Pharyngula

Evolution Sunday?

Today is Evolution Sunday. It’s that day when participating ministers will say a few supportive words about evolution from their pulpits, or as I prefer to think of it, when a few people whose training and day-to-day practice are antithetical to science will attempt to legitimize their invalid beliefs and expand their pretense to intellectual authority by co-opting a few slogans.

As you might guess, I’m not exactly against the event, but I definitely do not support it. I’m sure a few readers are going to complain that I should be praising these efforts to get people to take baby steps in the right direction, but I just can’t do it.

I’m sorry, but when I see people in chains shuffle a few steps at the behest of their jailer, my heart isn’t in to shouting, “Hooray! You’re free!” You have a choice. You can go to church today, and among the hymns and prayers and magic rituals and chants to nonexistent beings, you can hear a few words in support of science; or you can refuse to support the whole rotten edifice of religion and stay home and read a good book. Which alternative do you think I would support?

Instead, I’m going to encourage you all to participate in my Enlightenment Sunday project. Skip church every week. Ignore the pleas of your priests. Donate money and time to charities of your choice directly, rather than through the intermediary of the church bureaucracy. Improve your brain with books and videos and conversations about science. Think skeptically. I’m sure the participants in Evolution Sunday mean well and are sincere in their wish to reconcile faith with science, but we’ll do far more to promote reason in this country if we withdraw from all participation in the church and let religion wither away from disuse, than we will by encouraging these modern day witch-doctors to spread their delusions.

Comments

  1. #1 John Wilkins
    February 11, 2007

    I suppose you’d be equally opposed to artists in favour of evolution too, right? After all, their practices are antithetical to scientific practice as well. How about sports players?

  2. #2 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2007

    After all, their practices are antithetical to scientific practice as well.

    Bzzt- wrong. But thanks for playing. Orthogonal, perhaps.

  3. #3 PZ Myers
    February 11, 2007

    Art and sports don’t necessarily oppose naturalism and materialism. To me, though, Evolution Sunday is like seeing the Mafia volunteer to buy tickets to the Policeman’s Ball — nice, sure, take their money, but don’t delude yourself that this changes the relationship between the two organizations.

  4. #4 mathpants
    February 11, 2007

    actually, given the, er, complicated relationship between Mafia and various police organizations over the years, maybe that wasn’t the right analogy? Or maybe it was?

  5. #5 Ed Darrell
    February 11, 2007

    But for those of us who take a more Jeffersonian view of Christianity, say, there are few higher callings than to be in church and stand up when people start advocating unreason, and call them to task. As one girl in our Sunday school said on a poster a few years back, “Jesus came to take away our sins, not our minds.”

    Evolution Sunday is a great idea — trying to make theology safe for science and reason, trying to lend support to those who do stand up against abuse of science by religion.

    One of the first rules of warfare is “don’t shoot your allies.”

  6. #6 QrazyQat
    February 11, 2007

    Sports science is a huge academic, and professional, endeavor. Gear, physiology, you name it, sports is full of science and science is increasingly being used to increase atheletic performance. In fact, some of the info I’ve used to critique the “aquatic ape” idea comes directly from sports science.

  7. #7 PZ Myers
    February 11, 2007

    Actually, I think the first rule of warfare is “do shoot your enemies.”

  8. #8 QrazyQat
    February 11, 2007

    Also I should add (should’ve before I clicked) that science in sports is often used to counter superstitions and folk beliefs about what works. This is so in things like swimming and running, baseball, motor sports… well, everything I guess, but those are ones I know for sure about. Saying that sports “practices are antithetical to scientific practice” is really uninformed.

  9. #9 PZ Myers
    February 11, 2007

    Oh, and I really can sympathize with the way people currently trapped in the shackles of religion might appreciate their priests granting them a tiny privilege of intelligent thought, and would want to praise them for this miniscule hint of freedom…but from my position on the outside, it looks pathetic.

    So yes, some of you can praise this effort, I’ll understand. You just need to understand that I see you snapping one link of the chains that bind you, when the whole burden is so easily and completely shed.

  10. #10 PZ Myers
    February 11, 2007

    Art also readily embraces science and technology. As one example, read about the history of pigments — a lot of artists have been chemists on the side.

  11. #12 Aa
    February 11, 2007

    “…when the whole burden is so easily and completely shed.”

    Actually, while I agree with your sentiment PZ, this isn’t entirely true. Dan Barker’s book “Losing Faith in Faith” is often quoted in the Random Quote; Listen to Julia Sweeney’s monologue “Letting go of God”; or Templeton’s “Farwell to God”. For some people it’s easy to let go, for other’s it’s a long, painful process (as well as an intellectual journey). Perhaps it shouldn’t be, but it definitely is.

  12. #13 ERV
    February 11, 2007

    The presentations themselves dont have to be about reconciling religion and science. Im an atheist, but Ive been invited to give a presentation on evolution at a local church. Im not going to tell them what they can/cannot believe– Im going to tell them about science.
    ‘Evolution Sunday’ is a fantastic outreach program for educating the public about evolution. Its great to be able to say “Look, these churches have done it, these ministers support it, their churches didnt collapse under a storm of flaming hail.” Im only going to get an hour or so to speak, but I can cram enough into that hour that they will think twice before following a Creationist.

  13. #14 Paguroidea
    February 11, 2007

    I looked at last year’s list of participants at http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/rel_evol_sun_orig.htm .

    Apparently this isn’t just an American event. I was rather surprised to see Australia, Canada, Germany and the UK listed. I was expecting to see only American churches since the U.S. has such an issue with creationism.

  14. #15 George
    February 11, 2007

    I agree completely. It’s feel good crapolla.

    It lets them say:

    See, it’s okay to believe in God AND support evolution.

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

    How about a Wake Up Sunday?

    When the urge to go to church arises, go to a window, look out, and calmly, quietly intone something to this effect:

    “Does nature observe the Sabbath?” How could I have been so stupid? I no longer want to be in the company of Ted Haggard and Bill Donohue and Jerry Falwell. To believe in God is nutty and I am not a nut.

  15. #16 PZ Myers
    February 11, 2007

    Ah, but you see…I want those churches to collapse under a storm of disinterest. And yes, I can see where this is an opportunity to shine a glimmer of light into the darkness, but I also see it as supporting the gloom of the church.

    I took a look at half a dozen of the sermons Zimmerman archives at the evolution project site, and I really wasn’t impressed. They’re mainly apologetics, defenses of religion that rest on assertions of compatibility with science.

    I knew people were going to argue with me about this, but seriously: did you expect me to encourage you to go to church and listen to a sermon that mentions Darwin?

  16. #17 ERV
    February 11, 2007

    They’re mainly apologetics, defenses of religion that rest on assertions of compatibility with science.

    I can whole heartedly assure you that my presentation will do nothing of the sort.
    As much as I support Science Cafes and presentations given by Citizens for Science groups, I know damn well that the people who ‘need’ to go to those presentations, dont. And I know damn well that the churches that ‘need’ to drop the Creationism Crap wont let me get past the church parking lot.

    So Im quite happy to use Evolution Sunday as an excuse to reach the reachable theists about science. The ones that slid through school without learning evolution because their teacher was afraid to mention it. The ones who think evolution is just something about birds beaks changing size. Its a way to reach a lot of those people at the same time. However, if theyre expecting a presentation on how religion and science can happily dance around the May-Pole, thats not what theyre going to get from me.

  17. #18 raj
    February 11, 2007

    Actually, I think the first rule of warfare is “do shoot your enemies.”

    That’s kinda what Gen. George Patton said. Or it’s what George C. Scott paraphrased him as having said.

    Something to the effect that, the object of war is not to die for your country—it’s to make the other guy die for his.

  18. #19 raj
    February 11, 2007

    On the subject matter of the post, I’d prefer an Evolution Monday. At least on Monday, we would have been guaranteed that there would have been light. Sunday–not so much.

