Thursday, July 30, 2015

An accomodationist defends the science of the Pope in the journal Nature

I don't think scientific journals or scientific organizations should take a position on the conflict between science and religion but that doesn't mean they should stay away from the subject altogether. The journal Nature has just (July 28, 2015) published a defense of accomodationism written by David M. Lodge [Faith and science can find common ground]. Lodge describes himself as a "Protestant ecologist embedded for 30 years in a Roman Catholic university." The Catholic University is Notre Dame [see David M. Lodge].

His main argument is that the current Pope understands the science of the environment and has spoken out in favor of protecting the environment. David Lodge thinks this represents an accomomodation between science and religion.
By framing protection of the environment as protecting human welfare, the Pope has linked the interests of groups that are often at odds. He offers some middle ground on which both sides of this polarized debate can meet and work towards a mutually desirable future.

Such a compromise between the extremes of the religious and environmentalist positions could also help to defuse other sources of tension between faith and science.
I'm glad the Pope uses legitimate scientific arguments to defend his views but surely that's not Earth-shattering news? Isn't it what we expect from any intelligent human being?

There's more.
To many people, the two cannot be reconciled — so much so that when I tell people I am a biologist, believe in evolution and work on environmental issues, I am often told that I cannot be a Christian. Sadly, this is the message in many conservative Protestant churches: choose between science and faith.

The same polarization is urged by many prominent popularizers of science and the ‘New Atheists’ — with Richard Dawkins as their figurehead. Is it so surprising, then, that in the United States especially, atheism is over-represented among scientists, and that science–faith polarization is increasingly reflected in political and cultural discourse?
There's a very large difference between the anti-science views of conservative Protestants in the USA and the anti-accommodationist views of some scientists. One of these views is logical and rational and the other isn't. Lodge does his readers a great disservice by associating them.

Furthermore, there are many reasons why American scientists are more likely to be atheists than the general public in that country. One of them is not that they listen to the "New Atheists." Most of them can see for themselves that there's a conflict between behaving as a scientist and following a religion. In many cases, they were nonbelievers before they became scientists. Most of then have never heard of the "New Atheists."
For example, nothing in the official teaching of Catholicism opposes evolution. Creationism is a recent Protestant invention, based on extreme, literal interpretations of the first three chapters of the Bible’s book of Genesis. Catholicism relies more on an interpretation of the scriptures that is rooted in a tradition of reason informing faith. Yet when I ask my biology undergraduates whether they feel a conflict between their faith and evolution, about half of every class — 85% of whom are Catholic — say yes.
Young Earth Creationism is hardly a recent invention and it's not the only form of creationism. David Lodge is a creationist and so is the current Pope. The Catholic church makes a lot of noise about accepting evolution but its view is basically a version of Theistic Evolution with a heavy emphasis on "Theistic."

Here's what Pope Francis said last October (2014) [see Catholic Church and Evolution].
[God] created beings and allowed them to develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one, so that they were able to develop and to arrive and their fullness of being. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time at which he assured them of his continuous presence, giving being to every reality. And so creation continued for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became which we know today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the creator who gives being to all things... The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it. The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.
Pope Francis is a really nice guy but the students in David Lodge's class know a conflict when they see one. They know that a true scientific view of evolution does not allow any room for gods—especially the Roman Catholic god. They also know creationism when they see it.

Some of those students might be Young Earth Creationists, in which case they disagree with the Pope, if they are Catholic. Some of the 85% who call themselves Catholic might actually be atheists. I suspect that more than 20% of the students at Notre Dame are actually atheists in all but name. Many of the remaining students know that science and religion conflict on many fronts so they answer the question honestly, as they should.

Most of the people who read Nature don't care what the Pope thinks about the environment or climate change and they certainly don't think that it has anything to do with the deeper conflict between science and religion. I'm guessing that this includes Catholics like Ken Miller and Michael Behe who are quite used to picking and choosing which Papal opinions they will follow and which ones they will ignore. That's exactly how most Catholic behave, especially in Europe and North America.

We've discussed the inherent conflict between science and religion many times on this blog. There are dozens of books and articles about the conflict. Maybe some of David Lodge's students have read those books? Maybe their teachers hasn't?

Let's review the main reason why evolution poses a problem for all religions. Almost all religions assume that the Earth is a special place among all the billions of planets in the universe. In addition, they assume that humans—or something like them—are special creatures that the gods prefer. Many believers think that their gods created humans directly, but even among "sophisticated" believers who accept evolution, their gods must play a role in the evolution of humans. In some cases the gods created the universe in such a way that humans would inevitably evolve and come to worship their creators. In other cases, the gods tweaked the process from time to time to make sure that intelligent god-worshiping beings would appear.

Is such a view compatible with evolution, properly understood? No it is not. Jerry Coyne has written extensively about this in his book Faith vs Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. You should read his book. Here's the summary of this argument. It corresponds to my own views on Evolution by Accident.

This is from pages 146-147 at the end of the section on "Was the Evolution of Humans Inevitable?"
What this means is that if life began all over again, even on our own primitive Earth, the mutations that are evolution's raw material would be different. And if the raw material of evolution differed, so would its products: all the species alive today. All it would take is a few different mutations occurring early in the history of life, for instance, and everything that followed might have been very different from what actually evolved.

The upshot is that if mutations are fundamentally indeterminate, a replay of evolution would likely give us an array of species very different from those we see today. And we couldn't be sure at all that humans would be among them. The only way around this conclusion is to abandon naturalistic evolution and invoke a god supervising the process, making the right midcourse corrections to ensure that humans appeared.

Putting this together, if we replay the tape of either cosmic or biological evolution, we simply can't make a rational and logical argument that the appearance of humanoids was inevitable—and we can make a good argument that is was not. Any other answer involves either wishful thinking or unscientific claims grounded in theology, like God-directed mutations.

In the end, theistic evolution is not a useful compromise between science and religion. Insofar as it makes testable predictions, it has been falsified, and insofar as it makes claims that can't be tested, it can be ignored,
This is why evolution and religion conflict. Science says that humans were not inevitable and they are not special. No major religion agrees with this conclusion.


  1. Playing Devil's advocate (although term is not particularly apt in this case): I doubt the Vatican's position is that humans specifically are pre-ordained to arise from evolution. Just that organism with something like our cognitive abilities were. Not that that necessarily strengthens the argument.

    1. I don't think that's the position either -- it's closer to outright creationism than that.

      The Vatican also claims that immaterial souls exist -- which means that physics has to wrong too, not just biology.

    2. I think to even say it contradicts physics gives that claim more credence than it deserves. The idea is not even coherent enough in itself to say that much.

      So your "soul" is somehow involved in the things you perceive, think and feel, all of which involve physical processes that can be demonstrated by functional neuroimaging techniques? And, yet, this "soul" is supposed to be "immaterial"? That makes no sense whatsoever.

    3. Well, it doesn't have to be "immaterial" - it could be made of something we have no idea about, which would be equivalent to "immaterial" from our perspective.

      But it would still have to interact with ordinary matter, and do so at fairly low energies for the concept to make sense. Now I don't claim to understand the Standard Model as well as I probably should, but smarter and more knowledgeable people than me have pointed out on numerous occasions that there is no place in it for such additions. That's one of out best tested scientific theories, and it would have to be fundamentally wrong for souls to exist, and not merely wrong as Newtonian physics was wrong with respect to modern physics, which only becomes apparent at scales way beyond our ordinary experience, but wrong long before the analogous point is reached. So it's not a difficult choice to make.

      There is one workaround the problem that I can think of -- there is no soul while you're alive, it gets "created" when you die and your material consciousness gets transferred to it and all that happens in a completely separate realm beyond any detection and testing. Which does not provide a scientifically satisfactory solution to the problem, because, as is always done with religious claims, it does so by making it forever untestable, but the bigger problem is that it is also very much not what the church has taught for thousands of years.

  2. May i ask a question to all those who comment here and are atheist? Did your scientific inquiry lead you to atheism or was it your atheism that led you to scientific inquiry?

    1. I remember being interested in science from early childhood, long before the question of whether any gods existed even crossed my mind as one to be considered. So I guess option A.

    2. @Beau: For me it was getting a bible at school which said whites are superior and blacks etc. are less than whites because god didn't bake them correct. My classroom was filled at that time with more than 50% natives of the country who certainly weren't whites.
      A few years later my father died at a very young age, and for me that was the final straw. How could any deity be called nice/ loving when he took my father away when I was at an age when I really needed him.
      And later on in high school I discovered how cool biology really was. And when I finished my bachelor at the beginning of the 90's my project was on small repeats in DNA. Part of the project was sequence comparison of a small DNA repeat between horses and donkeys and zebra's. The repeat was localized in the centromeres of chromosomes. Interesting was the bit where we predicted sequence differences between the different equine species compared to a common ancestor, and the amount of mutations corresponded with predictions.

      For me, Beau, the moment was when my father died and people thought they would sooth my pain by saying he was with god.

    3. Ed, I'm sorry about the loss of your father. I can see how that story about black people would be a turnoff as well. The treatment of blacks in the United States and the silence of Christians has been quite concerning to me lately.

    4. That's a deceptively simple question.

      I was born in 1985, in Eastern Europe. This means that there was nobody to indoctrinate me into believing in God from an early age because that was not done for obvious reasons before 1989, but it was not also not yet done in the first years after 1989 (now it's a different story). However, I was also not indoctrinated into atheism, because in the 1980s the system had degenerated to the point this was not top priority for anyone. But I was given plenty of science books for children to read prior to going to school so I had ingested the basics of the cosmological model of modern science a couple of years before I started school (Big Bang, evolution, etc.). And that's when I first encountered the idea that a God exists and created the world (there were kids in my class who were not as fortunate with respect to the families they were born in). It was complete nonsense to me then given what I already knew and it still is. And then I became an aware atheist (I must have been 8 at the time), but I would not have been an active one if there was no religion to position yourself in opposition to.

    5. Did your scientific inquiry lead you to atheism or was it your atheism that led you to scientific inquiry?

      Neither. I have always been a nonbeliever but I don't see how that played a role in deciding to study science in university.

