Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Descent Into Personal Attacks

You know, I was about at the point where I thought it was best to drop this. And though I wasn’t going to respond in kind to Myers gratuituous personal insults, I’m also not going to let blatant lies go unresponded to. And after reading through the comments after his post, I am even more appalled at how brazenly he misrepresents my position. For instance:

The way to get people to stop using the rebuke that evolution is godless science, as if that were a strike against it, is to end this idea that godlessness is evil…an idea that Brayton seems determined to perpetuate, keeping that handy canard armed and live in the hands of the creationists.

I’m determined to perpetuate the idea that godlessness is evil? For crying out loud, PZ, how many times do I have to write essays blasting that claim before you stop accusing me of perpetuating it? You’re accusing someone of perpetuating that idea who has written time and time again that such a claim is idiotic and contradicted by the evidence. Over and over again I have written agaisnt the claim that atheism is evil or inherently immoral, which I consider to be absolutely idiotic. Yet still you accuse me of perpetuating that idea. I don’t know what reality you’re living in, but it’s not this one.

I suggest you go to this post and read what I said. And just to make your lie as obvious as possible, let me quote exactly what I said:

But countering that frame should not stop here. We also need to attack the basis as well, the notion that atheism leads to some horrible collapse of morality. There is not a shred of evidence that atheists behave any worse than religious people. Indeed, there is substantial cross-national evidence that the more religious belief a nation has, the more they have a wide range of problems, from teen pregnancy to violent crime…

The same patterns can be found within the United States, where the so-called “red states” – those states where the population tends to hold strongly traditional Christian beliefs – tend to have much higher rates of teen pregnancy, abortion, divorce, violent crime and many other negative social effects than those states with lower rates. So again, the evidence simply does not support this simplistic notion that religion leads to moral behavior and acceptance of evolution leads to immoral behavior. If anything, the evidence points strongly in the other direction.

I’ve made the same argument at least a dozen times over the last year. To accuse me, of all people, of perpetuating the idea that atheism leads to immorality or evil is a baldfaced lie. And if you have to resort to tactics like this to win an argument, it only shows how empty your position is and only reinforces the validity of my criticisms.

Sastra was kind enough to point out that this was a lie and that I’d written numerous things that disproved it, but that didn’t prevent Myers from repeating it again. Others pointed out that even though they disagreed with me on this issue, they objected to Myers’ personal attacks on me in his post; that, too, failed to stop the barrage of insults and distortions.

The insults get much worse, with Myers calling me a “fearful ass”. Pat Hayes is a “tool of the religious establishment” and the Panda’s Thumb is “a hotbed of simpering theistic evilutionists and an arm of the Neville Chamberlain school of appeasement.” And while spewing this stuff, he accuses me of “dividing the movement.” As I’ve said before, I’m only acknowledging a very deep divide that is already there. And this juvenile behavior and need to turn it all into personal insults only reinforces that fact more deeply than ever.

Comments

  1. #1 Andy
    November 24, 2006

    Ed: I searched Scienceblogs for those quotes: “fearful ass”; Tool of the religious”; “hotbed”; and can’t find them anywhere except on your post. Can you direct us to where PZ actually said all that?

  2. #2 Blake Stacey
    November 24, 2006

    I feel compelled to note that the comment where PZ makes those characterizations of Pat Hayes and the Panda’s Thumb come in the midst of a paragraph where he states that despite all that, he’s willing and eager to work with them. Why? Because “the creationist problem requires a multiplicity of approaches.”

  3. #3 Robert
    November 24, 2006

    Man, I read three blogs, Red State Rabble, Dispatches fromm the Culture Wars, and Pharyngula. It is disturbing to watch all of this.

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    November 24, 2006

    Andy-

    The search function does not cover comments. All of those quotes are found in the comments after PZ’s post on the subject.

  5. #5 John Lynch
    November 24, 2006

    Blake,

    But that’s exactly the sort of bullshit people are complaining about: saying one thing apparently conciliatory and following it up with insulting those he is talking about. Calling PT “a hotbed of simpering theistic evilutionists and an arm of the Neville Chamberlain school of appeasement” is hardly the way rally the troops. Why the hell would anyone take him seriously?

  6. #6 Jeff Hebert
    November 24, 2006

    Andy said:

    Ed: I searched Scienceblogs for those quotes: “fearful ass”; Tool of the religious”; “hotbed”; and can’t find them anywhere except on your post. Can you direct us to where PZ actually said all that?

    You have to go into the comments section of the post, and do a Find there. The comments may not yet be indexed and accessible through Google. Here are the specific links.

    Here: “Sorry, Wilkins, I can’t place you in the mediocracy. I may disagree with you on some things, but you don’t hold your opinions because you are a fearful ass trying to avoid pissing off the dominant religious bias.” (PZ Meyers)

    Here: “…Pat Hayes has revealed himself to be a tool of the religious establishment.” PZ Meyers

    Here: “That’s why I contribute to the Panda’s Thumb, despite the fact that it’s a hotbed of simpering theistic evilutionists and an arm of the Neville Chamberlain school of appeasement.” PZ Meyers

    I realize PZ had his feelings hurt, but his comments on that post read like the petulant whining of a rejected thirteen year old girl. I’m appalled to read this coming out of the keyboard of a college professor. It’s beneath him, beneath Science Blogs, and beneath the level of discourse to be expected, and demanded, from grown adults in a civilized discourse.

    This whole incident has been very sad, and sadly revealing. I’m disappointed in PZ Meyers, he’s better than this.

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    November 24, 2006

    Blake Stacey writes:

    I feel compelled to note that the comment where PZ makes those characterizations of Pat Hayes and the Panda’s Thumb come in the midst of a paragraph where he states that despite all that, he’s willing and eager to work with them. Why? Because “the creationist problem requires a multiplicity of approaches.”

    But that does not address my criticisms. It’s nice to say he’ll work with us, but given his penchant for responding to criticism with insults and personal attacks, why should we want to work with him at this point? And further, given his penchant for declaring all religious people to be stupid or deluded, even those whose religious views support strong science education, why would 90% of the population listen to him? Also, again, bear in mind that this all began with Moran, not with Myers, and Moran is on the record as saying that Ken Miller is the enemy, not an ally.

  8. #8 kehrsam
    November 24, 2006

    I’m disappointed in PZ Meyers, he’s better than this.

    Why? I thought he was an atheist. ;)

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    November 24, 2006

    And by the way, let me make a prediction. Having seen this pattern of behavior from PZ in private before, the next step in his response will likely be along the lines of, “Oh poor baby, I called him some bad names. Get over it.” That, of course, will only reinforce my point all the more.

  10. #10 Daniel
    November 24, 2006

    Ed,
    I don’t mean to be critical of you – they HAVE been abrasive. But, could you please cite a specific instance of one of these “gratuituous personal insults” that Myers or Moran is conveying, in either his posts or comments?

    I’m sure that if you point it out, and Myers or Moran actually said something purely ad hominem, then they might be persuaded to apologize. That way the argument can move away from whether there was a personal attack, to actually discussing the merits of different ideas.

  11. #11 Daniel
    November 24, 2006

    Sorry – thanks for the comment citations, Jeff.

  12. #12 Blake Stacey
    November 24, 2006

    Ed Brayton writes:

    It’s nice to say he’ll work with us, but given his penchant for responding to criticism with insults and personal attacks, why should we want to work with him at this point?

    For the children, maybe?

    And further, given his penchant for declaring all religious people to be stupid or deluded, even those whose religious views support strong science education, why would 90% of the population listen to him?

    If you can get him to write more things like this, you won’t have as big a problem.

  13. #13 Orac
    November 24, 2006

    But, could you please cite a specific instance of one of these “gratuituous personal insults” that Myers or Moran is conveying, in either his posts or comments?

    Does PZ’s calling Ed “that sad panjandrum of the self-satisfied mean, medium, middle, moderate, and mediocre” qualify as a “gratuitous personal insult” to you?

  14. #14 Daniel
    November 24, 2006

    And by the way, let me make a prediction. Having seen this pattern of behavior from PZ in private before, the next step in his response will likely be along the lines of, “Oh poor baby, I called him some bad names. Get over it.” That, of course, will only reinforce my point all the more.

    And

    I realize PZ had his feelings hurt, but his comments on that post read like the petulant whining of a rejected thirteen year old girl. I’m appalled to read this coming out of the keyboard of a college professor. It’s beneath him, beneath Science Blogs, and beneath the level of discourse to be expected, and demanded, from grown adults in a civilized discourse.

    Maybe, but the real argument is whether or not theism and evolutionary biology are compatible, is it not? So there are strong feelings on both sides – that’s nothing new, so big deal!

    I’m not sure that theism is compatible with natural philosophy, which is the underpinning of science. Isn’t that the underlying point behind Myers’, Moran’s, Dawkins’, and others’ arguments? Sure, American’s are welcome to their religion, but hasn’t the failure to blend religion and science demonstrated that you’re either for religion, or for science?

  15. #15 Jeff Hebert
    November 24, 2006

    Daniel said:

    But, could you please cite a specific instance of one of these “gratuituous personal insults” that Myers or Moran is conveying, in either his posts or comments?

    Check my earlier comment in this thread for three such links, Daniel. I’d say “fearful ass” and “simpering evilutionist” qualify as gratuitous personal insults. If you don’t like those, how about “Ed Brayton, that sad panjandrum of the self-satisfied mean, medium, middle, moderate, and mediocre …” from the introduction to his main post.

  16. #16 Orac
    November 24, 2006

    Man, I read three blogs, Red State Rabble, Dispatches fromm the Culture Wars, and Pharyngula. It is disturbing to watch all of this.

    Indeed.

    Which is why you should come over and start reading Respectful Insolence. ;-)

  17. #17 Daniel
    November 24, 2006

    Orac,

    Does PZ’s calling Ed “that sad panjandrum of the self-satisfied mean, medium, middle, moderate, and mediocre” qualify as a “gratuitous personal insult” to you?

    Oh I definitely see it as abrasive, and see how PZ saying that didn’t help. PZ would’ve been much better to have avoided saying that, instead saying why he so strongly disagrees with Ed’s position. Sigh…

  18. #18 Jeff Hebert
    November 24, 2006

    Daniel said:

    Maybe, but the real argument is whether or not theism and evolutionary biology are compatible, is it not? So there are strong feelings on both sides – that’s nothing new, so big deal!

