Coyne/Accommodationism Debate Links Compiled

By Chris Mooney | June 12, 2009 10:29 am

Dr. Coyne has gone ahead and helpfully compiled a list of links to the main posts in the debate that has been going on for the past few weeks and that appears to be widening–it has already generated (I would guess) well over a thousand comments. Click here to review the record.

I am in Illinois doing family/wedding stuff, so I don’t expect to be able to post again today….

Comments (99)

  1. Went over and looked at the links provided by Coyne. Does anyone really care what Rosenhouse has to say on this issue?

  2. ruidh

    Science is science and theology is theology. If you find your theology conflicts with science, its time to reevaluate your theology.

    But don’t make me choose. I am a church-going person who loves science. I read science daily. I also read my Bible daily. I do not find them in conflict and I dislike someone on the creationism side of the issue claiming I can’t have both just as much as I dislike someone from the science side claiming I can’t have both.

  3. If you find your theology conflicts with science, its time to reevaluate your theology.

    Which of course, is something that the Catholic Church has been saying for quite some time. Pope John Paul II has said before that faith can never conflict with reason, and Pope Leo XIII was a Thomist who held similar opinions.

  4. The Dalai Lama has also said this. See his readable book “An Atom in the Universe”

  5. Why the ad hominem against Rosenhouse? If Coyne is linking to/quoting from him, he obviously agrees with what he’s saying, so isn’t it worth reading if only to see what arguments Coyne agrees with?

  6. Madcap, exactly what is ad hominem about what I said? Just saying that I don’t care what Rosenhouse has to say about the issue isn’t an ad hominem statement in the slightest.

    Coyne, of course, has linked to the people who agree with him. I expect that. If I write a pro-Mooney/Miller thread on my blog, is Coyne going to provide me with a link? What I’m trying to understand is why I should care what Rosenhouse (and the Kos Daily entry) had to say at all.

  7. abelian jeff

    @TomJoe

    You said “Coyne, of course, has linked to the people who agree with him. I expect that. If I write a pro-Mooney/Miller thread on my blog, is Coyne going to provide me with a link?” This implies that there are other relevant bloggers out there who DID post in favor of Mooney/Miller, and Coyne has omitted them. Please provide links to substantiate this claim.

    And for the record, Rosenhouse’s contributions to this debate have been superb.

  8. giotto

    Madcap, exactly what is ad hominem about what I said?

    If you are dismissing an argument on the basis of who made it (“…why should I care what Rosenhouse (and the Daily Kos entry) had to say at all.”) rather than on the basis of, you know, the actual argument itself, then ad hominem it is.

    I found Rosenhouse generally OK, especially in calling out Mooney for misreading, misinterpreting, or mischaracterizing Coyne on a number of points, in particular on methodological and philosophical naturalisms.

    I was about to say that those are the key points here, but I remember that what this is really all about is political strategy: about working with people who are religious and who have no problem with evolution. Apparently there is some concern that all the mean ‘n’ nasty “new atheists” might alienate that religious contingent, who will then…. what? I appreciate these threads as philosophical issues, but I do fail to see the political implications that seem to be assumed by many people commenting on these issues. If atheists (“new” or “old” or “pre-owned”) are too strident, what, precisely, do accommodationists believe will happen?

  9. giotto,

    I am not dismissing a claim/argument on the basis of who made it. I’m dismissing the individual, period. That’s not ad hominem. I am more than happy to entertain the argument, I just don’t want to suffer all the hanger-ons that inevitably arise from it (given the nature of the argument). You can tell the difference, right?

  10. giotto

    I am not dismissing a claim/argument on the basis of who made it. I’m dismissing the individual, period. . . .You can tell the difference, right?

    No. For purposes of constructing, analyzing, and responding to arguments, I cannot tell the difference between dismissing an argument because X said it, and dismissing X’s argument because you dismiss X as an individual.

  11. Because admitting you were wrong on the intertubes could only be explained by an act of divine intervention, TomJoe, tossing up word salad, has just increased the improbability of the supernatural by one in this world.

    Point awarded to PN!

  12. I have not used my dismissal of Rosenhouse as a basis to dismiss the claims of the New Atheists, which is the point I was trying to make. It appears my crime is to have made mention of the fact that I don’t consider Rosenhouse anything more than a hanger-on in the discussion. I’m more than willing to consider Coyne’s POV, I just don’t think it’s necessary to deal with all the noise that results from it, regardless of whether Coyne feels the need to link to it or not.

  13. This implies that there are other relevant bloggers out there who DID post in favor of Mooney/Miller, and Coyne has omitted them. Please provide links to substantiate this claim.

    I guess that would hinge around your definition of ‘relevant bloggers’. I don’t consider Rosenhouse or the Daily Kos blogger to be relevant, at least to this particular issue.

    Anyways, here are two links for you. Heck Chris already provided these in a past post of his so I didn’t have to go very far:
    1. http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/what-is-jerry-coynes-complaint-by.html
    2. http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2009/06/are_the_new_atheists_not_civil.php

  14. benjdm

    Would saying the following violate Dr. Forrest’s 3 principles?

    “In response to the charge that methodological naturalism in science logically requires the a priori adoption of a naturalistic metaphysics, I examine the question whether methodological naturalism entails philosophical (ontological or metaphysical) naturalism. I conclude that the relationship between methodological and philosophical naturalism, while not one of logical entailment, is the only reasonable metaphysical conclusion given (1) the demonstrated success of methodological naturalism, combined with (2) the massive amount of knowledge gained by it, (3) the lack of a method or epistemology for knowing the supernatural, and (4) the subsequent lack of evidence for the supernatural. The above factors together provide solid grounding for philosophical naturalism, while supernaturalism remains little more than a logical possibility.”

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/barbara_forrest/naturalism.html

    Isn’t she saying the exact same thing Coyne is saying? AND she’s saying it out loud, in print, where theistic evolutionist proponents can read it?

  15. Jon

    The Dalai Lama has also said this. See his readable book “An Atom in the Universe”

    It’s actually, *The Universe in a Single Atom*. Here’s a quote:

    I said to one of the scientists: “It seems very evident that due to changes in the chemical process of the brain, many of our own subjective experiences like perception and sensation occur: Can one envision the reversal of this causal process? Can one postulate that pure thought itself could effect a change in the chemical process of the brain?” I was asking whether, conceptually at least, we could allow the possibility of both upward and downward causation.

    The scientist’s response was quite surprising. He said that since all mental states arise from physical states, it is not possible for downward causation to occur. Although, out of politeness, I did not respond at the time, I thought then and still think that there is yet no scientific basis for such a categorical claim. The view that all mental processes are necessarily physical processes is a metaphysical assumption, not a scientific fact. I feel that, in the spirit of scientific inquiry, it is critical that we allow the question to remain open, and not conflate our assumptions with empirical fact.”

  16. Vytautas

    @13 benjdm

    I believe she (Forrest) is. Her conclusion that philosophical naturalism is the only reasonable conclusion from methodological naturalism, I believe, dovetails with Coyne’s view (and certainly Rosenhouse’s reading of Coyne’s view). That is, supernaturalism remains a logical possibility, but it is not reasonable.

    Seems a bit ironic. On the one hand Mooney is channeling Forrest on tactical issues (where Coyne was essentially being told to temper his writings so as not to alienate religious minded allies a.k.a. shut up). On the other, he is claiming that Coyne doesn’t understand the MN/PN distinction. However Coyne’s views on that appear to be very similar to those expressed in Forrest’s writing.

  17. Also posted at Coyne’s blog:

    Some of what I suspect and hope will emerge as common ground from this debate, much of which has been discussed in these exchanges but not summarized:

    ~ Science doesn’t presume metaphysical or philosophical naturalism; it’s a way of investigating the world that makes no ontological presuppositions, it only wants transparent, evidentially warranted explanations and theories. Science is worldview neutral.

    ~ Science is more reliable than faith, revelation, intuition and arbitrary authority in representing reality. Those wanting an objective understanding of the world should stick with science and other intersubjective empirical disciplines.

    ~ Science can investigate supernatural hypotheses if they have any specified, testable content. It need not and should not remain silent about the existence of the supernatural.

