Tim Ball and Archimedes principle

Richard Littlemore has the latest on Tim Ball’s antics. Check out this bit from Ball:

The point I made was with regard to the Antarctic and Greenland ice
sheets. I posed the question about what happens to the water level
when an ice cube is placed in a glass which is then filled to the brim
and the ice melts. The correct answer is the water level drops because
the space occupied by the ice is greater than that occupied by the
water it contains. Water expands when it freezes.

But the ice is floating in the water. The extra space that the frozen water takes up is, by Archimedes principle, exactly the volume that sticks out of the water. So the water level doesn’t change.

Comments

  1. #1 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 18, 2008

    I’ve seen the “ice cube in water” argument trotted out as a reason why we shouldn’t worry about ice melting on Greenland and Antarctica. Usually it helps to point out that the latter ice is on LAND, and when it melts, will roll downhill into the sea, raising sea level.

  2. #2 z
    January 18, 2008

    It’s actually more nonsensical than that.

    “I then applied that analogy to Antarctica and Greenland since a majority of that ice is already in the water. Lettinga identifies them as land-ice, which is technically correct, but they are grounded on the land below sea level for most of their area. His claim about portions of the ice slipping into the oceans and raising sea levels is speculative nonsense as is his claim there is already evidence this is happening.”

    My thorough grounding in physics courtesy of the Alberta School System tells me that what Ball is describing is ice which, if melted, will in fact raise the water level.

    I believe the concept he is searching for is ice which is somehow trapped under a layer of rock which prevents it from floating.

    Excuse me one second.

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

    Thanks, I feel a bit better now.

  3. #3 z
    January 18, 2008

    Oh god, there’s more:

    “He then claims I said, “There is no evidence for the ozone hole (over Antarctica).” I hope his students are better at listening and recordingwhat is actually said.
    I never said that at all. I said there was no hole in the ozone because even at its thinnest the so-called hole is one third the average thickness of the ozone layer. The concept there is an actual hole with no ozone is simply incorrect. He then totally incorrectly defines the hole “as the area over Antarctica where stratospheric ozone is reduced by 50 per cent.” First, it often extends well outside Antarctica and often doesn’t even cover the continent; second, it varies in size and shape with
    atmospheric circulation, temperatures, and formation of Polar Stratospheric Clouds among other factors, and third there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that these changes are caused by CFCs.”

    Once more:

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

    That didn’t help as much as I had hoped this time.

  4. #4 Lee
    January 18, 2008

    Tim Ball is confused.

    He’s talking about ‘melting ice’ and ‘ozone hole’, when what he actually is trying to find is an ‘ice hole.’

    He needs a better mirror.

  5. #5 Eli Rabett
    January 18, 2008

    There actually is a complete lack of O3 at what normally would be the peak of the concentration (14-20 km as I recall) some remains above and below these altitudes. In that sense it is a hole.

  6. #6 Steve Bloom
    January 18, 2008

    “ice hole,” hmm? To find that, I’d say he needs both hands and better enunciation. The mirror would be a help, though.

    BTW, what TB may have been trying to refer to is that much of the GIS and most of the WAIS are grounded below sea level, and that melting/collapse of this ice would not in and of itself raise sea level. That’s true enough, but neglects the fact that the vast majority of the ice in both cases is above sea level.

  7. #7 Steve Bloom
    January 18, 2008

    Pointless nitpick time: Tim L., you write “The extra space that the frozen water takes up is (…) exactly the volume that sticks out of the water.” Is this a precise statement? I think the outcome (no change in water level) is correct, but isn’t it better to say that the difference in level is equal to the water-equivalent (i.e. post-melt)volume of the above-water portion of the ice rather than the volume of the ice itself, IOW accounting for the change in density of the above-water portion as the ice melts?

  8. #8 rfguy
    January 18, 2008

    much of the GIS and most of the WAIS are grounded below sea level, and that melting/collapse of this ice would not in and of itself raise sea level. That’s true enough

    No, it isn’t. It means that melting of the ice won’t raise sea level as much as ice that is grounded above sea level, but it will raise sea level more than melting of floating ice will (depending on how much of the grounded ice is above sea level).
    (There’s still that pesky thermal expansion of seawater as the average temperature rises.)

  9. #9 Steve Bloom
    January 18, 2008

    rfguy, I don’t think we’re disagreeing. I was trying to refer only to the below sea level portion of the ice as not contributing to sea level rise (ignoring minor effects). The key point is that all of that ice is overlaid with a far larger quantity that is above sea level.

  10. #10 Aureola Nominee, FCD
    January 18, 2008

    Steve Bloom:

    If the ice is floating (e.g. the Arctic polar cap), then NONE of it melting would contribute to a sea level rise. That’s exactly what the Archimedes principle implies.

    In order to float, in fact, a body must receive a “push up” exactly equivalent to its own weight; the Archimedes principle states that the amount of “push up” corresponds exactly to the weight of the water displaced by the body.

    In other words, the weight of the Arctic polar cap corresponds exactly to the weight of the water displaced by it (i.e. a volume identical to the UNDERWATER ice). What happens when you melt the ice? Its weight does not change, so you have water weighing exactly as much as… the former underwater portion of the polar cap!

    No change in sea level, period.

  11. #11 Aureola Nominee, FCD
    January 18, 2008

    As regards GIS and WAIS, Ball would have a point if and only if the underwater portions of these two ice sheets were to be exactly equivalent in volume to what they would be if the ice were floating.

    If they were larger than that, good ol’ Archimedes would make them float away…

  12. #12 Lee
    January 18, 2008

    re 11, iced volumes. Actually, sea ice tends to be fresher than sea water, and therefore lower density, when melted.

    In my good old familiar boat design units, fresh water is about 62.4 lbs/ft3, and sea water about 64 lbs/ft3.

    The volume of sea water displaced is that necessary to balance the weight of the floating ice. The volume of fresh water released when the sea ice melts is slightly larger (because lower density) than the salt water displaced by the sea ice. Melting floating sea ice composed of lower-density fresher water will tend to cause a slight increase in sea level.

  13. #13 markg
    January 18, 2008

    OK, so we all know the vast majority of Antarctic and Greenland is, uh, not in the water (currently). The Antarctic plateau is generally about 2km thick. That’s lots of water, and if it ever starts melting, well, I for one will welcome our new watery overlords.

    The big story in melting sea ice is not the (relatively) small change in sea level, but the significant change in the salinity in the top level of the water column, and the implications that has for biological cycles and the water column vertical stability. There is also the question of whether dramatic changes in sea ice serve as a warning for the stability of the 2 great ice sheets.

    CFCs? Heh. Really not worth responding to. See also: google.

  14. #14 Ian Gould
    January 18, 2008

    The fact that most of Greenland is below sea-level directly contradicts claims that most of Greenland was vegetated during the MWP.

    I’m sure Tim Ball will be sure to point that out to all his denialist mates.

  15. #15 Flavius C
    January 18, 2008

    Oh my, Tim Ball is even stupider than I thought. Lettinga should have an easy time picking his arguments apart. If they let him answer.

  16. #16 Dano
    January 18, 2008

    I was trying to refer only to the below sea level portion of the ice as not contributing to sea level rise (ignoring minor effects).

    Off the top of my head, no.

    Isostatic rebound.

    Best,

    D

  17. #17 Eli Rabett
    January 18, 2008

    Ice is less dense than fresh water, which is why bottles break when you freeze them. Ice structure is fascinating (click on the phases in the diagram to see the crystal structures) especially at high pressures. Then again, I am a Rabett.

  18. #18 Edward
    January 19, 2008

    Lee in #12 makes an excellent point that I was planning to make myself had he not done so.

    However, there is yet another complication of the question. Everyone who has taken a freshman physics class learns what Lambert explains here: that the floating ice, with weight W, displaces a volume of water with weight W, so that when the ice itself becomes water, it occupies the same volume that the solid was displacing. This argument glosses over one fact, though: The volume of liquid water is not exactly constant, even though it is close enough for the demonstration with an ice cube in a glass to have no visible change in water level.

