Quote of the day: Mike Aus

This is a long one, but it’s worth posting over here, I think.  The quote is taken from a nice piece written by Mike Aus on the Dawkins website:  “Conversion on Mount Improbable: How evolution challenges Christian dogma.” Aus used to be a Protestant minister, but revealed himself as a nonbeliever in a televised talk with Richard Dawkins (watch the videos here). Here’s an excerpt from his essay; you should read the whole. I love the last paragraph below, so I’ve put it in bold type.

. . . I eventually came to see how evolution challenges the basic doctrines at the heart of Christianity. I also came to understand why Darwin sat on the manuscript of “On the Origin of Species” for twenty-five years before publishing it. He knew it was cultural dynamite.

Which core doctrines of Christianity does evolution challenge? Well, basically all of them. The doctrine of original sin is a prime example. If my rudimentary grasp of the science is accurate, then Darwin’s theory tells us that because new species only emerge extremely gradually, there really is no “first” prototype or model of any species at all—no “first” dog or “first” giraffe and certainly no “first” homo sapiens created instantaneously. The transition from predecessor hominid species was almost imperceptible. So, if there was no “first” human, there was clearly no original couple through whom the contagion of “sin” could be transmitted to the entire human race. The history of our species does not contain a “fall” into sin from a mythical, pristine sinless paradise that never existed. (I realize, of course, that none of this makes sense from the point of science; this is the world of theology. Please bear with me and enter into the willing suspension of disbelief for a bit.)

The role of Christ as the Second Adam who came to save and perfect our fallen species is at the heart of the New Testament’s argument for Christ’s salvific significance. St. Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as one man’s trespass led to the condemnation of all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to salvation and life for all.” (Romans 5:18) Over the centuries this typology of Christ as the Second Adam has been a central theme of Christian homiletics, hymnody and art. More liberal Christians might counter that, of course there was no Adam or Eve; when Paul described Christ as another Adam he was speaking metaphorically. But metaphorically of what? And Jesus died to become a metaphor? If so, how can a metaphor save humanity? Really, without a doctrine of original sin there is not much left for the Christian program. If there is no original ancestor who transmitted hereditary sin to the whole species, then there is no Fall, no need for redemption, and Jesus’ death as a sacrifice efficacious for the salvation of humanity is pointless. The whole raison d’etre for the Christian plan of salvation disappears. . .

When I was working as a pastor I would often gloss over the clash between the scientific world view and the perspective of religion. I would say that the insights of science were no threat to faith because science and religion are “different ways of knowing” and are not in conflict because they are trying to answer different questions. Science focuses on “how” the world came to be, and religion addresses the question of “why” we are here. I was dead wrong. There are not different ways of knowing. There is knowing and not knowing, and those are the only two options in this world. Religion, even “enlightened” liberal religion, is generally not interested in the facts on the ground. Religion is really not about “knowing” anything; it is about speculation not based on reality.


  1. smilingatheist
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I personally like this bit myself:

    “There is knowing and not knowing, and those are the only two options in this world”

    That needs to be on a t-shirt.

    • Posted May 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      I agree completely.

    • Nilou Ataie
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      love it.

    • darrelle
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Stood out for me also.

    • Rocky Morrison
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      I remember how at the old Kansas Citizens for Science site, the leadership tried to tell people that evolution had nothing to do with atheism.

      They told people that so they could get the votes during the old evolution wars.

      If only we had this information back then…but at least we do now, and it will be useful in the 2014 Board of Education Elections.

      Their leader, Krebs, lost his temper and admitted that he had been atheist all along…which he had kept secret…and now the KCFS won’t be effective.

      He shut down the discussion board, but the cat is out of the bag.

      Keep up the good work.

    • RFW
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      For t-shirt use, it could be shortened to

      Knowing and not knowing: the only two options

    • Mike Lee
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

      Scientific fact or religious fiction…

    • PB
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Permalink


      Religion is really not about “knowing” anything; it is about speculation not based on reality.

