Orzel Nails It on Science and Religion

By Chris Mooney | January 11, 2010 11:13 am

I haven’t blogged on this subject in a while, due to the kinds of comments/blitzkrieg it always evokes. And I’m sure I’ll be accused of “arguing from authority” here, simply because I’m quoting someone I find particularly eloquent and persuasive.

But so be it: When I saw Chad Orzel’s post last week explaining why it is that science and religion can be compatible, I couldn’t help linking, as it so perfectly summarizes my own view, and in better terms than I myself can probably put it:

OK, fine, as a formal philosophical matter, I agree that it’s basically impossible to reconcile the religious worldview with the scientific worldview. Of course, as a formal philosophical matter, it’s kind of difficult to show that motion is possible.

We don’t live in a formal philosophical world, though, and the vast majority of humans are not philosophers (and that’s a good thing, because if we did, it would take forever to get to work in the morning). Humans in the real world happily accept all sorts of logical contradictions that would drive philosophers batty. And that includes accepting both science and religion at the same time.

So, in my view, it is not in any way an “unconscionable” political statement for professional scientific organizations to state that science and religion are compatible. It’s a statement of fact, an acknowledgment that in the real world, there are numerous examples of people who are both personally religious and successful, even prominent scientists. Guy Consolmagno, George Coyne, Bill Phillips, Francis Collins, and many more.

How do these people deal with the philosophical contradiction inherent in there beliefs? I have no idea. I don’t really care, either, any more than I care how philosophers resolve Zeno’s paradox. Religious scientists exist, and I can move from one side of the room to the other in finite time. End of debate, let’s talk about something that actually matters.

There is nothing unconscionable, in my view, in professional organizations stating publicly that these people exist. What would be unconscionable is the reverse–a public statement that science and religion can never be compatible amounts to a denial of the existence of the many men and women who find some way to reconcile science and religion in their own lives. I find that sort of rhetoric deeply insulting even on blogs, let alone from a professional organization.

Amen amen amen….and now, let the wild ruckus begin.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Religion

Comments (247)

  1. Somite

    Where is the argument? He acknowledges religion and science are incompatible but then is insulted by people voicing this opinion. The logical inconsistencies of accomodationists astound me.

  2. Jimbo2K7

    Who could possibly argue that those that have rationalized and compartmentalized their scientific and religious beliefs do not exist? Of course they do.

    But does that make science and religion compatible? Just because these people exist does not make it so.

    What a silly proposition.

  3. V.O.R.

    “…due to the kinds of comments/blitzkrieg it always evokes. ”

    Well if we’re going to settle back and watch the fireworks, next time please work in a comment critical of Ron Paul, too. Though just mentioning him is probably enough.

  4. Walker

    He obviously knows philosophy, so I am floored by his claim that religion and science are logically incompatible. Is he accusing all scientists of being metaphysical naturalists?

  5. Dave

    Here’s the problem (and irreconcilable rift) between religion and science: Methodology.

    In order to be religious (i.e., theistic), one must accept certain claims based on authority and a foundation of faith. This is NOT how science works.

    Creating hypotheses that change according to data is the only way to progress, hence why the scientific method is both effective and accurate. We can only have confidence in theories, which varies according to the level of evidence. And even when we have enormous evidence, we must remain open to change. This is something religion can’t possibly do, because the underlying premise is that it already has the answers.

    In cases where religion does try to change, like the pope accepting evolution or apologizing for the treatment of Galileo, the “evolution” of the institution in order to “survive” becomes nothing but laughably ironic.

    Religion has conformed to the discoveries of science: not the other way around.

    Once again (though a little off topic), check out some classic Carlin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeSSwKffj9o

  6. “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” -Einstein

    I know many scientists (Ph.D.s no less) who are religious and yet have no qualms about it! The ones I would wonder about most- the biologists- just don’t take the Bible as a literal document, but a metaphorical one and therefore a philosophical tool independent of their scientific approach to problem solving- religion is used for other aspects of their lives. (Donning fire-proof gear)

  7. V.O.R.

    “He obviously knows philosophy, so I am floored by his claim that religion and science are logically incompatible. Is he accusing all scientists of being metaphysical naturalists?”

    Ask him to define all his terms.

  8. Matt

    In defense of the religious scientist, or the married scientist, or the vegan scientist, etc…

    Science is the pursuit of evidence for mechanisms behind all that exists, as far as it is able to be tested within the confines of what is observable to humankind. It provides us with a series of principals that can be used to examine, test and disprove theories, based on observation, about how the universe functions. It also does not, will not, and should not, provide an explanation of “why”, if such an explanation is even needed or desired.

    It is this last idea that anti-accommodationists don’t ever seem to be willing to concede; The fact that there are two types of individuals in the scientific community: 1. Those who have a deep, personal need to answer the question of whether there is a “why” behind everything and 2. Those who do not.

    You might argue that having the need to understand “why” immediately disqualifies one as an impartial observer. I would argue that in some measure, every human being on the planet is in some way or another an impartial observer. A scientist who studies nutrition probably has nutritional habits of their own depending on the location of their upbringing and their personal tastes. A scientist studying the effects of urbanization might have a difference of opinion on the subject if they grew up on a farm. A scientist studying the effects of meat ingestion might be a vegan, or vice-versa.

    The point is, while it might disqualify them from being impartial, it does not disqualify them from being a true scientist, unless their opinions color their observational work. And even if those biases did find their way into the conclusions, the practice of a peer-reviewed scientific community should, by definition, suffice to weed out anything not completely based on hard data and keep the scientist on his/her toes.

    So, asking the personal question of “why” doesn’t disqualify the scientist unless the pursuit of the question prevents the unbiased gathering interpretation and presentation of the evidence.

    For those of us who do hold true to science AND faith, it is that private, personal pursuit that is so very important, yet so very unrelated to our pursuit of knowledge through science. To us, the statement “religion is incompatible with science” is as absurd as the statement: “being married is incompatible with science”, or “my preference in food is incompatible with science.”

    I argue that religion’s end and personal significance are so wildly separate from science that it is completely unnecessary to reconcile the two. Just as it is completely unnecessary for me to reconcile the love that I have for my children from my pursuit of knowledge through science.

    So while those two types of people do exist in science — those who personally seek to know “why”, and those who don’t — anti-accommodationists need to understand that the former, if they truly hold to the scientific method, won’t seek to answer that question using science…

    We just prefer to ask God that one.

  9. bilbo

    I’m starting to get the basic idea that many ‘New Atheist’ scientists essentially want to eliminate methodological naturalism altogether and pretend that science can’t operate with it. I get the “just stress neutrality” part, but to me, stressing neutrality while embarking on an angry crusade to kill methodological naturalism at the same time is just simple hypocrisy.

  10. Sorbet

    While Orzel tries to make peace between the two domains, I think he also makes the same mistake that others have made before. I don’t think any atheist denies the presence of religious scientists and I also agree that this is merely a fact that scientific or political organizations can state.

    However, the statement “There exist religious scientists who think that science and religion are compatible” is a fact and is NOT equivalent to the statement “Science and religion are compatible” which is not a fact. It’s simply an unprovable assertion. I think it’s perfectly fine for organisations to make the first statement but unjustified for them to get to the second one from the first. Now of course as Orzel notes, one cannot also “disprove” that science and religion are compatible. That is exactly the problem with some atheists, who consider only the ‘belief’ part of religion and then proceed to “demonstrate” that science and religion are not compatible.

    In my opinion both these sides are wrong and both of them should refrain from making any such statements; the most that atheists can say is that some parts of religion are clearly incompatible with religion and others may or may not be. However, given human nature that compels one to pass judgement, this is not going to happen (as it has not in my comment)

  11. gillt

    Sigh,

    Mooney, you most certainly argued (via others) for philosophical compatibility between religion and science.

    Mooney back in June: “Let’s remember why this is important. I have argued that science and religion are at least theoretically reconcilable due to the MN/PN distinction.”

    Now you completely agree with Chad Orzel here?

    “OK, fine, as a formal philosophical matter, I agree that it’s basically impossible to reconcile the religious worldview with the scientific worldview.”

    Changing your position this late in the game seems a bit disingenuous.

    Moving on to your knew position via Orzel’s argument…

    “There is nothing unconscionable, in my view, in professional organizations stating publicly that these people exist.”

    Acknowledging their existence and endorsing their philosophy are two very different things, and the NSF does both.

    This is more than an acknowledgment that these people exist. Cargo-cultists exist, too, and a few might make fantastic nutritionists for all I know, but that’s irrelevant to the matter at hand.

    So why would a scientific organization choose to adopt an admittedly inconsistent (philosophical and otherwise) way of thinking about the world?

  12. bjm

    Religion avows the supernatural. This is not compatible with science. Religion also provides a philosophy and code of conduct for life which may be compatible with science. To be religious and true to science, you must divorce yourself from the supernatural side of religion, in which case you are not really religious at all.

  13. Heidi

    Why can’t we all agree to do the right thing and be good people without fear of heavenly retribution but for the good of doing it?

  14. Harman Smith

    I think religion and science are not compatible for the most part, most of the time. It should be possible for someone to be religious and a scientist, but who cares? The point is that if a religious person is an outstanding scientist, he/she is an outstanding scientist despite being religious. Religion is about teaching people to not question belief, and to simply believe. Science is all about questioning things. It’s not difficult to imagine that the habit of simply believing in things blindly would spill over to things related to science, and make science more difficult, and make things more difficult for scientists.

    People should be taught to question absolutely everything, and that is something a lot of religious people don’t like. Christianity doesn’t want its followers to question whether Christianity is the true faith, Islam doesn’t want its followers do to the same thing, same goes for Judaism and all other religions.

  15. Ashley

    Scientist at work, religious at home.

    Personally I’m agnostic. We don’t know enough about the world to make any sort of conclusion.

    I can understand having dual beliefs though. What religion they choose to subscribe is something they feel is beneficial to their mortal existence. I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business what they do in their private lives. As long as they do their job, don’t blow up any buildings, don’t father dozens of children, and stay away from the kool-aid.. then I really consider the argument to be a ridiculous invasion of privacy. Scientists have been believing in some sort of deity since the beginning of our species.

    I vote for a full on religious/nonreligious understanding movement. I have no interest in sharing your beliefs, let me go on my way. You have no interest in giving up your beliefs, so go on your way. We’ll both be mature about it and not cut off each other’s heads.

  16. Sorbet

    Comment in moderation so I should probably split it into two:

    While Orzel tries to make peace between the two domains, I think he also makes the same mistake that others have made before. I don’t think any atheist denies the presence of religious scientists and I also agree that this is merely a fact that scientific or political organizations can state.

    However, the statement “There exist religious scientists who think that science and religion are compatible” is a fact and is NOT equivalent to the statement “Science and religion are compatible” which is not a fact. It’s simply an unprovable assertion.

    I think it’s perfectly fine for organisations to make the first statement but unjustified for them to get to the second one from the first. Now of course as Orzel notes, one cannot also “disprove” that science and religion are compatible. That is exactly the problem with some atheists, who consider only the ‘belief’ part of religion and then proceed to “demonstrate” that science and religion are not compatible.

  17. Sorbet

    In my opinion both these sides are wrong and both of them should refrain from making any such statements; the most that atheists can say is that some parts of religion are clearly incompatible with religion and others may or may not be. However, given human nature that compels one to pass judgement, this is not going to happen (as it has not in my comment)

  18. No wild ruckus, but I think that essay just equivocates. Is the question whether science and religion are compatible? Or is the question whether some scientists believe they are compatible?

    You can’t go around insisting that science and religion are compatible if that’s actually a very hard philosophical issue, and you’re not sure whether they are. What you have to say (and say clearly!) is that many scientists believe that science and religion are compatible. (Of course they do.)

    You have to allow people to realize that there is a question whether those many scientists believe rightly (or not). Because in fact there really is a question about that. Good science communicators shouldn’t be trying to cover up good questions.

  19. Matt

    Re: bjm… “Religion avows the supernatural. This is not compatible with science. ”

    This statement is only partially correct. Ignoring the scientific method and facts to shoehorn a belief in the supernatural as an alternate explanation of a scientifically observable phenomenon is incompatible with science.

    However, it is just as foolish and biased to state that science, which deals only with that which can be observed and measured, does not allow for the existence of anything that cannot be directly observed.

    If that statement were true, all the theoretical physicists out there would be out of a job.

  20. Somite

    These are two different questions inappropriately grafted by Orzel:

    1. Are religion and science compatible?

    2. Can a person be both religious and scientific?

    I think we all agree both are true. The question is if you believe #2 is such extreme compartmentalization that borders on the delusional.

  21. bjm

    Re:Matt ” …[it is] foolish and biased to state that science, which deals only with that which can be observed and measured, does not allow for the existence of anything that cannot be directly observed.”

    Science deals with nature and natural laws. By definition the supernatural operates outside of natural laws. Much of nature cannot be directly observed, that does not make it supernatural.

    The supernatural is not compatible with science. Any religion that incorporates the supernatural cannot be compatible with science.

  22. V.O.R.

    “Is the question whether science and religion are compatible? Or is the question whether some scientists believe they are compatible?”

    Or:
    Is the question whether within society science and religion are compatible.

    Some people say that they can’t, since there are fundamental conflicts between them and only through self-delusion on a massive scale could they co-exist constructively.

    …And put that way I hope the strength of Chris’ position is obvious.

  23. Somite

    Make that “we can all agree #1 is false”. Sorry!

  24. PJ

    Just look at all of the old works of 18th and 19th century botanists, who were responsible for catloguing most the plants in the New World. Almost every one of their writings ends with something along the lines of how well “creation praises the Creator in beauty,” or something like that.

    These were (for the most part) deeply religious men, but their scientific work was good science for the time, and a lot of their taxonomic classifications and species descriptions are still even used today. Their religion didn’t water down their science, even though they both found a place in their writing.

    Same goes for somebody like Francis Collins today. He can say whatever the hell he wants about religion in the public sphere as long as his science is still damn good science. If you want to argue that his religion is tarnishing his science, you’re just swinging at a strawman.

    …and if you’ve got a problem with Collins talking about religion, shouldn’t you also have a problem with atheist scientists talking about how evil said religion is? Absolutely.

    I’m with Ashley’s movement in post 14, by the way. Where do I sign up?

  25. gillt

    I would like to know how something that cannot be directly or indirectly tested, detected or observed can nevertheless be understood in any sense of the word. What interesting thing can one say about it?

    And who–besides a few theologians–consigns themselves to this interpretation of the supernatural?

  26. Busiturtle

    Carl Sagan named his god Cosmos.
    Christians call him Jesus.
    Jews know him as Yahweh.

    Feynman said god was whatever phenomenon humans cannot explain.

    The Apostle Paul said faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    Seems that the only difference between a “believing” scientist and one who is agnostic is the former may have a more optimistic outlook.

  27. Walker

    “Ask him to define all his terms.”

    That is true of all sides. All these arguments involve goal posts moving about so fast that they are superpositioned. I have no idea what aspect of religion or science being referred to in most of these discussions.

  28. gillt

    yeah, and republicans name their god mammon :)

  29. JJ

    Religion generally focuses on emotional aspects of people’s lives, while science is rooted in physical observation, analysis, and evidence. Simply put, religion can answer individual questions of life, for which science cannot (why are we here, what is my purpose in life, etc.). I personally see religion as a psychological handbook that is used to reinforce behaviors through various teachings, while science and logic are used to solve problems and understand the physical world. Religion can help people deal with psychological needs, such as the need for community, human connection, etc. It can also help people deal with stress, anxiety, and general negativity. These needs vary by individual and can be dealt with in a variety of ways. In this sense, the science lies in the psychological studies, stats, medicines, etc. that can be used to understand human behavior and treat diseases. Therefore, neither science nor religion can define every aspect of one’s being. Spiritual/emotional needs can be met through religion, while intellectual needs can be met through science and logic without conflict.

  30. Walker

    “I would like to know how something that cannot be directly or indirectly tested, detected or observed can nevertheless be understood in any sense of the word. What interesting thing can one say about it?”

    That is a pragmatic argument against religion, not a logical or metaphysical one. It also assumes that there is no concept of understanding outside of that garnered by empiricism, which is itself unknowable.

  31. Busiturtle

    Could it not be said that the embrace of any fundamentalist belief is an impediment to further scientific inquiry? Would Orzel or anyone want to get in the business of counting sacred cows and pass judgment on which constituencies maintain the greatest herd?

  32. Philip Jr.

    How you view religion and science depends on where you’re coming from, I think. If you deal most of the time with evolution, you get angry about creationism and therefore religion. Just a couple minutes of googling turns up a bunch of other opinions, though. If you deal in theoretical physics, you’ll look at it a bit differently. If you’re a conservationist, you’ll see another view of the picture. A chemist might be a little distant on the issue. And so on….

    Chris Mooney is viewing this as a commincator, and any time science tries to make enemies, a communicator is going to cringe, and probably for good reason. The trouble is trying to reconcile all of these conflicting angles into something coherent.

  33. Dave

    God is an idea with no evidence outside the claim that there is a God.

  34. CW

    Maybe Science and Religion are compatible in one way. I’d argue that they both rely on some degree of imagination to further itself. Scientists may use imagination to take the next step, and True-believers need imagination to conceptualize and maintain belief in God, Angels, Heaven, etc.

  35. Busiturtle

    If scientists deny the relevance of religion on what do they base their morality?

    How does one decide the value of a life?

    Without a supreme law can not every code of morality be rationalized away?

    Could one not say that a little religion may have prevented the Nazi doctors from doing some of the reprehensible things they did in their quest for scientific understanding?

    Scientists may say they do not need religion but the history of the world suggests otherwise.

  36. bilbo

    *Ultraconservative anti-intellectual fallacy alert!!!!*

    Busiturtle said:

    “Could one not say that a little religion may have prevented the Nazi doctors from doing some of the reprehensible things they did in their quest for scientific understanding?”

    Of course, as one with any historical background would know, Nazism was chock full of religious undertones – especially in its more eugenic facets.

    The false notion that Nazism was based on science and thus science is evil is classic science denialist tripe. I didn’t think even Busiturtle (of “STD research doesn’t serve the common good” fame) was that fifth-rate.

  37. Busiturtle

    bilbo,

    Rather than swing wildly at red herrings why don’t you explain to the rest of us what morality pure scientists should follow when they have to decide whether or not to pursue a path of research.

  38. bilbo

    Pointing out a boneheaded comment on your part isn’t a red herring…since you’re the moron who made it to begin with, Busiturtle.

    If you want to address a topic objectively then, well, don’t sprinkle your position statement with half-truths and stupid remarks. That should be fairly simple to grasp.

  39. gillt

    Walker: “It also assumes that there is no concept of understanding outside of that garnered by empiricism, which is itself unknowable.”

    Insoluble might be a better word here. Which is as much as the NSF should willingly allot to any beliefs. But in their desire to reach out and communicate with Americans they’ve overstepped their bounds into proselytizing for a distinct religious philosophy.

  40. CW

    @ Busiturtle

    If religion = morality, then why does early religious dogma contain immoral dogma, such as slavery, sacrifice, male>women, variety of violence, etc.

    It seems to me that for every secular-caused atrocity, one can easily generate a counter atrocity that was fueled by religion. Maybe morality has evolved completely irrespective of religion and science?

  41. mathlete

    President Obama’s current science czar, John Holdren, has written about putting sterilants in drinking water in an attempt to control population growth, similar to the birth control actions of Communist China. How is this moral science? Maybe a little religion could prevent such actions? Also, Nazism was more of a political cult following than a religion. Hitler simply used eugenics and propaganda to brainwash his followers, much like radical Islam.

  42. JJ

    Religion has been the motivation for many atrocities. To name a few: 9-11, the Crusades, the Inquisition, Jihad, etc. It may also cause people to reject ideals different from what they’ve been taught, gay marriage for example. However, these are open to interpretation and logic, therefore it’s not fitting to say all religious people are brainwashed fools. The vast majority of religious people mean well and are taught to be peaceful and accepting of others. Personally, I’m agnostic to the idea of religion, but find it interesting how religion helps guide people’s views and behaviors.

  43. PJ

    The ‘turtle is quickly becoming known for arguing more with lies than substance. First it was multiple fallacies on climate change which were pointed out by five or six different posters. Then it was purposeful lies on how science is funded in America meant to promote his political ideology. Then he attempted to disingenuously twist the words of other posters to further promote the aforementioned lies. Now he’s just trolling with historical inaccuracies meant to stoke a rather simple example of anti-intellectualism. This has now happened on over 4 different threads. Busitrutle is a classic example of a worthless troll.

    I understand that different viewpoints are encouraged on any blog, but when we’ve got someone like Busiturtle who has been so clearly proven to be simply trolling with complete lies on the blog over so many different occasions, it’s time to show this trollish, shilling, science denialist trash the door.

  44. MartyM

    mathlete…

    you’ve been watching too much Glen Beck.

  45. Busiturtle

    The most vocal objectors to American slavery were good Christians, beginning with the Quakers. The entire notion that no man should be enslaved to another was espoused in the Declaration of Independence with these famous words:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    So I ask again, if scientists reject religion what law do they follow to decide what research activities are and are not moral?

  46. bilbo

    China puts sterilants in their drinking water?

    Do provide proof, mathlete!

  47. mathlete

    I was referring to the concept of population control in China. China has birth quotas on families limited to one child. In regard to MartyM, it’s simply a fact and I don’t watch Glenn Beck.

  48. bilbo

    “The most vocal objectors to American slavery were good Christians, beginning with the Quakers.”

    Of course, you know, we can just ignore that the major slave trading nation of the world for centuries was one with a nationalized church under the umbrella of Christianity. History doesn’t matter to a science denialist.

    And of course, we can just ignore all of the following examples of Christianity endorsing slavery: http://www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaster/Reading/Religion/slavery.htm. Facts don’t matter to a science denialist.

    When you’re a science denialist, contradictory data disappear as long as you can find one snippet that supports your fuckwitted ideology.

    Busiturtle has thus far claimed that STD research is “worthless” to society, that science overall has “no value to society,” and is now in this thread attempting to equate modern scientists with the Holocaust, has called them “immoral,” and is now attempting to somehow link them with slavery advocates through what could possibly be his third logical fallacy of the day.

    Most sites ban trolls like this.

  49. bilbo

    mathlete, I think you missed the point of Marty;s link (did you even read it?), which points out that your allegation about Holdren is an out-of-context lie made up by partisan hacks like Glenn Beck in an atrempt to subvert Democratic politics. Holdren’s statement about sterilents was descriptive and was later called “abohrrent” later in the discussion. Context is everything….unless you’re a denialist.

    mathete’s a partisan tool, and he doesn’t evne know it. Typical of the sort.

  50. Adeist

    “If scientists deny the relevance of religion on what do they base their morality?”

    *Which* religion?

    That’s a big question, that a lot of commenters above are avoiding. There are *lots* of religions – several hundred that I’m aware of – and they’re mostly incompatible with one another. (That doesn’t seem to be perceived as such a problem, though.) Religions that make assertions that science has already found answers for can easily be incompatible with it. Any religion that makes assertions about creation that are intended literally potentially comes into conflict with evolution, for example. (Or about where daylight comes from.) But the point of compatibilism is that there are variants of religion that can be found (or constructed) that make no such assertions. In that sense, religion can be compatible with science, but this fact is of little comfort to those other religions.

    Different religions also have different moralities, and indeed Christian scripture displays an entirely different morality to modern Christians, in all its sects and schisms. How do you pick which bits to follow? They can’t *all* be ‘right’.

    In practice, morality is part of our social instincts, like language. It develops naturally, irrespective of religion or traditions. It also evolves over time. And like language, it has a combination of both arbitrary and universal elements, but it is not a matter of free individual choice. An individual can no more redefine morality on their own than they can language – it is imposed by society. And scientists being social humans are every bit as subject to morals as the devout.

    And incidentally, the behaviour associated with Nazism is not at all outside the bounds of religion – at least one prominent modern religion’s founder engaged in bandit raids, slavery, torture, the mass slaughter of prisoners, and marriage with children – as attested by their own scriptures and histories. That doesn’t conform to our morality, but it does to some people’s. And you will of course remember the religious inspiration behind what Moses did to the Midianites.

    Again, it all depends on which ‘religion’ you’re talking about. But of course, since morals are not specific to religions or the religious, religions cannot fairly be blamed for their worst examples, either.

    (Apologies to big fans of Moses out there – but I’m afraid invoking Godwin’s law does commonly lead to that sort of comparison. A good time to turn the other cheek.)

  51. mathlete

    All I said was that he wrote it. I never said he advocated for it, but he never said it was an immoral practice either.

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/jul/29/glenn-beck/glenn-beck-claims-science-czar-john-holdren-propos/

  52. bilbo

    “All I said was that he wrote it. I never said he advocated for it.”

    Heh heh.

    I never said your mother was a whore, mathlete. I just said isn’t it interesting that she has money.

  53. Busiturtle

    bilbo, you seem to be the one lying about what people actually write and getting hysterical.

    Please regain your composure and consider the topic being discussed.

  54. bilbo

    Care to back that accusation up with something substantial, Busiturtle the Troll? Everything I’ve said about you has been substantiated on other threads, mostly by posters other than myself.

    Are we in a ‘conspiracy’ now, too?

  55. mathlete

    It seems bilbo needs to use derogatory language to elevate himself…compensating for something, eh?

  56. Milton C.

    This whole back and forth between the hobbit and the turtle is getting quite old.

    I’m with the hobbit and PJ: ban Busiturtle. He’s the one in the mix who has been shown time and time again to be little more than a fifth-rate troll spewing easily-debunked lies.

  57. bilbo

    Nothing aimed directly at you of course, mathelete. I was just simply saying it, not meaning it.

    See how your silly little rhetorical device serves multiple purposes?

  58. TB

    @ 9. bilbo Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 1:02 pm
    I’m starting to get the basic idea that many ‘New Atheist’ scientists essentially want to eliminate methodological naturalism altogether …
    ————–
    Bingo!

    You know, I just don’t trust certainty on the question of religion. From what I’ve learned, many theologians’ beliefs run a gamut over time that may include agnosticism, even disbelief that could be considered atheism.
    To me, that’s where compatibility is – freely admitting religious questions are unsettled while accepting what science tells us about the natural world.
    But the idea of removing the concept of methodological naturalism – that’s what you’d do if you didn’t accept that religious people could also be good scientists.

  59. bilbo

    Jackpot, TB. You could see it when Collins got the NIH job. Some of the New Atheists first called for him to step down simply because he’s a religious scientist, and then hurriedly backpedaled when people began to point out how hypocritical that was for those preaching neutrality.

    The accommodationism debates show it, too. The NAs purposefully keep their goalpost definitions of “accommodation” shifting like crazy between officially endorsing philsophical compatitiblity and any kind of communication between the religious and scientific worlds. When confronted about one of those, they quickly flip to the other.

    You can also see it with the myriad personal attacks on scientists advocating methodological naturalism. They want that stance excluded from science altogether. I’ll call bullsiht on them until they stop.

  60. bilbo

    edit to my last post…

    I think Philip Jr. had it best so far with his links in post #32. Really getting to the heart of the issue here takes looking at things outside of your own narrow window of personal experience.

  61. Busiturtle

    bilbo, you have lied in claiming I wrote things that I never wrote. It is one thing to misrepresent what someone has wrote but there is no excuse for fabrication. It appears to me you have a psychological disorder that causes you to project your paranoia onto others.

    Either refrain from the fabrication and lies or backup your claims with my actual statements. Oh, I get it, you put in quotes your inference of what I wrote, not what I actually wrote. Is that how you conduct science, replacing the inconvenient facts with the results that fit your preconception?

    While you are trying to substantiate your lies about me please consider my simple question:
    What morality should scientists follow when they have to decide whether or not to pursue a path of research?

    bilbo wrote: Busiturtle has thus far claimed that STD research is “worthless” to society, that science overall has “no value to society,” and is now in this thread attempting to equate modern scientists with the Holocaust

  62. bilbo

    Busiturtle’s direct quote, which supports my indirect (from 7 January):

    “Perhaps scientists should stop groveling at the public trough and prove to society that their work has value by producing something of value.”

    I’ll also note that Busiturtle certinaly didn’t object the “science has no value” point when pointed out by multiple posters after his quoted statement above…in fact, he continued to defend it. PJ thoroughly dispatched the turtle when he made the second claim in question about STD research yesterday.

    Keep lying and trolling, Busiturtle. It shall only get you banned. The count calling for it is up to three. On most any other site, you’d be gone.

  63. mathlete

    What kind of person recalls comments from previous posts in discussing a new post? That does seem a bit paranoid, bilbo, or maybe you’re just very passionate about blogging. I’d like to hear the answer to Busiturtle’s question on morality as well. In my opinion, I believe scientists can be morally sound in conducting research without necessarily being religious. Being a moral person doesn’t require religion as a basis, however some fields of research are still very controversial, particularly embryonic stem cell research. This subject, in particular, yields the moral dilemma between religion and science. The question is are the sacrifices of living embryos worth the cost of saving others in the future? Assuming these stem cells can yield significant findings.

  64. Matteo

    Lines that jumped out at me from the thread, with some short responses:

    From comment 14:

    “Religion is about teaching people to not question belief, and to simply believe. Science is all about questioning things. It’s not difficult to imagine that the habit of simply believing in things blindly would spill over to things related to science, and make science more difficult, and make things more difficult for scientists.”

    I question your belief that religion is about teaching people not to question belief. Do you believe this blindly, or do you have some evidence to present?

    From comment 14:

    “People should be taught to question absolutely everything, and that is something a lot of religious people don’t like. Christianity doesn’t want its followers to question whether Christianity is the true faith.”

    I know plenty of religious people who like to question everything. I question the assertion you just made in the second sentence above. What is your evidence for this assertion? I’m not interested in the opinion of know-nothing “men in the street” but actual theologians. Precisely which of them has taught that “Christianity doesn’t want its followers to question whether Christianity is the true faith.” Evidence please!

    From comment 21:

    “The supernatural is not compatible with science. Any religion that incorporates the supernatural cannot be compatible with science.”

    Great assertion, where is the argument? Why cannot I just as easily (and with more philosophical justification) assert that the *lack* of a supernatural being is incompatible with the existence of a physical world to observe as well as the minds in that world to do the observing and conduct science? Either way, it is you that made the assertion, and you that need to justify it.

    From comment 33:

    “God is an idea with no evidence outside the claim that there is a God.”

    And where is the evidence for your claim outside of the claim itself?

  65. Busiturtle

    So bilbo, is this how you reach a consensus? Rid the forum of those who pose inconvenient questions rather than address them? Michael Mann has taught you well.

    I came to this forum with a bias, a curiosity and a sense of humor. My bias is I believe in limited government and I am wary of the commingling of science and political agendas. My curiosity is I am interested in the discovery yielded by scientific inquiry. My sense of humor is at least I am willing to laugh at the futility of mankind to tell mother nature how it should behave.

    In response to my posts you and some others have attacked my integrity and character. How can I have possibly lied when I either offered an opinion or cited a reference? Why the vitriol? Why have you resorted to slurs and cursing?

    What is wrong with asking as basic question? Why the reluctance to address it?

  66. gillt

    I never understood why accomodationists name-drop Francis Collins. He’s on record, thanks to his charisma and outspokenness, speaking creationist drivel. Collin’s is only a good scientist in the trivial sense that he’s good at his job.

    Collins in a lecture at the University of California at Berkeley in 2008:

    Slide 1 – Almighty God, who is not limited in space or time, created a universe 13.7 billion years ago with its parameters precisely tuned to allow the development of complexity over long periods of time.

    Slide 2 – God’s plan included the mechanism of evolution to create the marvelous diversity of living things on our planet. Most especially, that creative plan included human beings.

    Slide 3 – After evolution had prepared a sufficiently advanced “house” (the human brain), God gifted humanity with the knowledge of good and evil (the Moral Law), with free will, and with an immortal soul.

    Slide 4 – We humans use our free will to break the moral law, leading to our estrangement from God. For Christians, Jesus is the solution to that estrangement.

    Slide 5 – If the Moral Law is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as good or evil. It’s all an illusion. We’ve been hoodwinked. Are any of us, especially the strong atheists, really prepared to live our lives within that worldview?

  67. Matteo

    gillt:

    Interesting list of statements from Collins. Now please explicate just what is wrong with it.

  68. Matteo

    Lines that jumped out at me from the thread, with some short responses:

    From comment 14:

    “Religion is about teaching people to not question belief, and to simply believe. Science is all about questioning things. It’s not difficult to imagine that the habit of simply believing in things blindly would spill over to things related to science, and make science more difficult, and make things more difficult for scientists.”

    I question your belief that religion is about teaching people not to question belief. Do you believe this blindly, or do you have some evidence to present?

    From comment 14:

    “People should be taught to question absolutely everything, and that is something a lot of religious people don’t like. Christianity doesn’t want its followers to question whether Christianity is the true faith.”

    I know plenty of religious people who like to question everything. I question the assertion you just made in the second sentence above. What is your evidence for this assertion? I’m not interested in the opinion of know-nothing “men in the street” but actual theologians. Precisely which of them has taught that “Christianity doesn’t want its followers to question whether Christianity is the true faith.” Evidence please!

    From comment 21:

    “The supernatural is not compatible with science. Any religion that incorporates the supernatural cannot be compatible with science.”

    Great assertion, where is the argument? Why cannot I just as easily (and with more philosophical justification) assert that the *lack* of a supernatural being is incompatible with the existence of a physical world to observe as well as the minds in that world to do the observing and conduct science? Either way, it is you that made the assertion, and you that need to justify it.

    From comment 33:

    “God is an idea with no evidence outside the claim that there is a God.”

    And where is the evidence for your claim outside of the claim itself?

  69. bilbo

    Exactly gillt. When Collins, a scientist, speaks about religion, he’s accommodating it, and the anti-accommodationists go berserk. But when Jerry Coyne, a scientist with his professional bio and research program serving as the “about” section of his blog with “evolution” in the title, makes statements such as “We know that religion is a false, outmoded, incorrect way of thinking about the world that enables evil,” the anti-accommodationist camp remains silent.

    I wouldn’t have a problem with this, if not for the anti-accommodationist stance that science and scientists should remain neutral to belief or non-belief when speaking about science. So, by the very definition, “neutrality” means that Francis Collins is breaking neutrality when promoting religion in a lecture at a university AND Jerry Coyne is doing the same when promoting nonbelief on his blog (which, I’ll add again, uses his professional bio and lab research as the blog background). The situation for both is akin to standing up in an evolution class and saying “Almighty God, who is not limited in space or time, created a universe 13.7 billion years ago with its parameters precisely tuned to allow the development of complexity over long periods of time.” OR “We know that religion is a false, outmoded, incorrect way of thinking about the world that enables evil.”

    Forgive me if I fail to see “neutrality” in either. Both, in fact, are beign very accommodating, Coyne being incredibly ironic given his past angry rants about the importance of neutrality…even when it comes to nonbelief. I’d much rather people such as him just be out with it and directly promote nonbelief than hide behind a flimsy caricature of neutrality and talk out of both sides of his mouth.

    But alas, the Tribe cannot stand against one of its members. It is the Cardinal Rule of the Culture War.

  70. bilbo

    Busiturtle,

    I’m not trying to rid the blog of “those who pose inconvenient questions.” I’m trying to rid the blog of a mindless troll who hasn’t contributed anything so far except politically-minded pejoratives and false accusations/lies that have quickly been proven thus.

    I’d very much like to see an “iconvenient question” from you that doesn’t have a smattering of false accusations strung along to the front of it. That would be refreshing, actually.

    If you’d like to start, a great place to begin would be over on the climate change thread where I have challenged you to prove yourself NOT a troll by substantiating your arguments (because only a troll hurls accusations without anything solid behind them). Alas, you have failed to do so all three times I’ve asked.

    Shall it be a fourth?

  71. gillt

    All of it…especially slides 2-5.

    A better question: as the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute–the obvious reason why he’s asked to speak at such events in the first place–what part of his dunderheaded syllogism is NOT in direct conflict with our basic understanding of the evolution (cultural and biological) of human moral systems?

  72. gillt

    When Coyne runs his own federally funded institute your comparison will carry significance. Until then he’s a professor with tenure speaking his mind.

    While Collins’ theology may be low-hanging fruit, he is in my estimation as equally necessary (maybe more so) and successful a science educator as Dawkins.

  73. Matteo

    “what part of his dunderheaded syllogism is NOT in direct conflict with our basic understanding of the evolution (cultural and biological) of human moral systems?”

    You made the assertion. My question to you is which part of his syllogism is in direct conflict and why? If I’m not some sort of knee-jerk anti-theist, then what kind of argument can you offer me? A mere assertion doesn’t carry a whole lot of weight.

  74. Busiturtle

    bilbo,

    Is Professor Mojib Latif a liar? He’s the one saying there’s more to climate change than CO2 emissions. You do not serve your cause well when you so easily resort to vitriol and paranoia.

    Are you willing to admit the science is not settled? Are you? If not look in the mirror the next time you call liar.

  75. Busiturtle

    I now read that Latif claims the media is misrepresenting his research. Fair enough. Let’s blame the media. At the same time let’s acknowledge that there is more to Climate Change than CO2 emissions, Latif’s research does.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7191/abs/nature06921.html
    Our results suggest that global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade, as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic warming.

    And by the way, bilbo, I completely agree with your post #69.

    Peace

  76. CW

    Busiturtle, I had said most early religions (all religions) had ideology filled immoral practices. You stated “religion” in #35. Your implication that religion = morality is flawed. You can give me dozens of examples in which religious people acted morally, but I can give you dozens of examples in which religious people acted immorally. Therefore, there is no correlation between religion and morality.

    If you are sincere in this topic (and wish to show objectivity) then you should pick up Michael Shermer’s “The Science of Good and Evil” or go see his more recent blog posts at http://trueslant.com/michaelshermer/…to get a little bit of the other side’s arguments.

    At least you’ll know that your arguments have already been made many times over and familiarize yourself with the counter-arguments (in which to test your position).

  77. bilbo

    When Coyne runs his own federally funded institute your comparison will carry significance. Until then he’s a professor with tenure speaking his mind.

    My comparison already carries significance. You weren’t mad about BioLogos, gillt. You were mad about “a professor speaking his mind” at UC Berkeley just like Coyne….except the only difference is that you don’t agree with what Collins was speaking his mind on, while you agree with Coyne. Thus one gets criticism while the other gets a pat on the back. Such is the Way of the Tribe.

    There’s the double standard – and it is not neutrality. If you’re really going to preach the neutrality of anti-accommodationism, that means getting angry when a scientist promotes atheism just like you would when a scientist promotes religion. Neutrality is a two-way street.

    I can see the argument that Coyne is just ‘some guy’ when he’s on his blog, but as long as he introduces himself as a professor at the Univ. of Chicago and an “evolutionary biologist studying the mechanisms of speciation,” well, that argument is dead in the water.

    If any scientist – Coyne or Collins or anyone else – wants to “speak their mind” about religion either way, they’ve gotta shirk the official scientist context first. Anything less is accommodationist tripe.

  78. Busiturtle

    CW, can we agree that some religions are purer than others? For example, a religion that says “turn the other cheek” might promote community affinity better than the one that requires stoning of one accused of adultery or burning of one deemed a witch. We can also agree that religion can be manipulated for personal gain and the ultimate measure of one’s morality is the person’s behavior, acclaimed belief notwithstanding.

    As a pragmatist I believe that religion must be consistent with what we observe in this world. A religion that consistently failed to explain human behavior would be worthless. As such I am sympathetic to the view of evolutionary morality. All historical evidence suggests the moral condition of humans has evolved, or improved. And here we are in the 21st century where slavery is universally condemned in all western societies and the rights of the individual are largely defended. Thank goodness!

    But is this morality solely a consequence of evolution or is the source divine? More important, does it matter? I say it does for this simple reason. If morality is evolutionary than it can be rationalized that morality is whatever the powerful says it is. It is this rationalization that gets us in trouble. Rationalization allowed the Soviets to imprison their people behind walls. It allows genocide. It allows individual rights to be deemed secondary to a greater cause.

    If, on the other hand, morality is divine than the standard is resolute. Man may still rationalize a different morality but the people can claim it falls short of the higher law. A divine morality provides a resistance to change that an evolutionary morality lacks.

    This perspective may impede scientific discovery but it also protects the weak from the rationalizations (rational being the essence of science) of the powerful.

  79. bilbo

    Well Busiturtle, there’s something we can partially agree on! Believe it or not, I’ll go against my “warmer” tribe for a bit and admit that people in the media (and on the political left) often overdramatize the science of climate change. If a paper comes out talking about predictions of (very real) sea level rise, many on those sides start talking about New York City being underwater and crazy plot scenarios….when none of that was part of the science at all. The skeptic crowd often confuses the hype with the science, when those are often largely separate.

    BUT….that doesn’t mean that core parts of climate science these days (that human greehouse gas emissions are influencing our climate) are any less supported. I’d say go read more actual journal articles at their source, Busiturtle. They really give you an idea of what’s going on without all of the hype and political undertones. And you’ll find that most of the skeptic claims about climate scientists (i.e., they don’t account for solar cycles or water vapor, they rely on models for everything, they express absolute certainty, etc.) are mostly false.

  80. gillt

    Matteo, your complacent in questioning my assertions but have nothing to say about Collins’? If your not some “knee-jerk anti-atheist” you are hopelessly biased. Conclusions about the evolution of human behavior should be based on research not biblical authority and tautology. Assertions that God did it are no more than an admission of ignorance dressed deceitfully as an explanation.

    Collins’ syllogism is bad reasoning and worse science because an interventionist God who guides evolution violates the rules of science. These rules rely on a remarkably successful methodology…not faith. In addition to being empirically validated, the methodology makes science universal.

    Francis Collins is an intelligent design creationist.

    Here’s Eugene Scott’s (original) explanation of evolution:

    “The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.”

  81. gillt

    Bilbo: “You weren’t mad about BioLogos, gillt.”

    What?!? I was totally miffed about biologos because it was christian apologetic dressed up as science and endorsed by the director of NHGRI. If Collins ever returns to academia, I promise I’ll leave him alone…maybe.

    Bilbo “If any scientist – Coyne or Collins or anyone else – wants to “speak their mind” about religion either way, they’ve gotta shirk the official scientist context first. Anything less is accommodationist tripe.”

    That level of self-censorship is obviously absurd. What you seem to be saying is that Coyne is unqualified to speak on religion because he’s an atheist. You won’t find much support among academics for the idea that a professor can only speak his or her mind on certain topics as long as they drop the University affiliation and PhD from their name. That’s downright Maoist. It’s one of the many perks tenureship in America.

  82. bilbo

    Coyne isn’t “unqualified” to speak on religion; he’s just being hypocritical about screaming about neutrality when someone like Collins speaks for religion….and then turns around and speks against it himself. You provided an example from a lecture by Collins as an example that he’s doing something wrong….yet turn a blind eye to Coyne doing the same.

    You doing the old New Atheist canard, gillt: interpreting any criticism about neutrality as me screaming “shut up!!!!” I’m hardly doing that, and you’re just being foolish. The point here isn’t that scientists can’t have opinions about religion (because they very much can). The point is that walking into a room, introducing yourself as *insert name here*, an evolutionary biologist at University of X, and then promoting religion/atheism in your official capacity is sacrificing neutrality. And that, as I said earlier, runs two ways.

  83. PJ

    I agree with bilbo on this one. I’m all for the ability for people to speak their minds, but if you’re wearing your professional hat as a scientist and promoting religion OR atheism at the same time, you’re a disgrace to science. I’m not familiar with people like this Coyne character, but if he’s talking about neutrality but promoting either side when he’s introduced himself as a scientist, that’s being hypocritical.

    Those topics can be saved for when your professional hat is off and you’re just Joe Q. Public again, and you can scream about either all you want. Don’t do it in your lectures or on your blog (as long as you’re wearing your professional hat on it). In this day and age, your science blog isn’t much different from a classroom, anyway.

  84. Dark Tent

    Orzel: it is not in any way an “unconscionable” political statement for professional scientific organizations to state that science and religion are compatible”

    First, why should professional scientific organizations state that “science and religion are compatible”?

    What’s the point?

    Second, the real problem here is that we actually do live in the real world and some (not all, but some) religious organizations simply are not satisfied with a statement that “science and religion are compatible”.

    That’s the proverbial “foot in the door” to more “practical” matters like getting schools to give equal time to science and religion.

    It’s fine to let indiviuals make up their own mind about whether science and religion are campatible.

    But there is nothing to be gained (and lots to be lost) from having scientific organizations actually codify such a statement.

  85. gillt

    Bilbo, you’re obtuse to the fulcrum of my argument that Collins’ and Coyne’s job descriptions differ to such an extent as to make all the difference.

    Do you deny this?

  86. Chris

    Could someone explain why slavery is wrong per se?

    It was, for a very long time, common place in human societies
    (the Athens of Pericles, All the caliphates, Imperial China, most parts of India, Europe under the Romans and upto recent times, Vikings, Goths, Mongol Empire etc etc). Few, if any, of those societies fell because of it.

    No arguments from your own or others morality please.

    Also, what is this morality that you all speak so glibly of?

  87. bilbo

    Does that mean that “neutrality” in science applies only to specific scientists and subsets of science, gillt? That seems to be what you’re arguing – that the more well-known and more “official” one is, the more restrictions (s)he should have when talking about religion either way.

    I would argue the opposite, that Coyne and Collins both speak for science when in professional capacities, regardless of credentials, and thus both sacrifice neutrality when they rant for or against religion. That seems to be the fundamental place where they differ.

    Let me ask you this question, gillt, just to clear the confusion. Consider that Bob Smith, an evolutionary biologist at Western Illinois State Tech, walks into his majors classroom and says during his lecture that “We know that religion is a false, outmoded, incorrect way of thinking about the world that enables evil.” Next door, Jane Johnson, another evolutionary biologist, walks into her classroom and says “We humans use our free will to break the moral law, leading to our estrangement from God.”

    Which one of those should be sanctioned (none, both, or one or other)? And is either sacrificing scientific neutrality?

  88. bilbo

    Change ‘they’ to ‘we’ in my following sentence, gillt (comment still in moderation):

    “That seems to be the fundamental place where they differ.”

  89. gillt

    I cannot comment on sanctions as it would be a bureaucratic issue particular to the University. Since they’re in a classroom and their charge is to teach tuition-paying students evolution, and they choose not to, then they aren’t fulfilling their job description. Science and critical thinking should be taught in a science classroom. Both are sacrificing neutrality. Btw,. Coyne doesn’t do this.

    This is also a poor comparison between what Collins and Coyne do. Collins had to officially remove his name from the BioLogos website when he became NIH director so it was a double standard that he was aloud to maintain it while director of NHGRI (an institute within NIH) in my opinion.

    You seem to be trying very hard to ignore the difference between a professor and a scientific director of a federally funded institute.

  90. CW, can we agree that some religions are purer than others? For example, a religion that says “turn the other cheek” might promote community affinity better than the one that requires stoning of one accused of adultery or burning of one deemed a witch.

    You mean, like Christianity? (or see here) Those condemning the alleged “witches” are arguably “pure” believers – Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:10-11, Galatians 5:19-20, Revelation 21:8.

