18 Aug 2013

Interesting Narrative on the Heliocentric Theory vs. the Church

Religious 144 Comments

In a recent offhand remark, George Selgin criticized certain Austrians’ thinking on banking as being akin to “theologians bungling their cosmology” six centuries ago. I asked if George actually had particular theologians in mind.

George sent me this link, which does indeed have quotes from heavy-hitting theologians (including Martin Luther and John Calvin) that are embarrassingly confident in their denunciations of the Copernican theory. I have just two remarks on this link:

(1) It was interesting to see the scriptural evidence people used to defend the geocentric (i.e. Earth at the center) model. For example, in a famous scene Joshua commands the sun to stand still. In retrospect, this really doesn’t clinch the geocentric case, since even today we say things like, “The sun rises in the east and sets in the west,” even though presumably everyone nowadays understands what’s actually going on.

According to the author, one of the most popular scriptural references is Psalm 93:

93 The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty;
The Lord is clothed,
He has girded Himself with strength.
Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved.
2 Your throne is established from of old;
You are from everlasting.

Again, I still have no problem saying I “believe in the Bible as the Word of God,” even though I endorse the heliocentric model of the solar system.

Selgin et al.’s point is well taken, of course: These theological thinkers were sure that the earth wasn’t moving around the sun–I mean, how could it be? Just use your senses!–and then, regrettably for those who believe secularist science misses a lot of important truths, these theologians then latched onto portions of scripture to “prove” their case which really didn’t prove it at all.

(2) Another interesting feature of this history is how Copernicus himself seems to have been a humble man of faith. On his tombstone he didn’t list any of his scientific achievements:

[O]n his tombstone was placed no record of his lifelong labours, no mention of his great discovery; but there was graven upon it simply a prayer: “I ask not the grace accorded to Paul; not that given to Peter; give me only the favour which Thou didst show to the thief on the cross.” Not till thirty years after did a friend dare write on his tombstone a memorial of his discovery.

Andrew White, the author of this account–which is hardly neutral in its stance, as the title is A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom–thinks the above is evidence that Copernicus feared desecration of his corpse by Church officials. I would think it rather reflects the fact that he is humble. He might not even have appreciated what his friend did.

Then, in an extra twist of irony for those trying to cast this as a battle of religion versus science, notice this interesting anecdote:

Herein was fulfilled one of the most touching of prophecies. Years before, the opponents of Copernicus had said to him, “If your doctrines were true, Venus would show phases like the moon.” Copernicus answered: “You are right; I know not what to say; but God is good, and will in time find an answer to this objection.” The God-given answer came when, in 1611, the rude telescope of Galileo showed the phases of Venus.

Look, I don’t want to make too much of this; I’m not trying to excuse the heavy-handedness, let alone literal persecutions, carried out in the name of Christ over the centuries. But look at that “most touching of prophecies” again. The critics of Copernicus had come up with a perfectly reasonable objection: They were saying that if his heliocentric theory were true, then it made falsifiable predictions that–according to the tools they had at the time–were wrong.

Copernicus didn’t say, “Well, our observations fall within the bounds of my 95% confidence interval, and I think with improvements in our instruments I will eventually be vindicated.”

Nope, he said he believed this objection would be answered because “God is good.”

So this is not quite the tale of secular science versus rigid theologians that Andrew White (and George Selgin) want to make it. Alas, the medieval Church did some things that horrify me, and alas, there are plenty of first-rate scientists throughout the ages who believed in God. The truth is complicated.

144 Responses to “Interesting Narrative on the Heliocentric Theory vs. the Church”

  1. Carl says:

    Using one’s senses alone would not tell you whether we were moving around the sun or vice versa. Our sense experience would support either conclusion.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      We know that NOW. But usually, in ancient times, one could tell if one was moving. It was not irrational to extend that same principle to the sun-earth question.

      • Tel says:

        The general understanding after Einstein is that there is no Earth Sun question, all measurements are relative and one reference is as good as any other.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Except when one body is *accelerating* relative to the other. Then we attribute “the” frame of reference to a specific body. It’s how to solve the twin paradox.

          • Tel says:

            But which body to use as reference, and why?

            • Ken B says:

              You can use either but you have to be careful whether you are using an inertial frame. It is a lot more complicated if you use a non inertial frame. And itmay be easiest to use a frame that differs from either body, such as the centre of mass frame.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Actually, you use the one NOT “doing” the accelerating.

                For example, if a twin blasts off the Earth in a spaceship, THAT TWIN will experience time dilation and his twin back on Earth will have aged more relative to himself, than the other way around. The twin on the Earth didn’t “do” the accelerating, so he “aged faster.”

  2. JFF says:

    Bob, why does Selgin feel the need to keep doing this?

    • Jonathan Finegold says:

      Because he gets a lot of comments from 100% reserve advocates, and he wants to persuade as many people as possible of his own views. It’s the same reason 100% reserve advocates always talk about the merits of their own approach and the demerits of fractional reserve free banking.

    • John S says:

      “Why does Selgin feel the need to keep doing this?”

      Because the anti-fractional reserve position is economically and historically indefensible. It shouldn’t be associated with the Austrian school as a whole–it was Rothbard’s hobbyhorse.

      As Larry White and Selgin’s research shows, fractionally-backed free banking systems worked successfully in Scotland and Canada, as well as in Australia (until the 1890s depression, which I can’t see how central banking could have prevented) and in parts of the US (NY, New England).

      Why do anti-FRB proponents feel the need to spread historically and economically inaccurate information while tarnishing the reputation of the Austrian school?

      • Adrian Gabriel says:

        “Why do anti-FRB proponents feel the need to spread historically and economically inaccurate information while tarnishing the reputation of the Austrian school?”

        Good point, yet I would suggest taking out the anti in anti-FRB. Yet it’s also important to take note of appropriate history when deciding to look at bank from one side like Selgin and White do. But I guess that’s why it’s one sided, because their history is like a good banking salad bar. Filling their plate with what they think are the tastiest vegetables to satisfy their palate, and not a true example of what is most healthy for the body. Let me give you a link as to what I am referring to:

        http://archive.mises.org/15334/operation-panic-mises-wiki/

        • George Selgin says:

          Adrian, your ttreatment of a list of U.S. panics as if it somehow pointed to my and Larry’s “cherry picking” of history only serves to show how little you know about our research (including several papers addressing the causes of those panics), or about free banking more generally, or about U.S. banking regulations prior to the establishment of the Fed, or about the lack of panics in neighboring Canada (where such regulations were absent), or about…. well, in short, it only shows that you don’t know what you are talking about.

      • Matt Tanous says:

        “As Larry White and Selgin’s research shows, fractionally-backed free banking systems worked successfully in Scotland”

        Yeah, not so much. That particular research was, while initially lauded by Rothbard as an example of free banking, later shown to actually not be one at all.

        http://mises.org/journals/rae/pdf/rae2_1_15.pdf

        • George Selgin says:

          Sorry, Matt, but White smashes Rothbard’s critique to pieces in the second ed. of Free banking in Britain.

          • Matt Tanous says:

            Guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one. I found White’s response to be lacking myself.

            • George Selgin says:

              Indeed, we disagree. But I wonder which of Rothbard’s substantial criticisms it is that you believe still stand up to White’s reply. Not, surely, the one about limited liability, or about Scottish banks relying on the B of E as a LOLR. So, which?

          • Adrian Gabriel says:

            Geprge, you’re quite to egotistical statist there. How can White’s response smash Rothbard’s to pieces when you guys use the very means to explain business cycles or give credence to fractional reserve banking that Keynes does? This is silly, are you guys not realists here. It seems that both you and White just like being from academia and falsely interpret human action. Not only do your funny models render confusing and contradictory results (see here), but your various counterparts in the debate to calculate and delineate human action have done a much better job than you guys in calling your bluffs (see here)

            Now a person’s critique of another on history is only believable insofar as reality allows it to be, and insofar as people believe it. You and White have been playing with history so profoundly, that your ideas and models accept your system to it’s coercive core. If in fact Money Market Accounts can quell money creation in FRB banks, then we must point to the more realistic and evident fact that the separation of loan banking and deposit banking is becoming a much more widely accepted phenomenon with the rise of technological gateways not hindered by the state (see here).

            As a matter of fact, Mises and Rothbard were right to suggest that fiduciary media can cause the business cycle, seeing as though it will be more susceptible to inflationary pressures in a free society, where other free market instruments like bitcoin (or future rendition of an electronic monetary unit backed by a basket or portfolio of commodities) are more sound and require no fiduciary media at all. It is important to take note not only of history, since history can be recounted by every individual to their liking, but also to the present phenomena. It seems to me that the market is choosing to separate loan and deposit banking, and also choosing to get rid of fiduciary media. I think you need a Night of Clarity

            • George Selgin says:

              Adrian, what the blazes has my ego to do with anything? And no, MMMF accounts can’t do away with banking: anyone who knows how they actually work should know that the check writing privileges they offer are there only because the funds are, as it were, “fractionally backed” by…bank deposits!

          • Major_Freedom says:

            ANNIHILATED!!!!

            DESTROYED!!!

            Flawless victory.

            Fatality.

  3. George Selgin says:

    Really I didn’t intend to venture into the “religion v. science” controversy at all. I merely made a statement to the effect that plenty of 16th-century theologians got their cosmology wrong. I didn’t imagine anyone would take exception to it!

    But since we’re on the subject, I think it quite fatuous to point to all those medieval contributors to scientific progress who were “m,en of faith” (as one commentator above puts it) as evidence disproving the claim that science and religion were in an important sense in conflict with one another. For goodness sake: we are talking about a time when the church was firmly in the saddle, when almost every living soul had been inculcated to its doctrines since birth, leaving only a small minority to question its central doctrines, even as they dared to tinker with specific passages among its sacred books. Of these, of course, a still tinier fraction ever dared to voice their heretical views. That many of the most illustrious members of this tiny group suffered severely at the hands of religious persecutors is (or ought to be) notorious.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      George Selgin wrote:

      Really I didn’t intend to venture into the “religion v. science” controversy at all. I merely made a statement to the effect that plenty of 16th-century theologians got their cosmology wrong. I didn’t imagine anyone would take exception to it!

      But since we’re on the subject…

      And with that segway, you reassured me that I hadn’t misunderstood what you “meant” with your analogy.

      • George Selgin says:

        I’m sorry Bob, but that’s not right. I have thoughts on the matter of religion and science. But what I meant by my analogy was simply what I said in it, to wit: that we have an example in the anti-FRB stuff of persistent error in the face of accumulated contrary evidence.

        In any case, if you want to “call me out” on religion vs. science, which seems to be your desire, you may consider yourself to have done so, though it is not much of a feat, and it can play no part in the FRB-anti-FRB debate except to bring bigotry into play in play where reason alone should operate..

        • Eric Evans says:

          George, get over yourself. Did you willfully miss that whole “In a recent offhand remark….” Bob kicked off the post with? I don’t know how your rational mind can function every day while having to support your massive ego.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          George,

          I’m not trying to start a fight here. I didn’t even want to link to your post–knowing it would stir up the FRB stuff which is actually not at all what I wanted–but I ended up linking, since you called my bluff and won.

          I.e. I thought if I didn’t mention your name and link to the post, and give the backstory, that it would look like I was just randomly quibbling with Andrew White’s history when you would know the backstory.

          • George Selgin says:

            No problem, Bob. I merely respond here to your suggestion concerning what I “meant” by my analogy, when in fact I meant nothing much at all by it. As for Eric Evans’ comment, apparently he can’t see that my remark above is in reply to your response to my original comment, and not to the blog. I would say that perhaps his “massive ego” or something must be to blame, were I the sort of person to make such remarks about people I don’t even know. Luckily for me, and for all my other shortcomings, I’m not.

