Pharyngula

Sam Brownback has an op-ed in the NY Times today, in which he explains with much straining at gnats why he was one of the Republicans who did not believe in evolution. Short summary: he reveals his own misconceptions about the biology, and mainly pounds the drum on how important Faith and Religion and God are. It will be persuasive to people who are already convinced that God is the most important thing in the universe, right down to what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms, but it underscores my conviction that faith is the enemy, the source of many of our problems…such as the promotion of incompetent politicians to positions of power on the fuel of the ethereal Spirit.

Get ready. It’s a whole succession of reiterated platitudes about how important faith is, with no evidence that it actually is — we are, apparently, supposed to take that on faith.

The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

There is a fundamental contradiction. Faith says that the way to get answers is by revelation, accepting authority, and dogma. Science says that the way to get answers is by examining the evidence critically, testing hypotheses with experiment in the natural world, and by constantly reevaluating and revising our ideas to make them more accurate. It isn’t just that the two arrive at different, conflicting answers—for instance, that the earth is 6000 years old vs. 4.5 billion years old—but that their methods conflict. Scientists will not accept a random idea because someone contemplated and decided a deep “Truth” appealed to him: a kernel of observation and evidence is required.

It is disingenuous for Brownback to claim that science and religion do not contradict each other, given that religion contradicts itself. Which “same god” created the material order? Allah, Jehovah, Vishnu, Thunderbird, Jesus, Ymir? Which sect’s interpretation will we accept: Catholic, Protestant, Sunni, Shi’a, Scientologist, Mormon? There are even two accounts of the creation in the book of Genesis that differ from each other greatly—which one is the “spiritual truth”? Most importantly, how will you objectively evaluate these explanations?

People of faith should be rational, using the gift of reason that God has given us. At the same time, reason itself cannot answer every question. Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less. Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose. More than that, faith — not science — can help us understand the breadth of human suffering or the depth of human love. Faith and science should go together, not be driven apart.

Please, Senator Brownback, define “faith”. You keep throwing that word around as if it actually has some substantial meaning, but it seems to me that all you’re doing is inserting an emotionally-loaded buzzword that has its import dunned into your voters from birth to death, while avoiding saying anything of significance about it.

I know the scientific method. Faith isn’t in it, or anywhere near it, although you could make a good case that doubt and suspicion are everywhere in it. The scientific method is a tool to counter faith and intuition and other such misleading biases that investigators bring to their research.

There is also some confusion about what faith can accomplish. I reject faith, yet somehow I have value and meaning in my life, I feel empathy for those who suffer, and I love. I do not need your dogma to understand those matters. I do so by observing my own life, the lives of others, the consequences of actions on people—by considering just the material world, not assuming an irrelevant supernatural one.

Brownback is intentionally, I suspect, muddling his words. He is replacing “compassion” with the nonsense word, “faith”. Compassion is a human value possessed by scientists and by citizens, atheists and the devout; we do not need faith, that bamboozling misleading sacred delusion, to live as good human beings.

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

If I had a nickel for every creationist who says “I believe in microevolution, but…”, I’d be rich enough to run for president. This is a false dichotomy between micro- and macroevolution, as used by creationists (it has technical meanings beyond what people like Brownback argue, though); it’s really simply an admission that a large part of modern science has been driven home enough to them that they can’t argue against it anymore (progress!), so they’ve invented this other category of things they don’t understand, called it “macroevolution”, and used that as an excuse to avoid accepting any more conclusions. It’s rather funny, actually. It’s like they’ve wrapped up their ignorance with a pretty bow and named it “macroevolution”, unaware that there is a large and growing body of scientific evidence for macroevolutionary processes.

As for his blanket rejection of one explanation for the world, that’s part of the conflict between faith and science. He is unaware of the evidence, but because he dislikes the idea, he categorically rejects it. That is anti-science. Show me evidence for a god that adequately accounts for the evidence that contradicts his existence, and I’ll accept it; I’m not going to pre-announce that I am going to ignore anything science might tell me.

And I’m sorry, but the evidence from science is a testament to the overwhelming power of natural processes. No external, supernatural intervention is needed, and no evidence for such an event has been discovered. There is no place revealed for a guiding intelligence in the story so far. If someone wants to claim that there is, they have to do more than say that they fervently wish it were so.

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today. Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.

He is correct that there is no one single theory of evolution. It’s a complex process with many contributory mechanisms and the even greater complicating factor of historical contingency. There is also ongoing debate about the relative importance of various mechanisms, which is the sign of a healthy science. But there is no significant debate about the observed facts of evolution — that the earth is very old, there has been continuous and ongoing change in populations of organisms, that we see a succession of different ecologies over the history of the earth, and that all life on earth is united by common descent — and it is precisely this solid core of well-documented, thoroughly tested, and confirmed beyond reasonable doubt conclusions that the anti-evolutionists contest.

The man is so uninformed that he can’t even recognize a legitimate debate. There are no “classical Darwinists” anymore — pangenesis is refuted, we know of many places where Darwin is wrong, and we’ve moved on. Punctuated equilibrium as a description of the pattern of change in populations over geological time is also almost completely beyond argument at this time (some of Gould’s interpretations of the meaning of that pattern are still fun to argue about, though). And please, Mr Brownback, which is it: is evolution an “exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world” or is it “merely the chance product of random mutations”?

Biologists will have their debates about man’s origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table. For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed. As science continues to explore the details of man’s origin, faith can do its part as well. The fundamental question for me is how these theories affect our understanding of the human person.

Name one thing of value that “people of faith” bring to the table. One thing. Make sure it’s something that people of reason do not bring.

I oppose the inclusion of faith in the interpretation of scientific evidence, and Brownback might be surprised … even many of those “people of faith” he thinks he is courting do not want his sectarian, idiosyncratic faith coloring our understanding of the material nature of how the world works. Scientists — a term that includes anthropologists and psychologists — are well able to work towards an honest “understanding of the human person” without some priestly biased sort leaning over and urging them to twist the results to better fit the flawed and ancient rationalizations of primitive Middle Eastern holy books.

I am also interested in how science can help us better understand humanity. I don’t think distorting the evidence with faith and wishful thinking helps, though, since I’m more interested in the honest truth.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

Whoa. The first clause claims he’s open to looking for the evidence, but then the rest is a positive assertion of a false claim that is contradicted by the evidence. The evidence from molecular biology says that much of what we are is the product of many completely random changes and a smaller number of changes that were subject to slow selection over millions of years that gradually shaped us away from a more generalized ape-like form. That is the truth, as revealed in the rocks and the genes; it is not compatible with his truth, which is derived from his ignorance of science and his quirky interpretations of an old book that summarizes a flimsy mythological account in a scant few pages. What Brownback is doing here under that reassuring mask of piety is demanding that science must be in accord with his interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, no dissent allowed.

His are the words of an ignorant theocrat. I will let the evidence take science where it must go, unconstrained by religious preconceptions. I’m not going to worry that it might discomfit Christians; as far as I’m concerned, those narrow fundamentalist/evangelical views have already been demolished.

Comments

  1. #1 Richard Harris, FCD
    May 31, 2007

    PZ, I read this earlier in the N Y Times, & thought you’d pick up on it.

    When someone is controlled by belief in a superstition, they just can’t help saying something stupid when the facts contradict the dogma. It’s worrying to think that such people hold high public office.

  2. #2 Jenbug
    May 31, 2007

    He almost makes sense at the beginning and then immediately goes off the rails. There’s a lot of ‘science and faith should go together for everyone,’ not ‘I personally believe that these things aren’t incompatible.’

  3. #3 Albatrossity
    May 31, 2007

    Yes, those of us who live in Kansas pretty much expect this sort of incoherence from our senior senator. As much as we’d like the rest of the nation to take him off our hands, I am not rooting for him to become president!

    Sam needs to learn more about science, and less about religion. I don’t know where I read it recently, but the bumper-sticker summation of this sort of mentality is “God is the answer when you don’t ask enough questions.”

  4. #4 Cameron
    May 31, 2007

    He’s right, you know. Faith and reason truly are complementary, as one deals with what’s imaginary and the other deals with what’s real.

  5. #5 Steve_C
    May 31, 2007

    Wow. And this guy wants to be President.

    “My faith trumps science no matter what it finds. My imagined reality trumps the real world.”

    Look where that’s gotten us with G. Dub.

    This guy should be embarassed.

  6. #6 Zeno
    May 31, 2007

    Sam Brownback is a convert to Roman Catholicism, which may be a problem for some members of the evangelical religious right. He was formerly a member of a nondenominational evangelical Christian group and before that a Methodist. Since they all believe in the “same God”, though, I suppose a friendly afternoon over coffee would suffice to iron out any tiny disagreements.

  7. #7 Stanton
    May 31, 2007

    Steve_C, I really doubt he would be embarrassed, as, that would be an admission that his fake reality can’t trump the real world.

  8. #8 Dutch vigilante
    May 31, 2007

    Typical “I want science to reinforce my pre-existing beliefs” gibberish. Quite silly and not what science actually is. Then again, no one ever mistook Brownback for a scientist.

  9. #9 John Danley
    May 31, 2007

    PZ, ya nailed it. Thanks again.

  10. #10 khan
    May 31, 2007

    His are the words of an ignorant theocrat.

    Is there some other kind?

  11. #11 Homostoicus
    May 31, 2007

    What worries me is that otherwise reasonable people will conclude that candidates like Giuliani are OK by comparison to Brownback.

  12. #12 Duff
    May 31, 2007

    I wrote a letter to the Times this morning pointing out that Brownback, like most religionists, make the common mistake of logic by claiming in the same sentence to know what God’s intentions were when He created the universe, and at the same time admitting that Gods intentions are unknowable. Typical religionist nonsense.
    PZ, I hope you and other knowledgeable biologist will be invited to submit a rebuttal to this frightening moron.

  13. #13 Curt Cameron
    May 31, 2007

    Instead of the reporter asking the candidates who did not believe in evolution, I wonder what would have happened if he had been more specific? Something like “do you accept that humans and the other apes shared a common ancestor millions of years ago, and that all life forms on Earth shared a common ancestor billions of years ago?”

    Seems that Brownback here is making a case for theistic evolution, which is mostly “believing in evolution” to my mind. Maybe he wanted to show his more ignorant yokel supporters on the TV that he’s agin’ this “evilution” stuff, then try to cover his tracks with the more intelligent readers of the Times that he’s really reasonable after all.

  14. #14 Mark Borok
    May 31, 2007

    I like this part:

    “The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos”.

    What is the “unique and intended place” of all those embryos which are spontaneously aborted by the human body without the mother even being aware of their existence? If Brownback is a Catholic, he must believe that all those embryos are people from the point of conception onwards. He believes that every human being was “willed into being and made for a purpose”. What is the purpose of a spontaneously aborted embryo?

    I really wish I could corner him and ask him in person. He’s obviously given this matter a lot of thought, since he is convinced that it is a “fundamental truth”, so no doubt he will have a well-reasoned and persuasive answer to this question. Or not.

    I suppose we should be a little bit happy that Brownback even felt the need to explain himself, or that he (as it seems from the beginning of the article) chose to distance himself from the YEC’s.

  15. #15 Shawn W.
    May 31, 2007

    Brownback reads like a textbook example of cognitive dissonance. That is, in order to reconcile his worldview (which sounds like a literal interpretation of the Bible) with current knowledge of the world, he abandons knowledge for the sake of his own worldview. But this does not surprise me; he is a politician and not a scientist.

    Perhaps I’m too involved in science outreach, awareness, and education that cases like the above pains me to read. Is it a failure of the educational system that we turn out individuals who lack comprehension? Is it failure of society for allowing free thought evovling into poltical tyranny? Or, is it failure of God to make the world require a higher learning curve then the average individual possesses?

  16. #16 Bronze Dog
    May 31, 2007

    The scientific method is a tool to counter faith and intuition and other such misleading biases that investigators bring to their research.

    Speaking of which, I’ve got a post about woo misuse of the term ‘intuition‘ that’s attracted a particularly dense off-topic Cretinist troll who started out with copy/paste and has graduated to teh gay! jokes. Been a while since I’ve done a real troll roast.

  17. #18 iain
    May 31, 2007

    This is the best thing you said, PZ:

    “Name one thing of value that “people of faith” bring to the table. One thing. Make sure it’s something that people of reason do not bring.”

    Theists always play the game of arrogating to themselves universal human experiences: love, compassion, awe at the universe. They really seem to think that atheists can’t feel any of them, or similar things. A former colleague of mine, irritated at always being accused of being ‘halfway to theism already’ and the like, called this ‘Christian Imperialism’. It’s an apt tag: they try to colonise territory that should be open to all of us, and claim it as their exclusive ground.

  18. #19 spencer
    May 31, 2007

    PZ: Great response. I wish you would have written about Brownback’s quote, “That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.” My frustration with Brownback saying this is that it gives the impression that “no God” is a tenent of the theory of evolution. God is not addressed by evolution because existence God is not a scientific question.

  19. #20 dorid
    May 31, 2007

    You think Brownback is bad? Take a look at his supporters!… especially enjoy learning that we live not only on a YOUNG Earth, but a FLAT Earth with our sun in orbit around US and that SCIENCE is a vast conspiracy.

  20. #21 CJColucci
    May 31, 2007

    Jim:
    Your mother actually made a turducken? I’ve seen recipes, but I have never heard of anyone actually making it. How is it?
    And, by the way, you said exactly what I was going to say about “believing” in scientific propositions.

  21. #22 Coragyps
    May 31, 2007

    “And please, Mr Brownback, which is it: is evolution an “exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world” or is it “merely the chance product of random mutations?”

    Hey, no fair, PZ! “Deterministic” is a five-syllable word, already! You can’t expect him to know what it means!

  22. #23 MikeM
    May 31, 2007

    dorid,

    I just went to that website. That is an utter CLASSIC! What a treasure-trove of lunacy.

    I am 100% convinced it’s a parody, though. Please tell me it’s a parody… Anyone?

  23. #24 Les Lane
    May 31, 2007

    Sam needs to learn more about science

    To learn more about science Sam needs to talk with knowledgeable scientists. It’s clear that he doesn’t feel the need to do so.

  24. #25 GreenishBlu
    May 31, 2007

    Check out these winners from Blogs 4 Brownback.

    Learn all about how Heliocentrism is an Atheist Doctrine

    And of course, read all about how apce travel is a complete hoax. My oh my.

  25. #26 Jorg
    May 31, 2007

    Yes, Brownback is an idiot of the highest (lowest?) caliber. I’ve managed to put my two cents in before rushing off to work this morning, here; naturally ;), you somehow manage to address the same points in more depth (where do you get the time???). I was particularly scared by his last sentence, which implies theocratic censorship of science. Ouch!

  26. #27 raven
    May 31, 2007

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ, ho hum, a creo channeling a creo who is channeling a creo. These guys all read off the same set of 3 X 5 cards. After a while it gets boring and you can start to fill in their next 3 paragraphs without even waking up.

    So, what’s it like living in Kansas? We out here in the real outside world always hear about Kansas when some wingnut does something wingnutty. Tim McVeigh, the defender of US values lived there among others. Should we organize a relief mission or send care packages or something? LOL

  27. #28 A Guy in the Pew
    May 31, 2007

    I think that the real problem with the Brownback op-ed is that it is deceptive. It is clear that Brownback is an early earth creationist, but by hiding behind the false “microevolution” distinction that most readers of the New York Times will not catch.