    “OK, so, I called you a ton of rude, insulting names and made a utterly fallacious statements about you. Get over it!”

    Does Ed’s prediction still count as having come true if it’s a PZ commenter and not PZ himself that plays the “Get over it” card?

  19. #19 Blake Stacey
    November 24, 2006

    Orac asked,

    Does PZ’s calling Ed “that sad panjandrum of the self-satisfied mean, medium, middle, moderate, and mediocre” qualify as a “gratuitous personal insult” to you?

    It did to me. Also, it qualifies as a gratuitous abuse of alliteration, which in the grander scheme of things may be a greater offense. Callousness to human beings is a sin against our common humanity, but abuse of poetry is an offense before God.

  20. #20 Daniel
    November 24, 2006

    Jeff,
    If trying to move beyond insults to discuss the underlying issues constitutes saying “get over it,” then you’ve missed my point. I’m not interested in the Ed/PZ feud, I’m interested in whether theism and science are compatible. I would think that since that’s the stated topic of Dispatches, and that if you were trying to be better adults than PZ, then you would try and move beyond the insults, and discuss the ideas.

  21. #21 Orac
    November 24, 2006

    Also, it qualifies as a gratuitous abuse of alliteration, which in the grander scheme of things may be a greater offense. Callousness to human beings is a sin against our common humanity, but abuse of poetry is an offense before God.

    ROFL!

  22. #22 Blake Stacey
    November 24, 2006

    Thanks, Orac. =)

  23. #23 PZ Myers
    November 24, 2006

    Jebus, are you really this clueless? Doesn’t the word “evilutionist” at least tip you off that I was being mock-ironic? I’m being told that I’m an enemy of all these people, and my response was to mock the whole idea — yeah, they’re all a bunch of wimpy evilutionists, but I’m still supporting them, and think they contribute to the cause. And telling Wilkins that I respect his convictions and don’t consider him a fearful ass is somehow translated into an insult?

    So you’re “not going to respond in kind”, but then you go on to call me an extremist, a fanatic, and someone who demands “such complete fealty to their full agenda that anyone falling short of that is subject to personal attack”. And now you’re reduced to quote mining to support your contentions.

    I’m glad that you’re finally getting around to recognizing that there is an attitude problem towards atheists in the US. However, you do still contribute to it with these annoying claims that I’ve declared all religious people to be stupid or deluded (guess what? It’s part of the deal of being an atheist that we think all the theists are wrong, so unless you’re willing to damn all the christians for thinking the atheists will go to hell, you’re being hypocritical), and I well recall that you’ve been quick to toss out the term “fundamentalist atheist” as an insult yourself.

    You’re just going to have to get used to the fact that I think that our approach to the creationist problem, which can be summarized as publicly pandering to the religious and trying to reassure the public that they can too believe in the God of Genesis while slapping ‘em down at the level of the courts, is a failure. It’s feeding the maw of the mob with false encouragement, and leads to maintenance and even growth of the grassroots opposition to good science. We are never going to get anywhere if we let bad science in the name of religion flourish without criticism — and that goes for the crap Ken Ham peddles as well as Ken Miller’s rationalizations.

    You want to argue that I go too far in blasting that wretched nonsense, and that I am therefore a fundamentalist fanatical extremist. I see that as providing cover for growing religiosity that directly opposes the goal you claim to pursue, improving science education. You are wrong. You got insulted because I say that what you are doing is perpetuating the bland, ineffectual status quo, that damnable mediocrity, that is exactly what has got us into the ugly situation we’re in now. Go to just about any civilized country in the world, and you will not see the level of dogma and religious BS promoted in the public square that we see in the US…and this is the world your kind have made.

  24. #24 David Heddle
    November 24, 2006

    Daniel,

    I’m interested in whether theism and science are compatible.

    And all those scientists who are also theists, and whose flatulence has contributed more to science than PZ has–if we happen to reach the conclusion that science and theism are not compatible, will that invalidate all their scientific contributions?

    Personally I think the simple fact that there are theists among the science Nobel Laureates suggests an obvious answer to the question.

  25. #25 Miguelito
    November 24, 2006

    PZ is arrogant and egotistical, which may very well help in the realm of research and teaching AND blogging, however, when trying to build policy by compromise (ie. theistic scientists with atheistic scientists), it’s like trying to wrap a steel girder around a pole: it won’t yield.

    He’s done much to belittle those with ANY theistic belief, even those who support the science movement against growing threats like creationism. I think Ed makes a good point: why the fuck would anybody want to work with somebody like that? You’d never know if he took your statements seriously. I’m an atheist and I don’t know if I could work with him because my approach to the theistic moderates is far more conciliatory and I feel like that would be a point of ridicule. I feel like I’d have to watch my back constantly to make sure he wasn’t pointing and giggling.

  26. #26 J-Dog
    November 24, 2006

    Orac, Blake, Daniel – thanks for playing the neutral observer, and getting the discusion back on track. Ed – you make a lot of sense on most subjects, and I always read your blog; but I also read PZ’s and he makes a lot of sense most of the time as well. Being raised Irish-American, I have never been one to back away from an argument, and I have never been called mealy-mouthed, but let us go forth from this moment on and together, let us kick some right-wing, homo-hatin’, no-brained,alternate-medicine usin’ creationist butt! Please!

    Don’t make me send OJ or Rumsfeld (both umemployed) over to mediate. Let me play the “Can’t we all just get along” card.

    And Happy Effing Thanksgiving To All!

  27. #27 Blake Stacey
    November 24, 2006

    @Migeulito:

    Being “more conciliatory” than PZ Myers is like finding a positive number which is greater than zero! It means something, to be sure, but maybe not very much. ;-)

  28. #28 Blake Stacey
    November 24, 2006

    David Heddle wrote:

    And all those scientists who are also theists, and whose flatulence has contributed more to science than PZ has–if we happen to reach the conclusion that science and theism are not compatible, will that invalidate all their scientific contributions?

    David, David, please. Flatulence contributes to global warming, not science. This is exactly the sort of ad hominem which Ed accuses PZ of making. This is what we’re trying to rise above.

    Personally I think the simple fact that there are theists among the science Nobel Laureates suggests an obvious answer to the question.

    Aha, but so many of those prizes were won in a day when our rational pursuit of knowledge had not pushed the God of the Gaps back into such a narrow domain! Not to mention the other “simple fact” that not a single one of the discoveries which earned those Nobel Prizes consisted of giving a supernatural being credit for a natural phenomenon. In at least that part of their lives which led these people to their prizes, they kept their theism out of their science. Had they failed to do so, they would never have won that trip to Stockholm.

    The moral would seem to be quite clear: make sure you sing your hymns to the Watchmaker on Sundays and holidays, not during regular business hours, and the Swedish medal might be in your future too.

  29. #29 Miguelito
    November 24, 2006

    You’re just going to have to get used to the fact that I think that our approach to the creationist problem, which can be summarized as publicly pandering to the religious and trying to reassure the public that they can too believe in the God of Genesis while slapping ‘em down at the level of the courts, is a failure. It’s feeding the maw of the mob with false encouragement, and leads to maintenance and even growth of the grassroots opposition to good science. We are never going to get anywhere if we let bad science in the name of religion flourish without criticism — and that goes for the crap Ken Ham peddles as well as Ken Miller’s rationalizations.

    Science education has failed because scientists have in general been poor communicators and educators to the general public. There’s little trickle-down education going on because scientists are far more interested in burying their nose in their research than explaining the scientific wonder of their research to the public.

    Other than NOVA on PBS, what major American network (I’m talking about FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS) carries any scientific content? Look at the news channels: they are also very very poor at having any scientific content or mentioning any major breakthroughs. There are few “this week in science” hours on the news shows (thank you Discovery channel for being different), and they are mostly focused on engineering and tech and have little to do with the natural sciences.

    Pissing people off by pointing out how they are wrong about one of the focuses of their lives is not going to help educate people. They’ll just tune out.

    Let’s face it: fundamentalism in America has succeeded because they are well organized, motivated, and reach out to the public, something that until very recently scientists weren’t doing.

  30. #30 Daniel
    November 24, 2006

    David,

    And all those scientists who are also theists, and whose flatulence has contributed more to science than PZ has–if we happen to reach the conclusion that science and theism are not compatible, will that invalidate all their scientific contributions?

    Of course it won’t make a difference for the actual science. It’s a philosophical issue, by and large, and pertains not to the scientific data themselves, but to the philosophies of science and religion.

    But if science and theism are compatible, at what point do you (arbitrarily?) decide that naturalism stops and theology begins?

  31. #31 fusilier
    November 24, 2006

    Funny, but the name Kerensky and the epithet “Menshevik” come to mind.

    fusilier
    James 2:24

  32. #32 Orac
    November 24, 2006

    Jebus, are you really this clueless? Doesn’t the word “evilutionist” at least tip you off that I was being mock-ironic?

    If that’s what you were doing, you sure did a piss-poor job of it. Either that, or a fairly sizable number of readers, myself included, are just too damned dense to have realized your brilliant “mock-ironic” ploy.

    No doubt you’ll take the latter explanation as the true one.

  33. #33 Ed Brayton
    November 24, 2006

    PZ Myers wrote:

    Jebus, are you really this clueless? Doesn’t the word “evilutionist” at least tip you off that I was being mock-ironic? I’m being told that I’m an enemy of all these people, and my response was to mock the whole idea — yeah, they’re all a bunch of wimpy evilutionists, but I’m still supporting them, and think they contribute to the cause. And telling Wilkins that I respect his convictions and don’t consider him a fearful ass is somehow translated into an insult?

    Okay, so you’ve got a way to excuse one of your insults as being intended as irony. How about the others? The point is that, as usual, you respond to criticism with insults and personal attacks (and this after saying on the SB forum last week that we should all be free to criticize each other because we’re all big boys and can take it; perhaps you meant that ironically as well). And you continue to do the same thing here. I doubt anyone is surprised.

    So you’re “not going to respond in kind”, but then you go on to call me an extremist, a fanatic, and someone who demands “such complete fealty to their full agenda that anyone falling short of that is subject to personal attack”. And now you’re reduced to quote mining to support your contentions.

