PZ Myers vs. Unscientific America: Summary

By The Intersection | July 13, 2009 10:23 am

We’ve thoroughly read, and now plan to respond in detail to PZ Myers’ review of our book.

But first, some throat clearing. It may seem odd for authors to respond so extensively to their critics. In the olden days, such exchanges happened very slowly, if at all, through letters to the editor, and usually they weren’t very long. But this is the Internet age, and there are very different circumstances here:

The People Want It. Hordes of commenters are demanding that we respond to PZ.

PZ Asked For It. Myers did not write a balanced review, an indifferent review, or even a negative review. Rather, he misrepresented our book, got its arguments wrong, assaulted its authors (“their hypocritical and ignorant paean to mealy-mouthedness”), and finally ended by concluding that our labor of over a year is “utterly useless.”

We may not be capable of objectivity judging our own work. But we’re also receiving many supportive emails from people who like the book, are seeing it spark constructive dialogue about solutions on places like Chad Orzel’s blog or RealClimate.org, and are witnessing the careful weighing of its arguments’ strengths and weaknesses at places like Neurotopia. How could a book that is prompting thought and dialogue be “utterly useless”? Myers may disagree with our book in many respects, but debate itself is useful, is it not?

We Wrote a Contempt-Free Book. Myers’ charges come from someone who is directly criticized in the book, and who admits that his opinion “is colored by the palpable contempt [its authors] hold for me.” But there’s no “contempt” here–just entirely fair criticism of Myers based on his freely chosen actions.

But we’ll get to that.

In answering Myers, we will proceed in 10 points, spread across 3 posts to control their length. We will first summarize them here, and then elaborate in the next three posts until we’re done:

1. Getting Personal? Myers claims that our book contains “very direct and personal attacks on me and on Pharyngula, atheists in general, and anyone who fails to offer religion its proper modicum of respect.” We do not agree that we have launched any personal attacks.

2.  Pluto. Myers doesn’t appear to understand our argument here, as we will show.

3. What the Book Actually Says. Starting with Chapter 1, Myers gives little if any sense of the book’s real contents and argument.

4. Carl Sagan. This is virtually the only thing Myers seems to agree with us on. But he doesn’t grasp the nature of Sagan’s uniqueness, or why Richard Dawkins is no Carl Sagan.

5.  American Anti-Science. Myers claims the book “entirely neglects the anti-scientific forces.” This is false.

6. Root Causes. Myers claims the book “demands we avoid addressing the structural roots” of the problem of science in society. That’s false.

7. Science in the Entertainment Industry. By taking a single sentence about Richard Dawkins vastly out of context, Myers misrepresents our chapter on this subject.

8. Solutions. Myers claims our book “offers no new solutions.” This is false.

9. Bigotry. Myers flings this baseless, inflammatory charge at us.

10. The Problem with PZ Myers. Curiously, Myers doesn’t even address our criticisms of…him. But they’re serious and fair, and we will end by elaborating upon why, in the wake of the communion wafer desecration, we decided we had to speak out about them.

That’s how we’ll proceed, and we’ll begin with the first post in a few hours. The entirety of what we’ve written will carry over into tomorrow–but never fear, it is already drafted, and you will see it all soon enough.

While we welcome comment here, we ask that you do not pre-judge our rebuttals on the points above until they have actually been posted.

The first post is now up and can be found here.

Comments (146)

  1. Tristanm

    “By taking a single sentence about Richard Dawkins vastly out of context, Myers misrepresents our chapter on this subject.”

    While I don’t want to pre-judge your reply, he already posted the entire paragraph that the so called “Mis-represented” sentence is in. It looks like it means exactly what he took it to mean. I hope your reply explains that.

  2. John Kwok

    Chris and Sheril,

    Oh boy. I do wish you a lot of luck. Am sure you realize what the reactions will be from Myers’s fans. Back in May, Ken Miller reminded me in person that Myers has lots and lots of acolytes.

  3. Ben Nelson

    Looking forward to it.

  4. Matt Penfold

    Chris and Sheril,

    Do you any attention of explaining to us why claims for a virgin birth, or the reassertion should not be regarded as empirical claims if, as is the case, many Christians believe they actually happened ?

    You have been asked this question in the past, and neither of you managed an answer then. If you are unable to produce one I would at least like for you to admit as such.

    Just how is it a god that intervenes in the Universe compatible with science ? You have both claimed it is, by insisting science and religion are compatible. Since a large number of believers think their god does intervene then why is the total absence of any such intervention not evidence for the non existence of that god ? Why should the existence of an interventionist god be treated any different from belief in faeries, Santa Claus and so. Both faeries and Santa are claimed to intervene in the world, and there is no evidence to support the existence of either. Are you are as accommodating over the existence of Santa as you are over the existence of god ?

    I know you have recently claimed that religion and science are compatible in the sense that someone can be both religious and a scientist. However you cannot claim that is your criteria for compatibility and claim Dawkins, or PZ, think science and religion are not compatible. Both are on record saying that in that rather narrow definition of compatibility they accept religion and science are compatible.

  5. Ian

    @5, Perhaps it is evidenced by the vast number of Christians who have been and are scientists – can I humbly suggest you read a wee bit of Fr Stanley Jaki and his history of science?

  6. Stu

    “Perhaps it is evidenced by the vast number of Christians who have been and are scientists”

    No, it is not. Read it again. That both can be adhered to by the same person does not mean they are compatible beyond, well, that they can be adhered to by the same person. Beyond that, all you’re proving is the power of cognitive dissonance.

  7. Tristanm

    @6. We aren’t talking about whether or not it is possible to believe in a god and accept science. We are talking about whether or not belief in a god that specifically intervenes and manipulates the goings on in the natural world and can be held. Can you, say, believe the OT flood story to be true, yet accept the science that says that there have been no world-wide floods?

  8. sharky

    Admittedly, phrases like “their hypocritical and ignorant paean to mealy-mouthedness” may not be a lot of fun for you to read, but nonetheless that phrase describes a *work,* and while it certainly allows a lot to be inferred about the authors it is not directly about the authors, but… describing a work.

    And with 10, you’re already directly criticising his personal actions outside -any- work and… yeah. You’ve already undermined your point #1 in two places in your outline alone, and also made it much harder to claim the authors should be placed outside the discussion.

    Also, there is a phrase for describing invisible public support: “the lurkers support me in email.”

    Claiming it is frequently seen as a last-ditch face-saving credibility-shoring move.

  9. Matt Penfold

    Perhaps it is evidenced by the vast number of Christians who have been and are scientists – can I humbly suggest you read a wee bit of Fr Stanley Jaki and his history of science?

    I am not too sure how that would make a virgin birth compatible with what we know of mammalian reproduction.

    The claim for a literal virgin birth is a empirical claim, a claim about nature. Unforunatly science tell us mammals do not go in for parthenogenesis

    Similarly the claim that praying can cure the sick is an empirical claim. It can be tested, and has been. It is clear from the data that paying for the sick does not alter patients outcomes.

    Everytime religion makes a claim for an interventionist god it runs into this problem. The scientific evidence, and for claims like these scientific evidence is what counts, does not support the claims that intervention happens.

    Now the compatibility problem goes away if no claims are made for an interventionist god, but it is not a non-interventionist god most religious people in.

  10. Marcos

    Sheril & Chris – have you all read/heardof Hans Küng’s, The Beginning of All Things? It’s a very sincere effort to reconcile science and religion, on the basis that each needs to keep to its own area. i.e., no invoking of the supernatural when it comes to evolution, etc… but at the same time, no scientific claims that God doesn’t exist (which seems to jive with your criticism of Dawkin’s that god’s existence is a scientific question.) One of his more interesting points was the initial opposition to the Big Bang theory, because it was too much like the creation myth in Genesis – the “steady state” theory was preferred by some precisely because it was unlike the bible. Küng finds this sort of prejudice very unscientific.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading your book; I think you’d find Küng’s interesting if you haven’t seen it already.

  11. Matt Penfold

    Dawkins claims that the existence of god is a scientific question is because of the empirical claims that many religious people make for their god. Showing that there is not evidence to support any of those empirical claims is evidence that such a god does not exist. Dawkins does not rule out the possibility that god exists and does not intervene in the Universe. Indeed he admits that it is simply not possible to know if a non-interventionist god exists or not. However he also points out there would be little point to such a god.

  12. Marc

    Matt: you can’t disprove miracles. And you can’t prove axioms. For a scientist these are key restrictions in our tools; we need to know that we are always making statements of the form “if you assume A, B follows.”

    You may not *like* the religious alternatives, but you can’t prove them wrong. Just as the tools of science are not well suited to answering the question “what caused the Big Bang”?, but they are well-suited to answering the question “what happened in the first three minutes after the Big Bang”?

    Once you grant that your method of inquiry has limits – and the scientific method is powerful only when applicable – then you’re left with certain matters which you leave to opinion. And there is a powerful case to be made for tolerance, as opposed to certainty in the virtues of your own opinions.

  13. 1) Sheril & Chris – you do realize that by walking into PZ’s carefully laid trap, you will either have to answer EVERY review you get so as to “prove” you aren’t after him. And, yes, I think you shouldn’t have bothered – you both have bette rthings to do.

    2) @ Matt Penfold (#13):

    Dawkins claims that the existence of god is a scientific question is because of the empirical claims that many religious people make for their god. Showing that there is not evidence to support any of those empirical claims is evidence that such a god does not exist.

    Nope, not even close. Simply saying “I believe in the virgin birth” isn’t making an empirical claim, unless the definition of the word “emperical” changed while I was away on vacation. And showing that there is currently no evidence of a thing or process does not mean there is no thing or process – or else we would all still be flat earthers. And if Dawkins (or anyone else) is looking for God as a sceintific endeavour, then he is at best agnostic, not atheistic, because he can’t go looking for something he doesn’t believe exists without a whole mess of cognative dissonance. If that is the case, then I’d appreciate him (and you) leaving us believing scientists to our congative dissonance as well.

  14. Matt Penfold

    Marc,

    Scientific evidence matters, as does the lack of scientific evidence. If someone claims that woman gave birth without being inseminated by a male, that is a claim that can be looked at using science. And we do, we find no evidence to support the claim. There is no known mechanism by which a female mammal can be become pregnant without being inseminated by a male. There is not a single documented example of it ever happening, although we do know it can happen in reptiles and fish. In the face of evidence that parthenogenesis does not happen in mammal a claim that it has happened needs to be supported by evidence that it has. No such evidence has been produced.

    Now a standard response to this to claim, as you say, it was a miracle. However this does not help with scientific compatibility. Miracles by definition are the suspension of the laws by which the universe works. Once you allow for one miracles to happen, you have no way of denying the possibility that other have happened. Indeed the answer to any scientific question can become “it’s a miracle”. It becomes impossible to deny creationist claims that the creationism of all species at the same, and lack of evidence to support that claim, could be a miracle.

    Now, I agree, we cannot show that these miracles do not happen. God could fix the evidence to make it look like the earth is 4.5 Billions years old when it fact it is only 6000. No one can prove that is not the case. But unless we accept the universe does not lie to us, we cannot do science.

  15. Matt Penfold

    Nope, not even close. Simply saying “I believe in the virgin birth” isn’t making an empirical claim, unless the definition of the word “emperical” changed while I was away on vacation. And showing that there is currently no evidence of a thing or process does not mean there is no thing or process – or else we would all still be flat earthers. And if Dawkins (or anyone else) is looking for God as a sceintific endeavour, then he is at best agnostic, not atheistic, because he can’t go looking for something he doesn’t believe exists without a whole mess of cognative dissonance. If that is the case, then I’d appreciate him (and you) leaving us believing scientists to our congative dissonance as well.

    Interesting.

    Can you just confirm that you do not believe a significant number of Christians claim that Mary was virgin. Only my understanding is that a significant number do believe in the literal truth of the virgin birth, which would mean that they are making an empirical claim.

    Of course if no Christians believe in the literal truth of stories in their Bible then there is not a problem. I am just not convinced by your claims that there are not a large number of Biblical literalists around.

  16. Clearly, I’ve dealt you a very painful wound that you feel the need to deal with it at such length. Go ahead, you’re just making my case for me that the core of your book is an irrational vendetta against those annoying “New Atheists”.

  17. “you can’t disprove miracles. And you can’t prove axioms. For a scientist these are key restrictions in our tools…Once you grant that your method of inquiry has limits – and the scientific method is powerful only when applicable – then you’re left with certain matters which you leave to opinion. And there is a powerful case to be made for tolerance, as opposed to certainty in the virtues of your own opinions.”

