Science and Religion Dialogue at the AAAS

By Chris Mooney | June 21, 2010 9:38 am

Recently, I did a long post describing the substance of the Templeton Cambridge fellowship, and why it is valuable. Fortunately, that’s not a tough argument to make. The fact is, journalism (and dialogue) about science and religion are pretty difficult to oppose.

Case in point: Last week, here in D.C. (my old, new home), I attended an event at the American Association for the Advancement of Science to reintroduce its Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER), which now has a new infusion of energy and a new director, Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, formerly of NASA and an astrophysicist with a special expertise in the study of exoplanets.

Yes, that’s right: America’s leading scientific society has created a program to foster more dialogue between science and religion–and of course, considers that to be a very good thing. (Note: My understanding is that at present, significant funding of this initiative comes from Templeton.)

AAAS CEO Alan Leshner has more to say about DoSER in a recent piece over at Huffington Post entitled, appropriately, “Science, Religion, and Civil Dialogue.” As Leshner writes, the idea is to find new ways to bring science and religion into a humble, nonjudgmental dialogue, and break down the barriers between the two. It is not to drive toward a particular conclusion.

At the AAAS event last week, several  memorable presenters–including William Phillips, a 1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics who happens to be a Methodist, and David Anderson, the Founder and Lead Pastor of Bridgeway Community Church, and author of Gracism: The Art of Inclusion–gave talks about how to help science and religion get along better.

At the close of the session, I rose and posed a question. One can never remember exact words, but in essence, it was this: “I’m glad you’re trying to foster dialogue between scientists and the religious community, and I’m sure you’ll succeed. But here is a harder question–how will you foster dialogue with the New Atheists?”

Phillips, the Methodist Nobel Laureate, had a very interesting answer. He essentially replied that if the New Atheists would get to know serious religious people–people who do not in any way represent the parody version of religion that is so frequently attacked–they could no longer maintain their point of view.

I’m not so sure, though. I think the New Atheists have a ready and built-in answer to this appeal to the significance of so-called “religious moderates.” They claim–in an argument that I for one find weak–that the moderates enable extremists, and so are part of the problem. (Even, I suppose, if they are perfectly lovely human beings.)

Still, surely the New Atheists must on some level recognize the critical importance religion plays in many people’s lives–which implies that we can hardly expect believers to discard their faith based on philosophical considerations, no matter how persuasive these may seem to many secularists or scientists.

At the AAAS event, the pastor David Anderson told an unforgettable story underscoring this point–the story of a single mother who just lost her husband, and has two poorly behaved kids, disciplinary problems who keep getting in trouble at school. Does this woman care about the latest scientific discoveries about, say, asteroids? No, explained Anderson, “because an asteroid has just hit her family.”

Science, alone, is no consolation in this context. Religion gives this single mother something she can lean on. Religion, explained Anderson, provides one with inspiration, whereas science provides information (and science fiction provides entertainment).

So how do you get into true dialogue with religious believers when you’re coming from the scientific perspective? Once again, Anderson had an answer. He said his church would certainly welcome scientists who wanted to come and visit, and talk to the attendees–and added that many churches, and many pastors, feel the same way.

But, Anderson added, that will not be the case if the scientists show up wanting to convert, or deconvert, or debunk, or whatever.  Or if they give off an air of superiority, the sense that they are smarter than everybody else. That won’t fly. It will shut down dialogue, rather than encouraging it.

It is not only in the science-religion context, of course, that humility is called for, and where superiority is counterproductive. The same is true of any dialogue, almost by definition. But again, that shouldn’t be a problem for science–is not the scientific method itself fundamentally based on a kind of humility before nature?

Comments (230)

  1. Very interesting write up., and as usual, you have a great perspective on this issue. It seems to be a pattern that the top scientific societies endorse the idea that there can be a harmonious dialog between science and religion. For example, the National Academy of Sciences wrote a book on evolution that denounces intelligent design (as it should) but promotes the idea that science and religion are compatible.

    I’m mean seriously, is there more wisdom following the advice of the major scientific societies or a few angry New Atheist voices, most of whom could never be counted among such elite scientific groups? (With Dawkins or Weinberg being perhaps the only exceptions.)

  2. GM

    At the close of the session, I rose and posed a question. One can never remember exact words, but in essence, it was this: “I’m glad you’re trying to foster dialogue between scientists and the religious community, and I’m sure you’ll succeed. But here is a harder question–how will you foster dialogue with the New Atheists?”

    With friends like this…

    Apparently in the circles of the AAAS atheism is seen as a bigger danger for science than religion. Wonderful…

    Phillips, the Methodist Nobel Laureate, had a very interesting answer. He essentially replied that if the New Atheists would get to know serious religious people–people who do not in any way represent the parody version of religion that is so frequently attacked–they could no longer maintain their point of view.

    Where are these “serious religious people”. An absolutely necessary prerequisite for someone to embrace religion is the irreversible departure to the intellectual La-La land.

    I’m not so sure, though. I think the New Atheists have a ready and built-in answer to this appeal to the significance of so-called “religious moderates.” They claim–in an argument that I for one find weak–that the moderates enable extremists, and so are part of the problem. (Even, I suppose, if they are perfectly lovely human beings.)

    The Methodist Nobel Laureate (another demonstration that a Nobel prize in science does not necessarily mean that the person who it was given knows the basic rules of how to do science) is absolutely wrong. The reason why religious moderate are bad is not that they enable the extremists. It is that they are just as wrong as them. Whether it is moderate religion or extreme religion, it is all religion and it is all incompatible with proper scientific practice (and with proper intellectual discourse in general).

    The reason anyone would bring this argument is that the person in question simply does not get it. The effects of religion on society are a very big problem (and as I have argued at length here, if one is willing/able to look just a little bit deeper than most, it is very clear that the “moderate” version of religion is just as bad as the “extreme”). But before we get to those, the first problem we encounter with it is that it is wrong.

    If you care about what’s true and what’s not, of course. If you don’t, then it may not be a problem, but if you don’t care about that, what are you doing anywhere close to science?

    At the AAAS event, the pastor David Anderson told an unforgettable story underscoring this point–the story of a single mother who just lost her husband, and has two poorly behaved kids, disciplinary problems who keep getting in trouble at school. Does this woman care about the latest scientific discoveries about, say, asteroids? No, explained Anderson, “because an asteroid has just hit her family.”

    If that woman was educated enough, and there was a working educational system in place, she would not have two poorly behaved kids. And she would probably have a much more philosophical view of life which would allow her to overcome the loss of here husband a lot more easily.

    Of course, there is absolutely no connection between poor education of the population and religion…

    Science, alone, is no consolation in this context. Religion gives this single mother something she can lean on. Religion, explained Anderson, provides one with inspiration, whereas science provides information (and science fiction provides entertainment)

    Ah yes, science is for the kids, serious people are concerned with serious things, like religion…

    But, Anderson added, that will not be the case if the scientists show up wanting to convert, or deconvert, or debunk, or whatever. Or if they give off an air of superiority, the sense that they are smarter than everybody else. That won’t fly. It will shut down dialogue, rather than encouraging it.

    Wonderful. Let’s have an open dialog. However, there will be one little requirement – you do not contradict what I am saying. The perfect recipe for productive conversation…

  3. Wonderful. Let’s have an open dialog. However, there will be one little requirement – you do not contradict what I am saying. The perfect recipe for productive conversation…

    Now GM, this will get you in lots of hot water, because it is a quote that seems to reflect you position – which as I undersatnd it is not negotiable either . . .

    And on this:

    The Methodist Nobel Laureate (another demonstration that a Nobel prize in science does not necessarily mean that the person who it was given knows the basic rules of how to do science) is absolutely wrong. The reason why religious moderate are bad is not that they enable the extremists. It is that they are just as wrong as them. Whether it is moderate religion or extreme religion, it is all religion and it is all incompatible with proper scientific practice (and with proper intellectual discourse in general).

    Does this apply to all parts of all religions, or only the “how the world was created” parts of religion? Those are two distinct functions if religion, and sadly, most of the objection to the natural part ends up overwhelming the other parts. Religion serves many more purposes then just describing how the world came to be – which I agree Science has correct and religion does not.

  4. J.J.E.

    The following criticism is for NAs and accommodationists as well: It grows tiresome hearing you and other people born into non-religious families debating each other what parts of religion are “parodies” or are “caricatures” or “strawmen”. Ultimately, it is the compatibilists like you that come off worse in such debates because your arguments remove people from the debate without even involving them in it.

    In particular, you relegate huge swaths of my family and frieds to the “so wrong that we won’t take them seriously” camp. (There is a huge economic bias in such stances.) Most of my family is an Old Testament literalist of some sort or another (the most liberal believing only that Moses parting the Red Sea was true but 6 day creation not and the most radical believing in a 144 hour creation and that evolution is wrong and perhaps evil).

    Of course, for those of “liberal” theological persuasions, its all part of a day at the office insofar as such a position suits their theological biases. Why don’t you involve the most misguded in this debate? Why is the debate always about sheilding moderate religious people from criticism and not exposing the fundamentalists to it? Why do you relegate the poorest and least educated among Americans to “who cares, their beliefs aren’t worth addressing” category?

  5. GM

    Joseph Smidt @1:

    There are a number of reasons why the major scientific societies aren’t quick to launch a war against religion (which is quite a logical thing to do if they were doing what their mission is supposed to be, namely, to represent and defend science). One is that a good portion of their members aren’t really scientists but engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, etc., which are areas where there is very little conflict between science and religion. As we are doing such a poor job of teaching proper scientific methodology even to science graduates, unless there is an obvious inconsistency between what once studies and what religion says, most people will not spend too much time thinking about these things. But this doesn’t mean that religion and science are compatible. On top of that, many people are genuinely worried that an open confrontation would hurt science education and funding for science, there are people who know that the two are incompatible, but simply don’t consider it a major enough problem to warrant their attention, or they think that it is basic human right to believe in whatever nonsense one wants to believe in and not be told that it is nonsense, etc.

    Bu again, none of these reasons mean that religion and science are compatible or that religion isn’t extremely dangerous nonsense that has to be eradicated

  6. GM

    3. Philip H Says:
    June 21st, 2010 at 10:17 am
    Now GM, this will get you in lots of hot water, because it is a quote that seems to reflect you position – which as I undersatnd it is not negotiable either . .

    Show me where I have told you not to contradict me or we are not going to have a debate???

  7. GM

    Does this apply to all parts of all religions, or only the “how the world was created” parts of religion? Those are two distinct functions if religion, and sadly, most of the objection to the natural part ends up overwhelming the other parts. Religion serves many more purposes then just describing how the world came to be – which I agree Science has correct and religion does not.

    It applies to all religion. As I said, the if you say that there is God and that you are going to believe in it because you have faith (and no evidence), you are violating the most basic rules of how science is done. Doesn’t really matter how much action you think this God is involved in

  8. Guy

    I really don’t see what the big deal is with people having odd beliefs. People have always had their various peculiarities and superstitious beliefs long before there was recorded history.

    If a person wants to put flowers in their hair and dance around some stones chanting to a non-existent entity, it’s fine with me. It does me no harm whatever and doesn’t prevent me from learning about the real world or developing the next new technology.

    I see no harm in a person praying to whatever God(s) they happen to belief in. As long as there are serious scientists and engineers continuing with research and development, progress will continue to move forward regardless of what other people are doing, with their harmless rituals and superstitions.

  9. CW

    “If that woman was educated enough, and there was a working educational system in place, she would not have two poorly behaved kids.”

    I don’t think this reasoning is valid.

    Science, alone, is no consolation in this context. Religion gives this single mother something she can lean on. Religion, explained Anderson, provides one with inspiration, whereas science provides information (and science fiction provides entertainment).

    I don’t think this reasoning is valid either.

    I need to see evidence of the existence or lack of science or religion has an effect on kids behavior.

  10. John Kwok

    @ Chris –

    Excellent summary of an event which was condemned vehemently – not surprisingly – by some of the usual New Atheist suspects (Condemning it with such fervor that, ironically, gave more “proof” to eminent evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson’s contention that atheism is a “stealth” religion.

    I am assuming that the AAAS event was far more insightful than the recent Science Faith panel session at this year’s World Science Festival. Over at Tom Paine’s Ghost is an excellent summary of that session, though I disagree – quite suprisingly perhaps – with the conclusions of the author:

    http://www.tompainesghost.com/2010/06/faith-and-science-at-world-science.html

    IMHO unlike last year’s Science Faith Religion panel session (which included physicist Lawrence Krauss, cell biologist Ken Miller and planetary scientist and Vatican Astronomer (and Jesuit brother) Guy Consolmagno there was very little in the way of truly meaningful commentary – of which the most notable exception was of course from eminent evolutionary geneticist Francisco J. Ayala – and clearly one panelist, religious scholar Elaine Pagels, was quite literally a fish out of water, unable to give substantially profound observations and comments in reply to questions and other comments made by both the moderator – ABC News correspondent Bill Blakemore – and the other panelists. I thought that last year’s event was far more substantial, simply because two religiously devout scientists, Miller and Consolmagno, stated emphatically that as scientists, their scientific perspective must trump always their religious one (except privately, when they are not working as scientists and have time to devote toward their faith as devout Roman Catholic Christians). It was also noteworthy for Krauss to state publicly his endorsement of Jerry Coyne’s refusal to accept the World Science Festival’s invitation to attend as a panelist on this very session, and to declare that such a panel shouldn’t be held at the World Science Festival (Reluctantly, I have reached the same conclusion.).

    I should also note that World Science Festival co-founder and executive director physicist Brian Greene gave an emotionally riveting explanation expressing his thanks to the Templeton Foundation for its support and explaining why he felt compelled to have this panel discussion from personal reasons (since his siblings and mother represent a broad diversity of religious traditions). While I sympathize with Brian’s effort at defending his rationale for having this session – if only because I too come from a diverse family which includes Christians, Jews, Muslims, a Deist (yours truly), agnostics, atheists, and pagans – he would have made a more convincing, far more persuasive, argument if he made remarks similar to those Chris Mooney stated recently with regards to why he accepted the Templeton Foundation fellowship and its usefulness.

    However, I am digressing here. Would hope that AAAS does indicate a position that is comparable to Consolmagno and Miller’s, going as far as Ken did in declaring last May, at a private talk before fellow Brown alumni here in New York City, that those who belong to faiths inimical to science should discard them immediately (And that, I might add, isn’t a position one would expect from someone who is as “accomodationist” as Ken has been accused of by his New Atheist critics.).

  11. GM

    Guy @ 8:

    There are odd belief and there is the belief that humans were made in the image of God and the universe is centered around them. That one is not just odd and silly, it is very dangerous and self-destructive

  12. Guy

    There are odd belief and there is the belief that humans were made in the image of God and the universe is centered around them. That one is not just odd and silly, it is very dangerous and self-destructive

    How is it self-destructive? Just because someone believes in some silly notion doesn’t mean that they always act on it.

    You could always just ignore them and go about your own business. You would then accomplish a lot more than if you try to make a mockery of them.

    In some sense, they are on a path to greater accomplishment than those who mock them. They are going to work, creating strong relationships, being happy and joyful. Maybe you could learn something by studying their behavior.

  13. GM

    It is self-destructive because our whole sustainability crises are all due to our unshakable belief in the specialness of humans and their elevated status relative to other species. Which has lead us to think that the laws of nature and the principles of ecology do not apply to us. That attitude comes from religion

  14. Philip,

    For starters, I do not advocate New Atheist type vitriol, I think calm and rational conversation is more effective, and GM has a genuine point about science in the church. If you bind a scientist’s hands by saying he can’t mention the bad stuff or question the logical fallacies and provably wrong claims that the faith makes, you’re purposefully deceiving yourself and the audience; not to mention depriving the audience of the ability to hear honest conversation.

    I think it applies to any part of any religion that makes claims about the natural world and how it works. Theism is provably false; and until we are allowed to question it openly (e.g. Why doesn’t God answer prayers like you say he does?) and to provide evidence to the contrary (e.g. There are no repeatable studies showing any effectiveness of prayer beyond chance) we’ll be stuck with this kind of masturbatory rhetoric. Telling everyone that science doesn’t really define the parameters of our interactive world and we can get along or that they’re wholly incompatible because science demonstrates that the claims made by religion on the natural world are false, thereby casting suspicious light on the rest of eitehr end or saying that religion doesn’t really mean what the texts it’s based on say it does, it’s a philosophy and meant for interpretation.

    It’s convenient to say that religion serves all these purposes, but I’m afraid you are confusing religion with society in general. Religion may have once been an enabler of society (although some ideas in that thought have also been viewed suspiciously), but by no means do we draw our moral grounds or our core values from the bible or any other sort of religious text. Being American myself, I could argue on your grounds that my “religion” is the constitution, most specifically the bill of rights, the idea for equality of all citizens, proof beyond a reasonable doubt and the separation of church and state; all of which directly conflict with the “rules” of most religions. On the same hand, I could just as easily have said my “religion” is one of a million other philosophical ventures; none of them having to do with a god or a prophet or a set of rules from on high, which in my mind is a pre-requisite of religion. A religion is not a philosophy, a religion makes claims about the natural world.

    Point is, you don’t get to convieniently separate the right from the wrong adn proclaim it unassailable. With scientific theory, if half of it is wrong all the time, and the other half may or may not be true; it isn’t a theory. Religion posits that there is a God. Unprovable to be sure. But they don’t stop there. They also posit that this God takes a direct interest in our lives and affects us in many beneficial ways beyond random chance. That is testable, and has been proven wrong. I won’t knock you for believing in God, even though it’s MOST LIKELY not true, but I will tell you that you’re wrong to believe he affects the natural order.

    Please, however, do not confuse me saying “you’re wrong” with me calling you an idiot. I’m sure you are a very intelligent and rational person, like virtually everyone who has faith. I am not insulting you by saying you’re mistaken. Anderson would do well to take note of that.

  15. Guy

    @GM 12,

    I don’t think that’s the case at all. Religion can serve as a way to guide people towards beneficial behavior for the group. If the religious leaders are preaching about sustainability then that message gets passed around to the faithful. Few people listen to what scientists say directly, but they do listen to those they trust. I would bet than a lot more people trust their local pastors a lot more than they trust scientists who they probably have never even met. What a great communication channel that would be if the Pastor is also knowledgeable about the issues of the day. You would dismiss him out of hand for having odd beliefs, but I would embrace him as a good friend who can pass on useful information to his followers.

  16. JMW

    @12 GM
    It [odd belief] is self-destructive because our whole sustainability crises are all due to our unshakable belief in the specialness of humans and their elevated status relative to other species. Which has lead us to think that the laws of nature and the principles of ecology do not apply to us. That attitude comes from religion

    For someone who trumpets the superiority of the scientific method over all else, you have no understanding of what your are saying. These odd beliefs you call religion are nothing more than justifications. People are going to do what they do, and find ways to rationalize it later. Hence you have devoutly religious people who commit murder, or cheat on their spouses, or steal from their companies, or cause massive economic meltdowns or environmental disasters, despite the fact that their faiths tell them that these things are wrong. They do them, and then rationalize. If you remove religion, they will just find a different rationalization process.

    That, by the way, is in reference to the reality you claim to prize. You have mistakenly assessed an effect – a positively-reinforcing effect, to be sure – as the one and only sole cause.

    What sloppy science.

  17. GM

    Guy @ 15:

    Name me a pastor who would advocate for population control and restrain of human activity

    JMW @ 16

    Nobody is talking about murder or cheating, or environmental disasters. Those are very minor issues. It is the relationship between man and the surrounding world that I am talking about. By putting man in the center of “creation”, religion enables the currently prevailing mentality that the world is out there for us to forage on it, and that because we’re so special, nothing bad will ever happen to us. Which is putting us straight onto the path to extinction. It is not so complicated, you just have to look at the bigger picture. Too many people involved in these debates have a really narrow view of things, as if if we could just get creationism out of schools, and evangelical fundamentalists out of decision-making, everything would be fine. No, it will not be fine, because it is much deeper than that.

  18. Passerby

    Nobel laureate William Philips is a terrific guy. I interviewed him once and he discussed solid-state physics with me as an equal. Very modest and fun to be with.

  19. Davo

    So Chris, you don’t think moderates enable extremists at all? We would like to hear your views on this.

  20. John Kwok

    @ Passerby –

    He’s been a hit with World Science Festival audiences for several years now. Am not surprised at all. Unfortunately I haven’t attended his programs.

  21. G. Tingey

    Does “god” exist in this Universe or not?
    If not, then “god” is irrelevant.
    If “yes”, then why is god not detectable, given that we can go from the neutrino to dark matter and ultra-distant supergalaxy clusters?

    In the meantime, talk amongst yousrselves about a content-free subject: – theology.

  22. Guy

    Name me a pastor who would advocate for population control and restrain of human activity

    Isn’t most of what religion teaches about putting constraints on people so they fall in line to a particular set of beliefs?

    There are religious people who devote a lot of time to preventing teen pregnancies. Sometimes they succeed in delaying when a young woman decides to start having kids.

    Many preachers are advocating environmental stewardship now.

    I think if you really gave it a chance to work the results might surprise you.

  23. Matti K.

    It certainly sounds very hypocritical when Mr. Mooney recommends humility.

  24. SLC

    I would note that one of the panelists , Prof. Howard Smith, is the author of a book about his conception of the “relationship” between the Kabalah, a tome on Jewish mysticism, and cosmology. Most scientists would consider such a concept nuts (ask Phil Plait what he thinks of it)! Just for the information of Mr. Mooney and other accommodationists, interest in the Kabalah has become something of a fad among some self identified Christian Hollywood types, such as singer/actor Madonna. Rather interesting company for Dr. Smith.

