Pharyngula

What is going on here? I read Mitt Romney’s comments on evolution on TPM Cafe and was surprised at how many people think it was a positive development.

Is this a first? Mitt Romney isn’t pandering to religious right voters or flip-flopping on an issue important to them in this interview, in which he reveals that he opposes the teaching of intelligent design:

“I believe that God designed the universe and created the universe,” Mr. Romney said in an interview this week. “And I believe evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body.”

He was asked: Is that intelligent design?

“I’m not exactly sure what is meant by intelligent design,” he said. “But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.”

While governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Romney opposed the teaching of intelligent design in science classes.

“In my opinion, the science class is where to teach evolution, or if there are other scientific thoughts that need to be discussed,” he said. “If we’re going to talk about more philosophical matters, like why it was created, and was there an intelligent designer behind it, that’s for the religion class or philosophy class or social studies class.”

How about that?

Read the comments over there. People are calling it “startling”, “intelligent”, and that it’s brave of him to accept a basic tenet of biology. What the hell are they talking about?

OK, so it’s a bunch of political junkies over there. What do they know? But then I read Jason Rosenhouse, who’s “impressed”, calls the statement “downright intelligent”, and thinks “he’s right on this issue”.

Don’t let me down, Panda’s Thumb … oops, they’ve let me down. Steve Reuland admits that it’s political pablum, but that it’s “essentially pro-science”.

I’m sorry, but Romney’s statement is pure calculated bullshit with more acknowledgment of religion than science. It is perfectly in alignment with the strategy of rebranding ID as evolution. Seriously, if you follow the statements of the intelligent design creationists, you’ll find that they say stuff that is just like Romney’s comment — if there’s any difference, it’s that IDists are more reluctant to mention god than Romney was. Here, for example:

I believe in an old earth, a long evolution, I’m fine with common descent, etc.

I believe in the evolution of life the same way I believe in the evolution of computers. It’s obvious both evolved in a stepwise fashion from simple beginnings but just as obvious is that neither could have happened absent contrivance.

Shall we call DaveScot “pro-science” now?

Look at Romney’s statement carefully. Aw, heck, you don’t even need to look carefully — the superstition jumps out at you.

“I believe that God designed the universe and created the universe,” Mr. Romney said in an interview this week. “And I believe evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body.”

Magic man done it! Seriously, follow the link and watch the movie clip. Intelligent Design creationism is the idea to ape scientific explanations exactly except for … a “thing”, “some kind of force”, that mucks about whenever the creationist doesn’t understand how something could have evolved. Theistic evolution is the same thing.

He was asked: Is that intelligent design?

“I’m not exactly sure what is meant by intelligent design,” he said. “But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.”

What have you got there? Teleology, an intelligent agent guiding the process, and an implicit idea that humans are the goal. It’s not science. It’s the antithesis of the biological view of evolution. The disingenuous disavowal of intelligent design by name is there to cloak an acceptance of design in substance.

I’m not arguing that Romney is particularly bad in this case. He’s not pushing some insane Young Earth Creationist position, and I think if you pushed the candidates in the Democratic field they’d probably say something similar—they’d mumble some platitudes about accepting the scientific consensus and then throw in something about their belief in god, and how god used science to make us. It’s all wrong. What is particularly troubling is how far we’ve sunk that so many on the side of science are willing to ignore the unscientific promotion of an unevidenced supernatural entity and pretend that this is good for us.

Try to imagine the next big court case to get ID out of the schools.

The lawyer says, “Mr Matzke (you know Nick will be there, right?), you’ve brilliantly dissected this textbook the Discovery Institute is using, and shown that despite the absence of any overt mention of god or religion, it’s antecedents are derived from the creationist movement, and its authors are all strongly religious and have made statements outside the context of this particular book that strongly imply intent to promote religion. We should not be fooled by the absence of obvious religious advocacy in the book itself, but recognize instead its duplicitous nature and the bad faith arguments of its proponents?”

Nick will humbly reply, “Yes, sir.”

And the DI lawyer will then say, “But half your witnesses are “theistic” evolutionists, and proud of it. They say openly that they believe a God, the Christian God, not even an ambiguous supernatural force, was involved in the creation of human beings. They write books about DNA as the “language of God”. They lecture with considerable force that science and religion are compatible, and more, that science strengthens their faith in the Christian God. Proponents of the evolution position blithely call these people who insert a god into their explanations of origins ‘pro-science’. Your side ignores or even derides scientists who insist on purely natural explanations of our evolution, and promotes those who use religion to sell science to the public.”

“I’m baffled. On what basis are you arguing that this case involves a violation of the separation of church and state when I can scarcely tell the two of you apart, and when it’s your side that more openly embraces religious ideas—when the Intelligent Design proponents show a history of nominally moving away from their religious roots, while your side shows a history of increasing recruitment of church leaders, theologians, and lay advocates of god-involvement in science?”

And Nick will say … I have no idea how Nick would reply. I’m sure it will be clever and devastating, and I’m sure it will explain how the statement that “I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation” is pro-science while “I do not believe in the sufficiency of random mutation and natural selection to explain the history of life on earth” is anti-science. I’d like to hear an explanation for how “theistic evolution” is less religious than “intelligent design”.

If he can’t, we’re going to have an interesting time at the next trial. Maybe the gang at the NCSE should rethink their strategy a bit, because the way I see it, any defense that uses separation of church and state as its basis is becoming increasingly untenable.

Comments

  1. #1 Daedalus
    May 12, 2007

    Here is Tom Tancredo on evolution:

    “Evolution explains changes in life. Creationism explains its origin.”

    Yet another example of Creationism 3.0: theistic evolution.

  2. #2 Bob
    May 12, 2007

    The disingenuous disavowal of intelligent design by name is there to cloak an acceptance of design in substance.

    Exactly. An ad hoc accomodation (both intellectually and politically), plain and simple.

  3. #3 Robin Z
    May 12, 2007

    But … won’t it be obvious if they’re loading textbooks with theistic implications? And unless they do, they’ll stand or be shot down on the grounds of the actual science.

    The rationale here has already been made – it’s methodological naturalism. The quote-unquote good guys can defend science that way, right?

  4. #4 Zeno
    May 12, 2007

    What the hell are they talking about?

    The folks who like what Romney said are grading him on the curve. GOP science policy is so benighted, so negative, that anyone who says evolution is okay by him and that ID belongs in philosophy classes, not science classes, automatically looks infinitely superior to what we have now. Romney is some strain of theistic evolutionist (although “deity” is a very broad concept in Mormonism), and that looks a whole lot better than the gaggle of evolution-deniers who run the GOP today.

    Is Romney on board with the new move to rebrand ID as evolution? I don’t know. Probably not. Since the IDists are moving to co-opt the language of evolution as a disguise for their ideology, I suspect it’s merely a coincidence that Romney’s comments can be construed as agreeing with them. The ID people are now in the business of appearing to agree with evolutionary ideas while actually intending to subvert them. As long as they can get God in there somewhere, they’ll probably be pretty happy, even if they continue to describe him as some nondescript “designer” rather than “Jehovah”. Certainly Romney’s statement has plenty of God stuff in it, so ID can say “Amen” and continue doing the Lord’s work. (Oops! No doubt they’d prefer that I say “advancing science”.)

  5. #5 Chris
    May 12, 2007

    Ironic that all this time people have been attacking you for refusing to accept that the theistic evolutionists are on our side.

    Because. They. Aren’t.

    Accepting divine intervention as an explanation when there isn’t any evidence supporting it isn’t just unscientific, it’s anti-scientific. (And it isn’t an explanation, either – if intelligence has to be designed by intelligence, who designed god? Whenever a theistic evolutionist is rash enough to actually try to answer this question instead of evading or ignoring it, then you can *really* see how anti-science they are.) None of this is new, so why has it been dismissed for so long?

    I think most theistic evolutionists are just trying to reconcile the religion that was drummed into them by their parents or peers with the obvious evidence for certain factual positions (universal common descent, species changing over time, etc.) – without ever making the leap to putting the evidence first in *all* areas of inquiry, which would have led them to discard dogma. That kind of doublethink is a very human thing to do, of course. But I still think it’s wrong.

    The idea that if evolution happened, someone must be causing it is really no different than the idea that if it’s raining, someone must be causing it. Evolution *looks* more complex and improbable and purposeful than the weather. But it really isn’t. The odds against every raindrop striking the precise spot that it does strike are phenomenal, but that doesn’t mean we should return to believing in rain gods. To say that evolution must have been something special because it produced *us* is just arrogance and the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy.

    Given the human brain’s well-known and well-documented tendency to believe that there’s purpose and meaning and intelligent agency in everything, even when there isn’t, we should be doubly suspicious of the claim that no, really, this time there really is purpose and meaning and intelligent agency. The intentional stance is a powerful tool, but we instinctively overapply it like crazy. Gotta watch that.

  6. #6 Darwinator
    May 12, 2007

    PZ, I respectfully suggest that you’re missing the point.

    If you’re looking to smash religion off the face of the earth in one fell swoop you’re kidding yourself (not that it’s an unworthy goal, it certainly is).

    When 50 something percent of the US population explicitly deny evolution, we have a huge problem. Why not start by encouraging people to accept the science of big issues like evolution before encouraging them to jettison their fairy tales? I think that this “whack-a-mole” game of beating down the silliness (ID, young earth creationism, miracles, transubstantiation) surrounding religions is a necessary precursor to a larger intellectual leap. Knocking each one of these idiocies on the head prior to going after god, backs god into an ever smaller corner.

    It seems to me that if you allow religious people to investigate evolution in a way that doesn’t threaten their beliefs, you’re going to get a more widespread understanding of evolution. I believe that understanding will necessarily lead to a weakening of the grip religion has on so many minds.

    Ultimately this hinges on whether you think there’s a difference between understanding and accepting evolution or explicitly denying it. I think there is.

    Do I applaud Romney’s religious beliefs? No, they’re crazier than a … very crazy thing. How do I feel about his beliefs on evolution? I’ll take them every day of the week and thrice on Sundays when the alternative is “bearded sky man sculpted them from dirt roughly 6,000 years ago”.

  7. #7 clvrmnky
    May 12, 2007

    Well, “brave”, in that making such an ordinary and sane statement will be seen by /someone/ as transgressive. Ironically, I doubt the various complainers will actually agree what is wrong with such an opinion.

    The fact is, one can offer the most benign opinion on science and evolution and still be surprised at how otherwise intelligent people will take violent offense. This is the danger of false dichotomies.

    I mean, I’m of the opinion that many things should be taught in school. Clearly, evolution should be taught as a science in the appropriate class along with the other sciences.

    If curriculum allows, we can also teach things like civics, philosophy (which probably encompasses things like theology and, heck, everything else, too), and art. Why not? Better understanding of things like qualitative research, critical thinking, and debate adds to our understanding of the world.

    Most teachers agree that a multi-discipline approach, especially before any specialization, is a good way to approach education.

    Hell, I’m of the opinion that the ID debate /should/ be taught in schools, just not anywhere near science class (simply because it is not science). Presenting the essentially philosophical arguments for ID, creationism and so on in the appropriate forum will, in the long run, /help/ some people better understand science and evolution. By exploding the false dichotomy of ID/evolution (the two issues are really orthogonal to each-other) we help increase the understanding of the real questions.

    Of course, I’m tilting at windmills here, I know. Most of us become pretty set in our ways at some point, and will refuse to entertain, even for the sake of argument, an opinion that we /think/ might disagree with a fundamental belief of our own. (There is published study out there that suggests exactly this, but I’m unable to find it. Saving roll against “Google Attempt” misses.)

  8. #8 bigTom
    May 12, 2007

    Commenter 6 has it about right. I’m not even optimistic about eventual victory in this matter. Mitt is clearly the lessor of Republican evils in this manner. That doesn’t mean any of us will fall for him, just that if imposed upon us, he is likely to be much less difficult to live under than boy George.

  9. #9 notthedroids
    May 12, 2007

    When it comes to evolution, I wish reporters would ask simpler, more specific questions. Asking a vague question like “Do you believe in evolution?” allows way too much wiggle room and practically invites equivocation.

    Instead, ask a simple question like, “Do you believe humans and chimpanzees share biological ancestry?”

    Any politician that responds that the evidence overwhelmingly says Yes gets an A.

  10. #10 Chris Ho-Stuart
    May 12, 2007

    What do you imagine this next court case will be about?

    If the text book explicitly advocates a religious perspective, like a creator God, then the case will be easy. It will be out on the basis of the first ammendment.

    If they avoid mentioning God, and describe the scientific models — and if they use the same scientific models as we do — then why will there be a case? Are we going to bring a court case because the author of a book describing conventional evolutionary biology is known to believe that God creates by the agency of those natural processes?

    You’ve already got in the schools a textbook by one of these theistic evolutionists. It’s Biology, by Ken Miller and Joe Levine.

    Do you want to raise a court case about that one? If not; then what do you expect to be different with books by other Christians who think that natural processes are the means of God’s creative activity?

  11. #11 Kuni
    May 12, 2007

    Romney may be a theistic evolutionist, but he does deserve points for alienating the extreme elements of the Republican Right, just like Guiliani did with his pro-choice position this week.

    Yeah, sure, their positions still aren’t that great in comparison, I suppose, but in the long term, forcibly dragging the Republicans towards the center and away from fundie crazies is what I call a win for Enlightenment modernism, and a move that’s likely to increase US science comprehension in the long run.

    It’s -certainly- better than the views espoused by candidates like Huckabee and Brownback, who give direct cover to young-earth creationists.

    I assure you, any young-earth creationist reading Romney’s statements on evolution would not come away with the impression that he was even on their side at all.

  12. #12 Robert S.
    May 12, 2007

    In other news, yesterday Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo bravely admitted that he accepted gravity as a basic tenet of physics.

    As a former fundie myself though (attended and earned two degrees from Bob Jones University), I do agree with Darwinator’s point though. Religious folks accepting evolution over billions of years – even if they do think it was instigated by God – is most definitely progress. Religious people are getting more “liberal” in many, many ways and they don’t even know it – even if some of them have been getting more strident lately. In fact, maybe the reason they’re getting more strident is because they see the foundation of what they believed is steadily eroding away.

    Having said all that, would I prefer a President who openly acknowledged a preference for empiricism over mysticism? Of course.

  13. #13 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    Nice to know that politicians are still lying to save themselves from being crucified politically by mobs of ignorant religious people.

    If God exists, why are there not Ten Commandments on every court house step? Why do we try to keep religion out of government? God could not possibly approve of that.

    Why aren’t we more diligent about destroying graven images? About villifying adulterers? Why aren’t we impeaching Bush/Cheney for coveting Iraq’s oil?

    Why aren’t we more like Iraq!?

    All politicians who say they believe in God should go live in a Muslim country – where they have done a much better job of creating religious society.

    Go away! Leave our secular society alone.

  14. #14 Roy
    May 12, 2007

    Divine intervention? Isn’t that what got Eddie Murphy into trouble in Hollywood?

  15. #15 El Cid
    May 12, 2007

    Is it a “positive development” that a lot of people have finally realized what a boon-doggle Bush Jr’s Iraq war has been when it should have been obvious from the start?

    Yes.

    If people actually accept that evolution occurs naturally and without any divine intervention except perhaps at some mythic creation of the Universe phase, I don’t care. That’s fine.

    That alone would represent a huuuuuge advance over the proud anti-brainism we’ve had for the past 30 years.

    Hell, am I the only one who was impressed that, sure, 3 of 10 GOP debate candidates raised their hands to say they disbelieved in evolution, but 7 IN 10 DID NOT?

    That seems to me a huuuuge relative advance over the past decades proud right wing un-thinkerism.

  16. #16 divalent
    May 12, 2007

    PV, me thinks your fear is unfounded. If anything, it is the fundies that should be afraid.

    A major theme of the history of science over the last 500 years has been the continual erosion of the position of gods as the maker and shaker of our natural world.

    The majority of our citizens believe there is a god who plays some role in the natural world. 500 years ago the predominant “theology” was affirmative assertions of what god does: move the sun, moon, and stars, create that storm, throw that lightning bolt, bring that plague, etc. This view still lives in small fundamentalist pockets. But it is a mark of our progress that it is now mostly “God-in-the-gaps”.

    “God-in-the-gaps” is not a threat to scientific progress, since god yields whenever something becomes better understood. “God-in-the-gaps” is a slippery slope away from mythological beliefs, never towards it.

    Many people instinctively invoke gods to explain what they don’t understand. It may very well be a part of human nature. The fundamentalists will deny reason and evidence to keep their version of god alive in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But most people are not of the fundamentalist mind set: reason and evidence will persuade them. Any view of the evolution of life that increases the exposure to that evidence is a good thing.

  17. #17 socinius
    May 12, 2007

    It seems that we are seeing the emergence of a new “talking point” since the Republican debate. McCain, in response to the question about evolution, replied that he accepted evolution but that he also saw the “hand of God” when he viewed a sunset in the Grand Canyon. This phrase “hand of God” seems to be popping up with some regularity on the pundit circuit now (or perhaps I just became more sensitized to it through the debate).

    In the end I don’t think it will serve the Republican candidates well with their religious right wing base. The Falwells, Robertsons, Hagees, and so forth have no patience with theistic evolutionists or with vague notions of a “hand of God”. It would seem they are in a situation where none of the major candidate can satisfy them. It will be interesting to see where their support ultimately lands and if the “hand of God” remains an item in the candidate’s playbook or if it will have to be jettisoned due to lack of support from both sides of their constituency.

  18. #18 chuko
    May 12, 2007

    I’ll have to disagree with you on this one. I think this is a positive development. It’s essentially a deist position.

    Wouldn’t it be nice not to be in a country where we have to argue whether evolution took place? This is a conservative christian, a mormon for god’s sake, who saying this. It’s an historical progression from YEC to deist to atheist. Hello, we’re winning.

    What’s so wrong with “God created the Big Bang”? Well, a lot of things are wrong with it. But I’ll take it any day over an ID type who thinks that God sat down with blueprints for flagellum.

  19. #19 dorkafork
    May 12, 2007

    I think it’s pretty clear they meant “pro-science” relatively speaking.

    What the heck was he supposed to say? “I believe in an all knowing all powerful Creator who was not ultimately responsible for evolution”? Should he have just renounced his faith?

  20. #20 Jillian
    May 12, 2007

    When it comes to evolution, I wish reporters would ask simpler, more specific questions. Asking a vague question like “Do you believe in evolution?” allows way too much wiggle room and practically invites equivocation.

    Instead, ask a simple question like, “Do you believe humans and chimpanzees share biological ancestry?”

    Any politician that responds that the evidence overwhelmingly says Yes gets an A.

    Alas, asking that question would require the reporters to have a basic grasp of evolution. You’re asking too much there, I’m afraid.

  21. #21 Marcus Ranum
    May 12, 2007

    …An evolutionary step.

    It’s unlikely that we’ll do away with the god myth right away. As the environmental ridicule level increases, though, it will wither and eventually become vestigial.

  22. #22 dorkafork
    May 12, 2007

    Not that I think it’s anything great. It’s not particularly “brave”, “startling”, or “intelligent” to agree with 2 + 2 = 4. But he’s apparently staked out the only position on evolution that is remotely agreeable with both science and Christianity, the idea of a God that set things in motion to create humans.

  23. #23 Suzanne
    May 12, 2007

    Seems to me everyone holds some irrational beliefs; that’s just human nature. Being pro-science doesn’t mean you can’t admit to holding irrational beliefs – it just means you don’t try to pretend that they’re rational. Romney states that he holds a personal belief in something we can’t prove – we atheists also hold a personal belief in something we can’t prove. To me, the key point is that we all try to exclude our irrational beliefs when we’re doing science. And Romney, by opposing ID in classrooms, seems to make that distinction successfully. I don’t know much about Romney, but on the face of it what he says here seems fine to me.

  24. #24 craig
    May 12, 2007

    Actually, what he’s said is 2 + 2 = two twos. To get to four you have to say 2 + 2 + *magic* = 4.

  25. #25 Mike Haubrich
    May 12, 2007

    So, the question is:

    What exactly is “Theistic Evolution” Supposed to Fix?

    Scientifically it doesn’t fix anything, just like intelligent design. It just allows people continue to retain a “nebulous” God belief; you know, the God belief that Dawkins is accused of not addressing in TGD; that Stegner can’t fit into his hypothesis. The God Belief that works like Jello – just because you can’t nail it to the wall doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. The God Belief that God can be whatever we want it to be because it is not definable in a way that humans can comprehend.

    A commenter on my blog said “You can’t define God away just because there are so many disagreements about religion. People have different tastes in music, and you can’t use that to prove that music doesn’t exist!”

    In truth I would rather have a candidate who is an Old Earth Creationist because at least they can state their foolishness coherently rather that continuing to re-define their concept of God so it doesn’t conflict with science.

    So, yes, I would like to know what the difference is between conventional ID’s God and the theistic evolution God; and how it would help me understand the universe in any meaningful way. It just makes people feel better about being intellectual religionists.

  26. #26 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    I’ll have to disagree with you on this one. I think this is a positive development. It’s essentially a deist position.

    Half measures are not enough. Watered down religion is still religion.

  27. #27 Scott Hatfield, OM
    May 12, 2007

    PZ: If I understand you correctly, you are concerned that pronouncements such as Romney’s undermine the legal basis for past court decisions based upon the Establishment Clause. How can we exclude the flat-earthers, the vapor canopy drawers, the flood geologists, etc. if we don’t exclude the equally-religious ‘theistic evolutionist’?

    Well, that’s easy. The scientific community already excludes all of these ‘explanations’ on methodological grounds, rather than ideology. What Ken Miller may or may not think about God is not taught as science, even if one uses one of his textbooks, because (as Dr. Miller well knows) science doesn’t care about his beliefs. Or yours. Or mine. Science asks, instead, for testable claims supported by evidence.

    Now, what about ‘Finding Darwin’s God’ or ‘The Language of God’? They are, as Carl Sagan said of his program Cosmos, ‘personal voyages’. They are not science textbooks, obviously, nor are they purely scientific works aimed at a general audience. They are meditations on science, but also upon history and culture: strictly speaking, they are not in and of themselves science, but works that seek to interpret science.

    As such, they are consonant with their author’s views on religion, but do not impel us to adopt either Sagan’s Cosmos, Miller’s Catholicism, or Collins’s evangelical Christianity.

    Contrast this with ‘Of Pandas and People’, which clearly labors with the intent of introducing an untestable claim with little evidential support as science within a science text, and one that clearly carries a religious agenda, and which purports to be a science textbook, and which is championed by those who would use the courts (as in McLean, Edwards, Seagraves, etc.) to mandate the dissemination of their views not merely in the public schools, but as part of the approved curriculum within a public school science classroom.

    That’s more than enough for a good attorney to hang his or her hat upon, I think. Theistic evolution, as with other varieties of creationism, is not science, nor should it be taught as a ‘God-friendly’ version of science. But the fact that various religious positions exist, and that some are not inimically at odds with the facts at our disposal, is no cause for alarm—or for charges of hypocrisy.

    Respectfully submitted…SH

  28. #28 Narc
    May 12, 2007

    I don’t like it either, but the “evolution is right, and there is no God” position is political suicide for any Republican. It’s probably political suicide for just about any politician in this country. There needs to be an in between position, or else most people will reject the position they find emotionally uncomfortable and go back to their religion. Think of it as tofurkey for thinking people.

  29. #29 daedalus2u
    May 12, 2007

    I disagree Suzanne, one need not have any irrational beliefs. One recognize and even profess the state of ignorance that one is in instead. If your default position, in the absence of evidence, is a faith based default position, there is no motiviation for correcting that ignorance.

    We see where that philosophy is getting us. The evolution deniers won’t even consider evidence that is counter to their belief. They are attempting to suppress that evidence and prevent its transmission to the next generation.

  30. #30 Scott Hatfield, OM
    May 12, 2007

    Mike writes: “So, yes, I would like to know what the difference is between conventional ID’s God and the theistic evolution God; and how it would help me understand the universe in any meaningful way.”

    There may not be any essential difference in the God as conceptualized by the IDevotee and the TE’s. Certainly some brands of TE are compatible with the ID movement, and others are not. Both of course are beliefs, and properly speaking are not science as such, and any ‘understanding’ these perspectives might offer is entirely subjective, and thus devoid of any meaning as far as some are concerned.

    For the record, I don’t hold an ID-friendly position nor would I describe myself as a TE. I’m a theist, and I enthusiastically embrace evolution, but I’m deeply skeptical of attempts to derive notions of purpose or design from the evidence before us.

  31. #31 zoeific
    May 12, 2007

    If people actually accept that evolution occurs naturally and without any divine intervention except perhaps at some mythic creation of the Universe phase, I don’t care. That’s fine.

    a) Please let’s be clear that this is a political stance, not a scientific one.

    The evidence for interference by a designer in the Big Bang is exactly the same as the evidence for a nonhuman intelligence tinkering with the course of biological evolution: non-existent. Science suggests reality is governed by physics according to universal mathematical laws rather than by events best explained as being remote-controlled from a cosmic executive floor. Occam’s Razor works the same for both, no room to play pick and choose.

    b) Romney didn’t accept evolution, at least not according to the wording quoted. He’s using “evolution” as a weasel word which, in his context, could as well mean that god designed life bit by bit in a way to make it look like it had evolved. There’s no acknowledgement of a bottom-up mechanism in his statement.

  32. #32 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    There is no point in pampering the religious. People are not so fragile that they won’t survive the death of their gods. Plenty of people have managed to make the switch and it wasn’t a big deal.

    That’s why I say: no half measures. Call the nuts nuts. Attack the kooks who say incoherent, illogical, unscientific and foolish things. Rip them to shreds. They practically ask for it. If some people find that threatening, tough. Many more will come to attention and say: “you know, you’re right, religion is nuts.”

    The process of dropping religion is not hard. It should not be portrayed as a big deal. It’s easy. It’s a simple attitude change. Anyone can do it! Right now! This instant!

    Romney could do it. He has probably done it dozens of times in his head. He’s just afraid to say so.

  33. #33 PZ Myers
    May 12, 2007

    Please let’s be clear that this is a political stance, not a scientific one.

    Yes, and like I said, I suspect that everyone on the Democratic side would say pretty much the same thing. I recognize the utility.

    What everyone seems to be missing is the utilitarian argument at the end of this article. Whether we like it or not, we seem to be locked into a strategy of fighting creationism in the courts on separation of church and state grounds. At the same time, many people are engaged in trying to win over hearts and minds for the cause of evolution by enthusiastically embracing religious interpretations of evolution rather than holding them at arms length. Am I the only person on the planet clever enough to see the looming conflict there? The creationists are being smarter than we are. They have been trying to present themselves as independent of religion (unconvincingly, so far), tapping into resentment of scientifically driven change—that’s something they’re going to continue to push. I keep seeing exactly the opposite strategy by the people supposedly on my side. They want to enroll the churches to help them out, they argue that the most persuasive speakers for evolution are those who also cater to belief in god, they spend much more time distancing themselves from those damned atheists than they do separating themselves from those saintly theistic evolutionists.

    They’ve made a pact with the devil and sold the soul of science for short-term political gain, but they’re losing the ability to separate themselves as clearly secular from the creationists.

  34. #34 ConcernedJoe
    May 12, 2007

    Copied from another my post a bit ago but I think apropo here. Forgive me PZ if I’m cheating… and before I wax on — PZ YOU ARE RIGHT IN YOUR CONCERNS!!

    Re: Whey we should care when these phonies answer these questions:

    Don’t their proclamations speak to their ability to discern the best explanation of things as they decide issues of vital importance (like deciding to go to bloody war!)?

    Don’t they speak to their support of a modern progressive world view, to modern education, or a host of other relevant progressive aspects?

    And what the blazes does it mean when these office seekers blather that “my faith is important in my decision-making”?? Does it mean as linguistically it means that that seeker will throw out good solid evidence and make decisions based on a vision, or a mystic, or an astrologer or some ancient manuscript, or the whim of the ignorant and intolerant back-waters, etc. etc.? What the freak does it mean?!??

    They make me sick … BUT even more so … “we” make me sick and the media makes me sick .. for not caring and holding them to rational accountability without compromise. Heck — they want to rule the World.. we should at least demand that they are HONEST rational progressively knowledgable people.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

  35. #35 tomh
    May 12, 2007

    Chris Ho-Stuart wrote:
    If the text book explicitly advocates a religious perspective, like a creator God, then the case will be easy. It will be out on the basis of the first ammendment.

    This is a very naive assumption give the present makeup of the Supreme Court. To understand the problem read the upcoming law review article, “Evolution and the Holy Ghost of Scopes: Can Science Lose the Next Round? ” by Stephen A. Newman, New York Law School. It all hangs by a very thin thread and the next opinion may well be written by Justice Scalia, one of two dissenters in the Edwards case. This is from the abstract, and I recommend the entire article.

    “Despite repeated setbacks in the lower courts, the politics surrounding anti-evolution efforts have never been more favorable for a renewed legal assault on the teaching of evolution in the nation’s schools. …The challenge may well succeed.”

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=981230

  36. Of course Romney’s pandering politically, he’s a pol running for office. Is that point supposed to be surprising?

    I’m glad to at least hear that he’s in favor of teaching biology in a biology classroom. That’s progress, from a right wing Repulbican, still wouldn’t entertain voting for him, though.

    But the point about “theistic evolutionists”. As long as they keep the theism out of their biology, what’s wrong with that? Do you mean that you really do believe that you have to be your kind of evolutionist to be in the club? Are you proposing testing for covert religious belief? Perhaps purges of biologists suspected of being squishy metaphysics-wise. Who made you boss of biology?

  37. #37 plunge
    May 12, 2007

    Seems like the “ID rebranded as theistic evolution” meme is as much a way for people to start attacking theistic evolutionists full force as it is a way for ID to hide under the skirt of theistic evolutionists.

  38. #38 ConcernedJoe
    May 12, 2007

    “olvlzl, no ism, no ist” states and asks:

    But the point about “theistic evolutionists”. As long as they keep the theism out of their biology, what’s wrong with that? Do you mean that you really do believe that you have to be your kind of evolutionist to be in the club? Are you proposing testing for covert religious belief? Perhaps purges of biologists suspected of being squishy metaphysics-wise. Who made you boss of biology?

    You are missing a vital point. When a person is seeking a job that absolutely REQUIRES sound, logical, rational, and evidence-based thinking then we have have every right to demand to see that they can do just that!!! Listen .. we can allow compartmentalizing I guess .. BUT I for one want to be SURE that they can compartmentalize. I would not want my brain-surgeon to hold equal to any other “theory” the concept of demonic possession and exorcism as cause and cure for diseases. Get my drift?

  39. #39 Caledonian
    May 12, 2007

    The idealogues are fleeing the sinking ship that is religion, and all the while ‘liberal’ thinkers are chaining themselves to the mast.

  40. #40 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    The idealogues are fleeing the sinking ship that is religion, and all the while ‘liberal’ thinkers are chaining themselves to the mast.

    Give Caledonian the next Molly!

  41. #41 S. Rivlin
    May 12, 2007

    The main difference between an evolutionist and a theistic evolutionist is the former understands that the process of evolution is a continuum, where humans are just a stage from which postmodern human species will eventually emerge. The latter believes the process of evolution reached its endpoint, that we, humans, are in the image of God and no other species would ever emerged that is “better” than us. It may took billions of years for God to achieve His goal, but WOW! Look at us. Nothing could top that. Theistic evolution is still an unbelievable arrogance based on ignorance.

  42. #42 chuko
    May 12, 2007

    I totally agree that we should keep agitating and calling a spade a spade. I’m certainly not trying to make common cause with Romney or to embrace some impossible marriage of yahwehism and science.

    I don’t see that this is a creationist position in a biological sense. There are a ton of other obvious things wrong with the position, of course. But a deist is not the same thing as a creationist!

    With a YEC or ID creationist, you can make an argument based on the mechanism of evolution, biology, or paleontology. You can’t do that here. He’s not claiming (in this quote, at least) that god is directing evolution in some way, except perhaps in setting up the “initial conditions” – the difference between PZ’s view of evolution and this one is philosophical.

    I’ll be with you pointing out that god doesn’t exist, that the philosophy is untenable, and so on. I don’t think radical atheists (like me, btw) should shut up and appease the masses. But what’s the point in conflating this belief with creationism?

  43. #43 S. Rivlin
    May 12, 2007

    I agree with PZ and disagree with Chuko. There is absolutely a point in conflating theistic evolution with creationism. The only difference between these two “philosophies” is how many years it took to create the universe and human beings. I guess the two groups could argue whose watch is more accurate, you know, the watch that assembled itself.

  44. ConcernedJoe, so you WOULD have ideological purity tests for job applicants for teaching biology and for brain surgeons, including ideologies that didn’t impinge on their doing their job. I assume that this means you believe that anyone who isn’t an atheist isn’t qualified to have a job in the sciences, though I’d like an explaination of what you mean if this isn’t included. I’ve suspected that this was the kind of McCarthyism building. I remember McCarthyism. I had friends who were victims of McCarthyism. No, I don’t think I’m going to witness that again without resisting it.

  45. S. Rivlin, your assumptions about what a “theistic evolutionist” believes are mere speculations. Why don’t you poll a number of qualified scientists who believe in a creator god to find out what they really believe instead of making something up? Wouldn’t that be the more scientific method to follow? How can you just assume you know what they believe unless they tell you?

  46. #46 chuko
    May 12, 2007

    “I guess the two groups could argue whose watch is more accurate, you know, the watch that assembled itself.”

    ok, that’s pretty damn funny…

  47. #47 Colugo
    May 12, 2007

    PZ, if you and Larry Moran succeed in redefining theistic evolution as creationism, it will be you who will have handed the anti-evolutionists a huge victory.

