A reader struggles with Polygenism and Genesis

So, I’m sure you’ve heard this/discussed this/etc before, but I’m trying to reconcile my viewpoint on Adam and Eve, and I’m hoping you can help me.

Modern science contradicts a literal understanding of the creation of man. (Being Catholic, I’m not one for a fundamentalist view of the Bible, obvs)

Now, I don’t doubt the biblical account, but I do tend to lean on the side of allegory. However, I’ve read what Pope Pius IX had to say about monogenism and polygenism, and that we have to believe that all of us come from one set of parents, and that the story of Adam and Eve is not a wholly allegorical story. (Forgive me if I oversimplify that. Perhaps you can add some clarification).

At one point in time, I believed that everything up until Abraham was pretty much an allegory, meaning that it spoke truth about God and mankind, but didn’t happen exactly as it was written, and I still think there’s room for that viewpoint, but, going back to Pius, it seems I’d be in the wrong to believe it outright. Specifically on the mono/polygenism.

My current view is more like this: I believe that evolution and belief in God are totally compatible. The only way I can see to reconcile this viewpoint with reason is to believe that Adam and Eve were either the very first or among the first fully evolved, conscious, rational humans, and God chose them to establish a relationship with mankind by revealing himself and giving them a soul. He tested them, they failed, and thus the fall of man.

Now, I’ve heard it stated that Adam and Eve solely populated the world, but I’ve also heard it said (an idea I tend to lean towards) that there were other humanoids/neanderthals/’children of the earth” at the time, which would account for Cain fearing for his life after he murdered his brother, or him finding a wife. Of course, if that were true, were they soulless?

Honestly, this doesn’t pose any threat to my belief in God or His Church. But, as I’ve written to you about before, I’m very interested in the apologetics life. I’m also a sucker for theological/philosophical problems/exercises. This one is stumping me a bit. Can you give a little clarification to this mess of words and rambling? Do I misunderstand the Pope, or the meaning of allegory, or science, or Genesis?

Much appreciated!

See this piece (and the links in it too, especially Mike Flynn’s piece):

As to the question of Pius XII and polygenism, go here.

At various times in the Church’s history the Magisterium will cautiously say, “Hold your horses. Let’s take things slow.” So, for instance, before Nicaea, a local council actually forbade the use of “homoousious” to describe the Godhead. Why? Because the Church needed to hammer out what that word meant. Later, at Nicaea, it was adopted. Pius XII essentially says, “I don’t see how polygenism can fit with the Church’s tradition”. That’s not the same thing as saying it can’t. And so what is significant is what he does *not* do: He does not issue a definition here but simply urges that nobody run off into the blue declaring it a done deal.

We know a *lot* more about biological systems than we did when Pius wrote Humani Generis and one of the main things *Catholic* scientists are telling theologians is “Don’t bet the farm on monogenism.” So theologians are accordingly taking that into their cogitations. I will not at all be surprised if the Church, having noodled the matter for some 60 years (an eyeblink in the life of the Church), says “Okay, let’s talk about how polygenism can be reconciled with the Tradition. Flynn is already doing a bangup (and thoroughly Thomistic) job pointing the way to how that might be done. Like you, I see no serious difficulties for the faith here.

  • Heather

    As I understand it, one of the big concerns with theories of polygenism has to do with the fact that throughout history, when people have discussed it it has tended to lead to the idea that we are not actually all descended from one family, but rather that there are different racial family trees with totally different origins. And of course, one’s own ethnic group is clearly the superior one and those funny looking people over there aren’t quite as fully human as we are and so it’s okay to exploit them and they probably don’t even have souls.

    I don’t think anyone but a few crackpots lurking under rocks seriously believes this anymore.

    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

      Just don’t lift that rock. It’s nasty.

      • Heather

        Yeah… that’s why I didn’t say no one at all still believes it. I bet a few of the Dark Enlightenment “human biodiversity” charmers we had visiting us a little while ago could come up with some lovely pseudoscientific nonsense about the genetic distinctiveness of the various races and their separate origins and blah blah blah this is why black people are inferior and we shouldn’t interbreed with them because they’re a totally separate species, y’know.

        That’s what I get from the Church’s historical stance against polygenism. It’s not so much about the biological origin of homo sapiens as it is about rejecting these racist “separate origins for the different races” ideas. It’s about making sure that we affirm two things:

        1. All human beings are ultimately part of the same global family and have ancestry in common, however distant.
        2. The Fall affected the entire human family.

  • kirthigdon

    For a number of years, I’ve been under the impression that genetic scienctists claim that all living humans can in fact be traced back to one man and one woman. Admittedly this still leaves questions about races which are now extinct, e.g. the Neanderthals, but who have contributed some small percentage of the DNA of modern humans. But this strikes me as too academic to trouble anyone’s faith. I’ve even read that all dog breeds with the exception of some African and Australian wild dogs, can be traced back to one pair of Siberian wolves – sort of the Adam and Eve of domestic dogs.

    Kirt Higdon

    • Jem

      This takes a little bit of explaining, but

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve

      is a good introduction.

      The implication for Catholicism is that ‘first parents’ in the Catechism can’t mean what ‘first parents’ has traditionally meant (in modern scientific terms, that our common male and female ancestors were the very first humans and knew each other). As Mark says in the article, given another century or so, theologians may persuade themselves that there is a meaningful definition of ‘first parents’ that isn’t contradicted by the scientific evidence.

      Smart money would be on that involving a new definition of Adam and Eve as the first people with ‘rational souls’, if only because ‘soul’ isn’t a scientific term, so the new position will be safe, ironically, from rational scrutiny.

      • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

        Rationality =/= Science. Good grief.

        • Jem

          Is the existence of souls a testable idea? Do you think that when Mark’s twenty-third century theologians come up with their rationale for how Adam and Eve are compatible with nineteenth century biology that their argument will be testable?

          • Jared Clark

            No. Therefore, the soul is not a matter of science. It is a great error of the modern age that assumes science can test all that is real.

            • Jem

              Name a scientist who says that science can test all that’s real. Not one scientist would think that there’s a ‘scientific explanation’ for, say, why The Godfather Part II is better than the Godfather Part III.

              As I say, I suspect the eventual explanation of how Catholic teaching can be reconciled with the impossibility that Adam and Eve existed won’t be testable.

              • Jared Clark

                If you know science cannot test all, then why do you insist on abandoning things which are not science?

                • Jem

                  “If you know science cannot test all, then why do you insist on abandoning things which are not science?”

                  I never adopted them in the first place. Do you believe in everything that’s not science? Astral projection, Ganesh and wishing wells? Of course not.

                  ‘There was a first human being’ is a scientific claim. One that’s too vague, without further clarification, to have much meaning, but which, if we steel man your argument, we might take to mean ‘there was one individual who is the historically earliest homo sapiens’. That is a false statement because that’s simply not how speciation works.

                  • Jared Clark

                    “There was a first person to have a rational soul” is a theological statement. But I suppose when you limit yourself to a hammer, it may look like a nail

                    • Jem

                      ‘”There was a first person to have a rational soul” is a theological statement.’

                      Yes. As I said. ‘Smart money would be on that involving a new definition of Adam and Eve as the first people with ‘rational souls’, if only because ‘soul’ isn’t a scientific term, so the new position will be safe, ironically, from rational scrutiny.’
                      It is a definition *designed* to be safe from scientific inquiry. The sole purpose – if you’ll pardon the phonetic pun – in making that declaration would be to say something scientists can’t discuss. It’s like teaching that the first human being is the first caveman who ever saw a leprechaun.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      ‘soul’ isn’t a scientific term, so the new position will be safe, ironically, from rational scrutiny.’

                      You are confusing “scientific” with “rational.”

                      That soul (anima) is the substantial form of a living being and not a substance in itself was settled more than a millennium before science as we know it got started; so it was hardly “designed” to be “safe” from scientific inquiry.

                      It would also be well to study analogy, for it is not at all “like”

                      teaching that the first human being is the first caveman who ever saw a leprechaun. Who knows when the first cave man saw a Denisovian?

                    • Jem

                      “You are conf-”

                      Then it’s possible to come up with testable, falsifiable statements about ‘rational souls’?

                    • Colin Gormley

                      No, you are asserting that anything “rational” is “scientific”. Or more precisely, a thing can only be rational if it is scientifically testable.

                    • Jem

                      “Or more precisely, a thing can only be rational if it is scientifically testable.”

                      Yes, I am. It’s not a terribly high hurdle.

                    • Tom

                      Logical Positivism 2: Positive Harder

                    • Jem

                      That you trip over a hurdle set so low says more about you than the hurdle.

                    • Tom

                      Do you have a reason why your position is different from positivism, which collapsed under its own weight for the exact reason Colin just said?

                    • Jem

                      How could we tell the difference between a man with a rational soul and one without one?

                      Very simple question. According to the theory outlined up there, humans were bumbling along without rational souls and then one day one woke up and had one and all the human beings born after that had one and all the ones born before that didn’t.

                      So, you’ve got a tribe of humans, some of them have this rational soul, some of them don’t. Could you take one of them aside and work out whether he had a rational soul or not? Is there a test? Could a human being tell the difference? How long would it take to work it out? Would it be really obvious or dead subtle?

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >So, you’ve got a tribe of humans, some of them have this rational soul, some of them don’t

                      Contradiction in terms. A human is a “rational animal”.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Which is why space aliens (with intellect and will) count as metaphysical humans while gorillas do not.

                    • Jem

                      OK. The story just changed, and dramatically.

                      So … when man got his ‘rational soul’, speciation occurred? Adam was a different *species* from someone born in the same tribe half an hour earlier?

                      There’s no problem – that’s a simple matter to determine scientifically. Cute Colin’s answered my question.

                      Question answered. Everyone here happy with this? You’re all agreed that one day a baby was born who was a different species from his mother and father?

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >Adam was a different *species* from someone born in the same tribe half an hour earlier?

                      You keep using the term *species* as if you understand it from a Thomistic perspective. You might want to do some actual reading on where the term came from.

                    • chezami

                      It’s entertaining that you put words in people’s mouths and then imply them stupid for saying something only you are saying.

                    • Jem

                      According to the account so far, there’s a tribe split between people born before Adam who don’t have rational souls and those born after that do.

                      Colin says ‘A human is a “rational animal”.’
                      I’m not ‘putting words into his mouth’, I’m spelling out what the implications would be. Adam’s parents would not be human, his older siblings would not be human, but his younger siblings would be.

                      This is extremely silly, certainly not even vaguely scientific, and betrays a pretty fundamental level of not-thought-throughedness. I am not twisting Colin’s words to get to that position, I’m just pointing out the position he’s left it in.

                    • chezami

                      Yes. You are putting words in YOS’ mouth. Somehow you leap from his noting that hypothetical non-humans capable of reason are metaphysical human to something about specialtion. You fake asking a question, answer it, smirk at the answer, and then declare your opponent stoopid for saying the words you put in his mouth. Try harder.

                    • Jem

                      Sorry. I was replying to Colin, not Michael. I clicked on the wrong ‘Reply’.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      You haven’t begun to attempt to understand the words I’ve said. Honestly nothing you’ve said indicates a remote understanding of the topic at hand.

                      >I’m spelling out what the implications would be.

                      By pointing things out that have nothing to do with the topic at hand. You misread what I write, make stuff up, then defeat that, while the rest of us wonder what the hell you are doing. There isn’t a shred of honesty in your inquiry.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      when man got his ‘rational soul’, speciation occurred?

                      Not biologically. If intellect and will are not physical, their presence or absence can make no difference in biology.

                      Remember, species and genus mean something different in their original context. Think “generic” v. “specific.”

                    • Jem

                      “Not biologically.”

                      Measurably? Or, if you prefer, noticeably?

                    • Jem

                      It raises an important issue, and I apologize if this is covered in your article, which I’ll be reading later: there were around 50 hominid species on Earth at one point or another. The Neanderthals, at least, had ritual burial, musical instruments and at least the anatomy to allow speech.

                      There is a huge conceptual problem and it seems to me that the issue here is not whether logical positivism holds, it’s whether it’s even vaguely meaningful to talk about there being a ‘first man’.

                      ‘Rationality’ is clearly a spectrum, ‘humanity’ is clearly (in genetic terms) a spectrum. I think there’s a real issue here that you are just not going to be able to find a ‘first man’ to point to.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      What has “rationality” got to do with this? Many people confuse that with things like problem-solving, tool-making. and suchlike matters.

                    • Jem

                      ‘What has “rationality” got to do with this?’

                      It had been suggested ‘the substantial form of a human was after Adam irrevocably linked to the possession of a rational soul’.

                      So your question is ‘what has rationality got to do with a rational soul’?

                      I shrug and go ‘it’s your story, not mine’.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      The rational soul has the power to reflect upon percepts (incl. memories) and form concepts, the intellect, then form desires for or against these concepts, the volition or intellective appetite. These parallel the imagination (which forms the percepts) and the sensory appetites (a/k/a ‘emotions’) but are a higher level of abstraction.

                      http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/WAW0010.GIF

                    • chezami

                      You would really do well to engage with Ye Olde Statistician rather than call him a stoopid head and carefully ignore him looking for cheap shots. He is, after all, the author of “Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice” and has done a rather respectable job of trying to answer the questions that you pretend vex you.

                    • Jem

                      I’ve not called, er, Michael a stoopid head. Not here and recently, anyway. Thanks for the link.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      In fact, it was Popper who collapsed it.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      I have a confession to make. I don’t come up with original ideas. I just steal the good ones. ;-)

                    • Tom

                      All the good ones do.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >”Or more precisely, a thing can only be rational if it is scientifically testable.”

                      Yet this isn’t testable. Hence it is incoherent.

                    • ivan_the_mad

                      Oh very good. According to this, maths aren’t rational. Good luck trying to “test scientifically” a hypercube or manifold.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Oh dear. There goes most of mathematics out Jem’s window.

                    • Jem

                      “Who knows when the first cave man saw a Denisovian?”
                      Denisovians are a race of men where we have DNA, and a pretty good idea of their geographical and historical range. We won’t ever know what day of the week it was, or what they’d both had for lunch, but the point is that it’s scientifically testable. We know from examining modern human DNA that the ancestors of some people living today did a lot more than ‘see’ Denisovians (and, tellingly, that not all of us have Denisovian DNA).

                      So, yes, there are ways of interrogating that question.

                      Are there ways of interrogating the question of when the ‘first man with a rational soul’ existed?

          • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

            What do Aristotle and St Thomas mean by ‘soul’? Do you actually know?

            • Jem

              Yes, thanks. Actus Primus, psyche blah blah. Which part of it is testable? And do you accept all of Aquinas’ theories on human biology?

              • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

                No, no. “Actus primus” is just some Latin words. What I mean is, could you explain what they mean by ‘soul’ to a roomful of high school students?

                • Jem

                  Yes, thanks. I understand it’s nonsense because I understand the argument, not because I don’t. If you want to test my knowledge of Aquinas, answer my question: do you accept all of Aquinas’ theories on human biology?

                  • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

                    Jem’s Gambit Declined.

                    Your assertion that the Thomistic-Aristotelian account of the soul is all nonsense has a whiff of Creationist-like argumentation to it. Duane Gish “knows” that evolution is all nonsense, too.

                    Unless you can prove to me that you even understand what you’re talking about, it’s not worthwhile to argue with you. Good day.

                    • Jem

                      “Unless you can prove to me that you even understand what you’re talking about, it’s not worthwhile to argue with you.”

                      Yes, when the issue of Adam and Eve comes up, the sonic boom of Catholic armchair theologians heading in the other direction never takes long.

                      And wow, yes, you think Adam and Eve are in some way historical figures, and *I’m* the creationist. Great comeback.

                      Aquinas was eight hundred years ago, he was a very clever man but he believed a great many nutty things. If you want to play the game of cherrypicking Aquinas to support some argument you have today on the internet, go for it. I’ve read the Summa Theologica, and I remember reading the parts where Aquinas makes it clear that he’s not proposing little plums you can take or leave, but an entire, interdependent system.

                    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

                      you think Adam and Eve are in some way historical figures, and *I’m* the creationist. Great comeback.

                      That’s why I said “Creationist-like argumentation” not “Creationist”. The noun was “argumentation”, not “Creationist”.

                      And since I’ve got too much work on my plate to deal with people who can’t or won’t read properly, this is my last post. Jem, I wish you all the best, but the reasonable evidence indicates you’re not an honest interlocutor.

                  • chezami

                    All you are saying here is that you don’t have the faintest idea of the difference between Thomas’ philosophy and his use of “consensus science” (which he is happy to abandon or alter if new information arises) for the purpose of illustrating a point. You’re embarrassing yourself here.

                    • Jem

                      ‘the difference between Thomas’ philosophy and his use of “consensus science”‘

                      He derives one from the other, Mark, as you know. If you mean ‘Aquinas’, say ‘Aquinas’. If you mean some modern Thomist philosopher who adapts the arguments in the light of current understanding, name that philosopher.

                      Thomas Aquinas was one of the very greatest minds that ever lived. But a modern elementary school kid could set him straight on a great many of his core assumptions about how the universe operates. And the moment you agree that, you’re reduced to picking around the rubble for bits of his argument that you still like.

                      Aquinas, for example, treats Adam and Eve *and therefore their actions* as straightforward historical events. As was perfectly natural, sensible, wise and educated of him at the time. But which you and I agree is wrong.

                      Right, OK, we’re about to elide effortlessly from the point where I’m told I’m wrong because I don’t know any Aquinas to the point where I’m told I’m wrong because I’m quote mining Aquinas. Whatever:

                      He believed this of the creation of Adam: “The first formation of the human body could not be by the instrumentality of any created power, but was immediately from God.”

                      He believed that members of a species could only produce other examples of that species: ‘I answer that, As was said above (art. 2, ad 2), the natural generation of every species is from some determinate matter. Now the matter whence man is naturally begotten is the human semen of man or woman. Wherefore from any other matter an individual of the human species cannot naturally be generated.’

                      But he didn’t passively just absorb and regurgitate by rote the scientific understanding of the day *he used these things as pieces of evidence in his theological arguments*. They are the premises from which he derives his arguments.

                      As the premises are wrong, we shouldn’t blindly accept the conclusions. As he can be so extremely wrong about the testable stuff. If he gets bodies so wrong, what on earth makes you think he’s got concrete arguments when it comes to souls?

                      I’ve read Aquinas. I have not read much modern Thomist stuff. This may be a gap in my knowledge, please tell me who I should be reading to plug it.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >But a modern elementary school kid could set him straight on a great many of his core assumptions about how the universe operates.

                      And Aquinas would point out that the child is wrong. Because the child is taught abstractions presented as concrete facts. Modern science has this nasty habit of presenting its models of the physical universe as “all there is.” Aquinas would point out that the abstractions create as many problems as they solve.

                      >I answer that, As was said above (art. 2, ad 2), the natural generation of every species is from some determinate matter.

                      And given that “matter” and “species” have different meanings than what modern science defines them as, your confusion of the two is not surprising.

                      >But he didn’t passively just absorb and regurgitate by rote the scientific understanding of the day *he used these things as pieces of evidence in his theological arguments*. They are the premises from which he derives his arguments.

                      The hell he did. As best he used the current understanding of science as supplemental material. A concrete way of illustrating the principle that he was trying to teach. The modern A-Ts point this out time and again.

                    • Jem

                      “Aquinas would point out that the abstractions … A concrete way of illustrating the principle that he was trying to teach.”
                      So you feel modern science is ‘abstractions’ and Aquinas’ examples are ‘concrete’?

                      When Aquinas uses an analogy from nature, what do you think he’s saying:

                      1) ‘I believe we can derive the rules by which the universe is ordered, and something of that being which ordered it, by understanding aspects of nature’

                      or

                      2) ‘science is a story we tell each other, and currently we think this and what I’m saying is a bit like that’

                      I’ve always read Aquinas as very firmly doing (1). Is it really suggested anywhere that he’s treating Aristotle like it’s Aesop’s Fables?

