The Censorship Canard, Again

By Chris Mooney | June 28, 2009 9:53 am

Russell Blackford has a post here in which he gets my views on metaphysics completely right in the first 2 paragraphs, and then my views on freedom of speech and the criticism of religion completely wrong for the next 9 paragraphs. I find the whole thing beyond baffling, but apparently it makes some kind of strange sense to people like Dr. Coyne. Let’s assume–charitably–that this is because I have not adequately explained myself on this matter.  I guess, then, that I had better say more.

Let’s start with my views about speech and the First Amendment:

Nobody should shut up, ever. (Well, there is the whole fire in a crowded theater thing, but you know what I mean.)

The intellectual case for atheism should be made publicly and often.

The intellectual case for the incompatibility of science and religion–although incorrect–should nevertheless also be made publicly and often.

I believe these things because I’m a civil libertarian, a strong supporter of free speech and getting arguments out there. Also, being an atheist, I want people to know why I think in the way I do, and so of course I believe strongly in the dissemination of atheist ideas.

As for incompatibilism: I don’t think they’re correct, but I strongly support folks’ ability to express incompatibilist ideas (like Sean Carroll recently did). And I have a right to criticize them and articulate compatibilist ideas (as I recently did in this post).

So far so good?

Beyond these core points about freedom of speech, I also have various views about how my fellow atheists ought to go about making their arguments in order to render them as persuasive and effective as possible. None of this advice contradicts any of the positions above. Indeed, all the advice is premised on the existence of a safe, durable, free marketplace of ideas. I am saying to atheists, “given that you are going to be out there saying something, here are some thoughts about how you might want to say it.”

Let me also add, although I shouldn’t have to, that I do not have the power to censor any atheists, nor would I use such powers of censorship if I did possess them. It pains me to have to make this point, as I find it mindboggling that anyone could confuse giving people advice about how to be persuasive and effective with censorship. But nevertheless, I will reiterate it.

So hopefully everything is now a bit clearer. In a free marketplace of ideas, I am free to give advice, and atheists are at all times free to reject my advice, and go on saying whatever they wish.

But suppose that some of them wish to listen to me? Well, here are some of things I would advise strategically:

The intellectual case for atheism should be made with tact and civility. The best practitioner of this approach that I’ve read is Carl Sagan. More on this in Unscientific America.

A rule of thumb when criticizing religion: Couch your argument in such a way that it might actually persuade a believer. On such a delicate matter, where core matters of belief and identity are at stake, that means tone is as important as content. That means fostering dialogue, never insulting, never denouncing. Imagine this is a person you had to sit across the dinner table with for 2 hours. How would you behave?

Prominent atheists who want religion to be criticized effectively should set an example for their followers when it comes to tact and civility.

There are also various strategic ramifications of all this in terms of how societies and organizations promoting science ought to position themselves. This gets into the whole battle over what NCSE ought to be doing, where I think the group is doing a great job, and Coyne and others want it to change its policy on science and religion.

Finally, there is one last point which seems to be creating a lot of confusion. It involves this whole idea of “criticizing” religion. People like Blackford are constantly saying that it’s important to “criticize” religion, because religious ideas are very influential and also very pernicious.

While I agree with this in theory, I am also suspicious of the line of reasoning as many atheists seem to want to apply it. I guess I think a lot of them seem to hold what I consider to be basically naive views about the effectiveness of such “criticism.”

Everyone has a right to criticize anything and everything, of course. You can press the “fire” button as much as you please, and blast as many religious ideas as come into your scopes. But whether any of it makes much of a difference, I’m in very much doubt. And whether it backfires–well, this I very much suspect.

Let me elaborate:

Many atheists appear to cling to the naive Enlightenment-era notion that if we only “criticize” an erroneous idea publicly, somehow those holding the idea will give it up, vanquish it from their minds, and convert to “reason.” But this is not the way human minds work or the way the modern media works.

Similarly, many atheists seem to think that stridency of criticism correlates with effectiveness of criticism in changing minds. This is similarly out of whack with the way the human mind, politics, and the media work.

These last two points are ALSO not an argument for censorship, but rather a call for getting a clue about how public debates actually play out today, especially on extremely sensitive and personal topics like religion.

So that’s basically what I think. Any questions? 

Comments (220)

  1. NewEnglandBob

    tact and civility, tact and civility, tact and civility – Who is being uncivil? Who is being tactless? Who is being strident? Cite specific examples.

    Imagine this is a person you had to sit across the dinner table with for 2 hours. How would you behave?

    Answer: exactly the same. Truth should not be tempered by uncomfortable social situations. I do not have to be well liked by everyone. That is a lesson for you Chris.

  2. Saying civility is important does not imply that any particular person is being uncivil.

  3. Erasmussimo

    New England Bob writes:

    I do not have to be well liked by everyone.

    What you overlook is that antagonizing people guarantees that they reject your ideas. Antagonizing people is an act of grandstanding, an assertion of superiority, not an attempt to convince. If you want to spend your time waving your penis in other people’s faces, that’s your right, but don’t think that other people will believe that this is about truth. It’s about testosterone.

  4. John Kwok

    Chris,

    I’m utterly perplexed not only with Blackford’s latest screed against you, but Coyne’s enthusiastic endorsement (Maybe Coyne should spend more time doing what he does best, his ongoing research on speciation and species diversity in West African Drosophila (fruit flies), in addition to whining and moaning to his colleague, noted mathematician Dr. Robert Zimmer, President of the University of Chicago, about the John Templeton Foundation’s support of the University of Chicago – which is where Coyne works – to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.).

    I don’t recall reading anything from you in the past few weeks in which you’ve told militant atheists like Coyne, Myers and Rosenhouse, to “shut up”. I think that’s a sound assessment (Or maybe I am really Ken Miller’s “toy poodle” suffering from an acute case of delusional thinking.).

  5. Peter Beattie

    Chris Mooney said:
    Similarly, many atheists seem to think that stridency of criticism correlates with effectiveness of criticism in changing minds.

    So who exactly is being strident? Can you give a few examples so that the gentle reader might come to an opinion of their own and not have to take your word for it? Or was that just a bit of hand-waving in someone or other’s general direction?

  6. Jon

    I think one thing that’s missing from New Atheism that you had in the general liberal tradition was a respect for individual conscience.

    It makes a certain sense that that would go by the boards, considering how royally screwed up the political situation has been in recent years. But still, it would do the atheists some good to actually do some reading outside the narrow confines of science. For instance in history, philosophy, the arts. Get out of your comfort zone and read some things by the educated people you might not agree with. Find out the points of legitimate disagreement and exhibit some patience with them. At least then you might not sound so much like the science nerd version of talk radio.

  7. Erasmussimo

    I realized that an earlier comment triggered a blocking algorithm with a questionable metaphor, so here I repeat a cleaned up version:

    New England Bob writes:
    I do not have to be well liked by everyone.

    What you overlook is that antagonizing people guarantees that they reject your ideas. Antagonizing people is an act of grandstanding, an assertion of superiority, not an attempt to convince. If you want to spend your time waving your private member in other people’s faces, that’s your right, but don’t think that other people will believe that this is about truth. It’s about testosterone.

  8. John Kwok

    Peter –

    You can find ample examples posted at Rosenhouse’s blog (ScienceBlogs/EvolutionBlog), Coyne’s blog (GOOGLE “Why Evolution is True”), and, most notably, at Myers’s blog (ScienceBlogs/Pharyngula). Coyne fired the first rhetorical salvoes back in January, in his harsh review – that, at times, read more like a screed condemning theistic evolution – of Miller and Giberson’s recently published books in a New Republic book review. Then, weeks later, he elaborated upon these remarks at his blog (Why Evolution is True), by condemning the National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and especially, the National Center for Science for their “accomodationist” stance towards religion, stressing – according to Coyne – that they seek to show that religion is compatibie to science. And then of course, is rather public rejection – posted again at his blog – of the invitation extended by World Science Festival co-founders and directors physicist Brian Greene and journalist Tracy Day (Brian’s wife) to participate in a World Science Festival panel discussion on Science, Faith and Religion (In lieu of Coyne, physicist Lawrence Krauss was picked as one of the two athiests – the other was philosopher Colin McGinn – appearing on the panel) – which Coyne made primarily because the John Templeton Foundation was funding the World Science Festival (Incidentally, at WSF I learned, from a most reliable source, that the Templeton Foundation has given tens of millions of dollars in financial support to Coyne’s university, the University of Chicago. Since Coyne had such a vehement temper tantrum with the World Science Festival, I am stunned that he hasn’t expressed similar outrage at his university for accepting Templeton’s financial support.).

  9. Chris, I thank you for taking this trouble. One thing I should mention at the start, though, is that I explicitly said in my post that you find so baffling:

    “Now, in his defence, Mooney is not the government. He is not literally attempting to censor people by the exercise of state power, or some other kind of power if it comes to that. Nor is he advocating that other atheists be forced to shut up by an exercise of the power of the state. So, I give him credit for that much. In this very basic sense, his position can be considered a liberal one – he is prepared to tolerate atheist discourse in the narrow sense of not seeking that force be employed to stamp it out. One cheer for Mooney!”

    How can I be clearer about that? How did that paragraph, at least, get your views “completely wrong”? I don’t see why you need to keep harping on something that is not in dispute. When we say that you’re telling us to shut up, we mean – and I explained this again – that you are calling on us to censor ourselves when, for example, writing book reviews. We don’t mean that you are trying to exercise political power over us or that you are asking someone else to.

    This whole thing started when you gave your total support to a view that you attributed to Barbara Forrest to the effect that writing a book review such as Jerry Coyne’s review of the Giberson and Miller books in The New Republic is an unacceptable (or perhaps just politically inexpedient) act of alienating “moderate” religionists.

    I still don’t know whether you’re withdrawing that claim or not. Although you’ve written a long post, you never make that clear. Actually, a big problem is that you seem to keep contradicting yourself. One week you’re supporting Forrest’s claim that Coyne should not have written his very mildly worded, though searching, review of those two books. Another week you seem to be happy with people arguing for atheism and incompatibilism.

    So, let’s be concrete. Is it acceptable to publish a review like Jerry’s or not? Is it acceptable to publish a review like THIS or not? http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/reviews/2340/darwins-gift-science-and-religion

    As far as I can see, Forrest (as you reported her) would have to say it is NOT acceptable, and you’d be in enthusiastic agreement (or at least you would have been not long ago). If not, what was that post all about? If Forrest’s position, which you supported, is correct, I should have censored myself in the last para or two of what I thought was an honest and fair review of Ayala’s book.

    You see, for those of us who review books from time to time this is an important issue. Are you or are you not telling us that we should engage in acts of self-censorship when we are assigned books by “moderate” religionists which contain religious apologetics?

    Stridency can’t be the point, because the Coyne review of the Giberson and Miller books was not strident. (That said, stridency has its place. However, I doubt that anything in the Coyne review that started all this could be legitimately characterised as strident.)

    As for your other point, no serious participant in the debate is so naive as to think that if we just put the arguments everyone will automatically change their minds. But putting arguments is not futile. Even if it changed no minds at all among those who are committed to a view, it can raise the morale of people who agree and possibly get them to be more organised and active, it can get people sitting on the fence to take a stand, it can shift the balance of what views are considered acceptable in the media and what views are seen by politicians as part of public opinion. It can encourage people who are not religious (to take the current example) to be less deferential to religion than they were brought up to be. It can have many effects apart from simply changing the minds of committed opponents, which is the hardest effect to achieve.

    But in any event, reading books such as Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not A Christian was part of what originally led me to renounce evangelical Christianity. Many other people have become atheists partly as a result of reading Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Putting one’s case in the public spaces doesn’t have to be futile.

    Obviously the arguments should be couched as persuasively as possible. Depending on the circumstances, that may mean being all conciliatory and making legitimate concesssions, or it may mean being funny, if you have the talent for that, or it may mean other things. I mean, I’m happy to brainstorm with you about effective argumentative techniques, and maybe you even have some good advice, but of course I’m not naive about what arguments can achieve. But nor am I so defeatist as to think the whole thing is hopeless. I’m also puzzled by the fact that your post about Forrest wasn’t purportedly about how atheists could get their views across more persuasively, it was about not alienating the faithful for a variety of other reasons – it’s not nice, it’s not civil, it’s politically inexpedient, and we can’t prove atheism to be true anyway. That’s a rather different story from the one you’re now telling.

    Maybe you’ve changed your mind since then, but it would help if you’d just say so. It gets dispiriting constantly being referred to as if I’m just being thick because I can’t reconcile the various things you say. As I said over on my blog, it’s not like I’m not trying, or like I’m being totally uncharitable to you. I just can’t make it all add up, even though some of what you’ve now written helps a bit.

  10. Mel

    @#1

    You sound just like some fundamentalist Christians who lived in my dorm in college. I avoided their company as much as possible. There were others in the dorm with similar beliefs, but without the burning desire to “bring the truth” to everyone. I had many long, thoughtful and respectful conversations with them, neither of us with the intent to force our respective beliefs on each other, but merely to understand. We did not change each others minds, but we learned a lot from each other, and gained more respect for each others beliefs. What is so wrong with that? It is not about being well liked, but about being respectful of other people as people and not being boorish. (Or, as precept of civility my saintly great grandmother was fond of telling me and my brothers while we were growing up,”Don’t be ugly.”)

  11. Erasmussimo

    Mr. Blackford, the fundamental mistake you make is to equate criticism with a demand for self-censorship. The world is full of criticism, and those who respond to criticism by playing the censorship card — whether external or internal — have misunderstood the dynamics of robust debate. Now you’re relying on a new term: acceptability. You demand to know whether the confrontational approach is acceptable. This too is a canard; if I or Mr. Mooney were to declare it unacceptable, we’d be in no more position to assert that unacceptability than we would if we were to declare it worthy of censorship. You’re trying to frame Mr. Mooney’s criticism as a violation of your right to freely express yourself. That framing is deceptive. The reality here is that there is a disagreement. Mr. Mooney disagrees with your position and criticizes it. There’s nothing wrong with criticism. You don’t have to agree with it, you don’t even have to accept it. And you’re welcome to criticize him right back. But trying to re-frame this disagreement as some sort of intellectual oppression is self-righteous pap.

  12. benjdm

    Seriously. Just answer #8.

  13. NewEnglandBob

    Erasmussimo Says:

    What you overlook is that antagonizing people guarantees that they reject your ideas. Antagonizing people is an act of grandstanding, an assertion of superiority, not an attempt to convince.

    Who said anything about antagonizing? I said that truth should not be tempered. Who is using words like “grandstanding” or “an assertion of superiority”. A well reasoned argument, stated calmly is all that is needed.

    Once again I ask? Who is tactless? who is strident? who is uncivil? Certainly not Coyne, Krauss, Blackford, etc.

    Maybe what is being implied is that accomodationists would be uncivil and tactless and strident when they are alone or when only in the company of think-alike cohorts? I certainly hope not.

    It is time to get off of this straw issue of civility and stridency and stop deferring to the religious just because they have sheer numbers. Otherwise we could bring back slavery and racism and gender suppression and all give up on reason and go home and hide.

  14. NewEnglandBob

    Mel @9

    How can you possibly equate the reasoned, logical, critical thinking of Coyne, Myers, Krauss, Blackford, etc to fundamental Christianity? Is that the same as unreasoned creationist dogma?

    It is a wide chasm from critical thinking of philosophical naturalism which always accepts criticism and evidence to irrational fundamentalism. Your comparison is total nonsense.

  15. foolfodder

    People should be able to ask other people to shut up. The question is, are there good reasons to do so?

  16. Mel

    NewEnglandBob @13

    You miss my point. I was not comparing thinking or philosophical positions, but interpersonal approach. Pushy boorishness is pushy boorishness regardless of the thinking that motivates it. Evangelical fundamentalist Christians who see it their mission to push their views on those they meet are just as unpleasant and alienating as atheists who do the same thing. Note that this has nothing to do with the views of the people in question.

  17. Chris –

    As Russell says, you are changing your position here, so it’s a bit much to get indignant with other people for taking you at your (previous) word.

    ‘I am saying to atheists, “given that you are going to be out there saying something, here are some thoughts about how you might want to say it.”’

    Well that may be what you’re saying now but it is not what you have been saying all along. Go back and re-read ‘Civility and the New Atheists’

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/05/31/civility-and-the-new-atheists/

    and see for yourself. (Then apologize, if you feel up to it.)

    Some samples:

    “[Barbara Forrest] also challenged the latest secularist to start a ruckus–Jerry Coyne, who I’ve criticized before. In a recent New Republic book review, Coyne took on Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson, two scientists who reconcile science and religion in their own lives. Basically, Forrest’s point was that while Coyne may be right that there’s no good reason to believe in the supernatural, he’s very misguided about strategy. Especially when we have the religious right to worry about, why is he criticizing people like Miller and Giberson for their attempts to reconcile modern science and religion?”

    I’ve said something like this before; sorry to repeat myself, but: why? Because The New Republic commissioned him to write a review, that’s why. What else was he supposed to do? He was discussing the content of the two books he was invited to review – he wasn’t gratuitously or out of nowhere ‘criticizing people like Miller and Giberson for their attempts to reconcile modern science and religion.’

    ‘“be nice.” Religion is a very private matter, and given that liberal religionists support church-state separation, we really have no business questioning their personal way of making meaning of the world. After all, they are not trying to force it on anybody else.’

    But Coyne was reviewing two books – two published books. Religion is not a very private matter when it is part of the content of published books, so it is not the case that ‘we really have no business questioning their personal way of making meaning of the world’ when that personal way of making meaning of the world is made public.

    Really now. Square up to it. How do you reconcile your heated insistence that you are not telling anyone to be quiet with ‘we really have no business questioning their personal way of making meaning of the world’?

    Please compare the two claims.

    ‘Religion is a very private matter, and given that liberal religionists support church-state separation, we really have no business questioning their personal way of making meaning of the world.’

    and

    ”’I am saying to atheists, “given that you are going to be out there saying something, here are some thoughts about how you might want to say it.”’

    I think you need to admit that you have said a good deal more than ‘here are some thoughts about how you might want to say it’ as recently as May 31st, and withdraw your complaints about people not understanding you.

  18. Peter Beattie

    Coyne fired the first rhetorical salvoes back in January, in his harsh review – that, at times, read more like a screed condemning theistic evolution – of Miller and Giberson’s recently published books in a New Republic book review.

    Again, more hand-waving. I’m certainly not going to do your work for you. I read all of the relevant posts, and there simply is nothing that is harsh or strident—especially in the TNR piece, which I just re-read. You assert that there is, so either you can produce specific quotes that might change my mind or you’re not taking part in a discussion.

  19. Erasmussimo

    New England Bob writes:

    Who said anything about antagonizing? I said that truth should not be tempered. Who is using words like “grandstanding” or “an assertion of superiority”. A well reasoned argument, stated calmly is all that is needed.

    OK, that’s fair — but it doesn’t address the question of whom the audience is for this well-reasoned argument. A well-reasoned argument will be effective only with an audience that places high value on reason. The people you’re trying to convince — religious believers — don’t always place high value on reason. So how do you propose to address these people?

    Ophelia Benson, your entire case rests on your interpretation of the clause “we really have no business questioning their personal way of making meaning of the world”. You interpret this to be some sort of prohibitive assertion. I do not; I consider it a criticism of “questioning their personal…” You’re on very thin ice basing your condemnation on such a delicate semantic interpretation. I ask you, what, precisely, is the difference between criticism and whatever it is that you find worthy of condemnation? Consider the following range of words:

    skepticism
    demurral
    criticism
    condemnation
    persecution
    censorship

    Just where do you place “we really have no business…” in this spectrum? And where do you draw a line between expressions of disagreement that you tolerate and expressions of disagreement that you condemn? And is your own condemnation of Mr. Mooney consistent with that line you draw?

  20. Julian

    every time i see a blog post about how one atheist doesn’t like how another atheist is thinking i think about south park, laugh, and have a good day not reading it.

  21. Erasblah, no, my entire case doesn’t rest on that one sentence; the whole May 31 post partakes of the same tone. That one sentence is simply a glaring example of the tone.

    No I don’t take it to be ‘some sort of prohibitive assertion’ but I do take it to be a much stronger piece of ‘advice’ than anything Chris has admitted to today. I think Chris has a very bad habit of changing his position without acknowledging having done so and then blaming his critics for taking him at his former word.

  22. I should add that I don’t think Chris does that on purpose, and I don’t mean to say that I think so. But I do think he should keep better track before scolding other people for getting him wrong.

  23. Matti K.

    Mr. Mooney:

    “These last two points are ALSO not an argument for censorship, but rather a call for thinking more carefully about how public debates actually play out today, especially on extremely sensitive and personal topics like religion.”

    I don’t think Mr. Mooney above is actually referring to actual debates. In a true debate the opponents argue their case honestly, with sound reasoning. I think Mr. Mooney mixes “debate” with “marketing ideas”.

    I think Mr. Mooney should accomodate himself to the fact that selling science to the religious is not the first priority of all scientists. Calls for self-censorship will not change the matter.

    Of course, one can whine about it, but I think it useless it in the marketplace of ideas.

  24. John Kwok

    @ Peter –

    I suggest you read Coyne’s New Republic review again. In it he identified four traits that are shared by all varieties of creationists, and concluded that Ken Miller shares three out of four, starting with belief in a GOD. Perhaps you and I have different standards with respect to what is “reasonable”, but I hope you realize that Coyne was making a fool of himself by concluding that, in essence, Ken Miller is a creationist.

  25. Mel

    @John Kwok
    Part of the problem is that Miller is a creationist in that he believes that God created the universe. The difference is in that Miller is a person who, like most mainstream Christians, has found a way to maintain a belief in creation that does not require ignoring science. With these individuals, if there is a conflict between the findings of science, and the particulars of their religious belief, they have no problem altering their beliefs to accommodate science. This is as opposed to ignoring science that contradicts particulars of belief to maintain those particulars. I think the fundamental problem is that we use the same term to describe two very different religious positions with very different relationships between religious understanding and scientific knowledge.

  26. Peter

    @ 11. Erasmussimo

    Blackford certainly is not equating criticism with a demand for self-censorship. Mooney could have criticized the substance of Coyne’s review of Miller and Giberson. Or he could have criticized the particular language of the review as being uncivil. Instead, the criticism seems to have been that: Coyne disagrees with the particular ways that Miller and Giberson attempt to reconcile science and religion in their books, and he wrote that, and explained why, in his reviews of their books. Mooney seems to be calling that uncivil (or more precisely, he used Barbara Forrest to call him uncivil, and then agreed with her).

    Blackford, and probably Coyne, would welcome some constructive criticism that helps them make their case more convincing and more widely accessible. Blackford thinks that Mooney isn’t offering that, and instead, that Mooney thinks the best way for Coyne and others to make the case that religion and science don’t mix well would be to not make it at all, cuz it hurts science education*, even if it might be a good, intellectually compelling case –and maybe, especially if it’s a good case. That’s what Blackford and Coyne are interpreting as a call for self-censorship, or to “shut up”.

    *Note also that Blackford, Coyne, Myers, Dawkins, and others seem to want to undermine the moral authority of religion, and they consider undermining the scientific authority of religion as one prong in that attack. Mooney seems to think that it’s worth undermining the moral authority of religion, but that there are other ways to do it without bringing scientific conflicts between science and religion into it–and especially since Mooney and Nisbett and maybe Forrest and others think that that hurts public support for good science. There’s a case there, I suppose, since science doesn’t really have much claim to moral authority. But I digress…

  27. Erasmussimo

    We seem to be caught in a cycle of vagueness. Mr. Mooney’s critics accuse him of some sort of verbal crime, but they’re not able to say precisely what this crime is. They now concede that it’s not censorship, but it is still bad. An admonition to self-censorship? Advice? This all seems like a great deal of ire over nothing specific. I suspect that Mr. Mooney’s critics simply don’t like his position, and are seizing upon an opportunity for condemnation that they can’t really articulate. So I’m going to ask the critics to be specific: what about Mr. Mooney’s assertions constitutes something morally objectionable, something well beyond the realm of normal disagreement over policy?

  28. Peter Beattie

    John Kwok said:
    I suggest you read Coyne’s New Republic review again.

    Oh, snap! I never saw that argument coming… *lol*

    In it he identified four traits that are shared by all varieties of creationists, and concluded that Ken Miller shares three out of four, starting with belief in a GOD. Perhaps you and I have different standards with respect to what is “reasonable”, but I hope you realize that Coyne was making a fool of himself by concluding that, in essence, Ken Miller is a creationist

    If you’d like to argue against Coyne’s point that there is no creationism without religion, by all means do so. If you think calling Coyne a fool qualifies as an argument, then you don’t qualify for an argument.

    If that’s all you can come up with in support of your statement that Coyne’s piece was “harsh” and a “screed”, then I don’t think anyone is going to be very impressed.

  29. Peter Beattie

    Petersaid:
    science doesn’t really have much claim to moral authority.

    Now, I’ve been taught to be wary of any claim that is “obviously” true and thus doesn’t need to be backed up by arguments — by my training in critical, scientific thinking by the way. So what exactly is your argument here? And I distincly remember Jacob Bronowski, for one, to have written a book specifically to explain the connection between Science and Human Values.

  30. Peter

    27. Erasmussimo

    “This all seems like a great deal of ire over nothing specific.”

    Absolutely that’s what it is. Mooney accused Coyne–er, Mooney used Forrest to accuse Coyne–of being “uncivil”. He gave no clear advice on how Coyne could have made his arguments more civilly, or really, what was uncivil about the argument in the first place. So Coyne et al were left to infer that what Mooney meant was uncivil was merely that Coyne had criticized Miller’s and Giberson’s arguments to reconcile their science and their faith.

    I’ll try to clarify what I think the original complaint against Mooney was. Coyne thought Mooney meant that when Miller and Giberson and whoever make bad arguments to show how they reconcile their faith with their science, no-one should actually criticize those arguments. Especially not people commissioned to write reviews of the books where they make those arguments. And especially not if their going to make compelling criticisms of those arguments. Because that’s uncivil. No-one thought that we, as a society, should take legal action against Coyne. Just that, as a matter of strategy, Coyne’s publishing of that criticism is hurting the much more important, and effective, effort that Mooney and the NCSE and so on are engaged in to protect science education and public esteem for science. Wow, when I put it that way, even I think Coyne should shut up…except, oh yeah, I don’t just mean to, as a matter of public policy, tolerate open debate, I think that open debate is a positively good and constructive thing.

    Admittedly, I also agree with Coyne that attempts to reconcile the supernatural with the scientific are pretty sloppy and not very interesting. If I read a favorable review of a book, picked it up, read it, and found those sloppy arguments in it, I’d be really disappointed with that reviewer.

    As for Mooney’s position, everyone likes Mooney’s position. Er, rather, if you don’t like his first position, I’m sure he’ll later amend it so that you can like it more. Now, some people (Ophelia, I’m looking at you, now) don’t seem to like that he keeps moving his position around, and evading the real argument, but that’s really neither here nor there, is it? Oh, wait, it kind of is.

  31. Erasmussimo

    Peter, thanks for attempting to clarify some of these issues. The first criticism boils down to the fact that Mr. Mooney referred to some criticisms as uncivil. Whether he was right or not, I don’t see that as a matter worthy of so much hand-wringing. There are a great many things written in this extended brouhaha that might be incorrect. Pursuing a brouhaha over them seems a colossal waste of time to me.

    The second criticism is that Mr. Mooney criticized Mr. Coyne for criticizing Mr. Miller. So here’s what we have:

    Peter criticizes Mr. Mooney for criticizing Mr. Coyne for criticizing Mr. Miller.

    I think that this deserves even more:

    Erasmussimo criticizes Peter for criticizing Mr. Mooney for criticizing Mr. Coyne for criticizing Mr. Miller.

    What do you say to THAT!? ;-)

    You argue in favor of open debate. I don’t think that you’ll find anybody opposed to open debate. But let’s remember that there’s a big difference between criticizing open debate (a collection of many statements) and criticizing a single statement in that debate. There are certain kinds of statements in open debate that weaken the positions of some parties in that debate. Suppose, for example, that somebody offered the argument that evolution should be taught in schools because all religious believers are idiots. Would you welcome such an argument? I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t, of course, attempt to censor the speaker, but I’d certainly advise him that his argument is making matters worse, not better. So, would you condemn me for making that advice?

  32. Erasmussimo

    Oh, and one other thing: the claim that Mr. Mooney’s position has changed is hokum. I’ve been following this stupid argument from the beginning and Mr. Mooney has been consistent throughout. Besides, it’s a personal attack without any intellectual merit. Please, let’s stick to the issues.

  33. Steerpike

    We seem to be caught in a cycle of vagueness. Mr. Mooney’s critics accuse him of some sort of verbal crime,

    They accuse him of decrying the ‘incivility’ of Coyne’s TNR piece without being able to explain just what he felt was ‘uncivil’ about it beyond Coyne’s having written it in the first place.

    Is that sufficiently specific?

  34. Peter

    29. Peter Beattie

    I’d be happy to defend the position that science has plenty to tell us about how our actual behavior actually affects other people and ourselves. And how science can help us peer into moral gray areas. And tell us about how we make moral judgments in reality, and how that might contrast with how we think we should be making moral judgments. And how are supposed values line up with how the world actually is. And how knowing how the world actually is can help us make better value judgments, and help set priorities among competing values, and how realistic or arbitrary our values are, and so on.

    Really, I am frustrated any time someone tries to claim that, for instance, science doesn’t have anything to say about morality (which is how I interpret NOMA and arguments along those lines). More precisely, I think that accurate knowledge is a pillar of any worthwhile morality, and science is a very important tool for gaining that knowledge.

    I suppose I meant that just because some scientific research has shown that we can do something doesn’t mean that we should do something. And also, that the metrics that scientists use in their research shouldn’t naively be interpreted as moral values to maximize. And that, I suppose, maximizing scientific knowledge shouldn’t be interpreted as the prime moral good, etc. You know, the common ways that people either in reality or in fiction have tried to ground their morality on science.

    But I think this is all tangential to the topic in this post, so I didn’t want to go into it. My point was just that you should be able to argue against the moral authority of religion without arguing against compatibility of science and religion. Which some people might want to argue is worth doing, and can be done without sacrificing public support for science. I wouldn’t make that argument, I’m fine with what Coyne wrote in TNR, but some people might.

  35. Is this the same Russell Blackford who went nuts a couple of days ago and warned Chris Mooney off of having the likes of me here because I said that two of the things he said were, brace yourselves, this is going to shock you, “bizarre”?

    Thin skinned, a little? No wonder he mistakes a request for civility and measured discourse as a demand for censorship. Bit high strung for this game, RB.

  36. – Who said anything about antagonizing? I said that truth should not be tempered. …. Once again I ask? Who is tactless? who is strident? who is uncivil? Certainly not Coyne, Krauss, Blackford, etc. NEB

    Not tempered by tacit? Jerry Coyne is certainly tactless and is hardly civil to people he doesn’t agree with. As far as I can see he shaves the truth so close in his attacks on Francis Collins it’s been decapitated.

    Lawrence Krauss doesn’t belong in the same set with the other two, at least not if it’s a set related to civility and regard for the truth.

  37. “We seem to be caught in a cycle of vagueness. Mr. Mooney’s critics accuse him of some sort of verbal crime, but they’re not able to say precisely what this crime is.”

    Nonsense. I spelled it out. I await Chris’s reply.

  38. Peter

    @31 Erasmussimo

    Well, first thing, I just found this June 3 post by Mooney.* And his apology there seems to clear a lot of things up, and if, like me, you missed that apology, you’re probably having the wrong conversation. On the other hand, a lot of people seem to have missed that post, I don’t think I saw Coyne respond to it, and Blackford was recently asking for an apology for Coyne from Mooney, and a lot of people arguing against Mooney (including me) seem to be rehashing ground that he covered there.

    Peter criticizes Mr. Mooney for criticizing Mr. Coyne for criticizing Mr. Miller.

    I think that this deserves even more:

    Erasmussimo criticizes Peter for criticizing Mr. Mooney for criticizing Mr. Coyne for criticizing Mr. Miller.

    What do you say to THAT!? ;-)

    and

    Suppose, for example, that somebody offered the argument that evolution should be taught in schools because all religious believers are idiots. Would you welcome such an argument?

    Well, the worst thing would be if the argument about science education turned into a meta-argument over the correct rhetoric to use in arguments about science education. But I can grant that “because all religious believers are idiots” is bad logic, false, and rude, and therefore counterproductive, while really not conceding anything here–I don’t think anyone has tried to use such an “argument.” Coyne certainly wasn’t in his review of Miller’s an Giberson’s books. We already all must agree that rhetoric is important, that’s why we’re spending the time on this. So I suppose the question is, is there a way that Jerry Coyne could have pointed out the shortcomings of Miller’s and Giberson’s books without Mooney and Forrest having interpreted it as uncivil and counterproductive? What if Coyne thought that Miller’s and Giberson’s arguments wouldn’t be persuasive even to a theist who wants to better understand biology? Should he have endorsed those arguments anyway, hoping that his endorsement would make the weak reasoning seem more persuasive?

    *while I was trying to document some of Mooney’s shifting of his position, but now it doesn’t seem that important.

  39. John Kwok

    @Mel –

    I don’t buy Ken Miller’s weak anthropic principle, which has been duly noted elsewhere, especially over at Massimo Pigliucci’s Rationally Speaking blog. However, this hasn’t quite raised in my own mind, hysterical alarm bells of the kind I’ve seen emanating from Jerry Coyne, and especially, PZ Myers, and, of course, their rather risible, quite pathetic, band of intellectually-challenged Borg drones posting here and elsewhere on their behalf (And no Mel, I wouldn’t want to put you in the same category, as say, SLC, Neville, or a few others who’ve been posting here.).

    But if Ken Miller is, as Coyne and Myers have said, a creationist then why would he:

    1) Emphasize that, in scientific research, people must set aside any religious biases that they may have (I believe he may have reminded Jason Rosenhouse of this very notion on Thursday, when both were present – and giving papers – at the 9th North American Paleontological Convention, which was held at the University of Cincinnati.).

    2) Recommend that those who belong to faiths hostile to science should discard their memberships in such faiths ASAP (which I heard him assert last month at a private talk here in NYC on behalf of our fellow Brown University alumni).

    3) Been quite explicit in both his writings and lectures (and of course, the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial testimony) that he knows the difference between religion and science.

    Both Coyne and Myers are vehemently opposed to religious faith of any kind, and in Myers’s case it has evolved into a kind of bigotry which the KKK and others, even perhaps the Nazis, would appreciate and endorse. So I would you urge you to keep their biases uppermost in your mind the next time you come across statements from either one asserting that Ken Miller is a creationist.

  40. benjdm

    And his apology there seems to clear a lot of things up

    The only thing that clears up is that he definitely withdraws the charge of incivility. He listed 3 things that were problematic about the piece initially:

    1. Etiquette. Or as Forrest put it, “be nice.”

    2. Diversity…So why would we want to criticize liberal Christians, who have not sacrificed scientific accuracy, who are pro-evolution, when there are so many fundamentalists out there attacking science and trying to translate their beliefs into public policy?

    3. Humility. Science can’t prove a negative: Saying there is no God is saying more than we can ever really know empirically, or based on data and evidence.

    So, he withdrew the charge against the book reviews on the first one only. As far as any of us following the story can figure, the criticism is still that something about the book review piece did not take into account diversity or humility.

  41. John Kwok

    @ Peter Beattie –

    For Jerry Coyne to say that there is no creationism without religion is a well-established fact, and one that is so elementary, that I don’t think it is worth repeating. But he used that to insist that Ken Miler is essentially a creationist. Using Coyne’s inane logic with regards to “detecting” a creationist named Kenneth R. Miller, would he then use the same logic too, at, for example, former Dominican monk and distinguished evolutionary geneticist Francisco J. Ayala? For Coyne’s sake, I would hope not, because he would look substantially more foolish in my eyes.

  42. Erasmussimo

    OK, we have some progress here! Steerpike reveals that the main accusation against Mr. Mooney is that he referred to Mr. Coyne’s review as uncivil.

    The problem here is that Mr. Mooney NEVER referred to Mr. Coyne’s review as uncivil. This whole mess started with Mr. Mooney’s piece entitled “Civility and the New Atheists” in which he described the opinions of Ms. Forrest about the ideal approach to religious believers. In the entire piece, Mr. Mooney NEVER ONCE even used the term “uncivil” about anybody! He later apologized to Mr. Coyne for the impression that Mr. Coyne had that he was accusing Mr. Coyne of being uncivil — even though that impression was completely unjustified.

    So let’s please dump this whole “uncivil” canard — it’s just wrong.

    Ophelia Benson insists that she has already specified her complaints against Mr. Mooney. Well, OK, I’ll take that at face value. Her post #17 argues that Mr. Mooney is guilty of changing his position. She presented as an example two statements that she interprets as mutually contradictory. However, I don’t think that they’re contradictory and I challenged her interpretation of the semantics. She responded by arguing that the contradiction lay in the tone of his words rather than the exact words she quoted. The interpretation of tone is even more subjective than the semantic interpretation of clauses, so we’re right back to a simple difference of subjective assessment: Ms. Benson holds the opinion that Mr. Mooney has done something objectionable, and I hold the opinion that he has not. Ms. Benson certainly has not brought compelling evidence in favor of her opinion; her evidence consists of wordings that are subject to personal interpretation.

    All of which leads me to wonder, “Why are these people making such a big deal over this????” And I’m going to offer a purely speculative answer: I think that the emotional agenda driving this silly argument is the same anger that militant atheists have against religion. It’s the same intolerance and the same self-righteousness that makes it impossible for them to embrace a “live and let live” attitude. Of course, I have no serious evidence to demonstrate that my speculation is correct. But it certainly explains the behavior that I’m seeing here better than the hypothesis that this is a serious debate about the future of science or secularism.

  43. articulett

    I think it’s very easy for atheists to live and let live. All religionists and apologists and accomodationist need to do is to be as private with their opinions and beliefs as they wish atheists and those with opposing viewpoints.

    Let scientists teach science without having to worry about whose feelings and magical beliefs are threatened. It’s not the fault of scientists that some people have been brainwashed to believe that they are “saved” so long as they believe a magical story.

    And quit spreading the silly lie about “militant atheists”. Why is a religionist not “militant” unless they use a gun, but an atheist is militant when they merely express an opinion?

    Your bias is showing… and though you may be convincing yourself and others like yourself, people have stopped reading you.

  44. John Kwok

    Erasmussimo –

    Thanks for having both the fortitude and courage for stating this: “…. I think that the emotional agenda driving this silly argument is the same anger that militant atheists have against religion. It’s the same intolerance and the same self-righteousness that makes it impossible for them to embrace a ‘live and let live’ attitude. Of course, I have no serious evidence to demonstrate that my speculation is correct. But it certainly explains the behavior that I’m seeing here better than the hypothesis that this is a serious debate about the future of science or secularism.”

    I think I had arrived at the same conclusion a week ago, but I have to admit that I didn’t have the temerity to state it. So not only do I think you for your post, but I also strongly second it.

  45. John Kwok

    @ articulett –

    If militant atheists toned down their rhetoric as much as, for example, Lawrence Krauss has, then I think they might be able to make a more persuasive case. Until then they’re no better than the Dishonesty Institute, its pathetic band of mendacious intellectual pornographers like Bill Dembski and Casey Luskin, and of course, their online legion of intellectually-challenged IDiot Borg drones.

  46. articulett

    By the way, I’m not any more “angry” at religion than I am at anti-vax nonsense or voodoo practitioners or “psychics” purporting to find missing children.

    It’s just that honest people prefer not to be a part of such delusions… nor the inane notion that faith is ennobling. Faith is the means by which people feel knowledgeable (often arrogantly so) without knowing anything demonstrably true at all! Such people spread prejudice against the rationalist while imagining themselves humble, and they use silly terms like “militant” whenever a skeptic points out the “breathtaking inanity” of their endeavor.

  47. Erasmussimo

    Articulett, I use the term “militant atheists” to differentiate them from the “pragmatic atheists” (whom Mr. Coyne et alia refer to as “accommodationists”). I agree that it is unfair in the sense that these people are not resorting to physical violence. But there clearly is a distinction to be drawn between the two schools of thought. What terms should we use? I find “accommodationists” to be a fairly good fit, but slightly disparaging; my preferred term “pragmatists” has no invidious connotation but is slightly bland. For the other side, we could use “rejectionists”, “purists”, “dogmatists”, or “militants”. I agree that “militants” is disparaging, and I’d be happy to use a different term, but none of the others seem as good a fit. There’s “fundamentalist”, which brings a nice symmetry, but I think it would be confusing to some. How about “Bible-thumping atheists”? Again, the symmetry works, but it’s too confusing. If you can propose a term that has real descriptive value (not “intellectual heros” or “number one fellas” or “right thinkers”), let’s consider it.

  48. Erasmussimo

    articulett, we cross-posted, and I want to comment on your #46. You deny anger, and then you sprinkle angry terms through your post:

    delusions, inane, arrogantly, prejudice, silly, inanity

    If you’re not angry, why do you use such emotionally charged terms?

  49. Peter

    The original charge by Mooney was clearly that Coyne was being uncivil in that review. The post was titled “civility and the new atheists,” Forrest singled Coynes review out as what not to do, because it doesn’t conform to those 3 criteria, ergo, Coyne was being uncivil.

    I thought in that post that Mooney clarified,* or perhaps amended his argument, to save face, that he meant that Coyne’s argument about the incompatibility of science and religion was quite worth making, but that Mooney thought that it was wrong.

    So now, we should be in the place where we’re trying to figure out what we mean by “science and religion are/are not compatible,” and supporting that position.

    Regarding Ophelia Benson “responded by arguing that the contradiction lay in the tone of his words rather than the exact words she quoted”

    No, she meant that, rather than repost the whole thing, she’d pick out a small sample that represents what Chris has been doing. And apparently, again, Chris agreed with her. He did apologize for the May 31 post in his Jun 3 post.

    And I’d also like to note that just because Chris Mooney position A can be reconciled with Chris Mooney position B, if you take his word for it that position A, for example, wasn’t meant to be directed at the one named person whose book review was the main subject of the blog post. Really, Chris has this whole thing going on where he seems to be careful to maintain plausible deniability. The fault is at least partly with Chris for being overly vague about some of his targets in otherwise rather specific posts. But don’t be too hard on some of his critics for noticing that.

    Chris was guilty of accusing Coyne of being uncivil, when Coyne, by Mooney’s admission, hadn’t been. Originally, that caused the confusion that Mooney, Forrest, etc objected to the mere fact that Coyne was criticizing Miller’s and Giberson’s attempts at reconciling science and their faith, and probably that their faith should be off limits to criticism. It was a predictable misunderstanding. Remember when Daniel Dennet wrote a book about how even atheists often argue that criticizing faith should be off limits. The whole Myers/Mooney/Nisbett et al framing debates a couple of years ago were over pretty much the same sort of thing. However, in this case, Mooney has apologized! The argument can move on! Isn’t that great?

    “It’s the same intolerance and the same self-righteousness that makes it impossible for them to embrace a “live and let live” attitude.”

    Really, that’s just silly. Oh, those rigid, arrogant militant atheists and their hard-core dedication to a “live and let live” attitude! Erasmussimo is tired of it! Can’t we just be “live and let live” about “live and let live”? Look, really, l-a-l-l is good enough for me, and good enough for E, and good enough for Mooney and Benson and Blackford and Myers, but if some fundies really think it’s better that we legally prohibit some things because it offends their religion, then we maybe we should let them have those, instead of trying to impose l-a-l-l on them…

    Or, am I mistaken, and Erasmussimo doesn’t yet appreciate that the whole religion-criticism thing is about more than just science?

    Once again, for clarification: Benson(philosphy mag editor, religion critic), Blackford(philosopher), Myers, Dawkins, Coyne (scientists with liberal political agendas) think just see the religion/science debate as one important prong on the overall religious authority debate. They don’t care what people believe privately. They do care about the way that those beliefs are used publicly, and how some people want those religious beliefs to be above criticism even when they are in the public sphere.

    It’s a broader debate than just the science communication debate. But they think that demonstrating the conflicts between science and religion is an important part of undermining religious authority in general (and for some people, surely that will help). Actually, didn’t I see Erasmussimo express that same realization in an comment on an earlier post? Maybe it’s still sinking in for him…

    Blah, so see, that’s off topic, except that it hopefully helps clarify the what various people might mean when they say science and religion are or are not compatible.

  50. Mel

    @John Kwok 39

    I think we largely agree. My point was that there is a difference between creationism in the strictest sense of believing that the universe was created by a deity, and creationism in the more specific sense of those who believe that a deity created the universe and everything else in a specific way and who then reject any science that conflicts with those specific beliefs. I don’t know if Coyne and others would realize the difference there, but their is a difference, and it is too bad that there is not a separate, less baggage-laden term to apply to the more general type of creationism to which Miller adheres so as to prevent lumping people like Miller in with the anti-science fundamentalist creationists. Maybe “general creationism” vs “special creationism”? I just don’t want you to think I am making the mistake your reply seemed imply you thought I made. Miller is an excellent biologist and scientist, and certainly one of the best people we have for speaking to general audiences about evolution, and, no, he should never be unnecessarily lumped in with the Duane Gishes or Michael Behes of the world because their views are emphatically not the same.

  51. Bill C.

    @ Eras:

    If you want to spend your time waving your penis in other people’s faces, that’s your right, but don’t think that other people will believe that this is about truth. It’s about testosterone.

    I just wish I knew what constituted pimp-slapping in this whole debacle, because I think Chris and, for example, the indefatigable Anthony McCarthy would have wildly different views as to what is objectionable conduct.

    I’ve said this before in as many words, I know, but if “The God Delusion” and Dawkins’ subsequent lectures on his book tour constitute penis-waving, I must be gay for Dawkins, as his repeated slaps did wonders to deconvert my mind. In the same vein, even as a Catholic who took the idea of God as a given, I would have LOVED to sit at dinner with Richard Dawkins.

    Who are these people that think a lack of argument makes for interesting conversation? Blech.

  52. Erasblah

    “She responded by arguing that the contradiction lay in the tone of his words rather than the exact words she quoted.”

    I did no such thing. Do not misrepresent what I say. I’ve had enough of that today from bigger fish than you!

  53. I see Peter made the same correction – thanks, Peter!

  54. Peter Beattie

    So, John Kwow, still no arguments to back up your claims of “foolishness” and “inanity. I know, I’m repeating myself, but what exactly is wrong with Coyne’s categorization? You haven’t given a single argument.

    And what you have said turns out to be rather obviously wrong. No, Coyne doesn’t say that Giberson and Miller are “essentially creationists”, he says that after a courageous, commendable, and very successful battle “they finally converge with their opponents” on the questions of the status of humans and possibly their “soul”. And what’s more, he shows that this position is quite possibly the result of their putting their faith before a scientific appraisal of the facts. And it is only to that extent that their position converges with that of the hardcore creationists.

    Again, and for the last time, if you want to argue with that, fine. I’d be looking forward to that, because I don’t think that Coyne’s case is necessarily the last word on the matter. But please use actual arguments and actual quotes. Otherwise, there’s just no point to talk about it further.

  55. Peter Beattie

    Kwok, sorry. I’m not that impressed. ;>

  56. Who has said that religion should be above criticism? I’ve been a lot more critical of the new atheists than Chris Mooney and I’ve never said religion should be immune from review of its actions and at times, its beliefs. If you don’t think people in religion criticize each other and its institutions, both externally and internally, you don’t follow religion very closely. Even the fundamentalists do that, continually. How do you think all those different sects of Baptists and Pentecostalists came about? By mutual agreement?

    It’s when the criticisms are unfounded, false, indiscriminate and bigoted that they need to get called. And those don’t only come from new atheists. There are illegitimate criticisms in the world, that’s no secret, is it? Legitimate criticisms are legitimate because they are honest and focused on those who deserve criticism.

    The assertion that anyone has said that religion should be exempt from criticism is a phony issue brought up for dishonest purposes.

  57. Peter Beattie

    34. Peter

    I think I agree with pretty much everything you said there, so thanks for the clarification. :)

    Just one addition: Morality always involves the determination of what we want to happen in the future. Obviously, science can help with the rational arguments we could make for some choice or other, but it boils down to a (hopefully) conscious decision on our part of what we’d rather like to have or be. Where scientific thinking comes into its own, though, is when we have to figure out what path is the most likely to lead to the desired goal. Predictions about the future are science’s core business, one that it’s been spectacularly good at. And those predictions also lie at the heart of of our moral decisions.

  58. Erasmussimo

    Well, we’re now down to simple disagreement over the facts. Peter claims that Mr. Mooney definitely accused Mr. Coyne of being uncivil — regardless of the fact that Mr. Mooney most definitely did NOT say any such thing. Ms. Benson claims that she did not rely on the tone of the Mr. Mooney’s words, even though she in fact DID refer to the tone of his words as the basis for her case after I poked at her subjective interpretation of one clause.