    6. Very interesting account, Georgi. I'd like to see a world in which your experience was the norm, and childhood indoctrination into religion was a rarity to non-existent.

    7. Hi Beau,
      I was raised Roman Catholic and remained a believer until about 5 years ago. My work in evolutionary biology and science in general had something to do with that of course, but it was really precipitated by other Christians.

    8. Beau: neither. I was an atheist by the time I was in high school, and I was interested in science from an early age. No correlation.

    9. The intrinsic incoherency of theism (invisible things that are everywhere and know everything and can do everything) made me an atheist.

    10. Hey Beau,

      I was born an atheist just like you and was indoctrinated in the local voodoo as a child just like you.

      And it was people just like you that made me realize that I in no way wanted to be just like you and that atheism is the only morally defensible position to take with respect to the existence of psychopathic sky gods, unlike you.

    11. Beau, I was a biologist and Christian from a very young age. As in, I decided in second grade that I would grow up to be a biologist, and I am. I applied same intelligence and ability to think logically to both biology and religion (less often to religion). Eventually I learned a lot about how the Bible was written and about comparative religion. At this point, I think that it's unlikely that there is a god of any kind, and that the Christian idea of god certainly doesn't match the real world as I see it. So I was a scientist before I was an atheist, but science didn't directly cause the atheism. Science did play a role, though, because it shows me a world where "God is good" and "God created the world" can't both be true.

    12. Beau Stoddard asked:

      "May i ask a question to all those who comment here and are atheist? Did your scientific inquiry lead you to atheism or was it your atheism that led you to scientific inquiry?"

      Right now, the best answer I can give to that is this:

      My curiosity led me to scientific inquiry, and still does. Being an atheist makes it a lot easier to be curious and to keep my curiosity going. As an atheist I don't have to stifle my curiosity or compartmentalize religious beliefs and curiosity/scientific inquiry. I am free to look for and see things as they actually are, not as I am told to see things or told to be blind to things by preachers, so-called 'holy-books', or any other religious people or dogma. My mind is open to anything that is actually real, and is closed to anything that is obviously not real, such as every so-called 'God' that anyone has ever conjured up, Bigfoot, winged unicorns, fire breathing dragons, or a plesiosaur living in a lake in Scotland.

    13. Thanks for all of your answers gentleman i appreciate the perspective.

    14. Neither for me too. I was never much convinced by religion from an early age. I was fascinated by nature from a similar age, and this led to my studying first zoology, then switching to biochemistry as I found it interesting. I don't see much of a connection.

    15. I never rejected religion, because I never had any. My parents considered themselves atheists when I was young. They said to us kids "This is what we think, you get to decide for yourself. If you want to explore religion we'll be happy to help you get to church or synagogue."

      This means I never had to first accept, then furiously reject any religion, or vow to have everyone who had religion follow my path away from it. Because for me there was no path. Seeing what others go through going one way or the other, it sure saved me a lot of Sturm und Drang.

      As for science, I just thought it was cool and liked thinking about it. I found evolution fascinating from about age 14 on, but it never occurred to me then that it would play any role in arguing against religion. Because I wasn't spending time or mental effort doing that. And most of the religious folk I encountered belonged to faiths that didn't object to evolution, so no big deal.

      If you want to find examples of how a desire to destroy Christianity (or Judaism) led someone to believe in evolution, I'm not a good example. I do think that people for whom divine interventions are happening all around them are less likely to become scientists, because scientists spend their time looking for natural causes of natural events. That alone should produce some correlation between varieties of religion/nonreligion and interest in science.

    16. Now here's a question for you, Beau: Did your rejection of science result from your belief in God, or did you start believing in God because you rejected science?

    17. I was enormously impressed by science and totally unimpressed by religion as far as I can remember (the two atitudes often go together, but that doesn't mean that one of them causes the other). My father was a science teacher and my mother a physician, both from traditional Catholic families but indifferent to religion themselves. All my grandparents were religious, but that didn't affect me greatly despite their best efforts.

      I was introduced to evolution early, when I saw an exibition presenting the finds of the Polish-Mongolian paleontological expeditions to the Gobi desert in the 1960s. One book which I remeber fondly from my primary school days was 400 million years of vertebrate history by Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska (she died ealier this year; she organised that exhibition, and would later become one of the leading experts on Mesozoic mammals). It would be terribly outdated today, after 50 years (even the title would have to be rewritten), but it was incredibly cool.

    18. I would say, along with others, that my natural curiosity led me to science. My fascination with all things scientific was so well known to friends and neighbors that they'd get me astronomy books as a child instead of the more traditional stuff you'd give a five or six year old. You know those little crayon art projects that decorate the walls of grade schools? I'd read Isaac Asimov's "The World of Carbon" and "The World of Nitrogen," so my drawings hanging on the wall of the second grade classroom were of organic molecules.

      I was raised by pretty traditional (though not Orthodox) Jewish parents. I learned to read the Bible in both English and Hebrew (Old Testament, of course). It was quite evident even to a little child that the stories were nonsense if thought of literally. God marked Cain so other people wouldn't hurt him? *What* other people?

