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May 07, 2007



let us go to the central question.

I will go first.

I believe in God.

Do you?

Oblivious president? Please, not again! He's so entrenched in that bubble that he hasn't noticed that Americans are walking right over the top of that argument. Reminds me of Tom Delay coming to town a few months ago and talking the 2004 talk.

I think it's an irrelevant question, Jodi. Most Americans beieve in God. The question is whether you accept the theory of evolution, and whether you think science is compatable with faith. My answer to both is yes.

see also < ahref="http://thenexthurrah.typepad.com/the_next_hurrah/2007/05/do_you_believe_.html">Do You Believe In Evolution?

Even if you're convinced you've won the lottery, you still have to buy a ticket.

The central question is not whether one believes in God. It is what will you do with the here and now? Even if you believe God created it, "it" doesn't come with directions; figuring out what to do with it requires reason. Otherwise, all you can do is pray that that howl you heard was the wind or a wolf.

Did God give us brains so we wouldn't use them? If so, George is the holiest man on the face of the earth.

From Truthdig this is a must read for anyone interested in the study or theories of religious belief. It is a bit long but worth it.

I'm inclined to generalize here, and say that people who believe in creation rather than evolution are lacking in intellectual curiosity. They seem to be more likely to buy into the argument that 'it's always been this way, so don't ask [embarassing] questions'. Going that route you're likely to end up with a world of peasants ruled by semi-literate lords.

Whether one believes in God is, I think, not the question. The question is, How does one reconcile one's beliefs when they are contradicted by empirical observation?

The Papal addresses I link to above are three fairly wise and thoughtful attempts to reconcile extraordinarily devout faith in God with contradictory observations of the physical world. Anything approaching that level of thoughtfulness from the candidates would, I think, be welcome.

Un-thoughtful attempts to reconcile faith with contradictory observations tend to lead to ideology, and by experience are often regrettable. We were taken to Iraq based on an ideological faith despite an abundance of empirical observations that it was the wrong enemy and that, in any case, we would find ourselves trapped even with the best of plans (let alone the poor planning that took us there). The current stem cell research policy is, in a different way, the defeat of empiricism by ideology.

The question really isn't "Do you believe in God" -- it's "what do you do when your beliefs are challenged"? Do you become an ideologue, or do you search for a thoughtful reconciliation?

This debate is ancient. Science, more generally, reason, helps explain the world we find, religion helps us value our place in it, most especially, how we value each other. Those who insist that religion and science inescapably conflict are engaged in the politics of power, and hope to divide us from ourselves to get it. That's not science or religion, just competition.

Tokyo Jodi, I see no evidence you believe in any almighty. Like a lot of Christianists, you worship at an idol that you and others have invented.

For large parts of the history of the Judaeo Xtian traditions, it was a sin to even mention the word, "GOD" out law. It was understandably seen as blasphemy against the "name" which is above all other names.

Go read the good neocon, Michael Novak's BELIEF AND UNBELIEF. Atheism is the not the sole property of the unbeliever. As you so ably demonstrate, it's functionally rampant among people such as you who think you "believe in God." Tokyo Jodi, you don't have the sand to confess here in a public forum that you "believe" in God. Such confession are an insult to the mere idea of God. Go read Paul's magnificent seventh chapter on works versus faith in his letter to the Romans. Although Paul and I are not in complete agreement here, imvho God really doesn't care if you believe in God or not. If there is a God and whether there is such a thing as "salvation," is not going to be left up to your unbelieveably puny "belief." The vast majority of humans ever born never heard of Jesus Christ and any interpretation of the Judaeo Xtian God. All reputable Xtian theologians agree, that it would be inconsistent with Jesus of Nazareth's revelations about God for those people to be banished to eternal damnation for something over which they had no control. I also suggest Schubert Ogden's THE REALITY OF GOD, which creates problems for the Thomistic notions of God. Tokyo Jodi, the ancients referred to God as the eternal now. The fact that earth is six billion years old is relevant to humanity and our insignificant place in the universe. Since even Xtianists espouse that God is beyond time, it's irrelevant in discussions about God's existence and immutability.

emptypockets, thanks for a terrific post. I always want to know where those assholes creationists dig for oil. On Sunday, they claim the earth is eight thousand years old. On Monday they invest in ventures based on mineral exploration, that depend upon the universe being around six billion years old.

OT, what gets lost is the sheer genius and relative morality of the author of Genesis. All the tribes fighting in Palestine around the time of the author of Genesis had creation myths. Both creation stories in Genesis (yes Tokyo Jodi, there are two) are very simmilar to what the Assyrians had and what the Hittites had.... IIRC, what separated the Hebrews so completely from these others was their unwillingness to practice child sacrifice. You're talking about primitive people who routinely watch their children starve to death via frequent problems with securing food. I'm sure Genesis was the laughingstock of many who read the Abraham and Issac story (where the angel tells Abraham not to kill Issac). That was child sacrifice. That was the point of the story. Somehow, despite all the famines that came afterwards, the Hebrews stuck with it, more or less. In ethical terms, they were the moral giants of their neighborhood. Genesis was not a scientist. There is no problem with revering the inspired quality of Genesis' work and revering and respecting the inspired work of Darwin's. Xtians have long held that Revelation, grace, has never been limited to what is in the Xtian canonical writings.

Tokyo Jodi, please apologize to emptypockets for the disrespectful tone of your initial comment.

Paul who?

Is it just my imagination or has Jodi become more odious in recent months, as W.'s excellent adventure has gone South?

For me, a belief in Creationism makes someone unfit for higher office. Accepting a delusional belief system is not what I want of a President.

This Paul:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galations 3:29.