    ~ Supernatural religion has no special authority in either the moral or empirical domains. In particular, it has no special epistemic competence to decide questions about the existence of the supernatural, including God. NCSE, NSTA and NSA seem to suggest it does, and this needs to be corrected, see http://www.naturalism.org/epistemology.htm#concessions

    ~ Science-promoting organizations such as NCSE, NSTA and NSA should be in the business of showing why science and other empirical disciplines are better at representing reality than their non-empirical rivals.

    ~ So long as supernaturalists like Miller and Collins do good science, they should be welcome in the scientific community. Naturalists and supernaturalists can get along just fine so long as they agree on goals, such as doing good science and defending free inquiry and the open society.

  18. @TomJoe

    Others have already said most of what my reply to you would be. Nevertheless, here goes a little more…

    You said:

    “Coyne, of course, has linked to the people who agree with him. I expect that. If I write a pro-Mooney/Miller thread on my blog, is Coyne going to provide me with a link? What I’m trying to understand is why I should care what Rosenhouse (and the Kos Daily entry) had to say at all.”

    Your analogy is putting the cart before the horse. Coyne linked not only to someone who agrees with him (many of us agree with him), but we must also assume that he provided the link because he felt that what Rosenhouse had to say contributed to the discussion to a point where he thought others should review it. You can think of it as a way of saying “what he said” without having to repeat it oneself.

    Does this mean that Coyne is obligated to link to every TomJoe, Dick and Harry who agrees with him? Of course not. Coyne can quote, link to or reference whomever he chooses for whatever reason. The fact that Coyne chose to link to Rosenhouse’s words is, I think, notable enough that someone who wants to thoroughly review the discussion would be well-advised to read them. If you are not such a person, then you are free not to read them.

    To be honest, I have more interest in Dr. Coyne’s opinion about Rosenhouse’s (or anyone else’s) place in the debate than I have of yours. You know your comment was an ad hominem. Your only purpose of asking “Does anyone really care what Rosenhouse has to say on this issue?” was to imply that nobody really cares what he has to say on the issue.

    But in the interest of good faith, in the off chance that you were genuinely curious if anyone really cares what Rosenhouse has to say on the issue… yes, I care what he has to say on the issue. Now perhaps we can put that question to bed and actually focus on the issue… perhaps we can add something so that other readers will really care what we have to say.

  19. Wow. I started reading Dr. Miller’s piece, but I quickly stopped. Why? This is how far I got:

    “In one piece he compared religious scientists who might defend evolution to ‘adulterers.’ In another he argued that making a case for compatibility of science and faith was akin to peddling cancer by lying about the ill effects of tobacco.”

    I thought to myself “hmm… that doesn’t sound right, let me re-look at what Coyne wrote…”. This is what Coyne actually wrote:

    True, there are religious scientists and Darwinian churchgoers. But this does not mean that faith and science are compatible, except in the trivial sense that both attitudes can be simultaneously embraced by a single human mind. (It is like saying that marriage and adultery are compatible because some married people are adulterers. ) — “Seeing and Believing”

    Is that comparing religious scientists to adulterers? Of course it isn’t. It is drawing an analogy between the two assertions “some scientists are religious, therefore science is compatible with religion” and “some married people commit adultery, therefore marriage is compatible with adultery”. Accept or reject the analogy, but to try to twist the words to attribute to Dr. Coyne something he clearly didn’t say is just intellectually dishonest.

    Unfortunately, while I do recall someone having drawn an allusion to downplaying tobacco’s risk (and it very well might have been Dr. Coyne), I am unable to locate that reference in either of the three pieces that Miller linked to, or a few others I scoured.

  20. I think the take home message here is that philosophy is an even bigger time waster than the internet, and that we should all get back into our labs and do more science.

  21. Do make sure you preach that over in the comments section at BioLogos, Lemming.

  22. Lab Lemming, If it wasn’t for the potential for the new atheism to cause political damage to science education, you’re probably right that addressing it isn’t important. I wouldn’t even be here if I didn’t think it had the potential to cause political damage to the left.

    I’m pretty confident that the new atheism isn’t really a scientific manifestation, it looks more like organized skepticism, which is about asserting an ideological position, not finding out the truth of anything.

  23. Why the ad hominem against Rosenhouse?

    I’m kind of interested that he won’t clear up a basic misunderstanding about when you can’t apply probability to a question when so many of his regulars are in rather clear error on that point. The guy is a mathematician.

    I wish people would find out what “ad hominem” really means, it turning into a meaningless cliche. It doesn’t mean that you don’t take someone seriously or that they say something you don’t like, it’s a personal attack that is irrelevant to the topic of discussion which distracts from the issue at hand.

    As used on a lot of blogs it seems to mean “I don’t like what you said and I can’t refute it”.

  24. - “In one piece he compared religious scientists who might defend evolution to ‘adulterers.’ Miller

    - But this does not mean that faith and science are compatible, except in the trivial sense that both attitudes can be simultaneously embraced by a single human mind. (It is like saying that marriage and adultery are compatible because some married people are adulterers. ) Coyne

    - Is that comparing religious scientists to adulterers? Of course it isn’t. It is drawing an analogy between the two assertions “some scientists are religious, therefore science is compatible with religion” and “some married people commit adultery, therefore marriage is compatible with adultery”.Madcap

    Of course it is. ” It is LIKE saying that marriage and adulterers are compatible because some married people are adulterers”.

    You do understand that an analogy is a comparison, don’t you?

    I’m amazed that since getting dragged into the new atheism argument from my political blogging how many times I’ve had to use dictionaries to look up the meaning of words. The new atheists are always trying to redefine words to suit their purposes. An analogy is done to compare. That’s the reason for making an analogy, an honest reason for making one.

    Or course you can also use the form of an analogy to imply that someone is associated with ideas or ideologies that they have rejected. Which is what Coyne does quite often. It’s one of the commoner tools in the kit bag of the new atheists. Look it up if you don’t believe me.

    Here’s a rule for life, When an ideology habitually resorts to twisting words out of their standard meaning, it’s a good sign that they’ve got nothing honest to back them up. The new atheism does it constantly, especially at the lower blog levels. I’ve had people on ScienceBlogs tell me that using the etymology and dictionary to demonstrate the meaning of a word is somehow illegitimate. I guess you’re just supposed to kow-tow to their revelation instead of using standard references produced by professional lexicographers and editors.

  25. Dave

    For now, I think I’m going to post over what I wrote yesterday on Coyne’s arguments on “supernaturalism”. I think there’s a few here that seem not to grasp that Coyne doesn’t seem to understand the distinctions. Like I say at the bottom, I’ll get to the “claims” and why he is in fact arguing in a very similar was as ID proponents, and NO, they’re not right (they don’t have a scientific theory).

    ………………..

    Here’s an example that is common to his argument and seems to illustrate nicely Coyne’s approach.

    He argues from the view of what would convince scientist and himself that a “supernatural force” or God exist. An example is: “if only bad people might get cancer”. This is the type of argument Coyne uses to back up his assertion that “supernatural phenomena” are not “completely” beyond the realm of science.

    There are obviously many things wrong with this approach to make such an assertion, but I want to focus on a few primary points. First, the fact that a scientist, or Coyne himself would become convinced of a “supernatural force” or God based on a natural phenomena simply does not back up any claim that science involves itself in the “supernatural”. That is what it would be, a natural phenomena. That leads to a problem, who is deciding the line in which science identifies a “supernatural force” has been crossed, why would we not first try to provide naturalistic explanations for the phenomena – it simply would not matter what Coyne “believes” unless he can put it to the test. Second, this only works to confuse the nature of science and somewhat paradoxically is done to combat “supernatural beliefs”. However, what science is doing is apart from the “supernatural” belief in that the “theory” (ie – “god is doing it”) is not a scientific theory to begin with, what is being tested is the claims regarding nature. We end up back at the demarcation, and would be left with trying to provide a naturalistic explanation, unless God or the “supernatural force” told us they were creating the phenomena, or it was revealed somehow. Take something like Coyne’s example of bad people getting cancer, would we not look for a naturalistic explanation and would it not be incumbent upon Coyne to provide evidence for the phenomena being caused by a “supernatural force” or God? This of course would get back to; “well, it provides evidence of a God”, well that still doesn’t tell us much, especially with regards to science.

