Ed Suominen meets a Sophisticated Theologian

A few nights ago, reader Ed Suominen went to a talk by my old nemesis John Haught, a Sophisticated Catholic Theologian™ whom I once debated at the University of Kentucky. You can read about that memorable encounter on Haught’s Wikipedia page. At any rate, Haught’s talk was at Gonzaga, a Catholic University in Spokane, Washington. After the talk, Ed—a former Christian Fundamentalist in the little-known sect of Laestadianism, and now a nonbeliever who wrote about his deconversion in Salon—chatted with Haught at his book-signing. Ed wrote me about the episode, and, with his permission, I reproduce his account below:

In Evolving out of Eden, Bob Price and I called Haught “one of the best writers out there at articulating the problems that evolution poses for Christian theology.” He began his talk last night with one of those problems, the vast chasm of deep time that preceded the evolution of life. He illustrated that with 29 books representing the 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang, 450 pages each and with a million years per page. Human consciousness, he said, occupies only the last 10-20% of the last page of the last book, and the first two-thirds of the books are devoid of life entirely. It was an instructive metaphor for him to present.

Otherwise, the talk was pretty much content-free. But it was interesting to watch him speak because it was much more reminiscent of the style of a mellow liberal preacher rather than of a hard-facts scientist. The hand-waving is not merely metaphorical! All that business about God drawing forward and being up ahead rather than up above (this from part two of the talk) was accompanied by appropriate smooth gestures of the arms, along with a soothing oratory that promised eventual warmth and revelation and beauty for us in some undefined future with God.

I sat there knowing that Haught’s gauzy theology doesn’t seem to specify any possible means for an afterlife. How, after all, does this God-in-process watching from the sidelines go about providing an afterlife for a whole disembodied human consciousness if he won’t even twiddle a few lousy point mutations here and there? (In Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life, Haught criticizes efforts to insert “divine action into a series of natural causes,” e.g., quantum events or genetic mutations.) And yet almost everyone else in the audience (mostly senior citizens more inclined than usual to think about mortality) was eating it all up. Evolution, science, and yet this meeting with God soon, too! What’s not to like? There was even a standing ovation, though I remained seated along with about a fifth of the audience.

Haught contradicted himself one memorable time. In his “problem solved” second half of the lecture following the science stuff, he talked about how it seems that the universe was set up for the eventuality of life. The whole thing was spring-loaded, so to speak, so that the whole shelf, even all those blank volumes, can be considered part of the story of life. (I don’t have any exact quotes, but this was the conclusion of some discussion about the fine-tuning argument, which he seems to like.) Yeah, well, it sure seems like a lot of preamble! This God of his certainly doesn’t get bored by a tedious pregame show.

Blah, blah, blah. So much soothing word salad in service of his need (career and psyche alike, I suspect) for there to be a God behind it all somehow, no matter what. With apologies to the writer of Psalms 84:2, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the Templeton Prize.”

I posed one of just two questions that were allowed. It was this, verbatim: “What mode of divine action would you propose for God to do this leading and drawing and so forth?” The reply was long and barely coherent, and did not even come close to providing any actual answer. He did say somewhere in all the words and circular upwelling gestures that action implies pushing or force and that’s not what God is doing.

Fine: Then what the hell is he doing? There has to be some sort of interface between this spiritual entity Haught is happy to name for his pious audience and the physical world that The Entity is supposedly cheering on from up ahead somewhere. Otherwise, it is all “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

I met up with Haught right after the talk, before the book-signing line got going. I offered him a print copy of Evolving out of Eden, and he declined politely, saying he had a copy for the Kindle already. I showed him the page where Bob and I had introduced him with a compliment for his clear-headed way of presenting the scientific issues, saying we found it “refreshing.” (And it is—compared to all the nonsense out there.) He said that he had noticed we were also quite critical of him. I acknowledged that we were, but at least wanted to point out something positive. He said, yes, he noticed we “cut him some slack” in that area—with a faintest of smiles—and that it was good to have had an exchange of ideas. I shook his hand and agreed and said it was a pleasure to finally meet him. And it was; he’s just a fellow human being who yearns for transcendence and, finding almost nothing available to work with, is trying his best to patch up the crumbling edifice of his ancient church.

