Sunday, November 7, 2010

Benedict's Biology

POPE BENEDICT XVI  is in Spain. Independent Catholic News covers his itinerary and statements in detail. 

But I was struck by something the Pope said today, after embracing the statue of St. James the Greater in Compostela de Santiago, and meeting with the Prince and Princess of Asturias.
"Truth and freedom are closely and necessarily related", he added. 
"Honestly seeking and aspiring to truth is the condition of authentic freedom. One cannot live without the other. The Church, which desires to serve unreservedly the human person and his dignity, stands at the service of both truth and freedom. She cannot renounce either, because what is at stake is man himself, because she is moved by love for man, 'the only creature on earth which God has wanted for its own sake', and because without this aspiration for truth, justice and freedom, man would lose his very self.
There have been many creatures on Earth, all of them creations of the very God which Pope Benedict worships. Estimates of the number of species that have ever existed on Earth--plants, animals, multicellular organisms of all kinds--range from 750 million to 7.5 billion individual species. 

That homo sapiens sapiens ("Man") is unique among God's creatures in the sense that Benedict claims--that he alone has God wanted for his own sake!--this claim I find to be extravagantly illogical given the facts of life on Earth as we know them.

Such homocentrism is as wrong as the geocentrism that was spectacularly deposed in that bit of unpleasantry involving  Galileo Galilei.

The human race is NOT the center of the Biological Universe, nor in any real sense, apart from it.  We are part of a genetic structure that stretches from the very earliest time that life existed on the planet. But we are relatively young for an Earthly species, having emerged in our present form less than 250,000 years ago (if not less). Life on earth, of which we are genetic inheritors, is however thought to be at least 2 billion years old.

The suggestion that God is indifferent to all other creatures--only Man does He want for its own sake!--is a bleak and pitiful piece of Vain Glory when viewed against the majestic backdrop of rich and vibrant diversity that life on earth displays.

It is a claim easily reduced to absurdity when one contemplates even a few of the logical consequences of assuming the Pope's claim to be valid and true.

It would mean for example, that for almost the entire 2 billion year history of life on earth, up until the emergence of homo sapiens a few hundred thousand years ago, Benedict's God has been engaged in nothing but genetic experimentation in which he has created millions upon millions of unique life forms;  allowed 99.998% percent of those species to go extinct; and thereby slaughtered, mindlessly for their own sake! zillions of individual living creatures from bacteria to trilobytes to dinosaurs to sabertooth tigers and wooly mammoths which belonged to those now vanished species of creatures.

So what was God doing all those long, bloody aeons if he didn't care about these creations "for their own sake"? Was He maybe practicing to make the ultimate creature--the Catholic Human Being?

Only Man does God want for its own sake! Pope Benedict told the world today from Santiago de Compostela.  But if the pinnacle of human perfection is attained only by the grace of God, (the one that Benedict worships) and within the folds of His Holy Church (the one that Benedict heads!), surely this statement is not only scientifically illogical, it is theologically self-serving.

This is the kind of exceptionalism that buttressed Hitler's Third Reich, his racist pogroms against the Jews and is dangerous shyte in my opinion.

Maybe Papa Ratzinger needs a refresher reprogramming course from when he was a member of the Hitler Youth!


Ben Vallejo said...

Dean, His Holiness refers to the Christian (Islamic, Buddhist etc) dogma that human beings have a soul.

As far as I know science can't define what that is. Without a clear empirical grip on that, it can't know if the soul is subject to Darwinian selection.

Benedict is too sharp in his homilies to misconstrue what he says as science!

We can't say that for our own local bishops!

GabbyD said...

you lost me when u linked catholicism with hitler.

what happened to reasonable discussion?

its true that the ONLY thing in common between xtianity and Nazism is the elevation of SOMETHING over ANOTHER THING.

but if thats your ONLY argument, then ALL kinds of viewpoints in the world will have the same feature.

this is necessarily true -- any kind of viewpoint imaginable values something over another thing.

if this is your only point, then its trivial.

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

You've hit on the right note. It is indeed the Doctrine of the Human Soul we are criticizing here. The idea that we are exceptional. In fact that ONLY OUR souls are in fact immortal.

