The latest news from the San Francisco Chronicle:
13:20 PDT SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — A homeless man is on trial in San Mateo County on charges that he smacked a fellow transient in the face with a skateboard as the victim was engaged in a conversation about quantum physics, authorities said today.
Sean Carroll has an eminently thoughtful post about science and religion that is deservedly getting lots of attention. He notes importantly that semantics are critical here, and if you want to know whether two things are compatible, you first need to know what meaning you’re using for each of them.
I follow Sean until right about this point:
The reason why science and religion are actually incompatible is that, in the real world, they reach incompatible conclusions. It’s worth noting that this incompatibility is perfectly evident to any fair-minded person who cares to look. Different religions make very different claims, but they typically end up saying things like “God made the universe in six days” or “Jesus died and was resurrected” or “Moses parted the red sea” or “dead souls are reincarnated in accordance with their karmic burden.” And science says: none of that is true. So there you go, incompatibility.
This isn’t the end of Sean’s argument, but I think it’s helpful to pause here and ask, is a claim like “Jesus died and was resurrected” really falsifiable by science in the same way that a claim like “The Earth is 10,000 years old” is falsifiable? I’d submit that at least as held by some sophisticated believers, it isn’t.
In fact, I wonder if Sean has seen what Georgetown theologian John Haught has said about the Resurrection. It was in an interview with Salon.com:
It Mooney can´t get his facts straight about something so simple, it´s time to ignore him. For my own future reference, though, and that of anyone who´s morbidly curious about this mini-fiasco, Jerry Coyne has a nice compilation of relevant posts, which he seems to be continuously updating. Though it doesn´s include this most lovely-titled of posts. Notice how Mooney has nothing of substance to say in reply, saying only that the debate is a waste of time–in which case, why doesn´t he shut up?
This is deliciously rich. I am accused of telling people to “shut up” whenever I even hint that, in a world with limited time on our hands, we might want to be thoughtful, introspective, and strategic about the best way to make our very important arguments in defense of science and reason. Mine has not been an attempt to squelch dialogue, but on the contrary, to spark it among members of a like minded group of scientists and science aficionados, concerning best approaches and practices.
And of course such dialogues happen all the time among many communities. Take for instance the environmental and climate change community, where I also participate, where there is also lots of internal debate, but not (at least that I can recall) similar wild accusations of censorship.
And now, an atheist blogger actually tells me to “shut up,” using precisely those words. I trust there will be round denunciation of this behavior?
As I’ve already announced, my next book will be an interdisciplinary look at why and how we kiss, drawing on neuroscience, classical history, psychology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, and popular culture. Tentatively, it’s called ‘The Science of Kissing.’
Now I need a volunteer… (No, not for more experimentation, although real research will begin in a couple weeks). I am looking for someone interested in helping with an easy assignment. There will be no spreadsheets or equations, and it will probably only take an afternoon. There is no kissing required. A background in languages is a plus, but by no means necessary and you’ll be thanked in the acknowledgments when the book is published.
If I get a free moment–there haven’t been many lately–I may have more to say about these. But for now just a list:
1. Jerry Coyne slams the Templeton Foundation. He sees it as something that needs fighting back against. A head of the Foundation defends its activities in the comments.
2. Sean Carroll argues the incompatibility of science and religion. I followed him up to about the halfway point on my first reading, then didn’t any more. I’ll have to give it another read.
4. Chad Orzel speaks out for the silent majority!
More when I can muster it. And for shorter takes, find us on Twitter @UnscientAmerica!