Thanks to Ed for the story. I told him, when he said it was a “pleasure” to meet Haught, that he was being extraordinarily kind to a man whose lucubrations I dislike intensely, but Ed, having once drunk the Kool-Aid, is more forgiving than I. I also told Ed that perhaps he wouldn’t be so kind had he read Haught’s God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. It’s a dreadful book, full of sanctimony and hauteur. I still find it amazing that Haught, a Distinguished Research Professor of theology at Georgetown University (what kind of “research” do these people do?), gets paid for writing book after book, all touting the same vacuous nonsense. Whatever they pay theologians, it’s too much.

And I’ve always found it a great pity that people like Haught, or those who believe even more firmly in an afterlife, won’t ever be able to find out they were wrong. For with death comes total extinction of consciousness, and no chance to come back and tell people that there’s no reunion with God after all.






  1. GBJames
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink


  2. Vaal
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Could theology, or religion in general, be the greatest misuse of human intellect of all time?

    • dan bertini
      Posted March 4, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Nope! Because it does not require any!!
      And who knows, we could be wrong, but the fact that these people accept their beliefs without any evidence what so ever really fries my ham.

    • Sastra
      Posted March 4, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      I’d say yes. It’s as if a million geniuses were offered a million dollar prize to come up with rationalizations for the existence of something which is supposed to be extremely and critically significant — and yet so vague it could be anything, even nonexistent, and make no difference at all in what we observe of the world.

      Now go!

    • Posted March 4, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      I’d say so.

      At the very, very best it causes harm by diverting, in staggering amounts, the resources of time, money, and thought from useful endeavors to useless ones.

      But, as we all know, the harm it causes is in fact much more detrimental and much more vast than just that.

      • Wills
        Posted March 5, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        “Diverting” resources? “Useless” endeavours? Are you not aware that the foundations for the scientific method were laid by creationists? What a shame that their respect and awe for the creator of this incredibly inspiring universe is wasted on the materialistic, prejudiced minds of this generation.

        • Posted March 6, 2016 at 4:34 am | Permalink

          You mean “creationists” like the ancient Greeks? As for the Middle Ages, virtually every European was a creationist then, so why not give them credit for things like the printing press, too?

          By the way, before you can post further here, please give us some EVIDENCE for the creator that you take for granted actually exists.

          We’re waiting. . .

          • Wills
            Posted March 6, 2016 at 4:57 am | Permalink

            Give credit where credit is due – and it is most certainly due to the likes of Luis Agassiz, Charles Babbage, Francis Bacon, George Cuvier, Sir Humphrey Davy, Michael Faraday, William Kelvin, Kepler, Gregor Mendel, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, and a host of others – all creationists, all men who laid the foundation upon which the entire edifice of the modern day scientific method is laid. Men who made actual achievements in useful inventions and contributions to science and life in general, as opposed to endless hypothesis and armchair philosophies of certain godless stellar evolutionists and evolutionary biologists. Their relationship with the creator did not hinder their scientific research or practical contributions in any way, as you seem to suggest in your vociferous bablings. And why would you demand for evidence that God exists? Do you also want to call on Him?

            • Posted March 6, 2016 at 5:07 am | Permalink

              You apparently don’t know the Roolz for believers (give evidence for God when asked), or how to spell “babbling”. If you had simply made this fatuous comment, which originally gave credit to religion for science, I would have let you remain, but insulting the host is a banning offense (another Roolz violation), and so, Wills, go tout your misguided accommodationism at other places. Hand it to a Christian to be “un-Christian” like!

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted March 4, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Oh yes!

      You could say I have no faith [or evidence] in that it is anything else.

