Pharyngula

More on that Miller guy

I’ve now listened to a recording of Miller’s talk in Kansas. I like it even less.

Miller is an excellent speaker. He’s persuasive, he’s clear, he knows his science well, and he was an impressive participant in the conflict at Dover…and he was on the correct side. Here’s the problem: he’s wrong now.

What he does is an insightful and lucid analysis of the problems with creationism, and then tries to wrap it up by identifying the source of the problem. Unfortunately, he places the blame in the laps of atheists, which is simply absurd. We’ve got fundamentalists straining to insert religious nonsense in the school curricula, and Miller’s response is turn around and put the fault on those godless secular people who have antagonized good Christian folk, giving them perfectly reasonable cause to fear for their immortal souls. How dare we? It’s only understandable that Kansans would object to godless interpretations of science!

There are so many ways in which this is wrong:

  • There is a reasonable case to be made that creationism is a response to modern (in the sense that they’re less than two centuries old) ideas that threaten traditional beliefs. I’ve made the case myself that what court cases from Scopes to Dover have done is alienated ordinary people by highlighting the failings of strongly held myths. However, who needs to change here? These new ideas are a response to new evidence and new and better frameworks for understanding the world; Miller is making an appeal to the old by blaming the vanguard of the new, and legitimizing creationist biases against those who don’t share their religion.

  • His strategy involves simply throwing a rather large subset of the evolutionary biology community to the wolves; not literally, of course, but let’s redirect the political pressure they’re using to silence evolution to silencing atheists. This is pure demagoguery. Pick a group you know your audience dislikes, put the blame on them, and let the scapegoating begin. And don’t even try to pretend he’s trying to encourage an honest dialog: is that what we get in the debates over evolution with these people?

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

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

  • One of the implications of evolutionary biology is that it is a cruel and wasteful and undirected process (and if you think otherwise, trot out the evidence. The Intelligent Design creationists sure are anxious to claim a directing force, and for all their bluster, they’ve failed to support it…as Miller knows full well.) I don’t think we are well-served by trying to hide the inescapable conclusions of the evidence; we’re better off facing the truth and building our lives around the facts. Miller finds his reason to get up in the morning in imagining a little god-shaped bundle of love hiding somewhere out of sight, and belittles Dawkins by wondering how he can get out of bed in the morning without that delusion. I am much more respectful of Dawkins’ views, embracing ‘mere’ reality, and working towards a hopeful vision of the future in our humanity rather than a myth’s whims.

  • To those who disagree with my calling Miller a creationist: tough. I’ve read his book, I’ve listened to several of his talks. He believes that evolution is insufficient to explain our existence, and has to postulate a mysterious intelligent entity that just happens to be the Christian god as an active agent in our history, and further, he believes he can make common cause with more overt creationists by highlighting his religious beliefs. Theistic evolutionists are part of the wide spectrum of creationist beliefs, and that he personally endorses the power of natural processes in 99.99% of all cases does not change what he is, it just means we’re haggling over the degree.

Comments

  1. #1 Alon Levy
    September 9, 2006

    Well, some people just blame atheists first for everything. It’s always easier to play contrarian and find some random bogeyman associated with cultural liberalism to blame, than to say “The fundies are wrong, and here’s how we can show it to people.”

  2. #2 Randy
    September 9, 2006

    Call me ignorant, but I don’t know who “that Miller guy” is. Is it the biologist Kenneth R. Miller?

  3. #3 Peter Z.
    September 9, 2006

    Randy, yes, that very biologist, the one who writes high school textbooks.

  4. #4 Dave Carlson
    September 9, 2006

    PZ,
    I was with you until the last paragraph. To call someone who accepts the fact of common descent and who actively promotes mainstream Evolutionary Biology a creationist seems to stretch the meaning of the word “creationist” so far that–to me, at least–it loses any useful meaning. If Miller is a creationist, wouldn’t that make pretty much all Christians creationists, no matter what they’re views on evolution are? If so, it seems like a waste of time to label people like Ken Ham, Kent Hovind, and Duane Gish creationists if the label can’t distinguish them from Ken Miller, Howard Van Till and Wesley Elsberry, etc.

    I’m perfectly happy to allow Miller and others to insert “and then God added the immortal soul” into their personal beliefs about human history as long as they recognize that it is not a scientific idea, and do not try to treat it as such.

    But as I said, I agree with you about Miller’s “shove the atheists under the bus to make the creationists happy” strategy(assuming, of course, that this is an accurate representation of what Miller said; I haven’t listened to the speech myself).

  5. #5 Paul G. Brown
    September 9, 2006

    Curious PZ –

    What’s your take on Martin Gardiner style theism? The position Gardiner articulates in “The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener”? (That cranky Dane Søren Kierkegaard also bloviated on a similar theme.)

    I’m reconstructing here, but Gardiner’s “god” (note the lower case, and the quotations) is essentially a _subjective_ god. Gardiner buys all of the arguments for an _objective_ atheism, and has been at pains over the years to support and defend empiricism, skeptical thinking and even secular humanism. Yet what Gardiner finds hard to abandon is the _subjective_ experience of grace and wonder and humility at the intricate machinery of physical reality. When obliged to label the experience, he can only find one word with the right omniscient, mysterious connotations, and that word is “god”. (To put my words in his mouth, this “faith” is Lou Reed’s “faith” that ultimately “it’s gonna be all right”.)

    Of course, what this “god” leads to is a kind of solipsism – it’s awfully hard to talk to another about a subjective experience.

    But if someone like Gardiner or Houston Smith or Lou Reed had made this kind of speech as a Unitarian Universalist meeting (‘Spiritual and scientific … different magesteria … your argument is not with scientific thinking but but with the secular humanist world view ….anyone got a light?’) would you have had the same difficulty? Or is it your view that to do good science a scientist must be an atheist in a metaphysical sense?

    Curious –

  6. #6 j
    September 9, 2006

    I just got home, and I’ve finally read through all the comments from the previous Miller thread. I guess all I have left to say is that at least he writes good textbooks.

  7. #7 PZ Myers
    September 9, 2006

    Have you read Miller’s book, Dave? It’s an odd duck — I agree completely with the science, but then there’s all this flaky stuff about miracles and Catholicism. It’s really not that big a stretch to see the commonality.

    Paul: I have no problem with Gardner’s fideism, or Miller’s Catholicism, or Goodenough’s pantheism, or even Ken Ham’s fundamentalism — what they want to believe isn’t my business. What they want to promote in the public schools and in the offices of government is, and I want it all out. I don’t think, for instance, that Miller’s invocation of the possibility of a miracle at the onset of the Cambrian is appropriate or scientific.

    Yes, I would have the same problem with this nonsense at a UU meeting, although given the recent history of attacks on atheist persons and property in the Bible belt, including Kansas, it is particularly tasteless to talk about redirecting fundamentalists to attacking atheism.

    And no, I have repeatedly said that you do not need to be an atheist to be a good or even great scientist (shouldn’t that be obvious?) The practice of science is done without reference to the supernatural, but that says nothing about what human beings should always do with their brains.

  8. #8 poke
    September 9, 2006

    I don’t think Miller claims “and then God added the immortal soul”; he seems to believe that the evolution of humans was directed by God. I think he has some hand waving about quantum indeterminacy as the means of God’s control in his book.

    I’m not surprised by any of this. Miller’s theological claims have always been hokey; and his take on science is basically instrumentalism. It’s time to recognise that the rhetorical ideal of a Christian who doesn’t make any substantial claims about the natural world does not and cannot exist.

  9. #9 Anonymous Coward
    September 9, 2006

    PZ:

    What they want to promote in the public schools and in the offices of government is, and I want it all out.

    Where has Miller been promoting his faith in public schools or the offices of government?

  10. #10 SLC
    September 9, 2006

    In his book, Finding Darwins’ God, Miller makes the claim that the existance of the Heisenberg uncertainty principal is evidence for the existance of a supreme being, i.e. the supreme being wanted to make it impossible for intelligent life to know everything. The problem with this claim is that it may turn out to be a God of the Gaps if a deterministic hidden variable theory is uncovered.

  11. #11 Alon Levy
    September 9, 2006

    Does Miller’s high school textbook actually invoke God?

    Wow, and I thought YECs and IDists were destroying education…

  12. #12 Dave Carlson
    September 9, 2006

    PZ –
    I have read Miller’s book, but, to be honest, I don’t really remember much about Catholic/God stuff; I think I was paying closer attention to the anti-creo stuff.

    I understand your point, but I guess I still have a hard time lumping Miller in with Dembski, et al. All in all, I see him as more of an ally than not as a science promoter, but I guess I have tended to ignore him when he talks more about religion than science. Can you remind me where he suggested that the Cambrian explosion could be the product of a miraculous intervention? Was it in “Finding Darwin’s God?” If so, I’ve forgotten it.

  13. #13 Paul G. Brown
    September 9, 2006

    PZ –

    I will confess, in less celebrated circumstances than Miller’s at the University of Kansas (think – Rugby Club, The Dutch Goose, two hours into a post match/training drinking session) I’ve tried to make what I think are similar points to Millers; ie “It’s god v. no god boys, cos’ in a God-v-Science caged death match God just ain’t gonna show, if you want to debate meta-physics go for it but you better invite the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Now! who’s getting the beer.”

    But having listened to the tapes once (‘I’m glad we have this new technology / … / it gives us untold opportunity / … ‘) I think I can see what there is for an atheist or advocate of science teaching to object to in Miller’s talk.

    Yet – I dunno – Miller’s talk is pretty mild stuff, PZ, by the standards of this debate. I might just as easily have written a “One Cheer for Ken Miller” kind of response.

  14. #14 Chris Ho-Stuart
    September 9, 2006

    What I object to is the throwing around of “blame”. Miller disagrees with you. You disagree with him. That’s all to the good. But Miller is not throwing anyone to the wolves, and there is not the slightest indication he wants to silence anyone. (I’ve listened to the talk as well.)

    Miller perfectly correct to note that he has no particular disagreement with many scientists, and that people who frame this particular debate as being between science on the one hand and religion on the other are making a sharp distinction that is not actually accepted by many scientists.

    The people he disagrees with are the atheists. That’s fine. I welcome that and take no offence. Yes, I do disagree with him, and with good reason. I recognize and agree that this is not simply Christians against scientists; as those two sets overlap. Miller also disagrees with the creationists, and would like to see them drop creationism, and take up instead the question of religion in the context of what we know by science. I also think that would be progress.

