Probably Just Another in a List Going Back to Constantine…

 

An Enemy Within: The Bicameral Threat to Institutional Religion in the Twenty-First Century

 

An Internal Report to the Holy See by The Pontifical Academy of Sciences in conjunction with the John Templeton Foundation, based upon investigations inaugurated July 23—Sep 16 2093

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Background

The past century has witnessed what Sujeit describes as “a joyful if weedy renaissance of Faith in the face of the secular … an inevitable reaction to science’s vendetta against the soul”. This has been a source of ongoing consternation to the secular community. Surely, they say, the more science explains, the less we need to invoke the supernatural. Surely the “God of the Gaps” diminishes with each new scientific breakthrough. How then to explain not just the persistence but an actual resurgence of faith in a world where every last vestige of humanity can be “explained” by the invocation of some brain structure or chemical process?

Ironically, it is thanks to the empiricists themselves that we can answer this question. It has been known for generations that Faith flourishes most strongly when people feel threatened and powerless. What could be more threatening — what could make a soul feel more powerless — than an endless litany of scientific “discoveries” hammering home our utter insignificance in a vast and indifferent cosmos, reducing every flicker of the Human soul to chemicals and electricity, telling us that the very notion of free will is logically absurd in a mechanistic universe?[1] Science itself has provoked this return to God — and once again we see His Hand in that precisely-designed mechanism ensuring that our faith is strongest when it is most desperately needed.

While we may thank this divine feedback loop for reversing the last generation’s exodus from the Church of Rome[2], it has also played a role in a recent proliferation of cults whose elements borrow from a variety of pagan and pantheistic sources, and whose tenets pose a fundamental obstacle to Salvation. Such cults have always been with us, springing to life on stony ground and withering just as quickly. The Abrahamic religions, rooted in richer soil, have outlasted them all and continue to thrive even under the tumultuous conditions of the late twenty-first century.

These are, however, times of uncertainty; and in the face of modern challenges we may find ourselves tempted to turn our backs on the wider world (as have certain Protestant denominations). Such retreat in the face of adversity would not only go against the Scriptural admonition to “go and make disciples of all nations”, but also risks dire consequence in its own right. The Redeemer Gyland offers a stark case in point. It has been almost a year since the alliance between the Southern and Central Baptists broke down, and three months since we have been able to establish contact with anyone from either side of that conflict. (It is no longer practical to board the gyland directly— any craft approaching within two kilometers is fired upon — but remote surveillance has yielded no evidence of human activity since March 28. The UN believes that the weapons fire is automated, and has declared Redeemer off-limits until those defenses exhaust their ammunition.)

In contrast to the failed retreat of the southern Baptists, other faiths have tried “broadening their appeal” to “keep up with changing times”.  While this has an undeniable short-term appeal, it too would be ultimately self-defeating. It is certainly easier to join a group which makes no real demands of its adherents — which tolerates sin in the name of “diversity” and “equal rights” — but it is also much easier to leave such a group. The existence of moral codes and constraints, arbitrary though they may appear to outsiders, serve to ensure that only the truly faithful enter the Church. It is no accident that strict religious communities have longer lifespans than secular (or even liberal theistic) ones.

Historically, therefore, the Holy See has never had cause to feel threatened by the transient appeal of the cults forever flowering around our ankles in the morning, only to blow away by nightfall. To date, we have also taken this attitude of benign tolerance regarding the so-called Bicameral Order.

It is the considered opinion of this committee, however, that continuing complacency would be a terrible mistake in this case. We believe the Order represents a threat not only to the Holy Church of Rome, but to all Abrahamic religions.

 

The Limits of Science

The purview of science is a narrow one: it deals with questions of how the multiverse works. The deeper issues of why the multiverse exists— and of our rightful place therein— are beyond its reach. The Church is not threatened by the procession of discoveries and insights hailing from the scientific method, because worldly matters are not within its domain. As St. Gould famously opined, Science and Faith occupy “non-overlapping magisteria”. It is no more the place of the Church to make testable hypotheses than it is the place of Science to pass judgment on matters of the spirit.