      I actually got more of an appreciation of Judaism's central idea later in life, when I drew a parallel between people of 2000 years ago trying to explain their world and physicists of today: monotheism was in a sense the Grand Unified Theory of the ancient world.

      As for the moral side: again, it was obvious even to a child that religious piety and human goodness did not go hand in hand (especially to a Jewish child often the target of scorn or insults from "good Christians"). My thinking on moral responsibility is essentially quite simple - we are each responsible for our own behavior, no deities to call upon as excuses. So it's up to each of us to do good in the world.

    19. Like many others here, an interest in science and nature seemed innate from an early age - before I gave much thought to any religious matters.

      As for religion, my Grandmother was a Jehovah's Witness and a family would come every weekend to visit and read bible lessons and such. These were very nice people, were company for my grandmother, and never asked her for money or anything else. They would get me to read passages from the bible and praise me for being a good reader (I was 8 or so). The thing is, as far as I can recollect, it never occurred to me to actually literally believe the details of the stories. They were like fairy tales to me - the point was there were lessons to be learned from the stories, but no special reason to believe in the actual details. I cannot recall any point in my life where theology seemed anything other than fiction with a purpose.

    20. Self-correction:

      as far as I can remember

      => as far back as I can remember. My childhood memories are quite clear.

    21. Luitesuite, Why do you assume i reject science? I've stated numerous times I'm not qualified to have an opinion on science. Can't you let me call myself stupid without resistance? (Save the joke ) My only opinion about evolution is that i don't see any practical use for such knowledge in every day life. Then again I'm not a scientist. Why do you assume so many believers reject science? As I've stated before, in my experience, most believers just don't care.

    22. My only opinion about evolution is that i don't see any practical use for such knowledge in every day life.

      How about medicine? Understanding of evolution creates the framework in which biological research creating medical advances can take place.

    23. When doctors, even medical researchers, are asked whether they use evolution in their work, they typically say no. They are not remembering that they are very dependent on experimentation on model organisms (rats, mice, pigs, dogs, and monkeys particularly). They are very dependent on common descent. If these organisms were not closely related, you might as well try out new heart operations on a carrot, it would be just as likely to be a relevant test.

    24. Mr Felsenstein, you nailed it as far as doctors go. I have multiple sclerosis, marfans syndrome, liver disease and a few other ailments. Needless to say i see plenty of doctors and I've asked every one, out of curiosity, if the field of evolution was beneficial to their education. All except one have said no in almost a scoffing tone. To be fair i think they were all believers which i also found interesting. I'm not saying they were right, just small talk in the doctors office.

    25. Judmarc, I don't mean to say the study of evolution has no use. I mean in comparison to math and let's say reading the average guy can get by with no knowledge of evolution. I've never been nor seen someone in a jam that said "I should've paid more attention in biology class". I'm admittedly ignorant about evolution though so maybe i can't recognize a time when that knowledge would come in handy.

    26. My dad (now retired) taught high school science for around thirty years. That doesn't mean that that's all we talked about, but wildlife documentaries were common on our TV and certainly many of our holidays revolved around appreciating nature in some way: beach holidays weren't just about fishing and sandcastles and bushwalks were always a little more than just peace, quiet and nice scenery. My parents' love for nature was infectious and my brothers and I grew up with a great affinity for animals and the environment - growing up on a large property in country South Australia also gave us free access to wild places, as well as to the world of agriculture, which is not without its scientific aspects.

      Religion wasn't discussed - not out of any parental proscription, but later in life I theorised that they left the topic alone out of respect for our freedom. We did attend Sunday School, but our mother removed us as she objected to five year-olds being indoctrinated with horror stores of Hell. Primary school carried compulsory Religious Instruction classes each week and high school featured occasional Religious Education seminars, which were really just opportunities for the local evangelists to proselytise. I didn't realise at the time that this was highly inappropriate behaviour for public schools to engage in.

      Nonetheless, I considered myself Christian until around age 15, where my cynicism regarding organised religion, which had been building for a couple of years, crystallised and focused on Christianity (I had always had doubts, for example wondering at age 7 if my Catholic friends would go to my Heaven, or just go to Hell, and where exactly God would draw the line between Hitler and the men who dropped the atomic bomb). My faith had also been waning and it was not a difficult thing to let it go. At that point I began gravitating toward a non-practising spiritual deism, but around a decade ago I realised I'd basically been an unaware atheist.

      TL;DR: science first, then atheism. They didn't even intersect until after I'd realised I was atheist.

    27. Beau, I agree that the average guy (or gal) can get by with no knowledge of evolution (and evolutionary theory). I would also say that many people who work in scientific fields, including biology, don't need knowledge of evolution or evolutionary theory because they are technicians (not that there's anything wrong with that) who perform particular tasks and don't need to understand how their tasks are or may be connected to evolution and/or evolutionary theory. However, some people who work in scientific fields should or must be knowledgeable of evolution and evolutionary theory if they want to accomplish productive results.