    I’ll continue this later (I’ll get to the “claims” issue, which is an important distinction and why Coyne’s approach mirrors in an important way that of the Intelligent Design movement)

  26. Dave

    I would like to add briefly, that sure, we can say God is a possibility, but again, that doesn’t tell us much about what science (scientist) is doing. All that does is put God in the range of possible existence, part of reality (though what do we really have to base that on except the claims and beliefs of others which have no bases in reality?). The claims made regarding the nature of God when refuted by science are done through the understanding of natural processes, to science there is no “supernaturalism” or Gods as explanations (at least not yet in any way, shape or form – there is no difference in these debates than saying; ok, it’s possible, so now what do we do about it – you see, we can’t just make up claims regarding the nature of science just because other people want to claim God is acting within nature).

  27. Anna K.

    He’s arguing that we can tell if the supernatural exists if only bad people get cancer? That’s some strange theologizing: by that logic, if commonly held theological ideas like original sin or that all people are somehow in a fallen state are true, shouldn’t we all have cancer?

    Religious scriptures repeatedly claim that the good suffer, that the wicked prosper, and that the divine is often morally incomprehensible by human reasoning. I’m wondering where this idea that something supernatural should ensure that bad people get cancer and good people don’t, actually comes from.

  28. John Kwok

    @ Curious Wavefunction and TomJoe,

    Thanks for referring to the Dalai Lama, but he has said too that if religion is wrong and science is right, then religion must conform with science.

    Incidentally, Ken Miller is such a “zealous” “theistic evolutionist” that would you believe that he would opine that those who belong to religions hostile to science should terminate their memberships in such faiths? You might not, but I did hear him say this here in New York City, less than a month agao.

  29. John Kwok

    Hi Everyone,

    I’ve made these points both here and over at Jason Rosenhouse’s blog, and no one seems to have risen to my challenge to provide some thoughtful, well-reasoned replies:

    “Whether NCSE should give much thought to religious accomodation is of course the very issue which Coyne , Myers and others have been contending. But, simply from a practical standpoint, I can’t see how they could devote much time to it given their relatively small size as a nonprofit organization. Instead, they have been investing a substantial portion of their time to issues such as the Texas State Board of Education science standard hearings – and this, not ‘accomodationism’ – is the very reason why NCSE was established in the first place, and therefore, where it should invest both its limited financial and personnel resources to.”

    “Given the fact that NCSE does have limited financial and personnel resources, do you think it should spend it more time wisely in trying to shape public school science education policy (as it has been doing in Texas) or should it fritter away its time and resources by trying to do what Coyne, Myers and others have asked with regards to it refraining from an ‘accomodationist’ stance with religion? Realistically I don’t think it is capable of both.”

    “Realistically, NCSE has far more important issues on its plate than trying to kowtow to every whim that’s been entertained by the likes of Coyne and Myers, etc. I would rather see themselves working assidulously towards preparing for the next Texas State Board of Education Science Standards meeting (or something quite similar) than wasting their time trying to decide whether they have to appease militant atheists objecting to their so-called ‘accomodation’ with ‘theistic evolutionists’.”

    “However, on a more sarcastic note, maybe PZ Myers should think seriously of asking his good pal, Richard Dawkins, to donate a lavish contribution towards such an end, especially when Dawkins has received an advance for his forthcoming book from Simon and Schuster that is almost the same as what bestselling memoirist Frank McCourt has received for his memoirs.”

    “The fact that Richard Dawkins has received for his next book an advance equivalent in amount to those received by Frank McCourt – who incidentally has been one of Simon and Schuster’s most popular authors in the past decade – should be irrelevant except for the fact that his American militant atheist acolytes want NCSE to act on behalf of their every whim. Well when you think of it seriously, you begin realizing that it costs money, and who better than Dawkins to be the one capable of providing a sufficiently lavish sum for such a reason.”

    Sincerely yours,

    John

  30. Tim Broderick

    @ Giotto
    Disregarding someone’s opinion because they aren’t the original person who made the argument isn’t an ad hominem attack. Claiming otherwise in this instance just makes it look like you’re spoiling for a fight.

  31. Dave

    John Kwok

    I understand where you’re coming from (and I don’t necessarily disagree), but I’m going to play devils advocate here and attempt to point out where I think you’re going wrong.

    It really does seem to come down to this:

    —-”Whether NCSE should give much thought to religious accomodation is of course the very issue which Coyne , Myers and others have been contending. But, simply from a practical standpoint, I can’t see how they could devote much time to it given their relatively small size as a nonprofit organization.”—

    I think the rebuttal to this idea would be that they’re not asking to give it much thought at all, in fact, not to entertain the idea – to attempt to stay neutral. In essence then it would not take any time or budget, it would be basically to delete some of the “statements” made that are said to be “accomodationism”.

    From that standpoint the rest of your argument would become irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    Of course, I have ended up acquiring a great deal of problems with Coyne’s, Dawkins and PZ’s ideas on the matter. In fact, I think they are wrong on some important key issues here. Something to keep in mind are debating points from the anti-”accomodationist” view which I had highlighted in some previous post. You see, take a quote by Harris, he is saying Ken Miller is doing “lasting harm” to our discourse by contributing to religious irrationality, this isn’t an open door for dialogue, it is a statement of what he considers factual. PZ is honest enough to refer to himself as “anti-religious”, so it doesn’t take much to surmise that “accomodationism” could end up be interpreted many ways and this is just a convenient target which so happens to involve his domain of evolutionary science – same goes for Dawkins and Coyne. You see the terms haven’t really been defined well, its just holding out ideas and claiming they are “accomodationism” which is then interpreted as “dishonest” , “dangerous” and worse.

    This is why I pointed out to Chris that he would be wise to keep in mind that with his ideas on the matter he is simply seen as “part of the problem” which revolves around religion (though it is often couched in the language that it’s about scientific truth). In fact, this debate is probably viewed as a necessity in certain ways, an inevitable outcome of displacing religion. When Harris remarked that in 40 years he can envision religion being seen in a way where we will be amazed people held such beliefs and it will be relegated to to the dust bin of other ideas such as “astrology” (and advocates we only need words like “evidence” and “bullshit” to put it in its place), you can understand the bigger picture, what is actually going on here.

    It almost appears that some of you seem to think we in some open debate, where general rules apply, get over that – the debate is about religion and how to quicken the mitigation of religion, to the point of needle work, “accomodation” is a road block, even while not clearly defined. Think about that, this is viewed as progressing forward without making clear what is actually going on.

  32. John Kwok

    @ Dave -

    One of the stated goals of NCSE is to educate the public on what is valid science and to disseminate that information. Whether we like it or not, the fact remains that much of the American public would consider itself devoutly religious (And that, incidentally, according to polling data that I have heard cited by vertebrate paleobiologist Donald Prothero, includes 56% of American evolutionary biologists too.). For a sizeable minority then, evolution is seen as pernicious – if not an outright threat – to their worldview. It is for this reason that NCSE may seem to be “accomodationist” merely to assure this audience that one can devoutly believe in GOD (or GODS) and still accept evolution as valid science. I presume that is also one of the most important – if not the most important – reasony why it has clergy in its Oakland, CA-based office staff.

    I believe that if NCSE really became “neutral”, then it would lose its ability to reach out to that “skeptical” minority I speak of, the one that is skeptical of evolution as valid science. Having perused its website on countless occasions, I have not read anything online that would lead me to conclude that NCSE is really supporting a “theistic evolutionist” stance. Moreover, nor am I aware of it having an official “accomodationist” position – either explicity or implicitly – and I will admit that I have asked its senior staff, and even, Ken Miller (Ken has said that NCSE doesn’t have an official position.). So, coming from my perspective – and I don’t think of myself as religiously devout (though I am a Deist) – I think Coyne’s and Myers’s criticisms are patently ridiculous. Moreover, if I were them, I would put “my money where my mouth is” and ask their affluent friends and supporters, like Richard Dawkins, for example, to donate sufficient funding that would ensure NCSE’s “neutrality”.

    The only comment of yours that I am in agreement is your observation that many believe that this is an “open debate”. I don’t think it should be, and not surprisingly, not for the very conclusion you ‘ve reached, by insisting that we should express our opposition to religious perspectives.

