Is There Something More?


Bonjour monsieur Bloom,

Thank you for this long and complete reply where I don't find any bad faith or twisted reasoning that I see so often in believers' argumentation.

An exception to that is maybe the fact that you tried to make me swallow the mixture of Allah and Yahweh, wouach! I guess that that's traditional churches' strategy, isn't it? When things don't go so well they show a soft and warm ecumenism but when they feel strengths coming back, they return to their eternal blood shedding hostilities.

>According to UN projections, it will level out sometime this >century, then actually begin to decline.

Good news!

>Of course I have contributed nothing beyond encouraging a few >couples to open their hearts to another child.

If that's all there is, that's fine but, to my eyes, you look as if you had sympathy for the Pro-Life group. If it were the case I would feel ashamed to be associated with people who imposed their faith by force. Sometimes even extreme force, like killing or harassing doctors. I even saw, on television, a report where pro-lifers were marching in front of the house of a nurse with foetus pictures and religious singings. Imagine, a nurse! A poor black woman who was earning about 8 dollars an hour and live alone raising a teenager. And those people claim to be doing that in the name of Jesus! I was absolutely revolted. Nothing like that happens here.

You would be amazed how the religious environment is calm and relax here compared to the US. And I am sure that believers are not less sincere and God loving here than down South but they have not yet fallen into fanatism. It seems that once one falls on this slippery slope, it is very difficult to come back to quieter behaviours. That's why I titled my message "Where will it end?". What's happening in your country is frightening me.

I understand that, by showing these figures on your site, you want to justify the Catholic Church's policy on birth control and abortion. But by doing so you are bringing water to the pro-life mill that is nothing less than organized craziness not much different in brutality and naivety than the early 30's hitlerian youths (nazis).

>I do have a couple of questions. It's been many years since I >studied biology, but I did not realize it teaches "need to believe is >a childish instinct that should vanish by itself when one >approaches 20 years of age." Do your texts teach that?

Evolution is very badly taught not just in the US but also everywhere in the world. Rarely it goes to some depth about natural selection and how it has influenced not just on our appearance but also on our behaviour and our mind. We are, from head to toes, the result of a selection. Kids who show scepticism toward their parents' warnings don't live long. That's why there are not many of them nowadays. As a matter of fact they were all extinct in prehistoric times. :-)

It is why children are credulous. This is a character saved by selection because it helps the child's survival. We see the same in most mammals. Once, I saw a mother racoon, frightened by a car, who dropped her baby right in the middle of a road. In spite of the noise and everything, the baby stayed right where it was, without moving, till somebody stopped the traffic and took it to his mother who was waiting in the ditch. That's an example of an instinctive behaviour that is engraved inside the mind by natural selection.

Those things cannot be explained in a few words. I encourage you to read a lot on this fascinating subject that is evolution. As a hard reference, for this particular matter on credulity as a childish instinct, I would give you Richard Dawkins but I forgot in what book. You will have to read them all. :-) Don't forget also Stephen J. Gould as a good reading and also Darwin's own "The Origin of Species" that is still a must and a fun reading, even today.

To finish on this point, the fact that humans have this incredible urge to copulate is for me a positive evidence for evolution and surely not a sign that we are a miraculous creation of a celestial God. Believers had to invent Satan to account for it.

>Did Carl Sagan put forth pure science or a philosophy? >Remember his basic creed: "The cosmos is all there is, all there >was, all there ever will be."

"All there ever will be" is probably an addition of yours. No one knows what the future will be and I am sure Carl Sagan would not have argued on that. What you are telling me here is who has the burden of proof? If I say: "All crows are black", do I have to prove it? No, because making such a proof is impossible for me and it is so easy for who does not agree to show me a white crow and that's the end of my theory. About the matter of supernatural, is God a black crow or is He a white crow, is a pertinent question. During too many centuries, humans acted as if God (or at least supernatural) were evident. God was considered as a black crow and sceptics were challenged to bring evidence that this was not the case.

This is bad philosophy (as a Catholic priest you surely know that). Logically speaking, it is impossible to prove that something doesn't exist. It is the to ones who believe in supernatural to bring evidence that it exists. Not so long ago supernatural seemed to be obvious and, even today, most believers won't accept my way of thinking but it is so: it is the person who makes the claim who has the burden of proof. And, I might add, an extraordinary claim calls for extraordinary evidence.

Sagan just describes what he observes: a godless universe. And he challenged others: "Prove me wrong!".

>The humility of science could never lead to such a sweeping >claim. It seems to me Sagan was a brillant astronomer who fell >into the temptation of using "science" as club to enforce his >philosophy.

