Category Archives: Evolution

Pope Francis, Evolution, & the Big Bang

Over the past few days we’ve seen literally hundreds of news stories headlining the Pope’s position on evolution and the Big Bang. Hint: he’s not opposed to science, as long as it’s understood that God is the ultimate creator.

We haven’t written about this (until now) because it isn’t news. What we’ve been waiting for is the inevitable creationist reaction, because that’s going to be fun. We’re expecting something along those lines soon, perhaps today. Meanwhile, we’ve finally found one news story that puts the Pope’s statements into the proper historical context, so that’s worth mentioning.

It’s also worth noting that it appears in the Times of Israel, an online newspaper based in Jerusalem. Their headline is Were Pope’s evolution remarks a break from Catholic teaching?, and there’s a comments section at the end. Their story says, with bold font added by us:

The Pope did indeed make comments about compatibility of evolution and the bible, but his comments continued Catholic teachings on science and God, a point missed by the coverage of his remarks. In a speech Monday before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Vatican City, Francis said that the theory of evolution is not incompatible with the account of creation as recorded in the Bible, and the Big Bang does not contradict divine intervention but rather requires it.

“We run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything,” he said, arguing against young earth creationism. “But that is not so.”

[...]

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.”

Those are the remarks that were headlined everywhere, but so far, only the Times of Israel seems capable of putting the Pope’s words in perspective. They tell us:

Francis’s remarks were covered breathlessly in the media, but the coverage has not reflected that they are solidly consistent with previous Church teachings.

[...]

The official position of the Catholic Church has been very clear, emphasized Murray Watson, cofounder of the Center for Jewish-Catholic-Muslim learning at Ontario’s Western University: Catholicism does not see an inherent contradiction between faith and any of the several leading theories of evolution, as long as those theories can allow room for a number of beliefs. First, that God is the ultimate source of evolution. Second, that God is ultimately guiding the process, even if indirectly through the laws of nature. And finally, that the human soul is God’s direct creation, not a random result of evolution.

In other words, Theistic evolution. Let’s read on:

Speeches and statements by leading Catholic clergy over the years has presented the same position regarding faith and science. In a 1996 speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul II said that “new knowledge leads to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.”

Right. We’ve written about that before — see The Catholic Church and Evolution, and before that: The Catholic Church and Science — which is why we didn’t think the current Pope’s remarks were newsworthy. But it will certainly be upsetting to the Discoveroids — see Discovery Institute’s Advice to Pope Francis.

Then the Times of Israel asks the same question that occurred to us:

Why, then, did many media outlets perceive Francis’s speech as breaking new ground for the Catholic Church?

They quote Wheeling Jesuit University theologian Andrew Staron:

Staron posited that too many observers still see “a deep conflict between religious faith and scientific inquiry.”

“Both sides of this perceived conflict posit a God who interacts with the world from outside of it by rearranging the laws of nature when it suits the divine will. Belief in such a God — whether embraced or rejected — does not take seriously enough the possibility of coming to know the Creator in and through creation and, importantly, in and through human reason. To posit a God who is only accessible to an irrational faith is to believe that we can only come to know God by denying one of the key elements of what makes us human — our reason. Instead, the Catholic Church teaches that human reason, when properly formed, opens to the divine.

That’s how we understood their position. It seems to us that the Catholic Church is moving toward a hybrid position that resembles Deism in the beginning, and then morphs into a literal interpretation of the events in the New Testament, but with the “history” of Genesis as allegorical. To us, that’s unobjectionable, but we’re waiting to be entertained by the anguished creationist reactions.

See also: The Pope’s Views on Science — So What?

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationism and Morality, Part 4

Morality is a constant theme with creationists. Because they have no science, they often prattle about the evil consequences of science — especially evolution. Their claim is that only religion — their religion — can provide morality.

We’ve posted often about this — see Creationism and Morality, Part 3, which wrestled with the issue of whether creationists think scriptural morality is God’s personal, subjective preferences, or is based on an objective moral absolute. We never did get a straight answer. That post also links to parts 1 and 2 in the series.

We also wrote Ken Ham: The Sole Source of Morality, in which Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia, famed for his creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis (AIG) and for the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum — argued that secularists have no basis for deciding what is right or wrong. We were left with the notion that Hambo and his religious viewpoint are the only source of moral guidance.

