Respectful Insolence

i think I’ve made it exquisitely clear how much I detest and despise the term “Nevile Chamberlain School of Evolutionists.” Indeed, my disgust at the term led me to sic the Hitler Zombie on (of all people) Richard Dawkins, the originator of the term, a deed that was either the boldest thing I’ve ever done as a blogger or the stupidest. (In retrospect, I haven’t decided which.) Recently, however, one of the most vociferous users of the term (and fellow victim of the Hitler Zombie with Richard Dawkins) seems to have backed away from the use of the term. I’m talking about Larry Moran, of course, who now claims that he never really liked the term “Neville Chamberlain atheist” after all:

There seem to be a lot of people who don’t understand the origin of the term “Neville Chamberlain School of Evolutionists.” I’ve seen it attributed to PZ Myers and even to me.

For the record, it comes from The God Delusion and I’m going to quote from the Dawkins’ book below. But before doing that I want to acknowledge that I don’t like the term very much even though I used it several times last Fall. I think it does an injustice to Neville Chamberlain. Lately I’ve been referring to this group as just appeasers but now I prefer to use “accommodationist” to describe them.

Oh, there are a lot of other reasons why the Neville Chamberlain analogy is dubious and nasty. I’m also quite happy that Larry has decided that he doesn’t like the term “Neville Chamberlain atheist,” because he certainly seemed to like it a lot before. Let’s go to the tape, blogospherically speaking.

For example, here’s Larry in November:

Richard Dawkins writes about the “Neville Chamberlain ‘appeasement’ school” of evolutionists. These are scientists who are willing to compromise science in order to form an alliance with some religious groups who oppose Christian fundamentalism. Do you believe in miracles? That’s okay, it’s part of science. Do you believe that God guides evolution in order to produce beings who worship him? That’s fine too; it’s all part of the Neville Chamberlain version of intelligent design. Souls, moral law, life after death, a fine-tuned universe, angels, the efficacy of prayer, transubstantiation … all these things are part of the new age science according to the appeasement school. There’s no conflict with real science. We mustn’t question these things for fear of alienating our potential allies in the fight against the IDiots. Welcome to the big tent.

Ed Brayton has declared himself one of the leading members of the Neville Chamberlain School. And now, John Lynch and Pat Hayes have joined the Ed Brayton team.

Me and PZ are on the side of science and rationalism.

Young Earth Creationsts (YEC’s) and Intelligent Design Creationists (IDiots) are anti-science because they propose explanations of the natural world that conflict with science. But they’re not alone in doing that. Many of the so-called Theistic Evolutionists also promote a version of evolution that Darwin wouldn’t recognize. They are more “theist” than “evolutionist.”

For some reason the Neville Chamberlain team is willing to attack the bad science of a Michael Denton or a Michael Behe but not the equally–and mostly indistinguishable–bad science of leading Theistic Evolutionists. Isn’t that strange?

Public understanding of science will not be advanced by people like Francis Collins, Simon Conway Morris, and Ken Miller. They are subverting science in order to make it conform to their personal religious beliefs. (Which, by the way, conflict.) They are doing more harm to science than those who oppose it directly from the outside because the Theistic Evolutionists are subverting from within. It is sad that they are being supported by people who should know the difference between rationalism and superstition.

Is the appeasement strategy working? Of course not, but the most amazing thing is happening. The Neville Chamberlain School thinks it is winning in spite of the fact that leading politicians oppose evolution; most schools don’t teach evolution; and the general public doesn’t accept evolution. Talk about delusion. The appeasers think we should continue down the same path that led us to this situation. They think we should continue to compromise science in order to accommodate the religious moderates.

Here he is again ridiculing “Neville Chamberlain” evolutionists who, realizing that the term is meant as an insult, started self-identifying themselves as “proud Neville Chamberlain atheists” in order to mock the term:

For the record, here’s what it means to be a Neville Chamberlain Atheist. It means you’re happy to attack Intelligent Design Creationists like Micheal Denton (Nature’s Destiny) and Michael Behe (Darwin’s Black Box) for mixing science and religion. But, you don’t say a word when Ken Miller (Finding Darwin’s God), Francis Collins (The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief) and the Rev. Ted Peters (Evolution from Creation to New Creation) spout equally bad religious nonsense in the name of science.

The Neville Chamberlain Atheists object when Behe talks about intelligent design but mum’s the word when Ken Miller talks about how God tweaks mutations to get what He wants. Hypocrisy is a strange thing to be proud of.

He must be joking, right?

Larry has also used the term here, among other places. Oddly enough, before his recent disavowal of the term, he really seemed to me to enthusiastically embrace it, spitting it out as an epithet at rationalists who to him weren’t sufficiently critical of religion or who were actually–gasp!–willing to live and let live.

Fortunately, that’s all in the past now. Let me be the first to congratulate Larry for finally realizing just what a vile and stupid term the whole “Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists” or “Neville Chamberlain atheist” epithet is. it’s about time. This idea is, without a doubt, the absolutely dumbest and brain-dead thing that Richard Dawkins has ever written, and Moran’s previous enthusiastic embrace of it was equally stupid. I’m happy to see that he’s apparently come to his senses at last.

Why the term vile and stupid? There are a number of reasons. First and foremost, when you boil it down, it’s a not-so-subtle argumentum ad Nazium with an accusation of cowardice tacked on. After all, whom are these “Neville Chamberlain” evolutionists supposedly ‘appeasing,’? Theistic evolutionists and creationists, of course! Therefore, whether they will admit it or not, those comparing secularists and atheists who would make common cause with theistic evolution supporters to Neville Chamberlain are implicitly likening ‘intelligent design’ creationists and theistic evolutionists to Hitler. They’re also explicitly likening the ‘Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists’ to moral cowards who are afraid to stand up to a Hitler-like menace.

Indeed, argumentum ad Nazi-ium a very important aspect of the Neville Chamberlain gambit. Why do you think the neocons who wanted to invade Iraq used to like to play the Neville Chamberlain gambit so much against opponents of the war with regards to Saddam Hussein, so much so that the Chamberlain gambit has become a cliche? Glenn Greenwald has shown very tidily how screeching “Neville Chamberlain” about your opponents has been part and parcel of the way that the far right has demonized their opponents who seek negotiation and–yes, Professor Moran–accommodation with their foes, even going so far as to point out that this was a favorite attack aimed at Ronald Reagan for negotiating with the Soviets:

According to the January 19, 1988 St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via LEXIS), when Pat Robertson was campaigning for President in Missouri in 1988, he “suggested that President Ronald Reagan could be compared to Neville Chamberlain . . . by agreeing to a medium-range nuclear arms agreement with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.” The Orange Country Register editorialized in September, 1988 that “Ronald Reagan has become the Neville Chamberlain of the 1980s. The apparent peace of 1988 may be followed by the new wars of 1989 or 1990.” And even the very same Newt Gingrich, in 1985, denounced President Reagan’s rapprochement with Gorbachev as potentially “the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Chamberlain in 1938 at Munich.”

Greenwald concludes:

Screaming “appeasement” and endlessly comparing political opponents to Neville Chamberlian is not a serious, thoughtful argument, nor is it the basis for any sort of foreign policy. At best, it is an empty, cheap platitude so overused by those seeking war as to be impoverished of meaning. More often than not, though, it is worse than that; it is the disguised battlecry of those who want war for its own sake, and who want therefore to depict the attempt to resolve problems without more and more new wars as being irresponsible and weak.

I wouldn’t have to change too many words in the paragraph above to make it apply quite well to the whole “Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists” (as Richard Dawkins put it) or “Neville Chamberlain atheists” (as Larry used to like to put it) gambit. Whether used by Dawkins or Moran, it is a ridiculously overblown Hitler analogy, but cleverly concealed just under the surface, just obvious enough that people link the common enemy being “appeased” with Hitler but without actually directly saying as much. Nor is the retort that some “Neville Chamberlain evolutionists” sometimes make any better. I’m talking, of course, about the Winston Churchill gambit, in which they will liken themselves to Winston Churchill, who reluctantly teamed up with Stalin, previously an enemy, to fight the common foe, Hitler. If anything, this analogy is even worse than the Neville Chamberlain gambit because not only does it liken creationists to Hitler but it likens theistic evolutionists and the moderate or liberal religious to Stalin, someone who is loathed but with whom they’re willing to work to achieve the short term goal of defeating an even greater evil.

Besides, the entire analogy is not only an obvious and facile technique of demonizing both “appeaser” and the “appeased,” it’s also just bad history. In 1938, twenty years after the worst carnage the world had yet seen to that time, public sentiment was overwhelmingly against war with Germany. The crisis that provoked the Munich agreement was widely viewed as being over returning a largely German area of Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland) whose populace largely wanted reunion with Germany, and thus not worth starting another major European war over. The enormous popularity of the Munich Accord and the rapturous greeting Chamberlain received from British populace when he returned from Germany provide ample evidence of that. A policy of keeping the peace had broad political support in Parliament, as well. Moreover, the British military, although in the midst of rearming to match the growing threat of Nazi Germany, was not yet ready to go to war with an enemy as powerful as Hitler was becoming. Moreover, Britain’s main ally France was unwilling to go to war, and the U.S. was isolationist. Given all those constraints, it is not surprising that Chamberlain opted for a deal rather than war, particularly because he passionately believed in peace, even to the point that, yes, he held on to the belief that Hitler could be bargained with far longer than he perhaps should have.

Those throwing around the “Chamberlain atheist” insult also forget who was in charge when World War II actually started. (Hint: It wasn’t Winston Churchill.) They also forget that, when Hitler used the Sudetenland to invade and conquer the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Chamberlain learned his lesson from this betrayal and from then on took a much harder line towards Germany. Even after Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, there were, believe it or not, still voices urging that even this need not lead to a general war. True, Chamberlain did dither a couple of days after the invasion of Poland, but on September 3, it was he who reluctantly declared war and then later asked Winston Churchill to join his war cabinet.

Bad history, demonization of opponents as morally weak cowards, the “Neville Chamberlain atheist” or “evolutionist” analogy has it all! That’s why I would make this plea that people involved in this argument stop comparing themselves or each other to Neville Chamberlain or Winston Churchill. I’m also glad that at least one previous aficionado of the term has apparently decided to give it up. However, it is with some irony that I note that Moran, one of the most vociferous critics of “framing,” has chosen to do a rather effective bit of framing himself by labeling those whom he previously called “Neville Chamberlain atheists” as “accommodationists.” Nice. Not as dumb as “Neville Chamberlain evolutionist,” not as openly insulting as “appeaser,” the term still communicates Moran’s contempt for this viewpoint, but in a “kindler, gentler,” somewhat more subtle way.

Of course, given that Larry’s reason for abandoning the term (“it does an injustice to Neville Chamberlain”) suggests to me that he still thinks “accommodationists” are even worse than his previous term “Neville Chamberlain appeasers” implied, this new realization on his part may not be as big step forward as I had hoped. It may just be more effective framing. Still, I’ll take what I can get. If I never see the use of the term “Neville Chamberlain atheist” or “evolutionist,” it’ll be one less annoyance in my life.

Comments

  1. #1 Bob O'H
    May 28, 2007

    Personally, I don’t mind being called a Neville Chamberlain atheist. I mean, I can think of worse slogans to have than “Peace in our lifetime”.

    I’ve even got it written down on a piece of paper (next to the time).

    Bob

  2. #2 SLC
    May 28, 2007

    Re Neville Chamberlain

    I am afraid that Dr. Oracs’ analysis of the situation in 1938 is seriously in error.

    1. The German armed forces were in no condition to fight a war against Britain, France and Czechoslovakia in 1938. This was well known to the German General Staff at the time. The leading generals were appalled at Hitlers’ reckless behavior and, in fact were planning a coup in the event that Hitler was forced to back down, as he surely would have if Chamberlain had stood fast. This is well stated in Walter Goerlitzs’ book, ‘A History of the German General Staff.”

    2. The Czech armed forces were far more modern in equipment in 1938 then the Polish armed forces were in 1939; in particular, the Czech arms industry was considerably superior to that of Poland.

    3. The ground in Czechoslovakia, being quite mountainous, was far less friendly to tanks then was the ground in Poland. The German blitzkreig would not have been nearly as effective as it was in Poland in 1939 and France in 1940.

    4. The German navy was practically nonexistent in 1938; in particular, very few Uboats had been built up to that time. Thus, the threat to Britains’ sea lanes would have been practically nonexistent.

    5. The notion that Chamberlain appeased Hitler because France and Czechoslovika

  3. #3 Tyler DiPietro
    May 28, 2007

    Personally, I’m a Donald Rumsfeld atheist. I’m pretty sure the fight against religion will be a cakewalk, and that revenues from book sales will pay for the reconstruction of society after religion’s fall.

    Or maybe I’m a Michael Ledeen atheist, thinking that every once in a while we should take some small crappy religion in the middle of nowhere and throw it up against the wall, just to show we mean business. If Dawkins were a Michael Ledeen atheist, he would have wrote “The Ahura Mazda Delusion”.

  4. #4 Rob Knop
    May 28, 2007

    Expecting Moran, Dawkins, or PZ to come out of rectal defilade when it comes to questioning the absolute purity and morality of their position on religion is expecting too much.

    -Rob

  5. #5 SLC
    May 28, 2007

    Re Neville Chamberlain

    I am afraid that Dr. Oracs’ analysis of the situation in 1938 is seriously in error.

    1. The German armed forces were in no condition to fight a war against Britain, France and Czechoslovakia in 1938. This was well known to the German General Staff at the time. The leading generals were appalled at Hitlers’ reckless behavior and, in fact were planning a coup in the event that Hitler was forced to back down, as he surely would have if Chamberlain had stood fast. This is well documented in Prof. Walter Goerlitzs’ book, ‘A History of the German General Staff.”

    2. The Czech armed forces were far more modern in equipment in 1938 then the Polish armed forces were in 1939; in particular, the Czech arms industry was far superior to that of Poland.

    3. The ground in Czechoslovakia, being quite mountainous, was far less friendly to tanks then was the ground in Poland. The German blitzkreig would not have been nearly as effective as it was in Poland in 1939 and France in 1940.

    4. The German navy was practically nonexistent in 1938; in particular, very few Uboats had been built up to that time. Thus, the threat to Britains’ sea lanes would have been practically nonexistent in 1938.

    5. The notion that Chamberlain appeased Hitler because France and Czechoslovakia were reluctant is piffle. Chamberlains’ job, as the senior partner, was to put some steel in the Daladier and Benes spines, as Churchill surely would have done if he had been Prime Minister in 1938.

    Having bashed Dr. Orac over his views of the European situation in 1938, it is only fair to state that I am complete agreement with him as to the views of Profs. Dawkins and Moran. As I have stated on several blogs, including Morans’, there is no comparison between Ken Miller and Michael Behe. The former believes in methodological naturalism, without exception, the latter does not. As Prof. Miller has made clear in several presentations I have downloaded, his disagreement with Dawkins et al is over their insistence that philosophical naturalism is science, not over methodological naturalism.

  6. #6 Colugo
    May 28, 2007

    Orac: “This idea is, without a doubt, the absolutely dumbest and brain-dead thing that Richard Dawkins has ever written”

    Not even close.

    “When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. … Why don’t we laugh at a judge who punishes a criminal … ..(D)oesn’t a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not?”
    http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html

    “Trial by jury must be one of the most conspicuously bad good ideas anyone ever had. Its devisers can hardly be blamed. They lived before the principles of statistical sampling and experimental design had been worked out. They weren’t scientists.”
    http://tinyurl.com/jqge4

    “Wasn’t the judicial destruction of one of the very few research subjects we had [Saddam Hussein] – and a prime specimen at that – an act of vandalism?”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-dawkins/executing-saddam-hussein-_b_37690.html

    “”Human”, to the discontinuous mind, is an absolute concept. … And from this flows much evil. … I have argued that the discontinuous gap between humans and “apes” that we erect in our minds is regrettable.”
    http://www.fortunecity.com/emachines/e11/86/chimp.html

    “Regarding the accusations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, deplorable and disgusting as those abuses are, they are not so harmful to the children as the grievous mental harm in bringing up the child Catholic in the first place.”
    http://thedubliner.ie/template.php?ID=15

    Dawkins the evolutionary theorist and explainer is witty and brilliant. Dawkins the social commentator is a very different story.

    (Note: I was on Dawkins’ side during the 90s struggles with anti-sociobiology and postmodernism.)

  7. #7 Dave Carlson
    May 28, 2007

    Nice post, Orac. Larry is definitely a very smart guy and a good science communicator (I think so, at least), but after reading his screeds during one of the “Religious Wars,” I just haven’t been interested in what he has to say anymore.

  8. #8 Richard Carter, FCD
    May 28, 2007

    I think I must be a Neville Chamberlain Tooth Fairy denier.

  9. #9 bigTom
    May 28, 2007

    I’m with Orac here (even if his history of the run up to WWII may be off). Our differences are not about end goals but strategy. I’m all for choosing ones battles carefully. We are a small minority, and are likely to come out badly in any significant confrontation. Meanwhile fundamentalist forces use our militancy as red-meat. The real struggle in the US is between secularists (which includes a lot of religious people who believe in separation of churh and state -as well as churh/religion), and theocrats. If that struggle goes the wrong way, I fear for the world. So I’d rather we be careful in choosing who we go after, and what means we choose to utilize.

  10. #10 bigTom
    May 28, 2007

    transubstantiation

    I have no idea what that means. But its got so many syllables, and runs nicely off the tonque. Whatever it means, I’m for it!

  11. #11 J. J. Ramsey
    May 28, 2007

    After all, whom are these “Neville Chamberlain” evolutionists supposedly ‘appeasing,’? Theistic evolutionists and creationists, of course! Therefore, whether they will admit it or not, those comparing secularists and atheists who would make common cause with theistic evolution supporters to Neville Chamberlain are implicitly likening ‘intelligent design’ creationists and theistic evolutionists to Hitler.

    It’s even worse than this. The ones who are being called “Neville Chamberlain atheists” are siding with theistic evolutionists against IDers and creationists, and even Dawkins admits as much. So the ones being “appeased” aren’t “[t]heistic evolutionists and creationists,” but theistic evolutionists, period.

  12. #12 DuWayne
    May 28, 2007

    big Tom -

    transubstantiation

    In a Christian context, it is usually used in reference to the Eucharist, or communion. It is the notion that the communion bread or wafers, become the body and the wine or grape juice, become the blood of Christ. I.e. the bread and the wine, are trasubstantiated, into the literal flesh and blood of Christ – something that some Christian sects believe happens, though individual beliefs and understanding of it differ greatly.

  13. #13 DuWayne
    May 28, 2007

    I would also like to mention that I really appreciate Orac writing about this. I fail to understand why, when I accept evolution, when I accept methodological naturalism (and really appreciate that that is how science explores the world around us) and do not make any claims that my faith has anything to do with methodological naturalism, how I am anti-science, or my faith is. I certainly fail to understand how supporting the false dichotomy, that theism and acceptance of scientific methodology are mutually exclusive, does anything to help garner support for science and improving science education.

    I am not asking anyone not to criticize my beliefs or anyone else’s. I am not asking atheists or anyone else, not to stand loud and proud for what they believe or don’t believe. I would love to see the U.S. become much more accustomed to atheists, agnostics and deists, speaking out and not being ostracized for doing so. I think it is a bad sign when anyone has to be careful about voicing their opinions or beliefs – it is an abridgment to everyone’s freedom and a sign that the ideas being “protected,” need to be. It doesn’t matter whether the restrictions are legal or simply a matter of social custom, in fact I think restrictions that are social custom may be more dangerous.

    All I have ever asked, is that people not perpetuate the aforementioned false dichotomy. As much as some people object to the idea of framing, framing is important. All the perpetuation of that dichotomy does, is allow creationists to frame the argument. I find it incredibly ironic, that some atheists are the strongest supporters of that framing. They play right into the hands of nuts like Kennedy, Dobson and Robertson, making it easy for them to claim that evolution and methodological naturalism are inherently anti-religion.

    I have a hard enough battle, with my fellow theists, the last thing I need, is atheists supporting their fears. It is frustrating enough to be branded a heretic, without atheists, in effect, saying that they are right, I am. I really wouldn’t care all that much, but I am also fighting battles for gay rights and safe sex ed. While these have little to do with the battle for science, in the eyes of many theists, they are inexorably linked. The diatribes of Kennedy et al, associate evolution with feminism, gay rights and safe sex. In a way they are right. The people that I have the best luck in breaking down that dichotomy with, also tend to understand that taking a hardline abstinence only tack with their kids, are gambling with their children’s lives. They also tend to understand that everyone should have equal protection under the law, including gays and same sex couple led families.

    Sorry, ending rant now. . .

  14. #14 Russell
    May 28, 2007

    DuWayne writes:

    I fail to understand why, when I accept evolution, when I accept methodological naturalism (and really appreciate that that is how science explores the world around us) and do not make any claims that my faith has anything to do with methodological naturalism, how I am anti-science, or my faith is.

    I likely am in the minority here in thinking that methodological naturalism, far from being the sine qua non of science, is in fact an unsustainable notion. It requires some operational notion of what is and what isn’t natural that simply isn’t available. Like all other philosophies that divide the world into what we can test empirically, and what we cannot, the problem is that if there is any connection between the two, then there is no reason to test it empirically, and if there isn’t, then it is completely irrational to even postulate on what the supernatural might be. This instability shows quite plainly in Christianity. It claims to be a revealed religion. God spoke with Moses, wrestled with Joseph, and was incarnate in Jesus, who performed miracles. Those claims aren’t empirically distant, merely historically distant. A accommodationist Christian is able to maintain them only by some combination of (a) believing that such things happened only in the past, and (b) refusing to take seriously the claims that such things still happen, so that their investigation and refutation don’t affect the Christian’s faith. (The non-accommodationist Christian, of course, simply believes in miracles all around, just none that can be tested.) In neither case do you have any protection from empirical investigation except by special pleading. (“Only in the past” or “God makes sure you can’t tell.”)

    While there might be a god who merely kicked off the laws of physics then left the rest to be, Deism simply isn’t in much vogue anymore, because it has absolutely no relevance to human life. The gods that matter inject themselves into our world in some form or fashion. Which means that it’s reasonable to ask how they are observed, and which means that from an investigational viewpoint, they are no different than bonobo chimpanzees, ivory-billed woodpeckers, and the loup garou. In that context, “supernatural” means simply “things for which there are no evidence yet some people like to believe exists.” In short, it is an irrational excuse for why (among other superstitions) the god who spoke to the ancient Israelites from a pillar of fire refuses to present himself in any objective fashion.

  15. #15 JS
    May 28, 2007

    Not as dumb as “Neville Chamberlain evolutionist,” not as openly insulting as “appeaser,” the term still communicates Moran’s contempt for this viewpoint, but in a “kindler, gentler,” somewhat more subtle way.

    This is simply wrong. ‘Accommodationist’ is a term used by many accommodationists in reference to themselves. Taking one example, Ed Brayton has repeatedly referred to himself as ‘more accomodationist than Madison’ (I think it was Madison, but I’m too lazy to look it up at the moment).

    1. The German armed forces were in no condition to fight a war against Britain, France and Czechoslovakia in 1938. This was well known to the German General Staff at the time. The leading generals were appalled at Hitlers’ reckless behavior and, in fact were planning a coup in the event that Hitler was forced to back down, as he surely would have if Chamberlain had stood fast. This is well documented in Prof. Walter Goerlitzs’ book, ‘A History of the German General Staff.”

    Even if that is correct – which I have no real reason to doubt – you still forget two aspects: First, it is always dangerous to look at a historical situation through our own looking glasses. We may know the exact deployment and order of battle of the British Imperial Army, the French ditto and the German Wehrmacht, but the historical leaders didn’t.

    When it comes to the navy, information may have been more accurate about what was on the other side of the hill, but I very much doubt that anyone was sufficiently confident about the disposition of land forces on the other side to make such a bold assessment.

    Secondly, by the standards of the time (and for that matter a standard that is still employed today whenever it’s convenient to one of the major powers), Germany had a claim on Sudetenland that’s about as valid as such claims get in international law: The people of those areas had expressed a pretty explicit desire to join Germany. The right of self-determination does count for something in this respect.

    From this perspective, the Anshlüss earlier that year was actually more problematic, because it involved an outright coup against an internationally recognised government.

    Finally, recall that Germany had the support of Italy over the Sudetenland issue, a support it did not have (at least not quite as explicitly) over the partitioning of Czechoslovakia or the claim to Danzig.

    2. The Czech armed forces were far more modern in equipment in 1938 then the Polish armed forces were in 1939; in particular, the Czech arms industry was far superior to that of Poland.

    But Czechoslovakia has a much smaller population to arm.

    3. The ground in Czechoslovakia, being quite mountainous, was far less friendly to tanks then was the ground in Poland. The German blitzkreig would not have been nearly as effective as it was in Poland in 1939 and France in 1940.

    I’m not sure I share your assessment. While I very much doubt that the Wehrmacht could have taken Sudetenland by a full frontal assault, the Anshlüss of Austria had dangerously exposed the southern flank of Czechoslovakia.

    Germany had been making overtures to Hungary for quite some time – I don’t think you could entirely rule out the possibility that Hungary would declare themselves neutral in German favour and permit the Wehrmacht to flank Sudetenland the same way they went through the Low Countries to flank the Maginot line.

    4. The German navy was practically nonexistent in 1938; in particular, very few Uboats had been built up to that time. Thus, the threat to Britains’ sea lanes would have been practically nonexistent in 1938.

    But unless you propose that the Allies could either defeat Germany in less than two years, destroy their navy-in-building or at least seriously jumble the German production schedule, I don’t really see how that changes the scenario.

    5. The notion that Chamberlain appeased Hitler because France and Czechoslovakia were reluctant is piffle. Chamberlains’ job, as the senior partner, was to put some steel in the Daladier and Benes spines, as Churchill surely would have done if he had been Prime Minister in 1938.

    In many ways, France was actually the senior partner of the Allies. AFAIK, it was France who urged a more aggressive stance against the re-occupation of the Rhineland, and France was the only democratic country to supply weapons and supplies to the anti-fascists in Spain in any major way.

    Finally, it’s important to remember when analysing the situation in ’38-’39 that the allies lost the war when it actually came around. Poland fell in a matter of weeks. France was a done deal in less than two months. The longest continuous operation on the West Front was Fall Weserübung (the invasion of Norway). Britain was not conquered outright, but for a pretty long while they were effectively out of the war.

    Remember that in ’38-’39, the USA was still fairly isolationist – the powers that were in Europe could certainly not count on US intervention in another world war. Not even the Germans knew that Japan would attack the US in ’41 – probably not even Japan knew that in ’39. And Germany didn’t decide, AFAIK, to invade the USSR until the Winter War. And regardless of that, how could London know when Berlin and Moscow were planning on backstabbing each other?

    Now, I’m not saying that conflict between Germany and the USA and USSR were not inevitable – I believe it was. But how long could it have taken? Five years? Ten?

    Was it stupid not to go to war over Czechoslovakia? From a purely military perspective, I suppose it could be argued that it was. But then again, from a purely military perspective, the Allies should have gone to war in March ’36 over the Rhineland crisis.

    - JS

  16. #16 JS
    May 28, 2007

    Apologies for the double post. Russel’s post went up while I was typing the first one.

    I likely am in the minority here in thinking that methodological naturalism, far from being the sine qua non of science, is in fact an unsustainable notion. It requires some operational notion of what is and what isn’t natural that simply isn’t available.

    If we can model it using the scientific method, then it’s natural. If not, it’s not natural.

    Like all other philosophies that divide the world into what we can test empirically, and what we cannot, the problem is that if there is any connection between the two, then there is no reason [not] to test it empirically, and if there isn’t, then it is completely irrational to even postulate on what the supernatural might be.

    You’re making an implicit assumption of parsimony. Parsimony is a a necessity in science, but not necessarily in philosophy. It is entirely possible to construct a philosophy without ever touching Ockham’s razor – in fact when I’m impolite I’m rather prone to suggesting that this is the case for most philosophy.

    Or to put it in a sloganesque form, you may like your philosophy clean-shaven, but there’s no universal principle proscribing bearded philosophies.

    That said, I’ve yet to hear an example of how to actually construct a theistic evolutionist philosophy that’s materially different from deism. Fortunately, that’s not my problem.

    - JS

  17. #17 J. J. Ramsey
    May 28, 2007

    JS: “Taking one example, Ed Brayton has repeatedly referred to himself as ‘more accomodationist than Madison’”

    The problem is that Brayton is using “accomodationist” as a term of art on views of dealing with church-state separation (e.g. whether religious symbols have any place at all in public spaces, under what circumstances is it okay to mention God, etc.). This is not what Moran was on about, which was more an issue of whether one should ally with more reasonable theists in order to fight the less reasonable theists. Let’s not equivocate between the two meanings here.

  18. #18 JS
    May 28, 2007

    The problem is that Brayton is using “accomodationist” as a term of art on views of dealing with church-state separation (e.g. whether religious symbols have any place at all in public spaces, under what circumstances is it okay to mention God, etc.). This is not what Moran was on about, which was more an issue of whether one should ally with more reasonable theists in order to fight the less reasonable theists. Let’s not equivocate between the two meanings here.

    I’m fairly confident that I’ve seen him use it as a political designation as well.

    Besides, my point was that the word is not a smear in and of itself. I am not familiar with Moran’s writing (and given that I just came across a half dozen or so excellent blogs about current European affairs, this state of things is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future), so I can’t tell if he’s treating the term the same way Faux News treat the word ‘liberal’ – but if so, the problem seems to me to be in the context rather than the designation itself.

    Meh. My apologies if this doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s four in the morning in my time zone, and I really should be sleeping right now…

    - JS

  19. #19 Justin Moretti
    May 28, 2007

    I think that if you are going to paint the Right wing politically activist creationists as rabid fundamentalists who want to strip women, blacks and gays of most of their hard-won rights, ram creationist pseudo-science and misanthropic hostile politics down children’s throats etc. etc, then the comparison to Hitler stands up pretty well – it’s only a question of how long it would take them to get started on the Jews (or a substitute/surrogate therefore).

    If, in fighting them, we have to ally ourselves with decent men and women, who believe in God while still allowing science free rein to teach their children what it has found, maybe that is no different from the USSR fighting Hitler when he turned on them, and acting on the same side as Britain, America etc. I’ve said before (especially on PZ Myers’ blog) and I’ll say again; these right-wing creationists are, in many of the things they do, opposed to everything Christ ever stood for. If the parishioners of the mainstream Churches are willing to stand with the atheists on this one, and many of them are, it’s counting gift horses’ teeth to refuse their help.

    As far as Britain being out of the war until the US came in is concerned, I don’t think so. Britain was still engaged in Greece, Africa and the Middle East, and was still engaging in a bombing campaign against Germany; it was the unconquerable enemy that the Germans left at their backs when they allowed themselves to be distracted by Russia. Curiously enough, it was Britain (albeit reinforced by its Spanish and Portuguese allies) which was busy chipping away at France while Napoleon was in Russia too…

    And the Chamberlain gambit with Saddam? Simply a statement of the fact that dictators are answerable to nobody at home, see themselves answerable to nobody in the international community, and are prepared to dick around with ‘negotiations’ for as long as it takes pussyfooters and pacifist negotiators to get tired and go away because the problem’s not in their backyard. Hell, weren’t there lots of places where Hans Blix’s people weren’t allowed to go?

    What do you think he would have done, when eventually the US went into another one of its isolationist phases and nobody else had the guts or the means to tackle Saddam alone? Personally I think he would have quietly restarted his WMD programmes. That’s why I could live with there not having been any found there; the elimination of Saddam’s potential to have them was as important as destroying any he might have had. He played with us for far too long.

    I’m given to understand that Gadaffi’s reaction to what happened to Iraq was to throw his hands up and say “Come into Libya, have a look at everything I have built so far, so you can be happy I am dismantling it.” That, surely, is a win?

  20. #20 DuWayne
    May 28, 2007

    Russel, I will respond to you after the child is in bed. . .

    JS and J J Ramsey -

    Ed has used the term in both contexts, though I couldn’t point it out on his blog – I just know from actual conversations with him, that he uses it as such (he’s my brother). I also have to agree that while some use it as a derogatory, it is not a derogatory word. I actually think the analogy to it’s use in the context of con law is quite apt. Depending on one’s views, it is either derogatory or not. The same could be said in the context of this discussion.

    I don’t think the analogy of faux news and the use of the word liberal is nearly so apt. That is more akin to creationist’s use of the term darwinism, a term that I understand, is descriptive of a particular theory about the mechanisms of evolution. In the case of “accomadationist,” I don’t think it’s use as a derogative is a bastardization, rather, it is dependent on the viewpoint of the speaker. I daresay that Moran, could use it in a completely different context, as a positive descriptive.

  21. #21 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 28, 2007

    Larry can speak for himself, of course, but I suspect he was saying simply that he doesn’t like the term “Neville Chamberlain atheist” perhaps for some of the same reasons you gave, but agrees with the sentiment Dawkins was expressing.

    Dawkins was expressing dismay at people who are not themselves religious but who feel nonetheless that it is very important for political reasons not to criticize religion. Many atheists, myself included, get very frustrated by constantly being told that merely by expressing our opinions on the relationship between science and religion we are in someway hurting the cause.

    This happens all the time. I don’t have quotes handy, but I seem to recall both Ed Brayton and Chad Orzel bouncing PZ and Larry out of the movement on the grounds that they’re fighting a different battle (anti-religion as oppposed to protecting good science education). Just tonight, on the O’Reilly Factor, in an otherwise excellent defense of science, Lawrence Krauss enthusiastically agreed with guest Host John Kasich when Kasich described scientists who are openly hostile to religion as “a problem,”

    This is what Dawkins was responding to. I understand that you didn’t like the term he chose, those I must say that I found most of your post to be rather overwrought. Dawkins wasn’t summoning up images of Nazis, for heaven’s sake. He was using Chamberlain’s name simply as a synonym for appeasement, which is what that name has come to mean. He was criticizing people who want to appease religious folks for political reasons.

    But fine, you didn’t like the term. I get it. The fact remains that Dawkins was criticizing people who deserve to be criticized: people who argue for the compatibility between science and religion not out of genuine conviction but rather out of political pragmatism.

  22. #22 Orac
    May 28, 2007

    I understand that you didn’t like the term he chose, those I must say that I found most of your post to be rather overwrought.

    Then, I suppose, you don’t find it ironic that Moran (who, I gather, despises our current President and the neocons who led us to war in Iraq) was, wittingly or unwittingly, using exactly the same strategy that those attacking critics of the war used? I suppose when neocons lambasted such critics as “Neville Chamberlains,” that was just “synonym for appeasement” rather than a synonym for “appeasing a Hitler-like menace.”

    The Chamberlain gambit is more than just a synonym for appeasement. It’s used as a synonym for appeasement of a great evil due to cowardice and/or moral turpitude. It is indeed an argumentum ad Naziium; that’s part and parcel of it. Do you agree that “accommodationists” are in fact moral cowards? This is not a strawman argument; that’s how the Neville Chamberlain gambit is used, and that’s what it means. I can’t believe that you are unaware of that commonly understood implication of playing the Chamberlain gambit.

    Finally, I’m not suggesting that you, PZ, Moran, Dawkins, or anyone else “shut up.” I’m merely suggesting that those who’ve been using the “Chamberlain” gambit stop it, because it’s the worst kind of spin and demonization. It contributes nothing.

  23. #23 Orac
    May 28, 2007

    SLC,

    I may have overplayed it a bit in my “overwrought” way (thanks, Jason), but in reality, neither nation thought it was ready for war. You are correct that some in the German military were quite alarmed at the prospect of going to war with Czechoslovakia. After all, the German armament plan was designed to make Germany ready for a general European war of conquest by the early 1940s. However, you overestimate the power of the Czech military, which almost certainly could not resist a German invasion. Indeed, in June 1938, war games ordered by the German General Staff showed that Czechoslovakia could be conquered within 11 days, allowing the rapid transfer of troops to the West to mount a defense against Franco-British military action, as described in Richard J. Evans’ The Third Reich in Power. It is true that Germany probably couldn’t have taken on Britain, France, and Czechoslovakia in 1938, but a general war was not Hitler’s aim–yet.

    Moreover, although the British Navy was, of course, the undisputed ruler of the seas, the British Army and Air Force were not preeminent by any stretch of the imagination. Again, Britain was frantically rearming, but its ground and air forces were not yet adequate for a general European war. Indeed, Chamberlain feared tha the strain on British finances would be unsustainable, and he also feared the aerial bombardment of British cities (a fear that was not unfounded, as the Blitz later proved). In any case, even if Britain were determined to go to war over the Sudetenland, it could not do so without France. Without France, it would have no way of attacking Germany other than a naval blockade, which would not prevent Germany from getting supplies and food by land, or bombing, a task for which the R.A.F. did not yet have adequate numbers of bombers.

    Moreover, you have not refuted the simple fact that, politically, going to war with Germany over the Sudetenland was not something that the British wanted to do. The public was against it; the majority of Parliament was against it. It is quite possible that, if Chamberlain tried to go to war, his government might have fallen. Were Winston Churchill Prime Minister in 1938, it’s doubtful that even he could have persuaded the British public or Parliament, and, as we all know, Neville Chamberlain was no Winston Churchill. Now, it’s certainly possible to drag a reluctant public into war, but it takes a leader that wants to go to war, and Neville Chamberlain, whatever his other many faults, did not want to go to war. Given this background, I find it odd in the extreme that you would so blithely say that it was up to Chamberlain to “put some spine” into France and Czechoslovakia, the latter of which couldn’t stand up to Germany without the aid of its allies. How, exactly, was he supposed to accomplish this, particularly given that France’s land forces at the time were arguably superior to those of the British.

    In any case, a lot of the argument over Chamberlain comes from 20/20 hindsight and not through considering what Hitler and Chamberlain actually could know and reasonably accurately predict at the time.

    However, even if you are completely correct and I’m completely incorrect, the “Chamberlain atheist” term is still bad history. ;-)

  24. #24 DuWayne
    May 28, 2007

    Jason Rosenhouse -

    I don’t have quotes handy, but I seem to recall both Ed Brayton and Chad Orzel bouncing PZ and Larry out of the movement on the grounds that they’re fighting a different battle (anti-religion as oppposed to protecting good science education).

    I don’t know about Orzel, but I can tell you that that ed was not trying bounce anyone out of anything. He was trying to make the point (rather badly in my opinion) that they are working directly against the goals of improving science education in the U.S. by attacking Miller and more broadly, that they are perpetuating the false dichotomy that accepting evolution and theism are mutually exclusive. I will not deny that Ed was rather an asshole about it, he was. But then, so were both PZ and Moran.

    But fine, you didn’t like the term. I get it. The fact remains that Dawkins was criticizing people who deserve to be criticized: people who argue for the compatibility between science and religion not out of genuine conviction but rather out of political pragmatism.

    If you are trying to put Ed into this category, you are sorely mistaken. I daresay that lumping a lot of people into this is jut wrong. The fact that they happen to harp on the political expedience, does not mean they lack a genuine conviction about it.

    Ed, for example, spends a lot of time and energy, fighting for good science education. His defense of Ken Miller, therefor, came from that angle. That does not mean that he doesn’t genuinely believe that Miller is a damn fine evolutionary biologist, in spite of Miller’s theism – quite the contrary, he has a lot of respect for Miller as a scientist, even while believing that his theism is a crock of crap. I don’t understand how someone could get the notion that one can’t have a genuine conviction for something and also argue the same from a standpoint of political expediency.

    For that matter, I don’t really understand why one wouldn’t think the political expediency isn’t important enough to set aside personal distaste. What’s wrong with saying that you disagree with the foundation of someone’s belief, but I am going to accept them as an ally in a fight that we do agree on and respect them as an ally in that fight. I do it all the time with libertarians. I believe very strongly in personal liberty and respect a lot of libertarians for their support of civil liberties. I have no problem doing that and at the same time, debating them about the need for regulations and social service programs. This doesn’t make me a hypocrite or an accomodationist, it just makes sense.

  25. #25 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 28, 2007

    The neocons were simply making a bad analogy in likening critics of the Iraq War to appeasers. Critics of the war weren’t saying we should do nothing in the face of terrorism. They were saying merely that invading Iraq was poor strategy. That’s not appeasement.

    And the issue here is not what you fancy to be some common usage of the Neville Chamberlain criticism. The issue is what Dawkins had in mind, and I think it is simply ridiculous to read what Dawkins wrote and come away with the idea that he was comparing anyone or anything to Nazis.

    Interestingly, while you’re busy getting all hot and bothered about Dawkins, you ignore the fact that he was specifically responding to the following comparison from Michael Ruse:

    Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt did not like Stalin and Communism. But in fighting Hitler they realized that they had to work with the Soviet Union. Evolutionists of all kinds must likewise work together to fight creationism.

    Taken at face value, someone is getting compared to Stalin there, and since Ruse is himself an atheist it looks to me like the theistic evolutionists are getting cast in that role. Should I write a whole post about how Ruse thinks that working with theistic evolutionists is comparable to making common cause with Stalin?

    Of course not. Because Ruse’s point, obviously, was simply that sometimes you must put aside certain differences in the short term to confront common enemies. Dawkins’ point, no less obviously, is that it is unfair for atheists to have to conceal their views simply because it can create political problems to do otherwise. That’s it, and, with all due respect, you know that’s it. The only one talking about Nazis here is you.

    People who defend the reconciliation of science and religion out of a genuine conviction that there is no conflict are not being cowards for expressing that view. Those are not the people Dawkins was talking about, however. He was talking about people who, while wanting nothing to do with religion themselves, believe that it is politically inexpedient to criticize religion, and that therefore it should be avoided. I wouldn’t go so far as to call those people cowards (it’s not necessarily a bad thing to think about political expediency), but they’re not exactly on the side of the angels either.

  26. #26 Orac
    May 28, 2007

    You apparently missed this part of my post:

    Nor is the retort that some “Neville Chamberlain evolutionists” sometimes make any better. I’m talking, of course, about the Winston Churchill gambit, in which they will liken themselves to Winston Churchill, who reluctantly teamed up with Stalin, previously an enemy, to fight the common foe, Hitler. If anything, this analogy is even worse than the Neville Chamberlain gambit because not only does it liken creationists to Hitler but it likens theistic evolutionists and the moderate or liberal religious to Stalin, someone who is loathed but with whom they’re willing to work to achieve the short term goal of defeating an even greater evil.

    I understand why you may have missed it, given the “overwroughtness” of my post.

    And, yes, such a bad analogy resulted in my siccing the Hitler Zombie on Ruse many moons ago. And, regardless of whether Dawkins’ gambit was in response to Ruse, it’s still an idiotic statement.

    As for “doing nothing,” the so-called “accommodationists” are not proposing “doing nothing.” They’re proposing something you don’t like, but it’s not “nothing.”

  27. #27 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 29, 2007

    Orac-

    Yes, I did overlook that part of your original post. Sorry about that. And yes, the reason I overlooked it was because I was so annoyed with the rest of what you said that I couldn’t bring myself to read every word.

    But you’re still wrong. Neither Dawkins nor Ruse was being idiotic. In both cases they were reaching for a convenient historical analogy to illustrate their point. And they both chose reasonable ones. Citing Chamberlain is perfectly appropriate when your point is to show the folly of not criticizing someone out of political expediency as opposed to conviction. And citing our cooperation with Stalin during WWII is a reasonable way of making the point that sometimes you have to set aside your differences to make common cause against a greater enemy.

    These are analogies, not perfect comparisons. You’re reading more into them than is actually there. Do you sincerely believe that Ruse was likening theistic evolutionists to Stalin? Or that Dawkins was comparing NOMA advocates to Nazi appeasers?

  28. #28 DuWayne
    May 29, 2007

    Russel -

    The problem that I have with your comment, is that you make some sweeping generalizations with the assumption that they are all factual.

    It requires some operational notion of what is and what isn’t natural that simply isn’t available. Like all other philosophies that divide the world into what we can test empirically, and what we cannot, the problem is that if there is any connection between the two, then there is no reason to test it empirically, and if there isn’t, then it is completely irrational to even postulate on what the supernatural might be.

    This assumes that everyone who accepts methodological naturalism accepts that dichotomy. I know that I don’t and I would imagine a lot of people don’t. I would imagine that I am in a minority, in that I believe in what many describe as the supernatural, but don’t believe that it is impossible to ever quantify it. Don’t take this as a claim that I would have the foggiest notion where to start to accomplish this, I just don’t accept that it is an impossibility. Either I am mistaken in my belief and God simply does not exist, or God does exist, is perfectly natural and science does not currently have the ability to quantify the spiritual. Just as science is incapable of quantifying the love that I have for my son, my partner and our next baby – I daresay, that love is perfectly natural and certainly exists, but science has no way to empirically prove that love exists or to show the mechanism for it’s existence.

    This instability shows quite plainly in Christianity. It claims to be a revealed religion. God spoke with Moses, wrestled with Joseph, and was incarnate in Jesus, who performed miracles. Those claims aren’t empirically distant, merely historically distant. A accommodationist Christian is able to maintain them only by some combination of (a) believing that such things happened only in the past, and (b) refusing to take seriously the claims that such things still happen, so that their investigation and refutation don’t affect the Christian’s faith. (The non-accommodationist Christian, of course, simply believes in miracles all around, just none that can be tested.) In neither case do you have any protection from empirical investigation except by special pleading. (“Only in the past” or “God makes sure you can’t tell.”)

    This is a vast generalization that ignores the fact that most Christians fall into all of those categories to some degree or another. Few Christians simply accept every aspect of their respective dogma – most people just aren’t that simple.

    While there might be a god who merely kicked off the laws of physics then left the rest to be, Deism simply isn’t in much vogue anymore, because it has absolutely no relevance to human life.

    And I suppose my own beliefs are even less in vogue, but I honestly don’t give a shit, they are what they are and I am who I am. I don’t believe what I do because it’s popular, I believe what I do, because it is where my journey through life has taken me. I am a deist in a very classical sense of the word. I do not believe that the bible is the divine word of God, though I accept much of the Christian faith. Rather, I believe that the “word” of God is the natural world and universe around us, that’s plenty for me. I do not believe that God makes any grand pronouncements for all of mankind, though I believe that God is active in my life.

    the term deist, has been co-opted by agnostics, a fact which I appreciate, as theist is a far better descriptive for my beliefs, even though I do not believe that any religion is revealed by God. As I do believe that God is active in my life, by definition I accept the miraculous, though I have the same distaste for that word as I do for “supernatural.” Again, if it does happen, it is perfectly natural, if it doesn’t, I have a rather delusional interpretation for events in my life that I ascribe to the God that I worship.

    Which means that it’s reasonable to ask how they are observed,

    It is quite reasonable to ask – the only answer that I can give, is that I have had a lot of experiences that I cannot explain, other than to attribute them to the divine. If you would like me to go into great detail, I would be happy to, but you will have to click on my name and e-mail me – I certainly won’t usurp Orac’s abode to do so here. Even if I did, you would likely attribute such experiences as extraordinary coincidences. My dad, an atheist, does just that, as does my brother Ed, who is a deist in the modern use of the word.

    and which means that from an investigational viewpoint, they are no different than bonobo chimpanzees, ivory-billed woodpeckers, and the loup garou. In that context, “supernatural” means simply “things for which there are no evidence yet some people like to believe exists.”

    Indeed.

  29. #29 windy
    May 29, 2007

    Colugo wrote:

    Dawkins the evolutionary theorist and explainer is witty and brilliant. Dawkins the social commentator is a very different story.

    You keep bringing up Dawkins’s views on society as if no one could legitimately disagree on the importance of jury trials, for instance. Are you aware that most developed countries don’t even have jury trials?

    The only thing that sounds immediately disagreeable in your list is the last item where Dawkins says that being brought up Catholic is worse than sexual abuse. But clicking on the link, he is actually saying that “being taught that if you sin you will go to everlasting damnation, and really believing that” can be worse than mild forms of sexual abuse. I’m not saying that is a very fruitful perspective, but the actual opinion did not seem as nefarious as you made it out to be.

  30. #30 Colugo
    May 29, 2007

    “You keep bringing up Dawkins’s views on society as if no one could legitimately disagree on the importance of jury trials, for instance.”

    But he misses the point about jury trials entirely. The most important feature is that it is about having one’s case decided by peers, not reaching the verdict statistically most likely to be correct (and his assumption about that are problematic). It’s not just the conclusions Dawkins reaches about jury trials or other issues that are questionable; it’s the reasoning. His pretense is that by following scientific rationalism we will reach the “correct” conclusion; namely, his. But he’s not simply using scientific rationalism; he’s enlisting a entire worldview loaded with all kinds of extrascientific philosophical and ideological baggage which he dimly recognizes, if at all. Which is fine; we all do that. The problem is that Dawkins keeps suggesting to his readers that his views are wholly grounded in Science.

    And this relates to Dawkins’ views on “Chamberlain / accommodationist / appeaser / tolerant” atheists, whatever we want to call them. Dawkins believes his atheism (actually a bit watered down with agnosticism in his case) is science. Dawkins really believes that he has the wind of science on his back when it comes to these complex and nuanced sociological, political, and legal issues, just as with his atheism. That’s why he feels comfortable resorting to crude formulations like Neville Chamberlain atheists. (Which is obviously an attempt to shame them through association with a figure who is now – rightly or wrongly – widely viewed as negative. All of these discussions about history, analogies, and rhetoric are really beside the point.) Peter Singer has similar issues – including making really dumb statements on policy and values – but at least he is up front about being an ultra-utilitarian.

    I have defended Dawkins when I believe that he has been unfairly criticized by folks like Coturnix on his science (even though my views on evolutionary biology are somewhat different than Dawkins).

  31. #31 csrster
    May 29, 2007

    At least no one is actually claiming that Dawkins is infallible.

  32. #32 Orac
    May 29, 2007

    These are analogies, not perfect comparisons. You’re reading more into them than is actually there. Do you sincerely believe that Ruse was likening theistic evolutionists to Stalin? Or that Dawkins was comparing NOMA advocates to Nazi appeasers?

    As to the latter question, probably not, but it’s implied whether the user realizes it or not. And, yes, I don’t think Dawkins is likening NOMA advocates to Nazi appeasers and fundamentalist Christians to Nazis. Ruse, on the other hand is just likening fundamentalist Christians to Nazis. After all, likening the common foe to Hitler and those whose tactics or actions you disagree with as craven, sniveling appeasers of Hitler is the main point of the Neville Chamberlain analogy, just as likening the common foe to Hitler and saying that you have to cozy up to someone you really, really don’t like (the Stalin figure) in order to win is the main point behind the Winston Churchill analogy.

  33. #33 Leni
    May 29, 2007

    No. Neville is a spineless, appeasing ninny, not a little Hitler. Big difference.

  34. #34 Matt Penfold
    May 29, 2007

    Orac,

    I cannot help but think you have got confused on two issues here.

    The first is that Richard Dawkins is British, and in the UK there no implicit reference to Hitler and the Nazis in comparing someone to Neville Chamberlain.

    That leads me on to my second point, one you have already conceded in part. You seem to have confused the word imply with the word infer. For something to be implied by a writer that must have intended for that implication to be have been taken by the reader. If the writer did not have that intention then meaning is being taken solely by the reader in which case the word is infer, not imply. The writer implies, the reader infers.

  35. #35 David Marjanović
    May 29, 2007

    “When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. … Why don’t we laugh at a judge who punishes a criminal … ..(D)oesn’t a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not?”
    http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html

    Well, Dawkins seems to assume here (I haven’t read the article) that free will is an illusion and that our behavior is completely determined. If he is right about this, he is obviously right about laughing at punishment. I don’t think we know that much about neurobiology yet, however, to be able to say how determined our behavior is. So, for the time being, I disagree with him.

    “Trial by jury must be one of the most conspicuously bad good ideas anyone ever had. Its devisers can hardly be blamed. They lived before the principles of statistical sampling and experimental design had been worked out. They weren’t scientists.”
    http://tinyurl.com/jqge4

    Having one’s case decided by one’s peers is a good idea if the peers actually know what they are doing. I’d prefer a judge over peers who haven’t studied the law. The idea was that judges were all aristocrats who commonly let their class prejudices prevail over justice — but that’s no longer the case. Juries are a rather outdated affair, unless they consist of judges.

    “Wasn’t the judicial destruction of one of the very few research subjects we had [Saddam Hussein] – and a prime specimen at that – an act of vandalism?”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-dawkins/executing-saddam-hussein-_b_37690.html

    That may not be the best reason for why killing The Man Who Knew Too Much was deeply stupid*, but it is a pretty good reason, and I don’t understand why you don’t agree. Dawkins’ article was just written in such a way that a superficial reading would lead you to believe Dawkins considered it the most only reason, which is not the case.

    * Well, I have just alluded to why it wasn’t stupid for those who let it happen.

    “”Human”, to the discontinuous mind, is an absolute concept. … And from this flows much evil. … I have argued that the discontinuous gap between humans and “apes” that we erect in our minds is regrettable.”
    http://www.fortunecity.com/emachines/e11/86/chimp.html

    I find it self-evident that Dawkins is right about this. What’s up with you? Do you (untestably) believe you have a soul and chimps don’t? ~:-|

    “Regarding the accusations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, deplorable and disgusting as those abuses are, they are not so harmful to the children as the grievous mental harm in bringing up the child Catholic in the first place.”
    http://thedubliner.ie/template.php?ID=15

    This may depend on the kind of Catholicism. Some kinds make people as paranoid as Jehovah’s Witnesses, who live in constant fear that Jesus will smite them when he returns (soon) because he has watched them committing some tiny little “sin”. Having neither experienced this kind of Catholic upbringing nor sexual abuse first- or second-hand, I can’t tell which is worse, but I’m not sure the decision is as obvious as you imply. I agree, though, that Dawkins should have explained this in a lot more words… wait a minute, I don’t know if he did, I didn’t read the article.

    BTW, Anschluss, with c and without ü.

    And the Chamberlain gambit with Saddam? Simply a statement of the fact that dictators are answerable to nobody at home, see themselves answerable to nobody in the international community, and are prepared to dick around with ‘negotiations’ for as long as it takes pussyfooters and pacifist negotiators to get tired and go away because the problem’s not in their backyard. Hell, weren’t there lots of places where Hans Blix’s people weren’t allowed to go?

    What kind of TV did you watch at that time? In 1998, there were lots of such places. In 2002, there was a grand total of zero.

    What do you think he would have done, when eventually the US went into another one of its isolationist phases and nobody else had the guts or the means to tackle Saddam alone? Personally I think he would have quietly restarted his WMD programmes.

    Eh, sure, but he knew full well the US wasn’t going isolationist anytime soon. He did the reasonable thing to keep his power — cave in to the heavy international pressure (…without telling his generals that he did, so they wouldn’t consider him a coward and use that as a pretext to get rid of him). It only didn’t work because W wanted his war so he could be a war president, no matter what reality was like.

    That’s why I could live with there not having been any found there; the elimination of Saddam’s potential to have them was as important as destroying any he might have had.

    He didn’t have any anymore. He destroyed it all — that was the only way to make sure Blix wouldn’t find any without denying him access anywhere. Denying him access would have resulted in war.

    I remember well how Fearless Flightsuit told the inspectors to leave Iraq because he was coming.

    He played with us for far too long.

    And that is worth over 600,000 dead civilians and 2 million refugees? (Apart from the fact he wasn’t playing with “you” — I had no idea you were a member of the administration — but with his own people.)

    I’m given to understand that Gadaffi’s reaction to what happened to Iraq was to throw his hands up and say “Come into Libya, have a look at everything I have built so far, so you can be happy I am dismantling it.” That, surely, is a win?

    If you think over 600,000 dead civilians and 2 million refugees were worth being shown what everyone already knew (that Gadaffi was a fool harmless to anyone who wasn’t inside Libya and didn’t open their mouth too far), then, surely, it is a win.

    You just want to believe that you did not make a deeply stupid mistake in having been pro-war when it was cool in the USA, don’t you? Don’t worry. If I had voted for Fearless Flightsuit in 2004, I’d be deeply depressive by now, too.

  36. #36 J. J. Ramsey
    May 29, 2007

    Matt Penfold: “in the UK there no implicit reference to Hitler and the Nazis in comparing someone to Neville Chamberlain.”

    Except that when Dawkins himself brought up Ruse’s Winston Churchill gambit, he made it clear that the comparison had to do with Chamberlain’s dealings with Hitler.

  37. #37 Matt Pemfold
    May 29, 2007

    Ramsey,

    You seem to have totally missed the point. Of course Chamberlain’s appeasement had to do with Hitler, but where you and Orac are going wrong is in assuming that when someone refers to Neville Chamberlain they are invoking the spectre of the Nazis. This is a foolish conclusion, based possibly on Orac and yourself failing to understanding British cultural mores sufficiently to understand that in the UK comparing someone to Neville Chamberlain is to make a comparison between that person and the failing of Chamberlain. Thus in using the term “Neville Chamberlain Atheists” Dawkins is NOT implying any comparision with the Nazis. If Orac and yourself make that inference then problem is not with Dawkins, but with your comprehension of what he wrote. I would ask that both you stop blaming your failure to understand on others.

  38. #38 Russell
    May 29, 2007

    I’m glad the astute JS noticed the accidently untyped “not” in my comment. He responds:

    You’re making an implicit assumption of parsimony.

    That’s fair, though I would say it’s more a requirement of justification than parsimony: don’t believe in things for which there isn’t evidence. Either way, a requirement of parsimony or justification is quite different from methodological naturalism.

    DuWayne writes:

    Just as science is incapable of quantifying the love that I have for my son, my partner and our next baby – I daresay, that love is perfectly natural and certainly exists, but science has no way to empirically prove that love exists or to show the mechanism for it’s existence.

    This is a common but I think false characterization. Psychologists and neurologists do indeed research emotions and their biological, biochemical, and neurological bases. This is medically important. A patient suffers a stroke, and no longer seems to care about family members that were once loved by the patient. Is it a loss of memory and recognition? Or a loss of capacity for certain kinds of emotion? Will it persist? Or is there chance of recovery?

    Yes, love can be empirically investigated. Individuals do it all the time when, for some reason or other, they question love. Sometimes couples turn to counselors. Sometimes one or both turn to friends for a pair of outside eyes. Some individuals even hire professional investigators to find out what’s going on. None of this would make any sense at all if it weren’t for the fact that love is indeed empirically observed. This is recognized even by courts. People claim they could or couldn’t have acted in certain ways because of their love for someone else. And that can be corroborated or rebutted by witnesses who relate behavior that is consistent or inconsistent with such claims. Jurors are capable of judging such evidence. They would not be, if love fell outside the empirical realm. I would bet, if someone were to hire a private investigator to watch you for a month or two, with the task of making a list of the people you loved most, that even though the investigator were forbidden to ask you that question directly, the list generated just by watching you day to day would very closely match the list you would write if so asked.

    It is quite reasonable to ask – the only answer that I can give, is that I have had a lot of experiences that I cannot explain, other than to attribute them to the divine. If you would like me to go into great detail, I would be happy to.. Even if I did, you would likely attribute such experiences as extraordinary coincidences. My dad, an atheist, does just that.

    It seems to me that you are agreeing with the main point I was pressing, which is that it doesn’t make much sense to safeguard any gods that might be from empirical investigation, by setting them aside in the category of “supernatural” things, and then declaring the supernatural off limits to that. Which is what methodological naturalism does. The one thing I will point out about extraordinary coincidences is that they are surprisingly common. The science of probability has something to say about that. :-)

  39. #39 PZ Myers
    May 29, 2007

    Interesting analysis, but you should have pushed it a little further. Neither Moran nor I were making a big deal of this “Neville Chamberlain” nonsense — I didn’t particularly care for that term in Dawkins’ book, even though as Jason says it had a bit more context to it than the “you’re all just a bunch of Nazi-lovers” spin people have put on it, and I don’t think Moran endorsed it, either (you should understand that Moran does have some very strong disagreements with Dawkins).

    What happened, though, was that Pat Hayes and Ed Brayton ran with it, and used it as an excuse to declare open war on the Morans and Myers of the world. We hadn’t said a word about it, or even criticized either of those guys recently, and suddenly I find manifestos on both their sites declaring us pariahs, and babbling all this Chamberlain crap as a pretext. If that’s the way they want it, fine: Moran was using the term they embraced in those posts you cited. I think Dawkins was playing with matches with his terminology, but it’s the people who self-identified as “Chamberlainists” who lit the torch.

  40. #40 Re brendan
    May 29, 2007

    Re Colugo

    The issue with Prof. Dawkins is that he (and Myers and Moran) insists that philosophical naturalism is science. The so-called Chamberlainists take the position that philosophical naturalism is not science (read Barbara Forrests’ Dover testimony). This is the difference of opinion. There is no difference of opinion as between Dawkins, Miller, Collins, Scott, Brayton, Forrest, etc. that methodological naturalism is science.

    Re JS & Orac

    Mr. JS and Dr. Orac have raised a number of interesting responses to my earlier commentary on Chamberlain which I would like to respond to. However, having been accused by Dr. Orac of hijacking a previous thread and discussing an off topic subject, I will refrain as the issues of the lead up to the Second World War are somewhat at right angles to the philosophical discussion over what is science.

  41. #41 Orac
    May 29, 2007

    PZ,

    You’ll note that I never mentioned your name once in this entire post or discussion, although I did cite posts by Larry that did. I consider it to your credit that you didn’t run with this bad analogy in the highly enthusiastic way Moran did.

    As for “who lit the torch,” I think an equal argument could be made that Moran, by his repetition of the “Chamberlain atheist” label, was the one who provoked first, or at least escalated first. For example, in this post, Larry refers to John and Pat as “Neville Chamberlain atheists” in response to posts that were critical, but not outside the pale. In response, a variety of bloggers purposely coopted the label as a means of mocking it.

  42. #42 PZ Myers
    May 29, 2007

    Um, you do notice the dates and the text contents, right? Moran was responding to John and Pat and Ed who had clearly announced that they were taking ‘sides’, and we uppity atheists weren’t going to get picked for their team. To claim that he provoked first is silly.

    Now if I didn’t run with it with as much enthusiasm, it’s only because of my retiring nature and avoidance of flamboyant hyperbole — but I will confess that I felt like it. I still feel like it. I think if anyone is selling out science it’s the people who pretend it is compatible with religious superstition. But I’ll save that argument for my blog, where I’ll hammer people over the head with it for several times a day.

    I do have to wonder about this, though: why is a doctor charging in and arbitrarily opening old wounds? Don’t you know we’ll start picking at the oozing scabs again?

  43. #43 DuWayne
    May 29, 2007

    Russel -

    I’m sorry, I guess part of my point got really convoluted. I just don’t think that fact that some use the concept of methodological naturalism to build a dichotomy between the natural and supposed supernatural, somehow invalidates the concept of methodological naturalism. Rather, I think the notion of anything existing outside the realm of methodological naturalism is erroneous. If it exists, it is obviously natural, if it is not natural, then it does not. I do not accept the idea that, because it is not currently possible to empirically prove or disprove the existence of the spiritual, that it should somehow be set apart as something extra-natural. I just don’t happen to accept that just because we cannot empirically prove or disprove the existence of the spiritual, that it doesn’t exist, either.

  44. #44 windy
    May 29, 2007

    “You keep bringing up Dawkins’s views on society as if no one could legitimately disagree on the importance of jury trials, for instance.” But he misses the point about jury trials entirely. The most important feature is that it is about having one’s case decided by peers, not reaching the verdict statistically most likely to be correct

    Um, wasn’t that the whole point of the piece? Is the principle of the thing all that matters?

    It’s not just the conclusions Dawkins reaches about jury trials or other issues that are questionable; it’s the reasoning.

    But the conclusions were all you quoted. In fact, you implied the Dawkins quotes were “dumb and brain-dead”. Perhaps the rest of us are too, for failing to understand why the quotes are obviously moronic? This seems like a bait-and-switch: “well if the quotes aren’t braindead, the reasoning is!”

  45. #45 Colugo
    May 29, 2007

    windy:

    But note that this is part of the above excerpted quote on jury trials:

    “They lived before the principles of statistical sampling and experimental design had been worked out. They weren’t scientists.”

    This, like the other quotes, are risible on their face.

    Bait and switch? I don’t think so. Sure, someone might think there is something to Dawkins’ views on the legal implications of neuroscience or his lamenting the notion of discontinuity between apes and humans, but I will still think that these opinions are dumb. Just like his blasting theistic evolutionists and their atheist allies. (I visited the Answers in Genesis website and did a virtual walk through of that travesty of a museum, and having done so I am even more dismayed that anyone – Dawkins to my knowledge has not, but Myers and Moran have – would call Simon Conway Morris and Ken Miller “creationists.”) I don’t want to get too far afield from the thread so I’ll leave it at that.

  46. #46 Matt Penfold
    May 29, 2007

    Colugo,

    I am suprised you are so worried about reasoning seeing as how it you do not seem to want to bother to employ it yourself. There is nothing in your last comment that in anyway supports your assertions. I think rather than Dawkins being dumb it is the likes of you who think saying something enough times makes it true.

    And as for relgious people being able to accomodate science, they may well have no issues with some parts of science. However there are cosmologists who have put forward hypotheses that would NOT be supported by many TEs as it leaves no beginning for their god to “start”. The catholic church maintains that god started the big bang for example. Hawking has a hypthesis that time had no beginning, that it is finite but boundless. That idea would not fit with the standard doctrine uses by TEs. I posted this very point on Ed Brayton’s blog, and he did not get it, I doubt you will either. Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers and Larry Moran all do.

  47. #47 DuWayne
    May 29, 2007

    Matt Penfold -

    The catholic church maintains that god started the big bang for example. Hawking has a hypthesis that time had no beginning, that it is finite but boundless. That idea would not fit with the standard doctrine uses by TEs.

    When Hawking’s hypothesis has been proven, or even accrues a fair amount of evidence to show that it is quite likely to be true, then that would displace the standard doctrine of many TEs, though certainly not all of them. As it stands, that is merely an educated guess, without, as I understand it, a whole lot of evidence to back it up. I really don’t get the point of bringing this up, in effect, it is nothing more than a strawman, I am sure their are other scientists who have other theories that would contradict the notions of many TEs – it doesn’t change anything, they are ultimately just guessing. One can argue that the guesses of many scientists are more likely to be true, than the guesses of TEs, but that does not make them any more true, in and of itself.

    And invalidating the central notions of some TEs does not mean that said theism is anti-science. Some theists, if those tenets were displaced, would simply admit they must have been wrong and become atheists, others will move the bar and still others, for whom that may not be a central tenet, will have their belief unaffected.

  48. #48 James Taylor
    May 29, 2007

    FWIW the German Plan Z was intended to reequip the German Kriegsmarine up to a modern and battle ready standard by 1945. The plan was instituted in 1935 and German industry had barely laid down the keels of the requisite surface fleet much less prepared for war by 1939.

    The German Admiralty was appalled at the war plans as they were so ill-equipped as to not even represent a fleet-in-being. Lack of a surface fleet assured that the British Isle would always represent a potent and unassailable bulwark against German naval traffic. Often the argument that Operation Sealion was doomed is based solely on air supremacy; however, it was because of Germany’s impotent surface fleet that air supremacy was an absolute prerequisite. Considering that the RAF was down to less than forty operational fighters, air superiority would have been enough if the amphibious forces had sufficient fleet support to fend off the Royal Navy. Most of the resources allocated to the naval buildup were subsequently reallocated to u-boats with the cancellation of Sealion in order to facilitate the asynchronous tonnage war in the false hope that a mammoth scale blockade would force England to capitulate. Of course, Germany never had the naval strength to close the siege ring for long enough to force capitulation due to lack of both u-boats and surface vessels.

    In essence, Plan Z may have made the western goals feasible; however, by 1945, the game would have likely changed so much as to force Germany to reinvent its navy yet again. Although, Germany would then have had at least three aircraft carriers which would have greatly facilitated any amphibious operation or blockade. The emphasis for Hitler was always on land conquest and I have often read of his anticipation that England would quietly drop out of the war once it was isolated and besieged.

  49. #49 Jimmy_blue
    May 29, 2007

    James Taylor:

    Considering that the RAF was down to less than forty operational fighters, air superiority would have been enough if the amphibious forces had sufficient fleet support to fend off the Royal Navy.

    Not true:
    Battle of Britain Statistics

    Where did you get your figure from?

  50. #50 Iorwerth Thomas
    May 29, 2007

    “And as for relgious people being able to accomodate science, they may well have no issues with some parts of science. However there are cosmologists who have put forward hypotheses that would NOT be supported by many TEs as it leaves no beginning for their god to “start”. The catholic church maintains that god started the big bang for example. Hawking has a hypthesis that time had no beginning, that it is finite but boundless. That idea would not fit with the standard doctrine uses by TEs.”

    While some TEs may think that (*I* certainly don’t, but I’m hardly a representative sample), it is not obviously inconsistent to believe that God exists and that the universe had no temporal beginning [1]. It tends to come down to quibbling over what one means by ’cause’ (if the TE is a classical theist) or getting very confused at neo-Hegelian philosophical vocabulary (if the TE is a process theist).

    [1] No more obviously so than believing Hawkings’ theory, anyway, which requires Wick rotating into imaginary time to work, if I recall correctly — that might lead to some odd interpretational issues, to say the least, because we don’t live in Euclidean space with an imaginary time direction.

  51. #51 windy
    May 29, 2007

    “Trial by jury must be one of the most conspicuously bad good ideas anyone ever had. Its devisers can hardly be blamed. They lived before the principles of statistical sampling and experimental design had been worked out. They weren’t scientists.”
    This, like the other quotes, are risible on their face.

    Again, why? Because you say so?

    I guess Dawkins sounds to you like a scientofascist bogeyman. But substitute “witchcraft” or “astrology” for “trial by jury”, and few would have problems with the quote. Substitute “trial by ordeal” and it sounds too forgiving. Why are some practices (apparently, those modern Americans hold dear) above being evaluated against evidence?

  52. #52 J. J. Ramsey
    May 29, 2007

    Matt Penfold: “You seem to have totally missed the point. Of course Chamberlain’s appeasement had to do with Hitler, but where you and Orac are going wrong is in assuming that when someone refers to Neville Chamberlain they are invoking the spectre of the Nazis.”

    If Dawkins had brought up Chamberlain without discussing “appeasement” or whether Ruse was right in putting the theistic evolutionists in the role of Stalin, you’d have a point. As it stands, it is pretty clear what kind of comparisons are being made. Really, you are coming off like an inerrantist trying to explain away a Biblical contradiction.

    PZ Myers: “Um, you do notice the dates and the text contents, right? Moran was responding to John and Pat and Ed who had clearly announced that they were taking ‘sides’, and we uppity atheists weren’t going to get picked for their team. To claim that he provoked first is silly.”

    Moran provoked by suggesting this:

    “I agree with the Dembski sycophants that UCSD should not have required their uneducated students to attend remedial classes. Instead, they should never have admitted them in the first place. Having made that mistake, it’s hopeless to expect that a single lecture–even one by a distinguished scholar like Robert Pennock–will have any effect. The University should just flunk the lot of them and make room for smart students who have a chance of benefiting from a high quality education.”

    Let’s see now. Moran suggests denying students a chance to unlearn bad biology at university, which would hand creationists propaganda on a silver platter and harm long-term efforts at science education (since the kids who don’t unlearn creationism now are more likely to vote for creationist school boards later). And this isn’t provocation? Get real.

    And pardon me if I take Moran’s claim that he was only joking with a grain of salt.

  53. #53 James Taylor
    May 30, 2007

    Jimmy_Blue, sorry I should not have been cavalier with statistics and I was at work without the means to research the actual numbers so forgive the license. I was not quoting actual statistics, just pulling from memory.

    The RAF had taken considerable losses in the Battle of Britain and the number of operational fighters and ready crews was at a critical ebb. Because of the radar network, the English were able to coordinate their assets at the critical moment; however, the RAF was near depleted as an effective combat unit during the coordinated airfield destruction phase. Had the German High Command continued with the coordinated assault on the RAF air combat infrastructure, it is highly likely that the RAF would have been broken; however, German tactics reverted back to area bombing with the premature belief that the RAF had already been defeated.

    Of course all of these conclusions and those above are only speculative.

  54. #54 Matt Pemfold
    May 30, 2007

    DuWayne,

    You seem to be being deliberatly stupid.

    First I made it clear in my comment that it was a hypothesis of Hawking’s so why you think criticising it for being such adds anything to the debate I do not know.

    Second, it is a hypothesis that would find itself in conflict with the teachings of many christian denominations, not just the usual ones which espouse creationism proper. As such a member of one those denominations would have problems properly evaluating the hypothesis.

  55. #55 SLC
    May 30, 2007

    Re James Taylor

    The problem the British faced in September of 1940 was not lack of aircraft. The RAF had sufficient aircraft. The problem was a lack of trained pilots to fly those aircraft (much like the problem the Germans later faced in late 1944 and beyond).

    Re Chamberlainist Atheists

    Previously, I had placed a comment on Greg Ladens’ blog concerning the various groups in the evolutionist camp. It might be advantageous to summarize that comment here as it might possibly illuminate the very interesting discussion underway.

    I maintain that the evolutionist camp is divided into 4 categories (in response to a comment I added a fourth to my original three). Note that all 4 categories accept methodological naturalism without reservation.

    Category 1. “Hardline atheists” who insist that philosophical naturalism (i.e. atheism) is science. Examples include Myers, Moran, Rosenhouse, and Dawkins.

    Catagory 2. “Softline atheists” who, although being philosophical naturalists, do not insist that philosophical naturalism is science. Examples include Forrest, Scott, Hayes, Ruse, Tyson, and Orac(?).

    Category 3. “Agnostics/Deists” who are not philosophical naturalists and do not insist that philosophical naturalism is science. An example is Brayton.

    Catagory 4. “Theists” who are philosophical theists. Examples include Knop, Miller, Collins, Conway Morris, Chu-Carroll, and Mike, the Mad Biologist.

    As I see it, the problem with the folks in category 1 is that they agree with the enemy, i.e. Dumbski and Johnson, that science == atheism. I think that the position of the folks in categories 2 and 3 is that it is poor tactics to concede anything to the enemy. Contrary to the claims of Myers et. al. the folks in categories 2 and 3 are not demanding that the folks in category 1 “shut up” and cease proclaiming their belief that god is nonexistent. They are merely politely requesting that the category 1 folks stop claiming that philosophical naturalism is science.

  56. #56 James Taylor
    May 30, 2007

    I addressed that in my follow-up SLC. With the assaults on the British airfields in southern England, the RAF was in poor shape. The pilots were flying sortie after sortie and with their home airfields under constant attack, the entire RAF defense was at great threat of collapse; however, clever use of camouflage to disguise the airfields themselves made the photo-reconnaissance spotty and subsequently the intelligence reports going back to Goering were faulty. This encouraged the assumption that the RAF was completely broken and altered the emphasis of target selection from airfield suppression back to strategic and terror area bombing. It was due to the ingenuity of the Brits, specifically coordinated radar, deception and counter-radar, and the dedication of the trained cadre of pilots that helped turn the tide in the BoB.

  57. #57 James Taylor
    May 30, 2007

    My point seems to have been missed though, it was the shortsightedness and rush to war which prevented the Kriegsmarine from being properly outfitted for the wartime objectives. As a result, the invasion of England was only a pipe-dream fueled by the euphoria of success in continental Western Europe. There was no real possibility that Germany could have executed Sealion without proper naval screening and support. The Luftwaffe was forced to handle both air superiority and naval suppression since there was effectively no German fleet to contend with the formidable Royal Navy. The battle of ego within the German High Command, specifically Goering, virtually assured that the Kriegsmarine would never be fit enough to sortie against the Royal Navy and therefore the plan to invade England was just a waste of resources. This assessment however is only clear with knowledge of the disposition of both sides.

  58. #58 Matt Penfold
    May 30, 2007

    With regards the Battle of Britain dicussion, one aspect that often gets overlooked is the contribution of RAF Bomber and Coastal Commands. By September the two had managed to sink over 10% of the invasion barges the Germans had massed in Channel and North Sea ports. And these were barges sunk in harbour, were they were heavily defended. In addition the barges were taken up from European River trade and as a result German industry was suffering from a lack of transportation. Together these factors made it even more clear to the German High Command that anything less than total command of the skies over the Channel and Southern England would lead to disaster.

    Another aspect that is overlooked is that the RAF could choose when and where to fight the Germans. At anytime RAF Fighter command could have moved its fighters north of London (as in fact some of them already were, viz 12 Group). The Germans then would have to send unescorted bombers to the airfields north of London ( the German fighters at the time lacked the range to go much further north than London).

    James Taylor is correct in his assesment of the likely success of Sealion. It was never a valid propisition. The Germans had no plans for destruction of the Royal Navy (The Navy would have faced problems during the day without fighter cover but could have operated at night from bases on the East Coast using fast destroyers. The Germans would have been hard pushed to counter night destroyer attacks. In addition the German Army had no previous plans or training for a seabourne invasions, lacking suitable landing craft. The German High Command seemed to think of a channel crossing as a river crossing on a grand scale.

  59. #59 SLC
    May 30, 2007

    Re James Taylor

    I am afraid that I will have to disagree with Mr. Taylor relative to the issue of the Kriegsmarine. The Germans built two large battleships, the Bismarck and Tirpitz which were launched in 1941. Together, these two ships weighed in excess of 80,000 metric tons standard displacement. It is my contention that, if the Germans had used the resources expended on these obsolete craft to construct Uboats instead, they could have had an extra 75 Uboats available in the crucial 1940-1941 time frame which very likely would have been sufficient to starve Great Britain out of the war. At that time, the British antisubmarine forces were totally inadequate to contend against such a substantial Uboat force.

  60. #60 James Taylor
    May 30, 2007

    Possibly SLC, but the attrition tonnage war was not fully embraced strategically until after the Tirpitz and Bismark had been outfitted. Plan Z itself was canceled during 1939-40 and the remaining resources were turned over for u-boat construction. Had Plan Z never been instituted then I agree SLC, but the Germans failed to adhere to the blockade doctrine in the run-up to the war. Plan Z was initially formulated in 1933 and had it been embraced fully at that point, then it is likely the Graf Zeppelin would have been outfitted and battle-ready by Sealion changing the game significantly. Had Plan Z been forgone for the blockade strategy, then likely Germany would have had sufficient u-boat presence to strangle England. Plan Z became a millstone for Germany as it required so much industrial investment and resources. That is essentially why it was canceled as it was too little, too late. Likely the die was cast at Scapa Flow in 1919 with the scuttling of the German fleet in accord with the armistice.

  61. #61 SLC
    May 30, 2007

    Re James Taylor

    1. If I recall correctly, Plan Z was based on the premise that war with Britain would not occur until 1944. Given Hitlers’ aggressiveness, this was a very optimistic assumption.

    2. I would have to disagree that the existence of 1 German aircraft carrier would have made a difference in operation sealion. The problem with the proposed operation sealion was that the Germans had no proper landing craft. It should be noted that even the presence of a large force of landing craft, overwhelming navel superiority and total control of the air at the Normandy invasion did not guarantee a slam dunk for that operation. In particular, the Germans would have had great difficulty in transporting their panzer divisions, and their equipment, across the channel, much less supplying their tanks with fuel and ammunition. Further, given the weakness of the German surface fleet, they would have had great difficulty in keeping other forces which had been successfully transported supplied.

    3. With respect to the air campaign during the Battle of Britain, the Germans were heavily handicapped by the lack of long range fighter aircraft to protect the bombers. It is also the case that the bombers deployed by the Luftwaffe were entirely inadequate for the job. Being as how they were medium bombers with two engines, they were unable to carry sufficient bomb loads to be fully effective, they had insufficient anti-aircraft protection because of there relatively small size and had insufficient range to reach targets in Scotland and Northern England. Compare them with the British Lancaster and American B17 4 engine heavy bombers.

  62. #62 DuWayne
    May 30, 2007

    Matt Penfold -

    And you seem to be acting willfully obtuse (oh yes, insults add so much to debate), in assuming that Hawking’s hypothesis somehow means that TEs who believe something contrary to his hypothesis are wrong because of it. You also make the blanket assumption that all TEs believe, as a central tenet, that God kicked it all off. Neither of these assumptions is correct.

    Nor is it correct to assume that people who do believe that God kicked it all off, would be unable to objectively evaluate Hawking’s theory. As I said in my response to you, were there more evidence that his hypothesis is correct, some would shed their theism altogether, others would move the bar. Hell, just reading Hawking’s hypothesis would likely cause one of those two things to happen to some people. Others, myself included, aren’t terribly concerned about the notion that God was involved in instigating the big bang.

    You make an incredibly arrogant assumption that no one who has theistic beliefs is capable of approaching them, or ideas that contradict them, objectively. I think it would do you well to consider that the vast majority of people who are theists, who also accept science and evolution, started out with beliefs that are in conflict with evolution and adjusted them when they were presented with the evidence. I.e. most of them have already had to look at science that contradicted their theism objectively and found their theistic assumptions wanting, rather than assuming the science was flawed.

    So why do I find your accusation of willful stupidity ironic? Because you seem to assume that Hawking’s theory somehow disproves the central tenet of many TEs beliefs. Because you assume that all or even most TEs are incapable of looking at their faith, when apposed by science, objectively. Because you assume that all TEs believe that God kicked off the big bang as their central tenet. In other words, you make a lot of bald assumptions without a shred of evidence, and present them as though they are obviously true.

    It’s not that Ed didn’t “get it.” It’s your supposition that is flawed. I’m sorry to break it to you, but not all theists are anti-science. Nor are all theists unwilling or unable to look at their beliefs objectively.

  63. #63 James Taylor
    May 30, 2007

    SLC,
    1. Yes
    2. Yes, this is why it was imperative to finish Plan Z which would have given Germany at least three operational carriers to support the invasion and a large surface fleet to fend off the RN.
    3. Yes, the Condor was in service but was an unsatisfactory weapon system. German air doctrine demanded that all bombers should be capable of tactical bombing, so the heavy strategic bomber was low priority.

    You are arguing my original point which was the rush to war severely handicapped the German ability to execute the eventual objective of an invasion of Britain. The German High Command and strategic planners worked from the assumption that the war would not begin until 1944-45. The premature war made it impossible for Germany to develop both the naval means and the aircraft necessary to facilitate any invasion of England. Considering it takes years to fabricate a large naval warship and years to develop and field effective long range bombers. Politics necessitated the early war while the shortsightedness of the politicians by failing to provide the necessary means to prosecute the war is what cost them any chance of matching their overall objectives. Germany wanted to invade England, but had absolutely no means to do so in 1940. As a result, a gigantic hostile aircraft and amphibious base sat mere miles away from their newly won territory making the counter-invasion a forgone conclusion if the English could not be forced to capitulate. Now, had the blockade doctrine been the original plan, then the Germans could have easily tooled up for it in time for 1939, but it is clear that Germany intended to confront England directly with a surface fleet hence Plan Z and the tonnage war occurred because Germany could not execute the original plan due to the compressed time scale. The planners had not planned for Hitler’s war.

  64. #64 SLC
    May 30, 2007

    Re James Taylor

    1. The German experience in the First World War should have convinced the high command that attempting to build a large seagoing fleet sufficient to challenge the British Navy and at the same time support a massive ground (and air) force was beyond Germanys’ industrial capability. What did the High Seas Fleet accomplish in WW1? Absolutely nothing (it was only due to the incompetence of Beaty and the timidness of Jellico that the High Seas Fleet was not sunk at Jutland). The closest Germany came to winning the war at sea was during the resumption of the Uboat campaign in 1917. Thus Plan Z made very little sense from the get go.

    2. Another problem with Plan Z was that Hitler was fascinated by battleships. In fact, on the drawing boards was a plan to build a battleship displacing 130,000 metric tons and carrying twelve 20 inch guns! That’s twice the size of the Yamato, the biggest battleship ever built, which, by the way accomplished virtually nothing in WW2, other then offering a nice fat target for carrier aircraft.

    3. Without capable and sufficient landing craft to land mechanized divisions on the beaches it wouldn’t make any difference how many aircraft carriers Germany deployed. The US and Britain deployed some 20 fleet carriers along with a dozen battleships, and hundreds of landing craft of various types off of Okinawa and it was still a hell of a slogging match.

  65. #65 Matt Penfold
    May 30, 2007

    DuWayne,

    I am being obtuse ?

    You are the one who has shown more than once he is ignorant about cosmology and now you are showing you are ignorant about what the mainstream christian denominations have to say about cosmology.

    In addition you also seem to ignore the position of the mainstream christian denominations on matters such as prayer and miracles. Accpetance of the efficiacy of prayer, or the belief miracles happen are NOT compatible with a scientific attitude and yet ALL the mainstream denominations acceptance of both being central to their belief. Also partenogenesis birth has no record of ever happening in mammals, let alone humans, yet the Virgin birth is also central to christian belief ? Need I mention the ressurection ? None of these things are consistant with a scientific viewpoint, and person holding them must reject at least some parts of science.

    Now Miller is a Catholic. I have no idea what his views are on any of the above, but I do know what the church he identifies with believes, and it ain’t compatible with science. So either Miller does reject science, and you are a lying arsehole, or he does not, in which case he is hardly a good example of a TE, in which case you are a lying arsehole.

  66. #66 Matt Penfold
    May 30, 2007

    SLC,

    With regards your comments on Jutland, you are correct in saying Beatty was not competent, at least for failing to keep Jellicoe informed on where the High Seas Fleet was. You are also correct is saying Jellicoe was timid, however I am not sure that should be a criticism. Remember that for the Germans to win at Jutland they had to inflict a significant defeat on the British and sink a large number of their battleships (NOT battlecruisers!). The Royal Navy just needed to avoid being sunk, sinking a large number of German ships would have been nice but was not essential. You also need to remember Jellicoe had poor intelligence on where the Germans were, and more importantly (since Jellicoe was not afraid to go up against the High Seas fleet when he found) he did not know where the German U-boats were position. It was the U-boat and mine threat that stopped him from pursuing the Germans as hard as he might have done. When the two main fleets were in contact it was the German ships who suffered the most.

  67. #67 Iorwerth Thomas
    May 30, 2007

    “You are the one who has shown more than once he is ignorant about cosmology and now you are showing you are ignorant about what the mainstream christian denominations have to say about cosmology.”

    Speaking as a theoretical physicist, I *really* wouldn’t use the Hawking-Hartle no-boundary condition as an example here; it’s not currently popular or regarded as well supported, even compared to other speculative proposals.

    Secondly, you reference Hawking quoting the then Pope; the difficulty with your position is that the Pope’s remarks would have been binding on other Catholics only if he were speaking ex cathedra. He wasn’t, just offering his (slightly naive, in view of what Lemaitre said of similar remarks by one of his predecessors) opinion. I would like a bit more evidence than that before I concede that the view you describe is a mandatory, essential part of Christianity or TE in general, rather than a consequence of a naive and slightly wonky cosmological argument (especially as only one form of it works in the way you require).

  68. #68 SLC
    May 30, 2007

    Re Matt Penfold

    I would have to disagree with Mr. Penfold concerning the impossibility of a virgin birth. The fact is that there are a small number of persons that are born with both sets of sex organs (called hermaphrodites). I believe that such individuals have 48 chromosomes with the extra pair being an XY. Under some circumstances, it would not be impossible for such an individual to impregnate herself if the male organs were internal. Such a scenario would certainly qualify as a virgin birth, although not as described in the Christian bible. For Mr. Penfolds’ information, I recall reading about a case a long time ago in which a 13 year old by suddenly started bleeding from his anus. Physicians were unable to determine the cause of this condition at the time because Xrays were not in general use. This condition persisted until the man was in his mid forties. In between, he married and had several children. When he died, an autopsy was performed and it was discovered that he had a fully functional uterus and ovaries, with the vagina emptying into the large intestine.

  69. #69 DuWayne
    May 30, 2007

    Matt Penfold -

    You are the one who has shown more than once he is ignorant about cosmology and now you are showing you are ignorant about what the mainstream christian denominations have to say about cosmology.

    I haven’t made a single claim about cosmology, nor have I made any claims pertaining to mainstream Christian denominations. In fact this is the first time that you or I have referred to Christianity in particular. The conversation thus far, has referred to theistic evolution.

    I can tell you that using Catholicism for your understanding of mainstream Christian denominations, only shows your ignorance of Protestant Christianity in general. While many Protestants are ecumenical, in regards to Catholics (and vice versus), there exist profound differences.

    The church I attend is not a denomination that espouses a belief in evolution, nor have any Protestant denominations, in the U.S. that I am aware of. My church and some others that I am aware of, don’t make a big deal about parishioners accepting the theory of evolution, but espouse no opinion on how to reconcile it with Christianity. I would add that in the denomination I attend, my beliefs are rather heretical, as I do not accept the bible as divinely revealed truth.

    So if you are trying to backpeddle this discussion into a frame of what mainstream denominational views on evolution are, then I will have to bow out, as I am not aware of any official positions, except for that of the Catholic church (at least as explained by Ken Miller), which I strongly disagree with.

    I would add, that I have discussed theistic acceptance of evolution with a number of Christians and have nearly as many ideas about reconciling it with Christianity as there are people I have discussed it with. You are making the serious mistake of assuming that all, or even most, theists agree with and follow to the tee, their churches positions on everything. I can tell you from vast experience with moderate to liberal Christians, that few of them are aware of their churches positions on a lot of issues, much less prone to simply accept it.

    As for my understanding of cosmology, I should be clear that I have little education in that regard. Most of what I know has come from the little I learned in high school before I dropped out and from reading Sagan and a little of Hawking. The rest has been gleaned from various articles, mostly blogs.

    In addition you also seem to ignore the position of the mainstream christian denominations on matters such as prayer and miracles. Accpetance of the efficiacy of prayer, or the belief miracles happen are NOT compatible with a scientific attitude and yet ALL the mainstream denominations acceptance of both being central to their belief.

    I actually believe in them myself, though I dislike the word miracle, for the same reason that I dislike the word supernatural. As I have stated in earlier comments, I think that the notion that anything falls outside the realm of methodological naturalism, creates a false dichotomy. It is either natural and therefore potentially quantifiable (though it is obviously not now) or it does not exist. I don’t think that the notion of partitioning (such as Miller does) the “supernatural” away from empirical investigation is just plain wrong and does a great dis-service to religion.

    Also partenogenesis birth has no record of ever happening in mammals, let alone humans, yet the Virgin birth is also central to christian belief ? Need I mention the ressurection ? None of these things are consistant with a scientific viewpoint, and person holding them must reject at least some parts of science.

    The fact that they haven’t been observed, does not necessarily mean they are impossible. Not that I am making the claim that they have ever happened anyways – I wouldn’t make that claim, never having observed it myself. The fact that I do not reject the possibility that they could have happened, does not mean that I reject any part of science.

    Now Miller is a Catholic. I have no idea what his views are on any of the above, but I do know what the church he identifies with believes, and it ain’t compatible with science. So either Miller does reject science, and you are a lying arsehole, or he does not, in which case he is hardly a good example of a TE, in which case you are a lying arsehole.

    Good grief. In your world honesty may not mean much, but in mine it does. Only a quite contemptible excuse for a human being would accuse someone of lying, unless they actually have a good reason to do so. You assume, because you are making vast generalizations, that I accept and am arguing from your frame. Considering this is your first comment claiming that this is a conversation based on your generalizations, this is quite a claim to make. I never implied that I was speaking for everyone else, only that I am speaking in terms of the large number of TEs that I talked about this, many Christian, Catholic or neither. Christianity and Catholic Christianity, specifically, never entered the conversation.

    You have a lot of nerve, accusing me of lying – simply because I don’t agree with your framing. You are absolutely contemptible and you’re obviously, at least as ignorant as you claim that I am.

  70. #70 DuWayne
    May 30, 2007

    Sorry, this will be my last post on this thread, but I want to be quite clear.

    Matthew Penfold -

    I accept that my beliefs are a outside the “mainstream” such as it is. I have never claimed otherwise. When I have been making suppostions, I have been clear that that is what they are. I have never said that miracles are a scientifically proven concept, in fact, I have been clear that I deny the dichotomy that the notion of the spiritual is not out of bounds of methodological naturalism, something that a lot of theists claim should be.