    Look, folks, this discussion has degenerated into a lot of he-said, she-said, and a lot of claims and denials about who actually said what. Again, I have to ask you, why are you making such a big stink over such completely subjective issues? There are millions of complicated, messy interpretations of statements and actions that are subject to endless, futile arguments. How about arguing over the real meaning of Mr. Obama’s initial refusal to wear a flag lapel pin? Does that mean that he’s a secret anti-American? Or what about his quoting the Koran at his speech in Cairo? Does that make him a Muslim? Did he betray the secular ideals of Americans by quoting the Koran? How about Carl Sagan? In Cosmos he talked about astronomy with some decidedly mystical overtones — should we disinter him and burn his bones? This kind of thing goes on and on and adds up to nothing. So again I ask, why are you so intent on proving that Mr. Mooney did something bad?

    Again I offer my hypothesis: I think that you are angry at religion and you will direct that anger at anybody who does not share your anger. I think that you are fundamentally intolerant of religion and cannot accept the notion of living happily with religious believers. I think that you want to convert everybody to your way of thinking in the same way that religious zealots want to convert everybody to their way of thinking. Perhaps the term I should apply to your school is “atheist zealots”.

    Please observe that my statements in the above paragraph are prefixed with “I think that”. I am not offering evidence in support of my claims. I am not asking you to believe them. I am instead declaring a personal opinion. Perhaps I’m wrong. I’m open to contrary evidence. But my opinion sure fits the behavior I have seen so far.

  59. @ AM —

    I should add that I fully believe in the allegorical truth of the [virgin birth].

    And so it all becomes clear. Your gripe with the “New Atheists” is not really about their epistemic claims, is it? Whether we “put up or shut up” won’t make a bit of difference, because your belief is merely “allegorical”; untouchable by science whether it has something to say about it or not. You just want people to stop being “rude” by calling your belief absurd.

    I do want to thank you, Anthony. Our exchanges have helped me to clarify my own position.

  60. Oh, and this one is good too:

    I will say that, this month, having to think through this and the other favorite proposition of new atheists, The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, I’m pretty impressed that the writers of the gospels and the early Christians, who are generally considered as superstitious idiots by new atheists , for some reason came to 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 (source).

    I now have a much better understanding of the low standard of truth you apply to truth-claims, at least with respect to supernaturalism.

  61. Loc

    Chris,

    The initial point of disagreement with Coyne was with respect to scientific organizations, and their apparent catering to the devout. He has also written excoriating religious scientists and their clearly illogical arguments for belief (which is vital b/c they are scientists). It appears these two criticisms of Coyne (and others) have been merged into one: Coyne, a ‘militant atheist,’ takes on scientific organizations and religious scientists in an improper manner.

    The argument levied against scientific foundations is important. He believes that they shouldn’t take a stance in one direction or the other concerning religion. Many science organizations, as demonstrated in previous posts, clearly do. This has been misconstrued by others, including you, to the affect that he’s attacking religions (which he indeed does, but not in this case).

    You seem to think this might perhaps be politically expedient, but I am unsure if that is indeed your position. You have indeed changed, or softened your position at times as mentioned by Blackford. I know where the ‘militant atheist’ stand regarding this issue. I am still unsure where you stand. Regardless of being effective or not (or even if it WAS effective), should science organizations cater to the devout to ‘win them over’?

    The second argument against Coyne is that he’s too ‘militant,’ especially when he’s writing against ‘some of our own.’ I don’t speak for him, but it is precisely because they are scientists that I think he ushers such striking criticisms. They should know better. Scientists also carry a significant amount of public ‘gravitas’ with them, even when they speak outside of their domain (religion, philosophy). This is precisely the reason why I think Coyne is justified in highlighting and demolishing their badly reasoned beliefs. Since they are scientists, they should be 1) painfully aware of criticism and 2) held to a higher standard regarding their ‘reasoned product.’ Notice that Coyne rarely, if ever, takes on religious books written by nonscientific authors.

    This entire debate reinforces one of the major tenets that Sam Harris speaks so poorly of; that in this current society, religion is immune to criticism. I find it hard to believe that so much thought or time would be wasted if this was over any other domain.

  62. John Kwok

    @ Loc –

    I strongly disagree with your assessment, and in particular, what Sam Harris has written (which I will admit I have not read, nor frankly, have much interest in). Nothing, not even religion or science should be immune from criticism. But the problem with militant atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers is that they contend that religion is the “source” of everything that is wrong with current human culture and societies, and that, therefore, it must be rooted out, replaced only by a rationalistic “scientific” perspective. I find that viewpoint not merely intolerant, but indeed, quite bigoted, and as erroneous as the observations of creationists – including Intelligent Design advocates – that “belief in evolution EQUALS denial of GOD”.

  63. John Kwok

    @ Mel (@ 50) –

    The only time Ken Miller ever said he was a “creationist” was after he was coerced in stating so in response to a question from the Thomas More Legal Center (the law firm representing the defendants) during the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial. I wouldn’t call Ken Miller a creationist. Nor would I describe eminent scientists like vertebrate paleontologist Peter Dodson, invertebrate paleobiologist Simon Conway Morris, molecular biologist Francis Collins or evolutionary geneticist Francisco J. Ayala as creationists simply because they are devout Christians as well as excellent scientists who recognize that they can not conflate religion with science when they are working as scientists (A distinction which is lost upon such well known “scientists” as Young Earth Creationist Kurt Wise or Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographers Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Jonathan Wells.).

    I think you should avoid using the term “creationist” unless you are referring to genuine ones like those I’ve just mentioned.

  64. Erasmussimo

    You make some good points, Loc. I think, however, that you have slightly misconstrued the issue when you wrote:

    should science organizations cater to the devout to ‘win them over’?

    I don’t think that “cater to” is the right verb to use here, because I don’t think that these scientific organizations are catering to the devout. Unfortunately, there is no single verb that best expresses what’s really going on. The sense I get from their behavior is that they are being politic about it. What if we rephrase your question that way:

    “should science organizations be politic with the devout?”

    the answer to that question is pretty clearly “yes”. There’s no benefit in angering people with in-yer-face approaches. However, you frame the problem in a more defensible manner: should science organizations simply refuse to address religious beliefs in any fashion? This is a really tricky issue. On the one hand, I can admire a strictly agnostic approach: “Science has nothing to say about religious beliefs, so we will not comment on them.” However, what’s the distinction between these two statements:

    “Science has nothing to say about religious beliefs”
    and
    “Science has no conflict with religious beliefs”

    It certainly seems that the first implies the second, and yet the militant atheist position, as I understand it, is to favor the first statement and reject the second statement. There’s a crucial issue here, and I think it deserves consideration. Do militant atheists argue that scientific organizations should take an agnostic stance on religion, or that scientific organizations should actively denounce religion?

  65. Mel

    @John Kwok (63)
    I think you need to re-read my last post.

  66. John Kwok

    @ Peter Beattie (54, 55) –

    Nor am I impressed with your petulant attitude insisting that you’re right and I’m wrong.

    Here’s one recent quote from Jerry Coyne that is worth noting:

    “This editorial stemmed from Krauss’s participation in the World Science Festival, where he was on a panel with two religious scientists, Kenneth Miller and Guy Consolmagno. (I turned down an offer to join this panel because the Festival was funded by the John Templeton Foundation. I still don’t regret it.) ”

    Since Coyne doesn’t regret turning down the World Science Festival invitation because of its Templeton Foundation funding, then why hasn’t he stated his objection to his university – the University of Chicago – receiving tens of millions of dollars from the Templeton Foundation? Any reasonable person would conclude that Coyne is being a bit disingenuous and hypocritical in criticizing the World Science Foundation’s financial support from the Templeton Foundation and not his own university’s ample financial assistance from the same foundation.

    Coyne continues to maintain that the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) are being “acommodationist” towards religion. While I haven’t had time to look critically at the websites of NAS and AAAS, I have looked closely at NCSE’s website and, contrary to what Coyne and Myers contend, I see no evidence for such “accomodationism”. Others, most notably, Tim Broderick, have independently confirmed this here at the Intersection. Maybe you ought to ask yourself how this Deist hasn’t seen anything which Coyne, Myers and others have contended with their breathtakingly inane commentary for weeks and months.

  67. Loc

    Erasmussimo,

    By changing the word, you change the entire point of contention. Catering is suffice. If you need me to post the organizations, I can and will. However, if you do need me to, you obviously haven’t been paying full attention to the discussion at hand.

    I’m half cautious about beginning another debate when the first is totally unresolved. However, science does have something to say with regards to religious claims that enter the sphere of reality: virgin births, raising the dead, walking on water. These statements clearly entail biological and physical elements. Science has a lot to say about these domains.

    My initial points (as well as Blackford’s) remained to be answered.

  68. Erasmussimo

    OK, Loc, if you want to hang your hat on the term “cater to”, then the point becomes much easier from my point of view: I reject your claim. I do not accept your claim that these scientific organizations cater to the devout. That was easy.

    On the main point, you haven’t quite answered my question. You assert that science does have something to say about some religious beliefs. OK, so do you prefer that science organizations officially declare that? Should science organizations publicly announce those points of religious belief that are scientifically incorrect?

  69. John Kwok

    @ Mel –

    I did read your post again and I disagree with your opinion that we can distinguish between “evolutionary” creationists and “anti-evolutionary” creationists. Again, under no circumstances do I consider as legitimate, any supposition that, because Ken Miller has his own unique philosophical take on the anthropic principle – which I strongly disagree with – that he should be called a creationist.

  70. Peter

    Here’s Blackford making the case that they are, uh, catering to the devout, or something. That NCSE is implicitly endorsing certain religious viewpoints, rather than just discussing them neutrally.

    I’m not sure myself that he isn’t overstating the case, but I certainly think it’s a discussion worth having.

    And I want to chime in that science organizations should stick to the science. They don’t need to, and shouldn’t, make a point of highlighting science that is in conflict with certain religious interpretations. And of course they shouldn’t try to sweep that science under the rug, either, but I don’t think anyone is suggesting that they should or they do.

    Blackford summarizes his hardcore anti-accomodationist this way:

    Perhaps, for now, it’s sufficient that the NCSE folks step back, realise that they were going down a path that was unnecessarily accommodating to religion, make no further moves down that path, and bear these issues in mind next time there is a major review of the material on their site. Perhaps there are some specific things they could do more immediately, but I wouldn’t insist on this even if I were in a position to do so.

    Uh, so, there, more discussion and debate. Militant is, if anything, a euphemism.

  71. John Kwok

    @ Peter –

    Here’s NCSE’s official position on its “involvement” with religion, which all the Militant Atheists seem to be missing:

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

    If you don’t believe me, you can look here:

    http://ncseweb.org/about/faq

    Blackford is dead wrong in his inane commentary on NCSE’s “accomodationist” stance, joining Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers, among others, in making yet another statement that is pregnant in its breathtaking inanity.

  72. Mel

    @John Kwok

    I think you are going too far in that. The term “creationist” should never be thrown around casually given the baggage it has. However, to the extent that “creationism” means that one holds a belief in the origin of the universe being the world of a god, then those who hold that belief are, technically, creationists, sensu strictu. That is not an aspersion, but a descriptor of part of his religious beliefs. There are two different meanings to that word, and one must take care in making it clear which definition one is using when using it to describe the position of another. Ken Miller, along with another billion Catholics, believe that God created the universe. They are thus creationists in the strictest, non-derogatory sense, and I think that Miller would agree (though I am sure he would be careful to whom he agreed about it to, rightfully being worried about being quote-mined). To deny this is absurd, just as it is equally absurd to ridicule them for being such. It would be like a hard core, right wing republican refusing to accept someone saying that Ronald Reagan was a democrat, meaning one who believes in the principles of democracy, because he wasn’t a Democrat, meaning one who is a member of the Democratic party. I think Coyne was wrong in not being careful in his language, but I think you are also wrong in holding that the term “creationist” can only have the derogatory meaning of one who accepts one of the various flavors of anti-science creationism. It really is reminiscent of how ID people throw around the word “naturalist” without recognizing the distinction between methodological naturalists and philosophical naturalists, and it is really beneath you.

    And, as an aside, really, in this case, harping on Miller’s take on the anthropic principle is beside the point. That is part of how he harmonizes his religious beliefs with his scientific knowledge of the universe, and that is all. It does not alter the fact that he believes that God created the universe, which is a belief he has a right to, and which does not bear upon how he should be regarded as a scientist.

    I hope you are not interpreting me as being unpleasant toward you, as that is not my intent. I think you just need to cool down a bit on this point.

  73. Peter

    If their official position is that they don’t endorse any religious positions, then they probably shouldn’t be endorsing particular religious positions.

  74. John Kwok

    @ Mel –

    I had a similar discussion with someone else months ago on this very issue, and he finally agreed with me that Ken Miller isn’t a creationist. I’m not trying to get worked over this, but I believe in calling a “spade a spade”. To be perfectly honest, Ken’s take on the anthropic principle seems less extreme than what I have heard about Simon Conway Morris’s. Again, I don’t think it is really helpful to refer to Ken as a creationist.

    @ Peter –

    So how would you suggest that NCSE proceed in informing those who are religiously devout that they can subscribe to their beliefs and accept evolution as valid science? I have yet to read anything meaningful from the usual militant atheist suspects like Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers, for example. I think it is well within NCSE’s right to point to organizations like the Clergy Letter Project and to post educational resources that could be of ample use to theologians. In either case, NCSE isn’t, as you claim, “endorsing particular religious positions”.

  75. Mel

    @John Kwok

    I agree with you that it isn’t helpful to refer to him, of Conway Morris (and you are correct in your assessment that Conway Morris goes considerably farther than Miller in how he harmonizes his religion and science), or any other religious scientists as creationists, as it is too easy to be unclear or be misinterpreted. Indeed, it takes too much verbiage and risks too much acrimony to ensure clarity to apply the word and ensure that what one means in using it as a sensu strictu descriptor of a general category of religious belief, and so should be avoided. I stand by what I have said, though. I think we can simply agree to disagree and leave it at that. I just want to make sure that you understand that I have the utmost respect for Ken Miller, his writing, and science, and I detest how he has been treated by some of the new atheists simply because he is religious and has no problem harmonizing two different facets of his life and understanding of the universe. Peace?

  76. Loc

    Erasmussimo,

    Thanks for the direct response. And it should have been easy, it was just a question. What, then, do you call this, this, or this? This is ‘being politic’? If this isn’t catering to the religious (especially certain faiths over others), then I don’t know exactly what would constitute ‘catering.’ Maybe you could help me with what catering would entail?

    And on your point, no. I don’t think science should officially declare the scientifically incorrect stories of the Biblical (or any other religion) anymore than I think they should point out the inherent contradictions within the same text. These organizations should promote science, plain and simple. They do not need to take a stance, one direction or the other, regarding religion. There’s lemmings like us that can do that.

  77. Peter

    “I detest how he has been treated”

    Just out of curiosity, what kind of human rights violations are we talking about, here? Did someone refuse to buy him a beer?

  78. Erasmussimo

    Peter, you argue in #73 that NCSE is endorsing religious positions. I think that you are misinterpreting their actions. They are providing information from different religious thinkers to the effect that there is no conflict between science and religion. I don’t see that as an endorsement of any of those religions. I see it as a rather noncontroversial collection of statements from the religious side, not the scientific side. Only the extreme religions claim an outright conflict between science and religion. In other words, they’re not saying “We endorse these religious positions”, they are quoting religious thinkers who are, in effect, saying “We endorse these scientific positions.”

  79. Loc

    Erasmussimo,

    @78 that is a good point, but a little misleading. You end by saying that “we endorse these scientific positions,” but by what authority are you declaring that? One from religion perhaps? You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that they aren’t endorsing a religion, and then make statements on their behalf.

    And if you do take that position, they should do that for every religion. How do you not see that those organizations are favoring one over the others? They shouldn’t do it period!

  80. Peter

    Oh please, Erasblah, I didn’t argue that at all! At 70, I linked to Blackford so that he could argue it, and I said that I wasn’t sure that it was much more than a quibble. Then Kwok pointed to the NCSE FAQ as evidence that they don’t endorse any religious views, which, really, was silly. And I linked to the section of their website that was the source of the controversy.

    Erasblah, you certainly have no business trying to read between the lines of my comments, especially when I have explicitly stated that I don’t have a firm position on it myself.

  81. Mel

    @Peter

    Don’t me over-dramatic. I got bullied a lot as a kid (very often by creationists in school for being willing to say that I accepted evolution – part of growing up in rural Georgia, I guess), and I don’t like bullying of any sort as a consequence. I see some of what seems to be mockery of Miller by PZ Myers and others as bullying. I don’t like it, I don’t think he deserves it, I think it is rude and uncivil, and I don’t think it is helpful. I can accept if you disagree, though. It is just my opinion, informed by my own experience.

  82. Mel

    Darn fingers. I meant to write “Don’t be over-dramatic.”

  83. Peter

    Sorry Mel, it’s just that there are a lot of people around here who throw around terms like “militant atheist” as if these guys are a bunch of skinheads or something. That sort of overdramatic rhetoric really just seems like an ad hominem to prejudice people against them without addressing their arguments, and I like to ridicule it.

  84. Mel

    @Peter
    No problem. I think it would really help things in general if the drama and invective were toned down all around. It would make the discussion of the interesting and important issues that come up in boards like this much more productive.

  85. Erasmussimo

    Loc in #76 asks:

    What, then, do you call this, this, or this? This is ‘being politic’? If this isn’t catering to the religious (especially certain faiths over others), then I don’t know exactly what would constitute ‘catering.’ Maybe you could help me with what catering would entail?

    The three web pages you cite do not, IMO, constitute catering to religious interests because they do not in any manner endorse religious beliefs. They do not in any fashion imply that religious beliefs are scientifically correct; they instead differentiate science from religion in an objective manner. I suspect that you want them to include some sort of condemnation of religious belief; the absence of condemnation does not, in my mind, constitute catering to.

    These organizations should promote science, plain and simple. They do not need to take a stance, one direction or the other, regarding religion.

    I don’t think that they are taking a stance on religion, I think that they are loudly declaring their neutrality. The AAAS page, for example, describes a dialogue on science, ethics, and religion. What’s wrong with that? For example, suppose that scientists were to join with theologists in a discussion on the ethical implications of nuclear weaponry. What could possibly be wrong with that? Do you believe that scientists should never stoop to dialogue with religious people? The AAAS page is not endorsing religion, it’s simply facilitating discussion between scientists and religious people.

    In #70, Loc, you misunderstand my statement. You wrote:

    You end by saying that “we endorse these scientific positions,” but by what authority are you declaring that?

    my actual statement was:

    they’re not saying “We endorse these religious positions”, they are quoting religious thinkers who are, in effect, saying “We endorse these scientific positions.”

    So you are attributing to me an interpretation of the statements on the website in question. I’m not saying that *I* endorse these scientific positions; I’m interpreting the following statement from that website:

    Theologians from many traditions hold that science and religion occupy different spheres of knowledge.

    to mean that theologians endorse scientific knowledge in its own sphere.

    Peter, (#80), I’m not going to get into an argument about what you meant. I have no desire to play gotcha games.

  86. @John Kwok

    If militant atheists toned down their rhetoric as much as, for example, Lawrence Krauss has, then I think they might be able to make a more persuasive case. Until then they’re no better than the Dishonesty Institute, its pathetic band of mendacious intellectual pornographers like Bill Dembski and Casey Luskin, and of course, their online legion of intellectually-challenged IDiot Borg drones.

    I think you have more of a personal than a reasoned stake in this argument, John. To compare the so-called “militant atheists” to the ID crowd is disingenuous at best. Krauss is no less of a militant atheist than PZ is, whatever that means; but he has never called you out personally and that is the difference.

    Creationism is scalar, and Ken Miller is on that scale – far towards the science-friendly end but a creationist nonetheless because he states that even if he can’t pinpoint God’s mechanism he believes it to be there. Francis Collins, Stephen Matheson and others are respected for the science and education they do, but where they run into problems is in justifying their religious beliefs nonetheless and the “militant atheists” are challenging them om it. They, however, do not accuse the religious scientists of purposely mangling the science, as the Disco Tute does, and the Disco Tute (whether through ignorance or malfeasance) distorts scientific conclusions. There is a big difference, here, and you are letting your personal feelings about the matter interfere with your judgment on the issue.

  87. —- I should add that I fully believe in the allegorical truth of the [virgin birth].

    And so it all becomes clear. Your gripe with the “New Atheists” is not really about their epistemic claims, is it? Whether we “put up or shut up” won’t make a bit of difference, because your belief is merely “allegorical”; untouchable by science whether it has something to say about it or not. You just want people to stop being “rude” by calling your belief absurd. JCS

    Before answering you, this is severely off topic on this thread, in fact, it’s off blog since I said that at my blog and not here.

    You didn’t bother to ask what I meant by the allegorical truth of The Virgin Birth story, it was that the humblest person had worth equal to the greatest person, that economic circumstance was not determinative of the worth of a person, that even talking about the value of a person was to make a person based on their position in society or even within a family or on the basis of their present ability to do anything for anyone is wrong. It’s wrong because people are not objects. It’s wrong because doing what almost everyone does, looking at people in terms of judgment of value turns them into objects with the status of commodities. In religious terms, it denies that they have a status above that of mere objects.

    I’m pretty confused about how the term “epistemology” gets thrown around in these discussions. Its one of a number of terms that seems to have lost meaning with it’s unskilled use. I quite literally know less about what you mean through your use of it in that sentence. How you could have thought you knew anything about how what I believed could be put into an epistemological categorization on the basis of what I have told you makes it necessary to say you need to put it in plain English before I can answer you.

    I didn’t say “put up or shut up” I said if someone things that The Virgin Birth as it’s believed is susceptible to science or even impinges on the subject matter of science, and I think I demonstrated to you here how that couldn’t be true, could be “a strictly scientific question” it was up to them to show how it could be dealt with scientifically. If a question can’t be dealt with scientifically, it’s not a question of science of any kind. What I said is prove it or admit you can’t do it. I don’t happen to believe that the story is literally true, but my belief in its allegorical meaning has nothing to do with the challenge. That’s to do with the integrity of science in a proposition that the new atheists never tire of misidentifying as a belief that science can and has dismissed. It’s a question about the limits of science and the integrity of those who claim to uphold its integrity.

    I wouldn’t have demanded that anyone shut up about The Virgin Birth. Like Qunenten Crisp said to the judge, I wouldn’t have expected anyone ever would.

  88. —- I now have a much better understanding of the low standard of truth you apply to truth-claims, at least with respect to supernaturalism. JCS

    Alas, also off topic.

    I didn’t say anything about the truth of The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, I said I was impressed because the people who wrote the gospels and the early Christians seem to have had a better understanding of the difference between belief and the kind of knowledge of the kind that science can produce, than some of the people who keep misidentifying questions about those two, specific questions, as being scientific ones. I specifically mentioned that one of the reasons I’m impressed is because the scientists and others today at least are supposed to be familiar with scientific methods, which those early Christians didn’t know.

    Since I’ve said here a number of times that I don’t happen to be a Christian, your assumption that I was talking about the scientific accuracy of those two beliefs is totally illogical and seems rather opportunistic.

  89. — I just wish I knew what constituted pimp-slapping in this whole debacle, because I think Chris and, for example, the indefatigable Anthony McCarthy would have wildly different views as to what is objectionable conduct. Bill C.

    I really wish you would stop making it necessary for me to answer personal charges, which I will, when they’re made.

    I said almost from the beginning that since so much of the program of the new atheists is based on applying the unfavorable half of a double standard to their opponents, I thought it was necessary to apply that half of it to them. When arguing with them, I don’t feel under any obligation to allow them to rig the rules in their own favor. It’s something I’ve railed at other Democrats for allowing the Republicans to do in politics for ages.

    I try to be civil when other people are civil and to not be the one who lowers the tone. You do understand that when you’re engaged in an argument, disagreeing with someone and being able to say exactly why isn’t a matter of being uncivil, don’t you? That’s a real question, by the way.

    While I don’t think I am, what’s wrong with being “indefatigable”?

  90. —- This is a really tricky issue. On the one hand, I can admire a strictly agnostic approach: “Science has nothing to say about religious beliefs, so we will not comment on them.” However, what’s the distinction between these two statements:

    “Science has nothing to say about religious beliefs”
    and
    “Science has no conflict with religious beliefs” Erasmussimo

    There are different categories of religious beliefs.

    Those beliefs that involve claims about the material universe for which physicial evidence is available are open to challenge by science. Genesis taken literally is the quintessential example.

    Claims about the material universe or the supernatural for which there isn’t any evidence that science can work with or which for some other reason aren’t susceptible to science, aren’t susceptible to science. Yeah, those two are examples of that category. They might be susceptible to other disciplines, but no one here is talking about those.

