Must Science Declare a Holy War on Religion?

By The Intersection | August 12, 2009 11:24 am

We think not. Read the reasons in the L.A. Times

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Comments (279)

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  1. The Cavalcade of Whimsy | August 15, 2009
  1. ShowsOn

    How would it even be possible for science to declare Holy War on Religion?

    I also don’t understand why you seem to be asking for better science communicators, but then attack Richard Dawkins for writing books and making documentaries that communicate science.

  2. Lowell

    Ughh. The quip about science declaring “Holy War” on religion is just a variation of the perennial creationist, anti-evolutionist talking point that science is just another “faith.”

    And the quote from Darwin, as if he is a prophet or saint or something. Really embarassing.

  3. Jonathan

    Great article! It’s a message that needs to be said and repeated.

  4. Peter Beattie

    But it’s also fair to ask: Who in the United States will read Dawkins’ new book (or ones like it) and have any sort of epiphany, or change his or her mind?

    It’s even fairer to point out that at least lots and lots of Americans will actually read Dawkins’s new book, The Greatest Show on Earth. It won’t be published for over a month, and it’s already outselling Unscientific America on Amazon. That’s got to hurt.

  5. Mike

    I’ll be writing to Dawkins to ask him pretty please to stop writing science books, since they don’t seem to help. I just wish Thomas Paine hadn’t ruined his perfectly good and patriotic “Common Sense” by going on to write that dreadfully confrontational “Age of Reasons”. Reading the latter totally destroyed any patriotism I gained from the former.

  6. Dan

    Chris and Sheril,
    Arguing against a strawman (or if you prefer, hyperbole) that science is in any way interested in declaring a “holy war” on religion isn’t going to make your case. What science does do is treat no subject, religion or other, as inscrutable.

  7. Peter Beattie

    Oh, and someone once said about the PBS series “Evolution”:

    Evolution‘s attempt to divorce Darwinian science from atheism, though well intentioned, is finally naive. Darwinism presents an explanation for life’s origins that lacks any supernatural element and emphasizes a cruel and violent process of natural selection that is tough to square with the notion of a benevolent God. Because of this, many students who study evolution will find themselves questioning the religions they have grown up with. What’s insidious is that Evolution allows fundamentalists to say this, but not evolutionists.

    Insidious indeed. Three guesses as to who wrote that.

  8. G.G.

    You two have entirely lost the plot………….. and all credibility.

  9. Dan

    Peter (comment #6),
    Nice quote. I think I found out who wrote that!

    Ironic, that.

  10. QUASAR

    Religion is the cocaine of the masses!

  11. Jon

    What science does do is treat no subject, religion or other, as inscrutable.

    Actually the new atheists *do* treat religion as inscrutable. They don’t scrutinize anything outside their own stereotypes about it, and then pretend that that’s scientific inquiry.

  12. J.J.E.

    Chris and/or Sheril: Your use of the term “holy war” is most inaccurate. It is neither a war, nor is it holy. Your misunderstanding, hyperbole, and/or disingenuousness (for I can see no other explanation) has reached an insulting height. And not only that, you now simply turn around trivialize Dawkins when he does what you recommend and reaches out by writing a popular level book for science communication. I’m truly baffled. Will you try to reconcile your position again before people like me just give up on you as dishonest?

    What I’ve learned from you:

    1) Dawkins is a great communicator but he really fouls things up when he criticizes religion;
    2) Scientists should focus on producing better science communication, except as noted in #3 below;
    3) Dawkins has lost all credibility, so actually, there’s no point for HIM to actually try to communicate with anybody, because he’ll either only be preaching to the choir or his message will fall on deaf ears because of his outspoken past;
    4) People who vociferously criticize religion (the 4 horsemen + PZ + JAC) are engaged in a holy war.

    If you were trying to communicate constructively with atheists, not only have you failed miserably, you’ve done so in a way that is most likely to alienate them in a permanent manner.

    In the end, short of a sincere request to start over, I think you’ve fallen into the “willful sophists” category in my mind.

  13. Peter Beattie

    And if I may ask, Chris: Do you think that confrontation is ever a legitimate course of action? If it is, then why not in the case of science and its militant enemies? They are people who openly and proudly will not be reasoned with. What other option is there but to call them out on that? (See the Birthers as an example. What do you do with them except confront their insidious dishonesty?)

  14. Peter Beattie

    » Jon:
    Actually the new atheists *do* treat religion as inscrutable. They don’t scrutinize anything outside their own stereotypes about it, and then pretend that that’s scientific inquiry.

    And, of course, generalization is always wrong.

  15. J.J.E.

    @Jon August 12th, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    On the contrary. The moment a religious person either treats religion like art, deism, or shows me evidence of a personal and interactive superhuman intelligent creator, I see no reason to treat their beliefs as any more valid than those of Zoroastrianism, Scientology, Olympian Pantheon, Islam, or Christianity, et al. They all are undefined until observations can be made. Until then, I’m willing to live with uncertainty about the so-called big questions. There’s many interesting things that we can learn about RIGHT NOW without spending time dissecting ideas for which there is no demonstrable evidence.

  16. Dan

    Jon (#8),
    Sorry, I meant to say that they don’t treat it as inscrutable. But whether they do so based on stereotypes or not is not the point. The point is that they do not do this, and that’s why rational minds (even those who disagree on points) should laud the effort of Dawkins, Myers, Harris, etc.

  17. Kalzeri

    I think their point on Dawkins is that he undercuts his effectiveness in communicating science and explaining evolution to those who really don’t understand it or know much about it by his harsh anti-religious positions and writings. And this is really too bad, as his popular accounts of evolution are probably the clearest and best introductions to the subject. I have seen this first hand. I have recommended “The Blind Watchmaker” to a number of very religious individuals with little understanding of evolution, and they have refused because they “don’t want to read an atheist polemic”. His upcoming book will no doubt be a fantastic survey of the evidence for evolution, and one that would be very helpful in getting people to understand evolution better (and a terrific read for those of us who do). However, the fact of the matter is that the very people who would benefit most from reading it will not do so (or will read it with suspicion and dismissiveness) because of “The God Delusion” and his clear disdain and contempt for non-atheists. I am not saying this is right, and I don’t think Mooney and Kirshenbaum are either, and, again, it is really too bad, but it is a consequence of his vocal anti-religious stance and writings that has to be recognized and dealt with. Actions have consequences, even unintended ones. No one is saying that Dawkins should stop voicing his opinions, but to ignore the effect of those opinions on how he is regarded by those who don’t agree with him and badly need better science education in areas he is really best at explaining is irrational at best. His reputation precedes him, and as it is at the moment, it interferes in him providing education on evolution.

    To see it from another light, imagine if Robert Bork or John Yoo were to write really good, non-ideological explications of the history of law. Given their past writings, opinions, and reputations, how many who are not right-wingers would actually read them?

  18. Matt Penfold

    And if I may ask, Chris: Do you think that confrontation is ever a legitimate course of action? If it is, then why not in the case of science and its militant enemies? They are people who openly and proudly will not be reasoned with. What other option is there but to call them out on that? (See the Birthers as an example. What do you do with them except confront their insidious dishonesty?)

    Mooney is not consistent. He is quite happy to bash right-wingers, and even boasted about doing to the other day: “It was kinda fun to bash Republicans and the religious right again …”.

    I guess he is not an accomodationist when it comes to people on the right.

  19. Jon

    And, of course, generalization is always wrong.

    And oh so scientific. You know, actual observation of details is too much like work.

  20. tomh

    Jon wrote:
    “Actually the new atheists *do* treat religion as inscrutable. They don’t scrutinize anything outside their own stereotypes about it”

    You should really consult a dictionary before trying to be clever. Inscrutable means, “incapable of being investigated, analyzed, or scrutinized,” not, “unwilling” to scrutinize something, as you seem to want to use it. Religionists would have the world treat their ideas as inscrutable, thereby precluding any investigation of them. Rationalists, (atheists, if you will), would rather not follow this directive.

  21. Sven DIMilo

    Actually the new atheists *do* treat religion as inscrutable. They don’t scrutinize anything outside their own stereotypes about it

    What’s to scrutinize? Theistic religions are built on the foundation of insisting on the existence of a supernatural Entity (-ies) for which there is no objective evidence.
    Game over.

  22. Peter Beattie

    » Jon:
    > And, of course, generalization is always wrong.

    And oh so scientific.

    I think you need to see a doctor. You have a broken humourus. :)

  23. Jon

    Inscrutable means, “incapable of being investigated, analyzed, or scrutinized,” not, “unwilling” to scrutinize something, as you seem to want to use it.

    I don’t think they’re unwilling, they just have the attitude of the commenter following you:

    What’s to scrutinize?

    Exactly. And that’s the attitude Terry Eagleton takes on.

  24. Jon

    And Terry Eagleton is just talking about the new atheist attitude toward one religion.

  25. Jon

    Also, “supernatural entities” is quite a term. I suppose it takes in everything from Spinoza’s God to seance mediums. Not really what you’d call a very fine grained term. But very useful for wholesale rejection of centuries of human thought. It must feel good to continually congratulate yourselves that you’re the only folks who have ever thought “rationally.”

  26. tomh

    Jon wrote:
    “Exactly. And that’s the attitude Terry Eagleton takes on.”

    Who cares about Terry Eagleton? You seem to think religion is incapable of being scrutinized, i.e., inscrutable. You are wrong, it is inherently scrutable.

  27. Jon

    You seem to think religion is incapable of being scrutinized, i.e., inscrutable.

    No. I just think you all do a really bad job of it. And Eagleton says why:

    It did not see God the Creator as some kind of mega-manufacturer or cosmic chief executive officer, as the Richard Dawkins school of nineteenth-century liberal rationalism tends to imagine-what the theologian Herbert McCabe calls “the idolatrous notion of God as a very large and powerful creature.” Dawkins falsely considers that Christianity offers a rival view of the universe to science. Like the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett in Breaking the Spell, he thinks it is a kind of bogus theory or pseudo-explanation of the world. In this sense, he is rather like someone who thinks that a novel is a botched piece of sociology, and who therefore can’t see the point of it at all. Why bother with Robert Musil when you can read Max Weber?

    For Thomas Aquinas, by contrast, God the Creator is not a hypothesis about how the world originated. It does not compete, say, with the theory that the universe resulted from a random fluctuation in a quantum vacuum. In fact, Aquinas was quite ready to entertain the possibility that the world had no origin at all. Dawkins makes an error of genre, or category mistake, about the kind of thing Christian belief is. He imagines that it is either some kind of pseudo-science, or that, if it is not that, then it conveniently dispenses itself from the need for evidence altogether. He also has an old-fashioned scientistic notion of what constitutes evidence. Life for Dawkins would seem to divide neatly down the middle between things you can prove beyond all doubt, and blind faith.

    If you’re going to criticize religion, at least do so intelligently, and not in the manner of shouting heads on Fox News.

  28. gillt

    With a title like that site hits must 0n the wane again.

    In the best of all possible worlds, there will come a point where this substance-free hype collapses on itself and the careers of those partaking in its manufacture. Glen Beck’s professional life should follow a similar arc.

  29. Svaals

    There is no reason why science writers and communicators should be alienating their potential audience by confrontation. It’s illogical to mock religion or religious people because in order for scientific literacy to be achieved, an inclusive approach must be taken. The people that truly believe that scientific literacy should be confronting these “new atheists” for tainting a legitimate message with the same rhetoric we hear from fundamentalists on the other side. This is not a war.

    [i]And if I may ask, Chris: Do you think that confrontation is ever a legitimate course of action? If it is, then why not in the case of science and its militant enemies? They are people who openly and proudly will not be reasoned with. What other option is there but to call them out on that? (See the Birthers as an example. What do you do with them except confront their insidious dishonesty?)[/i]

    In truly evolutionist manner, you simply let them die! Just like your racist great uncle, they are part of a close-minded generation that will eventually die out. Scientists need to put the focus on educating the next generation by instilling a respect for the scientific process and teaching them how scientific ideas evolve over time. As the non-science crackpots shout at their kids, we should be coddling them and teaching them the miraculous beauty of a scientific world.

  30. tomh

    Jon wrote:
    “If you’re going to criticize religion, at least do so intelligently”

    In other words, in a way that shows how reasonable and worthy religion is and in a way that agrees with your conclusions. Sorry, that’s not how criticism works. Intelligient criticism looks at what religion actually is and does, it doesn’t just accept some specious nonsense that Eagleton proclaims. Rather than pondering Aquinas, look at religion today, with open eyes, and you’ll find that Dawkins’ and Dennett’s criticisms are exactly right.

  31. Blogger

    How about discussing the article?

    “In this context, the New Atheists have chosen their course: confrontation. And groups like the NCSE have chosen the opposite route: Work with all who support the teaching of evolution regardless of their beliefs, and attempt to sway those who are uncertain but perhaps convincible.

    Despite the resultant bitterness, however, there is at least one figure both sides respect — the man who started it all: Charles Darwin. What would he have done in this situation?

    It turns out that late in life, when an atheist author asked permission to dedicate a book to Darwin, the great scientist wrote back his apologies and declined. For as Darwin put it, “Though I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science.”

    Darwin and Dawkins differ by much more than a few letters, then — something the New Atheists ought to deeply consider.”

  32. Bob Thomas

    Chris and Sheril, please refrain from repreating over and over again in the popular media that the ‘new atheists’ are at war with all religions (you know this isn’t true). How does this improve the chances that science will be more accepted by the general public? The only obvious reason for this sort of hyperbole is to increase your own standing in the public by positioning yourselves as defenders of the faith. Is this an effort to repair bad political PR that came from, appearing to previously mainly attack Republicans. This seems entirely self-serving. Please, explain how this type of rhetoric is beneficial to anything having to do with science. Just think if you both could have used the book publicity to make positive statements and headlines about science and scientists.

    Maybe you could admit some errors here and make this a teachable moment for your students.

  33. Jon

    …it doesn’t just accept some specious nonsense that Eagleton proclaims. Rather than pondering Aquinas, look at religion today, with open eyes, and you’ll find that Dawkins’ and Dennett’s criticisms are exactly right.

    I’ve come across a lot of comments that just categorically say Eagleton is “wrong, specious,” etc., but none that tell me why in any manner that doesn’t resemble a rant.

    And how about “looking at religion today”? Dawkins fails regularly at doing that.

  34. Paul

    From a post of mine on Pharyngula, regarding Darwin’s accomodationism:

    And they were right to be accommodating at that point. It’s easy to think of things from our perspective, but it fails when talking about how Darwin and his contemporaries composed themselves. Darwin had a great theory, with much explanatory power. However, he didn’t have an explanation for the mechanism (as he doesn’t seem to have connected his findings with Mendel’s findings on genes). Accommodation made more sense before we actually had an observable vehicle for mutations. People could disagree with Darwin’s theory without ignoring science (they would be ignoring certain observations, but who is to say that Darwin’s observations could not have been coincidence or happenstance). We can observe genes and the effects they have on organisms, and we can observe mutations between generations. We can trace common ancestry through otherwise useless genome cruft. Accommodation doesn’t make sense when you can actually provide a preponderance of evidence to show that you are right, because at that point people that disagree are not arguing in good faith in the first place.

    Short version: the body of science now is far different than it was in the 1800s. Using Darwin quotes to suggest tactical approaches to teaching and spreading said body of evidence is…well…not even wrong. It makes no sense.

  35. Svaals, let’s take your analogy seriously for a moment. If we did, we’d then have to conclude that civil rights activists should not have stoked the fires, but instead stayed underground and let the culture change around them as the preceding generation dies off. Is that an acceptable conclusion?

    Also: postcount++.

  36. tomh

    Blogger wrote:
    “How about discussing the article?”

    If the quote from Darwin impresses you, one might ask the authors why they cut off the sententence that follows.
    “I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.”

  37. Paul

    Jon, still pretending we don’t know anything about religion. Are you ever planning to respond in the previous conversation we were having?

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/08/02/the-beginning-of-a-crazy-week-silicon-valley-los-angeles-seattle/#comments

    And you’re seriously saying that Dawkins isn’t looking at religion today because he doesn’t engage all of them? It’s irrelevant. You don’t need to take into account Zoroastrianism when you’re saying the scientific evidence is against a 6000 year old earth. It’s disingenuous to imply you need to address all religions to critique any given one (or to critique a belief).

  38. Jon, to put it mildly, I don’t think anyone who reads your link to a glib unsubstantiated paragraph-sized accusation is going to change any minds.

  39. gillt

    I’ll try again:

    Exactly, critics of religion only need to engage the fact-claims made by religion, not the nooks and crannies of every doctrine ever espoused by every religious sect on earth.

    Why give Eagleton the pass when he is clearly liberal Christian in his definition of God? From a global perspective, that is one minor belief system.

  40. Egaeus

    When criticizing religion from a scientific standpoint, what difference does it make if you’ve read Aquinas, et. al? It starts with an untestable hypothesis. Why do you need to go further? That’s far enough. The rest is just tooth fairy science.

    Sure, you can criticize religion’s excesses, anti-science views, and specific instances of stupidity, but that’s not necessary. If something’s effect on nature can’t be observed, its presence is unmeasurable, or testable predictions can’t be made from it, then there is no scientifically valid reason to believe it exists.

  41. Jon

    Paul in 37: I had a number of comments stuck in moderation in that thread.

    The new atheists rightly claim that we can’t condemn atheism because of Stalin. But they gladly come back and attack all religion because of fundamentalism. (But don’t worry, they’re the cool headed voice of rationalism. )

  42. Jon

    Glib. That’s funny.

  43. Svaals

    Benjamin,

    My analogy was not in regards to the Civil Rights Act, but to racists sentiments in this country today.

  44. Bob Thomas

    Chris, folks like Jon buy into your argument that any attack by the ‘new atheists’ is an attack on all religions. Good science communication would make clear that fundies are incompatible with science, deist-like gods aren’t necessarily incompatible, but most people don’t profess to worship deist-like gods, unless arguing how some types of gods might not be contradicted by current evidence. Your frame has effects, so be careful.

  45. Paul

    @jon

    Unless your comments that got stuck provide evidence that new atheists do not understand (or are unversed in) religious beliefs, you still continuously assert that without backing. That was the main reason I brought it up here. You still haven’t backed that assertion, and it’s distasteful to troll every thread saying the same thing.

    The new atheists rightly claim that we can’t condemn atheism because of Stalin. But they gladly come back and attack all religion because of fundamentalism. (But don’t worry, they’re the cool headed voice of rationalism. )

    Situations are not compatible. No atheist would say that all religion (or religious believers, I believe you mean) are as bad as the fundamentalists. There are arguments occasionally about moderate religious believers enabling the fundamentalists, but that is separate issue.

    I will not make that argument, as it is not an argument I strongly support. However, it is quite different from the “Stalin was an Atheist therefore Atheists can’t be trusted (in government or otherwise)” canard. The counter is that Stalin’s dictatorship was not motivated by his atheism, and atheists would not be enabling the purges (for instance, by using the same code of conduct that led to them, but saying “it isn’t supposed to be taken literally, everybody knows that”). Atheists are rightly at large disgusted by genocidal dictatorships. On the other hand, it is very rare that you see a moderate believer call out a fundamentalist. They just treat them as an embarrassing uncle that gets a bit too rowdy at parties, but at the end he’s still family and you’re still on the same side — speaking ill of him to outsiders is as likely as speaking ill of yourself . Show me an atheist that feels that way about Stalin, if you want to argue the situations are equal.

  46. I’m going to be an evil bastard and at the risk of self-promotion post a link to my rebuttal of this op-ed on the off chance Chris or Sheril actually decide to read the comments the receive.

    The abbreviated version for those who may not want to read it:

    It’s completely unreasonable t expect people who believe that learning about evolution is akin to making a deal with Satan to accept the science behind the theory is valid if we treat them as nicely as possible. Eventually we’ll mention evidence that’s not in line their beliefs and they’ll cry that it was a bait and switch.

    In addition, if Chris really wants to promote a non-confrontational approach, he should practice what he preaches. As we see on this blog, he doesn’t even try.

  47. Jon

    Chris, folks like Jon buy into your argument that any attack by the ‘new atheists’ is an attack on all religions.

    How many hits for the blanket term “the religious” do we have on Pharangula? Quite a few. As if all “the religious” believed the same thing, not to mention had the same level of education about their beliefs. For Myers, they would all seem to deserve the same level of derision.

    And the “only the Deists” thing that gets thrown around is pretty good evidence of an echo chamber. What about Pantheism, or Pan-entheism? But God forbid we’d ever have a conversation about religion that wasn’t stuck in sarcasm-and-ridicule mode.

  48. Jon

    Arg. My Google URL broke up. But here it is. 2,920 hits for “the religious”:

    http://tinyurl.com/the-religious

  49. gillt

    Jon: “What about pantheism?”

    That seems to rather fractionate the incompatibility now doesn’t it? Or do you prefer to think many gods provides a watered-down, dispersive effect?

  50. Jon

    Um, what does pantheism have to do with “many gods”?

  51. gillt

    Jon: “But here it is. 2,920 hits for “the religious”

    Um, that would be quote-mining.

  52. Svaals, fine — but how do you think the present situation arose? All that civil disobedience — it all seems rather shrill, doesn’t it? Megaphones and all that unpleasantness. Surely William F. Buckley types could be convinced by appeal to moral arguments alone, instead of being confronted with the wolves in their midst — is that right?

  53. gillt

    Because Neo-paganism and polytheism is a form of pantheism, I guess.

  54. Lowell

    Jon, in the United States at least, the strongest anti-science forces are fundamentalist Christians. They’re not deists, or pantheists, or adherents of some other “sophisticated” theology that you might find fascinating.

    Not to say that these people won’t resort to inscrutable deism when forced to do so by the evidence. That’s their bait and switch. Get you to accord respect to fuzzy deism (you can’t prove there’s NOT a God, after all), then (the switch) insist you similarly repsect specific religiously motivated fact-claims about reality.

    Once they hit a critical mass of respect, then they get to legislate based on their religious beliefs (creationism in schools, limited access to contraception and abortion for women, etc.). A lot of people aren’t falling for it any more.

  55. Jon

    gillt: Because Neo-paganism and polytheism is a form of pantheism, I guess.

    I couldn’t hope for better self parody. Try Google and Wikipedia, there, Astro.

  56. Peter Beattie

    » Jon:
    I just think you all do a really bad job of it. And Eagleton says why

    Yes, those nasty atheists who keep insisting that any notion have at least some specifiable characteristics. And when we say that no, this is not the god we believe in and that is not the god we believe in and not that other one either, they get all indignant and desperate and practically beg us to give them even a single concrete notion to work with. But we won’t make that mistake again, no sir. Let them hanker for ‘evidence’ and something ‘real’ all they want. How impoverished their world must be. We’ll pray for them.

  57. Peter Beattie

    » M&K:
    The atheist biologist Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, for instance, has drawn much attention by assaulting the [NCSE]’s Faith Project … .

    I hadn’t heard of that. How many people were injured?

  58. gillt

    Ok.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheism#Varieties_of_pantheism

    ” Classical pantheism, which is expressed in the immanent God of Kabalistic Judaism, Hinduism, Animism, Monism, neopaganism, and the New Age, generally viewing God in either a personal or cosmic manner.”

    Well gosh Jon, you stand corrected.

  59. Paul

    And the “only the Deists” thing that gets thrown around is pretty good evidence of an echo chamber. What about Pantheism, or Pan-entheism? But God forbid we’d ever have a conversation about religion that wasn’t stuck in sarcasm-and-ridicule mode.

    More than happy to treat Pantheism and Panentheism to the same sarcasm and ridicule. It’s religion for people who are too smart to believe in Yahweh, but too attached to the idea of the spiritual that they just want the word God to retain relevance.

    You trying to bring Pantheism and Panentheism into discussion as “not counter to science” in the same way as Deism fails because both implicitly assert that there is some sort of universal one-ness (otherwise how could we all be part of God?). This assertion is counter to our understanding of science in a much more noticeable way than Deism. Hence Deism tends to get a free pass.

    It’s rich hearing an Intersection regular complain about “echo chambers”. The irony is delicious.

  60. Maybe it is not correct to call (neo)darwinism “science”. The object of (neo)darwinism is history of evolution. History can be called “science” but we feel it is not “real” science. History can’t be verified in laboratory. Evolutionary transition from fish through amphibians into mammals can’t be checked experimentally. We have evolutionary stories which change throughout years.
    Why birds ancestors started to fly? Why evolved wings? No one was there, no one saw it, no one can check it. There are contradicting darwinian stories why it happened. Is this really “science”? Can be really Richard Dawkins called a “scientist” in the sense we use this word for Heisenberg, Feynman, Hawking, Polkinghorne? The last one btw. has become priest.

    http://cadra.wordpress.com/

  61. gillt

    Cadra wins for getting more wrong in one post than most here accomplish in months.

    Impressive!

  62. Silver Fox

    M and K:
    “assaulting the [NCSE]’s Faith Project … .

    Peter:
    “I hadn’t heard of that. How many people were injured?”

    They assaulted the “Project” not people. Learn to read.

    Peter, you need to break away from here and return to Pharnygula. PZ noted that Ken Hamm is going to be on a radio call-in this evening. He doesn’t think he could get past their “screeners” so I’m sure he’s expecting you lackeys to pick up the slack.

  63. Lowell

    gillt, you’re not showing adequate respect for cadra’s beliefs. Teach the controversy!

  64. Dave X

    So who are Chris and Sheril’s intended audience?

    The new atheists? AIG types? Questioning churchgoers? Fence sitters? People interested in evolution? People interested in atheism? Federal funding agents?

    All of them, except for maybe the federal funding agents, may be better served by reading the next Dawkins bestseller.

    As for this “Holy War”, I think Science should wait until the religious can settle the question of Christianity versus Islam versus Hinduism or whatever. If they don’t believe in/respect each other’s gods, I don’t see why anyone else should.

  65. gillt

    I can’t think of a more perfect opportunity for Mooney to put his book sales where his mouth is.

    For all intents and purposes Cadra appears to be a real live creationist, and not one of those theoretical members of the public we hear so much about around here. So why doesn’t Mooney demonstrate for all of us now how to be civil AND persuade a person like Cadra that evolution is true or the greatest show on earth or whatever he prefers.

    tick and tock.

  66. @cadra

    “Why birds ancestors started to fly? Why evolved wings? No one was there, no one saw it, no one can check it.”

    I can’t see you and I can’t check if you’re real. Therefore you don’t exist. Oh you say I could get to the same city where you live and meet you face to face? How will I know it’s you? How do I know you didn’t send someone else on your behalf and the Cadra I’m replying to really exists?

    We can do these absurd reductionism exercises all day. However, the point is that we have evidence of what happened a long time ago in the form of fossils and other data, and as we get new and better evidence, the story is updated to reflect out current knowledge. That’s how science works. If you don’t realize that this is a strength of the scientific process, you’re pretty much illustrating the point PZ Myers, Jeery Coyne and other “evil new atheists” make on a regular basis.

    Come to think of it, I often make the same point myself. Should I just go over to the other new atheists and be evil with them?

  67. Peter Beattie

    Do foxes and trolls share a recent common ancestor? Maybe trolls even get tapeworms too. Anyhow, probably best not to touch their poo.

  68. Sorbet

    Dawkins’s next book is about science, it’s not the sequel to The God Delusion. I really did not understand why M & K had to use that example to make their point about atheism.

    Plus, M & K’s point that Dawkins’s book would not really be effective because it won’t persuade fundamentalists is also misplaced. I am pretty sure Dawkins does not intend to persuade fundamentalists of the truth of evolution by writing this book. He is simply trying to do a public service by writing a book explaining evolution clearly, along the lines of Jerry Coyne’s volume which is another book that has nothing to do with atheism. It’s a pity M & K chose Dawkins’s next book which is strictly about the science of evolution to make a point about what they think of the New Atheists. And of course, there’s still no evidence that even those who disagree with Dawkins’s atheism will therefore not take his writing on evolution seriously.

    And I like the challenge posed above! M & K, let’s see if you can be polite and civil to cadra and persuade him about evolution. Do you think you will be able to present the evidence in favor of evolution more eloquently than Coyne or Dawkins?

  69. Mel

    “If they don’t believe in/respect each other’s gods, I don’t see why anyone else should.”

    When there is peace between people of different religions, it does not tend to be because adherents of the different religions believe in or respect the gods of the religions to which they do not adhere. Usually they do not (you might say that they are atheists toward each others gods). However, they do show respect for each other, and the right of each other to have different beliefs and worship different gods. In other words, they live according to principles of religious tolerance and pluralism, the foremost being that perhaps best stated in the Koran (one of the portions that comes from the period after the taking of Mecca, when Muhammad found himself leader of a city with people of multiple religions) : “You do not worship as I worship and I do not worship as you worship. You will never worship as I worship, and I will never worship as you worship. To you be your religion, and to me be mine.” When such principles are followed, and people are afforded respect and dignity as human beings to believe as they wish, the result is peace. When they are not, well, the result is not peace.

    Remember, you don’t have to believe as someone else does to treat them with dignity, respect, and humaneness, and just because you believe that your beliefs are more correct, that does not give you the right to treat others poorly. Make that mistake, and you are little better than anyone else who has felt that their beliefs justify poor behavior to others not sharing those beliefs. There is nothing rational about repeating past mistakes, after all.