    But even in matters which are left to opinion – you can have better or worse, reasons or no reasons. The mere fact that you can’t disprove a miracle doesn’t mean that therefore there is no more reason not to believe it than there is to believe it. We can all say ‘It is my opinion that there is an undetectable dragon in my kitchen’ but there is no good reason to take that opinion seriously.

  18. John Kwok

    @ Sheril and Chris –

    I would be especially curious in reading your explanation as to why Carl Sagan is unique. I contend that he isn’t – or wasn’t – especially when you had people like anthropologist Loren Eiseley, physician Lewis Thomas, evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, and especially, invertebrate paleobiologist Stephen Jay Gould as his contemporaries (Today, IMHO, both Brian Greene and Neil de Grasse Tyson have probably assumed Sagan’s “mantle” with regards to television appearances, and I think once could argue persuasively that they have done far more work with regards to “popularizing” science than Sagan ever did.).

    I hope you will comment on PZ’s stupidity, since he demonstrated that yesterday by reciting virtually every conceivable award that he’ll never win at your PZ vs. RealClimateChange quote mine discussion thread. He did have one notable omission, however, the Society for the Study of Evoluion’s Stephen Jay Gould Prize, whose first recipient was none other than Eugenie Scott at last month’s annual SSE meeting.

  19. Sven DiMilo

    M&K:
    Did you know that there was a Part 2 to Myers’s review?
    I didn;t see it linked or addressed anywhere–apologies if I missed it.

  20. James T

    The issue seems simple to me:
    A. Religion is a thought process in which one makes a guess, and reaches the conclusion that the guess is correct.

    B. Science is a thought process in which one analyzes the evidence, creates a hypothesis that best fits the data, and reaches a tentative ‘conclusion’ that is subject to change when more data arises.

    These ways of thinking are opposites. One can only think in a scientific way about a problem , in a religious way, or in another way, but one cannot think about a problem in both ways at the same time.

    C. Science/Rational thinking has been behind just about every successful decision in human history.

    D. Religious or faith based thinking has been behind just about every disastrous decision in human history.(IE- the Holocaust, the Spanish Inquisition, the vast majority of wars, etc.)

    A scientist CANNOT be religious in any way to do their job correctly BY DEFINITION. A scientist has to objectively study the universe with the Scientific method.

    If a scientist is thinking about ANYTHING in the universe in a way contrary to the scientific method, no matter what it is, they are NOT doing their job correctly as a scientist.

    Religious thinking is dangerous. History has proven that time and time again. We make ordinary decisions scientifically and rationally, and it certainly isn’t tolerated to think about ordinary decisions in a religious way; people who do so are classified as “Crazy”, and for good reason.
    So, why should we tolerate religious thinking about stuff like God?

  21. Logicel

    You two are must mincing words. Your book is a joke presenting just a smoke screen to hide your accommodating religious superstition.

    And I have unsubscribed to Science Debate mailings because they have endorsed your silly book.

    Can a book on which you have worked so long and hard be a waste of time? You bet. Dialogue? Nope, no real dialogue is happening as the result of your book, just the same accommodating stance that got us in trouble with these idiotic evolution deniers in the first place. Let’s hope that you don’t waste the rest of your lives being spineless accommodationists.

  22. John Kwok

    @ 20 –

    Darn it, a typo. I meant to say this:

    Today, IMHO, both Brian Greene and Neil de Grasse Tyson have probably assumed Sagan’s “mantle” with regards to television appearances, and I think one could argue persuasively that they have done far more work with regards to “popularizing” science than Sagan ever did.

  23. Logicel

    And it is deserving that John Ewok is stalking you. Just too funny.

  24. Tyson is the only one in my mind who matches Sagan’s sheer eloquence and enthusiasm in speaking publicly (and to some extent Greene does too). A few others like Gould expressed similar passion in books but to me nobody could do it in public as well as Sagan.

  25. Marc

    Ophelia: I think that this question of recognizing the limits of the scientific approach is the heart of the problem. Yes – in day to day matters you can make practical judgements. The Sun might not rise in the east and set in the west tomorrow, but we don’t need to place the opposite on equal footing. But it is very important for a working scientist to recognize when their approach is not useful. This isn’t just a matter of not making pronouncements on religion; it’s a guard against using science in the service of non-scientific ideologies of all flavors, and a safeguard for the integrity of the discipline where it is powerful.

    For example: did God cause the Big Bang? That’s not an application of well-studied physics; it doesn’t even lend itself to testing. Did God send his only Son to die for our sins? How do you test that, precisely? By definition it isn’t something that is *supposed* to be repeatable. That is not the same, even in logical form, as claiming that gravity might switch off tomorrow. It is a debating sleight of hand to transfer the former case to the latter.

    It is true that miracles leave scientists cold, by and large, because they don’t fit without our world view. But even if you reject miracles there is a long religious tradition which treats miracles as metaphors; the God of Spinoza is a different thing than an old man with a white beard. Attacks on literalism are simply irrelevant to the religious beliefs of most non-atheist scientists. This is a second sweeping extrapolation which is distressingly common in arguments of this type – the idea that because some religious practices/faiths are unsound it follows that all of them are.

  26. bonze

    Do you really think it’s worth addressing PZ’s cracker abuse in a 132-page book which is supposed to be about better communicating scientific ideas and knowledge?

    PZ was willing to risk the wrath of the substantial fraction of 2 billion adherents of Roman Catholicism and Islam by simultaneously impaling a Host along with pages from the Koran (and, don’t forget, pages from The God Delusion) in order to make the point that these are human artifacts rather than miraculously charged embodiments of God. This took guts.

    The truth is that avoiding offense to ALL religious sensibilities is impossible. Be you atheist, agnostic, Unitarian, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist, or Taoist, the position you take is going to be maximally offensive to some subset of believers (or non-believers as it may be, e.g., the USSR). The Fred Phelps’ of the world are sincere and unwavering, and WILL NOT be accomodated: God Hates YOU!

  27. Davo

    Sorry, but it’s just a lame excuse to first invoke an interventionist god and then claim that the intervention is “only a metaphor”.

  28. James T

    Also, I love the hypocracy in your post above.
    “We do not agree that we have launched any personal attacks.”

    “Curiously, Myers doesn’t even address our criticisms of…him.”

    How could criticisms of Myers, no matter their content, not be personal attacks?

  29. Matt Penfold

    It is true that miracles leave scientists cold, by and large, because they don’t fit without our world view. But even if you reject miracles there is a long religious tradition which treats miracles as metaphors; the God of Spinoza is a different thing than an old man with a white beard. Attacks on literalism are simply irrelevant to the religious beliefs of most non-atheist scientists. This is a second sweeping extrapolation which is distressingly common in arguments of this type – the idea that because some religious practices/faiths are unsound it follows that all of them are.

    You are correct, Spinoza’s god is very different to the god of the Biblical literalist.

    What you do not seem to acknowledge is that Dawkins, Myers et al acknowledge this. In “The God Delusion” Dawkins mentions Spinoza’s god, and says he has no problem with the concept of such a god.

    Dawkins does not argue ALL religious practices and faiths are unsound in scientific terms. He merely points out the type of god that is worshipped by most people, an interventionist god, is a concept of god that is scientifically unsound. He also makes it clear that were a non-interventionist god the preferred concept of god he would not have written “The God Delusion”.

    The simple fact of the matter is that in the US, in Europe (although to a lesser extent) and in Africa the dominant concept of the Christian god is one who is free to interfere in the running of the universe.I understand how a god like Spinonza’ can be compatible with science. I still do not understand how the dominant Christian concept of god is compatible with science.

  30. —- That both can be adhered to by the same person does not mean they are compatible beyond, well, that they can be adhered to by the same person. Beyond that, all you’re proving is the power of cognitive dissonance. Stu @ 8

    The superstitious idea that science or religion exist “beyond” what is in the minds of individual people is one of the more stunningly obvious fallacies of the new atheists. Neither one of them exist “beyond”. The only people who can tell us anything about the co-existence of both science and belief in The Virgin Birth of Jesus are people who have successfully practiced science while believing in The Virgin Birth. There is no way to find out if there is any “dissonance” in that co-existence except by considering what they say about their experience.

    It’s arrogant for anyone to think they are competent to judge their experience or to tell them that they are wrong about it. The arrogance of the new atheism is one of it’s most obvious factors.

    Just a general note to new atheists , If you new atheists are going to object to the rest of us saying “new atheists” or even “New Atheists” go lecture your fellow new atheists like Coyne and Rosenhouse and the rest of them to make a public declaration that they will never, ever use it again because they do. You might want to go back in all of the archives of all of your published stuff and change the many, many occurrences of the term .

    Until you’ve corrected the political incorrectness of even some of your most prominent up and coming new atheists we’ve got every right to keep using the term that you guys seem to have come up with, or at any rate have used freely before you became ashamed to speak that name. Or at least resented it when we did.

    If regular atheists want to come up with a term to distinguish yourselves from the new atheists, I’ll gladly go to that one.

  31. JoshS

    How about skipping the introduction to what you’re going to write about, and just write about it?

  32. Sorbet

    Here’s a big truth people; cognitive dissonance exists all the time and there is nothing shameful about it. A human being who does not suffer from some form of cognitive dissonance does not exist. So stop being alarmed at its manifestation. To some extent all of us are schizophrenic, and there is nothing wrong with it. Of course it’s possible to compartmentalize. Of course it’s possible to sustain two different paradigms in the human mind.

  33. DS

    PZ Myers @ #18:

    Clearly, I’ve dealt you a very painful wound that you feel the need to deal with it at such length. Go ahead, you’re just making my case for me that the core of your book is an irrational vendetta against those annoying “New Atheists”.

    And what does it say about your motivations, PZ, that you decide to show up here and issue schoolyard taunts? What has your comment contributed to the discussion?

    A far more parsimonious explanation is that the amount of attention Chris is giving to your review is directly proportionate to the number of people (including yourself) who have been demanding a response. All it’s evidence of is the fact that your criticisms have been the loudest and have drawn the most attention (thus far). When and if Chris gets other prominent hostile reviews I’m sure he’ll address those too.

  34. Marc @ 27 I thought this anticipation of how a blog brawl would someday look in A.S. Eddington’s Science and the Unseen World (which I’ve posted at my blog, with many typos I’ll get around to correcting eventually).

    ” Would it be altogether unfair to imagine something liked the following series of letters in our correspondence columns? It arises, let us say, from a passage in an obituary notice which mentions that the deceased had loved to watch the sunsets from his peaceful country home. A. writes deploring that in this progressive age few of the younger generation ever notice a sunset; perhaps this is due to the pernicious influence of the teaching of Copernicus who maintains that the sun is really stationary. This rouses B. to reply that nowadays every reasonable person accepts Copernicus’s doctrine. C. is positive that he has many times seen the sun set, and Copernicus must be wrong. D. calls for a restatement of belief, so that we may know just how much modern science has left of the sunset, and appreciated the remnant without disloyalty to truth. E. (perhaps significantly my own initial) in a misguided effort for peace points out that on the most modern scientific theory there is no absolute distinction between the heavens revolving around the earth and the earth revolving under the heavens; both parties are (relatively) right. F. regards this as a most dangerous sophistry, which insinuates that there is no essential difference between truth and untruth. G. thinks that we ought now to admit frankly that the revolution of the heavens is a myth; nevertheless such myths have still a practical teaching for us in the present day. H. produces an obscure passage in the Almagest, which he interprets as showing that the philosophy of the ancients was not really opposed to the Copernican view. And so it goes on. And the simple reader feels himself in an age of disquiet, insecurity and dissension, all because it is forgotten that what the deceased man looked out for each evening was an experience and not a creed. ”

    I agree with almost all of what Eddington said about religion its relationship to science 80 years ago. The physical science is a bit antique but, as I pointed out in my post above it, Eddington pointed out that the science in his lecture would be superannuated within 50 years. I’m reading his Philosophy of Physical Science right now, it’s kind of tough going. He was a lot more impressive than the brush off he was given in my college years indicated.

  35. SteveF

    @ 18:

    Clearly, I’ve dealt you a very painful wound that you feel the need to deal with it at such length. Go ahead, you’re just making my case for me that the core of your book is an irrational vendetta against those annoying “New Atheists”.

    Logic obviously not your strong point is it PZ.

  36. Paul

    “And what does it say about your motivations, PZ, that you decide to show up here and issue schoolyard taunts? What has your comment contributed to the discussion?”

