Stephen J. Gould

Vajradhara

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Namaste all,

in this thread... i'll post some relevant articles of Dr. Gould's for general comment and discussion.

without further ado:

Evolution as Fact and Theory
by Stephen Jay Gould

Kirtley Mather, who died last year at age ninety, was a pillar of both science and Christian religion in America and one of my dearest friends. The difference of a half-century in our ages evaporated before our common interests. The most curious thing we shared was a battle we each fought at the same age. For Kirtley had gone to Tennessee with Clarence Darrow to testify for evolution at the Scopes trial of 1925. When I think that we are enmeshed again in the same struggle for one of the best documented, most compelling and exciting concepts in all of science, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

According to idealized principles of scientific discourse, the arousal of dormant issues should reflect fresh data that give renewed life to abandoned notions. Those outside the current debate may therefore be excused for suspecting that creationists have come up with something new, or that evolutionists have generated some serious internal trouble. But nothing has changed; the creationists have presented not a single new fact or argument. Darrow and Bryan were at least more entertaining than we lesser antagonists today. The rise of creationism is politics, pure and simple; it represents one issue (and by no means the major concern) of the resurgent evangelical right. Arguments that seemed kooky just a decade ago have reentered the mainstream.

The basic attack of modern creationists falls apart on two general counts before we even reach the supposed factual details of their assault against evolution. First, they play upon a vernacular misunderstanding of the word "theory" to convey the false impression that we evolutionists are covering up the rotten core of our edifice. Second, they misuse a popular philosophy of science to argue that they are behaving scientifically in attacking evolution. Yet the same philosophy demonstrates that their own belief is not science, and that "scientific creationism" is a meaningless and self-contradictory phrase, an example of what Orwell called "newspeak."

In the American vernacular, "theory" often means "imperfect fact"—part of a hierarchy of confidence running downhill from fact to theory to hypothesis to guess. Thus creationists can (and do) argue: evolution is "only" a theory, and intense debate now rages about many aspects of the theory. If evolution is less than a fact, and scientists can't even make up their minds about the theory, then what confidence can we have in it? Indeed, President Reagan echoed this argument before an evangelical group in Dallas when he said (in what I devoutly hope was campaign rhetoric): "Well, it is a theory. It is a scientific theory only, and it has in recent years been challenged in the world of science—that is, not believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it once was."

Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.

Moreover, "fact" does not mean "absolute certainty." The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only because they are not about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science, "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent." I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

Evolutionists have been clear about this distinction between fact and theory from the very beginning, if only because we have always acknowledged how far we are from completely understanding the mechanisms (theory) by which evolution (fact) occurred. Darwin continually emphasized the difference between his two great and separate accomplishments: establishing the fact of evolution, and proposing a theory—natural selection—to explain the mechanism of evolution. He wrote in The Descent of Man: "I had two distinct objects in view; firstly, to show that species had not been separately created, and secondly, that natural selection had been the chief agent of change. . . . Hence if I have erred in . . . having exaggerated its [natural selection's] power . . . I have at least, as I hope, done good service in aiding to overthrow the dogma of separate creations."

Thus Darwin acknowledged the provisional nature of natural selection while affirming the fact of evolution. The fruitful theoretical debate that Darwin initiated has never ceased. From the 1940s through the 1960s, Darwin's own theory of natural selection did achieve a temporary hegemony that it never enjoyed in his lifetime. But renewed debate characterizes our decade, and, while no biologists questions the importance of natural selection, many doubt its ubiquity. In particular, many evolutionists argue that substantial amounts of genetic change may not be subject to natural selection and may spread through the populations at random. Others are challenging Darwin's linking of natural selection with gradual, imperceptible change through all intermediary degrees; they are arguing that most evolutionary events may occur far more rapidly than Darwin envisioned.

