Lawrence Krauss on Science/Religion

By Chris Mooney | June 26, 2009 11:25 am

My friend and fellow ScienceDebate2008 co-founder Lawrence has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on science and religion that puts him in an interesting place in this debate. Krauss has worked with Ken Miller to defend the teaching of science and to thwart “intelligent design.” But he also wants to make a defense of the New Atheists, Dawkins and Harris et al.

How does Krauss do it? Well, he admits that you can be a scientist and also religious. But he adds this:

Faced with the remarkable success of science to explain the workings of the physical world, many, indeed probably most, scientists understandably react as Haldane did. Namely, they extrapolate the atheism of science to a more general atheism.

While such a leap may not be unimpeachable it is certainly rational, as Mr. McGinn pointed out at the World Science Festival. Though the scientific process may be compatible with the vague idea of some relaxed deity who merely established the universe and let it proceed from there, it is in fact rationally incompatible with the detailed tenets of most of the world’s organized religions….

So while scientific rationality does not require atheism, it is by no means irrational to use it as the basis for arguing against the existence of God, and thus to conclude that claimed miracles like the virgin birth are incompatible with our scientific understanding of nature.

What Krauss is effectively saying is that it is rational to go beyond science’s methodological naturalism to also become a philosophical naturalist (for my discussion of MN/PN, see here). I of course wholly agree, in that I am a philosophical naturalist.

But it is an omission on Krauss’s part not to admit more explicitly that in making this move, one is leaving beyond the realm of science per se and developing a philosophical worldview. I think–though I’m not sure–that in a conversation Krauss would probably admit as much. But by not doing so in the Journal, Krauss is helping along the misconception that science itself is inherently atheistic. It isn’t.

Let’s do the distinction again:

Moving from science to atheism = perfectly fine, but philosophical in nature.

Moving from science to theism = also perfectly fine (so long as one’s theism does not entail positions contrary to science), and also philosophical in nature.

Moving from science to somewhere = necessary for everybody.

Any questions?

Comments (187)

Links to this Post

  1. Lawrence Krauss says God and Science Don’t Mix | July 1, 2009
  1. John Kwok

    Chris,

    I have to commend Lawrence Krauss for what is a far more thoughtful piece of commentary than anything I have seen from militant atheists such as Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, and especially, PZ Myers. However, I believe it is far more reasonable to assert that working scientists are agnostic when they do science, regardless of their personal views with regards to belief and non-belief.

    There’s also one bit of editorial commentary that I must note. The moderator of the World Science Festival session in question (which I attended and had, afterwards, the pleasure of speaking at length to both Lawrence Krauss and Guy Consolmagno, the planetary scientist and Vatican astronomer who is a Jesuit brother) was noted television journalist Bill Blakemore, not Bill Brinkman.

  2. Jon

    If I were to summarize my problem with the New Atheists, it’s that their discourse is usually full of sneers, without acknowledging the difficulty of the questions they’re dealing with. It reminds me of talk radio in this way.

  3. John Kwok

    @ Jon –

    Not merely sneers, but ad hominem attacks too if they are incapable of making any headway in some kind of “rational” discourse.

  4. Well, he admits that you can be a scientist and also religious.

    Are we reading the same piece? From one of the excerpts you yourself quoted, he says: Though the scientific process may be compatible with the vague idea of some relaxed deity who merely established the universe and let it proceed from there, it is in fact rationally incompatible with the detailed tenets of most of the world’s organized religions …

    So for him, “religious” means “not really religious, just a vague form of deism which doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot”.

  5. Jon

    “it is in fact rationally incompatible with the detailed tenets of most of the world’s organized religions”

    Deism is just one example of religion that doesn’t conflict with the laws of nature. Just one more example that most of these people don’t know much about the “tenets of most of the world’s organized religions.”

  6. – Mr. McGinn began by commenting that it was eminently rational to suppose that Santa Claus doesn’t exist even if one cannot definitively prove that he doesn’t. Likewise, he argued, we can apply the same logic to the supposed existence of God. Lawrence Krauss’ article

    You’d have to compare the claims made about Santa Claus (actually a folk adaptation of Saint Nicholas) and those made about God before you could make the same logical arguments about the non-existence of God. That would be the only way to know if the same logic would apply, and I don’t think it does. Or is that being too picky for the new atheists?

    – These fundamentalists are unwilling to risk the possibility that science might undermine their faith, and so they work to shield children from this knowledge at all costs. To these audiences I have argued that one does not have to be an atheist to accept evolutionary biology as a reality. And I have pointed to my friend Ken as an example…
    This statement of fact appears to separate me from my other friends, Messrs. Harris and Dawkins. Yet this separation is illusory…. Messrs. Harris and Dawkins are simply being honest when they point out the inconsistency of belief in an activist god with modern science. L.K.

    Wouldn’t Miller be better qualified to make that call, since he is a scientist who is the embodiment of this “inconsistency”? Does he experience an inconsistency or suffer any deficiencies in his work or thinking as a result of this “inconsistency”? His experience, and the experience of other scientists who are religious is the best evidence we can get of what this “inconsistency” consists of.

    – Science is only truly consistent with an atheistic worldview with regards to the claimed miracles of the gods of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Moreover, the true believers in each of these faiths are atheists regarding the specific sacred tenets of all other faiths. L.K.

    I’d also like to ask Krauss what would happen to science, in this case, if there was even one verified miracle. Wouldn’t that nullify science? What if science has already existed with miraculous events all along? Why would they be more of a problem for science that outliers or other events that don’t represent the normal course of events?

    – So while scientific rationality does not require atheism, it is by no means irrational to use it as the basis for arguing against the existence of God, and thus to conclude that claimed miracles like the virgin birth are incompatible with our scientific understanding of nature. L.K.

    The scientific understanding of nature doesn’t involve purposed miraculous events that aren’t part of the usual workings of nature. They are inherently improbable, in the case of The Virgin Birth, it is held to have been a unique event.

    I won’t do the full version of this. Though I’ve got the afternoon off.

  7. Lawrence Krauss

    Chris: Thanks.. I agree with you about it being a philosophical leap… and that is why I began the argument with Haldane, who makes it clear that it is such.. or at least it was clear to me.

    best

    Lawrence

  8. Thanks so much Lawrence. So that settles it. I basically don’t disagree with your piece at all.

    It seems to me that yours as I understand it should be a common ground position–but I have to wonder whether all of the New Atheists would assent to it.

  9. John Kwok

    Lawrence –

    Thanks for stopping by, and for writing a piece that I found far more thoughtful and coherent than others written in recent weeks and months by your fellow atheists.

  10. Rules For

    Thanks for pointing to this article – a very reasonable one, in my opinion; and of course, very relevant to recent discussions on this blog.

  11. Matti K.

    “Moving from science to atheism = perfectly fine, but philosophical in nature.”

    For Haldane, the leap from scientific practice to affairs of the world seemed to be a matter of extrapolation. Applying atheism in science brought success; why not apply it to the affairs of the world?

    “Moving from science to theism = also perfectly fine (so long as one’s theism does not entail positions contrary to science), and also philosophical in nature.”

    Theism seems to involve a god meddling with the material universe:

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

    Doesn’t this limit considerably the “fine moves” one can execute from science to theism?

    “Moving from science to somewhere = necessary for everybody.”

    I can imagine an agnostic applying science successfully without trying to tie it to a philosophical world view. Such “true” agnostics are a small minority, but I see no absolute necessity to tie one’s scientific knowledge to a philosophical view.

  12. Dawkins writes on page 13 of ‘The God Delusion': “…if the word ‘God’ is not to become useless, it should be used in the way people have generally understood it: an supernatural creator that is ‘appropiate for us to worship.'”

  13. Jon

    Applying atheism in science brought success; why not apply it to the affairs of the world?

    It’s been done. I’d read up on the French Revolution and the revolutions of the early twentieth century. Good old fashioned diverse, tolerant liberalism still has the best record…

  14. Chris, Lawrence:

    Seems to me Haldane isn’t making a “leap” from his atheistic scientific practice to his global atheistic naturalism, rather it sounds like he believes it’s ethically *required* of him to apply the same (reliable) cognitive standards in all domains. It’s not only rationally permissible, but epistemically responsible to do so because the standards are reliable. Not to do so is, as he says, intellectually dishonest if we’re interested in truths about the world.

  15. Thinking more about these points:

    – Science is only truly consistent with an atheistic worldview with regards to the claimed miracles of the gods of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Lawrence Krauss

    I think this is a really bad idea that could have the opposite effect than Krauss thinks it
    should.

    Someone whose personal experience tells them that they’ve experienced or witnessed a miracle, would have to conclude that science was invalid, if this is the case. Why shouldn’t they reject science on the basis of this claim? They’ve actually experienced their own experience, after all, they’ve never experienced the assertions about subatomic particles or the events of evolution. Why shouldn’t they believe it?

    It also presupposes that only those things and events consistent with the understanding of science, today are the only ones that ever will be understood.

    — Moreover, the true believers in each of these faiths are atheists regarding the specific sacred tenets of all other faiths. L.K.

    This is, in fact, not true. Not true at all. All of them hold that there is one God, explicitly, the same one. That alone makes Krauss’ statement false. All of them hold many religious ideas in common and many of the same ethical ideas.

    Catholicism, since the Second Vatican Council, has explicitly held that some of the beliefs of religions outside of the “Abrahamic” ones hold some valid truths.

    I really think Krauss might want to revise on this point as soon as possible.

  16. John Kwok

    @ Anthony –

    If you want to take this up with Krauss, then be my guest. He’s a professor at ASU.

    Otherwise, let me remind you that, of the “militant atheists” I have encountered either in person or online, he’s among the most reasonable (The fact that he is friends with Chris Mooney, Ken Miller and Brian Greene so suggest to you that Krauss isn’t as much the zealous militant atheist that you seem to be insinuating.).

  17. Gaythia

    Lawrence Krauss draws some parallels between the relationship between God and Science and the current situation in Iran.

    I think some analogies can also be made with a book I am currently reading: “How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror” by Reza Aslan. One of Reza Azlan’s main points seems to be that the way to win a Cosmic War is not to fight one. Thus, as I interpret what he is saying, rather than trying to deal with ideology at the level of good versus evil, one needs to address, in a rational way, the underlying economic and social grievances.

    Similarly, one can address Science by the evidence, without demonizing anyone for their spiritual belief system, or lack thereof.

  18. SLC

    Ånd not surprisingly, Prof. Coyne puts a different spin on the Krauss op-ed then Mr. Mooney does.

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/krauss-attacks-accommodationism-in-the-wall-street-journal/

  19. Matti K.

    >>Applying atheism in science brought success; why not apply it to the affairs of the world?

    > It’s been done. I’d read up on the French Revolution and the revolutions of the early
    > twentieth century. Good old fashioned diverse, tolerant liberalism still has the best record…
    Jon (13):

    I don’t quite follow how not believing in a superior beeing leads by necessity to atrocities. However, I can understand how an ultra-obedient server of God might pick up some potentially harmful literal advice from f. ex. the Old Testament and Quaran.

    Brutal atheist revolutionaries didn’t usually kill their adversaries because the latter were religious; they had other morally unacceptable reasons. On the other hand, brutal religious operators killed their adversaries very often exactly because of their religion.

    I think in modern secular societies, where anyone is allowed to apply of atheism, fare much better than theocracies. Don’t you?

  20. – If you want to take this up with Krauss, then be my guest. He’s a professor at ASU. J.K.

    So? ” Moreover, the true believers in each of these faiths are atheists regarding the specific sacred tenets of all other faiths.” That is a completely false statement, never mind somewhat incoherent. Anyone can make a mistake.

  21. Gecko

    I suggest you read (Yes, Please re-read) the article of CV’s Blog you ever cited, more, more, and more carefully. Do you make sure you did understand? A philosophical atheist doesn’t necessarily mean the reconciliation between Science and Religion. Any religion belief has no scientific meaning. Would you make scientific researches with rants of religion? Of course, when not at work, It’s freedom for you to adopt whatever, and it’s also privacy. But when you’re involved in Science, please don’t drag any religion belief in. Please.

  22. – Brutal atheist revolutionaries didn’t usually kill their adversaries because the latter were religious; they had other morally unacceptable reasons. On the other hand, brutal religious operators killed their adversaries very often exactly because of their religion.

    I think in modern secular societies, where anyone is allowed to apply of atheism, fare much better than theocracies. Don’t you? Matti K.

    Speaking as a gay man who is quite politically radical, I’d rather live in Iran than North Korea. Though I’d rather live in Cuba than either one.

    I don’t think the worst theocrats can match the officially atheist regimes for sheer brutality and efficiency of murder.

  23. Jon

    One thing I’ve brought up before on Chris’s blog. An interesting thing that religious people of all sorts share and New Atheists reject, is the notion of soteriology–that there’s something to pursue in life to take care of your soul (assuming you believe in anything like that). New Atheists not only reject the notion, but reject it quite forcefully, perhaps in the tradition of Bertrand Russell’s “Why I am Not a Christian,” (which might have been named instead, “Why I am Not Religious”). They want to banish it from any intellectual respectability in polite society.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soteriology#Soteriology_in_other_religions

    For New Athiests and such, epistemology pretty much overpowers any notion of soteriology:

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

    It’s important to note that if epistemology is important to what you do all day (e.g., be a scientist) you would naturally think it’s very important. But if that’s *not* what you do all day, you might come to resent the people who want to banish your soteriology and replace it with their epistemology…

  24. Jon

    I don’t quite follow how not believing in a superior beeing leads by necessity to atrocities.

    The illiberal variety of atheism can. Although I’m not arguing that New Atheism will lead to atrocities. Read the full New Republic article I linked to. What he says at the end, I think, gets to the heart of the issue:

    The problem is that the rhetoric of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens will undermine liberalism, not bolster it: Far from shoring up the secular political tradition, their arguments are likely to produce a country poised precariously between opposite forms of illiberalism.

    The last thing America needs is a war of attrition between two mutually exclusive, absolute systems of belief. Yet this is precisely what the new atheists appear to crave. The task for the rest of us–committed to neither dogmatic faith nor dogmatic doubt–is to make certain that combatants on both sides of the theological divide fail to get their destructive way. And thereby to ensure that liberalism prevails.

  25. Rules For

    The goal of new atheism is to critique the reasonableness of ideas in public discourse – religion gets special attention because of its powerful motivating force and because there seems to be an improper balance between the reasonableness of its ideas and the amount of criticism these ideas face in the public sphere.

  26. Anthony McCarthy: “Speaking as a gay man who is quite politically radical, I’d rather live in Iran than North Korea…. I don’t think the worst theocrats can match the officially atheist regimes for sheer brutality and efficiency of murder.”

    From http://www.iranfocus.com/en/human-rights/iran-hangs-two-young-homosexuals-04403.html :

    “Two young men were hanged in a public square in the northern city of Gorgan after being found guilty of lavat, or homosexual relationship, a semi-official daily reported on Sunday….”

    “The … report made it clear that the ‘crime’ for which they were hanged was lavat, which means homosexual relationship between two men or sodomy….”

    “Under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, homosexuality between consenting adults is a capital crime and official Iranian sources express hostility to homosexual practices.”

    So, when will you be making your travel plans, Andrew?

  27. Susan

    My objection is to the creation of a god in our image, which is then claimed to be the reverse, man made in the image of god. The idea of some grand limited consciousness constrained by human characteristics does stretch the rational and excuse misbehavior.

    I don’t think having a (for lack of a better word) mystical understanding of creation is incompatible with science. It’s institutional religion, particular the monotheistic kind, and insistence of the inviolability of historical texts that makes the trouble.

    There are also complex issues around ethics. I think people who tap into a more generous inner persona with ethical standards are welcome to locate it in religion if that helps them do so. Unfortunately, this ethical entity doesn’t seem to come out and “smite” those who choose evil and call it religion (the klatsch around Bush, for example), which is an argument against the existence of their deity. People find it hard to accept death and powerlessness, and religion helps them deal with it. I don’t think you’re going to change this; organizing it into outside entities comes with being alive for most people.

    Some of the world’s religions accept paradox and lack of answers; for example Buddhism and some of the mystical branches associated with Hinduism. I think of the Tao, which says “if you never assume importance you never lose it.” Or you could go with American Indians who assume a powerful relationship and continuity with their environment.

    Our cultural roots are deep, and much of music and art taps into a collective imagery, which is internalized and powerful. People call up visions that reflect what they’ve been exposed to.

    Some people find it easier to live in the world – and behave well – when they think there is some kind of grandfather in the sky that is watching and judging. Others are prone to attribute their inner or societal voices, selfish or otherwise, to some outside force (Bush, Bin Laden). A great deal of good has been done in the name of religion (Gandhi, Tutu) and a lot of evil as well.

    If scientists wish to understand overall power, symmetry, order, the strange moments of overarching calm, to some grand force, as you say, that is philosophical, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to slam them for this. It’s a reasonable way to organize things that are too big to absorb any other way.

  28. Rules For, where are these goals laid out? I certainly haven’t seen them practiced by the new atheists on any level.

    Are stating the new atheist line about religion not having any internal criticism?

  29. Hitchens will undermine liberalism, not bolster it

    I’m sure Hitch will be profoundly disappointed to learn this, good, empathetic liberal that he is. [/snark]

  30. Rules For

    Anthony McCarthy:
    In Sam Harris’s books (The End of Faith & Letter To A Christian Nation), which seemed to have spearheaded the movement.

  31. Jeffrey Falk, you thought I didn’t know about the murders of those two kids, don’t you.

    And I’ll bet you there would not be a sane gay man in Iran who would rather live in North Korea, I’d bet you anything there wouldn’t be a single one. And I’ll bet there wouldn’t be many who would rather not live in one of the European countries with an official, Christian state religion than any of the officially atheist countries.

  32. Rules For, I’ve had any number of new atheists repudiate Harris, who, quite frankly, I’m kind of surprised Lawrence Krauss would associate himself with.

  33. NitricAcid

    Jon @ #5

    You consider deism to be an organized religion?

  34. Thinking more:

    – So while scientific rationality does not require atheism, it is by no means irrational to use it as the basis for arguing against the existence of God, Lawrence Krauss.

    Yes it is irrational. You might argue about specific things people say about God but to think you can use science to argue about the God who is held to be omnipotent, omniscient, eternal and unbounded is irrational.

