoning. (When you freeze jelly it becomes rigid – but it is in the shape you froze it in). Every futile attempt to prove or disprove god has implicit assumptions which dictate the outcome.

        It is easy to make God compatible with science since God’s nature is so pliable.

        • jayrayspicer says:

          Magical thinking is definitely intrinsically bad and always unnecessary. It is the root of all human misery. It gives people permission to not consider things carefully. It lets people cling to false hope instead of working towards a solution. It demands that they leap to (and act on) conclusions rather than keep trying to understand. It is the bread and butter of demagoguery and fraud. Far better to simply admit that we don’t understand something yet.

          Evidence-based reason works perfectly well on all sorts of slippery subjects. But of course it requires a good deal more work than magical thinking, and the slipperier the subject, the more work is required. Some subjects are still beyond our grasp, but what option do we have indeed when thinking about those subjects apart from evidence-based reason? Magical thinking isn’t an alternative, “another way of knowing”. It’s a way of giving up on knowing, of satisfying oneself that nonsense is the best we can ever do, of accepting something that sounds like an answer because that feels more satisfying than not having an answer.

          Gould’s NOMA is the desperate last ditch inhabited by the ever-shrinking God of the Gaps. Certainly NOMA has never stopped religion’s verifiably nonsensical pronouncements on the nature of reality. And there really aren’t any areas that can’t be approached scientifically. In fact, that’s the only way humans have ever accomplished anything in any field. Music and literature are more slippery than psychology and economics, but not much more so. And even artists proceed by empirical trial and error, a fundamentally scientific approach. “Hm, these chords make people cover their ears, but these other ones make them happy.” “This draft of the screenplay just doesn’t have the zing it needs. Get me rewrite!” Just because something is overwhelmingly multivariate or operates on an emotional level doesn’t mean it’s supernatural.

    • Dr. Strangelove says:

      “when anyone claims a person cannot simultaneously hold a particular scientific view and a belief in god, they are merely displaying their lack of imagination”

      When you practice the scientific method, you have to believe that god is not intervening in your experiments and observations. So that excludes gods that intervene in human affairs. That excludes Christianity and Islam. Or you have to assume that when doing science, the gods are practically non-existent. You cannot pray to get a desired experimental result. But you can pray to win the lottery or get a wealthy spouse. God will intervene in all human affairs except science. No wonder skeptics find this whole business dubious.

      • Dr. Strangelove says:

        If god can intervene in human affairs except science, then he is not above the laws of nature. He may have created the world but he obeys the laws of nature. This concept of superior beings is speculated in the book and movie Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (H2G2). It claims Earth (including humans and all life forms) is a gigantic computer made hyperintelligent pandimensional beings in a grand experiment to answer the ultimate meaning of life, the universe and everything. This makes H2G2 a better guide to theology than the bible. Except H2G2 is a comedy and a farce.

  3. Fred Kohler says:

    Bob Pease is entirely correct when he calls most of Plantinga’s book “semantic balderdash” To his question “why is Plantinga so respected I would answer in the form of a little ditty (I believe to be from Gilbert & Sullivan)

    If this young man (in this case an old man) expresses himself in terms too deep for me
    What a very, very deep young man this deep young man must be.

    Aside of that he reflects official Catholic doctrine. The only way the Catholic position on evolution makes even as much as arguable sense is to assume God occasionally interveens in evolution

    • Bob Pease says:

      From what I get lately, the “official” position of the Catholic Church is that the
      Human body has evolved through Natural Selection and the intervention by God was to “infuse” the “soul ” in one particular individual at the time of conception.
      Intervention in the process of evolution is not required.
      This was done to exactly one Homo Sapiens at some very early time in Prehistory.
      I have to go now but I’ll get back with chapter and verse from the Official Catechism.

      RJP

    • Dr. Strangelove says:

      The Catholic doctrine on evolution is superfluous and contrived. This can be fixed by Occam’s razor. Assumptions are made to support a particular religious belief yet they are unnecessary and not supported by direct evidence. You can always assume that every time an apple falls from a tree, a dozen gods in Mt. Olympus convened a meeting and decided to allow the apple to fall. Or you can simply assume it’s gravity. Occam invented the razor to minimize our propensity for nonsense and wild imaginations.

      • Bob Pease says:

        It looks to me like the Catholic Church has USED Occam’s razor by removing the requirement to believe in
        Creative act by God for any change in speciation or whatever.

        The reason for the clarification is to define the creation of the “soul” as a separate area of discourse.

        This means that “intelligent design” is not a dogma .

        The authority of anybody to pontificate on these matters is still moot.
        It seems to me that Catholics who might think that Theistic Evolution is
        a required Catholic belief don’t know their own Church..
        But Most Catholics don’t know the differences between the Immaculate Conception , Virgin Birth or Incarnation .

        I can speak from some authority of experience here, having taught Religion as a “Lay”
        teacher.

        FYI, my personal ideas run along the lines of Logical Positivism, but
        it’s a bad idea to tell folks that their beliefs are neither true or false because they don’t even make sense.
        The best response to say “tell me more about that!”
        A good answer is
        “How about them Broncos”

        Pope Bobby II
        69th Clench of the Stark Fist of Removal
        Reformed Church of the Subgenius
        Reformed Church of

  4. Kay says:

    It seems simple to me: Here is the world all around us. Show me a convincing (not circumstantial) proof that there is a guiding intelligence behind it all. Until you can convince me, I will do without. I do not need to prove the negative, that there is no Master Intelligence running the show; it’s not my problem. I don’t mind people believing any sort of story that makes them feel good, provided they leave me alone. That’s all.

    • Bob Pease says:

      They Can’t leave you alone.
      Biblical Fundamentalists believe that their “Burthen” ( obligation in partial payment for the gift of “Gittin’ Saved”)
      is to proselyte a lot.

      One of Dr. Sidethink’s observation is
      “Arguing with Fundamentalists is like playing bridge with monkeys..
      They think they’ve won if they eat the cards.”
      The problem with Laissez-faire is that most “TROOBEELEEVERS”
      are also Dominionist and want to make laws against Orwellian “BADTHINK”

      Ciao

      Bob Pease

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The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience? If so, you know how compelling they can be. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

Reality Check

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future

The battles over evolution, climate change, childhood vaccinations, and the causes of AIDS, alternative medicine, oil shortages, population growth, and the place of science in our country—all are reaching a fevered pitch. Many people and institutions have exerted enormous efforts to misrepresent or flatly deny demonstrable scientific reality to protect their nonscientific ideology, their power, or their bottom line…

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Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

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Top 10 Things You Should Know About Alternative Medicine

Top 10 Things You Should Know About Alternative Medicine

Topics include: chiropractic, the placebo effect, homeopathy, acupuncture, and the questionable benefits of organic food, detoxification, and ‘natural’ remedies.

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Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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