The Survey Data on Science and Religion

By Chris Mooney | July 3, 2009 9:30 am

Jerry Coyne has a new post–really, a long quotation–about this subject. Linking to a Pew essay relating many important public opinion stats on science and religion in America, Dr. Coyne observes that these data show science and religion aren’t really compatible, “but Chris Mooney tweaks them a bit to claim the opposite.”

I am not aware of having “tweaked” any survey data. At issue is this post of mine, which doesn’t even directly report any of the data–it merely links the Pew essay, quotes its conclusion, and broadly interprets the data therein differently than Dr. Coyne now interprets them.

Let us assume that Dr. Coyne actually disagrees with my interpretation of the data, and is not really accusing me of data manipulation. Indeed, so far as I can tell the data themselves are completely uncontested by both of us. What is very contested, though, is what these data mean for the debate we are having over accommodationism. So let’s dig into that question.

Coyne quotes the following passage from Pew’s David Masci, and suggests that it demonstrates science-religion incompatibility (Coyne’s emphasis included):

Interestingly, many of those who reject natural selection recognize that scientists themselves fully accept Darwin’s theory. In the same 2006 Pew poll, nearly two-thirds of adults (62%) say that they believe that scientists agree on the validity of evolution. Moreover, Americans, including religious Americans, hold science and scientists in very high regard. A 2006 survey conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University found that most people (87%) think that scientific developments make society better. Among those who describe themselves as being very religious, the same number – 87% – share that opinion.

So what is at work here? How can Americans say that they respect science and even know what scientists believe and yet still disagree with the scientific community on some fundamental questions? The answer is that much of the general public simply chooses not to believe the scientific theories and discoveries that seem to contradict long-held religious or other important beliefs.

When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll. Indeed, in a May 2007 Gallup poll, only 14% of those who say they do not believe in evolution cite lack of evidence as the main reason underpinning their views; more people cite their belief in Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%) as their reason for rejecting Darwin’s theory.

Let me say at the outset that I find it regrettable, just as Dr. Coyne does, that people are rejecting scientific findings due to their religion. That’s not cool. It’s not acceptable. And it is of course one of the key reasons we have an “unscientific America.”

But where Coyne sees sheer science-religion incompatibility, I see something else: An opportunity. For it seems to me that if we could only dislodge the idea that evolution is contradictory to people’s belief in “Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%),” then they would have no problem with evolution. In fact, the passage above shows that many of them (62%) already know evolution is good science–it’s the perception of religious conflict that is holding them back.

Take away that perception of conflict, then, and these Americans should be ready to accept  science.

Are the survey data really evidence of incompatibility, then? At the very least, that’s debatable. I’m quite convinced that the data are an excellent reason to take Kenneth Miller’s (and my) approach and try to convince people that science needn’t be any threat to their religion–indeed, they show that this is a strategy which ought to work for many Americans.

And this gets me back to what I was originally saying: Most Americans don’t want science and religion to be in conflict. For as the Pew essay continues:

This reliance on religious faith may help explain why so many people do not see science as a direct threat to religion. Only 28% of respondents in the same Time poll say that scientific advancements threaten their religious beliefs. These poll results also show that more than four-fifths of respondents (81%) say that “recent discoveries and advances” in science have not significantly impacted their religious views. In fact, 14% say that these discoveries have actually made them more religious. Only 4% say that science has made them less religious.

These data once again show that, in the minds of most people in the United States, there is no real clash between science and religion. And when the two realms offer seemingly contradictory explanations (as in the case of evolution), religious people, who make up a majority of Americans, may rely primarily upon their faith for answers.

My view is that if we force-science religion conflict on much of America, then for a large portion of our citizenry, science is not going to prevail as the victor. But if we demonstrate compatibility, then that should be very good for the public understanding and appreciation of science. Granted, this assumes that the “public understanding and appreciation of science” is your goal, rather than the inculcation of atheism. I can fully see why those who above all want atheism to prevail would take a very different approach to the survey data.

Comments (168)

  1. I think either it’s matter of the new atheists are on a Don Quixote mission to convert the majority of people to atheism in order to save science or they’re actually using the pretext of science to try to convert the majority to atheism. There isn’t any evidence that they are going to convert the majority of people to atheism, it didn’t happen in the Soviet Union with a lot more leverage, after all, so their quest is irrational on the evidence. Which you’d expect someone who does science for a living to notice.

    The people who are both religious and fully accept science are the most realistic resource for people who really want to find out how to promote science in the general population, not people who refuse to look at the reality of how human societies really have been shown to work in the real world.

  2. Vytautas

    You wrote:

    “But where Coyne sees sheer science-religion incompatibility, I see something else: An opportunity. For it seems to me that if we could only dislodge the idea that evolution is contradictory to people’s belief in “Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%),” then they would have no problem with evolution. In fact, the passage above shows that many of them (62%) already know evolution is good science–it’s the perception of religious conflict that is holding them back.”

    What? You implied no such thing in your original post siting the Pew data to which Coyne, Cline, Benson and Hallquist were responding towards. In fact, you just co-opted this interpretation from Hallquist’s criticism (where he wrote about the interpretation you *could* have taken away from the data, but didn’t). http://www.uncrediblehallq.net/chris-mooney-lies-about-scientific-research/ ,via, http://atheism.about.com/b/2009/06/25/mooney-framing-rejecting-science-for-religion-means-theyre-compatible.htm

    Further to the data, it shows that there is clearly a perception that science and religion are incompatibility. On many counts, this is because they *are* incompatible. You say you want to demonstrate compatibility. How does one do that between the religious concept of creation and evolution? You convince them to become watered down deists?

  3. NewEnglandBob

    As usual, Anthony McCarthy is on his ad hominem mission to paint atheists as fundamentalists. He has no standing with that malicious argument. The Soviet Union is a straw man argument. Totalitarianism is not atheism, but just the opposite, much more akin to religious dogma.

    The real issue is science and religion compatibility. The data stands on its own. The interpretation by Coyne is that it is in conflict. The majority of the religious bury their heads in the sand and deny there is a conflict, but that does not make it true.

    Chris Mooney is in denial of the data. Pretending there is harmony puts off proper public education and appeal to rational thinking. It is just like the appeasement during World War II. It did not work then and it will not work now.

    The people who are both religious and fully accept science are the most realistic resource for people who really want to find out how to promote science in the general population, not people who refuse to look at the reality of how human societies really have been shown to work in the real world.

    Coyne, et al. are NOT refusing to look at the reality of human societies, but trying to find a way to promote science without the stain of magical thinking. You, Chris, look at reality and throw up your hands and say “Lets give in”. Denial of the conflict is where there is a refusal to look at the realities.

  4. — Anthony McCarthy is on his ad hominem mission to paint atheists as fundamentalists. NEB

    I gave two different analyses of the motives of the new atheist fad, neither of which constitutes an “ad hominem” as both were on topic, relevant to the issue at hand and neither of which was a personal attack on anyone, not even Jerry Coyne.

    — He has no standing with that malicious argument. NEB

    While I wasn’t aware that one needed “standing” to post a comment relevant to the topic on a blog thread, I am quite certain that’s not your call.

    — The Soviet Union is a straw man argument. NEB

    As the Soviet Union was one of the more concerted efforts to suppress religion and promote atheism in the interest of what was asserted to be a more “scientific” view of human society and life, it is entirely relevant and so isn’t a “strawman”. It is what the allegedly science-promoting new atheists and their opponents can use as real life evidence of the possibility of suppressing religion would have to have, EVIDENCE in real life instead of out of the imagination of Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins. What they fantasize is “magical thinking” since the evidence of real life doesn’t tend to support them. I’d love someone to go over it with the ex-Trot Christopher Hitchens.

    Please note, I do happen to be a socialist.

    “Ad homenem”, “no standing”, “strawman” you do know that these kinds of terms are losing any kind of meaning due to the new atheist habit of pulling them out when they can’t think of a real refutation. That’s the kind of thing that could easily turn into a joke on you.

  5. Robert Test

    “But if we demonstrate compatibility [between science and religion], then that should be very good for the public understanding and appreciation of science. Granted, this assumes that the “public understanding and appreciation of science” is your goal, rather than the inculcation of atheism. I can fully see why those who above all want atheism to prevail would take a very different approach to the survey data.”

    Your position is modest and reasonable. My goal is not just a better understanding and appreciation of science but to try to avoid false beliefs and replace whatever false beliefs we have with true ones.

    Atheism should prevail if it is true. Do I want it to prevail above all else? Probably not -we can only do so much and there are probably other false beliefs and practices that are causing more harm than religion.

  6. I concur, this is clearly a teaching moment. I believe that Coyne and others take the point of view of “Let’s cut them off, it’s a lost cost, they’ll never agree.” and wish to leave it at that. Coyne himself has taken it one step further, by saying that science should cut out “religious scientists” (whatever that means) from defending scientific issues out of fear that if people listen to them, it means that science as a whole endorses religion*. That is of course, a silly statement.

    *On this blog entry, Coyne himself says:

    By trotting out those “religious scientists”, like Ken Miller, or those “scientific theologians,” like John Haught, we are tacitly putting our imprimatur on their beliefs, including beliefs that God acts in the world today (theism), suspending natural laws.

  7. Jerry Coyne

    Yes, of course by “tweaked” I meant “construed”, not “manipulated”. Apologies to those who thought I meant the latter! I’ve added a note to this effect on my post.

  8. If the majority of Americans are religions, and the majority of Americans think science is a positive thing, and a majority of Americans reject science when it conflicts with their faith, then what is the conclusion? That the majority of Americans are science illiterate.

    The Mooney, Miller, NCSE solution is to include a strong NOMA (philosophical) influence on science education to overcome this apparent conflict.

    The Coyne, Myers, Dawkins solution is to just teach the science and let the evidence speak for itself. (That they think the evidence will lead to incompatibility is tangential to what they think NCSE’s position should be.)

    Is this accurate?

  9. Walker

    The real issue is science and religion compatibility. The data stands on its own. The interpretation by Coyne is that it is in conflict.

    It is one thing to interpret data when we have a well-defined experimental set-up. The problem with these discussions is that we cannot even agree what we are arguing about. Are we arguing that

    1. Science and religion are incompatible in a philosophical, logical, or epistemological sense.

    2. Science and religion are incompatible in a psychological sense?

    3. Science and religion are incompatible in a sociological sense (e.g. organized religion).

    And those are just the ones I came up with off the top of my head. There are other senses that we can talk about the compatibility of science and religion.

    Typically accomodationists focus on 1 and 2 (1 is a weak claim, but it is also the one on which accomodationists have the strongest footing), not 3. Data cannot be used to refute 1 (these are analytic, not empirical truths), so if we are having an argument here, it has be something dealing with 2 or 3. But if we are arguing about 2, this poll proves nothing. A psychologist would laugh at the thought of a poll being considered a proper experimental set-up.

    At best, polls are appropriate to 3, as they are considered acceptable in sociology. But given the diversity of organized religion in this country, I am not sure that a poll as coarse as this one provides us with much value.

  10. Mel

    If one takes a position of strict philosophical naturalism along with the view that the only beliefs that are valid are those solidly grounded in scientific evidence and wholly consistent with philosophical naturalism, and that only those beliefs judged so valid are allowable, healthy, rational, insert positive adjective of choice here, and that within any individual there must be absolute consistency between beliefs then, yes, there can only be conflict. If one does not take that position, which is not itself scientific, but instead a particular ideological position, then there is no necessary conflict. The very fact that there are a great many scientists and laypersons who are able to accept both science and religious beliefs not consistent with the above position because they don’t hold that position is evidence that conflict is neither a necessary nor an intrinsic part of the relationship between science and religion. The position that these individuals are fundamentally wrong in their beliefs and must therefore be converted, is very much a personal position operationally indistinguishable from any other absolutist, proselytizing position whether it be philosophical (logical positivists for example), ideological (communists, for example), or religious (take your pick). It is a valid position for a person to take, and one people have a right to take, but, no matter how well justified its holder might feel him or herself to be in taking it, it is also an obnoxious one that has led to enormous conflict throughout human history, and will, unfortunately, no doubt continue to do so.

  11. “Only 28% of respondents in the same Time poll say that scientific advancements threaten their religious beliefs. These poll results also show that more than four-fifths of respondents (81%) say that “recent discoveries and advances” in science have not significantly impacted their religious views…And when the two realms offer seemingly contradictory explanations (as in the case of evolution), religious people, who make up a majority of Americans, may rely primarily upon their faith for answers.”

    Because they ignore the recent discoveries and advances. Not because they make them somehow mesh together, but because they simply ignore and/or deny them.

    “But if we demonstrate compatibility, then that should be very good for the public understanding and appreciation of science.”

    But it is not possible to ‘demonstrate compatibility’ in the epistemic sense. The only kind of compatibility it is possible to demonstrate is this brute force kind, in which believers simply ignore the evidence whenever it threatens their religious beliefs. The brute force kind of compatibility is epistemically worthless, and worse than that if it leads to delusions about genuine (epistemic) compatibility.

    Chris you’re still playing on this equivocation. You’re still talking about the brute force kind of compatibility and ignoring the fact that the people who disagree with you (and I’m one) are talking about epistemic compatibility. It would be nice if you would at least acknowledge this.

    It’s funny – your book (much to its credit) does mention this, frequently. There are several places just in the opening pages where you mention epistemic incompatibility (though not in those words) – as a problem. You would do well to recognize that you are promoting such an epistemic incompatibility by plugging away at this brute force version. You’re muddying the very waters you seem otherwise to want to clear.

  12. Having been put against my will in the “accommodationist” category, science can’t accommodate anything but the evidence about the material universe. I’ve never thought it could. Scientists who expect to get public funding and those who want to protect the integrity of public school science classrooms had better at least not antagonize the public who are under no obligation to fund them or to retain the wall of separation necessary for a civil society and faith-neutral public schools.

    I think the Coynes should be called “antagonizers” if they’re going to insist on mislabeling us as “accomodationists”.

    Where do they think the laws that fund them and keep the wall of separation up come from, ultimately? Don’t they have the first idea of how democracy works? It’s been a struggle to keep it in place without them insulting the majority of voters. It’s not going to get any easier if they continue this and help give the far-right electoral victories and the ability to appoint judges.

  13. Erasmussimo

    I like Anthony McCarthy’s point that perhaps the militant atheists are “using the pretext of science to try to convert the majority to atheism.” That certainly seems to fit their behavior, which could be characterized as “Science is OUR tree fort, and if you want to be part of OUR tree fort, you have to accept OUR spiritual beliefs” — a position I find obnoxious. Science does not belong to atheism. Science intrinsically doesn’t give a hoot about atheism or religion.

    The survey data make it clear that Americans aren’t so grossly scientific illiterate that they don’t understand that evolution is the undeniable result of science. They understand that much of the science quite clearly. They simply refuse to apply it to their religious beliefs. So, what are we going to do about it? The militant atheists would have us spit in the faces of all those Americans and demand that they abandon their religious beliefs. Yeah, right — good luck with that plan! I think it should be obvious that most people place greater weight on their spiritual beliefs than their rational beliefs. Sure, that sounds stupid to us rationalists, but that’s the way these people think. So again, are you going to dismiss the great majority of Americans as idiots and go sulk in your ivory tower? I find Chris’ proposal far more likely to yield social progress. Advance the meme that religious belief is not in conflict with scientific results. Build a big tent and bring people into it. Kicking people out of your tent achieves only a small tent.

  14. Jon

    Jerry Coyne:

    By trotting out those “religious scientists”, like Ken Miller, or those “scientific theologians,” like John Haught, we are tacitly putting our imprimatur on their beliefs…

    On the other side, the New Atheists want the public face of science to be a Nomenklatura of people holding the narrow views they find intellectually respectable (philosophical naturalism, atheism and that’s it). This is political suicide for the science related causes that should be the priority.

    Here’s PZ the other day:

    Now one way the defenders of religion like to get around this empirical problem is to change the game in mid-play: one moment we’re talking about tools for understanding the world, where there is a conflict, and then they switch to a completely different purpose, that of establishing a common morality, or appreciating art, or falling in love. I would be the first to admit that science does not and should not dictate morality: the cases in the past where this has happened (eugenics comes to mind right away) have been disastrous. Science is good at explaining what is and how it works, and not so great at telling us how it should work. I also wouldn’t use the scientific method directly to determine whether I like some music or poetry or not.

    However, I’m going to have to say that religion doesn’t do a good job at that either.

    Number one, that’s just the views of one PZ Myers. He’s welcome to hold them, but it’s a gross generalization and skims over the particulars. Not very scientific. Number two, what if this other way of describing the world, actually fills a HUMAN NEED that science doesn’t fill? It could be the religion we know in the united states “doesn’t do a good job.” But that doesn’t mean the need is going away. If this is the case, why not exhibit some tolerance for people who can be seen to fill that need in a healthy, Enlightenment-consonant way, as opposed to the fundies and creationists?

    The other option of setting up the public face of science as a New Atheist Nomenclatura for all the public to see is politically insane for the cause of the public’s acceptance of scientific issues.

  15. J. J. Ramsey

    These data once again show that, in the minds of most people in the United States, there is no real clash between science and religion. And when the two realms offer seemingly contradictory explanations (as in the case of evolution), religious people, who make up a majority of Americans, may rely primarily upon their faith for answers.

    The “And” in that second sentence should be a “But” or a “Yet.” It looks like what the Pew researchers conclude is that, in general, people do not see a conflict between science and religion (whatever that means), but if there is a contradiction between a particular religious belief and a particular finding of science, people are more likely to resolve this in favor of their current religious beliefs.

  16. @Chris Moony: I think you are missing something important here.

    Indeed, the data show that for many people, science and religion don’t need to be in conflict – but only because for many of those people, they have already resolved that conflict in favor of religion:

    And when the two realms offer seemingly contradictory explanations (as in the case of evolution), religious people, who make up a majority of Americans, may rely primarily upon their faith for answers.