    In other words, to the creationist readers of the op-ed, he is using code language to let them know he is one of them. Most of the rest of the readers may well actually think that Brownback actually believes in on recognized school of evolutionary thought. I am particularly concerned that Christians (like myself) who reject both creationism and ID, but who are not familiar with the code language of ID and creationism, will be deceived.

  28. #29 Ed Darrell
    May 31, 2007

    I’d say, “Just once” — but I want it to happen all the time, this way: Some politician talks about how important faith in God is, how more important to our society and politics is that people act as God desires, especially with regard to respect for the facts and the truth; and, therefore, despite pressure from a powerful minority in Christianity, the politician must come down in favor of instructing kids in evolution theory, if for no other reason, just to add to the hope for a cure for cancer (or Alzheimer’s, or whatever).

    When Brownback’s faith in God requires him to subscribe to falsehood, he’s lost his struggle for the good.

  29. #30 Max Udargo
    May 31, 2007

    Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

    Wow. Welcome back to the Dark Ages. It BOGGLES MY FUCKING MIND that an American presidential candidate in the 21st century could write something like this. It’s like the Enlightenment never happened. Hell, it’s like everything after the 13th century never happened.

  30. #31 nicole
    May 31, 2007

    PZ, thank you for writing this post. When I read that op-ed this morning I was so upset with the Times for printing that drivel that I immediately cancelled my subscription (after the creation museum piece and several other things that have pissed me off recently, this was the last thing I could handle). And I even considered reviving a months-dead blog to bitch about this terrible piece.

    I had the exact same reaction as A Guy in a Pew. Nearly all my friends will read that column and not realize that while it mostly sounds inane, it’s all code for something more insidious and anti-science. Not to mention how incredibly bigoted it is against people not of faith. I found it infuriating.

  31. #32 Christian Burnham
    May 31, 2007

    Sorry- I still don’t get it. Is PZ Myers for, or against creationism?

    (Now that’s irony!)

  32. #33 Ilya
    May 31, 2007

    I was trying to get my post out before you PZ. ONE OF THESE DAYS I WILL BE VICTORIOUS!!!!!!

  33. #34 forsen
    May 31, 2007

    Isn’t that supposed to be Sam Low-Browback?

  34. #35 chornbe
    May 31, 2007

    Welcome to Church: check your reason and logic at the door, please. Thank you, thank you.

    ugh

  35. #36 Sir Oolius
    May 31, 2007

    One of my commenters pointed out the genius of the end of his [non]-apologia. He’s supporting the science up to the point at which it contradicts faith. Then it can no longer be tolerated. Brilliant. We need more open and honest politicians like that in this country.

  36. #37 Andrés Diplotti
    May 31, 2007

    If I were an elector in the U.S, I’d feel compelled to ask:

    “Senator Silverb– er, Brownback, why is it against the ‘truths’ of Christian faith specifically that we must measure science? Why not against the ‘truths’ of Muslim, Hindu or Budhist faith?”

    And I can imagine his answer would be as typical as everything else he says:

    “This a Christian nation.”

    An that’s how you know that universal truths change across international borders.

    We’re on the verge of having a fundamentalist theocracy with nuclear weapons, and it ain’t Iran.

  37. #38 Andrés Diplotti
    May 31, 2007

    If I were an elector in the U.S, I’d feel compelled to ask:

    “Senator Silverb– er, Brownback, why is it against the ‘truths’ of Christian faith specifically that we must measure science? Why not against the ‘truths’ of Muslim, Hindu or Budhist faith?”

    And I can imagine his answer would be as typical as everything else he says:

    “This a Christian nation.”

    An that’s how you know that universal truths change across international borders.

    We’re on the verge of having a fundamentalist theocracy with nuclear weapons, and it ain’t Iran.

  38. #39 bigTom
    May 31, 2007

    What Sam is doing here is politically clever. The voters -especialy his voters need to be reassured that a candidate truly holds the same strongly held ideological/religious biases as the voter. That is far more important to the average voter, than the ability to distinguish reality from myth. If he can write a piece that convinces voters who hold incompatible biases that he is one of them- he is that much further ahead.

  39. #40 foldedpath
    May 31, 2007

    “Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less.”

    Am I the only one who got a sudden mental image of people burning at the stake, from that statement?

    And he’s Catholic now? Well, he’s definitely picked the right denomination. They know all about that purifying stuff.

  40. #41 Marcus
    May 31, 2007

    Sam Brownback says:

    “At the same time, reason itself cannot answer every question.”

    That’s completely true. Reason can’t answer some questions such as why are we here, how did life get started, what’s the purpose to existence, and so on. There are gaps in our knowledge that aren’t likely to be filled anytime soon.

    Some of us come to terms with this lack of knowledge and these unanswered questions. We face the reality of not knowing the answer to every question. Unfortunately, others like Mr. Brownback cling to the childish need for certainty and are willing to lie to themselves and others by invoking faith in order to attain a false certainty.

    What is so scary about “I DON’T KNOW”? Grow up and quit lying to yourself and others about the Truths you’ve discovered Mr. Brownback. A lot of us see right through your lies and wishful thinking answers to life’s hardest questions. Quit hiding under the umbrella of faith and face the world with all it’s uncertainty as it really is. You may not win a Presidency with that stance, but you’d win the respect of people who respect the truth.

  41. #42 Daniel
    May 31, 2007

    Speaking of republican presidential candidates and falsehoods, what about Mitt Romney and some of the historical claims of the Mormon religion? As I understand it, the Book of Mormon describes a detailed pre-Columbian history of North America in which there was a large migration of people from the Middle East. These immigrants had domesticated horses, used chariots for travel, and developed a civilization that wrote in Hebrew and Egyptian. Needless to say, none of this is supported by archaeology.

    Has Romney ever been asked if he believes this account of history?

  42. #43 alcatholic
    May 31, 2007

    hmmm, catholics have long accepted evolution. A common cliche is that we learned our lesson about opposing science after Galileo. While Brownback is an idiot panderer, I’m not sure the author impresses me much which this argument:

    [quote]Faith says that the way to get answers is by revelation, accepting authority, and dogma. Science says that the way to get answers is by examining the evidence critically, testing hypotheses with experiment in the natural world, and by constantly reevaluating and revising our ideas to make them more accurate. It isn’t just that the two arrive at different, conflicting answers–for instance, that the earth is 6000 years old vs. 4.5 billion years old–but that their methods conflict. Scientists will not accept a random idea because someone contemplated and decided a deep “Truth” appealed to him: a kernel of observation and evidence is required.

    It is disingenuous for Brownback to claim that science and religion do not contradict each other, given that religion contradicts itself.[/quote]

    So, if, as catholics recognize, Faith has its place (and, of course, it is not biology), PZ is setting up a straw man by arguing that Faith cannot accept the scientific method. Frankly, even in those areas where Faith holds court, it is a straw man to argue that answers come from revelation, accepting authority, and dogma. “Faith without reason…” you know the quote. I’m not a theologian or philosopher, but here’s an on point philosophical discussion that seems to argue that even in the context of religion (at least catholicism) reason is as good as revelation, accepting authority, and dogma. Heh. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_15101998_fides-et-ratio_en.html

    I’m not sure what PZ gets by lumping Faith with fundamentalism, which is what I think he is describing. Now I didn’t bother reading this post beyond the first few paragraphs, so feel free to attack me for that. But, my general point still stands: lumpling Faith, or all religions, with fundamentalism, is unfair and a poor way to attack creationists.

    If your goal is to smear religion and Faith in general, I apologize for interrupting.

  43. #44 forsen
    May 31, 2007

    Before anyone goes on to blast alcatholic, I’d just like to say that I think it’s great that religious moderates come here for debate. Welcome, btw.

  44. #45 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    It’s a whole succession of reiterated platitudes about how important faith is, with no evidence that it actually is — we are, apparently, supposed to take that on faith.

    Hey, at least he’s consistent.

    (This time.)

  45. #46 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    It’s a whole succession of reiterated platitudes about how important faith is, with no evidence that it actually is — we are, apparently, supposed to take that on faith.

    Hey, at least he’s consistent.

    (This time.)

  46. #47 PZ Myers
    May 31, 2007

    I think you’ve made a mistake in your interpretation. I’m not attacking fundamentalism — I mentioned one specific example of a fundamentalist belief, the age of the earth, but no, I’m going right for the root of the problem: faith. This is a general criticism of any attempt to squeeze faith or religion into science — and that someone might hold a liberal version of religion makes no difference. It contradicts science.

  47. #48 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    Reason can’t answer some questions such as

    I completely agree with your point, but you picked a few bad examples:

    why are we here,

    Looks like this question is wrong.

    how did life get started,

    Research on the origin of life is science.

    what’s the purpose to existence

    As I just said: this looks like a wrong question. You’re assuming there is a purpose to start with. Why did Napoleon cross the Mississippi?

  48. #49 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    Reason can’t answer some questions such as

    I completely agree with your point, but you picked a few bad examples:

    why are we here,

    Looks like this question is wrong.

    how did life get started,

    Research on the origin of life is science.

    what’s the purpose to existence

    As I just said: this looks like a wrong question. You’re assuming there is a purpose to start with. Why did Napoleon cross the Mississippi?

  49. #50 Marcus
    May 31, 2007

    alcatholic #42,

    Faith is the justification you use for your beliefs WITHOUT evidence. Reason is what you use to justify your beliefs for which you have evidence.

    It’s nice to know that you are comfortably blending the two to arrive at your beliefs, but I have no respect for any portion of your beliefs, no matter how small, that utilize faith as your reason for holding them.

    How about instead of filling in the gaps of what you don’t know with “faith”, you fill it in with the honest answer of “I don’t know because there isn’t enough evidence.”. You’d be suprised how fulfilling a belief system you will still have without all the non-sense beliefs based on faith.

  50. #51 Stephen
    May 31, 2007

    Watch the contradictions unfold!

    It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories [who] venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.

    And then his own theory…

    I believe … that the process of creation … is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him.

    He doesn’t seem to care much for empiricism at all!

  51. #52 Badger3k
    May 31, 2007

    “…reason is as good as revelation, accepting authority, and dogma”

    I think that says it all. Whether within religion or without, many people here think that reason is superior by far to the other three. Revelation, authority, and dogma can be completely wrong, and without reason, there is no way to determine that. What is the difference between Hindu revelation, Muslim revelation, Roman Catholic revelation, or Evangelical revelation? How do we tell which ones (if any) are correct, without reason? And that includes using reason on ones own beliefs. If we make reason no more important than the (supposed) revelation, then we have nothing but ignorance.

  52. #53 BlueIndependent
    May 31, 2007

    As always, they are pathologically disingenuous: “IN our sound-bite political culture, it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves…”

    He’s got the nerve to cry about the soundbite culture? I guess it was OK by Mr. Brownback to support Luntz and his “soundbiting” of the culture, with intention, with purpose, with…design.

    The rest is just recycled “talking points” in opposition to things he refuses to try to observe in life, let alone understand in the lab.

  53. #54 Anna Z
    May 31, 2007

    Faith doesn’t equate to authoritarianism. If one defines faith as blind acceptance of a text or authority figure, it’s better to reject it.

    There’s another tradition in faith, one of taking a chance, grasping for something you aren’t yet sure of. The coolest believers of my acquaintance are like that, not adherents of authority. They might take a chance giving a job to a person with a checkered past. They would leave a safe job to start a clinic for the poor. They may feel that in spite of the odds they can make their marriage vows work (and stay “faith”-ful). Some indeed risk their safety, even their lives, to be a beacon for peace in our violent world. Chances taken can lead to great personal hardship and suffering, which they bear with integrity and grace. That’s faith.

    I think we’re all wrong to think faith is about the beliefs in peoples’ heads – it’s about their actions. All right, go ahead and say, “that isn’t faith it’s compassion.” Not really. Plenty of people have compassion and do nothing. Faith is the something extra when they actually step out, despite the odds. How about, “you don’t have to believe in a non-existent spirit-being to do that.” Cool. That’ a great observation. I think in the end maybe you do have to believe in something, such as a common humanity, the liberating power of knowledge, or some such principle. For many faithful, a compassionate god is that principle.

    Faith is a much-abused concept, but I refuse to surrender it to the likes of Brownback, who makes it all about his cookbook approach to an ancient text. Just the same, I refuse to surrender it to bloggers who make it all about… somebody else’s approach to an ancient text. Faith, understood, has hardly anything to do with a creed or a set of propositions. Shallow faith might, and a lot of people hide behind the term “person of faith” to justify themselves. I refuse to surrender faith, the word or the reality, to them. Maybe you’ll say I’m not following the “common” meaning of faith (but where’s your rigorous poll?) This is not my idiosyncratic idea. It’s a high standard of faith, one you might not have encountered but shared by many. You see, we don’t have to define a thing by the most common, debased understanding of it in the popular mind. (If we did, evolution would be toast.)

  54. #55 Gus
    May 31, 2007

    Blogs 4 Brownback is a parody. At least I’m pretty sure it is. The fact that there’s a shred of doubt in my mind is what really scares the hell out of me.

  55. #56 Berlzebub
    May 31, 2007

    It’s rather funny, actually. It’s like they’ve wrapped up their ignorance with a pretty bow and named it “macroevolution”, unaware that there is a large and growing body of scientific evidence for macroevolutionary processes.

    Damn, does that mean I need to change my latest post?

    I don’t want some creationist coming back and saying “That’s not what PZ said!”

  56. #57 CalGeorge
    May 31, 2007

    I don’t care what he says. He raised his hand. I believe he was the first to raise his hand and he raised it unhesitatingly.

    Trying to fudge an explanation later – probably through an aide – doesn’t change anything. He’s an idiot.

  57. #58 Kristine
    May 31, 2007

    The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s [excuse me?] essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.

    So let’s bomb the living hell out of Iraq.

    That’s why all these evilutionists opposed the war. They have no regard for human life.

    Righto. What a friggin’ moron.

  58. #59 markbt73
    May 31, 2007

    After reading this, I looked up the dictionary definition of “faith,” and started to write a comment here that got very long. So I turned it into a blog post of my own:

    You gotta have faith?

  59. #60 abb3w
    May 31, 2007

    Name one thing of value that “people of faith” bring to the table. One thing. Make sure it’s something that people of reason do not bring.

    Ideas that have demonstrated useful contributions to societies over a span of centuries to millenia. Note that “useful” ideas need not be “true”; they may just be a rule of thumb accurate some important fraction of the time. “Good” and “evil”, while sloppy, make for a damn handy approximation, as indicated by its lasting popularity.

    Not to say that the religious have the answers to where we’ve come from, but their ideas may form a useful framework about where we should and should not go from here. That is, some of their ideas may continue to adapt and evolve. =)

  60. #61 Steve_C
    May 31, 2007

    Anna. That’s like the argument that god is poetry and art or god is the universe.

    Faith is to believe something without evidence. It’s not whatever you think it should be.

    When people boast about faith… it’s not the faith you’re talking about.

    You seem to think that “faith” is some great human attribute that should be embraced.

    I think that’s wrong.

  61. #62 Dave E.
    May 31, 2007

    PZ wrote:
    “Show me evidence for a god that adequately accounts for the evidence that contradicts his existence, and I’ll accept it; I’m not going to pre-announce that I am going to ignore anything science might tell me.”

    PZ, it seems to me that the evidence neither proves nor disproves the existence of God. I’m persuaded that it shows a process of evolution in life and clearly it disproves some doctrines of some faiths, but what “evidence that contradicts his existence” are you talking about?

  62. #63 Anton Mates
    May 31, 2007

    The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

    Uh-oh. Brownback is using the awful power of framing against us!

