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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Times letter defends ex-atheist's book

The hit review in the New York Times of Antony Flew's book "There IS a God" gets mail.

(Yes, Flew is that Brit toff who decided there must be a God based on intelligent design of the universe.)

(Also, an explanation of how Flew came to be pegged as "world's most notorious atheist": It WASN'T Marketing's fault.)

Mythbusting: John Lennox and the Galileo myth

In a Crisis ( book review, Logan Gage looks at John Lennox's God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?, and suggests that the Catholic Church has a Galileo complex:

Terrified by the historical narrative of the Church's resistance to and persecution of science, Christians are averse to challenging "scientific" claims. "Complex" is an apt description, too: a group of unconscious impressions, not a well-thought argument.

That's certainly too bad, because so much utter nonsense gets sheltered under the label of "science". Anyway, he argues,
Correcting this historical picture -- the Galileo story in particular -- is one of the great virtues of John Lennox's God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? The very notion of a science-religion conflict is largely the invention of a few prominent (though now discredited) 19th-century historians. Galileo's persecution is the linchpin of this tale.

In reality, Galileo -- a believer in God and the Bible -- received the support of many Jesuits and the disapprobation of many secular Aristotelians, who aroused clerical hostility. Galileo -- whom the Church never tortured, whatever conspiracy theorists say -- lacked diplomacy and seemed to provoke beyond necessity. It is a nuanced tale, hardly confirming the "conflict thesis."

The book I most recommend in this area is the wonderful biography, Galileo's Daughter, by Dava Sobel. You'll see the real Galileo there, a devout Catholic with three kids born out of wedlock (yes!). His clever elder daughter steals the show, but don't let that deter you.

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Science and politics: Key lessons from the stem cell controversy

Ron Reagan (son of Ronald) 1. called it "The greatest breakthrough in our or any lifetime."

John Edwards, 2004 US vice-presidential hopeful and part time prophet, predicted that Christopher "Superman" Reeve would arise and walk provided that religious fanatics did not stop the progress of science.

And when Bush nixed new funding in 2001, Newsweek's science correspondent Sharon Begley suggested that his compromise might be "a cruel blow to millions of patients."

Whatever were they all talking about? The fabled fountain of youth? Well, more or less. Actually, they were talking about processing frozen human embryos abandoned at fertility clinics, to use in stem cell research (ESCR).

Go here for more.

Catholics: I get mail - and so does B16!

Recently, a person who claimed to be a Catholic informed me that I was a liar if I didn't tell readers that the Catholic Church has fully embraced Darwinian evolution.

Ironically, I'd be a liar if I told readers that the Catholic Church HAS fully embraced Darwinian evolution, because it hasn't and I know that it hasn't. (I wouldn't be a liar if, like my correspondent, I were simply confused or mistaken.)

My correspondent is probably honestly confused, because many people have been, by inept reporting.

In October 1996, John Paul II told the Pontifical Academy of Sciences,
... some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis.* In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.

Many sources ran with this, trumpeting that the Pope supports evolution. They did NOT bother to read, consider, or report JPII's further remarks:

"There are materialist and reductionist theories, as well as spiritualist theories."

[Guess which kind the Church likes? Hint: Not the one Darwin liked.]

"The magisterium of the Church takes a direct interest in the question of evolution, because it touches on the conception of man, whom Revelation tells us is created in the image and likeness of God. The conciliar constitution Gaudium et Spes has given us a magnificent exposition of this doctrine, which is one of the essential elements of Christian thought."

[= Man is a fallen god not a risen animal.]

"Pius XII underlined the essential point: if the origin of the human body comes through living matter which existed previously, the spiritual soul is created directly by God."

[= The immortal soul really exists and is unique to humans.]

Richard Dawkins, probably the best-known Darwinist worldwide, attacked the Pope for his statement, because he realized - if others didn't - that JPII was cutting the heart out of the enterprise. No meaningful interpretation of Darwinism can survive JPII's qualifications. The whole point of Darwinism is to situate humans firmly within the animal kingdom and the whole point of JPII's statement is to jerk them out of it.

Also, "more than an hypothesis" does not mean what many have interpreted it to mean. The online document at EWTN inserts an asterisk and provides the following note:
EWTN Note on translation:
The English edition at first translated the French original as: "Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of more than one hypothesis within the theory of evolution." The L'Osservatore Romano English Edition subsequently amended the text to that given in the body of the message above, citing the translation of the other language editions as its reason. It should be noted that an hypothesis is the preliminary stage of the scientific method and the Pope's statement suggests nothing more than that science has progressed beyond that stage. This is certainly true with respect to cosmological evolution (the physical universe), whose science both Pius XII and John Paul II have praised, but not true in biology, about which the popes have generally issued cautions (as above and Humani Generis). [CBD]

There it is in black and white, folks. The popes have issued "cautions" about evolution in biology, which is Popespeak for "Darwin? Forget Darwin." (In Italian, that's Dimenticare Darwin, the Italian title of an anti-Darwin book, now in translation.)

Following that up, the current pope Benedict XVI (B16) has gone out of his way to make his dissent from Darwinism clear. I mean the only way he could be more clear would be to issue prayer cards assuring Catholics that they are not some "casual and meaningless product of evolution." Oops, he's done that, actually.

And the message seems to be getting across to people who just weren't listening before. So B16 gets mail too.

PS: PS: Apparently, the howler monkeys (a fellow journalist's term) of materialist science have forced B16 to cancel a presentation at a university.

Here is an excellent overview of Catholic teachings by Fr. Martin Hilbert of the Toronto Oratory.

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