    You want people to choose between science and God. Guess what, in that case science will lose. I am quite familiar with academic circles. The subcultures of academia, science, and science blogs are not representative of most of rest of the country, much less the world. They are also echo chambers. Most people believe in God, souls, and a teleological universe. If you insist that science precludes all of those things, so much the worse for science. (Even Europeans are not nearly as rationalist and atheistic as we like to believe; look at the poll data more carefully.)

    Atheistic anti-teleological naturalism is YOUR religion. It is a religion in two ways. You cannot prove it scientifically; you must at some level accept it on faith. Secondly, evangelical atheism serves the same social function of religion that Durkheim observed. I am saying this as an atheist, determinist, and non-teleologist.

    The establishment clause cuts both ways. It can be used against atheists too if you deny any room to theistic evolution and try to force everyone to choose between “scientific” evolution and God. Be careful about what you assert in science courses and textbooks; teach the science, not your metaphysics.

    Of course theistic evolution is not science. Neither is metaphysical naturalism.

  48. #48 Matthew Morse
    May 12, 2007

    Romney is pretty clearly trying to use language that allows everyone to say, “He agrees with us.” And like PZ, I’m dismayed that so many people seem to be stepping up and saying that.

    Relative to the three candidates in the debate who stated that they don’t believe in evolution, Romney’s statement may look like an improvement, but I suspect that if you asked him, or many of the other candidates (Republicans and Democrats), about the implications of evolution, they’d quickly get tied in knots or contradictions.

    One of the unavoidable conclusions of evolution is that humans aren’t anything special relative to other species. The assertion that God used evolution to create humans is a rejection of evolution, not an affirmation.

    There’s a big difference between not being a creationist and actually understanding and agreeing with the principles and implications of evolution. We should have higher standards.

  49. #49 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    Just because Mitt Romney “believes in evolution” doesn’t mean he knows anything about evolution. There is no argument for why he thinks evolution beats other explanations. He admits that he is not sure what is meant by intelligent design:

    “I’m not exactly sure what is meant by intelligent design,” he said. “But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.”

    If he doesn’t understand ID, then is he really going to understand Darwin’s ideas much less Dawkins and Gould? What he might understand is that there is a fossil record and a huge genetic similarity between chimp and human DNA… the kind of stuff you see on the Discovery Channel.

    If you really questioned him on the science I’d bet his knowledge would be discovered to be incredibly shallow.

  50. #50 Colugo
    May 12, 2007

    Perhaps the theists have been far cleverer than we have given them credit for. Maybe it is they who have been deliberately shifting the Overton Window, staking out extreme positions – Young Earth Creationism, Dembskian Intelligent Design – so theistic evolution (which is essentially a form of creationism) appears “moderate” and “reasonable” by comparison.

    The “long term strategy” of cooperating with theists against Intelligent Design on the issue of teaching evolution in public schools is actually a Trojan Horse strategy developed by theists to compromise and corrupt science from within.

    Now that the Trojan Horse theistic strategy has been unmasked, fight the power!

    (Note: The above is sarcasm.)

  51. #51 raven
    May 12, 2007

    Going to disagree with PZ on this one. Theistic evolution is the way most christians reconcile science with their religion. So what is wrong with that? Better than trying to cram YEC into kids science classes or murdering biologists.

    So what if Romney is religious? Get real, it will be a cold day in hell before an avowed atheist is elected president in the USA. Best you can hope for is someone whose religion doesn’t deny reality.

    And Romney definitely showed a bit of courage and took a hit from an important pillar of his neo-GOP party. The christian cultist crazies wingnut faction. While this is a significant number of supporters, IMO, it is a mistake to pander to the lunatic fringe just because it is large and they vote. We just did that twice and it has been a total disaster.

  52. #52 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    “I’m not exactly sure what is meant by intelligent design,” he said. “But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.”

    This is not a moderate position. It is not remotely praiseworthy. It is kooky. It is thoughtless. It is reprehensible.

    If thoughtful people feel this is the best we can expect from our politicians, we are in deep trouble.

    Wake up, everyone! This is sluggish refusal to accept reality. It is craven pandering. It is manipulative. Romney should know better. He received a good education and he is betraying it. He should be hooted out of any hall in which he makes these kinds of remarks.

  53. #53 Caledonian
    May 12, 2007

    Theistic evolution is the way most christians reconcile science with their religion. So what is wrong with that?

    Let’s unpack those statements. The first sentence establishes that theistic evolution provides a way for people to avoid a sense of dissonance between their reason and their emotionally-satisfying religious beliefs. The second implicitly indicates that things that provide relief from such tension are valuable and good.

    “What’s wrong with that” is you cannot survive in this universe if all you do is find ways to avoid tension. The safe and easy path leads ever downward into stagnation. There are things more important than people making themselves feel good.

  54. #54 Chuck Blanchard
    May 12, 2007

    PZ:

    I think you are over-reacting. It seems to me that your complaint is with Romney making a religious claim (a belief in a creating God) and not a scientific claim about evolution. I hear him as merely saying that he beleives in a creating God, but fully accepts the scientific evidence of evolution. I do not hear any claims that God directed the process of evolution. (I should note that I pretty far to the left of Romney, and am otherwise not a fan).

    I also think that the legal argument you protray at the end of your post is easily answered. Sure, there are many scientists that beleive in both a creating God and evolution, but this does not mean that even they would assert that their belief that an intelligent being created humans (and other creatures) through evolution is a scientic claim. Collins certainly made no such claim in his book. And that it the critical difference between ID and “theistic evolution”–ID proponents claim that intelligent design is a scientific principle worthy of teaching in a public school setting. Most mainstream theists who accept evolution would not. They (or perhaps I should say we) may beleive in a God that created the world, but we will not assert that this is a scientific belief. It is not, it is a religious claim, and as such should not be taught in public schools.

    Now, I understand that you may think that any religious belief is irrational, and that efforts to distinguish between a religious belief and a scientic claim is a false compartmentalization. I accept that, and we can debate that another day. My point is that this compartmentalization is critical to the legal argument as to why ID (or even the theistic aspects of theistic evolution) is a religous concept that does not belong in the public schools.

  55. #55 Chuck Blanchard
    May 12, 2007

    PZ:

    I think you are over-reacting. It seems to me that your complaint is with Romney making a religious claim (a belief in a creating God) and not a scientific claim about evolution. I hear him as merely saying that he beleives in a creating God, but fully accepts the scientific evidence of evolution. I do not hear any claims that God directed the process of evolution. (I should note that I pretty far to the left of Romney, and am otherwise not a fan).

    I also think that the legal argument you protray at the end of your post is easily answered. Sure, there are many scientists that beleive in both a creating God and evolution, but this does not mean that even they would assert that their belief that an intelligent being created humans (and other creatures) through evolution is a scientic claim. Collins certainly made no such claim in his book. And that it the critical difference between ID and “theistic evolution”–ID proponents claim that intelligent design is a scientific principle worthy of teaching in a public school setting. Most mainstream theists who accept evolution would not. They (or perhaps I should say we) may beleive in a God that created the world, but we will not assert that this is a scientific belief. It is not, it is a religious claim, and as such should not be taught in public schools.

    Now, I understand that you may think that any religious belief is irrational, and that efforts to distinguish between a religious belief and a scientic claim is a false compartmentalization. I accept that, and we can debate that another day. My point is that this compartmentalization is critical to the legal argument as to why ID (or even the theistic aspects of theistic evolution) is a religous concept that does not belong in the public schools.

  56. #56 Chuck Blanchard
    May 12, 2007

    PZ:

    I think you are over-reacting. It seems to me that your complaint is with Romney making a religious claim (a belief in a creating God) and not a scientific claim about evolution. I hear him as merely saying that he beleives in a creating God, but fully accepts the scientific evidence of evolution. I do not hear any claims that God directed the process of evolution. (I should note that I pretty far to the left of Romney, and am otherwise not a fan).

    I also think that the legal argument you protray at the end of your post is easily answered. Sure, there are many scientists that beleive in both a creating God and evolution, but this does not mean that even they would assert that their belief that an intelligent being created humans (and other creatures) through evolution is a scientic claim. Collins certainly made no such claim in his book. And that it the critical difference between ID and “theistic evolution”–ID proponents claim that intelligent design is a scientific principle worthy of teaching in a public school setting. Most mainstream theists who accept evolution would not. They (or perhaps I should say we) may beleive in a God that created the world, but we will not assert that this is a scientific belief. It is not, it is a religious claim, and as such should not be taught in public schools.

    Now, I understand that you may think that any religious belief is irrational, and that efforts to distinguish between a religious belief and a scientic claim is a false compartmentalization. I accept that, and we can debate that another day. My point is that this compartmentalization is critical to the legal argument as to why ID (or even the theistic aspects of theistic evolution) is a religous concept that does not belong in the public schools.

  57. Caledonian, mind if we “unpack” your comment?

    The first sentence establishes that theistic evolution provides a way for people to avoid a sense of dissonance between their reason and their emotionally-satisfying religious beliefs. The second implicitly indicates that things that provide relief from such tension are valuable and good.
    What do you base the statement on that there is a “dissonance between their reason and their emotionally-satisfying religious beliefs”?

    It would be clear that a person who accepted the science of evolution and believed in a creator god would believe that the evolution was the mechanism through which that creation took place. Where is the “dissonance”? Instead of pretending that you know it to exist, why not ask those who hold these two ideas in the same mind. Some of them are rather impressive scientists and scholars, they would probabaly be able to tell you a lot more than you can get by guessing.

    As to and their emotionally-satisfying religious beliefs. The second implicitly indicates that things that provide relief from such tension are valuable and good.

    Are you implying that something being desired is evidence that there is something wrong with either the idea or the person holding the idea? Because I seriously doubt that there are more than a small handful of scientific publications that don’t represent something desired by those producing them. They clearly would like their ideas to be confirmed in most cases, and if not that to at least have a publishible result. I’ve known enough scientists and scholars to know that they have a very high degree of emotional investment in their work and by that I mean in confirmation of their research. I know for a fact that they would like to benefit from it, for it to provide a “safe and easy path” to tenure or at least a job of some kind. They also find that confirmation helpse them emotionally, through it they find ways to avoid tension. A career in science seems to be one of the more rewarding ways people find for making themselves feel good. Even those who enjoy anti-“theistic” snark.

  58. #58 phat
    May 12, 2007

    Speaking as someone who works in politics for a living, I can pretty much guarantee that this is the best you’re going to get from any of these candidates, Democrat or Republican.

    phat

  59. #59 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    I don’t understand the problem here. If you accept off the bat that our president is going to be religious (which sorry, we have to), isn’t this exactly what we would want them to believe? If you take religion + what we want in a president, we would basically just want their god to be 100% compatible with the world and not interfere. This is what Romney seems to be says re: evolution.

    If you want to be upset in a philosophical sense, go for it, but this is exactly what we *should* want from a religious candidate.

  60. #60 James McGrath
    May 12, 2007

    These comments are not only unfair but they are seriously harmful to the cause of promoting sound teaching of evolution. Many people are terrified because they assume that evolution and belief in God cannot co-exist. Why would someone eager to promote the teaching of evolution criticize one of the helpful voices asserting that faith and evolution can indeed co-exist, and that the religious who have been fighting evolution can and should stop?

    http://blue.butler.edu/~jfmcgrat/blog/

  61. #61 Daedalus
    May 12, 2007

    I don’t think PZ is willing to concede that future American presidents will be invariably religious. Could John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln win the presidency today? The United States was founded as a secular nation. What has religious moderation accomplished? We have been slipping backwards for years now. If you like the trend in religion and politics from Eisenhower to Reagan to George W. Bush, you probably support theistic evolution.

  62. #62 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    If you accept off the bat that our president is going to be religious (which sorry, we have to)…

    I don’t accept that. With that attitude, nothing will change.

    Once Bush is out of office and a Democrat is installed in the Oval Office, the religious crap is going to subside.

    It will be much more pro forma.

    Twenty years from now, after a successful string of Democrats have inhabited the White House, none of whom will have flaunted their religion, the United States will be ready for an atheistic President.

    The nightmare will be over.

  63. #63 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    “I don’t accept that. With that attitude, nothing will change.”

    Well, you can go ahead and just deny reality. Everyone who has announced they are running for president in 2008 is a religious person. Live with it.

    “The nightmare will be over.”

    Talk about melodrama…

  64. CalGeorge, if not being able to elect an atheist as president is your nightmare, may I suggest that it just might end a lot more quickly if the large majority of the voters who are religious believers of some kind don’t get called superstitious idiots by people who have appointed themselves to be the mouthpieces of all atheists? I wouldn’t imagine that I’d be elected by the frequenters of this blog and I haven’t called any of them idiots.

    In the end, it’s a matter of what you REALLY want. Sometimes you have to chose on the basis of what you are willing to spend for what you really want.

  65. CalGeorge, if not being able to elect an atheist as president is your nightmare, may I suggest that it just might end a lot more quickly if the large majority of the voters who are religious believers of some kind don’t get called superstitious idiots by people who have appointed themselves to be the mouthpieces of all atheists? I wouldn’t imagine that I’d be elected by the frequenters of this blog and I haven’t called any of them idiots.

    In the end, it’s a matter of what you REALLY want. Sometimes you have to chose on the basis of what you are willing to spend for what you really want.

  66. CalGeorge, if not being able to elect an atheist as president is your nightmare, may I suggest that it just might end a lot more quickly if the large majority of the voters who are religious believers of some kind don’t get called superstitious idiots by people who have appointed themselves to be the mouthpieces of all atheists? I wouldn’t imagine that I’d be elected by the frequenters of this blog and I haven’t called any of them idiots.

    In the end, it’s a matter of what you REALLY want. Sometimes you have to chose on the basis of what you are willing to spend for what you really want.

  67. #67 Caledonian
    May 12, 2007

    Many people are terrified because they assume that evolution and belief in God cannot co-exist.

    Science and belief in God cannot co-exist. Evolutionary theory’s certainty is derived from science and cannot be separated from it.

  68. #68 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    “Science and belief in God cannot co-exist.”

    Practicality and compartmentalization disagree with you.

  69. Caledonian, Nichlaus Steno, John Dalton, Issac Newton, Joseph Priestly (greatly admired by T. Huxley) … You certainly have heard of them? The only thing that is necessary to disprove your statement “Science and a belief in God cannot co-exist,” is to produce a working scientist who believes in God. And, guess what, they exist. Your statement is superstition by definition.

  70. #70 Caledonian
    May 12, 2007

    Compartmentalization is the practice of keeping incompatible concepts apart in the mind, working to avoid becoming aware of the contradictions they produce by restricting how we access them.

    If it’s needed, it means the two ideas cannot coexist. You just argued for my point, moron.

  71. #71 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    “If it’s needed, it means the two ideas cannot coexist. You just argued for my point, moron.”

    Do you read what you write? Did Isaac Newton just not exist to you? My mom, she doesn’t exist? She’s a doctor who believes in god. She is real. You are wrong.

    You don’t want people to be able to have the ideas coexist, but that’s just too bad for you.

  72. #72 Daedalus
    May 12, 2007

    Less than sixty years ago, white supremacy was a winning political strategy in the American South. Racism only lost its respectability after it was socially stigmatized in the press. Those who endorse “theistic evolution” remind me of Booker T. Washington giving his famous Compromise Speech in 1895 at the beginning of the Jim Crow era.

  73. Caledonian, do you have the testimony of all scientists who believe in a god that they compartmentalize? How do you know that they don’t assume that both ideas exist as part of a larger unity that isn’t yet known or which exists but might not be knowable? You make the mistake of believing that it is known that that kind of separation in one mind is possible, that might be true but it isn’t something that is known.

  74. #74 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    “Those who endorse “theistic evolution” remind me of Booker T. Washington giving his famous Compromise Speech in 1895 at the beginning of the Jim Crow era.”

    It’s not a matter of endorsement, but of understanding that we take steps. I don’t necessary like theistic evolution, but I recognize it’s a whole hell of a lot better than YEC or other such wacko ideas.

  75. #75 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    “Caledonian, do you have the testimony of all scientists who believe in a god that they compartmentalize?”

    Even if they do compartmentalize, that’s a method for believing in both god and science. Caledonian may not like that method, I don’t really like it either, but it exists. If someone believes in science and in god, they just do. I don’t really care how they do it, not for the purposes of rebutting Caledonian’s silly statement.

  76. DamnYankees, I was proposing the idea to show that the assertion that it was known was incorrect and that the statement made by Caledonian was superstitious.

  77. #77 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    “DamnYankees, I was proposing the idea to show that the assertion that it was known was incorrect and that the statement made by Caledonian was superstitious.”

    Oh, I know. I wasn’t disagreeing with you. Just adding a bit of an addendum.

  78. #78 miller
    May 12, 2007

    I must agree with the rest of the crowd, PZ. If the general public starts accepting evolution at least in name, then educators (who hopefully understand evolution better than these politicians) will be able to teach a more accurate version of evolution unhindered. It’s certainly a step forward, I think.