    Miller does all of this with good grace. He does not demand that atheists be burned, or silenced, or thrown to wolves in any sense. His hope for a resolution of the wars over science and religion is not about hoping all the atheists will keep silence; but about wanting the ongoing debate to focus on the philosophical question of Gods existence, within the context of a common recognition of the basic material science. He was pretty plain about that in the talk. I also think that would be great.

    He’s not a creationist. He’s a Christian. The term “creationist” is a subset of Christian belief. You may think that the more significant “problem” is Christianity; that’s fine. Engage the debate, and I’ll cheer you on. But the term “creationist” has a particular meaning in that debate, and it merely obscures matters to conflate creationism with belief in God more generally. They really are different.

    Cheers — Chris

  15. #15 Steve LaBonne
    September 9, 2006

    Look people, the moment you invoke “goddidit” to explain ANYTHING in the observable world, you have left the domain of science. “Theistic evolution” is not science, indeed it is a (mild) form of antiscience. It differs greatly from full-on creationism in degree, obviously- but in kind it differs not at all. It may be impolitic to say that, but it’s the truth nevertheless.

  16. #16 PZ Myers
    September 9, 2006

    Alon: no, definitely not. I’m talking about Finding Darwin’s God.

    Paul: yes, it is mild stuff. The greatest heresies that evoke the strongest responses are the ones that are closest to you, that represent immediately discernable deviations. Miller is supposed to be on my side, helping people understand where we’re coming from, not telling the creationists that it’s open season on the godless.

  17. #17 George
    September 9, 2006

    Christianity Today: “Karl Giberson spoke with Miller about his faith, his public role as a defender of evolution, and the integrity of science.

    Did you ever have any misgivings about the prospects of integrating evolution with your Catholic faith?

    It’s an interesting question to ask, and the simple answer to it is no. I benefited from the way that Catholics are generally brought up, which is to believe, almost from the get-go, that there is no inherent conflict between faith and reason, between religious doctrine and science. If science seeks truth and religion reveals truth, then how can there be a conflict between these two aspects of the truth?” http://ctlibrary.com/11059

    Gee, if you speak in big enough generalities, I guess there can’t be a conflict! He says “religion reveals truth”. Is it this kind of revelation?:

    “Revelation may be defined as the communication of some truth by God to a rational creature through means which are beyond the ordinary course of nature.

    The truths revealed may be such as are otherwise inaccessible to the human mind — mysteries, which even when revealed, the intellect of man is incapable of fully penetrating. But Revelation is not restricted to these. God may see fit to employ supernatural means to affirm truths, the discovery of which is not per se beyond the powers of reason. The essence of Revelation lies in the fact that it is the direct speech of God to man.”

    Catholic Encyclopedia
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13001a.htm

    I hope he doesn’t accept that!

  18. #18 Pierce R. Butler
    September 9, 2006

    We’ve got fundamentalists straining to insert religious nonsense in the school curricula…

    And to keep safe contraceptives out of the hands of those who need them most, and to take over prison rehab programs, and to spread dangerous lies in lieu of health education, and to give their slogans and personnel special privileges in courthouses, and to force significant parts of the population into second-class citizenship (or to essentially clandestine lives), and to force physicians to recite thoroughly disproven horror stories to their patients, and to restrict public art & entertainment to the level they consider appropriate for small children, and countless other elements in a “culture war” they’ve declared on all the rest of us.

    Not to mention a couple of real, literal, blood-in-the-streets wars they’ve illegally launched in the most volatile parts of the world, apparently reassured that this will lead to the ultimate war, bliss for their own faction and endless hell for all the rest of us.

    Yeah, let’s all shut up and do our best to appease these irrationalists in every arena they choose to enter, sheltering them from any sort of criticism as carefully as his handlers do the faith-monger-in-chief. That way they may offer us the same consideration as some of their predecessors did when they were so merciful as to strangle certain witches before burning them at the stake.

  19. #19 PZ Myers
    September 9, 2006

    Chris, this is an interesting interpretation:

    His hope for a resolution of the wars over science and religion is not about hoping all the atheists will keep silence; but about wanting the ongoing debate to focus on the philosophical question of Gods existence, within the context of a common recognition of the basic material science.

    That’s actually one I would agree with. I entirely agree that the root of the problem is religion, and I also think that the only way to engage creationists in the long run is go straight to that root. However, I have two mental blocks that hinder my acceptance of that charitable interpretation:

    1. For every 10 or 20 creationist rants in my mailbox, I typically get one or two really aggressive complaints from fellow evolutionists who insist that wearing my atheism on my sleeve is hurting the cause. Sometimes they’re even ornerier than the creationists, and they never end by telling me that they’ll pray for me. I will admit that it is my bias, but I have a hard time hearing a Christian biologist telling me to bare my fangs and go straight for the god/godless debate.

    2. The really discombobulating thing about that idea is that it would put Miller on the opposite side from me, and on the same side with Dembski and Wells and Johnson. I’m trying to picture a complete change in the terms of the debate as Miller proposes, but it always results in him consistently arguing on their side. Is that really what he’s suggesting? That he’d be more comfortable in a debate with Dembski, and against Dawkins?

    OK, it’s just a little freaky. If Miller is actually proposing greater militancy by us secular scientists, though, it’s a great and provocative idea.

  20. #20 MrsCogan
    September 9, 2006

    Does anybody have a link to the talk?

  21. #21 PZ Myers
    September 9, 2006

    Jack Krebs posted some earlier.

    I recorded Miller’s talk, and have his permission to distribute it, although I am being somewhat limited in doing so because NPR also recorded it and intends to broadcast the whole thing in early November. However, for those of you interested the two sections of his speech associated with these religious issues can be found at http://24.124.37.19:16080/science/kenmiller.9-7-06/01.speech/04.speech3.mp3 and http://24.124.37.19:16080/science/kenmiller.9-7-06/01.speech/05.qanda.mp3

  22. #22 dorkafork
    September 9, 2006

    The problem with Miller’s use of atheists as scapegoats to “target” is that it reinforces the mistaken idea that atheists use evolution primarily as a weapon against the faithful and reinforces the mistaken idea of some sort of “atheist conspiracy” regarding evolution.

    Even though he may not intend to, he’s helping the creationists.

  23. #23 Chris Ho-Stuart
    September 9, 2006

    I don’t want to see Miller “sheltered”, or “appeased”. I want to see him engaged honestly. He’s not wanting anyone silenced. He’s not throwing anyone to the wolves. And he’s not a creationist. He’s a theist, and a Christian.

    Engage that by all means. He’s not denying any of the material conclusions of science that I have seen; he’s rather trying to express a view of God and God’s activity that is consistent with the material details of science. I think he fails in this. I’ve not read his book, but the reviews tell a common and unsurprising story. Although it presents itself as “Finding Darwin’s God”, the only bits that actually fit that title are towards the end, and they are by far the weakest parts of the book.

    The attempt to link him to witch burning and so on suggests to me that many of my fellow atheists are not being particularly rational in this engagement.

    To think he’s actually helping the creationists is bizarre. He’s the worst nightmare for the creationists; someone who comes in under the radar as a fellow theist and gets a hearing with young Christians who might otherwise see everything as a vast atheist conspiracy. Whether he’s helping Christianity remains to be seen…

    And for Paul – yes. I certainly don’t think you should refrain from holding Miller’s toes to the fire! It’s just that trying to do this by linking him with witch burners, or censors, or creationists, is not a particularly valid way to approach it.

    Miller is not suggesting greater militancy. What he suggests in his talk is “peace” in the evolution wars — that if Christians drop the ridiculous attack on solidly established findings of science, then perhaps we atheists might be willing to say, “oh well, at least you are not in conflict with science, and you have a consistent viewpoint”.

    That won’t happen. The creationists see it as giving up too much; and the fuzzy minded Miller reconciliation simply does not have the capacity to win and retain converts in the psychological games of religion. But even if the creationists dropped out of the picture, there’s still a difference between Miller and Dawkins (and Meiyrs, and Ho-Stuart) and that will continue to be engaged. I’d like to see Miller’s cordial and genial demeanor more widely adopted on all sides, but I don’t propose a spurious respect for all ideas as equally sensible. I think it is perfectly reasonable to point out that the coherence of Miller’s reconciliation of theism with naturalism is dubious, and that the mere fact he gives assent to all the material conclusions of science is not a free pass to saying he’s got a reasonable and consistent position.

    Cheers – Chris

  24. #24 Scott Hatfield
    September 9, 2006

    For the record, since I get emails from folk trying to get my take on this stuff:

    1) First of all, Dr. Miller’s beliefs never figure in the TEXTBOOKS he’s written with Dr. Levine; some posters seem confused on this point

    2) Secondly, I agree with Chris Ho-Stuart’s take on this stuff, but I think it would be reasonable to ask for a clarification from Ken Miller himself

    3) I’m a believer, but that has nothing to do with the practice of science. Skepticism in all its forms, including that regarding the God of Christianity, is essential to the conduct of science. I often disagree with PZ, but I would never attempt to muzzle him just to make it easier to ‘sell’ evolution; Dr. Miller’s remarks can be easily interpreted as scapegoating atheists, and that’s wrong. We can and should defend evolution on its merits without attempting to silence skeptical voices

    Seriously…Scott

  25. #25 George
    September 9, 2006

    Maybe Ken Miller will tell us whether he believes the Pope is infallible:

    “How can a mere man be infallible? Is that not a prerogative of God alone?

    God alone is essentially infallible, for, as the Absolute Truth, He cannot deceive or be deceived. God can, however, make the Pope infallible as His representative upon earth, in order to safeguard His divine revelation. That He has done so is proved by the Sacred Scriptures and by the history of the Church.”

    http://www.catholicapologetics.net/qb79

  26. #26 jeffw
    September 9, 2006

    I read Finding Darwin’s God. The first half was very good. The last half, well it was a real struggle to finish it. He seemed to pin just about all of his faith on quantum theory and uncertainty, as being a place where god can hide from science, since we can’t (even in principle) ever come up with any “materialistic” or deterministic reason for it. What he didn’t tell you is quantum theory doesn’t help his case either, since it is *by definition* utterly random, and doesn’t work if there’s a god pulling strings.

  27. #27 PZ Myers
    September 9, 2006

    When I read Finding Darwin’s God, I would not have made a hyperbolic comment about witch-burning. There’s a difference between promoting a belief that I find mistaken, as he does in the book, and telling an audience of Kansans that they’ve been shooting the wrong target.

    What he suggests in his talk is “peace” in the evolution wars — that if Christians drop the ridiculous attack on solidly established findings of science, then perhaps we atheists might be willing to say, “oh well, at least you are not in conflict with science, and you have a consistent viewpoint”.