      All of us, including doctors, rely on the curiosity, intelligence, and knowledge of people who work at figuring out the intricate details of how nature works. Investigating and understanding evolution and adding what is learned to evolutionary theory that steers scientists toward productive observations, inferences, hypotheses, and conclusions is critical to many scientific and societal needs or wants. Just a few examples are the studies being done to understand the evolution of bacteria, viruses, and parasites so that the non-harmful or beneficial ones can be left alone or put to 'good use' and the harmful ones can be diminished or wiped out if possible, without causing other problems. The more that is understood about nature, the better that wise decisions can be made.

      I'm not saying that scientists of any particular type are always right and never do any harm, or that investigating and understanding evolution means that a cure or solution for every harmful thing will eventually be found, or that evolutionary theory is complete, irrefutable, and totally agreed upon, but I have long been convinced that evolution is a fact and that ongoing investigation into its details is a worthwhile endeavor. Plus, it's just plain interesting.

      I want to add that even though I disagree with your religious beliefs, I wish you well with your health problems. I too have some 'disabilities' and know what it's like to be reliant on medical research, technology, and doctors.

      Stick around and keep asking questions. I'll admit that I also often don't understand what some of the guys and gals here are talking about.

    28. Thank you TWT i hope the your ailments improve as well.

    29. @Beau Stoddard:

      Luitesuite, Why do you assume i reject science? I've stated numerous times I'm not qualified to have an opinion on science.

      Oh. You don't like questions with hidden assumptions? How ironic.

      @ Joe Felsenstein:

      When doctors, even medical researchers, are asked whether they use evolution in their work, they typically say no. They are not remembering that they are very dependent on experimentation on model organisms (rats, mice, pigs, dogs, and monkeys particularly). They are very dependent on common descent.

      Nail on the head. Linnaeus didn't seem to think he was just engaging in some arbitrary accounting exercise when he derived his taxonomy. He was describing some sort of biological truth, even if its exact nature evaded him.

    30. Lute you win you're the semantic warlord.

  3. The Pope has the same standing to speak on science as anyone else.

    If he's correct on an issue, then it's convenient that he wields social power. when he's wrong, it's inconvenient.

    The problem is, he has power that is disassociated from his expertize or to his commitment to truth. He has the Dembski problem. He's committed to saying certain things regardless of evidence.

    1. The Pope apparently had an interesting career before he went into the clergy. It seems that he was once a chemist and barroom bouncer.

    2. His studies in chemistry, however, are often exaggerated:

      I have no comment on his work as a bouncer.

  4. Re Prof. Moran

    billions of planets in the universe.

    Actually, there are probably several hundred billion planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone.

  5. The Catholic church, and presumably the pope, also demand that you believe that Adam and Eve were real people and are the exclusive ancestors of all humans. That's a big problem.

    1. Yes. Pius XII inadvertently acknoweldged this in his Humani generis:

      When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.

      Of course, now that polygenism, far from being a "conjectural opinion", is pretty well a scientific fact, it appears that the children of the Church have such liberty after all. I'm not aware of exactly what theological discovery has been made that permits this reconciliation, but obviously one has been made. Otherwise, the Vatican would have informed its followers that the show is now over, time to pack up and go home. It is very fortunate that theologians were able to make this discovery just at the moment that science necessitated it.

    2. Of course, now that polygenism, far from being a "conjectural opinion", is pretty well a scientific fact

      The what?! Polygenism was the view that humans evolved several times separately from ancestral species in different places. The alternative view was that Homo sapiens evolved only once at a particular location and in fact that view is the only sensible hypothesis in the light of evolution. The consensus has moved on to actually state where the origin of humans lies - out of Africa is very well established.

      It's worth noting that we do know that there have been individuals from which all living human beings are descendents. I don't see what precisely the issue is with one of these being the locus for the abstract notion of original sin.

    3. There are multiple meanings of monogenism and polygenism. The Christian theological meanings refer to descent from a single first couple or from a larger population.

      Humani generis doesn't refer just to individuals from which all living humans are descendants. It refers to individuals from which all living humans are solely descended. That is, there can be no other humans alive at the time from whom we are also descended.

    4. The what?! Polygenism was the view that humans evolved several times separately from ancestral species in different places.

      Apologies. that's a pretty big error on my part. I misunderstand the term to only mean any position other than that that all humans originated from a single pair. However, this does not contradict my main point, which is that Pius' position is incompatible with current scientific knowledge, as John Harshman points out.

    5. The whole thing has been settled. Every scientist who studies human evolution should either retire or switch to other organisms. AIG has produced a video in which Georgia Purdom "displays the validity of the creation story by examining the genetics of all people", and AIG is, of course, always right:

    6. @John: AFAIK the theological argument goes back further. As the enlightenment gave rise to modern racism, religious justifications of racism including the practice of slavery were tied to the notion of "pre-Adamite man", that is humans that existed before Adam and were separate from the chosen people. This idea included the notion that pre-adamites could not be christians (because they did not have original sin and thus did not need a saviour). Catholicism disagreed and actively tried to convert all people to catholicism.
      When racism started using pseudo-scientific arguments the notion of pre-adamites was transformed into the polygenic view.

    7. Simon is right, there is a scientific consensus that we all are descended from Eve and her mate. It's just that only our mitochondria came from her, for she was Mitochondrial Eve. Other parts of our genome may have come from Cytochrome Sam or Hemoglobin Beta Betty. But the mitochondrion is sufficient to make Catholic doctrine technically correct.

      Of course it was a lot more than 6,000 years ago, but the Church does not insist on that figure.

      Now if we could only figure out where on the mitochondrion the Original Sin is encoded ...

    8. The alternative view was that Homo sapiens evolved only once at a particular location and in fact that view is the only sensible hypothesis in the light of evolution. The consensus has moved on to actually state where the origin of humans lies - out of Africa is very well established.

      My layperson's understanding is that things have gotten a bit more complex in light of genomic research on other human species. I think just about all of us have got a bit of Neanderthal and Denisovan in us.

      An interesting blog on this and related topics:

    9. I don't see what precisely the issue is with one of these being the locus for the abstract notion of original sin.

      The problem seems to be that the Catholic Church takes a literalist position on this part of the Bible, and that Original Sin must be passed down in a hereditary manner to all humans after Adam, and directly from him, in a manner similar to genetic inheritance. This is obviously not possible; There would have existed people who are not descendents of Adam for a considerable period of time after that whole business with the tree and the talking snake.

      This is all tied in some way to the necessity of Jesus' death and resurrection, and of Mary's having been conceived immaculately. But the details of the theological reasons behind all this are beyond me.

    10. Again, Humani Generis says that all people must descend from Adam and Eve, and exclusively from Adam and Eve. When they lived is not specified, and whether they descended from a previous population is not specified. But no part of our genomes can have any other ancestors.

      And this, of course, is not true.

    11. I'm not sure that this is what HG says. The main issue there is that "true men" in sensu HG might not be the same as "members of H.sapiens". AFAIK original sin in recent catholic theology is the capability to act in some way, while being aware that this act is wrong. That's certainly not a trait that has been present forever, but started at some point and the reading of genesis is not as literal as demanding the actual eating of fruit from the tree of knowledge...

    12. You can of course weasel your way into a special reading of any text you like. But the reading I stated seems quite clear to me. Attempting to reconcile any of it with actual biology would be an amusing but futile exercise. Humani generic doesn't cover fruit, or snakes, or any other aspects of the story other than exclusive descent of the extant population from a first couple. But it covers that explicitly.

  6. How can evolutionary theory explain common descent then if you reject that all humans had the same ancestors? Was there another uncommon descent? What are you implying?

    1. Are you truly this stupid or did you just shut off your brain when your pastor told you to ask this question?

      What's next, why are there still monkeys? Why does the banana fit in my vagina?

    2. All humans have the same ancestors. However, there were never just two of these ancestors alive at one time. A minimum population for human ancestors has been calculated but I don't remember it -- 2500? A lot more than 2, anyway.

    3. Correction: If you go back far enough, all humans have the same ancestors. (We've branched into many different lineages more recently.)

    4. Not true. You're talking about the coalescent of the entire human genome. I don't think there is one, or if there is it's very, very far back, since balancing and/or frequency-dependent selection maintains a lot of very old polymorphism. Different pieces of the genome have different last common ancestors, and the common ancestor of all those common ancestors would be predate the human-chimpanzee split, at least.

    5. Drat. I see what you mean. I meant something a bit different than I said. I'd better give up for now.

    6. The coalescence of the whole human genome into one (or two) ancestor(s) just won't happen. You can go back far enough that almost all genes are coalesced into one copy each. But many of those copies are in different individuals. As those individual lineages go backward in time, any two of them might come to the same individual, but further back they separate again due to recombination between loci, or due to one having been in a maternally-derived chromosome and one in a paternally-derived chromosome.

      Get all of these lineages into one individual at the same time? Won't ever happen unless population size is tiny.

    7. Why does the banana fit in my vagina?

      I'm pretty sure that Ray Comfort has already answered, however inadvertantly, that question.

  7. Coyne says:
    "In the end, theistic evolution is not a useful compromise between science and religion. Insofar as it makes testable predictions, it has been falsified, and insofar as it makes claims that can't be tested, it can be ignored,"

    Can anyone on this blog say the same about evolution what Coyne claims to be a fact? Is Coyne off? I have no English term to describe his state of incomprehension. The man is mad.

    1. Since most people who comment here probably agree with Coyne, you will have to try to alleviate our states of incomprehension by telling us what's wrong with the statement.

    2. Can anyone on this blog say the same about evolution what Coyne claims to be a fact?

      No. On the contrary, not a single one of the very many testable predictions arising from evolutionary theory has been falsified.

      Is English not your first language by any chance, liesforthedevil? Both your recent comments here indicate an inability to understand the statements to which you are responding.

    3. Just because most people HERE agree with Coyne, it doesn't necessarily make it true. I didn't see any references by Coyne or anybody here. It isn't another scientific consensus that has been agreed upon by the majority opinion of a small group rather than scientific evidence? I betcha that it is

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Well, then, liesforthedevil, it should be simple for you to prove that Coyne is incorrect. Kindly cite a testable prediction from theistic evolution/evolutionary creationism that has not been falsified. Here's my prediction: You won't be able to. I'll be pleasantly surprised if you even try.

    6. It isn't another scientific consensus that has been agreed upon by the majority opinion of a small group rather than scientific evidence?

