tiistaina, syyskuuta 26, 2006

The Edge of Evolution

Michael Behen uusi kirja "The Edge of Evolution" ilmestyy näemmä ensi vuonna.

The Edge of Evolution

Michael J. Behe (View Bio)
The Free Press, 2007

Continuing the important and controversial work begun in his best-selling DARWIN'S BLACK BOX, this book explores the ragged border of the most influential idea of our time—Darwinian evolution. In a nutshell, undiluted Darwinism says that life developed strictly through the interplay of chance and natural selection. Random mutations thrown up by genetic mistakes spread if they helped a lucky mutant to leave more offspring than others of its species. Incessant repetition of this simple process over eons didn't just modify the fringes of life. It built the wonders of biology from the ground up, from the intricate molecular machinery of cells up to and including the human mind.

That's the official story, anyway, which is often presented as a package deal—take it or leave it. Yet Darwin's multifaceted theory has to be sifted carefully, because it actually contains a number of unrelated, entirely separate ideas. Scientific reasoning, like many other intellectual endeavors, is simply a chain of logic built on facts and assumptions. This book assumes any well-informed, reasoning person—PhD or no—can critique the logical chain, question the supposed facts, and challenge the assumptions.

To help us see what random mutation and natural selection can really do, this book takes an unusual approach. In order to get a realistic idea of the power of Darwinian evolution, it leaves behind most of the popular images—dinosaurs, wooly mammoths, pretty Galapagos finches—to focus mainly on the invisible foundation of biology, the molecular world of the cell. There are two vital reasons for this: First, mutations—the fuel of Darwinian evolution—are themselves molecular changes, where the DNA of an organism is accidentally altered from that of its parents. Second, the most intricate work of life takes place at the level of molecules and cells. Imperceptible molecules are the foundational level of life. So, to locate the edge of evolution, we have to examine life's foundation.


sunnuntaina, syyskuuta 24, 2006

Richard Dawkins explains his latest book

Editors note:
Quoted from
http://richarddawkins.net. Emphasis in original.
Richard Dawkins' essay was posted: Wednesday, September 20, 2006 at

It disappeared from http://richarddawkins.net: Saturday, September, 23, 2006 after Mike Gene's post.
UPDATE: Shortened version of this article has appeared at The Huffingron Post:October 23, 2006

Richard Dawkins explains his latest book

by Richard Dawkins

Buy The God Delusion Now on Amazon.com

I wanted to write The God Delusion six years ago. American friends counselled against, and my New York literary agent was horrified. Perhaps in Britain you could sell a book that criticized religion, he said. But in the US, don’t even think about it. He hated to admit it, for he was an atheist like most American intellectuals, but religion was off limits to ridicule. You had to respect religion even if you didn’t subscribe to it. Wendy Kaminer was exaggerating only slightly when she remarked that making fun of religion is as risky as burning a flag in an American Legion Hall. Concentrate on science, my American friends advised. Hands off religion. Let the grandeur of science speak for itself, and religion will die a natural death by ignominious comparison. I gave way and wrote The Ancestor’s Tale instead.

I don’t regret that decision, for The Ancestor’s Tale is the nearest approach to a proud magnum opus that I am likely to achieve, and I could not wish it undone. But how different the cultural landscape looks today. After four years of Bush, my literary agent changed his tune. He started begging me to write The God Delusion. And publishers around America are now falling over themselves to bring out atheistic books from which they would have run a mile only a few years ago. Dan Dennett’s Breaking the Spell (thoughtful and persuasive as we have come to expect of that scientifically savvy philosopher) is selling very nicely, as are Sam Harris’s scintillating and more militant The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation (books whose almost every sentence makes you want to phone somebody up and read it out to them). Another that I am looking forward to is God: the Failed Hypothesis – How science shows that God does not exist, by that lucid and knowledgeable physicist Victor Stenger, due out early next year.

On the other side, of course there have always been huge numbers of religious books. You can’t get away from them. But works like Francis Collins’s The Language of God, and Alister McGrath’s Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life are a significant departure. They amount to an anxious backlash against the newly emergent scientific atheism. The same could be said of Ann Coulter’s barbarically ignorant Godless: the Church of Liberalism. As an outsider, I observe American culture polarizing fast, and religion is at the center of the action.

America, founded in secularism as a beacon of eighteenth century enlightenment, is becoming the victim of religious politics, a circumstance that would have horrified the Founding Fathers. The political ascendancy today values embryonic cells over real people. It obsesses about gay marriage, ahead of genuinely important issues that actually make a difference to the world. It gains crucial electoral support from a constituency whose grip on reality is so tenuous that they expect to be ‘raptured’ up to heaven, leaving their clothes as empty as their minds. More extreme specimens actually long for a world war, which they identify as the ‘Armageddon’ that is to presage the Second Coming. Sam Harris, in Letter to a Christian Nation, hits the bull’s-eye as usual:

It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver-lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen: the return of Christ
. . .Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and ­intellectual emergency.

Does Bush check the Rapture Index daily, as Reagan did his stars? We don’t know, but would anyone be surprised?

My scientific colleagues have additional reasons to declare emergency. Ignorant and absolutist attacks on stem cell research are just the tip of an iceberg. What we have here is nothing less than a global assault on rationality, and the Enlightenment values that inspired the founding of this first and greatest of secular republics. Science education – and hence the whole future of science in this country – is under threat. Temporarily beaten back in a Pennsylvania court, the ‘breathtaking inanity’ (Judge John Jones’s immortal phrase) of ‘intelligent design’ continually flares up in local bush-fires. Dowsing them is a time-consuming but important responsibility, and scientists are finally being jolted out of their complacency. For years they quietly got on with their science, lamentably underestimating the creationists who, being neither competent nor interested in science, attended to the serious political business of subverting local school boards. Scientists, and intellectuals generally, are now waking up to the threat from the American Taliban. The God Delusion is my goodwill contribution from across the Atlantic to that awakening.

Scientists divide into two schools of thought over the best tactics with which to face the threat. The Neville Chamberlain ‘appeasement’ school, as I have called it in my book, focuses on the battle for evolution. Consequently, its members identify fundamentalism as the enemy, and they bend over backwards to appease ‘moderate’ or ‘sensible’ religion (not a difficult task, for bishops and theologians despise fundamentalists as much as scientists do). Scientists of the Winston Churchill school, by contrast, see the fight for evolution as only one battle in a larger war: a looming war between supernaturalism on the one side and rationality on the other. For them, bishops and theologians belong with creationists in the supernatural camp, and are not to be appeased.

The Chamberlain school accuses Churchillians of rocking the boat to the point of muddying the waters. The philosopher of science Michael Ruse wrote:

We who love science must realize that the enemy of our enemies is our friend. Too often evolutionists spend time insulting would-be allies. This is especially true of secular evolutionists. Atheists spend more time running down sympathetic Christians than they do countering ­creationists. When John Paul II wrote a letter endorsing Darwinism, Richard Dawkins’s response was simply that the pope was a hypocrite, that he could not be genuine about science and that Dawkins himself simply preferred an honest fundamentalist.