          • Ivan Jankovic says:

            yes, you think it’s more important to defend creationism than sound money.

            • guest says:

              LOL. There has been an oddly elevated interest in this topic (for this blog), huh?

    • Gene Callahan says:

      George, on this topic, you are uninformed.

      One of the first things our history of science lecturer at King’s College told us was that on the vast majority of scientific topics, the church simply *did not care*. So when Buridan and Oresme challenged Aristotelian mechanics: the church just did not care at all, one way or the other.

      Secondly, on the very few topics it DID care about, it was always prepared to regard scripture as figurative, IF the literal interpretation could be proven false. So, with Galileo, church astronomers examined his evidence and found it wanting. (Which it was, frankly: he thought the tides were caused by the earth’s rotation throwing the seas around, and that they had a 24 hour cycle.) Thus they asked him to present heliocentrism as an hypothesis. He agreed, but then reneged. At that point he was subject to a fairly mild house arrest.

      Bruno was burned at the stake, but for heretical religious views, not for his scientific work.

      And beyond those two, the other scientists who “suffered severely” were…?

      • Gene Callahan says:

        “it was always prepared to regard scripture as figurative, IF the literal interpretation could be proven false.”

        Example: all educated people in the Middle Ages knew the earth was round, in the church or out. What did the church do about the passage discussing the “four corners” of the earth? Said it was just a figure of speech.

        • guest says:

          You’ll acknowledge, won’t you, that there are *some* figures of speech in there? Like references to God’s hands, or whatever?

      • Gene Callahan says:

        And to continue posting in dribs and drabs: Not a single important figure in the scientific revolution would have viewed what was going on as a conflict of “science vs. religion”: every single one of them was religious, often deeply so: e.g., Kepler and Newton spent as much time on religious topics as scientific ones.

        No, they would have thought any conflicts they were experiencing were with “that bull-headed pope” or a particular prejudiced minister, etc. The “science versus religion” view was created by the French philosophes in the late 18th century, and would have struck the founders of the Scientific Revolution as bizarre and almost incomprehensible.

        • Adrian Gabriel says:

          And none of the scientists from the past would have intended to make science a religion, which is what is most assuredly happening today. Take a look at your work in the social sciences, or your naive adherence to the unrealistic models you teach kids paying tons of money to attain an inflated degree. Have you ever given the disclaimer that none of that should be taken as serious or over-simplified assumptions?

          Robert Murphy is onto something here, it is never wrong to be skeptical when people are afraid of logical deduction:
          See this site!

          See what Nicola Tesla had to say about modern science!

        • Ken B says:

          “Not a single important figure in the scientific revolution would have viewed what was going on as a conflict of “science vs. religion”: ”

          How about science vs religious authority. Newton certainly felt the pinch of religious authority, and supressed his beliefs.

          • Gene Callahan says:

            “Newton certainly felt the pinch of religious authority, and supressed his beliefs.”

            His RELIGIOUS beliefs, yes.

            • Ken B says:

              This is an artificial distinction. Newton ssaw his anti-trinitarian beliefs as part of investigating that ocean of truth. But aside from that it’s still a bad point. Say something the Church — in his case the COE — doesn’t like and get punished. But you cannot always tell ahead of time just which beliefs the CHURCH will classify as “religious” or as constituting an affront.

          • Economic Freedom says:

            >>>How about science vs religious authority.

            How about “science vs. ANY authority,” especially entrenched secular **academic** authority by Aristotelians?

            Considering that’s what actually happened in the case of Galileo, it might be a good idea to include it in one’s knowledge-base of intellectual history.

      • Tel says:

        As I mention above “do not care” is so far the best answer we have.

      • George Selgin says:

        Gene, can you not see any reason to blush while proposing that fine distinction between someone being burned for opinions on “science,” and their being burned for “heretical religious views”? In the era we are talking about especially, surely there was no hard and fast line between the two things. A man is either free to reach and voice opinions on all matters, whether scientific, metaphysical, or moral, by consulting his own intellect and conscience, without fear of persecution by religious authorities, or he is not. So though I quite agree with you that the Church simply did not care about many sorts of “scientific” inquiry, it certainly did draw lines on the free expression of views on matters philosophic, ethical, and metaphysical, which by the old-fashioned definition are also part of the real of “science.”

        • Ken B says:

          Yes. On the one hand we hear there was no conflict, it was all part oof understanding god’s plan and works and then when Bruno comes up we suddenly get a sharp distinction, along the lines of a modern curriculum! Once Bruno wondered onto topics the church had dicata about he was in trouble.

          • Lord Keynes says:

            If there was no substantive conflict between science and religion, then one wonders why the Catholic church used its notorious Index Librorum Prohibitorum to ban Johannes Kepler’s Epitome astronomiae Copernicianae, which was on the Index from 1621 to 1835!

            Then there’s the issue of religious opposition to Darwinian evolution:

            In 1894 a letter was received by the Holy Office, asking for confirmation of the Church’s position on a theological book of generally Darwinist cast by a French Dominican theologian, L’évolution restreinte aux espèces organiques, par le père Léroy dominicain. The records of the Holy Office document lengthy debates, with a number of experts consulted, whose views varied considerably. In 1895 the Congregation decided against the book, and Fr. Léroy was summoned to Rome, where it was explained that his views were unacceptable, and he agreed to withdraw the book
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_evolution#19th_century_reception_among_Catholics

            On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, during the papacy of Pope Pius IX, who defined dogmatically papal infallibility during the First Vatican Council in 1869–70. The council has a section on “Faith and Reason” that includes the following on science and faith:

            “9. Hence all faithful Christians are forbidden to defend as the legitimate conclusions of science those opinions which are known to be contrary to the doctrine of faith, particularly if they have been condemned by the Church; and furthermore they are absolutely bound to hold them to be errors which wear the deceptive appearance of truth.” (Vatican Council I)
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_evolution#Pope_Pius_IX

            • Matt Tanous says:

              As regards Darwin:

              “The “science versus religion” view was created by the French philosophes in the late 18th century”

              Well before Darwin. And as that view became dominant, it influenced religious leaders as well as scientists – pushing them apart, due to a perceived antagonism. Just as scientists were essentially taught they could not be religious and seek truth in science, theologians were taught the opposite by the prevailing culture, and so became more and more opposed to science as less a search for truth and more an attack on religious belief.

            • Ken B says:

              Hey LK, did the Index have a section labelled “science”, which was empty, and one labelled “religion”? Or did they mostly care about crossing their teachings tout court?

            • Economic Freedom says:

              >>>If there was no substantive conflict between science and religion, then one wonders why the Catholic church used its notorious Index Librorum Prohibitorum to ban Johannes Kepler’s Epitome astronomiae Copernicianae, which was on the Index from 1621 to 1835!

              On the other hand, if there really were a substantive conflict between science and religion, then one wonders why the Catholic Church did not use its notorious Index Librorum Prohibitorum to ban Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” and “The Descent of Man.”

              And, again, if such a conflict existed, why would the Catholic Church use its notorious Index Librorum Prohibitorum to ban writers who were not scientists at all, but philosophers and poets. Here’s a partial list of banned authors:

              Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, André Gide, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, Blaise Pascal, and Hugo Grotius.

              Newton doesn’t appear on the list; Lavoisier doesn’t appear; Faraday doesn’t appear; Maxwell doesn’t appear; Einstein doesn’t appear; Planck doesn’t appear; Pasteur doesn’t appear; etc.

              The reason Kepler appears is that his scientific writings freely intermingle mystical religious speculations, which Church authorities found “heretical.”
              It had nothing to do with Kepler’s writings qua scientific research.

            • Economic Freedom says:

              >>.In 1895 the Congregation decided against the book, and Fr. Léroy was summoned to Rome, where it was explained that his views were unacceptable, and he agreed to withdraw the book

              Similar to what happened in the Kitzmiller case regarding “Of Pandas and People,” the scientific worthiness of which having been decided in a court of law rather than the court of scientific opinion and the general free market of ideas.

              Anyway, you glossed over a very important point: many **scientists** in 1859 had grave doubts about Darwin’s hypothesis, including Darwin’s teacher at Cambridge, Adam Sedgewick, as well as followers of Cuvier (“catastrophism”), and later followers of the “saltational” school such as Otto Schindewolf, and 19th-20th century followers of “orthogenesis” such as the Russian biologist Leo S. Berg.

        • Matt Tanous says:

          “So though I quite agree with you that the Church simply did not care about many sorts of “scientific” inquiry, it certainly did draw lines on the free expression of views on matters philosophic, ethical, and metaphysical, which by the old-fashioned definition are also part of the real of “science.””

          It was Bruno’s views specifically on the Church’s doctrines: his views regarding the Trinity, Jesus, etc. that they burned him for. No one has argued that the Inquistion wasn’t going around burning non-Christians and non-Catholics. What it WASN’T doing was burning scientists who disagreed regarding scientific points.

          • George Selgin says:

            Matt, you miss the whole point of my response to Bob and Gene, which is that you and they are relying on an anachronistic, 21st-century notion of “scientist” that begs the question. By a broader and more traditional definition, “science” is just another name for systematized inquiry or the knowledge that comes from it, and as such includes inquiry concerning such matters as metaphysics, the existence and nature of god, and the sources of morality. The fact that anyone in 16th-century Europe might engage in most types of what is now more usefully defined as “hard” science without Church authorities caring one way or another about it, though true,ought not to be used way to brush aside the reality that, as soon as the inquiry became one that led to skepticism regarding the fundamental dogmas of established religion, including such matters as the trinity, miracles, resurrection, transubstantiation, and so on, anyone openly engaging in it, and especially anyone who openly expressed skeptical opinions, exposed himself or herself to persecution of some sort, and perhaps to torture and death.

            Freedom of inquiry, in short, truly exists only where it is unbounded. During the 16th century, it certainly wasn’t so. That there were broad avenues through which inquiry was free to proceed established exactly 0 concerning the lack of a conflict between religion and science so long as there were others that might lead one to an auto da fe.

            • Ken B says:

              We Canucks have a phrase that fits here, but I will shield Bob’s tender ears from: f*ckin A right.

            • Tel says:

              Freedom of inquiry, in short, truly exists only where it is unbounded. During the 16th century, it certainly wasn’t so.

              Try getting a paper published today that is even mildly critical of Global Warming dogma, or try discussing the idea that our DNA might influence the way we behave… try having any sort of career afterwards in a world where funding is controlled by political correctness.

              Not much has changed.

            • Matt Tanous says:

              When people refer to “a conflict between religion and science” now, they generally are saying that science literally conflicts with – i.e. disproves – religion. Not that religious authorities 500 years ago were fanatics that killed people that disagreed with their teachings regarding religious dogma.

              Typically, they are referring to the evolution v. ID issue, or perhaps a more over-arching idea that studying the natural sciences tends to push one towards atheism. I’ve never heard a “conflict between science and religion” as meaning specifically the literal conflict between a subset of fanatical religious authorities and a subset of moral and theological philosophers.

        • Gene Callahan says:

          ‘Gene, can you not see any reason to blush while proposing that fine distinction between someone being burned for opinions on “science,” and their being burned for “heretical religious views”?’

          No, I do not blush. I am not approving of the latter. But there is a bit more than a “fine” distinction between a doctrine that the earth moves around the sun and the belief that Jesus was just a skillful magician (one element of Bruno’s condemnation).

          “A man is either free to reach and voice opinions on all matters, whether scientific, metaphysical, or moral, by consulting his own intellect and conscience, without fear of persecution by religious authorities…”

          Or, he might be free on some matters and not on others.

          • George Selgin says:

            But Gene, what does it prove, with regard to the crucial question of whether religion did or did not restrict science, to affirm that the Church didn’t trouble anyone so long as their inquiry appeared to pose no threat to its authority? No one ever claimed that religion prevented all scientific inquiry. The claim has always been that it placed certain matters off limits, and imposed severe penalties on those who crossed the lines it drew.

