Miller Joins the Party

Ken Miller has now weighed in with a lengthy post criticizing Jerry Coyne’s views on the compatibility of science and religion.

Since most of Miller’s essay is focused on specific statements made by Coyne I won’t go point by point through it. I suspect Coyne will post his own reply at his blog, and I look forwrad to reading it. I’ll just comment that in certain places I think Miller has a point (I think Coyne is mostly right about the big picture, but there are certainly places where I wish he would have expressed himself differently.) In other places I think Miller is not presenting Coyne’s views fairly.

Furthermore, most of the essay does not really address the issues on which I have been defending Coyne in his dispute with Chris Mooney. Those issues had to do with the strategic wisdom of Coyne publishing his article, and with the question of whether drawing a clear line between methodological and philosophical naturalism is much help in reconcling evolution and Christianity.

With that in mind, I’ll content myself with remarking on just a few things Miller has said. For me the key quote from the essay is this:

Exactly what have I said or written to incur Dr. Coyne’s wrath? Simply this: I have expressed the view that there are ways for religious people to understand and accept the theory of evolution that are consistent with the Christian faith. That’s it. That’s my transgression.

Dr. Coyne can defend his own wrath. My interest is in the view that there are ways of accepting evolution that are consistent with Christianity.

This is my main point of disagreement with Miller, and with the numerous other authors who have put forth arguments in this regard. I do not believe that Miller’s proposed way of looking at things is plausible.

For example, he is very keen on the idea that the evolution of human-like intelligence was essentially a foregone conclusion once evolution got started. He laid out his argument in his book Only a Theory and reiterates it in his present essay. He seems to think there is a preexisting biological niche for a creature with human-like intelligence, and that, since evolution managed to fill this niche in the one run we have to go on, it is reasonable to think that a second run of evolution would fill it again.

This seems rather simplistic. It doesn’t make sense to talk about niches in the abstract, divorced from the context of what already exists and what is biologically feasible given the starting point of what already exists. There is a niche for predators who can shoot laser beams out of their eyes, but I am not optimistic about seeing that niche filled.

Human-like intelligence can only evolve if body plans capable of accommodating relatively large brains exist, and only if the proper selection pressures are there. Intelligence is not an unambiguously good thing. As paleontologist Jack Sepkoski once put it:

I see intelligence as just one of a variety of adaptations among tetrapods for survival. Running fast in a herd while being as dumb as shit, I think, is a very good adaptation for survival.

Big brains are costly in terms of biological resources. In many contexts it is hard to see how they would help an animal pass his genes on to the next generation. Even if it were possible to put a big brain on the body plan of a fish (a highly dubious proposition) it is hard to see what selection pressure would push a fish towards greater intelligence. Fish have almost no ability to manipulate their envirnoment. Would a big brained fish be better able to evade predators than its small brained counterparts? Or would it just be less streamlined and less able to swim quickly away from danger?

In our own lineage we see that big brains did not evolve until after we adopted our upright posture and bipedal gait. Once that happened, great intelligence evolved fairly quickly. Presumably our ability to use our opposable thumbs to grasp and manipulate objects had something to do with making the evolution of brianiness a live possiblity.

What is the reason for thinking that evolution inevitably reaches a situation in which the right body plans and genetic variations meet the right selection pressures? Certainly dinosaurs show no evidence of evolving toward human-like intelligence, and they had more than one hundred million years to do so. If we hadn’t had the right sort of extinction event to wipe out the dinosaurs, what is the reason for thinking that human-like intelligence would have evolved?

But let’s suppose Miller is right that human-like intelligence was essentially inevitable. What, then, was the purpose of the four billion year preamble to humanity’s appearance? What was accomplished by creating via four billion years of evolution by savage bloodsport that could not have been accomplished by creation ex nihilo, in precisely the way that Genesis suggests?

As Bertrand Russell put it (writing in 1935):

The conception of purpose is a natural one to apply to a human artificer. A man who desires a house cannot, except in the Arabian Nights, have it rise before him as a result of his mere wish; time and labour must be expended before his wish can be gratified. But omnipotence is subject to no such limitations. If God really thinks well of the human race — an unplausible hypothesis, as it seems to me — why not proceed, as in Genesis, to create man at once? What was the point of the ichtyosaurs, dinosaurs, diplodochi, mastodons, and so on? Dr. Barnes himself confesses, somewhere, that the purpose of the tapeworm is a mystery. What useful purpose is served by rabies and hydrophobia? It is no answer to say that the laws of nature inevitably produce evil as well as good, for God decreed the laws of nature. The evil which is due to sin may be explained as the result of our free will, but the problem of evil in the pre-human world remains.

Quite right, and it leads naturally into another point on which I think Miller is making a bad argument. In Finding Darwin’s God Miller writes:

The second is that we cannot call evolution cruel if all we are really doing is assigning to evolution the raw savagery of nature itself. (p. 246)

Skipping ahead:

Evolution cannot be a cruel concept if all it does is reflect the realities of nature, including birth, struggle, life, and death. It is a fact — not a feature of evolutionary theory, but an objective reality — that every organism alive will eventually die. (p. 246)

That looks like gibberish to me. I don’t know what it means to speak of “the raw savagery of nature itself.” Nature has only those properties that are logically unavoidable or that God willed it to have. It’s pretty hard to argue that four billion years of evolution by natural selection was a logically unavoidable consequence of God’s other intentions (though some have tried to make precisely that argument). Likewise for a phrase like “the realities of nature.” Those realities are what God willed them to be.

I could go on, believe me. But this is a sampling of the sort of thing I have in mind when I say that evolution and Christianity can not be plausibly reconciled. Then again, plausibility is a subjective thing. As I wrote in an earlier post:

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.

I don’t think what Miller is suggesting is plausible. He thinks it is. But here’s the thing. An awful lot of other people also don’t think it’s plausible. Consider the results of this study from Pew.

The largest Christian denomination recognized by Pew is Evangelical Protestant. Only 24 percent of them accept the statement that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life. The next three largest Christian denominations in the poll are Catholics, Mainline Protestant and Historically Black Protestant. Between them they account for nearly all Christians in the US. Combining their rates of acceptance of evolution with data about their level of representation in the population, and accepting a bit of round-off error, we come to roughly 57 percent of American Christians who do not accept evolution.

Pretty grim. Perhaps you think all of those people are just confused. If only they had more exposure to people like Ken Miller and Francis Collins they would suddenly see the error of their ways. I don’t believe that, not as a general proposition at any rate. I believe those people are thinking very clearly and simply don’t accept as plausible the sorts of arguments made by Miller and others. I suspect if I were to show them Michael Ruse’s Can a Darwinian be a Christian? (specifically endorsed by Miller), they would see in it the same sophistry and hand-waving that I see.

This is the reason I make such a big issue of this subject. We have a big social problem here: lots of people want to gut science education by giving respectful treatment to some form of creationism. So far we have been successful fighting off such people in court, but have been relatively unsuccessful in the realm of public opinion. Why do we have this big problem?

Miller, in Only a Theory, put forth a truly preposterous explanation. His idea was that American skepticism of evolution is a reflection of our general spirit of reblliousness. Not for us the dictates of some pointy-headed scientific authorities. P.Z. Myers nicely skewered that idea in his review of Miller’s book:

Only a Theory deals poorly with one central aspect of this battle: why this problem is so much greater in the United States than elsewhere. Miller’s rationalizations are sometimes painful to read. Europe’s relative freedom from the scourge of creationism is explained with a condescending anecdote: a British colleague offers that any outbreak of such nonsense is rapidly quashed by “dispatch[ing] a couple of dons from Oxford or Cambridge” to overawe the locals with their prestigious degrees, to which the populace will defer. The popularity of creationism in the United States is ascribed to independence and rebelliousness rather than religiosity, which, as someone who has dealt with many creationists, I find disingenuous.

I would add that the reblliousness that drives so many Americans into the ranks of the anti-evolutionists does not seem to lead them to be skeptical of their local religious leaders. Nor does it lead them to be skeptical of other scientific theories. Looks like very selective rebelliousness to me.

The primary reason we have a problem with creationism is that certain very bad religious ideas are very popular in American society. That would seem too obvious to need saying and the public opinion data seems to make that clear. If you have this idea that it is only a radical fringe of fundamentalists who oppose evolution, or that most Christian denominations have no problem with it, or that it can only be ignorance of the depth of Christian theology that leads people to see a serious conflict between Christianity and evolution then you have not adequately understood the problem.

For all of that, I have no problem emphasizing the many Christians who see no problem with evolution. My objection comes when saying that evolution and Christianity don’t have to be at odds spills over into suggesting that only fringe types think otherwise, or in trying to marginalize the views of those of us who demur from this view. As I wrote in my post on accommadtionism:

As for the NCSE, I have no objection to them pointing out, as a simple empirical fact, that many people have reconciled evolution and Chrisitanity, and I have no objection to them taking the pragmatic view that we need religious moderates on our side. I not only don’t object, I think that’s what they should be doing. There are many teenagers growing up in religiously isolated towns who are no doubt genuinely unaware of the diversity of religious opinion on this subject. Maybe they hear a talk by Eugenie Scott and have their eyes opened.

There is no question, however, that the NCSE goes well beyond this, to the point of trying to marginalize the views of those who regard evolution and Christianity as being at odds. Coyne documents this nicely, and he is right to find it troubling.

I concluded with:

There is a need for both the NCSE and P.Z. Myers. They both have an important role to play in defending science education and fighting creationism. But people who whine about polemical atheists hurting the cause are wrong. They are helping the cause. They are, in fact, the only hope for a long-term solution.

That is my view. I do not think it is a betrayal of science to be religious. I do not think there is any logical contradiction between anything in science and the tenets of Christianity. I accuse religious evolutionists of nothing more serious than making bad arguments in defense of their view. I have no problem at all making common cause with people who disagree with me on this point when the issue is protecting science education.

But I also think a strategy of trying to convince people to move to a more moderate sort of religion is doomed to failure. I just don’t think you will find enough people who see the arguments of Miller and Ruse (and many others) to be credible here. The only hope for a long-term solution is to marginalize religion in public discourse. I don’t know if we can accomplish that, but I do know it won’t happen without a whole lot of screaming and yelling.

As always, there is plenty more to say. But since I have already gone on far longer than I intended, I will stop here.

Comments

  1. #1 Kevin (nyc)
    June 11, 2009

    “There is a niche for predators who can shoot laser beams out of their eyes, but I am not optimistic about seeing that niche filled.”

    well I am but that’s because I have seen the genetic modifcations my friend “Jake” is working on….

    “Certainly dinosaurs show no evidence of evolving toward human-like intelligence, and they had more than one hundred million years to do so.”

    yes but if they had had another 50 million I am sure it would have turned out like this:

    http://www.amazon.com/West-Eden-Trilogy-Harry-Harrison/dp/0743487184

    ” What, then, was the purpose of the four billion year preamble to humanity’s appearance?”

    why the sheer joy of http://www.ufc.com/index.cfm?fa=event.ppvhome !!

    “Evolution cannot be a cruel concept ..” well,I don’t know why the “concept” is in there but yes. for one to eat the other must be eaten. Cruelty implies morality. For the lion to eat the gazelle is not cruel, for it does the gazelle’s friends a world of good…

    “But this is a sampling of the sort of thing I have in mind when I say that evolution and Christianity can not be plausibly reconciled”

    I agree with you completely. I don’t understand people who pretend to believe in a god, but don’t actually believe in any of the things that he/it was supposed to have done.

    Jason, this post is one of the clearest and best you have ever done and I have been reading you since…2003?

    “I have no problem at all making common cause with people who disagree with me on this point when the issue is protecting science education” me too. let the parents teach what they want but schools must teach science.

    http://www.amazon.com/Being-Nothingness-Jean-Paul-Sartre/dp/0671867806

    “As I wrote in my post on accommadtionism ” bad typo!!@!

  2. #2 WcT
    June 11, 2009

    The largest Christian denomination recognized by Pew is Evangelical Protestant. Only 24 percent of them accept the statement that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life.

    Combining their rates of acceptance of evolution with data about their level of representation in the population, and accepting a bit of round-off error, we come to roughly 57 percent of American Christians who do not accept evolution.

    I’m confused. How does taking current rates of belief in evolution by various christian groups mean anything here?

    You haven’t shown that 24% of evangelical’s believing in evolution is a static figure, or that it must be a static figure. Just cited the current figure based on a pew poll.

    This would seem to me, to represent the level of education regarding evolution in that population. I’m confused as to how it represents an evaluation of the compatability of evolution and a particular brand of Christianity.

    Presumably, the entire point of education about evolution is to raise those numbers, regardless of the religion they belong too.

    Surely using a poll this way in the 40’s would have, for example, revealed that “christianity is incompatible with interracial marriage”

    Yet over time, attitudes there changed. Why is this implausible for evolution?

    Also, this poll seems to fail to control for obvious confounders – education and income.

    For example, that figure of 80% of Hindu’s believing in evolution doesn’t seem to mean alot. Hindu’s in America are a population biased towards well educated and more affluent people – my family’s poor relatives without a college education weren’t given green cards.

  3. #3 SLC
    June 11, 2009

    Having read Prof. Millers broadside against Prof. Coyne and seen excerpts of a recent presentation the former gave, it appears to me that Prof. Miller is giving off whiffs of Deism these days.

  4. #4 Erp
    June 11, 2009

    I have to point out that Evangelical Protestant is not a single denomination nor are Mainline Protestant or Historically Black Protestant. Instead these are collections of denominations some of whom would be horrified to be lumped together.

  5. #5 Kevin (nyc)
    June 11, 2009

    “There is a niche for predators who can shoot laser beams out of their eyes, but I am not optimistic about seeing that niche filled.”

    well I am but that’s because I have seen the genetic modifcations my friend “Jake” is working on….

    “Certainly dinosaurs show no evidence of evolving toward human-like intelligence, and they had more than one hundred million years to do so.”

    yes but if they had had another 50 million I am sure it would have turned out like this:

    amazon.com/West-Eden-Trilogy-Harry-Harrison/dp/0743487184

    ” What, then, was the purpose of the four billion year preamble to humanity’s appearance?”

    so that god did not have to buy pay per view!

    ufc.com/index.cfm?fa=event.ppvhome !!

    “Evolution cannot be a cruel concept ..” well,I don’t know why the “concept” is in there but yes. for one to eat the other must be eaten. Cruelty implies morality. For the lion to eat the gazelle is not cruel, for it does the gazelle’s friends a world of good…

    “But this is a sampling of the sort of thing I have in mind when I say that evolution and Christianity can not be plausibly reconciled”

    I agree with you completely. I don’t understand people who pretend to believe in a god, but don’t actually believe in any of the things that he/it was supposed to have done.

    Jason, this post is one of the clearest and best you have ever done and I have been reading you since…2003?

    “I have no problem at all making common cause with people who disagree with me on this point when the issue is protecting science education” me too. let the parents teach what they want but schools must teach science.

    amazon.com/Being-Nothingness-Jean-Paul-Sartre/dp/0671867806

    “As I wrote in my post on accommadtionism ” bad typo!!@!

  6. #6 SLC
    June 11, 2009

    Certainly dinosaurs show no evidence of evolving toward human-like intelligence, and they had more than one hundred million years to do so.

    Prof. Rosenhouse is seriously in error in this statement. The Cretaceous dinosaurs had larger brain cases, as a fraction of body size, then did the Jurassic dinosaurs (i.e. higher encephalization factors). In fact, paleontologist Dale Russell has opined that, had the extinction not occurred, the Troodons might have evolved into large brained birdlike creatures, based on their encephalization factor which was larger then any of the other dinosaurs that ever existed. They were almost certainly warm blooded, having feathers, they were bipedal, and had hands with 3 fingers, placing them substantially more advanced than any mammals that existed at the time.

    It should also be pointed out that the bottle nose dolphins also are large brained animals, having an encephalization factor of around 5 as compared with the average encephalization factor of 7 for humans.

  7. #7 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 11, 2009

    SLC –

    Some dinosaur lineages show a trend toward increased brain size, but there is nothing to suggest they were on their way to human -like intelligence. My authority on that is Stephen Jay Gould, I didn’t just make it up.

    And as clever as dolphins are, I very much doubt they are dwelling much on the meaning of it all.

    Kevin –

    Thanks for the kind words about the post, and for being such a long-time reader.

    Erp –

    Fair enough. I should have said something like “grouping of Christians” as opposed to “denominatons.”

  8. #8 John Kwok
    June 11, 2009

    @ Jason,

    While I have ample respect and admiration for Steve Gould’s work on allometry, I believe you shouldn’t have relied upon him as the ultimate authority. Canadian paleontologist Dale Russell has offered some interesting speculation on increasing brain size in some theropod dinosaurs, and he has offered as speculative science, a bipedal dinosaur that bears more than a superficial resemblance to the stereotypical “little green men” seen in 1950s science fiction films, with enormous skulls and three-clawed hands.

  9. #9 bad Jim
    June 12, 2009

    Crows are considered to be as intelligent as some apes, probably because they’re toolmakers. Parrots are pretty clever, too. We shouldn’t speak of dinosaurs as though they’d stopped evolving.

  10. #10 Pseudonym
    June 12, 2009

    Here’s the thing I don’t get. Jason wrote:

    Between them they account for nearly all Christians in the US. Combining their rates of acceptance of evolution with data about their level of representation in the population, and accepting a bit of round-off error, we come to roughly 57 percent of American Christians who do not accept evolution. [...] I believe those people are thinking very clearly and simply don’t accept as plausible the sorts of arguments made by Miller and others.

    So where does this leave the rest of the educated world, where the figure of Christians who accept evolution is dramatically lower? Are we just not thinking as clearly as Pat Robertson?

    Not only does this not make sense, it’s highly offensive.

  11. #11 Richard Wein
    June 12, 2009

    Jason, it seems to me that you (and Coyne) are talking past Miller on the subject of the probability of intelligence evolving. I don’t know what Miller says in his books, which I haven’t read, but in his replies to Coyne, Miller is talking about the probability of intelligence evolving somewhere in the universe. You and Coyne seem to be talking about the probability of intelligence evolving on Earth.

    Now, as far as I’m concerned, there are no good grounds for believing that the evolution of intelligence somewhere in the universe was almost inevitable, or that it wasn’t. We just don’t know enough to judge. It may be that Miller’s religious convictions have led him to the former position when neutrality on this question is more rational. But I suspect there are plenty of non-religious scientists who also take an unjustified (in my opinion) position one way or the other on this. So I wouldn’t judge Miller too harshly for it.

    (Note: some phyicists apparently say there are theoretical grounds for believing that the universe is infinite, so that anything that is physically possible–no matter how improbable–will happen somewhere. If they’re right then intelligence was certain to evolve somewhere in the universe. And it has happened an infinite number of times!)

  12. #12 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    But let’s suppose Miller is right that human-like intelligence was essentially inevitable. What, then, was the purpose of the four billion year preamble to humanity’s appearance?

    Jason, you don’t think that someone could find more than one project to do in four billion years to kill? And why do you assume that human-like intelligence is the only thing that matters? I didn’t read that in Miller’s piece, if I missed it I wish you’d show me where he said that.

    What was accomplished by creating via four billion years of evolution by savage bloodsport that could not have been accomplished by creation ex nihilo, in precisely the way that Genesis suggests?

    Actually, I think there were more herbivores, weren’t they? I think you might be going for the “red in tooth and” fantasy a bit here.

    I think Miller debunked Coyne, though the new atheists won’t generally admit that.

    You haven’t shown that 24% of evangelical’s believing in evolution is a static figure, or that it must be a static figure. Just cited the current figure based on a pew poll.

    This would seem to me, to represent the level of education regarding evolution in that population. I’m confused as to how it represents an evaluation of the compatability of evolution and a particular brand of Christianity.

    WCt, I used to make the mistake that the new atheists were interested in the facts and they are, on occasion, but only those occasions when they can be made to favor their ideology. This week, on this blog, I found out that even witnessing them twist the exigencies of mathematics isn’t enough to provoke correction. As seen in Coyne’s line they’re quite willing to twist science out of all recognizable shape too. History goes, accurate textual citation goes, knowing the first thing about what you’re characterizing, everything has to bow down to the prime directive of the New Atheism, hating on religion and religious believers. Once in a while, there’s a glimmer of truth, but it’s almost always eclipsed as soon as you see it.

    Like all hardened bigots, you can’t reason with them, but you can document them and comment on them, which is what I’m going to be doing now.

  13. #13 SLC
    June 12, 2009

    Re Jason Rosenhouse

    1. Mr. Kwok is quite correct. Stephen Jay Gould was an expert on snails, Dale Russell is an expert on dinosaurs and thus is more qualified to speculate on their potential evolutionary development in the absence of the extinction.

    Interestingly enough, the question of whether intelligence might have developed elsewhere in the universe and how prevalent it might be was the subject of an internet debate between Carl Sagan and Ernst Meyr back in the early nineties. Sagan argued that intelligent life might be fairly common, Meyer argued that it was probably quite rare. Obviously, in the absence of data, it’s all speculative.

    2. Prof. Rosenhouses’ comment about dolphins is true but somewhat beside the point. A necessary, but not sufficient condition for the development of intelligence is encephalization. The fossil record clearly shows that there is an advantage to encephalization because not only did the Cretaceous dinosaurs have larger brains relative to body size then their Jurassic antecedents but modern mammals have larger brains relative to body size then the mammals of 50 million years ago.

  14. #14 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    Carl Sagan and Ernst Meyr back in the early nineties. Sagan argued that intelligent life might be fairly common, Meyer argued that it was probably quite rare. Obviously, in the absence of data, it’s all speculative.

    Richard Dawkins asserted that it was highly probable that it always evolved, everywhere in the universe according to the principles of “Darwinism” (his word, for the ScienceBlog school of instant etymology). Daniel Dennett seems to think it’s responsible for literally the structure of matter.

    And, obviously, that kind of “science” is A-OK with the new atheist sci-guys.

    I wonder, Jason Rosenhouse, why you are so reluctant to address the casual and fallacious use of probability by the new atheists on your own blog. I would actually like you to answer that question.

  15. #15 MartinB
    June 12, 2009

    What, then, was the purpose of the four billion year preamble to humanity’s appearance? What was accomplished by creating via four billion years of evolution by savage bloodsport that could not have been accomplished by creation ex nihilo, in precisely the way that Genesis suggests?

    Imagine the following dialogue:
    Frodo: Gandalf, are you really saying that we are characters created in the imagination of another being?

    Gandalf: Yes, I understand that some other intelligence that is out of our world created you and me and everything for the sole purpose of seeing you destroy the one ring.