  70. M.

    @ Jon

    So, let me see if I understand this correctly.

    I have no funds (taxes are bad!) for my freshman biology class, in which I am supposed to teach kids who believe the Earth is 6000 years old some basic facts about the world. Every year I watch as an enormous amount of talent is wasted, because their parents inflict upon them an almost-instinctive hatred of any fact that contradicts their predetermined beliefs.

    On top of that, I have to watch severe global problems, inflicted by a group of people whose beliefs deny basic facts of reality. Those who “feel” that global warming is a load of hogwash, for instance. Or Bush and company, elected largely because their apparent belief matches the majority of America’s citizens’ beliefs. Who then, based on their belief, managed to act with such monumental incompetence, the entire world will have to spend a decade righting itself – and the aftershocks will reverberate for a much longer time.

    On top of that, my gay friends cannot get married, and are explicitly treated as second class citizens. Women are relegated to secondary roles by their religious relatives. I have had to watch heartwrenching situations, in which students – or postdocs, or sometimes even professors – were “cut off” by their families and loved ones, because they dared to believe in such heresies as evoution or Big Bang.

    And there is much, much more I could list.

    And when someone speaks up against that, your answer is “Well, there are a few tenths of a percent of believers who think that God is something quite different, so since you didn’t cover their position, your arguments are just ignorant”?

    Seriously? We can’t speak about what 99% are doing, without making room for the remaining 1%? This is your position?

    (And just to make sure we understand each other: I have read quite a bit of theology, and I *can* carry a discussion such as Eagleton seems to prefer. And I find the arguments to be completely spacious, because, in the end, it all rests on personal feeling that “there is something”. Every single theological argument reduces to this in the end – and it is inherently untestable, and without independent evidence. So, Dawkins’ position is actually still valid, but in order to be posited in a way Eagleton wishes, it would have to take the form of three dozen volumes in which various obfuscations are dealt with one at a time.)

  71. Silver Fox

    Peter:

    “Do foxes and trolls share a recent common ancestor?”

    I don’t know but Peter and Sven have a recent common ancestor. They both belong to phylum PZoptera. Members of this species have very small brains but an uncanny ability to imitate the leader of their flock. They are in many ways similar to sheep.

    Pete: when the lost sheep gets back to the flock be sure to give PZ my best wishes.

  72. Svaals

    I think it’s a little pretentious to compare the unrest over Civil Rights to the current unrest over evolution. African Americans were on a plight for rights. Even after those rights were gained, it took many years (and probably many more still) for opinion to shift towards tolerance.

    The scientific community has rights, now it’s our job to remain the voice of reason; Educate, inform, and wait. The societal shift towards scientific literacy will be the result of many years of diligence by science educators and science writers. However, confrontation will only enforce stereotypes among non-science types.

  73. Lowell

    Mel, that stance is fine when the questions involved are about make-believe subjects (such as the proper way to “worship”). If someone wants to make-believe that the world was created by Yahweh and worship him, I don’t care. Just like I don’t care if people enjoy themselves recreating Civil War battles or playing Dungeons & Dragons.

    But fundamentalist Christians in the U.S. aren’t satisfied with recreational make-believe. They have demonstrated time and again that they will legislate their beliefs on others given any opportunity (creation science, contraception, abortion, prayer in schools; some states have constitutional prohibitions on atheists holding office, for god’s sake!).

    When American Christians take their religiosity out of the public sphere and treat it like a hobby that they practice on their own time, I will have no objection. That seems extraordinarily unlikely, though.

  74. Jon

    gillt: Well gosh Jon, you stand corrected.

    From Pantheism: “Pantheism… is the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing immanent God. ”

    pan-THEISM. As in one God.

    But you referred to “many gods.”

    Stick to World of Warcraft, dude.

  75. Jon

    gillt in 59: Well gosh Jon, you stand corrected.

    From the Pantheism article: “Pantheism… is the view that everything is part of an all-encompssing immanent God. ”

    pan-THEISM. As in one God.

    But you referred to it as concerning “many gods.”

    Which means you should probably stick to World of Warcraft, dude.

  76. Jon

    I knew one of them would get through moderation.

  77. — Good science communication would make clear that fundies are incompatible with science, Bob Thomas

    With evolutionary biology, almost certainly, maybe with some others but with science as a whole, no, there are religious fundamentalists who are full fledged scientists with research and publishing and everything else to qualify them as scientists. So your hypothesis is refuted by reality. I’ve always wondered what the Sam Harrisites made of the science and technology backgrounds of some of the 9-11 hijackers and a number of those in Bin Ladin’s inner circle. Seems to be a bit of cognitive dissonance in the Harrisite assertions re incompatibility.

    —- deist-like gods aren’t necessarily incompatible, but most people don’t profess to worship deist-like gods, BT

    Do “deist-like gods” want worship? They don’t seem to go out of their way to earn it.

    —- unless arguing how some types of gods might not be contradicted by current evidence. BT

    What evidence would you mean and which “types of gods”?

    — Your frame has effects, so be careful. BT

    This I don’t understand at all. Did you read their book? Dawkins and Coyne’s “frame” isn’t without danger, I’d guess. Dawkins has probably done as much as any other reputable scientist to damage the reputation of science with the public, Coyne could catch up. I have looked at Coyne’s book and, to tell you the truth, I think his popular handling of evolution is vastly superior to Dawkins. I still don’t like Coyne but I think he’s a better writer.

  78. Paul

    Jon,

    Read the article. You are the one who said to check Wikipedia. Polytheism and Neo-Paganism are explicitly declared to be part of a school of thought referred to as Classical Pantheism. You didn’t care to properly define your terms or agree on an understood meaning before mocking someone for understanding them differently,and your suggested source material agrees with gillt over you. Amusing.

    I suppose an apology is too much to expect?

  79. Paul

    pan-THEISM. As in one God.

    Using the same structure…
    poly-THEISM. As in one god.

    Theism doesn’t mean what you think it means. It doesn’t imply number. That’s trivial.

  80. gillt

    So when you asked me to go fetch a wiki definition on types of pantheism and I did, you ignored what it said so you wouldn’t have to admit you were wrong?

    Is that how I’m to understand you Jon?

  81. — When American Christians take their religiosity out of the public sphere and treat it like a hobby that they practice on their own time, I will have no objection. Lowell

    Well, a private citizen has no obligation to take their religiosity out of the public sphere, short of denying them the vote you’re just going to have to live with that. The constitutional requirements for the separation of church and state, the “no religious test”, the vastly important wall of separation, cover the federal, state and local branches of the government, they don’t cover the voters.

    I’m pretty glad that Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King jr. Archbishop Tutu, and many millions of others consulted their religion in their political activities. I’d include the many people who have supported gay rights on the basis of their religious beliefs. In my experience they tend to be rather more tenacious in their support than some who treat it as a hobby. The new atheists would lose use everything we’ve gained, given the chance.

  82. gillt

    No one is saying fundamentalist Christians can’t have a public voice and speak out against stem cell, sex-ed and gay rights, but when they do it on religious grounds then whine when someone doesn’t show the utmost deference to their religious beliefs, that’s oppressive.

    Same goes for moderate Christians.

  83. Paul, “poly” means many as in many gods, “pan” means all as a unity, as in all is god. Those two prefixes make quite a bit of difference in the argument over terms.

  84. gillt

    That’s besides the point McCarthy. Pantheism is now used as an umbrella title to include even polytheistic belief systems, such as paganism. Go look it up.

    Perhaps we can we move on now.

  85. I don’t think religious fundamentalists mind all that much when new atheists insult them because it’s useful to their organization efforts. That’s what the whining is about, it’s them talking to their own. I’ve pointed out their expressions of gratitude to Richard Dawkins for his help in that regard.

    — Same goes for moderate Christians. gillt

    I don’t think the new atheists have been at all useful to moderate Christians. The liberal Christians I’ve talked to think they’re a bunch of counterproductive fundamentalists for the reason above.

  86. Jon

    poly-THEISM = Many gods. From the Greek.

    pan – THEISM = All is God. From the Greek.

    The only way a “pagan” could be a pantheist, is if they believed in nature as one God. Otherwise, it would be polytheism.

  87. Lowell

    I’m probably going to regret this, but okay, McCarthy.

    Of course, “a private citizen has no obligation to take [his or her] religiosity out of the public sphere.” I didn’t say anyone did. I also don’t want to deny religious people the right to vote. (Duh.)

    My point (which you appear to have missed entirely) is that being respectful of American Christian beliefs has historically allowed those beliefs to be legislated onto everyone else.

    That’s why gay people can’t get married in this country (yet, for the most part), to name just one example. It’s also why I will not quietly defer to those beliefs, as Mel’s comment with the “I do not worship as you worship and you do not worship as I worship” aphorism suggested I do.

  88. Mel

    Lowell,

    I understand where you are coming from, but, for one thing, not all religious individuals are fundamentalists. Using harsh rhetoric that seems to lump all religious individuals together as fundamentalists is a very bad error that unnecessarily alienates many non-fundamentalists who would otherwise be allies. Further, I think you misunderstand my point. It does not matter if a person’s beliefs conflict with your own, you still owe them respect as human beings and should respect their right to believe differently from you. If does not matter if your neighbor regards your beliefs as delusional and imaginary or you regard your neighbor’s beliefs as delusional and imaginary, you still need to be civil with each other in order to coexist peacefully. You also need to recognize that to them it is not make believe, but something very important to them that helps them make their way through life.

    Now you say that religious people must regard their religions as “hobbies” in order for you to tolerate them. This is a nonsensical standard that guarantees nothing but strife between you and all religious people. Religions are not hobbies, and it is irrational to require that people act as though they are. Religious belief permeates all facets of life of the religiously devout, no matter the religion. To insist that it not is to fundamentally misunderstand it as a phenomenon, and, really, it is irrational to expect others not of your religious beliefs to behave as though they are.

    Yes, fundamentalists will attempt to get legislation passed that they feel compelled by their beliefs to support. How is that unexpected? That is like expecting a socialist not to support legislation that would increase economic equality. Refusing to treat fundamentalists as human beings inherently worthy of respect and dignity as human beings won’t stop them. It will only confirm their poor opinions of atheists (and make them even less likely to vote for atheists for public office. Indeed as to this point, public refusal to acknowledge the inherent worth and dignity of fundamentalists would likely even make quite moderate religious individuals less likely to support atheists for public office). Just because you don’t hold their beliefs, that does not justify you treating others poorly, and the same applies to them (and everyone else). If you don’t agree with the legislation they support, then write your representatives, debate, protest, use the legal tools available to all US citizens to civilly influence public decision making.

  89. It’s your analogy, Svaals. Or, it seems, your dis-analogy. I’ll let you be the judge on whether or not it is in fact pretentious to make an analogy to racism — but it’s yours we’re working with. And I won’t try to rebut such harsh self-criticism.

    Though I will say that “let them die off” is remarkably condescending to those that one is ostensibly trying to engage in rational argument.

  90. Jon

    But this is a sidetrack. My point was that in the new atheist rumor mill, the only theology that has no conflicts with science is Deism.

    And I said if you know anything about the subject you’re arguing with, that’s not true. Just off the top of my head, there’s pantheism and panentheism. Neither of these theological views involve an intervening God, because you could say there is no God separate from what’s already in nature.

    People like Gillt have no knowledge of the matter. Nor do they care to investigate. Pantheism and Polytheism are two very different theological views, with completely different histories, and completely different adherents. But the online atheists could care less.

  91. — My point (which you appear to have missed entirely) is that being respectful of American Christian beliefs has historically allowed those beliefs to be legislated onto everyone else.

    Do you imagine that being disrespectful is going to prevent the majority of the population from electing a government that isn’t a manifestation of its intentions? The United States has had, by a large majority, a majority of Christian voters for its entire history. The Constitution, including the Bill of Rights would never have been adopted in the first place if it hadn’t been adopted by voters and legislative bodies that weren’t predominated by Christians. It was Christians who made atheists a covered class under federal civil rights laws.

    —- That’s why gay people can’t get married in this country (yet, for the most part) Lowell

    My state legislator, who is a friend of mine, told me he voted for gay marriage in my state, Maine, with the support of his old Catholic mother. The majority of the legislators who voted for it, the governor who signed it are religious, most of them Christians, a number of the Catholics.

    Your assertions, as so many of those made by the new atheists, is overturned by that final court of appeal for such assertions, the real world.

    I think the problem is that your theory begins with the wrong premise, the problem isn’t “religion” it’s bigotry and bigotry can use any number of excuses. And atheists are hardly immune from bigotry of that kind.

  92. Mel

    “It’s also why I will not quietly defer to those beliefs, as Mel’s comment with the “I do not worship as you worship and you do not worship as I worship” aphorism suggested I do.”

    I don’t get where you get the idea that the concept there is that of requiring deference to other beliefs. The concept was that of,”I don’t believe what you believe, and you don’t believe what I believe. This isn’t going to change. Let’s just accept that and be good to each other”. Again, you don’t have to respect the other person’s beliefs, but you really should respect the other person (and that means being civil, avoiding unnecessary provocation, and acknowledging their right to conscience) if you wish to live in a peaceful, stable society with your neighbors. If you chose to not acknowledge the inherent worth and dignity of those who don’t believe as you do simply because they don’t believe as you do, then you must accept the strife you cause. Remember, nothing good comes from the irrational conclusion that, because you hold your beliefs to be true, then your beliefs justify your violation of the worth and dignity of those of other beliefs.

    Just to be clear, I will state the basic principle again: You don’t have to accept or respect a belief you don’t hold, but you have an obligation to still afford dignity and respect to those who hold that belief.

  93. Jon, throw in henotheism and watch the fun.

  94. gillt

    That’s right Jon, you are correct and wikipedia is incorrect. Deeeeelusional.

    But I’ll go along with it since you seem hung-up.

    Jon: “What about pantheism?”

    If everything is god then nothing is god. Isn’t that how we normally regard such abuses of rational thought?

    However, if you’re committed to it, pantheism and monism and animism have no truck with science, as long as they all consider Spirit as metaphor for something else.

    And after allowing all this, you still miss the point that critics of religion need only engage the fact-claims made by religion, not the nooks and crannies of every doctrine ever espoused by every religious sect on earth.

  95. tomh

    Jon wrote:
    “Pantheism and Polytheism are two very different theological views, with completely different histories, and completely different adherents. But the online atheists could care less.”

    Of course not, why would we? The only reasonable strategy for pushing back against the religious tidal wave that envelops the US is to engage the religions that actually make a difference. Who cares about two obscure philosophies that don’t actually do anything, no matter what their definitions are?