            • Ken B says:

              And drew sometimes ex post facto, which compounds the effect.

            • Economic Freedom says:

              >>>The claim has always been that it placed certain matters off limits, and imposed severe penalties on those who crossed the lines it drew.

              Sort of like modern secular universities today. Except for the “auto-da-fe” penalty, it doesn’t seem as if much has changed; just that you personally side with the authorities of today rather than those of the Middle Ages.

      • Martin says:

        It was especially the 24 hour cycle that was embarrassing: every sailor knew it to be false, and so did the theologians. Not exactly Galileo’s finest moment.

      • Ken B says:

        Michael Servetus.
        Paracelsus.
        Any unitarian.
        Countless herbalists branded as witches.

        • Ken B says:

          Here note I am sticking to the 16th century. There are more examples further afield; google “Index”.

          As a follow on to the witches, it was heresy to deny the existence of witches, so anyempirically minded enquiry of that topic was nipped in the bud.

        • Matt Tanous says:

          “Countless herbalists branded as witches.”

          Countless being an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 over the course of 400 years? And herbalist being a term no for “young man or woman accused of performing unnatural acts of magic”? Most “witches” burned weren’t herbalists, Ken. Many, in fact, were not even of age, sadly.

        • Gene Callahan says:

          So Michael Servetus being burned for his non-trintarian theology is an example of persecuting someone for their scientific beliefs?!

          Paracelsus’s books were burned at the instigation of the *medical faculty* at the University of Leipzig.

          Unitarians were persecuted for their scientific theories?!

          I asked ‘And beyond those two, the other scientists who “suffered severely” were…?’ Clearly this meant *as scientists*. You offer this nonsense list as a response to that question?!

          • Ken B says:

            Yes.
            1. Herbalists. Empiricists
            2. Servetus. Again you conveniently call some ideas “religious” and “scientific” when you want to minimize but you deny the distinction when you want to argue that these were believers inspired by their beliefs about a comprehensible god. Further, as i have explained now 3 times, *the church got to decide what counted as infringing their turf*.
            There weren’t sections in the library like “thermodynamics” and “religion. One’s thoughts on any issue could spill over *or be seen to conflict with* the church at the church’s whim.
            3 Paracelsus was a prudent man.
            He wrote this in a late introduction to his entire theological work:

            ‘I have kept my silence, so that thunder and storm would not strike my soil. I have managed to survive in this way until now and have not bothered about them.’
            Some of his followers were not so lucky.
            Self censorship counts.

            4. Trinitarians. Many had beliefs about the nature of the world and bodies that led them to this particular conclusion.

            • Matt Tanous says:

              Again with the false herbalist claim…. Disappointing.

              • Ken B says:

                Matt you are nothing if not predictable.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_witchcraft

              • Matt Tanous says:

                Ken, following Augustine, witches – according to the Church – DID NOT EXIST. This stance prevailed until the High Middle Ages (12th, 13th centuries), where the other view came back into prominence. As to the herbalist claim:

                “The regional tolls demonstrated the patchwork pattern of witch-hunting. The town of Baden, Germany, for example, burned 200 witches from 1627 to 1630, more than all the convicted witches who perished in Sweden. The tiny town of Ellwangen, Germany, burned 393 witches from 1611 to 1618, more than Spain and Portugal combined ever executed. The Catholic prince-bishop of Wurzburg, Germany, burned 600 witches from 1628 to 1631, more witches than ever died in Protestant Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland combined. The Swiss canton of Vaud executed about 1,800 witches from 1611 to 1660, compared with Scotland’s toll of between 1,300 and 1,500 and England’s toll of 500. The claim of some Catholic apologists that Elizabeth I executed 800 witches a year is gross slander. In Southwest Germany alone, 3,229 people were executed for witchcraft between 1562 and 1684 — more than were executed for any reason by the Spanish, Portuguese, and Roman Inquisitions between 1500 and 1800. (All three of these Inquisitions burned fewer than a dozen witches in total.)”

                That’s quite a strange distribution of herbalists….

                http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=4005

                The facts indicate that the Church didn’t burn herbalists, but that certain local Church groupings burned anyone and everyone that looked at them crosswise.

          • Ken B says:

            You seem to demand names and dates of trials (and then just cry “religion not science). Not being specialists in that history few of us can name a name and a date. Nice move; I can’t name anyone prosecuted under the Volstead Act in 1921 either, proving what exactly? But your argument is weak anyway. No-one in Russia was ever charged with being an “Old Bolshevik” but I trust you wouldn’t argue that’s not what happened to Zinoviev. The crime was doubting church dicta.
            There were, by the 1920s, few lynchings if I remeber my dates correctly (this example is from Freakonomics). Does that mean there was little oppression, or that the oppression worked?

          • George Selgin says:

            Gene, you will find a long list of names here: http://www.badnewsaboutchristianity.com/gbh_philosophers.htm

            And again, it will not due to claim that these “philosophers” weren’t “scientiists.” There were indeed so, by any save an entirely anachronistic (which is to say, very modern) notion of “science.” The dividing line between what is today known as “science” (that is, what some call “hard” science) and what are now referred to as “philosophy” and “the humanities” and “social science” simply didn’t exist at the time.

            • Ken B says:

              Bob, please provoke George more often. I like him!

      • Major_Freedom says:

        “One of the first things our history of science lecturer at King’s College told us was that on the vast majority of scientific topics, the church simply *did not care*.”

        That’s ridiculous. Men of science were persecuted to a very large degree by the Church.

        It’s why scientific progress struggled relatively far more pre-Church authority days than post Church-authority days. It’s why we call it “The Dark Ages.”

        • Economic Freedom says:

          >>>It’s why we call it “The Dark Ages.”

          You personally call it the “dark ages” but scholars of history do not. If you knew anything about it, you’d know that the middle ages were anything but dark.

          “Dark Ages” was a term that became popular in the Enlightenment by a group of ideologically anti-clerical writers. It’s based on precisely zero understanding of the great accomplishments of that period.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            “You personally call it the “dark ages” but scholars of history do not. If you knew anything about it, you’d know that the middle ages were anything but dark.”

            You actually want to quibble over the meaning of “dark”? Scientific progress was at a snail’s pace during the dark ages. It’s why historians and scholars of history call them the dark ages.

            ““Dark Ages” was a term that became popular in the Enlightenment by a group of ideologically anti-clerical writers. It’s based on precisely zero understanding of the great accomplishments of that period.”

            Nobody is denying there were a positive number of accomplishments.

            But they were relatively muted. It was nothing like the scientific progress that arose during/after the enlightenment.

            They didn’t have precisely zero understanding. That is a total exaggeration. What isn’t a total exaggeration is that you seem to have precisely zero understanding of enlightenment philosophy. It was not seriously “anti-clerical”. Sure there were atheists among them, but almost all were devout. They just started the conviction to a very great degree that human minds are capable of understanding the world without deference to the church and theological scripture, that’s all. The conviction that human reason is capable of understanding the world is quite far from the dark age mentality.

            • Anonymous says:

              >>.Nobody is denying there were a positive number of accomplishments.

              True.

              >>>But they were relatively muted.

              Untrue. You say that because you believe the only real kinds of achievements are scientific ones; everything else is just — well, you know — “muted.”

              You are what C. S. Lewis would call a “chronological snob”; i.e., great, significant, non-muted achievements only occurred since the beginning of modern science.

              Nonsense, of course.

              Here’s a brief list of some achievements from the middle ages; some scientific, some mathematical, some social/institutional. There are many more.

              1. The university.

              2. glasses

              3. elaboration of Ptolemaic
              astronomy by the addition of epicycles to explain observed retrograde motion of certain planets

              4. the clock

              5. the blast furnace for iron

              6. the heavy plow

              7. the tidal mill

              8. liquor distillation

              9.the spinning wheel

              10. quarantine

              11. The printing press

              12 The wheelbarrow

              13. The treadwheel crane

              14. gun powder

              15. paper

              16. paper money

              17. algebra

              17. the algorithm

              18. elaboration of Aristotle’s “Organon” by the Scholastics

              >>>It was nothing like the scientific progress that arose during/after the enlightenment.

              But it was greater than what had occurred in, e.g., the stone age, right? Just as today’s “non-muted” scientific achievements will probably appear “muted” to clones of you in the Star Trek future of the 23rd century.

              Good grief. Read some history before you issue blanket judgments on whole periods of it.

          • guest says:

            Related:

            The Myth of the Flat Earth
            [WWW]http://www.veritas-ucsb.org/library/russell/FlatEarth.html

            A curious example of this mistreatment of the past for the purpose of slandering Christians is a widespread historical error, an error that the Historical Society of Britain some years back listed as number one in its short compendium of the ten most common historical illusions. It is the notion that people used to believe that the earth was flat–especially medieval Christians.

            It must first be reiterated that with extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat.

            Historians of science have been proving this point for at least 70 years (most recently Edward Grant, David Lindberg, Daniel Woodward, and Robert S. Westman), without making notable headway against the error. Schoolchildren in the US, Europe, and Japan are for the most part being taught the same old nonsense. How and why did this nonsense emerge?

            No one before the 1830s believed that medieval people thought that the earth was flat.

            But now, why did the false accounts of Letronne and Irving become melded and then, as early as the 1860s, begin to be served up in schools and in schoolbooks as the solemn truth?

            The answer is that the falsehood about the spherical earth became a colorful and unforgettable part of a larger falsehood: the falsehood of the eternal war between science (good) and religion (bad) throughout Western history. This vast web of falsehood was invented and propagated by the influential historian John Draper (1811-1882) and many prestigious followers, such as Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the president of Cornell University, who made sure that the false account was perpetrated in texts, encyclopedias, and even allegedly serious scholarship, down to the present day. A lively current version of the lie can be found in Daniel Boorstin’s The Discoverers, found in any bookshop or library.

            The reason for promoting both the specific lie about the sphericity of the earth and the general lie that religion and science are in natural and eternal conflict in Western society, is to defend Darwinism. The answer is really only slightly more complicated than that bald statement. The flat-earth lie was ammunition against the creationists. The argument was simple and powerful, if not elegant: “Look how stupid these Christians are. They are always getting in the way of science and progress. These people who deny evolution today are exactly the same sort of people as those idiots who for at least a thousand years denied that the earth was round. How stupid can you get?”

      • Economic Freedom says:

        >>>At that point he was subject to a fairly mild house arrest.

        Galileo had also made the social faux-pax of representing a former friend and patron of his — who later became Pope — as a classic “dumb sidekick” in one his literary dialogues on astronomy. The Pope had formerly been a supporter of Galileo’s but, apparently, didn’t appreciate being cast in the role of literary moron (imagine that!). Not saying that justified putting Galileo under house arrest, but the great astronomer could have acted with a little more “political correctness,” given that he knew perfectly well the sort of men who would read his works and probably take personal offense at how they were portrayed.

    • Carl says:

      It is notorious. Everyone knows about it.

      You overstate the level of persecution here a bit, no? (Note: I am not a believer!)

  4. Innocent says:

    People think they understand things where they have no experience. Would it not seem more likely that God stopped the Sun from moving rather than he Stopped the Earth from turning?

    Anyway as far as it goes, just because you interpret scripture to mean one thing does not mean it actually means what you think.

    Now here are a few fun scriptures that ‘COULD’ mean something drastically different than what has historically been portrayed based on a better understanding of the universe lol.

    Matthew 24:29
    “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

    Isaiah 34:4
    All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.

    Mark 24″But in those days, after that tribulation, THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, 25 AND THE STARS WILL BE FALLING from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.