A recent article in the New York Times by Cornelia Dean quotes the astronomer Owen Gingerich as saying that, by simultaneously advocating evolution and atheism, ‘Dr Dawkins “probably single-handedly makes more converts to intelligent design than any of the leading intelligent design theorists”.’ This is not the first, not the second, not even the third time this plonkingly witless point has been made (and more than one reply has aptly cited Uncle Remus: “Oh please please Brer Fox, don’t throw me in that awful briar patch”).

Chamberlainites are apt to quote the late Stephen Jay Gould’s ‘NOMA’ – ‘non-overlapping magisteria’. Gould claimed that science and true religion never come into conflict because they exist in completely separate dimensions of discourse:

To say it for all my colleagues and for the umpteenth millionth time (from college bull sessions to learned treatises): science simply cannot (by its legitimate methods) adjudicate the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm nor deny it; we simply can’t comment on it as scientists.

This sounds terrific, right up until you give it a moment’s thought. You then realize that the presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science. A universe with a god would be a completely different kind of universe from one without, and it would be a scientific difference. God could clinch the matter in his favour at any moment by staging a spectacular demonstration of his powers, one that would satisfy the exacting standards of science. Even the infamous Templeton Foundation recognized that God is a scientific hypothesis – by funding double-blind trials to test whether remote prayer would speed the recovery of heart patients. It didn’t, of course, although a control group who knew they had been prayed for tended to get worse (how about a class action suit against the Templeton Foundation?) Despite such well-financed efforts, no evidence for God’s existence has yet appeared.

To see the disingenuous hypocrisy of religious people who embrace NOMA, imagine that forensic archeologists, by some unlikely set of circumstances, discovered DNA evidence demonstrating that Jesus was born of a virgin mother and had no father. If NOMA enthusiasts were sincere, they should dismiss the archeologists’ DNA out of hand: “Irrelevant. Scientific evidence has no bearing on theological questions. Wrong magisterium.” Does anyone seriously imagine that they would say anything remotely like that? You can bet your boots that not just the fundamentalists but every professor of theology and every bishop in the land would trumpet the archeological evidence to the skies.

Either Jesus had a father or he didn’t. The question is a scientific one, and scientific evidence, if any were available, would be used to settle it. The same is true of any miracle – and the deliberate and intentional creation of the universe would have to have been the mother and father of all miracles. Either it happened or it didn’t. It is a fact, one way or the other, and in our state of uncertainty we can put a probability on it – an estimate that may change as more information comes in. Humanity’s best estimate of the probability of divine creation dropped steeply in 1859 when The Origin of Species was published, and it has declined steadily during the subsequent decades, as evolution consolidated itself from plausible theory in the nineteenth century to established fact today.

The Chamberlain tactic of snuggling up to ‘sensible’ religion, in order to present a united front against (‘intelligent design’) creationists, is fine if your central concern is the battle for evolution. That is a valid central concern, and I salute those who press it, such as Eugenie Scott in Evolution versus Creationism. But if you are concerned with the stupendous scientific question of whether the universe was created by a supernatural intelligence or not, the lines are drawn completely differently. On this larger issue, fundamentalists are united with ‘moderate’ religion on one side, and I find myself on the other.

Of course, this all presupposes that the God we are talking about is a personal intelligence such as Yahweh, Allah, Baal, Wotan, Zeus or Lord Krishna. If, by ‘God’, you mean nature, goodness, the universe, the laws of physics, the spirit of humanity, or Planck’s constant, none of the above applies. An American student asked her professor whether he had a view about me. ‘Sure,’ he replied. ‘He’s positive science is incompatible with religion, but he waxes ecstatic about nature and the universe. To me, that is ­religion!’ Well, if that’s what you choose to mean by religion, fine, that makes me a religious man. But if your God is a being who designs universes, listens to prayers, forgives sins, wreaks miracles, reads your thoughts, cares about your welfare and raises you from the dead, you are unlikely to be satisfied. As the distinguished American physicist Steven Weinberg said, “If you want to say that ‘God is energy,’ then you can find God in a lump of coal.” But don’t expect congregations to flock to your church.

When Einstein said ‘Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?’ he meant ‘Could the universe have begun in more than one way?’ ‘God does not play dice’ was Einstein’s poetic way of doubting Heisenberg’s indeterminacy principle. Einstein was famously irritated when theists misunderstood him to mean a personal God. But what did he expect? The hunger to misunderstand should have been palpable to him. ‘Religious’ physicists usually turn out to be so only in the Einsteinian sense: they are atheists of a poetic disposition. So am I. But, given the widespread yearning for that great misunderstanding, deliberately to confuse Einsteinian pantheism with supernatural religion is an act of intellectual high treason.

Accepting, then, that the God Hypothesis is a proper scientific hypothesis whose truth or falsehood is hidden from us only by lack of evidence, what should be our best estimate of the probability that God exists, given the evidence now available? Pretty low I think, and I spend a couple of chapters of The God Delusion explaining why.

Most of the traditional arguments for God’s existence, from Aquinas on, are easily demolished. Several of them, such as the First Cause argument, work by setting up an infinite regress which God is wheeled out to terminate. But we are never told why God is magically able to terminate regresses while needing no explanation himself. To be sure, we do need some kind of explanation for the origin of all things. Physicists and cosmologists are hard at work on the problem. But whatever the answer – a random quantum fluctuation or a Hawking/Penrose singularity or whatever we end up calling it – it will be simple. Complex, statistically improbable things, by definition, don’t just happen; they demand an explanation in their own right. They are impotent to terminate regresses, in a way that simple things are not. The first cause cannot have been an intelligence – let alone an intelligence that answers prayers and enjoys being worshipped. Intelligent, creative, complex, statistically improbable things come late into the universe, as the product of evolution or some other process of gradual escalation from simple beginnings. They come late into the universe and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it.

Another of Aquinas’ efforts, the Argument from Degree, is worth spelling out, for it epitomises the characteristic flabbiness of theological reasoning. We notice degrees of, say, goodness or temperature, and we measure them, Aquinas said, by reference to a maximum:

Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus, as fire, which is the maximum of heat, is the cause of all hot things . . . Therefore, there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.

That’s an argument? As I point out in The God Delusion, you might as well say that people vary in smelliness but we can make the judgment only by reference to a perfect maximum of conceivable smelliness. Therefore there must exist a pre-eminently peerless stinker, and we call him God. Or substitute any dimension of comparison you like, and derive an equivalently fatuous conclusion. That’s theology.

The only one of the traditional arguments for God that is widely used today is the teleological argument, sometimes called the Argument from Design although – since the name begs the question of its validity – it should better be called the Argument for Design. It is the familiar ‘watchmaker’ argument, which is surely one of the most superficially plausible bad arguments ever discovered – and it is rediscovered by just about everybody until they are taught the logical fallacy and Darwin’s brilliant alternative.