It is perhaps too-infrequently noted, however, that science can claim no better understanding than the Church even in the matter of how the universe works.

This is a surprisingly uncontroversial view even among scientists, most of whom admit not only that science cannot claim to accurately describe reality, but that it cannot even claim to approach greater accuracy as it progresses. Yes, Einstein’s physics produce more accurate predictions than Newton’s— but a model in which celestial bodies are affixed to a series of concentric crystal spheres produces more accurate predictions of planetary motion than one which posits only a single sphere. Is it more “realistic”?

So while Science may produce ever-more-accurate predictions about how reality behaves under known conditions, it can never claim to understand what lies within that black box (a century after its introduction, Smolin’s “Breeder Multiverse” remains untested and untestable even in principle— a mathematical construct to be taken on faith no less than the existence of God Himself).  Ultimately, all science is mere correlation. For that matter, there was a time before science even existed when people turned to religion to understand the physical universe; and while the thought of deities hurling lightning bolts may seem fanciful to modern minds, it was then (as science claims to be now) the best explanation available to limited human understanding.

The fundamental difference between Science and Scripture is not, therefore, that scientific insights are necessarily more realistic than those based upon Faith. The difference is no more and no less than predictive power. Scientific insights have proven to be better predictors than Spiritual ones, at least in worldly matters; they prevail not because they are true, but simply because they work.

 

The Bicameral Threat

The Bicamerals represent a stark anomaly in this otherwise consistent landscape. We have exhaustively reviewed their publications and the predictions contained therein. Their methodologies appear to be explicitly faith-based, and they venture unapologetically into metaphysical realms which defy empirical analysis— yet they yield results with consistently more predictive power than conventional science. (How they do this is not known; our best evidence suggests some kind of rewiring of the temporal lobe in a way that amplifies their connection to the Divine.)

It would be dangerously naïve to regard this as a victory for traditional religion. It is not. It is a victory for a radical sect barely half a century old, and the cost of that victory has been to demolish the wall between science and faith. The Church’s concession of the physical realm informed the historic armistice which has allowed faith and reason to coexist in separate and inviolable domains to this day. One may find it heartening to see faith ascendant once again across the Human spectrum; but it is not our faith. Its hand still guides lost sheep away from the soulless empiricism of secular science, but the days in which it guided them into the loving arms of Our Savior are waning.

The Bicameral Order does not proselytize, preferring to stay out of the public eye (a suspicious sign in and of itself). Nonetheless, its ability to work miracles on demand cannot help but draw notice. While the ultimate consequences of their arrogance will be evident to anyone familiar with Genesis’s metaphor of the forbidden fruit, the inevitable near-term impact is to put more venerable institutions at a significant disadvantage.

Under current circumstances, therefore, we foresee the collapse of the Abrahamic religions — possibly even of the Dharmic and Taoist faiths to which the Bicamerals claim at least tenuous kinship — within as little as a single generation.

 

Recommendations

Having exhaustively considered and prayed upon the alternatives, we implore His Holiness to pursue a clandestine alliance of the Abrahamic religions, pursuant to meeting this common threat to our existence. The conflicts and internecine squabbles that have historically occurred between our respective faiths pale into insignificance next to the crisis currently brewing. The task before us will be daunting enough even in the company of powerful allies; standing alone, it would likely prove impossible.

God help us, we see no recourse but drastic action.

 

 



[1] Of course, those who can see beyond the nihilistic proclamations of the secular press know that science tells us no such thing. Science vindicates Christianity, by casting light on the tools God uses to shape His creation: the Darwinian processes that built the shells we inhabit, the temporal lobe’s “divinity transceiver” connecting us with the Almighty— even the way in which rituals such as the Eucharist enhance oxytocin levels amongst our parishioners, inspiring them to greater heights of generosity and giving.

