Mooney on Dover

Chris Mooney has posted his latest salvo in his ongoing discussion with Jerry Coyne. Sadly, I think he has muffed it pretty badly.

Coyne, of course, can take care of himself. I am inserting myself into this discussion simply because I think this is an important and interesting topic. So let’s have a look.

The trouble starts early in Mooney’s post when he writes:

I believe the central reason we have such massive problems with the teaching of evolution to be precisely this–millions of America believe, incorrectly, that they must give up their faith in order to learn about it or accept it. This misconception is highly prevalent, and is regularly reinforced in a number of ways: Through the media, by church leaders, by the New Atheists, and so on.

Close to half of all Americans accept the young-Earth creationist view of things, if the public opinion polls are to be believed. Those Americans really do have to give up their faith, or at least to alter it radically into something fundamentally different, if they are to accept evolution. Many others look at the savagery and unpredictability of evolution and see threats both to God’s goodness and to human specialness. They may not be logically forced to abandon their faith, but they are not being unreasonable in seeing a fundamental conflict between evolution and their faith.

There are counter arguments, of course. By all means read Miller, Haught, Ruse and all the others on this subject. They have shown quite successfully that traditional Christianity is not flatly refuted by evolution, or by anything else in science. Coyne and the New Atheists have never claimed otherwise. The trouble is simply that their attempted reconciliations seem terribly implausible, to me and to a lot of others.

Your answer to whether science and religion can be reconciled will depend a lot on what you consider essential to your faith and on what you consider it plausible to believe. It is not an empirical matter that can be resolved by amassing enough facts. Consequently, it does not make sense to describe it as a misconception that evolution and Christianity are incompatible, at least not as a general proposition. The YEC’s are not misconceiving anything in saying that evolution conflicts with Christianity as they understand it. Nor are the many other Christians who are not YEC’s but who still see insurmountable challenges to their credulity in accepting both the tenets of their faith and the findings of science.

So long as traditional religion remains a dominant force in our society we are going to have this problem. The strategy of trotting out religious scientists and spouting happy talk about science and faith complementing one another has been a dismal failure, as demonstrated by the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans want some form of creationism taught in the schools. It’s not because of Richard Dawkins that we have this state of affairs, and it is not because millions of people are confused about their faith.

Precisely what was decided in the Dover case? The full decision is here, but basically, Judge John E. Jones III unmasked “intelligent design” for the religious charade that it is. Underlying the decision, however, was a definition of science as a process of naturalistic–but not atheistic–inquiry. Or as Judge Jones put it, relying on Robert Pennock’s testimony as well as that of others:

In deliberately omitting theological or “ultimate” explanations for the existence or characteristics of the natural world, science does not consider issues of “meaning” and “purpose” in the world. (9:21 (Haught); 1:64, 87 (Miller)). While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science. (3:103 (Miller); 9:19-20 (Haught)). This self-imposed convention of science, which limits inquiry to testable, natural explanations about the natural world, is referred to by philosophers as “methodological naturalism” and is sometimes known as the scientific method. (5:23, 29-30 (Pennock)). Methodological naturalism is a “ground rule” of science today which requires scientists to seek explanations in the world around us based upon what we can observe, test, replicate, and verify. (1:59-64, 2:41-43 (Miller); 5:8, 23-30 (Pennock)).

Near the end of his essay Mooney writes

I might also add that as I read Jerry Coyne, he is constantly violating the methodological/philosophical naturalism distinction-so persuasively articulated by Pennock, so fundamental to the Dover trial-as if it doesn’t matter. Certainly, I have never seen, in what I have read of Coyne so far, that he draws the distinction, not even to problematize it. But more on that in later posts.

He must be reading a different Jerry Coyne from me. The Coyne I’m reading wrote, in his article for The New Republic that started this whole thing:

Scientists do indeed rely on materialistic explanations of nature, but it is important to understand that this is not an a priori philosophical commitment. It is, rather, the best research strategy that has evolved from our long-standing experience with nature. There was a time when God was a part of science. Newton thought that his research on physics helped clarify God’s celestial plan. So did Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who devised our current scheme for organizing species. But over centuries of research we have learned that the idea “God did it” has never advanced our understanding of nature an iota, and that is why we abandoned it.

Looks to me like Coyne understands perfectly the distinction between methodological and philosophical naturalism. In fact, what he says in this paragraph looks strikingly similar to what Judge Jones said in the paragraph Mooney quoted.

After a few paragraphs in which Mooney establishes, as if anyone were confused on the matter, that science can not conclusively rule out the possibility of the supernatural, he writes:

Crucially, such logic suggests that it is most emphatically possible to accept the results of science’s naturalistic methodology, and yet also retain supernatural beliefs that science cannot touch. Similarly, one can accept science’s naturalistic methodology but not hold any supernatural beliefs. Neither position violates science. Only confusions or inappropriate commingling of the two realms are a problem: Thus “intelligent design” violates science because it tries to transform religious claims into scientific ones and, indeed, to undermine methodological naturalism itself. ID tries to claim we can detect God’s supernatural action, in the world, through science. Due to such religious underpinnings-and such a grave category error-it does not belong in science class.

This completely misses the point. If you hold views about a supernatural realm that have absolutely no empirical consequences whatsoever then you have nothing to fear from science. There are even certain religious systems that posit such a realm. But that is not the sort of faith held by most Christians.

If you believe that God has certain attributes and that humanity occupies a special place in creation then it is certainly possible for the empirical realities of nature to pose a challenge to your religious beliefs. Just think of how much simpler theology would be if we took Mooney’s approach. Turns out all those theologians who see a serious (if surmountable) challenge to their faith in the reality of evil and suffering were guilty of a category error. All they had to say was that empirical realities are a separate realm from any hypothesized supernatural world. And those theologians who from 1859 onward saw a threat in the idea that natural selection was the dominant force in evolution? Tripped up by an elementary philosophical oversight.

I was a bit surprised that Mooney didn’t use this quote from Judge Jones’ decision:

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock
assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory
is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in
general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the
theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the
scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the
existence of a divine creator.

I have no problem at all with that statement, and I suspect Jerry Coyne does not either. So long as we are talking about a divine creator in the abstract then there is no conflict with evolution. Deism is not threatened by evolution. If we were talking about the Christian conception of God specifically, though, then I would have a problem with that line about there being “no conflict at all.” That’s not the sort of question that can be resolved by the testimony of a few expert witnesses. Soften it to, “Many scientists and theologians see no conflict between evolution and divine creation,” and we’re back in business.

Going back to Mooney’s essay we find:

Evolutionary science does belong there, for not only is it good science, but it isn’t atheism–this science, like any other, is religiously neutral. It looks to the world for naturalistic causation, but cannot say anything whatsoever about the supernatural.

It is simply absurd to say that evolution is religiously neutral when it flatly contradicts the religious faith of nearly half the country. One more time, science can not rule out the existence of a supernatural realm, but it can certainly make certain ideas about how the supernatural realm interacts with our earthly realm seem highly implausible.

Such, anyways, is the logic of the Dover decision, based on the arguments of Pennock, Miller, Haught, and Forrest, and of course the very skilled lawyers who used them as key witnesses. So here’s the question: What if Coyne and the New Atheists are right, and evolution (or science itself) isn’t actually neutral? What if there really is a fundamental conflict between science and religion? What if methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism aren’t really distinct–but the former inevitably also entails the latter?

The Dover case, as I read it, doesn’t explicitly say. Furthermore, I’m not a lawyer. But I fear that were the New Atheists to somehow prevail on this point, the anti-evolutionists might wreak some serious havoc in the courtroom in a later case. This is one reason to be concerned about the New Atheist position.

This mostly reiterates past confusions. The clear distinction between methodological and philosophical naturalism is mostly irrelevant to the question of whether science and religion are compatible, since religion typically claims far more than the mere existence of a supernatural realm.

Moreover, the question of whether there is a fundamental conflict between science and religion is not the sort of thing about which there is a clear right and wrong answer. As I said previously, people have to decide that for themselves based on their own notions of faith and plausibility. I look at Ken Miller’s arguments and see desperate special pleading in the service of an antiquated religious system. He sees an entirely plausible view of the world that makes sense of the facts and is in keeping with Catholic tradition. Po-TAY-to, Po-TAH-to.

That the legal question is complex is one of the few aspects of this on which I agree with Mooney. I would point out, however, that the outright contradiction between evolutionary science and the religion of nearly half the country has never been deemed a reason for finding it unconstitutional to teach evolution. Creationists have filed lawsuits on precisely that basis, but I am not aware of any that even made it to trial.

Furthermore, the 1968 Supreme Court case Eperson v. Arkansas struck down Scopes-era laws prohibiting the teaching of theories that contradicted religious dogmas. The decision included this nugget:

The Court held that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits a state from requiring, in the words of the majority opinion, “that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma.”

That seems on point. The scholarly consensus is that evolution is good science, and that creationism and ID are not science at all. That some people see a conflict between those assertions and their religious beliefs is apparently irrelevant. In light of this, Mooney’s hand-wringing seems unwarranted.

Suppose we turn things around. What if science had discovered that the universe is on the order of ten thousand years old, just as the YEC’s claim? Suppose further that scientists discovered that different animals use fundamentally different genetic codes, and that these codes occur in a pattern that matches a reasonable notion of “created kind.” Would anyone argue that it is unconstitutional to teach these facts in science class on the grounds that they provide substantial support to the Biblical account?

(Quick digression: If science actually had discovered those things, would anyone regard those findings as a defeat for the Bible, on the grounds that the Genesis account was clearly meant as an allegory? Or do you think all those theologians who nowadays give lectures on the absurdity of taking Genesis literally would suddenly argue instead that the Bible had it right all along?)

Absolutely nothing in the Dover decision is being challenged by Coyne or anyone else. Different people can draw different metaphysical conclusions from the same empirical data. The argument is over whether it is reasonable to accept both evolution and traditional Christianity, not over whether it is possible to accept both. Rather a lot of people in this country do not think it is reasonable, and in my view they are entirely justified in that belief. They should not be dismissed as ignorant extremists, or told they are making a category error, or given a lecture about methodological versus philosophical naturalism.

There is, indeed, a conflict between evolution and traditional religion. Not at the level of logical implications or metaphysical certitude, but at the level of what the different systems claim about natural history and our place in it, and the basis on which those claims are defended. Continue with the happy accommodationist talk all you want, but don’t blame it on RIchard Dawkins or Jerry Coyne when you are greeted with folded arms and planted feet.

Comments

  1. #1 Richard Wein
    June 6, 2009

    Mooney seems to be hung up on the idea that critics of his position want to eliminate the distinction between philosophical naturalism and methodological naturalism. But he’s got that completely wrong.

    What critics of his position are doing (at least some of them) is objecting to the claim that science requires a principle of methodological naturalism. At least, that’s my objection. I’m not sure that Coyne has stated as much, but his position seems to imply it.

    In his latest post, Mooney makes no attempt to rationally justify the principle of methodological naturalism. He relies entirely on appeals to authority.

  2. #2 BaldApe
    June 6, 2009

    My brother criticized me in his blog for reading a mathematician on biology while rejecting physicists on climate.

    This kind of insightful analysis and rock-solid reasoning is why I read your blog.

  3. #3 llewelly
    June 6, 2009

    Close to half of all Americans accept the young-Earth creationist view of things, if the public opinion polls are to be believed. Those Americans really do have to give up their faith, or at least to alter it radically into something fundamentally different, if they are to accept evolution. Many others look at the savagery and unpredictability of evolution and see threats both to God’s goodness and to human specialness. They may not be logically forced to abandon their faith, but they are not being unreasonable in seeing a fundamental conflict between evolution and their faith.

    The trouble with people like you, Dr. Rosenhouse, is that you focus on relevant religion, rather than irrelevant religion.

  4. #4 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    They have shown quite successfully that traditional Christianity is not flatly refuted by evolution, or by anything else in science. Coyne and the New Atheists have never claimed otherwise.

    You will forgive someone for pointing out that this is a pretty huge whopper of a false statement.

    From Seeing and Believing Jerry A. Coyne The New Republic February 04, 2009

    – The cultural polarization of America has been aggravated by attacks on religion from the “new atheists,” writers such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, who are die-hard Darwinists.

    N.B. Coyne’s inclusion of Dawkins and Dennett, two of the stars of the new atheism.

    – But consider this: it is Richard Dawkins who, more than anyone else, has convinced people of the reality and the power of evolution. It is the height of wishful thinking to claim that if he and his intellectual confreres simply stopped attacking religion, creationism would disappear

    – This brings us to the second reason why Gould’s explanation does not cohere. It is all well and good to say, as he did, that religion makes no claims about nature, but in practice it is not true. Out of the thousands of religious sects on this planet, only a handful do not have adherents or dogmas that make empirical claims about the world. Here are some. Jesus was born of a virgin and, after crucifixion …..

    – (Following a quote from GibersonThis is creationist-speak, pure and simple. No real scientist would say that his theories are immune to disproof.

    – It would appear, then, that one cannot be coherently religious and scientific at the same time.

    – Accepting both science and conventional faith leaves you with a double standard: rational on the origin of blood clotting, irrational on the Resurrection; rational on dinosaurs, irrational on virgin births. Without good cause, Giberson and Miller pick and choose what they believe. At least the young-earth creationists are consistent, for they embrace supernatural causation across the board. With his usual flair, the physicist Richard Feynman characterized this difference: “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” With religion, there is just no way to know if you are fooling yourself.

    – So the most important conflict–the one ignored by Giberson and Miller–is not between religion and science. It is between religion and secular reason. Secular reason includes science, but also embraces moral and political philosophy, mathematics, logic, history, journalism, and social science–every area that requires us to have good reasons for what we believe. Now I am not claiming that all faith is incompatible with science and secular reason–only those faiths whose claims about the nature of the universe flatly contradict scientific observations. Pantheism and some forms of Buddhism seem to pass the test. But the vast majority of the faithful–those 90 percent of Americans who believe in a personal God, most Muslims, Jews, and Hindus, and adherents to hundreds of other faiths–fall into the “incompatible” category.

    – Attempts to reconcile God and evolution keep rolling off the intellectual assembly line. It never stops, because the reconciliation never works.

    And this is only from one book review in The New Republic. On his blog which apparently doesn’t have to pass muster with an editor, where Coyne feels free to demonstrate his personal bias, it’s even more obvious.

  5. #5 John Pieret
    June 6, 2009

    The confusion may not be one sided. Consider this statement by Coyne:

    [B]y consorting with scientists and philosophers who incorporate supernaturalism into their view of evolution, they [the NAS. NCSE, etc.] erode the naturalism that underpins modern evolutionary theory.

    That can certainly be read as an a priori committment to philosophical naturalism rather than evolutionary theory merely being our best present explanation applying methodological naturalism.

    Nor is it obvious that Coyne would agree with Jones’ finding that evolution “in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator” when he says:

    [T]here are plenty of scientists and philosophers, including myself, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, P. Z. Myers, Dan Dennett, A. C. Grayling, and Peter Atkins, who feel strongly that science and religion are incompatible ways of viewing the world.

    All this is exegesis of things written at different times and in response to different issues which, of course, can lead to confusion on the part of the reader. But Coyne is the Discovery Institute’s favorite scientist to quote of late and when experts in flackery think you are the best advertisement for their cause, you might just want to pause and wonder why.

  6. #6 Tualha
    June 6, 2009

    Mr. McCarthy seems not to have read Dr. Rosenhouse’s argument very carefully. Rosenhouse is drawing a clear distinction between two ideas:

    1. Believing in both science and theistic religion is possible.

    2. Believing in both science and theistic religion is reasonable.

    Clearly, such an accomodation is possible: see Miller, Haught, Ruse, Collins, etc. Rosenhouse’s point is that Coyne et al. have never denied that it is possible, and this is true as well of the Coyne article McCarthy cites. What Coyne is saying, and Rosenhouse is agreeing with, is that such accommodation is not reasonable.

  7. #7 John Kwok
    June 6, 2009

    Jason,

    I think you’ve created a strawman argument here. By asserting that religion is the primary reason why many Americans don’t accept evolution as valid science, you point the blame squarely at religion, when, as Ken Miller himself notes in “Only A Theory”, there may be other factors at work, such as our in-grained hostility to “authority”. However, let’s suppose you are correct. How does it explain then the fact that many Britons – according to recent poll data – reject evolution as valid science too, though admittedly, at a percentage which is substantially lower than here in the United States (If my memory is correct, then it’s 40%.).

    One potential solution to the ongoing problem of evolution denial is a better effort to ensure that students are exposed to the fact that evolution is the central unifying theory of biology as early as possible. What Genie Scott has suggested with respect to college biology courses in her interview published in the latest issue of Science should be applied to both middle and secondary school science education. Maybe that might help ensure that we would see greater American acceptance of evolution as valid science in the future.

    Where I am in agreement is your excellent advice to Chris Mooney with regards to his failure to quote extensively from Judge Jones’s ruling.

    Sincerely yours,

    John

  8. #8 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    Mr. McCarthy seems not to have read Dr. Rosenhouse’s argument very carefully.

    As the point is among the major ones in the dispute in question, I’d have thought it would jump out at anyone who was familar with the background literature.

    Are you objecting to a very careful reading of things, because that would seem to be considered as an unfair tactic by the new atheists when used by their critics.

    Doesn’t it bother any of you that the new atheism requires a double standard of moral evaluation AND this kind of factual leeway?

  9. #9 Tualha
    June 6, 2009

    Sorry, did you have a point you were trying to make there?

  10. #10 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    Tualha, me?

    I’d have thought the points were clear to anyone who could read English and had any familiarity with the issues. Thought the last one is another privilege apparently the new atheism assumes for itself.

  11. #11 John E. Shuey
    June 6, 2009

    The simple fact is that evolution (as well as geology, astronomy, physics, and more) is totally antithetical to any and all for whom biblical inerrancy is part of their religion. In as much as said believers are aware of it, who would Prof. Coyne, et al be appeasing by pretending that it isn’t so?

    The only Christians, Jews, and Muslims who might not feel threatened by evolution in particular and science in general are those “liberals” who eschew a literal meaning in their holy books and view them as largely mythology interspersed with valuable spirituality. To such believers, the New Atheists may be tiresome, but they certainly don’t rise to the level of being an impediment to the acceptance of evolution.

  12. #12 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    Just noticed I left out a couple of words:

    I’d have thought the points were clear to anyone who could read English and had any familiarity with the issues. Thought being exempt the last one is another privilege apparently the new atheism assumes for itself.

    John E. Shuey,
    The problem of the new atheism extends past the damage they do to the public understanding of science, especially evolution. It’s a shallow, dishonest and bigoted intellectual fad. I’m not a Christian and fully accept evolution and reject any aspect of the supernatural being injected into the public schools. I think they’re extremely damaging to the political left of which I’m a part. If they didn’t have the potential to cause damage, I’d leave them to stew in their hatred.

  13. #13 John Kwok
    June 6, 2009

    Anthony,

    Unfortunately both the tone and content of the rhetoric I have read from many New Atheists (I personally prefer the term “Militant Atheists”.) bears a most uncomfortable, and most unflattering, parallel with rhetoric from IDiots and other creationists.

    Sincerely,

    John

  14. #14 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 6, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy –

    You baffle me. None of the quotes you produced even come close to saying that there is a logical contradiction between science and Christianity. Follow Tualha’s advice and reread what I wrote.

  15. #15 PK
    June 6, 2009

    Maybe someone can explain why believers can’t accept the possibility that their all powerful god created the universe (in 7 days 6000 years ago, or whatever) and made it look billions of years old. Seems theologically sound too, since if faith is to have any worth, god can’t just leave scientific proof of his existence lying around. This perspective eliminates the distinction between

    “1. Believing in both science and theistic religion is possible.

    2. Believing in both science and theistic religion is reasonable.”

    I suppose it’s too simple-minded for the philosophy-theology crowd to take seriously, and the literalists seem to require a god who’s only a little bit smarter than they are.

  16. #16 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    Jason Rosenhouse, you could only not find the assertion that Christianity and science in those quotes if you practiced a level of casuistry that is usually attributed to the Jesuits by their enemies.

    – It would appear, then, that one cannot be coherently religious and scientific at the same time.

    That one alone would do it.

  17. #17 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    Jason Rosenhouse, you could only not find the assertion that Christianity and science are not compatible in those quotes if you practiced a level of casuistry that is usually attributed to the Jesuits by their enemies.

    – It would appear, then, that one cannot be coherently religious and scientific at the same time.

    That one alone would do it. If you insist I can look for quotes from Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, etc. When I have the time.

    I’m used to the requirement of an infinite number of examples being the only number sufficient to make a point. I’ve seen that one often enough.

  18. #18 Tualha
    June 6, 2009

    Mr. McCarthy,

    For the benefit of those of us who have not been following this debate in great detail, would you care to clarify the following?

    1. You don’t seem to have offered a response to my argument regarding the distinction between “accommodation is possible” and “accommodation is reasonable”. Do you think this is a false distinction? Or not relevant to your argument? Or invalid in some other way?

    2. I had claimed that you seemed not to have read Rosenhouse carefully, so I am confused by your imputation that I object to careful reading.

    3. Can you give examples supporting your view that new atheists object to a careful reading of their arguments?

    4. Can you clarify your claim that new atheists are using a double standard and some kind of unspecified factual leeway?

  19. #19 Richard Wein
    June 6, 2009

    Jason, Coyne wrote:

    > Why reject the story of creation and Noah’s Ark because we know that animals evolved, but nevertheless accept the reality of the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ, which are equally at odds with science? After all, biological research suggests the impossibility of human females reproducing asexually, or of anyone reawakening three days after death. Clearly Miller and Giberson, along with many Americans, have some theological views that are not “consistent with science.” <

    Perhaps “at odds with” and “not consistent with” are not as strong as “flatly refuted by”. But I would still suggest that your sentence–the one Anthony is objecting to–was an unfortunate one.

  20. #20 Tualha
    June 6, 2009

    It would appear, then, that one cannot be coherently religious and scientific at the same time.

    The single word “coherently” in the above quote makes my point perfectly.

  21. #21 Badger3k
    June 6, 2009

    Uh-oh Jason, don’t you dare say anything that could be taken as any kind of criticism of Ken Miller. Kwok is here! I find it laughable that someone who is a Roman Catholic, whose religious beliefs are based in a large part on authority (remember that “Pope” fella?) should construct an argument saying that Americans don’t like authority. From all aspects of life, from sports to politics to religion, Americans, in general, seem to have problems with authority only when it contradicts their own beliefs or likings. When they agree, they are perfectly happy to follow the dictates of authority figures, such as politicians, popes, or megachurch preachers.

  22. #22 Richard Wein
    June 6, 2009

    P.S. If you think the distinction between “not consistent with” and “flatly refuted by” is a significant one, perhaps you should make that point more clearly.

  23. #23 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    Tuahla, I didn’t respond to you because I didn’t think it was worth it.

  24. #24 Ken Cope
    June 6, 2009

    I think they’re extremely damaging to the political left of which I’m a part. If they didn’t have the potential to cause damage, I’d leave them to stew in their hatred.

    The political left will withstand anything the “new” atheists (same as the old atheists, but with new, improved framing, courtesy of Mooney, Padfoot and Prongs) can hurl at it, much better than the political right will withstand the damage done to it by those to whom religious moderates delegate their public voice.

    This backlash against bestselling authors by hatred-eschewing moderates is a shallow, dishonest and bigoted intellectual fad. Enjoy your lukewarm stew of mild and tepid slight annoyance and indifference.

  25. #25 Tualha
    June 6, 2009

    PK (#14),

    It is certainly possible for Christians to reconcile their creation story with scientific evidence by claiming that their god made the universe look old on purpose. But it doesn’t seem like a reasonable position to me, and I suspect Coyne and Rosenhouse would agree.

    If the Christian god exists and wants people to believe in his scriptures, is it reasonable to suppose that he would fill the universe with evidence showing it’s billions of years old, and create life in a way implying common descent, then rely on scriptures which state each species was created separately and which contain genealogies that imply this happened less than 10,000 years ago?

    Is it reasonable that, as time went on and more discoveries were made, his followers would need to close their eyes to more and more of this evidence, or else invent tortured explanations to account for them? Why would he want this? What would it get him? Did god only want rational people in his heaven before 1859? Does he have a quota or something?

    Surely the atheist position, that men created gods and creation stories, is a much simpler and more rational explanation.

  26. #26 John Kwok
    June 6, 2009

    @ Badger3K,

    I don’t subscribe to Ken’s religious beliefs nor do I accept his unique take on the anthropic principle. But he is a friend – in the interest of full disclosure, I, as an undergraduate, assisted him in his very first debate against a creationist, which was held on the campus of our undergraduate alma mater – and I do not take kindly to those who make the inane assertion, like especially, for example, PZ Myers, that Ken is a creationist simply because some of his theological and philosophical views sound similar to those of creationists (Indeed if that inane logic was true, then it should be obvious to all that Michael Behe is an “evolutionist” simply because he accepts the scientific reality of “common descent”.).

    As for Jason, I honestly wonder how his harsh arguments against religion as the primary reason for America’s ongoing preoccupation with evolution denial when a substantially less religious country, the United Kingdom, has nearly six-tenths of its population which denies – or has no opinion on – the scientific reality of evolution. One major reason why Britons feel so strongly could be in response to the harsh attacks upon religious faith itself from the likes of militant atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins (An opinion which I think I have heard the noted British expatriate – and highly acclaimed philosopher – Philip Kitcher state in a talk he gave earlier this year on, of all dates, February 12th.).

    Sincerely yours,

    John Kwok

  27. #27 John Kwok
    June 6, 2009

    I just posted this at Chris Mooney’s blog, but it is worth noting here too:

    If we had only the Religious Right to worry about, then you’d seen far more acceptance of evolution as valid science from the American public. Unfortunately, evolution denial is a problem that isn’t confined solely to the Religious Right. Even liberals like Obama supporters seem to have a problem too, as Harvard University physicist Lisa Randall has noted here:

    “By sheer coincidence the day I read this Edge question, a charming young actor sat next to me on my plane to LA and without any prompting answered it for me. He had just returned from the inauguration and was filled with enthusiasm and optimism. Like so many young people today, he wants to leave the world a better place. Prior to his acting career he had studied molecular biology and after graduating coordinated science teaching for three middle schools in an urban school system. He described how along with his acting career he would ultimately like to build on his training to start schools worldwide where students can get good science training.”

    “But at this point the conversation rounded a bend. His proposed curriculum would include at least one course on religion. I was surprised—this bright young man had studied biology and in all other respects seemed to have opinions and attitudes grounded in the type of education everyone responding to this question is familiar with. But religion has been a big part of his life and he sensibly said the worst thing that happens in his schools would be that people learn about religion and make their own judgements. But he himself believes in Man descending from Adam as opposed to ascending from apes. I didn’t get how someone trained as a biologist could not believe in evolution. He explained how he could learn the science and understand the logic but that it is simply how Man puts things together. In his mind that’s just not the way it is.”

    You can read the rest of Lisa Randall’s commentary here:

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

  28. #28 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    his backlash against bestselling authors by hatred-eschewing moderates is a shallow, dishonest and bigoted intellectual fad. Enjoy your lukewarm stew of mild and tepid slight annoyance and indifference.

    A gay man who is a socialist, an economic leveler, who wants single payer health care, an effective environmental policy and a host of other positions that place him on the far left is now a “hatred-eschewing moderate” by the lites of the new atheism. That would be as opposed to Sam Harris’ and Chris Hitchens’ political programs.

    A shallow, dishonest, bigoted intellectual fad, thank you for the illustration of my point.

  29. #29 SLC
    June 6, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    Nothing surprising about Ms. Randalls’ rendition. We should not forget that one Governor Bobby Jindal, graduate of Brown Un. and biology major also rejects the Theory of Evolution. It is my information that the governor never took a course from Mr. Kwoks’ hero, Ken Miller, so the latter doesn’t have to go around with a bag over his head.

  30. #30 Ken Cope
    June 6, 2009

    A gay man who is a socialist, an economic leveler, who wants single payer health care, an effective environmental policy and a host of other positions

    Had you kept going and admitted to uncloseted atheism, society would have been forced to express its disregard for your uppity outspokenness and would have asked you to please refrain from attempting to shift the location of the border of the pale, er, the Overton window.

  31. #31 John Kwok
    June 6, 2009

    @ SLC,

    Sorry, but Ken Miller isn’t my “hero” as I noted here in my reply to Badger3K:

    I don’t subscribe to Ken’s religious beliefs nor do I accept his unique take on the anthropic principle. But he is a friend – in the interest of full disclosure, I, as an undergraduate, assisted him in his very first debate against a creationist, which was held on the campus of our undergraduate alma mater – and I do not take kindly to those who make the inane assertion, like especially, for example, PZ Myers, that Ken is a creationist simply because some of his theological and philosophical views sound similar to those of creationists (Indeed if that inane logic was true, then it should be obvious to all that Michael Behe is an “evolutionist” simply because he accepts the scientific reality of “common descent”.).

    Since I assisted Ken in his first debate at our undergraduate alma mater, then it should be obvious to you, that Ken and I have something in common with Bobby Jindal; we are fellow alumni of Brown University (In the interest of full disclosure, I am a fellow alumnus of Professor Randall’s high school alma mater, and did overlap with her there, though I don’t remember her.).

    Respectfully yours,

    John Kwok

  32. #32 Tualha
    June 6, 2009

    You know, I can’t tell if Anthony McCarthy is so thoroughly immersed in the details of the new atheist debate that he’s simply writing under the assumption that everyone knows what he’s talking about – or is so dishonest that he’s trying to baffle his critics into silence. His sloppy writing and ad hominem attacks lead me to suspect the latter, though.

  33. #33 Ken Cope
    June 6, 2009

    AM certainly doesn’t want to be thought of as a “hatred-eschewing moderate” but is his objection more to hatred-eschewing or to moderate? Perhaps he fears that atheism automatically comes bundled with Hitchens’ drinking, or Harris’s meditation. Cue Tom Lehrer:

    I’m sure we all agree that we ought to love one another and I know there are people in the world that do not love their fellow human beings and I hate people like that.

  34. #34 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 6, 2009

    Richard –

    There’s a big difference between saying “at odds with” and saying “flatly contradicted by.” At odds with just means that there’s tension between the two views. Flatly contradicted means that it is impossible to believe both without violating some principle of logic. The existence of huge amounts of evil and suffering in the world is at odds with the idea of a just and loving God. That doesn’t mean the problem of evil flatly contradicts the existence of God, it just means there is a problem to be explained.

    As for “not consistent with” I don’t think Coyne was using that phrase in the precise logical sense. I think he was basically using it as a synonym for “at odds with.” Notice that he says only that science suggests the impossibility of human asexual reproduction or life after death, not the absolutely impossibility of those things.

    I think it’s pretty clear both from the TNR article and from what Coyne has written at his blog that he does not think that people like Miller and Giberson are actually being illogical in their beliefs, only that they are being unreasonable. Any attempt to see something more in what Coyne wrote is, I believe, a misreading of his intention.

  35. #35 SLC
    June 6, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    Were I a graduate of Brown, which I am not, I would not be bragging about being a fellow alumnus of creationist Bobby Jindal.

  36. #36 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    Jason Rosenhouse, the statement you made which I refuted was “They have shown quite successfully that traditional Christianity is not flatly refuted by evolution, or by anything else in science.”

    One of the quotes I took from Coyne’s TNR review was:

    “It would appear, then, that one cannot be coherently religious and scientific at the same time.”

    How could his statement that “one cannot be coherently religious and scientific at the same time” be true IF the religion of “traditional Christianty” was not refuted by anything in science?

    Why would he have said that you can’t be religious and scientific at the same time unless they were not compatible? Especially since he, himself said it was here:

    ” Now I am not claiming that all faith is incompatible with science and secular reason–only those faiths whose claims about the nature of the universe flatly contradict scientific observations. Pantheism and some forms of Buddhism seem to pass the test. But the vast majority of the faithful–those 90 percent of Americans who believe in a personal God, most Muslims, Jews, and Hindus, and adherents to hundreds of other faiths–fall into the “incompatible” category.”

    I think your assertion at 33 could be reasonably debated on the grounds of casuistry.

    ad hominem attacks

    I really wish you guys would find out what these terms of classical logic mean before you start raising them up as straw men, another term I wish you’d learn the meaning of.

    Much as I’m sure everyone else would love to discuss me (sarcasm mark) it’s a subject that bores me to death.

  37. #37 John Kwok
    June 6, 2009

    @ SLC,

    I’m not bragging about being an alumnus of Brown. It’s a fact (And no, I’m not going to brag about being an alumnus of Lisa Randall’s high school alma mater either.).

    As for Jindal, he’s not the only Brunonian suffering from an acute case of evolution denial. There’s of course the patron saint of that inane equation, “Darwin EQUALS Hitler”, which has been stated, all too often, by Discovery Institute mendacious intellectual pornographer David Klinghoffer. Unfortunately, like Jindal and Chuck Colson (another prominent evolution denialist), he’s a fellow alumnus of Brown.

    Respectfully yours,

    John

  38. #38 SLC
    June 6, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    Don’t feel too bad. YEC Kurt Wise is a graduate of Un. of Chicago and Harvard, Jonathan Wells and Duane Gish are graduates of UC Berkeley.

  39. #39 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    Wow, not only vicarious culpability for being religious but also for where you got your degree. You guys ever heard the expression “slippery slope”?

  40. #40 John Kwok
    June 6, 2009

    @ SLC,

    That’s nothing new. I’ve known that for years, especially with regards to Wise (I know who is undergraduate advisor at Chicago was, and of course, that he was a doctoral student of Steve Gould’s.).

    What else? Behe earned his Ph. D. at the University of Pennsylvania; Dembski’s Ph. D. in mathematics is from the University of Chicago.

    Do you honestly think I am concerned that Colson, Jindal, Klinghoffer (or George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party) are fellow Brown alumni? Trust me, I’m not losing sleep over it.

    It’s funny that you of all people are bringing it up, since you were part of the chorus over at Pharyngula ridiculing my mention of my high school alma mater (which I thought was appropriate since the school’s principal – who still teaches physics and had, for many years, supervised the school’s Intel Science Talent Search research program – pledged to a gathering of alumni at the school in the fall of 2005 that ID would never be taught there as long as he continued serving as the school’s principal, since ID isn’t science, period. That was a distinction that was lost on you, your fellow Myers acolytes, and sadly, on PZ too.).

  41. #41 cm
    June 6, 2009

    Jason, I take issue with this that you said:

    The strategy of trotting out religious scientists and spouting happy talk about science and faith complementing one another has been a dismal failure, as demonstrated by the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans want some form of creationism taught in the schools.

    Oh, come on. Do you really expect that about ~10 years’ worth of a few such trottings should have reformed more than 50,000,000 Americans already? This is like saying the strategy of eating 1,200 calories a day has been a dismal failure because after 1 month I am still 300 lbs overweight (when I began as 312 lbs overweight). There is a whole lot of interesting American cultural history pushing in the other direction–give this strategy at least something of a chance before drawing a conclusion about its effectiveness.

  42. #42 Ken Cope
    June 6, 2009

    If you’re not careful Jason, the Kwok may demand that you too send him a used Leica M7, or $5000 worth of photo equipment.

  43. #43 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 6, 2009

    cm –

    I don’t know where you’re getting that ~10 years figure. That science and religion are compatible has been the official position of every major science organization for as long as sicence organizations have been taking stands on this issue (a lot longer than 10 years). That evolution is compatible with religion has featured prominently in virtually every anti-creationist book written in the last thirty years. During all this time there has not been any public figure of any prominence arguing the other way.

    Meanwhile, it is not that things aren’t getting better quickly enough (as in your weight loss example), it is that things are not getting better at all in the court of public opinion.

    The New Atheists have been around a lot less than ten years but they are routinely blamed for exacerbating the problem. In that context, I think it’s reasonable to point out that the accommodationist position shows no evidence of being able to move public opinion.

  44. #44 John Kwok
    June 6, 2009

    @ Ken Cope,

    The only person who should honor my request for camera equipment is one Bill Dembski. Even after I told PZ Myers I was joking, he was still insisting that this is what I was demanding from him. Whatever respect I had had for Myers vanished immediately. Moreover, it merely reaffirmed that my assessment of Myers as the “William A. Dembski of militant atheism” was both a fair and accurate one.

    As for Jason, it should be obvious that he and I don’t see eye to eye on the whole issue as to whether organizations like NCSE, NAS, AAAS should have an “accomodationist” stance towards religion (BTW I’ve checked with NCSE. It doesn’t have an official policy on this, period.). But I’m not going to criticize him with the same degree of rancor and hostility that was aimed at me by PZ Myers and his personal IDiot Borg Collective over at Pharyngula.

    John Kwok

  45. #45 John Kwok
    June 6, 2009

    @ Ken Cope,

    Without my prior knowledge, a friend stumbled accidentally upon Myers’s bizarre antics towards me at Pharyngula. He recognized immediately that I was joking with my request for photographic equipment, especially a used Leica M7 (BTW, I do have one already.).

    I decided to do my utmost to “needle” PZ, and it succeeded beyond my wildest expectations (I had to admit this to Ken when I saw him here in NYC last month, since he was a bit concerned with the harsh treatment I was receiving from PZ and his IDiot Borg Collective.).

  46. #46 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    No, Ken Cope’s last comment would be a real example of ad hominem. It has to be irrelevant to the issue at hand to be ad hominem and a clear personal attack for the purposes of distracting from the issue.

    Someone saying things you don’t like about the issue at hand is not ad hominem.

  47. #47 John Kwok
    June 6, 2009

    Anthony,

    You are absolutely correct on both points. Why Cope decided to refer to that ridiculous contretemps I had with Myers doesn’t make sense, unless he felt compelled that the only way of rebutting my points here was to launch a personal attack on me. And by doing so, all Cope achieved was making an ad hominem comment about me that is as inane as any I have read from Dembski and his acolytes concerning me.

    Thanks,

    John

  48. #48 Ken Cope
    June 6, 2009

    It has to be irrelevant to the issue at hand to be ad hominem and a clear personal attack for the purposes of distracting from the issue.

    Surely you’re not saying Kwok is the irrelevant issue at hand?

  49. #49 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 6, 2009

    John Kwok, Ken Cope, Anthony McCarthy –

    Knock it off. My blog is not the place for you to air out your personal arguments and disagreements. If you have something to say that’s relevant to the post, go right ahead and say it. Comments not directly related to the post will be deleted.

  50. #50 John Kwok
    June 6, 2009

    Jason,

    I’m going to rephrase this question that I posed to you earlier today.

    If religion is the fundamental problem responsible for the prevalence of evolution denial here in the United States, then how do you explain that, according to recent polling data, only 40% of Britons accept evolution as valid science?
    Could you speculate please?

    Thanks,

    John

    P. S. It wasn’t my intent to “air out” my personal arguments and disagreements. To be perfectly honest, I wish I hadn’t, but sadly, I felt compelled to do so.

  51. #51 cm
    June 6, 2009

    Jason,

    I got the ~10 years figure because I thought you were referring to the “new accomodationists” like Ken Miller or Barbara Forrest or other people that Mooney would support as thee best approach. I don’t know if it is 10, or 8, or 17.5, or 41 years, but what does seem true is that the most widely public “trotting out” of this sort of position has been fairly recent, no? The bolus of it has been in the post 9-11 world, like the “New Atheists” (I dislike that term, btw). Stephen Jay Gould’s Ever Since Darwin is from 1977…I guess I should count that. Of course, getting any of this really precise is probably rather hard or impossible to do.

    I guess the issue for me is how precise we can be about the effect of these sorts of ideas on the populous, and I was taking issue with what seemed like a cause/effect inference from x years’ worth of y amount of accomodationist trotting-out and the fact that America is stiill rather creationist.

  52. #52 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    Jason Rosenhouse, I thought that’s what I was trying to do, point out that things were getting too personal and irrelevant to the point.

  53. #53 John Kwok
    June 6, 2009

    @ cm,

    There has never been a “new accomodationist” stance between science and religion. It has existed ever since the original publication of Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”. Moreover, it may come as a surprise to you that, for nearly fifty years, Evangelical Protestant Americans did accept evolution as valid science from the early to mid 1870s until the mid 1910s. Their longstanding hostility towards it began initially as a harsh reaction to Imperial German militarism during World War I, in response to the inane comments by civilian and military German leaders that their right to wage war was based in part on Darwin’s concept of “survival of the fittest”.

    In recent decades, prominent scientists like invertebrate paleontologist Norman D. Newell (Incidentally he was the Ph. D. advisor of both Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge), and evolutionary geneticists Theodosius Dobzhansky and Francisco J. Ayala were stressing that religion and science could be compatible. In reaction to the 1987 Edwards vs. Aguilard ruling by the US Supreme Court, I believe that eminent ecologist Michael Rosenzweig wrote an article for a leading Jewish periodical in which he explained why, as a devout Jew, he saw no contradiction whatsoever between his religious faith and his commitment towards excellent research in ecology and related aspects of evolutionary biology.

    Contrary to your assertion, then Ken Miller, Barbara Forrest, Keith Miller and Francis Collins are merely the latest in a long line of scientists and philosophers of science who recognize that religion can be compatible with science.

    Sincerely yours,

    John

  54. #54 Matt Penfold
    June 6, 2009

    “If religion is the fundamental problem responsible for the prevalence of evolution denial here in the United States, then how do you explain that, according to recent polling data, only 40% of Britons accept evolution as valid science?
    Could you speculate please?”

    The answer is simple. The poll was badly worded.

  55. #55 John Kwok
    June 6, 2009

    @ Matt Penfold,

    Evolution denial appears to be a growing probelm in the United Kingdom. If it wasn’t, there would be no need for this organization, the United Kingdom’s counterpart to NCSE:

    http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/

    Or for news of this particular episode at the Royal Society:

    http://ncseweb.org/news/2008/09/royal-society-furor-over-creationism-002131

    Or for the Geological Society of London to issue a statement affirming the scientific validity of evolution:

    http://ncseweb.org/news/2008/04/geological-society-london-adds-its-voice-evolution-001698

    Maybe that polling data I’ve cited didn’t come from a poll that was “badly worded”.

  56. #56 GBM
    June 6, 2009

    AMcC:

    “They have shown quite successfully that traditional Christianity is not flatly refuted by evolution, or by anything else in science. Coyne and the New Atheists have never claimed otherwise.”

    If I read you correctly, you are merely asserting that Coyne and the New Atheists have in fact asserted that Christianity is falsified by science. This seems to me flatly true, although rather trivial. I think that most of the other commentators here are intent on defending a somewhat different point, namely that they are not obligated by the ‘spirit’ of their arguments to hold that Christianity is directly falsified by science. Incidentally I am sympathetic to their (perceived) point; after all everyone occasionally indulges in a rhetorical flourish, the principle of charity should hold here, shouldn’t it?

    Incidentally I’m not particularly familiar with the works of the new atheists, having only skimmed Dennett’s Breaking the Spell, but as I recall he spent most of his time outlining a possible evolutionary pathway for religiousness, and then called for more research to be done on the topic. Perhaps I’m missing something but is that what you are calling shallow, dishonest, and bigoted? Or are you referring to some other work/author?

  57. #57 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    GBM, what I was showing was that Jason Rosenhouse had made an untrue statement about what Coyne and other new atheists had said.

    If you want to know what I was calling shallow, dishonest and bigoted, it was the new atheism as I’d have thought was plain. It’s a very simple sentence.

  58. #58 GBM
    June 6, 2009

    Yes it is, but I was hoping that you would defend it a little

  59. #59 GBM
    June 6, 2009

    As far as I can tell you seem to be against it because you view it as politically damaging, but to hold a thing politically damaging does not seem sufficient grounds to hold it shallow, bigoted, etc

  60. #60 Ken Cope
    June 6, 2009

    My apologies for my less than gracious behavior as a guest on Jason’s blog. Incivility always presents such an easy target.

    Coyne is right to decry deference to religion when, in their effort to appear harmless and ingratiating on style points and civility, accommodationist voices dilute the substance and authority of science, unnecessarily ceding authority and weakening the case they should be making for science. Science and religion paint two disparate portraits of the world, while Coyne is told that the only possible civil discussion regards the frames. Framing is the triumph of style at the expense of substance.

  61. #61 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2009

    As far as I can tell you seem to be against it because you view it as politically damaging, but to hold a thing politically damaging does not seem sufficient grounds to hold it shallow, bigoted, etc

    Oh, yes it is. As a gay man, I got into some extremely heated arguments when the fad of spouting racism and ethnic bigotry swept the white gay male community in New York City in the 1970s. The new atheism is just a replay of that, for me. You do realize that someone can both object to the content and its effects, or at least that shouldn’t be too complex to handle at a ScienceBlog.

  62. #62 Ken Cope
    June 6, 2009

    you seem to be against it because you view it as politically damaging

    Here, I’ll splash some Latin on it: argumentum ad consequentiam.

  63. #63 Deen
    June 6, 2009

    I can’t help but notice that Mooney still criticizes Coyne for mixing philosophy with science in his public writing, but seems perfectly fine with Miller or Collins doing the same. I’m sure this has been pointed out to him before, but he still keeps applying this double standard.

  64. #64 cm
    June 6, 2009

    John Kwok, thank you for that info. I guess what would best satisfy me would be a graph with time in years on the x axis and something like number of accomodationist books sold on the y axis; that would give me a better sense of the ethos of accomodationism over time. I mean, there have always been atheists, too, but clearly there seems to have been something of a spate of new bestselling books on that topic in the last decade, so it is helpful to see the time-graph (I doubt that such a graph exists, though, though you never know on the internet).

  65. #65 tomh
    June 6, 2009

    Kwok wrote: I think you’ve created a strawman argument here. By asserting that religion is the primary reason why many Americans don’t accept evolution as valid science, you point the blame squarely at religion, when, as Ken Miller himself notes in “Only A Theory”, there may be other factors at work, such as our in-grained hostility to “authority”.

    An absurd speculation. Consider that every single court case, from Scopes to Dover, has been fueled and funded by religious organizations. The main promoter of anti-evolution in education, the Discovery Institute, is a religious-based organization. The half of American people who reject evolution are, in the main, followers of churches, such as evangelical, that are constantly told by their preachers that evolution is evil and contrary to religion. The only alternative to evolution that anyone ever hears about is religious creationism. To try and claim that evolution denial is anything but religiously based is merely grasping at straws to try and protect religion’s reputation.

    Ken Miller is a prime example from a group that includes people like Alvin Plantinga, Francis Collins, and others, who are intelligent, capable, professionals, that often do fine work in their fields. For instance, Plantinga is a highly regarded philosopher (his specialty is epistemology). Even Phil Johnson was a capable law professor before he got religion and invented the wedge strategy. When religion enters the picture, however, these intelligent people throw reason and logic out the window. It all becomes about protecting their set of beliefs with arguments, often invented, (witness Miller’s silly claim above that evolution denial is not rooted in religion, or Plantinga’s recent piece on evolution and naturalism at Christianity Today, that ignore logic and rationality. Collins is an extreme example with his embarrassing BioLogos web site

    The obvious evils of religion, such as wars fought over dogma, children allowed to die because of religious beliefs, and so on, are easy to condemn. There are less obvious but no less insidious evils, such as the rot that infects an intelligent brain when it buys into religious doctrine, that need to be condemned as well.

  66. #66 gillt
    June 6, 2009

    For the record, I believe I beat Jason to this observation first in the comment section to Mooney’s posts:

    The success of Mooney’s whole accommodationist argument depends on the religious of America converting over to Deism.

    Not only is that laughable and absurd, it’s the height of presumptuousness, not to mention a completely doomed strategy.

  67. #67 Richard Wein
    June 7, 2009

    Jason, no inference about reality can be made with absolute certainty. It is always logically possible, for example, that every observer of the evidence was hallucinating. Therefore science can never flatly refute anything at all in the absolute sense that you are using. It seems over-generous to say that Miller, Haught and Rose have successfully shown that traditional Christianity is not flatly refuted by science (in this absolute sense), when all that’s needed to show this is to make the simple observation I’ve just made. Further more, it seems over-specific to single out “traditional Christianity” as not being flatly refuted by science, when young-earth creationism, flat-earthism and every other variety of pseudoscientific claim are not flatly refuted by science either (in this absolute sense). Given that, you can’t blame a reader for assuming you meant “flatly refuted” in some less absolute sense.

    BTW I agree with your interpretation of Coyne, and I agree with Coyne on this point. It’s just this one specific statement of yours that I have a slight problem with. And I didn’t think it was important enough to mention, but for the fact that I felt Anthony’s objection to it was being unfairly dismissed.

  68. #68 Peter Henderson
    June 7, 2009

    Have you ever thought Jason, that opposition to evolutionary theory could be an anti-British sentiment ?

    What I mean is that maybe, to a lot of Americans, evolution was “invented” by a Briton i.e. Charles Darwin. I seem to remember in the late sixties, huge protests over the anglo-french invention that was concorde. The basis for these protests were supposedly on environmental grounds (seriosly). It was somehow perceived that concorde was unsafe and a danger to the environment, even though there was no scientific basis for this. Thus, concorde was refused US airspace for a long time. Many in the UK saw this whole afair as anti british feeling i.e. if concorde had been designed and built by Amiericans then US citezens would have had no problem with it. I do think (seriously) that if those US protests hadn’t happened the concept of flying faster than the speed of sound would be alive and well.

    So, I often wonder, if biological evolution had been discovered by an American would the level of opposition still be the same ?

  69. #69 SLC
    June 7, 2009

    Re tomh

    I will have to take great exception to Mr. tomhs’ conflating of Ken Miller and Francis Collins with Alvin Plantinga. Prof. Plantinga is a notorious creationist who rejects the theory of evolution in total. Prof. Miller and Dr. Collins, to the contrary, accept the theory of evolution without reservation.

  70. #70 tomh
    June 7, 2009

    @ #67

    I said nothing about whether they accepted evolution. My point was, that while they all can do capable work in their own fields, the rot of religion has infected their brains in the same way.

  71. #71 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2009

    I’ve wondered if the prevalence of Brits and Anglophiles in the ultra-Darwinists might have something to do with nationalism.

    Now I’ll wait for a shoe to drop.

    Concorde was denied air space because it was an environmental disaster. Why don’t you wonder if it’s not the far more prevalent Francophobia that kept that turkey out of our air space?

    Or you might wonder if some of the ultra-Darwinist resistance to noting the rising position of genetic drift has something to do with who discovered it.

  72. #72 Darth Vader
    June 7, 2009

    @ 68 –

    If the “rot of religion” has affected Ken Miller’s brain, then why has Kwok been posting elsewhere online that he heard Miller speak recently in New York City, advising those belonging to religions hostile to science to think seriously of dropping their memberships in these faiths? IMHO that doesn’t sound like Miller is suffering from the “rot of religion”.

  73. #73 John Kwok
    June 7, 2009

    @ 67 –

    Well stated. I strongly second it. Tomh’s response is quite inadequate IMHO.

  74. #74 John Kwok
    June 7, 2009

    @ 63 –

    tomh,

    I suggest you spend time reading Gordon Wood’s excellent histories on the drafting of the United States Constitution and the early American republic and Harold Bloom’s “Closing of the American Mind”. Ken Miller did, and he was profoundly influenced by them, as he observed in his “Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul”.

    I agree with you that religious hostility towards evolution has been an important – probably the key – aspect to evolution denial in the United States. But it may not be the only explanation. Nor does it account for the growing hostility – and or indifference – shown by Britons to both Darwin’s ideas and to evolution itself, as I have noted earlier here. Indeed, if there isn’t a problem in the United Kingdom, then why do you think there is the British equivalent to the National Center for Science Education, the British Center for Science Education (http://bcseweb.org.uk)?

    Last, but not least, you are really grasping at straws by your risible insinuations that Ken Miller suffers as much from the “rot of religion” as ID apologist Alvin Plantinga, who – as SLC has noted correctly – is indeed a “notorious creationist” – or by implying that maybe Ken is really a creationist in disguise (But wait, you’re not the only one. Sadly, both Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers have accused Ken Miller of being a creationist too.).

    John Kwok

  75. #75 John Kwok
    June 7, 2009

    @ 62 –

    cm,

    You’re quite welcome. Alas I’m not aware of anything published that provides what you suggest. It may have to wait for a future Ph. D. dissertation in the history of science (or religion or both) for such a study.

    Appreciatively yours,

    John

  76. #76 Richard Wein
    June 7, 2009

    On another point, Jason, I’d like to challenge your statement that: “If you hold views about a supernatural realm that have absolutely no empirical consequences whatsoever then you have nothing to fear from science.”

    You’ve agreed with Coyne (I think) that the claim of Jesus’ supernatural resurrection is inconsistent with science. But what would you say if someone makes the claim that he has the supernatural power to resurrect people, but chooses not to do so? That claim has no empirical consequences, but I suggest that it is just as inconsistent with science as the claim of Jesus’ resurrection.

    More generally, I don’t see the point in trying to find categories of claims (about reality) which are immune from scientific scrutiny. Why not just consider each claim on its own merits?

  77. #77 film izle
    June 7, 2009

    concorde. The basis for these protests were supposedly on environmental grounds (seriosly). It was somehow perceived that concorde was unsafe and a danger to the environment, even though there was no scientific basis for this. Thus, concorde was refused US airspace for a long time. Many in the UK saw this whole afair as anti

  78. #78 Matt Penfold
    June 7, 2009

    “You’ve agreed with Coyne (I think) that the claim of Jesus’ supernatural resurrection is inconsistent with science. But what would you say if someone makes the claim that he has the supernatural power to resurrect people, but chooses not to do so? That claim has no empirical consequences, but I suggest that it is just as inconsistent with science as the claim of Jesus’ resurrection.”

    It is inconsistant if one assumes honesty on the part of the person making the claim. In order to form an honest belief that someone has certain powers one needs evidence. In the case of supernatural resurrection the kind of evidence needed to honestly believe (as opposed to deluding yourself) that some has those powers is to see it happen. Somone who just accepts another person’s word on the issue is not being honest if they say that person has those powers.

  79. #79 Shirakawasuna
    June 7, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy, here is a more complete quote of what Coyne said:

    “It would appear, then, that one cannot be coherently religious and scientific at the same time. That alleged synthesis requires that with one part of your brain you accept only those things that are tested and supported by agreed-upon evidence, logic, and reason, while with the other part of your brain you accept things that are unsupportable or even falsified. In other words, the price of philosophical harmony is cognitive dissonance. Accepting both science and conventional faith leaves you with a double standard: rational on the origin of blood clotting, irrational on the Resurrection; rational on dinosaurs, irrational on virgin births.”

    I think this excellently demonstrates precisely what others have been trying to tell you: Coyne says they are at odds, not that they flatly refute one another. For someone with so much bluster, you stooped to quotemining ;).

  80. #80 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2009

    Coyne says they are at odds, not that they flatly refute one another. For someone with so much bluster, you stooped to quotemining

    How do they come to be “at odds” if there is no point of refutation by science, which he obviously favors, over “religion” which he obviously rejects? Considering what he says in the longer quote I took from his review, this attempt to twist what he said is pretty pathetic.

    I’m making a list of verbal markers used by new atheists that signal a disconnect in reason, ‘quote mining’ is prominent among them.

    Shirakawasuna, I assume you read the entire review as I did.

  81. #81 SLC
    June 7, 2009

    Re Concorde

    Some 20 years ago, I was pedeling along State Route 28 in Virginia, just east of Dulles Airport when I head a terrible noise. In looking toward the airport, it was the Concorde taking off. It reminded me of watching F 102s taking off with full afterburner at McCord Air Force base in Washington State. What a racket.

  82. #82 Divalent
    June 7, 2009

    “How do they come to be “at odds” if there is no point of refutation by science, …”

    They are at odds because the scientific process by which one arrives at an understanding of the formation of, say, the blood clotting system is fundamentally *incompatible* with the theological process one uses to arrive at the conclusion that Jesus was the product of a Virgin birth.

    If someone uses both processes, they must compartmentalize. Using one process in the other’s arena would produce a different outcome: an incorrect understanding of the origin of the blood clotting mechanism (and age of the earth, structure of the universe, etc), and (at best) agnosticism regarding such questions as Jesus’s virgin birth and the supremacy of the God Zeus.

  83. #83 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2009

    They are at odds because the scientific process by which one arrives at an understanding of the formation of, say, the blood clotting system is fundamentally *incompatible* with the theological process one uses to arrive at the conclusion that Jesus was the product of a Virgin birth.

    I’m glad you used th Virgin birth, which I don’t happen to believe in, because it’s such a good example of why you can’t subject it to science.

    1. There is no physical evidence to examine
    2. It is held to have happened miraculously
    3. It is held to have happened once in history

    No evidence means no evidence that could identify a human father.
    It happened miraculously, which means there is no way to explain how it couldn’t have happened.
    It is held to have happened once in history. As a unique event you could not debunk it by pointing to another or even every other human birth in history.

    There is absolutely no reason you should believe it, as I said I don’t, but any statement that you can subject the actual assertion to science only shows that you lack any real understanding of science.

    And, as is evident as this futile salvage operation goes on, no understanding of honesty.

    Coyne’s meaning couldn’t have been plainer, as the rest of his relevant writing on the subject shows.

  84. #84 Tulse
    June 7, 2009

    No evidence means no evidence that could identify a human father.
    It happened miraculously, which means there is no way to explain how it couldn’t have happened.
    It is held to have happened once in history. As a unique event you could not debunk it

    By that standard, science has nothing to say about my belief that all government officials have been secretly and undetectably replaced by clones who are controlled by undetectable mind rays from undetectable aliens in undetectable spaceships.

    Does your definition of science really involve an inability to reject delusions?

  85. #85 Kevin (nyc)
    June 7, 2009

    “It is held to have happened once in history. ”

    by whom? by you? this is the worst of your ill-informed mishmashed ideas. The whole christ-redeemer story is copied from many many earlier myths.

    and the point is that when people make claims that cannot be measured or disproved, Science can still say “that we have, say, five ways of measuring displacement in time and space, and three ways of measuring heredity and parental relationships… and some experience in telling lies and derived stories from truth…

    and all of this sounds like crap….”

    “There is absolutely no reason you should believe it, as I said I don’t, but any statement that you can subject the actual assertion to science only shows that you lack any real understanding of science. ”

    and you lack any understanding at all. real or imagined…

  86. #86 Seth Manapio
    June 8, 2009

    “Coyne’s meaning couldn’t have been plainer, as the rest of his relevant writing on the subject shows. ”

    I see. So, when Coyne goes to great lengths in one passage to explain precisely what he means by a phrase, the correct way to interpret the meaning of the phrase is to go to other passages that are relevant (in your opinion) and glean the answer you want from them, with you magic meaning finder!

    You study literature, don’t you? Reconstructionalism, or possible post-modernisn?

  87. #87 Richard Wein
    June 8, 2009

    Tulse,

    “By that standard, science has nothing to say about my belief that all government officials have been secretly and undetectably replaced by clones who are controlled by undetectable mind rays from undetectable aliens in undetectable spaceships.”

    You forgot to say one of the magic words, “supernatural” or “miracle”. Those are the words that exempt any claim from scientific scrutiny. Insert the word “supernatural” somewhere in that claim and you’ll be right.

    Presumably, if a scientist gets an experimental result that appears to falsify the hypothesis he was hoping to establish, he can just say, “I’ll assume that was a supernatural event (or miracle), so it doesn’t conflict with my hypothesis. My hypothesis remains unfalsified.” Great way to do science!

  88. #88 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2009

    “It is held to have happened once in history. “by whom? by you?

    By the people who believe that “Jeusus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father”, in other words people who believe in the Virgin Birth. Of whom I am NOT one as I said twice in that comment. I’m beginning to think the new atheism is a product of faulty reading and science education in the English speaking world.

    Tulse, if you really believe that you might be able to find out by examining the PHYSICAL EVIDENCE if you could get some. I’d like to ask any REAL SCIENTISTS who might read this if this basic misunderstanding of the absolute basis of science by the new atheism isn’t in some way troubling to you. Because it’s pretty disturbing to witness it even up into those who have held endowed chairs for the “public understanding of science”.

    Seth Manapio, you do realize that if Coyne has said different, and conflicting things in this one review, he’s guilty of one or more of a range of breeches of scholarship, inconsistency, incoherence, duplicity, ….. And I’ll ask any scholars who might be reading this to look at the blogs to see that this problem is rampant among the new atheists there and is not seen as a problem when the stars of new atheism are revealed to have done it. As this thread shows.

    Doesn’t it trouble any of you that the new atheism is so shallow, so dishonest and so bigoted?

  89. #89 ken adler
    June 8, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy

    Virgin Birth has only happened once? Really? Christianity is the only religion that has a claim on virgin birth?

  90. #90 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2009

    Richard Wein, what would happen if a scientist published a paper that said or contained reasoning to the effect: I’ll assume that was a supernatural event (or miracle), so it doesn’t conflict with my hypothesis. My hypothesis remains unfalsified.”

    Of course, you were being factitious, but there isn’t anything to keep someone from publishing a paper that does that now. Of course it would be a paper with one author, of very few, because no one would join on to a paper that said that, or if they found their name had been put on they’d threaten legal action to have it removed and a retraction published. And it would be a vanity publication because no reputable reviewed journal would accept it. And I’m certain that any real scientist who happened to read it would make it a laughing stock in the field it purported to cover.

    It’s remarkable that Gregor Mendel, or any of a host of other well known scientists who believed in the Virgin Birth or miracles in general seems to not have used the miraculous in a science paper in the modern era.

    And, of course the reason they haven’t done that is because they realize, as all real scientists do that science is about the normal, typical, non-miraculous phenomena of the material universe without recourse to explanations of supernatural intervention. If they didn’t realize that, they wouldn’t be scientists. And that works in the other direction too.

    If the peer review and other normal mechanisms of the scientific community can’t be relied on to maintain the integrity of science when religion is widely believed in it would have not only ceased to exist long ago, it never would have begun in the first place.

    I guess I’m guilty of faith in the normal mechanisms of science which are in the hands of scientists and the editors of their journals. It seems to have worked relatively well.

  91. #91 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2009

    Virgin Birth has only happened once? Really? Christianity is the only religion that has a claim on virgin birth?

    Ken adler, the topic, which was introduced by Divalent and which I responded to was specifically “that Jesus was the product of a Virgin birth.” in comment 80. That was the only claim of a virgin birth, which was under discussion here. That is the one which is held by its believers to have happened only once in history, by its believers.

    And there’s another common error of new atheists, they don’t realize that in order to discuss a proposition, you have to discuss what it is that is proposed. If you don’t you can’t test that proposition for its coherence and certainly not find out if it could be refuted by science.

    You can, however, look at something like the claim “that Jesus was the product of a Virgin birth” as a proposition of history or theology and then you could compare it to other stories of virgin births because the standards of evidence in those methods of investigation would be able to take that into consideration. That part of the belief that it had happened only once, might be mistaken or the entire thing could be the result of the adoption of another culture’s myth to make a cultural point or to make a moral point. Which is what I happen to believe is the reason for the story of the Virgin Birth of Jesus based on having read Crossan. But, that ain’t science.

    Serious history is another discipline that is dismissed as unimportant by the new atheism.

  92. #92 ken adler
    June 8, 2009

    “Serious history is another discipline that is dismissed as unimportant by the new atheism.”

    That’s quite a brush stroke you have there.

    Isn’t evolution and geology a search for the true history of the earth? Since the “new atheists” are largely scientists, how can your statement possible be true?

    But your basically saying that just because someone says something totally crazy is true and there is no way to disprove it, I still have to take their position under consideration? Excuse me while I look for a flying teapot.

  93. #93 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2009

    That’s quite a brush stroke you have there.

    I haven’t seen anyone in the new atheism bothered by the absurdly ahistorical writings of Dawkins, Harris and other new atheist bright lights. I’d talk about broad brushes there but it’s more like spray cans and bigoted graffiti with them. You show me an influential new atheist critique of the pathetic handling of history by its favorite authors and I’ll reconsider.

    Oh the blogs, among their acolytes, history, as accuracy, is considered beneath those who have “science” on their side.

    Isn’t evolution and geology a search for the true history of the earth?

    No, they are physical sciences studying physical phenomena that don’t have an historical record of the kind that the academic study of the history of human culture. Which is what I was clearly talking about as anyone who took history seriously would know.

    Conflation is another habit of the new atheism, no doubt a custom that was borrowed from the social sciences in which that is the usual manner of doing things.

  94. #94 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2009

    Sorry, I cut that sentence off in editing.

    No, they are physical sciences studying physical phenomena that don’t have an historical record of the kind that the academic study of the history of human culture is based in.

  95. #95 Jud
    June 8, 2009

    Jason wrote: Notice that [Coyne] says only that science suggests the impossibility of human asexual reproduction or life after death, not the absolute impossibility of those things.

    I think this wording confuses a bit some things you expressed more clearly in your original post:

    – Some of the things believed by most religious adherents in the U.S. today conflict with scientific/naturalistic explanations, i.e., they are miraculous in nature (and are central tenets of their faiths precisely because of that miraculous nature).

    – One can accommodate at one and the same time both a “scientific” way of thinking that demands factual and logical support for one’s conclusions, and on the other hand a “religious” or “faith-based” way of thinking that believes in the possibility, indeed the past occurrence of, supernatural events. Those who think of themselves as religious but allow for the factual and logical truth of evolution fall into this category.

    – Such accommodation, though possible, ain’t easy.

  96. #96 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2009

    Jud, I did read the post, and I’ve read Coyne. If I was a new atheist I’d talk about moving goal posts at this point.

    Thinking about the comments left here since last night.
    The only thing this discussion is proving is that the new atheism is anti-scientific and illogical.

    If want to debunk the belief that “ Jesus was the only begotten Son of God The Father, Born of the Virgin Mary” you have to deal with what is believed, which includes that it was a miraculous event that happened once in the entire history of, at least, the world.

    I’ve gone into why science couldn’t do refute that, specific belief, without having any physical evidence.

    Now you want to talk about other stories of virgin births in history to try to wriggle out of the unscientific claim that you can debunk the traditional Christian belief in the Virgin Birth of Jesus.

    OK. What part of the Virgin Birth of Jesus could be debunked scientifically. There is one part that could be debunked but I don’t think the new atheists would care for how that could be done.

    You would have to find one or more verifiable, natural, virgin human births to refute the claim that A virgin birth happened once in history. Which would mean that the one Christians believe in was not the only virgin birth.

    But that still leaves the birth of Jesus untouched because there is no way to prove that Jesus was not “the only begotten Son of God the Father” conceived miraculously by a virgin. His birth could still be the only one that fulfills all of the points in the traditional description. Science could only refute part of it by finding another miraculous, unnatural, virgin birth, which science can’t do.
    Well, there could be a way to test a modern claim like that, but not without a court order and a lot of tabloid style research.

    You can’t scientifically refute what a belief by changing the proposition you attempt to debunk or you’re not debunking the proposition. That’s a fundamental requirement of logic and science depends on logic. You have to discuss the proposition as it is claimed. And, unless you can show how it could be done without altering the proposed miracle in this case, I’m afraid, you’re not going to be able to touch that with science, not without violating the requirements of science.
    The only possible way to do it with science would be to have actual, physical specimens from Jesus and his mother and, perhaps, the real human father or a very close relative of his.

    It’s scandalous that the new atheists on a ScienceBlog aren’t bothered by such an obvious and clear cut call by their own for the violation of the requirements of science and logic. It’s scandalous that scientists wouldn’t point out that they want to. ,

    These are called “ScienceBlogs” for some reason, aren’t they?

  97. #97 Tulse
    June 8, 2009

    Tulse, if you really believe that you might be able to find out by examining the PHYSICAL EVIDENCE if you could get some.

    No, Anthony, you clearly don’t understand — the aliens running this conspiracy are so powerful (indeed, from our puny perspective they might be called “omnipotent”) that they have wiped out all physical evidence. Don’t you get it, man? Don’t you see?! Our world is being manipulated by omnipotent beings and YOU CAN’T TELL!!!

    I’d like to ask any REAL SCIENTISTS who might read this if this basic misunderstanding of the absolute basis of science by the new atheism isn’t in some way troubling to you.

    While you’re at it, ask some REAL SCIENTISTS to explain the notion of probabilistic nature of truth claims, and how science has moved away from the notion of certainty.

    But that still leaves the birth of Jesus untouched because there is no way to prove that Jesus was not “the only begotten Son of God the Father” conceived miraculously by a virgin.

    And there’s no way to prove that Jesus was not King of the Leprechauns, or Mr. Bojangles, or the shooter on the grassy knoll. Should we take all of those claims equally seriously?

  98. #98 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2009

    Tulse, you, like some of the biggest names in the new atheism, are in serious need of studying a basic, college levelm text book on probability. Do yourself a favor and do that.

    As I implied the first time I talked to you, the rest of this is too silly to respond to. Though I’m not unhappy to have a specimen of typical blog thread new atheist reasoning for people might want to contrast with what I said.

  99. #99 Kevin (NYC)
    June 8, 2009

    bah! you have no arguments you just go on and on with your insults.

    We’ve heard the same virgin birth stories in all sorts of mythologies. Yet science has no evidence of parthenogenesis in mammals… unlike gila monsters for instance.

    and you say science can’t provide an opinion on this issue.

    Well I think you are wrong. Science tells us about things that happen and why. In this case there is a birth and science can tell us exactly ONE method for this to happen (with a few variants).

    Seems like a sound scientific basis for rejecting a non-sperm origin for this described person.

  100. #100 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2009

    bah! you have no arguments you just go on and on with your insults.

    And they said that irony died. But they never heard new atheists whine when someone held them to their own standards.

    We’ve heard the same virgin birth stories in all sorts of mythologies. Yet science has no evidence of parthenogenesis in mammals… unlike gila monsters for instance.

    Talk about your moving goal posts. And not getting the most basic fact of logic, that you’ve got to deal with the proposition as it is.

    Why not go to the hymenoptera too while you’re at it sci-boy.

    Science tells us about things that happen and why.

    Yeah, I can see that in your brilliant refutation above.

    If there are any real scientists in the audience, here you go. This is where the new atheism is going to bring science. Right back to Aristotle and the scholastics. And those are the clued in ones.

    I should confess. I came back here to copy this exchange to post on the new blog I’ve started to document this pure brilliance. I didn’t expect this bonus.

  101. #101 Jud
    June 8, 2009

    Anthony wrote: Jud, I did read the post, and I’ve read Coyne. If I was a new atheist I’d talk about moving goal posts at this point.

    Anthony, if you got the impression somewhere in my comment to Jason that I was referring to anything you wrote, that would be incorrect. I was simply telling Jason that I thought the portion of one of his comments from which I quoted was better explained in his original post. Nothing to do with you, I’m afraid.

  102. #102 kevin (NYC)
    June 8, 2009

    “Talk about your moving goal posts”

    ha ha ha guess you don’t know what the word means and have to resort to insults!

    how the weather under that bridge?

  103. #103 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2009

    Jud, I’m sorry about that. If you look at the time stamps it was at the end of an insomniac night.

    Kevin, maybe I’m just taking Richard Dawkins briliant advice, now that he and Coyne are even going after their fellow atheists like E. Scott.

    http://richarddawkins.net/article,3767,Truckling-to-the-Faithful-A-Spoonful-of-Jesus-Helps-Darwin-Go-Down,Jerry-Coyne#368197

    I’m wondering, for the true faithful-faithless. Jason Rosenhouse, tell us how to apply probability mathematics to the odds of there being an only begotten Son of God the Father miraculously conceived and born of a Virgin. Now that the assertion by your fans has been made, I want to know what the math would look like. Remember, it’s a miraculous birth that happened once in the history of the world.

  104. #104 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2009

    Jason Rosenhouse, I really was serious about asking about applying probability to the question of the Virgin Birth of Jesus as it is believed in. I think it’s a rather important question to settle as some of the new atheists seem to think it can be done.

    Can probability be applied to this assertion and how would it be done? Or are they mistaken?

  105. #105 Kevin (nyc)
    June 8, 2009

    “Remember, it’s a miraculous birth that happened once in the history of the world”

    you’re wierd. why do you keep saying that? People say it happened many times. go list the gods that had virgin births..

    I’ll start

    “Athena leaped from Zeus’s head, fully grown and armed — with a shout!”

    or

    “According to Graves, Hesiod (c. 700 BC) relates that Athena was a parthenogenous daughter of Metis, wisdom or knowledge, a Titan who ruled the fourth day and the planet Mercury.”

    oh there’s that word again!!

  106. #106 Anthony McCArthy
    June 9, 2009

    Jason Rosenhouse, I really think as a mathematician you owe it to your readers to clear this point up. Can the Virgin Birth, as it is laid out in traditional Christian belief be the subject of mathematical probability. Would you be willing to put your name on an attempt to do so. Either you should say how it could be done or you owe it to your readers to say it’s not possible.

    You wouldn’t want them to linger in logical error would you? Or isn’t that the goal of the new atheists? To dispel error?

    More generally, are you proud of the non-science converts to the new atheism as they express themselves on the blogs? Is their understanding of science and logic the one which is the goal of the new atheists? I will be posting this on my blog. It’s not a challenge yet but it could be.

  107. #107 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2009

    Kevin (nyc) I’ve already addressed that point in one of the recent comments, where you can review it if you didn’t understand it. I don’t have time for you guys to waste with bringing up points already covered.

  108. #108 Matt Penfold
    June 9, 2009

    What does probability have to tell us about the possibility of mammalian pathenogensis ?

    The simple fact that there is never been an observed example of mammalian pathenogensis should tell us something. It is not like there is a lack of data. Humans have been keeping mammals for thousands of years and not once in all that time has pathenogensis been obeserved. The evidence is clear: It does not happen.

    But still, some people prefer to believe myth from a book rather than scientific evidence.

  109. #109 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2009

    Jason Rosenhouse, I thought I should tell you that I’m going to start talking about request for clarification of a claim by the new atheists on your blog in other places.

  110. #110 tomh
    June 9, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy wrote: Jason Rosenhouse, I thought I should tell you that I’m going to start talking about request for clarification of a claim by the new atheists on your blog in other places.

    You sound like you’re applying for a job as a late-night comic on TV.

  111. #111 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2009

    >i> You sound like you’re applying for a job as a late-night comic on TV.

    More like Richard Dawkins, really. And I’m going to post on that tomorrow.

    Jason Rosenhouse, I thought it was only honorable to let you see this.

    http://anthonymic.blogspot.com/

  112. #112 Kevin (NYC)
    June 9, 2009

    Don’t click on the link!!!

    it’s poison!!!

  113. #113 Matt Penfold
    June 9, 2009

    I am not quite sure about the poision bit. It is certainly a load of bollocks.

  114. #114 Peter Henderson
    June 9, 2009

    Concorde was denied air space because it was an environmental disaster

    Since when did Americans care about the environment ?

  115. #115 Kevin (NYC)
    June 9, 2009

    This may be dating me but..

    Mush and Mild

    “Don’t drink the milk- it’s spoiled!” When Cap’s back-pension comes in, the gang won’t ever have to worry about spoiled mild or lumpy mush again. ”

    http://www.amazon.com/Little-Rascals-Vol-9-VHS/dp/B00004U291

    I should have said “spoiled”

  116. #116 SLC
    June 9, 2009

    Re Anthony McCarthy

    The following item is pertinent to the issue of Joshua of Nazareth and his alleged virgin birth. This notion of a virgin birth is the result of a prophecy in the Hebrew Bible. Unfortunately, due to an error in the translation from Hebrew to Greek, the Hebrew word for young woman was mistranslated to the Greek word for virgin. We know this because the same Hebrew word is used in the Hebrew Bible to refer to women who were manifestly not virgins. Oddly enough, Richard Dawkins discusses this in his book, “The Selfish Gene,” in an appendix. However, this issue is well known to biblical scholars.

    However, I would argue that the entire issue of whether Joshua of Nazareth was conceived as the result of some sort of miraculous intervention is probably of little consequence to modern Christianity. What is of far greater significance is the issue of the Resurrection. If the Resurrection didn’t happen, then the entire edifice of Christianity collapses.

  117. #117 Matt Penfold
    June 9, 2009

    “If the Resurrection didn’t happen, then the entire edifice of Christianity collapses.”

    There are Anglicans who reject the literalism of the Resurrection. One was even became the Archbishop of York, who is second only to the Archbishop of Cantebury. Of course for such Anglicans the whole of idea of a god who is physically manifest is rather silly, and such Anglicanism is more akin to a philosophy for living.

  118. #118 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2009

    SLC, since I’m not a Christian, I’m not greatly troubled about any of the miracles either having or not having happened. I am troubled that the owner of this blog apparently doesn’t want to clear up a basic issue of whether or not mathematics can be applied to find out the odds of the Virgin Birth, as believed in by Christians happened.

    If you hadn’t guessed, it’s the logical and scientific competence of the new atheism and the integrity of those who promote it that is the object of the question. I’m not finding much of either in the new atheism, bigotry pretending to be motivated by upholding science and reason.

    You seem to have some clue, are you happy with the level of argument by the atheists on this blog thread?

  119. #119 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2009

    And, I would take anything that Dawkins says about anything with too much salt than is good for health. The guy is a rinky dink scholar. He drove my brother from atheism into agnosticism, my brother was a history major.

  120. #120 SLC
    June 9, 2009

    Re Anthony McCarthy

    Relative to the issue of the mistranslation from Hebrew into Greek, Prof. Dawkins is not the only source. This was discussed in an issue of Time Magazine back in the 1950s. I also had a conversation with a colleague in the Physics Department in which I was graduate student, who happened to be a Catholic Priest. He indicated that this issue was much discussed in dialogues between Catholic theologians. It was also the view of the late Episcopal Bishop of California, James Pike that Joshua of Nazareth was anointed long after his quite natural birth.

    Re Matt Penfold

    There are Anglicans who reject the literalism of the Resurrection.

    It is interesting that this issue came up in the Dover trial during the cross examination of Prof. Haught. He stated that, had there been a video camera in the location where Joshua of Nazareth appeared to some of his followers, the videotape would not have revealed his presence, thus implying that the appearance was not physical but in a vision.

  121. #121 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2009

    SLC, it wouldn’t matter if the word “virgin” was or wasn’t a translation error, the question I asked Jason Rosenhouse is still the same, could the odds of what is believed be figured honesty with mathmatical probability, how would it be done if it could and would he be willing to put his name to it if it was done. Or are the new atheists on his own blog wrong and it couldn’t be done.

    Quite frankly, the virgin part wasn’t the one that seems to be the biggest hurdle for atheists to get over, its God. Because if God is real and omnipotent, the virgin part wouldn’t pose any problem.

    I’m still inclined to go with the modern translators who still use the word Virgin, only because there seem to be more of them.

  122. #122 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2009

    And I’m still wondering, SLC, do you think the level of understanding of the basic requirements of science and logic demonstrated by many of the atheists on this blog thread is what you’d be happy with?

  123. #123 Tulse
    June 9, 2009

    a basic issue of whether or not mathematics can be applied to find out the odds of the Virgin Birth, as believed in by Christians happened.

    If by “as believed by Christians” you mean “a miracle occurred”, then of course not — but science rules out miracles tout court. If, on the other hand, you merely mean the belief that a woman gave birth to a male child without being impregnated by another human, then yes, we can bring probability to bear, based on past history.

  124. #124 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2009

    Tulse, you’re the one who brought up probability to try to refute my point that the question couldn’t be the subject of science, and now you’re trying to get out of that one too.

    No science, no probability. Well, that’s what I was arguing in the first place. Now, Jason Rosenhouse, would you correct any of the new atheists here who still don’t get that point because they don’t seem to understand it when I say it. Or doesn’t the level of science comprehension among the new atheists really matter, as long as they’re anti-religious. Which is the only logical conclusion I’m drawing from the lack of interest in correcting their anti-science, logic-free assertions that I find all over the ScienceBlogs.

  125. #125 Tulse
    June 9, 2009

    Tulse, you’re the one who brought up probability to try to refute my point that the question couldn’t be the subject of science, and now you’re trying to get out of that one too.

    Nonsense — the question of the empirical phenomenon is a question of science. Any claim about the physical world is. If the issue is “miracles”, then science has plenty to say about that as well: THEY DON’T HAPPEN. This isn’t a case of science commenting on some issue that is orthogonal to its interests, such as morality or aesthetics. Instead, it is precisely the domain that is the concern of science, namely how the physical world works.

  126. #126 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2009

    OK, there you go. Tulse DOES think that you can study the Virgin Birth with science, though there is no physical evidence, it is held to have happened by miraculous means and once in human history. I’d love to have any real scientist give us an example of an experiment that could take all of those fully into account. How would you do it?

    So we can see the best science thinking of the new atheism on full display. This is what your movement sees as the future of the public understanding of science. Put up now, please.

  127. #127 SLC
    June 9, 2009

    Re Anthony

    Actually, a virgin birth is not impossible. There are a few humans who are true hermaphrodites, that is, they have a full set of sex organs of both sexes. Now, most of them exhibit the male organs externally, which presents a mechanical problem but, if the male organs are internal, self-impregnation is not impossible. That is, such an individual could, in principal impregnate herself/himself.

    A long time ago, I read about just such a person. This individual, who had external male organs and from all outward appearances was a male, began bleeding from his anus for no apparent cause once a month (this was before the XRay came into widespread use). This continued until he was in his early 40s when the bleeding stopped, again for no apparent cause. In the interim, he married and had several children. After he died, an autopsy was performed and it was discovered that he had fully capable ovaries and a uterus, with a birth canal that emptied into the large intestine.

  128. #128 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2009

    SLC, of course, none of that applies to the question at hand, which, I’m afraid, Richard Dawkins is on record as calling a question that you can apply science to. I’m revising a piece I wrote about that absurd statement two years back.

    Is it any wonder that the innocent faith of the new atheist lay persons is so strong when Richard Dawkins said it was possible back when he held that ironically named chair at Oxford.

    I’ll check in tomorrow to be enlightened about the methodology of applying science to this question. The thing I just read on another blog trying to answer the question was one of the most absurd things I’ve ever seen on a blog, well other than “Free Republic or the trash at Town Hall.

  129. #129 Tulse
    June 9, 2009

    Tulse DOES think that you can study the Virgin Birth with science, though there is no physical evidence, it is held to have happened by miraculous means and once in human history

    Actually, what Tulse thinks is that the claim of birth of a male human child by an female who claims she was not impregnated is indeed addressable by science. But what Tulse also thinks is that science does not accept the notion that something happens miraculously. Such claims are ruled out of bounds in science. So the claim of the “miracle” of the Virgin Birth is, in essence, literally nonsense as far as science is concerned. It’s not that science doesn’t or can’t address the claim — it does, and finds it idiotic.

    (And Tulse would also point out that science deals with unique historical events all the time, but looks at the universal causes that might give rise to them.)

    Perhaps if you put away your incredibly annoyingly smug prose style, and actually made clear what your issue is, we could communicate more directly.

  130. #130 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2009

    So the claim of the “miracle” of the Virgin Birth is, in essence, literally nonsense as far as science is concerned. It’s not that science doesn’t or can’t address the claim — it does, and finds it idiotic.

    I’m so glad you said that.
    So science would hold that anyone proposing to answer the question of wether or not the Virgin Birth happened was an idiot, or at least spouting idiocy. I wonder if any of the new atheists out there would refute Tulse on this point, or do you agree with Tulse by unanimous consent?

    Because Richard Dawkins has said it is a question for science. In other words, he made an idiotic statement on the matter, due to his basic misunderstanding of science.

  131. #131 Kevin (nyc)
    June 9, 2009

    “Perhaps if you put away your incredibly annoyingly smug prose style, and actually made clear what your issue is, we could communicate more directly. Posted by: Tulse | June 9, 2009 8:08 PM”

    don’t think that’s gonna happen. he just repeats what’s already been answered and then distorts your words.

    useless.

  132. #132 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2009

    No, I’m not going to be drawn off topic. I’m just testing Coyne’s assertions about how scientific and logical is the new atheism. As seen on this thread, obviously not very.

    As to being smug, there is nothing more smug than people who think they are superior due to their adherence to science, especially when they show just how false that is. It’s sort of like the fundamentalists who think they have God on their side as they kill people and steal stuff.

    The new atheism is a shallow, dishonest, bigoted intellectual fad.

  133. #133 Dan S.
    June 9, 2009

    there is nothing more smug than people who think they are superior due to their adherence to science, especially when they show just how false that is. It’s sort of like the fundamentalists who think they have God on their side as they kill people and steal stuff.

    Yeah! Just like that! Except for, well . . . the killing people and stealing stuff bits . . .

    (Not that it can’t be kinda irritating, I have to admit – even pretty much agreeing re: the basic almost certainly non-supernatural nature of reality – and having a small background in the social sciences that Anthony inexplicably lashed out against earlier in the thread, I’d have to say there’s often a lot to criticize in their understandings & representations of culture & society. But y’know, they’re not, in general, the ones gunning down doctors or trying to push through forced-birth legislation or screaming about the evils of contraception or fighting to keep two grownups who love each other from getting married or preaching divinely-ordained wifely submission or being pretty gung-ho on torture. You’d want the fundies for that.

  134. #134 Science Avenger
    June 10, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy said: Doesn’t it trouble any of you that the new atheism is so shallow, so dishonest and so bigoted?

    Frankly, the only person who seems shallow, dishonest, and bigoted here is you, as you write barely coherent screeds (hoping apparently that people will confuse your inability to express yourself clearly with some sort of genius) full of phrases seemingly tossed about at random, about the “new atheists” that bears not the slightest similarity to what any of them write or believe. One could be forgiven for thinking you were once beaten up by an atheist and this is all part of some post-adolescent psychological revenge mindgame you are playing with yourself. Yeah, that’s about the right imagery.

    Comparing the New Atheists to fundamentalists or IDers makes you a delusional fool, period. They aren’t, in any substantive way, similar.

  135. #135 Magnetic Lobster
    June 10, 2009

    Anthony,

    As I understand you, your point is that the issue under consideration is a virgin birth, and is defined to be a miracle. I think your basic argument is essentially that a miracle is not subject to science, and therefore science can have nothing to say about the proposed virgin birth.

    I think the point that others have tried to make is that science can at least say something about the plausibility of the proposed event and that plausibility is relevant. Others don’t seem to accept your attempt to define away the problem. Apparently you subscribe in NOMA and they don’t.

    If you ask someone,
    “if A and B are true, isn’t it the case that C is true?”
    it’s fair for them to answer by pointing out that they don’t think that B is true. I don’t think this quite qualifies as shallow, dishonest and bigoted. You can’t force someone to accept your premise.

    Is this really worth all the vitriol?

  136. #136 solomon
    June 10, 2009

    PK,

    [Maybe someone can explain why believers can’t accept the
    possibility that their all powerful god created the universe (in 7 days 6000 years ago, or whatever) and made it look billions of years old.]
    I can explain it.Indeed the powerful God creates the Heavens & the Earth in 6 days(I correct you) & then he rests on his Arasy.1 day according to God is 1000 years to humans.So God created it in 6000 years.And where did you got the crap saying it was created 6000 years ago?It was not created 6000 years ago, but it took God 6000 years to create it.Is that understood?God might have created it billions of years ago.You should refer to the right source when making such statements and the only one and true source is in the Qoran.Thats why the earth looks like a billion years you scum.

  137. #137 Anthony McCArthy
    June 10, 2009

    Dan S. knows from a few years of trolling me around the blogs that I’ve written tens of thousands of words upholding a womans right to choose what she does with her own body and that the state has no legitimate interest in preventing her from choosing an abortion. He should know, since he’s not stupid, that many other religious people also hold that view.

    He also knows that I’ve written many thousands about the social sciences and their scientific and logical lapses, which seem to have ballooned now that even economists can pretend they’re biologists, thanks to the Sociobiologists and Evo-psych. Those lapses don’t seem to trouble the new atheists, Richard Dawkins being among its greatest heroes.

    Dan and I go way back and he’s seldom lost an opportunity to try to associate me with political positions and ideas he knows I’ve opposed. He’s tolled me across a number of blogs so his showing up here doesn’t surprise me, nor does his spreading lies about what I’ve said by innuendo.

    full of phrases seemingly tossed about at random, about the “new atheists” that bears not the slightest similarity to what any of them write or believe.

    As the first comment I made here was to correct the original post with a list of quotations from Jerry Coyne, that’s kind of rich.

    Most of the other things I’ve said here were in response to what people on this thread said so it was about what they wrote and, I assume, believe.

    One of the things that seems to be universal among new atheists is that they do what Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have encouraged them to do, blame all religious believers for “creating an atmosphere” which allows the worst that is done in the name of religion to happen. In other words, vicarious blame is one of the founding principles of the new atheism.

    I figured out, while reading Jerry Coyne do just that at his blog, lying about Francis Collins pretty obviously, that I realized you guys don’t deserve to benefit from a double standard you practice. So, until the new atheists explicitly stop practicing a double standard, they don’t get to set rules to their own benefit.

    As to who has been shallow, I doubt I’ll find any impartial judges here, there don’t seem to be many of those who visit these kinds of blogs dedicated to bigotry. I wasn’t expecting to find any here.

    “Science Avenger”, yeah, right. Upholding the standards of scientific research and understanding as demonstrated by the new atheists on this blog thread. Well, I did say it was a shallow and dishonest, as well as bigoted fad.

    And as solomon proves, illiterate as well. I’m not a Christian, nevermind a creationist as I’ve said here at least a half a dozen times.

    Like Jerry Coyne, you’re mighty thin skinned bigots.

  138. #138 Anthony McCarthy
    June 10, 2009

    I think your basic argument is essentially that a miracle is not subject to science, and therefore science can have nothing to say about the proposed virgin birth.

    What I said is that in this case, which was brought up first by Divalent at, I think, comment 80, that the lack of physical evidence and the definition of the event made it impossible to use science to debunk it. I also said, twice that I don’t believe it happened. Not that many of the new atheists seem to have bothered to notice.

    As for vitriol, you haven’t noticed anyone else here being vitriolic? You haven’t noticed Richard Dawkins praising Jerry Coyne for going after Eugenie Scott hammer and tongs because she thinks there’s too much vitriol in the new atheism? Seems to me you’re being kind of one sided in where you’re finding that vitriol.

    I decided, as I said in the last comment, that I’m not going to keep myself to a standard that the new atheism has doesn’t apply to them. Not when talking with them, and not when they start it. I think you might want to go back and read my first few comments and the responses to it and see that it was the new atheists who are responsible for the tone down here at the bottom of the thread.

  139. #139 solomon
    June 10, 2009

    Tulse,
    You are the idiot.

    [So the claim of the “miracle” of the Virgin Birth is, in essence, literally nonsense as far as science is concerned. It’s not that science doesn’t or can’t address the claim — it does, and finds it idiotic.]
    Can’t you see the wondrous God creations around you.Is that more difficult or to make Mary impregnated without a man more difficult?God have shown a lot of proofs that you can see with your naked eye yet you atheists always try to find a way to deny that.

  140. #140 Anthony McCarthy
    June 10, 2009

    Here you go, Richard Dawkins and his evidence free science, a revered figure in the “science based” new atheism, widely quoted and adored on the ScienceBlogs.

    http://anthonymic.blogspot.com/

  141. #141 Anthony McCarthy
    June 10, 2009

    solomon, you should really consider a remedial reading course. Then you might want to take one in ground level logic. What can be done about the lying, I don’t know.

  142. #142 Anthony McCarthy
    June 10, 2009

    Thinking about what Tulse said at 127 is a demonstration of one of the common misconceptions about science that seems to be widely held by the new atheists.

    Apparently they think that it’s science to assert that something is impossible and idiotic and to dismiss it on that basis without actually being able to look at what is claimed. You can dismiss it out of hand, no one can stop you, you might even get it right that way, but that’s absolutely not science.

    I wonder how many of the successfully demonstrated findings of science were originally held to be impossible and idiotic, especially by established scientists, only to be confirmed.

    Jason Rosenhouse and any others who have real lives in math and science who might read this. Look at the thread. Look at the concept of what is science held by the new atheists here. Look at the level of dishonesty and illogic held by those who fully believe they are the avengers of science. You might want to consider that few of the participants have made any attempt to correct those howling misconceptions. Why? Are they afraid of telling a new atheist that they’re wrong about science or logic?

    And this is a blog that is supposed to be dedicated to fighting against illogic and scientific dishonesty. Do you really think that the new atheism has delivered what it promised? As seen by the new atheists on the blogs, it’s an abject failure.

    Of course my intention here wasn’t to uphold a religious dogma that I don’t believe in, it was exactly to see how long it would take for people who knew better to dare to tell them they weren’t making any sense. That doesn’t seem to have happened. It hasn’t on any other new atheist blog I’ve ever visited, perhaps excepting once that I remember on Jim Lippard’s blog. But he’s an unusually honest guy.

    So, here on this blog thread, here at the ScienceBlogs, at the center of the new atheist establishment, its all right for atheists to say the most illogical things about science without refutation. It seems that mixing in some anti-religious bigotry makes up for that in the new atheism.