    How can a God who is all powerful be bound by any natural law? All powerful would mean able to overcome even the principles of logic and to overcome any proposed paradox. Able to make a rock big enough to not be able to lift and to also be able to lift it, as a popular example. God would have to be able to overcome any aspect of the material universe which God created and fixed the rules.

    In order for us to make that God submit to the rules of the universe as we know them today, you would have to show how “all powerful” meant its opposite. And we don’t have the power to bridge that contradiction. Asserting you could is irrational.

    While there is no requirement for anyone to believe in that God, I’d like Lawrence Krauss to tell us how you would subject that God to science.

  35. articulett

    Despite eons of such beliefs (and strong personal incentives for Scientists of every stripe to expand knowledge on the subject), there is no evidence that consciousness of any sort can exist outside the brain–not souls, gods, demons, Thetans, nor sprites. Instead, we are learning why and how the brain invents such illusions and what sort of memes solidify these beliefs while compartmentalizing critical thinking. Consciousness of any sort appears to require a material brain just as sound requires matter and cannot exist in a vacuum.

    Science can’t prove this is the case, but it can say that all claims involving invisible undetectable entities are in the same boat– they are as likely to be true as the beliefs which conflict with them, and there is nothing empirical to sort one such claim from another. We can also say that people have been inventing such entities for eons to explain that which they don’t understand and manipulating each other with these notions as well. I really think scientists need to step up and declare that faith is NOT a method of actually knowing anything objectively true. It never has been and it never will be. Instead, it makes a person very vulnerable to confirmation bias as the treadmill of the brain seeks to spin support for a delusion that the believer has come to rely on.

    I come down squarely on the side of reason exemplified by Krauss, Harris, Dawkins, Coyne, and Angiers. Semantic games and accomodationism only prolongs the delusion that the emperor might, in fact, be wearing clothes because scientists can’t “prove” he’s naked. Theism is all about which fabric of magical robes he might be dressed in. It would be amusing except people kill, die, and imagine themselves saved for their beliefs.

  36. Matti K.

    AMC (22):

    Many people see North Korea as a theocracy:

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/IE12Dg01.html

    Jon (24):

    Is it illiberal to speak out strongly against any kind of unfounded belief , like for example astrology or homeopathy?

    I think The essence of cultural liberalism is to tolerate different religions and lack thereof:

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

    Tolerance, however, does not mean keeping your mouth shut always and everywhere. Free speech is also a central part of liberalism. Do you really think that freedom of religion or freedom of speech means that no one can criticize your religion or speech? That’s all Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens have done, and they have not even busted into churches or temples to make their case.

  37. Jon

    Despite eons of such beliefs… there is no evidence that consciousness of any sort can exist outside the brain…

    Again, I apologize for linking to something I’ve linked to before on this blog, but I thought this post by Charles Taylor, which touches on this subject, was interesting:

    http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2008/09/02/buffered-and-porous-selves/

  38. Michael Neville

    Yes, atheist regimes have killed millions of people, but not in the name of atheism. For centuries religions have killed people in the name of whatever particular flavor of religion is doing the killing. The last major religious war, the Thirty Years War, killed about a third of the population of central Europe.

    The Catholic Church is running a campaign in Africa saying that condoms cause AIDS. These “men and women of God” are purposely and with malice aforethought lying because they don’t approve of birth control. A whole bunch of Muslims rioted and killed people because a Danish newspaper printed some cartoons disrespectful to Mohammad. The Mormon Church poured millions into California’s Proposition 8 campaign to deny basic civil rights to homosexuals essentially because “God thinks what homosexuals do in bed is icky.”

    When atheists point to these sort of facts, folks like Mooney whine “oh, you ‘New Atheists’ are being nasty to those poor, persecuted religionists, that’s not nice.”

  39. Socr8s

    Here aremy problems with Krauss’ argument and that of the new atheists. It is entirely possible for God to meddle in the physical world through natural laws. An all knowing God has set the laws of nature in place to run on auto pilot, but also uses those natural means to manipulate the world to his purpose. The second issue I have is if a belief in God and science makes me inconsistent so what? does this inconsistency prevent me from making scientific discovery? No. Does it bias my results? No. Before you argue otherwise, I challenge you to look at the work of scientists who are also religous and find such bias. Finally, the new atheists ignore the perceptions of the religous that confirm their belief in God. Truley religous can feel Gods presence and know he is there with the same certanty that an atheist can feel the effects of gravity on them. These perceptions are every bit as valid as the perceptions of science. Are they verifiable. Ask any one who truly believes God walks with them. They will describe the same sensations. We know the world based on our senses. The sense of Gods presence should also be included with the other five senses.

  40. John Kwok

    @ SLC –

    Of course Jerry Coyne would put a different “spin” on Lawrence Krauss’s piece. What more would you expect from someone who has been “carrying the torch” on behalf of militant atheism for months. Whereas Krauss would prefer – and he has done this via school visits – engaging with Fundamentalists merely to express his point of view in a diplomatic manner, Coyne seems interested in following the wake of his colleague, the excellent agent provocateur of militant atheism – and mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist “extraordinaire” – Paul Zachary (PZ) Myers.

    Anyway, I hope you’ve decided to abide by my request in respecting my opinions with respect to evolution simply because I am a former evolutionary biologist.

  41. Sven DiMilo

    Krauss has worked with Ken Miller to defend the teaching of science and to thwart “intelligent design.” But he also wants to make a defense of the New Atheists, Dawkins and Harris et al.

    I find it strange that you would present these as a dilemma in any way. It’s like Kwok saying that since Krause is a friend of Ken Miller’s he’s not a “militant.” Surely people can work with others and even be friends with others with whose philosophical opinions they disagree. In fact, isn’t that what accomodationism is all about?

  42. Jerry Coyne

    Frankly, I’m tired of Mr. Kwok calling P.Z. Myers “mediocre” on this site. It adds exactly zero to the discourse, and I’d hope that this type of characterization would be banned at The Intersection. (I don’t allow name-calling at my site–at least when I see it!)

    Myers, even though a “militant atheist” (is that one word or two?)has a first class mind, as do many on the other side.

    Let’s have a modicum of respect here, and not act like crybabies.

  43. – Many people see North Korea as a theocracy: Matti

    Then many people are changing the meanings of words to suit purposes of their own. Which is a habit I’ve become all to familiar with while arguing with new atheists.

    Was Stalin’s Soviet Union a theocracy?

    — Let’s have a modicum of respect here, and not act like crybabies. Jerry Coyne

    From the man who tried to tie Francis Collins to the parents who deprived their kid of chemotherapy. Irony is never far off with the new atheists.

  44. – The Catholic Church is running a campaign in Africa saying that condoms cause AIDS. Michael Neville

    And there are other religions that distribute condoms and provide other preventative treatment for AIDS and other diseases. And I know of at least one Catholic charity which also distributes condoms under the table and has provided sterilization to a woman who was in danger from another pregnancy.

  45. “Religious freedom” is not the freedom to kill a child through withholding science-based medicine. A 13-year-old child, perhaps brainwashed by his parents, simply cannot make this decision for himself. This is a life-or-death conflict between science, which can save the child, and religion, which is killing him. No conflict here? What would Francis Collins say?

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/05/09/child-doomed-by-religious-faith/

  46. John Kwok

    @ Jerry Coyne –

    Jerry, PZ admitted to me that he’s a mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist. If his was really a “first class mind”, don’t you think he’d be working alongside Sean B. Carroll at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, or even in your building at the University of Chicago with you and Neil Shubin as neighbors?

    I’m a bit surprised that you’re a bit bent out of shape over this, since you’ve certainly haven’t discouraged posters over at your blog to refrain from referring to me as “Ken Miller’s poodle”.

    Maybe you can set the record straight over at Myers’s blog, since I’ve encountered a few of his intellectually-challenged acolytes who have insisted that, “John Kwok hates Jerry Coyne”. Nothing can be further from the truth since I do have ample respect for your work on speciation and recognize that you are one of our most important evolutionary biologists. You may recall too that I wrote a glowing Amazon review of your excellent “Why Evolution is True” and I still stand behind every word I wrote.

    However, I am utterly dumbfounded in trying to understand how your impeccable logic with respect to evolutionary biology has somehow deserted you during your frequent critiques of “accomodationist” positions towards religion which you claim are prevalent at science advocacy and professional scientific organizations like the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), World Science Festival (WSF), National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Could you explain to me how, independently of each other, Ken Miller and I looked at the relevant sections of the NCSE website, and saw no sign of “accomodationism” (Please bear in mind that while Ken is a devout Roman Catholic, I am a Deist.)?
    Since you find financial support of the Templeton Foundation so objectionable, have you approached Dr. Robert Zimmer, President of the University of Chicago, to express your concerns, especially when I understand that your university receives tens of millions of dollars in financial support from this foundation (I will admit that I heard this at WSF, but my source shall remain confidential.)?

    I thank you in advance for your answers and look forward to joining forces with you so we can deal with the real enemy, evolution denialists of all stripes, especially those, like our “pal” Bill Dembski, of the Dishonesty Institute.

    Respectfully yours,

    John

  47. articulett

    I don’t think science can teach people to think critically while lessening the hold of demons and superstitions past without putting god belief in jeopardy. Magical thinking tends to disappear in direct proportion to scientific understanding of a phenomena.

    If god, were real, this wouldn’t be a problem, but it’s very much a problem for those who have come to rely on such a being actually existing. I don’t think scientists should enable this sort of thinking. Instead, they must prepare future generations to live in the real world and not the superstitious world of their ancestors. If people kept their supernatural beliefs private, then we wouldn’t have to worry about whether faith is compatible with science because we wouldn’t know whose fragile delusions we were supposed to respecting. The earth isn’t flat and never was–this was true long before humans existed and long after humans perceived the earth as flat. God(s), demons and souls seem to be a similar illusion. Asking a scientist not to tread on such unsupportable beliefs is asking them to be dishonest; it gets in the way of real discoveries and understandings that are true for everyone no matter what they believe. If only Galileo and Darwin were the last scientists to be vilified for skewering sacred cows. If we don’t fight for this battle now, we become indirectly responsible for damage caused by faith-based (and pseudo scientific) thinking.

  48. John Kwok

    @ Sven DiMilo –

    I was wondering when you might be stopping by. My favorable assessment of Lawrence Krauss isn’t due to the fact that we have a mutual friend in Ken Miller. Instead, it is due to the fact that I spent time talking with him alone, and in the company of one of the World Science Festival’s organizers, at the World Science Festival, here in New York City, two weekends ago. I don’ t agree with everything Krauss has said on the issue of “accomodationism”, but he certainly comes across as far more reasonable than certain well known militant atheists, like, for example, your hero PZ Myers.

  49. John Kwok

    @ Jerry Coyne –

    I seem to recall getting an e-mail from you agreeing with me that PZ Myers’s infamous “CrackerGate” episode from last summer was well over the top (Incidentally that’s among the most important reasons why I have dubbed PZ Myers, the “William A. Dembski of Militant Atheism”.). If you think my assessment of PZ is correct, then isn’t it odd, that, having been subjected to Dembski’s peculiar version of “hospitality” over at Dembski’s Uncommon Dissent website, that you find yourself now as the philosophical soulmate of someone whom I regard as Dembski’s Atheist equivalent. Don’t you find that a bit odd, Jerry?

  50. Michael Neville

    John Kwok is annoyed at PZ Myers because Kwok was banned at Myers’ blog, Pharyngula. The reason for the banning was quite simple, Kwok came across as a narcissist who couldn’t stop talking about the famous high school where he and his famous friends were famously taught by famous essayists and famous principals in a famously famous fashion. During the discussion as to whether or not Kwok should be banned, Kwok threatened Myers with being “defriended” at Facebook. After the banning, Kwok sent an email to a friend of Myers which included the following gem:

    “Regrettably, I have decided to demand from Myers some financial compensation for his egregious behavior. He will have to purchase on my behalf a used Leica M7 rangefinder camera body (The price will vary, but somewhere in the range of approximately $2200 to $2500.).”

    I personally want to thank John Kwok for giving me many chuckles and even gaffaws at his expense. Thank you, Kwok, for being what you are, whatever that might be.

  51. John Kwok

    @ Michael –

    You must have missed my complaints aimed at Myers – when I was posting there – for referring to Ken Miller as a creationist.

    You may have also missed – and this something that Myers will never admit – that I told him via private e-mail correspondence that I was joking about the FB “defriending”, and, more importantly, that I wasn’t serious about my “demand” for photographic equipment (which, incidentally, some friends of mine who hadn’t encountered before my online duels with Myers and his loyal Borg Collective of intellectually-challenged acolytes like yourself, for example, realized that I was joking in much the same manner that, a certain former teacher of mine, a bestselling Irish-American memorist, is world renowned for). Any lingering respect I had had for Myers – and a lot of that disappeared immediately after the “CrackerGate” episode – vanished instantly. So, in plain English, if Myers is still perpetuating these comments – and allowing you to say them uncorrected – then he isn’t telling the truth.

  52. Bill C.

    Has anybody yet read Myers’ eminently clear and rational, though provocatively titled, position on Krauss’ article? It acknowledges the “MN vs. PN” divide (though without having to use that phrasing), and goes on to make a perfectly sane and not at all inflammatory case for why folks should cozy up to the PN side of the table as well as the MN.

    It’s also worth noting that a huge number of the horrible New Atheist bigot commenters at his site ,a href=”http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/06/the_kids_are_getting_smarter.php#comments”>recently complimented – gasp – Unitarian churches. A gentleman at #11 asks for thoughts re: attending UU church as a means of socializing, and proceeds to get many positive responses. Also of note in the thread is the large number of New Atheists present there who do still hold soft spots for the churches of their youth – be it the community or the music. Of course the vast majority of them agree that, especially in retrospect, it was soul-crushingly boring – but few seem to have compunctions about admitting the positive impact church experience might have on an individual.

    I think that’s worth noting because it brings into even starker relief the semantic argument which underlies much of this “militant vs accommodationist” spat. “New Atheists” want to use “religion” in a generalized sense to encompass a large number of transgressions to which they object, and modern spiritualists still identify strongly as being “religious” while having modernized themselves out of almost every single transgression being objected to. Thus they must kung fu fight. Meh.

    I suppose if a person wants to use the umbrella term “religious” to label their various feelings of transcendence or connection or even divine knowledge when reflecting on the possibility of a God or the writings of some revered cleric, they can. But then again, that would mean I variously belong to the Religion of Kubrick, the Religion of Superman, the Religion of Sagan, the Religion of Semiotics, the Religion of Eno, the Religion of the Sun and who knows how many other religions…Because each of those people/topics/works stirs in me great contemplative feelings and a connection to an almost mystical realm of shared thought-experience and/or moral and ethical guidance and/or feelings of awareness and humility. And in that sense, quite the religionist I am! I loves me some religious experience.

    But I’d rather not call any of that “religion”. Why would I? I’d just rather call it awesome. Or something which works better in the context of conversation. Or nothing at all.

  53. John Kwok

    @ Anthony –

    Michael Neville has just illustrated perfectly the following observation I had made, early on, in this discussion thread:

    “@ Jon –

    Not merely sneers, but ad hominem attacks too if they are incapable of making any headway in some kind of ‘rational’ discourse.”

    Michael Neville seems incapable of responding credibly to my points to Jerry Coyne, so his only recourse is to aim some ad hominem attacks at me, and neglect to tell the entire truth. How pathetic, but how characteristic, of Militant Atheist Borg drones like Michael Neville and others who are intellectually-challenged acolytes of Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers.

  54. John Kwok

    @ Michael Neville –

    I’d rather be who I am, “warts and all”, then someone who is obviously as intellectually-challenged as you most certainly are.

  55. Jon

    Jerry Coyne: Myers, even though a “militant atheist” (is that one word or two?)has a first class mind, as do many on the other side.

    “militant atheist” is not one word, but you start to think it is with the New Atheists. You know the philosopher I linked to above, Charles Taylor? This is PZ Myers’ take:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/03/spirituality_another_word_for.php

    Pretty mediocre, I think. At least in this case. I agree with the people who say that when it comes to religion, the New Atheists speak with a strange combination of omniscience and pride at not having studied their subject in any depth.

  56. Michael Neville

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    “And there are other religions that distribute condoms and provide other preventative [sic] treatment for AIDS and other diseases. And I know of at least one Catholic charity which also distributes condoms under the table and has provided sterilization to a woman who was in danger from another pregnancy.”

    That may be true. But for the most part the Catholic Church is LYING about condoms. And while one woman may have been sterilized, the Church went out of its way recently in Brazil to excommunicate all the people involved in an abortion given to a nine year old rape victim. Actually there were two people not excommunicated, the girl herself, since she wasn’t of age to make an informed choice, and the rapist. As long as the rapist makes a confession and does his penance, he’s okay as far as the Church is concerned. Incidentally, the girl was pregnant with twins and it was the opinion of the doctors involved that she could not survive the pregnancy. Yes, Anthony, your pet Church would rather have a nine year old rape victim die than for her to have an abortion. But they have no problem with the rapist (who was her stepfather).

    Then there’s the stories that recently came out of Ireland about the Church run “reformatory and industrial schools.” The Ryan Commission found that chronic beatings, humiliation and rapes of children were systemic in these schools. Combined with the ongoing revelations of how the Church hid pedophile priests, it seems that the Catholic Church has some major problems with young children being raped. It appears they’re in favor of the practice.

    Sorry, Anthony, but one sterilization does not make up for Cardinal Law’s support of John Geoghan, John Hanlon, Paul Shanley, Robert Gale and James Talbot while Law was Archbishop of Boston.

  57. Michael Neville, so you hold all of religion responsible for the crimes committed within the Catholic church. I’ve got no problem with anyone getting slammed for what they’ve done, you should see some of the things I said about Bernard Law, JP II and Ratzinger but you’ve got to actually commit a crime or knowingly abet it to have responsibility for it. That’s a rule the new atheism explicitly rejects both in practice and, at times, in candid admission.

    But that’s not all of religion, it’s not even all of Catholicism. I know Catholics who have sent the money they used to donate to the hierarchy to secular charities.

    And you do know that those problems are hardly confined to Catholic or even Religious institutions. You ever read about the orphanages in Romania and elsewhere under anti-religious regimes? How about North Korea, the entire country, not just in orphanages? How about Cambodia under Pol Pot? I’d rather take my chances in a badly run Catholic orphanage in Ireland fifty years ago than in any of those.

  58. Michael Neville

    John Kwok whined: “You must have missed my complaints aimed at Myers – when I was posting there – for referring to Ken Miller as a creationist.”

    Oh yes, I was there when you told us all about how you and Miller took a taxi ride together and commiserated with each other about how mean ol’ PZ was to Miller. I was also there when you presented zero evidence to show that Myers was wrong. You see, Kwok, that’s how this “science” stuff works. If someone has a theory (like your theory or perhaps a hypothesis or maybe just a conjecture that Miller isn’t a creationist), then they have to provide evidence to support this guess. While you were loud and long about your denials of Miller’s creationism, somehow you neglected to give anything other than your opinion.

    Kwok again whined: “Michael Neville seems incapable of responding credibly to my points to Jerry Coyne, so his only recourse is to aim some ad hominem attacks at me, and neglect to tell the entire truth.”

    I brought up your bannination from Pharyngula because of your moaning and groaning about PZ Myers. Also you were a source of much merriment to the Pharyngula regulars and I wanted to spread the jocularity around.

    I see that among your other failings, you don’t know what an ad hominem is. I’m surprised. I would have thought a graduate of East Poodunk School for the Feeble Minded (or whatever that famous high school was) would know such things. And are you claiming that you weren’t banned from Pharyngula for excessive egotism and you didn’t demand a camera from Myers? As for the “defriending” being a joke, you’re right, we all saw that an empty threat like that was a joke. For that matter, we saw most of what you wrote as a j0ke. That’s because you are a joke, John.

    Please don’t whine again about my pointing out your failings, John. It’s not my fault that you haven’t progressed since high school.

  59. Oh, for crying out loud. Any movement that is so dependent on the reputation of PZ Myers is in big trouble. The guy is a first rate last rate kind of guy.

    One of the funniest things I’ve ever done is mention him to a working reaserach biologist I know, “Who’s PZ Myers?” was the answer. If he wasn’t known as an anti-religious bigot, no one would know who he is.

  60. Michael Neville

    Anthony McCarthy wrote: “Michael Neville, so you hold all of religion responsible for the crimes committed within the Catholic church.”

    Oh no, I’m just giving examples from the Catholic Church because you bragged how one Catholic charity may have given out condoms under the table and even provided for a woman’s sterilization. I could have brought up Islamic suicide bombers (isn’t the going price 72 eager virgins in the afterlife?) or the Hindus and Muslims killing each other in India or how Christian fundamentalists want to replace teaching science with teaching myths or all kinds of things that present day religions are doing to the detriment of humanity.

    “I’d rather take my chances in a badly run Catholic orphanage in Ireland fifty years ago than in any of those.”

    True. Being raped is better than being killed (even though several hundred Irish children were killed in the schools). But an organization that is supposed to give moral guidance shouldn’t be supporting child rape. I understand that there will be pedophiles in any large population. It’s an unfortunate fact. What I can’t understand is how a Church, headed by “Christ’s Vicar on Earth,” will support the pedophiles. If child rapists were turned over to the civil authorities when discovered, then there’d be no problem. When the rapists are kept in positions where they can continue to rape, then there’s a serious problem.

  61. Michael Neville, So you’d rather be living in North Korea or under Pol Pot? Interesting choice.

    You are aware that I said that people who had committed crimes should pay for them, regardless of their status or are you going to keep going on as if I hadn’t?

  62. … not surprisingly, Prof. Coyne puts a different spin on the Krauss op-ed then Mr. Mooney does.

    I concur with Coyne’s assessment. I said as much in post #4. I am disappointed in the response that Miller gave (if indeed that’s what he said) in regards to the Virgin Birth. A handful of instances in the several billion years of the universes existence where God may have intervened? Statistical outliers, which would lead one to conclude that they could safely conduct experiments without having “divine intervention”.

  63. SLC

    Re John Kwok @ 40

    I would appreciate it if Mr. Kwok would inform me as to where we might disagree about the Theory of Evolution. AFAIK, myself, Jerry Coyne, Sean Carroll, PZ Myers, Ken Miller, John Kwok, Larry Moran, Francisco Ayala, and Francis Collins have no disagreements on the first 4 of Ernst Mayrs’ 5 hypotheses of the theory. Thus we all accept an old earth, extinction, no cats in the Pre-Cambrian, and common descent. Now as to the mechanism, here there are differences as Carroll and Myers are firm supporters of Evo-Devo, while Moran is skeptical. Coyne is a strong adaptationist while Moran thinks that many adaptationist explanations sound like just so stories. There are differences as to the relative importance of natural selection and genetic drift amongst evolutionary biologists. Not being a biologist, I don’t express opinons on the mechanism of evolution so I wouold hardly be in a position to dispute anything that the experts might say about the subject..

    Re Michael Nivelle

    Even right wing nutcase Billo the clown has opined that Cardinal Law and Cardinal Egan should have gone to jail along with the priests whose crimes they covered up.

  64. Michael Neville

    Anthony McCarthy wrote: “Michael Neville, So you’d rather be living in North Korea or under Pol Pot? Interesting choice.”

    Please show me where I said that.

    SLC wrote: “Even right wing nutcase Billo the clown has opined that Cardinal Law and Cardinal Egan should have gone to jail along with the priests whose crimes they covered up.”

    That’s as may be, but his evil twin, Bill Donohue, thinks that what happened in Ireland was just keeping unruly children in line and a little humiliation isn’t anything compared to how hard Sister Mary Margaret rapped his knuckles with a ruler in 4th grade.

  65. John Kwok

    @ TomJoe (62) –

    Ken’s response was to observe that, in nature, Virgin Birth is a real biological phenomenom seen in some vertebrates, of which those that are most “derived” – and I speaking here from a quasi-cladistic perspective – are reptiles (which Ken did mention). Ken also acknowledged that Virgin Birth is not known within Mammals. So to resolve this contradiction, Ken suggested that the writers of the New Testament opted to use a metaphor of a “Virgin Birth” merely to emphasize how important Jesus Christ’s teachings would be.

    While Ken is correct from a biological perspective, I suppose others who contend that Ken just made a major “cop out” by rendering the Virgin Birth as being theologically superfluous.

  66. John Kwok

    @ SLC –

    You misread my statement. Let me repeat it here:

    “Anyway, I hope you’ve decided to abide by my request in respecting my opinions with respect to evolution simply because I am a former evolutionary biologist.”

    I believe I asked you to respect my views since I was trained in evolutionary biology and still keep abreast of some aspects of it, including, but not merely exclusive to, invertebrate paleobiology and evolutionary ecology.

  67. John Kwok

    @ Michael Neville (@ 58) –

    Spare me your sanctimonious pretentious nonsense please. Let met put it to you plainly: Myers has lied and may still be lying if he thinks that I was really serious in mounting a Facebook “defriending campaign” and in demanding expensive photographic equipment. I’ve told others, including Ken Miller, that I was joking.

    You seem incapable of commenting on my valid points with regards to my rebuttals to Jerry Coyne’s critique of my behavior. Since you are incapable of commenting on them, then you feel compelled to launch an ad hominem attack upon me. IMHO you’re no different, and no better, than the delusional creos I have seen posting at Pharyngula, Panda’s Thumb, EvolutionBlog, ERV, and other science blogs, including this one.

  68. John Kwok

    @ TomJoe (@ 62) –

    Sorry TomJoe, but the final sentence in my reply to you should have read:

    “While Ken is correct from a biological perspective, I suppose others might contend that Ken made a major ‘cop out’ by rendering the Virgin Birth as being theologically superfluous.”

  69. John Kwok

    @ Michael Neville –

    BTW I am delighted that Stuart Pivar is bugging PZ Myers. Both of them are pompous, quite sanctimonious, blowhards who, quite frankly, deserve each other. I had the misfortune of running into Stuart Pivar last year at the Rockefeller University evolution symposium (It might have been after Jerry Coyne’s talk, but I don’t remember.). Pivar is a self-made millionaire who has gotten rich from his inventions (I believe) and has dominated Greek and Roman antiquities to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, of which a few are currently – if I’m not mistaken – on display.

  70. John Kwok

    @ Jerry Coyne –

    If this is indeed your policy, Jerry Coyne (see below), why have I seen my name mentioned sarcastically several times in the last few weeks at your blog:

    “Frankly, I’m tired of Mr. Kwok calling P.Z. Myers ‘mediocre’ on this site. It adds exactly zero to the discourse, and I’d hope that this type of characterization would be banned at The Intersection. (I don’t allow name-calling at my site–at least when I see it!)”

    Again, if PZ Myers wasn’t, by his own admission, a “mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist”, then I’m sure he’d have a faculty appointment by now at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, University of Chicago, or even Brown University, where, he’d have the “pleasure” of calling Ken Miller his “esteemed” colleague.

    I do look forward to your comments regarding mine in rebuttal to your original post here at this discussion thread. I would be most interested in learning whether you’ve voiced your concerns to Dr. Robert Zimmer, President of the University of Chicago, including your objections – if any – with regards to the fact that the University of Chicago is receiving tens of millions of dollars in financial support from the John Templeton Foundation.

  71. SLC

    Re Chris Mooney & Sherl Krishenbaum

    May I make a suggestion to Mr. Mooney and Ms. Krishenbaum that they impose a limit on the number of Mr. Kwoks’ and Mr. McCarthys’ comments per day like Prof. Rosenhouse has. I haven’t made a count but it appears that, together, they account for more then 1/2 the comments on this thread. That seems excessive. Just a suggestion.

  72. John Kwok

    @ SLC –

    Only in your dreams that I have posted half the comments on this thread. If my name is being mentioned at all, its due to you and your fellow Coyne/Myers Borg Collective drones mentioning it here. Moreover, why would Sheril and Chris want to honor your request, especially when you regard Sheril as a lovely object of your sexual fantasies (You did admit over at ScienceBlogs – I believe it was at Rosenhouse’s – that you think Sheril is “hot”.).

    @ Jerry Coyne –

    Here’s a perfect example of a ridiculous ad hominem attack on me that you’ve retained on your blog:

    ennui
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink
    Before you write the other parts, do us all a big favor and block comments from John Kwok (Miller’s toy poodle). Can’t wait for the rest.

    *salivate*

    It is the second comment in this thread:

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/science-vs-theism-a-debate-with-kenneth-miller-part-i-throat-clearing/#comments

  73. Lawrence Krauss draws some parallels between the relationship between God and Science and the current situation in Iran.

    I mentioned this in comments’ to Coyne’s post, but this seems like a really iffy point. What’s the relationship?

    Socr8s – your first two points seem more or less reasonable – at least arguable – but
    Finally, the new atheists ignore the perceptions of the religous that confirm their belief in God. Truley religous can feel Gods presence and know he is there with the same certanty that an atheist can feel the effects of gravity on them. These perceptions are every bit as valid as the perceptions of science. …
    -while I suspect this is very important to you, it just doesn’t make sense. These perceptions are not every bit as valid as the perceptions of science, unless we use different definitions of “valid”. The effects of gravity are, in science, not something to be “felt”, but to be studied and tested. Certain people’s subjective feelings of God’s presence cannot be studied and tested in this sense, or even examined, although one can try to see what’s going on in their brains. We can’t absolutely rule out the possibility that these subjective feelings are accurate, but there is no scientific reason to think that they are, and indeed in other realms we usually consider these kind of “feelings” as unreliable. See also Tom Clark on open intersubjective empiricism

    Anthony; “Someone whose personal experience tells them that they’ve experienced or witnessed a miracle, would have to conclude that science was invalid, if this is the case. Why shouldn’t they reject science on the basis of this claim? They’ve actually experienced their own experience, after all, they’ve never experienced the assertions about subatomic particles or the events of evolution. Why shouldn’t they believe it?

    Why?Well, because we know that personal subjective experience isn’t perfect – indeed, the whole point of science, among with a number of other reason-based practices, is to bend over backwards trying to correct for problems, biases and glitches w/ “personal experience”, and has made astonishing progress as a result.

    , I was there when you told us all about how you and Miller took a taxi ride together and commiserated with each other about how mean ol’ PZ was to Miller.

    I think I’d rather be in North Korea.

    (seriously, that stuff is getting really boring. I don’t actually care who’s friends/enemies/frenemies with who, or who went to school where, or who said what about facebook in some ludicrous squabble. Are we 12 or something?)

  74. John Kwok

    @ Dan S. –

    The militant atheists posting here, seem to be especially interested in this :

    “who’s friends/enemies/frenemies with who, or who went to school where, or who said what about facebook in some ludicrous squabble”

    It’s their means of ducking and weaving, and thus, avoiding, any serious discussion about the issues raised in Lawrence Krauss’s essay and in other, similar essays, pertaining to “accomodationism” for the last few months.

    BTW I have asked Jerry Coyne some valid questions, and he seems only interested in condemning me for calling a mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist, “mediocre”, even though the person in question did admit to me that he is “mediocre”.

  75. damian

    “Not merely sneers, but ad hominem attacks too if they are incapable of making any headway in some kind of “rational” discourse.”

    “Michael Neville seems incapable of responding credibly to my points to Jerry Coyne, so his only recourse is to aim some ad hominem attacks at me, and neglect to tell the entire truth”

    “What more would you expect from someone who has been “carrying the torch” on behalf of militant atheism for months. …. Coyne seems interested in following the wake of his colleague, the excellent agent provocateur of militant atheism – and mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist “extraordinaire” – Paul Zachary (PZ) Myers.”

    “intellectually-challenged acolytes of Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers.”

    awwwww… John Kwok, you are ADORABLE….

  76. Michael Neville

    I’ll make one last comment about Kwok and then I’ll give up talking to him.

    Mr. Kwok, the people at Pharyngula do not take you as seriously as you think they should.

    Okay, you can have the last word.

  77. Sven DiMilo

    damn it, my eye-rolling muscles are cramping up again

  78. Science and philosophy are continuous with each other. Yes, Krauss is not speaking as a physicist, carrying out specialist research in an area of cosmology or whatever, when he makes the claims that he does in this article. He is stepping back from that; he is speaking as a person who has an overall familiarity with the image of the world that comes from modern science – which you’d hope any high-level scientist possesses – and is capable of comparing that with the typical claims of religion. Yes, that is an example of what we mean by doing philosophy, but you make it sound as if “doing philosophy” is some kind of exercise discontinuous from all our rational investigation of the world.

    Krauss is doing exactly what Dawkins does, or what a philosopher like Philip Kitcher does. There’s no conspiracy to hide this and pretend that Krauss’s article in the WSJ is reporting findings from his lab.

  79. tomh

    Jerry Coyne wrote: “Frankly, I’m tired of Mr. Kwok calling P.Z. Myers “mediocre” on this site.”

    You will get tired of Kwok awfully fast. Fortunately, as people wake up and ban him, there are fewer and fewer places for him to pontificate. The only sensible way to deal with his nonsense is with the judicious use of a killfile.

  80. SLC, while it’s for the owners of this blog to decide on its policies, Rosenhouse doesn’t seem to have much trouble with people who frequently comment on his blog as long as they agree with him and don’t ask him to clear up misunderstandings about mathematics among his regulars.

    And he doesn’t mind if people such as yourself insult other commentators, such as yourself, who, when challenged to produce the substance of what they charge, repeatedly, don’t back up what they said.

    As to whether or not what is said by a commentator is valuable, that’s for the owners of the blog to decide, but if it’s on topic and true, I wouldn’t have any problem. A lot of the most visited blogs develop exactly that kind of on-topic conversation by regular visitors and more casual visitors. There are some political blogs I go to because the comments add to the information you can gain there. I wouldn’t think developing that kind of a community would be a problem for someone who wanted an often read blog, in fact, I’d think it was a sign that it was more valued than a blog, such as Jerry Coynes, which doesn’t seem to get the same traffic. I hadn’t noticed that Rosenhouse’s comment threads were very long or had nearly as interesting and challenging information as some of the frequent visitors here bring to the conversation. “Faithheads stink” and “We’re the best” gets old fast.

    I generally try to stay on topic but as a blog conversation develops, the topic can have a way of expanding, sometimes through statements which are wrong or misleading or unclear, sometimes untrue, sometimes ironic and sometimes of a sexist or bigoted nature which demand to get called. I think the suppression of sexism and bigotry in the general culture is a duty for people who want civil discourse to become more general. Having experienced both bigotry and a serious physical attack due to bigotry, I take that duty very, very seriously.

  81. Matti K.

    Some people here point to different communist dictatorships as examples of failed application of atheism. I think it is a strawman. I have the opinion that the basic aims of the people responsible for building these dictatorships are somewhere else. They may be control freaks who think optimum progress is achieved when an enlighteded elite guides hard-working masses. It is understandable that such an elite does not tolerate competition in thee minds of the masses, even from the assumed supernatural side. The idea is very much the same as in the commandment “thou shalt not have other gods”. With the supernatural competion removed, one can claim superpowers for oneself:

    https://www.solidpapers.com/collegepapers/Famous%20People/2602.htm

    “Yet, he claimed that for 15
    years, he participated in more than 100,000 battles (over 20 battles a day) and
    won victories, even forging mystic stories that he turned sand into rice and
    crossed rivers on a leaflet as if he were an almighty deity.”

    There you have some North Korean “atheism”. On the other hand, the atheism of many prominent western scientists and “new atheists” is based on general scepticism, which seems to be their philosophical guide also in other matters relating to both their profession and society in general. Can anyone imagine a mechanism by which an dictatorship could evolve from that kind of thinking?

  82. - Why?Well, because we know that personal subjective experience isn’t perfect – indeed, the whole point of science, among with a number of other reason-based practices, is to bend over backwards trying to correct for problems, biases and glitches w/ “personal experience”, and has made astonishing progress as a result. Dan S.

    Dan S. I’m going to give you two answers from two points of view. First, you, like so many siency guys seem to miss the hard, cold fact, that science, the real stuff, hasn’t or doesn’t or can’t account for more than a small part of human experience or even the material universe. And a lot of the things that science tells us isn’t especially compelling in terms of human experience. If you hadn’t noticed, most people don’t take to science that well. And, as seen on science blog threads all over, a lot of the stuff that the sciency guys do find compelling, isn’t especially good science. Worse, from my point of view, I haven’t noticed much of an appreciation for strictly logical thinking on the science themed blogs that get a lot of new atheist traffic. My experience about strictly and objectively pointing out the limits of what science can do, for example, often rubs the patina of logical thinking of exactly those who think they’re pillars of reason. A lot of what I read from them is just a different kind of faith, but we’ve been down that road together many times before.