    So far, PZ is the only one of the main players that has issued anything that actually contributes to the discussion over the past several days. He wrote two detailed posts criticizing UA, and Mooney spent a couple days deliberately misrepresenting PZ and making arguments from authority while ignoring any substantial commentary.

  37. Mel

    @Sorbet
    Thank you for saying that. It gets at a fact that seems to really pop out from some on these thread from time to time: Much of the acrimony the “New Atheists” bear is toward the tendency of humans to be human. When you look at humanity as a species with all its attendant foibles, idiosyncrasies, and complexities, we simply don’t seem good enough for them, and we are certainly incapable of living up to some of the standards they seem to think are crucial. Certainly you will not see a world rid of all they seem to hate about us, religion, superstitious thinking, and lack of rationality (as they define it), it seems that the world will conform only when the last human dies. Do all or many of the “New Atheists” think this? No, but it is where their attacks lead when one looks at them. If I have misinterpreted their position, I apologize, but that is the clear sense I get from reading some of the more extreme comments here.

    As for me, I find that I can do science well enough while accepting the humanity of others, as well as that of myself, with all the foibles, errors, oddities, and so on that entails. But, hey, I get emotionally involved while reading, listening to, or watching fiction, so I am clearly irrational and thus, I am sure, to be ignored and defamed.

  38. DS

    Logicel @ #23:

    You two are must mincing words. Your book is a joke presenting just a smoke screen to hide your accommodating religious superstition.

    Very eloquently and rationally put. A veritable paean to intellectualism.

    And I have unsubscribed to Science Debate mailings because they have endorsed your silly book.

    Good work – that’ll show them! Make sure you unfriend them on Facebook, too.

    Can a book on which you have worked so long and hard be a waste of time? You bet. Dialogue? Nope, no real dialogue is happening as the result of your book, just the same accommodating stance that got us in trouble with these idiotic evolution deniers in the first place. Let’s hope that you don’t waste the rest of your lives being spineless accommodationists.

    Um… if “real dialogue is happening as a result of your book,” then why is it a “waste of time?”

    And if you think that ‘the accomodating stance’ is what ‘got us in trouble’ with creationists “in the first place,” I suggest you read some history. Start with Ron Numbers’ The Creationists, for example.

  39. tomh

    @ #14 Marc wrote: “Just as the tools of science are not well suited to answering the question “what caused the Big Bang”?”

    A fine example of the ‘god of the gaps’ argument that will no doubt have to be discarded one day when the gap is filled, just as so many other gap arguments have. Scientists are already studying and making progress on the subject, for instance, Glimpse Before Big Bang Possible .

  40. John Kwok

    @ DS –

    PZ is craving for attention, which is why he excels in “schoolyard taunts”. Another notable example was his absurd posting yesterday elsewhere here at the Intersection of every award he’s never going to win – in response to my accurate observation that, unlike him, Ken Miller has earned three major awards from prominent scientific organizations in recognition of his teaching and service to the scientific community (and general public, e. g. his 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover testimony) – a list of dozens of awards that lacked the latest that he’ll never win, the Society for the Study of Evolution’s Stephen Jay Gould Prize, whose first recipient, Eugenie Scott, was so honored at last month’s annual SSE meeting.

  41. DS

    Wow, I’m really sucking with the formatting today. Sorry ’bout that.

  42. John Kwok

    @ Curious Wavefunction –

    Stephen Jay Gould had his own legion of fans, was an eloquent speaker, as well as the finest prose stylist in biology and geology for many, many years. In some respects, I think he had a more important impact in popularizing science than even Carl Sagan, via his monthly columns in Natural History, and later, other magazines, and of course, his essay collections
    (comprised primarily of his Natural History columns).

    @ Paul –

    PZ really comes across as a younger version of Stuart Pivar, especially with regards to his propensity for nonsensical verbal bombast. I hope that they both have the pleasure of meeting soon, since IMHO they most certainly DESERVE each other.

  43. Stu

    “The superstitious idea that science or religion exist “beyond” what is in the minds of individual people is one of the more stunningly obvious fallacies of the new atheists. Neither one of them exist “beyond”. The only people who can tell us anything about the co-existence of both science and belief in The Virgin Birth of Jesus are people who have successfully practiced science while believing in The Virgin Birth. There is no way to find out if there is any “dissonance” in that co-existence except by considering what they say about their experience.”

    A sad attempt at the Courtier’s reply.

  44. DS

    Paul:

    So far, PZ is the only one of the main players that has issued anything that actually contributes to the discussion over the past several days. He wrote two detailed posts criticizing UA, and Mooney spent a couple days deliberately misrepresenting PZ and making arguments from authority while ignoring any substantial commentary.

    How does that make the specific comment I referred to on this thread anything less than a juvenile taunt?

  45. Onkel Bob

    2. Pluto. Myers doesn’t appear to understand our argument here, as we will show. Correct me if I am wrong here, but doesn’t this impugn you skills of argumentation and communication? All the reviews I read tell me this book is breezy and light reading, which to me indicates the arguments and assertions should be obvious and unambiguous. If a careful reader such as Dr. Myers failed to understand your argument, then what conclusion will the average reader reach?
    P.S. If the Discover Overlords want to make this blog readable, then a script that is KILLFILE compatible would be a step in the right direction. Your sycophantic concern troll infestation is nearly terminal.

  46. John Kwok

    @ DS –

    I have to second your observation. IMHO, PZ’s comment here was nothing more than a “juvenile taunt”. But it’s standard operating proceedure for someone who had the chutzpah – it’s what we say here in New York City – to provide a list of every conceivable award that he’ll never win, in rebuttal to my sad, but true, observation that, unlike him, Ken Miller has earned prominent awards for his teaching and service to the scientific community, of which the most notable may be receiving AAAS’s 2008 Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award at its annual meeting held, last February, in Chicago. I think it is highly unlikely – given his propensity for juvenile behavior like those we’ve both illustrated – that PZ will ever earn any similar distinctions from the scientific community.

  47. Paul

    “How does that make the specific comment I referred to on this thread anything less than a juvenile taunt?”

    What more can he say? Mooney still hasn’t responded to his previous criticisms. It’s a juvenile taunt, but the point stands that the only consistent thread between any of Mooney’s arguments lately is “New Atheists are poopyheads”.

  48. Tristanm

    @45 Oh it is a juvenile taunt, but at this point PZ can’t really present anything substantive until Mooney has replied to his review. Mooney seems to be taking his time actually posting his response.

  49. Matt Penfold

    Thank you for saying that. It gets at a fact that seems to really pop out from some on these thread from time to time: Much of the acrimony the “New Atheists” bear is toward the tendency of humans to be human

    I think you will find that “new atheists” are well aware of the concept of cognitive dissonance and how that impacts the human condition.

    It is not that cognitive dissonance exists that is the problem. It is that fact that those who claim to accept both science and to believe in an interventionist god tend not to acknowledge that holding to both is an example of cognitive dissonance. How often to you hear people say, yes I am a scientist, and yes I believe in the virgin birth, and yes I, accept that sets up a conflict ?

  50. Paul

    “It is not that cognitive dissonance exists that is the problem. It is that fact that those who claim to accept both science and to believe in an interventionist god tend not to acknowledge that holding to both is an example of cognitive dissonance. How often to you hear people say, yes I am a scientist, and yes I believe in the virgin birth, and yes I, accept that sets up a conflict ?”

    It’s worse than that. They hold up said cognitive dissonance as a virtue, and proof that science and religion don’t intersect/contradict. This leads to conversations where you say “modern scientific knowledge shows that x from the bible is impossible”, and get the response “Francis Collins is a Christian and a scientist, and I trust him more than you”. And not from whackjobs, either.

  51. Marc @ 27

    “For example: did God cause the Big Bang? That’s not an application of well-studied physics; it doesn’t even lend itself to testing. Did God send his only Son to die for our sins?”

    What’s your point? You still haven’t explained what reason there is to believe that God “sen[t] his only Son to die for our sins.” I didn’t say it could be tested, I said the fact that it can’t be tested does not mean that there are good reasons to believe it or even that there is equilibrium between reasons and no reasons. There is an infinite number of possible assertions that can’t be tested; does that mean we should believe all of them? A selected few of them? One of them? Why?

  52. Mel

    @Matt Penfold

    And to whom should they have to acknowledge that when they don’t see a conflict? Are you saying that religious scientists must declare their religious beliefs and openly acknowledge conflicts they don’t regard as conflicts to the “New Atheists”? Or are you envisioning boards of review? With what power?

    I don’t often hear people saying such things, but then I don’t go up to my colleagues and demand that they defend their beliefs to me. I would consider that to be not only rude and offensive, but a potentially punishable instance of creating a hostile workplace (When I want to talk to others about their religion, I ask questions and engage in civil conversation because I am curious and want to understand their points of view and beliefs). It would only serve to disrupt the lab and interfere with progress we are trying to make in understanding our topics. Everyone has such conflicts, even in science. Here, so long as it doesn’t interfere with their work, or with mine, I, frankly, don’t care. It is not my concern and none of my business.

    “I think you will find that “new atheists” are well aware of the concept of cognitive dissonance and how that impacts the human condition.”

    Yes, and its seems they find it utterly repugnant, contemptuous, and grounds for mockery when they see it, and are very loud and insulting about that fact, at least in my experience. To me this seems like a sort of self hatred.

  53. Tulse

    “Much of the acrimony the “New Atheists” bear is toward the tendency of humans to be human. ”

    Bullpucky, unless you take it as “human” to insist that bronze-age mythologies be taught in biology class, and that the ethics of a small Middle Eastern tribe be used to decide medical issues such as stem-cell research, and that the morality of 80-year old virgins govern abortion right and same-sex marriage. No one, NO ONE, is saying that people can’t believe whatever idiotic thing they want in private. What the “New Atheists” ARE saying is that public policy should not be determined by these irrational beliefs. But apparently that’s impolite.

  54. DS

    Paul:

    What more can he say? Mooney still hasn’t responded to his previous criticisms. It’s a juvenile taunt, but the point stands that the only consistent thread between any of Mooney’s arguments lately is “New Atheists are poopyheads”.

    Well, I’m glad at least we agree about the taunt. Sometimes the most dignified response is to simply say nothing.

    Chris has promised to respond to those criticisms in detail later today. Let’s wait and read what he has to say before piling on any further, ok?

  55. scote

    “While we welcome comment here, we ask that you do not pre-judge our rebuttals on the points above until they have actually been posted.”

    If you don’t want your rebuttals pre-judged then maybe you shouldn’t pre-post them before you have actually provided detailed rebuttal.

    You are perfectly content to make the accusations without providing support for them in a stand alone post yet you don’t want people to react to them? The question remains “then why did you post them?” Once again I have to question the sincerity of your dialogue and the methods you use.

  56. QuantumMechanic

    This is getting really unfortunate. There are many of us who largely but not completely agree with one or more of the people who are being called the “New Atheists” here. By attaching a label and creating a separate category, I think Mooney and others are alienating people like us who don’t agree with everything that Dawkins and others say and don’t want to be stereotyped. Similarly those who are creating the “accoomodationist” category are making the same mistake, alienting large awathes of the population. Let’s not create stereotypes.

  57. Stu

    “Yes, and its seems they find it utterly repugnant, contemptuous, and grounds for mockery when they see it, and are very loud and insulting about that fact, at least in my experience. To me this seems like a sort of self hatred.”

    Are you suggesting cognitive dissonance, and especially denial of it in the face of evidence should be applauded?

    Or are we back to “sure you’re right, but you’re being meanies about it”?

  58. Matt Penfold

    And to whom should they have to acknowledge that when they don’t see a conflict? Are you saying that religious scientists must declare their religious beliefs and openly acknowledge conflicts they don’t regard as conflicts to the “New Atheists”? Or are you envisioning boards of review? With what power?

    To themselves most of all.

    And then to others when the subject arises.

    I don’t often hear people saying such things, but then I don’t go up to my colleagues and demand that they defend their beliefs to me. I would consider that to be not only rude and offensive, but a potentially punishable instance of creating a hostile workplace (When I want to talk to others about their religion, I ask questions and engage in civil conversation because I am curious and want to understand their points of view and beliefs). It would only serve to disrupt the lab and interfere with progress we are trying to make in understanding our topics. Everyone has such conflicts, even in science. Here, so long as it doesn’t interfere with their work, or with mine, I, frankly, don’t care. It is not my concern and none of my business.

    If only religious people would keep their beliefs to themselves. I would not demand of a colleague that they defend opinions they have not voiced. But if they did voice them, then they have no right to complain if they asked to defend their opinions.