I've described Benedict's dictum here as "Biology" only because his statement cannot be in any construed as "poetry". Therefore it can be taken at face value as hewing to the exceptionalist idea about human souls.

This is not a surprise since that is the core of Catholic doctrine regarding the matter of souls.

Mon said...

Dean, apart from the Doctrine of the Human Soul, perhaps the Pontiff's context could also be touching somehow on Christian (more biological?) concepts of: "man being created in God's own image and likeness", "the gift of free will and the ability to reason."

The same ability to reason that drives his "aspiration for truth, justice and freedom..." without which, "man would lose his very self."

Jego said...

I'd skip commenting on the faulty understanding of Christian theology, but if everyone were to accept that humans are just another species on the planet, the whole edifice of civilization will come tumbling down. Our civilization is based on the belief that humans are special and have rights. Rights not available to apes, dogs, cabbages, and bacteria.

Either rights do not exist, or we have to extend right to life, liberty, and property to protozoans and people. I'd really like to stick around til the time the latter happens. The sheer hilarity will be worth it. The former is too terrible to contemplate.

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

Equality among the species conjures up an hilarious scenario, but we might not find it so ludicrous should it turn out that we are NOT the most advanced, most intelligent species in the Universe.

But setting that aside, there would seem to be greater hilarity in the vanity of a Church which thinks it has read the mind of God and found there a unique love for mankind that does not exist for ANY other creature.

It is as if a Master Painter had created 100 million paintings but loved only one for its own sake!

Do you see my problem with Benedict's biology?

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

Is the "ability to reason" a biological faculty--a function of the brain? I find this to be a very plausible idea. Perhaps the ability to reason exists in all living creatures with complex enough thinking machinery.

This would give such creatures moral worth because they too would have the consciousness that their choices have consequences for themselves and for others. They too would have free will governed by a conscience.

I think as "top dog" species human beings like to think that "the ability to reason" is a binary ON-OFF sort of thing and that ONLY our species has it. But a large number of other creatures have brains not very different than ours in size, shape, composition and organization.

Perhaps our view of this matter would change radically if and when we encounter an extraterrestrial species superior to our own!

pierrelcn said...

Let us pan our camera lens further out and try picturing this :

- if a super-sized asteroid hit our planet and obliterate all life forms, including us, would the universe be bothered?

- if our sun run out of helium and hydrogen fuel and collapse in on itself with a whimper, would the universe be bothered?

- if our Milky Way dances the dance of death with its nemesis Andromeda and reconfigure the billions upon billions of stars contained in both, would the universe be bothered?

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves - Carl Sagan

Jego said...

DJB, Benedict wasnt talking about biology. He was talking about an unscientific notion that man is special. It is a belief firmly based on Catholic theology. Once again I enjoin scientifically-inclined atheists to prove that we humans have rights, and if they can't, renounce the existence of human rights as an unscientific superstition. It's the only honest and rational thing for them to do.

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...


The Church did not recognize "human rights" in the way we moderns now do until they had lost supremacy in the political sphere. You make it sound like they were responsible for 1776 instead of being the very theocratic reason for it.

The ideology of human rights you claim is "firmly based on Catholic Theology" flies in the face of the Church's long history of denying and suppressing those rights in favor of Divine Rights, reposed in Kings and Pontiffs.

That ideology was born in instinctive love of freedom and liberty that predates Religion, the same kind of freedom and liberty required to do science honestly and rationally.

The existence of human rights and laws protecting them are every bit a scientific accomplishment in the same sense that Rules for a Laboratory are necessary for its functioning.

Freedom and Human Rights are part of engineering our societies for continuous progress and prosperity.

We are not in any debt to a theology that does not admit the possibility of being wrong.

Religion cannot claim for itself what clearly Science only can deliver, hard as it might try.

I believe that the foundations of morality are in fact scientifically definable. So do many in the world. Once the intellectual process of demonstrating this idea is complete, not even Morality will be safe for Fantabulists.

Jego said...

Again I will skip the faulty understanding of theology to focus on the 'science' of human rights.

You make it sound like they were responsible for 1776 instead of being the very theocratic reason for it.

If that's what I made it sound like, then let me disabuse the readers. It came from a belief in a Creator who made man in his own image and gave them inalienable rights. I defer to Catholics to defend whether these same rights were recognized by the early fathers before they acquired an army via Rome. Be that as it may, it is firmly within Catholic theology now (and they will probably claim it always was.)

The challenge remains however: If scientific atheism cannot verify the existence of human rights, then they have to renounce it as a silly superstition.

I believe that the foundations of morality are in fact scientifically definable. So do many in the world

The usual promissory note science, as well as scientific-because-held-by-many, typical of the New Atheist is on display here. As a believer in something myself, I cannot begrudge them a faith of their own. I welcome their endeavor to try to ground moral facts in science, but too bad many of them already are of the opinion that there is no such thing as moral fact and has come to the obvious conclusion: Without God, there can be no morality joining such prominent rational atheists as Nietzsche and Michel Onfray. Once they have succeeded in eliminating a higher power, the world will not be safe for fantabulists and atheists. It is in the best interests of civilization that atheists remain irrational.

Mon said...

Indeed Dean, life and our scheme of things as we know it would surely get a JOLT upon encountering species superior to ourselves. And with our galaxy but a speck of the universe, we just can't cast in stone that we're indeed the LONE "top dog."

The human "superiority" complex in me though makes me hold on to the thought that we as a species have crossed that rubicon river of intellectual capacity in the evolutionary process that actually allowed us to be capable of reason and emotion, to somehow recognize intangible concepts as soul, human rights, conscience, etc. Concepts that are a long way from pure primal instincts and existence.

I can't speak for the Pope on where he was really coming from when he uttered that statement. But if you ask me, given a Darwinian context, three things are holding it together for me right here, right now - 1) the historical/biological basis of Jesus of Nazareth, 2) the historical/biological basis of the saints, and 3) the mental capacity to process something we come to know as faith.

If one is to ask, isn't faith actually going against reason? Well, so does love. And man, notwithstanding his ability to reason, can also love. If man has reason but can love; how can it be different for man, with ability to reason, to have faith?

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

I am reasoning here by induction. Observe that at one time the Church WAS the expert on most things: scientific, technological social and religious. However, gradually the Church has lost credibility in all significant intellectual spheres. She clings to a small promontory called Morality.

Soon even that bit will be shown to be governed by laws and morals that can be deduced without appeal to Divine Beings at all.

Just as Science has taken over most aspects of our mental and cultural lives, there is no reason to suppose that human rights and Constitutions are any thing more mystical than the technologies we have invented to deal with each other in the most harmonious and productive ways.

The end of Religion will come as a result of complete and utter occupation...or replacement with godless but still noble and worthwhile moralities.

Men of Science are capable of a moral sense that is independent of the crutch that religion ever was in the infancy of our race.

Religion is being evolved away. We do not need her any more to console us in the loneliness of existence.

Like the psychological need for Santa Claus, we have realized we do not NEED God for anything but poetry, and Christmas.

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

If Science were nothing but Pure Reason, it would not be Science at all, but the philosophical Art we call Mathematics, which is not a science at all. A Science that is reason and nothing else would likewise be inhuman.

Clearly Science is more than mathematical and logical reasoning, since intuition and creativity are a big part of the scientific enterprise. Scientists are human beings after all, so indeed love and emotions are part of a life devoted to Science. Curiosity and wonder, the ability to be awed by the mysterious are like Love a part of the human experience and thereofre worthy of scientific comprehension.

I think scientific man is perfectly capable of apprehending these issues and of rationalising them to guide his moral actions, without recourse to supernatural deity, and without being limited to what we conventionally think of as science.

Where Science and Religion have become incompatible however is in the realm of the natural. Certain facts about nature and the history of the world are simply not matters of opinion or pure faith, and the denial of these facts makes proceeding any further unacceptable.

Thus for example the known facts of Biology, even if they are subject to possible revision by new discoveries, cannot abide by contrary claims that are patently wrong upon which major social policies are being urged to be founded.

Jego said...

DJB, we all live in hope. I have to say though that that was an inspired paean to your faith. I still remember what you wrote a while back: "Science is my religion." (Which was also claimed by Timothy McVeigh, incidentally. :-D) I commend the efforts of some scientists to try to come up with a morality based on science, trying to come up with Ought's from the Is'es. That shows me that they too feel the need for an objective morality. They will probably succeed for a while through force of will, if not through force of science, because they will find a civilization with no objective morality intolerable, unsustainable, and dangerous. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot are too recent in their psyche and they well remember the grand experiment when atheists who believe in no power higher than the power of men ran entire nations. I remain skeptical of their endeavor, but I wish them the best of luck. Better to have them do that than find more efficient ways of killing people like those Manhattan project boys.

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

It's indeed a brave new world that wants to expel our oldest Deities and try to go it alone. Strangely enough I feel a greater urgency to treasure and nurture a Humanity naked to the Universe and without the protection of our imaginary gods, without the aggrandizement that they are special creatures of a special creator. Rather than diminish our race, I think it ennobles us to rid ourselves of that Ancient Assumption that we have a covenant with an almighty being who will protect and care for us if only we give him the cheapest coin possible: blind worship.

I see it clearly: we need no God to do Science, nor to love, nor to wonder, nor to be awe-struck by the Universe, nor to do any of the things that Religion urges us to do.

God is but a once useful Hypothesis.

teilhard said...


Are you saying that stripped of the guidance and threat of damnation from a deity you would go on a stealing, raping, and murdering rampage?

There is no direct correlating line between non-belief and the cruelty of Stalin or Hitler.

Mon said...

Dean, is it right to believe that somehow we are on the same wavelength as to plausibility of the concept that due to evolutionary advancement of man's mental/biological capacity, whereby he has ability to reason and feel emotions, it became natural to him to feel for his fellow man and respect/uphold their well being?

And that our point of disagreement is the attribution of this mental/biological advancement to a supreme being like God?

I don't know if you'd consider this off topic but may I respectfully ask what is your take on the historical footprint of Jesus of Nazareth? His teachings? What about the historical footprint of the LEGIT saints (I say LEGIT because I am aware there could be some who had just been accomodated by the heirarchy - politicallly or otherwise), the chronicled Marian apparitions, Sister Lucia, the non-decomposing, unpreserved bodies of some saints, etc. I am not sure if you have come across the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano. Of course, you may obviously dismiss all of these as downright foolishness and fabrication.

I know the Church heirarchy had committed atrocities in history (Galileo, Copernicus, Inquisition etc.) but veering away from the sins of the (some or often? times self righteous) heirarchy and just contextualizing things spiritually (not religion)and aided by reason, isn't all of these too enormous of an act to be put together by the Church and perhaps, maybe worth considering and probing?

Besides, they may not need to fabricate stuff since they are already the high and mighty Church with revenues coming in from all over the world. And if ever they need the constant "publicity" to sustain operations (and relevance?), why are they so strict and conservative in recognizing instances of alleged miracles when these may boost their stock even more.

Religion may have started as a noble means of propagating the faith. But selfish acts of the heirarchy has tainted religion due to their hypocrisy.

But man has ability to reason to recognize that there are instances that indicate presence of someone/something beyond us. An intuition (or creativity?) of a notion of a supreme being.

And man doesn't need any structured Church heirarchy to feed us that, we can somehow think and feel for ourselves, right?

Mon said...

Apologies if my last comment is posted several times; PC's acting up...

Jego said...

Hello teilhard. I'll assume that's a serious question so I'll answer it: No. That would be silly. DJB himself proves that it's silly since he has shown his faith that someday -- someday -- moral fact would be proven to exist by scientists and we would have more inclination to love our neighbor since Science says so.

As for the correlation, there is a correlation between atheist regimes and the worst mass murders in human history. It's an observed fact from the history of the 20th century. Atheism is not causative to Lenin and Stalin and Mao's murdering of millions, but it was a necessary component of it. In fact I daresay if Sam Harris ever becomes the leader of a country of atheists, he'd be bombing Iran since in his writings he has shown inclination to bomb any country whose beliefs he considers a threat.

(As for Hitler, you have me confused with DJB. He was the one who insinuated Benedict was a Nazi.)