    So people are more likely to reject (part of) science than to change their faith when they contradict, such as with evolution. So if you want them to accept evolution, you don’t need to “demonstrate compatibility”, but you need to convince them to change their faith instead of rejecting the science. In essence, you are asking them to stop putting faith before science, and arguing that they should put science before faith instead. This is not a small demand. For some, this will feel more like “submission” than “compatibility”. I don’t see a good reason to hide this unfortunate fact, or even to try and downplay it – definitely not as a general strategy.

    If you look at it this way, you’ll also see how the approaches of (for instance) Ken Miller and Jerry Coyne are fundamentally different in this respect. Ken Miller doesn’t appear to argue so much that you need to put science first when religion and faith contradict, but he tries to argue that you can still have a meaningful faith even when you do. Coyne, on the other hand, would seem to prefer to try and show that faith is not a reliable way to find knowledge to begin with (which clearly also leaves Coyne rather unconvinced by Miller’s arguments for his faith as well), while science is. Therefore, in my view, Coyne addresses the real issue much more directly.

    Which approach is more effective I don’t know. I personally think that Coyne has the better arguments, but I can also understand that his approach is more uncomfortable to believers. I’m not convinced that we should drop a line of argument just because it uncomfortable to some, though.

    Which still makes it weird that people like Ken Miller are allowed and even encouraged to use (their version of) theology to argue how you can still have faith, even when accepting that science trumps faith whenever they contradict, while people like Coyne are discouraged to use philosophy to show how faith is inferior to science as a method of gaining knowledge. After all the words that were spent on this issue, it still smells like a double standard to me.

  17. Deen, you’re skipping over the word “seemingly” in the passage you cite. The point is, this is a teaching moment, where one can point out that while it may seem to be in contradiction, it is not.

    Coyne, and other militant atheists, on one hand simply wants to say: To hell with you all.

    The “accomodationists” want to say: You are tilting at a windmill, let’s sit down and come to a proper understanding of what you are rejecting.

    In the first case, there is no opportunity to settle differences and come to a fuller understanding. In the second case there is. It may not result in a 100% conversion rate (acceptance of science), but it will result in a higher conversion rate than the first option.

  18. This point deserves repeating:

    “Because they ignore the recent discoveries and advances. Not because they make them somehow mesh together, but because they simply ignore and/or deny them.”

    McCarthy’s threat that we had better learn to appease the beast or my funding as a scientist will dry up is cowardice.

    We work to change public opinion through education, which means speaking out, not through self-censorship and cowering in fear. If McCarthy’s dyspeptic view is accurate, America will loose its standing as a leading science innovator.

  19. The simplest way to cut through this issue to is note that what Dawkins et. al. call “religion” is in fact a very stereotyped view of religions. These opponents of religion, so far as I can tell (and I have a PhD in Religion and a BS/MA in Physics, if it matters), are opposed primarily to fundamentalist Christians and their Western cousins, Jews and Muslims. Fundamentalists make the mistake of interpreting religious myth as literal fact. A myth gives us an idea about something difficult to put into non-fictional propositions by telling a story and then interpreting the story. See Karen Armstrong’s excellent history fundamentalism in the three Western traditions, “The Battle for God,” for many examples of this fallacy. [http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/a/armstrong-battle.html] These are the people who, when science contradicts their myths, reject science in favor of faith.

    Dawkins and other militant atheists are making the same mistake. They think that if they can show that the myths of religion are not literally true (usually a trivial task), then they have proven how irrational religion is. They need to read Joseph Campbell [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Myth] to gain new insight into the way to unpack the truth in mythology.

    Anyone who cares to look closely at a wide spectrum of religious positions will find many which do not treat myths as literally true and so have no problem with science. They accept what science presents but then ask the questions science can’t answer: “How am I to understand my place in the cosmos in such a way as to be able to live a fulfilling life and make positive contributions to society?” These people do not use religion as a magic wand to make everything be the way they want it to be.

    Look at Buddhism, Confucianism (the sophisticated philosophical level, not the level of folk religion), Taoism (ditto), and many New Age religions, not to mention the more liberal wings of Western religions. Read Michael Dowd’s “Thank God for Evolution.” [http://thankgodforevolution.com/] This ought to open the eyes of anyone who is not completely closed minded as to the compatibility of religion and science. These people are the 81% who don’t find science contradicts their religion.

    Finally, I suggest reading “Quantum Questions,” edited by Ken Wilbur. [http://www.shambhala.com/html/catalog/items/isbn/978-1-57062-768-2.cfm] Wilbur shows with essays written by the great scientists of Quantum Mechanics that they were all what could be called religious mystics. But none of them based their mysticism on the results of science. If scientists like Einstein, Schroedinger, Heisenberg, and Bohr can reconcile religious mysticism with science, why should the question even come up? Other writings by Ken Wilbur would also be enlightening to the “science is incompatible with religion” advocates.

  20. — McCarthy’s threat that we had better learn to appease the beast or my funding as a scientist will dry up is cowardice. gilllt

    You think that money’s going to come down like manna from heaven? Hey, I never figured the new atheism as a cargo cult.

    If you think the science budgets are immune to criticism and that their funding can’t be endangered? And you think I’m uninformed?

    http://scienceblogs.com/principles/2008/09/earmarks_and_the_ridicule_of_s.php

  21. Mel

    I don’t know about you gillt, but I just want to do my research, when possible help others understand my science and my findings. That is education. I don’t care if they believe in religiously, and I don’t care if they meet my standards for consistency of belief, and I am certainly not going to call them names and order them to convert to my beliefs, disbeliefs, or standards of consistency of belief. Why? Because it doesn’t bother me if they don’t meet my standards of consistency, and it certainly doesn’t bother me if they hold religious qua religious views I don’t. If I felt the compulsion to make them adopt my religious views or lack of belief in god, or whatnot, that wouldn’t education – it would be proselytizing and missionizing, and that is not my role or right as a scientist (as a person, sure, though I would not exercise it because I don’t like being proselytized to, and I am not going to do it to another).

  22. When one responds to a McCarthy comment they have to face the fact that he manages to either avoid the point or misinterpret the point every time he responds. And yet it still amazes me anew every time I see it happen.

    Of course I never said science funding is immune to criticism.

    However does McCarthy get “If you think the science budgets are immune to criticism and that their funding can’t be endangered?”

    from “We work to change public opinion through education, which means speaking out, not through self-censorship and cowering in fear.”

  23. I don’t care either Mel. Why would I? I’d rather science outreach and education organizations do exactly as you’re saying. When teaching science or instructing others how to teach science, leave religion and religious positions out of it. But that’s not what the NCSE does, which is the reason for this whole debate.

    I don’t want to force my views on anyone and neither do any of the so-called new atheists far as I can tell. We know that religions proselytize and missionize, as you put it. No one argues that. Are you implying that I seem to be saying this, or that this should be some official position adopted by others?

  24. John Kwok

    @ Chris –

    Were we to succeed in persuading all religiously devout that accepting evolution as scientific fact wouldn’t interfere with their religious beliefs, then we may see once more a situation in which Fundamentalist Protestant Christanity did recognize evolution as valid science in middle and late Victorian Era America. It was only with the onset of World War I – and Imperial Germany claims to economic and military supremacy based on erroneous interpretations of Darwin’s work by leading German intellectuals and military officers – that American Fundamentalist Protestants began rejecting evolution en masse, culminating of course with the 1925 Scopes Trial.

    I am inclined to agree that we do have an opportunity here, and it saddens me how much of that is being wasted now by the ongoing risible debate on “accomodationism” – and yes Jerry, I have to blame you for being the primary instigator and urge you to take whatever steps you think are necessary so that you and your fellow Militant Atheists recognize, as you noted recently over at Jason Rosenhouse’s blog, “We’re all in the pro-evolution battle together.” – instead of adhering to Jerry’s excellent advice, which I’ve just quoted.

  25. Erasmussimo

    I applaud Lanny Buetner’s point that there’s plenty of religious belief that has no problems at all with science. The militant atheists are attacking all religion for the beliefs of a subset of believers. Here we have a large group of obvious allies in the advancement of science and rationalism, and the militant atheists want to reject them because of the beliefs of OTHER people!

    I further support the point that funding is an important consideration. If we lift the finger to the bulk of Americans, we’ll get less funding. That’s a significant factor worthy of consideration. And the claims that this is cowardice only serve to demonstrate that the authors of such claims see the world through a cloud of testosterone.

  26. articulett

    But we can’t say that science doesn’t interfere with peoples’ religious beliefs unless we know what those beliefs are. And they are tons of creation stories. Scientific fact does conflict with many religious beliefs… young earth creationists, for example and Scientologists who believe the universe is trillions of years old. Galileo’s facts conflicted with what the Catholic Church was teaching as fact at that time.

    We should be able to teach science without worrying about what people have been indoctrinated to believe in just as astronomers don’t worry about whether their student have heartfelt ties to astrology.

    Religious beliefs deserve no more deference then any other belief or superstition. They are “beliefs”– they tend to be unfalsifiable… they are in the same category as demons and magic spells as far as science is concerned. We owe no more deference to those promised salvation for their beliefs than we do to other deluded people.

    Parents are free to lie to their kids about Santa. I won’t interfere with the lie, but I want no part in encouraging it. I prefer to be seen as someone who will always speak the truth rather than someone willing to obfuscate as a means of promoting magical thinking. I prefer other adults who are the same way. I think religion is just a grown up version of Santa belief. I see nothing which distinguishes it from such except that the stakes are said to be ETERNITY.

  27. Mel

    “I don’t want to force my views on anyone and neither do any of the so-called new atheists far as I can tell. ”

    I apologize if I misread what you wrote, and it seems I might have. However, I don’t think what you say of the “New Atheists” is correct. From what I can tell from the language used on this blog and elsewhere, the “New Atheists” want everyone to be atheists, and seem to think that they are justified in going out and ridiculing, mocking, attacking, and holding in contempt anyone who is religious or, as they see it, inconsistent because they don’t apply scientific standards to all their beliefs. Read through the threads on this blog. If none of the passionate atheists on this blog and others don’t want to proselytize for their disbelief (which, as it is expressed, is a form of belief or at least ideological commitment to the extent that they maintain that science compels philosophical naturalism and complete consistency of belief with it), then many of them are doing a very poor job of making that clear. (Indeed, I think it is very clear from their writings that PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris do see proselytizing for atheism as their mission, and I don’t think they would disagree with that assessment) I am sorry if I incorrectly lumped you in with those who wish to convert others to atheism, and I am sorry if I have misinterpreted others on this blog. Just to be clear, I am really not trying to be combative.

  28. Of course you are entitled to your impression Mel, but I’d argue this impression–“New Atheists” want everyone to be atheists…”–of yours is incorrect and unjustified.

    Lets not confuse wanting to convert people to wanting to be heard. And lets not confuse converting people to promoting rationalism in public discourse instead of deference to the multitude of religious/superstitious beliefs out there. Belief in belief is not a virtue far as I can see.

    You can visit anyone of their blogs and see what Coyne’s, Myers’ and Dawkins’ official stance on science education is. I’ll save you the trouble and say it does not involve teaching atheism or converting students in public schools. If atheists want that, they can fund a private school just like all those private religious schools out there.

    If your impression was correct, then Myers, a biology professor, would be lecturing on about how god is not great and religion poisons everything in his undergrad biology classes. Do you think he does this?

  29. John Kwok

    @ gillt –

    I have to endorse Mel’s latest comment (@ 27). Unfortunately, in too many instances, you and your fellow Militant Atheists are interested in proselytizing on behalf of their passionate – and yes, I think the word is appropriate – faith in nonbelief, hoping to persuade as many people as possilbe of the sincerity and righteousness of their cause. But this behavior IMHO is no different than that of Christian and Muslim missionaries from the inceptions of their faiths to the present, and, since you do indulge – not merely yourself, but more importantly, people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and PZ Myers – in “ridiculing, mocking, attacking, and holding in contempt anyone who is religious” – your words and antics are no better than those of the most zealous religious missionaries whom you condemn.

    I take no pleasure in referring to PZ Myers sarcastically as the “William A. Dembski of Militant Atheism”, but his online behafior and other deeds are regrettably, quite akin to Dembski’s. Nor do I take any delight in critiquing Jerry Coyne, especially when I regard Jerry as among our foremost evolutionary biologists, whose scientific commentary often makes ample sense (However, it is when he writes on behalf of his zealously held “non-belief” that his otherwise excellent logic seems to disappear.).

  30. articulett

    I’d say Mel’s idea of “new atheists” is a straw man erected by the “faith in faith” crowd.

    They figure if they bad mouth the messenger, people will miss the message: “Faith is not a way of knowing anything true. It’s a way of imagining oneself humble and knowledgeable while being arrogant and ignorant”.

    Moreover, faith promotes this straw man view of atheists. What else are they to do when there is no evidence to support this idea that “faith is good” or “another way of knowing”.

    How do believers distinguish a good faith from a bad one… a true one from a delusion? If scientists can’t do it, why do they imagine they can?

    New Atheists are just those atheists who think it’s time for believers to go into the closet they’d like to shut atheists in. After all, the bible says “pray in the closet”. If only believers would be as private in their beliefs as they’d like those with conflicting faiths to be. All religions are the equivalent of Scientology to me.

  31. articulett

    And John Kwok, your jealousy is showing.

    I think PZ has enlightened many people on many subjects and provided a forum for much learning and laughter. Contrast that to your endless whining about what a bad, bad man he is. From my perspective, he has clearly added much more to the world than his critics. I’d much rather there be more people like PZ on the planet and fewer people like his critics. Unfortunately, the daft seem to breed more, so this may be wishful thinking.

  32. @TomJoe: You’re missing the point. Of course there are ways in which religious views and science don’t need to conflict, as long as your religion always actively avoids any conflict, for instance by moving your religion into the gaps of science, or dropping the notion of an interventionist god completely. But that doesn’t matter for my argument, or to the passage I cited.

    What matters, is that for many believers their current religious beliefs are in conflict with science (or with what they perceive as science). According to the cited passed, in that case they tend to reject the science, rather than adjust their beliefs. Maybe they need a better understanding of the science first, but eventually, for them to accept science, they need to admit that science gives a better explanation than their (current) faith. That is the real conflict.

    Coyne clearly also wants to sit down with people and explain the science (why else write a book titled “Why evolution is true”?) The way I see it, Coyne et al. just point out the fact that faith doesn’t usually give reliable information about the world, while science often does. Clearly, not everyone agrees. That doesn’t mean that “there is no opportunity to settle differences and come to a fuller understanding”, it just means that many believers will have to make a bigger shift in their thinking to agree with Coyne et al than to agree with Miller et al. To characterize this attitude as “to hell with you” is simply unfair.

  33. articulett

    PZ is passionate about reason.

    Nobody is really passionate about the myriad of invisible undetectable entities they don’t believe in.

    Is there such thing as a militant a-Scientologist? A militant non-believer in astrology? Your straw man is noted and set afire.

    The best way to find out the truth is to be passionate about reason, don’t you think? Faith based “knowledge is the very opposite of reason (evidence based knowledge). Faith is a tool for the manipulative and the manipulable. PZ inoculate against such a meme infection. You, however, are a vector, John Kwok.

  34. Deen @33: Coyne clearly also wants to sit down with people and explain the science …

    At the exclusion of anyone who is a scientist and may also happen to be religious. Why is that? Do you not think that Ken Miller, a Professor of Biology at Brown University, and evolutionary scientist, is capable of explaining the science? The quote I cited in comment #6 above clearly indicates that Coyne doesn’t want Miller explaining the science. As a matter of fact, it seems like he’d like to shut Miller up if he could. And to think, Coyne took umbrage when he thought Mooney was telling him to shut up. The hypocrisy is literally astounding.

  35. — When one responds to a McCarthy comment they have to face the fact that he manages to either avoid the point or misinterpret the point every time he responds. And yet it still amazes me anew every time I see it happen. gillt

    I avoid the point? gillt? Every time I respond. Anyone who doesn’t believe that resurrection is possible should see what just happened to irony.

    — We work to change public opinion through education, which means speaking out, not through self-censorship and cowering in fear. gillt

    If you think you are going to change peoples’ opinions by making them angry you are clueless. If your venting against religious people who support science and those who could be convinced to support it is more important to you than getting their support for scientific research, that’s about all anyone would need to know about the practicality of your plans.

    I’m really interested in knowing where you got the idea that the public is required to support science, that the public funding of science is a perpetual guarantee. I’m pretty confident that it isn’t near the top of most voter’s top five list, maybe not even on their top ten. Proxmire wasn’t the worst thing that could happen, there are far worse than he was waiting to demagogue something or other. It only takes a small margin of voters in a small number of seats to change the composition of most legislative bodies. In my state an average of fewer than five seats per district would have made the difference in a recent election.

    Maybe basic passing a basic civics test should be a requirement for people receiving science degrees. So many of them seem to not have any idea about where their pay comes from.

  36. articulett

    So long as people believe that their salvation depends on them believing a certain unbelievable story, I don’t think science has much of a chance with all their evidence and such.

    Science can no more support a belief in gods then in can in demons or engrams or fairies. That’s a fact. These “entities” should be ignored similarly by science.

  37. articulett

    When you cater to this inane notion that there is divine knowledge and “other ways of knowing”, then you are indirectly responsible for messages people imagine they are getting from these sources.

    If you don’t want people to be vulnerable to those who claim to have put curses on them and you don’t want mentally ill people being exorcised, then you might have to educate folks in such a way that puts their other magical beliefs into question. To not to so, is to enable magical thinking and all the harms that come from such.

  38. articulett

    Another message that is sent with this silly “faith is good” meme is that more faith is better. And people who don’t have faith are bad.

    How does one “prove” one’s faith except by doing something one wouldn’t do if one didn’t have faith?

    I don’t want any part of this mind virus. I think it’s responsible for “Unscientific America”, frankly.

  39. —- TomJoe: You’re missing the point. Of course there are ways in which religious views and science don’t need to conflict, as long as your religion always actively avoids any conflict, for instance by moving your religion into the gaps of science, or dropping the notion of an interventionist god completely. But that doesn’t matter for my argument, or to the passage I cited. Deen

    Oh. I’m sure this is all news to TomJoe who seems to have managed to have a real career in science without knowing this. Let me thank you on his behalf. He might be out trying to pry open those gaps to put God into.

    Coyne and you have yet to produce a single instance where a scientist has inserted religion into their formal work. If you have the evidence to back up your implied charge it’s your duty to publicize it immediately.

    This is the kind of repeated, phony, assertion that Coyne and co. need to be called on every time it’s repeated. Where are the incidents of what you just lectured TomJoe about? Specific ones in scientific publications.

    I want you guys to document the problem that you’re all pretending is there. Go ahead, convince me.

  40. John Kwok

    @ articulett (32) –

    Before Jerry Coyne went on his “accomodationist” crusade, he admitted to me that he thought Myers had gone over the top with respect to CrackerGate. As for Myers’s own conduct on his blog, he’s doing less and less science education and more and more advocacy on behalf of his militant atheism.

    Anyway, if I was in it for popularity, do you think I would acknowledge that I’m a registered Republican with strong Libertarian biases, and a Deist too? No, I’d be just like PZ Myers and call myself a “godless liberal” too.

  41. — Another message that is sent with this silly “faith is good” meme is that more faith is better. And people who don’t have faith are bad. articulette

    People who believe in memes do so on faith because their theoretical base is self-contradicting and they don’t exist except in your imaginations. Memes are a failed meme.

  42. John Kwok

    @ Deen (33) –

    According to two religiously devout scientists who spoke at the World Science Festival panel discussion on Science Faith and Religion nearly three weeks ago, science must remain supreme with regards to issues that pertain directly to science and religion. Who were these scientists? Brown University cell biologist Ken Miller and Vatican Observatory astronomer and planetary scientist – and Jesuit brother – Guy Consolmagno. Moreover, in late May, at a private talk here in New York City for our fellow college alumni, Ken Miller declared that those who belong to faiths hostile to science should think of discarding their membersnips in such faiths ASAP (though ideally, immediately). Aside from obvious examples like “scientific creationists”, I know of no religiously devout scientist who would contend that they would have to suspend their scientific expertise on behalf of their religious commitments. And yet, this is the risible canard I read frequently from those who insist that there are some scientists and scientific organizations which seek “accomodationism” between religion and science.

  43. John Kwok

    @ Tom (35) –

    Technically Ken isn’t an evolutionary biologist, but, by training, merely a cell biologist. Otherwise I strongly endorse your excellent observation in rebuttal to Deen’s inane assertion that all Jerry Coyne is interested in is “dialogue”. If anyone carefully reads his blog, then they should realize that Jerry is interested in advancing his cause of militant atheism, not in seeking genuine dialogue with those who disagree with him, especially a “theistic evolutionist” like Ken.

  44. John Kwok

    @ articulett ( @ 34) –

    May I suggest trying to learn some epidemiology instead of invoking it as an absurd analogy in praise of your “Messiah” PZ Myers? But that’s okay. I’ve been accused at least twice by your fellow intellectually-challenged Coyne/Myers Militant Atheist Borg drones, of “infesting” blogs, including this one. May I continue making the most of my “infestation”.

  45. Silver Fox

    “How does one do that between the religious concept of creation and evolution? You convince them to become watered down deists?”

    You teach them that creation is potentiality and evolution is the actualization of that potentiality. Creation is the intentionality of the will of the creator and evolution is the Divine methodology.

  46. “My view is that if we force-science religion conflict on much of America, then for a large portion of our citizenry, science is not going to prevail as the victor. But if we demonstrate compatibility, then that should be very good for the public understanding and appreciation of science.”

    Religion and science really may be incompatible, which would mean you can’t “demonstrate compatibility.” Still, you can admit that the compatibility of science and religion is a matter of debate among reasonable people, which of course it is. You can leave it to people to sort the matter out for themselves. That seems like an appropriate stance for someone to take who’s mainly in the business of science education, and wants to have the broadest possible impact.

  47. articulett

    I’m a new atheist, and I think religions are on par with cults, astrology, belief in curses, “the secret”, belief in Santa, etc. I think all supernatural beliefs should be dismissed similarly by scientists because there is nothing empirical there. People are free to believe what they want and attempt to infect others with their memes. However, I prefer a world with more critical thinkers and less magical thinking. Magical thinking has brought great harm to humanity and all of our true “miracles” have come about by the slow and steady accumulation of empirical data–useful true verifiable knowledge.

    I no more want to stop belief than I want to stop fetishes. I do wish people would, however, keep their beliefs as private as they keep their fetishes. And should they spout their beliefs and opinions they ought to respect my opinions of their assertions in the exact manner they want me to respect theirs. Moreover, they ought to consider whether they would like someone with a different supernatural belief using the same arguments in the same way to infect others with their meme. If you don’t want a Scientologist manipulating you with talks of a “reactive mind” and promises of a “free personality test”, then don’t use similar techniques to promote your woo. Of course, the meme-virus can’t spread unless you can infect others, so all virulent religions reach out–and then they make the believer fear loss of faith more than anything else.

    I have a vested interest in this as does everyone who is skeptical of any claim. Just as Scientologists turn non-scientologists into bad guys with terminology like “wogs” and “suppressive people”, so does every virulent meme virus. Those pushing faith as a means of knowledge have a vested interest in painting non-believers as the “bad guys” or the “unenlightened”. They imagine it’s noble to defend the faith. Theists can recognize this prejudice coming from those of opposing faiths, but they are blind to how they do it themselves. They are blind to the fact that there mental energies are being spent trying to rationalize the irrational and convince themselves that their faith is good and true and necessary.

    The most honest people recognize that faith is not a means of knowledge– just like it’s not a means of understanding the truth of Scientology or the benefits of being part of the Amway team. It’s just a propaganda tool. Those defending faith always sound to me like they are really asking that we treat some brands of superstition “special” because … well, “it’s good for people to imagine they’ve seen the Emperor’s new clothes… it’s crass to call him naked”. No one excludes Ken Miller’s science. They are just asking not to be a part of his delusion enablement.

    All believers need to imagine the skeptic as the unfeeling bad guy, because otherwise their dear sweet faith doesn’t seem as glorious as they’ve been told it was. They erect straw men and then feel mighty for knocking them down and claim that Coyne, PZ, Dawkins, et. al. are saying things they never said because the truth of what is actually being said threatens them. It scares them. To me, they are always highlighting supposed faults in others that are far more evident in themselves.

    I think Coyne treats Miller the same way Miller would treat a great scientist with a conflicting supernatural belief–reincarnation, for example. Miller is kind, but not respectful of those who hold beliefs that blatantly conflict with science… and yet his own beliefs cannot be more supported than belief in demons or psychic powers, can they? Why shouldn’t his supernatural claims be treated the same way he’d treat believers in those things. And if this bugs him, why can’t he keep his beliefs private. Why do I need to care about what people believe when they don’t have the slightest interest in what I believe?

  48. articulett

    John Kwok, I’ve read enough of your verbiage to know that I learn nothing and like you less the more I read of you. I do find those you insult fabulously worth reading, however… and I thank you for your continual mentioning of them.

  49. Mel

    @29
    “If your impression was correct, then Myers, a biology professor, would be lecturing on about how god is not great and religion poisons everything in his undergrad biology classes. Do you think he does this?”

    Myers is an odd duck to me in some ways. I have seen him lecture, and he is unbelievably great at explaining complex ideas in a very clear manner, as can also be seen when he explicates new papers and such over at Pharyngula. He is clearly a gifted teacher, and his students are lucky to have him. No, I don’t think he is pushing his religious views in his classes. It seems clear that he sees that it would be very inappropriate were he to do so (not to mention a constitutional violation given that he is at a state school), and he keeps in the bounds of probity. However, you look at much of what he writes on Pharyngula that doesn’t have to with explaining science, and it is hard for me not to see it as mean-spirited and proselytizing, albeit to the converted. I don’t know if he flips a switch or what, but I wish I could see more of the brilliant, calm teacher, even when it comes to religious beliefs. I think it would serve everyone better.

    As I have said, I agree that it is 0nly my impression that the “New Atheists” wish to push their religious views on everyone else, to make everyone else an atheist. If I am incorrect in that, then fine, I am incorrect. However, I get that impression from reading the comments of the “New Atheists” themselves, in which case a little more care needs to be taken to not give that impression. I get it also from “New Atheists” I run into around my university, or, in one instance, in the lab I work in…the people who seem to turn every conversation into a religious conversation so that they can tell other conversants how wrong their beliefs are, and how much more rational theirs are (there is a big difference, after all, between speaking one’s mind and stating one’s view and being an outright jerk). Contrary to what articullet has said, I am not seeking to present a strawman (nor am I of the belief set he seems to think I am). I am simply giving my opinion based on my experience and reading.

  50. J.J.E.

    @ 35. TomJoe & 44. John Kwok

    You two are in complete debate mode and really are making completely unsupported claims. Jerry has taught intro-evolution a number of times (and perhaps he still is, I dunno, I haven’t TAed at U of C for years now, and so haven’t looked at the course catalog). Needless to say that intro-level classes like those that Jerry has taught are full of students who are both interested in science and who will graduate with their religion intact. Their religion isn’t challenged in the classroom.

    And while you two gadflies and others like you are here hurling nonsense throughout the blogosphere about how all (fill in the blank with an atheist scientist’s name) wants to do is push militant atheism, such scientists and professors are respecting those boundaries you think they cross every day. They teach classes without asking their students to reject religion, they give evidence for evolution, they advise graduate students, etc. In other words, they are actively helping to make the world better educated, and manage to do it respectfully and effectively.

    Your meta-debate (debating who’s doing what in the debate rather than engaging the issues) adds nothing. I personally don’t give a crap about how you perceive Jerry’s motivations or his feelings about other members of the debate, like Ken Miller. And as a matter of fact, Jerry in particular has written very highly of Ken Miller’s science advocacy despite his disagreement with “accommodationism”. And people like you run around taunting anyone who wants to conduct debate in public regarding their views of science and religion as “militant atheist”. Regarding “militant”, as Inigo Montoya once said, I do not think that means what you think it means. I suggest you stop being such a wimp about the whole “militant atheist” and just get down to it and call them fascist atheists persecuting the peaceful religious scientists with concentration camps of censorship and be done with. The sheer pedestrian and repetitive nature of the “militant fundamentalist ID analog atheist” is getting tiresome. Just satisfy Godwin’s Law already and be done with it!

    Or, perhaps you can start engaging the issues. You know, like discussion of the implications for accepting religious thinking as compatible with scientific thinking and exploring the consequences of your position. Or perhaps you could shore up some of Chris’s points or help him by finding a few links or fleshing out some of his arguments.

    Oh wait. I forgot, you first have to say “I support Ken Miller (who is my friend from college; Hi Ken!) and fundamentalist militant atheists have an agenda and won’t listen to reason.” And, really, once that’s been said, what more is left? Surely not a substantive argument.

  51. @35 TomJoe: I don’t think that’s a fair interpretation of what you quoted in #6. In this context, Ken Miller and John Haught aren’t trotted out by organizations like NAS or NCSE to discuss science, but to discuss their religious views. In the article you cite, Coyne isn’t saying that Miller should shut up at all, and definitely not that he should shut up about the science. Coyne is merely asking whether a scientific organization should advocate for any one religious position – which in this case just happens to be the position Miller takes – with the exclusion of all others.

    And actually, if you read Coyne’s writing, you’d see that he generally thinks quite highly of Miller. Except maybe when Miller is mixing religion and science too much to Coyne’s taste.

    However, you seem to be more interested in attributing positions to Jerry Coyne that he doesn’t have, than in actually addressing my arguments.

  52. John Kwok

    @ articulett –

    Thanks for such faint praise! I spend more time “insulting” Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographers Michael Behe, Bill Dembski, David Klinghoffer and Casey Luskin than I do in “insulting” your favorite Militant Atheist prophets; Jerry Coyne, and especially, PZ Myers.

    As for Ken Miller, I’ve seen him speak favorably and appreciatively to E. O. Wilson, who was once Ken’s colleague at Harvard years ago (Ken was an assistant professor at Harvard for two years prior to returning to Brown.).
    Is this what you mean when you say that Ken “…would treat a great scientist witha conflicting supernatural belief…” (or rather, in this case, non-belief, since I understand that Wilson is an atheist). Incidentally, I heard “atheist” Wilson thank Ken for all of his hard work on behalf of promoting the teaching of valid science like evolution and defending it for creationists.

    Maybe if you allowed yourself to be less rigid, and far more flexible in your thinking, then I suppose I wouldn’t read bigoted comments of yours that are all too akin to those I have read from intellectually-challenged Dishonesty Institute IDiot Borg drones posting over at Dembski’s Uncommon Dissent website. Would you be willing to prove me right?

  53. articulett

    I think there are many methods of facilitating critical thinking and understanding of evolution. I don’t think that those carving out special accomodations for some kinds of magical thinking are as successful as they imagine because they send mixed messages. Moreover, I suspect that those they criticize may be far more effective in teaching than they are even though the message might “feel” abrasive to believers. No one is telling Ken Miller or Chris Mooney to stop kissing the ass of believers, but the accomodationists do seem to be telling the “new atheists” to be more like them… to tone it down… to coddle certain kinds of magical thinking.

    But they give no evidence as to why we should nor do they show that this helps facilitate scientific understanding. I “get” the idea that scientists might want to be careful so as not to scare the faithful away… but science also has the tools to make people less dependent on faith. Chris and Ken may not wish to use these tools. Jerry, PZ, Sam, and Dawkins however do– they are clear: in science, faith is NOT considered a means of knowledge and there is no scientific reason for believing in “revealed” or “divine” truths.

    People may have to rid themselves of their security gods if they want to rid themselves of their demons and other superstitions. This is not the fault of reality or scientists who say as much.

  54. articulett

    I think the “new atheists” are tired of the continual malignment by the “faith in faith” crowd.

    Do we really need to care about such peoples’ opinions of us when they do not care about our opinion of them?

  55. Mel

    @46

    Articullet. In regard to Ken Miller, the impression I get from reading his books and listening to him speak is that he makes clear that he is devout Catholic in order to show others who are religious that they, too, can be religious while still accepting science. I think the depth he goes into in “Finding Darwin’s God” and other places concerning the interaction of his religious beliefs and science is to show others who are religious how he can harmonize his religious and scientific understanding of the universe. I have never heard him say that others must believe as he does, or assert that he is absolutely correct in his beliefs (though I think it is clear that he feels justified and comfortable with his beliefs, as we wouldn’t hold them otherwise). He seems mainly to be trying to hold himself up as an example to others who see science as a threat, a way of saying, “you don’t have to be afraid”. Whether or not you agree with his religious beliefs or how he harmonizes his religious beliefs with his science, in so doing, he does fill an important role.

  56. articulett

    People often mistake passion for the truth (e.g. “the emperor is naked”) with crassness– just as their meme-infection has taught them to do.

    If you shoot the messenger, you never have to hear the message, right? You can feel like you really truly did get a glimpse of the emperor’s new clothes that one time… proving just how “pure” and insightful you are.

  57. Mel

    “People often mistake passion for the truth (e.g. “the emperor is naked”) with crassness– just as their meme-infection has taught them to do.”

    Interestingly, minus the meme-infection part, I got told pretty much this same thing by an evangelical Christian in my dorm back in college when I told him he was being offensive in his haranguing of everyone he came across.

  58. McCarthy’s ignorance is on display again: “Coyne and you have yet to produce a single instance where a scientist has inserted religion into their formal work.”

    The peer-reviewed scientific journal “Proteomics” published (and eventually rejected after a few scientists and “Militant Atheists” brought attention to it) a paper a year ago with this title:

    “Mitochondria, the missing link between body and soul: Proteomic prospective evidence.”

    That should be enough to expose McCarthy’s opinion for what it is: the uninformed and reckless whining of a god-botherer. But let’s take a closer look at the type of religious claims being made in a scientific paper.

    “More logically, the points that show proteomics overlapping between different forms of life are more likely to be interpreted as a reflection of a single common fingerprint initiated by a mighty creator than relying on a single cell that is, in a doubtful way, surprisingly originating all other kinds of life.”

    The wishy-washy, designer-god sort of religious claim. The train-wreck continues…

    “This might be true, but we still need to know the secret behind this disciplined organized wisdom. We realize so far that mitochondria could be the link between the body and this preserved wisdom of the soul devoted to guaranteeing life.”

    The NCSE explains it thusly: “Creationism slips into a peer-reviewed journal”

    http://ncseweb.org/rncse/28/3/creationism-slips-into-peer-reviewed-journal

    So yes, it does happen McCarthy, though not very often. But you demanded evidence, and so here it is. Now your persistent implication that those you disagree with make things up should end. It won’t but it should.

  59. John Kwok

    @ J. J. E. –

    To the best of my knowledge, Jerry Coyne still teaches introductory evolution. I am not criticizing him for that, nor his excellent work on speciation and species diversity in West African Drosophila (fruit flies) or the fact that, given his notable insights on speciation, deserves ample recognition as among our most prominent evolutionary biologists (Though I might disagree with his assessment of the significance of punctuated equilibrium, but do so respectfully.).