    Yes, and its seems they find it utterly repugnant, contemptuous, and grounds for mockery when they see it, and are very loud and insulting about that fact, at least in my experience. To me this seems like a sort of self hatred.

    So someone engaging in cognitive dissonance should be not be challenge ? In what way is someone refusing to acknowledge their cognitive dissonance not disrespectful ? You seem to think “new atheists” should show respect to those unable to admit they suffer cognitive dissonance and yet you do think those suffering need to show respect in return.

  59. Matt Penfold

    I would also add that Richard Dawkins has shown he is not unsympathetic to those struggling to reconcile science with their religious beliefs. Nor for that matter am I.

    What would be nice though is admission that some people have that conflict, that not all resolve it and not all will admit it happens.

  60. Mel

    I am saying that cognitive dissonance is a key trait of human cognition that saturates every facet of human mental life, with both good and ill, but always undeniable effects. To hate it as a phenomenon is to hate humans as a species, and, as the “New Atheists” are all human, this constitutes a degree of self-hatred of their own human nature.

    I don’t know where you get the idea that I said it should be applauded. I am simply accepting that it is a key facet of human nature that cannot be eliminated (or possibly life as a human life endured without it). This view comes from my experience as a human, as well as my scientific training, which includes the dictum: nature must be approached as what it is, and not what we wish it to be. And to me, this holds true of humans as a part of nature. I am sorry you do not see the point of this.

  61. Matt Penfold

    I am saying that cognitive dissonance is a key trait of human cognition that saturates every facet of human mental life, with both good and ill, but always undeniable effects. To hate it as a phenomenon is to hate humans as a species, and, as the “New Atheists” are all human, this constitutes a degree of self-hatred of their own human nature.

    That would be the case if “new atheists” denied that cognitive dissonance is not a problem.

    I am not sure you can make that case. My reading of Dawkins, Myers, Coyne, Dennett et al is that understand perfectly well that it is a problem. Indeed they diagnose it as the problem with the conflict between science and a belief in an interventionist god. Part of their argument is that those with religious belief will not acknowledge the problem of cognitive dissonance.

  62. Paul

    “I am saying that cognitive dissonance is a key trait of human cognition that saturates every facet of human mental life, with both good and ill, but always undeniable effects. To hate it as a phenomenon is to hate humans as a species, and, as the “New Atheists” are all human, this constitutes a degree of self-hatred of their own human nature.”

    Outgroup aggression is a key trait of the human condition, that saturates every facet of human life, with both good and ill, but always undeniable effects. To hate outgroup aggression as a phenomenon is to hate humans as a species.

    Do you see how, just because humans are predisposed towards a behavior, advocating minimizing and not willfully choosing/defending said behavior can have a purpose other than “self-hatred”?

    “New Atheists” don’t run around looking for people experiencing a degree of cognitive dissonance and punching them in the throat because they hate cognitive dissonance. But they are not afraid to point out when people are defending two conflicting beliefs while arguing that they are not, in fact conflicting (and in large part this disposition is because, at least in America, their most common attackers are religious types).

  63. Stu

    “I don’t know where you get the idea that I said it should be applauded.”

    Okay, let’s take another step in this dance then. Are you saying that we should accept the cognitive dissonance necessary in scientists holding the fundamentally incompatible concepts of science and religion because it is human nature?

  64. Mel

    “To themselves most of all.

    And then to others when the subject arises.”

    So say you. Again, are you envisioning review boards? Judges? Forced confessions?

    “If only religious people would keep their beliefs to themselves. I would not demand of a colleague that they defend opinions they have not voiced. But if they did voice them, then they have no right to complain if they asked to defend their opinions.’

    So expression of any facet of religious belief demands that people be rudely confronted and demanded to defend themselves? So, when our Hindu lab manager makes any utterance that comes from her beliefs, I am to challenger her on it? Just like that? If one of my Christian colleagues says, “God bless” as a parting wish, I am to turn on her and demand her to justify her beliefs? Is that really your idea of civil behavior? Do you have any clue of what that does to the workplace? Do you have any idea of how rude and obnoxious that is? We in fact had a “New Atheist” who took that attitude for a while after deciding that he was a “New Atheist”, and he did as you suggest. He caused significant problems, started arguments, provoked major tension, and impacted productivity. He only stopped when he finally realized that no one wanted to interact with him, or even near him, and that that was a recipe for a failed graduate research experience.

    I think the “New Atheists” should try to be good to others, not obnoxious, and tolerant that others don’t think as they do (and yet somehow manage to be productive members of society much worthy of respect and kindness), and most really prefer not to have zealots of any religious orientation in their face demanding they justify every facet of their mental lives to earn the others respect. Or, in general, as my great grandmother liked to be put it,”Don’t be ugly to people.”

  65. This is a red herring. It is not a question of personal relations, it is a question of public discussion. Are you saying that Jerry Coyne should have written his New Republic review of books by Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson differently? Or refused to review them on the grounds to do so would require him to dispute their claims?

  66. Mel

    “Okay, let’s take another step in this dance then. Are you saying that we should accept the cognitive dissonance necessary in scientists holding the fundamentally incompatible concepts of science and religion because it is human nature?”

    I am saying that it has to be accepted as a part of human nature. Among scientists, as humans, it has to be accepted as intrinsic to their natures as humans. If they have no problem holding what you hold to be fundamentally incompatible concepts while still doing very good science, being good people, and causing no harm to me or others, when why should I not accept it? Why should it bother me? What business of it is mine? Why should you not accept it? What business is it of yours? Do you feel it your right to be a thought policeman? On what basis? Who gave you such authority? Some of the most brilliant and productive scientists I have known are quite religious, and I am sure you would find all sorts of contradictions that you would simply hate. Would you go up and demand that they account for all of them and justify them to you before you so much as approach their science?

  67. Meanwhile – I have posted a list of questions for Mooney at my place.

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/notesarchive.php?id=2841

    1) What do you want? What do you mean? You say religion is private so we have no business prying into what people believe, but Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson wrote books, Francis Collins wrote a book and has a website. The National Center for Science Education has a website. Are you saying we can’t dispute claims made in books and on websites? If yes, you’re making a grotesque demand. If no – what are you saying?

    2) How do you know overt atheism causes people to be hostile to science? How does that work? What is your evidence?

    3) How do you know it doesn’t work the other way? Instead or in addition? How do you know the increased availability of atheism doesn’t make some, perhaps many, people feel more at liberty to explore science, follow the evidence wherever it goes, and the like?

    4) How do you explain the fact that theism has had pervasive automatic respect and deference for many decades yet the public-science gap has not narrowed?

    5) Do you have any evidence that the putative ‘new’ atheism caused a spike in public hostility to science? Can you point to even a correlation?

    6) Do you have any concern that your advice is in sharp conflict with the whole idea of free inquiry, free thought, freedom of debate, discussion, argument? Do you have any sense at all that it is, in general, a bad idea to impose prior restraints and inhibitions on what it is okay (acceptable, advisable) to discuss? Do you worry at all about the general effects of this timid, placating, cautious, apologetic imposition of taboos and ‘ssssh’ and ‘don’t mention that’ on public debate? Do you really think your reasons are good enough to trump those possible concerns? Do they, for instance, rise to the level of the reasons it’s best to avoid racial or sexual or ethnic or national epithets in public discussion? And are their attendant risks as small? Do we lose as little of substance by not saying there is no good reason to believe God exists as we do by not calling women ‘bitches’?

    7) Do you take enough care to present your critics’ views accurately? You admitted on Daily Kos that you got Dawkins wrong in your book. Are you thoroughly confident that you haven’t made other such mistakes, in the book and on your blog? I know I’ve seen other inaccuracies of that kind, and pointed some of them out to you. (Just one example: you said “The New Atheist critics don’t like [what Eugenie Scott says], it seems, because they want to force people to be “rational” and completely justify their views to a very high standard, or else reject them.” Can you see what is wrong with that? I pointed it out at the time. Do you see the problem? Do you worry that it is pervasive?) Have you noticed that this has happened many times? Does it prompt you to worry more about a tendency to strawman anyone you disagree with?

    8) Do you understand the need to be clear about terminology and to avoid ambiguity and equivocation? In particular, do you now see that there is a difference – an important difference, one that’s central to this disagreement – between saying that people can combine science and religion ‘in their lives,’ that ‘you really can have both in your life’, and saying that science and religion are not epistemically compatible?

    9) Do you understand the implications of the Pew study, which spells out the fact that a large percentage of people simply ignore the findings of science whenever they contradict their religious beliefs? Do you understand that that is not epistemic compatibility but its opposite? Do you have any qualms at all about telling scientists and atheists to just acquiesce in that?

  68. Mel

    “It is not a question of personal relations, it is a question of public discussion. ”

    There is a pretty significant contradiction there.

    It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. It happens all the time, and leads to much more productive discussion.

  69. Meanwhile – I have posted a list of questions for Mooney at my place.

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/notesarchive.php?id=2841

    I posted the list, but it’s in moderation, probably because there are two or three links.

  70. Mel

    That completely ignores my question. Thus you have taught me to think that you’re not arguing seriously or in ‘good faith’ and that I should skip your comments in future.

  71. DS

    QuantumMechanic @ #58:

    I agree with you entirely about the vacuity of the terms ‘New Atheist’ and ‘accomodationist.’ However, I think you’re wrong to blame Mooney for applying the ‘new atheist’ brand. A quick search shows that Myers has quite happily applied that label to himself many times. For example, look here where he writes

    The New Atheists have pointed out a problem. We are members of a liberal democracy, a political institution that requires a well-informed and engaged citizenry to function well.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/12/godless_liberal_is_not_an_oxym.php

    And it goes without saying that Myers and his followers are responsible for the ‘accomodationist’ label, which is basically just used as a tool for dismissing any kind of dissenting viewpoint. In this case ‘accomodating’ means doing anything the person using the term thinks is wrong, and it’s often used as a substitute for argument. Take, for example, this comment earlier on the thread, from Logicel:

    Can a book on which you have worked so long and hard be a waste of time? You bet. Dialogue? Nope, no real dialogue is happening as the result of your book, just the same accommodating stance that got us in trouble with these idiotic evolution deniers in the first place. Let’s hope that you don’t waste the rest of your lives being spineless accommodationists.

    See? No need to engage in any kind of substantive discussion–the label does all the work for you. Many people won’t like me pointing this out, but this is exactly the way all in-group slurs work–whether it’s ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, etc. It brands people as ‘others’ for having innate, generic, poorly-specified characteristics without having to consider the possibility of a more nuanced continuum of states or beliefs. I’m not saying it’s as bad as being racist–I do have some sense of proportion–but the thinking behind it is just as lazy.

    So yes, by all means let’s stop using both terms–but I think you’re barking up the wrong tree if you want that to happen.

  72. Matt Penfold

    So say you. Again, are you envisioning review boards? Judges? Forced confessions?

    No. You seem to be one bringing those ideas up.

    So expression of any facet of religious belief demands that people be rudely confronted and demanded to defend themselves? So, when our Hindu lab manager makes any utterance that comes from her beliefs, I am to challenger her on it? Just like that? If one of my Christian colleagues says, “God bless” as a parting wish, I am to turn on her and demand her to justify her beliefs? Is that really your idea of civil behavior? Do you have any clue of what that does to the workplace? Do you have any idea of how rude and obnoxious that is? We in fact had a “New Atheist” who took that attitude for a while after deciding that he was a “New Atheist”, and he did as you suggest. He caused significant problems, started arguments, provoked major tension, and impacted productivity. He only stopped when he finally realized that no one wanted to interact with him, or even near him, and that that was a recipe for a failed graduate research experience.

    People cannot express their religious views and the demand those views not be challenged. Why should religious views be anymore exempt from criticism than views on alternative medicine, UFO’s, faeries etc ?

    Further, why should someone think it appropriate to express their religious views in the workplace ? That to me would be a degree of rudeness. It seems you only object to certain types of rudeness.

    I think the “New Atheists” should try to be good to others, not obnoxious, and tolerant that others don’t think as they do (and yet somehow manage to be productive members of society much worthy of respect and kindness), and most really prefer not to have zealots of any religious orientation in their face demanding they justify every facet of their mental lives to earn the others respect. Or, in general, as my great grandmother liked to be put it,”Don’t be ugly to people.”

    We would be happy to. Will you arrange it so we do not need to be so rude ? I will expect you stop religious people denying gays the right to marry, to stop opposing the right of women to have an abortion, to stop claiming that condom usage helps spread HIV and so on.

    If pointing out that denying human rights to people is wrong , and not caring that they become infected with HIV just so long as god is kept happy is being rude, then yes, I am rude. What is more I am proud of the fact. What is more I refuse to respect either those beliefs or those holding them.

