championed a useless mix of armchair philosophy and scripture-quoting theology,
while the experimental method, the only actual source of knowledge, was forbidden for centuries.
had the heroic pioneer of the modern world
forbidden from teaching in 1257.
Bacon, worth a thousand disposable medieval pseudo-scholars like Bonaventure or Aquinas,
was imprisoned for 14 years.
first wrote down his discovery that the earth goes round the sun.
This discovery, one of the greatest in the history of human thought,
would be violently opposed by ignorant Christian churches
for the next three hundred years.
The idea that the earth goes round the sun was explicitly
prohibited in the church's Index of banned books
in 1616 under Paul V,
again in 1664 under Alexander VII
and again in 1761 under
Unbelievably, the Copernican theory remained on the Index
Apparently, though, the church now believes that the earth
may in fact go round the sun.
One of Giordano Bruno's supporters ends with the words:
The "Church" will never outlive him.
- Interesting point.
who now worships Zeus?
Yet we still revere the ancient Greek philosophers.
Humanity's gods are mortal and temporary, and fade over time
as new memes arrive.
Mathematicians and scientists and philosophers
and transcend religions and cultures.
As pioneering scientists in Europe and America in the 18th and 19th centuries
the Flood never happened,
the Earth was not just a few thousand years old,
animals had existed for millions of years before humans,
and the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve never existed,
religious people had to come up with an explanation
as to why such nonsense was in their holy book.
Their first reaction was spluttering denial of science, as in
Pope Pius IX,
the descent of humans from non-humans "a tissue of fables".
But soon they had to come up with better replies.
The one they settled on was that these stories aren't meant to be taken "literally",
but rather are myths or allegories.
Only a simple-minded fool would think these stories were meant to be literal history.
This is all very well, but ignores the fact that every single Christian thinker
before the 18th century appears to be just such a "simple-minded fool",
including Jesus himself:
All of these people, including Jesus,
would have been very surprised if you pointed out to them
that these are just stories, not meant to be taken "literally".
In reality, the idea that these stories aren't meant to be taken "literally"
is a modern, 18th-19th-20th century invention,
made to try desperately to save their religion against the onslaught of science.
No one ever thought they weren't meant to be taken literally
before the 18th century.
Or so I think. But I am open to persuasion:
Some religious thinkers claim
that taking the Bible literally is in fact a recent invention,
that in the distant past it was always treated as myth and allegory, not as history.
I don't believe this, but I am open to persuasion.
If you believe this is true,
show me any quote from any Christian thinker before 1700
saying that some Bible stories are just myth or allegory,
and aren't meant to be taken literally.
Not an atheist or deist.
And not a heretic who was persecuted/executed.
A mainstream, accepted, Christian thinker
- because you claim it was mainstream to think this way in the past.
Send quotes to me
Origen (3rd cent. AD)
denies the Garden of Eden existed:
"Who could be so silly as to think that God planted a paradise in Eden in the East the way a human gardener does, and that he made in this garden a visible and palpable tree of life ... I do not think anyone can doubt that these things, by means of a story which did not in fact materially occur, are intended to express certain mysteries in a metaphorical way."
He denies the world was made in 6 days:
"we found fault with those who, taking the words in their apparent signification, said that the time of six days was occupied in the creation of the world".
Does Origen deny the existence of Adam and Eve?
Send quotes to me
It should be noted that Origen was declared a heretic by the church in the 6th cent. AD.
Does anyone apart from Origen state clearly that the literal meaning may be false?
Something like: "The Flood may never have happened"
or "Adam and Eve may never have existed".
It is true that other ancient Christian thinkers considered "6 days" as indeterminate periods of time,
but this is not as dramatic as saying that some event never occurred at all.
Did anyone apart from Origen say that?
Send quotes to me
I still maintain that:
Jesus and the New Testament authors did not know these stories (the Flood, Adam and Eve, etc.) were allegories.
The fact that Jesus did not know they were allegories
is strong evidence he was not a god.
Views like Origen's were not mainstream.
I would still claim that if you went back before 1700
and told almost any Christian cleric or layperson on earth
that the Flood never happened, they would be very surprised.
I would imagine, for example, that every single Pope before 1700 believed the Flood happened.
Is this true?
Send quotes to me
first wrote down his discovery that humans arose from other animals
by a natural process.