  19. #20 George
    February 11, 2007

    If you have enough faith, you don’t need science to prove God exists, and science can’t prove this anyway,” he says.

    Religion is just a glorified fantasy protection racket.

    He’s full of shit. He’s just as bad as the creationists. Maybe his politics are less extreme, but he’s still a con man and he should be ashamed of himself.

    What a racket! He gets a building and a stipend, and a secretary and some stature in the community, and all he has to do is spew lies seven days a week. No problem! Faith, god, blah, blah, give me money blah blah darwin okay blah blah go in peace.

    Crap!

  20. #21 Chris
    February 11, 2007

    Worshippers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

    Seriously, though – the problem with this kind of effort to meet science halfway is that the priests are still insisting on their right to disregard evidence whenever they feel like it. OK, they’ll accept the evidence *this* time, on *this* issue, but on some other issue they reserve the right to cling to scripture and the hell with the facts.

    It is no surprise that PZ is dissatisfied with this viewpoint.

    The fundamental disagreement between science and religion is not merely one of conclusions, but the methods by which they reach those conclusions. The epistemology of religion and the epistemology of science are as different as chalk and cheese. And only one consistently reaches conclusions that are true in the real world.

    Grudgingly accepting one evidence-based conclusion, while clinging to several other non-evidence-based beliefs, is not rational. It’s not even a significant step in that direction. Really, I don’t think it’s possible to take baby steps toward reason. You either accept the supremacy of evidence-based reasoning or you don’t. Accepting individual conclusions while rejecting the methods that produced them is only an illusion of progress.

  21. #22 rrt
    February 11, 2007

    Perhaps it shouldn’t be [hard], but it definitely is.

    I wholeheartedly agree. My own deconversion was long and difficult, and it shouldn’t have been. But it was. That’s something those of us on the “other side” need to remember.

  22. #23 Bob O'H
    February 11, 2007

    PZ – to continue the martial analogy, which war are you trying to fight? The one against religion, or the one against creationism?

    Bob

  23. #24 George
    February 11, 2007

    The epistemology of religion…

    What epistemology? Religion isn’t knowledge. It’s fantasy. I don’t see how it can have an epistemology.

  24. #25 Mike Haubrich
    February 11, 2007

    My suggestion for the best way to celebrate Evolution Sunday is to tromp through the woods and drink in the diversity of life. Minnesota is a great place for observing natural selection, and the recent cold snap is an example. The life that has adapted to this clime will survive through this and awaken in the spring; making flowers and sprouting leaves, grass will shoot up and trees will bud. Fish will lay eggs, frogs and toads will make tadpoles and does will be born. Life presses on.

    The folks stuck in church will learn about death and resurrection, and hopefully to lay off science in the curriculum as the Enlightenment proceeds in fits and starts.

  25. #26 Zen Curmudgeon
    February 11, 2007

    For me, I’m just gonna sit comfortably and read “Monkey Girl. . . ” which FINALLY arrived yesterday.

    Dang, one plug from PZ and Amazon’s whole distribution system breaks down! That’s power. Hey, this could be the start of a whole new religion. 1st Church of the Frozen Tundra – “And, lo, in the early days of the Founding Year, the great and powerful PZ did look upon the Amazon.com distribution system, and saw that it was weak, and therefore did he raise up his keyboard, and recommend a book, and the Amazon.com system was brought low. And all received discounts and free shipping.”

    ZC

  26. #27 The Commissar
    February 11, 2007

    You and Dawkins are right. Not only regarding atheism per se, but about the essential conflict between science and religion. The concept of God, in the face of scientific fact and continuing lack of evidence in His existence, while never wholly disprovable, can be (and slowly is being) shrunken to a notion that there while may be some omniscient Creator, He has never been shown to interfere in astronomical, biological, or human affairs. Believers who rightly grasp that this means “No One Up There Likes Me” surely will resist. But they can’t hold out forever.

    All this might take a thousand years. “Only” 150 years since Darwin is a fairly short time for the “God meme” to lose its vitality. But it will.

    Whether the blow-torch, table-pounding, frequently mocking rhetoric that you and (to a lesser extent) Dawkins employ has is a net positive or negative on that development is debatable. But it’s surely inconsequential. So, by all means, have fun with it. Not a problem.

    And, not that you need validation from me, but you and Dawkins may both go to your graves secure in the knowledge that you were right, and that the change you look for will someday occur.

  27. #28 Bob
    February 11, 2007

    …but from my position on the outside, it looks pathetic.

    Yes, and I’m sure we can all remember the historically dangerous Corned-Beef-Lent-Crisis-of-2006

    “Help! I don’t know what to do! Please tell me! Oh, I can eat this? Really? Great! Thanks so much for allowing me to do this!”

    Yep, really dodged a bullet there…

  28. #29 George
    February 11, 2007

    Here’s a sermon:

    We Christians believe that God is way bigger than we will ever comprehend. We also believe that all humans are created in the image of God, that a spark of divine is in everyone, and that Jesus is our example of how to live up to and into that divine spark while struggling with our full and messy humanity. And, while we know that God is not a person, we demand a personal relationship with God. This is just how we are.
    […]
    What brings clarity, for me at least, is to realize that while science and religion are not the same, they are compatible. Many scientific theories are based on the existence of an ‘organizing principle’ at the heart of the universe. The way we express it is “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.” That doesn’t sound all that different from the ‘organizing principle of the universe,’ does it?
    […]
    http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/pdf/gaines_sanfran_ca.pdf

    “Way bigger”? Have we come to that? Not only is this crap, it’s content-free crap, full of substanceless generalities.

    Keep everything warm and fuzzy and holistic-sounding and maybe people will swallow the woo.

    I’m not impressed by Evolution Sunday.

  29. #30 eenauk
    February 11, 2007

    I will most willingly grant that it is high time that we revamped our smoldering heap of religious ideas, not simply demythologizing them but completely re-working them into something much more appropriate to our enlightened times. Yet, i would never want to abandon the natural impulse in (many) human beings (homines sapientes sapientes religiosa) that leads them to always ask those impossible questions that we cannot answer. For it is in searching that we stumble upon great truths (freedom, equality, love, etc.)

  30. #31 Stately, plump Buck Mulligan
    February 11, 2007

    The truly depressing thing about your rant – apart from it being the same-old, same old we’ve come to expect from you – is your wilful blindness to the fact that people are quite capable of going to church and reading books (even – gasp – science books) to improve their minds. They are quite capable of participating in religious worship and thinking sceptically about things – even about their own religious faith. They are quite capable of being giving money to their church or temple and giving money to other charities. Obviously this doesn’t measure up to your own naturalistically Manichean standard of ideological purity and consistency, but frankly, tough shit.

    You must admit that while you don’t have much time for, say, Ken Miller, Fred Sanger or Francis Collins as Christians, you have great respect for them as scientists. Don’t you? Or does their faith bother you so much that you can’t bring yourself to admit even that?

    I suspect that the ability of people to think rationally about some things and still have a little comforting pocket of irrationality tucked away in their heads drives you nuts, probably more so than the existence of people like Ken Ham or Kent Hovind. Am I right or am I right?

  31. #32 Stately, plump Buck Mulligan
    February 11, 2007

    Art also readily embraces science and technology. As one example, read about the history of pigments — a lot of artists have been chemists on the side.

    Oh please, someone shoot me right now. Talk about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing……

  32. #33 That Goddamn Uppity Atheist
    February 11, 2007

    Evolution Sunday?

    What’s next, Medical Science Monday?

    Theory of Gravity Thursday?

    I’m beginning to understand why so many christians don’t believe they’re evolving.

    Sometimes I don’t believe it either.

  33. #34 Fernando Magyar
    February 11, 2007

    I sent this in an email to PZ but it is somewhat relevant to this thread so I’ll post it here. (I know he gets way too much email)

    There is a nice review in the NYT of the new permanent exhibition on human origins at the Museum of Natural History in New York, one of my favorite museums. The exhibit sounds like a real winner in it’s potential to educate the public about human evolution.