    I don’t think that, in real life, the culture of science is all that objective, not even among scientists who have done some fine work in their field. I think Lawrence Krauss’s op-ed is about as good natured a product of the new atheists as exists. And I’m sure I’d like him if I met him and as you might have gathered from reading things I’ve written in the past, I have respected him for a number of years. But I believe his op-ed is quite subjective and quite colored by his own experience, which has largely been as a successful scientist. I believe that, particular, subjective view point might account for the logical disconnect about the ability of science to dispose of God, as defined by the Abrahamic traditions, his gross error attributing inter-atheistic attitudes among three branches of religion that explicitly believe in the same God (though they don’t all agree on everything about that God) and his misunderstanding of the relative value he should expect people to place on his guarantees about science as opposed to their own, personal experience. I hope that as reasonable a person as Lawrence Krauss, if those are brought to his attention, might consider if maybe those aren’t valid and important points. In the end, even things that scientists say about things outside of their science are no more reliably objective than what anyone else says. Though in no case I’ve seen from the new scientists, has the attempt to be fair been as obvious.

    Second, God is not a person, God is not a human being or other animal of any kind or computer or other thing. God is not limited by our limits, our expectations, our desires or our interests. Obviously, the universe isn’t a theme part that’s all about us. If there is a purpose to it, it is probably not got our satisfaction as it’s sole focus and we should forget any line of thought in that direction. Though why any of you anti-antropocentric, rigidly objective guys would think in terms of there being only one major theme to anything eludes me, though your thinking does tend to remind me of religious fundamentalists a lot more than you’d care to know.

    There might not be any grand unified design that we could grasp. Considering the dimensions of the known universe its age etc. thinking we could figure one out even if it’s there, strikes me as kind of irrational. I mean, most people have trouble figuring out a very large novel with it all there in front of them.

    The authors of the Book of Isaiah, who I’m becoming much more interested in as I re-read it, famously said that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts God’s ways are not our ways. Among those differences could just be that a God who made us all isn’t in any need of impinging on our experience objectively. A God who wanted to be known to us, might decide that subjective experience would be the way to go. It could be that addressing a human animal on the basis of the thing they will notice most and find most interesting, their own life, is the way God addresses us. Do I know this in a way I can communicate to you? No. I’m not God.

    Or maybe God just wants us to have a few clues, or hunches or other indications that will, eventually set some of the more clueless and listless members of the meek resurrection on a path that eventually leads us into a better direction. I don’t know but you are asking me to expand on my own experience of these things and God hasn’t provided a road map.

    As you might also remember, I was fascinated by that e8 figure and implications of what it might mean if those other dimensions actually are real. What qualities of existence would they include that we aren’t equipped to even see dimly. Of course, being a human kind of animal, I’m interested to know if they impinge at all on our universe of human sense in any way. What if those effects have been here all along and we don’t perceive it? They could be like the paper that words are written on but which we only hear over the radio, presented as if they were extempore. If no one ever reveals to us that those words were being read, we wouldn’t know the paper was there and essential to the experience of what we heard.

    There isn’t any reason to believe that we, human beings who have to go through the enormous effort and the stupendous calculations essential to produce that figure are meant to comprehend things to an even greater extent. And even if we’re not “meant” to do it, we can’t. Do those dimensions exist? Would any scientist, objectively, say no? If we can’t perceive them or have any notion that they are there, can we even be said to be capable of being objective about them? Where’s the object? What even is the object?

    So, Dan S. I think it’s all a lot more complex than we folk are equipped to comprehend, even on the material level. In the end, we are bound by our experience. What science can’t do it can’t do but we’ve still got to make our way in the universe and we’re given our experience to get us through it. Reasoning works for some of it, with varying degrees of success, how do we know this? Because it’s our our experience that we can make a few things we, subjectively, find of benefit to ourselves happen and we can entertain ourselves with things we find interesting.

    There, confusing isn’t it? And not only because I’m typing this at five in the morning after a largely sleepless night.

  83. – Some people here point to different communist dictatorships as examples of failed application of atheism. I think it is a strawman. Matti K

    Considering the pile of bodies that seem to inevitably amass under an anti-religious regime, those aren’t people made of straw.

    I only bring them up when you new atheists try to blame religious people for crimes they don’t commit. Why shouldn’t atheists be answerable for what happens when “they help create an atmosphere that enables things like that to happen”? Don’t expect to not get your double standard applied to you. You don’t have a leg to stand on in that argument.

    — There you have some North Korean “atheism”. On the other hand, the atheism of many prominent western scientists and “new atheists” is based on general scepticism, which seems to be their philosophical guide also in other matters relating to both their profession and society in general. Can anyone imagine a mechanism by which an dictatorship could evolve from that kind of thinking? Matti K

    Oh, yeah. Hitchens and Harris are such great democrats and humanitarians. Invade a country without cause, another, what, quarter of a million bodies to the pile? Nuclear first strike that kills tens of millions in a day, let’s think about doing it, right?

    The new atheists aren’t skeptics, they’re cultists of the superstition of scientism and are as capable of fanatical violence as any other human beings.

  84. Michael Neville

    Anthony McCarthy wrote: “Considering the pile of bodies that seem to inevitably amass under an anti-religious regime, those aren’t people made of straw.

    I only bring them up when you new atheists try to blame religious people for crimes they don’t commit.”

    As I said way back in post 38: “[A]theist regimes have killed millions of people, but not in the name of atheism. For centuries religions have killed people in the name of whatever particular flavor of religion is doing the killing.”

    You can’t say “atheists killed millions but let’s ignore all the millions killed by religion.” That is, unless you follow the religious tradition of hypocrisy. It has been argued that various Communist regimes, particularly those of Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and the North Koreans, were religious, substituting the leader for any other deity. Kim Jong Il’s followers killing Christians is just like the Spanish Inquisition killing Jews and Muslims in the 1500s, the established religion getting rid of religious rivals.

    McCarthy further wrote: “The new atheists aren’t skeptics, they’re cultists of the superstition of scientism and are as capable of fanatical violence as any other human beings.”

    This is really two non sequiturs. First, there is no “superstition of scientism.” That’s a label that religionists use when they’re pretending “we believe in superstition so everyone else must too.” Further, nobody claims that “new atheists’ (0r even old or middle-aged atheists) aren’t subject to the same sorts of irrationalities than religionists. Christopher Hitchens supports the Iraqi War. Big yawn. So does his Christian brother Peter. So what?

    My impression is that what religionists don’t like about “new atheists” is that the “new atheists” aren’t silent about their atheism. Sure, Bertrand Russell wasn’t quiet about his atheism. He was one of the very atheists of his era who wasn’t. But now people like Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, Coyne, Myers, Bill Maher, et al announce their atheism and point out the general hypocrisy of religionists. You folks are just complaining because we’re not being the old fashioned, keep-to-ourselves style atheists who didn’t bother you with examples of your hypocrisy.

  85. – You can’t say “atheists killed millions but let’s ignore all the millions killed by religion.” Michael Neville

    Well, I never have.

    — First, there is no “superstition of scientism.” MN

    Oh, yes there is. There is ” an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of th methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation ( as in philosophy, the social sciences and the humanities ) ” which is exactly ” a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary”. As practiced by the new atheists, it goes considerably farther than that, extending to a basic and irrational belief that science can do what it explicitly can’t and that logic can be twisted to do that which is illogical.

    — Christopher Hitchens supports the Iraqi War. Big yawn. So does his Christian brother Peter. So what? MN

    If his entire family supported the illegal invasion of Iraq it wouldn’t nullify the point I made about it. You know, it’s nice that you brought Peter up because in my former life I condemned him for his anti-atheist bigotry.

    http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/2007/06/classic-example-of-why-counter-bigotry.html

    If I was addressing his support for the Iraq invasion I’d have called him a hypocrite on the basis of his professed Christianity as I did numerous others who supported it

    — My impression is that what religionists don’t like about “new atheists” is that the “new atheists” aren’t silent about their atheism. MN

    I’ve been entirely open about what I don’t like about the new atheists, they practice vicarious guilt, a double standard and the phenomenon is, generally, a shallow, dishonest and bigoted intellectual fad quite like the foul and revolting fad of spouting racial, ethnic, misogynist and religious bigotry among gay men in New York City in the later 1970s. I condemned other gay men for that and I condemn the new atheists for the same reason.

    Bertrand Russell was certainly of a higher order than the folks you cite. I’ve wondered if some of his anti-religious stuff might not have been due to his resentment of Godel, Though I’ve never had the time to research the question. You’d have thought his experience would have led him to have a better appreciation of the uncertainty we all have to live with. I’ve got no problem thinking that in his last years he would have no problem slamming Hitchens and Harris, I doubt he’d have had much use for Harris’ reasoning abilities.
    I wrote a birthday tribute to him on my old blog too, and on the other blog I used to contribute to.

    http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/2007/05/shield-against-power-rangers-of-occam.html

    The other version was an expanded one, but it’s harder to link to.

  86. – You can’t say “atheists killed millions but let’s ignore all the millions killed by religion.” Michael Neville

    Well, I never have.

    – First, there is no “superstition of scientism.” MN

    Oh, yes there is. There is ” an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of th methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation ( as in philosophy, the social sciences and the humanities ) ” which is exactly ” a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary”. As practiced by the new atheists, it goes considerably farther than that, extending to a basic and irrational belief that science can do what it explicitly can’t and that logic can be twisted to do that which is illogical.

    — Christopher Hitchens supports the Iraqi War. Big yawn. So does his Christian brother Peter. So what? MN

    If his entire family supported the illegal invasion of Iraq it wouldn’t nullify the point I made about it. You know, it’s nice that you brought Peter up because in my former life I condemned him for his anti-atheist bigotry.

    http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/2007/06/classic-example-of-why-counter-bigotry.html

    If I was addressing his support for the Iraq invasion I’d have called him a hypocrite on the basis of his professed Christianity as I did numerous others who supported it

    – My impression is that what religionists don’t like about “new atheists” is that the “new atheists” aren’t silent about their atheism. MN

    I’ve been entirely open about what I don’t like about the new atheists, they practice vicarious guilt, a double standard and the phenomenon is, generally, a shallow, dishonest and bigoted intellectual fad quite like the foul and revolting fad of spouting racial, ethnic, misogynist and religious bigotry among gay men in New York City in the later 1970s. I condemned other gay men for that and I condemn the new atheists for the same reason.

    Bertrand Russell was certainly of a higher order than the folks you cite. I’ve wondered if some of his anti-religious stuff might not have been due to his resentment of Godel, Though I’ve never had the time to research the question. You’d have thought his experience would have led him to have a better appreciation of the uncertainty we all have to live with. I’ve got no problem thinking that in his last years he would have no problem slamming Hitchens and Harris, I doubt he’d have had much use for Harris’ reasoning abilities.

    By the way, there was no non sequiteur in that sentence. I didn’t assert that the new atheists’ potential to be violent was a result of the superstition of the new atheists or their failure of skepticism. I listed those traits because they are just like all other people.

  87. MadScientist

    I agree with Krauss.

    First of all, that’s not “science to theism = OK”, that’s “science to DEISM = OK”. The difference is that deists believe there’s a creator who initiated everything and then just couldn’t care about the universe. In such a case, there are no claims to test, just a weird assertion that some extraneous being had to create the universe.

    Krauss never suggests that science move out of its own realm; what he is saying is that claims such as the virgin birth do not conform to what we know of the world. The claim of a virgin birth is essentially hearsay. Going beyond what Krauss says, I would add that claims of a virgin birth are made in many mythologies. Now which one of those mythologies is ‘true’? As far as the virgin birth goes, I will also point out that many christian religions *deny* a virgin birth. So who’s right – the original catholic church and early orthodox spin-offs or some of the much later sects of the christian cult? How does religion resolve the discrepancies? Why, the truth is *revealed* and any other cult is heretical. Cults which believe in the virgin birth see all non-virgin-birth believers as heretical and the same is true the other way around.

    Now I put on my accommodationist hat and debase science and human achievement by making this statement: the virgin birth is a quantum event; it is both true and false. When discussed by any cult, the probabilistic state collapses into a definite state and becomes a known truth or a known lie.

  88. MadScientist

    Dang … I missed something:

    “But by not doing so in the Journal, Krauss is helping along the misconception that science itself is inherently atheistic. It isn’t.”

    Science isn’t atheistic? I’d appreciate some examples of scientific publications in which a deity has been claimed to intervene. Science has absolutely no use for deities; in fact, deities are absolutely *worthless* to science. Given that deities are worthless to science, how can deities ever be a part of science? Science (well, *good* science) is inherently atheist.

  89. Hey folks,
    Some points of etiquette have been raised on this thread, by Jerry Coyne and others. Honestly, there are so many comments I haven’t read all of them adequately to judge whether any lines are being crossed.

    For now, I want to refer everyone again to our comments policy, here
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/06/04/laying-out-a-comments-policy/

    Basically, no profanity, no personal attacks, etc.

  90. Two links on Harris’s one-page discussion of nuclear weapons for those who want to get further perspective; this blog, his own analysis

  91. Anthony – your #82 is impressive, even moving in parts. However, as a reply to the bit of my comment that quote, it seems to pretty much be a non sequitur.

  92. Dan S. You should see what I can do when I’ve slept the night. If you ask me about something like that, it’s not going to be tidy. Maybe unsatisfying to a science-guy, but that’s life.

    I’m going to be away for a while so I won’t be able to answer, but I don’t think you’d suspect it’s because I’ve given up.

  93. – Krauss never suggests that science move out of its own realm; what he is saying is that claims such as the virgin birth do not conform to what we know of the world. The claim of a virgin birth is essentially hearsay. MadScientist

    Then it’s up to any scientist claiming that they can address The Virgin Birth of Jesus, as described in the gospels attributed to Matthew and Luke and actually believed by those who believe it, and not in a modified version so science can be made ez, to show how they could do it. They have to do it with absolutely no physical evidence, through an unknown range of possible mechanisms, and without recourse to any other human birth since it is held by its believers to have happened in that way exactly once in the entire course of history.

    If you accept this assignement, please have your methodology and proof in by next Tuesday. You can feel free to post it on the last comment of my blog which you can reach by clicking on my name.

    If anyone can produce a method that takes in all of those aspects, I’ll gladly announce that I’ve been stumped. But only if it addresses what is actually believed by those who believe it. Which I don’t happen to for historical and literary reasons.

  94. “But by not doing so in the Journal, Krauss is helping along the misconception that science itself is inherently atheistic.”

    Science most certainly is not theistic. So what’s wrong with calling it atheistic? Doesn’t atheism mean “not theism”?

    I noticed J.B.S. Haldane who was quoted in the WSJ article said “My practice as a scientist is atheistic.”

    Also, religions make scientific claims (god made people, etc.). Shouldn’t a scientist be able to point out these theistic ideas are anti-science?

  95. I too agree with Krauss, in spite of his omission of that important distinction.

    With respect to the MN/PN issue, it does indeed require a move from science to philosophy. And, of course, this distinction can also be applied to the question of science and religion. However, I wonder if moving from MN to PN is on par with moving from MN to supernaturalism (which I’ll call SN in this comment for brevity).

    Moving from science to atheism = perfectly fine, but philosophical in nature.

    Moving from science to theism = also perfectly fine (so long as one’s theism does not entail positions contrary to science), and also philosophical in nature.

    Moving from science to somewhere = necessary for everybody.

    Chris’ second point here is key, I think, to understanding why the two positions are not equal. The phrase “so long as one’s theism does not entail positions contrary to science” illustrates the problem for theists moving from MN to SN.

    Unless one holds to a sort of indistinct deism, unencumbered by sectarian views of truth (such as those typically found in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism), a theistic scientist seems to have to take one extra step than does an atheistic counterpart. S/he must deconflict whatever truth-claims are found in his/her religion that stand against the truth-claims of science.

    Not that this is impossible, of course. Yet whether this is the result of conscious or unconscious effort, it still seems that it must be done. An atheistic scientist does not have the same type of conflict, which is to say that the path from MN and PN seems contiguous, whereas MN and SN seems less so.

    That said, the witness of history demonstrates that this is not an insurmountable obstacle.

    For these reasons (no doubt more could be said, but I’m short on time), I don’t think it’s appropriate to consider the two moves equivalent, even if they are both philosophical in nature.

    @ Anthony

    What you seem to be saying in #93 is that science can never disprove the virgin birth, just as religion can never prove it. And, you summarily dismiss remarks that suggest how this might be done. You simply demand that scientists wishing to question the claim prove it wrong.

    Surely you realize this is an unrealistic demand.

    To my mind the claims surrounding the virgin birth deserve our skepticism, chiefly because these events are not immutable. Even were archaeologists to find the tomb and body of Jesus, or of Mohammed, believers can (and I suspect many probably would) simply shift to more ethereal claims. That is, Mohammed’s (or Jesus’) ascension/resurrection was of a spiritual nature; It was their spiritual essence that their followers saw, not their actual, physical bodies.

    Calling “BS” on the virgin birth might not be strictly scientific, but it is certainly not uncalled for. As has been said many, many times, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Since it is theists who claim this or that supernatural event actually happened, it is up them to offer testable evidence. Conversely, it is up to skeptics to marshal evidence against it, which (in the case of the virgin birth) can start with a demonstration that, as a rule, human beings don’t reproduce via parthenogenesis.

    Do you disagree?

  96. John Kwok

    @ Chris (@ 89) –

    It’s a bit disingenuous for Jerry Coyne to jump in and complain about “etiquette”, when, as I noted (@ 72), he has allowed some to post negative ad hominem attacks about me at his blog, contrary to his claims of enforcing etiquette there. Moreover, I did ask him some legitimate questions, and so far, it seems he has ignored them.

    @ MadScientist (@ 88) –

    I think a better explanation would be to say that science is, and must be, by definition, agnostic on whether there is belief or non-belief, since it isn’t designed to address issues pertaining to faith. This is where I have my most serious disagreement with Krauss’s excellent essay, and I will concede that it is, relatively speaking, a minor point (However, Krauss agreed with me that science could be viewed as agnostic – in private e-mail correspondence – but, he would concur completely with your observation.

