Intelligent Design

What Did the Pope Really Say?

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I’m sure you’re all well aware of the very angry reaction of the Muslim world to the remarks that Pope Benedict made the other day. Well, I’ve read the text of his remarks: lo, and behold, his reference to the criticism of Mohammed by a 14th century emporer were, as they say, “taken out of context”. It’s remarkable.

The entire lecture focused rather on the relationship between faith and reason. In the end, it was a critique of what might be termed “scientism”: that is, “the use of human reason in accordance with the dictates of the scientific method is the highest use of intelligence possible”, thus rendering philosophy and theology merely reason’s “step-children”: to be tolerated, but not paid attention to.

The Pope makes one remark that, in the context of the Pope’s recently ballyhooed week-long retreat focusing on evolution, takes on considerable import. From an ID perspective, you know exactly what the Pope is trying to tell the methodological naturalists out there in general, and the Darwinists in particular.

Here’s the quote:

Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought: to philosophy and theology.

I don’t know about you, but telling “scientific reason” that it has to “accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature” sure sounds like he’s saying that the “design inference” should be taken more seriously.

Here’s the link to the Pope’s 90 minute lecture:

31 Replies to “What Did the Pope Really Say?

  1. 1
    kairos says:

    Agree. And don’t forget that in his famous speech in November 2005 the Pope said that the Word of Gow awakens “the reason that sleeps” in order to recognize the intelligent design of universe.
    How could have been said better that not to recognize id in the world is unreasonable?

  2. 2
    Mats says:

    Still on the Pope’s remarks about Islam: it’s interesting to see Muslims reacting to the accusations of jihad being against God, by doing more jihad (attacking Christians, for example). Where are the moderates when we need them?

  3. 3
    P. Phillips says:

    I am saddened by the outcome, surely unintended, by the Pope’s quotation, which has evidently resulted in violence against Christians. I think it was an error in judgment, and recommend The Telegraph’s essays, this in particular.

    We can only pray for peace.

    The British press has well written and fair essays:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk

    A wise and much persecuted man said:

    # # # #

    I also spoke of how, sadly, despite this fertile flow of ideas, many on both sides had still been left with uncompromising prejudices towards each other’s cultures.

    “I believe with all my heart that responsible men and women must work to restore mutual respect between faiths. That we should do all we can to overcome the distrust that poisons so many people’s lives.

    “Scientific knowledge, which has brought us all so much that we value and are privileged to take for granted, at the end of the day is not the same as wisdom.

    “I think we need to recover the depth, the subtlety, the generosity of imagination, the respect for wisdom that so marked Islam in its great ages. Islam called Jews and Christians the peoples of the book, because they, like Muslims are a part of a religion of sacred texts.

    “And what was so distinctive of the great ages of faith surely was that they understood that, as well as sacred texts, there is the art of interpretation of sacred texts – between the meaning of God’s word for all time and its meaning for this time.

    “And I feel – and you must forgive me for I am no scholar – it was Islam’s greatness to understand this in its full depth and challenge. And this is what you gentlemen, if I may say so, at this great and historic institution, can give not only to Islam, but, by example, to all the other children of Abraham.

    “Nor must we lose the single most important principle that unites the Abrahamic faiths: In Judaism ‘Love your neighbour as thyself’; in Christianity, ‘All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them’; and in Islam ‘no-one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself’.”

    # # # # #

    I regret His Holiness included that passage.

    Excerpt from the Telegraph:

    # # # # #

    It is understandable that Muslims have taken offence at the emperor’s words wrenched out of context. But the Pope was quoting them both to support his thesis that there is an analogy between God’s “Creator Spirit” and our created reason, and to condemn the use of violence for religious purposes.

    The image of jihad in the Western world has been reduced to that of holy war against infidels (just as sharia law is seen as the amputation of hands for theft and stoning for adultery). Jihad means much more than that, not least the personal struggle to seek the divine presence and promote God’s word (and for most Muslims sharia prescribes patterns of worship and dietary practice rather than drastic punishment).

    Terrorism falsely sanctioned by bigots is a scourge of both Islamic and Western societies. Rather than widening the gap between them, the Pope’s lecture should be an incentive to deepen the dialogue.

    http://commentisfree.guardian......jihad.html

    From The Guardian:

    # # # # #

    The question that the Pope is raising is whether, in the last analysis, the universe itself is meaningless in human terms, and that might is the only right that there can be. He thinks it isn’t meaningless, but that science can’t prove this. The only way we can hope to reach an answer is through philosophy, which cannot attain the kind of certitude that science demands. None the less, he thinks that the great gift of Greece was to show that reason has its own laws, and can reach certain, reliable conclusions even where science is helpless. To put the matter more sharply, he believes that logic works, and that there is no logical reason that it should.

    He realises that this position is contested, and that perhaps most people today would regard it as meaningless. He is trying to start a dialogue with them – and with Muslims too. There is a peculiar irony, though, in the fact that Pope Benedict XVI’s lecture may imperil his planned visit to Turkey this autumn. After all, if Islam has not been spread by the sword, he wouldn’t now be planning to visit Turkey, a Muslim country full of Turks, but to Asia Minor, a Christian country full of Greeks; and the Emperor Manuel II Palaeologos would not have been besieged for four years, with nothing to do but write about theological conversations, in a city then called Constantinople, now called Istanbul.

  4. 4
    DLH says:

    Does Islam repudiate violence and coercion? Have Islamic Imams and Sheikhs renounced blooshed, advocated peaceful dialog? Are they now enforcing this?
    The Pope actually described how that emperor: “goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. . . . ‘Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.’” Faith, Reason and the University Memories and Reflections

  5. 5
    DaveScot says:

    What the pope really said was: “God did it.”

  6. 6
    Mats says:

    Let’s not forget that Muslims attack Christians with or without any declarations coming from the Vatican. For now, they just have another excuse to do it. (and it’s so easy for them to find “excuses” to attack non-Muslims)

  7. 7
    P. Phillips says:

    My hope, if it was not clear, is that those members of *all* faiths dedicated to reason and harmony work to stop violent conflict. That is all, I think, we can do. As I wrote previously on a different thread, it would be wonderful, I think, if ISCID works to organize an interfaith conference. I believe there a people of good will who truly want mutual understanding among all the major Abrahmic faiths.

    http://www.iscid.org/

    http://www.princeofwales.gov.u.....32006.html

    This article from The Times may be helpful:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2360085,00.html

  8. 8
    sinclairjd says:

    Well you can’t beat something with nothing. So it is gratifying to finally see the church stand foursquare behind intelligent design and against Islamic-inspired terrorism within the last week.