    So, is this tactic a smart one for him? Does the “Science and religion are natural buddies” frame lead people to reject mainstream science–since if it contradicts their religious beliefs, it must not be proper science? Nisbet, Mooney et al. were hoping for that frame to have precisely the opposite effect….

  63. #64 Steve_C
    May 31, 2007

    I think the evidence that god is entirely unnecessary for anything to exist in our universe is evidence to the contrary of a creator.

    All scientific evidence suggest our universe looks exactly like one would look that was lacking a creator.

  64. #65 386sx
    May 31, 2007

    No external, supernatural intervention is needed, and no evidence for such an event has been discovered.

    Why even accept the premise that their god is “supernatural”? Why even give them that much? Heck even Dave E. agrees that there is no evidence that their god is supernatural. Zilcho nada.

  65. #66 A Guy in the Pew
    May 31, 2007

    Since this comment section has gone from a well deserved bashing of Brownback’s irrational young earth creationism to a spirited debate between atheists and pro-evolution theists (like me!), I’ll take the plunge and weigh in once again.

    In response to Steve_C (#61) and others, I would submit that the fact that the universe had a beginning, that it obeys orderly laws that can be expressed precisely with mathematics, and the existence of a remarkable series of “coincidences” that allows the laws of nature to support life in the iniverse can also lend strong support for the God hypothesis. Does this prove that God exists? Of course not, but it certainly leaves room for someone to accept where science will take us, while also having a rational belief in God.

  66. #67 Greg
    May 31, 2007

    “Sam I am” writes funny stuff. I especially liked the “atheistic theology” reference, as if those two words do not have the same root word…making their coupling an oxymoron of sorts.

    For any who might find Sam’s ilk frustrating, please consider my approach. I have set up a mental popcorn stand so that I can enjoy refreshments while I watch the religious zelots of the world anguish with degenerative cognitive dissonance (it’s a little like thought-cancer.) They just get stupider and stupider, and it’s funny.

    I no longer react negatively to morons like Sam-I-Am…rather I just enjoy the show– as they struggle to maintain a vanishing position of influence. It can become a source of entertainment rather than frustration…if framed as such.

  67. #68 Steve_C
    May 31, 2007

    Faith is irrational. Belief in a god just isn’t rational.

  68. #69 EvanT
    May 31, 2007

    Heh… I always like to take a plunge of this sort. Let’s face it. A wacky fundamentalist minority got enough money to make a mockery of a “museum” and the scientific community was so unnerved by the whole phenomenon that ended up bashing religion altogether.

    Tsk… this is indeed shameful. Let’s face it people. We can talk till we’re all blue in the face, but there’s a single irrifutable truth about this debate:

    “Science cannot disprove the existence of God and theology cannot prove the existence of God to the scientists’ satisfaction.” (period).

    This is the very definition of a stalemate.

    I’ll also agree up to a point with the distinction between Science and Religion. My Religious Education professor taught me this more than 15 years ago and it sounds so simple, that it’s really a shame many people cannot really comprehend it. She claimed that Science and Religion indeed complement each other because Religion teaches us WHO created the world and WHY and Science teaches us HOW. It seems so brilliantly simple, doesn’t it?

    I don’t expect a scientist to tell me what’s the meaning of life or if I have a soul and similarly I wouldn’t ever allow a priest to tell me when and how the stars were born (well, I might’ve let Georges Lemaitre do that, but he’s a special case).

    Instead, I see the world’s remaining superpower licking its lips while looking up the definition of the word “theocracy” in the dictionary. And this scares me to the depths of my very soul (whether I have one or not).

    P.S. And BTW, stop tossing all Religion into a single sack labeled Fundamentalism. It’s really quite annoying. Call it by its true name; Protestant and Catholic Fundamentalism.

  69. #70 ken
    May 31, 2007

    Religion teaches us WHO created the world and WHY and Science teaches us HOW. It seems so brilliantly simple, doesn’t it?

    Simple, yes. Now, can you explain WHO created the universe in the Buddhist religion?

  70. #71 Arnosium Upinarum
    May 31, 2007

    Hold on there. Let’s be a little more careful. Why allow religion (yet again) to monopolize a perfectly serviceable concept such as “faith”?

    I have “faith” that the vast majority of scientists are not dishonest in reporting the results of experiments or observations I personally don’t have the means to check.

    Why should I TRUST them? Well, its a matter of recognizing that what they report is consistent, right down to what I CAN personally check. There’s a real honesty that is cultivated amongst those in the scientific community: they check each other all the time and will reject anything that isn’t consistent with what everybody else sees.

    Why should I not TRUST any religious tradition? Well, that’s a matter of recognizing that what they report is woefully inconsistent, right down to what I can check for myself. There’s a chronic dishonesty that is cultivated in religious cultures: they DON’T check each other and will reject anything that is not consistent with what they have erected as a fixed world-view…which is horribly inconsistent with itself, let alone with natural reality.

    They ask no questions. They do not reexamine. THEY DO NOT EVEN KNOW HOW TO THINK WELL.

    This whole faith-thing appears to be yet another language-based difficulty. Language is constantly utilized as a front for inauthentic thinking. “Faith” as “trust” is one thing. “Faith” as mindless credulity is quite another.

    Guess which meaning applies to science or religion?

    PZ is exactly right when he says, “the evidence from science is a testament to the overwhelming power of natural processes. No external, supernatural intervention is needed, and no evidence for such an event has been discovered. There is no place revealed for a guiding intelligence in the story so far. If someone wants to claim that there is, they have to do more than say that they fervently wish it were so.”

    So is Richard Harris (in #1), when he says, “When someone is controlled by belief in a superstition, they just can’t help saying something stupid when the facts contradict the dogma. It’s worrying to think that such people hold high public office.”

    The most significant and urgent aspect of the difference is that science breeds “faith” in skeptical question-asking honesty via critical and rational thinking while religion breeds a form of faith which promotes mass stupidity.

    There is no accounting for the wide acceptance of completely irrational and inconsistent thinking EXCEPT through the systematic cultivation of it within powerful cultures of superstition, otherwise known as “religion”.

  71. #72 Patrick Quigley
    May 31, 2007

    The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

    Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

    And here we have the problem with Gould’s concept of non-overlapping magesteria. If science and religion are entirely separate ways of determining truth, then they can never come into conflict. So when conflict appears to occur (a circumstance which is astonishingly common if these truly are non-overlapping magesteria), then logically the religious claim isn’t legitimate religion or the scientific claim isn’t legitimate science.

    Gould took the approach that religious claims which contradict well-established science “obviously” must not be legitimate religion and so could be summarily dismissed. As seen in the quotes above, Brownback is also arguing for non-overlapping magesteria, but he has taken the opposing view that science which contradicts his religious beliefs “obviously” must not be legitimate science and so can be dismissed just as easily as Gould would dismiss a six day creation.

    We still have a conflict between science and religion so Gould’s supposedly conciliatory approach hasn’t resolved anything. In fact it has made the situation immune to resolution because it reduces the claims that science should ever have primacy to mere dogma. Declaring science and religion to be co-magesteria makes empiricism and faith separate but equal methods for establishing truth, so you can’t use empiricism or faith to resolve the issue. The debate is now reduced to two sides shouting at each other that their position is “obviously” true because it is, because it is, because it is.

    Even fervently religious people rely on empiricism every day of their lives. A person may claim that the material world is merely an illusion which they seek to escape, but they will still avoid eating food that looks moldy. There simply is no way for the religious to entirely eliminate the need to reason based on evidence, because it is far more fundamentally a part of who we are than any theology could ever be. It is this common ground that is our “wedge,” and we should be using it to expand the influence of scientific thinking rather than ceding the epistemological high ground to those who gain power by claiming that reality is subject to desire. Declaring that wishful thinking is on par with scientific theories which have proven their predictive power innumerable times is the same as declaring the end of the enlightenment.

  72. #73 PZ Myers
    May 31, 2007

    Also, can you give us a substantiated and verifiable explanation for the WHY and the WHO, or are you going to rely on the usual faith-based game of truth by bald assertion, and whoever yells the loudest wins?

  73. #74 Jason
    May 31, 2007

    She claimed that Science and Religion indeed complement each other because Religion teaches us WHO created the world and WHY and Science teaches us HOW. It seems so brilliantly simple, doesn’t it?

    No, it sounds incredibly dumb. Religions don’t know “who” (if anyone) created the world or “why” it was created, so they can’t teach those things. You can’t teach knowledge you don’t have. Religions can teach their made-up stories about the who and the why, but that’s not the same thing.

    More importantly, much of the most common religious doctrine clearly conflicts with science and reason. Specifically, the idea of a benevolent and omnipotent and purposeful creator God is inconsistent with the evidence we have acquired from science and reason.

  74. #75 A Guy in the Pew
    May 31, 2007

    Arnosium Upinarum (#68):

    While it is true that some more fundamentalist religious sects have refused to ask questions about the foundations of faith, this is hardly true of all religious traditions. I, for one, come from a mainstream Protestant tradition, that has applied every tool available to test the clims of our faith–and have adjusted as a result. We don’t accept the Bible as the inerant wrods of God. We understand that it was the work of fallible men. My faith is the result of this testing.

    I go back to my original claim: “I would submit that the fact that the universe had a beginning, that it obeys orderly laws that can be expressed precisely with mathematics, and the existence of a remarkable series of “coincidences” that allows the laws of nature to support life in the iniverse can also lend strong support for the God hypothesis. Again, it is not “proof” that God exists, but it is certainly compatible with such a belief.

  75. #76 jayckroyd
    May 31, 2007

    they’ve invented this other category of things they don’t understand, called it “macroevolution”, and used that as an excuse to avoid accepting any more conclusions.

    I’m with Hitchens on this. It’s not that they don’t understand. It’s not that they don’t believe in dinosaurs or mastodons or extinction of same. It’s not that they honestly believe the creative act took place with current species set–in fact, he explicitly rejects that by rejecting the 6,000 year old earth. His ghostwriter (h/t tristero at digby’s) is simply lying.

    He understands it fine. He’s just lying, taking advantage of credulous people for the purpose of obtaining power.

  76. #77 Jason
    May 31, 2007

    Aguyinpew,

    I, for one, come from a mainstream Protestant tradition, that has applied every tool available to test the clims of our faith–and have adjusted as a result.

    What claims does your faith make about God, Jesus, Satan, Angels, Heaven and Hell, or whatever other supernatural agents and realities are a part of your religion, and what tools did you use to test those claims? Which ones passed the tests?

  77. #78 windy
    May 31, 2007

    I, for one, come from a mainstream Protestant tradition, that has applied every tool available to test the clims of our faith–and have adjusted as a result.

    Sounds great, but perhaps Protestants should check their methods: they seem to be getting a lot of Type I errors.

  78. #79 Arnosium Upinarum
    May 31, 2007

    Dave E. says: “PZ, it seems to me that the evidence neither proves nor disproves the existence of God.”

    You betcha. The evidence also neither proves or disproves the existence of any other figment of the human imagination. That’s a very very very long list of suppositions that cannot be proved or disproved.

    Most of them are not only improbable, they’re ridiculously UNIMAGINATIVE compared to what nature pumps out. Our imaginations are ever so good at making things up, but its pathetically bland compared to what nature actually does.

    The trick is in being able to ask the right QUESTIONS, not in trying to prove a presupposition, no matter how fond of it you may be.

    Strangely enough, absolutely NONE of the frightening myriads of human suppositions (call them whatever you like – hypotheses or fantasies or divine inspiration or whatever) can ever be confirmed by nature except through a systematic observational discipline which scientists call “science”: someone asks the right question (maybe after lots of lousy ones) and suddenly nature responds with an answer. And you know what? Many times the answer is NOT what the scientist expected to discover. Nevertheless, the scientist must defer to nature’s answer, whatever the implications.

    We get to change and improve and otherwise polish our minds that way. Its gloriously habit-forming, because it works every time.

    That’s why there is such a thing called a “burden of proof”. CAN YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANS???

    Look, if you insist that every fantasy of which people are capable must be assumed to be true unless evidence is found to refute it, you’ll end up in a place where they issue drool cups.

  79. #80 Greg
    May 31, 2007

    Great show folks! Very funny.

    Just not worth my time. Did this when I was twenty-something.

    Bye

  80. #81 Dave E.
    May 31, 2007

    386sx: Er, I did not agree “that there is no evidence that their god is supernatural. Zilcho nada.” I said the evidence regarding evolution neither proves nor disproves the existence of God. Those are two very different things.

    Steve_C: You conclude that because the scientific evidence says God is not needed for evolution to occur, than there is no God. That’s your choice, but it’s one of many conclusions one can come to, mine being the facts say nothing one way or the other.

  81. #82 A Guy in the Pew
    May 31, 2007

    To Jason and Windy:

    Good questions that are hard to respond to in a single comment, but I will try to give you the gist of my thinking.

    I think it useful to distinguish between two different claims made in the Bible.

    Claim Type one are gneral claims about how the world works. The creation narratives in Genesis are the prime examples. these appear to be making factual claims that are testable by scientific methods, and when there is a conflict, follow the sience. Hence, I accept evolution without qualification.

    Claim Type two is a specific factual statement about an event that took place at a specific time and a specific place. Examples include the Christmas narratives, the miracles and the resurection. To test these claims, one can use a variety of tools–do the claims made inthe various sources line up? Is there evidence that these were made up to make a point?

    As a result, many bibical scholars doubt the Christmas narratives–the earliest sources are from 100 AD, they are inconsistent, and there seems to be a theological reason to make up the stories. On the other hand, there are very early sources for the Resurrection story, they are consistent on key facts, it includes features that would inconvenient (why make up a story with women as the key witness given the status of women inthe First Century?), and the early Church bet their lives on the truth of the claim of the resurrection.

  82. #83 Dave E.
    May 31, 2007

    Arnosium: I understand what burden of proof means. PZ asked for “evidence for a god that adequately accounts for the evidence that contradicts his existence…”. I make no claim that I can prove the existence of God. I am asking for the evidence that PZ says contradicts his existence.

  83. #84 CalGeorge
    May 31, 2007

    Steve_C: You conclude that because the scientific evidence says God is not needed for evolution to occur, than there is no God. That’s your choice, but it’s one of many conclusions one can come to, mine being the facts say nothing one way or the other.

    The “facts” to do with the Bible – the circumstances of its creation, its sheer stupidity on so many levels, its countless insane assertions – are all the evidence I need to assert that today’s “God” was manufactured by a bunch of deluded whackos.

    But maybe you have some other god in mind? One who didn’t do or inspire all the crazy shit that is in the Bible?

    I don’t see how anyone can conclude that God exists. A recent gallup poll reveals that there is less faith amongst the more educated. That should tell you something about what is really going on.

  84. #85 EvanT
    May 31, 2007

    “Also, can you give us a substantiated and verifiable explanation for the WHY and the WHO, or are you going to rely on the usual faith-based game of truth by bald assertion, and whoever yells the loudest wins?”

    I believe I already answered that question in my post, but let me clarify. You want “substantiated and verifiable explanation for the WHY and the WHO” but these answers by definition lie in the realm of Philosophy. As I’ve already said and let me outline it again:

    “Science cannot disprove the existence of God and theology cannot prove the existence of God to the scientists’ satisfaction.”

    I believe I was pretty clear about my opinion on this matter. You’re basically asking me to take a picture of a bacterium with the Hubble Space Telescope (explain Natural processes through theology) or take a picture of M31 with an electron microscope (explain God with the scientific method). Neither tool is fit for the job!

    The tools made for exploring God is theology, philosophy and mysticism. The tool for exploring Nature is Science.