    I don’t get that at all. It doesn’t even make sense.

    “If you unilaterally abandon the center of all of your arguments, those other guys over there might stop arguing with you.”

    I just can’t believe that Ken Miller would be that clueless about the creationist position. I mean, the suggestion that the reason Christians adopt creationism is because they’re in a snit over the fact that atheists don’t accept that Jesus, and that all we have to do is say “Christians, you’re OK! Group Hug!” and they’ll all go, “OK, and yeah, we admit, the world is 4 and a half billion years old and we know we really evolved from unicellular ancestors” is just too cute.

  28. #28 PZ Myers
    September 9, 2006

    He’s the worst nightmare for the creationists; someone who comes in under the radar as a fellow theist and gets a hearing with young Christians who might otherwise see everything as a vast atheist conspiracy.

    Eh. I don’t know about that. I see relatively little criticism of Miller from creationists…certainly nothing comparable to what we see against Dawkins. Not that they couldn’t be trembling in such fear of Miller that they’re afraid to mention his name, it’s just not detectable. Or maybe Dawkins is just a better boogeyman.

    It also flies in the face of Miller’s thesis that it’s the militant atheists driving Christians towards creationism. If that were the case, wouldn’t they instead be relieved to see Miller, a role model who at last gives them an excuse to give up that anti-science nonsense?

  29. #29 plunge
    September 9, 2006

    You paint it as scapegoating. I don’t get this. Of course Christians disagree with atheists abd vica versa on matters of religious belief. Why is that a surprise? He’s saying that if you disagree with atheists, disagree with atheists. Don’t disagree with the science, or even the science of people who happen to be atheists.

    You act like there are no atheists running around telling religious believers that they are weak minded idiots. Well, there are. Plenty of them. Do you think that Miller as a scientist MUST agree with those opinions, or else he’s siding with the creationists? Or can he disagree with them, and say “disagree with the atheists as atheists that say these things, not scientists as scientists”? Or must the bashing be 100% one-sided before it’s acceptable?

    “In his book, Finding Darwins’ God, Miller makes the claim that the existance of the Heisenberg uncertainty principal is evidence for the existance of a supreme being, i.e. the supreme being wanted to make it impossible for intelligent life to know everything.”

    That’s not what I rememeber. I remember that entire section not as “this is evidence of this that proves God” but rather “creationists have no imagination: science is a better fit for theology.” The whole section is premised on the idea that if you believe in God, science need not be seen as constantly making religion smaller, but can instead deepen your understand of God’s creation. I didn’t believe a word of that section, but I also wasn’t knee jerk against the idea that a believer has the right to look at the science, and figure out how to reconcile it with their faith.

  30. #30 Dave Carlson
    September 9, 2006

    PZ said –

    “It also flies in the face of Miller’s thesis that it’s the militant atheists driving Christians towards creationism. If that were the case, wouldn’t they instead be relieved to see Miller, a role model who at last gives them an excuse to give up that anti-science nonsense?”

    Well, I’m equally skeptical about the idea that militant atheists are the primary reason that so many Christians embrace creationism, but I’m betting the reason that Miller wrote “Finding Darwin’s God” and gives speeches like the one we’re talking about here is precisely what you’ve described. He hopes to both present the evidence for evolution and also try to make the case that evolution is not incompatible with Christianity. Whether or not he has any chance of succeeding at this latter goal, I don’t know. Since I’m not a Christian, my natural inclination is to be ambivalent about the whole; after all, why should I care about what is and is not compatible with a belief system that I don’t believe in? But as a science-phile, I wish him success purely for pragmatic reasons–namely, I want good science to win the culture wars.

  31. #31 Kristine
    September 10, 2006

    I’m with Steve LaBonne: Look people, the moment you invoke “goddidit” to explain ANYTHING in the observable world, you have left the domain of science. “Theistic evolution” is not science, indeed it is a (mild) form of antiscience.

    I’m with you all the way, Steve. Problem is, I’ve been debating with myself whether or not to get a creationist relative Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God for Christmas (from “Santa”). I’ve always been of two minds about Miller and I have to admit that I have not read the book and intend to before making it a present, but now I’m more ambivalent about Miller than ever. What’s better? Possibly providing an avenue for a relative to finally accept evolution or just leaving it alone? I’m pretty disappointed in Miller now.

  32. #32 Ilya Zlatkovsky
    September 10, 2006

    Hi all, this is my first time writing anything but I’ve been reading some of the blogs around here for a little while. Firstly, I would like to say that Schrodinger’s equation is the best guess we have right now, and in the future, it is possible that we can develop a better model to desribe the location/spin of an electron. So I don’t really buy that as an explanation of Yahweh’s existence.

    Secondly, PZ is right, c’mon, the guy is a creationist. It sounds to me that Miller “sort-of” believes in evolution. From what I understand, his argument boils down to the same argument as the ID argument. There is no epistemological proof pertaining to his personal theory about how the world was created, yet he still wants to surrender to the possibility that God started it all up. Its just as hokey as reincarnation, but at least the Hindu’s have the whole conservation of energy thing going for that idea. Basically, I think its irresponsible for biologists, particularly the evolutionary kind to mention anything about Allah’s/God’s/Yahweh’s involvement with the creation of life.

    -Ilya

  33. #33 Gilgamesh
    September 10, 2006

    If you check Ken Miller’s testimony in the Dover case, he admitted to being a creationist in the general sense – that is, he believes that God created the universe. He rejects creationism in the sense that the word is most often used, that is, as referring to a literal interpretation of Genesis as historical fact. He also repeatedly testified that he believes, “God is the author of all things seen and unseen,” which is certainly suggestive of a general creationist belief system. So PZ is correct, in the most general sense of the word, Ken Miller is a creationist.

    What I don’t understand is why Professor Miller, a bright and personable fellow in my opinion, would pin blame for the Evolution Wars on atheists, who insist on belief based on facts, rather than the religious faithful, whose beliefs require (and have) no factual basis. This is analogous to blaming the MD for the resentments of folk healers who employ leeches and bloodletting in unsuccessful treatments of infections. Choosing faith over facts inevitably means that the world is going to continually “test” your faith with reality. The rational person accepts reality; the irrational person gets angry and blames the rational person for the fact that his beliefs don’t hold up in the real world. Miller should be urging creationists to just accept the fact that their beliefs are not supported by evidence in the real world and to stop blaming those who take a more scientific view.

  34. #34 Scott Hatfield
    September 10, 2006

    Kristine:

    I also agree with Steve LeBonne that theistic evolution is a metaphysical position that invokes a Creator, and is thus ‘Creationism Lite’, outside the domain of science. That’s just one of the reasons I’m careful to stipulate that I do not consider myself an ‘evolutionist’, theistic or otherwise.

    However, I’m not certain if Miller’s views qualify as an ANTI-science position, so I might part company with Steven’s description there. Miller invokes quantum indeterminancy in a very fuzzy (and, frankly, not all that convincing way) to whistle up a version of theistic evolution that’s also non-falsifiable. So his view doesn’t oppose science so much as it simply avoids making any declarations that science can test.

    In any case, by all means, read the book as it will provide you with more context to evaluate Miller’s views. As a skeptic, pay careful attention to the chapter called ‘The Gods of Disbelief’ and decide for yourself if he is scapegoating atheists, or merely raising principled objections.

    Cordially…Scott

  35. #35 David Wilford
    September 10, 2006

    Miller may not be a creationist with a capital “C”, but he certainly does believe in a theistic Creator and I think that is ultimately what leads him astray here. Making atheists out to be bogeymen because they dare to be, in Dawkins’ words, intellectually fullfilled by Darwin’s fundamental insight, isn’t getting at the root of the problem with creationism at all, which is the willful ignorance of reality that doesn’t square with creationist’s religious beliefs. It isn’t the fault of atheists that the science better supports their side of the argument than it does the theist’s side!

  36. #36 Lettuce
    September 10, 2006

    plunge said:
    You act like there are no atheists running around telling religious believers that they are weak minded idiots. Well, there are. Plenty of them.

    Someone around here once said that religion is a hole in the brain.

    I’ll buy that.

    I believe Ted Turner also had an opinion on the subject:“Christianity is a religion for losers.”

    So, yes, some say that.

  37. #37 David Wilford
    September 10, 2006

    There are always those who sneeringly point fingers and call names, and their ranks include both theists and atheists. But that isn’t Ken Miller’s reported point here, which is that atheists are somehow misconstruing evolution for their own ends. I fail to see how that is, myself.

  38. #38 Chris Ho-Stuart
    September 10, 2006

    Paul says:

    When I read Finding Darwin’s God, I would not have made a hyperbolic comment about witch-burning. There’s a difference between promoting a belief that I find mistaken, as he does in the book, and telling an audience of Kansans that they’ve been shooting the wrong target.

    If you look at Ken’s own words in his talk, the “target” he identifies is the ideas of atheism. Not the individuals. Not the athiests as people. That’s why it is so utterly stupid to speak of witch-burning.

    In fact, you and Miller are actually saying much the same things as far as identifying appropriate targets go. Both you and Miller think that the fundamental issue is not between “old earth”/”young earth”, or “evolution”/”creation”. It is between belief and disbelief; between faith and skeptisicm.

    The rest of your comments about the naiveity of Miller thinking that the path to peace lies in creationists just deciding to give up the whole basis for their position, I agree with entirely.

    My objection to your blog posts has not been because you dare to disagree with Miller, or because of some objection notion of breaking ranks against creationists. I like to see robust and forthright engagement between atheism and theism; go for it.

    My objection is simply to the irrational remarks about being thrown to wolves, or witch-burning, or silencing critics — all of which are about as far removed from Miller’s approach as could be imagined.

    Cheers — Chris

  39. #39 Aerik
    September 10, 2006

    Dave Carlson wrote:

    I’m perfectly happy to allow Miller and others to insert “and then God added the immortal soul” into their personal beliefs about human history as long as they recognize that it is not a scientific idea, and do not try to treat it as such.

    No. You can’t use the scientific method (methodological naturalism) just 99% of the time and still call yourself a scientist (I’m almost quoting PZ exactly or somebody he once quoted here). Ken Miller has become a creationist because

    1. He stops using reason and the scientific method when it is conventient for him,
    2. His designer “happens to be” the Christian god, and
    3. His design arguments are parallel to ID – a Christian creationist sect; and like them, his catalyst is human evolution.

    Can it not be any more clear he is a creationist? I think not.

    Paul G. Brown wrote:

    Yet what Gardiner finds hard to abandon is the _subjective_ experience of grace and wonder and humility at the intricate machinery of physical reality. When obliged to label the experience, he can only find one word with the right omniscient, mysterious connotations, and that word is “god”.

