No, reddit, the Catholic Church has not accepted Darwinian evolution since 1950

The website reddit has recently been making notable shifts in its behavior. While it was once a place for open discussion and the relatively free exchange of ideas, the past several years have seen the owners change gears in an attempt to attract far more advertisers. We see this most blatantly when they suddenly shut down a forum, known within the site as a “sub” or “subreddit”, after a reporter (such as Anderson Cooper) sheds light on some questionable content being peddled on the site. Sometimes this is actually the right move by the reddit owners, but they almost never do it for the right reasons. Again, they’re interested in advertiser money. That’s it.

But merely shutting down bad content isn’t the only way the site has taken to putting on an ad-friendly face. When one of the owners went on Jimmy Kimmel’s show last year, he made it a point to push the ‘wholesome’ content of the website (despite a sizeable portion of its traffic coming from porn). Not long after, subreddits with the word “wholesome” in them began growing and growing. Some of this can likely be attributed to the national exposure they were given, but much of it is likely due to content manipulation where the reddit owners and employees push preferred content to the ‘front page’. This is surely why the site transitioned from being open source to close source – there’s no longer any way for users to confirm whether or not voted-on content has been altered to appear more popular than it is. And that vote manipulation (which has endless examples from just this past year, it seems) continues with this objectively incorrect post from the subreddit “Today I learned” (or TIL):

TIL the Catholic Church has accepted Darwinian evolution as compatible with Christianity since 1950.

Many of the top comments in the thread talk about how people who attended Catholic schools were taught evolution without issue, or how Catholics themselves have been responsible for many scientific theories and ideas. And, ‘naturally’, one prominent comment talks about how nice the thread is.

Of course, it’s all bullshit.

The reality is that the Catholic Church believes in the magic that is theistic evolution. This is not Darwinian in any sense of the word. This is an entirely made-up version of evolution that says humans were destined to exist. That is not what evolution says at all. Nothing in the theory dictates that humans or human-like beings will come into existence.

But let’s look at what Pope Pious XII actually had to say about evolution in 1950:

Some imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution, which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all things, and audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in continual evolution.

He goes on to insult communists after this, so it isn’t easy to parse the politics of the writing from the commentary about biology, but it is clear that the Catholic Church did not believe that evolution had been proven. Saying something like that is equally as wrong as saying the theory of gravity has not been proven. Furthermore, the Church also didn’t believe that evolution was still occurring. This, of course, was and is wrong. Evolution does not stop so long as life continues. Humans are not its culmination – it has no culmination. It has replicators that replicate and change over time.

For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.

Here is a great example of where the Church 1) does not understand evolution and 2) holds a position in contradiction to evolution. Notice where the Pope says the Church holds that souls are immediately created by God. That is, souls are immortal and eternal while bodies are mortal and temporal. The soul, per the Church, has always existed and will always exist. It is merely joined to an earthly human body for a brief period. But there was no first human body. Evolution occurs on a spectrum and we are only able to define what makes a species its own species because of time and separation. One generation of Species A does not give birth to a generation of Species B. So that forces the issue: does the Church believe there was a first human? If so, did its mother and father not have souls? And what about neanderthals? Or our other human-like cousins? Did they have souls?

The bottom line is that theistic evolution requires that 1) humans were inevitable, 2) humans are the culmination or peak of evolution, and 3) there was a distinct, definable first human. Darwinian evolution, on the other, correct hand, tells us that none of those things are true. Nothing in evolution, aside from change itself, is inevitable. Legs? Lungs? Brains? Fingers? Speech? Fins? Wings? None of that is inevitable. And nothing, including humans, can constitute the culmination or peak of evolution. And, again, species are fluid. Species A will always give birth to another generation of Species A.

But I’m sure the reddit powers-that-be are happy to know their advertisers are seeing positivity and a favorable view being given to religion, so none of these pesky facts really matter.

