The theological sausage grinder: why evolution is God’s plan

I’ll say it once more: theology is the art of transforming scientific necessities into religious virtues. No one is more adept at this than John Haught, Roman Catholic theologian at Georgetown University.  Haught has devoted much of his career to reconciling Catholicism (and the concept of a beneficent God) with the idea of evolution: he’s written at least five books on the topic, and several more on reconciling science in general with religion.

Haught’s schtick is to show that religious people should not be dismayed at the findings of science—especially the Big Bang and evolution—because in reality they are exactly what one would expect from God.  Clearly, the Biblical literalists, or even anti-evolution evangelicals, got it wrong from the get-go.  The God of Haught (about whose nature he has, of course, no doubt) wouldn’t have just created everything ex nihilo, or made the universe expand from a point without knowing that the critical species would evolve on one planet 14 billion years later.  No, the real God is generous, creative, and loves the drama of watching his evolutionary scheme unfold.  In other words, God loves a good show. Haught is always banging on about the “drama” and “surprise” of God’s evolutionary scheme, as if the deity were some voracious denizen of Broadway using his status to get a ticket to Tony Kushner’s new play.

Here are a few quotes from Haught’s latest book, Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life (2010), which goes after Dennett, Dawkins and me for being bad theologians who dismiss God’s role because we don’t really understand how He created through the evolutionary process, and that God’s really behind it all:

. . . since Darwin’s own time, many theologians have not considered it at all inconceivable that divine creativity, intentionality, and beneficence would be factors in bringing about the enabling cosmic conditions essential for natural selection to be effective in the transformation of life over an immense period of time. Actually, as I have argued in God after Darwin and elsewhere, and as I shall propose in this book once again, a properly Christian understanding of God even predicts the kind of life-world that evolutionary biology has discovered and described.

and

Without in any way rejecting evolutionary theory, theology may plausibly claim that biodiversity exists ultimately because of an extravagant divine generosity that provides the enabling conditions that invite the universe to become as interesting, various, and hence beautiful as possible.

and

Think of the Creator as bringing into being a world that can in turn give rise spontaneously to new life and lush diversity, and eventually to human beings. In that case, evolution is the unfolding of the world’s God-endowed resourcefulness.  The divine maker of such a self-creative world is arguably much more impressive—hence worthier of human reverence and gratitude—than is a ‘designer”’ who molds and micromanages everything directly.

This is the best one:

However, Tillich states, “there is no creativity, divine or human, without the holy waste which comes out of the creative abundance of the heart and does not ask ‘What use is this?'” Our indictment of nature’s excess in evolution [JAC: he's referring here to all those millions of seemingly unnecessary species], therefore, may stem as much from our lovelessness and rationalistic narrowness as from the allegedly lofty ethical heights we think we have reached. In the cross, however, Christian discover the image of a self-wasting God, and so we must not suppress in ourselves “the waste of self-surrender, the spirit who trespasses all reason.”

Perhaps it is with the same spiritual expectation of holy waste that Christians should look at the wildness of variation and diversity in Darwin’s disturbing picture of life.

Holy waste?  Self-wasting God? The equating of Jesus with a flea or a tapeworm?  How can anyone buy this except those whose need to accept both evolution and Jesus is so compelling that they can swallow such words without a trace of shame?  Yes, yes, this is “sophisticated” theology.  And it’s laughable.

What is clear from reading this man is that there is no conceivable discovery about nature that could ever contravene his idea of God.  Whatever science finds, no matter how contradictory to religious scripture it might appear, can ultimately be forced into Haught’s procrustean bed of a loving, beneficent, and generous God.  What a waste of a good brain, to spend one’s life grinding out this kind of theological sausagery.

And isn’t it curious that theologians didn’t come to the “properly Christian understanding of God” until after Darwin proposed evolution and natural selection in 1859?

All this shows that the so-called “dialogue” between science and faith is really a monologue in which science tells theology how to clean up its act.  Theology contributes nothing to science, though Haught thinks otherwise (more on that another time).

Haught’s God, who loves the drama of evolution and natural selection

90 Comments

  1. andyo
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I point at theology explaining less and less, and I point to science explaining more and more. That is all. #greenfieldism

    Oh wait, that’s not a greenfieldism.