    Pure does not mean nice, as you seem to think. In fact, I’d say you have a rather rose-tinted view of the world if you think pure = nice (or even good).

    We can also agree that religion can be manipulated for personal gain and the ultimate measure of one’s morality is the person’s behavior, acclaimed belief notwithstanding.

    But there is no need to manipulate many (maybe even most) religions. The “Big Three” for example have nastiness to spare in their holy texts without the need for mani

    As a pragmatist I believe that religion must be consistent with what we observe in this world. A religion that consistently failed to explain human behavior would be worthless.

    I tend to think psychology is more effective at explaining human behavior. Religion tends to provoke or advocate for certain behaviors, not all of them nice and friendly.

    But is this morality solely a consequence of evolution or is the source divine?

    A question that is meaningless without a solid definition of what “divine” means, and more importantly, how to find intersubjective evidence for it.

    If morality is evolutionary than it can be rationalized that morality is whatever the powerful says it is.

    Or it could be morality began with a base of altruism (observed in many species) and evolved through cultural means to be that which has best enabled groups to survive and thrive in community. That is, morality might be described as that which enables humanity to cooperate.

    A little simplistic, yes, but adequate for a comment, perhaps. Survival isn’t based solely on individualistic power, my friend.

    If, on the other hand, morality is divine than the standard is resolute. Man may still rationalize a different morality but the people can claim it falls short of the higher law. A divine morality provides a resistance to change that an evolutionary morality lacks.

    However, there is no intersubjective evidence that any such absolute standard exists. In any case, by asserting an absolute standard you run headlong into the Euthyphro dilemma.

    Your earlier comments (#35 in particular) were, shall we say, troubling as well.

  91. bilbo

    “You seem to be trying very hard to ignore the difference between a professor and a scientific director of a federally funded institute.”

    I’m using the following principle (using that word loosely) of anti-accommodationism: “If we’re to defend evolutionary biology, we, as scientists and scientific organizations, must defend it as a science: with no belief or non-belief strings attached.”

    It’s interesting to see you essentially claim that only directors of federally funded institutes, scientific organizations, and those physically in the presence of a science classroom can be representative so science and thus subject to neutrality. By placing so many restrictions on when and to whom neutrality applies, it almost sounds like you’re just trying to make a pigeonholed definition of neutrality that excludes groups and people of your choice.

    I instead argue that, once you introduce yourself as a scientist in a discussion (whether that be in a classroom, on a blog, or as the head of the NIH), you’re representing science. And thus when you inject belief and nonbelief into the equation, neutrality is gone, and you’re accommodating science (for which you are speaking) with foolishness.

  92. gillt

    I’m trying to be concise, while setting what should be obvious lines of demarcation between a professor at a private university and an administrator at a tax-funded research institute. There is a place for neutrality and a place to voice one’s opinions. Your all-or-nothing view is overly simplistic and strained.

  93. gillt

    Bilbo: “I instead argue that, once you introduce yourself as a scientist in a discussion… you’re representing science”

    That’s a bit rigid, don’t you think?

  94. Stephen

    Even if they were somehow compatible should we just turn a blind eye to the injustice science suffered at their hands, it took them three hundred years to apologize for the stoning of Galileo. They never want to admit their errors. I’m not saying our science is perfect but it’s better at providing answers.

  95. CW

    Can we agree that some religions are more pure than others? I guess I would agree, but it has nothing to do with my original point. Religion does not correlate with morality anymore than it correlates with science. But if we look at Christianity, even then it does not require a moral code. Salvation only comes in taking Jesus Christ as your savior. That is the dogma. So a person who has lived an immoral life can still find salvation.

    Ultimately, doesn’t morality come down to simply – try and help as many people and make them happy, while simultaneously try to minimize the number of people you hurt and make unhappy?

    How does science as a whole act more immorally than religion? Doesn’t science try to enhance yours, my, and everyone else’s life – via increased knowledge, health, and overall experience?

  96. CW

    That should be “Can we agree that some religions…others?” (a quote from Busiturtle)

  97. bilbo

    That’s a bit rigid, don’t you think?

    Not at all. It’s not “simplistic” or “strained,” either. I know this isn’t exactly what you’re saying, but claiming that the justification of two scientists expressing their views on religion differs just because one works at a public institution and one works at a private one seems to be just making excuses. If scientists want to express their views, then that’s fine. No one is saying they can’t. I just argue that if they are in a discussion or a situation where they represent science (a blog about evolution, a classroom, a public speaking venue, etc. etc. etc.), using that time and opportunity to promote a specific view on belief or nonbelief is simple accommodation. Save that kind of discussion for when you aren’t in a position where you are representing science, and you won’t be accommodating.

  98. PJ

    gillt,

    Seeing how you respond to bilbo, it seems like you’re concerned about neutrality only as it applies to official positions like Collins at the NIH. Even though you seem to be anti-religion, would you say that an average professor who has a science blog and occasionally uses it to promote religion is accommodating and should be squashed? I’d be interested to see since you’re claiming that precisely the same situation (but promoting atheism) is totally fine. It almost seems like you’re conflating ‘neutrality’ and your own personal stance on the issue. That isn’t neutrality.

  99. TB

    I think Bilbo has a great point here. In theory, if people on all sides of the debate stopped making claims about science and religion and limited themselves to specific religious claims that science disproves we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
    But since that doesn’t happen – with either religious fundamentalists or with new atheists – it’s perfectly reasonable to point out when someone is taking a position on religion (as John Wilkins has described it) and therefore not taking a position on science.
    In practical terms, it also means that people can’t stop doing what they’re doing until some kind of detente can be reached.
    Even so, it’s the people or institutions who would gladly adopt a true neutral position on religion and advocate for science who hold the moral high ground (and I mean that in it’s most secular sense). They are, after all, taking a position on religion only in response to positions taken by others – positions whose purpose may be to undermine materialism or whose purpose may be to undermine religion.
    Both of those are positions on religion, not science.

  100. TB

    And, in response to #93, I’m trying to imagine a pertinent conversation where someone identifies themself as a scientist without the intention of it being seen as some kind of claim to authority.

  101. TB

    “Are you going to eat those fries? BTW, I’m a scientist.”

    “Hey baby, wanna come back to my place and fool around? BTW, I’m a scientist.”

  102. gillt

    Yes PJ, I’m saying exactly that. Neutrality in religious matters does apply to people in official positions. It’s part of the church/state separation. Collins is in this category.

  103. gillt

    Are you serious TB? Why do scientists scare you so much? We aren’t priests. When people ask what I do for a living, I say I’m a biologist; it’s never interpreted or mentioned as a claim to authority. I think you need to get out and meet more scientists.

  104. Skeptic

    “Hey kid, wanna come back to my place and fool around? BTW, I’m a Catholic priest”

  105. bilbo

    Sorry, gillt and skeptic, somehow I missed where a one-on-one conversation became equivalent to a public forum. But ok, circle-dance all you want….

  106. bilbo

    TB, I see more of the problem in that both sides (religious crazies and New Atheists) are defining “neutrality” as “you shouldn’t promote the side I disagree with – but our side? That’s fine.” And we all know that isn’t neutrality – at least not in the reality-based sense.

    gillt has been arguing that the neutrality-obsessed anti-accommodationists only mean those in “official” positions such as Francis Collins, and that ‘normal’ professors are exempt (in fact, he said it’s a “perk of tenureship” to be able to express your opinions under such a capacity).

    So, if it’s so silly to accuse those outside of official organizations and government groups of accommodating, what about people like Michael Ruse? I’m not arguing that he’s right (I disagree with him, actually), but if you’re claiming that only fools accuse someone like that (“just a professor”) of breaking neutrality, about all of the anti-accommodationists suddenly become fools.

    And thus we’re back to the tired old double-standard again. It’s pretty clear that “neutral” doesn’t really mean neutral in this discussion. It’s just used as an empty standard for both sides to wave around while saying under their breath “we can accommodate, but you’d better not.”

  107. Seminatrix

    TB and bilbo bring up a couple of good points, I think. My main concern mirrors theirs in that vague definitions and shifty standards take precedence over anything substantial in science-religion fights. Each side wants to shield itself and all of its members from being able to be criticized, even if that means going against your own avowed standards from time to time. Such is the nature of science, I guess (Lakatos and Kuhn, anyone?), but it’s taking this dialogue down a road that eventually doesn’t help science because the goalposts keep shifting to avoid any concessions on either side. It just keeps the fight going.

  108. TB

    103. gillt Says:
    January 12th, 2010 at 3:45 pm
    Are you serious TB? Why do scientists scare you so much? We aren’t priests. When people ask what I do for a living, I say I’m a biologist; it’s never interpreted or mentioned as a claim to authority.

    ———-

    Yes, it must be fear that drives me. Uh, no, gilt, we’re not just talking about a passive answer to an innocent query, we’re talking how identifying yourself as a scientist in pertinent conversations holds an appeal to authority.

    And skeptic, ew. That’s just distatefully off topic. But, good to know neither of you have a sense of humor.

  109. gillt

    Actually Bilbo, the origins of the neutrality issue arose from the NCSE and the NSF endorsing theistic evolution. Coyne and other NAs responded that these organizations, if they claim to represent science, should stop making one-sided arguments on this subject OR accurately mention a range of scientists views, including atheist scientists.

    That’s a slightly different argument than the one I’m making about Collins.

  110. Harman Smith

    @68

    Those are some good questions, in that they made me think. Just to let you know, I’m still thinking about it.

  111. TB

    The NCSE and the NSF took a position on science and religion to counter the position taken by opponents of good science. It didn’t just happen in a vacuum, it was to address a specific challenge and it works within their role as advocates of science. It’s apparently a problem for people who take other positions regarding religion.
    And it might be a slightly different argument, but it’s similar enough to show the pattern that Bilbo’s highlighting.

    And I have a reply in moderation, but gilt and skeptic, you should really go read more webcomics like xkcd ( http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/g-spot.png )

  112. TB

    @ 106. bilbo

    No, I understood what you were saying. It was good, it made me think. But if my subsequent thoughts confused the point you were making, my apologies.

  113. TB

    Now I’m hitting the random button

    http://xkcd.com/242/

  114. bilbo

    gillt,

    Again, that’s exactly my point. The anti-accommodationists began with groups like the NCSE, NAS, and AAAS, etc. and then shifted the goalposts (more expanded them, I suppose) to individual “religious scientists,” even those outside of “official” leadership positions. So, they introduced such people into the discussion, but you’re claiming that accommodation has nothing to do with those people. Hence the reason I’m confused: you keep calling me “shallow” and “Maoist” for pointing this out, while it’s absolutely no secret that it actually happens. Maybe it’s the vagaries of the whole debate that keep the confusion fueled. My argument, again, is that if neutrality is to be the watchword, a Michael Ruse (insert other scientist or science philosopher here) promoting religion should get the exact same treatment as a Jerry Coyne promoting atheism (neither is in a Collins-like position, mind you). But the record of the debate shows anti-accommodationists getting angry at people like Ruse for breaking neutrality while applauding people like Coyne for breaking neutrality also. That screaming double standard is just simply not neutrality any way you cut it, and thus it should cease to be part of the discussion if it’s going to be used only as a false banner for looking sophisticated.

    TB,

    No worries.

  115. gillt

    What business is if of the NCSE or NSF to indulge in scientifically unsupportable claims like theistic evolution, and why is it a more a effective communication strategy against creationists?

    The first answer is that it isn’t their business at all.

    As to why these two organization promote some crap-tastic idea like theistic evolution is because they are far more worried over the possibility of being attributed with promoting the idea that evolution leads to atheism. Besides creationists, not too many hold this opinion. It’s pretty obvious that the NCSE and NSF are far more afraid about pissing off the religious majority in this country than an atheist minority, to the extent that they actually promote a specific religious philosophy. It’s a practical strategy. Cowardly and lamentable and infuriating, but practical.

  116. Milton C.

    He’s got a habit of being an obnoxious little bugger, but bilbo has a very relevant, very well-supported opinion on this. I’m surprised it hasn’t been a bigger part of the discussion.

  117. gillt

    Two things bilbo,

    What prominent atheist (quotes maybe?) says this “But the record of the debate shows anti-accommodationists getting angry at people like Ruse for breaking neutrality”

    2nd. For some reason you want me to be the NA PR agent. I’m not. So do us a favor and quit insisting I defend every single issue you have with a bunch of other people you seem to disagree with. Coyne has a publicly available email address, for instance.

  118. PJ

    From the standpoint of scientific neutrality, both theistic evolution and evolution promoted hand-in-hand with atheism are “crap-tastic” and “lamentable” ideas. Both are attempting to accommodate science by endorsing a particular viewpoint over another in terms of religion.

    The question isn’t which one of those ideas is right. The question is what kills neutrality and puts accommodationism in its place?

    Both of them do.

  119. bilbo

    gillt,

    If it upsets you so much to defend people, don’t. I didn’t ask you to. I just pointed out those examples to counter when you lectured me over what anti-accommodationists stand for. Your opinion ended up being quite different from what those most publically involved in the accommodationism debates state. From the looks of the other posters, I’m not the only one to notice this.

    For the record though, your history of posting on The Intersection does seems to put promoting science at a backseat to being a megaphone here for the New Atheism on your list of priorities, so I’m not attributing you to a group for no reason.

  120. TB

    119. PJ Says:
    “From the standpoint of scientific neutrality, both theistic evolution and evolution promoted hand-in-hand with atheism are “crap-tastic” and “lamentable” ideas. Both are attempting to accommodate science by endorsing a particular viewpoint over another in terms of religion.”

    Of course, the question that Bilbo raises (I think) is that it’s not really scientific neutrality that’s goal here. It’s “stop advocating what you’re advocating so I can advocate what I’m advocating” under the guise of an artificial standard of neutrality.

  121. PJ

    Fair enough, TB. I’ve been reading up on volleys about accommodationism since I noticed this thread, and I can see exactly what you’re saying. I can at least see that even the whole motivation of advancing science is a disguise for “let me use science to advocate my cultural stance,” too. Or at least that’s my interpretation.

  122. gillt

    yes, and your history puts you in the defend Mooney group.

    Again, “What prominent atheist (quotes maybe?) says this “But the record of the debate shows anti-accommodationists getting angry at people like Ruse for breaking neutrality”

    I ask because I’m not familiar with people getting angry at Ruse for breaking neutrality, so if you could shed some light.

  123. bilbo

    No one said, verbatim, “But the record of the debate shows anti-accommodationists getting angry at people like Ruse for breaking neutrality.” Outside of me, at least. That’s called an observation. But, one can easily find multiple cases where Ruse is labeled an accommodationist, faitheist, etc. etc. etc.

    As far as me “defending Mooney,” how am I defending Mooney in this case if I’m criticizing accomodationism, which Chris himself has supported? You’re starting to grasp at straws here, gillt. (Or, at least, you’re utilizing New Atheist canard #2: conflating criticism on your position with automatic acceptance of your opposition’s position.)

    You’re smarter than that, gillt. I know you are.

  124. bilbo

    TB, you’re on the mark.

  125. PJ

    I don’t really see why gillt is getting bent out of shape. Maybe there’s some back story to him and bilbo that I’m out of the loop on, or maybe it’s just culture war-itis rearing its head. But bilbo has been making some wonderfully reasoned arguments here.

    From what I’ve gathered (and what TB seems to be gathering too) is that a scientist isn’t being neutral on the topic of religion if they are endorsing it or atheism in an official capacity (i.e. in a forum about science where their occupation places them in a position that speaks for science.) I’m with bilbo in this applying to a classroom, the NIH directorship, a lecture at a university, a science-themed blog, etc. That leaves plenty of cases for scientists to speak out against (or support) religion. It just simply shouldn’t be done if you’re doing the equivalent of saying “hey, I’m an evolutionary biologist. Let’s talk about evolution and science. And hey, by the way, let’s praise Jesus (or) religion is evil and its followers are delusional.”

    I honestly don’t see anything controversial or “Maoist” about poin6ing out how certainly non-neutral that is…

  126. Sorbet

    Maybe we can all be thankful that Collins’s latest book is about science and personalized medicine. And it seems to be a fairly good read.

  127. gillt

    Well I’m certainly not taking you at your word about NAs treatment of Ruse if you can’t even be bothered to come up with a single quote. Calling someone a fatheist is not the same as saying they’re breaking neutrality.

    I believe the accusation that you were defending Mooney is about as well founded as me putting science in a backseat to being a megaphone for New atheism, which was my point.

  128. Milton C.

    I’m unsure of exactly what bilbo is talking about with Michael Ruse. He seems to be more of a general critic of the New Atheism than a blender of science with religion (although I did notice that Jerry Coyne calls him a “faithiest” and “accommodationist” on several accounts).

    But, unless I’m mistaken, the argument Bilbo was trying to convey was that a person like Jerry Coyne talks about how people accommdate science with a stance on belief on his blog, preaches neutrality outright, criticizes those people for accommodation by simply making statements on their respective blogs, but then turns around and makes statements on his own blog that accomodate science with a stance on belief that promotes atheism.

    Using bilbo’s Coyne as an example, I count at least 7 to 8 people in a cursory search that he has criticized for breaking neutrality on his blog. None of these people are in the “official” positions gillt talks about. But at the same time about 70 to 80 percent of Coyne’s posts seem to be pro-atheism posts or religion-bashing posts….all on a blog whose “about” section, as bilbo noted, links to a scientist’s professional bio and research profile, and on a blog with “evolution” in the title – clearly meant as a forum representing science.

    So when one: 1.) Preaches neutrality when it comes to science endorsing belief/nonbelief, 2.) (rightfully) criticizes scientists for endorsing belief in the blogosphere, but 3.) turns right around and endorses nonbelief and personally attacks religious beleivers on his own science blog, that is simple, accommodationist hypocrisy, just in the opposite direction of normal. More importantly, that seems to be exactly what TB summarized when he said: ‘It’s “stop advocating what you’re advocating so I can advocate what I’m advocating” under the guise of an artificial standard of neutrality.’ It’s a lie to call that neutrality, and Coyne should stop.

    (P.S. – I’ll just state for the record that I’m an atheist myself and virtually agree with Coyne and other New Atheists on all things religious. But bilbo has a solid argument here, has argued it incredibly logically, and is pounding it into submission. I’ve yet to see a logical counterargument that can supplant it. There’s a rampant hypocrisy here that’s worth calling out for the good of science.)

  129. Seminatrix

    I don’t have nearly the background as most of you in this specific part of the science-religion battle, but this has been a fun comment thread to watch. Less petty argument and more substance in this one, I suppose.

    The issues I’ve seen TB, bilbo, PJ, and Milton present seem to be rather valid and alarming, especially going for myself to the blogosphere and perusing the bloggers in question for the first few times. There are places to espouse your views on religion. Your evolution blog, where you are conspicuously present as an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago and the author of a popular science book, is certainly NOT one of them. That’s trying to blend science with a cultural opinion on belief, which is not even close to what science is.

    I view the above example as the equivalent of espousing views on religion in a science classroom. In today’s time, a blog and a classroom aren’t much different. Most people would get fired – or at least rightfully reprimanded – for that. Save the religion rants for when you’re not present as a scientist.

  130. gillt

    I disagree Milton. Coyne argues with accomodationists, but I don’t seem him blaming them for breaking scientific neutrality when they aren’t either espousing their views while representing a science organization like NSF or government officials.

    It’s taken you guys a while to appreciate the difference, so I’m sure I’ll be repeating myself on this point a few times.

    And if I’m right, then he’s not being hypocritical.

  131. Milton C.

    Coyne argues with accomodationists, but I don’t seem him blaming them for breaking scientific neutrality when they aren’t either espousing their views while representing a science organization like NSF or government officials.

    I think you’re failing to see that one of the very definitions of “accommodationism” is those who sacrifice neutrality by trying to throw science together in bed with belief/nonbelief as a promotional tool for either. So, in that sense of the word, when someone “argues with accommodationists,” they’re peeved that said person has broken neutrality. And then when that same person turns around and endorses belief or nonbelief in the same capacity as the person whom they were criticizing (as Coyne often does), that’s where the hypocrisy runs in.

    Watching the discussion play out between you and bilbo today, I’ve seen a couple of hang-ups on your part, gillt, or at least perceived ones:

    1.) You seem to advocate the notion that a “normal professor” not representing a science organization is free to say whatever they want about religion or atheism when speaking in a scientific capacity. You even called it a “perk of tenure,” or something similar. But then you rant and rave on other threads and here about how it tarnishes science for those same kinds of people to endorse religion and how they shouldn’t be doing it (?!). There’s a massive double standard there that you seem oblivious to, and it gets to the heart of TB saying (posting it again): ‘It’s “stop advocating what you’re advocating so I can advocate what I’m advocating” under the guise of an artificial standard of neutrality.’

    2.) You also seem to implicitly be putting atheists outside of being able to break neutrality, as if it’s somehow OK to endorse atheism as a scientist. And that’s kind of missing the whole point here – and maybe the basic definition of neutrality. Maybe it’s just the whole culture war mess brewing again – a supporter of a person on one side of the fight will change definitions and shift goalposts to prevent criticism.

    Or maybe I’m wrong. It’s late, it’s bedtime, I think a really great point has made here by several people today (one that needs more focus), and I’m gone.

  132. Milton C.

    Ah bonkers. Stupid hash-tag fits again…

  133. bilbo

    “Coyne argues with accomodationists, but I don’t seem him blaming them for breaking scientific neutrality when they aren’t either espousing their views while representing a science organization like NSF or government officials.”

    If Coyne (or anyone else) is “arguing with accommodationists” who aren’t representing a scientific/government org. (which you just said), he’s mad that they’re promoting belief/nonbelief in a scientific capacity and thus distorting science. And if he “argues with accommodationists” for being accommodating but then turns around and then promotes nonbelief himself while NOT representing a scientific/government org. (see: does the exact same thing those getting criticized were doing), that’s being hypocritical. That’s the very definition of hypocrisy, in fact.

    “Accommodationism” doesn’t mean “scientists shouldn’t promote religion, but they can promote atheism.” It means “scientists shouldn’t promote either religion or atheism.” Even Coyne says as much.

    You, on the other hand, gillt, seem to be missing that point somewhere.

  134. bilbo

    To make a very long story short, TB had by far the best post of this whole comment thread when he described the hypocrisy of many anti-accommodationists as “It’s “stop advocating what you’re advocating so I can advocate what I’m advocating” under the guise of an artificial standard of neutrality.”

    Neutrality just isn’t neutrality if you get on someone’s case for promoting religion on their science blog and then promote atheism on your own. The same is true in the reverse direction.

  135. Thomas L

    Well,
    I’m only going to add one thing to this whole discussion (still having one in a previous thread…). However, everyone in here seems to be stuck on the organized form of religion, as in a hierarchy structure that may or may not have a whole lot to do with the actual teachings found in the actual texts of any religion. In philosophy there has been literally hundreds of years of work distinguishing the two. Think of Kierkegaard’s remarks on being baptized does not a Christian make – but rather the life lived, and few ever achieve it – as a modern day example, Mother Teresa versus the everyday “catholic” one may meet on the street… Thus I present you all with the idea there may indeed be something going on with such that this whole conversation is missing.

    If you can find the book I would strongly recommend reading Dr. William Nietmann’s work “The Unmaking of God”. Over the course of its 215 pages it will walk you through the intermingling of philosophical ideas and religious language. You may discover there is something going on there far different than many, including formalized, hierarchical structured “churches” think. If nothing else it’s quite a look at how movements in Philosophy have effected how we think about things… Where he concludes is certainly not at odds with science – they are after two very different things.

