Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Muddled Pope Tries To Face Both Ways

In one of those excruciatingly embarrassing pronouncements Popes are periodically prone to making about science, Pope Francis today announced that the Big Bang theory and Evolution are both right and that God isn't a magician with a magic wand (so far so good), then proceeded to explain how neither the Big Bang nor Evolution would be possible without a magic god to get them going, presumably by doing magic, with or without a wand.

Addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences the Pope announced:

When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so. He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfilment. The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.

The Vatican has been trying to come to terms with the advances in science more or less since it realised bullying and persecution weren't going to make it go away. This need has become especially acute in the last 200 years as one gap after another was found not to contain a god when science shone its light into it. The last great lynchpins of the superstition were science's assumed inability to say where life, the Universe and everything came from and what it's all for. The assumption that it's all for something is never questioned and the intellectual dishonesty of the false dichotomy and circular reasoning involved in the 'therefore God did it!' argument was conveniently ignored.

Still, the church had something to cling to and something to bamboozle those ignorant of science with.

Now it seems the whole superstition is held together by these two lynchpins: the cause of the Big Bang and the cause of the first life (and how it was directed to evolve humans). Of course there has to be an unquestioned assumption that both the Big Bang and Evolution were started with the express purpose of creating humans, otherwise how can the church pander to those who don't feel important enough unless the Universe was made just for them and it's creator is their personal friend.

It would seem that present-day science, with one sweep back across the centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to the august instant of the primordial Fiat Lux [Let there be Light], when along with matter, there burst forth from nothing a sea of light and radiation, and the elements split and churned and formed into millions of galaxies. Thus, with that concreteness which is characteristic of physical proofs, [science] has confirmed the contingency of the universe and also the well-founded deduction as to the epoch when the world came forth from the hands of the Creator. Hence Creation took place. We say: "Therefore, there is a Creator. Therefore God exists!"

Pope Pius XII, 1951
But for an infallible Pope who speaks the word of God to the world, the Papacy has been remarkably changeable in its view of science, especially these lynchpins.

When Pope Pius XII heard that the Jesuit astronomer and physicist Georges Lemaïtre had used Einstein's Special Relativity equation to show that the Universe is expanding and so must have started out very small, he stupidly blurted out in a moment of over-excitement that Genesis had been proven literally true - until Lemaïtre had a quiet word in his ear and pointed out that scientific theories can be, and frequently are, falsified, so tying the religion to one which had not, at that point, actually been proven beyond reasonable doubt, was not the wisest move he could make.

In 1996, Pope John Paul II declared that Evolution was "more than a hypothesis, it was an effectively proven fact", thus simultaneously embarrassing Catholic creationists such as Michael Behe and William Dembski (but conveniently allowing them to claim their nonsense was science not religion) and demonstrating his profound scientific ignorance and failure to understand basic scientific terms such as 'hypothesis' and 'proven'.

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense – an unguided, unplanned process – is not.

Cardinal Schoenborn,
close associate of Benedict XVI, 2005
Then, presumably because God had changed his mind, Pope Benedict XVI effectively declared that Darwinian Evolution was not how evolution worked after all, it was all intelligent design. Apparently, because Benedict XVI found it hard to understand how Darwinian Evolution can give rise to complexity, it couldn't account for it. God, it seems, is no better at science than is any current pope.

And now, if you subscribe to the dogma of papal infallibility, it would seem that God has changed his mind again, abandoned the Discovery Institute frauds to their own devices and is once more a Darwinist. According to expert Pope-watchers, Pope Francis has now put an end to pseudoscience notions such as intelligent design.

But of course, the 'science' has to be shoehorned into sacred Catholic dogma so Francis has to face in two directions at once. It's both Darwinian Evolution and the very small, silent, quantum event called the Big Bang, yet neither can be allowed to have a natural cause so quantum mechanics, which rules out the need to explain the BB in terms of causality by a prior event, and developments in abiogenesis which have shown plausible mechanisms for how self-replicating systems could have arisen naturally, have to be ignored.

It is necessary for God to be in there somewhere, so God is placed in there and declared to exist. And although God isn't a magician with a wand, never-the-less he started it all somehow in some unexplained way which is indistinguishable from magic but definitely not magic, or at least no wand involve.

Now, it will be interesting to watch Catholics who earn a living assuring creationists that evolution can't happen and that the universe popped into existence fully formed as we see it today just a few thousand years ago, suddenly realising they have been Darwinists all along, that the Universe is really as old as it looks and that intelligent design and creationism are hoaxes with a hidden political agenda, perpetrated on simple, proudly ignorant and willingly duped people.

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1 comment :

  1. He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfilment.

    That wording is kind of interesting. Remember that the Catholic Church is always using the term "natural law" to describe its own random taboos, trying to put "fags are abnormal" and "don't take birth-control pills" in the same category with the laws of physics or chemistry. "Internal laws that he gave" seems designed to evoke that. While trying to reconcile Catholic dogma with scientific reality (however ineptly), they are still trying to fudge the difference between that scientific reality and their taboo system, which is far more important to them than questions like how the universe began.

    The Lemaïtre episode illustrates again a key difference -- science is made stronger when one of its accepted ideas is disproved, while for religion the same event would be taken as a disaster.


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