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Revenge justice is no justice at all

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to lurk at the website reddit. It’s a good site for finding a lot different links to a huge variety of content. From long form articles to short news pieces to funny pictures that will show up on your Facebook newsfeed two days later, reddit offers a lot. Unfortunately, it is also subject to being a hivemind. It isn’t like, say, Freethought Blogs, but it does sometimes have a few of the same problems. The only thing that saves it from being unbearable is the sheer number of users (which is around 175 million according to Wiki) from around the globe. Still, though. It has it problems. Let’s take reddit’s overwhelming attitude towards revenge justice, for example. Comments on this recent article drive home my point; from the article:

In a literal application of the sharia law of an eye for an eye, an Iranian man convicted of blinding another man in an acid attack has been blinded in one eye, marking the first time Iran has carried out such a punishment.

The convicted acid attacker, who has not been identified, was rendered unconscious in Rajai-Shahr prison in the city of Karaj on Tuesday as medics gouged out his left eye, according to the state-owned Hamshahri newspaper.

What this attacker did was horrendous and deserves a severe punishment, but he did not deserve to lose his own eye. The entire reason we find his actions so horrible is that they were barbaric. Doing the same thing to him was only less barbaric in method, not intent.

Of course, this is Iran. The overwhelming majority of redditors are from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K. (with a sizable portion from many other western nations). Surely the majority will condemn this sort of stone age thinking, right? Think again:

I don’t have a problem with this punishment. What this guy did to these women is unforgivable. An example must be made to all. To be blinded in such a humane way in a medical setting isn’t something the victim was afforded, flesh melting off her face.

and

That’s a tough one.

Part of me feels like everybody deserves a basic level of ‘human rights’ protections no matter what.

But another part of me feels that there are some acts that are so barbaric and animalistic that a person who willfully commits them could only be considered sub-human, and doesn’t deserve the same human rights enjoyed by everyone else.

and

This guy threw acid into 12 women’s faces because he didn’t like the way they dressed. This guy obviously didn’t care about their human rights, he ruined their lives.

I think this punishment isn’t NEARLY harsh enough.

And perhaps worst of all, here is one of the most popular comments:

I know I will be down voted; but I can’t feel sorry for the attacker in anyway shape or form, nor do I fault Iran. They threw acid on a person’s face, and this is the consequence as depicted by the law of Iran. I am sorry but truthfully just stuffing somebody in jail doesn’t deter a lot of people.

Jail to some damaged people is nothing more than a time out. Furthermore I have said this before, stuffing jails with the worse possible offenders of society doesn’t create an environment of punishment or rehabilitation, it becomes a monster creation factory. Just check out the number of violent gangs in prisons. They carry out murders the same way, they rape the same way, they continue to sell contraband the same way.

Yes I am all about being ethical, but there is nothing ethical about putting a person in a cell, feeding them and keeping them alive while the person they have destroyed must suffer through life. The acid attacker deemed their actions and the consequences were worth the price.

Whenever a person starts a sentence with “Yes I am all about being ethical, but…”, you can be sure it’s off the rails.

What we have here are instances of people allowing emotion to trump ethics. Comments which say some people don’t deserve human rights or comments which advocate for the lifelong suffering of others are philosophically incoherent. Indeed, let’s go further – the mindset is disgusting. Once we begin to differentiate human rights based upon human actions, we no longer have any concept of human rights in the first place. This really shouldn’t be that hard. Whatever one wishes to say is the source of human rights, whether it be a god or providence or consciousness or nature, they are necessarily premised upon the notion that they apply to all. The moment we say they apply to some but not others, we’ve made a distinction based on something which is inherently not inherent. That is, our basic human nature is inherent. It exists by definition; we are humans, therefore it is our nature to act as such. The same can be said of any other animal. That inherent base doesn’t change because someone did something awful. To think it did would be like thinking a father who disowns his deadbeat son really no longer has a son. “You’re a drug addict and a moocher! You’re no son of mine! Therefore we are no longer genetically related!” Please.