    Well yes, PZ, that’s how one supports an argument. I say that you’ve now resorted to insults and personal attacks and then I quote your insults and personal attacks. That’s not “quote mining”, it’s providing proof of one’s argument.

    I’m glad that you’re finally getting around to recognizing that there is an attitude problem towards atheists in the US. However, you do still contribute to it with these annoying claims that I’ve declared all religious people to be stupid or deluded (guess what? It’s part of the deal of being an atheist that we think all the theists are wrong, so unless you’re willing to damn all the christians for thinking the atheists will go to hell, you’re being hypocritical), and I well recall that you’ve been quick to toss out the term “fundamentalist atheist” as an insult yourself.

    This has nothing to do with “finally coming around” to recognizing the problem with how people perceive of atheists; I’ve been writing on that subject for a long time. And what you fail to recognize, as always, is the distinction between thinking someone is wrong and thinking that they’re stupid or deluded. I’ve no doubt you and I hold many beliefs that are wrong at this very moment; does that make either of us stupid or deluded? Of course not. And yes, I will gladly condemn the notion that anyone is going to hell; I think the entire idea is absurd (and disturbing, dangerous and vile too). As for the term “fundamentalist atheist”, perhaps you could find an example of me using it; a google search of more than 3 years of writing on the subject turns up not a single instance. But I have seen others use that phrase and all it is intended to convey, I think, is a distinction between those atheists who don’t believe in God but who don’t really care much what others believe, and those atheists who don’t believe in God but who spend most of their time criticizing or trying to convert those who do. It’s not an insult, it’s just an attempt to make a distinction between two groups with different approaches.

    You’re just going to have to get used to the fact that I think that our approach to the creationist problem, which can be summarized as publicly pandering to the religious and trying to reassure the public that they can too believe in the God of Genesis while slapping ‘em down at the level of the courts, is a failure. It’s feeding the maw of the mob with false encouragement, and leads to maintenance and even growth of the grassroots opposition to good science. We are never going to get anywhere if we let bad science in the name of religion flourish without criticism — and that goes for the crap Ken Ham peddles as well as Ken Miller’s rationalizations.

    If you really think that you’re ever going to convince the human race to give up its belief in God, you are kidding yourself. And if you think that you are ever going to convince people to even consider whether evolution might be true or not when you begin the conversation by telling them that they’re deluded idiots, then may I politely suggest that the one suffering from delusion is you. It’s not going to work, ever.

  34. #34 Miguelito
    November 24, 2006

    Well said Ed.

  35. #35 egbooth
    November 24, 2006

    Bravo, Ed.

    “If you really think that you’re ever going to convince the human race to give up its belief in God, you are kidding yourself.”

    I think this point has been very underappreciated by PZ and the camp #2 atheists. IMHO, as long as there is always some place in this infinite universe that we cannot observe, there will always be room in people’s minds for some sort of God. The majority of humankind has and always will yearn for the belief in something that is much much larger than themselves. It’s just human nature.

  36. #36 Blake Stacey
    November 24, 2006

    Ed Brayton wrote:

    If you really think that you’re ever going to convince the human race to give up its belief in God, you are kidding yourself. And if you think that you are ever going to convince people to even consider whether evolution might be true or not when you begin the conversation by telling them that they’re deluded idiots, then may I politely suggest that the one suffering from delusion is you. It’s not going to work, ever.

    I smell a red herring.

    I fail to see how advocating and practicing the open criticism of “bad science in the name of religion” translates to “convinc[ing] the human race to give up its belief in God”. First of all, “the human race” does not believe in God. Lots of individual human beings believe in a thing they call God, and they disagree volubly (sometimes violently) about who this God person is, while umpty-ump million other human beings hold deeply spiritual beliefs which do not make room for a Bearded Sky Male or any of his more refined descendants. Each of these belief systems interacts with our methods of reason and observation — science — in a different way, and to my knowledge, PZ has focused his derision upon a very small portion of this global interaction.

    Yes, I have found significant chunks of PZ’s writings to be vituperative. If each of these blog posts and comments were directed to an audience of junior-high students sitting in their General Integrated Science classes, I would call them counterproductive. The same goes for speeches to politicians. But who gets their first impression of our sorry “Culture War” by reading Scienceblogs.com?

    (I for one did catch the “i” in “evilutionists”, and would be charitably inclined to chalk it up to an attempt at irony. But, PZ, this is why Vladimir Nabokov invented emoticons.)

    Too many people around here write as if they were junkies for an indignation drug, hooked on the nasty neurochemistry of self-righteousness. That is an offense almost as repellent as building criticism-proof walls around beliefs we claim to hold with integrity, and it is much worse than the incidental symptom of vituperative word choice.

    CITOKATE.

  37. #37 PZ Myers
    November 24, 2006

    All of the “insults” you are complaining about in this thread were pulled from that one comment, and as I explained, you completely overlook the tone — that I was mocking these accusations that were made and saying that I willingly cooperate with these people.

    Well yes, PZ, that’s how one supports an argument.

    Sure. You claim you’re above the personal insults, and I quote right there in your second paragraph a string of personal insults. My argument that you are being a hypocrite is supported, and I didn’t have to stoop to quote mining to do it.

    I also have you calling me a “fundamentalist atheist” in email. You do recall denouncing atheism rather strongly, don’t you? You most certainly did use it as an insult.

    I do not expect to personally convince the entire human race to give up the god nonsense, but it can happen. Look at Europe, where many countries are truly secular, unlike ours. Do you think the situation here is acceptable? Even if we were doomed to failure, shouldn’t we try to change it? That’s precisely why you got labeled an appeaser, because your strategy is to give up and go along.

  38. #38 Blake Stacey
    November 24, 2006

    egbooth wrote:

    I think this point has been very underappreciated by PZ and the camp #2 atheists. IMHO, as long as there is always some place in this infinite universe that we cannot observe, there will always be room in people’s minds for some sort of God. The majority of humankind has and always will yearn for the belief in something that is much much larger than themselves. It’s just human nature.

    With all due respect, going from “something that is much larger” than ourselves to anything resembling that which most people imagine God to be is poor reasoning. Contemplating that which is much greater than ourselves is a noble act, but we have no justification for naming the object of this contemplation Jehovah. Whenever I am tempted to use “God” in the Spinozan sense — you know, the totality of natural law and the complexity of existence, or something like that — I substitute the words “Cosmos” or “Osiris” instead and see if that makes a difference.

    The hope is that in our contemplation of that Cosmos which is so much vaster than we, our civilization will be able to divorce itself from the bloodier and more vengeful aspects of our spiritual heritage.

  39. #39 Chris Chandler
    November 24, 2006

    Ed,

    I’m determined to perpetuate the idea that godlessness is evil?

    Well, no, but you do seem perfectly willing to utilize that perception as a means of diverting the animosity of the religious away from evolution and onto its godless adherents, which isn’t entirely fair.

    Like it or not, evolutionary theory is blatantly contra-doctrinal where the major religions are concerned and while it by no means precludes the existence of a supernatural Creator, it unambiguously abrogates the necessity of one. Does that make evolution inherently anti-religious? No, but it’s disingenuous in the extreme to claim that the work of Darwin & Company doesn’t represent a potential threat to at least a handful of the certitudes produced and marketed by mankind’s various and sundry pieties.

    People like Myers and Moran obviously take a great deal of pleasure (certainly more than is strictly polite) in advertising this fact, but they’re not responsible for the reality of it, and shouldn’t be singled out for their outspoken (rude) atheism and metaphorically sacrificed for “Ed’s Team’s” failure to effectively reconcile Genesis with Origin of Species or find actual evidence for God in Ken Miller’s triune waterfall.

    Slightly off-topic, I know. I’d just rather not see this debate devolve into a “Yeah, but you’re a meanie!” pissing contest.

  40. #40 Blake Stacey
    November 24, 2006

    @Chris Chandler:

    Thank you. It is remarkably unpleasant to see the Blogotubes filling up with stagnant urine.

  41. #41 egbooth
    November 24, 2006

    Blake Stacey:

    Thanks for pointing out that my post should be clarified. I shouldn’t have used the word “God”. A “non-specific-religion higher power(s)” would have worked better but it’s a little unwieldy. And after thinking about it a little bit more, it just gets me back to the point that PZ et al. are more against the religions of our world and less the belief in a “non-specific-religion higher power(s)” — (let’s just hyphenate NSRHP(s)). Anyone agree?

    Regardless, this is kind of a moot point because what else is inherent with most of humankind is the desire to be organized behind this NSRHP(s) –> i.e. organized religion. Of course people are going to be interested in specific stories and traditions that match their idea of their NSRHP(s). It’s a part of being social, I suppose.

    I apologize if this makes no sense. It’s been a long day.

  42. #42 Ed Brayton
    November 24, 2006

    PZ Myers wrote:

    All of the “insults” you are complaining about in this thread were pulled from that one comment, and as I explained, you completely overlook the tone — that I was mocking these accusations that were made and saying that I willingly cooperate with these people.

    Actually, the insults started with you calling me “hat sad panjandrum of the self-satisfied mean, medium, middle, moderate, and mediocre”, not in a comment but at the beginning of your post. I know, with so many insults flying it’s hard to keep track of them all. But at least take responsibility for your own behavior rather than waving it away; that’s the mature thing to do, don’t you think?

    Sure. You claim you’re above the personal insults, and I quote right there in your second paragraph a string of personal insults. My argument that you are being a hypocrite is supported, and I didn’t have to stoop to quote mining to do it.

    Calling you an extremist is not an insult, it’s an observation. It’s no more an insult than you calling me a moderate. In this context, that is in fact our two positions relative to one another.

    I also have you calling me a “fundamentalist atheist” in email. You do recall denouncing atheism rather strongly, don’t you? You most certainly did use it as an insult.

    No, I have never denounced atheism. For all practical purposes, I am an atheist myself (since I’m only a nominal deist and don’t believe that has anything to do with our lives at all). So why would I denounce atheism? There is a distinction between denouncing atheism and denouncing your heavy handed tactics at advancing atheism. That should be obvious, especially to those who consider themselves vanguards or rationality. And the phrase “fundamentalist atheist”, as I explained (and you, conveniently, ignored) is only intended to distinguish between an atheist who doesn’t believe in god but doesn’t much care what others believe from an atheist who is aggressive in attacking the religious views of others. It’s not an insult. And if you’d like to pull out things said in personal emails, PZ, I don’t think you’ll like the result of that. The fact that you leapt immediately to personal attacks here is not a surprise, it’s a very common pattern for you.