  97. Correction to the paragraph beginning with “To my mind the claims surrounding the virgin birth deserve our skepticism, chiefly because these events are not immutable.”:

    I erred by shifting to the resurrection.

    With respect to the virgin birth, the events are not immutable because even if scientists were to definitively prove that the virgin birth was utterly impossible (and one can never really rule out ‘possibilities’), believers can always claim that God worked through Joseph; That Joseph provided the physical seed, but God was in possession of Joseph at the time.

    Of course, this isn’t the only possible response, but the point is that scientists will never “disprove” virgin births, resurrections, or any of other miraculous claims of scripture (including, say, the day the sun & moon stood still for Joshua). All they can do is show how these things defy empirical observation.

  98. Matti K @81: Some people here point to different communist dictatorships as examples of failed application of atheism. I think it is a strawman. I have the opinion that the basic aims of the people responsible for building these dictatorships are somewhere else. They may be control freaks who think optimum progress is achieved when an enlighteded elite guides hard-working masses.

    My irony meter is broken. I wonder if Matti K can envision a dictator who hides behind religion as having the same motives (i.e., using religion to keep power, using it only as a tool to keep control). For some reason, I doubt it.

    John Kwok @68: While Ken is correct from a biological perspective, I suppose others might contend that Ken made a major ‘cop out’ by rendering the Virgin Birth as being theologically superfluous.

    It is, indeed, a cop out. Unfortunately it doesn’t merely render the Virgin Birth as “superfluous”, it also renders Christianity superfluous. If Jesus Christ was not divinely conceived, then he is not God, and Christianity is pointless.

  99. Susan

    The big problem with catholicism (and other male-centric religions – the Taliban, for example) is that they enable dislike and/or contempt for women (subtle and not) and repress sexuality. Men who don’t like women but do like boys and/or girls gravitate to these faiths. They then get a strong dose of concealed self-hatred, which makes them a danger to others.

    The Angolan condom condemnation was particularly egregious because it is wives’ only defense against their straying husbands bringing home AIDS.

  100. Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Well one thing this thread has highlighted quite adequately is that John Kwok has an hyperactive opinion of himself and his importance in the issues raised.

  101. – What you seem to be saying in #93 is that science can never disprove the virgin birth, just as religion can never prove it. And, you summarily dismiss remarks that suggest how this might be done. JCS

    I only challenge any science guy who says it’s a question of science, as Richard Dawkins has, to tell us how they propose to use science on the question. You’ve got to have an experimental design and run the experiment before you can come to a conclusion, don’t you?

    – You simply demand that scientists wishing to question the claim prove it wrong. JCS

    Actually, it’ s more put your science where your mouth is or admit that you can’t do it.

  102. John Kwok

    @ TomJoe –

    Both Ken Miller and Vatician astronomer Guy Consolmagno declared that the Virgin Birth should be seen in the context of informing readers that the saga of Jesus Christ was important, simply for his religious teachings. In particular Ken Miller stressed that Christianity is about Christ’s teachings, not whether miracles like the Virgin Birth did or did not happen. So therefore, according to both Ken Miller and Guy Consolmagno – a Jesuit brother – Christianity does not depend on the reality of Christ’s Virgin Birth in order to assert the importance of Christ’s teachings and why it is relevant to humanity.

  103. @ AM #101

    RD’s assertion that the virgin birth (and other miracles) are questions of science, in my interpretation, refers to the fact that this is a truth-claim about how the world operates, e.g., men are sometimes born of gods & virgins, or via parthenogenesis. I’m not sure I’d call that an actual call for someone to construct an experiment.

    Admitting that one can’t test this particular truth-claim doesn’t lend any credence to the truth-claim itself. It is enough to know how humans reproduce to say that the virgin birth is unlikely in the extreme. So unlikely, in fact, that we can safely and confidently state it never happened, even if we must remain technically agnostic.

    This is rather like someone claiming to have travelled bodily and by force of will to Alpha Centauri when no one was looking. We can’t (and needn’t) construct an experiment to prove that the claim is false in order to dismiss it as fanciful nonsense.

  104. John Kwok

    @ Rev. BigDumbChimp –

    Only in your dreams do I have an “hyperactive opinion” of myself and the issues raised. If anyone is “hyperactive”, you need not look to far to read the often risible accusations and condemnations against “accomodationism” and whether science and religion are – or should be – compatible from the likes of Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers.

    I have raised some legitimate issues:

    1) How come a Deist like myself, independently of a Theistic Evolutionist (Ken Miller), has looked carefully at the NCSE website and NOT SEEN any semblance of “accomodationism”?

    2) If Jerry Coyne is so concerned about the Templeton Foundation’s support of science education at the World Science Festival, then shouldn’t he be equally concerned with the fact that this foundation has provided the University of Chicago with tens of millions of dollars in financial support?

    3) If Jerry Coyne truly believes that PZ Myers has a “first-rate mind” as a scientist, then why isn’t Myers already a colleague of Coyne’s at the University of Chicago’s Department of Ecology and Evolution, or teaching and conducting research at an internationally recognized program in evolutionary developmental biology such as Sean B. Carroll’s at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

    4) Since Jerry Coyne has himself, been the target of ridiculous abuse from the likes of William Dembski, and did agree with me that Myers’s “CrackerGate” was going a bit too far, then why would an eminent evolutionary biologist like Jerry Coyne choose to cast his lot with someone – PZ Myers – is better known for being a bizarre agent provocateur on behalf of militant atheism, NOT FOR credible, quite important, research in evolutionary developmental biology?

    These are not ad hominem attacks upon either Coyne or Myers, but legitimate questions which deserve answers.

    Now I will admit my own biases:

    1) I graduated from a prominent Ivy League college in Rhode Island, which is long known for its religious toleration and respect of a broad diversity of cultural and political views.

    2) I belong to a family that counts Christians, Jews and Muslims as members, and is ethnically diverse from a variety of Caucasian and Asian – American backgrounds.

    Under no circumstances have my biases reflected any kind of “hyperactive opinion” of myself, contrary to your rather risible, most inane, assertion.

  105. — RD’s assertion that the virgin birth (and other miracles) are questions of science, in my interpretation, refers to the fact that this is a truth-claim about how the world operates,

    What he said was,
    “Did Jesus have a human father, or was his mother a virgin at the time of his birth? Whether or not there is enough surviving evidence to decide it, this is still a strictly scientific question.” Richard Dawkins

    My interpretation was that he figures you can do without that annoyingly absent physical evidence, since he’s been getting away with it for years, and science pretty much consists of what he says. He said it was “strictly a scientific question”, when it clearly isn’t for the three reasons I gave. You can’t deal with what is actually believed with science unless you smash a few rules of logic in the process.

    I’ve had new atheists claiming you could settle the matter with science and with probability. I want you guys to put up or admit that science can’t do it.

    It is a question that science can’t touch because there isn’t anything to do science with. There are thousands and thousands of questions that science can’t deal with, though other disciplines can. If scientists weren’t acculturated to be so arrogant about their field they’d know that.

  106. tomh

    John Kwok wrote: “If Jerry Coyne truly believes that PZ Myers has a “first-rate mind” as a scientist”…

    Let’s see, Kwok says Myers is “mediocre”, Coyne says he is “first rate”, who shall we believe? On one side is a top scientist, author of critically acclaimed books on biology, among other accomplishments. On the other is some random blog commenter, whose incessant, foolish comments have managed to get him banned on at least three different science blogs. Hmmm, tough call.

  107. John Kwok

    @ tomh –

    Others have pointed out that PZ Myers hasn’t published anything with regards to significant scientific research since 1998 or 1999. In that time, Coyne has written important papers on speciation and biodiversity in West African Drosophila (fruit flies), co-authored with his colleague, H. Allen Orr, an important treatise on speciation (published in 2004), and most recently, a book explaining the substantial evidence for evolution to the general public (“Why Evolution is True”). And then there is PZ’s own admission, when I challenged him – in private e-mail correspondence – to refrain from attacking religions and instead, spend his time more productively by trying to emulate his more illustrative colleague, distinguished University of Wisconsin, Madison evolutionary developmental biologist Sean B. Carroll and produce work of similar caliber in evolutionary developmental biology (which is PZ Myers’s expertise as a biologist). Myers wrote back, freely admitting that he’s no where nearly as good a scientist as Carroll. In other words, Myers admitted to me that he is a mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist.

    Coyne probably calls Myers “first rate” only in the context of their mutual advocacy on behalf of militant atheism. Now if Coyne really believed that Myers was, like Coyne, a “first rate” evolutionary biologist, then I am certain that Coyne would have invited Myers to apply for any suitable vacant professorships in the University of Chicago’s Department of Ecology and Evolution, which is regarded as among the very best of its kind in the world.

  108. tomh

    John Kwok wrote: “How come a Deist like myself, independently of a Theistic Evolutionist (Ken Miller), has looked carefully at the NCSE website and NOT SEEN any semblance of “accomodationism”?”

    This statement provides a fine example of why someone might write, “John Kwok has an hyperactive opinion of himself and his importance in the issues raised.” The idea that you could be a legitimate arbiter on the question at hand, merely proclaims the monumental size of your ego. There could be many reasons that you have NOT SEEN any semblance of “accomodationism”. For instance, you may have no idea what “accomodationism” means, or, you may be incapable of using the logic necessary to answer the question, or, you may have arrived at your conclusion before looking at the evidence. From your many and voluminous comments on various blogs, where you can still comment, of course, it’s obvious that all three suppositions are true.

  109. AM: I’ve had new atheists claiming you could settle the matter with science and with probability. I want you guys to put up or admit that science can’t do it.

    OK, then. Clearly, you will be satisfied with nothing less than “an experiment” demonstrating that one individual who may or may not have existed in history could not possibly, in any way whatsoever, have been born of a virgin. Without that, you want an admission that science can’t do it. And, by gaining that admission, you think you’ve actually accomplished something.

    Very well. Though I am not a scientist by profession, I think I can confidently answer that the enterprise of science will never satisfactorily disprove – by experiment or otherwise – the virgin birth, unicorns, dragons, resurrections, orbiting teapots, the purple lava lamp people from Pluto, the existence of god(s), leprechauns, ghosts, pixies, fairies, goblins, the galactic emperor Xenu, the Loch Ness Monster, the power of prayer or any other claim made by those who believe in these things.

    No matter how many criticisms are made, no matter how little evidence there is for these things, and no matter how much contradictory evidence exists, no “experiment” will ever disprove any of these things.

    Having admitted this, it does nothing to change the fact that the virgin birth is a scientific assertion; A truth-claim about how the world works, if only sometimes. As such, it is up to the claimant (in this case, theists) to submit evidence if they expect their claim to be taken seriously by anyone with a standard for truth higher than that demanded for astrology. It is a claim that the supernatural exists, and influences the natural world.

    But get this, Anthony, and understand it: If something has influence on the natural world, there must be natural evidence. Fingerprints, if you will. Period. Simply asserting it as truth, and pointing to some Bronze Age book of myths as evidence and/or theological musings about how it might be allegorical or metaphorical just doesn’t cut the mustard, my friend.

    AM: There are thousands and thousands of questions that science can’t deal with, though other disciplines can. If scientists weren’t acculturated to be so arrogant about their field they’d know that.

    If by “disciplines” you mean to imply theology, you are far worse off than I imagined. Theology, where it makes truth-claims about the world, has not produced one iota of physical evidence to back up its claims about miracles. Not one single molecule. Any theologian, when pressed to produce physical evidence, will eventually admit that the truth-claims of their particular religion are a matter of faith.

    If you know of an exception, I’d be happy to hear of it.

    You interpret scientists’ (and atheists’, and skeptics’) dismissal of theological assertions without evidence as “arrogance.” I submit that this attitude is prudent and wise.

    Even many atheists, including so-called new atheists, are not as demanding as you. You seem to want scientists and/or atheists to offer absolute proof that miraculous events cannot occur, with not even a remote possibility, before you will begin to be skeptical enough to challenge a theist on the question. Most atheists I know – myself included – would be interested in the presentation of any physical evidence that they do occur. Evidence that cannot be explained by mere chance or natural causes. But none is to be had, because no one seems to want to offer any.

    Clearly, we will not agree.

  110. – Having admitted this, it does nothing to change the fact that the virgin birth is a scientific assertion; A truth-claim about how the world works, if only sometimes.

    No, it specifically and exactly says that it happened miraculously, in a unique fashion and happened once in the history of the world. It clearly can’t be a scientific assertion because science deals with the normal order of the natural universe. Those who believe it specifically believe it never happened before the conception of Jesus, it never happened after that and it will never happen again.

    It is an event which is entirely outside of the subject matter of science.

    Why are you saying “so called new atheists” to me? I’m only following the practice of new atheists in calling themselves that.

    I’d actually have been satisfied if someone could come up with a methodology that couldn’t be debunked, knowing that even that was impossible. Why doesn’t Richard Dawkins?

  111. John Kwok

    @ tomh (@ 108) –

    Maybe the “hyperactive opinion” of one’s self is coming not from me, but instead, from those who are insisting most vehemently – that is, Militant Atheists like Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers – that science advocacy organizations like the National Center for Science Education and World Science Festival and professional scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science are following an “accomodationist” stance with religion, seeking to demonstrate that religion and science can – and therefore should – be compatible. Trust me, I didn’t ask Ken Miller whether he checked the relevant portions of NCSE’s website before I did. No secret e-mails, no secret phone calls were ever exchanged between us (Oh, but Ken, if you’re reading this, the latest secret from Dembski – code name “Josiah S. Carberry XXX” will be left at your office at 9 AM sharp. Just got the latest from a fellow Brunonian who is secretly working as a janitor at Dembski’s theological seminary. When you get it, send me an e-mail with the subject line “Rura Penthe”.).

    You’re no better than one of the delusional IDiots posting at Dembski’s Uncommon Dissent website. You demanded “proof” explaining why PZ Myers is a mediocre evolutionary biologist. I provided it, but instead of acknowledging it, you proceed to launch an ad hominem attack about my “hyperactive opinion”. Therefore I trust you’ll continue appreciating your membership in the Coyne/Myers Militant Atheist Borg Collective.

    For you resistance is futile. Your intellectually-challenged mind has been “absorbed” by Coyne and Myers’s inane thoughts on “accomodationism” and “compatibility”.

  112. John Kwok @102: Christianity does not depend on the reality of Christ’s Virgin Birth

    Unfortunately I disagree with them, wholeheartedly, and I imagine every element of conservative Catholicism does as well. It also doesn’t look good for them when one looks at the Nicene Creed, established at the first Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. It specifically mentions two miracles as defining Christian belief. The Virgin Birth and the Resurrection. These two miracles define the Christian faith, as they establish the Divinity of Jesus Christ. If these two miracles are nothing but metaphors one has no need to be a Christian, and Christianity is false as a religion. One could argue that it could serve as an ethical system, but that hardly makes it a valid religious institution.

    I’ve got to say, I think when it comes to this issue, the real appeasers are starting to look like Ken Miller and Guy Consolmagno as they’ve undercut the Catholic faith to appease the militant atheists.

  113. AM —

    I do believe I may have equivocated.

    Part of this is my fault. Both for perpetuating was is turning out to be a largely fruitless discussion, and for apparently not clearly defining one of the phrases I’ve been using.

    By “scientific claim” or “scientific assertion,” I’ve intended a meaning that may have contributed to this tug of war. I would’ve thought how I was defining this was clear: a truth-claim about how the world is (or was, at least once) that science might have something to say about. But I think you’ve been adhering to a more strictly literal meaning. By that I mean I think your understanding of a scientific claim is: a claim that science can, in fact, test at any time.

    From my perspective, a claim about a particular phenomenon – for example, a claim that lightning originates with Zeus – is a scientific claim in that in principle we can look for and find evidence that contradicts that claim. Maybe this application isn’t precisely correct, but I stand by the definition as a valid objection to supernatural truth claims.

    In the case of the virgin birth, the main evidence that (I think) stands against it is our own reproductive system. Virgin births just don’t happen, as a rule. That, and the fact that there is not a shred of evidence of anyone ever having reproduced by any other means at any time in human history, and not a shred of evidence for a divine agent, much less one interested in impregnating Middle Eastern virgins.

    AM: Those who believe it specifically believe it never happened before the conception of Jesus, it never happened after that and it will never happen again.

    Which is one reason why it deserves skepticism (and even summary dismissal) due to lack of evidence.

  114. John Kwok

    @ TomJoe –

    I honestly don’t know who is – and who isn’t – an “appeaser”, with regards to the “reality” of Christ’s “Virgin Birth” (I make this observation as someone who isn’t a Christian, but instead, a Deist who acknowledges that he did grow up within a Christian religious tradition.). But I was quite intrigued with both Ken Miller’s and Guy Consolmagno’s comments on this very issue, and, quite frankly, surprised to hear agreement between a “lay” Catholic (Miller) and a Jesuit brother (Consolmagno).

  115. tomh

    John Kwok wrote: “You demanded “proof” explaining why PZ Myers is a mediocre evolutionary biologist.”

    Wow, you really are in the slow reading group. Nowhere did I demand anything, let alone “proof” of anything.

    John Kwok wrote: “2) If Jerry Coyne is so concerned about the Templeton Foundation’s support of science education at the World Science Festival, then shouldn’t he be equally concerned with the fact that this foundation has provided the University of Chicago with tens of millions of dollars in financial support?”

    Maybe he is concerned, how would you know? Maybe he just doesn’t agree with the Templeton Foundation’s deceptive attempts to overlay religion on top of science. There are still some with integrity, (witness Dennett and Grayling who recently declined a sham interview funded by Templeton), though many may find it difficult to turn down the easy money available for those who would integrate religion with science. Of course, as a supernaturalist yourself, (your oft-repeated claims to Deism brands you as one), you no doubt agree with and are happy to promote Templeton’s goals.

  116. John Kwok

    @ tomh –

    You were certainly questioning my observation that PZ Myers is a “mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist”, and therefore, I am posting again, for your benefit, this slightly revised version:

    Others have pointed out that PZ Myers hasn’t published anything with regards to significant scientific research since 1998 or 1999, or has done any notable service on behalf of the scientific community aside from occasional peer reviews. However, in stark contrast to Myers, Coyne has written important papers on speciation and biodiversity in West African Drosophila (fruit flies), co-authored with his colleague, H. Allen Orr, an important treatise on speciation (published in 2004), and most recently, a book explaining the substantial evidence for evolution to the general public (”Why Evolution is True”). And then there is PZ’s own admission, when I challenged him – in private e-mail correspondence – to refrain from attacking religions and instead, spend his time more productively by trying to emulate his more illustrative colleague, distinguished University of Wisconsin, Madison evolutionary developmental biologist Sean B. Carroll and produce work of similar caliber in evolutionary developmental biology (which is PZ Myers’s expertise as a biologist). Myers wrote back, freely admitting that he’s no where nearly as good a scientist as Carroll. In other words, Myers admitted to me that he is a mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist.