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >So you feel modern science is ‘abstractions’ and Aquinas’ examples are ‘concrete’?

                      Modern science teaches its abstractions and then with a sleight of hand “concretizes them”. Aquinas, Aristotle et. al. were interested in truth, pursued via reason.

                      The point of the physical examples that Aquinas uses illustrate the principles that exist in nature. The principles are NOT dependent on the specific example being correct.

                      There is a fundamental difference between using current understanding of science as a way to illustrate the principle being discussed, and relying on that example to be true to uphold the principle. Aquinas does the former not the latter.

                    • Jem

                      “Modern science teaches its abstractions and then with a sleight of hand
                      “concretizes them”. Aquinas, Aristotle et. al. were interested in truth,
                      pursued via reason.”

                      So when a modern scientist says ‘the Earth orbits the Sun’, that’s an abstraction, and uses tricky wordplay to suggest it’s ‘concrete’; but when Aquinas said the Sun circled the Earth, he was pursuing truth using reason?

                      That’s a very silly argument.

                      When Aquinas said the Sun circled the Earth, he was perfectly in tune with the consensus of the day, with tradition, with scripture and with what seems to be the observed evidence. He would have been considered utterly mad if he thought the Earth went round the Sun. It’s possible he’d have been found guilty of heresy if he wrote it down.

                      But it turns out he was wrong. 100% entirely wrong. And any argument that is based on geocentrism is based on a false premise. The conclusion may be right, but if so it’s a coincidence. The argument itself is false.

                      Now, I don’t think when Aquinas talks about geocentrism he’s talking metaphorically and postmodernly about ‘the current scientific narrative that gives us the playful metaphor of geocentrism’ or whatever. He’s saying ‘because the Sun goes around the Earth, therefore X’, not ‘if it helps you imagine it, it’s a bit like if the Sun was going around the Earth, therefore X’.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >That’s a very silly argument.

                      It is, but as typical you made it up rather than read what other people are saying.

                      >So when a modern scientist says ‘the Earth orbits the Sun’, that’s an abstraction

                      No. When modern science says, “Here is a model of an atom” THAT is an abstraction. Then modern science turns around and says the model is reality rather than a model. And then goes further and says that thinking about reality in any other way is silly.

                      >He would have been considered utterly mad if he thought the Earth went round the Sun.

                      That’s nonsense. There were several hypotheses floating around about the celestial bodies. Your stereotyping of the Middle Ages is noted.

                      >But it turns out he was wrong. 100% entirely wrong.

                      Not really. Modern science holds that motion and displacement are relative to a frame of reference. One can for example position a satellite as the center of the universe for computational purposes. But to speak of something in relation to another as an absolute is “outdated thinking”.

                      Aquinas ultimately had little interest in if the Sun orbited the Earth or the other way around. It impacted his philosophy very little.

                    • Jem

                      “That’s nonsense. There were several hypotheses floating around about the
                      celestial bodies. Your stereotyping of the Middle Ages is noted.”

                      Again, silliness. On two counts: of course there were ‘other hypotheses’, there are non-heliocentric hypotheses *now*. Aquinas was living in a place where there was a clear consensus.

                      The second count of silliness, of course, being that your Aquinas is even more wrong than mine. Not only was he wrong about geocentrism, he had free access to the right answer and failed to recognize it.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >The second count of silliness, of course, being that your Aquinas is even more wrong than mine.

                      Given that you have yet to demonstrate you understand the poor guy or my arguments I highly doubt that.

                      You do realize that you look like the Creationist who argues against evolution without the slightest hint of knowing what evolution is. W are desperately trying to get you to realize that you know squat about Aquinas. That you seem determined to bluster your way through this is somewhat sad.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      So when a modern scientist says ‘the Earth orbits the Sun’, that’s an abstraction,

                      Certainly. It is abstracted from experience (via instruments) of the parallax of the fixed stars. It’s not entirely true, since the Earth simply travels along its geodesic in the spacetime fabric. The Sun simply warps that fabric so that the geodesic is curved.

                    • Jem

                      So we hit limits of language and have to simplify and contextualize. Don’t those limits of language apply to Aquinas, too, though?

                    • Jem

                      Yes, so looking into this, I found this commentary:

                      “The Thomistic notion of Natural Law has its roots, then, in a quite basic
                      understanding of the universe as caused and cared for by God, and the basic
                      notion of what a law is. It is a fairly sophisticated notion by which to ground
                      the legitimacy of human law in something more universal than the mere agreement
                      and decree of legislators.”

                      It *has* to follow from that, I think, that if the ‘understanding of the universe’ is flawed, then the conclusions derived from that misunderstanding could be wrong.

                      It’s possible that X is true. If Aquinas derives X from, say, the harmony of the spheres, and there are in actuality no spheres, then X might still be true, but Aquinas’ ‘proof of X’ isn’t any such thing.

                      The point is that ‘the harmony of the spheres’ here is not some familiar analogy so that people can see what Aquinas is getting at. He is extrapolating a rule from the literal existence of the harmony of the spheres.

                      To use an analogy … if it turns out there’s actually no such thing as DNA, then you can’t go ‘we can prove this by testing its DNA’.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      And yet nothing here actually demonstrates that Aquinas is doing what you accuse him of. All you have done is demonstrate that you don’t understand his arguments.

                      >The Thomistic notion of Natural Law has its roots, then, in a quite basic understanding of the universe as caused and cared for by God, and the basic
                      notion of what a law is.

                      Sigh. This actually comes closer but still misses the mark. Natural Law is derived from telos. That which is thing is “oriented” toward (or “directed” toward) some final end.

                      For example, marital relations are ordered toward the procreation of children. I do not need to know the specifics of how that works, only that the end goal is children. And attempts to frustrate that end violate Natural Law.

                    • Jem

                      “Sigh. This actually comes closer but still misses the mark.”

                      That’s a quote from Joseph Magee’s website. He has a PhD in Thomistic studies, studied theology at Berkeley and teaches university courses on Aquinas. Here’s a link to his CV. It’s got his email address, so you can tell him he’s ‘missing the mark’, if you like.

                      http://www.aquinasonline.com/Magee/cv.html

                    • Colin Gormley

                      An appeal to authority. How cute.

                      It may serve as a helpful start but as you have shown an imprecise presentation of Natural Law can cause confusion. And as you’ve demonstrated an unwillingness to read what people actually write an improper definition only presents ammo to those who would abuse it.

                    • Jem

                      “An appeal to authority. How cute.”

                      Oh good gracious me, you really are an idiot. Yes, I didn’t understand something, so I looked it up. Sorry, Mother Mary wasn’t free to give me a mystic vision.

                      For the record, I think Dr Magee’s literally wasted his entire life on an intellectual field that’s entirely false. It is a tragedy that he has fallen for the denial of service attack on the human mind that is religion. He would have more profitably spent his life cataloging the X-Men. *But* if I wanted to find out about X-Men, and whether Juggernaut could dislodge the Blob, I’d read something by someone who’d read a lot of comics.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >Oh good gracious me, you really are an idiot.

                      Now the insults. That’s a shame. But not surprising. I think the intellectual bankruptcy of your position is now apparent.

                      >For the record, I think Dr Magee’s literally wasted his entire life on an intellectual field that’s entirely false.

                      Yet you appeal to him for support? What a farce. Any port in the storm I guess.

                    • Jem

                      “Now the insults”

                      You started it with ‘how cute’. If you’ve got something, anything at all, share it.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >You started it with ‘how cute’.

                      I don’t see how “cute” is an insult. An appeal to authority is the weakest argument you have put forth yet. (And that is saying something).

                      >If you’ve got something, anything at all, share it.

                      I have been. You either ignore it or misrepresent it and then blame the victim.

                    • Jem

                      “I have been.”

                      It’s cute you think that. Have fun being cute over there, I’ll see if there are any grown ups around.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      Careful, your emotion defensiveness is showing.

                    • James M

                      According to St Thomas, there can be a valid “appeal to authority” – of which this sentence, & the OP’s post, are examples. Arguments that are capable of being fallacious, are not always fallacies – they (or some of them) can, if properly delimited, also be legitimate. Were this not so, most arguments would be vulnerable to attack, since it is not possible to argue w/o having axioms of some kind, however modest.

                    • Jem

                      ‘According to St Thomas, there can be a valid “appeal to authority”‘
                      At the risk of sounding even more facetious than normal, any Catholics denying the validity of appeals to authority probably need to take a step back and have a little think about what the implications of that would be.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      “…understanding of the universe as caused and cared for by God…”

                      if the ‘understanding of the universe’ is flawed, then

                      You prooftext does not refer to Thomas’ understanding of the universe per se, but to his understanding that everything that exists is caused (and cared for) by God. This is independent of the notion that he causes existence to be governed by physical laws and sundry other matters within the purview of science.

                    • Jem

                      http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/natlaw.html

                      “Since things act according
                      to their nature, they derive their proper acts and ends (final cause)
                      according to the law that is written into their nature. Everything in
                      nature, insofar as they reflects the order by which God directs them through
                      their nature for their own benefit, reflects the Eternal Law in their own
                      natures.”

                      From that, surely, an understanding of a thing’s ‘nature’ can lead us to the Eternal Law reflected from it?

                      What do you think: when Aquinas uses an example from the natural world, is he only ever using it as a comforting metaphor?

                      I have always assumed, that article would seem to agree, that he’s approaching it much more literally. He’s talking about, to coin a phrase, concrete, observed examples of what he’s talking about in action, not some loose analogy.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      do you think: when Aquinas uses an example from the natural world, is he only ever using it as a comforting metaphor?

                      No, he’s usually using it as an illustrative example.

                    • Jem

                      Indeed. You, I and Professor Magee all agree. Huzzah.

                      Now … do you accept the argument that if nature doesn’t work the way Aquinas thinks it does, that his illustrative example can’t illustrate what he says it does?

                    • Jem

                      If, for example, Aquinas was to follow Aristotle in saying nature can’t contain vacuums, and he inferred something directly from that, it would be fair for us to look at the universe, see that to the first approximation by volume the universe is very little *except* vacuum, and we could concede that Aquinas’ inference was not reflective of reality.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Sure. He would need another illustration. Remember, Darwin thought inheritance was via the blood and used “bloodlines” as illustration. Turned out this falsified his theory, but he stuck with the theory in spite of it and was posthumously vindicated. Similarly, atoms are not really miniature solar systems.
                      For an account by a modern physicist, see:
                      http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/c02001.htm

                    • Jem

                      OK. So here’s where ‘testable’ comes in. Darwin didn’t know about DNA. Darwin knew there had be be something like DNA and thought it was in blood. A hundred years later, DNA was discovered.

                      What’s the analogy with Aquinas’ discussion about something like souls?

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      The parallel is that one may use a poor illustrative example and still have a sound theory.

                    • Jem

                      “The parallel is that one may use a poor illustrative example and still have a sound theory.”
                      Coincidentally, he might have reached the right conclusion.

                      The problem is that if Aquinas isn’t arguing from an example in nature, he’s arguing from reason. And if his premise is false, his reasoning is false. What’s left, apart from supposition?

                      In Darwin’s case he was looking for a mechanism and picked the wrong one. He was able to say ‘OK, it’ll look like this, it’ll be able to do these things’. And DNA was discovered, and DNA had those properties.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Except of course he never said any such thing.

                    • James M

                      Logic is reasonable – but reason is not logic. Syllogisms have premises – does reasoning always have them ?

                    • James M

                      One can deny :
                      legal positivism
                      that the heavens are moved by angelic intelligences
                      that the sun moves round the earth (IIRC, he refers to this lastas being something that was believed, but that might not be true)

                      while affirming:
                      that God is the “Creator of all things, visible and invisible”
                      that God is not related to creatures in the same way as causes are to their effect
                      that God is not a being of the natural order, but is Infinite in Being.

                      Sometimes errors in his scientific knowledge vitiate his conclusions – & sometimes not. To infer, from the presence in his reasoning of an error in science, that his conclusion is invalid, is not always justified: because scientific info (accurate or not) does not always have the same function in his reasoning: it is possible to have a valid conclusion to an argument, part of which is based on fallacious reasoning. In a syllogism, that would make the syllogism invalid – but the solution to that, is to re-formulate the syllogism, according to his principles, using material (such as scientific info) that is not fallacious or erroneous. For example: his treatment of various Biblical questions in the ST is often wrong in detail – the solution is to re-consider the questions he discusses and see whether they can be re-formulated in a more satisfactory manner. Even his errors are worth studying – by knowing how & why he made them, those who read him can learn how to avoid them.

                  • Colin Gormley

                    >Yes, thanks. I understand it’s nonsense

                    Clearly you don’t. The honest atheists who actually DO understand Aquinas recognize that Aquinas is a very formidable mind. Obviously they don’t buy his arguments but they recognize the quality. Dismissing it as “nonsense” is nature’s way of warning us that you have no idea what the hell you are talking about.

              • The Deuce

                “Yes, thanks. Actus Primus, psyche blah blah.”

                In other words, no, you don’t know what is meant by “soul” in Thomistic terms, and you’re shooting your mouth off in ignorance.

  • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

    Just remember, people, that the magisterial pronouncements of current Science! have a way of mysteriously turning into the wild speculations of poor bewigged ignoramuses, stumbling about in the dark of pre-now enlightenment and properly funded research. Who knows what genetics is going to turn up once we have more data? We might find that a heretofore insoluble problem just needed a different solvent.

    And I say this as one who loves science, who spent his formative years reading Asimov and Feynman and every article in Scientific American, and whose friends avoid the topic of evolution only because they’re sick of hearing him yak on about its compatibility with a proper reading of Genesis.

    And I’m not trying to cast doubt on the scientific enterprise itself or take my stand with AGW-deniers or anything (+pinch and libation to the emperor). I’m just saying, truth is truth and there is nothing in science worth losing your faith over.

    *edit*

    Actually, let me revise that last bit to say: truth is truth, and it would be well for us to take the long view and wait for more data before freaking out and doubting our own understanding of the Faith. I mean, Teilhard is fascinating to read and definitely worth pondering, but he is a little fruitcakey, and I’m glad I didn’t throw all my theological eggs in that basket when I first started getting excited by his ideas.

    • Jem

      “We might find that a heretofore insoluble problem just needed a different solvent.”
      Modern science does not have any problem working out where Adam and Eve go. It’s the same place as Gandalf and Thomas the Tank Engine.

      • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

        Lame.

  • Andrew Simons

    There’s a lot being written on evolution and Christian theology from both the biology/science side and the theology side. John Haught (Georgetown theologian) has written a bunch, including “Responses to 101 questions on God and evolution,” which is a great primer on the whole subject. Alister McGrath, who is both a scientists and a theologian at Oxford, has written tons of stuff, including The Dawkins Delusion. Kenneth Miller, an American biologist at Columbia (and a Catholic) has written In Search of Darwin’s God. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel on this stuff — a lot of great work is being done.

  • Paul Druce

    It is an improper reading to deny the clear statement, and the authority of the papal magisterium, of Pope Pius XII that the “Faithful cannot embrace that opinion” by his rationale as to why it is an impermissible opinion. Furthermore, there has been no reconciliation of polygenism with the clear statements of Scripture and Tradition that “a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.” To deny monogenism is to deny that through one man sin entered into all. It is to deny Christ as an anti-type of Adam and incidentally to deny Mary as the second Eve.

  • Jared Clark

    It’s worth noting that a of evolution, polygenism, and the faith involves three different definitions of “human”. The biological understanding is based on reproduction (if two organisms can produce fertile offspring together, then they are the same species), the anthropological on fossils (you can’t test if extinct species could reproduce, so the shape of the fossil is the best measure), and the theological on the soul (“created in the image and likeness of God”)

    Now, neither the biological nor the anthropological approaches say anything about the soul (just as infertility doesn’t make a person less human, nor does physical differences, I fail to see how the capability of reproduction with an early human or some relatively minor physical differences would make a difference from a theological point of view)

    Honestly, I think before we worry about the theological impact of polygenism, not only should we wait for more evidence, but we should also make sure science is even asking the same question. My very basic understanding is that the same diversity could be explained by a greater amount or population size, so maybe the polygenism argument is assuming the first humans were homo sapiens? That may not be the case, at least in regards to the soul.

    One last point: it is certain that any others could not have been human-like animals. Bestiality is objectively evil, but Seth and Cain marrying their sisters can be justified under the principle of double effect (under the circumstances of not having more distant relatives, of course. It cannot be justified today)

    • Jem

      “so maybe the polygenism argument is assuming the first humans were homo sapiens?”
      The problem with reconciling ‘Adam and Eve’ to science is that by definition the only satisfying answer will be scientific. The problem is precisely that of translating the Biblical and traditional account into a scientific hypothesis.

      And you face the insurmountable problem that if you accept evolution, even some weird hybrid ‘theistic evolution’, you accept two things (1) no special creation for man and (2) it is utterly impossible that there was a ‘first human being’, because that’s not how population genetics works.

      I can save the Vatican some time. There are two ways out of it: a deeply dissatisfying and untestable appeal that Adam and Eve were the first beings with ‘human souls’; or by noting that the scientific study of consciousness isn’t currently very well developed or defined so choosing to kick the can down the road with the declaration that Adam was the first creature with ‘human consciousness’. As with so much theology nowadays, the only moves are ‘Ghosts’ or ‘Gaps’.

      • Jared Clark

        I reject both your premise of translating the Bible into science and your conclusion that there can be no special creation of a first human. I also reject your assumption of this being a “gap” argument, unless you define “gap” to include non-scientific topics as well.

        The sooner you get over your assumption that the scientific method is the only tool we ought to use, the better.

        • Jem

          “I reject both your premise of translating the Bible into science and
          your conclusion that there can be no special creation of a first human”
          If by that you mean that it’s historical fact that there was a special creation of a first human, then you don’t understand even the basics of the scientific account, it’s as simple as that.

          • Jared Clark

            You can stop trying to spread your materialist philosophy here. It ain’t gonna work

            • Jem

              That, of course, is a problem with ‘here’, not ‘materialist philosophy’.

              • Ye Olde Statistician

                You are confusing “creation” with “evolution,” and you seem to regard the “soul” as a sort of “thing.”

                • Jem

                  ‘you seem to regard the “soul” as a sort of “thing.”‘
                  Your model is that there was a population which didn’t have ‘rational souls’, then an individual was born with a ‘rational soul’. If your narrative has any meaning or can be discussed at all, there would seem to be contexts where the presence or absence of a ‘rational soul’ makes a difference, and so it can be treated as a discrete ‘thing’ or ‘property’, yes.

                  • Ye Olde Statistician

                    A discrete ‘thing’ or ‘property’, make up your mind.

                    then an individual was born with a ‘rational soul’
                    Do you prefer then 10,000 individuals were born with a ‘rational soul’?

                    • Jem

                      ‘Do you prefer then 10,000 individuals were born with a ‘rational soul’?’

                      No, I don’t think it’s *more* probable – without further explanation – that 10,000 people were born with a new [insert whatever word you'll let me use instead of 'property'] than that 1 person was. When did this happen? The same day? The same generation? The same region?

                      I believe, from fossil and DNA evidence, and the study of modern primates – and to be fair, from what we know about *every other change to every other known organism, ever* – that human [insert whatever word you like that means 'intellect'] appeared gradually. I think being smart would confer clear selective advantages, but that smartness is incremental.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Now you are talking about “smartness”. Stick to the topic.

                      Fossil and DNA evidence can only tell you about physical developments and so cannot tell you about intellect and will.

                      Try this for an outsider’s perspective:
                      http://www.sourcetext.com/grammarian/
                      >LESS THAN WORDS CAN SAY>Chapter Two, The Two Tribes

                      Also if you can find it, Helen Keller’s account of the water in the pumphouse.