    I do not expect to personally convince the entire human race to give up the god nonsense, but it can happen. Look at Europe, where many countries are truly secular, unlike ours. Do you think the situation here is acceptable? Even if we were doomed to failure, shouldn’t we try to change it? That’s precisely why you got labeled an appeaser, because your strategy is to give up and go along.

    And my point, which seems to have been missed completely, is that you and I are talking two entirely different enemies. You’re accusing me of appeasing your enemy, not mine. I’m fighting against those who want to bring their religious ideas into science classrooms and weaken science education; you’re righting against all religion of any kind. But there are lots of religious people who are on my side in the fight to protect science education. So you think that by working with my allies in my fight I am appeasing your enemy in your fight. Well, you’re right. This isn’t simply about different tactics, it’s about two entirely different battles. That has been my point all along. If by not calling every religious person stupid or deluded, including those who work side by side with me to protect science education, means that I’m appeasing what you view as your enemy, I am absolutely fine with that. But don’t accuse me of appeasing the enemy; we just don’t share the same enemy.

  43. #43 Kim
    November 24, 2006

    Ed, I think you hit the nail at the head of the distinction between Atheist Fndamentalists and regular Atheists. I use the term, and I think it fits very well to PZMyers.

  44. #44 DuWayne
    November 24, 2006

    Chris Chandler said –

    I’d just rather not see this debate devolve into a “Yeah, but you’re a meanie!” pissing contest.

    I think your a day or two late to avoid that.

  45. #45 Ed Brayton
    November 24, 2006

    Chris Chandler wrote:

    Well, no, but you do seem perfectly willing to utilize that perception as a means of diverting the animosity of the religious away from evolution and onto its godless adherents, which isn’t entirely fair.

    I’ve done no such thing. There are two entirely different questions: does evolution necessarily entail atheism? And does atheism lead to immorality? My answer to both, of course, is an emphatic no. And there is no reason we can’t argue strongly against both claims and fight both perceptions. There is absolutely no way, given my long history of arguing vociferously against the notion that atheism leads to immorality, that anyone can honestly claim that I support that position. That’s why I bluntly called PZ’s claim that I “perpetuate” that idea exactly what it is – a lie.

  46. #46 MJ Memphis
    November 24, 2006

    Regarding the “atheist fundamentalist” label- Personally, if I was called a “fundamentalist” anything, I would consider it an insult, so I can readily understand if PZ does as well. And it makes no sense in this useage anyway. Maybe “evangelical atheist” would be more appropriate, but “fundamentalist atheist” is a misnomer and very likely to cause offense.

  47. #47 Leni
    November 24, 2006

    No to be totally glib but wouldn’t PZ’s “the” enemy be the same as Ed’s “your” (I.e. PZ’s) enemy?

    It’s just that enemy is one of those relative words that doesn’t really have… you know… an objectively determinable reference points.

  48. #48 Leni
    November 24, 2006

    Or objectively determinable reference “point”. Since reference point is sort of by definition singular.

  49. #49 J. J. Ramsey
    November 24, 2006

    Ed, I think you hit the nail at the head of the distinction between Atheist Fndamentalists and regular Atheists. I use the term, and I think it fits very well to PZMyers.

    Hmm, when I’ve seen “fundamentalist atheist” used, and indeed, when I’ve used it myself, it has been in reference to atheists that repeat the mistakes of fundies such as simplistic demonizing of adversaries, factual distortion, and fallacious argument. It does not help when all this is done with a strident tone.

  50. #50 DuWayne
    November 24, 2006

    I think Ed’s description of fundamentalist atheism compared to atheism, is apt for people of faith as well. It is the absolute intolerance for any idea that conflicts with the fundamentalist’s world view.

    At the same time, it is good for people to challenge each other when they run into conflict in said world views. It is critical to do so when a particular world view is restricting the rights of others, such as the case with gay marriage. Anyone who would accuse Ed of not making such challenges is flat out, lying. Similarly, making the claim that religion inherently puts a person in opposition to the goal of a secular society is willfull ignorance.

  51. #51 386sx
    November 24, 2006

    Actually, the insults started with you calling me “hat sad panjandrum of the self-satisfied mean, medium, middle, moderate, and mediocre”, not in a comment but at the beginning of your post.

    Wow, sounds pretty dreadful. The horror! By the way, I wonder which “team” H. L. Mencken would be on. I don’t know!

  52. #52 Blake Stacey
    November 24, 2006

    From a few comments ago:

    And if you’d like to pull out things said in personal emails, PZ, I don’t think you’ll like the result of that.

    I find it amusing that with questions of the utmost profundity hanging in the balance, the best we can do is expose each other as potty mouths.

  53. #53 386sx
    November 24, 2006

    I find it amusing that with questions of the utmost profundity hanging in the balance, the best we can do is expose each other as potty mouths.

    If they start doing that, it will be a big freaking disappointment. Chill out people!

  54. #54 JS
    November 24, 2006

    This whole debacle should have been Godwin’ed days ago when people starte throwing around gratuitous Chamberlain/Churchill analogies…

    – JS

  55. #55 kehrsam
    November 24, 2006

    Orac: Would the Hitler Zombie come for fellow Science Bloggers?

  56. #56 Chris
    November 24, 2006

    I think this point has been very underappreciated by PZ and the camp #2 atheists. IMHO, as long as there is always some place in this infinite universe that we cannot observe, there will always be room in people’s minds for some sort of God. The majority of humankind has and always will yearn for the belief in something that is much much larger than themselves. It’s just human nature.

    I disagree. To state that the majority yearns for god-belief is to implicitly acknowledge (correctly) that a minority does not. “What makes the difference?” is an empirical question open to rational inquiry. Once we discover the answer it is quite possible that we *could* find a way to inoculate people against religion.

    At the very least, belief in something larger than yourself need not include the belief that that something has a will, which you are obligated to follow, and which you can best determine by listening to a man in a funny hat read from his very old book. Deism may be as unsupported by evidence as teapotism or Last Thursdayism, but it isn’t generally actively harmful like many religions surrounding us today.

    I believe that the universe is very much larger than myself; however it has no particular opinion on any subject whatsoever, and if it did, I would be under no obligation to comply with it.

  57. #57 Brian
    November 24, 2006

    Ooh – this is fun. Scienceblogs wouldn’t truly be a forum for science unless it had people fighting way too long over something pretty pointless – just like a faculty senate meeting.

  58. #58 Orac
    November 24, 2006

    Orac: Would the Hitler Zombie come for fellow Science Bloggers?

    Yes, if the Hitler analogy used was stupid enough and I thought I could make it entertaining enough. Absolutely. As you may have noticed, I only now use the monster very sparingly now, but there have been at least two occasions when I’ve come very close to unleashing him on a fellow SB’er.

    Indeed, it just so turns out that I was sorely tempted to sic the monster on those commenters on PZ’s blog who intentionally misrepresented Ed’s (admittedly ill-chosen) use of “by any means necessary” to imply that Ed was somehow accusing PZ et al of wanting to lock believers up in concentration camps. Granted, they were not SB’ers, but they sure were tempting targets.

  59. #59 Bradley J. Fikes
    November 24, 2006

    As a godless evilutionist, I am appalled at the name-calling among people who agree about so much in protecting science education. Dembski would be heartened to read this evidence of factionalism.

    PZ, by all means hold on to your principled positions, but please, please reduce the personal invective quotient against Ed and others who are fighting for quality science education. Granted, some of your supposed insults like “fearful ass” were interpreted as such by careless reading. But people like Dembski are much more worthy targets.

    Ed, you nailed the issue precisely when you pointed out that you and PZ are fighting different enemies; you fight against debauching science education, and PZ against religion. On the issue of science education, your goals are in synch. Just agree to disagree on the other issues.

    With that in mind, I hope you two, and your factions, can bury the hatchet in some fine beer. If you’re ever out to the San Diego area, I’ll be happy to buy.

  60. #60 Blake Stacey
    November 24, 2006

    There’s a giant dinosaur in the room.

    The attitude is circulating in the air here that full-blooded atheists cannot get along with theistic evolutionists. I think this has much more to do with the personalities of the specific people in question, and not so much with grand philosophical issues. However, nobody is looking at the flipside of this question: will those deeply steeped in fundamentalist religion see theistic evolution as a viable compromise?

    Does evolution necessarily rule out religion? No. More broadly, is our modern understanding of natural law incompatible with religious belief? We have to be careful here: the history of what humans have believed is not a totally reliable guide to what is in fact logically consistent to believe! Still, I think it’s fair to say that one could be conversant with physics, chemistry and biology as we understand them today and still hold vaguely deist beliefs with reasonable integrity.

    If this is the route you take, you have to be careful. Whatever attributes of the physical world you attribute to the Watchmaker’s action — say, the existence of human morality or the value of the cosmological constant — can almost certainly be subjected to reason and experimental inquiry, if not today then tomorrow. If you use your supernatural standpoint to make an assertion about the natural world, you have to ready to get kicked in the teeth.

    People have made all these points umpteen times before. Most of us around these parts argue from deist, atheist, ithiest or humanist positions. We have all expressed a variety of opinions and arguments on godlessness, in addition to eagerly disagreeing with each other about what our varied flavors of godlessness mean for the issue of science education. Ah, but here comes the rub. With the exception of Michael Shermer, few pro-science advocates argue from personal experience of having been on the “other side”. And I mean deep on the other side, not just expressing one of several conciliatory positions like Miller and Collins.

    The worst of the creationists cannot stand the Gods of Islam and Judaism. Beneath its varied Potemkin facades, creationism hides true ugliness and pathology. We have seen this demonstrated time and time again, not by the millions of decent folk simply shortchanged by their culture and their schools, but by the ideologues who stop at nothing to defend an untruth. Those who have no sympathy for Yahweh or Allah will not display any kindness for the Kind Watchmaker — and we are ignorant of their number.

    Oh, the Dembskis and Behes of this planet will be quick to quote any scientist who makes comments friendly to theism. If they twist and distort the words of scientists completely hostile to religion, could they do otherwise with a scientist less strident? But make no mistake: this memetic appropriation by Janus-faced creationists does not mean that they will, in their hearts, ever let slip the belief that God — the Lord God who spake to Samuel ordering Saul to slay the Amalekites — is the Designer, the Vengeful Designer.

