Dispatches from the Creation Wars

With Friends Like These…

When I was in San Francisco last weekend, I was accompanied by my MCFS colleague Rob Pennock. While I flew home on Sunday, Rob was flying instead to San Diego where he was to give an address to all of the incoming freshmen at UCSD. His address was part of what the university calls their Convocation Series, where each quarter a different prominent scholar is invited to speak. The speech is free, but all incoming freshmen from that quarter are required to attend the address in order to introduce them to a variety of scholarly viewpoints.

The ID folks have made a big deal out of Rob’s speech. Sal Cordova has declared it to be “Darwinian indoctrination” and he portrays it as a panicky and “drastic” reaction to a now nearly 3 year old survey that found that 40% of incoming freshmen at UCSD do not believe in evolution (without any evidence of a connection, of course, or even any acknowledgement of the fact that Rob’s speech is one of 4 speeches by different scholars in different fields every year).

Cordova also makes a profoundly silly argument about church/state separation:

If this is a one-sided lecture, this has constitutional issues. If, as Judge Jones ruled, ID is a religion, a University Provost has no business funding a lecture that denigrates someone’s religious beliefs, and professors have no business requiring the freshman class to have it shoved down their throats. If on the other hand, ID is science, then the Provost and professors have no business attacking it in this manner either….

What a neat little force field Sal attempts to build around ID. Apparently, no one at any public university can ever criticize ID – or any other idea that any religious person holds – without violating the constitution. If his legal theory were true – and frankly, it’s so silly that it hardly warrants debunking – then we would have to close down all the medical schools because, after all, there are religious groups that reject the germ theory of disease and therefore any advocacy of that theory “denigrate’s someone’s religious beliefs.”

This is quite absurd, of course. Public universities pay professors for their scholarly work. Some of those professors may well take positions that “denigrate someone’s religious beliefs”, while others may well take positions that support someone’s religious beliefs. In neither case is this a church/state problem at all, as the views expressed represent the view of the scholar, not the government. Again, if Sal’s legal theory had any validity, public universities could teach virtually nothing because almost every position on any subject is going to be critical of, or supportive of, someone’s religious belief.

But far more disturbing than the unjustified reactions of my opponents are the unjustified and dangerous reaction of at least one of my colleagues. Larry Moran is a biochemist and a long time TalkOrigins regular. He’s been firmly on the right side of the evolution/creationism debates for a long time. He’s a brilliant guy and a serious scholar in his field. Unfortunately, his reaction to this situation is profoundly disturbing and dangerous. He writes:

I agree with the Dembski sycophants that UCSD should not have required their uneducated students to attend remedial classes. Instead, they should never have admitted them in the first place. Having made that mistake, it’s hopeless to expect that a single lecture–even one by a distinguished scholar like Robert Pennock–will have any effect. The University should just flunk the lot of them and make room for smart students who have a chance of benefiting from a high quality education.

I can’t tell you how unsettling and disturbing I find this to be. It annoys me to no end when ID advocates portray us pro-science types as enforcers of a “Darwinian orthodoxy” with a zeal to purge all dissent from the ideas we advocate from academia; it is far more disturbing when a few folks on our side of this debate go out of their way to actually match that crude caricature being foisted on us. Nothing good can possibly come from this.

My high school French teacher, a very important influence on my life and my thinking, told me when I graduated that education is the process of disillusionment. When I entered college at 18, I believed all sorts of things that I can now recognize at patently absurd. Did that make me an idiot at 18? Of course not. Yet Moran is here suggesting that universities expel every 18 year old who holds a single position that he considers stupid. I dare say that if Moran himself were judged by those standards at 18 years old, he would never have gone to college at all.

To be honest, I’m rapidly becoming convinced that there are two very different groups involved in fighting against the ID public relations campaign to distort science education. The distinction between the two groups is that one is fighting to prevent ID creationism from weakening science education while the other is fighting, at least in their minds, to eliminate all religious belief of any kind, even those perspectives that have no quarrel with evolution specifically or science in general, from society.

I am firmly a member of the first group, as are the vast majority of those I work with on this issue. Genie Scott, Rob Pennock, Wes Elsberry, Nick Matzke, Jack Krebs and nearly everyone I consider colleagues in this regard recognize that the dispute is over evolution and creationism, not over theism and atheism. But some, like Larry Moran, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Gary Hurd and others, are involved in an entirely different battle. For them, it’s not enough to protect science education from the attacks of some religious people; religion itself, in any form, is to be attacked and destroyed by any means necessary.

How else to explain Moran’s earlier comments here that bluntly accuse Ken Miller, the single most effective and tireless advocate of evolution and critic of ID creationism in the nation, of being anti-science merely by virtue of the fact that he attempts to reconcile science with his religious faith? In the battle Moran is fighting, theistic evolutionists are the enemy despite their advocacy of evolution, because his battle is not for evolution or against ID creationism, it is against theism, hence theists, in any form.

A few months ago, I was accused by some members of this second group of being a traitor because my political views are not in complete agreement with theirs. To them, I am the enemy, but only because they are defining their enemies and allies in terms of their anti-theist agenda; they are simply fighting a different battle than I am. If their goal is to destroy theism, then I am indeed not on their team. Not only is that goal not mine, it is clear to me that trying to achieve it makes the battle I’m fighting, for good science education free from the influence of creationists, less achievable.

Declaring that anyone who does not accept evolution at 18 years old should be expelled from school so that “smart” people can take their place is precisely the kind of ego-driven, arrogant nonsense that feeds their caricatures of us. It does nothing but provide support for their claims of persecution, which are otherwise almost always false and exaggerated. It is the biggest favor one can do for ID advocates. It provides them with evidence for a set of claims that, in the real world, really aren’t true.

It’s simply the last thing we need, and I refuse to be associated with such authoritarian dogmatism. The fact that both groups reject ID does not mean that we are fighting the same battle. So let me go on the record right now that I find this sort of thing not only wrong, but appalling and vile. I will fight against such attempts to damage and punish those who disagree with us just as strongly as I will fight against the attempts of ID advocates to impose their views on public school science classrooms. They do not speak for me, or for the vast majority of advocates against ID creationism.

Comments

  1. #1 Matthew Young
    November 20, 2006

    Not to justify his statements, but just to say:

    When I am calm and relaxed I agree with you entirely, Ed, and I cannot say that evolutionary theory disproves god – all it does is disprove idiotic literal interpretations of biblical creation myths. Getting non-scientific teaching out of science class is a very specific goal, which often leads to a very general argument.

    However, I don’t have to listen to too many religious arguments (well, usually deranged polemics rather than arguments) before my blood starts to boil and I get very close to the ‘well if you really believe that evolution is wrong then you clearly have no ability to process information properly and are hence an idiot’ kind of statement.

    Not to justify his comments, which are daft, but I don’t have to listen to too much ‘rise of the immoral godless baby-raping atheists’ bollocks to get very close to it myself at times.

  2. #2 SLC
    November 20, 2006

    Today on PZs’ blog, he launches a jeremiad against Eugenie Scott for not being sufficiently antagonistic against religion. It is unfortunate that PZ and his syncopants fail to realize that generals who fight a two front war usually lose.

  3. #3 Will
    November 20, 2006

    Yay, lets attack PZ Meyers, that cretin!

  4. #4 Susan Brassfield Cogan
    November 20, 2006

    “But some, like Larry Moran, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Gary Hurd and others, are involved in an entirely different battle. For them, it’s not enough to protect science education from the attacks of some religious people; religion itself, in any form, is to be attacked and destroyed by any means necessary.”

    This is over the top. Dawkins, et al. think that evolution is only a skirmish in a larger war and that religion itself is the problem–or specifically the idea of accepting anything at all on faith without any evidence. Yes, they all attack religion. Why not? But “destroyed by any means necessary” is perfectly silly. I’m not familiar with Moran’s writing, but it flatly contradicts what Dawkins and Myers actually say.

  5. #5 Jeff Hebert
    November 20, 2006

    I thought about this all weekend, and I think your best bet on this whole “re-framing the debate” quest is to reply to the “It’s science vs. religon!” with “No, it’s science vs. BAD religion — and ID creationism, like geocentrism or a flat earth, is bad religion, not to mention bad science.”

    This accomplishes two goals. First, it’s setting up a clear delineation between the listener’s particular religion and the bad religion espoused by the ID crew. It implies that “science” is fine with most religion — the two are not antithetical. Second, it conflates the arguments being made by the opposing side with familiar, classical examples of religion being flat-out wrong.

    I’d also recommend that we stop call it just “ID” and start calling it “ID Creationism”. Labels matter, and the more we can hammer home in the public consciousness that ID is just a different flavor of creationism, the better.

    Regarding the “different wars” meme, if the US and the USSR could ally to defeat the Axis powers, even while they were at philosophical war, I am pretty sure your camp and PZ’s can manage to get along well enough to defend science standards, even if their larger war is not one you care to be involved with. Fight that battle when it comes, we’ve got plenty of incoming artillery to dodge without having to worry about friendly fire.

  6. #6 Jeff Hebert
    November 20, 2006

    The line “classical examples of religion being flat-out wrong” in my post above should read “classical examples of religion being flat-out wrong about scientific issues” to avoid the implication that science is just wrong, period. I certainly didn’t want to make that argument, as I think it’s silly.

  7. #7 Jason I.
    November 20, 2006

    Susan said:

    Yes, they all attack religion. Why not?

    Why? Why must religion be attacked? Christian beliefs (as well as most other religious beliefs) in today’s world are, for the most part, harmless until they are combined with political agendas, or are part of an extremist sect of the religion. Just because someone believes in god, they should be ridiculed, attacked, insulted? That’s ridiculous. Belief in a higher power does not indicate stupidity or maliciousness. Attacking religion out of spite for religion does exactly what Ed says: enlarges the specter of the evil atheist out to destroy god. And that just makes the political right fight all that much harder to destroy science standards and try and teach religion in public schools.

  8. #8 Bob Carroll
    November 20, 2006

    SLC: “syncopants?” funny.

  9. #9 Blake Stacey
    November 20, 2006

    CITOKATE: criticism is the only known antidote to error.

    Forgive me if I am incapable of seeing this quarrel over attitudes and tactics as a “front” in a “two-front war”, something comparable to invading Russia in wintertime while simultaneously driving tanks into France. Perhaps one is right to indulge the puerile fantasies of the reptile brain by applying the congratulatory word warfare to the quest for good science education; maybe this is the moral equivalent of war we need to tell ourselves we’re fighting until our civilization needs war no longer.

    But this schism — to use a theological turn of phrase — between Dawkinsites and Millerians — let’s make it sound really like dogmatism! — is not a war. It’s keeping each other honest. We are in the business of being our brothers’ keepers.

    When anybody claims that the existence of morality in humans, say, is evidence for Almighty Jove, PZ Myers is there to call them out. If Myers or Dawkins ever sounds callous or forgetful of the human frailties which lead our fellow humans to seek solace in belief, well, Brayton will lead a host of bloggers to point out the sin and let it stand in the historical record.

    “If men were angels,” said James Madison, “no government would be necessary.” We have learned at some cost that no single human should be trusted to rule (an Enlightenment discovery summarized perfectly by Douglas Adams, bless his memory). Instead of asking “Who should rule the state?”, as they did in the ages of kings, we ask what combination of agencies can minimize the evil of those seeking power — what groupings of individuals can allow for reasonably efficient action while still preventing the rise of factions? Democratic government is an exercise in emergent properties: we seek to create a corpus more honest than its component cells can be.

    The same holds true for science. Frauds, hoaxes and ordinary human sloppiness are weeded out through perpetual cross-criticism. Drives of ego and vanity — “What will you do to win the Nobel Prize?”, asks the admissions interviewer — are harnessed to benefit the scientific community and the species at large. The body has more wisdom and integrity than its component cells can display.

    If science behaves in this way, it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise about science education. Don’t tell me that this is a war. It’s error correction. We are witnessing the price of vitality. These are not battles among men; they are the growing pains of a community. Think about it: if we scientists and humanists and skeptics were in truly dire straits, if the creationist cannons were outside our walls and all were almost lost, could we even take the time to argue? Nobel laureates who might quarrel volubly at scientific conferences formed a legion of Roman solidarity when Edwards v. Aguillard reached the Supreme Court.

    Skepticism is a new thing! Thinkers have voiced ideas like ours all the way back to Democritus of Abdera and before, but how old is the notion of skepticism as a movement, with its own conferences, heroes and history? It is an interesting age when defenders of science, even those who are professional scientists themselves, are more famous for their educational work than any science they have done! (We know Einstein as a physicist but Sagan as a popularizer, with Dawkins and Gould perhaps somewhere in the middle.) Because we haven’t done this for very long, we are still figuring out how. We are learning from mistakes like the astronomers’ response to Velikovsky, and thanks to the Internet, we are slowly teaching ourselves the art of “flexible response”, replying to threats without making pseudoscience seem more credible by dignifying it with excessive attention.

    We are learning! This process takes integrity and a willingness to swallow bitter medicine, neither of which are ever in copious supply, but nor are they completely absent. The Enlightenment is not a nation of clones. We’re all going to take our lumps ere we shuffle off this mortal coil, but at least we can take them like members of a civilization.

    If scientists were angels, we would have no need for peer review, and if bloggers were angels, we would have no need for comments.

    If we were angels, we would have no need for each other.

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    November 20, 2006

    It really needs to be pointed out that this post is not really directly related to the previous post about framing the evolution debate and whether science and religion are inherently in conflict; this post is about becoming something we absolutely should not become. They’re connected in the sense that they both represent reasons why they’re really are two distinct groups battling against the anti-evolution movement (groups whose goals are aligned some of the time and not aligned some of the time), but those reasons are quite distinct. Regardless of how one feels about the question of science and religion, we ought to at least agree that it is not only impractical but unjust to expel people from public universities for not accepting evolution or to destroy their careers over it. This is exactly what the ID movement always accuses us of, but so far without any real evidence (truth be told, nothing happened to Sternberg other than a few rude comments from colleagues – cry me a river). But Moran is bluntly declaring that universities should apply some sort of loyalty pledge, where a student either agrees that evolution is true or they are expelled. You don’t have to agree with me on the subject of science and religion in order to recognize that this is a very, very bad idea. So let’s try and keep those two issues separate.

    This post is about authoritarian tactics by those with whom we agree on almost everything else. It’s something I must speak out against, just as I spoke out earlier against the notion of denying tenure to anyone who accepts ID and to “outing” ID advocates to hurt their career. These are not only bad ideas, they are immoral ideas. The moment we begin to apply litmus tests of ideological purity to access to education is the moment we become that which we most despise.

  11. #11 Sastra
    November 20, 2006

    The big, underlying battle is science vs. pseudoscience. Beneath all the weighty psychological, ethical, and social baggage it carries, religion is pseudoscience. The claim that intelligence, intention, values, and consciousness can actively create, underly, and act upon the cosmos is similar to assertions about ESP, psychokensis, and vitalistic life forces. It might be prudent in the short term to get the it’s-really-only-harmless-water homeopaths to fight against dangerous quack cancer cures, but in the long run it could be self-defeating.

    That said, I can still agree with Ed regarding the idiocy and bigotry of Larry Moran’s suggestion that ignorant students be kept from learning. I’m hoping it was meant just a little bit tongue in cheek, or he was venting steam. If not, it’s truly awful.

    And great post up above on CITOKATE. Like Meera Nanda, Blake Stacey is one of my heroes… ;)

  12. #12 Gretchen
    November 20, 2006

    Sure…if students arrive at university not believing in evolution, it’s definitely the best plan to boot them out immediately so that there’s no chance they may learn about it and change their minds!