I had originally titled this post “Vigilante justice is no justice at all”, but the quoted story didn’t technically fit the definition of “vigilante justice” since it was carried out by a government. However, it certainly fits the spirit of the definition. And reddit definitely loves its vigilante justice. That’s because, on some level, the justice is often equal to the ‘crime’ (which often times is just an example of someone being a jerk). It doesn’t matter that both actions were wrong. For reddit (and, really, half the Internet), two wrongs do make a right.

My flirtation with “Men’s Rights”

Right away, “men’s rights” sounds like a ridiculous notion. We think of it in comparison to women’s rights and the women’s rights movement, something absolutely necessary in the history of the United States, and still necessary today. We’ve needed women’s rights, from the early part of the century and before when women couldn’t vote, through the middle of the century when women were paid little and sexual harassment was accepted. There’s been a certain disadvantage to being a woman in society; the flip side is that there’s been a certain advantage to being a man. Only the most extreme of individuals will say these facts are firm 100% of the time – of course women have advantages in some areas, and of course men have disadvantages in some areas – but it is clear that life as a man is, on average, easier than life as a woman.

I agree with what I’ve said. That isn’t all simply a recounting of a narrative or a statement of a worldview I’m preparing to attack. I affirm that it is an advantage, on average, to be a man. Indeed, even with my gender and sex identity wiped from my memory, if I could be reincarnated and given the choice to be a man or a woman, I don’t imagine a scenario where I would choose to be a woman. That isn’t to say there is anything wrong with being a woman, though. It’s simply to affirm the advantage that comes with being a man. (Just the same, if I had a choice between being, say, 5 feet or 6 feet, I would always choose 6 feet. That doesn’t mean 5 foot tall people are bad.)

So, again, I affirm men, on average, have an advantage in life over women.

Sadly, the reason I have had to affirm my belief about the male advantage in society is that I’m also going to say something which will automatically cause a certain part of society to ignore absolutely everything I have to say on anything ever again: I sympathize with men’s rights activists (MRA’s).

Of course, I have to qualify this like crazy because the men’s rights movement (MRM) is so often vilified. For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center went idiot hunting last year. What they found was a handful of barely popular fringe websites that were antagonistic towards women, spewing a lot of misogyny and sexism. Coupled with these sites were two of the more popular outlets for men’s rights: A Voice for Men and r/mensrights, a subreddit on the popular site reddit.com. I would lump probably 80% of what A Voice for Men posts with the idiots. The r/mensrights subreddit, however, is a different story.

Since becoming a reddit addict earlier this year, I’ve taken to subscribing to a lot of different subreddits. (Think of reddit has a message board and subreddits as forums. It’s not quite like that, but the idea is basically the same.) I like to make it a point to occasionally subscribe to subreddits that don’t reflect my views. I figure I’ll either learn something or find something funny. The latter reason is why I initially subscribed to r/Christianity and r/mensrights. I soon unsubscribed to r/Christianity because it was so boring, but I stuck around r/mensrights. Men have a big advantage in life, so it was sure to be hilarious, right?

Not really.

As it turns out, there are a lot of important issues raised in r/mensrights that had never crossed my radar. For instance, it never crossed my mind to consider how much of a discount women get on their prison sentences versus men for the same crime. (It’s something like 60% overall, and only a few crimes net women harsher sentences than men.) As anyone who reads FTSOS knows, I’m no fan of the U.S. criminal justice system. I think it’s utter garbage, an institution set up to keep people locked up for petty crimes while private prisons (which should make everyone say “What in the fuck?”) make loads of money. So my reaction to women’s decreased sentences isn’t that they should be raised to those given to men, but I think it’s obvious men and women should be treated equally under the law.

And there are other issues. Go find any article about a male teacher accused of one form or another of sexual assault on a female student. The headline will never say he “had sex with” her. No, it will rightly say he assaulted/raped her. But read an article where the teacher is female and the student is male, and well, she had sex with him. He’s a guy. He must have wanted it, right?

