The Miller-Myers Kerfuffle

It all started when Pat Hayes, of Red State Rabble, posted this blog entry describing a recent talk given by Ken Miller at the University of Kansas. Miller, you will recall, is the author of Finding Darwin’s God. The first half of this book is brilliant in explaining some of the evidence for evolution, and explaining why the major arguments made by creationists and ID folks are wrong. Sadly, in the second half of the book Miller makes an argument defending the compatibility of Christian faith and science. Personally, I found his argument so weak and easily refuted that I found myself wondering if maybe the fundamentalists were right to see evolution as a threat to their faith. Myers himself summed up the book perfectly in this post:

Personally, I find it a strange book: pages 1-164 are excellent, among the best and plainest and most direct critiques of Intelligent Design creationism you’ll find; pages 165-292, eh, not so much. It’s like mild-mannered, sensible Dr Miller wrote the first half, then he drank the potion that turned him into the wartily odious Mr Theologian, with his temporal lobe unshackled and the mystical caudate nucleus unleashed, and we get page after page of unearthly prolix rationalizations for superstition. Oh, well…165 pages of first rate biology makes the book worth buying, and you can always read the rest as an exercise in facing down religious apologists.


But that’s not what started the dust-up. Myers took offense at this statement, quoted in Hayes’ blog entry:

“Creationists,” biologist Ken Miller, told a large, receptive audience at the University of Kansas last night, “are shooting at the wrong target.”

Myers replied:

If that account is accurate (I trust Pat Hayes to be accurate, and I also have independent confirmation*), then that was a shot at the majority of biologists, and a declaration of common cause with creationists. They are “shooting at the wrong target,” but who is the right target? Why, those humanists, people like Richard Dawkins and anyone who challenges the role of religion. Go get ‘em, Kansans! Hound those wicked atheists–they aren’t the real scientists, after all. Real scientists believe in God and spirits and magic and etheric essences infused into souls by a phantasmal hominid, just like you do.

Exactly right and well said. If only Myers had stopped there.

The trouble is the above statement appeared in a blog entry entitled “Ken Miller, creationist.” That is simply an abuse of language. The term “creationist” should be reserved for people who oppose the theory of evolution for religious reasons, and who make scientific arguments so ignorant that you reasonably wonder about their motives for making them. In the fight against creationism it is hard to imagine a better ally then Miller. Through his writing, his willingness to serve as an expert witness for the good guys in court cases (without any financial reward for doing so), and his excellent performances in public debates on this subject, he has done enormous good for the cause of good science education. For that, I, for one, will be eternally grateful.

But that’s not the end of the story. In a subsequent blog entry, linked to above, Myers drew a distinction between big C and small c creationism:

There is a distinction to be made between small “c” creationists who believe in a creator god, and big “C” Creationists who wage a culture war against good science. Miller may be a believer in a creator god, but he’s a staunch opponent of the Creationists–despite disagreement on matters philosophical, I should be clear in saying that he is on our side.

An important clarification, though it was still a mistake to use the term “creationist” the way he did.

I fault Myers for two things. The first is simply that his writing is often a bit too venomous for my taste. Some of his remarks about Miller were, indeed, overwrought. The second, and more important point, is that I think that at times he is not sufficiently clear that there are two separate battles going on. One is the fight against the creationist assault on good science education. In that fight people like Ken Miller (and Joan Roughgarden and Francis Collins and countless other religious scientists) are welcome allies. The other fight is against religious irrationality and superstition generally. That fight is also important, and it is one in which Miller et al are opponents.

It is because of this second fight, however, that whatever faults I find in Myers pale in comparison to the faults I find in his critics. You see, on the merits of monotheistic religion I am firmly in the same camp as Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Myers. I regard all of the major monotheistic religions as foolish and delusional. I believe that religious belief deserves all the contempt it generally gets among thoughtful people. I think it is important to rebut flabby and incorrect apologetic arguments whether they come from fundamentalists or from moderates. I believe that atheism is the position best justified by the facts of nature as we currently understand them, and I believe that the Christian conception of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God is decisively refuted by those same facts. Finally, I believe that people who are content to throw up their hands and say it’s all just a matter of faith, or that such arguments are tiresome and unresolvable, are simply being intellectually lazy.

And that brings me to Ed Brayton.

I’m a big fan of Ed’s blog. It is one of the few I make a point of checking on a daily basis. He has posted two entries on this subject: the first one here and the second one here. It is unusual for me to disagree with Ed, but he gets a lot wrong in these two entries.

First he takes issue with the statement from Myers that I quoted previously – the one I described as exactly right and well said. Brayton demurs:

But this is a rather obvious misrepresentation of Miller’s argument. Yes, it’s true that the majority of biologists are atheists, according to surveys of the field, but while Miller would disagree with them, his statement that their atheism amounts to “non-scientific philosophical interpretations” is hardly a “shot at biologists.” I have no doubt that he would label the theistic inferences that he draws from science also as non-scientific and philosophical rather than scientific.

Sorry, but Myers is right and Brayton is wrong.

According to the account given by Hayes, Miller did not say simply that conclusions about God are non-scientific and philosophical. He also informed his audience that creationists are “shooting at the wrong target.” The clear implication is that there is a correct target to be shooting at, and it is clear from the rest of Miller’s remarks that that target comprises atheists and humanists. His further implication is that the energy creationists currently devote to science education would be better directed towards fighting against people like Dawkins. When you add to the mix that atheists are already a despised minority, and that this speech was given in Kansas, such sentiments represent a serious chumming of the waters. Myers was right to be offended by that remark, and Brayton is wrong to gloss over it.

Now, it is possible that Miller was simply careless with his choice of words. In this blog entry Myers describes his conclusions from an e-mail correspondence he carried on with Miller:

Miller is not trying to redirect creationists to fight atheists, and he’s very clear that all of us need to stand together in our opposition to bad science (I also agree the religious and the non-religious should be united on this issue.) Krebs mentions that this was a new section of his talk, so I suspect this is one where he’ll be reworking some of the wording. I hope.

I’m sure this is right, and I trust that Miller will be more careful about his phrasing in the future. The fact remains, however, that Myers was right to criticize him for his remarks in Kansas.

Ed natters on for many more paragraphs in this regard, praising Miller for his calm and careful separation of the scientific from the philosophical, and lambasting Myers for his strongly worded response. There is much to reply to here, but I’m more interested in Ed’s second post. Where he says things like this:

Over the course of a few years, I met several people who, merely by virtue of knowing them (not because they ever tried to convince me of it), changed my views and helped me grow up and out of that stage in my life. Henry Neufeld, who comments here once in a while, was one of them. He was one of the first Christians I encountered who was not a fundamentalist (broadly defined, which I know is not entirely accurate). I remember we would have these conversations where I would pull out my handy dandy list of Biblical contradictions or falsehoods, pick one and throw it out there as a gauntlet. And Henry wouldn’t pick it up, he’d say something like, “Yep, you’re right. The guy who wrote that got it wrong.” And it would initially leave me a bit taken aback.

You see, I knew how this argument went. I’d had them before, and I had it all planned out in my head. You’re not supposed to say that, I’d think. You’re supposed to come up with some fanciful explanation to rationalize it away, and then I tell you how absurd that is and how you’re engaging in special pleading to insulate your faiith from rational argument, and then you’ll tell me that I need Jesus, and I’ll tell you that it’s ridiculous to believe in invisible leprauchans, and then you’ll tell me that you’re praying for me, and then finally I’ll tell you that you’re an idiot. And damn it, you’re deviating from the script in my head.

This comes after an introduction in which Ed describes his history as an obnoxious atheist who thought all theists were stupid.

If you point out to a Christian that the Bible is full of errors and inconsistencies, and he concedes the point, you don’t respond by being impressed by his moderation and reasonableness. Instead, you ask him why, in the face of all those errors, he persists in believing the Bible is the word of God. You ask him for the basis on which he decides which parts of the Bible are accurate and which can be discarded. You ask him if the story about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ was another of those instances where the guy who wrote it got it wrong.