                    • Jem

                      “Fossil and DNA evidence can only tell you about physical developments and so cannot tell you about intellect and will.”
                      I think there’s at least some form of link between brainpower and brain structure. As I say, if ‘smartness’ is not the right word for this mental faculty, then please imagine I’m suing the right word.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      I think there’s at least some form of link between brainpower and brain
                      structure.

                      That is likely so. But what has it to do with intellection and volition? Of course, to the extent that the human uses the brain the brain must be sufficient to the demanded tasks. But the same is true of tongues and spleens.

                      if ‘smartness’ is not the right word for this
                      mental faculty, then please imagine I’m suing the right word.

                      There are limits to the imagination.

    • James M

      “Seth and Cain marrying their sisters can be justified under the
      principle of double effect (under the circumstances of not having more
      distant relatives, of course. It cannot be justified today”

      ## To take that as history – is there reason to do so, other than supposed need for Adam to be historical ? – would convict the Church of changing its moral teaching regarding incest. It cannot say all of the following w/o making a nonsense of its claims as a teacher:
      that incest is inherently wrong
      that it cannot countenance other activities it currently describes as inherently wrong
      that its teaching is unchangeable.
      that incest is tolerable even once.

      If OTOH any activity it now claims to be inherently wrong, is allowable even once – by appeal to the principle of double effect – then that reasoning has to be valid universally, and not just once. STM you are arguing for situation ethics – in order, AFAICS, to avoid Adam’s becoming non-historical. Why ? so that Adam can exist for long enough to be tempted by Eve, and fall. STM that is all a needlessly high price to pay in order to keep someone historical who is not historical in the first place; and does not need to be. But “situation ethics” partakes of the very “relativism” that B16 was so critical of. To say nothing of the condemnation of “situation ethics” by his predecessor.
      FWIW, Genesis 4 & 5 say nothing of where Cain & Seth got their wives; that they married their sisters is an inference, not a statement in the text.

  • Del Sydebothom

    I differ with Flynn a bit, but I still think his article on this topic is one of the most valuable on the internet. My guess is that once a biological human–I don’t claim to know which species fits this criteria, but my money’s on Erectus–received a rational soul, all subsequently conceived humans received the same gift.

    While harder at first blush to reconcile with Pius XII’s words than Flynn’s idea, I still think there are downright thringing wherefores for arguing that this would still be “natural generation”.

    • Jem

      “all subsequently conceived humans”

      Just his descendants, or all humans conceived after that time?

      • Andy, Bad Person

        Do you have something to prove by trolling here, or are you just trying to make yourself feel good?

        • Jem

          I’m genuinely interested in what current Catholic thought is on the answer to that question. If you’d like to try to answer it, rather than troll about trolling, please go ahead.

          • http://hjg.com.ar/ Hernán J. González

            Jem, I appreciate and respect your interest.

            But you must be aware that asking in catholics blogs is a risky way of knowing “current catholic though”. You will get (and I see that you get) all sort of answers, but they (even if you can summarize the diversity to one or several cluster of ideas) only show… the though of some catholics (those who tend to read an comments on blogs – and in USA). They (we) are doubtfully representative – even if this blog is above the average.

            Real current catholic though is accesible on the writings of the most respected thinkers – (some) theologians and (some) bishops/popes. You only need to read -say- Ratzinger to appreciate that current catholic though does not quite suport this (rather abstract + mythical) way of thinking of some definite entity (a “soul” that gives human some presumably exclusive and power to reason -an unconfortable mixture of philosophical and biological concepts- and at the same time endorses us with the “spiritual” ) that at some definite instant of time God puts inside a “pure animal”.

            Catholic thinkers are aware that things are much more elusive, and that a basic concept like “soul” is full of complexities and conditioned by philosophy and science (and that theology must grow, as they grow). Is a naivety to assume (as many apologist seem to assume) that our concept of soul is (or must be) the same as Aquinas.
            (Of course, traditionalists do not accept this, see eg a lefebrist anger at Ratzinger “heretical” -actually quite timid- attempts to rethink such concepts http://www.waragainstbeing.com/parti-article13 )

            AS a random example: peek inside
            Walter Kasper’s “Jesus book (I’m just reading it, good stuff) and see how a respected (and orthodox) theologian uses the word “soul” today.

        • http://hjg.com.ar/ Hernán J. González

          Jem does not seem a troll to me, at all. If we catholics were more autocritical perhaps I would deem his messages a nuisance. Being things as they are, and in spite of his many injustices and mischaracterizations, I enjoy a good deal of critic.
          (Granted this is not my blog – but neither is yours)

      • Del Sydebothom

        All humans conceived after that time. Adam’s existence changed what it meant to receive a human form; the substantial form of a human was after Adam irrevocably linked to the possession of a rational soul. Matter receiving a human form immediately “called” to God for a rational soul. In a similar way, a man built up molecule by molecule in a lab would–once the last critical piece was in place–receive the substantial form of a man, rational soul included. Of course, as a son of Adam, the very manner of his construction will have violated his rights.

        • Jem

          “Adam’s existence changed what it meant to receive a human form”

          I don’t mean to sound hostile, so forgive me if that’s the tone that comes across.

          There are some really important details here. In this scheme of things, is Adam himself born with a soul? Does everyone of his species conceived/born after him get one? Does this mean that there’s a generation of people indistinguishable from Adam living at the same time but without souls? If Adam’s born at 2pm, does that mean someone who’d been born at 1.30pm on the same day … well, doesn’t have a soul, isn’t recognizably the same species? Couldn’t breed with those with souls?

          And this would seem to represent a huge theological shift – at the time of the Fall, there would have been a huge population of people. Traditionally, it’s Eve’s sin, Adam’s sin. Now, suddenly, their cousins, siblings, nephews, nieces and so on … possibly human beings living thousands of miles away who, um, didn’t know Adam from Adam are tarred with the same brush.

          It’s possible, under this model, that there are human beings today descended from Adam and Eve, and others who aren’t. It seems a bit rough to start with that *their* descendants get punished. But the idea that people who had nothing to do with them got the same punishment seems actively unjust.

          • Del Sydebothom

            “In this scheme of things, is Adam himself born with a soul?”

            A rational soul–viz. a soul which has, along with its other powers, the power of reason. Everything alive has a soul. “Soul”=that which distinguishes a living thing from a non-living thing. Different things are alive in different ways, though; the form of a trees life (i.e., its soul) is different than that of a lizard’s, and features a different set of powers (e.g., the ability to produce sap). Man’s soul has a *rational* power. This is what makes him a “man” in the theological sense.

            “Does this mean that there’s a generation of people indistinguishable from Adam living at the same time but without souls? ”

            All biological humans conceived prior to Adam lacked a rational power. The exact time is irrelevant.

            “Couldn’t breed with those with souls?”

            “Couldn’t” isn’t the same as “wouldn’t”. In either case, it wouldn’t be a problem for long, as the average lifespan of the time would have seen the older generation gone before too long.

            “It’s possible, under this model, that there are human beings today descended from Adam and Eve, and others who aren’t.”

            No it isn’t. That is why I brought up the laboratory scenario. If a human being was built–even if the process used no pre-existing genetic material from ordinarily conceived humans–that lab-built person would still be a child of Adam. This is because the spiritual, rational nature of man began with Adam; it was his new kind of existence that redefined what it meant to be a human being. Even if Adam and Eve had died without children, all living humans would still be their descendants.

            “It seems a bit rough to start with that *their* descendants get punished. But the idea that people who had nothing to do with them got the same punishment seems actively unjust.”

            What punishment are you referring to? Man, after the fall, was effectively returned to a “wild” state, but retained the gift of a rational soul, along with the promise of redemption. In Adam, humanity lost the grace of divine sonship, but not irrevocably. Thus, Adam and Eve are both honored as saints; they now enjoy the very paradise they lost.

  • Jem

    The issue is simple enough: Modern Catholics are not creationists, they are not Biblical literalists. And they understand that both ‘creationism’ and ‘Biblical literalism’, in the sense those terms are used today, are both recent phenomena and essentially idiotic.

    Modern Catholicism is or wishes to be – no atheist would argue this – broadly in line with the modern scientific consensus. Yes, some living scientists are Catholics. Again, the idea atheists will drop to their knees at this news is a peculiar self-serving notion held by Catholic bloggers and no other human beings.

    Catholicism, though, has an Adam and Eve problem. First of all, the moment you start talking about Adam and Eve, we all know it sounds like you’re saying they rode around on saddled dinosaurs six thousand years ago. It’s hard to talk about Adam and Eve and not sound like a creationist.

    But even allowing that it’s possible … the idea of a ‘first human’ is scientifically illiterate. The problem is not finding Adam, it’s that *we already know that he can’t possibly exist as an historical figure*. Not if the modern scientific consensus is correct in even the broadest strokes. And if you’re saying it’s not … well, again, you’re in saddling dinosaurs territory.

    It’s OK to kick the can down the road. But ‘shrug’ is not an answer, and Adam is, to put it mildly, rather important in the Catholic scheme of things. There are missing bits of the scientific model, some rather important ones. But scientists are straining to make predictions and observations and progress. And just in the last year they’ve plugged big gaps like finding the Higgs Boson where they expected and gravity waves that indicate early inflation, as predicted.

    Creationists have a bad answer. Atheists have a great answer, but it might not be the right one. Anglicans have decided it’s poetry and the Fall was no big deal. Catholics simply don’t have an answer at all. And saying you don’t know can be a mature response to a question … but not when you previously said you did know, and it’s a question only you are asking,

    • Adam Burch

      I’m going to respond to this comment, rather than some of the more deeply nested comments, because disqus doesn’t handle nesting well.

      I think most people are having trouble with this comment that you made:

      “Smart money would be on that involving a new definition of Adam and Eve as the first people with ‘rational souls’, if only because ‘soul’ isn’t a scientific term, so the new position will be safe, ironically, from rational scrutiny.”

      I agree that traditional Catholic understandings of the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis do not comport with modern scientific understandings of the origin of the human species. However, Catholicism operates under the “both-and” principle: Scripture AND Science are BOTH ways to know truth. So when one contradicts the other, it is a sign that our understandings of each need to be examined.

      That seems to be what is happening right now. Science contradicts one understanding of the story of Adam and Eve, so Catholics are trying to reinterpret in light of these scientific ideas. Similar to what St. Thomas did.

      You dismiss these efforts as either “Ghosts” or “gaps”, and call them unsatisfying, but I think you might be over-estimating the importance of the details of the Adam and Eve story to Catholics. The faith of most people does not rest on Adam and Eve, but on their experience with Jesus. In addition, one of the most important aspects of the story of the Fall is Original Sin. As G. K. Chesteron said, Original Sin is the most obvious of Christian doctrines. Everybody does bad things. This is testable. The story of Adam and Eve having a very complicated interpretation is certainly a chink in the armor, but with Mark, I can see it being worked out eventually.

      As a side note, it seems like you are conflating “rational” with “testable”. I can prove to you that there are infinite prime numbers, but you certainly can’t test it.

      PS Part 2: Think also of the stories of Jonah and Noah. Most people don’t take them literally now either, but they once did. I will admit that these are less central to Christianity than Adam and Eve though.

    • http://hjg.com.ar/ Hernán J. González

      “Adam is, to put it mildly, rather important in the Catholic scheme of ) things”

      Adam is important. His existence (understood in the literallistic sense) is not (actually, I’d say that to even worry about his existence is a sign of bad theology).

      “It’s hard to talk about Adam and Eve and not sound like a creationist.”
      It should not be hard, but, depending on the context, it might be.
      How one sounds depends on who speaks and who listens.

      I concede that there is serious reading problem here, on all sides. It’s not only how we (catholics in first place, but not only) read the Bible, but also how we read the Fathers of the Church, the past magisterium and even the recent.
      Specifically many conservative blogger-apologists with decent reasoning but limited education can have problems listening… Ratzinger writes

      In the Genesis story that we are considering, still a further characteristic of sin is described. Sin is not spoken of in general as an abstract possibility but as a deed, as the sin of a particular person, Adam, who stands at the origin of humankind and with whom the history of sin begins. The account tells us that sin begets sin, and that therefore all the sins of history are interlinked.

      … and Dave Amstrong reads that Ratzinger is affirming the literal existence of Adam. So, in a sense (a sense which should worry more us, catholics) you are right. It’s hard.
      If catholics have problems reading Ratzinger about Adam, they should have even more problems reading Genesis.

      In some sense, then, the atheists have reason againsts the catholics in this regard. Catholics only appear to them similar to creationists, only that more cautious and with more sense of ridicule; they would love to be able to read the Genesis literally, but they sadly admit they cannot; they would get unshamefully happy (even vengative) if some scientific discovery happen to give some new support to old good literalism.. but the know this is very improbable. In the meantime, they just strive to appear enlightened, to “keep in harmony” with science without ever acknowledge past intellectual gaffes or inconsistencies. But, all in all, they don’t know what to do with Genesis, they cannot get any spiritual food from that.

      The above is a caricature, but every caricature is a mix on injustice and painful truth. The part of truth is, I think, a tragedy, both for catholics and atheists. In some sense, we are like those pharisees who “do not enter, nor will you let others enter”.

      I also think that things are changing for better, though.

      “Atheists have a great answer” Sorry. What was the question? Biological monogenism? If so, neither catholics nor atheist can have the answer, but scientists.

      • James M

        “I concede that there is serious reading problem here, on all sides. It’s not only how we (catholics in first place, but not only) read the Bible, but also how we read the Fathers of the Church, the past magisterium and even the recent [???].”

        ## Not just these, but also those origin stories that resemble the A & E story. Gen.1-3 – 1-11, indeed – did not grow up in a vacuum; they resemble stories in neighbouring cultures, which can therefore shed a great deal of light on them.
        It is not clear that the A & E story is even intended to be factual; unless one looks at much later texts like Wisdom 2 & Romans 5.12-21 – Genesis 2-3 looks, in part (it’s a narrative significant in many different ways) remarkably like a taboo-story of the kind familiar from Greek mythology & (much later) fairy tales. Genesis 1 should be compared, not with Darwin, but w/ the Babylonian Creation Epic (for instance). One could almost call Gen.1-11 “feigned history”, of a kind familiar from modern fantasy.
        Gen.1-11 is inspired – that does not mean it is independent of or uninfluenced by the texts and ideas of the nations with which Israel & Judah had dealings.

  • Elmwood

    what i have a difficult time understanding is what exactly is meant by the “fall of creation”. as i understand it, when the fall occurred, it also affected the cosmos. but this can’t be understood in a physical sense because science tells us and is dependent on the fact that physical phenomenon are understandable and predictable. it’s not like we can look into the geologic record and see a point when predators didn’t eat prey, or that earthquakes and floods didn’t occur.

    as for the fall of man, it’s entirely possible that we all share a common ancestor with adam and eve. somehow though through their sin, we all fell. this doesn’t preclude there being other people besides adam eve that we have as common ancestors.

  • Jem

    Michael, I’ve read your article.

    “Darwin tells us that at some point an ape that was not quite a man gave
    birth to a man that was no longer quite an ape. He was H. sapiens”

    Here’s the problem: Darwin was 150 years ago. We know speciation doesn’t work like that, now. It works over populations, and it works over time. There’s no one, visible moment where one species becomes another:

    ‘geographically isolated populations diverge genetically under natural
    selection or other evolutionary forces like genetic drift, and that
    divergence leads to the evolution of genetic barriers (mate
    discrimination, the sterility of hybrids, ecological differences, etc.)
    as byproducts of evolutionary change. For example, populations could
    adapt to different environments (one dry, one wet, for example), leading
    to them becoming genetically different. When these populations meet
    each other again, this genetic divergence could result in hybrids that
    don’t develop properly because the parental genomes are sufficiently
    diverged that they can’t cooperate in building a single individual.’

    “Species” is a rather problematic term, with blurred edges.

    “So let us default to the sapiens/loquens mutation appearing first in one man”

    Um … what would the evolutionary advantage be in being the only person who could speak and understand speech? Wouldn’t it be a bit like inventing the first telephone but not the second? Surely ‘speech’ is something that *had* to develop socially, not in one individual?

    The higher primates have primitive language. They have an understanding of abstract concepts, they can model the future. As well as we can? No. But ‘what’s the use of half a rational mind?’ is, I’m afraid, just the old creationist argument about ‘what’s the use of half an eye?’. Watch this week’s Cosmos for the rebuttal of that. Evolution is incremental – being very slightly better at something will be an advantage. And what we see in hominid fossils is brains *gradually* developing over many generations.

    What’s the point of having a computer with an 8K memory? Well, the computer on the Apollo lander had an 8K memory. You have a computer many millions times more powerful sat right in front of you, but 8K can land you on the Moon.

    Chimps can shout and understand commands, quite specific ones. As they hunt, they are reporting what they can see and communicating simple strategies (‘food, this way, running, hurry, go up’). They can understand basic abstract concepts – food, death, friend. They don’t seem to have grammar or tenses.

    The ‘selfish gene’ really is not what you think it is there, not even as a joke.

    “If it ain’t falsifiable, it ain’t science; so we must allow the
    possibility that what we think we know about evolution is all wrong.
    That is why it is not a good idea to get too chummy with science”

    And that just makes the cardinal sin of faith positions: ‘if it’s in a form that means you can’t prove I’m wrong, I must be right’.

    You’re doing what you do a lot. You know your Aristotle, you know your Aquinas, and when you find a bit of science that looks a bit like something from them, you say ‘ah, the moderns don’t realize we had this figured out centuries ago’.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      The higher primates have primitive language.

      No, they don’t. They make signs to one another; but not symbols. (BTW, humans are also animals and also make signs to one another: “Mackerel over here!”)
      Some relevant comments here:
      http://thomism.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/what-really-are-uniquely-human-traits/
      and more extended comments on universals here:
      http://thomism.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/intelligence-in-non-human-animals-a-comment-that-turned-into-a-post/

      They have an understanding
      of abstract concepts,

      No, they don’t. They grasp concrete particulars. Of course, memory is an abstraction and higher animals have memories; so in this sense they do abstract something and react to it. But whether this amounts to understanding is one of those extraordinary claims that require extraordinary proof.

      But ‘what’s the use of half a rational mind?’

      First you would have to present a coherent definition of what “half” of a rational mind could possibly mean.

      • Jem

        “First you would have to present a coherent definition of what “half” of a rational mind could possibly mean.”
        I’m using rational to mean ‘capable of discerning order’.

        If you have specific theistic definitions than can be meaningfully discussed, then offer your definition.

        With any mental faculty, it’s easy enough to say that things might operate at different speeds, or more consistently, or more effectively in some circumstances than others.

        If ‘rational mind’ means a mind capable of comprehending God, then … well, wouldn’t a mind capable of comprehending God for only five minutes a day be better than one that couldn’t comprehend God at all?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          “First you would have to present a coherent definition of what “half” of a rational mind could possibly mean.”
          I’m using rational to mean ‘capable of discerning order’.

          How does one half-discern order? You can either do it even a little bit in some circumstances, or you cannot. Of course, if you can, you can do it more or less; but the capability must be there in the first place, and that’s an either/or kind of thing.

          But of course that is not what is meant by the rational soul, so that may be at the root of matters. See here:
          http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/c02004.htm
          items 1 and 2; then here:
          http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/c02003.htm#1

          • Jem

            “Of course, if you can, you can do it more or less; but the capability
            must be there in the first place, and that’s an either/or kind of thing.”

            Well yes, but as I say, that’s exactly the same as ‘sight’. There are animals without sight and animals with sight. And we can see how to get from one to the other in very small incremental steps, and (in environments where sight is an advantage) why having one increment more is always going to confer an advantage.

            And if having a rational soul confers an advantage, having a utterly rudimentary one would be an advantage over not having one.

            • Jem

              I know the distinction that was made between plant, animal and human natures. I don’t think it’s controversial that we’re more aware than plants. What I do think is up for discussion is whether the higher primates, extinct hominids or even mammals like dolphins, dogs and elephants entirely lack this category of faculty.

