Friday, April 13, 2012

Richard Dawkins v. Cardinal Pell: debate

Richard Dawkins and Australian Catholic Cardinal George Pell discuss religion, morals and evolution on Q&A. (April 10, 2012 ABC TV):

There are a number of things I like about Cardinal Pell, including some things he has written and said about the Catholic Church and her traditions in the past. This debate, however, is not one of them.

Some may think he scores a number of clever points against Dawkins, but even then he spends more time lurching lamely into defensive postures than should ever be necessary with the likes of Dawkins, whose arguments could be shredded into confetti with a few quick strokes by any reasonably well-educated Catholic philosopher, which shouldn't be hard to find.

What would be hard to find these days, however, is a Catholic reasonably well-educated as the the relation of science to the Bible, and particularly to the early parts of the Book of Genesis. Cardinal Pell embodies this pathetic state of affairs himself, by lurching into indefensible speculations about the descent of human beings from pre-human progenitors, perhaps in South Africa, and trying to reconcile such speculations with the early chapters of Genesis by unnecessarily conceding that most of the accounts related in these texts are mere myths.

Dawkins' arguments are so lame that he barely constitutes a threat to the theist. But Cardinal Pell does the Church no service here by practically painting the Catholic into a corner of near irrelevance in the discussion. Lame. Lame. Lame.

Shucks, I suppose the Cardinal deserves some credit for being willing to go on TV and at least attempting to defend the Catholic faith.

An example of much better arguments and counter-arguments, with few exceptions, is provided by this discussion between Robert Lawrence Kuhn and Alvin Plantinga.


WeeWilllie said...

9 November 2012
First Things;
To the Editor:
Stephen M. Barr is logically and theologically correct in his article “Chance by Design.” Dec. 2012. However, Mr. Barr, as the great majority of Christian commentators, ignores the gorilla in the living room. That is, “Did an original first human man and an original first human woman, from whom all mankind has descended, exist?”
Based upon the traditional teaching of the Christian Church and codified in Pius XII‘s encyclical Humani generi , the existence of a historic first man and a historic first woman which pair committed the original sin is at the core of Christian theology. See Romans chapter V: 12-21.
However if one removes the blinders of received wisdom, and examines the evidence from a scientific point of view, that gorilla is like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon. The major difference between human and all other creatures, including extinct near human ancestors, is the gift of language which is a manifestation of the spiritual soul.
There are a number of establishment scientists that maintain that the mutation which lead to language occurred only once. (I.e. in the original “Adam and Eve.”) While the descendents of the original pair did mate with non-language relatives, the offspring of such mating (if they had language) would optimally survive, because of the great Darwinian advantage of language. Therefore, even though we have sundry genes from some 10 thousand or so ancestors, the one series of genes that come from Adam and Eve (which genes makes us humans with souls) are the genes for language.
Examples of scientists that assume that mutation for language occurred only once are: “Tim J. Crow Editor Proceedings of the British Academy V. 106 “The Speciation of Modern Homo sapiens.” Oxford University Press 2002,” and “John H. McWhorter, The Power of Babel A Natural History of Language (Times Books 2001) P. 8.”
Likewise, Ian Tatterstall in his latest book “Masters of the Planet The Search for our Human origins” Palgrave MacMillan New York 2012 discusses the importance of language in modern humans. In fact one his chapters is titled “In the Beginning was the Word.” Note, Dr. Tatterstall did not address the hypothesis that the mutation for language occurred once.
William M. Selenke
Cincinnati, OH

Pertinacious Papist said...

Thanks for pointing out the gorilla in the room. I quite agree.

Like many others, Barr does overlook the bumbling primate knocking about between the dining room table and the wine cabinet.

Even if he's withing the parameters of accepted Catholic opinion since Darwin's time, I think his defence of theistic evolution is overrated and overinflated. There are ample alternate options available to the Catholic willing to listen to voices outside of the evolutionist echo chamber.