Ed’s statement is precisely the sort of flabbiness I had in mind when talking about intellectual laziness previously. It is precisely the attitude I was arguing against in last Friday’s post. There is a commonly held myth that you have dumbass fundamentalists on the one hand, and more sensible Christians on the other. That attitude is well represented by Ed’s comments here, but it is a fantasy. The fact is when you examine the arguments made by people like Miller, or Francis Collins, or Joan Roughgarden to defend their more moderate faith, you quickly find that they make little sense. And the very fact that they raise them really does provide cover for the fundamentalists. It is perfectly reasonable for Myers, Dawkins and others to point that out.

It is not that there is the crazy sort of faith on the one hand and the sensible sort of faith on the other. All monotheistic religious faith is equally irrational and equally deserving of criticism. The important distinction is simply between those whose faith leads them to violence, and those who are content to live with differences of opinion.

Another example of flab was this statement:

The fact that I do not accept Christianity does not mean that I must think that all Christians are deluding themselves.

For some reason I’m reminded of Stephen Colbert saying, “I know the Pope is infallible but that doesn’t mean he can’t make mistakes.” It takes a pretty imaginative notion of what it means to “accept Christianity” for this remark to make sense.

Most of the remainder of the post is about the perils of drawing lines in the wrong places:

But you know what? Here is the absolutely key point, so I’m going to put it in bold so no one misses it:In every one of those circumstances, standing by my side in those battles will also be a good many Christians. I work with them everyday in the battle to protect science education and, in many cases, I could only dream of contributing as much as they have in that regard. There will be Christians and Jews and probably people from every other religion standing shoulder to shoulder with me next to our gay brothers and sisters, marching for equality. And they will stand with me in opposing the imposition of authoritarian laws as well.

Soaring rhetoric, but none of this is really at issue. It’s not as if Myers or anyone else is suggesting that Christians should not be allowed to join the fight for good science education. No one said we shouldn’t let Miller testify for our side since he is a Christian.

But atheists are routinely admonished to keep their views to themselves out of fear that potential religious allies will be scared away. When Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett point out that evolution kills the biological argument from design, thereby removing the strongest argument ever devised for the existence of God, they are lectured about non-scientific inferences and philosophical speculation. But when Ken Miller and John Polkinghorne argue that evolution has deepened thier Christian faith they don’t receive similar lectures. It’s not atheists who are drawing lines in the sand, or declaring certain viewpoints unwelcome in the fight for quality science education.

People like Myers and Dawkins point to specific arguments made by religious people and bluntly explain why those arguments are wrong. Meanwhile, according to a recent poll, sixty-three percent of Americans categorically refuse to vote for an atheist for public office. And Ed thinks it’s atheists who are engaging in tribalism?

There’s plenty more to say, as usual, but this entry has gone on long enough. I’ll simply close by pointing out that Myers does not merely hurl invective at religious people. He responds, usually with great cogency and eloquence, to the arguments they make. While it’s common and lazy to find people objecting to his tone, you rarely find people responding to his arguments. I’ll close by directing you to to this entry, in which Myers provides very convincing refutations to some of Miller’s arguments. I especially liked this:

I think he’s missing what should be the ultimate goal: getting people to recognize atheists as normal human beings, and making it clear that it is not OK to treat them as the amoral degenerates you wouldn’t want your daughter to marry. What we should be doing is saying, “Yes, many biologists are atheists (as are many non-biologists), they have different ideas than you do, but they aren’t threatening you, so get used to them.” Instead, it’s singling atheists out as the reprehensible Other, held to account for creationists’ dislike of evolution. If the source of the problem is widely held bigotry against atheists and atheism, shouldn’t we be trying to educate people to end that, rather than pandering to it?

And this:

The idea is hopelessly naive. As Miller pointed out, many scientists already are real, live, active Christians, and many of them have been very influential. Mendel, Dobzhansky, Ayala, Miller himself…it’s been a tactic by the NCSE and others to actively promote these Christian biologists as role models, and heck, even I hand out Miller’s book to students who are struggling with the issues. Does it work? No. Does anyone say, “Well, the evolution by Dawkins and Mayr is bad, but the evolution by Conway Morris and Ayala is good”? The whole premise that the complaint is solely with the atheism of many of the proponents rather than with the implications and evidence of evolution itself is ludicrous. Is it only atheists who oppose the idea of a worldwide flood and promote the descent of humans from other primates? Shouldn’t Miller be aware that even his tame version of Catholicism is seen as a damnable hellbound doctrine by many creationists?

Keep up the good work, P.Z!

Comments

  1. #1 Jeff Chamberlain
    September 12, 2006

    Good job.

  2. #2 SLC
    September 12, 2006

    Dr. Rosenhouse is missing the point that Mr. Brayton was trying to make, albeit at some length. The point is simple. Ken Miller is one of the good guys. Save the ire for the Behes and Wells of the world. They’re the bad guys. Fight one war at a time. When the bad guys are defeated, there will be plenty of time to sort things out with Miller, et al.

  3. #3 Robert O'Brien
    September 12, 2006

    I believe that religious belief deserves all the contempt it generally gets among thoughtful people.

    Which “thoughtful” people? I observe many contemptuous critics of religion possessing not thoughtfulness but the pretense thereof. (E.g. Peezee)

  4. #4 matthew
    September 12, 2006

    SLC: No matter if Miller is considered a “good guy” or not, he can still be wrong, or at least debated, on any topic. If the “good guys” stop debating with each other all together, then facts will get lost as fiction slips in undetected. No one gets a free pass to say whatever they want without question.

    Great post Jason.

  5. #5 jeffperado
    September 12, 2006

    Jason,

    I have to say that you seemed to have sufficiently resolved this issue down to its relevant parts.

    You brought up two points of disagreement with P.Z., the second one, I think is valid and useful to stress. The first is one of mere opinion. I, myself, take his hardline approach against religionism in general, and christianity specifically. Why shouldn’t we, as rational beings, not grab those believers by the shoulders, and shake them into reality? (not literally, of course, but figuratively.)

    This point can not be made strongly enough, no matter how harsh we (atheists) are in our voice, and our use of reason, that cannot hold a candle (sorry for that tired cliche) to the verbal and political warfare that Christians –specifically fundamentalists — use against us. Simply saying how wrong they are for demonizing gays, atheists, and scientists is nothing in comparison to their actual demonization.

    In my view, P.Z. lets them off easy. Ken Miller, while not the enemy, is certainly a proponent for the “war” the actual enemy is waging. For that, he cannot be let off easily. Ken Miller should, if he were thinking rationally, come out and state, that Christianity is his choice, and that it is a matter of choice. This would not frame the science battle in terms of the religious battle. This would take him off the front lines of the second battle, the fight of reason vs. religion. If Ken wishes to enter that battle, then he deserves all the derision P.Z. laid on him and more.

    We are in two fights, but my view is that both are crucial; for different reasons entirely.
    1. The battle of science is one that can/will directly affect the future of our planet (global warming, MAD, etc.)
    2. the battle for philosophical acceptance. Atheists are shunned and misunderstood, and the reason for that is the attitudes of religionists (specifically in this country Christians). The outcome of this battle may not affect the planet, but it will affect compatibility of our peoples.

    I’ve gone on enough.

  6. #6 PZ Myers
    September 12, 2006

    It’s not as simple as good guys vs. bad guys, and you’re buying into the fundamentalist black and white view of the world. We are willing to concede all the time that many people on the other side, those good Christians, are well-meaning, sincere, caring people with some bad ideas; we should also be ready to admit that people on our side also have some bad ideas. So far, the general impression I get is that it’s OK to criticize and resent the atheist evolutionists (and I will be the first to agree that we’re not perfect, and it’s alright to criticize us), but people like Miller? Saints. Perfect saints. We may not speak ill of them. It might offend the Christians if we actually assessed their output on the quality of their ideas.