  25. Ken Pidcock

    But here is a harder question–how will you foster dialogue with the New Atheists?

    One could start by allowing them a place in the conversation. It too often seems that, in America, only these who can claim to believe that science and religion are compatible are invited to discuss whether science and religion are compatible. This is absurd.

    There are many scientists, not new atheist writers, who nevertheless question the compatibility of science and religion. Perhaps most prominently, E.O. Wilson, but Sean Carroll also comes to mind. Why aren’t we hearing from them in these forums?

    This assumes, of course, that fostering dialogue is considered desirable in this instance.

  26. Jon

    EO Wilson obviously does, considering a recent book of his.

  27. Sellers_as_Quilty

    Science, alone, is no consolation in this context. Religion gives this single mother something she can lean on. Religion, explained Anderson, provides one with inspiration, whereas science provides information (and science fiction provides entertainment).

    This is a false binary: I’m not aware of anyone—new atheist or anyone else—who has suggested that “science” can provide consolation to those facing life’s difficulties. Other human beings are what provide consolation. They may do so in a religious context, sure, but they just as often do so in a secular context. The tacit suggestion Anderson is making is that atheists/secularists seek to “replace” worship of religion with worship of science. Again, I don’t know of anyone who makes this argument.

    Also, @ #25_Ken_Pidcock:
    Your points are spot-on. Was there anyone at the AAAS who was expressing the point of view that the whole “dialogue” itself is based on a flawed premise? And if such a person were there, expressing that viewpoint, would that person have been taken seriously—or would that person have been quickly labeled “un-civil” or “extremist.” Unfortunately, the backlash against the new atheism has gotten to the point where it’s little more than name-calling and generalizations; there seems to be a lot of unwillingness to admit what the new atheists have gotten right in their critique.

  28. Justin

    GM (2)

    “The Methodist Nobel Laureate (another demonstration that a Nobel prize in science does not necessarily mean that the person who it was given knows the basic rules of how to do science)”

    So, let me get this straight… you are the one who judges who “knows the basic rules of how to do science”. And someone who was awarded a Nobel Prize based on work judged by his peers does not fit the bill. I’m assuming Francis Collins recently lost his abilities as a scientist as well.

    This argument/potshot is really unnecessary and makes you look like you’re grasping for straws. There are fine arguments for atheism but dismissing scientists of faith as being lesser or not “real” scientists as others have done does nothing.

  29. GM

    Guy @ 22:

    I am not talking about social relationships, I am talking about ecological.

  30. GM

    27. Jon Says:
    June 21st, 2010 at 10:06 pm
    Meanwhile, across the two culture divide:
    http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2010/06/21/religion-science-and-the-humanities/

    Another representative of the “Let’s eat the cake and have it too” camp.

    The whole “two culture divide” thing is really quite simple. There is a physical world we live in and which everything we do happens within. Therefore it is quote obvious that the study of the natural world is a lot more fundamental, important and informative than what the label “humanities” is usually applied to. For the simple reason that the latter is a tiny tiny subsystems of the former. So there really isn’t any “divide” between two things that are standing on equal ground. Why is it so hard to understand that?

  31. TB

    @28 said “The tacit suggestion Anderson is making is that atheists/secularists seek to “replace” worship of religion with worship of science. Again, I don’t know of anyone who makes this argument.”

    Really? You need to look harder – I’ve been noticing various degrees of scientism for a while now.

  32. John FitzGerald

    I’m an Old Atheist, and the issue seems pretty simple to me. Religious propositions are not falsifiable, hence not scientific. That reasoning would not be universally accepted by scientists, but it’s accepted by far more than the idea that blind faith in untestable claims made by someone a few thousand years ago constitutes a form of science. And while I think of it — dialogue between the religious and the New Atheists seems to be impossible only because the religious refuse to debate the validity of their faiths.

  33. GM

    29. Justin Says:
    June 21st, 2010 at 11:13 pm
    So, let me get this straight… you are the one who judges who “knows the basic rules of how to do science”. And someone who was awarded a Nobel Prize based on work judged by his peers does not fit the bill. I’m assuming Francis Collins recently lost his abilities as a scientist as well.
    This argument/potshot is really unnecessary and makes you look like you’re grasping for straws. There are fine arguments for atheism but dismissing scientists of faith as being lesser or not “real” scientists as others have done does nothing

    Just because you have a Nobel prize does not mean you’re immune to criticism of your intellectual rigor. The prize is not given for that, it is given for certain accomplishments.

    Kary Mullis has a Nobel prize yet most scientists will tell you that the guy is a lunatic.

    And yes, if you are religious, you are not a real scientist, that’s correct. Hopefully the mistake will not be made and we will be spared having to listen to creationists bringing up Francis Collins as an example of not only a very outspoken religious scientist, but of a very outspoken religious Nobel Laureate in the field that clashes with religion the hardest

  34. John Kwok

    TYPOS – so am reposting:

    @ Ken Pidcock –

    New Atheists have been offered ample opportunities for “dialogue”, but virtually all have refused, with the notable exception being physicist Lawrence Krauss. Evolutionary geneticist Jerry Coyne publicly refused and then condemned the World Science Festival last year for inviting him to participate in a Science Faith Religion panel (Krauss replaced him, and also supported his objections, by noting them in the ensuing discussion) and questioning the rationale for such a panel. This year both he and cosmologist Sean Carroll (who participated in WSF last year, but not on that panel) condemned WSF for having a Science Faith session (Carroll’s blog entry at Cosmic Variance was entitled “World Science (and Faith) Festival”. Both his and Coyne’s posts were also posted at the Dawkins Foundation website.). I found this year’s session to be quite dreadful, with the notable exception of evolutionary geneticist Francisco J. Ayala’s commentary (Biblical scholar Elaine Pagels was an odd choice, and clearly didn’t fit in, since hers were the least notable commentary.), and have, with utmost reluctance, decided to concur with Carroll and Coyne’s condemnation (In the interest of full disclosure, I have worked both this year and last, as a World Science Festival volunteer.), since there is a strong possibility that yet another session may be held at next year’s World Science Festival (That would be quite regrettable, IMHO, since I am certain that other New Atheists, including Dawkins and Hitchens, may join in voicing harsh criticism.).

    While he himself is no longer religious, evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson was born and raised in Alabama’s “Bible Belt” and understands the mentality of his former neighbors. Unlike New Atheists, he has sought to find common ground with Fundamentalist Christians on issues like conserving biodiversity, while also stressing – forcefully, but also tactfully – that biological evolution is a well established fact and an important part of valid mainstream science.

  35. Chris,

    Granted, I’ve not heard everything the “New Atheists” have said concerning religion, but I’ve never heard one of them deny the importance religion has to many people. Nor have I heard them say that science is consoling in any context. That’s not the point at all, and you keep missing it.

    To greatly simplify matters, religion makes claims about the way the world works. Those claims have, to date, been shown to be false, not unlike the once popular notion that lightning originated with Zeus.

    Still with me? It’s nothing you haven’t heard (and probably agreed with) before.

    In as much as science and most religious texts differ on the subject of a factual description of the universe as it is (and they do differ greatly), there is and should be no reconciliation. The world cannot be both round and flat. The Sun and Earth do not orbit each other. Evolution and special creation (as usually described) are not compatible. It’s that simple.

    For more sophisticated theologians (amateur and professional alike) who consider the tales found in Genesis to be metaphor or allegory, there is really no direct quarrel – except to the extent that there is an assumed place of privilege that religion allegedly occupies that people aren’t supposed to touch.

    No questionable idea should be exempt from being publicly ripped to shreds by whomever has the gumption and knowledge to do so.

    Now, I don’t personally accept the simplistic claim that religious moderates enable religious extremists. I think things are a little more complicated than that. Furthermore, I think many atheistic arguments against religion are downright silly or just plain wrong. What rankles me more, however, is the ongoing compatibilist BS that keeps being dished out.

    That is all. Rant over.

    @ GM:

    “…if you are religious, you are not a real scientist…”

    No True Scotsman much?

  36. Speaking of Templeton, Faith and Science – check out the recently (moments ago) published review of the Faith and Science panel at this year’s World Science Festival.
    http://www.worldsciencefestival.com/blog/faith_science

  37. John Kwok

    @ GM –

    According to polling data from a decade ago – which has been cited by vertebrate paleobiologist Donald Prothero in his book “Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters” – approximately 56% of professional evolutionary biologists regarded themselves as religious. Under your definition then, such great scientists like ecologist Michael Rosenzweig, evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky (one of the architects of the Modern Synthesis Theory of Evolution) and many, many others, would not be “real” scientists. Am I correct?

  38. John FitzGerald

    @ John Kwok — Jerry Coyne refused to take part in the WSF panel because it was stacked with Templetonians and, more importantly, because the World Science Festival should be about science, not about “reconciling” science with unscientific pretenders to authority in the same field. Makes sense to me.

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/templeton-back-at-the-world-science-festival/

  39. Sorbet
  40. John Kwok

    @ Kris –

    Thanks for your insightful post, which was posted at your blog and at the World Science Festival’s. However, as I have noted, I have concluded, with utmost reluctance, that both Jerry Coyne, and especially, Sean Carroll, are correct in condemning the World Science Festival for conceiving and hosting a session on science and faith. While I remain agnostic about the festival’s sponsorship by the Templeton Foundation, it should be noted that the forthcoming USA Science and Engineering Festival has not received any financial assistance from those organizations which have any religious agendas period:

    http://www.usasciencefestival.org/sponsors

    While I have the utmost respect and admiration for my fellow Stuyvesant High School alumnus Brian Greene and his wife Tracy Day’s World Science Festival, it is a festival which shouldn’t have any substantial considerations at all on the relationship between science and faith (And if it should continue to have such an interest, then Sean Carroll is absolutely right in insinuating that it should be known henceforth as the “World Science (and Faith) Festival”.). For their sake, I hope they are prepared for further substantial criticism of both their festival and its Templeton Foundation support from others, including, potentially, from three eminent New Atheists who are members of the World Science Festival advisory panel; physicist Lawrence Krauss, philosopher Daniel Dannett, and last, but not least, evolutionary biologist and writer Richard Dawkins.

  41. GM

    38. John Kwok Says:
    June 22nd, 2010 at 10:08 am
    @ GM –
    According to polling data from a decade ago – which has been cited by vertebrate paleobiologist Donald Prothero in his book “Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters” – approximately 56% of professional evolutionary biologists regarded themselves as religious. Under your definition then, such great scientists like ecologist Michael Rosenzweig, evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky (one of the architects of the Modern Synthesis Theory of Evolution) and many, many others, would not be “real” scientists. Am I correct?

    Mostly yes. It does not mean you can not be a “great scientist” and contribute a lot to the advancement of science. But it has to be clear – the goal of science is to understand the world around us and a set of clear epistemological rules on how this is to be properly done has been developed over the centuries. If you enter science with a set of predetermined ideas about how the world works, you are not willing to question those, and you believe in them on faith, then you are both breaking those rules and undermining the goal of science.

  42. Jon

    In as much as science and most religious texts differ on the subject of a factual description of the universe as it is (and they do differ greatly), there is and should be no reconciliation.

    If you go back to the time when the texts were written, the science back then didn’t do much better than the religious texts. So as long as you don’t have a fundamentalist interpretation of the text, then what’s the problem? It seems to me that then there’s just a difference of philosophy and interpretation, not a scientific difference.

  43. Sellers_as_Quilty

    #32 said

    Really? You need to look harder – I’ve been noticing various degrees of scientism for a while now.

    You’re moving the goalposts. I didn’t say no one advocates scientism. (And, to the extent scientism means the belief that science as a way of knowing has proven itself to be superior to all other ways of knowing, I don’t see the big problem with advocating “scientism.” There’s a real argument there that should be taken seriously. You might disagree, but it’s not an un-serious argument.) What I said is that I’m not aware of anyone who makes the argument that religious people should stop worshiping religion and “worship science.” This is what a lot of apologists and clergy imply that scientists believe—and it’s the meme Anderson was trying to activate in his comment that science cannot provide “consolation.” Apparently there was no one at the conference to make the point that, while science might not provide “consolation,” it certainly does not peddle false consolation, nor does it offer people false explanations for their plight. Religious “consolation” is not without its liabilities.

  44. John Kwok

    @ GM –

    Both Ken Miller and Guy Consolmagno know well the distinction you speak of and have been largely successful in divorcing themselves from their religious faith when working as scientists (Though Ken, unfortunately, does espouse a weak form of the anthropic principle.). Ken has also said that those who belong to faiths hostile to science should reject such faiths. Their positions stand in stark contrast with the likes of BioLogos’s Darrel Falk and Karl Giberson, Francis Collins (who founded BioLogos), and Simon Conway Morris. I know Rosenzweig distinguishes between the two “realms” and so did Dobzhansky too.

  45. GM

    John Kwok @ 45:

    It doesn’t work the way you describe it. I am not talking about compartmentalization with respect to what one studies. Most of those people successfully do that, although not all of them (Collins and Miller do not, BioLogos is essentially somwhere between Old Earth Creationism and theistic evolution, but leans towards the former, and so are the writings of Ken Miller).

    One has to always remember that what we call science today was called natural philosophy back in the days and was mostly concerned with cosmological questions. So the question of the existence of God and his role in the world is very much a subject of scientific study, and because if its answer was positive, it would be the single most important result in the whole area, you simply can not assume that this is the case on faith if you’re a scientist.

    Compartmentalization works only if you reduce science to something it isn’t

  46. Jon

    Sellers:You might disagree, but it’s not an un-serious argument.

    The problem is not with serious arguments. It’s with illiberal ones. See Damon Linker and Alan Wolfe on this.

  47. gillt

    And Now, Chris Mooney does Dr. Seuss.

    “At the close of the session, I rose and posed a question.”

  48. Absurdist

    Let’s not forget that physicist Brian Greene is an alumnus of the prestigious Stuyvesant High School of New York, NY. I would take his word seriously purely based on those credentials.

  49. Sellers_as_Quilty

    @47: I don’t follow. Not trying to be difficult, but could you explain your point a bit?

  50. Justin

    Oh good God. You can be a “great” scientist and not a “real” scientist? Just give up these definitions. If you want to say you can “do” great science without being a philosophical naturalist, say it. But don’t say that that equates with not being a “real” scientist. I’m not even sure that many who espouse religious belief would say they aren’t philosophical naturalists either.

    Also, BioLogos is not filled with Old Earth Creationists (OEC). I understand that it can be difficult to assign the right categories to the right organizations… but that often stems from not knowing enough about them. We are all guilty of this in some way.

  51. Jon

    Linker lays out his argument here:

    http://www.tnr.com/article/atheisms-wrong-turn

    Alan Wolfe fleshes things out in the context of the philosophical basis of liberalism. (Which I won’t describe in detail, but very briefly, it makes a case for individual free will and tolerance…)

  52. John Kwok

    @ GM –

    Apparently you’re not familiar with Ken Miller’s writings. He is not, by any stretch of the imagination, someone whose writings even come close to Old Earth Creationism (OEC). Instead, he has been consistently, an active, and quite effective, advocate for the teaching of biological evolution only in science classrooms, not Old Earth Creationism, or any other version, especially Intelligent Design. This isn’t my own conclusion, but one reached by many, including certain prominent New Atheists who shall remain nameless (though they may also insist that Ken could be viewed as a “creationist” merely for sharing the same Christian beliefs as those held by genuine, bona fide creationists).

    BioLogos is not an organization that is friendly towards creationists, as those who do peruse its website will see quite clearly. However, both Darrel Falk and Karl Giberson believe they can reach out successfully to some at the Discovery Institute, simply because they are fellow “Brothers in Christ” (Think they ought to follow in the lead of their fellow Evangelical, biologist Steve Matheson, who has recently urged DI mendacious intellectual pornographer Stephen Meyer to sever his ties to the Discovery Institute, recognizing that it is really an organization interested in promoting the mendacious intellectual pornography that is Intelligent Design creationism, not in conducting credible scientific research.).

  53. John Kwok

    @ Absurdist –

    Do I detect a hint of sarcasm there? But seriously, I think Brian needs to emphasize why the World Science Festival should have continued financial support from the Templeton Foundation, justifying it purely from its perspective of supporting scientific research and public outreach programs in science, without resorting – which he did unfortunately earlier this month when introducing this year’s Science Faith session – to a memoiresque account of his family’s religious background as his primary justification. And he should remind the Templeton Foundation that it must remain consistent in its aim of funding sound scientific research, even if the results of that research run counter to its religious point of view (I hope to see him next month at a Stuyvesant alumni event, and will stress these very points to him.).

  54. TB

    @ Sellers_as_Quilty

    I’m not moving any goal posts, I simply took what you said as a tacit suggestion that no one is advocating scientism. Are you really criticizing me for inferring a tacit suggestion? Fine, then I’ll point out that you advanced a strawman argument (“no one is suggesting”) in order to deny it.

    And I think you weren’t being precise in your definition. From wikipedia: “Scientism is the idea that natural science is the most authoritative worldview or aspect of human education, and that it is superior to all other interpretations of life.[1] The term is used by social scientists such as Friedrich Hayek,[2] or philosophers of science such as Karl Popper, to describe what they see as the underlying attitudes and beliefs common to many scientists, whereby the study and methods of natural science have risen to the level of ideology”

    (The Skeptic’s dictionary differentiates strong and weak scientism, but it doesn’t speak well of strong scientism. Weak scientism seems to be a relatively new idea, but it’s so strikingly different that I think using the term “weak” to differentiate it from “strong” is inadequate. But that’s a different conversation.)

    Regarding scientism as characterized by the wiki (or the “strong” variety if you prefer), consider what one commenter said in a recent thread:

    “Yes, my research is funded by the NIH, and yes, I don’t feel bad about it all. And yes, grants are “dishonestly” written in the “it is health-related” frame all the time so that people can get money to do actual science”

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2010/06/14/the-right-slams-unscientific-america/comment-page-2/#comment-60490

    Now, we don’t know that the research in question is funded by grants gained “dishonestly” (the commentator’s actual word and quote marks, not mine). We don’t even know if the commentator is a real scientist – it’s the internet after all.

    What I’m interested in is the idea implied in that statement: That “actual science” should be raised to a higher calling – an ideology – so that one can rationalize away the idea of gaining government funding “dishonestly.”

    Isn’t that attitude similar to religious people “lying for Jesus?” Don’t we (correctly, IMO) castigate those people’s actions when they do that?

    I think what we’re starting to see are those who hold “scientism” beliefs (but don’t realize or outright deny the connection) self-identifying with New Atheists. However, I don’t believe scientism and atheism (new or otherwise) is the same thing. I do believe some people who self-identify as New Atheists are realizing that and have made an effort to distance themselves from scientism. (Hence the idea of “weak” scientism, which I think you’re thinking of but that you didn’t describe specifically as the “weak” variety.)

    BTW, that same commentator used the term “population control” in this thread as something that would divide science and religion. Perhaps without realizing it, that commentator used a term that has a top-down, negative connotation for good reason. Anyone being asked to support “population control” could think they’re being asked to support criminalizing birth rates, coerced abortions or things even more horrible. That includes secular and religious people, which disproves the inference that “population control” would only be divisive between the secular and religious.

    So why use that particular phrasing? Why not say something like “population issues involving efforts to achieve a sustainable balance between people and resources?” Perhaps it’s just an unfortunate choice of words.

    Or maybe it accurately reflects a view that could result when personal beliefs become a higher calling.

  55. Jon

    I’ve been shouted down on PZ’s site before by someone declaring “anyone who uses the term ‘scientism’ is an a**,” after I used the term in an argument. Something tells me I’d have more luck discussing things with Beavis and Butthead.

  56. GM

    Well, if the position of anyone who dares to state the obvious, i.e. that there is natural world and science to study it and everything else is BS, is immediately labeled “scientism” and dismissed as a results of that, then no wonder people get annoyed by that at some point

  57. GM

    John Kwok @ 53:

    If you fail to understand why someone who posits “divine intervention on the quantum level” as explanation for how God guided evolution so that in the end of it we appeared (so that he can send his son to us to save us from our sins) is a creationist, I can’t really help you. It is quite self-evident.

  58. Michael

    “Still, surely the New Atheists must on some level recognize the critical importance religion plays in many people’s lives–which implies that we can hardly expect believers to discard their faith based on philosophical considerations, no matter how persuasive these may seem to many secularists or scientists.”

    You know, Mooney, it would be really nice if you didn’t lie about “New Atheists.” Sure, there’s a minority of athiests who want to do away with religion all together. But the vast majority of atheists are perfectly willing to let goddists continue to be goddists. What we object to is goddists insisting on pushing a socio-political agenda for religious reasons. When fundamentalist goddists want to replace teaching science in schools with teaching myth, we get upset. When goddists don’t want gays to get married because “god thinks what they do in bed is icky” then we get annoyed. When goddists lie about condoms and AIDS, we get a mite perturbed.

    No, Mooney, we are not trying to shut down religion. For you to pretend we are just shows your bigotry and hatred towards atheists who don’t accept your accomodationism.

  59. John Kwok

    @ GM –

    Maybe you ought to remind attorney Eric Rothschild, lead plaintiff attorney at the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial. Maybe you ought to remind the National Center for Science Education, since he is a prominent supporter of theirs, along with the American Museum of Natural History’s Joel Cracraft, Niles Eldredge and Neil de Grasse Tyson. Maybe you ought to remind eminent philosopher of science Philip Kitcher, who has appeared in public forums with Ken Miller. And last, but not least, remind the American Association for the Advancement of Science while you’re at it too, since he was its 2008 recipient of its Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award.