      - Religion is not about knowledge of what is real.
      - Religion is just speculation, not based on reality.

  2. Posted May 8, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I have asked Christian friends this question. Apparently, humans evolved in a fallen state and Christ redeems us from said state. (That’s the retcon.) And Eastern Orthodoxy apparently believes something similar, rather than Original Sin, though I’m not clear on the details and would welcome some.

    • komponist1
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Fallen? But fallen from what?

      • Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        Stop being logical! It’s sci-fi!

        • komponist1
          Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

          Oh. That explains it.

        • darrelle
          Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          Hey! Quit picking on sci-fi!

          • Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, really! Sci-fi tends to be quite logical, when you get right down to it.

            • Posted May 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

              SF is logical; sci-fi is just fantasy with SF trappings. ;-)


              • darrelle
                Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

                Ha! A Traditionalist!

              • Posted May 9, 2012 at 1:29 am | Permalink

                I grew up on Asimov and Clarke, so, yeah…

                (Another reason why I am an atheist, too, I think.)


              • stacylpg
                Posted May 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

                Sci-fi is usually a reflection of the current technology emerging…something I heard from a anti-theist college professor once. I think that’s a fairly accurate depiction.

              • Posted May 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

                An overgeneralisation and oversimplification, but not wholly untrue… although in-vogue scientific ideas generally are more important than specific technologies.


              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted May 10, 2012 at 12:07 am | Permalink

                What’s the difference between SF and sci-fi? (That’s not a rhetorical question, I just don’t know what those terms mean in this context)

                Incidentally, in my experience, sci-fi is usually a lot more logical than Real Life (TM).

              • Posted May 10, 2012 at 12:59 am | Permalink

                “SF” (or “sf”) and “sci fi” are both abbreviations for “science fiction”.

                “SF” tends to be used more within sf fandom, with “sci fi” used more by mainstream journalists, &c., but deprecated by “true” sf fans. At least older ones; younger ones who have grown up with “sci fi” may be more accepting!

                As journalists tend to write about mainstream manifestations of sf, and these tend to be the lower-brow kind, sf fans sometimes use “sci fi” for the trashier instances, which might still be hugely entertaining (eg Star Wars). In this usage, sf fans might pronounce it as “skiffy”.

                See http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/sci_fi. (The SFE is an awesome online resource for sf fans, superseding the previous print edition, which ran to 1370 pages.)


              • Posted May 10, 2012 at 1:02 am | Permalink

                * link

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted May 10, 2012 at 2:48 am | Permalink


                Thanks. Though I’ve been reading sf for decades, that’s the first I knew of the conflict. I guess ‘cos I never moved in fan circles. I perceived more of a conflict between sf and fantasy, though Terry Pratchett’s books persuaded me that was a false distinction. Sturgeon’s Law (which I can honestly claim to have formulated independently) is probably more relevant.

                Anyway, the sf encyclopaedia looks to be an excellent discovery – duly bookmarked. Thanks!

            • Mike Lee
              Posted May 8, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

              Except when you are Ron L Hubbard and you figure a new religion is a great idea to make more money…..

      • Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        Fallen from Goddy-woddy, silly-willy.

        If God didn’t make us originally apart from him somehow, then all of creation wouldn’t be the nifty game that it is, as a proving ground for a bunch of free willies who get to decide whether they want to find him or not, and either revel in His presence or be tortured (or merely be really, really sad not to be in His presence, depending on how liberal you are) for eternity depending on what choice was made.

        It’s quite simple, really.

        • DV
          Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

          Yeah. Created sick, commanded to be well. That’s the bottom line.

          • Posted May 8, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

            Well perhaps, but to a much more enlightened theologian like myself it merely suggests that God needed something to DO with all that time.

            He was getting bored. (and lonely, and sad)

            …with all that time on his hands.

            He needed some company. So he made some. (and situated them in a test-like environment, because that is what Gods tend to want to do).

            It’s really simple, if you just think about it.