    Millions of parents suckered by the “teach the controversy” scheme might be liberated by knowledge alone, moving to a vague Sundays-and-Christmastime theism where “evolution is the how but not the why.” But make no mistake: even this would be a defeat in the Discovery Institute’s eyes.

    And so we come to a great and wonderful irony. I hang out in these parts because I care about science education; for many reasons, ranging from utility to beauty, I believe the transmission of knowledge to be a civic duty and one of the closest things we have to a truly sacred act. The fact that this sacred duty buts up against established religion is an unhappy historical accident, about which I devote only secondary concern. Nevertheless, for thousands of years religion has made claims about the natural world which have become subject to observation and rational inquiry — to scientific scrutiny. The gods of the shrinking gaps are relatively recent historical inventions, restricted to small population segments, while the mysticism which constitutes “old-time religion” refuses to be confined to a single magisterium.

    The unavoidable, empirical truth is that any struggle for better science education is a fight against that old-time religion. It might not be a “fight for atheism”, in the strictest sense of that word, but we cannot deny how much decent science education would remove the need for a micromanaging, interventionist God.

    The vengeful Lord of Samuel would not be pleased with a Kind Watchmaker who runs around gathering souls at the moment of death.

    Thank you, Ed Brayton, for fighting a war to move a population in the general direction of atheism.

  61. #61 Orac
    November 24, 2006

    This whole debacle should have been Godwin’ed days ago when people starte throwing around gratuitous Chamberlain/Churchill analogies…

    I tend to agree, particularly since they were bad analogies. As an aside, Chamberlain has gotten a bit of a raw deal from history. Given that the memories of the horrors of World War I were strong in the British memory in 1938, making the British public very much against going to war, coupled with the fact that Britain was in no shape yet to challenge Germany militarily and the French weren’t particularly interested in doing so even though they did have a larger military and (unlike Britain) actually had a treaty obligation to Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain chose the path of least resistance. He was greeted with ecstatic crowds and widespread acclaim when he came home, further demonstrating how little the British people wanted to go to war at that time. Indeed, the Roosevelt administration praised the deal, as did Pope Pius XI.

    So, yes, Chamberlain did appease Hitler, but his decision to do so was more understandable at the time than it was in retrospect.

  62. #62 Lettuce
    November 25, 2006

    Actually, the insults started with you calling me “that sad panjandrum of the self-satisfied mean, medium, middle, moderate, and mediocre”

    Followed by:

    Calling you an extremist is not an insult, it’s an observation.

    So, you were both just making observations?

    Or are you, Ed, arguing that since you don’t consider what you said an insult it’s not? But since you, Ed, consider what PZ wrote an insut it is?

    That’s not cricket, is it?

  63. #63 Jeff Hebert
    November 25, 2006

    By the way, for anyone else who, like me, didn’t know what “panjandrum” meant but was too lazy to look it up, here you go, courtesy of Merriam-Webster:

    Main Entry: pan·jan·drum

    Pronunciation: pan-‘jan-dr&m

    Function: noun

    Inflected Form(s): plural -drums also pan·jan·dra /-dr&/

    Etymology: Grand Panjandrum, burlesque title of an imaginary personage in some nonsense lines by Samuel Foote : a powerful personage or pretentious official

    I assume PZ Meyers meant the term to be used in its last sense, as I doubt he would find anything about Ed “burlesque”. Not that you wouldn’t look fabulous in a dress, Ed.

  64. #64 DuWayne
    November 25, 2006

    Blake –
    With the exception of Michael Shermer, few pro-science advocates argue from personal experience of having been on the “other side”.

    I really think this is an interesting point. I actually grew up steeped in pentacostal, fundamentalist thinking (the dichotomy of my life is, that while my mother was/is a fundamentalist Christian, my dad is an atheist – happily married for nearly thirty years now). I went to a pentacostal perocial school for a few years. I have seen faith healer, Benny Hinn, in an arena on a couple of occasions. I might even still have my “promise keepers” ring.

    To be blunt, the fundamentalists you speek of are intractable. I do not mean individuals, the whole school of thought leaves absolutely no room for accepting any evidence that goes against the system of belief. The only way to fight against fundamentalism, is to educate kids to know better. The notion that kids leave their secondary education with little to no education on evolution is insane – yet it happens, year after year. A firm grounding in elementary natural science would go a long ways. Bombard kids with enough information to question, seriously question their religious upbringing.

    But it ultimately is a battle to move them out of fundamentalism. As a group, they will not settle for watering down their dogma, even in the face of inscrutible fact.

    My problem with this whole discussion is that the same fundies we are talking about are the enemy. They are fighting to put their dogma in the science classroom. They are keeping GLBTs and their children from enjoying the same security and legal protections married, straight couples and their kids enjoy. They want to limit the availability of life-saving devices, such as condoms. I want to fight them>. I will even hold my nose and work with assholes who think that I am an idiot, because the issues are critical. But I find it disturbing that the same people who complain that atheists are trusted so little, don’t seem to trust me to make reasonable, rational choices, because I have a little theism in me.

  65. #65 Chris Chandler
    November 25, 2006

    Ed wrote:

    I’ve done no such thing.

    With all due respect, how have you done no such thing?

    1) You’ve examined the mishmash of people whose positions on science education are virtually indistinguishable from your own.

    2) You’ve identified a subset of them on the basis of their outspoken atheism and a perfectly reasonable conviction that it’s wrong-headed to believe that actively encouraging the production and dissemination of scientifically baseless religious interpretations of scientific findings (Collins, Miller, et al.) will actually win public support for what we would call good science education.

    3) You’ve conflated that conviction with their personal views of religion and portrayed them as maniacal ideologues whose primary interest in science education lies in its potential as a weapon in a War-On-Christmas-esque fight to “eliminate all religious belief of any kind, even those perspectives that have no quarrel with evolution specifically or science in general, from society.” (Which, I have to add, is a rather strident accusation to make of people who have devoted a huge swath of their professional lives to, you know, teaching science.)

    4) You’ve utilized that portrayal as a rationale to essentially call for the anti-ID movement to publicly disassociate itself with the “authoritarians,” and in so doing have stripped their positions of all nuance and reduced their personal anti-religiosity to a cartoonish foil against which your “team” can make common cause with the pious.

    Looks like scapegoating to me, regardless of what you’ve decided that atheism inherently is and isn’t or how many times you’ve done it. And while I freely admit that none of the above speaks to your intent, I do think it’s more-or-less accurate in the descriptive sense.

    Again with all due respect, you get called an appeaser because, judging by all available evidence, you would never use adjectives like “dangerous,” “authoritarian,” “disturbing” and “vile” to describe the positions of a religious person who vociferously opposes any scientific theory that is not suitably consonant with his or her religious beliefs, evidence be damned. You seem too intent on trying not to piss them off.

    (Personal note: As I said in the post before this, I have no interest whatsoever in being drawn into the ridiculous and irrelevant aside about rhetorical civility. If I crossed anyone’s arbitrary line in the sand here, I apologize. And if that isn’t good enough, well, tough shit.)

  66. #66 DuWayne
    November 25, 2006

    Chris Chandler said –

    Again with all due respect, you get called an appeaser because, judging by all available evidence, you would never use adjectives like “dangerous,” “authoritarian,” “disturbing” and “vile” to describe the positions of a religious person who vociferously opposes any scientific theory that is not suitably consonant with his or her religious beliefs, evidence be damned. You seem too intent on trying not to piss them off.

    Your right. Most often, when criticising such people on this blog, Ed uses terms like absurd, insipid, moronic and stupid. Much more conciliatory. Because it is so obvious how much Ed wants to appease religious people who vociferously opposes any scientific theory that is not suitably consonant with his or her religious beliefs, evidence be damned.

    Heres an idea, read what Ed says about the people you claim he is appeasing, before painting him an appeaser.

  67. #67 wildlifer
    November 25, 2006

    I’ve got to side with PZ on this one , Ed.

    In case everyone has forgotten what this is about, and I suspect this may be the case for some, here it is:

    UCSD is requiring their biology majors to take a course in evolution to remediate the failings of their freshmen, and is making all of their incoming freshmen attend an anti-ID lecture.

    The IDiots protested about the ID lecture, and Larry, joke or not, agreed with them and took it a step further. I too, agree with Larry, even though I would have stated that they shouldn’t be admitted so as to make room for educated students, rather than “smart students.”

    As long as universities provide remedial training, in any subject including maths and science, for students, they send a message to the high schools in the nation that they can continue to produce a substandard product.

    Universities not only should send these kids packing to JCs or vo-tech, but should increase their standards – for all subject matter. And only when it becomes obvious to the parents in the school districts of many states, the system is failing the students, will change come.

    But PZ also made pretty much these same points.

    Ed, I’ve enjoyed reading here and agree with you quite often, but on this, you’re dead wrong. You drew PZ – no baited – into this fray, knowing he would take no prisoners in his response. You tried to equate it to a crusade to remove religion from the planet, which is bullshit.

    It’s, as it always has been, about the science. Any person who’s read anything PZ’s ever written on science and religion, should know that.

  68. #68 Dave S.
    November 25, 2006

    Bradley J. Fikes writes:

    As a godless evilutionist, I am appalled at the name-calling among people who agree about so much in protecting science education. Dembski would be heartened to read this evidence of factionalism.

    The difference is that here such disagreements are put out there publically for all to see in all their glorious ugliness. On Dembski’s blog however such disagreements are strictly discourage and if need be censored – participants rebuked and sometimes expugated, or entire posts disappearing in the mists.

    Dembski should also find no succor here as both ‘sides’ have still equally ejected his ID notions and both ‘sides’ are still committed to good science of which ID isn’t.

    It seems self-evident here that we are dealing with two different agendas. One agenda deals solely with promoting good science and good education, whilst the other contains that goal as part of larger culure war on religion in general. I’m a supporter of the former. Even though I’m an atheist, that to me is just a personal choice and I have no desire to try and show how those who aren’t are stupid or unenlightened or wrong. I’m quite happy to work with anyone who has the same goals as I do, be they atheist or believer.

    As an aside, I wonder about the graduates that come out of the universities. If they should pass all their tests, but still profess doubts about evolution (perhaps they think some of the ID argument are possibly scientifically valid), should they be allowed to pass the course?