  2. Sal Bro
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    The illustration at the end of the post drives home the sheer inanity of Haught’s musings. How is this god “impressive—hence worthier of human reverence and gratitude”? Haught obviously has no understanding of natural selection and the processes that bring about biodiversity, which can hardly be described as “extravagant divine generosity”. This actually makes me quite angry.

  3. Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    One of the early objections to the discovery of Deep Time and the fossil succession was the implication that all these species — entire worlds, in fact — had passed out of existence, leaving no issue. IOW, they were created in vain, in contradiction to Scripture (can’t be arsed to look up the verse).

    200 years on, and now the theologians have “discovered” that God, in fact, is a wastrel, on a cosmological scale in both space and time. Who knew?

    • Yi
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      I remember talking with a Lutheran fundamentalist about his objection to God. It seems basically the idea of death that they are against. For them, it is unacceptable that there were pre-deaths before the emergence of human beings, which doesn’t match a all-mighty God.

      All-mighty God! What can I say: computers can continue working for more than seven days without the need to take a rest.

  4. Jim Jones
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Even in 1859 it was impossible to be an “anti-evolution evangelical”. Unnatural selection of stock and seed creating better examples of each was clear to everyone who knew anything about farming.

    The real division is between those who believe evolution started with a creative epoch (set for no good reason about 6,000 years ago) and those who see no good reason to assume such a starting point and see a continuum stretching back in time to a primitive starting point.

    The former have yet to explain the bed bug.

  5. truthspeaker
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    The more theology I read, the more I suspect it isn’t supposed to explain anything at all. It’s just supposed to heap compliments and praise on their God.

    • Tyro
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      LOL! Cynic.

      Of course it’s meant to explain things. Not to anyone who’s really seeking an explanation of course, but to those who sense a problem and are seeking a resolution to their dissonance.

      • Sajanas
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        I don’t think the actual explanation matters one bit, people just want the idea of an explanation. Its probably the reason why many times I’ve argued with religious people, and they suggest for me to read a book, rather than telling me what the book says. Its because the book didn’t have anything compelling in it, but that its existence as an authoritative source provides comfort.

        I bet this guy’s book ends up on a shelf and hardly cracked 9 times out of 10, but it makes people feel better about their Sky Father.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          And the author gets paid whether they read it or not.

        • Tyro
          Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

          A good point.

          I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say that so-and-so has the answer, something they themselves must take on faith.

          That said, accounts of people who deconvert often start with the faithful deciding that they would like to find out what these answers really are. I know that I’ve read books that I agreed with only to find myself changing my mind not because of the counter-arguments, but because the pro-arguments were so obviously weak.

          • Sajanas
            Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, and the times I’ve noticed people go the other way, converting from non-belief (never disbelief), they tend to get a personal experience, or get lulled into it by a nice community. I always felt put off by that kind of religious group think peer pressure… I felt like they really just wanted to chant “one of us, one of us” over and over again.

  6. Nicolas Perrault
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Our dear Jerry is valiantly wading through the immeasurable vastness of theological absurdities. He is undergoing this excruciating sacrifice for the salvation of the faithful and the accommodationist alike. I prophesy a new gospel to be laid bare in Why Religion isn’t true (WRIT).

    • Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      Dr. Coyne so loved science that he gave his time to theology, that whoever reads his ‘site shall not become accommodationist but have a gnu life.

      • Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

        …And I just discovered I’ve been linking to an incorrect URL for what must be some time now. :/

      • Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        +1

        /@

      • truthspeaker
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Well done, Sir/Ma’am

  7. Tyro
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    a properly Christian understanding of God even predicts the kind of life-world that evolutionary biology has discovered and described

    Evolution through suffering and struggle in an indifferent world would imply an amoral monster as a god which is.. Okay yeah, I guess it is consistent with the God of the bible after all. Not sure how it’s “generous”.

    It sounds like the apologetics we see from content, well-fed, western white men who tell us that the deaths from starvation are a gift, allowing us to learn and grow. There’s not even a hint that the people who are dying are also people capable of suffering, or that their deaths may be a high price to pay for our nebulous self-improvement.

    No surprise, Haught doesn’t think it worth asking whether pretty birds and amphibians (God’s “generosity”) is worth hundreds of millions of years of struggle, suffering and death.

    • Exrelayman
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      I would like to see the algorithm by which the alleged ‘prediction’ is made.

