My New Republic piece on the Pope and evolution

October 29, 2014 • 12:11 pm

The New Republic has already published a slightly edited version of my post on Pope Francis’s views about evolution, and you can find it there under the title: “Stop celebrating the Pope’s views on evolution and the Big Bang. They make no sense.” As always, go over and see it, if for no other reason to see how people react. (I have a new policy of not reading comments about stuff I publish in places other than this site—a dictum I got from Stephen Fry.)

I’m already getting hate email about it, as people can’t stand to have Pope Francis criticized (note that I criticized his views, not the man himself), for he’s the Good Pope, who rides the bus and doesn’t wear fancy shoes.

I have a particularly lovely specimen of such mail that I’ll post later.

36 thoughts on “My New Republic piece on the Pope and evolution

  1. I’ve been a reader of the NR for many years, even agreeing occasionally with Leon Wieseltier. Although I read the paper version of the magazine, I always go to the website when Prof. Coyne publishes an essay there. But today, just now, is the first time I scrolled down to look at the comments. Ignorant indignation was all I found, with but a single stalwart person trying, time and again, to call that willful ignorance what it is: stupidity.

    Much lower than I expected the level of NR commentary to be, and hopelessly lower than that on WEIT. I guess I was naive.

    1. Yours and protoatheist’s comments were a necessary palliative to get through the conspiracy-theory-esque nonsense elsewhere. Just seeing a guy go through the “silly atheist you think we believe in bearded man in the sky our belief is more s’phisticated than that” drivel nearly drove me to despair. Heck, I even saw the “you just refuse to see the evidence” line and the “evolution is only a theory” line directed at Jerry.

      It’s depressing to know that the Pope Francis of reality is nothing like the fictitious Pope Francis these people rush to defend as a great progressive man. It has the whiff of desperation about it, either because the defenders themselves are desperate, or because they’ve been misled by a spin doctor who is.

      1. Ya. I almost want to do a Venn diagram of the possible responses as many commentators hold multiple nonsensical views.

    1. It is always amusing to read Bertrand Russell because of the way modern theists generally include him among the Sophisticated Atheists™, the standards of whom modern Gnu Atheists simply can’t meet. But his writing, like that of Robert Ingersoll, is actually very similar to the Gnu Atheists. No surprise, of course. The only advantage Gnu Atheists have is the accumulation of even more evidence that demonstrates, with even greater redundancy, the utter ridiculousness of theism.

      1. Yep, the main reason they like Bertrand Russell is that he’s dead, and can no longer cause trouble. That he lived before the internet makes a big difference too.

  2. I read your first article and thought it was very clear and fair showing how the popes still hold to the soul theory while saying they accept evolution. The new pope says he has new clothes, but the article shows he still has none. Well done.

  3. In order to criticize the Pope’s statement properly, you would have to understand what he was saying. Does anyone at all understand what he was saying? I sure don’t. A lot of it sounded like gibberish to me. Come to think of it, a lot of sophisticated theology sounds that way to me too.

    There seems to be a great confusion about evolution, creation, human evolution specifically, and individual development that’s beyond my ability to untangle.

  4. There is nothing new in what Francis said, it’s been policy since Pius 12. Nothing new at all and today he’s praising the work of the exorcists.

    1. The irony of their “god is not magic” assertion is that it shows they really don’t understand what it’s about. They switch God from an empirically demonstrable entity (hence the “Big Man with a Beard” jibe) to some kind of philosophical abstraction (hence the “Ground of Being”). The problem is that they don’t have a shred of justification, much less evidence, for either assertion, so it’s a distinction without a difference. Saying God is magic and saying God created the world through mysterious creative powers is merely a cosmetic different, like painting bull turds two different colours.

  5. Makes you seriously wonder if it’s a wasted effort trying to debate with people who not only can’t do joined up thinking but actually seem proud of their handicap, as though it’s a virtue.

  6. Looks like a pretty robust sharing of opinions at the moment. A lot of religious nonsense, but plenty of blow-back from rationalists too.

  7. Summary of the TNR comments so you don’t have to read them:

    Atheists don’t understand sophisticated religion
    That totally isn’t MY religion that you are talking about
    Scientists aren’t allowed to talk about religion because of NOMA
    Atheists are dogmatic
    Atheism is just another religion
    Atheists are fundamentalists
    Atheists are extremists
    Why you no like the Pope?
    Science is just another religion
    Scientists are arrogant

    Basic strategy: if you don’t have a coherent rebuttal; just fling out accusations and names hoping that something will stick.

  8. I really appreciate that you do this Jerry. Stephen Fry’s advice is sound. Reza Aslan has plenty of parallel apologists for Catholicism. No matter how many times you say that criticism of Islam or Catholicism’s doctrines are not criticisms of individual Muslims or Catholics, it doesn’t matter. I got into a discussion tonight with some coworkers who insist ISIS isn’t motivated by religion. It truly boggles the mind…

  9. I think Francis is a marked improvement over the last Pope, but I really don’t get the fanclub around him.

    Not wearing fancy shoes, taking public transportation, toning down the judgemental rhetoric, and eschewing some of the lavish, absurd comforts Popes have taken advantage of in the past (in a religion that is supposedly about casting off material wealth in the first place), makes him some kind of heroic, revolutionary figure? Isn’t this a trademark example of the soft bigotry of low expectations?

    1. I think Francis is a marked improvement over the last Pope, but I really don’t get the fanclub around him.

      It reminds me of Barack Obama being awarded a Nobel peace prize for the accomplishment of ‘not being George W. Bush.’

      1. Definitely. I’d go so far as to say that Obama getting the Peace Prize sort of permanently tarnished the standing of that award, and what it was supposed to be for.

  10. The new Pope reminds me a lot of David Cameron. His job is to make his organisation’s brand look a bit less toxic, without changing anything in what it actually does.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *