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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Vatican aims fire at fundies

Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the Genesis description of how God created the universe and Darwin's theory of evolution were "perfectly compatible" if the Bible were read correctly.

His statement was a clear attack on creationist campaigners in the US, who see evolution and the Genesis account as mutually exclusive.

"The fundamentalists want to give a scientific meaning to words that had no scientific aim," he said at a Vatican press conference. He said the real message in Genesis was that "the universe didn't make itself and had a creator".

This idea was part of theology, Cardinal Poupard emphasised, while the precise details of how creation and the development of the species came about belonged to a different realm - science. Cardinal Poupard said that it was important for Catholic believers to know how science saw things so as to "understand things better".
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Posted by Antarctic Lemur | 11/08/2005 09:51:00 AM

19 Comments:

Blogger Adolf Fiinkensein said...

I heard quite a remarkable address on Sunday from an avowed leftie protestant member of the cloth. The subject was "The Big Bang' in reference to Guy Fawkes but the majority of it was a lucid exposition on the Big Bang theory of where the universe began and is heading and the foolishness of ignoring science while clinging to literal translations of quite unscientific writings. Among the audience was an emeritus professor of Chemistry from Sydney Uni. I'll try and get a few bits of it up in comments. Basically agreed with the Cardinaland put a bomb under the fundies.

11/08/2005 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

From my personal experience, fundies (and I'm not talking the plagiarists at Maxim) hvae no scientific training, and either have other personal 'issues' which leave them with difficult personalities, or they are part of a cult-like grouping which has reinforced their ignorance and rewards stupidity so long as it strengthens the group.

And I speak as someone with a postgrad science degree in a field hated by the fundies. Imagine having dinner with a couple of the crazier examples while they're expressing their dislike for carbon dating techniques. Ah, joy...

But half the problem is the uber-tolerant sane Christians who just smile weakly when the fundies dominate conversation with their conspiracy theories and ignorant attacks on 'science'. It's sort of like Political Correctness of the Christian world. Eck.

11/08/2005 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

The Big Bang theory probably won't survive the next 10 years Adolf...

And AL, I believe the RK already embraced this kind of thinking in the 60s. Pretty funny actually the Church telling you that you shouldn't take the Bible literally, but that you should a scientific article.

The next step is probably that one shouldn't take the "thou shalt not burn cars" commandment take too literally either.

11/08/2005 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Now now Berend, settle!! Al it's not so much political correctness as simply being tired of hearing it all, over and over again,from a group for whom tolerance itself is a strange concept. I might add that one becomes equally tired of the shouting from the extreme liberal end of the spectrum as well. Let's face it, would you have the energy or time to attempt reasonable argument with a skinhead neo nazi?

11/08/2005 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Well no, I've tried (with fundy Christians). Funnily enough at the very same dinner table was the local minister with a BTheol (smart guy, but he was pulling the uncomfortable smile trick and staying silent). It is very tiring, and ultimately futile as they are driven by something other than a desire to understand the world and existence and help mankind (etc). It's more like they are seeking to define existence within a little box, so that they may not be scared by it.

11/08/2005 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

very good post and comments, al. I too, get very upset with the fundies over this issue. It is my main bugbear

11/08/2005 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger Wanderlust said...

Regarding Al's comment above:

From my personal experience, fundies (and I'm not talking the plagiarists at Maxim) hvae no scientific training, and either have other personal 'issues' which leave them with difficult personalities, or they are part of a cult-like grouping which has reinforced their ignorance and rewards stupidity so long as it strengthens the group.

Ok, gents, bomb-throwing time:

To become a voting member of this organisation, you have to meet the following qualifications:

Since the CRS is a scientific society governed by scientists, voting membership requires an earned postgraduate degree in a recognized area of science. All remaining categories are nonvoting. (emphasis mine)

So since when does a scientist throw out opinions or hypotheses on the basis of uneducated third-party observers, or second or third-hand information?

Just wondering...

11/08/2005 11:17:00 PM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Auckland Uni has a creationist on its payroll who distorts very solid theories in a sub-field related to his own to fit his beliefs. He might have featured on that website you linked - I've certainly seen photos of him on the Internet somewhere. Fortunately the area he is employed to study doesn't have anything to do with the areas he misrepresents.