    Coyne probably calls Myers “first rate” only in the context of their mutual advocacy on behalf of militant atheism. Now if Coyne really believed that Myers was, like Coyne, a “first rate” evolutionary biologist, then I am certain that Coyne would have invited Myers to apply for any suitable vacant professorships in the University of Chicago’s Department of Ecology and Evolution, which is regarded as among the very best of its kind in the world.

    As for Jerry Coyne’s “concern” about the Templeton Foundation’s funding tens of millions of dollars to his university, the University of Chicago, you would never know that from reading his blog. Instead, he has noted more than once – most recently in his blog entry praising Lawrence Krauss’s World Street Journal essay – how pleased he has been rejecting the World Science Festival’s invitation to participate in one of its events this year, BECAUSE the World Science Festival receives funding from the Templeton Foundation (Incidentally, the dollar amount I cited for the Templeton Foundation’s support of the University of Chicago came from someone who is a prominent scientist well-versed in the foundation’s funding activities. However, I will not disclose this scientist’s identity.). If Jerry Coyne is so “concerned” about the pernicious effects of the Templeton Foundation’s funding, then I hope he’s heeded my advice, and complained to noted mathematician Dr. Robert Zimmer, President of the University of Chicago. I suppose Zimmer would have to consider seriously Coyne’s objections, simply because of Coyne’s stature as one of the University of Chicago’s most prominent professors of biology (Or would he consider Coyne’s objection merely risible on their own merits? I’d really like to know, especially when Zimmer has had a lot of experience in faculty relations, beginning with senior administrative posts at the University of Chicago, and, from 2002 to 2006 as Provost, Brown University.).

  117. Steven Sullivan

    “No, it specifically and exactly says that it happened miraculously, in a unique fashion and happened once in the history of the world.”

    But Christianity isn’t the only religion. And other religions have their own stories of gods impregnating human women (with or without their consent). So the ‘uniqueness’ of virgin birth is just another tiresome bit of Christian special pleading for their own set of superstitions.

    And on a related note, Krauss is exactly right in pointing out the contradictions between the tenets that actually animate the various religions across history, as they have been practiced…as opposed to the austere Deism that the fulminators against ‘New Atheists’ like to put forth as their True Scotsman. We can be very sure that Deism is not behind the ‘Intelligent Design’ movement or its lineal ancestors, for example. Religions — including Brother Guy’s and Ken Miller’s — overwhelmingly propose ‘activist’ god(s). Consolmagno and Miller can downplay the literalness of ‘virgin’ birth as being some sort of allegory all they like , but 1) that’s certainly not what Catechism teaches 2) to call themselves Christians they still have to believe that a man — the son of God — literally was dead for three days, then rose again unharmed, then went straight up to ‘heaven’ without actually bothering to die again.

  118. John Kwok

    @ tomh –

    Incidentally, this is secret coded Brown University speak, which we Brown alumni use often:
    “Oh, but Ken, if you’re reading this, the latest secret from Dembski – code name ‘Josiah S. Carberry XXX’ will be left at your office at 9 AM sharp. Just got the latest from a fellow Brunonian who is secretly working as a janitor at Dembski’s theological seminary. When you get it, send me an e-mail with the subject line ‘Rura Penthe’.”

    I didn’t know whether your reading comprehension was sufficiently good enough to infer what I had written as secret coded Brown Univeristy speak, so I thought I’d let you know.

  119. Steven Sullivan

    Oh and btw, the stupid argument about North Korea (where they worship a crazy old Korean man named Kim) vs Iran (where they worship a crazy old supernatural man named Allah) being more gay friendly — how about we recast it this way:

    Would you feel safer as a homosexual in Iran or *Sweden* (arguably the least religious country in the world)

    http://www.gadling.com/2007/08/23/least-religious-countries/

  120. Michael Neville Says (#50),
    John Kwok is annoyed at PZ Myers because Kwok was banned at Myers’ blog, Pharyngula. The reason for the banning was quite simple, Kwok came across as a narcissist who couldn’t stop talking about the famous high school where he and his famous friends were famously taught by famous essayists and famous principals in a famously famous fashion.

    You are not exaggerating about John Kwok’s narcissism, Michael. Here is part of the introduction to his Amazon.com customer review of the book “The Devil in Dover”:

    Though in recent years Stuyvesant High School may be better known as the high school where best-selling memoirist Frank McCourt taught English and creative writing for nearly two decades, the school itself has a nearly century-old reputation as America’s foremost high school devoted to the sciences, mathematics and engineering; the prestigious alma mater of such distinguished alumni as the late Joshua Lederberg — one of the school’s four Nobel Prize laureate alumni — former president of Rockefeller University and a leading pioneer of molecular biology, mathematician and University of Chicago president Robert Zimmer, political pundit Dick Morris, molecular biologist Eric Lander, leader of one of the two teams which sequenced successfully the human genome, and physicists Brian Greene and Lisa Randall.
    http://www.amazon.com/review/R34EMOMZ746UTR/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1595582088&nodeID=#wasThisHelpful

    LOL. Stuyvesant High School, the “black hole” of magnet schools.

  121. Steven Sullivan, the question, which some new atheists, including Lawrence Krauss brought up and not me, was The Virgin Birth of Jesus. It wasn’t any other one, it was that one. Remember that, I didn’t choose the proposition for discussion the new atheists did.

    In logic, when you are dealing with a proposition, you deal with THE PROPOSITION AS IT IS PROPOSED, that proposition chosen by these new atheists is the Christian belief in The Virgin Birth of Jesus.

    That the new atheists, who find, once they have proposed that topic, find that they have been unwise enough to choose a belief that was defined by the writers of two gospels and those who believe those two accounts, in a way that puts it beyond the reach of science, have only shown the lack of insight and foresight among many new atheists, I’ll deal with that below. This inevitably leads them to find they are unhappy with their choice if they find their opponent is logical enough to be able to point that out to them and insist that they stick to their own, chosen proposition in the argument.

    The continually manifested habit of trying to change the proposition mid-argument, which I’ve never not found to be the recourse of the new atheist who finds themselves unable to press their point, doesn’t do anything but show that they want to twist the requirements of logic to suit their own ends, which is what they are continually accusing religious believers of doing.

    Then the new atheist begins asserting that the person they are arguing with is a Christian who is probably some species of biblical fundamentalist who is, no doubt, a creationist snake handler who deprives children of medical care, thus causing their early deaths. When you point out that you are not and fully accept evolution as deeply established and that you, yourself, don’t happen to believe in The Virgin Birth but do happen to believe in the rules of both logic and the requirements necessary to practice science, they really lose it.

    I will point out that, in having to think through this problem and the other favorite proposition the new atheists continually bring up, The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, this month, I’m pretty impressed that the writers of the gospels and the early Christians, generally considered as superstitious idiots by new atheists , for some reason came to have a far better understanding of the difference between believing in something and knowing something in a scientific sense, than many contemporary scientists and mathematicians, some of whom are, actually, otherwise quite sensible.

    Considering scientific methods hadn’t been formally developed and would have almost certainly been unknown to those simple folk, their insight is rather more impressive than that held by many well known scientists today.

  122. – AM: Those who believe it specifically believe it never happened before the conception of Jesus, it never happened after that and it will never happen again. AM

    Which is one reason why it deserves skepticism (and even summary dismissal) due to lack of evidence. JCS

    You can be as skeptical and dismissive as you want, just don’t pretend its on the basis of science. And its probably not a good idea to try arguing it on that basis. If someone wants to be rude about it, they shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t get the respect they think they deserve for their learning and erudition but the hostility of people they mock and belittle.

  123. John Kwok

    @ Larry-

    You don”t know the difference between real and phony narcissism, as your latest quote mining of me so ample demonstrates. I wasn’t writing about myself or noting how great a person I am since I graduated from Stuyvesant High School (Now if I did do this, then I would definitely be suffering from narcissism.). I was noting instead, a bit of the school’s history, including a few of its most notable alumni.

    As far back as 2006, noted ScienceBlogs blogger Ed Brayton knew you had a lot of problems:

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/05/good_ol_larry_fafarman_part_2.php159.

    Moreover, on Friday, Mel, over at Chris’s blog entry on Chris’s latest rebuttal to Jerry Coyne, noted this:

    Mel Says:
    June 26th, 2009 at 2:05 pm
    @John Kwok

    Ed Brayton picked up on it a while back. His post is here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2007/07/fafarman_loses_it_again.php

    W. Kevin Vicklund who gives more details on the case, which he got documents concerning, comments later. I have gathered that Vicklund may know Larry in real life, too.

    Also, if you search Ed’s blog, you will find the case of how Larry started impersonating his brother, Dave (whom he seems to hate for some reason, and indeed Larry’s antipathy toward evolution seems to stem from Dave being an NCSE member) before getting caught. Dave himself also commented on some of Larry’s problems. It is all rather informative. It all goes to another problem Larry has in being taken seriously: he has left too much of a trail of reasons why he should never be taken seriously, but instead pitied for his long fall into almost inhuman crankness.

    Yesterday, at Chris’s latest rebuttal to Jerry Coyne, Mel said this:

    170. Mel Says:
    June 27th, 2009 at 2:19 pm
    Larry, what do you know of decency? Anyone who has looked at your blog can easily see that you do not.

    171. Mel Says:
    June 27th, 2009 at 2:33 pm
    Or do you consider how you have repeatedly and vilely slandered Judge Jones, Eugenie Scott, Ed Brayton, Chris Comer, and so many others decent? What is decent about calling people “dunghill” for merely trying to present a rational argument? I am just trying to get you to realize that you could get treatment that would allow you to have a normal life again. I think there might just be a good person still in you somewhere who could actually contribute to discussions and society.

  124. That the new atheists … find that they have been unwise enough to choose a belief that was defined by the writers of two gospels … in a way that puts it beyond the reach of science

    And weirdly left out by the other two. (Not esp. relevant, just interesting – why did you specify that level of accuracy?)

    Look, Danaë wasn’t impregnated by Zeus in a shower of golden rain, the rainbow isn’t a magical bridge from Midgard to Asgard, the Sun isn’t pushed across the sky by a giant dung beetle. One can certainly view theses as metaphors – as Miller and Consolmagno seem to for the Virgin Birth, but otherwise . . . (and while the ancient Egyptian & Norse ones aren’t explicitly placed “beyond the reach of science” in this fashion, they would have been by modern times). Imagine there was a group that believed that the K-T extinction was a 1-time only miraculous event, God bursting through the boundaries of the natural world to punish the dinosaurs for their sinfulness. While not exactly parallel, this would also technically be ‘beyond the reach of science”. Yet at the same time we can practically, pragmatically say ‘er, no, that’s just silly!’ Did God make the sun and moon stand still in the sky at Joshua’s request during the battle of Gibeon? Technically this beyond the reach of science (indeed, ” “there was no day like that before it or after it”, although that actually refers to God taking requests). At the same time, we can say, practically, “er, no, that’s just silly” – a metaphor, perhaps, but not an actual event.

    Being pretty unsophisticated, I’m not sure of the very best name for the minimum practical thing that allow us to say this. I don’t think it’s just simple philosophical naturalism (though that does too), because I can’t see that it lets us rule out ‘God acted through natural events’-style explanations (ie, evolution is how God created). I dunno.

  125. Dan S. you’d have to take that up with the authors of the two other gospels, I can’t answer for them. Maybe they didn’t hear about it. But that’s not a question that science can deal with, is it.

    I haven’t addressed anything except the fallacious assertion that science had insights to offer on the question when it clearly can’t.

  126. Michael Neville

    Anthony McCarthy,

    The virgin birth is a cornerstone of Christianity. As pointed out above, it’s part of the Nicene Creed. God knocked up the Virgin Mary and nine months later Jesus was being adored by shepherds and magi. There’s even a song or two about it that I keep hearing every December.

    Miller and Consolmagno are apparently dismissing the virgin birth as metaphor. According to the Catholic Church (and both men are supposedly Catholics) this is heresy. Fortunately Miller and Consolmagno are living today instead of 16th Century Spain. They’d learn the truth of the old joke: “Give a man a fire and you keep him warm for a day, set a man on fire and you keep him warm for the rest of his life.”

    So what’s the evidence that Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ father? A 2000 year old mistranslated, heavily edited book? That’s not evidence. But you’re not claiming there’s actual evidence for the virgin birth. It’s a miracle, so science and rationality don’t apply. And folks like Mooney and you complain that atheists are being arrogant.

  127. John Kwok

    @ Michael Neville –

    If Jesuit brother Guy Consolmagno is practicing “heresy”, then shouldn’t he be stripped of his posts as both an astronomer and planetary scientist based at the Vatican Observatory (which is located near Tucson, AZ) and the Vatican Meteorite Collection? I heard him say that there is ample debate and discussion, even within the Roman Catholic Church, on whether Christ’s virgin birth should be taken literally or rather, as mere religious metaphor that was concocted to stress the importance of Christ’s teachings and to imply his close association with the Divine (GOD).

    Again, as Ken Miller has noted – but without using the biological term “parthenogenesis” – virgin birth can be found frequently within the vertebrates, but not the Mammalia. So, depending on one’s perspective, it can be considered both as the subject of rational scientific inquiry and as a supernatural, religious phenomenom.

  128. Michael Neville

    Don’t argue with me about Consolmagno and Miller’s apparent heresy, Kwok. I’m not the one who makes up the rules for a sect that neither you nor I belong to. The Nicene Creed, which is something that most Christians (and all Catholics) are supposed to adhere to talks about the virgin birth. But as far as I’m concerned, it really doesn’t matter. Many parts of Christianity, ranging from Zombie Jesus to the preoccupation with sex, either don’t make sense or are self-serving.

  129. John Kwok

    @ Neville –

    You obviously can’t stomach the prospect that thoughtful, quite rational, Roman Catholic Christians like Miller and Consolmagno can dispute major supernatural aspects of the New Testament, and still accept Christ’s religious thought. Let me go further. What I heard from them – in conversation with philosopher Colin McGinn, physicist Lawrence Krauss and television journalist Bill Blakemore (who was the moderator) – in the short span of ninety plus minutes two Saturdays ago is certainly far more profound and rational than any of yours – or other Militant Atheists – online postings replete in their breathtaking inanity. BTW Krauss was able to get his points across that 1) WSF shouldn’t be holding a session devoted to science, faith and religion (A view, incidentally, that even I, as a Deist, am sympathetic to) and 2) the Templeton Foundation shouldn’t be funding WSF – but unlike his friend Jerry Coyne, Krauss did so in a dignified, often humorous, manner (For example in his critique of having this panel discussion, he opined that maybe WSF should have a session on science and pornography, which, to my surprise and delight, our mutual friend Ken Miller seconded enthusiastically.).

  130. – The virgin birth is a cornerstone of Christianity. Michael Neville.

    So? Although, you might not know but there is a segment of Christianity which believes in what some have called an “adoptionist” Christology.

    You obviously think that your mocking of it is going to bother me, though I’m sure any Christians who are reading this have heard it often enough so as to hardly noticed, themselves.

  131. So? Although, you might not know but there is a segment of Christianity which believes in what some have called an “adoptionist” Christology..
    Huh. Hadn’t heard of that (looks online). Interesting. Apparently it may have been an extremely early view. Sounds very Roman. Kept getting declared heretical. Is there any significant belief in this today?

    I haven’t addressed anything except the fallacious assertion that science had insights to offer on the question when it clearly can’t.

    Science can’t disprove it. At the same time, I think skepticism/rationalism/enlightment-style thinkin’ and related worldviews can lead us to look at that and say, y’know, I just don’t think so.’ And this certainly isn’t simply some “New Atheist” thing – remember, Thomas Jefferson literally went through the Bible with scissors, cutting and pasting so as to remove the miraculous bits! (Which isn’t to say that every aspect of Jefferson’s thought is to be emulated, obviously).

  132. IMO some important points have been ignored in the controversy over the compatibility of evolution and religion.

    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?

    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, on the basis of Scripture alone, a literal interpretation of the creation story makes much more sense than a literal interpretation of the gospel.

    Here is an example of illogic, ambiguity, and unintelligibility in the gospel (John 19:10-12, American King James Version) —

    Then said Pilate to him, Speak you not to me? know you not that I have power to crucify you, and have power to release you?
    Jesus answered, You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above: therefore he that delivered me to you has the greater sin.
    And from thereafter Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If you let this man go, you are not Caesar’s friend: whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.

    The above passage is illogical and ambiguous if not unintelligible. Who was it that “delivered me to you” — Judas Iscariot? Caiaphas the high priest? King Herod? As for “the greater sin,” what sins and whose sins is Jesus talking about? What are reasonable interpretations of Jesus’s statement, if it can be interpreted at all? And the statement is certainly ambiguous, as there must be more than one possible interpretation. And how did Jesus’s statement persuade Pilate to seek his release?

  133. Dan S. Then why do you folks get into such a tizzy when someone points out that it’s a fallacy when someone, especially the Oxford Chair For the Public Understanding of Science says that it’s ” a strictly scientific question” ?

    Why does someone trying to uphold the practice and culture of science against that kind of an illogical and false assertion made by someone with a reputation in science, bug the heck out of you true-believers in science? Maybe because you’re not really that interested in its integrity?

  134. Rilke's granddaughter

    Larry, you misstated something in your post. You said,

    “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.”

    There is no evidence against the theory of evolution, none whatsoever. There is also no evidence for a young earth. None whatsoever.

    You are free to provide such evidence if you believe you have it, but to make these errors and unsupported claims is not rational.

  135. Susan

    If Christians practiced Christianity as described in the gospels, the world would be a better place. Unfortunately, Bush et al. didn’t get the memo. I’ve heard militant evangelists claim that only Paul is legitimate – a true woman hater, among other things. What Jesus is said to have said goes by the board in defending acquisitiveness, militarism, and hate.