So far as we know, Jesus of Nazareth never said anything against slavery (It took the US until 1865 to "get it"). So far as we know, Jesus of Nazareth never said anything good about the Greeks. He drew the line at Samaritans and even that got him in a lot of trouble. People who criticize Paul for being a misogynist are simply ignorant on that subject. For his time, he was a raging feminist.

emptypockets, fwiw, I wanted to provide a little context about Pius XII, but I'll gladly defer to Sara and others who understand the issues better. IMVHO, his comments were a response to the ongoing theological war between Roman Catholic theologians and "reformed" theologians (those following some denomination that split with Luther in the Western schism).

One of Pius XII's many sub human and sub Xtian agendas was to elevate the need for the infallible papacy above Xtianity’s canonical scriptures. You may recall Luther's "sola scritura." Roman Catholic popes hated Luther for this, because it infringed on their authority to interpret scripture. It's this back yard denominational divide over authority which imvho forced a misanthrope such as Pius XII, to contradict his normally set in concrete anti-modernity posture. In Pius 12, you're talking about a guy, who agree with his predecessor Pius 11 that there was no reason why married couples should have sex after the woman was too old to conceive (Casti Connubi 1930).

emptypockets, I am not familiar with the documents you cite, but I have little doubt that you are quoting them accurately. They were no doubt written by scientists working in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, not P12. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdscien/400_ann/program.htm

This is my problem, but when ever anyone has anything nice to say about Pius 12, (other than the fact that he is dead), I begin to hyperventilate. Again, that's my problem.

IMVHO, Pius 12 saw WWII as an opportunity to reestablish the Papacy has a "playa" in world diplomacy. Specifically, he wanted to regain Papal prestige and temporal power by brokering the treaty between the Allies and the Axis. In '39 when the Wehrmacht smashed through (liberated) Poland, the SS and Gestapo killed about a million Poles, the vast majority of whom were Roman Catholic. As we all know, beginning in '41 THE FINAL SOLUTION began in earnest and resulted in the deaths of about 6 million European Jews. Roman Catholic apologists for Pius 12 have always pointed to Pius 12's silence about the million Poles who were executed as proof that he was not anti semitic. As evidence prior to his Pontificate confirms, Pius 12 was virulently anti-semitic, an unqualified supporter of Hitler’s because everyone was so afraid of Stalin‘s institutionalized atheism. It's what got him elected pope after P11's death, because Pius 11 (d1939) was not anti-semitic enough for a lot of European Cardinals (He died before he could publish an encyclical calling Jews and Xtians spiritual brothers (Mit Brennender Sorge).

The evidence that Pius 12 ignored the pathetic pleas for help he received for the Poles as effectively as he ignored the equally pathetic pleas for help for the Jews is pretty solid imvho. How some, who consider themselves Roman Catholic, draw from that that he was not anti-semitic is an ongoing mystery to me. Pius XII clearly had the authority to have dramatically altered the outcome of WWII. If he would have simply asked German Roman Catholics to question Hitler's murderous conduct in Poland, it might have dramatically altered Hitler's conduct of the war. Hitler was overjoyed that Pius XII remained silent in the face of the Polish slaughter. I have to believe that this emboldened him wrt the invasion of Russia and the Final Solution. The evidence is clear that in addition to being anti-semitic, Pius XII was also a misanthrope.

There is one form of creation I recognize: time. Because you never get to repeat any moment of it. And it's as continuous as evolution.

(Also, I think that 'Judeo-Christian' is a code word for 'Old Testament' or 'Mosaic law', and should be pointed out as such. The people who are big on it seem to be much more comfortable with the commandments of Moses than those of Jesus.)

John Casper, I've got no background in religious history and so very much appreciate the background on Pius XII. He seems to be an intriguing figure, and quite a key one historically going by your summary. His Humani Generis encyclical (the 1950 address I mention) is noteworthy for directly addressing evolution, and because John Paul II uses it explicitly as his foundation for moving the church closer to full acceptance of evolution. But the encyclical itself is more an attack on evolution -- putting it in its place -- than anything like an embrace:

"Some imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution, which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all this, and audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in continual evolution. Communists gladly subscribed to this opinion so that, when the souls of men have been deprived of every idea of a personal God, they may the more efficaciously defend and propagate their dialectical materialism."

It's difficult to read, and if I saw it posted without an author I would take it as a right-wing rant, not something thoughtful at all.

The other scientific address, the 1951 piece, reads as if it were written by a completely different author, so you may be right that it in fact was. In it, he sounds like a kid who has just discovered science and is simply in awe of all it has to tell us:

At first sight it is rightly a source of wonderment to recognize how the knowledge of the fact of mutability has gained ever greater ground, both in the macrocosm and in the microcosm, according as science has made new progress, as though confirming with new proofs the theory of Heraclitus: "Everything is in flux"...This common experience is corroborated by the natural sciences, which have taught people to understand these and other similar changes as processes of destruction and construction of corporeal substances in their chemical elements, that is to say, in their tiniest parts, the chemical atoms. Going still farther, natural science made known that this chemico-physical mutability is not, as the ancients thought, restricted to terrestrial bodies, but even extends to all the bodies of our solar system and of the great universe, which the telescope, and still more the spectroscope, have demonstrated to be composed of the same kind of atoms.

He really does a very nice job with it, and judging by your encapsulated biography of him, it would make sense if this were written by a different author (I wish I knew who!).

He ultimately revels in the scientific theory of the Big Bang and the idea that the Universe has an age, as evidence that there was a Creation, seeing it as scientific validation of ancient Biblical word. (He then makes the nonsensical step of concluding that if there was a beginning, there had to be a Beginner, or God, to set it in motion).

earlofhuntingdon, "politics of power" sounds like an election campaign, and that which would "divide us from ourselves to get [power]" sounds like a wedge issue, doesn't it? Clearly this is politics, not science or religion -- but that's the kind of a blog this is!

Not all christians believe the word of the bible should be taken literally. Jesuits for example, take an intellectul approach to theology. They see room in God's universe for creation that includes evolution as well as a loving God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit: three persons in one God. That is a mystery of faith.