Now, recall when I said I couldn’t imagine choosing to be a woman anymore than I would choose to be 5 feet tall. I’m assuming a clean slate, an equal chance to have my life turn out great as I have for it to turn out awful. But change the details and ask me if I’d rather be a man or a woman standing in divorce/family/criminal court? The answer is obvious: a woman all the way. Even beyond the criminal ‘justice’ system, it is never an advantage to be a man. Women are almost always given custody of children by default. Divorce settlements decidedly favor women (even when the woman is capable of making her own living based upon the skills she has obtained during marriage).

But now I have to get back to the qualifying, less I be accused of embracing everything to do with men’s rights. I greatly dislike when people in r/mensrights use intentionally sexist terms like “bitch”, “harpie”, “shriek”, and so forth. I’m all about using language freely and openly, but it’s obvious the intention by some of the people in that subreddit is to demean women. Fuck that bullshit. And fuck the commenters who genuinely do seem to hold a grudge against all women. I don’t support that.

So, let me be clear: I have a sympathy towards the men’s rights movement insofar as it points out issues where men are treated unfairly and do have a disadvantage. I think it’s wrong that our various courts are obviously (and insanely) biased against men. I think it’s wrong that the sexual assault of young boys is treated as something those boys wanted, provided to perpetrator was a woman. (Notice the lack of headlines declaring “Priest accused of having sex with altar boy.”) I’m very much a utilitarian, but I also very much see the value in egalitarianism. This isn’t always expressed by MRA’s, but it is the underlying theme I’ve seen. That is where my sympathy lies. (The utter lack of egalitarianism in 3rd wave feminism disgusts me.)

But let me be extra clear: My sympathy towards men’s rights does not mean one can possibly conclude my favor or disfavor regarding any given issue. I may think it’s wrong that a man walking with his son in the English countryside was assumed to be a pedophile (the same would not happen to a mother), but that doesn’t mean I have a significant issue with the massive funding disparity between breast cancer research and prostate cancer research – a look into the data shows that it makes sense for the most part. (I do, however, have an issue with the lack of funding lung cancer research receives as compared with breast cancer research.)

So here’s the big conclusion. The MRM raises some valid points that I think deserve far more attention than they currently get. Moreover, I am on board with the egalitarian approach of the movement (an approach, incidentally, which characterizes much of 1st and 2nd wave feminism). I also agree with the idea held by many MRA’s that sexism is not defined by a power asymmetry, but by discrimination on the basis of sex. Aside from being the dictionary definition of sexism, I reject the idea that a given group being in power translates to the individual members of that group automatically having greater power. That is, Congress being composed of mostly white men does not mean that every white man has more power than everyone else. Thus, sexism can and does occur independently of a group’s collective power. But does that mean I embrace everything espoused by anyone claiming the label of “MRA”? Of course not. I’m not a frequent poster on reddit, but most of what I’ve posted in r/mensrights has been dissent. The movement doesn’t have a cohesive philosophy, so it has some serious holes. (Feminism also doesn’t have a cohesive philosophy – forget about claiming it is a philosophy – but as a political movement (and that’s exactly what it is), it is far more coherent than the MRM.) But just as feminist writers opened my eyes to sexism I once did not see, the MRM has made me aware of unfair treatment of one of the sexes.

The power of tumblr

This post of mine has been “liked” or reblogged 305 times on tumblr.

I’m tired of hearing America is the best at this or the best at that all the frickin’ time. It’s a fat country with bad health care, bad politics, bad education, bad infrastructure, bad religion, a horrific income gap, a load of violent crime, moronic drug laws, rampant racism, people who deny the rampant racism, sexism, people who deny the rampant sexism, an active and overt hostility to higher education, and a population that consists of large blocs devoted to ideology over real-world pragmatic answers.

And to top things off, it’s filled with the sort of people who give idiotic responses to all these facts by saying, “Well, if you don’t like, why don’t you leave?” Morons.

Garnering me a grand total of…5 hits. When I get randomly reposted on Reddit, on the other hand, I tend to get 500-1000 hits. I thought tumblr, especially with its simplicity, had more power than that. I wonder if the blogging market is just too saturated, if people treat tumblr a lot like Facebook (i.e., very casually), or if it’s just too early in the site’s life.

Or maybe people just don’t follow sources.