  136. Busiturtle

    CW:95 The question of whether science is more or less moral than religion is a nonsensical and fails to address the issue. The institutions of science and religion both promise a way to improve live on earth. Religion incorporates personal codes of conduct as well as a philosophy. Science advances methodologies of learning as well as a philosophy. It is conflicts in these philosophies that cause the most friction amongst those parties that care about such things.

    I do not have an answer to resolving this conflict. World history suggests that groups with competing philosophies never come to agreement. One amelioration, as TB and Bilbo suggest, is that Science can and should largely ignore issues of religious philosophy and just do science. Of course it is annoying if fundamentalists inject unscientific claims into the education system. But in a democracy everyone has a say. And in a free society over the long haul the best ideas will win out.

    My specific question has to do with what happens when scientific methods conflict with popular norms of religious conduct. What are the limits of conducting life science research? What are the ethics of human and animal testing? My suggestion is that religious norms can help address these questions and provide a firmer foundation than a purely rational approach.

    Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.
    – Dr. Ian Malcolm

  137. gillt

    There’s breaking neutrality that has–shall we say–real world consequences, such as when it’s done at the level of a scientific organization (this is what I’m interested in seeing maintained and, of course it cuts both ways).

    Then there is breaking neutrality at the personal level. This occurs in blogs, books and articles and is made by individuals representing their own views and is not to be confused with an official position or a scientific consensus. Believe it or not scientists can have disagreements.

    I believe the distinction between the two holds practical meaning. Assuming it is a meaningful distinction, NA’s are not at this time guilty of the first, where there opponents have been multiple offenders.

    Also, and I’m sure to find disagreement here, NAs such as Coyne are not guilty of breaking neutrality in their personal philosophies either, whereas theistic evolutionists and those wanting to give allowances for a supernatural component to a scientific theory are. In fact, theistic evolutionists by definition are breaking neutrality, because they are going beyond the science. Atheists and agnostics do not import extraneous explanations beyond naturalism and therefore do not break scientific neutrality.

  138. TB

    @138 gilt

    That’s only correct if you reject the idea that identifying yourself as a scientist in the context of giving a personal opinion implies that you’re giving more than just a personal opinion, that it’s also a scientific one.
    Many of the people who are disagreeing with you on this do so because we don’t reject that idea. In fact, this effect of implied authority continues to be exploited in television commercials – such as dressing an actor in a white lab coat. The AMA has even expressed concerns about that: http://seniorjournal.com/NEWS/Health/6-06-15-AMAWantsADelay.htm

  139. TB

    At the risk of hurting something…

    So if the standard of neutrality is an artificial one for many of those involved in the debate, then perhaps this is a fair way to describe the issue:

    “Stop advocating what you’re advocating in the way you’re advocating it, because it gets in the way of what I’m advocating.”

    Ow, my eye!

  140. gillt

    If philosophical means artificial, which it doesn’t. Perhaps you mean superficial.

    It’s obvious (other than to those of you trying to force the argument) that Coyne is in fact providing a personal opinion and not a consensus among scientists, just as Dawkin’s and PZ are.

    I’d love to see some examples of who Coyne has bamboozled into thinking that he’s speaking for all of science. How absurd.

  141. TB

    As far as I understand it, Bilbo and others are not saying that anyone is putting forth a “consensus among scientists.” That would be another artificial (not philosophical or superficial) standard.

  142. TB

    And I saw how you conflated atheists with agnostics in 138. The key difference between them is one takes a position on religion which breaks neutrality while the other doesn’t take a position.

  143. gillt

    Nope, the key difference in this context between atheists and agnostics (at least the way Huxley who coined the term defines it) is irrelevant with regards to arguing for supernatural explanations on biological mechanisms, such as Francis Collins’ assigning human morality to divine meddling. The fact that we don’t yet know whether morality is adaptive or how it evolved doesn’t mean it was a miracle. Agnostics and atheists will agree on this.

  144. SecularAnimist

    Interesting that in the 143 comments posted so far, there is not a single mention of Buddhism, a religion that involves no belief in God, whose founder was a radical empiricist who advised his followers to take nothing on faith, including his own teachings, and whose present-day exponents include the Dalai Lama who has said that if modern empirical scientific knowledge conflicts with Buddhist doctrine, then Buddhist doctrine must change. There seems to be an assumption that “religion” always and only means “Middle Eastern monotheistic religions that require acceptance on faith of unprovable, unfalsifiable claims about God”.

  145. bilbo

    TB in #142,

    You’re absolutely correct. I’m not saying that.

    gillt in #138:

    “Also, and I’m sure to find disagreement here, NAs such as Coyne are not guilty of breaking neutrality in their personal philosophies either, whereas theistic evolutionists and those wanting to give allowances for a supernatural component to a scientific theory are.”

    That’s been exactly my point (and apparently also that of TB, PJ, and Milton): you’re not talking about true neutrality if you’re talking about a one-dimensional definition of it. Even many of the NAs say that neutrality should mean not endorsing either belief or nonbelief. Allowing concessions for atheists to break neutrality isn’t neutrality at all. Or, in other words, to quote TB AGAIN:

    “It’s “stop advocating what you’re advocating so I can advocate what I’m advocating” under the guise of an artificial standard of neutrality.”

    TB was right on the money, wasn’t he?

  146. gillt

    TB: “That’s only correct if you reject the idea that identifying yourself as a scientist in the context of giving a personal opinion implies that you’re giving more than just a personal opinion, that it’s also a scientific one.”

    I’m a biologist who happens to believe Ducini’s pizza is demonstrably better than Pizza Hut’s, and here’s why…

    If you win best comment on this thread don’t forget to pick up the door-prize for most bone-headed on your way out.

    Bilbo, merely saying that I’m allowing for atheist concessions and that a lot of unnamed NAs apparently agree with you is saying a whole lot of nothing. Argue your case or continue making assertions, it doesn’t matter to me.

  147. bilbo

    gillt’s suddenly in the angry, pissed-off stage now. What caused the sharp transition?

    Basicially, gillt, I haven’t gotten much out of you except:

    1.) “Neutrality” doesn’t apply to anyone except those in official leadership positions in scientific orgs. In fact, you called being able to be outspoken for/against religion a “perk of tenureship.”

    2.) Strangely enough, in a seeming contradiction to point #1, you’ve been inching closer and closer to saying that religious scientists shouldn’t be allowed to make statements on belief. Pardon me for uttering a big “WTF?!” to that statement in light of #1.

    3.) Then, you slightly clarified this in your last couple of posts saying that atheist scientists essentially get carte blanche on endorsing a stance on belief, while religious scientists should all but shut up. This, I’ll point out, confirms the double standard I’ve been talking about.

    I don’t really see how this goes against anything I’ve been saying all along. You (and many other ‘NA’ buddies) seem to be putting atheism as the priority above science and only using “advancing science” as a cloaked banner while you really mean “promoting atheism.” I simply argue that this is disingenuous, not necessarily wrong. I just want to see some forwardness from you guys and less hiding behind false standards. Seeing as how over 4 different people agree with me (one of them an avowed atheist, nonetheless), I’d say I’m not just some crazy outlier here.

  148. Milton C.

    “Also, and I’m sure to find disagreement here, NAs such as Coyne are not guilty of breaking neutrality in their personal philosophies either, whereas theistic evolutionists and those wanting to give allowances for a supernatural component to a scientific theory are.

    Somehow I fail to see how saying things like “religious people are child abusers,” “religious people enable evil,” and “religious people are delusional” when you’re telling people you’re writing about evolution (and introducing yourself specifically as a professional scientist) is remaining neutral to belief or nonbelief. I think you’re really confusing “not breaking neutrality” with just “saying something I agree with,” gillt. Those two are different things.

    A evolutionary biologist writing “religious people enable evil” on their evolution blog should get the same treatment as an evolutionary biologist writing “evolution reveals the beauty of the Creator” on their blog. They should both get treated as accommodationist fools. Whether or not you simply agree with them should remain out of the discussion….if neutrality is supposed to be involved.

  149. gillt

    1 is correct.

    2 There is nothing to WTF over–you just misinterpreted what I said. I’d argue that theistic scientists are breaking neutrality for the philosophical reason I mentioned before, but never said they shouldn’t be allowed to say such things; in fact, I encourage them to enjoy the full benefit of their tenure if they have it.

    3 Again, never said shut up or implied it; you’re doing what you accuse others of doing. The atheism stance on belief is that theistic evolution is not science, it’s a form of creationism. This aligns perfectly with a scientifically neutral and agnostic position. In other words, if we don’t know, it’s not okay to make stuff up.

    Over 4 different people? Impressive and irrelevant. Take this argument over to pharyngula and see what happens to your 4.

  150. bilbo

    The atheism stance on belief is that theistic evolution is not science

    Exactly my point all this time. I agree with you that theistic evolution is not science.
    Science should be determining what is and is not science – NOT atheism.

    You’re conflating athiesm and science. That statement of yours should leave no question.

  151. gillt

    Milton C., I’ve tried, despite your best efforts to keep my argument aimed at theistic evolution. Coyne is opinionated and I don’t agree with everything he says or how he says it. Why would you suggest otherwise?

  152. Milton C.

    “The atheism stance on belief is that theistic evolution is not science…”

    Whoa whoa WHOA, buddy! Since when did atheism get to be the authority on what is science and what is not?! I think you’d get flamed for that even over on Pharyngula. I know for sure that someone like Jerry Coyne would rake you over the coals for saying something like that, even if he agreed with you about theistic evolution. His past statements all but say so. I think even PZ Myers himself has written on confusing atheism with an authority on science…

  153. Jeremy

    Atheism declaring a “stance” on what is/isnt science is a lot like if the Catholic Church tried to declare what is/isn’t science.

    The only group that should get to decide what is science and isn’t should be science. And science doesn’t readily associate with atheism or religious belief. Any statement to the contrary is bunk.

  154. PJ

    In post 150 and several others, gillt is pulling the same old arguing tactics we’ve seen the climate denialists use here. He makes some bold statements that have clear implications as to their meaning. When someone points out those implications, he suddenly acts all upset that surely he didn’t mean that!

    …but then he never clarifies what he actually means. The goal of this style of argument isn’t to move the discussion anywhere, it’s just to make vague arguments that shift with whatever direction the subsequent argument takes without ever making a firm stand on a position. It’s just basic trolling. He wasn’t doing this yesterday, but now he’s suddently become the “you totally don’t get it but I won’t bother to tell you what I actually mean” troll.

    Something tells me this whole argument is about to get dragged into the depths of pettiness. Gillt probably sees that he’s floundering here and means to drag it there on purpose.

  155. Paul W.

    Orzel’s original post was the stupidest thing I’ve ever read by him. (Normally, about most things, he’s a pretty smart guy.)

    His argument about what “compatibility” means is as stupid as Behe’s claims about what constitutes science.

    And just as Behe’s argument logically requires him to accept that astrology would count as science, Chad’s argument requires him to accept that:

    1. science and astrology are compatible, and
    2. that is a statement of fact, and
    3. as such, it wouldn’t be unconscionable for scientific bodies to say such things, flatly, with no qualifications or hedges.

    Seriously.

    Chad says that the fact that science and religion are compatible is a statement of fact, because some scientists are religious. He admits he has no idea how people manage the contradictions, and by saying that, he acknowledges that he thinks that science and religion conflict, epistemically.

    To him, all “compatible” means is that some people can manage both; it does not imply that it actually makes sense to accept both, and he evidently thinks it doesn’t.

    But by the same token, some scientists believe in astrology, homeopathy, bigfoot, etc. So given his minimal sense of “compatibility,” it would be a simple statement of fact to say that any of those is compatible with science.

    And since he says that a statement of fact can’t be unconscionable, it would be conscionable for the National Academy of Science to announce that science and astrology are compatible, science and homeopathy are compatible, science and belief in Bigfoot are compatible, etc.

    That is just brain-dead. And the fact that Mooney says that Chad “nails it” means that either Mooney is having reasoning problems as well, or that he’s willing to grasp any straw that seems superficially to support his position.

    And note that as somebody pointed out earlier, Orzel thinks that there generally are contradictions between scientific knowledge and religious belief.

    So I have a couple of questions for Chris:

    1. Do you now accept, as Chad does, that at least some scientific knowledge generally conflicts with religious belief? Did he nail that? I think he did.

    2. Do you accept that science and astrology are compatible, as Chad’s argument logically implies?

    3. Do you accept that that’s a statement of fact, as Chad’s argument also implies?

    4. Do you accept that, as a statement of fact, it couldn’t be unconscionable for scientific bodies to say?

    If not, you might want to retract the claim that Chad “nailed it”!

  156. gillt

    Yeah, totally! That would be a big WTF if that’s what I said.

    Instead I said atheists don’t consider theistic evolution part of science, (hint, neither to most evolutionary biologists) not atheism gets to be the big bad authority on everything science. Do you doubt that there’s a consensus of atheists who view theistic evolution as christian apologetic?

  157. gillt

    bilbo: “You’re conflating athiesm and science. That statement of yours should leave no question.”

    Has it really escaped your attention that the atheist position on theistic evolution and the scientific position on theistic evolution align on this point?

    That’s what allows me to argue from an atheist standpoint and at the same time have scientifically sound reasoning. Atheism doesn’t mean science; that’s a strawman argument. On the point of theistic evolution they both happen to agree, which apparently causes great confusion among readers of the Intersection.

  158. Seminatrix

    Hold on just a second. Did gillt just state that atheism gets to serve as an authority on science by declaring what is and is not scientific? I think that’s kind of the whole argument that you’ve been missing, gillt – and that statement is totally off the reservation. That’s not the job of atheism. In fact, atheism is little more than a statement about belief in Gods. It does not constitute an ideology or some authority that takes “stances.”

    You’re starting to make atheism sound a lot like the red-headed stepchild of religion, complete with all the same old nasty political components that many of us despise religion for. That’s dangerous, gillt. I’m starting to think how you view atheism isn’t exactly what 99% of us other atheists think it is (New Atheists included). It’s certainly not a political body that takes “stances.”

  159. Paul W.

    Thomas L,

    I would agree that a lot of the New Atheist rhetoric focuses too much on modern orthodox religion, especially Western (Abrahamic) monotheism, and especially Christianity.

    However, accommodationists tend to miss how general some of the arguments are.

    The most telling arguments against religion very broadly are the arguments from social and cognitive psychology and neuroscience. (Not evolution, per se.)

    It appears in light of modern mind/brain science that central ideas of the popular religions are wrong—not just Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, but Hinduism, most form of Buddhism, various New Ageisms, etc.

    In particular, it appears that there is no such thing as the kind of soul most western religion presupposes. (Substance dualism.) There is also no kind of soul or mind that can get in touch with The Ultimate Reality via mystical experiences. The kind of mind we have does not have that kind of extrasensory or ultraintrospective capability.

    Scientifically, the mind appears to be a basically computational process in a computer made out of meat. That computer works in certain ways, and not others. When the computer falls apart, the mind ceases to exist, so there will apparently be no afterlife, no resurrection, and no reincarnation.

    The mind also has severely limited abilities to introspect, and its introspection is astonishly fallible. Basically, it can introspect fallibly down a level or two of cognitive structure, but nowhere near down to the neural level, much less the chemical and physical levels below that—and certainly not below that level to some Ultimate Reality or Brahman or The Ground of All Being or anything like that.

    It appears that when people have mystical experiences, and think that they’ve intuited things like the identity of Brahman (world stuff) and Ataman (mind stuff), they’re wrong. They are misinterpreting their internal mental states, as people are prone to do when they don’t have an external reality check.

    The broad argument against religion in general is that

    1. Even most religions that are mostly “not about belief” have presuppositions that most adherents accept, and which are part of what makes the religion work.

    2. These presuppositions appear to be mistaken in light of modern science. The mind isn’t the kind of thing that religion has generally assumed for thousands of years.

    We now have enough understanding of cognitive and social psychology to see why people would accept religious beliefs (if only the implicit presuppositions) of religious practices—irrespective of whether they’re actually true.

    That casts scientific doubt on religion quite generally, including apophatic theology and minimally dogmatic “mystical” or “spiritual” religion, as well as revealed religion like most Westerners are familiar with. If people would believe extraordinary claims whether they’re true or not, that suggests that in fact they’re not true, and people believe them despite their being false.

  160. TB

    It’s not a question whether positions align, it’s a question about using that alignment to also promote a specific position on religion. Heck, on the surface the position of religion not being compatible with science is held by religious fundamentalists and atheists, but I don’t think anyone is going to claim that they’re the same.

    Gilt actually illustrates the problem inadvertently with this bit of sarcasm…

    ” I’m a biologist who happens to believe Ducini’s pizza is demonstrably better than Pizza Hut’s, and here’s why… ”

    Now let me edit this to better reflect the problem:

    ” I’m a biologist who … believe(s) Ducini’s pizza is demonstrably better than Pizza Hut’s, and here’s why… ”

    If everyone phrased their opinions the way your original statement was phrased there might not be a problem. The words “who happens to believe” clearly communicates the idea that the person is a biologist is not necessarily integral to the opinion given. However, the final determination of that would depend on what comes after “here’s why.”

    But what Bilbo and others are pointing out is that more often things are expressed more like the second, edited phrase. To use Coyne as an example, the name of his blog is the same as his published book on evolution – a book he wrote with the authority derived from being an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Chicago.

    There’s nothing wrong with that, he’s free to do whatever he wants on his own blog. What they’re pointing out, however, is that when he advocates for atheism that’s not being scientifically neutral.

    But, this has been explained before and I think you’re being purposely evasive.

    And, as Paul W has joined the discussion, we can now assume this thread has jumped the shark.

  161. bilbo

    You’re right, TB. I think where gillt and I differ fundamentally is in our different interpretations of what it means to be “speaking for science.” He argues that this only applies when you’re an official at a scientific organization. I argue that it applies anytime you say “Hi, I’m an evolutionary biologist at University X studying subject Y. Let’s talk about evolution….” If you follow that up with a diatribe about religion then, well, there goes neutrality, and you’ve begun accommodating.

    If you’re that same person, on the other hand, saying “Hi, my name’s Bob. Let’s talk about religion…” you can say whatever the hell you want. The opinions don’t change in those 2 situations, but the context does. And, as much as we like to pretend that context doesn’t matter in the whole religion-science kerfuffle and it’s all one huge amorphous blob of an issue without nuance, that’s not the case. At least not in Reality World. Maybe in Blog World the case is different…

    TB is also right about one other thing: I’m also starting to see the “you’re an idiot by default just because you don’t agree with me” walls getting thrown up by gillt and Paul W. That’s a shame. This had been a fairly interesting discussion up until now. Back to tribalism, I suppose.

  162. Julie

    One observation (I don’t want my head chopped off, so I’ll say it and duck out).

    I see a lot of atheist scientists somehow viewing anything but the most vile, confrontational attacks against religion as meaning someone is “soft” and not really supporting science. (Look at the comments Sean Carroll got on the post mentioned by ?Orzel, for example.) Should I really have to point out how silly and childish that is?

    To borrow a word that’s been used a few times in this discussion, it’s the same tribalism you see in politics. If you’re a conservative, you’d better not be seen making pro-environment stances on different issues or the extreme conservative bloc labels you “soft” or a “liberal” when you really aren’t.

    To get anywhere useful for science in this whole discussion, we have to get past this ‘if you don’t hold a carbon copy of my opinions on religion, you’re an idiot and an enemy of science’ silliness. That attitude seems to reign over logic and substance in this disucssion, and that’s ironic for people saying they’re using “reason.” Just my two cents.

  163. TB

    Another case in point: “The atheism stance on belief is that theistic evolution is not science”

    I’ll accept that you didn’t intend to imply that atheism should decide what is science and what isn’t. But the way that statement is phrased clearly suggests that atheism is at least equal to science in determining what is science.
    Atheism doesn’t do science, atheism doesn’t equal science. Atheism is a position on religion. Atheism and agnosticism (properly practiced) agree with the findings of science. Atheism diverges from agnosticism by taking a definitive position on religious to a point that agnosticism doesn’t.

  164. gillt

    Comment 162 sounds a bit too much like the typical accomodationist whine over tone for fear of people wanting reasons to be offended by something.

    I’ll accept that you inadvertently made a strawman out of my point. Like any good philosophy, atheism should bend to science if they happen to disagree. I’m not sure what you mean by “properly practiced.” Is it code for as long as atheism doesn’t offend, because that’s what Mooney seems to think it is.

    I think what Coyne does on his blog is discuss science and atheism, often in the same post, but his atheism is informed by what science he knows, not the other way around. This is an important distinction between atheism and religious belief and their relation to science. If you doubt this, let’s line up the way science is respected and discussed on BioLogos with either Pharyngula or WEIT.

    If Coyne were speaking on behalf of NSF and argued for atheism and science compatibility it would be in violation of scientific neutrality for different reasons than would arguing for a religious outlook. Atheism is philosophically compatible with science–actually a logical extension of it–while the vast majority of religious belief is not. Atheism breaks neutrality because it’s a response to religion.

  165. bilbo

    “let’s line up the way science is respected and discussed on BioLogos with either Pharyngula or WEIT.”

    Wait a minute: science is discussed on Pharyngula and WEIT? I’ll give you that science is bastardized pretty well on BioLogos. But science is discussed on Pharyngula and WEIT?

    Excluding guest posts, let’s look at the last 20 posts on WEIT and their subjects:

    “In the Galapagos” (housekeeping)
    “Caturday felid” (Kitty – not kiddie – porn)
    “Hitchens on blaming the victim” (ruminants on the finer points of Islam that declare a theological position an “execrable piece of nonsense.”)
    “Russell Blackford on blaming the victim” (extension of the above post)
    “The Jews were right…” (hey! there’s some science!)
    “I get mail” (attack on creationism – on the edge, but science-based)
    “Strawberry Crab” (science)
    “Convergent mutations” (science)
    “Harris vs. Armstrong” (personal attack on a theological position)
    “The Guardian hits rock Bottom” (angry post about Islam again)
    “We have a winner!” (nebulous)
    “Russell Blackford: why atheists must speak up” (New Atheism promotional piece)
    “Contest!” (Housekeeping)
    “Galapagos Bound” (Science)
    “Looniest regulation” (another Islam rant)
    “Sympathy for the devil” (science)
    “A new year;’s wish” (nebulous)
    “Starting now: no insulting religion…” (rant against religion)
    “Illinois government…” (evolution-oriented)
    “Kittehs” (kitty porn)

    Results: 8 posts that have nothing to do with science (angry rants about religion/theology), 6 posts about strictly scientific topics/evolution, and 6 that fall into neither (housekeeping, unrelated topics)

    So, on a blog entitled “Why evolution is true,” a subset of the posts reveals that we have 40% of the posts attacking religion positions and 30% dealing with science (35/35 if you count the combined religion rant/evolution promotion as both). What exactly are we discussing here? (if you’d like me to go back farther than 20 posts, I tihnk you’d find similar results)

    And let’s not even start with Pharyngula. About the only time science gets mentioned without a random attack on religion is during the “Monday metazoan.”

    I’ll place WEIT and Pharyngula in the BioLogos trash bin when it comes to examples of sites that do a great job promoting belief-neutral science, thanks.

  166. Skeptic

    PZ Myers actually does very good posts on the literature. For instance his posts on the Hedgehog signaling pathway and the recent discovery of a transitional tetrapod ancestor were exceptional. Wish he did more of these.

  167. gillt

    The questions, bilbo, was how science is treated on Pharyngula and WEIT versus BioLogos. You didn’t even attempt a comparison. Instead, you gave a completely useless internal tally of WEIT.

    For all the him–hawing you do about neutrality and fairness, you’re no better (worse actually because you’re a hypocrite) than the rest.

  168. TB

    The question is just a way for guilt to change the subject. I think his comment at 165 is pretty telling.

    “Properly practiced” is only a shorthand (admittedly poorly done of course) for agnosticism without any of the hyphens you can find in the wikipedia article about it (theistic-agnosticism, atheisitic-agnosticism).