[2] It must also be acknowledged that the clergy’s recent acceptance of therapeutic neuroediting has spared it the unfortunate — and often inflammatory — “journalistic coverage” of past decades.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday April 15 2013at 11:04 am , filed under ass-hamsters, fiblet . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

24 Responses to “Probably Just Another in a List Going Back to Constantine…”

  1. Does it hurt you to simulate this sick reasoning? I hurts me a bit when reading it.

  2. Raised by Baptists. By professional Baptists.

    It’s almost second nature.

  3. As St. Gould famously opined…

    Boy, he’d be pleased at reading this.

  4. Reading this gave me the same excitement and chills that I got reading Blindsight for the first time!
    When will we see this in a novel? What novel will it be?
    Brilliant!

  5. Peter Watts,
    Well, for a “heretic” you come awfully close. :-)

    Though I’ m not that sure the RCC couldn’t try to integrate part of the bicameral practices, AFAIK some of the best Zen guys in Europe are Jesuits.

    As for St. Gould, nice idea, though AFAIR he described himself as an agnostic Jew; not that he is necessarily outside of God’s grace, or that he can’t be of concern to RCC theology, which is quite heavy with Aristotle, still, there’d have to be some changes. Any idea about the miracles attributed to him?

    I’m not that sure about some of the details, especially since Baptists and the RCC differ somewhat, e.g. I’d expect some appeal to different opinions in the RCC magisterium in a RCC document,

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

    at the very least, when dealing with Taoists, it would be prudent to bring this guy up

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matteo_Ricci#Ricci.27s_approach_to_Chinese_culture

    but than, who’s to say how the RCC is going to change in 80 years. Last but not least, one could explain this with the idea that RCC commissions sometimes issue multiple reports, e.g. official and minority ones.

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

    So maybe this one is the first document from the new Baptist particular church in the RCC, just like the Maronites etc.

    BTW, agnostic with a priest cousin here, nuff said?

  6. Yeah, I’m all for this and oh my god I can’t wait for Echopraxis.

  7. Oh.
    So, is the book coming out this month?
    I’m getting as tired of waiting for it to come out as I’m tired of my own neural mis-wiring.

  8. I’ve been meaning to bounce my thinking on the phenomenon of the mounting ‘rejection of science’ off of some people, so I’d like to apologise beforehand if this seems like a tangent, but … I think there’s another force at work here, besides primate brains unable to cope with existential questions.

    The rationalist explanation of the universe creates a power imbalance. It essentially gives the shamans a monopoly on answering life’s questions. The shamans white lab coats, of course, and they will continuously state that the practice of science is open to anyone, but this does not mean they are not shamans.

    The notion that the truth can only be properly, truly understood by individuals who have spent years educating themselves, who have adopted a very specific rationalist mindset, is not that different from the pre-reformation notion that laymen shouldn’t read the Bible.

    And equally unsatisfactory, except to the priesthood itself, and to toadies like myself.

    I think it’s no accident that many of the “non-rationalist” phenomena we see today, whether they’re fad diets, the anti-vaccine movement, or global warming skepticism, all happily pilfer scientific terminology. People don’t object to the idea of rationalism, but they do object to its conclusions, especially when they are depressing.

    By inventing their own explanations, they are seizing control of their own reality back from the clutches of the scientific community, just as Protestants seized control of their own lives back from the church of Rome during the reformation.

    While I’m not creative enough to imagine what a full-scale “scientific reformation” would look like, I very much doubt that the Catholic Church has anything to worry about this time.

  9. > Does it hurt you to simulate this sick reasoning? I hurts me a bit when
    > reading it.

    Why is this “sick”? Are you making an aesthetic claim, or are there hidden metaphysical insights that underlie your condemnation? (The question is largely rhetorical. I am not soliciting a response.) When the point is made with such force and clarity one risks overwhelming the intended irony and proclaiming something that sounds a lot like … the truth.

