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Author Topic: The Vatican claims Darwin's theory of evolution is compatible with Christianity  (Read 12631 times)

paul.fr

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Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said while the Church had been hostile to Darwin's theory in the past, the idea of evolution could be traced to St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas.

Father Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti, Professor of Theology at the Pontifical Santa Croce University in Rome, added that 4th century theologian St Augustine had "never heard the term evolution, but knew that big fish eat smaller fish" and forms of life had been transformed "slowly over time". Aquinas made similar observations in the Middle Ages.

Ahead of a papal-backed conference next month marking the 150th anniversary of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, the Vatican is also set to play down the idea of Intelligent Design, which argues a "higher power" must be responsible for the complexities of life.

The conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University will discuss Intelligent Design to an extent, but only as a "cultural phenomenon" rather than a scientific or theological issue.

Monsignor Ravasi said Darwin's theories had never been formally condemned by the Roman Catholic Church, pointing to comments more than 50 years ago, when Pope Pius XII described evolution as a valid scientific approach to the development of humans.

Marc Leclerc, who teaches natural philosophy at the Gregorian University, said the "time has come for a rigorous and objective valuation" of Darwin by the Church as the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth approaches.

Professor Leclerc argues that too many of Darwin's opponents, primarily Creationists, mistakenly claim his theories are "totally incompatible with a religious vision of reality".

Earlier this week, prominent scientists and leading religious figures wrote to The Daily Telegraph to call for an end to the fighting over Darwin's legacy.

They argued that militant atheists are turning people away from evolution by using it to attack religion while they also urge believers in creationism to acknowledge the overwhelming body of evidence that now exists to support Darwin's theory.

The Church of England is seeking to bring Darwin back into the fold with a page on its website paying tribute to his "forgotten" work in his local parish, showing science and religion need not be at odds.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/4588289/The-Vatican-claims-Darwins-theory-of-evolution-is-compatible-with-Christianity.html


 

Offline Make it Lady

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My son said to me, on the way to school this morning, If we brought back all the really ancient scientists from the dead what do you think they would make of the world now? My first thought was of all the wonderful things they would see, then how history had remembered them but finally I thought, wow, they would be really amazed at the stuff they could say or do without being tried for hericy. "You did what with a sheep? and no one thought you were a witch."
 

Offline _Stefan_

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The Vatican did this with Newton and Galileo too. I'm not sure if I should be pleased with their game of apologetics or not.

Has anyone seen their absolute condemnation of biotechnology and the application of new biological techniques to humans? When do you think they'll apologise for that?
 

lyner

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The opinions of the Vatican may annoy some people but, without some strong conservative influences, biotech could get really out of hand.
If we don't need religion, we still desperately need ETHICS.
I speak as an Atheist, btw.
 

Offline _Stefan_

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Of course we need ethics, but religion offers nothing in that regard. Ethics should be based on a clear understanding of the issue, the process and the consequences, not on a framework of fear, misconceptions and sin.
 

lyner

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Of course we need ethics, but religion offers nothing in that regard. Ethics should be based on a clear understanding of the issue, the process and the consequences, not on a framework of fear, misconceptions and sin.
Your reaction shows that you feel too strongly for a truly rational opinion.
Have you ever tried to think of how the non-thinking masses could ever be encouraged to behave 'properly' without a religion?
We've tried a similar change of approach in the education of our children - 'reasoning' with them and discussing rather than giving clear guidelines as to how they should behave. With no clear boundaries, many of them have found their own limits and suffered the consequences.
The same is almost bound to happen if you try an intellectual, humanist approach with the mass of humanity.
We need religion. Can you suggest a workable alternative?
 

Offline _Stefan_

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I don't appreciate your ad hominem.

The fact that people pick and choose which parts of religious "moral" teachings to accept, indicates that people do not need religion to be good. Instead they base their ethics on an innate sense of morality combined with societal values. Even chimps have their own systems of ethics.