That said, believing in a Christian God (or Judeo-Christian God, or taking Jesus as your savior, or believing in Mohammed or being a agnostic) is just another way lazy anti-intellectual right wing theists have fucked up the conversation about what's imporant and what's not important in selecting a President.

The President we have now, "W" took Jesus as his savior and since has had private conversations with Jesus about invading Iraq. Seems like Bush and his deity got that one wrong.

When I saw the bumper sticker "Who would Jesus Bomb?" I took it as snark. When W saw it, he apprarently took it as a signal to ask. Anyone hear had a conversation with Jesus when Jesus spoke back? Anyone here that is NOT on a thorazine drip?

It's time to redirect the conversation about what qualities we want in our President... away from 'who believes or disbelieves' in which god or no god, and the narratives that accompany that belief - whether their religious belief about creation can accomodate evolution too.

Odious Jodious,

Do you believe in the easter bunny? Does your belief in the easter bunny rule out easter egg hunts?

I thought so.


I must differ. It isn't irrevelant. It affects everything to different degrees at different time.


a lot of what you say has merit. I think that the real key to these discussions is whether a person is a bible literalist. I am not. For example, 7 days to God is not 7 days to us. Now as far as morals are concerned, that is a different matter. But even there these are translations of translation by men who have a point to make.

As a scientist and a technologist, I like the I. Newton statement:
"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and again finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

And I keep in mind Kelvin's address to an assemblage of physicists at the British Association for the advancement of Science in 1900 in which he stated, "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement."

My summation of those two statements is that there is nothing more foolish than a scientist that claims to know all, and especially a lay person that thinks that science explains all.

Of course science and technology does give us some useful tools, and I could easily worry the people here at TNH, or at FDL by showing some easy simpler ways to render a hard drive's files unreadable.

(Just like the deskside fax machine for communicating memo's back and forth without archiving/retention.)

Neil, and

I can see that you don't have any good logical retorts since you have degenerated into making only nasty comments.

I like that first comment! did huckabee find out about the question and get an answer in real fast?

it is always helpful when any candidate says anything like this. It will show the rest of the world just how they view things. You can always use the gold standard of logic, if they believe in fables and let such fables influence their lives, there is no logic associated.
For those of us that think the book written in the dark ages about a fellow from 1000 years earlier has any thing to do with truth, it is not only logic, but reason that is called into question

Thanks emptypockets. Yes, I was not clear. Pius XII signed his name to Humani Generis, as a papal encyclical, but it was in all likelihood authored by others. I have no idea how to find who those contributors might have been.

I'm not sure I buy emptywheel's assertion that evolution is more of a cut and dried issue than global warming or stem cell research. Evolution, though well supported by scientific evidence, is still a theory, and thus open to change. While I believe in the classical Darwinist version, I have friends and professors who talk about differing versions, such as a version of evolution where organisms evolve within their species, but don't branch out to become a new species. My late uncle, a professor at Columbia University, actually believed in that last one, what he called parallel evolution. Basically, life on earth started in parallel tracks and never split off into different species like a tree. Monkeys and us may have had ancestors that lived in similar areas, but we never shared a comment ancestor species wise. An interesting theory, and one that can be supported by some scientific evidence.

Anyway, the point is that this issue might not serve as a useful wedge, mostly because there are lots of scientists that believe in evolution AND are sprititual people, there are varying theories of evolution, and the President will most likely never mandate whether evolution should be taught in schools and has little control over the debate, which is not the case for other wedge issues such as abortion.

Tokyo Jodi, lmao. What did I write to you that was "nasty?"

Without Biblical literalism, there is no conflict between evolution and God.

J-Ro, the theory of evolution is quite clear at this point. I am not aware of any serious hypothesis like the one you put forward, of multiple origins for life on Earth. More importantly, such a hypothesis doesn't explain the extreme conservation, both in the parts list and in the way those parts are assembled, among all life we've encountered.

The wedge here isn't about separating evolutionists vs creationists. It's about separating those who are able to logically reconcile their faith with empirical observation, from those who cannot.

At the risk of repeating myself: the question here is how one deals with having one's preconceptions challenged by experience -- something that we've seen time and again with this administration (and we've suffered deeply from their inability to reconcile their expectations with reality). Having Biblical literalism challenged by fossil and genetic evidence is one clear example where folks have had to grapple with this. (Going to Iraq and finding no WMDs is another.)

There is no way you can say this character trait is irrelevant to policymaking -- rather, it is at the very heart of it.

"Anyway, the point is that this issue might not serve as a useful wedge, mostly because there are lots of scientists that believe in evolution AND are sprititual people"

Knowledge of God or religion is always historically based. As humans, we cannot know anything that occurs outside of history. The idea that the theory of evolution is somehow a referendum on God's existence was prevalent in Darwin's day. Theologians, however, have dealt with it, and I do not think that is any longer the case.

"Now as far as morals are concerned, that is a different matter."

Tokyo Jodi, whatever do you mean? If you look back at Xtian texts, you will find them united that usury is always and everywhere a very serious sin. Xtians could not engage in it. Things have changed. Can Xtians, as far as you are concerned, no longer work in banks?

"It's about separating those who are able to logically reconcile their faith with empirical observation, from those who cannot."

Beautifully stated.

From my personal expererience, even the educated and open-minded among Christians believe in the literal truth of the resurrection, virgin birth, and perhaps a few other key points. While another commenter said that Jesuits don't believe in the literal truth of the bible, in fact aren't they required to believe in the literal truth of not only the facts I mentioned, but also the doctrine of transsubstantiation?
At any rate, I'll agree with the fundamentalist that there's no point being a Christian if you don't believe some of the miracles in the bible are literally true. Why not free yourself from mythology entirely?

The problem with using evolution as a wedge issue, is that most people, and I would include you too by the way you have phrased the question, have little to no experience in using change over time models to explain and make predictions about the world.

What people hear when you ask "Do you agree with THE theory evolution?" is "What are your beliefs about the origin of life on Earth?"