    Now what if, and this is a big if because lets face it all things are subject to interpretations, the meaning was that the Earth would get hit by something massive enough to knock it out of orbit and start it moving through the Universe? Oh I am quite certain that something that ‘hit’ the earth with that much force would cause it to shatter rather than move it, but would that not be silly? But something to this effect would explain the way prophets saw it but perhaps could not place into words people would understand?

    In the defense of the Theologians of years gone by, look, doctors used to think that bleeding you dry was a way to make people better. If the only evidence you use is portions ( and not even all the portions ) of the Bible in order to make your case then you are in a bit of trouble no matter how you attempt to look at things.

    However from an economics perspective I look to the story of Joseph and this ‘amazing’ technicolor coat… or whatever the actual story people would recognize today. That there are natural cycles in economies and that the real way to stabilize those cycles is to see the seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine. Interesting how this could create a sine curve if plotted.

    Anyway, so the next business cycle is on us, much like the Sun seems to have its sunspot cycle so to will the economy boom and bust and the real question is will we learn from the cycle and factor it in and stop attempting to ‘circumvent’ the natural order or will we doggedly stick to the belief that man can conquer nature and hold back its mighty forces with our will of Keynesian activity?

    • guest says:

      Innocent,

      Just wanted to show you this, with regard to economic cycles:

      Monetary Lessons from America’s Past | Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
      [WWW]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91OIBnrjzLU

      • Innocent says:

        Lol, Yeah I have watch it before.

  5. Razer says:

    Who cares if Copernicus or any great scientist of that age was religious? What does that prove? Luckily their religiosity didn’t destroy their curiosity, though it did hamper it. think about how many more discoveries Newton would have made if not for his religious ignorance? When the answer is: the magic sky fairy god did it, there’s just no reason to try and figure out the answer yourself. Hopefully, in time, we can junk both of mankind’s worst baggage that’s caused us so much misery — statism and religion. What a world that will be.

    • Carl says:

      How do you know Newton wasn’t inspired to make the discoveries he did because of his beliefs?!

      Yeah, we get it. You don’t believe in God. Me neither, but I find the “magic sky fairy god” stuff facile and boring.

    • Matt Tanous says:

      ” think about how many more discoveries Newton would have made if not for his religious ignorance?”

      None. He would have made no discoveries. Newton, like many scientists of his age, was motivated to his inquiries by a desire to learn the systems that God had put in place. To see God in His Creation. That was what guided them.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      “When the answer is: the magic sky fairy god did it, there’s just no reason to try and figure out the answer yourself”

      This is the atheist kindergartner’s line. Of course, Galileo and Newton and Kepler were INSPIRED by their religious beliefs, not hampered by them. They saw themselves as revealing the mind of God, and precisely because the universe was His “book,” they were able to read it.

      The above is as dumb as “When the answer is: the magic forces of the subatomic particles did it, there’s just no reason to try and figure out the answer yourself”

      • Ken B says:

        Actually it is not a kindergartner’s tale at all. It is at the art of Rodney Stark’s ideas of why science flourished in Chritianity and withered in Islam, and Stark is far from alone in this, and its a notion familiar to those who know about the mutazilites.
        It’s also at the heart of much modern Islamic rejection of science.

        • Matt Tanous says:

          ” It is at the art of Rodney Stark’s ideas of why science flourished in Chritianity and withered in Islam”

          So science flourished under Christianity because…. why, then? As far as I can tell, both Islam and Christianity believe that “God did it”. But the Christians were curious as to HOW and the Muslims were… less so. That cannot be explained by saying the Christians didn’t believe “the magic sky fairy god did it”.

          • Ken B says:

            This is alluded to in several of the comments here but since I mentioned the mutazilites (spellings vary) why not follow up on that? There is a big difference in the theological ideas and they matter.

            • Matt Tanous says:

              “There is a big difference in the theological ideas and they matter.”

              I’m aware of this. I’m merely questioning this premise that belief that God is behind the workings of the universe necessarily leads to this lack of curiosity and searching. To me, this is obviously disproven by the groups of people that did (and do still) believe God to be behind everything, and yet still desire to know how they work.

              In short, I believe both “God did it” and that I can (and desire to) know how He set things up by studying modern physics, etc. I see no conflict there.

              • Ken B says:

                You seem to have missed the 745 comments on which I mentioned that science flourished in Christemdom possibly because of the Christian belief that god is rational and that reason is a god-given tool for investigating his will and creation. I actually incline to that position myself. It is not the same in Islam, although it arguably was once.

                Sometimes you need to take Yes for an answer!

      • Economic Freedom says:

        >>>Galileo and Newton and Kepler were INSPIRED by their religious beliefs

        The majority of Newton’s writings were NOT on physics but, rather, on religion and Biblical scholarship — much to the embarrassment of anti-clerical writers in the Enlightenment such as Voltaire. Enlightenment philosophers did a “white-wash” on Newton, completely ignoring (or denying) the deep religious influence, not just on his religious writings, but also his scientific achievements.

        I understand from some sources that Newton was also deeply fascinated by Jewish Kabbalah.

        His religious writings were all stored in several trunks when he died, passed on from family member to family member — no one daring to publish them. They finally made their way to Cambridge University, which didn’t want them either. So Cambridge put them up for auction. Wanna guess who bought most of the collection?

        Yep.

        John Maynard Keynes.

    • guest says:

      When the answer is: the magic sky fairy god did it, there’s just no reason to try and figure out the answer yourself.

      Is that anything like “Quantum physics proves that certain things can make themselves pop in and out of existence”?

      • Ken B says:

        Actually no, since people try to solve the equations with QM.

    • Economic Freedom says:

      >>>Who cares if Copernicus or any great scientist of that age was religious? What does that prove?

      In the case of Copernicus, as well as Newton, it proves that there’s no necessary conflict between religion and scientific investigation or scientific curiosity; and furthermore, that scientific investigation could — and should — be used to strengthen religious belief.

      Actually, according to Karl Popper, Copernicus first became curious about the heliocentric system because of his great admiration for Plato — in Copernicus’s day, there was still something of the old feeling remaining from antiquity and the middle ages that the universe was the physical manifestation, or “reflection”, of a moral order. According to Plato, “the Good” was a kind of “central fire” around which other virtues revolved. Copernicus reasoned that if Plato was correct, and if this was true in the “moral order,” then it ought to be true in the “material order”, because the latter was assumed to be a manifestation, or reflection, of the former.

      >>>Luckily their religiosity didn’t destroy their curiosity, though it did hamper it. think about how many more discoveries Newton would have made if not for his religious ignorance?

      LOL! That idiotic statement ranks right up there with Obama claiming “Look at all the jobs that *would have been* lost had we not ‘saved’ them through stimulus!”

      Nice one!

      • Major_Freedom says:

        “In the case of Copernicus, as well as Newton, it proves that there’s no necessary conflict between religion and scientific investigation or scientific curiosity”

        The conflict does not have to do with “curiosity” or “investigation”.

        It has to do with how we come to know the nature of the world.

        • Economic Freedom says:

          >>>It has to do with how we come to know the nature of the world.

          We come to know the nature of the world first by being curious about it; then by acting on that curiosity by investigating it.

          Your statement is simply trying to smuggle in your usual bias that if one starts with an assumption that teleology is as much a structural part of the universe as matter and energy, that this shows a pernicious “religious influence” which purportedly interfered with free scientific inquiry between 500 C.E. and 1500 C.E.

          See,

          “Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False”

          by Thomas Nagel, professor of philosophy and law at New York University

  6. Steven Landsburg says:

    Wittgenstein once asked someone why so many people had believed for so long that the sun goes around the earth instead of vice versa. The reply was “Because it looks that way!”. Wittgenstein said, “Oh”. And then (after what I imagine to be a perfectly timed pause): “What would it have looked like if the earth went around the sun?”

    • skylien says:

      How would an economy look like which “suffers” a lack in demand? How would an economy look like which suffers malinvestments?

  7. martin says:

    If A goes around B, B goes around A, that’s just logic.
    What we mean when we say these days that the Earth goes around the Sun is that the equations that model that system are simpler than the equations that model the solar system with the Earth at the origin of the coordinate system (which could absolutely be done!). Einstein taught us there is no privileged coordinate system in the universe. All we can say is that we use the convention of using the least computationally burdensome equations we can find for our model (Occam’s razor).

    If for some reason computer technology had developed before astronomy we might still believe in the ‘geocentric’ model: we just feed astronomical data into the computer and simply assume the Earth as the center and the computer can handle the messy equations.

    (I got this from Joseph Weizenbuam)

    Makes me wonder, what, today, are we just giving to the computer without trying to actually understand? Maybe IBM’s Watson is an example.

    • skylien says:

      I am not sure if this is a good viewpoint. The sun is moving as well, but not around the earth but around another point in the milky way. The sun drags the earth with it, just as the earth drags the moon along. If the sun changes its direction the earth will follow, but not the other way around.

      Therefore it makes sense to make the sun the point of reference for the earth, and the earth for the moon. Else it is like saying tail wags the dog..

      • martin says:

        but the tail does wag the dog so to speak: Newton’s third law.
        the Sun has an effect on the Earth bigger than the Earth does on the Sun, but the Earth does affect the motion of the Sun at least a bit!

      • Gene Callahan says:

        “The sun is moving as well, but not around the earth…”

        Relativity, skylien: you can model it either way.

        • skylien says:

          Martin, Gene,

          Right, just as no definition can be wrong (albeit impractical and confusing), also the point of reference can be chosen freely if you model around correctly. Yet this is not what the geocentrists did, right? Else they would have been just right as well and still would be.

          My point is this, if words were defined back then as they are today then clearly saying “The sun moves around the earth” means that the point of reference is the earth which no matter where the earth is going the sun will follow and still move around the earth. That is clearly wrong. Because it is the other way around.

          So setting the point of reference at a different place necessitates a redefinition of the actual words as well because the point of reference is implied in them. Saying the tail wags the dog only makes sense in a metaphorical way, which I think already is a redefinition, isn’t it?

          • Matt Tanous says:

            “Yet this is not what the geocentrists did, right?”

            They viewed the Earth as a fixed, absolute point of reference. The heliocentrists viewed the Sun in this role. Later, this was expanded out to the galactic center, and then scientists searched for a universal center point… until Einstein demonstrated that there was no absolute reference point around which everything moved with his theories of relativity.

        • Economic Freedom says:

          >>>Relativity, skylien: you can model it either way.

          Quite so, Gene. In fact, the so-called “Principle of Relativity” (not the “Theory,” but the “Principle”) was first enunciated by Galileo, who claimed that if you were on a ship at sea, and the sea was perfectly calm so as not to give you any hint that you were indeed moving relative to it at constant velocity, and if there were no visible signs that you were moving relative to the sea (such as windows in your cabin), then there would be no experiment involving kinematics — knocking billiard balls for example — that you could perform whose results would tell you that you were moving relative to the sea.

          Einstein adopted Galileo’s Principle of Relativity, and expanded it to include experiments with light and electromagnetism. He also expanded it to show that even if your ship were accelerating on the sea, as long as you had no information about that (again, such as a window), then there would be no experiment you could perform in your cabin that could prove you were accelerating, as opposed to being in the vicinity of a gravitational field pulling you toward the wall. The effects would be the same.

          Regarding the geocentric model:

          The best historical book on this is probably “The Discarded Image” by C. S. Lewis. It delves not only into the formal Aristotelian model of the academics of the day, but also the kinds of thoughts and feelings about the day-to-day world that the common man — the non-academic — of the day would have had, and how they differed so dramatically from ours.