      Or is the haughty Haught just Making Stuff Up? Prediction is something that scientific models do, so he gloms on to prediction also. Sweet! No conflict between science and religion – “behold how sciency I sound”.

    • Sajanas
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Its funny, as much as I see religious people decry atheism for moral relativism, they practice it far, far more often. Suffering is to be fought! Suffering is a gift that makes us better! God is responsible for the good things in life! The Devil is responsible for the bad things! No wait, God is, but its to make us better people! But don’t worry, people with easy lives are good too! Just finish writing your check and put it in the offering plate already!

    • Jeff Alexander
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Haught doesn’t think it worth asking whether pretty birds and amphibians (God’s “generosity”) is worth hundreds of millions of years of struggle, suffering and death.

      See Leibniz, theodicy, and optimism for one answer to that question. Then follow it with a reading of Candide by Voltaire.

    • steve oberski
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      So presumably “a properly Christian understanding of God” also predicts the existence and nature of the Higgs boson (aka the god particle) and Mr. Haught will be publishing the mass and other parameters of this particle (to 8 decimal places please) in advance of CERN (assuming they find it this iteration).

      And he will be doing it without the massive expenditure in resources that went into developing the LHC, apparently by pulling it out of his backside as seems to be his wont.

      Who says religion is incompatible with science ?

      • Tyro
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        No doubt some people will find that the bible predicted the mass and other properties in a clear, straight-forward manner using simple textual analysis and bible number studies. Alas, the studies will be complete only after CERN releases their data.

  8. H.H.
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    The thing about Haught and all the other “sophisticated theologians” is they’ve long ago given up trying to make a compelling positive case for the Christian god. They rarely attempt to offer any credible evidence which supports their position. Indeed, they claim no evidence is possible.

    Instead, they spend most of their time arguing why their absurd religious beliefs shouldn’t be considered blatantly false or insane–and failing miserably even in that more modest goal. It’s a loser’s game, always having to invent new ad hoc excuses for their unwillingness to abandon the god hypothesis. It’s so transparently desperate at this point. Haught reminds me of a pious Gollum, clasping a crucifix to his sunken chest and sneering at anyone who might try to take his “precious” from him.

  9. Andrew B.
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Creationist God: How imaginative God must be to have designed every individual lifeform on the planet!

    Theistic Evolutionist God: How wise of God NOT to design every lifeform individually but rather ingeniously design the process which generates the variety of life we see! A much more economical approach!

    Wise God: He’s wise! Swell!

    Foolish God: How amazing that even with his limited capacity, he could create such a stunning universe!

    Benevolent God: He’s the source of all Goodness!

    Malevolent God: He sometimes deprives us of essentials, but only to deepen our appreciation for what we already possess! How thoughtful!

    Sociable God: He cares about our feelings and wants a relationship!

    Noncommunicative God: He knows that our minds are unable to comprehend his wisdom, so he doesn’t speak with us. If he did, we would be confused by his depth and deepness and deepityness and think less of ourselves! How considerate to ignore us!

    God is swell. Just swell. Even when he isn’t, he is.

    • dbredes
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      Excellent.

  10. Jim Mauch
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    The first thing that made me start to doubt this whole religious think was how the adoring faithful could spin any absurdity to explain god and if all else fails they can just refuse to hear the facts.

    • Jim Jones
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Regrettably, this is also the methodology applied by too many juries. I have to wonder if religion is making humans more stupid instead of just more gullible.

  11. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    If you were to sit down in a quiet place, with a beverage of your choice, and consider evolution as one of god’s mysterious ways you be forced to the conclusion that god likes death. Death in great big heaps.

    Evolution doesn’t (blindly) produce wonderful examples of handiwork, it produces ragged survivors. Natural selection doesn’t ‘select’ the best, it eliminates the worst.

    What sort of god does that glorify?

    • Jim Jones
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      The sort that wants to hear people singing, “How Great Thou Art”?

      • Marella
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        For eternity.

  12. NoAstronomer
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    “…a properly Christian understanding of God…”

    Try telling that to Michele Bachman.

    Mike.

    • Microraptor
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

      Oh, but haven’t you heard? She “respects” her husband.

  13. Insightful Ape
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Holy waste! How lovely. A universe tens of billions of light-years across (ar a minimum), over 90% of it being made of inherently lifeless dark matter and dark energy, billions upon billions of years with no life whatsoever, 99% of all life forms to date having gone extinct…
    So does “holy” mean “wanton”, “idiotic”, or “reckless”?