  85. #86 386sx
    May 31, 2007

    386sx: Er, I did not agree “that there is no evidence that their god is supernatural. Zilcho nada.” I said the evidence regarding evolution neither proves nor disproves the existence of God. Those are two very different things.

    What you said was “the evidence”, so I guess that’s what I meant too. There is no evolution evidence that your god is supernatural. Zilcho nada. And yes, I was forgetting about the pretend evidence and I’m very sorry about that.

  86. #87 ken
    May 31, 2007

    …a remarkable series of “coincidences” that allows the laws of nature to support life in the iniverse can also lend strong support for the God hypothesis…

    Physicists are still arguing about circular universes (big bang after big bang), and “multiverses”. If you assume these points of view, there have been/are zillions of dead universes where the rocks and plasma and dead stuff don’t marvel about existence.

    Maybe we just won the universal lottery. The big winner jumps up and down, marvels at the odds, and examines the steps that led him to the money (prayer? a wrong turn in the car?). Taking a bigger perspective, however, somebody HAD to win, and that person usually foolishly thinks there’s some deeper reason behind his luck.

    My point: these “coincidences” (I assume you’re referring to the seeming fine-tuning of various physical constants)don’t necessarily point to the hand of a god at all.

  87. #88 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    In response to Steve_C (#61) and others, I would submit that the fact that the universe had a beginning, that it obeys orderly laws that can be expressed precisely with mathematics, and the existence of a remarkable series of “coincidences” that allows the laws of nature to support life in the iniverse can also lend strong support for the God hypothesis.

    Why shouldn’t it obey “orderly laws that can be expressed precisely with mathematics”?

    On the other two arguments, I disagree. We don’t have a reason to consider ourselves so important.

    and the early Church bet their lives on the truth of the claim of the resurrection.

    Come on. Even the PKK — the Stalinist “Workers’ Party of Kurdistan” — had suicide bombers. I repeat: Stalinist. People who were fully convinced that death is The End ™ killed themselves for an ideology. Once convinced of a “higher cause”, lots of people will gladly die for anything.

  88. #89 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    In response to Steve_C (#61) and others, I would submit that the fact that the universe had a beginning, that it obeys orderly laws that can be expressed precisely with mathematics, and the existence of a remarkable series of “coincidences” that allows the laws of nature to support life in the iniverse can also lend strong support for the God hypothesis.

    Why shouldn’t it obey “orderly laws that can be expressed precisely with mathematics”?

    On the other two arguments, I disagree. We don’t have a reason to consider ourselves so important.

    and the early Church bet their lives on the truth of the claim of the resurrection.

    Come on. Even the PKK — the Stalinist “Workers’ Party of Kurdistan” — had suicide bombers. I repeat: Stalinist. People who were fully convinced that death is The End ™ killed themselves for an ideology. Once convinced of a “higher cause”, lots of people will gladly die for anything.

  89. #90 A Guy in the Pew
    May 31, 2007

    Perhaps it would be best to follow Greg’s lead. We all agree that Brownback’s views on evolution are wrong and moronic. Perhaps we should agree to disagree on the other issues raised in this thread and move on.

  90. #91 Dave E.
    May 31, 2007

    CalGeorge: Did I say something about the bible? I’m talking about what is known about evolution and how what is known proves or disproves certain things. I say that what we know about the evolution of life thoroughly debunks what most people call creationism. As far as the existence of God, it proves nothing one way or the other. If you have evidence to the contrary, I’m willing to listen.

  91. #92 Arnosium Upinarum
    May 31, 2007

    A Guy in the Pew says: “I would submit that the fact that the universe had a beginning, that it obeys orderly laws that can be expressed precisely with mathematics, and the existence of a remarkable series of “coincidences” that allows the laws of nature to support life in the iniverse can also lend strong support for the God hypothesis. Again, it is not “proof” that God exists, but it is certainly compatible with such a belief.”

    WHAT coincidences, remarkable or otherwise? Or is it just that you equate a fascile capacity for pattern-recognition with knowledge?

    You are spot-on that it isn’t a “proof that God exists”. But what you say is bunk.

    The compatibility? You know, I can think up a hundred assertions that are in fact NOT true yet are entirely “compatible” with NATURE, let alone with some superstitious belief (multiply that number of assertions by another factor of ten), BEFORE BREAKFAST.

    IF the “many-worlds” hypothesis is true, where is the requirement for some divine engineer at the controls? Anthropic nonsense aside, really, why CAN’T what you perceive as “coincidence” merely be a result of finding yourself where you happen to be, and in finding it so luscious and wonderfully fitting TO YOUR NATURE, raise endless hosannas to the highest, because you are so grateful for being there, and having a knack for seeing all manner of mysteriously organized happenstance as “evidence” for divine arrangement…rather than accepting the possibility that what you are identifying is, after all, SIMPLY, a C-O-I-N-C-I-D-E-N-C-E?

    What is it exactly that do you need so badly? WHY do you need it so? Don’t be scared. I promise you will taken care of.

  92. #93 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    The tools made for exploring God is theology, philosophy and mysticism. The tool for exploring Nature is Science.

    Fine.

    Now, is there a tool to explore the question whether God exists at all? Because, you see, if he doesn’t, trying to explore him would be a waste of time and effort, so we should find that out first, instead of assuming our premises.

  93. #94 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    The tools made for exploring God is theology, philosophy and mysticism. The tool for exploring Nature is Science.

    Fine.

    Now, is there a tool to explore the question whether God exists at all? Because, you see, if he doesn’t, trying to explore him would be a waste of time and effort, so we should find that out first, instead of assuming our premises.

  94. #95 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    but it is certainly compatible with such a belief.

    Eh, of course. Anything is compatible with a belief in anything sufficiently ineffable.

  95. #96 David Marjanovi?
    May 31, 2007

    but it is certainly compatible with such a belief.

    Eh, of course. Anything is compatible with a belief in anything sufficiently ineffable.

  96. #97 Ed Darrell
    May 31, 2007

    Speaking of republican presidential candidates and falsehoods, what about Mitt Romney and some of the historical claims of the Mormon religion? As I understand it, the Book of Mormon describes a detailed pre-Columbian history of North America in which there was a large migration of people from the Middle East. These immigrants had domesticated horses, used chariots for travel, and developed a civilization that wrote in Hebrew and Egyptian. Needless to say, none of this is supported by archaeology.

    No, just Lehi and his family, in a boat. Think Thor Heyerdahl cast out of the Mediterranean and incompetently navigating to America. The horses had to catch a later boat . . .

    The Book of Mormon claimed there were several great cities in the Americas, at a time when only a couple were known. Some of the archaeolgical points differ, but several more cities have been found since Joseph Smith wrote it down.

    But, according to the Mormons, regardless whether they had horses (which appear to have originated in the Americas, after all), there was no word from God contrary to evolution.

    I figure, if the guy is willing to take the oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, so long as they are sincere about that (as we determine from the campaigns), who cares what they believe about deity. Mormons believe the Constitution, including the First Amendment, to be divinely inspired. Almost holy writ, in other words. Maybe we should probe on that issue, instead.

  97. #98 EvanT
    May 31, 2007

    To David Marjanovi?: Quite an interesting if somewhat sarcastic comment my fellow commenter (and dare I assume you are of Balkan origins as well?)

    Since theology, philosophy and mysticism are the tools to explore God they’re also useful to determine whether he exists at all. The problem is that they all produce different results for each individual. Philosophy is not a Science after all (even if it often likes to masquerade as such), so you cannot really expect repetition with others or quantifiable evidence.

  98. #99 Jason
    May 31, 2007

    aguyinpew,

    You didn’t answer my questions. You didn’t identify the claims that you think have passed the tests, and you didn’t identify the “tools” that were used to test them.

    At the end of your post you seem to be hinting that you think the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is one example of such a claim. Is that correct? Do you really believe the truth of this claim has been tested and passed the test? And by “Resurrection” I assume you mean the traditional Christian teaching that Jesus Christ physically came back to life after being a decomposing corpse for three days and then ascended into Heaven. If not, if you’re using “Resurrection” in some metaphorical or figurative sense that doesn’t involve dead bodies coming back to life, then please say so.

  99. #100 Arnosium Upinarum
    May 31, 2007

    Dave E. says: “I make no claim that I can prove the existence of God. I am asking for the evidence that PZ says contradicts his existence.”

    Man. You still don’t get it, do you?

    PZ isn’t submitting any evidence for the nonexistence. He doesn’t have to. He’s saying that ALL THE EVIDENCE DOES NOT SUPPORT IT.

    Its a common thing in science (and, frankly, in normal ordinary human discourse) to throw out suppositions that are not supported by any evidence as CONTRARY to what the evidence strongly suggests.

    If you keep NOT seeing something, no matter how long and hard you look, maybe – just maybe – its just a figment of your expectant imagination getting too much attention. Religions have had thousands of years to “prove” it without a scintilla of progress either way.

    Why can’t you understand that?

    Here’s a question for YOU: can you show just one example of a known scientific fact that has been proved by religion?

  100. #101 Jason
    May 31, 2007

    aguyinpew,

    We all agree that Brownback’s views on evolution are wrong and moronic.

    Yes, and I think belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ and other “miraculous” events is also wrong and absurd (“moronic” is a bit heavy-handed), and for the basic reason that Brownback’s views on evolution are wrong and absurd–they are contradicted by the evidence of science and reason.

  101. #102 Jason
    May 31, 2007

    EvanT,

    Since theology, philosophy and mysticism are the tools to explore God they’re also useful to determine whether he exists at all. The problem is that they all produce different results for each individual.

    How can they be useful for determining whether God exists if they produce different answers for each individual? Suppose a medical test intended to detect the existence of a cancerous tumor gave different results depending on which technician administered it to the patient. Would you call that a useful test for the existence of cancer?

  102. #103 ron richardson
    May 31, 2007

    Bravo PZ, one of the best things you’ve ever written. But, you should have said more about: “Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.”

    I don’t think anyone who agress with this last sentence can be deemed intelligent or rational. He’s firmly stating here, in complete clarity, that if verified scientific results “undermine this truth” of creationism, we must reject them. He is stating unequivocally that if intelligent science based on verifiable evidence does not support a conclusion he has reached on faith (guesswork + hope), then we must reject the reasonable conclusion. Phenomenal. This is just horrible rhetoric.

  103. #104 Caledonian
    May 31, 2007

    The only way for religion to never come in conflict with science would be for it to abandon all statements about reality – in other words, to cease to exist.

  104. #105 Dave E.
    May 31, 2007

    Arnosium said: “PZ isn’t submitting any evidence for the nonexistence. He doesn’t have to. He’s saying that ALL THE EVIDENCE DOES NOT SUPPORT IT.”

    Oh good grief. Can you be any more obtuse? PZ said:

    “Show me evidence for a god that adequately accounts for the evidence that contradicts his existence, and I’ll accept it…”.

    I am making no supposition here, I am asking PZ or anyone else to provide the “evidence that contradicts his existence”. That’s it.

    PZ is asserting something here and you are saying he doesn’t have to back it up? Wow, feel the academic rigor.

  105. #106 Jason
    May 31, 2007

    Dave E,

    I am asking PZ or anyone else to provide the “evidence that contradicts his existence”. That’s it.

    I’m not sure how you think PZ could do that until you’ve described the God you have in mind. He asked, “Show me evidence for a God.” Obviously, the evidence against the existence of a God will vary depending on the nature and characteristics of the postulated deity.

  106. #107 Dave E.
    May 31, 2007

    Jason: I am not asserting that God exists. I don’t know how I can make that any more clear. PZ asserted that there is “evidence that contradicts his existence”. What is it? What is so difficult about that?

  107. #108 Rhampton
    May 31, 2007

    Dave E,

    Scientific evidence has to be objectively measured by a number of independent sources and withstand the scrutiny of a peer review. As such, the existence or non-existence of God/Gods is without evidence. Faith is not evidence.

    For example, suppose you and I were to debate the color of the Sun. You might claim it to be yellow and I might counter that it’s orange — in either case, the opinions are subjective. Science, however, takes a critical look at the available evidence and reaches objective conclusions.

    As for the actual color of the Sun, Dr. SETI explains:

    “the peak wavelength of the Sun’s thermal emission is on the order of 5.01 x 10-7 m, or 501 nm. Converting to frequency, we divide into the speed of light (3 x 108 m/s), for a result of 599 THz. Now, the optical spectrum extends from red, a wavelength of 750 nm (frequency = 400 THz) all the way to violet, at a wavelength of 400 nm (frequency = 750 THz). Note the interesting symmetry there. In any case, our sunlight peak occurs about 29% up the optical spectrum from the red end, for an equivalent color of … yellow!”

  108. #109 Dave E.
    May 31, 2007

    Rhampton: I agree wholeheartedly with your example and also the statement that “faith is not evidence”. And yet the questions remain:

    PZ asserted that there is “evidence that contradicts his existence”. What is it? What is so difficult about that?

  109. #110 386sx
    May 31, 2007

    PZ asserted that there is “evidence that contradicts his existence”. What is it? What is so difficult about that?

    I think you’ve pretty much got everybody on that one. The only thing I can figure is that he was referring to some specific god like the Brownback god that doesn’t do evolution from monkeys. But I’m only guessing.

  110. #111 A Guy in the Pew
    May 31, 2007

    Jason:

    I’ll try to answer your posts, but quite frankly think this is a waste of both your time and mine. We won’t convince each other. At best, we will have a better understanding of our different world views. I do find it amusing, however, that at the end of the day, the comment section to this post has evlolved into a challenge (albeit a good natured one) on the religious views of a liberal Episcopalian (that would be me) who accepts evolution without reservation.

    What tools am I speaking of. To be clear, I think that the claims that I am concerned with are all historical claims–claims about a specific event at a specific time and a specific place. As such, the tools of history rather than the tools of science are the ones most appropriate.

    Let’s use the resurrection as an example. That is a claim about a specific event at a specific time. The historical question is this: did it occur. My answer is yes, Jesus had a non-metaphorical physical resurrection.

    The obvious follow-up question is this–what evidence do I have that this happened. Quite frankly lgions of books have been written about this question, but I will try to give you a short version. Like many historic events, we have texts that were written about this event. Unlike the Old Testement, the texts at issue here were all fairly contemoraneous with the event in question. The earliest such text is in a letter written by Paul–probably less than 15 years after the event. Paul was not an eyewitness to the crucifixion, but he does claim to have seen the risen Christ. He also has conversed with witnesses (such as Peter). Next we have Mark, which was probably written about 15 years later, followed in time by Matthew, Luke and John.

    Now am I claiming that I beleive this to be true merely because these claims were written in the Bible. No. Indeed, there are claims in Mark, Mathew, Luke and John that I strongly doubt. But I do think there are factors that make the resurrection accounts persuasive. They include: the accounts from multiple sources are consistent, the accounts include inconvenient facts (such as the fact that women were key witnesses), the accounts created problems for the early church (the Greek world was hotile to the notion of a physical, as opposed to a spiritual resurrection), and the claim was central to the church at its earliest stage (in other words, it did not develop over time, but was believed at a time when the eye-witnesses were still alive). As a follow-up to the last point, Paul had a pretty good life before he became a Christian. The fact that he and others who were eyewitnesses to the resurrection bet their lives for Christ is evidence–there were plenty of other Messiah claims made at this time, but the movements that they led all quickly faded upon the death of the purported Messiah. At the very least the early church (again, including the first generation) certainly acted as if they were certain of the claim of the resurrection.