    Come to think of it, since Ken is such a good “creationist”, then why did I watch him “crush” Institute for Creation Research Vice President Henry Morris’s breathtakingly inane arguments on behalf of “creation science” at Brown’s hockey rink auditorium more than two and a half decades ago?

    Your contention is as patently absurd as PZ Myers’s, who once dubbed Ken a “creationist” in an early Pharyngula screed of his dating from early September 2006. Or Jerry Coyne’s equally bizarre determination from nearly a year and a half ago.

  60. Anthony McCarthy

    GM, you don’t know the difference between a creationist and someone who believes in a creator God.

    I can’t really help you. It is quite self-evident. GM

    Yes, it is, since you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  61. Anthony McCarthy

    I’ve been shouted down on PZ’s site before by someone declaring “anyone who uses the term ’scientism’ is an a**,” after I used the term in an argument. Jon

    I got told, there or somewhere similar to there, that I should look it up in Wiki. I did and it was obvious it was one of the many articles edited by the advocates of scientism to suit their purposes. I haven’t looked to see if someone honest changed it. I find all kinds of stuff online has rather obviously been altered or evaluated in that way.

    Something tells me I’d have more luck discussing things with Beavis and Butthead. Jon

    The new atheists and “skeptics” are some of the most closed minds there are, it’s that way when you’re the keeper of the flame of truth.

  62. Anthony McCarthy

    To greatly simplify matters, religion makes claims about the way the world works. Those claims have, to date, been shown to be false, not unlike the once popular notion that lightning originated with Zeus. JCS

    Well, when is the last time you heard someone say that lightening originated with Zeus? You do know that to maintain that science knows the ultimate origin of lightening or, indeed, the universe, is as false as the idea that lightening comes from Thor’s hammer.

    Religion makes a lot of statements about the way the world works that aren’t shown to be false. The statement that it would be better for someone to have a millstone put around their neck and be drowned in the ocean than to abuse children isn’t shown to be false. The assertion that you will know the truth and it will make you free hasn’t been shown to be false.

    If you’re talking about claims made about the physical universe in biblical times or even the 18th century, yes, many of those are now known to be false. So was Kelvin’s declaration that X-Rays were a fraud. So was Mach’s evaluation of atomic theory and modern physics. So will, in the future, much of the science of today, if we last that long.

  63. Peter Beattie

    » Chris Mooney:
    Religion, explained Anderson, provides one with inspiration, whereas science provides information (and science fiction provides entertainment).

    And in your latest book you praise Carl Sagan to the high heavens for his (fancy that!) inspirational science communication, and now this? Now you allow for exactly one source of inspiration, and that is supposed to be religion? How can any thinking human being read that and not take you for completely delusional?

  64. GM

    59. Anthony McCarthy Says:
    June 22nd, 2010 at 4:54 pm
    GM, you don’t know the difference between a creationist and someone who believes in a creator God.
    I can’t really help you. It is quite self-evident. GM
    Yes, it is, since you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    If the “creator God” only set up the universe in motion, then you may have a point. But if you claim that he “interfered on the quantum level” at key steps of evolution so that we appeared in the end, this is pure creationism.

  65. Jon

    How can any thinking human being read that and not take you for completely delusional?

    Um, Mr. Beattie. Look up the word “aphorism.” It’s supposed to be a pithy statement that generalizes, not a water tight logical statement with a QED at the end…

    Here’s another one by Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Science makes major contributions to minor needs. Religion, however small its successes, is at least at work on the things that matter most.”

    “Hey, Oliver. You’re a delusional nut! What about me working on the cure for cancer? That proves your statement completely wrong.” Um, no. Oliver Wendell Holmes can do accuracy and logic. But a completely watertight statement was not in scope when he said this….

  66. Thomas L

    GM @ 46,
    That’s one of the most insightful comments I have seen you make. However, you fail to make the connection that the “religious” texts proceed the philosophical concern of objectively “proving” something about “God”. I tried to point that out to you a few threads back (it was cut off right when you actually made some interesting comments), but you fell into the philosophical trap of words define things (there are numerous modern texts that examine such thinking and show its faults and limitations…).

    The “religion as science” attitude developed from the philosophical tradition and the desire to be “scientific”, something religion never was, and never can be. If you have ever been around a serious theologian the first thing you will learn is it is better to leave God out of it as bringing in the “God did it” line of thinking or some smug quote from a religious text when discussing things which rightfully belong in the objective knowledge class of things is sure to get you mentally slapped (watched it happen numerous times in fact…).

    You’re obsessed with the fundamentalistliteralist sects (which I agree are hopeless). But they couldn’t exist without the underlying philosophical thinking that started with Socrates (the first to provide a philosophical interpretation that if there were some “thing” – “God” it would have to have “x,y & z” properties). When you start arguing that line you are arguing philosophical tradition, not religious thinking (and the serious theologians know and understand the difference). If you are well versed in philosophical history you can actually tell which ones they are under the influence of by what they view as key and how they speak…

    While understanding the physical underpinnings of the worlduniverse we live in is of obvious importance, you seem to short change the need to understand human reasoning, action, thought (and the limits there of) – we have been blessed (or cursed) with the ability to reason and communicate. Understanding the drivers of such things and the results such leads to is every bit as important as understanding the physical sciences. “Knowing” a scientific truth tells one nothing about what they should or should not do today in 90% of those things in which choices must be made…

    That understanding and its relevance to living is where we disagree…

  67. Anthony McCarthy

    If the “creator God” only set up the universe in motion, then you may have a point. But if you claim that he “interfered on the quantum level” at key steps of evolution so that we appeared in the end, this is pure creationism.

    Creationism is a specific belief in the literal truth of the account of creation in the beginning of Genesis. It has nothing to do with “interference” by God on the quantum level of matter.

    Science has absolutely nothing to say about the possibility or impossibility of “interference” by God on any aspect of the universe. Though scientism has much to say about it, most of what I’ve heard of that is absurd.

  68. Anthony McCarthy

    » Chris Mooney:
    Religion, explained Anderson, provides one with inspiration, whereas science provides information (and science fiction provides entertainment).

    And in your latest book you praise Carl Sagan to the high heavens for his (fancy that!) inspirational science communication, and now this? Now you allow for exactly one source of inspiration, and that is supposed to be religion? How can any thinking human being read that and not take you for completely delusional? Peter Beattie

    Because a thinking human being would see that Carl Sagan is not science, he was a person who happened to be a scientist who had a career in popularization of science, the intention of which was to inspire an interest in science. Anyone with a brain in their head and an intention of being honest would have seen that there was no statement about “exactly one source of inspiration” in the statement.

    Dishonesty in the name of science. Now that should really improve the situation, shouldn’t it.

  69. Wowbagger

    Science has absolutely nothing to say about the possibility or impossibility of “interference” by God on any aspect of the universe.

    Yes, and I can turn myself invisible – as long as no-one’s looking.

  70. Anthony McCarthy

    I’d like to make a tentative list of terms that should be given up due to their becoming meaningless through over and vague use.

    Moving goal posts

    Straw man

    Occam’s razor

    Ad hominem

    I’m sure there are others.

  71. Anthony McCarthy

    Wowbagger, show me where a credible textbook in science or a paper in a reputable science journal which says something about God interfering on the quantum level of existence, for or against.

    If you mean a lot of scientists and sci-jocks bloviate about that, all of that is extracurricular bloviation

  72. GM

    Here’s another one by Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Science makes major contributions to minor needs. Religion, however small its successes, is at least at work on the things that matter most.”

    This has to be the most ignorant profound sounding statement I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen many…

  73. Jon

    Yes, Oliver Wendell Holmes, ignoramus.

  74. GM

    Apparently the argument of authority still holds a lot of weight for a many people. I wonder why is that…

  75. Jon

    We seem to be at an impasse. You call Oliver Wendell Holmes ignorant, without supporting that statement. I point out the absurdity of calling Oliver Wendell Holmes without supporting the statement.

    Welcome to the Internets. Domain of the New Atheists…

  76. gillt

    McCarthy: “show me where a credible textbook in science or a paper in a reputable science journal which says something about God interfering on the quantum level of existence, for or against.”

    And by that unsound reasoning even creationists are correct to infer god, amiright?! McCarthy is a proponent of religious fundamentalism after all. I’m so shocked.

  77. Jon

    We seem to be at an imp*sse, GM. You call Oliver Wendell Holmes ignorant, without supporting that statement. I point out the absurdity of calling Oliver Wendell Holmes ignorant without supporting the statement.

    Welcome to the Internets. Domain of the New Atheists…

  78. Anthony McCarthy

    Gillt, as always dishonest. Where in what I said was an endorsement of religious fundamentalism. That would be fundamentalism as it’s used by honest people to mean a specific kind of scriptural literalism instead of the one from the New Atheist Dictionary of Fuzzy And Flexible Buzz Words.

    Where do you suggest people look for science, gillt, if not in reviewed journals and credibly produced textbooks? The dicta from that come down from the gillthead?

  79. GM

    Jon @ 73:

    You would do well to develop some basic reading comprehension skills before you come to argue. I called the statement ignorant, not the person it is coming from. Although this may very well be true too.

  80. Jon

    Of course, GM. I’m sure Oliver Wendell Holmes would get a thoughtful, careful hearing from you.

    Also, for your entertainment, folks, take it away Punch and Judy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCGcIwCSC

  81. GM

    55. TB Says:
    June 22nd, 2010 at 1:33 pm
    And I think you weren’t being precise in your definition. From wikipedia: “Scientism is the idea that natural science is the most authoritative worldview or aspect of human education, and that it is superior to all other interpretations of life.[1] The term is used by social scientists such as Friedrich Hayek,[2] or philosophers of science such as Karl Popper, to describe what they see as the underlying attitudes and beliefs common to many scientists, whereby the study and methods of natural science have risen to the level of ideology”
    (The Skeptic’s dictionary differentiates strong and weak scientism, but it doesn’t speak well of strong scientism. Weak scientism seems to be a relatively new idea, but it’s so strikingly different that I think using the term “weak” to differentiate it from “strong” is inadequate. But that’s a different conversation.)

    I often wonder why I am the only one who notices certain very negative trend in people’s thinking. Someone will invent a term for a certain idea, a lot of negative connotation will be attached to this term due to the controversy the idea may generate, and after that that negative connotation will be used to dismiss the idea. But it is not the idea and whether it has any merits that is in people’s mind anymore, it is the negativity associated with the term attached to it. It is the same with “extreme” views. Nobody wants to be called “extreme” so if a certain position is deemed “extreme”, everyone quickly flocks to the middle ground. Whether the extreme position is correct or not matters very little.

    The problem is that whether a position is correct or not has little to do with how extreme the majority of people think it is. So if most people are afraid to adopt extreme positions, those positions will have little chance to prevail, even if they are correct. For me, this kind of intellectual cowardice is very problematic, strange enough, most think it is the normal way to do things…

    Regarding scientism as characterized by the wiki (or the “strong” variety if you prefer), consider what one commenter said in a recent thread:
    “Yes, my research is funded by the NIH, and yes, I don’t feel bad about it all. And yes, grants are “dishonestly” written in the “it is health-related” frame all the time so that people can get money to do actual science”
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2010/06/14/the-right-slams-unscientific-america/comment-page-2/#comment-60490
    Now, we don’t know that the research in question is funded by grants gained “dishonestly” (the commentator’s actual word and quote marks, not mine). We don’t even know if the commentator is a real scientist – it’s the internet after all.

    Apparently, this comment has hurt you a lot. I guess I should be prosecuted not only for cheating taxpayers out of their one cent that they have contributed to research I have been involved in, but for hurting people’s feelings…

    What I’m interested in is the idea implied in that statement: That “actual science” should be raised to a higher calling – an ideology – so that one can rationalize away the idea of gaining government funding “dishonestly.”
    Isn’t that attitude similar to religious people “lying for Jesus?” Don’t we (correctly, IMO) castigate those people’s actions when they do that?

    You could only say this if you thought that the idea that Jesus was a God and he came to save us has any merits. Or if you think that science is as false as Christianty. Neither is true. Lying for Jesus is not OK because it is lying in the name of a lie, and it hurts the people being lied to. What you are blaming scientists who do basic research for is not even a lie, and it actually helps people, it is just that they can’t see the immediate benefits, for which the fault is entirely their own.

    As I said in the thread you are referring to, you’re displaying a quite militant anti-science (and anti-intellectual in general) attitude. Not good.

    I think what we’re starting to see are those who hold “scientism” beliefs (but don’t realize or outright deny the connection) self-identifying with New Atheists. However, I don’t believe scientism and atheism (new or otherwise) is the same thing. I do believe some people who self-identify as New Atheists are realizing that and have made an effort to distance themselves from scientism. (Hence the idea of “weak” scientism, which I think you’re thinking of but that you didn’t describe specifically as the “weak” variety.)
    BTW, that same commentator used the term “population control” in this thread as something that would divide science and religion. Perhaps without realizing it, that commentator used a term that has a top-down, negative connotation for good reason. Anyone being asked to support “population control” could think they’re being asked to support criminalizing birth rates, coerced abortions or things even more horrible. That includes secular and religious people, which disproves the inference that “population control” would only be divisive between the secular and religious.

    Once again, something has negative connotations, therefore it is incorrect and we should stay away from it. Very nice logic, only problem is that it doesn’t hold. That we have to implement some form of population control if we are to preserve anything resembling an advanced civilization (and avoid even worse things) follows inevitably from a large body of very solid scientific work. That we are not going to do it is in large part due to religion, the ignorance its spreading and the delusions about our place in the world it is promoting. So it was a perfectly good example to use.

    So why use that particular phrasing? Why not say something like “population issues involving efforts to achieve a sustainable balance between people and resources?” Perhaps it’s just an unfortunate choice of words.
    Or maybe it accurately reflects a view that could result when personal beliefs become a higher calling.

    Probably because scientists like using the correct terms, and this was the correct term, that’s why. That some people can’t bear being directly told things as they are is a problem of those people.

  82. gillt

    let me repeat McCarthy: what you did was to purposefully misrepresent how science is done to advance a popular creationist argument for god. If you’re being honest and believe your own absurd writing then it is fair to assume you endorse creationism.

  83. Daniel Murphy

    Still, surely the New Atheists religious must on some level recognize the critical importance religion scienceplays in many allpeople’s lives–which implies that we can hardly expect believers scientiststo discard their faith facts and well-established theoriesbased on philosophical considerations Bronze Age myths and arcane and contradictory theological natterings, no matter how persuasive these may seem to many secularists or scientists of those who won’t bother to learn the first thing about science.

  84. qbsmd

    “They claim–in an argument that I for one find weak–that the moderates enable extremists, and so are part of the problem. (Even, I suppose, if they are perfectly lovely human beings.)”

    Does anyone know a link to where Chris has addressed this point? It makes sense to me:
    1. Moderate religious people cannot effectively criticize extremists because both views are ultimately dependent on faith. A moderate can insist that a passage from a holy book is meant to be metaphorical or that the extremist misunderstood something, and the extremist can retort that the passage is meant literally or the moderate misunderstood. There is no basis for resolving disagreements regarding faith (hence all the schisms).
    2. Moderate religious people who defend their beliefs must defend the concept of faith, because evidence is insufficient to support their claims. People who insist on respect for moderate religions must similarly insist on respect for faith itself.
    3. An environment where such people are the majority is an environment where extremists cannot be effectively criticized; even if that majority disagrees with the extremists, that disagreement is a matter of opinion (faith), not fact.

    The corollary is that in an environment where the majority do not respect faith, and insist on evidence, both moderate and extreme religious ideas will be criticized, which I think is fairly consistent with what “New Atheists” want. As I understand it, it’s somewhat like herd immunity; Chris’s parenthetical dig, however, seems to indicate that he has heard (or thinks he heard) a far different argument.

  85. Mateo

    “Well, if the position of anyone who dares to state the obvious, i.e. that there is natural world and science to study it and everything else is BS, is immediately labeled “scientism” and dismissed as a results of that, then no wonder people get annoyed by that at some point.”

    Is your statement part of the natural world? I can’t use science to study it, since it is metaphysical. So I’ll do as as you say and regard as BS.

    Thanks for the sound advice.

  86. Peter Beattie

    » Anthony McCarthy;
    Because a thinking human being would see that Carl Sagan is not science, he was a person who happened to be a scientist who had a career in popularization of science, the intention of which was to inspire an interest in science.

    And if you’ve ever read anything by Sagan you will know that he talks about science as an inspiration all the time. So does Feynman, so does Dawkins, so does Gould—in fact, so does pretty much anyone who has ever made a name for themselves in science.

    So, are you really trying to say that Chris Mooney’s praise of (among others) Sagan does not on the face of it conflict with his endorsement in this piece of the idea that science has no inspiration to offer?

    Anyone with a brain in their head and an intention of being honest would have seen that there was no statement about “exactly one source of inspiration” in the statement.

    Oh Anthony, if only you could think thoughts that weren’t preapproved by your prejudices. But I’ll spell it out for you. Go and read the post above again and see if you can find any other source of inspiration that Mooney allows for. Nope, there’s not a one. He approvingly quotes Anderson, who in his slightly simple-minded juxtaposition implies that, relative to religion, science’s role in the inspiration department is negligible if not non-existent. Surely, given all the examples of science-as-inspiration in the paragraph above, which Mooney certainly knows about, it is more than just odd for him not to mention that of course there are other sources of inspiration, and that science is a prominent example. But then again, that would have weakened his argument.

    So, before you start foaming at the mouth at other people’s alleged dishonesty—which might, after all, be in the eye of the beholder—would you care to show how exactly my statement misrepresents Mooney and/or Anderson?

  87. Anthony McCarthy

    84. gillt Says:
    June 22nd, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    let me repeat McCarthy: what you did was to purposefully misrepresent how science is done to advance a popular creationist argument for god. If you’re being honest and believe your own absurd writing then it is fair to assume you endorse creationism.

    Fairness, gillt is talking about fairness.

    I know that nothing that is even modestly subtle can sink in to the new atheist consciousness but I’d hoped that repetition might be able to at least make some dent.

    Let me repeat, gillt, creationism is a specific form of Biblical fundamentalism concerning the description of how old the universe is, now long it took for it to come into being, a literal description of how God created it in six days, then rested on the seventh (actually a rather profound reference to the Jewish week, not any kind of science) and how the species of animals came about spontaneously instead of by the evolution of species from extinct species, and the separate creation of human beings with all the associated special features alleged to be peculiar to our species. None of which I was ever taught as religion, or hold as even a matter of belief and which I certainly have never in my life mistaken forany kind of science, as you well know. All of which could only be reconciled with science by viewing the Genesis description allegorically. I won’t go into the history of viewing Genesis allegorically except to say that it is the only religiously useful use of it that I can see.

    The idea that God directs the universe, including at the most minute of subatomic scales is not an idea that stems from creationism but is common to virtually all of religion that includes the idea of a creator God. The nature of that direction, isn’t something we can comprehend any more than we can much of the physical universe that would be open to our abilities. None of which science could begin to deal with and so none of it can be part of science, or do you not remember that line you plagarized from me here last week?

    The people who believe in that would include any who accept science as providing the current best description of the physical universe in so far as our best available information goes. Which would to some extent be most Christians who accept any of science, including just about all of the scientists who happen to be Jewish, Christian or followers of Islam, of which there are many, many who have a more impressive career than most of the new atheist blog boys, many of whom seem to believe that James Randi is a scientist and that science is an ideology or an intellectual sports team and that Wikipedia is the standard of reference materials when its editorial procedures make it unreliable on many topics for reasons that a few of the literate and enterprising among them probably have good reason to know.

    I’m beginning to wonder if the new atheism might be a syndrome and that some kind of insight into the inabilities of fundamentalists to think clearly might be gained from studying them and eventually comparing them with rabid religious fundamentalism, psycho therapeutic cults, and maybe even street gangs. There has to be something to why people who pretend to uphold logic and pretend to be devoted to evidence based thinking are so constantly in violation of both. It’s like Christians whose most noteworthy practices violate what they’re supposed to believe is the word of God.

    I’d agree with those who classify the new atheism with some of the more abusive forms of religious fundamentalism.

  88. Anthony McCarthy

    Go and read the post above again and see if you can find any other source of inspiration that Mooney allows for. Nope, there’s not a one. Peter Beattie

    Oh, for crying out loud, Beattie, Chris Mooney isn’t violating any kind of rule by assuming his readers are able to bring something to the experience of reading. He’s not writing to cater to the lower levels of the world body of new atheists. No writer is under any obligation to state exactly and every assumption that an honest, intelligent reader should be able to see in what they say every time he makes reference to something.

    What an incredibly dishonest bunch of ideologues you guys are. You want the heroes of the new atheism required to fill in every single idea that their critics could subject to that treatment? Of course not, but that’s not going to stop you from using that jr. high level of debate against people you want to attack.

    And if you’ve ever read anything by Sagan you will know that he talks about science as an inspiration all the time. So does Feynman, so does Dawkins, so does Gould—in fact, so does pretty much anyone who has ever made a name for themselves in science.

    I’ve read things by Gould and Feynman and even Sagan that I found inspired, Dawkins, not so much. Oddly enough, for how much I think he’s a jerk and frequently a dishonest ideologue, I’ve been more inspired by Jerry Coyne’s writing, strictly about science than Dawkins. But, then, Coyne is more of a scientist when he’s not being an ideologue.

    There isn’t anything to prevent people from feeling inspiration from what science tells them, but inspiration isn’t the intended purpose of science, it is to find more reliable information about the physical world. Much of science is accurate, is informative, is even useful while being godawful dull to even other scientists and hardly inspiring except to the most devoted specialists. Think of how new atheists’ eyes glaze over with any kind of modern theological writing of even moderate complexity. Much of which isn’t primarily intended to inspire but to inform.