    Perhaps someday the ID movement will have made enough inroads within science to build a foundation for itself; until then the church is needed as a foundation.

    In fact, the Islamic response appears to lack the sophistication to see how they have been criticized. The pope is saying that the secular/European way of thinking and the Islamic way of thinking are both wallowing in unreason. The seculars see it, but dismiss it.

  9. 9
    PaV says:

    About a year ago, I got into a very brief email exchange with a Moslem in Turkey. I forget his name, but he is very much in favor of ID and wrote an article about ID. He also gave his email address, and that’s how I got hold of him. In our exchanges, he emphasized the fact that one of the things that Moslems fear in the West is the spirit of atheism that hangs in the air. He felt like ID, restoring the connection to something greater than just simple earthly forces, would help pave a way for dialogue. (You know, the Moslems might have a number of things wrong, but they sure know that a relationship with God is indespensible.)

  10. 10
    tinabrewer says:

    PaV: no kidding. One thing I always say, and I really believe it in a broad, allegorical way, is “for every layer of clothing our women take off, they throw another layer on theirs” Not that this excuses anything. It never does. But the overwhelming tendency of humans is to REACT instead of taking considered action. Above all, the human ego desperately desires to avoid its own judgement, and so expends its energy pointing fingers at others, when the finger should always (a la ‘behold not the mote’) be pointed at onesself. This goes for both sides.

  11. 11
    Carlos says:

    I share something of the Pope’s concern with scientism. But it is part of my opposition to scientism which inclines me to be skeptical towards intelligent design.

    it was a critique of what might be termed “scientism”: that is, “the use of human reason in accordance with the dictates of the scientific method is the highest use of intelligence possible”, thus rendering philosophy and theology merely reason’s “step-children”: to be tolerated, but not paid attention to.

    What intelligent design does, it seems to me, is that is argues that “human reason in accordance with the dictates of the scientific method” (leaving aside just what ‘the scientific method’ is supposed to be) is not only necessary but sufficient for showing that there is an Intelligence or Sentience responsible for life, the universe, and everything. Or at least one of the three. So there’s no need for faith, or philosophy, or theology, or literature, art, music, etc. Transcendence can be established by means of science alone. And that really does look like scientism. It was scientism when Paley tried it, and it still is.

    In short: intelligent design theory, from what I’ve been able to tell so far, is itself a version of scientism and empiricism — a scientistic and empirical theology. However, I don’t wish to imply that I fail to appreciate how it is an anti-naturalistic scientism; indeed, the beauty and strength of ID lies in how it accomplishes this unusual, though not entirely unheard of, feat.

    Nevertheless, if one wishes to oppose or criticize scientism and/or empiricism, whether on strictly philosophical or on specifically theological grounds, then one should think twice (or more) about supporting intelligent design theory.

  12. 12
    sinclairjd says:

    Dealing strictly with the issue of IDs progress within science, Muslim support is inheritantly desirable. They lack the prejudice that Western skeptics/freethinkers have with respect to this subject and should therefore be able to judge more objectively the role of a designer within scientific research.

    But it would be nice if that Muslim Enlightenment would get started sometime soon.

  13. 13
    Carlos says:

    But it would be nice if that Muslim Enlightenment would get started sometime soon.

    Why would that be nice? Wasn’t the Western Enlightenment the beginning of our undoing: unleashed secularism, unrestricted skepticism, “the disenchanment of the world,” the demythologization of religion, and so forth?

  14. 14
    Michaels7 says:

    If one wants to understand another religion – they should read the “sacred” text of that religion to determine what the “prophet” and his followers really say. Correct? If we truly want to understand what motivates the teachers and followers, correct?

    Or do you want to depend on what they tell you it means in English? Or do we listen to them in Arabic which is the only way to truly understand Islam?

    http://www.memri.org/sd.html real live speechs in Arabic, on Middle East TV. I urge all of you to please look at some prior to 2001. Ask yourself the same question the Pope is asking when he asked for “dialogue”.

    Do we just blindly accept peoples words, while ignoring their actions?

    Yasser Arafat declared peace in English to the Western World after the Oslo accords – you know the one, the one he received the Nobel Peace prize for? In Arabic, he later explained to his angry followers that it was not real peace, only “Hudna”. What is the definition of Hudna? An Islamic term?

    Is it TRUTH that people are twisting religion? Or, is it TRUTH religion is twisting people? Yes, lets do have dialogue. But lets read the religion which claims to be peaceful.

    These are questions that can get you killed in Saudi Arabia, Iran, IRaq, Egypt, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Afghanistan, Syria, Hezbollah-land, Hamas-land, Pakistan and all the other “stans”. You are NOT allowed to question the prophet. The prophet himself commanded heads to be chopped off for any question of his authority. It is all in the Quran – if you truly want dialogue and you want to know the “absolute truth”.

    Tina made a good point in her post about “absolute truth” which I did not have time to respond to. My example was about a false religion, a blue tick and a dog(wolf is more appropriate) and she agreed there are indeed false religions. If this is true and there is “absolute truth” then how do we discern false from true religions?

    Is a False Religion one that calls for the death of all unbelievers?
    Is a False Religion one that calls for the death of any woman by one statement of her husband?
    Is a False Religion one that teaches is it OK to lie to unbelievers in the name of its prophet and god?
    Is a False Religion one that teaches unbelievers have no rights and must pay taxes?
    Is a False Religion one that teaches unbelievers who refuse to submission and paying taxes, or who will not convert to it, must die?

    These are good questions for a healthy dialogue I think.

    How else does one tell a false religion from one that teaches to love all people?

    I’d suggest 1) by the actions of the religious leaders and their followers, 2) but most importantly the actual “sacred” text itself. What does the “sacred” text exhort its followers to do in the name of its “prophet” and god?