  79. #79 Scott Hatfield, OM
    May 12, 2007

    Is it just me, or does anyone else smile when they see three successive posts beginning with ‘I think you’re overreacting?’

    On a more serious note, I strongly agree with Caledonian’s brief ‘there are things more important than people making themselves feel good.’

    Like, for example, actually winning now and then.

    With that in mind, what evidence can Caledonian present that the Carnival cruise line of religion is actually sinking? I’ll concede that his sloop of rationalism sails in waters in which the faithful dare not venture, but one can not help but notice the relative popularity and curious robustness of the cruise lines.

    It seems a very strange sales pitch to say, in effect, ‘Sail with me through uncharted waters—-but, before you do, swear off the Carnival cruises.’ What ever happened to ‘those who aren’t against us, are for us?’

  80. #80 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    Colugo, with sarcastic intent, wrote:

    Perhaps the theists have been far cleverer than we have given them credit for. Maybe it is they who have been deliberately shifting the Overton Window, staking out extreme positions – Young Earth Creationism, Dembskian Intelligent Design – so theistic evolution (which is essentially a form of creationism) appears “moderate” and “reasonable” by comparison.

    I, like you pretend to, used to believe in the Intelligent Design of religious doctrines. It’s hard to imagine how such an incredible mindfook as “you’re damned to hell if you don’t accept what I tell you about God” could come to exist if not conceived by a devious and psychologically manipulative mind. But then I discovered ancient history and its fossil record of ancient religious doctrines. This fossil record clearly showed how that mindfook evolved — as I wrote here:

    If you read ancient mythology you can see humanity’s idea of the afterlife evolving. You can see how the theologians kept simplifying and pumping up the volume on their portrait of the afterlife. The Egyptian afterlife was a complicated mess where kings had multiple souls and multiple afterlives. No other civilization devoted as much attention and resources to their dead as did the ancient Egyptians. Their elaborate funeral rites, their painstaking mummification technology, their vast Necropolis and their huge and complicated literature about the afterlife, all are witness to this fact.

    In earlier Egyptian civilization, it seems only the Pharaoh and his family had an afterlife, and they became gods. The massive pyramids constructed during the early dynasties happen here. By the end of the sixth dynasty, the afterlife is expanded to include nobles. Then, with the cult of Osiris, the slain and resurrected god, in many ways a very Christ-like figure, the democratization of the afterlife is completed, and all were given souls.

    As Egypt began to decline their view of the afterlife was simplified, the mummification got cheaper and faster, the rituals less involved and less expensive. As this happens the Greeks take over and there is some crossbreeding between the religions. In the ancient Greek religion, Tartarus was the closest thing to Hell and it was only for the especially wicked characters and enemies of the gods. That’s where Sisyphus must repeatedly push a boulder up a hill for eternity and where Tantalus is kept just out of reach of cool water and grapes for sharing the secrets of the gods with humans. Tartarus is where enemies were cast after being defeated by the gods, including the Titans and Typhus. Elysium, or the Elysian Fields or Elysian Plain, seems borrowed from Egypt and it was the closest thing to a Heaven in their religion and it was inhabited at first only by the very distinguished, but later by the merely good. There are no streets of gold or pearly gates. Instead the Elysian Fields are characterized by gentle breezes and an easy life like that of the gods.

    When Rome takes over, Tartarus became the eternal destination of sinners in general. Then Christianity pumped these threats and promises up to maximum volume with a Heaven and Hell and the ultimate simplification presented in seemingly the vaguest language possible.

    There is no “long term strategy” of cooperating with theists against Intelligent Design because human beings aren’t really as smart as they like to think. It is actually a Trojan Horse strategy that will compromise and corrupt science from within, but it evolved. These viral memes are always adapting to our arguments.

    Look closer and you will see that their positions are full of vestigial doctrines and junk scriptures.

  81. #81 Caledonian
    May 12, 2007

    Do you read what you write? Did Isaac Newton just not exist to you?

    Isaac Newton screwed up when he attributed the divergence of his models and the observable world to divine intervention. By so doing, he lost the opportunity to predict the existence of new planets not previously seen.

    When you apply science to a thing, you cannot apply religion to it, and vice versa.

    My mom, she doesn’t exist? She’s a doctor who believes in god.

    What does her being a doctor have to do with any of this? That’s a non sequitur. Idiot.

  82. #82 ConcernedJoe
    May 12, 2007

    Dear “olvlzl, no ism, no ist” I clearly said:

    “..we can allow compartmentalizing I guess .. BUT I for one want to be SURE that they can compartmentalize.”

    To me that is different than:

    “so you WOULD have ideological purity tests for job applicants for teaching biology and for brain surgeons” which is strictly your interpretation of what I was implying.

    Nope – I was not implying that rest assured. I could care less if my brain surgeon is a devote Catholic who believes in the tooth fairy too. BUT I’d run from her like a deer if she also professed that brain malfunction could very well be caused by demons. You wouldn’t??? Remind me not to give you power in my medical proxy!!!

    Sorry for that last attempt at some “humor”.. I hope you get my point. I agree with you if you are saying what you believe in the “religious” compartment of you mind is your business.. as long as that does NOT impact in places it should not.. like the real world!

  83. #83 tomh
    May 12, 2007

    CalGeorge wrote:
    Once Bush is out of office and a Democrat is installed in the Oval Office, the religious crap is going to subside.

    Dream on. The Bush legacy will live on for a long time, not just in the hundreds of Regent Law School graduates (Pat Robertson’s law school) scattered throughout government agencies but in the slew of anti-evolution judges at all levels that will be with us long after Bush is gone. It was just dumb luck that in Dover we happened on an honest Bush appointee. When the next anti-evolution case makes it to the Supreme Court, and it will, and the Bush justices carry the day and decide that to be fair other points of view should be taught alongside evolution, as McCain and so many others trumpet, maybe then you’ll wake up and smell reality.

  84. #84 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    “Isaac Newton screwed up when he attributed the divergence of his models and the observable world to divine intervention.”

    So? Isaac Newton was a scientist. Isaac Newton believed in god. Either reject this or reject your claim.

    “What does her being a doctor have to do with any of this? That’s a non sequitur. Idiot.”

    Doctor’s believe in science. She believes in science. It’s not that hard to make that obvious connection. Stop trying to defend an absurdly ludicrous claim and just admit you misspoke or something.

  85. ConcernedJoe, since I haven’t told you anything about what I believe, other than in trying to look at things rationally on the basis of actual evidence instead of prejudice and puerile snark you don’t have any rational reason to assume that I have a “religious” compartment of [my] mind “. I thought you guys were supposed to value rational discussion.

  86. #86 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    I don’t see how non-confrontation is going to accomplish anything. We’ve had two thousand years of little or no confrontation with religion.

    Atheists are coming out of the closet (finally), they are getting attention, their ideas are being discussed in the press.

    What happens? People want them to shut up. Stop being so vocal. Stop being annoying. Let things be.

    But atheism is, by its very nature, confrontational. Its business is denial. THERE IS NO GOD. If someone states that god is doing something (like designing evolution! Wheeee!), atheists are going to want to have their say.

    Why are more people not willing to challenge those (especially the wingnut pols) who make bizarre statements about a non-existent god?

    I don’t think anyone here is appointing him or herself as a mouthpiece. PZ is expressing his opinions, as are we all.

  87. #87 Scott Hatfield, OM
    May 12, 2007

    DamnYankees, the entity known as Caledonian never misspeaks. It is invariably we, poor beggars, who do not know the meaning of the words that we attempt to use that misspeak. Take it from me: many and various are the words whose true reification are known only to Caledonian, and it is foolish to disagree.

    For example, I’m sure the old Scot would explain to you (if you are deemed worthy) that Newton was not being a scientist when he pursued his personal occultisms. Newton was only being a scientist when he did those things that Caledonian agrees with.

    Puckishly…SH

  88. Norman Doering, there is all the world between “Intelligent Design” which is pseudo-science, – Creationism, in costume – , and someone believing in a god and also believing in the real science of evolution. To make believe that the two are equivalent or that the latter is a trojan horse to introduce the first into science is paranoid.

    I wonder, how would you propose protecting science against covert “theists”, loyalty oaths? Secret police inside labs and classrooms?

    I’m going back to where people aren’t so invested in their personal prejudices. Interesting day trip.

  89. #89 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    “I don’t see how non-confrontation is going to accomplish anything. We’ve had two thousand years of little or no confrontation with religion.”

    How is anyone advocating this? The reaction to Romney has nothing to do with this. Looking at Romney’s statement, there are two reactions:

    1) Well, it’s a step in the right direction.
    2) Goddammit, not far enough! It’ll never be enough until no one believes in god ever!

    I just think the second tactic doesn’t do much for us. We have to appreciate the victories, slow and steady, and then move forward. To not is to be a constantly negative presence, and that’s neither heloful nor pleasant. Imagine telling someone who is recovering from a car accident that, after he takes his first steps in rehab, you’re pissed that he isn’t running yet.

  90. #90 Daedalus
    May 12, 2007

    The submissionists within our ranks are the greatest allies of the creationists. You advocate taking small steps all right; small steps backwards. Separate but equal was a step backwards to slavery and entailed the erosion of black civil rights. “Theistic evolution” is a step backwards to creationism and will entail an erosion of support for evolution. Like Booker T. Washington in the Jim Crow era, “theistic evolutionists” are showered with accolades for their moderation in our times. When Washington said at the Atlanta Expo, “In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress,” the white segregationists in attendance burst into wild applause and gave him a standing ovation. In the aftermath of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, Western and Southern states began to pass segregation laws and use other devices to eliminate blacks from the voting rolls.

    A split in the nascent civil rights movement ensued between Washington and his critics over strategy. W.E.B. DuBois and others refused to compromise and kowtow before segregationists. They went on to found the NAACP which fought segregation for almost fifty years in the courts before emerging victorious in the Brown decision. After Brown, the civil rights movement became a popular crusade, and completely triumphed over its opposition in our culture by seventies. The civil rights movement succeeded only once its leadership learned that it was not practical to compromise on matters of principle. In contrast, the segregationists of the fifties and sixties like George Wallace and Strom Thurmond retreated from traditional defenses of segregation like recourse to violence and racial theory. Instead, Wallace and Thurmond made their stand on states’ rights and freedom of association. In the end, they lost. The moral of the story should be clear.

  91. #91 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist wrote:

    … there is all the world between “Intelligent Design” which is pseudo-science, – Creationism, in costume – and someone believing in a god …

    So, you’re saying that god isn’t pseudo-science?

    What are you, a theist?

  92. #92 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    “So, you’re saying that god isn’t pseudo-science?”

    How is god a pseudo-science?

  93. Norman Doering, “God” isn’t science of any kind.

    “What are you a theist?”

    Come on, don’t you really want to say, “Are you now or have you ever been a theist?”

    Have the courage of your convictions, Norman.

  94. #94 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    With that in mind, what evidence can Caledonian present that the Carnival cruise line of religion is actually sinking? I’ll concede that his sloop of rationalism sails in waters in which the faithful dare not venture, but one can not help but notice the relative popularity and curious robustness of the cruise lines.

    But to save the day, PZ’s pirate ships of obnoxious atheistical loudmouths are rapidly advancing upon the carnival cruise ships of stupidity to utterly ruin all those obliviously moronic extended vacations from reality.

  95. #95 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    DamnYankees asked:
    “How is god a pseudo-science?”

    pseu·do·sci·ence: A theory, methodology, or practice that is considered to be without scientific foundation.

    Theistic religions do have theory, methodology, and practice. And the concept of god is without scientific foundation.

  96. PZ’s pirate ships of obnoxious atheistical loudmouths are rapidly advancing upon the carnival cruise ships of stupidity to utterly ruin all those obliviously moronic extended vacations from reality.

    Oh, now you’ve really convinced me CalGeorge, yours is obviously the true, scientific, view of the reality community.

  97. #97 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist doth proclaimth:

    “God” isn’t science of any kind.

    So, you admit that god isn’t real.

  98. #98 S. Rivlin
    May 12, 2007

    Evolution and theology are like water and oil. Evolution occurs without God. Theology have occurred without science. To claim that evolution is God’s plan is faith and faith only. It has no scientific basis and, of course, cannot be proven using the scientific method. Romney is creating an emulsion of water and oil (evolution and theology) and many now think it is a great solution for these two to exist together, although they cannot really combined into a new “stuff.” Just let these two sit long enough together and you’ll see that they are still water and oil, nothing else. Completely different and unchanged.

  99. Norman, have I claimed to believe in the silly tenets of scientism? Where do you locate “due process” in science? How about “separation of church and state”. While you’re twisting words to try to convince me that you can find those in “science” I’ll just get on enjoying both of them.

    If you want to argue these things you really should learn something about the subjects necessary. I know it’s the typical M.O. of you guys but it only impresses other people who don’t know the first thing about what they’re talking about.

  100. S. Rivlin, you mistake a bunch of assertions and baseless definitions for an argument. Again, if you want to have something real to go on, I’d suggest you do it the scientific way, go to scientists who also believe in a creator god and interview them on what their experience of being both is. I know it’s harder to gather evidence, and when it’s behavior the evidence isn’t really the same thing as observing something that can be seen and measured, but, really, it’s the only way to have something to go on but hunches. Hunches are so prone to the prejudice of the “researcher”.

    And this is a “Scienceblog”?

  101. #101 Neil
    May 12, 2007

    In over 30 years of living in a middle of the road to slightly liberal area of California, I have met only a handful of open outspoken atheists, but that number grows yearly. I have known a slightly larger handful of YECs, most of whom are now old or dead. Pretty much everyone else out of the thousands of people I’ve met here would fall somewhere in the theistic evolution range of the spectrum-not to say that makes it factual, just prevalent. I have reached the opinion that theistic evolution is the current default mode for otherwise intelligent, educated, thoughtful, honest people who are simply not ready to let go of superstition, or who have already decided believe in god because it comforts them. No science is involved in this for most people. Either they like the lie or they don’t, but for many it is a question unto its own that does not have to carry over into any other area. Compartmentalization works! Works a lot better than superiority complexes and purity purges, anyway.
    In my philosophically shaky teens, T.E. was my position as well; most just don’t (or choose not to) grow out of it. From my “somewhat studied layman” point of view, continued education and activism are the only answers that will help science education in the long run, for the very simple reason that you are not going to get any sizeable percentage of Americans to throw away their placebo in the near future, whether students, laymen, educators, or most especially politicians. If it is a trojan horse, it’s got a couple hundred million people in it- better set it on fire now!
    Unrelated question for Caledonian: What planet are you on, and is it the atmosphere or the gravity that makes your head swell so?

  102. #102 chuko
    May 12, 2007

    I think DamnYankees summarized the discussion nicely in #89.

    Let’s all help out Romney on his journey to become a liberal atheist.

  103. #103 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    S. Rivlin wrote:

    Just let these two sit long enough together and you’ll see that they are still water and oil, nothing else. Completely different and unchanged.

    I disagree. Religion is changing, in spite of all the ancient junk scripture hardly anyone reads and all the vestigial doctrines hardly anyone believes that have existed for thousands of years almost unchanged — there are active and evolving parts to religion that are being adaptively shaped by our new scientific mental environment.

    Religious ideas still have to live in modern minds. If those religious ideas kill the host mind, the religious idea dies.

  104. #104 S. Rivlin
    May 12, 2007

    A scientist who believes in God does not make science a faith. A theologist who practice science does not turn theology into science. The practitioners of science are not science itself and the practitioners of theology are not God.

  105. #105 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist asked:

    Where do you locate “due process” in science? How about “separation of church and state”.

    Like “god,” “due process” and “separation of church and state” are patterns of neural connections in the human mind.

    Is that too hard for you?

  106. #106 S. Rivlin
    May 12, 2007

    Norman,

    Define Religion.

  107. #107 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    S. Rivlin claimed:

    A scientist who believes in God does not make science a faith. A theologist who practice science does not turn theology into science. The practitioners of science are not science itself and the practitioners of theology are not God.

    Not necessarily. Some theologians in Galileo’s time had made geocentrism part of their faith. And L. Ron Hubbard once called scientology “the new science of the mind.”

  108. Like “god,” “due process” and “separation of church and state” are patterns of neural connections in the human mind.

    Is that too hard for you?

    Oh, dear Norman. You will compound folly with folly. In order for you to know that any of the above are “patterns of neural connections in the human mind”, the typical reifiction you reductionists and scientistic cultists like to pretend is “science” you would first have to have them identified as having a discreet existence as a “thing”. You would have to quite literally prove that you weren’t making words flesh. Asserting that these concepts in law and theology are “flesh” you just pretend that you have done what you have not done. Funny way to do science and oh, so prone to superannuation. E.O. Wilson took the sensible way out to try to protect biodiversity, but then, he started with the study of things that could be seen. Your hero…..

    Ok. I’ve wasted enough time, HaloScan is up. You can have at me all you want and I won’t be answering. As for your reasoning and realism, I’m underwhelmed.