    Peter Watts: please don’t stop. I feel that you are doing something unique and important.

  10. Brilliant! I thought it was a genuine contemporary report from the Vatican.
    I totally did share Mishaf’s visceral reaction.

  11. I’m thinking.. is there a specific brain area required or missing in order to have ‘faith’?
    I can’t imagine how a bible literalist percieves the world and explains it all away.

    How do they do it?

  12. Y.,

    I guess not that much different from everybody else, if you look at qualities. With quantities, though, they might be on an extreme of the distribution, but then, together with quite a few economists.

    Funny thing is, if you go with the theory of cognitive dissonance, the more they feel threatened and ridiculed, the stronger their faith.

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

  13. Excerpts from the book ‘Straw Dogs. Thoughts on Humans and other Animals’ by John Gray:

    ATHEISM, THE LAST CONSEQUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY
    Unbelief is a move in a game whose rules are set by believers. To deny the existence of God is to accept the categories of monotheism. As these categories fall into disuse, unbelief becomes uninteresting, and soon it is meaningless. Atheists say they want a secular world, but a world defined by the absence of the Christians’ god is still a Christian world. Secularism is like chastity, a condition defined by what it denies. If atheism has a future, it can only be in a Christian revival; but in fact Christianity and atheism are declining together. Atheism is a late bloom of a Christian passion for truth. No pagan is ready to sacrifice the pleasure of life for the sake of mere truth. It is artful illusion, not unadorned reality, that they prize. Among the Greeks, the goal of philosophy was happiness or salvation, not truth. The worship of truth is a Christian cult. The old pagans were right to shudder at the uncouth earnestness of the early Christians. None of the mystery religions in which the ancient world abounded claimed what Christians claimed — that all other faiths were in error. For that very reason, none of their followers could ever become an atheist. When Christians insisted that they alone possessed the truth they condemned the lush profusion of the pagan world with a damning finality. In a world of many gods, unbelief can never be total. It can only be rejection of one god and acceptance of another, or else — as in Epicurus and his followers — the conviction that the gods do not matter since they have long since ceased to bother about human affairs. Christianity struck at the root of pagan tolerance of illusion. In claiming that there is only one true faith, it gave truth a supreme value it had not had before. It also made disbelief in the divine possible for the first time. The long-delayed consequence of Christian faith was an idolatry of truth that found its most complete expression in atheism. If we live in a world without gods, we have Christianity to thank for it.

    AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM – RELIGIOUS AND SCIENTIFIC

    Religious fundamentalists see the power of science as the chief source of modern disenchantment. Science has supplanted religion as the chief source of authority, but at the cost of making human life accidental and insignificant. If our lives are to have any meaning, the power of science must be overthrown, and faith re-established. But science cannot be removed from our lives by an act of will. Its power flows from technology, which is changing the way we live regardless of what we will.
    Religious fundamentalists see themselves as having remedies for the maladies of the modern world. In reality, they are symptoms of the disease they pretend to cure.
    They hope to recover the unreflective faith of traditional cultures, but this is a peculiarly modern fantasy. We cannot believe as we please; our beliefs are traces left by our unchosen lives. A view of the world is not something that can be conjured up as and when we please. Once gone, traditional ways of life cannot be retrieved. Whatever we contrive in their wake merely adds to the clamour of incessant novelty. However much they may wish it, people whose lives are veined through with science cannot return to a pre-scientific outlook.
    Scientific fundamentalists claim that science is the disinterested pursuit of truth. But representing science in this way is to disregard the human needs science serves. Among us, science serves two needs: for hope and censorship. Today, only science supports the myth of progress. If people cling to the hope of progress, it is not so much from genuine belief as from fear of what may come if they give it up. The political projects of the twentieth century have failed, or achieved much less than they promised. At the same time, progress in science is a daily experience, confirmed whenever we buy a new electronic gadget, or take a new drug. Science gives us a sense of progress that ethical and political life cannot.
    Again, science alone has the power to silence heretics. Today it is the only institution that can claim authority. Like the Church in the past, it has the ‘power to destroy, or marginalise, independent thinkers (think how orthodox medicine reacted to Freud, and orthodox Darwinians to Lovelock.) In fact, science does not yield any fixed picture of things, but by censoring thinkers who stray too far from current orthodoxies it preserves the comforting illusion of a single established worldview. From the standpoint of anyone who values freedom of thought, this may be unfortunate, but it is undoubtedly the chief source of science’s appeal. For us, science is a refuge from uncertainty, promising — and in some measure delivering — the miracle of freedom from thought; while churches have become sanctuaries for doubt.
    Bertrand Russell — a defender of science wiser than its ideologues today — had this to say:

    When I speak of the importance of scientific method in regard to the conduct of human life, I am thinking of scientific method in its mundane forms. Not that I would undervalue science as a metaphysic, but the value of science as metaphysic belongs in another sphere. It belongs with religion and art and love, with the pursuit of the beatific vision, with the Promethean madness that leads the greatest men to strive to become gods. Perhaps the only ultimate value of human life is to be found in this Promethean madness. But it is a value that is religious, not political, or even moral.

    The authority of science comes from the power it gives humans over their environment. Now and then, perhaps,.science can cut loose from our practical needs, and serve the pursuit of truth. But to think that it can ever embody that quest is pre-scientific — it is to detach science from human needs, and make of it something that is not natural but transcendental. To think of science as the search for truth is to renew a mystical faith, the faith of Plato and Augustine, that truth rules the world, that truth is divine.

    SCIENCE’S IRRATIONAL ORIGINS
    As portrayed by its fundamentalists, science is the supreme expression of reason. They tell us that if it rules our lives today, it is only after a long struggle in which it was ceaselessly opposed by the Church, the state and every kind of irrational belief. Having arisen in the struggle against superstition, science — they say — has become the embodiment of rational inquiry.
    This fairy tale conceals a more interesting history. The origins of science are not in rational inquiry but in faith, magic and trickery. Modern science triumphed over its adversaries not through its superior rationality but because its late-medieval and early-modern founders were more skilful than them in the use of rhetoric and the arts of politics.
    Galileo did not win in his campaign for Copernican astronomy because he conformed to any precept of ‘scientific method’. As Feyerabend argued, he prevailed because of his persuasive skill — and because he wrote in Italian. By writing in Italian rather than Latin, Galileo was able to identify resistance to Copernican astronomy with the bankrupt scholasticism of his time, and so gain support from people opposed to older traditions of learning: ‘Copernicus now stands for progress in other areas as well, he is a symbol for the ideals of a new class that looks back to the classical times of Plato and Cicero and forward to a free and pluralistic society.’
    Galileo won out not because he had the best arguments but because he was able to represent the new astronomy as part of a coming trend in society. His success illustrates a crucial truth. To limit the practice of science by rules of method would slow the growth of knowledge, or even halt it:

    The difference between science and methodology which is such an obvious fact of history . . . indicates a weakness in the latter, and perhaps of the ‘laws of reason’ aswell. . . . Without ‘chaos’, no knowledge. Without a frequent dismissal of reason, no progress. Ideas which today form the very basis of science exist because there were such things as prejudice, conceit, passion; because these things opposed reason; and because they were permitted to have their way.