    But really, I’ve read Miller’s book. The first half is terrific, the second half is appalling — it’s bad Christian apologetics. How many criticisms of it have you read? Not many, I’m sure. There’s a tendency towards reticence about our religious colleagues that you simply won’t see towards the godless ones.

    Just watch. Like Dennett’s recent book, you’re going to see lots of scathing reviews of Dawkins’ new one. Criticize Miller or Collins, though, and no matter how godawful bad their books are, and you get a lot of unhappy whining about the hate-filled fundie atheists.

  7. #7 JohnnieCanuck
    September 12, 2006

    R.O’b

    And then there is that curious phenomenon of apparently highly intelligent people who exert their mental abilities primarily to keep the feel-good blanket of faith wrapped around themselves. So much productivity wasted in the fear of mortality.

    First the religious get fleeced, then they are given an invisible wooly blanket and told to come back next week with more money.

    And as if that is not enough, they are expected to bring their children and ours into the sheep fold. Even if they have to lie to do it.

    Bah!

  8. #8 Robert O'Brien
    September 12, 2006

    R.O’b

    And then there is that curious phenomenon of apparently highly intelligent people who exert their mental abilities primarily to keep the feel-good blanket of faith wrapped around themselves. So much productivity wasted in the fear of mortality.

    First the religious get fleeced, then they are given an invisible wooly blanket and told to come back next week with more money.

    And as if that is not enough, they are expected to bring their children and ours into the sheep fold. Even if they have to lie to do it.

    Bah!

    Quod erat demonstrandum.

  9. #9 SLC
    September 12, 2006

    Re Matthew and PZ

    The point is, fighting a two front war is a sure road to defeat and trying to fight both Behe and Miller is fighting a two front war. Lets defeat Behe, et al first and then confront Miller with his (your opinion) ill conceived religious opinions. Follow the old Arab saying, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

  10. #10 PZ Myers
    September 12, 2006

    No.

    Our goal should be to teach people to think for themselves, not to accept the answers we hand them. It does not address that all important goal to draw a line and say that we will not judge those on our side by the same standards we judge those on the other side.

    Although I must say it is awfully tempting to take you up on the offer, and since I’m on the side of evolution, receive the blessings of infallibility. I do get that uncritical acceptance, right? Or is it only some people on my side who get that benefit?

  11. #11 The Ridger
    September 12, 2006

    And if we win the science battle by allowing ourselves to be demonized? How will we win that second battle? Why can’t the religious simply say “Science has nothing to say about religion – it offers no proofs either way” instead of “Look, it’s those atheist scientists who are your enemy, not us good religious ones”? What good is it to win on one front if you’re overrun from the side you’re not defending, so as not to offend someone?

    Now, I don’t know what Miller meant, but “the wrong target” means he’s implicitly licensing atheists to be “the right target”. I hope he chooses his words more carefully in future, if he means what he says now; but I can’t fault PZ for his initial reaction. After all, he didn’t write a book about it.

  12. #12 SLC
    September 12, 2006

    Re PZ

    I don’t understand your response. If you don’t think that we are at war with the creationists, then you are living in a dream world. And in this war, as in all wars, victory isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. By picking fights with Ken Miller, Dr. Myers and Dr. Rosenhouse and their blog followers are allowing the enemy to play divide and conquer. Not a good strategy. Pick the fight with Miller when the Behes of the world have been defeated.

  13. #13 Fonzy
    September 12, 2006

    SLC,

    I must say that I object to your characterization of this issue as some sort of “war”. Doing so is a blatant exploitation of primal and tribalistic “us versus them” instincts. This is a political issue and people can be right on some things but wrong on others. Miller and Collins are right on evolution but so wrong when it comes to religion that it’s laughable.

    Creationism is in reality just a small subset of religious irrationality. We as scientists (and the scientifically-minded) are being horribly counter-productive when we legitimize one variety irrationality so we can do away with another. I refuse to kow-tow to people who believe a man was God and came back from the dead anymore than to those who believe the earth is 4000 years old.

  14. #14 PZ Myers
    September 12, 2006

    When the Behes have been defeated? When will that be?

    In a sense, they already have been. Their ideas are ridiculous. They are not taken seriously in the scientific community. They’re a joke.

    In another sense, they never will be. We’re always going to have crackpots and people who listen to them.

    You’re thinking of this too starkly as us and them, and all we need is the right knock-out punch and the battle will be over. It’s not going to be that way.

    By the way, I’ve been asking this of everyone who thinks Ken Miller is our paragon. What, exactly, is his “road to peace”? He said he has a solution — what is it? Is it realistic? Do you understand how to implement it? Do you think it will work?

    No one has given me an answer yet. It’s actually rather remarkable.

  15. #15 Scott
    September 13, 2006

    My teenage son is currently learning about the art of Argumentation, or the ancient Greek “Rhetoric”. The primary consideration for any argument is the audience, and the common fundamentals on which the two sides can agree apriori. Who is the audience for these arguments about evolution vs. creation? The “Big C” Creationists? Not likely. No known arguments will change their minds. There is not enough common ground with them to bridge the gap with any rational arguments. As noted elsewhere, no meaningful debate with them is possible.

    So, the logical audience is the “small c” creationist; those who are confused or under educated about the science, and wondering why there is a seeming conflict with their faith in the first place. In the Creation (Big “C”) vs. evolution debate, will arguments such as, “You are all dim witted and mentally lazy”, convince these folks to support evolution? Not likely.

    As noted earlier, there are two separate questions: 1. Is evolution justified? 2. Is your religion justified? For the audience of fence sitters in the debate, keep the focus on answering the first question. Mr. Miller, as a person who may better understand the religious view point, may be able to better present arguments acceptable to the religiously minded.

    Successful argumentation starts with finding a common ground with your audience. If your first step is to try to yank the ground out from under your audience, if you really insist on antagonizing your audience, that’s fine. Just don’t then expect to convince them of your point of view.

    Get your priorities straight. If your first priority is to rid the world of religion, then don’t complain when the other side accuses you of declaring war on their religion. They’re right. Don’t make the same mistake your opponents do of saying that science can disprove the supernatural.

    If your first priority is to properly educate students in the use of science, then don’t piss off the people you have a chance of convincing.

    I’m not talking about being right or wrong. I’m talking about the art of Rhetoric.

    Consider your audience, and act accordingly. Please.

  16. #16 Corkscrew
    September 13, 2006

    It is not that there is the crazy sort of faith on the one hand and the sensible sort of faith on the other. All monotheistic religious faith is equally irrational and equally deserving of criticism.

    I’d disagree. Rationality is a trichotomy – rational, arational, irrational. As a member of the reality-based community, I try to stick to the first category, but there’s a clear difference between people who believe in reality plus some other gunk and people who respond to facts with “la la la! I can’t hear you!”.

    It’s the irrational beliefs that are able to cause direct damage, and that have the most negative impact on science and rationality, so it’s legitimate to heap more scorn on them than on the people who just tack spiritual beliefs onto valid scientific conclusions.

  17. #17 SLC
    September 13, 2006

    Re Fonzy

    I’ve got news for you. The born-agains consider the argument over evoltion a war and they act accordingly. If we don’t do likewise, we’ll lose. The aim of the born-agains is very simple and straightforward. It is to take over the US Government and impose a theocratic state therein. If they accomplish this, the court decisions will start to go in the other direction as their cronys are appointed as judges. If you don’t think this can happen, I submit the case of Germany in the 1920s. Then, people said that Hitler would never come to power, that his ideas were too radical. We saw how that worked out.

  18. #18 David Heddle
    September 13, 2006

    the general impression I get is that it’s OK to criticize and resent the atheist evolutionists

    This kind of “atheists as victims” mentality is just a wee bit of a reach. Do you drive around with a little Paul Mirecki bobble-head icon stuck to your dashboard? Isn’t he the patron saint of this woe-is-us movement?