    I will give just two examples among many of “sacred” text…

    From the Quran itself:
    “Fight those who do not believe in Allah,… nor follow
    the religion of truth… until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.”
    Qur’an, Sura 9:29

    Here is a famous Hadith quote used over and over again by the Religious Imams who call for all Muslims to kill the Jew….
    “The last hour won’t come before the Muslims would fight the Jews and the Muslims will kill them so Jews would hide behind rocks and trees. Then the rocks and tree would call: oh Muslim, oh servant of God! There is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only “Gharkad” tree, it is of Jews’ trees.”
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/.....books.html
    Please, do not take my word for it, click on the link to PBS. Certainly – a neutral source? Can we all get an Amen? 😉

    Do people want the “absolute truth”? It is a good point and one we should all strive to know, the “absolute truth” about the Quran, Hadiths and what the actual words from them teach.

    Not what Imams say, nor what Islams followers say, but what the actual text of the “sacred” books say. I’m all for “absolute truth”

    But in the famous words of famous actor, old Jack himself, to paraphrase in question – Can We Handle The Truth?

    All people around the world, theist, atheist, agnostics, Christians, Buddhist, Hindu, and every other religion in every nation around the world, currently, every category I just listed were being killed before 9/11 and they still are being killed. The absolute truth is – every single religion, nation, people are under attack now by one religion. 3,000 people died in Thailand so far this year, Buddhist Monks blown up. Thousands in India. This does not speak of the horrible genocide by Arabic Militias in Sudan, they now think over 100,000 have died alone this year in the latest estimates. 3 Million died since 93.

    Again, “can we handle the truth?”

    It is not just “Christianity”, or the Jews of Abrahamic faiths that must have “Dialogue” with Muslims.

    IT IS THE ENTIRE WORLD. NOW THAT IS THE TRUTH.

    Forgive me if this sounds to blunt. I’m trying to be as nice about this as possible. But there are some very naive statements being made, albeit very sincere. We all long for peace. The question is, how does one have a dialogue about peace with a book that tells you to kill?

    Is is a very sincere and simple question. This is really the question the Pope is asking. What does the Quran really teach?

    If we want to have open dialogue and be “absolutely truthful”, then Islam calls for all faiths of the world, agnostics and atheist everywhere to kneel to Islam. Because in the Quran, there is no dialogue, there is only submission and if one does not submit to the “religion of peace” then they die because their “sacred” text tells them unbelievers must die.

    The only way the killing will stop is if you change the book.

    Anyone? Do you think they will change the “sacred” text that tells them to kill us all?

    This war has been going on since 622 and Islam has been advancing by violence of the sword from Turkey, the Gates of Vienna to Spain, from Sudan to India and now 10,000 cars burning in France, 3000 dead in New York, more in London, Bali, Mumbasa, Thailand, Phillipines, India, Russia, just this last year. Women are being raped in Scandnavian countries because they are “infidels” and do not wear burkas. There are places in Sweden that are considered unsafe for anyone other than Muslims.

    Do we really want the truth?

    Women attacked in Australia on the beaches because they wear swimsuits. All this is allowable under the text of Islam. I do not make it up, it is in the Quran if one takes the time to read it. Religious police whip violently, sometimes torture, rape and imprison people in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Yemen,
    and many other Muslim countries.

    Do we really want the truth?

    We are all “infidels” in their eyes, lower than them, unbelievers and as such we have no rights. Islam states women in court have legal rights half that of men. Therefore, it takes two women to equal one man in the court of Sharia Law.

    A husband can put to death his wife with one statement to a judge in Sharia court. She committed adultry. He does not have to prove it by evidence. His voice and his alone can seal her death by stoning or hanging.

    Muslim leaders recently said in London and I paraphrase, “Our young people would not be so angry if you allowed us to have our own laws – Sharia Law” in England.

    In Lebanon before the war between Israle and Hezbollah(a radical Islamic terrorist state within a state), there were areas that Lebanon police and army were not allowed and they lived under Sharia.

    So, yes, lets have honest dialogue, but let us not be blind, fearful, or submissive in doing so. Let us shine the light in all areas both good and bad.

    For a small list of attacks around the world in all nations, please see the following link:
    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/
    Go to the bottom and scroll up until the current day. You will see countries who are not associated with America at all, who are not Christians, who are not Jews, but they are all under attack by the “religion of peace”

    Sorry if this is a long post. Sorry if this offends some people here. I tried to be as nice as possible in shining some light on this subject. But I did not write the Quran or the Hadiths. I only quoted a few. There are more like it where the “prophet” commands his followers to chop off heads.

    I am not a Catholic. But the Pope only asked a question. Please note that Christians, young girls, not even 15 are beheaded in the name of this religion. Priest are killed around the world, Pastors, thousands of Christians. But even more thousands of Black Muslims are being killed by Arabs in Sudan. It is genocide. Thankfully, even Clooney is now upset and sees the light in Sudan. If only Hollywood would tell the “absolute truth”, this country may wake up from its haze of Entertainment Tonight, The View, Cartoons and MTV to realize that the whole world is currently under attack.

    The same link, http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/ list over 50 countries that have been attacked, or are at war with Islamic radicals.

    I’d suggest we learn more about their religion before we have a frank and open dialogue.

    There are certainly good Muslims who would never harm anyone. But the truth is, the “sacred” text teaches death and destruction to all unbelievers.

    This is the “absolute truth”

  15. 15
    Ekstasis says:

    Hey, wait a minute. Isn’t Islamo Fascism the result of an evolutionary adaptation? Where are the evolutionary psychology experts on this one? I mean, after all, isn’t it just undirected nature’s way of getting their genes to the next generation? Then who are we to judge? If we judge, well, our very judgment is simply an adaptation itself. So, one adaptation vs. another. After all, there is no universal entity out there in the great beyond to say which of us is correct, right? Just these genes in competition.

    Oh, what’s that the Darwinist says? That their paradigm must be dropped in this situation because, well, something inside just screams that the murder and terrorism are “wrong”? That maybe “evil” exists? Hmmmm. Can’t really live everyday life by our theory after all, must scrap it in the face of reality. I thought following ID was how we would destroy society, and following Darwinism would set us all free!!

    Oh, that’s right. It isn’t really “evil”, just a mental disease or malfunction. So, one mental state or behavior is judged a malfunction, and another is ok. How do we decide that? Based on what, may I ask? Ah, our own opinion. That will sure get us far.

  16. 16
    John A. Davison says:

    Message #5

    God or gods of course did do it but it was all done so long ago that it looks like they didn’t do it. All we can do now is discover what was done eons ago which was to set up a goal-seeking system which was certain to achieve its final objective. That system is known as evolution and it isn’t happening any more.