    • nicky
      Posted March 4, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      Maybe not the greatest misuse, but I’m at a loss right now to think of any greater.

    • Posted March 4, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      If there is some way to aggregate human intellectual effort, yes.

      When I read Aquinas, for example, I am dismayed, for I see someone who is without doubt a genius, just wasting his time …

      On the other hand, it isn’t a total loss, because it allows one to move the theological equivalent of the Overton window in the right way, I think. (But this presupposes there was theology to begin with, so maybe that’s not a good way to think things through after all.)

    • Vaal
      Posted March 4, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      I was just listening to a debate featuring a Christian Philosopher who’d written a book with the aim of giving some answers to the problem of suffering.

      As he detailed some of his answers, as usual, my jaw was just on the floor due to how utterly inadequate they were…literally leaving the problem of suffering untouched.
      I just thought “I can’t believe this smart guy thought the problem so important he spent time writing a book on it…and THIS is all he can come up with?”

      (BTW, his theory was that God allows suffering because God wanted to love specifically “us,” – the persons who arose via the process of history etc. He said, to paraphrase, “sometimes I get to thinking the world could be a better place…but then it would be a different world than this one, which means I personally wouldn’t exist, so God must have created this world because He wanted a ‘relationship’ with precisely the people who he knew would come to exist, like me.”)

      But then, they are engaged in a hopeless task to begin with: there has never been a good answer to the problem because it’s a permanent square peg and round hole.
      It just highlighted again the depressing examples like this of all that brain-power devoted to solving the “problems” of believing in an Imaginary Being.

    • kelskye
      Posted March 4, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      I’d say considering the quality of minds usually involved, “Kirk vs Picard” is the greatest misuse of human intellect of all time. 😉

  3. Sastra
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Haught contradicted himself one memorable time. In his “problem solved” second half of the lecture following the science stuff, he talked about how it seems that the universe was set up for the eventuality of life. The whole thing was spring-loaded, so to speak, so that the whole shelf, even all those blank volumes, can be considered part of the story of life.

    An “argument” like this is so vacuous it doesn’t even count as an argument (ie something meant to persuade the unconvinced.) After the fact anything at all can be pronounced “spring-loaded” into the nature of reality from the beginning of time, whether that random fact X be human life, the zika virus, a rock out on the edges of space, or maybe just me. The atheist Argument from Scope (that the size and scope of the cosmos argues against the ultimate significance of humanity) is only powerful to the humble. Not the pseudo-humble (“Wow, this was all created so that meek little old me would someday realize how small I am and marvel over how really huge God is. Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell you.”)

    This is soft apologetics, designed not to convince skeptics but reassure believers that well, they’re not totally stupid or anything. There’s no tangible contradiction. So all the vapid handwaving regarding mechanism and even meaning is supposed to be a feature, not a bug. The soothing mindset being invoked is that of a relaxed and incurious child just experiencing their own thoughts as magical nothings from nowhere — but nevertheless very real and basic, of course. And important.

    HOW does God “draw us to Him?” The same way imagining a furry cat draws that cat into our arms. Stop thinking so much. The analogy is sufficient if you’re nice and open instead of mean and closed-minded like atheists are.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted March 4, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Here is something interesting out of my alma mater, dethroning humanity once again:

      “But imagine if we could simulate an entire universe, not just down to the scale of galaxies, but right the way down to individual earth-like planets. The authors of this paper imagined that, then they stopped imagining it because they’d done it.”

      “Putting aside our vanity we can see it’s a certainty that plenty of other planets like earth exist out there, with as much (or maybe even more) capacity to nurture life. But whilst we may not be special, we also may not be usual (which is probably the opposite of what your mum told you when you were young). Most rocky planets are about as old as earth, but far more of them are orbiting the smaller, more common cousin of our sun, a red dwarf. And they’re not in galaxies like ours either, they’re more likely to be found in much larger, less structured elliptical galaxies (compared to our flat, leggy, spinning top of a Milky Way).”