Scientists regard debates on fundamental issues of theory as a sign of intellectual health and a source of excitement. Science is—and how else can I say it?—most fun when it plays with interesting ideas, examines their implications, and recognizes that old information might be explained in surprisingly new ways. Evolutionary theory is now enjoying this uncommon vigor. Yet amidst all this turmoil no biologist has been lead to doubt the fact that evolution occurred; we are debating how it happened. We are all trying to explain the same thing: the tree of evolutionary descent linking all organisms by ties of genealogy. Creationists pervert and caricature this debate by conveniently neglecting the common conviction that underlies it, and by falsely suggesting that evolutionists now doubt the very phenomenon we are struggling to understand.

Secondly, creationists claim that "the dogma of separate creations," as Darwin characterized it a century ago, is a scientific theory meriting equal time with evolution in high school biology curricula. But a popular viewpoint among philosophers of science belies this creationist argument. Philosopher Karl Popper has argued for decades that the primary criterion of science is the falsifiability of its theories. We can never prove absolutely, but we can falsify. A set of ideas that cannot, in principle, be falsified is not science.

The entire creationist program includes little more than a rhetorical attempt to falsify evolution by presenting supposed contradictions among its supporters. Their brand of creationism, they claim, is "scientific" because it follows the Popperian model in trying to demolish evolution. Yet Popper's argument must apply in both directions. One does not become a scientist by the simple act of trying to falsify a rival and truly scientific system; one has to present an alternative system that also meets Popper's criterion — it too must be falsifiable in principle.




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“Scientific creationism" is a self-contradictory, nonsense phrase precisely because it cannot be falsified. I can envision observations and experiments that would disprove any evolutionary theory I know, but I cannot imagine what potential data could lead creationists to abandon their beliefs. Unbeatable systems are dogma, not science. Lest I seem harsh or rhetorical, I quote creationism's leading intellectual, Duane Gish, Ph.D. from his recent (1978) book, Evolution? The Fossils Say No! "By creation we mean the bringing into being by a supernatural Creator of the basic kinds of plants and animals by the process of sudden, or fiat, creation. We do not know how the Creator created, what process He used, for He used processes which are not now operating anywhere in the natural universe [Gish's italics]. This is why we refer to creation as special creation. We cannot discover by scientific investigations anything about the creative processes used by the Creator." Pray tell, Dr. Gish, in the light of your last sentence, what then is scientific creationism?

Our confidence that evolution occurred centers upon three general arguments. First, we have abundant, direct, observational evidence of evolution in action, from both the field and laboratory. This evidence ranges from countless experiments on change in nearly everything about fruit flies subjected to artificial selection in the laboratory to the famous populations of British moths that became black when industrial soot darkened the trees upon which the moths rest. (Moths gain protection from sharp-sighted bird predators by blending into the background.) Creationists do not deny these observations; how could they? Creationists have tightened their act. They now argue that God only created "basic kinds," and allowed for limited evolutionary meandering within them. Thus toy poodles and Great Danes come from the dog kind and moths can change color, but nature cannot convert a dog to a cat or a monkey to a man.

The second and third arguments for evolution—the case for major changes—do not involve direct observation of evolution in action. They rest upon inference, but are no less secure for that reason. Major evolutionary change requires too much time for direct observation on the scale of recorded human history. All historical sciences rest upon inference, and evolution is no different from geology, cosmology, or human history in this respect. In principle, we cannot observe processes that operated in the past. We must infer them from results that still surround us: living and fossil organisms for evolution, documents and artifacts for human history, strata and topography for geology.

The second argument—that the imperfection of nature reveals evolution—strikes many people as ironic, for they feel that evolution should be most elegantly displayed in the nearly perfect adaptation expressed by some organisms—the camber of a gull's wing, or butterflies that cannot be seen in ground litter because they mimic leaves so precisely. But perfection could be imposed by a wise creator or evolved by natural selection. Perfection covers the tracks of past history. And past history—the evidence of descent—is the mark of evolution.

Evolution lies exposed in the imperfections that record a history of descent. Why should a rat run, a bat fly, a porpoise swim, and I type this essay with structures built of the same bones unless we all inherited them from a common ancestor? An engineer, starting from scratch, could design better limbs in each case. Why should all the large native mammals of Australia be marsupials, unless they descended from a common ancestor isolated on this island continent? Marsupials are not "better," or ideally suited for Australia; many have been wiped out by placental mammals imported by man from other continents. This principle of imperfection extends to all historical sciences. When we recognize the etymology of September, October, November, and December (seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth), we know that the year once started in March, or that two additional months must have been added to an original calendar of ten months.