However, this is not what we really want to know. The electorate wants to know whether the candidate values the epistemology of science as a way of informing our public conversations. Specifically, we want to know how the candidate weighs scientific knowledge relative to perceived public values regarding timely public issues.

So why ask a trick question about evolution? Why not just ask the straight forward question about science and values?

The Anglo-Catholic position on Biblical interpretation was 1993's The Interpretation of the Bible in Church. It's a textbook on the historical-critical method. Most main line Protestant denominations follow roughly the same method, as do the liberal Evangelicals.

John Casper, encyclicals are generally written by theologians from the Gregorian University in Rome and are authored anonymously. However, if you read publications by those theologians, you can normally find the voices that took the lead in each section.

why do you have to believe in God to believe in evolution ???

or do I have that backwards, if you believe in evolution, you can't believe in God

why is it an "Either-Or" question

I believe in God. I just don't think humans have a fucking clue about what God is really up to

ever notice that most Christians believe in the resurection, but have no fucking clue about Jesus' beliefs about charity to the poor

and what kind of christian supports the death penalty ???

the kind that isn't smart enough to figure out that Jesus was sentenced to death and executed by the government

most religion isn't about understanding God. It's about controlling humans. when religion is done right, the victims are as docile as sheep. that's the whole point of the exercise

sammy, actually I'm a molecular biologist. But you're totally right that the question "Do you agree with evolution" is inartfully phrased (when I wrote it above I was referring in context to the moderator of the debate, who asked: "I'm curious, is there anybody on the stage that does not agree, believe in evolution?").

I also don't like the phrasing "believe in evolution" because it's not a belief system.

"Acknowledgement" or "recognition" of evolution is better, but sounds clumsy. I'm open to suggestions on better wording.

To get to your broader point: You're dead on that the real question is about how one weighs scientific data. But I don't think it's practical to ask candidates that question directly (even though, in an ideal world, we would): they will just say that they value it very much and take science very seriously. Big whoop.

The utility of evolution as a wedge issue is that it forces a Republican candidate to choose between his base and the media. (I'd like to say "and the mainstream" but unfortunately mainstream public views on evolution are still confused -- the media is actually slightly ahead of the public on this one, I think.) The underlying point here is that I'm not honestly trying to evaluate Republican candidates, but rather to skewer them. Which is just what a wedge issue is for.

Jodi suggests it matters whether you believe in God. How so?

Has anyone in the Bush administration confided in you about being an atheist?
Well, I don’t talk that much to them—maybe people think I do. I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, “I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.”

What difference does it make?

"From my personal expererience, even the educated and open-minded among Christians believe in the literal truth of the resurrection, virgin birth, and perhaps a few other key points."

FWIW, even the earliest Xtians didn't agree on those issues. The virgin birth is probably the best example. The canonical Xtian canon closed around 250ce. Luke is the only version with a virgin birth. Matthew is next with a very different story. Mary is pregnant by someone other than Joseph. In Matthew, the angel comes to Joseph and tells him to marry Mary anyway. Gospels of John and Mark simply ignore the whole issue. There was pluralism around this issue of the virgin birth at the earliest stages of Xtianity. In order to be admitted into the canon, John and Mark did not even have to take a position on the virgin birth, much less repeat Luke's.

"Transubstantiation" is actually an excellent equivalent to evolution. Transubstantiation is a Roman Catholic term for how God is present in the Eucharist. It only really surfaced when Luther split, and he held that God was "consubstantially" present in the Eucharist. They are different ways of saying that Xtians believe that God is symbolically present in the Eucharist. Again fwiw, scholars agree widely that no one uttered the words "eat my flesh, drink my blood," before he did. Scholars literally have no idea what he meant. Jesus was not trying to start a new religion. He was an observant Jew, but he disagreed on certain issues with the authorities of his day.

The connection of "transubstantiation" to evolution imvho is that there is nothing in scripture about transubstantiation or consubstantiation. It isn't that the question isn't important (although admittedly evolution is a lot more important to more people), the canonical texts have little directly to contribute. Just as in the case of creation and Genesis, they knew less about evolution than we do now. Where the canonical texts still have great wisdom is wrt Jesus' insight into God's nature. (They are not relevant wrt science, because science asks questions the authors of the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament simply did not ask. As I said above, religious knowledge is alway transmitted historically. We as humans cannot learn in any other way.)

OT, we know a lot about what Jesus thought of God, he is loving (abba Father), but God also holds us accountable, the parable of the talents, Jesus' fight in the temple. No one doubts that the fight in the temple really happened. Clearly the people of his time thought Jesus was a great healer and preacher. That's simply what all the texts agree on. It's also clear from the canonical scriptures he couldn't work miracles whenever he wanted to.

Also wrt the resurrection, there's was wide spread disagreement even at the time. The sources are very confused. Did Jesus appear in Jerusalem or Galilee? Was he a ghost who could walk through doors or was he corporeal and he could he eat? IMVHO, a lot of Xtians accept that Jesus had something worthwhile to say whether there is an afterlife or not. Mark's Gospel for example did not originally have a resurrection, the last eight verses were tagged on later.

John Casper and Melanie, I'm afraid we're getting off-track with the discussion of Pius XII's words. He gave an encyclical in 1950 titled Humani Generis about evolution that is fairly hostile and generally a pain in the ass. He also gave an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1951 that is much more fun to read. This was (obviously) not an encyclical, which is a letter to Bishops.

Pius XII's writings are collected here. He gets involved with the medical sciences fairly often, including addresses on midwifery, psychotherapy, psychology, and medical research as well as the ones noted above on the physical sciences and evolution.

The voice and attitude in Humani Generis is quite different from that of the address to the Academy of Sciences, and I wonder if either voice is his.