    What I find most troublesome with Jerry’s recent comments is that, especially since he himself has been subjected to ample ridicule by our “pal” Bill Dembski (at Dembski’s Uncommon Dissent website), he has chosen inexplicably to imitate some of the very same risible rhetoric employed against him by Dembski and Dembski’s acolytes, at those whom he believes do practice “accomodationism” with respect to religion and science. For months Jerry has claimed – and I haven’t seen this on its website – that NCSE has an “accomodationist” policy with regards to religion. He has suggested – in his January 2009 New Republic review of Ken Miller and Karl Giberson’s books – that Ken fulfills three of four criteria – as defined by Jerry – that Ken has in common with creationists, so therefore, Ken is a creationist too. Much to my disappointment – and having met Jerry and spoken to him at some length, I thought he was the very model of civil diplomacy – he was far from diplomatic in rejecting physicist Brian Greene and journalist Tracy Day’s offer to participate in this year’s World Science Festival session on Science, Faith and Religion (Other participants did include philosopher Colin McGinn, Vatican Observatory astronomer and planetary scientist Guy Consolmagno, Ken Miller, and physicist Lawrence Krauss, Jerry’s “replacement”.). Jerry refused because he thought that such a panel discussion was unnecessary, but more importantly, because the World Science Festival was receiving substantial funding from the John R. Templeton Foundation (At the World Science Festival I learned, from a most reliable source – who shall remain anonymous – that the University of Chicago – Jerry’s university – receives tens of millions of dollars in financial support from the Templeton Foundation. I also heard Lawrence Krauss question the existence of this panel and WSF’s Templeton Foundation funding at the Science, Faith and Religion panel, but he did so with far more grace, dignity and, even, humor, than I would have seen from Jerry Coyne.).

    If Jerry hadn’t embarked upon his “accomodationist” crusade against NCSE, NAS, AAAS, and more recently, WSF, I wouldn’t have wasted so much of my time and online space in rejecting his criticism and in engaging with his many vociferous supporters. So please don’t blame me or TomJoe, when ultimately, the fault lies with Jerry’s ridiculous canards and, regrettably, otherwise inane commentary.

    Last, but not least, Ken Miller and I are fellow Brown alumni. Moreover, I still consider myself fortunate in assisting Ken at his very first debate against a creationist, held at Brown, during his first year as an assistant professor of cell biology. I wouldn’t be mentioning this if not for the incredulous, often quite pathetic, comments I have read from some militant atheists posting online who have asserted that I could be “Ken Miller’s toy poodle” (which was posted incidentally over at Jerry’s blog approximately two weeks ago), or am Ken’s “Number One Fan Boy” or, according to someone posting at PZ Myers’s blog, having a “gay relationship” with Ken. Of course all of these assertions are untrue and replete in their breathtaking inanity.

    If you have a legitimate complaint about mine and TomJoe’s criticism of Jerry Coyne, then please state it. Otherwise, please refrain from making any risible ad hominem attacks of your own.

  60. And gillt, and that one really got by all of the watch dogs, didn’t it. It’s slipped unseen right into mainstream science and will cause terrible havoc. I’m surprised that the NCSE didn’t keep mum what with all their accommodationism and promotion of the enemy.

    Oh, but wait. Looky here:

    A pair of creationists, who have seemingly legitimate scientific credentials, attempted to publish some creationist assertions in a peer-reviewed journal. Their effort was nearly successful, mostly because they hid their pseudoscience in the middle of the article, surrounded by legitimate scientific discussion of unrelated topics.

    [Note, maybe those peers better do a little better job of reading the article a bit more carefully next time. ]

    Luckily, they were caught just in time, and it turned out that they were pretty clumsy. In fact, if they had been just a bit more clever, they might have gotten away with it.

    Yeah, they might have, but they didn’t this time. And I’m sure those guys are going to get away with it the next time.

    It’s a regular intellectual crime wave, obviously.

    Though if they pulled it off, it might have helped bring down patriarchy, enhancing the status of the mitochondria. It might have back fired and pulled the rug out from under the religious establishment. That is those who didn’t find the idea pretty irreligious as I’d guess some might.

  61. articulett

    Mel, I agree with what you say about Ken Miller, and I use Ken Miller (I am a high school science teacher.) I also point to him as an example of believers who accept evolution. Since most of the world accepts evolution and most consider themselves believers of some sort, that means that the majority of believers don’t have problems with evolution. I am thankful to have him and Francis Collins to point to when people are skittish because they are afraid that facts will threaten their faith.

    However, I think the facts DO threaten faith. But that isn’t a problem with the facts… that’s a problem with this faith based notion that “belief” is essential for salvation. I think this is a very manipulative meme… perhaps as bad as the threat of hell.

    The main problem with this belief is that it necessarily causes the believer to hear things the non believer is not actually saying in order to miss the message they are saying. Ken Miller can justify his refusal to cater to creationist beliefs, but is offended when Coyne, etc. don’t cater to his. He cannot see his beliefs as being in the same category as conflicting beliefs even though there is a similar lack of scientific support for them… so, instead, he finds fault with the messenger.

    I adore Ken Miller. I think he’s a great asset. I don’t agree with his criticisms of Coyne et. al. I don’t agree with Mooney’s criticism of PZ either. I think they underestimate the value of these peoples’ contributions in order to imagine that their faith makes them better people.
    I don’t want people like Harris, Coyne, etc. to tone in down–I find them much more honest than those demanding that they “coddle” certain brands of superstition….

    To me, the message of the accomodationists seems to be “hey you new atheists… be like me… otherwise you are hurting the cause.” They imagine themselves as sort of “peacekeepers”, but the truth doesn’t need peace keepers. And some of us don’t want our messages muddled with confusing inferences about “other ways of knowing”. Nobody is trying to silence Ken Miller’s science… but the accomodationists are definitely sending a message that PZ et. al. ought to tone it down. Why should they? I think they may be more effective at spreading critical thinking and releasing people from magical thinking then their critics. I prefer their method of delivery and resent the mealy mouthed making tsk tsk noises about how they should consider the poor feelings of the indoctrinated masses.

    I suspect Galileo had to go through much worse… but does every bit of scientific knowledge need to be vetted for how it might sit with peoples sacred superstitions? Can we move beyond this primitive form of thought and quit pretending that it’s fabulous and the key to “happily ever after”? Can we quit sniping about the tone of those not afraid to say that the Emperor is naked. Sure, no one likes to find out that they’ve been fooling themselves as surely as the other fools they laugh at– but isn’t the truth worth a few hurt feelings? Nobody needs to read PZ or Dawkins and I think many people lose out on hearing them because they’ve been made to fear them by the self-appointed experts known as the “accomodationists”.

    The accomo0dationists may not like the approach of these folks, but they have not shown that their methods are better at achieving anything. We have quite a history of failed accomodationism. Shouldn’t Galileo be a lesson regarding how this doesn’t work?

  62. articulett

    By the way, I was raised Roman Catholic, and I am thankful to be free of this idea that I need to believe in the right invisible guy with the right message with the right degree of fervency or else I’m damned. The people Mooney derides helped give me this freedom. I wish that I could give the same to Ken Miller.

  63. — I do wish people would, however, keep their beliefs as private as they keep their fetishes. And should they spout their beliefs and opinions they ought to respect my opinions of their assertions in the exact manner they want me to respect theirs. Moreover, they ought to consider whether they would like someone with a different supernatural belief using the same arguments in the same way to infect others with their meme. articulett

    Maybe someone with a rubber fetish could protect themselves from infection from contact by memes. Maybe a wet suit with full head cover.

    gillt, you see, the faithful really do believe those things exist and have an irrational fear of them. I’ll bet you that it’s just a matter of time before ads start appearing on new atheist blogs for anti-meme devices. “Memeaway” “Memeoff” “Memes-o-matic”.

  64. Mel @54, I agree. Miller does fill an important role; he’s excellent at debating creationist and teaching science. I’m of the opinion that there isn’t just one best way to go about communicating science.

    Mooney disagrees with this. He wants some sort of unified front where we all agree on the best strategy, his strategy, and never waver. That’s not pluralist, that is intolerant. My disagreement with accomodationists is not only in finding their NOMA strategy doomed and naive, but in their insistence that we all do it their way, the accomodationist way.

    Besides, if Mooney can write that Myers hurt the cause of science education by drawing attention to the fact that he was kicked out of the movie “Expelled,” evidence for which is on Mooney’s old blog, then why can’t any of us warn that Mooney, Miller and the NCSE dilute science AND religion when they insist the two are compatible?

  65. John Kwok

    @ articulett –

    I have been posting for days noting that Ken Miller insists on the supremacy of science over religion, on those issues in which religion and science intersect. Unfortunately you haven’t been paying attention.

    All Ken has been doing is to say that I am a religiously devout person, but I also recognize what is valid science, and where religion and science may conflict, then scientific thought should – and must – be paramount over religious belief. Unfortunately neither Coyne nor Myers nor any of their fellow militant atheists – with the notable exception of Lawrence Krauss – recognize this.

    As for “accomodationism” that is a ridiculous canard proposed by Jerry Coyne, and one that is not substantiated by NCSE, WSF nor any other science advocacy or professional scientific organization I can think of (And no, I’m not a “theistic evolutionist” by any stretch of my imagination. If anything, I am probably far more agnostic than I’d be willing to admit, even if I call myself a Deist.).

  66. John Kwok

    @ gillt –

    As Jerry Coyne noted himself over at Jason Rosenhouse’s blog, a few days ago, I think that he would agree ultimately with Mooney’s wish, or else why did he say this at Rosenhouse’s blog: “We’re all in the pro-evolution battle together.”

    Having a unified “big tent” IMHO will be far more effective than the ongoing sniping online about “accomodationism”. Jerry Coyne and I want to take down the Dishonesty Institute. I wish he would stop his “sniping” and get back to what’s really important.

  67. See what happens when you provide McCarthy with the evidence he asked for. He dismisses it as if suddenly it’s not important. Then he reflexively starts hand-waving incoherently about some irrelevancy to draw attention away from his suddenly exposed ignorance. This is why it is worthless to engage this man in serious debate, and better to instead mock him as a sophist.

    McCarthy, the paper was published. It got by the peer-review process. You lose.

    Perhaps if you limited yourself to only three ridiculous statements a day we wouldn’t keep butting heads.

  68. John Kwok

    @ gillt –

    Neither Mooney, nor Ken Miller nor NCSE nor NAS “dilute science AND religion when they insist the two are compatible”. Contrary to yours, Coyne and Myers’s inane assertions, they don’t do this, PERIOD. If they are really doing this, then I must be living in an alternative reality where Chris Pine IS Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation Starship Enterprise.

  69. Silver Fox

    “PZ is passionate about reason”

    Yes, but only in a manner of speaking. From what I have been able to discern, PZ is what Jackson refers to as a Type-A materialist. They do not accept that there is any explanational gap in knowledge, that is, they see nothing that can’t be explained from pure physicalism. These would likely include the Dennetts and Lewises. Other materialists might concede an explanational gap but not one that would rise to the level of any sort of dualism. So physicalism remains dominant. A reference here might be someone like David Chalmers (The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory).

    Unfortunately, the primary agenda of these individuals is atheism which they have linked to science as if the latter was an exclusive property of the former. My criticism on this score is that if these individuals are given to atheism – fine, but, science is a legitimately field of study and in and of itself has nothing to do with atheism and should not be confiscated as a confirmation of their atheism. Science can no more confirm theism than it can atheism. They posit that there is no evidence in science for a creator as if they expect to find it there. In regard to a creator, absence of evidence in science is not evidence of absence.

    I have said before that in regard to knowledge the atheist lives in “half a world”. He lives in a world in which reason and knowledge applies only to empirical, measurable evidence that is found in the natural world. Any other kind of knowledge is delusional. It is the imaginary musing of the delusioned.

    For the atheist there is only the ontological knowledge of the natural world. There is no epistemic or propositional knowledge that is known to the knower but for which there is no second party confirmation. It is subjective epistemic knowledge, but to the atheist this is delusional phantasms because there is nothing that lends itself to sensory observation and experimentation.

    Consequently, there is no way that these different knowledge bases can be reconciled. They are essentially different, different by their very nature. For the theist, the ontological knowledge of the natural world presents no problem; it gives meaning to the propositional (epistemic) knowledge borne of faith. For the atheist there can be no knowledge beyond the ontological, measurable knowledge of the natural world.

  70. From a tactical standpoint it is useful to avoid a position that religion and science are in conflict. This bias, while useful is not accurate just because of its utility. In a broad sense there has been and clearly is a conflict between religion and science.

    Any religion worthy of the name includes “faith”. Faith, in its most common sense is , belief in something without adequate evidence. This is obviously , but regrettably, in conflict with scientific method.

    From a socialoligical standpoint I would not go around pointing this clear division with too much gusto. But the lack of an idea’s usefulness does not render it untrue.

    – Troy Spiral
    Founder – DetroitGothic.net

  71. — See what happens when you provide McCarthy with the evidence he asked for. He dismisses it as if suddenly it’s not important. gillt

    From the link you cite:

    Like many journals, Proteomics releases papers on-line before the official publication appears. In early February 2008, I was alerted by Andrew MacArthur, an evolutionary biologist, ….

    …… The article was removed from the journal website, which now says only that the retraction is “due [to] a substantial overlap of the content of this article with previously published articles in other journals.” Further adding to the irony, the article remains the fourth most highly-accessed article for the journal in the past year, no doubt because of the controversy

    Before “the official publication” so it was sort of pre-published, I’d think and caught before actual publication, though I’m sure you’ll quibble. Though thinking about it, that was a real close call, it being hidden in the middle of the paper. You see, I’d figured they paid as much attention to the middle of the paper as to the credentials of the people who submitted it. That’s been my experience with academic papers in my major area, but we’re just humanities, after all and one in which performance tends to count more than credentials.

    Where’s you next case in your campaign to prove that the religious are dangerously unreliable in the sciences, gillt?

  72. The religious claims were not hidden in the middle of the paper, but right there in the abstract, from which I quoted originally. You how I know the article was published, then retracted, is that it was on PubMed. Now it is not.

    Backtrack all you like, but this fits your criteria:

    McCarthy: “Coyne and you have yet to produce a single instance where a scientist has inserted religion into their formal work…This is the kind of repeated, phony, assertion that Coyne and co. need to be called on every time it’s repeated. Where are the incidents of what you just lectured TomJoe about? Specific ones in scientific publications.”

    Scientific Publications, McCarthy. Care to own up yet or keep tarnishing what’s left of your reputation?

  73. John Kwok

    @ gillt –

    Care to define the meaning of the word “is”, please? It seems as though most of your inane reasoning here at this blog is of that quality.

  74. “Their effort was nearly successful, mostly because they hid their pseudoscience in the middle of the article, surrounded by legitimate scientific discussion of unrelated topics.?

    You inform the NCSE that they’re issuing misleading news reports, gillt?

    You’re going to quibble that an attempt was made by “A pair of creationists, who have seemingly legitimate scientific credentials” which got caught before being published in the journal is all the justification you need for Coyne’s pogrom against religious scientists? I’d think those birds won’t get published in any kind of journal after this, not one that has any kind of reputation. And I’ll bet the journal feels the repercussions of this for a long time to come.

    Is this the worst there is, gillt? I mean, people might want to get the worst news over before they drive out the faith heads on a rail?

    How big a problem do you suppose this is as opposed to secular cheats who get through review and sometimes get to sustain a fraud within science for years? How many of those guys are atheists, I wonder. Or are all atheists completely trustworthy brave, clean and… well, I guess we can forget that one, can’t we. Unless we’re talking professional piety like you’ve been lecturing me on for the past week. Some things are always worth holding as sacrosanct, like caste membership.

  75. More irrelevant hand-waving and diversions about those big bad atheists won’t change the fact that you are now promoting a lie: “Coyne and you have yet to produce a single instance where a scientist has inserted religion into their formal work”

    I provided you with the evidence you arrogantly demanded, and it perfectly matched your criteria; your refusal to admit this exposes you as a dishonest crank.

    There’s really not much more to say about it.

  76. Well, if I was cutting the truth as closely as you have, gillt, I would point out that “you” in that sentence is Deen, not gillt. And I hadn’t seen a single case of the kind I requested that Coyne or Deen or even one, gillt had produced before I said that.

    Now whether or not this NCSE news report constitutes “scientists” inserting religion into their formal work, I’d be inclined to call this an attempt and not a successful one at that. You contending it constitutes an instance of danger to formal science? I’m wondering why they seem to be skeptical as to whether their credentials as “scientists” are legit or not. Though I’d imagine they’ll be damaged goods now.

    I’d let impartial people judge which one of us has been more honest in this latest episode, gillt, hoping they’d notice who actually seemed to have read it before commenting on it.

    If you think I’m ashamed by your latest attempt to discredit me. No.

  77. Checking them out, Mohamad Warda and Jin Han seem to be listed on a lot of papers over the past few years. I wonder if there’s some interesting story behind them.

  78. John Kwok

    @ gillt and Anthony –

    Sometimes, creation “scientists” are capable of producing genuine scientific research. This is especially true of Michael Behe, who has published credible science with collaborators even after he declared his enthusiasm for “Irreducible Complexity” and other aspects of Intelligent Design. So you have to check at the abstracts of the papers in question to determine whether Warda and Han were publishing real science or religiously-derived “scientific” creationism.

  79. articulett

    tee-hee… Jesus and Mo… http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/jesus-and-mo-have-been-reading-mooney/#comment-4701

    Face it guys, the woo you advocate for is as useless and silly as demon belief. You can’t advocate for just the “woo” that makes you feel all nice and humble. You can’t teach people to think scientifically except when it comes to that little god thing they must never question…

  80. Mel

    I think this is something of a different case with Warda and Han. I think we can all agree that doing science requires a commitment to methodological naturalism. Whether one is a philosophical naturalist or supernaturalist, to practice science, you must practice methodological naturalism. Those two clearly weren’t, and I would argue that they were not acting as scientists as a consequence. I think that is what really separates them from the very vast majority of scientists who are also religious. No matter what their religious beliefs might be, they do not let them dictate experimental design (save for perhaps ethical constraints arising from their beliefs, as those can be hard to leave aside regardless of context), data collection, analysis, or interpretation (at least when they are acting as scientists – they might have some personal interpretation that bears upon or is informed by their religious beliefs). At least they don’t as far as I can tell. I know a good number of scientists who are also religious, and I really wouldn’t be able to tell what their religion is just from their papers. Are there people who go a bit over the line (and I mean beyond little things like starting experiments on religiously significant dates and such)? I am sure there likely are, but they seem few and far between. Cases of out and out fraud would greatly outnumber them, certainly, and those are fairly rare in and of themselves.
    But you know, the more important thing that makes me see the worry as much ado about nothing is this: Much like engaging in fraud, if you get caught blatantly inserting your religious beliefs into your publications, you are nuking your career. And, unlike fraud, which can be difficult to detect without tearing work apart specifically looking for it, attributing say, a conformational change in a protein to any deity would be fairly rapidly noted (and should have been noticed faster in this case – what was with those reviewers, anyway? When I have gotten reviews back, I have seen obscure spelling mistakes caught, and these guys let that stuff through?) Does anyone really think that Warda and Han will ever be taken seriously again? I know that, if they were in the US, they would pretty much be un-fundable after what they did. The best they could hope for is to contract with the DI, or else get a professorship at a fundamentalist college where they wouldn’t be able to do research anyway, and if they did, they would never be published.