  33. What’s being associated is a comparison between two pairs of things. McCarthy is simply borrowing the same words and coming up with a brand new comparison, exclusive from how the original sentence was structured, and then using it to undermine the meaning the original sentence. Excellent example of sophistry.

  34. @ 19 madcap

    Madcap: ” “True, there are religious scientists and Darwinian churchgoers. But this does not mean that faith and science are compatible, except in the trivial sense that both attitudes can be simultaneously embraced by a single human mind. (It is like saying that marriage and adultery are compatible because some married people are adulterers. ) — “Seeing and Believing”

    Is that comparing religious scientists to adulterers? Of course it isn’t. It is drawing an analogy between the two assertions “some scientists are religious, therefore science is compatible with religion” and “some married people commit adultery, therefore marriage is compatible with adultery”. Accept or reject the analogy, but to try to twist the words to attribute to Dr. Coyne something he clearly didn’t say is just intellectually dishonest.”

    Wow. I’m really getting disappointed in this whole debate.

    If your quotation of Coyne is accurate, then he doesn’t passively note that some might make such a comparison without taking a position on it. Coyne asserts the comparison is true, loaded language and all.

    “It is like…” can be interpreted in no other way except as an assertion that the comparison is accurate. The only way he could possibly have weaseled out of it is to use the Fox News “Some might say …” But he didn’t and Miller called him on his loaded language.

    To attempt to assert otherwise is disingenuous at best.

    And, seriously, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/analogy
    Not making a comparison? Honestly, philosophical naturalism will not stand or fall on the quality of Jerry Coyne’s writing abilities. There’s no need to deny that he wrote what he wrote.

  35. @Anthony McCarthy (#23 & 24):

    I don’t know why I should bother, but I can’t help myself…

    I called TomJoe’s statement an ad hominem because he was implying there was no reason for anyone to care what Rosenhouse’s input in the debate is. Maybe this doesn’t fall into what you consider an ad hominem, but without elaborating on why we shouldn’t care about Rosenhouse’s input, TomJoe’s rhetorical question was just a baseless attack meant to challenge what Rosenhouse says without considering anything he actually said. Your characterization that I used the term just because I didn’t like what TomJoe said is not only inaccurate (TomJoe didn’t actually say anything substantial for me to dislike) and unfair. Anyway, I’m bored of discussing TomJoe.

    You do understand that an analogy is a comparison, don’t you?

    An analogy involves a comparison, but it is not the same as a direct comparison. To say that Coyne was comparing religious scientists to adulterers is completely not accurate. What he was comparing was the claim of compatibility between two arguably incompatible institutions based on the fact that some people might be following both.

    I don’t mean to put words in Coyne’s mouth, but I believe the point he is trying to get across with that analogy is that a scientist who claims he is religious is a bad scientist in a similar way as a husband who commits adultery is a bad husband. A scientist can go to church, but that doesn’t mean that science and the church are compatible, just that a particular scientist is capable of cognitive dissonance.

    You can remain skeptical of the validity of the analogy and disagree with the point entirely. However, to reframe it as if Coyne is attributing the same moral weight of adultery to religious scientists is, as I said, intellectually dishonest. You know that wasn’t Coyne’s point (assuming you’re an educated person) and so does Miller. It was sophistry on Miller’s part, pure and simple, and it was quite blatant. If Miller isn’t going to engage in the discussion in an honest manner, then I’m not interesting in hearing any more of his opinion on it.

    Or[sic] course you can also use the form of an analogy to imply that someone is associated with ideas or ideologies that they have rejected.

    Examples? The analogy we’re talking about here doesn’t exhibit that, so I’d be interested in knowing which ones you’re referring to.

  36. @Tim Broderick (#34):

    If your quotation of Coyne is accurate, then he doesn’t passively note that some might make such a comparison without taking a position on it. Coyne asserts the comparison is true, loaded language and all.

    My quote of Coyne is accurate, as could be easily verified by reading the very article I cited. If you havne’t read Coyne’s input in the debate, I wonder how substantial anything you say about it can be. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there…

    Please don’t be daft. Of course Coyne is taking a position on the validity of the analogy. He is making it! Why would someone in a debate draw an analogy and then say “but I don’t take a position on whether it’s valid or not”. I’m saying that you the reader don’t have to agree with Coyne’s analogy, but reframing it to seem as if Coyne is saying something he is not is dishonest.

    “It is like…” can be interpreted in no other way except as an assertion that the comparison is accurate.

    Yes indeed. And Coyne is saying that his analogy is accurate. It would be a waste of our time to present analogies that he himself doesn’t agree with. But Coyne did not say “religious scientists are like adulterers”, which is what Miller accused him of.

    *sigh* Coyne said the logic that ‘there exists a married adulterer, thus marriage and adultery are compatible’ is invalid, I think most of us would agree with that, and he basically said that ‘there exists a religious scientist, thus religion and science are compatible’ fits that same logical form, and is invalid for the same reason.

    I don’t know how many ways I can put it. Some of you are either incapable of grasping how to use an analogy, or are playing ignorant. In either case, until you are capable and willing to intelligently discuss the point, there’s no need to go on about it.

  37. @John Kwok (#32)

    For a sizeable minority then, evolution is seen as pernicious – if not an outright threat – to their worldview. It is for this reason that NCSE may seem to be “accomodationist” merely to assure this audience that one can devoutly believe in GOD (or GODS) and still accept evolution as valid science.

    I believe you have accurately described NCSE’s motivations. However, I don’t see how this counters Coyne’s arguments that they ought not do this. I think Coyne understands exactly this motivation.

    Coyne’s complaint (along with others) is that the NCSE and related groups are making the assertion that religious belief and science are compatible. Okay, some people agree with that and some don’t. But according to Coyne, the only voices that are coming from these organizations are the ones who agree with it. They are not willing to present the other side of the issue, and indeed, don’t seem to have many articles or books from authors known to be hostile to religion.

    Coyne is not asking them to present the other side of the issue, though. He asking them to refrain from the issue if they will not or cannot present both sides (unlike an individual, an organization represents many different people with different perspectives). Fighting the legal battle against creationism does not require demonstrating that evolution and religion are compatible (or incompatible, for that matter); it only requires demonstrating that creationism is a religious doctrine and thus illegal to teach in public schools. Teaching evolution in schools does not require the teacher to make a statement that evolution is or is not compatible with particular religious beliefs. That is up to the audience to decide.

    The NCSE has neither the charter nor the expertise to start saying which religious beliefs are compatible with science and which are not, or how certain religious texts ought to be properly interpreted (see Rev. Borgeson’s article on the NCSE’s website). It seems like the NCSE is trying to advance particular religious beliefs that happen to be (possibly) compatible with evolution. Borgeson, the NCSE’s ‘Faith Network Project Director’ is an Episcopal reverend. Do you suppose the NCSE is going to reach conservative evangelicals by letting them know that some liberal Episcopalians have found a happy medium… and they can to, if only they’d adjust their theological interpretations?

    By your own arguments made earlier, why should the NCSE waste its valuable time and money by advancing controversial claims that are not necessary to fulfill their work? Maybe they can hire an extra lawyer in place of a Faith Network Project Director. Why should the NCSE be advancing particular religious viewpoints just because they are supposedly sympathetic to evolution? That’s one step away from proselytizing. Proselytizing a less antagonistic version of a faith is still proselytizing, and it has no place in science advocacy.

  38. @ 36 madcap

    What are you talking about? You asserted:

    “Is that comparing religious scientists to adulterers? Of course it isn’t. ”

    And then say “But Coyne did not say “religious scientists are like adulterers”, which is what Miller accused him of. ”

    No, you said:

    “Is that comparing religious scientists to adulterers? Of course it isn’t. ”

    And Miller wrote (again, I’m not going to go back and check your exact quotations. Why, do I have to assume you’re dishonest?)

    “In one piece he compared religious scientists who might defend evolution to ‘adulterers.’ ”

    Miller did not say that Coyne said “religious scientists are like adulterers” (your quotes).

    Now, you agree that he meant the analogy:

    “Yes indeed. And Coyne is saying that his analogy is accurate.”