    To get to exactly what is wrong with Gardiner… Beauty is not an argument. End of discussion. It’s a fallacy.

    And now I want to talk to PZ.

    Every other thread or comment or so, I keep seeing you say, “I don’t care what he believes” or “what they want to believe isn’t my business.” But I don’t think that’s really true. We know you care what they believe because, as is the bulk of the content of your blog, their beliefs have consequences in the real world, and to other very real people, and that makes their beliefs more than relevant. I don’t see why you have to go out of your way to excuse people’s back-ass-wards ways of thinking by saying you have no business in their beliefs. You know, I know, and I’m sure many rational thinkers know that faith – no matter how mundane – is moral failing.

    Faith declares that some beliefs – these important ones right at the center of my world-view that shape how I see many other things – need not be justified at all.

    If one’s beliefs cannot be justified, and if one’s actions are shaped and motivated by one’s beliefs, then one’s actions cannot be justified. Oh, the actions of the faithful might accidentally be consistent with justifiable actions – but that would be pure luck, really, and could just as well have turned out otherwise.

  40. #40 David Wilford
    September 10, 2006

    Chris, what I find objectionable with Miller’s reported speech isn’t any personal attack against me as an atheist, it’s his assertion that it is somehow my fault as an atheist for citing Darwin’s theory of evolution in support of my own atheism for upsetting and motivating creationists. I should hope they are upset when confronted with information that contradicts their beliefs, but unlike Miller I think that’s a good thing. What’s the point of teaching any science at all if we don’t allow it to inform the wider debate?

  41. #41 George
    September 10, 2006

    Seeking Papal support
    Christian Century, Sept 20, 2005
    “Physics professor Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland … wrote to Pope Benedict XVI in July [2005] asking that the Catholic Church not “build a new divide, long ago eradicated, between the scientific method and religious belief” and asking the pope to clarify the church’s position on evolution. Cosigning the letter with Krauss, a popular science author, were two Catholic biologists, Kenneth Miller of Brown University and Francisco Ayala of the University of California-Irvine. They are among scientists worried about a revised Catholic stance on evolution as expressed by Vienna cardinal Christoph Schonborn in the July 7 New York Times. Schonborn wrote: “Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense–an unguided, unplanned process … is not.”
    http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_19_122/ai_n15674702

    Why are they compromising themselves by asking the Pope anything, for crying out loud? It seems ridiculous that a scientst, in this day and age, is asking a Pope to make a science-friendly pronouncment about evolution. Who the hell cares what the Pope thinks about it? What does he know?

  42. #42 Inoculated Mind
    September 10, 2006

    In a sense, Miller was playing right into the hands of the creationists by reinforcing the myth that atheists are using evolution to attack religion – and that that is what the creationists take issue with.

    However, William Dembski claimed that Ken Miller was a closet IDist, which was obviously wrong. Now, it seems, that PZ has also played into the creationist’s hands:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/1576

    What are we to think about this? IDists would rather have Ken Miller on their side than not, because unlike them, he’s actually does science. Sometimes Stephen J. Gould played into the creationists’ hands with some of his descriptions of evolution, is he a creationist, too?

    Ken Miller is not a creationist, and although you are riled up, PZ, as I am, calling Miller a creationist is a mistake, both factually and tactically. I’m preparing an email to send to Miller when I have listened to the clips, and I’m going to complain about his scapegoating non-religious scientists to win an audience. His words sound like they were divisive and inaccurate, from what I have read and my own personal experiences. Evolution parts ways with a literal reading of most holy texts – and that’s something that Ken Miller needs to recognize as a problem for science – and not point fingers at those who have no need to reconcile a really old book with modern science.

  43. #43 Bro. Bartleby
    September 10, 2006

    As all baseball fans know, “you can’t steal 1st base.” So my problem is that the Darwin community is stealing 2nd and 3rd, and some even make it to home, yet none of them have ever gotten to 1st. With the wave of the hand, pre-Stephen Hawkin Big Bang, or even the 11-dimentional world of String Theory, all are brushed aside, for connecting fossilized hip bone to leg bone is easy, all that occurs on 3rd base! Say the Cosmos is composed of strings, tiny strings, on the scale of a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter — Planck length. Let’s tease this fabric a bit, and oh yeah, and ponder all those dimentions up to the 11th. Folks, we haven’t gotten to 1st base yet, so all you who are standing on 2nd and 3rd, rubbing your hands, well, face it, you stole 1st base, because that’s the only reason to explain where you’re at now.
    Shalom,
    Bro. Bartleby

  44. #44 Alon Levy
    September 10, 2006

    The quantum part is something he couldn’t mangle more if he were a lit crit professor. There’s a reason random fluctuations in quantum mechanics are called random: it’s because there’s just no way of predicting them, on the small or large scale. You don’t need a hidden variable theory to realize that suggesting that the FSM is driving subatomic interactions is just plain nuts.

  45. #45 Interrobang
    September 10, 2006

    Miller’s response is turn around and put the fault on those godless secular people who have antagonized good Christian folk, giving them perfectly reasonable cause to fear for their immortal souls.

    This part is giving me flashbacks. It reminds me of coming home from school and telling my mom that the other kids were beating me up again, and having her say, “What did you do to make them mad?”

  46. #46 Rey Fox
    September 10, 2006

    “you can’t steal 1st base.”

    You mean like invoking the Bible to explain creation?

  47. #47 Ritchie Annand
    September 10, 2006

    Ken Miller stills does some of the best, most accessible presentations smacking Irreducible Complexity, and basically anything else Behe has come up with, down on the mat and making it give up. Watching those talks is downright fantastic.

    I’m going to keep my reaction in check until I see whether the non-atheist attendees took away the wrong message.

  48. #48 Bob O'H
    September 10, 2006

    It strikes me that the problem here is that there are two (connected) debates. The first is the scientific one over evolution. Here PZ and Miller are in agreement, and the Creationists are on the other side. The second debate is the theological one: does a God exist. Obviously Miller lines up with the Creatioists (although he may disagree with them on the finer questions of what this god is like).

    I think the problem is that these two debates get conflated: this is what Dawkins started (inadvertantly, I presume), and the fundies have been doing ever since.

    If I read Miller correctly, his argument is that there are two debates, and that the fundamental one is the theological debate, not the scientific one. The debate should therefore be about theology, not evolution. After all, if one looks at the evidence, there shouldn’t be a debate about evolution.

    Whilst this would make sense, the problem is controlling the agenda. At the moment, the IDers and Creationists have managed to keep the debate on evolution, and it will be difficult to wrest it away.

    What this means (I think) is that we do have to be careful about which debate we are discussing. As long as the fundies control the agenda, and focus on evolution, then I think we have to make sure we stick to that debate, and make it clear that it’s not a theological debate, and that people of different beliefs come to the same scientific conclusions. One the other hand, a different strategy would be to try and move the debate on to theology. The problem is that this will only work if the fundies allow it.

    The thing not to do is to try and debate both points at the same time: that way you’ll divide your own side. If you’re an atheist and pro-evolution, then this is a pretty good way of losing both arguments.

    Bob

  49. #49 G. Tingey
    September 10, 2006

    “Chris, this is an interesting interpretation:

    His hope for a resolution of the wars over science and religion is not about hoping all the atheists will keep silence; but about wanting the ongoing debate to focus on the philosophical question of Gods existence, within the context of a common recognition of the basic material science.
    That’s actually one I would agree with. I entirely agree that the root of the problem is religion, and I also think that the only way to engage creationists in the long run is go straight to that root.” ….

    No god is detectable, even if that god exists.
    Unless and untilthis testable hypothesis is disproved, then the default position must be that of an agnostic, at the least.

    This is a testable / empirical / scientific proposition.
    Let the christian believers, and other believers try to prove me wrong, or, alternatively, will they please shut up?

  50. #50 ConcernedJoe
    September 10, 2006

    Rule of the Game

    I depend on scientists, doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. to address real (nothing to do with metaphysics) world life and death issues for me or loved ones. I have every right to demand that they seek and apply real (nothing to do with god) world answers to everything they do for me, regardless of their belief in ethereal beings. If your beliefs REALLY in a practical sense dictate your actions and conclusions, please don’t apply for the job.

    Want to Debate the Rule?

    Let me talk to you next time your 8 year old kid is lying in some hospital bed with death at their door. Let me talk to you after all the doctors and nurses and technicians decide to drop the paddles and alternatively drop to their knees and pray when she’s in cardiac arrest.

    Here’s What I Think

    Anyone who doesn’t prescribe to my rule for themselves is very ignorant, or mentally feeble, or a liar, or demented, or criminally demented, or coerced, or any combo.

    Here’s What I Think (Part 2)

    Theist out there here is one for you: anyone in a foxhole who is still ducking for cover, defensively shooting, etc. is an ATHEIST! Actually there are few if any FAITHFUL in foxholes … when the chips are down most people act like ATHEISTS not like FAITHFUL! Actions man – they speak louder than words!

    Parting Shot

    I don’t need any fairy tells to have meaning, be moral, do good, think, be productive, etc. The fact that you (Miller, et al) are so insecure at some level that you have to construct a Zeus or something to float your boat doesn’t mean I should or kowtow for those that do.

  51. #51 lo
    September 10, 2006

    What i don`t get with most people is how one cannot understand how inefficous all this effort to rant etc, is. I usually don`t do it at all, because there`s no use in it.

    Neurologically speaking the only effect you can really make is within the early years of a child, after that the effect lessens and takes more and more time.

    The only reason PZ blogs is because it is rewarding for him (neurochemically speaking). In reality however religion doesn`t start with some innate spiritulaity (like that every person on this planet believes in the diviness of the norht korean totalist Kim Il-sung – may i just say KIM, there is no god but kim- sorry for that i just couldn`t help it….weird huh).

    PS: On the contrary if anyone should be god (and i am up for a vote) than god `ol lil kim, not only because he`s so cute looking but also because he`s a smarter god than the pope (oh yeah the pope ain`t god i forgot) who doesn`t even get exactly how he manipulates his “own people”, and the mechanisms behind it. What a frigging iditot, that of course manifests itself in terms of efficacy – the pope as much as he might wish for cannot even command a few holy warriors to do some assasinations in the name of god, whereas Kim does it all the time, with total ease.
    Besides Kim loves you, gives you double the time in afterlife and protects you with his divine powers (don`t argue with me i`ve had enough already, or i`ll send kim`s warrior to assasinate your wimp jesus guy and those other two iditots). Oh and for each assasination you at a whore in afterlife. Yes a relly, really stupid, retarded one like paris hilton.