  81. @Anthony McCarthy: before you make more accusations, ask yourself: when have I ever accused any scientist of letting religion influence their scientific work? I’ve mentioned Miller, and while he might be writing about religion in his books, I have no reason to assume he writes about religion in his actual research papers, so I’ve never said he did.

    My comments in this thread were primarily about the quotes from the Pew report, which quite clearly states that many people “may rely primarily upon their faith for answers” when confronted with apparent contradictions. I never said that religious scientists do the same in their scientific work. So I don’t see why I need to indulge you in your silly demands for scientific papers which show scientists using faith over evidence.

    I do however think that religious scientists are applying a different standard of evidence to their religious beliefs than to their scientific beliefs, but that’s a whole different issue.

    I also have to point out that, by rejecting gillt’s example, you have just moved the goalposts to an impossible standard of evidence. You basically say the example doesn’t count, because the attempt was eventually discovered and the paper was pulled. That means that the only evidence that would satisfy you, would be a paper that was published in a renowned journal, clearly trying to pass religion off as science, yet somehow nobody has noticed it before. If both the reviewers nor the readers notice, the paper either doesn’t have clear religious content, or it was published in a really crappy journal. So the evidence you ask for can never exist.

    The only proper response from you now, is to either accept gillt’s example as proper evidence and gracefully admit that you were wrong, or admit that there is no evidence that could ever convince you, thus admitting that you were not arguing in good faith.

  82. Mel

    @ Deen 78

    “I do however think that religious scientists are applying a different standard of evidence to their religious beliefs than to their scientific beliefs, but that’s a whole different issue.”

    Just out of curiosity, do you think any would deny that? I have yet to meet a scientist who is religious who wouldn’t admit that that is the case, because, as they see it, religion is not science, nor science qua science religion.

  83. John Kwok

    @ Deen –

    What I wrote earlier today which I am reposting for your benefit is not only true of these two, but of other, religiously-devout, scientists I have met. For example, in graduate school, not once while we were talking about some aspect of evolutionary ecology or paleobiology, did noted ecologist Michael L. Rosenzweig discuss his deeply held Conservative Jewish beliefs, but only when the circumstances were appropriate:

    @ Deen (33) –

    According to two religiously devout scientists who spoke at the World Science Festival panel discussion on Science Faith and Religion nearly three weeks ago, science must remain supreme with regards to issues that pertain directly to science and religion. Who were these scientists? Brown University cell biologist Ken Miller and Vatican Observatory astronomer and planetary scientist – and Jesuit brother – Guy Consolmagno. Moreover, in late May, at a private talk here in New York City for our fellow college alumni, Ken Miller declared that those who belong to faiths hostile to science should think of discarding their membersnips in such faiths ASAP (though ideally, immediately). Aside from obvious examples like “scientific creationists”, I know of no religiously devout scientist who would contend that they would have to suspend their scientific expertise on behalf of their religious commitments. And yet, this is the risible canard I read frequently from those who insist that there are some scientists and scientific organizations which seek “accomodationism” between religion and science.

  84. Deen, here is what you said which I responded: “TomJoe: You’re missing the point. Of course there are ways in which religious views and science don’t need to conflict, as long as your religion always actively avoids any conflict, for instance by moving your religion into the gaps of science,”

    “Moving your religion into the gaps of science”, what could that mean except for inserting religion into science? That’s what I understood you to mean, considering how the phrase “God in the gaps” is used as a means of putting the supernatural into science which was made to study and can only study the material universe. I don’t see how else to interpret what you said. If there is some way, what did you mean?

    gillt’s example was an alleged attempt to insert religion into a science paper that was caught and quashed before it was even printed. It’s a mighty flimsy example, even with his distortions of what the article HE linked to said about it. No, I won’t admit that what he said was true because it obviously isn’t. And you don’t seem to understand the dispute. It’s not an example of religion damaging science and if it’s the only thing he can come up with it’s about as unimpressive a justification as is possible. It doesn’t justify Coyne’s or his or your assertions about the unreliability of religious scientists.

    More generally, it’s flattering to science that some deluded religious people would want to make religion science. Though it also destroys science if its tried. Science covers an altogether more restricted field than religion has. Religion can incorporate science, science can’t incorporate religion just as it can’t incorporate politics or racial preference or philosophical materialism, or any other ideology or subject matter other than those parts of the material universe it can study through rigorously practiced and controlled procedures to obtain an enhanced probability of obtaining reliable knowledge about that part of the material universe. Sorry, science is a far narrower field than religion or history or philosophy or the law or the arts. You only get the enhanced reliability by focusing your efforts sufficiently so as not to dilute the effort. But just think how much math has to focus in order to obtain an even higher level of reliability.

    Frankly, I wish scientists would consider the trade off they make. A greater chance to obtain very reliable information in exchange for a narrowing of focus to only the material world. You can be proud over the successes of science but you shouldn’t arrogantly assert more than it can do. Trying to extend it to deal with the supernatural is entirely out of its bounds. Dealing with any claims about the physical universe for which there is physical evidence or the application if its legitimate tools and methods, it can do that as long as it limits itself to what it actually can find. Past that, in areas where its methods and tools can’t go, it isn’t any more reliable than anyone’s assertions based on their experience.

    I don’t think any other sphere of life has to hang its head in shame before the majesty of science and they shouldn’t hanker after the mantle of science either. They’ve chosen their own field of work and investigation with their own exigencies and methods. They can often find things that science can’t, just as science can find things they can’t. I’ve never seen that science can locate justice or measure it, science can’t locate civil rights or a myriad of other things we need just as much as we do what science has found.

  85. @Mel 79: I don’t know, to be honest. I suspect most wouldn’t deny it, but I can’t say if some might – there might even be some who don’t really realize they are doing it.

  86. — Face it guys, the woo you advocate for is as useless and silly as demon belief. articulett

    You believe in memes so I guess that would make us even. I’ve never even told you what I believe in so you don’t know.

    —- You can’t teach people to think scientifically except when it comes to that little god thing they must never question…

    I’m sure you’re right and Arthur Stanley Eddington must have been a total phony, entirely unable to think scientifically. Amazing how he could have tricked Einstein and just about every other scientist in the early 20th century that he was an extraordinarily capable scientist. Guess it’s too bad they didn’t have you to set them right.

  87. @Kwok: nice to see that Miller thinks that when science and religion conflict, religion should be changed. Really, I think it’s great. I’ll admit that I might have been too quick to say that Miller doesn’t argue in favor of this. But again, I wasn’t primarily arguing about the religious scientists, I was arguing about the people that the Pew quotes talk about. Many of them clearly don’t agree with Miller on this subject. I also disagreed with Mooney, who claimed that it would be sufficient to demonstrate compatibility. It’s not, we need to point out why science is more reliable than faith when it comes to describing the world. I don’t see why people like Coyne couldn’t argue for that as well as Miller.

  88. John Kwok

    @ Deen –

    Although I have ample admiration and respect for Jerry Coyne’s abilities as an evolutionary biologist, he hasn’t done nearly as much public outreach, as for example, physicist Lawrence Krauss or physical anthropologist Genie Scott (Executive Director, National Center for Science Education), or Ken Miller. Unfortunately, Coyne’s recent commentary clearly demonstrates that he would not be a good “ambassador” in explaining why evolution is valid science to those who are skeptical due to their religious faith (That’s in stark contrast, for example, to Lawrence Krauss, who has said that he frequently visits Fundamentalist Protestant Christian colleges and other schools merely to “testify” that evolution is indeed valid science.). In lieu of Coyne, I would nominate others who are familiar with religions practicing evolution denial, like, for example, former creationists Michael Shermer and Ronald Numbers, and, not surprisingly, noted evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson (who has said that he comes from a very devout Evangelical Protestant Christian upbringing).

  89. John Kwok

    @ Deen –

    Ken Miller is not unique in his position. Ask Vatican Observatory astronomer and planetary scientist – and Jesuit brother – Guy Consolmagno, who shares Ken’s view. Or even, as Chris Mooney has noted here, the Dalai Lama, who has said that if Buddhism is wrong and science is right, then Buddhism must change to reflect what is right with respect to science.

    Coyne, Dawkins, Myers, Ophelia Benson, and quite a few others, are dealing with strawmen caricatures of “religious scientists”. I earnestly hope that they may one day “wake up and smell the roses”, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

  90. @McCarthy, 85: I only said that the “God of the gaps” strategy is one of the ways you can believe in God, yet still accept science. You just redefine God so that it occupies one of the areas where science can’t get yet.

    However, I did not say that scientists do this. Again, you ignore that I was talking about the lay people that the Pew report talks about. Besides, scientists know all too well that a “God of the gaps” is dangerous, because science might eventually fill the gaps. Therefore, religious scientists are much more likely to try and redefine God in such a way that science will never touch it, for instance using something like NOMA, or a sort of Deism.

    I have never accused any scientist of being unreliable scientists due to their faith. You insisting that I have, doesn’t make it more true.

    “It’s not an example of religion damaging science”

    So you weren’t done moving the goalposts after all? Remember, gillt responded to this demand:

    “Coyne and you have yet to produce a single instance where a scientist has inserted religion into their formal work.”

    I’d say that what gillt offered was likely considered at least by their authors as formal work, as it was formally submitted to a journal. Or do you think it was all just a big prank by the authors? But now, before you’ll admit you were wrong, not only must we find a paper in a credible journal, that was somehow not discovered, we now also must prove that it actually damaged science. I assume that the loss of face of the journal when they had to admit that their review process failed doesn’t count? I’m going to have to interpret this response as falling in the “admit you weren’t arguing in good faith” category.

    “Trying to extend it to deal with the supernatural is entirely out of its bounds.”

    Either the supernatural interacts with the material world, and can therefore, at least in principle, be studied by science, or it doesn’t interact at all, which makes it irrelevant. Science also can’t study anything that’s imaginary. I’m sure this has all been explained to you many times before, though, which isn’t exactly helping me give you the benefit of the doubt that maybe you are arguing in good faith after all.

    “I’ve never seen that science can locate justice or measure it, science can’t locate civil rights or a myriad of other things we need just as much as we do what science has found.”

    And you think religion can do all these things? Really?

  91. @89 Kwok: so, in essence, Coyne should stop being an ambassador for evolution, because he tends to upset the faithful? Your concern has been noted. And rejected.

    @90: I’m not impressed by your argument that others agree with Ken Miller, just as you are unimpressed that there are people (you even mention a few) that agree with Coyne.

  92. McCarthy: ” because they hid their pseudoscience in the middle of the article…”

    Nice try.

    Remember the title McCarthy, that little thing that goes at the beginning of a manuscript?

    “Mitochondria, the missing link between body and soul: Proteomic prospective evidence.”

    For whatever reason–maybe because they’re nicer than I am–the NCSE was going along with the journals editors–trying to not lose their jobs no doubt–by saying the religious nonsense was buried deep within the paper and that’s why it was missed.

    The nonsense, however, was in the paper’s title and continued in the abstract; it wasn’t buried in the deep deep middle.

  93. Deen @ 91: “Therefore, religious scientists are much more likely to try and redefine God in such a way that science will never touch it, for instance using something like NOMA, or a sort of Deism.”

    Francis Collins, apparently a betting man, believes we’ll find god diddling with quantums, somehow directing human evolution toward big-brained homonids with souls.

    Or maybe it’s Miller who thinks that.

    Kwok: since you two are BFF’s what’s Miller’s unsupported beliefs on this? Is he a biologist betting on physics to save his god from irrelevancy?

  94. John Kwok

    @ Deen –

    If Coyne can’t be as diplomatic as, for example, Lawrence Krauss, then perhaps he ought to stick to what he does best, being the excellent evolutionary biologist that he is and engaging only with Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographers like Mike Behe, Bill Dembski and Casey Luskin.

    As for prominent religiously devout biologists, there is a long line of those, starting with a early Darwin supporter, noted American botanist Asa Gray. That long line continued last century with someone who was one of that century’s greatest evolutionary biologists, evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky, and continues to this day in his former student, the equally eminent evolutionary geneticist Francisco J. Ayala (who was ordained a Dominician monk in his native Spain before he left for graduate studies with Dobzhansky at Columbia University).

    I’ve spoken to Ken occasionally about religion, but frankly, it doesn’t interest me. I’ll let him speak for himself on religious matters (However, I have noted online elsewhere that I disagree with his acceptance of a very weak version of the anthropic principle.).

  95. John Kwok

    @ gillt –

    My final comments to Deen in my latest post, were actually addressed to you. But you should find the rest quite useful too.

  96. Mel

    - there might even be some who don’t really realize they are doing it.

    I hadn’t thought of that. I suspect some might, but scientists tend to be fairly introspective. I don’t think it really matters, but it is interesting.

  97. @95 Kwok: except of course that you are not so presumptuous as to tell Coyne what to do, right?

  98. John Kwok

    @ Deen –

    Well now that you mention it, I’ll give it some thought, since I have both his public and personal e-mail addresses (which he gave to me incidentally, long before he went on his “accomodationist” crusade).

  99. John Kwok

    @ Deen –

    However, on the other hand, the odds of me doing that are as remote as asking Katy Perry out on a date.

  100. J.J.E.

    @John Kwok

    Simply amazing John. Have you no sense of self-parody? Were you simply trying to confirm my contention that you prefer to engage in meta-commentary and affirmation of your relationship with Ken Miller rather than addressing the actual contents of the debate?

    To reiterate, the way in which you engage the debate is fruitless. My contention is that you act like a partisan political commentator with an inside track to one of the parties, in this case the accommodationist side. My contention is that you don’t actually contribute to the debate, you only engage in meta-commentary about how the major players interact and what they have done, but make very little contributions of your own. You don’t actually engage the points. What is your opinion about the epistemic consequences of Ken Miller’s and Karl Gibberson’s perspectives in their books? In what ways have “New Atheists” changed the perspective of moderate religious people? Do you think that such people believe any differently in 2009 than they did in 2006? What evidence to you have to support any responses to the above?

    You see, despite your prolific posting on this topic on any blog that hasn’t kicked you off yet, you don’t engage in these issues. Instead, you like to point out how “militant” one side is and how you agree with the other side (but no reasons given) and how similar you find the tendencies of “New Atheists” to IDiots. And your response to my contention was just a variation to that theme. This is why I ask if you have no sense of self-parody. I criticized you for doing ‘X’ and you reply by doing ‘X’, right down to the re-affirmation of your relationship with Miller.

    Is it possible for you respond to this without criticizing the tone of the debate and actually engaging the topic of this post, for example? My Baseysian prediction is no, but sufficient data contradicting that would change my mind.

  101. articulett

    J.J.E. I suspect you said what many think. Bravo!

  102. JoshS

    @ John Kwok

    Last, but not least, Ken Miller and I are fellow Brown alumni. Moreover, I still consider myself fortunate in assisting Ken at his very first debate against a creationist, held at Brown, during his first year as an assistant professor of cell biology

    Well, goodness gracious! I realize Ken Miller didn’t go to your High School (TM) , but I’m so grateful to know he remains your Very Best Friend (TM) from college, John.

  103. When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding

    I think that this is a lousy polling question since it’s vague and hypothetical, yet demands that a person consider rejecting a core belief. You’re no more likely to get Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers to confess that they’d become devout Christians if scientists were to prove a particular religious belief.

    Like Stephen Colbert’s recent joke “what if the only way to save your wife and daughter were to rape and murder kitty Dukakis?” Anyone listening to the question is likely to consider the very premise absurd.

  104. Oh, dear, gillt again. I’m sorry folks, I don’t think it’s very interesting either. But I may choose to defend myself when attacked.

    — McCarthy: ” because they hid their pseudoscience in the middle of the article…”
    Nice try. gillt

    I was quoting the thing YOU chose to link to in support of YOUR argument about what I’d said. What was I supposed to do ignore YOUR supporting evidence? I’m surprised you didn’t link to what PZ apparently also said about it or the Guardian piece that seems to have been overly dependent on him, but it’s not my responsibility to hold up your side of the argument. I suppose I should try to put an end to this now by refining the point that Coyne and others haven’t shown that religious scientists try to insert their religion into their formal work.

    OK, I’ll rephrase my challenge to Deen, show that religious scientists’ have habitually tried to insert their religion into their formal work or that any such attempts have been successful.

    If you think that scientists are being seriously hoodwinked by faith-heads sneaking God into science and that those oddly unaware scientists are then replicating the error and screwing things up, then science has a lot bigger trouble than the philosophical materialist apostasy found among you. Scientists fudging or cheating or lying for their own professional interest and glory are probably far more regular and expertly done than this glaring failure of peer review. It certainly makes the news more often. I’d imagine when there is a professional or financial incentive to sneak bad science in, the attempt to make it look legit would be done a lot better. Trying to sneak God in would be kind of pointless unless someone noticed that God had been inserted, as God would have been the point of doing it. Have you checked for subliminal messages in text and images?

    You admit that attempts by scientists to insert religion into their formal work happen “not very often”. So do you know of any other instances where there has been a near miss like this? Do you have other instances of why all right thinking, God forsaking scientists should be looking out the corner of their eyes at the known faith-heads among them and giving their work extra scrutiny? If you think a near miss counts as scientists inserting religion into their formal work, I’d call it a near miss. One near miss of a rather odd variety as it seems to include plagiarism and would have been staring the alleged peer reviewers straight in the face. If they’d done what they are supposed to do READ THE THING THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE REVIEWING.