  109. #109 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    S. Rivlin:

    Define Religion.

    That’s up to the dictionary, not me:

    religion: noun
    Etymology: Middle English religioun, from Anglo-French religiun, Latin religion-, religio supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perhaps from religare to restrain, tie back

    : the service and worship of God or the supernatural
    : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
    : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

    archaic : scrupulous conformity : CONSCIENTIOUSNESS
    : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

  110. #110 S. Rivlin
    May 12, 2007

    Norman,

    You surely agree with my statement. Whatever Galileo believed in, his or his followers’ faith did not make it science. Science is not depending on who is practicing it, only by how it is being practice.

  111. #111 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist doth proclaimth:

    In order for you to know that any of the above are “patterns of neural connections in the human mind”, the typical reifiction you reductionists and scientistic cultists like to pretend is “science” you would first have to have them identified as having a discreet existence as a “thing”. You would have to quite literally prove that you weren’t making words flesh. Asserting that these concepts in law and theology are “flesh” you just pretend that you have done what you have not done. Funny way to do science and oh, so prone to superannuation.

    First you need to know a bit about Neural Networks.

    Then you need to explore how neurons can encode linguistic information.

    It probably involves Neural ensembles.

    It may seem like a funny way to do science to you, but that’s probably because you don’t know science as well as you think you do.

  112. #112 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    I just think the second tactic doesn’t do much for us. We have to appreciate the victories, slow and steady, and then move forward.

    Romney said: “But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.”

    For the atheist, this is not progress. It is stupidity.

    I am not a scientist. I am focused on the fact that Romney invokes and perpetuates belief in a fairy tale god. That’s wrong. He should be ashamed of himself.

    The gravy for some folks is that he acknowledges evolution. Whoop-dee-do. He obviously knows nothing about it. If he did, he wouldn’t have made the claim that God creates the human body. He is spreading false notions about evolution and trying to have it all ways.

    Instead of cheering him on, we should be criticizing this bullshit.

  113. #113 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    S. Rivlin wrote:

    Science is not depending on who is practicing it, only by how it is being practice.

    Up to a point.
    Certainly all the various people across the world who come from different religious faiths but who embrace the same methods and theories of science and keep it advancing demonstrate that it’s hard to detect any influence of religion on science. On the other hand, the fact that scientists from so many different religious backgrounds have a tendency to go atheist and agnostic speaks to science effecting religion.

  114. #114 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    I urge everyone to go watch the Romney/Robertson love fest on Bill Moyers. Sickening.

    His words at the Regent University graduation:

    MITT ROMNEY: This university, its students, its alumni and the faculty serve as an example of Dr. Robertson’s dedication to strengthen the pillars of liberty and faith, pillars that sustain our communities and our country.
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/05112007/watch.html

    Absolutely sickening.

  115. #115 Matthew Morse
    May 12, 2007

    At the risk of being misinterpreted, I want to say a few words about tolerance.

    Tolerance is generally a good thing. The ability to recognize that another person has serious disagreements with you and to still treat them with respect, friendship, and love is a critical skill, and one that is probably underdeveloped in the world today.

    However, there are limits to tolerance, and some things that I feel should not be tolerated. (I take “toleration” to mean listening to or engaging in conversation with. I am certainly not advocating locking people up or violence. And even then it depends on context. I’m not going to stop going to a supermarket if it’s owned by a creationist, but I will fight creationism being taught in school.)

    The first case is opinions. I generally try to agree to disagree, but racist, sexist, or homophobic opinions are a guaranteed way to make me intolerant. I can’t make people not be sexist, racist, or homophobic, but I certainly will avoid people with those opinions. I feel no need for tolerance towards people holding hateful opinions.

    The second case is facts. If someone asserts that George W. Bush is a popular President, they are wrong. Every opinion poll that measures Presidential popularity shows that Bush is the least popular President in 30 years, and polls are a sufficiently reasonable approximation of popular opinion that claims that Bush is currently popular are wrong. Anyone making that claim is either badly misinformed or openly dishonest, and either way isn’t worth listening to or speaking with.

    Which brings me to science. Science is a process of learning facts about the world around us. The strongest argument in favor of the scientific process is that it works. I wake up every morning without having to worry if I’ll be able to forage for enough food to eat that day. And I go to bed every night without worrying about whether I will be warm and dry while I sleep. And for that, I thank science.

    Science is the reason the buildings we live and work in don’t collapse around us. Science is the reason we have enough food to eat, and the reason the food, which is grown all over the world, can get to us so we can eat it. Science is the reason we have computers and can have arguments with people regardless of where they live.

    Science works. Science sets out to learn facts about the world, and it succeeds.

    Science also makes mistakes. Current research is exploring down all sorts of blind alleys, led on by researchers who are convinced they are right, sometimes in the case of overwhelming evidence. Often they are wrong, and when they are wrong, the wrong ideas will eventually be discarded and replaced.

    But sometimes they are right, and when they are right, the world improves. And when they are right, science absorbs the knowledge and builds on it. What was once a radical idea becomes taken for granted. Certain ideas become core science. Not only is the truth of the idea accepted, but all current research would become meaningless if it were not true. Not meaningless in the sense of the results of experiments, but in the ability to perform the experiments themselves.

    Feel free to doubt the radical ideas. Is string theory true? I have no idea. Is evolutionary psychology? I doubt it.

    But I have no tolerance for doubting the core ideas. Relativity, quantum mechanics, atomic theory, and evolution are true. There may be details at the edges that still need to be worked out, but the basic principles are unquestionable.

    And I feel no need to have tolerance for people who insist on challenging basic scientific principles.

  116. #116 Caledonian
    May 12, 2007

    There may be details at the edges that still need to be worked out, but the basic principles are unquestionable.

    There are NO principles that are unquestionable!

  117. #117 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    Caledonian wrote:

    There are NO principles that are unquestionable!

    I would question that principle.

  118. #118 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    “For the atheist, this is not progress. It is stupidity.”

    It’s not stupidity. It’s religion. If you want to brand every religious thought stupid, and every religious person an idiot, you’re free to do so. But it’s not true, and it makes you rather non-credible.

    Like I said, you can’t expect society to change very quickly. Takes a long, long, looooong time.

  119. #119 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    DamnYankees wrote:

    It’s not stupidity. It’s religion.

    You say that like you think there’s a difference between the two.

    … you can’t expect society to change very quickly. Takes a long, long, looooong time.

    Unless, of course, you’re willing to use massive quantities of nuclear weaponry or genetically programmed brain virii.

  120. #120 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    Give me an example of a credible religious thought.

    Romney’s is not.

  121. #121 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    “Give me an example of a credible religious thought.”

    Credible isn’t the same thing as stupid. Religion isn’t tethered to reality, thus its pointless and has no truth in it. But that’s not the same thing as stupid. Nothing in Shakespeare is credible either.

    Believing religion is true does not result from stupidity, but from cultural indoctrination. Being smart and stupid has nothing to do with it – it’s being educated and not, and the environment you live in. If you’re raised with the idea that rational thought and empiricism are valuable, that’s going to have an affect. But stupidity/stupid isn’t the same sort of dichotomy. Treating religious people as idiots is false and incredibly condescending. You can believe stupid things for non-stupid reasons.

  122. #122 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    Stupidity does have something to do wiith it. Look at the definitions for stupid.

    stu·pid(stpd, sty-)
    adj. stu·pid·er, stu·pid·est
    1. Slow to learn or understand; obtuse.
    2. Tending to make poor decisions or careless mistakes.
    3. Marked by a lack of intelligence or care; foolish or careless: a stupid mistake.
    4. Dazed, stunned, or stupefied.
    5. Pointless; worthless: a stupid job.

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/stupid

    1) Slow to learn (that God does not exist?)
    2) Poor decisions (people can choose not to believe, but don’t)
    3) Lack of intelligence or care (in making silly arguments about a non-existent god)
    4) Dazed (yup – god is like a drug – think Collins staring up at his waterfall)
    5) Pointless, worthless (yes, religion is truly a waste of time)

  123. #123 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    Nothing in Shakespeare is credible either.

    I find the characters to have “emotional crediblity” and I think Julius Caesar was killed.

  124. #124 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    “I find the characters to have “emotional crediblity” and I think Julius Caesar was killed.”

    Come on, you know what I meant. Saul is also emotionally credible, and certain things in the Bible probably happened also. The Bible is much like the Iliad or similar ancient books.

  125. #125 Scott Hatfield, OM
    May 12, 2007

    CalGeorge, since you made me laugh with your pirate metaphor, I’ll take you up on that, if you tell me what you mean by ‘credible’.

    Do you mean independently verifiable? If so, then I don’t think it can be done. On the other hand, if you mean something like one of the following:

    1# falsifiable in principle, but not yet tested?

    2# non-falsifiable, but not contradicting any known set of observations?

    3# intuitively plausible?

    We might be able to do something with these. But, of course, regardless of how we defined ‘credible’, it would not follow that any such notion was true.

  126. #126 Caledonian
    May 12, 2007

    I would question that principle.

    Then your science-fu is strong.

  127. #127 Chris
    May 12, 2007
    There are NO principles that are unquestionable!

    I would question that principle.

    Fine – it’s only the principles that are tested *and pass* that are worth keeping. And only as long as they continue passing the tests.

    Evolution, of course, *has* passed. Creationism and theism haven’t.

  128. #128 Caledonian
    May 12, 2007

    ‘Credible’, related to ‘credit’: being sufficiently trustworthy that statements are, at least tenatively, accepted at face value until shown otherwise.

    If a witness is credible, you take their word for what they claim to have witnessed. If not, you don’t.

    The general usage is not sufficiently obscure for there to be serious uncertainty as to its meaning. Sophistry is not only uncalled for but particularly distasteful, given this fact.

  129. #129 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    Scott, I’m honestly not sure what I meant.

    Here’s a random bible quote (from the random bible quote generator!):

    ‘For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

    http://www.csee.umbc.edu/~stephen/rndquoter.cgi

    Have at it!

  130. #130 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    Here’s another incredible religious statement (randomly generated):

    ‘But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Luke 6 : 35

    Intuitively plausible? I think NOT!

  131. #131 tomh
    May 12, 2007

    DamnYankees wrote:
    Nothing in Shakespeare is credible either.

    That’s just silly. Shakespeare wrote fiction and neither he nor anyone else ever claimed it was anything but fiction. The Bible, Koran, whatever, may be fiction but they are claimed by the authors and present day proponents to be true, the word of God handed down. Surely, even you can see the difference there.

  132. #132 DamnYankees
    May 12, 2007

    “Surely, even you can see the difference there.”

    I never said they were the same in all respects. But the guy asked me to point to something credible in the Bible, and I was simply saying that credibility has nothing to do with intelligence/character/value when it comes to art or literature. Just like the Iliad and Shakespeare aren’t literally true, yet they contain deep truths and can be appreciated by very smart people, the Bible is much the same way. The Iliad is probably a better example than Shakespeare, since the Iliad functioned as a Bible for the Greeks – they thought it was true in many ways we now know it isn’t.

    My main point was the belief that the Bible is *true* is not a belief which hinges necessarily on intelligence, but on culture and values. Does being smart play a part? Sure it does. But I don’t think it plays as big a part as we might hope. It’s very easy and satisfying to think that those who disagree with you are stupid, which is why many atheists like to think of theists as dumb. But that’s just not the case. The society you live in and the values you hold are more important, I think. I became an atheist not because I was smart, necessarily, but because ever since I was a kid my parents instilled in me the need to educate myself and learn thing.

    That’s all I was saying.

  133. #133 CalGeorge
    May 12, 2007

    One more:

    ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’. Romans 7 : 23

    Wow, eternal life. NOT credible.

  134. #134 Scott Hatfield
    May 12, 2007

    Sophistry, Caledonian? I’m afraid you’re confusing me with someone who holds a hidden agenda. I don’t.

    I will admit, if pressed, that I’ve had enough experiences with talking with folk such as yourself that I’ve learned to make SURE I know what a person is asking before I attempt an answer. *You* may find it odious that someone beside yourself is attempting to frames the terms of discussion, but that doesn’t carry any weight with yours truly.

    Besides, what’s the criteria for being trustworthy? It’s not specified in your definition! Are we going to use a verificationist criteria, a falsificationist criteria, etc.? It’s not immediately obvious to me what CalGeorge wants, and it’s reasonable to ask, a way of showing respect for the other fella. I’m genuinely interested in understanding other’s viewpoints, including yours.

    (And that, BTW, is why I teased you on post #87 for the impression you often give others here. I keep hoping to have a long and substantive exchange of views with your challenging persona, as I labor under the delusion that it would be educational for yours truly. Are you unreasonably suspicious, or am I really out to ensnare you with ‘sophistry’? Sadly, we seem destined to never learn!)

    Hopefully…Scott

  135. #135 Scott Hatfield, OM
    May 12, 2007

    Hey George! Here’s a few thoughts on your suggested ‘religious claims’ (Bible verses)….

    #129: Non-falsifiable, but intuitively plausible. The claim is well within the power of the hypothetical God’s immense power. Whether or not omnipotence/omniscience as divine attributes constitute a coherent claim is another question.

    #130: DEEPLY counter-intuitive, like many of the sayings of Jesus. But, interestingly enough, falsifiable in principle for individual cases, as long as we don’t admit ‘multiple outs’ for the believer.

    #133: Actually, I don’t find the idea of ‘eternal life’ as troublesome as the notion that the Creator made the Creation with the possible intent of eternally condemning some of his creatures!

    What do you think?

  136. #136 Ron richardson
    May 12, 2007

    Theistic evolution will prevail as the dominant concept on the origin of humans for a while, but our society will realize it’s idiocy and philosophical untenability soon. It succeeds because it allows its promoters to say “hey, i’m cool with science” but also “hey i’m a man of faith too” and take that have-it both ways, please everyone, painfully weak moderate position that our society seems to love. But a position so intellectually idiotic can’t be supported for too long. People of intelligence will stop, listen for a second, and say “wait, saying that god guided evolution makes absolutely no sense…natural selection guided evolution, and we can know that for sure”…
    The most fun part is that theistic evolution, which seems so smart and uniting and such a great solution that everyone will like, is actually stupider than creationism. Creationists (at least of the Egnor variety) accept that natural selection is occurring, and will acknowledge that it leads to bacterial drug resistance, etc., but deny that it can cause macroevolutionary change of speciation, or explain the emergence of new information such as the emergence of eukaryotes–a position that is wrong, but one that can’t really be proven wrong. The theistic evolutionists, however, must deny natural selection (and thus microevolution) for their theory to be tenable, but accept macroevolutionary change, without a real mechanism.
    yeah, thats an incoherent rant, sorry

  137. #137 CalGeorge
    May 13, 2007

    Scott:

    Comments (ignoring the main point – that all of these quotes refer to a hypothetical God)

    #129:

    ‘For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

    Assumes love is some kind of cosmic absolute that can never disappear. I don’t buy it. Nice sentiment though. It must have been thrilling to be told such a thing.

    #130:

    ‘But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Luke 6 : 35

    People do good all the time without the expectation of being exalted. A nice set of principles ruined by reference to future reward.

    #133:

    ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’. Romans 7 : 23

    Death is the result of sin? At some level, yes. Sloth, gluttonly, anger may hasten death.

    But I’m going to die whether I sin or not. Would have been better to say, the wages of sin may be an early death. Then do some studies and get even more specific (thus was born the insurance industry).

  138. #138 Rich
    May 13, 2007

    Hmmm…

    Okay. God does not exist. While people may convince themselves that god exists, they may also lead useful lives. But we should do whatever we can to remind them that god does not exist. We certainly should not elect them to public office. Especially to the presidency of the United States of America.

    And while that may be a minority opinion right now, agreeing with the deluded people that believe in god is bad for them.

    It enables their delusion. You don’t let your drug addled friend have “just a little more heroin”. You don’t give your alcoholic wife/husband “one more drink”.

    Just Say NO To God. Right now.

  139. #139 tomh
    May 13, 2007

    DamnYankees wrote:
    I never said they were the same in all respects.

    Who said you did?

    The Iliad is probably a better example than Shakespeare, since the Iliad functioned as a Bible for the Greeks …

    Don’t know where you got that idea. The Iliad was part of an oral tradition of epic poetry that celebrated the bravery and greatness of figures of legend and much later came to be recited at festivals as a testament to the greatness of the Grecian past. A better candidate for a “bible” would be Hesiod’s Theogony which detailed the first geneology of the gods that we know of and also had an overview of the creation of the universe.

    The more you try to defend an untenable hypothesis the more tangled up you become. Give it up as a bad job.

  140. #140 Scott Hatfield, OM
    May 13, 2007

    Re #136 (Ron):

    This is one of the reasons that I don’t identify myself as a TE despite being a theist and a pretty enthusiastic advocate for evolution. Another is that TE’s run the risk of substituting a bland Nature for God, which I think sells both Darwin and theism short. Darwin’s vision of life, says his biographer James Moore, is fundamentally a religious vision. But that doesn’t mean that it reduces to a naive pantheism, Evolution with a capital ‘E’. At the same time, saying that doesn’t let the TE’s off the hook where the problem of evil is concerned. As anyone who has read Darwin’s letters can attest, it was theodicy more than anything else that destroyed his Christianity.