In the familiar world of human artifacts, complicated things that look designed are designed. To naïve observers, it seems to follow that similarly complicated things in the natural world that look designed – things like eyes and hearts – are designed too. It isn’t just an argument by analogy. There is a semblance of statistical reasoning here too – fallacious, but carrying an illusion of plausibility. If you randomly scramble the fragments of an eye or a leg or a heart a million times, you’d be lucky to hit even one combination that could see, walk or pump. This demonstrates that such devices could not have been put together by chance. And of course, no sensible scientist ever said they could. Lamentably, the scientific education of most British and American students omits all mention of Darwinism, and therefore the only alternative to chance that most people can imagine is design.

Even before Darwin’s time, the illogicality was glaring: how could it ever have been a good idea to postulate, in explanation for the existence of improbable things, a designer who would have to be even more improbable? The entire argument is a logical non-starter, as David Hume realized before Darwin was born. What Hume didn’t know was the supremely elegant alternative to both chance and design that Darwin was to give us. Natural selection is so stunningly powerful and elegant, it not only explains the whole of life, it raises our consciousness and boosts our confidence in science’s future ability to explain everything else.

Natural selection is not just an alternative to chance. It is the only ultimate alternative ever suggested. Design is a workable explanation for organized complexity only in the short term. It is not an ultimate explanation, because designers themselves demand an explanation. If, as Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel once playfully speculated, life on this planet was deliberately seeded by a payload of bacteria in the nose cone of a rocket, we still need an explanation for the intelligent aliens who dispatched the rocket. Ultimately they must have evolved by gradual degrees from simpler beginnings. Only evolution, or some kind of gradualistic ‘crane’ (to use Dennett’s neat term), is capable of terminating the regress. Natural selection is an anti-chance process, which gradually builds up complexity, step by tiny step. The end product of this ratcheting process is an eye, or a heart, or a brain – a device whose improbable complexity is utterly baffling until you spot the gentle ramp that leads up to it.

Whether my conjecture is right that evolution is the only explanation for life in the universe, there is no doubt that it is the explanation for life on this planet. Evolution is a fact, and it is among the more secure facts known to science. But it had to get started somehow. Natural selection cannot work its wonders until certain minimal conditions are in place, of which the most important is an accurate system of replication – DNA, or something that works like DNA.

The origin of life on this planet – which means the origin of the first self-replicating molecule – is hard to study, because it (probably) only happened once, 4 billion years ago and under very different conditions. We may never know how it happened. Unlike the ordinary evolutionary events that followed, it must have been a genuinely very improbable – in the sense of unpredictable – event: too improbable, perhaps, for chemists to reproduce it in the laboratory or even devise a plausible theory for what happened. This weirdly paradoxical conclusion – that a chemical account of the origin of life, in order to be plausible, has to be implausible – would follow from the premise that life is extremely rare in the universe. And to be sure, we have never encountered any hint of extraterrestrial life, not even by radio – the circumstance that prompted Enrico Fermi’s cry: “Where is everybody?”

A billion billion is a conservative estimate for the number of planets in the universe. Suppose life’s origin on a planet demands a hugely improbable stroke of luck, so improbable that it happens on only one in a billion planets. The National Science Foundation would laugh at any chemist whose proposed research had only a one in a hundred chance of succeeding, let alone one in a billion. Yet, if there are a billion billion planets in the universe, even such absurdly low odds as these will yield life on a billion planets. And – this is where the famous anthropic principle comes in – Earth has to be one of them, because here we are.

If you set out in a spaceship to find the one planet in the galaxy that has life, the odds against your finding it would be so great that the task would be indistinguishable, in practice, from impossible. But if you are alive (as you manifestly are if you are about to step into a spaceship) you needn’t bother to go looking for that one planet because, by definition, you are already standing on it. The anthropic principle really is rather elegant. By the way, I don’t actually think the origin of life was as improbable as all that. I think the galaxy has plenty of islands of life dotted about, even if the islands are too spaced out for any one to hope for a meeting with any other. My point is only that the origin of life could in theory be as lucky as a blindfolded golfer scoring a hole in one. The beauty of the anthropic principle is that, even in the teeth of such stupefying odds against, it still gives us a perfectly satisfying explanation for life’s presence on our own planet.

The anthropic principle is usually applied not to planets but to universes. Physicists have suggested that the laws and constants of physics are too good – as if the universe were set up to favour our eventual evolution. It is as though there were, say, half a dozen dials representing the major constants of physics. Each of the dials could in principle be tuned to any of a wide range of values. Almost all of these knob-twiddlings would yield a universe in which life would be impossible. Some universes would fizzle out within the first picosecond. Others would contain no elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. In yet others, the matter would never condense into stars (and you need stars in order to forge the elements of chemistry and hence life). You can estimate the very low odds against the six knobs all just happening to be correctly tuned, and conclude that a divine knob-twiddler must have been at work. But, as we have already seen, that explanation is vacuous because it begs the biggest question of all. The divine knob twiddler would himself have to have been at least as improbable as the settings of his knobs.

Again, the anthropic principle delivers its devastatingly neat solution. Physicists already have reason to suspect that our universe – everything we can see – is only one universe among perhaps billions. Some theorists postulate a multiverse of foam, where the universe we know is just one bubble. Each bubble has its own laws and constants. Our familiar laws of physics are parochial bylaws. Of all the universes in the foam, only a minority has what it takes to generate life. And, with anthropic hindsight, we obviously have to be sitting in a member of that minority, because, well, here we are, aren’t we? As physicists have said, it is no accident that we see stars in our sky, for a universe without stars would also lack the chemical elements necessary for life. There may be universes whose skies have no stars: but they also have no inhabitants to notice the lack. Similarly, it is no accident that we see a rich diversity of living species: for an evolutionary process that is capable of yielding a species that can see things and reflect on them cannot help producing lots of other species at the same time. It must be surrounded by an ecosystem, as it must be surrounded by stars.

The anthropic principle entitles us to postulate a massive dose of luck in accounting for the existence of life on our planet. But there are dramatic limits. We are allowed one stroke of luck for the origin of evolution, and perhaps a couple of other unique events like the origin of the eukaryotic cell and the origin of consciousness. But that’s the end of our entitlement to large-scale luck. We emphatically cannot invoke major strokes of luck to account for the illusion of design that glows from each of the billion species of living creature that have ever lived on Earth. The evolution of life is a general and continuing process, producing essentially the same result in all species, however different the details.