    According to the most influential twentieth-century philosopher of science, Karl Popper, a theory is scientific only in so far as it is falsifiable, and should be given up as soon as it has been falsified. By this standard, the theories of Darwin and Einstein should never have been accepted. When they were first advanced, each of them was at odds with some available evidence; only later did evidence become available that gave them crucial support. Applying Popper’s account of scientific method would have killed these theories at birth.
    The greatest scientists have never been bound by what are now regarded as the rules of scientific method. Nor did the philosophies of the founders of modern science — magical and metaphysical, mystical and occult – have much in common with what is today taken to be the scientific world-view. Galileo saw himself as a defender of theology, not as an enemy of the Church. Newton’s theories became the basis for a mechanistic philosophy, but in his own mind his theories were inseparable from a religious conception of the world as a divinely created order. Newton explained apparently anomalous occurrences as traces left by God. Tycho Brahe viewed them as miracles. Johannes Kepler described anomalies in astronomy as reactions of ‘the telluric soul’. As Feyerabend observes, beliefs that are today regarded as belonging to religion, myth or magic were central in the worldviews of the people who originated modern science.
    As pictured by philosophers, science is a supremely rational activity. Yet the history of science shows scientists flouting the rules of scientific method. Not only the origins but the progress of science comes from acting against reason.

  14. > Galileo won out not because he had the best arguments but because he
    > was able to represent the new astronomy as part of a coming trend in
    > society. His success illustrates a crucial truth. To limit the practice of
    > science by rules of method would slow the growth of knowledge, or
    > even halt it:

    OK….. This started out nice, but then fermented into pure BS

    Galileo won out because he invited all interested parties to look into a telescope

    > Newton’s theories became the basis for a mechanistic philosophy, but
    > in his own mind his theories were inseparable from a
    > religious conception of the world as a divinely created order.

    That’s all well and good, but the most significant aspect of newton intellectual legacy is his mathematics and the the amazingly useful and accurate mathematical models he bequeathed to the world

    My suspicion is that Gray has never _done_ science or mathematics

    IMHO Gray is simply not qualified to write about this stuff

  15. That would explain the p-zombie supersoldier squad that’s currently loping toward the Bicameral enclave in Chapter One, yes?

  16. Actually, that was Valerie. Although who knows who she was in bed with after she got out.

    BTW, here is the last line in which you appear (albeit as a hallucination):

    Chinedum Ofoegdu stood for hours at his side and spoke with fingers and eyes and sounds that stuttered from the back of his throat, and somehow Brüks understood him at last: not the ululating cipher, not the intelligent cancer, but a kind old man whose fondest childhood memory was the family of raccoons he’d surreptitiously befriended with a few handfuls of kibble and a certain subtle sabotage inflicted on the latch of the household organics bin. Wait— you had a childhood? Brüks tried to ask, but Ofuegdu’s face and hands had disappeared under eruptions of buboes and great ropey tumors, and he could no longer get out the words.

    I took a couple of liberties there, granted, but hey. Who doesn’t like raccoons?

  17. geoffrey wall: When will we see this in a novel? What novel will it be?

    Echopraxia, but I don’t know if it’ll make it into the final cut. It’s a neat piece of backstory, but I don’t quite know where I’d stick it in the narrative.

    Trottelreiner: As for St. Gould, nice idea, though AFAIR he described himself as an agnostic Jew; not that he is necessarily outside of God’s grace, or that he can’t be of concern to RCC theology, which is quite heavy with Aristotle, still, there’d have to be some changes. Any idea about the miracles attributed to him?

    This is an institution that habitually looks the other way in cases of mass child rape. I think they’d be willing to bend the rules if Gould’s canonization served their own political ends.

    And thanks for those links, by the way. I might work them into the final draft.

    Y.: So, is the book coming out this month?

    Not even close. But I do expect to finish the second draft within the next couple of weeks. (If you’re unfamiliar with the long sad tale of why this is taking so fucking long, check out The Deal with Dumbspeech. Then throw in a couple of family deaths. I myself am frustrated beyond words that it’s taken so long, but you will get a better book at the end of it. About a fifth of it sucked before, and I feel a lot better about that section now.)

    Michiel: The rationalist explanation of the universe creates a power imbalance. It essentially gives the shamans a monopoly on answering life’s questions. The shamans white lab coats, of course, and they will continuously state that the practice of science is open to anyone, but this does not mean they are not shamans.

    The problem with that is that it applies even more so to religious authorities than to scientific ones. Science, at least, says that anyone can do this if they do the work; religious authorities are more likely to claim a direct and personal line to God which is inaccessible to anyone who might have a different perspective.