      • MadScientist
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        Fallen from a tree of course – Basement Cat pushed the First Cat out of a tree!

  3. rhetoric
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    No Adam and Eve –> no original sin

    Which renders the whole New Testament completely worthless.

    Adam and Eve is metaphor –> where does the metaphor in the Bible start and stop?

    Which renders the whole Bible completely worthless.

  4. truthspeaker
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink


  5. Vaal
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    That was an excellent post over at the R Dawkins’ site.

    Gawd I hate the “other ways of knowing” appeal, used by religions and many other fringe beliefs to say “So what if this is not scientifically verifiable, science isn’t the only way of knowing things!”

    The problem is that “science” has come to be seen as a certain specific sphere of activity and sphere of knowledge. Not only associated with “what you put on a lab coat to do” but just the concept that one person is “doing science over here” the same way someone is “doing economics” or “doing golf” over there.

    Whereas science is really the expression of deeper, underlying epistemic virtues.
    It arises from the very problems of claiming knowledge itself that concepts like “accounting for and controlling variables” and “acknowledging the need to weed out human bias” and “predictions and testing against reality” arise. Insofar as these
    are the type of virtues suggested by analysing the problems of attaining knowledge, you can’t go parceling off science as if it were ONLY some specific activity, or idiosyncratic form of knowledge. That’s why when a researcher’s work is shown to have no good control of variables or methodological control, he doesn’t get to say “Well, then, the knowledge I’ve delivered isn’t scientific knowledge, it’s another form of knowledge.” No. There is no reason to grant sloppy epistemological practices as “some other form of knowledge.” They are simply less reliable, or entirely unreliable.

    As Jerry and so many point out, “how do you know that?” is the prime question we need to keep asking the religious. And every time you poke their epistemology, you see it doesn’t remotely deserve the title “knowledge.” And it’s also why the religious “way of knowing” is incompatible with science. Science is simply our finest realization of the way of dealing with epistemological hurdles. If you truly acknowledge the problems of knowledge that the scientific method is designed to surmount, you can’t speak out of the other side of your mouth, drop all that criteria, and claim your lax criteria ought to count as knowledge as well.


    • truthspeaker
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      I love this comment and would like to marry it.

    • darrelle
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      We use the word/label “science” because it is much easier and quicker than a detailed explanation, such as your excellent post.

      But, there are problems with labeling things. It gives people the opportunity to change the meaning of the label to suit their biases, or agenda.

      I am sure that many religious believers do not understand the significance of the methods of science and how generally they can be applied, but I find it hard to believe that most of the sophisticated theology types do.

      • Posted May 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        “I find it hard to believe that most of the sophisticated theology types do.”

        Hmm… did you say what you meant to say there?


        • darrelle
          Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

          Oopps! As you so rightly pointed out, I should have said

          . . . but I find it hard to believe that most of the sophisticated theology types don’t.

          I hate when that happens.

          • Posted May 9, 2012 at 1:31 am | Permalink

            Now I can make the comment I’d intended:

            “I find it hard to believe that most of the sophisticated theology types don’t.” — You do?


            • darrelle
              Posted May 9, 2012 at 5:39 am | Permalink

              Yeah. It is hard for me to accept that even amongst “well educated” people, so many can be so stupid about something so important. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t deny the data, I was just using a figure of speech to express consternation. These people are holding us all back. Or, as my wife used to say, they are “cramping my style.”

              • Posted May 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

                Clever people can be very creative in justifying their (wilful) ignorance!


    • Mike Lee
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

      “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without proof”

      • TFJ
        Posted May 10, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        Which will be countered by arguments over the validity of various forms of evidence. My good friend was always telling me that his experiences in meditation were far more real to him than everyday life, so how did I know that real life was not a dream like illusion. He used to scorn me by saying that I wouldn’t believe in anything that I couldn’t ‘put in a test tube’. That phrase used to wind me up something awful with the utterly trivial view of science that it implied.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted May 10, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

          When talking about truth, evidence, and reality there needs to be a solid distinction made between what is subjective and what is objective, i.e. what is experienced by an individual in their mind, and what is external to any individual and can be verified by many using empirical experiments.

          It seems all the woo makes it’s living and perpetuates its existence by blurring this distinction.

          We have pretty good evidence that what we dream, what we imagine, and what we see inside our minds during meditation is not identical with, nor does it have any direct interaction with the world external to the human mind.

          Your friend and the rest of the believers have not only a trivial view of science, but a grossly exaggerated view of the value of their own subjective experiences. Yes, if I love it is a beautiful thing, and it is “real”, but it is my personal subjective experience only. Believers like to imagine that this experience is some kind of “connection” to a force or energy independent of their own mind. Is there a way to conclusively disprove that muddled notion?

          We need a better way linguistically to isolate that kind of experience (which despite the fact that it is confined to the interior of our skulls is undeniably human, important, and valid), from the objective, from what is external to the human mind, what we can all agree exists independently of any human imagination.

    • Old Rasputin
      Posted May 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Yes. Thank you. That is precisely what needs to be said. I would sleep much better at night if someone would sit down and explain (more or less) /this/ to every remotely literate member of our society.

      I will have to save this somewhere and ste– paraphrase from it for those occasions when I’m feeling too lazy to turn my own carefully (over)wrought prose.

    • jgury
      Posted May 10, 2012 at 2:56 am | Permalink

      ” Science is simply our finest realization of the way of dealing with epistemological hurdles. If you truly acknowledge the problems of knowledge that the scientific method is designed to surmount, you can’t speak out of the other side of your mouth, drop all that criteria, and claim your lax criteria ought to count as knowledge as well.” Tell that to Descartes, Pascal, Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Joshu, Hakuin, Vivekananda, Plato, Buddha, … , and Sir Francis Bacon if understand what he wrote about knowledge while doing his original elaboration of the scientific method. Yes, lax criteria is the real problem too, especially when you deal with concepts of knowledge in justice and ethics. That gets notably scientific in terms of overall criteria vis-a-vis clear and absolutely reasonable scientific arguments. We often ask judges “how do you know that” for example.

  6. Caroline52
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Finally, a great rejoinder to “it’s a different way of knowing.” Thanks!

  7. Egbert
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Well it’s a way of knowing fiction.

  8. Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    The weirdest compatibility argument I’ve ever heard was that humans evolved to perfection, then the fruit corrupted us.

    • Kevin
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      The worst are the biblical literalists who believe that the eating of the IQ-raising sin fruit also had the effect of turning previously docile vegan lions, tigers, and T. Rex’s into carnivores.

      Before the fall, no carnivores. The eating of the apple changed not only humans, but every predatory species on the planet.

      Including, one would presume, spiders. How a spider would be a vegan is beyond me — but that’s what they believe.

      • Christian
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        Not to forget all those pesky parasites.
        The really funny thing is that they just hand-wave them away as the result of the Fall instead of claiming the often very complex host-parasite relationship as evidence for Intelligent Design.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted May 8, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

          Huh? “Evidence for Intelligent Design”? Nice try.

          Intelligent Design certainly is parasitic on science and reason. It latches on and hopes people won’t notice that it’s phony science trying to get a free ride.

          • Christian
            Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

            Of course it’s bullshit but if you see what they put forth as evidence for Intelligent Design, it is quite curious that they do not latch onto the often complex interactions between a parasite and its host(s).

            They invoke the “Intelligent Designer” for just about anything, only the parasites just appeared after the Fall, somehow…

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted May 9, 2012 at 1:04 am | Permalink

              Well you wouldn’t want your benevolent God – err, Intellinent Designer – perpetrating all those nasty parasites, would ya?

              • Christian
                Posted May 9, 2012 at 3:28 am | Permalink

                Well, obviously ;)

      • Posted May 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        Wait, but why is that most evangelical Christians in the US are not vegans? Shouldn’t they be trying to do this one simple thing completely in their control to get back at least one of the attributes of that primordial state of perfection, which their book assures them existed?