  69. #69 Daniel Morgan
    November 25, 2006

    Blake:
    “And if you’d like to pull out things said in personal emails, PZ, I don’t think you’ll like the result of that. [quoting Ed]”
    I find it amusing that with questions of the utmost profundity hanging in the balance, the best we can do is expose each other as potty mouths.

    And why is it that it matters if we are or not? The insults have nothing to do with the crux of the issue, do they? Who cares if Ed is mean, or if PZ is, or if both are?

    Chris: [replying to egbooth]
    To state that the majority yearns for god-belief is to implicitly acknowledge (correctly) that a minority does not. “What makes the difference?” is an empirical question open to rational inquiry. Once we discover the answer it is quite possible that we *could* find a way to inoculate people against religion.

    The sense of mystery and awe which egbooth was referring to, I think, was a bit taken out of context by you. He was saying that these senses are universal. I would agree with him. He was saying that these can be directed towards some Deity so long as they exist and all questions are not answered. I agree with him. Sure, there are a few of us (me included) who do not need to direct those senses towards anything except the beauty, majesty, and weirdness of the universe itself. But we still have those impulses, do we not?
    A good question for you: should we inoculate people against this, even if we could? Perhaps you’ve read Dennett’s take on it — religion is a by-product of beneficial evolutionary developments. Perhaps our scientific progress owes a lot to those religious impulses we have, and so they ought not be diminished? Einstein certainly thought so.

    Blake:
    issues. However, nobody is looking at the flipside of this question: will those deeply steeped in fundamentalist religion see theistic evolution as a viable compromise?…

    No. Never. And that’s why we’re all wasting our breath if we intend our words to do anything to pierce the delusional veils of such religious fundamentalism. That’s why all of these arguments are rational people arguing with other rational people about how best to rationally appeal to irrational people. Pointless.

    Blake:
    The unavoidable, empirical truth is that any struggle for better science education is a fight against that old-time religion. It might not be a “fight for atheism”, in the strictest sense of that word, but we cannot deny how much decent science education would remove the need for a micromanaging, interventionist God.

    Very well said.

    Orac:
    Granted, they were not SB’ers, but they sure were tempting targets.

    Yeah, the one I’m thinking of in particular I would love to see the Hitler Zombie unleashed upon. This fellow spewed a few thousand words of nonsense at me for passing a judgment of opinion on the “meat butterfly pic” that PZ put up long ago. Do yourself a favor and don’t search for it.

  70. #70 Orac
    November 25, 2006

    Again with all due respect, you get called an appeaser because, judging by all available evidence, you would never use adjectives like “dangerous,” “authoritarian,” “disturbing” and “vile” to describe the positions of a religious person who vociferously opposes any scientific theory that is not suitably consonant with his or her religious beliefs, evidence be damned.

    Bullshit.

    He uses even nastier terms for these people.

  71. #71 Dave S.
    November 25, 2006

    Orac says:

    Bullshit.

    He uses even nastier terms for these people.

    Indeed.

    I don’t understand the “appeaser” tag in this context. An appeaser of the Chamberlain ilk is someone who yields to the bellicose demands of others in an effort to conciliate, often at the expense of previously stated principles. I don’t see anyone here saying PZ et al. is right, but we must placate the moderate theists anyway so they don’t bolt and damage the pro-science (i.e. evolution) agenda. One is not an appeaser when going against someone else’s stated principles and aims. It’s pure rhetorical bluster.

  72. #72 Tom Wood
    November 25, 2006

    This argument confirms the saying that when liberals form a firing line, it’s an inward pointing circle. ;-)

    The religious side has the advantage of a unifying concept – A single God, albeit with differing names and attributes. If only our side had some unifying theory to hold our team together on the field…some unifying the field theory. But what to call it? :p

  73. #73 Keanus
    November 25, 2006

    THis entire episode is silly, just plain silly. It’s little more than a bunch of egoists clashing over who’s more right.

    As for the issues presented, I think Moran raises a serious point about the admissibility of budding biologists. If those applicants willfully won’t accept evolution, is it right to admit them but exclude someone else with similar credentials who does accept the validity of science? One can make a case for admitting the creationists–they need the education desparately–or for excluding them–they’re uneducable. And given the competition for places in institutions like UCSD, I’m almost inclined to the former. On the other hand, someone has to counter the superstitions and willful ignorance pounded into the heads of the impressionable. As for whether Moran meant his comment “humorously” or not, upon first reading I took the comment as dripping with scarasm. How could it have been seen any other way?

    As for how science presents itself, I think science should view religion as irrelevant to science. Because it is. Religion only tries to make itself relevant in that religion was devised by our ancestors–you know the guys and gals swinging from the trees–as a means of making sense of a strange and wonderful world. Along the line, assorted intelligent types began to sense that there was more to explaining the world than conjuring up mysteries and mystic analysis, hence was born “natural theology” the seed of modern science. Science long since sued for divorce from religion and has charted its own path. It should continue to do so. Should it attack religion? Sure! It’s been doing so for centuries and in wave after wave of assault since the 16th and 17th centuries. so long as religion claims to understand and explain the natural world it will continue to beat a retreat, surrendering claim after claim to the onslaught of science. That is what the ID folks are all about, trying to counterattack in a hopelessly lost cause.

    Now should science attack religion and its messengers? Yes, if by that one means their ridiculous claims about the natural world. But no, if that means attacking theistic evolutionists, or other theists. Just remember that religion is irrelelvant to science. So when Ken Miller, Keith Miller, and other theists trot out religion, they’ve left the territory of science and entered the realm of theology which is irrelevant to science. Similarly when Dawkins or PZ Myers attack religion directly–skewering anyone who believes in a god of some kind–they’ve also strayed from the realm of science and ventured into the minefield of theology. And when they do, the may get blown up just like the theists.

    In my view a pox on both positions.

  74. #74 Ed Brayton
    November 25, 2006

    Chris Chandler wrote:

    Again with all due respect, you get called an appeaser because, judging by all available evidence, you would never use adjectives like “dangerous,” “authoritarian,” “disturbing” and “vile” to describe the positions of a religious person who vociferously opposes any scientific theory that is not suitably consonant with his or her religious beliefs, evidence be damned. You seem too intent on trying not to piss them off.

    This is where the credibility of your argument dies an immediate death. You can’t possibly have read this blog if you really think that I would never use those adjectives to describe the positions of a religious person opposing a scientific theory. For crying out loud, I’m one of the loudest and staunchest opponents of ID in the nation and I’ve been doing this for well over a decade. I’ve used far worse words than that. I have written, by now, hundreds of thousands of words condemning specific ID advocates of distorting the evidence, engaging in a disingenuous PR campaign, and flat out lying. As for authoritarian, I probably spend more time fighting against the authoritarian agenda of the religious right than I do any other subject. If you really want to claim that I avoid criticizing religious people to avoid offending them, you’re either utterly ignorant of my writing or you’re clinically insane.

    I am all for bashing ideas that undermine science education or that threaten our liberty; I do so every day on this blog. I do so whether those ideas are religious or non-religious, but 90% of the time they are religious, more specifically Christian in this country. I take a back seat to no one when it comes to criticizing, and often brutally ridiculing, stupid religious ideas that threaten the things that I value. But here’s the distinction that you and everyone else opposed to me is missing: those things we all should value are not threatened merely because someone believes in God. There are forms of Christianity and all other religions that are entirely compatible with liberty and science (the issues I care about most). I know that because on both of those issues I stand shoulder to shoulder with Christians in the fight. And frankly, I don’t care why they believe it. I don’t care precisely how they manage to reconcile their faith with liberty and science, I only care that they do so. I’m not going to spend my time obsessively picking apart Ken Miller’s views on the compatibility of religion and evolution. You know why? Because they don’t affect me. They are his private views and he makes no attempt to get them into science classrooms. When it comes to science education, this man has done more on that fight than perhaps any other person in the entire country (Genie Scott is probably the only other person in that discussion).

    So when I see PZ Myers attacking him repeatedly and unjustifiably, I’m bothered by that. When I see Larry Moran declare that Miller undermines science education and that he’s really an adversary rather than an ally, I conclude that one can only believe that if one is fighting an entirely different battle than I am. Moran believes Miller to be an adversary because his battle is a completely different battle than the one I’m involved in; his battle is against religious belief itself, not with those religious beliefs that threaten our freedom and our children’s education. But I also firmly believe that in pursuing that battle, he undermines our ability to win the battle for good science education by alienating 90% of the public, the very people whose minds we have to change, and by living up to the (usually) false stereotypes that the other side tries to foist upon us. When Myers declares religious people to be “lunatics and idiots” and says it’s time to “break out the steel toed boots and brass knuckles” and pound on them, he is reinforcing the worst stereotypes of evolution advocates by being exactly what they have long described us as being.

    And bear in mind that my objection to this is both practical and principled. The practical part of it is what I stated above. Here’s the principled, and perhaps more important, part: they’re just plain wrong. Ken Miller is neither a lunatic nor an idiot. Nor is Keith Miller. Or Howard Van Till. Or Francisco Ayala. Or Wesley Elsberry. Some of these people are my friends. All of these people have fought long and hard to protect science education from the attacks of creationists. I am not about to tell them that they are lunatics or idiots, nor do I think anyone else should.

  75. #75 MartinM
    November 25, 2006

    When Myers declares religious people to be “lunatics and idiots” and says it’s time to “break out the steel toed boots and brass knuckles” and pound on them

    When he says that, I’ll join you in condemning it. Until then, well…

    This is where the credibility of your argument dies an immediate death

  76. #76 David Heddle
    November 25, 2006

    MartinM:

    I say, screw the polite words and careful rhetoric. It’s time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots. If you don’t care enough for the truth to fight for it, then get out of the way. (PZ Myers)

    Which you can verify here.

    Your condemnation, I gather, is forthcoming.

  77. #77 MartinM
    November 25, 2006

    David, I know that’s where Ed’s claim comes from. I’ve read it before; I read it again in full before I posted here. It simply doesn’t say what is claimed. The full context makes it abundantly clear who the idiots and lunatics are, who the methaphorical boots and brass knuckles are, and it is not simply “religious people.”

  78. #78 Orac
    November 25, 2006

    Which you can verify here.