    Apparently the curators on the Museum of Natural History in New York found it necessary to add comments from religious scientist to their exhibit on human evolution saying why their views do not conflict with the theory…Stephen J. Gould must be rolling over in his grave.

    I know it is too much to ask that the museum not have included any reference to religious thinking on this matter but I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the need to include this in the exhibit. I feels a lot like capitulating to those that “believe”.

    “One issue cannot be entirely sidestepped in any public presentation of human evolution: that many people in this country doubt and vocally oppose the very concept. In a corner of the hall, several scientists are shown in video interviews professing the compatibility of their evolution research with their religious beliefs.”

    I wonder if they also have a few scientists who are atheists explaining why religious belief is anathema to the scientific method and totally useless extra baggage when it comes to dealing with reality.

    I think it would only be fair to present the other side of the coin as well, since I haven’t seen the exhibit I don’t know if that is the case but I’m guessing it isn’t. (There are a few things I still miss about living in the Big Apple)

    Maybe that is what the religious will be doing today eh?

    As for me I’ll be enjoying the glorious Florida sunshine on my Kayak thinking about those poor New Yorkers digging out from one more snow storm.

  34. #35 PZ Myers
    February 11, 2007
  35. #36 S. Rivlin
    February 11, 2007

    I think that assuming [atheism = science] and [religion = creationism] is not necessarily true. While there are probably more atheists among scientists than among the general population and more creationists among the religious crowd than among the non-religious one, there are atheists who are not scientists and there are religious people who are not creationists. Hence, it might be a misplaced role for scientists to fight the war against religion, a war that atheists should “fight,” as it is probably also wrong for the creationists and the IDiots to fight against atheists.

  36. #37 Boulder Bitch
    February 11, 2007

    No movement that necessitates a profound paradigm shift in thought and belief occurs instantaneously. As history illustrates, such a substantial shift in thinking, particularly amongst a vast congregation in which leaders not only discourage free thinking but encourage blind faith, is gradual and requires “baby steps”. Evolution Sunday is a good thing, not to be diminished by our own sense of impatience and frustration. Unless Jesus himself descends upon Christians to refute and downplay his own contribution to our existence, immediate acceptance of evolution amongst these fundamentalists is impossible. So, just be happy that these people are moving in the right direction, albeit at an evolutionary pace.

  37. #38 George
    February 11, 2007

    Is anyone else reading the sermons and getting apoplectic? Or is it just me?

    If you want to know about how the world began, read the physicists. If you want to know about the origin of species, read Darwin. But if you want to know about why life matters then read Genesis 1 with eyes that see and ears that hear.

    http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/pdf/simpson_ma.pdf

    I will say it’s nice to have all this crap handy in one place. So many fine examples of deluded thought.

  38. #39 Paguroidea
    February 11, 2007

    For the Enlightenment Sunday project, I’ll start by reading The Best of Robert Ingersoll which is edited by Roger Greeley.

  39. #40 colluvial
    February 11, 2007

    You can go to church today, and among the hymns and prayers and magic rituals and chants to nonexistent beings, you can hear a few words in support of science; or you can refuse to support the whole rotten edifice of religion and stay home and read a good book.

    PZ, You’re much more hopeful than I am to think that the great crush of superstitious humanity will drop their chains. I would simply be thankful to see them become slightly less clueless. And maybe their children, or their children’s children, will have a slightly better chance of taking off the blinders. The few words in support of science that these people hear in church today may be the only words of that sort that they’ve heard for a while. I’m sorry, but I’m not optimistic enough to adopt your uncompromising stance.

  40. #41 386sx
    February 11, 2007

    “Jesus came to take away our sins, not our minds.”

    Yeah, how exactly does that work again? I’m sure it’s very intellectual, however it works! Anyway I’m glad to hear our sins are gone.

  41. #42 George
    February 11, 2007

    Last one:
    But there are some crucial places where science and the religious dovetail. Let’s begin with the separation of the days – with Genesis. There are two crucial actions that happened in the beginning. First, God separated day from night. To separate is to categorize. To separate is to discern. To separate is a part of logic, of math, of observation. God revealed himself as a scientist by this simple act.

    http://saltyvicar.typepad.com/salt/2006/02/evolution_sunda.html

    It’s official. The new name of today is:

    Evolution and Religion Shake ‘N Bake, or: Time to Write One Fucked-Up Sermon.

  42. #43 S. Rivlin
    February 11, 2007

    Thank you, George, for the laughter.

  43. #44 Kevin
    February 11, 2007

    I usually agree with PZ on most things, religion included. But I think this is abit extreme, wrongly so.

    PZ says among the hymns and prayers and magic rituals and chants to nonexistent beings, you can hear a few words in support of science.

    Well, I’m all for hearing a few words in support of science. And I usually fall asleep if sermons get too mumbo-jumbo (and don’t think the pastor doesn’t notice).

    I go to church despite being athiest. Its a decent church, proably about 80% of it is purely non-religious, non-sectarian, enjoyable stuff (beautiful music, organ music, singing, etc., talks about morality, history, culture, current events, ethical dilemnas, etc.). About 18% religious but pretty innocuous (i.e., lets all be thankful to god for the things we take for granted, lets all hope to god and try to be better people, etc. — just delete the “to god” if you like, and it makes plenty of sense). That leaves about 2% for the non-sensical stuff about rebirth, afterlife, Jesus stuff, and the very few remaining “magic rituals” in our protestant line of churches.

    PZ says you can refuse to support the whole rotten edifice of religion and stay home and read a good book.

    I have an image one day of religion dying off. But I sincerely hope that our church, and churches like it, will flourish. They loose that last 2%, or turn it into “well, we are going to eat this bread now, just because it makes us all feel nice to be doing something together as a community”. The 18% gets modified only slightly to drop the pretense about god. And the 80% stays pretty much just how it is.

    And in the mean time, who cares if you go to church and enjoy the nice parts while falling asleep during the silly parts? Not god, for sure. I already see churches competing to be the least religions as possible, and I’m happy to encourage that competition.

  44. #45 daphne
    February 11, 2007

    My Sunday mornings are usually spent on a holy field with other zealots — playing soccer! From 9-11 I’m out celebrating life, the world, and my fortunate good health. The only praying I do is that the ball will get in the goal (and it is never answered, thus re-affirming my atheism!).

    Unfortunately, it poured all night and the field is saturated, and it is threatening rain now, so no game today (why does god hate soccer?).
    Daphne

  45. #46 Mel
    February 11, 2007

    It was precisely the illusion that science and religion do not necessarily contradict each other that I stayed indoctrinated in Catholicism for as long as I did. ‘The Vatican accepts Evolution? Many prominent scientists (including Einstein, by way of quote-mining) not only proclaim no conflict but see God’s existence confirmed by their work?’ Since these were the only people I heard speaking up, I saw no problem believing for a ridiculously long time in things that made absolutely no sense but were touted by those who I assumed were much smarter than myself.

    I completely agree that eradicating the religion meme will take a good deal of time and many, many “baby steps”, but pretending that the inherent contradiction does not exist only leads to the conclusion that “God did evolution”. And that sounds an awful lot like ID to me.

  46. #47 Lynet
    February 11, 2007

    Sports science is a huge academic, and professional, endeavor. Gear, physiology, you name it, sports is full of science and science is increasingly being used to increase atheletic performance. In fact, some of the info I’ve used to critique the “aquatic ape” idea comes directly from sports science
    //
    Art also readily embraces science and technology. As one example, read about the history of pigments — a lot of artists have been chemists on the side.

    I have to comment. Let’s face it, religion also readily embraces technology: televangelists, blogs that support religious viewpoints or that people use to chronicle their personal thoughts on religion, religious movies…. There have also, in the past, been scientists who were religious – even last century, being a Spanish monk didn’t stop de Moivre from doing good work in cosmology.