Before that we wrote Klinghoffer: Creationism and Morality, about a chaotic Discoveroid post in which it was suggested that “an intelligent being designed life and accordingly provided a tradition describing transcendent standards of right and wrong.” A bit later we wrote Discoveroids: The Designer Gives Us Morality — they were complaining that Darwin’s theory is bad because it isn’t about morality.

Now we have another creationist article on the same old topic. This one is at the AIG website, and it’s by ol’ Hambo himself: Does Religion Make You Moral? Hambo doesn’t say anything new, but because he’s the world’s holiest man, and the only one who truly understands Christianity, his writings are always of supreme importance.

Hambo is complaining about an article he saw which “suggests that religious people are no more moral — or immoral — than non-religious people.” Predictably, ol’ Hambo is outraged. Here are some excerpts from what he says, with bold font added by us:

It’s important to understand that even though atheists and agnostics can be “moral,” they have no ultimate authoritative basis for their morality. When an atheist or agnostic calls something “right”or “wrong”or “good”or “evil,” they are borrowing from a biblical worldview in order to make that statement.

Uh huh. Right. How does Hambo come to that conclusion? He explains:

Think about it: If we are simply the by-product of evolution and no better than animals, then why should anyone behave morally? In that case, what or who defines right from wrong? … The only reason that anyone can be moral is because God’s law is stamped on their hearts: [scripture quote].

See? You can be moral, even if you’re a wretched evolutionist — but of course it’s gotta be difficult for you. Let’s read on:

This moral law is often masked or darkened because of our sin nature, but the remnant of God’s law is still visible on the hearts of all. Just as everyone knows — whether they admit it or not — that God exists [scripture reference], so do they also know God’s moral law. That’s why even those who reject God can lead “moral” lives — God’s law is written on their hearts.

Aha! Hambo’s religion is running the show even if you think it’s not. We assume that’s his solution to the ancient Virtuous pagan dilemma. Here’s our last excerpt:

So why do we have a concrete standard for morality? Because we have a Creator who made us and everything else. And, since He made us, He alone has the right to define good and evil. The basis for right and wrong is God and His Word.

That’s the “concrete standard for morality” — whatever God says it is. But you can’t figure it out unless you see things the way Hambo does. That’s all you need to know about morality.

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Casey Does the Micro-Macro Mambo

We once described the Discovery Institute as the Vesuvius of Vomit. In retrospect, we think we were being too gentle. You’ll soon see what we mean.

There’s been a lot of press coverage in recent days about something PhysOrg reported recently: Florida lizards evolve rapidly, within 15 years and 20 generations. A few brief excerpts will bring you up to date:

Scientists working on islands in Florida have documented the rapid evolution of a native lizard species — in as little as 15 years — as a result of pressure from an invading lizard species, introduced from Cuba. After contact with the invasive species, the native lizards began perching higher in trees, and, generation after generation, their feet evolved to become better at gripping the thinner, smoother branches found higher up. The change occurred at an astonishing pace: Within a few months, native lizards had begun shifting to higher perches, and over the course of 15 years and 20 generations, their toe pads had become larger, with more sticky scales on their feet.

[...]

This latest study is one of only a few well-documented examples of what evolutionary biologists call “character displacement,” in which similar species competing with each other evolve differences to take advantage of different ecological niches. A classic example comes from the finches studied by Charles Darwin. Two species of finch in the Galápagos Islands diverged in beak shape as they adapted to different food sources.

You’re wondering: What can a creationist do with that? Look what we found at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog: Since When Is This News? Rapid Microevolution in Lizard Feet Reveals Little About the Origin of Species. As with the article we discussed in our “Vesuvius” post, this one is by Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis.

In his introduction, Casey says that the evidence often cited by scientists amounts “only to micro- not macroevolution.” That ancient creationist clunker is the first item we discussed four years ago in Common Creationist Claims Confuted. Then Casey directs his powerful intellect to an analysis of the lizards in Florida:

Now, a new paper in Science, “Rapid evolution of a native species following invasion by a congener,” reports more small-scale changes in Anolis lizards as if they show something significant about the power of natural selection.