Melanie, not sure what you mean. Here's a link to Paul VI's Birth Control encyclical
Humanae Vitae. I'm sure he got some help on it from some Church mice, but there's no doubt it's his teaching. I have never heard of anyone other than a pope taking credit for an encyclical. It's basically one step below an infallible statement. It's meant to be taken very seriously by the faithful. Do you have an example of an encyclical that was not issued by a Pope? I am not aware of one. I am not sure about your comment about the Gregorian. I'm sure the Vatican has no problem asking faculty at the Gregorian for help, but I know of no tradition where they provide special help on encyclicals or any other special help to the Vatican. I would suspect the various Pontifical Institutes receive a lot more Vatican requests than the Gregorian, but maybe I am wrong?

Outside of the Pope, afaik, the only authoritative teaching that is done with RC Church sanctioned authority is that of the local bishop. They occasionally issue something that is unique to their diocese. It used to be that a Catholic scholar could not publish anything without the imprimatur of the local bishop.

"How he did it and the time frame in which he did it, I honestly don't know."

Well, at least he's being honest about this. Some guerilla scientists should sit down and have a educational seminar with Huckabee about evolution, and get it on tape for PBS or CSPAN. Maybe show that Huckabee's God isn't too far from Einstein's.

Apologies for getting off topic emptypockets. IMVHO, the encyclical Humani Generis, simply because it was an encyclical, would be much closer to whatever personnel position Pius XII had. My guess is that the address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences was simply mending fences with a less conservative wing of his Church and with an eye toward keeping donations flowing in from well educated Roman Catholics who were offended by Humani Generis. It's always about the money and the address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences enabled Bishops to take that speech to wealthy Roman Catholics as a symbol of what the Pope really meant.

John, that is certainly consistent with your assessment of Pius XII personally -- the encyclical is very curmudgeonly and could easily be imagined coming from someone with as many problems as you said he had. The other one, if it's a PR job, is a good one.

Curious creatures, popes.

"Curious creatures, popes."
Yes, the men in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences would have been the types to get Bishop Roncalli elected to succeed Pius XII as John XXIII. He was every bit as good a (Xtian and a human being) pope as Pius XII was just plain evil. Unfortunately, John XXIII's pontificate was much much shorter.


The present pope was the author of much of what was issued by his predecessor. Dominus Iesus has Ratizinger's fingerprints all over it. Arguably the most important Church documents of the last century, the Vatican II docs, were substantially drafted by Karl Rahner. All encyclicals are offered in the name of the Pope as authoratative and universal to the Church. The canon of the Church was articulated at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea in 325, not 250.

I'm inclined to agree with sammy:

"So why ask a trick question about evolution? Why not just ask the straight forward question about science and values?"

But even more importantly than that, I want to know whether candidates will use their personal beliefs to inform their policy or will they conform to prevailing scientific thought. Personally, a candidate who says they do not believe in evolution but they will keep this belief out of their public policy has put this issue to rest, thus making the evolution question an innefective "wedge issue."

Apologies to all for being off topic again.

"encyclicals are generally written by theologians from the Gregorian University in Rome and are authored anonymously."

Now I read this:

"All encyclicals are offered in the name of the Pope as authoratative and universal to the Church."

I'm uncomfortable with that kind of language, as it seems to unnecessarily separate the pope/Vatican from the end product. Especially according to Ratzinger, the reservoir of what is "authortative and universal" rests only with the pope. As you know, John XXIII did not agree. Humane Vitae and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis were anything, but expressions of the "universal" Church.

I completely agree wrt Rahner's and Ratzinger's influences on Roncalli and Wojtyla. FWIW, Rahner's biography shows no major stops at the Greg nor does Ratzinger's, who as you know was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981–2005. Wrt the correct date of the closing of the canon, did I today, or have I in the past said something that angered you? If so, please bring it to my attention. I was referencing Tertullian in the 250 date and was off by a ways. I don't know much about the closing of the canon beyond my really meager knowledge of the Marcion heresy. I have always thought the dating of it was rather fluid. If you have a link or source that says otherwise, I am of course interested.

John Casper,
I appreciate your erudite posts. Alas, the whole subject of religion is one I feel is a tempting abyss into which an intelligent person can sink a vast output of writing and thought which could more profitably be spent elsewhere.
I'd rather examine questions which might have answers.

Much appreciated marky. I have routinely profited from your razor sharp analysis going back aways. I'm happy if in some small way I can return the favor.

John C,
You might be interested in this diary I wrote on atheism a while back.

There was one point that caused a lot of argument, when I said that M. Scott Peck became a delusional wanker towards the end of his life. Many disagreed. The basis for my remark was Peck's literal belief in demonic possession later in his life, a belief that was hinted at in "People of the Lie".
I think there is some connection here because of that discussion. In the case of demonic possession, I believe that literal belief in demons is incredibly dangerous, in a real-world, life-threatening way. Because of the supposed nature of demons, those who believe in them take the most extreme measures to exorcise them. As we see in (thankfully) rare cases, people die when others try to get rid of their demons. These deaths are a natural inevitable result of a delusional belief system. Furthermore, the larger the number of people who believe in demons, the more perilous society can be for the weak, the different.
It is for this reason that I came down extremely hard on Peck, a man with a modern medical education who fell back into the Dark Ages. Eugene Volokh is another wanker in this regard, now that I think of it. He opined some while back that it was perfectly reasonable to burn witches, if they were in fact witches, to paraphrase. What he meant was that if there were actually witches, then of course they should be burned. The problem is that for a modern, educated man to even entertain the idea as a real world possibility is mindboggling.

Now, another case where a literal religious belief causes great suffering (in my opinion) is with the Catholic doctrine of the soul entering the fertilized egg at the moment of conception. However entrancing the idea is, the real-world consequences, in terms of RCC teaching on birth control and abortion, are enormous, and in my view, almost completely detrimental.