  141. #141 Norman Doering
    May 13, 2007

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist wrote:

    Nichlaus Steno, John Dalton, Issac Newton, Joseph Priestly (greatly admired by T. Huxley) … You certainly have heard of them? The only thing that is necessary to disprove your statement “Science and a belief in God cannot co-exist,” is to produce a working scientist who believes in God. And, guess what, they exist.

    Nicolaus Steno (1631-1686), John Dalton (1766-1844), Isaac Newton and Joseph Priestly (1733-1804) are dead and dead, pre-Darwin, people can’t be considered working scientists… unless you’re some kind of necromancer and you’ve got their corpses trudging around in your basement lab.

    Perhaps you should consider using Francis Collins, Michael Behe and Dr. Michael Egnor as examples of working scientists?

  142. #142 JohnnieCanuck
    May 13, 2007

    The question I’m waiting for someone to ask Romney is, does he believe the Mormon doctrine that he may eventually become a god himself and thence the creator of a universe of his own.

    I understand this option is not available to a Mormon woman. She must vest all her hopes for the afterlife in her husband. If he judges her worthy, he can call her to him. If she messes up here, he won’t make it to the higher levels and then she won’t either.

    Abrahamic patriarchs give men a bad name.

  143. #143 maurile
    May 13, 2007

    Romney’s comments were definitely a good thing. It looks like he thinks the earth is more than 4,000 years old and humans and trout share a common ancestor. So he’s way ahead of, say, Mike Huckabee — and seemingly even Al Gore.

  144. : Norman Doering | May 13, 2007 01:20 AM

    Oh, I’m stung by the Wikimaster of PM’s cult. Un, I’d point out that Francis Collins has a pretty enviable career in real, research science, Norm.

    As for Egnor and Behe, it might go right past the typical poster on this thread but YOU are the person who made up that list, not me.

    PZ, if I attracted a cult like the one on display here, I’d really rethink things, reality wise.

  145. #145 ConcernedJoe
    May 13, 2007

    Dear “olvlzl, no ism, no ist” you are something. A clever chap or gal you are. I suspect schooled in pouncing on your opponent’s minor defect of statement of any sort to steer an argument or obscure a true broader more salient point. Yup you are a clever TROLL. Just an observation … no need to attack it… I observed and concluded. No prejudice involved and I REALLY carefully read the thread and thought about it before concluding that you are simply a spoiler. Heck you are a good troll – I actually found you of value!

    Those of us that want to defend reason, liberty, and move society forward should listen to you carefully. Some may say to learn your “debating” techniques, but that is NOT where I find a careful reading of you of most value. Sure one should note technique but one should examine for nuggets more deeply.

    I find your value has been that in some fashion (I’d say adversarial but that is only my conclusion after my observations) you warn us to watch our generalizations and unsupported “feeling” type statements; to watch our prejudice against thought that is private – at least be sure respect a person’s right to hold an opinion in a general sense; to watch our analogies and the scope of our examples; to check our facts and measure our words. Bloody good advice!!!

    It is time that we realize we are at “war” for something greater than us as individuals, and while speaking among ourselves permits us some sloppiness (because our comrades will see past the defect to the broader truth of our statements) – our opponents are becoming more skilled at debating for obfuscation and will exploit all defects.

    We really have to learn that just because a conclusion is OBVIOUS does NOT make arguing for it easy. For example: Some of us may after much experience and analysis think it is blatantly and patently obvious that belief in the supernatural and science cannot CO-EXIST. But we must when presenting this conclusion in argument recognize that there are people being schooled on how to twist what we say. They can cleverly hide the implied meaning of CO-EXIST in our arguments, so that our points comes across like we want to ban PRIVATE free thought, or that we’re giving litmus tests of no salient value.

    Cleverly you can twist things and turn the “layperson” against us. When we say two things cannot exist in the same place at the same time, you are cleaver enough to make it seem like we are saying one of those things cannot exist at all. And there are other examples of your cleverness but I will not bore you all further.

    Again “olvlzl, no ism, no ist” thanks (seriously) for the foil – there’s value in learning from such. But one thing you said does piss me off so note well: PZ is NOT my idea of a cult leader … actually I still kind of fantasize about following the Lena Horne or Kim Novak of my youth into the jaws of Hell .. .. but PZ?!?!? Excuse me PZ but NOT!!!

  146. Some of us may after much experience and analysis think it is blatantly and patently obvious that belief in the supernatural and science cannot CO-EXIST.

    You are free to think so and free to assert that, but the existence of real scientists, Francis Collins, for example, are the proof that it is a false statement.

    As to the cult status of some of the posters above, if people who responded to what I wrote were so eager to get my attention, like children trying to get attention from an authority figure, adoringly defending the absurd assertion that is the point you just asserted, I’d step on it immediately. You don’t learn from people who agree with you unquestioningly. That’s a cult. You might mean the nice things you say about me, but, no thank you. I’d rather have my ideas challenged and corrected. I’m too grown up for flattery.

  147. #147 Caledonian
    May 13, 2007

    Ah, but his Francis Collins a scientist when he resorts to supernatural entities as an explanation for natural phenomena?

    No. It’s compartmentalization. Science does not permit supernatural entities by definition.

  148. #148 Caledonian
    May 13, 2007

    The test of an assertion is not determining whether some celebrity or respected authority holds it, but in analyzing its implications.

    Science doesn’t operate on celebrity and respected authority. That’s the domain of religion.

  149. Ah, Caledonian weighs in, can Norm be far behind. I hate to break it to you but you guys haven’t yet gotten the authority to decide who is and who isn’t a scientist. I know that in the teaching side of things that faculty politcs can deprive someone of a position but in the working world, it’s more a question of who produces good science. Luckily, that’s in the hands of people who actually produce science for the time being at least.

  150. #150 ConcernedJoe
    May 13, 2007

    “olvlzl, no ism, no ist” first I (and I assume most PZ bloggers) agree whole-heartedly with “You don’t learn from people who agree with you unquestioningly” and ditto re: “I’d rather have my ideas challenged and corrected.” I (and I assume we) love to stand corrected and learn things we didn’t know or didn’t think through.

    If you really want to share ideas and “argue” for the sake of clarification and refinemnet great.. but I for one cannot find a toehold to use to really productively engage you. And — mamma mia .. lighten up!!

    To me a true seeker of truth tries to see and play back the other’s viewpoint to test and probe and find errors in their own thinking. A friend in the quest for truth declares himself (gives their comments a context so the fellow traveler can better POSITIVELY access and get implications). A debater or con-artist does not really do these things. You strike me as a debater.

    For example if we were having an “adult” honest discussion that seeks truth I’d hear your trying to understand what one means here by CO-exist. But again in the recent post above you seem to ignore the importance of that qualifying word, and you jump to character accusations.

    I am guilty of calling you a troll, so I am open to critism on that front too, but for the life of me I fail to sense how your barbs adds to further understanding of the issue at hand.

    Listen, in a nice “adult” way — please try to tell me what you think I mean by CO-exist and what you mean by it. Then try to explain (having given me your perspective on what I mean) how your meaning of CO-exist is truer, better, more applicable, or whatever. Then maybe from that bit of enlightenment my fellow travelers can engage you (note I did NOT say attack or dismiss you) in a meaningful adult discussion.

    Pace.

  151. #151 CalGeorge
    May 13, 2007

    Romney’s comments were definitely a good thing. It looks like he thinks the earth is more than 4,000 years old and humans and trout share a common ancestor. So he’s way ahead of, say, Mike Huckabee — and seemingly even Al Gore.

    I’m getting the idea that the bar for approval of comments by presidential candidates is set pretty frigging low.

    What he said was muddle-headed. It means little – he will say something else tomorrow, like he has with abortion. He say things to placate moderates then goes off to Regent U.’s commencement, where he SUCKS UP to Pat Robertson. That sounds like George Bush all over again. Do we really want someone in that mold in the White House?

    Do not cut this guy any slack.

    Even if you are glad he said what he said because it could have been worse, you should be extremely skeptical of it.

  152. #152 CalGeorge
    May 13, 2007

    Bottom line: we have to demand that candidates stop fudging.

    A little god + a little evolution, everyone will be happy.

    NO! You can’t have it both ways.

  153. #153 Caledonian
    May 13, 2007

    No one has the ‘authority’ to decide that, because that’s not a matter of authority. It’s a matter of fact, which is utterly beyond authority.

  154. I for one cannot find a toehold to use to really productively engage you. And — mamma mia .. lighten up!!

    The assertion that you are representing a “scientific” viewpoint requires that you fulfill the responsibilites of that presumption. Pretending that an explaination, without any data to back up the most extravagant claims that you know the physical basis of something like “due process” isn’t science, it’s let’s pretend.

    I have come to the conclusion that most of the people who say “lighten up!” in blog discussions are advertising that the discussion has gotten too complicated for them or that they know they are losing.
    Lucky for you guys, my time to spend in futility is limited by real life responsibilities.

    PZ, I’d watch for that unquestioning adoration and agreement stuff. It’s so seductive and so likely to produce no good at all.

  155. #155 PZ Myers
    May 13, 2007

    Can you possibly be a little more smarmy and self-refuting?

    Really — there are plenty of people here who disagree with me either altogether or on subsets of my opinions. Jebus, you are here. Playing this game of trying to discredit your critics by claiming that they’re merely my brainwashed parrots is cheesy and stupid, especially since this is the first time I’ve actually engaged you.

  156. I’m sorry, PZ, if you didn’t like the observation about some of your commenters, which is an observation not snark. I don’t mind if someone points out where I’m wrong but they’ve got to actually do that instead of asserting I’m a superstitious idiot and coming up with a pat statement of belief instead of an argument. I also don’t generally put up with having words and entire theological programs put in my mouth by other people.

    I don’t visit your blog very often and have never commented on it before. I don’t expect that to change. It was just that this post seems to confirm that only complete conformity to your entire program is enough to please you. I don’t think you’ll find that I called anyone anything like a “brainwashed parrot”, which is a style I’ve found useless, if discovering reality is the goal.

  157. #157 PZ Myers
    May 13, 2007

    You’ve just called people here members of a “cult”, and implied that they’re a team of yes men kowtowing to me. Is that a style you’ve found useful?

    As you haven’t commented here before, and I haven’t commented on you, it’s a little odd that you can now be declaring that all the commenters here are merely following my lead.

  158. #158 Caledonian
    May 13, 2007

    It’s particularly odd given that the people you’re saying are yes-men are the some of the most critical of PZ. I fail to see how anyone who’s read this blog for a while could mistake me for a sycophant of Myers’.

  159. #159 Darwinator
    May 13, 2007

    PZ,

    I hate to keep harping on this, I just want to try and understand where you’re coming from.

    I feel very strongly that, in any collision between biblical literalism and scientific findings, the biblical stories should yield. I would wager a lot of money that you agree.

    I think where we disagree is that I claim convincing people that the creation myth is bogus and that evolution represents a much better explanation has value. You seem to believe it’s fraught with danger. I’m not seeing that.

    What’s the problem with closing another (albeit huge) gap that god hides in? Getting large numbers of people to understand and accept the process of evolution seems like a big leap forward to me. Sure, our religious brethren will be claiming that god kick started the whole process. They will, however, be more accepting of science and hopefully feel some pressure to back their claims with evidence. Knock down creation and then build healthy skepticism about “miracles”. Eventually there’s nowhere left for god to hide.

    Given the goal of weakening powerful factions in this country with theocratic ambitions, am I wrong to want to win this war one battle at a time? Am I picking the wrong battle? I’ve tried to see your point of view here and am not succeeding. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

  160. #160 ConcernedJoe
    May 13, 2007

    To ‘olvlzl, no ism, no ist’ I said: “..To me a true seeker of truth tries to see and play back the other’s viewpoint to test and probe and find errors in their own thinking. A friend in the quest for truth declares himself (gives their comments a context so the fellow traveler can better POSITIVELY access and get implications)…. ”

    I also asked this: “Listen, in a nice “adult” way — please try to tell me what you think I mean by CO-exist and what you mean by it. Then try to explain (having given me your perspective on what I mean) how your meaning of CO-exist is truer, better, more applicable, or whatever. Then maybe from that bit of enlightenment my fellow travelers can engage you (note I did NOT say attack or dismiss you) in a meaningful adult discussion.”

    “olvlzl, no ism, no ist” what more of a start to a real discussion do you want?!?!? Oh well — I suspect you are just trying to make waves, and I cannot help but conclude you are a pretty vicious sort of troll. So be it. However I will admit it — you did get us to abandon meaningful discussion and sink to your level. To this I say BRAVO – points for tactics!!

    However for me, basta cosi’!! Ciao ciao

  161. #161 Caledonian
    May 13, 2007

    I feel very strongly that, in any collision between biblical literalism and scientific findings, the biblical stories should yield.

    That’s nice, but it’s not the conflict we’re dealing with.

    In any conflict between faith and reason, which do you believe should yield?

  162. #162 CalGeorge
    May 13, 2007

    Getting large numbers of people to understand and accept the process of evolution seems like a big leap forward to me. Sure, our religious brethren will be claiming that god kick started the whole process. They will, however, be more accepting of science and hopefully feel some pressure to back their claims with evidence. Knock down creation and then build healthy skepticism about “miracles”. Eventually there’s nowhere left for god to hide.

    If I go to a physics blog and start claiming that “God” kick started the whole universe, do you think they would respect that? Is that what being “more accepting of science” is all about?

    PZ was right. The battle is shifting to the physics arena as the fundies realize they can’t win the argument with the evolutionary biologists.

  163. #163 Darwinator
    May 13, 2007

    Caledonian,

    Yours is exactly the position I’m trying to understand, maybe I don’t need PZ to explain it. Maybe I just need you to do it.

    Feel free to deal with whatever conflict you like. The one I’m asking about is whether theistic evolution is preferable to creationism. I think it is. You and PZ disagree. I’m trying to see your viewpoint.

    Ideally everyone would discard their faith and superstitions in one joyous leap of spontaneous rationality. I believe that’s unlikely to happen. I also happen to believe that theistic evolution is a tolerable and realistic intermediate step.

    Show me why I’m wrong. Please.

  164. #164 Darwinator
    May 13, 2007

    CalGeorge,

    The bit I think you’re missing is that you have to choose from the options you’re given. The options presented are theistic evolution and creationism.

    On this site, it should almost go without saying (but apparently doesn’t) that, in an ideal world, rationality would trump faith, and science would trump myth every single time. That isn’t the issue. The issue is how, in the real world, to reach a situation where scientific theories dominate and inform discourse on scientific topics. To my mind the first step should be encouraging an acceptance of science among those who are most vocally outspoken against it. Creationists.

    I vastly prefer Romney’s position to that of the founder of the Creationism Museum. In the hierarchy of preference, I vastly prefer PZ’s position to Romney’s. The point to keep focused on is that upwards of 50% of Americans think evolution is basically a silly idea. Their failure to understand it is a catch-22 situation. They refuse to investigate evolution because it conflicts with their religious myths. Their religious myths remain unchallenged because they refuse to investigate evolution.

    I claim Romney’s viewpoint allows science to drive the thin edge of the wedge into religious discourse. What we do from there is up to us.

    Thoughts?

  165. it’s a little odd that you can now be declaring that all the commenters here are merely following my lead.
    Posted by: PZ Myers

    Did I say “all of the commenters here are merely folowing (your) lead”? I don’t think I did. I did say that in some of the comments I detected the signs of a cult. I’ve gone back and skimmed the thread and I still believe that to be true.

    I am, however, interested in one thing. In answer to an obviously scientistic assertion I asked if the person could locate “due process” or “separation of church and state” in science. Since I’m rather fond of both I’d hate to do without them while you guys try to find it in science. I mean really find it, not just assert that it is already located through the process of reification and wholesale invention.

  166. #166 CalGeorge
    May 13, 2007

    The issue is how, in the real world, to reach a situation where scientific theories dominate and inform discourse on scientific topics.

    By not compromising.

  167. #167 poke
    May 13, 2007

    PZ, I think you make an excellent point in this post that’s being overlooked, which is that the teleological aspect of theistic evolution makes it look a lot like intelligent design. I think an even stronger case can be made. Let me set it out:

    1. Intelligent Design is defined by its revisionist approach to science.
    2. Theistic Evolution implies teleology.
    3. Teleology necessitates interventionism.
    4. Interventionism necessitates a revisionist approach to science.
    5. Theistic Evolution is therefore indistinguishable from Intelligent Design.

    I think 1 and 4 are uncontroversial.

    I think 2, while people might disagree, is obvious. Theistic evolution without teleology is meaningless. If God “set things up” without any outcome in mind, what’s the point? Can he even be said to have “set things up” at all? Regardless, all the major theistic evolutionists, including Miller and Collins, insist on teleology.