    And then I linked to http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/analogy

    Where it says

    “1. a similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based: the analogy between the heart and a pump. ”

    and

    “5. Logic. a form of reasoning in which one thing is inferred to be similar to another thing in a certain respect, on the basis of the known similarity between the things in other respects.”

    Miller accused Coyne of comparing religious scientists with adulterers. By definition, as quoted above, analogy involves comparison and so Miller’s useage of that is correct. Religious scientists, as defined by Coyne’s own words, are people for whom faith and science can be simultaneously embraced by a single human mind.

    And then Coyne used this analogy: “It is like saying that marriage and adultery are compatible because some married people are adulterers.”

    An analogy with loaded, offensive language (adulterers) and Miller called him out on it.

    You try to show the comparison is a passive one, devoid of anything else: “Coyne said the logic that ‘there exists a married adulterer, thus marriage and adultery are compatible’ is invalid, I think most of us would agree with that, and he basically said that ‘there exists a religious scientist, thus religion and science are compatible’ fits that same logical form, and is invalid for the same reason.”

    Such a charitable reading ignores the loaded meaning of adultery. You doubt the offensiveness of his chosen word? http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/adultery

    Scroll down and note the descriptive language: “unfaithfulness, corruption, lewdness or unchastity of thought as well as act, Injury; degradation; ruin”

    If Coyne didn’t intend to include the offensive nature of adultery in his comparison then he should have chosen his words more carefully. And instead of allowing other people to attempt to defend his unwritten meaning, the whole debate would be better served if Coyne would come out and say there were unintended inferences in his writing.

    Oh, I imagine your next rationalization will be something to the effect that if Miller is reading more into Coyne’s words than Coyne intended, that’s Miller’s fault. But that would be an empty capitulation of responsibility. Are we not to hold Coyne to his words? No, he is an adult and this is not Fox News.

    So you could redeem yourself here, Madcap. You could acknowledge that Miller could rightly take offense at the analogy since it used such highly charged language. You could still agree with Coyne’s intentions and yet concede that a better choice of words could have served to convey Coyne’s meaning more efficiently.

    There is a way through this debate, but not if you would rather posture and preen to an imagined audience. But you should know in advance: If you choose to reject the notion that any comparison and analogy that involves adultery can be taken as offensive, then we are at an impasse.

  39. John Kwok

    @ madcap (37) -

    Maybe you should check your online resources more thoroughly. Peter M. J. Hess is now the NCSE Faith Project Director, and, in fact, he has been responsible for updating and revising the section on science and religion. I’ve just looked again at what that section entails, and really, I think you and many others, including of course, Coyne and Myers, are really “stretching” things in claiming that NCSE is trying to promote a religious view(s). All NCSE is doing is to disseminate information, to reach out to those religions and religiously devout who are interested in science, but are interested – at worst, concerned – about evolution’s “threat” to their own particular religious views. So, in other words, it makes perfect sense for NCSE to have someone like Hess or Borgeson. As for legal expertise, NCSE has a database of suitable legal representation, and has used that successfully in quite a few instances, of which among the most noteworthy was the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial (Eric Rothschild – the lead attorney representing the plaintiffs – was listed in the NCSE database as a potential lawyer who could render assistance.).

    I just returned from the World Science Festival, where I heard physicist Lawrence Krauss pretend that he was Jerry Coyne, by denouncing the facts that the Templeton Foundation was funding the session he was participating in, and questioning the need to have such a session, devoted to Science, Faith and Religion. However, unlike his friends Coyne and Dawkins, Krauss realizes that religion isn’t going away any time soon, and will remain an important part of American culture. Nor did he endorse fully – and I did ask him this very question – whether he thought Coyne was right in attacking the “accomodationist” stance of NCSE, NAS, and AAAS (Incidentally, I also raised this question too with the Vatican Observatory planetary scientist who was also on the panel, and he said that Coyne was mistaken in being too “close-minded” to the possibility that there should be some kind of dialogue between science and religion.).

  40. John Kwok

    To anyone interested in reading this -

    I just returned from the World Science Festival, having heard physicist Lawrence Krauss pretending that he was Jerry Coyne at the Science, Faith and Religion session which COyne has denounced at his blog. Pretending, you might ask? Well Krauss did criticize the Templeton Foundation’s financial support for WSF – especially of this panel discussion – and also questioned the necessity to have a “Science Faith, Religion” panel, suggesting that maybe what was needed more was a “Science and Pornography” session (which Ken Miller, a friend of Krauss’s, cheerfully endorsed).

    Krauss had some very interesting comments, which were a blend of what one would expect from Ken Miller and Richard Dawkins. He sounded a bit like Ken in acknowledging that religion is an important aspect of American life that won’t go away anytime soon. He also echoed Dawkins by asserting that indoctrinating young kids in religion is akin to “intellectual child abuse”.

    I found the most interesting comments to be said by Vatican astronomer – and Jesuit brother – Guy Consolmagno – who strongly emphasized the rational nature of science and observed that he regarded science as “understanding in search of the truth” (which,as a real scientist, he recognizes is always a tenative process) and religion as “truth in search of understanding”.

    Noted television journalist Bill Blakemore was a very witty and engaging moderator, and though he did try to inject controversy, the overall tone of the session was marked by open, frank, but friendly, discussion about the differences between science and religion.

    Afterwards I spoke at length to both Consolmagno and Krauss. Both disagreed in principle with Coyne’s refusal to attend, and his attack on “accomodationism”, though, not surprisingly, Krauss was quite sympathetic to Coyne’s views.

    As for Ken Miller, he probably had the most people hovering around him after the session, and we only had time to say “hello” before he disappeared into a waiting VIP car.

  41. “Lab Lemming, If it wasn’t for the potential for the new atheism to cause political damage to science education, you’re probably right that addressing it isn’t important. I wouldn’t even be here if I didn’t think it had the potential to cause political damage to the left.”

    Holey conflation, batman! What about those of us who want to minimize the first type of damage while maximizing the second?

  42. Lab Lemming, I’ve never noticed the new atheists were particularly clued in to winning politics. Insulting the majority of the voters in order to win. Brilliant, just brilliant.

    I think you’re going to turn “conflation” into the new “ad hominem”, by the way. Please don’t, I need it when talking about evolutionary psychology.

  43. However, to reframe it as if Coyne is attributing the same moral weight of adultery to religious scientists is, as I said, intellectually dishonest.

    I didn’t say he assigned them the same moral weight, I said that he was clearly comparing adulterers to religious scientists, as Ken Miller also noticed.

    Given what I’ve read of his, I’d think Coyne holds religious scientists as far more an anathema than adulterers. His language is approaching what you’d read in some of the Chick publications you might find under your windshield wiper on that subject.

  44. He also echoed Dawkins by asserting that indoctrinating young kids in religion is akin to “intellectual child abuse”.

    I’d like to know more about what he actually said. Does he think that parents who bring their children to a Quaker meeting are abusive? How about your typical liberal United Church of Christ, or a family who brings their child to Temple on the High Holy days?

    I think a parent who indoctrinates their children into the ideology of materialism would be about as abusive as some members of the less liberal branches of Christianity, it’s as doctrinaire and closed minded. But, as with religion, it depends on the parents and what they tell them.

    Maybe there’s a peculiar habit that scientists get from trying to find universal properties of nature, that they tend to abstract away from the more complex and messy every day reality. That scientists, who gain status and a good salary from studying the material world would want to hold they, actually, had their hands on the ultimate reality, would hardly be surprising. People tend to focus on what brings them respect and admiration. You can understand how people with that kind of personal investment might resent those who deny that theirs is the last word on the subject. I wonder if anyone has ever studied that attitude that is so common among those in the sciences on that basis. Not presupposing that their materialism is correct, but seeing it as an anthropological phenomenon in the way that a Shaman might come to regard himself and his profession. Though people don’t tend to have a high level of self-knowlege when it comes to that kind of thing. Too much reality is dangerous for their self-image.

    I’ve had some respect for Lawrence Krauss, I’d like to know what he’d say to that speculation.

  45. McCarthy says “that scientists, who gain status and a good salary from studying the material world would want to hold they, actually, had their hands on the ultimate reality, would hardly be surprising.”

    Armchair psychology aside, this category better describes physicists, particularly retired physicists turned theologians like Polkinghorne.

