Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

Evolution News and Views
Research NEWS
 

Darwinian Biologist Says: Don't Be So Quick to Dismiss Ra�lian Science

596px-Raelians-Japan-Nov2012.jpg

Free-will denier Jerry Coyne, who is a biology professor at the University of Chicago and an ardent Darwinist, informs us of this new piece of important scientific research:

Science proves that consecrated wafers are still wheat and not Jesus

I don't know much about the Ra�lian Movement, but what I've learned suggests that Ra�lians are plenty weird. Their faith is based on Earth's life having been created by space aliens, so they're creationists, and they have all kinds of strange views, including a form of baptism that alters your genetic makeup but prepares you for your eventual judgment by the aliens.

Actually, the theory that space aliens may have seeded the Earth with life is called panspermia, and has been proposed by many prominent Darwinists. Richard Dawkins has very publicly endorsed it. And Neil deGrasse Tyson has proposed that we fear space aliens because they will judge us. Episode 11 of Cosmos is devoted to the topic. (See Casey Luskin's discussion of panspermia in The Unofficial Guide to Cosmos.)

[Ra�lians are] a small sect, cult, or religion (whatever you want to call them): Wikipedia estimates that there are only about 90,000 members worldwide.

Which is roughly the number of evolutionary biologists worldwide, another small cult.

On the other hand, the sect has some good liberal views....

These views include being "in favor of food derived from GMOs," and being "anti-Catholic." Ra�lian science is therefore trustworthy. You can see the logic in it.

The last view is probably one that gave rise to the "research" paper I'll highlight today. Yes, a Ra�lian group did some research, and I'm not going to dismiss it out of hand simply because of who did it (if that were the case, I'd dismiss the Human Genome Project simply because it was headed by born-again Christian Francis Collins).

Right. There's no reason to dismiss Ra�lian science out of hand, just because the scientists are a bit quirky. If it's Ra�lian science, just follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Damien Marsic and Mehran Sam, identified as belonging to the Association of Ra�lian Scientists (in Las Vegas), have published a paper in a place called "Scientific Ra�lian."

Peer-reviewed journal. It takes a while to get a paper published, because the editorial office is in Sagittarius.

... the paper's title is "DNA analysis of consecrated sacramental wafers refutes Catholic transubstantiation claim."

This is in fact a piece of research I've always wanted someone to do.

Coyne actually links to the journal.

Since Catholics believe in transubstantiation (the wafer and wine become the body and blood of Christ during the Eucharist) and not consubstantiation (the wafer and wine are partly made of Jesus, and partly of grapes and wheat), an analysis of a consecrated wafer should show that its substance is entirely that of the human body.

Perhaps Coyne, a geneticist himself, couldn't obtain a Host to do the research, because the Ra�lians told him that if he went into a Catholic church, he'd burst into flames.

Now we know that a wafer and wine don't change into a beaker of blood and a gobbet of flesh after they're blessed, but one other strategy is to look at the DNA in these substances. Perhaps (or so the Ra�lian investigators thought), they'd find human DNA -- Jesus' -- in the wafer and wine...� And so Marsic and Sam did a study. They purloined five consecrated wafers (they discuss the ethics of this, and decide that it's okay), and analyzed the DNA of the consecrated wafers as well as that of a "control" group of unconsecrated wafers, a "human DNA" control group from cultured cells, and a negative control (nothing added to the PCR [DNA amplification] reagents).

Coyne actually shows a picture of the Ra�lians' agarose gel. He doesn't bat an eye at citing research done by scientists from "The World's Strangest -- and Nicest -- UFO Sex Clone Religion." The result is negative -- there's no human DNA in the Consecrated Host. Coyne summates:

This is why the Ra�lian experiment will be ignored by the Church, but also why we should ignore the Church's pronouncements about reality, for they reflect sets of claims that are untestable but satisfy our emotional needs.

Unlike Coyne, I doubt Copernicus' Church pays much attention to Ra�lians, although the Swiss Guard probably keeps track of them if they visit St. Peter's Square.

Transubstantiation is a matter of some debate among Christians, but it is a theological and metaphysical debate, not a scientific one.

Coyne's take on the Ra�lian "research" is hilarious, not the least because he gets the Church's theology precisely wrong. The modern iteration of the doctrine of transubstantiation was worked out in the 13th century by the scholastic philosophers, most notably St. Thomas, who proposed that the change in the Host is substantial, not accidental. All of the properties that could be measured by science are accidental, and do not change with consecration. The presenceof human DNA in the Host would have overturned a millennium of Church doctrine.

There's a deep irony here. Coyne mocks Catholic transubstantiation, yet insists that life itself is a grand materialist transubstantiation. Coyne believes that over the past five billion years non-living matter transubstantiated, without intelligent agency, into all life on Earth.

Darwin is Coyne's Aquinas, and natural selection consecrated the primordial soup. The wafer became us.

Image: Japanese Ra�lian character mascot/Wikipedia.