Please tell me how a 2000 year old text and its influences can inform ethical decisions in biological/medical research. Religions are so far behind the issues that modern society has to deal with that it's not funny.

Ethics depend on evidence-based, rational information about the issue if they are to be anything but wishy-washy nonsense. If all the facts involved are not considered, what hope is there for ethical progress? Since when did religions ever prioritize reason over superstition, misinformation,  and fear-mongering?

I don't doubt that humans need an ethical framework, but I strongly disagree that any old framework will do, especially for such important issues as science raises.
 

Offline _Stefan_

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And need I point out that the least religious societies in the world have the lowest rates of social ills? Clearly it is possible for the masses to be good without religion.
 

lyner

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Stefan
Sorry about the A.H.. But I think you really are missing the point that everyone doesn't necessarily think as rationally as you. One can't just dismiss a system on the grounds that it can be misused. Looking back into history I can't think of any major secular societies which can be used for comparison. Do you really have significant evidence of a successful secular society? The Soviets, perhaps?
I think it as all too easy to blame religion when it's really just people.
 

Offline _Stefan_

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I'm not just dismissing religions on the grounds that they can be misused. I'm dismissing them because the majority of their contents are absolute nonsense.

I think the Soviets and the Nazis etc were based heavily on poisonous ideologies in many ways comparable to religion.

When I mentioned secular societies don't need religion to be good, I was referring to papers like this one:
http://www.ffrf.org/timely/Religion&Society.pdf
Take a look at the plotted graphs while you're there.
It's clear that secularism is compatible with healthy society.

It certainly would be nice if everyone was rational. However I fully agree that humans need an ethical framework whether or not they are "thinkers". But I do not think that our ethical framework is benefited by anything that religion has to offer, especially in regards to scientific issues.
 

lyner

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That's a meaty piece of work. I looked through it and found a lot of interesting facts - like the idea that  children are hardwired with a notion of a God and the high levels of homicide in the past (no real surprise there, though).
The presentation of the data is a bit bewildering and, of course, may or may not show correlations rather than causal relationships.

You seem to dismiss the examples of Soviet, Nazi (and Chinese  Communism, to, no doubt) as not relevant, somehow, because they are religions. My point is that there are only a few exceptions where you can actually have a society where some form of 'religion' doesn't operate. Those exceptions consist of privileged and inellectual groups - never likely to be a worldwide situation.
When you say that religions peddle nonsense you are larely right. But so do politicians,  creatives and entertainers. If you are strong enough to handle life without the use of a God then you are fortunate. You probably don't watch Eastenders / Ramsay Sreet  or Big Brother either. That, however, is what the majority want and believe in.
Looking on the positive side of what religion has done for us, we have the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount and we have good works from 'good' people of religion all through the centuries. In many ways, the end justifies the means and one has to ignore the jarring of the intellectual sensibilities at times.
Religions definitely need to be cleaned up a lot but they serve an important function which has not been served to any great extent by non-religions. Or can you think of actual major examples?
 

Offline _Stefan_

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I was trying to show that religion is not necessary for a healthy society, not that religion has a causal relationship to societal problems or anything similar. However, if it were true that "the masses" depended on religion in order to be good, the results of that study and studies like it would be the complete opposite.

I dismiss those forms of "secular" society (Soviet, Nazi, Communism etc), because they all are based on ideologies that make them inconducive to their own health. I do not see how any society can really work that way, and I think that is reflected in their failure. That is why I directed you to that study of modern societies including many largely secular ones.

You mention the nonsense peddled by politicians, creatives and entertainers. On an intellectual level I disagree with nonsense used for any purpose, but for certain forms of entertainment there's generally no harm done. The problem I have is when nonsense attempts to obscure or replace reality and act as a guiding force in people's lives.

Do you truly believe that before Moses, the commandments etc, people were tearing each other to pieces to any greater extent than after? Also, how many of the commandments are both exclusive to religion and have any relevance to modern society? Religion does not have a monopoly on morality. It should be clear that ethics arise whenever advanced society-forming species do. Take all the communal primates, which develop their own primitive moralities in the absence of religion. Altruism is very common in the animal kingdom.

Also, religious people may be inspired by their religion to do good work, but the fact is that historically, the majority of people have been religious so of course those who do good will credit their religion.

You ask for alternatives. Consider Secular Humanism, which promotes a rational, ethical perspective. If only religions didn't have such a stranglehold on the majority of people from birth.

I don't think it's possible to "ignore the jarring of the intellectual sensibilities" that religions cause, for the sake of ethics. Religious nonsense influences any ethical "advice" that they can give on topics like biotech. How else do you get "bans" on contraceptives, IVF, embryonic stem cell research, and abortion?

I don't think I can persuade you on this topic, nor you me, so I can see us just agreeing to disagree.
 

lyner

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Yes - we will have to disagree.
My opinion is that there is huge risk of chucking the baby out with the bathwater. You have not actually shown any evidence of a real society with a representative selection of humans in it which has actually worked better by not having religion.
I have no doubt that you (and I, and many others) can exist with a good moral code and behave like good chaps. But I am not aware of it working on the level of a whole society without some sort of 'religion' to help it along.
My view is that it is very deeply ingrained in human nature because it works better than any alternative. Natural Selection at work in pre history.
 

Offline _Stefan_

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What is a real society to you?

I've just shown you that a decrease in religiosity does not result in or correlate with a decrease in societal ethics.

This has disarmed your argument that religion is necessary for societies to be good.


Whether religion is beneficial to the species is another issue. The case can just as easily be made that religious memes survive for their own benefit, not the benefit of their hosts.
 

lyner

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By 'real' society, I meant a significant number of people (millions), living together without extra privileges.
Can you show me such a society? I can 't think of one.
 

Offline _Stefan_

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What are extra privileges?
 

Offline Astronomer_FB

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Doesn't Darwin say though that the bible has no evidence on it that the bible can not be holy because the bible says the bible is holy.  This is in one of his theories so how can a church say they are going to say that theories that contradict themselves and there religon were connected to the churches back in the day.  The way I look at it there is no sense in it.
 

Offline _Stefan_

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Here you go SC, http://www.adherents.com/largecom/com_atheist.html
Countries with atheists/agnostics numbering millions.

Aside from the extremist societies as we've already discussed, the countries with high nonbeliever populations (numbering millions) have generally lower rates of social ills based on the previous study I linked to.

Even with "extra privileges", if people really did need religion to be good, those countries should have gone to the dogs by now.
 

lyner

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What are extra privileges?
Like actually having time to sit and think.  Like having enough food and warmth and not having to just 'get on' with life.
I mean the sort of privileges which allow you and me to have these conversations and to have been educated to this level.
I'm talking ivory towers, here.
It makes a huge difference, whether you acknowledge it or not.

So can you show me one?
 

Offline _Stefan_

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Isn't that the average standard of living in most Western societies?

In fact, in many cases religion actually contributes to the ills of society. Take Islamic countries where religion and government are so bound up together that they prevent their people from working towards a better, westernized society. Or take places where Christian missionaries like Mother Teresa preyed on the socioeconomically disadvantaged to exploit and keep them in poverty, thereby maintaining their dependence on religion.

Regardless of this, I don't see your point. It doesn't justify the existence of religion and it seems awfully like a moving goalpost.

Your hypothesis was that less religion would result in or correlate with higher rates of social dysfunction and immorality. The evidence does not support this hypothesis; It indicates the opposite.
 

Offline _Stefan_

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By the way, when do our fellow primates get a chance to think, be educated, be warm, fed, comfortable and safe, use computers and indulge in religion? Yet they still have altruism and primitive ethical systems comparable to humanity's.
 

lyner

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Which "Western society" does without Religion, btw?