        • RFW
          Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

          Not to be rude, but anyone who expects consistency from American evangelicals hasn’t been paying close attention. Theirs is a cafeteria religion: they pick and choose the bits they want to pay attention to.

          • Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

            I suspected that, but I still find it amazing that a religion which is so strictly literalist (“The earth is 6000 years old, because the book says so”, and so on and so forth) and carries much of that literalism to its logical conclusion (homosexuals are evil, because the book says so, and so on and so forth) would somehow fail to be so embarrassingly non-literal in such a simple thing as this.

  9. Ken Pidcock
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Religion is really not about “knowing” anything;

    Actually, I think that probably goes over pretty well with the most theologically liberal “believers”. It’s that whole logos/mythos thing.

  10. Vaal
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    On the same subject:

    Believers often then claim that science isn’t the only way of knowing, or alternately “you atheists believe things you can’t prove either so you use faith” the almost inevitable example given is “love,” as in: “Can you prove your wife loves you?”

    This is the most clueless question – it is evidence of someone simply not thinking about the subject at all.

    We know the ways in which humans express romantic interest and/or love, and when we want to know if someone likes or loves us, we do so by inferring from his/her behavior.

    What are teenage girls doing when they huddle around, dissecting how a particular boy is acting with a girl who is interested in him? They endlessly discuss all the clues, all the evidence in his behavior that suggests he is romantically interested…or not. My wife spends lots of time talking to her single friends “Did he call you back the next day? Did he tell you he was going on that trip? Did he ask you to come?” etc…all an analysis of the available observations looking for EVIDENCE of romantic feelings.

    Why is it we think a guy – “Bill” – has a screw loose who turns up at TV station with flowers ready to propose marriage to a pretty News Anchorwoman who has never met him?

    What about if “Susan” just went up to a guy on the street she’d never met, assuming the guy loves her and would immediately marry her?

    What is the difference in these scenarios that mark them as “nut-case, irrational actions” vs normal, loving relationship scenarios? It’s that Bill and Susan are operating under a total LACK OF EVIDENCE for their belief that these people love them. So in direct contradiction to the claims of the religious apologist, we recognize mere “faith based” inferences of love as irrational, false, and non-indicative of how normal people conclude someone loves them.
    That my wife loves me is a conclusion based on evidence, utterly congruent with the idea our beliefs ought to be evidence-based.


    • Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Really nice post, especially when twinned with the one above. Yes, the Argument from Love is often adduced as “another way of knowing,” and you’ve handily dismantled it.

    • Sastra
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      “Sophisticated” believers will sometimes change the example of “you atheists believe things you can’t prove either so you use faith” from “Can you prove your wife loves you?” to “Can you prove that love matters?”

      This allows them to mix up a claim about an objective fact with an assertion about subjective value. If you can’t scientifically demonstrate that “love is better than hate,” then God is supposed to get a similar pass. He’s a person who is also a value. Faith is faith is faith…

      • Christian
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        Ah yes, the good old “faith” equivocation shell-game.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 9, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

        If you first get the believer to agree on a definition of “better”, you can then point out that the methods of science can be used to study that question.

        Of course, if the believer is paying attention they are not likely to agree on any definition of better. After all they are supposed to believe that their thoughts on the matter are not important, that it is not possible for them to know. Such things are absolutes which must be imposed from outside, by god. That of course is the main issue between believers and non believers. They insist on objective, they have to have an excuse for their god, while non believers are fine with subjective because we understand that if there is to be any “meaning” to our lives we have to create it ourselves.

    • Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Well said!