    Your condemnation, I gather, is forthcoming.

    Oh, please, give me a break.

    Even I, who have not been shy about criticizing PZ rather harshly about his post attacking Ed and Pat, recognize the snipped you quoted as nothing more than an overblown metaphor. In the context of the post, it was obvious that PZ was not seriously advocating physical violence against people; rather, he was clearly advocating intellectual violence (in the form of taking the gloves off when it comes to argumentation and rhetoric) against the anti-science positions held by too many in power.

  79. #79 David Heddle
    November 25, 2006

    Orac,

    Oh, please, give me a break.

    Oh brother, that’s lame.

    Nobody claimed that PZ was actually avocating violence. Even us bumpkin theists understood that. So your point is, well, pointless. The bottom line is quite simple: Ed’s quote of Myers was accurate. And if you read the entire PZ rant and conclude that the the only target of the violent threat metaphor was GWB and a few of his buds, then you must be predisposed to view everything in a light that is most favorable to PZ.

    So no, you don’t get a break.

  80. #80 Ed Brayton
    November 25, 2006

    No, I certainly don’t believe that PZ is advocating actual violence against people with that quote, nor have I ever claimed so (and if an ID advocate claimed that he did, I would certainly defend him against that charge). He clearly means this only metaphorically. But I do think the context supports the idea that he is in fact referring to religious people as a whole as “lunatics and idiots.” He is responding to John Hawks, who was making a similar argument to the one I’m making, that if you want public support for improving science education it does not good to take “an adversarial position toward religious viewpoints.” And Hawks specifically notes that many religious people have no objection to evolution. Hawks is pointing this criticism precisely at people like Myers and he says:

    Would it help to have a biology teacher call a child’s parents “lunatics”? Certainly not. But parents, community members, churches, and other people that children know and respect are precisely the people that one is attacking, when one uses derisive rhetoric.

    So the context reveals that the people being called lunatics and idiots are religious people in general, parents and ministers, the folks that kids tend to look up to. And Hawks is making the quite reasonable point that declaring those people to be lunatics and idiots is not a good way to reach the kids (or to reach those people, for that matter). So I think it’s a perfectly fair reading of the passage to think that he aims it at pretty much every religious person. And frankly, I don’t think Myers denies this. When I accused him of thinking that all religious people are either stupid or deluded yesterday, look at his response. He doesn’t deny this, he simply says “guess what? It’s part of the deal of being an atheist that we think all the theists are wrong.” I don’t think he recognizes the distinction between “wrong” and “stupid” or “deluded”. And even if he does recognize it in moments of calm reflection, he certainly doesn’t come across that way when he’s throwing rhetoric around on a daily basis. And that is one of the points I’ve been making all along, that this kind of rhetoric just feeds into the stereotype that IDers try so hard to sell to the public. And that undermines our ability to reach the vast majority of the public.

    And this isn’t speculation, I know this to be the case. I’ve had people say to me specifically that they listen to me because I don’t start from the assumption that all religious people are stupid, where they wouldn’t give someone like Myers the time of day. I got an email yesterday from Jim Babka, a devout Christian who gave me 3 consecutive shows on his radio program to debunk ID creationism last year. After reading the various posts on this over the last couple days, he wrote an unsolicited email and said I could quote him on it. This is what he wrote:

    “Say what you will about Ed Brayton, but I was raised Young Earth Creationist. When I realized the world was too old for that, I hoped against hope that ID had something to offer. Ed Brayton, Ken Miller, Frederick Turner, and Fr. Edward Oakes, as well as a patient friend (who happens to be an atheist), all helped my shift to the truth: Evolution is the best explanation available for our natural history. I’m still a Christian, by the way. That makes me a pariah with many who read Science blogs. Be that as it may, the PZ Myers approach would’ve done nothing to persuade me. Ed Brayton’s approach did persuade me.”

    Now you can say all you want about how he should have objectively considered the truth of a claim regardless of the behavior of the person advocating it, but as I said in another post that just isn’t human nature. Like it or not, our ability or willingness to accept an argument does have much to do with how we perceive the person making the argument. If someone you were friendly with and respected tried to convince you that your views on some political issue were wrong, you’d be much more likely to listen to them and give their arguments due consideration than you would if the person making the argument was someone you perceived to be an idiot, a bigot or morally bankrupt.

    I think this is what Neil Tyson was saying to Richard Dawkins, only without all the vitriol that has developed in this exchange. And I probably should have said something similar to Myers and Moran, because it applies just as well. PZ Myers is a very, very smart guy, as is Larry Moran. When either of them writes about science, I’ll wait in line to read what they have to say. I really do have great respect for their intellect. But as Tyson said to Dawkins, you could be so much more effective and so much more persuasive if you moderated your tone (and frankly, I can recognize that the same criticism could probably be aimed at me at times; while I don’t aim my snide dismissal at all religious people, I probably do aim it too broadly at times and probably also do alienate some people who might otherwise be open to my ideas). If we spend all our time preaching to the choir, we aren’t going to persuade anyone who actually needs persuading. And as Jim Babka likes to say, not all choirs are in churches. Perhaps the lesson we can all take from this, me included, is to focus on what is effective rather than on taking our egos for a walk to lord our superiority over everyone we perceive to be stupid. Tyson’s comments to Dawkins should speak not only to him but to Myers, to Moran – and yes, to me as well.

  81. #81 J. J. Ramsey
    November 25, 2006

    To be fair to PZ Myers, the “lunatics and idiots” in the post mentioning steel-toed boots and brass knuckles was in reference to “the president of the US and the preachers at the Discovery Institute.”

    OTOH, to be fair to Ed Brayton, given Myers’ obvious contempt for theists, it isn’t hard to read between the lines and see an intemperance more generally directed at theists, even if nominally the “lunatics and idiots” were specific people. It’s not as if Myers hasn’t made it clear that despite occasional lip service to the contrary, he really does think theists are lunatics and idiots, not just mistaken. The shear

  82. #82 J. J. Ramsey
    November 25, 2006

    Ignore the “The shear” in the last line of my comment. Forgot to preview.

  83. #83 Orac
    November 25, 2006

    Nobody claimed that PZ was actually avocating violence.

    Then what was your point in emphasizing it, then?

    And if you read the entire PZ rant and conclude that the the only target of the violent threat metaphor was GWB and a few of his buds, then you must be predisposed to view everything in a light that is most favorable to PZ.

    “Predisposed to view everthing in a light that is most favorable to PZ”? Geez, you obviously haven’t seen my contribution to the thread over at Pharyngula after PZ’s original attack on Ed and Pat, where I was castigated for criticizing PZ’s calling Ed a liar and ultimately labeled by one of PZ’s sycophants as “dishonest.” In fact, if anything, those on PZ’s side of the fence view me as being more on Ed’s side. However, in reality, I’m on no one’s side in this.

    So no, you don’t get a break.

    I don’t need one, if that’s all you’ve got.

  84. #84 Ed Brayton
    November 25, 2006

    Face it, Orac. You can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game. LOL

  85. #85 SLC
    November 25, 2006

    Re Orac on Chamberlain

    Although this is off the subject of this thread, I can’t let Dr. Oracs’ comments about Neville Chamberlain pass without a response, because they are seriously in error.

    1. In 1938, Germanys’ armed forces were in no condition to engage in armed conflict, particularly one which might be prolonged. By August of 1939, the armed forces were in a much stronger condition. The failure of the British and French Governments to take advantage of the German preoccupation with Poland spelled their eventual downfall, as by April of 1940, the Geman armed forces were stronger yet.

    2. According to Walter Goerlitz in his book on the history of the General Staff, if Chanberlain had stood up to Hitler and informed him that under no circumstances would Britain accept the partition of Czechoslovika, the latter would have had no choice but to back down or be ousted in a coup d’etat. In fact, so concerned were the generals on the German General Staff, that they were contemplating such a coup d”etat against Hitler. Chamberlains’ appeasement, made such a move impossible and, far from postponing a war actually insured that one would break out eventually because Hitler looked like a winner.

  86. #86 Bradley J. Fikes
    November 25, 2006

    The difference is that here such disagreements are put out there publically for all to see in all their glorious ugliness. On Dembski’s blog however such disagreements are strictly discourage and if need be censored – participants rebuked and sometimes expugated, or entire posts disappearing in the mists.

    Good point. There is strength in robust argument, which is part of what science is all about. No artificially enforced uniformity here!

    I simply cannot be as evangelically atheist as PZ. Unless someone’s beliefs cause them to do harm, what goes on inside the skulls of each person should be their own business. As Jefferson said, if someone believes there are 20 gods or no god, it neither picks my pocket or breaks my leg. Why should I care?

    Intelligent design creationists harm science education, so rebutting their false ideas about science is a priority. But religion (or lack of religion) per se does not make someone do harmful things. Fanaticism does that, the same kind of fanaticism, that applied to politics, allows one to dehumanize people of the opposing belief or political party.

    As for UCSD, which is in my backyard, I’d like to suggest a mealy-mouthed, insipid compromise on evolution. It’s this: Make it clear that while students are expected to understand evolutionary theory, they are not required to believe it is true. If somebody wants to believe the Earth is 6,000 years old or life intelligently designed, that’s just dandy. BUT . . . they still have to demonstrate in the classroom that they understand the scientific facts that indicates the Earth’s great age and common ancestry of life, and the theories that tie these facts together.

    In practice, very few IDCs if any will be able to do this, because they have false ideas about what evolution is all about. And if any of them learn the facts about evolutionary science, they probably won’t remain IDCs for long. But this compromise does not contradict the IDCs’ religious beliefs, so more of them may be willing to take the plunge.

  87. #87 kehrsam
    November 25, 2006

    SLC: I agree that Chamberlain would have done better to have confronted Hitler at the time. Unfortunately, this is only true in hindsight.

    The problem as Chamberlain saw it, is that the Benes government would not take a stand to defend itself, either with or without assistance from the England-France alliance. Keep in mind that Czechoslovakia had a larger armored force than Germany at the time, and a relatively defensible frontier with Germany (given, the Sudetan population was largely pro-German). Still, if the Czechs were not willing to defend themselves, what exactly was Chamberlain’s stake in the matter?

    Given the above, it is not clear what Chamberlain’s options were from a diplonatic standpoint. He could allow Germany a political victory (as happened) or allow a German military victory against an unresponsive government.