    Gilt calls what I pointed out a strawman, then goes on to confirm exactly what I pointed out when he says: “I think what Coyne does on his blog is discuss science and atheism, often in the same post, …”

    Yes, that’s the point. He conflates the two all while wearing the hat of the scientist. He’s free to do that and if someone doing that also criticizes others for “breaking neutrality,” we’re free to point out the hypocrisy.

    And finally, this: “Atheism is philosophically compatible with science–actually a logical extension of it…”

    If anything is “a logical extension of science,” it would be agnosticism – like science, it takes no position on religion (specific religious claims may conflict with science, but that’s not a problem for science). Atheism is informed by science but then makes an assumption in the form of taking a position on religion.

    But, no, we get what you’re saying gilt. You think science = atheism, and I don’t believe your denials to the contrary. To say that atheism is a logical extension of science is to include atheism in the definition of science.

    As for WEIT and Phar – they’re blogs and the authors can do whatever they want with them.

  169. Paul W.

    Historically, PZ has blogged more science, and more long in-depth explanations than most science bloggers—it’s not a huge percentage, but it’s a fairly large total volume.

    I’m not sure about the last two or three months, but I expect he’ll return to form after his book is out.

    I’m pretty sure PZ does more serious science writing on his blog than Chris Mooney on this blog.
    The fact that he posts a whole bunch of other stuff too tends to obscure that, and I think that’s just fine. If you don’t like the other stuff, don’t read it.

    And I think it’s just fine that Chris focuses more on politics and other issues related to science than hard-core in depth explanations of the relevant science—it’s his blog, and there’s certainly a place for both—though I would like to see more of the latter, myself.

    Check out PZ’s “A Taste of Pharyngula” link in his sidebar, sometime, or just click here:

    http://pharyngula.org/articles.html

    Note that the articles that he considers to be especially worthy are mostly straight science articles, and there are a lot of excellent ones in there. (Really. I’ve read a lot of them.) It would be nice if Chris and Sheril had a page like that, with links to their best posts and the ones with the most enduring value.

  170. Paul W.

    Unsurprisingly, nobody seems to be addressing the basic issue of whether Chad Orzel’s argument, praised in Mooney’s post, is logically valid.

    If that’s all “compatibility” means, then astrology is compatible with science.

    As was pointed out over on Chad’s blog, it also means that good science is compatible with bad science—since a lot of people do some of each.

    (Note that I’m not saying religion is the same thing as astrology, or bad science. I’m just saying that Chad’s argument is flat wrong.)

    Also, since Chad says that such statements are statements of fact, and statements of fact can’t be unconscionable, there’d be nothing unconscionable about the NAS saying “good science is compatible with astrology and bad science.”

    Right? Can anybody deny that those things follow from Chad’s simplistic argument, which Mooney says nails it?

    I find it really interesting that Chris and his defenders here don’t seem to mind arguments for their position that are patently invalid—even absurd in the technical sense of a reductio ad absurdam, i.e. a simple proof by contradiction.

    As long as the argument gets the desired answer, it apparently doesn’t matter a bit to you guys that it’s very clearly wrong.

    Sounds like stonewalling in defense of a dogma to me.

  171. Paul W.

    TB,

    The question is just a way for guilt to change the subject.

    I don’t think that was what gillt was doing, but hey, why don’t you address the subject of the original post? Why do you insist on changing the subject?

    Is Chad correct that “compatible” only means that you can do both?

    Doesn’t that immediately imply that science is compatible with astrology?

    Is Chad correct that such a “statement of fact” cannot be unconscionable?

    Chad’s post was just wrong, start to finish, irrespective of whether the conclusion is correct.

    And you’d apparently rather talk about something else—anything else—which would be fine, as long as you first acknowledge that Chad’s arguments are patently invalid, or explain how they could possibly be valid.

  172. gillt

    Incorrect as usual TB.

    Agnosticism as defined by T.H. Huxley is very similar to atheism in regards to knowledge. Later, Bertrand Russel added to this when he said:

    “As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God.”

    “On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.”

    You’ll find prominent NAs saying pretty much the same thing.

    The rest of your post is just repeating a tired and poorly reasoned opinion.

  173. Paul W.

    He conflates the two all while wearing the hat of the scientist. He’s free to do that and if someone doing that also criticizes others for “breaking neutrality,” we’re free to point out the hypocrisy.

    I’m a bit lost here. Where and how, exactly, does Coyne criticize someone for “breaking neutrality”?

    My understanding has always been that Coyne—like the other “New Atheists”—thinks that it’s fine for people on either side of the a/theism issue to use science in support of their positions. There is no requirement that science be neutral about religion, and in fact a big part of the New Atheist position is that science is not neutral about religion—scientific facts not only undermine specific religious beliefs of most orthodox religion, but central tenets of most religion more generally, and cast serious doubt on the whole religion thing.

    The New Atheists agree not just with fundamentalists that science is relevant to religion, but with mainstream orthdoxly religious people like Francis Collins. Science cannot be neutral on principle with respect to any kind of religion whose tenets would have observable consequences.

    If Coyne has ever said that somebody like Collins is “violating neutrality” simply by being a scientist and stating his opinion that science has implications for or against religion, I’d like to know exactly where and exactly what he said.

    Atheism is philosophically compatible with science–actually a logical extension of it…

    If anything is “a logical extension of science,” it would be agnosticism – like science, it takes no position on religion (specific religious claims may conflict with science, but that’s not a problem for science). Atheism is informed by science but then makes an assumption in the form of taking a position on religion.

    No. You appear to be making some NOMA-like assumption that science and religion don’t overlap, such that science can’t undermine religious tenets.

    That is clearly false in at least one sense that I think we can all agree on—science can undermine very specific tenets of particular religions, like the idea that the Earth is only 10,000 years old, or that some particular mechanism arose by direct divine intervention rather than some well-evidence pattern of unguided evolution.

    Right so far?

    More generally, science can in principle undermine central tenets of religions more broadly.

    For example, if we had very high-resolution scanners and extraordinarily detailed computer models, and could show that everything that happens in the brain is caused in the normal physical ways, rather than by intervention of some material soul, that would be compelling empirical evidence that most orthodox conceptions of the soul are wrong. That would significantly undermine most orthodox religion, and a lot of heterodox religion as well. You might salvage something called “religion” without such orthodoxy, but the theologians would really have to scramble, and most popular religion as we know it would be in trouble—not just fundamentalism.

    Likewise, if science had compelling evidence that morality was an evolved faculty of the material mind, and a result of unguided evolution, that would undermine other central tenets of most popular religion. Of course, people could spin unfalsifiable stories about it—e.g., some God similar to the Deist god, who arranged the Big Bang just so, such that all that stuff would eventually evolve. But traditional orthdoxy—the kind of thing most moderate religious people believe—would face some serious difficulties.

    If those things were to happen, atheism wouldn’t be proven and theism would not be disproven, but science is not about proof anyway. It’s not about strict logical disproof, either, because you can generally guard any hypothesis against logical disproof by making up a sufficiently contrived set of auxiliary hypotheses. (For example, we’ve never disproven geocentricism or vitalism or Lamarckism, but science goes on and regards them as effectively disproven, because nobody can come up with a way of salvaging them that isn’t ridiculously contrived.)

    In order to assert that science must be neutral with regard to religion, you have to have some NOMA-like story that the domains of science and religion do not overlap. But they clearly do overlap, almost entirely—science can and does study things like minds, morality, and religion itself naturalistically.

    Science is only “neutral” toward religious beliefs or atheism in the sense that it’s neutral toward any other unproven assertions—it doesn’t assume a priori that they’re true, but it doesn’t assume that they’re false, either, and it does not rule them out of bounds if they have any observable consequences.

    Atheism is not a dogmatic assertion that there is no god. It’s not a premise, but a conclusion.

    Atheists do not in general think that they know there is nothing that might be called a “god.” They generally think that there could be some kind of thing(s) that somebody might call god(s), but that if there is, we don’t have any good evidence for it—and we have a lot of evidence that weighs against common conceptions of god(s).

    What the New Atheism asserts—and this is not new at all—is that there’s no good reason to think that specifically religious beliefs aren’t mostly false, or that religion is generally “out of the reach of science,” and there is pretty good scientific evidence that many religious beliefs are in fact false, and that religious beliefs tend systematically to be false, and need correction by secular reasoning, informed by science.

    The only thing that’s new about the “New Atheism” is that the evidence against common, central religious tenets has gotten better over the last few decades.

    Some of that evidence is from evolution, which is why Dawkins is right to say that evolution supports atheism. Advances in evolutionary theory and the evidence for it show more and more clearly that evolution is an unguided goal-less process, and that things like morality and religion are probably the results of blind evolution, rather than divine creation. They are not, as most people naively believe, inexplicable scientifically, much less outside the scope of science.

    More evidence comes from neuroscience and cognitive science. We now have a pretty good picture of basically what kind of thing a mind is, and it’s not what all popular religions have presupposed for thousands of years.

    These two things go together—the cognitive neuroscience fits very well with evolutionary science, and not well at all with any common theology in any major religion.

    The smart money among the scientific and philosophical experts is that science undermines religion. The current state of scientific knowledge in cosmology, neuroscience, cognitive anthropology, etc. has failed to find any support for religious beliefs, or the religious process of belief fixation, which seems to be profoundly flawed. It has found considerable support for atheism; the remaining gaps into which people try to fit God are ever smaller and more uncomfortable, and attempts to reconcile science and religion are ever more contrived.

    About any other subject, scientists would tend to say publicly that the writing is on the wall, and the paradigm has failed. It just turns out, in light of science, that religion isn’t a good way to fix beliefs, and that specifically religious beliefs are typically false—not just about the age of the Earth, but about the basic nature of humans, the existence of souls, what morality is and where it comes from, etc.

    And if you don’t acknowledge that, you’re a science denier of a sort.

  174. TB

    Oh really?

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/agnostic

    “1. a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
    2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.”

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheist

    “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.”

    “Very similar” doesn’t mean “equal to.” But, at least you’re consistently mistaken when you also think science = atheism.

    Now, if this were a reasonable conversation I would point out to gilt that many reasonable people have a spectrum of belief, and that perhaps what gilt is trying to express is that his spectrum is agnostic – atheist. But, he’d probably just deride that as more touchy-feely accomodationist talk.

  175. Paul W.

    SecularAnimist,

    Interesting that in the 143 comments posted so far, there is not a single mention of Buddhism, a religion that involves no belief in God, whose founder was a radical empiricist who advised his followers to take nothing on faith, including his own teachings, and whose present-day exponents include the Dalai Lama who has said that if modern empirical scientific knowledge conflicts with Buddhist doctrine, then Buddhist doctrine must change. There seems to be an assumption that “religion” always and only means “Middle Eastern monotheistic religions that require acceptance on faith of unprovable, unfalsifiable claims about God”.

    Buddhism is an interesting case.

    I agree that certain forms of Buddhism don’t strictly require the acceptance of any supernatural tenets, and that some people—not many, AFAIK—manage to practice Buddhism without accepting any supernatural stuff or unprovable tenets.

    However, most versions of Buddhism do involve supernaturalism of a sort—if only the belief in some kind of Brahman-like Ultimate Reality that people can somehow intuit real stuff about by introspection. (With meditation, etc.) Scientifically, that appears to be impossible; neither minds nor matter is what ancient people knew about, and they don’t interface in such convenient ways.

    Unfortunately, while the Buddha didn’t clearly require that sort of metaphysical presupposition, it was inevitably immediately grafted into Buddhism in the Hindu culture that Buddhism arose in.

    The most popular forms of Buddhism involve a lot more and/or clearer supernaturalism than that. Tibetan Buddhism in particular is a mess, with reincarnation and Karma and a whole zoo of supernatural entities and phenomena.

    If the Dalai Lama was really as hip to neuroscience and cognition as he’s supposed to be, and was honest about it, he should be saying that most of that stuff is in conflict with science, and that it’s time for Buddhism to change a whole lot, right now. (Especially the version he’s the head of.)

    Instead, he still pontificates and spouts kooky religious orthodoxy, like reincarnation and Karma.

    For example, I was in Salt Lake City years back, when he came to town and spoke to a lot of people. A man in the audience asked if he really thought that his retarded son was retarded because he’d been a bad person in a previous life.

    He flatly said yes. We should be “compassionate” to such people, but they were asking for it.

    That’s the same kind of BS that was used to justify the caste system in India for thousands of years, and to justify the Tibetan theocratic class system up until the Communist Chinese takeover. It’s one of those hate-the-sin/love-the-sinner kinds of things that doesn’t work, and ends up undermining requirements of justice by converting them into weaker “compassion for sinners” issues. (It’s much easier for people to rationalize failing to act compassionately when it costs them signficantly than it is to admit that they’re denying people justice.)

    Like most religion, Tibetan Buddhism has evolved to be appalling and retrograde in many ways. Religion often starts out progressive, but by being relatively resistant to change, it usually ends up being regressive, and it coevolves with the status quo to be co-opted and mutually supportive with existing power arrangements. (E.g., 20 percent of the Tibetan population being monks and nuns in a theocratic religion/government, subsidized by everybody else despite their being dirt poor.)

    And of course, you have the whole Dali Lama thing. Funny how this guy is the nth reincarnation of a Very Wise Being, and therefore gets to be the head of state. (In exile, now, which IMHO is a great thing—too bad the autocratic theocracy got replaced with Communism. I’m not sure which is the frying pan and which is the fire.)

    But back to Buddhism more generally…

    As I understand it, the Buddha himself disavowed teaching most metaphysics, without quite disavowing believing it himself, or saying that other people shouldn’t. That made Buddhism the most “compatible” of the major religions—you can combine it with all sorts of other stuff relatively easily—and left the door wide open to a syncretic disaster, with Buddhism ramifying and absorbing tenets of various other religions. The original core of Buddhism isn’t very dogmatic, but it doesn’t rule out dogmatic versions of Buddhism, so naturally they arise and evolve in the usual way religions do, and that’s what becomes most popular.

    The core teachings of Buddhism are problematic too, as I understand them. Despite being overtly nondogmatic, there are some pretty clear presuppositions that are often fairly explicit, and that most people uncritically accept.

    In particular, there’s a recurring thread of denying the possibility of rational understanding of certain things, and assertions of the impossibility of speaking clearly about them, as is common in Eastern religion.

    That ends up more or less ruling out the possibility of analyzing the religion in rational terms. Anybody who thinks they can explain mystical knowledge in rational concepts and clear words is immediately told that they don’t get it—you can only know these things experientially, using an aspect of the mind that is beyond words and reason, and if you can say it, it’s wrong.

    That’s a really effective way for a religion—and a religious authority structure—to deflect rational criticism, and entrench its own authority and power.

    I think that often, it’s essentially a brainwashing technique. (Not to say that the practitioners think of it that way and are trying to dupe people. I assume that most are quite sincere.) The emphasis on meditative and “spiritual” practices and ineffable experiences is a great way to get people to invest heavily in the religion, and accept the presuppositions along the way—and to have cognitive dissonance ensure that most will not reject the presuppositions. By the time they’ve risen high enough in spirituality and knowledge/wisdom, they unlikely to decide that “hey, this isn’t knowledge or wisdom!”

    And of course, there’s a tremendous biasing effect at work in who does or doesn’t attain the loftier levels of “wisdom” and gets to talk authoritatively about it. Anybody with serious qualms or doubts doesn’t rise very high, and the people who really buy in can always say that they never got to the level where they could understand what they’re criticizing.

    It’s a nearly perfect scheme for entrenching authority. You have a kind of secret knowledge that only the higher-ups have access to, and unlike, say, the Scientology scriptures, it cannot be decoded, spread around, and critiqued.

  176. Passerby

    Paul W, I agree. Chris and Sheril rarely talk about actual science. On the other hand they are not really scientists but journalists and science policy people so it’s not surprising. I do agree that whenever PZ blogs science it’s usually very good.

  177. Paul W.

    TB,

    Wow, you’re citing a dictionary entry to tell atheists what atheism is?

    Would you presume to do the same about Hinduism? (E.g., asserting, as some dictionaries do, that Hindus are polytheistic, without distinguishing between polytheism and henotheism?)

    I’ve written dictionary entries, and I can tell you that you have way too much faith in dictionary writers.

    There are multiple senses of “atheist” and “agnostic,” and the most popular sense of “atheist” (among non-atheists), is flatly wrong. To a first approximation, atheists in your simplistic sense do not exist.

    Atheists generally do not dogmatically assert that there is definitely no god. Almost no atheists say that they are absolutely certain that there isn’t some kind of god—certainly all of the New Atheist would acknowledge an outside chance of some kind of “god.”

    What atheism means depends on the meaning of god. Essentially all atheists actively disbelieve in some gods, and acknowledge the possibility of some other things that somebody, somewhere might call “God” or a “god.”

    So if somebody asks me if I believe in God, it would be helpful if they told me what they mean by God.

    Similarly, if they ask me if I’m an atheist, I need to know what would count as a god to them. Would Q on Star Trek count? He’s pretty clearly like a Roman god, in some ways that you might find crucial, and I acknowledge that there could be superintelligent superpowerful aliens messing with our heads, but I think probably not.

    It’s pretty clear that when somebody in our culture asks if I believe in God, and thinks it’s a well-formed question, they are likely to mean certain things and not others by “God”. I don’t believe in any of those things, so I’m an atheist.

    The word “agnostic” is also ambiguous. In its original sense—and still a live sense of the word among people who seriously discuss these things—agnostic does not mean that you don’t know if there’s a god—it means you think you can’t know. It is not on the same level as “atheist” or “theist”.

    In that sense, most atheists are “agnostic atheists,” who don’t think there’s a god, and maybe think there’s very probably not, but acknowledge that we don’t currently know and/or maybe even can’t know.

    Likewise, most moderate theists are “agnostic theists” to some extent—they think there is a god, with some subjective probability, but acknowledge that they we don’t currently know for sure, and/or can’t possibly know for sure.

    (Note that “agnostic” is doubly ambiguous. Even as a statement about whether we can know, it’s unclear whether it means we can’t know “in principle” or can’t know “in fact,” and that too is ambiguous—what is taken as a given, and what might just possibly be discovered that might relevant?)

    This is exactly the sort of ambiguity that many, many words exhibit, and that dictionary writers typically oversimplify.

    Unfortunately, anti-atheist propaganda—including accommodationist propaganda—tends to exploit this ambiguity, and common misconceptions about atheism, to paint atheists as dogmatically asserting that there’s no possibility of anything that might count as a God.

    That’s ironic, given how much accommodationists accuse the New Atheist of pigeonholing all “religion” and treating it like fundamentalism. They project dogmatism, of all things, onto atheists.

    All of the prominent New Atheists, and the vast majority of people who self-identify as atheists, are much are much closer to what gillt is talking about. They think that the preponderance of evidence shows that there’s probably no God, for most interesting senses of the word “God.” (And naturally, the more specific concepts of God are less probable than the more general ones.)

    They are somewhat agnostic in the popular sense of “I don’t know” but they are less agnostic than a lot of people in the other senses—they think there is relevant evidence about whether there’s a God in any popular sense. They think that we do know some things that bear on the question of God(s), and could know more.

    If you think that atheism or the New Atheism is about dogmatic assertion that there is no God, you couldn’t miss the point more thoroughly. It’s exactly about there being relevant evidence that people ought to know about, which the New Atheists think show pretty clearly that there’s probably not a God or god in any sense that many people care much about.

    Your dictionary sense, taken simplistically, fails to describe most actual people who’ve ever been called atheists, or actually called themselves atheists. Either it’s just wrong, or you don’t know how to interpret a dictionary entry. (I think both are actually true.)

    I think a better dictionary sense, but still very simplistic would be

    1. Someone who is skeptical of the existence of God or gods.

    2. Someone who is very skeptical of the existence of God or gods.

    That covers the range between people who just don’t particularly think there is a god in the usual senses, and people who are pretty sure there’s no god, and is appropriately ambiguous about what counts as a “god” or what kind of skepticism is involved toward which gods.

    Atheists are generally skeptics, not “deniers.” (You may disagree, but you shouldn’t presuppose the latter.)

  178. TB

    Paul W

    Hey, leave me out of your misleading rants.

    “Where and how, exactly, does Coyne criticize someone for “breaking neutrality”?”

    I specifically said “He’s free to do that and if —> someone <— doing that also criticizes others for “breaking neutrality,” we’re free to point out the hypocrisy."

    I don't know that Coyne does that (or, to be exact, I'm too lazy to go and find evidence either way) and so very specifically did not accuse him of doing that. The only reason that sentence contains a reference to Coyne at all is because gilt originally referenced him.

    If it wasn't clear that "someone" in that sentence is not a reference to "Coyne," then it is now.

  179. gillt

    I never said atheism equals science. You don’t win any points for putting words in my mouth. And now in post #180 you’re clearly backtracking.

  180. gillt

    Let me get this straight. You said if Coyne criticizes other for breaking neutrality in any way we’re free to criticize him, but you don’t really know if he’s ever done it or not….because you’re too lazy to check?

    Apparently you’re not too lazy to repeatedly defend people like bilbo for saying NAs like Coyne are hypocrites, just too lazy to check to see if it was true or not.

    Only through outright lying could you be more flagrantly dishonest.

  181. Paul W.

    Hey, leave me out of your misleading rants.

    Ummmm…

    No. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. And if you think that my “rants” are misleading, do feel free to explain why. I think yours are far more misleading.

    Don’t expect me to refrain from commenting on your posts, if I think you’re misrepresenting my views, or other people’s views. Deal with it.

    I specifically said “He’s free to do that and if —> someone <— doing that also criticizes others for “breaking neutrality,” we’re free to point out the hypocrisy.”

    So now all of this is about some hypothetical someone?

    Funny, that.

    Many of the things that you guys accuse New Atheists of are exaggerated, misrepresented, or simply made up—like most things in bilbo’s list of apparent “quotes” a while back—so pardon me if I ask for an actual example of what you’re talking about.

    I think the New Atheists are pretty consistent in distinguishing between scientists stating their views about the relationship between science and religion vs. organizations “speaking for science” in a stronger sense, and I don’ t know of any examples of hypocrisy about it.

    And neither do you, I’m guessing. You’re just running things together and accusing people of things they never did, because you fail to understand an important distinction they’re being consistent about.

    It wouldn’t be the first time.

    It seems to me you’re making something out of nothing, and then misrepresenting it, and now you’re getting called on it and backpedaling.

    I could be wrong, and I would be very interested if you could back up your claims.

    As for the comment link to dictionary.com, thanks; I may in fact give them feedback. Dictionaries do make mistakes.

    But lest we digress from a more basic issue too much, and seem evasive, back to the original subject:

    Do you think Chad’s vaunted argument about the meaning of “compatibility” is correct? Do you deny that it also implies that “science is compatible with astrology”?

    Seems to me that you systematically refuse to address clear, entirely relevant, and quite basic questions, and then hypocritically accuse other people of being evasive.

    That’s not civil. Tut tut!

  182. bilbo

    PZ Myers actually does very good posts on the literature

    Where? Oh wait, I see. There’s one or two for about every 15 “looking at this fucking idiot praying in church pew” posts.

    Wish he did more of these.

    Me too. Actually, I wish PZ would DO more science. How many years has it been since he’s published research? Yet here he is, screaming about religion with “SCIENTIST” scribbled on his forehead. It might do everyone some good if he replaced that with “FORMER PRACTICING SCIENTIST TURNED SCIENTIST WHO SCREAMS ABOUT RELIGION”

    The questions, bilbo, was how science is treated on Pharyngula and WEIT versus BioLogos. You didn’t even attempt a comparison. Instead, you gave a completely useless internal tally of WEIT

    Actually, “the questions” were a tactic on your part meant to derail the discussion of your assertion that: i.) atheism takes ideological stances and ii.) atheism gets to decide what is or is not science. That got quite the backlash from even some fellow atheists, if recall correctly.