I won't say anything more than I was disturbed when I found this out.

(how's that for avoiding specifics)

I'd also like to say people with BTheols/MTheols are often very interesting people to talk with as they've studied the history of the bible. At least the Otago grads do. Perhaps Adolf has another opinion on this?

11/09/2005 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger Adolf Fiinkensein said...

AL I can comment only on one denomination which is Presbyterian, the real one, that is, not the loopy fundy wierdo so called Grace Presbyterian which ran off into the jungle a couple of years back.

One of the checks and balances in 'the system' which goes back to the original break away by Knox and Co is a requirement that ministers be 'highly educated people.' This prevents the loudest shouter from the back pew setting himself up to be a 'pastor' or minister, thereby initiating the start of a potential mini cult.

I recall a meeting a few years ago in which a number of us were wondering what to do about a parish which was experiencing some difficulty. It was near 'death' and I asked the Minister (MA MTheol Phd) 'Tell me what really is the problem down there?' He scratched his chin and after a moment replied, 'Well Adolf, there are three distinct and separate problems. If we just sit tight and wait for two years, all three will die.' So I guess I'd have to agree, they are indeed interesting people.

11/09/2005 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Sounds like the guy I was talking with. He'd say something along those lines, after rolling his eyes or some other exaggerated body movement.

11/09/2005 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

"Since the CRS is a scientific society governed by scientists, voting membership requires an earned postgraduate degree in a recognized area of science. All remaining categories are nonvoting. (emphasis mine)"

You'll find that those with the Post doctorates either got them fraudulently (as discussed by Ian Plimer in his book "Telling Lies for God"), or in a field like Civil Engineering or biomechanics (such as University of Auckland's Neil Broom, to whom I think you are referring, AL), who aren't actually qualified to discuss the 'problems' about evolutionary biology.

11/09/2005 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger Wanderlust said...

What amazes me is how quickly, and how relatively easy, it is for those of you who have posted here to arbitrarily mete out judgement on an entire group of people simply because they choose to pursue scientific hypotheses that differ from those of your own.

Elsewhere in this blog, you (rightfully) condemn al-Reuters because it rushes to judge the US Government on the basis of a single individual's unsubstantiated claims regarding phosphorus use on the battlefield. You (rightfully) applaud when a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter peels back the curtain behind an ex-Marine's claims of abuse, torture, and random killing, because the claims cannot be substantiated by any other source - and indeed, upon observation, many sources come bubbling up from the muck to disclaim, deny, and disprove that one man's assertions of "fact". And you (rightfully) disapprove of those who try to make politically-based conclusions and decisions on the basis of partial or misleading evidence (e.g., Joe Wilson's shenannigans in Niger).

Yet when I assert that there just might be scientists, real scientists, with the bona-fides that those individuals you hold up as examples of deception and ignorance do not have, you simply cannot acknowledge that somewhere, someone just might have the background, education, intellect, reasoning capability, and logic, to examine a hypothesis that you seem to accept as "fact" with the same fervor as the "fundies" you so vehemently disclaim against, without rushing to judgement on anyone and everyone who would dare to disagree with your set of "facts."

One of the foundations of modern Science is that research which is declared as "fact" must be reproducible under test conditions that realistically mimic real-world conditions. There are many who believe that Psychology can never be a true "science" because it deals in human nature, something fraught with individual differences, thus ensuring that no psychological tenet is ever truly reproducible. Yet I have never seen, nor read, anyone who has reproduced climactic conditions of a previous evolutionary age (other than via presupposition, presumption, or similar guesswork), much less proven that those conditions could support fossilisation of living tissue, bone, and other non-mineral matter. I have never seen, nor read, anyone who can explain why fossilisation of this matter is not observable in today's world. Nor have I read, nor seen, anyone prove things as basic as the formation of fundamental geological features such as river gorges, across vast periods of time, under the bases I just mentioned.

Do I therefore "disbelieve" in evolution? No. I just accept that there might just be another hypothesis that explains how things came into existence, that upon the basis of my own examinations, ID theory (intelligent design theory) seems to answer more conclusively than the theory of evolution.

And, last I checked, evolution, just like ID, is still just a theory.