              I don’t see any reason to think it appeared instantly in humans. I think our self awareness leaves traces in the world – art, tools, language, structures. And all the evidence is that it was incremental change. The rational soul may not be detectable, but the *consequences of having one* most certainly are.

              • Jem

                “entirely lack this category of faculty.”

                Obviously if it’s narrowly defined as ‘human nature’ they lack it, elephants aren’t ‘aware of their human nature’, as they don’t have one. And Neanderthals … well, are they human or not?

                ‘Insight’ is the word used in your link. I think higher primates demonstrate some insight. I think ‘insight’, like sight, could develop incrementally.

                • Jem

                  “The same would be true of putative aliens from Tau Ceti: they are human, even if they are not H. sap. biologically.”

                  Mark sneered at me for suggesting that, in the Cosmos thread.

                  “I only posited that a creature that was not yet quite human gave
                  birth to a creature that no longer quite an ape. You denied this. That
                  leaves only the silly notion that an ape gave birth directly to a human.
                  Make up your mind.”

                  No. It. Doesn’t.

                  Oh good grief. No it doesn’t. All you’re doing is exposing how little you understand about this. Just … read something about speciation. Anything, at all, written … well, in the last fifty years.

                  “Why? Has this something to do with biology?”

                  Yes.

                  “Therefore, two organisms belong to different species when a bunch of humans agree that they do.”

                  Yes. If that ‘bunch of humans’ is qualified to make that judgment, it’s not some arbitrary declaration.

                  “If Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice are all biologically similar, but only Adam and Eve are capable of speculative thought while Ted and Alice are
                  capable only of practical thought, they are still in the same gene pool, but Adam and Eve are metaphysically human while Ted and Alice are
                  only biologically human.”

                  I’m from a bunch of humans that considers the brain injured ‘human’. You’re from one that considers a fertilized egg ‘human’. Neither are capable of speculative thought. There’s no definition that can survived sustained pedantry.

                  It’s a fascinating scientific hypothesis that there were humans who were identical physically, but split between those capable of speculative thought and those not.

                  “Of course, 21st century genetics tells us that genetic changes
                  can be”massive, sudden, and particular,” which accords better with the
                  fossil record.”

                  “http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.ed…”

                  Shapiro has ‘bizarre ideas’, and is, at the very least, creationist-adjacent.

                  http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2012/01/mind-of-james-shapiro.html

                  https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/james-shapiro-goes-after-natural-selection-again-twice-on-huffpo/

                  “Poor Popper. His efforts to undermine science have come to this. If this is what “testable” means, then it
                  means nothing.”

                  Testable means ‘hope of testing’. We know how to look for life as we know it, we face a practical difficult in doing so at such a distance.

                  I have no easy way to work out what the second person to read this reply had for breakfast this morning. It’s testable, though.

                  Unlike leprechaun claims, we can start from the basis that this person exists. We can make a reasonable assumption they ate something for breakfast (or answer ‘nothing’). The data as to who that person is will have been collected by various internet providers … and so on. It will never be tested, it is testable.

                  “No. I cannot have subjective experience of another’s being.”

                  Oh, I see. It’s impossible for you to talk about rational souls as pertaining to other people? Are the first human being with a rational soul, would you say?

                  “All you need do is produce a coherent definition ov what it means to
                  be “not quite as rational.” What does it mean to “not quite” abstract a
                  concept from concrete percepts?”

                  ‘Not quite as rational’? Look at child development. There are phases where children can work something out if it’s in front of them, but not if it’s just described to them. There are phases where children can reach the abstraction but can’t retain it.

              • Ye Olde Statistician

                Intellection is the power of abstracting universals out of concrete particulars. It is not the “category of faculty” (whatever that means) or “self-awareness.” “Structures” is too broad and may certainly be constructed by means of instinct or imagination, rather than intellection. Tools are also possible to the imagination, especially is “tool” is defined in an all-inclusive manner.

                Art and language are good indicators: Although animals with imagination can be trained to simulate them, you will find no examples of any who produce them on their own.

                ”But what is a symbol? A symbol does not direct our attention to something else as a sign does. It does not direct at all. It “means” something else. It somehow comes to contain within itself the thing it means. The word “ball” is a sign to my dog and a symbol to me. If I say “ball” to my dog, he will respond like a good Pavlovian organism and look under the sofa and fetch it. But if I say “ball” to you, you will simply look at me and, if you are patient, finally say, “What about it?” The dog responds to the word by looking for thing; you conceive the ball through the word “ball.””
                – Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle, ch. 7

                • Jem

                  ‘Structures’ was my attempt to talk about buildings, ritual spaces, roadways and so on while ruling out beaver dams and anthills, which (presumably) are made instinctively.

                  Art and language … well, OK. We know Neanderthals had music instruments and tattoos. We know Homo heidelbergensis had ritual burial. So … this ‘first man’ is a while ago.

                  Because here’s the problem: while you’re quibbling my precise terminology, your position is that you’re talking about a ‘first man’ as an actual historical event.

                  There’s an archaeological timeline. If you are right, you should be able to point at the timeline and say ‘suddenly, men had souls’. You set me the ‘when did someone first see a Denisovian?’ challenge. It is possible to come up with a rough answer.

                  What the timeline shows is incremental change, gradual development, progress towards art and so on, but very slow progress.

                  You are, like it or not, making an historical, scientific claim. I promise you that anything I’ve said that’s made you scoff about my lack of knowledge is nothing compared with the noise a biologist would make if she read ‘an ape that was not quite a man gave birth to a man that was no longer quite an ape’ – that is *breathtakingly* scientifically illiterate.

                  But let’s establish the basic claim: you personally understand it to be the case that a clearly-identifiable, individual ‘first man’ existed? Existed in the sense of it being an historical event? The ‘first man’ is an historical figure, like Cleopatra or Elizabeth I?

                  My answer is ‘no’. I can explain why, I can quibble terminology, but in spirit it’s a very straightforward question with a yes/no answer.

                  So?

                  • Ye Olde Statistician

                    We know Neanderthals had music instruments
                    No, we don’t. A single bone was found with irregularly spaced holes. The wishful thinkers said it was a bone “flute” and it was Neanderthal. Others said it was a bone that had been gnawed and the tooth holes had been smoothed out by water erosion. The same goes for the Neanderthal cosmetics. The site was also used by Cro-Magnon, and the materials could easily have been acquired or left behind. OTOH, with Neanderthal, we have a species that persisted for a couple hundred thousand years with virtually no change in its culture. Compare that to Cro Magnon, which has been around for a mere couple ten thousand years and has gone from elaborate cave paintings to the Fra Mauro Highlands.

                    nothing compared with the noise a biologist would make if she read ‘an ape that was not quite a man gave birth to a man that was no longer quite an ape‘ – that is *breathtakingly* scientifically illiterate.

                    Really? Do you suppose that an ape, full stop, gave birth to a complete human? Biologically, 19th century gradualism insists on intermediate phases of “not quite” and “no longer quite”.

                    Of course, 21st century genetics tells us that genetic changes can be “massive, sudden, and particular,” which accords better with the fossil record.

                    a clearly-identifiable, individual ‘first man’ existed?

                    Either a whole bunch of hominids all at once developed the capacity to abstract universals from concrete particulars, or someone was first. The development of pregnancy is also gradual; but its onset is sudden. The balance in your bank account may increase or decrease over time, but the existence of your bank account is an either/or matter. As to whether the first metaphysical man is “clearly-identifiable” requires data that almost certainly will not exist. We don’t know any individuals from that far back, and subjective powers don’t leave fossils.

                    Naturally, to actualize any power requires a prior potency, so it is no great surprise if one finds animals who can make sounds and use signs; but language is not sound-making or sign-mongering.

                    • Jem

                      “with Neanderthal, we have a species that persisted for a couple hundred thousand years with virtually no change in its culture. Compare that to Cro Magnon, which has been around for a mere couple ten thousand years and has gone from elaborate cave paintings to the Fra Mauro Highlands.”

                      Surely you’ve conceded the point by admitting there’s a Neanderthal ‘culture’?

                      Or, if that was a slip of the tongue, then you’ve left your position a hostage to fortune that could collapse in the light of one archaeological discovery at one Neanderthal site (or, best case scenario, you stubbornly iterating that that doesn’t count, either, or that, or that, or that).

                      Let’s just google the simple term ‘Neanderthal’, searching for research from just this week …

                      http://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/1.580384

                      You may not want to bet Catholicism against ‘only homo sapiens has language’.

                      “Really? Do you suppose that an ape, full stop, gave birth to a complete human?”

                      No. Oh good grief. No. Look, you’re digging a hole here. Please just find a modern biology textbook that explains speciation.

                      http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/VSpeciation.shtml

                      That makes the suggestion that we think of ‘species’ in terms of the ‘gene pool’.

                      The whole issue here, the only thing that we need to understand, is that there *isn’t*, *ever* a single, fixed point where an individual is a different species from its parents.

                      ‘That child is not in the same gene pool as his parents’ is a contradiction in terms.

                      Think of the color spectrum. We can easily distinguish between ‘red’ and ‘yellow’. We can account for every shade in between red and yellow. But there is no single point on the spectrum where there’s a red shade and the next shade along is a yellow one.

                      “Of course, 21st century genetics tells us that genetic changes can be”massive, sudden, and particular,” which accords better with the fossil record.”

                      The other thing that’s very important to understand is that ‘sudden’ doesn’t mean ‘instant’ in evolutionary biology. The Cambrian Explosion saw the ‘sudden’ emergence of many new animal phyla. It’s an exceptional event, possibly uniquely rapid, the speed of it requires forms of
                      special explanation. Creationists love it. What they fail to understand is that it took *eighty million years*.

                      If we go back eighty million years from now, we’d be in the Cretaceous. The time of Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops, when the human ancestor was a half-shrew/half-lemur creature.

                      “Either a whole bunch of hominids all at once developed the capacity to abstract universals from concrete particulars, or someone was first.”

                      … or it’s a gradual process. You seem to think this is utterly impossible. Do you think that the first time a being developed the capacity to abstract universals that, instantly, *every* abstract universal was available to that person? Do you even think that every abstract universal is available to us now? Do you think that caveman woke up and went ‘love, hate, pi, compound interest, corporate personhood, cloning’?
                      ‘As to whether the first metaphysical man is “clearly-identifiable” requires data that almost certainly will not exist. We don’t know any individuals from that far back, and subjective powers don’t leave fossils”

                      And again you misunderstand what ‘testable’ means. ‘There is life in the Andromeda Galaxy’ is a testable proposition. We currently have absolutely no practical means of testing it, and probably never will. But it’s testable.

                      Can you demonstrate to your own satisfaction that by your own definition you, yourself have a rational soul? You can? Using multiple methods? Wow. OK. Could those methods be used, theoretically, to demonstrate your parents have rational souls? OK. Their parents? Repeat that process, keep going back one more generation each time.

                      You’re predicting that at some point, there’s a strict cutoff point, and a child has a ‘rational soul’ and their parent doesn’t. That it goes ‘yes, yes, yes … yes, yes, no, no … no, no, no’.

                      What I’m predicting – with all the caveats that ‘rational soul’ is a vague, theistic term and that the real problem here stems from that – is that sooner or later you get to, ‘hmmm, not quite as rational’ or ‘hmmmm, that’s a bit of a grey area’. That it goes, ‘yes, yes, yes … yes, oh … um … yes *but*, yes but, yes but … yes but, oh OK, now it’s only kind of yes, kind of yes …’ and so on. That there’s no clear cutoff.

                      “Naturally, to actualize any power requires a prior potency, so it is no great surprise if one finds animals who can make sounds and use signs; but language is not sound-making or sign-mongering.”

                      Again, this is just science. You’re talking about linguistics, you’re talking about something that can and has been studied historically. And it’s a subject of serious and sustained study and debate, it is a hard problem, and not one of those models suggests that one individual woke up one day with ‘language’.

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_language

                      As I said before, the analogy is that your model requires one person to wake up one day with one telephone.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Surely you’ve conceded the point by admitting there’s a Neanderthal ‘culture’?

                      Why? Lots of animals have cultures, broadly defined.

                      You may not want to bet Catholicism against ‘only homo sapiens has language’.

                      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, as Sagan used to say. But I do not claim that only H.sap. has language. I claim that language, properly understood as symbol-mongering with grammar, is an indication of a rational soul. We know that this is true of H.sap. and have no evidence that it is true of any other species. If there were another species with systems of physics, speculative mathematics, art, metaphysical wisdom — which engages in speculative thought generally rather than merely practical thought — it would be very exciting. Consider what Augustine had to say about the travellers tales of blemyae and sciopods: that they are all human. He expresses doubt only regarding the Cynocephali, precisely because they have no language. The same would be true of putative aliens from Tau Ceti: they are human, even if they are not H. sap. biologically.

                      “Really? Do you suppose that an ape, full stop, gave birth to a complete human?”

                      No. Oh good grief. No. Look, you’re digging a hole here.

                      I only posited that a creature that was not yet quite human gave birth to a creature that no longer quite an ape. You denied this. That leaves only the silly notion that an ape gave birth directly to a human. Make up your mind.

                      Please just find a modern biology textbook that explains speciation.

                      Why? Has this something to do with biology?

                      there *isn’t*, *ever* a single, fixed point where an individual is a different species from its parents.

                      Of course not. But then, the allegedly gradual accumulation of small mutations means they are never quite the same, either. Recall that Darwin said that species were not real things in the world, but only names we gave a bunch of critters that we think look alike.
                      “I look at the term species as one arbitrarily given, for the sake of convenience, to a set of individuals closely resembling each other…” — Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
                      Therefore, two organisms belong to different species when a bunch of humans agree that they do.

                      ‘That child is not in the same gene pool as his parents’ is a contradiction in terms.

                      What have ‘gene pools’ got to do with possession of a rational soul? If Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice are all biologically similar, but only Adam and Eve are capable of speculative thought while Ted and Alice are capable only of practical thought, they are still in the same gene pool, but Adam and Eve are metaphysically human while Ted and Alice are only biologically human.

                      “Of course, 21st century genetics tells us that genetic changes can be”massive, sudden, and particular,” which accords better with the fossil record.”

                      The other thing that’s very important to understand is that ‘sudden’ doesn’t mean ‘instant’ in evolutionary biology.

                      http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/Shapiro.2013.Rethinking_the_%28Im%29Possible_in_Evolution.html

                      Do you think that the first time a being developed the capacity to abstract universals that, instantly, *every* abstract universal was available to that person?

                      Of course not. Why would you suppose this? I have said on several occasions that a capacity once possessed may be possessed in greater or lesser degree. Think “being pregnant” or “having money in a bank account.” Think indeed of the “rivet” of an aluminum can lid possessing a crack. The leaker, if present, may be greater or lesser in terms of leakage; but whether there is a crack at all, no matter how small, is an either/or. In the same manner, either a creature possesses the ability to abstract universal concepts from concrete particulars, even if only dimly. or it does not. You write of “the first time a being developed the capacity to abstract universals”.

                      you misunderstand what ‘testable’ means. ‘There is life in the Andromeda Galaxy’ is a testable proposition. We currently have absolutely no practical means of testing it, and probably never will. But it’s testable.

                      Poor Popper. His efforts to undermine science have come to this. If this is what “testable” means, then it means nothing.

                      Can you demonstrate to your own satisfaction that by your own definition you, yourself have a rational soul?

                      Yes. By introspection.

                      Could those methods be used, theoretically, to demonstrate your parents have rational souls?

                      No. I cannot have subjective experience of another’s being.

                      ‘rational soul’ is a vague, theistic term

                      Aristotle was not a theologian.

                      What I’m predicting … is that sooner or later you get to, ‘hmmm, not quite as rational’

                      All you need do is produce a coherent definition ov what it means to be “not quite as rational.” What does it mean to “not quite” abstract a concept from concrete percepts?

                      not one of those models suggests that one individual woke up one day with ‘language’.

                      As George E.P. Box was wont to say: “All models are wrong. Some are useful.” As the Underground Grammarian once wrote:

                      “It’s fun, and safe, to speculate on the origins of language. What makes it fun is obvious, but what makes it safe is that no dreary scholar will ever come along with the facts to prove what a fool you’ve been. … The evidence we need is utterly inaccessible, and there’s no way to draw valid conclusions from the evidence we have. Even experimentation is impossible. …

                      It is just as much fun, however, and somewhat more useful to speculate about something that was probably not the origin of language, although we sometimes carelessly think that it might have been. There is a kind of everyday, commonsense notion about the origin of language that sticks in our heads and causes important misunderstandings. It is, of course, the notion that language must have begun as a way of naming things in the world in which we live. Those are exactly the things that need no naming.”
                      – Less Than Words Can Say

                    • diogeneslamp0

                      YOS: “Of course, 21st century genetics tells us that genetic changes can
                      be”massive, sudden, and particular,” which accords better with the
                      fossil record.”

                      What rubbish. You have conflated two totally different ideas, one from genetics and another from paleontology– presumably by your reference to “the fossil record” you mean Punk Eek, and as creationists do, you’ve gotten that confused with macromutations.

                      First, on the fossil record, Punk Eek is not macromutations. S. J. Gould wrote about both but did not say that Punk Eek depended on macromutations. They were separate ideas to him. Punk Eek was a description of rapid but SMALL changes occurring during speciation– changes between closely related species that were so small, only an expert could tell them apart. If you’re invoking Punk Eek you can’t use it to assume that there big macromutational differences between humans and apes occurred instantly (because Punk Eek is not about macromutations, and speciation might take 10,000 years.)

                      Second, on genetic changes, you are very wrong to cite James Shapiro, who is a crackpot with many untestable hypothesis. At his blog I repeatedly challenged him to describe how his hypotheses might be tested; he did not answer except to ban me from his blog. If you want to talk about major genetic changes, you are going to have to cite EVIDENCE not authorities.

                      Second, stop saying “21st century”. That is just marketing. If you have specific genetic evidence then cite it.

                      It is true that very very rarely, genetic changes can be “massive and sudden” but besides their extreme rareness, when large genetic changes first occur, they may have no visible phenotypic effect. The phenotypic changes may not appear until many, many generations later when small mutations “fine tune” the initial large change so as to produce a novel effect.

                      For example, a gene duplication of some gene A to make A and another A may slightly increase the amount of expressed protein A, which would be a small phenotypic effect. Later one, if small mutations alter the specificity of the copy, then you have two genes A and A’ with different functions. That is how novel functions appear but it is not sudden nor instantaneous.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Punk Eek is not macromutations.

                      No. Where did I say it was? I think you are inserting your own assumptions in between my sentences. I mentioned punctuated equilibrium only as another example of off-mainstream theory that was initially reviled by the orthodox.

                      you can’t use it to assume that there big macromutational differences between humans and apes occurred instantly

                      Good, because I never said that, either.

                      you are very wrong to cite James Shapiro, who is a crackpot

                      Unclean! Unclean!
                      Maybe he should give back his Darwin Prize?
                      Starting at 37:20
                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06hUABCuXBw

                      he did not answer except to ban me from his blog.

                      Someone who calls him a crackpot? Who’da thunk it?

                      Second, stop saying “21st century”. That is just marketing.

                      It’s also chronologically accurate, and a useful shorthand to remind folks that the assumptions and metaphors used in the Victorian Age may no longer be apropos. Physics went through their revolution a hundred years ago, but biology remains mired in the 19th century mechanistic metaphor.

                      by your reference to “the fossil record” you mean Punk Eek, and as creationists do,

                      You must have me confused with a “creationist.” By the “fossil record” I mean (wait for it) the fossil record. You know: “evidence”? The same fossil record that so disturbed Darwin. He placed his faith in future fossils; but this has not been borne out.

                      I guess “Punk Eek” is the in-group nickname meant to show that you sit at the Kool Kids table.