  89. Matti K

    It’s always nice to see straight and unambigous talk about this science-religion-compatibility. But then again, Moran is a rational scientist, not a politically correct journalist.

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2010/06/chris-mooney-asks-hard-question.html

  90. Jon

    People who argue that deism is the only kind of theology compatible with science don’t know theology like they think they do. Reinhold Niebuhr was no deist. Can someone tell me how his views conflict with science? The 19th century German thought dissented against deism with panentheism. Can a New Atheist tell me how this view conflicts with science? My bet is that they know none of these things. And yet they pontificate…

  91. GM

    Reinhold Niebuhr was no deist. Can someone tell me how his views conflict with science?

    Very simple – he believed in something without any evidence in support of that claim

    The 19th century German thought dissented against deism with panentheism. Can a New Atheist tell me how this view conflicts with science?

    Same thing

  92. Jon

    Yes, and they also spent significant amounts of time wrestling with British Empiricism, and what they accepted from it and what they didn’t–for instance, the proposition that all thought should be based on evidence from the senses.

    But the New Atheists, being the philosophical barbarians that they are, have absolutely no interest in this. They just take Dennett’s and Dawkin’s word for it and call it a day.

  93. GM

    Now in additional to a criminal I am also a philosophical barbarian…

    The justification of philosophical barbarianism is very simple (as, apparently, everything with philosophical barbarianism so it’s probably false, but let’s state it anyway). While the philosophical Rome has spent the last 4000 years pondering exactly the same things with no results, and in all likelihood, it can spend the next 40,000 years without producing any results either, the barbarians have revealed the secrets of nature and have made every progress towards answering the questions that the philosophical Romans were asking that occurred in that time. In the process they destroyed a lot of the most cherished ideas of the philosophical Rome (which is probably why Rome is calling them barbarians) and exposed them for the BS they are. And they were BS because they were based on reasoning without evidence. Sophisticated reasoning indeed, but false conclusions. Aristotle was a genius, but this doesn’t change the fact that 99% of what he wrote is false, and often outright silly. And the same applies to the majority of much more recent philosophers

    What you’re saying is the equivalent of claiming that faith healing and shamanism should not be dismissed even though we have molecular medicine now. Silly

  94. Anthony McCarthy

    Reinhold Niebuhr was no deist. Can someone tell me how his views conflict with science?

    Very simple – he believed in something without any evidence in support of that claim GM

    Daniel Dennett believes in memes. Richard Dawkins invented memes, both of them believe in the creation fables of evo-psy. None of these things have any evidence which supports their existence. I could go into just about any and each of the major figures of the new atheism and find things important to their ideological stands and professional writings that contain assertions unsupported by evidence, you could with just about any person living. Yet science exists.

    GM, your assertion has no evidence to support it. You’re not only guilty by your own standards, you’re also guilty of hypocrisy and maintaining the most gross level of double standards.

    But the New Atheists, being the philosophical barbarians that they are, have absolutely no interest in this.

    They’ve got no need for philosophy, they’ve got THE TRUTH. In that they mirror some of the more benighted writers in the early imperial stage of Christian thought. Irony flourishes most in a climate of absolute conviction.

  95. SLC

    Re Anthony McCarthy @ #63

    If you’re talking about claims made about the physical universe in biblical times or even the 18th century, yes, many of those are now known to be false. So was Kelvin’s declaration that X-Rays were a fraud. So was Mach’s evaluation of atomic theory and modern physics. So will, in the future, much of the science of today, if we last that long.

    Ah gee, Kelvin was wrong about X-Rays. He was also wrong about the age of the earth. I will paraphrase Enrico Fermi (or possibly Wolfgang Pauli): “A scientist who has never been wrong is a scientist who hasn’t accomplished anything significant.”

    Just for the information of Mr. McCarthy, Issac Newton was wrong about the transmutation of elements by chemical processes and about a purely particulate theory of light being able to explain diffraction and interference. Charles Darwin was wrong about inheritance of acquired traits (e.g. Lamarck) being an evolutionary engine in addition to natural selection and about descent being an analog process. Einstein was wrong about his claim that black holes could never form.

    The bottom line is that Kelvin, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein were right far more often then they were wrong.

  96. Jon

    Good. Well, I think Richard Dawkins is wrong about some pretty important things.

  97. Jon

    I should add–not all things you can be wrong about concern physical science.

    Many (if not most) of the propositions that really matter aren’t so easily testable on a lab bench…

  98. GM

    Many (if not most) of the propositions that really matter aren’t so easily testable on a lab bench…

    Which is why we build the LHC and should have built the SSC

  99. John Kwok

    Here’s a “Memo” that I posted to Greg Boustead, World Science Festival Executive Producer, earlier this morning in reply to a thread he started the other day here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/worldsciencefestival/2010/06/why_faith_and_science.php

    Greg –

    A “Science Faith” session was only useful when two religiously devout scientists, cell biologists Ken Miller and Vatican Astronomer (and Jesuit Brother) – Guy Consolmagno argued persuasively that, as scientists, their duties and obligations with respect to science greatly outweigh – indeed, to use their words – trump any religious considerations. It is only in private moments will they adhere to their religious convictions, as long as those convictions do not conflict with their scientific ones (Regrettably, have yet to read of similar distinctions voiced by such prominent religiously devout scientists as Francis Collins and Simon Conway Morris.). Moroever, a few weeks prior to last year’s World Science Festival, during a private talk given before fellow college alumni in New York, NY, Ken Miller declared that those who belong to faiths hostile to science should discard their memberships in such faiths (Now that’s a question which I would love to see Bill Blakemore ask of any Science Faith panelists, past, present, and future. BTW saw Blakemore briefly last night at the American Museum of Natural History, but wasn’t able to pose this very question.).

    If Science/Faith isn’t trying “to equate empiricallly rigorous observations with religious/spiritual beliefs” then its mere existence is comparable to having a so-called “debate” between a “scientific creationist” and an “evolutionist”. In neither case is it helpful to confer legitimacy on something that is definitey not science. Let’s adhere instead to some form of Stephen Jay Gould’s NOMA – which was strongly implied by Francisco J. Ayala’s comments – and either have a discussion in which one could debate the merits of whether science can or should be compatible with religion (which is absolutely pointless because of the New Atheist “crusade” against accomodationism – unless you want WSF to be yet another “battleground” – which started with an early January 2009 online commentary by the likes of Jerry Coyne, Lisa Randall, Lawrence Krauss, Michael Shermer and Ken Miller, among others:

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/coyne09/coyne09_index.html)

    – or just drop it in light of likely opposition from WSF advisory board members Lawrence Krauss, Daniel Dennett, and especially, Richard Dawkins (The fact that Dawkins had Coyne and Carroll’s blog posts critical of WSF posted at his foundation’s website should be a wake up call to you and the rest of WSF’s staff to tread lightly, and even opt to drop the idea of doing another Science Faith session.). It would be a pity if Brian and Tracy’s message was drowned out by a substantial online backlash from the likes of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens.

  100. Jon

    GM–I still can’t tell whether you really mean what you say, or you’re someone trying to parody a new atheist commenter.

  101. GM

    If I am parodying someone, it is not the “new atheists”

    The previous post was meant to be very literally taken. And it had much deeper thinking than what you probably understood of it. Yes, indeed we can’t test everything on a lab bench. And the very deep questions can not be tested on a bench. Because the deep questions are cosmological, and they require big pieces of equipment.

    What the deep questions are not are question concerning morality, ethics, and relationships between people. Those things matter very very little and it is part of the tragedy of our species that in our anthropocentric arrogance we have elevated them so high in the list of important things .

    You seem to be a proponent of taking the history of intellectual thought into account when having this kind of discussion. I am too. The big questions people were asking millenia ago were cosmological too. But they had it very wrong for a very long time because they didn’t know enough. Now we know more. So what is that we really know? There is a universe with galaxies, stars and planets. Within that universe there is at least one planet where there is life. Obviously, in order for life to exist there has to be a universe, stars, planets, etc. This means that the most fundamental disciplines to study are particle physics and cosmology, because the laws of nature they are trying to understand govern the behavior of everything that happens in the universe, its origin and evolution, etc. Then we have life, which is studied by biology, how it works, its origin and evolution, etc. Life is a small subsystem of the universe, and as far as we can tell, it is entirely governed by the same laws that physics is studying. Then we have life on Earth a small subsystem of which is the human species. Then we have human culture which is a emergent epiphenomenon of human biology, so it is yet another smaller subsystem within a small subsystem. And then we have Western culture which is a subset of the whole of human culture.

    In the light of that, how on earth is the study and practice of Western culture the most important thing to do when it is such a tiny insignificant subsystem of the universe? You must be a complete idiot to claim that, yet many do…

  102. Anthony McCarthy

    The bottom line is that Kelvin, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein were right far more often then they were wrong. SLC

    The bottom line is that believing things that aren’t supported by the evidence doesn’t condemn them to being wrong about other things. And that being right about some aspects of science doesn’t confer special abilities in other areas, such as religion. I don’t think there’s any more reason to care about what even a fine scientist thinks of religion than even a very fine street sweeper. If the street sweeper is a kinder person who consistently treats people and animals better, I’d go with what they say about it.

  103. Anthony McCarthy

    But they had it very wrong for a very long time because they didn’t know enough. Now we know more. So what is that we really know? There is a universe with galaxies, stars and planets. Within that universe there is at least one planet where there is life…. GM

    Well, what we know about it doesn’t mean that what we don’t know about it is anything like what we do know, as Ruben Hersh said, The aspects of the cosmos studied in physics yield to mathematical analysis. That’s far from saying the cosmos is altogether mathematical. There can be no basis for such a statement except religious faith. But it’s a familiar human tendency to think that what we don’t know must look a lot like what we do know. This is a good principle for guiding scientific research. It’s not credible as a philosophical principle.

    And in the discussion of religion, you’re well outside of the proper subject matter of science and what is said about even the physical universe that science can’t deal with, science can’t tell you anything about. Science is not able to tell you anything about possible divine control of the universe, either for or against the idea. You don’t have to believe it but what you are doing is believing in a position, it isn’t science. Though I’m well past the stage that I think you’re able to comprehend that idea. I’m just stating it for the record.

  104. Jon

    What the deep questions are not are question concerning morality, ethics, and relationships between people. Those things matter very very little…

    Sorry, can’t read this without thinking you’re someone trying to parody your position…

  105. Anthony McCarthy

    Ken Miller declared that those who belong to faiths hostile to science should discard their memberships in such faiths Jn. K

    Why just faiths? Why not political parties or employment by corporations that deny published science or suppress science they have produced? Why single out religion for that treatment when its potential damage to science is of so much less consequence?

    I asked Orac once, during one of his periodic attempts to charge all religious believers with the crimes of parents who withhold treatment from their children on the basis of their religion, why he didn’t have even greater animosity for insurance companies that withhold treatment from hundreds of millions of people every year. Insurance companies are responsible for the deaths of an estimated 40,000 Americans every year, yet the ire of the Hate Faithheads club doesn’t seem to be roused by that cargo cult. I asked Jerry Coyne exactly the same question citing what I’d asked Orac. The response was, as they say, *crickets*. And there are many other areas where similar questions could be asked. You could ask the converse of many religious conservatives.

    There is virtually no large religious body that is uniformly hostile to religion, they’d have to forbid their adherents from studying or becoming scientists to have that be an accurate idea.

    I agree with H. Allen Orr on the NOMA idea, that the existence of scientists who are religious shows that there are no two non-overlapping magisteria that don’t intersect because these scientists couldn’t exist if that was true. I don’t think the analysis of this with Venn diagrams or as dogmas in dialect conflict are accurate and the evidence couldn’t be clearer that is an obviously faulty idea.

  106. gillt

    McCarthy: “Let me repeat, gillt, creationism is a specific form of Biblical fundamentalism…”

    I see, so you think you can spew creationist arguments all day but because you hold to some strict definition of creationism (better termed young-earth creationism) this exempts you from any greater implications endorsing creationism.

    You trade in sophistry, which is why you’re not taken seriously.

  107. Anthony McCarthy

    OK, gillt, give us the gillt definition of “creationism”, what it is what it isn’t. Especially how someone who DOESN’T believe in the Genesis story of creation, who says that science demonstrates it couldn’t be true, is a creationist.

    I’m expecting to hear more of those *crickets * anytime now.

  108. Anthony McCarthy

    Just noticed, I must have cut off the ending of “dialectical” in 107. These letters as so tiny on my browser.

  109. GM

    106. Jon Says:
    June 23rd, 2010 at 10:52 am
    Sorry, can’t read this without thinking you’re someone trying to parody your position…

    Do you have anything of substance to say?

  110. Jon

    Do you have anything of substance to say?

    Right. You mean about those kewl galaxies and stars as opposed to the insignificant humans we were all born from the loins of?

  111. Anthony McCarthy

    You’ve got to hand it to the Power Rangers of Scientism, if there’s one thing they have an ability to ignore it’s that they’re human beings having all their thoughts about all that nifty science stuff with their very human minds. They want to leave all that sissy stuff out of it.

  112. GM

    Anthony McCarthy @ 105.

    This has been beaten down to death, why do I have to go over it again? Yes, you can not disprove the existence of God. It is the goal post-moving nature of the hypothesis that renders it inaccessible to falsification (but you can prove his existence, which, so it happens, nobody has come remotely close to). That does not mean that you are allowed to jump from the fact that “You can’t disprove God’s existence” to the absolute conviction that “The Judeo-Christian God exists and everything the Bible says about Jesus is true, so I am going to worship him”. You are not even allowed to jump to the conclusion that a deistic God exists. Because there is no evidence for that either. It is not so hard to understand.

    Meanwhile all the available evidence points to the conclusion that deities are entirely cultural constructs, and we basically made them up. In our image.

    What is very conveniently left out of the discussion every time someone brings up the old “Collins-Miller-Ayala etc. so science and religion are compatible” canard is that they do not just believe in God, they are Roman catholics or evangelical Christians, and those religions make a number of other totally unsubstantiated claims about the world in addition to the existence of God. And the people in question believe in a lot of these claims too.

  113. GM

    112. Jon Says:
    June 23rd, 2010 at 12:02 pm
    Do you have anything of substance to say?
    Right. You mean about those kewl galaxies and stars as opposed to the insignificant humans we were all born from the loins of?

    What you did was to completely evade providing any argumentation for why what I said is wrong. You just asserted it is not worth discussing. One would not expect that level of behavior from someone who calls others “philosophical barbarians” …

  114. gillt

    Indeed, any useful definition of creationist encompasses Collins very specific belief in a designer/interventionist deity. He asserts that morality was gifted to humans alone by this deity, a deity who intervened and continues to intervene–obviously for a biologist at the quantum level–in human evolution. If Collins is correct, then natural selection as we know it is a failed theory. So the only difference between Collins and a YEC is a matter of degree, not a difference of kind.

    As for McCarthy, employing an argument popular among creationists and then whining how unfair it is that people assume you’re endorsing creationism is obtuse.

  115. Jon

    GM– Your mistakes are actually much more interesting and instructive than any statements I could make setting you straight (which would probably take quite a while, with doubtful success). Please continue on as you were…

  116. GM

    Please, feel free to set me straight

  117. Jon

    It’s hard to know where to start. And your mistakes are just too perfect. Like I said, I thought you were parodying New Atheism. Seriously, I thought you were someone out there laughing up your sleeve and typing, “Humans, who cares about humans. It’s not that they’re kewl like black holes and stars and s***t anyway.” I mean, what’s the phrase they use on the intertubes, “you can’t make this stuff up.”

  118. John Kwok

    @ GM –

    Thanks for displaying your ignorance. Noted planetary scientist Guy Consolmagno (also the Vatican Astronomer and Jesuit Brother), cel biologist Ken Miller, ecologist Michael Rosenzweig, invertebrate paleontologist Keith Miller (no relation to Ken, but is an Evangelical actively opposed to creationism), evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky, and many, many other scientists can and have distinguished between what they must do as scientists and what they can believe in privately as devoutly religious adherents of a given faith. They operate (in the case of Dobzhansky have operated, since he is deceased) in a far more rational manner than what I have read or heard from the likes of Simon Conway Morris and Francis Collins who conflated their religious values with their scientific knowledge and duties. But Conway Morris and Collins aren’t unique. I detect similar attitudes amongst the so-called “Affirmative Atheists” (a more apt term is Militant Atheists or New Atheists IMHO.), including, I must assume, yourself.

  119. Anthony McCarthy

    Indeed, any useful definition of creationist encompasses Collins very specific belief in a designer/interventionist deity.

    So, there you have it, everyone, in gillt’s Compendium of Lexicographic Convenience, you can be a creationist even if you fully accept the evolution in geological time, as supported by contemporary science, even accepting natural selection as among evolutions’ mechanisms, modern genetics and the whole sheebang, AND FURTHERMORE if you oppose the introduction of any aspect of religious idea into science classrooms while being an entirely conventional supporter of evolution, if you believe in a creator God, you are a creationist.

    You can’t argue with people this fundamentally dishonest. They twist everything, even words to suit their IDEOLOGICAL position. They are fanatics who don’t value the truth.

  120. Anthony McCarthy

    GM, see the last sentence in my last comment.

  121. GM

    Show me where exactly I have said that “humans aren’t as kewl as black holes”. Again, this does not suit someone who claims that others are philosophical barbarians.

    Based on what we have learnt over the course of human history until the year 2010, humans are indeed totally insignificant and the universe does not care at all about us. This is what the evidence shows.

    If you claim that this just can’t be and humans just must be the center of it all, you are the intellectual equivalent of a 4-year old, no matter how much you like to loudly call others names

  122. Anna

    :-D

    Based on what we have learnt over the course of human history up to now, I’d say on a planetary scale humans are quite significant indeed. It didn’t take us long at all to exert a powerful and likely irreversible impact on Earth.

    Re black holes and the rest of the universe, give us time.

    Back to lurking . . .

  123. ThomasL

    GM,

    Sorry, you don’t seem to actually understand philosophy much (at least moral philosophy). There are incredibly fine subtleties in philosophical work, and they actually agree far more than they disagree (like science, the more granular you get, the more there are disagreements). Most of us are only aware of the major disagreements and the most popular thinkers (often the results being that there is a rethinking about what previous writers were doing and the realization that something in it was misunderstood…). I gave you the example of a Socratic work that is every bit in line with the work of the existential thinkers 2,500 + years later (an object construct of “friend” will never hold, yet we all seem to know what such is…). That we don’t like such conclusions is rather like your statements about “science shows such and such necessity and cares not if we agree…”.

    Reading all the stuff that comes up in these conversations shows me more about who you all have read, and who you all have avoided. Many seem to be pretty up to date on the most recent work (which in general is pathetically weak), but really haven’t studied much about how we got from the enlightenment to now (and even there it sounds more like most of you only read the crib notes or what someone else said about what was said concerning those thinkers… a very dangerous thing to do in philosophy). The thinking in the 18th & 19th century Continental Philosophy are very important part of the current road to understand. Be cautious about how much you think you get current thought when a chunk underlying it is missing (like thinking you get Nietzsche because you read some, yet fail to realize he is writing as a philosopher about something going on in philosophy…)

    I’d seriously recommend reading Jean-Paul Sarte’s play “Dirty Hands”. Pay special attention to Hugo (an example of your thinking) and Hoederer (the counter understanding) when he points out “With us others, it’s not so easy to shoot some chap for the sake of a theory, because we’re the ones who cook up the theories and we know how they are made. We can never be entirely certain we’re right.” You also might want to take a look at Kierkegaard’s’ response to system building…

    “I live as the creator of life and once lived, give the sociologist something to study…”

  124. John Kwok

    @ Anthony –

    I was paraphrasing what Ken Miller had said in a private talk on the current state of American science education with respect to the teaching and understanding of biological evolution.

    Gillt’s definition of who is a creationist could apply equally well to Ken unfortunately, and similar definitions stated by PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne led both to state that Ken was a creationist (Though I have noticed that Jerry has backed away somewhat from that position.).

  125. Anthony McCarthy

    Gillt’s definition of who is a creationist could apply to a good number of scientists who were instrumental in the development of evolutionary science, notably Gregor Mendel, without whom, the genetic support for natural selection would have had to wait considerably longer.

    I don’t move in those circles but I wonder what Coyne makes of Orr, who I believe co-wrote at least one thing with him.

    Gillt is obviously too emotionally wrapped up in resentment and bitterness to think clearly on these issues, GM as well.

  126. John Kwok

    @ Anthony –

    Think he still thinks highly of Orr, since they co-authored an important treatise on speciation that was published back in 2004 (Haven’t seen it, but I know it is regarded by many as a classic.).

    I concur with your observations of those two (the final sentence of your comment @ 127). They merely illustrate what I discerned a long time ago; that the so-called “Affirmative Atheists” – as the New Atheists like to call themselves now – tend act with far more emotion and far less logic (which is why they ought to be dubbed “Militant Atheists” IMHO) than what I have seen from an uncle who is a retired Methodist minister (with a doctorate in divinity from the University of Chicago BTW), and from many religiously devout scientists, of which Ken Miller is just one example.

  127. gillt

    The fact is, McCarthy views everything through the lens his own political prejudices, and in his effort to challenge every perceived challenge coming from his political opponents (the new atheists) he traded integrity for a lame creationist talking point, which he was called out on and subsequently had his feeling hurt over.

    Sure, Mendel was a creationist and also the father of genetics. I’d likely have been a creationist in his day as well. But that’s all irrelevant and besides the point. It would be like saying Aristotle was a misogynist, which would be true by today’s standards, but by his culture’s standards he could almost be considered a feminist. Collins is a creationist by today’s standards.

  128. Anthony McCarthy

    The fact is, McCarthy views everything through the lens his own political prejudices, and in his effort to challenge every perceived challenge coming from his political opponents gillt

    No one should ever make the mistake of thinking the new atheists are deficient in their capacity to create irony.

    Collins is a creationist by today’s standards. gillt

    Only by the standard you invent if you’re an especially dishonest new atheist hack who has no concept of where the boundaries of science and other areas of life are.

    Ironic, isn’t it, that Ruben Hersh ascribes that kind of faith to being religion. But just as ironic is to see gillt defending Aristotle, but then, that’s in the new atheist collection this season. The fashion will change, in time, though.

  129. ThomasL

    Well, he did say Aristotle was 99% wrong (while simultaneously being a genius). They do seem to be selective while having very fuzzy lines though…

  130. Mike McCants

    “that will not be the case if the scientists show up wanting to convert, or deconvert, or debunk, or whatever”

    In other words, all religions “go forth and convert” and indoctrinate their innocent children, but scientists are not welcome to do the same. That would be too rational. So exactly what is this “dialogue” really about? Truth? Or respect for all religions without criticism? I thought so.

  131. ThomasL

    GM #123,

    “Based on what we have learnt over the course of human history until the year 2010, humans are indeed totally insignificant and the universe does not care at all about us. This is what the evidence shows.”

    Exactly. Now, with that understanding, the question becomes “thus, how should I live?” We have a language for that, but all you see is objectivism and the mythical (philosophically constructed mythical) – and can’t even recognize the numerous differences in expression such thinking has entailed, rather than the demands such an understanding place on ones existence…

  132. John Kwok

    @ gillt –

    Collins is such a good creationist that he was one of the talking heads featured in the AMNH Darwin exhibition that has been touring the world, along with Eugenie Scott, Ken Miller and Richard Fortey, among others:

    http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/darwin

    If Collins was a “good creationist”, do you honestly think that Darwin exhibition curator Niles Eldredge would have video footage of him? I strongly doubt it.

    Having said this, however, I do not approve of Collins’s BioLogos Foundation or his efforts at linking his Christian theology to science. But he is a highly regarded scientist, and a great scientific administrator, and it is for these reasons he was appointed by President Obama to be the current head of NIH.

  133. GM

    ThomasL @ 125:

    I have never claimed to understand much of moral philosophy. I understand enough to know it is useless. As I said above, you can not claim that the study of the ecology of one species on one planet is equally important to the study of the fundamental laws of nature. After all the latter determine everything that happens in this universe so it is in our best interest to know it, while the former determines pretty much nothing.

    Regarding uncertainty, I’m sure you are aware that scientists live with uncertainty all the time. But in the same time repeated confirmation of theories strengthens them to the point at which it does not make much sense to doubt them all the time. Which does not mean they are not a subject to revision if new evidence comes in, just that nothing would ever get done and no progress be made if we didn’t believe in anything we learn.

  134. gillt

    Is this the ThonmasL AGW denier? Anyway, I don’t recall ever saying Aristotle was 99 percent anything. What I did was point out the insipidity in McCarthy’s Mendel example: Equating Mendel’s creationism to Collins’ is a historically clueless thing to say.

  135. ThomasL

    Yes GM (@135),

    I actually don’t disagree with you on the importance of knowing scientific truths – but knowing the answers to such things will never answer if I should or should not have married my wife, if someone is or isn’t a friend, how to deal with a problem child or numerous other problems encountered in the actual act of living one’s life – only living out the choice will. You will never have an equation to answer those types of questions with any certainty, but the soft sciences give one a much better understanding then knowing how to figure out red and blue shifts ever will…

    Living with uncertainty and living with the realization that it matters not at all, yet I must still act in my life, are not the same thing. Underneath all your ramblings is the idea that science matters. There are no exceptions to the existentialmetaphysical problem that NOTHING matters except that which we make matter, and then only in one’s own life…

  136. ThomasL

    Gilt (#136)

    Don’t recall ever “denying” anything, though I have asked questions and pointed out complications in the pat answers of alarmists (I don’t appreciate over simplification, being treated like an ignorant child who can’t handle the probability bands and uncertainties or someone trying to “scare” me into thinking something). Thank you for lowering yourself enough to deal with my questions. I also truly hate when people make clams of things as certain when there are all sorts of unknowns. I view a lot of it like the paper or plastic bags argument of 30 years ago. Everyone was “100% positive” that plastic was more environmentally friendly… We see how well that’s worked out. Again, I’m pretty certain I am doing quite a bit more in the area of actually generating green energy and being resource aware than most… Obviously because I don’t think it matters.

    I have also tried to point out that any “solution” that ignores human nature, political limits and economic realities – and the consequences of pushing any of them past their breaking point may be far worse than dealing with the natural consequences. Again, keep watching what is transpiring around the world – and its cause is simple economic limits and reality coming home to roost. Force it a little more and when the nukes start going off and civil wars break out all over the place tell me how much better things are (never underestimate what a society is willing to do to protect what it views as its interests irrespective of what the political leader’s desire…). The natural consequences will transpire over time and force adaptations at the same pace. Many of the forced solutions I see being championed obviously come from those who have not a clue about anything in the social sciences and what happens when you push entire societies past their breaking points for what are viewed as “optional” actions by the public at large.

  137. Anthony McCarthy

    What I did was point out the insipidity in McCarthy’s Mendel example: Equating Mendel’s creationism to Collins’ is a historically clueless thing to say.

    Well, first “fairness” now “historically”. Gillt’s talking history. But maybe it’s “fairness” and “history” as in gillt’s special and novel “creationism” which includes people who not only don’t accept creationism but who also oppose including any mention of a “designer” in public school biology and science classes. I don’t recall even other new atheists twisting the dictionary in knots to that extent with that term, though I’ve been reading less and less of them since they all say pretty much the same thing and they don’t vary that much. Their fad of citing Aristotle as if he was some kind of persecuted and neglected figure of science — guess they discount pretty much the past thousand years of Christian philosophy as never having happened — being one of the few new things I’ve noticed. Though, maybe that should be “Aristotle” as in the Ayn Rand cult’s “Aristotle”, after their god-person who oddly enough didn’t seem to have ever read him much either.

    Gillt, the triumph of ideological dishonesty over evidence, truth and lexicography.

  138. gillt

    For future reference ThomasL, I never try to incite responses that take the form of ludicrously off-topic, unfocused rants, though in your defense it made me smirk.

    PS. did you just suggest that attempting to curb climate change now will result in a planet-wide nuclear holocaust down the road? And if so, was that informed by your awesome grasp of the social sciences or extensive readings in moral philosophy?

  139. John Kwok

    @ Gillt –

    Too bad you seem incapable of addressing my point that one of our great evolutionary biologists, Niles Eldredge, doesn’t think Francis Collins is a “good creationist”. Nor does he regard Ken Miller as such, whom others, both here and elsewhere online, have dubbed as one too.

  140. TB

    @ 83

    “I often wonder why I am the only one who notices certain very negative trend in people’s thinking. ”

    ROFLMAO!

    “Isn’t that attitude similar to religious people “lying for Jesus?” Don’t we (correctly, IMO) castigate those people’s actions when they do that?
    You could only say this if you thought that the idea that Jesus was a God and he came to save us has any merits. Or if you think that science is as false as Christianty.”

    Or I could point the actions of some of the defendants in the Dover trial and how they were “dishonest” about where they got the money for the Pandas textbook. Or would tearing that particular strawman of yours apart count as a negative trend in my thinking?

    “What you are blaming scientists who do basic research for is not even a lie, and it actually helps people, it is just that they can’t see the immediate benefits, for which the fault is entirely their own.
    As I said in the thread you are referring to, you’re displaying a quite militant anti-science (and anti-intellectual in general) attitude. Not good.”

    Criticizing one person for endorsing “dishonest” behavior means I’m criticizing all of science? No GM, that’s an obvious fallacy on par with questioning a war means you don’t support the troops.

    “Once again, something has negative connotations, therefore it is incorrect and we should stay away from it. Very nice logic, only problem is that it doesn’t hold. That we have to implement some form of population control if we are to preserve anything resembling an advanced civilization (and avoid even worse things) follows inevitably from a large body of very solid scientific work. ”

    That you don’t repudiate the more extreme examples I gave of “population control” is very telling. You didn’t separate the science from the actions we need to take in response to the conditions we’re informed of by the science. If the science is correct then anything we do in response to it is also correct? Another, very dangerous, fallacy.

    106. Jon Says:
    “What the deep questions are not are question concerning morality, ethics, and relationships between people. Those things matter very very little…
    Sorry, can’t read this without thinking you’re someone trying to parody your position…”

    I know! I can’t believe he’s a real scientist. If he ever outs himself and he is a real scientist, you know the tone of the writing found in any grant proposal would conflict drastically with the tone of his posts here regarding getting those grants, and would at least spark an uncomfortable conversation with administrators. But people are stupid …

  141. TB

    First:

    “93. GM Says:
    June 23rd, 2010 at 6:18 am
    Reinhold Niebuhr was no deist. Can someone tell me how his views conflict with science?
    Very simple – he believed in something without any evidence in support of that claim”

    Then

    “132. Mike McCants Says:
    June 23rd, 2010 at 5:47 pm
    “that will not be the case if the scientists show up wanting to convert, or deconvert, or debunk, or whatever”
    In other words, all religions “go forth and convert” and indoctrinate their innocent children, but scientists are not welcome to do the same. ”

    People believe in things without evidence all the time, and often neither the scientific method or religious faith are involved. Belief without evidence by itself is not necessarily unscientific (no evidence means no proof for OR against) and certainly not anti-science by default. But thinking so IS unscientific.
    And why in the world would we want to use the worst methods of promoting anything – religious-style conversion and indoctrination – to advance anything let alone science?

    This kind of extremist thinking makes my point about the strong scientism streak running through the New Atheist movement.

  142. GM

    Criticizing one person for endorsing “dishonest” behavior means I’m criticizing all of science? No GM, that’s an obvious fallacy on par with questioning a war means you don’t support the troops.

    I said that you are anti-science. Because according to you, if research doesn’t have an obvious “benefit to taxpayers”, it should not be done. Which is a position as anti-science as it gets

    The rest of your post consisted of mostly evading any answers to my arguments, another trend I notice.

  143. GM

    133. ThomasL Says:
    June 23rd, 2010 at 8:28 pm
    GM #123,
    “Based on what we have learnt over the course of human history until the year 2010, humans are indeed totally insignificant and the universe does not care at all about us. This is what the evidence shows.”
    Exactly. Now, with that understanding, the question becomes “thus, how should I live?”

    Science (evolutionary biology in this case) provides an objective answer to that too. You should live in a way that will ensure the survival of your genes. Because as unpleasant as it may sound, the reality is that this is the sole purpose of your existence. You exist as a human being because one of the many ways in which the ancestral self-replicating nucleic acid molecules modified themselves over billions of years of evolution happens to code for a human being. In other words, you are a vehicle for the genome to propagate itself. So are all other organisms on this planet.

  144. ThomasL

    Gilt,

    We had those conversations long ago – they included commentary on economics in regards to suggested “solutions” ((hey, how’d Krugmen go over in Germany with his Keynesian ideas? (and even more, why would those who profess to understand the limits of nature and the impossibility of never ending growth support an economic theory that at its core is based on – never ending growth…?) How did the G20 respond to Obama? What is Great Brittan planning on doing? How well are the states looking?)). Sorry if you can’t remember anything of previous conversations past the touting of “denier” at someone. I had, and continue to have, questions on AGW, just as I have, and will continue to have, questions on just about everything I can think of. I didn’t realize this conversation was about that, however you brought it up. I therefore responded.

    For a current example of what trumps (AGW or economics), just keep an eye on the GoM and BP. It’s already starting in fact (http://www.zerohedge.com/article/bp-now-too-big-fail, http://www.zerohedge.com/article/guest-post-bankrupt-bp-worse-financial-world-lehman-brothers). GM states lots about energy budgets and the science there of dictate everything. On the Universe level I agree 100%. Unfortunately humanity works on the lived level, and economics will trump every time. Thus I think it is obvious that to ignore the “soft” sciences is indeed dangerous.

    GM and I have been having a back and forth debate for awhile about something you obviously know even less about than he – I actually respect some of his views, he just hasn’t thought it through far enough. You haven’t thought it through at all. It would seem all you know in this debate is the New Atheists and writers from the past decade or so (and sorry, I graduated 25 years ago, so I only read enough of them to know they are competent scientists but moronic wanna bee philosophers who know very little about any of the past 4,000 years of thinking… they didn’t exist when I studied).

  145. John Kwok

    @ GM –

    That’s one of looking at it (@ 144). But I will not condemn others, such as for example, an uncle who is a retired Methodist minister (the one with the divnity degree from the University of Chicago that I had mentioned earlier), or former US Army Muslim chaplain James Yee (one of my cousins), for having other, substantially different, interpretations, as long as they are not conflated with what we recognize as valid science. So it is most presumptuous of you – and I say this as a former evolutionary biologist BTW – to assert that evolutionary biology “provides an objective answer to that”.

  146. ThomasL

    GM,

    Go farther – as we know, the chances of ever getting off this planet are beyond remote, and even if we managed to survive as a species until the end of our solar system (highly unlikely) we still all die and life is still devoid of meaning. The Gene issue is a biological drive, not a reason to act in life. Many choose to not have children (the U.N. is actually predicting a falling world population within the next 40 years…), yet they still must live a life and perform functions in it. Biology explains lots of things. It, again, does not help me make daily choices outside of how to maintain my physical health…

  147. Mateo

    Science (evolutionary biology in this case) provides an objective answer to that too. You should live in a way that will ensure the survival of your genes. Because as unpleasant as it may sound, the reality is that this is the sole purpose of your existence.

    I wonder what would happen if someone tried to apply such a principle via a mass political movement? Oh, wait…

  148. GM

    ThomasL @ 148

    Yes, the chances of getting off this planet are remote, but the chance of going extinct if we don’t is 100%. So the choice is clear. But in order to have a chance of getting off this planet, preservation of technological civilization and the knowledge it has accumulated should be the highest imperative.

    Which, as ironic as it is, means that one should live in a very similar way to what little consensus has emerged from moral philosophy, i.e. altruism should play a big role most broadly speaking, which is why I speak of the need for population control – as an evolutionary strategy, it is better for some of my genes to get propagated because I share them with the rest of the species than for the whole species to go extinct and with it all of my genes. Which in turn means that some rethinking of what it means to be a human is needed, and the vast majority of work in the “humanitites” actively impedes that, thus my problem with it

  149. gillt

    @McCarthy: if you don’t support creationism why regurgitate a popular creationist argument that badly misrepresents science?

    @ThomasL: What you wrote at #138 makes you sound like you’re off your rocker–maybe it’s because you’re as old as you say you are. The science behind AGW is robust enough to warrant a wide consensus among the experts. You are not an expert and your personal incredulity is not an argument for or against AGW.

    There is an important conversation going on as to what we should do about GW but that conversation doesn’t include absurdly dire warnings of a pending nuclear holocaust. What I’m saying is, you have completely removed yourself from this important conversation.

  150. TB

    144. GM Says:
    “I said that you are anti-science. Because according to you, if research doesn’t have an obvious “benefit to taxpayers”, it should not be done. Which is a position as anti-science as it gets”

    Oh, there’s that “dishonesty” again” And in quotes too! Where did I say research needs to have an obvious “benefit to taxpayers” and if it doesn’t it shouldn’t be done?

    Show me.

    I never said that and I don’t hold that position. Show me where I said that, especially the specific part you have in quotes.

    Show me where I wrote the quoted words.

    “The rest of your post consisted of mostly evading any answers to my arguments, another trend I notice.”

    Project much? I answer only as much as is needed to discredit your arguments. You don’t have to knock out every card to bring the whole house down.

    And this particular house is your own arrogant, strong scientism that you’ve argued justifies that “grants are “dishonestly” written in the “it is health-related” frame all the time so that people can get money to do actual science”

    Now that’s how you quote someone, GM. Using their actual words.

    Is it “criminal” (your word, not mine)? I have no idea, no actual evidence to know whether you’re a real scientist or just an anonymous internet commentator puffing himself up. But we can address the philosophy that drives that particular statement, yes we can.

    We can note that you seem to think “health-related” research isn’t actual science.

    And the statement suggests you think it’s OK to be “dishonest” about research aims in order to get taxpayer money to fund research that you yourself don’t seem to believe conforms to the requirements for getting that specific money. The research in question may be legitimate and important, but that doesn’t mean it deserves to get funding from that specific source.

    Unless, of course, if any means justifies your arrogant, strong scientism ends.

  151. ThomasL

    Yes Gilt,

    I am as old as I say I am (we’ve had dozens of conversations in here Gilt, can’t you remember any of them other than “Oh, you’re a denier” – because I dare to question in order to learn?). It has given me the time to recognize quite a bit they don’t teach one is school, and the time to go substantially farther in my studies then the four years of a bachelors and the 5~6 more years for MastersDoctorate (actually my children are both in college now – so yea, I’ve been around a while). I’ve also had a chance to live in the greater world where I have done all sorts of things, been involved in the development and implementation of all kinds of things, and dealt with thousands of people whose opinions and thoughts were greatly different than my own (forcing me to think substantially harder about what I thought I knew).

    If you can’t piece together what is going on in the world and where it likely leads (hint: what, historically, has lead to every major armed conflict?) you still have quite a bit to learn about your fellow man that studying the test tubes in your lab won’t help you with. I do believe I mentioned to you before that maybe you ought to go out in the world and rather than trying to tell everyone else how to think take some time to listen to what is going on in the undercurrents of current opinion. Then tell me how secure you feel.

  152. ThomasL

    GM,

    Getting off this planet (something like colonizing Mars, for example) is at best interesting Science fiction. Successfully migrating out of the solar system is more along the lines of fantasy. And again, if we know in the end none of it matters (we all die), such would include getting off the planet. Biologically speaking suicide doesn’t exist – yet our species does such all the time. The first clue that biological reasons will never suffice for a reason, nor dictate a course of action…

    You state the obvious, but then follow with what you condemn the “religious” for doing. I find you continually looking for an underlying justification for a specific course of action and belief (science as salvation is a belief system…).

  153. GM

    What exactly makes you think that science is a “salvation” for me???

    And what exactly do you suggest that we do given the situation we’re facing? It is all very nice to talk about the importance of philosophy and how one can not be certain in anything, but what do you suggest to do in the real world? We never hear that…

  154. Jon

    what do you suggest to do in the real world? We never hear that…

    I answered that upthread… Get serious, fine, but don’t go illiberal…

  155. Absurdist

    -Yes, that’s right: America’s leading scientific society has created a program to foster more dialogue between science and religio

    Actually America’s leading scientific society is the National Academy of Sciences

  156. Thomas L

    Science as hope, salvation, inspiration – all the same. Science tells us the cold hard facts, not what to do with them.

  157. Thomas L

    Oh – what I suggest is simply that you engage and live as best you can figure out how. Lighten up on others for choosing other then you (it is their life, not yours) and realize there is far more involved than simple biological or scientific understandings (it’s that whole blessedcursed with reason thing – it would all be much simpler if like a dog we all just lived without much thought, but it is not how we are made…). While important, for many there is really not much of concern to them there, they are far busier with other tasks. Be grateful they pay attention to science at all and stop ripping them for asking questions.

  158. John Kwok

    @ Absurdist –

    You’re nitpicking. I would regard AAAS, along with NAS, as “America’s leading scientific society”.

  159. John Kwok

    @ Thomas L. –

    I concur completely with your observations (@ 158, @ 159). IMHO he’s trying hard to emulate not only a Vulcan, but maybe too, either a Borg or a Dalek.

  160. Anthony McCarthy

    McCarthy: if you don’t support creationism why regurgitate a popular creationist argument that badly misrepresents science?

    I didn’t “reguritate” any argument, used by creationists. If your screed can be deciphered you’re referring to my point that alleged intervention at the quantum level of matter by God is not a topic that can be part of science. Well, it can’t be. That’s not an argument of creationism, it’s an argument by people who understand what science is. It’s also not an argument of new atheists who don’t seem to be much more clued on on that matter than creationists.

    Science can’t tell you why you should continue to make dishonest arguments in this discussion, gillt. It also can’t tell you why you shouldn’t, though you don’t seem to be making any headway. But, as the saying goes, you’re free to waste your time any way you want to.

    Personally, the idea contained in that argument is a matter of can’t know, don’t care, don’t see how it can make me a better person, so it’s not a question I care about as a matter of religion. Sort of how the Buddha handled that area. Actually, sort of like Jesus did too.

  161. Anthony McCarthy

    I strongly doubt that people are going to be able to go to live elsewhere in the solar system. I doubt human bodies can be sustained in zero gravity or even the gravity of Mars for extended periods of time. I think the whole idea is a huge waste of money and science.

    If GM wants to try, I’m in favor of him making the attempt. Maybe he can do what Flash Gordon did.

  162. qbsmd

    Anthony Grant,
    The argument regarding the definition of “creationism” you use in post 89 is identical to one I’ve seen used to argue that Intelligent Design is not creationism; in fact even old earth creationism wouldn’t be. As has been pointed out, your definition only includes YEC. I don’t want to make any assumptions; do you consider intelligent design a form a creationism?

    In 109, you asked for a different definition for creationism. My first instinct would be to say that a creationist is someone who believes in a creator, though I realize that isn’t consistent with the connotations of the word “creationism”. You made a good point that some who have been called creationists “oppose the introduction of any aspect of religious idea into science classrooms”. Perhaps a definition for creationist better matching what people usually mean would be someone who advocates teaching non-scientific ideas related to evolution in schools. Unfortunately, then the definition has been separated from from what people believe about evolution and attached to their ideas about politics and education.

    I would agree that Ken Miller and others probably shouldn’t be called creationists, but the problem is that there are intelligent design proponents, for example, that believe in the geology related to earth’s age, that natural selection is real, and even in common descent. They argue, however, that something else was necessary (to produce “specified complexity”, new information, nontrivial beneficial mutations, etc). Ken Miller has also proposed that a god could manipulate DNA to produce beneficial mutations, including those leading to humans (though he later claimed he was suggesting a possibility, not stating his own beliefs), therefore the difference between his actual beliefs and theirs are quantitative rather than qualitative and trying to demarcate which beliefs are creationism becomes setting an arbitrary threshold on a continuum. Unless any suggestion of supernatural interference in natural evolution is creationism, which is where some people draw the line.

  163. John Kwok

    @ Anthony –

    Perchance t o dream. You are someone who has such little faith. It was said, more than a century ago, that man could never have powered flight, and that was believed until two brothers from Dayton, OH, Orville and Wilbur Wright, demonstrated otherwise.

    Some day we will live elsewhere in the solar system. Humans have survive in zero gee for approximately a year and a half with no long-term serious adverse medical problems. I am sure they will survive a journey to and from the planet Mars that may last nearly three years.

  164. gillt

    ThomasL: “you still have quite a bit to learn about your fellow man that studying the test tubes in your lab won’t help you with.”

    Test tubes? Yikes , you are old, and for all your worldly experiences (I’m like totally impressed, btw.) you have never seen the inside of a laboratory, or weren’t paying attention if you had. If you want to look stupid stereotyping what science is and what scientists do, you’ll have stiff competition here, and so I suggest you at least try an be funny or creative when doing it.

    McCarthy: anti-science, anti-intellectual and sounding like a creationist:

    #63: science has been wrong about stuff therefore religion and science are equal.
    #68 Science doesn’t infer, therefore god.
    #72: because god isn’t mentioned in a science textbook, therefore god. (you can’t get any more creotard than that!)
    #89: insisting on his own being the only religiously useful interpretation of the Bible.
    #89 science can’t detect things at the subatomic scale, therefore god.
    #90 everyone knows that science is god-awfully dull, therefore it’s of limited use.
    #105 science can’t even deal with certain parts the physical universe.
    #107 NOMA is so true that if it were ever proven false religious scientists would literally cease to exist.

  165. Thomas L

    John Kwok,
    It’s a nice dream, but there are substantial difficulties in achieving either. The farther one goes the more those difficulties become insurmountable. Surviving in zero G is actually the least of the issues (and biological reproduction seems to be somewhat impaired, at best, under such circumstances). Landing on the moon taught us a few things, one of which wasn’t previously considered and has proven to be more than a tad difficult to overcome. There has been no erosion. To say the edges of the dust particles are as sharp as a razor is not hyperbole. The equipment damage caused as a result is hard to underestimate. Then you have radiation concerns… and the time needed to get somewhere outside our solar system is very prohibitive – and no guarantee there will be anything at the end to inhabit, at best we would have a probability, and likely not a very high one. Add about 100 other major issues and you start getting the idea.

    One may put their “faith” in such all they want (as worked out above, what we know is there are at best probabilities in any theory we take as “certain”, absolute anything is likely beyond our reach – which doesn’t mean we don’t still have to act and live. What it does mean is one shouldn’t be high on themselves and think they know everything, or even that what they do know means anything at all…), but at the moment that is all there is, hopes and dreams, not any workable science for it at all.

    That doesn’t mean I begrudge anyone working on it, just that they sell it for what it is, not what they wish it were. Society may agree or disagree about funding, but then it is their choice…

  166. Anthony McCarthy

    do you consider intelligent design a form a creationism? qbsdm

    For any useful purpose, the issue of creationism is important because of two problems, one major and one minor. The minor one is to keep it out of the formal substance of science, which is the responsibility of scientists, a job that is fairly easy and so the problem is, for all practical purposes non existent. The major one is keeping creationism out of public schools, which is far harder and the real reason that creationism, in all its guises is a big problem. That problem is both a matter of the development of science and a matter of politics.

    There’s a reason I’m always talking about what science was intended to do and the methods and practices that people have developed to do it and that people don’t only do science throughout their lives, it’s because you can’t understand the issues of the alleged struggle between science and religion without always keeping that in mind. I think it is the key to getting past that futile and destructive struggle, at least by people who want to be honest.

    The appearances of similarity in what I’m talking about are deceiving but only if you don’t understand that there is an essential difference stemming from what science is and the kinds of ideas that can and can’t be part of science and the difference between that and belief of the kind that quite acceptable in religion or politics or philosophy.

    There are two different things that could be called “intelligent design”. There is Intelligent Design, of the kind that was shown in court to have been invented to disguise creationism in order to insert creationism into public school science classes, pretending that the belief that God created and directs (to one extent or another) the development and action of the universe. Of course, that’s dishonest because even if there is a designer that designer isn’t susceptible to the methods and of science and so the whole ID attempt starts and finishes as an explicit attempt to fraudulently package itself as science. It’s hardly an example of letting people know the truth, never mind setting them free and so it’s in violation of religious morality as well as science.

    But there are people who understand and accept that there is a difference between belief and the knowledge that science can produce and who also believe in a creator God. You can believe that God created and directs the operation of the physical universe, from the smallest and most subtle to the largest knowable structures and also know that belief has no place in science. If you want to call what they believe in “intelligent design”, which they almost never do these days, you’d have to acknowledge their understanding of the difference and their not dishonestly trying to insert it into science or public school class rooms. At least if you want to be honest about it. They seem to want to be and don’t try to mix their religious belief where it can’t go.

    That belief has coexisted with science in the only places that science exists, within the mind of scientists, from the beginning of science. The ability of science, in the wider world, to exclude that belief from its external substance, papers, publications and class rooms, has certainly been more successful than its ability to keep out commercial and professional fraud. Any intrusion by religion on science has to be quite blatant in order to succeed because it would be notice to achieve its purpose. Because of that, it would have to be extremely easy to find.

    I asked gillt a year or two ago to produce evidence to support his contention it was a major problem and he came up with a grand total of one statement that was inserted in the middle of a paper that was accepted by a journal even after it was allegedly reviewed by reputable scientists. He found it because other scientists saw the paper and protested that statement that got through the reviewers and so it never got into the print edition of the journal. As an aside, I’d say that was not a problem of science trying to sneak unnoticed into science but the shoddy practices that are allowed in review these days. There is virtually no problem of keeping religion out of the substance of science. If there is a problem, it’s entirely the responsibility of science to correct its peer review procedures.

    That shoddy review is far more of a problem with other kinds of fraud, professional and commercial which have been much harder to find and keep out of the common consensus that constitutes the findings of science. They are far more of a problem because they can be far subtler to achieve their purposes. Even honest scientists will take that kind of fraud on faith than they will any attempt to insert religion into science. I’m troubled that they’re so much less concerned by something that’s a far bigger problem, as climate change denial and the fraudulent signing off on things like deep water oil drilling by scientists and engineers prove. There is a major financial and political motive in that kind of fraud and it’s extremely difficult to keep science honest that way. Politically, I don’t think there’s any coincidence that the major supporters of ID are almost always among the major supporters of climate change denial and other forms of commercially profitable scientific fraud.

  167. Anthony McCarthy

    I shouldn’t write these long comments this early in the morning.

    These should read:
    As an aside, I’d say that was not a problem of religion trying to sneak unnoticed into science but the shoddy practices that are allowed in review these days.

    Even honest scientists will take that kind of fraud on faith far more quickly than they will any attempt to insert religion into science.

  168. qbsmd

    “For any useful purpose, the issue of creationism is important because of two problems”
    That assumption is probably the root of much of this argument. Others have stated that one important issue is the blurring of science with un-scientific ideas, or using science to give credibility to religion. The other is people trying to place limits on science in order to exclude the parts that don’t fit their religious or political beliefs.
    I’d agree that keeping creationism out of formal science is a non-issue.

    “You can believe that God created and directs the operation of the physical universe, from the smallest and most subtle to the largest knowable structures and also know that belief has no place in science.”

    Is that how you’d like to define the word “creationist”: one who thinks their belief in a creator is part of science or supersedes science? And then believers who respect the line between science and non-science are not creationists? I’d go along with that.

    “you’d have to acknowledge their understanding of the difference and their not dishonestly trying to insert it into science or public school class rooms. At least if you want to be honest about it. They seem to want to be and don’t try to mix their religious belief where it can’t go.”

    I did acknowledge that; I said “You made a good point that some who have been called creationists ‘oppose the introduction of any aspect of religious idea into science classrooms’. Perhaps a definition for creationist better matching what people usually mean would be someone who advocates teaching non-scientific ideas related to evolution in schools. Unfortunately, then the definition has been separated from from what people believe about evolution and attached to their ideas about politics and education.”

    Of course, the definition above handles both those issues well.

  169. Anthony McCarthy

    Gillt, a congenitally dishonest ideologue with no qualms about lying and who knows I said none of these things he lists above.

    If you want to look to see what I said here about the last one on this thread where I said the idea of NOMA was obvioulsy flawed.

    Gillt, do you get paid to misrepresent things or do you just like doing it?

  170. John Kwok

    typo, so am reposting –

    @ qbsmd –

    I think Anthony McCarthy has demonstrated consistently that he regards Intelligent Design as unscientific and probably closer to YEC than to bona fide science. However, I concur that his is a narrowly-defined definition of creationism, and one that, unfortunately, IDiots (ID advocates) use in contending that ID isn’t creationism (However, when you dig a little deeper, you will read admissions from the likes of complex specified information guru Bill Dembski that all ID is really the “logos” of Saint John. Now if that isn’t creationism, then what is?).

    However, I disagree with his assertion that NOMA isn’t a useful concept. Provisionally, as well as operational, it describes the state of affairs that do exist with respect to science and religion, and even someone as eminent as physicist Lisa Randall has invoked it (implicitly) when she observed:

    “Empirically-based logic-derived science and faith are entirely different methods for trying to approach truth. You can derive a contradiction only if your rules are logic. If you believe in revelatory truth you’ve abandoned the rules. There is no contradiction to be had.”

    (You can read the rest of her comments here:

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/coyne09/coyne09_index.html#randall

    Ironically hers are sufficient reasons why her high school and college classmate Brian Greene probably should think anew about having yet another Science Faith session at next year’s World Science Festival, unless, maybe, such a session is devoted only to the issue of “accomodationism” and/or to what extent should a religiously devout scientist compartmentalize between science and faith. )

  171. John Kwok

    typo, so am reposting –

    @ qbsmd –

    I think Anthony McCarthy has demonstrated consistently that he regards Intelligent Design as unscientific and probably closer to YEC than to bona fide science. However, I concur that his is a narrowly-defined definition of creationism, and one that, unfortunately, IDiots (ID advocates) use in contending that ID isn’t creationism (However, when you dig a little deeper, you will read admissions from the likes of complex specified information guru Bill Dembski that all ID is really, nothing more than some version of the “logos” of Saint John. Now if that isn’t creationism, then what is?).

    However, I disagree with his assertion that NOMA isn’t a useful concept. Provisionally, as well as operational, it describes the state of affairs that do exist with respect to science and religion, and even someone as eminent as physicist Lisa Randall has invoked it (implicitly) when she observed:

    “Empirically-based logic-derived science and faith are entirely different methods for trying to approach truth. You can derive a contradiction only if your rules are logic. If you believe in revelatory truth you’ve abandoned the rules. There is no contradiction to be had.”

    (You can read the rest of her comments here:

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/coyne09/coyne09_index.html#randall

    Ironically hers are sufficient reasons why her high school and college classmate Brian Greene probably should think anew about having yet another Science Faith session at next year’s World Science Festival, unless, maybe, such a session is devoted only to the issue of “accomodationism” and/or to what extent should a religiously devout scientist compartmentalize between science and faith. )

  172. Anthony McCarthy

    I think that NOMA is unrealistic because of the existence of religious scientists but also because it doesn’t take into account that religion isn’t restricted in the same way that science is, either in subject matter or in methods and proceedures. There isn’t any reason that religion can’t use the best information that science produces, a point so obvious that even gillt lifted it from me here last week. Religion can encompass science, science can’t encompass religious beliefs. Once you get past the convention of thinking about it with Venn diagrams and consider the issues logically instead of graphically, the difficulty disappears.

    Creationism and it’s PR arm industrial ID, use the general concept of people who believe in a creator god that directs the universe but they try to force that idea into science and science classrooms. If they didn’t do that the problem would disappear.

    If I really wanted to stir things up I’d point out that for the vast majority of people who need a knowledge of biology and who will never take more than the one high school course, an accurate knowledge of evolution is about as useful as a knowledge of the cuneiform writing system. For them, it’s mostly an optional, cultural issue and so they find no problem with holding inaccurate viewpoints on the subject.

  173. ThomasL

    You’re right Gilt,

    I should never use common terminology to draw a picture for you with language in a universally instantly recognized way & I know nothing about “modern” labs (because both of my kids studying the hard sciences and numerous family members and friends who have spent their lives in various scientific fields has obviously kept me in the dark about such things…). I should always be as serious as you show yourself to be.

    You really are an egotistical young kid, aren’t you? Hope that works for you in the greater world (which unless you’ve already been tenured you’ll likely find yourself out in as austerity heads your way…).

  174. Anthony McCarthy

    Sorry, I was reading up from the bottom of the thread.

    I’m always glad to be able to agree on points.

    The other is people trying to place limits on science in order to exclude the parts that don’t fit their religious or political beliefs. qbsmd

    That’s a problem, it’s not a problem inherent to religious belief, it’s a problem of the people who do that. You can be religious or hold a political ideology and not do it and it is regularly done selectively, even by scientists who are atheists and apolitical. To say that makes religion a problem isn’t any more logical than saying it makes adaptationism a problem for those who emphasize genetic drift or the eternal struggle among different branches of science (especially for funding).

    The real problem is the need to keep religious fundamentalism out of science classrooms, which is, ultimately, a political struggle not a scientific one. I don’t think that the extreme, new atheist, attempt to claim science as their property is helpful in doing that, it causes a cultural and political reaction. I am very skeptical about the reliance of courts to produce a secure wall of separation in public institutions. Seeing what the Supreme Court has been doing since Rehnquist was first Chief Justice, it’s looking like a pretty dangerous strategy for all kinds of progressive issues. I think, ultimately, it’s going to depend on a majority of the voters understanding and accepting that science is no danger to their religious beliefs and that their religion is safest when government isn’t manipulated to favor any one religious point of view. That will be a lot more achievable than the new atheist dream of converting the world to its beliefs.

  175. gillt

    McCarthy: “I asked gillt a year or two ago to produce evidence to support his contention it was a major problem and he came up with a grand total of one statement that was inserted in the middle of a paper that was accepted by a journal even after it was allegedly reviewed by reputable scientists. He found it because other scientists saw the paper and protested that statement that got through the reviewers and so it never got into the print edition of the journal. ”

    Truth be told, McCarthy, in typical fashion, asserted that there was not once instance of creationism or ID slipping into a real science journal, therefore religion doesn’t pose a threat to how science is done. It was a lame challenge and a tangential issue, but I provided him with an example and he tried to say it didn’t count, and was subsequently called out by others for his refusal to admit it.

    This from the same person who argues that science doesn’t infer god because there aren’t any science papers mentioning god.

  176. gillt

    @ ThomasL: And your children aren’t embarrassed by a dad who oversimplifies and stereotypes science, and who believes the masses will awake from their slumber and spark a nuclear holocaust if we act now to curb GW?

  177. Anthony McCarthy

    Truth be told, McCarthy, in typical fashion, asserted that there was not once instance of creationism or ID slipping into a real science journal, therefore religion doesn’t pose a threat to how science is done. gillt

    I’d be surprised if I made that statement, it sounds more like the gillt form of discourse than mine. “not once instance of creationism or ID slipping into a real science journal” No, I don’t think I’d make that assertion. You have the quotation and the reference to where I said it? If I did I certainly wouldn’t have any problem modifying it.

    I do seem to recall there was a quibble about whether or not the preliminary release online constituted publication but it’s been a while.

    So, how does this flagrant act of inserting a statement about religion into a grand total of ONE paper that the irresponsible and lazy reviewers didn’t catch until other scientists did and which was then deleted constitute an emergency of religion being inserted dangerously into science?

    I’d love to know how come it’s a bigger problem than the constant problem of scientists signing off on all kinds of deadly and destructive activity of industry and extraction industries, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, climate change denial and other bogus science that is rampant.

  178. Anthony McCarthy

    This from the same person who argues that science doesn’t infer god because there aren’t any science papers mentioning god. gillt

    You want to explain what the world this is supposed to mean? In what way does science “infer god”? And, as I asked you before, where are we supposed to go looking for scientific evidence except for in published papers and textbooks? You see, gillt, I don’t think it’s really science until enough people have read it so if there’s a problem someone could point it out and it could be given the peer review test or experimental replication or some such other useful test of reliability. You’re not proposing that’s a matter that could be the subject of experimentation, are you?

    What kind of math do you propose you’d use to derive this “inference”?

  179. ThomasL

    Not at all Gilt, they know how to remember conversations and keep things in context, something I have yet to see you do in all the time I have been hanging out here.

    You also seem to like to ignore the obvious fact that the moment you move from “science shows “x””, to using such results to say “which implies we should do “y””, you have made a very serious intellectual error, every bit as dangerous as the “religious” inserts you rail against. Science says what is. It makes no value judgments and could care less about results. Physical matter can never be “wrong” or come to an erroneous result. Anytime you transit to “should”, in any form, you have moved to belief system and comparative worth. That’s all part of ethical systems, political belief systems, sociological systems, psychological systems and other such unworthy areas of study – but has no place masquerading as science. Yet somehow you seem to think the only “enemy” is religion hiding as science? Personally I think the problem with current science is the inability to keep all the belief systems separated from it.

    The continuing spewing of such confusion states volumes about the state of education, intellect and professional integrity present in today’s “academics”. I am happier then you could ever imagine I went to school when I did (before they turned it into a paper mill) than you will ever be able to comprehend. You think you are somehow cute, yet all I’ve seen is you mostly annoying everyone, no matter their viewpoint. Something to be mighty proud of. I’m sure you help lots of people think clearer with such tactics.

    Oh, you did notice the Romanians tried to storm the president’s residence today just as thier court ruled they can’t make the austerity cuts they had passed (and the IMF demanded)? Now we get to see how the EU and the IMF respond… yes Gilt, things on the world stage just keep looking more and more stable every day…

  180. gillt

    You claimed it never happened, I proved you wrong. It’s just that simple.

    Because I never came out and said Big Pharma wasn’t a threat to science, doesn’t mean I you get to assume I don’t think it isn’t. You never asked what my thoughts were on the subject, and so you’re setting up a false dichotomy. One can only laugh at this obvious sophistry.

    The fact that we haven’t observed a deity driving human evolution is plenty of justification for rejecting such an hypothesis.

    By the way, I, and the rest of the world, are all ears if you have a better way of accurately describing natural phenomenon other than relying on impartial observation, reproducible evidence and hypothesis testing.

  181. Anthony McCarthy

    gillt, unless you come up with me saying “it never happened” there isn’t any reason for anyone to assume your memory is accurate. I certainly don’t recall ever making that statement as you’ve stated it. If you want to point out where I said it and what, exactly, the words I posted you’re referring to were I’ll see if I was so rash. You are able to search, aren’t you? It was your citation, I’d suggest you use search terms relevant to that infamous incident.

    You have the typical habit, not peculiar to new atheists but shared by them with other fanatical zealots, of attributing positions to people on the basis of YOUR changing things they said. I doubt anyone but your fellow NAs here wouldn’t have noticed.

    I never said anything about you rejecting the idea of ” a deity deriving human evolution ” I just said if you did you wouldn’t be practicing science when you did it, no more than those who accept that idea would be. You can reject it any old time you want and it will be a matter of complete indifference to me.

    As in the interminable go rounds over other matters which you know I don’t believe in and so was not arguing that, the only thing I’ve ever said is that science doesn’t do anything except on the basis of evidence that can be processed by science. I’m afraid you are the one who is trying to find a better way of describing natural phenomena, through your ideology. Something I’ve rejected just about every time we’ve clashed.

    And it’s only those natural phenomena that can be treated by science at any time that science can give us reliable information about. The ability of science to give us any information about the others is pending, at best, of unknown reliability in a more honest sense. If I can extend what Reuben Hersh said, your belief that science can deal with anything but physical questions, is religious faith, not science.

  182. John Kwok

    Anthony.

    I strongly disagree with your interpretation with respect to the relationship between religion and science, Physicist Lisa Randall really hits the proverbial nail on its head here:

    “Empirically-based logic-derived science and faith are entirely different methods for trying to approach truth. You can derive a contradiction only if your rules are logic. If you believe in revelatory truth you’ve abandoned the rules. There is no contradiction to be had.”

    They are truly two distinct means of trying to search for the truth. Although modern Western science did arose from the Judeo – Christian religious tradition, it soon left its “cradle”, becoming quite a different means of searching for the truth. This is a key point which was also recognized by devoutly religious scientists Guy Consolmagno (the Vatican Astronomer and a Jesuit brother) and Ken Miller last year during the World Science Festival’s panel session on Science Faith Religion which was not – contrary to the claims of some – supported by the Templeton Foundation.

  183. gillt

    ThomasL: “You really are an egotistical young kid, aren’t you?”

    How quaint. Now I have two old farts shaking their bony fists at me.

  184. Anthony McCarthy

    Not as quaint as your peruke falling off as you take snuff from your snuff box, Mr. Sneerswell.

  185. GM

    181. ThomasL Says:
    June 25th, 2010 at 3:57 pm
    You also seem to like to ignore the obvious fact that the moment you move from “science shows “x””, to using such results to say “which implies we should do “y””, you have made a very serious intellectual error, every bit as dangerous as the “religious” inserts you rail against. Science says what is. It makes no value judgments and could care less about results. Physical matter can never be “wrong” or come to an erroneous result. Anytime you transit to “should”, in any form, you have moved to belief system and comparative worth. That’s all part of ethical systems, political belief systems, sociological systems, psychological systems and other such unworthy areas of study – but has no place masquerading as science

    The absurdity of this statement can not be overstated. So if, according to you, decision making should not be based on scientific knowledge, then what exactly should it be based on? The superstitions of ignorant semi-literate desert goat herders who lived 4000 years ago? The mental masturbations of several hundred generations of otherwise very smart but not much better informed philosophers? On tribal traditions and customs often completely at odds with reality? Or maybe, there shouldn’t be any decisions making at all so that we spare ourselves the headache of settling the question are we going to be reality-based on fantasy-based society?

    Of course science tells you what is. It also tells you what was and most importantly, what will be. But you’re basically saying that none of this matters…

  186. gillt

    Thomas: “You also seem to like to ignore the obvious fact that the moment you move from “science shows “x””, to using such results to say “which implies we should do “y”” you have made a very serious intellectual error every bit as dangerous as the “religious” inserts you rail against.”

    Really? Insisting that public policy decisions be based on sound science is an intellectual error akin to creationism in the classroom? That’s a very anti-intellectual way to see the world. Promise you’ll never run for office.

  187. ThomasL

    GM,

    I thought we already agreed on that – in scientific terms, it doesn’t. it just is, or isn’t. One is no better then the other. Man gives value, not nature. Or are you know trying to tell me the universe actually CARES if there is life on this planet?

    Yes, decision making should at least in part be based on “scientific knowledge”, but the decision is a result of how we, the existing thing, feels is most important given such knowledge. You always want to forget there are almost always other aspects of everything any person ever decides. We like to pretend it’s all just logical action, but mostly it’s just rationalizing. Logic is good for that.

    I already stated above one still needs to act. I realize gilt jumped in and did his usual sidetracking thing, but that last quote of mine is exactly in line with the progression of our above discussion (just taken to the end).

    If you want to tell me the universe gives a damn I might have to rethink the whole creationism thing…

  188. gillt

    So, it’s just before the 200th post where ThomasL feels uninhibited enough to bare his blatant anti-intellectualism. McCarthy usually exposes himself a bit sooner.

  189. Thomas L

    Nothing anti-intellectual about it at all gilt. Most who know me in person actually think I’m one of the worst intellectual snobs they have ever known, I’m just not a jerk about it…

    This conversation is really above your grade level, let GM & I continue it undisturbed please, unless you actually have something to add to it.

  190. GM

    ThomasL @ 186

    I thought we already agreed on that – in scientific terms, it doesn’t. it just is, or isn’t. One is no better then the other. Man gives value, not nature. Or are you know trying to tell me the universe actually CARES if there is life on this planet?

    Of course the universe doesn’t care. And “values” do not exist in it. But then why are we even discussing whether there should be religion or not? That’s what I don’t understand – you will say something sensible and the next moment there will be complete howler of a statement…

    Yes, decision making should at least in part be based on “scientific knowledge”, but the decision is a result of how we, the existing thing, feels is most important given such knowledge. You always want to forget there are almost always other aspects of everything any person ever decides. We like to pretend it’s all just logical action, but mostly it’s just rationalizing. Logic is good for that.

    What is the other part of decision making according to you? If decision making should be “at least in part” based on science? Of course people are rationalizing already taken decisions most of the time. It doesn’t mean it has to be that way. It is quite robustly built within the way our brains work, but there are people who are much better at overriding that impulse than others, and this usually comes with a lot of training.

  191. ThomasL

    GM,

    You seem to want to turn people into something they aren’t, or at least have never shown any real ability to be. That is why taking some time to learn the “soft” sciences matter – it teaches us about how we are instead of how we dream about being. While there is always room for improvement, we cannot escape our nature any more than any other animal can escape theirs. The ability to rationalize, reason, communicate and create complex logical “proofs” amongst other things is part of that nature. The result of those “human” skills is we can flip the finger at rational action and, for example (as pointed out above), commit suicide, fight massive wars, lie, steal, mislead & lots of other “irrational” things. I don’t particularly think people should be religious, but I also find no fault with them being so. I accept many (in fact all, some hide it better than others) search for reasons to be.

    But it is dangerous to ones intellect to ignore that their own personal beliefs are always just under the surface of how they feel about things and are just as active in our “reasoning” as any religion. You find the desire for “ultimate truthreason” in science (which I understand, as I always found science to be very mentally stimulating), others find it in other things, one of which is “religion”. My point about religion is that those who think religion is about finding a “thing” called “God” manage to miss the point of religion just as assuredly as those who profess science shows we must do “x” fail to realize they have switched areas of knowledge and turned science into a pseudo-religion (which isn’t to say I would disagree with the recommended action, but rather that we are now working in comparative values which are not part of the hard sciences).

  192. ThomasL

    GM,

    Some hanging out in moderation, so this may make more sense after the one above it comes through.

    Exactly, none of it matters – we make it matter through the act of living it (whatever “it” may be for one) or choosing to pay attention to it. Thus it matters “to me”. There is no requirement that it mater to another, and I think we have already agreed that the universe is indifferent.

    Tens of thousands of generations managed to live with no idea of our current scientific facts. Many more may follow us and look smugly at our simplicity as we do towards those from 100 years ago (or, as gilt shows us, from a generation still living ago…). Does that mean life wasn’t lived, or even lived well?

  193. Anthony McCarthy

    Anti-intellectualism, it’s no fun arguing with you, gillt, when all you do is call names and try to twist the meanings of words. It turns into a tedious job of cleaning up after you. But, then, your cult is, more or less, an intellectual frat house. How about if I just say, grow up.

  194. Anthony McCarthy

    The superstitions of ignorant semi-literate desert goat herders who lived 4000 years ago? GM

    Someday I’ll track down that cliche of NAs and find out which of the Brights came up with it. It’s pretty stupid. Those “ignorant goat herders” aren’t the ones engaged in destroying the biosphere like the PhDs in Geology and Physics, the last two heads of BP. Just about all of the most horrible behavior having that effect is a product of science prostituting itself to the interests of the economic elite.

    While the information that science provides is essential to saving us from the result our inherent selfishness, it does nothing to curb it and, so, isn’t what’s going to save us. Every day it looks more and more as if the major effect of science has been to give immoral people greatly enhanced capacity to destroy us all. Which isn’t anything I’d like to be true but the evidence shows that it certainly is.

    The mental masturbations of several hundred generations of otherwise very smart but not much better informed philosophers? GM

    Oh, including that William of Occam you guys are always going on about. I wish he was around to see how a cult of ignorant, ill informed and irrational bigots invoke him daily in their attacks on religion. If you lot weren’t so ignorant you’d know the irony of that, you’d know that in his philosophy God was the only essential entity, all others being lesser than and contingent. Not that you’d care about that level of intellectual honesty.

    And if you knew a little more, you’d know that your thinking matches some of the more fanatical anti-intellectuals of the stage when Christianity was first being corrupted into an imperial system. But you’d have to know something outside of the NA reading list, something that you think is beneath you and, since you’re the keepers of The Truth, unnecessary. Yet you’re surprised when other people don’t kow tow to your brilliance.

  195. John Kwok

    @ Gillt –

    Have to concur with Thomas L. You’ve become a mere distraction, though, I suppose, what more can I expect from New Atheist Pharyngulite lurkers stopping by. Have become intrigued with Thomas L. and GM’s discourse, and so much so, that I’ve already bowed out from that discussion. Why don’t you, unless you are prepared to address some of the points I have been raising here over the last few days? But then again, I suppose that might be a bit too much to ask.

  196. GM

    OK, I’ll wait for the post in moderation to appear

  197. gillt

    McCarthy: “I certainly don’t recall ever making that statement as you’ve stated it. If you want to point out where I said it and what, exactly, the words I posted you’re referring to were I’ll see if I was so rash. You are able to search, aren’t you? It was your citation, I’d suggest you use search terms relevant to that infamous incident.”

    You brought it up in the first place and now you’re demanding I dig through the archives to prove you wrong. You’re lazy.

    Kwok, I’ve always tried to ignore you, please extend the same courtesy.

  198. GM

    ThomasL @ 193:

    It doesn’t really work the way you describe it. If religion was something harmless, there would have been no problem with just letting people believe what they want to believe if it makes them feel good. But it is not, as even the most moderate form are actively jeopardizing the survival of the species. Now, whether the species survives or not probably doesn’t really matter much in the cosmic scheme of things, which I am perfectly aware of. So I find myself asking why is it that I care about whether the species survives or not if it doesn’t matter and the explanation is that as that because I am merely a vehicle for my genome to propagate itself, the imperative to do that is very deeply ingrained in my, and everyone’s, behavior. Thus the urge to try to save the species from itself. This is really stronger than any rational attempts to suppress it, and it is really quite a rational thing to do given the biological imperative I mentioned above.

    With this in mind, it is actually quite possible to devise a very rational “ethical” system of norms, which is the reason I readily discard the majority of the philosophers who completely missed that point (as they hardly ever thought of humans as a species or were familiar with the concept to begin with). Obviously, if the species goes extinct, we will not be talking about any ethics and moral philosophy, thus everything should be subordinate to the preservation of the species in the hierarchy of goals and values. Within the restraints of that requirements one can start thinking about maximizing the freedom and happiness of individuals, but only within those restraints. Of course, you can, and probably will, dismiss this as another “belief”, but it actually logically follows from understanding of what the basic drivers of human behavior are

  199. John Kwok

    @ GM –

    You can’t paint with a broad brush and imply that religion isn’t harmless. What religion is of course, is a human invention, but one devised to strengthen community bonds and enforce codes of ethics. As a human invention, it has been the vehicle through which we have seen some of the most vile as well as some of the most noble aspirations of humanity. For completely different reasons, science, as a human invention, has been witness to – if not actively involved – in both the most vile and most noble aspirations of humanity. Or, rather, to paraphrase physicist Lisa Randall, science and religion are merely two different ways at trying to discern the truth; an observation which even religiously devout scientists like cell biologist Ken Miller and Vatican Astronomer – and Jesuit brother – and planetary scientist Guy Consolmagno can and do recognize.

  200. ThomasL

    Better GM,

    And I apologize in advance for the length of this one, but we’re hitting some of the true complications of motivating anyone to do something we deem to be worthwhile (and building an ethical system is substantially harder than you think). We’re also trying to do it on a blog which makes it much more difficult than if we had hours sitting around a table having a beer or two… Something I wouldn’t mind, for as we may not agree (and we don’t have to – see above), you are a solid thinker when pressed, we just know different areas of it all. We would both likely learn something…

    So, with that, here goes:

    You’re seeing in “religion” people’s failures to even live what it is they profess to believe rather than what it is the “religion” is trying to instill. You might not be amazed that that I can state over half the people I know who profess to believe in one type of “Christianity” or another haven’t ever even bothered to read the bible that it is founded on, so the fact they are confused doesn’t surprise me (kind of like Kierkegaard trying to point out being baptized did not make one a “Christian”, there was more to it than that). In fact I was watching a report the other day where one commented on an “eye for an eye” – well, yes – if you’re Jewish (and perhaps Muslim, but I haven’t studied that one as much to know for sure). Christianity teaches turn the other cheek…. If they can’t even get that straight imagine how much else is mixed up. Yet, is this the fault of the “religion”, or an indication of how difficult it is to break our nature?

    Every religion I have ever studied has, at its core, the idea that there is no objective reason. You can look at it this way; some prescribe a path out of the meaninglessness by prescribing a course of action which if followed will result in meaning (as found in Judaism or Buddhism for example), others see the concern of human finitude and implicit meaninglessness as itself the essential problem of self consciousness and thus take steps to ignore or obliterate that consciousness of self which is at the core of the problem (Zen Buddhism or Hinduism are examples). All of them attempt to build an understanding of how to act from the starting point of nothingness. As in every area where deep thinking and specialty is involved it is dangerous to assume the words common usage means anything (like a lawyers use of language in a court brief, we all know the common meanings and rarely have any idea what the legal meanings are…). Hence we are tempted to look at such writings as examples of “objective” truth. Most never get past that urge. Yet if we recognize they find their birth, if you will, in the idea there is no objective meaning or truth then it should be obvious that isn’t what is going on in them.

    You want to cling to the idea of rational perfection (first laid out in Aristotle’s Metaphysics, book XII) where rationality is complete and perfect and in his words basically “the condition of all existence”. It is part of why we like science so much (and generally those who like science love math), its correctness or wrongness can be tested and we end up thinking we know something as a result (and worse, that what we know actually matters in some metaphysical sense)…

    But let us compare this to how we, the existing individuals, live real life. We like to flip it (reasoned action) around because it works well with how our brains function. I gave a quote above that tries to get to the problem, but I’ll try to explain it here. There are things where we use logic and reason to help us decide what we ought to do. As an example, when my wife and I make a long term financial decision we spend a lot of time researching and debating what we think, then we act. This type of thing in our species is actually the exception. Most of the time we just do stuff. Then someone comes along and asks us why. At that point we use our ability to rationalize (literally almost anything) and “come up with” reasons. They may or may not have in reality had anything to do with it, but in retrospect it is easy enough to make it look like they did. The result is we all always think we are acting “rationally” when in fact such is rarely even part of the picture.

    Think about when a friend breaks up with their significant other. There are all kinds of searches for “reasons” (we really hate the idea “it just didn’t work”, we want something to blame). Often they inevitably ask for a friend’s advice – and what happens? The friend looks at the whole thing logically, lays it out and gives their advice – which is almost universally argued against by the one who asked for it with an entire laundry list of reasoning as to why that objective view is wrong.

    Thus is the state of man.

    You want to believe that somehow knowing science will change this reality. In some behavior, maybe. In most, likely not at all. What it will do is make one even better at hiding their personal views behind a wall of rationalization, especially if they haven’t been taught to tell the difference between the two. When those in science take the tack of people like PZ mostly they just become another part of the “religious” problem, except they don’t even know what it is they stuck themselves in the middle of, or seem to realize they have turned science into a belief system instead of a presentation of objective understanding….

    You want to think that because science can give us a level of understanding of the natural world it will affect our decisions about what is, and is not, worth living for, or even“how” we should live. That is a very tall order, one in which “logic” almost inevitably fails (live free or die, liberty or death – where in this scientific realm of reason would such actionable attitudes lay?). History is full of examples where death was chosen (willingly) – something your scientific knowledge will never explain (because such actions go against the very foundations of biologic understanding).

  201. qbsmd

    John Kwok Says:
    “Physicist Lisa Randall really hits the proverbial nail on its head here:

    ‘Empirically-based logic-derived science and faith are entirely different methods for trying to approach truth. You can derive a contradiction only if your rules are logic. If you believe in revelatory truth you’ve abandoned the rules. There is no contradiction to be had.'”

    Since you’ve said this twice, you obviously find it important and persuasive. I haven’t seen a response to it, so I’ll take a shot. While I’d agree that believing in revelation is an abandonment of logic, the people who do believe don’t seem to be that consistent. As I understand it theology is all about attempting to apply logic to revelation. Lots of people have lots of arguments that they believe prove or at least justify their religious beliefs. It seems more like people approach truth normally in the empirical-logical way, make exceptions on a case-by-case basis, and then rationalize those cases to the point where they don’t believe they’ve made exceptions.

  202. Anthony McCarthy

    as they hardly ever thought of humans as a species or were familiar with the concept to begin with

    Do you reject physics on that basis?

    What a weird criterion for rejecting an idea other than those topics for which that’s an important consideration.

    Lucky for the world that any philosophy that is the product of the new atheist cult will be too insulting to the majority of people to ever catch on.

  203. ThomasL

    still in moderation, it’s long. may take awhile…

  204. John Kwok

    @ qbsm –

    Had heard two separate, but quite thougthful, affirmations from planetary scientist Guy Consolmagno and cell biologist Ken Miller last year at the World Science Festival’s Science Faith Religion panel discussion explaining how they could compartmentalize their scientific duties and religious vows. Consolmagno, in particular, observed that the regarded religion as truth in search of knowledge, and science as knowledge in search of truth. In Consolmagno’s case, he would probably agree with your interpretation of theology, and did stress some of the more rational aspects of Roman Catholic theology in response to questioning from fellow panelists – and atheists – philosopher Colin McGinn, and especially, physicist Lawrence Krauss.

  205. John Kwok

    @ qbsm –

    I might add that I found this discussion amongst two atheists and two devout Roman Catholic Christian scientists far more insightful and rewarding than what transpired at this year’s World Science Festival Science Faith session, which included a Tibetan Buddhist scholar, Biblical scholar Elaine Pagels, astrobiologist Paul Davies and evolutionary geneticist Francisco J. Ayala. This was due in part to the far more structured format of this year’s panel, but also, because none of the discussion arose to anything as riveting and as insightufl as what I had heard last year (IMHO that’s another reason why I think the WSF Science Faith sessions have run their course and need to be replaced. Moreover, one of the panelists, Elaine Pagels, was clearly out of her depth in trying to explain how religion could be compatible with science and vice versa; she was not even remotely as insightful as Davies and especially, Ayala, were.).

  206. qbsmd

    “The other is people trying to place limits on science in order to exclude the parts that don’t fit their religious or political beliefs. qbsmd

    That’s a problem, it’s not a problem inherent to religious belief, it’s a problem of the people who do that. You can be religious or hold a political ideology and not do it and it is regularly done selectively, even by scientists who are atheists and apolitical. To say that makes religion a problem isn’t any more logical than saying it makes adaptationism a problem for those who emphasize genetic drift or the eternal struggle among different branches of science (especially for funding).”

    For that sentence, I was referring to YECs who argue “just a theory”, and “different interpretations of the same evidence” (they claim certain limited observations are science, and reject the idea of theories that make successful predictions). Similarly, people who reject AGW and then attempt to justify that position. I don’t see different departments competing for funding as anything close to the same thing, unless there are physics departments out there arguing that biology isn’t really a science. Maybe if you better explained your example…

    “The real problem is the need to keep religious fundamentalism out of science classrooms, which is, ultimately, a political struggle not a scientific one.”
    I would agree that that is a problem, and it is a political one. However, there are other problems that stem from religious fundamentalism.

    “I don’t think that the extreme, new atheist, attempt to claim science as their property is helpful in doing that, it causes a cultural and political reaction.”
    First, I know you implied it, but I want to state it explicitly that that isn’t an argument that “new atheists” are wrong, but that they should shut up for political reasons. Second, if no one other than “new atheists” ever claimed that science and religion were incompatible, that might make sense, but fundamentalist religious leaders make the same argument (that science leads to atheism) with far more influence. They’ve already caused the cultural and political reaction.

    “I am very skeptical about the reliance of courts to produce a secure wall of separation in public institutions. Seeing what the Supreme Court has been doing since Rehnquist was first Chief Justice, it’s looking like a pretty dangerous strategy for all kinds of progressive issues.”
    Fair enough.

    “I think, ultimately, it’s going to depend on a majority of the voters understanding and accepting that science is no danger to their religious beliefs and that their religion is safest when government isn’t manipulated to favor any one religious point of view. That will be a lot more achievable than the new atheist dream of converting the world to its beliefs.”
    Voters will probably only be convinced that “science is no danger to their beliefs” if they have beliefs that aren’t “in danger”. Fundamentalist Christians, who insist that the Bible is intended literally, for one, will never be convinced of that. And since you brought up progressive issues, there are others besides evolution where the opposition is religious. In the end, you’re advocating trying to convert people to religions that are more agreeable with your beliefs, as compared to trying to weaken religion overall. They seem about equally difficult to me (people have been trying it your way for a long time with limited success), but the second one looks like a better long term strategy to prevent the next generation of conflicts with religion.

  207. GM

    204. Anthony McCarthy Says:
    June 26th, 2010 at 8:58 pm
    “as they hardly ever thought of humans as a species or were familiar with the concept to begin with”
    Do you reject physics on that basis?
    What a weird criterion for rejecting an idea other than those topics for which that’s an important consideration.
    Lucky for the world that any philosophy that is the product of the new atheist cult will be too insulting to the majority of people to ever catch on.

    Biology is not relevant to physics (physics is very relevant to biology though). As I explained, it is the opposite with moral philosophy, which is why I have a problem with moral philosophy. Therefore your objection through false analogy is not valid

  208. qbsmd

    “204. Anthony McCarthy Says:
    June 26th, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    as they hardly ever thought of humans as a species or were familiar with the concept to begin with

    Do you reject physics on that basis?

    What a weird criterion for rejecting an idea other than those topics for which that’s an important consideration.

    Lucky for the world that any philosophy that is the product of the new atheist cult will be too insulting to the majority of people to ever catch on.”

    The laws of physics are not dependent on our species. GM made the statement that he feels ethics should be derived from the premise that preserving our species is first priority, so moral philosophies based on different assumptions don’t work for him.
    BTW, I’ve never seen a “new atheist” say anything as arrogant as your last sentence.