    Now have I “proven” that the resurrection occurred? Of course not. I recognize that there are mnay (probably including you) who would simply discount the eyewitnesses because in our experience, the dead do not come back to life. I would submit, however, that because this was a claim of a specific event at a specific time, you are are rocky ground to make such a sweeping claim without at least evaluating the evidence.

  111. #112 nicole
    June 1, 2007

    Dave E,

    I think what Jason is saying is that you’ll have to describe the hypothetical deity before you can get a list of contradictions. For example, if you want the omnipotent, omniscient variety, we could talk about the problem of evil, that sort of thing.

  112. #113 Jason
    June 1, 2007

    Dave E,

    Jason: I am not asserting that God exists.

    Then PZ’s request is not addressed to you.

  113. #114 Scholar
    June 1, 2007

    PZ: I know you don’t like me a whole bunch, or at least you are too busy to acknowledge my existence. If on the rare chance you do actually catch this post, I would like to say that I am a rabid supporter of yours. Yes, I actually have rabies. But I still have enough strength to read a fair portion of YOUR posts. Anyway, just wanted to say that you really been shining bright lately, and this post about Brownstreak is a true gem.

  114. #115 Chuckleluffagus
    June 1, 2007

    People of faith generally bring one thing to the table: their obscenely obese corpus.

  115. #116 Jason
    June 1, 2007

    aguyinpew,

    I’m glad you accept evolution, but like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris that’s not my main concern. Evolution vs. Creationism is just a battle, a symptom. The real war is reason vs. faith, naturalism vs. supernaturalism, scientific thinking vs. magical thinking. And your latest post confirms that you’re on the wrong side of that war.

    The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is a scientific impossibility. It is contradicted by mountains of empirical evidence from physics, chemistry, and biology. If you seriously believe that the kind of dubious historical reports you describe (second-hand accounts of supposed eyewitness testimony, and such) constitute seriuous evidence that this scientifically impossible event actually occurred, then all I can say is that you are as blinded to reason by religious fanaticism as Sam Brownback is. The Resurrection is not just unlikely, or doubtful, it’s preposterous.

  116. “And here we have the problem with Gould’s concept of non-overlapping magesteria. If science and religion are entirely separate ways of determining truth, then they can never come into conflict.”
    ENTIRELY SEPARATE WAYS OF DETERMINING TRUTH. Here is the root of the problem, whenever thoughtful believers try to talk with those scientists who dismiss all religious thought and practice as irrational, silly, superstitious, and so forth. It is NOT different “ways of determining (a single) truth,” but many ways of determining truths of various kinds. Unfortunately, these various kinds of truth do sometimes overlap, and in the public classroom scientific truth is supposed to be taught in science classrooms. But when scientists assume there is only one “truth” out there, and only one way of getting to it, and that is scientific truth about the physical world, they have succumbed to the very same narrow and illiberal closed-mindedness that they condemn in biblical literalists like Brownback. Both camps assume that truth by definition has to be scientific truth,and so they read a profound and majestic Creation Poem as though it were a science textbook. The most reductively scientistic folks around are the fundamentalists, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they are religious fundamentalists or scientific fundamentalists! (This is both ironic and terribly tragic.) Scientific communities develop scientific methodologies in their search for accounts of the workings of the physical universe. This is the KIND of truth science seeks and can test and substantiate evidentially, with its own KIND of evidence. It makes no sense to ask of any other disciplinary community or way of knowing that they should test and support their findings the same way that science does, when these are by definition addressed to knowing about entirely different subject-matters, and that requires their own kinds of evidence and validity-testing. Likewise, every religious community has of necessity developed (within its own tradition) more or less sophisticated methodologies and standards of evidence for dealing with the questions that belong to its own sphere, and the same is true of music, art, literature, mysticism, and so on. Of course, some of these communities do not meet very high standards of thoughtfulness or manifest much honest searching and testing. And this should be pointed out, but preferably by those who know something about those traditions and not by people who are simply working off steam (because they are so pissed off at the creationists, which believe me, I entirely understand) by taking wildly illiberal and cranky pot shots that show that their own expertise is entirely within their own limited disciplinary framework. (Anyone for a liberal arts education?) The arts and sciences are about a PLURALITY of genuine and rigorous ways of knowing and that means many kinds of truth (because about many kinds of things) supported by many kinds of evidence. This is NOT relativism, or “anything goes.” But different ways of knowing have different degrees of certainty and different degrees of personal and existential input, and that isn’t wrong or bad. But when scientific truth begins to be thrown about as sufficient support for metaphysical belief-systems, such as “there is no God,” and they do so without any sense of bad conscience, by blithely using evidence and reasoning that are designed for and appropriate to describing the natural world only, then our intellectual wires are getting badly crossed. (Besides, it is just very, very rude and ugly and hurtful to make such insulting blanket condemnations of theists, in any case. Not good public relations or effective “framing”!) Since science deals with the workings of the physical universe, perhaps a scientist can say that science eliminates the necessity for supposing a God, when God is considered as an external being who impinges upon natural processes supernaturally. But what can science say about a divine immanence within the workings of nature, an immanence that is is formal order itself? (Before you reply, there are some very nuanced problems here. Lots of scientists believe in an ultimate mathematical reality, which is an immanent and transcendent formality just like many theological persepctives on God….) No one requires a scientist to believe in God, though many, many do. But to act as though there is nothing to be known, and no questions to be asked, except what can be known through science, is extraordinarily dogmatic (though I know some kinds of positivists take that position). Some scientists seem to have become prisoners within their own mental enclaves, rather like the biblical fundamentalists, and perhaps they need to get out more and listen to the experiences and wisdom of people with other backgrounds, such as Guy in a Pew, for example. I love science and I’ve been eagerly reading science blogs for six weeks now, but I’m getting fed up with the way science blogs turn into the Jerry Springer Show the very instant that the subject of religion comes up. Both science and religion have huge crimes on their hands and both have made deep contributions to the human race. And both have huge followings and are cherished by large portions of the human race. Most of all, both are deeply concerned with testing and evidence and the mind’s difficult search for a deep contact with reality. Knee-jerk is never a good response to knee-jerk.

  117. #118 Dave E.
    June 1, 2007

    Nicole: I understand. But I’m not asking PZ to respond to any assertions of mine about God, I’m challenging his assertion that there is evidence that science can present that God does not exist.

    Jason: It’s not like I’m a plaintiff. PZ made a statement to the world, I would still like to know what backs it up.

  118. #119 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    Damn, does that mean I need to change my latest post?

    I don’t want some creationist coming back and saying “That’s not what PZ said!”

    Posted by: Berlzebub | May 31, 2007 04:17 PM

    no; what you are directing your ire at on your blog is the artificial distinction created by creobots.

    what PZ briefly mentioned is referring to the actual distinction made by Paleontologists who study long-term evolutionary patterns and processes, which they typically refer to as “macroevolutionary”

    example, Punc. Eq. is a macroevolutionary theory, and all they meant by classifying it as such is that it a theory that tends to analyze evolutionary theory by looking at large scale processes, rather than those occuring on the population level.

    whether it is a useful distinction or not to an evolutionary biologist is debatable, but it IS a distinction made nonetheless.

    and of course, it has nothing to do with the way the creobots have twisted macroevoltuion to mean “difference in kind”

    so, no problem, you can attack the idiotic definition of macroevolution that the creos created and totally not offend any paleos in attendance.

  119. #120 A Guy in the Pew
    June 1, 2007

    Janet Leslie Blumberg:

    Thank you. I could not have said it better myself.

  120. #121 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    Thank you. I could not have said it better myself.

    could not have said WHAT, exactly?

    frankly, I couldn’t make it through all that piffle.

    here’s a question for Julie:

    you say that religion can seek alternate “truths”.

    define the end result of finding a “truth” by using religion as a process for me, would ya please?

    even more basic:

    define “truth” in that context.

    and comparing it to science…

    funny, but I don’t find the word “truths” to be a scientific classification.

    I see hypothesis, law, fact, theory…

    no “truths”.

    hmm.

    so shall we compare the general meaning of “truth” to mean essentially “undeniably accurate”?

    ’cause if we do that…

  121. #122 Jason
    June 1, 2007

    Janet Leslie Blumberg,

    What truths have you “determined” through religion? Give us some examples. What makes you think these beliefs actually are true rather than a matter of wishful thinking, or social conditioning, or a quirk of personality on your part, or something of that sort? Why are the “determinations of truth” you make through your religion (or faith, or whatever you want to call it) more likely to be correct than the contradictory determinations someone else may make through his? If faith or religion can support any belief, and no one’s faith is better than anyone else’s faith, how is faith any use whatsoever as a guide to truth? Why is it any better than a guess, or a wish, or a hope?

  122. #123 A Guy in the Pew
    June 1, 2007

    Jason:

    My sense is that you would reject, out of hand, any eyewitness accounts of the resurrection because of your belief that it is preposterous. (Paul, by the way, was a first hand account–he saw the risen Christ). On what basis? Has science proven that this is an impossible event?

  123. #124 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    My sense is that you would reject, out of hand, any eyewitness accounts of the resurrection because of your belief that it is preposterous.

    above the level of the preposterous nature of the resurrection (assuming you’re referring to Jesus), is that there ARE no living eyewitnesses to interview.

    that, combined with the fact that nobody has even claimed (eyewitness or not) to have seen a “ressurrection” since, makes the claim rather dubious, at best.

    see, the difference between the way a rationalist and a “believer” think, is that the rationalist starts correctly with a null hypothesis, which must then be disproven.

    so, we start of with the general observation over thousands of years that there has not been any verifiable evidence of the supernatural affecting reality, and then construct a mental null hypothesis of:

    There are no supernatural forces at work.

    this is easily disprovable.

    it just never has been.

    so you are asking the question incorrectly when you ask a rationalist:

    Has science disproven resurrections?

    the question should be:

    has science garnered any evidence in FAVOR of resurrections.

    answer:

    nope.

    there is no way to measure probability levels of such a thing, so there is also no way for science to say it is impossible.

    that is a conclusion a rationalist will draw given the vast amount of time and observation hours indicating that the null hypothesis has not yet been disproven.

    just as surely, if tommorrow there were independently verifiable accounts of someone being resurrected, then a rationalist would simply incorporate that as new data and begin to look for new theories that fit the new data.

  124. #125 Steven Sullivan
    June 1, 2007

    Dave E:

    This is what PZ actually wrote (emphasis mine):

    “Show me evidence for *A GOD* that adequately accounts for the evidence that contradicts his existence, and I’ll accept it”

    I think from you’re many, many replies all repeating the same thing, that you’re not understanding the challenge put to you.

    It seems to me that *you* are being asked to describe a *particular* concept of God, derived from the evidence for its existence. “This god” could be one of the Christian ideas of God, or something you’ve come up with independently. Whatever. The particular evidence you cite *for* this god’s existence, will naturally influence what evidence might best be considered *against* its existence as well. I believe PZ wants to see what you’ll come up with, so counterarguments can be deployed accordingly. There’s lots of different ideas of God out there.

  125. #126 Steven Sullivan
    June 1, 2007

    [QUOTE]My sense is that you would reject, out of hand, any eyewitness accounts of the resurrection because of your belief that it is preposterous. (Paul, by the way, was a first hand account–he saw the risen Christ). On what basis? Has science proven that this is an impossible event?[/QUOTE]

    TUrn the question around. You seem to believe that science has proved some events to be impossible. How would science similarly prove to you that the resurrection of Jesus was impossible? What would it take?

    And btw, ‘first hand accounts’ in religious tracts aren’t exactly compelling to nonbelievers.

  126. #127 Oh, fishy, fishy, fishy, fish!
    June 1, 2007

    Hey, I came to this thread to ask if anyone saw Giuliani on Letterman some days ago, spewing a lot of bullshit. Man, they should give all this print and air-time to Ron Paul, instead of rehashing all this nonsense.

    I also noticed that any thread past the 80 or 90 mark always has some fresh christian(s) being roasted. I’ll read this thread later at work, hope you were nice.

  127. #128 ken
    June 1, 2007

    I’m no bible scholar, but I thought Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision, not in flesh. So we’re supposed to take one book’s account of one man’s dream 2,000 years ago as serious evidence of the resurrection. Ludicrous.

  128. #129 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    there is no way to measure probability levels of such a thing, so there is also no way for science to say it is impossible.

    let me embellish on that by saying that a scientist could test the null hypothesis that there are no resurrections by taking a sample of the population of all dead people to test that hypothesis.

    even with a HUGE sample size (say 10 to the power of 6), the data would not support rejection of the null hypothesis, now, would it?

    so, for a rationalist, the confidence that the null hypothesis will not be disproven grows with each successive failure to disprove it.

    now then.

    say there was, once upon a time, a real resurrection of one individual, and that individual was the one you are obviously referring to.

    how can you demonstrate any practical effect that has on reality at present, even given that it MIGHT have happened ONE time?

    now, before you go off half cocked, you have to show a DIRECT effect of that resurrection, and not just what people interpret it’s “meaning” to be.

    If you ever see “Life of Brian”, you know i mean:

    don’t show me that a “sacred gourd” has a meaningful effect in reality.

  129. #130 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    Man, they should give all this print and air-time to Ron Paul, instead of rehashing all this nonsense.

    he got air time on John Stuart’s show, and on Bill Maher (IIRC).

    he makes too much sense to make it out of the republican primaries, though.

    plus, he simply hasn’t got enough cash at this point.

    he needs an influx of about a 100 large in the most immediate sense, to keep him viable.

  130. #131 Bob Merrill
    June 1, 2007

    Thomas Jefferson and other of our founding fathers would be embarassed that Brownback serves in Congress, let alone is running for the presidency. Brownback, like the priests of different religious sects dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight, and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subdivision of the dupries on which they (and Brownback) live. Unfortunately Brownback has GOP company in Huckabee, and Tancredo, who are also running for president. I wonder if there are other GOP candidates that haven’t yet appealed to the religious right on the evolution issue.

  131. #132 Randy Owens
    June 1, 2007

    A Guy in the Pew:

    …and the early Church bet their lives on the truth of the claim of the resurrection.

    Not that this hasn’t already been jumped on a bit, but, how’d that bet work out for them? Have you spoken to them lately? Did they win or lose that bet?

    Janet Leslie Blumberg:

    Thank you. I could not have said it better myself.

    What, you’ve forgotten how to make paragraphs? You were doing it so well before.

    Dave E. et al.: Despite the common cliche, I hold that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. It just isn’t proof of absence. But as the evidence is absent in a greater and greater sample of areas where evidence of presence might have been found, it starts to weigh in favour of absence. Still not proof, though. I believe (that word again!) my approach would be somewhat Bayesian in nature.

  132. #133 ken
    June 1, 2007

    Isn’t the simultaneous probability of Adam, Eve, the snake, the arc, the resurrection, etc., smaller than the “Dembski limit”?

  133. #134 Dave E.
    June 1, 2007

    Steven Sullivan:

    Again: “Show me evidence for a god that adequately accounts for the evidence that contradicts his existence, and I’ll accept it;…”

    PZ is asserting that evidence exists that contradicts the existence of God. He is not saying show me the evidence that God is Daffy Duck or some such and then he’ll refute it. He’s saying that there is evidence that contradicts any God.

    Well, what is it?

  134. #135 wrg
    June 1, 2007

    Since theology, philosophy and mysticism are the tools to explore God they’re also useful to determine whether he exists at all. The problem is that they all produce different results for each individual.

    Well, EvanT, I don’t know whether your mysticism shows you (and only you!) the truth that God exists for you (and only you!) or even whether it maybe means that I don’t exist to you and you don’t exist to me.