    For number 3 I think it serves to establish that teleology has the same outcome as interventionism. If God initially “set things up” so they’d lead to a certain outcome then they will be different than they would have otherwise been. If they are different than they would have otherwise been, then that’s detectable (in principle). Some sort of change has happened. Therefore God has intervened.

    Given this I think 4 and 5 stand.

    Theistic evolution and ID are, in theory, the same thesis. Where they differ is in approach; ID attacks on revisionist grounds whereas TE tends to deny its revisionism. (Although, for example, with Miller and Collins the revisionism is there it’s just that modern science happens to already fit in their minds.) Theistic evolutionists can claim that there is no basis on which to attack science but they are contradicting themselves in doing so.

  168. #168 CalGeorge
    May 13, 2007

    The point to keep focused on is that upwards of 50% of Americans think evolution is basically a silly idea.

    So… let’s humor them?

    No thank you. TEACH them.

    I don’t even want to think about how a lesson on theistic evolution would work in a school classroom.

    “Yes, Suzy, we just don’t know what happened before the big bang… [swallowing hard] Some people think God set it all in motion. How do we all feel about that? Isn’t that special?”

  169. #169 Darwinator
    May 13, 2007

    So… let’s humor them?

    Yep.

    TEACH them.

    Yep.

    I don’t even want to think about how a lesson on theistic evolution would work in a school classroom.

    Nor should you have to. No one is advocating that. You’re being naive in the extreme if you think that sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “Science! Science! Science!” is going to fix this problem. Teaching evolution in schools shouldn’t even be a point of debate. Part of the reason that it is a point of debate is people like you.

    Ultimately, your preference for creationism to theistic evolution is puzzling and troubling all at once.

    I’m not even sure what you’re trying to achieve. I’m certainly no closer to understanding your position than I was when I made my initial request.

  170. #170 Caledonian
    May 13, 2007

    Show me why I’m wrong.

    Because it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.

  171. #171 Dave H
    May 13, 2007

    Let’s review “olvlzl, no ism, no ist’s” arguments:

    1. Science and religion can co-exist because a scientist says so. How does this scientist reconcile those ideas? Who cares? This is a classic appeal to authority, bitches, and you can’t address me unless you present an authority of equal or greater value.

    2. OMG, like, I don’t have time for your refutations of my arguments because I’ve got a hot supermodel girlfriend waiting for me, unlike all you other losers. (RE: #154 and others.)

    3. I’ve closely reviewed this thread, and upon observing that there are a number of people who disagree with me, and continue to disagree with me, and now even the blogger disagrees with me, I must conclude that I am dealing with…a cult. Because I couldn’t possibly be wrong, dontcha know.

    4. I did not say “brainwashed parrot.” If you restate anything I say, you must quote me directly. I see no and hear no implications or summations or comparable terms. However, I do speak ’em, like when I surmised that others were calling me a superstitious idiot, though I quoted no one directly. (RE: #156 especially)

    5. My mouth is full of something else right now, please don’t put words into it.

    Oops.

  172. #172 CalGeorge
    May 13, 2007

    Romney pretends it is okay to parcel some part of the discussion of the origins of the material universe off into sociology or religion class.

    That discssion belongs in science class, without god being brought into it.

  173. #173 Matthew Morse
    May 13, 2007

    Caledonian said, back in comment 116:

    There may be details at the edges that still need to be worked out, but the basic principles are unquestionable.

    There are NO principles that are unquestionable!

    I knew I was overstating things, but I let it go. That was a mistake. Let me explain what I meant.

    Newtonian gravity was once a core principle of science. It accurately described the motion of the planets around the sun, and of satellites around the planets, with the exception of Mercury.

    Newtonian gravity has been replaced by relativity. Relativity is more accurate than Newtonian gravity in that it correctly predicts the motion of Mercury. Relativity has gone on to be an essential component of our understanding of astronomy.

    However, for typical cases, relativity produces the same results as Newtonian gravity. In fact, Newtonian gravity works sufficiently well that we can continue to treat Newtonian gravity as true as long as we also have an awareness of when and how it breaks down.

    Likewise, relativity isn’t perfect and will some day be replaced. But any replacement will have to make the same predictions as relativity under most circumstances and make changes only at the edges, where relativity does not fully and accurately explain the world.

    Any proposed replacement to relativity that does not agree with relativity in most cases is not a credible replacement. And in practice it may be easier to continue to treat relativity as true and just keep an awareness of when and how it fails.

    So no scientific principle is unquestionable in the sense of unchangeable in any of the details. But some are so reliable that any changes in the predicted outcomes, even if the principle gets completely reformulated, can only be at the level of the details.

  174. Let’s review “olvlzl, no ism, no ist’s” arguments:

    1. Science and religion can co-exist because a scientist says so. How does this scientist reconcile those ideas?

    I don’t know, why not trying to ask them how they do it instead of relying on your prejudices. You have some kind of clear evidence that you know their thinking than they do? I’d think that this is what’s called gathering evidence, not an appeal to authority. Maybe they won’t agree with each other, wouldn’t that be interesting to know?

    2. OMG, like, I don’t have time for your refutations of my arguments because I’ve got a hot supermodel girlfriend waiting for me, unlike all you other losers.

    Like so many of the other commenters on blogs, you have a rather too active fantasy life. olvlzl has always identified himself as a rather old, gay man who is singularly unlucky in love. Actually, I’ve got what’s known among some of you younger folks, as “a life”.

    3. is too silly to bother with.

    4. I did not say “brainwashed parrot.” If you restate anything I say, you must quote me directly.

    I didn’t say that, I said that I wouldn’t put up with words being put in my mouth.

    5. My mouth is full of something else right now, please don’t put words into it.

    Thank you, Dave H. for making my point for me. I’m always so interested in how the rigorous reasoners cleave to the truth.

    As for this other comment:
    I don’t even want to think about how a lesson on theistic evolution would work in a school classroom.

    “Theistic evolution” doesn’t have any place in a science classroom or any other public school classroom. Religious ideas have no place in science, something I’ve always maintained and which I’d imagine just about every scientist who also believes in some kind of religion would agree with, though I’d want to ask them first before making believe that I knew that.

  175. #175 Caledonian
    May 13, 2007

    But some are so reliable that any changes in the predicted outcomes, even if the principle gets completely reformulated, can only be at the level of the details.

    It’s not strictly accurate, but it’ll do.

  176. #176 Dave H.
    May 13, 2007

    Matthew,

    Why construct these qualifiers about “basic scientific principles” at all? The vulnerability to questioning, and the potential strengthening or destruction of a scientific principle because of it, is one of the hallmarks of science itself. But everyone here already knows that, so /duh.

    And does anyone else notice the odd application of religious thinking to science in this comment thread? The appeals to authority and this odd appeal to tradition from Matthew? And on the opposite side there’s the bending of scientific principle for the appeasement of the masses (like religion has often done). Oh, right, Caledonian has noticed all this and responded in kind. BTW, Caledonian rocks, regardless of how some trolls here speculate on his/her personal life. Try addressing the comments, morons.

    Science isn’t some fragile bourgeoisie, and I think you miss great opportunity in educating the public about the very basics of scientific ideals by appeasing superstition. But I’m not a scientist, nor a learned man; I just like reading these blogs, so fuck me sideways.

  177. #177 Dave H.
    May 13, 2007

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist,

    You made the claim that science and religion can co-exist because some scientists see no problem with it. Or you offered that as “evidence,” or whatever.

    But that doesn’t answer the question of how they can co-exist. And to offer nothing but “they say it can” IS an appeal to authority. Others have offered arguments as to why science and religion cannot co-exist. You still have only offered the “evidence” that some scientists disagree.

    It’s not prejudiced to ask how those scientists, or how those using them to make a claim, it is they they can accept a view of the world that relies on supernatural claims, and also a view of the world that does not, and in fact dispells much of that supernatural.

  178. #178 windy
    May 13, 2007

    olvlzl: Blockquote tags. Check them out sometime.

  179. Caledonian rocks, regardless of how some trolls here speculate on his/her personal life. Try addressing the comments, morons.

    Know thyself, Dave H.

    I’ve seen a lot of assertions made pretending to be science without any real science behind them. You can’t do science about religion except for those things religions say about the physical universe. You can’t do science about anything outside of the physical universe, you can’t even know if there is anything outside the physical universe. And there’s a heck of a lot about the physical universe that science doesn’t know, especially true for the behavioral and cognitive sciences. I’m not the one who is playing let’s pretend we know about those.

    Learn to read. That’s my advice.

  180. #180 Caledonian
    May 13, 2007

    You can’t do science about religion except for those things religions say about the physical universe. You can’t do science about anything outside of the physical universe, you can’t even know if there is anything outside the physical universe.

    No thing is, outside of the physical universe. ‘Is’ refers to a thing which is part of our universe. Things outside it don’t exist relative to it.

  181. #181 Colugo
    May 13, 2007

    I don’t know about you wishy-washy appeaser types, but personally I will be satisfied with nothing less than:

    Al Gore humbly recanting his whimsical mention of Adam and Eve, affirming the truth that these figures are entirely mythical, and begging forgiveness from his rationalist supporters.

    Mitt Romney and Harry Reid holding a joint press conference to denounce Joseph Smith as a charlatan.

    Zalmay Khalilzad using his seat as US ambassador to the United Nations to declare that Allah is not God and Mohammed is not his prophet – because there is no such entity.

    Joe Lieberman, Debbie Wasserman, and Chuck Schumer taking out an ad in The New York Times telling their fellow Jews to “Grow up already” about all of that “Biblical crap.”

    Fellow atheists, get real.

  182. No thing is, outside of the physical universe. ‘Is’ refers to a thing which is part of our universe. Things outside it don’t exist relative to it.
    Posted by: Caledonian

    That, Calcedonian, is something you might believe, anyone might believe it but there simply is no way to know that it is true. Better minds than ours have grappled with the question and other than by false analogies or other dodges they have gotten nowhere. You can assert that you know it is so but your assertion is nothing but an act of faith. If you have a proof I suggest that you publish it, put it to the test of rigorous philosophical and scientistic review and make your name for the rest of human history. Otherwise, you are incorrect.

  183. #183 PZ Myers
    May 13, 2007

    That’s exactly the opposite of the actual situation.

    If you want to aver that something “exists” that is completely outside the physical universe, it is your job to provide the supporting evidence. You don’t get to wiggle out of a claim that, for instance, purple symphonic bubbles of phlogiston bob about in the Vwrgle Dimension by claiming that we can’t prove they don’t exist.

  184. #184 Caledonian
    May 13, 2007

    That, Calcedonian, is something you might believe, anyone might believe it but there simply is no way to know that it is true.

    It’s a simple matter of applying logic to the generally-accepted definitions of the terms used and deriving conclusions with necessarily follow from them.

    If A=B, and B=C, then A=C. Given standard-usage definitions of ‘if’, ‘equals’, ‘and’, and ‘then’, the conclusion follows necessarily.

    Things not part of the universe, not part of the sequence of causality, not subject to limitations of space and time (or any at all), do not exist. They cannot interact with us, nor we with them, and if we assign them the status of ‘existence’, there is no change in the entailed consequences that follow than if we deny them that status. They make no difference, and cannot be described as being.

    The real question is this: why am I smart enough to immediately recognize that logic rules out the traditional concepts of deity, yet dumb enough to argue with people like you? I suppose intellect is no guarantee of wisdom.

  185. PZ, find a place in this exchange where I have asserted that I wanted to prove that something exists outside of the physical universe. Since I’ve asserted that I don’t believe it is possible to do so, it would be rather a waste of time for me to attempt a proof. I didn’t make an assertion other than that it hadn’t yet been done and that I didn’t believe that it could be. If you want to call that last one “faith” you would be entirely correct, as I would when I pointed out that to believe it could be disproven would be an even greater act of faith, since it hasn’t been done yet.

    I have to tell you that I think that’s one of the most astounding aspects of this, that some scientists wouldn’t know what it is that their most basic tools were invented to do, deal with the physical universe. This includes math, logic and the various observations, measurements and analysis of science. I suppose I’d include review in that list too, since it happens in the physical universe.

    I’d also like it if you would either correct my impression that the general belief here is in scientism or not. If it is true, I’d really like you to find “separation of church and state” and other such useful things in science.

  186. #186 tomh
    May 13, 2007

    Caledonian wrote:
    The real question is this: why am I smart enough to immediately recognize that logic rules out the traditional concepts of deity, yet dumb enough to argue with people like you?

    You’ve hit upon a question I’ve often wondered about. Chalk it up to human nature..

  187. #187 Norman Doering
    May 13, 2007

    PZ, find a place in this exchange where I have asserted that I wanted to prove that something exists outside of the physical universe.

    This comes pretty close, PZ:

    Oh, dear Norman. You will compound folly with folly. In order for you to know that any of the above are “patterns of neural connections in the human mind”, the typical reifiction you reductionists and scientistic cultists like to pretend is “science” you would first have to have them identified as having a discreet existence as a “thing”. You would have to quite literally prove that you weren’t making words flesh. Asserting that these concepts in law and theology are “flesh” you just pretend that you have done what you have not done. Funny way to do science and oh, so prone to superannuation.

    Aside from revealing that you know nothing of neurophysiology and have probably never read a book by Oliver Sachs, if those concepts/words are not physical “things,” or physical “flesh,” then they are something that “exists outside of the physical universe.” That’s what happens when you resist the “typical reifiction you reductionists and scientistic cultists…”

  188. Norman, if you can find an assertion that the existence of something outside of the physical universe in what I put there, you should learn to read more carefully. I’d point out that the last two words you excerpt from what I wrote would pretty much clue someone in that I don’t believe it’s possible. To someone who had a clue, that is.

  189. #189 Norman Doering
    May 13, 2007

    Norman, if you can find an assertion that the existence of something outside of the physical universe in what I put there, you should learn to read more carefully.

    No, you should learn to think more about the implications of what you are saying.

    If our ideas aren’t there in our neural patterns, where else can they be?

    By the way, what I edited off of that quote I found both incoherent and wrong:

    E.O. Wilson took the sensible way out to try to protect biodiversity, but then, he started with the study of things that could be seen. Your hero…..

    Neurons can be seen, studied and measured too. You’re implying that they can’t be. We know about mirror neurons, celebrity neurons, and edge detectine neurons.

    And you lied to me:

    You can have at me all you want and I won’t be answering. As for your reasoning and realism, I’m underwhelmed.

  190. Norman, I have to admit that I changed my mind after I slept on it. I apologise if it upset you.

    Show me a peer reviewed paper establishing that “due process” or “the separation of church and state” exists as discreet “things” and where these are located in the neural network. If you can produce those, I will be happy to retract what I said.

  191. That is I changed my mind about coming back, not about being underwhelmed.

  192. #192 windy
    May 13, 2007

    Show me a peer reviewed paper establishing that “due process” or “the separation of church and state” exists as discreet “things” and where these are located in the neural network.

    Can you show me where “metabolism” is located in the human body as a discrete thing? Is a single wave in the ocean a discrete thing?

  193. Windy, did I claim that I could find metabolism? I’m not going to go through the entire argument again, if you are really curious you can start where Norman made a blatantly scientistic claim about religious topics in response to my assertion that God is not any kind of science.

    However, if someone is going to claim that something like a “behavior” or a presumed mental process is the result of a rather complex web of genetic inheritance, it might be a good idea to find out if there is a “thing” to have been inherited. The claim that there is a physical basis would rather require that you estblish a little detail like if the thing really exists and can be defined. You guys are the ones who get excited when someone claims that words can be made flesh, and then you go right ahead and do the same thing.

    I’m waiting to find out if that assumption mentioned about 5:36 is correct.

  194. #194 Scott Hatfield
    May 13, 2007

    Caledonian writes: “It’s a simple matter of applying logic to the generally-accepted definitions of the terms used and deriving conclusions with necessarily follow from them.”

    No, it’s an unchallenged assertion that the logic that you refer to necessarily applies to all that exists, a semantic trick that you have reified to the point of caricature. But ‘the universe is queerer than we can suppose’, and so there is no reliable basis for asserting that logic guarantees an absolutely certain conclusion in such matters. Dawkins expresses this, and more, with characteristic eloquence here:

    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/98

    The old Scot also pens: “The real question is this: why am I smart enough to immediately recognize that logic rules out the traditional concepts of deity, yet dumb enough to argue with people like you? I suppose intellect is no guarantee of wisdom.”

    I guess a lot of us could be Exhibit A for that last proposition, but I’m curious: who on this thread, exactly, has been arguing for any concept of deity, traditional or otherwise? And, out of curiousity, why did you add the qualifier ‘traditional’. It seems uncharacteristic for one whose science-fu is usually so strong!

  195. #195 Norman Doering
    May 13, 2007

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist wrote:

    Show me a peer reviewed paper establishing that “due process” or “the separation of church and state” exists as discreet “things” and where these are located in the neural network. If you can produce those, I will be happy to retract what I said.

    A paper on language areas in the brain.

    Understanding such concepts are about symbol-to-object association. So finding any language area implies all language concepts.

  196. #196 Norman Doering
    May 13, 2007

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist wrote:

    Show me a peer reviewed paper establishing that “due process” or “the separation of church and state” exists as discreet “things” and where these are located in the neural network. If you can produce those, I will be happy to retract what I said.

    And an easier, more related demonstration:

    In Oliver Sachs “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” a book about the case histories of patients with neurological disorders. The patients are afflicted with bizarre perceptual and intellectual aberrations. Among the neurologically impairments on exhibit is a man who lost a small area of his cortex and thus lost the specific ability to remember the names of small animals while all his other abilities seemed to remain in tact.

  197. #197 Norman Doering
    May 13, 2007

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist wrote:

    my assertion that God is not any kind of science.

    Have you never heard of Neurotheology?

  198. #198 Norman Doering
    May 13, 2007

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist wrote:

    Show me a peer reviewed paper establishing that “due process” or “the separation of church and state” exists as discreet “things” and where these are located in the neural network. If you can produce those, I will be happy to retract what I said.

    More papers.

  199. #199 Ron
    May 13, 2007

    Buddhism accepts the existence of dieties. That is, they exist the same way everything else does, in dependence on mind. (The real question is how do they appear). So I really don’t have any particular interest in this argument: I can accept evolution based on the overwhelming scientific evidence we imagine for it and it doesn’t really bother me if Mitt Romney are anyone else wants to imagine gods out there.

    But there is no evidence for the existence of gods? True. However, if science has “no evidence” for something, science has nothing to say on the subject,one way or the other. If there is “no evidence” for the existence of gods, then to claim emphatically that they do not exist, that they are merely fairy tales, is just as unscientific as claiming that they have true existence. If you look at things this way this whole discussion seems a little bit like arguing over which end of the egg to open.

  200. Ron, are you familiar with this sutta, it addresses some interesting aspects of what your comment mentions.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.063.than.html

    Norman, what do you propose I read that will answer the request for a specific proof that these two ideas are found as discreet “things” in science and that they have been located in the nervous system? If you think I’m going to do your work for you, you are quite mistaken. I will take it as proof that you haven’t done it yourself.

    I think I did read the Man Who Mistook when it was fairly new, I know I’ve read some of Sachs’ other stuff. I don’t recall him ever making the statement that he had done either of these things. Listening to the old interview with him on Terry Gross last week, I’d be very surprised if he had fallen for the kind of reductionistic and refificationist faith that you seem to have.

    I’d suggest you provide full references in the humanities style instead of the modern science style citations, my time is limited and I don’t have grad student lackies to do that kind of digging for me.

    I’m copying this whole thread for some time when I need amusement. Or maybe it will provide the grist for a post. When more important things aren’t available.

  201. #201 Keith Douglas
    May 13, 2007

    Another important related question concerns evolution of psychological characteristics of humans. Almost every single religion denies this, and the ones that don’t often don’t specifically rule out the contrary.

    raven: But, if all religions deny reality, what is one to do?

    miller: “At least in name” has a problem, namely the use-mention distinction. A while back there were posts about how the new creationist strategy was to use the word evolution, and yet change the meaning. Do we want this? No, we have to push harder to make sure the concept is understood.

  202. #202 Norman Doering
    May 13, 2007

    I will take it as proof that you haven’t done it yourself.

    And I’ll take that as proof that your’re a nitwit troll who is too lazy to think about the implications or who has a bad case of Morton’s Demon.

  203. #203 Norman Doering
    May 13, 2007

    I’d be very surprised if he had fallen for the kind of reductionistic and refificationist faith that you seem to have.

    Is “refificationist” a real word?

    Are you trying to say “Rectification,” where a court orders a change in a written document to reflect what it ought to have been or said in the first place?

    Most of what you’re saying is completely incoherent.

  204. Keith Douglas, Is that “Miller” Jonathan Miller? I heard him on Moyers and was greatly disappointed at how banal his concept of the problem was. He committed all the same errors on full display here. I was going to watch the series but decided that it would be a waste of time. I’ll also point out that if that was for my benefit, I don’t believe in creationism and never have. I wasn’t brought up in a family of fundamentalists or Biblical literalists and never had an inclination towards it. I could probably cite more problems with the text of the Bible than most of the atheist fundametalists here could. Including what James Miller had to say about it.

    Norman, when you get down to petty points about typos you’ve really run your course. I hope you don’t work in the sciences, you’d be a lousy scientist.

  205. #205 Norman Doering
    May 13, 2007

    Norman, when you get down to petty points about typos you’ve really run your course. I hope you don’t work in the sciences, you’d be a lousy scientist.

    It’s not just typos — what you write doesn’t make sense.

    Does anybody here understand what he’s talking about?

  206. #206 Matthew Morse
    May 14, 2007

    Olvlzl,

    I have to admit to really not getting you. I’m a long-time regular reader of Echidne of the Snakes and I’ve been reading your posts there since Echidne brought you on as her weekend blogger.

    I’ve been struck by two things which I don’t understand, both of which are on full display in this thread.

    First, you appear to have a general animosity towards science. From what I can tell, this starts with a dislike of bad science like claims of racial differences and evolutionary psychology, but spreads to all science in general.

    Very few, if any, readers of Pharyngula think The Bell Curve, for example, is good science. And although PZ is a supporter of evolution, and evo devo in particular, I’m pretty sure that he’s spoken out against evo psych.

    To me it’s simple: recognize when methods are shoddy and the results don’t hold up, call bad science bad and be done with it. The sense I get from you is that you’d rather throw out the good science with the bad, and I don’t get what motivates that.

    The second issue is religion. I think you’ve stated that you’re an atheist, but you also insist on allowing people to believe any old crazy thing. I’m willing to draw certain lines, like when someone claims to see the hand of God in evolution. My response is to say that evolution works just fine without God, thanks, and asserting God’s participation in evolution leads to erroneous conclusions.

    My impression is you’re okay with other people holding mistaken beliefs because at least you’re not telling them what to think. (An example of the kind of mistaken belief I’m talking about is that evolution is a directed process and humans are the end point of that process. Belief in God, or an afterlife, or an undetectable supernatural world is not my direct concern at the moment.)

    I get the value of diversity of thought, and the value of not forbidding beliefs. At the same time, I don’t want somebody who thinks the world is only 6000 years old to be anywhere near the national science budget, our nation’s public parks, or national energy policy. There are some beliefs that are so far from our understanding of the world that letting people with those beliefs make decisions based on them can only possibly result in harm. I have no problem with saying that.

    I think you’re defending something which makes you unwilling to condemn any beliefs, regardless of the consequences. I don’t know what you’re defending and I think your concerns are misplaced.

  207. #207 Ed Darrell
    May 14, 2007

    Look, here’s the insanity we need to fight against: 51 GOP reps voted against naming a Post Office after Rachel Carson. No kidding.

    Why? According to two bozos who claim to represent Utah, it’s because she did such terrible and inaccurate science when she went after DDT.

    I wish Dave Barry WOULD make stuff up — it would be a lot less stupid. Go here for a story from the SL Tribune: http://www.sltrib.com/search//ci_5798460

  208. Matthew Morse, I came back here this morning to collect the responses I didn’t copy last night, just to have a complete record of the exchange. I most certainly didn’t want any of this to be about me, though now you have brought it up, I’ll answer your questions.

    First, you have deduced correctly, I am against “bad science”. I am and have always been a firm believer in evolution by natural selection and have come to suspect, as best a casual reader can, that some of the kinds of mechanisms that Gould talked about probably had a signifacant part in it too. I am a “Darwinist” I am not what Gould called a “fundamentalist Darwinist”. My casual reading would lead me to guess that alone would put me out of the club here.

    I most certainly do not have an “animosity towards science”. I have an animosity towards scientism and positivism. It is regrettable that that perfectly good word has been adopted by some of the more sophisticated creationists because it is a word for one of the greater superstitions held in the general culture and among a large number of scientists. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

    I am deeply skeptical about the behavioral scientists, if you have read much of what I’ve posted at Echidne’s blog you should know some of the reasons for that. My skepticism about those begins with their typical shoddines, it finds its more important skepticism based in what I see as their potential for denying useful and benficial things like “freedom” “free will”, etc. have, I believe, undermined the general culture necessary to sustain democracy and government by the people. If people believe that they are not free they will not bother to govern themselves and the vacuum will be filled by despots. I gather this lesson from reading history. History has facts which are as much fact as much of science, its facts are certainly more proven than many of the alleged “facts” of the behavioral sciences and cognitive sciences. And it shouldn’t be forgotten that the structure of democratic government in the United States was derived from the facts of history and philosophy, not from the physical sciences.

    I began to write about these things when I noticed that on the leftist blogs I frequent, there was a shocking lack of enthusiasm for the necessary assumptions of freedom, the possibility of people to act unselfishly for the greater good, the ability of people to think freely…. those things necessary for people to cast an informed vote on a basis other than selfishness and cynicism. A lot of time when I would engage those people in an exchange like this one their reasons would be founded in pop-science, asserting that “science” had “proven that free will is a myth”. I would say that in the case of a lot of behavioral science, including some of evolutionary psychology, the level of basic thinking is pretty much lacking. Again, you must have read me on that subject if you read much of what I posted at other blogs.

    I have never stated I’m an atheist or any other religious ideology. First and most important, it is entirely irrelevant to any discussion of these topics. I have included religious matters in what I write only with the greatest reluctance. Religion has no part in science, it should also not have any place in government. I said recently that I would take up arms to protect the separation of church and state and that might be true. It is one of the greatest and most important discoveries of the people who wrote the Bill of Rights, it has made the United States a realtively safer place to live. I believe that this also extends to agnosticism, atheism, scientism and any other a priori set of beliefs. I believe in free thought as much as I believe in free will.

    All of this has led me to become very skeptical of Skepticism and the form of atheism now enjoying a kind of vogue. Its nastiness, bigotry and cynicism is more at home in a particularly unpleasant fraternity house than it is in the political left. The left is about freedom and fairness as much as about reason and the truth. I’ve got no use for a left that will produce just another kind of regimented conformity.

    That is what brought me to PZ Myer’s blog. This discussion, I wanted to see if my suspicion that you had to be a fully vetted member of the club, to buy the entire package in order to be the real, right kind of person. I was actually glad to see that there was more skepticism about the club rules than I expected.

    That’s enough of me, though. I’ve got other things to do than talk about myself.

  209. No, it’s an unchallenged assertion that the logic that you refer to necessarily applies to all that exists, a semantic trick that you have reified to the point of caricature.

    ‘Exist’ applies to everything that exists, Hatfield. But there’s an even better way of putting it.

    In language, different descriptions can refer to precisely the same state without our immediately recognizing this fact. We determine whether two statements describe the same thing by looking at their implications. If everything implied by the first statement is also implied by the second, and vice versa, then we know that the statements are equivalent.

    Let’s consider these two: “Thing A does not exist” and “Thing A exists, but doesn’t interact with the physical world in any way”.

    Not interacting with the physical world means we cannot perceive it directly, or indirectly. Any thoughts we have about it can only be derived from the physical world, and not from the nature of the thing. Communicating is a physical act, and so our discussing it is an action that relies only on the physical world. So is thinking about it. Thing A has no effect on anything we can observe, directly or indirectly, and can be deleted from our models of reality with no consequences of any kind. Its existence has no consequences of any kind.

    This is precisely what is implied by asserting its nonexistence. Ergo, we conclude that “interacting with the physical world” is what we mean when we say that something ‘exists’, and the very conception of an existent, noninteracting thing is flawed.

    This rules out every deistic concept founded on the idea of the supernatural. Which puts you up Logic Creek without an axiom.

  210. Caledonian, I see that aspiring to control who can and can’t be a scientist isn’t enough, some of you also want to control the dictionary too. I’m sorry, you do not have the power to carve up what a word means to fit it into your own purposes. Not that I expect that fact to keep you from doing what so many of the fashionable atheist fundamentalists do. Bad habits are the hardest to break, since they are usually adopted for our own comfort and conveneience.

    Now, Norm, I leave this futility and bid a final adieu to this blog. I don’t expect I’ll return unless I get wind that the owner has posted about me.

  211. #211 windy
    May 14, 2007

    I’m sorry, you do not have the power to carve up what a word means to fit it into your own purposes.

    In case your exit was once again less than final, how would you define “to exist”?

  212. #212 Raging Braytard
    May 14, 2007

    See, PZ, this is why everyone hates you, because you’re a militant atheist. That’s why the smart ones go to Ed instead. He may not be a scientist, or write about science very much, but he listens to James Taylor dammit!

  213. #213 Matthew Morse
    May 14, 2007

    Olvlzl wrote:

    I have never stated I’m an atheist or any other religious ideology.

    I apologize for misinterpreting some of your writing then. I get that your response to comments or questions about your beliefs is intended as a “no comment,” and somewhere along the line I must have turned that into an atheistic position.

    I agree with your skepticism about behavioral and cognitive science, and I think arguments against free will on that basis are misguided. Nonetheless, I have often felt that you are attacking straw men, but I will keep your comments here in mind when considering your writing in the future.

  214. #214 tomh
    May 14, 2007

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist wrote:
    I have never stated I’m an atheist or any other religious ideology

    Another idiot who claims non-belief is a religion, or in this case a “religious ideology”, whatever that means.

  215. #215 Dave H
    May 14, 2007

    Matthew Morse,

    Why are you apologizing to him? It’s his own fault that he never makes any of his own positions clear, thereby keeping himself well-lubed for easy evasion from critical comments, although if you read above he’s been nailed quite a few times in this thread. Why he’s saving it is puzzling, to say the least. Could he be so deluded?

    In his last post, he constructed a namby-pamby straw man by equating modern science with scientism, because it *gasp* address thing which exist, cares not to address those things which don’t, and is kind enough to let people know which is which.

    Oh, and he had the audacity to level historical fact with scientific fact. Are you %#$@ing kidding me?

    And he reminds us that science did not form the foundations of our democracy. Therefore…yeah. He wins. What?

    This man offers wild claims with no evidence. He claims Caledonian mistakenly defined the word existence but offered no reason why, nor his own definition. Claim. Without. Evidence.

    Olvlzl is a troll. He cannot compromise or see another other point other than his own. He can’t even form his own coherent point of view. He is a man for which literacy itself is wasted. Nothing to say, nothing at all, of any value. Really, I charge you to look above and find something worth the pixels it takes up.

    To confound matters, he has inflated ideas of his own effect on and standing in the world. He would “take up arms” to defend free speech (pompous posturing), or others should reformat their sources for his viewing (because he is le tired and you must convince *him*), and on his blog he talks about, essentially, aiming to have a serious impact on who the Democratic nominee is in the next election through his own blogging (or something like that, I started laughing and then felt bad, and then resumed laughing).

    This guy is a nut. He’s a pompous academic I imagine somewhere in the humanities, who thinks he can compare his own knowledge about the world to that of a scientist’s. He’s not used to having his ideas put to scrutiny because it’s all relative on the other side, and everyone’s opinion is equally valid.

    Of course, if he does come back, he’ll have ample ammo to claim “didn’t say it!” because he rarely says anything concrete, except to deny implications of things he previously said.

    Dude, don’t feed the troll. Hopefully he’s gone for good this time.

    And I should follow my own advice, I suppose. Can’t help but click, though. I think I have comment-rage. Like road-rage? How do the rest of you keep dealing with these kind of people, on more than one thread a month?

  216. #216 Norman Doering
    May 14, 2007

    Matthew Morse wrote:

    I apologize for misinterpreting some of your [Olvlzl’s] writing then.

    Which supports my position that Olvlzl’s posts are in part incoherent. Matthew tried to honestly interpret Olvlzl and failed. It is impossible to fully interpret Olvlzl’s remarks because they are products of a subtle dementia, not rational thought.

    I think Dave H expresses my views on Olvlzl quite well.

    And although PZ is a supporter of evolution, and evo devo in particular, I’m pretty sure that he’s spoken out against evo psych.

    Let’s ask PZ about that. I don’t think you can say he is entirely against Psycho-Darwinism, or evolutionary psychologists like Noam Chomsky and Stephen Pinker. As Pinker has written, in The Blank Slate, the mind/brain is not a blank slate, like some amorphous artificial neural net, and we are born with certain innate abilities and tendencies.

    If not a blank slate then there is necessarily some limited form of truth to evolutionary psychology. Recent language studies have shown that both grammar usage and symbol-to-object association are innate and universal to humans. That was a controversial proposition in cognitive research years ago. Research suggesting we have an innate and universal faculty to form sentences supports the idea that humans may have been born with a ready-made language “module.” That’s part of evolutionary psychology too. If the brain evolves through natural selection, as does any other body part, the evo psych guys have the right to gloat.

    What I think PZ objects to is taking these new evo-psych theories about things like religion being inborn too seriously. It may not be religion that’s inborn, but our need to trust our parents and inherit a larger view of the world from them.

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