No, you haven't angered me at all. Trust me, this is a discussion I don't get to have outside of the theological circles in which I travel rarely these days. I'm a trained RC/Anglican theologian and ecclesiastical historian. My only concern is to ensure that actual Church history and teachings are represented acurately here. There is a lot of anti-catholic prejudice in liberal circles (much of it justified, in my view) but I want to make sure that we stick to legitimate criticism rather than getting caught up in the anti-catholic mythologies much abroad in the land.

Is much of the Church mired in the 16th century? Yup, no argument from me. I'm at least as far left as Dem, just trying to keep the record straight.

Melanie, thanks. I apologize for my oversensitivity.

John, no apologies necessary, no offense taken.

Thanks marky, an excellent Kos diary. Yes, I am familiar with the Cloud of Unknowing. I am not familiar with Peck's final descent, but I have no reason to doubt your analysis. Any discussion of exorcism is imvho usually laced with superstition and ignorance. Very sad that it came from a psychiatrist. I completely agreed with your assessment of Kubler Ross, very sad.

What matters imvho is authenticity and that's clearly the direction in which you have been headed for a long time. I think there are authors who you might find interesting; Edward Schillebeeckx, comes to mind. I don't want to any way be disrespectful of where you are right now, an atheist and justifiably proud of your journey; and where I expect you'll remain. I offer these as a chance to share your faith in atheism with scholars who ask the same tough questions that you do. Schillebeeckx is really really heavy, but like you, he won't abide by things that are not authentic and he's very historical. You won't have to worry about him hiding behind demonic possession. What you aptly described with Peck and exorcisms sounded to me like what theologians call "crying mystery." Every religious belief system, including atheists and agnostics and metaphysicians all at some point have to cry mystery. No one belief system is complete across history and cultures. We're all looking for the one which is least inadequate. As I stated above, emptypockets nailed it with this: "It's about separating those who are able to logically reconcile their faith with empirical observation, from those who cannot."

Invoking exorcisms and demonic possession, sounds to me as though Peck was "crying mystery," way too early. The most adequate explanations, imvho are the systems that wait the longest to "cry mystery." Jodi in her initial comment sounded like she knows it all, especially those immutable ethical laws; she's got God-in-a-box. That's not belief in a transcendent being and it's not faith in the ground of all being. It's color by the numbers superstition in her image of God.

You might also enjoy the iirc 70 page essay by Schubert M. Ogden entitled: The Reality of God. It's a classic destruction of Thomistic concepts of God, which undergird most of Xtianity. IIRC, there's nothing "constructive" in the essay. At the end, by negation, you're left with a Process God who is almost as clueless as us about the future and almost as powerless to affect it.

OT, which I suspect you are already well aware of: religious leaders/scriptures cannot say anything they want. History is normative for religion.

Just as an interesting aside, the basis for the study of genetics was introduced by a Christian monk. Also, the original "big bang theory" was the work of a Jesuit priest.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was one of the founders of modern anthropology and sociology. The monastic geneticist to whom pallen refers was Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian friar, not a Jesuit.


this is not really a proper forum to argue about faith. And I say faith because that is what belief in God is.
I know that you have faith in the Democratic Party.
I don't know what Karl Rove has faith in.

I do believe from observation and thought that it does matter. However you should be aware that many times people profess faith in ideas, in a political or public relations way, that seems to further some personal cause and then we might suspect that it could only be a facade.

quote from DemFromCT
"Jodi suggests it matters whether you believe in God. How so?
What difference does it make?"

DemFromCT,, If you don't think it matters, well I guess it doesn't at least to you, and personally I feel sadness for that.

About the so called theory of evolution being true and certain, I will say that there are holes in it. But so what? There are holes in many theories, including the Stem Cell, and Global Warming ideas.

I would say that the idea of evolution is not exclusive of God's hand.
Stem Cell is a good idea for a friend of mine, a great athlete, that has MS, but I don't have any real faith in it yet. I have read about all the promotion of "gene" research and it's so called promise.
Global Warming is really up in the air. I more or less mirror Michael Crichton's thoughts about it. There is not any reliable evidence that anything unique to man will cause the great catastrophe that is being predicted by VP Gore, and the Wild Girls from Hollywood.

Actually, I don’t think that half of the American population believes in the creation myth, ‎Genesis. (A good thing too --- with that evil libidinous perverted God who demanded ‎incestuous propagation rather than create more people, denied A&E knowledge, ‎demanded their nudity as prerequisite to remain in Eden, and wrecked havoc on every ‎species on earth simply because A&E gained their modesty --- aka naked shame. --- Oh, ‎and other than to notice that God preferred them nude --- like animals that have no shame, ‎there wasn’t any knowledge for A&E to gain!) … But of course, that's not the issue at ‎hand. Nevertheless, after reading this excellent and in-depth survey conducted in Sept. 06, ‎I came to one conclusion; Americans are not that stupid. In fact, we possess a lot more ‎humanity than the Evangelicals would have us believe. Here’s the link; http://media.pfaw.org/CAV/CAV_Memo.pdf

Jodi, there are not any "holes" in evolution, whatever that means. There are only three parts to evolution: random, heritable variation subject to selection. There are no observations that contradict it.

Also, this should be obvious, but stem cells are not a theory. (They are a kind of cell.) The only thing you might call a stem cell theory is that there exists a class of cells that divide to generate a cell like themselves, and a different cell that adopts a specific (terminal) fate. This may have been referred to abstractly 30 or 40 years ago but has clearly been shown to be true.

I've heard Crichton speak, and his argument was simply that science has no predictive power. His "evidence" was numerous examples of failure by experts to predict political and social events. This has no relevance to the natural sciences, and in the end he lamely acknowledged manmade global warming. I suggest you turn elsewhere.

Tokyo Jodi, what evidence do you find for the existence of something approaching the Judaeo Christian notion of God?


I speak of man. I will give you dogs from wolves.