    A more fun question for GM (“everything should be subordinate to the preservation of the species in the hierarchy of goals and values”):
    Would you then advocate euthanizing about 90% of people, because then the species would be much less likely to go extinct given the smaller pressures on the environment (pollution, CO2, overfishing, deforestation, etc.), not to mention wars over limited resources would be pointless due to the excess resources made available? If not, how do you justify saying no, given your moral philosophy based on what is good for the human species?

  209. GM

    202. ThomasL Says:
    You’re seeing in “religion” people’s failures to even live what it is they profess to believe rather than what it is the “religion” is trying to instill. You might not be amazed that that I can state over half the people I know who profess to believe in one type of “Christianity” or another haven’t ever even bothered to read the bible that it is founded on, so the fact they are confused doesn’t surprise me (kind of like Kierkegaard trying to point out being baptized did not make one a “Christian”, there was more to it than that). In fact I was watching a report the other day where one commented on an “eye for an eye” – well, yes – if you’re Jewish (and perhaps Muslim, but I haven’t studied that one as much to know for sure). Christianity teaches turn the other cheek…. If they can’t even get that straight imagine how much else is mixed up. Yet, is this the fault of the “religion”, or an indication of how difficult it is to break our nature?

    Every religion I have ever studied has, at its core, the idea that there is no objective reason. You can look at it this way; some prescribe a path out of the meaninglessness by prescribing a course of action which if followed will result in meaning (as found in Judaism or Buddhism for example), others see the concern of human finitude and implicit meaninglessness as itself the essential problem of self consciousness and thus take steps to ignore or obliterate that consciousness of self which is at the core of the problem (Zen Buddhism or Hinduism are examples). All of them attempt to build an understanding of how to act from the starting point of nothingness. As in every area where deep thinking and specialty is involved it is dangerous to assume the words common usage means anything (like a lawyers use of language in a court brief, we all know the common meanings and rarely have any idea what the legal meanings are…). Hence we are tempted to look at such writings as examples of “objective” truth. Most never get past that urge. Yet if we recognize they find their birth, if you will, in the idea there is no objective meaning or truth then it should be obvious that isn’t what is going on in them.

    But this (what religions are trying to instill) is not how religions work and what they accomplish in the real world. And that’s following your own logic further below. And even if they have “noble intentions” I have a serious problem with they way they try to achieve them as it usually disregards facts and logic. What is the point of making one feel good through lies? Also, you seem to have a lot of faith in the deep meaning of religious texts. I have yet to see hard evidence that the people who wrote them really meant something a lot deeper than what it seems to mean on the surface (even with all the time-and-translation-change-word-meaning caveats). Maybe the Eastern texts are somewhat different, but those blend philosophy and religion so much to begin with. It is a lot like with interpretation of classic works of literature – there has been so much pondering over what they mean over the years that at some point people start to see meaning behind words where no such thing was intended. And the Bible has been the subject of a orders of magnitude more interpretations and study than other works, which you seem to have read a lot of

    You want to cling to the idea of rational perfection (first laid out in Aristotle’s Metaphysics, book XII) where rationality is complete and perfect and in his words basically “the condition of all existence”. It is part of why we like science so much (and generally those who like science love math), its correctness or wrongness can be tested and we end up thinking we know something as a result (and worse, that what we know actually matters in some metaphysical sense)…

    I am not clinging to the idea of science as the only and perfect way to derive objective truth. It is just that it is the best thing we have and precisely for the reasons you mention.
    A. What is wrong with that? B. Is there anything better? No

    But let us compare this to how we, the existing individuals, live real life. We like to flip it (reasoned action) around because it works well with how our brains function. I gave a quote above that tries to get to the problem, but I’ll try to explain it here. There are things where we use logic and reason to help us decide what we ought to do. As an example, when my wife and I make a long term financial decision we spend a lot of time researching and debating what we think, then we act. This type of thing in our species is actually the exception. Most of the time we just do stuff. Then someone comes along and asks us why. At that point we use our ability to rationalize (literally almost anything) and “come up with” reasons. They may or may not have in reality had anything to do with it, but in retrospect it is easy enough to make it look like they did. The result is we all always think we are acting “rationally” when in fact such is rarely even part of the picture.
    Think about when a friend breaks up with their significant other. There are all kinds of searches for “reasons” (we really hate the idea “it just didn’t work”, we want something to blame). Often they inevitably ask for a friend’s advice – and what happens? The friend looks at the whole thing logically, lays it out and gives their advice – which is almost universally argued against by the one who asked for it with an entire laundry list of reasoning as to why that objective view is wrong.
    Thus is the state of man.

    True. And we know it because we have studied it. But…

    You want to believe that somehow knowing science will change this reality. In some behavior, maybe. In most, likely not at all. What it will do is make one even better at hiding their personal views behind a wall of rationalization, especially if they haven’t been taught to tell the difference between the two. When those in science take the tack of people like PZ mostly they just become another part of the “religious” problem, except they don’t even know what it is they stuck themselves in the middle of, or seem to realize they have turned science into a belief system instead of a presentation of objective understanding….

    You want to think that because science can give us a level of understanding of the natural world it will affect our decisions about what is, and is not, worth living for, or even“how” we should live.

    …I have a serious problem with the whole “science as belief system” claim. Why exactly is science a belief system? Aren’t things like respect for evidence, constantly questioning your assumptions and conclusions, etc, all things completely antithetical to beliefs, an integral part of it? It is not “knowing more science” that we argue for, it is the methodology that is valuable and it has a lot in common with what you seem to advocate for. And if it is not the methodology of science, then what should it be?

    That is a very tall order, one in which “logic” almost inevitably fails (live free or die, liberty or death – where in this scientific realm of reason would such actionable attitudes lay?)

    Maybe it is my philosophical barbarianism, but I am completely dumbfounded when asked this question. In the sense that I don’t see the importance of it. Death is a natural biological phenomenon, what is there to ponder over it?

    History is full of examples where death was chosen (willingly) – something your scientific knowledge will never explain (because such actions go against the very foundations of biologic understanding).

    Animals do it too and there are neat evolutionary explanations for why the phenomenon exists

  210. Anthony McCarthy

    The laws of physics are not dependent on our species. qbsmd

    So far as we know today, the laws do, they are a human explanation of their experience of the physical universe using certain, specific methods and tools, none of which are anything but humanly created. We have no other source for them, we know of no other species that explain physical phenomena the way we do. They might, they might be common to any possible intelligent life or they might be peculiar to ours. Other kinds of life, looking at the same things we do might come up with an entirely different explanation. For all we know alien mathematics might be absolutely nothing like ours and our laws are entirely dependent on our mathematics. The way in which those phenomena are now explained can change as new knowledge is gained. All of science is the creation of human beings and all of it is liable to change as new knowledge comes about.

    BTW, I’ve never seen a “new atheist” say anything as arrogant as your last sentence. qbsmd

    You mean you’ve been skipping over gillt’s comments? The new atheism is an elite cult that begins in the practice of mocking and deriding their opponents, that has been an explicit feature of the new atheism as well as its immediate precursors, it’s part of their stated MO. But these self-denominated “Brights” apparently think that’s how you win friends and influence people. Only adding to the irony of their self image.

  211. Anthony McCarthy

    As I explained, it is the opposite with moral philosophy, which is why I have a problem with moral philosophy. Therefore your objection through false analogy is not valid GM

    Oh, goody, you’ll be wanting to have a fight with Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and a lot of your fellow NAs whose creation myths include the idea that “morality” arose because it conferred an adaptive advantage to the resultant behaviors. Which I think is of unknowable validity but which they’ve got a pretty large professional investment in. Personally, I’m skeptical of their Just So Stories but if you want to fight it out among yourselves, I’ll make some pop corn.

  212. ThomasL

    Qbsmd (@ 203)

    More or less, a simplification but an on target one – except part of the problem is they don’t view it as something in need of proof – it is only in being asked the “why” question that such becomes a concern (and that goes beyond “religious” issues – it’s true in almost all our motivations). At that point one is stuck trying to show it’s all actually very logical and reasoned, even though it isn’t. However, yes, we are amazing at constructing systems that are full of hidden contradictions – logic is great for hiding such – it can obfuscate almost anything if all else fails :) (if you study logic long enough and get to the really high levels one of the things you discover is it tells you quite a bit more about how language works than anything else…). Part of what one discovers if they try to build a “moral” system is there are almost always exceptions – like grammar “rules” in English, or think about legal issues – “murder” is not quite so simple a thing as just answering the question “did “x” kill “y”?” The first parts may be easy to come up with – think “though shalt not kill”, but the deeper one goes the more intractable the difficulties become.

    There are also those ideas such as “universality” – things are wrong because if you take some action and try to show it’s “wrongness” or “rightness” by universalizing the action and conclude they obviously are an issue then such goes in the wrongevil category (again, the don’t kill thing – but add to it lying, stealing, cheating – in a purely logical construction they always end up being “wrong”). Yet even though such things are universally recognized as things one should not do we still seem to do them – quite often. Not only that, but when pushed as to a “why did you do that?” we inevitably have lots of “logical” reasons justifying our action “in this instance”… Keep in mind in such constructs there is no “relative badness” – lying is on the same level as killing… So is the problem our inability to recognize we shouldn’t do such, or is it rather such is part of our nature and the “ethicalmoral” system is our rational brains attempt to place some control on such? In other words it has been said, and the more one looks it would seem to be true, we have a serious “split personality” problem (I believe it was Aristophanes who basically put it that if man was an animal he was obviously one gone insane…).

    I seriously doubt if knowing every single scientific truth there is to know would solve that problem or universally get people to behave in a way that everything in known history has failed to accomplish (in other words here and there one might actually manage to live in accord with the understanding, but they would likely be just as much of an exception as, for example, Mother Teresa…).

  213. Anthony McCarthy

    You brought it up in the first place and now you’re demanding I dig through the archives to prove you wrong. You’re lazy. gillt

    I’m certainly not wrong in what I said about it here. When challenged to produce religion dishonestly slipped into the formal publication of science you came up with a massive crime wave consisting of a total of one incident, which had slipped through the lazy reviewers and the publisher but which was noticed by other scientists before it did any “damage” to science. Though I doubt it would have done any even if it went unnoticed. Do you think other scientists would start citing that one sentence in further papers, getting past further alleged peer reviews in other journals, grad students on the make, even undergrads, many of whom are rabidly new atheist? Do you think the allegedly 60% of scientists who are the enemies of religion would accept it as science? I notice you didn’t challenge any of those facts, you tried to deflect it with a charge that I’d made a black and white statement which doesn’t sound like anything I’d normally say but which fits you to a T. And I said if you found it with a citation so it could be checked I’d have no problem modifying it and saying you’d caught me. Yet you pass up the opportunity to humiliate me, something very unlike you. Anyone following this might want to know why you would.

    You are quintessentially dishonest.

  214. gillt

    McCarthy, you are righteously arrogant and blunder into statements you can’t defend, and I exposed this for all to see with a very simple exercise. By any measure, you didn’t fair well in that whole exchange.

    That was the point of the science journal sample, which is why I said it was a tangential point–a triviality really–and why I will not waste my time humiliating you again in front of a different crowd of two. No need to revisit the past when your comments are an endless font of buffoonery. .

  215. Anthony McCarthy

    I say there is no real problem of religion being sneakily inserted into the formal literature of science and that if it was it would be the responsibility of science to correct its review proceedures.

    Do you deny that your inability to find that done more than once would support my contention?

    Arrogant, gillt is calling someone else arrogant.

  216. Anthony McCarthy

    OK, I looked for it myself and found it in about the three minutes since I posted that comment:

    59. gillt Says:
    July 3rd, 2009 at 5:12 pm

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

    Yet to produce.

    Here’s the comment thread, gillt, show I said what you allege I said above, I’ve got to teach in a few minutes.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/07/03/the-survey-data-on-science-and-religion/

  217. gillt

    ThomasL: “I seriously doubt if knowing every single scientific truth there is to know would solve that problem or universally get people to behave in a way that everything in known history has failed to accomplish.”

    No one has made that claim, and it’ not the logical end to an argument, so it’s not an issue. Concerning public issues, the assumption is that informed decisions are better than non-informed or misinformed decision-making. How does belief in miracles, revelation, biblical authority and faith in an afterlife better inform our decision-making ability than other competing “constructs?”

  218. gillt

    Exactly!

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

    and I met your demands with an article in the journal Proteomics I think it was.

    For the life of me I can’t understand why you want to dredge this up…it only hurts your credibility.

  219. Anthony McCarthy

    Here is what gillt alleged I said above. 177. gillt Says:
    June 25th, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Truth be told, McCarthy, in typical fashion, asserted that there was not once instance of creationism or ID slipping into a real science journal, therefore religion doesn’t pose a threat to how science is done.

    This is what I said: 40. Anthony McCarthy Says:
    July 3rd, 2009 at 4:05 pm
    …. Coyne and you have yet to produce a single instance where a scientist has inserted religion into their formal work. If you have the evidence to back up your implied charge it’s your duty to publicize it immediately

    No black and white statement that “there was not once (sic) instance of creationism or ID slipping into a real science journal”, a challenge to show that there had been one. The rest of it was quibbling about the facts of the case, not that an incident hadn’t happened. As to whether or not the instance he cited met the challenge, I’d go with what gillt cited, which I quoted from at the time:

    61. Anthony McCarthy Says:
    July 3rd, 2009 at 5:29 pm

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

    As anyone can see it was a challenge for them to produce the evidence Jerry Coyne, “Deen” et al would need to back up the irrational charge that there was a crisis due to religion impinging on the actual formal substance of science. All I asked was the proof that religion had been introduced into science papers or other formal publications of science. Gillt came up with exactly one of an attempt which made it past some obviously (self admittedly, actually) inadequate reviewers and that it made it into pre publication online, where it was caught by others who read it and the actual attempt quashed BEFORE IT MADE IT INTO THE ACTUAL PUBLICATION. Gillt, as is his habit, tried to twist it every which way to make it into the smoking gun that justified the stands of Coyne, Deen, gillt and other, assorted, NA s

    If you care enough, you might want to read down the thread to see that, unlike gillt, I actually bothered to read the article that GILLT! cited to refute me, he seemed to be quite unfamiliar with what it said, though I do think he skimmed the abstract. I especially liked how he tried to get out of the article, itself, refuting his characterization of the issue. Please not that I had gone further and read what PZ posted on the incident and the Guardian, which practically cribbed PZ on the issue. I also, apparently, got a kick out of gillt having to cite the NCSE, an organization he and the other NA s had been trashing here for weeks as being a hotbed of “accomodationism”.

    That was fun, you want to make any other dishonest and/ or exaggerated charges against me, gillt?

  220. ThomasL

    GM – working on it, will hopefully post it in a bit…

  221. gillt

    What meaningful difference is there between these two statements?

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

    McCarthy, in typical fashion, asserted that there was not once instance of creationism or ID slipping into a real science journal…”

    Because I don’t see one.

  222. Anthony McCarthy

    Gillt, I never expected you to go so far as to feign illiteracy in order to avoid the difference between an alleged unambiguous categorical statement and a challenge to produce what was being alleged.

    Is there no bottom to your dishonesty?

  223. Anthony McCarthy

    More to the answer I gave at 212 above:

    The laws of physics are not dependent on our species. qbsmd

    I think it was put most beautifully here:

    Eighteen years ago I was responsible for a remark which has often been quoted:

    It is one thing for the human mind to extract from the phenomena of nature the laws which it has itself put into them; it may be a far harder thing to extract laws over which it has had no control. It is even possible that laws which have not their origin in the mind may be irrational, and we can never succeed in formulating them.

    This seems to be coming true, though not in the way that then suggested itself. I had in mind the phenomena of quanta and atomic physics, which at that time completely baffled our efforts to formulate a rational system of law. It was already apparent that the principal laws of molar physics were man-made – the result of the sensory and intellectual equipment through which we derive our observational knowledge – and were not laws of governance of the objective universe. The suggestion was that in quantum theory we for the first time came up against the true laws of governance for the objective universe. If so, the task was presumably much more difficult than merely rediscovering our own frame of thought.

    Since then microscopic physics has made great progress, and its laws have turned out to be comprehensible to the mind; but, as I have endeavored to show, it also turns out that they have been imposed by the mind— by our forms of thought – in the same way the molar laws were imposed….

    A. S. Eddington The Physical Universe ; Tarner Lectures, 1938

  224. gillt

    McCarthy: “the difference between an alleged unambiguous categorical statement and a challenge to produce what was being alleged.”

    In this context that is a distinction without a difference and it’s desperation on your part.

    Creationism is a religious belief which I showed can and occasionally does threaten real science. When mistakes are published in the literature, even unintentional one’s, they can spread like a virus and become entrenched. This is a real problem for scientists and the public. For examples, mouse studies that showed vaccines cause autism or that electrons have orbits are famous ones that still persist in the public’s mind but have been widely rejected by among scientists.

  225. Anthony McCarthy

    Gillt, I hope that you’re more honest in your work than you are in argument or someone should start checking your papers. And I don’t mean for things that stand out like a sore thumb like your cited example. And, in order to serve their intended purpose, putting religion in a scientific paper would have to.

    Do you think that someone would have their science polluted by religious faith unawares? Apparently you have such a low opinion of scientists reading abilities that you think they’ll fail to make the distinction I pointed out @224. Though, it’s fairly clear your audience are the sci-jock blog rats who are as gullible as any con man’s easy mark. Those boys will buy anything on faith.

  226. gillt

    Finding an instance of where scientists inserted religion into their formal work was the challenge posed and met. Specifically, the published paper in the journal of Proteomics was an instance of theistic scientists sneaking ID, (hello, religious beliefs!) into their (formal) body of published work. You’re just digging yourself into a deeper and deeper hole.

    I get it, though, you’re afraid to lose face. But someone needs to say it: you either have dementia or zero standards or both.

  227. ThomasL

    GM,

    I understand your point, and I even understand your desire that people be both rational and make decisions based on informed scientific understandings. Here is the problem though. On some level most understand there is no objective ultimate reason. There is also thus no rational way to view something as mattering more than something else (despite what our ability to rationalizebuild systemscreate meaning and what have you may produce). In fact the more one delves into science the harder it is to escape this conclusion (I’ve presented the idea most religions start from that conclusion). Some see that as a recipe for fatalism, but I don’t necessarily think it has to be. I attempted to draw some idea of that above, but it really takes a book (or several) to do well. When added to human nature what it means is there are often contradictory understandings, “reasons”, and competing priorities. On top of all of that we generally don’t spend half us much time being “rational beings” as we like to pretend. Most of you involved in this seem to be mistaking the creationist types for all religion, or use them as an excuse to hate all religions (even when you don’t even understand a fraction of the varieties they come in). While I don’t have much good to say for the creationists either, it is not because of what they believe, but rather in their insistence that the rest of us believe it too.

    In the repulsion towards the creationistfundamental branches what you end up championing is the idea that even knowing the universe is indifferent and there is, ultimately, no objective justification for one course of action or another (and the philosophical underpinnings for that are the most solid of anything I know – we only know the results of what we choose and have no idea if something else would have been “better”. Due to the whole time progression thing there is no way to go back and test different choices…), you proceed to make an incredible jump and profess that objective reason – as seen by scientists – be that reasoning device held most high. Indeed it should trump some 500,000 years (or however long it has actually been that our species has existed) of development in how we arrange ourselves and decide stuff (recreating society from a blank slate, if you will, because somehow we should all just forget about everything that came previously as it was obviously stupid and the result of barbarian understandings. We’ll ignore the fact it got us this far…).

    The population at large is just supposed to go along with this because scientists are not only smarter than everyone else but have A) shown themselves to be bastions of ethical purity, B) never made errors in their predictive abilities (let alone serious ones), C) shown themselves to be understanding and compassionate towards their fellow man, D) above all political concerns in their purity, E) shown their inability to be petty and vindictive like all those religious zealots – want me to go on?

    This is the recipe to gain respect and trust? Get in everyone’s face, call them names and declare not only their ignorance but tell them they are hopelessly stupid and everything they cherish and hold dear is worthless? Yea, I can see that working really well. I wonder why there is so much resistance.

    Hopefully you aren’t like this, but it seems to be a growing type in the profession.

    The reality is science is the new kid on the block, a block that is already full of understanding, vested interests, people who are convinced they know better and all the other competing interests of those living out their lives. Most figure anyone who spends so much energy trying to yell that anyone who doesn’t see it their way is stupid and should be silenced is mostly just on a power grab.

    Again, I understand the annoyance with the whole creationist thing, but be careful about painting with such a wide brush as to translate it to “all religion”. More than half couldn’t care about such things and have no understandings along those lines…

    Part of what happens when you go from “science shows us x” to “we should therefore do y” is you have already decided what it is everyone is supposed to desire and have weighed the alternatives and probabilities. I guess they are too simple to trust with such matters, and those whom know best ought to just decide it all for them.

    I just can’t see this attitude ever flying farther than the hallways of academia and maybe a few select labs in private industry.

    Feel free to respond, but the blog has moved on, and I am sure we’ll have a chance to arguediscuss it more farther down the road, so this will be my last in this thread.

  228. Anthony McCarthy

    Lying about what I said was apparently your goal here.

    Distorting a news report – from an organization you’d been slamming for weeks — with a creative misreading, based on your skimming of the abstract, in order to defend a clearly irrational narrative about the huge problem of religious scientists inserting their faith into science, against even your cited example, was your actual accomplishment.

    Though, since a lie is as good as the truth with you, I guess you achieved what you were trying to do. Though I’d imagine any honest reader who mucked through the issues might not agree. I never had any expectation that the NAs would be among those, though “Deen” did seem to be able to grasp the few straws left to that feature of your argument.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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