    Here’s an observation: when you throw a hissy-fit over what a cartoonist says about evolution, and when you mistake an obvious parody as a serious post about Christianity, causing you to ball your fists and gnash your teeth, and when you assume someone like Ken Miller is the enemy, and, well, when you do all the things you do so well, you’re not a victim, you’re a laughingstock. Big difference–but hey, you’re very helpful for the home team, so rock on.

    SLC,

    Ooh–more victimhood ranting!

    The aim of the born-agains is very simple and straightforward. It is to take over the US Government and impose a theocratic state therein. If they accomplish this, the court decisions will start to go in the other direction as their cronys are appointed as judges. If you don’t think this can happen, I submit the case of Germany in the 1920s.

    Who is leaking this information about our master plan! Who’s the traitor! This is unforgivable! Start gathering the stones! SLC, credit must be given where it’s due, and your unexpected analogy to Nazi Germany was downright brilliant!

  19. #19 John Farrell
    September 13, 2006

    But really, I’ve read Miller’s book. The first half is terrific, the second half is appalling — it’s bad Christian apologetics.

    PZ, you may be surprised to learn that a number of Catholic theologians agree with you. They are as baffled by the second half of the book as you. But then I don’t think Ken felt the need to rehash a history of the Church’s attitude to miracles, etc. He was just giving his own thoughts.

  20. #20 John Farrell
    September 13, 2006

    When Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett point out that evolution kills the biological argument from design, thereby removing the strongest argument ever devised for the existence of God, they are lectured about non-scientific inferences and philosophical speculation.

    Jason, I’m tempted to ask you, whether before you were an atheist, you were an evangelical. Your criticisms of the Bible and Christianity are limited precisely to the same ignorance of Church history demonstrated by fundies.

    You assume, as they do, that the Bible is the sole source of Authority for ALL Christians. You assume, because Design is such a big deal to fundies, that it is therefore the main deal for all Christians.

    Most historians can confirm for you that the church not only existed before the Bible you claim to be the sole source of authority for Christians, but that a select group of the leaders of the church early on sat down and decided which books of Jewish tradition and which Gospels should be considered part of the Bible. Interpretation of said Bible being subject to the authority of the church leaders.

    Most Christians are not surprised that our knowledge of the Bible and the Church’s interpretation of it (for example, regarding slavery) have evolved.

    But by your reasoning, the entire scientific method should be scrapped because Newton’s Principia, Galileo’s Dialogue, Darwin’s Origin of Species all contain propositions that are no longer taken seriously by scientists.

    You can read Aquinas. Even his 5th Argument, mistakenly referred to as the argument from Design, isn’t an argument from design at all. His larger argument for God boils down to existential contingency. The existence of the world doesn’t explain itself. The fact that most atheists are content to dismiss the whole question doesn’t mean they’ve answered it to the satisfaction of everyone else.

  21. #21 John Farrell
    September 13, 2006

    The whole premise that the complaint is solely with the atheism of many of the proponents rather than with the implications and evidence of evolution itself is ludicrous.

    Hmm. I don’t agree, PZ. The argument isn’t with their atheism per se, it’s with the idea that the scientific theory necessarily demands atheism as a consequence. That is the complaint. Miller is trying to dispel that notion. And if in doing so he gets more students from religious backgrounds interested in science, I think that’s fine.

  22. #22 PZ Myers
    September 13, 2006

    The argument isn’t with their atheism per se, it’s with the idea that the scientific theory necessarily demands atheism as a consequence.

    No, this argument doesn’t work. Miller himself will recite a list of all those famous evolutionists who were religious, from Asa Gray to Dobzhansky to Ayala to Miller — they don’t matter. It’s evolution itself that is objectionable. You can announce that you are a Catholic and accept evolution, and they’ll ask you, “Do you believe my ancestor was some monkey?” and you’ll lose them, bang, just like that. Miller’s claim that it is those atheistical implications drawn from evolution that are at fault is patently wrong, built on false premises, and coming to an illogical and impractical conclusion.

    By the way, nobody has explained his “road to peace” yet. He supposedly spelled it out in his talk, and we’re hearing stuff about rhetoric and how he can get more religious people involved in science, but not one word about what he actually proposed. Did everyone’s brain just shut off over that section?

  23. #23 matthew
    September 13, 2006

    I don’t accept the strategy that we should use people to win “the war” even if we know that later we’re just going to fight said people afterwards. I want to be upfront, let them know where I stand, if I am to ask them to fight with me. I want us all to be on the same page first and foremost. If I loose, then at least I know I lost without sacrificing my sense of integrity.

    To me, there is no debate over whether we should accept someone’s ideas if they are false, or he/she has no evidence to prove themselves. I will not drive a wedge into my sense of integrity to allow ideas in that I know to be false, or suspect to be false (based on evidence, not bias).

  24. #24 Jeff Chamberlain
    September 13, 2006

    “The argument isn’t with their atheism per se, it’s with the idea that the scientific theory necessarily demands atheism as a consequence.” (John Farrell, 10:40 a.m.)

    It’s the word “necessarily” that I find troublesome. Who argues that science “necessarily” requires atheism? Isn’t the argument to atheism from science that science does “in fact” make supernatural hypotheses so unlikely as to be unworthy of belief (and, as a corollary, that natural hypotheses are sufficiently supported to warrant belief)?

  25. #25 Jason Rosenhouse
    September 13, 2006

    John Farrell-

    Before throwing around words like ignorance, you should read more carefully what I said.

    I have never said that the Bible is the sole source of authority for Christians. You simply made that up. That is also not the evangelical view, incidentally. What I have said is that the Bible is regarded by all Christian denominations to be inerrant on every subject it addresses. I’m sure you can find individual Christians who would reject that premise, but the fact remains that it is the official view of all major Christian sects.

    And while your little lectures on church history are fascinating, they are also completely irrelevant. Of course the church existed before the Bible arrived in its modern form. Who said otherwise? What does that have to do with whether the Bible is the word of God, or whether it conflicts with science?

    How does my reasoning imply that the work of Newton, Galileo and Darwin should be scrapped because they contain errors? If anyone had asserted that the works of those scientists were the holy and inerrant word of God, I would take their errors as an argument for disagreeing with that assertion. But since no one has ever made that claim with regard to Newton, Galileo and Darwin, I fail to understand why you raise the point here. But I do regard the numerous errors in the Bible as evidence against the assertion that the Bible is inerrant. Guess I’m just a dumbass atheist.

    And if you’re willing to take time away from admiring your vast knowledge of church history, you might try answering the question I’ve asked you several times already. The question is not whether there are Christians who are willing to pick and choose which parts of the Bible they wish to take seriously. The question is whether they have any sound basis for their decisions. For example, many Christians are willng to interpret Genesis One as an allegory. But is there any reason for doing so beyond the manifest contradictions between Genesis and science? If there is not, then that means a proper understanding of the Bible can only be obtained after first learning modern science. That’s not an assertion most Christians would be comfortable with.

  26. #26 David Heddle
    September 13, 2006

    Jason:

    I have never said that the Bible is the sole source of authority for Christians. You simply made that up. That is also not the evangelical view, incidentally.

    Actually it is: sola scriptura. That pesky formal cause of the Reformation.

  27. #27 Jason Rosenhouse
    September 13, 2006

    David-

    I think we’d better clarify what is meant by “sole source of authority.” Sola Scriptura is not really a precisely defined thing, but it is generally taken to mean that the Bible is the only inerrant source for information about faith and morals, and that all human interpretations must be consistent with its text. So if that is what John had in mind, then I will take back what I said about the evangelical view.