The third argument is more direct: transitions are often found in the fossil record. Preserved transitions are not common—and should not be, according to our understanding of evolution (see next section) but they are not entirely wanting, as creationists often claim. The lower jaw of reptiles contains several bones, that of mammals only one. The non-mammalian jawbones are reduced, step by step, in mammalian ancestors until they become tiny nubbins located at the back of the jaw. The "hammer" and "anvil" bones of the mammalian ear are descendants of these nubbins. How could such a transition be accomplished? the creationists ask. Surely a bone is either entirely in the jaw or in the ear. Yet paleontologists have discovered two transitional lineages of therapsids (the so-called mammal-like reptiles) with a double jaw joint—one composed of the old quadrate and articular bones (soon to become the hammer and anvil), the other of the squamosal and dentary bones (as in modern mammals). For that matter, what better transitional form could we expect to find than the oldest human, Australopithecus afarensis, with its apelike palate, its human upright stance, and a cranial capacity larger than any ape’s of the same body size but a full 1,000 cubic centimeters below ours? If God made each of the half-dozen human species discovered in ancient rocks, why did he create in an unbroken temporal sequence of progressively more modern features—increasing cranial capacity, reduced face and teeth, larder body size? Did he create to mimic evolution and test our faith thereby?

Faced with these facts of evolution and the philosophical bankruptcy of their own position, creationists rely upon distortion and innuendo to buttress their rhetorical claim. If I sound sharp or bitter, indeed I am—for I have become a major target of these practices.

I count myself among the evolutionists who argue for a jerky, or episodic, rather than a smoothly gradual, pace of change. In 1972 my colleague Niles Eldredge and I developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium. We argued that two outstanding facts of the fossil record—geologically "sudden" origin of new species and failure to change thereafter (stasis)—reflect the predictions of evolutionary theory, not the imperfections of the fossil record. In most theories, small isolated populations are the source of new species, and the process of speciation takes thousands or tens of thousands of years. This amount of time, so long when measured against our lives, is a geological microsecond. It represents much less than 1 per cent of the average life-span for a fossil invertebrate species—more than ten million years. Large, widespread, and well established species, on the other hand, are not expected to change very much. We believe that the inertia of large populations explains the stasis of most fossil species over millions of years.

We proposed the theory of punctuated equilibrium largely to provide a different explanation for pervasive trends in the fossil record. Trends, we argued, cannot be attributed to gradual transformation within lineages, but must arise from the different success of certain kinds of species. A trend, we argued, is more like climbing a flight of stairs (punctuated and stasis) than rolling up an inclined plane.

Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups. Yet a pamphlet entitled "Harvard Scientists Agree Evolution Is a Hoax" states: "The facts of punctuated equilibrium which Gould and Eldredge…are forcing Darwinists to swallow fit the picture that Bryan insisted on, and which God has revealed to us in the Bible."

Continuing the distortion, several creationists have equated the theory of punctuated equilibrium with a caricature of the beliefs of Richard Goldschmidt, a great early geneticist. Goldschmidt argued, in a famous book published in 1940, that new groups can arise all at once through major mutations. He referred to these suddenly transformed creatures as "hopeful monsters." (I am attracted to some aspects of the non-caricatured version, but Goldschmidt's theory still has nothing to do with punctuated equilibrium—see essays in section 3 and my explicit essay on Goldschmidt in The Pandas Thumb.) Creationist Luther Sunderland talks of the "punctuated equilibrium hopeful monster theory" and tells his hopeful readers that "it amounts to tacit admission that anti-evolutionists are correct in asserting there is no fossil evidence supporting the theory that all life is connected to a common ancestor." Duane Gish writes, "According to Goldschmidt, and now apparently according to Gould, a reptile laid an egg from which the first bird, feathers and all, was produced." Any evolutionists who believed such nonsense would rightly be laughed off the intellectual stage; yet the only theory that could ever envision such a scenario for the origin of birds is creationism—with God acting in the egg.