    Moreover, poetry makes no particular use of technology – although it certainly does pick up on scientific ideas sometimes. But religion picks up on scientific ideas sometimes, too. That’s no litmus test.

    No, I think saying that art is orthogonal to science is probably the best way of putting it. The point is, art involves a way of thinking which is different to that in science, but art does not try to compete with science. Religion has a tendency to want to control the whole space.

    I think there are elements of religion which are not antithetical to science. I am not sure that they would look much like religion when surviving on their own without their slightly more worrisome fellows, but they might. It depends what you want religion to give you.

  47. #48 Cat of Many Faces
    February 11, 2007

    The thing about this that makes me happy is that when I argue with Christians (mainly family) I invariably get the ones who say that they have no problem with evolution, and neither does their congregation. These are the christians we would consider relatively harmless.

    And they tell me then that creationists are not the face of christianity. But as we all know, they have been for many years.

    This is to me a good sign that the Christians who are not trying to wreck the world, are attempting to take back the public image of their religion.

    I don’t see this as pandering toward science, and I know they are not going to embrace science over their religion. But, this is the type of christians that we won’t have too much trouble with, trying to take back their own.

    This is not a step in the war against religion, this is a step in the war against shoving it in your face.

  48. #49 George
    February 11, 2007

    I’ve had too much coffee. These are great.

    There are holes in Darwinian natural selection theories but I suspect the evidence in favor of some form of evolution will carry the argument also. It already does in my mind. But what the future will make of this we cannot say. The fact however that we find ourselves still in a national debate begun two centuries ago, points to why I want us to study Bible in this parish and to understand the nature of our Scripture, lest we paint ourselves into a corner in our well meaning zeal to defend God. God is quite capable of defending God.
    http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/Clergy%20Sermons%20PDF/shepard_wa.pdf

    In other words, “for heaven’s sake, don’t argue with them, you will LOSE! Just keep reading the Bible!”

  49. #50 Jeff
    February 11, 2007

    On the contrary, I think this is one Sunday where it would be a blast to go to the most backward, fundy church you could find, one where they’d be sure to rant against evolution and this “holiday” for the entire service. I’d love to sit in the front row and laugh my ass off from start to finish.

  50. #51 Paguroidea
    February 11, 2007

    George – Thanks for looking up the sermons and sharing. It is funny but also sad at the same time.

  51. #52 Chinchillazilla
    February 11, 2007

    Art also readily embraces science and technology. As one example, read about the history of pigments — a lot of artists have been chemists on the side.

    Not to mention that some of the most famous artists were pretty into science—Rembrandt and da Vinci, anyone?.

    I know that in my AP art class, we all have at least a little interest in science (I’m still pretty much a geek there, but at least I’m okay with anatomy).

    I don’t know how to feel about Evolution Sunday, really. I do think it’s good to have church leaders telling people it’s okay, but on the other hand I don’t want science to seem like it needs validation from churches.

  52. #53 Beth
    February 11, 2007

    I like you, PZ. You’re snarky!

  53. #54 Colugo
    February 11, 2007

    Regarding the comments on the incompatibility of God and religion: Victor Stenger has an entry in the ‘New Atheist’ book genre (Dennett, Dawkins, Harris): ‘God: The Failed Hypothesis.’

    http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/godless.html

    Richard Dawkins: “Darwin chased God out of his old haunts in biology, and he scurried for safety down the rabbit hole of physics. The laws and constants of the universe, we were told, are too good to be true: a setup, carefully tuned to allow the eventual evolution of life. It needed a good physicist to show us the fallacy, and Victor Stenger lucidly does so. The faithful won’t change their minds, of course (that is what faith means), but Victor Stenger drives a pack of energetic ferrets down the last major bolt hole and God is running out of refuges in which to hide.”

    Stenger’s book appears to be a ratcheting up the rhetoric; not only does he discuss how there is no evidence for God (and absence of evidence is not proof of absence, which leads to the invisible pink unicorn / cosmic teacup / FSM-style arguments), but that he asserts there is positive evidence against God’s existence.

    Stenger: “Not only does the universe show no evidence for God, it looks exactly as it would be expected to look if there is no God.”

    If physicists accept Stenger’s hypothesis, then godlessness will formally become part of science. No more Evolution Sunday. And the main front in the war between faith and science will be cosmology, not evolutionary biology. And the “stealth creationism” (God fined tuned the universe) believed in by theists who accept evolution will be confronted head on.

    But I doubt that any of those things will happen, however. Religion and belief in God are not going away; certainly not anytime soon. So I applaud Evolution Sunday. Put me down in the category that some call “appeasement” atheism.

  54. #55 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2007

    The trouble is that Evolution Sunday is a lot more about making a scientific world safe for religion than it is about making a religous world safe for science. And that’s not a service I would personally wish to render.

  55. #56 John Marley
    February 11, 2007

    Skip church every week. Ignore the pleas of your priests. Donate money and time to charities of your choice directly, rather than through the intermediary of the church bureaucracy

    I already do this. I encourage everyone else to do so also.

  56. #57 Kagehi
    February 11, 2007

    You must admit that while you don’t have much time for, say, Ken Miller, Fred Sanger or Francis Collins as Christians, you have great respect for them as scientists.

    I rather suspect that PZ’s response to this would be the same as mine, “Right up to the moment that they find something that so completely contradicts their delusional world view that they start doing bad science.” Mind you, its not easy to tell if they are merely doing “poor” science, as apposed to “bad”, since even poor science can lead to great discoveries. However, such people inevitably seem to jump the shark, go outside their fields of expertise and promptly insert foot in mouth while researching stuff that is shear bullshit, like the one physicist I watched some stuff about a while back, who confronted with something in biology that he couldn’t find a quantum physical explaination for…, decided to bring in that Speaking to the Dead fraud and have him fleece a victim while looking for “flashing of coherent light patterns between them, which could prove an avenue for telepathy.” He wasn’t willing to jump the shark so far as to claim that J.E. actually talked to dead people, but was willing to posit a completely different phenomena with just as little evidence. Last I heard, he still hadn’t given up on the BS, since, “Cells must communicate with each other somehow, and chemical explanations are not fast enough.” Right.. Because everyone knows that brain-body interaction is instantanious (wrong) and that we *think* with everything from our brains down to our big toe (wrong again).

    This is the kind of BS you get when someone believes unscientific BS, then refuses to stick with the field of expertise they *have* expertise in. And some, like Behe, etc. can’t even manage to do it right *in* their field of expertise.

    So, yeah, as long as its not obvious that their science is being disrupted by belief, that’s fine. But its not always *obvious* either.

  57. #58 Steven
    February 11, 2007

    Hi PZ,

    I feel pretty much the same way you do. I am glad those participating in evolution Sunday aren’t on the other side of the fence (creationist douchebag side) and are in support of evolution. Unlike Kenneth Miller (someone who I actually like) I think there is a barrier between science and religion because they need to completely different ways of thinking and not ways that can really co-exist. At least not to me. Some people can make them co-exist but I feel at some level they are being dishonest to themselves. Not in a devious underhanded way but still lying to themselves.

  58. #59 Stately, plump Buck Mulligan
    February 11, 2007

    I rather suspect that PZ’s response to this would be the same as mine, “Right up to the moment that they find something that so completely contradicts their delusional world view that they start doing bad science.

    And have Miller, Sanger or Collins done such “bad science”?

    Well?

  59. #60 Blake Stacey
    February 11, 2007

    Colugo:

    If physicists accept Stenger’s hypothesis, then godlessness will formally become part of science. No more Evolution Sunday. And the main front in the war between faith and science will be cosmology, not evolutionary biology. And the “stealth creationism” (God fined tuned the universe) believed in by theists who accept evolution will be confronted head on.