          For example:

          Everyone in those days simply KNEW that the universe was a series of transparent, concentric spheres, each rotating in a fixed way inside the next. The very slight friction that one rotating sphere caused inside another produced a faint music — the “music of the spheres” — which only an ear trained to ignore all extraneous sounds could learn to hear (Pythagorus claimed to hear it). The innermost sphere was that of the sun, the next one out was the moon. Past that were various planets (“wanderers”), and past that was the sphere of the “fixed stars.” Past that was a realm of fire called “the Empyrean” and past that was the Prime Mover (in Aristotle’s scheme) or God (in the Christianized version of St. Thomas, et al.)

          Lewis reminds us that when we look into the night sky and see all those stars on a clear evening, even if we are not academic astronomers, we have all absorbed enough academic science via reading, education, pop culture, etc., to feel that we are looking “out” into a void. The common man in the middle ages, however, had a very different feeling: when he looked at the night sky, he knew that he was looking “up”, not “out”, at something that had height; as if standing directly at the foot of a sheer cliff and staring up at it. That was what he felt. And when he observed the planets and the stars, his feeling was not akin to our sense of “awe” at the vastness of the void, but one of “peeking into” a kind of window — like peasants standing on tip-toe, peeking into a castle window to observe the boisterous celebrations of those at court.

          According to Lewis, it was the theologians who followed the Aristotelians on this model, adapting their eschatology to purely geometric considerations implied by the model. For example, if earth was at the center and God was at the periphery, then the center of the earth would be the geometric point farthest from God. No wonder hell was supposed to be located there.

  8. valueprax says:

    I love you, Bob, but you kind of sound like an equivocating, hemming-and-hawing DK-style Keynesian when you argue like this:

    “In retrospect, this really doesn’t clinch the geocentric case, since even today we say things like, “The sun rises in the east and sets in the west,” even though presumably everyone nowadays understands what’s actually going on.”

    • Bob Murphy says:

      valueprax OK so anyone who says “the sun rises in the east” thinks the sun revolves around the earth, right?

      I’m criticizing the theologians in this post, in case that’s not clear. I’m pointing out that their mistake was reading what they wanted into the Bible. I’m not saying they were right.

      • Ken B says:

        No, because we know and are taught that “rising” in this context means something not quite the same as when a bird rises in flight. But it seems pretty safe to say that 500 years ago people did not make this distinction.

  9. Ken B says:

    There are certainly conflicts between science and religion. For a spectacular example look at Biblical higher criticism. But it’s important to note a few points.

    1. This conflict was *eventually* revealed by the findings of science. Neither Newton nor Bruno nor any other early “natural philosopher” set out with the idea “I’ll do science not that crap religion.” They didn’t think that; they thought they were investigating god’s mind. There is some reason to believe the science flourished in Christendom precisely because of this belief in a comprehensible god.

    2. A conflict with religious authorities is not the same as a conflict with religion.

    3. Stifling dissent on some topics spills over to other topics, especially when boundaries are unclear. Asking “what scientists” rather than “what skeptics and thinkers” misses the point.

    • Matt Tanous says:

      “There are certainly conflicts between science and religion.”

      There are many who would dispute that.

      • Ken B says:

        There are indeed.

      • joe says:

        The ones who dispute conflicts between science and religion think intelligent design is a scientific theory, almost ready to be embraced by mainstream science.

        • guest says:

          The only reason it’s not a *scientific* theory is because part of the definition of science is the preclusion of non-empirically-verifiable evidence for consideration (even though the Scientific Method isn’t scientific, by that definition; and even though philosophy is a necessary tool of science).

          • Ken B says:

            When you fly guest, do you choose airlines whose planes are designed by scriptural references and prayed over, or ones designed by engineers using their absurd science? Ever take an anti-biotic or use a cell phone?

            • Cody S says:

              How many universes have modern scientists created to test their theories of spontaneous-universe-arrival?

              • Economic Freedom says:

                Bingo. And how many new species — with new body plans — have evolutionists created from a pre-existing one such as the fruit-fly? Answer: none.

                It’s really the same issue, and boils down to this: science by consensus; science by prior metaphysical belief; otherwise known as *faith*.

                It’s no different, in principle, from ordinary religious faith, except their Gods are matter and energy, which have magical, self-organizing properties. Alas, these creative properties only appeared in the absence of man, billions of years ago, because no one has ever seen them today.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                You’re ignorant of evolutionary biology.

                Humans have already “evolved” pre-existing animals into new ones by virtue of purposefully selecting certain traits and breeding those traits.

                See the 80 year long Russian experiment with Silver foxes. They turned wild silver foxes into NEW animals that resembled puppy dogs.

                In the laboratory, there is “artificial” evolution all over the place.

                How can you possibly claim that there have been ZERO cases of evolving new animals, given the fact that you have access to Google and can verify it?

                Science isn’t based on faith. Anyone who claims it is are contradicting themselves in the course of their “rational”, “logical” explanation.

              • Economic Freedom says:

                Major Freedom wrote:

                >>>You’re ignorant of evolutionary biology.

                (Yawn. Here we go again.)

                >>>Humans have already “evolved” pre-existing animals into new ones by virtue of purposefully selecting certain traits and breeding those traits.

                Breeders have been going at it for many centuries. Lots of new varieties (note: VARITIES), no new species (note: SPECIES). Many interesting and useful varieties of dogs have been bred from the basic stocks of 1) wolf, 2) jackal, 3) coyote. Lots of VARIETIES, no new SPECIES: the animals emerging from the breeders’ pens are still called “DOGS”. If you don’t know the difference between a “variety” and a “species”, don’t fret: you’re no more ignorant than the average knee-jerk Darwinist, so you’re in good company.

                >>>See the 80 year long Russian experiment with Silver foxes. They turned wild silver foxes into NEW animals that resembled puppy dogs.

                Alas, to resemble a different species is not to be a different species. Belyaev was intelligently-designing his selections teleologically with a specific front-loaded goal in mind: i.e., to breed domestication. He created friendly foxes. He did not turn foxes into dogs, or pigs, or cows. He did not turn a bear into a whale (a fantasy that Charles Darwin invented and which many are gullible enough to take on faith).

                There are people who “resemble” lemmings in the voting booth every four years. Ask yourself: are they really lemmings? Or are they still people? (It’s a tough one, but don’t Google for the answer. Try to figure it out on your own.) Their behavior is “lemming-like,” but does that mean they ARE lemmings? Can these voters successfully mate with lemmings? No. They might try, but it won’t be successful.

                Can Belyaev’s domesticated silver foxes successfully mate with actual domesticated dogs or cats just because they all have things liked curled tails? No. Are they still a different SPECIES from the dog and the cat? Yes.

                >>>In the laboratory, there is “artificial” evolution all over the place.

                Wrong. There are new varieties within existing species — “microevolution”, in which new features are brought out which were already there in latent form, or old features are suppressed, though still existing in latent form — but no new species or “macroevolution” which is, after all, what the Darwinian story is all about.

                >>>How can you possibly claim that there have been ZERO cases of evolving new animals, given the fact that you have access to Google and can verify it?

                Perhaps because you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re unfamilier with the literature, the history, the main players, and judging by your last post, the basic issues and controversies.

                Here’s an entertaining scenario that I know you’ll both enjoy and find instructive:

                SCENE: interior of “Super-Scientific Laboratories”

                TIME: Night

                Enter JOE, a young virile lab technician. He wears the de rigueur white lab coat. He wears horn-rimmed glasses but in CLOSE-UP we see that his eyes are piercing blue and he has a Dudley Do-Right chin with a manly cleft. He’s a manly man doing manly things. So what’s he doing?

                He’s setting long-term goals for his breeding experiments with silver foxes. He’s teleologically selecting certain traits in mommy and daddy foxes and teleologically putting them in cages together so they’ll mate; then he’s teleologically selecting their offspring for signs of teleologically desired traits that he’ll mate with other offspring with all kinds of high, noble purposes in mind.

                It’s all high-minded, noble, and, uh, teleological. It’s all done with a front-loaded, pre-selected goal in mind.

                Got it? Good!

                Here’s your question:

                TELL ME WHAT IN NON-TELEOLOGICAL NATURE — IN THE ABSENCE OF HUMAN BEINGS, IN THE ABSENCE OF PROFESSIONAL BREEDERS, AND IN THE ABSENCE OF MANLY LAB TECHNICIANS — WHAT, SPECIFICALLY, CORRESPONDS TO “JOE”?

                In the example, a non-randomly-operating force called “Joe” is doing all the selecting, nudging the breeding, retaining just those results that further his long-term goals, discarding just those results that he regards as either injurious to his long-term goal or superfluous to them. In the absence of “Joe” or any teleological, goal-setting agent like him, WHAT, PRECISELY, IN NATURE WOULD BE ABLE TO DO THE SAME SORTS OF THINGS? CHANCE PLUS LOTS OF TIME? NONSENSE. THAT WOULD BE THE SAME THING AS CLAIMING THAT THEY OCCURRED BY MIRACLE.

                Bye, Major Freedom. Come back when you can actually answer that question. I’ll wait patiently for your reply but I don’t think you’ll have one because so far, no one does.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Economic Freedom:

                Your ignorance knows no bounds.

                Your silly attempt at escaping from scientific facts by quibbling over “variety” versus “species” doesn’t even work either. The University of Canberra for example has shown that a breed of European mice deposited, by man, on the island of Madeira, 600 years ago, has ended up evolving into 6 different SPECIES.

                I said that you can’t possibly claim there are ZERO instances, what with Google right at your finger tips. And yet yo udoubled down, with this hilarious bravado that seems to be nothing more than a defense mechanism to hide your insecurities.

                You’re ignorant of the literature, not me. You have no idea what you’re talking about. You likely Googled “Silver foxes Russia” and then raced back here and copy pasted names and such, pretending that you have even the slightest clue what you’re talking about. “Front-loaded goal”? Who the heck talks like that other than some party crasher who is desperately attempting to sound smart in a room full of those he’s trying to impress?

                Finally, your churlish story about Joe, I didn’t even bother reading. But I did catch this:

                “WHAT, PRECISELY, IN NATURE WOULD BE ABLE TO DO THE SAME SORTS OF THINGS? CHANCE PLUS LOTS OF TIME? NONSENSE. THAT WOULD BE THE SAME THING AS CLAIMING THAT THEY OCCURRED BY MIRACLE.”

                The answer should be easy for someone who has even a basic understanding of natural selection. The answer of course is spontaneous mutation in genes that are fit for survival given the environment, and subsequent procreation and passing on of those new genes.

                There need not be a “teleological” force for evolution to occur. It is built within natural laws themselves. We don’t have the full story of course, but not a single observation that has ever been made, has ever contradicted Darwin.

                Bye? Really? How about you go a library, and text me when you get to chapter one.

              • Economic Freedom says:

                Major Freedom wrote:

                >>>Your ignorance knows no bounds.

                And your ignorance has definite and clear boundaries: from the beginning of the Darwinian hypothesis of undirected evolution to the end.

                >>>Your silly attempt at escaping from scientific facts by quibbling over “variety” versus “species” doesn’t even work either.

                Too bad if you just don’t know anything about taxonomy. There are big differences between a “species” and a “genus”, a “genus” and a “family”, an “order”, a “class”, a “phylum”, and a “kingdom.” The small variations — “inter-species events” — within a species are usually called “varieties”, though sometimes they are called “types”, and sometimes they are called “races.”

                >>>The University of Canberra for example has shown that a breed of European mice deposited, by man, on the island of Madeira, 600 years ago, has ended up evolving into 6 different SPECIES.

                They actually showed no such thing. The mice on Madeira are still mice and not anything but mice. They started out as mice 600 years ago, and they ended up as mice 600 years later. This is a well understood example of “the founder effect”, or “genetic drift,” caused by a “population bottleneck”: an originally large and stable gene pool gets split by reason of part of the population leaving the original group: could happen by means of a natural disaster (storm, earthquake, etc.); or chance migration (via floating on a piece of wood to some location distant from the original population); human intervention (intentionally or unintentionally transplanting members of a species to some new environment). When the remnant population interbreeds for long enough amongst themselves, once recessive or even latent traits might become the norm. Fusion of genetic material — not NEW genetic material appearing by “spontaneous mutation”, but fusion of PRE-EXISTING material — might alter the genotype enough to make interbreeding with the original population impossible. That does’t mean you have two “different species”; it means you have two types, races, or varieties within ONE species that won’t interbreed. Interesting, but . . . big deal.