Mon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dean Jorge Bocobo said...


It would be a stupendous intellectual achievement if someday "moral fact is proven to exist by scientists and we would have more inclination to love our neighbor since Science says so."

I would be very pleased if this happened.

But I've just realized that such a thing does not have to come to pass in a way you might insist upon, that for example I must demonstrate the validity of the human emotion of Love starting from first principles of atomic physics!

I think that I would also contest an assumption you implicitly and explicitly make: that Religion has indeed proven the existence of moral fact.

I think however that it is possible to love the good for its own sake, and NOT for the sake of a Creator God or Mathematical Physics.

In other words Morality is well within the rational purview of an intelligent human beings in exactly the same way as Science or Art or Mathematics or Music.

None of these things need "scientific proof" for us to appreciate them. My point is that we don't need God either for that purpose!

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

Ben, Jego,
So upon what then ought Morality be based?

I would like to define morality as the conscientious desire and earnest effort to do justice to every man in all circumstances that involve us.

To always do the moral thing therefore means to always do the FAIR and JUST thing.

In my opinion, we can never do what is fair and just unless we are in possession of the Truth.

Thus Morality is ultimately founded on the Truth if by it we mean we must do justice to everyone in our relations with them.

At this point it is useful to apply these thoughts to the roiling debate over the RH Bill. Here is a long running public debate over what is clearly a MORAL issue. On one side are the Catholic Bishops who insist that contraception is tantamount to abortion and murder, but using a tortuous path of faulty reasoning and pseudoscientific notions about what is essentially a question of Biology.

On the other side of course are the Civilians, who all can see that PREVENTING pregnancy is not the same as killing your baby!

I think this clearly illustrates in a very concrete and relevant situation how the facts of Science, and not Dogmas of Religion, ought to inform our MORAL decision-making.

teilhard said...

You don't have to wait someday Jego. Because right this very moment your capacity and/or potential to do good or evil is present in you system.

Thank you for proving DJB's point.

teilhard said...

Just as belief in Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah, or Thor does not guarantee a perfectly ordered moral life, so too, does non-belief in any of those supernatural entities can the individual be ascribed for his moral or immoral behavior.
Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Gloria Arroyo, Idi Amin, Noriega, Marcos, Ceausescu or Ivan the Terrible were motivated to commit tyranny not so much for their belief or non-belief as it is for their political ideology.

Jego said...

DJB, youre missing the point. You talk of love of the good as some kind of 'good'. "I think however that it is possible to love the good for its own sake." The question is, why is the good good? Why is it good to love the good for its own sake? The atheist cries, "It is possible to be an atheist and be good." Of course it is. But why do we call it good? Why is justice good? Why is the moral moral? Why, for instance, was it bad for Mao to murder millions? He was only doing so for the good of the State. The 'common good' if you will. Why is it wrong for me to kill my enemy and to kill his wife and children because Im wary of future threats when they seek revenge?

Christians have an answer. The atheists borrowed it, believing there is such a thing as moral fact, but eliminated the theists' reason for why the good is good. And I for one am thankful they did. It is the rational atheist that is the enemy. You wouldnt want Michel Onfray near your daughter. :-D

Thank you for the space. Maybe I'll expound on this more in my own blog if I have the time. Ive taken too much space here already.

Jego said...

One more for teilhard before I leave. I think I owe him the courtesy of a reply.

Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Gloria Arroyo, Idi Amin, Noriega, Marcos, Ceausescu or Ivan the Terrible were motivated to commit tyranny not so much for their belief or non-belief as it is for their political ideology.

Like I said, it wasnt Stalin's atheism that was causative. It was his belief that there is no power higher than the power of man, and therefore man has a right to create his own morality. It was perfectly justified in this atheist morality to starve 11 million Ukrainians to death for the common good. Anyway, Ive seen this argument before and it's perilously close to a No True Scotsman argument. To illustrate, with this line of argument I suppose it's not Hitler's ultra-nationalism that motivated him to kill Jews, it's his love of tyranny. I think atheists ought to retire this line of reasoning but it keeps coming up every now and again. Roman Catholicism was a necessary component of the Inquisition. Atheism was a necessary component of Stalin's pogroms.

