CO: I’m a Catholic and my husband is an Anglican, and transubstantiation is an issue between us. Do I want my daughter to take up my Catholic beliefs? Yes I do. Do I believe my beliefs are superior in any way to his? Yes I do. But do I want to teach her that mine is the only way? No I don’t. What I want her to feel is that there are some beautiful principles in all religions. In your new book you say scientists cheerfully admit they don’t know, “cheerfully” because not knowing the answer is exciting. What’s so funny is that I feel about religion in the same way. You musn’t think that religion is stuck in its inquisitorial phase; religion is capable of evolution and many people of faith are filled with doubts.
RD: But how do you decide which bits to doubt and which bits to accept? As scientists, we do it by evidence.
CO: You can’t boil everything down to evidence!
I haven’t read further yet.
It’s true in a way that you can’t boil everything down to evidence. If I say “I’m tired” (or curious or bored or grumpy or elated) it would be odd for you to say “what’s your evidence for that?” But evidence is relevant to the subject that Odone herself raised, which is doubts. Doubts about what? Doubts about things like “transubstantiation.” Transubstantiation is a claim about reality – it is the “teaching” that during the Mass
the elements of the Eucharist, bread and wine, are transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus and that they are no longer bread and wine, but only retain their appearance of bread and wine.
Of course, that rider about “their appearance” is a dodge to avoid, precisely, evidence…but it’s just that: a dodge. It’s like Gosse’s Omphalos dodge: God planted evidence of evolution to trick us. If one has “doubts” about it – well (as Richard says) then what?
If you’re that kind of Catholic then nothing, you just “have doubts” and trot them out rather proudly when chatting with people like Dawkins. They’re inert. They’re a condition, not a real question that prompts you to consider the evidence. They’re essentially frivolous.