I understand that it looks to you as a "sweeping claim". But, again, it is what we observe. With science as a tool, let alone any emotion or intuition or wishful thinking that one may have, what one sees when looking at the universe, from inside an atom trough the myriads of galaxies (billions of billions... as Sagan would have said) is exactly what Sagan describes: a godless universe. It is astonishing only for who is not used to it.

>It is interesting that people who write to express an atheist point >of view so often want to assure me they are good people who >believe in moral principles. But why?

Because it is often the first reply we atheist hear: "If you don't believe in anything, why do you keep on living?" and "What prevents you from killing me and take my money?".

I find the first sentence utterly illogic since, for me, the conclusion is completely the reverse. Since I only have this life to enjoy, the last thing I want is that it ends prematurely. I want to enjoy every bits of it until I am too tired or too weak or too sick to continue.

What is preventing me to steal or to kill is that I wouldn't like the same thing to happen to me. Second, stealing is not as easy as one might think. Between you and me, if I knew that there is money somewhere that I could easily take without a chance of being caught, even if I considered it being a robbery, I would do it. But, believe me, these occasions just don't exist.

>After Carl Sagan told us morality was an unnecessary burden >imposed on us by the laws of evolution, he turned around and >asked us to make personal sacrifices to save the planet, stop >pollution, protect endangered species, etc. He senses something >more than what his naturalist philosophy allows him to believe. >Don't you, Pierre?

What he senses, I sense it to. Do it for God or do it for Society this is pretty much the same thing except that, Society, I'm sure that it exists and that it is worthed.

>It should not be surprising there are believers in prison. Didn't >Jesus say he came for the weak, sick, despised - not the healthy >and proud?

What I meant is that the fact that an individual believes in a God doesn't seem to indicate whether he will behave correctly. And I'm not sure that the terms "weak", "sick" and "despised" were intended to refer to street gangs' members, drug dealers, real estate crooks and the like (poor Jesus!). On the contrary, I don't have any proven statistics but, I would bet that informed atheists are very few in prison. I say "informed" atheists, as I define myself, because I want to make a distinction from "natural" atheists, who cannot explain their atheism or "arrogant" atheists, the ones who refuse or reject God by "hardening their heart". Those latter, I hear them mentioned so frequently in sermons while they are so few. :-)

>But then, why respect for any man (doctor, teacher, etc.) if we are >all just a temporary arrangement of atoms?

I think I already answered that. You surely know that atheists are somewhere like between 5 and 10 percent of the population in your country. That's not much but that makes, just the same, around 20 millions people! And I dare saying that they are among the most intelligent and educated people. Perhaps it is awkward to you but not at all to me, that it is among the atheists that you will find a great majority of scholars and scientific graduates. It is worth having a thought about this, isn't it?

>I don't think you would find us as narrow and frightening as the >media portrays us.

Your message did assure me on that point. I appreciate your honesty.


Pierre Cloutier


Dear Pierre,

Thank you for your lengthy reply. I am sorry I am so slow in getting back to you. The past three weeks have been pretty busy for me with the end of our school year, etc. I won't be able to go into much depth, but I would like to take up one point - the "something more" you and I both seem to both sense:

>After Carl Sagan told us morality was an unnecessary burden >imposed on us by the laws of evolution, he turned around and >asked us to make personal sacrifices to save the planet, stop >pollution, protect endangered species, etc. He senses something >more than what his naturalist philosophy allows him to believe. >Don't you, Pierre?

"What he senses, I sense it to. Do it for God or do it for Society this is pretty much the same thing except that, Society, I'm sure that it exists and that it is worthed."

To a certain point I agree with you that atheism (a.k.a. materialism or naturalism) explains everything. However, my objection is that it does so by leaving out everything important. The "something more" I was referring to.

You describe how evolution explains our behavior - for instance, childish credulity. However, you do not explain how it is people like Dawkin (and yourself) have overcome that credulity. Might naturalism be just one more instance of the credulity instinct? After all, some of the earliest (pre-Socratic) philosphers were materialists, but Plato and Aristotle judged them to be too simplistic.

In giving the example of the pro-lifers who harrassed the poor black woman, you were justifiably revolted - and rightly assumed that I would be too. But is that not because both of us have a standard of fair play? But where does that come from? Does any other animal have such a standard? I did read Origin of Species and have the impression that Darwin assumed they did not.

I'll make you a deal, Pierre. You challenged me to read some books of Gould and Dawkin. (I have in fact read a few of them.) I would like to challenge you to read (or re-read) Chesterton and C.S. Lewis. Or better yet, you pick one book of Dawkin or Gould for me to read (or re-read) and I will do the same with one book of Lewis or Chesterton. After reading each other's book, we each could offer a critique which I will post on my website. It could be a learning experience for both of us - and maybe for others who might like to read our comments. What do you say?


Pere Bloom

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