Contrary to what is sometimes alleged, evolution is a predictive science. If you pick any hitherto unstudied species and subject it to minute scrutiny, any evolutionist will confidently predict that each individual will be observed to do everything in its power, in the particular way of the species – plant, herbivore, carnivore, nectivore or whatever it is – to survive and propagate the DNA that rides inside it. We won’t be around long enough to test the prediction but we can say, with great confidence, that if a comet strikes Earth and wipes out the mammals, a new fauna will rise to fill their shoes, just as the mammals filled those of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. And the range of parts played by the new cast of life’s drama will be similar in broad outline, though not in detail, to the roles played by the mammals, and the dinosaurs before them. The same rules are predictably being followed, in millions of species all over the globe, and for hundreds of millions of years. Such a general observation requires an entirely different explanatory principle from the anthropic principle that explains one-off events like the origin of life, or the origin of the universe, by luck.

We explain our existence by a combination of the anthropic principle and Darwin’s principle of natural selection. That combination provides a complete and deeply satisfying explanation for everything that we see and know. Not only is the god hypothesis unnecessary. It is spectacularly unparsimonious. Not only do we need no God to explain the universe and life. God stands out in the universe as the most glaring of all superfluous sore thumbs. We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can’t disprove Thor, fairies and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, like those other fantasies that we can’t disprove, we can say that God is very very improbable.

The non-existence of God is the main conclusion of the first half of my book. The second half is devoted to questions that arise from it.

* Why, if religion is false, do so many people believe in it? (I am one of those who see it as an unfortunate by-product of otherwise useful psychological predispositions).

* Where, if not from religion, does our morality come from? Don’t we need religion, in order to be good? (I cannot believe that those who advocate a morality based on the Bible have actually read it. We not only shouldn’t get our morals from religion, we don’t. Believers and unbelievers alike participate in a slowly shifting moral Zeitgeist rooted in Darwinian rules of thumb).

* Even if religion is false, doesn’t it do some good? (Yes, but only by accident). And weren’t Hitler and Stalin atheists? (The answer is: No for Hitler, yes for Stalin, and your point is . . . ?)

* Religion may be nonsense, but isn’t it harmless nonsense, like astrology and crystal balls? Why be so hostile? (Scientists have a particular reason to be hostile to any systematically organized effort to teach children to reject evidence in favour of faith, revelation, authority and tradition. Religion teaches people to be satisfied with petty, small-minded non-explanations or mysteries, and this is a tragedy, given that the true explanations are so enthralling. Moreover, such hostility as I have is limited to words. I am not going to bomb anybody, behead them, stone them, burn them at the stake, crucify them, or fly planes into their skyscrapers, just because of a theological disagreement).

A recurring theme of my book is consciousness-raising. Just as Darwinian biology raised our consciousness to the power of science to explain things outside biology, and just as feminists taught us to flinch when we hear “One man one vote”, I want us to flinch when we hear of a ‘Christian child’ or a ‘Muslim child”. Small children are too young to know their views on life, ethics and the cosmos. We should no more speak of a Christian child than of a Keynesian child, a monetarist child or a Marxist child. Automatic labelling of children with the religion of their parents is not just presumptuous. It is a form of mental child abuse.

Academic studies of Nobel Prize-winners, and other intellectual elites such as the US National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, all report an overwhelming preponderance of atheists. One would presume that a fair proportion of our elected rulers would also be drawn from the intellectual elite. Given that 93% of the National Academy does not believe in any kind of personal god, a statistician would expect that at least some members of Congress, if not a majority, would also be atheists. Yet, as far as I can discover, the number of avowed atheists among the 535 members of Congress is not 93%, not even 10%. It seems to be zero. What is going on here? I think we all know.

In 2001, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) based in the City University of New York, reported some surprising figures. The great majority of the US adult population call themselves Christian: 160 million adults. But what group takes second place? Jews? No. For all their formidable electoral clout, the 2.8 million Jews are massively outnumbered by the nearly 30 million non-religious or secular Americans. Organizing atheists is like herding cats. But if the unbelievers of America could only get their act together a tenth as effectively as the legendarily powerful Jewish lobby, what might they not achieve? Maybe at least some candidates for high office would gain the courage to tell us what they truly believe. And still get elected.

Richard Dawkins

Related articles:
Dawkins on the DI Payroll?
A Dawkins Fest
The Chamberlainites and the Churchillians
Found the Dawkins Essay
Exaggerate the Awe

torstaina, syyskuuta 21, 2006

Dawkins, dogmatisti

Dawkins The Dogmatist

Kirjoittaja: tiedetoimittaja Andrew Brown

"Dawkins is inexhaustibly outraged by the fact that religious opinions lead people to terrible crimes. But what, if there is no God, is so peculiarly shocking about these opinions being specifically religious? The answer he supplies is simple: that when religious people do evil things, they are acting on the promptings of their faith but when atheists do so, it's nothing to do with their atheism. He devotes pages to a discussion of whether Hitler was a Catholic, concluding that "Stalin was an atheist and Hitler probably wasn't, but even if he was… the bottom line is very simple. Individual atheists may do evil things but they don't do evil things in the name of atheism.""

"One might argue that a professor of the public understanding of science has no need to concern himself with trivialities outside his field like the French revolution, the Spanish civil war or Stalin's purges when he knows that history is on his side. "With notable exceptions, such as the Afghan Taliban and the American Christian equivalent, most people play lip service to the same broad liberal consensus of ethical principles." Really? "The majority of us don't cause needless suffering; we believe in free speech and protect it even if we disagree with what is being said." Do the Chinese believe in free speech? Does Dawkins think that pious Catholics or Muslims are allowed to? Does he believe in it himself? He quotes later in the book approvingly and at length a speech by his friend Nicholas Humphrey which argued that, "We should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible or that planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children's teeth out." But of course, it's not interfering with free speech when atheists do it.

He repeats the theory that suicide bombs are caused by religious schools: "If children were taught to question and think through their beliefs, instead of being taught the superior value of faith without question, it is a good bet that there would be no suicide bombers. Suicide bombers do what they do because they really believe what they were taught in their religious schools." Evidence? As it happens, the definitive scientific study of suicide bombers, Dying to Win, has just been published by Robert Pape, a Chicago professor who has a database containing every known suicide attack since 1980. This shows, as clearly as evidence can, that religious zealotry is not on its own sufficient to produce suicide bombers; in fact, it's not even necessary: the practice was widely used by Marxist guerrillas in Sri Lanka.

Dawkins, as a young man, invented and deployed to great effect a logical fallacy he called "the argument from Episcopal incredulity," skewering a hapless clergyman who had argued that since nothing hunted polar bears, they had no need to camouflage themselves in white. It had not occurred to the bishop that polar bears must eat, and that the seals they prey on find it harder to spot a white bear stalking across the ice cap. Of course, you had to think a bit about life on the ice cap to spot this argument. But thinking a bit was once what Dawkins was famous for. It's a shame to see him reduced to one long argument from professorial incredulity."

keskiviikkona, syyskuuta 13, 2006

Paavi Paavi Benedictus XVI näyttää jatkavan katolisen kirkon vanhalla perinteisellä linjalla evoluutiokysymyksissä

Paavi Benedictus XVI on näköjään taas lausunut sanan "evoluutio" ja uutisia kehitellään jo villinä. Italialainen uutistoimisto ANSA uutisoi aiheesta näin:

"(ANSA) - Regensburg, September 12 - Pope Benedict XVI on Monday issued his strongest criticism yet of evolutionary theory, calling it "unreasonable".