    In fact, for temperatures above 4 degrees Celsius, water expands when heated and contracts when cooled. When ice melts in a body of water, the body of water becomes colder and thus contracts. So, when you let an ice cube melt in a glass of freshwater, the water level does drop, very slightly, until the water warms back up to the temperature it was before the ice melted.

  19. #19 Boris
    January 19, 2008

    17:

    Ice nine is real and even Vonnegut is dead. Strange things lurk in the Rabbet hole.

  20. #20 ben
    January 19, 2008

    Actually, Ball and Lambert are both wrong: the water level is lower, but that’s because I usually drink most of the water by the time the ice-cube has melted.

  21. #21 bigcitylib
    January 19, 2008

    Worse, Tim Ball embraced Creationism, and rejected geology, not two weeks ago

    http://bigcitylib.blogspot.com/2008/01/tim-ball-denies-darwin.html#links

    Yeah its traffic whoring. But its the good kind.

  22. #22 ben
    January 19, 2008

    What’s wrong with creationism again?

  23. #23 ben
    January 19, 2008

    Lemme preface that… what is creationism, exactly?

  24. #24 SG
    January 20, 2008

    Ben, Creationism is the theory that you, Ben, didn’t descend from an ape. Can you tell us the error in that theory?

  25. #25 ben
    January 20, 2008

    “Ben, Creationism is the theory that you, Ben, didn’t descend from an ape. Can you tell us the error in that theory?”

    Nope, I see nothing wrong with that proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact, as you call it.

    Or did you mean that as a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena? If that is the case, then I don’t see anything wrong with this theory, it is plausible, but I don’t know that it is true either.

  26. #26 ben
    January 20, 2008

    Wait, darn it, I was answering the question “Ben, Evolution is the theory that you, Ben, descended from an ape. Can you tell us the error in that theory?”

    Unfortunately I didn’t read the question correctly and I answered a question that was not asked.

    As to the question that was asked, I dunno. I suppose it’s possible that I didn’t descend from an ape, I never really thought about it, to be honest. I don’t really see how it affects my life, nor anyone else’s, any more than, say, what brand of toothpaste I choose at the supermarket. Maybe we’re just all brains in vats, and an eeeevil scientist is making us think that there’s evidence that we descended from apes. Or maybe we really did descend from apes. I used to think that I might have descended from an Orangutan, given that I’m somewhat hairy, and that my beard gets a few orange strands in it. But then I became allergic to bananas, so now I’m not so sure.

  27. #27 dhogaza
    January 20, 2008

    I suppose it’s possible that I didn’t descend from an ape, I never really thought about it, to be honest. I don’t really see how it affects my life, nor anyone else’s, any more than, say, what brand of toothpaste I choose at the supermarket.

    Once again, Ben puts his amazing ignorance and absolute lack of curiousity about the world around him out on open display for all to see.

  28. #28 dhogaza
    January 20, 2008

    I don’t really see how it affects my life, nor anyone else’s, any more than, say, what brand of toothpaste I choose at the supermarket.

    Even his example of triviality is stupid, given that which brand of toothpaste you buy can be quite important.

  29. #29 Marion Delgado
    January 20, 2008

    I still want to start a troll race theme, but in addition to jc’s “pro” division i will have to include an “inadvertent troll” division. Maybe pro, amateur, and unrated/inadvertent. Because some trolling, even if it’s meant to deceive, is so lame it’s got to reflect ignorance of where the plausibility line is.

  30. #30 Bernard J.
    January 20, 2008

    I think that the trolls are actually hibernating, or at least preparing to do so. I tried a bit of a tickle of them myself on the Open Thread to plumb the depths, but nary a whimper…

  31. #31 luminous beauty
    January 20, 2008

    Just for the record, humans and apes all evolved from a progenitor much more like a lemur than a primate.

    Tim Ball and ben seem intent on disproving evolution by personal example.

  32. #32 ben
    January 20, 2008

    Troll? Maybe, but I don’t think so. At least I’m polite, and I’ve learned some things here. Ball’s thing about the water/ice was so dumb that there really wasn’t much more to say about it. Just thought I’d liven up the back-slapping a little.

    Yes, I was being a bit flip about evolution. Man’s origins are interesting, but people sure get fired up about it. I just don’t think it matters enough to get emotional over people who want to think that we didn’t descend from apes, even though to the lay person, the evidence seems to support it. I’ve also read some interesting critiques of contemporary evolutionary theory which I haven’t seen good answers to, but I haven’t looked that hard either, so I simply don’t have much of an opinion, since it doesn’t really matter anyway.

    See, we all have a limited amount of time to spend on things, and I’d rather spend my free time with my family, hunting, etc. than learning about evolutionary theory. I pick up a little here and there, but I’ll never be an expert. A lot of people (not saying you guys here) who have even less expertise in evolutionary theory get a heck of a lot more fired up about it, which seems dumb to me.

  33. #33 bigcitylib
    January 20, 2008

    Ben,

    There are two things about Tim Ball and Creationism. 1) This piece appeared in a Canadian on-line publication so far to the right that most mainstream Conservatives don’t know it exits, and 2) Ball is speaking directly to the ID crowd, with all the standard ID talking points in place (like: the fact that ID is not talk in schools is OPPRESSIVE). The fact that his audience has dwindled to this tiny crowd, and that he must pander so hard to it, tells you alot about the state of the political debate over AGW in Canada (or at least I hope it does).

  34. #34 Holly Stick
    January 20, 2008

    Ban, if you did not evolve from an apelike creature, you would not have to worry about syphilis. But you did and therefore you do. Evolution and genetics go together.

    http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/archives/07-08/jan19.html

  35. #35 Miguelito
    January 20, 2008

    Read the Tim Ball article that mentions creationism.

    I’m not sure if he’s “embraced” creationism so much as he’s embraced the talking points to frame his message. He’s framed “Darwinism” as something akin to environmentalists who believe that slow change is natural where rapid change is unnatural. Of course, he creates a strawman because climate scientists, even those that support AGW, understand that rapid climate change can happen completely naturally.

    Yes, Tim Ball is a turd. But I don’t believe that he’s a creationist. We’d have heard more about it by now. The IDiots would be using him as an expert to boost their cause if he was.

  36. #36 bigcitylib
    January 20, 2008

    Miguelito, he claims that: 1) Darwinism is JUST a theory, 2) That alternative theories (Creationism) should be taught in school, and 3) that if these alternative theories are not taught, its because fearful scientists are trying suppress debate.

    Dude, that is THE official ID position.

  37. #37 ben
    January 20, 2008

    “Ban, if you did not evolve from an apelike creature, you would not have to worry about syphilis.”

    I have to worry about syphilis? I better tell my wife :)

  38. #38 dhogaza
    January 20, 2008

    No, he repeats creationist talking points that have been raised over and over and over again for the last few decades, though they’ve become more finely honed every time they lose a First Amendment court case.

    Even though it is still just a theory and not a law 148 years after it was first proposed, Darwinian evolution is the only view allowed in schools. Why? Such censorship suggests fear of other ideas, a measure of indefensibility.

    Creationism all the way.

    The combination of long time frames and slow development resulted in a philosophical view known as uniformitarianism.

    If such a term sounds more appropriate to religion than science, that is because it is, in essence, another form of belief system.

    Not only creationism, but specifically YEC-ism.

    Leaves out the troubling point that Lyell’s principle of Uniformitarianism is based on observations in the physical world. It’s not just a “philosophical view”.

    Employing a version of uniformitarianism adapted to their needs, environmental extremists can point to practically any change and say it is unnatural, which implies it is man-made.

    Which rather ignores obvious facts like I can watch loggers cut down trees, I can watch industrial plants spew crap into rivers, I can watch industrial plants spew crap into air, etc.