  96. Paul

    Just off the top of my head, there’s pantheism and panentheism. Neither of these theological views involve an intervening God, because you could say there is no God separate from what’s already in nature.

    Carefully chosen statement. Pantheism and Panentheism don’t require an intervening God, but they do require that God is still around. I have a shortish earlier post on this in moderation (#78), but in short they are not as insulated current scientific understanding as Deism. They require that everything be fundamentally connected in some matter, which is in principle detectable (I suppose it would be something like Dark Matter in Futurama, where all Dark Matter is fundamentally connected through some sort of meta-particle). If it is not connected, how can it be part of this single God construct anyway?

    Also, I said this before, but you’re not impressing anyone by bringing up new theological terms. It’s not like they’re new, or haven’t been seen before. They’re still just as irrelevant to our current understanding of the world, except from a sociological perspective.

  97. Jon

    That’s right Jon, you are correct and wikipedia is incorrect.

    If you bothered to read the Wikipedia article it says 1) “Pantheism… is the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing immanent God” and 2) I guess some pagans now believe this (as apparently a Wikipedia author claims, anyway).

    So either the article contradicts itself (it is Wikipedia, not a surprise), or some pagans believe in one God (which wouldn’t be a surprise either, because all “pagan” means is not following the Abrahamic spiritual traditions, so paganism could be monotheistic in some cases).

  98. Svaals

    Benjamin,

    First, my analogy was to racism TODAY, not racism in the 60s. It was pretentious of YOU to compare our current situation to the struggle for civil rights.

    And I’m not suggesting that we reason with the fanatic non-science folks, I’m suggesting that we double our efforts to educate the next generation, and just let the fanatics believe whatever they want. You absolutely misread my original post.

  99. Jon

    gillt: That’s right Jon, you are correct and wikipedia is incorrect.

    If you bothered to read the Wikipedia article it says 1) “Pantheism… is the view that everything is part of an all-encompssing immanent God” and 2) I guess, buried in the article, some pagans now believe this (as apparently a Wikipedia author claims, anyway).

    So either the article contradicts itself (it is Wikipedia, not a surprise), or some pagans believe in one God (which wouldn’t be a surprise either, because all “pagan” means is not following the Abrahamic spiritual traditions, so paganism could be monotheistic in some cases).

  100. windy

    But this is a sidetrack. My point was that in the new atheist rumor mill, the only theology that has no conflicts with science is Deism.

    And I said if you know anything about the subject you’re arguing with, that’s not true. Just off the top of my head, there’s pantheism and panentheism. Neither of these theological views involve an intervening God, because you could say there is no God separate from what’s already in nature.

    I don’t know what Gillt is talking about, but it’s possible for pantheistic worldviews to conflict with science. Consider ‘The Secret’ and its vapid ‘Law of Attraction’ (it’s not marketed as pantheism, and OK, it’s a far cry from Spinoza, but it is largely a pantheistic worldview. Not all pantheisms are naturalistic.)

  101. Jon

    Paul: They’re still just as irrelevant to our current understanding of the world, except from a sociological perspective.

    Why, just because you say so?

    Panenthism came into vogue around the time of the “watchmaker God” theology of the Deists, who were inspired by Newton. Dissenting voices arguing panentheism against the “watchmaker God” theology included certain Russian philosophers and theologians and German Enlightenment philosophers like Gotthold Lessing.

    These are actually interesting philosophers to read in contrast to the desiccated, triumphalist thought that the New Atheists like (which this commenter at Steve Benen’s blog successfully pegged).

  102. Wowbagger

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:Jon, throw in henotheism and watch the fun.

    Too right, Anthony. Hey, why not bring up Zugubriism to stump them? What about Flockhocküberanism? And let’s not forget Oogywoogyboogyism; that’s the really complicated one.

    Wow, I’ll bet those New Atheists’ heads will just explode when we ask them to counter the specific findings of those religions! How uncivil and unsophisiticated they’ll reveal themselves to be when they’re unable to counter the claims those religions make! It doesn’t matter that no-one actually believes any of it, it’s a religion so if you can’t prove you’ve understood and dealt with every claim it makes to our satisfaction then you should just stop pointing out how foolish any religions are.

    I do so love the shell-game defence of religion. Is the woo I believe in under this cup! [moves hands rapidly] Or is it under this cup? [moves hands rapidly] Ha! If you can’t pick which one it’s under, New Militant Atheist, then you can never criticise it! Woo wins again!

  103. W0wbagger, did I mention stumping anyone? I just thought it would be fun. “the shell-game defense of religion”. You thought I was proposing henotheism as a defense of religion? It was actually conceived as a taxing of the new atheist reference skills, which don’t seem to go very far.

    I’ve found that there isn’t anything to make new atheists go many bubbles out of level like looking at their own assertions on the basis of fact and logic. It never takes long for them to try to distance their clergy from their own words too. New atheism, the ideology that dare not face its own premises. Throw in a few facts about real life and their minds are definitively blown.

  104. Wow, wait till you see the comments in moderation.

  105. Jon

    Woo wins again!

    I think this guy has it about right. It doesn’t have to be “woo.” Just a minimal respect for people who don’t buy Dennett’s view of the world. (I personally don’t. I think he has a nerd’s view of human nature.)

  106. and wikipedia is incorrect.

    And the sun will rise tomorrow morning. Wikipedia, you get what you pay for.

  107. Svaals, you understand that racism today has been driven underground, of course; but virulent anti-atheism has not been. So the analogy must apply either to the civil rights movement (and hence be pretentious), or be entirely useless. I assumed that you would prefer contentful pretentiousness to vapidity, but that is a choice I leave to you.

    In fairness, I just re-read your original post. I apologize for my comment about condescension — it was a misfire, and out of order.

    Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that any mere speech in favor of atheism is automatically going to be engagement with ardent, entrenched theists. There is no alternative but to “confront” them in that sense (at minimum). If you don’t, then there won’t be anyone listening to you when the next generation comes around; atheism remains the unthinkable thought.

    This is where it would have been helpful for you to reflect on what useful things your analogy can tell us when applied to the facts. I asked the rhetorical question, “Surely William F. Buckley types could be convinced by appeal to moral arguments alone, instead of being confronted with the wolves in their midst…?” — the answer to which is plainly “no”. Buckley needed to make the connection between the violent, abusive, crazy white supremacists with his racist ideals before he was converted. So too, you need to both make the moral argument in the abstract, AND you need to reveal the connections between certain widespread types of religious systems with the monsters that they incubate. Both are confrontational acts, by simple virtue of the fact that they involve a controversial subject. But if you don’t do it in public today, then the burden shifts to the shoulders of the youth of tomorrow, in their private reflections.

  108. Moses Adeola

    On Religion and Culture, I think this will be of interest to readers, especially if you are a college student:

    New Release:
    Moses Adeola
    The Origin Of Christianity
    http://www.strategicbookpublishing.com/TheOriginOfChristianity.html

  109. Wowbagger

    Wow, wait till you see the comments in moderation.

    Well, I certainly hope you aren’t going to be crude and ignorant and unsophisticated and deny the validity of Zugubriism, Flockhocküberanism or Oogywoogyboogyism. I’ve got personal experience of all of them.

  110. Jon

    I don’t think you have to know about all these things, just not insulting about things you haven’t taken the time to understand (as Terry Eagleton describes the new atheists doing in the piece I linked to above). The word that used to be used for the attitude I have a problem with is Philistinism.

  111. —- Well, I certainly hope you aren’t going to be crude and ignorant and unsophisticated and deny the validity of…. Wowbagger

    I think you’ve mistaken me for a new atheist.

  112. Wowbagger

    Jon wrote:

    I don’t think you have to know about all these things, just not insulting about things you haven’t taken the time to understand (as Terry Eagleton describes the new atheists doing in the piece I linked to above). The word that used to be used for the attitude I have a problem with is Philistinism.

    But isn’t that just Zeno’s tortoise paradox in another form? The critic of religion is Achilles attempting catch the religionist’s tortoise – but the tortoise is always just out in front.

    What I’m trying to say is this: if we accept this argument it means that, as long as a single religious person somewhere is writing ‘new’ apologetics or arguments or interpretations of scripture, it can be argued that the people pointing out its flaws don’t ‘understand’ the religion ‘fully’ and therefore cannot criticise it because of their ignorance.

    And I don’t see how that’s a valid defence for immunity from criticism.

  113. windy

    I don’t think you have to know about all these things, just not insulting about things you haven’t taken the time to understand (as Terry Eagleton describes the new atheists doing in the piece I linked to above).

    That’s rather ironic, since apparently Eagleton has not taken the time to understand what Dawkins is saying: “He also has an old-fashioned scientistic notion of what constitutes evidence. Life for Dawkins would seem to divide neatly down the middle between things you can prove beyond all doubt, and blind faith.”

    Whatever you think of Dawkins’ theological opinions, he is always extremely clear that he does not claim to “prove beyond all doubt” that God does not exist (or anything else). Given this glaring mistake (or intentional misrepresentation), why should we trust Eagleton’s judgment on Dawkins? Or yours?

  114. gillt

    Jon at #55:

    “gillt: Because Neo-paganism and polytheism is a form of pantheism, I guess.

    I couldn’t hope for better self parody. Try Google and Wikipedia, there, Astro.”

    Jon at #97:

    “So either the article contradicts itself (it is Wikipedia, not a surprise), or some pagans believe in one God (which wouldn’t be a surprise either, because all “pagan” means is not following the Abrahamic spiritual traditions, so paganism could be monotheistic in some cases).”

    Not so honest are we Jon.

  115. gillt

    Windy: “I don’t know what Gillt is talking about, but it’s possible for pantheistic worldviews to conflict with science.”

    See! I try to turn over a new leaf and act all accomodating to a certain religious belief and some nasty new atheist has to get all skeptical and question what I’m saying. Civility people; my feelings are hurt!

  116. Jon

    Not so honest are we Jon.

    Give me a freaking brake. Pantheism is to be distinguished from polytheism. Pantheism does not mean “many gods.” If you read the above, you thought otherwise. You can try to be a weasel and pretend you didn’t, but it’s obvious.

    Get a life.

  117. Jon

    (Brake s/b break.)

  118. Wowbagger

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    I think you’ve mistaken me for a new atheist.

    But Anthony, what if I told you that – prepare yourself for a shock – Zugubriism, Flockhocküberanism and Oogywoogyboogyism were just names I made up? What if there’s absolutely no validity whatsoever for any of them, and I’m lying through my teeth about my personal experience in order to benefit from the shield of respect that you want all religions protected by?

    Why would you feel the need to continue to treat something confirmed untrue and demonstrably invalid with respect?

    Are any ideas subject to criticism?

  119. Jon

    Why would you feel the need to continue to treat something confirmed untrue and demonstrably invalid with respect?

    And just what is it that you’ve “confirmed untrue and demonstrably invalid”?

  120. Wowbagger

    Jon asked:

    And just what is it that you’ve “confirmed untrue and demonstrably invalid”?

    If what I wrote in my post (currently #114, at 11.20pm) is true – But Anthony, what if I told you that – prepare yourself for a shock – Zugubriism, Flockhocküberanism and Oogywoogyboogyism were just names I made up? – then I’ve confirmed that those three religions are untrue and demonstrably invalid, have I not?

    If not, why not?

  121. —- But Anthony, what if I told you that – prepare yourself for a shock – Zugubriism, Flockhocküberanism and Oogywoogyboogyism were just names I made up? Wowbagger

    I’m sure you thought you’d pulled one over on me didn’t you, you crafty little devil. Which you can go on deluding yourself of. I can believe that a new atheist would think that anyone would be fooled by that because they think everyone is stupid. But few of the most ill informed new atheists, even, would be fooled by that display of ill advisedly satirical excess. I, on the other hand, figured you meant it as clear satirical excess, clearly over estimating your level of thought. Here’s a hint, if you’re going to try that, try, try to come up with names that aren’t so clearly silly.

  122. Peter Beattie

    » Wowbagger:
    Woo wins again!

    -W +P

    :)

  123. Peter Beattie

    » gillt:
    Not so honest are we Jon.

    And in related news: Chickens like to pick.

  124. Peter Beattie

    But how about another morsel from the Great Science Communicators’ LA Times piece:

    These religious adherents often view science itself as an assault on their faith and doggedly refuse to accept evolution because they fear it so utterly denies God that it will lead them, and their children, straight into a world of moral depravity and meaninglessness. An in-your-face atheist touting evolution, like Dawkins, is probably the last messenger they’ll heed. [my italics]

    So what you are saying, then, is that any scientist touting evolution is probably the last messenger they’ll heed. Since you also explicitly “question the value of confrontation”, that must surely mean that scientists shouldn’t be writing about evolution, but only those people with impeccable woo credentials. I guess that would make their books real hits in the scientific community. Or with anyone interested in rational discussion. You two are really certifiable.

  125. Heraclides

    Regards the article. (Not that I have a hope in hell of Chris/Sheril taking any notice!)

    Haven’t read any other comments, as per usual (to keep my response independent). And I get ignore the trolls, and fisticuffs :-)

    Inappropriate question. If there is a group objecting to religion, it is atheists. Science for the most part just goes on doing what it does. The fact that many scientists are atheists, doesn’t make it “science” that is speaking.

    Better questions (note none of these are about religion per se):

    Should science (scientists) object when religions misrepresent or abuse science?

    Should science (scientists) point out things that are clearly false and correct them?

    Should science (scientists) question things that are presented as assertions with only hearsay or anecdotal support?

    And so on…

  126. PB too much twitter, it cmz.

  127. Sorbet

    Ah, the strains of debate have finally caught up with McCarthy’s linguistic capabilities. I suggest converting to Oogywoogyboogyism; it offers salvation through tongue cleansing and an escape from the evil new atheists.

  128. Peter Beattie

    Oh, it’s Po-Face McSeriousness complaining about insufficient content in a message. You’re funny! 😀

  129. Jon

    -W +P

    I seem to have stumbled on a secret handshake, smiley face emoticon festival.

  130. Sorbet, there’s a comment in moderation. I can only imagine what you’d say if one of your opponents started down the road Beattie has. If I was the psycho-babble type I might start talking about defense mechanisms, either that or he just learned how to make emoticons and it’s not lost its novelty yet.

    I’d love to find out what someone with real independence would have to say about the display of brilliant rationality that the new atheists have put on here. gillt, you, Wowbagger (I guess satire might really be dead and decayed), and now PB, it’s not looking good for the “rational” class if you’re a representative sample.