Speaking to a 300,000-strong crowd in this German city, the former theological watchdog said that, according to such theories derived from Charles Darwin's work, the universe is "the random result of evolution and therefore, at bottom, something unreasonable".

The homily appeared to throw the Catholic Church's full weight behind the theory of intelligent design (ID) - a subject of massive controversy in the United States.

The Catholic Church has for over 50 years accepted Darwin's theory of random selection as the most probable cause of development, but has alway stressed God's role."
Taas kerran media on siis halunnut kirjoittaa vetävän uutisen. Valitettavasti jo perusfaktat ovat pielessä. Kirjoitin taannoin aiheesta:
"Vatikaani ei ole tiettävästi koskaan kertonut kannattavansa "Darwinin kehitysoppia". Katolinen kirkko päinvastoin on selvästi sanoutunut irti sellaisista materialistisista teorioista, joissa ihminen esitetään tuloksena ei-tarkoituksellisista prosesseista. Asia käy ilmi esimerkiksi paavi Johannes Paavali II:n varsin kuuluisaksi tulleesta ja usein siteeratusta lausunnosta (josta usein tavataan siteerata vain yksi lause, kontekstista mainitsematta) vuodelta 1996."
Jälleen kerran joku (tällä kertaa uutistoimisto ANSA) meni kuitenkin ja väitti, että Katolinen kirkko olisi 50 vuotta kannattanut Darwinin teoriaa tulevaisuuden suhteen sokeasta valinnasta. Evidenssiä tuon tyyppisille väitteille en ole etsinnöistäni huolimatta löytänyt. Katolinen kirkko on johdonmukaisesti sanoutunut irti niistä evoluutioteorioista, joissa kehityksen väitetään olevan tulevaisuuden suhteen sokeata. Kuten aiemmin kerroin:
"katolisen kirkon virallinen kanta näyttää olevan, että osa evoluutioteorioista on yhteensopivia katolisen uskon kanssa, ja osa ei."
Benedictus XVI kertoi siis väitteiden siitä, että maailmankaikkeutemme olisi tulosta tulevaisuuden ohjaamattomasta evoluutiosta olevan väitteenä järjettömän/typerän (unreasonable).

Ehkä media pyrkii saamaan taas aikaan jotain uutisoitavaa, mutta katolisen kirkon linjaus näyttää säilyneen siis samana, kuin kirkolla on ollut ennenkin: katolinen kirkko sanoutuu irti väitteistä ohjaamattomasta evoluutiosta, mutta hyväksyy ajatuksen ohjatusta evoluutiosta. Kirjoitin tästä aiheesta jokin aika sitten myös eräässä suomalaisessa blogissa. Lopetan tämän tekstin samoihin sanoihin, kuin tekstini tällöin, sillä sanat tuntuvat olevan yhä ajankohtaiset:

Lehdistö saa toki vetäviä otsikoita katolisen kirkon evoluutionäkemyksistä, jos se siteeraa rivin sieltä, toisen täältä: siteeraa ensin esim. katolista teologia, jonka mukaan materialistinen neo-darwinilainen evoluutio ei katolisen kirkon näkemyksen mukaan ole totta, ja perään toista henkilöä, joka haukkuu edellisen ja "muistuttaa" katolisen kirkon hyväksyvän ajatuksen evoluutiosta. Näin saadaan aikaan helposti (etenkin katolisen kirkon näkökantoja juuri tuntemattomalle) lukijalle mielikuva täysin ristiriitaisista näkemyksistä katolisen kirkon sisällä. Lienee myös helppoa ja yleisöön vetoavaa keksiä artikkeleita siitä, kuinka katolinen kirkko milloinkin on täysin muuttamassa suuntaansa evoluutiokysymyksissä. Tosiasiassa kuitenkin katolisen kirkon kanta on nähdäkseni varsin selvä:
katolinen kirkko hyväksyy ajatuksen teistisestä evoluutiosta, mutta ei väitteitä kokonaan ei-teistisestä evoluutiosta.

keskiviikkona, syyskuuta 06, 2006

Upea animaatio solusta

Eräs parhaista tähän mennessä solusta tehdyistä tieteellisistä animaatioista on nähtävissä täällä. Nähtävillä oleva kolmen minuutin animaatio on osa yhteensä kahdeksan minuutin mittaisesta animaatiosta, joka on tehty alunperin biologian opiskelijoille Harvardiin. Ehkä pitäisi todeta, kuten Mike Gene, joka laittoi blogiavaruudessa eräänä ensimmäisistä, ellei jopa ensimmäisenä, linkin tähän "The Inner Life of a Cell"-animaatioon:

Tervetuloa Koneet!

Pandemiat ja "huono suunnittelu"

Eräissä älykkään suunnittelun blogeissa on lähimenneisyydessä siteerattu älykkään suunnitelman ideaa tukevan Jay W. Richardsin eräältä (älykkään suunnittelun ajatusta kritisoineelta) henkilöltä saamaa kirjettä, jossa on mm. tällainen kohta:

"adding over seventy million new humans to the planet each year, the future looks pretty bleak to me. Surely, the Black Death was one of the best things that ever happened to Europe: elevating the worth of human labor, reducing environmental degradation, and, rather promptly, producing the Renaissance. From where I sit, Planet Earth could use another major human pandemic, and pronto!"
En tiedä, kuinka yleinen yllä esitetty ajatus on. Ne, jotka yllä esitetyllä tavalla ajattelevat, eivät varmaan kerro sitä ääneen, ainakaan "suurelle yleisölle". Pentti Linkolan on kerrottu esittäneen jotain yllä olevan tapaistakin, mutta itse en hänen ajatuksiaan niin hyvin tunne, että osaisin sanoa, pitääkö tämä paikkaansa.

Mutta Telic Thoughts-blogissa tehtiin mielenkiintoinen johtopäätös kirjeen tekstin johdosta:

1) Jos ihmisiä kuolee tauteihin, on se eräiden ID-kriitikoiden mukaan osoitus "huonosta suunnittelusta".
2) Jos ihmisiä ei kuole tauteihin, on se eräiden ID-kriitikoiden mukaan osoitus "huonosta suunnittelusta".

Oma kysymysalueensa lienee se, miltä jonkun ihmisen täydelliseksi olettama suunnittelu mahtaa näyttää. Se ainakin on selvää, että meillä (ilmeisesti epätäydellisillä?) ihmisillä voi olla monenlaisia mielipiteitä siitä, miltä "täydellisen" tulisi milloinkin näyttää.

tiistaina, syyskuuta 05, 2006

ENGINEERING LIFE: Building a FAB for Biology

Scientific american, kesäkuu 2006:
ENGINEERING LIFE: Building a FAB for Biology

Anti-ID-positio yhdistettynä ateismiin - haitta tieteenteolle?