    If a belief isn’t susceptible to science, the acceptance or rejection of them isn’t on the basis of science, no matter how much it feels like it should be. It’s on the basis of something else, rational or not.

    I think the problem is that a lot of people can’t accept that science can’t do everything and get really emotional when those limits become an issue. Just like the people who get emotional when someone points out that the Bible isn’t a science or history textbook.

    Having spent three weeks concentrating here and reading several new atheist blogs, I think a lot of the issue boils down to the unrealistic belief in the supremacy of science in every issue. Science can do what it does quite well, what it can’t do, it can’t do. It’s not the only important and useful way of doing things or finding the truth. And I do think that’s at the bottom of a lot of this.

  91. Peter Beattie

    John Kwok said in #66:
    Nor am I impressed with your petulant attitude insisting that you’re right and I’m wrong.

    Au contraire, dear Kwok. I even made that point explicitly: what I’m trying to do is to make sure that my understanding of Coyne et al. is not off the mark. And if your claims were right, it would be. That’s why I’m asking you (politely, I hope, rather than petulantly) to back up your claims. But instead of engaging with the point that, by the way, you yourself initially raised, you keep shifting the debate to different complaints that have less and less to do with the starting point of the discussion.

    Says John Kwok:
    Since Coyne doesn’t regret turning down the World Science Festival invitation because of its Templeton Foundation funding, then why hasn’t he stated his objection to his university – the University of Chicago – receiving tens of millions of dollars from the Templeton Foundation?

    That, finally, has no bearing whatsoever on the question whether Coyne is harsh or strident, much less whether he’s right in the debate. And incidentally, it’s you again making an assertion without citing evidence that someone else might use to check that assertion, simply assuming the burden of proof lies with the other person. And, no, I don’t think I’ll bite this time.

  92. Matt

    @ erasmussimo (85):

    All of the “militant” atheists are saying that science orginizations like the NCSE and NAS should just remain silent on the issue of religion. They would prefer no reference to religion at all on any of the official sites. That doesn’t seem at all unreasonable or militant.

    You say:

    “I don’t think that [official orgs] are taking a stance on religion, I think that they are loudly declaring their neutrality.”

    But neutrality is a position. The anti-accomodationists want NO position. Not a neutral one, but a lack of one. At least per official, state-sponsored orginizations. On a personal level I think the general feeling of the anti-accomos is that religion does more harm than good. But rarely do they blame all the evils of the world on religion. They certainly blame many evils on religion, but I have never seen any of them say, “man, if it wasn’t for religion there would be no evil and no problems and we would all be in a utopia.” I have seen many say they feel we would be better off without religion.

    Back to the original point of it all: I don’t see Chris’s comment as being way out of line either. It’s his opinion, and he’s entitled to it. I don’t know if I’d interpret his earlier comments as an admonition to shut up. I share your thoughts that this is a lot of to do about one particular example in a larger debate. But I think the debate is important, and I sincerely disagree with Chris’s points.

    I don’t think anything ever really gets changed by being nice about it. If he thinks we shouldn’t criticize an erroneous idea publicly in an attempt to change it, just what does he think we should do? Use a slick marketing campaign? Nobody thinks that magically the other side will all be won over by logic, but this is how you change things. You criticize them. Publicly. Loudly. And for a long time. Otherwise nothing gets done. And if you think (like I do) that religion is a problem in society, then you criticize it. Criticizing slavery publicly didn’t work? Criticizing segregation publicly didn’t work? Criticizing the disenfranchisement of women publicly didn’t work? Criticizing oppressive systems of government publicly has never worked?

  93. Hey. Thinking some more, what if they’re right? What if the deadly sin of faith in the supernatural among scientists that Jerry Coyne et al are up in arms about is really a danger to the existence of science? What if just the belief in the possibility of miracles really does endanger the existence and legitimacy of science?

    How about scientists whose behavior and not just their words prove their unreliability regard to the supernatural? Actions are more a risk than mere words, after all. How about scientists who visit casinos and bet against the house? Isn’t that an obvious demonstration of their belief that luck exists and is efficacious in the actual, physical world?

    I haven’t thought this through, maybe there are acceptable faith practices that these guys engage in. Roulette players or those who touch a slot machine, however, should clearly be excommunicated. Poker players might squeeze through on their skill at guessing the odds and card counting. That might just be faith in their own abilities as opposed to that of skilled professional gamblers. Is that too much faith? But maybe you shouldn’t just assume the card players are really that reliable . What if they lose money in large amounts, as has been known to happen. They could endanger science by pilfering from their lab accounts. Now that’s a clear and present danger, isn’t it?

    I think it’s clear that anyone whose actions betray such a deep seated belief in the supernatural in the form of luck are a danger to the integrity of science. A belief in luck negates science, it means that something other than the usual order of the natural universe could come in to the lab and skew the results in favor of the researcher.

    Once you look, there are all kinds of temptations to give in to the supernatural. I’ll bet there are other instances of faith-based dangers to science all around us. Someone, quick get Dr. Coyne on the case.

  94. benjdm

    Poker players might squeeze through on their skill at guessing the odds and card counting.

    Get a clue. Card counting is blackjack, not poker. In stud games it’s useful to keep track of cards that were visible but have been folded, but that’s not counting.

  95. benjdm, I’m not a gamester, but I’ve heard poker players talk about something called “card counting”.

    Hey, they put up their money in the belief they’re going to get more back. How much more of a faith act is there? And why wouldn’t that be as much of a problem for science as the belief that miracles are possible?

  96. benjdm

    Although the gambling argument you brought up is actually a pretty good non-accomodationist argument.

    Clearly, the NCSE needs to introduce some FAQs about science and gambling, talking about how the two are perfectly compatible. The current NCSE FAQs and positions, which make no mention of gambling, are not politically savvy. Too many gamblers will think that they are being forced to choose between their gambling and science and they will end up rejecting science.

  97. benjdm

    benjdm, I’m not a gamester, but I’ve heard poker players talk about something called “card counting”.

    Not when they’re talking about poker.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Card_counting
    “Card counting is a card game strategy used to determine when a player has a probability advantage. The term is used almost exclusively to refer to the tracking of the ratio of high cards to low cards in blackjack…although it is sometimes used to refer to obtaining a count of the distribution or remaining high cards in trick-taking games, such as contract bridge or spades.”

    “And why wouldn’t that be as much of a problem for science as the belief that miracles are possible?”

    It could be equally a problem. This may have escaped you, but no one is claiming theistic scientists have to stop being scientists. Nor do gambling scientists. Gambling scientists who write books detailing how they reconcile gambling and science should expect people to listen to their arguments and criticize or endorse them. The NCSE shouldn’t put up FAQs detailing how gambling or religion are compatible with science.

  98. Apparently there’s not unanimity on that issue.

    Card Counting Poker

    Card counting Poker is an excellent skill, and is not as difficult as one might imagine. Once mastered, you will not be able to state exactly what the next card is in the pack, however you will have an idea of the most likely value of card to come next, and indeed whether the odds are in your favour to bet high.

    http://www.poker-tips.co.uk/poker-card-counting-poker/how-to-count-cards.htm

    Do you think that Black Jack would invalidate my point about the scientific unreliability of gambling scientists? My relatives who work in science have talked about regular card games among their colleagues. I won’t name them for fear they’ll be considered metaphysically unreliable for their philosophical materialist apostasy.

  99. benjdm

    My relatives who work in science have talked about regular card games among their colleagues. I won’t name them for fear they’ll be considered metaphysically unreliable for their philosophical materialist apostasy.

    You’re absolutely right. In order to make them feel OK about what they are doing, the NCSE must take an official stance that certain forms of gambling are compatible with science. Many gambling experts agree on this and the existence of gambling scientists clinches it. To leave off such statements would be giving in to the militant non-gambling-ists.

  100. AM (#87) —

    Off-topic it may be, but not irrelevant. You’ve repeatedly argued that the scientists and others who are called “New Atheists” are in error because they fail to address (indeed, cannot address through science) the complex and subtle arguments for the “truth” of religious propositions. It is therefore reasonable to evaluate exactly why you think that’s so, and that includes your own estimation of the truth-value of religious propositions.

    The problem, I think, is almost semantic. It seems now clear that you’re talking about a different kind of “truth”; One divorced from epistemology. In other words, the “truth” you’re talking about has little to do with how the world is, but how it ought to be. That is, your estimation of “truth” seemingly has less to do with knowledge about the world and more to do with how we cope with that knowledge.

    Not that there is anything inherently wrong with this. We humans have emotional needs that epistemology doesn’t satisfy. Even if we knew everything there is to know, we would still feel the need to relate to that knowledge somehow; To find where we fit within that framework and deal with it. That’s where the discussion of MN/PN comes in.

    But there is a distinction between the kinds of “truth” the two camps are talking about. On the one hand are we atheists, who are talking about “truth” with epistemic authority – derived via sound methods of acquiring actual knowledge about how the world really is. On the other are folks like yourself, who appear to suggest that how we estimate our relationship to what we know has some sort of authority in tandem; That it is an epistemology unto itself, and compatible with science.

    In that sense, I sympathize and even agree to a certain extent. Science can inspire us, provoke awe, humility, and excitement, among other things. But I can acknowledge that this will not necessarily satisfy the deep-seated longing for meaning and purpose many people still have. The need to snatch at least a tiny bit of significance – rather than exist as an insignificant, short-lived nobody on a lonely planet in a vast airless ocean so deadly and deep as to boggle the imagination – can be overpowering.

    Yet, no matter how strongly we may wish it to be so, our longing does not and cannot confer epistemic authority on the materials that seem to sometimes satify that need for some people. Allegories are not “truth” in the same sense as objective realities. That the story of Jesus might be (according to you) about the value of people does not mean that the story has epistemic worth (i.e., that we can therefore “know” that people have objective value) contrasted with logic & science, which implicitly demonstrates value is subjective and our unlikely existence a matter of chance and natural forces.

    We don’t have to like it for truth to be truth.

    Religion, therefore, does not teach us about “truth” in the same sense that science does. Indeed, I would argue that religious teachings aren’t really “teachings” at all (in an epistemic sense), and are of questionable worth even as philosophy. Most (if not all) of the truth-claims offered by various religions concerning about how the world is (i.e., how it materially functions, if only once in history) are demonstrably false either explicitly or as a matter of extreme improbability. And some of the moral teachings are frankly disgusting by today’s standards, or almost wholly ignored by the god(s) allegedly responsible for morality therein.

    So what place is there, really, for religion at the Table of Knowledge? If it does not reliably (or accurately) describe how humans must cope with the world, if it does not reliably (or accurately) describe sound morality, and if it does not reliably (or accurately) describe how the universe functions, it does not confer knowledge even if it satisfies emotional needs and might be considered important in at least that respect.

    I chose to address this here rather than on your blog partly because Mooney’s space gets more traffic and might more quickly generate a discussion. Also because I am spending far too much time commenting on other blogs and too little time finishing the roughly ten articles I’m trying to finish queueing up on mine.

    My fiancee suggests that I might have more time to write if only I stopped commenting elsewhere. I’m sure she’s right.

    I’m pretty confused about how the term “epistemology” gets thrown around in these discussions.

    Well, as you may know, epistemology is the study of knowledge itself, and justified belief as a consequence. It’s about the issues involved in generating and sharing knowledge with respect to a given area of inquiry.

    I think you’re confused because, as I said above, scientists and other “New Atheists” are criticizing (in part) religion as epistemically bankrupt. That means it has no value as an engine for actual knowledge about our universe. Your complaint, on the other hand, seems to revolve around a different estimation of either what knowledge is, or what truth is, and the (sometimes arguably boorish) ways we learn and talk about those things.

    In discussions of knowledge and epistemology (i.e., how we know what we know), the only recourse a moderate interested in defending the “truth” of religion really has is to question how we can really know, with any degree of certainty, anything about anything; To invoke Edmund Gettier and his famous problem. You’ve argued against the idea that science can “know” that the virgin birth did not occur on the basis of probabilities, and thereby implicitly seem to have invoked the principle that we cannot really know that it didn’t occur. To overcome this, you’ve suggested that an experiment based on our theory be conducted (or at least its method presented), which seems to mean you want science to deductively “prove” it didn’t happen.

    To begin with, few (if any) in the atheist camp would deny that there is a possibility that the virgin birth could’ve occurred, so you’re wrestling with an anorexic straw man. That something might be possible has very little to do with whether it is probable, which hints at induction as a means for determining truth.

    Science, as often as not, works by induction, which is essentially a bottom up approach to knowledge. That is, we start with observations (e.g., in the case of the virgin birth, human reproduction), and from there try to find patterns (e.g., methods of human reproduction) and develop a hypothesis (e.g., humans reproduce sexually) to explain what we’ve observed. Now, that doesn’t mean we can be 100% certain that all humans that ever existed reproduced sexually, but that doesn’t mean our inference is invalid or that we need to back away from saying the virgin birth didn’t happen on the basis of extreme improbability.

    That is, we don’t need to cling to absolute agnosticism and politely express mere skepticism because we didn’t actually “prove” something absolutely true (or false). All science is provisional, and if someone can demonstrate scientifically that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, science may have to revise the theory of human reproduction to accommodate it. The same goes for any miracle credited to supernatural agency.

    When I explained (perhaps on another thread) that the virgin birth is a scientific claim because it asserts something about how the world functions (or functioned – once), this is the approach I was taking. By contrast, you were (unbeknownst to me at the time) approaching it as allegory, which means were weren’t even talking the same language.

    BTW, there is a very good article on the difference between deduction & induction here. There are probably others that go into more in-depth, but that one should suffice.

    What I said is prove it or admit you can’t do it.

    Which is the same thing as saying, “put up or shut up.” No, you weren’t that succinct (you might call it rude), but the meaning is the same.

    …the people who wrote the gospels and the early Christians seem to have had a better understanding of the difference between belief and the kind of knowledge of the kind that science can produce, than some of the people who keep misidentifying questions about those two, specific questions, as being scientific ones.

    But on what basis can you assert such a thing? Certainly not on scripture, which is replete with examples of the (totally understandable) ignorance of its writers with respect to the material function of the world. Having said that, I will grant that they (or at least Paul) did seem to understand completely that what they believed was wholly grounded in faith, and reason based on faith, not on an understanding of “worldly wisdom”; a category into which logic & science fits nicely. Yet that doesn’t mean they really knew anything about it.

    One of the most celebrated aspects of the early church was that it spread by word of mouth largely among the uneducated masses rather than the educated few. In fact, the same still occurs today in some parts of the world. Constantine, I think, might be considered among the first “intellectuals” of any power to accept the doctrines of Christianity, and that wasn’t until the 3rd century.

  101. Erasmussimo

    Matt #92, you make an excellent point noting the distinction between a position of neutrality and no position whatsoever. I agree with the distinction you make, but I don’t agree with your preference for the latter.

    The problem here is that science cannot hide in its ivory tower. Like it or not, science is part of society, and it gets caught up in social evolution and controversy. People invoke science for all manner of uses: to sell products, argue politics, or push their religious beliefs. And science has already come down from the ivory tower by selling itself to governments for funding. So it’s too late to argue that science should hold itself above the swirl of social controversies — it has been deep inside them for decades. The best it can do now is to loudly declare its neutrality on religious issues. Refusing to do so permits non-scientists to speak for science.

    I’d like to address your second point properly, but I’ll need some time to formulate my response.

  102. RE: # 100

    Forgot to get back “on topic” (i.e., the accommodationism debate)…

    In the context of the current debate then, the problem begins with religion claiming epistemic authority it does not have; a myth that’s sadly being perpetuated by those who should know better. Yes, even moderates are insisting on this. But I suspect Miller, Collins, et. al know religion lacks authority on some level, yet estimate its importance to be such that compatibilism seems like the only reasonable option. But just because something might be important does not mean it’s essential or equivalent.

  103. — Off-topic it may be, but not irrelevant. You’ve repeatedly argued that the scientists and others who are called “New Atheists” are in error because they fail to address (indeed, cannot address through science) the complex and subtle arguments for the “truth” of religious propositions. JCS

    No. Absolutely not what I was talking about at all. I was talking about the error of asserting that science and probability could do what they specifically can’t. I didn’t bring up the two propositions, a number of new atheists did, Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins, two figures in science, among them.

    I never suggested that these people not deal with any aspect of these two propositions, they chose to and they chose to place the argument in terms of science. It’s not my fault that they didn’t think it through before they did it.

    As far as I’m concerned those two topics are especially bad ones to use if you want to talk about miraculous claims with science.

    History, literature, and any number of other non-scientific subject areas are eminently more suited to deal with those two claims, it’s not my fault if using those appropriate methods of investigation won’t do what the new atheists want them to.

    If you are going to make an issue of “new atheists” I’d suggest you go bring that up with Jerry Coyne and Jason Rosenhouse because they’ve used them within the past two months.

  104. – We don’t have to like it for truth to be truth. JCS

    That’s been my experience, you might want to point that out to some of the new atheists who seem to flip out when someone presses the evidence to it’s logical conclusion.

    — Well, as you may know, epistemology is the study of knowledge itself, and justified belief as a consequence. JCS

    Yeah, so I was told once before it became one of those words that get tossed around on blogs losing meaning with unskilled use.

    — You’ve argued against the idea that science can “know” that the virgin birth did not occur on the basis of probabilities, and thereby implicitly seem to have invoked the principle that we cannot really know that it didn’t occur. JCS

    If it can be done, I’ve challenged people here and Jason Rosenhouse, who teaches Mathematics, to show how it could be done, without altering what the belief actually consists of. If someone can show how it’s done, and is willing to put their real name to it, I’ll admit that it can be.

    You guys do actually understand that making an assertion based on some feeling of rightness or habit or hunch or pretended findings, etc. are not actually science. Even citing the word of an eminent scientist is not science, you’ve got to be able to back up your claims with scientific methods of inquiry, reach the conclusion and to have it stand up to review.

    You do understand that not being unable to disprove something isn’t a requirment to believe it, it just means you can’t disprove it. I’ve yet to argue an issue like this with a new atheist in which they’ve actually seemed to understand that.

  105. John Kwok

    @ Mike Haubrich –

    Sure, you could classify Lawrence Krauss as a Militant Atheist, simply on the basis of his beliefs. But unlike, some of his other, more zealous, “brothers”, he has, all too often, presented his views in a dignified, quite restrained, manner. So when I criticize Militant Atheists, I am thinking more in terms of PZ Myers (No, this is not personal. I’ve had a less than flattering view of him ever since his infamous “CrackerGate” episode from last summer. His own stupid behavior towards me recently is merely “icing on the cake” IMHO.), Richard Dawkins, Christoper Hitchens, and unfortunately, Jerry Coyne as well (I have the utmost respect and appreciation of his work as a premier evolutionary biologist. I am quite perplexed that he would refer to PZ Myers as a “first rate mind” especially when Myers, by his own admission, has admitted that he’s far from the distinguished evolutionary developmental biologist that his colleague Sean B. Carroll is, and perhaps, more importantly, since Myers has not rendered much in the way of meaningful professional service to the scientific community or has published any credible scientific research – a fact well documented by others both here and elsewhere online – since 1999 if not before.).

  106. Erasmussimo

    Matt in #92 states:

    I don’t think anything ever really gets changed by being nice about it. If he thinks we shouldn’t criticize an erroneous idea publicly in an attempt to change it, just what does he think we should do?

    Here we get to a fundamental issue: what is the best strategy for secularists to use in coping with religion’s role in society? This is a complicated issue that has, I think, been treated in an overly simplistic manner in these discussions. There is no single answer because there is no single problem. What do we want to accomplish? There’s plenty of disagreement there. A fundamental question is whether we should be offensive or defensive: is our goal to reduce the cultural influence of religion or to protect scientific integrity? I suspect that much of our disagreement arises here. I prefer a defensive approach, and I suspect that the militant atheists prefer an offensive approach. So why don’t we address that point first?

    I prefer the defensive approach because it is ethically precise. It doesn’t seek to accomplish anything more than what is directly injurious to the good of humanity. If ardent theists want to compromise the teaching of science, I want to block their efforts and preserve the integrity of science education. I find it morally objectionable to attack an entire life philosophy because it sometimes produces undesirable results. Some Muslims are terrorists, but this doesn’t justify attacking Islam. Some Christians murder abortion doctors, but this doesn’t justify attacking Christianity. Some poor people commit property crimes, but this doesn’t justify going after poor people.

    Do you prefer the offensive strategy or the defensive strategy?

  107. @ AM (#103):

    I was talking about the error of asserting that science and probability could do what they specifically can’t.

    Which is, I presume, disproving an allegory?

    Did you not read the whole comment? You must’ve missed the part about induction and how science can have something to say about a particular phenomenon even when it can’t do so deductively (e.g., via experimentation).

    And, as for who brought up the virgin birth, it was the Bible’s authors who did that, thereby saying something about how the world functions (or functioned at least once). And, incidentally, it’s quite clear that the writers believed this was an actual, physical event, even if some choose to interpret it otherwise. Hell, even if they didn’t, there are those (several hundred million, at least) alive today who do. Thus, science has something to say about the likelihood of virgin births occurring even once in history.

    Retreating to allegory is like saying, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

    History, literature, and any number of other non-scientific subject areas are eminently more suited to deal with those two claims…

    And why is that? What do these things teach you about the event in question? Do they teach you how it occurred? If this includes claims concerning the natural world, science might have something to say about the validity of such claims.

    For example, if a work of literature claims that the rainbow is a miracle set in place by God (such as the Bible does), science can indeed inform us as to whether that seems to be true or not. In this case, what it finds is evidence for the natural mechanisms and laws which give rise to rainbows, suggesting there is nothing supernatural whatsoever about a rainbow.

    We can still appreciate the symbolism, perhaps, and certainly its beauty, but we cannot reasonably assert that God actually and in fact causes rainbows to be. Thus, ultimately allegory crumbles when it contends with scientific facts, but for the tenacity with which people cling to an allegorical or symbolic estimation of what “truth” is.

    Frankly, I’m amazed that some people still consider rhetorical devices – the tools in the art of persuasion – as wholly reliable means of determining truth.

    If you are going to make an issue of “new atheists” I’d suggest you go bring that up with Jerry Coyne and Jason Rosenhouse because they’ve used them within the past two months.

    Their preference. I don’t see it as useful, that’s all.

    @ AM (#104):

    …atheists who seem to flip out when someone presses the evidence to it’s logical conclusion.

    What evidence would that be, pray tell?

    If it can be done, I’ve challenged people here and Jason Rosenhouse, who teaches Mathematics, to show how it could be done, without altering what the belief actually consists of.

    Again, did you read the part about scientific induction as it relates to virgin births in my previous post? If you have a specific problem with it, please state your case. Continuing to talk about how you have asked, and asked and no one has answered isn’t helping.

    You guys do actually understand that making an assertion based on some feeling of rightness or habit or hunch or pretended findings, etc. are not actually science. Even citing the word of an eminent scientist is not science, you’ve got to be able to back up your claims with scientific methods of inquiry, reach the conclusion and to have it stand up to review.

    Yes we do. Do you? You have yet to argue in favor of your belief in the virgin birth or present evidence that it is true. In fact, if anything, you’ve backed away from such a discussion by blaming a couple atheists who you say brought it up (so I should take it up with them, I guess), by calling it allegorical on your blog, and with some vague references to history and literature.

    Much hand waving with little substance.

    Meanwhile, I have yet to appeal to authority, and have explicitly laid out a brief sketch of a case for induction without reference to “pretend findings,” “feelings,” or “hunches.” Critique at will, if you like.

  108. - Which is, I presume, disproving an allegory? JCS

    Disproving an allegory, what an odd idea. How would you do that and why would you want to. I’m wondering how you propose to do it.

    I was addressing the repeated mention by new atheists, Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins among them, who proposed dealing with the story of The Virgin Birth with science. Obviously, they meant the belief that the Virgin Mary concieved by The Holy Spirit and gave birth to a son, Jesus. I don’t remember LK or RD talking in terms of allegory, though I’m certain Dawkins might, since he’s so flighty about stuff like logic.

    That was their proposal, that was what I dealt with, showing that as defined in the gospels and by those who believe that it was an historical event is something that science and mathematics can’t touch. That is what they were asserting that science and probability could deal with, when it’s clear they can’t. I was willing to see if they could, I specifically and repeatedly challenged Jason Rosenhouse to vindicate the new atheists on his blog who got into the argument about probability with me by showing how it could be done and putting his name to it. To stony silence. Oh, and he made it clear he didn’t care for having me around, though that might have been because I contradicted what he’d said about Coyne’s review by presenting a number of quotes from it. But that’s a side issue.