    For all the him–hawing you do about neutrality and fairness, you’re no better (worse actually because you’re a hypocrite) than the rest.

    Really? How so? My “useless tally” of WEIT just showed what I’d been saying all along: Jerry Coyne speaks about how people shouldn’t talk about belief or non-belief on their science blogs but spends the majority of his time attacking theological positions on his evolution blog (with, as I’ve said several times, his professional bio and research program as the blog’s “about” section). Hypocrisy exemplified.

    Coyne—like the other “New Atheists”—thinks that it’s fine for people on either side of the a/theism issue to use science in support of their positions. There is no requirement that science be neutral about religion, and in fact a big part of the New Atheist position is that science is not neutral about religion

    Jerry Coyne: “Science does not take positions siding with belief or non-belief.”

    I’ll note, however, that Jerry is a strong advocate of scientists taking positions. Half of the problem with this comment thread is getting past the stumbling block of when a person is speaking for science and when a person is speaking for themselves. Obviously, I’d say the website where you link to and discuss your professional career is far from a case of the latter.

    Check out PZ’s “A Taste of Pharyngula” link in his sidebar, sometime, or just click here:

    http://pharyngula.org/articles.html

    Note that the articles that he considers to be especially worthy are mostly straight science articles, and there are a lot of excellent ones in there

    (Translated to remove bullshit) I admit that PZ spends the vast majority of the time on his science blog not discussing science at all, but when he does, it’s good, at least! That’s gotta count for something, right? I mean, he’s even listed them separately!

    Gilt calls what I pointed out a strawman, then goes on to confirm exactly what I pointed out when he says: “I think what Coyne does on his blog is discuss science and atheism, often in the same post, …”

    Yes, that’s the point. He conflates the two all while wearing the hat of the scientist. He’s free to do that and if someone doing that also criticizes others for “breaking neutrality,” we’re free to point out the hypocrisy.

    My thoughts exactly….but of course, I don’t count, because now I’m a hypocrite (although I think gillt used that more as an empty pejorative than a relevant descriptor).

  183. Paul W.

    Jerry Coyne: “Science does not take positions siding with belief or non-belief.”

    Is that supposed to be a quote? I don’t find it on the web, attributed to Coyne, or in WEIT on Google Books.

    I am skeptical that it’s a real quote from Jerry Coyne.

    Even if by chance it is, I suspect it doesn’t mean what you interpret it to mean, when read in context. (It may only mean that science doesn’t take a priori positions, or that science doesn’t technically deal with belief, but with corroboration and disconfirmation, or something like that.

    Basically, I think you made that quote up, as you’ve apparently done repeatedly before, or perhaps inadvertently quote-mined Jerry Coyne.

    Citation, please.

  184. TB

    gilt: “Let me get this straight. You said if Coyne criticizes other for breaking neutrality in any way we’re free to criticize him, but you don’t really know if he’s ever done it or not….because you’re too lazy to check?”

    Nope. I’ll quote myself again: “He’s free to do that and if —> someone since Coyne is criticizing <— others for “breaking neutrality,” we’re free to point out the hypocrisy.

    There you go, that's specific.

  185. bilbo

    Paul, you certainly have an interesting way of dealing with anything another poster here says that’s inconvenient to your argument: you just claim they made it up. Seeing as how I’ve already provided citations and links (some even frucking timestamped and dated) to quotes you’ve accused me of fabricating on other threads in the past, and you still accused me of making them up, I don’t see much cause to expect anything different here, either.

    And here’s a very large hint: just because you can’t find something on a Google search doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Try harder.

  186. PJ

    I can’t find bilbo’s quote from Coyne, either, Paul, but it’s hardly a secret what Coyne advocates. Consider…

    From a Q&A during lecture in 2009: “I want religion and atheism left out of the discourse when science is being promoted.”

    From a blog post on WEIT: “If we’re to defend evolutionary biology, we must defend it as a science: a nonteleological theory in which the panoply of life results from the action of natural selection and genetic drift acting on random mutations.”

    From a blog post on WEIT: “Leave theology to the theologians.”

    I find that last quote especially humorous, seeing as how (as bilbo showed earlier) so many of Coyne’s posts are statements on theology and personal attacks on individual philosophers that hold them – many of them not even dealing with science. Jerry Coyne hypocrisy example #2.

    Let’s leave theology to the theologians, indeed. How about it, Jerry?

  187. Seminatrix

    No doubt we’re about to get a stuttering “b-b-but I’m sure that’s not when Jerry really means!!!!” response to post 188 from either gillt, Paul, or both.

    Give it a rest, guys. It’s almost 100 posts later, and neither of you have gained any substantial ground in this discussion whatsoever. gillt’s just rammed his foot farther down his throat and is now reduced to hurling childish insults, and now PJs pointed out what is the second example of mindnumbing self-contradiction from Jerry Coyne. (Not to mention gillt has continued to defend Jerry after stating earlier how silly it was for someone to try and defend Jerry. This is like The Contradiction Thread or something. It’s at least the “watch the trolls get played like a fiddle” thread.)

  188. Paul W.

    Golly bilbo, get a grip.

    Nobody’s saying that PZ is a top scientist, or an especially prolific or active scientist. That doesn’t make him not a scientist, perfectly well entitled to the title. He has been there and done that, and paid his dues. He’s in the club.

    I think PZ’s record stacks up just fine against certain accommodationists around here who describe themselves as “scientists,” and are described by each other as scientists, and you don’t seem at all bothered by that. Sheril and “Tom,” for example.

    And that’s okay by me. I think it can be a bit misleading, if people refuse to clarify what they mean by “a scientist,” as in “Tom”‘s case, and it happens to matter to interpreting a claim they’re making.
    (Like Tom complaining about his “colleagues” and his “superiors.”)

  189. bilbo

    Who the heck is “Tom,” and what does he have to do with this discussion, besides serving as the source of another attempt at deflecting a topic?

  190. Seminatrix

    Bilbo, I believe Paul is referring to “Tom Johnson,” the biologist who posted on here a while back about some rather nasty colleagues of his who make it their mission to attack religious people and thus destroy otherwise good outreach efforts. I can’t find the links to the discussion right now, and that’s probably a good thing, because it became a huge, blown out-of-proportion feces storm by people just like Paul.

    I don’t really know what he’s getting at with the whole “these people aren’t scientists” thing, though. Chris said that he contacted “Tom” and confirmed that he was an evolutionary biologist, and Sheril holds a couple of post-grad degrees and experience as a practicing biologist herself, so I think Paul’s just trying to stir the stew and deflect again by making wild claims that you’re not a “real” scientist until you’re a New Atheist.

    Thank whatever deity you worship (or don’t worship) that claim is bollocks….

  191. Paul W.

    Seminatrix:

    Give it a rest, guys. It’s almost 100 posts later, and neither of you have gained any substantial ground in this discussion whatsoever.

    bilbo

    Who the heck is “Tom,” and what does he have to do with this discussion, besides serving as the source of another attempt at deflecting a topic?

    Oh, sorry guys for being so off-topic, and do let’s make some progress.

    By all means, let’s get back to the topic of the original post, and make some progress.

    I assume you guys agree with Orzel that

    1. if somebody can do/believe X and be a scientist, then X is compatible with science
    2. it’s a statement of fact to say that, and
    3. such a statement of fact is never unconscionable?

    I’ll happily address the quotes—I’m NOT avoiding that—but if you guys want focus, by all means, let’s have it.

    These points have been made several times, and you guys have evaded answering them.

    I suppose that means you assent to Orzel’s logic.

  192. bilbo

    Nobody’s saying that PZ is a top scientist, or an especially prolific or active scientist. That doesn’t make him not a scientist, perfectly well entitled to the title. He has been there and done that, and paid his dues. He’s in the club.

    I think PZ’s record stacks up just fine against certain accommodationists around here who describe themselves as “scientists,” and are described by each other as scientists, and you don’t seem at all bothered by that. Sheril and “Tom,” for example.

    That’s interesting, isn’t it? I’ve got PZs CV up right now, and his last published, peer-reviewed article was in…let’s see, I’ve gotta look way back…..1998. That’s 12 years ago. He has a grand total of 11 peer-reviewed journal publications. Eleven (*snicker*). He hasn’t presented at a scientific conference in 8 years (but, of course, he gives lots of talks at atheism meetings. “Atheism meetings:” kind of an oxymoron, huh?) He has only received 5 grants as PI. He served on a fellowship committee meeting once. Oh, and he judged a couple of science fairs in Pennsylvania.

    So, what is it again that makes PZ a scientist and Sheril not? Tenure? A faculty position? If so, I can think of several thousand scientists – with much more accomplished careers and greater contributions to science than PZ but without tenure or a faculty spot – who would beg to differ and call you a certified nutbag.

    Poor little Paul. He’s confusing being an offensive atheist with being a good science. Shame.

  193. gillt

    Let the record show bilbo has been asked to provided quotes and either says “well, they didn’t actually says that, it’s just an observation I had,” or failed to do so.

    TB has been caught in something approaching a lie.

    I might as well be talking to kwok and McCarthy.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I’m only concerned with breaking neutrality when it comes to science organizations and federally funded government appointments. I’m not concerned about the trivial neutrality that applies to anyone who uses science to inform their worldview…we all do it to some extent, some better than others.

  194. TB

    “TB has been caught in something approaching a lie.”

    LOL! gilt, you got nothing. Anyone who wants to can do a simple search on this thread (“TB says”) and see exactly what I’ve posted and how you misrepresented it. They’ll also see my response to your pitiful attempt at misdirection.

    You really have solidified yourself as a troll, which is too bad since you do seem to want to defend science.

    “As I’ve mentioned before, I’m only concerned with breaking neutrality when it comes to science organizations and federally funded government appointments. ”

    And you also do a great job of inadvertently proving other people’s points. That sentence adequately describes what I mean by an artificial standard of neutrality!

  195. gillt

    Of course that TB’s statement wasn’t about a hypothetical someone. The context was, Coyne, who TB mentioned in the sentence prior.

    Nice work, now that you’ve done the “research” to your own standards of satisfaction, you can pat yourself on the back. Of course it doesn’t excuse that fact that you supported whatever bilbo was saying, ceaselessly and apparently cluelessly.

    Reminds me of Mooney’s blind support of Tom Johnson, the evolutionary biologist apologist. Seriously, does anyone believe that guy actual was who he says he was?

    How is a practical standard of neutrality that organizations and federal bodies should maintain, construed by you into an artificial standard? Why is this even controversial? And I’m not alone on this; it’s something all or most of the prominent NAs agree with as well.

    But by all means, let’s return, as Paul suggested, to the original horrible argument Mooney let Orzel make for him.

  196. bilbo

    Let the record show bilbo has been asked to provided quotes and either says “well, they didn’t actually says that, it’s just an observation I had,” or failed to do so.

    Let it be known that:

    i.) I never said anything like that (my post, clearly visible above, refutes it).

    ii.) Said quotes have absolutely dick to do with the point of contrition between gillt and myself and have, in fact, already been addressed by me once in this post.

    iii.) PJ already posted a whole bunch of crap that clearly backs my (and TB’s) original point.

    and iv.) gillt apparently has nothing substantial left to argue about and is falling back on character assassination (calling people liars, etc.).

    This is like talking to a climate change denialist, but admittedly a bit like Denialist Lite.

    Reminds me of Mooney’s blind support of Tom Johnson, the evolutionary biologist apologist. Seriously, does anyone believe that guy actual was who he says he was?

    Again, utterly and wholly irrelevant to anything we’ve been discussing, but I suppose it’s a good derailing tactic. By the way, when Chris contacts an individual and confirms their identity/occupation, as he stated he did, your first assumption is that it’s all a lie and Chris and some random guy are corroborating in a secret conspiracy to undermine a certain stance on science? Where have I seen that tactic and tendency to jump to the wildest conclusion that fits your position first before? Ah yes. Denialist Lite. Is there something we should know, gillt?

    It’s all a conspiracy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    As I’ve mentioned before, I’m only concerned with breaking neutrality when it comes to science organizations and federally funded government appointments. I’m not concerned about the trivial neutrality that applies to anyone who uses science to inform their worldview

    And suddenly, one-hundred posts later, gillt becomes self-aware of the fundamental difference that has been the source of this debate. Congratulations, gillt. You’re a bit slow, but congratulations. (By the way, if something throws you into a fit-pitching, insult-hurling, lie-accusing, evasion tactic-employing tizzy over the course of two days on a comment thread, it’s probably not “trivial.” Either that, or you’re a wonderful actor.)

    But by all means, let’s return, as Paul suggested, to the original horrible argument Mooney let Orzel make for him.

    Let’s not, actually. Let’s return to “atheism gets to decide if position X gets considered science.” You danced quickly away from that discussion without evber explaining yourself, gillt, and it’s time cut the evasion tactics (see: ‘let’s get away from this topic quickly!’ in your above quote) and fess up. Was that slip of the tongue or something you feel to be concretely true?

    If the answer is latter, I’d like to understand which authority on atheism makes such declarations and outlines these “stances” atheism takes. This I must know.

  197. PJ

    You really have solidified yourself as a troll, which is too bad since you do seem to want to defend science.

    Unfortunately, I believe that statement is very much true. As soon as gillt started losing a footing, the trollspeak appeared.

  198. Milton C.

    Alright. I haven’t chipped into this thread in a while, and I probably shouldn’t, because it’s devolved into a professional poo-flinging competition. I suppose I’ll throw caution to the wind.

    I don’t know if I’m characterizing him correctly, but gillt almost does seem to be enforcing an “artificial standard of neutrality” here by saying that neutrality should only apply to (per his last post) “science organizations and federally funded government appointments.”

    Wouldn’t it be nice if science organizations and federally funded government appointments were the only thing that influenced public perceptions of science and spoke for science in the public sphere? Geez, I imagine the world would be a might fine place if that were the case.

    But it isn’t.

    I teach science at university – not a huge one, but university nonetheless (given gillt’s conspiracy suspicions about anyone claiming to be a scientist on this blog, I’ll probably need to post a notarized CV or something to convince him.) I don’t represent science in an “official capacity” per an organization like the NCSE, and I’m not appointed to any government positions. But I certainly speak for science when I’m in the classroom, in my office, or (heaven forbid) on a blog where I present myself as a professional scientist. And if I promote atheism or religion when in those capacities, I’m doing so representing science and passing off science as something it is not. I may not mean to do so directly, but if I walk into a room (or a blog) under the expectation that science shall be the discussion topic and talk about religion, perceptions will certainly be that I mean to thoroughly link the two.

    When it comes to “neutrality,” either science is neutral to belief and nonbelief, or it is not. I think there are very logical and supported arguments for both of those positions. But to say that neutrality only applies to certain people or under a qualifying set of circumstances is absolute rubbish. It’s a bit like when the Republicans were claiming this week that Bush had no terror attacks under his tenure. When people began pointing out attacks, such as 9/11, the Republicans said “well, that doesn’t count because we were talking about after 9/11.” Then people brought up the shoe bomber and the Republicans said “well, that doesn’t count because he wasn’t technically in the country yet.” Then people brought up attacks on an army base and the Republicans said “well, army bases don’t count.” gillt has been doing the same thing with neutrality. bilbo, PJ, and company bring up some rather important examples that should be discussed in depth, and gillt says “well, they aren’t a government appointee,” “well, they’re at a private school,” or “well, they have tenure.” Come on! Let’s face the facts here and either decide if science should be neutral to belief or if it should not, and stop dancing around the bush!

    My opinion is just an opinion, but I think bilbo, TB, and PJ have pointed out some very important examples of hypocrisy here by certain scientists that need to be clarified by those scientists either dropping the “neutrality” charade or really practicing what they preach. Even if gillt believes that neutrality only applies to the groups he’s mention, that doesn’t belie the fact that people like Jerry Coyne crtiticize simple professors (no org. affiliations/appointments) for breaking neutrality by discussing religion yet turn around and discuss atheism (and bash religion) in the exact same capacity. Their standard of neutrality is clearly different than gillt’s in this case, and they’re breaking it.

    Alas, this will probably fall on deaf ears to the ones who need to hear it. So be it. I tihnk something very important has been highlighted here. It’s sad to see it purposefully dragged into mindless trolling.

  199. TB

    @199 PJ
    Too true. You want to believe people are asking legitimate questions in an effort to gain knowledge or converse, but with gilt and Paul W that just hasn’t proven to be the case. At some point, you just have to stop feeding the trolls.

  200. Paul W.

    bilbo,

    You constantly miss the point, on purpose, don’t you?

    I’m not saying that Sheril isn’t a scientist. Some grad students are scientists and some aren’t, and I give her the benefit of the doubt on that. (I know I was—I conceived and executed my own original research as a Masters student, designing and implementing my own experiments, and wrote them up and got several refereed publications out of it.)

    I also give “Tom” the benefit of the doubt on being a scientist in that sense, too. My question about Tom was because people seemed to assume that he was a professor, and that his scientist “colleagues” whose behavior he claimed was outrageous were also professors. (And maybe that his “superiors” who allegedly condoned the allegedly unacceptable behavior must be deans or something?)

    That didn’t sound right to me, if only because professors don’t generally refer to anybody as their “superiors.” My guess was and is that it wasn’t science professors behaving badly and deans endorsing it, but a lesser event involving mainly students. I asked about that repeatedly, and I never got an answer.

    Big surprise.

    My point about PZ and Sheril and Tom is that while I find it quite credible that Sheril and Tom are scientists, PZ demonstrably is a credentialed scientist, and you’re an idiot to be making a big issue out of whether he should call himself a scientist. I’m happy for all those people to call themselves scientists, but if you’re going to single somebody out for disqualification, you shouldn’t start with PZ.

    BTW, happen to know that PZ has more publications, and more recent ones, than on the CV you’re looking at. (Not every CV is a full CV.)

    But that’s missing the point. I have more publications than PZ, and got tenure in a more prestigious department, but you don’t see me saying that PZ shouldn’t call himself a scientist because of it. (Or anybody with comparable credentials.) That would be stupid. He’s paid his dues and gotten his union card.

    It is quite ridiculous for you to go around questioning PZ’s claim to be a scientist while having no objection to people like Sheril and Tom calling themselves scientists. Why are you so unconcerned about their credentials?

    And if refereed publications are the be-all and end-all of being a scientist, why aren’t you objecting to Chris and Sheril’s attempts to change that?

    The answer is pretty obvious. You’ll fling any damn thing at PZ, but don’t hold people you agree with to anywhere near the same standard, because you’re blatantly biased. You’ll make arguments that make your friends look worse than your enemies, and hope nobody notices.

    PZ has repeatedly been judged to be a scientist by expert scientists in his field—in his Ph.D. defense, in refereed scientific papers, and in his tenure review. He’s a scientist, no question about it. Get used to it. If he’s not a good enough scientist for you, well, too freaking bad.

    It’s pathetic that you constantly make ad hominem arguments and arguments from authority, evidently because you are incapable of making a good argument, and too dishonest to acknowledge when arguments on your side are revealed as clearly invalid.

    So let’s get back to the actual topic of the post…

    Isn’t Chad’s argument about the meaning of “compatibility” invalid?

    You know it is, and you’re too busy weaseling to admit that somebody on your side made a clearly invalid argument, and somebody else on your side raved about how good it was.

    I’m shocked—shocked, I say, simply shocked—to realize that you’re a dishonest weasel.

  201. Paul W.

    Let the record show bilbo has been asked to provided quotes and either says “well, they didn’t actually says that, it’s just an observation I had,” or failed to do so.

    In fairness, I have to point out that from his list of 6 or 8 quotes there were two exceptions to this generalizion.

    They were quote-mines, of course.

  202. Paul W.

    TB,

    You want to believe people are asking legitimate questions in an effort to gain knowledge or converse, but with gilt and Paul W that just hasn’t proven to be the case.

    Here’s an honest question, that you studiously refrain from answering:

    Do you think that Chad’s argument about the meaning of “compatibility” is valid?

    Notice that you and all of the other accommodationist regulars have refused to admit that Chad’s argument is invalid, or to say you think it’s valid.

    Wow. How is anybody supposed to have a discussion with you about the post, if you won’t even say whether you agree with it.

    Why should anybody go any further and try to talk to you, if you are completely uncooperative in terms of actually discussing the topic under discussion?

    Instead you guys bring in all sorts of red herrings and ad hominems, and then complain that we’re somehow getting off topic.

    Get a little bit of integrity, please. At least say whether you agree with the argument under discussion.

    If you won’t do that, you are just a troll, pure and simple.

  203. bilbo

    Wow, Paul. You certainly pinned a lot of positions on me that I never claimed to hold in post #203. I especially enjoyed the part where you chastised me about questioning credentials when you clearly accused 2 different scientists of not being “real” scientists just for having a certain opinion on communications strategies. We’ve been talking about hypocrisy here. We now have example #3.

    I also enjoyed how you accused me of lying and fabricating quotes (which gillt greedily lapped up without checking for himself- anothe example of Denialist Lite), and now you’ve totally backed off of that. I’d be interested to see what your counterargument against TB and myself is now since you were basing before on the simple fact that I was a “liar.” Now that you’ve destroyed that for yourself, what do you have left besides the pathetic attempts at trolling you’ve displayed over the last few posts? (Oh, and if someone requests a quote that is then posted for them, that’s not “quote-mining.” I get it though, you’re graspign at any straw you can imagine to paint me in a negative light. You’re now a predictable troll).

  204. bilbo

    In between myself and TB getting called “liars,” “irrelevant,” “dishonest,” “trolls,” “weasels,” and “pathetic” for simply making an observation about several mindblowing self-contradictions on the part of their blog idols, Paul and gillt have been trying desperately to derail this disucssion by trying to take it off-topic, hurl accusations about the integrity of Chris and Sheril, and generally be fifth-rate trolls. To me, this says that they have no effective counter to what TB and I (and I now count 4 to 5 others) have been pointing out, and they’re trying to sweep it under the rug.

    In the midst of all of this, Milton C. wrote a post that I think summarizes my points so far beautifully (I can’t speak for TB, of course). I’ll post what Milton wrote below. If anyone has an effective counter to this that doesn’t involve ducking their head in, screaming jibberish, and hoping the discussion dies down, I’d love to hear it. I don’t claim to be 100% right on my opinion, but I’d at least like to hear a counterargument that can be backed by somehting substantial (and no, gillt, saying “you’re wrong!!!!!” and continually rephrasing your argument isn’t substantiation. Here we go:

    Alright. I haven’t chipped into this thread in a while, and I probably shouldn’t, because it’s devolved into a professional poo-flinging competition. I suppose I’ll throw caution to the wind.

    I don’t know if I’m characterizing him correctly, but gillt almost does seem to be enforcing an “artificial standard of neutrality” here by saying that neutrality should only apply to (per his last post) “science organizations and federally funded government appointments.”

    Wouldn’t it be nice if science organizations and federally funded government appointments were the only thing that influenced public perceptions of science and spoke for science in the public sphere? Geez, I imagine the world would be a might fine place if that were the case.

    But it isn’t.

    I teach science at university – not a huge one, but university nonetheless (given gillt’s conspiracy suspicions about anyone claiming to be a scientist on this blog, I’ll probably need to post a notarized CV or something to convince him.) I don’t represent science in an “official capacity” per an organization like the NCSE, and I’m not appointed to any government positions. But I certainly speak for science when I’m in the classroom, in my office, or (heaven forbid) on a blog where I present myself as a professional scientist. And if I promote atheism or religion when in those capacities, I’m doing so representing science and passing off science as something it is not. I may not mean to do so directly, but if I walk into a room (or a blog) under the expectation that science shall be the discussion topic and talk about religion, perceptions will certainly be that I mean to thoroughly link the two.