    Michiel: People don’t object to the idea of rationalism, but they do object to its conclusions, especially when they are depressing.

    I think you’ve nailed it right there. You don’t need to invoke lack of power, or lack of understanding; people are perfectly happy being powerless and ignorant as long as they’re comfortable. They’ll just reject anything that suggests they may have to ditch the SUV.

    Y.: I’m thinking.. is there a specific brain area required or missing in order to have ‘faith’?
    I can’t imagine how a bible literalist percieves the world and explains it all away.

    How do they do it?

    I think they do it because, in evolutionary terms, it works surprisingly well.

  18. rm3154,

    rm3154: “My suspicion is that Gray has never done science or mathematics. Gray is simply not qualified to write about this stuff”.

    Excuse me?!

    Many wine critics never picked grapes, but that does not mean they are not qualified to write about wines. Many food critics and restaurant critics never stepped in a kitchen, but that does not mean they are not qualified to write about food. No physicist, cosmologist or science fiction author ever left planet Earth, but that does not mean they are not qualified to write about space/time, black holes, dark matter, time-travel, aliens, etc.

  19. rm3154:
    > Galileo won out not because he had the best arguments but because he
    > was able to represent the new astronomy as part of a coming trend in
    > society. His success illustrates a crucial truth. To limit the practice of
    > science by rules of method would slow the growth of knowledge, or
    > evenhalt it:

    well, imho he is more or less paraphrasing paul feyerabend and maybe some bert brecht here. does he give citations, to not become a plagiator?

    or, somewhat apt for feyerabend, does he indulge in footnote fever?

    OK….. This started out nice, but then fermented into pure BS

    Galileo won out because he invited all interested parties to look into a telescope

    the problem with the telescope is that with a new instrument, you can’t be sure the observations are real or an artifact. for a modern day reminder, just look at the first few years of electron microscopy, where we first had to learn quite a lot in preparation to put them to use.
    double so with the instruments of the day, i guess ever third world optics is better than what they had at the day. no achromates, for starters.

    to make a long story short, imagine galilei not as egon spengler, but as some kind of peter venkman.


  20. Peter Watts:
    I think they do it because, in evolutionary terms, it works surprisingly well.

    Yeah, but how? How can someone, with a straight face claim the Grand Canyon was not formed by water action over aeons but it took a mere 5,000 years and some flash floods?

    Or reconcile the literal interpretation of Noah’s Ark with findings of paleogenetics, or even husbandry lore (no doubt animal breeders over the centuries damn well knew you can’t get a viable population from just two animals)..


    Not even close. But I do expect to finish the second draft within the next couple of weeks.

    So, a couple of more months for editing, proofreading and typesetting, so, early fall?
    :-)

  21. Peter Watts: This is an institution that habitually looks the other way in cases of mass child rape.I think they’d be willing to bend the rules if Gould’s canonization served their own political ends.

    well, yes, but we’re also speaking about the institution that risked numerous schisms in the past to make a point. well, if somebody came open with gould being close to baptism, e.g. him being a catechumen, that’d be different, but problem is, sainthood implies that somebody has beatific vision,

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

    where the question if somebody could attain it without baptism after jesus’ death is somewhat controversial. problem is, rcc dogma itself is not that clear about that one, for some idea about the fate of the unbaptized according to it, see the idea of limbo:

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

    though then, one could quote jesus on how the rich could enter heaven, noting that for god, nothing is impossible. yeah, i like messing about with canons, either sf or religious…

    otoh, there are different levels before full canonization,

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canonization#Roman_Catholic_procedure_since_1983

    and i guess a “venerable” is not out of question.

    as for the child rape, problem is they are not that alone there; seems like it was some kind of open secret why some of the teachers quite popular with the opposite sex had been transferred from another school quite abruptly more than 30 years ago…

    And thanks for those links, by the way.

    pleased to help.:-)

  22. Peter Watts,

    A transcendentally horrible fate? For me? You totally should have :D

    Seriously, I’m honored. That ‘d’ should be a ‘b’ though. I’d hate for my debut as a fictional character to be misspelled :p

  23. Taking potshots at Roman Catholics is a very Protestant thing to do, as is buying the Papal line about being THE church. If you want to attack Christianity, you ought to attack it at the source, which is Eastern Orthodoxy (and traditional Orthodoxy at that), not Roman Catholicism. The Orthodox are rather different, although they may not seem to be so at first.