  11. John Hayman
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Darwin did not sit on the manuscript of “On the Origin of Species” for twenty-five years before publishing it because he knew it was cultural dynamite. Publication was delayed because he needed to establish his credentials as as a competent field biologist and he spent eight years dissecting and classifying barnacles (Cirripedia). Darwin also delayed publication, certainly delayed publication excessively, because he wanted his evidence to be as complete and as convincing as possible. He also calculated that he had lost a third of his time due to illness. (Darwin suffered from a mitochondrial cytopathy, probably an A3243G mtDNA mutation.) Darwin cared for the opinion of his peers in science but not for the opinions of the general public, including those of the nobility and the clergy.

    • Posted May 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Until reading your comment here I had assumed that Darwin delayed publication for the “Cultural Dynamite” reason [including to spare the feelings of his wife]. Thanks for setting me straight. This Wiki adds to what you’ve written:-

      …Darwin had his basic theory of natural selection “by which to work” by December 1838, yet almost twenty years later, when Wallace’s letter arrived on 18 June 1858, Darwin was still not ready to publish his theory. It was long thought that Darwin avoided or delayed making his ideas public for personal reasons. Reasons suggested have included fear of religious persecution or social disgrace if his views were revealed, and concern about upsetting his clergymen naturalist friends or his pious wife Emma. Charles Darwin’s illness caused repeated delays. His paper on Glen Roy had proved embarrassingly wrong, and he may have wanted to be sure he was correct. David Quammen has suggested all these factors may have contributed, and notes Darwin’s large output of books and busy family life during that time.

      A more recent study by science historian John van Wyhe has determined that the idea that Darwin delayed publication only dates back to the 1940s, and Darwin’s contemporaries thought the time he took was reasonable. Darwin always finished one book before starting another. While he was researching, he told many people about his interest in transmutation without causing outrage. He firmly intended to publish, but it was not until September 1854 that he could work on it full time. His estimate that writing his “big book” would take five years was optimistic.

      Is there anything written by Darwin [say in his notebooks] that reveals his thoughts on this? Do you happen to know who first claimed that Darwin believed Origin would be “Cultural Dynamite”?

      • RFW
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

        All of Darwin’s books following Origin of Species can be viewed as further installments of his “big book”. All are readable.

        And to this day I kick myself for not a set of Darwin’s complete works 20-25 years ago when I had the opportunity.

  12. Posted May 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    “There are not different ways of knowing. There is knowing and not knowing, and those are the only two options in this world. ”
    Yes. Knowledge as a purely binary state is certainly the way and the exclusive process by which I learned about everything I know. I think that agrees with most modern and classical philosophical theories of knowledge as well as the neuroscientific and artificial intelligence notions of cognition, thought and consciousness too. There is only one way to really know anything and that is by scientific methods and any other ways lead to not knowing.

    • jgury
      Posted May 10, 2012 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      This of course has the immediate implication that all knowledge gained by things like advertising is unreal and invalid since it is tainted by the original sin of bullshit. The hermeneutics, epistemology and science of advertising are fundamentally bound to many aspects of religion. This may be a new revelation for readers of this blog but it should be obvious. Other things that should be obvious are much more powerful attacks on science coming from the economic and political realms for things like climate, the environment, product safety, ethics, and so forth rather than a bunch of US billy bob hillbilly fundies,snakehandlers, knave preachers, flat earthers and would be Elmer Gantrys.

  13. Jesse
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Good article; but, I think that there may be some confusion [willfull?] with respect to biological sciences, i.e., Darwinism, and the larger body of philosophy that penetrates deeper into metaphysics and epistemology.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      I don’t know if it’s possible to understand what you’re trying to say, but it’s clear enough that you’re no biologist.

      “Darwinism” is a tribal label for creationists, not a word actually used in science.

      The rest of your comment is just word salad.

      • Jesse
        Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink

        Soory that simple words are so difficult for you to grasp. Shall I dumb it down a bit? Darwinism only explains small changes over time and neo-Darwinism is as much a philosophy/religion as anything proposed by theistic apologists.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

          It’s uncivil to tell lies.

          • Jesse
            Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

            I agree. Terrible, so terrible.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

              So why did you?