I am both angry at and amused by the creationists; but mostly I am deeply sad. Sad for many reasons. Sad because so many people who respond to creationist appeals are troubled for the right reason, but venting their anger at the wrong target. It is true that scientists have often been dogmatic and elitist. It is true that we have often allowed the white-coated, advertising image to represent us—"Scientists say that Brand X cures bunions ten times faster than…" We have not fought it adequately because we derive benefits from appearing as a new priesthood. It is also true that faceless and bureaucratic state power intrudes more and more into our lives and removes choices that should belong to individuals and communities. I can understand that school curricula, imposed from above and without local input, might be seen as one more insult on all these grounds. But the culprit is not, and cannot be, evolution or any other fact of the natural world. Identify and fight our legitimate enemies by all means, but we are not among them.

I am sad because the practical result of this brouhaha will not be expanded coverage to include creationism (that would also make me sad), but the reduction or excision of evolution from high school curricula. Evolution is one of the half dozen "great ideas" developed by science. It speaks to the profound issues of genealogy that fascinate all of us—the "roots" phenomenon writ large. Where did we come from? Where did life arise? How did it develop? How are organisms related? It forces us to think, ponder, and wonder. Shall we deprive millions of this knowledge and once again teach biology as a set of dull and unconnected facts, without the thread that weaves diverse material into a supple unity?

But most of all I am saddened by a trend I am just beginning to discern among my colleagues. I sense that some now wish to mute the healthy debate about theory that has brought new life to evolutionary biology. It provides grist for creationist mills, they say, even if only by distortion. Perhaps we should lie low and rally around the flag of strict Darwinism, at least for the moment—a kind of old-time religion on our part.

But we should borrow another metaphor and recognize that we too have to tread a straight and narrow path, surrounded by roads to perdition. For if we ever begin to suppress our search to understand nature, to quench our own intellectual excitement in a misguided effort to present a united front where it does not and should not exist, then we are truly lost.

[ Stephen Jay Gould, "Evolution as Fact and Theory," May 1981; from Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994, pp. 253-262. ]
 
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Thank you very much for the post.

I want to side with creationists, and I have found evidences to support that position. But I am fond of Mr. Gould, kind of like a worthy adversary that commands respect. I was truly saddened by the news of his passing.

I have no problem with adaptation, and he presented some of the very same examples I like to use (fruit flies, moths). But I see a distinction between adaptation and evolution. I think Mr. Gould's "punctuated equilibrium" can be interpreted as an "outside interference", if you will. But I cannot prove this, by its very nature.

I appreciate the sincerity of evolutionary scientists, likewise I agree that creationists all too often resort to sensationalism and less than honorable tactics of debate. I think the major component that is overlooked, as an iron-clad rule, by scientists is a component colloquially called "spirit". Since science cannot accept spirit without challenging its basic core beliefs, it too tends to lash out at religion. A great deal of this antagonism between the two is certainly reactionary, religion cannot accept science without challenging its core tenents.

Somewhere, sometime, somehow, maybe the two will realize and recognize the validity contained within each discipline. Science interprets those things it chooses, religion interprets those things it chooses, in the light most preferencial and/or beneficial to its adherents in accordance with its dogmas. But each of them grows in accordance with the challenges they are forced to face. Like how a tree grows in response to impediments placed in its path, or how a butterfly requires the struggle of breaking out of its cocoon.
 
Namaste juantoo3,

thank you for the post and welcome to the forum.

it would certainly depend on one's religious tradition. in my tradition, for instance, science poses no problems for us and we would generally hold to evolution as the way that populations change over time.

many theists are scientists as well... heck, Darwin was a devout Christian when he wrote Origin of Species.

the only time i really see an issue is when someone has an emotional investment in thier point of view... then they become quite unreasonable, in my experience.
 