Jo pitkään on ollut nähtävissä, että maailman tunnetuimmaksi evoluutiobiologiksikin ja Helsingin Sanomien tiedetoimittaja Timo Paukun toimesta jopa "Tieteen iso-D":ksi mainostama Richard Dawkins itse on jättänyt luonnontieteellisten vertaisarvioitujen papereiden kirjoittamisen jo yli vuosikymmen sitten.

Mm. älykästä suunnittelua kritisoivien ja ateismia puoltavien tekstien kirjoittaminen vievät ilmeisesti nykyisin siinä määrin hänen aikansa, ettei luonnontieteellisen tutkimuksen tekemiselle ole hänellä enää pitkään aikaan riittänyt aikaa tai motivaatiota. Nykyisin pyrkii "popularisoimaan" tiedettä. Väitteiden "tieteellisyys" näyttää kuitenkin olevan varsin suhteellista. Dawkins esimerkiksi näyttää ennemmin kertoilevan tarinoitaan lehdistölle siitä, kuinka esim. lasten kristilliseksi kasvattaminen on hänen mukaansa eräs lasten pahoinpitelyn muoto, kuin esittää tieteellistä evidenssiä esim. kyseisen esittämänsä väitteen puolesta tai sitä vastaan.

Nyt kuitenkin on ilmennyt, että myöskään Helsingin Sanomien tiedetoimittaja Marko Hamilon maailman parhaana tiedeblogina esittelemän blogin kirjoittaja, ateistina ja ID-kriitikkona tunnettu PZ Myers ei ole saanut ilmeisesti yhtään luonnontieteellistä vertaisarvioitua paperia aikaiseksi tällä vuosituhannella. Hänellä on käynyt mahdollisesti samoin kuin Richard Dawkinsillakin: ehkä aika tai motivaatio ei riitä hänelläkään enää oman tieteellisen tutkimuksen tekemiseen ja julkaisemiseen. Syy julkaisujen puutteelle voi olla myös se, että hän vain yksinkertaisesti ei ole saanut yhtään tutkimuspaperiaan läpi missään vertaisarvioidussa julkaisussa tällä vuosituhannella.

Olisiko mahdollista, että vahva ateistinen ja ID-kriittinen positio yhdistettyinä voisivat muodostaa ainakin näiden henkilöiden kohdalla ainakin erään esteen tai haittatekijän luonnontieteellisen tutkimuksen teolle?

Älykäs suunnittelu

maanantaina, syyskuuta 04, 2006

Kotimaa & evoluutio

Viime Kotimaa-lehdessä (1.9.2006) oli Johannes Ijäksen ja Anna-Kaisa Pitkäsen kirjoittamat artikkelit, joissa käsiteltiin suomalaisten uskoa evoluutioon.

Kotimaa-lehden toimittajat väittivät tuloksista mm. seuraavaa:

"Tuloksessa silmiinpistävää on ero muihin Pohjoismaihin. Esimerkiksi Ruotsissa, Islannissa ja Tanskassa evoluutioteorian perusväitteen kielsi kymmenisen prosenttia vastanneista. Totena väitettä piti yli 80 prosenttia.
Suomen lukemat ylittyivät enimmäkseen entisen itäblokin maissa."
Tarkalleen ottaen tutkimuksesta (pdf-tiedoston sivu 220) selviää, että Ruotsissa kyseistä väitteen kielsi 13 % (ja totena piti 82%), Islannissa 7%/85% ja Tansakssa lukemat olivat 13/83%. Suomi luvuillaan 27%/66% oli tutkimuksessa tämän kysymyksen suhteen keskiverto Eurooppalainen valtio. Se, miksi Kotimaa-lehden toimitus jätti yhden pohjoismaista, eli Norjan kokonaan erikseen mainitsematta, ihmetyttää hieman. Kyseinen maa sai nimittäin Suomea muista pohjoismaista lähinnä olevat lukemat 18%/74%.

Suomen keskivertoisuus tämän kysymyksen kohdalla Euroopassa ilmenee tuloksista kertovasta kuvasta, jonka liitin tähän blogaukseen näkyviin. Maita, joissa kysymykseen annettiin Suomea vähemmän myönteisiä vastauksia olivat: Tsekki, Viro, Portugali, Malta, Sveitsi, Slovakia, Puola, Itävalta, Kroatia, Romania, Kreikka, Bulgaria, Liettua, Latvia, Kypros, Turkki sekä Eurobarometrin ulkopuolelta poimittu USA

Toisin, kuin Kotimaa-lehden toimittajat väittivät, tutkimuksessa ei selvitetty sitä, kuinka moni väitteen kieltäjistä uskoo "kreationismiin". Väite itsessään kuului englanniksi näin: "Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.". Suomeksi väite kuuluu suunnilleen siten, että "ihmiset sellaisena kuin me ne tunnemme kehittyivät aiemmista eläinlajeista." Kotimaa-lehden toimitus kutsui tätä väittämää nimellä "evoluutioteorian perusväittämä".

Onko kysymys siitä, ovatko ihmiset kehittyneet jostakin, tieteellinen kysymys? Ei välttämättä. Ensin pitää nimittäin määritellä, mitä tarkoittaa sana "ihminen". Biologit tarkoittavat sanalla "ihminen" nimittäin varsin eri asiaa, kuin esim. teologit, ja muut ihmiset. Hiljattain pohdin katolisen kirkon esittämiä näkökantoja asiaan. Tulin siihen spekulatiiviseen johtopäätökseen, että katolisen kirkon näkemys asiasta on, että ihminen ei ole polveutunut eläimistä. Perustelu kannalle on ainakin se, että hengellinen sielu ei ole perinnöllinen eikä "kehittyvä" ominaisuus: ihmisyys puolestaan alkaa silloin, kun ihmisessä on hengellinen sielu. Siten ei ole (nyt eikä aiemminkaan ollut) olemassa "puoli-ihmisiä" tai muita "lähes ihmisiä": joko olento on ihminen, tai sitten se ei ole ihminen. Ihmisen eläimistä erottava tekijä on hengellisen sielun olemassaolo. Ihminen ei ole siten (käsittääkseni) ainakaan katolisen kirkon näkemyksen mukaan kehittynyt eläimistä. Samansuuntaisia näkemyksiä on ymmärtääkseni muillakin kirkkokunnilla.