              • Jesse
                Posted May 9, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

                No, you did.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted May 9, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

                Here’s your lie:

                “Darwinism only explains small changes over time and neo-Darwinism is as much a philosophy/religion as anything proposed by theistic apologists.”

                It is partially correct – evolution works by small changes over time.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted May 9, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

          I’d say that was a pretty good job of dumbing down, rendering the entire thing totally stupid. If you want to compare “neo-Darwinism” to religion, you can’t be taken seriously.

          • jgury
            Posted May 9, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

            How about social Darwinism? Why don’t we discuss that too while we are at it and bring in how it served the needs of making certain notable scientists feel justified and even motivated about what they were doing.

      • Dave Ricks
        Posted May 9, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        John Scanlon FCD wrote to Jesse, “it’s clear enough that you’re no biologist. “Darwinism” is a tribal label for creationists, not a word actually used in science.”

        But biologist Richard Dawkins FRS FRSL has said, “Darwinism is the differential survival of self-replicating genes in a gene pool, usually as manifested by individual behavior, morphology, and phenotypes.

        And biologist Ernst Mayr wrote more broadly, “Darwinism is not a simple theory that is either true or false but is rather a highly complex research program that is being continuously modified and improved.

        I’m no biologist — I’m just saying I’ve seen these biologists use the word.

        • Posted May 10, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

          To be pedantic, John said “not used in science”, not “not used by scientists”! ;-)

          That is, Dawkins, Meyr, et al. clearly use “Darwinism” in a popular context, but are less likely to in a peer-reviewed journal paper… possibly.


          • Dave Ricks
            Posted May 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

            Your comment highlights my point:

            A) First Jesse wrote “Darwinism” in a website comment.

            B) Then John wrote Jesse is clearly no biologist because Jesse wrote “Dawinism” in a website comment.

            C) Then you suggested a distinction, that in John’s claim, the phrase “in science” means something more formal, like “a peer-reviewed journal paper” versus a popular context like website comments. Yes, exactly! Your distinction shows exactly where John slipped in a false equivalence.

            TL;DR — I’m sorry to single out John who means well, but we’re the ones being “tribal” if we let Richard Dawkins say “Darwinism” online but we won’t let Jesse.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted May 11, 2012 at 3:56 am | Permalink

              Yeah but it was Jesse who brought up the ‘neo-Darwinism is a religion’ canard again so I would not be inclined to let him off the hook. ;)

              • Dave Ricks
                Posted May 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

                I agree about keeping Jesse on the hook: If a canard comes up, then our next move should address the canard being illegitimate, not the word being illegitimate.

  14. Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    “There is no magic. There is only knowledge, more or less hidden.”
    (Gene Wolfe, The Claw of the Conciliator)

  15. Bob Carlson
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    St. Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as one man’s trespass led to the condemnation of all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to salvation and life for all.”

    As it were, I am presently reading the ebook The Fabricated Paul: Early Christianity In The Twilight The author, Hermann Detering, said:

    With regard to the person of the apostle, in the search for non-Christian sources for Paul one finds oneself in a similar dilemma as in the attempt to document the historicity of Jesus with non-Christian source materials: the ancient sources are silent.

    The author hypothesizes that the writings that are generally regarded as authentically being those of Paul were really penned by Marcion toward the middle of the 2nd century. Marcion believed that there were two gods. Detering said:

    Marcion claimed that alongside the (Jewish) creator God there was also another God, a second or “foreign” God. This “other God” is the good and loving God, while that God, i.e., the Jewish God, is the God of the creation and the law. While the good God revealed himself for the first time in Jesus Christ, the Old Testament is the revelation writing of the Jewish God. The Jewish God is subordinate to to good God in every way, who dwells above him in his own heaven (the third heaven).[152]

    Beliefs like this one got Marcion excommunicated as a heretic in 144 CE, but he nevertheless impacted orthodoxy, all the more so, if he was the inventor of Paul.

    • RFW
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      There’s a very strong whiff of gnosticism in that description of Marcion’s belief.