                All the researchers who have written about the house mice on Madeira say the same thing: the environment “switches on” or “switches off” genetic information in the mice which is already pre-existing when they got there; the traits were merely unexpressed. If this occurs long enough, the new population propagates the new suite of traits and it becomes stable; in many cases, there are enough changes to the genotype that it either cannot interbreed with its original population, or — just as significantly — WILL not interbreed.

                In any case, most researchers (as opposed to the Knee Jerk Darwinian pop press to which you pay attention) refer to the mice on Madeira as a case of RACIATION, and a “WITHIN-SPECIES EVENT.”

                It’s best to keep the following in mind:

                Once a house mouse, always a house mouse. Same species; different races (or varieties, or types).

                “There was no support for population bottlenecks during the formation of the six Robertsonian chromosome races on the island of Madeira . . .

                . . . The colonization of Portugal and Madeira by house mice is discussed in the context of the best-supported parameter values. In keeping with recent studies, our results suggest that mutation rate estimates based on interspecific divergence lead to gross overestimates concerning the timing of recent within-species events.”

                https://pure.york.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/molecular-insights-into-the-colonization-and-chromosomal-diversification-of-madeiran-house-mice(18ac54bb-93c7-4c28-8582-52fc0e77c815).html

                “Molecular insights into the colonization and chromosomal diversification of Madeiran house mice”

                [NB: You need to read up on a few topics, Major Freedom, since it's obvious you've read very little and know even less: Classical Darwinian evolution (Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, T.H. Huxley, Ernst Haeckel), the modern synthetic theory (also called "neo-Darwinism" by many of its own adherents) (Ernst Mayr, Richard Lewontin, J.B.S. Haldane), punctuated equilibrium (Stephen Jay Gould), population genetics (Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright), the founder principle, population bottlenecks, and genetic drift. These are all relevant terms and topics and you don't seem to have a firm grasp of any of them. The authors of the above article claim in the abstract that the subpopulation of house mice established on Madeira should be categorized as a "founder effect" and not a "bottleneck effect," meaning: there was no evidence that the mice on Madeira were a daughter population that had survived some natural disaster elsewhere which had split them off from the original population of house mice.]

                >>>I said that you can’t possibly claim there are ZERO instances, what with Google right at your finger tips. And yet yo udoubled down, with this hilarious bravado that seems to be nothing more than a defense mechanism to hide your insecurities.

                And I still claim there are zero cases of macroevolution — a change of one species to another — whether over millions of years or a long weekend in the Hamptons. Posting two pictures of two different house mice in two different locations doesn’t cut it. It shows that if you start with a mouse and alter it’s environment, you still end up with a mouse, not a bear. You can do the same with bears, too, and perhaps get a similar result, but you won’t end up with a whale (despite Darwin’s silly fantasy story to the contrary).

                And just for completeness: the situation is even worse for you in the case of so-called chemical evolution, i.e., going from non-living chemicals to a primitive self-sustaining living organism. Even Sir Francis Crick said that the gap between non-living chemicals and the first living organism is far wider than the gap between the first living organism and man. Crick was an atheist who believed life on Earth had to have been “seeded” from outer space (for reasons unknown and possibly unknowable to us), but that it could not have arisen by itself from purely natural causes via Darwinian mechanisms of random mutations and natural selection. Crick might have believed in science fiction but he was smart enough not to believe in mathematical miracles. Intelligent space aliens actually might exist (who knows?); but mathematical miracles do not exist.

                >>>You’re ignorant of the literature, not me. You have no idea what you’re talking about. You likely Googled “Silver foxes Russia” and then raced back here and copy pasted names and such, pretending that you have even the slightest clue what you’re talking about.

                Even Balyaev never claimed that he had turned foxes into dogs just because he teleologically selected for traits with the final goal (or “front-loading of information”) of domestication in mind. Once a fox, always a fox. Balyaev knew that; you should too.

                In any case, I suppose you’re claiming that a fox and a dog are the same species because they both curl their tails and seek attention from an owner who feeds them regularly? Nice one!

                >>>“Front-loaded goal”? Who the heck talks like that

                It’s a common expression in computer science and information theory. Your ignorance is wide, deep, and impressive. You’ve missed the fact that molecular biology, computer science, and information theory have merged.

                http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-View-21st-Century-paperback/dp/0133435539/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377848601&sr=1-2&keywords=James+shapiro

                “Most debates about evolution sound like the last fifty years of research in molecular biology had never occurred. Evolution: A View from the 21st Century aims to acquaint the reader with previously “inconceivable” but currently well-documented aspects of cell biology and genomics. This knowledge will prepare the reader for the inevitable surprises in evolutionary science as this new century runs its course.

                The capacity of living organisms to alter their own heredity is undeniable, and our current ideas about evolution have to incorporate this basic fact of life. The genome is no longer the read-only memory (ROM) system subject to accidental changes envisaged by conventional theory. We now understand genomes to be read-write (RW) information storage organelles at all time scales, from the single cell cycle to evolutionary eons.

                The contemporary concept of living organisms as self-modifying beings coincides with the shift in biology from a mechanistic to an information- and systems-based view of vital functions. The life sciences have converged with other disciplines to focus on questions of acquiring, processing and transmitting information to ensure the correct operation of complex adaptive systems.”

                — “Evolution: A View from the 21st Century”
                James Shapiro
                professor of molecular biology
                University of Chicago

                >>>Finally, your churlish story about Joe, I didn’t even bother reading.

                If you didn’t bother reading it, genius, how would you know if was churlish?

                >>> But I did catch this:

                >>>“WHAT, PRECISELY, IN NATURE WOULD BE ABLE TO DO THE SAME SORTS OF THINGS? CHANCE PLUS LOTS OF TIME? NONSENSE. THAT WOULD BE THE SAME THING AS CLAIMING THAT THEY OCCURRED BY MIRACLE.”

                >>The answer should be easy for someone who has even a basic understanding of natural selection. The answer of course is spontaneous mutation in genes that are fit for survival given the environment, and subsequent procreation and passing on of those new genes.

                Wrong. Most “spontaneous mutations” (I supposed you mean a single-nucleotide-substitution, or “point mutation”, during DNA replication) are injurious or, at best, neutral (meaning, they lead to death and eventual extinction or they lead to nothing). Beneficial point-mutations are rare; and in any case, to transition from an existing species to something different that could still survive, you would need many beneficial mutations, not just one. Since each mutation is assumed to have occurred “spontaneously” (that is, by chance, each one unconnected by any necessary deterministic causal chain to the next mutation or to the one previous), then the mathematical chances for all the mutations to occur must be the chance of each individual mutation multiplied by the chance of the next mutation, etc. You very quickly achieve “exponential inflation” in the denominator, and the denominator very quickly approaches something that the practical man (as opposed to the Darwinian Knee-Jerk Dreamer) regards as indistinguishable from zero.

                >>>There need not be a “teleological” force for evolution to occur. It is built within natural laws themselves. We don’t have the full story of course, but not a single observation that has ever been made, has ever contradicted Darwin.

                That’s because Darwinism, according to an early statement by Sir Karl Popper, is not science at all, but a “metaphysical research programme”. Real scientists cannot expect to argue with fantasists intent on inventing “Just So” stories like those of Rudyard Kipling (but less entertaining than his).

                Real scientists know, for example, that while it might not be possible to “disprove” Darwinism on account of its being more of a religion (or “metaphysical research programme”) than a testable, falsifiable science, it is possible to state that almost nothing positively supports the Darwinian hypothesis. For example, the fossil record does NOT conform with Darwinian expectations of many intermediate forms appearing and disappearing in between the starting and ending stable forms. The fossil record mostly shows the exact opposite: it mainly shows STASIS, with lots of stable forms that suddenly disappear to be replaced equally suddenly by new stable forms with completely different body plans (i.e., the new forms are categorized taxonomically in a different phylum). The sudden appearance/disappearance was named “punctuated equilibrium” by Harvard evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould, who even called the lack of support in the fossil record “evolution’s dirty little secret.”

                The fossil record actually conforms much more closely to expectations within pre-Darwinian hypothesis known as “catastrophism” advocated by people like Cuve.

                Zapping drosophila with radiation doesn’t support the Darwinian Just So Story. Once a fruit fly, always a fruit fly. Most of the time the zapping induces injurious mutations that cause feet to grow where antennae ought to be, and the thing either can’t mate, or is regarded as simply too ugly to mate by its peers (I’m sure you can relate to that problem, too, Major Freedom).

                Bacterial desensitization to antibiotics? Once a bacterium, always a bacterium. And in any case, the entire metabolism slows down as a result of the shifting around of genomic information to survive the antibiotic, so the entire functioning of the bacterium is degraded, not enhanced. This is hardly how Darwin’s and Haeckel’s grand scheme — their imagined “Tree of Life” — could have function . . . by consistently DOWNGRADING the functioning of an existing organism so it could survive an environmental insult? Hardly.

                And when the antibiotic is removed for long enough, the bacterium reverts to its original type! Again, hardly a case of imagined macroevolution.

                Everything stated above regarding bacteria and antibiotics applies to insects developing desensitivity to insecticides.

                Same thing applies to the famous case of “Darwin’s finches” on the Galapagos Islands. The variety or race or type with the longer beak for breaking harder shells during the drought was a type that already existed in the population. It became advantageous to have this kind of beak when the environment dried up, so that kind of finch reproduced in greater numbers than other kinds of finches. The longer beak did not appear because of a “spontaneous DNA point mutation” and then “got selected” for survival. IT WAS ALREADY THERE AS A VARIATION WITHIN THE EXISTING POPULATION. I mean, so what?

                And when the drought ended and the rains returned? The long-beaked finches became reduced in numbers and the short-beaked ones out-reproduced them.

                The case of so-called “industrial melanism” and Kettlewell’s moths is interesting, as several books have appeared within the last ten years. Kettlewell was simply a kook who buckled under academic pressure from his advisor to “get results that prove Darwin was right about natural selection,” even if that meant faking his data, which is precisely what he did. He GLUED the white variety, or type, of moth onto sooty tree trunks and photographed them in order to show that they could be more easily spotted by birds, and hence, eaten, thus leading to the greater reproductive ratio of black moths, which — though also glued onto sooty tree trunks — could rely on their coloring as protective camouflage.

                Kettlewell was outed as a fraud when entomologists pointed out that those kinds of moths — both the white and the black types — simply do not alight on tree trunks at all, but, rather, rest upside down in the thick of branches. Additionally, ornithologists have pointed out that birds have cones in their retinas that allow them typically to see into the ultraviolet so something that we perceive as “white” or “black” would not appear so to a bird. In any case, when his experiment was repeated by more careful, objective, and less biased researches, they found zero indication of any kind of “natural selection” in operation. Kettlewell was simply “front-loading” a desired end-result into his experimental procedure and raw data. Read “Of Moths and Men” by Judith Hooper.

                >>>Bye? Really? How about you go a library, and text me when you get to chapter one.

                You have a lot to learn, Major Freedom. But I’m not without hope. If a Marxist like Donald McCloskey could become a creative and articulate Austrian after “evolving” into Deirdre McCloskey, perhaps an ignoramus like you might also come to admit his own priors in the question of biological origins.

                Ever consider hormone therapy and gender-reassignment-surgery?