    You didn’t seem to be too concerned until I showed you, yesterday, that since it happened exactly once in history and is said by those who believe it that that is the only time it ever will happen in that way, that it couldn’t be part of the subject matter of science. You didn’t contradict that, I believe, entirely obvious point which seems to have eluded both of those eminent scientists with large audiences.

    — Did you not read the whole comment? You must’ve missed the part about induction and how science can have something to say about a particular phenomenon even when it can’t do so deductively (e.g., via experimentation).

    A human cloning experiment? One reproducing contemporary technology and knowledge of biology? And don’t forget, the Holy Spirit is the father. Write it up and post it on my blog.

    — And, as for who brought up the virgin birth, it was the Bible’s authors who did that,

    Not with me they didn’t. It was the new atheists. If they’d asked my advice on what miracles to pick apart that one would have been among those I’d tell them to leave aside. At least if it was science they wanted to win. It’s not my fault they chose two of the worst ones they could.

    — thereby saying something about how the world functions (or functioned at least once). And, incidentally, it’s quite clear that the writers believed this was an actual, physical event, even if some choose to interpret it otherwise.

    I wouldn’t assume that. Crossan seems to think they purposely wanted to make a statement in relation to the alleged divine conception of Augustus. Shame we haven’t got much of their writing to compare. You know what, I don’t happen to believe that it was an historical event, but I could be wrong.

    —- Hell, even if they didn’t, there are those (several hundred million, at least) alive today who do. Thus, science has something to say about the likelihood of virgin births occurring even once in history.

    How many human virgin births have been scientifically verified? I don’t think any attempt to figure out the probability would be valid, apparently Rosenhouse wouldn’t put his name to it. Maybe you can find another mathematician who would. How would you figure the probability of the claim that it happened in exactly the way claimed in the gospels once? Just consider that since there is no known mechanism specified, that would leave totally unknown range of possibilities to calculate that probability from.

    — Retreating to allegory is like saying, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

    I didn’t retreat there, I started out there. How many times do I have to tell you, I wasn’t arguing in favor of the proposal, I was arguing with the assertion that it was a SCIENTIFIC QUESTION.

    I’m going to jump to the end because this is ridiculous.

    — You have yet to argue in favor of your belief in the virgin birth or present evidence that it is true.

    I’m not claiming it’s a question of science, if some Christian claimed to be able to explain it with science or to calculate the probability I’d make exactly the same arguments to them.

    You think I’m lying about not believing that it happened, don’t you. You think I’m one of those “covert Christians” just like the three or four new atheists who figured they had me nailed as a creationist as I said I fully accept evolution as established fact, and I will say fact, I don’t believe in the literal truth of Genesis, I think evolution is far bigger than we will ever know, that I absolutely hold that ID or any mention of the supernatural should be kept out of public school class rooms…..

    You guys just can’t stand it that someone can be rational and appreciate the methods of science and not be one of you. You just can’t believe that someone could deprive you of these two well worn hobby horses, even though he doesn’t believe in them, himself. It just drives you nuts that you can’t come up with the methodology to back up the claims of your heroes, when they so conspicuously haven’t done so themselves.

    Well, the new atheism is a shallow, dishonest and bigoted fad. It’s this decade’s version of the Nobel Prize stud farm.

  109. benjdm

    “showing that as defined in the gospels and by those who believe that it was an historical event is something that science and mathematics can’t touch. ”

    The same argument works for Young Earth Creationism. As defined in Genesis and by those who believe it, it was a historical event that science and mathematics can’t touch.

  110. benjdm, there is massive physical evidence to support evolution and the real age of the Earth. If there was any physical evidence to test in either The Virgin Birth of Jesus or The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, both would be susceptible to science. But there isn’t any and never will be any in those two beliefs.

    I’ve said from the beginning of this absurd go round, that the absence of physical evidence is the key problem for the new atheists who insist that, as Richard Dawkins said, the Virgin Birth is “strictly a scientific question”. You can read the post from my old blog on my new one where I first talked about it. I read him saying that and couldn’t believe it could come out of the mouth of the Oxford Chair for the Public Understanding of Science, even as he admitted there was no physical evidence.

  111. Mel

    I hate to jump into this, but, really, so what if Richard Dawkins thinks that the Virgin Birth is a scientific question? What does that have to do with anything? Why does that make the Virgin Birth a scientific question? That seems very much a categorical error to me. What bearing does that have as to whether or not people can have that belief? A better question that occurs to me as a scientist is that of who in their right mind would actually want to investigate that question scientifically? What would be the point? I have worked with Christians in the lab who do believe in the Virgin Birth in some sense or another (strangely, it was not a big topic of conversation), and I can tell you, they can design, carry out, and interpret experiments as well as anyone (if not better, as a number of them were extremely talented individuals). To be able to mix the rational and the irrational, scientific and mythic approaches to understanding the world, is to be human. I don’t see what the problem is with this. I believe in Santa Claus, even though I don’t think he exists, and I would really worry about the sanity of anyone who actually thought of testing the existence of Santa Claus scientifically. And you know what? I can still do PCR effectively despite the irrational inconsistency because I am human, and that is what we do.

    I really don’t mean to be argumentative. It has been a long day.

  112. John Kwok

    @ Mel –

    Perhaps you can enlighten Coyne/Myers Militant Atheist Borg drone Rilke’s granddaughter who believes that Christians like Ken Miller who don’t believe in the literal truth of the Virgin Birth should be condemned as heretics (She couldn’t answer when I observed that Vatican Observatory astronomer and planetary scientist – and Jesuit brother – Guy Consolmagno has a similar, if not absolutely identical, view to Ken’s, and since she regards Ken as a heretic, then shouldn’t Consolmagno be condemned as one too.).

  113. Mel, I’ve been generally appalled at what Richard Dawkins has been getting away with for decades. You have to appreciate that he made that huge howler of a clear mistake as he was arrogantly sitting on that Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science as Oxford University.

    And he and the new atheists who adore him are always presenting themselves as the only true protectors of scientific integrity telling everyone else what a bunch of superstitious, ignorant fools we are. That’s what upset me about it.

    Now Jerry Coyne and some others seem to be intent on some kind of intellectual pogrom against religious scientists, apparently Lawrence Krauss is willing to join up with them.

    I figure adults get to decide what they believe, as long as their actions don’t deprive other people of their rights and no crimes are committed I don’t figure their beliefs are the business of anyone else.

  114. Mel

    @Anthony 113
    “I figure adults get to decide what they believe, as long as their actions don’t deprive other people of their rights and no crimes are committed I don’t figure their beliefs are the business of anyone else.”

    And I fully agree. The way I tend to think of it is with a paraphrase of the Wiccan rede:
    “If harms none, believe what you wish.”

    I, frankly, find all this very frustrating. The arguments go around and around, little learning occurs, people don’t listen to each other, contempt and invective fly, and what does it accomplish? From what I have seen, it just boosts acrimony amongst scientists and pro-science members of the lay public, and little else. I can tell you that, in the lab, it just is not an issue who is religious or who is not. Since starting grad school and working in two different labs, I have worked with other students and post-docs who have been Lutheran, Catholic, variously Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Hindu, and other…and the differences in religious belief have never been a problem (well, one of the Atheists got evangelical for a while, and thus annoying, but he gradually noticed that people were avoiding him, and he settled down a bit). When religion has come up, it has been the context of understanding the different religions better, but that is it. Looking at the papers they have written, or going through their notebooks, or discussing science with them, you couldn’t tell what religion they were. It simply was not an issue. I have gotten the impression talking to others that this is pretty much the status quo in other biological labs (I don’t have contact outside of biology and some chemistry, so I have no clue what physicists are like). I don’t get this disconnect between the image of what some hold we do or are like (or what our view of what we are pursuing is, for that matter. I don’t think of myself as “pursuing truth”, and I don’t know anyone in my immediate experience who is. We are asking and answering questions, solving puzzles, testing hypotheses, and just trying to figure out how to understand the phenomena we study better. “Truth” seems much too esoteric and divorced a concept to really be in the fronts of our minds as we go about our work.), and what I have actually experienced.

  115. Anthony McCarthy Says (#110),
    –benjdm, there is massive physical evidence to support evolution and the real age of the Earth.–

    There is a lot of evidence for an old earth and some evidence for common descent, but the evidence for an evolutionary process that was driven solely by natural genetic variation and natural selection is virtually nil.

    I like the way that William Jennings Bryan put it:
    If those who teach Darwinism and evolution, as applied to man, insist that they are neither agnostics nor atheists, but are merely interpreting the Bible differently from orthodox Christians, what right have they to ask that their interpretation be taught at public expense?

    And what right have they to demand the prohibition of public-school evolution disclaimer statements aimed at reducing offense to those who disagree with evolution? Evolution disclaimer statements were struck down by the courts in three fairly recent cases: Kitzmiller v. Dover, Selman v. Cobb County, and Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish. The hypocritical so-called “accommodationists” refuse to accommodate evolution disclaimer statements in the public schools.

  116. Mel

    “There is a lot of evidence for an old earth and some evidence for common descent, but the evidence for an evolutionary process that was driven solely by natural genetic variation and natural selection is virtually nil.”

    A statement that shows a complete lack of knowledge of 150 years worth of research. Larry, you should really read a bit before you type. That statement, which you make over and over and over and over again, betrays near total ignorance of the science you are attacking. Which goes back to why there was a group of biology grad students who were laughing so loudly after I read to them some of your “ideas” last week.

  117. I see now why people don’t want to engage you.

    Disproving an allegory, what an odd idea. How would you do that and why would you want to. I’m wondering how you propose to do it.

    I was being snarky, but since you’ve claimed certain miracles are allegorical, and that allegory teaches you something about the world, presumably there’s a method by which we can determine the validity of your assertion. I was hoping you might have a suggestion.

    Apparently not. Big surprise. Guess there’s not much to your method of determining “truth.”

    I was addressing the repeated mention by new atheists, Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins among them, who proposed dealing with the story of The Virgin Birth with science. Obviously, they meant the belief that the Virgin Mary concieved by The Holy Spirit and gave birth to a son, Jesus.

    And it was explained to you here, by me, how science might address a claim like this, which you have repeatedly ignored. I’m not sure exactly why, but it seems very telling to me.

    I don’t remember LK or RD talking in terms of allegory…

    No, but you did. In the context of asking atheists to show you how science might address the question, no less. That’s a counter-claim, dear Anthony, and is subject to challenge as well. No use huffing and puffing about it.

    The way it works is this: One side makes a claim, the other side makes a counter claim, then arguments are compared, evidence evaluated, and somewhere toward the end hopefully the truth of the matter is found. Or is that too difficult for you?

    That was their proposal, that was what I dealt with, showing that as defined in the gospels and by those who believe that it was an historical event is something that science and mathematics can’t touch.

    You dealt with? You made a counter-claim, Anthony, that’s all. And as for how science can, in fact, without a doubt, shed some light on the likelihood of something that absurdly violative of natural law, I have addressed this. A fact you have, again, ignored.

    That is what they were asserting that science and probability could deal with, when it’s clear they can’t.

    It can, and how has been explained to you. If you don’t like the answer, fine, but don’t pretend an answer wasn’t offered. More on that below with respect to another assertion of yours.

    To stony silence.

    And there’s some question on this as to why? Good grief.

    You didn’t seem to be too concerned until I showed you, yesterday, that since it happened exactly once in history and is said by those who believe it that that is the only time it ever will happen in that way, that it couldn’t be part of the subject matter of science.

    To be honest, I’m not “concerned” about the claim, as such. What I am concerned with is your persistent suggestion that the only way science might have a ghost of a chance to address the miracle in question is to run “an experiment”; In other words, to use a deductive method (to be determined) to address the miracle. But, as I have admitted – at least twice, probably more – that science cannot test the virgin birth using deductive methods (i.e., experiments). I did, however, show you exactly how science can, in fact, speak about that miracle (which again you ignored).

    What you’re failing to see here is that science doesn’t have to run any experiments because virgin births simply do not happen with humans. It’s not even considered because it just doesn’t happen. Period. End of story. No amount of reference to scriptures or nameless histories or poetry or theological scribblings can change that. The idea has already been considered at length (roughly, oh, 2000 years or so). And unless some good reason is given to reconsider, well, it just won’t be reconsidered.

    A human cloning experiment? One reproducing contemporary technology and knowledge of biology? And don’t forget, the Holy Spirit is the father. Write it up and post it on my blog.

    The descent into madness has arrived.

    How many human virgin births have been scientifically verified? I don’t think any attempt to figure out the probability would be valid, apparently Rosenhouse wouldn’t put his name to it.

    Reading comprehension problems much? Science can speak to it because the miracle asserts something about the reproductive systems of humans, of which there are roughly 6 billion representative samples in existence, right at this moment. Not because there has been a virgin birth.

    You will probably come back with “Well, it was only once, you see…,” thereby blindly asserting that once in history the laws of nature were suspended, and yet insisting that you don’t have to answer any questions about it. You are a piece of work, Anthony.

    BTW, which part of “We can’t run an experiment to test virgin births” don’t you understand?

    – Retreating to allegory is like saying, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

    I wasn’t arguing in favor of the proposal…

    Then exactly what is your problem? That someone made a claim that science can speak to miracles (two specifically, as you keep reiterating)? Why have you made a counter-claim that regarding it as allegory teaches one enough about it to consider it true and above questioning?

    I’m not claiming it’s a question of science…

    Yet you have said you have evidence, and that you’ve presented it (at least to others). Which is it, Anthony?

    You think I’m lying about not believing that it happened, don’t you.

    No, I think you’re confused about what’s being said to you (or maybe it’s me). I think you’re unwilling or unable to consider that, if one (such as you) challenges science to epistemologically explain a miracle as true or false, while simultaneously asserting that allegory is a better method of determining truth in this matter, you might have to explain yourself too.

    You guys just can’t stand it that someone can be rational and appreciate the methods of science and not be one of you.

    Oh brother…

    Mel hit the nail on the head (#111) when he said: “A better question that occurs to me as a scientist is that of who in their right mind would actually want to investigate that question scientifically?” (emphasis added)

    No one is saying we can “investigate” the thing; Experiment on it. Science, such as it is a body of knowledge as well as an enterprise, already answers the question without any experiments at all. That’s what I think RD, Coyne, et.al. have been saying. Anthony just doesn’t like their stridency. Or rudeness. Or something.

    Perhaps this is just a huge misunderstanding over terms?

    AM (#113)

    I figure adults get to decide what they believe, as long as their actions don’t deprive other people of their rights and no crimes are committed I don’t figure their beliefs are the business of anyone else.

    If religion didn’t influence public policy or cause people to kill or die for a myth, as it certainly does, we wouldn’t be having this discussion at all.

  118. Mel moaned (#116),
    –Which goes back to why there was a group of biology grad students who were laughing so loudly after I read to them some of your “ideas” last week.–

    To be fair, you should not just “read” my quote-mined, cherry-picked ideas to them — you should invite them to visit my blog. Mel, as I said before, you are just a big bag of hot air. Anyone can go to my blog and attack my ideas about coevolution, which are summarized in the following article —
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2009/01/summary-of-thoughts-about-co-evolution.html

    That article has no attached comments addressing its ideas, because no one could find fault with those ideas. It is not a matter of those ideas being unintelligible, because no one has claimed that those ideas are unintelligible.

    As I said before, debates cannot be won by scoffing. You are only making yourself look very foolish. You say you are a scientist? I can see why you don’t give your last name. I am not afraid to give my last name.

  119. tomh

    Anthony McCarthy wrote @ #108: “Oh, and he made it clear he didn’t care for having me around, though that might have been because I contradicted what he’d said about Coyne’s review by presenting a number of quotes from it.”

    Don’t be silly, Rosenhouse doesn’t care that people contradict him. He didn’t want you around because of your incessant, lengthy, and ignorant posts, which put you in the same class as Kwok and Fafarman. Of course, they’re banned on a number of blogs, whereas, as far as I know, you’re only banned on a few. Hopefully, that will change.

  120. Loc

    @85 – Erasmussimo,

    You must not have read a single site I linked to. For example, here is a book listed on the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion: The Evolution Dialogues: Science, Christianity, and the Quest for Understanding. It even guides you through different approaches for Christian understanding of evolution – how quaint.

    Need another; NCSE has a section on resources for getting started: Is the Bible specific enough for you? When you ask for specific links or citations, why don’t you actually try reading them?

    I’m still waiting to hear wait catering would look like.

    Also, how much more direct do I need to be? Scientific organizations shouldn’t comment on religions at all. So when you write “I suspect that you want them to include some sort of condemnation of religious belief; the absence of condemnation does not, in my mind, constitute catering to” how further from my position could you be? But I guess if you didn’t misrepresent my position, you wouldn’t have as strong an argument. I beginning to suspect you don’t even read my responses, or the main point of the anti-accomodationists arguments.

  121. Loc

    Sorry for my sloppiness again – should read I’m still waiting to hear what catering would look like.

  122. @ Mel (#114):

    Looking at the papers they have written, or going through their notebooks, or discussing science with them, you couldn’t tell what religion they were. It simply was not an issue.

    No one, as far as I have seen, has been saying that religious people cannot do good (or even excellent) science. Were that the case, I would probably be railing against that as well. Admittedly, some of the polemical vituperation on the part of certain atheists has almost crossed that line, but Coyne, Myers, etc., have stated that they do not question Miller’s or Collins’ credentials as scientists. What they do question (and rightfully so, I think) is the wisdom of treating religion as an equivalent method of acquiring knowledge.

    But I’m not here to defend specific atheists, no matter how prominent or eminent. I’m here because I’m as concerned about the issue of religion as they are, about science literacy, about the state of critical thinking, and about the future of a world that continues to live comfortably with delusions. As we’ve agreed, the stories we tell ourselves can be important to us, but things get dicey when we start thinking of them as true, or mythology as a guide to learning how the universe works.

  123. benjdm

    benjdm, there is massive physical evidence to support evolution and the real age of the Earth. If there was any physical evidence to test in either The Virgin Birth of Jesus or The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, both would be susceptible to science. But there isn’t any and never will be any in those two beliefs.

    There is massive physical evidence to support sexual reproduction for mammals and the real origins of children, also. You reject that with a hand-wave that such events don’t represent a specified intervention by the Holy Spirit or something. Similarly:

    The massive physical evidence that supports evolution is of non-miraculous, non-direct creation of kinds, without interventions by the Holy Spirit / Jesus / God. If there was any physical evidence to test in Young Earth Creationism it would be susceptible to science. But there isn’t, because humans do not have the ability to violate natural laws like God does. No direct observations can be made. All of our observations reflect events in a fallen world; there is no physical evidence of the pre-fallen world.

  124. Mel

    Larry, Larry, Larry…there is never any need to cherry pick or quote mine you. Your ignorance comes out in the bulk of anything you write. I read printouts of whole pages from your blog and postings here, and that is what they laughed at: your unfiltered, un-cherry picked “ideas” about coevolution that show an absolute ignorance of the topic. And by all means, people should go and see you blog. It is the best indictment against you, and fully reflects just how vile and insane you are, from your Holocaust denial, to your moon hoax ideas, to your simply strange obsessive hatred for Judge Jones, and your absolute love of censorship. By the way, it is really hard to keep a straight face when you use the number of comments on your blog to gauge anything about about your “ideas” given that you censor virtually everything people post, and when you don’t, you are incredibly juvenile in your treatment of the posters. So, please, advertise your blog. People should go to it so they can see just why they should take you as merely of entertainment value.

  125. Mel

    @J.C. Samuelson 122

    I think that you and I largely agree on most issues. However, I have no problem with people having their religious beliefs so long as they can harmonize them in some way with science so that they can maintain some scientific literacy. I have no problem with religious belief as long as they are willing to be civil to those of other beliefs, and are not going to try to convert me or what not. I have no problem with religious belief so long as those beliefs do not lead to infliction of injury or harm. I do not, however, understand the impulse to throw around words like “delusion”. Do you understand how unnecessarily hurtful that word is when applied to closely-held beliefs that help people make it through their lives as healthy, happy human beings? Do you understand how many minds snap shut and feel utterly condescended to when they hear such words used to describe those beliefs. I don’t care if you feel justified or not, just as I don’t care if religious people use similar words to attack others of different religious or non-religious belief. Condescending missionary zeal is never a good thing. Using words like that to describe religious beliefs does not help science at all. All it does is amp up acrimonious emotions for no real reason and make rational discourse between people of different mindsets much harder (and most religious people are quite rational). Do you see where I am coming from?

  126. benjdm, you do recall I told you that choosing the Virgin Birth was a bad idea for you guys.

    You can go right ahead and write up your “debunking” of the Virgin Birth along those lines you propose, go show it to some sophisticated people who believe in The Virgin Birth as it’s written in the gospels. They’ll look at your “debunking” and say, you might have debunked something but it’s not what I believe in. And they will be entirely correct under the rules of logic.

    Science, and especially the culture of near science, doesn’t trump logic.

  127. Peter

    benjdm, I might be able to buy that one-of-a-kind miracles happen every now and then, and that particular miracle claims would be hard or impossible to disprove. Except that, there’s really no reason to believe that unique miracles ever occur. Well documented miracles* just don’t ever occur.

    Now, that doesn’t eviscerate McCarthy’s point. He’s making the quite important point that the story of the Virgin Mary really has meaning** to a lot of people, and the effect of that meaning can be studied historically and sociologically. And he’s making that point by distorting people’s language, because he thinks it makes them look like fools for having argued against his unassailable positions, when of course everyone else thought they were making a rather narrow and well circumscribed argument about something else.

    Regardless, the “truth” that they look like fools can be politically valuable, even if they aren’t actually as foolish as McCarthy wishes they were. So it’s important that we keep up the charade. Oh, and equally important that we don’t call it a charade, my bad.

    *I’m not going to put any effort into a rigorous definition of “miracle,” since everyone here can approximate several. Feel free to assign a meaning that you know is inappropriate in this context, cuz pointless arguments are FUN!

    **of course, one might think that “allegorical truth” is way too subjective, malleable, context dependent, and just in general variable to casually compare to “scientific truth,” but that’s probably because some people are too blinded by their own biases to appreciate the radical, profound truth that McCarthy is so generously trying to share with us

  128. Mel, Mel, Mel, as I said, you are just a big bag of hot air. You talk big about my supposed ignorance, but you have never challenged any of my ideas about coevolution. Only one commenter on this blog challenged those ideas, and in the end he was reduced to just telling just-so stories.

    In what field(s) of knowledge other than Darwinism do people claim to have won a debate without ever saying anything?

    My difficulty in getting publicity and recognition for my ideas about coevoluton shows the closed-mindedness of the Darwinist establishment. If the Darwinist establishment were open-minded, any hard-to-refute — let alone irrefutable — criticisms of evolution would spread like wildfire, because even criticisms that are just hard-to-refute but not irrefutable have the potential to greatly increase our understanding of evolution theory.

    We are not discussing Judge Jones, holocaust denial, etc. here, bozo — we are discussing coevolution. You cannot duck the coevolution issues by changing the subject.

    –it is really hard to keep a straight face when you use the number of comments on your blog to gauge anything about about your “ideas” given that you censor virtually everything people post —

    I can’t censor anything on this blog, doofus, so where are your answers here?

    Also, unlike a lot of other bloggers, I never ban any commenter — all comments are considered on a case-by-case basis. And my commenting rules are very liberal — comments containing the following are prohibited: (1) nothing but scoffing, (2) gossip about my private affairs, (3) deliberate lies about objective facts, (4) disparaging people on the basis of race, color, sex, etc., (5) threats of physical harm, and (6) anything illegal.

    –you are incredibly juvenile in your treatment of the posters–

    And I suppose calling me “vile and insane” is not juvenile, you stupid sack of *(&^%$# ?

    You Darwinists are losing where it counts — in the court of public opinion.

    Mel, I am really calling you out this time — I am calling you a yellow-bellied coward who won’t even give his last name. I am not afraid to give my last name.

  129. Mel

    Larry, thank you for continuing to display yourself for what you are: a bitter, ignorant old man. And I again say that everyone who cares to should visit your blog to see even more of just what an ignorant and crass person you are. Or they can go and see your Amazon reviews, where you review books you admit to never having read or intended to read. Of they can go and look through public records in California at the deliriously incoherent legal arguments are contained in your frivolous law suits. As for co-evolution, you were directed to go read Doug Schemske’s big Mimulus paper. You claimed to, though I sincerely doubt you did. You claimed that the paper had no bearing on co-evolution. Even a freshman who had never before encountered a primary publication would have seen the bearing of the paper on c0-evolution. So in regard to that paper, you either did not read the paper and lied, or you lack the basic skills or knowledge to understand it. If the former, you are simply dishonest (this we know from the stuff you tried to pull on Ed Brayton’s blog, not to mention your extreme censorship on your “non-censoring blog”), and if the latter, there is no reason to even bother engaging you. Besides, whenever I (on other blogs), or anyone else has tried to educate you on just why your “ideas” on co-evolution or any other scientific issue make no sense, you have made it manifestly clear that you are incapable of understanding basic reasoning or science – either that or your entire point in being on blogs is to being unpleasantly argumentative (I suspect this is true, both from your pattern of behavior, and some of the things your brother has said about your on-line activity).

