Although I don’t swear on the blog, and I try not to be “uncivil,” I nevertheless really appreciate DuWayne Brayton’s recent, profane post disagreeing with me and even defending incivility–most centrally because unlike much commentary out there coming from New Atheists, it gets my views right. To wit:
I do however, have a problem with Chris’ rhetoric about theists who accept evolution. Put simply, he seems to think that there is a marked lack of civility on the part of the so called “new atheists,” when it comes to attacking the faith component, of those who reconcile their theism with evolution and science. He also seems to think that there are a lot of factual errors to the arguments of the new atheists and ultimately, that attacking that reconciliation is a bad strategic move. I know more than a little about this issue of reconciling theism and science, or more accurately, theism and reality. I am less than a year out from having finally ending my twenty some year battle to maintain my faith, in the face of science and indeed other aspects of reality that aren’t strictly science related. In all honesty, I think that his problems with incivility and ultimately strategy are both ill-founded. And while I think that the issue of factual errors is a little less clear, I tend to disagree with the accommodationist position – both from the theists themselves and the atheists who defend them.
From someone who is criticizing me on science and religion, this is probably the most accurate summary so far of what I think. Thank you for that.
Tremendous thanks to all who have participated in the kissing survey so far. By the time I opened my laptop this morning, I had over 500 responses! Many of you offered suggestions, questions, and far more information than I requested–from sexual preferences to accounts of your own erotic encounters. Admittedly, I still have hundreds to read. I was also pleased to read several blog posts and online debates related to my investigation.
These preliminary findings will be incorporated into the selection process for images used in a cognitive neuroscience experiment taking place in July. Additional data is being collected to control for bias and the results will be included in my next book, The Science of Kissing. I’m extremely encouraged that so many readers are interested in the project and have great expectations for what I may learn in the lab. And you bet I’ll keep readers posted!
I really wish I could write back to everyone personally who has participated in the study, but the number of emails makes it impossible. Please accept my sincerest thanks for your input, stories, and perspectives.
The Jerry Coyne debate reached temporary hiatus late last week with Coyne invoking Rosenhouse to defend himself against my charge that he has violated the methodological vs. philosophical naturalism distinction. Coyne doesn’t appear to think he commits this foul; and yet he writes in The New Republic, in a line not quoted by Rosenhouse, that “supernatural phenomena are not completely beyond the realm of science.”
If you accept the MN/PN distinction as I have outlined it, or as Robert Pennock does in Tower of Babel, it is hard see how one can claim this. As Pennock writes:
The first and most basic characteristic of supernatural agents and powers, of course, is that they are above and beyond the natural world and its agents and powers. Indeed, this is the very definition of the term. They are not constrained by natural laws…. (p. 289)
Experimentation requires observation and control of the variables. We confirm causal laws by performing controlled experiments in which the hypothesized independent variable is made to vary while all other factors are held constant so that we can observe the effect on the dependent variable. But we have no control over supernatural entities or forces; hence these cannot be scientifically studied. (p. 292)