Kuitenkin Mikael Fortelius lausuu samaisen lehden haastattelemana näin:
"On kummallista, että sama inttäminen jatkuu, vaikka pääosapuolet ovat sopineet asian jo ajat sitten."
En tiedä, mitä jokin "pääosapuolten" sopimus käytännössä edes merkitsisi: ihmiset uskovat mitä tahtovat, eivätkä välttämättä paljoakaan seuraa esim. jonkin kirkon "virallista" kantaa (jota ei tapaa edes löytää mistään. Itse ainakaan en ole löytänyt vielä etsinnöistäni huolimatta Suomen evankelisluterilaisen kirkon virallista kantaa siihen, millaisten evoluutioteorioiden se katsoo olevan yhteensopivia kristillisen uskon kanssa, ja millaisten ei.)Kuitenkaan - ihmisen "kehittymisestä" eläimistä ei tietääkseni ole mikään kristillinen kirkkokunta Suomessa tehnyt edes "sopimusta".

Fortelius lausuu muutakin mielenkiintoista:
"Oppilaalle voi olla vaikeaa ymmärtää, että näennäisesti ristiriitaiset käsitykset ovat yhtä aikaa voimassa. He eivät ehkä hahmota, että tieteelliset ja uskonnolliset totuudet ovat eri asioita."
Ero näytti olevan Suomen evankelisluterilaisen kirkon internetsivuston sanakirjan mukaan se, että "luomisusko" on "kokonaisvaltainen" tulkinta. Sana "kokonaisvaltainen" tarkoittaa ymmärtääkseni sitä, että tulkinta koskee kaikkea asiaan olennaisesti liittyvää. Mutta "kokonaisvaltainen" ei viittaa siihen, että "näennäisesti ristiriitaiset käsitykset" olisivat "yhtä aikaa voimassa". "Kokonaisvaltainen" tulkinta tarkoittanee sitä, että toista näkemystä katsotaan kokonaisvaltaisen näkemyksen "läpi".

Fortelius esittää, että tieteelliset ja uskonnolliset "totuudet" ovat eri asioita. Mutta millä tavalla ne "totuudet" ovat eri asioita? Eräs ero lienee siinä, että monet tieteelliset totuudet ovat voimassa vain tietyillä oletuksilla. Jos oletukset eivät pidä paikkaansa, "tieteellinen totuuskaan" ei pidä paikkaansa. "Tieteellinen totuus" on siten yleensä ehdollinen. Eräs luonnontieteissä usein käytetyistä oletuksista on se, että Jumalaa ei tarvita selitykseksi tapahtumille universumissamme. Jos Jumala on vastuussa (ainakin joistain) tapahtumista maailmankaikkeudessamme, tällöin tällainen tutkimus ei johda kohti aitoa totuutta. Uskonnollisen totuuden - toisin kuin "tieteellisten totuuksien" - usein tulkitaankin olevan "oikeastikin" varmuudella totta. Ainakin siinä mielessä "tieteellisten totuuksien" ja "uskonnollisten totuuksien" kohdalla kyse lienee erilaisista "totuuksista".

Ainakin yksi mielenkiintoinen kommentti Kotimaa-lehden artikkeleista kuitenkin vielä löytyy: teologisen etiikan ja sosiaalietiikan yliopistonlehtori Suvielise Nurmi nimittäin kertoo näin:
"Ainakaan peruskirkollinen opetus ei ole ollut evoluutioteorian vastaista. Ei Suomessa ole koulutettu sellaisia pappejakaan, jotka olisivat halunneet keseenalaistaa evoluutioteorian lähtökohtaa."
Ensimmäinen kysymys, joka itselleni tuli kohdan luettuani oli: mitä Nurmi tarkoittaa "evoluutioteorian lähtökohdalla"? Filosofista naturalismia? Toinen kysymys, joka heräsi, oli että pitääkö Nurmen väite paikkaansa. Vastaus jälkimmäiseen kysymykseen on selkeästikin: ei pidä. Teologisen tiedekunnan pääsykokeissa ei ole tietääkseni valintakriteerinä koskaan ollut haluttomuus kyseenalaistaa "evoluutioteorian lähtökohtia". Papiksi on siten päässyt ainakin tähän asti kouluttautumaan myös ne, jotka ovat olleet halukkaita kyseenalaistamaan "evoluutioteorian lähtökohdan". "Peruskirkollisen" opetuksen sisältö puolestaan riippuu ilmeisesti paljon seurakunnasta - ja opettajasta.

Kotimaa-lehden artikkelissa ihmetytti hieman se, että haastateltavina oli useita tutkijoita, mutta näiden joukossa ei kuitenkaan ollut yhtään varsinaista "peruskirkollisen" opetuksen tuntijaa, tai kirkon johtohenkilöä. Evoluutiopaleontologi oli laitettu kertomaan tieteellisten ja uskonnollisten "totuuksien" eroavaisuudesta, ja etiikan yliopisto-opettaja puolestaan kirkon opetuksesta. Lisäksi oli haastateltu Kirkon tutkimuskeskuksen johtajaa tutkimuksesta, jota hän ei edes tarkemmin tuntenut , opetusneuvos Antti Vannetta sekä kahta herätysiikkeissä vaikuttavaa henkilöä.

Mielenkiintoista olisi, jos Kotimaa-lehti jatkossa tekisi artikkelin, jossa pyrkisi selvittämään sitä, minkälaiset evoluutiotulkinnat eivät ole ainakaan Suomen evankelisluterilaisen kirkon kannan mukaan yhteensopivia kristillisen uskon kanssa. "Evoluutioteoriaan" uskomisen "yhteensopivuuttahan" kristillisen uskon kanssa on julistettu jo pitkään. Kysymystä siitä, millaiset evoluutiotulkinnat tällaisia yhteensopivia ovat, ja millaiset eivät, ei ole käsittääkseni Suomessa kuitenkaan koskaan julkisesti käsitelty.

Suomen evankelisluterilainen kirkko ja evoluutio

Juhani Veikkola on kirjoittanut näin:

"Evoluutioajatus on ... ollut perinteisesti teologian ja luonnontieteitten välinen kiistakysymys, johon ei ole määritelty selkeää kirkon kantaa, vaikka jonkinlainen rauhaomainen rinnakkaiselo teologian ja biologian välillä on saavutettu."
(Lähde: "Yhdessä Luomakunnan kanssa", Kirkon tutkimuskeskus, Sarja A Numero 60, vuodelta 1992, lainaus sivulta 114)
Myöskään Suomen evankelisluterilainen kirkko ei ole myöskään mielestäni määritellyt täysin selkeää kantaa evoluutioajatuksiin. Kirkon internetsivuilta löytyy kuitenkin ainakin yhdeltä sivulta sana evoluutio. Nimittäin sivuston sanakirjaan (jonka tekijöitä ei kerrota) on joku kirjoittanut evankelisluterilaisen kannaksi asiaan liittyen näin:
Luterilainen kirkko ei katso evoluutioteorian luonnontieteellisenä selitysmallina olevan ristiriidassa luomisuskon kanssa. Luomisusko on kokonaisvaltainen uskonnollinen tulkinta elämän synnystä, evoluutioteoria totena pidetty luonnontieteellinen selitysmalli lajien kehittymisestä.
Käsite "evoluutio" on sanakirjassa määritelty: "Evoluutio (lat.) merkitsee kehitystä". Käsitettä "evoluutio" ei siis määritelty esim. Darwinilaiseksi (sattumanvaraiset mutaatiot+luonnonvalinta-)prosessiksi, vaan käsite määriteltiin varsin moniin tulkintoihin yhteensopivaksi käsitteeksi: "kehitykseksi". Evoluutioteoria puolestaan määriteltiin ilmeisesti lajien (täydellisen) muuttumattomuuden opin vastakohdaksi. Se tästä sanakirjasta selvisi, että "Luterilainen kirkko ei katso evoluutioteorian luonnontieteellisenä selitysmallina olevan ristiriidassa luomisuskon kanssa." Se, mitä tuo virke käytännössä voisi merkitä lienee oma lukunsa, johon en nyt ainakaan tässä blogauksessa mene.