                      All this contumely sounds like a Newtonian physicist deriding the crackpot notions of Maxwell, who contended that there were motions not accountable by gravitational forces. But then, no physicist was ever quite so religiously wedded to the old theories.

                      Why is it so threatening to suppose that there might be more than one process accounting for the motions of interest? The Mediterranean Wall Lizard needed less than twenty years to evolve into a new form, complete with a new organ suited to digesting vegetation. But that a rapid evolution is clearly possible does not mean that more gradual sorts of evolutions are not also possible!

                      Of course, none of this has to do with the main topic; viz., the emergence of intellection.

                    • diogeneslamp0

                      YOS: Where did I say it was? I think you are inserting your own assumptions in between my sentences.

                      Yes, I had to a-s-s-u-m-e because I had to massage your posturing into something resembling a scientific argument before I refuted it. Moreover, I expected you to reply, “I didn’t say that.” At no point did you state exactly what you DID mean– because your gobbledygook has no scientific meaning, and still doesn’t.

                      So far as I can make heads or tails of your argument, you appear to be saying that you don’t need no steekin’ evidence that the evolution of ape to human was instantaneous in one individual, or actually two who then mated, even though you suggest *no tests to confirm your hypothesis*, because “21st century genetics” has shown that *the general rule* is that genetic changes are huge and instantaneous. That’s your argument right? Well, to be scientific a statement must be either testable or follow a previously deduced *general rule*, and since you’re rejecting testability, I assume you’re doing deduction from an allegedly previously verified *general inductive rule* but you won’t tell us exactly what that is. Bluster don’t cut it.

                      We ask you what the general rule is exactly, in terms of genetic processes, and what’s the evidence that the rule has been proven, and from you we get bombastic bluster and self-confident attempts to change the subject, attempts to conceal your lack of clear ideas about genetics, invocations of that crackpot Shapiro, and the marketing slogan “21st. century.”

                      Please try to form a positive, scientific argument based on evidence and using specific terminology. Do not say “James Shapiro”, he’s a *crackpot* and it’s not evidence. Do not say “21st. century”, it’s a marketing slogan, and not evidence. Tell me exactly what you mean, using specific terminology from genetics, with relevant evidence from genetics.

                      For example, perhaps you mean macromutation? If so, say so directly. There are two kinds of macromutations:

                      1. Macromutations which
                      have an immediate phenotypic effect on anatomic (e.g. antennapedia
                      mutation, uropods growing from Scyllarus’ head.)

                      2. Macromutations which cause large-scale genetic rearrangement (WGD, karyotypic changes) which are big at the genetic level, but many have zero or small immediate effect at the phenotypic level, until fine-tuning by point mutations later.

                      If you choose 2, you need to provide evidence from comparisons of the human and chimp genomes that a major genetic rearrangement occurred *and* must have immediate phenotypic effect.

                      YOS: “The Mediterranean Wall Lizard needed less than twenty years to evolve
                      into a new form, complete with a new organ suited to digesting
                      vegetation.

                      Interesting, but not a macromutation, and it’s relevant *how*? So you are asserting that a quantum leap in hominid intelligence *must* be analogous to the gain of a cecal valve? Do you know the genetic controls that went into the cecal valve, and what changed, and what genetic controls are behind the human intellect, and did they change from our ape ancestors? No, you have no evidence and our spreading a smokescreen. I think you know very little genetics are trying to fool your audience with braggadocio.

                      You seem to be rejecting the burden of evidence on your hypothesis on the grounds that macromutations are the rule, not the exception. The problem is that there are many genetic processes and you have the burden of proof to establish that one of these processes A. underlies human cognitive ability, B. had immediate phenotypic effect and C. there were two of them, Adam and Eve, who were tricked by a talking snake into eating from a magic tree.

                    • Jem

                      “I had to a-s-s-u-m-e because I had to massage your posturing into
                      something resembling a scientific argument before I refuted it.”

                      I heard this called ‘a steel man argument’ the other day. The opposite of a ‘straw man’, obviously.

                    • Jem

                      “A. underlies human cognitive ability”

                      The claim isn’t (most of the time) about cognition generally, it’s an awareness of our human nature, that which sets us apart from animals. Or something. When I ask for clarification, he tells me basketballs are round.

                      “C. there were two of them, Adam and Eve, who were tricked by a
                      talking snake into eating from a magic tree.”

                      You’re being very naive to think that’s what Catholics think. They have the sophisticated belief that there was a ‘first man’, but in a way that’s compatible with evolution, because – direct quote – “at some point an ape that was not quite a man gave birth to a man that was no longer quite an ape. He was H. sapiens”. That’s from Michael’s article, which our host Mark recommends:

                      http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2011/09/adam-and-eve-and-ted-and-alice.html

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Yes, I had to a-s-s-u-m-e because I had to massage your posturing into something resembling a scientific argument before I refuted it….

                      IOW, you did not understand the original proposition and so made up another argument that you wanted me to have made. You’d make a good heresy hunter.

                      your gobbledygook has no scientific meaning, and still doesn’t.

                      That’s because it is not a scientific argument. It has nothing to do with the metrical properties of physical bodies.

                      you appear to be saying that you don’t need no steekin’ evidence that the evolution of ape to human was instantaneous in one individual, or actually two who then mated

                      I never said that. First of all, humans did not evolve from apes. Rather, apes and humans evolved from a common ancestor. Second, I will quite happily admit that the physical human was fashioned by a gradual process; but the appearance of a metaphysical human is not a physical matter. What I did point out was that there is a qualitative difference between not-X and X distinct from the quantitative difference between less-X and more-X. The eye, for example, in the common story, traces back to a light sensitive spot. This is nice, and it may well be fact. But the light sensitive spot is still a very primitive “eye,” an organ for perceiving light. What is half-way between NO-light sensitive spot and YES-light sensitive spot? And would the spot appear most likely in multiple individual organisms at once? Would the mutation occur at random in lots of different critters in the gene pool? This is unlikely to the nth power, assuming independence. Or would it most likely occur in one individual first and spread from there? In fact, since it is a physical structure, there is likely a “gene” of some sort for Light Sensitive Spot. Even if the gene is recessive, it will lurk in the population until eventually pairing with another of its kind, and eventually spread throughout at least a sub-population.

                      you suggest *no tests to confirm your hypothesis*, because “21st century genetics” has shown that *the general rule* is that genetic changes are huge and instantaneous. That’s your argument right?

                      Wrong. People prone to mouth-foaming use of “crackpot” and “gobbeldygook” may not be accused of close reading of texts, but the assertion was that rapid changes are not impossible, even for physical features. Put another way: evolution may feature both rapid and gradual changes. It is also well-known in statistics that some variables are continuous and others are discrete. If I test a lid and find no leakage, that is not a “leaker of rate 0.” It is not a leaker at all. There is a qualitative difference between “no hole” and “hole,” and it makes no sense to say that there is a gradual progression from one to the other.
                      http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080421-lizard-evolution.html

                      “crackpot” “that crackpot” “he’s a *crackpot*”

                      Perhaps he’s also an Arian or a Donatist?

                      + + +
                      YOS: “The Mediterranean Wall Lizard needed less than twenty years to evolve into a new form, complete with a new organ suited to digesting vegetation.”

                      Interesting, but not a macromutation, So what? The claim does not involve “macro”mutation (whatever that may be). That was something conjured by the argument inside your own head.

                      But please note that in algebraic topology small changes in parameter space can result in large changes in state space.

                      and it’s relevant *how*? It demonstrates that some evolutions can occur on very rapid time scales. It demonstrates that an entire organ can be evolved without a whole lot of intermediate steps. (Side note: this subverts Behe’s “mousetrap” argument for imtelligent design.)

                      So you are asserting that a quantum leap in hominid intelligence *must* be analogous to the gain of a cecal valve?
                      Not necessarily. First: No assertion was made about hominid intelligence, but about the intellect. Second: because it is non-physical, the development of speculative intellect likely follows different patterns than gene-driven physical structures. Please note that it was Jem (and apparently yourself) who argued categorically that the human intellect could NOT have arisen in a first instance. (That the alternative is that it arose simultaneously in many instances seems to be swallowed whole.)

                      But in the third place, physics made the transition to quantum thinking about a hndred years ago.

                      what genetic controls are behind the human intellect

                      I am not convinced there are any genetic controls that involve non-material powers.

                      your hypothesis on the grounds that macromutations are the rule, not the exception.

                      Nope. I make no assertion about the “rule.” You and Jem are doing that. I only note that just as in physics there are four forces that account for motion, it is surely at least plausible that there is more than one natural process that accounts for evolutions.

                      you have the burden of proof to establish that … C. there were two of them, Adam and Eve, who were tricked by a talking snake into eating from a magic tree.

                      Why should I need to establish that? It’s a mythic story, not an historical account. No wonder you people are so defensive about possible paradigm shifts. You must suspect that the only alternative to 19th century mechanical metaphors is theokinetics.

                    • Jem

                      “Please note that it was Jem (and apparently yourself) who argued categorically that the human intellect could NOT have arisen in a first instance. (That the alternative is that it arose simultaneously in many
                      instances seems to be swallowed whole.)”

                      Diogenes, if I could translate this into Roughly Science: he’s arguing that a distinct homo sapiens was born to parents who weren’t. I’m laughing at him and saying speciation doesn’t work that way, you have to look at it in terms of populations. He takes that to mean I’m arguing that ten thousand homo sapiens were simultaneously born to parents who weren’t.

                      I keep trying to explain the notion of a ‘gradual process’ and the concept of a ‘gray area’, but it’s not really getting through.

                    • Jem

                      “it is surely at least plausible that there is more than one natural process that accounts for evolutions”
                      We *know* there’s more than one process. The argument is not ‘is there more than one process?’ it’s ‘is this specific process something that actually happens?’.

                    • Guest

                      “I am not convinced there are any genetic controls that involve non-material powers”

                      And there we go. After all that, the concession that he’s talking about leprechauns, not science.

                      As I said he was right at the beginning.

                      We can’t discuss this meaningfully, because it was about God godding a God thing.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      he’s arguing that a distinct homo sapiens was born to parents who
                      weren’t.

                      Nope. Only that at some point a biological human gave birth to an offspring that had an additional ability; viz., intellection. This is because there is a qualitative difference between having the ability to abstract, even dimply and only in certain cases, and not having any such ability. I don’t see the problem. Physics came to terms with quantum change a long time ago.

                      Your invocations of the assumption of gradualism cannot get around the problem that there is no halfway point between some states. Take a simple potential system with two parameters and one state variable. The system will tend toward and equilibrium point depending on the value of the two parameters. The set of all equilibria forms a manifold ∂M over the parameter space. This manifold will have a pleat in it, defining a region in parameter space where two equilibria are possible in state space. If a system enters this bifurcation set with an equilibrium on (say) the upper surface of ∂M and then exists from the other side, the upper equilibrium will disappear and the system will flip to the lower sheet. Thus, small gradual changes in the parameters can result in large changes in the system state. This is illustrated by the drawing.
                      http://www.asbbs.org/proceedings/Rentfro%20ASBBS%20EJ2007_files/image002.jpg

                      I’m laughing at him and saying speciation doesn’t work that
                      way,

                      What speciation? A metaphysical human is just as much a human as a biological one.

                    • Jem

                      So, I claimed this, that you are ‘arguing that a distinct homo sapiens was born to parents who weren’t.’

                      You replied: ‘Nope’.

                      Look, I appreciate you’re having trouble keeping your argument straight. It’s a little like watching a toddler on a potter’s wheel at this point. But are you seriously suggesting that you weren’t arguing that a distinct homo sapiens was born to parents who weren’t when you said, ‘at some point an ape that was not quite a man gave birth to a man that was no longer quite an ape. He was H. sapiens’?

                      Rubbish.

                      “This is because there is a qualitative difference between having the ability to abstract, even dimly and only in certain cases, and not having any such ability.”

                      In the case of the eye, the patch of sensitive skin was … skin. Skin evolved, with pigments and a sense of touch and at some point a creature had a sensitive patch of skin that wouldn’t in any way qualify as ‘sight’, but which was very slightly more sensitive to light. I’m a redhead, my skin is more sensitive to light than a lot of people. I’m not ‘seeing’ with my skin.

                      You need there to be a distinct moment where one thing becomes another. The world is not always like that. One of the main driving forces of evolution is existing structures turning out to be useful for new purposes. The earliest feathers we have evidence for could not have had anything to do with flight, they seem to be for insulation. At some point they became useful for display, at some point they became useful for gliding. Was there a ‘first bird’? No. I suspect the ‘first flight’ probably felt like a very lucky falling off at the time.

                      If you need a ‘first sight’, then in our terms it probably felt more like a slight warm touch to a patch of skin than ‘I can see!’.

                      Now, I don’t know if you’re deliberately using a narrow definition of ‘intellection’. There would seem to be definitions that are dependent on God. Well, if it’s a leprechaun definition like that, I’ve already said there’s no point discussing it. If you mean ‘understanding’ then *of course* there are variations of understanding, of course it would be possible for a homo erectus to understand things dimly or to get to it after considerable effort.

                      “I don’t see the problem. Physics came to terms with quantum change a long time ago.”

                      Again, you’re looking a bit tired. Trying the old ‘how nineteenth century of you, twenty first century science has moved on’ line. How did that work out for you with Shapiro?

                      OK, and here’s you falling over the science words you don’t understand. Google ‘quantum change’. See? A bunch of New Age books and marketing companies.

                      You’re deeply confused about your argument at this point. You seem to know it’s one based on characters from fun stories. At the same time, you seem to have a deep yearning for affirmation from science and scientists. Ironically, I think you have dim understanding: you recognize, deep down, that for ‘Adam’ to be ‘true’, it has to mean historically true, scientifically true.

                      But you’re hedging. On the one hand, you’ve bet a little on science bearing you out in the end. Shapiro could be right, or we could learn more about early humans and find a nice little spot where, if you squint, the ‘first man’ could fit. Classic God of the Gaps tactic.

                      On the other, I think you’re at least vaguely aware that there’s no gap. You get it, I think, that the worldview that talks about ‘rational souls’ is fundamentally unscientific, and not ‘true’ in the way you need it to be. So you have a fall back position, which is that it’s a God thing, not a science thing, so shut up.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Look, I appreciate you’re having trouble keeping your argument straight.

                      It’s just that you seem to confuse the transition with some sort of biological thing. But you have not explained how a creature can have “half” the ability to abstract concepts. All you have presented is the possibility of having a lesser ability to abstract concepts. But a lesser ability is still an ability.

                      Are you seriously suggesting that you weren’t arguing that a distinct homo sapiens was born to parents who weren’t when you said, ‘at some point an ape that was not quite a man gave birth to a man that was no longer quite an ape. He was H. sapiens’?

                      In the sense that “sapiens” means what it says, yes. In the sense that it refers to a distinct biological species, no. Biologically, I would not expect a distinction.

                      I don’t see how this is substantively different from the fact that I have college degrees and my parents don’t.

                      However, if I were to drive from Philadelphia to New York City, there would come a point when I was no longer quite in the Philadelphia area but not yet quite in the New York City area. (This point would come somewhere near Trenton.) Call it an inflection point, or a tipping point, because even in a gradual continuous process there comes a time when you are more one than the other. If the child is always precisely what its parents are, there would be no evolution at all.

                      You need there to be a distinct moment where one thing becomes another. The world is not always like that.

                      Nor is is always not like that. Again, physics comes to inform us:
                      http://lagrange.physics.drexel.edu/flash/zcm/
                      http://lagrange.physics.drexel.edu/flash/zcm/zcm.html

                      Grab the green dot (free end of the spring) and pull it through the diamond-shaped area. Watch the system state on the second graph. What happens to the system state when you pull the green dot out the other side of the diamond area? Does is move by smooth, gradual steps to a new position?

                      But I don’t “need” there to be such a point. I’m saying that for certain properties, there is logically no “in between.”

                      Was there a ‘first bird’? No. I suspect the ‘first flight’ probably felt like a very lucky falling off at the time.

                      Until, eventually, some critter took flight on purpose. Either one of them did it first or a whole bunch did it together. Which do you suppose? There is an intentional difference between “lucky fall” and “flying.”

                      Now, I don’t know if you’re deliberately using a narrow definition of ‘intellection’.

                      I’m using the classical definition, one that has not been muddied up with sloppy thinking.

                      “Intellect is that faculty by which we grasp abstract concepts (like the concepts ‘man’ and ‘mortal’), put them together into judgments (like the judgment that ‘all men are mortal’), and reason logically from one judgment to another (as when we reason from ‘all men are mortal’ and ‘Socrates is a man’ to the conclusion that ‘Socrates is mortal’).

                      There would seem to be definitions that are dependent on God.

                      Maybe there are, but how is this one actually so?

                      If you mean ‘understanding’ then *of course* there are variations of understanding, of course it would be possible for a homo erectus to understand things dimly or to get to it after considerable effort.

                      Understanding is one of the three intellective strengths, but it is not intellect, as such. Understanding is the grasp of truth per se directly through sense experience. Knowledge is the grasp of truth as a conclusion by reasoning from understood principles. Wisdom is the grasp of the last conclusion

                      But for there to be “variations of understanding” that you require there must first of all be “understanding.”
                      + + +
                      “I don’t see the problem. Physics came to terms with quantum change a long time ago.”

                      Again, you’re looking a bit tired. Trying the old ‘how nineteenth century of you, twenty first century science has moved on’ line. How did that work out for you with Shapiro?

                      Not bad. Can’t help it if some folks are still trapped in the machine age. Good grief, physicists weren’t scared by their paradigm shift; why should biologists or comm box warriors fret over similar advances in knowledge? Why do you deny the validity of Thomian catastrophe theory and mathematical “chaos” theory?

                      Google ‘quantum change’. See? A bunch of New Age books and marketing companies.

                      You cannot hold your understanding hostage to Google. That Deepak Chopra invokes quantum mechanics, Michel Foucault calls upon topology, or some creationist invokes Gould or Shapiro has nothing to do with the value of quantum mechanics, topological analysis, punctuated equilibrium or modern genetics.

                      a nice little spot where, if you squint, the ‘first man’ could fit. Classic God of the Gaps tactic.

                      What has that to do with any of this? You seem to have an obsession with God, and seem to fear that he lurks at the end of a syllogism somewhere.

                      On the other, I think you’re at least vaguely aware that there’s no gap.

                      That’s what Thomas Aquinas said.

                      talks about ‘rational souls’ is fundamentally unscientific

                      Can you verify whether humans are a) alive (have anima) and b) are capable of intellection and volition? Then you have empirically verified the existence of a rational soul.

                      OTOH, much of the discussion falls outside the competency of natural science, since the intellect is not material and science is concerned with the metrical properties of material bodies.

                      So you have a fall back position, which is that it’s a God thing, not a science thing, so shut up.

                      When have I told you to shut up? When have I said it is a “God thing”? Empirical evidence, please? It’s easy to win an argument if you can make up the other guy’s position.

                    • Jem

                      “But you have not explained how a creature can have “half” the ability to abstract concepts. All you have presented is the possibility of having a lesser ability to abstract concepts. But a lesser ability is still an ability.”

                      Something pre-existing was retasked. Skin became an eye. A side effect of another brain function became intellection. I read a paper a couple of years ago that suggested that self awareness might be a form of schizophrenia – a mind ‘arguing with itself’. There are happy accidents in the world.

                      “In the sense that “sapiens” means what it says, yes. In the sense that it refers to a distinct biological species, no. Biologically, I would not expect a distinction.”

                      So in that example, you invoked Darwin, used the term ‘homo sapiens’ and talked about an ape giving birth to a man, but you weren’t talking ‘biologically’? Can you see why what you said might be construed that way?

                      “However, if I were to drive from Philadelphia to New York City, there would come a point when I was no longer quite in the Philadelphia area but not yet quite in the New York City area. (This point would come
                      somewhere near Trenton.) Call it an inflection point, or a tipping point, because even in a gradual continuous process there comes a time when you are more one than the other. If the child is always precisely
                      what its parents are, there would be no evolution at all.”