    But we’re not talking about issues of morality here. We’re talking about how the world works. And evangelicals are perfectly happy to accept scientific investigation as another legitimate way of learning about the world. In some cases, they’re even willing to allow scientific findings to inform their reading of the text (as when they give a figurative interpretation to verses which taken literally would suggest the Earth is flat). Since John was clearly implying that evangelicals were being narrow-minded for insisting on the inerrancy of scripture, I felt it reasonable to point out they don’t merely read the Bible and close their eyes to everything else.

  28. #28 Joe Shelby
    September 13, 2006

    What I have said is that the Bible is regarded by all Christian denominations to be inerrant on every subject it addresses. I’m sure you can find individual Christians who would reject that premise, but the fact remains that it is the official view of all major Christian sects.

    I disagree.

    From the Catechism of the Episcopal Church, ageed upon by the 1979 general assembly when approving the final 1979 Book of Common Prayer:

    Q. Why do we call the Holy Scriptures the Word of God?
    A. We call them the Word of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible.

    Q. How do we understand the meaning of the Bible?
    A. We understand the meaning of the Bible by the help of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church in the true interpretation of the Scriptures.

    Nothing in there requires literalism or inerrency.

    I *really* wish you would stop making generalizations on all Christian religions as if they were the same. They are NOT.

    I suggest you read http://www.episcopalchurch.org/19021_58398_ENG_HTM.htm as well (and the related texts on that site) before you go blithely claiming that all christian churches are the same.

    That the Episcopal church has members who have problems with homosexuality and are politically motivated to act on that to the detriment of its other members is wrong and its something i personally have a problem with as well, but on matters related to science and theology, the philosophy of the Episcopal church is not and has never been anything like you’ve described in any of your posts (aside from the most basic summary of theistic evolution), particularly your ones decrying so-called “moderate” churches (which I read as not of the christian-right evangelical/politically-active bent).

    (yes, that document does describe theistic evolution, and in a way that Occam’s razor would say “cut out the God and nothing’s changed”, and you can continue to call it foolish if you want, I no longer care, but it in now way requires any concept of “innerrency”).

    http://www.crivoice.org/inerrant.html is an interesting read as well, contradicting your generalization as well as claiming that the inerrency debate is rather recent, coming from the early 20th century. Also, a quick google search shows that many of the “Episcopal” churches that claim biblical inerrancy are “Reformed Episcopal” churches, spin-offs of the main American community (usually because of political issues like Women Priests/Bishops and/or homosexuality).

    The Bible is more than 3 times as old as the Canterbury Tales, and was written in a language that we hardly understand. The concept of ‘the inerrant Word of God’ appeals to us, if only we knew exactly what that Word was. If we knew for certain where lay the bones of St Paul, and could practice resurrection, we might ask him to further explain what he meant by some of the more befuddling passages. Absent that, we embrace the Anglican way of scripture, tradition, and reason to help our mortal selves know what to believe. http://morgue.anglicansonline.org/050501/ Anglicans Online

    http://www.etdiocese.net/allsaints/NewFiles/BibleInterp.htm says even more.

  29. #29 Fonzy
    September 13, 2006

    Here’s an observation: when you throw a hissy-fit over what a cartoonist says about evolution, and when you mistake an obvious parody as a serious post about Christianity, causing you to ball your fists and gnash your teeth, and when you assume someone like Ken Miller is the enemy, and, well, when you do all the things you do so well, you’re not a victim, you’re a laughingstock. Big difference–but hey, you’re very helpful for the home team, so rock on.

    This is a very nice way to personally attack PZ without addressing what he actually says. PZ is only complaining in what you quoted about something that is a real phenomenon. You see, we’re allowed to criticize irrational beliefs like HIV/AIDS denialism, global warming denialism, germ theory of disease denialism, Holocaust denialism, the idea that Elvis Presley and/or Tupak Shakur are still alive, etc. But when it comes to the notion that a guy came back from the dead, was born of a virgin, and that a blithering idiot in white robes dunking you into water somehow transforms you in some way, we’re just supposed to shut up because those irrational beliefs fall under the umbrella of religion.

    I always find it funny. Instead of addressing this, you dig up three minor things PZ has written on a blog and accuse him of a victimhood mentality. Somehow this is a retort to his argument in the matter, but I fail to see how. Maybe the Bible can tell me.

  30. #30 Jolf_Moosenhoeger
    September 13, 2006

    It’s a waste of time arguing with Heddle. He never has anything interesting to say, he always focuses on trivia, and he’s evidently so infatuated with his own intellect that it’s a wonder he can get anything done, what with all that preening in the mirror.

  31. #31 Ross
    September 14, 2006

    While I agree with your points against his argument, I believe in his sentiment.

    As long as Evolution is seen as an “enemy” or any sort of antagonistic force against religion, America will suffer willfull ignorance. We cannot hope to convert the religious to metaphysical naturalism, so for now, we should focus on opening their minds to critical thought.

    Ross
    Using Aggressive Memetics Since 2006

  32. #32 GH
    September 14, 2006

    Fonzy,

    If you hadn’t noticed this is what Heddle does. He goes from blog to blog posting his ‘arguments’ and making snide comments. In Christian love no doubt.

  33. #33 David Heddle
    September 14, 2006

    GH,

    That’s kind of funny. There are only two blogs I comment on regularly. I just visited one, Ed Brayton’s, where I noticed that you just left a snide comment about me. Then I came here, and you have left one here as well, claiming that I go from blog to blog leaving snide comments.

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

  34. #34 GH
    September 14, 2006

    I didn’t leave a snide comment about you over there. Perhaps you should reread it. I did comment on your ‘arguments’ and their presentation. Unless saying you do the apolgetic two step well is considered a snide comment.

    But perhaps your correct and I should not have posted the same. Have a good day.

  35. #35 dogscratcher
    September 14, 2006

    PZ:
    “So far, the general impression I get is that it’s OK to criticize and resent the atheist evolutionists (and I will be the first to agree that we’re not perfect, and it’s alright to criticize us), but people like Miller? Saints. Perfect saints.”

    Maybe not a saint, but a creationist? Only with a very broad brush.

    PZ:
    “When the Behes have been defeated? When will that be?

    In a sense, they already have been. Their ideas are ridiculous. They are not taken seriously in the scientific community. They’re a joke.

    In another sense, they never will be. We’re always going to have crackpots and people who listen to them.”

    There will always be gaps to fill.

    PZ:
    “By the way, I’ve been asking this of everyone who thinks Ken Miller is our paragon. What, exactly, is his “road to peace”?”

    The same as Nixon’s secret Vietnam exit strategy?

  36. #36 Salvador T. Cordova
    September 14, 2006

    Miller said in his book, “much of the problem [of rejecting Darwinian evolution] lies with atheists”. I disagree.

    I think atheists have done a lot to promote evolutionary theory and I think they should be it’s primary ambassadors, not Ken Miller. I’d like to see more of PZ and Gary Hurd and Richard Dawkins promoting evolutionary theory. They embody it very well.

    I agree with Jason. Keep up the good work, PZ.

  37. #37 Robert O'Brien
    September 15, 2006

    [David Heddle] goes from blog to blog posting his ‘arguments’ and making snide comments.

    Nonsense.

  38. #38 dogscratcher
    September 15, 2006

    “[David Heddle] goes from blog to blog posting his ‘arguments’ and making snide comments.

    Nonsense.”

    I thought we all did that. My bad.

  39. #39 AndyS
    September 15, 2006

    I understand fighting hard to maintain science standards in schools. As an atheist I can also understand at a very personal level fighting to be accepted as a moral person (although I’ve never been in a situation where that was necessary).

    I do not understand, as an atheist, why I or anyone else should get worked up about other people holding religious beliefs about the supernatural. That seems like pissing in the ocean in order to raise the sea level.

    Razib has a great post over at Gene Expression (ScienceBlogs is an excellent resource!) http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2006/09/heresy_and_hesychasm.php

  40. #40 SLC
    September 15, 2006

    SLC,

    Ooh–more victimhood ranting!