    I was never taught about evolution in school (go, Kansas school system). I had only a vague idea of what it was until university, when it was introduced apologetically in an anthropology class with the caveat that we “didn’t have to believe it if we didn’t want to.” If you had singled me out before that class and asked if I believed in evolution of humans, I would have to have said “No” simply because I didn’t know enough about it to profess belief. And yet now I’m an atheist studying religion using the theories and tools of cognitive science, which rest firmly on evolutionary theory. Would it really have been a score for the good guys to have kicked me out of uni when I was 19?

  13. #13 Blake Stacey
    November 20, 2006

    Ed Brayton wrote:

    But Moran is bluntly declaring that universities should apply some sort of loyalty pledge, where a student either agrees that evolution is true or they are expelled. You don’t have to agree with me on the subject of science and religion in order to recognize that this is a very, very bad idea. So let’s try and keep those two issues separate.

    I apologize for posting a lengthy comment in what was probably the wrong thread — these are the sort of ideas which bubble in my head and occasionally demand release!

    On the restricted topic of Moran’s “loyalty pledge”, I agree with you wholeheartedly that this is a rotten idea. It strikes the perfect balance between moral reprehensibility and utter stupidity. After all, we all started from a state of ignorance, and we’re not gonna get anywhere if we make people stay that way. I suspect his comments are the sort of thing one says when has been royally pissed about the whole situation for far too long. It’s regrettable, but when the number of angry people tends to infinity, the probability of such remarks tends to 1.

    This is one reason why we don’t grant regular speakers at TalkOrigins the analogue of papal infallibility.

    Sastra wrote:

    And great post up above on CITOKATE. Like Meera Nanda, Blake Stacey is one of my heroes… ;)

    =)

    To outsiders, I should say that the Nanda reference is an inside joke from deep down on a Pharyngula comment thread.

  14. #14 Caliban
    November 20, 2006

    Ed, i think your choice of words enflates the basic proposal of the Dawkins-Harris-Dennet camp beyond what is intended.

    I have never seen any of these people write about “destroying religon by any means neccessary”.

    What they are proposing, is that ALL claims be held to the same standards of evidence and argument that we use everywhere else in life. None of these writters is talking about rounding up theists and shooting them or anything remotely like that.

    Further, they are not oppossed to working with religous moderates in order to accomplish pragmatic goals (like protecting science education from ID zealots) as Sam Harris states in his new book:

    “In Letter to a Christian Nation, I engage Christianity at its most divisive, injurious, and retrograde. In this, liberals, moderates, and nonbelievers can recognise a common cause.”

    Frankly, i don’t think that what Dawkins/Harris/Dennet are proposing is any differant that what Carl Sagan was proposing 20 years ago in his book “The Demon Haunted World”. His ideal of science being a candle in the darkness of superstition and ignorance is really not that differant from what today’s atheist science writters are advocating.

  15. #15 PennyBright
    November 20, 2006

    All issues of anti-religionism aside, I have to agree with basic point as stated by Mr. (or should that be Dr?) Moran.

    Universities shouldn’t be in the business of remedial education.

    This lecture doesn’t seem to be an example of remedial education, however.

    Sastra,

    You may wish to re-phrase this —

    “The claim that intelligence, intention, values, and consciousness can actively create, underly, and act upon the cosmos is similar to assertions about ESP, psychokensis, and vitalistic life forces.”

    I act with intelligence, intention, values and conciousness all the time, and and am constantly engaged with creating things (such as lunch) and acting upon that wee bit of the cosmos in my immediate vicinity. I understand that you are attempting to make a point about the presumed attributes of deity/supernatural intelligence, but it does need to be more clearly stated.

  16. #16 Brian
    November 20, 2006

    Yes, Larry Moran says stupid things (let’s get that out of the way first). But for somebody who claims to be an agnostic, you sure spend a lot of time railing against atheists. The reason why people like PZ and Dawkins fight religion at the same time as creationism is that they consider them both symptoms of the same problem: an intellectually lazy worldview. Now, you may not agree with this, and frankly it’s not something I’m all that interested in debating. But the only time I’ve seen religion mentioned in your blog is when its proponents do something patently stupid, usually involving evolution or gay marriage.

    I’ve never seen you talk about proselytizing by the religious, but you do seem to dislike it a whole lot when atheists proselytize. What, atheists don’t have the right to tell other people why they should think like they do? Atheists have this worldview because they think it’s right- like everybody else in the world, they think that their worldview is the best one. But because atheists proselytizing “destroys the united front” of the secular, you feel you have to fight against them.

    An analogy: you’re a person who is clearly very interested in civil liberties. You’re also a libertarian (usually, the freedom that most libertarians seem interested in is the freedom to not pay taxes- that’s why I’m separating civil libertarian from libertarian). Most people that are interested in protecting civil liberties are markedly socialist compared to you. So, in the interest of keeping the Party clean, and presenting a united front to the outside world, I guess it’s time to give you your walking papers from all of us socialist civil libertarians.

  17. #17 Ted
    November 20, 2006

    So, in the interest of keeping the Party clean, and presenting a united front to the outside world, I guess it’s time to give you your walking papers from all of us socialist civil libertarians.

    Well, isn’t this a fine how-do-you-do. No longer any room in the big tent for the fellow travelers? Purges all around! Ideological purity rules. You’re either with us or against us.

  18. #18 Susan Brassfield Cogan
    November 20, 2006

    Susan said:
    Yes, they all attack religion. Why not?

    Jason I replied:
    Why? Why must religion be attacked? Christian beliefs (as well as most other religious beliefs) in today’s world are, for the most part, harmless until they are combined with political agendas, or are part of an extremist sect of the religion. Just because someone believes in god, they should be ridiculed, attacked, insulted? That’s ridiculous. Belief in a higher power does not indicate stupidity or maliciousness. Attacking religion out of spite for religion does exactly what Ed says: enlarges the specter of the evil atheist out to destroy god. And that just makes the political right fight all that much harder to destroy science standards and try and teach religion in public schools.

    Susan replies back:
    Religion is bad in general because it encourages people to accept silly ideas without examining them or requiring evidence. That’s an extremely BAD habit to encourage.

    There’s no particular reason that religion should get a free pass from criticism or ridicule. Even if YOU may not be stupid and malicious, some of your unexamined ideas may be. Religion is just another idea like millions of other ideas that humans have had down through the ages. And there’s a big difference between criticism and ridicule and “destroying by any means necessary.”

  19. #19 Leni
    November 20, 2006

    You know what I think the debate is about… Rationally defensible ideas vs. not rationally defensible ideas. That’s it.

    In any case, I’d put money on the fact that Moran has no intention of advocating any such policy. Rotten comment? Yes. Plan for social change? Really doubt it.

  20. #20 DuWayne
    November 20, 2006

    Two points.

    First, religion is not pseudo-science – at least not for me. My religion has nothing to do with science – except where science and it’s explanation of the universe has shaped them. I have never made any sort of claim that science “proves” my beliefs, or that it could. The furthest I have gone is to claim that it doesn’t disprove them either.

    Second, Brian, Ed has never, to my knowlege, come out against proselytizing atheists. He comes out strong against those, like Dawkins or Myers, who attack everyone and anyone who has any sort of religious/spiritual beliefs. I think an analogy for the sort of “proselytizing” they do, is Chirstians who stand outside gay pride festivals, screaming about how the queers are all going to hell, that “god hates fags.” As apposed to Christians like me, who proselytize by trying to be reasonable, kind and loving to those around me – or atheists who proselytize by explaining – without insulting – the sensability of looking at the evidence, and basing belief on the evidence.

    Telling people that they are stupid and irrelevant, or that they are hell bound cause’ god hates them, are not effective ways to bring people around. I would even go as far as calling them cop-outs. It shows that rather than wanting to, respectively, bring them around to common sense, or bring them into the grace of god, the antagonists simply wish to put people in their place. To belittle them because their view is far superior.

  21. #21 Jason I.
    November 20, 2006

    I guess I’m just mystified as to the bad things that religion brings about. Yes, there have been times when religion has been responsible for horrid atrocities. Yes, there are people today who want to use religion as a bludgeon of authority. Outside of those examples, however, I’m fairly indifferent. If people want to believe in god, where’s the harm? I don’t believe in god, but other people doing so has almost no impact on me. And there are a lot of benefits that many people see to being a member of a church, including an incredibly strong support group to turn to in times of need. So I really don’t see the point in people attacking religion, and attempting to belittle all of those associated with it. It doesn’t further the debate of evolution vs. ID/creationism one bit, and it can create enemies where enmity doesn’t exist.

  22. #22 Jason I.
    November 20, 2006

    Brian said:

    I’ve never seen you talk about proselytizing by the religious

    What blog have you been reading? Ed has many posts about religious fundies proselytizing, especially in inappropriate forums. He takes them to task for it every time.

  23. #23 Caliban
    November 20, 2006

    DuWayne, Claiming that science hasn’t disproved your religous beliefs is akin to a young-earth creationist saying the same thing. Admittedly, i’m not a biologist, but the last time i checked, bringing dead organisms back to life is impossilbe and donkeys don’t talk. Which, of course, is the point: Science disproves religous beliefs every where you turn. One would have to render the entire bible into one long, mythical fiction in order for science not to disprove it.

    Second, I have read nothing Dawkins has written or said that is comparrable with Fred Phelps and his like. Dawkins pleads for rationality and criticises those beliefs that do not pass muster. This is completely removed from someone screaming on a street corner with a “GOD HATES FAGS!” sign. They are not even remotely equivalent.

  24. #24 AndyS
    November 20, 2006

    Ed,

    The distinction between the two groups is that one is fighting to prevent ID creationism from weakening science education while the other is fighting, at least in their minds, to eliminate all religious belief of any kind, even those perspectives that have no quarrel with evolution specifically or science in general, from society.

    Way to go! Keep writing about this. Perhaps if we can define the group sufficiently we can push the discussion forward in a positive way.

    I see a pro-science group with a fundamentalist wing that is also anti-religion. As you and others have said, it is not just anti-bad-religion but anti-all-religion — a position that to me is both silly (they have no reasonable argument) and ignorant (they don’t show any knowledge of the variety of religious belief).

  25. #25 DuWayne
    November 20, 2006

    Jason I. said –
    What blog have you been reading? Ed has many posts about religious fundies proselytizing, especially in inappropriate forums. He takes them to task for it every time

    He takes them to task for doing it in innapropriate forums. He has never said that it is wrong to proselytize, just that there are places it is innapropriate and methods that are innapropirate.

  26. #26 Salvador T. Cordova
    November 20, 2006

    Cordova also makes a profoundly silly argument about church/state separation:

    I don’t think it would be worth the trouble of a lawsuit, but I think the spirit of the law was violated, if indeed the Provost(s) were interested in changing what they believed someone’s religious beliefs are.

    Professors have the academic freedom to criticize religious views, offer their opinions, but proseletizying is taboo. Requiring large numbers of freshman to listen to an anti-ID lecture is not the same as students hearing a professors offer their opinions in class. There is circumstantial evidence the university wants to eradicate ID beliefs, and if it views those beliefs as religious (whether ID is true or not), it is still violating the spirit of constitutional law if the university is receiving taxpayer funding. It may be a moot point since I don’t think anyone cares enough to file a legal complaint.

    In any case, I’m not here to quibble over this. I think you calling Moran out on what he’s doing is commendable, and I am personally appreciative.

    For what it’s worth, Happy Thanksgiving. And if you have a P.O. Box where you receive mail from your fan club, I have Christmas card I’d like to send in thanks for your upholding of free speech rights and freedom of commerce. We disagree intensely on many things, but I am appreciative of your stand on free speech issues.

    Sal

  27. #27 David Heddle
    November 20, 2006

    Claiban:

    Admittedly, i’m not a biologist, but the last time i checked, bringing dead organisms back to life is impossilbe and donkeys don’t talk. Which, of course, is the point: Science disproves religous beliefs every where you turn. One would have to render the entire bible into one long, mythical fiction in order for science not to disprove it.

    Science doesn’t disprove (Christian) religious beliefs. The Resurrection is proclaimed as miraculous. You have it quite backwards: if science could explain the resurrection, walking on water, parting of the red-sea, etc., then it might have a chance to disprove religious claims which rely on the fact that these events are inexplicable.

    Do you really connect the dots this way: science proves miracles cannot happen therefore science disproves religious claims? Do you know how absurd that is? Do you know why they are called miracles? Do you know what supernatural means, and how religion states that the supernatural exists?

    Mostly because the bible makes very few scientifically testable statements (only a couple, that I am aware of), it is virtually impossible for science to disprove it. Your thinking on this matter is not at all clear. This should be obvious to the atheist and to the believer.

  28. #28 DuWayne
    November 20, 2006

    Caliban said –

    DuWayne, Claiming that science hasn’t disproved your religous beliefs is akin to a young-earth creationist saying the same thing. Admittedly, i’m not a biologist, but the last time i checked, bringing dead organisms back to life is impossilbe and donkeys don’t talk. Which, of course, is the point: Science disproves religous beliefs every where you turn. One would have to render the entire bible into one long, mythical fiction in order for science not to disprove it.

    First, I do believe the bible is one long, mythical fiction in a sense. Second, you have no clue what my religious beliefs are – they are not contradicted by science. Third, and most important – they are irrelevant to any discussion about public policy.

    Second, I have read nothing Dawkins has written or said that is comparrable with Fred Phelps and his like. Dawkins pleads for rationality and criticises those beliefs that do not pass muster. This is completely removed from someone screaming on a street corner with a “GOD HATES FAGS!” sign. They are not even remotely equivalent.

    Of course not. His accusations that I am abusing my child by sharing my religious beliefs with him, is nothing like people screaming god hates fags. Myers’ assertions that I am the enemy, even though I agree more with him, than my brother Ed, on political issues, is nothing like telling people they are headed for hell – because they are sinners.

    The similarity lies in the idea that both groups are writing off everyone who dissagrees with them. The notion that rather than bringing people around to their point of view, or allying themselves on issues where there is agreement, they would rather maintain some superiority over them.

  29. #29 Ed Brayton
    November 20, 2006

    Let me clarify a few things.

    First, I have no problem whatsoever with atheists advocating for their position (or with Christians doing so, for that matter), telling people they’re wrong, or ridiculing stupid beliefs. I do all of those things on this blog every single day and I certainly don’t think I’m the only one who should be allowed to do so. I am objecting to two things, primarily:

    A) the notion that those who don’t believe in God are more intelligent than those who do, an idea rather explicitly advocated by Richard Dawkins when he says that some people (his daughter, Stephen Colbert, etc) are “too intelligent” to believe in God. There’s certainly nothing wrong with arguing over whether God exists or does not exist (though I frankly couldn’t care much less about the subject), but using it as a measure of intelligence is, ironically, quite stupid. I reject the silly idea of calling atheists “brights” for the same reason, because it implies the same thing. There is a significant difference between making fun of religious people who are stupid or who behave stupidly (and there is a vast supply of them), as I do often, and claiming that religion itself is a sign of stupidity. There are some brilliant people in this world who are religious. If you really think that you’re vastly more intelligent than a guy like Lawrence Collins by virtue of not believing in God when he does, it’s time to deflate that ego.

    B) advocating tactics of punishing people for advocating ideas we don’t like. I obviously object to ID, as they do, but I think it’s both unjust and unjustified to expel students from school for rejecting evolution, or to deny tenure to an otherwise qualified person for believing in ID. College students believe lots of stupid things. If we set up litmus tests of rejecting students based on what someone decides is stupid, no one is going to be allowed to go to college. Likewise, we have professors who believe lots of idiotic things and still get tenure. We have professors at prestigious universities who believe that the design of the New Jersey turnpike is inherently sexist (I’m not making that up), that UFOs regularly visit the earth, that the Soviet Union was a worker’s paradise and that 9/11 was a CIA plot. The moment we begin to subject professors to orthodoxy tests is the moment that Joe McCarthy is reincarnated. We cannot criticize the tactics of the right while simultaneously engaging in them ourselves.