    I have theorized, somewhere in these comment threads, that the real problem will happen when the brain-and-cognitive-science types make progress on figuring out where consciousness comes from. Microwave backgrounds and inflationary cosmology are too far removed from everyday experience; grasping the science is difficult, and so people are vulnerable to subversion and misdirection. Think of all the vagaries and distortions which creationists propagate about evolution, tricks of rhetoric which work largely because people don’t understand the vast timescales involved. All the problems we have in explaining what evolution really means will be multiplied when the big debate shifts to cosmology.

    In contrast, cognitive science relates directly to us. When we learn about the brain, we are learning about ourselves, and as we learn how to manipulate its neural circuitry, we are manipulating our own identity. This is an affront to mysticism, not upon some distant cosmic level, but at the point which concerns us most.

    It’s not a matter of where the philosophers can find nooks and crannies for some non-physical power to reside. Theologians will provide Mobius-like twists of logic and polysyllabic special pleads, but the rest of us will find it much harder to listen. There’s a big difference between what might be philosophically plausible and what we find psychologically possible to hold, and in the end, it’s the latter which determines the beliefs of the population.

    So, in a way I’m gladdened by Evolution Sunday. It shows that people are reacting to knowledge in a way which is at least a little better than fear and loathing. Perhaps we’ve found in Gomorrah a few righteous individuals. But they’re not getting the whole message. If events like these sputter and die — say, from receiving displeased feedback from higher church officials — then we have an immediate problem. On the other hand, if it moves forward, growing by a few dozen churches every year but not significantly changing its message, then we’ve got a deferred problem, because the Gaps are shrinking at at least a couple more dethronements of human vanity are waiting in the wings.

  60. #61 David Marjanovi?
    February 11, 2007

    In other words, “for heaven’s sake, don’t argue with them, you will LOSE! Just keep reading the Bible!”

    Well, it could simply be a repetition of “the Bible teaches the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go”. Maybe the good man believes it’s outright blasphemy to abuse the Bible as a science textbook. There are such people, even though they seem to be surprisingly rare in the USA.

    Catholic theology, for example, has long ago given up on the God of the Gaps, and has found that the untestability of God’s existence dovetails very, very nicely with the whole Free Will issue.

    Of course, that logic still hangs in mid-air, and can be considered needless baggage… but I can’t see how it really conflicts with science.

  61. #62 David Marjanovi?
    February 11, 2007

    In other words, “for heaven’s sake, don’t argue with them, you will LOSE! Just keep reading the Bible!”

    Well, it could simply be a repetition of “the Bible teaches the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go”. Maybe the good man believes it’s outright blasphemy to abuse the Bible as a science textbook. There are such people, even though they seem to be surprisingly rare in the USA.

    Catholic theology, for example, has long ago given up on the God of the Gaps, and has found that the untestability of God’s existence dovetails very, very nicely with the whole Free Will issue.

    Of course, that logic still hangs in mid-air, and can be considered needless baggage… but I can’t see how it really conflicts with science.

  62. #63 Thony C.
    February 11, 2007

    “Art also readily embraces science and technology. As one example, read about the history of pigments — a lot of artists have been chemists on the side.”

    A lot of renaissance artists were also excellent mathematicians.

  63. #64 llewelly
    February 11, 2007

    Catholic theology, for example, has long ago given up on the God of the Gaps, and has found that the untestability of God’s existence dovetails very, very nicely with the whole Free Will issue.

    What will happen to such views of Free Will when cognitive science starts producing deterministic explanations for why people believe in God?

  64. #65 Colugo
    February 11, 2007

    Blake Stacey:

    Thanks for reminding me of the other major God “bolt hole” (as Dawkins would put it) besides cosmology: the “soul”/mind. I recall our discussion about that.

    I differ with Dawkins, however: God doesn’t just find bolt holes; He creates them. Also, from time to time believers have to redefine God in order to make the fit happen. God the Father becomes God the Fine-Tuner or the God of Historical Contingency. Still, God persists.

  65. #66 Interrobang
    February 11, 2007

    PZ – to continue the martial analogy, which war are you trying to fight? The one against religion, or the one against creationism?

    False dichotomy — the answer is “yes.” If there were really such a thing as non-religious creationism, this wouldn’t be remotely a fuzzy question.

  66. #67 The Exterminator
    February 11, 2007

    PZ is right on. Religion and science conflict.

    They conflict because religion is, by definition, unscientific. Scientists accept nothing on faith. Religionists must.

    It’s convenient for many churches with a semi-rational congregation to claim acceptance of science, the details of evolution included. However, when churches “accept” evolution but still preach belief in a supreme being who got the cosmic ball rolling, they have thought seriously about neither their supreme being nor evolution. Why would an omnipotent entity use such a sloppy, unpredictable, often “cruel” process as evolution to create and alter life? On the other hand, if evolution is self-working, what’s god’s role? To sit back and watch his creations eat each other? Nice hypothesis!

    Science and religion can be reconciled only by those folks who don’t really care about either. Committed religionists have to admit that they can’t justify at least some of their beliefs in the light of scientific contradictions. We atheists, on the other hand, never try to reconcile science with religion — because it can’t be done.

    And on another subject: One does not have to be a scientist to believe in science. Non-scientist artists, entertainers, and, yes, even sports figures are perfectly capable of dismissing a ridiculous supernatural premise without having to fully understand the intricacies of astrophysics, biogeography, or any formal -ologies.

  67. #68 John Scott
    February 11, 2007

    I guess this is what is called preaching to the converted. I read in the NY Times that these people you so love to mock give more of their time and money to charitable causes beyond their church than non church goers(probably your average biologist and associate professor) and their on line apers(sic).See how easy it is to insult others. Apparently organized religion plays a part in people’s lives that is beyond your ability to comprehend. As a scientist I admire your quest to find an answer to this, as opposed to just putting them down as would some uneducated redneck.

  68. #69 George
    February 11, 2007

    Evolution got you in a bind? No problem. Look to the future, all will be well.

    I want the scientists to keep finding more and more proof of the evolutionary process because I believe more discoveries will only lead to more questions. And in a thousand years, I believe we will still only be able to say:
    We have so much more to learn.
    Praise the LORD!
    And may the glory of the LORD
    endure forever!

    http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/pdf/mccaslin_ny.pdf

    Hallelujah! That was easy.

  69. #70 Blake Stacey
    February 11, 2007

    So spake Colugo:

    Also, from time to time believers have to redefine God in order to make the fit happen. God the Father becomes God the Fine-Tuner or the God of Historical Contingency. Still, God persists.

    This becomes a big problem when people say that physics proves God the Fine-Tuner and then turn around and give that being the attributes of God the Father, or more accurately Yahweh the Racist Homophobe.

  70. #71 Colugo
    February 11, 2007

    Blake Stacey: Indeed, mental gymnastics are a remarkable evolved feature.

    Noam Chomsky: “On the ordinary problems of human life, science tells us very little, and scientists as people are surely no guide. … As for the various religions, there’s no doubt that they are very meaningful to adherents, and allow them to delude themselves into thinking there is some meaning to their lives beyond what we agree is the case”

    http://www.edge.org/discourse/bb.html#chomsky

  71. #72 SEF
    February 11, 2007

    Donate money and time to charities of your choice directly

    I didn’t know it was supposed to be “Evolution Sunday”. However, as it happens, I didn’t go to church (of course not!). I fed my local over-evolved mini-dinosaur-descendants and did some (rare) gardening instead – culminating in photographing a superbly fat worm. I had also just written another cheque to the charity of my choice (for my sponsor child and her village):

    http://www.soschildren.org/

    and then watched Top Gear (a UK car-based programme) which has tonight been making (the southern states of) the US look very bad indeed. Oddly, although they tried out various pro-Democrat, anti country-and-western and homosexual slogans on their cars, they either never thought of or didn’t dare risk a Darwin evolve-fish or any atheist identification.