    However, if you *did* mystic yourself up a God, let me assure you that the dragon in my garage can totally beat up your God any day of the week. What, you don’t see my dragon, feel it, or detect it in any way? Well, that’s just because it’s not there to *you*. Trust me, my mystical philosophy has proven (but only to me!) that there is an omnipotent invisible dragon in my garage. If you can’t disprove it, I could just as well be right!

    See, here’s the trouble with “individual truth” and considering faith a source of truth rather than a way to get by when you don’t know what’s true. If we consider faith a valid alternative to evidence, then someone can make up literally anything and be taken seriously. However, I expect most readers of faith will have little respect for my dragon, as faith seems only to be taken seriously for notions with enough devoted followers and publicity to be dignified with the title of “religion”.

  135. #136 Douglas Watts
    June 1, 2007

    “Name one thing of value that “people of faith” bring to the table. One thing. Make sure it’s something that people of reason do not bring.”

    Wrong response. This response tars all people of faith with Brownback’s idiocy. It is also wrong from basic set theory. People of reason and people of faith are often the same people, ie. a cross-hatched area in a Venn diagram. I can have faith, for example, that there is an after-life, but still be a person of reason during my life. I can have faith, for example, that there is a supra-physical force (God) responsible for establishing a priori the most detailed aspects of particle physics and still be a person of reason as it regards studying and discovering and confirming all those various aspects.

  136. #137 Douglas Watts
    June 1, 2007

    I’m no bible scholar, but …
    Posted by: ken | June 1, 2007 01:51 AM

    Well said up to the ellipsis …

  137. #138 Douglas Watts
    June 1, 2007

    Yes, and I think belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ and other “miraculous” events is also wrong and absurd (“moronic” is a bit heavy-handed), and for the basic reason that Brownback’s views on evolution are wrong and absurd–they are contradicted by the evidence of science and reason.
    Posted by: Jason | May 31, 2007 09:00 PM

    The same claim was vehemently made about black holes and plate tectonics. It is perfectly possible that in future decades a physically and mathematically plausible explanation for Jesus’ resurrection may be found.

    You are making the mistake of reducing science to dogma.

  138. #139 EvanT
    June 1, 2007

    Dear WRG,
    I usually try to avoid ad hominem attacks, but in your case I’ll make an exception.

    -Did you even bother to read my previous posts before the one you’re quoting?
    -Do you know what is defined as mysticism in the Christian tradition? (it’s monasticism, hesychasm or becoming a monk if you prefer). Open a dictionary will you. Mysticism comes from the greek work “mystes” which means “initiated”.
    -Did you understand that that specific post meant that the existence of God can only be experienced only on a personal level and cannot be forced through evidence?
    -Carl Sagan’s Invisible Dragon paradigm is used (if you recall) to state that a hypothesis that cannot be proven or disproven has no impact as far as science is concerned. He’s right and no deist in this string of comments has supported that idea, even if you all keep bashing us with that notion. You grossly overinflated his example.

    I understand that you want proof of the existence of God, but as I said in a previous post if you keep trying to take a picture of the Andromeda galaxy with an electron microscope you won’t find anything. Science is not the way to discover God and RELIGION IS NOT THE WAY TO DESCRIBE THE COSMOS.

    Well… I’ll follow “a guy in the pew’s” example and say that I’m relived that at least we all (atheists and deists alike) agree that Ham’s “museum” is a load of crap and a disturbing attempt to mix religion and science. But let’s face it. It won’t convince anyone who isn’t already convinced of Ham’s preposterous beliefs. So I’ll agree with PZ that this “museum” is a nice attempt to make money through this anachronistic philosophical crisis.

    And people were saying US citizens had lost their knack in Economics. Tsk. How wrong were THEY?

  139. #140 fnxtr
    June 1, 2007

    “a higher learning curve then the average individual possesses?”

    “You know how dumb the average American is. Half of us are dumber than that.” – George Carlin.

  140. #141 Douglas Watts
    June 1, 2007

    “Name one thing of value that “people of faith” bring to the table. One thing. Make sure it’s something that people of reason do not bring.”

    Being a person of reason and faith (‘faith in reason’), the one thing I bring to the table might be hope in the face of nihilism. Belief in miracles undoubtedly has evolutionary value in humans and for this reason may well have evolutionary origins. People in extreme adversity (starvation, drought, war, climatic upheaval due to Ice Ages) may successfully persevere and survive in part due to faith and belief in miracles. Successful acts of faith in the face of extreme physical adversity are often the mythic basis of religious beliefs, ie. those who believed they could cross the desert, survived and had offspring. Those who gave up, died and had no offspring. It is not hard to see how religious belief in this context could have powerful evolutionary significance. Religion as as both an explanatory meme (belief is what saved us) and as a practical reproductive tool (those who believed survived to have offspring) during times of extreme physical hardship.

  141. #142 Ken
    June 1, 2007

    Well said up to the ellipsis …

    May I ask “why” you exclude the rest? Do you deny that many view Paul’s experience as a vision (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_the_Apostle )? Do you find this sort of “evidence” to be even remotely comparable to the sort that science demands?

    Regarding the Venn diagram, how do you imagine “there is an afterlife” falls into the intersection of faith and reason? You prove nothing by citing the example of a single person who exhibits both faith and reason…merely that some folks are more schizo than others.

  142. #143 Douglas Watts
    June 1, 2007

    Religion is both an explanatory meme (belief is what saved our ancestors, which is why we are here) and a practical reproductive tool (those who believed in religion persevered to have offspring) that can function in a positive feedback loop and have evolutionary value.

    From this perspective, I would argue that religion needs to be studied in depth by scientists interested in human evolution since religion is such a consistent hallmark and trait of humans as far back as human history allows us to discern. Note that I said study — not obey or embrace. Any persistent mammalian behavior that causes organisms to willingly die before reproducing is something that evolutionary biologists should study in great detail. To my mind, religion is an utterly fascinating and unique behavioral adaptation of humans that has very obvious evolutionary roots.

    Let’s be anthropologists of ourselves.

  143. #144 Douglas Watts
    June 1, 2007

    Ken,

    I am playing the game by the rules of science. You are now being the dogmatist. I have no clue if there is an ‘afterlife’ — since by definition the answer will only be revealed when I die. I have faith that I am not going to drop dead in the next 10 minutes, but I have no proof right now that I will not. When I use the word ‘faith’ it is primarily in the context of that which by the rules of logic and linearity (ie. time) are not knowable at present.

  144. #145 fnxtr
    June 1, 2007

    The arts and sciences are about a PLURALITY of genuine and rigorous ways of knowing and that means many kinds of truth (because about many kinds of things) supported by many kinds of evidence.

    Okay, I’ll bite.
    I’m a musician.
    What’s a “musical truth”?
    What evidence is there for this truth?
    How does it differ from just plain facts?

  145. #146 Douglas Watts
    June 1, 2007

    By the rules of the selfish gene, any behavior which works tends to persist, and vice versa. Even if that “behavior” involves acting in some pattern that some goofy religion tells you to. In this sense, religions can be viewed in an analogous fashion to the unwritten laws which guide the behavior and hierarchy of social insects. The analogue continues into the sexual, ie. who in the community is allowed by the religious/social insect structure to have offspring. Cf. eunuchs, monks, nuns, monogamists, polygamists.

  146. #147 Arnosium Upinarum
    June 1, 2007

    Dave E. says, “PZ is asserting something here and you are saying he doesn’t have to back it up? Wow, feel the academic rigor.”

    How crafty of you to selectively ignore and mischaracterize what I said. I said:

    “PZ isn’t submitting any evidence for the nonexistence. He doesn’t have to. He’s saying that ALL THE EVIDENCE DOES NOT SUPPORT IT.

    Its a common thing in science (and, frankly, in normal ordinary human discourse) to throw out suppositions that are not supported by any evidence as CONTRARY to what the evidence strongly suggests.

    If you keep NOT seeing something, no matter how long and hard you look, maybe – just maybe – its just a figment of your expectant imagination getting too much attention. Religions have had thousands of years to “prove” it without a scintilla of progress either way.

    Why can’t you understand that?

    Here’s a question for YOU: can you show just one example of a known scientific fact that has been proved by religion?”

    That’s what I said.

    That’s not “obtuse”. Its just sense.

    Look, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but that little ditty isn’t evidence FOR anything either. You keep insisting people should show you NON-EXISTENT evidence that EITHER contradicts or confirms the existence of a god or anything else you might dream up. (WOW, SMELL THE ACADEMIC RIGOR. Who is being obtuse here?).

    I repeat: WE DON’T HAVE TO. The burden of proof rests on thee. Show us that the evidence, for or against, exists. Let’s have an example.

  147. #148 ken
    June 1, 2007

    No, I’m looking for evidence, avoiding abstraction and philosophy. That’s science. If you want to argue that it’s logically impossible to rule out every imaginable conception of god(s), that’s not my game.

    Does anyone on this board claim that religion shouldn’t be studied? No. We’re saying it shouldn’t be believed without evidence. Straw man.

    Your last few posts are a far cry from your earlier posts on Jesus’s resurrection. Going back to the Venn diagram, it seems the “faith” set is shrinking, at least as long as you’re posting here.

  148. #149 Douglas Watts
    June 1, 2007

    Here’s a question for YOU: can you show just one example of a known scientific fact that has been proved by religion?” — Posted by: Arnosium Upinarum | June 1, 2007 04:56 AM

    That is a misstatement of the question and the error within it goes back to set theory. You can have an infinity of scientific facts that are contained within the set of a particular religion. Most religions, for example, accept the existence of gravity and the mathematical formulas describing it. To put it another way: science is, by definition, that which is known and proven empirically. Religion (to my theology) is all of science plus everything science has thus far been unable to nail down.This is not the fundamentalists’ def. of religion, but it is mine. I am deeply religious and am also a hardcore physical scientist.

  149. #150 ken
    June 1, 2007

    Religion (to my theology) is all of science plus everything science has thus far been unable to nail down.

    So…religion is…all the Abrahamic gods + science + the FSM + the invisible pink unicorn + Jesus’s resurrection + Padmasambhava’s resurrection + (ad nauseum).

    So rational.

  150. #151 Douglas Watts
    June 1, 2007

    Your last few posts are a far cry from your earlier posts on Jesus’s resurrection. — Ken.

    Like I said. Until the documentation of paleomagnetism in sea floor basalt samples on the mid-Atlantic Ridge in the early 1960s, all reputable geologists for 60 years said plate tectonics was as likely as Jesus’ resurrection.

  151. #152 Douglas Watts
    June 1, 2007

    Religion (to my theology) is all of science plus everything science has thus far been unable to nail down.
    So…religion is…all the Abrahamic gods + science + the FSM + the invisible pink unicorn + Jesus’s resurrection + Padmasambhava’s resurrection + (ad nauseum).
    So rational.
    Posted by: ken | June 1, 2007 05:16 AM

    According to Richard Feynman, all things not expressly prohibited by quantum electrodynamics are theoretically allowed. That includes a lot of stuff.

    You are abusing my definition of religion. Abrahamic religious texts are correctly called historic texts. They are the tale of a people and their real-life travails. My use of the word religion is as a meta-category (in set theory) which includes those things nailed down by science AND those things science has yet to nail down — and may never.

  152. #153 Juno Walker
    June 1, 2007

    A hearty “Amen”, brother!

    Best,
    Juno

  153. #154 Randy Owens
    June 1, 2007

    Douglas Watts: I think there’s at least one thing you’re overlooking (at least in what you’ve written here) about evolutionary advantage of religious beliefe. Much like in the recent “ladder of evolution” discussion, you seem to be ignoring the proper meaning of “fitness” or “goodness” in evolutionary terms. No particular gene or trait is “fit” or “good” unless you define an environment. So, for example, a trait such as you describe, giving people faith to persist in crossing a geographical obstacle, might have been good when people had the opportunity to do so, at considerable risk. But in today’s age of jet travel, it doesn’t seem so useful (in that particular way) anymore. What’s good for the primitive isn’t necessarily good once a critical mass of culture, knowledge, and technology has been reached.

  154. #155 Randy Owens
    June 1, 2007

    Oh, re-reading myself there, I notice one thing might be misunderstood: I did not mean to imply that you were similarly ignoring in the ladder post yourself; merely that PZ’s post described (in part) a similar oversight.

  155. #156 ken
    June 1, 2007

    According to Richard Feynman, all things not expressly prohibited by quantum electrodynamics are theoretically allowed. That includes a lot of stuff.

    Not only that, but you can look at various events and assign a probability. Which you seem incapable of doing. I’m guessing you don’t walk down down the street in fear that your atoms will suddenly merge with the sidewalk, but you think you can leave every ounce of common sense behind on this board.

    Why don’t you write a manifesto? Then nobody will be in danger of “abusing” your [bizarre] definition.

    Abrahamic religious texts are correctly called historic texts.

    I’m guessing you have strong opinions about one such text that strongly states that Jesus was not a deity, not crucified, and not resurrected. This is a problem: the set of things that science has not resolved contains myriad contradicting beliefs, leaving folks around the world free to pick and choose and kill each other over the contradictions.

    Actually, it’s rarely a matter of picking and choosing…it usually depends on where you were born.

  156. #157 Carlie
    June 1, 2007

    This may sound flippant, but it’s a serious question for the “liberal” Christians – if you think that most of the Bible is metaphor(no historic Adam and Eve, etc.), and that religion never contradicts science, and that there’s no way to test for God in the real world because he doesn’t work that way by ever showing physically demonstrable results… what point is there in believing it, again?
    Maybe it’s the ingrained fundamentalism, but once I realized that the stories weren’t actually true, I didn’t really see any reason to hold on to any of it any more.

  157. #158 Oh, fishy, fishy, fishy, fish!
    June 1, 2007

    Belief in miracles undoubtedly has evolutionary value in humans and for this reason may well have evolutionary origins.

    Posted by: Douglas Watts | June 1, 2007 04:15 AM

    I doubt that. That alone makes your statement not true. I don’t think religion has had an evolutionary advantage, and there are reasons for that. You keep dropping names and concepts (Feynman, quantum physics, memes), but you totally quote out of context. You (being a “hardcore physical scientist”) should know very well what Feynman himself thought about all this stuff.

    And also, when utterly absurd claims are made, like that of the lady of the Enter key-less keyboard, who said that religion and science both are ways to know “truths”, it is perfectly acceptable, and downright imperative for people who seek a rational discourse, to ask what exactly has she found from religion (a.k.a. “faith”), and what does she consider to be religion’s “truths”. And particularly, why in the world would someone think that these religious “truths” are in any way in the same level as scientific truth. Not even close.

  158. #159 paleotn
    June 1, 2007

    And to take Carlie’s line of reasoning a bit further….

    Can liberal Christians tell me specifically what parts of scripture ARE metaphorical and what are not? On what basis can you decided which is which, other than picking and choosing what you want to believe based upon how palatable those parts are and lumping the rest into the allegorical category. Is this whole idea of the birth, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus metaphorical or historical fact? By your own reasoning, if Jesus’ resurrection can be categorized as metaphorical in any sense, your religion falls apart like a house of cards, for the real, historical resurrection of Christ is the central, all important tenant for Christianity of any stripe. If you have any reason to doubt the supposed historical authenticity of the resurrection, then Christianity is meaningless and you might as well convert to Judaism.

  159. #160 CalGeorge
    June 1, 2007

    PZ is asserting that evidence exists that contradicts the existence of God. He is not saying show me the evidence that God is Daffy Duck or some such and then he’ll refute it. He’s saying that there is evidence that contradicts any God.