  14. Jeff Alexander
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    And isn’t it curious that theologians didn’t come to the “properly Christian understanding of God” until after Darwin proposed evolution and natural selection in 1859?The notion that God works through the laws of nature is at least as old as Maimonides (12th century) and if I recall correctly significantly older than that. The way I’ve typically seen this reconciled is the notion that if the Bible (or other sacred text) tells you one thing and reason tells you another then you aren’t reading the Bible properly. Of course this is a decidedly non-literalistic approach to the text.

    Theology contributes nothing to science

    I think that theology is a branch of philosophy unrelated to questions of the scientific method and empiricism. It strikes me that Haught is talking about meaning and purpose, not science per se. For many (most?) scientists studying nature simply to learn more about nature is it’s own reward. For Haught that apparently isn’t the case.

    • Stephen P
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      The idea of God working through the laws of nature may go back to Maimonides, but the idea of God producing specifically “the kind of life-world that evolutionary biology has discovered and described” certainly doesn’t go back before 1859.

      • Jeff Alexander
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        That seems like an odd counter argument. It’s like saying the idea that “stealing an scanning electron microscope is wrong” doesn’t go back before 1930 because such a microscope didn’t exist. The specific item (in this case the microscope) isn’t really relevant to the greater moral claim about stealing. Likewise the specific theory (in this case evolutionary biology) isn’t relevant to the claim about the role of God and nature.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

          But nobody was making this claim about the role of God in nature until Darwin.

          • Jeff Alexander
            Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

            My point was that this claim about the role of God in nature was being made at least as long ago as Maimonides in the 12th century and likely significantly before that. To state that “nobody was making this claim about the role of God in nature until Darwin” appears to be factually incorrect.

            • Tulse
              Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

              The specific claim made is that

              a properly Christian understanding of God even predicts the kind of life-world that evolutionary biology has discovered and described

              and that is clearly false.

              • Jeff Alexander
                Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

                How could that specific claim be clearly false? It is Haught’s opinion as to what constitutes “a properly Christian understanding of God”. I could see competing claims as to what constitutes a “properly Christian understanding of God” some of which would be well outside the bounds of Christian theology but this opinion doesn’t appear to fall into that category. Are you making the theological claim that a “properly Christian understanding of God” can’t predict the kind of “life-world that evolutionary biology has discovered and described”?

                I suspect we are talking past each other. The point I was trying to make is that Haught’s theological claims don’t appear to be particularly new or unique with respect to an understanding of the role of God and nature. There are much older theologies that would reach the same conclusion with respect to evolutionary biology.

              • Tulse
                Posted August 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

                The point is simple — it’s not a ‘prediction’ if it is made post-hoc. That instead is just naked apologetics. No “properly Christian understanding of God” prior to Darwin made such an argument. At best, Haught is making a counter-factual claim that in a world without Darwin, “proper” Christian theology would have nonetheless generated a Darwinian-compatible worldview. Such a claim is essentially empty since there is no way to evaluate such a counter-factual — one might as well argue that, if Einstein hadn’t lived, Pope John XXIII would have nonetheless come up with the General Theory of Relativity.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted August 12, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

                But that’s just it – since there’s no objective way of determining what a properly Christian understanding of God is, that part of the sentence is meaningless. What we can show is that few, if any, theologians had the understanding of God the author is now talking about prior to Darwin’s findings making it necessary.

              • Posted August 13, 2011 at 12:38 am | Permalink

                This is the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. It is certainly an odd claim that prior to 1859, no Christian had a properly Christian understanding of God.

    • Alexander Hellemans
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      “I think that theology is a branch of philosophy unrelated to questions of the scientific method and empiricism.”

      Theology branch of philosophy? That is what the theologians want you to believe. At French state universities (including the Sorbonne) you can teach philosophy but not theology (and astrology).

      • Posted August 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        More correctly: Theology gave birth to philosophy.
        It is not so much a branch, as an ancestor.

        • Posted August 12, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

          He is risen!

          Missed you on the recent Adam and Eve thread where — I shit you not — we had an apologist actually claim that there’s as much evidence for Jesus as there is for Julius Caesar. If you need a laugh and have a minute or three, go read the thread….