    So who`s up for kim – cmon he`s a really strong god….
    no-one…weird, why didn`t it work….In north korea it works all the time 99.9% efficient.

    Do you finally get me point, even with all the blogging success in reality PZ makes not even a dent, hardly a difference at all. It`s almost a waste of time – IMHO he could do way more with more basic research.

    Reading already requires a sophistication and is probably the less eficient medium there is when it comes to manipulating the minds of people, and that`s what it is all about. For every thousand of hours PZ spends on blogging (that means years of blogging IRL) there runs a one hour cretionists movie, created with very little effort on PBS but using the most weighted senses that is the the auditory and visual ones. After that the lil kiddie will start to associate and see ID everywhere. As a scientist the only difference you can make is by understanding how society works – in fact human psychology and target and address the same methods the state and everyone else uses – that is difficult requires power, lots of time and money. But it can gradually increase the numbers of scientists – meaning it increases your life expectancy (bew aware that currently i estimate way LESS than 0.1 promille of the world population are contributing scientists – including all doctors submitting medical reports/papers, a.s.o).

    In fact the greatest difference for the US can probably be made by making people aware that there should be a new law passed who can and who cannot become a presidential candidate. The economy and everyone else would principally understand that a first grade product is way more efficient than having some third grade rotten product if you can have both at the same price. The new upcoming candidates on the list are just as frigging iditots as bush.

    So i deem to not understand human psychology fairly well but also societies – let`s not kid ourselves, even with the greatest of success you hardly make any difference at all.

    If people actually wana make a difference, than with some brain and method – in fact the same methodology that the discovery institute uses – AND EVERONE ELSE (duh we live in the 21st century, human psychology and the essential human brain conserved in all of us is no secret ANYMORE!). They are not iditos but are about making cash, the same way scientiology makes his cash and every other sect for that matter (some get so entangled as to ultimately believe that crap themselves – because to convey that shit without breaking out into laughter under any situation you gotta repeat and repeat and repeat that over and over again in dry runs so to speak). IN fact WOuld i rather write a book about alien bullshitt or a scientific textbook if i were interested to earning some cash. Some idito wrote a textbook about Atlantis and how the aliens brought us there and provided us with language and whatnot – sold 12 million times. It`s not that people all believe in the supernatural, it is that people are trained to believe in the supernatural, in things they don`t see the easter bunny, jesus this and that. Did it ever occur to anyone that there are studies that in fact the imagainary-friend phenomenon seen in children is rather a western culture phenomenon in kids and hardly seen in industrial worlds, where kids are mostly trained in survival and not in the believe of some ghosts and whatnot. Does anyone really have an idea how the perception of the television dreck running 24/7 alters brain function in later life on. I frankly don`t know but you certainly don`t either (I know though that there are studies to everything, so i am not so ignorant to actually believe one cannot know as of yet) – what I and every scientists knows is that it does of course alter you because it is in essence experience (in fact it is even more drastic than that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neurons).

    So at LEAST be reasonable and true to ourselves and let`s not be in denial, we blog post and rant here not because we make any difference at all (your efficacy PZ over a nationwide tv programm is probably around 0.0001%) for the mere reason every human does anything, to get a neurochemical reward. In essence a humanist is as frigging egoistic as a mass murder, just with very different associations as to what is linked with reward or actual pathology in the reward pathway (but that is really hard to assess given how easy it is to train a kid to get a high out of killing the same way you do with a lab rat in a psychological experiment). Duh! – the reward pathway is the only purpose in life and is highly conserved.

    Oh and i am just as egoistic as everyone else, because i get the greatest reward out of the mere imagination how much more years i can have (80, 90,….) all a number that is affected virtually only by the number of scientists doing basic research. So i don`t give a rats ass about either the humanist or mass murderer. Society works well enough to not care about either one of those either: the mass murderer is ultimately locked away with great media coverage dramatic interplay and whatnot giving actual rise to inspire others whereas the humanist will probably hardly ever appear in the media and hardly inspire anyone other than his imaginagiary friends (god, jesus, Kim, me,…).

    Don`t worry – this is gonna be my last rant for quite some time. That being said, there is no GOD but Kim – so if there are christians on this board – and you probably discussed as a kid who would win in a fight of godzilla vs. jesus, and whilst most kids were all for godzilla for sure, whilst you argued that god would just zap godzilla with his divine power-bolts [which are actually caused by cosmic divine particles], i then ask you who would win this fight jesus (the psychotherapist) vs. the powerful Kim Il sung (the psychologist):
    http://www.moreorless.au.com/killers/kim-il-sung.html

    So to conclude this: PZ you don`t even make a scratch, go show some iniative in the cephalopod sequencing instead, and do not kid yourself about blogging, or hook up with media guys and whatnot.

    My gripe with the religious idiots out there is that they all exploiting neurodevelopment routines of newborns (deeply rooted in our genes) but are too fu**** stupid to even get what exactly they are exploiting. Hence i have ALMOST more respect for people like Kim than i have with such effing religious iditots who try to heal themselves with prayers, and end up in the clinic anyways.

    Religion in itself is a group dynamics phenomenon with positive feedback. It starts with a vision and ultimately even the leader becomes more and more convinced of the concept itself because of the group feedback. So i am sure Kim Il sung knows by now that he is a divine god who arose from the water and it is not a lie anymore.

    Religion will gradually die out however as societies evolve and we will see the need for eugenetics. Everyone who says that eugenetics have been there before are friggin iditots.
    Eugenetics is the evolution of prenatal genetic diagnosis along with selection for instance. In a way we to it already today, the price for the diagnosis alone however is enormously high.
    Eugenetics clearly can only exists efficiently at the DNA level of the single cell stage. In a way gene therapy is eugenetics as well.
    All that James Watson argues for is that we as a society have now the responsibility to care about natural selection in a humane way. I frankly fail to see how it is humane to grow a kid with serious genetic defects for one`s own perverted pleasure (and growing kids itself is just as well rooted in the reward pathway). Nature doesn`t care which kid you grow, you don`t either, you could swap the babies after birth and 99% wouldn`t notice a difference unless certain genetic traits are too obvious (e.g. Melanocyte presentation).

    The selfish gene itself means that we want the best for our posterity and want them to be dominant. Eugenetics will mean to erradicate genetic diseases, erradicate or at least silence evolutionary relicts such as the appendix, it will also means the erradication of undesirable behavioral traits such as e.g. overproduction of sex-hormones as well neurological functions such as the survival mode that have become an evolutionary burden for as as a society.
    This wouldn`t require to eliminate the mode itself just to eliminate the cell signaling pathway at any position that least affects all other pathways, whilst slightly altering the affinity of other expressed “signals” who use the same pathways but whose receptors would bind higher to the altered molecule anyways.

    This thought alone, that we are not stuck in time but actually evolving give me as much peace as the idea of christians with their afterlife.

    We could eliminate a lot of suffering in this world if we could effectivly eliminate the bypassing of the rational centers in our brain a neurochemically induced relict unfavorable in every way.
    All of that sounds like an extreme goal, and it will take hundreds of years and the revolution already started in a way and will boost with diagnostic means of whole genome sequencing along with epigenetic information (which is even more crucical to some extend) and nanotechnology will enable us something like that in about 7-10 years.

    Ignorance however, we might just never eliminate, ignorance such as scientists believes of the direct translation of mechanical properties to quantum mechanics that gave rise to the visions of nanorobots and so forth – a vision but forth by engineers who have virtually no chemical experience, especially not on the nanoscale.
    The uderstanding of quantum mechanics explains not only why nanorobots etc, are not only completely inefficous but virtually impossible. Something every serious scientist with a profound understanding of chemistry realizes and knows.
    Behe certainly believes strongly in nanorobots as well, i probably think that gave rise to his iditotic idea of irrefutable convexity *sarc*.
    These machines in such a complexity will never work, whether you like it or not, the molecular machinary of life is certainly not the only one imaginable but the crucial step is a polar solvent with similar properties as water (e.g. life could exists on other planets based on ammoniac).
    In a way the polar solvent is what enables the creation of molecular evolution in the first place.
    Molecular machinery is just a neat term to oversimplify a lot of crucial steps, because unless you are a savant you will be hard pressed to constantly imagine all the wavefunctions of any given molecule but rather stick to simplifications such as Frontal molecular orbital theory and of course to molecular modelling. With utter satisfaction that what you do there in software is virtually coinciding with the real world.

    The greatest limiter in todays world is for the most part a lack in processing power, which one finds hard to believe doing everyday work on his computer. Getting supercomuting windows (slots) is often as hard to get as to get a observing time for one the more popular telescopes.

    Well what did this rant provide me, a neurochemical reward, i know for a fact it is not gonna change anyones life, it is not gonna even educate anyone, it doesn`t smarten up anyone – it is just what i said. I`ve learned to rather spend my time productive rather than ranting, discussing and philosophizing about anything involing humans. Only seldomly emotions overcome me with the result of such useless worthless rants. If ever i am gonna write a book any other than a textbook it will be about a divine alien heritage, UFOS and allah and god with scientific proofs and a catching title. All of humanity can and should be reduced to neurological phenomena. Period.

  52. #52 lo
    September 10, 2006

    oh and PZ, don`t worry this Miller guy is just as ineffcient and useless as everyone else ranting and philosophizing his way though the day in the 21st century.

    What made you a scientist are two things, the influence of the environment early on in your life, and a multicellular phenomenon that gives raise to the human brain which is naturally poised to explore gather and assemble information. The premise of human life and many of other mammals is that it is rewarding to explore.
    Guess what the essence of psychological human imprinting is for everyone the same (genetic disorders excluded).
    Every religious person became religious through the social environment and every naturalist came to science as well through his environment, early on in life. Some may argue that they didn`t ever came in touch with science and became a scientist anways – bullshitt! If they never came in touch with science they would be bushman.

    The information we can suck up it almost infinite: 100 billion neurons, with each having about 10 different potentiation states, and around 8000 dendrites which can all connect extremly varried from their given position in the brain giving rise to a number of permutable connections that can virtually record everything we ever experienced with our senses for thousands of years.

    You wanna make a difference, use psychological methods that are well explored, OR for efings sake use the time for basic research But don`t lie to yourself and feel good about blogging and the notion that you actually scratch any ape on his back. You don`t at least not in any lasting fashion.

    Heck you can make a far greater difference by sequencing a few new microbes and making the data available and explore some of their pathways rudimentarily (to give some incentive for other scientists to explore further). Some Indians, chinese etc.. on the other side of the world, who lack the access to such equipment but not to education, especially in bioinformatics will gladly contribute to the worlds knowledge.

    Grow up, you have stirred up some moderate fuss, you can now make an actual difference, but certainly not with blogging alone. Infants can`t read nor have access to their PC`s nor would religious parents show them your site. Even though it seems counterintutive to you and others that such an enticing speech that is total bullshitt hardly influences the life of an adult – for more than three days, it really is that way, especially since in our modern world we filter information way differently than people in developing countries.

    I don`t know what your motivtion is at all, i know you are interested in increasing the numbers of scientists in your country. But imagine the complex system and interplay of the environment and individuals and you`ll come to the conclusion that you are indeed not making any difference in comparison for instance to a propaganda movie like “Unlocking the Mystery of Life” by the discovery institute.

    Why, well for one thing parents in the US are really bad at regulating what their Kids watch, and second of the keyword IS KIDS! An adult might watch this but will soon read something else. The difference is an adult who is eneducated will tumble from one manipulation to another constantly changing his frame of position, although even for this adult every peception will depend upon his initial experiene as a child.

    IMHO you have several options:
    *GO ON LIE TO YOURSELF that mere textual information targeted at adults changes the world. It changes nothing, just as little effect as my rants have on you.
    *Motivate people to start iniatives, e.g. small animations, projects polls for instance to gather signatures
    *Hook up with likeminded people who aren`t just populace but have actual power and influence yet do for obvious reasons not compaign themselves

    Imagine the difference if you could influence even so much as 5000 lives in the whole of US, whose parents will try to provide their children a scientific education for the sake for instance of economic virtues. You cannot change the religion of a person, so do not even waste your time with that. If that would be possible it would mean that the majority of people could constantly shift their personality, i don`t even wanna know what that would mean from an evolutionary perspective. It certainly had great importance for our dominance in the past that groups along with alpha males formed. Whether or not that is burden in the 21st century is another question i don`t even care because unless one explores the whole picture from ground up, that is molecular level it is nothing but usless philosophizing, essentially unscientific.

    *Or spend your time on research, which too will have great impact and less time on blogging – because it is obvious by the sheer amount of posts how much time this consumes.

    From Hitler, Kim, christian leaders, muslim leaders, sects, mormons all of them know the essential ingredient of their existence: reproduction, infants and a homogenous environment indoctrinating them with a consistent idea.

    Now how bout you settle for less than a totalitarian regime, let each and everyone have their religion, realize that you do not convert adults not even youngsters, but instead you could contribute to the pool of powerful media messages that could then in return sway a few souls in the US as long as they (the parents) see the benefits of providing their children with a scientific education (because under moderate conditions the parents represent the family for the children and not the state- and parents are intrinsically selfish in wanting the best for their kids), enough to make a huge impact – because todays scientists have a powerful sidekick – their PC.

    At last again: your seeming succes is constituted mostly out of persons who are in favor of your writings and thus feel reassured in their views, giving them a positive feeling. (I am no different from that). But an overall impact you certainly hardly make at all. Not in a world that is dominated by media that utilizes more and more of the most information depdentent senses of ours, in a world where the brain mimics what he sees and can actual learn by mere watching whilst someone who just reads how to do a antibody assay for the first time will be quite clumsy and helpless.

    The major difference is that you are a scientist without some econmic sense. The DI found a market niche, ideally in the US where a lot of money is to be made from ripping off the stupid – they have no effect on scientists whatsoever – they are favored by religious scientists of course (for the same reasons we come to your site – because they feel reassured of their faith, but overall they have little effect in the whole complex scheme of society)….

    Your goal is certainly not about making money, apparently because that would mean to actually sell something an idea in a way. Your goal is to make more people interested in science – we all are for various reasons mine is because it means higher life expectancy and being able to follow the progress of life for even longer time and having a better quality of life – all that even though i am pretty young. The children will profit from the same as will you, but i don`t wanna lecture you on your motivations.

    I wanna lecture you that if you wanna make a difference you gotta use the same tactics everyone else uses in the industrial world, sell and create an idea people can identify themselves with (one that is rational and scientific in your case). Drag people into your boat, directly request from your readship support. Be bold!!
    You might be surprised what you can expect your readership to do, if you make them understand what they get back in return.

    With ID what you get is support for your religion (without soecificity) and an idea that fuses science with your religious believe. ID is not science but that isn`t the point. A product isn`t necessarily scientific, in fact far from it. 1/4 of the GDP is probably made by the mere sellin of psychological products (requiring a human to human interaction thus being a service) – this product in essence is nothing else but neurochemistry your brain produces, just like hemeopathy is essentially ident-equal to a placebo.

    PS: Hemeopathy isn`t wrong nor is it wrong to create an idea, obviously hemeopathy had an effect in people which was undenyable – only later one it became apparent that this effect is triggered purely by your brain and no other effective agent. that many scientists are stigmatized for being bold and showing initiative is another thing.

    PS:I`ll save myself the proof reading, my message is clear enough.

  53. #53 Russell
    September 10, 2006

    PZ writes, “One of the implications of evolutionary biology is that it is a cruel and wasteful and undirected process.. I don’t think we are well-served by trying to hide the inescapable conclusions of the evidence; we’re better off facing the truth and building our lives around the facts.”

    One of my Catholic relatives has suffered the last few years from some fairly severe disease. At times, she has asked me, “Why is God doing this to me?” If it comforts her to believe that in some transcendent sense it will — it must! — all turn out alright, it also seems to torture her that the god that assures this, and with whom she supposedly has a personal relationship, has chosen her specifically for so much pain and suffering. I guess her priests have some explanation for it, for she keeps going back to them. Still, she continues to ask that question of me, a non-believer, and all I can respond is that she isn’t being singled out, that her disease is a consequence of unfortunate events that were neither her fault nor under her control, that bacteria don’t serve an evil or good purpose, but they just are.

  54. #54 It feels good to be a troll
    September 10, 2006

    hhh!! lv t wk p t th snd f vltnsts bshng ch thr n th mrnng!.

  55. #55 Torbjörn Larsson
    September 10, 2006

    There seems to be some confusion about whether Miller is a creationist or not.

    “In many religious traditions, creationism is the active acceptance of an origin belief that humanity, life, the Earth, or the universe as a whole was specially created by a supreme being or by supernatural intervention. ….

    The meaning of the term “creationism” depends upon the context wherein it is used, as it refers to a particular origin belief within a particular political culture.” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creationism )

    Miller is a creationist in the general sense, but not a creationist in the YEC/ID sense.

    His quantum argument, as his other ideas of using science to discuss theology, doesn’t work. QM gives genuine randomness. No one can predict it, physics tell us that.

    There is a way around it since only local hidden variable theories are forbidden. A nonlocal, noncausal, deterministic hidden variable theory would work. Not as a physical theory though, since superluminal signals destabilises our field theories. But one can imagine a parallel supernatural dimension where the action is completed, and the gods can predict and control everything.

    But is it theology? It is the Cosmic Cheater scenario – why would gods set up an elaborate scam and lie to us about the workings of all of nature?

  56. #56 oldhippie
    September 10, 2006

    Good post Bob O’H. There has been way too much confusion about the two debates. Also many of more extreme atheists (including PZ) argue strictly on the rational and logical side of things, and at this level their argument is impeccable. But it is not going to sway an opponent who is responding at an emotional level to perceived internal truths which, given their upbringing and personal experience are internally consistent and does not make them irrational in the socially accepted meaning of the term. Superstition has its roots in the way we have evolved to perceive the world. It is not a purely human trait. Skinner demonstrated it in pigeons. “Getting over” something that has been genetically and socially built in will take more than bashing it over the head with an intellectual hammer. I am not sure what is going to be effective, but if we could help people understand why they believe irrational things, it might be a good start.

  57. #57 PZ Myers
    September 10, 2006

    I think the problem is that these two debates get conflated: this is what Dawkins started (inadvertantly, I presume), and the fundies have been doing ever since.

    No, no, no. Dawkins started publishing in the late 1960s; The Selfish Gene came out in the mid-70s. Unless you want to claim that their prophets were really, really good, I don’t think you can blame him for Price and Morris and Gish. He wasn’t even born at the time of the Scopes trial. His parents didn’t exist yet when 19th century preachers were railing against Darwinism.

    When the Origin was published, it got savaged by the religious despite the fact that its author was extremely reticent about mentioning his religious views, and its advocates were a mix of atheists (Haeckel), agnostics (Huxley), and Christians (Gray).

    I think Miller’s thesis that the atheists can be held responsible for a backlash against evolution is complete bunk.

  58. #58 George
    September 10, 2006

    Torbjörn Larsson: There seems to be some confusion about whether Miller is a creationist or not.

    I’m happy calling him what he calls hmself – Catholic – and pursuing what he thinks about the stuff they purvey at the Vatican and why he thinks the Pope’s opinions about science matter.

    I find it absurd that he’s worrying whether the Popes pronouncements will “rule out” evolution.

    “Ratzinger, like John Paul II and Puis XII before him, is not at all concerned about the emerging evolutionary account of humankind’s material origins. As he makes clear, ‘this is not a matter for faith.’ However, he draws the line at any suggestion that we are the mere products of ‘chance and error,’ and the reason is the Christian teaching that humanity is not here by accident, but as the intentional result of a Divine plan. As he explains later, the point is: ‘Human beings are not a mistake, but something willed; they are the fruit of love.’

    Does this rule out evolution, with its emphasis on chance and necessity, and leave room only for the intentionality of ‘design’?”

    http://www.hds.harvard.edu/news/bulletin_mag/articles/33-2_miller.html

    And why is he worrying? Becasue he’s a committed Catholic. He has to make the Catholic Church safe for Ken Miller.

    The lesson is obvious: if you want to have it both ways (what he calls “faith and reason”), be prepared to squirm like crazy.

  59. #59 Andrew Brown
    September 10, 2006

    One tries to stay out of pharyngular threads on religion and science, but I think it is clearly the case that some styles of atheism do nourish fundamentalists. I’ve just finished Dawkins’ God book — it’s dreadful — and one of the effects was to make me feel I should go to church, not because christianity is any more or less likely to be true as a result of anything he says, but out of rage that he fails to understand (where Dennett makes a shot and largely succeeds) what sort of a thing religious belief is, and what roles it might play in people’s lives.

    Put the question on its side for a moment. Ask “should we live as if the universe had purpose and our lives are meaningful?” The answer that lots of atheists and lots of religious people would give is “yes”. What’s more, let’s assume that both groups are sincere, which entails a prolonged moral effort. Getting out of bed in the morning is a whole lot easier if you did it yesterday, and the day before, and so on.

    Now, PZ finds it offensive and ludicrous that anyone should claim that he has no reason to get out of bed except self-deception. Fair enough. But why on earth can’t he see that his and Dawkins’ kind of atheism is read by believers as making exactly the same claim about them?

    I’ve used the example of getting out of bed because I think it is intimately connected to fundamentalism’s appeal to the dispossessed and insecure: the people who know (Hello, Kansas!) that they have no economic justification. The world, quite literally doesn’t need them, in bed or out of it.

    It’s not obviously bunk to say that the whole Mencken/Dawkins tradition of sneering at them hasn’t done a great deal to strengthen their repudiation of everything they believe that pointy-headed atheist scientist bastards stand for.

    PZ, I know that “flood geology” preceded the Selfish Gene, but Dawkins, on religion, is also following a long tradition of sneering atheists. I really honestly believe that he does more to strengthen the religious in their convictions than the atheists in theirs. If being on his side means the constant cheap sneers and creationist-style arguments that he deploys when talking about religion, I, too, would rather be on the other side.

  60. #60 Gerard Harbison
    September 10, 2006

    I find it absurd that he’s worrying whether the Popes pronouncements will “rule out” evolution.

    As a Catholic, he has to accept the Pope’s infallibility on matters of doctrine.

    Therefore, if the Church makes evolution anathema, Miller is obligated to regard it as false; whereas now, the current policy does not pronounce on the truth of evolution, he is permitted to believe in it. Since he rightly recognizes that not to accept evolution as the overwhelmingly likely origin of species would result in his not bneing taken seriously as a biologist, he is grateful for the leeway the Church has permitted him. After all, if Benny XVI declared Genesis literally true, Miller would have to correct his worldview and accept that all life on earth rode on the big wooden boat.

    A more interesting question that nobody much touches…The Church demands that the human ‘soul’ was specially and separately created. How a working hard scientist manages to accommodate a homunculus sitting inside the cranium working the levers is a fascinating quetion. What is the mechanism? Magically opening ion channels? Creating neurotransmitters de novo? Should we be loooking for this? Why haven’t we seen evidence of it, say, by fMRI?

  61. #61 Caledonian
    September 10, 2006

    So religious faith is just a delusion of grandeur that people impose upon themselves in order to cope with existential crises?

    Why *shouldn’t* we hold such people in contempt?

  62. #62 Caledonian
    September 10, 2006

    Christian theology is not only opposed to the scientific spirit; it is opposed to every other form of rational thinking.

    [H. L. Mencken]

    From PZ’s random quote collection. It seemed appropriate.

  63. #63 PZ Myers
    September 10, 2006

    If being on his side means the constant cheap sneers and creationist-style arguments that he deploys when talking about religion, I, too, would rather be on the other side.

    I’ve heard that sort of thing quite a few times, and Miller’s argument is the same thing: people giving up on science because they don’t like the company. I don’t get it. It’s not like science is a country club — it’s a set of principles that we hold. I share those principles with people like Miller, but you’ll never hear me saying, “Well, if I’ve got to be in the same room with people that believe in superstitious pap, I’ll give up on the idea of naturalism and become a creationist!”

    Are you on our side because you share our understanding of the evidence, or because it’s fashionable? When people talk about switching because they don’t like Dawkins, it sure sounds like the latter.

  64. #64 George
    September 10, 2006

    Perhaps the theistic scientists should wake up in the morning and says:

    “A universe of blind, pitiless indifference. Why is God doing this to me?”

  65. #65 George
    September 10, 2006

    Arrrrgh.

    Perhaps the theistic scientist should wake up in the morning and say:

    “A universe of blind, pitiless indifference. Why is God doing this to me?”

  66. #66 frank schmidt
    September 10, 2006

    I hosted Ken at the University of the State East of Kansas last April and spent several hours in conversation with him. I haven’t listened to the KU talk but I don’t imagine that it’s much different from what he said then.

    PZ et al.: Get. A. Grip. This is a political struggle. The Disco Guys have been as successful as they have, not because they have anything to say, but because they used a “big tent” strategy. They agreed not to discuss how old the earth is, where species originated, etc., until they got those nasty materialists out of the schools. Thus, Behe, Dr. Dino and Wells can happily coexist, each secure in his own brand of dishonesty.

    We need to adopt the same strategy, and should be better at it, given that we have science on our side. The metaphysical debates about whether there is a teakettle orbiting Saturn do not obscure the fact that science is the best way to tell how the observable world works. And science tells us that it works by evolution.

    Ken’s comments re Dawkins et al. are appropriate on the political level only: first, to combat the notion (enthusiastically endorsed by the creos) that evolution necessarily implies atheism, and, secondly, to remind our side that unnecessary stridency in support of the notion is counterproductive.

    Both points are valid. In that sense, Ken is a “responsible” evolutionist, which is a tactically valid position, although not the only one. Dawkins has spoken of Miller’s position with great respect, and equally great disagreement. I suggest, PZ, that you do the same.

  67. #67 Scott Hatfield
    September 10, 2006

    Caledonian:

    Why shouldn’t you hold “such people” in contempt?

    Because they are people. Because life is nasty, brutish and short, and not everyone is brave enough to admit it. Because there is a difference between opposing an idea and hating the person who holds the idea. Because, as a principled atheist who decries the negative impact of religion, you should be aware of the dangers of dichotomous thinking, where people become ‘them’ and ‘us’, and strive to avoid that trap.

    I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. To hold an entire class of people in contempt dehumanizes ‘us’ as well as ‘them’. No matter how satisfying it might be to blast them in some anonymous forum, we do well to remember that hatred is not a sport. Hatred is a disease.

    Cordially….Scott

  68. #68 Caledonian
    September 10, 2006

    Ah, Hatfield sticks his nose in it yet again.

    You have a definite gift for misrepresenting the substance of an argument so that you can refute the false impression you create. Are you a lawyer or preacher by any chance?

    Hatred is a tool – a dangerous, important, and ultimately necessary one. Only the most cynically manipulative and/or pathetically insipid individuals decry hate. It’s the personality traits that cause people to accept particular ideas, not the ideas themselves, that we hate, and for good reason. People without those traits can be argued out of error. Those with them generally cannot be – as we can see from your continued inanity on this blog.

  69. #69 Andrew Brown
    September 10, 2006

    PZ wrote: “I’ve heard that sort of thing quite a few times, and Miller’s argument is the same thing: people giving up on science because they don’t like the company. I don’t get it. It’s not like science is a country club — it’s a set of principles that we hold.”

    Where did I say I was giving up on science? I said, largely as a joke, that I was tempted by Dawkins to give up public atheism. I’m sure you’ll agree that the two don’t entail each other. There really are forms of religious belief that don’t require one to abandon methodological naturalism. If you want to argue that they are not really religion, that’s fine, but it’s also theology, and we can talk about it somewhere else.

    “Are you on our side because you share our understanding of the evidence, or because it’s fashionable? When people talk about switching because they don’t like Dawkins, it sure sounds like the latter.”

    Sheesh: calm down. Has anything I have ever said suggested that I support the teaching of creationism in schools anywhere? If you mean, “Am I on the side of loudly denouncing believers as criminal halfwits every chance I get?” — No. I’m not. In general, I try to be on the side of reason and evidence. Dawkins’ current book has a lot in it which has nothing to do with either, and, since I am in the middle of a review of it, my irritation bubbled over.

  70. #70 llewelly
    September 10, 2006

    Are you on our side because you share our understanding of the evidence, or because it’s fashionable? When people talk about switching because they don’t like Dawkins, it sure sounds like the latter.

    The overwhelming majority of humanity prefers fashion to evidence.

  71. #71 Owlmirror
    September 10, 2006

    Hatred is a tool

    No. Hatred is a fungus; Odium malevoleum (I think).

    Various mycological taxnomists are still arguing over which phylum it belongs in; apparantly it exhibits traits from more than one.

  72. #72 Owlmirror
    September 10, 2006

    Only the most cynically manipulative and/or pathetically insipid individuals decry hate.

    And yet, that can so easily be changed to:

    “Only the most cynically manipulative and/or pathetically vicious individuals aggrandize hate.”

    But anyway, aggandizing or decrying a fungus is putting an unreasonable amout of emotional involvment into it.

  73. #73 Keith Douglas
    September 10, 2006

    Dave Carlson: But believers think that the “and the immortal soul was inserted” actually has consequences. Thus the claim becomes (in most if not all cases) one which is antiscientific. See my previous remarks about how idealist views in psychological matters are dangerous not only to basic sciences of psychology, neurobiology and evolution but also threaten psychiatric medicine and other technologies.

    Paul G. Brown: I’m not PZ, but if you’ll indulge letting me answer too: I just wonder what exactly is gained by labelling one’s awe with a label that has so many common other understandings that it is bound to provoke confusion.

    As I have said, too, Kierkegaard has long struck me as the most consistent Christian (like Berkeley is the most consistent empiricist). That said, I think Gardiner (assuming you have presented his view accurately) does not have Kierkegaard’s position quite right. Rather it seems to me that Kierkegaard basically does something like this (a bit over simplified). Religion is about faith. Faith is belief in spite of evidence. There is a strong lack of evidence for god. Therefore to be maximally religious, don’t seek evidence (because to do so would be to miss the point), just leap off the cliff. Kierkegaard discusses the story of Abraham and Isaac in this light, which is illuminating.

  74. #74 Scott Hatfield
    September 10, 2006

    Owlmirror: You made me laugh and you made me think. How true, and I won’t lose any sleep over it.

    Caledonian: Sorry, my personality doesn’t dispose me to respond in kind. You’re a human being, and I refuse to dehumanize you. I can reject your ideas AND the way you deal with those who disagree with you without unpleasantness.

    Now that we got a peek under your veil, however, perhaps you could explain to all of us the necessity of hatred?

    Curiously…Scott

  75. #75 Scott Hatfield
    September 10, 2006

    This is for Keith Douglas, who is wiser than me:

    I agree with your take on Kierkegaard. I’d just like to add that when I’m doing science I don’t look for evidence of the supernatural. I look for natural explanations. Outside of science, I still prefer the latter, but I like to wander over to the edge of the cliff and wonder what happens when a person leaps. . . .

    Scott

  76. #76 PZ Myers
    September 10, 2006

    Hatred works. It’s a far more potent and persuasive force than love, that’s for sure. Our country is run by a political party that has effectively marshaled the power of hatred and fear to achieve dominance.

    Some of us are just constitutionally more capable of expressing our hatred than others. Most of us are a little bit inhibited about letting it all hang out.