    Well, what is it?

    That’s easy. It’s evolution!

    You still need to say who this God is so that we know what the heck you are talking about. I’m a bit dense and I have no clue. To what are you referring? Enlighten us.

  160. #161 Gavin Craig
    June 1, 2007

    Brownback would have been much wiser to say nothing. People forget over a long campaign. Although, by raising his hand to the question, he immediately made himself ineligible for high office. We’ve had enough ignorance about science in the White House. NO MORE PLEASE!

    I would also guess that in Kansas they don’t care, or the majority supports his confused belief. If he is trying to sway the scientific literate to vote for him – he sadly missed the mark.

  161. #162 Lamy
    June 1, 2007

    I sort of think the evolution question may not have been direct enough.

    I would have liked to see how many raised their hands to the question: “If God told you to, would you nuke someone?”

  162. #163 386sx
    June 1, 2007

    That’s easy. It’s evolution!

    That doesn’t contradict the evolution god. I don’t think you’ll find any evidence that contradicts any god because people can make their gods out to be whatever they want. Badda bing, badda boom, set it and forget it, you got yourself a god(s).

    Notice how it went from “evidence for a god that adequately accounts for the evidence that contradicts his existence” to “evidence that contradicts any God.” It’s a miracle, and even a miracle would not be good evidence for the existence of a god(s) because nobody knows where the miracle came from.

  163. #164 CalGeorge
    June 1, 2007

    That doesn’t contradict the evolution god.

    Oh, yeah! I forgot all about the evolution god. Damn!

  164. #165 Steven Sullivan
    June 1, 2007

    PZ is asserting that evidence exists that contradicts the existence of God.

    Yes, but which god? Humans have invented an awful lot of different ones, after all.

    He is not saying show me the evidence that God is Daffy Duck or some such and then he’ll refute it. He’s saying that there is evidence that contradicts any God.

    It won’t necessarily be the *same* evidence, for every God, though. So perhaps you should describe the God you have in mind in some more detail. PZ has asked you to cite evidence you think supports the existence of a God. Please do so. Maybe you’ll get lucky and come up with one whose evidence “adequately accounts for the evidence that contradicts his existence”. I’m not holding my breath. You seem more concerned about a semantic issue than actually arguing for God’s existence.

  165. #166 PZ Myers
    June 1, 2007

    The claims about gods are numerous and vague, so I won’t discuss the evidence against unstated claims until someone actually states one. For example, a common claim by the religious, so common that they take it completely for granted, is that their god is a “loving god”. We could then recite lots of instances of brutality, waste, and cruelty in the natural world, or the fact that this god has created a whole universe that is mostly empty and hostile to us, and that even our planet is mostly uninhabitable by humans. If you’re going to claim that Jesus loves you, you have to show me a) evidence that Jesus has actually shown you some love, and b) counter the evidence that he’s put you in a universe that is entirely indifferent to you, and that is loaded with phenomena that will kill you in interesting ways.

  166. #167 Jason
    June 1, 2007

    aguyinpew,

    My sense is that you would reject, out of hand, any eyewitness accounts of the resurrection because of your belief that it is preposterous.

    I’m saying that “eyewitness accounts” don’t begin to meet the burden of evidence for such an extraordinary, scientifically impossible claim such as the reanimation of a human corpse that had been rotting in the desert for three days. “Eyewitness accounts” are notoriously unreliable even under the best of circumstances and even regarding mundane events like acts of crime. And yet you’re telling me that you think it’s reasonable to believe, on the basis of “eyewitness accounts,” accounts that are themselves of the most dubious authenticity and reliability, that the laws of time and space were suspended or violated or ignored and that a 3-day-old decomposing human corpse came back to life. You’re saying you think it’s more likely that an event that contradicts mountains of scientific evidence, an event that has never been recorded in all of human history, actually happened than that these supposed “eyewitness accounts” were simply the result of a mistake, or a mass delusion, or a conspiracy, or a lie that got out of hand, or some other such obvious prosaic explanation. Your position isn’t just wrong, it’s absurd. You are displaying the most extreme naivete and gullibility, because you have been blinded by your religious beliefs.

  167. #168 Jason
    June 1, 2007

    Douglas Watts,

    The same claim was vehemently made about black holes and plate tectonics. It is perfectly possible that in future decades a physically and mathematically plausible explanation for Jesus’ resurrection may be found.

    Gawd. You’re another one. Given the vast body of science indicating the impossibility of the Resurrection, the probability that “in future decades a physically and mathematically plausible explanation for Jesus’ resurrection may be found” is about as likely as the probability that a “physically and mathematically plausible explanation” that the Earth is only 6,000 years old will be found. Hey, perhaps we’ll find scientific evidence for the Tooth Fairy too!

  168. #169 CalGeorge
    June 1, 2007

    … their god is a “loving god”. We could then recite lots of instances of brutality, waste, and cruelty in the natural world…

    Everyone knows you gotta be cruel to be kind.

    In the right measure.

  169. #170 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    Like I said. Until the documentation of paleomagnetism in sea floor basalt samples on the mid-Atlantic Ridge in the early 1960s, all reputable geologists for 60 years said plate tectonics was as likely as Jesus’ resurrection.

    that’s a baldfaced lie.

    I suppose you don’t “recall” the thousands of debates over why the continental shelf shapes matched up across each ocean?

    or the fact that fossils matched up in similar deposits in parallel locations?

    you are making yourself look very bad in trying to make your galileo-style argument.

  170. #171 Anton Mates
    June 1, 2007

    PZ is asserting that evidence exists that contradicts the existence of God. He is not saying show me the evidence that God is Daffy Duck or some such and then he’ll refute it. He’s saying that there is evidence that contradicts any God.

    No, he’s not. He explicitly said, “Show me evidence for a god that adequately accounts for the evidence that contradicts his existence, and I’ll accept it.” He never suggested that every god’s existence is contradicted by evidence–merely that there is no god who is supported by some evidence and not contradicted by stronger data.

  171. #172 Pierce R. Butler
    June 1, 2007

    Douglas Watts: …People in extreme adversity (starvation, drought, war, climatic upheaval due to Ice Ages) may successfully persevere and survive in part due to faith and belief in miracles.

    Ever see a fly caught in a web, still struggling as the spider approaches? How about a lizard, half dismembered by a cat, still trying to get away? A squirrel or a fish frantically wiggling while being carried off by a hawk?

    Those with a persistent drive to survive tend to last longer and leave more offspring with that same drive. No miracles, prayer, or faith make any difference in this.

  172. Jason asks: “What truths have you “determined” through religion? Give us some examples.”
    I have learned that when I attack things with anger and scorn, I turn into the very thing that threatens me. I also haave learned that I am feeling a sense of threat, because I am denying some disowned part of myself and am building a wall against it. This has taken years and years of being challenged, reflecting, resolving to do better, and being challenged again. Also intensive reading, thinking, dialectical conversation, and soul-searching. My Christian faith has forced me down this unwelcome path of separating illusion from reality about my own nature and motivations.
    What challenges my self-serving illusions? The liturgy, the sermon, the scriptures, other people in my faith community, and the inward voice of conscience, which I believe is that “still small voice” so many persons in different times and places have testified to. I can read medieval and Renaissance philosophy, literature, theology, and history, and they will all be dealing with this difficult inward path to some semblance of genuine humility….
    As for the musician who asks about “musical truths,” I am astonished? Have you never taken a musical theory course? And even if you haven’t, what genre do you work in? Of course you are aware of the history of your genre, be it jazz or classical or rock or whatever? And are you not aware and fascinated by earlier and more recent developments? Do you not have a highly developed sense of what is good and what is poor practice in your genre and don’t you have a precise technical vocabulary for discussing it? Are you not constantly expriementing at the very cutting-edge of your discipline? But, I know, I understand, you don’t usually tend to call these “truths,” perhaps?
    So you see what I am getting at? That we have shrunken our notion of truth to mean “a scientific fact,” and science deals with the existence of physical entities and relationships based on measuring matter and motion. And as a result, we have re-classified everything that is not a scientific fact to be “non-existent.” Is music and its many rigorous disciplines non-existent? Would you equate the profound satisfaction and the constant advance in knowing that you experience in music with “believing in a unicorn” or “the (ineffable) Cosmic MUffin”? (I love that latter quip!)
    Yes, I know, you can show the scientific basis of music by reducing it to its physical sound, harmonic scales, and so forth, and that’s great! But a musician is operating on another level of human and sphere of human knowledge and experience. This is why the neoDarwinians like Dennett and Hofstadter are coming up with such great new interpretive tools to deal with consciousness — because they have realized they need to talk about it on its own level and not on the level of neural connections and so on, even though the latter underlie conscious states.

  173. #174 Arnosium Upinarum
    June 1, 2007

    Douglas Watts says: “That is a misstatement of the question and the error within it goes back to set theory. You can have an infinity of scientific facts that are contained within the set of a particular religion. Most religions, for example, accept the existence of gravity and the mathematical formulas describing it.”

    Really? Show me the holy words that describe gravity and the math behind it. Show one example of religion actually dreaming this real stuff up. You speak as if religion is a legitimate system employing the logical apparatus required to make a scientific judgement on whether a finding is acceptable or not.

    There is no misstatement. Its MY question(“can you show just one example of a known scientific fact that has been proved by religion?”). It has no affiliation with your question or your silly attempts to demonstrate how a Venn diagram or set theory can provide you with a justification for holding two or more incompatible notions in the same head.

    Wassah mattah you?

  174. #175 Ichthyic
    June 1, 2007

    I have learned that when I attack things with anger and scorn, I turn into the very thing that threatens me.

    *yawn*

  175. #176 Jason
    June 1, 2007

    Janet Leslie Blumberg,

    I have learned that when I attack things with anger and scorn, I turn into the very thing that threatens me. I also haave learned that I am feeling a sense of threat, because I am denying some disowned part of myself and am building a wall against it.

    That’s it? Nothing about God, Jesus, Allah, sacred scriptures, Oneness With The Universe, what happens to us after we die, or any of the other matters about which religions usually make claims of truth? You call yourself a “Christian,” and yet you haven’t described any claim of truth characteristic of Christianity that you think you have “determined” through your religion.

    You seem to be using the word “religion” in such an extremely idiosyncratic and obscure sense it’s hard to know what you mean by it. I am not sure how you think that religion, rather than just reflecting on your social interactions with other people, has allowed you to determine that “when I attack things with anger and scorn, I turn into the very thing that threatens me.” That’s not “religion,” it’s just ordinary human experience and self-reflection. Your posts seem to be mostly an exercise in obscurantism and word games.

  176. #177 Randy Owens
    June 1, 2007

    PZ:

    If you’re going to claim that Jesus loves you, you have to show me a) evidence that Jesus has actually shown you some love….

    If this evidence involves a blue dress, I’m outta here.

  177. #178 Very Disillusioned with America
    June 1, 2007

    This article made me so mad I wanted to scream. How is it that we live in the year 2007 and we can still have people who believe in everything that is backwards from what is reality.

    1) Science is NOT an ideology. It is not a belief structure, whether you believe in science or not it does not matter, it does not change. Think of this, if you don’t believe in gravity (which was really first thought of by Galileo) does it stop acting on you?

    Will computers, electricity or lights go dark? No.

    Did your God create all of these things that we use today from the keyboard you use to the soap you use to wash? No. It was made possible through science.

    To shun science and hundreds and hundreds of years of recorded history is nonsense. You must have blinders on to miss everything you see everyday.

    How are you sure that God exists, do you have proof? We, the science community have proof that we went to the moon or sent a lander to Mars. We have proof that electricity exists and works because of discoveries made by us, humans without a divine influence coming down and saying this is how this works.

    2) How are you sure your God is the true God? What about other religions that have been around BEFORE the biblical stories were even written? How can you accept a book written by COMMITTEE as a solid history of the earth. Think about life 2000 years ago for a second, if you went there and turned on a flashlight, or played a song from your iPod they would say you were bewitched or maybe even call you a God because they wouldn’t understand it. How can you accept these stories knowing they have little experience in science or observation?

    3) The Bible is fiction, written by several people and assembled by a committee of government leaders who used the book as a form as control. You can do this you can’t do that, this was to take away free will. Think about AA, they are a Christian based organization and release all responsibility to God, when they should be looking at themselves and lack of willpower.

    I will not torment you any longer but just think about the world you live in, look at the monitor you are typing into and think, thank god for science, it allows me to share my opinion.

    Jaded as it is.

  178. #179 Randy Owens
    June 1, 2007

    Oh, great, looks like his followers are trying to spread this projection “materialistic AND deterministic!” meme/virus. I just saw a post ridiculing Mark Noonan’s Blogs4Bush post, which included this quote:

    But the Darwinists are rather fanatic about it – they don’t want anyone to learn anything but the most strictly materialist and determinist biological view; and so we have our great debate.

    Their beliefs are so much more deterministic, and they’re trying to sling that around?? WTF?

  179. #180 cm
    June 1, 2007

    Very Disillusioned with America said:

    Science is NOT an ideology. It is not a belief structure, whether you believe in science or not it does not matter, it does not change. Think of this, if you don’t believe in gravity (which was really first thought of by Galileo) does it stop acting on you?

    I’m not sure you have it quite right. Gravity is not an example of a bit of science, gravity is a feature of the universe. But it was science which figured that out. Science is a practice, which follows a basic method to figure out things. But belief does enter into the practice: one must believe the method to be a valid method of figuring things out. Scientists believe the method to be valid and many non-scientists and religious people do too. Some people don’t, and some people believe it inconsistently. Senator Brownback would probably fall into the last category.

  180. #181 llewelly
    June 1, 2007

    Randy Owens:

    PZ:

    If you’re going to claim that Jesus loves you, you have to show me a) evidence that Jesus has actually shown you some love….

    If this evidence involves a blue dress, I’m outta here.

    o/~ Jesus came for me ~\o
    o/~ and I was blinded by his glory ~\o

    I’ll stop there.

  181. #182 Jason
    June 1, 2007

    Some people don’t, and some people believe it inconsistently. Senator Brownback would probably fall into the last category.

    As does anyone who believes in miracles, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the power of petitionary prayer to change the outcome of wordly events, the existence of immaterial souls that somehow influence our behavior, or any other irrational and unscientific religious doctrine. That includes pretty much every conventional religious believer, including most self-styled liberal Christians who seem to think the only kind of irrational religious beliefs that warrant criticism and opposition are those of the dreaded “fundamentalists.” And perhaps the most common and egregious rejection of science and reason of all is the simple belief that the world was created by an omnipotent and loving God.

  182. #183 Rhampton
    June 2, 2007

    Janet Leslie Blumberg,

    By your own admission you imply that musical truth (and by analogy, religious truth) is necessarily relative and subjective. Good, as it relates to music, is founded on human phsyiological responses to sound. Study the music of whales, however, and some of your presumed musical truths fail to transcend species. Furthermore, the very definition of music is subjective — I prefer the elegantly simplistic notion of organized sound.

    Conversely, Science is concerned with provable, universal truths that not only extend to other species, but across time and space. Can you say the same for “religious truths”? Does it apply to whales, or hypothetical alien-lifeforms?

    It’s obvious that musical and religious truths are human-centric creations of based on self-importance.