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Posted August 13, 2011 at 3:43 am | Permalink

            My absence was a result of careful & studied eschewal, as opposed to an insouciant absence of attention, as my quack advises me that I must shun potential hypertensive events for the time-being.
            At the moment, the very thought of reading such wilful nonsense is apt to propel me to a curious combination of outrage & despair.

            I trust that you disposed of said god-bot’s infantile & illogical ignorance with succinct alacrity?

  15. AlT
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    it makes me sad that people who can reason pay so much attention to the people of religion who at the moment, for whatever their circumstance, cannot reason.

    I feel that we are trying to “save” their brains for “reason” and they are trying “to save” our non-existent souls for “god”

    I know many of people of reason use the fact that they willing “to engage” with the faithfull as a proof of humility and lack of arrogance. Or at least this engagement can be construed as such.

    I simply want to point out that however noble our intentions are when we engage with faithful we divert our energy from a really important fact that we can observe directly: the current socio-economic system is not sustainable over time.

    I know many harbor idealist hopes that if only we can promote secularism enough and push religion and faith-based thinking out of government and policy making then things will be fine because the reason will guide us and we will quickly enact “right” laws and policies

    Unfortunately we do not have much time to play the game of “persuade the other”.

    We need to critically review what we are doing as an organism-whole and _nobody_, i repeat _nobody_ is getting even close to formulating the proper research agenda.

    I know everybody cares mostly about their immediate horizon and their well-being and well-being of their loved ones over their lifespan more than the fact that we are going from the direction of more options to the direction of less options (less biodiversity, less peaceful co-existance, less time to savor the beauty of the world)

    Yes each of us is a limited human.

    But there is something like knowledge.

    And Science.

    Which are UNLIMITED.

    This knowledge is of laws that govern the universe, its matter and energy and eventually us humans too.

    We can think about the planet as the system that gets the influx of solar energy and suppports the life and its evolution.

    We can look and search for understanding the evolution of life and mankind as it pertains to the closed system.

    We can look into the dynamics of the system and tease out what governs the transition from one state to the other.

    Science has already done it in biology, cosmology, physics, chemistry.

    We now need to apply it all to the system of human experience.

    We need to apply it to “human condition”.

    Then we will see why biologists have been talking about the Sixth Extinction for decades now and it have not even got close to general public attention.

    Then we would understand why each of us talks a lot about “right” thing but rarely follows his own theory in his day-to-day routine.

    We need to understand how we came to be the way we are and then we will know what is the direction of the system and how we can combine our individual efforts into a powerful _institutional change_

    Scientists forecast between 9 and 15 billions of humans onthe planet by 2050

    Most of them will be religous folks because they will be in countries of so called-less developed world.

    Judging by pace of secularism in the US it is unlikely that the US will have a president that would be openly atheist and champion of reason any time soon or in 2050 or even in 2100.

    We need to look for alternatives.

    We need to think how we can make reason to guide human condition.

    And taking the route of “converting the faithfull” or hoping that atheism will rub onto them because we stick it in their face seem to have very low probability of success in the short time we still have until biodiversity goes to absolute zero and climate change makes disasters regular and clean water and unpolluted landscapes will be reserved for a small fraction of the total human population.

    Sorry for the long post but I just could not help it.

    I really hate leaving the planet to my children much crappier than I got it from my parents

    I can’t change anything by myself.

    I am nobody and my voice will never be heard in the noise of the culture wars.

    Where are belief-free scientists who can keep their beliefs out of the conversation?

    • AlT
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Yes I had children before I understood the direction the world is going

      Now when I know what is coming bringing another person to the suffering that awaits him or her when he grows up seems to be utterly irresponsible

      I do not ask other to do like I do but I ask them to learn what I know.

      And I am looking for those who will want the light of knowledge more than the false sense of security of not-knowing

      I hope I am not alone.

  16. Stephen P
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    “I know many harbor idealist hopes that if only we can promote secularism enough and push religion and faith-based thinking out of government and policy making then things will be fine …”

    Who are these “many”? I can’t recall anyone suggesting that. Many people think that pushing religion out of policy making is a *necessary* precondition to sorting things out, but who ever claimed it would be sufficient?

    • AlT
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      Pushing religion out of policy making cannot be a goal in itself because it is not achievable simply because we are born in ignorance and it takes time to learn the science.