  73. John Kwok

    @ QuantumMechanic –

    The term “New Atheist” is one that was coined by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris as their atheistic response to the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. Jerry Coyne believes that it is a “misnomer”, but I would suggest that he voices his concerns about this term with Dawkins, Dennett and Harris. Since this is what the leading figures of this movement call themselves, then it is only fair for Chris and Sheril to follow in their wake. Personally I think Coyne has an excellent point, and especially, given the rather the strident, quite boorish, conduct of certain prominent “New Atheists’, then the more accurate term IMHO should be Miltant Atheists.

  74. Mel

    Ophelia,

    I was trying to answer your question, and it was offered in good faith. I am sorry if it wasn’t the answer you either anticipated or desired. Perhaps if I had taken longer to say the same thing? If so, sorry about that. I am trying to reduce the size of my comments, as this is keeping me from working on editing a paper I need to finish (my own fault, I know, but you know how procrastination unfortunately is).

    If you cannot accept this answer, I accept that and wish you well.

  75. — A sad attempt at the Courtier’s reply. Stu

    Ah, yet another silly use of a pat phrase, and not especially a skilled one, when a new atheist can’t figure out how to answer a point. I hope someone who has more time does at least a good, long piece looking at the chopped up mash of logic and rhetoric that is the hallmark of new atheism.

    Though, thanks for repeating my points.

    —- It’s worse than that. They hold up said cognitive dissonance as a virtue, and proof that science and religion don’t intersect/contradict. Paul

    I think you misunderstand that “dissonance” is an experience, you can’t even ascertain that there is a “dissonance” unless someone tells you there is. In the piece I linked to here the other day Fred Sigworth said his experience was that his religious belief had helped him in his science.

    Here’s what Arthur Stanley Eddington said about his experience of being a fine scientist and religious:

    ” A business man may believe that the hand of Providence is behind his commercial undertakings as it is behind all vicissitudes of his life; but he would be aghast at the suggestion that Providence should be entered as an asset in his balance sheet. I think it is not irreligious but a tidiness of mind, which rebels against the idea of permeating scientific research with a religious implications. ”

    I don’t think you can account for either of these experiences of scientists with your presumptions. Your model doesn’t seem to have universal application in the real world.

  76. Jeff

    Yes John, because “new” atheists are marching in the streets and killing people. Militant my *ss.

  77. —- That completely ignores my question. Ophelia Benson

    Has anyone who disagrees with you ever actually addressed your question, Ophelia? For some reason everyone who disagrees with you can’t seem to find your question.

  78. Mel

    Matt Penfold,

    Sigh. Thank you for the “discussion”. I really hope you are not like this in real life. I really hope not for the sake of others around you. I hope you one day realize that the world is not as black and white as you seem to believe. You probably will. I once though the same way you did, too.

    In the meantime, I really hope I never have to work with you if you are as you have made yourself out to be here. Nonetheless, I wish you well (if that does not offend you, as it is a parting wish that comes in part from my religious beliefs and affiliation).

    Mel

  79. DS

    Matt,

    Then try to answer this question: how exactly do you envision enforcing compliance with your requirement that people acknowledge/justify their views?

    Please be mindful of the context Mel provided in his/her earlier posts, and be prepared to respond to concerns about workplace ethics/legality, common courtesy, feasibility, civil rights, etc. Please don’t respond just by saying ‘well, tell religious people to respect me first.’ I’m asking you to make a positive case for your proposal. I’m aware that we live in a world filled with obnoxious people.

    I’m not going to make any assumptions. It was your idea, so tell us how it will work.

  80. John Kwok

    @ Jeff –

    Regrettably Militant Atheists have influenced the structure and composition of professional scientific meetings, as evidenced by the fact that Coyne’s absurd “accomodationism” charge inspired a technical session at the 9th North American Paleontological Convention – which was held two weeks ago in Cincinnati – during which eminent marine ecologist Jeremy Jackson condemned Coyne, Dawkins, and also – if what I have heard is correct – Myers too.

  81. Matt Penfold

    Mel,

    So you do not intend explaining how belief in an interventionist god can be reconciled with science then ?

    I wish you had. It seems an issue those who claim there is no compatibility problem need to address. Unfortunately you are another person who either cannot, or will not, do so. I am trying to be polite here, but I am getting a little pee’d off with people like you who claim t here is no problem, and then refuse to explain why. You are not alone, Mooney and Kirshenbaum refuse to do so either, so please do not feel I am picking on you.

    I hope than in real life, and especially in your workplace, you are not as evasive as you have been here.

  82. RandomActsOfReason

    The really relevant, substantive critique of Mooney and Kirshenbaum’s argument is in PZ Myer’s *second* blog post on the topic, at http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/07/unscientific_america_and_those.php

    I would really like to see the authors respond to the specific discussion about materialist vs philosophical naturalism, and the clear way in which Myer’s talks about science as a methodology, rather than a body of knowledge as the authors appear to tackle it.

    And, finally, explain why they feel it is necessary to blame a small group of atheists who have recently expressed the view that faith-based thinking is incompatible with scientific thinking, and that, furthermore, scientific thinking is a preferable approach to policy making and governance than faith-based thinking – while, at the same time, the authors refrain from blaming the proponents of religious thinking for the ignorance, anti-scientific hostility, and irrational policy-making the authors have consistently identified as a serious problem in America.

    I would hope Mooney and Kirshenbaum will choose to address these specific arguments and critiques of their arguments, rather than launching into a sophomoric defense of their book, gratuitous personal attack on Myers or otherwise deflect attention from the real substance of the critique of their book.

    There is a reason their arguments vis a vis religion and atheists is controversial, and, while they may believe it may sell them more books, it is arguably dissuading at least as many of the very people they claim to want to reach with their book – the people whose approach they condemn and critique – from ever reading it (or at least not buying it).

  83. Tulse

    “The term “New Atheist” is one that was coined by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris as their atheistic response to the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks.”

    No, it was actually coined by the Wired Magazine writer Gary Wolf, in an article in the November 2006 issue of the magazine. It has nothing to do with 9/11, and many so-called “New Atheists” hate the term.

  84. Marc

    I find discussions with militant atheists to be very frustrating – comparable to arguing with Marxists or libertarians. Ophelia at #53 is a nice example of this. I gave an example of a question which isn’t amenable to a scientific answer. She basically tries to shift the burden of proof – demanding a proof of Christianity. I get the feeling that we’re not communicating.

    All I can say, quite simply, is “I don’t accept your assumptions.” It’s not surprising that I therefore also reject your conclusions, and science vs. religion has nothing to do with it. In fact, the relevant boundary here is closer to tolerance vs. certainty, and the New Atheists are occupying the same space as televangelists on that spectrum as far as I’m concerned.

  85. and many so-called “New Atheists” hate the term

    The new atheists should get other new atheists to stop using it before they get bent out of shape about other people using it. You’d like “neo-atheists” even less, I’d guess.

  86. John Kwok

    @ Tulse –

    Okay, I am corrected, but note here, for some very good reasons why it is an apt term:

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

  87. Silver Fox

    PZ@18

    Oh,Oh; read between the lines Chris.

    When the Oberlord has to post it could mean any of several things. It could mean that his rat pack isn’t getting the job done sufficiently, so he has to come in and goose the process along. “I have dealt you a painful wound”; it could be he wants to publicize a conclusion that overextends the evidence. what a sense of self-worth the sycophants must have. You can’t say they have sold their souls because they don’t claim to have one. But they have sold what’s left to have a guru – a 52 year old ASSOCIATE professor at a branch campus of the University of minnesota.

    Why don’t you just tell him that he’s a tiresome old fart and put him in the dungeon (if you have one). That’s what he does. Or better yet, tell him to direct his minions to go crash a poll somewhere.

  88. Mel

    “So you do not intend explaining how belief in an interventionist god can be reconciled with science then ?”

    Ask someone who believes in an interventionist god (or a god at all). I know people who believe in both. I am not going to go and be confrontational with them about it, but you are free if you so wish.

    I wasn’t aware I was being evasive. It was not my intent, and I apologize if you got that impression. If I did not address all your points, it was simply because I was getting the distinct idea that you really didn’t care what I thought, but were simply looking for another chance to assert your beliefs (which seems, to me anyway, what a great deal of your position seems to be about).

    And when our lab manager uses Hindu religious language to wish me well as I go off to committee meeting, I simply smile and say thank you. She doesn’t believe as I do, nor does she believe as I do. That this is so bothers neither of us. I accept such wishes as they are intended: heartfelt offerings of comfort and friendship. To take offense at them seems beyond absurdity and irrationality.

  89. Tulse

    “note here, for some very good reasons why it is an apt term”

    Those reasons would be…what?

    In any case, I was not objecting to the term, but to the very specific claim you made about its origin and motivation.

  90. John Kwok

    @ Tulse –

    Andrew Brown of the Guardian has listed the “tenets” of New Atheism as noted over at the Wikipedia link,

    I know you also objected to my claim, which is why I said, “Okay I am corrected…”.

  91. DS

    Matt,

    You often complain on these threads that people don’t answer your questions. I suspect that, as Mel has suggested, you’re really just interested in asserting your views. Actually, I’ve also noticed that you have a marked tendency to ignore questions posed at you, and to throw back haughty denouncements and bluff insults.

    So I’ll ask you again: can you answer my question (see #82 above)? You’ve taken a very strong position. I’d like to see whether you can explain how it works. If you can’t (or won’t), I’ll be forced to conclude, along with Mel, that you’re all sound and fury…

  92. Matt Penfold

    Ask someone who believes in an interventionist god (or a god at all). I know people who believe in both. I am not going to go and be confrontational with them about it, but you are free if you so wish.

    I have.

    They did not bother answering the question either.

    I wasn’t aware I was being evasive. It was not my intent, and I apologize if you got that impression. If I did not address all your points, it was simply because I was getting the distinct idea that you really didn’t care what I thought, but were simply looking for another chance to assert your beliefs (which seems, to me anyway, what a great deal of your position seems to be about).

    And when our lab manager uses Hindu religious language to wish me well as I go off to committee meeting, I simply smile and say thank you. She doesn’t believe as I do, nor does she believe as I do. That this is so bothers neither of us. I accept such wishes as they are intended: heartfelt offerings of comfort and friendship. To take offense at them seems beyond absurdity and irrationality.

    I do not express my opinions about religion, or discuss my atheism in the workplace. I now work freelance, but when I was working for an employer, I was unaware of the religious views of any but the closest of my colleagues, and then only because the subject had come up when socialising outside of work. Maybe it is a culture thing. I live in the UK. People here would regard someone bringing their religion into a conversation to be rude. From what you have said you do not regard someone making their religious views plain in the workplace to be rude.

  93. Feynmaniac

    Mel

    I am saying that cognitive dissonanceviolence is a key trait of human cognition that saturates every facet of human mental life, with both good and ill, but always undeniable effects. To hate it as a phenomenon is to hate humans as a species

    Or if you didn’t like that then switch cognitive dissonance with greed, stupidity, inequality, racism, etc. Yeah humans have a lot of undesirable characteristics that will probably be around as long as we are. That does not mean if we don’t like it we hate the human species or that we shouldn’t try to minimize those undesirable characteristics.

  94. NewEnglandBob

    John Kwak, @all over the place.

    Can you please name more names in your posts?

    How about saying Ken Miller a few thousand more times.

  95. Matt Penfold

    Matt,

    Then try to answer this question: how exactly do you envision enforcing compliance with your requirement that people acknowledge/justify their views?

    Please be mindful of the context Mel provided in his/her earlier posts, and be prepared to respond to concerns about workplace ethics/legality, common courtesy, feasibility, civil rights, etc. Please don’t respond just by saying ‘well, tell religious people to respect me first.’ I’m asking you to make a positive case for your proposal. I’m aware that we live in a world filled with obnoxious people.

    I’m not going to make any assumptions. It was your idea, so tell us how it will work.

    I do not intend forcing anyone to justify their views. If you had bothered to read what I have written you would be aware of that fact.

    However, I do not accept the implication of what you are saying about workplace ethics etc.

    If someone I work with chose to come out at tell me Jesus was born of Mary, who was virgin I would regard that as the height of rudeness. In all likelihood I would just ignore them, and make an mental note not to share a lunch break with them. However that person would have no grounds for complaint if I was to turn round and ask them to prove it.

    However I am not at all sure why you keep bringing the workplace into all this. Mel has done it, and now you are.