    The aim of the born-agains is very simple and straightforward. It is to take over the US Government and impose a theocratic state therein. If they accomplish this, the court decisions will start to go in the other direction as their cronys are appointed as judges. If you don’t think this can happen, I submit the case of Germany in the 1920s.

    Who is leaking this information about our master plan! Who’s the traitor! This is unforgivable! Start gathering the stones! SLC, credit must be given where it’s due, and your unexpected analogy to Nazi Germany was downright brilliant!

    For the edification of Mr. Heddle, the treadle, the name of the “traitor” he requested is the Rev. James Kennedy. See below.

    Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors — in short, over every aspect and institution of human society. – D. James Kennedy

  41. #41 David Heddle
    September 15, 2006

    SLC,

    I don’t deny there are theonomists, I know a few myself. But they are a tiny tiny minority. You just sound like a nut writing that born againers are out to take over the US government. If you were to say: many Christians try to elect Christians, and lobby to have Christians appointed as judges, that would be reasonable. (Although personally, I am opposed to even this level of politics, being a strong supporter of separation of church and state, as I wrote here.) But you would simply be describing any group with a political agenda.

    The vast majority of born-againers have no interest in taking over the government–you’re living in a fantasy world of your own making.

  42. #42 SLC
    September 15, 2006

    Re Heddle

    No Mr. Heddle, the f****** born-agains are not a tiny minority. They include some of the largest churches in the country, including Rev. Kennedys, Rev. Sheltons’, Rev Falwells’, Rev. Haggards’ etc. I suspect that each of these churches dwarfs the one to which you belong. Their followers would cut hour heart out if you said anything bad about them in their hearing. Their influence over the 30 million evangelicals in the US is frightening, a reminder of the power of the Ku Klux Klan in the South and Midwest in the early part of the last century. You believe in the separation of church and state? They don’t and they are prepared to do something about it, by electing folks like Senator Brownback, Senator Santorum, etc.

  43. #43 Robert O'Brien
    September 15, 2006

    The aim of the born-agains is very simple and straightforward. It is to take over the US Government and impose a theocratic state therein.

    Tin-foil hat time!

  44. #44 SLC
    September 16, 2006

    Re. O’Brien

    Hey pal, you don’t have to listen to me. All you have to do is listen to them. I suggest you read the statement by Rev. Kennedy and also read the thread previous to this one if you think I’m over the top. In fact, you might consider downloading the first part of the Dawkins video, “The Root of all Evil,” and watch his interview with Rev. Haggard, remembering that he has the largest congregation in the State of Colorado.

  45. #45 Jon S
    September 17, 2006

    It’s interesting, at the least, to read the venomous attacks against Christianity (Jason uses the terms ignorant, ill-motives, religious irrationality and superstition, intellectually lazy. He goes on to say, “I regard all of the major monotheistic religions as foolish and delusional. I believe that religious belief deserves all the contempt it generally gets among thoughtful people. I think it is important to rebut flabby and incorrect apologetic arguments whether they come from fundamentalists or from moderates. All monotheistic religious faith is equally irrational and equally deserving of criticism.”).

    And then Jason criticized Myers, stating “I fault Myers for two things. The first is simply that his writing is often a bit too venomous for my taste.” Hmmm, very interesting.

    Jason says about all monotheistic religious faiths, “The important distinction is simply between those whose faith leads them to violence, and those who are content to live with differences of opinion.”

    Okay, but the same can be said about all atheistic faiths too. Are atheists noble enough and willing enough to live with differences of opinion? I think not.

    Then Jason complains “But atheists are routinely admonished to keep their views to themselves out of fear that potential religious allies will be scared away.”, and “Meanwhile, according to a recent poll, sixty-three percent of Americans categorically refuse to vote for an atheist for public office.”

    That’s just terrible. Christians really shouldn’t be admonishing atheists, and Americans should learn to trust atheists to serve in public office so that they can show how tolerant they are of Christians and allow us to practice our religious beliefs without having them stripped away more and more by political maneuvering.

    Jason goes on to say, “I believe that atheism is the position best justified by the facts of nature as we currently understand them.”

    So atheism is the voice of reason and rationality, the only true light to this dark and depraved world filled with religious fundamentalists?

    For what it’s worth, atheists are welcome to their opinion. However, I hope atheists are tolerant enough to allow us to believe that Christianity is the position best justified by the facts of nature as we currently understand them. The problem, though, is that atheists really are not so tolerant, nor noble, and are not the voice of reason. In fact part of the problem is that atheists are extremely intolerant of Christianity. If atheists were tolerant, they would be able to say “Okay, I don’t believe in God, but if someone else wants to, that’s up to them, and if they want to present their views of the origin of the universe and man in public schools, then that’s fine with me too. Let the students study both sides of the issue and let them make up their own minds.” But that’s not what we hear. Instead it’s “No, you can’t let students know that there’s a controversy in evolution; there’s no controversy, and we can’t let them make up their own minds, and we can’t expose their fragile minds to religion because they will be so confused. We must tell them what to think and how to think, and fill their minds with evolutionary propaganda, and make atheists of them all so that nobody will ever believe in that nasty, intolerant God of the Bible anymore.”

    Maybe that’s why so many people perceive that there’s a war going on- because both sides seem to be intolerant of the other. Christians, of course, believe we need to spread the gospel so that as many people come to Christ as possible, and we perceive the teaching of evolution as an obstacle to salvation, and atheists view Christians as, well, I think Jason summed that up pretty good. Atheists see Christianity and religion as a threat to their way of life, and even a threat to life itself. So with each side viewing the other as a threat, and trying to win converts, I agree there’s a war going on, but I also believe the victory has already been won on the cross.

  46. #46 Dave S.
    September 18, 2006

    Jon S says:

    Okay, but the same can be said about all atheistic faiths too. Are atheists noble enough and willing enough to live with differences of opinion? I think not.

    I could care less what personal beliefs anyone has. I do care if they try to shoehorn their beliefs where they don’t belong by trying to disguise them as something else such as the recent shenanigans of the ID movement.

    So atheism is the voice of reason and rationality, the only true light to this dark and depraved world filled with religious fundamentalists?

    No. Those of faith can also be reasoned and rational. Even the most fundamental. One of the smartest people I know is a young earth creationist. I happen to think his Biblically based historical view is wrong (and he himself admits the physical evidence is sorely lacking), but that’s a different story. Not all of them are reasoned and rational of course, just like not all atheists are reasoned and rational.

    That’s just terrible. Christians really shouldn’t be admonishing atheists, and Americans should learn to trust atheists to serve in public office so that they can show how tolerant they are of Christians and allow us to practice our religious beliefs without having them stripped away more and more by political maneuvering.

    How many professed atheists are there in public office in the United States at any level of government? Would you need more than the fingers of one hand to count them? Curious how I keep reading still about attacks on Christianity.

    For what it’s worth, atheists are welcome to their opinion.

    Thanks. Likewise non-atheists.

    If atheists were tolerant, they would be able to say “Okay, I don’t believe in God, but if someone else wants to, that’s up to them, and if they want to present their views of the origin of the universe and man in public schools, then that’s fine with me too. Let the students study both sides of the issue and let them make up their own minds.”

    I agree that if someone wants to believe in God, then that’s up to them. However, what makes you think there are only two sides? And where should these “views” be learned? Obviously not in science class, as there is only one scientific model.

    “No, you can’t let students know that there’s a controversy in evolution; there’s no controversy, and we can’t let them make up their own minds, …

    Are you talking about evolution or the origin of the universe? With respect to evolution, there is no controversy. There is quite simply no other scientific model for the development of life. None. Zero. Ziltch. There is nothing to teach the students. If they want to read about Creationist arguments, they are certainly free to do so. I will provide references and links for them if they want.