      If we focus on organizing belief-free scientists that would become the seed group for an institution we will speed-up the march of science towards guiding the human existance

      my point is speed:

      the speed of “organic” process whereby science spreads and brings secularism goes much slower than the problems we dig ourselves into by adding up more people (current mantra : more people – more economic growth)

      i am calling for changing the poerspective and focusing on the primary process (institutionalization of science) instead of following it by product of vestigialization of religion (the more atheists books we have the more converts we get)

      • truthspeaker
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        Without a sufficient number of critical thinkers in the general population, such an institution would turn into yet another bunch of authoritarians ordering people around for the benefit of the people in power.

        • AlT
          Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

          you cannot get enough “critical thinking” without institution i am talking about

          and yes you are right that all current institutions are very primitive and reflect the pecking order of animal kingdom – a situation completely inadequate given the ever -increasing complexity of problems we are facing and our lagging behind in understanding how the system realy works

          (hint: no one really has the relationship of population level to climate change; we cannot even define climate change properly because we never be able to have a base case scenario – we cannot run an experiement of what would be the climate of the planet if we arbitrarily remove a certain number of people)

          my point is this:

          _hard_ scientists really need to apply themselves to humanities and human condition because they are better equipped to tease out the true relationship of the black box (planet with all its life forms)

          what we currently have is the system when popular ignorance votes into office ignorant servance of ignorant elites that have got to be elites either by birth or thugh harnessing the power of the market (which another system of ignorance

          where is SCIENCE in this system?

          yes science continues on its own as a private enjoyment of wealthy or the “servant” of the market which in turn is the servant of ignorant wealthy

          eventually of course system will crash because the biodiversity will crash and the pysical basis for so many humans will evaporate

          this is what i am talking about

          one does not have to be a genius to see where it all is coming

          the soone we will act upon outr knowledge the more of environment we may “salvage” and the higher will be the population level after the ultimate stabilization when the science finally does make into the socio-economic system

  17. Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    What a waste of a good brain, to spend one’s life grinding out this kind of theological sausagery.

    Indeed. But some of us wonder why you are wasting your good brain by spending time reading such theology.

    • Yi
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      This question resembles, as I recall, the case in which Christopher Hitchens was asked: if there is no God, why are you doing all this anti-God stuff?

      I really never get the logic of this sort of question.

    • steve oberski
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps because such theology makes it’s way into the public sphere in the form of ID, creationism, misogyny, opposition to stem cell research, homophobia, opposition to women’s control over their own bodies, opposition to rational end of life choices and a veritable plague of irrational, anti-science and anti-humanist policies promulgated by those who get their morals from bronze age mythology.

      The theologian in question, for example, belongs to an organization that has institutionalized child rape around the world and is busy with a program of genocide in sub Saharan Africa vis-a-vis their demented policy on the use of condoms as a prophylactic device to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

      • Microraptor
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

        If religion was a completely personal matter that people didn’t go around trying to inflict on others, atheists wouldn’t have any need to comment on it.

  18. Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    With mixed feelings, I note that Slacktivist has a post yesterday about religion-science compatibility: http://www.patheos.com/community/slacktivist/2011/08/11/the-bible-vs-the-facts/.

    I say “mixed” because I love about 75% of everything Fred writes. On real-world issues his heart is definitely in the right place; he regularly delivers the righteous smackdown on the bigotted and the privileged; he never shrinks from calling certain of his nominal brethren liars and idiots; then there’s his slow-but-sure deconstruction of the Left Behind series. Probably no one who didn’t have his Evangelical background could do it quite that well.

    But every so often (though unsurprisingly) he tries defend religion, and we get special pleading trying to distinguish religion from superstition on the grounds of falsifiability. And I just have to sigh and shake my head.

    • Tacroy
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

      Man, I had to stop reading Slacktivist because the cognitive dissonance by proxy made me wince so hard I couldn’t make out the words any more.

      I mean, he had a post decrying those Christian witch-hunters in Africa who burn innocent people, and explicitly said that witches who can actually do, you know, evil witchcraft do not exist so you shouldn’t be setting fire to random people just in case.

      How the hell can you rationalize that with your faith in the Bible, which explicitly tells you that witches exist and that you should kill them? How can you sit there and say “hey guys, the Bible we both believe in – that we both believe is kinda inerrant – is actually errant about the existence of witches, so uh you should cut it out”?

      I mean, it’s not like these witch hunters were just doing it for shits and giggles; their actions were based on an unfortunate combination of taking both the Bible and African witchcraft traditions seriously.

      Unlike Fred, they actually acted as if they lived in a world where the Bible was true – instead of just saying they live in such a world, but acting like they live in the same rational universe that atheists do.

  19. Matt G
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    It is just so painfully clear that “sophisticated” theology simply means more convoluted rationalizations couched in longer sentences with more polysyllabic words. There is no predictive power and no explanatory power – just handwaving. Entirely unimpressive, and a wee bit pathetic.

  20. Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Again, I am left astonished at the holy hubris of the believing mind.

    Haught here revels in the profound waste of evolution, waste that his personal gods created just so one of them could commit holy seppuku, just so Haught can have his every whim catered to in the afterdeath.

    Unfuckingbelievable. Has he no shame?

    Cheers,

    b&

  21. Martin
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I thought holy waste is what’s produced when a priest consumes too much wine and Jesus.

    • Dorcheat
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 5:23 am | Permalink

      Err, I think you mean holy sh!t.

      I just could not resist a hoary old quip.

  22. Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Haught also uses this tactic in his “God and the new atheism”. I’ve written a critical review of this book for the Secular Web Library: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/bart_klink/new-atheism.html

  23. Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    God is entertained by the unfolding of his evolutionary scheme? My, how human do we make our gods.

    What does it mean to be entertained? That the experience of novel stimuli mediates the subjective feeling of boredom one experiences when there’s nothing interesting going on?

    So apparently the God of Haught, though omnipotent, can fall into a rather dreary state of boredom if he doesn’t have anything interesting to watch for a while. It’s odd that an all-powerful being should be such a slave to his own psychology.

    Further more, if Haught’s God is omniscient as well, how could any stimulus ever be novel? God’s knowledge of the universe is complete. To say that watching evolution unfold would be as uninteresting as the thousandth watching of a movie that you yourself wrote and directed, would be an understatement.

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      I guess boredom is why God likes to speed things up from time to time, eg, by dropping a large space rock on dinosaurs.

  24. newenglandbob
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    There is only one question on Haught’s body of work – does even he believe that mound of piffle or does he just churn it out like making cancerous cigarettes from tobacco?

  25. sailor1031
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    “Think of the Creator as bringing into being a world that can in turn give rise spontaneously to new life and lush diversity, and eventually to human beings.”

    Ah but where is the evidence that this heavenly cavalcade is intended to produce humans? Why are they not simply one more of the many species that have appeared and then disappeared, or will disappear?

    With another five billion or so years to go before the sun burns up the earth, is it at all reasonable to believe that homo sapiens is the final doG-desired life-form? Not too likely I’d say and I’d certainly want compelling evidence.

    In the meantime, lacking such evidence, theology is just made up nonsense and is a waste of time and intellectual resources.

    • Tulse
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Ah but where is the evidence that this heavenly cavalcade is intended to produce humans

      Indeed, to paraphrase Haldane, the Christian god seems instead to have an inordinate fondness for beetles.

      • Marella
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        After reading Zimmer’s “A Planet of Viruses” it’s clear that our whole ecosystem is merely a support system for god’s true love, the viruses.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Many of God’s reactions to human behavior in the Old Testament make more sense to me if I assume God did not plan the emergence of humans, but was surprised by their behavior and got quite flustered while trying to figure out how to deal with it.

      Like “Holy cow an animal evolved that can ponder existence and moral questions by itself! I didn’t plan for that! Maybe I need to give them a lot of rules to follow so they don’t hurt themselves or mess up the other stuff. No, that didn’t work…”

  26. Posted August 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    The 9.1% United States unemployment rate is another part of the “surprise” in Act II.

  27. Claimthehighground
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it clear to most who frequent this web page that the true believers in their god’s infinite wisdom, power & love will simply absorb anything science can throw at them? It doesn’t matter how long they hold out, when they cave they just embrace the scientific explanation of further proof of their god’s glory and mastery of the universe. Spherical earth? Burn you at the stake…it’s true? OK, god is great. Evolution? You heathen bastards!…what it’s true? OK, ain’t that god just the cat’s meow (sorry for the analogy).
    At least their endless and predictable line of argument gives us some pretty interesting discussions.

  28. Posted August 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    “theology is the art of transforming scientific necessities into religious virtues.”