    When it comes to “neutrality,” either science is neutral to belief and nonbelief, or it is not. I think there are very logical and supported arguments for both of those positions. But to say that neutrality only applies to certain people or under a qualifying set of circumstances is absolute rubbish. It’s a bit like when the Republicans were claiming this week that Bush had no terror attacks under his tenure. When people began pointing out attacks, such as 9/11, the Republicans said “well, that doesn’t count because we were talking about after 9/11.” Then people brought up the shoe bomber and the Republicans said “well, that doesn’t count because he wasn’t technically in the country yet.” Then people brought up attacks on an army base and the Republicans said “well, army bases don’t count.” gillt has been doing the same thing with neutrality. bilbo, PJ, and company bring up some rather important examples that should be discussed in depth, and gillt says “well, they aren’t a government appointee,” “well, they’re at a private school,” or “well, they have tenure.” Come on! Let’s face the facts here and either decide if science should be neutral to belief or if it should not, and stop dancing around the bush!

    My opinion is just an opinion, but I think bilbo, TB, and PJ have pointed out some very important examples of hypocrisy here by certain scientists that need to be clarified by those scientists either dropping the “neutrality” charade or really practicing what they preach. Even if gillt believes that neutrality only applies to the groups he’s mention, that doesn’t belie the fact that people like Jerry Coyne crtiticize simple professors (no org. affiliations/appointments) for breaking neutrality by discussing religion yet turn around and discuss atheism (and bash religion) in the exact same capacity. Their standard of neutrality is clearly different than gillt’s in this case, and they’re breaking it.

    Alas, this will probably fall on deaf ears to the ones who need to hear it. So be it. I tihnk something very important has been highlighted here. It’s sad to see it purposefully dragged into mindless trolling.

  205. gillt

    Milton C. “When it comes to “neutrality,” either science is neutral to belief and nonbelief, or it is not.”

    I disagree. Science isn’t neutral when it comes to belief and nonbelief. If beliefs aren’t supported and testable, then they are unjustified and worthless, at least from a scientific perspective. Religious belief, much of it anyway, falls into this category. Atheism rejects most all specific religious beliefs as unfounded and unsupportable. Hey, we appear to have an overlap! Of course anti-atheists will readily confuse this to mean atheism=science. Trying to turn it into some over-simplified mathy equation thing is purposefully trying to confuse the fact that atheism and science are largely in agreement on this topic, which again, is different than saying they’re equal, or that atheism decides what is and isn’t science.

    The reason why science organizations and the government have to be neutral about this (and not say anything on the topic) is because, for better or worse, as organizations they’re speaking for more than just one person and cannot be seen supporting ideologies, even one in agreement with science.

    When Coyne speaks his mind, he’s obviously not representing an organization. Only if you have the impoverished view that Science is a monolithic entity handing down dogma to everyone does it make sense to say Coyne represents all of science or even a scientific consensus when he speaks on atheism. If Coyne ever said that then I’d be the first to criticize him.

    Milton C. wants to assume I failed to mention this before, but I also stated previously in this thread that religion and atheism are to be kept out of the science classroom and for similar reasons.

  206. Julie

    gillt and Paul W.:

    It would certainly help your standing here if you would stop acting like children and actually address the extremely relevant points bilbo, TB, PJ, Milton C., and Seminatrix have now all drawn to our attention. They aren’t just spouting opinions, they’re backing their observations up with some pretty damning examples and evidence, and you two simply aren’t. For those of us who aren’t regulars here and don’t know all of the who-hates-who history, it’s really hurting your case to see you generally acting like you’re in a drunken bar fight. (Paul – you’re a tenured professor?! Surely you can argue better than this – or argue at all without all the false position-pinning and ad hominems!)

    This is an issue that I think should be brought to more attention, and to be frank, the frantic character assassination and defamation attempts coming from you two make it look as if you’re almost a little panicked since it’s been brought up. That certainly doesn’t help your case.

  207. Phillip Jr.

    As much as it kills me to say this (he’s been a rather obnoxious troll over at Pharyngula that I’ve sparred with in the past), bilbo is right in this case. I personally don’t think that science has to be neutral to nonbelief, because nonbelief and science work in similar ways. But bilbo and friends are correct in stating that people like Coyne preach a certain, specifically-defined neutrality but don’t practice it. They break it themselves when they present themselves to the public as a scientist and being to bash religion. Again, I don’t disagree with doing so, but the core of what bilbo (and, especially, TB) is saying seems to be right. It would be interesting to see some clarification coming from people like Coyne or other fellow NA bloggers on this. After seeing the facts and examples that have been shown here, I think it’s deserved. They’re playing what could be a dangerous word game.

  208. gillt

    Actually bilbo I was talking about this:

    Bilbo: “But the record of the debate shows anti-accommodationists getting angry at people like Ruse for breaking neutrality.”

    I asked: “What prominent atheist (quotes maybe?) says this ‘But the record of the debate shows anti-accommodationists getting angry at people like Ruse for breaking neutrality.’ I ask because I’m not familiar with people getting angry at Ruse for breaking neutrality, so if you could shed some light.”

    Bilbo said: “No one said, verbatim, “But the record of the debate shows anti-accommodationists getting angry at people like Ruse for breaking neutrality.” Outside of me, at least. That’s called an observation. But, one can easily find multiple cases where Ruse is labeled an accommodationist, faitheist, etc. etc. etc.”

    To which I responded: “Well I’m certainly not taking you at your word about NAs treatment of Ruse if you can’t even be bothered to come up with a single quote. Calling someone a fatheist is not the same as saying they’re breaking neutrality.”

    50 posts later you said:

    “Said quotes have absolutely dick to do with the point of contrition between gillt and myself and have, in fact, already been addressed by me once in this post.”

    no, no they haven’t.

    If you want to accuse Coyne or anyone else of the idea that they’re intentionally misleading people by being scientists and being atheists then I’d love to see some examples of who Coyne has bamboozled into thinking that he’s speaking for all of science.

  209. Passerby

    Bilbo, you are so biased against Mr. Myers that you are having a terribly hard time admitting even the simple fact that the relatively few science posts he does are quite good…this has become rather typical of the extremist, militant accommodationists on this site. But in any case, you are famous on this site by now for being a relentless, foul-mouthed troll with too much free time on his hands. I think this became obvious when you actually called someone’s mother a w*** in a past thread. Disgusting; for all the talk of civility between atheists and religious people, you find it really hard to refrain from disrespectful ad hominem attacks using playground language (I am sure the only reason that comment was not filtered was because your views are favorable to the authors’ own views).

    And sorry, not to take anything away, but Mr. Myers is definitely a scientist compared to Ms. Kirshenbaum. There’s nothing wrong in it. We need science policy people as much as scientists, but there’s no need to muddy the waters by slapping and exchanging labels. I will never call Mr. Myers a science policy maker just as I won’t call Ms. Kirshenbaum a practicing scientist.

  210. gillt

    TB post# 187: “But, does he also criticize others for not being neutral, even applying his own standard of neutrality to others so he can do so?

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/truckling-to-the-faithful-a-spoonful-of-jesus-helps-darwin-go-down/

    Apparently TB’s in the habit of linking to things he doesn’t read. That entire post by Coyne is a criticism of organizations, and the people speaking for them. This is the argument I’ve been making all along. It’s one thing for a single scientist to promote an ideology and a completely different thing for an organization representing the scientific community do this.

    The only reason you don’t understand this is because it would mean you’ve been wasting over 200 posts trying to support a poorly thought-out opinion.

  211. TB

    This thread has helped me put together some different ideas into one, solid explanation for why I disagree with the criticism by some of the NCSE’s outreach:
    “Stop advocating what you’re advocating so I can advocate what I’m advocating” all under the guise of an artificial standard of neutrality.

    I’ve been thinking a bit about that artificial standard, and I believe there are two main flaws with it:

    1) It fails to account for the role – by an organizational or individual advocate – of neutral facilitator. A role that, while not specifically endorsing any religious position, could contribute to interested parties examining their views with the ultimate goal of having those parties align their views with the advocate.
    It is certainly difficult to make sure one is neutral when engaging in anything, and as I understand it the NCSE responded to some criticism by changing the way it did some things.
    But there is not necessarily an implicit endorsement of any religious position by an engaged facilitator anymore than there is an implicit endorsement by New Atheists of, say, religious fundamentalism just because their views happen on science/religious compatibility happen to align.

    2) It imposes a false limit on the requirement of neutrality. Only individuals employed by advocacy groups or government agencies are subject to it, and it extends to covering opinions expressed during their personal time.
    Yet there are others that get a free pass. The one most under discussion here is the role of an individual scientist, recognized in some way as a leading figure in the scientific community, who also advocates for a particular position on religion while at the same time discussing science in a very public way.
    We already have Coyne and PZ as examples. Their prominence in the public sphere has arguably raised them into the leadership or “role model” level and – as basketball player Charles Barkely found out – you don’t get to choose if you’re at that level.
    As has been said before, they’re free to do whatever they want with their blogs and the scientific authority that they’ve earned. But if they use a standard of behavior to criticize others for something while enjoying the status of being popular scientists and being able to do essentially the same kind of advocacy but even more overtly, then it’s fair to examine that standard.

    So I have examined that standard of neutrality, I’ve found it wanting and so reject it. And without that artificial standard, it’s fair to raise the question of hypocrisy to the people who do try and impose that standard.

  212. Paul W.

    Julie,

    It would certainly help your standing here if you would stop acting like children and actually address the extremely relevant points bilbo, TB, PJ, Milton C., and Seminatrix have now all drawn to our attention. They aren’t just spouting opinions, they’re backing their observations up with some pretty damning examples and evidence, and you two simply aren’t. For those of us who aren’t regulars here and don’t know all of the who-hates-who history, it’s really hurting your case to see you generally acting like you’re in a drunken bar fight.

    I understand why you perceive things that way, but let me tell you my view.

    I came into this thread late, and tried to hijack it back to the original topic. The original topic is extremely important in the overall New Atheism vs. accommodationism controversy, and Chris, Sheril, and their accommodationist regulars have been parading a straw man and stonewalling about the issue I raised for literally years. Dozens and Dozens of times over more than two years.

    I asked a serious clarifying question—is Chad Orzel’s argument about the meaning of “compatible” valid?

    That’s a very important question, and all of the major issues in this thread depend on the answer. (As well as half the issues in the overall controversy.)

    Notice that nobody answered my question, and instead they started flinging poo at me—for example, TB conveniently ignored the substance of the original post, and my serious question about it and flipped me off by saying that now that I’ve arrived, the thread has jumped the shark.

    In my opinion, the thread jumped the shark long before I got here, because NOBODY on the accommodationist side is willing to address the issue of whether the Chad’s arguments are even valid.

    They aren’t. Chad’s post is basically two invalid arguments for oversimplified points, with a straw man or two thrown in for color—e.g., his statement that what would be unconscionable would be for scientific bodies to say that science and religion are not compatible. Of course the new atheists are not asking for that, as I explained. (Not because of some special principle of neutrality toward religion, but because scientific bodies are not supposed to be making pronouncements about science that do not reflect a scientific consensus, or at least a scientific consensus among the relevant experts—and clearly, neither is true here.)

    My understanding of what’s going on in this thread is that bilbo, TB, and other accommodationists are refusing to address the substance of the original post, and choose instead to fling poo at Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers.

    That’s their usual pattern. It strikes me as a kind of Gish Gallop—rather than addressing absolutely clear questions absolutely central to the substance of the post, they change the subject to the behavior of particular people they don’t like, elsewhere and at other times, and make the thread all about about that.

    I didn’t come here to defend Jerry Coyne or PZ Myers. I came here to discuss whether Chad and Chris are right that their argument settles the issue of whether science and religion are compatible, and whether their being compatible in their preferred sense makes it okay for scientific bodies to say that science and religion are compatible, flatly and with no qualifiers about what sense of “compatible” is meant.

    I entirely agree with Chad Orzel that it would be unconscionable for scientific bodies to make simplistic public pronouncements to the effect that “science and religion are incompatible.”

    That statement, too, is oversimplified and misleading. I think that on the obvious interpretation—once you’ve acknowledged that some scientists are religous—-it is basically true. But that is not a consensus opinion in science or philosophy of science, so scientific bodies shouldn’t be saying it. They should leave it up to individual scientists and philosophers to make their cases about how compatible science and religion are or aren’t, and in what senses.

    The New Atheists are generally fine with that—despite what people keep implying, they are not trying to get scientific organizations to endorse the view that science and religion are generally incompatible. They’re just objecting to scientific organizations endorsing views that they not only disagree with, but know are not a consensus opinion among the experts.

    As for the whole “neutrality” wrangle and especially Jerry Coyne, I confess I haven’t followed it carefully. I don’t really care much what particular things Coyne did or didn’t say—I care first and foremost about what’s actually true, which most of the accommodationists here seem less concerned about, and about what would be the right things to say. Only after clarifying those issues would I be very interested in discussing whether Coyne got it right, or was misinterpreted.

    I likewise am not much interested in a pissing match about PZ’s right to call himself a scientist, but that’s what’s on offer here, and I let myself get sucked in.

    If you want me to stop flinging poo at people who are flinging poo, please take the high road yourself.

    Please do answer my original question about the original post, and answer it honestly.

    Is Chad Orzel’s argument that “science and religion are compatible” a valid argument?

    (I’ve actually come to wonder whether all of the accommodationists here clearly understand what it means for an argument to be valid, as opposed to just agreeing with the conclusion; I can explain the difference if anybody wants.)

  213. Paul W.

    FWIW, I agree with gillt that in context, when Coyne said “Leave the theology to the theologians,” he was not saying that individual scientists shouldn’t espouse the view that science is compatible with religion.

    Here’s the actual paragraph. Note that he starts off by saying that he doesn’t want his non-accommodationist views espoused by the NAS and NCSE.

    Am I grousing because, as an atheist and a non-accommodationist, my views are simply ignored by the NAS and NCSE? Not at all. I don’t want these organizations to espouse or include my viewpoint. I want religion and atheism left completely out of all the official discourse of scientific societies and organizations that promote evolution. If natural selection and evolution are as powerful as we all believe, then we should devote our time to making sure that they are more widely and accurately understood, and that their teaching is defended. Those should be the sole missions of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Center for Science Education. Leave theology to the theologians.

  214. bilbo

    Bilbo, you are so biased against Mr. Myers that you are having a terribly hard time admitting even the simple fact that the relatively few science posts he does are quite good…this has become rather typical of the extremist, militant accommodationists on this site.

    Hmmm….I said his posts weren’t good? Actually, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, read my post again. I did say they were very good….I just said they were few and far between when you consider the angry religion screeds he posts there. If you’d like to claim that PZ posts much more about religion than he ever does about science, you’ll fail every time, and I’ll crush you under my bootheel, grind you into the ground, and laugh about it later that evening. (That was a random ad hominem just for you, by the way, since I’m such a nasty, terrible person for pointing out the obvious. Enjoy.)

    I think this became obvious when you actually called someone’s mother a w*** in a past thread. Disgusting;

    Again, read that original post in context and you’ll find that I made that statement to highlight the simple absurdity of another poster’s argument. Of course, if you’re a hyperliteral troll who fails to understand the meanings of context and rhetorical devices, you wouldn’t get that. I apologize for using literary devices that were beyond your grasp of comprehension. I’ll try to type at a more elementary level next time so you won’t have much to take out of context when you’re posting anonymous rants against me.

    for all the talk of civility between atheists and religious people, you find it really hard to refrain from disrespectful ad hominem attacks using playground language

    Really? I think the only negative labels I’ve given folks on this thread have been “hypocrite” and variations of trollitude. I find it interesting that you’ll harp on those while I’ve been freely called a “liar,” “worthless,” “petulant weasel,” etc. over the course of this thread simply for stating an opinion. (I will point out, however, that Paul later admitted that he was lying about calling me a liar. How mature of him!). I suppose those fifth-rate tactics get excluded from your tone trollitude, Passerby, because gillt and Paul are fellow members of your respective tribe. I get it.

    (I am sure the only reason that comment was not filtered was because your views are favorable to the authors’ own views).

    You’re absolutely correct. Chris and I get together each evening for a round or two of beers to discuss how we can conspire to keep opposing viewpoints off the blog and promote a certain “view.” Oh crap. Disregard that last statement. It was made in the spirit of sarcasm, but I forgot that higher-level literary devices are above you. My apologies.

  215. bilbo

    Ah frack. Take that claim about PZ and reverse it.

  216. bilbo

    FWIW, I agree with gillt that in context, when Coyne said “Leave the theology to the theologians,” he was not saying that individual scientists shouldn’t espouse the view that science is compatible with religion.

    “Leave theology to the theologians.”

    Individual evolutionary biologists are theologians now? Interesting. And to think all this time so many of them have been studying silly things like genetics and evolution….

  217. bilbo

    My understanding of what’s going on in this thread is that bilbo, TB, and other accommodationists are refusing to address the substance of the original post, and choose instead to fling poo at Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers

    Hell yes TB and I are off-topic. But just because something’s off-topic doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.

    And just becuase you jump into the thread and say “shut up and answer this!!!” that doesn’t mean we’re wrong, either.

    Worst. Strawman. Ever.

  218. bilbo

    gillt in #211:

    If you’ve been following the thread closely (and not just cherry-picking random, out-of-context quotes from me – Denialist Lite again), you’ll find that several of the things you’re still demanding have been highlighted by multiple other posts.

    But you’re claiming that just because I, bilbo, didn’t post them, my whole argument is flawed.

    Second. Worst. Strawman. Ever.

  219. Julie

    Paul, you just said (among random other things):

    “I asked a serious clarifying question—is Chad Orzel’s argument about the meaning of “compatible” valid?…Please do answer my original question about the original post, and answer it honestly.”

    Then you proceed to label me an “accommodationist,” presumably simply because I posted on Chris’s blog without calling him sundry insults and generally acting like a toddler.

    That was kind of my entire point about acting like a child and jumping to conclusions exemplified. Thank you. It saves me time and argument.

    I am, in fact, not an accommodationist. I think that the claim that religion and science make absolutely friendly bedfellows is absolute rubbish. But you’ve taken that to some wild extreme to where you have to disagree with every point Chris/Sheril make or support a priori. I don’t post here regularly, but it’s only taken reading a couple of threads from you to realize that. This will only make you angry, but you do, in fact, seem to be much more of a blog troll than someone coming here with the intent on reasoned discussion or even true argument. And that’s coming from someone who agrees with most of the basic veiwpoints you espouse…but who just got sundry opinions pinned on her simply because she didn’t side with your opposition.

    Perhaps the reason no has answered your repetitive question is this: you stuck your head into the middle of a heated discussion and posed an unrelated question. Off-topic or not, the points being discussed by bilbo and TB (and multiple others) are very, very valid. I hate to admit that, too; I like Jerry Coyne and people like him, very much. But some things have been highlighted over the course of this thread that show that those people, especially Jerry, are engaging in talking out of both sides of their mouth. And that’s embarrassing. Trying to brush it under the rug will only come back to bite them later. It’s something they should address. (And, I’ll add, you’re almost doing what bilbo just argued in #219 above: declaring that their points about neutrality are wrong simply because they didn’t answer your unrelated question. If you’re a “tenured professor,” I certainly shouldn’t have to be the second person to point out the fatal falw in that line of reasoning.)

    But, I’m sure what I just said will fall on deaf ears, you’ll lump me into some broadly-defined group with Chris and bilbo, and continue to parade around flimsy distractions. I beg you, though: PLEASE do a better job of arguing for the points you and I share agreement on. Acting like my 13-year-old isn’t getting the job done.

  220. Milton C.

    The reason why science organizations and the government have to be neutral about this (and not say anything on the topic) is because, for better or worse, as organizations they’re speaking for more than just one person and cannot be seen supporting ideologies, even one in agreement with science.

    So, in other words, you argue that for organizations, stressing neutrality is the politically and strategically wise thing to do. That sounds awfully like accommodationist lines of reasoning, doesn’t it?

    When I teach science or lead a discussion on it, I’m not just speaking for myself. I speak for science. When I speak about evolution, it’s not my opinion. I’m speaking for science. And if I’m up in front of a crowd saying that evolution reveals the marvelous presence of the Creator, I want another scientist to destroy me for it. Same thing goes for if I say that science tells us that religion is a delusional dogma that enables evil and makes its followers guilty of child molestation and genocide. That isn’t hyperbole, mind you; those are actual things expressed by scientists on evolution blogs and during scientific talks, interspersed with factual tenets of evolution like genetic drift and selective sweeps.

    Hence where things get sticky. You’re correct in that opinions on religion are just that: opinions. But when I express opinions (on religion, politics, etc.) during the middle of a forum in which I’m talking about science, whether I like it or not, as an authority on science, the public isn’t going to know a priori what my opinion is and what is a firmly held tenet of science…especially if those listeners don’t know much about science. Like it or not, the public is simply not that discriminatory. The public is not well-read on science (as any poll will scream at you).

    So that’s why it’s so incorrect for someone like Jerry Coyne to start a blog that essentially says “Hi, my name’s Dr. Jerry Coyne. I work as an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago studying speciation. On this blog, we will discuss evolution.” and THEN injects posts about why minutae from the theology of Islam are “boneheaded”/why moderate Christians enabled 9/11 between posts on the evolution of cat morphology and transitional fossils. I’d get fired for doing that in a classroom, even at my private university. Why? Because it’s misrepresentative of science. If Jerry presented his blog as just a normal blog (like PZ Myers does: see “random ejaculations”) it would be a far different story and would have no problem at all. But what we have instead is a guy approaching us as a professional, telling us he’s going to use his blog to teach us evolution, and then spends (as bilbo showed) the majority of that time not addressing science at all. And that’s the problem: calling theological discussions science. That problem then gets turned into something worse – hypocrisy – when Jerry gets all angry that people are doing something identical to him on their blogs but just in the opposite direction. The pot is in bed with the kettle, but neither have realized it yet.

  221. gillt

    Even for a Friday #219 is some pretty spectacular excuse-making. Who makes criticisms then waits for others to find support for them?

    Coyne and the rest made a valid point that the NCSE, presuming to speak for all American scientists, alienated many scientists by kowtowing to religious belief.

    What you’ve done is create this “neutrality” distraction in a similar way the Climate-gate emails are a distraction. NAs make a valid point about NCSE and NSF, which you’ve happily ignored, to instead project the need for an organizations necessary neutrality onto an individual’s philosophy, and then blame NAs for saying it.

  222. Paul W.
    My understanding of what’s going on in this thread is that bilbo, TB, and other accommodationists are refusing to address the substance of the original post, and choose instead to fling poo at Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers

    Hell yes TB and I are off-topic. But just because something’s off-topic doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.

    No, of course it doesn’t. And a I didn’t say it did. Strawman.

    I did say that my understand of what’s going on here is that you’re refusing to address the substance of the original post. I’ve asked a direct question about one of the two basic arguments in the post several times, and that’s been ignored.

    I also did say that my impression is you choose to fling poo at Coyne and Myers instead. That is in fact my impression.

    I did not say that your poo was wrong, though I personally think some of it is. I do think it’s very negative, and mostly an ad hominem barrage that tends to obscure the basic questions with arguments about personalities. (Intentionally or not.) That’s what I mean by poo-flinging.

    It does seem to me that you are more interested in slagging people you don’t like than actually exploring the validity of the competing views and the real nature of the disagreement.

    It also seems to me that you’re not actually interested in discussing the views of the people you’re arguing with—e.g., me or gillt—which may be somewhat different from the views of, say, PZ or Jerry.