  39. #39 Hank Roberts
    January 20, 2008

    > Once again, Ben puts ….

    His ability on display.
    He catches the big ones, over and over.

    Rearranged Ben:

    > we all have a limited amount of time to spend on things,
    > and I’d rather spend my free time …
    > being a bit flip about evolution …
    > people sure get fired up about it….
    > I simply don’t have much of an opinion …
    > it doesn’t really matter …
    > thought I’d liven up the back-slapping

    You all are on his trophy wall.

  40. #40 Miguelito
    January 20, 2008

    BigCityLib: He’s framing the issue to speak to his audience. He’s playing with semantics. Evolution is a theory. It’s the best theory. It works from the bottom (chemistry) to the top (populations and environment). It’s so good that there are no competitors. But it’s still a theory and not Law. It’s dirty, it’s misleading, but he isn’t wrong.

    Is there any other evidence that he’s a creationist?

    Again, if he was one, IDiots would be championing this guy.

  41. #41 Nick Barnes
    January 20, 2008

    Ball is plainly worse than an idiot, missing basic Archimedes like this.
    But, hoping to move on from the “let’s all laugh at the idiot” freak-show, I’ll mention that the fact that the GIS and WAIS are grounded below sea-level (*way* below sea-level in the case of the central WAIS) does have important consequences for modelling ice-sheet melt, and therefore for forecasts of sea-level rise this century.
    In particular, the deep grounding raises some interesting questions about the possible mechanisms and rate of a catastrophic melt, and about the speed of the consequent rise in sea-level.
    Consider: during a melt the grounding line of (say) the WAIS at the boundary of the Ross ice shelf will move towards the interior. How fast? How gradually? What sort of momentum does that process have once it has begun? Does sea-water infiltrate under the ice?
    Consider: ice flows (glaciers, ice streams) are lubricated by meltwater from surface melt water which has penetrated through the ice (e.g. through moulins). But if an ice sheet is sitting in a bowl (as the GIS and WAIS both are), which way will it flow?
    Finally consider: any given cubic kilometre of ice sheet doesn’t need to *melt* to add its full volume to sea level rise. It just needs to *float*.

  42. #42 SG
    January 20, 2008

    was I being too subtle? I think Ben missed my point…

  43. #43 ben
    January 20, 2008

    mayhaps, SG.

  44. #44 SG
    January 21, 2008

    I was trying to call you an ape, Ben, and get you to admit to same. But your responses were so mealy-mouthed I couldn’t tell if you agreed with me or not!

  45. #45 ben
    January 21, 2008

    How ’bout I just come out and do it: SG, you’re an ape. There.

    Me, I dunno. I look an awful lot like an ape, but I don’t like bananas.

  46. #46 dhogaza
    January 21, 2008

    But it’s still a theory and not Law.

    At the risk of uselessly derailing the thread, evolution is an observed fact, and evolutionary theory our effort to account for that observation. “Does life evolve” is no longer a valid scientific question.

    Evolution will never be a “law” in the scientific sense because it’s far too complex a mechanism to be so expressed. The fact that it’s a “theory” and not “law” in no way weakens it, as you and Ball seem to assume.

    In particular his statement “Even though it is still just a theory and not a law 148 years after it was first proposed…” is a classic creationist strawman which assumes a hierarchy that does not, in science, exist.

    It is a statement meant to cause the reader to think “oh, it’s still JUST A THEORY! This means biologists have not found any real evidence to support it, because if they had, after 148 years, it would be a LAW!”

    It’s possible that Ball is simply ignorant of science, not strictly speaking a creationist, but the fact that he spouts creationist nonsense is not a good sign.

    Let’s just say that it’s evidence supporting the hypothesis that he’s a creationist. It certainly is not evidence supporting the hypothesis that he understands or agrees with evolutionary biology.

  47. #47 ben
    January 21, 2008

    “evolution is an observed fact”

    At some level, this is true for certain. Life does evolve. This does not mean that all changes in life forms on earth were due only to evolution though. Maybe space aliens came down and tinkered at some point, who knows?

  48. #48 Laser Potato
    January 21, 2008

    “I just don’t think it matters enough to get emotional over people who want to think that we didn’t descend from apes”
    HOMONIDS DID NOT EVOLVE FROM APES.
    HOMONIDS, MONKEYS, AND APES SPLIT OFF FROM A COMMON ANCESTOR.
    YOU FRICKIN’ IDIOT.

  49. #49 dhogaza
    January 21, 2008

    Maybe space aliens came down and tinkered at some point, who knows?

    Well, sure, and it’s equally true to state that perhaps an alien caused that apple to hit newton on the head, not gravity, and that it’s really an alien manipulating electrons in your computer that makes it appear to you as though you’re reading this post written by me.

    Or that it’s really aliens that hold up airplanes, and that your PhD is meaningless.

    Sure, of course all of this is possible.

    Believe what you want, dude.

    There’s a reason why Michael Behe, on the stand during the Dover trial, had to agree with the statement that if the definition of science were changed so that intelligent design creationism would meet it, then astrology would meet the definition as well.

    If Behe and his friends were to succeed in so changing the definition of science, then you could invoke your aliens tweaking life on earth, or aliens holding up airplanes so they don’t fall, as being part of “science”.

    Until, then, prate away but do realize it has nothing to do with science. It’s simply mysticism and the denial of empirical evidence that no outside “alien” need be invoked to explain what’s been observed in the real world.

    But I’m not surprised to see you cozying up to the ID-creationism world view. Not at all.

  50. #50 ben
    January 21, 2008

    “HOMONIDS DID NOT EVOLVE FROM APES. HOMONIDS, MONKEYS, AND APES SPLIT OFF FROM A COMMON ANCESTOR. YOU FRICKIN’ IDIOT.”

    Way to get emotional, Potato. Are you calling my good buddy SG an idiot for claiming we descended from apes? That’s mighty mean of you. I think all he meant was that we descended from ape-like creatures. Try to read between the lines next time.

    “and that your PhD is meaningless.”

    Heh, that’d be the truth. At least at this point, with two months to go, the piece of paper is meaningless.

    “Until, then, prate away but do realize it has nothing to do with science.”

    Um, duh.

    “But I’m not surprised to see you cozying up to the ID-creationism world view. Not at all.”

    I am? That’s like saying that Tim Lambert is “anti-gun”. I’m not, and he’s not. I’m just anti-give to much of a shit about evolution to get worked up about it.

  51. #51 Sarah
    January 21, 2008

    evolution is an observed fact

    No, it isn’t. Observed fact is a piece of datum. The average weight of a certain species of bird is an observed fact. The size of a skull found in an archeological dig is an observed fact. Evolution, like any scientific theory, is a model that attempts to account for those facts and make predictions about what other facts we can observe.

  52. #52 Sarah
    January 21, 2008

    By the way, I’m Ben’s sister, and I am also a Christian who is about to get a Ph.D. in science (astrophysics). I’m curious what y’all think about something. One of the professional associations I belong to, the American Astronomical Society, is a member of the Coalition Against Intelligent Design, whose stated goal is to keep “science only in the science classroom.” This is fine with me except that it seems to care only about promotion of biblical stuff in the classroom and not promotion of anti-theism. I asked them if it was their stance to oppose professors and teachers who make anti-theistic pronouncements in class, like a certain biology professor at my university who, during class, states unequivocally that science proves there is no God. They didn’t have an answer for me, but promised to look into it. I’m curious whether any of you see this kind of thing as a violation of “science only in the science classroom.” Would you oppose this as vigorously as you oppose ID in the classroom? Not trying to start an argument, I’m really just curious to know.

  53. #53 pough
    January 21, 2008

    I’d definitely see it as a violation of that. I wouldn’t oppose it as vigorously, though, because that particular lobby doesn’t have as deep pockets, as long a history, nor many adherents.

    BTW, I think you’re wrong about evolution. There is the fact of evolution (populations of living things change over time) and there are a variety of theories that attempt to describe how it happened. Theories of evolution are indeed theories, but that doesn’t make the fact any less fact, just like theories of gravity don’t make gravity non-factual.

  54. #54 dhogaza
    January 21, 2008

    No, it isn’t.

    Uh, yes, it is.

    But, please, don’t go argue with me, go argue with those biologists who have actually observed evolution in action. Those who have generated the Holy Datums that you demand.

    This is fine with me except that it seems to care only about promotion of biblical stuff in the classroom and not promotion of anti-theism. I asked them if it was their stance to oppose professors and teachers who make anti-theistic pronouncements in class, like a certain biology professor at my university who, during class, states unequivocally that science proves there is no God. They didn’t have an answer for me, but promised to look into it.

    I’m amazed that you’ve progressed to the point of being “about to get a PhD” without understanding the context of “science only in the science classroom”.

    This speaks to the teaching of science in public schools, not universities. The rules are different in universities. By law, you’re required to go to public school through 12th grade, and you are required to take a certain number of science classes, including biology (in my state). You’re not doing something of your own free will.

    If a high school science teacher teaches that science disproves God, of course they should be made to stop. Science has nothing to say about the existence of God.

    And if creationism is taught as science, same thing.

    If a teacher happens to mention that she, personally, is an atheist when in a science class, that’s not a problem. It’s not a claim that this is SCIENCE, but one of personal belief.

    Likewise, if a science teacher happens to mention that he’s a christian, but doesn’t say “science proves that the earth was created 6,000 years ago”, no problem for me. Simply stating one’s faith is not teaching religion AS THOUGH IT IS SCIENCE.

    University is optional. You pay tuition. There is tax support for state universities but all but the worst have substantial private funding, too. No one forces you to take science. Academic freedom is a tradition in the university environment, but does not apply to K-12 teachers.

    If the professor you mention is tenured, there’s not much to be done. If he’s not tenured, his statements might weigh against him when his Inquisition begins.

    They same would be true if the professor stated that science proves that the world was created Last Tuesday.

    Either is bullshit and a misrepresentation of science, but the legal, political, and (if you will) moral issues are a bit different than with K-12. Hard as it is for some of us older folk to believe, at 18 (which, for most, is the end of the K-12 period of life) we let kids do things as though they’re not really kids. Vote. Go to war. Go to university where they might have their minds bent by hearing professors speak weird shit.

    And given this response:

    I asked them if it was their stance to oppose professors and teachers who make anti-theistic pronouncements in class, like a certain biology professor at my university who, during class, states unequivocally that science proves there is no God. They didn’t have an answer for me, but promised to look into it.

    How does the conclusion that

    This is fine with me except that it seems to care only about promotion of biblical stuff in the classroom and not promotion of anti-theism.

    “We’ll look into it” means “we need to find out the facts here”. As though “we won’t kick this professor in the balls (if the professor happens to be male) simply on your say-so”.

    My guess is they’d say the same if you said that your professor was claiming that science proves the universe is only 6,000 years old and God gave Joey Smith a couple of tons of gold tablets with the True Gospel on it etc etc.

    “we’d better check up on the facts before saying anything”.

    And, they may not have much to say, because first and foremost they’re a professional organization, not an enforcement one.

    Right?

  55. #55 Sarah
    January 21, 2008

    I wouldn’t oppose it as vigorously, though, because that particular lobby doesn’t have as deep pockets, as long a history, nor many adherents.

    Interesting point, though I’m not sure I agree about the length of history. Here’s the problem I see with your position. If you don’t oppose anti-theism in the classroom as vigorously as you oppose ID, then organizations like the Coalition Against ID will almost certainly be perceived as anti-religious rather than pro-science, and will only firm the stance of the ID people even more. One of my colleagues commented that a particular survey shows that belief in creationism is actually on the rise in America, despite all the anti-theistic stuff being promoted by Hitchens, Dawkins, etc. What this shows is that devoutly religious people are not backing down, but are galvanized by these attacks. You want to see how deep the pockets of this lobby go? Let the attacks keep coming. The only hope of ever accomplishing “science only in the science classroom” is if people are sincere about this. Fair or unfair, this means folks will have to come down just as hard on anti-theism in the classroom.

    As for fact vs. theory, maybe I just misunderstood the statement. I agree that it is an observed fact that “populations of living things change over time,” but the theory that provides a mechanism for this is not fact. The latter is what I thought the statement referred to.

    ["Science only in the science classroom] speaks to the teaching of science in public schools, not universities.

    Mostly, yes. Though it is contentious at the university level, as well. I have many more reports (which I document every year) from incoming freshmen who complain that their science teachers hijack a portion of the curriculum to promote anti-theistic ideas. This, too, I discussed with the AAS president. As for his response, I really don’t care what they do with this particular professor. He is a sour, hateful old creature who is loathed by students, and so I’m sure the university will let him ride out his tenure until he retires and disappears. I didn’t even name him during the discussion. What I asked was whether, presented with a situation like this, they would consider this a violation of “science only in the science classroom.” In other words, I wanted them to elucidate their position. Thus far, their only concern has been addressing theology in the classroom. They are going to get back to me on what exactly their position is with respect to anti-theism in the classroom. Does this make things clearer?

  56. #56 dhogaza
    January 21, 2008

    If you don’t oppose anti-theism in the classroom as vigorously as you oppose ID, then organizations like the Coalition Against ID will almost certainly be perceived as anti-religious rather than pro-science

    So you agree that ID isn’t science, then?

  57. #57 dhogaza
    January 21, 2008

    Though it is contentious at the university level, as well. I have many more reports (which I document every year) from incoming freshmen who complain that their science teachers hijack a portion of the curriculum to promote anti-theistic ideas.

    So which brand of christian creationist are you? YEC? OEC?

  58. #58 dhogaza
    January 21, 2008

    In other words, what do you document as an “anti-theistic idea”?

    That the earth might be billions of years old?

    That abiogenesis is a possibility?

    That humans and apes share a common primate answer?

    Which parts of science are you labeling as being “anti-theistic”?

    Or is it the scientific method itself you have a problem with (in which case you might consider a new career).

  59. #59 dhogaza
    January 21, 2008

    They are going to get back to me on what exactly their position is with respect to anti-theism in the classroom. Does this make things clearer?

    Yeah, he’s tenured, and they and you can’t do anything.

    Just as Lehigh University can’t do anything about Michael Behe, their tenured creationist professor of biochemistry.

    I don’t see academics, no matter how much they despise Behe, suggesting he should be forced to shut up or suppressed, etc.

    He’s a buffoon, he’s a fool, but he’s also a tenured professor and like it or not, he and the professor you don’t like are pretty much guaranteed a job for life.

    What I asked was whether, presented with a situation like this, they would consider this a violation of “science only in the science classroom.” In other words, I wanted them to elucidate their position.

    I think the position of professional organizations is clear:

    only science TAUGHT AS SCIENCE in the classroom.

    You assume that this insistence extends to requiring professors to shut up about their personal beliefs as well.

    It doesn’t.

    That’s not the issue.

    Since you are documenting “anti-christian” behavior by professors, could you at least take the time to understand what the issue really is?

    WHAT SHOULD BE TAUGHT AS SCIENCE IN SCIENCE CLASS.

    Not what people should say about their personal faith.

    Got it, yet? How much damage to the innocent are you responsible thus far, BTW?

  60. #60 Sarah
    January 21, 2008

    So you agree that ID isn’t science, then?

    Nobody has defined for me what exactly ID is and says, so, in the spirit of your previous comments, I have to “look into it” and “get the facts” before I say anything about it. If you want to discuss my views on science and scripture, I’m happy to — you can ask me directly. But that’s not the point of my visit here.

    My point here is that it has to go one way or the other in the classroom, and people have to be very clear about this. Either 1) God’s existence is a question open to scientific scrutiny — which means you can’t stifle one side while letting the other have the say-so — or 2) we remove ALL theological discussion from the classroom, including anti-theism. I really don’t care which way it goes. But if a group is going to use a portion of my (substantial) membership dues to take up a position on this — ostensibly option #2 — then they are obligated to be very clear about what their position is and what they’re doing.

  61. #61 ben
    January 21, 2008

    Wow, dhogaza. I’m starting to think you evolved from something a little feistier than an ape.

  62. #62 Sarah
    January 21, 2008

    dhogaza — ??? Not sure what your problem with me is, but you’re arguing against things I have not said. I never said anything against professors having or stating personal views. Re-read my comments.

    I really don’t care what a teacher or professor’s personal views are. We have some excellent atheistic professors in my department, and I have no problem with them. I don’t care if they announce their atheism in the classroom. Personal views are not in contention here. My point is that you cannot be on the side of “Science Only in the Science Classroom” (SOSC to make it easier) while at the same time ignoring professors or teachers who claim that science has a position on the existence of God. The professor in question said: “Science proves there is no God.” The question was, do you see this as a violation of SOSC? It doesn’t matter that it was a tenured prof who said this, because I have documented cases of high school teachers doing likewise. It serves as an example. Does it violate SOSC? I despair of getting a straight yes or no from you on this, so I’ll move on and ask if anyone else has an opinion on this.

  63. #63 Sarah
    January 21, 2008

    Oops, I didn’t see these questions…

    So which brand of christian creationist are you? YEC? OEC?

    It’s not germane to this discussion, but I’ll answer this anyway. I trust science and believe what the data and theory indicate, which is that the universe is somewhere between 10 and 20 billion years old, the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and that life has emerged and evolved on earth in that time. Whatever label that confers on me, I don’t know, and frankly I don’t care.

    Which parts of science are you labeling as being “anti-theistic”?

    It is not possible for science to be anti-theistic. Science is the pursuit of truth — it says what it says impartially. People can be anti-theistic, and what I mean by that is telling students — most of whom do not have the intellectual capacity to deal with this — that science claims there is no God, or has rendered God’s existence superfluous, or that they can’t have their religious faith and believe science. I have one such case where a teacher outright told a student that she could not be Christian and believe in science. That is how I define anti-theistic.

    Or is it the scientific method itself you have a problem with (in which case you might consider a new career).

    Please, don’t be patronizing. I could not have gotten to the position that I’m in if I had a “problem” with the scientific method.

  64. #64 Dr Zen
    January 21, 2008

    Sarah, you’d accept though that the more science can reasonably reliably explain, the smaller the space is that God can reasonably occupy? I’m using the word “reasonably” advisedly, because I think, having agreed that you accept that, that you might have to agree that it’s reasonable for a scientist to believe that the space that the god you believe in can occupy is sufficiently small that he cannot exist in the form you believe him to have. This is not to say that your disagreement with him would be unreasonable.

  65. #65 dhogaza
    January 21, 2008

    Well, then, you exceed expectations …

    Based on your bro’s ignorance-based posts here on all sorts of subjects. Not your fault, but if you start posting with “oh, I’m Ben’s brother”, don’t be too disappointed if I think that perhaps you share certain traits…i.e. lack of knowledge outside a very, very narrow set of interests.

    Perhaps now, for instance, I’ll assume that you wouldn’t be so silly as to post that taxes in Canada are 3x higher than in the US, as your bro did, and which is so obviously false (as he eventually admitted).

    But when you opened with “I’m Ben’s sister” and “I’m a christian who …” (as opposed to “I’m a scientist and a christian”) and well … all the other stuff … I wasn’t too optimistic.

  66. #66 dhogaza
    January 21, 2008

    Please, don’t be patronizing. I could not have gotten to the position that I’m in if I had a “problem” with the scientific method.

    Actually, not true. Michael Behe at Lehigh University is a case in point. There are folks like Jonathon West who pursued a science PhD at the request of Moon, in order to fight from the inside (in essence lying throughout his graduate career).

    I’m glad, though, that you don’t believe you could reach the position you’re in by being dishonest as those types are. Just remember that the basic premise behind your statement is that you’re HONEST.

    Don’t change, OK?

  67. #67 pough
    January 21, 2008

    One of my colleagues commented that a particular survey shows that belief in creationism is actually on the rise in America, despite all the anti-theistic stuff being promoted by Hitchens, Dawkins, etc. What this shows is that devoutly religious people are not backing down, but are galvanized by these attacks.

    It doesn’t show that creationism is on the rise as a result of galvanization caused by anti-theist book published by a few authors. In fact, I would guess (and we’re both guessing, aren’t we?) that it’s more likely the books have come about as a result of the increase of creationism – not the other way ’round. Or it could just be a coincidence of publishers being willing to publish anti-theist books at the same time that U.S. science education sucks.

    I think you’ll find that, for the most part, atheists want highschool science classes to avoid both pro and anti-theism. I would hazard a guess that it’s also true for christians, but since the number of christians is much higher than atheists in the US, there are simply more christians pushing their agendas into the science classroom, even if both groups (atheists and christians) have a mere 1% who are part of the “lobby”.

  68. #68 Sarah
    January 21, 2008

    But when you opened with “I’m Ben’s sister” and “I’m a christian who …” (as opposed to “I’m a scientist and a christian”) and well … all the other stuff … I wasn’t too optimistic.

    In other words, prejudice is alive and well.

    You’re not scoring points with me for insulting my brother, who is an extremely intelligent and competent scientist — and all-around nice guy — whatever you think of his forays here.

    pough,

    It’s more likely the books have come about as a result of the increase of creationism – not the other way ’round.

    Admittedly, you’re guessing, but I’m not. As a Christian who speaks on science at churches and other faith groups — and who has engaged fundamentalists to find out what exactly they believe and why — I can tell you that it is the case that creationism/ID is on the rise specifically in response to what is perceived as aggressive promotion of secular humanism in the public square. The more Dawkins, Hitchens, and the like promote their anti-theism and the more anti-theistic stuff is snuck into school curricula, the more inclined these people are to respond with their own aggressive stance.

    I think young-earth creationism, or whatever you want to call it, is stupid and dangerous, and I do my best to discourage it. You probably agree with me that it’s in everyone’s best interests to have a scientifically literate population. But the anti-theistic stuff is getting in the way of that. With some effort, I can convince most Christians that science is not a threat to their beliefs, but it’s difficult for me to counter the anti-theistic stuff with some of the more conservatively religious folks, who have become very wary of mainstream science because of it. So think about this. Why aren’t the fundies content to say the hell with science and just read their bibles? Why do we get these ridiculous creationist “theories”? It’s so they can fight back against what they perceive as attacks to coerce them — and much more importantly, their children — out of their faith. That’s really how they see it.

    I think you’ll find that, for the most part, atheists want highschool science classes to avoid both pro and anti-theism.

    You’ll forgive me if I don’t quite buy that. I need to see some evidence, and so far the non-response response I got from the AAS about their and CAID’s position on anti-theism in schools isn’t encouraging.

    I’m curious, who do atheists think they’re representing in this battle over education? Themselves only? Everyone? What’s ironic about this is that atheists — who make up a small proportion of the population, and who tend to have fewer children than religious folks — are so vehement about what is taught in schools. What do you think is the justification for a small percentage of the population dictating what the majority should learn? Or are you implying that most of the believers in the U.S. are on board with the anti-ID movement?

  69. #69 Sarah
    January 21, 2008

    Dr Zen,

    Sarah, you’d accept though that the more science can reasonably reliably explain, the smaller the space is that God can reasonably occupy?

    You are referring to the God of the gaps, and I don’t subscribe to that view.

    Just so you know where we’re coming from, Ben and I were raised in a socialist, agnostic family. Our family never went to church, never talked about God — except that I remember in my later teen years our dad did say some disparaging things about God and religion. Anyway, we both converted to Christianity about a year and a half ago, independently of each other. Speaking for myself only, I came to my belief in God mostly because of my experiences in the physical sciences. The more I observed the order of the universe, the more I came to believe that its existence is no accident. Maybe you could call that a sort of atheism of the gaps.

    I rely on vast cosmological simulations (galaxies crashing together, large-structure formation) to inform my research. What struck me in watching these sims and writing my own codes is how very much like a computer simulation the universe is, and that it’s so precisely tuned for life. Large-scale evolution of the universe essentially runs on a base-2 code: hydrogen on/hydrogen off. And what is DNA but a base-4 code? Couple this with the implications from string theory, which says that the materialism of the physical universe is an illusion — that it’s really all just information — and this suggests a universe that is a giant, sophisticated program. A program implies a programmer. So I see God very much as a master programmer, who wrote the code (the laws of nature) and set it in motion. And I see myself as the subroutine “Sarah,” which God designed for some purpose.

    None of this is to say that my belief in God is 100% objective. As I got older, I discovered a deep need to believe that I and the people I care about are not byproducts of the machinations of an accidental and indifferent universe. My own observations of the workings of nature are consisent with the idea of God — and what God provides for me that nothing else can is purpose.

    I’m still interested in answers to my initial question, so if anyone has thoughts on that, I’d like to hear them.

  70. #70 Chris O'Neill
    January 21, 2008

    I discovered a deep need to believe that I and the people I care about are not byproducts of the machinations of an accidental and indifferent universe.

    As we all know, a need to believe in something proves that it exists.

  71. #71 Ian Gould
    January 22, 2008

    Personally I think IS should be given equal time in science classes at the same time Jehovah’s Witnesses and Santaria practitioners are given equal time in medical schools to explain their theories of the origin of disease.

    After all, the germ theory of disease is just a theory.

    Why should people who believe that diseases are caused by demonic possession be bombarded with antitheistic propaganda about bacteria and viruses?

  72. #72 Marion Delgado
    January 22, 2008

    VERY very glad to see the troll family here confirming that climate denial goes hand in hand with other science denial. Thanks, Ben and Sarah, your posts are definite keepers.

    The people that are more harmful are those like Penn Jillette – who seems semi-normal until you get him into climate denial. Then you discover he’s a Randite economic nut cultist generally. How long before that whore embraces, say, the DDT cult? Not long, if not already.

  73. #73 mndean
    January 22, 2008

    Oh, dear. Penn Jillette, that blowhard? I got heartily sick of him some years ago when I figured out his shtick. His being a Randroid was just icing on the cake. Denialism is all of a piece with that clown.

  74. #74 JohnnieCanuck, FCD
    January 22, 2008

    Sarah,

    Have you noticed that there are two aspects of God being considered and argued about?

    On the one hand there is an interventionist, judging, punishing God as perceived and promoted by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Every time it is alleged that such a God did something here in the natural world, such claims can be addressed by Science. So far, to the best of our knowledge, no such claims have been affirmed by properly using the Scientific Method. On the other hand for example, the efficacy of prayer in double blind studies has been shown to be zero.

    It is this type of God that is subject to the Gaps effect. All those ‘Acts of God’ in your insurance policy are now explained as natural phenomena with no need for supernatural causes to be invoked. Science has greatly diminished this God and the claims that can honestly be made about His abilities. It might reasonable to claim that Science has had so much success against claims for this God that He has been proven not to exist.

    Then there is the favourite fallback of the theologians, the non-interactive entity that set all the initial parameters of the experiment and then pushed a big button. May or may not still exist and may or may not have ever paid any attention to the results.

    This type of God can be constructed such that there is no possibility of proving its non-existence, not logically and not by experiment.

    Dishonest apologists duck back and forth between the two God types depending on the particular argument they are facing.

    Science classes in public schools should not mention religion. It should not be taught in these classes that gods do or do not exist. Likewise creation science and its offspring, ID are dishonest religiously motivated attempts to counter the perceived threat of evolution. They are not science and there is no controversy, except as manufactured by religious proponents. Reference the ‘Wedge Document’ and the Dover decision.

    I believe that your hypothesis that anti-theist stances by K-12 science teachers are so prevalent that they need to be condemned by the AAS is lacking in supporting evidence. What would you estimate the ratio of theist to anti-theist proselytising to be, in public schools? You blur your arguments with anecdotal evidence of anti-theist pronouncements of tenured profs. By the way, why are you so concerned? It’s not your ox that is getting gored. All the fuss is over that type 1 God. You believe in type 2, the aloof and untouchable one.

    The most common remark that I have heard ascribed to undergraduate biology profs on the subject of evolution is that students don’t have to believe it, just be able to describe and explain it in accurate and adequate detail. I could well believe that some fundie kids would feel some martyrdom overcoming themselves upon hearing this.

    Theism and science in the same head usually result in compartmentalisation to solve the cognitive dissonance. Hope it works out for you.

  75. #75 Laser Potato
    January 22, 2008

    …wait, how did we go off on this tangent again? This started out as discussion of the Archimedes Principle applied to melting ice sheets.

  76. #76 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 22, 2008

    Sarah writes:

    [[I asked them if it was their stance to oppose professors and teachers who make anti-theistic pronouncements in class, like a certain biology professor at my university who, during class, states unequivocally that science proves there is no God. They didn't have an answer for me, but promised to look into it. I'm curious whether any of you see this kind of thing as a violation of "science only in the science classroom." Would you oppose this as vigorously as you oppose ID in the classroom? Not trying to start an argument, I'm really just curious to know. ]]

    I certainly would. The science teacher’s role is not to instruct the kids in his own metaphysical outlook; it’s to teach science. Claiming “science proves there’s no God” is just as much intruding religious questions into the science classroom as teaching creationism would be.

  77. #77 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 22, 2008

    Dhogaza comments to Sarah, in his usual charming manner:

    [[In other words, what do you document as an "anti-theistic idea"?
    That the earth might be billions of years old?
    That abiogenesis is a possibility?
    That humans and apes share a common primate answer?
    Which parts of science are you labeling as being "anti-theistic"?
    Or is it the scientific method itself you have a problem with (in which case you might consider a new career).
    ]]

    She specifically said she was referring to a teacher claiming that science disproved God. She said NOTHING to indicate that she is ANY kind of creationist. She may, like me, believe in creation, but that’s a different thing altogether. You’re letting your knee-jerk prejudices get in the way of listening, as you so often and repeatedly do.

  78. #78 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 22, 2008

    Dr. Zen posts:

    [[Sarah, you'd accept though that the more science can reasonably reliably explain, the smaller the space is that God can reasonably occupy? ]]

    Why should she accept such a ridiculous proposition? What does “God of the gaps” have to do with the Christian God? You seem to be operating under the assumption that theism is some kind of early, failed science. It isn’t.

  79. #79 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 22, 2008

    Johnnie writes:

    [[All the fuss is over that type 1 God. You believe in type 2, the aloof and untouchable one.]]

    Rather than set up your own simplistic dichotomy and then tell Sarah which group she falls into, why not try asking her what she, in fact, believes?

    [[Theism and science in the same head usually result in compartmentalisation to solve the cognitive dissonance. Hope it works out for you.]]

    Ad hominem crap. Science studies nature. The religious question is whether something exists IN ADDITION TO nature. No “cognitive dissonance” required, any more than it was required for Roger Bacon, William of Ockham, Robert Grossteste, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Alfred Russel Wallace, Louis Pasteur, Teilhard de Chardin, Jane Goodall, Alan Sandage, John Polkinghorne, Theodozhius Dobzhansky, Francisco Ayala or Ken Miller — all Christians, all scientists, none of them having problems with “cognitive dissonance.”

  80. #80 dhogaza
    January 22, 2008

    She said NOTHING to indicate that she is ANY kind of creationist.

    This coming, of course, after Sarah makes clear that she IS “a kind of creationist”.

    Gee, Bart, I was right about her!

    She’s just god’s little subroutine, in a universe that’s just god’s little computer program.

    How’d you miss that, man?

    Sarah: arguments from analogy in no way provide evidence for the existence of God.

    Not that it matters, it’s your personal faith that’s important, and I have no idea why one needs anything more than that. It’s the whole point of faith. I respect faith – my sister’s a fundamentalist who for years was an assistant pastor in a Foursquare church. But it’s hard to respect arguments of the “well, DNA can be mathematically described therefore it was designed” kind.

    As far as your brother being an intelligent guy, I have no doubt he is. He’s gotten a PhD in a difficult engineering field, after all.

    However, he is an IGNORANT guy, and shows it here all the time in his posts. His knowledge seems to be very narrow. I’m sure he knows a lot about his field, but once he strays beyond it, he exposes his ignorance.

    Encourage that bright brother of yours to read and study more, and post less, that’s the cure for ignorance.

  81. #81 dhogaza
    January 22, 2008

    It doesn’t matter that it was a tenured prof who said this, because I have documented cases of high school teachers doing likewise. It serves as an example. Does it violate SOSC? I despair of getting a straight yes or no from you on this, so I’ll move on and ask if anyone else has an opinion on this.

    It is obvious that it violates SOSC. I should think it’s clear that my response was in regard to the PRACTICAL aspect.

    It *does* matter if the teacher’s a tenured professor or high school teacher. One is protected by a long tradition of academic freedom to do very much as he damn well pleases once tenure is attained. The other does not.

    You say you have evidence of high school teachers doing likewise. Go get them. They deserve what comes down if they’re teaching that science proves god doesn’t exist.

  82. #82 dhogaza
    January 22, 2008

    What’s ironic about this is that atheists — who make up a small proportion of the population, and who tend to have fewer children than religious folks — are so vehement about what is taught in schools. What do you think is the justification for a small percentage of the population dictating what the majority should learn?

    Your conflating of concern over what’s taught in high school with “atheism” will come as a huge surprise to those christian scientists who fight hard to keep religion from being taught as science in science class.

    There are plenty of evolutionary biologists who are “religious people”, specifically Christian people, and who see no conflict between their science and faith.

    Those who are activists seem even *more* offended by efforts to replace science with creationism in high school biology classes than the minority of activists who are atheists.

  83. #83 ben
    January 22, 2008

    “…wait, how did we go off on this tangent again? This started out as discussion of the Archimedes Principle applied to melting ice sheets.”

    Because that was like arguing about how 2+2=4 and got boring fast. We established that Tim Ball is a doofus, and then moved on to bicker amongst ourselves. Well, I did anyway.

  84. #84 davide
    January 22, 2008

    Sarah,

    I have been reading these comments with interest and am slightly puzzled by your words.

    >”…we both converted to Christianity about a year and a half ago…”

    You then go on to speak about your cosmological interest and view of the universe as a series of codes, it is very interesting.

    >”So I see God very much as a master programmer, who wrote the code (the laws of nature) and set it in motion. And I see myself as the subroutine “Sarah,” which God designed for some purpose.”

    What I don’t get is *why* Christianity? Or any other religion for that matter? It seems to me that you have come to your own unique spiritual realization on the nature of the universe that is quite independant of any classical dogma. The only thing that I can deduce from your comments is that you have chosen a religion you are most culturally familiar with. Christianity doesn’t seem to me to be one that is entirely consistent with the refreshingly individual evolution of your own sense of order in the universe.

    I am not having a pop at your beliefs. I am quite fascinated by what you have said.

  85. #85 davide
    January 22, 2008

    oops. what happened with my formatting?

  86. #86 Lance
    January 22, 2008

    Sarah,

    While I agree science class is no place for a discussion of the metaphysical it certainly is the place for explanations that rely on empirically verifiable natural phenomena. Indeed science presupposes a non-theistic universe. Supernatural events are clearly outside of the realm of science and hence non-starters in any “scientific” discussion whether it is about butterfly behavior or the origin of the cosmos.

    If the origin of the universe is to be investigated by the scientific method, and discussed in classes on the subject, these discussions must by necessity exclude theological constructs while embracing empirically verifiable, and hence naturalistic, models of cosmological origin.

    While I am not familiar with your complete set of views on this topic it seems you insist that to exclude theistic explanations from discussion of cosmology one must also exclude naturalistic explanations (non-theistic) as well. What exactly would such discussion include?

  87. #87 Lance
    January 22, 2008

    Wow Davide,

    Your thought provoking comments have torn a hole in the blog-time continuum!

  88. #88 Lance
    January 22, 2008

    The singularity has closed. What did you do Davide? It might be a good guerilla tactic to disrupt adversarial blogs.

  89. #89 dhogaza
    January 22, 2008

    We established that Tim Ball is a doofus

    Finally, Ben and I agree on *something*. Let “Tim Ball is a doofus” be writ in tall, bold, lettering where all can see it.

  90. #90 davide
    January 22, 2008

    I just put 4 spaces at the start of the quote (following the markdown link).

    Looks like some god has been checking the ‘davide’ subroutine for errors tho’ so all is well :P

  91. #91 Sarah
    January 22, 2008

    Johnnie,

    Theism and science in the same head usually result in compartmentalisation to solve the cognitive dissonance.

    As Barton kindly pointed out, this is not always true — though I have observed this occasionally in some of my more liberally religious peers. But my own study has indicated that there is nothing in science that invalidates scripture, or vice versa, so I don’t suffer from this problem.

    As for the rest of your comment, I can believe that the universe proceeds on its own without any monkeying by God, and that God is still very much present in our spiritual lives. I believe it is atheists and anti-theists who insist on compartmentalizing and categorizing more than theists, because it is difficult for you to conceive of how a God can be both remote and present.

    davide,

    What I don’t get is why Christianity? Or any other religion for that matter?

    You are the first person to ever ask me that. What it comes down to is a need for a philosophical basis for my life — some kind of moral framework from which to operate. A computer-like universe is fascinating, but it doesn’t get me all the way to morality.

    Early on, I was opposed to the idea of religion. Then I started reading Gerald Schroeder, and the writings of ancient biblical commentators like Maimonides and Nahmanides — I found quite a bit there that compelled me to consider the Judaic God, and I almost converted to Judaism. In the end, I was drawn to Christianity — not necessarily out of cultural familitary, though that may be true. I was quite the little anti-Christian in my late teens and early twenties, with an anti-Christian website that won me a small following, and I even went so far as to leave anti-Christian writings at churches, and so on. The transformation is something that took several years. The acceptance of Christ is something that is deeply personal and subjective, so much so that it is almost impossible to describe to someone who isn’t already Christian or considering conversion. This wasn’t made easier by the fact that many Christian individuals act like total nitwits or worse, but in the end this is what I was drawn to.

    Christianity doesn’t seem to me to be one that is entirely consistent with the refreshingly individual evolution of your own sense of order in the universe.

    You may be surprised to know that I agree with you on this. I graduate (hopefully) with my Ph.D. this April, and have decided to forego a research career in favor of a personal campaign to change Christianity’s current relationship with the scientific realm. Many Christians, particularly the more religiously conservative types, take the view that all they need to get by in life is Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This is pure intellectual laziness. Christianity needs a new reformation, one that embraces science, and one that takes Judaic wisdom a whole lot more seriously. Maybe I can bring some of my own personal evolution into the faith. We’ll see.

    Lance,

    Indeed science presupposes a non-theistic universe. Supernatural events are clearly outside of the realm of science and hence non-starters in any “scientific” discussion whether it is about butterfly behavior or the origin of the cosmos.

    I assume what you mean by this is that we don’t need angels to push the planets around or God’s intervention to miraculously change one species into another? Given my previous statement, obviously I don’t subscribe to such silly explanations for natural phenomena. But you are quite wrong about the origin of the cosmos. Not only is there nothing in accepted cosmology that refutes a theistic origin to the cosmos, cosmological theory is actually consistent with it. The Big Bang model is the current accepted theory for the origin of the universe, and it says that time, space, energy — all of nature — had a beginning. Logically, this implies something beyond nature as the creative force for the universe. Strictly speaking, the word for this is supernatural since this force is above nature. The Big Bang model has some detractors, most of them atheist, for precisely this reason. (Curiously, some Christian fundamentalists also oppose the Big Bang model.) The great astrophysicist Geoffrey Burbidge expressed his dismay over the theory by accusing scientists of rushing off to join the First Church of Christ of the Big Bang, or something to that effect. These scientists hate it precisely because it implies a moment of creation, which is a little too reminiscent of Genesis.

    I don’t need God to explain how things work — science does that quite adequately on its own. But I do see religion and science together as a way to understand why things work the way they do. If we are using science to understand the program, then ultimately we can understand something about the programmer, too.

  92. #92 Sock Puppet of the Great Satan
    January 22, 2008

    ‘This coming, of course, after Sarah makes clear that she IS “a kind of creationist”.’

    Actually, she didn’t. Nothing in Sarah’s post indicated that she was a creationist. If you want to put a word on what she is, she’s a deist.

    And she’s making pretty interesting points, and her (and Barton) are spot on with their comments on the nonrelevance of science to belief. You can’t use the material world to prove or disprove the immaterial. You *can* use science and the material world to disprove the Bible if you interpret said text naively and literally, but neither Sarah nor Barton appear to be naive belivers.

  93. #93 pough
    January 22, 2008

    Sarah,

    Admittedly, you’re guessing, but I’m not.

    Fine; I’m guessing and you’re relying on anecdotal evidence. My point was that neither of us has any actual evidence (beyond anecdotal) and christianity dominates in terms of sheer numbers. Also, even with said books galvanizing, the trend towards creationism may have started before then. Did it? Did it not? Do you know? If you claim that it’s a response, then the one should come before the other in the timeline.

  94. #94 Lance
    January 22, 2008

    Sarah,

    I appreciate your open answer to my post. Your civil tone is unfortunately uncommon on this blog, especially when contentious topics, such as religious faith, are in play.

    However, I think you are trying to have your cake and eat too when you say

    Not only is there nothing in accepted cosmology that refutes a theistic origin to the cosmos, cosmological theory is actually consistent with it.

    How can any empirically unverifiable and unfalsifiable proposition be “consistent” with the scientific method? Perhaps you mean to say that the philosophical premise of a “creator” cannot be excluded from possibility by a scientific framework?

    But that isn’t saying very much is it? I could say the same thing about any ad hoc supernatural explanation I care to invent. How could any “supernatural” theory be falsified? If the deity whose trail you are attempting to measure doesn’t have to obey even the rules of self-consistency He/She/It is a little bit hard to pin down or refute.

    Such theories are completely useless, or worse, in scientific terms. I think it is quite revealing, and I say this with some degree of empathy for your candor, that you say that the reasons for your conversion were “…deeply personal and subjective, so much so that it is almost impossible to describe to someone who isn’t already Christian…”

    While this explains your personal feelings about your conversion and why you feel that a personal god is consistent with your personal experience, I’m afraid it puts it out of play to rational discussion and wholly “inconsistent” with scientific inquiry, despite your claims to the contrary.

  95. #95 davide
    January 22, 2008

    Sarah,

    I think I know where you are coming from here:

    *What it comes down to is a need for a philosophical basis for my life — some kind of moral framework from which to operate. A computer-like universe is fascinating, but it doesn’t get me all the way to morality.*

    The difference between us I think, is that I see morality implicit in the code. Behavioural ecology guides me to the conclusion that many other animals, particularly primates and highly likely our common ancestor, are endowed with the seeds of morality. Kinship and altruism has been differently evolved in humans to an extreme as with other traits that make us unique in this respect.

    Judaic wisdom it would seem to me is just the human vocalization of the morality that is built into our (animal) behaviour via evolution. None of this of course precludes the existance of a God beyond the Big Bang (or however the universe came into being) that included the structure for the eventual expression of the morality part of the equation into the design.

    I should probably make it clear that I am content with this idea of the universe existing without a need for a creator or designer, capable of and indeed bound by probability to give rise to moral lifeforms, capable of gaining an accute awareness of the intricacy of the code.

    I am curious still tho’ as to how you reconcile your appreciation of science with the what I find to be the most difficult aspect of Christianity; Jesus Christ himself.

    I can my head around a clockwork universe set in motion by a supernatural entity as a concept, but throw in a human expression of the entity, born to a virgin, who can cheat death and has a bunch of other tricks up his sleeve that defy rational thought – that’s where it breaks down for me.

    PS. Maybe you should start your own blog – seems you’ll get some customers. :)

  96. #96 dhogaza
    January 22, 2008

    Sorry, folks, but

    A program implies a programmer. So I see God very much as a master programmer, who wrote the code (the laws of nature) and set it in motion.

    is a variant of creationism, i.e. intelligent design creationism. Her argument is the classic intelligent design argument by analogy, “it looks like a (machine/program/etc)” and thus must’ve been engineered/programmed.

    It’s not biblical literalism, of course, and I never said she was a traditional christian YEC/OEC creationist.

    Nothing in Sarah’s post indicated that she was a creationist. If you want to put a word on what she is, she’s a deist.

    Actually, she says she is a Christian. Who are you to say she’s not?

    But, again, I never said she was a traditional christian creationist of the six-day creation, gawdawful big flood with dinos rocking noah’s boat type.

  97. #97 StuV
    January 22, 2008

    Sarah,

    But my own study has indicated that there is nothing in science that invalidates scripture, or vice versa, so I don’t suffer from this problem.

    That is a joke, right? You can read Genesis and say this with a straight face?

  98. #98 Matt Heath
    January 22, 2008

    The “descended from apes” thing.
    I’m willing to be corrected, but IIR Ancestors Tale correctly, not only do we have ancestors rightly called apes but WE are rightly called apes. We are more closely related to chimps and bonobos – in terms of how far you go back to a common ancestor – than they (or we) are to gorillas or to orang-utans. So if the category “apes” is to include chimps and gorillas, and not have weird ad-hoc holes in it, it includes humans and the nearest common ancestor of chimps and humans.

  99. #99 Sock Puppet of the Great Satan
    January 22, 2008

    “is a variant of creationism, i.e. intelligent design creationism. Her argument is the classic intelligent design argument by analogy, “it looks like a (machine/program/etc)” and thus must’ve been engineered/programmed.”

    Naw, intelligent design is a different beast: it argues that the *could not have come about through natural laws*. She’s not arguing that: if I can interpret for yer, she’s arguing that the natural laws have such narrow tolerances for life to exist that there was a creator behind them. She’s a deist or theistic evolutionist, not a creationist.

    One requires suspension of natural laws; the other doesn’t. Until you or I know what Sarah’s attitude is to the rest of the Bible, whether she believes in miracles or other suspensions of natural laws, or whether she interprets those as metaphorical, you can’t accuse her of inconsistency.

    “But, again, I never said she was a traditional christian creationist of the six-day creation, gawdawful big flood with dinos rocking noah’s boat type.”

    Come on dhoghaza, y’know what you were implying.

    I’m not a believer (I’m an agnostic), but let’s be fair here.

  100. #100 dhogaza
    January 23, 2008

    Naw, intelligent design is a different beast

    Given the choice between a) believing you, or b) my own research, or c) the informed opinion of a bush-appointed federal district judge, I’ll pick what lies behind doors b) and c).

    Sorry.

    Until you or I know what Sarah’s attitude is to the rest of the Bible

    Well, she does say that nothing in science contradicts the Bible, and therefore the Genesis account of Creation, the Biblical account of a global flood and Noah’s ark, etc, doesn’t she?