                      This is a great example of why you’re wrong. No one, not ever, in the history of driving up I95, has reached Exit 7 and gone ‘now I am in Philadelphia, now I am in New York City’. Because it would be the most peculiar thing in the world to believe. Are there streets in Trenton where one side’s ‘in Philadelphia’ and the other side’s ‘in New York’? No. No, there aren’t.

                      “Until, eventually, some critter took flight on purpose. Either one of them did it first or a whole bunch did it together. Which do yousuppose? There is an intentional difference between “lucky fall” and”flying.””

                      So Adam was born with the intention to … whatever this ‘intellection’ actually allows?

                      “How did that work out for you with Shapiro?”
                      ‘Not bad.’

                      You don’t have any bloody arms or legs, good sir knight.

                      “Good grief, physicists weren’t scared by their paradigm shift; why should biologists or comm box warriors fret over similar advances in knowledge?”

                      The comm box warriors who peer reviewed Shapiro for scientific journals, you mean? I’m not ‘scared’ of Shapiro, it’s just that I suspect he is, as Diogenes said, a crackpot. Not all new ideas are right. Shapiro’s, um, not proven his case. And, in any event, his case, in the stuff I’ve read of his, seems entirely confined to bacteria.

                      “Can you verify whether humans are a) alive (have anima) and b) are capable of intellection and volition?”

                      No. I can’t verify they have souls. I can check the biological function of an individual for the legal definitions of ‘life’. The legal definitions of life, of course, are narrower than the Catholic ones at one end, and broader at the other.

                      Can I demonstrate intellection? I think Neanderthals had it, you don’t, so no, clearly I can’t.

                      “Then you have empirically verified the existence of a rational soul.”

                      If not, then false.

                      “OTOH, much of the discussion falls outside the competency of natural science, since the intellect is not material and science is concerned with the metrical properties of material bodies.”

                      Science is the study of knowledge. This therefore falls within science’s purview. The only people who think science is ‘measuring things’ are anti-science activists or those with a vested interest in portraying science as ‘scientism’.

                      So, (a) science isn’t just about measuring and (b) there are reasons you can’t measure the length of a unicorn’s horn and compare it to that of a leprechaun’s beard, and the main problem with that has nothing to do with the closedmindedness of the scientific paradigm.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      “But you have not explained how a creature can have “half” the ability to abstract concepts. All you have presented is the possibility of having a lesser ability to abstract concepts. But a lesser ability is still an ability.”

                      Something pre-existing was retasked. Skin became an eye. A side effect of another brain function became intellection.

                      Even if we suppose that “a side effect of another brain function became intellection,” assuming that intellection is a brain function rather than vice versa, you are still begging the question: What is in between that “other brain function” and “intellection”? Or do you allow for a sudden transition in this case.

                      No one, not ever, in the history of driving up I95, has reached Exit 7 and gone ‘now I am in Philadelphia, now I am in New York City’. Because it would be the most peculiar thing in the world to believe. Are there streets in Trenton where one side’s ‘in Philadelphia’ and the other side’s ‘in New York’? No. No, there aren’t.

                      Yet, the people who live in these places clearly consider themselves for various reasons to be in the cultural ambit of one city or the other. Check the ratio of Yankee fans to Phillie fans, or the patterns of commuting. It’s an inverse square law.

                      You don’t have any bloody arms or legs, good sir knight.

                      Which of Shapiro’s scientific papers do you take issue with? List is here: http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/publications.shtml
                      Which of the scientific journals do you suppose were snookered?
                      + + +

                      “Can you verify whether humans are a) alive (have anima) and b) are capable of intellection and volition?”

                      No.

                      What is it about your religious commitment that leads you to deny the plain evidence of the senses? The question is whether you can agree that human beings are alive, not whether you are willing to pin down the beginning and ending of it. If so, they have “souls,” since souls are simply whatever a living being has that a dead one does not. Nor does it matter whether Neanderthals were capable of abstract thought. There is no good evidence of it, but if they were, then they too would have rational souls. But in point of fact, we can certainly verify empirically that human beings are capable of art, speculative mathematics, systems of physics, etc.
                      + + +
                      “Then you have empirically verified the existence of a rational soul.”

                      If not, then false.

                      No, that is a logical fallacy. All you can assert is that you do not know.
                      + + +

                      “OTOH, much of the discussion falls outside the competency of natural science, since the intellect is not material and science is concerned with the metrical properties of material bodies.”

                      Science is the study of knowledge. This therefore falls within science’s purview. The only people who think science is ‘measuring things’ are anti-science activists or those with a vested interest in portraying science as ‘scientism’.

                      Galileo, Descartes, Hume, and the rest were hardly “anti-science activists.”

              • James M

                A very good book on the subject of whether, what and how the lower animals have knowledge in any sense, is Richard Sorabji’s “Animal Minds and Human Morals”. It’s about the Classical debates on the issue, pays particular attention to the Stoics & Platonists, & makes frequent allusions to the modern debates. One does not have to be a Classicist, a philosopher or a Ph.D. to understand what is being said.

                http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100915190

                2 Reviews:

                http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/1994/94.10.02.html

                http://www.animalsandsociety.org/assets/library/307_s329.pdf

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              There are animals without sight and animals with sight. And we can see how to get from one to the other in very small incremental steps,

              What is the small incremental step between not being able to see at all and being able to see even just a little bit?

              And if having a rational soul confers an advantage, having a utterly rudimentary one would be an advantage over not having one.

              What exactly is a “rudimentary” rational soul?

              • Jem

                “What is the small incremental step between not being able to see at all and being able to see even just a little bit?”

                Glad you asked. This is the A-number-one Creationist gotcha against the evolutionary model, and as such, it’s been demolished over and over and over again. This week’s episode of Cosmos (the second one) spends about five minutes explaining the answer:

                http://motherboard.vice.com/read/cosmos-calmly-stared-down-a-tired-anti-evolution-argument

                Here’s Richard Dawkins explaining it:

                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nwew5gHoh3E

                Short answer: natural selection ‘rewards’ even the tiniest advantage.

                This is a trivially easy question to answer for anyone that’s studied evolutionary biology at even the high school level. If you start a study of the discipline, you will get to this precise example within hours.

                “What exactly is a “rudimentary” rational soul?”

                I don’t know, it’s something that I don’t personally believe in, at least not in the form you believe in it, I don’t believe in souls at all, not even a little bit and you’ve failed to communicate what it ‘is’ in your terms, to the point that all you’ve really done is sneer when I dared to suggest it was a ‘thing’.
                A capacity – or that which allows the capacity – for insight, abstraction, language, symbolic thought, philosophical introspection and the like. Which would seem to be inherited.

                If it’s some god thing that God gods onto each individual, instead of being an inherited human trait … well, fine, it’s all because of leprechauns. Catch a leprechaun, we’ll carry on the discussion.

                • Ye Olde Statistician

                  “What is the small incremental step between not being able to see at all and being able to see even just a little bit?”

                  Glad you asked. This is the A-number-one Creationist gotcha against the evolutionary model, and as such, it’s been demolished over and over and over again.

                  Excellent. So what is it? The best I’ve seen is a “light sensitive spot.” But this is being able to see “just a little bit.”

                  natural selection ‘rewards’ even the tiniest advantage.

                  That’s nice. It also destroys anything that is the least deviation. The trick is not selecting for the “advantage” but why it is an advantage in the first place. But the atheist Jerry Fodor brings the entire concept of “selection” into question on the grounds that it is inherently teleological, a concept which he rejects: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n20/jerry-fodor/why-pigs-dont-have-wings
                  or atheist David Stove’s “So You Think You Are a Darwinian?” (Royal Institute of Philosophy, 1994) http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/chat/838691/posts
                  + + +
                  “What exactly is a “rudimentary” rational soul?”

                  I don’t know, it’s something that I don’t personally believe in, at least not in the form you believe in it, I don’t believe in souls at all, not even a little bit

                  Then how can you seriously propose that its development must have been incremental? Sounds like a faith-based, knee-jerk reaction. You don’t know what it is and you don’t even believe it exists, but you are certain of how it “developed.”

                  you’ve failed to communicate what it ‘is’ in your terms

                  It’s the substantial form of a living being. If a basketball were alive, then “spherical” would be its soul. Remember that the Latin word we translate as “soul” is anima, which means “alive.” So whether a being has a soul can be answered by determining whether it is alive.

                  • Jem

                    “Excellent. So what is it? The best I’ve seen is a “light sensitive spot.” But this is being able to see “just a little bit.””

                    Rubbish. There’s no optic nerve, no visual cortex, anything like that. It’s a very slightly sensitive patch of skin.

                    You possibly have a sensitive patch of skin yourself. I really don’t need to know whether you do that badly, but assuming you do, do you think you’re ‘seeing’ with your patch of sensitive skin?

                    “Then how can you seriously propose that its development must have been incremental?”

                    I’m suggesting ‘could have been’. And it’s possible to speculate about hypotheticals. You’re not really talking about the existence of a rational soul, you’re talking about its consequences. What it enabled people to do.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Rubbish. There’s no optic nerve, no visual cortex, anything like that. It’s a very slightly sensitive patch of skin.

                      IOW a very primitive form of seeing. Of course, if an optic nerve, visual cortex, etc. were all required before we could acknowledge “sight,” it’s hard to see what can be so gradual about it. All the steps leading up to it were all gradations of “not seeing.”

                    • Jem

                      “IOW a very primitive form of seeing. Of course, if an optic nerve,
                      visual cortex, etc. were all required before we could acknowledge
                      “sight,” it’s hard to see what can be so gradual about it. All the steps
                      leading up to it were all gradations of “not seeing.””

                      I don’t think we’re arguing about the process, we’re arguing about a definition. You want a sharp point on that where you can go ‘that is sight’, I’m saying it’s probably more of a grey area.

                      Use the narrative of final cause, if that’s a comfortable idiom. In one genetic line, a patch of sensitive skin, over millions of years, became more and more sensitive and more and more specialised.

                      There may have been points of relatively rapid improvement over generations, and the computer models show that seeing is such an advantage that evolving it is relatively rapid anyway. But that’s still over thousands of generations.

                      Do you think there’s going to be an … ‘Adam of seeing’? That one organism would be able to ‘see’ but its parents couldn’t? I don’t. I think any improvements would be so gradual as to be imperceptible at the time.

                      As for rationality, consciousness, cognition, self awareness, the ability to abstract … I think it would be the same. Some abstractions are more complex than others. ‘Food goes in this dish’ seems to be an abstraction my dog is capable of (he’ll go to where the dish is usually, even if it’s not there; he’ll go to where the dish is even if it’s not where it usually is). Is that instinct or abstraction? Probably a little of both.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      You want a sharp point on that where you can go ‘that is sight’, I’m saying it’s probably more of a grey area.

                      The Late Modern searches always for gray areas, which he takes on faith always to exist. But there is a difference between “can see, even if just dimly and a little bit” and “cannot see at all.” You keep glossing over the analogy to “pregnant” or “bank account balance.”

                      In one genetic line, a patch of sensitive skin, over millions of years, became more and more sensitive and more and more specialised.

                      It is certainly a plausible story, lacking only the empirical evidence that it actually happened that way.

                      the computer models show that seeing is such an advantage that evolving it is relatively rapid anyway.

                      Computer models often show exactly what the modellers want to see, and not always deliberately so.
                      Walker, W.E., et al. “Defining Uncertainty: A Conceptual Basis for Uncertainty Management in Model-Based Decision Support.” Integrated Assessment (2003), Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 5–17
                      http://journals.sfu.ca/int_assess/index.php/iaj/article/viewFile/122/79
                      Weaver, Warren. “Science and Complexity,” American Scientist, 36:536 (1948)
                      http://people.physics.anu.edu.au/~tas110/Teaching/Lectures/L1/Material/WEAVER1947.pdf

                      Sight being so advantageous, it’s a wonder clams are blind.

                      Do you think …that one organism would be able to ‘see’ but its parents couldn’t? I don’t. I think any improvements would be so gradual as to be imperceptible at the time.

                      “Improvements” in what? In order for sight to improve, there must be an unimproved sight a priori. There is a difference between seeing dimly nothing but light and shadow (or in the insect line, motion) and not seeing anything at all.

                      As for rationality, consciousness, cognition, self awareness, the ability to abstract … I think it would be the same.

                      Consciousness, cognition, and self awareness are different things than intellection, and of a different order. But all the powers you name are subjective and immaterial. It is not necessarily the case that immaterial things must progress gradually even if physical, material things like “eyes” do so. (See “emergent properties.”) Gradualism was a 19th century assumption. It is not a conclusion and, based on modern insights into “epigeneitcs” and “natural genetic engineering” (vs. “natural selection”), not a necessary one.

                      Some abstractions are more complex than others. ‘Food goes in this dish’ seems to be an abstraction my dog is capable of (he’ll go to where the dish is usually, even if it’s not there; he’ll go to where the dish is even if it’s not where it usually is). Is that instinct or abstraction? Probably a little of both.

                      No, it’s imagination: a combination of sensation and perception, including common-sense, memory, and the manipulation of memory. “Food goes in this dish” is a memory your dog has. A series of short commentaries, each a couple of paragraphs, may clarify this matter for you:
                      Intellect, imagination and sense.
                      http://thomism.wordpress.com/2007/02/16/intellect-imagination-and-sense/
                      The danger of the term “consciousness”
                      http://thomism.wordpress.com/2008/12/06/the-danger-of-the-term-consciousness/
                      The two powers of imagination most like intellect
                      http://thomism.wordpress.com/2008/12/09/the-two-powers-of-imagination-most-like-intellect/
                      The abstraction of imagination and intelligence
                      http://thomism.wordpress.com/2008/12/10/2841/
                      The word “concept”
                      http://thomism.wordpress.com/2009/01/01/the-word-concept/
                      Imagination as a tool for intellect
                      http://thomism.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/imagination-as-a-tool-for-intellect/
                      Difficulties in understanding abstraction
                      http://thomism.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/difficulties-in-understanding-abstraction/
                      The universal in imagination, and in intellect
                      http://thomism.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/the-universal-in-imagination-and-in-intellect/
                      Intellect as unimaginable
                      http://thomism.wordpress.com/2009/02/26/intellect-as-unimaginable/

                      Imagination is what separates trainable animals — bears, apes, dogs, etc. — from untrainable ones — cockroaches, spiders, clams, etc.

                    • Jem

                      “The Late Modern searches always for gray areas, which he takes on faith always to exist.”

                      Are you denying the existence of any grey areas, in any context? No. So it’s clear there are places where it’s appropriate to ask if something is clear cut.

                      “But there is a difference between “can see, even
                      if just dimly and a little bit” and “cannot see at all.” You keep glossing over the analogy to “pregnant” or “bank account balance.”

                      They are poor analogies, that’s why. You ignored my relevant analogies: the color spectrum and the difficulty in pinning down to the nanosecond when it becomes night.

                      “It is certainly a plausible story, lacking only the empirical evidence that it actually happened that way.”

                      Creationist nonsense tactic, easily refuted:

                      http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/another-gap-filled-more-evidence-for-eye-evolution/

                      The eye evolved independently over forty times:

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_the_eye

                      As such, we’ve got plenty of evidence showing how modern eyes in different creatures have developed independently, following the same basic rule, but with variations that account for structural differences.

                      “Computer models often show exactly what the modellers want to see, and not always deliberately so.”

                      Yes, and, unlike faith, the scientific method involves full transparency of the techniques and findings, and allows people to go back and challenge those results. You’re describing the main advantage of science over superstition, precisely the reason that we ‘Late Moderns’ know more about the world than guesswork.

                      What, you think scientists looked at one computer model and declared the question answered?

                      “Sight being so advantageous, it’s a wonder clams are blind.”

                      I just get the sense you’re on the ropes, now. Is that meant to be an argument or a final weak flail?

                      Evolution predicts there will be creatures who can’t see. It predicts environments (dark ones, mostly) in which sight is not an advantage, so creatures never developed sight or lost the ability.

                      But it gets better.

                      You want to talk about clams? Cool. Let’s talk about clams.

                      Clams can’t see, but they almost can.

                      http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/270/1511/185.abstract

                      They have multiple pinholes in their mantle that allows them to detect shadows falling on them, and they have an instinctive reaction when that happens. There’s no higher processing of the reaction, no comprehension of what that shadow represents, no distinction between shadows or levels of light, just tiny holes in the shell and a patch of sensitive skin behind each one.

                      You have managed to name a creature that doesn’t have sight, but has sort-of sight, and which represents precisely the empirical evidence that creatures possessed proto-eyes. A perfect example, in fact, because the problem with looking at the evolution of the eye is that soft tissue tends not to fossilize. But shells and mantles do. And we see exactly those sort of pinholes in the shells of many ancient sea creatures.

                      You have managed to name a creature that proves your entire argument, every stage of it, wrong.

                      You cite creationists, you cite creationist arguments … and not even good ones. You attempt gotcha questions that a high school student could explain to you. You use cargo cult science buzzwords. You cite examples that prove the strength of my case and the weakness of yours. You betray the inherent anti-science position of the thinking Catholic not by trying to engage with the argument but by having a little moan about Popper and the limits of computer modelling. You demand empirical evidence from me, while asserting something (a ‘first man’ was born with a ‘rational soul’) that is definitionally impossible to prove empirically.

                      I know Mark thinks you’re a smart guy. Perhaps you are. Not on this. You have literally just been proved wrong by a clam. I doubt you’re equipped to understand that you’re wrong. There’s no point playing Chess with someone who struggles to play Snap, so I’ll bow out at this point.

                    • Jem

                      I believe it was Carl Sagan who said that you can find extraordinary evidence from ordinary clams.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      YOS: “What is the small incremental step between not being able to see at all and being able to see even just a little bit?”
                      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2014/03/a-reader-struggles-with-polygenism-and-genesis.html#comment-1294806279

                      Jem: Glad you asked. This is the A-number-one Creationist [sic] gotcha against the evolutionary model, and as such, it’s been demolished over and over and over again.

                      YOS: Excellent. So what is it? The best I’ve seen is a “light sensitive spot.” But this is being able to see “just a little bit.”
                      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2014/03/a-reader-struggles-with-polygenism-and-genesis.html#comment-1295634028

                      Jem: Rubbish. There’s no optic nerve, no visual cortex, anything like that. It’s a very slightly sensitive patch of skin.
                      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2014/03/a-reader-struggles-with-polygenism-and-genesis.html#comment-1295666158

                      But now in the Name of the Clam you have come full circle to my original point, which was that the light-sensitive spot was the beginning of the eye, and which you ear;ier denied, claiming that an optic nerve and visual cortex was required.

                      Then, behold, on COSMOS just lately we beheld the example of that very same light-sensitive spot evolving into an eye. It was conjoined with a fanciful image of what the creature so-endowed could see; viz., light and dark.

                      What is half-way to the light-senstive spot goes unspoken.

                      You seem to think this has to do with something called “creationism.” It actually has to do with abandoning the 19th century assumption of absolute gradualism in favor of 21st century genetics and sudden change. You confuse the likelihood that, once established, a feature or power may develop “more or less” with the necessity that the initial point cannot have been gradual. There is always a “tipping point.” This is connected with the doctrine of “first and last moments” and the mathematics of open sets.

                      It is not enough that you declare the onset of pregnancy or the establishment of a bank account as “poor analogies” for the onset of intellection by a rational soul. (They are less analogies than they are examples.) You must explain why they are poor and why the gradual improvement of sight once sight has been established is a better one.

                      You ignored my relevant analogies: the color spectrum and the difficulty in pinning down to the nanosecond when it becomes night.

                      Neither of these involves the change of a thing. The color spectrum is already a spectrum of color and red may segue into blue in the same way that a pregant woman may seque from conception to childbirth. Night is said to commence at sunset. But let us suppose that Socrates is red and changes to blue. Is there a last moment when he is red? Is there a first moment when he is not-red?
                      + + +

                      “It is certainly a plausible story, lacking only the empirical evidence that it actually happened that way.”

                      Creationist nonsense tactic, easily refuted: http://theness.com/neurologica

                      What the fellow notes at the link is that it is well-established that a developmental pathway for the eye is possible. IE. that critters with all sorts of intermediate “eyes” exist and get along fine. It does not establish that no other developmental pathway is possible; IOW that the eye might have come about through some other gradual evolution or indeed through some more abrupt mutation requiring only the fine tuning of natural selection. (He also incorrectly claims that IDers hold the eye as “irreducibly complex,” which I don’t know that they do.) I am also not sure that the “fossil evidence” preserves information of eyeballs, as opposed to eye sockets. If anything, the fossil evidence shows step-wise evolution: species appear pretty much full blown and then develop these features more or less, presumably by natural selection. But if gradualism is true, the fossil record should be stuffed to the gills with these “shades of gray” rather than showing sudden steps followed by gradual perfections. Clearly, there must be other processes at play.
                      + + +

                      “Computer models often show exactly what the modellers want to see, and not always deliberately so.”

                      Yes, and, unlike faith, the scientific method involves full transparency of the techniques and findings, and allows people to go back and challenge those results. You’re describing the main advantage of science over superstition…

                      Actually, I was describing a caution relative to mathematical modeling, not “the” [sic] scientific method.
                      Some thoughts on modeling and Pythagorean number magic can be found here:
                      http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/02/americas-next-top-model-part-i.html
                      and
                      http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/03/americas-next-top-model-part-ii.html

                      You cite creationists

                      Who?

                    • Jem

                      “You cite creationists
                      Who?”

                      Shapiro. You claim he’s representative of ’21st century geneticists’. He’s not. He’s at the very least an outlier, he’s co-written papers with creationists and he may very well be an out and out loon.

                      http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2012/01/mind-of-james-shapiro.html

                      http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2012/12/james-shapiro-responds-to-my-review-of.html

                      https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/james-shapiro-goes-after-natural-selection-again-twice-on-huffpo/

                      Your entire case that ‘gradualism’ has been replaced is based on things Shapiro wrote. I’m just giving you a friendly warning that if you want to nail your colors to that mast, that ship already sank.

                      You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, Michael. And I think even you sense that, which is why you’ve fallen back into your comfort zone of quibbling definitions, accusations of scientism, mentioning Popper and the sort of ‘yeah, man, what is truth?’ nonsense that would get you kicked off a hippie campfire.

                      “If anything, the fossil evidence shows step-wise evolution: species appear pretty much full blown and then develop these features more or less, presumably by natural selection. But if gradualism is true, the
                      fossil record should be stuffed to the gills with these “shades of gray””

                      Again, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. ‘Species appear pretty much full blown’? ‘If gradualism is true’ there should be transitional forms?

                      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/List_of_transitional_forms

                      This is Not Even Wrong stuff. You’re simply not worth engaging with. Go read a book. A kid’s book.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      “You cite creationists
                      Who?”
                      Shapiro.

                      He isn’t. A grad student who worked under him became an IDer later on; but guilt by association doesn’t wash.

                    • Jem

                      “guilt by association doesn’t wash”
                      He does not have mainstream views. He is frequently cited by creationists, he has creationist co-authors. Your argument is that ‘in the 21st century’ his view has supplanted ‘gradualism’. That’s just utter nonsense.

                      The clue should be that he’s the only person you can cite.

                      http://www.jehovahs-witness.net/watchtower/beliefs/225466/1/James-A-Shapiro-Professor-of-Microbiology-qouted-to-support-Creationism#.Uy-KXVdFolo

                      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/James_A._Shapiro

                      http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2011/08/yet-another-pos.html

                      http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/10/robert-shapiro.html

                      Bored of this, now. You’re wrong. I’m more than happy to call in some evolutionary biologists and geneticists to kick you around a bit, if you think that would help.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      He does not have mainstream views.

                      Neither did Eldrege and Gould when they proposed punctuated equilibrium.

                      He is frequently cited by creationists,

                      So were Eldrege and Gould after they proposed punctuated equilibrium. This is because creationists confuse any modification or expansion of evolutionary theory with a denial of Darwinism.

                      he has creationist co-authors.

                      Which ones?
                      http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/publications.shtml
                      (and which of the articles is “creationist” in content?

                      You have still not explained how a soul can have half the ability to abstract concepts from percepts.

                    • Jem

                      “He does not have mainstream views.”
                      ‘Neither did’

                      Good. You’ve admitted it. So, Shapiro’s views aren’t mainstream.

                      http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2009/02/darwin-on-gradualism.html

                      There seem to be examples where species develop relatively rapidly. But this is still a process that’s ‘gradual’ on any human timescale – tens of thousands of years in the case of mammals.

                      And, if your scientific knowledge wasn’t entirely derived from Googling ‘problems with evolution’ and clicking on links to the Huffington Post, you’d know that.

                      Your statement ‘species appear pretty much full blown’ is nonsense. And this does, as I think you know, because you’ve staked so much on it, demolish the idea that there’s a ‘first man’, one who is a different species from his parent.

                      “You have still not explained how a soul can have half the ability to abstract concepts from percepts.”

                      Because Mercury’s in the fifth house of Virgo a week from next Wednesday? It’s not my job to make a decent argument from the shifting sands of your gibberish.

                      I note with interest that you sneered at me for suggesting the soul is a ‘thing’ or a ‘property’ but now you say it’s something with an ‘ability’. Perhaps lots of abilities, who can say?

                      But, OK, souls have abilities this week. Fine. Then, as before, we’re back to the fact that for some reason – the ineffable nature of the divine / the whole idea is false – we can’t detect souls. We can, presumably, see the effect of the ‘ability’ acting on the world, though. We can see what humans *did* with the ability to abstract concepts from percepts.

                      You have a theory about the history of early man. This is a vibrant field of study, with all sorts of evidence pouring in and being assessed. Your model would seem to predict a sudden flowering of human achievement as the Sons of Adam spread and prospered. Or at least a locality where this new unlocked ability is demonstrated.

                      So … point to that in the historical record.

                      We have a reasonably good timeline for the development of the size and structure of the brain in hominid species. Lo and behold, brains get bigger gradually, and the behaviors they engaged in gradually became more sophisticated. Hominids have been using fire for 400,000 years. We gradually got better at it, learned how to build better fires, learned about raking ash, learned or discovered new fuels, started to build hearths. All of this is gradual, but all of it leaves signs for archaeologists about what we ate, the size of our social groups, what we made using fires.

                      The Neanderthals may (or may not) have developed all that much culturally, but they maintained their lifestyle for 200,000 years and survived a major Ice Age, with cultural transmission, and at least limited trade. They were spread across Europe and much of Asia.
                      There’s a Neanderthal axe made by hardening a piece of birch wood, then melting animal bone to make glue, then gluing on a piece of shaped flint. Was that done on animal instinct? If it helps your answer, tests in the laboratory say the fire needed to be at least 400 degrees Centigrade to melt the bone. It’s at least 80,000 years old, homo sapiens didn’t reach the spot it was found until at least 40,000 years later.

                      This is clearly a different order of thing than a chimp picking up a stick. And flint napping is an intermediate stage.

                      ‘I need to use three distinct technologies to make a better axe’ is an example of a mind using abstract concepts. Surely.

                      So … the ‘first man’ has to be a common ancestor of homo sapiens and Neanderthals?

                    • chezami

                      This whole “Shapiro is ritually impure and you are found out as a heretic against the Sacred Consensus by your defiling citations of the Wrong People!” is definitely showing that the Inquisitional mindset is by no means extinct. Long on guilt by association. Short on discussions of data. Hilarious to watch. How about engaging the argument instead of yelling “unclean!” and bolting for the door?

                    • Jem

                      “How about engaging the argument?”

                      Which argument?

                      1. Shapiro speaks for most modern scientists.

                      No, he doesn’t. Michael’s original point was ‘hey, dummy, don’t you know that scientists have abandoned gradualism’. No, they haven’t.

                      2. Shapiro says species suddenly emerge.

                      He’s said that of bacterial species, I’ve not found anything that suggests he thinks new mammal species just appear in a single generation.

                      3. The fossil record shows species only emerge suddenly.

                      No. It really, really doesn’t. Google ‘transitional forms’.

                      4. The fossil record shows human species emerge suddenly.

                      … and even if some species suddenly appeared, none of the known hominids did. We can trace our ancestry, see the gradual development of both our bodies and multiple technologies.

                      5. Shapiro might be right.

                      Sure. He may turn out to be right, or to have important things to contribute to the model. There are ways for the scientific method to sift what he says. As they are scientific claims, the scientific method is the way to assess them. At the moment, his main champions are creationists, and many reviewers of his work have raised serious issues with it.

                      As for the broader argument, how ‘Adam’ might be an historical figure.

                      Michael is fundamentally muddled on whether this is a god thing or a science thing. As I say, if the argument is that one day God godded a God thing into a person and it had nothing to do with the biology of the brain, and there’s no way of telling from archaeology that it happened … well, good luck with that. Not much to discuss.

                      If the argument is that the arrival of this ‘rational soul’ meant something and had consequences, then we can talk about the consequences and make a few predictions and see if the records bear any of them out.

                      Scientifically, there simply isn’t one point in our ancestry with one day, one generation, or even one era where we went from being apes to people. It took hundreds of thousands of years. There were dozens of other human-like species.

                      The Catholic Church has an ‘Adam Problem’ because … well, there’s no real place to put a ‘first human’ historically. Michael suggests Adam was a Cro-Magnon … well, leaving aside that’s an old fashioned term, Neanderthals didn’t descend from Cro-Magnons. I think there’s some pretty compelling evidence that Neanderthals were ‘rational beings’. Men, not animals. Judging by their actions.

                      The problem is that the more precisely you define this ‘Adam’, the harder it’s going to be to find him anywhere in history. The absolute baseline problem is that ‘first human’ is itself scientifically meaningless.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      “He does not have mainstream views.”
                      ‘Neither did Eldrege and Gould…’

                      Good. You’ve admitted it. So, Shapiro’s views aren’t mainstream.

                      No one’s views are mainstream when they are first mooted. The mainstream is defined as those who cling to what they were told in school by revered teachers. The not-mainstream falls on the cutting edge. Such folk are often accused of being heretics.

                      if your scientific knowledge wasn’t entirely derived from Googling ‘problems with evolution’ and clicking on links to the Huffington Post, you’d know that.

                      I realize it is necessary to your peace of mind to hurl such accusations but a) I don’t go on the Huffington Post very often; and b) I don’t regard genetics as a “problem” with evolution, but rather a “solution.” Many of the creationist quibbles collapse in the light of Shapiro’s theories. Some folks may blow off “random mutation” as if they knew what they were talking about, but statisticians get troubled looks on their brows. There hasn’t been enough time in the universe to accumulate all the necessary mutations — under the 19th century mechanist metaphor. But what if mutations were not “random,” but were constrained and channelled by physical and chemical boundary conditions, by cellular operations, by epigenetic factors? What if genes could sometimes be traded by horizontal transfers, esp. at the single-celled level? (IOW, it isn’t always “mutation” at work.)

                      Not to mention the peculiar problem of defining “advantageous.”

                      Your statement ‘species appear pretty much full blown’ is nonsense.

                      It is an S-shaped logistic curve. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logistic_function
                      From the first appearance of what we decide is a “species” there is a period of minor change followed by a period of rapid change followed by a period of sustained stasis. I first noted this in a book by Ernst Mayr, in which he plotted the development of a species of fish over time.

                      And this does…demolish the idea that there’s a ‘first man’, one who is a different species from his parent.

                      But I have never claimed that a first man was a different biological species from his parent. That part’s all in your head. I have simply pointed out the unlikelihood that 10,000 precursors popped up with speculative intellect all at once. Even in a thunderstorm there is a first raindrop.

                      “You have still not explained how a soul can have half the ability to abstract concepts from percepts.”

                      Because Mercury’s in the fifth house of Virgo a week from next Wednesday? It’s not my job to make a decent argument from the shifting sands of your gibberish.

                      No, I’m asking you to make a decent argument from the shifting sands of your gibberish. My position is that either someone was first or lots of someones were first, and the latter is a far lower probability.

                      You have made a claim that there is something between the capacity to abstract concepts from percepts and no such ability. When challenged to describe such a half-way state, you have simply described someone with the capacity to abstract concepts from percepts only dimly or in some simple cases. But no one contends that the capacity to intellection cannot be perfected over time. Quite the contrary.

                      I note with interest that you sneered at me for suggesting the soul is a ‘thing’ or a ‘property’ but now you say it’s something with an ‘ability’. Perhaps lots of abilities, who can say? But, OK, souls have abilities this week.

                      This week? This has been known for thousands of years. See:
                      1. Generic powers of inanmate forms:
                      http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/WAW0013.GIF
                      2. Generic powers of animate forms (souls)
                      2.1 vegetative:
                      http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/WAW0018.GIF
                      2.2 sensitive (stimulus-response)
                      http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/WAW0019.GIF
                      2.3 Additional powers of animate forms (souls), rational
                      http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/WAW0010.GIF

                      we can’t detect souls.

                      Habet res animam? Translates as “Is the thing alive?”

                      I really do think you are trapped in the Cartesian theater paradigm and imagine the soul as a kind of spook in the machine of the body. But as we’ve said: if a basketball were alive, spherical would be its soul, and while we can’t “detect” spheres, we can easily conceive of them mathematically.

                      We can, presumably, see the effect of the ‘ability’ acting on the world, though. We can see what humans *did* with the ability to abstract concepts from percepts. … Your model would seem to predict a sudden flowering of human achievement as the Sons of Adam spread and prospered. Or at least a locality where this new unlocked ability is demonstrated. So … point to that in the historical record.

                      Cro-Magnon would seem the best bet, given what we know so far.

                      We have a reasonably good timeline for the development of the size and structure of the brain in hominid species.

                      What has brain size to do with the emergence of intellection?

                      the behaviors they engaged in gradually became more sophisticated.

                      What has this to do with the emergence of intellection? Lots of animals engage in sophisticated behaviors. Remember, animals, at least the higher ones, have sensitive souls that include the power of forming common images (not restricted to visual ones), remembering these ymagos or phantasms, and manipulating them. Such animals are trainable: gorillas can be trained to associate hand signs with rewards; elephants can be trained to use paint brushes to follow pencil tracings on easels. Animals may also be capable of self-training: monkey see, monkey do.

                      A great deal can be accomplished by imagination and since intellection is always accompanied by imagination it can be hard for us to make the distinction between “speculative reason” and “practical reason.” “Do we really need to ask,” wonders Chastek, “whether non-human animals have developed systems of physics, speculative mathematics, and metaphysical wisdom?”

                      The Neanderthals may (or may not) have developed all that much culturally, but they maintained their lifestyle for 200,000 years and survived a major Ice Age, with cultural transmission, and at least limited trade.

                      To maintain a culture virtually unchanged for 200,000 years is the mark of an animal, not a rational being. See Michael Schermer’s book, Science Friction. Chapter 10. http://www.amazon.com/Science-Friction-Where-Known-Unknown/dp/0805079149

                    • Jem

                      “There hasn’t been enough time in the universe to accumulate all the
                      necessary mutations ”

                      Again, a standard creationist objection, and reading any textbook would explain why you’re wrong. This is a quick rundown.

                      http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/02/14/the-state-of-modern-evolutionary-theory-may-not-be-what-you-think-it-is/

                      “My position is that either someone was first or lots of someones were first, and the latter is a far lower probability.”
                      Cool. Mine is that what you call ‘soul’, I’d call ‘self awareness’ or ‘consciousness’ or ‘introspection’ and that it’s a function of emergent complexity in increasingly complex hominid brains. That the model is, in fact, that for ten thousand generations, populations got a little bit closer to modern human’s level of consciousness. That, like sight, increased cognition was a survival advantage and so there was selection pressure towards increased cognition.

                      My evidence would be that we see gradual increase in the complexity of hominid brains and an absolute correlation between that and increased complexity of technology like tools and fire.

                      Your evidence for ‘a first man woke up with a soul’, please.

                      “Habet res animam? Translates as “Is the thing alive?””

                      That works, of course, if there are absolutely no grey areas or ever potential points of debate over whether something’s alive or not. So … ?

                      “Cro-Magnon would seem the best bet, given what we know so far.”

                      So the Neanderthals lack a rational soul. Noted.

                      “What has brain size to do with the emergence of intellection?”

                      I think the structure of the brain might be relevant to the thinky stuff it can or can’t get up to.

                      “To maintain a culture virtually unchanged for 200,000 years is the mark of an animal, not a rational being.”

                      These are not arguments by this point, this is you just gainsaying. ‘Ah yes, maintaining a culture for 200,000 years, spreading across Europe and Asia, trading, making tools, being close enough to modern humans that they bred with us, wearing clothes, getting tattoos, burying their dead, including grave goods, improving their fire technology, gluing together axes, having brains structure like ours, having larynxes … they’re just animals. Why, they sound more like squirrels or giraffes than people. If they’d been truly rational, they’d have destroyed their species much faster than that.’

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      what you call ‘soul’, I’d call ‘self awareness’ or ‘consciousness’ or ‘introspection’

                      IOW, not wishing to address the topic, you will haggle over other concepts instead.

                      and that it’s a function of emergent complexity in increasingly complex hominid brains.

                      Heck, anyone can wave their hands and say “then a miracle happens” or “then a property ‘emerges’.”

                      for ten thousand generations, populations got a little bit closer to modern human’s level of consciousness.

                      What has ‘consciousness’ got to do with it? As for consciousness per se, explain what is halfway between ‘conscious’ and ‘unconscious.’ Do not focus on “more conscious.” In order to be “more” conscious, one must already be conscious, a priori.

                      we see gradual increase in the complexity of hominid brains and an absolute correlation between that and increased complexity of technology like tools and fire.

                      We do tend to give a lot of weight to tool-using, but tool-using was never proposed as a distinction between men and other animals by the Aristotelians.

                      Your evidence for ‘a first man woke up with a soul’, please.

                      First of all, all animals have souls. The question here is the immaterial power to abstract concepts from percepts which distinguishes the rational soul from the merely sensitive soul. Second, we must distinguish between metaphysical humans and merely biological ones. Biologically, the first metaphysical human need not have differed biologically from the 9,999 other biological humans he hung out with. A partial example of what it was like to “wake up” to a rational nature can be found in the writings of Helen Keller, which can be found quoted here:
                      http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2011/07/talk-to-animals.html

                      “Habet res animam? Translates as “Is the thing alive?”” That works, of course, if there are absolutely no grey areas or ever potential points of debate over whether something’s alive or not. So … ?

                      Chastek writes:
                      The soul is whatever a living being has while living, and what it lacks when it is dead. That’s it. If this is brain activity, then brain activity is soul; if this is some kind of organization, then organization is soul; if this is some spirit in the body, then that’s soul. If it is some combination of these things, then soul is whatever is first and most causal among them. Regardless of whether you think that a a human body is nothing but so much meat and matter or whether you think we are only spirits caged in a body, it is ridiculous to ask whether the soul exists. It manifests a failure to understand what one is talking about. If you think that speaking about “the human soul” is too prejudicial toward the “spiritual” idea of man, too bad. You can’t hold a conversation hostage because of your inability to understand a term.

                      To which we might add that the epistemological difficulty associated with determing particular cases does not imply an ontological difficulty in the actual status.

                      “Cro-Magnon would seem the best bet, given what we know so far.”

                      So the Neanderthals lack a rational soul. Noted.

                      I would be delighted to learn otherwise; but extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs.
                      + + +
                      “What has brain size to do with the emergence of intellection?”