      Got to agree with lutesuite, you are very evidently not understanding the words you use, such as "scientific consensus."

    7. I really like the latest evolutionary falsified prediction:

      "The great dinosaur fossil hoax

      China has enjoyed an unprecedented gold rush of feathered dinosaur fossils – but how many are real?"

    8. Evolutionary theory does not predict that people will not attempt to forge fossils. Do you not understand the concept of "falsification"?

      So can I take that I was correct, and you cannot provide any examples of non-falsified predictions of evolutionary creationism?

    9. So can I take that I was correct, and you cannot provide any examples of non-falsified predictions of evolutionary creationism?

      Heck, can he provide any *falsified* predictions? The history of evolution has both, showing it responds to factual evidence. The history of design has neither, showing it never was and has never been about the evidence.

    10. There's just not enough facepalm for this...
      There's just not enough.
      How do you explain anything to somebody who's so fundamentally flawed from not even the foundation, more like from the blueprints for the foundation?

    11. How the hell are feathered dinosaurs a "falsified" prediction of evolution? Even if Chinese people forge some, many others are real.

      There are *DOZENS* of separate species of feathered dinosaurs. Real ones. Creationists predicted that NO INTERMEDIATES would exist between dinosaur and bird. They lost as much as anyone could ever lose on any scientific topic.

    12. And if a Chinese fossil dealer glues together a fake fossil, who will find it out, (1) professional palaeontologists or (2) the Disco Toot geniuses?

      By the way, "Archaeoraptor" was a combination of two authentic feathered dinosaurs (or primitive birds, which is bloody much the same thing), Microraptor and Yanornis.

    13. After 100 years or so of hundreds of tons of false fossils supposedly supporting evolution, one should stop and think instead of supporting the lies for the devil.

    14. liesforthedevil is a good nick for a lying troll. Suits you, sir.

    15. Hundreds of tons of false fossils

      In what alternative reality?

    16. One: Piltdown man. Two: "Archaeoraptor". Three -- whatever... How many hundred tons do they weigh together?

    17. Nebraska Man is the one that tips the scales.

    18. Nebraska Man was not a fake. It was a real fossil of a peccary tooth misidentified as an ape tooth. *One* fossil misidentified falsifes evolution? Really? So would you say that if creationists misidentify *one* fossil, that that falsifies the Bible and Biblical creationism?

      Who invented the rule that *one* fossil misidentified falsifies a theory? I don't know, but since you presuppose that, I need only list *one* fossil misidentified by creationists and that falsifies the Bible's creation story.

      So let's see. If we focus just on misidentified teeth that falsify creationism, there's "Humanus Davidii", the tooth of a prehistoric tooth that creationist Carl Baugh said was from a pre-Flood human.

      So would you agree that one tooth misidentified falsifies the Bible's creation story?

      I can list a bunch more creationist frauds. There's the Paluxy River fraud-prints, allegedly human prints in the same strata as dinosaurs, but in fact crudely carved by fraudsters during the Great Depression, and promoted by the granddaddy of Young Earth creationism, Henry Morris, and his son, and by the founder of Intelligent Design Theory, A. E. Wilder-Smith, and of course by Carl Baugh, a fraud-firing machine gun.

      There're the Berea, Kentucky man-prints-- two groups of those, one set of footprint-like squiggles crudely drawn in chalk by Native Americans (?), the other set just dragged-out footprints of four-toed amphibians. They were promoted by Wilder-Smith and "Professor" (not) Ian Juby.

      There's the "Black Skull of Freiberg", a statue made of coal pushed as a pre-Flood human fossil by the granddaddy of creationism, Henry Morris.

      There's the Calaveras skeleton, a straight up fraud that some coal miners pulled on a scientist.

      There's the "Coso Artifact", a 1920's era spark plug from a Model T found on a mountain top, alleged to be from pre-Flood super-technology, promoted by Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis.

      There's Moab Man/Malachite Man, some relatively recent Native American burials falsely described by creationists as being found in undisturbed strata. Promoted by Carl Baugh and others.

      Recently we have seen many examples of creationists fraudulently claiming to find "fresh dinosaur meat" and *unfossilized* dinosaur bones. There are many such frauds.

      Recall that Ken Ham recently had an allosaurus fossil donated to him by a notorious white supremacist. That fossil was claimed by creationists to have been found atop a bed of *fresh leaves.*

      How about the many "ancient carvings" or Native American petroglyphs claimed by creationists to represent dinosaurs? Endless comedy. Let's start with the carving of a "stegosaurus" on a temple at Angkor Wat in in Cambodia. It was a carving of a baby rhinocerous with flower petals behind it.

      One of the Native American petroglyphs claimed by Ken Ham to be clearly an apatosaurus turned out be half *mud splatter* and half squiggle. Another claimed Edmontosaurus was just the way Native Americans draw birds.

      And on and on and on. If I have more time I'll list more creationist frauds. By your own standard, the Bible's creation story is falsified.

    19. liesforthedevil announces: After 100 years or so of hundreds of tons of false fossils supposedly supporting evolution, one should stop and think instead of supporting the lies for the devil.