    If peer review is science in such bad shape that it didn’t catch that strange sentence or the possible plagiarism, I’d think science has bigger problems that religion. You wonder if they check the chemistry and math at all or how much they go on the credentials of those who sign on or have their names attached to these things. Or if they even check the credentials. One of the basic arguments over the superiority of science depends on is the solid reliability of its review process. You’d better get that fixed or you’ll really be open to skepticism over the integrity of science.

    Just going on what I know about publishing in the humanities, I’d have looked up the publications with these two names attached. I’m wondering how anyone could have done that much legitimate work in that time. But maybe authorship claims are supported differently in the sciences. I’ll admit, I’ve never really looked into that.

    — Remember the title McCarthy, that little thing that goes at the beginning of a manuscript? gillt

    I quoted YOUR citation as having said the problem was that the bizarre mention of a Creator was made in the MIDDLE of the article surrounded by legitimate looking material.
    If you think I’m supposed to answer for the defects in your chosen supporting evidence, that’s a rule of debate I’ve never encountered before. Cite where you found it. As I told you, if you think the NCSE is doing lousy news reporting, they’re the ones to take that up with, not me.

    Jinchi, the polling is pretty obviously absurd, isn’t it. The legitimacy of opinion polling is one of the most damaging articles of faith among both the religious and the irreligious. It’s especially damaging how the corporate media has substituted those for the more expensive reporting of hard fact. Not to mention the rather transparent attempts at push polling by writing questions in a leading manner.

    What’s even worse on the news is the substitution for news reporting with predictions by pundits and even news readers. That’s something I don’t remember before the cabloids started up. That’s one form of the occult that is, actually, dangerous for democracy.

  105. — I only said that the “God of the gaps” strategy is one of the ways you can believe in God, yet still accept science. You just redefine God so that it occupies one of the areas where science can’t get yet. Deen

    No, you define the supernatural as something that science will ever be able to deal with when the supernatural is fundamentally something that science can’t deal with because it is invented and made for the study of the MATERIAL universe. If they can ever use the methods of doing science for the study of any realm other than the material universe, they’d have to call it something else. I sort of doubt that we, as a species, are equipped to do that so maybe you’ll have to wait for evolution to make a few attempts in that direction.

    What inferences religious people take from legitimate science about their religion isn’t God in the gaps of science, it doesn’t impinge on science at all. It’s more like science informing religion, which should be a desirable thing, for rational scientists who don’t have a pathological fear of the religious. God in the gaps is the absurd attempt by creationists to reduce God so God fits into science and which phobic atheists assume all religious believers do. As I said here before, I think that’s bad religion.

  106. And I’m going to be away for several weeks but I will return.

  107. John Kwok

    @ J. J. E. –

    You asked why I objected to Coyne’s inane assertions with respect to “accomodationism”. I gave you what I thought was an extensive answer, touching every point I could think of, WHILE RESPECTING his excellent work as a preeminent evolutionary biologist. I was writing on behalf of not only myself, but also TomJoe.

    If you want self parody, then why don’t you ask United States Senator Al Franken, since he has tens of hours of that available in the “Saturday Night Live” archives.

    Since you mentioned that you were a teaching assistant once in Coyne’s introductory evolution course at the University of Chicago, then I thought it was fair to inform you of my ties to Ken Miller. But that didn’t, by any stretch of my imagination, mean that I regard him as my “very best friend”, contrary to JoshS (@ 103) equally ridiculous comment.

    Am sorry J. J. E., but in light of your rather risible and quite inane comments (@ 101), you seem incapable of having a meaningful “dialogue” with me, TomJoe, or anyone else who has been quite critical of Coyne’s absurd “accomodationist” “crusade”. Moreover, you have demonstrated a point that I made at another The Intersection blog entry recently, that Militant Atheists and their acolytes – of which I must include you based on your recent remarks – seem capable only of ad hominem attacks against their opponents, not in any meaningful dialogue, period (with the notable exception of physicist Lawrence Krauss).

  108. John Kwok

    @ J. J. E. –

    I don’t suppose now that you would endorse Coyne’s risible condemnation of “religious scientists”, as noted in his January 2009 New Republic review of Miller and Giberson’s latest books, now would you? Because if he is correct in his inane observation, then, I wonder, where he places such eminent religious biologists as his fellow evolutionary geneticists Francisco J. Ayala and Theodosius Dobzhansky? Or how does he respond to the apparent respect displayed in print by fellow atheist – and probably far more eminent – evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson towards Fundamentalist Protestant Christian in recent writings in which he has urged them to try to seek some “common ground” in an effort to preserve “God’s creation”, our planet’s biodiversity?

    If you do support Coyne’s remarks published in the New Republic, then, by what grounds, do you really have in condemning my friendship with Ken Miller? A more neutral commentator than either of us would say, I believe, “None”.

  109. John Kwok

    @ J. J. E. –

    As a postscript to my most recent comment (@ 109), I offer this from TomJoe, which he posted at another The Intersection blog entry two days ago:

    You know what ultimately gets me about this whole “Shut up” situation? It’s that Coyne has basically said the same thing about Kenneth Miller! Has Ophelia taken him to task? Doubtful.

    I’m going to quote from a blog entry I’m making on this whole situation:

    Of course, Jerry Coyne plays the role of total hypocrite in all of this because he expressly argues that using scientists such as Ken Miller, who happens to be Catholic, to defend evolution means that science then approves of his religion. That is, of course, total horsepuckey.

    By trotting out those “religious scientists”, like Ken Miller, or those “scientific theologians,” like John Haught, we are tacitly putting our imprimatur on their beliefs, including beliefs that God acts in the world today (theism), suspending natural laws.

    Exactly why Ken Miller is called a “religious scientist”, replete with quotation marks, is beyond me. Dr. Miller is an established Professor of Biology at Brown University. He does research, and publishes regularly, in peer-reviewed journals. He’s a scientist, no quotation marks needed. But that doesn’t seem to matter to Jerry; rather, since Ken Miller is Catholic, he needs to be stifled, ignored, relegated to Warehouse 13, lest anyone get the impression that science implicitly endorses his faith.

    Ophelia, will we be seeing a rebuttal to Jerry Coyne’s comments? Somehow I doubt it.

    Instead of Ophelia Benson – to whom TomJoe’s comment was addressed to – I would substitute you, J. J. E., and predict too that we would never see from you a rebuttal to Jerry Coyne’s inane commentary. Right?

    Indeed, I will say that by your insistence on making me the issue, in the form of your “self parody” comment, you are clearly not interested in addressing the concerns expressed by myself, TomJoe, Anthony McCarthy, and several others, including, most notably, Chris Mooney, with regards to Jerry Coyne’s irresponsible behavior ever since he decided to launch his “accomodationist crusade” against both Ken Miller and Karl Giberson in Januar within the pages of the New Republic. I respectfully submit that Coyne’s irresponsible behavior is far more worthy of comment than any risible remark of yours “critiquing” my ties to Ken Miller (In stark contrast to Jerry Coyne’s all too frequent bouts of lamentable, often risible, attacks on “accomodationist” scientists, science advocacy groups and professional scientific organizations, Ken chose not to respond until a few weeks ago.).

  110. Well McCarthy, since I had the title of the manuscript in the very same comment where I linked to the NCSE–it was right there for you to read–either you’re incompetent, illiterate, or dishonest.

    I brought this article to your attention not to play along with your silly demands that keep changing, but to expose you as a dishonest debater. Apparently you were so certain in your righteousness that you arrogantly and foolhardily accused Coyne of lying never expecting a reply from anyone. (Coyne, of course, is familiar with the notorious manuscript). When I provided the evidence you wanted, you retreated into babbling nonsense.

    This deserves repeating:

    McCarthy: “Coyne and you have yet to produce a single instance where a scientist has inserted religion into their formal work…This is the kind of repeated, phony, assertion that Coyne and co. need to be called on every time it’s repeated. Where are the incidents of what you just lectured TomJoe about? Specific ones in scientific publications.”

    Such vitriol needs to be confronted. This is typical of the tactics you and Kwok use to engage in debate around here. I, for one, will miss your absence, but I remain certain Kwok will tend to the ignorance and dishonesty while you’re away.

  111. So are you going to blog at all about the non-religious problems with science education at all?

  112. Ben Nelson

    Lanny @ 19,

    It is difficult for me to reconcile the idea that the present arguments by “new atheists” are stereotyping religion with the view that they are taking religion literally. If you’re stereotyping, then you’re not taking them literally; the point of a stereotype is using (usually inaccurate) shorthands that do not generalize. And if you’re taking them literally, you’re not stereotyping; you’re doing preliminary social science. You could be saying something like “at best this… at worst that”, but it isn’t clear.

    articulatt @ 48,

    If anyone took your advice seriously, then how are people supposed to develop a reasons-governed attitude if they aren’t able to even try to validate their views in a public forum? How is the situation better off when people just exchange their beliefs by having them driven underground, not subject to the scrutiny of an aggregate?

  113. The PEW report says,
    When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll. Indeed, in a May 2007 Gallup poll, only 14% of those who say they do not believe in evolution cite lack of evidence as the main reason underpinning their views; more people cite their belief in Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%) as their reason for rejecting Darwin’s theory.

    The above poll results do not take into consideration the importance of the strength of the scientific evidence that contradicts religion. For example, geocentrism, like creationism, is supported by the bible (also, re: the conflict with Galileo, geocentrism was once an official doctrine of the Catholic church), but practically all fundies accept heliocentrism because heliocentrism is based on direct observations and is plausible. In contrast, evolution — the macroevolutionary kind — is not based on direct observations and is not plausible. Also, more people accept an old earth than accept evolution because an old earth is plausible, even if not based on direct observation.

    We can forget about the flat-earth idea, a favorite straw man of ignorant Darwinists. The flat-earth idea has little or no support in the bible and an expert historian said, “It must first be reiterated that with extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat . . .” (emphasis in original)

    Also, the above poll results only give the “main” reason for non-acceptance of evolution, whereas some respondents may have had two or more reasons (e.g., both science and religion).

    As for myself, the scientific evidence is my sole reason for not accepting the idea of an evolutionary process that was driven solely by natural genetic variation and natural selection.

    BTW, the reason for the overlap in the above responses to the May 2007 Gallup poll (16% religion generally, 16% a belief in God, and 19% a belief in Jesus) is that the question was open-ended, i.e., the respondents answered in their own words rather than chose from a list of fixed answers. A complete report of this poll is here —
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/27847/majority-republicans-doubt-theory-evolution.aspx

  114. Silver Fox

    “When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding.”

    Of course they would continue to believe and the operant word there is “believe”. Why would one give up what is real to him by virtue of epistemic or propositional knowledge because science came across something that appeared to be contrary to what he knows by faith. Science develops and changes from day to day. Besides, how would science go about disproving a virgin birth two thousand years ago. Science can say that is not in conformity with natural occurrences but how would they DISPROVE it to someone who KNOWS it to be so as a matter of subjective epistemic knowledge borne of faith.

  115. – Where are the incidents of what you just lectured TomJoe about? Specific ones in scientific publications.” gillt

    You found one which hadn’t been officially published yet which was caught before it was, something which I’d been asking about here for several weeks. And it wasn’t even hidden. Now, how about addressing the last long answer to you about the real problem with sloppy peer review, one of the reasons you guys are always giving for why science should vanquish religion.

    I’m really enjoying your fishing expeditions in my comments, gillt. If these are the worst of my sins, I’m not too worried about what I’ve said here. Now, why not pick apart what I said about the crumbling peer review process.

    Silver Fox, I came back after the 4th of July picnic because an e-mail asked me if I was posting comments under your name. Clearly not, though be prepared to face that accusation.

    You might want to go look at my blog and see the challenge I posted about the “Virgin Birth” issue, challenging these sci-guys to tell how they would subject it to science. Last time I looked, none of them had taken it up, though one promised me he would. You might want to look at my last post, the Big Numbers and Materialism challenge.

  116. Jonathan Nickles

    @ Larry 114

    “but practically all fundies accept heliocentrism because heliocentrism is based on direct observations and is plausible. In contrast, evolution — the macroevolutionary kind — is not based on direct observations and is not plausible. Also, more people accept an old earth than accept evolution because an old earth is plausible, even if not based on direct observation.”

    So heliocentrism and an old Earth are more plausible because… you say so? That sure is a convincing argument!

    “The above poll results do not take into consideration the importance of the strength of the scientific evidence that contradicts religion. ”

    The strength of scientific evidence is irrelevant to fundies. They simply shut their eyes and cover their mouths and shout “LA LA LA, I can’t hear you! Jesus loves me this I know!”

  117. Mel

    “As for myself, the scientific evidence is my sole reason for not accepting the idea of an evolutionary process that was driven solely by natural genetic variation and natural selection.”

    Really believable coming from someone who has admitted to being ignorant of the science by virtue of refusing to read any of the vast body of research findings that embody the evidence (how can someone say that the evidence compels him when he has not looked at the evidence?). Another lie coming from a known perjurer. No wonder you are so afraid to submit your “ideas” about coevolution to a journal for professional consideration: you know they are worthless.

    For those wondering about the depths of Larry’s ignorance, incoherence, and general vileness (Holocaust denier, Lincoln-hater, filer of frivolous lawsuits, etc), you can visit his blog: http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/

  118. Ben Nelson said (@113):”It is difficult for me to reconcile the idea that the present arguments by “new atheists” are stereotyping religion with the view that they are taking religion literally. If you’re stereotyping, then you’re not taking them literally; the point of a stereotype is using (usually inaccurate) shorthands that do not generalize. And if you’re taking them literally, you’re not stereotyping; you’re doing preliminary social science. You could be saying something like “at best this… at worst that”, but it isn’t clear.”

    The stereotype is that all religious people are like the fundamentalists. The fundamentalists make the mistake of believing literally stories meant to convey a non-literal truth. So since Genesis 1 says God created the world in seven days, they believe it was literally seven days or literally a process of simple creation. Because science proves the world could not have been literally created in the manner described, they reject science and cling to faith in their text, which they believe is the literal word of God.

    The atheists reject the literal interpretation of the myths, as all people should, but because they think all religious people are like the fundamentalists, they think that science is incapatible with religion. Science is incompatible only with fundamentalism. But the atheists make the same category of mistake with regard to myth as the fundamentalists. Both fundamentalists and militant atheists ignore the non-literal message in mythology. One embraces the myth’s as literal truth; the other rejects the myths because they can’t be literally true.

  119. Dave2

    Silver Fox wrote (#115):

    Of course they would continue to believe and the operant word there is “believe”. Why would one give up what is real to him by virtue of epistemic or propositional knowledge because science came across something that appeared to be contrary to what he knows by faith. Science develops and changes from day to day. Besides, how would science go about disproving a virgin birth two thousand years ago. Science can say that is not in conformity with natural occurrences but how would they DISPROVE it to someone who KNOWS it to be so as a matter of subjective epistemic knowledge borne of faith.

    Consider epilepsy. Scientific explanations drawn from neurology supplanted and discredited traditional religious explanations which cited demonic activity.

    Of course this isn’t “disproof” in the strict mathematical sense (though perhaps it is disproof in the less strict courtroom sense). But I do think it’s an example of what people have in mind (and what the pollsters might have meant) when they talk of scientific findings jeopardizing traditional religious beliefs.

  120. Dave2

    Lanny Buettner (#118),

    We should also be careful not to caricature the “fundamentalists”. No fundamentalist Christian reads all Scripture literally. After all, they freely take a figurative approach to poetic and prophetic and apocalyptic texts. The question is whether a literal or figurative reading is correct when it comes to the creation narratives in Genesis. And when fundamentalists argue in defense of a literal reading of the creation narratives, they actually do give arguments for their position, they don’t simply apply a one-size-fits-all literalism and call it a day.

    Of course, maybe you’re right that a literal reading of the creation narratives is an incorrect reading. Or maybe you and the fundamentalists are both wrong, because there’s no real fact of the matter as to which reading is correct and which is incorrect. But I don’t think the fundamentalists should be so hastily dismissed when it comes to reading Scripture.

  121. Mel

    @Dave2

    I wonder if we need to differentiate between two kinds of traditional or religious beliefs. There those which are fundamental components of religious worldviews that provide meaning and a framework for understanding the experience of life. I would classify belief in deities in general, or more specific examples such as the resurrection or virgin birth in Christianity as being among these. These are cornerstones. The other kind are explanatory beliefs that are intended to explain particular phenomena, and which are drawn out of or formulated to be consistent with the mythic worldview to which the fundamental components are crucial. I think a case can be made that a religious person would largely refuse to allow science to nullify the former beliefs precisely because they are so important to the mythos that gives them meaning. The latter, then, because they are not so crucial, are more easily disregarded – nothing much is lost by disregarding them, and this is shown by the mainstream Christian denominations that have no problem with harmonizing science and religion. Fundamentalists, however, run into such conflict with science because they purposefully group so many of the explanatory beliefs with the cornerstone beliefs. This arises from the insistence on their literal interpretations of their holy texts, and the necessary resulting belief that any nullification of any explanatory belief arising from those literal interpretations nullifies the entire thing. They make explanatory beliefs cornerstone beliefs, and hence the wholesale rejection of much of science. To take your example, tell a Methodist that epilepsy is a brain disorder, and they have no problem, while if you take a fundamentalist Church of God in Christ member who believes based on the Bible than epilepsy is demonic and present them scientific evidence of a natural cause, they will refuse to believe it, because doing so would, from their point of view, endanger the entire edifice of their faith. (I have no idea if Church of God in Christ folk believe that, but it was just an example, and they were the first fundamentalist denomination that sprang to mind)

    Would you agree with this?

  122. Silver Fox

    Dave @119

    “Consider epilepsy”.