    Again, please, everyone go see Larry’s blog. It is amazing in its inanity, silliness, bad taste, incoherence, and ignorance. Believe it or not, the guy used to be a successful mechanical engineer…but stuff happened and he has refused treatment.

    And I don’t care what you call me. Given your noxious record (again people, see Larry’s blog), a low opinion in your mind is a mark of honor.

  130. Mel moaned,
    –Larry, thank you for continuing to display yourself for what you are: a bitter, ignorant old man.–

    Wrong. You are displaying yourself as a lousy troll.

    –Or they can go and see your Amazon reviews, where you review books you admit to never having read or intended to read.–

    There is nothing wrong with reviewing only part of a book or reviewing others’ reviews of a book, so long as one makes it clear that that is what one is doing. For example, the Panda’s Thumb bloggers did a group review of Jonathan Wells’ “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design” by dividing up the chapters among themselves.

    –As for co-evolution, you were directed to go read Doug Schemske’s big Mimulus paper.–

    Nobody “directs” me to do anything. My looking at the paper was a big courtesy because you did not describe how the paper related to my ideas.

    –You claimed that the paper had no bearing on co-evolution.–

    No, bozo, you are putting words in my mouth — I did not claim that the paper had no bearing on coevolution. I claimed that the paper did not address the issues that I had raised.

    –Besides, whenever I (on other blogs), or anyone else has tried to educate you on just why your “ideas” on co-evolution or any other scientific issue make no sense–

    I don’t come to the Internet just to be “educated,” bozo — I also present my own ideas.

    You have not even attempted to counter any of my ideas about coevolution — not a single one. You are just a big bag of hot air. You have no credibility.

    You still haven’t given us your last name. I am still waiting, coward.

    I think I have already wasted too much time on this lousy troll.

  131. Peter 127, my point has little to do with the story of the Virgin Birth or even that it is widely believed, it has everything to do with the near total lack of scientific and logical integrity among the new atheists.

    I do hope anyone who finds any of my arguments in opposition to the new atheist bigotry will feel free to use them. That’s my primary motive in making the argument. You don’t need to mention me if you do.

  132. Oh, and I will point out that none of you guys who thinks you can dispose of it with science has had the guts to put your science where your mouths are. Maybe I should offer a ten-thousand dollar prize, but unlike James Randi, I’ll admit upfront I couldn’t afford to pay it. But I’d let some impartial people be the judge of any challenge like that I’d pose. I’d be willing to take my chances with impartial judges.

  133. @ Mel (#125)

    Do you see where I am coming from?

    I do see where you’re coming from, and hopefully it will not surprise you to learn that I agree. What purpose does it serve (except to be hurtful) to tell someone their delusional, when otherwise they’re perfectly normal, happy, and healthy human beings trying to muddle their way through life like everyone else?

    Using words like “delusional” to describe those on the opposite side of an issue serves little purpose other than to energize or galvanize supporters of whatever cause one is promoting. Here I disagree with Dawkins in that whereas he seems to feel that occasional puerility somehow challenges the “other side” to improve its game, I feel that it amounts to mere rabble-rousing, and I’m uncomfortable with my own tendency toward occasional mud slinging.

    Even if “delusion” is an apt description (and I feel it may be – simply because I don’t care for the term doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s applicable), it’s hard to see how saying so is helpful. Neither is the application of words & phrases like “inferior,” “less intelligent,” and so on. Words can build up or tear down, and I would much prefer to build up, if I can.

    Indeed, that’s the reason for shifting gears on my own blog last year, because I was growing tired of the acrimony and fallacious reasoning I was seeing on the atheist “side” of things. And no one has been able to convince me otherwise. Some of this I described in a blog entry called, “So Long and Thanks for All the Comments,” which was originally posted at another blog of mine, but has been retained on my relatively new and tiny corner of the web.

    I’d link to it, but I’m breaking the rules right now by posting while at work, and can’t access my blog. If you’re interested, I’m sure you can find it using the search feature.

    Maybe my desire to “build up, rather than tear down” is a bit naive, and to be sure I am not entirely consistent in this regard, but I do try.

    Having said all that, I respectfully submit that most varieties of religious thinking that I’ve encountered have shown themselves to qualify for harsh critisms. In part if not in toto. Sometimes the problems manifest unexpectedly from people who, like your students, appear to be otherwise rational people.

    Some relatively mild examples of this include: A person who stated that she will not tell her child she’s been a good girl – not even once – because of her firm belief that humans are inherently “sinful” and bad (criticism: religion leading to parental dysfunction); A sign reading “Thank God for the Sacrifices of our Soldiers in Iraq” (criticism: misplaced gratitude brought on by belief in a divine agent – and no, this was not from the WBC nutcases); A co-worker whose mother had a benign tumor removed thanking God for coming through for her (criticism: misplaced gratitude again); Michael Behe (otherwise fairly moderate himself) championing the teaching of ID in science classrooms.

    Some more severe examples (criticism more self-evident): Parents who pray for their sick child instead of taking him/her to the doctor, and the child dies; A state Senator who votes against HIV testing for pregnant women because he believes HIV stems from promiscuity, and that if babies get HIV it will teach the mothers a lesson; Another state Senator who drafts a resolution that blames divorcees, homosexuals, and other “deviants” for our current economic crisis; Yet another Congress person (with full support of his peers) who wants to spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to have “In God We Trust” and the post-1950’s Pledge containing “under God” boldly engraved on the walls of the Capitol Visitor Center.

    Both lists could go on and on. In fact, one might wonder whether those students of yours who work well as a team, do great science, and are utterly normal might surprise you when it comes to something a bit less precise, such as a political debate, conduct in a relationship, or their perceptions and/or treatement of others outside of the lab. I won’t speculate and I’m not accusing anyone – I’m sure they’re fine people – but the effects of dogma can often lead to unpleasant surprises, including for the individual believer. Especially when one’s religious convictions are directly confronted.

    Even I have to confess to getting caught up in dogma (while still a believer) that led to some surprisingly ugly behavior on my part. It wasn’t until someone not emotionally invested in that particular issue pointed out where I might be going wrong that I started to consider the ramifications of my beliefs. What I believed was leading me to work toward interfering with others personal lives in a very significant manner. Those who challenged me were right to do so then, and we’re right, I believe, to challenge them now.

    Rationality and sound ethics can certainly be present as well (as Mr. McCarthy has been kind enough to point out), but I tend to think that this is in spite of religious belief rather than because of it. Even a cursory glance at what any given scripture teaches demonstrates the paucity of enlightened morality and, at best, the ambivalence toward rational thought.

    We can all compartmentalize issues, and it’s very easy to overcome differences in our daily lives. We don’t, for example, bring up issues of faith standing in line at the supermarket, or when we’re working, mowing the grass, and just living. But this doesn’t mean they aren’t there, just below the surface, waiting to be expressed when an issue we think is important outside of our daily lives comes up.

    And, this needn’t be limited to dogma as a matter of religious conviction. Similar problems can come up with, say, nationalism or some other idea(s) that call on us to make a choice. Even atheism isn’t immune, and I personally try to stay clear of dogmatic statements.

    Strong sentiments, of course, need not be dogmatic in character.

    In short, it’s more than just a simple academic question or one of freedom of conscience. When private religious beliefs are expressed as legal and legitimate prescriptions for behavior on a grand scale, there be dragons.

    How is this related to the teaching of evolution, science in general, and the current argument against accommodation, you may ask. Well, it has to do with the fact that critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to us as a species. As I’m sure you know, it takes disciplined training to break free of our tendency to believe in weird things and propose weird solutions to problems. And while moderates may be allies in a general sense, to the extent that they may not clearly specify how science, logic, and critical thinking have serious implications for many (if not all) religious types of belief – not just fundamentalist thinking – a moderate can wind up an unwitting partner in the very problem they would consciously criticize or disavow.

    This was longer and more involved than intended, but there you have it (i.e., my opinions) in a somewhat bloated nutshell.

  134. @ AM (#132):

    Oh, and I will point out that none of you guys who thinks you can dispose of it with science has had the guts to put your science where your mouths are. Maybe I should offer a ten-thousand dollar prize, but unlike James Randi, I’ll admit upfront I couldn’t afford to pay it. But I’d let some impartial people be the judge of any challenge like that I’d pose. I’d be willing to take my chances with impartial judges.

    As much as I think our discussion concerning science & miracles stems from a colossal miscommunication, I plan on posting something of a “proof” (though certainly not definitive, because it can’t be for reasons that should be clear) to your blog sometime soon. There you can trash it all you like, say it isn’t science, and generally poke fun at an atheist’s vain attempt to explain how science might – repeat, might – be able to speak to miraculous (i.e., supernatural) claims.

    Incidentally, have you read Victor Stenger’s God: The Failed Hypothesis?It’s not immune from sound critique, but proposes an interesting approach.

  135. Mel

    @J.C. Samuelson 133

    Thank you for you thoughtful reply. I am glad that we agree on turning down the rhetoric, and I think most other things. I do see your points regarding non-atheists, however, I take a different point of view. I apologize in a advance for this will be a bit disjointed. I am at work, too, and I have a great deal to get done today, so I don’t have much time to write, unfortunately. Yes, there are religious beliefs that lead to grievous harm, but those are not all religious beliefs. Sure, any given religious doctrine if taken all the way likely will end up resulting in grievous harm to someone. But the thing is, the same is true of just about any belief, religious or not. Doing horrible things for reasons of belief does not require religion – it only takes humans. Indeed, I find that bad things happen whenever anyone tries to be ultra-consistent with any ideas applied to human life. Religion is a red herring, I think. I have seen incredibly horrifying things advocated by really extreme atheists in the interest of dealing with what they see as the threat of religion – including the idea of reeducation and concentration camps. And the case can be made that such are rational ideas, if one takes the view that the threat of religion is grave enough. Atheism and science do not a privileged moral and ethical position make.

    Of course religion is going to inform voting patterns, law, and governance. How could it not? It always has. Same thing with any sort of belief, worldview, belief-set, and so on, whether seen to be rational or not. You can argue that none of that should be informing, but so long as we are human, they will inform. I say that this just has to be accepted. This is not to say that one should just allow particular beliefs compel various odious outcomes. Go after those beliefs, for instance the anti-homosexual ones, but go after them on the merits of the other side, and not because they are religious in nature. After all, most of the time what motivates people in such stances are not actually religious beliefs, but cultural inertia and personal fears that coopt religion to give a pseudo-rational cover for their fears. Allay the fears, and don’t attack the religion, as attacking the religion will just provoke more fear and a backlash that is helpful to no one.

    I guess what a good bit of difference in our views comes from the fact that I detest proselytizing. I had to put up with a good bit of it growing up in the South, and I just hate it. I don’t like people having the idea that it is their right to tell another that their beliefs are not good/moral/rational/godly/what have you enough. I don’t like being preached to by someone who does not accept that I don’t hold their religious beliefs, and I don’t like the idea to others in turn. What make it right for me? That my beliefs are more solidly based? Those who have preached to me would say the same thing. To save them from themselves and their incorrect beliefs? Same problem. It is not my right or responsibility to try to force my belief or lack of belief down someone else’s throat. If I think it is silly to thank God for someone making it through a surgery, what makes it okay for me to then tell them that they should do that? How does it affect me if they think that? All it would accomplish is boorishness, and maybe get myself ostracized, or lose me a friend. You can come up with ways to see them thinking something like that as some sort of threat, but I think that is reaching. A case can always be made for a person being in league with whoever the enemy is. All such thinking accomplishes is making more enemies, or at least alienating more people, and I think it is very clear that is all that will be accomplished by the whole “moderates are just as bad” stance. I don’t recall if I was speaking to you or someone else in another thread when I wrote of one of the atheists in the lab. He’s very young, he became an atheist not too terribly long ago, and he developed the typical convert’s zeal that led him to become quite evangelical. So he started going around to various people in the lab who were religious in some way, and w0uld strike up conversations purely to be able to tell them how wrong and irrational their beliefs were. What did he accomplish? A great deal of tension in the lab for one. That and after a while everyone avoided him and did their best to never talk to him. He calmed down after that.

    I think the best policy is to try to improve science education so that people can understand more, and be better able to approach the world in a scientific fashion, but I think we should do so pragmatically, without any taint of an ideology that commands that we should teach that science is the only way to approach the world. I am pragmatic. I don’t care if others don’t believe as I do so long as we can reach accord, respect each other, and agree on ground rules for interaction that include acceptance of science. I think that a pursuit of a pluralism in which everyone is free to believe as they find they must, free from coercion or harassment is by far the better policy. People listen to each other better in such an environment (besides, it would be far more interesting than the alternative. I can think of few things worse than a world where everyone has the same beliefs. I don’t want everyone to agree with me – except on my scientific conclusions, of course). Does this mean everything goes? No, I don’t think so. There is difference between belief and action motivated by belief. I think that a society always has the vested right to regulate actions to prevent harm and maintain social harmony, but not belief.

    Yes, you are correct that the scientific mindset is unnatural to humans, and it takes discipline to maintain it. However, I don’t think that it is an all or nothing proposition. It is possible and necessary for the scientific mindset to co-exist with the mythic, the social, the absurd, and all the others that exist in every person. I don’t mind this, and it wouldn’t really be my business if I did. I don’t think a purely scientific person is possible, and if he were, he would be terribly poor company.

    This is longer than I had anticipated, too. I think my gel has likely run too long, too (darn). I again apologize for the lack of linearity in the above. I hope it makes sense just the same. I don’t anticipate that I have changed your mind, but that is okay. You gave me your opinion, and I just wanted to give mine.

  136. Mel

    Oh Larry, you are so precious in your insanity. I love that you maintain that blog of yours to show just what you are, and I gotta tell you that your provide such wonderful entertainment value. Few people are better at so proudly displaying their ignorance and poor social skills. I really like your poor attempts to excuse your behavior. It indicates that you have at least some awareness of how wrong you are in what you do. That is good. Your are in your mid-sixties now, so you should have some awareness by now, though your blog shows very little of it. Perhaps because you realize at some level just how few ever see what your put up there.

  137. – There you can trash it all you like, say it isn’t science, and generally poke fun at an atheist’s vain attempt to explain how science might – repeat, might – be able to speak to miraculous (i.e., supernatural) claims. JCS

    Good. I just hope you’re going to deal with the proposition as it was proposed in all its confounding uniqueness.

    I’ll point out again, that I’ve never claimed that science couldn’t do something with a claim for which there was material evidence available.

  138. Tulse

    “I’ll point out again, that I’ve never claimed that science couldn’t do something with a claim for which there was material evidence available.”

    Right, and the claim of the Virgin Birth doesn’t have that feature. Neither does the claim that leprechauns frolic in the wilds of Ireland, or nor does the claim that thetans were once cast into volcanoes by Xenu, nor does the claim that the Pacific Ocean island of Lemuria was once occupied by the Third Root Race of eight-foot-tall hermaphroditic egg-laying intelligent reptiles who were wiped out when their island sank into the sea.

    Now, if you are saying that science has as much to say about the Virgin Birth as it does about leprachauns, Scientology, and Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophy, then I agree. But perhaps you draw a different conclusion from that similarity than I do.

  139. da Viking

    To be fair, you should not just “read” my quote-mined, cherry-picked ideas to them — you should invite them to visit my blog. Mel, as I said before, you are just a big bag of hot air. Anyone can go to my blog and attack my ideas about coevolution, which are summarized in the following article –
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2009/01/summary-of-thoughts-about-co-evolution.html
    That article has no attached comments addressing its ideas, because no one could find fault with those ideas. It is not a matter of those ideas being unintelligible, because no one has claimed that those ideas are unintelligible.

    Interestingly enough, just last Friday, a mere three days before Larry typed the above, I left a comment at that article that directly addressed its ideas, pointing out numerous flaws. Oddly enough, it has yet to appear. And when you look at the early days of his site, people did address his ideas on coevolution. So it seems that he is in fact censoring his blog quite heavily. And just as icing on the cake, last fall he banned one of his most vocal detractors, Kevin Vicklund. You can see the banning over at Kevin’s blog, Missing the Point. About half the comments there are Larry banning Kevin from Larry’s blog. Hilarious!

  140. Peter

    “I’ll point out again, that I’ve never claimed that science couldn’t do something with a claim for which there was material evidence available.”

    I don’t know, Tulse, I think we could scrape together physical evidence for/against the Virgin Birth. Of course, it’s claimed to have happened a long time ago, so we almost certainly can’t get our hands on any original source material. And even if they could, I can’t imagine that the chain of evidence would be complete enough for it to be useful. But how is that really a problem? Scientists often can’t get close to the original event their studying. But you can draw inferences about the they system by studying experimental models of that system. Just as an example, women don’t carry y-chromosomes. So if Mary gave birth as a virgin, she wouldn’t have given birth to a man.*

    On the other hand, I’m quite sure it’s not worth engaging with Anthony McCarthy. Ahem, even indirectly, so shame on me. It is extremely reasonable, logical even, to infer that the story of the virgin birth is a fiction, but since Krauss and Dawkins (especially Dawkins), for instance, has said such, McCarthy thinks it’s politically expedient to deny that it’s reasonable. It’s really much more reasonable than assuming that that particular unsubstantiated miracle claim has much more veracity than hundreds and thousands of other unsubstantiated miracle claims. So we get claims about “allegorical truth” and–in a clever inversion of Sagan–a demand that extraordinary claims should be held to extraordinary standards of proof.

    On the other hand, I have to admit to a certain fascination watching this thread go. It’s sort of like rubbernecking at a trainwreck. I’m ashamed, but I keep wanting to post.

    *although, apparently there is something called XX-male syndrome

  141. Anthony, let me ask something. You’ve mentioned that you don’t have belief in (a literal reading of) the Christian story of the Virgin Birth. Why not?

  142. Da Viking says (#139),
    –Interestingly enough, just last Friday, a mere three days before Larry typed the above, I left a comment at that article that directly addressed its ideas, pointing out numerous flaws. Oddly enough, it has yet to appear.–

    Interestingly enough, I think you are lying — I have not been able to find such a comment. Anyway, if the comment was missed or lost, then just resubmit it. Or you could post the comment here. Nothing prevents you from posting the comment here — or posting a link here to a comment on your own blog (if you have one).

    –And when you look at the early days of his site, people did address his ideas on coevolution.–

    This is just more of that Darwinist “we refuted that years ago and need not consider it again” crap. Addressing ideas is not the same as refuting them. And that was several years ago. Since then, I have expanded and improved my arguments about coevolution. My link was to a summary of the ideas that I developed over the years. I have linked to that summary many times and have gotten no responses. If Darwinists were open-minded, anything that even has just a potential to be a major weakness of evolution theory would be BOMBARDED with responses.

    –So it seems that he is in fact censoring his blog quite heavily. —

    You are LYING. I have not censored legitimate comments about my coevolution ideas. And if I am censoring them, then you are free to post your own comments here, or if you have a blog, you can post them on there and link to them here.

    –last fall he banned one of his most vocal detractors, Kevin Vicklund —

    Wrong. I got very pissed off at Kevin Vicklund but did not ban him. Unlike a lot of unscrupulous bloggers I know, I never ban commenters. All comments are considered on a case-by-case basis.

    You are a no-good LIAR.

    Here again is the summary on my blog —
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2009/01/summary-of-thoughts-about-co-evolution.html

  143. Mel

    Yes, please go to Larry’s site. Larry, I don’t know why you think that your blog helps your image. It shows you for the sad, obscene, incoherent old crank you are. Seriously, folks, go there and see how inanely ignorant his “ideas” are (really Larry, they aren’t weaknesses, as you would know if you had ever bothered read a review article or two on the topic, but that would require you to read, which I know is very hard for you). See also his childish “cartoons” attacking Judge Jones and others. Try leaving comments. See how he either sends them down the memory hole or replies like an ill-tempered 13-year old with an obsession with dung (and this guy, again, is in his 60’s) and parents who don’t watch the dial-up connection they pay for (which they do for Larry).

    And Larry, a guy who perjured himself in court over a fee he didn’t have to pay, and has been shown to be a liar on many occasions on many parts of the internet shouldn’t be tossing around the word “liar” so casually.

    As for Vicklund, people should go to his blog and see all the obscene “comments” you left in your temper tantrums.

  144. John Kwok

    Larry Fafarman’s self-indulgent referral to his co-evolution commentary at his blog merely illustrates that 1) He doesn’t understand what he’s talking about with respect to co-evolution, beginning with his rather risible observation that co-evolution poses a major problem for evolution via natural selection (On the contrary there exists a vast scientific literature that demonstrates otherwise.) and 2) confirms Mel’s sad, but rather true, observation, that Larry is indeed a “sad,obscene, incoherent old crank”. I agree with Mel. Visit it and then shake your head vigorously as you read the inane commentary of this pathetic, quite delusional, old man.

  145. Put up or shut up, trolls. You can’t debate me about coevolution by scoffing, bibliography bluffing, and changing the subject.

  146. Mel

    No one can debate you on coevolution because you don’t know anything about coevolution – your blog shows that very well. A greater display of ignorance and incoherence I have never seen. Read a few books and paper, look over your “ideas” to see how laughable they are, fill your prescription for Thorazine, and maybe you will might be taken seriously. Until then, you are nothing but a joke to be laughed at.

  147. Mel moans,
    –No one can debate you on coevolution because you don’t know anything about coevolution —

    My ideas about coevolution are simple and straightforward. They require no specialized knowledge to understand. If those ideas are plainly wrong, it should be easy to show that they are wrong.

    –Read a few books and paper, look over your “ideas” to see how laughable they are–

    More bibliography bluffing.

    I have won this debate by default.

    –you are nothing but a joke to be laughed at.–

    Keep laughing, dunghill, see if I care.

    And you still haven’t given us your last name, you coward.

  148. Mel

    What do I care if you call me coward? I don’t fear sad, little old nobodies who are afraid of reading and taking their meds. As I have said before, given how vile you are, Holocaust denier, being thought ill of by you is an honor.

    Really, what is your problem with reading? How on earth did you make it through engineering school? Is that part of the reason why you were fired?

    Oh, I will keep laughing. It is easier than almost crying over the thought of the tragedy of your family having to put up with you.

  149. Mel

    And how can I not laugh at someone so sick in the head that he doesn’t even know the definition of the word “goal”, as you demonstrated on Carl Zimmer’s blog in the discussion of the Lenski paper that you didn’t even bother to read (and when you claimed to have read it months later, you clearly did not understand it). Poor, poor old, sick Larry. And you wonder why no one comes over anymore…

  150. Dumbbell Mel, you just keep changing the subject. The Lenski paper. The holocaust. Judge Jones. My lawsuits against the “smog impact fee.” Gossip about my private affairs. Anything but my ideas about coevolution.

    Enough is enough, Mel — give it up already. You lose the coevolution debate by default. Your loss is not even a matter of opinion, because there is no debate to judge. You are just a no-show.

  151. Mel

    Its all part of the same phenomenon: your insanity.

    I haven’t lost anything, Larry, but gained more mirth from you, as always. You are still dancing for my amusement. Keep it up!

    You don’t have “ideas” about co-evolution. You have incoherent ramblings that are decades out of date, merely showing your ignorance and mental deterioration.

  152. Larry, Larry, Larry. You really shouldn’t lie when there is independent evidence that you are making false claims. As anyone who goes to my blog can see, Larry left 21 comments in the space of a few minutes banning me from his blog. It is quite unambiguous – Larry was rather, ah, forceful in his demands.

    Larry first trotted out this incarnation of his co-evolution “argument” on Aetiology about half a year ago. If you want to see the thorough dismantling DB and I gave it, you can follow this link.

    The basic failing of Larry’s arguments is that they bear no relationship to reality. He essentially argues “if x, then a problem” but the reality is “not x”. For example the meat of his first point:

    The co-evolution of obligate mutualism presents a particular problem because this kind of co-evolution may require simultaneous changes in both kinds of organisms in the same geographical location, because the co-dependent traits in both kinds of organisms may be immediately fatal in the absence of the corresponding co-dependent traits in the other kind of organism.