    “Let us not invoke God in realities in which He NO LONGER HAS TO INTERVENE. The single absolute act of creation was enough for Him.
    Pierre Grasse, Evolution of Living Organisms, page 166. (his emphasis).

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  17. 17
    P. Phillips says:

    Has anyone read the essay The Jealousy of God by Jasper Griffin? Just food for thought…

    FEATURES

    The jealousy of God

    The three monotheistic religions are in bitter conflict. Jasper Griffin wonders whether the ancients were not wiser with their polytheism

    Ten years ago, Soviet communism collapsed. The familiar Cold War came to an end. The West might have hoped that the world would no longer contain a powerful and implaca-ble enemy. But Nature, once again, showed that she abhors a vacuum; and into the gap left by the end of secular ideology stepped the struggle between religions. Islam, Judaism and the Christian (or post-Christian) West found themselves everywhere involved in con-flict, bitterness and bloodshed: Orthodox Christians versus Muslims in Yugoslavia; Prot-estants versus Catholics in Ulster; the rage of the Islamic world against Israel; terrorists, religiously inspired, destroying the World Trade Center; good old-fashioned wars of re-ligion in Sudan, in Nigeria, in Indonesia; the list is long, and it could be extended. And we cannot fail to notice that it is above all the great monotheistic religions whose follow-ers behave in this way.

    It is difficult, at this point in the history of the world, to remember that exclusive belief in one God is a plant of late and rare blooming. Monotheism is hammered home insistently by the religions with which we are familiar, those called by Muslims the Religions of the Book; those, that is to say, which grow from the root of the Old Testament. The very first commandment given to Moses on Mount Sinai is ‘Thou shalt have none other gods but me!’ Christians and Muslims have inherited that exclusive claim, and they make it with the same fervour as the Jews; although the God whom each group proclaims does indeed look somewhat different.
    The ancient Hebrews were surrounded by peoples with very different religious ideas. We hear most about the Philistines. We hear of Moloch, to whom the Canaanites ‘made their children pass through the fire’ in the grisly ritual of child sacrifice, evidenced on sites from Lebanon to Tunisia by the discovery of the jars that contain the childish bones. We hear of Dagon, whose image fell on its face when the Philistines were injudicious enough to place in his temple the temporarily captured Hebrew Ark of the Covenant; Dagon was found in the morning with his hands and head cut off. We hear of Baal, whom his proph-ets, challenged to a public trial by Elijah, vainly called upon to manifest himself. Elijah made merry at their expense:
    Either he is musing, or he is gone aside [i.e., to relieve himself], or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awakened…
    The end of the story is, of course, the discrediting of Baal and, equally of course, the massacre of his priests:
    And Elijah said unto them, ‘Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.’ And they took them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
    There could be no pussyfooting question of tolerating other religions. As Elijah shouted to the people at the start of the showdown, ‘How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, follow him.’ And the people, we read, ‘an-swered not a word’. Many of them, we suspect, would have liked to have it both ways; but that option was not on the table. When you played it with Yahweh, this was a zero-sum game.

    Later on, it was the Greek gods with whom the Hebrews had trouble. Judaea fell under the rule of a successor kingdom to Alexander the Great, like everybody else in that part of the world, and King Antiochus made a determined effort to get this tiresomely differ-ent community to practise the cult of the Greek deities like civilised people, and (while they were at it) to worship him, too; he declared himself a god manifest, epiphanes. Pre-dictable result: the revolt of the Maccabees and an explosion of nationalism and mono-theism. By and by the Romans tried something similar, with the same result. Refusal on the part of the Jews to tolerate worship either of Jupiter or of the emperor meant that Rome used repression and force, and that meant revolt; and that, in the end, meant the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, and the loss, for many centuries, of the national home.

    We are so accustomed to monotheism that we take it for granted. Only Hinduism, in the modern West, seems to present a radically different aspect, and that, with its gods and goddesses, and even with animal forms, like elephant-headed Ganesh, seems exotic and rather quaint. That is the result of the astonishing ascendancy and supremacy of the three religions which derive from that of the Hebrews, which have defeated and replaced the religions of the heathen, and which now wage war on each other; sometimes without hos-tility, but often with great cruelty. It follows that we think it natural that a religion should be exclusive and intolerant of all others. It is perhaps well to be reminded that religions have flourished in the world which have been, in precisely this respect, very different. In Japan, for instance, Buddhist and Taoist temples stand side by side in harmony. ‘And tell me,’ I was asked at such a complex site, ‘about those people in Northern Ireland: aren’t they all Christians?’

    Our Indo-European ancestors had a whole pantheon of gods. Naturally they were both male and female, as humans were, and as the animals were, too. Goddesses, naturally, implied priestesses to serve them, and there were also prophetesses. Apollo, at his great shrine of Delphi (the centre of the world; Zeus had proved it by releasing eagles simulta-neously from the two utmost limits of the world — it was at Delphi that they met), spoke his oracles through the medium of a woman, the Pythia. The top god, Zeus in Greece, had powerful subordinates, just as a mortal king had, and he had a difficult and insubordinate wife, Hera, who resented the casual love affairs in which Zeus indulged, as man would do in his position, and who made a point of crossing his will and persecuting his illegitimate offspring, even if they were as great as Heracles, the mightiest of all heroes. Human life in all its complexity was mirrored on Olympus, home of the gods.

    Nor was this merely the mythical fantasy of the Greeks. We can read nowadays, thanks to the hard work and the brilliance of three generations of scholars, texts which tell a pretty similar story all over the Middle East in the second millennium bc. In the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia, in Egypt, in Asia Minor (Turkey), in the lands of the Philistines (which are now Lebanon and Israel and Syria), poetical texts deal with assemblies, rows, love affairs and battles, of pantheons of gods. When that eminently hard-headed and unpoeti-cal folk, the Romans, came into contact with the eastern peoples, and above all with the Greeks, they, too, took on the whole apparatus of a vividly imagined and intensely human polytheism.

    It had the disadvantage that not all the actions and emotions of its deities were admirable. Adultery and sexual misconduct loomed large, as did violence and jealousy and favourit-ism. That weak point was mercilessly exploited by the Christians: ‘Just look what wretches your gods are, on your own showing!’ It also had great advantages. It could ex-plain why things did not always go well and why prayers were not always answered; some other divinity perhaps cut in and countermanded them. Or they were caught up in a fundamental clash between aspects of existence which were irreconcilable, and which all had their divine patrons: chastity versus sexuality; puritanism versus exuberance; the des-tiny of Rome (supported by Venus) versus that of her enemy Carthage (supported by Juno).