      “Interestingly, the Copernican principle, or it’s wonderfully named sister, the mediocrity principle, are slightly at odds with this result. Extending the chain of reasoning that got us to a heliocentric solar system suggests that our planet is not unique, but going further still probabilistically we should find ourselves on the most mundane, average and commonly boring rocky planet there is. Whilst plenty of teenagers will argue strongly for this, it doesn’t seem to be true according to this study. Instead we find ourselves orbiting an unusual type of star in an uncommon kind of galaxy. Our planet is not unique, but nor is it typical.”

      I’ll leave you with an interesting thought. Copernicus had put the sun at the center of the solar system by the 16th century, and yet it took until the early 20th century to persuade the astronomical community that the sun was not at the center of the galaxy.
      We, as biased and vain observers, find it easy to make ourselves the center of our own narrative, both figuratively and geographically. We’ve extended the Copernican revolution to it’s logical conclusion, where our planet, our sun, our galaxy, possibly even our universe, are not unique or special. Now we need a new revolution, and cast aside any notion that we are typical, that our view of the universe is exemplary and that our situation should be representative of anyone else’s.

      We are one data point, individually random and unpredictable, …”

      [ http://astrobites.org/2016/02/24/copernicus-and-the-made-up-planets-simulating-other-earths/ ]

      I think Penoyre hit the right analysis here. Zackrisson et al argues for rejecting the Copernican principle all together, but none of their results is a 2 sigma deviation.

      Instead we are neither unique nor typical. This is also what we can see from the Planck data, where our universe deviates from a favored set of parameters with about the same order of magnitude, “neither unique nor typical”. By observation we are pond scum that happened to spawn in an unremarkable portion of an unremarkable pond, by any and all measures.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted March 5, 2016 at 5:20 am | Permalink

        …far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy.

    • nicky
      Posted March 4, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      I think it really is the good old ‘anthropic principle’.
      The fact that we can talk about it appears to skew the odds.
      Of all the possible universes, the ones that do not give rise to ‘intelligent ‘ life necessarily cannot. Vacuous is indeed a good description.

      Talk to you again when I win the lottery (the chance of which is infinitesimal, since I do not play) 🙂

  4. Colin
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    In the words of Carl Sagan: “You can’t convince a believer of anything, for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated NEED to believe.”

  5. Mattapult
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Speaking of Sophisticated Theology, you can skip Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition. I cannot take Feser seriously. He complains that others misrepresent theology. Then he misrepresents science an order of magnitude worse. The book is loaded with gratuitous personal insults.

    Here’s an example of misrepresentation. Feser makes Dawkins comment about a one-time momentary groping experience sound as if that represents Dawkins view of all pedophelia:

    …Or [Richard Dawkins] weird outrage over the “hysteria” he thinks surrounds the treatment of pedophiles –his own boyhood victimization by a pedophile was, he kindly shares with us, “embarrassing but otherwise harmless” 5 –and you get some truly creepy vibes about the direction in which secularist “values education” might go.

    I’m working on a 1-star Amazon review.

    • Posted March 4, 2016 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      Edward Feser is a Catholic, so the last bit of that quote is fairly amazing.

      • Mattapult
        Posted March 4, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        To the credit (credit?) of the book, Feser doesn’t rely on scripture in his arguments. But in his argument, he “proves” there is an Unchanged Changer–a being that is the root of all change yet cannot change itself. He claims that being must be unique and can only exist as one. Feser asserts that god is the Christian God. Oddly enough, Feser never mentions God changing into Jesus, or God as a trinity. Maybe his Catechism is deliberately out of view to avoid that awkward WTF moment.

        • Vaal
          Posted March 4, 2016 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

          I spent quite a while trying to draw out from the Feser crowd any reason to think that their philosophical First Cause God warranted their actual religious, Christian beliefs whatsoever. As you can imagine, that gap was not crossed to say the least.