  131. The most ironic thing about this whole issue is that the Church originated the taboo on scientists considering things religious. They did not want competition in the spiritual arena. Scientists and philosophers were burned, as well as persistent pagans. Science tars all spirituality with the color of the Abrahamic faiths, religiously maintaining the Church’s taboo. The church’s biggest competitor was the Sun, and a re-examination of solar consciousness, in the light of current scientific understanding, forms the focus of a new book out titled “Sun of gOd – Discover the self-organizing consciousness that underlies everything”. And yes, I am the author. http://sunofgod.net

  132. gillt

    “Must Science Declare a Holy War on Religion?”

    The op-ed never answers this loaded rhetorical question. All Mooney says is that the accomodationists don’t think so and the New Atheists do. He doesn’t make a case for the accomodationists, only that they’re out there working hard to maintain the status quo of the past 25 years.

    This op-ed read more like one guy’s take of what’s going on in one little quadrant of the internet.

  133. Sorbet

    Plus the title makes the same mistake that the authors accuse the New Atheists of apparently making; it is unnecessarily provocative, misleading and, ahem, impolite. The NAs are not on some crusade to purge the world of religious people or to put them in jail. They are only out to not mince words when criticising superstitions and bad ideas. There is no agenda, overt or covert, it is simply a matter of calling a spade a spade. That’s hardly a holy war.

  134. Peter Beattie

    I seem to have stumbled on a secret handshake, smiley face emoticon festival.

    Yeah, those strident emoticons and those people who know what plus and minus mean. Disgusting.

  135. Peter Beattie

    But how about another morsel from the Great Science Communicators’ LA Times piece:

    These religious adherents often view science itself as an assault on their faith and doggedly refuse to accept evolution because they fear it so utterly denies God that it will lead them, and their children, straight into a world of moral depravity and meaninglessness. An in-your-face atheist touting evolution, like Dawkins, is probably the last messenger they’ll heed. [my italics]

    So what you are saying, then, is that any scientist touting evolution is probably the last messenger they’ll heed. Since you also explicitly “question the value of confrontation”, that must surely mean that scientists shouldn’t be writing about evolution, but only those people with impeccable faith credentials. I guess that would make their books real hits in the scientific community. Or with anyone interested in rational discussion.

  136. Matti K.

    Mr. Mooney and Ms. Kirschenbaum seem to share views about the compatibility of religion and science with Ms. Scott:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/07/10/eugenie-scott-powerfully-makes-the-case-for-science-religion-compatibility/

    As accommodationists they seem to be at par with Barbara Forrest:

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

    Provided, of course, that Mr. Mooneys account of the events is correct.

    What wonders me is why so many bloggers and their readers have now a very deep antipathty towards M&K, whereas they do not have anything negative to say about Scott or Forrest. Is it because Mr. Mooney and Ms. Kirschenbaum are experts in communication and outreach, whereas Scott and Forrest are not?

  137. Peter Beattie

    But how about another bit from the Great Science Communicators’ LA Times piece:

    These religious adherents often view science itself as an assault on their faith and doggedly refuse to accept evolution because they fear it so utterly denies God that it will lead them, and their children, straight into a world of moral depravity and meaninglessness. An in-your-face atheist touting evolution, like Dawkins, is probably the last messenger they’ll heed. [my italics]

    So what you are saying, then, is that any scientist touting evolution is probably the last messenger they’ll heed. Since you also explicitly “question the value of confrontation”, that must surely mean that scientists shouldn’t be writing about evolution.

  138. gillt

    Matti K. “What wonders me is why so many bloggers and their readers have now a very deep antipathty towards M&K…”

    In a word, dishonesty.

    Though “deep antipathy” is a pretty strong word, and if it must be used should probably include Mooney’s attitude toward a certain popular science blogger.

  139. Jon

    In a word, dishonesty.

    Hey, Johnny One Note.

    Glass Houses. I think it’s dishonest to bluster that you know things that you don’t.

  140. Jon

    In a word, dishonesty.

    Hey, there, Johnny One Note. Why do accusations of “lying” and dishonesty get thrown around so much around here? And they’re never substantiated.

  141. Jon

    And also, considering what transpired upthread, gl@ss houses, sir.

  142. gillt

    You mean this?

    Jon at #55:

    “gillt: Because Neo-paganism and polytheism is a form of pantheism, I guess.

    I couldn’t hope for better self parody. Try Google and Wikipedia, there, Astro.”

    Jon at #97:

    “So either the article contradicts itself (it is Wikipedia, not a surprise), or some pagans believe in one God (which wouldn’t be a surprise either, because all “pagan” means is not following the Abrahamic spiritual traditions, so paganism could be monotheistic in some cases).”

  143. Paul

    Jon,

    Are you referring to the part where you told someone they were wrong and should consult wikipedia, where wikipedia agreed with them and not you? You still haven’t apologized for misplaced mockery.

  144. gillt

    Besides, I kinda like the old-fashioned grandpa name calling Astro and Johnny one-note. Very retro.

  145. John Kwok

    Chris and Sheril –

    Yours is an excellent essay containing thoughts that had to be expressed again, but this time, for a larger readership. Well done.

  146. Lowell

    Never substantiated, Jon? How about this one:

    Unscientific America asserts that Richard Dawkins, and other “new atheists,” by implication, claim that “scientific norms and practices . . . entirely preclude God’s existence.”

    Dawkins doesn’t say that, and neither does anybody else. Dawkins says he’s a 6 out of 7 on the atheism scale. In other words, there’s no good reason to believe in Yahweh or any other god, and so he lives his life under the assumption that no such being exists.

    He does not assert that science “entirely preclude[s] God’s existence.” That mischaracterization most often comes from the anti-science crowd. It’s something I’d expect to hear from Ray Comfort.

    Anybody who has read Dawkins knows this. Anybody who is familiar with the whole “new atheism” debate knows this. Considering they wrote a chapter on the subject, M&K should be presumed to know this.

    In my book, that means they lied. Is that substantiated enough?

  147. —- The most ironic thing about this whole issue is that the Church originated the taboo on scientists considering things religious. They did not want competition in the spiritual arena. Scientists and philosophers were burned, as well as persistent pagans.

    What in the world are you talking about? Names, dates, specific incidents, specific documents.

  148. Peter Beattie

    Sorry for the triple post, guys. Moderation-fest again. The first one is the original.

  149. Peter Beattie

    Yours is an excellent essay containing thoughts that had to be expressed again

    I’m curious: What exactly is excellent about the essay, and which specific thoughts are you referring to?

  150. —- Matti K. “What wonders me is why so many bloggers and their readers have now a very deep antipathty towards M&K…” In a word, dishonesty. gillt

    In a word, “panic”. They’re afraid the star they hitched their wagon to is a falling star and are desperate to keep it up. And they’ve called out their acolytes to attack their enemies.

    Given their puny numbers and gift to make enemies, I don’t think the new atheists would present a huge problem for serious journalism. Coyne in Science is about the only surprise, I had always figured they at least tried to put on a show of objectivity journalism there. Oh, well, it’s only a human institution and they all fail sometimes.

  151. — Besides, I kinda like the old-fashioned grandpa name calling Astro and Johnny one-note. Very retro. gillt

    oh, look. Gillt’s trying to resurrect irony, single handed.

  152. Matti K, the thread you link to is full of criticism of Scott.

  153. gillt

    McCarthy: “In a word, “panic”. They’re afraid the star they hitched their wagon to is a falling star and are desperate to keep it up. And they’ve called out their acolytes to attack their enemies.”

    That’s garbled even for you.

    We have wagons hitched to stars, stars that are inexplicably falling. So the panicky wagons, realizing this want desperately to reverse the trajectory of their star, call on some more wagons to attack the enemy, which apparently is gravity. Gravity is thy enemy!

    I know I have a red pen around here somewhere.

  154. Sorbet

    “I had always figured they at least tried to put on a show of objectivity journalism there”

    Fox, meet Sour Grapes.

    In a word, “panic”. They’re afraid the star they hitched their wagon to is a falling star and are desperate to keep it up. And they’ve called out their acolytes to attack their enemies.

    In a word, magnificent self-delusion. McCarthy is like a child who wants to shut his eyes to reality and who then wants to convince himself that big bad reality is a sinking ship. Since he has also already convinced himself that he is right by default, “panic” must be the only interpretation of the vocal criticism of M & K. The fantasy-laden state of mind has also convinced the boy that the evil NAs are a dying breed. Now just don’t be surprised to see them around when you finally open those tightly shut eyes.

  155. Jon

    where wikipedia agreed with them and not you?

    Someone should tell you guys that video games are not the best way to a long attention span.

    Let’s go back to what Gillt said:

    Jon: “What about pantheism?”
    That seems to rather fractionate the incompatibility now doesn’t it? Or do you prefer to think many gods provides a watered-down, dispersive effect?

    How many times do I have to write this? Pantheism does not mean “many gods.” Pantheism is a form of *monotheism.* Then, next, Gillt says something about paganism which is in the fine print of the article. This is irrelevant. But pagans can indeed be monotheists in some cases, so it doesn’t even argue for Gillt’s point about “may gods.”

    Gillt knows what he meant. He didn’t know enough about the subject he was blustering about to even get what Pantheism meant. And he wanted to pretend nothing happened.

    Fair enough. But then he has the gonads to come back and accuses me of being dishonest, and accuse Chris of being dishonest. Pretty telling, I think.

    And I wouldn’t even bother to address all this, except I think it’s typical fare from the online atheists.

  156. Sorbet

    “it’s not looking good for the “rational” class if you’re a representative sample.”

    Yawn. Sorry, but that exalted position of irrational exuberance has already been occupied for a long time, by you, Kwok and others. M & K must be so proud to have the intrepid McCarthy and Kwok as their foremost defenders.

  157. John Kwok

    Peter,

    I endorse every word of theirs, but especially these:

    More moderate scientists, however — let us call them the accommodationists — still dominate the hallowed institutions of American science. Personally, these scientists may be atheists, agnostics or believers; whatever their views on the relationship between science and religion, politically, spiritually and practically they see no need to fight over it.

    Thus the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences take the stance that science and religion can be perfectly compatible — and are regularly blasted for it by the New Atheists. Or as the National Academy of Sciences put it in a recent volume on evolution and creationism: “Today, many religious denominations accept that biological evolution has produced the diversity of living things over billions of years of Earth’s history. … Religious denominations that do not accept the occurrence of evolution tend to be those that believe in strictly literal interpretations of religious texts.”

  158. Jon

    And further, this doesn’t even touch on the reason why I brought up pantheism and panentheism. The shallow meme that Deism is the only form of theology that doesn’t conflict with science has been passed around the new atheist blogosphere quite a bit. As if everyone else throughout history who were not Deists or atheists were stoopid…

    So I bring up a couple of notions that came largely out of the German Enlightenment, Pantheism and Panentheism (I think there’s a pretty good case that they were intellectual reactions to Deism), and the reaction is, I think, pretty typical. Any non-science subject that would take longer than a turn of Halo to grok does not make it into the online atheist cognitive bubble. ..

  159. Jon

    And further, this doesn’t even touch on the reason why I brought up pantheism and panentheism. The shallow meme that Deism is the only form of theology that doesn’t conflict with science has been p@ssed around the new atheist blogosphere quite a bit. As if everyone else throughout history who were not Deists or atheists were stoopid…

    So I bring up a couple of notions that came largely out of the German Enlightenment, Pantheism and Panentheism (I think there’s a pretty good case that they were intellectual reactions to Deism), and the reaction is, I think, pretty typical. Any non-science subject that would take longer than a turn of Halo to grok does not make it into the online atheist cognitive bubble. ..

  160. Paul

    Jon,

    It’s true that by appearances gillt thought you meant polytheism when you said pantheism. I can’t speak to that, as I am not him. In that case, pointing out that neo-pagans and polytheists are considered to be under the umbrella of Classical Pantheism was just a post-hoc rationalization to make sense of his previous post. That still doesn’t excuse your Humpty Dumptying on the point of whether or not the Pantheism umbrella excludes neo-pagans and polytheists (which is especially silly when your own suggested source disagrees with you.

    So, while gillt may or may not have been dishonest about his post, I can definitely state that in this thread you have been dishonest about what is or is not considered Pantheism. It isn’t in the “fine print” of the article, neo-paganism and polytheism are clearly stated to be considered Classical Pantheism. It’s dishonest how you continue to maintain otherwise over and over again instead of just checking the article and admitting to your mistake.

  161. gillt

    Jon “The shallow meme that Deism”

    Oh look McCarthy, someone you agree with believes in memes! I can’t wait for your total and utter dismissal of them, everyone they agree with, and anything else they ever say about anything.

  162. Paul

    Jon,

    You haven’t addressed any of the posts that point out that Pantheism and Panentheism are in a different realm than Deism. That makes it dishonest to keep asserting that nobody engages that point. Pantheism/Panentheism make theoretically testable claims. We’re all part of God? Where’s the common element tying us together? Both claim there is some sort of connection between you and my computer desk. You’re both part of God.

    It’s completely different from a scientific perspective than Deism, which makes no claims about the current doings or place of existence for their God character.

  163. gillt

    Jon,
    What is this video game thing your on about? I’m from the original NES generation and haven’t played any of those games.

    Anyway, my original comment to you still stands. Let me rephrase it so you don’t go into a tizzy again.

    Pantheism seems to only water down or disperse the incompatibility from one specific being to an entire supernatural-soaked universe. And what if the multiverse hypothesis turns out to true? What accomodations will you have to make for Pantheism then?

  164. Matti K.

    Benjamin (#152):

    I think that the commenters criticize the views and arguments of Ms. Scott, which is a perfectly normal state of matters. I haven’t read all the comments, but it seems that there weren’t many comments which Ms. Scott would find insulting. I couldn’t find any denigrating descriptions of Ms. Scott’s character and manners. Between M&K and their opponents, things are somewhat different, aren’t they?

  165. — That’s garbled… gillt

    I have a full teaching schedule on Thursdays, a student was due any time so I was typing extra fast. Do you think you’re going to embarrass me by calling me out over common locutions?

    — I know I have a red pen around here somewhere. gillt

    And the attempt at crushing patronization doesn’t do much but confirm my picture of you as just another person desperately clinging to a small claim to authority, furious that not everyone will kow t0w to your sciencyness.

    — The fantasy-laden state of mind has also convinced the boy that the evil NAs are a dying breed. Sorbet

    No, just another futile cult which will spend increasing amounts of its time trying to convince itself of ultimate victory, which will be infinitely deferred as they pursue their self-validation of their own superiority. The world at large will come to conclude that you’re not and they don’t need to pay attention.

    “boy”, weren’t you one of the ones trying to convince me I was hopelessly mired in my senectitude a few threads ago? Sorry to tell you, my family tends to live and be active well into their nineties. We’re not the retiring types.

  166. Jon

    gillt: Pantheism seems to only water down or disperse the incompatibility from one specific being to an entire supernatural-soaked universe.