  88. #88 DuWayne
    November 25, 2006

    SLC –

    The important question in that is; did Chamberlain know that at the time? It has been a while, but I seem to recall a raging debate about that. I seem to recall that there was intelligence indicating the possible coup, but that there was also intelligence that said quite the opposite.

    Hindsight makes it clear that what Walter Goerlitz claims might have averted WWII, but that was far from obvious at the time. Hell, most of the world breathed a sigh of relief that Chamberlain backed down.

    Indeed it is not an illegitamate point that Chamberlain should have pushed him regardless of whether it might get Hitler ousted. Certainly everyone involved was still re-building from WWI – no one was entirely prepared to go to war. But Germany was already engaged at that time. Ultimately, I think the country more culpable was France. I daresay that Chamberlain wouldn’t have backed down if the French would have supported him.

    Any way you look at it, I think Chamberlain gets a bum rap.

  89. #89 SLC
    November 25, 2006

    Re DuWayne and Kehrsam

    Well, I certainly seem to have started a discussion totally unrelated to the subject of this thread. However, again, I am unable to allow the apologists for Chamberlain to go unanswered.

    The main defenses of Chamberlains’ actions in 1938 appear to fall into 2 catagories.

    1. What did Chamberlain know and when did he know it (shades of Howard Baker on Richard Nixon).

    2. Chamberlain was weak because Benes and Daladier were weak.

    The fact is that Chamberlain certainly had information passed on by members of the German General Staff, who were deathly afraid of Hitlers’ recklessness, concerning the capabilities of the German armed forces, in addition to his own intelligence service, the best in the world at the time. Furthermore, the reason that Daladier and Benes were hesitant was because they sensed that Chamberlain was blowing an uncertain trumpet. The fact of the matter is that it was up to Chamberlain to put some steel in the spines of the other two. He was the man the others looked to for leadership, as the leader of the strongest power opposing Nazi Germany at the time. Does anyone think that if Winston Churchill (or Harry Truman for that matter) had been Prime Minister in 1938 that he would have reacted as Chamberlain did. Not a bit of it. Churchill would have made it his business to put some steel in the Benes and Daladier spines. He would have acted like a leader. Churchill in Munich would have gone eyeball to eyeball with Hitler and told him off in no uncertain terms. Hitler and his generals would have been in no doubt about the price to be paid for agression.

  90. #90 DuWayne
    November 26, 2006

    SLC –

    What, this is OT? Come on, a few twists and were right back, umm. . .

    You have obviously read a lot more about this than I have, I am not asking this because I don’t believe you, but could I have a cite for that? I find this a rather interesting topic.

  91. #91 David Heddle
    November 26, 2006

    Orac,

    Then what was your point in emphasizing it, then?

    What exactly did you read? When MartinM questioned the quote, I provided the link. He responded that he was aware of the source, but questioned the interpretation. Fair enough. End of story.

    Then you respond with the complete red-herring:

    In the context of the post, it was obvious that PZ was not seriously advocating physical violence against people;

    But nobody was making the claim of an actual threat of violence, and nothing was being “emphasized.”

    You overreacted.

  92. #92 Michaelbouchard@mac.com
    November 26, 2006

    I, like many others, am disturbed by this. Also like many others, Ed’s blog and PZ’s blog are the two that I read. I’ve also seen alot of assumptions made about the persuasiveness of PZ’s (And Dawkins) tactics in convincing and converting theists. I happen to stand as an example that it is persuasive. Coming from a bible thumping, tongue talking, charasmatic church, I can’t think of a more mainline background to have. PZ and others like him convinced me and now some of those I know are coming to grips with things the same way I had to thanks to writers like PZ. My friends main concers are usually whether all atheists were as vocal as he was. I said no, look at Ed, he’s kind and fair maybe even to a fault. And through SB’s I’ve been able to show my questioning friends a real life example of the uncompromising power of science’s arguments through PZ’s blog and also the fact that leaving religion behind doesn’t mean that you have to give up your empathy and understanding of others, through Ed’s.

    But as of late I don’t refer friends here anymore and I’ve somewhat stopped coming myself. I’m not happy with either side in this mess and I’m certainly not encouraged to read the pages of the other bloggers who have chimmed in. And the fact that we’ve gone from one side being critical and watchful over itself, to two sides ripping at eachother is a shame and a loss. At least it’s a loss for me and those I know.

  93. #93 SLC
    November 26, 2006

    Re DuWayne

    In response to your question, the information on the capbilities of the German military came from the book by Walter Goerlitz, “The German General Staff.” The information about the other issues has come from multiple sources which I have read over the years. In particular, I have a recollection of some speeches by Churchill who was a powerful opponent of the appeasment policy all thoroughout the 1930s. I don’t recall any particular reference to the British intelligence service, MI6; however, it was quite superior to the Abwehr, the German intelligence service because the head of the Abwehr, Admiral Canaris, was a secret Hitler opponent who underminded the latter whenever he felt he could safely do so. The most memorable such incident occurred in early 1943 when he visited dictator Franco of Spain and convinced him to deny passage of German troops through Spain to attack Gibralter (the purpose of the visit was to convince Franco to do just the opposite).

  94. #94 kehrsam
    November 26, 2006

    SLC: I don’t believe either DuWayne or myself is a “Chamberlain Apologist.” I think we all agree on what the ideal policy would be were we to relive the Munich Conference. The problem was that Chamberlain was a mere mortal, easily swayed by the situation as it appeared to him at the time. In some regards, I think his estimation was correct.

    Yes, I agree that if the England-France-Czech alliance was to have a chance (note: England had no formal ties to the Czech state), Chamberlain would have to provide the backbone: Benes had repeatedly failed to offer any kind of nationalist program, which is entirely to his credit. At the same time, the facts on the ground were that the Czech military was vastly superior to the German, at least in twerms of equipment. The defeat in France in 1939 was largely accomplished through the T-35 tank divisions that Hitler plundered from Czechoslovakia. The Bohemian frontier is eminently defensible, yet Benes made no effort to contest the Sudetan incursion: What exactly was Chamberlain to do?

    Furthermore, Bohemia remained a passive German dependency well into the war, so much so that Benes endorsed the Heydrich assassination precisely to encourage German reprisals. The Germans took the bait by sacking Lidice.

    So what we are left with is that Chamberlain had a failure of grand-strategical thinking. Would that the current administration had shown the same failure before invading Iraq.

  95. #95 Nebogipfel
    November 27, 2006

    We are never going to get anywhere if we let bad science in the name of religion flourish without criticism — and that goes for the crap Ken Ham peddles as well as Ken Miller’s rationalizations.

    Does Miller actually do bad science?

    I really wonder if those who call Mr. Brayton an “apologist for religion” have actually been reading the same blog as I have.

    One last point; Anyone who calls theists idiots is calling my granny, who has spent most of her life caring for one infirm relative or another, an idiot. Sorry to play the emotionalism card, but that’s the problem with generalizations; they tend to cause a lot of collateral damage.

  96. #96 Raging Bee
    November 27, 2006

    PZ wrote:

    Do you think the situation here is acceptable?

    Calling something that won’t go away “unacceptable” (such as a prevailing religious belief) is, at best, a pointless waste of energy.

    Even if we were doomed to failure, shouldn’t we try to change it?

    And while we’re at it, let’s overthrow the Chinese Communist regime and give ‘em democracy. Screw those piecemeal efforts to feed the hungry and set a good example, let’s go whole-hog! All or nothing!

    Why waste resources on a campaign that’s doomed to failure, when there are plenty of worthy and necessary actions that are NOT doomed to fail?

    That’s precisely why you got labeled an appeaser, because your strategy is to give up and go along.

    If you refuse to respect — or even understand — the efforts of others not like yourself (efforts whose success you have yet to comprehend, let alone match), then how can you expect us to respect you?

  97. #97 Cheeto
    November 27, 2006

    Ed said: Face it, Orac. You can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game. LOL

    It’s true Orac, you can’t win because no matter what is said, Ed thinks he is winning.

    I have read this site and PZ for the last several years, and while I am more inclined to agree with PZ’s position that Religious thinking is bad for science education in general, I have also enjoyed many of Ed’s posts. However, I have seen Ed insult PZ (and other strident atheists) over the last 8-9 months with increasing frequecy, and if Ed thinks that PZ’s insult a few days ago was the “first” insult – then he has a piss poor memory.

    Frankly, I have been surprised that I had seen so few (or any?) replies to the various insults tossed PZ’s way by Ed. I think that PZ’s insult was an overreaction that was due to him not responding to perceved slights in the past.

    At any rate – this whole path has left a foul taste in my mouth. You two (Ed and PZ) should try to stay out of each other’s way, avoid writing about each other and move on.

  98. #98 Pierce R. Butler
    November 27, 2006

    If Churchill had been PM at the time of the Munich Conference, he might well have pushed the French & Czech governments into standing against German annexation – and he might equally well have been thrown out of office the following week.

    The British public, still (rightfully) angry at horrible leadership before and during World War I, and still (rightfully) sympathetic toward the German people as victims of the Versailles Treaty, would not have followed any PM into a new Continental war, especially when Hitler had so successfully muddied the issue of the Sudetenland with ethnic issues. Nor could the British military have done anything about German invasion of Bohemia except by fighting their way all across Germany to intervene – even if they could have done so, it would not have been in time to prevent the conquest in question, and led to an open-ended major military mess.

    Where Chamberlain went most wrong was in presenting his patchwork policy as a glorious success – “Peace in our time!” – and apparently believing it. Where Dawkins goes wrong is in applying this complex situation as a metaphor for compromise with organized religion: it may well be that the supernaturalists will never be appeased, but by reinforcing the “Chamberlain the wimpy liberal” myth Dawkins indirectly boosts the right wing’s propaganda in other spheres.

  99. #99 mc2
    November 29, 2006

    This has been quite an amusing ride and has enabled me to define my own position on the issue of how far should we go against religion, and in the long run i do agree with Myers that religion (as a group thing not neccessarily as a personal thing) does more harm than bad.

    However, I am also reminded of the immortal words of Carl Sagan

    Small steps Ellie

    In the short term the bigger issue is the anti-science and this needs to be rooted out before we can progress to the bigger issue and I agree with Ed that in the short term the anti-religion stance does more harm than good to the anti-science efforts

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