Michael Ruse admits he was wrong about Catholicism

April 17, 2010 • 11:23 am

One of the hardest things for bloggers, or professors, or, let’s face it, anyone, to do is admit that they were wrong.  But Michael Ruse, long a favorite topic of this website, has done just that.  Disturbed by the Catholic church’s strategy of trying to shut up abuse victims rather than bring their abusers to justice, he’s penned a column called “Why Richard Dawkins was Right and I Was Wrong”. Yes, it’s at Huffington Post, and yes, Ruse is still publicly licking his wounds, but you have to give the guy credit for saying he erred.  Kudos, at least for this and its last sentence:

I have long been involved in the fight against creationism and its successor, intelligent design theory. To this end, I have embraced strongly the philosophy that science and religion speak of different things — a philosophy sometimes known as neo-orthodoxy or the independence position. This means that although I have no religious beliefs whatsoever, it does not follow that I cannot respect those who do. Together, believers and non-believers can join in fighting what we both see as travesties of science properly understood and religion properly understood. For this reason I have opposed the so-called New Atheists in their scorn for all and any religious beliefs. And I might add, somewhat proudly, that I, too, had their scorn poured down on my head.

Recently, the New Atheists’ most prominent representative, Richard Dawkins, wrote a highly emotive piece for the Washington Post, in which he derided the present pope and expressed glee and satisfaction that such a person was now leading the Catholic Church. In Dawkins’s judgment, not only was this no less than the Church deserved, but such leadership could only hasten the Church’s demise. I thought at the time that Dawkins was over the top and wrong. I now think that he was right and that it was I who was wrong. Let me say at once that, unlike Dawkins, I don’t necessarily want to see this as the end of religion or even of the Catholic Church in some form. I stress that although I cannot share the beliefs of Christians, I respect them and applaud the good that is done in the name of their founder. But I do now think that as presently constituted, the Catholic Church is corrupt and should be eradicated.

22 thoughts on “Michael Ruse admits he was wrong about Catholicism

    1. Have you ruled out mere chance and all possible physical explanations? Did you ask if Dawkins came up to him and threatened to beat him to death with a large fish if he didn’t write the article? If you haven’t ruled out the fish story you could be missing something big; after all, no one can prove that there was no fish.

  1. I find the last sentence to be awfully vague. It could mean a wide range of things. Does eradicated mean torn to the grounds so no trace is left? Or does eradicated mean altered in such a way that it could no longer be described as being the same way as “it is presently constituted.” Minor tweaks (and who knows how, and by whom, these changes would come about) still represent a change in constitution.

    1. I think his position is clear enough. He isn’t calling for the elimination of the catholic church, but he is calling for significant change. And although he doesn’t specify that change, agreeing with Dawkins’s article on the pope and calling the current church corrupt implies change I’d be pleased to see.

  2. I have always found Ruse shifty and sly. I think he has been often wrong, especially with respect to his relationship with Behe et alium. However, he is also rational, and he seeks rational solutions, even, I believe, when there aren’t any. So, yes indeed, kudos to Ruse for recognising the Catholic Church is irreformable. However, the truth seems to be that religion does not have a rational form, and, while Ruse seems to have realised that Catholicism is rotten to the core, and in need of expunging, he doesn’t seem to be able to see that religion itself is irrational to the core. That’s the big mistake, and he needs to see this. It’s not only institutional lack of control and moral perfidy; the irrationality of religion is intrinsic; it goes all the way down. When Ruse notices this, that will be a great leap forward.

  3. For this reason I have opposed the so-called New Atheists in their scorn for all and any religious beliefs.


    First, “so-called?” I believe it was people like Ruse who labeled Hitchens and Dawkins, et al, with this annoying appellation. It’s like the Republicans when they say the Democrat party rather than the Democratic party as an infantile way of sticking a finger in their eye.

    Second, we “New Atheists” do not simply scorn “all and any religious beliefs.” We scorn proactive stupidity that leads to bad things. (at least this is what I remember from the last big meeting we had on Professor Coyne’s front porch! ;^} )

    1. “Second, we “New Atheists” do not simply scorn “all and any religious beliefs.” We scorn proactive stupidity that leads to bad things.”

      And religious doctrine just happen to fall into the larger circle that includes homeopathy and psychic phenomenon.

  4. I still have respect for a lot of religious people; I just have no respect for their superstitions. I don’t see why Ruse thinks it’s such a big deal to say “… although I have no religious beliefs whatsoever, it does not follow that I cannot respect those who do.” That’s a bit like saying science and religion are compatible because there are religious scientists. Oh, wait – Ruse *does* say that frequently.

  5. Woah! I did not expect to see this. My level of respect for Ruse has gone up, not because he said Dawkins was right but because he publicly admitted he was wrong. Wish more people would do that more often…

  6. A public admission of being wrong is a worthy deed. But as I tried to show in my earlier simply snarky comment, the obviousness of being wrong was plain and simple long before the present, so I am not overly impressed with this confession. In addition, it comes only as a result of yet more demonstrably corrupt actions on the part of the “church”.

    The RCC has been corrupt for more than a millenium, it is a self serving business enterprise running an elaborate con game.

    Neutering the minds of so many millions of individuals with their dog and pony show is the greatest crime of all. Because their entire game is predicated upon the idea of divine grace, infallibility granted by the supreme being, they will never and can never admit of the fact that they, like every other human being, are prone to, and capable of, criminal deeds. Simply put, there is nothing special about them and they therefore deserve no special deference.

    One can only hope that such obvious truth will eventually be known to everyone. It obviously is not now.

    1. Make that at least 1600 years (since the Roman emperor decreed it the official and exclusive cult) – yes, well over a millenium. It is not so clear though how close it is to 2 millennia. Well, if you count the period since the conversion of Emperor Constantine it would be closer to 1700 and if you count the documented mention of the jesus cults in existing records from that era (not the more modern revisionist accounts) you can perhaps claim close to 1900 years.

      1. Madscientist –
        I’m a geologist, a millenium here or there is chump change, 100 million years, well now you’re talking time…

        A billion here a billion there now you’re talking real time. (Lame attempt to paraphrase I think it was Senator Dirkeson.)?

  7. As Robert Townsend reminded us in Up the Organization, “Hubris is invariable followed by nemesis.”

    My hope is that the humanitarians leaving the RCC will continue their fine work elsewhere. While the organization seems rotten at the top, there are many within the church who live at a subsistence level and are dedicated to social justice.

    1. Agreed. And they can give more efficiently when a part of their giving isn’t siphoned off to support the men at the top and their efforts to hide the horrors of those claiming to be among the most holy.

    2. oldfuzz –

      I also agree but I am tempted to be a bit more critical than articulent and you. My hope is that the exposure of the corruption and perversity of the church will lead the humanitarians to realize that policies such as those that oppose birth-control and preventative medicine amount to a kind of tacit genocide. Afterall, they only apply to a population that is vulnerable through ignorance.

      Humanitarianism requires no religious baggage. In my experience any form of generosity with strings attached is actually worse than outright exploitation. Its just my opinion.

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