    You could reach that conclusion based on your own stereotypes–*or,* you could actually *read* some pantheists, or panentheists, to see what they actually said. Empiricism and investigation instead of your own preconceived notions, etc.

  167. JerPy

    Innnteresting debate.

    My thoughts (like anyone asked!):

    Pantheism = Atheism (if we define theism as belief in a personal god or gods). To say that God is everything is the same as saying Bob is everything, or X=infinity. Which is to say nothing at all, aside from an irrelevant definition.

    To claim that a deity exists because (S)HE/IT is a synonymous with “the universe” is the same as saying that bigfoot exists because (s)he/it is synonymous with “the forest”. Useful (or at least, interesting)rhetorically or poetically, perhaps. I am not religious, but even I am a devout pantheist whenever I’m feeling poetic.

  168. Matti K, well this blog has degenerated into toxicity, yes. I’m not happy with the way that present discussions are going, since they seem light on substance, high on animosity. In particular, the Gillt vs. Jon dynamic is particularly underwhelming.

    But it is not a good argument, ever, to just say ‘somebody will find this insulting’. It is only a good argument when you say, “this is insulting, because it violates these norms, which we can justify because we want to avoid these consequences”. Many of us find M/K’s arguments to be unpersuasive (because it is unsubstantiated, does not help support the boldness of their rhetoric, they occasionally misread the people they criticize), which is all fine, as far as reasonable disagreement goes. The core players — Coyne, for example — can be expected to show outrage for having been misread, and PZ was probably going to be outraged no matter what. And good for them; but that doesn’t explain everyone else.

    Speaking for myself, I am most upset at the fact that they have violated some fairly important norms. They seem to actively ignore their critics — Coyne, then Harris, now Rosenhouse — a practice called “intellectual hygiene”, which is generally frowned upon. When they do respond to their critics, they choose their weakest arguments while ignoring the strongest ones, which is very unproductive. (Granted, criticizing an opponent’s weakest arguments is not exactly strawman argumentation — their critics do sometimes say daffy things, and are right to be corrected.) In their latest screed, they show hypocricy over literary standards; evidently, critics of UA need to “read the book” before they say boo about it, but M/K are able to divine the contents of the upcoming Dawkins book well enough to criticize it in advance. Their moderation style on this blog has been heavyhanded, actively suppressing reasonable disagreement, and just lately, banned Ophelia from posting anything at all.

    And most upsetting of all is the fact that they don’t seem to have any grip on the meta-norm that I’m currently talking about: i.e., you don’t get to just say “everyone be nice, don’t be nasty” and think that you’ve helped to raise the level of discussion. When I say, “Glenn Beck, you are delusional”, it’s going to be taken as an insult. So what? It’s true, and there will be no chance at cooperation in the future if we don’t get the truth out of the way.

  169. Gill, IMHO, I think it would be easier for everyone if you just admitted you were in error about pantheism/polytheism. These are philosophical terms so maybe you just momentarily slipped, but Jon was right to point out the error. (Sorry!)

  170. gillt

    Read above BSN, I already said I’d play along with the distinction.

    And if polytheism falls under the varieties of pantheism according to wikipedia, take it up with wiki, because I never hid the fact that that was where I got the info.

  171. But! gillt is infallible. And failing that, just so crushingly patronizing that it’s the same thing.

  172. gillt

    McCarthy: “…I’ll provide you with a list of things that science cannot disprove that are widespread beliefs among atheists, large swaths of the professional product of Richard Dawkins among them.”

    McCarthy’s unhealthy preoccupation with Richard Dawkins and general arrogance is on display again.

    If you provide such a list McCarthy makes sure this time it isn’t more than your best guess of what Dawkins has said. I shouldn’t have to say this, but you’ll need actual quotes.

    And as soon as you provide that list, I’ll provide one of my own of so-called New Atheists disagreeing with things Dawkins says. This should at least give you pause in continued a misguided attempt to generalize new atheists as dogmatic.

  173. Sorbet

    My response to McCarthy on that is in moderation. I look forward to his wonderful list if he is done with shutting his eyes and wishing that reality goes away.

  174. — McCarthy’s unhealthy preoccupation with Richard Dawkins and general arrogance is on display again. gillt

    Remarkable for such a truly minor figure in the new atheism and culture in general, isn’t it.

    Sorbet, reality I wish would go away? Like what? The mighty legions of new atheists who are going to constitute a majority of the population? I’m looking forward to your list, posting a list of my own and for your inevitable denial that any of them are real.

  175. Alun

    It’s an interesting choice of words for the headline. Equating Atheists with Muslims and by extension violence doesn’t seem very friendly to me. Do you think all religion deserves respect, or are you on a crusade for one specific religion?

  176. — but you’ll need actual quotes. gillt

    Gillt’s trying to overturn the second law of thermodynamics in regards to irony today.

  177. @Gillt and @Sorbet:

    You misunderstood me. I didn’t attack evolution. Evolution is a fact. I only questioned (neo)darwinism as plausible explanation of evolutionary processes. I also questioned (neo)darwinism – or call it new synthesis if you like – as “science”.

    @Grey Fish:
    The problem is different. You may persuade yourself that I exist. You can visit me. I may shake your hand if you come to Slovakia.
    But obviously you can’t go back in time and see how bird’s wing evolved on your eyes. All are hypothesis. There is cursorial and arboreal hypothesis – among others. Obviously only one of them can be valid. Are both of them “scientific”?

  178. Wowbagger

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    >I’m sure you thought you’d pulled one over on me didn’t you, you crafty little devil. Which you can go on deluding yourself of. I can believe that a new atheist would think that anyone would be fooled by that because they think everyone is stupid. But few of the most ill informed new atheists, even, would be fooled by that display of ill advisedly satirical excess. I, on the other hand, figured you meant it as clear satirical excess, clearly over estimating your level of thought. Here’s a hint, if you’re going to try that, try, try to come up with names that aren’t so clearly silly.

    Wait, what? You honestly thought that I thought you believed that something called Oogywoogyboogyism was a real religion? Paranoid much? I guess I’m going to have to start using more emoticons or <sarcasm> tags just in case.

    And on another point, are you saying that the only thing that you consider a problem with a religion I confessed to having made up is the name? Not the fact that the entire concept was a complete fabrication?

    It seems that you’re saying that, as long as Oogywoogyboogyism has some followers who genuinely believed in its tenets (whatever they are), and had convincing-sounding personal experiences, you’d consider it to be immune to criticism as long as I changed the name to something less silly?

    Well, I know to whom I’ll be sending requests for donations.

    Anyway, my point is this: you seemed to be claiming that, because critics of religion haven’t (or won’t) deal with each and every claim or apologetic defence raised by every single different religion on the planet, they are ignorant and crude and unsophisticated and should just keep quiet until they have.

    I just wanted to illustrate exactly how ridiculous that was.

  179. Sorbet

    “The world at large will come to conclude that you’re not and they don’t need to pay attention”

    Fits nicely into your little world of wishful thinking, doesn’t it?

    McCarthy, the reality is that the new atheists have made an important contribution to fueling the courage and consciousness of people who have been on the fence, as well as more than a few fundamentalists. This is evident in the thousands of letters Harris, Dawkins etc. have received as well as testimonies in Dawkins’s converts’ corner. Now you may dismiss this as the ravings of sycophants or want this reality to disappear, but it ain’t gonna happen. So you better get used to them being around.

  180. Skeptic

    Hi Chris and Sheril
    I had a sincere question for you. I really did not understand why you banned Ophelia Benson from commenting. She was not using foul language nor was she being any more provocative or frequent in commenting than some of the other commenters here. It seems to me to be unnecessary censorship to ban her, and I am not trying to be some kind of apologist for her, but just curious. Thanks

  181. —- You honestly thought that I thought you believed that something called wowbagger

    I don’t honestly think you honestly assert much of anything.

    —- the reality is that the new atheists have made an important contribution to fueling the courage and consciousness of people who have been on the fence Sorbet

    What courage was necessary for a group of mostly well off, white guys that has been a covered class under the federal civil rights laws for the best part of half a century while real minority groups have been subjected to massive, legal discrimination and violence. About the only murder of a prominent atheist I can recall was dear old Madalyn Murray O’Hair and that was by another atheist with the motive of theft and cover up. A very materialistic murder in every sense. I do miss old Maddy, unlike you guys she had a sense of fun mixed in with her outrageous antics.

    You people are seriously romantic about your self-invented mythology. I don’t think there are many Catholic Integralists who could surpass you in that regard, though they’ve had a head start.

  182. gillt

    “You misunderstood me. I didn’t attack evolution. Evolution is a fact. I only questioned (neo)darwinism as plausible explanation of evolutionary processes. I also questioned (neo)darwinism – or call it new synthesis if you like – as “science.””

    Too right Cadra! Evolution is a fact and the mechanisms–natural selection, genetic drift, etc.,–are theories, theories to be debated among those who have demonstrated their knowledge. Children are not among this group, you understand; they ought to be taught the basics.

    I’ll stop beating around the bush and ask you what you take to be the “new synthesis.” If it’s something other than the application of existing (and at times competing) theories, you’ll be an adequate sample of what Chris Mooney claims, but has yet to prove, he can more efficiently convince.

    Post haste, Cadra!

  183. gillt

    But I asked for some actual quotes to go along with your accusations and you respond thusly?

    McCarthy: “Gillt’s trying to overturn the second law of thermodynamics in regards to irony today.”

    I’ll take that as a throwing in of the towel for you McCarthy. (I’ve learned to live with such serpent-like wrigglings and accept them for what they are).

  184. @gillt

    “Too right Cadra! Evolution is a fact and the mechanisms–natural selection, genetic drift, etc.,–are theories, theories to be debated among those who have demonstrated their knowledge. Children are not among this group, you understand; they ought to be taught the basics.”

    First of all children shouldnt’ be taught at schools neodarwinian “basics” -eg. nonsense like “natural selection created aposematism and mimicry” or “descent of mammalian testicles was caused by need to cool spermatozoa” and other neodarwinian fairy-tales.

  185. Paul

    Anyway, my point is this: you seemed to be claiming that, because critics of religion haven’t (or won’t) deal with each and every claim or apologetic defence raised by every single different religion on the planet, they are ignorant and crude and unsophisticated and should just keep quiet until they have.

    Welcome to The Intersection, Wowbagger. Sadly, that’s the closest thing to an argument Jon or McCarthy will bring to the table. Aside from that, it’s just ad-homs and repeated assertions (repeated even after you show them to be mistaken, fabrications, or outright lies).

  186. Anthony Pham

    Can’t wait until Harris beats your face in (metaphorically) with his +8 Baleful Mace of Rationality. Let the games begin!

  187. Wowbagger

    Paul wrote:

    Sadly, that’s the closest thing to an argument Jon or McCarthy will bring to the table.

    Yeah, so it appears. To paraphrase Huey Lewis and the News: that’s the power of love woo.

  188. windy

    And further, this doesn’t even touch on the reason why I brought up pantheism and panentheism. The shallow meme that Deism is the only form of theology that doesn’t conflict with science has been passed around the new atheist blogosphere quite a bit. As if everyone else throughout history who were not Deists or atheists were stoopid…

    Do you even notice what ridiculous strawmen you keep setting up? As if we expect “everyone else throughout history” to have had knowledge of modern science? It’s like saying that if you think it’s “stoopid” to believe in creationism now, you must think Linnaeus was “stoopid” too.

  189. windy

    So I bring up a couple of notions that came largely out of the German Enlightenment, Pantheism and Panentheism (I think there’s a pretty good case that they were intellectual reactions to Deism), and the reaction is, I think, pretty typical.

    Well I wouldn’t know what a typical reaction is, since you haven’t bothered to address my reply, and have hardly addressed Paul’s, and have mostly been harping on gillt. It depends entirely on what claims the pantheism entails. If it does not ascribe any mental or personal properties to the universe, it need not make any empirical claims that could potentially conflict with science. But the observation that such naturalistic pantheism approaches atheism is hardly restricted to Dawkins.

  190. Gillt’s demanding quotes to back things up, gillt who has continually made false accusations and attributions, deliberately falsifying the record of what he said within a discussion thread where it was there for anyone to see. How funny. And in a conversation with Sorbet who doesn’t seem to have objected to the list of common unscientific articles of faith among new atheists but who rather oddly chose materialism and memes to defend in one response. Maybe a good part of the new atheism is just plain muddled thinking mixed with the massive arrogance and shallow, dishonesty. It could account for why so many of their most revered authors are so pudding headed.

  191. —- Welcome to The Intersection, Wowbagger. Sadly, that’s the closest thing to an argument Jon or McCarthy will bring to the table. Paul

    Watching the new atheists in action is a lot like watching the Republican promotion on cable TV. Their entire program is based in propaganda and derision, their favorite tactics include ignoring substantial arguments from their opponents, trying to suppress them with displays of attitude in place of substantial material to back up their own, false, positions.

    None of it is about reality to the new atheists, it’s about making emotional statements and posing postures to appeal to peoples’ baser sides and laziness. It’s about as much an intellectual exercise as watching the History Channel.

    The only sad thing about this is how many people in our allegedly educated class can’t be bothered to look up the refutation of just about everything they hold.

  192. Peter Beattie

    » John Kwok:
    I endorse every word of theirs

    So you endorse their sneering at “evidence”? You endorse their hipocrisy of judging a book before it’s even published when they berated others at every turn to first “read our book” and only then to form an opinion? You endorse the use of Darwin for an argument from authority (since the Darwin quote contains not an argument but only a simple claim that is unsupported by evidence)?

  193. — But the observation that such naturalistic pantheism approaches atheism is hardly restricted to Dawkins. Windy

    Yeah, sure. If you totally ignore the supernatural details that would be the only reason for pantheism to distinguish itself from atheism. No reason to suspect anything shady in such an assertion. Nothing important. Not when it’s so convenient to ignore it.

  194. Sorbet

    “What courage was necessary for a group of mostly well off, white guys that has been a covered class under the federal civil rights laws for the best part of half a century while real minority groups have been subjected to massive, legal discrimination and violence. About the only murder of a prominent atheist I can recall was dear old Madalyn Murray O’Hair and that was by another atheist with the motive of theft and cover up. A very materialistic murder in every sense. I do miss old Maddy, unlike you guys she had a sense of fun mixed in with her outrageous antics.”

    Is that supposed to actually mean something or is that a demonstration of a completely random string of words, because it sure sounds like the latter. Make sense McCarthy, you are veering off into nothingness yet again. Wake up please; who is talking about courage of the New Atheists here. Stick to the topic at hand if you want a meaningful response from anyone here.