    You frequently turn these atheism-related threads into meetings of the I Hate PZ club, or now the I Hate Jerry Too club, which I personally find pretty boring. I’d certainly rather argue about my very own views and arguments than constantly be trying to figure out whether you’ve misunderstood or misrepresented what somebody else said, in some other place, at some other time.

    I’m willing to play that game up to a point, but less if you’re unwilling to play the more interesting game of actually addressing the bones of contention—like whether the arguments on each side are valid—or just want to fling poo.

    And just because you jump into the thread and say “shut up and answer this!!!” that doesn’t mean we’re wrong, either.

    Nope, it doesn’t. But if you’re not willing to cooperate, even a little bit, IMHO it is a sign that you’re not arguing in good faith.

    If you’re not willing to hold off on the oh-so important issue of whether Coyne’s a hypocrite or PZ is inexcusably self-important for calling himself “a scientist,” go on with it.

    I would appreciate it if you would, amid all that stuff I’m not terribly interested in, find a moment to answer one straight question with one straight answer.

    (I do think it would be better to do the latter thing first, because what “compatibility” means, and whether it’s real, is actually relevant to whether scientists who talk about incompatibility between science and religion are spouting opinions above their pay grade. But certainly I wouldn’t want to tell anybody to shut up, with three exclamation points, and demand that they do only what I want.)

    I’ll make you a deal. If you’ll answer a straight substantive question—my choice—with a straight substantive answer, I’ll answer three of your questions, or address three of your accusations, or whatever. I’ll play your preferred game, if you’ll play mine a little bit.

  223. Paul W.

    I personally don’t think that science has to be neutral to nonbelief, because nonbelief and science work in similar ways. But bilbo and friends are correct in stating that people like Coyne preach a certain, specifically-defined neutrality but don’t practice it. They break it themselves when they present themselves to the public as a scientist and being to bash religion.

    Philip, I am confused about the word “neutrality” here, which seems to have multiple senses, and that’s why I’ve mostly avoided it.

    Philip, do you understand the distinction I was making between

    1. scientists promoting their individual professional views on the compatibility of science and religion, or the evidence for or against religion, vs.

    2. professional organizations that represent scientists taking a public position on such things.

    As I understand it, the new atheists think that 1 is just fine. They think that people like Collins and Miller et al. are well within their rights of academic freedom to publish their views that science and religion are compatible, but by the same token they have the academic freedom to criticize such stuff as pseudoscientific nonsense.

    As I understand it, when they criticize those compatibilists, they are generally not saying that the compatibilists were out of line and violating some rule of “neutrality” to publicly state their opinions about the relationships between religion and science—they’re just saying that they’re wrong, which is an entirely different thing.

    IMHO, both have to be kosher. There is no rule of “neutrality” at that level, about religion or anything else. The New Atheists may refer to that as “abusing science,” or something like that, but not in the sense that a special line about religion is being crossed—they don’t see any such line as valid, and if somebody’s abusing science to support religion, that’s just like abusing science to support a political ideology, or for personal financial gain, or whatever. The are the same for religion as for anything else, and it is and should be a marketplace of ideas.

    Scientists are not supposed to self-censor about disagreements about particular science, or the nature science in general. They are supposed to debate such things. Without such vigorous debate, science wouldn’t work. Scientists definitely are supposed to promote their own views about such things, and disagree openly. If they didn’t, too many controversies would be settled before they got really hashed out, defaulting to the majority view. That would be anti-scientific.

    I’ll also say that if any New Atheists really do say that there’s such a rule of neutrality at that level, and that the compatibilists are violating it by writing their books and giving talks, I think they’re wrong. Even if the compatibilists are wrongly saying that there’s scientific evidence for their religion, that’s the kind of thing that you just counter by arguing that there isn’t, if you happen to disagree. You don’t censor those people or demand that they self-censor; you just criticize them, if you happen to disagree, the way you would anybody else you think is spouting bullshit.

    Version 2, where scientific bodies take a side on such things, is very different, but again not because there’s a special rule about religion. Scientific bodies are supposed to be conservative, and not pick a side in live scientific controversies. They’re only supposed to make pronouncements about relatively settle science, for which there is a strong scientific consensus.

    There’s a very important reason for that. Leading scientific bodies do the closest thing there is to “speaking for science,” as opposed to stating particular views. They are not perfect, but they’re the closest thing, in practice, to a reliable authority that people should trust.

    No individual scientist speaks for science in anywhere near that sense—-it is part of a scientist’s job to give an honest personal opinion and their best arguments for that, and not to self-censor much because an idea is unpopular.

    That is simply not the job of a scientific body. It’s not supposed to have idiosyncratic opinions. It’s only supposed to “have opinions” that reflect a strong consensus.

    In short, scientists are supposed to share their controversial minority views (or majority views) and not hold back, but scientific bodies are supposed to refrain from espousing minority views, and even controversial majority views that aren’t pretty clearly settled science, as reflected by a strong consensus.

    It makes perfect sense for individual scientists to speak up, and to tell the NAS to shut up, as a body about the very same issues. (So PZ or Jerry would be wrong to tell Ken or Frank to shut up about religion being compatible with science, and vice versa, but anybody would be right to tell the NAS to shut up about it.)

    That, at least, is not hypocrisy—it’s exactly how things are supposed to work.

    Right so far?

  224. Paul W.

    Julie,

    I don’t think I implied that you were an accommodationist, and I certainly didn’t mean to.

  225. Paul W.

    Bilbo,

    Leave theology to the theologians.

    Individual evolutionary biologists are theologians now? Interesting. And to think all this time so many of them have been studying silly things like genetics and evolution….

    I for one will acknowledge that that was a stupid thing to say—you are right that Coyne engages in theological disputes, and at face value it seems hypocritical. It was over the top.

    In context, I thought it was a overblown way of saying something more reasonable—that scientific bodies shouldn’t be taking sides in theological controversies on when there isn’t a consensus in science, especially among the relevant scientific experts. He was right about that.

    He was wrong to go further and say specifically to leave theology to the theologians. If he really meant that, the way I’d interpret it out of context, it would indeed be quite hypocritical. He and the other New Atheists do not leave theology to the theologians, on principle.

    I suspect that he assumes people will understand what he really means, given that he is very overtly engaged in theological disputes, and not take it literally. Still, it’s a very bad thing for him to say.

    What I assumed that he meant to say was closer to leave the misleading and pandering apologetics to the theologians.

    That’s pretty much what I got from it, in context, but I agree that it is not what he actually said. I can see why anybody with a less negative view of theology might read it very differently. I suspect that for Coyne, “theology” strongly connotes acceptance and promotion of bad arguments in order to promote a religious agenda.

    (To a substantial degree, it does for me too, I see theology as mostly a mess of bad philosophy, with very low standards of argument and an emphasis on working around central issues rather than facing them squarely, in order to promote a religious agenda. But that’s not part of the definition of theology.)

    That is how I feel about a lot of accommodationist arguments, such as Chad’s arguments above, and Mooney’s repeated straw-manning. They’re weaseling around the truth and playing on ambiguity in misleading ways, in order to avoid addressing inconvenient issues. (E.g., the truth that a lot of conflicts between science and popular religion go beyond far beyond scriptural literalism and fundamentalism.)

    Shorter version:

    I think you’re right that Coyne himself often engages in “theology,” literally and technically speaking—even a rigorous and unassailable scientific argument against something like Young Earth claims is technically “theology”as well as science. But none of us would generally call it theology, because connotations are important.

    IMHO Coyne was using “theology” in a more vernacular sense—roughly, the usual stuff people call “theology”—and assuming his readers would share his presupposition that it’s typically unprincipled claptrap.

    That’s a very bad assumption if you want to convince anybody who doesn’t already basically agree with you, and I agree that you should at the very least write more clearly on a blog intended for a fairly general audience, e.g., of random people undecided about whether “evolution is true.”

    I think Julie is quite right that if he’s going to argue way on his blog, it should say up front that it’s not just about scientific evidence for evolution, as you might reasonably assume. (Like PZ’s, which says right up front that it’s “random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal.”)

  226. gillt

    Well Paul, you said what I’ve been trying to get across to these bozos across 200 posts. Well done.

    Milton C.: “When I teach science or lead a discussion on it, I’m not just speaking for myself. I speak for science.”

    That’s a very misleading sentence. You may be attempting to represent a scientific view or even a consensus view in science, but that’s not what you said. What you said is imprecise.

    Milton C. “Hence where things get sticky. You’re correct in that opinions on religion are just that: opinions. But when I express opinions (on religion, politics, etc.) during the middle of a forum in which I’m talking about science, whether I like it or not, as an authority on science, the public isn’t going to know a priori what my opinion is and what is a firmly held tenet of science…especially if those listeners don’t know much about science. Like it or not, the public is simply not that discriminatory. The public is not well-read on science (as any poll will scream at you).”

    As a communicator it’s generally a good idea to inform your audience when you switch between your theist hat on and your science hat, if it’s not already obvious. But it seems like you’re suggesting that prominent NAs are purposefully bamboozling the public into thinking science equals atheism. And your evidence for this? We both know it doesn’t exist. The rest of your post is the same implied accusation through preposterous hypotheticals.

    TB: “It is certainly difficult to make sure one is neutral when engaging in anything, and as I understand it the NCSE responded to some criticism by changing the way it did some things.
    But there is not necessarily an implicit endorsement of any religious position by an engaged facilitator anymore than there is an implicit endorsement by New Atheists of, say, religious fundamentalism just because their views happen on science/religious compatibility happen to align.”

    Yes, there is an implicit endorsement of a particular religious position by the NCSE and NAS.

    National Academy of Sciences:
    “Acceptance of the evidence for evolution can be compatible with religious faith. Today, many religious denominations accept that biological evolution has produced the diversity of living things over billions of years of Earth’s history. Many have issued statements observing that evolution and the tenets of their faiths are compatible. Scientists and theologians have written eloquently about their awe and wonder at the history of the universe and of life on this planet, explaining that they see no conflict between their faith in God and the evidence for evolution. Religious denominations that do not accept the occurrence of evolution tend to be those that believe in strictly literal interpretations of religious texts.”

    Now from the NCSE’s Faith Project:
    “In public discussions of evolution and creationism, we are sometimes told that we must choose between belief in creation and acceptance of the theory of evolution, between religion and science. But is this a fair demand? Must I choose only one or the other, or can I both believe in God and accept evolution? Can I both accept what science teaches and engage in religious belief and practice? This is a complex issue, but theologians, clergy, and members of many religious traditions have concluded that the answer is, unequivocally, yes.”

    That’s about as strong as an endorsement an organization can give. And it’s why you are simply wrong.

    TB: “2) It imposes a false limit on the requirement of neutrality. Only individuals employed by advocacy groups or government agencies are subject to it, and it extends to covering opinions expressed during their personal time.”

    Correction, only individuals employed by a science organization or the gov’t, or in some capacity speaking for such organizations have an obligation to remain neutral on science and religion compatibility.

    This is not in any way a controversial point. Your continued stubbornness in light of the evidence is telling.

  227. Paul W.

    Julie,

    Please engage with what I’ve said—does it make sense so far, about why scientists are supposed to spout their controversial minority views, but scientific bodies are not supposed to take sides unless there’s a strong scientific consensus?

    Or do you consider somebody like me, who thinks it’s just fine for Collins or Coyne to argue that science and religion are/aren’t compatible, but not the NAS, to be hypocritical?

    Do you agree that the earlier wrangling in the thread was largely due to being unclear about what “neutrality” is supposed to mean, and an assumption that there’s a special rule about religion?

    Please tell me which examples from earlier in the thread that you consider most “damning.” Was the Coyne quote I addressed one of them?

    Which other couple of points are most compelling to you?

  228. bilbo

    you are right that Coyne engages in theological disputes, and at face value it seems hypocritical. It was over the top.

    Even MORE interesting, Paul! First I was a “liar” for pointing out Coyne’s doubelspeak, and now you’re conceding that I was right – I was just overblowing it. It’s interesting indeed to watch a “lie” slowly morph more and more into a kernel of truth.

    It’s almost like I’m a “dishonest weasel,” isn’t it? See what happens when you open you mind beyond the Tribe?

  229. J.J.E.

    @ Paul W.

    “I for one will acknowledge that that was a stupid thing to say—you are right that Coyne engages in theological disputes, and at face value it seems hypocritical. It was over the top.”

    You don’t need to concede this point. Making the negative point that YEC is incompatible with scientific data that explicitly refutes its underpinning claims is a very different thing than making the positive “absence of contradictory evidence allows space for god” positive claim.

    Coyne, like everyone, is allowed to wear multiple hats. EVERYONE will agree that anyone should be encouraged to promulgate their own view when they are speaking for themselves.

    If Coyne wants to be an atheist and Miller a theist and Wright a fence sitter who tries to please everyone, more power to them. And they can argue with each other ad nauseum, and we can watch and/or participate. So far, so trivial.

    The real issue is the following: how should we respond to the execution of the mission of organizations that represent POPULATIONS of people? To that end, Jerry has never, not once, advocated that anything religious be advocated. It is no secret that he personally detests religion and would argue against it personally. He simply agrees that doing it through the auspices of the NCSE is inappropriate. He (obviously) feels the same way about religion. There is no double speak.

    To simplify, think of a 2×2 table of “pro-science” people with the rows representing the theist/atheist axis and the columns representing the compatible/incompatible axis.

    Here’s who I would put in the cells:

    theist/compatible: Miller, Collins;
    theist/incompatible: the Rabbis on the NCSE’s website;
    atheist/compatible: Mooney, Orzel, Rosenau, Scott;
    atheist/incompatible: Coyne, Carroll.

    http://ncse.com/religion/clergy-letter-project

    Basically, I draw the line between the Rabbis and the Christians. The former I see as theistic incompatibilists of a very moderate (but still incompatible) sort. The latter I see as theistic compatibilists of the a very moderate (but still compatible) sort.

    The Rabbis see no reason to go on about “timeless truths of the bible” or “God’s good gifts” or that religion is a “form of truth”. The Rabbis talk about the interaction of people with the Bible not, how their spirituality is influenced by it (both unarguable), not about Biblical “truths”.

  230. Ettore Grillo

    We are so accustomed to the duality than we tend always to discriminate between things and feelings. We discriminate between faith and reason, good and evil, working time and free time, science and religion, and so on. In fact the reality, the individual, the life is a whole. When we are engaged both in physical and metaphysical researches we have to use both science and religion. They are like two wings of a bird, and it cannot fly by only one wing.
    The book I have recently written may help in this direction and I want to draw it to your attention. The title is “Travels of the Mind”. It is available at http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/TravelsOfTheMind.html
    If you have any questions, I am most willing to offer my views on this topic.
    Ettore Grillo

  231. Paul W.

    Bilbo,

    Get a grip.

    I didn’t say you were right about what Coyne was saying, I said you were right about how he said it in that particular sentence.

    I don’t think you were right that Coyne was being hypocritical in that particular quote. I think he was using the word “theology” in an unclear, easy-to-misinterpret, derogatory way.

    It is natural that the sentence would therefore be misinterpreted, when taken out of context, and perhaps even in context, by some people but not his primary audience.

    So I think Coyne set himself up to be misunderstood by some people and to be quote mined by people like you.

    That doesn’t change my impression of you much. I still think it’s basically a quote mine, which he may have set himself up for, but it still doesn’t reflect well on you that you miss that point. (While latching onto me acknowledging that you have a point about his wording, and blowing it way out of proportion, and inappropriately gloating.)

    Last time around, the three quotes I could track down were quote mines, IMHO, and I gave the context to demonstrate that. Some of the other “quotes” you gave seemed fake to me, and still do.

    That makes me disinclined to take you and your examples seriously. Of four quotes I’ve tracked down from you (3 then, 1 now), I found three and half quote mines. (3 then, 1/2 now.)

    The fact that you don’t acknowledge those issues is why my opinion of your trustworthiness hasn’t changed, despite one partial agreement.

  232. Paul W.

    It’s almost like I’m a “dishonest weasel,” isn’t it?

    If the shoe fits…

    You do seem to be really focused on gotcha quotes, and trying to make them into something you can gloat about, and not very interested in the actual subject of the post, which I was responding to in an entirely-on point way.

    You still haven’t answered the question:

    Is Orzel’s argument about “compatibility” valid or not?

    I’m not asking you to agree with me, if you don’t actually agree.

    What’s interesting, is that you won’t even disagree with me.

    I assume you don’t disagree, and are tacitly conceding the point; after all this, silence pretty clearly implies assent.

    Unless you’re a dishonest weasel, that is.

    Which is it?

  233. Paul W.

    For Julie,

    Here’s a link to an earlier thread in which I engaged with bilbo and his damning “quotes.” I went to the trouble of finding the context for several of them, only to find that they were what I considered quote mines, which either didn’t mean what bilbo construed them to mean, or were less extreme than he made them sound, out of context. (I gave the context to illustrate that.)

    There were several quotes that I couldn’t find on the internet, not even in those people’s books on Google Books. I was and am suspicious that they mostly either weren’t accurate quotes, or were misleading quote mines.

    That is why I’m resistant to following up on all the accusations bilbo throws out, and would rather focus on a very few that people think are the clearest and most damning, at least at first.

    I also don’t want to deal with TB’s choice of examples, unless and until he acknowledges that there is some validity to my distinction between individual scientists promoting controversial viewpoints (which has to be mostly okay) and scientific organizations taking sides in unsettled scientific controversies (which generally is not what they do).

    If I seem evasive, that’s why. I think it’s unlikely I’ll get the best examples right off from bilbo, who clearly is prone to doing what I consider quote-mining, or from TB, who clearly objects to things for reasons I don’t accept, on principle.

    Part of being interested in some less partial person’s judgement is that if I do happen to be wrong, or partly wrong, I want to know that off the bat so that I can concede the fact without wading through a bunch of irrelevant stuff to get to the convincing stuff. Either way, I don’t want to waste as much time as I did last time, only to have people mostly fail to address my rebuttals to their accusations.

    So if you know of really clear and damning examples, and not based on failing to distinguish at all between what’s appropriate for individuals vs. organizations, do please share.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/11/30/my-latest-podcast-at-books-and-ideas/

  234. Paul W.

    Holy crap! Have I entered an alternate universe where there’s no way a person who is religious can believe in science and vise versa?

    I suppose you could call it an alternative universe, depending on where you spend most of your time.

    Usually it’s just called reality.

    Sorry. Snark aside, a lot depends on what you mean by “believe in science,” and just how broadly you can interpret the term “religion.”

    A lot of people think that science and religion are compatible only because they haven’t analyzed religion enough, and don’t know the relevant science and philosophy.

    But nobody’s claiming that people can’t accept a lot of religious ideas and a lot of scientific ideas, too.
    There are scientists who are religious, including some excellent ones.

  235. Paul W.

    OOPS…. Sorry about that last, completely OTpost! I pasted it into the wrong window; it was for Sean’s blog.

  236. Sven DiMilo

    Journeyman, Sysiphean work here, Paul W.

    He has a grand total of 11 peer-reviewed journal publications. Eleven (*snicker*).

    You’re a dick.

    I certainly speak for science when I’m in the classroom, in my office, or (heaven forbid) on a blog where I present myself as a professional scientist.

    No, you don’t.
    And a classroom and a blog are completely different settings.

    When I teach science or lead a discussion on it, I’m not just speaking for myself. I speak for science.

    No, you aren’t.
    If you really think you are, then you have delusions of grandeur.

    Come on, people. Do you really not see the essential difference between, on the one hand,
    National Academy of Sciences
    National Center for Science Education
    and, on the other hand,
    Jerry’s blog
    PZ’s blog

    Really?

  237. nickandrew

    Well, I would have liked to read all these replies but I don’t have the hours available.

    So here’s my contribution.

    Science and Religion are methodologically incompatible, as religion requires faith without evidence, and science requires evidence, testability, falsifiability and predictions.

    Science and Religious beliefs however, vary in compatibility. They are compatible to the extent to which the believer rationalises away contradictory claims and accepts cognitive dissonance. In other words, compatibility is a personal trait, not a philosophical one.

    Two thousand years of Christian thought have gone into rationalising the contradictory claims of
    Christianity. For example, they say god is all-powerful and all loving, so why does god allow evil in the world? George Carlin makes fun of this in one of his routines.

    Cognitive dissonance could be seen in those scientists who believe that god directed evolution despite understanding something about the mechanisms and processes through which evolution works, which leaves no need for a god (if indeed, any room at all for a god to do its work).

    Creationists, seem to feel sensitive to cognitive dissonance. Thus they hold onto their creationist beliefs in the face of massive evidence supporting the theory of evolution, and claim continually that there is no supporting evidence. They seem to know, somehow, that if they let evidence-based evolution somewhere into their belief system, that will conflict with the genesis myth and push out their religious beliefs. The majority (in some countries) of non-partisan people who accept the truth of evolution and simultaneously believe in a loving, personal god and the genesis myth are able to quite easily cope with large quantities of cognitive dissonance.

    Maybe they just didn’t think about the matter much, and so they don’t even know there’s a big conflict.

    So the answer as to whether Science is compatible with Religion is – it depends, it’s an individual thing.

  238. Paul W.

    Jesus and Mo weigh in—-on Chris and Chad’s side:

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/2010/01/22/deny/

  239. Bert

    Science and religion are not compatible at all. If you’re a scientist, you believe in evolution. If you’re religious, pretty much no matter which religion you practise, a “God” created the world and humans.

    We all know how the earth was created 4.5 billion years ago ad we all know we evolved into what we are now.

    To say you are a scientist and believe in God is to basically tell the world “I am full of crap and I am a poor scientist”. Is there a God as all religions believe today? No. Definitely not. Is there a higher power? I don’t know, but I don’t pray to it/him/her. Smarten up people.

  240. JJ

    See the list of some of the most influential religious scientists. Even Einstein believed in a higher power.

    http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/sciencefaith.html#S4rzDVJ7U72I

  241. Paul W.

    See the list of some of the most influential religious scientists. Even Einstein believed in a higher power.

    Yeah, and Newton believed in alchemy, and disbelieved in the Trinity. So what?

    You’re just making an argument from authority, and a particularly bad one at that.

    If we’re going to go there…

    Your list is a wee bit out of date for deciding whether it’s reasonable to be religious, or specifically to believe in God, or what might count as a “God” that might exist, in light of modern science.

    How about a list of the most prominent living or recently deceased scientists who disbelieve(d) in God, compared to a list of the most prominent ones who believe(d).

    That would be a real eye-opener.

    There’s a reason why the majority of top scientists are outright disbelieving atheists, and many of the rest are nonbelieving agnostics, and very few are mainstream, relatively orthodox Christians like most Americans.

    We’ve learned a lot since Newton, and even since Einstein. Religion looks worse all the time, in light of science.

    I’ll put Nobelists like Weinberg and Hawking and Watson and Crick up against your Collins and Miller any day.

    Atheists kick ass, in a huge way, in scientific achievement. The correlation between advanced scientific achievement and irreligion is very strong. Funny, that.

    Of course that doesn’t prove anything—it’s just an argument from authority, so the real issue is the facts and the arguments. There are prominent smart guys on both sides. But if you’re going to make an argument from authority, you have to expect us to counter with an even better argument from authority.

    My strategic advice to you is don’t even go there.

  242. Sean

    Please don’t waste your time “debating” with Bilbo. His only tools are foul language and fabrications.

    In a previous “debate” on this blog he literally fabricated a quote from scratch to support his claim that climate change “deniers” also deny the link between smoking and cancer.

    I asked him to provide a link to the quote and all I got was a barrage of insults.

    When I demonstrated through a google search that he definitely fabricated the quote he went silent and moved onto this page.

    You can read all about it here:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/12/09/how-the-global-warming-story-changed-disastrously-due-to-climategate/

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »