Last year I attended a paleontology conference in Cincinnati. While I was there I attended a session on science and religion, during which a parade of people trumpeted the warm relationship between the two. Predictably, there was much bashing of the New Atheists, with Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Stenger all specifically called out by name. There was a lot of preening about how it is only clueless atheists who blur the lines between science and religion. This, remember, at a paleontology conference. The session consisted of a series of fifteen minute presentations with no Q and A’s after the individual talks. (There was a very brief Q and A after several of the talks, but it was nowhere near sufficient to address all of the dubious arguments being offered by the speakers). The participants were all invited, and it goes without saying that no atheists made the list.

In short, it was a disgusting display. I’ve been to young-Earth creationist (YEC) conferences that were more open-minded and welcoming of different viewpoints. (I really have, I am not just saying that to be flamboyant.)

The World Science Festival is going on in New York this week and it will include a panel on science and faith. There is no one on the panel representing the New Atheist viewpoint. Surprise! This has caused a bit of a dust up in the blogosphere. Representing sunshine and puppies are Jerry Coyne and Sean Carroll. Preferring darkness and obscurantism are Chad Orzel and Josh Rosenau.

I do not know if anyone unfriendly toward religion was invited to be on the panel. It seems that last year Jerry Coyne was invited, but he turned down the invitation rather than participate in an event funded by the Templeton Foundation. (I understand Jerry’s reasons for making this decision, but I wish he would have accepted the invitation.)

What I do know is that someone representing a less cozy view of the science and religion relationship should have been invited. (If it turns out that one was, then that’s great!) Here is a description of the panel:

For all their historical tensions, scientists and religious scholars from a wide variety of faiths ponder many similar questions — how did the universe begin? How might it end? What is the origin of matter, energy, and life? The modes of inquiry and standards for judging progress are, to be sure, very different. But is there a common ground to be found? ABC News’ Bill Blakemore moderates a panel that includes evolutionary geneticist Francisco Ayala, astrobiologist Paul Davies, Biblical scholar Elaine Pagels and Buddhist scholar Thupten Jinpa. These leading thinkers who come at these issues from a range of perspectives will address the evolving relationship between science and faith. (Emphasis Added)

Note the question that forms the basis for the panel. The view that there is, at best, very little common ground is well-represented among scientists and should have been represented on the panel. It makes no sense to frame your panel around a specific question and then only invite people who give the same answer to it. And when you consider that the New Atheists are almost certainly going to be bashed quite a bit, and that it is because of the success of their books that we are now seeing so many of these panels in the first place, the case for including them seems conclusive to me.

If it is asking too much to invite Jerry Coyne or PZ Myers or Richard Dawkins, why not someone like Phillip Kitcher, who is based right there in New York? He is not a fire-breather, but he wrote with great eloquence about the conflict between evolution and Christianity in his book Living With Darwin. How about Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, who has also written eloquently on this subject? Either of them would have provided some welcome balance, without any worries about them hijacking the discussion.

Both Josh and Chad point out that no young-Earth creationists were invited either. That is a specious comparison, for two obvious reasons. First, YEC has zero support among scientists, whereas the idea that there is conflict between science and faith has a great deal of support. As Sean Carroll puts it:

Nothing in principle wrong with any of [the panelists], but there is a somewhat obvious omission of a certain viewpoint: those of us who think that science and religion are not compatible. And there are a lot of us! Also, we’re right. A panel like this does a true disservice to people who are curious about these questions and could benefit from a rigorous airing of the issues, rather than a whitewash where everyone mumbles pleasantly about how we should all just get along.

The second difference is that YEC is so closely associated with political activities that are flatly hostile to science and science education that it would be perverse to include them in a festival that is celebrating science.

That said, I would be very curious to see a YEC invited to one of these panels. I think they have a lot of interesting things to say about the relationship between science and religion, and they certainly represent the views of millions of Americans. I nominate Kurt Wise or Todd Wood, since they are considerably more thoughtful and serious in their approach than, say, Ken Ham or John Morris.

Desperate for an argument against including a New Atheist viewpoint, Chad tries this:

Unlike Sean, though, I think there’s a reasonable devil’s-advocate argument to be made for having the line-up the way it is, provided the moderator handles things properly. The simple fact is that people with fixed and absolute views do not make for an interesting conversation.

Right, because it’s only New Atheists that have fixed and absolute viewpoints. When someone like Francisco Ayala writes,

I contend that both — scientists denying religion and believers rejecting science — are wrong. Science and religious beliefs need not be in contradiction. If they are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters.

there is nothing fixed or absolute in his views? To declare bluntly that any conception of the science and religious dispute different from his own is an improper (as opposed to merely different) view is every bit as absolute as anything the New Atheists say.

Chad tries one more gambit:

In the end, I’m not convinced you need anyone on the panel to make the case that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible. That idea is out there, coming from both sides of the science-religion split (and you’ll notice they don’t have any young-earth creationists on the panel, either). The interesting subject of conversation is not so much the absolute compatibility or not of science and religion — given that neither side is really going to budge on that — but rather how it is that religious scientists reconcile the supposedly incompatible sides of the issue.

This is mostly specious. The idea that science and religion are compatible is very much “out there”. It is not some fringe position no one has ever heard of, especially among people attending something called “The World Science Festival.” Furthermore, the point of the panel is not to change the minds of the panelists. It is to give a clear airing of the different viewpoints to an audience consisting of people who probably have not thought about this issue as thoroughly as the panelists.

Chad continues:

There’s some potential for interesting personal stories and psychological depth there– how do you maintain faith while practicing science when both religious extremists and other scientists are saying that’s impossible? That’s presumably what they’re aiming for with the panel, and given competent moderation, they could get something a lot more interesting out of that than they could by putting a militant atheist or a Biblical literalist on the panel.

I am all in favor of psychological depth, but why is it only the perspectives of religious scientists that are psychologically interesting? How about the perspectives of people who are atheists in a society that overwhelmingly frowns upon that view? How about the balancing act required of those of us who are atheists but who teach in parts of the country that are culturally very religious? That sounds plenty interesting to me.

Josh’s arguments are even sillier:

The premise of a panel on “the relationship between science and faith” is, after all, that there is a relationship. Putting Richard Dawkins on that panel turns it into a debate, not a discussion.

What a load of crap. First, Richard Dawkins does think there is a relationship between science and faith. The relationship is that the former corrodes the latter. Second, it’s still a discussion even when not all of the panelists agree. I would think it makes for a far more interesting discussion, in fact.

Someone like Dawkins would stop the World Science Festival panel cold. The whole point Affirmative Atheists are making is that there is no dialogue to be had. Which means that the panel would descend into a metaconversation about whether there should even be conversations like the one they were supposed to be having. And that wouldn’t inform anyone.

This is more crap. Dawkins has been in many such situations, and he is always a model of decorum. I don’t think people like Ayala, Pagels and Davies (I’m not familiar with Jinpa) would have any trouble at all staying on point in such a forum, and I very much doubt that the conversation would be anything but cordial and informative. Frankly, I doubt even including Christopher Hitchens on the panel (who is much more confrontational and acerbic that Dawkins) would derail the discussion in the manner Josh fears. Josh does not help his case by comparing Dawkins to outright cranks like Hugh Ross or Rupert Sheldrake (who have apparently highjacked panel discussions in the way Josh fears). That he would make so ridiculous a comparison only shows the depth of his contempt for the New Atheists.

This has nothing to do with any high-minded desire to minimize the heat/light ratio. This is about Chad and Josh not liking the sorts of things New Atheists say and therefore wanting their viewpoint marginalized. That is all.

Comments

  1. #1 NewEnglandBob
    June 3, 2010

    Nicely said, Jason. Thanks.

  2. #2 Ophelia Benson
    June 3, 2010

    Richard Dawkins does think there is a relationship between science and faith. The relationship is that the former corrodes the latter.

    Oh well you see Josh meant relationship – as in “we need to talk about our Relationship.”

    Funny how people who go on and on and on and ON about all getting along can be so poisonous to people they don’t like.

  3. #3 Blake Stacey
    June 3, 2010

    The interesting subject of conversation is not so much the absolute compatibility or not of science and religion — given that neither side is really going to budge on that — but rather how it is that religious scientists reconcile the supposedly incompatible sides of the issue.

    Many adulterers are, in fact, married, and policemen have been known to break the law.

    That’s presumably what they’re aiming for with the panel, and given competent moderation, they could get something a lot more interesting out of that than they could by putting a militant atheist or a Biblical literalist on the panel.

    Yes, a roomful of people spouting the same vague bafflegab with nobody to voice dissent against the cocktail-party line is guaranteed to bring out fascinating insights into the human condition.

    Although, I must say, the spectacle of panelists trying to outdo each other in content-free warm fuzzies could be entertaining.

    (Aside: both “militant atheist” and “Biblical literalist” are terrible terms. The idea that one can be “militant” for writing a blog or putting a bumper sticker on one’s car is laughable. The guy in the office who insists everyone use the recycling bin is not a militant environmentalist, not until he firebombs an SUV dealer. And “Biblical literalists” may tell you that 100% of the King James Bible is absolutely, positively God’s own Word, but they’ve probably read about three books of its sixty-six, and what they call a “literal reading” of Revelation boggles the mind. Gee golly, people are so eager to cheapen the words we use, I’m half convinced they’re trying to short-sell the lexicon.)