  72. #73 Damien
    February 11, 2007

    PZ, You’re much more hopeful than I am to think that the great crush of superstitious humanity will drop their chains. I would simply be thankful to see them become slightly less clueless. And maybe their children, or their children’s children, will have a slightly better chance of taking off the blinders.

    Analogy I immediately thought of: the gradual approach through many lives toward Nirvana in Hinduism, vs. Buddhism’s revolutionary teaching that enlightenment can be reached in a single lifetime, by anyone. PZ’s the Buddhist.

  73. #74 S. Rivlin
    February 11, 2007

    If science and religion are at war, does that mean that a scientist cannot be religious or that because of his her religiosity his/her scientific work is “bad”?

  74. #75 Gene Goldring
    February 11, 2007

    In addition, pharaohs, kings and heroes were often seen as sons of gods, or at least as special mediators between the divine and human spheres. The greatness and vaunted power and glory of the successive waves of empires that impinged on or conquered Israel (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia) posed an analogous problem of idolatry in the human sphere.

    In the light of this historical context it becomes clearer what Genesis 1 is undertaking and accomplishing: a radical and sweeping affirmation of monotheism vis-ŕ-vis polytheism, syncretism and idolatry. Each day of creation takes on two principal categories of divinity in the pantheons of the day, and declares that these are not gods at all, but creatures — creations of the one true God who is the only one, without a second or third. Each day dismisses an additional cluster of deities, arranged in a cosmological and symmetrical order.

    On the first day the gods of light and darkness are dismissed. On the second day, the gods of sky and sea. On the third day, earth gods and gods of vegetation. On the fourth day, sun, moon and star gods. The fifth and sixth days take away any associations with divinity from the animal kingdom. And finally human existence, too, is emptied of any intrinsic divinity — while at the same time all human beings, from the greatest to the least, and not just pharaohs, kings and heroes, are granted a divine likeness and mediation.

    On each day of creation another set of idols is smashed. These, O Israel, are no gods at all — even the great gods and rulers of conquering superpowers. They are the creations of that transcendent One who is not to be confused with any piece of the furniture of the universe of creaturely habitation. The creation is good, it is very good, but it is not divine.
    http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1332

    Do you think Ham or Hovind no of this historical interpretation?

  75. #76 David Ratnasabapathy
    February 11, 2007

    I don’t get it.

    Creationists lie. These guys, at least when it comes to science, don’t. They encourage people to learn science. Creationists would be horrified at the idea.

    How can this event, which celebrates this excellent difference between Creationists and religious non-Creationists, be bad?

    Moreover, I think everyone goes through a phase where they believe in magic. Not the real magic that’s built into this universe, the fake stuff — you know, where you sing songs at inanimate objects and think that that’ll do some good. It seems to me that churches like these shelter such people from Creationists. These churches might also set budding singers on the path to Enlightenment. Evolution Sunday’s a sort of kid’s course on real magic. Surely it’s ok to lie a little, to beginners, if it makes the lesson easier to learn? So long as the main point is covered…

    Besides which, Creationists hate these churches. The enemy of my enemy.

    David Ratna

  76. #77 The Pooka MacPhellimey
    February 11, 2007

    Stately, plump Buck Mulligan wrote: I suspect that the ability of people to think rationally about some things and still have a little comforting pocket of irrationality tucked away in their heads drives you nuts

    Why would a ‘pocket of irrationality’ be comforting? I’d me more inclined to think of it as a broken tooth, constantly irritating one by attracting one’s attention.

  77. #78 stately, plump Buck Mulligan
    February 11, 2007

    Why would a ‘pocket of irrationality’ be comforting? I’d me more inclined to think of it as a broken tooth, constantly irritating one by attracting one’s attention.

    That’s the problem with you (and PZ). You can’t appreciate that other people may feel differently to you.

  78. #79 Carlo
    February 11, 2007

    I think PZ is failing to grasp the true value of Evolution Sunday to atheists.

    Science and religion conflict, yes. So what better way to undermine religion than to introduce science into sermons? Celebrate evolution sunday year after year, get people used to the idea that people evolved from prehistoric apes, and maybe someday, their children’s children will decide that god doesn’t need to be factored into the equation anymore.

    This isn’t people in chains shuffling a few steps forward at the behest of the jailer. This is the jailer unwittingly causing the chains to slowly rust.

  79. #80 Ichthyic
    February 11, 2007

    That’s the problem with you (and PZ). You can’t appreciate that other people may feel differently to you.

    and perhaps others have not considered the possibility that all they are doing is simple compartmentalization?

  80. #81 Colugo
    February 11, 2007

    Like responses to the Blasphemy Challenge and theistic evolutionists (Collins, Conway Morris), Evolution Sunday is a great example of how the goals and strategies of New Atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Stenger, PZ…) and Theist-Friendly Atheists (Brayton, Konner, Atran…) diverge.

    Perhaps that topic could be a follow-up to the Dover case books.

  81. #82 Bob O'H
    February 12, 2007

    PZ – to continue the martial analogy, which war are you trying to fight? The one against religion, or the one against creationism?

    False dichotomy — the answer is “yes.” If there were really such a thing as non-religious creationism, this wouldn’t be remotely a fuzzy question.

    If it’s a false dichotomy, then all supporters of evolution must be atheists, and all Christians must be creationists. Find the Dover trial transcripts, and see if you can find any counter-examples.

    Try again.

    Bob

  82. #83 Stately, plump Buck Mulligan
    February 12, 2007

    perhaps others have not considered the possibility that all they are doing is simple compartmentalization?

    And why is that so bad? Can you honestly tell me that there are no inconsistencies in how you live your life? The smug self-assuredness of some of the people here (including the Blogmeister) can be a little hard to take sometimes.

  83. #84 Kagehi
    February 12, 2007

    perhaps others have not considered the possibility that all they are doing is simple compartmentalization?

    I am going to answer the comment to me by answering this one as well (and BTW, am I the *only* one that noticed that the comment being refered to above is itself commenting one something PZ didn’t post, but someone else?)

    In any case, I don’t think there is such a thing as “simple compartmentalization”. Not unless you are talking about split personalities where the guy writing about trinities and waterfalls is pissed because some other dude wrote about a bunch of science and that one is confused about who wrote babbling nonsense about Christianity in his science book. These are whole people that have “partly”, at best, compartmentalized two drastically contradictory world views. I for one do not believe its impossible for such a person to go through their lives without having one spill over into the other and distract them from discoveries or ideas that would invalidate the compartmentalized religious ideas. Put simply, does anyone, including the people that are arguing that they have a list of people whose science hasn’t been effected by their crazy ideas in the rest of their lives, honestly think that, should they *ever* find themselves confronted by something that can’t, won’t and doesn’t fit their crazier beliefs, that they will not either a) ignore it, b) try to twist it into something that does fit or c) suffer a massive intellectual crisis, which, depending on the individual, could just as easilly shove them over the edge into complete denial of reality as it is to cause them to abandon the strange ideas they have shoved into a box in the corners of there minds.

    Its not a matter of “if” there is any obvious signs that these people are doing bad science, it is a matter of what it will take to drive them to a crisis, and if that crisis drives them further under the water, drowning them, or force them to the shore, where they stop trying to tred water, while insisting they are not getting wet. In point of fact, we can’t say IF, HOW, or even WHEN any of the people listed as both religious and “good” scientists have, can or will fail to be so because of what they refuse apply the same logic and reason to as they do there normal work. Some or all of them may have been already confronted with some major realization or idea, which they simply couldn’t accept, leading them to pursue other avenues, which may actually be worse than the ones they abandoned because it would have challenged their beliefs. Unless they outright admit to doing that, even (or especially) to themselves, we have literally no way of knowing. Its purely assumption on our part that doing what appears to be good science means that the science they are doing or have done is uneffected by their beliefs. I just don’t believe that compartmentalization on that level is truly possible and not prone to leak across the interface between the boxes.