    Frodo: But what, then, was the purpose of the other ages of the world? Of the fight against Morgoth? What was accomplished by creating us via thousands of years of endless battles?

    ————–

    On another note: The human-like dinosaurian is almost universally discarded by paleontologists as being extremely implausible.

  16. #16 Jud
    June 12, 2009

    Regarding Dawkins’ views on the inevitability of the evolution of intelligence:

    – Assuming his views are as asserted (I haven’t read Dawkins himself on this subject), it seems to me they would be of a piece with his general adaptationist philosophy, i.e., that evolution is “the blind watchmaker” continuously perfecting creatures via natural selection and adapting those creatures to their environments to such an extent they appear designed.

    Others would tend to disagree, assigning greater roles to contingency, genetic drift, and neutral theory, not seeing any particular outcome, including the development of human-like intelligence, as foreordained. For some good discussions of this topic, see the archives of Dr. Lawrence Moran’s Sandwalk blog and some of the essays he links to there.

  17. #17 JoshS
    June 12, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy:

    Like all hardened bigots, you can’t reason with them, but you can document them and comment on them, which is what I’m going to be doing now.

    What is it with you? You throw around the term “bigot” so casually, as if anyone who disagrees with you, or who thinks religious thinking is bunk, is one. I don’t think it means what you think it means. Stop calling those who disagree with you “bigots.” Stop calling those who question the veracity or usefulness of religious formulations “bigots.” They’re not – they’re intellectual opponents.

    Bigots say – “all Christians are stupid by definition, and therefore should be deprived of rights and treated shabbily.”

    Intellectual opponents say – “Christians (or Muslims, or whoever)are misguided, and their religious thinking doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.”

    Do you get the difference? Bonus tip – loud, raucous argumentation and intellectual scorn do not constitute bigotry, either.

  18. #18 John Kwok
    June 12, 2009

    @ Anthony –

    JoshS has a good point. In lieu of bigot, I think you should use instead, “intellectually challenged” as a better description of some of the verbal diarrhea being spewed by militant atheists posting here.

    One more thing, you’ve misspelled Mayr’s name. For the record, his name is Ernst Mayr.

  19. #19 SLC
    June 12, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    If Mr. Kwok was referring to my comment, I mentioned the late Prof. Mayr twice, misspelling his name the second time. Mea culpa.

  20. #20 JoshS
    June 12, 2009

    Kwok, you’re much more amusing when you confine yourself to name-dropping and fawning over your “friend Ken.”

    Now, do you have an actual disagreement with my criticism of Anthony’s use of the term bigot, or are you merely expressing support for your in-group? If you disagree with me, why?

  21. #21 eric
    June 12, 2009

    Jason:

    In our own lineage we see that big brains did not evolve until after we adopted our upright posture and bipedal gait.

    I just got finished reading Baboon metaphysics about a month ago. This is not my area, but the book was enjoyable. It makes the case that intelligence arose primarily out of inter-group communication and the fitness value of doing it better. Its not about manipulating sticks, its about signaling & understanding messages about e.g. the predator behind the bush.

    Under that hypothesis it would not be unreasonable to think a species like dolphins could (eventually) develop human intelligence. I’m not defending Miller’s ‘inevitability’ argument, rather pointing out that the situations in which intelligence would be a favorable adaptation are not limited to species that have hands or equivalent manipulative organs.

  22. #22 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    JoshS, I’m only holding the new atheists to the standard they apply to religious believers.

    You haven’t read Richard Dawkins saying that the gloves are off and the sticks have been sharpened? Or haven’t you read the background material on the launch of Coyne’s career in new atheist propaganda. Haven’t you noticed the tone of the new atheists here and on other blogs with that theme? I’d call that mighty selective attention.

    Coyne is a bigot, PZ is a bigot, most of the new atheists who post comments on the topic of religion are bigots. If someone said the things they’ve said about women or ethnic minorites that they habitually say about all religious believers, that’s the word you would use for them.

    You know, when James Watson was the topic of a friendly post at The Friendly Atheist, I said, you’d better be careful about Watson, he’s a sexist and a bigot. Well, the atheists howled that I had gone over the top. Only, the next week when his infamous statements about women and African-americans were in the news, a few of them were saying the same things too. You see, before I said that about Watson I’d read what he’d said about Rosalind Franklin, the woman whose work it’s widely believed he obtained without her knowledge and I’d heard some of his theories about the intelligence of black people.

    And he’s not the only atheist with a big mouth I’ve had to warn you folks about. Chris Hitchens has never not back-stabbed those he made cosy with.

  23. #23 YouGottaShowMe
    June 12, 2009

    I do not think there is any logical contradiction between anything in science and the tenets of Christianity.

    Not even in Jesus being a god incarnate? Jesus’ resurrection? The virgin birth? His miracles? Genesis?

    I suppose the only way out of a head-on collision with science is to declare anything that might collide to be optional, or not a tenet. But for one thing no actual believer does that, and for another it would turn Christianity into nothing more than a society of people who like a good story.

  24. #24 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    Jud, when you consider the huge time span that evolution happened in, when you consider the far, far greater number of organisms encompassed by evolution, literally every organism that has reproduced or not, and you compare that to the 150 years since The Origin of Species was published and the relatively small number of people who have studied evolution and the related topics in science, it seems unlikely that the one, overriding mechanism of all evolution would have been found right off. From what I’ve read, I think genetic drift might eventually explain more of actual origination of species than the other contenders, but who knows how that will work out. I wasn’t kidding the other day when I wondered if nationalism didn’t have something to do with the relative obscurity of genetic drift, and that you can’t weave he-man tales of the struggle of tooth and claw whatever. I think a lot of popular blog evolution reads like vintage copies of Argosy magazine.

    I think the topic of evolution has more than enough surprises in store to keep a lot of people fully employed well into the future. If we have one.

    You could also consider what happens when someone has proposed other mechanisms in addition to natural selection. Sometimes scientists are agents of scientific inhibition for professional and ideological reasons.

  25. #25 mk
    June 12, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy quite clearly is a deeply ignorant religiobot. There I said it, I feel better! ;^}

  26. #26 Hedgefundguy
    June 12, 2009

    What a dumb response. You lambaste Jerry Coyne but then go on to agree with him 100% and even further his case! You claim a disagreement where there is none.

  27. #27 Glen Davidson
    June 12, 2009

    If we hadn’t had the right sort of extinction event to wipe out the dinosaurs, what is the reason for thinking that human-like intelligence would have evolved?

    I’d have to agree that the intelligence of parrots (Alex the African Gray Parrot, IIRC, especially) and ravens is so remarkable in such little brains that our level of intelligence is at least conceivable in dinosaurs.

    On another matter:

    But I also think a strategy of trying to convince people to move to a more moderate sort of religion is doomed to failure. I just don’t think you will find enough people who see the arguments of Miller and Ruse (and many others) to be credible here

    I don’t think that getting people to more moderate religion is the goal, particularly. The point is that people will listen to theists like Miller and Collins, who would not listen to us, because we’re just “opposed to god” or some such thing.

    And there are several desirable outcomes that we desire to come from that, and that I think are not unlikely. Some will listen, study the science, and accept evolutionary explanations. These people will in some cases remain within their conservative religion (I know that the teaching of evolution at a Seventh-day Adventist university, La Sierra, is an issue in that religion now), and will argue for good science teaching even as conservative religionists. Some probably will migrate to more moderate religions. Some others will simply drop religion, since it is often difficult to transfer.

    But many won’t be persuaded toward science by Ruse and Miller. Yet they will listen, and realize that Miller is not trying to destroy god by promoting science teaching in schools. This is almost certainly the most likely and most desired effect, and it probably influences judges like Jones (a theist who listened a good deal to Miller’s testimony) and religious people on school boards alike. Merely getting people to realize that evolution is not atheism (as I was taught growing up) is a crucial issue in continuing honest science education.

    If simply getting people to agree that evolution is good science were the only goal, I’d agree that Miller and Ruse will have at best limited success, while atheists attacking religion will also have success. And I see reason for both to be in that game. If you’re trying to keep morons from gutting science education because “evolution is atheist,” or from teaching religious ideas as biology, then Miller and Ruse play a crucial role, in my opinion.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  28. #28 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 12, 2009

    Richard –

    I’m pretty sure Miller thinks that human-like intelligence was essentially inevitable once life got started on Earth. I don’t have his book handy at the moment, but as I recall he specifically endorsed Simon Conway Morris’ argument based on evolutionary convergence.

  29. #29 Robert O'Brien
    June 12, 2009

    Coyne is a bigot, PZ is a bigot, most of the new atheists who post comments on the topic of religion are bigots.

    They are also mediocre. PZ’s publication record is pathetic and Dawkins was shipped off to that bs chair for the “public understanding of science” because his research output was drier than the queen’s underwear. (Fortunately he has his accent to give him faux credibility!)

  30. #30 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    Hedgefundguy

    I have no intention of letting the new atheists rig the rules in their favor. The new atheists cry like babies when their critics play by the rules they claim as their privilege. If you think that’s not true, you’re not up on your Dawkins. He’s even going after other atheists now.

  31. #31 John Kwok
    June 12, 2009

    @ JoshS,

    For once you were making some sense in your “bigot” comment but since then you’ve lapped into irrelevance which I consider more verbal diarrhea from you.

    @ To everyone,

    I posted this at Chris Mooney’s blog entry on Ken Miller’s rebuttal to Coyne and I think it is worth noting here too:

    “Whether NCSE should give much thought to religious accomodation is of course the very issue which Coyne , Myers and others have been contending. But, simply from a practical standpoint, I can’t see how they could devote much time to it given their relatively small size as a nonprofit organization. Instead, they have been investing a substantial portion of their time to issues such as the Texas State Board of Education science standard hearings – and this, not ‘accomodationism’ – is the very reason why NCSE was established in the first place, and therefore, where it should invest both its limited financial and personnel resources to.”

  32. #32 Dan S.
    June 12, 2009

    Richard Dawkins asserted that it was highly probable that it always evolved, everywhere in the universe according to the principles of “Darwinism” (his word, for the ScienceBlog school of instant etymology).

    In the link I found (as you didn’t provide a reference), he talks about “Darwinian” evolution, which sounds rather less weird (cf “Newtonian mechanics”, not “Newtonism”), but certainly elsewhere he may well mention “Darwinism” – as you know, he’s one of a small and shrinking # of scientists who do so. Whether or not his claim’s correct, this is a pretty legitimate usage; he’s contrasting classical evolutionary theory to other possible mechanisms – for example, Lamarckian evolution.

    If you want me to explain again the reasons “Darwinism” (and even, if maybe to a lesser extent, the less kooky-sounding “Darwinian”) have increasingly fallen out of of fashion among scientists and pro-science folks, esp. in the US, the specific technical usages that remain (see above, for example), the very likely reasons creationists have obsessively seized upon it like GOP wordsmiths on the “death tax”, and why insisting on using it in innappropriate ways could help push creationist talking points, all you have to do is ask.

  33. #33 John Kwok
    June 12, 2009

    @ 30 – a correction:

    @ JoshS,

    For once you were making some sense in your “bigot” comment but since then you’ve lapsed into irrelevance which I consider more verbal diarrhea from you.

  34. #34 Glen Davidson
    June 12, 2009

    By the way, have you ever observed a debate over evolution within a religion? I have.

    From what I’ve seen, the sources that the (relatively) pro-science side are almost exclusively those of theistic evolutionists, with Francis Collins and Karl Giberson being among the favorites. You could check out spectrummagazine.org to see how they rely almost entirely on theists to argue for good science. Search, and you’ll find articles about Collins and Giberson (and I believe, Miller), and almost no Dawkins, Gould (maybe a little, thanks to NOMA), or other atheist sources.

    I ended up discovering there how very dishonest theistic evolutionists can be when you dare point out that “mind” should not be given an accounting via magic, so I’m not about to whitewash some of these disreputable “speakers for science.” And yet, the only advocates for biology’s main theory that are truly allowed in are indeed theists, while an honest non-theist not seeking to provoke anyone, like myself, is merely dishonestly attacked.

    You really have to look at how these things work out if you’re going to evaluate them. The people who tell them that they don’t have to give up god are simply acceptable in a way that those who note the incompatibilities of science (evolution being only a small part of it) and religion can never be.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  35. #35 Bruce Gorton
    June 12, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy

    The stone age, took up about 99% of humanities existance. Back then the major tools were made of stone, and we didn’t have farming yet.

    I don’t see you applying your concept to the idea of metalurgy though.

    That for thousands of years very smart people did something one way means absolute shit as to whether it is right or not.

    And besides that, according to your logic you should not be a Christian, but rather a Hindu, the Hindu religion predates Christianity by quite a bit and has a much prouder intellectual history.

  36. #36 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    Dan S. has been on the “Darwinism is a sign of a creationist” hobby horse with me for the past two years. I’ve cited Darwinists from Thomas Huxley down to Richard Dawkins and, yes, even Jerry Coyne as recently as last January, with links and he’s still obsessing over it. As recently as two weeks ago.

    Dan, you know where to find it.

    He just can’t stand that other than those callow enough to fall for the folk etymology of some of the more ignorant of the ScienceBloggers, everyone uses it because it’s the standard English world for the ideology.

    Dan’s a real time waster, if you hadn’t noticed.

  37. #37 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    Bruce Gorton, I’m not a Christian, as I’ve said here many times in the past week. I wouldn’t be a Hindu, though I’ve read quite a bit of the literature over the years, Carvarka too, and I’m not a materialist.

    You people are seriously paranoid about Christians, maybe that’s the problem.

    Now, that will be enough about me. I’m not my favorite topic of conversation.

  38. #38 John Kwok
    June 12, 2009

    @ JoshS (19) –

    I’m not a mindless IDiot drone with respect to Ken’s thinking, especially on how he seems to try to reconcile science with religion. An excellent case in point is Ken’s espousal of a “weak version” of the anthropic principle, and I concur with Massimo Pigliucci’s assessment of Ken’s thought, as Pigliucci has noted at his blog, Rationally Speaking.

    My attitude towards Ken stands in stark contrast to those who have been “fawning” over the “William A. Dembski of Militant Atheism”, one PZ Myers.

  39. #39 Bruce Gorton
    June 12, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy

    Yeah, bollocks. That you are Christian who is ashamed to be a Christian, says a lot about your faith. Its a bit like all of those Republicans who kept saying they didn’t vote Bush.

    Heck if all of the people who didn’t vote Bush didn’t vote Bush then there is something seriously fucked up with America’s method of counting votes.

    And the time frame, 150 years, like it would make a bloody difference if it had been discovered five minutes ago or in the ancient writings of some genius proto-human.

    Sure there are going to be more discoveries made, hell surprises will abound, but you know what? A lot of those are going to look like breakthroughs, just like Darwin’s idea.

    And Darwin’s idea? it is not like the study of evolution stopped when some greybeard went six feet under. The study of evolution has progressed since Darwin, while geniuses, mediocrities and utter morons tried to disprove it.

    It has been refined, corrected, and confirmed as more and more evidence has come to light.

    What pisses me off with your post is that ultimately all the evidence in the world isn’t going to convince you because you aren’t going to look at it.

    Much better to play the contrarian and say “but really now, after centuries of people who thought illness was caused by an imbalance of the four humours not being able to figure this out, how can we say we have the answer now?”

  40. #40 386sx
    June 12, 2009

    Looks like very selective rebelliousness to me.

    But of coarse. How else to prop up support for religious beliefs?

    Mr. Miller thinks that it would be “clumsy” for God to do some miracles that people like Coyne would notice. Urrrrmm, sounds like a very selective “clumsy” to me.

  41. #41 Dan S.
    June 12, 2009

    That you are Christian who is ashamed to be a Christian

    Er, no, he’s not. Not sure if he’s even a theist.

  42. #42 Sven DiMilo
    June 12, 2009

    If someone said the things they’ve said about women or ethnic minorites that they habitually say about all religious believers

  43. #43 Robert O'Brien
    June 12, 2009

    the Hindu religion predates Christianity by quite a bit and has a much prouder intellectual history.

    According to whom, BJP? And shouldn’t you be out peddling fish sticks?

  44. #44 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    Yeah, bollocks. That you are Christian who is ashamed to be a Christian,

    I have said on this blog that I don’t believe in the Virgin Birth, I don’t believe in vicarious atonement, that alone would disqualify me as a Christian.

    Why would a Christian who believes that is the way to salvation be ashamed of it?

    You going to ask me if I’m a secret Jew now? I could have changed my name to assimilate. Oh, wait, maybe you could work that in with “accomodate”, you might be able to find some further ‘evidence’ that way. I might confess that I was kind of attracted by what I’ve read about the Masroti branch of Judaism, though I’m not too keen on Moses.

    I think you guys are paranoid about Christians, do you check under your bed before you get in?

  45. #45 Stu
    June 12, 2009

    Yikes. Kwok AND O’Brien in one thread?

    Good luck Jason… you’re going to need it.

  46. #46 Robert O'Brien
    June 12, 2009

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZIvgQ9ik48

    Thus we see where your intellectual abilities plateaued.

  47. #47 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    I’d say that some of the six schools of Hindu literature contains some of the most subtle reasoning I’ve seen.

    Thing about that, you’ve got to have read it and the new atheists, since they’ve got science on their side, are exempt from that first rule of scholarship. They don’t need to know about something before declaring it not worth knowing about.

  48. #48 DS
    June 12, 2009

    >I do not think there is any logical contradiction between >anything in science and the tenets of Christianity
    Virgin births, Resurrections , water to wine aren’t contradictions?
    There aren’t logical contradictions between science and some Christians (who can accept that some parts of their religion is just wrong). However there are definite contradictions between science and some tenets of Christianity.

  49. #49 Robert O'Brien
    June 12, 2009

    Virgin births, Resurrections , water to wine aren’t contradictions?

    No. None of those events contravene the laws of logic or science. (The claim is not that those events spontaneously occurred, which would contradict science.)

    However there are definite contradictions between science and some tenets of Christianity.

    You haven’t been able to list any yet. (Incidentally, we humans have been able to engineer virgin births for over 30 years now.)

  50. #50 eric
    June 12, 2009

    Sven#41

    If someone said the things they’ve said about women or ethnic minorites that they habitually say about all religious believers

    The analogy is utterly fallacious. Your sex and your ethnicity are not choices. What you believe is.

  51. #51 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    The analogy is utterly fallacious. Your sex and your ethnicity are not choices. What you believe is.

    Oh, so religious fundamentalists who hate and lie about atheists are fully justified. Interesting gambit, eric.

    Um, you new atheists want to start talking logic because you don’t show much evidence of being very good at it. Bigots tend to be kind of irrational.

  52. #52 WcT
    June 12, 2009

    I do want to distance myself here from Anthony’s comments here.

    I don’t disagree with (what I think) is Jason’s overall thrust: the path of least resistance to broad public acceptance of evolution is by religion losing it’s prominence in the public discourse.

    I just felt that he was capable of a much better defense of that point of view than “this pew poll shows christianity is static, and conflicts with evolution on a basic level.”

  53. #53 Tulse
    June 12, 2009

    he is very keen on the idea that the evolution of human-like intelligence was essentially a foregone conclusion once evolution got started. [...] He seems to think there is a preexisting biological niche for a creature with human-like intelligence, and that, since evolution managed to fill this niche in the one run we have to go on, it is reasonable to think that a second run of evolution would fill it again.

    The lack of success of SETI would seem to provide some negative evidence for this claim. At the very least, the possibility of finding extra-terrestrial environments with only non-intelligent life would certainly seem to speak to the issue — in other words, this is not just armchair speculation, but can potentially be addressed empirically. (And perhaps answered relatively shortly at that, as we will soon have the ability to detect some signs of biological activity on extrasolar planets, and may send probes to likely harbours of life in our own solar system.)

    Of course, I presume that if we find many other planets with life but no intelligence, the argument will be turned around to be about how “special” humans are, and how our own evolutionary path must have somehow been guided.

    Virgin births, Resurrections , water to wine aren’t contradictions?

    No. None of those events contravene the laws of logic or science. (The claim is not that those events spontaneously occurred, which would contradict science.)

    No, the claim is that they were miracles, which do indeed “contradict” science.

  54. #54 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    WcT, which comments in particular? The one I made about the logical conclusion of eric’s position that hating religious believers wasn’t bigotry because religious belief was a choice?

    Well, isn’t atheism a choice too? Which would mean that bigots who hate atheists are as justified as atheists who are bigots.

  55. #55 tomh
    June 12, 2009

    @ #119 Anyone been reading Jason Rosenhouse’s blog? There are current threads over there featuring both Kw*k and O’Bri*n. If Larry F*f*rm*n would show up, wow!

    Only those of us with too much time on our hands. They’ve got Anthony McCarthy with them which makes a trifecta winner if ever there was one.

  56. #56 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    No, the claim is that they were miracles, which do indeed “contradict” science.

    How? Unless there is evidence that can be evaluated by the normal methods of science, science can’t address them at all.

    Science isn’t a matter of saying “That’s impossible and I’m a scientist, damn it, so what I say goes.” You’ve got to actually do some science for it to be science. Otherwise, it’s just dogma. And you wouldn’t want to be guilty of asserting dogma, would you?

  57. #57 tomh
    June 12, 2009

    @ #54 Oops, wrong blog. My mistake.

  58. #58 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    #54 Oops, wrong blog. My mistake.

    You do that everytime you make a mistake, tomh, this is going to be a really long blog thread.

  59. #59 WcT
    June 12, 2009

    Mostly your continously calling people bigots.

    Most of the rest of the commentary here, I really don’t care about. To be honest, I don’t see the big deal about ‘tension between religion and science.’

    Personally I have no difficulty reconciling faith with science, but I’m not particularly zealous. I don’t get the religious people who insist that somehow the King James version of the bible “got it exactly right.” But nor do I understand the argument that because many religious people are ignorant, or because a prominent religious person such as Francis Collins has a view of evolution that is mostly “god of the gaps,” that somehow religion as a whole must be impossibly wrong and must be argued against at all costs.

    In my (statistically insignificant experience) people who legitimately understand evolution (not theistic evolution), but the actual science, they don’t have a problem reconciling it with their faith or lack of faith.

    Personally, I don’t think evolution somehow implies a creator nor do I think that evolution somehow disproves a creator. It just is. It’s just a wonderful, constantly improving model of how the world works.

    It doesn’t need to also answer the question of life, the universe and everything as well.

    My entrance into the discussion was merely to discuss a particular flaw in an argument on one side of the debate. I think if you’re gonna argue the subject, argue the actual merits.