    What was more, it meant that heaven reflected more of human life than our modern monotheisms can do. The female side of sexuality and reproduction was the province of formidable goddesses; there was a great god — the Greeks called him Dionysus — whose scope included intoxication and drunkenness; Zeus himself had overthrown his own father to attain the kingship, and the memory was always present, and sometimes invoked, to justify rebellion and unfilial activities. We remember Kipling’s Indian woman:

    To mine own gods I go;
    It may be they will give me greater ease
    Than your cold Christ and tangled Trinities.

    Two attempts that we know of were made to escape from the splendours and miseries of polytheism. In the middle of the second millennium bc, the pharaoh Akhenaton declared the supremacy of a single god, Atun, the Sun; he alone was divine. After his death the priests of normal Egyptian religion succeeded in suppressing his heretical innovation. Egyptian religion was not only (as was usual) polytheistic, but also, to the embarrassment or derision of Egypt’s neighbours, gave a central position to gods in the form of animals: cats and crocodiles and hippopotami. Greeks could never take that seriously.

    In its homeland, Akhenaton’s subversive monotheism was dead. It lived on, however, in the minds of the Hebrews, a people whom tradition declared to have been enslaved in Egypt and brought out by Moses, a deliverer and religious reformer, who looks very like an Egyptian, and whom Sigmund Freud declared to have been one. The Hebrews, then, outraged the moral and religious sense of all their neighbours by proclaiming the exis-tence of only one god: their God.

    It seems clear from the extant texts that at first they limited themselves to the claim, more modest but still challenging, that their God was greater than those of other, competing tribes. Thus they proclaim that ‘the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods’ — language which clearly assumes that other gods, albeit inferior, do exist. But at least one passage has survived the stringent censorship which was applied to the old texts after the return from the Babylonian captivity in the 5th century bc. At one moment in the Pen-tateuch we find the Hebrews saying to the people of Ammon:
    Wilt thou not possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whom-soever the Lord our God hath dispossessed from before us, them will we possess. (Judges xi 24)
    That is to say, your tribal god has given you a certain territory; in the same way, our God has permitted us to oust certain peoples from their territory and has given it to us — we have as good a right to our conquests as you have to the lands that you possess. That claim still haunts the Middle East, though nowadays politicians couch it in rather differ-ent language.

    The assumption that different peoples have different chief gods, each of whom doubtless does the best he can for his people, is a natural one, but later monotheism airbrushed out such passages. The God of the Hebrews was not just better than other gods, he was actu-ally the only god — the others were not gods at all:

    Eyes have they and see not; ears have they and hear not; neither speak they through their throat.
    It is not surprising that other peoples found this new claim enraging and difficult to ac-cept.

    When a man from one ancient society found himself dealing with another, in trading or travelling or war, he felt curiosity about the local arrangements in the matter of religion. Interesting shrines and statues met his eye; unfamiliar names and stories met his ear. Naturally he asked for explanations: ‘Who is that?’; ‘Why do you do this?’; ‘Why is to-day a festival?’ The natives would explain, and the inquirer normally thought along such lines as these: ‘Oh yes, that is the goddess whom we know and call So-and-so.’

    The great historian Herodotus explains Egyptian deities to his Greek readers in this way: Osiris ‘is’ Dionysus, and so on. Stories which were too bizarre to be readily fitted in could be brushed under the carpet with the explanation that they were ‘mysteries’, tales with a hidden meaning, revealed only to adepts. Herodotus is impressed by Egyptian cul-ture, and his attitude to the religion is respectful. The Persian king Cambyses, having conquered Egypt, made a point of insulting the local cults; for Herodotus that is evidence that he was mad, ‘for all men have their own ideas about the divine, and they all think theirs are the best; so only a madman insults other people’s beliefs and practices’.

    It was also possible to find that a foreign god filled a gap in one’s own religious arrange-ments. The Egyptian mother goddess Isis soon began to be worshipped both in Greece and in Rome; no goddess of theirs was motherly in quite that comforting sense. The Ro-mans, supreme conquerors and looters — or perhaps ‘collectors’ would be a more diplo-matic word — picked up foreign gods as they picked up foreign works of art. A plague led them to import from Greece the medical god Asclepius; when things were going badly in the wars with Carthage, and public morale was shaky, the exotic and spectacular cult of the Mother of the Gods was imported, with great pomp and hoop-la, from Asia Minor. Both deities continued to be worshipped at Rome. There was even a regular ritual — we have the words — to be used when one was on the point of storming an enemy city. It was the proper thing to invite the gods of the city to come over to your side, offer-ing them the prospect of continuing honours.

    The exclusive claims and demands of the Jewish God, and then of the God of the Chris-tians, stand out in this setting as radically alien. The Athenians to whom St Paul preached assumed that he was introducing a new goddess named Resurrection, who sounded inter-esting, and who could presumably be fitted into the pantheon with all the others. We hear of high-ranking Romans including Christ in their personal chapels along with other dei-ties, as just one more, of essentially the same kind as the rest. On the other hand, it was the exclusiveness of the Christians — who denounced the public cults, refused to con-form and would not offer sacrifices for the health of the emperor — which brought down on them the persecutions, themselves so alien to classical thought and practice, which were to prove the strength of the new religion.

    The last stand of Roman paganism was made in the Senate, where the emperors, now Christian, demanded the removal of the altar of Victory, conceived as a goddess. It was the turn of the pagans to urge the merits of toleration. ‘It is not granted to us,’ pleaded an eloquent pagan grandee, ‘to approach so great a mystery by one single path.’ The plea for tolerance — a tolerance, of course, which Rome had denied to Christianity — was in vain. The pagan religion was made illegal; its deities were redefined as demons; its shrines were demolished.

    And so the course was set. Great as the triumphs are of the Religions of the Book, mar-vellous as we find their literatures, their architecture and their philosophy, they have all retained, more or less, that exclusive and fiery intolerance, born in the harsh setting of the Near Eastern deserts, and living on, to our fearful cost, in Palestine and Kosovo, Afghani-stan and Nanterre, Belfast and the World Trade Center. There was, after all, something to be said for the pagan days, when a new god could be signed up and expected to fit in with all the rest, in a spirit rather like that in which a soccer club transfers a star player from another team.