    Do you really think that if someone makes a public statement that the believe Mary really was a virgin they should not be challenged ? I accept there times and places when to do may be unacceptable, but you seem to be going further, and arguing that such claims should be challenged as a matter of principle.

    You do not explain why religious views should be anymore privileged that views about the shape of the earth, or the existence of Santa Claus, or faeries.

    How do you expect any kind of views to be challenged ? If someone claims that blacks are genetically more stupid than whites, should we let that go unchallenged ? The laissez-faire attitude you seem to suggest we adopt would mean we cannot challenge any irrational belief.

    Now, do you have any intention of explaining how belief in an interventionist god is compatible with science or not ? Mel refuses (or cannot, I am not sure. Either why he has not provided an answer) to do so. You going to join him ?

  96. Mel

    @DS 95 regarding 99

    Sigh.

  97. DS

    Matt,

    You really are a twit. Why should I explain anything about god? I don’t believe in one, and I never defended any such proposition. Nor did I ever, ever suggest that religious views ought to be privileged. You’re the one who needs to read more carefully.

    And I was specifically referring to Mel’s question about how you were going to compel scientists to disclose/admit/justify their religious beliefs. The workplace bit was just a component of that question. You said it wasn’t going to involve a review board. So I was wondering how you’d do it.

    Son, you seriously need to grow up. All I’ve seen you do on these threads is attack, attack, attack. You don’t listen to the very reasonable responses people give you, and you seem to arrogantly believe that if someone disagrees with you they must not have heard/understood you correctly. You also consistently put words in people’s mouths that have nothing to do with what they’ve actually said.

    Here’s what I guess about you: You’re young (22-25). You live in the provinces somewhere, and don’t have much experience of the world. You don’t know or didn’t grow up around many people who read a lot, so you think the fact that you do makes you special. You’re a big fan of sport (which explains your aggressiveness). How close was I?

    It’s a pretty common phenomenon, actually. Well, here’s a bit of information for you: many of the people who are commenting here are wiser, better read, more experienced, and more thoughtful than you are. Many of us are actually scientists and educators who (gasp) confront these issues every day in the real world, not just sitting in their bedrooms glued to the intertubes. Your childish posturing may give you an adrenaline rush, but it isn’t impressing us. If you want to engage in serious discussion, then by all means stick around and learn something. Otherwise, why don’t you go back to Pharyngula.

  98. Matt Penfold

    Mel,

    I have to admit I am finding your attitude a little tedious.

    I asked a reasonable question. You decided to give a load of flannel and the refuse to answer it. You are not alone, neither Mooney nor Kirshenbaum are able to answer it either.

    You seem to have decided that religious beliefs are somehow different from other beliefs. You do not offer any justification for this of course.

    Do you want to try to answer the question as how belief in an interventionist god is compatible with science ? You have said you cannot, but then you keep jumping back in as though you are really itching to have a crack. Maybe you should either provide an answer or keep quiet on the subject. It is not as though you have made any contribution to the discussion so far is it ?

    I will open the question out to anyone. Can anyone explain how a god that intervenes in the universe is compatible with science ? I want to know. PZ Myers wants to know, Richard Dawkins wants to know, Jerry Coyne wants to know, Ophelia Benson wants to know, Larry Moran wants to know. I have missed off a whole load of people who want to know. We keep getting told science and religion are compatible, but that is all we get. People just saying they are. No one is willing to come out and explain how. You can understand how constantly being told something is the case but never being anything support the claim can get a bit tiresome. So if I come across as a bit crabby, I plead guilty. However maybe you also tell those who need to answer the question to do so.

  99. Feynmaniac

    Did God send his only Son to die for our sins? How do you test that, precisely? By definition it isn’t something that is *supposed* to be repeatable.

    The fact that observations aren’t repeatable doesn’t mean that science cannot build on them. If that were the case then medicine and astronomy wouldn’t be considered sciences.

    If there were a omnipotent deity who regularly intervenes in human affairs you would expect there to be abundant evidence. You’d expect to find many events with with the only rational explanation being that an almighty entity intervened. I have not seen anything like this. There are only two ways I can see a theist getting out of this. One is to claim that God either “hides his tracks” or his very sneaky. I haven’t seen many people take this position, probably because it makes God look deceptive, not a characteristic you would want in a supreme being. The other way out is to become some sort of Deist.

    However, both answers are at best superfluous. If you wanted to answer the question what caused the universe then saying God did it adds nothing. Then what did God? Many attempt to answer this with “God always was” or “God caused himself”. Why can’t you just say “The universe always was” or “The universe caused itself” and skip a step. At the very least you know the universe exists.

    Science prizes parsimony, that is the simplest idea that fits the facts are more likely to be correct. What’s more parsimonious? The God you were brought up to believe exists (unlike the thousands of other supreme beings from the mythology of other cultures) yet there is not a single shred of evidence of his existence. Or that God belong in the same category as all the other supreme beings?

  100. Matt Penfold

    Did God send his only Son to die for our sins? How do you test that, precisely? By definition it isn’t something that is *supposed* to be repeatable.

    Have you contacted the cosmologists who look into the origins of the universe ? Even if you accept a re-cycling universe the big bang that created the universe we inhabit can only ever happen once.

    I was not aware they were wasting their time. Especially so as they seem to have made a good deal of progress in understanding the origins of the universe.

  101. Mel

    @97 Feymaniac

    I get what you are saying. It is one of those usual problems of demarcation. There are a lot of undesirable behavioral traits of humans that we can be trained out of, or figure out cultural, social, legal means of restraining or at least channeling, but I don’t think that violence is really quite analogous to what we have been calling cognitive dissonance but really isn’t – cognitive dissonance is really the unpleasant feeling that accompanies holding conflicting ideas simultaneously, which is not what I think we are talking about here. (There has to be a more accurate term that is not rhetorically loaded, but I can’t think of it. Any ideas? Compartmentalization comes close, but I seem to recall something from my days a decade ago in a cognitive psychology class. In any case, it is closer, so I will use it instead) My experience is that compartmentalization is really simply intrinsic to how the human mind works. We can’t get rid of it. We approach the world differently at different times. We have to be able to envision what if scenarios in order to plan actions out, and to model the mental states of others due to our social natures. We also tell stories and engage in suspension of disbelief, not to mention thinking in terms of metaphors. These and many other aspects of human require a degree of compartmentalization, and, it seems, this tendency to hold multiple conflicting concepts, ideas, beliefs, models is a consequence of hard wiring of compartmentalization into our brains. It was likely a trait that fixed due to fitness benefits accruing from the mental flexibility it allows. As a consequence, the tendency saturates our cognition and mental lives, and simply can’t be gotten rid of. Do you understand my point even if you don’t agree?

    On another note, I love your name. I can still remember the first time I read “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”, and realized I had found a hero.

  102. Matt Penfold

    There are a lot of religions in this work, either extant or extinct. The great majority of them have made claims that their deity or deities have intervened in the Universe.

    If we are to accept miracles can happen based on what on religion claims we would also have to accept the claims for miracles from all those other religions as well.

    Not only would this lead us to accept there are a lot of miracles that have happened, but also that miracles that conflict with each other have also happened. There are no end of religious tales about the origins of the Universe, and good number of them conflict and give differing accounts of the creation that cannot all be true. Noah’s flood is claimed by some to be miracle, and so according to some here outside of science. However you would have thought people would have noticed they were drowning. Yet there are cultures with no record of Noah’s flood.

    Now it can be argued that the flood did not actually happen, or was restricted in its geographical reach. These are both possible. However it does highlight a problem of invoking miracles. How do we know who is right ? Do we accept the literal biblical version, that it was a flood on a global scale, or do we accept that there is a more localised flood ? Do we accept the flood is metaphor and did not actually happen ? Some Christians think it is metaphor, others claim it really happened. Other cultures failed to notice anything at all. If agree that the flood was metaphor then what about the virgin birth ? How is that different ? Not all Christians accept that the virgin birth was literal. More accept that the resurrection was real, but again not all. How do we know who’s correct ? As important, how do we know Christianity has it right at all ? What is special about Christianity that means it claims need to be privileged over those of other religions ? What methods can we employ do decide what religion it right, before trying to decide what claim within religion are right ?

    This is the problem science would be faced with if we decide that miracles happen. If science accepts the virgin birth happened, because some Christians say it did, then how is science supposed to respond to claims that Jesus is not the Son of God ? He cannot be both the Son of God, born of a virgin and not be the Son of God at the same time. If the Christians and right, and he really was born to the Virgin Mary as the Son of God, then the Jews and Muslims have got it wrong.

    Science, I think, would be better of letting competing religions fight it out amongst themselves and make it clear that if you want to make claims about reality, you have better come armed with evidence and not scripture.

  103. Jeff

    Matt, that’s a very reasonable approach. Unfortunately, it’s my understanding that the “accommodationists” think it’s rude to ask for evidence when religious claims intersect with subjects of scientific study (ie. reality). One should not point out that believing in magic transformative crackers is unsupported by reality, and is in fact quite silly.

    At the intersection of Science Ave. and Religion St., Religion has a prominent YIELD sign posted.

  104. This is so wrong that it’s classic, so I have to point it out.

    Here’s Marc @ 88 –

    I find discussions with militant atheists to be very frustrating – comparable to arguing with Marxists or libertarians. Ophelia at #53 is a nice example of this. I gave an example of a question which isn’t amenable to a scientific answer. She basically tries to shift the burden of proof – demanding a proof of Christianity. I get the feeling that we’re not communicating.

    Here’s what I in fact said @ 53

    What’s your point? You still haven’t explained what reason there is to believe that God “sen[t] his only Son to die for our sins.” I didn’t say it could be tested, I said the fact that it can’t be tested does not mean that there are good reasons to believe it or even that there is equilibrium between reasons and no reasons. There is an infinite number of possible assertions that can’t be tested; does that mean we should believe all of them? A selected few of them? One of them? Why?

    The discrepancy gives a good snapshot of what is so…hopeless about a particular kind of theist thinking (the kind that can’t do any other kind, perhaps). For the trapped, I’ll spell it out:

    Saying that ‘You can’t test claims about Jesus’ is not (by itself) a good reason to believe claims about Jesus, is not the same thing as ‘demanding a proof of Christianity.’ It’s not even close. It’s saying that untestability does not translate to a good reason to believe. That’s simple enough, surely.

  105. TTT

    Mel:
    Much of the acrimony the “New Atheists” bear is toward the tendency of humans to be human. When you look at humanity as a species with all its attendant foibles, idiosyncrasies, and complexities, we simply don’t seem good enough for them, and we are certainly incapable of living up to some of the standards they seem to think are crucial

    Can’t that be said about EVERYBODY who criticises anybody else for anything? Anything anyone ever did is “part of the idiosyncracies of the human species.” Theft is extremely human, so what does that say about police?

  106. Mel

    @TTT
    See my response to Feynmaniac above in #105.

    _____________________
    I saw something very illustrative and funny given the whole conflict over the “New Atheism” on this site and others while I was biking home this evening. As I passed through downtown, I passed a sandwich shop. Outside of it was a man next to a placard which read,”Ask me why it is good to be an ATHEIST!” He was handing out literature which most were trying to not take. He was also yelling at passersby,”Ask me! Why don’t you want to ask me? Don’t you want to be rational!?!” True to standard for such situations, people were actually crossing the street to avoid having to pass close to him. Yeah, the “New Atheism” bears no resemblance to any religion. None at all.

    Really, though, I find it depressing. I hate to have my own theological position hijacked by people who behave exactly like the fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who made my life a living hell in high school for supporting evolution.

  107. Wowbagger

    Mel wrote: ‘Yeah, the “New Atheism” bears no resemblance to any religion. None at all.’

    If you’d written ‘new atheists bear no resemblance to any of the religious‘ you might have a point – though still not much of one. The actions of adherents are no indication of the truth or untruth of the claims they are making; that there is one person in the world who actually meets Kwok’s otherwise woefully inaccurate use of the term ‘militant’ has no impact on whether or not gods exist.

    Is it fair to say that, using that logic Judaism – which does not proselytise – must be a more correct religion because it’s less overt?

    ‘Really, though, I find it depressing. I hate to have my own theological position hijacked by people who behave exactly like the fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who made my life a living hell in high school for supporting evolution.’

    I think this kind of illustrates the whole cognitive dissonance issue that’s been a constant theme through this thread – and the science vs. religion issue overall.

    As I see it (I will add that I’m neither religious nor a scientist; the issue in general is new to me) there is as much scientific support or the biblical young earth as there is for the biblical virgin birth; why do you reject the former – presumably on the grounds of science – but not the latter?