  195. Sorbet

    You people are seriously romantic about your self-invented mythology

    Yes, but a talking snake beats us squarely

  196. Wowbagger

    Sorbet wrote:

    Yes, but a talking snake beats us squarely

    Sorbet, have you personally checked the every single snake in the world is unable to talk? Are you claiming that there aren’t people in the world who have personal experience of a talking snake? Well, have you? If not, I demand you stop being so crude and unsophisticated and downright Philistine – you awful, awful, new militant atalkingsnakeist.

  197. — Yes, but a talking snake beats us squarely Sorbet

    Clever, by the new atheist standards, puerile by the standards of normal people.

    You guys can’t deal with anything but biblical fundamentalism, can you. It’s the one and only thing you’re equipped to refute. Too bad no one here seems to be giving you that.

  198. Lowell

    Wow. My post from yesterday was in moderation all day and then simply erased.

    It was completely on-topic. Jon argued at 141 that claims of dishonesty on the part of M&K were “never substantiated,” and I pointed out that they misrepresented Dawkins and other “new atheists” as arguing that science “entirely preclude[s] God’s existence” in Unscientific America, which of course anyone who’s read Dawkins or follows this debate knows is false.

    There was no profanity or even particularly harsh language. That’s an Uncommon Descent-level of censorship.

  199. gillt

    So, Cadra’s a creationist. Since Mooney is too busy selling a book telling us what bad communicators we are, I guess it’s up to Jon, Kwok and McCarthy to show us petulant atheists/scientists how it is done.

    Go ahead guys, ya’ll have no problem telling us how we’re doing it wrong, perhaps you could show us the correct way to bring Cadra over to the side of reason.

  200. Wowbagger

    You guys can’t deal with anything but biblical fundamentalism, can you. It’s the one and only thing you’re equipped to refute. Too bad no one here seems to be giving you that.

    Sounds like a music cue to me:
    You like potato and I like potahto,
    You like tomato and I like tomahto
    Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto,
    Let’s call the whole thing off.

  201. Sorbet

    You guys can’t deal with anything but biblical fundamentalism

    Tch tch Tony; it’s only a reaction to the McCarthy strategy of saying that Biblical events happened “only once” and therefore “cannot be addressed by science”. Watch as McCarthy tries to squirm his way through the virgin birth and the resurrection and declare them scientifically “inaccessible.

  202. Sorbet

    Oh, and your contention that the NAs deal only with Biblical fundamentalism is a straw man and another classic McCarthy deflection. The NAs deal with all fact claims that religions make, and trust me, there are many of those and there more than just Biblical fundamentalists who believe in these.

    Wowbagger: I just know that every snake in the world is unable to talk. God told me so when I was doing some Salvia the other day.

  203. Sorbet

    My response to McCarthy’s straw man claim that NAs denounce only Biblical fundamentalism is in moderation. All fact claims made by religion are suspect.

  204. gillt

    Biblical fundamentalism is whatever McCarthy says it is. Taking a Virgin Birth and Resurrection literally, at face value, just as it says in the bible is in no way biblical fundamentalism, and it’s because McCarthy said so.

  205. Jon

    Sadly, that’s the closest thing to an argument Jon or McCarthy will bring to the table.

    I feel like a broken record. There is no problem with atheism per se, or even strong opinions. But yelling and shaming people about “fairy tales” and “Santa Claus”, as if you were some hyper-rationalist version of Bill O’Reilly, ignores the fact that in between narrow scientific materialism and “Santa-Claus in the clouds,” there are tons of possible positions that aren’t either.

    You bluster sarcastically like Bill O’Reilly, meanwhile you ignore all sorts of conversations of people who had better understanding of human nature in the tips of their pinkies Daniel Dennett has on his best day. You ignore every argument and conversation had during the German Enlightenment, the Medieval Renaissance, India during most of the first millennium. It’s as if you think just because we got better telescopes and microscopes since then, all that stuff is contemptible junk–a position that I’d argue amounts to Philistinism.

    It may be that a lot of the right wing religious people in the US these days *deserve* the Bill O’Reilly treatment. They’re afflicted with mindless, watered down fundie Protestantism and have enabled and/or perpetrated the politics we’ve had over the past eight years.

    Fine. But in that case you should 1) have minimal knowledge and respect for the best of the traditions as you’re criticizing the worst (as I think Carl Sagan did), or if you can’t do that 2) follow the liberal tradition of respecting the decisions people make as a matter of conscience, which includes people practicing their religious traditions.

    Despite Dawkins’ attitude to the contrary, just because you know science, doesn’t mean you know everything. And the attitude that you *do* know everything, if it every got far onto the public stage, would be a disaster in our national discourse.

  206. gillt

    “gillt who has continually made false accusations and attributions,deliberately falsifying the record of what he said within a discussion thread where it was there for anyone to see.”

    Sounds like Mcpoo-flinger has me on trial. Well by all means, put up.

  207. Lowell, yes, that happens regularly. Hence:

  208. Jon

    Lovely. I’m through with this.

  209. gillt

    Jon “just because you know science, doesn’t mean you know everything”

    An astonishing double standard. At least be fair Jon and consider yourself a scientific philistine.

  210. Sorbet

    shaming people about “fairy tales

    Jon, even your favorite Carl Sagan called many religious beliefs bronze age beliefs or fairy tales. If you think we are being offensive or O’Reillyish for using such phrases, you are being amazingly thin-skinned. All the NAs are saying is that the fact claims of religions should be expected to be subjected to close scientific scrutiny, another fact that Sagan agreed with. Unfortunately religious people make such fact claims every time they claim that God physically intervened in their lives. It’s when people like McCarthy start trotting out the nonsense that these fact claims cannot be scientifically investigated because they “happened only once” or something similar, that the problems start.

  211. Sorbet, re: fundamentalism. That neglects, unfortunately, the second half of God Delusion, which can be described as a defense of secular activism. He doesn’t just deal with the “truth-value” claims. He goes on to talk about practical claims, their impact on everyday life. Though I haven’t read it, I suspect that “Does God Hate Women?” is similarly structured.

  212. Vindrisi

    So let me see if I understand this: The New Atheists want an end to discrimination and negative thinking about atheism. And they think that insulting and mocking anyone who doesn’t agree with them, thereby confirming a lot of negative stereotypes about atheists, will accomplish this. Any attempt to get them to see how delusional this is gets met with the same derision and hatred they direct at anyone who is religious. Even the slightest criticism, further, gets a hissy fit of epic proportions that will include completely and seemingly intentionally misunderstanding the other person’s position.

    This makes no sense. None. One day many of you who are filled with convert’s zeal will look back and be appalled at your behaviour toward others. One day you will wake up and realize that atheism and irrational hatred of other religions don’t have to go together.

    And for everyone who is coming up with more and more reasons why it is perfectly okay to attack religious people for being religious because you feel you are simply right: all bigots come up with arguments they find reasonable to justify their bigotry. That doesn’t stop it from being bigotry, and it doesn’t stop it from being wrong.

  213. Paul

    You endorse the use of Darwin for an argument from authority (since the Darwin quote contains not an argument but only a simple claim that is unsupported by evidence)?

    You forgot to mention it’s a quote-mine of Darwin to make an argument from authority.

  214. John Kwok

    @ Peter –

    Yes, absolutely. What Chris and Sheril have done pales in significance to what your buddy PZ is well known for. Don’t see a dime’s worth of difference between him and Bill Dembski with regards to their online tactics, which is why I have dubbed PZ the “William A. Dembski of Militant Atheism”. If you’re going to criticize Chris and Sheril, then shouldn’t you be condemning PZ too?

  215. Lowell

    I don’t know if it’s really a quotemine, Paul. Dawin did state clearly in that letter that he thought direct confrontation of Christianity was unproductive.

    Of course, the letter also gave other reasons for refusing the dedication, which M&K did not quote: (1) that he was too old to read the book–I don’t know if that’s true, but he was 71, and he died two years later–and didn’t want to endorse something he didn’t read and (2) that it would “pain” members of his family to have him openly endorse atheism.

    So, they selectively quoted one of his three reasons. Is that a quotemine? Maybe. I think it’s borderline.

  216. gillt

    “I think it’s borderline.”

    I think it’s framing.

  217. Paul

    Those were not separate reasons, Lowell. (2) modified the statement that he thought direct confrontation of Christianity was likely to be unproductive by admitting that “I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.” It is not a separate point, he is admitting that his belief that confronting Christianity is likely to be unproductive was not formed on an objective weighing of the facts. To be clear, I’m not saying that he was wrong in weighing subjective concerns — I am saying he was quote mined when it was implied that his feelings on confrontation were objective when he subsequently makes it clear that there is a sizeable subjective component . I do not see it as borderline at all.

    For posterity, I’ll quote the section as you can find it at http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/darwinletters/calendar/entry-12757.html

    Dear Sir
    I am much obliged for your kind letter & the enclosure.— The publication in any form of your remarks on my writings really requires no consent on my part, & it would be ridiculous in me to give consent to what requires none.— I shd. prefer the Part or Volume not to be dedicated to me (though I thank you for the intended honour) as this implies to a certain extent my approval of the general publication, about which I know nothing.— Moreover though I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.—
    I am sorry to refuse you any request, but I am old & have very little strength, & looking over proof-sheets (as I know by present experience) fatigues me much.—
    I remain Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin

  218. The neo-atheist trolls who have taken over this thread are all the proof anyone needs that the owners of this blog are almost uniquely tolerant of their critics. I’m sure PZ and Coyne would have banned all of you guys by now.

    I’d love to find out how proud the normal atheists of the world might be of their dissin’ cousins.

  219. — Is that supposed to actually mean something Sorbet

    To someone with the intellectual capacity to follow a fairly clear and rather simple point. A set I’d guess you have excluded yourself from.

    Am I supposed to retort with “Sorby”? I haven’t been in grade school as recently as you and the playground culture might have changed since then.

  220. gillt, there are numerous non-fundamentalists who believe in the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection. I thought you’d been to Catholic schools, you claimed to have. I don’t know about the one you went to but the ones here would have made that distinction to at least the students they figured were smart enough to grasp the concept.

    You never talked about Augustine in all those years? Aquinas? Or is your “Catholic education” about as real as the rest of your assertions. In short, lies.

  221. John Kwok

    Anthony –

    Yours is a correct call with regards to “neo-atheist trolls”. Over at Rosenhouse’s blog, they’re crying and moaning because Rosenhouse hasn’t banned me yet. Well it takes one to know one, and I am amused that these trolls can’t recognize what they’ve become.

  222. Anthony, to relate my own experience, I did present fairly sharp criticism of Coyne on his blog, and it was deleted (or misplaced — I don’t know). I then grieved this elsewhere; it caused a minor stir, as people were upset at the prospect that Coyne would engage in censorship, because that is a serious detriment to any productive discussion. The stir attracted Coyne’s attention, and he apologized for the error.

    So it seems to me that the facts are quite the opposite of what you claim, as far as that goes.

  223. Paul

    @Benjamin S. Nelson

    You need to stop assuming McCarthy is arguing in good faith. He’s already claimed he’s banned at Pharyngula (he’s not, and refused to admit he was lying), and that PZ is less tolerant of dissenting comments than S&K (laughable if you even take a cursory glance at Pharyngula…even his regulars disagree with him regularly). This has been brought up multiple times over the last month or two. It’s not even worth responding to.

  224. Benjamin S. Nelson, I got deleted for making an innocuous remark about memes and for pointing out that his assertion that religion lacked an internal criticism was clearly not true based on internal criticism in both the Jewish and Christian scriptures. And he invited me on several occasions to stop posting comments on his blog, none of which were anywhere like as pointlessly vituperative as the diatribes just above.

    I’m sure by now any critics of PZ even half as mild would have been banned and ridiculed in PZ’s dungeon.

    I don’t question the right of bloggers to ban whoever they want to for whatever reason, I’m just pointing out how, against the whining and sniveling of these same trolls, that they’ve been allowed to keep commenting on this blog.

  225. Sorbet

    Come on McCarthy, even you will contend that your words did not make much sense. I was trying to make a point about the NAs being influential in many circles and you responded with some irrelevant point about their “courage”. I guess you have redefined intellectual capacity. And for someone who was in grade school a long time back your own intellectual capability doesn’t seem to have evolved.

  226. Sorbet

    I’m sure PZ and Coyne would have banned all of you guys by now

    Translation: I am still upset that PZ banned me from his blog (in spite of no evidence to that effect). I would feel much less lonely if I fantasize about all of you being banned there too.

  227. — I was trying to make a point about the NAs being influential in many circles and you responded with some irrelevant point about their “courage”. Sorbet

    Anyone who wants to check this out can see at 182 that Sorbet was the one who started in about “courage”. New atheists are always running away from what they said, when someone can answer it.

    —- PZ banned

    Sorbet, I was just making you guys jump through hoops about the mysterious comments that somehow seem to have reappeared, when I mentioned them. I said all along that I never whined about it because it’s PZ’s blog and he could ban me any old time he wanted to. I was mocking another neo-ath who was whining that a comment of his didn’t make it through moderation or got deleted here. And the whole time you were getting all worked up over me charging PZ with what you believed was a horrible crime of suppressing free comment, it’s something he has been doing proudly for ages now. I was reveling in your display of the new atheist double standard and hypocrisy.

    If this was my blog I’d have banned a whole bunch of you weeks ago.

  228. gillt

    I love it how every little point McCarthy tries to make, no matter its triviality, is immediately turned into a sweeping indictment of all NAs.

    This is why mockery or silence are the only affective antidotes against him.

  229. Sorbet

    McCarthy it’s you who is running away from a word that you used first, and you show no understanding of the world. It’s easy for you to sit on your high chair in liberal New England and declare that atheists don’t need any courage to declare their atheism.

    Go tell that to an atheist in Oklahoma or Arkansas. Or go tell that to a gay atheist (like my friend) who grew up in a religious household and faced hell in coming out of both closets. Maybe some slits of wisdom will penetrate your eyes if you care to get rid of that inch thick blindfold you are wearing.

  230. gillt

    oops. effective.

  231. Sorbet

    If this was my blog I’d have banned a whole bunch of you weeks ago

    In other news, bears have indicated a willingness to defecate in wooded areas.

  232. John Kwok

    @ Sorbet –

    As much as I may disagree with McCarthy’s harsh assessment of Jerry Coyne, much more often than not, I think his online commentary has been quite useful and valuable. If anyone is denying reality, it’s you and your fellow Militant Atheists, not McCarthy.

  233. Sorbet

    I never whined about it

    Maybe that’s why you constantly commented on it. And any thinking person who looks at PZ’s comment section will immediately realize that he extremely liberal in allowing comments compared to many others.