    *watches for the flames that are sure to follow from both the religious and the New Athiests*

  60. #60 Science Avenger
    June 12, 2009

    Wow, Kwok, O’Brien, and McCarthy, namedropping, equivocating, insulting and randomly tossing words like “bigot” and “logic” about with nary a rhyme or reason. Someone tell Del Toro, Penn and Carrey they’ve got competition.

    Now all we need is Rhology and Fafferman and we can have a Lollapaloona!

  61. #61 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    WcT, Science Avenger, I’m not tossing the word “bigot” around randomly, I’m talking about bigotry.

    What word should I use when talking about dishonest, untrue and vicious characterization of religious people and the indiscriminate and universal characterization of them?

    Considering the express program of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, PZ, Coyne, that’s bigotry. I’m not going to stop calling it that.

  62. #62 Tulse
    June 12, 2009

    Unless there is evidence that can be evaluated by the normal methods of science, science can’t address them at all.

    Nonsense. Science can certainly speak to the likelihood of the miraculous in general — given that science routinely “naturalizes” those domains once thought to be the province of the supernatural, and that there is no documented, testable claim of a miracle that I know of that clearly violates known physical laws, then claims of an historical event being a miracle amount to special pleading.

    Moreover, the success of the scientific program of methodological naturalism in general in describing and predicting the phenomena of the world around us suggests that at best the domain of miracles must be highly constrained, and thus any claims of such events must demand extraordinary support in order to be taken seriously.

    Just saying “it’s a miracle” does not give one carte blanche, despite what you might believe.

  63. #63 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    Nonsense. Science can certainly speak to the likelihood of the miraculous in general

    You really don’t get this miracle stuff, do you Tulse, miracles are held to happen outside of the natural order of things, they are improbable, they are unpredictable and rare. They are not all described to be alike. There is no “in general” about them because of that.

    Without evidence to evaluate, science can’t address a miracle. With evidence, possibly, without it, no.

    I’m still waiting on the resident Mathematics PhD to address whether or not that miracle we argued about down stairs can be addressed by probability because that seems to be a widely held delusion by a number of the people who frequent his blog. It’s his duty as a mathematician to clear that up. Why won’t he? Because they might not like the answer? Show us how it could be done, put your name to it if it can be.

  64. #64 tomh
    June 12, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy wrote: …miracles are held to happen outside of the natural order of things, they are improbable, they are unpredictable and rare.

    You forgot imaginary. Invented and written in ancient books.

    I’m still waiting on the resident Mathematics PhD to address …

    Funny thing I’ve noticed about Rosenhouse, after following his blog for a long time. He doesn’t bother to engage with lunatics. He usually lets them ramble on here, as he’s done with you, but he doesn’t waste his time engaging with them. Some of us, however, have nothing better to do.

  65. #65 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    Trying to think of how to explain it to you so you can finally get it. Think of it in practical terms.

    This is only in case of claimed miracles for which there is no evidence to study.

    You have to address it as someone who believes it tells you about it. You, clearly, would want to debunk it.

    If you don’t deal with exactly what was described to you, including that it was miraculous and so outside of normal causality, you can assert your positions till you rot but the person who believes it is ENTIRELY WITHIN THEIR RIGHTS TO POINT OUT THAT YOU HAVEN’T DEBUNKED WHAT THEY TOLD YOU HAPPENED.

    You cannot get someone to abandon their belief in a miracle scientifically, unless you can disprove it as they told it. You will be wasting your time.

    There are other ways to dissuade some people of some miracles using things other than science but that’s not the subject here.

  66. #66 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    You forgot imaginary. Invented and written in ancient books.

    Well, memes are thirty odd years old now. How many of the atheists here believe in Dawkins’ myth. Not to mention the ones he, Dennett and a host of others create as part of evo-psy. Creation myths, based in absolutely nothing but self-service.

  67. #67 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    Funny thing I’ve noticed about Rosenhouse, after following his blog for a long time. He doesn’t bother to engage with lunatics.

    Apparently he doesn’t mind his regulars trashing math to assert lunacy either. Funny thing to find at a ScienceBlog.

  68. #68 Science Avenger
    June 12, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy said: “I’m not tossing the word “‘bigot’ around randomly, I’m talking about bigotry. What word should I use when talking about dishonest, untrue and vicious characterization of religious people and the indiscriminate and universal characterization of them?Considering the express program of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, PZ, Coyne, that’s bigotry. I’m not going to stop calling it that.

    Ordinarily I’d say call it whatever you like, and we’ll keep laughing at you. However, bigotry is a serious matter, and as many fighting for the rights of American blacks have discovered, words like “bigot” and “racist” need to be used judiciously, else they become stripped of the seriousness with which they deserved to be treated. Ditto for terms like “dishonest, untrue and vicious”, none of which remotely describes the writings of the men above.

    As for your words, “blithering lunacy” is how I’d describe them, as little resemblance as they bear to what those gentlemen actually say and believe. It’s one step up (barely) from the bums yammering in the street, and it does real damage to the cases of those fighting actual dishonest, viscious bigots.

    Tomh said: [Rosenhouse] doesn’t bother to engage with lunatics. He usually lets them ramble on here, as he’s done with you, but he doesn’t waste his time engaging with them. Some of us, however, have nothing better to do.

    Guilty as charged. Something about vitriolic loons gives me an uncontrollable urge to jab them with a short stick.

  69. #69 SLC
    June 12, 2009

    Most of the loons have shown up and hijacked this thread. However, the looniest one of all, a whackjob calling himself JonS hasn’t shown up yet. He is so over the top that he makes Kwok, O’Brien, McCarty, Fafarman, et al look like sane sober citizens.

  70. #70 JimV
    June 12, 2009

    As far as I know, all my close relatives are Christians, and are raising their children to be Christians, and to not believe in evolution. It is a small sample, but the attitudes of the Christians whom I have observed at close range are unscientific.

    A common trait, for instance, is to look for signs to bolster one’s faith. That’s not unscientific, but the way they go about it is. They will ignore sign after sign that can’t be interpreted to be in accordance with their faith, until finally they find one that does (taking years in some cases).

    Dr. Collins’ famous epiphany on seeing a tripartite frozen waterfall is an example.

    To restate Feynman, the key point of science is to resist being fooled, because humanity has a strong propensity for fooling itself which needs resistance. In my individual experience, religion encourages the fooling of one’s self.

    So I personally don’t like to see it in scientists, because I suspect they have fooled themselves in this matter, and wonder what else they may have fooled themselves about. Practically speaking though, it does not make a real difference, because we all fool ourselves about many things in our lives. Certainly not being fooled by religion does not make me superior over all to scientists like Dr. Collins and Dr. Miller, who have contributed much more to science than I ever will.

  71. #71 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    Am I supposed to worry about someone who calls himself “Science Avenger” laughing at me? I guess all the Sci-rangers and the Power Rangers of Occam will be laughing with you. You guys get decoder rings?

    Hey, when Jason Rosenhouse tells us how to apply probability to The Virgin Birth, I’ll start worrying that I’ve been blithering. Until then, in the absence of you guys saying how it could be done, I’d think you were the ones who had been blithering.

    There’s nothing like new atheists who whine and cry when someone stands up to them.

    Gee, SLC, be specific, what lunacy in particular?

  72. #72 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    As far as I know, all my close relatives are Christians, and are raising their children to be Christians, and to not believe in evolution. It is a small sample, but the attitudes of the Christians whom I have observed at close range are unscientific.

    Have you sampled the majority of people who accept evolution who believe in religion? I’d guess most of them Christians?

    I’m not finding a whole heck of a lot of scientific type of thinking here this week. Science without evidence, for example.

  73. #73 Kevin (nyc)
    June 12, 2009

    OT but can someone help us out here..

    taz claims that random distributions tend to cluster

    “If you generate points at random on the X-Y plane, you’re not going to get evenly spaced points, you’re going to get clusters. That’s how things work. Posted by: Taz | June 12, 2009 11:16 AM”

    and I say they don’t.

    “In a random distribution, given a desired average spacing between points A, there is always a number of points B that will generate an average spacing less than A.”

    thx!

    hxxx://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/06/mcleroy_still_spouting_creatio.php#comments

  74. #74 Robert O'Brien
    June 12, 2009

    No, the claim is that they were miracles, which do indeed “contradict” science.

    No, they don’t. They contradict materialism/atheism but materialism/atheism != science.

    …then claims of an historical event being a miracle amount to special pleading.

    As Charles Babbage demonstrated 270+ years ago, if the probability of an eyewitnesses truthfully and accurately reporting an event is greater than 1/2, then a finite number of witnesses can always be found such that the event must have occurred (provided the testimonies are independent).

    Wow, Kwok, O’Brien, and McCarthy, namedropping, equivocating, insulting and randomly tossing words like “bigot” and “logic” about with nary a rhyme or reason.

    Dear hayseed,

    You are a low-functioning number-cruncher who does not know the first thing about logic.

  75. #75 Kevin (nyc)
    June 12, 2009

    on second thought, that claim does not resolve the issue.

    “ok wait change that…

    what does clustering mean? do it mean that no matter how many points you add, you will always have more points in one area then the next? or does it mean that some areas will never have a point?

    I guess if its the former then the claim is true that some spots will always have more points than others….

    I know that the ipod actually adjusts the shuffle function to avoid clustering so I guess …

    still don’t like it…”

  76. #76 Robert O'Brien
    June 12, 2009

    Ordinarily I’d say call it whatever you like, and we’ll keep laughing at you.

    Ah, yes, the cacophonous braying of asses.

  77. #77 Tulse
    June 12, 2009

    You really don’t get this miracle stuff, do you Tulse

    You’d be surprised.

    miracles are held to happen outside of the natural order of things, they are improbable, they are unpredictable and rare.

    Only one of those qualities is a “necessary” feature of miracles. Indeed, in ages past miracles were held to be rather common and quite predictable (e.g., in a rainstorm Thor is likely to cause thunder; when asking an oracle they will predictably provide insight into the future). Indeed, what else is the Transubstantiation but a literal miracle that occurs predictably and commonly (every time a Catholic Mass is said)?

    You are confusing the defining aspect of miracles (that they occur “outside the natural order of things”, and I’ll leave that question-begging aside) with qualities that are by no means necessary or historically accurate.

    Without evidence to evaluate, science can’t address a miracle.

    Again, nonsense. Miracles posit that the universe operates in a certain way (namely, that disembodied intelligences can influence the physical world through sheer force of will and violate physical laws). There is absolutely no evidence that such takes place, ergo science can say that any specific claim of miracles is a priori extremely unlikely to be true. (This is not some extravagant position, by the way, as the basic principle equally applies to claims of alien abduction, crystal healing, homeopathy, etc.)

    No, the claim is that they were miracles, which do indeed “contradict” science.

    No, they don’t. They contradict materialism/atheism but materialism/atheism != science.

    While not identical to science, methodological materialism is indeed its philosophical foundation. It is impossible to do empirical science if all observations can be undetectably manipulated by an unseen intelligence. Miracles make induction in principle impossible.

  78. #78 Dan S.
    June 12, 2009


    Have you sampled the majority of people who accept evolution who believe in religion? I’d guess most of them Christians?

    2007 Pew poll data on acceptance of evolution across various religions/denominations here. This doesn’t directly approach the issue (and indeed, given the numbers, the majority of Americans who accept evolution have to believe in religion – there aren’t enough (open, anyway) nontheists yet), but it’s interesting. Jehovah’s Witnesses are way down – only 8%!, but Evangelical Protestants (and Mormons) are not far behind, with only about a quarter able to deal with with modern science. Still, 24%, (and 22%) . . . that’s something.

    Although considering that Catholicism doesn’t reject (theistic) evolution, it’s actually kinda sad that only 58% of American Catholics agree.

    If you want to be able to predict if someone rejects modern science (specifically, evolution), three things to look for.
    1) Are they Evangelical Protestants, Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses (see above)
    2) Do they attend church weekly (74% don’t “believe in evolution”)
    3) Are they Republicans (68% on’t “believe in evolution”)

    Of course, a lot of overlap there. Source for the last two here

  79. #79 Dan S.
    June 12, 2009


    Have you sampled the majority of people who accept evolution who believe in religion? I’d guess most of them Christians?

    2007 Pew poll data on acceptance of evolution across various religions/denominations: a http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=392. This doesn’t directly approach the issue (and indeed, given the numbers, the majority of Americans who accept evolution have to believe in religion – there aren’t enough (open, anyway) nontheists yet), but it’s interesting. Jehovah’s Witnesses are way down – only 8%!, but Evangelical Protestants (and Mormons) are not far behind, with only about a quarter able to deal with with modern science. Still, 24%, (and 22%) . . . that’s something.

    Although considering that Catholicism doesn’t reject (theistic) evolution, it’s actually kinda sad that only 58% of American Catholics agree.

    If you want to be able to predict if someone rejects modern science (specifically, evolution), three things to look for.
    1) Are they Evangelical Protestants, Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses (see above)
    2) Do they attend church weekly (74% don’t “believe in evolution”)
    3) Are they Republicans (68% on’t “believe in evolution”)

    Of course, a lot of overlap there. Source for the last two: http://www.gallup.com/poll/27847/Majority-Republicans-Doubt-Theory-Evolution.aspx

  80. #80 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2009

    I probably shouldn’t do this when I’m this tired, but here goes.

    Tulse, you are the one who believes that miracles, without any physical evidence, can be subjected to science, have you formally given up the idea that you could subject them to mathematical probability? I’ve forgotten if you had.

    Only one of those qualities is a “necessary” feature of miracles.

    I’d imagine the part about them being outside of the natural order of things, though you don’t specify. I rather think the others apply. Though the word is used for more than one kind of thing, which is not a feature that would lend itself to science, which would have to account for different kinds of miracles, in that case.

    Indeed, in ages past miracles were held to be rather common and quite predictable (e.g., in a rainstorm Thor is likely to cause thunder; when asking an oracle they will predictably provide insight into the future).

    I’m not sure the assertion “Thor is likely to cause thunder” would constitute a miracle, put that way, I’d say that’s more of an explanation of a regular experience. Do you have any accurate, contemporary description by its believers of it as a miracle? How would you suggest debunking the ‘Thor’ hypothesis scientifically? Assuming the ‘Thor’ in question is supernatural and could cause thunder by supernatural means. The idea of a supernatural thunder hammer seems as if it should be attractive to the ambient Sci-rangers around here.

    I’m not sure I’d call the oracle an example of a miracle either. It would seem to be more of an unusual mental faculty, the ability to see into the future, than a miracle. Do you have any statistical data on the percentage of successful predictions, as determined in a double blind situation? That would at least be some kind of data you could go on.

    Though I don’t think if you got a statistically positive result you would be able to tell what the mechanism producing that was. If you found only one positive result, even if it was spectacularly positive, you would probably throw it out as an outlier. Though, unlike the Virgin Birth which is held to be unique in history, since you had a number of similar kinds of events, you could figure out an estimate of the probability of a positive result. I am still pretty sure that an event which happened exactly once can’t be subjected to probability. No one seems to have risen to the challenge to show the math in their attempt.

    Indeed, what else is the Transubstantiation but a literal miracle that occurs predictably and commonly (every time a Catholic Mass is said)?

    As they are held to be transformed into the body and blood, while retaining their identity as bread and wine, you can’t physically test to see if it actually happens every time. You can’t scientifically assume that the assertion it happens every time is correct. Maybe it only happens once in a thousand times. There isn’t any way to know if what those who believe in that kind of miracle are right about what they say. You do know this was a very bad example if you want to assert the possibility of subjecting it to science. You are proposing to do science on this too, as you at least have samples and can actually witness the consecration. You don’t have samples or the ability to witness the Virgin Birth, so you’d be at even more of a disadvantage there.

    Again, nonsense. Miracles posit that the universe operates in a certain way (namely, that disembodied intelligences can influence the physical world through sheer force of will and violate physical laws).

    When God does it I don’t think you could say a law was broken, who’s going to prosecute? What specific law or laws were broken by the Virgin Birth of Jesus? Name any, please.

    Are you saying that “physical laws” as found in science text books are closed to further information? That it’s known that they always apply in every instance? Funny, they must have changed that law we were taught that everything in science is only contingently held to be known. The physical sciences aren’t math, after all. Though apparently math ain’t what it used to be either. How do you know that every one of them won’t be violated miraculously tomorrow?

    There is absolutely no evidence that such takes place, ergo science can say that any specific claim of miracles is a priori extremely unlikely to be true.

    If there is evidence that can be tested or studied science can pretty well determine that it happened or not. If it happened but no specific reason is found, that’s the best they can do with that. I don’t think science can ever decide if an event is impossible on the basis of probability or statistics, an individual event might fall outside the realm of the likely but still have happened. If there’s no evidence of a claim that something happened, science can’t tell if what they would predict is what happened of if what they would predict wouldn’t happen did happen.

    You might choose not to believe it on the basis of its being determined to have been unlikely, but that isn’t the same thing as knowing it didn’t happen. Of course, people can believe that it did without reference to your opinion. That’s their right.

    (This is not some extravagant position, by the way, as the basic principle equally applies to claims of alien abduction, crystal healing, homeopathy, etc.)

    I’m always fascinated why the same list of stuff always shows up, someone mentioned spoon bending above. You guys been traumatized by a bunch of bent spoons in your drawer or have you been hoodwinked by that old charlatan, James Randi?
    Didn’t Dawkins tell him he was going to have to pay up on that phony challenge of his? I seem to remember reading the old guy was kind of shocked when he heard that from The Dawkins.

    I don’t know if anyone’s been abducted by aliens. As long as no one is forced to do anything against their will or taken advantage of while unconscious, I’m not greatly troubled by it. I’m not really interested in Ufology. I would suggest you go to Saucer Smear to find someone who might talk to you about that.

    Crystals, don’t do that either. Have enough trouble paying for my health care as it is. Homeopathy, took enough chemistry to know many of those doses wouldn’t have the allegedly ‘active’ ingredient.

    You people have a really bad habit of thinking in stereotypes. What are you going to imply I believe in next?

  81. #81 Dan S.
    June 12, 2009

    What are you going to imply I believe in next?

    Anthony, I don’t know a more polite way to say this, but seriously, it’s not all about you. Just as I wasn’t implying you were a homophobic forced-birther fundy on the other thread (but instead pointing out the silliness of comparing atheists who are impolite with the people who gun down doctors and try to keep couples in love from marrying – that is, almost exclusively ‘fundies’), there’s frankly no reason to think Tulse was implying that you were a crystal-healin homeopath with alien abductee delusions; rather, they were making a comparison between, basically, the burden of proof re: miracles, and the burden of proof re: other unsupported claims. It’s really odd that you don’t seem to understand this.

    Homeopathy, took enough chemistry to know many of those doses wouldn’t have the allegedly ‘active’ ingredient.

    Again, not all about you. It’s great you have the education and mindset to realize this about homoepathy. However, many people don’t. In Australia, a couple was just found guilty of manslaughter because they treated their baby daughter’s eczema with homeopathic remedies instead of sticking to any of the actual treatments that were prescribed; as a result the little girl spent much of short life suffering and died without ever seeing her first birthday.

  82. #82 Tulse
    June 12, 2009

    I probably shouldn’t do this when I’m this tired

    You really shouldn’t do this at all…

    have you formally given up the idea that you could subject them to mathematical probability?

    You really didn’t read my posting, did you?

    Only one of those qualities is a “necessary” feature of miracles.

    I’d imagine the part about them being outside of the natural order of things

    Hey, got it in one!

    I’m not sure the assertion “Thor is likely to cause thunder” would constitute a miracle, put that way, I’d say that’s more of an explanation of a regular experience.

    It is a supernatural explanation of an experience, which is precisely what a miracle is. Don’t confuse the Christian connotations of the term with its actual definition.

    I’m not sure I’d call the oracle an example of a miracle either. It would seem to be more of an unusual mental faculty, the ability to see into the future, than a miracle.

    Right, because there is nothing supernatural about being able to see the future.

    Do you have any statistical data on the percentage of successful predictions, as determined in a double blind situation?

    Do you want studies of precognition? I’m sure they’re available, and I’m sure what they say.

    Indeed, what else is the Transubstantiation but a literal miracle that occurs predictably and commonly (every time a Catholic Mass is said)?

    As they are held to be transformed into the body and blood, while retaining their identity as bread and wine, you can’t physically test to see if it actually happens every time.

    This issue was your claim that miracles are by definition rare. According to the Catholic Church, miracles happen literally thousands of times a day, at every Mass. If you don’t think the Transubstantiation qualifies as a miracle, or that it occurs every time a priest says the magic words, take it up with the Pope, not me.

    When God does it I don’t think you could say a law was broken, who’s going to prosecute?

    I presume that was supposed to be funny…

    What specific law or laws were broken by the Virgin Birth of Jesus?

    How about the accepted biological principle that it is impossible for a female human to give birth to a male without insemination? (Even a female child would at least be possible, but because of the Y chromosome, no female could give birth parthenogenically to a normal male.)

    Are you saying that “physical laws” as found in science text books are closed to further information?

    Of course not — they are revisable and revised by further observation and theorizing. We are never 100% accurate, and we never have the Truth, just better and better approximations of the “truth”. What this bit of Philosophy of Science 101 has to do with miracles is beyond me.

    I don’t think science can ever decide if an event is impossible on the basis of probability or statistics

    Look, it’s very simple. Science has not determined that any events are miraculous, and demand an explanation involving a disembodied intelligence interfering with the physical causal chain. Ergo, there is good reason to believe that such events must be at best extremely rare. Ergo, if you present an event as a possible candidate for miracle, the a priori likelihood that it is a miracle is very low. (Ironically, this situation is made worse by your insistence on the rarity of miracles — if they occurred all the time, if the world was truly a blooming buzzing confusion of supernatural interference, then the probability of any one event being supernatural would be much higher.) And no, since we’re talking probability, we can’t say that something is “impossible”, just that it is extremely improbable that it is true.

    You might choose not to believe it on the basis of its being determined to have been unlikely, but that isn’t the same thing as knowing it didn’t happen.

    “Knowing” as in certainty? You’re in the wrong line of work if you’re looking for certainty from science.

    I’m always fascinated why the same list of stuff always shows up, someone mentioned spoon bending above. You guys been traumatized by a bunch of bent spoons in your drawer or have you been hoodwinked by that old charlatan, James Randi?

    Hey look — a complete lack of addressing the point of the example!

  83. #83 John Kwok
    June 12, 2009

    Hi everyone,

    Just came back from the World Science Festival after hearing Carl Zimmer interview paleontologists Michael Novacek and Derek Briggs and photographer Frans Lanting and Lanting’s wife (a National Geographic writer) over at the World Science Festival. It was mainly to feature Lanting’s excellent photographic essay on the history of life on Planet Earth. Had time briefly to say hello to Carl and mention some of the interesting “dialogue” we’ve been having here about Jerry Coyne and Ken Miller.