  108. Feynmaniac

    Mel,

    I think I understand what you are saying. Yes, compartmentalize will probably be around as long as the human species exits. However, I don’t see not liking it as misanthropic or self-hatred anymore then when one condemns greed, selfishness, short-sightedness, etc.

    There is no law of nature that says all humans must remain religious. Yeah, our brain hard-wiring is probably makes us more susceptible to religion thinking than to science ( I’ve also heard: “The human brain isn’t wired for science — it’s wired for songs.”) However that doesn’t mean people must remain religious. If you look at Europe a large part of the population has dropped religion. Most of those people aren’t misanthropes and have remained quite human. The “New Atheists” are arguing that people should become perfect, just that we can become better.

  109. Mel

    And where I think I would disagree with you most is that I think it is an article of faith among the “New Atheists” that getting everyone to believe as they do would make humanity better. My reading of history and of humanity is that it wouldn’t make us better; it would only make us different. Of course, my reading of history and of humanity is that the idea of ridding humanity of religion is very much a Utopian idea ungrounded in reality, and already motivating considerable obnoxious and just plain irrational, bad behavior toward others. I understand we disagree, but this is my position.

  110. windy

    Outside of it was a man next to a placard which read,”Ask me why it is good to be an ATHEIST!” He was handing out literature which most were trying to not take. He was also yelling at passersby,”Ask me! Why don’t you want to ask me? Don’t you want to be rational!?!” True to standard for such situations, people were actually crossing the street to avoid having to pass close to him. Yeah, the “New Atheism” bears no resemblance to any religion. None at all.

    Er, that sounds suspiciously like some sort of performance art parody of a street preacher. Like this:
    http://friendlyatheist.com/2009/02/26/atheist-proselytizing-it-leads-to-boobies/

    Are you sure it was serious? And what makes him a “New Atheist”, exactly?

  111. John Kwok

    @ Wowbagger –

    I’m not alone apparently in recognizing that New Atheists are really militants, judging from comments I have heard from several notable British-born philosophers and historians of science, during public lectures, here in New York City over the past six months. All of them have condemned – and often quite strongly – Dawkins for his harsh anti – religious rhetoric.

  112. Wowbagger

    Mel wrote:
    Of course, my reading of history and of humanity is that the idea of ridding humanity of religion is very much a Utopian idea ungrounded in reality…

    Replace the word ‘religion’ with ‘racism’ or ‘sexism’ or ‘homophobia’ and see how that makes you feel. It’s just as true – does that mean that those behaviours should be retained simply because it’s too hard for certain people to do without them?

    John Kwok,

    ‘Anti-religious rhetoric’ does not equal ‘militant’ – the key is the use of the term ‘rhetoric’. When Dawkins (or any other atheist) proposes using anything other than words against the religious then you can feel free to use the term. Until then it is equivalent to – and paints the user in a similar light – as the use of the word ‘uppity’ did in the last century.

    I’m sure a number of notable philosophers throughout history have said many things for many reasons – including personal/political. It doesn’t mean they were correct to do so.

  113. Feynmaniac

    @Mel,

    What Wowbagger said.

  114. Mel

    If he wasn’t serious, he was doing a darn good job of making himself seem serious. On top of that, I have seen the same guy show up to most public science lectures on campus that I have gone to, and he always tries to ask questions, and when he does they always come from a “New Atheist” perspective. Granted, he might be somewhat mentally troubled, but he certainly is a true believer from what I can tell. (He might still be a performance artist, but if so, he is darned dedicated one) As for what makes him a “New Atheist”, or at least what makes me describe him as such, is that he does stuff like that. Someone who is just an atheist, who, like me, just doesn’t believe in god, doesn’t do needless confrontational stuff like that. Justly or not, that sort of in your face, vituperative, and obnoxious behavior and attitude is what characterizes the “New Atheist” movement in the eyes of those who are not among them simply because it that sort of thing that really stands out in people’s minds.

  115. Mel

    Wowbagger, to see religion in that light is not to understand religion, its history, or its place in human culture. Go talk to an anthropologist. I get what you are trying to say, but I think that you are making false analogies.

  116. John Kwok

    @ Mel –

    You just gave an accurate description as to why the expatriate Britons I have heard lecturing on the history and philosophy of science with respect to evolution and its acceptance by both the scientific community and the general public, have contended that RD is indeed rather militant in his philosophical worldview.

  117. Wowbagger

    Mel wrote: Wowbagger, to see religion in that light is not to understand religion, its history, or its place in human culture. Go talk to an anthropologist. I get what you are trying to say, but I think that you are making false analogies.

    But that’s just a cop-out. Christianity replaced paganism and dozens of polytheistic and other traditional religions around the world; any anthropologist will happily tell you how important those beliefs were to the people who held them.

    Why should modern religions be protected from change?

  118. Feynmaniac

    Wowbagger, to see religion in that light is not to understand religion, its history, or its place in human culture. Go talk to an anthropologist. I get what you are trying to say, but I think that you are making false analogies.

    Just because someone disagrees with on religion doesn’t mean they don’t understand it. I have studied religion and its history. I was raised to be religious. I understand it and think Wowbagger’s analogy is apt.

  119. DS

    Wowbagger –

    I don’t think you’re getting Mel’s criticism of your analogy. Things like racism and homophobia and sexism are in a different category than religion. They’re all specific beliefs. As you say, specific beliefs come and go. We can also say they’re false beliefs: science tells us quite clearly, for example, that biological ‘race’ doesn’t exist in the way racists believe, so its assumptions are meaningless.

    ‘Religion’ on the other hand is a different kind of animal altogether. It is not a specific belief–it is a category of thought or understanding. That’s what I think Mel imagines an anthropoligist will tell you. It’s frankly impossible for the statement ‘religion is wrong’ to have meaning the way ‘racism is wrong’ does, because ‘religion’ doesn’t denote any specific, testable belief. You would always have to say ‘which religion?’

    Now I’m not saying that individual religions don’t offer specific beliefs we can test and in some cases judge to be false (by empirical standards). They do. And when they promote harmful beliefs like racism or sexism those beliefs should be opposed. I’m just saying that I think Mel’s right in noting that eradicating religion is a proposition that’s much less straightforward–and perhaps less inherently desirable–than eradicating any particular specific belief or truth claim.

  120. Mel

    @Feynmaniac
    Then we will have to agree to disagree.

    @Wowbagger
    The replacement of paganism by Christianity is an enormously complex subject, and really can’t be understood without understanding the sociological and cultural effects of the Roman empire in general, and the recurrent crises and civil wars of the third century. You are very much oversimplifying, and if you were to delve into the literature, you would see that. As to much subsequent spread of Christianity, do you realize how much death and suffering was required? Do you see that as a model for the spread of the “New Atheism”? (For the record, I don’t think you do, and I ask primarily rhetorically to get you to really look at what I am getting out what you are saying if it is taken to its logical conclusion)

    On the other hand, you realize that your analogy requires recognition of the “New Atheist” brand of atheism as an alternate religion, right? Which, really, it is. I don’t understand why that is so controversial.

    And, again, I think you are making false analogies.

  121. Feynmaniac

    Then we will have to agree to disagree.

    I don’t agree to that! ;)

    On the other hand, you realize that your analogy requires recognition of the “New Atheist” brand of atheism as an alternate religion, right? Which, really, it is.I don’t understand why that is so controversial.

    Calling atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color. Or like calling “not collecting stamps” a hobby.

    I don’t think most atheists treat atheism like a religion. It’s not a dogma. It doesn’t define entirely who we are. Yes, I have seen some cases online of an atheist being as close minded, bigoted and irrational as the worst fundamentalists. They generally get called idiots by other atheists . I don’t think it’s an entirely unreasonable fear of being that some will “become what they hate”. However, as far as I can tell, this is small minority.

  122. Wowbagger

    Mel wrote:
    The replacement of paganism by Christianity is an enormously complex subject, and really can’t be understood without understanding the sociological and cultural effects of the Roman empire in general, and the recurrent crises and civil wars of the third century.

    But that’s not the point; the point is that people – and therefore societies, since they are made up of people – can change their beliefs on a large scale. If they can change from possessing a belief in gods why can’t they change to being without a belief in gods?

    As to much subsequent spread of Christianity, do you realize how much death and suffering was required?

    Obviously. However, no adherents of atheism can justify the use of such methods to encourage followers – unlike Christianity – so it’s not relevant.

    On the other hand, you realize that your analogy requires recognition of the “New Atheist” brand of atheism as an alternate religion, right?

    How do you reach that conclusion? If I tell you that you don’t need to hold a red balloon in your hand does that mean I’m telling you you have to hold a blue balloon instead? Why does there have to be a balloon at all?

    And there is no ‘new atheist brand of atheism'; it’s just atheism: the lack of belief in gods. If you insist in using that particular expression you should probably understand that atheism by its very nature cannot be affected by it, even if the actions of the atheists involved differ.

  123. “As for what makes him a “New Atheist”, or at least what makes me describe him as such, is that he does stuff like that.”

    But “New Atheist” is supposed to mean people like Dawkins and Dennett and Coyne and Myers and (if I may) me – and we don’t do stuff like that. So how does an account of a guy who does stuff like that and who is called a “New Atheist” because he does stuff like that represent something “illustrative” about “New Atheism” and “New Atheists” in general?

    You do see that that’s daft, right? To describe someone acting like a lunatic, and claim that that shows he is acting like the putative members of a putative group who don’t act like that (who merely say things you dislike), and then to finish up by saying you put him in that group because “he does stuff like that”?

    I could do that you know. I could tell a story about a theist acting like a lunatic and then say I describe her as a theist because “she does stuff like that.” But that would be idiotic. People who act like lunatics are people who act like lunatics. The relevant qualities of theists are different from that. The same applies to the putative “New Atheists.”

  124. windy

    Justly or not, that sort of in your face, vituperative, and obnoxious behavior and attitude is what characterizes the “New Atheist” movement in the eyes of those who are not among them

    This is inadvertently hilarious… you have been making the case that religion should be accepted, not vilified. And then you turn around and say that “New Atheism” seems just like a religion when it’s “in your face, vituperative, and obnoxious”… hmm, it almost seems like religion is something negative, in this view??

    Surely, in your face, vituperative and obnoxious behaviour is just a part of the attendant foibles, idiosyncrasies, and complexities of humanity! Are you some sort of Utopian that you think we can do away with them?

  125. TTT

    I’m not alone apparently in recognizing that New Atheists are really militants, judging from comments I have heard from several notable British-born philosophers and historians of science

    You may very well be alone in caring about what philosophers say.

  126. Mel

    “Calling atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color. Or like calling “not collecting stamps” a hobby.”

    I think there tends to be some confusion on this point. There is a theological position called “atheism” that entails simply disbelief in a deity or all deities depending on the context. When speaking about this, you are certainly correct: a theological position does not a religion make (nor for that matter does the disbelief keep it from being a theological position). Just as a theological position does not make a religion, a theological position cannot be used to define a belief set as a non-religion as a religion is more complex a phenomenon than a theological position (For instance, I know a number of Christian atheists). The “New Atheism” does behave a good bit like a religion. It sets itself in opposition to all others (If you have read much of early Christian behaviors and attitudes toward pagans, there are many parallels to the modern case of “New Atheists” versus everyone else). It seeks converts – indeed, as has been seen here, it has stated goals of complete conversion of the human race. It spends enormous amounts of time making arguments against other religions that bear a great resemblance to apologetics. It provides some degree of social cohesion (not diagnostic in and of itself as many things do). There is clearly a strong ingroup-outgroup dynamic. There are even ritual phrases that seem largely to be quotes or paraphrases of “The God Delusion”, and threats of what are seen from the religious viewpoint to be punitive states, in this case, of not being “rational”. Certainly, there is great variation, and it is not terribly organized (again, this is meaningless, Early Christianity was just as unorganized until some time in the second century), but the “New Atheism” does display strong characteristics of an emerging religion.

    “I don’t think most atheists treat atheism like a religion. It’s not a dogma. It doesn’t define entirely who we are. Yes, I have seen some cases online of an atheist being as close minded, bigoted and irrational as the worst fundamentalists. They generally get called idiots by other atheists . I don’t think it’s an entirely unreasonable fear of being that some will “become what they hate”. However, as far as I can tell, this is small minority.”