    We must tell them what to think and how to think, and fill their minds with evolutionary propaganda, and make atheists of them all so that nobody will ever believe in that nasty, intolerant God of the Bible anymore.”

    YEAH! How dare we teach the kiddies that diseases are caused by microorganisms. Let’s teach them both theories so they can make up their own minds. Sure we haven’t given them the tools yet to actually decide anything, but that just makes it more likley we can scare them into accepting the miasma theory of disease.

    So with each side viewing the other as a threat, and trying to win converts, …

    I don’t care if you “convert”. I’m not trying to convert you or anyone else. That’s your decision, remember? I do care however about teaching good science.

  47. #47 bybelknap
    September 18, 2006

    Jon S
    “For what it’s worth, atheists are welcome to their opinion. However, I hope atheists are tolerant enough to allow us to believe that Christianity is the position best justified by the facts of nature as we currently understand them. The problem, though, is that atheists really are not so tolerant, nor noble, and are not the voice of reason. In fact part of the problem is that atheists are extremely intolerant of Christianity. If atheists were tolerant, they would be able to say “Okay, I don’t believe in God, but if someone else wants to, that’s up to them, and if they want to present their views of the origin of the universe and man in public schools, then that’s fine with me too. Let the students study both sides of the issue and let them make up their own minds.” But that’s not what we hear.”

    For one thing, xtianity has nothing useful to say about nature. If it did then perhaps there wouldn’t be a problem. Next, students of a certain age are not equipped to make distinctions between fantasy and reality, so letting children decide which version is reality based – a 6 day creation or billions of years of evolution – is downright silly. Nextly, It is the xtian insistance of injecting their religious fantasies into Public Education and Public Policy that raises the hackles. I know it is the wet dream of many a devotee that the wall of separation be torn down and that their brand of xtianity be the official state religion, so there is, in fact, good reason to be threatened by the Brownbacks and others of that ilk. They enjoy their freedom to worship as they please precisely because atheists and others work diligently to protect us all from the dismantling of the establishment clause of the first ammendment. Xtian creationism is religion. It isn’t science. And I am unapologetic for my intolerance of religion in science class. Don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church.

  48. #48 Jon S
    September 19, 2006

    Dave- the recent shenanigans you refer to in Dover are a result of political maneuverings by atheists. What the school system proposed was not in violation of the constitution. Any suggested violation was in the minds and imagination of those opposed to having their views questioned and other views presented. I do disagree with how the ID movement defended the case and think they could have been more effective by being straight forward and honest, but Dover was not promoting any particular religious belief. And even if you deny that, then you’d have to agree that the teaching of evolution promotes atheistic beliefs. So if it’s ok to promote atheism in school at the tax payer’s expense, then it’s perfectly reasonable to allow for an alternative.

    Dave says- However, what makes you think there are only two sides? And where should these “views” be learned? Obviously not in science class, as there is only one scientific model.

    Well, what other side is there? From my understanding ID takes no side and is void of what religious beliefs to follow. Either everything that exists happened and came about by chance, or it was on purpose. I don’t know what other views there are. Every religious or unreligious view can only fit into one category or the other. Either we evolved, or we didn’t.

    Dave says- With respect to evolution, there is no controversy. There is quite simply no other scientific model for the development of life. None. Zero. Ziltch. There is nothing to teach the students.

    Sorry Dave, but once again I don’t know where you’re coming from. I don’t see what’s so hard about being honest and acknowledging that there is a controversy, and that there are other models for the development of life. Just because you don’t believe that God created the universe and everything in it in six days, doesn’t make evolution true. Your firm belief in evolution is stricly based on interpretation of evidence by faith. By interpreting the evidence from a different worldview, we reach other reasonable conclusions. It’s just a matter of acknowledging it.

    Dave says- I do care however about teaching good science.

    Then why oppose good science? Your opinion is that teaching alternatives to evolution is wrong. But I disagree with your opinion, and so do the majority of Americans. Why not let the students find out for themselves what is good science? Do you not think they’re capable of figuring it out for themselves? And isn’t that the purpose of an education, to teach students how to think critically? And I don’t know of anyone who denies that diseases are caused by microorganisms. If that’s an attack on ID or Creationism, you’re misrepresenting our views.

    Mr. bybelknap- I’m sorry you feel the way you do, and I’ll certainly keep you in my prayers. You are in error about most of what you’ve said, and I don’t think there’s much room for rational discussion.

  49. #49 Dave S.
    September 19, 2006

    Jon S. says:

    Dave- the recent shenanigans you refer to in Dover are a result of political maneuverings by atheists.

    Nope, it was brought on by a school board who made explicit religious statements as to motivation and the Thomas More (a pro-Christian group) legal team, who hunted around until they found a school district wiling to be a guinea pig. Dover volunteered when even the Discovery Institute knew they would lose, and now the taxpayers have to pay for that stupidity.

    What the school system proposed was not in violation of the constitution.

    Yep, it was.

    do disagree with how the ID movement defended the case and think they could have been more effective by being straight forward and honest, but Dover was not promoting any particular religious belief.

    The motivations were entirely religious, and the effect was entirely to support a religious notion with no scientific value whatsoever. Namely ID, which was shown to be nothing more than creationism with a name change.

    And even if you deny that, then you’d have to agree that the teaching of evolution promotes atheistic beliefs.

    No, I don’t have to agree with that, since it’s untrue. Evolution no more “promotes atheistic beliefs” than any other science.

    Well, what other side is there?

    Lots of them. Why not teach the Lakota creation myth? How about the Yaruuba tale of creation…I’m sure that’s a barn-burner.

    From my understanding ID takes no side and is void of what religious beliefs to follow.

    Of course it takes a side…why else the constant attacks on materialism? And Behe has already pointed out on the stand that religious belief and ID go hand in glove.

    Either everything that exists happened and came about by chance, or it was on purpose. I don’t know what other views there are. Every religious or unreligious view can only fit into one category or the other. Either we evolved, or we didn’t.

    Evolution does not say that everything came about by chance. Selection is the very antithisis of chance. And even if evolution is wrong, why can’t another purely materialistic model be correct?

    I don’t see what’s so hard about being honest and acknowledging that there is a controversy, and that there are other models for the development of life.

    Please pay closer attention. I said there was only one scientific model, and I stand by that. Of course there is a political controversy and a cultural controversy…but there is no scientific controversy. There is only one scientific model.

    Just because you don’t believe that God created the universe and everything in it in six days, doesn’t make evolution true.

    Never said it did. Evolution, both macro amnd micro, are conclusions based on the evidence. There has never been another positive testable model offered.

    Your firm belief in evolution is stricly based on interpretation of evidence by faith.

    Sorry, but wrong. I accept evolution since it explains the data and has been tested, and passed the tests.

    By interpreting the evidence from a different worldview, we reach other reasonable conclusions. It’s just a matter of acknowledging it.

    Your conclusion is a religious one and is useless as science since the conclusion is already pre-ordained.

    Then why oppose good science?

    ID creationism is not good science. It’s not even science at all. By even as a non-science, it’s useless accept as religious apologia.

    Your opinion is that teaching alternatives to evolution is wrong.

    Lot easier telling me what I think than asking me, isn’t it?

    No, I’m not opposed to teaching scientific alternatives to evolution. I’m opposed to teaching religious arguments that are disguised as science.

    But I disagree with your opinion, and so do the majority of Americans.

    But the vast majority of scientists reject ID and accept evolution. We don’t have a popular vote on the facts. They are what they are.

    Why not let the students find out for themselves what is good science?

    Why don’t the ID advocates publish new discoveries based on a positive design model? That’s the more important question. Science doesn’t filter down to the students until it’s been proven to work again and again. To ask the students to decide without a clue as to what basis to decide is the height of irresponsibility.

    And I don’t know of anyone who denies that diseases are caused by microorganisms. If that’s an attack on ID or Creationism, you’re misrepresenting our views.