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Ken B. wrote:

              When you fly guest, do you choose airlines whose planes are designed by scriptural references and prayed over, or ones designed by engineers using their absurd science? Ever take an anti-biotic or use a cell phone?

              Give us a break, Ken. I like how there’s no distinction possible between religion and science when Gene tries to exonerate the Church from typical accusations–to you it’s all one big seamless spectrum of inquiry. But then when you want to make fun of us, all of a sudden we have to choose between belief in God and using cell phones.

              • Ken B says:

                Anachronistic Bob. There is certainly a difference between science and religion now. That’s the theme of the thread. Most scientists today are not trying to grok god’s mind, even id Bruno and Newton were.

                And I’m talking about what sort of evidence believers *really* rely on. There’s an expressed preference and a revealed preference.

              • guest says:

                There’s an expressed preference and a revealed preference.

                Did you just draw a conclusion based on human action?

              • Economic Freedom says:

                Ken B (“B” for “Bluster”) wrote:

                >>>And I’m talking about what sort of evidence believers *really* rely on.

                They *really* rely on evidence that plausibly points to mind and teleology in nature (e.g., coded chemistry as the basis of life; fine-tuning of physical constants in the material universe), and which cannot be explained away by a faith in matter and energy having had the kind of creative, self-organizational properties in the distant past that mysteriously disappear when we try to observe them directly today.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                One cannot observe teleological behavior.

                An individual human understands themselves as teleological, and then infers this property in other humans.

                There is no empirical evidence that the universe is run by Geist that would distinguish it from determinism.

              • Economic Freedom says:

                Major_Freedom wrote:

                >>>One cannot observe teleological behavior. An individual human understands themselves as teleological, and then infers this property in other humans.

                Your key word: “infer.” Most of what occurs in scientific investigation is inference resting on a pretty slim base of direct observation. In fact, it’s an inverted pyramid: a slim base of observation on the bottom supporting a broad number of inferences on top. Not saying there’s anything wrong with that. Just reminding you of it.

                That we INFER something rather than directly OBSERVE it doesn’t exclude that “something” from being evidence for something else.

                >>>There is no empirical evidence that the universe is run by Geist that would distinguish it from determinism.

                Geist is not the only alternative to determinism. There’s also blind chance. The three kinds of causes are: deterministic, stochastic; teleological.

                All three exist in the universe to some degree. The problem is that most Darwinists assume that teleology only exists inside the human mind and nowhere else (with the possible limited exception of some non-human animal minds). They then go on to assume (incorrectly) that chance doesn’t really exist at all as a kind of cause, because it’s simply a “placeholder” for a deterministic cause that hasn’t been discovered yet, or for a deterministic cause — presumed to exist — that is simply very difficult to discover because of technical limitations. That’s completely wrong.

                Anyway, we cannot observe a cause called “gravity” directly; we infer its existence from something we can observe directly; i.e., the behavior of objects in motion.
                Similarly, we cannot observe someone or something else’s plans, goals, purposes, designs, and intelligence; but we can infer their existence from something we can observe directly: i.e., a code built into the genome of living organisms.

                Neither chance nor determinism creates codes, any more than chance or determinism writes poetry. It’s pretty good evidence of teleology in nature.

              • guest says:

                An individual human understands themselves as teleological, and then infers this property in other humans.

                True. But this is sufficient.

                Because even if nobody else is teleological, you know yourself to be so.

                And if your teleological nature can’t have been the result of deterministic processes, then another teleological being must be responsible.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “And if your teleological nature can’t have been the result of deterministic processes, then another teleological being must be responsible.”

                I don’t see how that follows. Teleology isn’t necessary.

              • guest says:

                I don’t see how that follows. Teleology isn’t necessary.

                Something that is deterministic is not going to be able to result in something that is capable of first causes, so free will must have resulted from something that wasn’t subject to determinism.

              • Economic Freedom says:

                guest wrote:

                >>>Something that is deterministic is not going to be able to result in something that is capable of first causes, so free will must have resulted from something that wasn’t subject to determinism.

                I think that’s a very good argument.

                There is, of course, no end to the denial and concept-smuggling the hard-core materialist-determinist-Darwinist is capable of. In his view, it’s perfectly plausible that non-living chemicals — themselves completely subject to deterministic laws — should nevertheless self-organize into functionally sequenced proteins and nucleic acids, not to mention complete cells. The debating strategy is to claim that there simply must be an as yet undiscovered law of chemistry that would make that possible; or, alternatively, that the environment on earth or in space must have been so completely different from what it is now that matter would act in ways that we never see it act today without intelligently designed intervention by lab technicians “front-loading” their experiments to ensure a desired outcome.

                Deny, deny, deny.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Economic Freedom:

                “Your key word: “infer.” Most of what occurs in scientific investigation is inference resting on a pretty slim base of direct observation. In fact, it’s an inverted pyramid: a slim base of observation on the bottom supporting a broad number of inferences on top. Not saying there’s anything wrong with that. Just reminding you of it.”

                No, at the bottom is the nature of that doing the observing. The nature of consciousness. The concept “observation” is not itself an empirical concept. It is also something that is understood through self-reflection.

                “That we INFER something rather than directly OBSERVE it doesn’t exclude that “something” from being evidence for something else.”

                Not if that “something else” is internally contradictory.

                “Geist is not the only alternative to determinism. There’s also blind chance. The three kinds of causes are: deterministic, stochastic; teleological.”

                All three, in their respective spheres of activity, is a fourth. Consciousness, when it arises, destroys determinism and randomness. Randomness, when it arises, destroys consciousness and determinism. Determinism, when it arises, destroys consciousness and randomness.

                My argument above is that based on observation alone, we cannot exclude Geist or determinism as “the” cause, if we assume there is only one cause for everything.

                “All three exist in the universe to some degree. The problem is that most Darwinists assume that teleology only exists inside the human mind and nowhere else (with the possible limited exception of some non-human animal minds).”

                What the heck kind of a claim is that?

                You’re saying most Darwinians hold X, with the possible exception of not X. Can’t you see that this “possible exception” completely rules out the initial point’s strength?

                It would be like saying “Most Latvians believe only God created the universe, with the possible limited exception that God is not the only explanation.

                All you’re saying is that Darwinians do not assume that teleology is only in the human mind. Well duh.

                “They then go on to assume (incorrectly) that chance doesn’t really exist at all as a kind of cause, because it’s simply a “placeholder” for a deterministic cause that hasn’t been discovered yet, or for a deterministic cause — presumed to exist — that is simply very difficult to discover because of technical limitations. That’s completely wrong.”

                This is just a pedestrian summary of the old argument of whether “God plays dice” or not. It’s boring. It’s not something I am saying, so why bring it up in this discussion as if one of us is saying it?

                “Anyway, we cannot observe a cause called “gravity” directly; we infer its existence from something we can observe directly; i.e., the behavior of objects in motion.”

                We infer its existence from its effect on our bodies. We infer it to affect other objects as well.

                “Similarly, we cannot observe someone or something else’s plans, goals, purposes, designs, and intelligence; but we can infer their existence from something we can observe directly: i.e., a code built into the genome of living organisms.”

                “Neither chance nor determinism creates codes, any more than chance or determinism writes poetry. It’s pretty good evidence of teleology in nature ”

                Wrong as wrong can be. That’s so wrong it went around the universe of wrong and back again.

                Chance can indeed create “codes”. You put 1 million monkeys on one million computer keyboards for an arbitrarily long enough time, and at some point one will end up coding a new operating system.

                You only believe there is teleology in nature because you yourself are teleological. You see a coding in nature because you yourself are coded, and you are able to resonate with the coding that surrounds you. It doesn’t necessarily imply that the coding external to you, is caused by another teleological force.

                Your sloppy attempt at showing to yourself what you have already concluded, by pretending that there is “evidence” you can observe, would not prevent another who uses the same logic, from “inferring” that the clouds thunder because a God is angry.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                guest:

                “Something that is deterministic is not going to be able to result in something that is capable of first causes, so free will must have resulted from something that wasn’t subject to determinism.”

                Free will need not “result” from anything. It could be completely spontaneous.

              • guest says:

                Free will need not “result” from anything. It could be completely spontaneous.

                Free will is the ability to introduce first causes, so it’s impossible for that ability to arise within a purely deterministic system, on its own.

                If the laws of nature are that every action is the necessary effect of a prior cause, then nothing can come into being, from this system alone, that is capable of making a choice.

              • Economic Freedom says:

                Major Freedom wrote:

                >>>Chance can indeed create “codes”. You put 1 million monkeys on one million computer keyboards for an arbitrarily long enough time, and at some point one will end up coding a new operating system.

                Really? At what point? A million doesn’t seem like very many monkeys. And you cannot grant yourself the free lunch of “an arbitrarily long enough time”; according to the accepted model of the Big Bang, the universe began about 14 billion years ago. That translates into about 10^17 seconds. You have to show that X-number of monkeys on X-number of typewriters, tapping a randomly selected key every X-second can produce your desired result in, AT MOST, 10^17 seconds (since time began). I can show you quite easily that it could never happen. But this is your hypothetical, so you go first.

                Actually, it could never happen, and never did happen.

                You live in a self-fabricated universe of mathematical miracles. In your universe, if you have enough monkeys and enough typewriters, one of them will write a million lines of code for Windows 8 or Microsoft Word; in your universe, if you have enough lit stoves with enough kettles of water on top of each burner, you will eventually find one kettle whose water freezes instead of boils.

                This, despite experience, and despite the math that proves there are more disorderly arrangements molecules of water can take when subject to heat than orderly ones, and if time is to move forward in one direction only, then nature must always move from a more orderly arrangement of things to a less orderly arrangement of things (again, because there are more of the latter than the former). So even though one can calculate a meaningless “probability” that one of those kettles will freeze rather than boil, the number is simply “pro forma” and bears no relation to reality.

                And despite experience, and despite the math that proves there are far more disorderly arrangements of text-strings than orderly ones, so monkeys on typewriters must always move in the direction of longer and longer disorderly text-strings, and not orderly ones in which each line bears a pre-determined (i.e., “front-loaded”) algorithmic relation to the line before it and the line after it. So even though one can calculate that any combination of a million lines of text is as “likely” to appear by chance as any other, the ONE combination that is functional — the one corresponding to Windows 8 or Microsoft Word — belongs to a class of functional text-strings that is far narrower than the class of gibberish text-strings, so a member of the latter class is far more likely to appear than is a member of the former. That, too, can be mathematically proven.

                That’s why, when you land on an alien planet in a galaxy far, far away and find buildings and roads and vehicles, you conclude “intelligent aliens!” and not “oh, it’s just random wind and sand and various metal ores that happened to come together in just the right amounts to produce something that looks very much like intelligently designed artifacts but which might just as easily have appeared by chance!”

                You would conclude the latter but most people would not.

                Take a stress pill and then Google for a branch of computer science called “Kolmogorov Complexity.”

            • guest says:

              Since flying entails lift and drag, it’s appropriate to use physical science.

              But there’s no way you’re going to squeeze free will out of physical science.

              Science requires determinism, otherwise you can’t do science.

              Free will is an outside force on a deterministic system (otherwise it wouldn’t be “free”).

              Science is awesome. The definition used to include philosophy, but now it doesn’t (even though it’s snuck in all the time – e.g.: Math).

              • Economic Freedom says:

                >>>Science requires determinism, otherwise you can’t do science.

                You mean, otherwise you can’t do deterministic science. That’s not all of science. Stochastic events are, by definition, not deterministic, and they can be very well treated by mathematics that deal with those kinds of events.

                Furthermore, I agree with that old libertarian electrical engineer, Petr Beckmann, from the University of Colorado, Boulder:

                “It was once thought that probability theory is used when our ignorance or inability prevents us from solving a problem ‘exactly.’ Many who are unacquainted with probability theory (or who associate it only with dice and cards) still believe this.