    Why not? Epilepsy is a neurological condition grounded in the electrical integrity, or lack thereof, of synaptic functioning. It is rooted in the operation of the brain. If there are any specific mind phenomenon associated with seizure activity, it is a function of the brain. The mind is an inherent or subvenient property of the brain. All of this is materialistic and evolutionarily naturalistic. You can subscribe to pure physicalism and have no problem with any of the above.

    If your point is that at some time in human cultural development, people explained natural phenomenon in terms of the limited knowledge available to them, no sociologist or cultural anthropologist is going to offer any argument. But what does any of that have to do with propositional knowledge which is grounded in religious faith. Unless, of course, you’re claiming that all religious people are epileptic. There has been subjective epistemic knowledge throughout human history. I am not unmindful of the fact that atheists see this knowledge as delusional or imaginary, probably because it is not part of their knowledge repertoire. That, of course, is their problem not mine.

    If atheists who proclaim a kind of apotheosis of science say that the only knowledge is the ontological knowledge of the natural world and has to be evidenced by measurement and experimentation, then that is their proposition and they are welcome to it. However, when they attempt to discredit a kind of knowledge that is beyond science, then they are in an area in which they have no expertise whatsoever. Propositional knowledge of an epistemic nature is a way of knowing something; ontological knowledge is a knowledge of something the way it exist. There is a big difference there.

    Atheists are traditionally inclined to say that this is “made up bullshit”.
    That’s fine because at the end of the day there is little I can do about that. However, until their knowledge of logic, epistemology, and the mind is more adequately developed, I see no point in arguing the issue with them. The only other observation to be made is that sceince is a legitimate field of study and it is unfortunate that atheists have attempted to appropriate it as their exclusive domain for no other reason than to promote their primary agenda – atheism.

  123. Dumbbell Mel moans,
    –Really believable coming from someone who has admitted to being ignorant of the science by virtue of refusing to read any of the vast body of research findings that embody the evidence —

    Not surprisingly, Dumbbell Mel, instead of making an intelligent response to my comments, has attacked me personally.

  124. J.J.E.

    @John Kwok

    No, I was never a teaching assistant for Jerry Coyne. Re-read my comments. Your reading comprehension is a bit poor.

  125. Mel

    Larry, you admitted that you haven’t gone over the evidence, so how can you say that you reject the science based on the evidence? Given that you have not studied the evidence or the science, and that you seem to be completely incapable of understanding intelligent responses, why bother?

    If anyone doesn’t believe me, go to Larry’s blog and see how unintelligent and ignorant his arguments are, and look at the comments sections and how he treats those who try to make intelligent arguments against him (at least those who haven’t had their comments censored arbitrarily).

    And Larry, I am still waiting for you commit to submitting your “ideas” on coevolution to a journal. If you are unwilling to submit them to the expert consideration they would thereby receive, it is obvious that you think them to be without the merit you say they hold.

  126. John Kwok

    @ J. J. E. –

    Correction noted, but you have indicated that you know Jerry Coyne – or rather knew him – as a graduate student.

    So, in light of your own prior connection to Coyne, then how do you address the points I raised – and indirectly, TomJoe at Ophelia Benson, but apparently also apply to you – without ducking the issues by yet another ad hominem reference to my own ties to Ken Miller.

    Am looking forward to your answers.

  127. J.J.E.

    @ John Kwok

    Ultimately, you managed to lash out against others, misconstrue perfectly clear comments*, and still manage not to engage the topic of this blog post squarely. At first (months ago) I respected you and your perspective. You seem intelligent. But then I realize that you have only one MO. You continue to decry (in general terms, without specifics) anti-accommodationists and don’t hit the points of any post in particular. And you are more interested in the last word than engaging in a respectful exchange of ideas. My response to you is borne of months of frustration at watching you populate the comments sections of many blogs with the same thing.

    The reason I don’t like your MO is this: I am generally a lurker, and I like to read the comments to learn. I don’t care if I change your mind and I generally don’t try to. But you and Anthony McCarthy have singularly made the comments section of many of my daily list of blogs unpleasant to read. Generally, reading comments gives me something to chew on and help mold my opinions. And when I first started reading you, that did too. But you haven’t adapted to the environment around you since, probably May, and just keep repeating the same old thing. “The cracker incident is bad. Jerry should have participated in the Templeton event and he was really mean and rude in declining it. Dawkins and Jerry are militant. I personally know Ken Miller and I have his personal contact information, not that that has anything to do with anything. But anyway, I agree with him.” The number of times I’ve seen your conversation play out like that is legion. The topic doesn’t matter. As long as the post is on “accomodationism” or about one of the “New Atheists” you don’t like, then the dear reader can predict (with good accuracy) that some or all of the above points will be dutifully covered in in your discourse. This post is an example.

    Oh, and no, I’m not a militant atheist, and I consider that an ad hominem. I have never pushed my views on anyone else regarding my beliefs and further more I prefer not to label myself as the complement of any arbitrary belief that comes down the road. Just because Bob is A doesn’t mean I have to label myself as either A or A’. And one more thing: if somebody holds their convictions strongly, that doesn’t make them militant. If you want to see opinions pushed militantly, just look at the media discussion about invading Iraq from Nov 2002-March 2003. Those who disagreed were actively savaged as cowards and traitors and idiots. That’s militantly pushing an opinion. Arguing about the issues that do or don’t constitute compatibility between religious thinking and the scientific method (and doing so in a passionate way) does not in any way shape or form constitute militancy.

    *I TAed in the Biological Sciences Division at the U of C and as a result was familiar with the courses in the catalog and their instructors (undergrads would complain about their various finals when they conflicted with our homeworks sets), I never TA-ed for Jerry (nor did I ever claim to) but I know that during my tenure that he taught portions of a well-received course for undergrads because many of them complimented him on them.

  128. J.J.E.

    @John Kwok

    I don’t have a connection with Jerry. I have knowledge about his promotion of science, and I’m not speculating by reading the catalog online. I know religious people who have taken and enjoyed his course. This isn’t about Jerry. This is about his students. And he doesn’t militantly push his beliefs on those students.

  129. J.J.E.

    @ John

    You’ll have to re-write them. Your writing was sufficiently ambiguous that I don’t really understand your request.

  130. J.J.E.

    Oh, and one last post, since I’m not commenting on the topic of the post, I prefer to move this conversation to personal e-mail so as to stop subjecting everyone else to this off-topic sideline. Do you have an address I can send comments to?

  131. John Kwok

    @ J. J. E. –

    They’re not ambiguous. Certainly not to TomJoe, when he made his request to Ophelia Benson, and she has yet to respond. I suggest you read them again and try answering them.

    One more thing about the TA issue. I believe anyone who read this quote of yours, would have concluded that you must have been a TA in Jerry’s course (or associated with it in some capacity):

    “Jerry has taught intro-evolution a number of times (and perhaps he still is, I dunno, I haven’t TAed at U of C for years now, and so haven’t looked at the course catalog). Needless to say that intro-level classes like those that Jerry has taught are full of students who are both interested in science and who will graduate with their religion intact. Their religion isn’t challenged in the classroom.”

    If you weren’t associated with Jerry’s intro evolution course, you should have been explicit about it at the onset of your comments, not accuse me of “poor reading comprehension”.

    Any way, it is getting late for me and it’s time to turn in for the night.

  132. Ben Nelson

    Lanny @118,

    Which debate are we referring to? It doesn’t seem to be an active concern in the mainsite debate, between Coyne and Mooney.

    I don’t believe that Coyne, or anybody, either explicitly thinks that religious persons are all literalists, or needs to think that in order for the thrust of their arguments to work. For one can criticize religion by turning first to the literal meanings, and still have their critiques have potency, even if the practitioners of the religion are not all assumed to be literalists themselves. Given that religious communities are semi-closed systems, and that the literal reading of texts occurs at some level or other, it only matters that a) some deviants within the fold as it turns out end up being literalists, and the behaviors of the religious practices do not curb such literal interpretations (i.e., by admitting the fictitious nature of the teachings to practitioners); b) immoral norms in the religious community are encouraged by either the literal reading, or a conventional metaphorical reading, of the texts. Under such conditions, the religious community as a whole can be held accountable for either its collective crimes, or for the crimes of individual deviants. Or so it seems to me.

    The present stage of the compatibility debate is not about literalness, but about psychology and epistemology. At present, the activist atheists are pressing the line that religion and science are not epistemically compatible. That is to say, religion both has nothing to do with knowledge, and it would be delusion for us to make any claim of that sort. Mooney’s aim is to arrive at the conclusion that religion and science are socially compatible (which nobody denies), and seems to use the methodological naturalism/philosophical theism divide to show that they are cognitively compatible (both religious and non-religious beliefs can get along happily and rationally). Benson, Blackford et al. seem to insist the opposite: that science and philosophy are continuous, but cognitively they are incompatible (i.e., they require compartmentalization). Both camps seem to agree that there is no epistemic compatibility: science is the only way of knowing. If I have gotten that wrong, I’m sure I’ll be corrected.

  133. tomh

    J.J.E. wrote: “My response to you is borne of months of frustration at watching you populate the comments sections of many blogs with the same thing.”

    You have joined the legions of blogger-commenters who have arrived at the same conclusion about Kwok. The only recourse, until he is banned on even more blogs than he already is, is to bury him in a killfile.

  134. Dave2

    Mel (#121),

    I think your post focuses on the psychological question of how believers react to scientific disproof. But I was mainly focusing on how such disproof might go in the first place (Silver Fox seemed skeptical that religion could fall to scientific disproof).

    I think I accept your distinction between indispensable cornerstone beliefs and dispensable explanatory beliefs. But of course there is great disagreement about where to draw the line, over time and across different religious communities. When heliocentrism was still controversial, geocentric readings of certain texts were widely considered part of the indispensable cornerstone belief in the divine authority of Scripture. And the same goes for geological discoveries about the age of the earth: whatever the standing of figurative interpretations of the creation narratives, I don’t think many Christians were prepared to see the primeval genealogies as mere poetic myth.

    The upshot is, I don’t think fundamentalists are the only ones whose central beliefs have been jeopardized by scientific findings.

    And as for the psychological question, I can agree that many believers will react to scientific disproof by ignoring it or rejecting it out of hand. But surely many believers will make an attempt to intellectually grapple with it: some might lose their faith, some might learn to live with a scientifically-renovated faith, some might try to make a religious virtue of doublethink, etc.

  135. Dave2

    Ben Nelson (#118),

    I wouldn’t be so quick to refer to literalists as “deviants”. What percentage of American Christians do you think read the Genesis creation narratives literally? What percentage of Muslims worldwide do you think read their texts literally?

  136. John Kwok

    @ J. J. E. –

    That’s reassuring about Jerry (And it looks like I’m going to oblige you later by writing the questions again – including TomJoe’s to Ophelia Benson. I just woke up.). But my e-mail address is private, and since my comments do pertain to Chris Mooney’s online “dialogue” with Jerry Coyne, then they will remain a subject of discussion here, not via private e-mail correspondence (Though if you’re really desperate, I suppose you can ask Jerry for my e-mail address BUT HE WOULD HAVE TO ASK ME FIRST before giving it to you.).

    @ tomh –

    Thanks for demonstrating once more that you’re merely a risible delusional militant atheist troll who seems incapable of any intelligent discourse here at Sheril and Chris’s blog, or IMHO anywhere else online. Maybe someone should “bury” you with a killfile.

  137. Ben Nelson

    Dave2, when I wrote “some” it is meant to express “at least some”.

  138. re: #126

    Dumbbell Mel, you have not addressed any of the issues I have raised here but have only made ad hominem attacks against me. You are only making yourself look foolish — sensible readers will ignore your ad hominem attacks and consider my comments on their own merits. And I don’t know what you think gives you the right to mess up someone else’s blog with comments containing nothing but ad hominem attacks.

  139. John Kwok

    @ J. J. E. –

    As promised, here are my questions, beginning with TomJoe’s challenge to Ophelia Benson (which she has ignored so far. IMHO she’s a mere hypocrite accusing Chris Mooney of ignoring her when she can’t even address someone like TomJoe):

    1) In his January 2009 New Republic review of Miller and Giberson’s books, Jerry Coyne asserted:

    “By trotting out those ‘religious scientists’, like Ken Miller, or those ‘scientific theologians,’ like John Haught, we are tacitly putting our imprimatur on their beliefs, including beliefs that God acts in the world today (theism), suspending natural laws.”

    Would you comment please to this question posed by TomJoe to Ophelia Benson (And bear in mind that Coyne’s friend, physicist Lawrence Krauss, recognizes the need to engage with Fundamentalist Protestant Christians, and has said that he has told Dawkins not to expect any successful effort to eradicate religious faith in either the USA or the United Kingdom any time soon.): Shouldn’t you (or Ophelia) condemn Coyne’s comments for being the ludicrous caricatures that they most certainly are?

    2) Coyne has accused NAS, AAAS, and, especially NCSE, of being “accomodationist” with respect to religion. Is he correct in this accusation, and can you provide substantial, concrete examples, please (I will note that I have studied extensively the relevant portions of NCSE’s website – and so has, independently of me, Ken Miller – and neither of us see such “accomodationism”. Unlike Ken, I am not a practicing Roman Catholic, but a Deist, who rejects the divinity of Jesus Christ.)?

    3) Both Coyne’s friend, physicist Lawrence Krauss, and Coyne’s former graduate school professor, ecologist and systematist E. O. Wilson, believe that it is important to engage with those who are evolution denialists, but for different reasons. Judging from Coyne’s remarks, he disagrees. Is Coyne correct, and if so, why?

    4a) Coyne rejected an invitation to appear in this year’s World Science Festival panel session on Faith, Science and Religion because WSF was funded by the John R. Templeton Foundation and, to a lesser extent, because he thought that such a panel session was unnecessary (His replacement, Lawrence Krauss, made these very points during the session, but did so in a dignified, even humorous, fashion, by suggesting, for example, that in lieu of this panel session, that instead, there should be one on science and pornography (which was seconded enthusiastically by our mutual friend Ken Miller)), and made a major issue over this by posting about it at his blog (which promoted e-mail rebuttals from Festival founders and organizers physicist Brian Greene and journalist Tracy Day (Brian’s wife), which Coyne agreed to post). Should Coyne correct in rejecting the WSF invitation, when he could have done exactly what Krauss did during the panel session in question?

    4b) Is Coyne being reasonable in his criticism of the Templeton Foundation’s funding of the World Science Festival when his own university, the University of Chicago, has received tens of millions of dollars in support from this very foundation (IMHO I think Coyne doth protest too much and sounds more than a bit hypocritical in his condemnation.)?

    5) If Jerry Coyne truly believes what he said recently over at Jason Rosenhouse’s blog (“We’re all in the pro-evolution battle together.”), then don’t you think it’s time for him to change direction and start practicing what he has preached, by ceasing his attacks on “accomodationist” scientists, science advocacy organizations (e. g. NCSE, WSF) and professional scientific organizations (e. g. NAS, AAAS)?

  140. Mel

    Larry, I accept your tacit admission that you think your “ideas” on coevolution are worthless, considering that you are making it absolutely clear that you are unwilling to have them subjected to professional scrutiny or even look through the published literature to see if you are correct. Thank you for clearing that up.

    As for ad hom attacks, your record speaks for itself. People should go to your website and see what you are in your own words. You ad hom yourself. This would be awe inspiring if you were a healthy man, but, as you are not well, it is just sad and pathetic.

    And, again, everyone really should go to Larry’s blog and see what I mean: http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/

  141. Mel @ #141,

    Bozo, ideas that have not been published in peer-reviewed journals are debated all the time on the Internet. In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, the Supreme Court said that such ideas might even be acceptable in a court of law:

    Another pertinent consideration is whether the theory or technique has been subjected to peer review and publication. Publication (which is but one element of peer review) is not a sine qua non of admissibility; it does not necessarily correlate with reliability, see S. Jasanoff, The Fifth Branch: Science Advisors as Policymakers 61-76 (1990), and in some instances well grounded but innovative theories will not have been published, see Horrobin, The Philosophical Basis of Peer Review and the Suppression of Innovation, 263 J. Am. Med. Assn. 1438 (1990). Some propositions, moreover, are too particular, too new, or of too limited interest to be published.
    http://straylight.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/92-102.ZO.html

    “I’m always kicking their butts — that’s why they don’t like me.”
    — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

  142. Dave2

    Ben Nelson (#138),

    I think there must have been a misunderstanding. You wrote, “some deviants within the fold as it turns out end up being literalists”. I’m happy with the idea that some deviants are literalists and some other deviants are not literalists. What I would object to is the suggestion that all literalists are deviants. And I don’t see how the change from “some” to “at least some” cancels that suggestion.

    I hope that helps clarify my objection.

  143. Ben Nelson

    Dave2,

    Definitely we were at cross-purposes. I was using “some” in a logical, and not a colloquial, sense. In logic, “some” (as in “at least some”) can be true even if all of this-or-that sect of a religion were literalists. Granted, often it is the case that in everyday speech we use an expression like “some thises are thats” to imply that, in addition, some (or many) thises are not thats. But however natural that interpretation comes to us, it’s not a strictly logical inference, and it wasn’t part of my intent here.

  144. Mel

    Wow, Larry, you really can’t read, can you? ‘Cause your reply makes no sense in relation to my comment. But then, your reading skills have been known to be very poor. Perhaps that is why you are afraid to do a literature review so you can write up your “ideas” about coevolution and submit them for scrutiny. In any case, you have admitted that your “ideas” are rubbish by refusing to commit to submitting them. Probably because you know they wouldn’t pass review because they are so poorly thought out and worthless. That is the only reason why you are refusing to submit them to professional scrutiny. You don’t believe in your own ideas.

    On the other hand, I got the Governator quote! One more down on my Fafarman bingo sheet! So predictable!

  145. J.J.E.

    @ 140. John Kwok

    I preface this comment with another request for an e-mail address. I don’t want to derail this topic any further as we aren’t discussing the survey data. I will not followup anymore non-survey related responses (check the original post topic) from you in this thread. But here are my responses.