    The Papacy has been trying to unify Christianity since its inception of course, and lately (several decades) it hasn’t been ashamed to embrace just about everything, from Buddhists to Hindus to neo-pagans. (Jews not so much, I think.) It’s because it likes power, is arrogant, and thinks it can take them, not because it feels threatened. Its enemy among materialists are the political ones, i.e. communists, generally not scientists, even loud ones like Richard Dawkins. “Supernatural” events are actually somewhat common, and some of them occur at set times like clockwork, and are even rather dramatic (although I will grant that they do not usually show up and cooperate in ways that regular subjects of repeatable on-demand experiments do). The world simply ignores them, as does the Papacy, when they do not serve its political or ideological ends. You are maybe a little naive here. Human beings are very good at remaining ignorant, overlooking things, and outright lying to themselves when expedient.

    Personally I think atheists feel a lot more threatened, or at least bothered, by any kind of religion, from neo-pagan woo to ancient ultra-Orthodox traditions, with the possible exception of comfortingly atheistic “suffering is the only real problem” Buddhists, than religious people feel threatened by science, some very loud and not always very pious minorities excepted. Scientists tend to be rational, and the ones who are inclined to look at the big picture are perhaps less likely than the average person to forget that one day they are going to die. Hence the constant need to reassure themselves that nothing needs to be done to prepare for it because it is meaningless anyway.

    It’s easy to make the mistake of assuming that religious people are more like you than they really are. Religious people just do not think like hardcore materialists do. Or, rather, hardcore materialists just do not think like the vast majority of human beings do. Hardcore materialism is a kind of stunt for a human being, albeit one that comes fairly easy to some intellectual and/or very simple types. Speaking for myself, it can be fun and satisfying in an “I can’t believe it’s not despair” kind of way, for a while. Eventually it really starts to hurt, and one has to decide whether the enlightenment that comes from hugging the icy void is worth the price… and it might pay to wonder whether it is really enlightenment at all.

  24. tgj,

    actually, imho eastern orthodoxy and roman catholicism are quite similar, where the differences are, to be somewhat quip, down to the one using greek, the other one latin. for the actual differences, see:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Orthodox_–_Roman_Catholic_theological_differences

    please note one of the main differences is the rc concept of purgatory, where the eo concept of hades is quite similar. though both sides argue they are not.

    which, well, reminds me somewhat of some personality disordered i know, you see, the ones with the cutting marks who speak foul of other self-injurers etc. problem is, theology has developed no useful concept of deciding identity of concepts.

    if you want to go to the real out-group, there are the various “non-chalcedonians”,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-Chalcedonianism

    and, before that, arianism:

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

    if you go still more back, it gets somewhat murky, since we don’t have that many sources about e.g. hellenistic judaism.

    as for the rc church opening up to non-christians lately, err, that one is quite a favourite with the radical traditionalist catholics,

    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/ideology/radical-traditional-catholicism#.UYZnh9FCQ7U

    though it’s quite easy to point to precedents, catholicism always stressed that human reason alone can go part of the way to the one true faith(tm), compared to e.g. some protestants. which makes for the funny fact you could call the neo-protestants, guess they wouldn’t like that one[1].

    last put not least, what supernatural experiences are you talking about? if they are that frequent, examples should come handy…

    [1] i sometimes indulge in the nasty habit of discussing theology with some godists. it’s an acquired taste.,