    Note that it contains two qualifiers: ‘may’. If the co-dependent traits were, in fact, immediately fatal in the absence of the other trait, his argument would have at least some significance. But the reality is that these traits are not in and of themselves fatal in the absence of the other trait. Rather, the dependence arises from the loss of another trait in the organism that once performed a similar function.

    This is just an example. The rest of his arguments suffer similar failings. It’s like arguing that if planets had triangular orbits, it would be a problem for physics. True, but planets don’t have triangular orbits, so there is, in fact, no problem.

  153. John Kwok

    @ Larry –

    For months a number of us tried to reason with you at Amazon.com, including one professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Each and every time you resisted vehemently. Sadly, I have to endorse Mel’s recommendation (@ 146) as one that you ought to follow instantly.

  154. Mel moaned,
    –You have incoherent ramblings that are decades out of date–

    Now Dumbbell Mel is moving the goalposts — now that I have demolished all of his other excuses, he now introduces a new claim: my thoughts about coevolution are not even “ideas” but are just “incoherent ramblings that are decades out of date.” “Incoherent ramblings” are never up-to-date, so how in the hell can they ever be out of date, bozo? I am going to post that on my blog so that my readers can have a good laugh.

    Mel, you are just a stupid crackpot. You just mouth off any absurd argument that comes into your head. No sensible person would take you seriously.

    John Kwok Says,
    –For months a number of us tried to reason with you at Amazon.com, including one professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Each and every time you resisted vehemently.–

    “For months”? I never spent months commenting on Amazon.com, I don’t recall any conversations with a JH professor of epidemiology, and I don’t recall debating coevolution on Amazon.com. Can you provide some links to the discussions that you are referring to?

    –I have to endorse Mel’s recommendation (@ 146) as one that you ought to follow instantly.–

    #146 is just bibliography bluffing. You and Mel don’t even have any idea how much I have already read about coevolution. I could read everything ever written about coevolution and it would change nothing.

    Pretend that we are in a formal debate competition. I present arguments that directly address the issues at hand and you just ask me to go read the literature. My arguments could really be terrible and I would still win hands down.

    The Discovery Institute says that a recent Zogby poll shows strong majority support for intelligent design —
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/06/in_darwin_anniversary_year_new.html

    So you Darwinists talk big here but you are losing big where it counts, in the court of public opinion.

  155. Kevin Vicklund says,
    –Larry left 21 comments in the space of a few minutes banning me from his blog. —

    I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I was very pissed off at you for telling a big lie about me on my blog. That was before I turned on comment moderation. You are not banned from my blog and I will consider your comments on a case-by-case basis. That is very generous of me, considering that you are a big cyberstalker and cyberbully who is always trying to get me kicked off of blogs.

    –Larry first trotted out this incarnation of his co-evolution “argument” on Aetiology about half a year ago. If you want to see the thorough dismantling DB and I gave it, you can follow this link.–

    No, that was not the first time I “trotted out” my coevolution arguments.

    You Darwinists have this crazy idea that you always automatically win debates merely by engaging in them and that an idea should never be considered again by anyone in the universe once you have “refuted” that idea in one of these debates — in fact, often you claim to have won a debate when there was no debate at all. I have linked to my blog’s summary of my coevolution ideas numerous times along with a challenge to debate and there have been no takers.

    On the Aetiology blog, note how one commenter just kept repeating over and over again, “how is this a problem for evolution?”

    I was banned from posting my coevolution ideas on the Florida Citizens for Science blog unless those ideas are pre-approved by “experts.” Who ever heard of something so ridiculous?

    –If the co-dependent traits were, in fact, immediately fatal in the absence of the other trait, his argument would have at least some significance. But the reality is that these traits are not in and of themselves fatal in the absence of the other trait. —

    At last — something I can respond to!

    If there is obligate mutualism, then the traits involved are by definition fatal — or at least harmful — in the absence of the corresponding trait(s) in the other organism. And even if the traits are not fatal in the absence of the corresponding traits, the corresponding traits in the two organisms must exist at the same time and place in order to be mutually reinforcing and will not tend to spread rapidly unless they are mutually reinforcing.

    –Rather, the dependence arises from the loss of another trait in the organism that once performed a similar function.–

    WHAAAT? That’s absurd.. Can you give even one example? Not that an example would prove your point, but an example would at least provide some evidence to support it.

    As I said, my difficulty in getting publicity and recognition for my ideas about coevolution shows the closed-mindedness of the Darwinist establishment. If the Darwinist establishment were open-minded, any idea that even had the potential to be a weakness of evolution theory would be bombarded with responses.

  156. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I was very pissed off at you for telling a big lie about me on my blog.

    Here’s a sample (naughty words bleeped for sensitive eyes):

    GET THE **** OFF MY BLOG, **** YOU — AND STAY OFF!

    That is a ban, Larry. And you said you meant it, in big capital letters.

    That was before I turned on comment moderation. You are not banned from my blog and I will consider your comments on a case-by-case basis.

    And interestingly enough, when I decided to test your apparent ban, you began deleting my posts while lying about the contents. And a few days later, you turned on comment moderation. As has been noted by people like da Viking, a number of comments have been censored for no apparent reason. And last year, before you banned me, I noticed that posts from Voice in the Wilderness would appear overnight, only to be gone by noon. In fact, a number of people complained about their posts mysteriously disappearing after being initially visible. Given all those facts, plus your arbitrary justifications for deleting posts, makes me believe that very few of my posts will ever see the light of day.

    BTW, Larry is lying about me trying to get him kicked off blogs. In this thing I like to call reality, I actually tried to prevent Larry from getting kicked off a blog.

    No, that was not the first time I “trotted out” my coevolution arguments.

    Nor did I say it was. Had you bothered to read what I wrote, you would have noticed that I included the word “incarnation” – you might want to look it up. And no, it doesn’t refer to flowers.

    I have linked to my blog’s summary of my coevolution ideas numerous times along with a challenge to debate and there have been no takers.

    Not for this incarnation, except for people like da Viking, whose arguments you conveniently lost. However, for previous incarnations of your argument made before comment moderation, people did take up the challenge.

    On the Aetiology blog, note how one commenter just kept repeating over and over again, “how is this a problem for evolution?”

    I also note that he told you exactly how you could show that it was a problem for evolution. You were unable to do so, despite clear and concise examples of how to do it.

    If there is obligate mutualism, then the traits involved are by definition fatal — or at least harmful — in the absence of the corresponding trait(s) in the other organism.

    Wrong. Usually, the traits are not directly fatal or harmful in the absence of the matching trait, they are merely non-functional or sub-functional. Instead, the organism has become dependent on that trait and has lost traits that provide that function through alternate pathways.However, I did say usually. For an example of how a directly harmful trait can evolve in obligate mutualism, read the following paper that DB directed to you previously: The evolution of obligate mutualism: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

    WHAAAT? That’s absurd.. Can you give even one example? Not that an example would prove your point, but an example would at least provide some evidence to support it.

    Sure thing. I’m sure you’re familiar with a certain wasp-orchid combo – the one where the orchid mimics the sex pheromones of the female wasp? This genus of orchids is closely related to orchids with full petals and nectaries. Furthermore, the orchids in question still develop vestigial petals and nectaries, sometimes even small amounts of nectar. These orchids clearly once attracted pollinators by the usual floral means, but then stumbled on a more reliable method of attracting pollinators, before losing the original traditional method.

  157. Mel

    W. Kevin Vicklund

    Hi there. I am curious as to your idea of what exactly is wrong with Larry. I go back and forth, but it seems like he has a number of problems, but it is hard to tell at times how much of what he show is manifestation of his illness and not simply him being a jerk. It seems clear that he is absolutely incapable of admitting he is wrong. As a consequence, once an idea occurs to him, it has to be right, no matter what reality says. I think a lot of his unpleasantness comes from this. It is also clear that he has real problems with reading comprehension. I have never in my life run into someone so incapable of understanding basic English. But then there is the inflated ego. This sad old man who lives off his parents and has only a dial-up connection somehow thinks he is a widely feared legal genius despite having done nothing but make a fool of himself in court and has “ideas” about co-evolution that provokes fears in biologists everywhere. Are these things he has to tell himself to keep getting up in the morning to face the restricted mess his life has become?

    And Larry, thank you for demonstrating why no one should bother trying to talk to you about your “ideas” on co-evolution. Kevin tried to correct you on a few points (he is correct, by the way in what he said), and what did you do? Did you actually read and understand his points? No. You just jumped to absurd arguments based solely on your idea that you are correct no matter what. This is why no one should bother with you. You are not only ignorant of the field of co-evolution, you are either unable or unwilling to try to understand when others try to inform you of why you are incorrect, and you are so while being rude and childish. You might try acting your age, Larry. I will repeat, you are in your mid-sixties. Why don’t you grow up and start acting like something other than a 13-year old?

    And again, Larry, go and read at least one review article on the evolution of obligate mutualisms. Nancy Moran would be a good place to start. As it stands, your “ideas” bear only the slightest relationship to reality, and their shoddiness and ignorance shows. You want to be taken seriously? Try acting like a serious person, and not a deranged jester.

  158. Kevin moans,
    –And interestingly enough, when I decided to test your apparent ban, you began deleting my posts while lying about the contents. And a few days later, you turned on comment moderation. As has been noted by people like da Viking, a number of comments have been censored for no apparent reason . . . . . etc., etc., etc.. —

    Kevin, you are a no-good rotten LIAR. Anyway, let’s forget about my blog and those other blogs (e.g., Aetiology) — we can debate coevolution right here, or if Chris Mooney objects to having an off-topic discussion, we can hold the debate on your blog.

    –Wrong. Usually, the traits are not directly fatal or harmful in the absence of the matching trait, they are merely non-functional or sub-functional. —

    By definition, “obligate mutualism” means that the two kinds of organisms need each other for survival.

    –For an example of how a directly harmful trait can evolve in obligate mutualism, read the following paper that DB directed to you previously: The evolution of obligate mutualism: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.–

    Just pointing to the literature is bibliography bluffing — you need to describe exactly how that paper applies to the discussion here.

    –These orchids clearly once attracted pollinators by the usual floral means, but then stumbled on a more reliable method of attracting pollinators, before losing the original traditional method.–

    This is the first time I have heard that — could you give me a reference for that? Anyway, as I said, this is something that cannot be proven by example. You Darwinists treat the most freakish events as though they are commonplace.

    Also, this wasp-orchid relationship is not an example of obligate mutualism, because the orchid is dependent on the wasp but not vice-versa. Do you have an example that is obligate mutualism? The basic problem remains: when traits in both organisms are co-dependent, those traits must exist at the same time and place in order to produce a benefit and will not spread rapidly unless they produce a benefit. Even gradual mutual changes must exist at the same time and place in order to produce a benefit. If the traits are fatal or extremely harmful in the absence of the corresponding co-dependent traits in the other organism, then the traits must appear at the exact same time and place in both organisms, and that is unlikely. Also, if the two kinds of organisms can interact only in large numbers, then large numbers of both kinds of organisms must suddenly appear at the same time and place.

    Anyway, you Darwinists place great importance on the opinions of “experts,” but so far I have been “refuted” (according to you) by just a few rank amateurs. Where are the expert opinions about my ideas about coevolution? As I said, if the Darwinist establishment were really open-minded, any idea that even has a potential to be a weakness of evolution theory would attract a tremendous amount of attention. Such an idea could teach us a lot about evolution theory even if that idea is eventually refuted.

    Mel moans,
    –This is why no one should bother with you.–

    Then don’t bother with me, damn you, I am tired of seeing your abuse.

    You lousy Darwinists might think that you are open-minded, but look at the abuse that has been heaped on me and others just for daring to question evolution theory.

  159. da Viking

    ––Rather, the dependence arises from the loss of another trait in the organism that once performed a similar function.––

    –WHAAAT? That’s absurd.. Can you give even one example? Not that an example would prove your point, but an example would at least provide some evidence to support it.–

    Weren’t you just saying that you don’t need any specialized knowledge to judge your ideas? And yet here you are, admitting that not even your first assertion can be accepted without specialized knowledge.

    FAIL

  160. Mel

    Strange, Larry, to see you ask Kevin for a reference when, if he gives you the reference, you will declare that he is “bibliography bluffing” and refuse to read it, and if you do you will be unable to understand it (Just as when you finally did the honorable thing and read the Lenski citrate paper you did not understand it, as anyone who goes to your blog can see).

    Larry, why do I bother with you? Because sometimes I run across you being your usual self in places like this, trolling, being unpleasant, and I find I want some entertainment. Sometimes it is also that I think I might be able to finally get you to seek treatment so that you can live your remaining days as a healthy, functional human being, though I am getting increasingly certain that you are so far over the bend that that will never happen. You will one day go over the edge into actual violence and then live out the rest of your life in a mental hospital. When I first ran across you, I made the mistake of thinking that you are sane, honest, and capable of coherent, good faith discussion. I engaged you in an honest and open manner, and quickly found out just why you have the negative reputation you have. I think I also bother poking at you because I wonder if I will ever get a surprising response. So far, no. You are almost like a robot giving pre-programmed responses to every stimulus. It is sad when a human gets to that point, but there is always the possibility that you will surprise.

    And again, you, who have been caught lying in open court, lying in impersonating your brother, lying about socking, and on and on and on should be more reluctant to call anyone else a liar.

    Oh, and since I haven’t said it in a while, everyone should go to Larry’s blog so they can see the pure, unadulterated vileness and insanity there! He really believes the things he puts up there! He really hates Judge Jones that much! He really is a Holocaust denier! Go to Larry’s blog! Go and behold the sadness of ignorance combined with mental illness!
    Seriously, go: http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/

  161. John Kwok

    @ Larry –

    Professor David Levin, R. Ross, botanist Mary Endress and yours truly were among those trying to enlighten you over at Amazon. Your memory is failing you, Larry. Time to get it recharged courtesy of the Dishonesty Institute IDiot Borg Collective, of which you are most definitely a member.

  162. da Viking

    –Just pointing to the literature is bibliography bluffing — you need to describe exactly how that paper applies to the discussion here.–

    Since Larry is incapable of doing even the simplest of tasks, allow me to mockingly condescend to his juvenile request.

    You see, Larry, there’s a wasp. In fact, there’s a bunch of wasps, all very similar. We call this collection a species. There’s also a collection of bacteria. This species of bacteria can live inside the cells of this species of wasps, kind of like a grown man living at his parents house without any income. We call this a parasite and host. As it turns out, this bacteria can be inherited, but only from females (that’s what we call mommies, Larry). Bacteria that live in male wasps (daddies) die when the wasps die. So if the bacteria can make sure that more female wasps are born than male wasps, it is good for the bacteria.

    Now, parasites are a drain on the hosts.in the case of this particular wasp, the bacteria became widespread and fixed in the population. However, one of these female wasps was born with a new trait. In the presence of the bacteria, the wasp can better reproduce (Larry, that means more kids) with the trait than a similarly infected wasp without the trait, but an uninfected wasp without the trait is sterile (that means it can’t have kids). If it spreads, and there is no reason it shouldn’t, the bacteria require the breeding of the wasps to survive, and the wasps require the bacteria to breed. That is an obligate mutualism.

    And that is how a harmful trait can give arise to an obligate mutualism.

  163. Mel

    I wonder how Larry will decide to purposefully misinterpret what you have written, da Viking. What words will he suddenly decide to re-define? Will we see a “Sheesh!” from him in his reply? Will he merely decide to argue that wasps don’t exist? Regardless, you know he will never back down and acknowledge that you have shown him incorrect. What a sad old man he is.

  164. da Viking

    I’m going to go with a Sheesh!-type response and ignore the content, just focusing on the tone. Whenever anyone treats him the way he treats others, he gets all indignant and starts complaining to the management. Especially if they are making a salient point.

    Larry azks-
    –Where are the expert opinions about my ideas about coevolution?–

    Well, they probably aren’t even aware of your ideas about coevolution. You haven’t brought it up in a place the experts are likely to frequent. But you could go to a place to find what they think about similar ideas about coevolution. It’s called the primary literature. You see, Larry, when scientists get ideas about how the world might work, they test these ideas, and then try to present them in these things called journals by writing up their ideas and results. Then other people take a look at these papers and evaluate whether the idea is worthy of further consideration. This is called peer-review. Once an idea passes peer-review, other scientists examine the idea. They may decide to critique it, or they may decide it is worth developing further. So if you want to get experet opinions on your idea, you’re going to have to write a paper of your own and get it past peer-review.

    Seeing as what you have so far wouldn’t even pass English class, good luck on that.

  165. Mel

    And Larry would reply:
    -Now you are just bibliography bluffing again, dunghill. No scientist writes papers, dunghill! And if scientists evaluate ideas, why don’t they evaluate mine, dunghill. EO Wilson and Richard Dawkins have yet to say anything about my ideas on coevolution so they must be scared of me and evolution must be a lie, dunghill.

    You made me use so much electricity in writing that, dunghill, that I now have to go yell at my mother to give memore money for the electric bill

  166. Mel

    Hey look! Larry put up a post attacking me for calling his incoherent, ill-informed “ideas” about co-evolution on his blog:
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/

    Wow, that put me in my place!

    Larry, you need serious help. And a library card. Yes, a library card would help. If you had one and used it to, well, you know, borrow books from the library about evolution, or, say, co-evolution, you should see just how stupid and ignorant your “ideas” are. Of course, I realize that actually educating yourself is very hard for you (apparently when you decided you weren’t Jewish any more you also decided to get rid of the Jewish tradition of learning. Pity, that), but it is something to keep in mind if you ever want to be something other than a laughingstock (Oh, and I posted your post on co-evolution in the lab. It has given everyone a great deal of laughs, and I am sure it will continue to. No one, though, seems to believe you are as old as you are, as the post seems to read like it came from a petulant grade school kid).

  167. Bill C

    You are wasting time trying to get Larry to read anything. He goes through references using a word search and then misinterprets what he reads. He has admitted not reading the books that he critiques on Amazon.com. As for tryi9ng to discuss anything on his blog, don’t waste your time. He censors everything that he can’t answer which means nearly everything. The few remaining comments are from people who are obviously as disturbed as he is.

    His invitation to post on his blog is quite disingenuous. Last year he in a single post both denied ever censoring anything and tried to justify why he was censoring. He has censored posts and then lied about what they contained. The most comical is his “Association of Non-Censoring Bloggers” on which he has censored every post that has been entered for probably more than a year.

    As to his banning people, a practice that he denies, Kevin has mentioned “Voice in the Wilderness”. Not only did Larry block all posts by this person but he threatened to block any post that mentioned him/her.

    Larry complains about “gossip about his private life”. Few have any interest in Larry’s private life. The “gossip” usually consists of corrections to the many lies that he has posted about his background. Larry, if you don’t want personal information to appear, don’t bring it up to begin with. It wasn’t until you called yourself an unrecognized legal genius that anyone pointed out that despite your filing an great number of lawsuits, you have yet to have anyone go beyond being laughed out of court at the first appearance. This is public record.

  168. da Viking barfed,
    –Weren’t you just saying that you don’t need any specialized knowledge to judge your ideas? And yet here you are, admitting that not even your first assertion can be accepted without specialized knowledge.–

    What? You are calling me ignorant just for asking a reasonable question?

    –Since Larry is incapable of doing even the simplest of tasks, allow me to mockingly condescend to his juvenile request.–

    It is obvious that you lousy Darwinist trolls have no interest in having an intelligent discussion — you just want to ridicule, make ad hominem attacks, etc.. I am just wasting my time here.

    A recent Zogby poll shows that a majority of the public supports intelligent design —
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/06/in_darwin_anniversary_year_new.html

    So you Darwinist dunghills have no reason to be acting cocky.

    I wouldn’t piss on you jerks if you were on fire.

  169. Mel barfed (#166),
    –apparently when you decided you weren’t Jewish any more you also decided to get rid of the Jewish tradition of learning–

    You think that you have “outed” me as a former Jew. You think you are like the “informers” that the Nazis supposedly relied upon to identify Jews. You are an anti-Semitic scumbag.

    The two biggest hoaxes in history: Darwinism and the “systematic” Jewish holocaust.

    Gossiping about people’s religious affiliations or beliefs is beyond the pale and I have asked The Intersection’s bloggers to delete your comment immediately.

  170. Actually, it should have been obvious to me a long time ago that the reason why you jerks are spending so much time and effort desperately trying to discredit me is that you see my ideas about coevolution to be a huge threat to evolution theory. There is no other possible explanation.

  171. Mel

    Only someone with your level of mental deterioration, Larry, would follow up a charge of antisemitism with a repetition with what continues to be the most mindblowingly ridiculous rationalization for Holocaust denial. But that is you.

    Of course, only you, who is pretty much completely ignorant of evolutionary biology, its thinking, evidence, research, and vast body of primary literature (not to mention of the literature of ID and other parts of evolution-denial, as your co-evolution “ideas” are very old and discredited) would think he is a threat to a such a vibrant field of science. Larry, read a book or two on co-evolution, go through some review articles. You are continuing to make a fool of yourself, but you have been doing that for decades now, so there is little likelihood of your changing. I really pity your family.

    Oh, and again, folks, go to Larry’s blog and behold his ignorant craziness in all its vile, though hilarious, glory (I am the subject of the top two idiotic posts, hooray for me!):
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/

  172. Mel

    “There is no other possible explanation.”

    Wow. No other possible explanations? No wonder you got fired if your ability to formulate hypotheses is so poor.

    No other possible explanation…Yeah, keep telling yourself that.

  173. Bill C

    Why would a blog discussing censorship engage in it so freely? I have posted twice and been censored twice.

  174. Bill C

    I was wrong. I see that my latest post is still awaiting moderation.

  175. Theobald

    > There is no other possible explanation. <

    Except the obvious. Your arguments are always so absurd and easy to harpoon that you become a poster child for the irrationality of many creationists.

  176. Dumbbell Mel is now proving my point that he considers my ideas about coevolution to be a fatal weakness of evolution theory. What an idiot.

    –No other possible explanation…Yeah, keep telling yourself that.–

    I will.

  177. Mel

    Larry, only someone with your poor reading comprehension could glean that interpretation.

    And I am glad you have something to tell yourself to stave off the dark gloominess of your dotage, though it doesn’t have to be that way. You have a few years left. You could get well, you know. You could also learn to read for comprehension so as to educate yourself. Somehow I doubt it, though. You seem too far gone for that. Pity, as your path leads only to the mental hospital.

    Tell you what, if you really think your “ideas” on co-evolution are so sound, why don’t you write them up into a fully cited manuscript, and submit it to Nature, Science, Evolution, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, or any one of the myriad other journals that publish evolutionary biology research? See what happens. That is what scientists do. Or are you as big a coward as you seem?

  178. Theobald is showing that he too considers my ideas about coevolution to be fatal flaws of evolution theory.

    Theobald barfs,
    –Your arguments are always so absurd and easy to harpoon that you become a poster child for the irrationality of many creationists.–

    You are so full of living crap, bozo, that it is coming out your ears. When visitors to my blog’s summary of my coevolution ideas see that there are no comments addressing those ideas, they are likely to assume that those ideas are airtight.

  179. Mel

    Yes! Congratulations, Theobald, you got the “out of your ears” attack! I have been waiting for that patented piece of Larryspeak! Good for you for getting it!

    “When visitors to my blog’s summary of my coevolution ideas see that there are no comments addressing those ideas, they are likely to assume that those ideas are airtight.”

    That or 1. no one has seen anything worth responding to; 2. no inclined to respond has seen it; 3. those who have seen it have looked over your site sufficiently to see that you are incapable of rational discourse and have thus saved themselves the trouble; 4. you have simply censored all comments that have come in (and we already have testimony from someone far more credible than you, a noted perjurer, to this point). You really have a hard time coming up with alternate hypotheses, don’t you? The medication you refuse to take would help with that.

  180. Dumbbell Mel moves the goalposts again. Before, he said that my ideas about coevolution are “incoherent ramblings that are decades out of date.” Now he is saying that the problem with those ideas is that they have not been published in a “fully cited” article in a selective scientific journal. What a stupid idiot.

  181. Dumbbell Mel continues to reinforce my point that he considers my ideas about coevolution to be fatal flaws of evolution theory.

    He is talking out of both sides of his mouth. Before, he proposed that I submit my ideas to a selective scientific journal, now he is saying that “no one has seen anything worth responding to” in those ideas.

    –you have simply censored all comments that have come in —

    As I said, I cannot censor anything on this blog. You are free to post your comments here (assuming the bloggers do not object to off-topic comments about coevolution — they have not objected so far).

  182. Mel

    “As I said, I cannot censor anything on this blog. ”

    Gee. A bald lie from a known perjurer. Imagine that.