The obvious consequences are
(a) that humans are physical things,
the soul is mythology,
and there is no afterlife,
and (b) therefore
our destiny is to discover how the brain works,
and then to become immortal on earth.
perhaps the greatest ever in the history of humanity,
is still opposed or watered-down
by ignorant churches of every creed
It gets our actual ancestry all wrong, but is still great.
It is actually quite moving, if you think how far we have come
and how long we have struggled.
Medicine itself had to struggle into existence
against the opposition of theologians,
who have spent most of the Christian era
human suffering with their stupid superstitious theories
of disease, namely that:
And it is not just ignorant religious groups.
The Green movement
threatens science and medicine today.
At one end are the violent
animal liberation terrorists,
costing human lives by
stopping medical research.
At the other end are politicians of all parties
making laws to artificially restrict medicine
because of their own prejudices.
the supposedly secular state
again basically because it is new.
The conflict between science and religion continues today.
The major area of conflict today is probably
brain science and artificial intelligence.
Religions are simply in denial about the
consensus in modern science
that the mind is a physical machine
and the soul does not exist.
I'm on Dawkins' side.
It seems to me that religion and science have always been in conflict,
and still are in conflict
(for example, on the workings of the mind and free will).
It seems to me that Darwinism does lead naturally to atheism.
It seems to me that religion has no domain in which it is qualified
to tell us things about the world.
God and Evolution
- Similar bland, unsubstantiated assertions
about the value of science and religion,
by Warren Kurt VonRoeschlaub.
Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams
show us his complete lack of understanding of nature
(making a change from showing us his complete lack of understanding of politics).
"God doesn't do waste", he asserts, Jan 2008,
ignoring the unbelievable waste of 3 billion years of slow, painful,
evolutionary selection and extinction.
Lives are wasted by the trillions in nature.
are snuffed out in pointless mass extinctions.
Billions of intelligent, sensitive humans
have died young and in pain.
Uncountable human potential has been squandered and lost
because of nature's cruelty and indifference.
And Rowan Williams understands none of it.
It is simply untrue that religion is not in conflict with science.
They always have been in conflict, they are still in conflict today,
and there is no sign of that conflict ever ending:
"Truth Cannot Contradict Truth"
by Pope John Paul II, 1996:
"theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them,
consider the [mind]
as emerging from the forces of living matter
or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man."
This is a scientific assertion, an assertion about the physical universe.
And it is wrong.
"Communion and Stewardship"
issued by the
International Theological Commission
under the future Pope Benedict XVI, 2004,
makes more scientific assertions:
"An unguided evolutionary process
- one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence
- simply cannot exist."
The limited intellectual standards of Christian theology
are illustrated well by the
Catholic Encyclopedia entry on atheism,
which refuses to even take atheism seriously.
The fact that God may not exist at all
is a taboo that is clearly lurking beneath the author's mind,
as he furiously fights all his life
against ever for one moment
Most "theologians" still fail to understand how nature really works,
and fail to understand the ideas of evolution that were introduced in the mid-19th century.
James Mackey provides a particularly ignorant example of this.
A comment says:
"This series has been truly appalling, and is a blot on the record of The Irish Times.
This is the sort of opinion piece that belongs in the Alive
magazine, not in a reputable national newspaper."
I wrote a letter in reply. It was not published:
Letter to the editor: Dawkins and evolution
Prof. James Mackey's attack on Richard Dawkins ("Dawkins's survival of fittest theory unfit to serve as moral code for human race", 19 July) is based on a gross error. He attacks Dawkins for saying human society should be run by survival of the fittest. But oddly, no quote is presented showing that Dawkins believes this. Mackey also claims Darwin believed this. But again no quote is presented.
In reality, Dawkins and Darwin never said what he attributes to them. They say that evolution is how nature works, not that it is good. Society can simply ignore nature and run itself along entirely different lines - such as taking care of the weak. This is fine with Darwin and Dawkins. The very conclusion of Dawkins' book, The Selfish Gene, is a call to rebel against evolution: "We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth ... We are built as gene machines ... but we have the power to turn against our own creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators." And Darwin often expressed horror at his discovery of the brutality of nature. In 1857 he said: "What a book a devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature!"
It is fairly outrageous for Mackey to attribute ideas to Dawkins and Darwin that they never expressed. And equally absurd for a theologian to sneer at the unifying theory of biology, given biology's mountain of evidence
and long track record
of successful predictions.
The fact is that many religious people have the same problem as Mackey
(e.g. Jesus in Luke 12:24,
who thinks God feeds the birds). They cannot get their heads around the idea that nature is cruel and brutal and we should not copy it.