    Second, I am not and have never advocated the notion that religion is a wonderful thing. I fully recognize the long history of barbarism in religion. Indeed, I write about that history and the continuing attempts to reimpose those things every day. I just don’t think that’s the entire picture. Of course religion motivates a wide range of terrible things, but it also motivates a wide range of wonderful things. Religion motivates wars and oppression on a wide scale, but it also motivates immense efforts, both individually and collectively, to feed, clothe and house the poor, to heal the sick, and to comfort the distressed. And while I’m more than happy to join the battle against the negative aspects of religion, it would be irrational to pretend the positive aspects don’t exist.

    Reality rarely falls into the simple black and white categories we too often seek to impose upon it. If you really think that that reality is as simple as “religious people dumb” and “atheists smart”, you are engaging in exactly the sort of simple-minded nonsense that you object to on the part of religious people (who far too often fall for such simple dichotomies themselves). And if you really think that not believing in evolution should get one expelled from school or fired from their job, then again you are doing the very thing you object to when religious people impose strict orthodoxies of belief and punish heretics and blasphemers. We do no one any favors by emulating the other side, least of all ourselves.

  30. #30 Ed Brayton
    November 20, 2006

    Sal Cordova wrote:

    Professors have the academic freedom to criticize religious views, offer their opinions, but proseletizying is taboo. Requiring large numbers of freshman to listen to an anti-ID lecture is not the same as students hearing a professors offer their opinions in class. There is circumstantial evidence the university wants to eradicate ID beliefs, and if it views those beliefs as religious (whether ID is true or not), it is still violating the spirit of constitutional law if the university is receiving taxpayer funding. It may be a moot point since I don’t think anyone cares enough to file a legal complaint.

    No, this legal theory is still absurd. There are people who believe all sorts of things as a matter of religious faith. By your reasoning, if a university sponsored a speaker to speak about the sphericity of the earth then they are violating the first amendment by advocating an idea and “proselytizing” against the religious belief that the earth is flat. Likewise, a sponsored address on heliocentrism would be an establishment clause violation because it would “seek to convert” those whose faith demands a belief in geocentrism. You may not take such religious beliefs seriously and so you may dismiss them as irrelevant, but they apply perfectly to your argument. One could go on and on. A speech advocating germ theory would contradict those who are members of the Christian Science faith. For that matter, conventional meteorology or seismology would conflict with those who believe that hurricanes and earthquakes are sent by God as punishment for sin. There is virtually no idea anyone can advocate that doesn’t conflict with some religious idea, which means that if your argument is true, public universities could not endorse any idea at all.

  31. #31 Caliban
    November 20, 2006

    David, I fail to see how placing the adjective “miraculous” before a claim renders it immune to the light of science.

    Why should religous claims have this special immunity to science when other “miraculous” claims do not?

    You might have a case if there was any evidence to support the existence of anything “supernatural”, but there isn’t. The wholle march of science through history has been a slow, progressive accumulation of facts where once superstition and ignorance held sway.

    In light of everything we know about the cosmos today, it is simply not rational to believe that at one time in our past a donkey could talk, a prophet could raise people from the dead, cast out demons etc.

    To do so would completely disreguard everything our species has learned about the natural world. Without the assumption of consistency, science itself becomes impossible because every fact loses it’s descriptive authority if at any moment, they can be overturned by “magic”.

  32. #32 386sx
    November 20, 2006

    Mostly because the bible makes very few scientifically testable statements (only a couple, that I am aware of), it is virtually impossible for science to disprove it.

    If a scientifically testable statement fails the scientific test, then how do you know it’s not a miracle. If a scientifically testable statement passes the scientific test, then how do you know it’s not a miracle that just looks like a scientifically testable statement. How come something has to be inexplicable in order to be a miracle. Can’t everything, no matter what is is, right or wrong, true or false, be described as a miracle?

    Do you know why they are called miracles?

    Yeah, it’s so you can have everything just the way you want it.

  33. #33 David H.
    November 20, 2006

    Yeah, I hate it when Dawkins “attacks” religion. I mean, he clearly attacked the Pope and Catholicism for advocating that free speech is good except when religion is involved. And he clearly attacked Judaism for their anti-gay and anti-free speech actions against the pride parade. Dawkins just loves to attack religion when it makes claims that are either stupid or harmful, and often both, and clearly he’s a monster for doing so, and unjust, and obviously not on the side of pure science (he’ll just upset all the religious people and that will hurt us because then they’ll get REALLY mad).

    Okay, obviously, I meant “Ed Brayton” whenever I said “Dawkins.” And whenever I said “attack” I meant “criticize.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a bizarre post or quote from someone on Ed’s mythical side of the debate to then attribute by association to him and with which to frame my criticism. But I’m pretty sure Ed’s idea of Dawkins “attacking” religion isn’t too different than his action of “criticizing” religion–Dawkins just takes it one step further and criticizes the source, the foundation, for the illogical ideas and actions that Ed likes to make fun of. Anyway, I’m sure religious zealots don’t see much of a difference.

    Surely, Ed, we can all get behind you advocating that we not destroy all religion. However, could you get behind those speaking out against the anti-intellectualism that most religions promote?

    When you paint Dawkins and others as spear-wielding warmongers, complete with a mythical goal of destroying religion “by any means necessary,” then you’re, excuse me, little better than the same ID and religious zealots who do the exact same on the other side. At least you’re certainly not any less wrong in your characterization.

    And when the evolution vs. creationism debate is over (or stalled for a few years), and gays are able to get married, then I bet there will still be clashes between rational thinking and dogmatic religion. In fact, I’ll bet it’ll have something to do with faith-healing, or mind-body connection mumbo-jumbo, or similar pseudo-science couched in religious importance. Sam Harris, in fact, is an advocate of eastern meditation (and so the endorsement of his book from Dawkins is baffling).

    So then, Ed, will you be ready to gear up for another “war?” When they want to teach some other pseudo-science to school children? You could save yourself some time and keystrokes by addressing (or criticizing, or, alright, even “attacking”) the rooted ideas of anti-intellectualism couched in most religions that leads to these sort of battles in the first place.

  34. #34 Ed Brayton
    November 20, 2006

    David H-

    I am more than happy to attack anti-intellectual ideas in any form, religious or otherwise. Where I part company is with those who claim that any belief in anything divine or supernatural is, by definition, anti-intellectual. I’ve made that distinction quite clear, but I cannot force you to recognize it if you choose not to.

  35. #35 Caliban
    November 20, 2006

    The quip i heard Dawkins make on public radio about his daughter being “too intelligent to be religous/believe in God” was not a sweeping generalisation about theists as much as it was a display of arrogant pride in a father’s daughter. It was an off-handed quip, not a thesis under which he bases the thrust of his arguments.

    On the same radio interview he was pressed on the issue and said that he did NOT think that all religous people were idiots or unintelligent; only those that believed in litteral Creationism were.

    I think this quote is used as a kind of bomb to throw into a debate to render anything Dawkins says irrelevent.

    It is not one’s humility or arrogance that determines the quality of an argument. Dawkins, despite whatever displays of arrogance, is rigorously through. I don’t think that what he says should be discounted because of a flippant comment about how great he thinks his daughter is.

  36. #36 Sastra
    November 20, 2006

    PennyBright wrote:

    Sastra, You may wish to re-phrase this —

    “The claim that intelligence, intention, values, and consciousness can actively create, underly, and act upon the cosmos is similar to assertions about ESP, psychokensis, and vitalistic life forces.”

    I act with intelligence, intention, values and conciousness all the time, and and am constantly engaged with creating things (such as lunch) and acting upon that wee bit of the cosmos in my immediate vicinity. I understand that you are attempting to make a point about the presumed attributes of deity/supernatural intelligence, but it does need to be more clearly stated.

    Thank you. You are of course correct — I neglected to put in the word “disembodied” or something similar to indicate that supernatural theories generally define themselves by positing Mind (and/or the products of Mind) as existing prior to, outside of, separable from, and causal on matter.

    Dawkins approaches the existence of God from a scientific standpoint, as a claim that our intuitive belief in some form of mind/body dualism is still plausible in light of our discoveries in nature. He believes that the “God” hypothesis is more like the ESP hypothesis than it is like “we should be fair to each other,” the existence of numbers, the fact that humans form strong emotional bonds, or “chocolate tastes good.” He is attacking religion with the same fervor he and other scientists reserve for bad, misleading theories.

    The question of whether he is right to do so is different than the question of whether it is *politic* to do so.

  37. #37 Uber
    November 20, 2006

    Do you know what supernatural means

    I love Heddle speak. DO you know what supoernatural means David? Please define it for us in a way that would really matter.

    And a man rising from the dead would have to have been a result of a natural interaction with the natural world and as such is available to the process of science.

    that any belief in anything divine or supernatural is, by definition, anti-intellectual.

    I agree it’s not necessarily anti-intellectual but at the same time I don’t think one can honestly say it’s remotely rational thinking either.

    Science doesn’t disprove (Christian) religious beliefs

    Yes it does and so does good old logic. There was no global flood. Science says so not only so but says it’s essentially impossible for a whole host of reasons.

    And one would have to define Christian beliefs as they are so varied as to ensure that there is someone out there who is Christian who believes whatever we may be discussing.

    His accusations that I am abusing my child by sharing my religious beliefs with him, is nothing like people screaming god hates fags

    I think if one teaches their child religious beliefs that make them believe mythical places exist that may cause them harm after they die Dawkins is correct. It’s simply pathetic for an adult to do so while bemoaning Janet Jacksons nipple on TV. It’s a child for goodness sakes.

  38. #38 kehrsam
    November 20, 2006

    The thread has wandered away from Ed’s original point. The question is, where is our focus to be? If it is on protecting and strengthening science education in this country and around the world, then all that is required is for all of us to have that as a goal; our reasons for supporting it are irrelevant. Thus to egregiously attack another supporter is misguided.

    It is also true that people support more than one thing in life, and people who agree on one idea may well differ. Several commenters have raised this objection. However, they have to recognize that it depends upon priorities. The US and USSR could work together in WWII because, while they held opposite worldviews, at the time all that mattered was the destruction of the worldview which threatened both. So yes, Moran can make this argument if he truly believes that ignorant people should be denied education or that religion must be opposed with rationalism, or whatever. Having made that choice, however, he may not then object when Ed points out that he is no longer helping with the goal of science education.

    As Ed points out, this was precisely what happened in the attacks on Ken Miller. Some people decided that the fact that Miller is a Christian was more important than those ideas they held in common, such as the promotion of science education.

    As a person who has worked in politics for many years, I am used to the notion of forming a coalition and the fact that the constituents of that coalition will not be agreement on all issues. Sometimes, yes this means that certain ideas are taken off the table and not to be discussed if such would break the overall sense of agreement.

    For instance, when Jim Wright was Speaker, he did a masterful job of protecting moderate to conservative democrats from having to vote on abortion issues, among other things. It is not a coincidence that the House democratic majority broke up within a few uears of Wright stepping down. In the long run, one may see this as good or bad, that is a separate issue. But if you want your coalition to contunue and achieve its basic goals, it makes all the difference in the world.

  39. #39 David H.
    November 20, 2006

    Show me a supernatural or divine belief that withstands the test of reason or logic, and doesn’t then require the person who continues to believe in it to disregard said reason or logic (or stick their fingers in their ears and go “la-la!”), do those things and I’ll recognize your distinction.

    To put it another way (because I’m young and not very good at this), you speak as if there is more than one kind of supernatural belief. If someone believes in the supernatural, of any sort, doesn’t that require intellectual dishonesty in ignoring reason and logic when they are applied to it?

  40. #40 David Heddle
    November 20, 2006

    Caliban,

    It’s not subtle at all: miracle, by its true definition, means something that cannot be explained by science. Now sometimes we use a weaker form as a figure of speech, for example “it was a miraculous catch,” but clearly this is not the message the bible intended it when described, to use your favorite example, talking donkeys. It meant to convey something that could not be explained, not matter how hard you tried.

    I’ll give you a suggestion–if you really want to use science to disprove the bible there is only one obvious place to go, that is with the Noahic flood. It won’t be easy, because there are many (like myself) who believe that it was a localized flood in Mesopotamia. However, the bible does not declare that “miraculously all evidence of the flood was removed.” Even a localized flood leaves evidence behind–that evidence is subject to scientific scrutiny.

    As for the irrationality of believing that a donkey can talk “given everything we know about the cosmos today” I’ll point out two things. One is that this was a one-time, localized event–which is the hallmark of all miracles. The second is, you are engaging in a bit of chauvinism. It would have been just as absurd for an Moses-era ancient (at which point in history vast civilizations had come and gone) to believe in a talking donkey. The “irrationality” of a talking donkey has nothing to do with the advent of modern science. The ancients were not idiots–a common misconception. They may not have known about big-bang cosmology, but they were no more susceptible to a belief that donkeys could talk than you are. But they did seem to know that “that can’t happen” is not a rational criticism to the claim that “miraculously, it did.” “You’re and idiot for believing thata donkey talked” might be a reasonable approach, but offering a proof that it couldn’t happen is meaningless. No doubt it can be shown to be impossible. Once again, that’s the point.

    As a Christian and a scientist, I never expect to witness a miracle. There are about a hundred or so described in the bible, and they seem to be relegated to a few important moments in redemptive history. Thus I don’t approach science with the thought that what I can’t explain must be a miracle, or that it is a fools-errand because at any moment a miracle might spoil the works. Even if all scientists were believers, science would be done the same way. It is not rendered impotent by the admission of miracles.

    386sx

    If a scientifically testable statement fails the scientific test, then how do you know it’s not a miracle.

    Because, as I stated above, the assumption of any Christian doing science is that he will not be privileged to witness a miracle.

    Besides, miracles are friggin’ obvious. They do not take the form of an experiment not producing the data I expect. They are radical intrusions on the natural order. They are unmistakable.

    Yeah, it’s so you can have everything just the way you want it.

    Yeah, many people say that and it doesn’t get smarter with each repetition. You must really believe that the biblical writers, in (miraculous) anticipation of the advent of modern science, wrote events in terms of miracles just so their claims would be exempt from testing.

    The bottom line is that miracles comprise a small fraction of the biblical text and are well isolated and documented. The bulk of scripture does not describe the miraculous, and you can subject it to rigorous scientific, archeological, and historical testing without fear that any discrepancy will be excused as a miracle. Of course, it’s easier to invoke the possibility of that response as an excuse to avoiding your homework.

    Uber:

    It is easy: supernatural means beyond the natural. That is, science cannot explain it. Though it may be denied, the concept should be simple enough to grasp.

    As fo the flood, see my comments above.

  41. #41 Matthew
    November 20, 2006

    Judge Jones did not rule that ID is a religion. He ruled that it was an idea born out of religion. The government can not take sides on religion, but they can take sides on ideas (religious or otherwise).

  42. #42 Uber
    November 20, 2006

    Telling people that they are stupid and irrelevant, or that they are hell bound cause’ god hates them, are not effective ways to bring people around.

    I find those who take the direct approach much more honest personally. I find them morally repugnant though. This analogy isn’t good. If you believe in mythical places where people are currently suffering(and suffering forever) and then you drive to church on Sunday and worship the being who is allowing it to happen that IS something but call it what you wish. Conversly all many atheist are doing is saying there isn’t a shred of evidence that you should think such mythology is remotely real.

    It shows that rather than wanting to, respectively, bring them around to common sense, or bring them into the grace of god, the antagonists simply wish to put people in their place

    See this is nearly fall of the chair funny. You equate an atheist with common sense and then discuss your version of God as if it’s the only one and the correct version at that.

    But I see your point. The truth of the matter is the religious don’t like outspoken atheists likely for years of being told how evil they are and atheists need and should have a voice. The more they speak out the better this nation will be. If fellas like Dobson, Robertson, Olsteen, The Pope, and Warren can spew whatever they spew on the airwaves it speaks volumes to the truth of Dawkins and Myers and their ilk that people speak to silence them but not the others.

    I mean seriously these other fellas are quite literally saying think like I do or bad things will happen to you after you die and this is the side people back? As opposed to those that say perhaps the king is naked? Odd world.

  43. #43 Uber
    November 20, 2006

    It is easy: supernatural means beyond the natural. That is, science cannot explain it. Though it may be denied, the concept should be simple enough to grasp.

    Ok David. Give one thing that is not natural and how would this pertain to the raising of a dead body which is firmly in this natural world. Your definition doesn’t work and is simply hand waving.

    Why would science not be able to explain the reanimation of a living body? It has nothing to do with denial other than the fact that you seem to be denying the obvious.

    Yeah, many people say that and it doesn’t get smarter with each repetition

    Yeah like apologetics.

    The bulk of scripture does not describe the miraculous, and you can subject it to rigorous scientific, archeological, and historical testing without fear that any discrepancy will be excused as a miracle

    No it just fails in many of those areas as well and while the bulk of the book may not be miraculous it certainly rests on those events.

    Of course, it’s easier to invoke the possibility of that response as an excuse to avoiding your homework

    Thats correct as if the more one studies the more likely that a donkey somehow grew enabled vocal chords for human speech. The real homework that should be done is figuring out why a few intelligent humans delude themselves into thinking it happened at all.

    The ancients were not idiots–a common misconception.

    I know of no one who thinks they where. Idiots would best be described as people then and now who think animals talk to them. Perhaps idiot is to strong a word and a person in need of mental health care would be better. Even smart people go off the tracks now and again.

    They are radical intrusions on the natural order.

    And as such are 1: observable and if it happens here the process of science can work through it.

  44. #44 kehrsam
    November 20, 2006

    Sal said: Professors have the academic freedom to criticize religious views, offer their opinions, but proseletizying is taboo. Requiring large numbers of freshman to listen to an anti-ID lecture is not the same as students hearing a professors offer their opinions in class. There is circumstantial evidence the university wants to eradicate ID beliefs, and if it views those beliefs as religious (whether ID is true or not), it is still violating the spirit of constitutional law if the university is receiving taxpayer funding. It may be a moot point since I don’t think anyone cares enough to file a legal complaint.

    As Ed points out, this is incorrect. First, there is assumed to be a difference between high schoolers and those entering college. College is not forced, and no one is ever compelled in the legal sense to attend anything. Second, the whole point of a college education is to challenge the assumptions of the students. If their ideas are in any sense correct, they will be strengthened by the challenge, not undermined.

    The notion that religious ideas are verboten in higher education is just weird, even if (as here) a state school is involved. Take the case from last year of UNC making incoming freshmen read a book about islam. Seeing as none of the young people I know have the slightest notion about Islam, it seems pretty timely to me. The same would be true if they had studied the Velikovsky brouhaha, or racism, or…lots of other things. I see no reason why religious topics need be taken off the table, particularly if the University in question has pretense to be a bastion of the Liberal Arts.

  45. #45 kb
    November 20, 2006

    “I’d also recommend that we stop call it just “ID” and start calling it “ID Creationism”. Labels matter, and the more we can hammer home in the public consciousness that ID is just a different flavor of creationism, the better.”

    “Creationism” traditionally starts with a particular religious view (typically from the Bible) and attempts to harmonize the physical evidence with that. As far as I can tell, ID does no such thing. Rather if looks at the evidence for indications of design and attempts to let the evidence speak for itself without an a prior commitment to “materialism at all cost”. I don’t think they’ve proven their case, but I don’t find the same mindset among those who are primarily ID-friendly (be they theist or agnostic, such as David Berlinski and myself) and those who are primarily (Biblical) creationists. They seem to be the same on a certain front, but with different motivations, as Brayton has similarly indicated regarding the anti-theist Darwin’s camp, and Ken Miller types. Moreover, these two groups are often at odds. The creations have denounced the ID proponents right and left. They obviously have a different agenda.

    Now for a question: for those of you who are not anti-theist, but simply “pro science”, committed to materialism, and are anti-ID, what sort of evidence would it take to convince you that there was elements of design within a genome?

  46. #46 Jake
    November 20, 2006

    My high school French teacher, a very important influence on my life and my thinking, told me when I graduated that education is the process of disillusionment.

    How French. :)

  47. #47 Salvador T. Cordova
    November 20, 2006

    The notion that religious ideas are verboten in higher education is just weird, even if (as here) a state school is involved.

    The issue is not about taking discussion of religion off the table, but whether a one-sided approach is being used to specifically target and change the minds of certain student’s religious beliefs. Discussion and debate are encouraged, proseletyzing is taboo.

    At Moran’s on school, a PhD in biology was awarded to a creationist. What does that say about how convincing evolutionary theory is compared to real sciences like quantum theory, electromagnatism, or information science, or the approximations in classical mechanics? It is highly inappropriate to suggest evolutionary theory is scientifically and empirically on par with other empirical observations and theoretical conclusions.

    The issue of origins is not a done deal. The approximate spheriphicity of the Earth (the geodetic ellipsoid model is more accurate than a pure sphere) can be directly observed. In contrast, events of the past can only be concluded via inference.

    Until evolutionary thoery is as well established as gravity and God’s existence and special creation of the universe is disproven as convincingly as perpetual motion machines have been disproven, Provost(s) at taxpayer funded schools have no business systematically trying to change the religious beliefs of students via one-sided presentations with mandatory attendance requirements.

    In any case, I don’t wish to be too negative about what Ed said. On the whole, I applaud his criticism of Moran.

  48. #48 David Heddle
    November 20, 2006

    Uber:

    Ok David. Give one thing that is not natural and how would this pertain to the raising of a dead body which is firmly in this natural world. Your definition doesn’t work and is simply hand waving.

    Sorry I have no idea what that means. Or what you are asking for. I’m not trying to avoid your question (I never do) I simply cannot parse what you wrote.

    Why would science not be able to explain the reanimation of a living body? It has nothing to do with denial other than the fact that you seem to be denying the obvious.

    Perhaps someday something akin to that will be routine. However it won’t be as described in the bible, where one man (Jesus) simply commands another to rise. That will remain firmly in the miraculous category. Are you agreeing with Caliban? He seems to argue that miracles can’t happen (via science) and therefore religious beliefs are demonstrably wrong. You seem to argue that perhaps the miracles can be explained–or am I missing the boat? As I said, the ability of science to explain the miracles would be devastating to religious belief, while science stating that they are impossible is, contrary to Caliban’s argument, expected.

    And as such are 1: observable and if it happens here the process of science can work through it.

    Again, I’m not sure what you mean. If Peter had a cell phone camera, he could have recorded Jesus walking on water. However, once again, it was a miracle. As such, the recorded observation would not have facilitated a scientific explanation.

  49. #49 Dave L
    November 20, 2006

    Where I part company is with those who claim that any belief in anything divine or supernatural is, by definition, anti-intellectual.

    But it seems like there must be some distinction between religious beliefs and obviously wacky beliefs like invisible leprechauns, but I have trouble thinking of one other than the amount of testimony of believers. It’s obvious that religious beliefs aren’t necessarily anti-intellectual, Heddle and Henry Neufeld easily disprove that, but you can be intellectual about how ESP works also. At least ESP is testable and an argument can be made that it is ‘anti-intellectual’ to believe in ESP when studies do not support it. As Heddle said though, there really isn’t anything testable about Christianity; if the material world is all there is then nothing can falsify it (just like invisible leprechauns).

    I believe it is possible to rationally believe in God, but I think at it’s foundation it is based on what I’d call ‘invisible’ evidence, or evidence that cannot be examined by others. I can see how a religious people can look at the physical world and see support for their belief in God, but I think to be honest even religious people must acknowledge that the mere existence of the world on it’s own can reasonably be evidence for God, Zeus, or no god at all. In my experience, believers have a lot of different answers to, ‘why do you believe in God?’, and at it’s core it always seems to be internal and essentially unexaminable (an amazing coincidence, “I feel God’s presence when I pray”, etc). Again, I don’t know what the distinction is between religious belief and any other belief based ultimately on the conviction of the believer. It doesn’t seem entirely ‘rational’, as it makes many types of mental illness rational (not that I’m equating those two).

  50. #50 Jeff Hebert
    November 20, 2006

    kb said:

    “Creationism” traditionally starts with a particular religious view (typically from the Bible) and attempts to harmonize the physical evidence with that.

    (Sorry Ed, I know you said this thread wasn’t about re-framing, but I promised I wouldn’t post in the other thread any more.)

    I think it’s fair to use the more general connotation of “Creationism” as “A belief in supernatural causation for life” as part of saying “ID Creationism”. But even given your more narrow definition of the term, the Dover case pretty conclusively showed that modern ID is, for the most part, repackaged old-school Young Earth Creationism, with all the actually testable bits removed. I think it’s a useful term, speaking both linguistically and politically.

    The word “creationist” also definitely has a negative connotation from the Scopes Monkey Trial on, and I think it’s smart to use it for that reason as well, if we’re trying to reframe the debate from “science=atheism=evil” or “science vs. religion”. Again, the new frame would be “It’s not science vs. religion, it’s science vs. BAD religion” — everyone understands that religion got it wrong about things like geocentricism, flat-earth-ism, and the divine motion of the spheres. Tying ID to that strain of bad religion (in terms of explanation of natural phenomena) is a good way to go.

    Now for a question: for those of you who are not anti-theist, but simply “pro science”, committed to materialism, and are anti-ID, what sort of evidence would it take to convince you that there was elements of design within a genome?

    A nice helix of DNA that literally spells “Hi there! Signed, The Creator” would probably do it.

    Seriously, I think that question is REALLY far off the topic of this thread, and I’ve pissed Ed off enough for one week.

  51. #51 steve s
    November 20, 2006

    To be honest, I’m rapidly becoming convinced that there are two very different groups involved in fighting against the ID public relations campaign to distort science education. The distinction between the two groups is that one is fighting to prevent ID creationism from weakening science education while the other is fighting, at least in their minds, to eliminate all religious belief of any kind, even those perspectives that have no quarrel with evolution specifically or science in general, from society.

    I’ve tried to make this point for the last year. I share the goals of both groups. I would like both the creationists to lose and the christians to become atheists. A few aggressive scientists seem to be able, barely, so far, to achieve the first goal of smooshing the mosquitoes. Though I think they’ll probably eventually lose. The second goal, draining the swamp, appears to be no closer to achievement than it was in Ingersoll’s time. Atheism will not win by being promoted in essays written by a few sciencey types, or it would have won long ago. People don’t believe in god because deep philisophical arguments convince them, they because because that’s what everybody at church believes, and church is all those people who are nice to you, and help the poor, and will give you money and clothes when you’re down on your luck, and that’s where you met several of your friends, and the man at the top says you’re supposed to be nice to people and that sounds about right…

    Religion is a set of institutions which provide real, direct social benefits. Is there an atheist group down the street from you which is having a potluck dinner Wednesday night, runs a homeless shelter, comes together to help Brenda whose husband died in Iraq, and passes the plate to take care of her kids? Church is so attractive, I’m thinking about going to the nearby Unitarian one, and you don’t get more atheisty than me.

    I’m not sure that atheists are capable of forming such groups, and there might be downsides I’m not thinking about, but participants in social groups like the one I mentioned have not been persuaded to give up the group by five critical essays written by the egghead over at the ivory tower, and I don’t think that’s likely to change with publication of essay six, seven, eight…

  52. #53 Ed Brayton
    November 20, 2006

    Sal Cordova wrote:

    At Moran’s on school, a PhD in biology was awarded to a creationist. What does that say about how convincing evolutionary theory is compared to real sciences like quantum theory, electromagnatism, or information science, or the approximations in classical mechanics?

    Absolutely nothing. At Case Western Reserve University, a PhD in astronomy was awarded to a geocentrist, yet you don’t make the same argument in that respect. This is pure special pleading.

    Until evolutionary thoery is as well established as gravity and God’s existence and special creation of the universe is disproven as convincingly as perpetual motion machines have been disproven, Provost(s) at taxpayer funded schools have no business systematically trying to change the religious beliefs of students via one-sided presentations with mandatory attendance requirements.

    But the geocentrists say the exact same thing. So do those who reject the germ theory of disease. Your argument basically boils down to “universities cannot take positions against my religious beliefs, but they can take positions against other people’s religious beliefs if I think those religious beliefs are silly.” Again, pure special pleading.

  53. #54 Ed Brayton
    November 20, 2006

    to Jeff Hebert:

    You sent me BBQ. That gives you at least a 5 year exemption from pissing me off. :)

  54. #55 bj
    November 20, 2006

    Ed,
    I registered here for the first time to just thank you for making this kind of statement. I have long held that mainstream anti-IDists are going to have to publicly break with the Dawkins, Myers, and Morans of the world to avoid guilt by association and be successful in the causes that you believe in. I don’t believe that ID is science, but I am intrigued in it as a philosophy. I don’t believe religion is evil, and I don’t believe atheism is either. But parties on both sides who demonize and disrespect other human beings have to be opposed because it’s simply the right thing to do. Thank you.

  55. #56 Uber
    November 20, 2006

    Ok David. Give one thing that is not natural and how would this pertain to the raising of a dead body which is firmly in this natural world. Your definition doesn’t work and is simply hand waving.
    Sorry I have no idea what that means. Or what you are asking for. I’m not trying to avoid your question (I never do) I simply cannot parse what you wrote.

    1: body in natural world
    2: body relies on natural processes to function
    3: dead body
    4: Process needed to make organic dead body come back to life.
    5: Happened in the natural world.

    All of which would be available to science.

    That will remain firmly in the miraculous category. Are you agreeing with Caliban? He seems to argue that miracles can’t happen (via science) and therefore religious beliefs are demonstrably wrong. You seem to argue that perhaps the miracles can be explained–or am I missing the boat?

    To me this is essentially the same thing. Miracles are very unlikely to have happened BECAUSE they cannot happen in any meaningful sense. My point above was about the supernatural and the vacous idea that it is. If something ever, even once enters the natural world it is the natural world. Pretending another realm exists is rendered superflous.

    As I said, the ability of science to explain the miracles would be devastating to religious belief, while science stating that they are impossible is, contrary to Caliban’s argument, expected.

    I see no reason why science couldn’t explain the process of reanimating a body. It occurs in the natural world. The odds of it being so are much greater than the likelyhood of a supernatural being.

    If Peter had a cell phone camera, he could have recorded Jesus walking on water. However, once again, it was a miracle. As such, the recorded observation would not have facilitated a scientific explanation.

    This is where we part company. It wouldnot be a ‘miracle’ per se anymore than a man walking across hot coals is a miracle. If Jesus was interacting with the natural world it was interacting with him and as such would offer both hypothesis, predictions, and the ilk to a scientist.

    Saying it was a one time event is rather silly when al religions have their supposed ‘miracles’ and dead rising. It was common mythology. One can always hand wave and pretend about anything however.

    Religion is a set of institutions which provide real, direct social benefits. Is there an atheist group down the street from you which is having a potluck dinner Wednesday night, runs a homeless shelter, comes together to help Brenda whose husband died in Iraq, and passes the plate to take care of her kids?

    That is 100% the truth.IMHO :-)

  56. #57 Ted
    November 20, 2006
    Religion is a set of institutions which provide real, direct social benefits. Is there an atheist group down the street from you which is having a potluck dinner Wednesday night, runs a homeless shelter, comes together to help Brenda whose husband died in Iraq, and passes the plate to take care of her kids?

    That is 100% the truth.IMHO :-)

    Good lord, are you serious?

    All of these things may be mitigated if we stopped praying for solutions and instead worked at them without the obstructionist view that secular social work isn’t nearly as effective as praying.

    There are secular groups that do these things without resorting to deities and more; generally they’re the ultra-liberals that want to provide for consensus rather than god sanctioned, just war, that want to provide education regardless of class, that want to fund education for Brenda children, and to employ her husband in things other than war, etc. There are non-religious shelters, publicly funded, but having shelters doesn’t actually mean that we’re holier than the religious.

  57. #58 SLC
    November 20, 2006

    Mr. Cordova shows a total ignorance of the evidence supporting the theory of gravity (i.e. the General Theory of Relativity). For some 50 years, the theory of gravity rested on one observation, namely the precession rate of the major axis of the planet Mercury. This is to contrasted with the thousands of observations and predictions of Darwins’ theory of Evolution. I think most scientists would consider thousands of observations more convincing then one observation. Apparently, Mr. Cordoba does not.

  58. #59 Uber
    November 20, 2006

    I am 100% serious that people do benefit from the above aspects of a church community and that more than anything else is what makes them ‘believe’. I don’t think there are many people who don’t realize their religious beliefs are not well grounded. I think people believe for emotional reasons not intellectual ones.

    And of course secular organizations can do the same, that wasn’t my point. Nor the initial comment makers.

  59. #60 Caliban
    November 20, 2006

    David, First, how did you arrive at your definition of a miracle? Did you employ the scienfic method to do so? For instance, you claim that miracles are “a one time localised event -which is the hallmark of all miracles”. Yet, even one-time events that are purported to have occured would leave evidences behind.

    For instance, when Jesus dies on the cross the following is purported to have happened:

    “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”

    So, not only do we have Jesus rising from the dead, but an earthquake, rocks splitting apart, tombs openning up and the dead coming back to life and appearing to many people.

    Surely, if the dead came back to life and started wandering the streets someone would have thought the event momentous enough to have a written a record of it. (Not to metnion the earthquake and splitting rocks.) Especailly if “many” people had indeed wittnessed it. This is where science comes in. Where is the evidence for any of this? And what is the rational postition to take about a report that defies all common sense as well as scientific veracity and has no evidence to back it up?

  60. #61 DuWayne
    November 20, 2006

    Uber said –

    See this is nearly fall of the chair funny. You equate an atheist with common sense and then discuss your version of God as if it’s the only one and the correct version at that.

    I do no such thing. I am equating those who think that I am stupid, irrelevant and the enemy because I have religious beliefs – regardless of the fact that when it comes to my interface with politics, I vote for and believe in the same ideals they do, with people who believe that their version of god is the only one that could possibley be correct. I have never said that I am right, that my religion is right and everyone else is wrong. Nor will you ever hear me say that, because I don’t neccesarily know that my understanding of God is right.

    Conversly all many atheist are doing is saying there isn’t a shred of evidence that you should think such mythology is remotely real.

    I am not talking about “many atheists,” I am talking about those who claim that I am stupid, irrelevant and the enemy, because of my religious beliefs.

    The truth of the matter is, that I could care less about what anybody thinks or says about my religious beliefs. I take exception to being called stupid, irrelevant and the enemy for having them.

    You would have a pretty good idea of exacty what I believe if you would stop reading into what I say, things that are not there. Stop assuming you know the first thing about what I actually believe in – you obviously don’t.

    And to be clear, I have no hostility towards atheists, even ones that get a kick out of questioning my faith from every angle they can think of. I simply get hostile towards atheists, or anyone else that tells me I am their enemy. I have the same hostility towards a lot of Christians and other religious types – because they tell me that they are absolutely right and I am wrong and will suffer eternal torment because I am wrong – in effect, identifying me as an enemy.

    I think that the problem you have with me is that I put radical atheists in the same catagory as radical people of faith. That somehow I should look at atheism as superior to anyone who has religious/spiritual beliefs. I don’t, I don’t even see a person’s religious beliefs or lackthereof as relevant to any of this. The only place that I see it as relevant is when people let their religious dogma, influence their expression of public policy – whether as a pundit, lobbyist, voter, legislater, justice or executive. I do not think that I am superior to you or you to me – my religious beliefs and your atheism are certainly not an indicator.

    Now if you were to tell me you believe that GLBTs should be second hand citizens, that women shouldn’t have control over their own bodies, that the poor should just starve, that healthcare belongs only to those who can afford it or any of a long list of issues, I might start thinking I am a little superior, though it’s not entirely true, even then. But it is easy to feel that way. So I geuss I can understand how you might feel that way about my “delusions” but it’s a little sad if your shallow enough to judge me a lesser person, simply because I subscribe to some religious notions.

  61. #62 Ted
    November 20, 2006

    I don’t think there are many people who don’t realize their religious beliefs are not well grounded. I think people believe for emotional reasons not intellectual ones.

    Three negatives there but I think you’re saying: I think many people realize their religious beliefs are not well grounded. I think people believe for emotional reasons not intellectual ones.

    Assuming I understood you, you’re saying something like: People know they’re flaky, and having knowledge of this flakiness, still think it’s OK to insist that creationism be taught in school? Because that would separate their emotional domain from their intellectual domain?

    I’m not getting it.

    And the guy up there pretty clearly says:

    I’m not sure that atheists are capable of forming such groups, and there might be downsides I’m not thinking about, but participants in social groups like the one I mentioned have not been persuaded to give up the group by five critical essays written by the egghead over at the ivory tower, and I don’t think that’s likely to change with publication of essay six, seven, eight…

    Atheists incapable. We’re actually having the kid from down the street for dinner instead of attending the church potluck.

    Although I suspect that the reason that it may take many essays to convince them of something is because they exist in a world where the supernatural makes sense, talks to them and they to it and is somewhat more pleasant as an ideal than present reality is.

  62. #63 steve s
    November 20, 2006

    And Ted makes the completely absurd point that the social benefits aren’t real because we could hypothetically provide them a different way. Kind of like saying that Jiffy Lube didn’t change your oil because I could have done it, had I chose to. I’m going assume that Ted lives in a different time zone where it’s 6 am and he has not had his coffee yet.

    It’s not the objection which I anticipated and considered pre-empting, which is..well…let me see if it pops up.

  63. #64 David Heddle
    November 20, 2006

    SLC,

    In one reasonable way of quantifying, Sal is absolutely correct. General Relativity is now a precision science, with some predictions involving neutron stars having been verified to some unthinkable accuracy which eludes my memory, but I believe more precise that one part in 10^7. Regardless of how many pieces of evolutionary evidence you claim, there is nothing in evolution that can match that level of precision.

    Perhaps it is unfair to compare evolution to GR on the basis of precision–but no more so than counting each fossil as evidence and then arguing that this demonstrates that evolution is on more solid ground. And then claiming most scientists would agree with you, which I seriously doubt. (Most would, I suspect, dismiss the question as being silly.)

    Caliban–I didn’t arrive at it, I just accepted the common definition.

    Surely, if the dead came back to life and started wandering the streets someone would have thought the event momentous enough to have a written a record of it.

    You are correct. At least one record of all the events survived.

  64. #65 steve s
    November 20, 2006

    Atheists incapable. We’re actually having the kid from down the street for dinner instead of attending the church potluck.

    I should have been more explicit here, I thought it was obvious from context that I meant atheists might be incapable of forming such groups based explicitly on atheism. Atheist groups tend to be reaction-based political ones, in my experience. I assumed that no one would think an atheist would be calling his people, and himself, uncharitable and selfish.

  65. #66 steve s
    November 20, 2006

    There are secular groups that do these things without resorting to deities and more; generally they’re the ultra-liberals that want to provide for consensus rather than god sanctioned, just war, that want to provide education regardless of class, that want to fund education for Brenda children, and to employ her husband in things other than war, etc. There are non-religious shelters, publicly funded, but having shelters doesn’t actually mean that we’re holier than the religious.

    Posted by: Ted | November 20, 2006 06:28 PM

    Hard to tell what Ted’s arguing against here. He seems to be arguing that it is not true that only religious people are charitable or nice or something. Not sure whose argument that opposes, but doesn’t oppose mine. Secular is not the same as advocating atheism.

  66. #67 steve s
    November 20, 2006

    It is generally unfair to compare sciences. Everyone is said to have physics envy, anyone who does hasn’t thought about it very clearly. Though I like physics, it is silly to assume that the reason it looks like it does, and psychology looks instead like it does, is because Richard Feynman was oh so much smarter than Paul Ekman. Sciences look different for various reasons because, among other things, their subject matters are so much different. The 100-billion-node interconnected network of neurons in a person’s brain is just not remotely as easily mathematized as the behavior of an electron in a magnetic field. Furthermore, the electron is going to deflect this much today, the same amount tomorrow, and the same amount on 9/11 as it did on 9/10. And to belabor the point, you’re not going to get your license revoked when you molest an electron to see how it will respond. Scientists proceed in a manner adapted to learn the most about their diverse subjects. Physicists don’t interview electrons, and psychologists don’t fire spherical people at flourescent screens, and the tools and languages they speak are necessarily different.

  67. #68 Jason Spaceman
    November 20, 2006

    Casey Luskin, over at the DI’s Talking Points Memo blog, is making a fuss over Moran’s remarks. Read it here.

  68. #69 Caliban
    November 20, 2006

    Caliban:”Surely, if the dead came back to life and started wandering the streets someone would have thought the event momentous enough to have a written a record of it.”

    David Heddle: “You are correct. At least one record of all the events survived.”

    Oh come on! The “Day the Dead Rose Rrom Thier Graves” went unnoticed or unrecorded by ALL of the historians of the time? Give me a break! :) News of the dead rising from thier graves and returning to thier families would have utterly eclipsed Jesus’s later resurrection. Heck, he came back a full 3 days late. And not one historical document remains even mentioning it (and no, the bible does not count as it’s the one making the claim in the first place).

    And so what happened to all these zombies that rose from the dead to rejoin thier families? Did they live out thier lives and die again? Did they have children? What about the ones who returned from the grave to rejoin thier familiy to discover thier wife remarried? Who gets to be the real husband?

    Please, the entire notion of the dead rising from their graves is so utterly ridiculous I’m genuinely glad that my beliefs don’t require me to somehow accomodate them into a coherant world view. It’s laughable.

  69. #70 Ted
    November 20, 2006

    Hard to tell what Ted’s arguing against here. He seems to be arguing that it is not true that only religious people are charitable or nice or something. Not sure whose argument that opposes, but doesn’t oppose mine. Secular is not the same as advocating atheism.

    Steve s:

    When I read your line: Religion is a set of institutions which provide real, direct social benefits.

    I though, well, yes — like an abusive marriage is an institution that provides real direct social benefits if you discounted the abuse and only focused on the fact that the abused wife returns to the relationship based on need or lack of options.

    Then you say b) I don’t think atheists are capable of forming such groups.

    I say atheists are composed almost entirely of secularists as far as my experience goes. It’s quite a stretch to conclude that atheists aren’t capable of forming such groups because we don’t go about beating our chest like the religionists and identifying as a group, but maybe if we wore an A or something on our sleeves it may be more obvious? Or if we went to Atheist Church, maybe then we could have potluck dinners to help down-on-their luck physicists.

    Jiffy lube and oil change?

    Separation of church and state my man. Every time someone suggests that we ought to take tax money and give it to some backward fucks so that they can further isolate themselves (and provide faith based charity with it) it takes money so that governmental, secular, non-faith based systems can’t do their thing to obviate the root cause of problem. IMHO the root cause is generally lack of education BTW.

    I don’t see the church based potluck dinners as obviating the problem, they are treating the symptom (feeding the poor, offering parochial school scholarships, providing comfort to widows, etc) but mostly for their own purpose of proselytizing, and all with the money of suckers (people trying to buy their way into heaven or hapless taxpayers).

    When an atheist provides direct social benefits, I hope it will be for a rational reason – mainly to make the social organism self sustaining and healthier. What’s the atheist gonna get out of it. Stay out of Hell? Get into heaven? This is as good as it’s gonna get for me so I want a socialist paradise, right here, right now. Did I say socialist? I meant social.

    When the religious provides social benefits it will be for proselytizing, for conversion, to garner approval by the deity, to accrue mileage points for life everlasting rewards, or maybe just to attract some tender young flesh.

    Come to think of it, to attract young flesh might be an atheist reason for it as well.

  70. #71 Uber
    November 20, 2006

    I have never said that I am right, that my religion is right and everyone else is wrong. Nor will you ever hear me say that, because I don’t neccesarily know that my understanding of God is right.

    fair enough

    I take exception to being called stupid, irrelevant and the enemy for having them.

    I don’t think your the enemy but won’t you concede that if your belief system consigns atheists to an eternal torture state and you accept that as so it isn’t a positive? Or the same as you say about other religous indivisuals here:

    I have the same hostility towards a lot of Christians and other religious types – because they tell me that they are absolutely right and I am wrong and will suffer eternal torment because I am wrong – in effect, identifying me as an enemy.

    Can’t one agree that religion is divisive in terms of dividing people with what is essentially nonsense?

    So I geuss I can understand how you might feel that way about my “delusions” but it’s a little sad if your shallow enough to judge me a lesser person, simply because I subscribe to some religious notions

    I don’t recall judging you at all. I don’t even know you. But you seem like a pretty good fellow through words on a screen.

    People know they’re flaky, and having knowledge of this flakiness, still think it’s OK to insist that creationism be taught in school? Because that would separate their emotional domain from their intellectual domain?

    I’m not getting it.

    I need to take more time writing my posts:-) I do it between other things I work on. No I’m saying many(if not most)of those who attend religious services enjoy church for reasons far removed from that of an intellectual endeavor. More simply it wasn’t the strength of an intellectual argument that made them religious and it isn’t likely to pull them away either. But they have a sense of belonging in that group and a sense of ownership with whatever sect of beliefs they embrace.

    The more intelligent of whom will create elaborate schemesto rationalize away the difficulties and obvious problems to maintain their place in the group.

    You are correct. At least one record of all the events survived

    That is simply funny.

  71. #72 steve s
    November 20, 2006

    Ted, you’re mostly not really talking about anything I’m talking about. I’m giving what I think are structural explanations for the fact that 100 years of philisophical essays by Ingersolls and PZ’s and Sagans have not convinced a majority of people to ditch their religion-based friendship clubs. Your battered wife response amounts to ‘well they should have felt otherwise and left’. Well I think churches do indirectly hurt people, but it’s indirect and less noticeable. Which are you likely to notice more: a) your church gives some support, not by name, to a politician who gets in office and three years from now votes in the majority to restrict abortion for 16 year olds in the 3rd trimester when the clinic is federally funded, or b) the power company turned your lights off and your preacher put $57 cash money into your hand to turn it back on? Your earlier hypothetical response amounts to ‘well we could have provided the benefits with government so they should have left’, that’s a philisophical argument about a future scenario. Your potluck remarks amount to ‘their club doesn’t solve all their problems so they should leave’. Your ‘atheists are secular maybe we should wear an A’ actually makes my point for me. Structures where atheists help people, like secular charities, don’t advocate atheism like religious structures do. And lo and behold, they don’t convert anyone. Sagan and PZ and Ingersoll’s Ghost could write another 100 essays and a thousand atheists could work the soup kitchens without ever mentioning atheism and the ratio of atheists:christians would remain diddly:squat. Which is my point. Not, how should we arrange government benefits in the future. Not how should we create a socialist utopia–which the last 100 years have made a silly question, I presume you were joking there. Not the philisophical reasons why all the christians should have converted by now. All I was talking about why the direct experiences people have with religious groups utterly outcompete any egghead essay.

  72. #73 Leni
    November 20, 2006

    LOL That was funny.

    I have a fun for question David Heddle:

    How exactly do you rule out a scientific explanation, David?

    Point by point description please :)

    (Hint: No, the answer is not “science is not likely to have an answer for this any time soon so I can just assume it never will”.)

  73. #74 DuWayne
    November 20, 2006

    Uber –
    I don’t think your the enemy but won’t you concede that if your belief system consigns atheists to an eternal torture state and you accept that as so it isn’t a positive?

    I agree that isn’t a positive, nor do I believe it. But even among those that do, many have no interest in legislating their dogma. The fact that they might pray that you will accept “salvation” from that fate, does not mean that they want to impose their viewpoint on you. Certainly, they would hope you’ll ask, that you’ll allow them to share what they believe with you – but they don’t have any desire to cram it down your throat.

    I am far more interested in a person’s actions, a person’s social views – than I am with their religious preferences. Also, the attitude they have in their personal and proffesional lives – how they treat people. These are the things gauge a person on. I find the notion of legislating dogma repulsive – so do many people of many faiths.

    Can’t one agree that religion is divisive in terms of dividing people with what is essentially nonsense?

    Unfortunately, it often times is. That is why I am a fan if interfaith alliances (not the uniting against “the Gay” type). That is also why I am an advocate of learning more about other faiths, than just the propaganda from one’s own faith.

    I don’t recall judging you at all. I don’t even know you.

    You have repeatedly attached beliefs and ideas to me that I do not have. And every time I bring up people who either think of me as the enemy, call me stupid and irrelevant or accuse me of abusing my child, people who do judge me a lesser person, you defend them and seem to support what they say.

    All I have ever argued is that people should be judged by their actions, not by their religious beliefs or lackthereof. Actions, social beliefs, political beliefs – these are relevant, religion is not, unless it interfaces with the above, restricting the rights of others, or advocating such. Yet you constantly want to make it relevant. Who gives a damn if I believe in hell? Who cares if I believe in the damned easter bunny? It is not relevant.

    I have a lot of sympathy for even the extremist view. Carl Sagan is my biggest childhood hero, next to Bill Moyers. The singular most memorable expirience of my childhood, was when my dad took me to UofM to see Sagan speak when I was eleven. After reading his very last book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, I understood the fear that we are not becoming a secular society fast enough. And it is legitamate, not only from a scientific stand point but a social one as well. It is uncontionable that GLBTs can’t have the same security and legal protections for their relationships that everyone else does. It is critical that we get away from being afraid to teach science, in science classes – and being afraid that religous nuts are going to get their pseudo-science into the curriculum. It is critical that we educate young people about safe sex – even if we tell them that abstinence is best, make it clear that if they are going to do it, do it safely.

    These are timely, critical issues. They and many more, need to be fought for. But simply attacking religion is not the answer. Allying yourself with anyone and everyone who supports these issues, or some of them, is the way to accomplish your objectives. It is similar to my relationship to many libertarians. I feel very strongly about personal liberty – especialy of my physical body. I share common goals with most libertarians. But I am also quite the socialist is many regards. I also believe in a bare minimum standard of living, for every American. Not much, a roof, second hand clothes, enough food and toilatries to stay clean and fed. I also believe in access to healthcare, aside from the ER and huge hospital bills. Education is essential as well – though after tertiery levels, I think one should have to earn the right to continue. I don’t know any libertarians who would agree with my tax funded entitlement programs – but I ally with them where we do agree – ally with others, where my support fall in with theirs. I don’t even care if along the way I am sharing common cause with someone who wants creationism taught in public schools. If they want to help me advocate for the homeless, I’ll appreciate their contribution – then square off against them, when they try to push their beliefs into my son’s science class.

  74. #75 Uber
    November 21, 2006

    You have repeatedly attached beliefs and ideas to me that I do not have.

    I think you are missreading me.

    And every time I bring up people who either think of me as the enemy, call me stupid and irrelevant or accuse me of abusing my child, people who do judge me a lesser person, you defend them and seem to support what they say.

    I do think in many ways they are correct. That doesn’t mean I agree with them that you are stupid and I think you mischaracterize that position of them in your comments. Thats why I find them more correct on this than you. It’s not a judgement of you but rather your comments and they as mine are fair game.

    I think anyone who is indoctrinating a child into a religion really needs to take a good look in the mirror and ask why. I mean seriously demons, devils, and other boogeymen. For children? I can’t believe this is even arguable.

    Yet you constantly want to make it relevant. Who gives a damn if I believe in hell? Who cares if I believe in the damned easter bunny? It is not relevant.

    This is where we part company a little. I do think such a belief is revelant because once you can accept the eternal torture of another being just like you in my view you have become less moral and a little less feeling. Do I think it matters in a political sense? Probably not but I do think it matters.

    But simply attacking religion is not the answer.

    Of course not but it does have its place. Religion and it’s ideas don’t get a free pass just because its religion. As mentioned previously it’s odd why the outspoken atheists draw such fire while the many mouths of religion are given a pass much of the time. Again, I think it speaks volumes about what may be true.

  75. #76 Leni
    November 21, 2006

    “Who gives a damn if I believe in hell?”

    If someone were to come in here and post “I believe all black people will go to hell” every single one of you would be near to vomitting on your own shoes and you wouldn’t let it slide just because you happened to both like the Yankees.

    It matters because it’s a stupid, harmful idea. A stupid harmful idea that has actual ill effect on real people who do not deserve it. It matters because it doesn’t exist in a vaccuum. It matters because truth matters. And no, declaring it a supernatural place that is beyond the purview of science will not insulate it from criticism. Or “attack”, I mean.

  76. #77 JohnnieCanuck
    November 21, 2006

    Curious that the bible has minorities like homosexuals and atheists all going to hell, but not blacks. Then again, Brigham Young once came close to saying that blacks are all hellbound, as has Warren Jeffs.

    You are correct. At least one record of all the events survived.

    Actually four records, in the compilation being cited. The gospels are often mutually contradictory, especially on the details of the resurrection. Conclusion: three or more of them are in error. The recently publicised gospel of Judas does nothing to increase faith in the accuracy of the other four.

    Special pleading that a holy book is its own confirmation means you have to allow the same for the qu’ran and every other sacred text. Whatever they claim must equally be true. What then for their mutual contradictions? Unfortunately this can present little challenge to biblical scholars that have already rationalised the many internal conflicts of the Book.

    It’s hardly worth it to argue that the existance of biblical miracles can or cannot be addressed by science as argued above. The apologist is never going to concede the argument.

    These are myths and legends similar to and in many cases copied from neighbouring religions. Such historical analysis is evidence based at least, but it is not hard for the already convinced to ignore it.

  77. #78 David Heddle
    November 21, 2006

    Leni,

    I can’t answer your question when you exclude my response. But I’ll reiterate. This is not a tough concept: a miracle, by definition, is an event that cannot be explained by science. You can argue that such a beastie doesn’t exist, but it’s pointless to argue the definition.

    As an example, take the parting of the Red Sea. Any explanation in terms of peculiar tidal surges falls far short of matching the biblical description. Te beat a dead horse, it makes sense to argue that only a fool would believe (as I do) that Moses parted the Red Sea, but it makes no sense to argue that I foolish to believe it because science proves it can’t happen.

    If you do provide a scientific explanation, then you have not proved that a miracle can be explained, you have shown that what was previously believed to be a miracle was, in fact, not. This would be damaging.

    And no, declaring it a supernatural place that is beyond the purview of science will not insulate it from criticism. Or “attack”, I mean.

    Nobody says you cannot dispute or attack the concept of hell. Fire away. But attacking it via science is pointless. Morally or theologically–it at least makes sense to attack the concept that way. But how do you expect to convince people who, if they accept the existence of hell (as I do), already concede that its detection is beyond the reach of science? Even in the response here we see the problem–some want to say that the miracles cannot be demonstrated by science therefore they are false, others want to say that maybe, someday, science will explain them therefore they are not miracles. Which is it?

    Uber,

    As mentioned previously it’s odd why the outspoken atheists draw such fire while the many mouths of religion are given a pass much of the time.

    Yes we get treated with courtesy and respect wherever we go, especially on Panda’s Thumb and Pharyngula.

    JohhnieCanuck:

    Curious that the bible has minorities like homosexuals and atheists all going to hell, but not blacks.

    The bible doesn’t have homosexuals going to hell any more than liars or coveters. It does teach that homosexual activity is sinful, and it also teaches we all sin. Sin does not ensure that one goes to hell–that’s the whole point of redemption. Atheists, yes, although even there we can only say in a normative sense we expect that any given atheist is doomed. Ultimately, however, the bible teaches that God will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy.

    Actually four records, in the compilation being cited. The gospels are often mutually contradictory, especially on the details of the resurrection. Conclusion: three or more of them are in error.

    If they are “often” mutually contradictory, then send me an email with, say, 25 examples. That should be easy for you. I’ll answer them on my blog. For the usual ones that have been answered for centuries (the two genealogies of Christ, the different number of angels at the tomb, different instructions to the apostles) I’ll just point you to satisfactory explanations on the web. If you come up with any really tough ones, I’ll try to answer at length. And if you don’t come up with the couple for which I know of no explanation, I’ll tell you about them so next time you can be better equipped.

    Special pleading that a holy book is its own confirmation means you have to allow the same for the qu’ran and every other sacred text.

    That is absolutely correct. Nobody can claim the bible is inspired because the bible says it is inspired. And anyone who does needs to study apologetics.

    It’s hardly worth it to argue that the existance of biblical miracles can or cannot be addressed by science as argued above. The apologist is never going to concede the argument.

    Actually, I think anyone would concede your point. But do you personally think that they can or cannot be addressed?

  78. #79 CHRISTENSEN
    November 21, 2006

    I find it very ironic that just when the IDists were on the ropes, along come a spate of atheist books…with more to come…by Dawkins, Harris, et al. trying to co opt science for the purposes of atheistic evangelism.

    Of course, they are going beyond science in doing so, as you see at sites like Kansas Citizens for Science and others, but they provide an excellent basis for a natural backlash.

    Publishers weekly says more of these books will be coming out in December, January and later in 2007 as the Publishers have identified a niche market they have neglected.

    A little divine irony playing out here?

  79. #80 SLC
    November 21, 2006

    Re Heddle

    Mr. Heddle claims that one or two observations with high precision are to preferred over thousands of observations with much lower precision (actually, for his information, the precision of the agreement of General Relativity with the precession rate of Mercury is much greater then the example of neutron stars which he quoted). This is the same Mr. Heddle who is unable to provide a scientific explanation as to how Joshua could have made the sun stand still and avoid all the consequences predicted by the laws of physics to a greater degree of precision then any such prediction of General Relativity.

  80. #81 Raging Bee
    November 21, 2006

    Thanks to both Ed and Jeff Herbert for some spot-on commentary. Expecting teenagers to have already understood and accepted evolution BEFORE they get into college, and fully out of their parents’ educational influence, is both absurd and arrogant; not to mention counterproductive, to the extent that such a policy would deny a good education to those who need it most, and deepen an already dangerous divide between the educatinal elites and “the rest of us.”

    I also agree with you on the anti-theists: the batles they want to fight are utterly useless, and would make enemies of millions of people who have done no wrong, and have been on our side in some very crucial battles. Isn’t that sort of divisiveness one of the reasons we rightly fault religious extremists?

    And no, Sastra, “religion” and “pseudoscience” are not the same thing. If you can’t tell the difference, then you’re in no position to argue about either subject.

  81. #82 jba
    November 21, 2006

    “Brigham Young once came close to saying that blacks are all hellbound, as has Warren Jeffs.”

    Interesting, since Mormons dont beleive in Hell. And, not for nothing, but Warren Jeffs doesnt speak for all Mormons any more than Phelps speaks for all Baptists.

  82. #83 Ted
    November 21, 2006

    I think anyone who is indoctrinating a child into a religion really needs to take a good look in the mirror and ask why. I mean seriously demons, devils, and other boogeymen. For children? I can’t believe this is even arguable.

    Uber, I agree with the first sentence, but not the follow-on.

    It makes it sound like kids shouldn’t be told scary tales. To me this isn’t realistic nor do I submit that there is validity in it; if you look at children’s entertainment past and present, it’s full of scary, fantastic matter. Gahan Wilson understood it. Anything from Superman, to the little mermaid, to talking ants, to witches and gingerbread houses to young flesh in red riding hoods, to shuffling things under the bed. And most parents have no problem letting their children watch material way above their age level on TV or in cinema — Jason, Freddy, miraculous reincarnation — Jason rose from the dead at least 10 times.

    To me, the real child abuse is values imbibed at the knee of parents – values that inculcate children into a life philosophy of:

    1. Do positive things for the benefit of afterlife reward vs do positive things as part of a humanistic ideal. (That just smacks of class fatalism.)
    2. Believe in the supernatural over the natural. If you feel like it, disregard the natural. Believe in miracles (and buy lottery tickets). Believing Aquaman is real, is normal and useful – don’t learn to swim, he will save you if you fall in.
    3. There is value in isolation over universality. Particularly in religion where given sufficient time, religious sectarianism will tend toward infinity.
    4. Take dogmatic content confabulated by desert people and try to impress it upon as many as possible. If they resist it’s OK to coerce them. If coercion isn’t enough; it’s OK to kill them. Then shower the survivors with the love of Christ afterward.
    5. Address the symptom as a demonstration of love. Addressing root cause is futile. The root cause is part of religious travail.
    6. Support divine authority and pronouncements as interpreted by smarter and special humans. If someone in authority asks you to diddle them, it must be a private demonstration god’s love.
    7. Routinely converse to a divinity through a finely tuned prayer channel. When the fillings in your teeth start singing electric, you’ve got an incoming message. Stop frobulating further. Get an amplifier so that others may hear the incoming message.

    In my experience, the results of this philosophy doesn’t end well — but we’re either in deep denial, or deeply optimistic that in spite of all evidence to the contrary things will be different — in our lifetime because we’re special, not because we choose to take a different route.

  83. #84 David Heddle
    November 21, 2006

    jba,

    Phelps speaks for all Baptists

    Phelps is not a Christian, and doesn’t speak for Christians, baptists or not.

  84. #85 David Heddle
    November 21, 2006

    jba,

    Sorry, your more complete quote was

    Warren Jeffs doesnt speak for all Mormons any more than Phelps speaks for all Baptists.

    Too late, I realized that my cropping sent a different message. However, my point still stands, Phelps is not a Christian.

  85. #86 jba
    November 21, 2006

    David Heddle,

    Thats not what I had heard, but I will take your word for it. Either way, Jeffs doesnt speak for Mormonism, he speaks for a fringe outlawed group that only is called LDS because no one can stop them and thinks child brides are the way to go. Not trying to start a fight, just nit picking a point. :)

  86. #87 Uber
    November 21, 2006

    Yes we get treated with courtesy and respect wherever we go, especially on Panda’s Thumb and Pharyngula.

    Thats right, you go to these places and say silly unsupported things about one version of a religion and people there se the gaping holes in your comments. That is somehow an equivalent to the sheer number of preachers who will get on TV and spout whatever they will but make sure you castigate the atheists who speak up.

    Te beat a dead horse, it makes sense to argue that only a fool would believe (as I do) that Moses parted the Red Sea, but it makes no sense to argue that I foolish to believe it because science proves it can’t happen.

    Of course it makes sense to argue that angle. It can’t happen. But like you said believe as you wish.

    But how do you expect to convince people who, if they accept the existence of hell (as I do), already concede that its detection is beyond the reach of science?

    Why is it beyond the reach of science if it exists? This doesn’t make any sense. This is the silliest part of these discussions. You remove things from the table for essentially no verifiable reason. If it exists it may be found.

    For the usual ones that have been answered for centuries (the two genealogies of Christ, the different number of angels at the tomb, different instructions to the apostles) I’ll just point you to satisfactory explanations on the web.

    Please David. This type of off the cuff answer is typical. These questions have not been answered to any degree of satisfaction for centuries. A fact attested to by scholars of the religion and otherwise. Just because you find some of these ‘answers’ acceptable doesn’t mean they really are so.

    Nobody can claim the bible is inspired because the bible says it is inspired. And anyone who does needs to study apologetics.

    Right because that area of study is so progressive and rich. There are other reasons like prophesy and such huh? Why not just admit the bible was slapped together, voted on, and exists in multiple forms even today. It’s an ancient book that has cultural value with alot of mythology built around it.

    Atheists, yes, although even there we can only say in a normative sense we expect that any given atheist is doomed.

    This is what I mean by such a thought robbing ones soul of normal human morality and feeling. It’s disgusting even to read and then think God is loving.

    However, my point still stands, Phelps is not a Christian.

    Yes he is and every bit as much as you are or aren’t. If he follows Jesus he is a Christian. His version of that is just different than yours. In some ways he is very honest if disturbed. He thinks people will go to eternal torment and seeks to save them. At least that is consistent.

  87. #88 David Heddle
    November 21, 2006

    Uber,

    Yes he [Phelps] is and every bit as much as [a Christian] you are or aren’t. If he follows Jesus he is a Christian. His version of that is just different than yours. In some ways he is very honest if disturbed. He thinks people will go to eternal torment and seeks to save them. At least that is consistent.

    That is an asinine statement. Phelps is not a Christian, regardless of his claims to the contrary. (Although what you said is [mostly] true: if he follows Christ then he is a Christian. But even you must acknowledge, I think, that saying “I am a Christian” and following Christ are two very different things.)

    If someone applied for a faculty position to teach evolution, and when asked he answered with all sincerity: “Yes I am an evolutionist. I believe the fossil record proves common descent. Furthermore, I believe that each and every minute genetic change was the direct result of divine intervention” the person would be rightly rejected as not a “true” evolutionist in spite of his claim to the title. The true-Scotsman fallacy is nonsense. Phelps can, at his own peril, invoke the name of Christ all he wants–that doesn’t make him a Christian. By our own holy book we acknowledge that we are to be known by our actions, not our words. Phelps’s actions prove that he is either a fraud using the trappings of Christianity to give his “church” an air of legitimacy or he is an outright heretic. In either case, I fully expect that he’ll rot and burn in hell. But maybe he’ll repent. That’d be impressive.

    Right because that area of study is so progressive and rich. There are other reasons like prophesy and such huh?

    It is a field that is rich (I don’t know what progressive means in this context.) How many first rate scholars would like me to list that have provided apologetics for the inspiration of scripture. Of course, you might not understand what apologetics entails. It is not to convince unbelievers that the bible is inspired, it is to give believers confidence that what they believe is correct and to help them to defend their faith. Apologetics is useless for convincing unbelievers.

    Please David. This type of off the cuff answer is typical. These questions have not been answered to any degree of satisfaction for centuries. A fact attested to by scholars of the religion and otherwise. Just because you find some of these ‘answers’ acceptable doesn’t mean they really are so.

    That’s the usual, parroted impossible standard: they arguments don’t convince you therefore they are wrong. Take the “dueling” genealogies of Christ. There should be no requirement for me to resolve this to such an extent that you accept the explanation. The standard should only be that the explanation is plausible to a reasonable, fair-minded person–you will reject any explanation provided for any alleged discrepancy as contortionism.

  88. #89 kehrsam
    November 21, 2006

    We’re way off-topic again, but I wanted to second what Heddle just said. This is rather like the situation where certain unnamed Pharisees asked Jesus to provide them with a “sign” of his authority. He rufused, for the perfectly good reason that nothing he could have done was going to change their minds if they were not convinced by what he had already done and said. Sometimes, language is not sufficient and we must talk past one another. It is unfortunate, but true.

    As to Phelps, here I have to disagree with Heddle. I have no reason to believe that Rev. Phelps does not profoundly believe that he is following the Gospell of Jesus Christ. That he does so in a way which is incomprehensible to me is interesting, but irrevelant. Calling him a heretic is just an insult indicating some basic disagreement. Unless we are willing to cut off the possibility of salvation to hundreds of millions across the centuries, I don’t see this as an option. Of course, as an Ariminian, I may well be bound for Hell myself. :)

  89. #90 Caliban
    November 21, 2006

    I suppose the notion that atheists don’t find apologetics convincing because no amount of “evidence” will change thier minds is a rather gratifying notion to hold. However, many atheists, myself included, were once Christians (evangelical)themselves and did buy the “party line”.

    I do believe that intelligent believers and nonbelievers are simply at an impasse for much of these sorts of debates.

    One reason why i believe the natural view of the cosmos to be true (instead of a supernatural one) is that it is much more consistant and doesn’t require any “apologetics” to explain away seeming inconsistances.

    Another is that i would wager that no amount of Muslim or Jewish Apologetics would convince Christians that they have the wrong faith despite the fact that they employ all of the same “special pleading” arguments that Christians do. Alas, now you have apologetics for differant religons with competing truth claims.

    Science does not suffer from any of this. It requires no apologetics.

  90. #91 David Heddle
    November 21, 2006

    kehrsam,

    I have no reason to believe that Rev. Phelps does not profoundly believe that he is following the Gospell of Jesus Christ.

    Even if you are right that Phelps believes this, which I doubt but obviously cannot prove, he is not a Christian. You seem to believe that the requirement to be a Christian is to “profoundly believe that one is following the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    However, there is no such thing taught in the bible as “salvation by sincerity.” In fact, the bible is clear that people can be sincerely wrong:

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:23-24)

    In other words: Goodbye Mr. Phelps.

  91. #92 Raging Bee
    November 21, 2006

    Uber: why are you so eager to assert that a man as deranged and hateful as Fred Phelps is “honest?” Are you so familiar with him that you can be certain that his beliefs, “sincere” though they may be, are not the result of some profound inner dishonesty (such as refusing to acknowledge some aspect of his own nature)? Why are you so eager to assert that he’s a “Christian,” when his actions are so clearly contradictory to the teachings of Jesus?

    Have you read his Wikipedia bio? Are those the actions of an honest man?

    Why are you so eager to defend the “honesty” of a hatemonger like Phelps, rather than, say, Mother Teresa or Pope John XXIII or JP-II?

  92. #93 Uber
    November 21, 2006

    I love how these conversations go with David. It’s only a matter of time before he becomes aggressive.

    That is an asinine statement. Phelps is not a Christian, regardless of his claims to the contrary.

    No it isn’t. He is following what he feels Jesus message is just as you do. Your simply a ‘One true scotsman’. And of course it’s nonsense to you David. Whats funny is that is nonsense and talking donkeys aren’t.

    In either case, I fully expect that he’ll rot and burn in hell.

    You need serious help. To even say such a thing shows nothing but depravity. Talk about asisnine statements.

    How many first rate scholars would like me to list that have provided apologetics for the inspiration of scripture. Of course, you might not understand what apologetics entails. It is not to convince unbelievers that the bible is inspired, it is to give believers confidence that what they believe is correct and to help them to defend their faith. Apologetics is useless for convincing unbelievers.

    Ah so essentially a false sense of security. And of course the usual you ‘don’t understand idea’. If apologetics is useless for nonbelievers it has little intellectual merit as a good case is a good case. If an Islamic apologetic is a strong argument why would you reject it?

    That’s the usual, parroted impossible standard: they arguments don’t convince you therefore they are wrong. Take the “dueling” genealogies of Christ. There should be no requirement for me to resolve this to such an extent that you accept the explanation. The standard should only be that the explanation is plausible to a reasonable, fair-minded person–you will reject any explanation provided for any alleged discrepancy as contortionism.

    First off David I am more than a fair minded individual and do find some answers to some questions reasonable. So your rebuttal fails here. I think if one takes an apologetics argument and gives the answer to a muslim, an atheist, a buddist, etc then one may decide if it’s plausible. You have to remove the emotional need for it to be true to actually see it.

    And your simply wrong about most skeptics rejecting things out of hand. What is more likely is the reverse. Believers accepting even the most outlandish answers.

    And as Caliban said above if you need apologetics in the fist place I would question the veracity of your belief as ALL religions have their own apologetics.

    Even if you are right that Phelps believes this, which I doubt but obviously cannot prove, he is not a Christian. You seem to believe that the requirement to be a Christian is to “profoundly believe that one is following the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    However, there is no such thing taught in the bible as “salvation by sincerity.” In fact, the bible is clear that people can be sincerely wrong:

    But he may say the same about you David and with bible verses to back it up. I don’t see Phelps being dishonest, just depraved. Likewise David I doubt the Lord will see you in a positive light for some of your beliefs.

    I think you are sincerely wrong.

  93. #94 Uber
    November 21, 2006

    Good grief Heddle and Raging Bee in the same thread,

    why are you so eager to assert that a man as deranged and hateful as Fred Phelps is “honest?”

    He is honest in his belief structure. He thinks gay individuals will suffer eternal torment. He seems to want to not let that happen. He is honest about what he believes. That doesn’t mean I defend him or endorse his actions. Just that his actions are consistent with what he believes.

    Are you so familiar with him that you can be certain that his beliefs, “sincere” though they may be, are not the result of some profound inner dishonesty (such as refusing to acknowledge some aspect of his own nature)?

    He may be doing as you say. Doesn’t change that they are sincere. I don’t have to be certain of this it’s a conversation on an internet blog.

    Why are you so eager to assert that he’s a “Christian,”

    He claims to follow Jesus and is a preacher in a church. I think he would assert he is a Christian.

    when his actions are so clearly contradictory to the teachings of Jesus?

    Really? Jesus will send sinners to hell. Phelps is trying to prevent this action from befalling them. How is he being contradictory to the teachings of Jesus? If anything his demented actions should be followed by everyone to prevent people from suffering.

    And by your ‘logic’ no one is a Christian if one does any myriad of things. Essentially you make the action more important than the belief or works based.

  94. #95 David Durant
    November 21, 2006

    Before I make my main point – since it very much looks like Ed has stopped reading this thread, and who can blame him since it’s produced exactly the sort of in-fighting he original post was decrying, is there a better place we can move this discussion? Is there a proper forum with multiple threads, where this debate can carry on – hopefully in a less vitriolic manner?

    Anyway – to nail my colors to the mast I have to agree with Caliban when s/he said “Why should religious claims have this special immunity to science when other “miraculous” claims do not?”.

    What always concerns me is when *any* debate, religious or not, is cut short by a response of “because I said so” or “because it says so in this book”. Sadly so many of today’s problems are caused by people not being able to deal with probability (ie War on Terror instead of War on automobile accidents) and uncertainty (ie religion gives everyone easily digestible concrete answers rather than “we just don’t know”).

    Surely it must be wrong when children are brought up with the commandment “thou shall not doubt what I tell you” no matter *what* subject it is about?

    Anyway, I’ll leave with one of my favorite Robert Heinlein quotes – “Supernatural is a nonsense word”.

  95. #96 Raging Bee
    November 21, 2006

    I love how these conversations go with David. It’s only a matter of time before he becomes aggressive.

    Actually, Uber, you’re the one getting “aggressive” — and a bit unhinged as well. I don’t share Heddle’s religion, and I don’t give much of a fig for anyone’s apologetics, but his statements about Phelps are a lot better grounded in fact and ethics than yours. (Did you do ANY research about Phelps before you started vouching for his honesty?)

    He is following what he feels Jesus message is just as you do. Your simply a ‘One true scotsman’. And of course it’s nonsense to you David. Whats funny is that is nonsense and talking donkeys aren’t.

    Oh yes, Heddle is exactly the same kind of Christian as Phelps, as “proven” by your personal disregard for ANY interpretation of the Bible. And the bit about talking donkeys is relevant…how?

  96. #97 Raging Bee
    November 21, 2006

    Jesus will send sinners to hell.

    If that’s your idea of the sum of Christ’s teachings, Uber, then you are simply too ignorant to judge either the validity of those teachings, or Fred Phelps’ honesty or sincerity in interpreting those teachings, or the validity of Heddle’s statements, or anything else related to Christian doctrine. Even this ex-atheist Pagan has read enough of the Bible, and heard from enough actual Christians of all stripes, to see that you neither know nor care what you’re talking about.

  97. #98 David Heddle
    November 21, 2006

    Uber,

    He may same the same thing about me. Who cares? I grant Phelps the right to deny that I am a Christian without my yelling “true Scotsman.” I grant anyone the right to draw a circle around their position and state that “here are the bounds of orthodoxy.” You, of course, do not.

    What about my “evolutionist” analogy, which I’ll repeat:

    If someone applied for a faculty position to teach evolution, and when asked he answered with all sincerity: “Yes I am an evolutionist. I believe the fossil record proves common descent. Furthermore, I believe that each and every minute genetic change was the direct result of divine intervention” would this person be as much of a “true” evolutionist as Dawkins?

    Please answer. Are all who claim to be evolutionists “true” evolutionists or does the True Scotsman fallacy apply only to Christians who want to disavow heretics? That would be quite convenient for you.

  98. #99 Ed Brayton
    November 21, 2006

    David Durant wrote:

    Before I make my main point – since it very much looks like Ed has stopped reading this thread, and who can blame him since it’s produced exactly the sort of in-fighting he original post was decrying, is there a better place we can move this discussion? Is there a proper forum with multiple threads, where this debate can carry on – hopefully in a less vitriolic manner?

    You’re right, I’ve pretty much stopped reading this thread (I skim through and see the same arguments being rehashed by the same people every single time I write on this subject and I don’t bother to read them fully). As for a forum, my only response is “anywhere but here”. This gets incredibly tiresome that every single time I write on this subject it sparks this little play, everyone playing the same roles every time and saying all the same things. I’m not inclined to do anything about it other than complain, so after a while I just tune it out and let you all go about your arguing.

  99. #100 David Heddle
    November 21, 2006

    Ed,

    No need to ask twice–but you should have asked us to leave as soon as you found it tiresome. Nobody wants to be an unwanted guest. Later.

  100. #101 Ed Brayton
    November 21, 2006

    David-

    It’s not the guest that’s unwanted. You’re welcome here just as everyone else is. And as I said, I’m not inclined to do anything more than complain about it. I’m not gonna ban anyone over it or ask them to leave. I just tune it out after a while. Honestly, I just don’t care about whether there is or is not a god. I grew bored of that argument years ago.

  101. #102 Uber
    November 21, 2006

    Alright I’m done. Not enough time in the day. Final volley.

    If that’s your idea of the sum of Christ’s teachings, Uber, then you are simply too ignorant to judge either the validity of those teachings,

    Right the idea that Jesus will judge people and send them to hell is of course no where to be found in Christian theology unless of course one contends that people send themselves to suffer. But of course you likely overlook that when your discussing the teachings on forgiveness and love. It is not I who is ignorant here. Must be nice to think you win arguments by typing such tripe. And did I say it was the sum of his alleged teachings? Where? Of course he taught more and no one said he didn’t.

    the dictionary: Christian is “professing or following the religion of Christ”.

    I think Phelps qualifies.

    Even this ex-atheist Pagan has read enough of the Bible, and heard from enough actual Christians of all stripes, to see that you neither know nor care what you’re talking about.

    All I said was Jesus will judge and send people to hell and Phelps wishes to stop that in his way. So I don’t know who you know but that seems to be common knowledge among virtually every Christian I know. I find your stance here strange.

    Who cares? I grant Phelps the right to deny that I am a Christian without my yelling “true Scotsman.”

    It’s true scotsman when you think you are the real deal and he isn’t when in reality you both are just different versions of the same.

    Your simply distancing yourself from another Christian because of his behaviour which is fine. But this behaviour does not remove him from being a Christian amymore than you lying or stealing or cheating removes you.

    I grant anyone the right to draw a circle around their position and state that “here are the bounds of orthodoxy.” You, of course, do not.

    Why do you try and tell me what I think and then argue from that concept? I grant you that right. But as an observer I am also allowed to state how it looks. As mentioned before in this thread believe as you wish.

    As to your analogy which I guess you think is somehow revelant. One cannot be a true ‘evolutionist'(whatever that is) it is not a category of people or a religion. I can say I agree with the theory of evolution. If I stated what you stated I would not feel I was being a good scientist or following good scientific protocol. But as long as I understood the theory and in my day to day work didn’t sit around waiting for God to do it you would probably be ok.

    Are all who claim to be evolutionists “true” evolutionists or does the True Scotsman fallacy apply only to Christians who want to disavow heretics? That would be quite convenient for you.

    Again your telling me what I think and going from there. The true scotsman doesn’t apply here because evolution is a scientific theory and one doesn’t become an ‘evolutionist’ just as one doesn’t become a ‘germ theorist’ by accepting germ theory. Ken Miller is no less knowledgeable about evolution than Dawkins. In your view i guess they are both ‘evolutionists’ whatever the hell that is.

    Read it for yourself. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

    The entire analogy is ludicrous. The simple fact is there are so many varieties of Christians all with their own version of this or that and apologetics for it all that disavowing heretics would leave no one but the RCC and even they have their issues.

    And that doesn’t even begin to touch upon the 1000’s of other religions.

    David aren’t you a scientist? Rather than writing all this religious tripe why not publish some scientific works. I don’t even disagree with all you say and you seem to not understand we share more common ground than you think but honestly I don’t think you do your faith many favors with your current style.

    That being said let me take a moment at the end of this discussion to say I appreciate some of your current thoughts relating to ID. Given some of your past arguments it is interesting.

  102. #103 Raging Bee
    November 21, 2006

    All I said was Jesus will judge and send people to hell and Phelps wishes to stop that in his way. So I don’t know who you know but that seems to be common knowledge among virtually every Christian I know. I find your stance here strange.

    You wouldn’t find it “strange” if you actually understood that Hell was not the only thing Jesus talked about.

  103. #104 DuWayne
    November 21, 2006

    And this discussion has devolved into exactly the discussion that I have no interest in.

    My position is clear, I don’t give a damn what someone believes, I care about what they do. I have no interest in defending mine, or any one elses spiritual beliefs here, it in not the appropriate place to do so. I am simply defending the notion that it is entirely irrelevant – that neither my intelligence nor anyone elses should be judged by religious beliefs, but by actions. That religious preference is not indicative of superiority. You either agree or do not.

  104. #105 kehrsam
    November 21, 2006

    Having made a couple of efforts to pull this thing back to the original topic, I think I can allow myself a couple of off-topic comments:

    1) DavidHeddle: Re Phelps Christianity, try Rom 10:13. I think the part about doing so “sincerely” is understood by the text. Since I have no way to know what Phelps really thinks, I give him credit for being sincere in his lunacy and thinking it the proper way to follow Christ. In that sense, I think I have to call him a Christian.

    2) Where religion speaks of things occurring in this physical plane, of course those claims are to be examined in the same manner as any other occurrence; I’m not sure why this is being debated. Heddle’s point, with which I agree is that miracles may not fall into this category.

    It is rather like the impossibility of science to state anything positive about the Big Bang in the first Planck Instant of being: The universe definitely existed at that point, but there is no way for us to make a meaningful statement about that Instant other than we can’t know anything. I like the analogy, anyway.

  105. #106 Raging Bee
    November 21, 2006

    kersham: you don’t “have to” call Phelps anything; you CHOSE to call him a “Chritian,” based on…what exactly? You just admitted you don’t know what Phelps is actually thinking, you admitted he’s a lunatic, and you referred to only ONE Bible passage, and that was an obscure bit of Romans, not an actual quote from Jesus himself. So by your own admission, you really have no reason at all to say you “have to” call him a Christian.

    Do you take every “Christian’s” claims of sincerity at face value?

  106. #107 kehrsam
    November 21, 2006

    Do you take every “Christian’s” claims of sincerity at face value?

    Yes, don’t you? Although I don’t stop at Christians. Unless someone is obviously lying or joking, it raises the level of the discussion. If they don’t really believe their own arguments, that becomes clear soon enough.

    This is also the principle behind my always referring to people by the labels they apply to themselves. I would never, for instance, call a person who describes himself as “prolife” by some other term (“anti-choice”, perhaps?). It is rude, and really just serves to make people retreat into their shells and talking points. I prefer a real discussion.

  107. #108 Raging Bee
    November 21, 2006

    No, actually, I don’t. People call themselves a lot of things they clearly aren’t, for a variety of dishonest reasons; and it’s perfectly appropriate — and even necessary — to question their self-appellations. If someone who calls himself a Christian behaves in a manner contrary to certain central teachings of Jesus (as I understand them at least), then I judge his self-appellation to be false. Which is how I respond when people like Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps call themselves “Christians.” “Al Qaeda Pat” is a liar, and possibly a bit unhinged as well, and his motives have nothing to do with Christian ministry; and Phelps is clearly insane, and his insanity may well have been caused by his own dishonesty about his own nature, whatever Bible passages he may quote to justify his actions. If he suddenly started quoting the Koran, that would not make him a “sincere” Muslim either.

  108. #109 Ted
    November 21, 2006

    Phelps is clearly insane, and his insanity may well have been caused by his own dishonesty about his own nature…

    It was the candy selling and the exercise regimen.

    Say what you will but the guy was an entrepreneur and fitness nut :-) He could have authored fatherhood books, but folk kept calling him an american psycho.

  109. #110 Uber
    November 21, 2006

    Ho-hum,

    You wouldn’t find it “strange” if you actually understood that Hell was not the only thing Jesus talked about

    Nobody ever said it was the only thing, where was that said? In the immediate prior paragraph I said:

    when your discussing the teachings on forgiveness and love.

    Among other things. Nor does it change the fact he did speak about what I said earlier.

    I’m with kersham on the Phelps thing, I don’t see how you can’t call him a Christian lunatic example though he may be.

    to certain central teachings of Jesus (as I understand them at least), then I judge his self-appellation to be false.

    Well obviously Phelps understands the central teachings different than you. As Heddle says he has that right. He feels he is following the teachings of Jesus and as such is a Christian. I don’t know what he thinks internally and neither do you. You say things about him being dishonest about his nature without even knowing him. How is that honest?

    I’m done. Really this time.:-)

  110. #111 Raging Bee
    November 21, 2006

    Well obviously Phelps understands the central teachings different than you.

    Yes — I’m applying the teachings of Jesus as I’ve had them read and explained to me by several Christians; while Phelps is blinded by pathological hatred of innocent people and twisting obscure Bible passages to justify his madness, and, as far as I can see, flatly ignoring the actual words of Jesus. That’s the difference.

    As Heddle says he has that right.

    Having a right to do something does not make it the right (or honest) thing to do.

    He feels he is following the teachings of Jesus and as such is a Christian.

    Sorry, but “feeling” you’re doing something is not the same as doing it — especially if you’re as mentally ill as Phelps is.

    I don’t know what he thinks internally and neither do you.

    True — which is why I judge him by his words and actions, which are clearly contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Therefore I call him dishonest. Or, at best, extremely ignorant of those teachings; which, when coupled with the pretense of knowledge, is another form of dishonesty.

    A truly honest man in Phelps’ position would take a good look at himself, stop preaching, and seek professional help.

  111. #112 Leni
    November 21, 2006

    David Heddle wrote:

    Leni,

    I can’t answer your question when you exclude my response. But I’ll reiterate. This is not a tough concept: a miracle, by definition, is an event that cannot be explained by science. You can argue that such a beastie doesn’t exist, but it’s pointless to argue the definition.

    I am not excluding your response. If you know that miracles happen then you ought to know how to distinguish them from non-miracles. And you ought to have a better way to do that than assuming.

    Further, I didn’t argue about the definiton of miracle. I asked you to describe the process by which you rule out scientific explanations.

    If you do provide a scientific explanation, then you have not proved that a miracle can be explained, you have shown that what was previously believed to be a miracle was, in fact, not. This would be damaging.

    It would also be tantamount to admitting that miracles are only miracles until proven otherwise. Which is also a problem. For people who wish to asser miracles happen.

    But how do you expect to convince people who, if they accept the existence of hell (as I do), already concede that its detection is beyond the reach of science?

    I don’t expect you to convince you of anything.

    I am giving you the opportunity to convince me by asking you a simple question. Again: by what process do you rule out a scientific explanation and declare an event a miracle?

    I’m giving you the opportunity to explain how religious people make these determinitions, since they apparantly are the only qualified ones. If science can’t address these issues surely the religious comminity has come up with a useful way of determining what is and what is not a miracle.

    Surely I’m not asking for much in asking you to tell me how this is done.

    Even in the response here we see the problem–some want to say that the miracles cannot be demonstrated by science therefore they are false, others want to say that maybe, someday, science will explain them therefore they are not miracles. Which is it?

    The latter is closest to what I’m refering to. However there is one notable distinction: I did not say that science WILL explain them, rather I’m asking how you can say with any certainty that it will not.

  112. #113 Raging Bee
    November 21, 2006

    The quip i heard Dawkins make on public radio about his daughter being “too intelligent to be religous/believe in God” was not a sweeping generalisation about theists as much as it was a display of arrogant pride in a father’s daughter. It was an off-handed quip, not a thesis under which he bases the thrust of his arguments.

    The “off-handed quip” was motivated by “off-handed” bigotry toward religion and religious people. And it’s not the only expression of such bigotry by Dawkins.

    If Dawkins had made an “off-handed quip” (a.k.a. an “insulting remark”) about Jews, would anyone here be bending over backwards to excuse it? So why make any effort to excuse an insulting remark about ALL religions?

  113. #114 Caliban
    November 21, 2006

    And if Raging Bee makes “insulting” generalisations about atheists here on a regular basis does that make Raging Bee a “bigot” too?

  114. #115 JohnnieCanuck
    November 21, 2006

    Raging Bee

    Is it off limits to insult people about their religious beliefs? Why? It’s rude, yes, but freedom of religion surely doesn’t mean freedom from any upsetting comments.

    Is the comment still bigoted if there is a germ of truth in it? As I recall the polls, the more education you have, the less likely you are to be religious or reject evolution.

    The religious have often claimed that non believers (pagans and atheists alike) are possessed/agents of the devil, and then gone on to do something about it. Moreso in the past perhaps, but continuing today. Pagans don’t really have sex orgies where they sacrifice babies.

    They have also said they don’t consider atheists citizens or patriots.

    Is it ok then to make bigoted comments about atheists because we aren’t under the umbrella of religion?

  115. #116 Leni
    November 21, 2006

    So Bee…

    The “off-handed quip” was motivated by “off-handed” bigotry toward religion and religious people.

    So basically you’re telling us that it’s other people who determine the tone and quality of your posts?

    And that Dawkins wields some great power over your ability to be polite and decent?

    Oh. I see.

  116. #117 Martin Wagner
    November 21, 2006

    If Dawkins had made an “off-handed quip” (a.k.a. an “insulting remark”) about Jews, would anyone here be bending over backwards to excuse it?

    Uh, Bee, there’s a bit of a difference between attacking someone’s belief system and racial prejudice. Learn to make meaningful distinctions if you want your arguments taken seriously.

  117. #118 396sx
    November 21, 2006

    The quip i heard Dawkins make on public radio about his daughter being “too intelligent to be religous/believe in God” was not a sweeping generalisation about theists as much as it was a display of arrogant pride in a father’s daughter. It was an off-handed quip, not a thesis under which he bases the thrust of his arguments.

    Doesn’t sound like it to me. He’s not infallible, you know.

    On the same radio interview he was pressed on the issue and said that he did NOT think that all religous people were idiots or unintelligent; only those that believed in litteral Creationism were.

    Doesn’t mean he doesn’t think that they’re not thoughtful enough to be atheists. Besides, are all literal creationists idiots or unintelligent?

  118. #119 kehrsam
    November 21, 2006

    Besides, are all literal creationists idiots or unintelligent?

    Well I am. Except, wait, I’m not a literalist. Oh well, there goes that. Never mind. ;D

  119. #120 386sx
    November 21, 2006

    Because, as I stated above, the assumption of any Christian doing science is that he will not be privileged to witness a miracle.

    Assumption doesn’t equals knowledge, but it sounds like a pretty good assumption. I think Calvin believed that all the miracles ended a couple thousand years ago. (Or something like that.) I think Billy Graham once gave childbirth as his best example of a miracle. Who freakin knows man. Cheers Mr. Heddle!

  120. #121 JohnnieCanuck
    November 22, 2006

    Hmm. Apparently getting work as a pope greatly increases the odds of witnessing a miracle.

    Actually were I a scientist – Christian or otherwise, and someone suggested the possibility of a miracle occurring during an experiment, I would be hoping/praying that I could be spared that honour.

    I mean try writing up the paper. Yada, yada, yada and then a miracle happened. Next the long repeated explanations as to why it can’t be replicated. I’d be a cartoon character in a comic strip. A career ending event.

    You don’t suppose scientists are witnessing miracles daily in their work and suppressing the fact?

  121. #122 Raging Bee
    November 22, 2006

    Bee, there’s a bit of a difference between attacking someone’s belief system and racial prejudice.

    There is no practical difference between ignorant overgeneralizations about a race, and ignorant overgeneralizations about religion(s). Both are wrong for the same reasons, and I stand by my analogy.

    You don’t suppose scientists are witnessing miracles daily in their work and suppressing the fact?

    If a miracle (a.k.a. “anomalous result”) happened in the lab, the experimenters would simply repeat the experiment, and the “anomaly” would probably not be included in the final write-up. The experimenters, however, would probably be chattering for years about how it couldn’t/shouldn’t have happened.

    (Besides, why would any god(dess) cause a miracle in a lab, where it would have the least effect, for precisely that reason?)

  122. #123 Grady
    November 22, 2006

    Apparently you are deleting comments, Ed.

    Which means you may be altering them, for all we know.

    Clearly, this means the comment section is now irrelevant as an accurate reflection of reactions to your posts.

    Why not just have students make up favorable posts and submit them to get your count up and make you look good?

  123. #124 Raging Bee
    November 22, 2006

    Grady: which comments are (allegedly) being deleted?

  124. #125 Colonel Kurtz
    November 23, 2006

    Ah, I love the smell of atheists bashing each other in the morning!

  125. #126 Clastito
    December 17, 2006

    I don’t believe Grady since his last comment was not deleted. He must have gotten confused.
    I’m an atheist but PZ Myers ALWAYS deletes my comments on the subject of “flaming” atheists. He must be afraid of some ideas.

  126. #127 Simon Packer
    January 10, 2007

    In the foregoing debate about the observability of a miracle using scientific experiment, which scientific paradigm or discipline are you thinking of using?
    A meaningful miracle is a major departure from expected progression of outcome for a complex organism.
    You will not likely be testing whether the laws of physics are contradicted (too hard to verify for a large chunk of matter), just whether high level emerical expectation is contradicted.

  127. #128 Simon Packer
    January 10, 2007

    In the foregoing debate about the observability of a miracle using scientific experiment, which scientific paradigm or discipline are you thinking of using?
    A meaningful miracle is a major departure from expected progression of outcome for a complex organism.
    You will not likely be testing whether the laws of physics are contradicted (too hard to verify for a large chunk of matter), just whether high level emperical expectation is contradicted.

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