  143. #143 Dan S.
    June 10, 2009

    he’s seldom lost an opportunity to try to associate me with political positions and ideas he knows I’ve opposed

    Er . . . does this accusation make sense in context? You compared (hopefully tongue in cheek?) “new atheists” being irritating and fundies killing and stealing, and I couldn’t help but point out the silliness of this, throwing in a slightly more serious bit – after all, my guess is that most atheists aren’t anti-choice or anti-marriage equality, etc.; that’s overwhelmingly associated with fundies. (More complicated, of course, but…) Re: pro-torture – well, there is Hitchens, but at least he admitted, after experiencing it, that waterboarding is torture . . . . But anyway, on top of this my implicit assumption is you disagree with these positions and ideas. In fact, when we’ve argued over at Echidne’s, that’s why I’ve made occasionally made comparisons with these kinds of things – because I assume you’ll be like, Ewwww! and just maybe consider what you’re saying (or also, look who else is saying this, who else is pushing these ideas.)

  144. #144 Anthony McCarthy
    June 10, 2009

    Dan S. we aren’t at Echidne’s any more and you’ve done it at blogs where you can be fairly certain that people won’t be familiar with my position as a supporter of the absolute separation of church and state who is located on the political left. Some of the others here might have some excuse to assume I’m a fundamentalist right-winger, if they don’t care to read what I’ve said already here, you know better and are constantly using that distraction on discussions like this.

  145. #145 Magnetic Lobster
    June 10, 2009

    So if you’re the one setting up the definitions, and if you’re defined the problem to be impenetrable to science, I don’t see why you’re even asking other people whether science has something to say about it. That would seem to be such an uninteresting question that I’m not surprised that people would ignore your question and instead question the assumptions.

    As far as whether it’s worth the vitriol, I guess your answer is “yes.”

  146. #146 Anthony McCarthy
    June 10, 2009

    Magnetic Lobster, I didn’t set the definition of the Virgin Birth, Christians did that centuries before there was much of a scientific method. I’m not making it up, you know. No more than I would have ever been so cluess as to assert that it could be the subject of science. That took Richard Dawkins and Divalent to do.

    The only people who were making stuff up were the ones who tried to bend the requirements of logic and science and the definition of the Virgin Birth to suit their purposes. As anyone with even rudimentary logic could have concluded in my first two sentences in #81 where I first addressed Divalent, I don’t have a dog in that particular fight.

    Now that you’re asking questions, you happen to notice the vitriol among the atheists here? Or is that invisible to you?

  147. #147 Tulse
    June 10, 2009

    Apparently they think that it’s science to assert that something is impossible and idiotic and to dismiss it on that basis without actually being able to look at what is claimed.

    If you read at all carefully, you would see that the correspondents here are very clear that, if the claim is a woman giving birth to a male child without insemination, the likelihood that a natural mechanism could do so is infinitesimally small. This is what the whole discussion of probabilities was about, and it makes clear that, for that particular claim, no one is claiming it is “impossible”.

    However, once you argue for supernatural mechanisms, for “miraculous” events, science does indeed rule those out tout court as impossible. Methodological naturalism demands it.

    If you can’t distinguish between these two types of claims, then it is no surprise that you are having trouble following the discussion.

    Jason Rosenhouse and any others who have real lives in math and science who might read this.

    Um…I also have a PhD is a science discipline, and was also once Catholic, so I in fact do have little hands-on experience with both science and (claimed) miracles. Again, your smug condescension is not helping the conversation.

  148. #148 Anthony McCarthy
    June 10, 2009

    Tulse, you know what your’re doing now, you’re moving those famous goal posts that the new atheists are always whining about.

    You cannot deal with a proposition without dealing with what is proposed.

    You can’t change the proposition to suit your purposes or you’re not dealing with what was originally proposed.

    You guys are the ones who think you’re masters of logic and you don’t even know that? Good grief.

    If you want to fight with someone who thinks you can study the supernatural with science, go take it up with Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins because they’re the ones who are turning science on its head to try to make it go badly where it shouldn’t have ever tried to go before.

  149. #149 Uppity
    June 10, 2009

    The simple fact that there is never been an observed example of mammalian pathenogensis should tell us something. It is not like there is a lack of data. Humans have been keeping mammals for thousands of years and not once in all that time has pathenogensis been obeserved. The evidence is clear: It does not happen.

    You ignore the “black swan problem.” Using your approach, naturalists prior to 1790 would have had to conclude (wrongly) that all swans were white since only white swans had been observed over the centuries to that point. More practically, the current economic crisis was in no small part driven by similarly based conclusions.

  150. #150 Magnetic Lobster
    June 10, 2009

    Anthony,

    If your point is that there is some “official” definition of the virgin birth and that this very definition makes the subject impenetrable to science, then perhaps this definition is sufficiently airtight that you are right.

    My point is simply that you can’t force other people to accept this rather narrow definition of the event. Under their assumptions it’s reasonable to conclude that science can in fact comment on the proposed event, and one need not be dishonest or stupid to come to this conclusion.

    As for recognizing vitriol, I guess I see some of it on both sides. It’s hard to discern emotions with any certainty from reading text, but my general impression is that you’re the only one here who is experiencing elevated blood pressure from this issue. I hope my impression is wrong and that you’re actually less angry than it appears.

  151. #151 eddie
    June 10, 2009

    Why does mccarthy keep moving the goalposts and then smugly accusing others of moving thre goalposts? He didn’t broach the subject of virgin birth but has repeatedly claimed that the discussion be concerned only with xian claims, even when it’s been repeatedly explained to him that other mythologies have made similar claims.

    And why does mccarthy keep accusing others of trolling when he has shown such arrogance in his ignorance?

    Why, even in his first comment here, does mccarthy quotemine jason’s paragraph;

    There are counter arguments, of course. By all means read Miller, Haught, Ruse and all the others on this subject. They have shown quite successfully that traditional Christianity is not flatly refuted by evolution, or by anything else in science. Coyne and the New Atheists have never claimed otherwise. The trouble is simply that their attempted reconciliations seem terribly implausible, to me and to a lot of others.

    and claim it “is a pretty huge whopper of a false statement”. But then follow it with a bunch of other quotemines which, even with his selection fail to give the lie to either of jason’s assertions about Miller, etc, or about Coyne, etc? Simply put, the fact that Coyne is disagreeing with the arguments of Miller, etc does not make Jason a liar. Claiming it does shows that the liar is mccarthy.

    And why does mccarthy ask “Are you objecting to a very careful reading of things” when it is clear to all that the objection is to his not careful but selective reading of things? Oh, of course, it was an excuse to vent his spleen with unfounded and unsupported accusations against “new atheists”.

    And where is the source for mccarthy’s “quote” of john e shuey? I have read some of john’s work and can cite; http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2009/05/texas-faith-misunderstanding-m.html
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/northtexasatheists/message/410
    http://www.examiner.com/blog/includes/loadComments.cfm?id=260346&blogID=11708&blogURL=Philadelphia-Reason–Religion-Examiner&commentCount=16&lastID=&stRow=1
    and on his own blog and writings at atheist nexus but I cannot find the “quote” claimed by mccarthy. Is this yet another of mccarthy’s lies?

    Then, in #15, after Jason explains what I said above about mccarthy’s quotemines not supporting his vicious slander on jason, he replies:

    you could only not find the assertion that Christianity and science are not compatible in those quotes if you practiced a level of casuistry that is usually attributed to the Jesuits by their enemies

    From wikipedia; “Casuistry is reasoning used to resolve moral problems by applying theoretical rules to particular instances”. Although it is often assumed to be a pejorative term by those lacking in reading comprehension. In any case, it bears no relation to jason’s argument, although it may to Coyne’s. Again the assertion is that Miller, etc, have made these claims. That Dawkins, etc, disagree is never in dispute. Mccarthy’s failure to understand this is now wearing.

    When in #17, Tualha makes reasonable inqury as to mccarthy understands the distinction between ‘possible’ and ‘reasonable’, or even accepts the premise, mccarthy’s reply is a dismissive “I didn’t think it was worth it”. It becomes very clear later on that mccarthy does fully understand the difference, and that his argument fails utterly by it, and that mccarthy will not EVER back down on this most simple of points. And entire discussion of probability ensues in which mccarthy obfuscates and swerves at every turn and his unfounded accusations become ever more shrill. Yes, unfounded. Also in #17 Tualha asks directly for supporting evidence of mccarthy’s most insulting assertions. We can assume that it is this point, more than the reasonable/possible distinction that mccarthy is running from.

    Among the most shrill of mccarthy’s whines is his repetition of the phrase “bigoted intellectual fad”. This allegedly from john e. shuey but with no relaible citation. Also in the alleged jes quote is the phrase “extremely damaging to the political left of which I’m a part”. Maybe mccarthy hasn’t heard, but shuey is, according to this at least;
    http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2008/07/who-are-all-the-libertarian-candidates/
    a libertarian candidate for senate! Clealy the lies and slander are not just against new atheists.

    I think I’ll stop now. Much of the rest of the thread is mccarthy being schooled on the arguments detailed above, but it’s plain now he doesn’t need schooling. It’s his integrity that’s lacking.

  152. #152 Tulse
    June 10, 2009

    Tulse, you know what your’re doing now, you’re moving those famous goal posts that the new atheists are always whining about.

    How so, Anthony? Be specific (for once).

  153. #153 Anthony McCarthy
    June 10, 2009

    If your point is that there is some “official” definition of the virgin birth

    There is. It’s contained in the Gospels according to Matthew and Luke and as defined by the people who believed it happened. If you want to debunk The Virgin Birth, what they believe is what you have to deal with, you can’t change it around to suit yourself because they’ll have every right to point that out and that you haven’t debunked what they believe.

    That’s not difficult and it’s as basic a point of logic as there is.

  154. #154 Dan S.
    June 10, 2009

    Dan S. … you’ve done it [supposedly associate Anthony with rightwing ideologies/positions] at blogs where you can be fairly certain that people won’t be familiar with my position …Some of the others here might have some excuse to assume I’m a fundamentalist right-winger, if they don’t care to read what I’ve said already here, you know better and are constantly using that distraction on discussions like this.

    I’m flattered that you think I’m a strategic – heck, coherent – enough thinker to do this sort of thing (‘hmm, not everybody here will know Anthony’s true positions, let me use that), but trust me, no. But seriously, where on earth do you see that in what I said?! You started comparing “new atheists” and fundies, I basically just reiterated what you said. If a reasonable person would read that and come away thinking,’ gee, I bet that Anthony guy spends his weekends picketing planned parenthood or something,’ that’s wildly inaccurate and not at all what I meant, and I’ll be happy to vouch for your lefty credentials. I don’t think this is really the case., and certainly didn’t think this needed to be explicitly stated in the comment, but for the record, anybody still listening and possessing the smallest iota of interest (that is, {}) no, he’s definitely not a rightwing fundy, probably not even a theist at all – some sort of vaguely spiritual sort, I think . . .

    Re: social sciences – too broad a brush here. All the anthropologists I’ve heard of getting involved in this general fuss, for example, seem to take a very, very different approach to the overall issue – see for example Scott Atran at the 2006 Beyond Belief conference sayingI find it fascinating that among the brilliant scientists and philosophers at the conference, there was no convincing evidence presented that they know how to deal with the basic irrationality of human life and society other than to insist against all reason and evidence that things ought to be rational and evidence based. It makes me embarrassed to be a scientist and atheist. There is no historical evidence whatsoever that scientists have a keener or deeper appreciation than religious people of how to deal with personal or moral problems. Some scientists have some good and helpful insights into human beings’ existential problems some of the time, but some good scientists have done more to harm others than most people are remotely capable of …” That’s rather along the same lines as stuff somebody else has written, don’t you think? If you’re pissed at economists and psychologists, maybe you can say that, instead of randomly smearing the historians, anthropologists, sociologists, etc. who have a great deal to say about the meaning of religion in human life and society? [/very minor & pedantic point, but I did major in anthro, and this is bugging me.]

  155. #155 solomon
    June 10, 2009

    Anthony McCArthy,
    Thank you for your no. 139 assurance,its fortunate that we are in a quite similar bowl.I speak in simple straight forward English but what is most important is we should get to the point.What I see is most bloggers goes all the way round & round with the use of all kinds of words creations and in the end does not arrive to the solution or conclusion.Debate or argument should be put into simple terms so that everybody could simply understand and analyse.
    I’am not in discomfort if anyone sees me as illiterate coz
    our great prophet Mohammad is more illiterate but he is blessed with knowledge that no proficient scholars could challenge.

  156. #156 solomon
    June 10, 2009

    Dear everyone,
    I want to make some point regarding Atheists.
    Now I stumble across what is it they call “new Atheists”?
    To me the old Atheists or new Atheists they are all similar.When they find out that the old Atheists argument becomes irrrelevant or could be challenged they resort to the new Atheists and I’am not surprise in future if the new Atheists argument becomes irrelevant or could be challenged they would then resort to the, let me give it a name err…
    the ‘Latest Atheists’maybe.All of them will be in the same soup fighting among themselves & sway even further from the right path.They are a bunch of people not looking for truth,they are always finding ways to deny it and I could guarantee that their effort will be useless.They are only guessing,they are not confident with what they belief.

  157. #157 Dan S.
    June 10, 2009

    Mmm . . . soup.

  158. #158 solomon
    June 11, 2009

    Dan S,
    Is that all you have to say.So you think its funny,coming from some ordinary religous fundie I suppose.Put forth your arguments, whatever you like from science to philosophy if youre the man of truth.Lets see who will keep their mouth shut.

  159. #159 solomon
    June 11, 2009

    I like to add,
    For those Atheists or non believers that do not belief the innocent Mary who gave birth to Jesus(the real one)without contact with any man,I like to cite a simple example.I’am sure you’ve heard of flower pollination.The pollen of a flower from nowhere could reach the stigma of any flower without both flowers stay close together.Than theres no question what God can do?God can do more than that.To make Mary pregnant without a man is chicken feed to God.Does that get to your head all you Atheists?

  160. #160 solomon
    June 11, 2009

    I like to add,
    For those Atheists or non believers that do not belief the innocent Mary who gave birth to Jesus(the real one)without contact with any man,I like to cite a simple example.I’am sure you’ve heard of flower pollination.The pollen of a flower from nowhere could reach the stigma of any flower without both flowers stay close together.Than theres no question what God can do?God can do more than that.To make Mary pregnant without a man is chicken feed to God.Does that get to your head all you Atheists?Do you have anything to say Dan S?

  161. #161 Anthony McCarthy
    June 11, 2009

    If anyone is still reading this, they might notice something. I haven’t once made an argument why someone shouldn’t be an atheist, I haven’t once made an argument that someone should believe in religion. That isn’t why I entered into this argument. It’s to see just how logical and close to science the new atheism is. And it’s pretty clear it’s handling of both logic and science are a shambles. Anyone who wants to see that can read through this thread.

    The new atheism takes a hatchet to logic and science in order to claim both in support of its bigotry, generally against all religion, specifically in Coyne against Judaism Christianity and Islam. He distorts the meaning of other religions, the one I’m most familiar with being Buddhism, which has basic features as supernatural as any part of the ones he clearly hates.

  162. #162 solomon
    June 11, 2009

    For those who have’nt know yet why I put the name Jesus(the real one). The real Jesus,son of Mariam or Mary is the one God raised him to heaven when he was chased by his enemy to be crucified.God replace him by another man who looked like him.The one who is crucified is definitely ‘Not’ Jesus.

  163. #163 Anthony McCarthy
    June 11, 2009

    solomon, if you think I’m bothered by that, I’m not. If you had better reading skills you’d know I’m not a Christian.

    Dan, I don’t think you’re strategic, I know you’re dishonest from experience and kind of OC too.

  164. #164 solomon
    June 11, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy,
    Could you specify when did I refer you as a Christian, and I have doubt that.

  165. #165 söve
    June 11, 2009

    Thanks a lot.

  166. #166 Anthony McCarthy
    June 11, 2009

    Solomon, what part of the word “if” don’t you understand?

  167. #167 Dan S.
    June 11, 2009

    Dan, I don’t think you’re strategic

    Well, that’s good.