Vajradhara said:
Namaste juantoo3,

thank you for the post and welcome to the forum.

it would certainly depend on one's religious tradition. in my tradition, for instance, science poses no problems for us and we would generally hold to evolution as the way that populations change over time.

many theists are scientists as well... heck, Darwin was a devout Christian when he wrote Origin of Species.

the only time i really see an issue is when someone has an emotional investment in thier point of view... then they become quite unreasonable, in my experience.
I am in agreement. Emotional responses have no valid place in a rational discussion. I am also aware of Darwin's religious inclinations. Of course, given the day and time it would not have been prudent for him to claim otherwise. I also understand Buddhism to be agreeable to the tenents of science. Indeed, the tenents of science hold validity by their nature, without that validity no manner of technological progress could be made.

The trick as I see it, is to get science and religion (particularly the monotheistic religions) to communicate with each other rationally. That is where the emotional investment you mentioned comes into play.

Perhaps I am naive, but I am inclined to view science as explaining how God (the eternal constant) did what "He" did.
 
juantoo3 said:
I think the major component that is overlooked, as an iron-clad rule, by scientists is a component colloquially called "spirit". Since science cannot accept spirit without challenging its basic core beliefs, it too tends to lash out at religion.

I have to dispute this. Science does not accept spirit because, AFAIK, no one has attempted to define "spirit" scientifically and provide evidence for its existence. Science only concerns itself with things that can be observed and tested. If you can do that with "spirit" you would get scientists to accept it. I don't think science has "basic core beliefs", as you say.

Can you provide me with an example of science lashing out at religion? I have never observed this. Richard Dawkins is the only prominent scientist that I know of who uses science to attempt to prosyletize atheism, and he doesn't exactly have a lot of followers in that endeavor.
 
Kindest Regards, Godless Dave,

Godless Dave said:
I have to dispute this. Science does not accept spirit because, AFAIK, no one has attempted to define "spirit" scientifically and provide evidence for its existence.
Because spirit/pneuma/chi/prana cannot be quantified, although a few things I have stumbled across pertaining to sub-atomic theory raise intriguing possibilities. Such as neutrinos. I am not knowlegable or conversant in this discipline, but I am nonetheless intruigued.

Science only concerns itself with things that can be observed and tested. If you can do that with "spirit" you would get scientists to accept it.
Because the nature of spirit does not render it easy to observe, the concept is dismissed by most scientific disciplines. I understand that component.

I don't think science has "basic core beliefs", as you say.
"The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas Kuhn points out how scientific disciplines factionalise, centering around basic core tenets, in my view not unlike religious denominations or sects. Those factions clash until they sort it out amongst themselves. Such as the universe being composed of "ether", until someone realized that was not possible. But it took quite some time before that individual's view gained wide acceptance.

Can you provide me with an example of science lashing out at religion? I have never observed this. Richard Dawkins is the only prominent scientist that I know of who uses science to attempt to prosyletize atheism, and he doesn't exactly have a lot of followers in that endeavor.
The beginning post by Mr. Gould is an example, although in my experience a very tame and polite one. I have seen other examples on a number of occasions, but it escapes me at the moment who or where to point you to.

You are welcome to dismiss my view, that is your perogative. That does not mean we cannot be civil towards one another, or give license to dismiss each other outright.
 
Zdrastvuitsye, hola, shalom, salaam, Dia dhuit, namastar ji, hej, konnichiwa, squeak, meow, :wave:, Godless Dave.

The problem I see with including G!d/dess in any argument concerning science is that one cannot dis/prove the existance of a god/goddess/G!d/G!ddess using Formal Logic (Greek logic). It's easy to prove something you can see, but not so easy to dis/prove something you can't. :)

Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
 
Good for a giggle. (Or a meow.)


Recipe for perpetual motion machine:

Take one long history of organized religions -- supposedly based on belief in a Creator of All Things -- oppressing man's natural i.e. "God-given" curiosity, set aside to fester and oxidize.

When vinegar is achieved, pour off and whip into an organized body of curious human beings who deny the existence of things they can't see -- even as they seek them -- until greatly multiplied in volume.

