“Looks like I was wrong for 30 years”

Yesterday, thanks to @Monahan_PJ (via the incomparable @edyong209), I ran across this paper in Science:

No buts about it, the butthole is one of the finest innovations in the past 
540 million years of animal evolution. The first animals that arose seem to have literally had potty mouths: Their modern-day descendants, such as sea sponges, sea anemones, and jellyfish, all lack an anus and must eat and excrete through the same hole. Once an independent exit evolved, however, animals diversified into the majority of species alive today, ranging from earthworms
 to humans.

So go read it, because it’s interesting. In case you didn’t, the tl;dr of it is that there are animals who eat and excrete using different orifices, like we do, and there are those that use the same orifice for ingestion and excretion. These box jellyfish were thought to be in the latter category, but it turns out they’re not (with a twist).

And then, there’s a throwaway line about halfway down:

“Looks like I’ve been wrong for 30 years,” said George Matsumoto, a marine bio
logist at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, California, after he saw Browne’s talk.

That’s a remarkable thing to say, and I congratulate Dr. Matsumoto on his honesty.

But it also made me realize that while I’ve heard scientists make this sort of statement (not often enough, but on a regular basis), and sometimes even politicians (see, for instance, Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s reversals on gay marriage), I don’t remember ever hearing a theologian (or cleric engaging in theology) say this.

Yes, plenty of people have changed their religious affiliation, and the “I was a wretched sinful atheist heathen gay pagan until I found Jesus” story is a genre unto itself. And I’ve heard plenty of stories of people switching denominations because their old church was too repressive, not serious enough about its faith, or whatever. But these are largely matters of opinion.

Find me people changing their mind on small matters of fact. Take a look at Wikipedia’s list of Christian heresies and show me the ones that were resolved through observation and reason, rather than bloodshed.

It just doesn’t happen. In religion, there’s no reality check, no way to see that your beliefs are completely out of line with reality.