                In fact, the precise opposite is true. The ‘exact’ solution, or, more accurately, the ‘deterministic’ solution, is a special case of the general solution involving random values; it can always be obtained from the probabilistic solution (which is not as easy to obtain). Our ignorance or inability quite often forces us to abandon the probabilistic approach and to restrict ourselves to the idealized case of the deterministic solution, thereby neglecting most of the information and risking a misleading answer.”

                — “Elements of Applied Probability Theory”
                by Petr Beckmann
                Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1967

          • Matt Tanous says:

            “The only reason it’s not a *scientific* theory is because part of the definition of science is the preclusion of non-empirically-verifiable evidence for consideration ”

            Only if it mentions God or some possible allusion to Him. If it’s unprovable and empirically invisible alternate universes or something, you’re all good.

            I, for one, embrace the Multiple Universe of the Gaps system.

            • Ken B says:

              “I , for one, embrace the Multiple Universe of the Gaps system.”

              I like this. I will probably even steal it.

        • Economic Freedom says:

          >>>The ones who dispute conflicts between science and religion think intelligent design is a scientific theory . . .

          There are many in the mainstream who claim that intelligent design is not a scientific theory at all, and in the next breath aver that “it has been disproved” by this or that discovery.

          If you claim something has been “disproved” then you are claiming that it had scientific validity to begin with, even it was factually incorrect.

          In any case, most supporters of intelligent design don’t claim that it ought to be taught as a hypothesis of origins. What they claim is that the deep flaws in the Darwinian hypothesis ought to be taught from the get-go, rather than giving young students the impression that everything has been proven and there are only a few “loose ends” that need to be tied up before scientists know everything about the origins of life and its later speciation.

          To take one example:

          It’s completely false to claim that the fossil record provides strong evidence in support of the Darwinian hypothesis. It does not. Even lifelong advocates of Darwinism like Stephen J. Gould admitted that the fossil record does not support Darwinism because it mainly shows stasis “punctuated” by rapid change and sudden appearances of new phyla (i.e., body plans) with no smooth continuous line of precursors. The *non-appearance* of a smooth continuous line of precursors is hard to explain by reference to a hypothesis which assumes that the mechanism of evolution works by creating a smooth continuous line of precursors. Excuse me, but: where are they?

          The handwaving answer by the mainstream is: “They’re there, but we just can’t find them, because — you see — the fossil record is ‘incomplete’.”

          Ah, well, that explains it.

          Students should be taught that the word “incomplete” means “doesn’t support the hypothesis.”

  10. Steve Finnell says:

    HAS BELIEVED WHAT?

    Jesus said “He who has believed and and has been baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16) The question remains. Has believed what?

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    John 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
    1. You have to believe the Scriptures.
    2. You have to believe Jesus is the Christ.
    3. You have to believe Jesus is the Son of God.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    Galatians 3:26-27 For you are Sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
    1. You have to believe you are Sons of God through faith.
    2. You have to believe you were baptized into Christ.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
    1. We must believe that it is only because of Jesus shedding His blood that we can have forgiveness from our sins.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good new about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.
    1. You have to believe the good news about Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God before you are baptized, not at some future time. There is no record of unbelieving infants being baptized.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus Christ,
    1. You must believe there is one God.
    2. You must believe Jesus Christ is mans only mediator.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    John 8:24 ‘Therefore I said you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
    1. You must believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    John 4:41-42…..42….this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”
    1. You have to believe that Jesus is the Savior of all who will accept Him.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
    1. You must acknowledge Jesus as Lord.
    2. You must believe God resurrected Jesus from the grave.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through
    Me.
    1. You must believe Jesus is the truth.
    2. You must believe He is the only way to the Father.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    Acts 15:11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”
    1. You must believe you are saved because of God’s grace and not because of keeping the Law of Moses or your good deeds.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and is a rewarder of the those who seek Him.
    1. You must believe that God exists.
    2. You must believe that God rewards those who seek Him.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    1 Thessalonians 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
    1. You must believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    Acts 4:12 And there is salvation is no one else; for there is no name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.
    1. You must believe that Jesus is the only Savior.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    Acts 2:40-41 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”41 So then, those who had received the his word were baptized; and that day there added about three thousand souls.
    1. They believe Peter’s word. Peter’s word was, that Jesus was Lord and Christ and that God raised Him from the grave. Peter told the believers to repent and be baptized in water so their sins could be forgiven. (Acts 2:22-38)

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved…
    Why do men not believe what Jesus said?
    Why do men not believe teaching of the apostles?
    Jesus said this to some Jews. John 8:45 But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me……47 He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

    When Jesus said “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved, was He telling the truth? Why do men not believe that?

    The words of Jesus was that of the Father. The words of the apostles were the words of Jesus. To reject the words of Jesus and the words of the apostles is to reject the word of God the Father.

    John 14:24 He who does nor love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.

    The words of the apostles, including the apostle Paul’s, came from Jesus.

    John 14:25-26 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. . 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to remembrance all that I said to you.
    Galatians 1:1-12 1 Paul, an apostle…..12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

    BELIEVED WHAT?

    They believed Jesus when He said “Who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved”

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. Google search>>>steve finnell a christian view

  11. Economic Freedom says:

    >>>in a famous scene Joshua commands the sun to stand still. In retrospect, this really doesn’t clinch the geocentric case, since even today we say things like, “The sun rises in the east and sets in the west,” even though presumably everyone nowadays understands what’s actually going on.

    Indeed. You should also keep in mind Galileo’s “Principle of Relativity,” expanded and mathematized three centuries later by Einstein: there’s no such thing as absolute rest in the universe, ergo, there’s no such thing as absolute motion, either. If Selgin believes that the sun is literally “at rest,” and that the Earth revolves around it, he’s as backward in his thinking as the theologians he’s criticizing.

    In fact, the Earth and the sun rotate around each other, the axis of rotation being much nearer the sun (because of its greater mass) than the Earth. The important point is that the axis of rotation is not at the sun’s center, which it would have to be for the heliocentric model to be literally true.

    What Selgin and others miss is that the Church officials were themselves simply following the best available advice on these matters, which was NOT from scripture, but, rather, from academia. And academia in those days was monopolized in the astronomy departments by Aristotelians. The Church insisted on a geocentric model because the Aristotelian academics insisted that it was the best model for explaining observations.

    According to scholars of the history of modern science such as Herbert Butterfield (“The Origins of Modern Science”), the really big intellectual change that QUALITATIVELY separated antiquity and the middle ages from the modern age had little to do with specifics of the heliocentric system, though it does have something to do with Copernicus, and those who followed him, such as Galileo, Kepler, Newton, et al.

    Prior to Copernicus, both the Church and the academics — including academics stretching back to pre-Church antiquity — subscribed to a an epistemological doctrine known as “Saving the Appearances.” According to this doctrine, any model used to “save” (i.e., describe, predict, and retrodict ) “appearances” (i.e., phenomena, observations), is as good as any other model; the criterion for selection being things like “convenience,” “simplicity,” “elegance,” etc. No one single model was taken as being literally “TRUE.”

    That all changed with Copernicus and his immediate successors, who began to suspect that the heliocentric model was not just “one more useful model” for saving the appearances, but was in fact, “The God’s honest literal truth of the matter.”

    According to Butterfield and other writers on the intellectual transition point between the middle ages and the modern world, it was THAT doctrine which greatly disturbed both the Aristotelian academics and the Church.

    In other words, it wasn’t so much a new hypothesis about the physical relation between Earth and sun that they found upsetting; it was a new hypothesis about the nature of hypothesis that they found troubling.

    For more on this, see:

    Origins of Modern Science, 1300-1800
    Herbert Butterfield
    The Free Press
    1957

    Saving the Appearances — A Study in Idolatry
    Owen Barfield
    Wesleyan University Press
    1965

    Le Systeme du Monde: Histoire des Doctrines Cosmologiques de Platon a Copernic
    Paris 1913-1917
    5 volumes

    Here’s an excerpt from “Saving the Appearances” by Owen Barfield:

    “The popular view is, that Copernicus ‘discovered’ that the earth moves around the sun. Actually the *hypothesis* that the earth revolves around the sun is at least as old as the third century B.C., when it was advanced by Aristarchus of Samos, and he was neither the only, nor probably the first astronomer to think of it. Copernicus himself knew this. Secondly it is generally believed that the Church tried to keep the discovery dark. Actually Copernicus did not himself want to publish his *De Revolutionibus Orbium*, and was only eventually prevailed on to do so by the importunity of two eminent Churchmen.

    When the ordinary man hears that the Church told Galileo that he might teach Copernicanism as a hypothesis which saved all the celestial phenomena satisfactorily, ‘but not as being the truth’, he laughs. But this was really how Ptolemaic astronomy had been taught! In its actual place in history it was not a casuistical quibble; it was the refusal (unjustified it may be) to allow the introduction of a new and momentous doctrine. It was not simply a new theory of the nature of the celestial movements that was feared, but a new theory of the nature of theory; namely, that, if a hypothesis saves all the appearances, it is identical with truth.”

  12. Economic Freedom says:

    >>>In a recent offhand remark, George Selgin criticized certain Austrians’ thinking . . .

    Selgin always was confrontational.

    I remember him many summers ago when he was a cashier at the old “Laissez Faire Bookstore” in New York City, at the corner of Bleecker and Mercer.

    He was confrontational back then, too.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Nothing wrong with being “confrontational”, IMO.

      I would rather be surrounded by confrontational people who challenge my thinking, than yes men who encourage apathy and ignorance.

      • Joseph Fetz says:

        I don’t know the man personally, and I actually do enjoy some of his work, but in my opinion he comes across as a straight asshole when he’s commenting on the internet. He’s like Gene Callahan, but without any sense of humor or humility.

        Disclaimer: I actually like Gene and consider him a good dude even though we often disagree.

      • Economic Freedom says:

        >>>Nothing wrong with being “confrontational”,

        Of course! And I’m sure customers waiting on line at a retail outlet for books would agree.

        Though actually, it’s hard to tell. “Laissez Faire Bookstore” has long since gone out of business.

        But don’t think for a second that confrontational cashiers had anything to do with it. No way. Personally, I love being “challenged” when I make a simple purchase.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          “Of course! And I’m sure customers waiting on line at a retail outlet for books would agree.”

          Because we all have to have the exact same opinion on the matter, don’t we! There is nobody in the world who wouldn’t mind a little antagonism at the checkout line, and it is impossible for anyone to ever mind it.

          Let us take one person’s values on confrontation, and do what Economic Freedom does: Infer that either everyone, or no one, should hold them.

          • Economic Freedom says:

            >>>Because we all have to have the exact same opinion on the matter, don’t we!

            Nice! We all love being challenged by cashiers and checkout people at retail outlets like a supermarket:

            “Eggs!!!??? Are you crazy, lady? What the heck are you buying eggs for? You don’t know what’s good for you, but I do. Trust me, you don’t need the cholesterol. Why don’t you put those back and buy a nice pack of celery stalks instead, eh?”

            For all we know, that checkout-boy could have been the young George Selgin before he got booted out of Grand Union and then rehired at Laissez Faire Book Store.

          • Economic Freedom says:

            >>>Because we all have to have the exact same opinion on the matter, don’t we!

            When it comes to the myth of Darwinian macroevolution, that’s precisely what you believe!

            >>>I would rather be surrounded by confrontational people who challenge my thinking, than yes men who encourage apathy and ignorance.

            Except when it comes to the myth of Darwinian macroevolution. On that issue you much prefer to have your ideological priors reinforced by yes-men than to have them challenged by direct confrontation.

            I guess we can add hypocrisy to your long list of charms.

  13. David Gordon says:

    This is off the topic, but Andrew White also wrote Fiat Money Inflation in France.

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