GabbyD said...

" but we might not find it so ludicrous should it turn out that we are NOT the most advanced, most intelligent species in the Universe. "


indeed -- when this ACTUALLY HAPPENS, that a rival species on earth shows up, then we can rethink this statement.

as i said earlier -- all statements re morality involve placing a value hierarchy; nazi-ism included.

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

Why is the good, good? Why is the bad, bad? These are deep questions and as you point out Theists and Atheists have come up with very different reasons.

It is on those reasons that you and I differ. I do not know the answer to these deep questions, but I do not see how the hypothesis of a personal
God leads to any kind of satisfying answer to them.

Perhaps there are some things, like the axioms of logic and mathematics that are analogous in the moral sphere. There are axioms of morality that do not require any further explanation or justification, either in the form of a supernatural deity or anything else.

I guess where we part ways is not on morality anyway but what we do about its Justification. I don't want to worship the Justification.

teilhard said...


Perhaps you are diluting your otherwise clear thinking with too much Hegel or Aquinas. A little brushing on evolutionary psychology or a peek at The Moral Landscape or even Robert Wright's The Moral Animal and his famous "non-zero sum" may get you on track on some self-evident nature of things.

And while you're are it, why don't you also ponder this : when your lordy Lord created the heavens and the earth and everything in between and pronounced it good, did you also asked him why good is good?

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

I shall put the Question in your terms:

Is God a necessary and sufficient reason for rational men to act in a moral manner?

I ask this because I cannot agree that Roman Catholicism was a necessary component of the Inquisition -- since any other body of dogmatic doctrine would've worked for that purpose. In other words, some other Religion, had it become the Roman Empire and rose to world power in Rome, could also beget an Inquisition.

Likewise, the atheism of Stalin, as you define it, that he believed in no higher power on earth than Man, seems a strange thing to blame when he clearly had all this Marxist Class Struggle and Leninist revolutionary theory to draw on--which is in fact what History has him doing at every turn.

By the way, Atheists, at least those I know, do NOT subscribe to the notion that there is no higher power than Man. That's clearly disproved by something like SETI.

Atheism is NOT the belief that there is no God. It's merely the unwillingness to accept fantastic claims without equivalently convincing evidence. We have not yet met a God described by some Religion that is CONVINCINGLY the creator of the Universe and loves and cherishes us. Now this disbelief is not a belief in its opposite.

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

Monotheistic Religions always discourse AS IF there really is only one true God. But polytheism is not the problem of monotheistic religions. It is the existence of other monotheistic religions. Viewed like this, what we find on Earth are a large diversity of equally IMPLAUSIBLE notions of "God". Each monotheistic religion directly contradicts all the others and are APOSTATES relative to them--by definition!

Atheists have merely come to the conclusion that they are all wrong! By the way, strict atheists do not say we believe there is NO God. But in fact we allow for the possibility that there may be many gods in the Universe.

But it gets really weirder when--in an ecumenical spirit--they each one will allow the possibility that the Gods of the others are only superficially different than their one true God.

Mon said...

"...strict atheists do not say we believe there is NO God. But in fact we allow for the possibility that there may be many gods in the Universe..."

At least there's still a chance for strict atheists actually believing there is/are God/s. It's just a matter of how one interprets plausible indications of His/their presence. How one gives meaning to his life experiences based on his mental capacity and emotions will ultimately drive people to recognize, believe and accept or ignore, question and deny God's existence.

The tricky part here is: hypothetically, what if a person's life is just 100% pure hell here on earth, how would he able to even think, much less feel, that there's indeed a God?

Well, my God's kingdom is not of this world, so I have faith that He knows better in judging that person's fate. And He would also know how to deal with the rest of that person's acquaintances who could have extended goodness, but decided otherwise.

Alileo said...