    I don’t have a lot. I have very little in material possessions or wealth. I have little formal education, though I have quite a bit of informal education. One thing I do have is my integrity. When I am wrong, I am honestly wrong. What I come by, I come by honestly. Calling me a pedophile, would be only a little worse than calling me a liar. There are few things that I take offense to, call me crazy, call me most anything you like. Calling me a liar, based on my not accepting a frame that you haven’t defined, is not ok. It shows me that you are not worth addressing, because it implies that you have little regard for the truth. That is why I feel very sorry for you and have no interest in continuing to debate you.

  71. #71 SLC
    May 30, 2007

    Re James Taylor

    Again, I have to differ with Mr. Taylor as to the events at Jutland. I think that Mr. Taylor is correct in stating that Jellico was more interested in conserving his fleet then in winning the battle tactically. This is shown by his reaction to Sheer sending his destroyers to fire torpedos at the British fleet, in order to allow the latter to escape. As was pointed out by Mr. Taylor, the German ships were suffering heavy damage, despite the deficiencies of the British shells which tended to break up when hitting at an oblique angle. The tactics to be employed in avoiding a torpedo attack is to “comb” the torpedoes by maneuvering the the ships longitudinally relative to the torpedo tracks. This may be accomplished either by presenting the stern or the bow to the torpedo tracks. Jellico chose to present the sterns of his ships and retreated at nearly full speed so as to evade them. This allowed the German ships to disappear into the fog as the British ships quickly steamed out of range of their guns. A more aggressive commander would have presented the bows of his ships to the torpedo tracks and closed on the German fleet,keeping it within gunnery range. The notion that Jellico feared Uboats is a lame excuse. The Uboats of WW1 were far too slow to sail with the main battle fleets (in fact, they weren’t submarines at all, they were submersibles with rather limited endurance when submerged). This maneuver by Jellico has been defended by many British observers but has been heavily criticized by their American counterparts. As American navel historian H. Holloway Frost has pointed out, Jellicos’ tactics were hardly in the tradition of Nelson.

    An even more laughable excuse proffered by some British defenders of Jellico is that he wanted to conserve his fleet in order to have it available in case of war with the United States. The likelihood of the United States joining the war on the side of Germany was quite remote, to state it conservatively.

  72. #72 Matt Penfold
    May 31, 2007

    DuWayne,

    I would not call you a pedophile as I have no evidence that you are one. I do have evidence that you are not an honest person, and thus feel justified is calling you a lying arsehole. If you have problems with that the answer is simple, stop lying. But if you continue to maintain that mainstream christian belief, by which I mean the belief in the virgin birth, in the resurrection and in miracles, is compatible with a scientific viewpoint then I will call you for the liar that you are. If a person does not believe those things, in otherwords rules out the possibility of divine intervetion then we are no longer talking about conventional relgious belief, and are more into the type of relgious belief Einstein proposed, in which case using those people as an example of how you can be relgious and accept evolution is just plain silly.

    So sorry Duwayne, you are lying as far as I am concerned.

  73. #73 Orac
    May 31, 2007

    Guys, if you want to know why your comments keep getting moderated, it’s because the word “pedophile” happens to be one of the words that triggers the moderation/spam filter. I would also appreciate it if you both would tone it down.

  74. #74 James Taylor
    May 31, 2007

    SLC, you were responding to Matt Penfold above.

    As I have stated, I don’t disagree with your analysis. I am just looking at the order of battle from 1933 on. I completely agree that Plan Z was unreasonable as Germany could never catch up with the RN. Germany might possibly have begun rearming earlier and they could have learned more from their experiences in WW1 after-all they were the originators of strategic bombing yet failed to recognize the significance of the doctrine. The Wehrmacht did not have MBT’s going into Poland and had to wait for them to be fielded before even considering Blitzkrieg in the West. There were many short falls in planning, doctrine and outfitting. The Kriegsmarine was invested in a high seas fleet from the beginning which they should have anticipated as folly. They should have gone with the naval doctrine they developed in WW1 and they should have listened to Doenitz earlier, but they didn’t. I have stated from the beginning that Sealion and the resultant Battle of Britain were folly. I only speculated that the only way for Sealion to be successful was to heavily invest in the fleet; which they never did. The lack of dedicated landing craft is secondary to the lack of any means to defend the transports and landing operations. The successes in the West were fortunate but they were mostly due to the poor organization and bad doctrine of the French, the lack of coordination between the Allies, the freshly defined combined arms doctrine of Blitzkrieg and the training and readiness of the German military in ’39. None of these factors would help against England. Politics, cronyism and infighting drove the decisions and the result was an unfounded and almost moronic optimism of the capacity for Germany to wage war which also directly contributed to the Eastern blunder of war with the Soviets.

  75. #75 SLC
    May 31, 2007

    Re James Taylor

    This has certainly been interesting as Mr. Taylor and I have refought the battle of Britain in 1940 and the Battle of Jutland in 1916. I must say that I agree with most of his latest post, except for his comment that landing craft were secondary. I would argue that these vessels were at least as important as the air and navel support. In studying the history of amphibious operations, it become clear that there was a significant development that occurred between all the wars fought during and before World War 1 and World War 2. This was the advent of mechanization. No longer was it sufficient to just land troops on a beach (as for instance at Gallipoli). Armies now had to land their heavy motorized equipment. In particular, their tanks which even as early as 1940 weighed 30 tons or more. This required the invention of specialized landing craft specifically designed for this purpose, and which, prior to the Second World War, did not exist. The barges that the Kriegsmarine assembled in 1940 were hopelessly inadequate to the task. Without these specialized craft, an amphibious assault was doomed to failure, due to the lack of mechanized equipment for the troops.

  76. #76 James Taylor
    June 1, 2007

    SLC It has been interesting, but I never offered any commentary on Jutland. You have attributed Matt’s comments to me. Whatever.

    Specialized amphibious landing craft are significant, but as I said the whole operation was a pipe dream. The allies were still landing in launches at the beginning of the war and it wasn’t until the landings in North Africa that they even had true Higgen’s style front off-loading boats. The LST’s were developed and deployed for the same campaign. The Germans had zero experience with amphibious invasions with the exception of Norway which was carried out at ports anyway. It is only an obvious necessity that the allies realized after Dunkirk. Gallipoli did not even serve to demonstrate the necessity. The British had no specialized military transport ships as with Dunkirk they mobilized thousands of commercial and personal yachts to execute the exodus. Because they had no specialized transports, they had to abandon most of their equipment in France. This further served to deplete the British battle readiness as there were few tanks and artillery guns left in England after the collapse in the West. To say it is obvious to the Germans is incorrect as the Brits only figured it out by trial by fire. All amphibious operations before North Africa had previously been carried out with small draft launches with some success. Amphibious craft were a development of the middle war years. I agree, the Germans would have had a tough time without them against a prepared beachhead, but to say they are the absolute most critical element when they wouldn’t have even made it to the beaches without screening and fire support is myopic.

  77. #77 James Taylor
    June 1, 2007

    From Wikipedia

    The British evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940 demonstrated to the Admiralty that the Allies needed relatively large, ocean-going ships capable of shore-to-shore delivery of tanks and other vehicles in amphibious assaults upon the continent of Europe. As an interim measure, three medium-sized tankers, built to pass over the restrictive bars of Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, were selected for conversion because of their shallow draft. Bow doors and ramps were added to these ships which became the first tank landing ships, LST (1). They later proved their worth during the invasion of Algeria in 1942, but their bluff bows made for inadequate speed and pointed up the need for an all-new design incorporating a sleeker hull.

    At their first meeting at the Argentia Conference in August 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill confirmed the Admiralty’s views. In November 1941, a small delegation from the Admiralty arrived in the United States to pool ideas with the Navy’s Bureau of Ships with regard to development of the required ship. During this meeting, it was decided that the Bureau of Ships would design these vessels. The specification called for vessels capable of crossing the Atlantic and the original title given to them was “Atlantic Tank Landing Craft” (Atlantic (T.L.C.)). Calling a vessel 300 ft long a “craft” was considered a misnomer and the class was re-christened “Landing Ship, Tank (2)”. LST (2).

  78. #78 James Taylor
    June 1, 2007

    It was the Japanese that first figured out the specialized need for bow-ramp landing craft

    Wikipedia

    The Japanese had been using ramp-bowed landing boats in the Second Sino-Japanese War since the summer of 1937–boats that had come under intense scrutiny by the Navy and Marine Corps observers at Shanghai in particular. When shown a picture of one of those craft in 1941, Higgins soon thereafter got in touch with his chief engineer, and, after describing the Japanese design over the telephone, told the engineer to have a mock-up built for his inspection upon his return to New Orleans.

    It wasn’t until 1941 that the US had a purpose designed boat and while the Brits had the LCA in 1939, they did not have them in significant quantity and they had no means to transport heavy equipment in an amphibious operation until the LSTs were built in 1942.

    These were not inter-war developments. They are clearly middle war developments.

  79. #79 SLC
    June 1, 2007

    Re James Taylor

    1. Apologies for attributing Mr. Penfolds’ comments to Mr. Taylot.

    2. As I made very clear in my comments, the specialized landing craft capable of landing heavy mechanized equipment on a hostile shore did not exist prior to the Second World War. I never made any statement which implied that the development of such craft was an interwar activity.

    3. The point of bringing up Gallipoli was to note that a landing operation such as was conducted there (which incidentally faced little resistance) was not possible in the Second World War without specialized landing craft capable of landing heavy equipment. Mechanization of armed forces was in its infancy during WW1 and there was no heavy equipment, such as 30 ton tanks to be landed.

    4. I never made a statement claiming that the requirement for specialized landing craft was obvious to the German high command. The fact that the Germans never developed such craft is proof that they were unaware of the necessity.

    5. I am afraid that I am going to have to strongly disagree with Mr. Taylors’ contention that a significant surface fleet would have been required to support a successful invasion of Great Britain. Let us assume that the German air campaign against Britain had succeeded in at least forcing the British to deploy their aircraft north of London out of range of the German bombers. Let us also assume that the Germans had chosen not to build the two large battleships and three pocket battleships but instead had used the resources to build a fleet of 100 or more Uboats. Let us further assume that the Germans had developed and built a fleet of specialized landing craft capable of transporting tanks and other heavy equipment across the English Channel and landing it successfully on the English coast. The following scenario could have led to a successful invasion. (a) The Germans could have deployed their Uboat fleet at the Atlantic and North Sea entrances to the English channel to contest any attempt by the British Navy to send surface ships to interfere with the crossing. (b) This would have been supplemented by the Germans’ using their air superiority to attack any Royal Navy surface ships which managed to get by the Uboat screen. (c) The Germans’ air superiority would also be used to attack British forces attempting to repel the German invasion forces, thus substituting for navel gunfire support. (d) Using the developed specialized landing craft, the Germans would have landed a large invasion force spearheaded by fully equipped Panzer divisions sailing directly from the Pas de Calais. Clearly, the missing element here is the landing craft, as all the other ingredients could have been at least theoretically present, had the Germans chosen such an approach. This approach would also have had the advantage of allowing a guerre de course alternate strategy if the German high command had realized that some sort of specialized landing craft were necessary but unavailable.

  80. #80 James Taylor
    June 1, 2007

    SLC, I will agree to disagree. There are far too many alternate realities that could have occurred. I think we agree that the historical course was incompatible with the goals. I have played out the many scenarios many times and the naval requirement is significant; but of course, the conclusions from the simulations are only as good as the simulation is at modeling the many variables.

    Once again, I do agree with your assessments; however, I just don’t agree that the RN would have laid down without a significant fight even with the ports blockaded and facing air supremacy. The Japanese action at Leyte is exemplar that when faced with a dire need for naval attack on a landing force against these same odds, that the naval attack must occur. The Japanese turned back prematurely but had they not, the amphibious forces would have been decimated and MacArthur himself would likely have been killed. I doubt with an invasion of the home isle, that the Brits would have rolled over and run for friendly ports just to lose the entire fleet in flight anyway. They certainly would not have languished in port fearful of the loss of their capitals when the entire isle was faced with being overrun. The RN was the most powerful in the world at the time and tradition and pride would have mandated action against the invasion force regardless of the long odds. Planes cannot hold ground or sea and unguarded shipping would have been at the mercy of capital interdiction. Subs attacked on the surface in WW2 and operated at night as a result. I just don’t buy the scenario.

    It has been an interesting discussion SLC, but I think it is time to let it lie on my part as I have hijacked the thread enough. Thanks Orac.

  81. #81 SLC
    June 1, 2007

    Re James Taylor

    I really must protest Mr. Taylors’ habit of putting words in my mouth. I never made any statement implying that the British Navy would have turned tail and headed for Halifax, Nova Scotia. I think they would have bravely resisted to the utmost of their ability. I think, however, that there was a fair chance they would have lost, if the Germans had followed my scenario. I agree that we have pretty much hijacked this thread so I will refrain from refighting the Battle of Leyte Gulf, except to state that I think that history has been a little too hard on Admiral Halsey. The real culprit in the near disaster at San Bernardino Straits was back in Washington where the chiefs of staff of the army and navy couldn’t agree on a united command for the operation and President Roosevelt refrained from overruling them. Leyte Gulf is a textbook example of the perils of divided command.

  82. #82 James Taylor
    June 1, 2007

    Subs are not defensive they are aggressive. I don’t see how they are to defend the invasion forces. The capitals would just sail right through any sub screen and bowl through the landing operations. The aircraft would be attacking the port facilities, defending the landing craft and tactically supporting the landing troops. And I thought Goering was over-optimistic in the Luftwaffe capability.

    Last post on this promise.

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