Have you not seen film of 'adultery', war, murder and lying amongst the African wild Chimpanzee community? Have you not also seen the 'guilty' behaviour of chimps who have offended the system in some way? As I don't speak Chimpish, I couldn't say whether or not they believe there is some superior being who is 'watching them'.
It may be that, as their system is so elementary that it may not be possible to classify them as Religious or Humanist (Apeist).

I think the noble savage idea of primates was discredited long ago. But is the comparison really valid?

And I am still waiting for you to produce an example of a society which fits your prediction. It would have to consist of all layers of society, remember, and not a subset of intellectuals.
Remember, my point is that religion can't be replaced by purely intellectually based humanism. I didn't say I believe in God and I didn't say that individuals or small groups can't be successful humanists. Why can't you accept that most humans need a 'crutch' and that, so far, we haven't thought of one which is so effective as a religion. It may be an intellectually offensive idea (I even agree that it strikes me as a bit offensive) but I think we are stuck with it for a long time yet.
 

Offline _Stefan_

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I didn't say their system was perfect - why would anyone expect jungle-dwelling apes to be as ethical as the the best humans? My point was that they have a system that has arisen naturally by necessity that we have no reason to think is based on religion. In other words, we have evolved a natural capacity for being good within society.

While it's true that religiosity decreases as education increases, why do you assume that all the over 500 million nonreligious people in the world have actually thought through their lack of belief? It's also possible that many are irreligious through lack of childhood indoctrination or other reasons.

I find your insistence that entire societies must be nonreligious in order for secularism to be considered truly ethical, to be rather like saying that AIDS isn't a real problem because only 33 million humans are affected worldwide. Or that Buddhists can't truly follow Buddhist principals because there are only about 324 million of them. Yet these are massive populations - you asked for millions and you got millions, and that's still not good enough.

Speaking of which, there you have Buddhism which is considered in many ways to be compatible with and even embrace science and reason. The 4th largest religion in the world.

And you seem to think that there is something special about religious teachings that people can't do without. Have you really read the bible (and Koran)? They are full of terrible examples of ethics condoned by God that no moderate Christian could follow and still be considered ethical by today's standards. The fact is that people pick and choose which ethics they like, and reject what they don't.  But if they get their ethical sense from religion, how can they do this? It's because societies have developed ethical systems independent from religion.

I have never disagreed that some people need a crutch. My original disagreement was that religion is not effective at providing real ethical advice on important issues like scientific/medical ones. This should be clear to anyone. It's not true that there are no effective alternatives; It is true that the existing majority has already been seized by the religion.

You never told me how religion can possibly give real ethical advice on science/medicine that is both consistent with reality and is inspired by the religion itself and not the result of changes to accommodate the real world.

I think it's clear by now that we will just have to agree to disagree.
 

Offline Astronomer_FB

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You never told me how religion can possibly give real ethical advice on science/medicine that is both consistent with reality and is inspired by the religion itself and not the result of changes to accommodate the real world.

I think it's clear by now that we will just have to agree to disagree.
What about abortion the Qu'ran says that only abortions can be made if the mothers life is at risk during the birth of the baby.  Also the Qu'ran says not to take substances that mess with your head (alochol and drugs) how are these not ethical and can be used today? 
 

Offline _Stefan_

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Here's a nice overview of the history of abortion:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_abortion

The thing is, the religious objection to abortion is due to the tangibly false idea that an embryo and early fetus is a child and person.

So I accept that anti-abortionism is 1 example from religion, but it's also an example of an illegitimate reason for an ethical guideline.

Further, since abortions have been practiced for about 5000 years, the objection to it is not unique to religion. Aristotle had a more modern reason:
'Aristotle wrote that, "[T]he line between lawful and unlawful abortion will be marked by the fact of having sensation and being alive."'- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_abortion#Social:_History_of_abortion_debate


The drug law is a nice example. It was somewhat contradictory though, because hashish use has continued throughout Islamic history.

By the way, don't forget Islam had a scientific/intellectual golden age, which doubtless influenced the religion.
 

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