You must have heard Michael Crichton a different time. I heard him on the Charlie Rose show. Yes he did admit manmade effects. The question was the extent and scale compared to natural events that have happened over millions of years.
He questioned the predictive models for global warming including what you mentioned, and discussed his challenges to the scientists about their computer models.
He also discussed the way out claims of Gore. You know 20 foot sea rise instead of 2 feet.
His back and forth with Charlie was very interesting. It turns out that in Michael's circle of friends (as well as Charlies) Michael's rejection of Global Warming is fairly unique.
It is hard to get copies of Charlie's show but maybe there will be a replay sometime.

Tokyo John Casper,

faith is the essential basis for belief in God.

Tokyo Jodi, since you're going to ignore the question about "evidence," for the existence of God, what is your definition of "faith?"

Tokyo Jodi, I'd invite you to spend less time worrying about "Global Warming" and more about the food supply. Famine is what has killed more of our ancestors than anything else. Clean water, predictable growing seasons, and energy are some of the critical factors necessary to keeping the grocery store shelves stocked.

Jodi, I'm not sure what you're talking about. The theory of evolution is not specific to humans. It is a regime by which the abundance of a heritable variation in a population changes over time. There is nothing human-specific about it.

I did not see Crichton on TV, but I have heard him speak in person. His examples of the failure of predictive power were, for example, that few political experts had correctly predicted when the Berlin Wall would come down. This was meant as evidence that the future cannot be predicted. As I said, political predictions have little to do with predictions in the natural sciences. He also alluded sketchily to supposed problems in climate models, but as he is a novelist who has made no contributions to the field of climate modeling I tend to believe the scientists if it's a game of "who do you trust." Of course if he were to offer specific criticisms I would take them as sincerely as specific criticisms from any expert, but he didn't -- he just asked the audience to take his word. I think that works better on TV.

Tokyo John Casper,

I gave you all you need to know about my thoughts on Religion and God if you are familar with the arguments. I am not seeking to convince you of anything. If you really are interested for yourself, I suggest you find a church nearby to visit.

I'm not worrying about Global Warming. That was my point.

As for famine, I have a localized case of it right here. I find that I have gained 5 nearly 6 pounds over the winter, and I need to get rid of it before July when I go on vacation in the islands with the King of his sex and my Hero.

: )


Charlie questioned Michael very closely. I found credence what Michael said under that questioning.

As for your statement "but as he is a novelist, ...",
I think you need to avail yourself of a copy of his credentials.

I consider them impressive. Start with Wikipedia, or just google him.

You may be referring to the fact that he went to med school, which has even less bearing on his expertise in climate science than being a novelist does. I'm not interested in getting personal though -- if he had a valid point, it should be presented (and published in the major scientific journals). Otherwise... it's just another talking head on TV, without data.

"I suggest you find a church nearby to visit."

What kind of church do you suggest Tokyo Jodi?

TJ, usually when you leave phantom details about yourself at tnh, grandma for example, they usually end up biting you back in a later thread. Here you go again, at tnh, metaphorically in a comment breaking out a the blinking neon sign that says, "I'm single and I loves to mingle."

It sounds as though your "Hero" hasn't seen you for awhile. For your sake, I'm hoping I'm wrong, but usually, my gender finds a way to intimately explore all the curves and valleys on a very regular basis. Practice, practice, practice.

Once you post it here, come July, someone could ask. What islands did you visit? How was the sex? Did you get a ring? How many carats? You have only yourself to blame for this as you paint yourself deeper into a corner. You gratuitously inserted items of what you want us to consider are genuinely part of your personal life. Not everyone at tnh might have the insatiable curiosity about your reproductive issues that you have.

OT, the issue of hunger is a real issue for millions of Americans and most of the Southern hemisphere. The fact that you would so casually twist an issue as ultimately serious as famine and hunger into concerns about your own vanity is just another example of how people like you give Xtianity and religion a very bad name. Xtianity and religions are not just about "going to Church." A relationship with the transcendent is not something you can compartmentalize into a once-a-week sixty-minute service.

A very high percentage of your tnh comments are prime examples of commenting in bad faith. emptypockets asked you very specific questions, which you simply dodged in a way that was very disrespectful. You want us to take your comments seriously, but you consistently fail to extend the same respect to others in your flippant resposnes. When you start receiving direct factual questions about your comments, instead of answering them, you bring up that you're single. Have I missed your commitment to sexist language in the past, or is this something new related to your new "hero," the King of his gender? You think he's going to be more smitten with you, because you "know your place" as a Xtian woman?

Anyone who finds Crichton's credentials as a speaker on global warming to be impressive is a fool.
Now, before you retort with a remark about Al Gore, the difference is that Gore is not pretending to make his own scientific arguments. He is conveying in a popular format the views of experts, and I believe he is careful to check the claims he makes with those experts.

JCasper, thanks for the reply. I remember reading about Schillebeeckx a long time ago. Was he associated with Hans Kung at all? The retired episcopal bishop Spong is interesting too.
I was browsing through one of his books at a friend's place a while back, and I was amazed that I didn't have any point of disagreement with him. The only thing I wondered, as I mentioned before, was why be a Christian at all?
I'm sure this is not an original argument, but one of my reasons for rejecting the Abrahamic religions (simply because those are the ones I know) is that they believe the moral laws of God are an inherent part of Creation, more or less. That is, to have God, is to have moral order; God is the creator of the universe and of the moral law that governs this infinitessimal fraction of it. Well, to me that looks like a fallacy, based on ancient mans lack of knowledge about the extent of the universe. Today we know that the universe arose out of the expression of a small number of physical laws. Physical laws and moral imperatives are so far apart it just doesn't seem natural to assign them the same cause.

"I'm sure this is not an original argument, but one of my reasons for rejecting the Abrahamic religions (simply because those are the ones I know) is that they believe the moral laws of God are an inherent part of Creation, more or less. That is, to have God, is to have moral order; God is the creator of the universe and of the moral law that governs this infinitessimal fraction of it. Well, to me that looks like a fallacy, based on ancient mans lack of knowledge about the extent of the universe. Today we know that the universe arose out of the expression of a small number of physical laws. Physical laws and moral imperatives are so far apart it just doesn't seem natural to assign them the same cause."