    It is clear that you are either too cowardly or lacking in confidence in your “ideas” on co-evolution to actually submit them for scrutiny by scientists. You do know, don’t you, that all submissions to scientific journals are read over and scrutinized, even those that are ultimately rejected? If you were serious in your “ideas”, you would submit them. You haven’t, and you won’t, so you are either not serious, lack confidence in your ideas, or you are simply too cowardly to face professionals…or a combination of all those.

    Oh, and thank you for again showing how achingly poor your reading comprehension is.

    Everyone go to Larry’s blog and see even more of his shoddy, ignorant thinking, and poor reading comprehension. Submit your comments and see how much censorship there is on his “non-censoring” blog. Go: http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/

  183. Mel

    And Larry, the point wasn’t that your ‘ideas” are worthless because they haven’t been published in peer-reviewed journals. They are worthless on their face, but the point was for you to not take my word for it. The reason why peer-reviewed research is afforded the respect it is comes from the scrutiny that research receives through the peer-review process. Submitted papers are closely read over by a cadre of editors. Those found to be of any merit are then sent out to anonymous reviewers who work in areas related to the topic of the paper, as they are experts who are best able to properly review the ideas, logic, methods, and conclusions of the work. Those experts do that review, and they then make a judgment. If they find the paper is severely flawed in its logic, methods, and conclusions, they recommend outright rejection. If they find flaws that can be corrected by new experiments or alternate methods, they can offer a recommendation to return the paper to the author or authors to see to the issues identified, make corrections, and then resubmit if they so chose. If they find no serious flaws and the work worthy of publication, the send back a recommendation for the paper to be published and it then moves forward. And even if it is published, it is not immune from criticism. Scientists who disagree will write letters to the journal pointing out what they may see as problems, which can lead to retraction in severe cases, or else simply replies from the authors justifying themselves. In the best case scenario, whatever the reception of the paper, is that it spurs further research by other scientists, because the object is always to push the boundaries of knowledge to learn more about the objective universe. Only those who are non-serious, un-knowledgeable, cowardly, or wanting to pull a fast one refuse to go to this effort if they want to put forth new scientific ideas or research findings.
    Of course, with you, it may simply be that you are afraid to do the literature review that is always necessary in the requisite background portion of a paper due to your well known fear of hard reading.

  184. Mel

    And so you can get a start on writing, should you be brave enough to, the following are links to journal pages dealing with guidelines for authors:
    Nature:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/authors/

    Science:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/about/authors/

    Evolution:
    http://www.wiley.com/bw/submit.asp?ref=0014-3820&site=1

    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA):
    http://www.pnas.org/site/misc/iforc.shtml

    Trends in Ecology and Evolution (generally publication is by invite, but they make exceptions):
    http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/30339/authorinstructions

    Evolutionary Biology:
    http://www.springer.com/life+sci/journal/11692?detailsPage=contentItemPage&CIPageCounter=430812

    Those are just among the most prominent. If you really are confident in your “ideas”, submit them for publication. Scared?

  185. Bill C

    There appears to be more than one Bill C on this board (comments #51 and 89 in contrast to #167) . I suspect the earlier ones are Larry up to his usual tricks.

  186. Mel moaned.
    –the point wasn’t that your “ideas’ are worthless because they haven’t been published in peer-reviewed journals. They are worthless on their face.–

    Bozo, if you think my ideas are worthless, then why are you proposing that I submit them to very selective peer-reviewed journals? And answering arguments with such a proposal is just a cop-out and you know it. You have done nothing but play a game of keepaway here, trying to dodge a debate about coevolution. Lots of ideas — including scientific ideas — are debated on the Internet without ever being submitted to peer-reviewed journals. And guess what, doofus. The public is not buying your kind of crap — a recent Zogby poll shows that a majority of the public supports intelligent design. So go ahead and laugh all you want, bozo — it’s not going to do you any good.

    BTW, you hypocritical Darwinists keep running to the courts complaining that ID has not been peer-reviewed, but did you know that typical law journals are not peer-reviewed or even faculty-reviewed but are just student-reviewed? That’s right.

    Yes, I would like to submit my coevolution ideas to a peer-reviewed online journal someday, but that is a big undertaking, and there is no reason why those ideas cannot be debated on the Internet in the meantime.

  187. Mel

    So you are scared to submit your “ideas” to official scrutiny. So then, you do actually realize that they are worthless, huh?

    “Yes, I would like to submit my coevolution ideas to a peer-reviewed online journal someday, but that is a big undertaking,”

    Okay, so now you say you will submit, but push off the day into the undefined future, and then restrict yourself to online journals. Online only journals? Yeah, pretty clear that are both scared and lazy. I suspect that you are completely insincere in your proposals. You would be willing to do the work to submit them quickly if you weren’t. Come on, Larry, if you believe in them, submit them. Do what scientists have to do when they want their findings put forth. Go ahead. It will be a little work, but you don’t have anything else going on. Go ahead. If you want to demolish Darwinism and so on, submit a manuscript. I dare you.

  188. Mel

    Oh, and everyone go to Larry’s blog to see the craziness of it. It is a great laugh for all of its vile hatefulness toward Judge Jones, Chris Comer, and love of Holocaust denial (for really, really insipid reasons): http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/

    Really, go. It has to be seen to be believed.

  189. Dumbbell Mel driveled,
    –Okay, so now you say you will submit, but push off the day into the undefined future, and then restrict yourself to online journals. Online only journals? Yeah, pretty clear that are both scared and lazy–

    As I said, I have fed this lousy troll too long already.

  190. Mel

    Yes! I got the “driveled” insult! I’ve almost filled out my Larry Fafarman bingo sheet! Now I just need the governator line and the “Falling Down” line, and it will be complete!

    Thank you for the admission, dear Larry, that you are indeed scared to put your “ideas” on co-evolution before credentialed experts in the field. Coward. And likely lazy. I think you are scared both of having them scrutinized as well as having to do the work of a literature review. Until you bother to submit, everyone can just disregard you as the cowardly, insincere nut you are.

  191. Mel, you stupid, feeble-minded idiot, there is no reason why my ideas about coevolution cannot be debated until after they are published in a highly selective printed peer-reviewed journal (even an ordinary online peer-reviewed journal is not good enough for you). There is no reason for delay. Any unnecessary delay is a “science stopper.”

    I am really disgusted that a stupid, fatheaded dunghill like you has a job as a scientist.

    You are such a dumb sack of $#*$(% that it is hard for me to refrain from really getting uncivil with you.

  192. Mel

    Yeah, but the legitimacy of real science is not determined by debate or by public opinion, but by careful scrutiny of the evidence behind it by those qualified to evaluate it. That happens by presentation of scientific ideas to actual scientists in journals and conferences, where everyone who is interested can study and evaluate it. Do you actually think you will get such scrutiny on obscure blogs? I doubt it. The only reason you wouldn’t actually submit your “ideas” on co-evolution to a journal to be considered by the scientific community is because you are either too lazy to put a manuscript together (again, no one takes any paper seriously if it doesn’t contain a careful consideration of the research done so far in the are), insincere in actually supporting your ideas, or you are simply scared because you worry they are weak. Which of those is it? I think you are lazy and scared.
    If a delay is a “science stopper”, then you wouldn’t delay in putting together a manuscript and submitting it? Coward. You think ideas that circulate only on obscure blog sites ever make it into the body of accepted science? If you do, you are even more ignorant that I though. Submit your ideas or show yourself or the lazy coward you are. Submit your work if you think there is anything to it.

    I have a job a scientist because I am willing to put in 60 hours a week in the lab and write up my results for publication, and, of course, to keep up with the literature by going through dozens of journals each week for relevant new papers. But that is me. I have confidence in my ideas, and I want them to face scrutiny in order to be accepted by science. I am not going to hide my ideas on obscure blogs where experts are going to scrutinize them. But then, I have confidence in my findings and ideas, and I am not a cowardly old man who is afraid of work.

    Submit your “ideas”, Larry to journals. If there is anything to them, they will make it through. Do you want to be known as the “destroyer of Darwinism”? Well, if you think your ideas are that correct and powerful, submit them. If not, you are nothing but a coward, and no one has any reason to give any consideration to anything you come up with.

    Oh, and per tradition, everyone should go to Larry’s blog and see the incredible stupidity on display there: http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/

    (Darn, he didn’t give me his governator of Falling Down lines. I guess I can fill out my Fafarman bingo card later. He is predictable enough that I know he will use them eventually)

  193. Bill C

    Note that Larry has responded to everyone but me. That is because although I have known him for over 50 years, he denies that I exist. I am not real like the voices in his head.

  194. Mel

    “I have known him for over 50 years”

    Bill C, I am so sorry for you. Tell me, though, has he always been like this? If not, what triggered the deterioration he insists on displaying to everyone who will notice? Has he been diagnosed? Is he dangerous in real life, as I have worried about him being? Have there been any thoughts of involuntary commitment by his family?

    And how is Dave doing? I haven’t seen him around on the internet much lately.

  195. Bill C

    Mel, Larry has always been a bit odd but it is only in the later years that he began losing his mind. The problem is that since he is only dangerous to himself and not others, it is difficult if not impossible to get any help for him without his cooperation.

    This is always a problem with schizophrenics. As far as they are concerned, they don’t have a problem. The problem lies with everyone else who don’t hear the voices and don’t recognize them as the Emperor of France.

    As for analytical ability, he has never had it. He has a quite remarkable memory and can remember formulas or procedures better than most. If it takes original thought, he is at a loss. There is no problem so simple that the solution doesn’t lie in doing research, usually a word search, and then often misinterpreting the results. If Larry were to have a coconut and a hammer, and the library were closed, he could starve to death.

  196. Dumbbell Mel moans,
    –Yeah, but the legitimacy of real science is not determined by debate or by public opinion, but by careful scrutiny of the evidence behind it by those qualified to evaluate it. That happens by presentation of scientific ideas to actual scientists in journals and conferences, where everyone who is interested can study and evaluate it. Do you actually think you will get such scrutiny on obscure blogs?–

    Mel, as I said, you are a lousy disgusting troll and I have fed you too long already.

    A lot of these blogs where I have discussed my ideas about coevolution are not “obscure.” Real scientists host these blogs and comment on them. You said that you yourself are a scientist, didn’t you? My ideas about coevolution require no specialized knowledge to understand. Thousands, millions of issues — including scientific issues — are informally debated on the Internet every day. You are trying to set up a special rule for my ideas about coevolution — that these ideas must first be published in a very selective peer-reviewed before they are eligible to be discussed on the Internet. Anyway, since you think that my ideas are worthless, you have no reason to urge me to submit them to peer-reviewed journals.

    You are so full of living crap that it is coming out your ears, bozo. You have no credibility.

  197. Mel

    So, yes, Larry, you are a coward without confidence in your ideas. If you weren’t you would actually submit them, as any real scientist would, to the scrutiny of the scientific community. You clearly are just another internet crank who is too lazy and scared to do the hard work needed to see an idea through. I think you know your “ideas” on coevolution don’t hold up, so you don’t want to put them to the test of scrutiny. You will notice that I didn’t say you can’t go and spew you ignorant, incoherent “ideas” where ever you chose. I did say that, if you thought them so solid and correct, you would actually subject them to scientific scrutiny like an honest scientist would. That you are unwilling to do so, says volumes about your dishonesty and cowardice. You sad, scared little man. We can now add coward to your list of attributes, in addition to crazy, liar, perjurer, filer of frivolous lawsuits, Holocaust denier, troll, Moon landing-denier, and crank. You obviously think your own ideas are worthless if you are unwilling to have them reviewed by scientist. You are a fraud and a coward.

  198. Mel

    Bill C,

    Thank you for the details. I have one other question, though. I know it would be wrong to ask you for details, but I have been curious as to the circumstances of Larry’s firing. Was it due to his deterioration, or inability to do the work? I understand if you don’t feel comfortable answering. I am just curious.

    I wonder if his refusal to acknowledge you reflects perhaps some degree of awareness of how far he has fallen since his better days.

  199. Bill C

    I don’t know the details of Larry’s latest job loss. Tn his defense, he has in the past been subject to the downturns of the engineering profession (In one case the employer moved his whole operation,) but this has been made worse because despite having a high degree of education, he seems incapable of original thought.

    > I wonder if his refusal to acknowledge you reflects perhaps some degree of awareness of how far he has fallen since his better days. <

    I think that his problem witn me is that I do not humor him. If he says something outrageous, I tell him so. His family has humored him and I think that this has added to his problem although he also denies his brother being hes real brother and has posted on his own and other blogs as me and his brother.
    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/05/the_real_dave_fafarman_reveale.php

  200. Mel barfs,

    — coward —

    Haha — coming from a jerk who is afraid to post his last name.

    Dunghill, it is not a matter of cowardice — it is a matter of finding the time and dedication to write a journal article. If I had it, I would submit it. There is absolutely no reason why my ideas about coevolution cannot be informally debated on the Internet.

  201. Theobald

    It looks like Bill C is right. Larry is afraid to admit he exists. Maybe we can learn more about the real Larry Fafarman.

  202. Mel

    Larry, thank you. You lack of dedication to putting them before professional scrutiny underscores just how worthless you know your “ideas” on coevolution are. You will notice that I never said that your “ideas” can’t be posted on the internet, but that, if you really believed them worthwhile, you would do what scientists do, which is have them submitted in manuscript form for review and possible publication. That you are unwilling to do that makes it perfectly clear that you think your ideas are worthless. And that you are a coward, of course.

    Yeah, Theobald, it is remarkable. Larry must really, really be far gone to sink to such juvenile tactics, but, then, I don’t know if there is anything that Larry wouldn’t sink to.

  203. Theobald

    Larry is now complaining on his blog about the low number of hits he is getting. At the same time, he censors almost all opposing comments and often even attacks those who agree with him. The biggest laugh was a few years ago when he got confused and attacked some of his sock puppets. He can even lose a debate with himself!

    Still no reply to Bill C. Why are you so afraid of him, Larry?

  204. –Wrong. Usually, the traits are not directly fatal or harmful in the absence of the matching trait, they are merely non-functional or sub-functional. –

    By definition, “obligate mutualism” means that the two kinds of organisms need each other for survival.

    While true, this doesn’t address my point above. My next sentence addressed that definition. Which means that you were quote-mining, yet again.

    You are using a flawed definition of obligate mutualism. The correct definition is two organisms, each dependent on a trait that is non-functional or sub-functional in the abscence of a corresponding trait in the other organism. Note that your definition is a sub-set of my definition.

    The problem that you are having is that you are focusing on the corresponding traits while ignoring everything else about the organism.As I said earlier, just because a trait is non-functional in the abscence does not mean that it is fatal in the abscence. For example, the ability to breathe air is not fatal when underwater, it is the inability to breathe water. There are a number of organisms that can do both. The is no reason the same can’t be true in obligate mutualism. Unless you can provide one?

    Take for example buzz pollination. If you have a large anther with dry, powdery pollen, normal pollen gathering techniques work just fine. However, it has been discovered that buzz pollination is somewhat more efficient under those conditions. But only certain bees have the ability to develop buzz pollination (under a certain size, it doesn’t work properly). This is mutually reinforcing (the bee will prefer that flower over other flowers, and as a result the flower will prefer that bee over other bees), but neither of the traits are fatal in the absence of the other. After a bit of time has passed, gradual modifications to these traits will significantly increase the efficiency of buzz pollination for both the bee and the flower, and they will be the primary food source or pollinator, although still capable of utilizing other organisms for that function.

    Let’s take a moment for some basic developmental biology. Anthers develop as tubes with pollen inside. When the anther is mature, it splits along a special line from tip to base. If the anther stops splitting partway down, it is effectively a tip with a hole at one end. This is a very minor change, genetically speaking, but it largely prevents non-sonicating bees from accessing the pollen. And it makes it even more efficient for sonicating bees to collect pollen. And the pollen, btw, is still dry and powdery – it isn’t sticky. Buzz pollination doesn’t work on sticky pollen.

    Examples of the various stages required for this process abound in nature and the literature. If you want to get more info on this, I started at page 100 of the book “The Anther” and followed the references and their citations, etc. “The Anther” is previewed by Google Books. so you can read the relevant page online.

  205. da Viking

    Hey Kevin, is The Anther: Form, Function, and Phylogeny by D’Arcy and Keating the book you’re talking about? When I pull it up, the preview doesn’t include pages 100-101, but page 99 starts talking about buzz pollination and page 102 shows pictures of the tubes you described.

  206. da Viking

    Larry claims the following is the correct definition of obligate mutualism:

    –The co-evolution of obligate mutualism presents a particular problem because this kind of co-evolution may require simultaneous changes in both kinds of organisms in the same geographical location, because the co-dependent traits in both kinds of organisms may be immediately fatal in the absence of the corresponding co-dependent traits in the other kind of organism.–

    But Kevin claims the real definition is:

    –…two organisms, each dependent on a trait that is non-functional or sub-functional in the abscence of a corresponding trait in the other organism.–

    So how do I know which is right? If Kevin is right, then it’s obvious that the traits don’t have to appear simultaneously. It even looks like there are multiple paths to obligate mutualism. I already showed how a parasite-host relationship can evolve into an obligate mutualism. Another starting point is a facultative mutualism.

    Facultative mutualism
    The condition in which one or both species in a mutualistic association may survive and maintain populations in the absence of the other partner.

    If one partner becomes dependent on the other, it remains a facultative mutualism per the above definition. All that remains is for the other to become dependent, and -bam- obligate mutualism.

    But Larry says his argument doesn’t need any specialized knowledge. So how does Larry propose to demonstrate his argument without relying on specialized knowledge?

  207. da Viking

    Larry never answered the very first comment on this blog that addressed his argument, written by A Random Passing Physicist on the WEiT but Jerry Coyne is Wrong thread:

    –According to evolution, mutual adaptation of the sort you identify has to occur by the same mechanisms as “IC” features : by ’scaffolding’ falling away, by the disappearance of alternative methods, by the features designed for one purpose being used for a different one, by generalists becoming specialists.

    Can you expand on why you think these mechanisms don’t apply in the cases you mention?–

    Are you ever going to answer that question, Larry? It’s the same point that Kevin and I and a whole host of other people have pounded you on, yet you never answer it. The answer by now is obvious – you can’t answer it.

  208. Mel

    da Viking,

    Do you think Larry can even comprehend that question, much less answer it?

    That fact that Larry is unwilling to submit his “ideas” to a journal despite his insistence of how important they are does not but make clear that he believes them to be worthless. He realizes that, if they came under scrutiny by experts, as such submissions require, they would be found to be worthless and would consequently not be published. Larry is crazy and lazy, but if he actually thought he had something that would pass the rigorous examination required for publication, he would have submitted a manuscript for examination. After all, when he thought he had a case, he filed lawsuits (which were all thrown out of court). Thus, his reluctance can only be based on his recognition of the worthlessness of his ‘ideas”.

    Cue the clock for Larry to reply to all of us with more inane misreadings and stereotyped responses….

  209. Theobald

    The only real question is whether Larry will 1. Pretend he has already answered. 2. Try to redefine words. 3. Call us all Dunghills, or 4, Claim victory and walk away.

    We still don’t know why he is in such fear of Bill C.

  210. Mel

    Or all 4. That is usually tactic.

    Bill C knows him, and thus knows how much of Larry’s behavior is real, and how much is purely an act. I would bet that feeds a lot into it. Of course, Larry is immature enough to be doing the whole childish,”I don’t like you, so I’m not gonna acknowledge you!” thing.

  211. BillC

    Larry’s behavior is real. He is not acting. He actually believes the crap that he posts here. He really gets off on some strange kicks. His previous belief that meteors come from inside the Earth’s atmosphere for example. His arguments in support of this were a great example of his incapacity for analytical thought.

    His Don Quixote attempts to stop the smog fee on cars brought into California from out of the state were bizarre. He had a good case but had no clue as to how to persue it. His bull in a china shop activities were not at all appreciated by others with the same goal. One asked Larry to take him off of his email list. Larry reacted with outrage. He believed that the only reason anyone would ask this was to intentionally annoy him. He couldn’t conceive or any other reason.

    When the smog fee was dropped in spite of Larry’s failures, he considered himself the world’s savior. Once I was with him at a restaurant and he got fired up and started shrieking at the other patrons because they didn’t appreciate the great blessing that he had given them. I left before he was thrown out.

    In the last ten years or so he has really fallen off the edge. At one point he predicted his own death in the next 48 hours. He said that his tendons would start snapping one by one and even pointed out in which order this would happen. His next kick was that there was no way that the information that is published daily in the Los Angeles Times could be gathered without supernatural aid. This would be the same aid that managed to print and distribute it. He claimed that to print that many copies the gears in the presses would have to run at supersonic speeds.

    The final proof came when the Times reported that Dupar’s Restaurant was changing hands. How could the Times know about this. Even more suspicious was the fact that when the reporter went to the restaurant they found regulars to interview. As far as Larry was concerned, the odds against finding a regular at a restaurant were astronomical.

    I can’t help but believe that Larry could be helped but since he doesn’t believe he has a problem, no help can be obtained. He goes into scraming fits at anyone who disagrees with him.

  212. Mel

    Wow. Bill C., thank you for that. I actually feel kinda bad now that I know how sick he really is. It is one thing to play with and taunt a jerk, but another thing entirely if the person actually has a mental issue. I think I will largely leave him be from now on, and just ignore him when he starts to get to me.
    If I may, though, can I ask you if he was a good person once? Is the anger and hatred a manifestation of the disease, or was that there all along, and the illness just made it worse. In any case, I do hope he one day gets help.

  213. Bill C

    Larry is still a good person though he gets very hard to take at times. He has no control over the things that have made him lose touch with reality. Unfortunately in this state it is almost impossible to get help for someone who doesn’t want it even if they are the worst judge in the world of whether they need it. His elderly mother tried very hard to get him medical help and he reacted by screaming at her and claiming treachery. She gave up. Larry had been living with her up to a month ago subjecting her to his daily rants. She is now in a convalescent home and it is unlikely she will return. Now alone, I expect Larry to get even worse.

    Larry was a good friend for many years and I would like to return to that status but I don’t see it happening. As his brother said in Ed Brayton’s blog “I would like my brother back.” I sometimes feel guilty about heckling him but it is often done out of frustration. I kid myself into believing that if he is driven farther over the edge it may force him into a situation where he could get medical help.

    Ed dropped his discussions of Larry stating that he felt it was unwise to pull the chains of the clinically insane. Ed did have a pretty good analysis of Larry’s problem:

    “His obsessive compulsive nature subverts any chance his mind has of forming even a mildly accurate picture of reality. He creates these bizarre legal theories, none of which have ever won anything in court, and he sits in his house all day long desperate for people to listen to him. So he spams every blog and forum with his lunatic ideas and gets banned, then in his mind he is converted into Don Quixote, bravely tilting at all the dragons windmills that do him such injustice. He doesn’t have delusions of grandeur so much as he has delusions of relevance. And he convinces himself that he’s on the verge of winning against we who torment him so.”

    I think that Ed pretty much hit it on the head. Incidentally, Larry often claims that many of his tormenters, Kevin, his brother, me, etc. are actually Ed Brayton using assumed names. You may have been added to this list.

  214. da Viking-

    Yes, that’s the book I was talking about. When I follow your link, page 100 is visible. Must be some weird Google thing.

  215. Mel

    Bill C,

    Thank you again. I feel understand the situation much better. I hope that Larry one day gets treatment, and that you get your friend back. He is clearly intelligent. I think he could make some contribution if he gets well.

    I understand your stake in this, Bill C. I am curious, though. How did you, Kevin, get into this? Are you someone who knows Larry in real life at all, or did you just run into him online like I did? Same thing with you, Theobald, and you, Voice in the Urbaness, if you are lurking here.

  216. Mel, Bill, I think your side conversation is getting a bit off the beaten track. Let’s not be too gauche, eh?

  217. Online at Pandas Thumb. He is very like my father in his argumentation style. So baiting him is my own way of keeping my father’s memory alive, I guess. Same age, even.

    But enough gossip.

  218. da Viking

    Looks like Larry has done what he always does when presented with evidence: bluster and then run away as soon as any perceived slight gives him an excuse to storm off in a huff.

  219. da Viking

    Here is an example of a facultative mutualism on the verge of becoming an obligate mutualism (all that needs to happen is for the algae to be divided between the daughter cells).

    As so often happens with biology, fact is stranger than fiction.

  220. Theobald

    I agree with Kevin. This is getting too far out and Larry has been effectively treed. No, Mel, I don’t know Larry in real life. I don’t think he has a real life.

    The bottom of Larry’s mutualism argument has been pulled out by Kevin’s explanation that the traits don’t have to appear simultaneously. This seems irrefutable.

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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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