      In fact, you creationists cannot list even one ton, or half a ton, of "false fossils supposedly supporting evolution". By contrast, we can list dozens of creationist frauds, some deliberate, some due to ridiculous incompetence. I listed quite a few above. You lose by your own standard.

      Let's rewrite your statement above.

      After 100 years or so of dozens of false fossils supposedly supporting creationism, one should stop and think instead of supporting the lies for the religious right.

  8. Can this guy prove by stats he is told he can't be a Christian if he believes in evolution? I say his sampling is wrong. few YEC christians would say that. More likely one would be told one can't believe in science if one is a bible believing christian. That also a small percentage. most people are respectful and hip to diversity in opinions.
    Stats Sir. Not three people you met.

    The Pope matters because people think he has intellectual influence over catholics.
    Yesw protestantism created creationism but thats why we protested Catholics back in the day. they made stuff up and did not sumbitt to the word of God. Martin Luther said so.
    However catholics do believe in details or all of genesis. Whats the stats?

    i'm sure these atheist scientists mothers and cousins, who are not scientists, also don't believe in creationism etc. whats the stats there. The scientists are not from a cross section of the nation.
    Anyways why do these scientis know anything about God/evolution unless thats their subject?? If they are scientists then all the more their opinion on different subjects from their own is irrelevant.
    I mean if they are to be noted for being speciasts in truth on origins then does it not demand they be specialists in origin subjects otherwise lump thier opinions in with Jockeys and roofers and surgeons.
    Are rocket scientist atheists more to be listened too then anyone not paid to work in origin subjects?
    In fact its the ID/yec scientists who should be listened too if being serious students of these things qualify's one as knowledgeable.
    Yes there is a conflict between some conclusions in origin science and conclusions in the bible and human reflection on origins.
    Its not between science and faith. Thats not accurate and its a profiling done to prejudice the contention.
    Its a conflict between accuracy and inaccuracy.
    Creationists insist the "science" supporting evolution is not done well and not supporting. Creationists insist loads of evidence supports a creator and boundaries made in Genesis.

    1. "If they are scientists then all the more their opinion on different subjects from their own is irrelevant."

      Then why do you continue to post your inane and barely legible ramblings here?

    2. Thats a point. The answer is that evertone who has, they think, applued their minds to these subjects can be involved. However don'y claim you are a scientist or your being a scientist in some unrelated field makes you a scientist, to be listened to, in origin subjects.
      They are really trying to say scientists in any field have a better opinion on origin matters and so matter more then regular folk. I say their authority as scientists can only be invoked if they study origin issues.
      So it doesn't matter what scientists think on origin subjects anymore then political subjects.
      If they wish to silence the public then they can only use card carrying origin scientists. Not rocket scientists. Why do they do that? Are they actually saying scientists are smarter then other people and so their conclusions on God and Genesis matter more regardless of speciality?? Say it ain't that lame.!!

  9. One slight weakness in the argument that God and evolution are inconsistent lies in an issue addressed hundreds of years ago by medieval scholars (almost all of whom were theologians by default, thanks to the appropriation of ancient Greek and Semitic science by the Church.) It's a question that made it all the way through the Enlightenment. To wit: what connection exists between omniscience and omnipotent, particularly with regards to the issues of free will and predestination. While I certainly wouldn't buy any of their arguments, said arguments are worth bringing up for a full spectrum of analysis. For instance, some claimed that God's omnipotence was a manifestation of omniscience. That is, he didn't need to cause, just know the outcome. So souls destined to Hell weren't actively preordained to go there -- they were simply going there all along. The same arguments can be used to scrutinize evolution, and many Christians might be inclined to do so. Granted, modern Christian "scholarship" bears no substantial resemblance to medieval Christian scholarship, but some wunderkind might emerge anyway. Any honest debate has to include other major intellectual premises before dismissing the entire trend.

  10. I have to disagree with this bit:

    There's a very large difference between the anti-science views of conservative Protestants in the USA and the anti-accommodationist views of some scientists.

    Fundamentalists like Ken Ham et al. are in bed with the New Atheists like Dawkins in that they both agree that science and religion at least partially overlap, and that religious beliefs can be tested and proven by the scientific method. It's just that New Atheists would say science can, or has, *disproven* reglion, while the creationists say science can prove and has proven their own relgion, Christianity.

    The Accommodationists, by contrast, would say that "true" religion can never be proven or disproven by science. Then they define the "true" religon as that part of religion that can't be disproven by science. If science gets in the way of religion (e.g. suggesting the basis of morality, or the evolution of the religious impulse itself), Accomodationists define "true" science as that part of science that does not disprove religion. So it's a nice tautology.

    One of these views is logical and rational and the other isn't.

    Yeah yeah. Think of it as a Venn Diagram. To Accommodationists, "true" science and "true" religion are two ovals with no overlap, with "true" being used to exclude the bits that overlap (where, oh where, do we put the origin of morality, or the evolution of the religious instinct? In the science/not true religion part, or in the religion/not true science part?)

    The Fundies and the New Atheists agree that the "science" and "religion" ovals overlap, at least partially. It would be an extreme New Atheist would claim all of religion overlaps with, and can be disproven by, science.