Any takers to the discussion? Or will you continue to "prove" yourselves correct on the basis of your friend/acquaintance Joe Bloggs, the fundie-pastor turned pseudoscientist, who has neither the classical, nor theological education, to saliently discuss issues regarding the development of living or geological systems?

11/09/2005 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Wanderlust. I'm genuinely unsure what you're on about. It concerns me little whether God literally created Earth in six days or supervised a big bang and assocuated evolution of species. I really couldn't care less. It's all really a bit of a sideshow. I happen to believe there was and is a God, some mysterious entity/domension/being or whatever, who kinda kept an eye on it all. When I croak, I may or may not find out if I was right. If I was then I have had a big win. If I was wrong then what have I lost? Nothing, relatively speaking. Meanwhile, what matters here is how we conduct ourselves and I suggest, with respect, that the example and teachings of the person called Jesus, who claimed to effectively be God visiting for a while, is a pretty good example to follow. People either believe it or they don't. It is not a matter of logic or science but there are thousands of reputable scientists who do believe it. There are many others who don't. It is not for me to shout at them and tell them they are wrong. They will find out in for themseoves in due course.

11/09/2005 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

I assume you're talking to me, though you appear to be both generalising everything I've said into simplisms and possibly blaming me for what Xavier has said in his comments.

First the claim that evolution is 'just a theory'. It is not. Evolution - as in organisms evolve over time (undergo gradual change) - is a proven fact. You can test this yourself with little fishies, plants, plankton, etc (you need anything which is reproduces quickly and is easy to keep alive). Indeed plankton (foraminifera) are ideal to use as they reproduce rapidly and form the basis of limestone so are easily available worldwide for study. However you'll need a microscope to study them and they are not as pretty to look at as little fishies.

In fact you only need to look at your parents, yourself and your children (if you have any) to understand genetic information has been passed on and that the way it has been expressed has changed.

But that's not what Darwin was getting at. He was suggesting that over longer periods of time an organism becomes better suited to its environment as organisms less fit for their environment fail at reproducing. For example humans appear to have some cosmetic adaptions for living in certain environments: fair skinned people have a higher number of capillaries bringing warm blood nearer to the skin surface, leading to significantly lesser frostbite injuries in white people than those with darker skins. On the other hand fair-skinned people are more prone to various skin diseases in hot humid climates.

Of course Darwin based his theory on the curious floral and faunal adaptions he observed in his voyages on the Beagle, which included NZ by the way. He wasn't a particularly tolerant man, and from memory at least some editions of his book were overtly racist. However he had the best explanation at the time.

You can read some of his writing on New Zealand here (about 1/2 way down):
http://pages.britishlibrary.net/charles.darwin4/tahiti.html

Intelligent Design, on the other hand, isn't an honest attempt at explaining the observed, which is what defines a scientific theory. It's more of a name for creation lumped in with a group of criticisms levelled at paleontology, geology and biology, often by people who are committing errors of judgement equivalent to what I dislike in Reuters et al: misrepresenting or obscuring the facts to push their agenda. (I'm not saying this is you).

Now I don't particularly appreciate you badly summarizing the nature of "Joe Bloggs", who was never a fundy but was in fact a missionary. He is a smart man always curious about explaining observations of the world, but he was more interested in the internal workings of peoples minds (and spirit, I guess).

Id like to continue this discussion later but I have to go out for dinner.

I'll say one more thing: most people aren't of a mind to spend many years studying the scientific fields in question which will give them enough practical skills and knowledge of past scientific experiments and theories to properly understand present-day science. Even then I would say most of the students I've met have little ability to explain the concepts involved to a 3rd party.

So I can understand why some people who believe in ID consider evolution an issue of faith. For many people, notably certain prominent lefty bloggers in New Zealand, evolution has to be a faith system based on very brief textbooks at High School, popular science documentaries and the like - because they have no practical experience to determine otherwise.

Anyway, I'll be back later.

11/09/2005 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Adolf, don't people in your church cringe when you say things like that? Heretic! Do they know about this blog?

11/09/2005 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger Adolf Fiinkensein said...

AL Perhaps you need to understand Presbyterians are free thinkers. There is no hierarchy to impose doctrinal dogma. That's why Pressies argue so much. Yes, my leftie minister reads this blog and he knows who I am. We have some fairly interesting discussions.

11/09/2005 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Wanderlust said...