The Pope’s statement seems to be a variant of the idea that God made the world for man and man for Himself. It is a theological statement, not a statement of science. The existential proof of man's "specialness" is his freedom, for with it he can stand toe-to-toe with God and acknowledge, or deny, His existence; accept, or reject, His love. No other creature on Earth--dogs, dolphins, cats, elephants, whales, not even the late Paul the Octopus--can do that. In that theological sense, man is special.
And here's a related theological idea: we’ve been created free because freedom is a conditio sine qua non for a relationship of love, with our fellow men and with God. A belief in man's "specialness" as such need not imply that the rest of creation is worthless-- that would be an insult to the Creator.
But the more crucial point is that for freedom to remain a force for the good, man must ground it on transcendent truth. In Christian thought, transcendent truth is God Himself. When religion has been ‘evolved away’, where do we look for the bases for an external objective truth (as opposed to Hitler’s, Mao’s, Pol Pot’s or any other despot’s personal truths) to judge what is right or wrong? Will we in the future really find our sense of truth embedded in a specific portion of our brain? If we do, can we expect every human being on the planet to share such scientific morality? If not, who will be the final arbiter of truth, of morality? The law? Our Supreme Court? What, political appointees as final arbiters of morality in society?

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

There is another possibility: that Man made God for himself in order to explain a world he could not understand. What Science has done is helped us understand the world in ways that were unimaginable when Men needed Gods as an explanation. So in order to understand much of the natural world we no longer have the original motivation for putting strange gods before us.

The genius of the God invention for me is to imbue in that invention not only an independent existence from its inventor, but one of Universal Creator. Thus disguising the Authors' hand!

There is a circularity to your argument that Man is special because he alone can deny the existence of God. But of course that is because dolphins, cats, dogs, etc cannot possibly share a human delusion or conception like God--no more than we could even begin to imagine the consciousness of other animals. But they obviously have a consciousness, alien though it be to us.

Now what dreams--or gods--occupy those minds, how are we to discover. But this is a case as in higher mathematics, when we can prove something exists, even if that is all we can know about it!

This does not denigrate Human Kind of course. It merely elevates all of Creation if you will. I simply cannot believe we are God's favorites among the billions of species he has created.

Alileo said...

"There is a circularity to your argument that Man is special because he alone can deny the existence of God. But of course that is because dolphins, cats, dogs, etc cannot possibly share a human delusion or conception like God--no more than we could even begin to imagine the consciousness of other animals. But they obviously have a consciousness, alien though it be to us."
It would be circular reasoning only to those who hold that God is a creation of man, while observing a believer talking to God. But I’m a believer, so…
My point is that God created man with the freedom to make moral choices, freedom being a necessary condition for man to have a personal relationship with Him. God did that to no other creatures, however much and whatever kind of consciousness and intelligence they may possess. I have never in my life interpreted that as permission to abuse animals or to destroy nature. No doubt there are believers who do that-- for financial gain, not because they care about what God says.
Yes, hardwired in every human being is a moral compass—aka the conscience. But I also know that my innate moral compass is prone to error, that’s why I must defer to a moral authority outside of myself –God, my Final Arbiter of morality. You say that believers created God because they need Him for this. I disagree, but for brevity’s sake I cannot discuss my motives for belief here.
But in considering your brave new world, I find it unreasonable to accept the idea that each person will contain the Final Arbiter within himself to judge his own moral acts. That scenario entails some sort of circular reasoning, doesn’t it?

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

Alileo--We are in no position to decide whether or not God has a Favorite Creature in us. ON Earth alone we count over 100 million unique species. How do you know that only we have been given Free Will? I suspect the answer to this question is that it might run afoul of our habit of eating other animals if they had immortal souls too.

But to your point about circular reasoning, and the need for an external Final Arbiter of morals, here is a mind blower: Don't we still have to make an exquisitely subtle and expert judgment about that Final Arbiter, with skill and wisdom that would surely be equal to deciding any moral question? In other words, if we can evaluate a Final Arbiter well enough to choose It freely, we are capable of deciding any Moral Question the Final Arbiter is capable of deciding for us! So who needs a Final Arbiter.

So as not to be anarchical, I should say that I don't know why but I know in my heart of hearts that I can be Good without believing in God.

If our innate moral compass is prone to error, it cannot also be infallible with respect to any communications with the Final Arbiter. So we are limited by our moral compass anyway!

All of this argues only that God is UNNECESSARY for any objective for which God may nonetheless be SUFFICIENT.