      Elaine Pagels has written extensively on Gnosticism. I don’t know if her analysis has been met with general agreement among scholars or not, but her books will inform those curious about the subject.

    • Jesse
      Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      Marcion the ‘inventor of Paul’? You sound like Robert M. Price and the mythicists circling around the drain. Clement of Rome and Athenasius both pre-date Marcion and both made use of Paul’s epistles.

  16. Solomon Wagstaff
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 5:00 am | Permalink

    “It ain’t what you don’t know that hurts you,
    it’s what you know that just ain’t so.”
    –Josh Billings or maybe Mark Twain

    • jgury
      Posted May 9, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

      The blues legend corollary to that is better because it has music to go along with it: Believin’ is alright just don’t believe in the wrong thing,
      The corolarry to that is very different….

  17. emmageraln
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on emmageraln.

  18. Evolutionary Theist
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    1. Darwin wrote that “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent theist & an evolutionist”.

    2. American botanist Asa Gray, a devout Presbyterian, was a good friend of Darwin’s and a leading supporter of Darwin’s theory in the USA.

    3. Within a year of Darwin’s “Origin of the Species”, theologians had published “Essays and Reviews”, which supported Darwin’s Theories.

    4. The age of the earth by 1850 was thought to be between 20 million and 100 million years old, which didn’t support a literal reading of Genesis. This was a view accepted by theologians. So “Genesis not literal” is not something new, but had been around for years.

    5. “Original sin” may be symbolic for how all humans fall short of God (where each human decides himself what is good and evil), with Christ’s sacrifice a symbol of God redeeming all humans, which doesn’t require an actual Adam and Eve.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted May 10, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      Darwin was just a man, not an infallible authority. Who cares what he wrote about God? What matters were his ideas on evolution.

      Isaac Newton had all kinds of crazy ideas too. Because he invented calculus and mechanics and optics doesn’t mean we take his alchemy and his religious nuttery seriously.

      Evolution automatically means humans aren’t perfect. Big Deal. Just as this does not require an actual Adam and Eve, there is absolutely nothing that requires a theistic God to exist, or that requires that Jesus’ sacrifice was anything more than a poor rebellious rabbi being tortured to death by some Romans.

      • jgury
        Posted May 10, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        Who cares? I do.
        Inasmuch as Darwin is a seminal genius of historic proportions I am interested in just about everything he had to write that is significant. For historical accuracy at the very least. Same as Einstein and Pascal for that matter. Pascal is more than a Math genius and one of the few if only significant mathematical geniuses who was also a literary titan.
        You are correct about God not necessary for creation, souls, afterlives, everything a basic Stephen Hawking point. All powerful God is sufficient for all that and more is the interesting question. That is in the math sense of IFF necessary and sufficient. Much like rationality sufficient for reality but not necessary. God in this sense acts more as an imaginary variable, incredibly useful for solving problems with both real and purely imaginary components.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted May 10, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

          Mostly imaginary. Somehow the universe came into being, of course, but there is no mathematical necessity that any kind of intelligence was behind that. In fact, it is pretty nigh impossible to imagine an intelligence behind it (unless you suspend critical faculties) because it only begs the question of where did that intelligence come from. No progress on that front.

          Darwin was a man of his cultural historical context. If he lived today he’d probably venture very different opinions about religion than he did in the 19th century. As such, his religious views do not lend anything to a contemporary discussion about whether or not evolution is compatible with religion. In fact, it is a trivial fact that they aren’t compatible, and one must engage in contortions and invent their own new religion to find any kind of compatibility at all. Better to just abandon religion as a quaint mistake of early human cultures.

          • jgury
            Posted May 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

            Atavism is hard to abandon. And like the saying goes, Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] A former pastor explains his disbelief: [...]

  2. [...] to Jerry Coyne’s latest post at Why Evolution Is True many of us have been directed to a Mike Aus article on RichardDawkins.net that confronts what [...]

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