  18. 18
    PaV says:

    I’m very busy right now, and don’t have time to really moderate, nor to post at length; however, this post wasn’t so much about Islam as about the Pope’s critique of reason. I hope we can focus on that as this has relevance for ID. It seems to me that the Pope is moving forward with a position that might have been forged at the week-long retreat. This position is not a scientific one, but a theological/philosophical one, so it will never name Darwinism and other “isms” by name. Nonetheless, this position seems to have as an end the drawing of a line in the sand when it comes to the protestations of “science” that reason, coupled to the scientific method, is the highest form of reason, and thus more legitimate than all other forms of knowledge, including theology, philosophy, sociology, etc. It would be good to kick this point around, instead of kicking the Muslims about.

  19. 19
    P. Phillips says:

    With respect, PaV, in your experiences with fellow human beings, and if you looked at any of the links provided, to what extent do you see reason govern human beings? Even in the debate on either I.D. or standard cosmology? Of course, yes, I thought the remarks on the return to Hellenistic reason (and did not the pagan Athenians and Spartans destroy themselves) well and good. I think atheists have difficulty in believing in a Higher Power given the actions and choices human beings make every day. Certainly THE LOOMING TOWER, which Klinghoffer reviewed at Discovery Institute, provides a great deal of information and tends to bolster my point about the lack of reason; and all people are guilty, I think of it, myself included.

    Socrates preached reason and questioned the nature of “God”; he was executed.

    The only hope, I feel, is for the *minority* of human beings of the major faiths who are committed to peaceful interaction to work together. But as history proves, whether ancient, 20th century, reason seems in short supply, especially in the leaders of nations.

    Proving “God” by “design inference” shall be problematic. I believe all the Abrahamic faiths have used the sword; perhaps if the Pope had only stuck to Christianity none of the strife would have happened.

    Again, please, if Dembski et al. can organize and publicize an interfaith conference on the topic, by all means!

  20. 20
    PaV says:

    P. Phillips, thanks for the respectful response.

    Let me pose a hypothetical. If you were a historian, and had access to all of Hitler’s papers, everything he wrote; but you had the opportunity–through some mystical experience–to interview Hitler at length, which would choose: the interview, or the papers?

    The point of the hypothetical is this: we can “read” the handiwork of design, the handiwork of purpose, in the the splendor of creation. Reason allows this. Buddhists have done this to a remarkable degree. The Greeks,in Plato and Aristotle, did this. But there are limits to reason. In “faith” human beings have access to a “personal” God. And, so, “faith” permits a better understanding of God than reason permits. I’m saying all this because I sense in your last post the notion that “faith” is unreasonable, and that “faith” should be put to the one side, while “reasonable” people should caucus together to solve the world’s problems. Maybe I’m badly misinterpreting you. I don’t know. But I’ll say this, some of the most “reasonable” people I’ve met in my life were people of “faith”. And some of the most “unreasonable” people I’ve met are atheists.

    Maybe you can address some of this in your response.

  21. 21
    P. Phillips says:

    PaV, how in the name of anything Sacred does Hilter rear his monstrous head? Has anyone you know been affected by his evil, any victim? If you asked, do you think that person would care to communicate with that monster or Stalin or Mao? I find this idea offensive.

    If there is something beyond us, surely such a mind shall not exist any longer.

    The question: why did other human beings follow him or Stalin or Pol Pot or Mao and kill? I have no answers.

    I don’t know we speak the same language. I wonder why the ADL fights against ID; I hope there is nothing in the tenet that will promote Antisemitism.

    We may or may not “read” design in nature; there are alternative explanations, see some of my other posts.

    If I did not think “faith” important, I would not have requested ISCID to play a role in engaging like minds of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths to discuss the topic. Those who use “violence” in the past and present, whether atheist or believers — do they not have faith of a kind?

    I am only against the path of violence; I think Prince Charles’ comments showed more wisdom than the Pope’s; Muslim thinkers contributed to both faith and reason and to the West. In hindsight, the quote used, I think, was not a good idea.

    That said, what I meant is that human beings have a dual nature; that enviroments can encourage the darker side, but to much of human behavior seems to involve violence and emotion and not reason. I don’t know why. Perhaps ISCID may play a role.

    I do not disparage faith so long as it is tolerant of alternative beliefs and does not use force.

    However, I do see that ID or anti-NeoDarwinism is divisive; but with what is happening in the world, perhaps this topic is of minor import.

    Again, let me refer to an essay by Dalrymple on the “Frivolity of Evil”; and so perhaps we of the “West” should look to getting our own house in order.

    Therefore, if anything can be done to encourage civil interfaith dialog, perhaps with this “common ground”, I am for it.

    The question remains and shall remain unanswered: why this persistant darkness in human behavior, irrespective of the nature of faith? What can we do to combat it? If the Pope did not mention Islam, I would have no quarrel with his speech.

    My own belief is that there are many paths to the Sacred, and I respect every effort to find it. Reason shall play a part.

    http://www.city-journal.org/ht.....to_be.html

    Here we enter the realm of culture and ideas. For it is necessary not only to believe that it is economically feasible to behave in the irresponsible and egotistical fashion that I have described, but also to believe that it is morally permissible to do so. And this idea has been peddled by the intellectual elite in Britain for many years, more assiduously than anywhere else, to the extent that it is now taken for granted. There has been a long march not only through the institutions but through the minds of the young. When young people want to praise themselves, they describe themselves as “nonjudgmental.” For them, the highest form of morality is amorality.

    There has been an unholy alliance between those on the Left, who believe that man is endowed with rights but no duties, and libertarians on the Right, who believe that consumer choice is the answer to all social questions, an idea eagerly adopted by the Left in precisely those areas where it does not apply. Thus people have a right to bring forth children any way they like, and the children, of course, have the right not to be deprived of anything, at least anything material. How men and women associate and have children is merely a matter of consumer choice, of no more moral consequence than the choice between dark and milk chocolate, and the state must not discriminate among different forms of association and child rearing, even if such non-discrimination has the same effect as British and French neutrality during the Spanish Civil War.

    The consequences to the children and to society do not enter into the matter: for in any case it is the function of the state to ameliorate by redistributive taxation the material effects of individual irresponsibility, and to ameliorate the emotional, educational, and spiritual effects by an army of social workers, psychologists, educators, counselors, and the like, who have themselves come to form a powerful vested interest of dependence on the government.