                      I think the structure of the brain might be relevant to the thinky stuff it can or can’t get up to.

                      Dunno. That’s like saying we can explain the water by the size of the bucket without asking how the bucket got filled. It’s simply an act of faith on your part to suppose that somehow the speculative intellect “just happened” because the brain got “big.”
                      + + +
                      “To maintain a culture virtually unchanged for 200,000 years is the mark of an animal, not a rational being.”

                      ‘Ah yes, maintaining a culture for 200,000 years And…? http://culture.st-and.ac.uk/chimp/

                      spreading across Europe and Asia, Many animals have spread across Europe and Asia.

                      trading, This is accountable by diffusion. Items passed hand to hand can cover a lot of distance without any of the deliberateness implied by the term “trade.” Check out magpie nests, for example, and ask where some of the items in it came from. Does this imply a magpie trade network.

                      making tools, Lots of animals make tools.

                      having larynxes In what way does this imply they possessed speculative intellect?

                      being close enough to modern humans that they bred with us, In what way does this imply they possessed speculative intellect? (By some accounts of speciation, the ability to interbreed means that they are the SAME species.)

                      wearing clothes “there is no physical evidence that Neanderthal clothing was sewed together, and it may have simply been wrapped around the body and tied.”

                      getting tattoos “Neanderthals left behind no known symbolic art and only limited evidence for body decoration. One of few decorative items found at a Neanderthal site is a pendant from Arcy-sur-Cure in France, found amongst bone tools and other artefacts that were attributed to a culture known as Chatelperronian (which most researchers consider Neanderthal). However, redating of the site’s layers in 2010 suggest contamination occurred between layers and that the artefact may have been made by modern humans, as they also occupied this site in later times.”

                      burying their dead, including grave goods, “there is no conclusive evidence for any ritualistic behaviour. However, at some sites, objects have been uncovered that may represent grave goods.”

                      You seem to have a low opinion of animals.

                    • Jem

                      “IOW, not wishing to address the topic, you will haggle over other concepts instead.”

                      Please tell me about how basketballs are round again.

                      “Heck, anyone can wave their hands and say “then a miracle happens” or “then a property ‘emerges’.””

                      Oh grief. No. I really haven’t the energy to explain another thing you’d have heard of if you’d read one book in the subject. Just look up ‘emergent complexity’.

                      “First of all, all animals have souls.”

                      And yet not all arguments have evidence, clearly. I think, for sake of argument, only half of animals have souls. Prove me wrong.

                      “it is ridiculous to ask whether the soul exists.”

                      It’s not ridiculous to ask if it exists in the form you’re talking about. ‘It’s a way to say something’s alive?’. OK, it’s a perfect synonym for that? Then just say ‘alive’. But it’s disingenuous for you to say that’s the be all and end all of what you say a soul is.

                      “This is accountable by diffusion. Items passed hand
                      to hand can cover a lot of distance without any of the deliberateness implied by the term “trade.” Check out magpie nests, for example, and ask where some of the items in it came from. Does this imply a magpie trade network.”

                      As noted, you’re reduced to gainsaying at this point, and it’s faintly ridiculous. You’ve bet Catholicism against Neanderthals not having speech, art or anything that demonstrates abstract thought. I’m happy to take that bet, knowing that they had larynxes, art and we have one tool a Neanderthal made that required three specialisms.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      “IOW, not wishing to address the topic, you will haggle over other concepts instead.”

                      Please tell me about how basketballs are round again.

                      I dunno. If you have not grasped the point yet, I despair of you doing so soon. It was you who tried to replace discussion of the intellect with things like “consciousness.”
                      + + +
                      “Heck, anyone can wave their hands and say “then a miracle happens” or “then a property ‘emerges’.””

                      Oh grief. No. I really haven’t the energy to explain another thing you’d have heard of if you’d read one book in the subject. Just look up ‘emergent complexity’.

                      Aristotle called them “formal causes” and it is possible to use them rigorously. But they are typically used as magical invocations by comm box warriors. One can understand how the properties of chlorine, for example, arise not from its matter so much as from its form: that is, an atom of chlorine as a whole has powers that the constituent protons, electrons, and neutrons individually do not. IOW, I was reading about mathematical complexity theory when it was a new subject; enough at any rate to know that you cannot just cry out “emergent property!” as a charism of faith.
                      + + +
                      “First of all, all animals have souls.”

                      And yet not all arguments have evidence, clearly. I think, for sake of argument, only half of animals have souls. Prove me wrong.

                      Soul (anima = life) is whatever a living being has that it does not have when it is dead. Animals possess the inanimate powers of gravity, electromagnetism, nuclear and radiative forces; the vegetative powers of metabolism, homeostasis, growth/development, and reproduction; and the sensitive “stimulus-response” powers of sensation, perception, emotion, and motion. I know of no animals that lack all these powers. (For the higher animals at least, perception includes memory and imagination.)
                      http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/WAW0019.GIF
                      + + +
                      It’s not ridiculous to ask if it exists in the form you’re talking about.

                      See above model. Provide a counter-example.

                      Then just say ‘alive’.

                      I do not find that IT JUST IS!! is any better than GOD DID IT!! as an explanatory principle.

                      But it’s disingenuous for you to say that’s the be all and end all of what you say a soul is.

                      Why? See Aristotle and Aquinas for details.

                      You’ve bet Catholicism against Neanderthals not having speech, art or anything that demonstrates abstract thought. I’m happy to take that bet, knowing that they had larynxes, art and we have one tool a Neanderthal made that required three specialisms.

                      First, I have made no such bet. If it can be shown they had speculative intellect I would, like Augustine of Hippo, welcome them. He was willing to accept blemyae, sciopods, cyclops, and other legendary creatures if they could be shown to actually exist. (One such mythic race, the pygmies, did!) I only point out that wishful thinking can carry you way beyond the actual data. The proper scientific attitude is one of skepticism coupled with a demand for proof. Neanderthals had larynxes. How nice. But that doesn’t mean they had language. Barks, signs, calls, and the like are not language. Language requires not words for “lion” or “spear” but words for things like “if”, “should”, or “tomorrow.” IOW, grammar.

                      You constantly undervalue animal intelligence. This may be because you are trapped in the Cartesian paradigm in which animals were regarded as “meat machines” and instinct was degraded to some sort of mindless programming. But even a cursory examination of trainable animals reveals that memory and imagination, coupled with stimulus and response, can entail the learning of complex tasks. Animals can learn.

                    • Jem

                      “I do not find that IT JUST IS!! is any better than GOD DID IT!! as an explanatory principle.”

                      I’m not proposing ‘rational souls’. You are. I know you don’t actually have an explanation, that’s exactly my point. I think it’s a thesis without foundation. I think what we see is not some lightbulb moment, but a gradual improvement across the board of cognitive abilities.

                      You’ve drawn a line and said there was some change of state between Adam and his dad, that they are radically different beings.

                      I think (a deeply imperfect) analogy is more like IQ scores. We consider people with an IQ score below 50 to be human beings, but ones who’d have big problems functioning in society.

                      At some point, there was a first hominid who’d have scored 51 on a (suitably composed) IQ test (where 100 remains the score for an average modern human). Call him ‘Adam’. But the functional difference between his father, who’d score 49, or his mother who’d score 50 would have been so minimal as to be unrecognisable. And he could easily have had siblings or children who scored lower.

                      But incremental improvements would have continued, brain structures evolved. Eventually you hit an IQ of 80, of 100.

                      Your model would seem to be that dad scores 0 and Adam scores … well, who knows, you’re so vague. 1, 80 (the threshold we use for mental competency) or 100 (average modern human). Traditional Christian theology, of course, had Adam as some perfect specimen. So, presumably, the Adam in that story had a far higher IQ than we’ve seen since.

                      Does hitting an IQ of 80 represents a significant milestone worth marking? I mean … kind of. It doesn’t make that person a radically different kind of creature from someone who can score 79, though.

                      “Why? See Aristotle and Aquinas for details.”

                      Where do they say ‘when we say something has a soul, we just mean it’s alive. The End.’? Again, it’s massively disingenuous to suggest this.

                      “The proper scientific attitude is one of skepticism coupled with a demand for proof”

                      How did your irony gland not leap out of your throat and strangle you when you typed that? Are you really so shameless?

                      “Language requires not words for “lion” or “spear” but words for things like “if”, “should”, or “tomorrow.” IOW, grammar.”

                      Take the glued axe. Remember that it dates from at least 40,000 years before homo sapiens reached the spot it was found and that it was made from local materials.

                      It is a shaped, hardened stick onto which has been glued a napped flint. It was clearly made. How could the process of its manufacture be any simpler than someone thinking:

                      ‘I want a better axe. If I could attach a flint to a hardened stick, it should give it all the sharpness of a flint, but also the force of a swung hardened stick. So, first I need a stick. It will have to be shaped, then hardened in a fire. I also need a flint that is napped. I need to make glue and that requires a very hot fire and a way to extract the resin. I then need to assemble the pieces and leave the glue to set at least until this time tomorrow.’

                      Now, perhaps I’m guilty as charged, because I think that level of thought, planning and practical skill is probably beyond most animals. I think it’s beyond some modern humans, to be honest.

                      I do not see a way that axe was assembled without what you’re calling ‘grammar’.

                      And now you concede that point and say you were never invested in the answer, all you were saying was there was a Gap, not that you knew where the Gap is. And so on.
                      As I said right at the beginning of this, we don’t have to follow Mark’s advice and wait until the twenty-third century until the Vatican reconciles its storybook with nineteenth century science. We can skip that. There are only two choices: Ghosts or Gaps. You’re hedging, or just muddled.

                    • chezami

                      Hilarious to watch Jem, who but a week ago was denouncing the crippling inhibition of thought by Catholic orthodoxy, now lighting the Inquistional fires against those who “do not have mainstream views”.

                    • Jem

                      “now lighting the Inquistional fires”
                      No, I’m really not. Michael asserted this:

                      ’21st century genetics tells us that genetic changes can be
                      “massive, sudden, and particular,”‘

                      One molecular biologist, James Shapiro, believes this. Would it be fair for me to say ’21st century Catholics tells us that X’ based on what one Catholic priest said?

                      Does it sound plausible to you that most current biologists, or many of them, or even a significant number don’t believe in ‘natural selection’?

                      https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/james-shapiro-goes-after-natural-selection-again-twice-on-huffpo/

                      He is a specialist in bacteria, and has noted a number of ways genetic information can create – long story short – hybrids *in bacteria*.

                      Michael wants Shapiro to be saying that *humanity* appeared in the form of one ‘first man’, suddenly.

                      Even though Shapiro is cited by creationists a lot and has co-written a paper with one, and many of his positions seem to offer an accommodation with Intelligent Design, and uses phrases that creationists are very fond of (like ‘macroevolution’), he doesn’t seem to be saying anything even a little bit like that.

                      Mark, I know you think Michael knows his stuff. No. Here, he most definitely doesn’t. He’s Googling around looking for scientists who support his position. He very possibly found the articles he’s citing on the Huffington Post, where Shapiro’s a regular columnist.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >He’s Googling around looking for scientists who support his position.

                      This is hilarious given that this is precisely what you are doing to shore up your gaping ignorance of Aquinas. Stop projecting.

                  • Jem

                    “So whether a being has a soul can be answered by determining whether it is alive.”

                    Ha. Good luck with that.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      The existence of dawn and dusk does not invalidate the distinction between night and day.

                    • Jem

                      “The existence of dawn and dusk does not invalidate the distinction between night and day.”
                      No. Simple question: what time did ‘day’ end today? If you want to cheat and limit the answer to where you are, go ahead.

  • Tyler L. Swift

    I’m not sure the case against racism is that easy if one accepts polygenism: http://catholicorigins.com

    • Jem

      I don’t think ‘polygenism’ as an abstract concept is ‘racist’. I think anyone adopting it needs to be aware that it’s been championed, historically, almost exclusively by people considered racist even in their own day, let alone now.

  • http://www.northstarexplorers.org/ Peregrinator

    Pius XII essentially says, “I don’t see how polygenism can fit with the Church’s tradition”.

    No he doesn’t, he says that Catholics are not allowed to hold polygenism (“the
    faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam
    there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through
    natural generation from him as from the first parent of all or that Adam
    represents a certain number of first parents etc.” – Humani Generis #37). By saying, “Now it is in no way apparent,” he is not saying that he doesn’t understand how it can fit within the Church’s tradition, but making a rhetorical case for the fact that it does not fit within the Church’s tradition. Where he puts the breaks on, so to speak, is in Humani Generis #36, where he states that those who have accepted the evolution of humans from lower creatures are guilty of rashness.

    • http://hjg.com.ar/ Hernán J. González

      So we are not allowed to hold polygenism because we know it’s false? Or because our tradition (or our theology?) would fall into pieces?

      So atheists are right when they say that we catholics are afraid of science. No?

      Oh, how nice it would be that science stops discovering things, that people do not progress in wordly knowledge (the price to pay for technology is too high) that they don’t change their woldview. How nice it would be that humanity were like animals, that have no science, no culture, no history, that all generations are exactly the same. No?

      • http://www.northstarexplorers.org/ Peregrinator

        Since we know our tradition (that all men inherit the sin of Adam) is true, and polygenism contradicts it, we know that polygenism is false. Hope this helps.

        • http://hjg.com.ar/ Hernán J. González

          False hope.

        • chezami

          Happily, though you think you are pope, you aren’t. So when doctrine develops despite you, we won’t have to wrestle with the fact that you combox bulls are not infallible.

        • James M

          Non sequitur. Original sin is a theological reality, therefore it is not a reality of the natural order.
          Polygenism, OTOH, is amenable to scientific discussion because, whether it be true or false, it belongs to the natural order.
          One can no more contradict polygenism by using a dogma, than one can judge the efficacy of intercessory prayer by dividing hospital patients into those prayed for, and those not prayed for (which has been attempted).

          Using a reality of one order of being as refutation of something that belongs (or may or would belong) to a different order of being, is like accusing John Grisham of murder be cause he “killed” the characters who die in in his books: authors, and their characters, belong to different orders of being – they cannot be in contradiction, because they are not of the same order of being. This is the confusion atheists make when they accuse God of genocide because of the (literary) universality of the Flood in Genesis.

          Besides, the literary fiction about Adam & Eve is not needed for the dogma of original sin to be true.

  • Michael Randolph

    Sacred Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium teach that God created by fiat in six natural days. Many scientists speculate creation occurred over a trillion natural days but have no proof, which is why it’s simply speculation. These scientists gloss over or completely ignore scientific facts which contradict long ages. The heresy of Modernism favors man’s vain speculations over the Word of God. Taking Genesis to be an allegorical myth contradicts the Catholic Faith. You could apply the same misplaced pseudo-scientific modernist bias against anything miraculous the Church proposes for our belief, such as Jesus walking on water or the Real Presence. St. Peter warned about scoffers in the last days (2 Peter 3:3). As Christ asked after performing miracles, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25)

    • Jem

      Are you a Catholic, Michael? If so, might I ask where you learned these ideas and how essential to the Catholic faith you believe them to be?

      • Michael Randolph

        The question at hand is not my particular religion but what the Catholic Church authoritatively teaches about Genesis. Even a cursory review of Sacred Scripture, the Church Fathers and Doctors, and writings from Church councils consistently presents Genesis understood as an historical record. The burden of proof is on those who would hold the contrary position that Genesis is a myth, which is impossible, since that position has been repeatedly condemned. To avoid an error in faith, it is essential to accept Genesis as understood by the ordinary and universal magisterium.

        • Jem

          “what the Catholic Church authoritatively teaches about Genesis”

          Oh, that’s not a problem – they’re all over the map. Bible rules apply – pick what you like, and if there’s nothing in there, pretend it is. It’s all in the bit of the Bible where Jesus explains Popes, refuses to sell a cake to a gay couple and denies healthcare to poor people.

          • Michael Randolph

            Jem, official Church teaching on Genesis is consistent over the centuries. It’s only relatively recently that it gets mischaracterized as “all over the map,” perhaps by widespread error and ignorance among individual Catholics.

            • chezami

              If you think we need to believe in six literal days of creation and talking snakes as “historical”, I’m skeptical you are really a reliable resource onwhat the Magisterium requires.

            • Jem

              “official Church teaching on Genesis is consistent over the centuries.”

              Cool. So the Church has always taught the same thing about Adam’s origins? It believes today that Adam was created in the same way Aquinas describes?

              • chezami

                Instead of buttonholing a Reactionary on the web, you might actually try reading a real theologian.

          • chezami

            Wait. So now you are upset because the Church’s approach to Genesis is too liberal and latitudinarian? Speaking of being all over the map…

            • Jem

              “So now you are upset because the Church’s approach to Genesis is too liberal and latitudinarian?”

              No, I’m not upset at all. Just amused that some Catholics think they’re Biblical literalists. A couple of threads back you’ve got Catholics who believe the Church is pro-death penalty. Then you’ve got the people who think the Pope’s not Catholic enough.

              It’s the same point that always comes up in these discussions – most Catholics don’t have a clue what Catholicism teaches, don’t care and are happy to adopt a position and assume the Church would agree. Priests are in no hurry to explain because they understand that the very last thing they should do is explain things in plain language. Don’t correct them, they’re halfway out the door already …

              I like Pope Francis’ regret that Catholicism has become Fox News Mad Libs, rather than an actual functioning system with anything to say about the world. But will he comment on a Catholic priest who has just said about the most unpriestly thing it’s possible to say and, as he trips over his hatreds, manages to somehow make gay marriage about ‘the unborn child’?

              http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/03/21/bishop-portsmouth-catholic-mps-voted-equal-marriage-banned-communion/

              • chezami

                The Catholic Church is immense. You will find enormous variety of opinion. And among Fundamental Reactionaries, you will typically find that opinion asserting itself as “the teaching of the Church”. If your purpose to understand the Magisterium, I would suggest you go to magisterial sources (which are typically latitudinarian precisely because the Church understands the matter is complex). If you just want to amuse yourself talking to simplistic dogmatists, carry on.

                • Jem

                  “If your purpose to understand the Magisterium, I would suggest you go
                  to magisterial sources (which are typically latitudinarian precisely
                  because the Church understands the matter is complex).”

                  There’s no particularly complexity to the question ‘did Adam share genes with his parents?’. Aquinas could give you a one word firm answer, and he could do it without knowing what a gene is.

                • Jem

                  “If your purpose to understand the Magisterium … If you just want
                  to amuse yourself talking to simplistic dogmatist”

                  I may not be immense, but I’m able to do both of these things.

                  It cuts to a core issue. The Vatican claims over a billion people are ‘Catholics’ and use that weight of numbers as some sort of, well, Cult of Bigness in political and broader social discussions. But that number is the number of people baptized, not the number regularly engaged with the Church. And the people that *do* go are frequently very confused or plain wrong about what their Church is, what it believes, what it teaches.

                  Look, Mark, you can see the problem – when the Pope says it’s good to feed the poor, and a whole tranche of Catholics on the American right jump on him and some conclude he’s the Anti-Christ, something’s gone wrong somewhere. And, once again, it’s not ‘liberalism’, it’s not ‘secularization’, it’s not ‘gays’, it’s an entirely internal problem.

                  • chezami

                    Finally, something we agree on. Yes, sin is an entirely internal problem (in its origins). Thanks for the news flash that the Church is composed of sinners.

                    • Jem

                      “Finally, something we agree on.”

                      As two people living in modern America, you and I share the vast majority of values. You and I agree on far more issues than, for example, you would with Pope Clement VIII, or Pope Pius IX.

                    • chezami

                      It was a joke.

    • chezami

      No,. They don’;t. Fundamentalized sectarian boutique Catholics teach this and try to bind the faithful to it in defiance of the Magisterium’s allowance of wide theological diversity on the matter.

    • Jonna

      I think you need a refresher course in Catholic Theology, Michael. We all do from time to time. Find out if your diocese offers adult education classes. God bless.


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