    On a more serious note, I posted these comments earlier today and no one seems to have addressed them:

    “Whether NCSE should give much thought to religious accomodation is of course the very issue which Coyne , Myers and others have been contending. But, simply from a practical standpoint, I can’t see how they could devote much time to it given their relatively small size as a nonprofit organization. Instead, they have been investing a substantial portion of their time to issues such as the Texas State Board of Education science standard hearings – and this, not ‘accomodationism’ – is the very reason why NCSE was established in the first place, and therefore, where it should invest both its limited financial and personnel resources to.”

    Given the fact that NCSE does have limited financial and personnel resources, do you think it should spend it more time wisely in trying to shape public school science education policy (as it has been doing in Texas) or should it fritter away its time and resources by trying to do what Coyne, Myers and others have asked with regards to it refraining from an “accomodationist” stance with religion? Realistically I don’t think it is capable of both.

    This is a serious question and I would appreciate some thoughtful, well considered replies.

  84. #84 Dan S.
    June 13, 2009

    this, not ‘accomodationism’ – is the very reason why NCSE was established in the first place, and therefore, where it should invest both its limited financial and personnel resources to.”

    I can’t imagine that Coyne or Myers or etc. would disagree with this, though?

    … should it fritter away its time and resources by trying to do what Coyne, Myers and others have asked with regards to it refraining from an “accomodationist” stance with religion?

    How is this a waste of – no, let me rephrase: how is refraining from something spending time and resources? -In general I support a “weak accomodationist” (ie, explaining to the public that many people are able to reconcile religion and science to their own satisfaction) kind of policy, but I’m just not getting what you’re saying here. I haven’t read much Coyne or Myers lately, though, so I’m quite possibly missing something.

  85. #85 John Kwok
    June 13, 2009

    @ Dan S. –

    Do you have any idea just how large NCSE really is? I would be surprised that, at most, they have twenty people in their Oakland, CA-based office. Now compare their staff size, with for example, either the Disco Tute or ICR, and maybe, just maybe, it might slowly sink in that they have a valid point.

    As an interesting anecdote, I pointed out to one of the senior staff an online document at their website on the relationship between religion and science that was posted approximately 7 years ago – and they weren’t aware of it (I’m not going to say who it was.).

    Realistically, NCSE has far more important issues on its plate than trying to kowtow to every whim that’s been entertained by the likes of Coyne and Myers, etc. I would rather see themselves working assidulously towards preparing for the next Texas State Board of Education Science Standards meeting (or something quite similar) than wasting their time trying to decide whether they have to appease militant atheists objecting to their so-called “accomodation” with “theistic evolutionists”.

    However, on a more sarcastic note, maybe PZ Myers should think seriously of asking his good pal, Richard Dawkins, to donate a lavish contribution towards such an end, especially when Dawkins has received an advance for his forthcoming book from Simon and Schuster that is almost the same as what bestselling memoirist Frank McCourt has received for his memoirs.

  86. #86 Science Avenger
    June 13, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy said: Am I supposed to worry about someone who calls himself “Science Avenger” laughing at me? I guess all the Sci-rangers and the Power Rangers of Occam will be laughing with you. You guys get decoder rings?

    Wow, what content there bud, playing with internet pseudonyms, as if that means anything. Par for the course. Worry? Not particularly. But the manner in which you post here suggests a goal of persuading people to your point of view, and I thought it might be relevant to you that what you provoke is laughter instead. If you like that, hey, rock on.

    Robert O’Brien made rerun shit up thusly: Dear hayseed, You are a low-functioning number-cruncher who does not know the first thing about logic.

    Coming from someone who makes shit up like this without the slightest concern for reality (I’m about the farthest thing from a hayseed, but thanks for the laugh), and enjoys displaying his ignorance of what professionals do (actuaries in my case), you can imagine what level of credibility your evaluation of my logic skills warrants.

    Really bud, why didn’t you just assert I was an alien lizard, and female at that? Would have the same basis as all your other assertions.

    It hurts that the world won’t recognize your brilliance, doesn’t it? You’re way too young to be so bitter. Get beaten up a lot as a child or something? I suggest therapy.

  87. #87 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2009

    Science Avenger. Sorry, I don’t usually stoop to that level of content free attempts at ridicule, but it is a very silly name and so typical of what I have called the sci-jocks of the SciBlogs in other places. I think they get their knowledge of science and logic in comic books and on the Sci-fi channel.

    That is I’m sorry for anyone who was interested in a substantive discussion, not to someone whose idea of a contribution was to assure me that he and his other Avenger pals are laughing at me. Which doesn’t bother me one little bit. SLC accusing me of lunacy, that might bother me slightly which is why I asked for particulars. Though maybe I misjudged that person’s intentions.

    Look, it’s very simple. Science has not determined that any events are miraculous,

    It couldn’t, that’s not what science does. That’s what pseudo-skeptics do.

    Yesterday evening I was at the birthday party of a friend of mine, a research scientist who happens to be an atheist and who disagrees with me about Socio-biology, though not about Evo-psy. He thinks that’s clearly pseudo-science, too. Neither of us believes in the literal truth of The Virgin Birth.

    I ran the great Virgin Birth debate past him. After pointing out that there was no evidence available, that it was held to be miraculous so there was no way to tell how it is supposed to have happened, and so no way to say how it couldn’t have happened and that it is held by Christians to be a unique event and so there was no other one like it in history, he agreed that there was no way for science to even address it.

    When I brought up the idea of subjecting it to probability, something he uses every time he reads something in his field and quite often when he writes a report, he agreed with my analysis of the problem and said the idea of using it for The Virgin Birth was absurd. When I told him where I’d had this fight he said “where”? Guess not all working scientists bother with the blogs.

    So, since Jason Rosenhouse is afraid of upsetting the new atheist faithful but pointing out that science and math can’t do everything, I’ll have to go with someone who will admit that.

    It’s astounding that on the vaunted ScienceBlogs that you guys can make such a basic blunder about science. Or that in the absence of scientific evaluation that you are required to believe something. You’re not required to believe it. But the people who do believe it aren’t required to give up their belief either. Some rather impressive scientists in history and today have been Christians, and I’d imagine a number of them believed in it. I’m pretty sure Gregor Mendel would have and Nicholas Steno since both of them were Catholic clergymen. Though a lot of Christians believe it’s a fable told to make a point about other things. I can respect that, though I don’t believe it.

    Memes, an idea that is so baseless, so absurdly self-contradictory, clearly self-serving in the context of its invention and which is passed off to many gullible people as science, by someone who has a position allegedly promoting science, that’s something that I can’t respect at all. Especially when Richard Dawkins left his floundering career in “science” to become one of the premier religious bigots of our time.

  88. #88 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2009

    Oh, and Tulse, in math you can know something with certainty. You can’t get that level of certainty in science or in any other place I know of.

    Though the theoretical concept of absolute certainty is kind of a myth too.

    As to the James Randi reference, you’re the one who brought up aliens and crystals. I figured I should address it.

    Maybe that’s the problem. They might have intended these to be blogs that were about science, but the new atheism is actually a pseudo-skeptical movement, not one based in science. You looked up Marcello Truzzi like I advised? He was kicked out of CSICOP because he was really interested in scholarly research instead of propaganda and wasn’t enough of a bigot for most of them. He was one of the people who studied organized skepticism and came to the conclusion that it was something of a fraud.

  89. #89 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2009

    Dawkins has received an advance for his forthcoming book from Simon and Schuster that is almost the same as what bestselling memoirist Frank McCourt has received for his memoirs.

    Had to look up who owns S&S now, it’s CBS. It might have the flavor of a “reality” series. Emphasis on “reality”.

    Dan, I’d have an easier time of avoiding talking about myself if you’d stop talking about me and doing what you said Tulse was doing. Though you’re right about Tulse.

  90. #90 John Kwok
    June 13, 2009

    @ Anthony –

    Well it would be interesting to see whether the Coyne and Myers acolytes would rise to my challenge and try to address seriously these points of mine:

    “Whether NCSE should give much thought to religious accomodation is of course the very issue which Coyne , Myers and others have been contending. But, simply from a practical standpoint, I can’t see how they could devote much time to it given their relatively small size as a nonprofit organization. Instead, they have been investing a substantial portion of their time to issues such as the Texas State Board of Education science standard hearings – and this, not ‘accomodationism’ – is the very reason why NCSE was established in the first place, and therefore, where it should invest both its limited financial and personnel resources to.”

    “Given the fact that NCSE does have limited financial and personnel resources, do you think it should spend it more time wisely in trying to shape public school science education policy (as it has been doing in Texas) or should it fritter away its time and resources by trying to do what Coyne, Myers and others have asked with regards to it refraining from an ‘accomodationist’ stance with religion? Realistically I don’t think it is capable of both.”

    “Realistically, NCSE has far more important issues on its plate than trying to kowtow to every whim that’s been entertained by the likes of Coyne and Myers, etc. I would rather see themselves working assidulously towards preparing for the next Texas State Board of Education Science Standards meeting (or something quite similar) than wasting their time trying to decide whether they have to appease militant atheists objecting to their so-called ‘accomodation’ with ‘theistic evolutionists’.”

    “However, on a more sarcastic note, maybe PZ Myers should think seriously of asking his good pal, Richard Dawkins, to donate a lavish contribution towards such an end, especially when Dawkins has received an advance for his forthcoming book from Simon and Schuster that is almost the same as what bestselling memoirist Frank McCourt has received for his memoirs.”

    The fact that Richard Dawkins has received for his next book an advance equivalent in amount to those received by Frank McCourt – who incidentally has been one of Simon and Schuster’s most popular authors in the past decade – should be irrelevant except for the fact that his American militant atheist acolytes want NCSE to act on behalf of their every whim. Well when you think of it seriously, you begin realizing that it costs money, and who better than Dawkins to be the one capable of providing a sufficiently lavish sum for such a reason.

    Maybe you could do a better job by addressing my points?

    Sincerely yours,

    John

    P. S. Have dealt with Science Avenger in the recent past and he seems to do a much better job in launching ad hominem attacks on actual – and potential – allies than in criticizing effectively evolution denialists of every flavor (Am surprised that he hasn’t “jumped one” me for name – dropping McCourt, especially when I have noted elsewhere recently that he was my high school creative writing teacher.).

  91. #91 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2009

    John Kwok, I got involved in this Coyne vs. Mooney issue because of Richard Lewontin’s positive, if somewhat less than wowed, review of his recent book. I wondered if it might do what I’ve wished a popular book about evolution would do, present some of the recent additions to the general Darwiniana and natural selections stuff, with the mandatory Mendelian material.

    His blog has the same name so I looked at that and was appalled to find it was just another cookie-cutter, new-atheist venting session with a few posts about science thrown in. The science is available at the source so I don’t need what passes through a tainted filter. I spent a week there getting a general sense of Coyne’s MO and personality. He’s like PZ lite in his ideological efforts, though he does have what the Sage of Morris doesn’t, a recent career in science. Given what happens to a scientist when he gets a blog dedicated to the new atheism, that should come to a grinding halt right about now.

    What I think is that Coyne isn’t really afraid that science is going to be corrupted by religion. As I’ve been asking, where’s the evidence of that happening now? He might be somewhat concerned about the fundamentalists interfering with public school science education, though if he is concerned about that he’s making the same old mistake of not recognizing that is a political fight. If I’m wrong and he does realize it’s a political fight, his activities only show his understanding of politics is even more deficient than his knowledge of theology. And the lack of a basic understanding of the mechanisms of an elected government is shocking in the extreme for an American.

    Looking at Dawkins, PZ, and now maybe Coyne, commercial new atheism could be thought of as a retirement plan for ex-scientists. I’m sure its lucrative for the limited number of anti-religious bigots who will buy their stuff. It’s not really much different from how Ann Coulter has become rich, except the fan base is probably much smaller. I don’t expect it will support as large a number of figures as the far-right pundit industry but it might have room for a few more “major” figures.

    Richard Dawkins is probably the most saleable. Mid-to high brow Americans are suckers for a toffee-nosed Brit accent. He won’t catch on with the majority here. I think that might account for the promotion of Coyne, only I think he’s burning bridges to the majority faster than the PR campaign can build them. He’s incredibly thin-skinned for a character assassin and reckless, as his appalling use of the Holocaust on the day the Museum in DC was attacked proves beyond a doubt. If he’s that much of a loose cannon, he’s going to go off again and again.

    So, those are my findings on this field trip into the new atheism. I will be writing them up and posting them on the new blog I began unexpectedly in response to that Matt Penfold twit. I felt it was responsible to try to get his time-wasting distraction on to another site. Now that it’s up, I intend to use it. I’m going to dedicate it to exposing the new atheism for the shallow, dishonest, bigoted intellectual fad that it is.

  92. #92 Dan S.
    June 13, 2009

    trying to kowtow to every whim that’s been entertained by the likes of Coyne and Myers, etc

    My understanding – and quite possibly a mistaken one, since I haven’t actually been following the details of the debate so much, lazy me – is that Coyne, Miller, et al basically want the NCSE to stop stressing all the time, through documents and spokespeople, the compatibility of (some kinds of) religion and science, and showcasing theistic scientists. (Whether or not this is a strictly official policy is a whole different matter; if you disagree that they’re doing this, just grant it for the purposes of argument, k?)

    I think I read one of them suggesting that it could depict a wider range of scientists (look, an atheist!), but it also seems that just not getting into the issue at all would be acceptable. I don’t know if I agree about that, but it doesn’t seem like an incredible burden, especially since we’re presumably (hopefully) not talking about them having to root out years-old files off their website and into some dystopian memory hole. I certainly don’t read them to be insisting that the NCSE push “science = atheism!”, which would be incredibly inappropriate.

    If I’ve gotten this wrong, let me know! (Of course, I could go read over all the posts, etc., but, well, lazy.

  93. #93 Dan S.
    June 13, 2009

    is that Coyne, Miller, et al

    Oh dear. Myers, obviously, not Miller. Oops.

  94. #94 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2009

    P.S. I left out what I think Coyne’s real problem is. Anyone who is rational knows that science has to have a wall to protect it from extraneous material which its methods and subject can’t include. Science doesn’t work unless it concentrates on the material universe, when it tires to extend past that, as into the study of complex behaviors, it becomes increasingly tattered.

    Religion, as politics or most other organized parts of human culture has no need of a wall of separation that excludes science. They often benefit from what science has learned. When that distinction is observed, there aren’t any problems. When, as in the infamous Wedge document, politicized religious fundamentalism tries to impinge on science, it damages science. And, I would maintain, it damages religion and politics. That IS the real problem of religion and politics on science.

    What Coyne really hates is that science can’t honestly attack religion on its core, non-material beliefs. He, like PZ and Dawkins, hates religion. If what Coyne feels about religious believers isn’t hate, he’s doing a bad job of demonstrating what he does feel about them. It must gall him to no end that someone with a real and successful career in science CAN be religious while they produce fine science. How dare they be what he hates while successfully doing the thing he supposedly cares most about. And, possibly, doing it far better than he or his heroes will. PZ banned me after I pointed out to him that a scientist at Yale, who he was slamming in the same way had a far more impressive publication record than he did. Have I mentioned these guys tend to have thin skins?

    I won’t speculate on a purely mercenary motive in their activities, though Dan’s comment would tend to bend future thoughts in that direction.

    If you want to contact me my blog is at

    http://anthonymic.blogspot.com/

    I’ll read any comments on any current threads so you can use them to contact me.

  95. #95 Dan S.
    June 13, 2009

    His blog has the same name so I looked at that and was appalled to find it was just another cookie-cutter, new-atheist venting session with a few posts about science thrown in.

    You know, I have to agree with you on that. It’s pretty disappointing, and just dumb – it would be a great idea to have a site for folks to talk about the actual book & science with its author, see how new developments extend/expand/confirm/challenge stuff, etc. – it’s a shame.

    I wondered if it might do what I’ve wished a popular book about evolution would do, present some of the recent additions to the general Darwiniana and natural selections stuff

    But there are! Coyne’s book just isn’t the right place to look, since he’s a pretty strong adaptionist. And even high school bio textbooks get into drift, etc. (whether the class ever gets to them is another matter, but . . . .)

  96. #96 John Kwok
    June 13, 2009

    @ Dan S. –

    If militant atheists like Coyne and Myers want NCSE to do as they say, maybe they ought to think seriously of giving NCSE more money to do it, and I think, upon further reflection, that they should ask Dawkins to cough up the dough.

    All NCSE is doing is to provide information to those who are religiously devout but unsure as to whether they can also accept as valid science, evolution, without worrying whether they’ll be going to Hell (I’m not sure they would demand from them – as I have heard Ken Miller say recently – that if they subscribe to a religious faith that’s hostile to science, then they should terminate immediately their memberships in such faiths.). Maybe this would give unexpectedly the “veneer” of “theistic evolution”, and if so, so what? Militant atheists like Coyne and Myers forget that ours is a religiously tolerant country in which the freedom of worship is guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights, and therefore, NCSE has to be mindful of that in its dissemination of information.

    Maybe you don’t think Coyne, Myers, and yes, even Jason Rosenhouse (In the interest of full disclosure, I do like Coyne and Rosenhouse a lot, especially since – in Coyne’s case he is among our very best evolutionary biologists – they have been for years among our most effective critics of creationism.) have been “insisting” that NCSE should “push” atheism, but, judging from the tone of their rhetoric, I think they’ve come quite close.

  97. #97 John Kwok
    June 13, 2009

    @ Anthony –

    I’m not interested in reading more about your personal pet peeve with Jerry Coyne (whom I still acknowledge for being one of our very best evolutionary biologists, but strongly disagree with his “accomodationist” position.). I asked you to try to comment on my questions, and you simply failed to do it.

    Could you try again, or are you merely interested in attacking “New Atheism” and especially, Jerry Coyne’s involvement with it?

  98. #98 Dan S.
    June 13, 2009

    f militant atheists like Coyne and Myers want NCSE to do as they say, maybe they ought to think seriously of giving NCSE more money to do it

    I think we’re talking past each other?

    (I’m not sure they would demand from them

    They certainly shouldn’t (although that is, in a sense, the flip side of accomodationism – sure, you can have science with your religion – you just need to have the right kind of religion. But that’s how it is, so . . . )

    Militant atheists like Coyne and Myers forget that ours is a religiously tolerant country in which the freedom of worship is guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights, and therefore, NCSE has to be mindful of that in its dissemination of information.

    This is pretty much a complete non sequitur.

    Anthony writes “Science doesn’t work unless it concentrates on the material universe, when it [tries] to extend past that, as into the study of complex behaviors, it becomes increasingly tattered.

    There’s no reason not to treat the study of complex behaviors as (legitmately) studying (a – granted – pretty tricky) part of the material universe. (Whether that study does a good job or not is a different ( albeit important) issue, as is whether specific attempts to do so get all messed up (‘You’ve got sexism in my science!’ ‘You’ve got science in my sexism!’).

    Organic chemistry isn’t inexplicable non-material magic, heredity isn’t nexplicable non-material magic – it’s not clear why complex behaviors should be a priori assumed to be so – if anything, one might say the reverse.

    He might be somewhat concerned about the fundamentalists interfering with public school science education, though if he is concerned about that he’s making the same old mistake of not recognizing that is a political fight.

    I thought I kinda understood/agreed with what you meant by this (“a political fight”), but I dunno – could you explain a bit?

    I won’t speculate on a purely mercenary motive in their activities, though Dan’s comment would tend to bend future thoughts in that direction.
    ?

  99. #99 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2009

    John Kwok, I’m going to be studying the basic knowledge of and practice of logic and science among the science blog set. That’s going to be more than enough material to work with. I’d meant to stop reading this blog so I could enjoy the rest of my vacation time, but it started raining here and the “probability” issue came up on that other thread. It was a revelation of the true nature of the new atheism.

    It’s my intention to go after the new atheism as I have sexism.

    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html#5662085637375139729

  100. #100 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2009

    I thought I kinda understood/agreed with what you meant by this (“a political fight”), but I dunno – could you explain a bit?

    Dan you commented extensively on at least two posts where I made that point, don’t be disingenuous.

  101. #101 John Kwok
    June 13, 2009

    @ Dan S. –

    Have you been reading carefully what’s been posted here and over at Pharyngula for weeks now with regards to Coyne’s criticism of “accomodationism”? Militant atheists posting there and here – and yes, I would include Myers (especially) and Rosenhouse in my criticism – act as though their “religious” viewpoints (They state their positions which such zeal that it is probably appropriate to claim that they are “religious”.) should be those predominating, especially in the scientific community (And that is patently false, when, as I have noed earlier here, that, according to recent polling data cited by vertebrate paleobiologist Donald Prothero, 56% of professional American evolutionary biologists regard themselves as religious.).

  102. #102 John Kwok
    June 13, 2009

    @ Anthony –

    You have no reason to expect from others, well-reasoned replies to your comments when you seem incapable of addressing mine, especially when they address what has been the central issue of contention as stated by the likes of Coyne and Myers. So I am looking forward to your well-reasoned reply.

  103. #103 JimV
    June 13, 2009

    Kevin (nyc) @ #72:

    If you’re still looking, Sean Carroll had a good post on that subject over at “Cosmic Variance”:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2009/04/06/perceiving-randomness/

    The upshot is that, yes, random noise does tend to cluster enough to trigger humans’ pattern-seeking propensity. Hence the signs, wonders, and miracles which religions encourage their followers to sift from the random noise of the universe, since if you stare into the abyss long enough, eventually you’ll see something.

  104. #104 Dan S.
    June 13, 2009

    ccording to recent polling data cited by vertebrate paleobiologist Donald Prothero, 56% of professional American evolutionary biologists regard themselves as religious.).

    wow.

    Dan you commented extensively on at least two posts where I made that point, don’t be disingenuous.

    I’m not disingenuous, I’m asking seriously. I replied to a comment of yours along these lines on one of these threads here, but I didn’t see you respond – was my description of what you thought I meant correct?

  105. #105 Tulse
    June 13, 2009

    Oh, and Tulse, in math you can know something with certainty. You can’t get that level of certainty in science or in any other place I know of.

    You have completely missed the point I was making, whether intentionally or by sheer obtuseness.

    As to the James Randi reference, you’re the one who brought up aliens and crystals. I figured I should address it.

    You didn’t “address” it, you just added snark.

  106. #106 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2009

    You didn’t “address” it, you just added snark.

    You were bringing up aliens, crystals and homeopathy within the context of this discussion seriously?

    I guess it doesn’t matter how many times I say it, I wasn’t discussing The Virgin Birth in order to defend a religious dogma I don’t believe in, I was talking about the boundaries and requirements of logic and science. As it developed, I was watching in stunned awe as the great Avengers of Science tore away at its foundations, unimpeded by the owner of this blog.

    Though, I do confess, I can’t resist the temptation to bring up James Randi and the wide spread delusion among the new atheists that he’s a figure of science.

    John Kwok, I’ll write something next week and post it on my blog.

    I’m outta here.

  107. #107 Dan S.
    June 13, 2009

    According to recent polling data cited by vertebrate paleobiologist Donald Prothero, 56% of professional American evolutionary biologists regard themselves as religious.)

    Er, do you have a cite? The only thing I can find online so far is a comment by you (although in that case it’s typed “54%”). That would be very interesting, since it’s so wildly different from other studies. I’d be curious to know if these results have to do with a wider group (professional evolutionary biologists in general , as opposed to “eminent” evolutionary biologists), what it means to regard oneself as religious, or what (including maybe’s something gone a little wrong in transmission) .. . .

    Though, I do confess, I can’t resist the temptation to bring up James Randi and the wide spread delusion among the new atheists that he’s a figure of science

    Can’t say I’ve seen any of that myself (a skeptic, yes). Frankly, I don’t see why you’re so obsessed with the guy – and even if the various psychic-powers debunkings don’t float your boat, they don’t seem at all harmful (at least); his work on faith healing, on the other hand, would seem to be a commendable thing, potentially preventing at least some unfortunate folks from being taken advantage of by frauds and con men. It always seems to me that this kind of opposition to harmful, exploitative superstition naturally (though not exclusively) belongs on the left side of the political spectrum; while scientific, Enlightenment rationality has had some problems, it also has enormous liberatory potential. One can argue about the new atheist’s projects, and misuses/corruption of science, but still, there is that, no?

  108. #108 Science Avenger
    June 13, 2009

    Robert O’Brien said: As Charles Babbage demonstrated 270+ years ago, if the probability of an eyewitnesses truthfully and accurately reporting an event is greater than 1/2, then a finite number of witnesses can always be found such that the event must have occurred (provided the testimonies are independent).

    I guess the loonies have run everyone else off for this bit of apologetic twittery to have gone unaddressed. Neither Babbage nor anyone else could have done any such thing. This reveals just how little basic mathematics you understand my pompous little poseur, no wonder you have an award for idiocy named after you. There is no cumulative probability of independent events that leads to the conclusion that something must have occurred. X^Y when X < 1 is ALWAYS < 1, regardless of the size of Y, or the varyious values of X (so long as they are less than one). Go back to school boy, if indeed you ever went to one.

    John Kwok whined: Have dealt with Science Avenger in the recent past and he seems to do a much better job in launching ad hominem attacks on actual – and potential – allies than in criticizing effectively evolution denialists of every flavor (Am surprised that he hasn’t “jumped one” me for name – dropping McCourt, especially when I have noted elsewhere recently that he was my high school creative writing teacher.).

    Your ego runneth over Kwok, as usual. I attacked YOU, not allies, for your incessant namedropping, until I realized (after you denied you namedropped, while namedropping as evidence) it was some sort of pathology born (I suppose) from being included among such talent at a young age only to go whereever it is you’ve gone while your supposed classmates soared to high lifetime achievement. You just don’t seem to get that no one gives a rats ass who you know or where you went to high school, and by constantly referencing that, you become more of a hindrence than an allie because, like poor Anthony there, you provoke laughter more than anything else. Speaking of which, I’ve had enough laughter for one thread, so adieu for now.

  109. #109 söve
    June 13, 2009

    Can’t say I’ve seen any of that myself (a skeptic, yes). Frankly, I don’t see why you’re so obsessed with the guy – and even if the various psychic-powers debunkings don’t float your boat, they don’t seem at all harmful (at least); his work on faith healing, on the other hand, would seem to be a commendable thing

  110. #110 DS
    June 13, 2009

    >You haven’t been able to list any yet. (Incidentally, we >humans have been able to engineer virgin births for over 30 >years now.)
    so your contention is that Mary was impregnated using the scientific process we use? Virgin births aren’t possible by a mysterious holy spirit, they need a sperm particle. I’m saying humans cant fly, you are pointing me to an airplane as proof that they can. What about transubstantiation(roman catholic’s only)? What about water to wine ? how much energy would that need and how did jesus manage it by waving his hand? is that scientific for you? what about the never ending fish or was it bread? Curing blindness by applying spittle? None of this is scientific.

  111. #111 llewelly
    June 13, 2009

    There is a niche for predators who can shoot laser beams out of their eyes, but I am not optimistic about seeing that niche filled.

    But you should be. For what other reason might God have created biotechnology?

  112. #112 llewelly
    June 13, 2009

    Jason Rosenhouse:

    Even if it were possible to put a big brain on the body plan of a fish (a highly dubious proposition) it is hard to see what selection pressure would push a fish towards greater intelligence. Fish have almost no ability to manipulate their envirnoment. Would a big brained fish be better able to evade predators than its small brained counterparts? Or would it just be less streamlined and less able to swim quickly away from danger?

    Why do modern cetaceans have such big brains (relative to most mammals)?

    (Note: I agree with your thesis that big brains are extremely rare and don’t appear without the right environmental forcing and the right pre-existing exaptations, and hence if earth history was re-wound back to the appearance of multi-cellular life, big brains wouldn’t necessarily reappear in the alt-history rematch. I’m just puzzled about the specific fish analogy.)

  113. #113 sikiş
    June 13, 2009

    Personally, I think cats make the best sort of therapy pet for someone on the spectrum, and a mildly tongue-in-cheek book entitled “All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome” probably agrees with me (I think it was meant to introduce children to the concepts of Asperger’s, actually, but it reads like proto-lolcat).

  114. #114 sikişme
    June 13, 2009

    If the consumer is price sensitive then the price will fall. All that legislating maximum rates does is either restrict the availability of legal credit or induces the lender to increase other charges and fees (price controls restrict availability of the good subject to price controls).

  115. #115 Robert O'Brien
    June 13, 2009

    I guess the loonies have run everyone else off for this bit of apologetic twittery to have gone unaddressed. Neither Babbage nor anyone else could have done any such thing. This reveals just how little basic mathematics you understand my pompous little poseur, no wonder you have an award for idiocy named after you. There is no cumulative probability of independent events that leads to the conclusion that something must have occurred. X^Y when X

    What I wrote was too strong, ’tis true. Babbage proved that it is a greater improbability that the testimonies are false than that the miracle occurred. However, in criticizing me, you have made a fool out of yourself. Your statement that “There is no cumulative probability of independent events that leads to the conclusion that something must have occurred. X^Y when X” is false. See Kolmogorov’s 0-1 law. (I’m afraid your undergrad education has failed you, Gomer.)

  116. #116 SLC
    June 13, 2009

    Re Science Avenger

    Since the Kwok Kwok likes to name drop, I think I’ll do a little name dropping myself. I have taken courses from 4 Nobel Prize winners in physics, Owen Chamberlain, Emilio Segre, Steven Weinberg, and Julian Schwinger. I suspect that tops the Kwok Kwoks’ names.

    Re Robert O’Brien

    According to Neil Tyson, only 14% of the members of the National Academy of Science are religious believers.

  117. #117 Robert O'Brien
    June 13, 2009

    Re Robert O’Brien

    According to Neil Tyson, only 14% of the members of the National Academy of Science are religious believers.

    Why should I care?

  118. #118 SLC
    June 13, 2009

    Re Robert O’Brien

    Mr. O’Brien is the one that raised the alleged Prothero comment.

  119. #119 John Kwok
    June 13, 2009

    To anyone interested in reading this –

    I just returned from the World Science Festival, having heard physicist Lawrence Krauss pretending that he was Jerry Coyne at the Science, Faith and Religion session which COyne has denounced at his blog. Pretending, you might ask? Well Krauss did criticize the Templeton Foundation’s financial support for WSF – especially of this panel discussion – and also questioned the necessity to have a “Science Faith, Religion” panel, suggesting that maybe what was needed more was a “Science and Pornography” session (which Krauss’s – and my – friend, Ken Miller, cheerfully endorsed).

    Krauss had some very interesting comments, which were a blend of what one would expect from Ken Miller and Richard Dawkins. He sounded a bit like Ken in acknowledging that religion is an important aspect of American life that won’t go away anytime soon. He also echoed Dawkins by asserting that indoctrinating young kids in religion is akin to “intellectual child abuse”.

    I found the most interesting comments to be said by Vatican astronomer – and Jesuit brother – Guy Consolmagno – who strongly emphasized the rational nature of science and observed that he regarded science as “understanding in search of the truth” (which,as a real scientist, he recognizes is always a tenative process) and religion sa “truth in search of understanding”.

    Noted television journalist Bill Blakemore was a very witty and engaging moderator, and though he did try to inject controversy, the overall tone of the session was marked by open, frank, but friendly, discussion about the differences between science and religion.

    Afterwards I spoke at length to both Consolmagno and Krauss. Both disagreed in principle with Coyne’s refusal to attend, and his attack on “accomodationism”, though, not surprisingly, Krauss was quite sympathetic to Coyne’s views.

    As for Ken Miller, he probably had the most people hovering around him after the session, and we only had time to say “hello” before he disappeared into a waiting VIP car.

  120. #120 söve
    June 14, 2009

    He sounded a bit like Ken in acknowledging that religion is an important aspect of American life that won’t go away anytime soon.

  121. #121 Anton Mates
    June 14, 2009

    Jason, I think you’re misunderstanding Miller on this point:

    Evolution cannot be a cruel concept if all it does is reflect the realities of nature, including birth, struggle, life, and death. It is a fact — not a feature of evolutionary theory, but an objective reality — that every organism alive will eventually die.

    Miller’s not saying here that suffering and death in nature aren’t God’s fault. Rather, he’s pointing out that they aren’t evolution’s fault.

    Creationists claim that, according to evolutionary theory, suffering and death are the natural way of things. You’ve said something similar in various posts in the past. Of course, creationists use this to argue that evolutionary theory is evil, while you use it to argue that evolution is incompatible with the existence of a benevolent god.

    Miller is saying no, all you have to do is glance at the world to notice that suffering and death are the natural way of things. That’s not a consequence of evolutionary theory; it’s an independently observable fact. The creationist believes in a younger world, but a no less bloody one. Therefore, whatever a theist’s difficulties in answering the argument from natural evil, they at least don’t get worse if the theist is an evolutionist rather than a creationist.

    If anything, the theistic evolutionist has an edge; he can say that natural evil drives the evolutionary engine which has produced everything good and beautiful in the living world as well. You and I may consider that a seriously flawed design, but it beats the pants off “God arranged for millions of cute baby animals to die in agony because two people disobeyed him and ate the wrong fruit.”

    Darwin made a similar observation in the Origin:

    Finally, it may not be a logical deduction, but to my imagination it is far more satisfactory to look at such instincts as the young cuckoo ejecting its foster-brothers, ants making slaves, the larvae of ichneumonidae feeding within the live bodies of caterpillars, not as specially endowed or created instincts, but as small consequences of one general law leading to the advancement of all organic beings–namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.

    Again, the argument here is not that theistic evolution does a great job of dealing with natural evil, but that it does a better job than creationism does.

  122. #122 John Kwok
    June 14, 2009

    @ Anton,

    Yes, that’s an excellent observation.

    BTW, I failed to mention that Krauss had asked Ken how he could believe in Christianity if it was devoid of the supernatural (e. g. the Virgin Birth). Ken replied, with ample politeness, as to how one could define the Virgin Birth, either as the “truth” or as a metaphor which emphasizes the “specialness” of Christ as seen through his teachings. Ken observed correctly that amongst some vertebrates – especially reptiles and birds (but not mammals) – “virgin birth” or parthenogenesis – has been demonstrated to be true scientifically, so, in these instances then, “virgin birth” isn’t supernatural. So, Ken concluded, then the only possible explanation for the “virgin birth” story was as a poetic “metaphor” to emphasize the “specialness” of Christ as seen as his teachings (Ken claimed that he viewed, at the core of Christian faith, that it revolves around a real-life figure, Christ, and his philosophical teachings.).

  123. #123 SLC
    June 14, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    Sounds like Prof. Miller is now getting his theology from Prof. John Haught, his fellow witness at the Dover trial. I might also add that this was the belief of the late James Pike, former Catholic and former Episcopal bishop of California. The next time Mr. Kwok gets a chance to question his pal Prof. Miller, he should ask him if he agrees with Prof. Haught that a video camera photographing the alleged appearances of Joshua of Nazareth after his death would have recording nothing.

  124. #124 John Kwok
    June 14, 2009

    @ SLC –

    You obviously haven’t read Ken’s “Finding Darwin’s God”, which he wrote back in the mid 1990s.

  125. #125 John Kwok
    June 14, 2009

    @ SLC –

    As someone who claims to possess a Ph. D. in elementary particle physics, could you tell me who Lisa Randall is, and why her work has been widely cited by her fellow physicists? I presume that, as a high energy particle physicist, you would be well acquainted with the work of your illustrious colleague, right?

  126. #126 SLC
    June 14, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    1. Based on his more recent presentations and writings, Prof. Millers’ views seem to have evolved considerably since he wrote, “Finding Darwins’ God.” For instance, in a conversation with Richard Dawkins in New York in 2004, he was apparently taking a literal virgin birth seriously as when zinged about it by the latter, he responded that he would like to have a sample of DNA from Joshua of Nazareth to investigate the origin of his Y chromosome.

    2. Since I haven’t been active in particle physics for a long time, I have no idea who Drs. Randall or Greene are, or what their accomplishments are, nor do I care.

  127. #127 John Kwok
    June 14, 2009

    Since delusional twit lying sack of shit SLC wants everyone to know that he has a Ph. D. in high energy particle physics, and is proud to have, as one of his professors, Nobel Prize laureate Steven Weinberg (And yes, SLC, I well aware that Weinberg is one of Bronx Science’s seven Nobel Prize laureate alumni), then surely he must be aware of the important contributions made by fellow Stuvyesant High School alumni Lisa Randall and Brian Greene to modern physics (I’ve been out of the field of invertebrate paleobiology for more than a decade, but am still interested enough to know who is doing some of the most interesting work now.).

    Really now, if SLC doesn’t care at all about his prior career as a graduate student in high energy particle physics, then why would he opine that,

    “As someone who has a PhD in elementary particle physics, I would be willing to put my educational record up against Mr. Kwoks’ any day of the week and twice on Sunday. The only degree that Mr. Kwok seems to have is a bachelors in assholery.”

    Posted by: SLC | June 10, 2009 10:53 AM

    I remember eminent vertebrate paleobiologist Donald Prothero declaring that real scientists, unlike creationists, do not wear their degrees on their sleeves. He said that no real scientist he knows of goes around advertising his/her degrees, and that, in private life, Donald Prothero wishes to be known as “Mr. Prothero”.

    Assuming that Prothero’s logic is impeccable, then, I suppose it is reasonable to assume that maybe SLC is really a creationist in disguise. How else can we explain then his boasting of his academic credentials both here, and recently at Panda’s Thumb, where he came across as an Xian sympathizer of, of all people, Adolf Hitler:

    “The discussion of Hitlers’ religious beliefs always boils down to atheist sites proclaiming him a believing Christian and religious sites proclaiming him an atheist.”

    “In the first place, it is important to remember that Hitler was a politician. Does Mr. Kwok really think that we should believe anything that a politician says in public? Does he believe anything that an American politician says in public? Therefore, I am totally unpersuaded by sites that quote from Hitlers speeches and writings as they were meant for public consumption. I find much more persuasive testimony from individuals who heard Hitler in private and it is my understanding that his private conversations were at great variance from his public utterances.”

    Thankfully a few others, especially raven, called into question, SLC’s pathetic thinking with respect to Hilter’s religious beliefs.

    In fact, raven pointed out,

    “The usual Xian response which SLC resorted to, is to claim that Hitler was really just saying god stuff in public and secretly believed something else. This is stupid and dishonest. To know this, one has to pretend to be able to read the mind of someone dead for 64 years. We can’t even read the minds of live people 5 feet away. All we can really go by in terms of people’s beliefs is what they say and write.”

    And SLC is just a good judge of science that his sole criterion for determining whether Abbie Smith is a good graduate student because she is “hot” (An observation made a few months back, at, I believe, this very blog, when I criticized Abbie Smith’s usage of the term “latent evolutionary potential”.).

    So, in SLC, we have apparently, a crypto-creationist, a crypto-supporter of Hitler, and a male chauvinist pig with respect to women’s roles in science.

    Who is SLC then, but merely a delusional twit lying sack of shit, who thinks he is “better” than me, simply because he has a Ph. D. degree in physics.

  128. #128 SLC
    June 14, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    1. I made a post very recently at Pandas’ Thumb which is, apparently in moderation, in which I provide a link to an essay on Hitlers’ religious views. Needless to say, the essay was not in congruence with the comments of Mr Kwoks’ hero, Mr. raven. In particular, the essay quotes Albert Speer as relating that Hitler preferred Shintoism and Islam to Christianity, which he considered effete.

    2. Since I am neither a Christian nor a devotee of the late and unlamented Mr. Hitler, I really don’t have a dog in the Hitler, atheist vs Christian kerfuffle.

    3. As for Abbie Smith, she has informed me that Mr. Kwok cyberstalked her, sending her email after email about his little cockadoddle of a dispute with her. A dispute of which nobody except Mr. Kwok gave a flying f**k about.

    4. As for the charge of male chauvinist pig, well, I suppose that all males are that to some extent.

    5. I’m not sure why Mr. Kwok only mentions Steven Weinberg in his discussions. He would be making Profs. Segre, Chamberlain, and Schwinger feel left out if they were still with us.

    6. Mr. Kwok is projecting when claiming that I think I’m better then he is. He thinks he’s better then other people because of the high school he went to, the university he attended and the famous names he likes to drop off. I think he is jealous because I dropped off even more famous names.

  129. #129 Anthony McCarthy
    June 14, 2009

    According to Neil Tyson, only 14% of the members of the National Academy of Science are religious believers.

    Gee, the atheist saint, Richard Feynman quit that academy because he said they spent most of their time trying to decide who should be members of it. Hardly a representative cross section of anything, in other words.

  130. #130 John Kwok
    June 14, 2009

    @ SLC –

    If anyone is guilty of “projecting” it is you. Why else would you want everyone to know that you have a Ph. D. degree in particle physics and studied with Weinberg et al.? It’s absolutely irrelevant since, as you yourself have noted, no longer work as a physicist.

    As far as your allegation about Abbie Smith is concerned, it is not worth addressing.

  131. #131 AnthonyMcCarthy
    June 14, 2009

    And Neil Degrasse Tyson, I can’t stand watching what he can do to a Nova program.

  132. #132 John Kwok
    June 14, 2009

    @ Jason Rosenhouse –

    It has been brought to my attention that the Templeton Foundation is funding research at the University of Chicago, which, of course, is ironic, since University of Chicago evolutionary geneticist Jerry Coyne rejected the World Science Festival’s invitation to appear on one of its panel discussions partly because WSF is receiving funding from the Templeton Foundation. Would you say that is a case of calling the kettle black? Me thinks so.

  133. #133 Anthony McCarthy
    June 14, 2009

    Someone want to tell me why the Templeton Foundation has got them all in such a swivet? Do they require people to violate some requirements of research?

    Given how scientists don’t have much of a qualm about taking dirty money from the military-industrial complex, it’s so funny to see them getting all worked up over Templeton. I’ve criticized some of the stuff they’ve given grants to but, aren’t you at least supposed to have specifics other than that they’re a bunch of ‘faith heads’?

  134. #134 Dan S.
    June 14, 2009

    Well, think if Coyne, Myers, et al created an atheist equivalent to Templeton – wouldn’t you agree that (both religious and non-religious) folks would have reason to criticize it on scientific grounds? Taking military-industrial complex money is certainly a moral issue, but not (at least necessarily) a scientific one.

    #129 – it’s more a matter of the pot calling the lawnmower purple, I think – not obviously relevant. (It might be depending on the setup, but no evidence is provided).

    the atheist saint, Richard Feynman

    Is this necessary, or do you just like being (inaccurately) bitchy? (Granted, those aren’t mutually exclusive).

    should believe anything that a politician says in public? Does he believe anything that an American politician says in public?

    Not an issue I’m greatly familiar with, but in and of itself this seems pretty reasonable (whether one should trust later reports by other interested individuals of their personal views is trickier). (And I’d think Anthony has something to say about taking someone’s public pronouncements as genuine, unedited reflections of their personal views, and of the usefulness of testimony be people close to them, no?)

    he responded that he would like to have a sample of DNA from Joshua of Nazareth to investigate the origin of his Y chromosome.

    If serious (oy), in a bizarre way that puts him on the same side, in a certain sense, as Dawkins, etc., as opposed to the earlier Ken (metaphorical significance) or possible Anthony (unverifiable, untestable miracles)?

    Hardly a representative cross section of anything, in other words.

    And that may be the issue at hand – it may be that ‘garden variety’ evolutionary biologists are more likely to be religious than high-ranking ones. Now, if so – after all, I can’t even find that figure, and we definitely don’t know that is the case – what that ranking is measuring, and by what mechanism(s) this is produced, etc., etc. – well, interesting questions. Kwok, do you have any source besides a remembered slide show?

  135. #135 Anthony McCarthy
    June 14, 2009

    Well, think if Coyne, Myers, et al created an atheist equivalent to Templeton – wouldn’t you agree that (both religious and non-religious) folks would have reason to criticize it on scientific grounds?

    Not if they didn’t inject their ideology into any science that they funded. Unlike Coyne et al, I think you actually have to have grounds to level the kind of attack they are. No, cancel that, I’d never stoop to that level of trying to enforce a blacklist like that.

    “the atheist saint, Richard Feynman”

    Is this necessary,

    In this context, absolutely mandatory. I’d have tried to work in St. Sagan but this isn’t a litany.

    that puts him on the same side, in a certain sense, as Dawkins, etc.

    I don’t know the context, but Dawkins is the one who thinks you can solve biological questions without any physical evidence whatsoever and with no possibility of making a valid analogy.

  136. #136 Anthony McCarthy
    June 14, 2009

    “Hardly a representative cross section of anything, in other words.”

    And that may be the issue at hand – it may be that ‘garden variety’ evolutionary biologists are more likely to be religious than high-ranking ones. Now, if so – after all, I can’t even find that figure, and we definitely don’t know that is the case – what that ranking is measuring, and by what mechanism(s) this is produced, etc., etc. – well, interesting questions. Kwok, do you have any source besides a remembered slide show?

    Dan, what are you babbling about? I know I was taking a chance bringing up such a touchy subject as obtaining a valid sample before making a stab at coming up with a Law of Nature, at least touchy on the ScienceBlogs, but you’ve gone round the bend on this one.

    Hint: Don’t claim you can use probability to answer this.

  137. #137 SLC
    June 14, 2009

    Re Anthony McCarthy

    I suspect that the real reason that Richard Feynman quit the National Academy, if, in fact he did, was because they objected to his playing his bongo drums and engaging in his life drawing activities at meetings. By the way, I have read that some 43% of American scientists profess religious beliefs, about 1/2 the ratio of the general population.

    Re John Kwok

    In citing my relationship with Steven Weinberg et al, I was merely name dropping like Mr. Kwok does. As for mentioning my PhD, I was merely following Mr. Kwok who tells us at great length in most of his comments about his high school and university. Mr. Kwoks’ khouse is made of pretty thin glass.

  138. #138 SLC
    June 14, 2009

    Apparently, Mr. raven and his acolytes are permitted to attack my comment over at Pandas’ Thumb while my response never shows up. Therefore, I am posting a link to an article about Hitlers’ religious views here.

    http://davnet.org/kevin/essays/hitler.html

  139. #139 Anthony McCarthy
    June 14, 2009

    By the way, I have read that some 43% of American scientists profess religious beliefs, about 1/2 the ratio of the general population.

    I’ve always got to look at the background on polls and surveys. I wonder how many of the others are actually atheists or agnostics, how many of them hold some kind of belief in something that could be classified as “religious” or “supernatural”, how many of them can’t be bothered to think about it. I’m mightily skeptical when it comes to polling, which, oddly given how generally bogus the are, seems to be a matter of near uniform credulity among blog atheists.

    SLC, you want to list the loony statements you implied I made in an earlier comment, accurate quotes, if you don’t mind. I want to keep them in my scrap book.

  140. #140 John Kwok
    June 14, 2009

    @ SLC –

    Hey I think I can do better than you with respect to name dropping. At the WSF Science, Faith and Religion session, actress Cameron Diaz was sitting in the second row behind the stage, almost facing directly Ken Miller (I saw her and mistook her for Kristin Chenoweth, but earlier today I spoke to Lawrence Krauss – who was Jerry Coyne’s “substitute” on this panel – and he told me that it was Diaz. He mentioned that they spoke after the session was over, and he thanked her for attending (In my case, I was sitting next to moderator Bill Blakemore’s lady friend and almost directly behind Brian Greene’s mother. And yes, I finally did talk to Brian today. He vaguely remembered me from high school.).

    If you wish to continue acting like a Xian Hitler sympathizer, then you’ll only get what’s due from the likes of Stanton, raven et al. over at Panda’s Thumb. Maybe it serves you right since you are merely just a delusional twit lying sack of shit who thinks he is hot shit simply for having studied with noted physicist Steven Weinberg and earning a Ph. D. in elmentary particle physics.

  141. #141 John Kwok
    June 14, 2009

    @ Anthony,

    I think it’s hysterically funny that the Templeton Foundation is funding millions of dollars of research at the University of Chicago, and University of Chicago professor of ecology and evolutionary biology Jerry Coyne makes such a big stink about refusing an invitation to participate in a World Science Festival panel session simply because the Templeton Foundation is funding the World Science Festival (And it wasn’t for the session he was invited to.).

    Jerry Coyne spends most of his field time in West Africa studying speciation in Drosophila. Well, I’m not going to suggest a possible change in venue with respect to a tenured university professorship, but I think you can see where this might be leading….

    John

  142. #142 Dan S.
    June 14, 2009

    Not if they didn’t inject their ideology into any science that they funded.

    So if they had a whole foundation giving out vast sums of money to – apparently – promote the idea of a linkage between science and atheism (something one can quite seem them doing) – this is something you’d happily participate in and see no cause to criticize?

    This may be more relevant to your interests (if not the focus of said folks’ criticism):
    However, a number of journalists have highlighted [Templeton's] connections with conservative causes. A 1997 article in Slate Magazine claimed that the Templeton Foundation had given a significant amount of financial support to groups, causes and individuals considered conservative, including gifts to Gertrude Himmelfarb, Milton Friedman, Walter E. Williams, Julian Lincoln Simon and Mary Lefkowitz, and referred to John Templeton, Jr., as a “conservative sugar daddy”.[56] The Foundation also has a history of supporting the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, as well as projects at major research centers and universities that explore themes related to free market economics, such as Hernando de Soto’s Instituto Libertad Y Democracia and the X Prize Foundation.
    In a 2007 article in The Nation, Barbara Ehrenreich drew attention to the Foundation’s president Dr. John M. Templeton Jr. funding of the conservative group Freedom’s Watch, and referred to the Foundation as a “right wing venture”…

    So not just religion (whatever one thinks of that – they also fund the folks who craft the intellectual infrastructure to support our modern “dark satanic mills” . . .

    In this context, absolutely mandatory. I’d have tried to work in St. Sagan but this isn’t a litany

    Can you support these claims?

    Dan, what are you babbling about?
    Kwok mentioned a survey mentioned by Prothero that apparently showed that “56% of professional American evolutionary biologists regard themselves as religious”. This is very different from previous studies (see for example Graffin & Provine on Evolution, Religion and Free Will (they find that the scientists polled don’t generally see a conflict between science and religion, but in a very different way). I’m wondering if the study Prothero cites looked at evolutionary biologists in general, since other polls have suggested that scientists in general are less nonreligious than the sub-population of ‘high-status’ scientists. It would be great if Kwok had a reference for this poll . . . ?

    I wonder how many of the others are actually atheists or agnostics, how many of them hold some kind of belief in something that could be classified as “religious” or “supernatural” . . .”

    Then you should like the Graffin and Provine study. Or not, depending.

    Dan, what are you babbling about? I know I was taking a chance bringing up such a touchy subject as obtaining a valid sample before making a stab at coming up with a Law of Nature, at least touchy on the ScienceBlogs, but you’ve gone round the bend on this one. Hint: Don’t claim you can use probability to answer this.

    You seem perhaps to have lost track of what you were saying, or possibly expressed yourself poorly? – see your comment #126

  143. #143 Dan S.
    June 14, 2009

    Sorry – wikipedia link discussing accusations of conservative orientation on the part of the Templeton Foundation. Additionally, the Foundation’s president apparently donated almost a million dollars in support of prop. 8 – but of his own money, and there’s been no obvious connection between the Foundation’s activities and this kind of bigotry.

  144. #144 Dan S.
    June 14, 2009

    Hmm – apparently 1.1 million dollars, according to his wikipedia page. Of all the things to give over a million dollars to!

  145. #145 Leni
    June 14, 2009

    Anton Mates wrote:

    Miller is saying no, all you have to do is glance at the world to notice that suffering and death are the natural way of things. That’s not a consequence of evolutionary theory; it’s an independently observable fact.

    I agree with you about that- I thought Jason was off there too.

    Anthony McCarthy, wow- just wow. If what “the new atheists” do in criticizing religious people and belief is bigotry, then what should we call your vitriolic, nasty behavior and comments? Your casual over-generalizations and frequent insults regarding “the new atheists'” intelligence? Can you think of a term we might use? (Note: I’m just asking if you can think of what that word might be, I’m not actually using it to describe you. I think “jackass” is probably sufficient.)

    I’m sorry, but I have never seen Dawkins, Harris or Hitchens behave as nastily as you have in this thread. I’m going to steal a line from an incredibly silly source and say this: be careful it isn’t your own shadow you’re chasing.

  146. #146 John Kwok
    June 14, 2009

    @ Dan S. –

    I have my own reasons to be skeptical of the Templeton Foundation – which may come as surprise since I’ve stated elsewhere that I regard myself as a conservative with strong libertarian leanings – and, probably for most of the reasons that Krauss, Coyne and Myers are skeptical. But, I will say that, to its credit, the Templeton Foundation did admit in a public statement approximately 8 years ago that it had erred in giving financial support to the Discovery Institute (I believe that it was for its Cascadia program, not its ID think tank, which was known back then as the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture.).

  147. #147 John Kwok
    June 14, 2009

    @ Leni,

    Thanks for jumping in. While Anthony has made some valid points, I think he’s erred in claiming that Jerry Coyne – whom I still have ample respect for as one of our most prominent evolutionary biologists – is a bigot on the caliber of say, PZ Myers or Christoper Hutchens (or even Richard Dawkins at his worst), though I have agreed reluctantly that some of Coyne’s commentary could be construed as bigotry.

  148. #148 Anthony McCarthy
    June 14, 2009

    Jerry Coyne makes such a big SHOW about refusing an invitation to participate in a World Science Festival panel session simply because the Templeton Foundation is funding the World Science Festival (And it wasn’t for the session he was invited to.

    He’s just a martyr, a martyr for his principles, isn’t he. I wonder who he goes to for funding when he’s doing science instead of setting back the public understanding of science.

    So if they had a whole foundation giving out vast sums of money to – apparently – promote the idea of a linkage between science and atheism (something one can quite seem them doing) – this is something you’d happily participate in and see no cause to criticize?

    Does Templeton interfere with the people who get money from them while they’re doing their work, do they suppress publication if the results might not be what they’d want. That’s in the actual funding of science they do. Because you asked about criticism of their activities on scientific grounds. What they do outside of funding actual research isn’t covered by that condition in your question.

    I know that a lot of folks here don’t understand there are other kinds of scholarly research with different criteria and requirements, which are as legitimate as science. History, as you know, is one of my favorites. What happened in history is as much a part of the record of what really happened as evolution or geology. And it’s generally known more reliably and in greater detail.

    I have told you here and elsewhere, if I’m not mistaken, that I’ve criticized Templeton for some of the things they’ve promoted. While I despise most of that group you listed and am quite fond of Barbara Ehrenreich, I’d need more particulars of what got funded and the quality of the work. But that isn’t likely to be on the basis of science. I haven’t noticed Coyne criticizing them for anything other than the religious orientation of their mission on some unspecified contamination it introduces into science.

    “In this context, absolutely mandatory. I’d have tried to work in St. Sagan but this isn’t a litany” Can you support these claims?

    It’s a personal revelation and so I’m the only authority on the matter. As a matter of logic, when there is no contrary evidence to refute it, you have to go with the best authority in the matter (look it up kids). Which would be me in this case. I don’t remember if it was here or at Jerry Coyne’s blog that someone tried to refute my telling them that the science of evolution had informed my religious beliefs. Can you believe that? Some sci-ranger twit thought he knew what I believed better than I do. Sort of like the guy above who accused me of being a secret Christian. I felt like I was at some penny arcade inquisition. Apparently your great adherence to science gives you guys have the faculty of infallible telepathy.

    Then you should like the Graffin and Provine study. Or not, depending.

    Don’t know them so have no opinion on them.

    see your comment #126

    The comment about the percentage of Nat. Sci Found members who were religious believers seemed to want to make some point about those big thinkers being immune to religion. Or some such stuff. All I as pointing out was that since they are self-selected, they can’t be a representative cross section of eminent scientists. I strongly suspect that the atheists who are there might think faith heads have cooties. And your revered Richard Feynman had noted the impossibility of them producing a reliable sample of the general population of eminent scientists.

    Given what I’ve learned of the knowledge of probability mathematics here this week, I didn’t have much faith that they’d know that little detail of statistics and science.

    Did you really need that many words to point out something so obvious? Even with the teasing? Which you know I do love to do.

  149. #149 Anthony McCarthy
    June 14, 2009

    what should we call your vitriolic, nasty behavior and comments? Your casual over-generalizations and frequent insults regarding “the new atheists'” intelligence?

    Giving back what they dish out.

    I’m sorry, but I have never seen Dawkins, Harris or Hitchens behave as nastily as you have in this thread.

    Hitchens? You’ve never seen Hitchens in action? This might be the whopper of the week. And you didn’t read Dawkins praising Coyne for taking after E. Scott? Talking about sharpening sticks?

    I love to hear the new atheists bawl when someone stands up to them, holding them to the standard they use themselves.

  150. #150 Robert O'Brien
    June 14, 2009

    Assuming that Prothero’s logic is impeccable, then, I suppose it is reasonable to assume that maybe SLC is really a creationist in disguise. How else can we explain then his boasting of his academic credentials both here, and recently at Panda’s Thumb, where he came across as an Xian sympathizer of, of all people, Adolf Hitler:

    That is such a transparently dishonest comment that I am forced to conclude that you are every bit the looney-tune others have said you are. SLC wrote:

    “One should be a little careful about proclaiming Hitler to be a Christian. It is quite true that in his writings and public speeches, he claimed to be a believing Christian. However, it is my understanding that, in private, he was contemptuous of religion in general and Christianity in particular.”

    And he was absolutely correct in his statement. (The person to whom he addressed the comment is a frothing-at-the-mouth moron.) I suspect you jumped on him because you knew that there would be plenty of atheistic morons who would criticize SLC for his honest comment and you wanted to be a part of the gang who picks on people, instead of being one of the ones picked on, for a change. It is all very primary school playground behavior. (No doubt you’ll take this opportunity to tell us which prestigious elementary school you attended, along with a list of famous alumni.)

  151. #151 Robert O'Brien
    June 14, 2009

    I’m sorry, but I have never seen Dawkins, Harris or Hitchens behave as nastily as you have in this thread.

    Then you either a) have a mental block (which is entirely consistent with other comments I’ve seen from you) or b) you haven’t read very much of their writings.

    PS How’s Squiggy?

  152. #152 Anthony McCarthy
    June 14, 2009

    John Kwok, I only know Coyne from having read his blog for a week and various parts of his archive from May backwards. Oh, and I’ve read a couple of his things from The New Republic, which I don’t take. I’ve never met the man or have any personal attachment or repulsion to him.

    He is an anti-religious bigot, a stereotyper, someone who characterizes topics in religion he’s obviously not at all familiar with and someone who isn’t above assigning guilt without even an association. I’m sorry if I’m criticizing someone you like but I’m calling him as he’s shown himself to be. If he’s not like Dawkins or Myers, it’s only for lack of time and, in the case of Myers, Coyne’s far better writing style.

    Christopher Hitchens is a sui generis swamp of vicious putrescence. I’ve read him for more than two decades, mostly his Nation columns. He is our time’s Westbrook Peggler with a Brit accent. Only I think Peggler would have to come out better in the comparison. Which isn’t saying much.

  153. #153 Dan S.
    June 14, 2009

    I strongly suspect that the atheists who are there might think faith heads have cooties.

    I’m sure you do.
    (Incidentally, one of the members is a certain Francis S. Collins . . .)

    And your revered Richard Feynman…

    What are you going on about?

  154. #154 John Kwok
    June 14, 2009

    @ Robert O’Brien –

    One of the best posters over at Panda’s Thumb is Stanton, and he had this to say in reply to SLC’s comment:

    SLC said:

    I find much more persuasive testimony from individuals who heard Hitler in private and it is my understanding that his private conversations were at great variance from his public utterances.

    Stanton replied:

    Then produce these hidden confessions of “Hitler the Atheist,” please.

    Sorry O’Brien, but there is apparently a substantial body of well-research historical literature which rejects Hitler’s (private) “Table Talk”, relying upon his public prononucements as being reflective of Hitler’s true character. And, moreover, raven made a most valid point in reply to SLC’s assertion:

    “The usual Xian response which SLC resorted to, is to claim that Hitler was really just saying god stuff in public and secretly believed something else. This is stupid and dishonest. To know this, one has to pretend to be able to read the mind of someone dead for 64 years. We can’t even read the minds of live people 5 feet away. All we can really go by in terms of people’s beliefs is what they say and write.”

    Incidentally, just like Stanton, raven has been consistently among the best posters over at Panda’s Thumb. So if there ia anyone whose word I’ll take as credible, it will be – more often than not – Stanton and raven’s over delusional twit LSS SLC any day.

  155. #155 John Kwok
    June 14, 2009

    @ Anthony –

    I will only agree with you wirh tegards to this observation of mine:

    In his inane accusation of the National Center for Science Education for being “accomodationist” towards religion and his public disavowal of the WSF invitation, Coyne has been consistent. He was consistent in paying first a backhanded compliment (In the former, he saluted Genie Scott, NCSE’s Executive Director; in the latter he complimented Brian Green and Tracy Day (Mrs. Brian Greene) for organizing WSF) before launching on a critique that was, in essence, a harsh tirade at their respective organizations.

  156. #156 John Kwok
    June 14, 2009

    Corrected post to my last:

    @ Anthony –

    I will only agree with you with regards to this observation of mine:

    In his inane accusation of the National Center for Science Education for being “accomodationist” towards religion and his public disavowal of the WSF invitation, Coyne has been consistent. He was consistent in paying first a backhanded compliment (In the former, he saluted Genie Scott, NCSE’s Executive Director; in the latter he complimented Brian Green and Tracy Day (Mrs. Brian Greene) for organizing WSF) before launching on a critique that was, in essence, a harsh tirade at their respective organizations.

  157. #157 Anthony McCarthy
    June 14, 2009

    “And your revered Richard Feynman…”

    What are you going on about?

    I’m tweaking your nose, and it’s working.

    Now, I’m gone to bed. Say your worst. I’m not going to read it.

  158. #158 Science Avenger
    June 15, 2009

    Robert O’Brien got a cheap point thusly: What I wrote was too strong, ’tis true. Babbage proved that it is a greater improbability that the testimonies are false than that the miracle occurred. However, in criticizing me, you have made a fool out of yourself. Your statement that “There is no cumulative probability of independent events that leads to the conclusion that something must have occurred. X^Y when X” is false. See Kolmogorov’s 0-1 law. (I’m afraid your undergrad education has failed you, Gomer

    Gomer yourself poseur. My original, which got cut off, was supposed to say “There is no cumulative probability of independent events that leads to the conclusion that something must have occurred. X^Y when X<1 is always less than 1.” Nothing can change that, and if you’re quoting Kolmogorov, or anyone else for that matter, claiming otherwise, you’re quoting them wrong. Kolmogorov was speaking in terms of infinite sequences, which we most certainly were not.

    Pity, poor snotty nosed brat, he has so little in life except his supposed advanced degree, in which he obviously learned little, and can’t even get it right. Go stew in your ignorant hate little boy, and come back when you’ve acquired some adult knowledge.

  159. #159 Science Avenger
    June 15, 2009

    X^Y when X is less than 1, is always less than 1, WTF is wrong with sciblog not being able to handle “less than” signs?

    Anyway, same point made. Suck it O’boy.

  160. #160 Anton Mates
    June 15, 2009

    I’m not sure what O’Brien was trying to do with Kolmogorov’s zero-one law. It applies to tail events, which by definition depend on an infinite sequence of variables and not on any finite subsequence of them, so no finite number of variable observations can confirm such an event. Seems to argue against his own position.

    Ah well, it’s hard to follow these great minds sometimes.

  161. #161 Anthony McCarthy
    June 15, 2009

    While I’m sure he doesn’t need me to defend him Robert O’Brien seems to be one of the more rational people on this thread. I wouldn’t have been nearly as patient.

    John Kwok scolded me about not being able to expect polite well reasoned answers if I was difficult. Well, John, I’ve got enough experience with new atheists to have come here not expecting reason and politeness. I never expect to find that with new atheists, or honesty or even that they’ll know what they’re opining on with such bigotry mixed with certainty. Now, after this trip into the field, I don’t even expect they’ll be able to grasp two of the most basic requirements to practice science and logic.

  162. #162 Dan S.
    June 15, 2009

    not expecting reason and politeness.
    self-fulfilling prophecy, as Leni pointed out.

    I’m tweaking your nose, and it’s working.
    Ah! Sorry, I forgot – I thought we were having a serious discussion. My bad.

  163. #163 SLC
    June 15, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    Mr. Kwok apparently hasn’t bothered to go to the link I posted earlier on so I’ll post it again. The author of the essay has quite obviously spent considerably more time studying Hitlers’ religious views then has Mr. raven or Mr. Stanton. I would only point out the quote from Albert Speers’ memoir, of which there is no doubt as to its authenticity. Speer wrote unequivocally that Hitler thought that Shintoism and Islam would have been a better choice for religion in Germany then Christianity because the latter he considered effete. Whatever Hitlers’ actual religious beliefs were, there can be no doubt that he used the Christian beliefs of the German citizenry to further his vile program of extermination and aggression.

    http://davnet.org/kevin/essays/hitler.html

  164. #164 SLC
    June 15, 2009

    Re Anthony McCarthy

    I have read with great amusement Mr. McCarthys’ bad mouthing of a number of scientists on this thread and others. So let me pose this question. What has Mr. McCarthy accomplished in his life thus far. How many books has he had published? How many articles has he had published in the peer reviewed technical literature? He takes a quote from Richard Feynman to bad mouth the National Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious scientific organization in the US and one of the most prestigious in the world. Its membership includes and has included the most important scientists in the US. Richard Feynman was one of the most important scientists of the 20th century for his contribution to quantum field theory, in particular, quantum electrodynamics. He was also, in many respects, one of the most eccentric and bizarre individuals in the history of American science. As great as his contributions were, I would not take his views on the NAS as the gospel from on high.

    With respect to the religious beliefs of scientists, let’s look at the beliefs of the three most important scientists who have ever lived. Issac Newton was an Arian, which is considered heresy by the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion (Newton was nominally a communicant of the latter). Charles Darwin was an agnostic. Albert Einstein was at best a Deist but more probably an agnostic.

  165. #165 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    @ SLC –

    No wonder why you no longer work as a physicist. You would take the word of an online blogger whom you believe has done the definitive analysis on Hitler’s religious beliefs over that of professional historians. Again, paraphrasing Stanton, can you provide proof that Hitler was an atheist?

  166. #166 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    I am indebted to Tim Broderick posting over at Chris Mooney’s blog for pointing this out:

    From the NCSE faq:

    “What is NCSE’s religious position?
    None. The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum.”

    http://ncseweb.org/about/faq

    I am sure that others, including militant atheists like Coyne and Myers, have seen this, and yet they continue to insist that NCSE has an “accomodationist” position with respect to religion.

  167. #167 DuWayne
    June 15, 2009

    And as clever as dolphins are, I very much doubt they are dwelling much on the meaning of it all.

    You know Jason, as much as I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you mean this to say that dolphins figured it out a long time ago and have moved on to more important things, the context of your comment seems to imply you don’t realize how much cleverer dolphins are than humans…

    What is it with you math types?!?

  168. #168 Anthony McCarthy
    June 15, 2009

    What has Mr. McCarthy accomplished in his life thus far.

    Modesty forbids, SLC.

    How many books has he had published? How many articles has he had published in the peer reviewed technical literature?

    Oh, I didn’t know you had to do that before you read someone else and commented on what they said. I am kind of surprised, though, that you haven’t asked the other commentators on this thread and on the new atheist circuit the same question. In my own field, I wrote my masters thesis and, I’m afraid, that’s it. I didn’t pursue the life of a scholar but in the application of my craft and in teaching it. I never invented the equivalent of the Just So Stories of Dawkin’s Evo-psy, or his chuckle headed memes, so I guess at least I haven’t shamed myself. At least not that way.

    How about the rest of you? What’s your CV show by way of publication? How about in the area of religious studies, since you all seem to have so much to say on that particular subject, without the slightest hint of having read anything about it. I think SLC might actually have done a bit of informing himself, so I didn’t address him directly here. Though he seems to be peeved with me for not kow-towing to the majesty of Science sufficiently.

    He takes a quote from Richard Feynman to bad mouth the National Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious scientific organization in the US….

    Hey, it wasn’t a quote, though it’s very well known that he said it, notice you don’t refute that he did. I think I read it as well as hearing him say something to that effect on the old Nova program that featured him, and made him much more famous in the general population. I like Feynman though he was as limited as anyone else when he stepped outside of his area of expertise. I was kind of impressed that he wasn’t so much of a bigot that he didn’t have nice things to say about Pacem in Terris.

    And, SLC, it’s Feynman who bad mouthed the Nat. Ac. o Sci. I just referred to what HE SAID. You don’t seem to think it tarnished his halo even though many hundreds of thousands heard him say it than will ever read anything I wrote.

    With respect to the religious beliefs of scientists, let’s look at the beliefs of the three most important scientists who have ever lived. Issac Newton was an Arian, which is considered heresy by the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion (Newton was nominally a communicant of the latter). Charles Darwin was an agnostic. Albert Einstein was at best a Deist but more probably an agnostic.

    All of which doesn’t bother me one bit. I don’t care if they were all atheists, though I’d expect they’d be smart enough to know when to shut up about stuff they’d never read about and they might have a bit of a clue to the fact that without the necessary prerequisites you can’t do the first bit of science. Other than some of the material claims religions make, science can’t be done on any of the core beliefs of just about any of them. Which means scientists don’t have a let up in the evaluation of them.

    I’d like that list of the loony things you’ve attributed to me. Direct quotes, not inaccurate characterizations or the myriad of ‘between the lines’ fictions you folk are so fond of inventing when it suits your purpose.

    You guys are giving me way too much material to work with. I’m going to have to install pay pal so I can go full time. I guess the people who encouraged this new project might be right about that.

  169. #169 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    @ Anthony –

    I wouldn’t paint all “New Atheists” with the same black brush. I met Krauss and had a delightful time talking to him Saturday and Sunday at the WSF (He has a very good sense of humor, as evidenced by the fact, while he criticized the very rationale for having the panel discussion he was participating in – Science, Faith, Religion – he opined that maybe it would be better if there was one instead devoted to Science and Pornography, which, incidentally, Ken Miller – who is also a friend of his – seconded enthusiastically.).

    I’ve also been in touch with Coyne too (I met him here in NYC at an evolution conference a year ago.), and for a while, we were corresponding regularly via e-mail.

  170. #170 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    @ Anthony –

    To your list of charges against SLC, I would add “name dropping asshole” and male chauvinist pig. He’s an asshole because he has bragged more than once that he has a Ph. D. degree in elementarly particle physics and that he had studied under Nobel Prize laureate physicist Steven Weinberg
    (Of course he’ll claim that he’s doing this simply because I am “name dropping”, but whereas I have done it merely to make a reasonable point, I think he’s doing it merely to get noticed and to “demonstrate” how and why he’s a better human being than yours truly.).

    He’s a male chauvinist pig since his only defense of graduate student Abbie Smith – when I had criticized her usage of the term “latent evolutionary potential” (Although others disagree, I believe my criticism is still valid since she was referring to viruses, while the term itself has been applied to metazoans and metaphytes.) – was stating that she’s “hot”. I suppose, using his inane line of reasoning, he might conclude that noted high energy particle physicist Lisa Randall, primatologist Jane Goodall (when she was much younger) are hot too.

  171. #171 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    @ Anthony –

    Long before I met Jerry Coyne last year, I knew that he’s been one of our most effective critics against Intelligent Design creationism and among our foremost – maybe the foremost – authority on the process of speciation. My assessment of him on these issues hasn’t changed. Moreover, his “Why Evolution is True” is among the best books on that subject, ranking alongside his graduate school mentor Ernst Mayr’s popular books on this very subject. I still encourage others not only to read it, but also buy it.

    However, I strongly disagree with his criticism of a so-called “accomodationist” stance between science and religion
    as practiced by a science advocacy organization, NCSE, and by professional scientific organizations such as NAS and AAAS. His charge is ridiculous, as I have noted beforehand, by posting that comment from NCSE. His rejection of the World Science Festival invitation was misguided, and, quite frankly, I wish he hadn’t made such a public spectacle of rejecting it.

  172. #172 Science Avenger
    June 15, 2009

    Kwok projected thusly: whereas I have [name dropped] merely to make a reasonable point, I think he’s doing it merely to get noticed and to “demonstrate” how and why he’s a better human being than yours truly

    SPROING!!!! There went every irony meter within 100 yards. Projection incarnate. You Kwok, have namedropping tourettes. You do it constantly. You’ve done it while arguing that you don’t do it. You do it point or no, as if your entire identity depends on it. Sadly, it probably does. Were you to be threatened with a ban from all blogs if you ever namedropped again, my bet is you wouldn’t last a week. You wouldn’t be able to help yourself.

    And hey, prove me wrong and I’ll give you a public apology. It’d be worth it just to put a stop to that annoying shit. Let’s see you go a month of typical posting volume without a single name dropped. No mention of your high school, or your college alma mater, or who you personally know or studied with or any of that pompous poseur bullshit. 99% of the posters on these sites would have no problem doing so, so neither should you. Let the games begin in three, two, one…

  173. #173 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    @ Science Wimp –

    You do such a good job wielding ad hominems. Have yet to see you attack IDiots like Behe, Dembski and Luskin, to the same degree, with the same relish, that you seem to enjoy when you decide to “tackle” me.

    So, having gotten that out of my system, what do you say regarding this:

    From the NCSE faq:

    “What is NCSE’s religious position?
    None. The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum.”

    http://ncseweb.org/about/faq

    This enquiring mind would like to know your thoughts on this and whether you believe Coyne, Myers and Rosenhouse are right in their inane claim that NCSE has an “accomodationist” stance towards religion.

  174. #174 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    @ Science Wimp –

    Am still waiting on your comments (@ 170) which would pertain more to the original topic of this discussion thread, not your personal pet peeve regarding me. If you can’t answer them, then you’re no better than the delusional, intellectually-challenged creo trolls that you amuse yourself with elsewhere online (However, on second thought, maybe you’re really one of them in disguise.).

  175. #175 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    The science wimp who calls himself “Science Avenger” must be a delusional creo troll in disguise, since he seems incapable of addressing my remarks pertaining to the very substance of this comment thread.

  176. #176 Kevin (NYC)
    June 15, 2009

    John Kwok on Miller Joins the Party
    John Kwok on Miller Joins the Party
    Science Avenger on Miller Joins the Party
    John Kwok on Miller Joins the Party
    John Kwok on Miller Joins the Party
    John Kwok on Miller Joins the Party
    Anthony McCarthy on Miller Joins the Party
    DuWayne on Miller Joins the Party
    Andrew on Dawkins vs. Coyne?
    John Kwok on Miller Joins the Party
    Archives.

    bah!! clogging up the tubes!!

  177. #177 Anthony McCarthy
    June 15, 2009

    SLC, thinking about it later, surely YOU must be able to see the irony of your complaint that I’d shown insufficient respect and deference over a comment about the ICONOCLASTIC RICHARD FEYNMAN!!!

    I did think that you might have had half a clue about things. But maybe you need to read the post at my blog to see I don’t think anyone’s above question. Not even (the irony meter’s going to break soon) scientists .

  178. #178 Anthony McCarthy
    June 15, 2009

    Kevin, I should tell you, I look on getting insults from you guys as validation of my efforts.

  179. #179 SLC
    June 15, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    1. I think that Sean Carrolls’ wife is pretty hot too (the astrophysicist Sean Carroll).

    2. I only started dropping names after Mr. Kwoks’ incessant name dropping which caused PZ Myers to give him the boot. There is virtually no thread on any blog which Mr. Kwok has commented on in which he has failed to invoke Ken Miller, in addition to informing us about his high school and university. However, just for kicks, let me drop another name, Nobel Prize winning physicist Paul Dirac who I had lunch with a couple of times where we discussed the politics of physicist Edward Teller among other topics (his affection for Dr. Teller was even lower then mine). Of course, Dirac was an even more emphatic atheist then Richard Dawkins.

    3. Mr. Kwok is apparently somewhat deficient in the reading comprehension department. I don’t recall labeling Hitler an atheist, nor does the article to which I linked and which Mr. Kwok bad mouthed. I merely indicated that one should be cautious about labeling him a Christian. Or does Mr. Kwok consider that all non-Christians are atheists? Thomas Jefferson was a non-Christian who, in fact, did not adhere to any established religion but was definitely was not an atheist. By the way, the article cites a number of books and articles by prominent historians to back up his conclusions.

    Re Anthony McCarthy

    Mr. McCarthy has on this blog and others incessantly bad mouthed Richard Dawkins, the author of a number of published books, some of which have been best sellers and all of which have received enthusiastic critical praise. Just for kicks, I will quote Mr. Kwoks’ favorite scientist, Ken Miller, who has publicly stated that Dawkins’ book, “The Selfish Gene,” is one of the most important books written on evolutionary biology in the 20th century.

  180. #180 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    @ Kevin (NYC) –

    Sorry I missed you at the World Science Festival session on Science Faith and Religion. Was certain you’d enjoy hearing Krauss criticize WSF for receiving funding from the Templeton Foundation and for thinking it was necessary to have such a panel discussion (BTW, he’s a friend of both Brian Greene and Ken Miller.). Moreover, Krauss suggested that instead of a panel discussion on science and religion, there should be one on science and pornography… and it was seconded immediately by a very cheerful and enthusiatic Ken Miller (Had Coyne appeared, I suspect that the session wouldn’t have ben as funny. But I think you probably would have still been able to bump into Cameron Diaz, who was in the audience.).

  181. #181 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    @ SLC –

    It’s a riot you seem to know who astrophysicist Sean Carroll is (There is another notable Sean Carroll, the evolutionary developmental biologist Sean Carroll.), but you don’t know WHO BRIAN GREENE AND LISA RANDALL ARE? You, a former elementary particle physicist, should, at least, know of Randall, since some of her research probably touched on areas that were of interest to you as a Ph. D. student in physics.

    Please don’t blame your mental deficiencies on me. You’re an adult, and you could have opted to restrain yourself from name dropping (I was goaded unfortunately by some of Myers’s militant atheist IDiot Borg drones.). But no, you’ve actually are doing a much better job of name dropping than I have been. So maybe I ought to be taking lessons from you, am I right?

    John

    P. S. You have no clue who my “favorite scientist” is. It’s none of your business. And no, it’s not Ken Miller or Brian Greene or Lisa Randall.

  182. #182 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    SLC must be suffering from an acute form of reading comprehension, since, in reference to his link, I observed,

    “@ SLC –

    No wonder why you no longer work as a physicist. You would take the word of an online blogger whom you believe has done the definitive analysis on Hitler’s religious beliefs over that of professional historians. Again, paraphrasing Stanton, can you provide proof that Hitler was an atheist?”

    Posted by: John Kwok | June 15, 2009 10:28 AM

    SLC has also demonstrated once more that he is a male chauvinist pig for expressing the view that physicist Sean Carroll’s wife is “hot” (Hey, why not stop there? Go for a trifecta by mentioning Cameron Diaz, Lisa Randall and Jane Goodall too.). Women physicists should consider themselves fortunate that SLC isn’t one of their professional colleagues, since, I am certain that he would be spending the annual meetings of the American Physical Society in search of suitable “hot” targets to pursue.

  183. #183 SLC
    June 15, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    1. Let’s see, Mr. Kwok at 177 name dropped Ken Miller, Lawrence Krauss, and Brian Greene (I will pass over Cameron Diaz who is pretty hot herself; just for Mr. Kwoks information, I once saw actress Jacquelyn Smith jogging in the median of San Vicente Blvd in Pacific Palisades, Ca. while riding my Colnago Superissmo; I may have even seen the late Nicole Brown Simpson riding a Masi Grand Criterion down the same street on another occasion, although I can’t be sure it was her, even though I read after her unfortunate demise that she owned such a bicycle). One really has to be amused at how the inhabitant of a very thin walled glass house likes to throw rocks.

    2. Actually, I have heard of the biologist Sean Carroll, having read his second book on evolution. I would have thought that my identifying the other Sean Carroll as an astrophysicist (by the way, I also read his blog every so often) would have made that clear but I forgot that Mr. Kwok is ofter a little slow on the uptake.

  184. #184 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    @ SLC –

    I heard Casey Luskin is forming an online Abbie Smith fan club, with Casey’s version of the Katy Perry song “I Kissed a Girl” as the club’s official anthem (retitled of course, “I kissed Abbie Smith”). Why don’t you e-mail him for a membership application? At least you have one thing in common, you both think Abbie Smith is “hot”.

  185. #185 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    Let’s see, who did I meet this past weekend who is famous?

    I said hello to Ken Miller, spoke briefly to Brian Greene (who overlapped with me in high school), spoke briefly to Lawrence Krauss, said hello to illustrators Richard Ellis and Brian Floca (Brian and I used to belong to the same college alumni book club), spoke to Carl Zimmer, sat next to Andrew Revkin, heard NASA climatologist James Hansen speak twice, sat near Cameron Diaz at the panel discussion featuring Ken and Lawrence Krauss, saw E. O. Wilson speak…. let’s see did I forget somebody? Oh yeah, I heard paleobiologists Michael Novacek and Derek Briggs and photographer Frans Lanting speak at a WSF session moderated by Carl Zimmer. Famous television journalist Bill Blakemore moderated the session featuring Ken Miller and Lawrence Krauss and another legendary television journalist, Garrick Utley, moderated a panel discussion on the future of nuclear energy which included climatologist James Hansen.

    Gee whiz, SLC, thank you very much. If you hadn’t reminded me, I wouldn’t remember all the famous people I saw this past weekend.

    P. S. Richard Ellis was sitting next to Lucy Hawking while she was signing her new children’s book about her father’s research.

  186. #186 Dan S.
    June 15, 2009

    Hey folks? – Get out more. Before it’s too late. (Advice I should take myself, of course . . .)

  187. #187 Anthony McCarthy
    June 15, 2009

    Mr. McCarthy has on this blog and others incessantly bad mouthed Richard Dawkins, the author of a number of published books, some of which have been best sellers and all of which have received enthusiastic critical praise.

    Oh, well he’s received some pretty bad reviews too, H. Allen Orr’s and Marilyn Robinson’s come prominently to mind. I read the thing, if I’d tried to pass off that kind of tripe in my Jr. History of Music Seminar I’d have gotten flunked. As I told you, it made my brother renounce atheism for agnosticism, on the basis of his appalling scholarship. As I recall Robinson remarked on his knowledge of letters being capacious enough to include some “deeply minor poetry”. Someone commented on his reliance on the popular works of Carl Sagan and Douglass Adams instead of substantial modern authors on the topic he was allegedly demolishing. If I write this up in my field notes I’ll go look up the citations. Something Dawkins seems to be quite innocent of, in general.

    Here’s a short list of other Best Selling authors I’ve bad mouthed. Ann Coulter, Bill Buckley (wish I could work in the joke I got in about him) , Daniel Dennett, Richard Nixon, Robert Bork, John Paul II, Milton Friedman (my obituary was scathing), Christopher Hitchens, William Kristol, (called him the smiley face on the jack boot), the “eminent historian” Tom Brokaw, Camile Paglia… and those are only the ones I can remember off the top of my head, minus the ones I figured including would be gratuitous. Though I’ve never plowed through them at book length, you could include any of the prominent televangilists, including Billy Graham.

    Apparently you would think I should lay off those eminent best sellers as well as the Oracle of Simonyi on that basis. Well, I won’t.

    Just for kicks, I will quote Mr. Kwoks’ favorite scientist, Ken Miller, who has publicly stated that Dawkins’ book, “The Selfish Gene,” is one of the most important books written on evolutionary biology in the 20th century.

    It was a long time ago but I don’t imagine one of my favorite materialists, Richard Lewontin, would have been too keen on it. But, then he’s only a geneticist. That was the one he introduced memes in, as I recall. Did Miller once believe in those? Some day I’ll have to search his publications to find out why Jerry Coyne blew his lid when I mad a very small passing reference to them on his blog. I’ve got a feeling there’s a tale to be told in that.

    And, as I pointed out somewhere last weekend, Behaviorism was never so big as just before it fell off that cliff. You can add B. F. Skinner to the best selling authors I’ve said mean things about. Oh, and add John Grey. I’ve really been hard on some of those Best Sellers over the years.

    You know, William Schockley had a pretty nifty career in science, Nobel Prize and all, and I have lambasted that old bigot because he was a bigot too. I’m kind of not too hot on bigots.

    Who would have thought the science guys could be so touchy and protective of their cultural icons.

    It’s hilarious that you are whining about someone being critical of that well known humanitarian, fair minded and sharp stick wielding new atheist hatchet man Richard Dawkins.

  188. #188 Leni
    June 15, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    Giving back what they dish out.

    Then (at least according to your standards) that would make you a bigot. They dish out bigotry, you dish it back, therefore you are a bigot. QED.

    Would you jump off a bridge if Hitchens told you to? He isn’t responsible for your behavior, you know. Unless perhaps this is one of the miracles you all were discussing earlier and Hitchens has some magical power with which he compels random strangers to behave like “bigots”. (Again, your word, not mine. Thus the scare quotes.)

    I guess “Science” will never know. We’ll just have to table that one along with the resurrection and the Cheeto Jesus.

  189. #189 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    @ Anthony –

    BTW, Coyne was a Ph. D. student of Lewontin’s, who apparently also studied with Steve Gould, Ernst Mayr and E. O. Wilson at Harvard (Come to think of it, now that’s a more impressive list of names IMHO than all of those obscure physicists that SLC has been reciting as his graduate school professors.). But then again, SLC really enjoys his name dropping.

    P. S. I just forgot, but I heard noted marine biologist Sylvia Earle speak on one of the panels that also had eminent NASA climatologist James Hansen as a participant (Well, as always, I have to thank SLC for reminding me.). Am sorry to have missed Oliver Sacks, physicist Sean Carroll and several members of the cast from Ronald D. Moore’s rebooted version of “Battlestar Galactica (I think one of them was actress Mary McDonnell, but I can’t quite recall that.).

    P. P. S. Did I say too that I sent my college classmate, author Rick Moody, a reminder about the event too? Gosh darn, I thought I did.

  190. #190 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    @ Anthony –

    BTW, Coyne was a Ph. D. student of Lewontin’s, who apparently also studied with Steve Gould, Ernst Mayr and E. O. Wilson at Harvard (Come to think of it, now that’s a more impressive list of names IMHO than all of those obscure physicists that SLC has been reciting as his graduate school professors.). But then again, SLC really enjoys his name dropping.

    P. S. I just forgot, but I heard noted marine biologist Sylvia Earle speak on one of the panels that also had eminent NASA climatologist James Hansen as a participant (Well, as always, I have to thank SLC for reminding me.). Am sorry to have missed Oliver Sacks, physicist Sean Carroll and several members of the cast from Ronald D. Moore’s rebooted version of “Battlestar Galactica (I think one of them was actress Mary McDonnell, but I can’t quite recall that.).

    P. P. S. Did I say too that I sent my college classmate, author Rick Moody, a reminder about the event too? Gosh darn, I thought I did.

  191. #191 SLC
    June 15, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    Gee, Julian Schwinger was an obscure physicist. I doubt that Mr. Kwok will find many of his former colleagues who would agree with that! Paul Dirac an obscure physicist? Not hardly. I would bet that even Mr. Kwoks’ pal Ken Miller has heard of the late Prof. Dirac.

    Re Anthony McCarthy

    About all one can say about Mr. McCarthy is that never have I heard anyone speak so knowledgeably from such a vast fund of ignorance. By the way, speaking of William Shockley, here’s a few more names of eminent scientists who went off the rails.

    Linus Pauling, promoter of vitamin C as a cancer cure on the basis of no evidence.

    Peter Deusberg, promoter of the idea that HIV does not cause AIDS, despite the mountain of evidence that says otherwise. Considering that Mr. McCarthy admits to being gay, this should be of some concern to him.

    J. Allen Hynek, promoter of the notion of alien visitations and abductions.

    Brian Josephson, promoter of ESP, PK, and cold fusion, all notions with not a shred of supporting evidence.

  192. #192 Anthony McCarthy
    June 15, 2009

    Then (at least according to your standards) that would make you a bigot. They dish out bigotry, you dish it back, therefore you are a bigot. QED.

    I’m not under any obligation to let the new atheists rig the rules in their own favor, practicing a double standard, using every dirty tactic in the book against religious believers (and now atheists deemed not vicious enough bigots) while maintaining we’re supposed to be fair with them. That’s not bigotry, that’s not being an idiotic dupe and patsy. You guys are a bunch of crybabies when someone gives you back some of what you dish out.

    Would you jump off a bridge if Hitchens told you to? He isn’t responsible for your behavior, you know.

    …… OK, I think I’ve stopped laughing enough to answer this point. What happened to your assertion that you’d never seen him being as vicious as I am? You reassess your ludicrous assertion?

    Apparently a lot of new atheists jumped when he published his diatribe. I actually went on several new atheist blogs to warn them that Hitchens has a history of back stabbing everyone who has ever been stupid enough to think he was their friend. You folks are the one who are stuck with him now. I hope you enjoy it while it lasts because as soon as he puts his moistened finger to the wind or he sniffs out another opportunity, he’ll turn on you. If his liver doesn’t give out before then.

    Unless perhaps this is one of the miracles you all were discussing earlier and Hitchens has some magical power with which he compels random strangers to behave like “bigots”. (Again, your word, not mine. Thus the scare quotes.)

    Are you related to Peggy Noonan?

    I guess “Science” will never know. We’ll just have to table that one along with the resurrection and the Cheeto Jesus.

    You really think this is going to bother me don’t you. You really think it’s going to zing me, puttin’ a real hurtin’ on me. I don’t think a Christian would even be effected by it. Though I’d have to ask one to find out.

  193. #193 Anthony McCarthy
    June 15, 2009

    About all one can say about Mr. McCarthy is that never have I heard anyone speak so knowledgeably from such a vast fund of ignorance.

    Noticed you haven’t chosen to refute anything I’ve said. Go on, do your worst. Give me that list of loony quotes I’ve been asking you about for the past two days. You’ve obviously got them tallied up somewhere.

  194. #194 Dan S.
    June 15, 2009

    Coyne was a Ph. D. student of Lewontin’s, who apparently also studied with Steve Gould, Ernst Mayr and E. O. Wilson at Harvard

    Which reminds me of two things for Anthony
    – E.O. Wilson has described himself as a “provisional deist”, and as wikipedia puts it, “suggests that scientists “offer the hand of friendship” to religious leaders and build an alliance with them, stating that “Science and religion are two of the most potent forces on Earth and they should come together to save the creation.”” Any comment?

    PZ has a review of David Prindle’s book Steven Jay Gould and the Politics of Science – very interesting (and I will say, much more to my taste than “look! deluded religious people!” (but that’s me…)

    I just can’t take Robinson on (anything relating to) science seriously after that bit about how the knee-jerk-Darwinist-ideologue scientists won’t accept some random geographer’s musings about how Neandertals were really just iodine-deficient cretins because they’re knee-jerk Darwinist ideologues . . . that’s the big problem about science studies, for me – it really helps to know what you’re talking about. Which is a pity, because she has some interesting ideas – just mixed in with a sticky mess of science-phobic flight-from-reality mid/late 80s leftist boilerplate. (And I say that as one pretty sympathetic to same . . .)

    if I’d tried to pass off that kind of tripe in my Jr. History of Music Seminar I’d have gotten flunked. “”

    I’d imagine so! Not much history of music, at least in the parts I read!

    . As I told you, it made my brother renounce atheism for agnosticism, on the basis of his appalling scholarship.

    I’m assumingthat your brother was kidding, because if one’s altering one’s views on the fundamental nature of the universe simply because they don’t want to be associated with some brit scientist’s scribblings, well . . .

    Someone commented on his reliance on the popular works of Carl Sagan and Douglass Adams instead of substantial modern authors on the topic he was allegedly demolishing

    But that’s the point, isn’t it? You can argue that TGD has a whole bunch of various deficiencies, but when it comes to the question of whether or not a God bearing some resemblance to the entity usually described by that name actually exists (which Dawkins does state quite clearly is the limit of the book), there don’t seem to be any substantial modern authors for the pro side. Some very smart people constructing beautiful systems and puzzles, sure, and some people with great and good practical insights into human nature – but otherwise there’s no there in that particular there. In fact, the outraged replies (often by agnostics and atheists who don’t actually buy any of it, interestingly) that Dawkins isn’t bothering to address this or that tidbit of sophisticated (and quite intellectually intricate, to be sure) theology that’s totally beyond the crude and simplistic ideas he discusses is in fact unintentionally making his argument for him – there’ simply is no substantial modern theological work on the actual popular religious ideas he addresses; that ground was abandoned by progressive theologians some time ago. (OTOH, if we’re talking instead about substantial modern work in the social sciences, sure I definitely agree he has little understanding, and shockingly little intuitive grasp, of that sorta stuff.)

  195. #195 Anthony McCarthy
    June 15, 2009

    Considering that Mr. McCarthy admits to being gay, this should be of some concern to him.

    Admits to? You admit to cheating, you admit to committing a crime, you admit to having done something stupid.

    I’ve never “admitted” I was gay. I’ve acknowledged I was gay if the context made it relevant.

    And I’ve told you, no need to use that “Mr.” all the time. A simple “Lia Mosxto” will do just fine.

  196. #196 Dan S.
    June 15, 2009

    Coyne was a Ph. D. student of Lewontin’s, who apparently also studied with Steve Gould, Ernst Mayr and E. O. Wilson at Harvard

    Which reminds me of two things for Anthony
    – E.O. Wilson has described himself as a “provisional deist”, and as wikipedia puts it, “suggests that scientists “offer the hand of friendship” to religious leaders and build an alliance with them, stating that “Science and religion are two of the most potent forces on Earth and they should come together to save the creation.”” [link deleted, but easy to find] Any comment?

    PZ has a review of David Prindle’s book Steven Jay Gould and the Politics of Science – very interesting (and I will say, much more to my taste than “look! deluded religious people!” (but that’s me…)

    I just can’t take Robinson on (anything relating to) science seriously after that bit about how the knee-jerk-Darwinist-ideologue scientists won’t accept some random geographer’s musings about how Neandertals were really just iodine-deficient cretins because they’re knee-jerk Darwinist ideologues . . . that’s the big problem about science studies, for me – it really helps to know what you’re talking about. Which is a pity, because she has some interesting ideas – just mixed in with a sticky mess of science-phobic flight-from-reality mid/late 80s leftist boilerplate. (And I say that as one pretty sympathetic to same . . .)

    if I’d tried to pass off that kind of tripe in my Jr. History of Music Seminar I’d have gotten flunked. “”

    I’d imagine so! Not much history of music, at least in the parts I read!

    . As I told you, it made my brother renounce atheism for agnosticism, on the basis of his appalling scholarship.

    I’m assumingthat your brother was kidding, because if one’s altering one’s views on the fundamental nature of the universe simply because they don’t want to be associated with some brit scientist’s scribblings, well . . .

    Someone commented on his reliance on the popular works of Carl Sagan and Douglass Adams instead of substantial modern authors on the topic he was allegedly demolishing

    But that’s the point, isn’t it? You can argue that TGD has a whole bunch of various deficiencies, but when it comes to the question of whether or not a God bearing some resemblance to the entity usually described by that name actually exists (which Dawkins does state quite clearly is the limit of the book), there don’t seem to be any substantial modern authors for the pro side. Some very smart people constructing beautiful systems and puzzles, sure, and some people with great and good practical insights into human nature – but otherwise there’s no there in that particular there. In fact, the outraged replies (often by agnostics and atheists who don’t actually buy any of it, interestingly) that Dawkins isn’t bothering to address this or that tidbit of sophisticated (and quite intellectually intricate, to be sure) theology that’s totally beyond the crude and simplistic ideas he discusses is in fact unintentionally making his argument for him – there’ simply is no substantial modern theological work on the actual popular religious ideas he addresses; that ground was abandoned by progressive theologians some time ago. (OTOH, if we’re talking instead about substantial modern work in the social sciences, sure I definitely agree he has little understanding, and shockingly little intuitive grasp, of that sorta stuff.)

  197. #197 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    @ SLC –

    So when are you going to e-mail Casey Luskin? I’ve heard he knows that you sing this in your bathroom shower:

    “I kissed Abbie Smith and I liked it
    Tasted her cherry chapstick mouth
    It felt so wrong
    It felt so right
    Don’t tell my Xian wife
    That I’m in love tonight
    I kissed Abbie Smith and I liked it
    I liked it”

    (With apologiest to Katy Perry and her co-writers)

    All those physicists you’ve mentioned, like Dirac are all so 20th Century. Were any of them REALLY your graduate school professors?

    While you claim to have studied with the best, noted evolutionary geneticist Jerry Coyne DID STUDY with some of the very best minds in evolutionary biology, beginning with his Ph. D. dissertation advisor, evolutionary geneticist Richard Lewontin. And Jerry was not just a very smart Ph. D. student in graduate school, he’s become one of our leading authorities on understanding the process of speciation.

    What did SLC do with his Ph. D. in elementary particle physics? Did he try to become the Jerry Coyne of elementary particle physics?

    I think not.

  198. #198 Dan S.
    June 15, 2009

    Er, guys, the whole Abbie Smith thing is getting kinda creepy, shading into icky. Whatever whoever did or said, maybe best to just drop it?

  199. #199 John Kwok
    June 15, 2009

    @ Dan S. –

    Sorry, I stepped out of line here. Please accept my apologies. However, SLC thinks he’s okay since he’s repeating some silly allegations and for him to be repeating them is absolutely hypocritical since he’s been the one to refer to attractive women as “hot”. IMHO he’s the definition of a cultural “living fossil”, who seems more interested in judging women on the sole basis of their physical attractiveness, not on whether they are capable to perform well in their respective professional fields.

    If SLC goes out of line again, I hope you’ll remind him to grow up and stop acting like a male chauvinist pig.

  200. #200 Dan S.
    June 16, 2009

    Admits to? You admit to cheating, you admit to committing a crime, you admit to having done something stupid.

    I don’t know, Anthony. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “admit” thusly “To grant to be real, valid, or true; acknowledge …. (and indeed, you did refer to having acknowledged that). “Admit” is a perfectly good English word that SLC has every right to use in the way he did! To claim otherwise – well, next thing you might wondering about whether it’s right to use “disability” in a pejorative sense, or (wait for it) to go on about a supposedly cultic “Darwinism” completely outside any appropriate context.

  201. #201 Dan S.
    June 16, 2009

    Tom Clark of Naturalism.org makes The Case Against Contempt in regards to the “accomodationism” debate and general “new atheist” strategy.

    There need be no war of worldviews among scientists, at least not in the lab. Supernaturalists such as biologists Ken Miller and Francis Collins are perfectly capable of doing good science since science doesn’t care what your worldview is, only that you hew to good canons of evidence and explanation. So long as they keep faith-based speculation out of the (public) classroom and noted as such in their journal articles, all will be well. Meanwhile, naturalists can engage with them, non-contemptuously, on basic questions of epistemology: on what intersubjective evidential grounds, if any, is it warranted to believe the supernatural exists? Why do you take your subjective experience of God, the soul, or free will as good evidence for such things? . . .Exploring these questions, preferably without rancor or contempt, is one of the more momentous philo-scientific pursuits made possible by the open society.

  202. #202 John Kwok
    June 16, 2009

    @ Dan S. –

    I disagree with Tom Clark’s insinuation that Ken Miller is indeed a “supernaturalist”. Having heard him speak, in public here in New York City, twice in less than a month, there is nothing I have heard from him that would place him firmly in a “supernaturalist” camp.

  203. #203 Leni
    June 16, 2009

    Anthony wrote:

    I’m not under any obligation to let the new atheists rig the rules in their own favor…

    No shit, sherlock. You chose to do that. You’re not under any obligation to offer lame excuses for your bad behavior either, but there it is.

    …practicing a double standard, using every dirty tactic in the book against religious believers…

    Every dirty trick, really? Every single one? Are you absolutely certain about that?

    …… OK, I think I’ve stopped laughing enough to answer this point. What happened to your assertion that you’d never seen him being as vicious as I am? You reassess your ludicrous assertion?

    Um, no. And if you want people to think Hitchens is worse than you, then perhaps you should not endeavor so to even the score.

    As far as the bigotry charges go (your standards, anyway)- you two are pretty much indistinguishable. If your point is that he and his terrible, terrible ilk are worse, then perhaps you should just try to make that point instead of undercutting your own damn argument at every possible turn.

    Apparently a lot of new atheists jumped when he published his diatribe. I actually went on several new atheist blogs to warn them that Hitchens has a history of back stabbing everyone who has ever been stupid enough to think he was their friend.

    And here it is again. Being as ass is what makes one a bigot?

    Or is it being a bigot that makes a person’s opinions wrong? Or was it being whiny? I can’t remember. Which was it again?

    You folks are the one who are stuck with him now.

    If I *had* to take the option of being trapped for some interminable length of time in a small, windowless cell with either you or Hitchens, I’m pretty sure I’d pick Hitchens. At least he’d be funny. And he’d probably have a stash. Which would at least take the edge off the bullshit.

    I hope you enjoy it while it lasts because as soon as he puts his moistened finger to the wind or he sniffs out another opportunity, he’ll turn on you. If his liver doesn’t give out before then.

    Nice. Are you going to tell us next that he doesn’t use deodorant and is a bad dresser and doesn’t like kittens?

    You really think this is going to bother me don’t you.

    No, actually I don’t. I’m pretty sure your ego and anger management issues are an impenetrable shield to criticism. But then again Andrew, maybe everything isn’t about your feelings :)

  204. #204 Anthony McCarthy
    June 16, 2009

    Dan, do you admit to being straight? Are you ever required to admit to it or at any kind of risk for it? I’ve never met a straight person who understood what it was like to be gay.

    Leni, I think the worst thing I called a person in this two thread conversation was a “twit” and that was because he was a Brit who dissed the separation of church and state in my country. Though I might have called someone else a twit along the way. I’m not especially nationalistic but I won’t stand by and hear a Brit lecture my country on one of the bedrocks of egalitarianism.

    You on the other hand, have called me a ass and made what you hoped would be a cutting remark about what you hoped was something I held sacred. Not to mention the characterization of what I said as “bull shit”. Then you mischaracterized my attack on Hitchens’ obvious self-interested remake of himself and tried to turn it into some petty crack about his personal hygiene.

    Now you pour through the two threads on this topic where most of my comments here have been and come up with a list of my evil doing because I’ve been really really tough, but I don’t think I’ve been a bigoted jerk like Coyne, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, PZ or most of the new atheist sci-waanabees who infest the blogosphere.

    You won’t find a single place where I told people not to be atheists or to adopt religious beliefs. Because that’s not why I bothered with this.

    It’s always so edifying at being scolded by a new atheist on the matter of manners. You going to go scold Science Avenger and Kevin on theirs now?

    You guys just can’t stand it when someone can stand up to you.

  205. #205 Anthony McCarthy
    June 16, 2009

    Oh, and Leni, what was it you found so amusing about Hitchens, the lies he’s told about the Clintons, his support of George W. Bush, his drooling meditation on the kill capacity of cluster bombs, or was it his advocacy for an illegal and unprovoked invasion of a country which has killed hundreds of thousands of people. Or maybe it was his support for invading Iraq to get oil. His remark that oil wasn’t some unsavory “bodily fluid”, after all, but a valuable commodity, must have given you the giggles. Yeah, you can get a much higher price for oil, it’s not like blood you let pour down the drains.

    He’s a real wit, isn’t he. But if his last column is anything to go by, he’s already sniffing out new opportunities for self-advancement. Who knows what he might find it useful to dump along the way?

  206. #206 Dan S.
    June 16, 2009

    Are you going to tell us next that he doesn’t use deodorant and is a bad dresser and doesn’t like kittens?

    Wait, Hitchens doesn’t like kittens?

  207. #207 Science Avenger
    June 16, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy said: It’s always so edifying at being scolded by a new atheist on the matter of manners. You going to go scold Science Avenger and Kevin on theirs now?

    Right, as if new atheists lack manners. [rolls eyes] Why not just start calling us niggers and remove all pretense of objectivity? If you think my transgressions of ettiquette remotely approach your own, you’re truly playing with half a deck. But then, your comments on the new atheists already proved that in, ahem, spades. Really man, get therapy for this “new atheist” boogeyman obsession you have. It can’t be healthy.

  208. #208 Science Avenger
    June 16, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy said: You guys just can’t stand it when someone can stand up to you.

    Nice little fantasy, par for the course. I personally love it when someone stands up to me, but not with distortions, and comments that generally sound like they were broadcast from Mars. Dawkins neing a bigot ranks right up there with Queen Elizabeth being a coke dealer and the Bush’s being part of an alien lizard race. A street bum can stand up to us to, yammering nonsense at light speed. The result is the same.

  209. #209 Science Avenger
    June 16, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy said: You guys just can’t stand it when someone can stand up to you.

    Nice little fantasy, par for the course. I personally love it when someone stands up to me, but not with distortions, and comments that generally sound like they were broadcast from Mars. Dawkins being a bigot ranks right up there with Queen Elizabeth being a coke dealer and the Bush’s being part of an alien lizard race. A street bum can stand up to us to, yammering nonsense at light speed. The result is the same.

  210. #210 Anthony McCarthy
    June 16, 2009

    But that’s the point, isn’t it? You can argue that TGD has a whole bunch of various deficiencies, but when it comes to the question of whether or not a God bearing some resemblance to the entity usually described by that name actually exists (which Dawkins does state quite clearly is the limit of the book), there don’t seem to be any substantial modern authors for the pro side.

    Now, Dan. You really do disappoint me. Is this ignorance or is this a debating strategy?

    Just about anyone with a grasp of logic realizes that arguing the existence of the supernatural is bound to be as fruitless as the search for finding the absolute foundations of mathematics due to our inabilities, not to the certainty that those don’t exist. I think, since there was a popular work that mentioned Godel in the title where they couldn’t miss it as they didn’t really read the whole thing, the Sci-blog wannabees and their equivalent in the general blogosphere might have an inkling of his contributions to uncertainty. They, as Dawkins and, perhaps, you, would know that people who write on the topic of religion at the most serious level don’t generally write about “proofs” for the existence of God these days. And, now, I’ve put you in a polemical bind because you can’t refute that statement without undermining your assertion by finding the relatively rare cases when they have broached that topic. And if you found them with google and Wiki, why didn’t Dawkins?

    Of course, since he was a “theist” they wouldn’t have been impressed with Godel’s logical brilliance. Theists can’t think,

    But his book wasn’t just on that topic, it covered a range of charges against religion which have, in the main, been the concern from such frivolous thinkers as James and Wittgenstein and Kant (I don’t recall, did he mention Kant, who would have been especially apropos of your canard? ) ,….. those in the western tradition, alone, would fill a page. But with a toss of the hand, you with “science” on “your” side can safely discount all those as not worth knowing about without knowing the first thing about them. Just like the most primitive of biblical fundamentalists, only they’ve got scripture as an excuse to ignore science.

    That Richard Dawkins, with the resources he had at his disposal from his endowed chair at Oxford, resorted to citing the man who introduced him to his wife, a broadcast media scribbler who had exactly one great radio drama, a good TV remake of that , a mediocre series of books on the same and, posthumously, a movie I didn’t bother to see since it was on the same material, as his only real cultural achievement, is truly one of the most amazing displays of scholarly ineptitude in recent history. The part of the public which sucked it up as gospel are a confirmation of the disastrous state of learning in the allegedly educated classes of the English speaking world. I’d think it could tell us something about the decline into a new period of benighted bigotry you seem to be the vanguard of. It sure looks like that to me, based on my readings of the ScienceBlogs.

    “Science Avenger” don’t bother reading this, I wrote it for people who know something.

  211. #211 Anthony McCarthy
    June 16, 2009

    Dan, reading the three comments he made before my answer to you, are you really proud to have the valiant Science Avenger on your side? Are you really proud of the logic, the grasp of the foundations of scientific research and general knowledge of your new atheist pals here and on the rest of the new atheist blogs?

    How about you, SLC? You really proud of the showing for your side here?

    Jason?

  212. #212 SLC
    June 16, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    Relative to Casey Luskin, I agree with Ms. Smith and PZ Myers that he’s a lying asswipe. By the way, I never claimed to have taken a course with the late Prof. Dirac, I merely said that I had lunch with him a couple of times.

    However, If Mr. Kwok agrees to cease and desist from name dropping and invoking his high school and university, as suggested by Mr. Science Avenger, I would have no problem whatever with doing the same. However, given Mr. Kwoks’ track record, I suspect that he is psychologically unable to cease and desist.

  213. #213 John Kwok
    June 16, 2009

    @ SLC –

    I told someone yesterday that I was getting fed up posting replies to peopke such as yourself and that I was going to stop. But you’re making me break that pledge.

    First, if there is something I can agree with both Smith and Myers, then it is the sad fact that Luskin is a demented Xian jerk working for the Dishonesty Institute.

    On the other hand, for someone who takes enormous pride in having earned a Ph. D. degree in elementary particle physics – and I note again that you’ve admitted that you left that field a long time ago – and studied with eminent physicists like Steven Weinberg, the you’re a real hypocrite accusing me of “name dropping”, especially when You’ve been doing such a great job of it yourself. Nor do you have any business criticizing me when you have admitted here at ScienceBlogs that all of these women are “hot”:

    Mrs. Sean Carroll
    Abbie Smith
    Cameron Diaz

    And probably too, the following:

    Dr. Lisa Randall, eminent physicist
    Dr. Jane Goodall, noted primatologist
    Dr. Sylvia Earle, distinguished marine scientist

    I honestly wonder how any females who may be posting here can put up with a male chauvinist pig whose sole criterion for judging whether a woman is a good scientist (or thinker etc. etc.) is whether or not she is “hot”.

    Again, I believe what I said to Anthony here is worth noting:

    “BTW, Coyne was a Ph. D. student of Lewontin’s, who apparently also studied with Steve Gould, Ernst Mayr and E. O. Wilson at Harvard (Come to think of it, now that’s a more impressive list of names IMHO than all of those obscure physicists that SLC has been reciting as his graduate school professors.). But then again, SLC really enjoys his name dropping.”

    I still stand by that statement for these reasons:

    1) Richard Lewontin is certainly among our most important evolutionary geneticists and general thinkers in evolutionary biology.

    2) Stephen Jay (Steve) Gould made important contributions to our understanding of allometry, helped spawn interest in evolutionary developmental biology and its potential implications for macroevolution, pioneered several important aspects of paleobiological research, and last, but not least, was an important early thinker with respect to what an “Expanded Modern Synthesis Theory of Evolution” might be.

    3) E. O. Wilson could be considered as one of the founding fathers of conservation biology. He collaborated with Robert MacArthur in developing some new, quite powerful, insights into population ecology that hasn’t only influenced generations of ecologists, but also has had an important impact on paleobiologists too. And then of course is his intriguing work on sociobiology and on ant entomology and systematics.

    4) Ernst Mayr was the most important evolutionary biologist of the 20th Century. He, more than anyone else, shaped our current understanding of patterns and processes of speciation. He was also one of the key scientists who served as the “architects” of the Modern Synthesis Theory of Evolution, which we know of today as modern evolutionary theory.

    So SLC, did any of your graduate school professors make contributions as profound in physics, as Coyne’s professors have done for evolutionary biology?

    If what I have just done is a mere example of “name dropping” then you’re just as delusional a crypto creo troll as your pal Science Wimp (who claims he is the “Science Avenger”).

  214. #214 Anthony McCarthy
    June 16, 2009

    a lying asswipe

    Watch out, SLC. Leni, the manners monitor, is on patrol.

    I guess you DO think “Science Avenger” is the kind of new atheist you want to associate yourself with.

    And here I am, a professional piano and theory teacher typing this out in the kitchen between students. Imagine what a really, first-rate theologian could do with you guys.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.