  46. Armchair psychology aside

    That would be aside the uniform attributions made here about the far larger and more diverse percentage of the population who believe in one of a huge range of religions.

    Not so comfortable being the subject of that kind of speculation, is there. At least I was attributing a common habit to them instead of a form of depraved ignorance.

    I’m finding the exemptions that scientists seem to want to carve out for themselves increasingly interesting. I think scientists would make a far better subject for anthropology than a sculptor who has been dead for c. 35,000 years.

  47. A layman’s unpublished thoughts probably shouldn’t bother too many of us. Then again, who isn’t an authority on the internet? You will get back to me with those exemptions, but only the interesting ones, no?

  48. John Kwok

    @ Anthony,

    I don’t think Lawrence Krauss would regard any of your examples as those of extreme “intellectual child abuse” (while, on the other hand, probably both Hitchens and Dawkins would).

  49. You’re bothered by a part of what I said in #44, exactly?

    How about being exempt from having motives other than strict adherence to evidence and the logical necessities of it in asserting the truth of a chosen ideology.

    Then you can go on to exemption from assuming other people have as much right to make up their own minds about what they choose to believe.

    You ever watch the old Dr. Who series Robot?

  50. John Kwok

    @ Anthony -

    No, I’m not. I didn’t really have time to talk about that with Krauss, whom I did see again briefly today.

    @ everyone else -

    It has been brought to my attention that the Templeton Foundation is funding research at the University of Chicago, which, of course, is ironic, since University of Chicago evolutionary geneticist Jerry Coyne rejected the World Science Festival’s invitation to appear on one of its panel discussions partly because WSF is receiving funding from the Templeton Foundation. Would you say that is a case of calling the kettle black? Me thinks so.

  51. I meant gillt, who apparently was perturbed that someone might question the motives of a materialist choosing their ideology because it elevated their social and existential position in the scheme of things. Materialists are not to be questioned about their motivations.

    Apparently that’s another double standard that the new atheism will not see violated.

  52. And I really am amused by that use of the term “layman”. That would be as opposed to the high priesthood of science, one supposes.

  53. “priesthood?” Sad soul, even McCarthy’s language is god-soaked. Nevermind that, what concerns me more is his anti-atheist holy crusade moving from amusing to tiredly cynical. It appears McCarthy simply can’t stand the existence of a new atheist anywhere, ever; can’t stand them so much he seems to confuse the comments section for a game of space invaders. Take’r easy ‘ol boy :)

  54. Actually, it was sarcasm soaked.

    I haven’t said a word about why someone shouldn’t be an atheist or that they should believe in religion, just that they shouldn’t be bigots.

  55. @ madcap
    Science advocacy is not the same thing as science. Your unsupported assertions don’t make it so. To disengage from a constituency without having a new strategy in place is a retreat.
    Or do you suggest intellectual dishonest and rude, insulting behavior should be the new approach?

  56. @ madcap

    “Coyne’s complaint (along with others) is that the NCSE and related groups are making the assertion that religious belief and science are compatible. Okay, some people agree with that and some don’t. But according to Coyne, the only voices that are coming from these organizations are the ones who agree with it. They are not willing to present the other side of the issue, and indeed, don’t seem to have many articles or books from authors known to be hostile to religion.”

    From the NCSE faq:

    “What is NCSE’s religious position?
    None. The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum.”

    http://ncseweb.org/about/faq

    The NCSE is engaging people in the political arena. To disengage from any constituency – especially a particular constituency where most of the challenges to science in the public school come from – would actually be AGAINST their charter of science advocacy.

    I am certainly open to alternative strategies that accomplish the same thing. I haven’t heard any viable ones yet.

  57. John Kwok

    @ Tim Broderick,

    I am inclined to believe that, in light of his recent statements, madcap would prefer engaging with religious evolution denialists only through intellectually “dishonest and rude, insulting behavior”. This of course is the very approach favored by ScienceBlogs bloggers PZ Myers and his young acolyte, graduate student Abbie Smith. I have yet to see where their risible behavior has accomplished anything of a really worthwhile note. On the other hand, there is at least one militant atheist, physicist Lawrence Krauss, who believes we should engage with religious evolution denialists, and, on Saturday, after the World Science Festival panel discussion on Science, Faith and Religion, I heard him say that he speaks often at fundamentalist religious colleges and related institutions, simply to state that evolution isn’t a threat to their religious worldview.

    Anyway, thanks for reminding us that – contrary to the inane assertions of Coyne and Myers, among others – NCSE doesn’t have a “religious position”. Would you believe that you’re the first person in months who has actually decided to quotte NCSE’s official position?

  58. I take no joy in watching McCarthy (striving toward his nom de plume) fall off the deep-end as he holds scientists everywhere to the same low opinion as atheists.

    One correction for the New McCarthyism: scientist generally don’t make a good salary. And whatever attitude you find so apparent and prevailing, you obviously don’t know many actual scientists. Good luck on that undergrad thesis, though!

  59. Gillt does have a point – we know there is a diversity of views among scientists.

  60. John Kwok

    @ Tim,

    I strongly second it. In fact, I’ve just chastized McCarthy over at Jason Rosenhouse’s blog for asserting that all “New Atheists” are as obnoxious as, for example, Christoper Hitchens and PZ Myers.

  61. take no joy in watching McCarthy (striving toward his nom de plume)

    I’ll bet you think I never heard anything like that before, don’t you. My very, very distant cousin never guessed that there were McCarthy’s who were lefty-socialists way out east. And we liked to keep it that way. We’d have all been blacklisted like Coyne obviously wants to blacklist faith heads now. Would have knocked off the careers of several people in my family.

    fall off the deep-end as he holds scientists everywhere to the same low opinion as atheists.

    Because I’ve accused them of being fallible human beings, who might adopt an ideology out of ulterior motives?
    And it’s only the “new atheists” I’ve got a low opinon of in general. I adored John Mortimer and any number of other atheists, inluding two of my three brothers, except one of them has decided that, since an agnostic is a smart person who doesn’t believe in God, he’s opted for that handle. I don’t think he’s told the other two the joke yet, but, then, I don’t think they’ve read Dawkins either.

    One correction for the New McCarthyism: scientist generally don’t make a good salary.

    Hey, Chris Matthews would hear their pain, pinching and scrimping to get by on his measly five mil a year.

    John Kwok, you’re turning into a common scold. You’re not the boss of me.

  62. John Kwok

    @ Anthony,

    Look, I have heard Coyne and Dawkins, and now, Krauss, speak. They are all “New Atheists” and, apparently, good friends too. But they don’t think nor act alike. So it’s really unfair to them for you to be painting them with such a broad brush, metaphorically speaking. So while I do believe you have made – and are still making – some valid points, I will disagree with you and state it online where and when I see fit.

  63. Davo

    I agree; the “New Atheist” heirarchy is not as monolithic as some would have us believe. Just like in any other school of thought, there is a broad variety of personalities, opinions and dispositions.

  64. Dave

    Lawrence Krauss a “new atheist”? Sorry, wrong. What an insult to Lawrence, I would ask you to retract that charge, but from seeing your reactions to my post, you won’t.

  65. John Kwok

    @ Dave,

    Look, he’s in agreement with Dawkins’s and Coyne’s militant atheism, but he’s not as strident as they are in trying to do their utmost to “eradicate” organized religion.

    I spoke to Krauss twice this past weekend, and frankly, I don’t think he’d get upset with my prior comment (And, I should remind you of this, he is a friend of both Brian Greene and Ken Miller, and yet, dared to express – though in a polite manner – the same crticisms which Coyne had expressed when he rejected Brian and Tracy Day’s (Brian’s wife) invitation to participate in this year’s World Science Festival. I heard Krauss criticize the WSF’s financial involvement with the Templeton Foundation and questioning the necessity for having a panel discussion on religion and science.).

  66. I wouldn’t think Lawrence Krauss was a new atheist either. He and Dawkins got into some kind of ruckus a couple of years ago because Krauss said that religion couldn’t dispose of God and that people had the right to believe in one. I think it got written up in the NYT.

    That alone would disqualify him as a new atheist.

