Wednesday, 11 March 2009

More catholicism. Less delusional but more pathetic

Here the ironically-named Richard Owen of the Times provides us with a pointless little article that rests entirely on what appears to be a deliberate lie and which may constitute libel:
The Vatican has rejected the claim by Richard Dawkins, the biologist and campaigning atheist, that evolutionary theory proves that God does not exist.
It should hardly be necessary to point out that Dawkins has never said anything of the sort. He is well aware that you can't prove the non-existence of any god (or the celestial teapot, faries, the invisible pink unicorn, the giant green space-lobsters Esmerelda and Keith or the flying spaghetti monster).

What Dawkins has said is that evolution means that a creator god is exceedingly unlikely and that there is almost certainly no god. There are two reasons for this. The first is the rather weak argument that evolution leaves very little room for the existence of god. God is unnecessary because evolution would work just fine without one. Applying Occam's razor, evolution means there is no need to hypothesise a god to account for life. The second argument is logically unassailable. Dawkins calls it The Ultimate 747 Gambit. Fred Hoyle is reputed to have said that the likelihood of evolution being able assemble organisms is similar to that of a hurricane in a scrap yard happening to assemble a fully functional Boeing 747. I don't know whether Hoyle really said it, but it is gleefully repeated by opponents of evolution the world over, each apparently convinced both that they are saying something profound and that everybody hasn't heard it before. It is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution and can be discounted at a stroke. Evolution is like a ratchet, locking in the complex structures that have developed so far and modifying it slightly. You don't have to account for the full tale of complexity for each new species because it rests on complex structure that already exists.

However, there is an extension to the 747 argument that applies to god. Evolution is the only way we know of for things like life to arise. If god created life, then that god itself must have either been created also or have arisen through something like natural selection. In other words, the god hypothesis can't be an alternative to evolution: at best it just delays the moment where evolution has to be applied. This is just a slightly more sophisticated form of the question that every schoolchild asks: who created god? It's a good question and tends to be all-too-glibly dismissed by adults that don't know the answer either. They say things like "god exists outside time" and "god has always been there", even though they must be aware at some level that this is really no answer at all.

And this is Dawkins' position: not that evolution proves god doesn't exist, but that it renders it very, very unlikely. Now that's cleared up, we can get to some more idiocy in the article.
Vatican theologians said while Christians believed that God "created all things", the Vatican "does not stand in the way of scientific realities".
This is a frankly astonishing statement. It's hard to imagine a scientific reality that it hasn't stood in the way of. This is not just in the past, of course. Tell the scientists working on stem cells that the Catholic church doesn't stand in their way.
"recent declarations by Popes have asserted the full accordance of Catholic doctrine and evolutionary biology".
Of course they have. Because denying evolution is madness. They had to eventually and grudgingly admit Gallileo was right, too. After a couple of hundred years.
He noted that Darwin had never been condemned by the Catholic Church, and that On the Origin of the Species had never been placed on the Index of forbidden books.
And they seem to think that they are doing us a favour! You didn't actively ban our books or persecute us, so we should be grateful? This is really how the Vatican things. It's astonishing.

Of course, this is all a smokescreen to hide the fact that there is no evidence for the existence of god. What the Vatican is doing is lying to raise a false controversy in the full knowledge that it is entirely irrelevant. They are saying "Ha! Look! There's no proof that god doesn't exist!" At no point are they saying that there's actually any evidence for the existence of god. They're hoping nobody notices.

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