  84. #85 Loren Petrich
    February 12, 2007

    PZ Myers, I love and respect most of what you have to say, but I think that this is excessive. I appreciate what those pastors are doing, even if they are not going far enough.

    And while we are on this subject, I wonder when Xian apologists will start bragging about how evolution is described in the Bible and that it has taken a long time for the scientific community to catch up with it.

    But at least they aren’t claiming that the Standard Model of elementary particle physics proves the Trinity.

  85. #86 QrazyQat
    February 12, 2007

    Other classic art and science ties: learning perspective and how perception works; dissection of animals and people, plus a lot of other nature study, to better make art.

  86. #87 Byrana
    February 12, 2007

    The “Religion meme” will wither but it is on generational time frame. Glad to see another Winstonian out there….

  87. #88 B Martin
    February 12, 2007

    For the majority of us who attend a non-fundamentalist church, the spiritual and the scientific are two separate arenas that only occasionally overlap. If I am wondering about why the sky is blue, I consult my scientific sources. If I have a question of whether to return the Rolex watch I found on the street, science doesn’t help much.

    In a way, the sense that one knows-it-all that you find in the ardent athiest is every bit as condescendingly closed minded as what you find in the fundamentalist. You are both true believers in your own odd way. The only rational approach to the unknowable is to admit that it is, well, unknowable; and maintain a healthy and skeptical questioning atitude towards all who claim that they have all the answers.

  88. #89 Steve LaBonne
    February 12, 2007

    In a way, the sense that one knows-it-all that you find in the ardent athiest is every bit as condescendingly closed minded as what you find in the fundamentalist.

    I’ll buy that as soon as you can convince me that the “spiritual” side of your compartmentalized brain yields anything that can properly be regarded as knowledge. Go for it. (While you’re at it, learn to spell “atheist”.)

  89. #90 Caledonian
    February 12, 2007

    If I am wondering about why the sky is blue, I consult my scientific sources. If I have a question of whether to return the Rolex watch I found on the street, science doesn’t help much.

    It’s called ‘game theory’, and it’s extremely useful. Religion isn’t much good – it can rationalize any response it wishes. You might as well go ‘ask’ a rolling pair of dice.

  90. #91 George
    February 12, 2007

    In a way, the sense that one knows-it-all that you find in the ardent athiest is every bit as condescendingly closed minded as what you find in the fundamentalist.

    The condescension is justified. Read the bloody sermons. They are full of cliches and borrowed ideas. As efforts to grapple with science and evolution, most are shallow and uninteresting.

    The people who wrote them are parroting each other and mostly end up saying something dogmatic about the beyond or oneness or mystery that sounds ridiculous coming from an adult.

    I’m sure they are all nice people, I’m sure they do tons of good, but they are also spouting ideas that deceive people, and that’s what bothers me.

    http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/rel_resources.htm

  91. #92 Chris
    February 12, 2007

    In a way, the sense that one knows-it-all that you find in the ardent athiest is every bit as condescendingly closed minded as what you find in the fundamentalist.

    Except for the minor detail that “ardent atheists” say nothing of the sort, while fundamentalists really ARE closed minded – and proud of it!

    Please put down the straw man and start learning what atheists are really saying, *before* criticizing them.

    Nobody is rejecting the Bible (for example) without reading it. We’re rejecting the Bible because we’ve looked at the Bible and looked at the world and they don’t even come close to matching up. That’s not dogmatism. That’s judgment based on evidence. There’s a difference, and the difference is important.

    You are both true believers in your own odd way.

    Yeah, I truly believe that the best way to decide whether or not it is raining, without going outside, is to look out the window. Not to pray, or meditate, or consult scriptures, but to actually look.

    If you really want to put belief in the value of actually looking at things on par with belief in angels or life after death or whatever, well, I don’t have any words to describe such an attitude. “Insane” doesn’t begin to cover it.

    The only rational approach to the unknowable is to admit that it is, well, unknowable; and maintain a healthy and skeptical questioning atitude towards all who claim that they have all the answers.

    The only rational approach to the unknowable is to admit that we don’t know what is unknowable and what isn’t, until we try to know it and find out whether we succeed or fail. And if we fail we can keep trying. Declaring something unknowable without even trying to know it is lazy and cowardly.

    It’s true that only by admitting that we don’t have all the answers can we find new and better answers. This, in fact, is precisely why science progresses and religion doesn’t. But until you put down your strawman view of the dogmatic atheist, it will be difficult for you to see the genuine differences between the two worldviews.

  92. #93 George
    February 12, 2007

    How to write an Evolution Sunday sermon:

    1) Open sermon template:

    O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! [insert topical crap] Praise God!

    2) Google some science topics. Insert semi-meaningless topical science crap:

    O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! [When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; when I look through a microscope and see the cilia of a paramecium that you have created; when I witness the complex combinations of atoms or the individual deoxyribonucleic acid that makes each being unique, I realize that you have set your glory above the heavens.] Praise God!

    3) Save and Print. You’re done!

  93. #94 Anton Mates
    February 12, 2007

    If I am wondering about why the sky is blue, I consult my scientific sources. If I have a question of whether to return the Rolex watch I found on the street, science doesn’t help much.

    Science can predict (roughly) the outcomes if you return or keep the watch, in terms of your own feelings, the reaction of the watch’s owner, the behavior of bystanders, and so forth. That’s quite helpful.

    Religion, on the other hand, can tell you how various imaginary beings might feel about your keeping or returning the watch, what imaginary effects this action might have on your psyche, and what imaginary rewards or punishments you might receive before or after death. That’s considerably less helpful.

    In either case, you’ll have to make the choice yourself. But with science, at least it’s an informed choice.

    In a way, the sense that one knows-it-all that you find in the ardent athiest is every bit as condescendingly closed minded as what you find in the fundamentalist. You are both true believers in your own odd way. The only rational approach to the unknowable is to admit that it is, well, unknowable; and maintain a healthy and skeptical questioning atitude towards all who claim that they have all the answers.

    As Chris says, the unknown need not be unknowable. To claim without evidence that it is unknowable is not a sign of healthy skepticism.

    Moreover, the atheist does not claim that they have all the answers, but rather that the theist’s answers are not supported by evidence.

  94. #95 Steve LaBonne
    February 12, 2007

    Yes, it’s theists who have an irritable need to believe that ALL questions are answered somehow. If rational / empirical answers aren’t available they’ll happily settle for made-up religious ones just so they can feel the question is not left open. Feh.

  95. #96 Blake Stacey
    February 12, 2007

    Cheers to Kagehi, Chris and Anton Mates!

  96. #97 SEF
    February 12, 2007

    How to write an Evolution Sunday sermon:

    Get the appropriate religious software to write it for you. I kid you not:
    http://www.vislit.com/

    I found it last summer after seeing this story:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/5244988.stm

    I still claim Symantec effectively had it right the first time, since it might well qualify as malware.

  97. #98 Stately, plump Buck Mulligan
    February 12, 2007

    SLB: I’ll buy that as soon as you can convince me that the “spiritual” side of your compartmentalized brain yields anything that can properly be regarded as knowledge.

    Why do I have the feeling that any answer to this challenge will be dismissed with “That’s not knowledge – that’s pseudo New Age claptrap” or some such?

    Chris: But until you put down your strawman view of the dogmatic atheist, it will be difficult for you to see the genuine differences between the two worldviews.

    The above quote came from a comment where Chris invoked fundamentalist Christians. I’ll see your strawman and raise you a dose of hypocrisy……

    Caledonian: It’s called ‘game theory’, and it’s extremely useful.

    I have this vision of Cal living his personal/emotional life according to game theory, and it isn’t pretty. Please tell me you don’t seriously do this.

  98. #99 George
    February 12, 2007

    Sermon writer’s block got you down? Get SermonWriter!