    So while my patients know in their hearts that what they are doing is wrong, and worse than wrong, they are encouraged nevertheless to do it by the strong belief that they have the right to do it, because everything is merely a matter of choice. Almost no one in Britain ever publicly challenges this belief. Nor has any politician the courage to demand a withdrawal of the public subsidy that allows the intensifying evil I have seen over the past 14 years—violence, rape, intimidation, cruelty, drug addiction, neglect—to flourish so exuberantly. With 40 percent of children in Britain born out of wedlock, and the proportion still rising, and with divorce the norm rather than the exception, there soon will be no electoral constituency for reversal. It is already deemed to be electoral suicide to advocate it by those who, in their hearts, know that such a reversal is necessary.

  22. 22
    Carlos says:

    The question: why did other human beings follow him or Stalin or Pol Pot or Mao and kill? I have no answers.

    May I recommend The True Believer? You may find it helpful in this regard?

    I don’t know we speak the same language. I wonder why the ADL fights against ID; I hope there is nothing in the tenet that will promote Antisemitism.

    The ADL fights against ID because they believe that ID lacks substantial scientific support and that it is being promoted as a way of introducing a certain version of Christianity into the public school system. The ADL is committed to religious freedom, and regards the introduction of ID into the public school as a violation of religious freedom. See here.

    everything is merely a matter of choice. Almost no one in Britain ever publicly challenges this belief.

    Nor have American politicians gotten very far with this. That’s because challenging the absolutism of unrestricted choice means challenging the absolutism of the so-called “free market,” and this no one is prepared to do.

    Challenging the supremacy of the free market, in the aftermath of Reagan and Thatcher, is career suicide for an American or British politician. Those who do buck the current usually do not get very far — Dennis Kucinich, for example, (US House of Representatives, Ohio), is barely remembered for his bid for the 2004 Democratic primary.

  23. 23
    Carlos says:

    From (18):

    . . . the Pope’s critique of reason. I hope we can focus on that as this has relevance for ID. It seems to me that the Pope is moving forward with a position that might have been forged at the week-long retreat. This position is not a scientific one, but a theological/philosophical one, so it will never name Darwinism and other “isms” by name. Nonetheless, this position seems to have as an end the drawing of a line in the sand when it comes to the protestations of “science” that reason, coupled to the scientific method, is the highest form of reason, and thus more legitimate than all other forms of knowledge, including theology, philosophy, sociology, etc.

    The critique of scientism — the view that scientific knowledge is the only or highest form of knowledge — is a welcome one. But here one must proceed carefully. For it seems to me that intelligent design theory is susceptible to a certain “scientism” of its own.

    In recent debates on this board, ID theorists have claimed that the very superiority of ID over theistic evolution is that ID shows that the hand of the Designer is empirically detectable. Theistic evolution, by contrast, does not differ empirically from “blind watchmaker evolution.”

    But why place all this weight on the empirical superiority of ID over theistic evolution? This move is justified only if empirical evidence is the only or highest kind of knowledge, and everything else is second-rate. But that is just scientism!

    In other words, it is “scientistic” to prefer intelligent design over theistic evolution, if one is evaluating them from the perspective of empirical theology.

    One may fear that, by rejecting this privileging of empirical evidence, one is backsliding into fideism. But this is not necessarily the case. In fact, fideism and scientism are mirror-images of each other. The former says that faith does not require knowledge; the latter says that only scientific methods can yield genuine knowledge at all. Both fideism and scientism close off the space within which a non-scientific knowledge, a rational faith, could flourish.

    There is a parallel tendency in ethics, usually called emotivism. Emotivism holds that ethical judgments are the expression of emotional responses to certain actions. As such, they cannot be true or false. Scientism, emotivism, and fideism go together, and if we are to reject any one of them, we must reject all.

    The question is, is ID itself an example of scientism? I’m not sure yet, but I strongly suspect that it is, and that this can be seen in ID criticisms of theistic evolution.

  24. 24
    tinabrewer says:

    Carlos: ID doesn’t say that only scientific ways of ‘detecting the work of the designer’ are valid or important. It only says that they are possible.

  25. 25
    Carlos says:

    ID doesn’t say that only scientific ways of ‘detecting the work of the designer’ are valid or important. It only says that they are possible.

    I’ll accept the correction. But why should it matter whether design detection is empirically possible or not? It only matters if you want the Scientific Stamp of Approval. But do you really need it?

  26. 26
    tinabrewer says:

    Carlos: Yes, you need it if it is the truth, and if what is being taught in its stead is a demonstrable falsehood.

  27. 27
    Carlos says:

    I’m certainly not in favor of “demonstrable falsehoods” being taught or accepted.

    But what I am urging here is that it is an error of scientism to suppose that only what fits into a disenchanted conception of nature can count as objective knowledge. Consequently, resisting scientism successfully means allowing room for a different kind of objectivity, one that does not fit into a scientific understanding of the natural world, nor needs to.

    I find it easy enough to see how to make room for ethical objectivity in these terms, and it may also be possible to make room for theological objectivity. I want to think more carefully about what this would mean before commiting myself — because I want to avoid the temptation that scientific objectivity is the only available model for objectivity as such.

    In these terms, I suppose what I would want to do is show how theological concepts (“God,” “creation,” “redemption,” “grace,” “salvation,” “holiness”) can figure in an objective view of things without requiring that they figure into a scientific view of things.

  28. 28
    PaV says:

    Carlos:

    In recent debates on this board, ID theorists have claimed that the very superiority of ID over theistic evolution is that ID shows that the hand of the Designer is empirically detectable. Theistic evolution, by contrast, does not differ empirically from “blind watchmaker evolution.”

    The great attribute of ID is its power to displace a completely silly theory, Darwinism, that took root within science more because of its potential in substituting as a pseudo-religion than as a truly explanatory scientific idea.

    As to “objectivity”, science, and God. In another post, I brought up the tilma of Juan Diego. Here is “objective” proof of God’s handiwork–something that science cannot explain, something that human witnesses testify to as being miraculous, and, yet, there are plenty of people who would find this claim manifestly laughable. So, then, Carlos, the question arises: How can one “objectively” prove God’s existence? Answer: it is impossible. And this is the way God wants it. He doesn’t impose himself on anyone. We can approach him, and know him, only in and through faith. And this is precisely why “faith” is superior to reason.