          Edward Feser doesn’t seem to view it as his bag to argue for his actual religious beliefs – that is Christianity. I remember him mentioning he’d sooner leave that to other specialists such as William L. Craig.

          (As antagonistic as he can be, I enjoy some of Feser’s writing, at least on his blog).

  6. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I can do it too:
    a. God exists in all time frames — the past, the present, and the future. How do I know? He is omniscient and in every place in space-time! So of course it is so.
    b. It is meaningless to think he inexplicably waited 13.8 billion years to make us since he did make us ‘immediately’ in one of His time frames.
    c. To feel put out about that long wait is also meaningless. You felt nothing of your non-existence. In your time frame, you have always existed!

    I will accept my Templeton prize in $50 bills. Thanx.

    • Posted March 4, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      That’s sort of like an article I saw proposing that the 6 days of creation were in some frame of reference or other and were simply 13.8 billion years in the standard cosmological frame (or whatever). This doesn’t quite work … (Shades of Descartes insisting that his cosmology put the earth at rest because he held it was at rest with respect to the matter of the inner most vortex …)

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted March 4, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        The closest analogy to my God is He is like a Time Lord. But rather than being like a time traveler (Dr. Who), or like someone who can stop time (Christopher Reeves in the 1st Superman movie), He is like.. well, no one I can think of. He just exists at all time points all at once. He knows the ending of every movie and t.v. show, including ones not made yet.

  7. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I glanced over Haught’s book, but did not read it cover to cover (as I did the very disappointing atheist critique of Eagleton and the dreadful one by Chris Hedges [I like other things Eagleton has written and like virtually nothing at all Hedges has written about any topic whatsoever]).

    I was intrigued to note that Haught thinks that up to a point one can be moral without religion/God but not entirely. I then realized then this is the standard Thomas-Aquinas line with its woefully bizarre distinction between “supernatural virtue” and “natural virtue”. The difference is that Haught does not parse the dividing line so neatly, but makes it blurry and unfocused.

  8. grasshopper
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    During the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia there was a joke doing the rounds about the Russian soldiers, to wit: “Why do Russian soldiers hang around in groups of three? Because one can read, one can write, and one just likes the company of intellectuals.”

    From Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patience” we have
    “If you’re anxious for to shine in the high aesthetic line as a man of culture rare,
    You must get up all the germs of the transcendental terms, and plant them everywhere.
    You must lie upon the daisies and discourse in novel phrases of your complicated state of mind,
    The meaning doesn’t matter if it’s only idle chatter of a transcendental kind.
    And every one will say,
    As you walk your mystic way,
    “If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me,
    Why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be!”

    All of which is to say, if the bleating coming from the bellwether sounds numinous, then why would’t I want to be a sheep, and follow the Sophisticated one?

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted March 5, 2016 at 5:27 am | Permalink

      Sounds like G & S anticipated postmodernism.

  9. Scott Draper
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    “that he was being extraordinarily kind to a man whose lucubrations I dislike intensely”

    Yeah, I can’t help but view as corrupt someone who contributes to the self-deception of others.

  10. kelskye
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    “There has to be some sort of interface between this spiritual entity Haught is happy to name for his pious audience and the physical world that The Entity is supposedly cheering on from up ahead somewhere.”
    This is a recurring problem I find any time I talk with theists. If they’re going to posit that God works through nature, how do they then tell the difference between there being a God and not being one? As far as I can tell, I haven’t seen a good answer to this problem. Indeed, theists at this point tend to bite the bullet and call it a matter of faith.

  11. EvolvedDutchie
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    “what kind of “research” do these people do?”

    Usually it’s just writing history. Theologians write about the lives of saints or just particularly interesting, religious individuals. Sometimes they write about a church, some other religious building, or the evolution of doctrine throughout the ages. Rarely do theologians solve doctrinal problems. And with regards to catholicism, they don’t even have the authority to solve problems. I know a few theologians. They are all essentially church historians.