This is the paper he’s talking about: Rapid evolution of a native species following invasion by a congener. It’s the same research that PhysOrg wrote about. Let’s see what Casey makes of it:

[T]hese scientists found that when a new species of lizards invaded another’s territory (in fact the new species was placed there intentionally by the researchers, meaning they weren’t quite studying “natural” selection), the old one sought higher ground. That seems like a smart thing to do. To go along with the new territory, they subsequently evolved larger toepads [link to a picture].

Oooooooh! It wasn’t “natural” selection because the invasive species was placed there intentionally! How could those idiot scientists overlook such a vital point? It’s a good thing we have Casey to make everything clear. He continues:

What have we shown? Not much. We’ve seen that the size of lizard feet can change in response to invaders’ driving a species to perch at higher levels in the trees. No new traits arose. Only the size of a pre-existing trait changed.

It was nothing. Nothing at all! Here’s more:

Again, that’s interesting but such changes in the size of lizard feet do very little to explain the origin of lizards in the first place, even if these changes happen in just a few generations.

Yeah, where’s the first lizard, the one that only the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — could have created? Caution: Casey’s final paragraph contains a quote in which there are a few ellipses. They were placed there by Casey:

If we take seriously the statement from the authors that the modest results from this study can help test “evolutionary hypotheses about phenomena … on time scales too long for direct observation,” then that implies that over long periods you might be able to change the size of an organism or some of its body parts. Since when is that news?

So there you are. It’s only micro-evolution! Nothing to see here, folks. Move along now.

Oh, wait — when we began this post we said that our earlier description of the Discovery Institute as the “Vesuvius of Vomit” was too gentle. So how shall we describe them? Here we may offend a few of our more sensitive readers. If you are one of those delicate souls, we suggest that you stop reading now. Okay, you’ve been warned. Assuming that only the heartiest of you remain, this is your humble Curmudgeon’s revised opinion:

Imagine that you are hiking in a parched, sun-baked desert and you come across the remains of a vulture which has been decomposing in the sun for several days, having died of food poisoning after gorging on contaminated carrion. Then imagine that the vulture’s bloated intestines suddenly erupt, bursting through its carcass, releasing a fountain of putrefied material that had been its fatal meal. That foul fountain is the output of the Discoveroids.

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Creationist Wisdom #488: It’s Irrefutable

Today’s letter-to-the-editor comes to us from Northern Ireland. It appears in the News Letter, located in Belfast, the oldest English-language newspaper in the world still in publication. The letter is titled God’s power and goodness. There is a comments section at the end.

Because today’s writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t use his full name. But we can’t use his first name because all he uses is an initial, which is J, so we don’t know what to call him (or her). Excerpts from J’s letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

Richard Dawkins believes, like many misguided people before him, that God does not exist. He uses the same old pitiful, limited arguments refusing to accept that evolution as an explanation for the ascent of man is a discredited, outdated theory with no valid scientific basis.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Richard Dawkins it too dumb to know that his theory is discredited, outdated, and has no valid scientific basis. Skipping some bible stuff, the letter-writer says:

[T]wo thousand years ago we were offered a supernatural explanation which is beyond the capacity of modern scientific knowledge to refute. God is outside nature – outside time and space. He is supernatural.

Yes, the supernatural explanation is irrefutable. Let’s read on:

Man can only imagine things which are within his own natural experience and yet many people have a concept of God built into their mind and an emptiness in their soul that only He can fill. He has written His laws in our hearts and given us the instinct that we ought to do right.

None can deny it. The letter continues:

There is good and evil; day and night; love and hate; light and darkness; wrong and right; order and chaos. We cannot understand one without knowing the other. If all the world was chaotic, how would we know if a sense of order was not built into our hearts and minds? That sense of order speaks of a created universe and intelligent supernatural design.

Wow — this is non-stop Oogity Boogity! Here’s more:

Science deals only with the physical universe. The Bible offers explanations of the supernatural.

Yes, the bible very clearly explains the supernatural. Moving along:

It amazes me that there are educated professors who can observe the wonder of the created world and imagine that it came about by a series of unconnected accidental processes over billions of years.

Verily, they’re all fools! Another excerpt:

The natural world speaks to us of God’s power and goodness. There is no other valid explanation for our presence on Earth.

This is a very persuasive letter! And now we come to the end:

He created us just as He created the universe. Our purpose in life is to love Him as He loves us and to seek to do His will.

This letter is one of the best justifications for creationism we’ve ever seen. A great addition to our collection.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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