    Now, there are many people who post on this board. There are many diverse opinions. And, I suppose, many reasons for backing ID. But the stated objective of ID is not to “prove” God’s existence in a scientific way, but to simply posit, in a scientific manner, the presence of design in biological forms. The truth content of this claim is high, and so its potential service to scientific knowledge is significant.

    In all of this, perhaps the question that is fundamental to all these things–objectivity, science, and God–is this question: How do we come to know the truth? Science claims that its method in arriving at the truth is superior, and that its conclusions are unassailable. As the Pope argues, strict reason, when it is limited to what can become known through science experiments alone, is. indeed, too limited a view concerning the truth of our existence. But the way to the truth takes us very deeply into the realm of the philosophical, doesn’t it? And, I’ll just leave it here.

  29. 29
    lucID says:

    The irony that is highlighted through this situation is breathtaking!

    The pope alludes to Islam being violent in nature, and is met the next day by livid Muslims screaming death threats and firebombing churches – proving either the pope was right in what he alluded to (that Islam is essentially violent) or perhaps they didn’t hear exactly what he said, but just picked up that there was vague criticism of Islam in general and decided to violently protest. The latter option is more scary, as it proves the former and admits the following:

    There seems to be a universal trend emerging in both the East and West – which is deeply disturbing. One may criticize the Jews, the US government, the British government, Christians etc be you either Muslim or not (which is fine and fair as most deserve some kind of criticism or comment somewhere along the line). However to question Islam (and Muslims by implication) is outrageous and intolerant in the extreme! (I submit homosexuality, abortion and evolution here too, issues peripheral to this, but sacred cows in the context nonetheless).

    I believe the following illustration proves Islam is fundamentally violent.

    In films throughout the world the name of Christ (God according to Christians) is thoroughly blasphemed, and trampled, as there is hardly a film where blasphemy is not included most often entirely gratuitously. Yet no Hollywood or other people seem to be assassinated by irate Christians – proving on the whole Christians taking Christ at his word and ‘loving their enemies’. Substitute the name ‘Christ’ for ‘Allah’ or ‘Mohammed’, and we would have no Oscars or Hollywood gossip until the following generation of actors had grown up after burying their parents. Another real life example is Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’.

  30. 30
    PaV says:

    Sadly, an al-Queda group in Iraq has issued a death threat to the Pope, AND, has said the the worshipers of the cross would be given the option of either converting or begin run through with the sword. Incredibly, these Muslims can see no irony in threatening exactly what Mohammed was criticized for in the quote by the Pope. This group seems lunatic–which does not bode well for peace. Where are the imams condemning this kind of madness? Very troublesome.

  31. 31
    P. Phillips says:

    Essay focusing on the Pope’s remarks on science . No apologies from me on provoking thought or civil debate.

    Also, Wall Street Journal had an essay today:

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110009052

    REVIEW & OUTLOOK

    Under the Microscope
    When science and politics become worlds in collision.

    Friday, October 6, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

    This was a banner week for American science. The Nobel Prizes for medicine, physics and chemistry all went to Americans. The awards underline the universally acknowledged fact that the U.S. is the world leader not only in its aggregation of talent but in its ability to nurture that talent. First-class universities, along with copious private and federal funding for research, are often cited as key enablers. But few would deny that money can’t buy the most important element: a society that encourages independent thinking, open debate and an unbounded spirit of inquiry.

    That is one reason why it is always dismaying when scientists–of all people–suggest that on some subjects there must be no questioning because debate is closed. And on one level, at least, this would seem to be the implicit message of the newly formed 527 political organization called Scientists and Engineers for America, or SEA.

    In announcing its launch last week, the group said that it is concerned about how the Bush administration has “compromised the integrity of science” with, among other things, its policies on global warming and stem-cell research and its (alleged) support for nonscientific “intelligent design” theories of evolution. SEA members have also cited a delay in making the “morning-after” pill, sold under the name Plan B, readily available over-the-counter as another example of a sustained government “assault” on science and scientists.

    Link to “The Pope Is Right About Science”

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/cal.....an161.html

    The Pope Is Right About Science

    by Gene Callahan

    Excerpt:

    The belief that the only route to genuine understanding is that provided by the physical sciences, and that they are potentially capable of explaining anything that goes on in the world, is merely a prejudice, backed neither by evidence – for after all, there are many things science has not been able to explain – nor by philosophical considerations. In fact, many notable philosophers, including Husserl, Oakeshott, Polanyi, and Nagel, have noted that the assertion that human understanding can be reduced to mechanical causes is self-defeating. It is nonsensical to label the outcome of any mechanical process as “true” or “false” – the outcome is simply what had to happen based on the physical laws relevant to the situation. Anyone arguing that human thinking can be reduced entirely to physical mechanisms must admit that his theory applies to his own thinking no less than it does to, say, moral reasoning or theology. Therefore, per his own theory, it is nonsensical to claim that the theory is true! No, even his scientific work is only the meaningless product of the jostling about of a bunch of particles within fields controlling their movements. When an evolutionary biologist suggests that all of mankind’s religious beliefs are attributable to our genes’ efforts to propagate themselves, honesty should force him to admit that his biological ideas also are just attempts by his genes to survive – the “discovery” of DNA was really nothing more than Watson’s and Crick’s best chance to get laid!

    Attempts to proclaim science as the only real form of knowledge regularly point to its “success” as plain evidence of its superiority. But such arguments suffer from a vicious circularity – the criteria by which they judge success are scientific criteria, and, therefore, first award the prize to science and then “discover” that it holds it. It is as though I tried to prove my genius by taking an IQ test I devised myself, a test in which I included only questions that I was sure I could answer correctly. And, if later I realize I made a mistake, I allow myself to go back and amend it, boasting that this offered even further proof of my pre-eminence, since it demonstrated that I am not wedded to my errors, unlike the usual taker of an intelligence test.

    Epistemology addresses questions like, “Does science provide us with a reliable way of knowing things about the world, and, if so, is the sort of knowledge it offers universal or conditional?” Trying to reach answers to those queries through a scientific investigation is logically untenable – the researcher would first have to decide that science is a valid means for discovering truths about reality, but that is the very issue his research is supposed to be helping us to resolve! I cannot avoid concluding that the Pope was standing on the philosophical high ground when he declared that such matters are inherently outside the scope of scientific inquiry, a proposition that can be convincingly defended without any appeals to religious faith or divine revelations.

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