Gradually fold the whipped hypocrisy into the fermented hypocrisy and Voila! One spiritual and intellectual progress-smothering, offense/defense, back-and-forth, round-and-round, self-powered, Creationist/Evolutionist mechanism.

Anonymous
 
Material veering into spiritual?

Juan writes:

Because spirit/pneuma/chi/prana cannot be quantified, although a few things I have stumbled across pertaining to sub-atomic theory raise intriguing possibilities. Such as neutrinos. I am not knowlegable or conversant in this discipline, but I am nonetheless intruigued.

Do I understand correctly from the above citation that the physics of sub-atomic particles is the departure launch of spiritual substances like what we call spirits? Also in this connection the various quantum sciences have also been brought up by religious thinkers to present some kind of proof for the existence of spirits...?

Do then spiritual or religious thinkers of this trend admit that the material and the spiritual are not intimately, intrinsically, and essentially, even quintessentially disparate substances? (What a sentence. Let me put it in a better formulation:)

Do religious thinkers of the trend indicated in the above citation accept that the spiritual is a segment in the spectrum of the material? But then they have to disown the traditional teaching of Christian theologians that matter and spirit are totally distinct. Or have I been wrong all these years to understand that matter and spirit are two dichotomously distinct entities, not one is any part of the other.

Susma Rio Sep
 
Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine said:
Zdrastvuitsye, hola, shalom, salaam, Dia dhuit, namastar ji, hej, konnichiwa, squeak, meow, :wave:, Godless Dave.

The problem I see with including G!d/dess in any argument concerning science is that one cannot dis/prove the existance of a god/goddess/G!d/G!ddess using Formal Logic (Greek logic). It's easy to prove something you can see, but not so easy to dis/prove something you can't. :)

Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
Kindest Regards, Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine!

Yes, I agree. Perhaps I left certain elements out in my attempt to be inclusive, please forgive my oversight. I tend to use the term "God" in rational discussions in a generic all-inclusive manner, at least in my mind. Thank you for reminding me that my intent does not always come across. I believe there is a specific creator God that has a name, a name it is not wise to use frivolously. This is my personal understanding, which I generally hold aside from rational discussion unless that discussion is specifically about that God. My apologies for any misunderstanding or insensitivity.
 
CSharp said:
Good for a giggle. (Or a meow.)


Recipe for perpetual motion machine:

Take one long history of organized religions -- supposedly based on belief in a Creator of All Things -- oppressing man's natural i.e. "God-given" curiosity, set aside to fester and oxidize.

When vinegar is achieved, pour off and whip into an organized body of curious human beings who deny the existence of things they can't see -- even as they seek them -- until greatly multiplied in volume.

Gradually fold the whipped hypocrisy into the fermented hypocrisy and Voila! One spiritual and intellectual progress-smothering, offense/defense, back-and-forth, round-and-round, self-powered, Creationist/Evolutionist mechanism.

Anonymous

Kindest Regards, CSharp, and welcome!

I love this observation!
 
Kindest Regards, Susma Rio Sep!

Susma Rio Sep said:
Do I understand correctly from the above citation that the physics of sub-atomic particles is the departure launch of spiritual substances like what we call spirits? Also in this connection the various quantum sciences have also been brought up by religious thinkers to present some kind of proof for the existence of spirits...?

Yes, that is my view, or at least one that is beginning to form. I cannot speak for any other religious thinkers.

Do then spiritual or religious thinkers of this trend admit that the material and the spiritual are not intimately, intrinsically, and essentially, even quintessentially disparate substances? (What a sentence. Let me put it in a better formulation:)

Do religious thinkers of the trend indicated in the above citation accept that the spiritual is a segment in the spectrum of the material? But then they have to disown the traditional teaching of Christian theologians that matter and spirit are totally distinct. Or have I been wrong all these years to understand that matter and spirit are two dichotomously distinct entities, not one is any part of the other.

Susma Rio Sep

If I understand you correctly, the question is whether or not spirit and matter are two different things. When one considers that spirit animates matter, and that without spirit, matter is "dead", then yes they are two distinct components. How else can spirit animate matter unless it reacts intimately with it? One must also differentiate between "soul" and "spirit", a subject I have to this point avoided. If I am to understand Vajradhara from a different thread, Eastern thought tends to dismiss "soul", yet some Eastern thought (Taoism) in my understanding acknowledges spirit (in the form called "chi", roughly "lifeforce"). Even the Bible speaks in a passage from the New Testament (I can find it if you like) of dividing asunder "even soul and spirit". Because of the difficulty in this distinction of separation, and my limited understanding, I have avoided making this distinction. In my mind I understand "soul" to be distinct from spirit, but composed of essentially "spirit" elements. Hence, part of the "all", yet distinct. In Taoism as well as (some) Native American traditions, "spirit" is innate in all matter, implying that spirit and matter, while distinct, must coexist and interact. One spiritual part of us returns to the "all", the other part returns to the Father Creator. This is also in accord with my Native American traditional beliefs. Does this in any way help? This is by no means solidified in my understanding, and I am open to discussion. Thanks for the input.:)
 
If I may quickly add one more point for Phyllis,

I view "God" as neuter, or as I've said in the past elsewhere, "transgender", not in a counter-natural sense, but in the sense of encompassing the best attributes of both. I refer to "Him" out of traditional respect from my own cultural and social bias.
 
Kinds of spirits

I studied in a Catholic university where as a Catholic I had to take theology courses every semester.

Medieval Catholic theologians make a distinction between pure spirits and the human soul which is also a spirit. Pure spirits are God and angels.

The problem of spirits not having any connection with matter or flesh is specially challenging in man composed of body and soul. That is why man is not complete in a disembodied soul awaiting the resurrection when body and soul will come together again.

Another problem with spirits not being in any way connected with matter is the question how spirits like angels can affect matter; for it is a doctrine of Christianity that angels do affect matter and flesh, i.e., the body of man.

Your position that the corporeal body, as the human body, and spirits are not distinctly disparate beings -- if I understand you correctly. Your position does away with all the problems relating to how body and soul intereact and how spirits act on or affect matter.

Simplicity, that is the way to go: No need to distinguish very strictly between matter and spirit or matter and mind; spirit is just a more subtle mode of being, insofar as our senses are concerned.

I think I can accept that, being a postgraduate Catholic. And maybe one day our laboratory workers will show us how spirits can be detected and how we can communicate with them. They might be helpful in getting very demanding physical tasks done, like moving mountains?

Susma Rio Sep
 
Thank you, Susma, for the thoughtful reply!
Susma Rio Sep said:
Medieval Catholic theologians make a distinction between pure spirits and the human soul which is also a spirit. Pure spirits are God and angels.
If I may be allowed an observation, how would "devils" figure into this equation? As well, this may indicate possession experiences, a thought I hadn't considered.

The problem of spirits not having any connection with matter or flesh is specially challenging in man composed of body and soul. That is why man is not complete in a disembodied soul awaiting the resurrection when body and soul will come together again.
Perhaps my "Christian" understanding is different. I understand us to resurrect into a spiritual body, or perhaps better stated "astral" body. Why be burdened for eternity with a worn out shell full of pains, problems and complications? I confess to some vagueness on this specific attribute, to which I am content to allow that what will be, will be.

Another problem with spirits not being in any way connected with matter is the question how spirits like angels can affect matter; for it is a doctrine of Christianity that angels do affect matter and flesh, i.e., the body of man.

Your position that the corporeal body, as the human body, and spirits are not distinctly disparate beings -- if I understand you correctly. Your position does away with all the problems relating to how body and soul intereact and how spirits act on or affect matter.
I am certain I am having difficulty here understanding quite what it is you mean. Are you observing the possibility, or refuting the possibility? Not asked as a challenge, merely a clarification.

Simplicity, that is the way to go: No need to distinguish very strictly between matter and spirit or matter and mind; spirit is just a more subtle mode of being, insofar as our senses are concerned.
I have long been an advocate of the KISS principle, the polite version being "Keep It Sweet and Simple." I find this accords well with Ockham's Razor. This would be a question for the physicists among us: "Would not matter and spirit be merely different manifestations of energy?"