Al, thanks for enjoining a discussion, instead of pronouncing judgement (as your comments above seem to have indicated).

I will admit to creating a couple straw men, to summarise my interpretation of the comments, including yours, presented thus far.

Your claim of evolution being fact on the basis of change suggests that the entire genetic code - the billions of lines of programming that direct cellular development in an organism - shifts to accomodate changes. I submit that based on the sheer size of this coding in organisms that have been studied to-date, including the Human Genome Project, that the code is far larger than you suggest, and in fact incorporates enough information to allow species to "change" on the outside to fit climate and habitat conditions that they are borne into...as it were, a huge database of variations that allow the species to adjust. I believe that to suggest that evolution is "proven" on the basis of change that could just as easily be explained by the sheer size of the genetic code, or database, is to prove something on the basis of partial or imperfect information.

As a collorary to the depth of genetic code diversity and size that I am suggesting here, it IS established scientific fact that the reduction of complexity (e.g., where in-breeding or mutation occurs) that causes problems, such as deformities and abnormalities related to birth defects.

In either case, the size of the underlying database is not in question, but it is recognized that as the size of that database reduces, there is a proportionately greater chance for mutation and defects.

The fun part of this discussion is, neither one of us will be proven right, or wrong, until genetic codes have been cracked, can be completely dissembled, and can be assembled again on a complex level (not merely manipulating a gene here or there, to influence a particular trait, such as, say, eye colour). Of course, such understanding and manipulation of genetic coding carries its own ethical and philosophical/theological implications that may far outweigh those of proving or disproving either evolution or ID.

I will also argue that the behaviour of the plankton you mention earlier can be just as easily understood and explained on the basis of ID. Additionally, just because plankton shells form the basis of limestone, does not explain away the lack of fossilisation of more complex creatures, as classical evolutionary theory would suggest occurs even now.

Another thing I enjoy about the field of genetics is that it represents the bridge between the biological and physical sciences. As such, it allows the connection of the two laws of physics that evolutionists scream about when anyone on the ID side brings them up: the first and second laws of Thermodynamics - which, under the idea of designed diversity of genetic coding that I explained above, work quite well together: an initial, created/designed, diverse genetic pool, that its very design allows for recombination in a way as to preseve the size, and complexity, of the original, with very little coding losses.

Thus, to summarise my position in regards to your comments: Darwin's adaptation theory can just as easily be explained by size and diversity of an organism's genetic code - and, given that the greater size of the code allows for greater diversity, including adaptation, may more adequately answer the observed changes in traits that Darwin assumed were adaptations based on growth in complexity. Again, I suggest that when the codes are finally unraveled and understood, this position will be proven.

On the physical side of things, this complexity requirement (and further proof of the laws of thermodynamics) can be demonstrated by the continual growth in software complexity in man-made computers. Acted upon by an outside force, the programmer, these software programs continually grow in complexity, to the point where software is now able to act "intelligently" - and is able to do so best when it emulates the rules of behaviour found in animal instinct - complex rules-based behaviour that allows small-brained creatures to exist, feed, survive, and thrive.

Except perhaps, for those creatures found in the Beehive, but that's an argument for a different post.

11/09/2005 09:50:00 PM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

I haven't actually outlined why plankton are a good example. The reason is this: their 'tests' (=shells, though not necessarily calcium carbonate based) re-evolve to various shapes which are useful for different habitats after extinction events. Some of the more exotic morphologies haven't, unfortunately. What I'm talking about are foraminifera re-adapting to floating (they have inflated globe-like tests), living in the benthic layer, etc. Because they are so common, have such quick life-cycles AND found easily in limestone they are ideal as an example of evolution.

As to your idea that organism genomes contain many genes, the re-organisation of which can create different /simplistic organisms (another argument from the design point of view). It is my understanding both spontaneous environmentally-triggered mutations and the inclusion of a simple organism into a much more complex whole are both documented. The best example of the later I can think of are mitocondrial DNA which are passed from mother to children and not via the father. Mitochondria have their own genome, their own membranes and reproduce independently of the cell nucleus. They closely resemble bacteria.

11/09/2005 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Adolf. I have little experience with presbytarianism (correct term?). I have a Catholic background, but my parents never forced us to become immersed in the church.

11/09/2005 10:54:00 PM  

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