perjantaina, syyskuuta 01, 2006

Vatikaani & evoluutio

Länsimaisessa lehdistössä on viime päivinä noussut uutisotsikoihin kysymys siitä, mikä on katolisen kirkon kanta evoluutioon. Uutisten syynä on ollut nyt etenkin se, että paavi on valinnut tämänvuotisen seminaarinsa aiheeksi nimenomaan evoluution. Seminaari on ollut täysin suljettu ulkopuolisilta, joten lehdistöä myös harmittaa se, ettei media ole päässyt hehkuttamaan tiedoilla siitä, mistä ja mitä tapaamisessa on todellisuudessa keskusteltu. Spekulaatioita on esitetty paljon, sillä nykyinen paavi on aiemmin ollut varsin kriittinen ainakin tiettyjä evoluutiotulkintoja kohtaan. Jo aloitussaarnassaan paavina hän lausui:

"Me emme ole sattumanvaraisia ja tarkoituksettomia evoluution tuotteita. Jokainen meistä on Jumalan ajattelun tuloksia. Jokainen meistä on tahdottu, jokainen meistä on rakastettu ja jokainen meistä on tarpeellinen."
Monenlaisia väitteitä Vatikaanin kannasta suhteessa evoluutiokysymyksiin on esitetty. Esimerkiksi teologian tohtori Tapio Luoma väitti joitakin vuosia sitten näin:
"Nykyiselle paaville [paavi Johannes Paavali II] Darwinin kehitysoppi ei ole enää pelkkä hypoteesi, olettamus, vaan pätevä tieteellinen teoria, jonka puolesta puhuvat monet seikat."
Teologian ja luonnontieteiden välisen vuoropuhelun edellytyksistä väitellyt tohtori Luoma näyttää kuitenkin häneltä siteeraamassani tekstinpätkässä vääristäneen paavin lausuntoa. Väite siitä, että "nykyiselle paaville [Luoma viittasi paavi Johannes Paavali II:een] Darwinin kehitysoppi ei ole enää pelkkä hypoteesi, olettamus, vaan pätevä tieteellinen teoria, jonka puolesta puhuvat monet seikat." on harhaanjohtava. Vatikaani ei ole tiettävästi koskaan kertonut kannattavansa "Darwinin kehitysoppia". Katolinen kirkko päinvastoin on selvästi sanoutunut irti sellaisista materialistisista teorioista, joissa ihminen esitetään tuloksena ei-tarkoituksellisista prosesseista. Asia käy ilmi esimerkiksi paavi Johannes Paavali II:n varsin kuuluisaksi tulleesta ja usein siteeratusta lausunnosta (josta usein tavataan siteerata vain yksi lause, kontekstista mainitsematta) vuodelta 1996.

Katolisen kirkon kanta evoluutiokysymyksiin on nähdäkseni (ollut ja on yhä) kohtalaisen selkeä. Kirkon kanta käy varsin hyvin ilmi esimerkiksi tästä dokumentista:
"64. Pope John Paul II stated some years ago that “new knowledge leads to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge”(“Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution”1996). In continuity with previous twentieth century papal teaching on evolution (especially Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Humani Generis ), the Holy Father’s message acknowledges that there are “several theories of evolution” that are “materialist, reductionist and spiritualist” and thus incompatible with the Catholic faith. It follows that the message of Pope John Paul II cannot be read as a blanket approbation of all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe. Mainly concerned with evolution as it “involves the question of man,” however, Pope John Paul’s message is specifically critical of materialistic theories of human origins and insists on the relevance of philosophy and theology for an adequate understanding of the “ontological leap” to the human which cannot be explained in purely scientific terms." (INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION, COMMUNION AND STEWARDSHIP: Human Persons Created in the Image of God)
Eli katolisen kirkon virallinen kanta näyttää olevan, että osa evoluutioteorioista on yhteensopivia katolisen uskon kanssa, ja osa ei. Yhteensopimattomien teorioiden joukkoon lukeutuu yllä siteeratun katolisen kirkon dokumentin mukaan mm. ne (neo-)darwinilaiset evoluutiotulkinnat, jotka eivät näe Jumalalla olevan kausaalista roolia maailmankaikkeudessa.


Ps. Hieman spekuloivia ajatuksia katolilaisesta uskosta ja ihmisen syntymästä:

Huomionarvoista lienee vielä mainita ihmisen roolista: ihmisellä on katolilaisen katekismuksen mukaan "hengellinen sielu" (spiritual soul). Eläimillä puolestaan "hengellistä sielua" ei kerrota olevan. Ihminen hengellisen sielun omaavana olentona eroaa Roomalaiskatolilaisen uskon mukaan siten oleellisesti eläimistä. Mikäli ymmärrän katolisen kirkon esittämää ajatusta oikein, tällöin ajatus menee suurinpiirtein näin: "hengellinen sielu" ei-materiaalisena ihmisen ominaisuutena ei esim. periydy, vaan jokaisen "hengellisen sielun" alkuperä on siinä, että Jumala antaa sellaisen kuvalleen, eli ihmiselle. Koska "hengellinen sielu" ei ole periytyvä ominaisuus, ei sellaisen alkuperä ole myöskään evolutiivinen. Olennolla joko on tällainen "hengellinen sielu", tai sitten ei ole. Välimuotoja ei ole. Katolisen uskon mukaan ihminen koostuu kahdesta osiosta: ruumiista ja "hengellisestä sielusta". Katolisen kirkon mukaan ajatus ruumiin kehittymisestä voi olla ainakin jossain muodoissaan yhteensopiva katolisen uskon kanssa. Sielun "kehittyminen" puolestaan ei. Koska ihmisyys katolilaisen kirkon mukaan muodostuu kahdesta osasta: ruumiista ja sielusta, lienee katolilainen kanta seuraavanlainen: ihmisyys on syntynyt kertaheitolla (ihmisiä on ollut olemassa siitä asti, kuin on ollut "hengellinen sielu"), eikä ihmisyys siten ilmeisesti ole esim. vähitellen kehittynyt vaikkapa joistain eläinlajeista.