  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    June 3, 2010

    Josh does not help his case by comparing Dawkins to outright cranks like Hugh Ross or Rupert Sheldrake (who have apparently highjacked panel discussions in the way Josh fears). That he would make so ridiculous a comparison only shows the depth of his contempt for the New Atheists.

    It’s not like I think Dawkins is flawlessly correct. No doubt he is fallible as a scientist, a writer and an anthologist. Ain’t we all? But I think it unlikely that he would start jumping on the sofa and ranting about morphic fields.

  5. #5 Lenoxus
    June 3, 2010

    Okay, I’m going to throw a wrench out here: I’m personally in agreement that religion and science are not compatible, yet I’m not entirely sure what that actually means!

    If you take a piece of paper and write SCIENCE on one side and RELIGION on the other, it won’t burst into flame. A more serious example of possible “compatibility” is that (in my opinion of definitions, at least) an intelligent scientist can be deeply religious, without the definition of either term needing to be modified in the slightest.

    When it is repeatedly asserted that they aren’t “compatible”, I worry that this is a message with almost no content (or not even a message, but a team-rooting sentiment) and that the accomodationists will therefore fill in some content of their own, for example, that the neo-atheist argument must be that No True Scientist can possibly be religious, or, worse still, that having religious beliefs ought to disqualify people from receiving the sort of fancy degrees which allow them to call themselves scientists. ‘Cause they’re “not compatible”, right?

    So, if (well, since) it is not these things, what is the argument of the non-accomodationists?

  6. #6 Zach Voch
    June 4, 2010

    Lenoxus@5

    When it is repeatedly asserted that they aren’t “compatible”, I worry that this is a message with almost no content (or not even a message, but a team-rooting sentiment) and that the accomodationists will therefore fill in some content of their own, for example, that the neo-atheist argument must be that No True Scientist can possibly be religious, or, worse still, that having religious beliefs ought to disqualify people from receiving the sort of fancy degrees which allow them to call themselves scientists. ‘Cause they’re “not compatible”, right?

    So, if (well, since) it is not these things, what is the argument of the non-accomodationists?

    A meaningless message? Really? Well, if you read the `new atheist’ authors mentioned here, you will find several very explicit ways in which religion and science are said to not be compatible. For their part, the accommodationists have certainly given their own meaning to this statement, namely the straw man that you mentioned, but this has been done so in the face of repeated correction.

    At Jerry Coyne’s blog, almost every post on accommodationism has to restate, in response to some argument somewhere, that the non-accommodationist stance is not `no scientist can be religious’ or some variant thereof that you have mentioned. Keep in mind that what we see know is not `filling in content where none is found’ on the part of accommodationists, but rather it is repeated burning of straw men by those who often should know much better, and indeed they would know better if they actually did read what new atheists write.

    You can read what new atheists write and judge from there, but I’ll give you a summary of what I usually find as meanings for incompatibility in addition to some other salient concerns of non-accommodationists.

    1) Solutions like NOMA fail to take into account that most religion by majority does make and often makes central naturalistic claims. It doesn’t end at the Genesis creation, which might be called `nonessential’ even where non-metaphorical, but it also involves claims of things like literal resurrections.

    2) Consequent of (1) and other things, `religion’ as made `compatible’ with science does not mesh well with religion as popularly understood, particularly in America. The forms of `religion’ made compatible with science are or most closely resemble deism, a restricted system which can hardly be called representative of `religion’. The Abrahamic religious traditions, from the Church Fathers to the Reformers, involve naturalistic claims contradictory to science. Christianity, where `compatible’, has to be made that way as opposed to actually being that way.

    3) Partially as a consequence of (2), many among the devout might understandably reject `compatible’ forms of religion as they place a very liberal and metaphorical interpretation of scripture to match science above the authority of scripture in and of itself. In response to this, accommodationists have frequently accused new atheists of `reading the Bible like a fundamentalist’, but here, if you take scripture seriously, the fundamentalists do have a point: the authority of revelation has to be severely compromised to fit modern science.

    4) Even within the group that is called `accommodating’ to science, there are inconsistencies with modern science and a scientific outlook. For example, the fracas over the Collins appointment was the result of Sam Harris publishing an op-ed which cited concerns over Collins’ statements about morality, namely, that it was a divinely given sense inaccessible to the methods of science. Accommodationists involve themselves in `boundary-setting’ for science, claiming that it can not access the claims of religion even where it actually can.

    5) In addition, Collins, like other accommodationists, have made common cause with the religion and tried to disassociate science from atheism by attacking atheists and atheism. Collins’ last slide discussed in Harris’ op-ed claimed that an atheistic worldview can not provide morality. Of course, a very slight familiarity with the history of ethics or a study of ethical attitudes among atheists would quickly dispel this falsehood, one that has caused a lot of historical harm. Even Locke did not favor toleration for his contemporary atheist neighbors on this basis.

    6) Finally, though accommodationists have declared, as in this case that Rosenhouse has discussed, victory on the matter without seriously considering the criticisms of new atheists, and they have instead responded by lumping them in with fundamentalists and dismissing them. They accept arguments for theistic evolution which they otherwise brilliantly criticize when invoked by Intelligent Design advocates. Their approach to gaining wider public acceptance of science is also criticized by new atheists who feel that, yes, as the polls resoundingly and repeatedly state for themselves, religion is an impediment to the acceptance of science. They seem to believe, somewhat naively, that if they give priests `moral authority’ that the priests will in turn leave science alone. They seem to also believe that the religious will recognize them as an authority on matters of theology and accept that they `have the wrong faith.’ Atheists also criticize this self-assigned expertise in matters of revelation, in addition to revelation as a genuine source of knowledge worth the deference given to scientific authority.

    tl;dr — Accommodationism is misleading, largely vacuous, a failed and failing approach, demonizes new atheists, assigns itself dogmatic authority, is inconsistent in arguments, etc.

    Clear enough? Little if anything here is original to me, and all has been made extremely available to obscurantists like Rosenau and others who continue to distort, misrepresent, and dismiss these criticisms.

  7. #7 Sigmund
    June 4, 2010

    Zach has given an eloquent answer above but I will perhaps mention a couple of extra points.
    The primary area of incompatibility between science and religion is in the the question “how do you know whether you are wrong?”
    The scientific method is almost completely based on this one point. We learn about the natural world by testing ideas one by one and discarding those that are found to be inconsistent with our experimental and observational results – thus allowing an ever increasingly accurate picture of the world.
    Religions that are based on divine revelation have no way of telling which points are incorrect.
    Theism also contradicts the basic idea of NOMA since it involves a deity intervening in the natural world in order to transmit His divine message – and to suspend the laws of physics every now and then (mostly then!) in order to perform a miracle or two.
    As Zach has mentioned, some limited versions of religion ARE compatible with the scientific method – namely the deistic or pantheistic sort that don’t allow for any sort of intervention in the natural world or miracles.
    The typical accomodationist argument for compatibility involves completely avoiding the question of “how do you know if you are wrong?” and posing the question as to whether you can work as a scientist and still be religious.
    This was NEVER the argument from the non-accomodationists (after all you can be a working scientist and be a creationist).
    It also involves the tactic of setting up two extremes with anti-science fundamentalists on one side and atheistic ‘fundamentalists’ on the other – and arguing that the answer is the ‘moderate’ accomodationist center.
    All these methods tend to fall apart once you have an anti-accomodationist pointing out the strawmen – so you can see the advantage in not having one on the panel.

  8. #8 Zach Voch
    June 4, 2010

    My thanks to Sigmund for the supplementary points.

    Lenoxus, Sigmund and parts of my own post give a brief outline of what we might call the `philosophical inconsistency’ of theistic belief and open inquiry with naturalistic science as the main (but not ONLY, as is frequently insinuated) example. This inconsistency can be deduced not from a standard imposed by new atheists, but rather it might be found from the selective acceptance and rejection of design arguments and other similar articles. In other words, it’s not necessarily a rejection of accommodationism based on outside premises (like a `fundamentalist’ operates) but rather the failure of accommodationism within itself. In other words, the position is often flatly incoherent.

    `Accommodationist’ is a term that fails to capture a large part of the position. They often seek not just trivial logical compatibility but also to establish the continued relevance of theism and `revealed wisdom’. Further, this is being done through institutions whose primary function is propaganda, like the Templeton Foundation. Granted, many are of course sincere, but Foundation grants and prizes leave a dirty taste in my mouth. `God’ is (often forcefully) stuffed into science as a result. So here, religion intrudes on science, contrary to the claims of the accommodationists. And again, it’s not as dramatic an intrusion as that sought by cDesign Proponentsists (always makes me laugh), but the effect is much the same.

    And the other obvious difference is that the approach receives almost universal applause and backpatting throughout the press and elsewhere. Again, the new atheists feel that this is to the detriment of both science and the position of atheists in society.

  9. #9 Lenoxus
    June 4, 2010

    I just realized that my last post was indistinguishible from that of a concern troll; sorry! I also realized that I basically answered the question myself just two blog posts back. Here’s a self-quote:

    In any case, these people need to understand that the argument isn’t “you can’t be religious and believe in science/evolution”, or “you can’t be religious and intelligent”, which are both demonstrably false unless we want to modify our definitions of religion, science, evolution, or intelligence. It’s simply that the two ways of thinking, rationality and revelation, are philosophically at odds, and holding to both of them requires compartmentalizing. That’s all!

    I’m starting to think that religion needs to be put on the defensive, frequently, in many, many more areas than science. For example, if a politician speaks of the Bible as the highest moral code, he should be asked what his stance is on slavery, and (assuming that it is “anti”), how he reconciles that with the Bible. One great thing about our comparatively secular era is that this line of argument will be assumed to be pro-atheism, not pro-slavery, as it would have been 200 years ago.

  10. #10 H.H.
    June 4, 2010

    It’s simply that the two ways of thinking, rationality and revelation, are philosophically at odds, and holding to both of them requires compartmentalizing.

    This.

    Accommodationists love to point to individuals who compartmentalize science and religion (i.e. keep reason and faith from ever having contact with each other) and then pretend that this aggressive quarantining is somehow evidence of compatibility. This is akin to pretending that two tenets who can’t stand to be in the same room with one another are nevertheless the best of friends just because they live in the same building.

  11. #11 Peter Beattie
    June 4, 2010

    There seems to be a certain morbid pleasure, doesn’t there, in those advocating the building of bridges to their opponents to then slash and burn the ones connecting them to their brothers in arms. I wonder, might that be the same impulse that compels me to disagree more strongly with somebody who supports my position but uses bollocks arguments than with somebody who actually disagrees with me?

  12. #12 Deepak Shetty
    June 4, 2010

    The panel as framed also sounds completely uninteresting without any counterpoint.
    Is there any doubt over what the conclusion will be and what points the speakers will make?

  13. #13 Owlmirror
    June 4, 2010

    Just to emphasize the point that Dawkins is not a grandstander of any sort — I listened to the Lennox-Dawkins debates about the existence of God/validity of Christianity. Not only was Dawkins unfailingly polite, but he and Lennox both agreed to do another recorded debate/discussion, because both wanted to keep discussing their points.

    I found myself wishing that Dawkins had actually made better counter-arguments to Lennox’s more fatuous and presuppositional assertions; not necessarily being rude, but just pointing out where Lennox was assuming his conclusions and generally making fallacious arguments. But of course, that’s just hindsight.

    And for the World Science Festival, I would suggest Dennett for the panel — he’s scholarly and thoughtful and polite, but is hardly an accommodationist.

  14. #14 SLC
    June 4, 2010

    Jerry Coyne on his blog links to an article in the Nation magazine which is an investigative piece on the Templeton Foundation. This is the outfit that awarded the accommodationists’ accommodationist, Chris Mooney, a Templeton Foundation fellowship. Not surprisingly, Mr. Rosenau, one of Mr. Mooneys’ staunch defenders, is also defending this panel discussion. I guess that Mr. Rosenau is pimping for his own Templeton Foundation fellowship.

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/the-nation-report-on-templeton/

  15. #15 Blake Stacey
    June 5, 2010

    Here’s what amuses me the most:

    According to various surveys, 60 to 70 percent of scientists are irreligious, and the figure is higher when looking at the members of an “elite” organization. So, even setting aside the percentage of agnostics and non-committal types, a sizeable fraction of these people must believe that philosophically speaking, science and religion can conflict; that religious scientists “reconcile” science and faith by not thinking about it too hard, or not applying scientific standards in all areas they could.

    It is not difficult to find some of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century expressing the view that scientific fact and the methods of science do not play well with religious belief. The physicist Paul Dirac said, in that long-ago year of 1927,

    If we are honest — and scientists have to be — we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can’t for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet. Quiet people are much easier to govern than clamorous and dissatisfied ones. They are also much easier to exploit. Religion is a kind of opium that allows a nation to lull itself into wishful dreams and so forget the injustices that are being perpetrated against the people. Hence the close alliance between those two great political forces, the State and the Church. Both need the illusion that a kindly God rewards — in heaven if not on earth — all those who have not risen up against injustice, who have done their duty quietly and uncomplainingly. That is precisely why the honest assertion that God is a mere product of the human imagination is branded as the worst of all mortal sins.

    In 1959, Richard Feynman said the following in a television interview (which the station decided was too inflammatory to air; Feynman’s biographer James Gleick found the transcript in the Caltech archives).

    It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil—which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.

    Let aside the question of whether these intemperate Old New Atheists were right, of whether they had an accurate bead on the situation. Would it be fair to say that Dirac and Feynman have as little to contribute to our modern discourse as does a young-earth creationist trying to sell you a limited-edition piece of Noah’s Ark?

  16. #16 J. J. Ramsey
    June 5, 2010

    Voch: “Solutions like NOMA fail to take into account that most religion by majority does make and often makes central naturalistic claims.”

    Voch, Gould’s NOMA is prescriptive, not descriptive. It is not about what religions all to often do, but what “magisteria” they should occupy. Go back and read what Gould himself said on the subject.

    Voch: “`Accommodationist’ is a term that fails to capture a large part of the position. They often seek not just trivial logical compatibility but also to establish the continued relevance of theism and `revealed wisdom’.”

    Which accommodationists are you talking about? What you wrote doesn’t describe Eugenie Scott well at all, for example.

  17. #17 Josh Rosenau
    June 5, 2010

    Jason: I don’t think it’s fair to say I compared Dawkins to Sheldrake or Ross. I do think that his relationship to people who accept a science/religion link is like Ross’s or Sheldrake’s relationship with people who practice (real, conventional) science. Dawkins is not Sheldrake or Ross. His science is legitimate and his views on science and religion are, while rare among scientists (5/275 of Ecklund’s interviewees took a Dawkinsian view), not inherently to be dismissed.

    Which is why I concluded the post you linked by saying that such a discussion was possible in principle, but that this panel was clearly not aimed at the over-arching metaconversation that Dawkins would generate, and that you and Sean Carroll and Larry Moran seem to prefer.

    I had forgotten that Coyne refused an invitation last year, but I think you’re letting him off too lightly. If Coyne and Carroll want to see more New Atheists on these panels, they cannot simultaneously declare anyone who takes part in a Templeton event is a traitor. It’s that us-vs.-them attitude that makes me think they would not be productive parts of a dialog about the details of how people’s scientific work is informed by religion and how their religious experience is informed by science.

    A panel with Dawkins on it would be a different panel, and WSF is entitled to decide to have this panel rather than another. That’s my point. If they wanted to have a panel about whether or not science and religion have a relationship and whether that relationship is harmful if they do, that would be a different panel. That was my point in the paragraph after the one you quoted. Why is it that none of my critics on this point have cited that last graf, which seems to address so much of the nonsense they’re throwing at me? If I did “not lik[e] the sorts of things New Atheists say and therefore want[] their viewpoint marginalized” and did not agree that “it’s still a discussion even when not all of the panelists agree,” why would I say “there is a way to have a civil and informative dialogue about science/religion compatibility between people who think it exists and those who don’t”? Why would I express hope that a panel pairing PZ Myers and Chris Mooney would be productive? It strikes me as willful misreading, alas.

    Furthermore, I think your argument reinforces my point that a discussion including a New Atheist would be a different conversation than the WSF wanted to have in this panel. What you want is a different panel. And that’s fine. I’m not arguing against ever having the discussion you are describing. But it’s not this panel. Lobby to have them choose that panel next year.

    SLC: Have you any evidence at all that I want a Templeton grant? This stupid, ham-fisted, and mendacious attempt at a smear doesn’t even deserve contempt.

  18. #18 SLC
    June 5, 2010

    Re Josh Rosenau @ #17

    1. Mr. Rosenau misses the entire point of the position of Myers, Coyne, Moran, and Rosenhouse. Their position is that a scientific conference has no business including the Templeton Foundation as a sponsor. Did Mr. Rosenhau trouble himself to read the article in the Nation that Prof. Coyne links to? The political activities enumerated there that the Templeton Foundation is dabbling in (including support for the same sex marriage nullification initiative in California) shows that they are a bunch of right wing scumbags. Mr. Rosenaus’ colleague, Mr. Chris Mooney, is getting into the pen with the pigs and therefore has no complaint if he emerges with a coating of mud. As far as I am concerned, he is due all the opprobrium that Myers, Coyne, Abbie Smith, Ophelia Benson, et al send his way.

    2. Mr. Rosenau, like most of Dawkins critics, fails to understand his position on religion. Dawkins considers the existence of god to be a scientific proposition, which so far, has not a jot or a tittle of scientific evidence supporting it. Furthermore, the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, which purport to be the word of god, make scientific claims that are contrary to the evidence. As I have pointed out on several blogs (I don’t think I brought this up on Mr. Rosenaus’ blog), the Hebrew Bible, for instance, claims that Joshua caused god to make the sun stand still in the sky for a day. This is a truly preposterous claim which not only contradicts the laws of physics but, oddly enough, passed unremarked on by other civilizations that are known to be contemporaneous with Joshua.

    3. Mr. Rosenau complains that he has been slandered because of a speculation that he might be contemplating applying for a Templeton Foundation fellowship himself. I have been accused of far worse things then that, including on Mr. Rosenaus’ blog. The internet is a tough place, with no quarter asked or given; it’s no place for the faint of heart. I suggest that Mr. Rosenau can find a set of exchanges between Mr. John Kwok and myself which were far worse then that on a thread on this very blog.

    4. Speaking of Chris Mooney, he’s a bit of a hypocrite. He preaches accommodation on evolution and vaccination but seems to be quite unaccommodating to the global warming deniers. I don’t think he will be attending any Washington National games with Marc Morano when he visits the DC area.

    By the way, I understand that Chris Mooney and PZ Myers are going to appear on a panel together. LA, Secular humanism conference on 7-10 October (I’ll be on a panel with Chris Mooney, discussing accommodation vs. confrontation. Uh-oh.)