I think I can accept that, being a postgraduate Catholic. And maybe one day our laboratory workers will show us how spirits can be detected and how we can communicate with them.
Perhaps this answers my earlier question. And I am in agreement about science one day realizing spirit, and perhaps from that experience being more willing to interact productively with religion. Of course, that sword is double-edged. Religion too, must become more willing to interact productively with science.

They might be helpful in getting very demanding physical tasks done, like moving mountains?

Susma Rio Sep
Point taken. It may require such assistance to bring everybody into agreement with each other, i.e. world peace.

Thanks again.
 
Originally posted by juantoo3
Kindest Regards, Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine!

Yes, I agree. Perhaps I left certain elements out in my attempt to be inclusive, please forgive my oversight. I tend to use the term "God" in rational discussions in a generic all-inclusive manner, at least in my mind. Thank you for reminding me that my intent does not always come across. I believe there is a specific creator God that has a name, a name it is not wise to use frivolously. This is my personal understanding, which I generally hold aside from rational discussion unless that discussion is specifically about that God. My apologies for any misunderstanding or insensitivity.

No offense taken. I was using god/goddess/G!d/G!ddess as to include the dichotomy (sp?) of beliefs I've encountered both online and offline. Some of us here believe in G!d, some believe in G!ddess, some believe in one or more gods/goddesses. I've pretty much gotten into a habit of writing this way (drove one person batty trying to figure out why anybody would be so "inconsiderate" to "The Truth", but I shan't go off concerning some "fundies". :rolleyes: )

Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
 
Not an official spokesman

Thanks Juan for your courteous reply.

I call myself a postgraduate Catholic, meaning that while I was brought up Catholic and studied in Catholic institutions, I don't conduct myself as a polemicist or an apologist for the Catholic Church.

Who really knows exactly and correctly what the Catholic Church teaches. Even the Pope has to be told what he genuinely means when he does say anything which he wants his flock to take seriously. And these people telling his flock what he wants to say are themselves in dispute among themselves.

About devils, they are also angels, but fallen ones because they rebelled against God.

As to the resurrected body, yes it's a glorious one but still essentially a body biological and material, of blood and tissue.

Your musings about the spirit substance is most informative and contributes to my education. Thanks.

My own position is that body and spirit was invented by thinkers so that things they can't use logic and mathematics on they consign to spirit.

Maybe the best thing is just to say that spirit as conceived by religionists is nothing but all in the mind.

No, I am not speaking for the Catholic Church. Who really knows correctly what the Catholic Church teaches at any one moment and one place. The same with any other religion. Of course in broad delineaments they do appear to say within their respective doctrinal repertory fluidly similar things, their spokesmen that is who are appointed as official ones.


Susma Rio Sep
 
Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine said:
No offense taken. I was using god/goddess/G!d/G!ddess as to include the dichotomy (sp?) of beliefs I've encountered both online and offline. Some of us here believe in G!d, some believe in G!ddess, some believe in one or more gods/goddesses. I've pretty much gotten into a habit of writing this way (drove one person batty trying to figure out why anybody would be so "inconsiderate" to "The Truth", but I shan't go off concerning some "fundies". :rolleyes: )

Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

I appreciate your view concerning "fundies", likewise, I am equally af the same view of PC. For different reasons of course. I find it gets in the way of trying to convey a thought. I was taught old school, and as good as my intentions are, I still come across old school. I guess a leopard has a really tough time trying to change his spots!
 
The more the merrier

Phil says:

Some of us here believe in G!d, some believe in G!ddess, some believe in one or more gods/goddesses.

I would much prefer goddesses to gods, provided they come in genuine curves and bulges of the Greek proportions type.

Of course I am a faithful husband to my wife and an exemplary father to my kids. But I would not mind appreciating goddesses of the beauty contest types. Yet, truth to tell, beauty contests are more what my wife spend hours on when such are on the tv. I spend time with guys in this website, exchanging views and information.

Susma Rio Sep
 
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