    I know of such people who think that, and they see a big controversy there. Philip Johnson is an ID advocate who also insists that HIV does not cause AIDS. Other “scientists” insist the HIV virus doesn’t even exist, and some think that no disease causing viruses exist. So why can’t the students decide that too? Why should only ID get a pass? Why not allow every group or individual with a non-mainstream notion to put their ideas in class and let the students decide? Surely you believe they can, right? Where do you draw the line, or do you draw a line?

  50. #50 bybelknap
    September 19, 2006

    Jon S
    You are correct about one thing, rational discussion is not possible with you. Supernatural thinking is by definition irrational. You ascribe supernatural cause where none can be rationally shown to exist.

    I am curious though and somewhat masochistic so I will ask – precisely what am I wrong about?

    What does xtianity tell us about nature? I say it says nothing useful. Tell me what your religion has to say about nature that helps us to better understand life on earth?
    Strike one for you.

    How can children who may still believe in the tooth fairy make critical decisions regarding the relative worth of supernatural or natural mechanisms? Why do you think children who are incapable of distinguishing fantasy from fact can think critically about creation versus evolution? Can you demonstrate that young children are capable of distinguishing scientific fact from supernaturalism?
    Strike two for you.

    I say that there is a theocratic segment of society which includes the likes of James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, D James Kennedy who are, as demonstarated by their own words, working to establish a theocratic state based on their version of xtianity. How am I incorrect in this when it is well established fact?

    Three strkes, Bubba, you are OUT.

    Supernaturalism doesn’t belong in government, public schools or anywhere that rational people make important descions. Might as well consult a ouiji board.

  51. #51 John Farrell
    September 19, 2006

    What I have said is that the Bible is regarded by all Christian denominations to be inerrant on every subject it addresses. I’m sure you can find individual Christians who would reject that premise, but the fact remains that it is the official view of all major Christian sects.

    On every subject it addresses? No. And to be even more boring than I have been (apologies in advance), I will quote St. Augustine on the very point you raise. From his Commentary on the Book of Genesis.

    (btw–I certainly don’t think you’re a dumbass atheist–and as I said in another thread, my apologies if my posts have come across as pedantic–or worse arrogant).

    But I think this is an important point, not just because the Bible covers a lot of ground (not just morals, behavior etc), but because early on Christians were concerned about exactly the point you raise.

    Here’s St. Augie:

    39. Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although �they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.�67

    Okay:
    St. Augustine’s rule was based on reason. Don’t accept literally what can be shown by reason and evidence to be false. If the Bible explicitly states something that can be shown to contradict what is known by nature, then the old Book has to be re-interpreted accordingly.

    A decision simply to rule out any supernatural events is not the same thing as examining the availble evidence (if there is any) and discounting it.

    Another quick note: strange as it may seem, Genesis was indeed written by rabbis, not Christians, and the sabbath was a big deal to them. I think if you consult any theologian he’ll confirm that.

  52. #52 Dave S.
    September 20, 2006

    Jon S

    Here’s what ID needs to do before it can gain any scientific credibility:

    1. Formulate a positive design theory and carefully define all terms. It’s not enough to simply attack evolution as if ID will somehow automatically win by default. Imagine how angry you’d be if all evolutionists did to support their theory was to attack ID. You’d be apoplectic, and rightfully so.

    2. Construct hypotheses which flow from the ID theory elucidated in Step 1. Such hypotheses must be able to distinguish between design and evolution.

    3. Test the hypotheses constructed in Step 2 using empirical (observable) evidence.

    4. Examine the results from Step 3 and determine if design hypotheses from Step 2 has been confirmed. If so, proceed to Step 5. If not, explain why not and go back to Step 2 and try again.

    5. Report the findings with all relevant details in the peer reviewed scientific journals. Be sure to either incorporate any objections of the reviewers (experts in the field) if in agreement, or explain in detail why their objections are rejected.

    6. Repeat the above process from Steps 2 through 5 again and again until the scientific community at large has been convinced of the efficacy of the theory.

    7. Only now, consider putting the theory into schools.

    Really, the problem with ID is that it simply has no results and explains nothing at all. It is a religious notion at its core. It employs all the arguments that hitherto have been used by old school creationists and flows uninterrupted from previous creationist thought, and the very definition is only coherent in religious terms. But this is not by itself all that’s wrong with it. Even setting aside the religious aspects, it’s still wrong. The work of Behe and Dembski for example are simply straw-men that attack a version of evolution that I don’t recognize and they pretty much simply assert that evolution can’t do certain things without providing a basis in fact.

  53. #53 Jon S
    September 20, 2006

    Dave- As part of the revised science curriculum, Dover teachers would have been required to read the following statement to students in ninth-grade biology classes:

    Because Darwin?s Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

    Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin?s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People (see Teachers committee makes ?intelligent? choice!) is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves. As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind.

    Sorry Dave, but there is nothing religious found in the above statements, and nothing that would violate the constitution. In fact there’s nothing untruthful about the statement. All your arguments to the contrary are purely political. Show me where the violation of the constitution is. You claim the motivations were entirely religious. I say they were partly religious, but not entirely. I could counter you by pointing out the motivations of evolutionists are humanist, religious, and atheistic, and that is obvious to anyone who cares to study the issue, despite your denials. Reading just a few blogs on this website will make that clear.

    Dave says “Evolution no more “promotes atheistic beliefs” than any other science.”

    You’re nitpicking. I guess it would be more accurate to say that ‘the belief in evolution promotes atheism’. The practice of any other ‘real’ science obviously doesn’t promote evolution, unless you bring evolutionary thinking into it, because other sciences are built on observation and testing.

    Dave says “Evolution does not say that everything came about by chance.”

    You’re kidding me! Now you sound like you’re trumpeting ID. Are you trying to suggest that the universe and life are inevitable, or that there was purpose?

    Dave says “I said there was only one scientific model, and I stand by that. Of course there is a political controversy and a cultural controversy…but there is no scientific controversy. There is only one scientific model.”

    Sorry Dave, but there are other models. It’s just that the atheists in the scientific community refuse to acknowledge the other models because they are in power and won’t allow any alternatives until we can get the judicial system to recognize that there are other models critical of evolution that need to be taught. For the sake of good science I hope that day comes soon.

    Dave says “I accept evolution since it explains the data and has been tested, and passed the tests.”

    And I accept creation because it explains the data better than evolution, has been tested, and passed the tests.

    Dave says “Your conclusion is a religious one and is useless as science since the conclusion is already pre-ordained.”

    I feel the same way about your conclusions.

    Dave says “I’m opposed to teaching religious arguments that are disguised as science.”

    Then you should be opposed to the teaching of evolution because it’s religion disguised as science.

  54. #54 Jon S
    September 20, 2006

    bybelknap- I’m not sure how to respond to your irrational arguments. You begin with certain assumptions that are false. As long as you adhere to them, anything I have to say will be meaningless to you. Who says the supernatural is irrational? You? How do you know you’re right? How do you know all the chemicals, molecules and atoms that make up your brain didn’t get wired wrong and cause you to think wrongly about everything? Can you be absolutely sure you’re right in your thinking?

    You ask where you’re wrong. For one thing, Christianity has much to say about nature, and is quite useful. The first scientists were Christians, and they described the world and nature based on their observations. They believed God created an orderly world, and that we could make sense of it. To say Christianity says nothing useful about nature is just plain wrong. Next, if students of a certain age are not equipped to make distinctions between fantasy and reality, then they should not be taught evolution because it’s a religious fairy tale and they might not be able to figure that out for themselves. Nextly, it is the atheist’s insistence of injecting their religious fantasies into public education and public policy. I know people like you will gnash their teeth if we’re allowed to educate students on the problems of evolution. If we were only allowed to teach science in science class, then that would be fine, but keep the religion of evolution out of science class and help uphold the establishment clause and our first amendment rights. If you were intolerant of religion in science class, then you would oppose the teaching of evolution.