  136. Rilke's granddaughter

    Nietzsche once remarked that there was only ONE Christian – and they nailed him to a tree. I’d agree, given the tenor of some the remarks made about Christianity.

  137. Rilke's granddaughter

    @John Kwok, who said,

    “You obviously can’t stomach the prospect that thoughtful, quite rational, Roman Catholic Christians like Miller and Consolmagno can dispute major supernatural aspects of the New Testament, and still accept Christ’s religious thought.”

    It doesn’t matter whether they’re thoughtful or rational. For them AS CATHOLICS to dispute the Virgin Birth is HERESY. Pure and simple. No debates. No discussion.

    Now, if they’d rather not identify themselves as Catholics, then obviously it’s a whole new ball-game. But as Catholics, their speculations are heresy – for which they are, according to their own tenets, damned.

  138. John Kwok

    @ Rilke’s granddaughter –

    Dr. Guy Consolmagno is a highly respected planetary scientist and astronomer who works primarily out of the Vatican Observatory (which is located outside of Tucson, AZ). He is also curator of the Vatican Meteorite Collection in Italy. He is also a Jesuit brother, and has been one for approximately twenty years. I have no doubt that if his beliefs were deemed as “heresy”, then appropriate action would have been taking, up to and including having him expelled from the Jesuits.

    As for Ken Miller, I’ll be sure to tell him that you consider him a heretic the next time I e-mail him (Don ‘t know what’s worse: being called a heretic by you or a creationist by both Coyne, and especially, Myers.). And no, RG, I’m not merely name-dropping, Ken Miller IS a friend who has done much to serve as my public role model in engaging with creationists.

  139. Rilke's granddaughter

    John, you’re ALWAYS name-dropping. But that’s not my point. In fact, you’ve carefully avoided responding to my point.

    The doctrine of the Catholic Church specifies a Virgin Birth. If your personal idol Miller questions that, then in the eyes of his own particular brand of Christianity, he’s a heretic.

    Perhaps you should learn to deal with unpleasant facts like this.

  140. Here are some specific criticisms of Krauss’s Wall Street Journal article:

    The article quotes the following from J.B.S. Haldane’s “Fact and Faith” (1934): “. . .when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course . . . .” Haldane is speaking here of an experiment that he has set up and presumably will observe, and is not speaking about unobserved or unverifiable events of the past.

    Krauss’s article says,
    . . . .there was no panel on science and astrology, or science and witchcraft. So why one on science and religion?

    IMO the reason why there were no panels on astrology and witchcraft is that astrology and witchcraft do not challenge specific scientific principles or theories. For example, if there were a scientific principle or theory that states that the motions of celestial bodies cannot affect the future, then astrology would be a challenge to that principle or theory, but there is no such scientific principle or theory. Astrology and witchcraft challenge the general scientific idea that the supernatural is non-existent, but since science cannot prove that idea, astrology and witchcraft are not seen as things that challenge things that can be proven by science.

    Krauss’s article says,
    Coincidentally, I have appeared numerous times alongside Ken Miller to defend evolutionary biology from the efforts of those on various state school boards who view evolution as the poster child for “science as the enemy.” These fundamentalists are unwilling to risk the possibility that science might undermine their faith, and so they work to shield children from this knowledge at all costs.

    The fundies’ faith in the inerrancy of the bible should have already been undermined by the bible’s erroneous teaching of geocentrism. As I said, IMO the main reason for the fundies’ anti-Darwinism is not a belief in the inerrancy of the bible but is failure to persuade them that the scientific arguments for Darwinism are even plausible.

  141. John Kwok

    @ Rilke’s granddaughter –

    For the last time, let me remind you that Ken isn’t my personal idol (For goodness sake, he’s an old friend, and I am still proud to have been among the very few who assisted him at his first debate against a creationist, which was held at Brown University years ago.) nor is he my “favorite scientist”.

    I’ve answered your question by noting that a Jesuit brother, Dr. Guy Consolmagno, a planetary scientist and astronomer at the Vatican Observatory and the curator of the Vatican Meteorite Collection, believes that the “Virgin Birth” should be seen more in the context as a religious metaphor which emphasized the special – in this case Divine – qualities of Christ as a person and as a very compelling religious prophet. Perhaps you ought to take this up with your local Catholic archbishop or cardinal, but Consolmagno observed that, even within the official church, there is a wide variety of opinions with respect to the “reality” of the “Virgin Birth”.

  142. Mel

    @Rilke’s granddaughter

    You can ask Larry for evidence, but be mindful that he will never present you with any. The man is ignorant of science, and adamantly refuses to even bother reading any paper’s presented to him that would show him how wrong his “ideas” are. You will be holding your breath until the sun goes nova if you expect him to present you with any evidence, or coherent arguments, for that matter. You can go and look at his blog for evidence of that (joke intended).

  143. Rilke’s granddaughter Says (#134) —
    –Larry, you misstated something in your post. —

    Does that mean that you think I did not misstate the other things I said?

    –There is no evidence against the theory of evolution, none whatsoever. —

    Wrong — evolution theory has more holes than Swiss cheese.

    –There is also no evidence for a young earth. —

    I didn’t say anything about evidence for a young earth — I only said that there is lots of evidence for an old earth. As for evidence for a young earth, I have heard about flood geology and radioactive dating, but I don’t know enough about them to comment on them.

    –You are free to provide such evidence if you believe you have it–

    Lots of books and articles have been written about evidence against evolution theory. My favorite area of such evidence is coevolution — this evidence is summarized on my blog at —
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2009/01/summary-of-thoughts-about-co-evolution.html

    Rilke’s granddaughter Says (#137),
    –It doesn’t matter whether they’re thoughtful or rational. For them AS CATHOLICS to dispute the Virgin Birth is HERESY. Pure and simple. No debates. No discussion. —

    RG, you are really arbitrary and inconsistent — the scientific evidence against the Virgin Birth is at least as great as the scientific evidence against creationism. For example, Jesus, as a male, needed a Y chromosome, but a female capable of reproduction has no Y chromosomes.

  144. Mel Says,
    –You will be holding your breath until the sun goes nova if you expect him to present you with any evidence, or coherent arguments, for that matter.–

    My blog’s articles about coevolution have plenty of evidence and coherent arguments.

    You are just a big bag of hot air, Mel.

  145. John Kwok

    @ Larry –

    Here’s one point that Mel and I are in agreement:

    You are just a big bag of hot air, Larry.

    We are also in agreement on a second point:

    As Larry and I have documented here at the Intersection, you are in dire need of mental health counseling. Please get it ASAP.

  146. John Kwok

    @ Larry –

    PS: I meant to say this:

    As Mel and I have documented here at the Intersection, you are in dire need of mental health counseling. Please get it ASAP.

  147. Mel

    Yeah, well, Larry, people are free to look at your blog and form their own opinion. Frankly, though, you should worry about that. Your blog is a chronicle of your failing mental health and lack of coherence. And as has been established repeatedly, your “ideas” about co-evolution are ridiculous and betray a complete lack of familiarity with several decades of research on the topic. Hence the group of grad students laughing hysterically last week when I read them some of your “ideas” about coevolution.

  148. Don’t feed the trolls.

  149. Mel

    Seriously, people should go to Larry’s blog. It is the best indictment of him available, as well as being proof positive that he needs serious help. Besides, it is friggin hilarious.

    And Larry, with the troll line being your usual white flag, I accept your surrender. It is very big of you.

  150. Rilke's Granddaughter

    John, i’ve no desire to get in the way of your puppy-love hero-worship of Miller..
    It seems pretty much identical to Sal Cordova’s “man-crush” on Dembski.

    But according to the very church to which Miller belongs, Miller is espousing heresy. Grow up – move beyond your high school (nobody cares, sweetie), and deal with the actual logic of Miller’s position.

  151. @ AM (#130):

    So? Although, you might not know but there is a segment of Christianity which believes in what some have called an “adoptionist” Christology.

    Which adds yet another flavor of religion which says something almost, but not quite, like what its progenitor faith(s) said. Or worse, something completely different but with the same name.

    I’ve complained before about the ever-shifting goal posts theists present when challenged. This is one example of that kind of thing, and essentially renders religion – especially postmodern forms of religion – nearly unanswerable.

    It’s like trying to bail water out of a boat with chopsticks. Yeah, the wood will get wet, but you’ll still wind up having to swim to shore.

  152. John Kwok

    @ Rilke’s Granddaughter –

    Sorry RG, I could never succumb to a “puppy-love hero-worship” of Ken because he never graduated from my prominent New York City high school. How’s that for dispelling a myth, and, moreover, in the past week, I met a graduating senior who may one day be known as the Ivy League version of Randy Johnson. But seriously, RG, I know of no one I have admired, especially scientists, who deserve such adulation from me nor any of their other “admirers”.

    So if Ken Miller is a heretic, then how about Jesuit brother – and noted Vatican astronomer and planetary scientist – Guy Consolmagno. You better warn Pope Benedict that the curator of the Vatican Meteorite Collection is a heretic (Oh wait, I have a better idea. Write to novelist Dan Brown and suggest that he creates fictional characters based on Ken Miller and Guy Consolmagno for his next “Da Vinci Code” sequel. I wonder who would play Ken Miller in Ron Howard’s screen adaptation…..).

  153. John Kwok

    @ Rilke’s Granddaughter and other, equally delusional PZ Myers Borg drones –

    I have friends and acquaintances who are quite well known and respected for what they have accomplished in their respective fields. Not once have I even though of any kind of adulation of the kind I have seen repeatedly from PZ Myers’s often zealous – and intellectually-challenged – acolytes posting online.

    If I really have a “puppy-love hero-worship” complex, then how do you think I can carry normal conversations with distinguished Columbia University professors, distinguished Brown University professors and notable musicians, to name but a few? Instead, I find it hilarious that I have seen
    “puppy-love hero-worship” of a mediocre (by his own self admission) evolutionary developmental biologist who is much better known for being a bizarre agent provocateur of Militant Atheism than for any significant research that he has done – which is absolutely zero – in his chosen field of evolutionary developmental biology.

  154. JCS 151, I didn’t make any debating point by mentioning, in passing, adoptionist Christology, I was just pointing out that Michael Neville that there had been Christians who didn’t depend on the story of the Virgin Birth.

    I think you’re getting panicked because of something I’ve said.

  155. Steven Sullivan

    McCarthy,

    You claim that Christians say the virgin birth was a unique event. Yet other religions report virgin births via *their* gods. So either the Christians are wrong, the other religions are wrong, or, as science would suggest from the physical improbability of such an event occurring (one does have to wonder where Jesus’ Y chromosome would come from, if not human sperm), they’re both wrong and no virgin human birth ever occurred in the pretechnological age.

    Why privilege the Christian tale over the other religions’ stories? Really, the larger question is, why *your* particular favorite god over the thousands of others proposed over the centuries? And thus to: why *any* of them?

    The argument that Haldane was only talking about observable things is nonsense. Bertrand Russell dealt with the sort of argument you and others are making, like so:

    “If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”

    ‘ Virgin Birth’ is nothing more or less than a species of invisible orbiting teapot, and in an age long past the inquisition, we rightly dismiss it as nonsense.

    What do you believe about the miracle stories of *other* religions, Mr. McCarthy?

  156. @ AM (#154):

    I think you’re getting panicked because of something I’ve said.

    If it pleases you to think so, by all means be my guest. I wasn’t addressing that as a debating point. I was using what you wrote as an example of exactly the kind of goal-post shifting employed by moderate (and some fundamentalist) defenders of religion. What I didn’t do is call this method by its rightful name: Obfuscation.

    Yes, it can be quite aggravating, but a cause for panic? On a blog? Sorry, no.

  157. Rilke's Granddaughter

    John, you’re still not applying logic. More importantly, YOU’RE NOT READING WHAT’S BEING POSTED. Here, let me help you. Once we move beyond this all-male passion you’re exhibiting, we can discuss the actual substance of this thread.

    “Sorry RG, I could never succumb to a “puppy-love hero-worship” of Ken because he never graduated from my prominent New York City high school.”

    Since I never claimed that he did or that it had any relevance as to whether or not you COULD succumb to such a crush, this is a completely meaningless remark.

    ” How’s that for dispelling a myth, and, moreover, in the past week, I met a graduating senior who may one day be known as the Ivy League version of Randy Johnson.”

    Since I never stated any such myth, you couldn’t dispel it. Again you make a remark based on things I’ve never claimed. Why spend so much time arguing with the voices in your head, John? Why not respond to the actual substance of posts.

    “But seriously, RG, I know of no one I have admired, especially scientists, who deserve such adulation from me nor any of their other “admirers”.”

    Your grammar here is so bad I can’t even tell what you’re trying to say. If you’re saying that Miller is deserving of your admiration, then fine. Sal feels the same way about Dembski. Lots of guys get crushes on each other. It’s no big deal. If you’re saying that no one deserves such adulation – well, that still doesn’t explain WHY you continue to display such adulation. Deal with what’s written, John – not what you’d like to respond to. Creationists, fundies, and the mentally ill like poor Larry do that.

    “So if Ken Miller is a heretic, then how about Jesuit brother – and noted Vatican astronomer and planetary scientist – Guy Consolmagno.”

    Well yes. By the logic of the Catholic Church, he is. Apparently you don’t know anything about Catholic doctrine. Best to brush up on that, John.

    “You better warn Pope Benedict that the curator of the Vatican Meteorite Collection is a heretic”

    Why? I don’t particularly care if the Catholics bash or don’t bash each other for heretical thoughts. I am pointing out to YOU the logical consequences of Miller’s position. You don’t seem to be able to deal with this, either because you’re ignorant of Catholic doctrine or because you don’t read. I don’t know which it is.

    “(Oh wait, I have a better idea. Write to novelist Dan Brown and suggest that he creates fictional characters based on Ken Miller and Guy Consolmagno for his next “Da Vinci Code” sequel. I wonder who would play Ken Miller in Ron Howard’s screen adaptation…..).”

    More irrelevant dribble from you. Are you here to actually have a discussion or not?

    By the way – your sense of humor is lousy. Just thought you should know.

  158. Rilke's Granddaughter

    Oh, boy! More irrelevancies from John Kwok.

    “I have friends and acquaintances who are quite well known and respected for what they have accomplished in their respective fields. Not once have I even though of any kind of adulation of the kind I have seen repeatedly from PZ Myers’s often zealous – and intellectually-challenged – acolytes posting online.”

    Why is this relevant? I’m not talking about Myers. I wasn’t the one who brought Myers into this thread. Just because you can’t forgive Myers for booting your butt from Pharyngula for being a general pain in the ass doesn’t mean should drag your poor little hurt feelings into a serious discussion. Adults get over this kind of thing, John. You behaved like an idiot and he banned you. He even warned you to knock it off in advance, and you behaved like an idiot anyway. Silly boy.

    “If I really have a “puppy-love hero-worship” complex, then how do you think I can carry normal conversations with distinguished Columbia University professors, distinguished Brown University professors and notable musicians, to name but a few?”

    Why is it relevant? Lots of folks can. Your puppy-love obsession or complex or whatever doesn’t prevent you from having a normal conversation with anyone. Your inability to read what’s written to you and respond to it might. I don’t know. I’ve yet to see you carry on a ‘normal’ conversation.

    “Instead, I find it hilarious that I have seen “puppy-love hero-worship” of a mediocre (by his own self admission) evolutionary developmental biologist who is much better known for being a bizarre agent provocateur of Militant Atheism than for any significant research that he has done – which is absolutely zero – in his chosen field of evolutionary developmental biology.”

    Again, why is this relevant? Myers isn’t posting here. Myers isn’t relevant to this thread. But you just can’t let go. You made idiot threats, failed to act reasonably when given the chance, and just behaved like a ninny.

    Your behavior on Abbie’s blog was far creepier – but again, who gives a damn? It’s not relevant to this thread topic. Your obsessing about these things puts you in the same category as Larry – who also can’t seem to let things go.

    Let it go, John. Grow up. Myers is vastly more interesting and popular than you are, and always will be. Get your own life.

  159. Rilke's Granddaughter

    My goodness. Larry’s blog is very… bizarre. I’m sorry for him.

  160. RG said (#159),
    –Larry’s blog is very… bizarre.–

    Yes, my great originality and persuasiveness are bizarre. For example, the following summary of my thoughts about coevolution has virtually no discussion attached because my arguments are so airtight that no one could find fault with them —
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2009/01/summary-of-thoughts-about-co-evolution.html

    John Kwok said (#153),
    –If I really have a “puppy-love hero-worship” complex, then how do you think I can carry normal conversations with distinguished Columbia University professors, distinguished Brown University professors and notable musicians, to name but a few? —

    John, you are a snob, a name-dropper, and a narcissist.

  161. @ Larry (#160):

    …the following summary of my thoughts about coevolution has virtually no discussion attached because my arguments are so airtight that no one could find fault with them…

    LOL! Thanks for the chuckle, Larry.

  162. Rilke's Granddaughter

    Larry, your thoughts on coevolution appear to be an unformed mass of assertions based solely in ignorance. No one has commented because no one CARES Larry. I’m sorry, but your opinions on the subject are irrelevant to real science.

  163. John Kwok

    @ Rilke’s granddaughter –

    Why don’t you grow up? I seem to recall Abbie didn’t want to talk about it, and nor do I. End of discussion, period. Instead you seem capable only of launching an ad hominem attack upon me since you can’t respond to my observations regarding Ken Miller’s and Guy Consolmagno’s “enlightened” views of what is valid Roman Catholic Christianity. Which is exactly what I expect from a typically delusional Coyne/Myers Militant Atheist Borg drone like yourself (BTW, one of your fellow compatriots, one SLC, has mentioned more than once that he regards not only Abbie Smith, but Sheril Kirshenbaum, as “hot”, as though these were the only defining worthy traits of both women. Now don’t you think it is “creepy” that you find yourself agreeing with a former physicist with a Ph. D. degree who happens to be suffering from a severe case of male chauvinism and, most likely, some kind of feminine sexual fantasy too?).

    If posting here – or elsewhere online – was meant as a means of becoming “popular”, then don’t you think I’d admit that I’m a “godless liberal”? Instead, I’m not only a Deist, but a registered Republican with very strong libertarian leanings.