  234. windy

    me:”…such naturalistic pantheism approaches atheism”
    AM:”Yeah, sure. If you totally ignore the supernatural details that would be the only reason for pantheism to distinguish itself from atheism. No reason to suspect anything shady in such an assertion. Nothing important. Not when it’s so convenient to ignore it.”

    Wowbagger was right, you are paranoid. What’s “shady” about my assertion when I was completely clear that I was making a distinction between naturalistic pantheism and those with added “supernatural details”, as you put it?

  235. Sorby, Why would I whine about someone doing something I’ve said PZ had a right to do?

    Commenting on a blog isn’t something we have a right to do, it’s something we do with the provisional permission of the owners of the blog. They’re the ones with the rights in the situation, to permit it or to not permit it. You press “submit” and take your chances. That’s really all there is to it.

    Clearly that’s a line of reasoning that over-taxes the new atheist brain which is only capable of rearranging prejudices and unable to process new ideas. It’s clearly too complicated for you.

    — Or go tell that to a gay atheist (like my friend) who grew up in a religious household and faced hell in coming out of both closets.

    Ah, now you’re going to lecture me about what it’s like being gay. Unless you’re gay, yourself, I suspect your knowledge is only half-vast at most. As to your friend, well, that’s one experience. I’ve known many, many people who have been oppressed by entirely secular parents and psych professionals. That’s not a form of oppression that is exclusive to religious bigots.

    As for my being from New England, you going to tell New England Bob he doesn’t have a clue as well?

    — I love it how every little point McCarthy tries to make, no matter its triviality, is immediately turned into a sweeping indictment of all NAs. gillt

    I love it how gillt never comes up with anything substantial and the other new atheists think he’s a genius based on his pose of superiority. Such callow boys are so easily impressed, reminds me of the College Republicans we used to laugh at.

  236. —- Go tell that to an atheist in Oklahoma or Arkansas. Or go tell that to a gay atheist (like my friend) who grew up in a religious household and faced hell in coming out of both closets. Maybe some slits of wisdom will penetrate your eyes if you care to get rid of that inch thick blindfold you are wearing. Sorbet

    You might not know but one of the prominent voices promoting the hokum that gay people can “change” their orientation is Robert Spitzer, who is an atheist. It’s not a form of bigotry that is merely the result of religion, a lot of the stronger advocates of gay rights are religious, many clergy.

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_spit.htm

    Just in case my comment doesn’t get out of moderation in time.

  237. While Chris and Sheril may have made some mistakes here and there in this article and others, there are some valid points they bring out.

    1) Why does science criticize religion? and why does religion criticize science?
    2) Criticism may be constructive or destructive… and sometimes it’s a very gray issue, like Einstein’s hair.
    3) There are some who feel that there is not room for both groups. But perhaps both groups offer (despite their inadequacies) something unique and useful to the world.
    4) Is peaceful debate possible between the two sides? If so, then how? …Must only one side change, or both, in order to DEBATE peacefully?
    5) That even when we execute a person (or in this case, a person’s cherished beliefs), we may do so in a humane manner. We may do so in a way that says, “I’m human like you, and will perhaps someday see the world from your perspective… either as an experience or as a memory”

    OTHOH, we as scientists desire the ability to defend ourselves. To speak what we see as the truth. To speak against what we see as falseness.
    Yet we are human too, and appreciate when a friend speaks of our strengths and looks past our faults.
    Both are strengths, are they not?

  238. Peter Beattie

    You guys can’t deal with anything but biblical fundamentalism, can you. It’s the one and only thing you’re equipped to refute.

    Hear, hear! They would never come up with something as deep and sophisticated as, “I am pretty atheistic, although some doctrines like original sin seem to me to be accurate psychologically.”

  239. Peter Beattie

    My post from yesterday was in moderation all day and then simply erased.

    Welcome to The Limbo Palace. :)

  240. Peter Beattie

    » Tony:
    The neo-atheist trolls who have taken over this thread

    *LOL*

  241. Peter Beattie

    » Tony:
    If this was my blog I’d have banned a whole bunch of you weeks ago.

    Oh noes! A new strain of fatwa envy! Gosh, you’re priceless!

  242. Dave X

    Mel, way back at 93: “Just to be clear, I will state the basic principle again: You don’t have to accept or respect a belief you don’t hold, but you have an obligation to still afford dignity and respect to those who hold that belief.”

    How does telling “New Atheists” to not write books or not to be confrontational, without also telling the fundamentalists to not write books or be confrontational follow this principle?

    Why do I have an obligation to respect those who do not respect me?

    Following that principle, it seems like the only way to afford dignity and respect to certain beliefs is to not say anything offensive, which makes it an unrealistic principle to follow in any area controversial enough to be worth writing about (evolution).

    In my comment #65, I meant that I couldn’t see why the “New Atheists” should be held to a standard that isn’t being applied to the rest of the world.

  243. Paul

    @214

    My reply has been in mod land for awhile, so trying a shorter version. Just read the actual letter at http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/darwinletters/calendar/entry-12757.html . The “family” concern was a modifier on the one used by the OP, not a separate argument. He was admitting that his encouragement not confronting religion was due to personal concerns, not an objectively reasoned position.

  244. Mel

    DaveX,

    I don’t quite understand what is so controversial about the principle I set out, as it is simply a corollary of one of the bedrock principles of the modern concept of human rights. In regard to your questions, though, I will point out that it is fundamentally true that two wrongs do not make a right. Just because there are fundamentalists who see no problem with being disrespectful to anyone and everyone who does not believe like they do, that should not be seen as making it suddenly ethical or okay then behave in precisely the same way. Now if you were elaborating a concept of refusing to accept the obligation of respectful behavior toward only those who refuse to accept the obligation of respectful behavior toward you, you might have a case, but not all religious individuals are fundamentalists, and not all think it okay to be disrespectful to atheists.

    You also seem to make the mistake of, contrary to what I said in the quote, that respect is due to the belief you don’t hold instead of to the person who holds it. You don’t have to believe as another does to be respectful of them. It might not be possible to avoid any and all offense, but you can make clear to them that you don’t regard them as any less of a person for not believing as you, and that any offense given was not intended. It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable, in other words. It is also possible when discussing a belief that you don’t hold but that the other person does to be sensitive to what that belief might mean to the other person, and describe why you don’t hold that belief and so on within being intentionally hurtful. If you decide that discard this, and are intentionally insensitive, offensive, and hurtful because you feel your position fully justifies you to be, fine, but you then have to accept that there is little likelihood that the person is going to listen to you, give any real consideration to your point of view, or want to even be around you. In short, you run a definite risk of coming to be regarded by that other in the same way you regard fundamentalists.

    I don’t see anyone telling the New Atheists to stop writing books. They are free to do so. They are also free to continue to be confrontational. I see many, however, who wish that the New Atheists would reconsider their rhetoric and stance toward everyone who isn’t among them, as it does not seem very helpful to be so polarizing. The New Atheists can do what they please so long as they don’t hurt anyone, but they should also try to understand the perspectives of others, and be willing to accept the consequences of how they treat others (including atheists of other stripes than they such as myself).

    There really is nothing here that is hard to understand.

  245. Tony:
    If this was my blog I’d have banned a whole bunch of you weeks ago.
    Oh noes! A new strain of fatwa envy! Gosh, you’re priceless! Petie

    You mean I’d be acting too much like PZ does?

    I’ve posted a bunch of comments stuck in moderation all afternoon at my blog.

  246. gillt

    McCarthy lacks self-awareness: after threatening that he’d ban us if this were his blog, he invites us all over to his blog in the SAME comment!

    Can you promise more of this humor over at your blog, McCarthy?

  247. Wowbagger

    Peter Beattie wrote:

    Hear, hear! They would never come up with something as deep and sophisticated as, “I am pretty atheistic, although some doctrines like original sin seem to me to be accurate psychologically.”

    Ugh, I just read the page you linked to. Ick. I start to wonder why someone would choose the path of appeasement but then the big dollar sign with ‘Templeton Foundation’ underneath it lights up and then it becomes clear.

    Maybe they should just start a grant program called ‘Cash for Appeasers’ and remove any ambiguity.

  248. Mel, in this case, it is NOT possible to disagree without being disagreeable — that is the heart of the problem. No matter how you phrase the proposition, “Your belief in god(s) is a delusion” — a delusion being a belief held in conformity to one’s desires, and in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary — you are going to offend some of your audience. They are going to take the assertion as a slight against their character(s). But it is essential to convey this message once and for all, because it doesn’t seem to be hitting home: this is not a matter of rhetoric, it is a matter of justification.

    You speak of rights. It falls upon us to discuss what rights are being discussed in this context. We’re not really talking about the Big Rights, the right to believe and to associate freely and so on, which presumably we all agree on. The object of discussion are conversational norms. In this case, I don’t see what norm is supposed to direct our conduct. The norm, “Don’t confront if you don’t have to”, seemed appropriate, until we understand that the content of the message is confrontational. So many of us instinctively move on to the related question, of the norm of refraining to say a harmful truth when the consequences of sharing it are high and the consequences of silence are benign. But that doesn’t work either, in this case: for the consequences of silence are perceived to be dire, for these authors. If you have another norm in mind, please elaborate.

    (I should add that the concept of the right and the concept of justice carry very different loads, and you only mention the former. One conception of justice is not very far from the idea of “two wrongs making a right”: i.e., so long as the second wrong is proportionate to the first, and somehow seeks to redress it, then all other things equal it is just. But this may be some distance away from what you describe as the modern conception of rights, presumably of the deontological flavor.)

  249. gillt, what makes you think I was posting those comments at my blog for the ne0-atheist, PZ Myer’s A-men choir. I’d delete you any time.

    gillt definitely DOESN’T lack self-absorption and incoherence. Apparently he thinks he’s beyond the need to be coherent.

  250. Sorbet

    You might not know but one of the prominent voices promoting the hokum that gay people can “change” their orientation is Robert Spitzer, who is an atheist.

    So now you are going to generalize and tell me there are more atheists than religious people who are bigoted toward gay people? A little something called evidence may be extraordinarily useful. Throw me some numbers.

    And of course, making Robert Spitzer representative of all New Atheists is vintage McCarthy, so let’s just ignore that.

  251. Sorbet

    Holding Robert Spitzer representative of all atheist views. How typically Tony.

  252. Sorbet

    So according to you, there are more atheists than religious people who are bigoted toward gay people? A little annoying thing called evidence might be helpful.

  253. Sorbet

    Clearly that’s a line of reasoning that over-taxes the new atheist brain which is only capable of rearranging prejudices and unable to process new ideas. It’s clearly too complicated for you.

    Well, at least we struggle, unlike the McCarthys for whom oversimplification = truth

  254. Sorbet, you are on the same level of trollery as Toby Petzold at Eschaton or Jose Chung at Hullabaloo. gillt is more like Auggysback.

  255. Sorbet

    Sorbet, you are on the same level of trollery as Toby Petzold at Eschaton or Jose Chung at Hullabaloo

    Translation: Let me hide my own pathological trollery by citing other trolls who are even worse than me and then comparing them to people on this site.

  256. —- Translation: Sorbet

    Translation: I really can’t think of an answer so I’ll just say anything and call it a ‘translation’.

  257. Sorbet

    Translation: I really can’t think of an answer so I’ll just say anything and call it a ‘translation’?

    Again, I love it when you talk about yourself when criticizing others

  258. 243 comments!!!! Sorry I haven’t read any of it, but, wow, you people have really A LOT of time on your hands.

    Chris and Sheril, congratulations for the LA Times article. And I hope that all this attention is translating in book sellings or conferences invitations.

  259. —- when you talk about yourself when criticizing others Sorbet

    Sorbet, you’re the one who’s been going the “translation” route, apparently you’re stuck in a cluelessly self referential recursion spiral.

    —- 243 comments!!!! Pascal Lapointe

    I hope the trolls who come here only to slam the authors are adding to their income in some way.

  260. Sorbet

    Ah, Anthony resorts to big words since he cannot actually put up an argument. And I did not know you were adding to the authors’ income! Good for you and them.

  261. Sorbet must be a malevolent and automatically contradictory “Eliza” knockoff.

    http://jerz.setonhill.edu/if/canon/eliza.htm

    He’s about as insightful as a 60s era chatterbox program.

  262. Sorbet

    McCarthy, I am still waiting for any substantial response to the points raised above instead of wordplay, pointless condescending metaphors and ad hominem. Are you capable of providing such responses?

  263. Sorbet

    And I am pretty sure you won’t pass the Turing Test. There, I just mimicked your ad hominem.

  264. John Kwok

    @ Sorbet –

    I did ask something of you, but it’s in moderation. Hope it appears today. Anyway, I’m taking a break commenting further since I have to attend to my writing.

  265. Theron

    I’m sorry? I’m supposed to be quiet and go to the back of the bus? Oh, I see. Would you tell abuse victims that if they would just stop provoking their abuser, everything would get better? The reality is that atheists are a despised minority, and no despised minority ever gained respect by being quiet. I live in the Deep South, and have learned to polite and not provoke anyone, but it grates. I must respect them, while they go on TV and talk about how I will be going to hell and can never be trusted. It grates.

    There were certainly people who told civil rights activists that they were to blame for Bull Connor’s actions. There were certainly people who told the suffragettes that they were giving women’s rights a bad name. And on an on – all of it is soft bigotry, as is your persistent demand that atheists sit down and be quiet and not scare anyone. And what is the difference between soft and hard bigotry? None that matters. You are part of the problem, not the solution.

  266. Sorbet

    I doubt you would pass the Turing test

  267. Sorbet

    I doubt you would pass the classic human vs computer test

  268. Sorbet

    Incoherence as usual

  269. Peter Beattie

    I’ve heard talk of “privileged nitwits with bright, toothy smiles” on the Interwebs. Anyone know who that might refer to?

  270. Peter Beattie

    » Sorbet:
    I am still waiting for any substantial response

    Read some Beckett instead, that might be more amusing, though just as futile. :-/

  271. Peter Beattie, I’ve got a very strong suspicion that people will be reading Beckett well after Dawkins, Dennett and Harris have been relegated to the dustbin and Hitchens is studied as an example of political hypocrisy and psychopathology. But that’s for the future to worry about.

  272. Oh, and, given Beckett’s general attitude towards religion, your citing him is especially clueless.

  273. Sorbet

    Dennett and Harris have been relegated to the dustbin

    And your evidence for this is?

  274. Apparently the boy has trouble negotiating the idea of the future conditional perfect.

  275. Sorbet

    I am asking a serious question. Harris and Dennett have sold thousands of copies of their books and have received many positive reviews. Of course they have also received negative ones, but none of these facts indicate that they have been “relegated to the dustbin”. Would you want to reply cordially to this very reasonable question? For a moment let’s put mockery behind us and engage in a serious debate. Why do you think they have been relegated to the dustbin?

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