    I really suspect you are correct. As I has said, I am an atheist, but I am not a “New Atheist”. I am comfortable with other people not believing as I do, and I got over the bulk of my anger and hatred toward religion a long time ago. It is not a dogma to me. I just don’t believe in god, and I don’t care if you do. What I have seen, however, both online and in real life that there is an increasing number of people with an atheistic theological position who do make a dogma of their disbelief, show characteristics I talked about above, and see it as their right and duty to mock, offend, and attack anyone who isn’t an atheist. And, yes, it really disturbs me. When I have run into atheist groups on campus, that is the sort of atheist who makes them up. And when they meet what do they talk about? Nothing but about how stupid other religions are and how to convert them. I guess, if we accept both of our points, it could be said that, while dogmatic “New Atheism” is not characteristic of most atheism, it is characteristic of the vocal ones who the public sees, and upon whom the non-atheist public forms an opinion of all atheists. And I see that as rather bad situation, just like, as a scientist, it really disturbs me when PZ Myers deliberately offends a couple of billion people with a juvenile stunt and links it to science. It makes my job harder when I have to confront stereotypes that come out of that.

    That said, I am very glad that ones who really scare me do seem to be very, very few in number. I have seen some Atheists online advocating things like re-education camps for the religious, and who make clear that they don’t consider religious people to be human, but I have seen them only rarely. It is a frightening prospect that they hold out, though.

    Okay, I need to get something done for the day (I have a conference I need to leave for Thursday, and a paper I really need to work on before that). I appreciate the discussion, Feynmaniac. I hope you have a good day.

  127. Mel

    @windy

    That behavior is bad no matter from what it emerges. I know a great many religious people of many, many traditions and schools, and a very tiny minority display that kind of behavior. The rest don’t push their beliefs and have no problem with others having different beliefs. However, pushy, obnoxious proselytizing is something that is a type characteristic of certain brands of fundamentalism and evangelical traditions (ideological ones, too, so it is not a characteristic that pertains only to some religions). I had hoped it would be clear that an unpleasant trait of some religion is not characteristic of all religion. I am sorry if you got that impression.

  128. TTT

    The “New Atheism” does behave a good bit like a religion. It sets itself in opposition to all others… it seeks converts… it makes arguments against other viewpoints… it provides some social cohesion… there is a strong ingroup-outgroup dynamic… there are even ritual phrases.

    Same could be said for brushing your teeth vs not brushing.

    Or holding your child’s hand when crossing the street vs not holding.

    Or putting your money into a bank / 401k vs stuffing it in a mattress.

    Are they religions? No, and neither is atheism–“new” or otherwise. To define anything as a religion that doesn’t revolve around worship of supernatural figures intrinsically removes all meaning from the term “religion” and from the attempted comparison.

  129. Mel

    “To define anything as a religion that doesn’t revolve around worship of supernatural figures intrinsically removes all meaning from the term “religion” and from the attempted comparison.”

    Then your concept of religion is at odds with anthropology, sociology, and philosophy, and, strangely, would result in classification of religions such as Quakerism and Unitarianism (neither of which require belief in the supernatural or a deity, and, indeed, the bulk of the former would classify themselves as atheists), various pantheist sects, some types of Hinduism, classical Buddhism, and many others as non-religions. See where the problem of demarcation comes in?

  130. TTT

    your concept of religion is at odds with anthropology, sociology, and philosophy

    I disregard “philosophy.” As for anthropology, can you cite an anthropologist who claims to have found a religion that does not involve the supernatural?

    [your concept] would result in classification of religions such as Quakerism and Unitarianism (neither of which require belief in the supernatural or a deity, and, indeed, the bulk of the former would classify themselves as atheists), various pantheist sects, some types of Hinduism, classical Buddhism, and many others as non-religions.

    ….what? Quakers believe in Jesus, Unitarians believe in God–they might be DEISTS, but they aren’t atheists. Buddhists believe in Buddha, pantheists have all kinds of spirits, etc etc. Still supernatural, so still religions.

  131. Mel

    Not all Quakers believe in Jesus or God in a supernatural sense (One of my committee members is a devout Quaker who has outright stated that he doesn’t believe god exists outside of the human mind). No, not all Unitarians believe in God. Indeed, as a non-creedal religion, it is difficult to say what Unitarians believe in common, but god is not in that belief set. Go down to your local UU church and ask. I attend a Unitarian church from time to time, and the last time a poll was done of the congregation, 51% self-identified as atheists (this is one reason why the church reading group one year before my time focused on reading and discussing the main books of the “New Atheist” movement). I know from talking to a number of congregants and many are quite vehement in their atheism, even if they are accepting of others who are not atheists. Classical Buddhism doesn’t regard Buddha as a god or even supernatural, and rejects theism. Pantheism is a theology that identifies the whole universe as god, and there are those pantheists who do not consider there to be anything outside of nature, and hold that seeing the universe as divine is just a chosen viewpoint that they find useful. It sounds like you are proceeding from a position of ignorance regarding these and other religions. If you want to attack religion, fine, but make sure your attacks have some basis in fact. I don’t mean to be rude, but you were just flat out wrong there.

  132. Mel

    “As for anthropology, can you cite an anthropologist who claims to have found a religion that does not involve the supernatural?”

    I just answered that question.

    And I think it is too bad that you reject philosophy. I found that the most useful lessons for me as a scientist came from a class that was heavily centered on the philosophy of science. Beyond that, it is simply a fund, thrilling area of study that is quite rewarding. Don’t sell it short and miss out.

  133. Mel

    For instance, from the UUA website (www.uua.org):

    Unitarian Universalism is a theologically diverse religion, in which members support one another in the search for truth and meaning. As members of a non-creedal religious tradition, Unitarian Universalists are free to discern their beliefs about theological and ethical issues. Individual Unitarian Universalists may also identify as Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, or with other philosophical or religious traditions.

  134. TTT

    Unitarianism =/= Unitarian Universalism.

    And to be on-point, yes, I’d say it’s very “squishy” as to whether UU is a religion if it doesn’t necessarily involve belief in a deity, as well as if it contains other religions within it. If both Christians, Buddhists, pantheists, and atheists can be UU’s, then it is no more a distinct religion than the “Order Pachydermata” composed of hippos, rhinos, and elephants was a distinct order. At its “squishier” ends it reads more like a sort of charitable Glee Club. I certainly knew people who were much more firmly involved in extracurricular activities–sports, singing, community activism–than some UUs seem to be to a belief in god in any way. Is a rugby team a religion?

  135. Mel

    So, even though Unitarian-Universalism (and I apologize if I confused you by using the shorthand “Unitarianism” for UUism) identifies itself as a religion, is accepted as a religion, and its membership considers itself religious despite many of them not believing in a god or the supernatural, they aren’t religion because they don’t meet your definition? Given that it is noncreedal, you would need to speak to different flavors of Unitarians to determine if you would define, say, a Christian Unitarian as a Christian. One of the hard things about getting rid of dogma is that it is hard to describe everyone within the religion.

    No, a rugby team is not a religion. I have known rugby fans to whom rugby might be considered a religion, though.

    Again, you ignore the fact that not all Quakers (or Jews, for that matter – I know a rabbi at a local reconstructionist congregation who doesn’t believe in a supernatural god) believe in the supernatural or god as anything other than a social construct.

    What it really comes down to is that religion is a fantastically complex phenomenon, and it is really hard to define or pin down. This really has to be appreciated. It really seems more to be a net-concept similar to that Wittgenstein formulated with the example being of how to define “game” when it is really hard to figure out what all games have in common, or if there are such things.

  136. Feynmaniac

    It spends enormous amounts of time making arguments against other religions that bear a great resemblance to apologetics.

    From my experience apologetics is more starting off with the position that your religion is right and twisting logic, semantics, and readers’ mind to “prove” it.

    I am comfortable with other people not believing as I do

    I think that’s the position of most “New Atheist” (I ‘m not a fan of the term, but I’m talking about the atheists whom have recently sprung up, have been outspoken and critical of religion, spirituality and faith). What most atheists object to is when the religious start tearing down the wall separating church and state. Many religious people also object to this.

    What I have seen, however, both online and in real life that there is an increasing number of people with an atheistic theological position who do make a dogma of their disbelief, show characteristics I talked about above, and see it as their right and duty to mock, offend, and attack anyone who isn’t an atheist. And, yes, it really disturbs me.

    When it comes to politics, ideologies, etc. people are expected to defend their positions and not to get offended by others questioning their them. They brush off mockery. That’s not the case with (most) of the religious. I don’t think people have been especially harsh to the religious. They just have been oversensitive, are used to be coddled, and so cannot handle being challenged well.

    So what if people are offended? I find the notion that questioning and disagreeing with them is worth being offended over is ridiculous. I’d find it just as ridiculous if a Republican was offended that someone questioned the wisdom of lowering taxes or a Democrat being offending that someone was critical of their plan on health care reform. Most view it as acceptable to question political leaders, but that wasn’t always the case. It only changed because people decided not to remain silent.

    And I see that as rather bad situation, just like, as a scientist, it really disturbs me when PZ Myers deliberately offends a couple of billion people with a juvenile stunt and links it to science.

    I don’t think he was linking it to science. He was using it to show that “nothing is sacred”.

    What it really comes down to is that religion is a fantastically complex phenomenon, and it is really hard to define or pin down.

    I agree. I think defining “religion” would be more an issue of semantics and deciding what ideologies are or aren’t religions wouldn’t be terribly illuminating.

    I appreciate the discussion, Feynmaniac. I hope you have a good day.

    Hope you have a good day too!

  137. Matt Penfold

    Here’s what I guess about you: You’re young (22-25). You live in the provinces somewhere, and don’t have much experience of the world. You don’t know or didn’t grow up around many people who read a lot, so you think the fact that you do makes you special. You’re a big fan of sport (which explains your aggressiveness). How close was I?

    I will give you the fact I live in the “provinces”.

    As for the rest, you are nowhere close. So much your skill as a profiler.

  138. Steve Marley

    The new atheist? Isn’t that every baby born into the world – before some “whacked out” adult fills their heads with bizarre mythologies and mind numbing threats of damnation, rather than teaching them about reality? Why would anyone defend the indoctrination of institutionalized nonsense. In my opinion, Dawkin’s offers a measured response to this obvious threat to human progress in a manner that is consistent with the late Carl Sagan.

  139. Lynn Vincentnathan

    RE the “virgin birth” issue (#5, 11, 15, 17, 32,45…), it IS an empirical claim. Mary said “How can this be [re bearing Jesus], since I have no relations with a man?” Also an angel told Mary about this virgin birth; she heard it with her ears. These are things she experienced, so to the best of her knowledge and experiences, it is an empirical claim, based on information coming through her senses, whether or not it has a scientific explanation….yet.

    We who believe her, then trust that the claim is true, and trust those who passed on what she said and experienced — I heard it from others empirically thru hearing, and I’ve had enough time and experiences to find religious validity in it….if not rigorous scientific validity (I understand some people do need that).

    I also trust in what scientists tell me, since I don’t have time to get a Ph.D. in every field and run my own experiments. But I don’t trust all scientists; if they’re funded by Exxon & their claims conflict with those of most other scientists, I have grave doubts.

    In religion, unlike science, we don’t have to wait for .05 significance on rigorous tests and studies (95% confidence) — and I would suggest that people concerned about life on planet earth did not have to wait for .05 on anthropogenic global warming (which 1st came in 1995) before starting to mitigate it; I (along with Pope John Paul II) started mitigating in 1990. But that’s just me; others obviously have different perspectives.

    Also, religion is based not only on empirical observations and experiences (for the ancients “science” and religion were one), but also on mystical experiences and other less scientifically rigorous insights. “I believe in the seen and the unseen” goes our creed. Science is great for what it does, but it is limited only to the empirical and realm of the material. Also, not all phenomena have scientific explanations….yet.

    I do agree that Religious Right folks who refuse to accept evolution bug me (and I consider them in sin — akin to lying), but they really enflame me if they refuse to believe in AGW, and I consider them to be in serious sin risking eternity in a much hotter place than a globally warmed world — but that’s a non-material realm that cannot be found through scientific or empirical methods….tho desecrating the Eucharist might lead one to eventually discover it.

    So why desecrate the Eucharist? How is that supposed to get the RR to accept evolution or AGW? It has, however, extremely extremely hurt me as a Catholic on the Religious Left, and gotten me off-track re my global warming campaign. So I now I writing a paper on “Virtual Hate,” right after I finish the one I’m writing on “Food Rights and Climate Change.” Such desecration is a very counterproductive action in my books, right up there with the Taliban blowing up the huge Buddhist statue in Afghanistan. Juvenile, hateful, evil. Maybe that’s why the world is not mitigating AGW as it should — too many juvenile, hateful, evil adults out there….

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