    Well, theology was going hot and strong when there was hardly any science to provide the necessities. I see theology as more like the art of writing guidebooks for Trekkies or X-Menites, about the exact value of warp speed or the properties of Adamantium.

    • Posted August 12, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Agreed – it is all fan-fiction.

      • Posted August 12, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        The difference, of course, being that virtually all post-pubescent Trekkies know full well that it’s all fiction (even if they do willfully forget that fact from time to time for the sake of entertainment).

        Really, that may well be the ultimate definition of a religion: a collection of people who insist on the reality of a shared fantasy.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Posted August 12, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

          As I said on Pharyngula the other week: to us, it’s just a live-action fantasy RPG.

          • Microraptor
            Posted August 12, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

            Unfortunately, the plot’s not as well written as “The Gamers.”

  29. Stackpole
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Has Haught taken a shot at “explaining” the source of original sin in the light of the clear non-existence of “Adam & Eve” as a source of all humanity?

  30. Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    “the so-called “dialogue” between science and faith is really a monologue in which science tells theology how to clean up its act.”

    Thanks, Jerry, that deserves an honoured place in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

    Richard

    • Posted August 13, 2011 at 12:43 am | Permalink

      And theology often fails to listen.

    • Claimthehighground
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 5:25 am | Permalink

      The unfortunate part of the “dialogue” is that the religious see it as a monologue in which theology lovingly, charitably and with eternal patience shows science that it does not and can never have all the answers. They “know” that their god(s) exist, have always existed and will ever exist. They lament that there are those who are so blind, they will not see.

  31. Hempenstein
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    …Darwin’s disturbing picture of life.

    Disturbing? Disturbing? If evolution is disturbing, then what adjective do we suppose he reserves for pedophile priests, for starts?

  32. Posted August 13, 2011 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Self-wasting God = best band name EVAR!!!1!!1

  33. Posted August 13, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Haughty John Haught merits mockery!
    How can a being without a mind have intent as the argument from physical mind queries? To posit that disembodied one stems from the argument from ignorance- that theological favorite. How could it exert that very intent when science acknowledges no divine intent , be it for the Big Bang, miracles and so forth such that He lacks referents as the Prime Mover and so forth and so cannot exist per Lamberth’s teleonomic argument.
    Theology reduces animism to just one spirit rather than the many,yet it remains animism!
    Carneades, the first ignostic, eons ago eviscerated theism!
    Haught, Edward Feser, Alister Earl McGrath, Richard Swinburne, Alvin Plantinga and Keith Ward find this spirit just as the Azande know full well that winds knock tiles off roofs that harm people,yet prattle that the wind spirit had that intent!
    They rank with John Edward,Sylvia Brown[e] and van Praagh.

  34. HuntingGoodWill
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Theology is claiming to know something which cannot be know.
    Negative Theology is knowing that you don’t know what you are talking about; yet you still claim you do know.

    Scientists have realized (as for example loooooooong time ago with Prime Numbers), that there are infinitely many things to discover, which are unique. And finding a huge, new prime is just a set of probabilities and can be confirmed AFTER the data is reviewed.
    Now Theology is something completely different; not only does it know all primes, it claims all primes are divisible by themselves, 1 AND GOD, resulting in knowing Pi’s last number. ;)

    God is the “supernatural spirit”, “outside of the Universe”, yet at the same moment in all of us, knowing everything. God is the non-deterministic process, that leads to the same process every time, no matter how many times you repeat it. God knows not only everything that can be known, no; God also knows things which cannot be known, just like that.

    God is the red fear, the wet adjective and the world’s tallest men who’s a woman and not a human being at all. God is the Pepsi Cola which tastes like Coca Cola, while at the same time being a piece of toast with peanut-butter and wings made of foam-gold.

    After all I wrote, you must know now, what Theology really is and what its goal is……………………………………………………well, ok, tell me please once you find out, because I have no clue.
    I always thought, it was verbal masturbation and the attempt of idiots to convince smart people of how much smarter Theologians are.

  35. Posted August 16, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    WEIT gnu atheists rock!


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] It results in what Jerry Coyne has (only today!) helpfully and rather felicitously called “theological suasagery.” What is important, above all, is that the church’s authority should be buttressed and [...]

  2. [...] The thousand words (not necessarily an accurate count) that the above picture paints can be found in Jerry Coyne’s discussion of John Haught’s apologetics. [...]

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