  67. Interestingly, I looked up PZ’s thoughts directly after the Dover trial

    http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/true_christians_dont_do_science/

  68. Davo

    Krauss may not be technically a “new” atheist, but I am willing to bet that when it comes to religion he sides more with Dawkins than with Miller. Those on this blog who know him; care to ask him?

  69. Huh. Via that PZ post, is this from the Dover Judge’s conclusion:

    “Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.”

  70. PZ “True Christians Don’t Do Science”. From what I’ve seen neither does the Sage of Morris.

  71. I am willing to bet that when it comes to religion he sides more with Dawkins than with Miller.

    Yeah, as Krauss and Dawkins are both atheists and Miller isn’t.

    You find someone to take that bet, point him out because I’d love to play cards with him.

  72. @ 71 Anthony

    Don’t judge the post by its title.

  73. benjdm

    PZ “True Christians Don’t Do Science”. From what I’ve seen neither does the Sage of Morris.

    The title of the post is a summary of the Discovery Institute’s David Klinghoffer’s position, not P.Z. Myers. P.Z. Myers said things like:

    Let’s clear this up and resolve all of Klinghoffer’s contradictions, OK? Science practices methodological materialism or naturalism. We test material explanations of the world because that’s all we can do—we don’t have a supernatural toolkit. Christians can practice methodological materialism all they want without damning themselves to hell…Meanwhile, completely independent of our ideas about evolution, some of us practice metaphysical naturalism. We conclude that there is no supernatural being because we see no reasonable evidence for it, and because many of the claims of fans of the supernatural are contradictory and a bit loony…Atheism and theism are properties completely orthogonal to anyone’s ability to carry out the methods of science.

    The Intelligent Design creationists are deliberately conflating two separate issues.

  74. Don’t judge the post by its title.

    You’re right, but I couldn’t help myself. I’ve got a full teaching schedule tomorrow, this was my last day of partial vacation.

    I’ll bet that most scientists get through a whole year without thinking about either methodological or philosophical materialism or naturalism. I’ll bet they’re too busy wondering if they’re going to get done in time and worrying about avoiding mistakes that someone can jump on. I’ll bet it’s largely those who don’t actually do much that worry about that kind of -ismism.

  75. I thought you already established in previous opinions McCarthy, to my satisfaction anyway, you know few if any actual scientists.

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself–it’s Monday!

  76. John Kwok

    @ Anthony and Davo,

    Krauss said he belongs to the Reason Project, which also includes Dawkins, Coyne and Harris as members. He also said that Dawkins is a friend. And, so are both Ken Miller and Brian Greene (Incidentally Brian is on the advisory board of Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Science and Religion along with Columbia University philosopher Philip Kitcher and Columbia University religious studies professor Robert Thurman (I think you may know already who Thurman’s daugher is.).).

    Krauss does side with Dawkins, but unlike him, he has a more ecumenical, more nuanced stance towards religion, since he said that he doesn’t think that he and his fellow atheists can persuade religious people to forsake their beliefs any time soon.

  77. John Kwok

    @ Tim,

    Thanks for providing the link to the New Scientist article written by Krauss. He still stands by that, judging from his comments that I heard during, and immediately after, the World Science Festival panel discussion on science, faith and religion.

    Again, I should remind everyone that, as PZ Myers was in the midst of trying to boot me from Pharyngula, I challenged him to do high caliber research in evolutionary developmental biology (his scientific field) comparable to that being done by his colleague, University of Wisconsin, Madison evolutionary developmental biologist Sean Carroll. Myers admitted, without hesitation, that he’s not as good a scientist as Carroll (An examination of his CV, which is posted on his personal webpage at the University of Minnesota, Morris, would bear out that frank assessment.).

  78. I thought you already established in previous opinions McCarthy, to my satisfaction anyway, you know few if any actual scientists.

    Aw. Why bother? The scientists I know couldn’t be less interested in the new athiesm, not even the atheists. Several of them think Dawkins is a fraud as a scientist and have for years.

    Krauss is signed on with Harris and Hitchens? My respect for him just plummeted. I wonder if he advocates nuking the Moslems or if he’s ignorant of that tiny little point. Or maybe he’s decided to retire from the active practice of science. That usually happens after taking up a second career in anti-religious invective.

  79. John Kwok

    @ Anthony,

    Instead of criticizing Krauss, could you think of dealing with Myers supporters Ichthyic and SLC more often at both Rosenhouse’s blog and Panda’s Thumb?

    I think that it’s been established by now that Krauss is far more reasonable than Dawkins and Myers. If he isn’t then explain why he seems to be a good friend of two scientists who are either practicing – or at least sympathetic to – theists, Brian Greene and Ken Miller?

  80. Davo

    Anthony McCarthy’s simplistic reduction of details and nuance to sound bytes (“fraud”; does he realise that many of Dawkins’s books on evolution such as The Extended Phenotype are highly regarded?, “nuke the Moslems”) is sounding more and more like the railings of the religious fundamentalists who also don’t have an appreciation for subtlety and detail and who want to lump everyone together and paint everyone with a simplistic brush. I believe this is about the point when you should stop arguing with such people.

  81. John Kwok

    @ Davo,

    Well it can work both ways. For example, over at Panda’s Thumb, rabid Myers supporter Ichthyic is convinced that I “hate Jerry Coyne” (Not true, I simply reject his absurd criticism and commentary pertaining to “accomodationism”).

    Anyway, I agree with you that Dawkins has written quite a few important books on evolutionary biology, of which his earliest, such as “The Extended Pheontype”, may be among the most important.

  82. Davo, if there’s one charge I’m objectively exempt from on the clear evidence, it’s that I don’t reduce things.

    The Extended Phenotype was published twenty seven years ago. While I’ve got no problem with that I have had new atheists discount what I’ve said because a book used in what I said was ten years old and that citations I made from journals were as recent as seven years old. The God Delusion was one of the most incompetent pieces of scholarship by someone based at Oxford I’ve ever come across. I’m on my lunch hour so I’ll just repost this from the post at my blog today:

    That Richard Dawkins, with the resources he had at his disposal from his endowed chair at Oxford, resorted to citing the man who introduced him to his wife, a broadcast media scribbler who had exactly one great radio drama, a good TV remake of that , a mediocre series of books on the same and, posthumously, a movie I didn’t bother to see since it was on the same material, as his only real cultural achievement, is truly one of the most amazing displays of scholarly ineptitude in recent history. The part of the public which sucked it up as gospel are a confirmation of the disastrous state of learning in the allegedly educated classes of the English speaking world.

  83. John Kwok

    @ Anthony,

    Please stop. You’re only making yourself look foolish.

    BTW, Dawkins was introduced to his wife, Lalla Ward, by their mutual friend Douglas Adams (Adams had served as the script editor – here in the USA it would be “story editor” – for the popular BBC television science fiction series “Doctor Who” (which many regard Adams’s tenure as one of the series highlights), working alongside Lalla Ward who portrayed the Doctor’s companion, a fellow Time Lord, Romana (Incidentally I met both Ms. Ward and Dawkins at a booksigning here in NYC about ten years ago, and they kindly autographed my copy of Dawkins’s book.).

  84. gillt

    Ah yes, McCarthy fails to understand the basic difference between the topicality of a science journal and a popular book explaining scientific concepts. Who would have guessed he’s not science literate? Did you actually read the journal articles you cited, or did you skim the abstract?

    And lets not forget McCarthy’s stable and well-adjusted view of scientists.

    Real scientists ARE NOT interested in atheism.

    And Are NOT worried about methodological or philosophical materialism or naturalism either.

    But ARE nonetheless materialists ideologues.

    And do make a habit of ignoring reality because they spend their time in the lab dealing with universal properties of nature…and other such awesomely abstract things.

    Make lots of money and are status driven from studying the material world. Duh!

    Have a god complex.

    Resent any challenge to the high cult of materialism for which they are the the priests.

    but are actually just like witchdoctors.

    McCarthy everyone!

  85. John Kwok, I’ll manage my own life, thank you.

    gillt, apparently thinking that scientists are human beings who sometimes adopt ideological positions out of motives unrelated to their professional careers is too much for you to accept.

    At this point I’m just collecting material on the mental habits of the blog atheists. This is going to be my last comment here for a while. I’m going to search the real new atheist blogs for that now.