  77. #77 j
    September 10, 2006

    Thank you, Scott Hatfield.

    Do you think that Christianity’s appeal comes from its message of love or its message of hatred? I think it’s the former.

    I guess I’m still trying to be nice, even to people I dislike.

  78. #78 George
    September 10, 2006

    Outside of science, I still prefer the latter, but I like to wander over to the edge of the cliff and wonder what happens when a person leaps. . . .

    Sorry, Scott, but this put me in mind of poor Homer Simpson:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aO_Hsv9LK8

  79. #79 Scott Hatfield
    September 10, 2006

    J: I’m reluctant to claim that Christianity has any monopoly on preaching a message of love, and honesty compels me to note that while you’ll find that message in the Bible you’ll also find a lot of other stuff that’s difficult to stomach and even more difficult to explain. Frankly, you’ll find it witnesses to a lot of hatred. And with that in mind, I turn to….

    PZ: You’re right, of course. Hatred works, in part because it plays off of fear. The present Administration has mastered the art of pointing fingers at various bogeymen: environmentalists, gay people, folks who wear turbans, godless evolutionists, etc. And, I suppose, we should regard their manipulation of our worst impulses as…hateful.

    It’s seductive. But, before we give in, it would be well to remind ourselves that there are things that hate can not do. Hate speech will never morph on its own into real dialogue, much less reconciliation. Hate crimes can (and should) be punished, but in the absence of caring, there is little chance for their rehabilitation; the cycle of hate goes on and on.

    Love may not be a force equal in the world’s eyes to hate, but there are things that it can accomplish that hatred can not begin to imagine, not the least of which is the bridge that it builds to mercy, acceptance and forgiveness.

    I would say more, but it’s starting to sound like preaching, which is not my intent. One doesn’t have to be a believer to practice these values, anyway; one has to ‘merely’ be a human being who values other human beings.

    Thanks for providing this forum,

    Scott

  80. #80 Scott Hatfield
    September 10, 2006

    George:

    That’s alright. I’m more like Homer than I’d care to admit. I eat a mean donut.

    Doh! Scott

  81. #81 Caledonian
    September 11, 2006

    I am always amazed at how deeply religious rhetoric has penetrated into the general consciousness, even among those who oppose religion. It’s remarkable.

    Let’s take Christianity, for example. How successful are people who have tried to put its message into practice as completely as possible? Who here does not believe that there are things which it is appropriate to hate, appropriate to destroy, hmmm?

    Denying the nature of hatred, and excluding it from your actions, is as self-defeating as denying the nature of love. There is a reason why the Always Cooperators are eliminated from the iterated Prisoners’ Dilemma so rapidly. So are the Always Defectors, and for much the same reason, under the proper conditions.

  82. #82 Kleyau
    September 11, 2006

    Miller just seems confused, like most people. He’s looking for a world that makes sense, he just doesn’t do a good job of making sense of it. Saying that militant athiests should stand down is somewhat absurd, but athiests should be aware of how their words affect people.

    Most people have a hard time standing up and speaking in front of a group, so the chance that these people would give up their entire belief system, for a more logical but less comforting one is absurd.

    Philosophical belief systems are changed slowly, through generations. Even scientific theories usually take a generation to permeate, as the previous generation dies, instead of changing.

    Because of the difficulty in changing views, it would seem counterproductive in launching such vehement attacks against (somewhat) scientific christians, unless you plan on following up with the force and violence necessary to enforce your worldview. They are not going to change their beliefs overnight. And remember, the enemy of my enemy is my (temporary) friend.

    Keep science, and empiricism, in schools, and it will win out on its own. I became an atheist all on my own, and it nearly killed me doing it. If you were raised atheist, it is hard to understand the mental anguish it takes to change an entire belief system. But, it happens every day, because of the logic involved, not because scientists are the cool group and if someone doesn’t agree completely, then they’re an idiot. If someone doesn’t agree then they’ll will have a more difficult time doing any science work and using logic to help them succeed in life. And science will still win, in the end.

  83. #83 Caledonian
    September 11, 2006

    I became an atheist all on my own, and it nearly killed me doing it. If you were raised atheist, it is hard to understand the mental anguish it takes to change an entire belief system.

    I became an atheist at the age of five, when it became quite obvious to me that my parents didn’t know what they were talking about. It took until six to realize that my parents were actually Santa Claus. My household was an extremely religious one.

    It’s not difficult at all. You simply need to care about the truth enough to examine what you’re taught.

  84. #84 Kleyau
    September 11, 2006

    Caledonian, it may not have been difficult for you, but it was for me, and it is for many other people. It wasn’t difficult for me to score a 99% rank on every achievement test I took, from the ACT, MFAT, to the GMAT, but that doesn’t mean that it is easy for everyone else, or that others simply need to care enought about doing well to do it. It’s easy for most NFL football players to benchpress 300 pounds, but it would take a lot of work for most people to replicate the feat, even with a large amount of work.

    Most people can look down on other people for not being able to do things that they can do easily. Whether or not you did something easily has no effect on whether someone else can do something easily, unless you help them along, versus ridiculing them.

  85. #85 Kleyau
    September 11, 2006

    Correction: It would take a lot work for most people to benchpress 300 lbs, if they could do it at all.

    I have a problem with typos, while my wife types near perfect. Different people, different skills.

  86. #86 AC
    September 11, 2006

    I would say that the same weakness that makes “such people” resort to delusions of grandeur to cope with existential crises also makes them instill that weakness into their children – so that, when the child is confronted with reality, the ordeal is made much harder.

    But I would also say that this weakness is not insurmountable, and that those who lack the courage or conviction to face reality do indeed deserve contempt. If some choose to pity them instead or in addition, so be it. And Scott, please don’t conflate contempt with hatred for the purpose of giving Yoda-like denouncements of the dangerous dark side.

  87. #87 Chris
    September 11, 2006

    Measured retaliation is not hate. Hate is more like the All-D or Massive Retaliation (I’ll cooperate until you defect and then I’ll defect forever) strategies, if you want to make that analogy.

    At least IMO; there are always going to be semantic issues with defining an ill-defined concept like hate. But I think if it isn’t irrational, if it doesn’t interfere with your ability to *think* about what you hate, then it isn’t really hate.

    That’s why hatred is dangerous; by definition (or at least by my definition), it warps your judgment, and leaves you unable to see a possibility of reconciliation even when there is one. Hate is why so many old wars don’t die as long as old warriors survive.

    Do you think that Christianity’s appeal comes from its message of love or its message of hatred? I think it’s the former.

    I think it’s the combination of the two. You can hate someone and still feel good about yourself for your commitment to a god of love (who hates the same people you do).

  88. #88 Scott Hatfield
    September 11, 2006

    Chris: Insightful comment. It’s exactly the way that one’s notion of love can be interwoven with a message of hate for others that leads me to be cautious in simplistically endorsing Christianity as a ‘message of love’. Christianity as interpreted and practiced sends a lot of messages, not all of them coherent, much less palatable. Of course one could say much the same thing about any set of traditions of sufficient antiquity.

    There are places, though, in the Gospels were you can get a sense that Jesus could sense this incoherence, using parables to push his contemporaries to considering a wider circle of love. Not just Jews, but Samaritans, for example; not just the so-called ‘righteous’, but publicans, tax collectors and other ‘sinners’. That doesn’t prove anything about Christianity, mind you: there are similar movements in most religions, from what I can see.

    With that in mind, we should all admit that Caledonian is correct when he points out that strategies that maximize only one possible outcome tend to be eliminated in the theory of games. However, he comes close to the naturalistic fallacy in his endorsement, so that is where we might part company. “Is” as evinced in a population does not imply “should” in individual conduct, I think.

    And, with all due respect, historically the rise of Christianity just might have something to do with the notion of forgiveness. You wouldn’t need a Golden Rule if there were no defectors! Such rules may be the products of our genes, rather than divinely inspired, but that doesn’t make them any less relevant today. Like Burt Bacharach says, ‘What the world needs now is love, sweet love…not just for some, but for everyone.’

    Can I get an amen, y’all?

    Puckishly….Scott

  89. #89 Caledonian
    September 12, 2006

    Caledonian, it may not have been difficult for you, but it was for me, and it is for many other people. It wasn’t difficult for me to score a 99% rank on every achievement test I took, from the ACT, MFAT, to the GMAT, but that doesn’t mean that it is easy for everyone else, or that others simply need to care enought about doing well to do it.

    Achieving a score in the 99th percentile on all available achievement tests is something only one person in a hundred possesses. Becoming an atheist requires intellectual skills that probably eighty people out of a hundred possess… but it also requires a desire to know the truth that far, far fewer possess.

    Holding the people who remain intellectual slaves out of laziness is not only justified but mandatory.

  90. #90 John Wesley
    September 16, 2006

    I’ll admit, I’ve not read through all the comments, but after finally getting a chance to listen to all of the audio from the Miller dialogue, I really have to disagree with the assertion that he’s putting “blame” on atheists or sicking Christians at them, or that he has switched sides.

    He clarifies after the formal presentation that he is calling for the discussion to be centered where he thinks it belongs, not between evolution/science and believers, but between believers and non-believers. He’s calling for an intellectual dialogue between those groups, and hoping that science can be left out of a discussion that he doesn’t think it actually takes sides on.

    Personally, I couldn’t agree less with his theology, but I do agree that the science itself is agnostic on the existence of a god. A person has to certainly jump through some mental hoops to make it agree with the God of the bible, as Miller does, but that’s an interesting discussion. If we get evolution out of this, then at least proper biology could be taught in schools. Which I think his entire point in this endevor.

  91. #91 David
    September 22, 2006

    From my perspective as a Christian, what I see Miller doing is trying to bridge a gap between science and religion. What we Christians have received for a long, long time is that evolution = atheism. This isn’t Miller’s positing, rather it’s the reason the IDers fight so vehemently against the theory of evolution — they’re not really fighting a battle of science as much as they’re fighting a battle for the rational existence of God. As long as we’re under the impression that evolution = atheism, the Christian community will never consider evolution as a viable theory. Miller knows that the atheist community already accepts evolution based on science (or based on an a priori understanding that b/c there’s no creator, evolution is the only other option); to me, he came across as wanting to convince the Christian community that one need not abandon God to accept evolution. The evolution theory, as scientifically agrued, should be devoid of such unprovable conclusions that God does or does not exist. Let it rest as a theory, that as another poster stated, is agnostic towards the question of the existence of God.

    In fact, if you’re convinced evolution is true, you should be glad for Ken Miller’s lecture b/c it has caused me, a long time Christian, to seriously reconsider its possibility.

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