    1) Your source is wrong (TomJoe was right). Coyne didn’t put that into his The New Republic piece. It was posted on his blog ( http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/03/24/must-we-always-cater-to-the-faithful-when-teaching-science/ ).

    In any event, Coyne’s comment is not a caricature, nor is it ludicrous. His phrasing is however more flip than I would use (the term “trotting out” wouldn’t be something I would use). But beyond the phrasing, I endorse the viewpoint wholeheartedly. And you entirely misrepresent that viewpoint. The viewpoint is that a diverse community of scientists (a large proportion of which does not accept any god) is perfectly capable of defending science without reference to religion at all. Defending science by selectively promoting the opinions of religious scientists (the minority among such bodies as the NAS or Nobel laureates, for example) promotes a peculiarly unrepresentative position for scientists, and in so doing suggests that such beliefs are endorsed by the scientific community. In other words, we need not make concessions to the religious community. As scientists, we are perfectly capable of defending science in a manner that doesn’t invoke religion for the purpose of catering to their worldview. This is Coyne’s perspective, not what you or TomJoe (#6) suggest. In case you don’t believe me, allow Coyne to speak for himself, with additional context added to avoid TomJoe’s infelicitous trimming:

    It seems to me that we can defend evolution without having to cater to the faithful at the same time. Why not just show that evolution is TRUE and its alternatives are not? Why kowtow to those whose beliefs many of us find unpalatable, just to sell our discipline? There are, in fact, two disadvantages to the “cater-to-religion” stance.

    1. By trotting out those “religious scientists”, like Ken Miller, or those “scientific theologians,” like John Haught, we are tacitly putting our imprimatur on their beliefs, including beliefs that God acts in the world today (theism), suspending natural laws. For example, I don’t subscribe to Miller’s belief that God acts immanently in the world, perhaps by influencing events on the quantum level, or that God created the laws of physics so that human-containing planets could evolve. I do not agree with John Haught’s theology. I do not consider any faith that touts God’s intervention in the world (even in the past) as compatible with science. Do my colleagues at the NAS or the NCSE disagree? [second point omitted. you can read it at the link above]

    2) This comes down to the examples that Coyne has given, which for me are substantial and concrete. And he didn’t post or even reference everything. My own poking around revealed quite a bit more, but I find Coyne’s examples to be sufficient. Apparently you don’t believe those examples are substantial and concrete. What we have in effect is a very different interpretation of the same data. I submit that no further examples are necessary to support the thesis that the NCSE et al are taking an accommodating stance while you find the examples insufficient. I disagree with your interpretation and reject your contention that further examples are necessary. The basic contention is that science is ably defended without reference to religious ideas and that this perspective is respectful of both believers and non-believers alike. If science can be defended without reference to religion, why reference religious ideas of how science and religion are compatible? To rephrase in a slightly different way, if science can and should be conducted without injection of religious ideas into the scientific method, why can’t science also be defended under those same conditions?

    3) Can you give give me any evidence that Coyne has ever said that in general scientists and science organizations shouldn’t engage with religious people, even those that deny evolution? I’m unaware of such a statement, though it is possible he said as much. But I can’t recall such an occasion, so a reference to such an issue would be necessary to refresh my memory.

    Of course, engaging with religious people is an entirely different issue than endorsing or rejecting compatibility. On the contrary, Coyne explicitly suggests that science organizations SHOULD engage any and all people who question evolution, and that defenders should take no stance on compatibility (pro or con) and instead focus on the positive case for evolution on a purely scientific basis. Your insinuation (that Coyne recommends against engagement) is debatable at best and, without referencing your claim, is tending towards specious.

    4a) You present a false dichotomy. For those who believe as Coyne does, it would seem reasonable to either reject an invitation or to accept the invitation then criticize the whole exercise at the event itself. So, in effect, both are viable options. Who are you to imply that one answer is “correct”? And of course, if somebody endorses the mission of the Templeton Foundation, they should wholeheartedly attend and promote the event as positively as possible. Again, who are you to pose such a false dichotomy that admits only two possibilities, both of which challenge the premise of the panel discussion?

    4b) Is it your contention that Coyne (or any professor) is required to endorse the official positions, priorities and sympathies that his place of employment endorses? I for one categorically reject this implication. The source of funding of a university should not be required to impose any influence on the professors of that university. This helps to foster academic freedom necessary for independent research.

    5) No. See my blockquote from Jerry above. It is perfectly reasonable to defend evolution from a purely scientific perspective, because evolution is one of the best tested theories in biology. Indeed, under this perspective (that defending science need not promote or reject compatibility) I submit that the question you ask needs to be asked of the accommodationists and the religious scientists: “Since you agree we’re all in this together and that religious beliefs should play no role in the scientific method, don’t you think it is time you started to change direction and start practicing what you preach? Why can’t we defend evolution on purely scientific grounds and refrain from injecting religion into defenses of evolution?”

  146. Dumbbell Mel moaned (#145),
    — your reply makes no sense in relation to my comment.–

    WHAT? Your comment (#141) claimed that I am “unwilling to have them (my ideas) subjected to professional scrutiny.” Submitting ideas to peer-reviewed journals is what you mean when you say, “subjected to professional scrutiny.” In several other comments, you criticized my ideas’ lack of publication in peer-reviewed journals. My reply (#142) to your comment quoted a Supreme Court statement on the significance of publication in peer-reviewed journals. My reply makes lots of sense in relation to your comment. The Supreme Court quote was a perfect rebuttal — that is why you pretended that it makes no sense in relation to you comment.

    Give it up already, bozo — you are only making yourself look more and more foolish.

  147. John Kwok

    @ J. J. E. –

    Your request for my e-mail address is denied, and the only way you can obtain it is if Jerry Coyne asks me to give it to you AND I APPROVE his request. It is denied because my comments still fall under what Chris Mooney has been discussing here for weeks. I simply don’t have time to get involved in a personal debate via e-mails.

    1) While I appreciate your correction of my error in misattributing the quote, here are two from Coyne’s New Republic review which illustrate not only Coyne’s risible conclusion that Miller and Giberson are effectively creationists, but also introduce his equally absurd charge of “accomodationism”:

    “Although Giberson and Miller see themselves as opponents of creationism, in devising a compatibility between science and religion they finally converge with their opponents. In fact, they exhibit at least three of the four distinguishing traits of creationists: belief in God, the intervention of God in nature, and a special role for God in the evolution of humans. They may even show the fourth trait, a belief in irreducible complexity, by proposing that a soul could not have evolved, but was inserted by God.”

    Coyne concludes the review with this:


    This disharmony is a dirty little secret in scientific circles. It is in our personal and professional interest to proclaim that science and religion are perfectly harmonious. After all, we want our grants funded by the government, and our schoolchildren exposed to real science instead of creationism. Liberal religious people have been important allies in our struggle against creationism, and it is not pleasant to alienate them by declaring how we feel. This is why, as a tactical matter, groups such as the National Academy of Sciences claim that religion and science do not conflict. But their main evidence–the existence of religious scientists–is wearing thin as scientists grow ever more vociferous about their lack of faith. Now Darwin Year is upon us, and we can expect more books like those by Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson. Attempts to reconcile God and evolution keep rolling off the intellectual assembly line. It never stops, because the reconciliation never works.”

    You can read the rest of Coyne’s review here:

    http://www.tnr.com/booksarts/story.html?id=1e3851a3-bdf7-438a-ac2a-a5e381a70472&p=1
    substantial and concrete
    2) How can Coyne’s “accomodationist” examples be ”

    2) How can Coyne’s

  148. John Kwok

    @ J. J. E. –

    My reply to you continues here:

    How can Coyne’s “accomodationist” examples be ‘substantial and complete”, when, neither myself nor Ken Miller – and I remind you that we did this independently of each other, without prior consultation – have looked critically at NCSE’s website and have seen no sign of such “accomodationism”, unless, of course, you regard NCSE Faith Project Director Peter Hess as clear cut evidence pointing to such “accomodationism” (which I regard as a ludicrous assertion.).

    Again, under FAQs, this is NCSE’s official stance with respect to religion:

    “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.”

    Again, you can find the relevant passage here:

    http://ncseweb.org/about/faq

  149. John Kwok

    @ J. J. E. –

    As a continuation of my previous posts:

    4a) Again, Coyne’s fellow militant atheist – and I presume, friend – Lawrence Krauss objected to both the WSF panel discussion in question and WSF’s Templeton Foundation funding during the session, but, unlike Coyne, did so in a dignified, even humorous, fashion.

    4b) While I don’t disagree with your answer – and it is in fact the best objection I have read to my observation that Coyne “doth protest too much” – I still stand completely behind my observation. Surely if Coyne felt so strongly about the insidious financial activities of the Templeton Foundation, he should have raised similar objections to his colleague, distinguished mathematician Dr. Robert Zimmer, President, University of Chicago.

    5) I agree with you only in your observation – which I have noted often online – that evolutionary theory is the best corroborated scientific theory I know of. What you and Coyne are missing is that we need a “big tent” approach – which I might add, is exactly what Chris Mooney has been advocating in his online “dialogue” with Coyne – against evolution denialists, and it simply seems to be the height of hypocrisy for Coyne to make a “peaceful” remark of the kind I have cited from his comment over at Jason Rosenhouse’s blog, and yet still go on the offensive against “accomodationist” scientists, science advocacy organizations and professional scientific organizations.

  150. Dave2

    Ben Nelson (#144),

    I’m familiar with the semantics-pragmatics distinction, and accordingly I was careful not to accuse you of literally stating (as opposed to “suggesting”, i.e. conversationally implicating) that all literalists were deviants. I just didn’t see how a move from “some” to “at least some” served to cancel that Gricean implicature. But of course now any implicature has been more than cancelled, and I therefore happily withdraw the objection.

  151. J.J.E.

    @ John Kwok

    johnkwokcanmessageme is the username and Yahoo! is the domain. You can send me e-mail there. I feel it is rude to continue here. You can message me or not as you choose. The decision to continue the conversation on my terms or not at all is in your hands. I prefer to lurk, and this is bringing me substantially out of that and in what is in my opinion, a very off topic way. (Again, we aren’t discussing the survey results at all, not even a little.) No need to reply here. I’m no longer monitoring this thread.

  152. J.J.E.

    Ooops. That was a typo. johnkwokcanmessagejje is the username.

  153. John Kwok said (#149) —
    –Again, under FAQs, this is NCSE’s official stance with respect to religion:

    “What is NCSE’s religious position?
    None. . . . ” —

    John, we have been through this before — this statement by the NCSE is just window dressing. The NCSE website’s “Statements from Religious Organizations” has no statement from a religious organization — e.g., Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah;s Witnesses — that holds that evolution and religion are incompatible. An establishment clause lawsuit, Caldwell v. Caldwell, was partly based on a charge that the NCSE website was biased in favor of the view that evolution and religion are compatible.

  154. John Kwok

    @ J. J. E. –

    Why am I not surprised? Just like Ophelia Benson you decide to “run away” when it gets too hot here in the “kitchen”. Again my comments remain pertinent not only to this thread, but overall, to Sheril and Chris’s blog, since these very issues have been the subject of ample discussion here at the Intersection for weeks. Even if I were to accept your offer, I don’t see how productive it would be, and quite frankly, I don’t have the time.

    Respectfully yours,

    John Kwok

  155. John Kwok

    To everyone –

    I believe J. J. E. is like, his fellow militant atheists, quite arrogant and presumptuous in his insistance that, if I were to choose, I could “continue the conversation on [his] terms or not at all is in [my] hands.” What dialogue can there be when I have noted that I have looked carefully at the National Center for Science Education’s website, and see no sign of the “accomodationism” which Coyne and Myers, among others, claim to have found, and which J. J. E. believes is there too? Just for the record, I did not do this out of Ken Miller’s urging, but on my own, and then later, by accident, had heard from Ken that he had done this too – and thus, we had reached independently the same conclusion that NCSE does not show any sign of “accomodationism” period.

    Contrary to J. J. E.’s assertion that my comments do not pertain this thread , the fact they do, however, is borne out by the facts that Coyne started discussion of the poll results over at his blog, thought they provided support for his convictions, and Mooney opted to disagree, resulting in this blog entry here at the Intersection. It is also borne out that many on both sides, have discussion various aspects of Coyne’s absurd “accomodationist” charge (After reading again an early post by McCarthy here at this blog, I am inclined to agree with him that if I am to be referred to as an “accomodationist”, then Coyne et al. should be dubbed “antagonizers”.).

  156. Ben Nelson
  157. John Kotcher

    Chris,

    Have you read David Sloan Wilson’s writing on the science and religion debate? It’s a refreshing and interesting argument coming from one of the more prominent evolutionary psychologists around.

    You’ll have to navigate the terrible Huffington Post website, but his series of posts entitled Atheism as a Stealth Religion are great. He’s also written about the evolutionary origins or religion at book length.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-sloan-wilson/#blogger_bio

  158. Dave2 (121) “We should also be careful not to caricature the “fundamentalists”. No fundamentalist Christian reads all Scripture literally. After all, they freely take a figurative approach to poetic and prophetic and apocalyptic texts.”

    I am aware that fundamentalists are not all extreme literalists, but the basic idea of any fundamentalism, that one set of writings alone is the “Word of God,” is treating a mythological idea, that God talks to us like a person, as if it were literally true. Calling a scripture the Word of God ought to at most suggest these writings are very important. This is a fallacy that ultimately leads to many false beliefs, among them the conceit that God would only find one group of people important enough to receive his wisdom.

    My point is that not all religious groups invoke a scripture as a divinely inspired and ultimately infallible source of information. Buddhists, for example, have a huge canon of scripture but it is read for what it can offer about how to experience enlightenment. They don’t ask anyone to believe something just because Buddha said so. They insist enlightenment must be experienced directly, not unlike scientists who insist ideas be tested with experiments. Unitarian Universalists respect all sources of knowledge and wisdom, including science. But they don’t insist people believe anything based on faith or because someone somewhere said so. I could multiply these examples many times.

    This is why religion is not categorically opposed to science, because there are plenty of religions that insist people decide things for themselves based on their own experience, aided but not determined by traditional ideas. The militant atheists never recognize these respresentatives of religion. They say things like, “Science is based on reason while religion is based on faith.”

    But that’s just not true. Many religions don’t invoke faith at all. And science requires faith that all events in the universe conform to universal laws which are the same at all places and times. No matter how many experiments one does, one can never prove that the laws of the universe are universal.

  159. Ben Nelson (133): “Given that religious communities are semi-closed systems, and that the literal reading of texts occurs at some level or other, it only matters that a) some deviants within the fold as it turns out end up being literalists, and the behaviors of the religious practices do not curb such literal interpretations (i.e., by admitting the fictitious nature of the teachings to practitioners); b) immoral norms in the religious community are encouraged by either the literal reading, or a conventional metaphorical reading, of the texts. Under such conditions, the religious community as a whole can be held accountable for either its collective crimes, or for the crimes of individual deviants. Or so it seems to me.”

    I’m not sure that complicated statement can boil down to the idea that religion and science are incompatible. But beyond that, there are still many religions who only employ traditional writings as ideas for people to consider, not as truths that have to be accepted no matter what. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, to name a few, all treat the writings of their founders with great respect; but for these traditions, the proof is in the value of the experiences that follow from serious exploration of the propositions.

    There are also many religions that have emerged in the past century that put primary burden of proof on the individual to come to an understanding of the truth through testing of ideas in personal experience. To mention one example, Unitarian Universalism includes science as one of the sources of wisdom a person should consider in the quest for understanding of our place in the cosmos; and there are no scriptures or doctrines or dogmas of Unitarian Universalism for people to interpret literally or metaphorically.

    Religion is a very complex phenomenon. All religions attempt to come to an understanding of the truth of our place in the universe. They employ many methods of reaching that understanding, and some of those methods are essentially, epistemologically, the same as science. It is wrong to ignore these religions and religious methods of understanding. As science developed, many religious people embraced it on the belief that understanding the physical universe can only increase our understanding of God and our place in the grand scheme of things, and the important moral issues we must face. Such people continue to exist and embrace science today.

  160. John Kwok

    @ John Kotcher –

    Thanks for your comments. David Sloan Wilson is primarily a well known evolutionary biologist who has written extensively on group selection and other aspects of levels of selection in evolutionary biology. I find your observation that he regards atheism as a “stealth religion” is incidentally, an observation I have arrived at independently after realizing how zealously fanatical some militant atheists – especially those who participate in online blogs like this one – are.

  161. Ben Nelson

    Lanny, allow me to explain myself. I tend to think backwards, from conclusions to prepwork; apologies if that makes me harder to understand.

    My task was to rebut your interpretation of the debate. I understand the impetus toward interpreting the new atheists in the way you have. However, it is not justified by either the evidence (what the new atheists say) or argumentative necessity. The former, I trust, needs no comment from me to establish; the arguments themselves must be attended to. I do not think you will find anyone explicitly endorses the “everyone’s a literalist” opinion. For the latter, in order to avoid having to sincerely post that all religious persons are literalists in order to establish that they must bear the burden of collective responsibility, the new atheists need an account that allows for collective accountability for crimes committed under softer conditions: by individuals and by communities which does not presuppose literalism among its followers.

    My overly complex formulations was a tentative guess at what conditions we can reasonably hold a collective accountable for those two things.

    I certainly don’t set out to paint with an overly wide brush. You point out, I think rightly, that not all religions (or religious communities, or whatever) violate either (a) or (b). That would be a case where I would agree that no collective accountability can be established… unless, of course, a good argument can be / has been made by the new atheists as to why I ought to. But notice the dynamic of the argument: you set a high bar for collective accountability, and I set it lower, and that suffices for the point of that post.

    But if may respond to your newest comment. I am not sure what a “method of (true? correct?) understanding” is. Whether we agree or not would depend on what we expect the correctness in “true understanding” to mean, and in what contexts. I suppose that I don’t doubt that the human will cannot be understood without faith and lack thereof, for example, but this is a fairly limited context.

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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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