Brilliantly put marky.

Wrt supposedly, immutable Xtian morality imvho, it's usually about the money. For centuries, usury was always a mortal sin. If you want to look for one moral question about which there was relatively little disagreement (I'll defer to Melanie on this btw) about it's inherent moral depravity, it's usury. Suddenly in the last two centuries, it's ok. I think it is very understandable why this development has taken place. Our knowledge increases, develops, changes, in all other areas, why not ethics and morality?

Regarding Kung and Schillebeechx , here's all I could find on connections:

"During the Second Vatican Council, Schillebeeckx's articles influenced some of the major proposals for constitutions, articles which were distributed to all participants. In this way his influence was far greater than that of a formal peritus, a status the Dutch bishops had not granted to him. In 1965, together with Chenu, Cardinal Congar, Karl Rahner, and Hans Küng he founded the new theological journal Concilium, which promoted reformist thought."

FWIW, I am guilty of the Arian heresy, I don't find any evidence that Jesus was coeternal with God, but I really like the God that Jesus revealed.* I also think whether Jesus rose or not is irrelevant to who God is (assuming something like God exists) I think Jesus was a rare and terrific revealer of God, but I don't think he was the only one or necessarily even the best revealer. I think Jesus would be very disappointed in all the attention paid to him. I think he was trying to get people to pay attention to God.

*FWIW Most All of what I know about the historical Jesus comes from scholars heavily influenced by the Jesus Seminar

John Casper you are worse than a Tokyo. You are a real pig!

He has been out of the country doing engineering work. He travels more than I, and I regret having mentioned him.

emptypockets you slight Michael Crichton with the statement
" went to med school. He has done so much more.

Harvard College, undegrad summa cum laude 1964
Phi Beta Kappa
Henry Russell Shaw Travelling Fellow 64-65
Visiting Lecturer in Anthropology, Cambridge Univ, England, 65
Harvard Medical School, MD 69
post doctoral fellowship study, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, Calif 69-70
Visiting Writer at MIT, 1988,

His writing is world renown, and I won't take the space here to list it all, but will note that interestingly it includes novels written while in medical school, 69 Edgar Award for best Novel.

His writing usuually has a scientific basis of some sort, which he studies and researches.
One, "Electronic Life", 83 actually introduces Basic Programming to the readers.

He writes books, writes screenplays, direct movies, directs and produces TV shows.
Created Computer games, early on, 1984

He speaks on the climate regularly, and on "consensus science" as well.

I would say he is much more highly qualified that Al Gore to speak on the climate, though Al claims to have invented the internet.

He is reviled by many of the populist consensus science groups pushing the global warming scare which has recently mobilized the singer ex-girl friend of Lance Alworth, and her friend, the producer of Gore's film into attacking a pudgy little guy sitting at the NYt's table.

Michael doesn't claim to have done the research, but he has challenged the findings and the proposed solutions, and challenged the predictive capabilities of the Global Warming Modeling computer programs.

Now I could talk about the modeling, but that is not for this forum, so I will only say that my own belief is that it is only a strategy for another attack at George Bush.

Find anything Bush supports or doesn't support, and take the opposite tack.

And all this crap takes away from the cancer gnawing at America and the world, the War in Iraq.

"John Casper you are worse than a Tokyo. You are a real pig!"

Tokyo Jodi, if anyone other than you at tnh were to insult me, my feelings would be hurt.

It's not clear to me that you understand the etymology of freepatriot's bullseye nickname for you, Tokyo Rose

"He has been out of the country doing engineering work. He travels more than I, and I regret having mentioned him."

TJ, the fact that I have zero respect for your political or religious opinions does not mean I wish you any ill. I hope he rocks your world early and often in July, pops a big old diamond on you, blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately, when I start hearing "girls" (because that's what you sound like) gushing about their "hero" who is the "king" of his gender, I get a little nervous. You ain't Snow White and he ain't Prince Charming. I really hope I'm wrong for your sake, but the mere fact that you have to wait to July to boink him strongly suggests to me that he ain't that interested.

One comment you got right was that this was a completely inappropriate place to disclose such information about yourself and your "Hero," the "King of his gender." Whenever you volunteer extraneous information, such as the fact that he travels "even more than you," it raises questions. Do you think we care? Nobody I know, who has had to travel extensively for a living, enjoys commercial air travel. I'm afraid that you "slip" little details like that in, because you think it will impress. Why are you trying to impress "us?" (Please don't respond, but you may want to figure it out for yourself) You talk down to "us" all the time, while contemptuously dismissing our comments and questions.


As you note, while Crichton has written many novels and toyed with the idea of doing science in his 20s, neither he nor Gore has any qualifications as a climate scientist. But, as lay experts, if either of them has a sound criticism of current models, it should certainly be published in one of the major science journals. Neither has done so.

The science of global warming has nothing to do with (and far pre-dates) Bush's presidency, although you're right that the current politics of global warming -- quite separate from the science -- is very much focused on Bush's policies.

When 71% of people do not believe in evolution and 55% of scientists do not believe in evolution. Why would it be a problem for a president not to believe in it. Our founding fathers rejected it. Have you read the constitution? "Endowed by our creator with certain inalialbe rights" Did you also know that the majority of our founding fathers were clergy? These men had the vision to create the greatest nation on earth without the evolution theory. Finally, lets not forget that evolution is just a theory not a proven science.

No offense, hairlipdog, but you do need to do a bit more research. Put simply, there's no truth whatsoever to the statement that our founding fathers rejected evolution. They didn't have that choice to make, as they preceded Darwin by nearly a century. These men were, above all, humanists, and most of them had a healthy respect for the science of their day. They were willing to acknowledge a Creator, but they did NOT specify any particular dogma to which that Creator must be attached. Now THAT was wisdom indeed!

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