    Richard Donovan publishes SermonWriter. Several years ago, he found himself over-extended and needing good resources, especially stories that fit well with the text. While the world is full of stories, it is not easy to find one that fits well with the scripture text.

    http://www.sermonwriter.com/our_story.htm

    Amd here’s some advice on how to overcome Sermon writer’s block:

    Overcoming Sermon Writer’s Block
    Rev. Chryst
    email
    Posted on:
    Aug 11, 2005 18:10:14 Can I add a few more?

    – Take a walk

    – Start early enough before Sunday that you can put if off for a day or two if the thoughts aren’t coming

    – GOOGLE!!! Google the key words. Google the text itself. Google others’ sermons

    – Write a poem or a hymn verse about an aspect of the text, or find one someone else has written

    – Preach it to yourself, what law/gospel is in the text for YOU the preacher?

    http://www.redeemer-fortwayne.org/blog.php?msg=512

    Must be tough to come up with something interesting to say week after week after week after week….

  99. #100 Keith Douglas
    February 12, 2007

    PZ a contemporary artist wanting to improve our treatment of the environment (as artists often want to espouse important “causes”) might want to learn some chemistry to develop better paints … incidentally, there was a chemistry of pigmentation course jointly in art and chem at CMU a year or so ago. Shame that more of this stuff isn’t done.

    Blake Stacey: Consciousness isn’t as devastating to traditional beliefs as the neuropsychology of decision, will and action, I think, since it will play havoc with our notions of legal and moral responsibility. I see glimmerings of this already, but the storm is coming.

  100. #101 octopod
    February 13, 2007

    Mr. Mulligan, what exactly is your beef with game theory? I try to let it inform my decisions, and I’m not sure what’s “not pretty” about it.

  101. #102 Anton Mates
    February 13, 2007

    SLB: I’ll buy that as soon as you can convince me that the “spiritual” side of your compartmentalized brain yields anything that can properly be regarded as knowledge.

    Why do I have the feeling that any answer to this challenge will be dismissed with “That’s not knowledge – that’s pseudo New Age claptrap” or some such?

    I dunno. Perhaps you think it’s likely that any answer will be pseudo-New Age claptrap?

    I wouldn’t think so, myself. At least on Pharyngula threads, the responses tend to be more straightforward things like “I know that I love my family” and “I know that babies shouldn’t be shot in the face.” Which, generally, turn out not to require “spiritual ways of knowing” at all.

    Chris: But until you put down your strawman view of the dogmatic atheist, it will be difficult for you to see the genuine differences between the two worldviews.

    The above quote came from a comment where Chris invoked fundamentalist Christians. I’ll see your strawman and raise you a dose of hypocrisy……

    Huh? A moderate theist invoked both “ardent atheists” and “fundamentalists;” Chris was replying to that.

  102. #103 B Martin
    February 13, 2007

    Sorry for the lousy formatting in my responses below->
    _____________________________________
    ME: If I am wondering about why the sky is blue, I consult my scientific sources. If I have a question of whether to return the Rolex watch I found on the street, science doesn’t help much.
    Caledonian: It’s called ‘game theory’, and it’s extremely useful. Religion isn’t much good – it can rationalize any response it wishes. You might as well go ‘ask’ a rolling pair of dice

    ME reply: Huh? How does game theory answer the question of whether to return the watch or keep it… I genuinely am curious.
    ___________________________________________________
    Mates: Science can predict (roughly) the outcomes if you return or keep the watch, in terms of your own feelings, the reaction of the watch’s owner, the behavior of bystanders, and so forth. That’s quite helpful

    ME: Maybe you think that’s helpful. I don’t.
    _____________________________________________________

    CHRIS: Yeah, I truly believe that the best way to decide whether or not it is raining, without going outside, is to look out the window. Not to pray, or meditate, or consult scriptures, but to actually look.
    If you really want to put belief in the value of actually looking at things on par with belief in angels or life after death or whatever, well, I don’t have any words to describe such an attitude. “Insane” doesn’t begin to cover it.

    ME: I don’t think you really read what I said… please reread it. I think “figuring out if its raining outside ” clearly comes under the province of the answerable question. Religion comes in when the question is unawnswerable (at least currently).
    ____________________________________________________

    Further thoughts: Nothing made me doubt the presence of God more than the preachers of my fundamentalist youth. Nothing is bringing me closer to a revival of “faith” than the preaching of the “fundatheists” (to coin a new term)!

    Your loathing of folks like me is based on exposure (media and personal) to a straw man. I think if you actually spent some time talking to or hanging out with a liberal theist (christian or whatever) you will find someone very different from your preconcieved notions.

  103. #104 Kagehi
    February 13, 2007

    Sorry Martin, but this isn’t about how *likable* a theist is or how *unassuming* they are, its about what happens when they are inevitably confronted with making a choice that’s correct, or just theologically sound. The problem being, those things are only the same thing about half the time (and that is giving more credit that maybe I should).

    As for things like game theory.. No, we don’t stop to think, “Gosh! What would game theory say about this situation?” However, every study ever done on the subject of how people and animals both function in groups and succeed show that we learn to think in those terms anyway. The ones that don’t, fail. One good example is reciprocity, where two monkeys will cooperate with each other to get treats, when **both** need to do something to make it happen, even if one gets food twice as often. They don’t sit and think, “Gosh! I wonder what would happen if I just did nothing?”, unlike us, they simply cooperate and thus both get something from it. It takes theology to invent bullshit distinctions about denying other people things because only *we* deserve them or life is being *unfair* by not making us the one that is getting “more” than everyone else. And that is all religion is, “If you belong to our group you get special priviledges, special treatment and a big reward no one else does when the game is over.” Well… screw that. It doesn’t do a damn thing *except* encourage less cooperation and promote more greed and selfishness among the believers. That some “liberal theists” reject this in favor of acting like secularists, except on Sundays, when they still hope they win the big prize at the end, doesn’t alter the underlying problem one bit.

  104. #105 Anton Mates
    February 13, 2007

    Mates: Science can predict (roughly) the outcomes if you return or keep the watch, in terms of your own feelings, the reaction of the watch’s owner, the behavior of bystanders, and so forth. That’s quite helpful

    ME: Maybe you think that’s helpful. I don’t.

    Er…okay. It seems you have a different definition of “helpful” than I do. What would you say is helpful when deciding whether or not to return a watch? And what does religion have to contribute on this score?

    Your loathing of folks like me is based on exposure (media and personal) to a straw man.

    What loathing? I think liberal theists are generally quite decent people; like most believers, they’re better than the beliefs they profess.

  105. #106 Kagehi
    February 14, 2007

    Oh, and I happen to agree with Anton. Liberal ones are not the problem, even if the potential still exists for them to go off the deep end on some random subject that they refuse to apply logic to. If 100% of them where all “liberal theists” 90% of the problems would fracking go away instantly.

  106. #107 Nathanael Nerode
    February 14, 2007

    Unitarian Universalist practices do not appear to be really opposed to scientific practice, as far as I can tell. I’m sure there are a few other such churches out there somewhere, possibly even Christian-derived ones.

    Discordian priests certainly haven’t been antiscientific in their practices, in my experiences.

    And as for the ministers of the Church of Universal Life….

    I would say that *dogma* is actually the problem, not *religion* per se. Religion doesn’t actually require dogma. Unfortunately dogma is required by all the most common religious groups.

  107. #108 Nathanael Nerode
    February 14, 2007

    “Scientists accept nothing on faith. Religionists must.”
    To follow up on what I just wrote, this is simply not true.

    There are religious which require *no faith*. They’re just relatively uncommon and alien to our eyes. Even Therevada Buddhism, a very large religion, does not ask for faith. Taoism certainly doesn’t.

    I think it’s appropriate to attack *blind faith*, because it’s appallingly dangerous. It is simply incorrect to conflate that with “religion”.

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