  86. Lalla Ward who portrayed the Doctor’s companion, a fellow Time Lord, Romana

    Sorry, can’t help but say I liked the first Romana a lot better than the one Lally played. It’s sort of like the first Lois Lane was a smart, tough cookie and the second one seemed to have had a lobotomy.

    Was he on during part of Tom Baker’s stint? Or that blond guy who followed? No matter how you cut it, D. Adams was no major figure on the topics of religion or science.

    I’ve never met any of them, by the way. Though I did once see Paul Lind in a gay bar in Ogunquit, Maine.

  87. gillt

    I accept that science and scientists painfully confuse you.

  88. John Kwok

    @ Anthony -

    Douglas Adams worked on the “Doctor Who” set when they did the series (We’d call it season here in the USA.) on the “Key of Time” featuring both Tom Baker as the Doctor and Lalla Ward as Romana (Mary Tamm created the role, but I actually liked Ward better.). If I’m not mistaken, it was Adams who came up with the series theme (as in the “Key of Time” concept) and wrote most, if not all, the episodes.

  89. It seems – in my opinion – with all the blog posts by various parties, it might be useful to understand just what Theism entails:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theistic_evolution

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theism

    http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=deism&db=luna

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/theist

    In my reading of Miller, he’s been pretty consistent in his views.

  90. Here are some odds and ends:

    The National Center for Science Education not only does not present the atheists’ views on the issue of the compatibility of science and religion, but does not present the fundies’ views on that issue. The NCSE is no good as a one-stop source of information about that issue.

    The conclusion section of the Ktizmiller v. Dover opinion says, “[evolution theory] in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.” That is a personal religious or philosophical belief that has no place in a judicial opinion. You Darwinists lucked out in the Dover case by getting a crackpot activist judge. You may not be so lucky next time.

    Here is PZ Myers’ blunt opinion of accommodationism:
    What I really object to is the goofy “if you don’t be nice to god belief, the churchy scientists will take their ball home”. I metaphorically puke on the shoes of anyone who tries to make that argument.
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/06/theistic_evolutionist_beats_ha.php

    William Jennings Bryan on theistic evolutionists:
    “If those who teach Darwinism and evolution, as applied to man, insist that they are neither agnostics nor atheists, but are merely interpreting the Bible differently from orthodox Christians, what right have they to ask that their interpretation be taught at public expense?”
    http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/bryanonevol.html

    The following quotation from Winston Churchill is a good description of theistic evolutionists who try to appease the atheistic evolution establishment: “An appeaser is someone who feeds a crocodile in the hope that it will eat him last.”

    Someone who interprets the gospel literally but does not interpret the bible’s creation story literally is a kind of “cafeteria Christian.” To be interpreted literally, both the creation story and the gospel require belief in the supernatural. However, whereas the creation story is straightforward, the gospel is full of illogic, inconsistencies, ambiguities, and unintelligibility. Also, the creation story is consistent with a belief in an all-powerful god but the god of the gospel is a weak, limited god who must struggle against Satan for control of the world. Hence, an otherwise rational person who believes in the supernatural would have a greater tendency to interpret the creation story literally than interpret the gospel literally.

  91. John Kwok

    @ Tim Broderick,

    Yes Ken is consistent with his views, but he has clearly stated the difference between how he operates as a scientist and as a private individual who is devoutly religious. Whatever else you may say about Ken, that is a view shared by many other religiously devout scientists, except of course, for those, like invertebrate paleontologist Kurt Wise, biochemist Michael Behe, astrophysicist Guillermo Gonzalez, mathematician William A. Dembski and molecular biologist Jonathan Wells, who can’t distinguish between the two.

  92. More odds and ends:

    Geocentrism, like creationism, is supported by the bible, but the fundies accept heliocentrisn but not evolution because they find the scientific evidence to be persuasive for heliocentrism but not for evolution. There is a lot of evidence for an old earth and some evidence for common descent, but the net evidence is actually against an evolutionary process that was driven solely by natural genetic variation and natural selection.
    .
    Darwinists believe that the fundies reject evolution in order to maintain a belief in the inerrancy of the bible. But that belief in biblical inerrancy has already been undermined by the bible’s erroneous teaching of geocentrism.

    Another Darwinist myth is that all they have to do is persuade the clergy that evolution is compatible with religion and then the faithful will follow the clergy like sheep following a Judas goat. The infamous Clergy Letter Project is an example of this kind of thinking. But, for example, a lot of Catholics don’t follow the church’s very strict teachings about abortion, so why should Catholics follow the church’s teaching about evolution?

  93. With all of this talk about the relationship between evolution and religion, it is going to be difficult for Darwinists at the next monkey trial to argue that evolution has no religious implications.

    I believe that the religious implications of evolution are so strong that it is unconstitutional to dogmatically teach it in public schools without at least a disclaimer statement. Unfortunately, evolution-disclaimer statements were struck down in three court cases — Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish, Selman v. Cobb County, and Kitzmiller v. Dover. However, Kitzmiller was not appealed and the other two decisions came close to being reversed on appeal.

  94. @ Larry
    No, none of this is a problem for future trials. Of you’ve read the Dover transcripts, Pennock was asked about this very thing, conflating philosophical naturalism with methodological naturalism. As the recognized expert witness in science philosophy, Pennock said that was just as incorrect as ID when it comes to conclusions that science can make.
    The only “problem” is that these bloggers may not make particularly useful expert witnesses in future court actions, but I don’t believe that’s much of a problem at all.

  95. Tim Broderick Says (#95),
    –@ Larry
    No, none of this is a problem for future trials. Of you’ve read the Dover transcripts, Pennock was asked about this very thing, conflating philosophical naturalism with methodological naturalism.–

    Judge Jones’ Dover opinion is exactly that, his opinion. There is no guarantee that other judges would make the same rulings as he did on such a highly subjective issue as the compatibility of evolution and religion. And Judge Jones has shown himself to be a crackpot activist judge (proof provided on request).

    IMO one of the big reasons why some Darwinists are telling other Darwinists who are discussing this issue to shut their big fat mouths the hell up is a fear that the mere fact that Darwinists are even discussing this issue could be used against them at a future monkey trial.

  96. John Kwok

    @ Larry -

    I am a registered Republican with strongly pronounced libertarian leanings. In Judge John Jones I see a fellow conservative who is appalled with the Religious Right’s attempts to transform this country into a Christian Fascist nation, and I believe, he would regard the Dover trial as a very successful defense against Christian Fascism (But one, which he noted correctly in his excellent ruling against the Dover Area School District board, is binding only to the Dover, PA school district. However, he has observed, more than once, how others around the country are using his decision unofficially as sound legal precedent to deal with their own problems with Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographers.).

    As for your inane assertion as to “why some Darwinists are telling other Darwinists… to shut” up, it’s not for the reason you claim. Instead, there is a very small minority of scientists – headed by the likes of Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers – who believe that science advocacy organizations like the National Center for Science Education and the World Science Festival and professional scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have no business advocating an “accomodationist” stance towards religion. However, it is with ample irony that I note that the style and content of their arguments bears a rather uncomfortable similarity to those I have seen from you fellow IDiots posting online, especially over at Uncommon Dissent.

  97. John Kwok said (#97) –
    –I believe, he would regard the Dover trial as a very successful defense against Christian Fascism–

    Of course Judge Jones would think that — he wrote the opinion! Duh. What a stupid comment.

    –As for your inane assertion as to “why some Darwinists are telling other Darwinists… to shut” up, it’s not for the reason you claim.–

    I am not saying that the reason I gave is the only reason, but it is one of the reasons. Some Darwinists are really worried that in the future the courts are going to rule that the establishment clause requires balance in evolution education because evolution theory has been used to promote atheism.

  98. Dave

    Kwok

    –”Look, he’s in agreement with Dawkins’s and Coyne’s militant atheism, but he’s not as strident as they are in trying to do their utmost to “eradicate” organized religion.”–

    You’re a moron. It sickens me to see people like you making it worse to confront the ugliness that has enveloped the atheist movement. I’m absolutely done with you. That’s the third or fourth reply to me about something I’ve written, and it’s worthless, void of content. It appears you have some one track mind that is hopelessly tuned to self important crap.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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