  19. #19 Zach Voch
    June 5, 2010

    J.J. Ramsay: “Voch, Gould’s NOMA is prescriptive, not descriptive. It is not about what religions all to often do, but what “magisteria” they should occupy. Go back and read what Gould himself said on the subject.”

    You notice that you quoted what I said, essentially restated what I said, and then added in Gould’s original thought where Gould was not mentioned? I said nothing about Gould. The point I was making is that NOMA fails as a solution for compatibility because it fails as a description. Now, I’ll add something further: as a prescription, it’s success or failure depends on whether or not people will apply mental whiteout to scripture whenever it says anything subject to naturalistic investigation. Call me pessimistic.

    J.J. Ramsay: Which accommodationists are you talking about? What you wrote doesn’t describe Eugenie Scott well at all, for example.

    Not Scott so much, nor most other atheists, accommodationist or not. I thought it might strike a reader as obvious that I was referring to theistic accommodationists. For example: http://biologos.org/

    The mission statement involving `integration’ suggests this, but there are plenty of specifics. For example, I just took the first essay under the `Faith’ tab and found this:

    NOMA, however, risks overcompartmentalization. If taken to an extreme, NOMA equates science with factual knowledge and religion with value or opinion. In that case, there would clearly be no overlap between the two disciplines.

    Science is not the only source of factual statements, and religion does reach beyond the realm of values and morals. As Gould acknowledges, science is limited to the factual claims about the world’s physical behavior, and therefore provides only a portion of complete knowledge. – Denis Alexander

    And have you ever heard of `other ways of knowing?’ Do I need to go on? This essay expresses dissatisfaction with relegating religion to the `values/opinion’ sphere, which it perceives as the consequence of undiluted NOMA. Apparently, he isn’t satisfied with the `prescription’ of Gould.

    This is just the first thing I stumbled across. If you need other examples, you can look at virtually everything else written on BioLogos. Or, you could look at any number of Templeton-sponsored websites. Or, you could read the works of Miller and Collins. Or…

    If you think my claim implied `all,’ note the placement of the word `often’ in the quote you object to. I think I can justify that usage.

  20. #20 Zach Voch
    June 5, 2010

    SLC, `the internet is a harsh place’ would not be an excuse for a slander. Whether or not Rosenau is applying for a Templeton Fellowship, it isn’t fair to suggest that he is without presenting argument or evidence for that.

    That said, I think that Rosenau is off in his opinion of a foundation which has an explicitly propagandist purpose in directing the sciences. Does it bother me? Sure, but I don’t have grounds to accuse him of anything aside from compliance with a worrying conflict of interest which can and will compromise intellectual honesty and/or rigor in science.

    Also, SLC, the donation against same-sex marriage was a personal donation from Jack. Yes, it’s worrying. Yes, his dismissal of the prior president under the circumstances is worrying. Yes, the Templeton Foundation might go into social conservatism in addition to economic conservatism. But, don’t misrepresent the nature of the donation.

    Josh, I think it’s a bit unfair that you are now overwhelmingly focusing on `nature of the panel’ and `new atheists don’t fit with the intended purpose’ when you stated other things which involved the inability of new atheists to hold dialogue in general, not in particular.

    Now, I’ll quote something which also describes a comment I left on your original post:

    Why is it that none of my critics on this point have cited that last graf, which seems to address so much of the nonsense they’re throwing at me? If I did “not lik[e] the sorts of things New Atheists say and therefore want[] their viewpoint marginalized” and did not agree that “it’s still a discussion even when not all of the panelists agree,” why would I say “there is a way to have a civil and informative dialogue about science/religion compatibility between people who think it exists and those who don’t”?

    Because it seemed to contradict earlier statements from your post. You said that `discussion’ would degenerate into `debate’ because of a present new atheist in a similar way that Sheldrake or Hugh Ross would disrupt a panel of otherwise learned scientists. You didn’t describe a present new atheist as `creating the wrong conversation,’ rather, you described it as destroying any possible conversation. Let me quote more of the end of your post:

    Someone like Dawkins would stop the World Science Festival panel cold. The whole point Affirmative Atheists are making is that there is no dialogue to be had. Which means that the panel would descend into a metaconversation about whether there should even be conversations like the one they were supposed to be having. And that wouldn’t inform anyone.

    I’ll grant in principle that there is a way to have a civil and informative dialogue about science/religion compatibility between people who think it exists and those who don’t. I can’t say I’ve ever seen it work, but surely it can be done.

    Note `stop the panel cold.’ Note `no dialogue to be had.’ Note `wouldn’t inform anyone.’ Note `in principle… I can’t say I’ve ever seen it work.’

    If this is a confusion, might it be an understandable one?

  21. #21 Zach Voch
    June 5, 2010

    *** NOTE: This is a response to J.J. Ramsey@14 on the `Talking Sense’ post of Rosenau’s. Since he’s thrown up comment moderation, I’m storing this comment here so that Ramsey can respond or else so that I can repost it if it gets lost.
    ****

    Voch, the whole debate over accommodationism started with Dawkins pulling a Godwin that implicitly compared Ken Miller to a Nazi. Heck, “accommodationist” is a term that came about after Orac mocked the previous label, “appeaser,” to death. There’s a reason the New Atheists aren’t being taken seriously and are compared to fundies. Starting things off with an argumentum ad Naziium will do that. It doesn’t help that the arguments put forth on incompatibility tend to treat science as something that it isn’t. Science gets treated as if it were a philosophy, or defined so broadly that informal critical thinking or even dating prospective mates get counted as science. The New Atheists aren’t being treated seriously because there is little seriousness to be had.

    Haha. This will be fun.

    I like the word `implicit’ quite a bit. It’s a very broad word. I’ve heard people called `Benedict Arnolds,’ for example, but I didn’t suppose that anybody was being called, say, English. I’ve heard of people called `Quislings’ in a similar way, but again, the accusation of Naziism hid from me.

    These two words have entered the vernacular as synonyms for `traitor’ and `collaborator.’ Similarly, `Neville Chamberlain’ has entered the vernacular as a synonym for `appeaser.’

    Do I think that anybody here was playing the Nazi card? No, that’s a bit of a leap. That being said, do I agree with the usage of `Neville Chamberlain’ or even `accommodationist?’ Also no. It’s framing and I hate framing. I hate `pro-life’ and `pro-choice.’ I use `accommodationist’ because that’s the term that I can expect readers to understand.

    *quibble – Reread Orac’s post. Moran coined the term accommodationism before the post was made.*

    I won’t give an unqualified defense of Dawkins’s statement. I also think it was misleading and does implicitly accuse accommodationists of insincerity, and I think that most accommodationists are sincere. But were there acts designed with the intention of placating and nothing else? Yes, so formally, there was (and is) `appeasement,’ but again, I don’t think it deserves all of the negative connotations here. However, do you really think that that was the beginning of the accommodationism debate?

    That, you can correct for yourself. That’s a matter of simple facts. I want to move on to the outright hilarious claim.

    There’s a reason the New Atheists aren’t being taken seriously and are compared to fundies. Starting things off with an argumentum ad Naziium will do that. It doesn’t help that the arguments put forth on incompatibility tend to treat science as something that it isn’t.

    Have you read any of the recent dialogue? Do you think that all of the criticism of the New Atheists follows from `Well Dawkins seemed to haphazardly imply that Miller was pro-Nazi!’? Seriously?

    And further, even if that was the case, would that in any way affect the validity of New Atheists arguments? You have surely seen them. You could have read the rough outline in my comment on Rosenhouse’s response to this post. Actually, you replied to that comment, just not any of the substantial arguments.

    I wasn’t aware that you failed to do so on the basis of a perceived Nazi card. Oh well, I learn things everyday!

    Even then, this accusation is towards Dawkins. How many times does it need to be said that there is more than one `New Atheist’? Do the actions of Dawkins, even if he were to defecate on top of St. Peter’s Basilica, in any way have anything to do whatsoever with judging the character of other atheists and assuming that they aren’t worth taking seriously, nor their arguments (which should, by the way, stand or fall on their own merits)?

    Please.

    And as for `little seriousness to be had,’ do you ever actually read new atheist writing? Do you know what their concerns are? If you read my comment that you partially replied to on Rosenhouse’s post, you would have little but a rough outline of the criticisms made. There are arguments, most of which are ignored in the favor of the very same straw man every new atheist has to explicitly reject a million times.

    You’re right about one thing, J.J., there is little seriousness to be had, but you’re wrong about where to put the blame.

    One last thing — the only part of your comment worth paying attention to without ridicule: “It doesn’t help that the arguments put forth on incompatibility tend to treat science as something that it isn’t. Science gets treated as if it were a philosophy, or defined so broadly that informal critical thinking or even dating prospective mates get counted as science.”

    There are lots of empirical questions about dating susceptible to scientific examination. I’m not sure what your objection is to that.

    I’ll ask for specifics for the first part as well. Tell me what `science isn’t’ that new atheists so frequently assign to it? I have heard things which I disagree with a new atheist about as being empirical, e.g., Sam Harris as against the Humean is/ought distinction. Since every other atheist I’ve read accepts that, for example, I don’t hear `science is the entirety of/the root of all knowledge.’ Just preempting a straw man.

    Science as methodology is recognized as bounded by philosophy. Take methodological naturalism and essential assumptions prior to any experiment (demons aren’t adjusting the pH). For the converse, science of course deeply affects philosophy. Either directly through empirical fact or indirectly through consequences for ethics.

    For example, goal-driven behavior in the form of `should… in order to …’ must be informed by science. For another example (one I gave in my comment), scientific findings affect arguments for the existence of God. The classic case is the destruction of the Paley argument (and the modern counterpart, irreducible complexity) through finding naturalistic mechanisms. It has effects on the argument from evil. It has effects on the cosmological argument. It has lead to substantial rethinking in theology for obvious reasons. That rethinking itself also has consequences for the nature of `revealed wisdom’ and `divine inspiration.’

    No, science isn’t everything, but it certainly is a part of philosophy.

  22. #22 J. J. Ramsey
    June 6, 2010

    ** NOTE: This is a response to J.J. Ramsey@14 on the `Talking Sense’ post of Rosenau’s. Since he’s thrown up comment moderation, I’m storing this comment here so that Ramsey can respond or else so that I can repost it if it gets lost.
    ****

    Since your comment got through moderation on Rosenau’s blog, I’ll respond there when I get the chance. (BTW, I was moderated, too). Here’s your comment: http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2010/06/talking_sense.php#c2568275

  23. #23 SLC
    June 6, 2010

    Re Zach Vach @ #20

    I really must respond the Mr. Vachs’ notion that somehow calling Ken Miller a Neville Chamberlainist is tantamount to accusing him of harboring pro-Nazi leanings. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

    The thinking behind this notion is that Chamberlain appeased Hitler because he thought that the latter wasn’t a bad guy and, in fact had some sympathies with Hitlers’ agenda. Complete rubbish! Chamberlain appeased Hitler because he was fearful of the consequences of not appeasing Hitler, namely that Great Britain would get into a war with Germany they it could not win. In this regard, he was taken in by Nazi propaganda which greatly exaggerated German military prowess. The fact was that Germany, in the spring of 1938, was in no condition militarily to undertake a European campaign against Britain and France. The German General Staff knew it, even if Chamberlain did not, and were planning a coup against Hitler who they considered a dangerous adventurer.

  24. #24 J. J. Ramsey
    June 6, 2010

    Voch: “I said nothing about Gould.”

    It is strange that you should claim that I was the one who brought up Gould when Gould was the one who formulated NOMA in the first place. Furthermore, when you wrote,

    “Solutions like NOMA fail to take into account that most religion by majority does make and often makes central naturalistic claims.”

    you wrote as if you were unaware that Gould and just about everyone else who agrees with NOMA are painfully aware that there are religious believers, such as creationists, who do try to push religion into science’s domain.

    Voch: “I thought it might strike a reader as obvious that I was referring to theistic accommodationists.”

    Considering Coyne’s jibber jabber about “faitheists,” I don’t know why you’d consider that obvious at all. When you wrote,

    “`Accommodationist’ is a term that fails to capture a large part of the position. They often seek not just trivial logical compatibility but also to establish the continued relevance of theism and `revealed wisdom’.”

    it looked like you were trying to say that accommodationism is a misleading name for “the position” (to use your turn of phrase), which supposedly goes beyond mere compatibility but includes ideas that are more outright theist-friendly.

  25. #25 Lenoxus
    June 6, 2010

    One of my favorite atheist writers is Greta Christina. Here’s her piece on “Irrationality… and its limitations”. It basically deals with the religious and NOMA argument that many areas of life (such as romance) are irrational and don’t require scientific analysis, so why should religion be any different from those?

    While I generally agree with all the points she makes, I’d like to add something: As strange as it may sound to some ears, I don’t think there’s any area of life, not one, where evidence of some sort should not be brought into the picture to support one’s beliefs and claims.

    For example, we have “faith” that our significant others love us because of the evidence of as much! We don’t just sit around imagining ideal partners and assuming their existence. And when we witness solid evidence of, for example, an affair, we don’t (usually) say, “Screw this cold-hearted rationalism stuff, I have faith.” Yet that’s precisely what some people think is called for in the special realm of religion, where the Mystery Card comes into play.

  26. #26 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 6, 2010

    Zach –

    I’ll leave your comment (#21) up, but in the future please do not use my blog as a way of responding to comments left at other blogs. Thanks.

  27. #27 Josh Rosenau
    June 6, 2010

    SLC: “Did Mr. Rosenhau [sic] trouble himself to read the article in the Nation that Prof. Coyne links to? The political activities enumerated there that the Templeton Foundation is dabbling in (including support for the same sex marriage nullification initiative in California) shows that they are a bunch of right wing scumbags.”

    I did read the article, and if you had done so as well, you’d know that the Templeton Foundation itself did not fund those right-wing political activities. Templeton’s son has funded those things from his own pocket, but, to quote the article: “According to his lifelong friend Jay Norwalk, Templeton ‘is exceedingly scrupulous about keeping his personal life separate from the foundation.’ By most accounts, this has been the case.”

    I am not objecting to your saying mean things about me. I’m used to that. People are allowed to have wrong opinions of me (as Jason wrongly thinks I want to marginalize New Atheists). What I consider unacceptable is your lying about me. Again.

    Voch: A) I haven’t just “thrown up comment moderation.” Certain phrases in a comment have always caused that comment to be trapped. It isn’t new, personal, or thread-specific.

    B) “Rosenau is off in his opinion of a foundation which has an explicitly propagandist purpose in directing the sciences” None of my comments in this context have been about Templeton. The only substantive discussion I’ve made in any of my blog posts about Templeton’s work was to disagree last March that accepting a grant is the same thing as “bribery.” I still think that’s a dumb argument, absent evidence of a quid pro quo.

    C) “Josh, I think it’s a bit unfair that you are now overwhelmingly focusing on `nature of the panel’ and `new atheists don’t fit with the intended purpose’ when you stated other things which involved the inability of new atheists to hold dialogue in general, not in particular.”

    My first post on the matter was mainly focused on the nature of the panel. Yes, I suggested that adding a New Atheist to the panel would change the nature of the panel, and that I thought it would be more of a debate than a discussion. That’s not to say such a debate wouldn’t be useful or couldn’t be done helpfully. As I wrote in that very post: “there is a way to have a civil and informative dialogue about science/religion compatibility between people who think it exists and those who don’t … surely it can be done.” It’s clear to me that, while WSF might have chosen to make this panel into such a dialogue, that is not what they wanted this panel to be.

  28. #28 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 6, 2010

    Josh –

    Richard Dawkins does not stand in relation to the other panelists in the same way that Sheldrake and Ross stand to real scientists. Sheldrake and Ross are outright cranks. The scientists on the panel are obviously going to worry that they are lending credibility to crankery just by sharing a stage with them. Naturally they are going to feel the need to refute Sheldrake and Ross at every turn.

    There is nothing comparable to that here. The idea that there is a conflict between science and faith is very commonly held among scientists, and for that reason it makes sense to give it a voice on the panel. (Ecklund’s statistic referred, as I recall, to people expressing outright hostility to religion, not just conflict). Having such a voice would not transform the panel into a meta-conversation or whatever. Ayala and Davies would not worry they are legitmizing a hateful view just by sharing a stage with Dawkins. Dawkins’ presence would just make it clear that scientists have many different views about the science/faith relationship, and one of those views is conflict. And when you further consider that there is likely to be a fair amount of criticism directed towards the New Atheists, common courtesy would demand having someone there to reply.

    There is danger that Dawkins specifically could take over the panel just because he is such a celebrity, but that is why I suggested Kitcher and Sinnott-Armstrong as possible candidates.

    I don’t think you are correct about Sean Carroll’s views regarding Templeton. Reread the opening of the post I linked to, for example. For myself, I do get annoyed when people like Jerry question people’s integrity just for taking money from them. Scholars have to get money wherever they can find it. Their work then stands or falls on its own merit. But, again, if the worry is that someone like Jerry Coyne is too polarizing, I refer you once more to my other suggested panelists.

    I did not cite your final paragraph because it was completely irrelevant to the point I was making. You said that Dawkins’ presence would turn the panel from discussion to a debate. You said he would stop the panel cold. Neither of those statements becomes non-ridiculous after reading your final paragraph.

    The panel I want them to have is the one they described in their ad copy. I want a panel that honestly addresses the question, “But is there common ground to be found?” What I don’t want is a panel that claims to address that question but only includes representatives of a narrow range of viewpoints.

  29. #29 Michael Fugate
    June 6, 2010

    I like the idea of including a philosopher of science like Kitcher or Dennett or even Pigliucci to the panel. A philosopher of religion might be useful too. I know Josh is worried that Dawkins would bash religion, but yet we have people on the panel who will likely bash some forms of Christianity and will also bash uppity atheists.

  30. #30 SLC
    June 6, 2010

    Re Josh Rosenau @ #27

    1. Jay Norwalk is apparently a genealogist who has made a study of the Templeton family. Other then that, a quick Google search failed to turn up any information of the gentleman. Thus, I have no idea as to his reliability relative to his assessment of the younger Templeton.

    2. The Templeton Foundation itself is a 501(C)(3) organization that is prohibited from engaging in political activity directly. However, according to the Wikipedia article on the Foundation, it has certainly associated itself with a number of conservative causes. In particular, the late and unlamented crank, Julian Simon, a world class denier exceeding even Fred Singer in that regard.

    Of particular concern is Templeton Juniors’ association with Freedoms’ March, a far right wing organization founded by fascist gambling entrepreneur Sheldon Adelson. The main purpose of this outfit is to foment a war between the US and Iran. It would appear that Templeton Junior is nothing but a somewhat cleaned up version of Christian Dominionist Howard Ahmanson.

    Whatever may have been the attitude of the elder Templeton who appears to have been a well meaning if deluded billionaire, his son appears to be a whole different kettle of fish and is not someone I would care to have myself associated with in any way, shape, form, or regard.

    3. Given Mr. Rosenaus’ strong demurral from any implication of interest in a Templeton Foundation Fellowship, I take it that he would be willing to make a Sherman type statement, namely if nominated he will not run, if elected, he will not serve.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templeton_Foundation

  31. #31 Zach Voch
    June 6, 2010

    @Jason: It’s fine by me if you delete, since the comment passed through moderation. I’ll follow your request and will not do use your blog as a storage center again in the future. I did it that time mostly for the purposes of continuing a conversation that was, to me, sufficiently relevant to your original post, but I’ll refrain from doing so in the future.

    SLC – “I really must respond the Mr. Vachs’ notion that somehow calling Ken Miller a Neville Chamberlainist is tantamount to accusing him of harboring pro-Nazi leanings. Nothing could be farther from the truth.”

    That wasn’t my notion. That’s precisely the notion I was attacking.

    J.J. – “It is strange that you should claim that I was the one who brought up Gould when Gould was the one who formulated NOMA in the first place.”

    Right. I was talking about NOMA, not Gould. There is a distinction between a person’s idea and the person. Did I bring up NOMA? Yes. Did I bring up Gould’s intentions and claim he meant NOMA as descriptive? No. If it seemed implicit that I did so, then clarifying that is fair enough.

    J.J. – “you wrote as if you were unaware that Gould and just about everyone else who agrees with NOMA are painfully aware that there are religious believers, such as creationists, who do try to push religion into science’s domain.”

    Right, and you’ll also notice that there are plenty of people besides creationists who are unwilling to relegate religion to the non-natural, “non-factual” domain. That’s why I quoted such a statement from the BioLogos website. It shows that yes, the difficulties are present even among those who wish to accommodate science and faith, not just creationists, and even among more `liberal’ religions.

    J.J. “Considering Coyne’s jibber jabber about “faitheists,” I don’t know why you’d consider that obvious at all. When you wrote, [...] it looked like you were trying to say that accommodationism is a misleading name for “the position” (to use your turn of phrase), which supposedly goes beyond mere compatibility but includes ideas that are more outright theist-friendly.”

    Note the term “often” in my original sentence. Then note the note I made of the term in my response. Yes, there are also atheists who also try to give revealed wisdom and faith very active roles, hence Coyne’s `faithiests’, but I was responding to you mentioning Eugenie Scott in particular. I thought you were misinterpreting my statement to mean `all accommodationists do X.’ If it clarifies things, make it more like `many accommodationists do X.’

  32. #32 John Kwok
    June 6, 2010

    @ SLC –

    You have the ridiculous habit of trying to slander those whom you deem worthy of criticism, whether it is myself, Josh Rosenau or Ken Miller. Have noted that recently over at Sean Carroll’s recent entry on this over at Cosmic Variance blog entry, you asserted that Ken Miller shares the same view of science and religion that Francis Collins does. If so, then why did I hear Ken state (at a private talk he gave to our fellow Brown alumni here in New York City) back in May 2009 that those who embrace faiths hostile to science should terminate their membership in such faiths? Why did he – and fellow World Science Festival panelist planetary scientist Vatican Astronomer (and Jesuit brother) Guy Consolmagno – assert at last year’s Science Faith discussion (which Jerry Coyne publicly rejected; ironically, however, his view was expressed by his “replacement” physicist Lawrence Krauss at that session) that, as scientists, science should and must trump religion. It is only in their private lives will they give any consideration to their religious beliefs, provided that such beliefs do not overrule their scientific knowledge.

    As for the Templeton Foundation’s funding of the World Science Festival, let me observe that it’s really hypocritical of Jerry Coyne to continue venting his spleen over this especially when his university, the University of Chicago, remains a major financial recipient of Templeton Foundation funding (In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have just concluded my second year of volunteer service at the World Science Festival, simply because I believe it is an intellectually and emotionally rewarding event. One shouldn’t conclude that I agree completely with its programming or its mission.).

    Respectfully yours,

    John Kwok

  33. #33 John Kwok
    June 6, 2010

    @ SLC –

    I have the utmost respect for Jerry Coyne’s work as a prominent evolutionary geneticist. Regrettably, however, my respect has diminished substantailly due to his harsh, undeserved, ad hominem attacks upon physicist Brian Greene and his wife, journalist Tracy Day. I remain quite perplexed that Jerry would resort to rhetorical tactics employed by the likes of William Dembski and David Klinghoffer in outlining and defending his position, especially when he has been the recipient of abysmal, often juvenile, criticism from Dembski and his fellow Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographers.

    Respectfully yours,

    John Kwok

  34. #34 Zach Voch
    June 6, 2010

    Josh – “Voch: A) I haven’t just “thrown up comment moderation.” Certain phrases in a comment have always caused that comment to be trapped. It isn’t new, personal, or thread-specific.”

    Ah, I wasn’t aware of that, but thanks for letting me know. I’ll state that if my note seemed like an accusation, I retract that connotation.

    Josh – “B) “Rosenau is off in his opinion of a foundation which has an explicitly propagandist purpose in directing the sciences” None of my comments in this context have been about Templeton. The only substantive discussion I’ve made in any of my blog posts about Templeton’s work was to disagree last March that accepting a grant is the same thing as “bribery.” I still think that’s a dumb argument, absent evidence of a quid pro quo.”

    Right, I never said that you were in this discussion. I was responding to SLC. I agree that calling Templeton Funding the equivalent of bribery is rather silly. I also took his accusations against you as silly. I wasn’t clear, for which I apologize, but I took also your “(funded by Templeton, ZOMG!)” as a bit flippant about the concerns.

    One last one —

    C) “Josh, I think it’s a bit unfair that you are now overwhelmingly focusing on `nature of the panel’ and `new atheists don’t fit with the intended purpose’ when you stated other things which involved the inability of new atheists to hold dialogue in general, not in particular.”

    My first post on the matter was mainly focused on the nature of the panel. Yes, I suggested that adding a New Atheist to the panel would change the nature of the panel, and that I thought it would be more of a debate than a discussion. That’s not to say such a debate wouldn’t be useful or couldn’t be done helpfully. As I wrote in that very post: “there is a way to have a civil and informative dialogue about science/religion compatibility between people who think it exists and those who don’t … surely it can be done.” It’s clear to me that, while WSF might have chosen to make this panel into such a dialogue, that is not what they wanted this panel to be.”

    Jason already echoed my concerns at 28. Read the parts I quoted and that Jason mentioned. Did you expect for a moment that what you just said here would be clear from the passage? The comparisons with Ross and Sheldrake weren’t appropriate, but I can take those as forgivable and possible to put in context. When you follow those things with what I’ve already quoted in my comment, you really can’t expect to be anything other than to be `misread.’ I’ll ask you something.

    In light of what else you said, did the confusion seem to at least be understandable? I said a harsh word about you earlier, “obscurantist.” I’d rather be wrong about that. Miscommunications online without the aid of verbal intonation and body language is inevitable, but you can take efforts to prevent that by being clear with your writing. Nobody does it perfectly all the time (certainly not myself), but here’s an idea. Say something like “The confusion was understandable. I meant this, I said that, that implies things I didn’t mean, here’s what I meant.”

    The first line is debatable. That’s what we seem to be debating, at least.

  35. #35 Zach Voch
    June 6, 2010

    ***Ah crap. In my post @34, include the paragraph following the blockquote within the blockquote.

  36. #36 Josh Rosenau
    June 7, 2010

    SLC: Your original post claimed that the Nation article would prove that Templeton Foundation funded right-wing policies, when it actually shows the opposite.

    And I see no relevance in your demand for a Shermanesque statement. If you haven’t got evidence that I’m currently seeking Templeton funding, then your statement was false and should be retracted. Imputing nefarious motives to others without evidence is not a productive way to go through life.

    Voch/Jason: I see why the comparison to Sheldrake or Ross might be offensive, but as you, Jason, observed above, the panel does not consist of mostly scientists, half the panelists are scientists who publish in theology journals also, the other half are theologians. I erred in my earlier posts on the topic by claiming that the panel seemed likely to be a discussion of personal views on integrating science and religion, and just put up a post with a different take.

    I think it’s wrong to say that I’m comparing Dawkins to Ross, as that comparison is only as valid as the entire analogy. An analogy of the form: Dawkins:Oxford::Bigfoot:Oregon could not, in fairness, be said to compare Dawkins to Bigfoot. This is also why my second post on the topic introduced two alternative analogies in which the Dawkins analogue is not a crank.

    For better or for worse, the academic literature on science/religion studies (the literature the panelists all contribute to), tends toward a consensus that science need not be (entirely?) incompatible with religion. I don’t know that literature as well as I might, but who from that discipline would be a good representative of the Affirmative Atheist viewpoint? Which Affirmative Atheists publish in science/religion or theology journals?

  37. #37 Pseudonym
    June 7, 2010

    Both Josh and Chad point out that no young-Earth creationists were invited either. That is a specious comparison, for two obvious reasons. First, YEC has zero support among scientists, whereas the idea that there is conflict between science and faith has a great deal of support.

    Allow me to say “duh”. Conversely, New Atheism has no support among the religious, where YEC has… well, a tiny bit.

    The second difference is that YEC is so closely associated with political activities that are flatly hostile to science and science education that it would be perverse to include them in a festival that is celebrating science.

    This is a good point, though. I guess one could make the argument that, similarly, New Atheists are trying to shoehorn science into areas where it’s a poor fit, but that is a slightly specious argument. Only slightly, though.

  38. #38 John Kwok
    June 7, 2010

    @ Jason –

    Be careful what you wish for. I heard Philip Kitcher express some carefully-stated – but IMHO still valid – criticism of Richard Dawkins’s attacks upon religion – during a Darwin Day 2009 lecture he gave at a Universalist church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

    As for the World Science Festival’s support by the Templeton Foundation, I should note that the Templeton Foundation does support research at the University of Chicago, and, I presume too, the California Institute of Technology, which are the home institutions of, respectively, Jerry Coyne and Sean Carroll. It’s a bit hypocritical of both to be condemning the World Science Festival when their universities also receive Templeton Foundation funding.

    A more legitimate objection to the World Science Festival’s current direction might be asking why it has ignored substantial participation by scientists from the World Conservation Society, New York Botanical Garden and the American Museum of Natural History, especially when these research institutions are among the most important reasons why New York City remains an important global center for scientific research.

  39. #39 SLC
    June 7, 2010

    Re John Kwok

    As Prof. Rosenhouse doesn’t appreciate commentors here getting into a discussion about comments made on other blogs, I will be brief. What I was attempting to do in that comment was to contrast Prof. Ayala, who, if the claim as to his interview with the Spanish newspaper is correct, is a non-believer, with Miller and Collins who are believers. In no way, shape, form, or regard was I making any claim that Miller and Collins have identical religious beliefs. Obviously they do not as Collins is an Evangelical Christian while Miller is a Roman Catholic. There also should be no implication that their views as to the relationship between science and religion are identical, which they are not.

    As for Brian Greene, I know nothing about the gentlemen but I concur with Prof. Coyne and disagree with Prof. Carroll as to his acceptance of funding from the Templeton Foundation. As I like to maintain, when one gets into the pen with with pigs, one may expect to emerge with a coating of mud.

    Re Josh Rosenau

    PZ Myers has a post on his blog heavily criticizing the article in the Nation as a whitewash. After reading it more carefully, and reading the Wikipedia entry, I concur with Prof. Myers that it let the Templeton Foundation off too easily, although it certainly pointed out some of the associations of Templeton Jr.

    Quite clearly, there should be considerable concern as to the possibility that Templeton Juniors’ radical political beliefs will infiltrate the foundations’ activities, just as there is considerable concern that the views of Rupert Murdock will infiltrate the news coverage of the Wall Street Journal.

    As to the question of whether Mr. Rosenaus is currently considering applying for a Templeton Foundation fellowship, I accept his demurral and retract any implication in my original comment that he is.

  40. #40 Sigmund
    June 7, 2010

    Josh said:
    “For better or for worse, the academic literature on science/religion studies (the literature the panelists all contribute to), tends toward a consensus that science need not be (entirely?) incompatible with religion. I don’t know that literature as well as I might, but who from that discipline would be a good representative of the Affirmative Atheist viewpoint?”
    As far as I can recall almost ALL of the prominent new atheists have stated words to the effect that “science need not be entirely incompatible with religion” – they have simply pointed out that the compatible religions in question are of the deist or pantheist variety, NOT traditional theism.
    I pointed out on Josh’s site that the previous occasion this debate was held at the World Science festival in 2008 there WAS an affirmative atheist on the panel and there is plenty of video online to show that the discussion was cordial and informative (with remarkably little baby-eating or father-raping).
    By the way, limiting participation to those who publish in theology journals would exclude many more than just the new atheists. Plenty of people who might be considered to have a valuable contribution to make – such as Eugenie Scott – would also be excluded. At the same time I can still think of many individuals who fit in with Josh’s criteria – Robert Price, Hector Avalos, Bart Ehrman or Michael Dowd, for instance.
    By the way, any reports as to how the discussion went?

  41. #41 John Kwok
    June 7, 2010

    @ SLC –

    May I suggest that you distinguish carefully between Ken Miller and Francis Collins in the future if you choose to mention both in the same breath. While I have my own disagreements with Ken, his stance with respect to how he, as a religiously-devout scientist, should conduct himself is one that I find substantially far more preferable than Collins. Too often, others whom I won’t mention have criticized Ken Miller for all the wrong reasons and have been unable – or unwilling – to give him substantial credit where it is due.

    Again, my crticiism of Coyne’s critique of Brian Greene and the Templeton Foundation’s support of Greene and the World Science Festival is reasonable. If Coyne wishes to condemn further the Templeton Foundation’s support of science, then he should start by wondering how it has “influenced” both his university, the University of Chicago, and others, including, I might add, Cal Tech (Sean Carroll’s institution), before objecting once more to an annual five day celebration of science and its impact on culture here in New York City.

  42. #42 John Kwok
    June 7, 2010

    @ Sigmund –

    Although I was working that session as a volunteer usher, I’m not going to comment directly except to note that I found last year’s discussion, which included Ken Miller, Vatican Astronomer (and Jesuit Brother) Guy Consolmagno and physicist Lawrence Krauss, far more interesting and insightful.

  43. #43 Owlmirror
    June 8, 2010

    What I was attempting to do in that comment was to contrast Prof. Ayala, who, if the claim as to his interview with the Spanish newspaper is correct, is a non-believer,

    If you’re thinking of the interview I think you’re thinking of (El Pais, Madrid, 26/03/2010, on the occasion of winning the Templeton prize), he made no explicit claim — rather, he was explicitly non-committal .

    Pregunta. En su juventud fue ordenado fraile dominico. ¿Es usted todavía un hombre de fe?

    Respuesta. Nunca contesto a esa pregunta. No quiero que ninguna de las dos partes, fe o religión, influya sobre cómo se perciben mis opiniones.

    Q: When you were young, you were ordained a Dominican friar. Are you still a man of faith?

    A: I never answer that question. I do not wish for either aspect (faith or religion) to influence how people
    perceive my views.

    Granted, that’s more consonant with non-belief than with devotion. But he also offers theodicy, which is as strained and silly as Ken Miller’s. So… Who knows? Maybe not even Prof. Ayala himself.

  44. #44 Sigmund
    June 8, 2010

    Owlmirror, I think the reference for Ayalas religious views was the following.
    “Francisco J. Ayala: el hombre renacentista de la evolución. Conversaciones con Ana Barahona. Arbor. Sept.-Oct. 2000. Vol. 657:1-30.”
    That said, I haven’t read the paper so I cannot comment on the content.
    By the way there is a brief review of the Faith and Science discussion has been posted by the blogger Tom Paines Ghost on his own site.

  45. #45 John Kwok
    June 8, 2010

    Owlmirror and Sigmund –

    Ayala made the same claim (This time in eloquent English) at the Science Faith WSF session Saturday. He said that his religious views were private and that he did not want to influence others because of his own personal beliefs.

  46. #46 SLC
    June 8, 2010

    Re John Kwok @ #45

    This has been Prof. Ayalas’ consistent response to questions about his religious beliefs, if any. It would appear that the interview with the Spanish newspaper, if it did occur and was accurately described, was a one off event. It is also possible that he has revised his position as to whether he should respond to such questions over the past 10 years.

  47. #47 Sigmund
    June 8, 2010

    “It is also possible that he has revised his position as to whether he should respond to such questions over the past 10 years.”
    Or maybe his views have changed since then anyway. It doesn’t really matter to me what his metaphysical views are, the important point is the empirical evidence he presents to back up his case.

  48. #48 John Kwok
    June 8, 2010

    @ Sigmund –

    If Ayala has any “metaphysical views”, he hasn’t stated them in public. For all practical purposes, he could be viewed as a “functional” atheist. In many respects one could argue that his views are more logically consistent, than, for example, Ken Miller’s (While I have the utmost admiration for Ken, whom I regard as a friend, I do differ with his espousal of a weak form of the anthropic principle.).

  49. #49 Owlmirror
    June 8, 2010

    I think the reference for Ayalas religious views was the following.
    “Francisco J. Ayala: el hombre renacentista de la evolución. Conversaciones con Ana Barahona. Arbor. Sept.-Oct. 2000. Vol. 657:1-30.”

    Hm. That appears to not be a newspaper, but a scholarly journal of some sort. Not quite the same thing.

    I see that some of the archives for the journal are online, but not as far back as Sept-Oct of the year 2000.

  50. #50 John Kwok
    June 9, 2010

    @ Jason –

    Apparently you forgot some of the heated exchange here which followed my reporting on last year’s World Science Festival Science Faith Reason panel. Just to summarize briefly, physicist Brian Greene and journalist Tracy Day (Brian’s wife) – the founders and directors of the World Science Festival – asked Lawrence Krauss to fill in for Coyne. In his opening statement at that session, Krauss said he was Coyne’s replacement and agreed with Coyne’s objections, noting that he, himself, regarded a Science Faith Religion session as an utter waste of time, suggesting that instead, that WSF find a more suitable replacement. He had a very lively exchange with theistic scientists Guy Consolmagno and especially Ken Miller, that while pleasant and warm (especially with Ken since they are friends), did emphasize the differences between theirs and Krauss’s perspectives (Though as I noted here last year, both Ken Miller and Guy Consolmagno observed that as working scientists, science can, should, and must trump religion. It is only in their private lives as religiously devout people – when they are not working as scientists – will they consider their religious views. I also reminded some posting here that this session was held mere weeks after a private New York City talk Ken gave before fellow Brown University alumni in which he declared that those belonging to faiths hostile to science should terminate their memberships in such faiths (And this is harsh language coming from a well known “accomodationist” BTW; a sentiment which, I believe, you, yourself, Jason, would endorse.).).

    The format at this year’s World Science Festival Science Faith session didn’t yield as spirited a debate as last year’s. It began with the moderator, ABC News correspondent Bill Blakemore (who has hosted the prior two sessions on this issue in 2008 and 2009) ask each participant to explain why they selected a particular work of art and piece of music (art was screened along with the appropriate musical soundtrack) as a means of delving into the subject of science and faith. What resulted was a rather dull, almost lifeless, discussion which wasn’t anywhere as exciting or as insightful as last year’s. The session was introduced by Brian Greene who made a most passionate plea explaining how the religious experiences of his three siblings and his mother accounted for his interest in science and religion. Having Christian, Jewish and Muslim relatives myself, I was sympathetic to Brian’s point of view, but if this was his means of defending WSF support from the Templeton Foundation, then sadly, Brian didn’t address his critics (And this, I might add, was approximately 18 hours after, in a surprise appearance, Neil de Grase Tyson expressed his disdain for the Templeton Foundation at a free public WSF event (which unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend) which Brian had attended.

  51. #51 John Kwok
    June 10, 2010

    @ Jason –

    You said:

    “I do not know if anyone unfriendly toward religion was invited to be on the panel. It seems that last year Jerry Coyne was invited, but he turned down the invitation rather than participate in an event funded by the Templeton Foundation. (I understand Jerry’s reasons for making this decision, but I wish he would have accepted the invitation.)”

    No, the Templeton Foundation didn’t fund last year’s Science Faith Reason session (And that was confirmed to me by none other than Brian Greene.). But they did fund this year’s Science Faith session. As for Jerry Coynce’s replacement, it was Lawrence Krauss, as I have noted previously.

  52. #52 John Kwok
    June 10, 2010

    Typed too fast that I didn’t proof read my comments. My apologies for misspelling Jerry Coyne’s name in my prior post.

  53. #53 John Kwok
    June 10, 2010

    In lieu of yet another Science Faith session next year, I would prefer instead, a discussion on Science Denialism, in a freewheeling discussion format akin to the Science Faith Reason session last year (which Coyne had publicly rejected), that would include the likes of Ken Miller, AMNH astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson, NCSE Executive Director Genie Scott and Columbia University philosopher Philip Kitcher. I am quite confident that such a discussion would prove to be more popular than yet another one devoted to Science and Faith.

  54. #54 John Kwok
    June 12, 2010

    Posted originally at the “That’s a Wrap (Or is it?)…” post at the World Science Festival’s Science Blogs site:

    Thank you, Greg. Was a pleasure working with you and the rest of the staff – permanent and volunteer – which made the World Science Festival the success it was, though, it might be said that in some respects, it didn’t quite cover the ground that was covered in last year’s event (I am thinking especially of programs emphasizing conservation biology in honor of Festival honoree E. O. Wilson, the utility of nuclear power and contending with global climate change. But noticeably absent was any substantial discussion on evolutionary biology and its importance to society, including the arts and humanities, when it was the Darwin bicentennial. A similar dearth was quite apparent this year as well.).

    Hope the World Science Festival succeeds in getting more input and participation from several research institutes which are among the major reasons why New York City remains a global center for research in science; the Wildlife Conservation Society (which owns the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium and operates the Queens and Central Park Zoos for the City of New York), the New York Botanical Garden, and last, but not least, the American Museum of Natural History. Would also think it desirable to work too with organizations like the Linnean Society of New York, New York City Audubon Society, The River Project, Wings World Quest, The Explorers Club, and other related metropolitan New York organizations interested in science and in public outreach.

    Left unsaid in your summary is recognizing that, unfortunately, several prominent New Atheist scientists criticized the World Science Festival again this year for having both a session devoted to science and faith and to have it and several others supported by the John R. Templeton Foundation (I am an agnostic with regards to whether this foundation should be involved in funding scientific research and public activities, such as festivals, which publicize science.). Unfortunately, one of these critics, Cal Tech cosmologist Sean Carroll (a 2009 WSF panelist), had his comments distributed widely through the blogosphere, including, the Richard Dawkins Foundation website. This raises the distinct possibility that Richard Dawkins may be among the festival’s harsh New Atheist critics next year, and should this happen, such adverse publicity may dilute the impact and importance of WSF and what it is trying to accomplish on behalf of a public interested in science, both those who attend and the countless others fortunate to view its events online.

    In lieu of a Science Faith session next year, may I suggest instead one devoted to Science Denialism (why the public refuses to accept as valid science, anthropogenic global warming and biological evolution)? An ideal panel could consist of ABC News Correspondent Bill Blakemore (as moderator), American Museum of Natural History astrophysicist – and Director, Hayden Planetarium – Neil de Grasse Tyson, Brown University cell biologist Kenneth R. Miller, National Center for Science Education Executive Director Eugenie Scott, and last, but not least, Columbia University philosopher Philip Kitcher in a freewheeling format that would discuss these issues, with the possibility of some discussion on faith as it pertains to science denialism.

    As for future financial support by the John R. Templeton Foundation, I suggest that WSF should note who the sponsors of the forthcoming USA Science and Engineering Festival (to be held in Washington, DC over a two-week period in October) are. None have any interest in or any affiliation whatsoever with religious issues.

  55. #55 John Kwok
    June 16, 2010

    Posted this yesterday at Rod Dreher’s blog (http://blog.beliefnet.com/roddreher/2010/06/science-religion-incompatiblists-shut-out.html) and I think it bears repeating here (Incidentally he works for the John M. Templeton Foundation.):

    Rod –

    I have heard a well-founded rumor (I can’t disclose the source) that the Templeton Foundation does have some input in determining who the participants will be on those World Science Festival panels which are part of the Templeton’s Big Idea Series. If that rumor is true, then I think there are certainly legitimate reasons for criticizing the Templeton Foundation’s support of World Science Festival, not simply because it has been one of its major benefactors since its inception.

    While I had the pleasure and privilege of attending both this year’s festival (as well as last year’s) as a volunteer and an audience member of several panel discussions, this year’s Science Faith session was by far the worst. I thought the format – which opened with the moderator asking each panelist in turn to describe how a favorite work of art and piece of music reflected their thoughts on science and religion – was quite odd and not suitable for having a fruitful dialogue. Moreover, it was obvious from the beginning that one of the panelists, Biblical scholar Elaine Pagels, was clearly out of her depth, unable to offer any meaningful discussion to the commentary offered by the other panelists.

    In stark contrast to this year, last year’s Science Faith Religion panel was a sharp divide between atheists and theists, with well considered, but still friendly, exchanges betwee the atheists, philosopher Colin McGinn and physicist Lawrence Krauss, and the theists, Vatican Astronomer Guy Consolmagno and cell biologist Ken Miller. Much to their credit, both Consolmagno and Miller stressed that, as scientists, their scientific principles and duties outweigh their religious ones, except in the privacy of their personal lives when they are able to devote themselves to their faith as devout Roman Catholic Christians.

    Reluctantly I have to agree with Sean Carroll and Jerry Coyne’s observation that a discussion on science and faith does not belong at a World Science Festival (though I am willing to concede that it might, but only in the context of discussing science denialism, that is why some people strongly object to well established science such as evolutionary biology, and even, though to a substantially lesser extent (that it is established), climate change science. Should World Science Festival opt to present another next year, especially with Templeton Foundation support, I believe it is a distinct possibility that none other than Richard Dawkins himself will be leading the chorus of New Atheists and others willing to condemn both the World Science Festival and the Templeton Foundation (especially since his foundation’s website posted both Carroll and Coyne’s condemnations).

    On a more positive note, I often considered your columns in The New York Post to be insightful and well stated. I look forward to reading more of the same when that new magazine is launched.

  56. #56 John Kwok
    June 18, 2010

    Courtesy of Tom Paine’s Ghost:

    http://www.tompainesghost.com/2010/06/faith-and-science-at-world-science.html

    Excellent summary and hope that World Science Festival links to it if it doesn’t use all of it. Unfortunately, that session led me to an entirely different conclusion as to the necessity of having such a discussion. Reluctantly I have to agree with both Sean Carroll and Jerry Coyne’s condemnation of having this panel discussion, especially when last year’s session – also moderated by Blakemore (Incidentally, he has moderated all three, including the first one in 2008.) – was far more informative in trying to determine how religiously devout scientists should comport themselves when working as scientists and then, in private, as devoutly religious adherents of their faith.

    With the notable exception of Francisco Ayala – whom I might add is a prominent contributor to our organization, the National Center for Science Education (http://www.ncse.com) – none of the commentary was as insightful or as noteworthy as the comments stated by last year’s panelists; philosopher Colin McGinn, physicist Lawrence Krauss, planetary scientist – and Vatican Astronomer (and Jesuit brother) – Guy Consolmagno and cell biologist Ken Miller. By far Elaine Pagels was the worst, and her comments clearly demonstrated that she could not add much intellectual depth or respond effectively to the comments uttered by her fellow panelists.

    In lieu of this panel discussion, the World Science Festival should instead, host a freewheeling panel discussion – which could be moderated by Blakemore – on how to deal with science denialism, with an ideal panel consisting of NCSE Executive Director – and physical anthropologist – Eugenie Scott, cell biologist Ken Miller, astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson and philosopher of science Philip Kitcher. Such a group could also delve into questions of faith as it pertains to science denialism. I also believe that their commentary would be far more interesting and insightful than what transpired for reasonable discourse at this year’s World Science Festival Science Faith session.

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