    I know you’re dishonest from experience
    But that’s not. Seriously, I do my best to argue honestly; while I don’t always succeed, that’s generally due to limitations – incomprehension,confusion, distractedness, forgetfulness – not intention. I’m curious as to what experiences you refer to? I know when you first started wading (over your head, imo, to be honest) into the political aspects of the evolution/creation struggle over at Echidne’s, I thought you were advocating ‘throwing science education under the bus’ – ie, telling folks to stop making such a fuss about creationist attempts to take over public school curriculums – in the interest of political gain (getting Democrats elected and progressive policies implemented – which I’m all for – kinda wish we had . . . ). After going back and closely rereading your various posts, I realized that this was incorrect – it might, maybe, be a reasonable extension of some things you were saying, but nowhere did you make such a claim. Other folks have, in recent years, and I just jumped to conclusions based on what I was reading. If I haven’t mentioned and apologized for this previously, I really should have – I’m sorry.

    Otherwise, all I can think of is my recent tossed-off characterization, back at Echidne’s, of you describing Darwin as a raving proto-Hitler. Arguably this is, well, a bit over-the-top; I had actually first typed “proto-eugenicist”, but the thing is, it’s not only that (as you’ll surely & correctly point out) can one find occasional late passages where he was being a proto-eugenicist, albeit in the non-coercive (but obviously still very bad, stupid, and in retrospect horribly, horribly dangerous) 19thC sense. It also seemed that your tone hadn’t just gone rather beyond a dispassionate assessment of intellectual history (perfectly understandable, given the subject, and this is the internet!) but had parted company with even marginal fairness, and required something a bit stronger. After all, you were getting all up into quote-mining, guilt by association, etc., and frankly ruining a perfectly good (and important) argument.

    Your defense seems to been to insist that you never said Darwin caused the Holocaust (a non sequitur; I never said you did), and to quote an exchange from that old thread where you flatly denied somebody else’s claim that you were portraying Darwin as a proto-Hitler. I’m not sure what this proves; ‘oh no I’m not!’ isn’t exactly much of an argument (just as there’s no compelling reason for you to believe ‘I’m not dishonest, I’m not, I’m not!’ without at least some support); additionally this just provides evidence that other folks (rightly or wrongly) thought that’s what you were doing (or at least thought such a claim would be persuasive). You could quite likely make a case for exaggeration, unfairness, etc., but ‘you didn’t present my argument in the best possible light’, while a little damming, isn’t exactly dishonesty, I think?.

    Besides that . . .well, I’m not entirely sure what you’re referring to. I seem to remember you getting upset that I argued you were inadvertently promoting creationist talking points, but in that case perhaps it’s best to examine whether you are actually inadvertently promoting creationist talking points instead of just yelling ‘liar, liar!’ Although to be fair, I don’t really remember too much in the way of details about all that – if you feel I’m misrepresenting you here, feel free to set me straight. (Although given that you, afaik, never literally called me the word “liar”, and in fact have been typing rather than speaking, let alone “yelling”, clearly I’m deeply, deeply dishonest!

    (And yes, I know anybody’s else caring-about-this has plunged down the negative end of the scale into a kind of absolute zero of disinterest, but given that at this point the thead seems not just dead but rotting, well . . .

    and kind of OC too.

    Indeed, quite literally, in a up-for-hours-sleeplessly-checking-and-rechecking-the-stove-burners, late-for-work-because-maybe-the-door’s-unlocked-even-if-it-wasn’t-the-last-3-times-I-ran-back-to-check way. Zing! Oh boy, you sure got me there! And quite honestly I think it’s likely influenced the way I think about reason, belief, rationality, and the value of (to get back to another argument over at Echidne’s) strong convictions based on powerful but evidence-free private mental experiences. And well, yes, this might well be a case of inappropriately generalizing from personal experience . . .

    Also: yes – baby atheists can be cute, but not so much when they’ve hit that awkward, disheveled gangly stage when they’re just milling about aimlessly and honking loudly with no idea how to go about things . . wait, wait, I may be thinking about Canada geese goslings here, sorry . . . (Although Hitchens does rather . . . hmm )

    But yeah, it is kinda depressing. Of course, it’s not like one never finds underinformed people in high-traffic internet threads (what’s that you say? Someone’s being wrong on the internet?! No!! How could this be!?), but still, one does want to hold one’s “own” to a higher standard. It’s one thing to dispute, discard, or dismiss MN/PN & compatibilism (I wouldn’t, but…), but to not even grasp the argument? Oh dear. (And obviously, a lot of folks here do grasp it, just that a few certainly don’t seem to. Of course, this is the internet, so they may be 14, or possibly canine, so . . . )

  168. #168 Dan S.
    June 11, 2009

    Lets see who will keep their mouth shut.
    But then how could I eat some soup?

    .Put forth your arguments, whatever you like from science to philosophy if youre the man of truth.

    I have to say, I’m not sure there’d be much point to that.

    For those Atheists or non believers that do not belief the innocent Mary who gave birth to Jesus(the real one)without contact with any man,I like to cite a simple example.I’am sure you’ve heard of flower pollination . . .

    Oh geez, I really just can’t help myself (see, for example, my previous 8-paragraph reply to Anthony) – ok, look, folks who are atheists don’t have belief in God/s. If there was a supernaturally super-powerful god/s who could work miracles, etc., then yes, obviously all that would be conceivable (although given the power imbalance, more than a little icky). Since we don’t see any reason to think this is the case, (and indeed see abundant evidence consistent (although not absolutely probative) with it not being the case) your example, as colorful and interesting as it is*, is just kinda pointless in this instance.

    And really, a bit odd. After all, pollen is transported from flower to flower by the actions of wind or animals. To take this analogy foolishly literally, that would seem to suggest that the Holy Spirit carried – well, we can see where this is going . . .

    *(Although I still think nothing beats the states-of-matter explanation of trinitarianism. That one’s downright sublime…).

  169. #169 Anthony McCarthy
    June 11, 2009

    Dan S. you apparently think it’s your job to make people who aren’t familiar with what I’ve written believe I’m the polar opposite of what you know I am. That is part of the modus operandi of the new atheism, they lie about their opponents as Jerry Coyne so clearly has about Francis Collins re the medical treatment of minors and stem cell research..

    It is a shallow, dishonest, bigoted intellectual fad. While you are far from the most shallow of the new atheists I have encountered, you fulfill the other two traits quite fully.

    Now, as I’ve tried to avoid becoming side tracked by this kind of personal reference, cut it out.

    I don’t know what your soup reference is. If it’s amusing I’ll react to it.

  170. #170 Dan S.
    June 11, 2009

    Dan S. you apparently think it’s your job to make people who aren’t familiar with what I’ve written believe I’m the polar opposite of what you know I am

    No, I don’t, nor is it my intention, nor, to the best of my knowledge, is it something I’ve done. Again, do you honestly think my comment above could be reasonably interpreted by any vaguely literate person to say that you’re “the polar opposite of what [I] know [you] are”? (Interpretations by unreasonable semi-illiterates are out of my hands, but that goes for everything).

    I don’t know what your soup reference is. If it’s amusing I’ll react to it.

    solomon started talking about bowls and soup (albeit idiomatically/ metaphorically) – see #152/#153 – in all this abstract mess, it was something concrete and actually nourishing. Mmm, soup . . .

    hey lie about their opponents as Jerry Coyne so clearly has about Francis Collins re the medical treatment of minors and stem cell research..

    the stem cell research bit presumably refers to this. On one hand, some of the commenters point out why this is at best kinda misleading and not really fair. On the other hand . . . well, after the last eight years – and it’s not fair, but I can see why he’s worried, and why, as he writes “ I’d be much more comfortable with someone whose only agenda was science, and did not feel compelled to set up a highly-publicized website demonstrating how he reconciles his science with Jesus.“. Although really, if it was Ken Miller – who has written at some length about how he reconciles science with religion – I’d feel it was a whole ‘nother story; Collins just seems more potentially wobbly. (Incidentally, the quote from the Collins interview linked in comments about how “Is it more ethical to leave [unused fertility clinic embryos] in those freezers forever or throw them away? Or is it more ethical to come up with some sort of use for those embryos that could help people? I think that’s not been widely discussed.” – that last sentence is absurd: that has been widely discussed and is an absolutely standard retort. But perhaps he means among opponents or something?

    But medical treatment of minors? What’s that about? There’s this, but “What would Francis Collins say?” clearly seems to refer (rather snarkily, simplistically, and perhaps unfairly) to the idea of there being no conflict between science and religion, not any suggestion that Collins has harmful views on the medical treatment of minors. Are you referring to something else?

    [Coyne] distorts the meaning of other religions, the one I’m most familiar with being Buddhism, which has basic features as supernatural as any part of the ones he clearly hates.

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here. Afaik he acknowledges elsewhere that some varities of Buddhism have strong supernatural claims – all he says is that “some forms of Buddhism seem to pass the test” of being compatible with “science and secular reasoning” (as quoted above). But I haven’t read all of that much of him – am I missing something?

    Now, as I’ve tried to avoid becoming side tracked by this kind of personal reference, cut it out.

    While ‘he started!!’ isn’t exactly the most mature of responses, I will note that you were the one who started going on about how I was “spreading lies” about you, in response to a (afaict) perfectly innocuous comment. Granted, it would have been best for me to not respond at all, but I’ve also started responding to solomon, which is rather unlikely to be particularly productive for either of us, so what can I say?

    More (ok, slightly more) relevant – would a certain miraculous and divinely-caused virgin birth violate NOMA? At this point I can’t even remember – does it have room for that, or is it mostly granting religion (partial) authority over questions of values and ultimate things?

  171. #171 Dan S.
    June 11, 2009

    Dan S. you apparently think it’s your job to make people who aren’t familiar with what I’ve written believe I’m the polar opposite of what you know I am

    No, I don’t, nor is it my intention, nor, to the best of my knowledge, is it something I’ve done. Again, do you honestly think my comment above could be reasonably interpreted by any vaguely literate person to say that you’re “the polar opposite of what [I] know [you] are”? (Interpretations by unreasonable semi-illiterates are out of my hands, but that goes for everything).

    I don’t know what your soup reference is. If it’s amusing I’ll react to it.

    solomon started talking about bowls and soup (albeit idiomatically/ metaphorically) – see #152/#153 – in all this abstract mess, it was something concrete and actually nourishing. Mmm, soup . . .

    hey lie about their opponents as Jerry Coyne so clearly has about Francis Collins re the medical treatment of minors and stem cell research..

    the stem cell research bit presumably refers to this [link removed to get through spam filter – Coyne’s blog ,”post titled Collins may be NIH director]. On one hand, some of the commenters point out why this is at best kinda misleading and not really fair. On the other hand . . . well, after the last eight years – and it’s not fair, but I can see why he’s worried, and why, as he writes “ I’d be much more comfortable with someone whose only agenda was science, and did not feel compelled to set up a highly-publicized website demonstrating how he reconciles his science with Jesus.“. Although really, if it was Ken Miller – who has written at some length about how he reconciles science with religion – I’d feel it was a whole ‘nother story; Collins just seems more potentially wobbly. (Incidentally, the quote from the Collins interview linked in comments about how “Is it more ethical to leave [unused fertility clinic embryos] in those freezers forever or throw them away? Or is it more ethical to come up with some sort of use for those embryos that could help people? I think that’s not been widely discussed.” – that last sentence is absurd: that has been widely discussed and is an absolutely standard retort. But perhaps he means among opponents or something?

    But medical treatment of minors? What’s that about? There’s [link removed – Coyne’s blog, post titled “Child doomed by religious faith”) but “What would Francis Collins say?” clearly seems to refer (rather snarkily, simplistically, and perhaps unfairly) to the idea of there being no conflict between science and religion, not any suggestion that Collins has harmful views on the medical treatment of minors. Are you referring to something else?

    [Coyne] distorts the meaning of other religions, the one I’m most familiar with being Buddhism, which has basic features as supernatural as any part of the ones he clearly hates.

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here. Afaik he acknowledges elsewhere that some varities of Buddhism have strong supernatural claims – all he says is that “some forms of Buddhism seem to pass the test” of being compatible with “science and secular reasoning” (as quoted above). But I haven’t read all of that much of him – am I missing something?

    Now, as I’ve tried to avoid becoming side tracked by this kind of personal reference, cut it out.

    While ‘he started!!’ isn’t exactly the most mature of responses, I will note that you were the one who started going on about how I was “spreading lies” about you, in response to a (afaict) perfectly innocuous comment. Granted, it would have been best for me to not respond at all, but I’ve also started responding to solomon, which is rather unlikely to be particularly productive for either of us, so what can I say?

    More (ok, slightly more) relevant – would a certain miraculous and divinely-caused virgin birth violate NOMA? At this point I can’t even remember – does it have room for that, or is it mostly granting religion (partial) authority over questions of values and ultimate things?

  172. #172 solomon
    June 11, 2009

    Dan S,
    You can eat your soup through your nose later..
    kah…kah…kah…

    [I have to say, I’m not sure there’d be much point to that.]
    Are you waving the white flag?

    [And really, a bit odd. After all, pollen is transported from flower to flower by the actions of wind or animals.]

    If you say so,than what is there so difficult for God to carry mens sperm with other unknown media(your knowledge of things are very limited).God have made even more wondrous creations around you,why can’t he accomplish this simple job?Answer me…Well I don’t care a damn with what you quote ‘trinitarianism’.They are all lies created by Christians scholars.They put God’s standards to shame…imagine a God who looks like humans…of all other things.

    Anthony McCarthy,
    [Solomon, what part of the word “if” don’t you understand?]
    Answer my previous questions first…
    I’ve spot your tactics of diverting the main argument regarding any matter.
    Or do you want to eat Dan S nourishing soup through your nose too…
    And another thing no doubt you have done a lot of readings..but you have’nt done a lot of Wondering yet.

  173. #173 Kevin (nyc)
    June 11, 2009

    “If anyone is still reading this..”

    with your byline… er no…

    (I wish the comments would put the person’s name on top…)

  174. #174 solomon
    June 12, 2009

    I could hear ‘The sounds of silence’
    kah…kah…kah…

  175. #175 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    Oh, solomon, I can safely ignore it then.

    All Buddhism has strong elements of the supernatural. Parinibbana, Mara, and a host of other basic concepts of Buddhism are all as supernatural as heaven and angels are. I know that you can pretend it’s a materialistic philosophy, but only if you ignore the most basic texts of all of the branches of it. I’m pretty sure the Dharmapada is about as universally considered authoritative as the First Sermon.

    Jerry Coyne, by the way disqualified my entry of the fifth verse of the Dharmapada because the sorehead cheat claimed it wasn’t a product of revelation. I chose it exactly because it says that it was an ancient law, in other words, revelation. Shallow, dishonest, bigoted, Yeah, it was a typical new atheist act.

  176. #176 Dan S.
    June 12, 2009

    I know that you can pretend it’s a materialistic philosophy, but only if you ignore the most basic texts of all of the branches of it.

    Because nothing ever changes? This is the same sort of rigid textualist thinking that your sworn enemies the “new atheists” tend to fall into.

    I chose it exactly because it says that it was an ancient law, in other words, revelation.

    That doesn’t follow at all. (There are also different translations – “old rule”, “eternal law”, etc.)

  177. #177 solomon
    June 14, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy (171 comments)
    If youre refering your comments to me, here is my answer.
    Buddhism,Parinibbana, Mara,Dharmapada or whatever it is is all lies created by men & thier sole objective is to sway people from the right path.They took the idol as god.The idol can do nothing.It can neither grant their wishes nor pose them hazards.They are themselves crafted by men.Imagine a god to be created by human.They are a dead stone or any other materials.If a fly snatch something from them, they can’t even grab them back.Worst still if someone place a piece of shit on its nose,it could’nt even wipe it off!What a silly god one could depend upon.And that goes too with its teachings,only lies & nonsense.

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