  12. KD
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    If there is a God, then I imagine the operation of God is manifest in synergy in nature.

    For example, language has relatively stable meaning (yes, it changes over time just like the banks of a river). The meaning of language depends on a community of speakers, but not on any one speaker, or even on one subgroup of speakers (except when you are talking about standardization). The question is how this is all set up. Pinker, Chomsky have tried to construct it on an individual basis, but it will never work (this is the subject of Wittgenstein’s private language argument). Moreover, the empirics is putting it in doubt too (skeptics can examine the Aeon article on the fall of the “language instinct”).

    Language creates a whole, and organizes the many into a system of meaning. Not clear how that happens, or if we really have anything much on reflexivity/mimetics and social behavior in general. This is this whole social piece that reductionism leaves out, and kludges together goofy hand-waving proofs.

    Language is a system in which the meanings of concepts are open, subject to change, not following determinant paths. Further, at least in social science, the description can itself modify the social order it describes, resulting in novelty. [Reliable predictions about commodity pricing changes result in trading strategies that disrupt the pattern.] How this all happens, I don’t think anyone has really come up with an answer, other than to claim it is impossible.

    Where does creativity come from? I’m not sure we have advanced much beyond the explanations of the Greeks I fear. Sure, neuroscience, blah-blah, it all addresses the how. Who, what, and for what end never enter into it.

    • KD
      Posted March 4, 2016 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      It’s eros I tell you, eros. But don’t forget Heraclitus either:

      “We must recognize that war is common and strife is justice, and all things happen according to strife and necessity.”

  13. KD
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    God, Classically, is the formal cause of all things (conveying their “whatness” or identity) as well as the telos of all things (their purpose).

    God is also the efficient cause in the sense of being the agent that sets everything into being, and natural science then contents itself with the intermediate causes.

    So its pretty simple where to go:

    1.) Nominalism denies that categories have any reality at all, so no essence or identity in the world, just arbitrary concatenations of things.

    2.) The anti-teleology strand claims that teleology does not exist, or there is “illusory teleology”–which is something like a “mirage” on a world with no water.

    3.) The denial of agency and the abacus/clock model is supposed to blow up the efficient cause and leave only intermediary causes.

    None of the above has any real effect on science per se (because scientist go on looking at questions such as the “origin of species” even though nominalism says its nonsense, as well as use teleological language in scientific papers etc.). It doesn’t actually matter if imaginary numbers exist or not, so long as you are not forbidden from invoking imaginary numbers in solving real problems in mathematics.

    I think naturalism stands or falls based on the philosophical coherence of the above three strands. But I think if you accept intelligibility, teleology, and agency, it is very hard to avoid something like the G__ word.

    • Posted March 5, 2016 at 5:02 am | Permalink

      This is all either word salad or nonsense. The claim that the origin of species is “nonsense” is completely ludicrous. I deny that, as I wrote a whole book on it, which you apparently haven’t read. Species are not, as I show in the first chapter of “Speciation”, arbitrary divisions of nature

      I suggest that you post this kind of stuff at a philosophy website—or learn some biology.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted March 5, 2016 at 5:38 am | Permalink

        Thank you! I read KD’s comment three times, and still had no clue as to what he was on about. Word salad!

        • Diane G.
          Posted March 5, 2016 at 5:41 am | Permalink

          You mean this–“Nominalism denies that categories have any reality at all, so no essence or identity in the world, just arbitrary concatenations of things.”–wasn’t crystal clear to you?

          • Posted March 5, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

            That’s just because you aren’t accepting its intelligibility so you can avoid the G__ word. 😛

            • Diane G.
              Posted March 6, 2016 at 1:00 am | Permalink


              KD: “So its pretty simple where to go.”

              Darn! And I so wanted to tell him.

      • Wills
        Posted March 5, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        Are random mutations and natural selection still a basic tenet of evolution, or am I still living in the dark ages? So far as I know, natural selection, combined with mutation, migration and genetic drift are postulated as the mechanism that drives evolution.

      • KD
        Posted March 11, 2016 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

        There are about 26 definitions of species bantered about by biologists. You have “Red Wolves” in the West that are genetically mostly coyote, but are supposedly wolfs and so on the endangered species list.

        The Platonic idea of a “species” is that you have some kind of hermetically sealed group from another group. The other extreme is that it amounts to arbitrarily setting an arbitrary boundary around of class of things.

        If it is the second, (as suggested by the fact that biologists have no clear agreement on what a species is, or whether something actually belongs to one), then there is no mystery, as the species originates in the taxonomist.

        This, of course, does not knock out natural selection as instrumental to the development of life. Stuff changes, and we draw lines in arbitrary places to distinguish stuff from other stuff.

        • Posted March 12, 2016 at 4:40 am | Permalink

          You have no idea what you’re talking about, do you. If you think the delineation of species is arbitrary, you’d better do some reading about speciation.

        • Diane G.
          Posted March 12, 2016 at 5:01 am | Permalink

          That’s choice–pontificating on the definition of “species” on the website of the man who wrote the book on it.

    • KD
      Posted March 11, 2016 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

      God, you actually don’t have to be entirely ignorant of the history of European philosophy to be an atheist guys! In fact, you might be more convincing if you had a primitive undergraduate level understanding of the basic ideas.





      Intentionality (related to agency):



      Oh, and Aristotle’s Four Causes:


      • Posted March 12, 2016 at 4:37 am | Permalink

        You have no idea how arrogant this reply is, do you? Stop this kind of discourse, please; you can make your points without touting your own self-styled superiority.

      • Posted March 12, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        No, you don’t have to be ignorant of this. You can debate these points and their relevance to questions about the existence of gods or God in philosophical discussions focused on these points.

        But the we can turn to the shell game that occurs on a weekly basis when you sit down in the steadily emptying pews of the Catholic Church and realize that no matter which cup you choose, the en vogue definition of God is surely not to be found there. Sorry, today we’re speaking of the God whose earthly representative shuns curiosity and advises against worrying about detail. Tomorrow, we’ll lift that cup and find it’s the God of Aristotle and Aquinas. Just when we think we can win this rigged game, we choose the intellectual cup only to find that we’re now speaking of the God who makes suns dance and statues cry, who tells us to rejoice in our suffering for bringing us closer to Jesus, yet simultaneously directs mindless Aunt Mable to her misplaced car keys.

        Then the good congregants who waive away the inconsistencies with reference to mystery and divine wisdom can happily fill the collection basket and lament the fact that the house won again, but don’t worry, atheists are a righteous ignorant lot and at least we’re not like them. Wrong cup, sir…please join us again next week. I’m sorry, but this is a game in which I (and thankfully an increasing portion of the planet) refuse to participate.

  14. Posted March 4, 2016 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Like Ed and many other readers here, I was drank the Kool-Aid as well. I have no desire to make individual believers disavow their faith, rather I desire that they keep it out of the public square and present rational arguments for their positions. If they feel better at the end of the day positively believing in an afterlife while cleansing themselves of all the sanctimonious nonsense, then I couldn’t care less.

    All that said, I take no issue in challenging a believer who wishes to impose her claims upon me. I was once in the position where I tried to inflict my godly righteousness upon society and it was the pushback I received that changed my mind. I don’t expect Jerry or any other person who wasnt once soaked in religious dogma to be able to empathize, but I do truly understand the theist position. It was patience and respect that deconverted me (along with a good dose of sarcasm, which I can always appreciate); unfortunately for people like Haught, I think they’ve simply built a wall of denial that is too big to tear down. I don’t suspect that he, Feser, Hart, et al. will ever change their minds. They can’t rant and rave all they want about our closemindedness, but there’s only one group of people in this debate who are open to being wrong. And that’s why we should fight tooth and nail against people like Haught spreading these ideas.

  15. Diane G.
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 12:25 am | Permalink


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