    Again, if you have potential problems with both Ken Miller and Guy Consolmagno as “heretics”, then please contact your local Roman Catholic Christian leadership. I have other, better, and more important, things to ponder than your incessantly inane whining and moaning on behalf of a mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist who is better known for being the bizarre agent provocateur of militant atheism than as a truly credible scientist who really does have a “first-rate mind” (which, if Coyne really believed this, he would have moved with utmost alacrity to ensure that Myers would be his colleague at one of the world’s great evolutionary biology departments, the University of Chicago’s Department of Ecology and Evolution).

  164. Instead you seem capable only of launching an ad hominem attack upon me since you can’t respond to my observations regarding Ken Miller’s and Guy Consolmagno’s “enlightened” views of what is valid Roman Catholic Christianity.

    I wouldn’t call their POV of Catholicism “enlightened”. Rather, I think it throws the baby out with the bath water. As for calling the “leadership”, whats the point? If their POV is correct, and it’s just a metaphor, Catholicism is dead and it’s technically not heresy anyways.

  165. Myers is vastly more interesting and popular than you are, and always will be.

    When I got out of high school I thought I moved beyond popularity contests. Guess I was wrong.

  166. John Kwok

    @ TomJoe –

    I still stand by my “enlightened” comment simply because Jesuit brother – and Vatican Observatory astronomer and planetary scientist – Guy Conselmagno himself said that there are substantial differing views within the Roman Catholic Church as to whether the “Virgin Birth” and other miracles should be taken literally or as spiritual metaphors meant to emphasize the importance of Christ’s teachings.

    Like her fellow Myers acolytes, Rilke’s granddaughter seems to exhibit the “puppy-love hero-worship” of their favorite mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist. A distinction that is lost on her, especially since she believes that is exactly how I feel towards my friend Ken Miller. LOL! Not even in my dreams…..

  167. Rilke's Granddaughter

    John, you seem to be getting a bit perturbed. You need to calm down, child.

    “Why don’t you grow up? I seem to recall Abbie didn’t want to talk about it, and nor do I. End of discussion, period.”

    It’s part and parcel of your inability to post to the point; it’s the root of your problem. As I recall, I wasn’t the first to bring Abbie into this thread, either.

    “Instead you seem capable only of launching an ad hominem attack upon me since you can’t respond to my observations regarding Ken Miller’s and Guy Consolmagno’s “enlightened” views of what is valid Roman Catholic Christianity.”

    John, I really didn’t think you were THAT stupid. Do you even know what an ad-hominem argument is? Apparently not, since you find it where it’s not.

    I realize you’re challenged a bit by all this discussion and keeping to the point, so I’ll help you.

    An ad-hominem argument goes like this:

    John Kwok is a narcissistic stalker, therefore nothing he says about Kevin Miller should be trusted.

    Got that? An ad-hom is me pointing out something stupidly irrelevant about you, and claiming ON THAT BASIS that your arguments are crap.

    I haven’t done that. I’ve pointed out that your argument is crap on its merits.

    Do try to keep up, John. You’re trying to hold a discussion with adults.

  168. Rilke's Granddaughter

    Let’s see, what else did John comment on….

    “Again, if you have potential problems with both Ken Miller and Guy Consolmagno as “heretics”, then please contact your local Roman Catholic Christian leadership.

    Again, you seem incapable of reading what I’m writing. I have no problems with either Miller or Consolmagno. Their religious opinions don’t matter to be (why they matter to you is another odd question). I don’t care what they believe. I merely point out a chain of logic THAT YOU REFUSE TO ACCEPT. I can only attribute this to your fundamental ignorance of Catholic doctrine. According to the lights of the religion to which they both profess adherence, they are heretics. Simple logic, John. Why can’t you deal with what I write, rather than what you think I write?

    ” I have other, better, and more important, things to ponder than your incessantly inane whining and moaning on behalf of a mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist who is better known for being the bizarre agent provocateur of militant atheism than as a truly credible scientist who really does have a “first-rate mind” (which, if Coyne really believed this, he would have moved with utmost alacrity to ensure that Myers would be his colleague at one of the world’s great evolutionary biology departments, the University of Chicago’s Department of Ecology and Evolution).”

    Amusing. You’ve repeated this several times – to no point whatsoever, since this isn’t about Myers. And you’re the one who keeps bashing him.

    Feel free, I don’t really care, John. Myers is interesting as an atheist and as a writer – he at least varies his vocabulary, grammar, and content. You don’t.

  169. Rilke's Granddaughter

    John Kwok said,

    “Which is exactly what I expect from a typically delusional Coyne/Myers Militant Atheist Borg drone like yourself”

    Meaningless dribble, John. I’ve never said that I agreed or disagreed with Coyne (what the heck is he doing in this post anyway? Why is he relevant?) or Myers about anything particularly.

    That’s what’s so funny, John. You’re not talking to me – you’re apparently talking to voices in your head. That needs medical help, John.

    “(BTW, one of your fellow compatriots, one SLC, has mentioned more than once that he regards not only Abbie Smith, but Sheril Kirshenbaum, as “hot”, as though these were the only defining worthy traits of both women. Now don’t you think it is “creepy” that you find yourself agreeing with a former physicist with a Ph. D. degree who happens to be suffering from a severe case of male chauvinism and, most likely, some kind of feminine sexual fantasy too?).”

    What on earth are you talking about? I’ve never claimed Sheril or Abbie was “hot”. I don’t care whether SLC said so or not. It’s irrelevant. You agree with folks like Ron Paul, Dick Cheney, and others – should I consider you crazy because of that?

    John, your posts are getting odder and odder and less and less dealing with what people are saying. Focus, John. Keep focused.

    Logic, John. Ur doin’ it wrong.

  170. John Kwok

    @ Rilke’s granddaughter –

    Sorry, but I don’t have time to respond to such inane verbal diarrhea as your most recent posts clearly demonstrate. For someone who claims to be a logical atheist, you have much more in common with irrational Fundamentalist Xians then you would care to admit.

    But let me make this observation about your most recent comment. Too often you tend to agree with SLC, especially when it pertains to me. Now do you really want to find yourself in agreement with someone who is such a staunch male chauvinist pig and, apparently, suffers from some kind of feminine sexual fantasy disorder since he believes that the most important criterion for judging whether a woman is worthy of attention or not because that woman is “hot” (An assessment that I, as a man, consider not merely risible, but quite demeaning and degrading to women, period.). You really have chosen for yourself, a most peculiar bedfellow in SLC, if you think his all too frequent ad hominem attacks upon me are worthy of praise.

    Let me turn to your risible assessment of who is – and who isn’t – a heretic according to Roman Catholic Christian religious tradition. I have pointed out more than once, that Vatican Observator astronomer and planetary scientist Guy Consolmagno – who joined the Jesuits back in 1989 and is still a brother – said that there’s a divergent range of views in the church. Comprendez?

  171. John Kwok

    @ Rilke’s granddaughter –

    If my previous comments weren’t clear to you with regards to heretics in the Roman Catholic Church, let me state them again. Consolmagno said that there is ample debate within the church hierarchy as to whether or not all of the miracles associated with Christ should be accepted as literal manifestions of his Divine nature or rather, more likely, as metaphor.

    I think it is rather odd that you, an atheist, would be far more concerned about heretical views in the Roman Catholic Church than a mere Deist such as myself.

  172. Rilke's Granddaughter

    John, once again – as indeed in virtually every post you write, you neither reading what I wrote nor responding to it. The reason I keep replying is that you keep saying things which are FALSE. They are, in fact, LIES.

    You shouldn’t lie, John. That’s bearing false witness, which is a sin.

    Let’s take your recent missives, shall we?

    1. “Sorry, but I don’t have time to respond to such inane verbal diarrhea as your most recent posts clearly demonstrate.”

    And yet you replied anyway. Kinda silly to claim you didn’t do something you just did, isn’t it, John?

    2. “For someone who claims to be a logical atheist,”

    Since I’ve never once claimed to be a logical atheist, you are simply LYING. Naughty, John.

    3. “you have much more in common with irrational Fundamentalist Xians then you would care to admit.”

    How so? You’ve provided neither evidence nor argument to support this claim.

    4. “But let me make this observation about your most recent comment.”

    Once again contradicting your claim that you’ve no time to respond to me. Got it, John. You don’t do what you say you will. Noted.

    5. ” Too often you tend to agree with SLC, especially when it pertains to me.”

    Again, a lie. I’ve agreed with SLC once or twice. Otherwise, I don’t tend to agree with SLC at all. But you somehow IMAGINE that I do. This is not rational on your part, John.

    6. “Now do you really want to find yourself in agreement with someone who is such a staunch male chauvinist pig”

    Unfortunately for you, this is a lie. You’ve no evidence for this whatsoever.

    7. “and, apparently, suffers from some kind of feminine sexual fantasy disorder since he believes that the most important criterion for judging whether a woman is worthy of attention or not because that woman is “hot””

    Another lie. SLC doesn’t believe that the most important criterion for judging women is their hotness. John, why do you continue to make up things that are factually false? Things you can’t prove or even support? Don’t you see how this makes much of what you say suspect? Everything you say has to be cross-checked, because we can no longer rely on your veracity. That’s a bad reputation to get online, and unfortunately, you’ve got it.

    8. “(An assessment that I, as a man, consider not merely risible, but quite demeaning and degrading to women, period.).”

    Says Abbie’s stalker. Geez.

    9. “You really have chosen for yourself, a most peculiar bedfellow in SLC,”

    He’s not my bedfellow. Another false statement.

    10. “if you think his all too frequent ad hominem attacks upon me are worthy of praise.”

    He doesn’t make ad-hom attacks on you, John. Nobody does. What people do point out is that some of your arguments lack logic and supporting evidence. Many people also find your behavior sufficiently risible that they ban you from their blogs. You seem to resent that, and around the circle goes.

    But John, you really need to learn what an ad-hom argument is. You can’t even provide any evidence that anyone uses them against you (well, except maybe Larry, but Larry is a bit odd himself).

    11. “Let me turn to your risible assessment of who is – and who isn’t – a heretic according to Roman Catholic Christian religious tradition. I have pointed out more than once, that Vatican Observator astronomer and planetary scientist Guy Consolmagno – who joined the Jesuits back in 1989 and is still a brother – said that there’s a divergent range of views in the church. Comprendez?”

    Sure; the heretic says that there are different views. The Catholic Catechism and the Catholic Church say otherwise. That’s the logic you can’t seem to deal with, John.

    What a self-defined heretic says is not relevant. What the doctrine of that faith says is relevant.

    Learn something about Catholicism – it will help.

    12. “If my previous comments weren’t clear to you with regards to heretics in the Roman Catholic Church, let me state them again. Consolmagno said that there is ample debate within the church hierarchy as to whether or not all of the miracles associated with Christ should be accepted as literal manifestions of his Divine nature or rather, more likely, as metaphor.”

    Why do you keep repeating yourself? You were wrong the first time – repeating your error is not going to clear anything up. What Consolmagno says is not relevant; what the doctrine of the Church says is relevant. Get it?

    13. “I think it is rather odd that you, an atheist, would be far more concerned about heretical views in the Roman Catholic Church than a mere Deist such as myself.”

    I’m not concerned at all about heretical views in the RCC. You’re the one who brought their behavior up; I merely pointed out the logic of their position.

    And once again, you’re lying. I’ve never said I was an atheist.

    Do try to keep up, John. Rational discourse isn’t that difficult if you just apply your little grey cells to it.

    But you do have to learn to read what is written and respond to the actual arguments being made, and not your internal fantasies.

    And finally, it’s not nice to lie about other people. You’ve done that several times recently. You should try to correct that.

  173. da Viking

    Larry sez,

    –Yes, my great originality and persuasiveness are bizarre. For example, the following summary of my thoughts about coevolution has virtually no discussion attached because my arguments are so airtight that no one could find fault with them —

    Maybe the reason there are no comments is that you are censoring them, just like you did with the one I made on Friday the 26th…

  174. John Kwok

    @ Rilke’s granddaughter –

    I don’t think you would know the truth even if it was staring in your face.

    Again, I am merely reporting to you what I heard a Roman Catholic Jesuit brother say with regards to what is or may not be heresy within traditional Roman Catholic teachings (There may be a videotape of it posted somewhere over at the World Science Festival’s website.).

    As for your other comments, they are, quite frankly, not worthy of further comment. Indeed, if you continue to persist, I may ask Chris Mooney to take whatever actions that he may deem necessary to control your bizarre online behavior here at his blog.

  175. John Kwok

    @ Rilke’s granddaughter –

    I’m not the one who has called Vatican Observatory astronomer – and planetary scientist – and Jesuit brother – Guy Consolmagno a “heretic”. Nor did I accuse my friend Ken Miller of being a “heretic”. You did (Frankly I couldn’t care whether they are – or not – heretics since I have little interest in keeping up with current Roman Catholic theology. I only care if they recognize that, in scientific matters, science must have substantial precedence over their own religious biases, and both scientists do recognize this distinction perfectly well.). You’re the one who has raised the issue, since I frankly don’t see it as an issue (Again, it is ironic that you an Atheist, see this “problem”, and I, a Deist, doesn’t.).

    SLC has stated repeated, most notably over at ScienceBlogs (Jason Rosenhouse’s blog) that he greatly admires those women whom he regards as “hot”, including both Abbie Smith and Sheril Kirshenbaum. He doesn’t care whether they are credible scientists or reporters of science or both. What matters most to him is the fact that both women are “hot”.). You are in an ample state of denial to refuse to admit to SLC’s offensive, demeaning and degrading comments to these and other women (e. g. I observed that I had seen actress Cameron Diaz at the World Science Festival. For no apparently good reason, he remarked that Cameron Diaz is “hot”.). Moreover, SLC apparently isn’t that good a student of science as he claims to be, since there was one PT poster who expressed surprise that SLC – who claims to have a Ph. D. in elementary particle physics, never heard of either Brian Greene or Lisa Randall, two prominent physicists who have been among the best popularizers of their science to the general public in recent years.

  176. Rilke's Granddaughter

    John, learn to read.

    1. I never said that you accused Miller and Consolmagno of being heretics.

    2. I never said I was an atheist.

    3. Who gives a rat’s ass about what SLC thinks? Saying a woman is “hot” is radically different from being a male chauvinist, John. I can say this because I AM a woman.

    If you don’t learn to read, then you’ll spend your life responding to posts that people aren’t making. Don’t you feel embarrassed about all the errors you’ve been making?

  177. John Kwok

    Rilke’s granddaughter –

    I was almost inclined to give you the last word, merely to demonstrate how intellectually-challenged you are, but I’ve decided to note this: please shut up. You’re not making any sense, period.

  178. Rilke's Granddaughter

    John, you’ve lied about me and a number of issues in this thread. I pointed out merely a few above. Why leave this monument to your lack of integrity and your inability to conduct a rational discussion?

    For example: you keep claiming I’m an atheist. And yet I’ve never said I was an atheist. Would an intelligent person make that assertion without evidence? Would a sane person make that assertion without evidence?

    Nope. Stop making yourself look silly, John. You’re really not very good at this ‘argument’ and ‘science’ stuff, are you?

  179. Rilke's Granddaughter

    Actually, the parallels between Kwok’s behavior and Fafarman’s is quite spooky. The same tendency to abandon discussion when they are caught without answers.

  180. Silver Fox

    “they extrapolate the atheism of science to a more general atheism.”

    Atheism of science? What in hell is that. Theism means acknowledging some sort of divine entity; atheism means it opposes the acknowledgement of a God. Science is non-theistic means theism or atheism does not enter into the picture. Yes, the New Atheists appropriate science as a means of supporting their atheistic agenda but that is their foolishness and does not alter the non-theistic status of science.

    “he admits that you can be a scientist and also religious.”

    Is this suppose to be some sort of revelation? Since there are thousands of religious scientists, isn’t that a statement of the obvious?

  181. Rilke's Granddaughter

    Silver, you should think this through – they extrapolate methodological naturalism that works in science to other non-science areas of their lives. Essentially one can make an excellent argument that methodological naturalism is easily extrapolated to philosophical naturalism.

    Of course, part of this depends on how one considers atheism; the weak/strong distinction is quite meaningful. Weak atheists simply lack belief in the divine – nothing more, nothing less. I don’t actually know very many strong atheists – those who believe that Gods do not exist; it’s not actually a rational position to take, being, in the end, faith-based.

    Myers may be a strong atheist. I think that Dawkins is a weak atheist.

  182. Silver Fox

    Rilke @182

    Division of atheists along “strong/weak” lines is ambiguous. So I prefer to avoid that line of classification.

    What all atheists have in common is a denial of any type of dualism. They are naturalist/materialist. There is nothing in this world that cannot be explained without resorting to some kind of mind/body, material/spiritual separation.

    The question devolves into how they explain mental phenomenon. As atheistic materialists they need to defend physicalism, that is, there is nothing in what we call consciousness that rises above structure and function. This is essentially what Jackson would call Type-A materialists and along these lines you would find people like Dennett and Lewis.

    Type-B materialists would admit to an explanatory gap in consciousness but it does not call for any kind of dualistic requirement. The “gap” might represent s subvenience of consciousness. So while the mind would be a property of the brain, consciousness would simple be subveinent to the physicalism of the mind/brain. I would see Myers and Dawkins as falling into Type-A; maybe someone like Chalmers would fit into type-B. Pinker would probably say that the mind is not a separate entity but rather it is “what the mind does”.

  183. Rilke's Granddaughter

    Silver, the point is again, not about denial (we’re not talking about John Kwok here, f’r example). Your distinction doesn’t appear very relevant to the point you raised earlier, and which I find unsupported still – that there is excellent reason to extrapolate methodological naturalism in the context of science to methodological naturalism in every other area of life, including religion. The intellectually honest result of which is probably atheism.

  184. Rilke's Granddaughter

    And again, the distinction between ‘non-theistic’ and ‘atheistic’ in science is meaningless. Science is an atheistic endeavor; your insistence that atheism relies on ‘belief’ is contradicted by the evidence.

  185. Science is a natural progression towards atheism when it convinces people that if something cannot be proved by the scientific method then it has no credibility. The reality is that the number of things that cannot be proved by the scientific method is infinite. In a recent wave of hysteria millions of people claimed the discovery of Ida as proof of evolution. These people are among those that associate science with atheism.

    D J Wray
    http://www.atotalawareness.com

  186. MarkEE

    Just because all of the late posters here seemed to miss the logical connections between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism, and in fact seem to not understand the connections at all…refer to comments#14 and #73, and the link to Tom Clark in #73.

    Cheers!

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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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