  183. #184 Anton Mates
    June 2, 2007

    In response to Steve_C (#61) and others, I would submit that the fact that the universe had a beginning,

    But we don’t know whether the universe had a beginning. All we know is that the observable universe was once very small and the usual laws of physics can’t be run backwards to tell us what happened before that. There are plenty of theories in which the universe/multiverse/whatever was around before the Big Bang. In any case, the existence of God does not imply that the universe had a beginning; there are plenty of theistic religions with a cyclic universe, or where God merely gave shape and order to a preexisting universe. (A professor of Jewish philosophy told me that Genesis suggests the latter view, in the original Hebrew.)

    that it obeys orderly laws that can be expressed precisely with mathematics,

    Which suggests that miracles should be counted as evidence against God….

    But what evidence is there that an undesigned universe would be less orderly or mathematical?

    and the existence of a remarkable series of “coincidences” that allows the laws of nature to support life in the iniverse can also lend strong support for the God hypothesis.

    One first has to prove that said coincidences are remarkable, which is pretty much impossible; you can’t make meaningful probability calculations about the laws of nature without assuming more fundamental laws.

    And fine-tuning arguments can as easily be used against God. A clever Designer would have set up robustly, universally life-friendly laws and constants so that we didn’t have to rely on a one-in-a-million roll of the cosmic dice even to get a few living planets in a hostile universe.

  184. #185 Anton Mates
    June 2, 2007

    As for the musician who asks about “musical truths,” I am astonished? Have you never taken a musical theory course? And even if you haven’t, what genre do you work in? Of course you are aware of the history of your genre, be it jazz or classical or rock or whatever? And are you not aware and fascinated by earlier and more recent developments? Do you not have a highly developed sense of what is good and what is poor practice in your genre and don’t you have a precise technical vocabulary for discussing it? Are you not constantly expriementing at the very cutting-edge of your discipline? But, I know, I understand, you don’t usually tend to call these “truths,” perhaps?

    There are plenty of truths involved in there. But they’re truths of history, sociology, anthropology and psychology, and perfectly uncoverable by scientific means. Music is an aspect of human behavior, and humans are material, investigable beings.

  185. #186 Steve J.
    June 2, 2007

    I am 100% convinced it’s a parody, though. Please tell me it’s a parody… Anyone?

    Blogs4Brownback is a parody site but the way the GOP is today, it’s hard to tell,

  186. #187 Hans V.
    June 2, 2007

    The DSM-IV, in an effort to be kind, specifically exempts religious and cultural beliefs from being classified as delusional disorders. To do so would categorize most of the world’s population as delusional. I’ll say it though: belief in something or someone for which there is not a shred of proof IS a delusion.

  187. #188 David Marjanovi?
    June 2, 2007

    (and dare I assume you are of Balkan origins as well?)

    Well, my dad is. To say that I am wouldn’t make much sense: I’ve never been there, and after I was 2 years old I forgot the language.

    or where God merely gave shape and order to a preexisting universe. (A professor of Jewish philosophy told me that Genesis suggests the latter view, in the original Hebrew.)

    If you remove the first sentence, it certainly looks like it: there already was an Earth and water, and then a mere demiurge came and brought order into the chaos (and then had help in creating humans — “let us make Man”). Accordingly, it seems to be a very widespread view that Genesis 1:1 is a later addition, meant to change the demiurge into the creator.

  188. #189 David Marjanovi?
    June 2, 2007

    (and dare I assume you are of Balkan origins as well?)

    Well, my dad is. To say that I am wouldn’t make much sense: I’ve never been there, and after I was 2 years old I forgot the language.

    or where God merely gave shape and order to a preexisting universe. (A professor of Jewish philosophy told me that Genesis suggests the latter view, in the original Hebrew.)

    If you remove the first sentence, it certainly looks like it: there already was an Earth and water, and then a mere demiurge came and brought order into the chaos (and then had help in creating humans — “let us make Man”). Accordingly, it seems to be a very widespread view that Genesis 1:1 is a later addition, meant to change the demiurge into the creator.

  189. #190 Anton Mates
    June 2, 2007

    To do so would categorize most of the world’s population as delusional. I’ll say it though: belief in something or someone for which there is not a shred of proof IS a delusion.

    Sure, but that doesn’t make most of the world’s population delusional, merely deluded. To be delusional is to have a exceptional tendency to suffer from delusions. You don’t need to be delusional to believe in gods and spirits, because you’ve probably grown up in a family and culture which encourage that belief.

  190. #191 Anton Mates
    June 2, 2007

    If you remove the first sentence, it certainly looks like it: there already was an Earth and water, and then a mere demiurge came and brought order into the chaos (and then had help in creating humans — “let us make Man”).

    And, notably, separates the waters of heaven from those of the sea in a manner similar to Marduk’s dividing the body of Tiamat. (Marduk also employs a wind to do this.)

    Accordingly, it seems to be a very widespread view that Genesis 1:1 is a later addition, meant to change the demiurge into the creator.

    As I understand it, even 1:1 can be translated as “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,” which again implies a preexisting universe.

  191. Okay, this is Janet, and I probably should just post the following on my own weblog, that is specifically for folks I already know are interested in having a conversation between science and religion. But this thread on pharyngula was what gave rise to these thought, so I’ll leave these comments here, for anyone who might be interested…Thanks.
    In a reply to Janet: “By your own admission you imply that musical truth (and by analogy, religious truth) is necessarily relative and subjective. Good, as it relates to music…”
    This is Janet, now, replying to the above writer, who goes on to say that science is in search of “universal truths” that apply across time and various kinds of beings. Here it is again. This well-worn juxtaposition of “subjectivity” and “relativism,” on the one hand, with objective, universal truth…
    No, I am NOT saying music is “subjective and relativistic.” I AM saying that music is rigorous and evidentiary TO THE EXTENT that its own subject-matter allows it to be. Musicians are thinking and knowing musically, while scientists are thinking and knowing scientifically, whenever they are working within their way of knowing, using all their training, knowledge, experience, imagination, and creativity (including well-honed intuitions). And working with others in their disciplinary community, notice. Not alone. Not making it up as they go along!
    Long ago Aristotle pointed out that some fields deal with the kinds of things that “always” happen, as in mathematics, he said, and that other fields deal with things that “usually” happen, and even then, with varying degrees of determinacy. The “less certain” fields are to be studied and formalized just as rigorously as the others, but (of course) within the limitations of the nature of the kind of thing to be known. (Do physicists say that the scientific formalizations of quantum mechanics are less rigorous or less valid than those of Newtonian mechanics? Of course not. We do what we can, given the nature of the phenomenon.)
    So whoa. This thing about relativistic vs universal s precisely the point I would like to have you folks listen to me about, for a minute. I love science. I’ve studied it from the Greeks to the present. I’ve taught its history. But this stark objective/subjective dichomotomy that came into fashion in the Enlightenment, while it cleared the way for the earlier phase of classical science in the 18th and 19th centuries, has done much harm culturally and historically. I don’t hold this fact against science itself, but against cultural “scientism” as a belief-structure, because science is a very honest and humble way of knowing (whereas scientism is a belief-structure dealing in an uninformed way with issues in metaphysics).
    So I am NOT saying music (or by analogy religious knowing) is inherently subjective and relativistic. (In fact I envy scientists; they get to tackle the easy questions. Cool down, that’s a joke!).
    Some musicians and religious people are, no doubt, subjective and relativistic, but they aren’t very good at what they are trying to do… (Music and religion when practiced as genuine ways of knowing and not as knee-jerk belief-systems, are both communal and disciplinary fields, sophisticated and rigorous in their own terms, often superbly so.)
    I am saying that music and theology are addressed to subject-matters with their own kinds of rigor, discovery-procedures, validity-testing, and DEGREES OF MORE OR LESS CERTAINTY, as appropriate to their own disciplines.
    So I would be the first to agree that philosophy and theology do not have the same kind of certainty that science, fortunately, can claim, and it’s okay to call this objectivity, as long as you don’t then turn this relative “objectivity” into some kind of absolute truth to bash every other field over the head with.
    But it is precisely the fact that science deals with mathematical laws of matter in motion, laws that apply identically to ALL matter no matter what kind of thing the matter is formed into, that is why we need these other ways of knowing, so we can deal with all the kinds of things in our life that present themselves to us in other terms than their basic matter in motion. (Theologically, I think all this SHOULD be “reducible” to matter, but that reduction doesn’t help us very much in dealing with the phenomena, as Dennett and Dawkins and Hofstadter themselves are saying…)
    It is because science deals with such underlying phenomena in such a highly certain manner, that we HAVE to turn to other ways of knowing. And it is why practicing them is trickier and more philosophical and more existential and far less certain than practicing day-to-day science. (Even though science’s truth-claims are not nearly so black-and-white as is being made out all the time when this religion-bashing gets going on science blogs.)
    I point out that science’s truth-claims are quite a bit more epistemologically modest today than in the Newtonian period, NOT in order to put science down. Science has a relatively high degree of certitude, as defined within its own way of knowing, which is one of the things that gives it its own peculiar beauty and elegance — for example, that explanations confer upon us an ability to make predictions about how matter will behave, for instance. Unfortunately,science only deals with how matter will behave. (On its own level of organization.)
    Philosophy, ethics, theology, politics, and so on, deal with different kinds of subject-matters, often allowing much, much lesser degrees of certitude. (Though don’t Charlie Parker or the Beatles display really high degrees of precision and certitude, based on their own ways of knowing? Every field has its own kind of beautiful precision.)
    But remember, you science folks, that we have only one lifetime to make our peace with the big questions, so some of us turn to other ways of knowing and practice them with all the rigor they have to offer to us, because we want to have a deep contact with reality, the kind scientists obviously experience in and through science.
    So, let me repeat, science is NOT a belief-system. This, imho, is entirely correct. It is a disciplinary community practising its disciplinary methodologies to arrive at its own kind of goals. SCIENTISM is a belief-system! Scientism is “believing” that science is capable of answering every kind of meaningful question, and answers them absolutely, ruling out any other way of knowing: that is a metaphysical (and very fundalmentalistic)commitment that is epistemologically a belief-structure.
    Belief-structures in themselves aren’t bad things, if they are informed and held with due humility, but dogmatic ones, or holding them dogmatically, turns them into very bad things. This dogmatism doesn’t do science much good in the long run, just as this dogmatic and close-minded Christian creationism doesn’t do religion much good.
    And worse, it isn’t an honest claim, intellctually speaking, and science is above all honest, like religion, when it is doing what it’s there for…
    What breaks my heart here is that there are obviously large numbers of good scientists pursuing their electrifying way of knowing who genuinely do not know that religion, and in particular Christianity, has always been about our deep human desire to know, to know better and more deeply and fully and integratively. (Don’t the universities teach the history of Christianity or of science any more? I guess they do, but some science students simply put all that in the “subjective” category and dismiss it?)
    Here’s the really threatening enemy. Close-minded, triumphalistic, uninformed, dogmatism of the “us against them” variety. And I’m guilty of this too, which is why I’m listening hard, and trying to carry on conversation.
    It drives me a little bit crazy that my own fellow-Christians, the ones most influenced by science and scientism’s absolutist truth-claims, define “faith” as though it were in opposition to honest inquiry and genuine learning. “The more you persist in the face of evidence, the more faithful you are,” they think. This is tragic beyond words. And it is a viewpoint that only emerged within Christianity in the scientific West, after science began to be associated with a single, absolute, universal Reason!
    Science begins in the 17th century by studying matter in motion. Is it any surprise that it reports back on matter in motion? Descartes and the Enlightenment also at the same time dissociated matter from its indwelling form and invented instead something they called “mind,” which was regarded as immaterial and separate from the natural world (which was reduced to a machine), so that we came to think of “mind” and of “God” as some kind of “ghost in the machine.” Some “kind of being” separate from matter and from physical reality.
    But only Western Protestant Fundamentalists, by and large, have bought into this, because the Protestant West is so thoroughly scientific and because scientism made such hugely immodest claims in the first couple of centuries. Religion has responded (scientistically) in kind, claiming to possess absolute and universal truths and absolute certitude.
    But the huge numbers of Christians in RC, Orthodox, Episcopal (Anglican), and Presbyterian and other Reform denominations have no problem with science and do not read the Creation Poems in Genesis as scientific textbooks. They do believe in an indwelling vital formality in the matter of the universe, and prior to 17th-century science they identified this with mathematical structure — which is why Dante’s vision of the Trinity in Heaven is given in mathematical terms, which modern readers don’t find awe-inspiring, but medieval Christians did.
    There is so much convergence between the best theology and contemporary scientific pondering about what it all means — why are we wasting our time antagonizing one another because some hot-heads don’t understand that science and religion are different kinds of search engines into the nature of reality?
    Religion does not threaten science. Fundamentalism threatens both science and religion. And the best way to deal with it is not to antogonize the large number of moderate and thoughtful Evangelicals and all the other religious communities, by being just as dogmatic about science proving there is no God as parts of the religious right are being dogmatic about creationism being science. It is true that science gives no evidence of a supernatural being, one who intervenes or is necessary to the development of the natural world. Fine. Religion has always been fascinated with the elegant formalities of things and has found there an indwelling formality that evokes awe and hope. Science describes this formality, and not just “matter”; “explains” it in terms of mathematical laws.
    What some scientists hate is that much of humanity hopes for a personal and loving Intentionality, a compassionate God, who is one with that indwelling formality science describes. Why hate this? We agree that it is a wild and crazy hope; the scriptural tradition is always commenting on how nature shows signs of Power and Knowledge but not of Love and Mercy. For that we are dependent on God’s further self-disclosure. But then Richard Dawkins, just on the basis of the material world and its order, says that as a biologist, he feels Something is out there, something awe-inspiring and transcendent and that will turn out to be better than anything we could possibly imagine. It just isn’t God. Okay…..
    Sorry for the absence of paragraphing. But I am pleading that we respect the human desire to know, and the way that some humans have consistently throughout history sought for knowledge humbly and honestly, by formalizing their fields of interest. When any group claims to have the one absolute truth and to have the only authoritative way to get to truth, then they are twisting their own indeavors into something that cannot contribute the liberal arts and to democracy in the long run.
    Let’s not disrespect each other. Respect the rigor of disciplined ways of knowing with long histories of cumulative effort. Leave room in the universe for all of us Christians (and other theists) who love science and who practice lifelong thought and inquiry and self-searching because we are just as in love with the elegant order of the universe as virtually every scientist and mathematician is.
    Don’t tell us there is no indwelling formal power in the natural world, because you feel it too. And even if that power were to be not only immanent in matter, but also transcendently able to intervene miraculously (and that that latter is regarded with due diffidence by those who experience it, by the way) that wouldn’t disturb or threaten the laws of nature at all.
    We are not saying external intervention by a Spirit-being is necessary to “explain” the reality of the natural world, so we don’t disagree with you or with Darwinianism. But it may not be the fundamental reality, just as many scientists also wonder about. Intelligibility in the universe is so compelling to us, as intelligent creatures who desire passionately to know, that we are willing to listen to testimonies and trains of thought and practice that for centuries have been claimed to put people into states of awe and humility in the face of overwhelming divine love.
    We are willing to go through all this the training and self-surrender in order to know better, which we do not really have the ability to sustain and need all thehelp we can get, and we are willing to talk about our experiences and development in a long, long tradition of knowing. But how does one encapsulate an entire life-journey (within one’s own ways of knowing) so that folks unacquainted with it can understand it in a trice? I’m just saying that real disciplines and fields, and by analogy any disciplined experience and thought and practice within a religious tradition, needs to be studied sympathetically, the way you might take a series of courses at college?, before statements and judgments made in those fields can be meaningfully interpreted and conversation can begin to be thoughtful. How do we mutually inform each other so as to sustain such a conversation, I wonder? That is the question I pursue.

  192. #193 Jason
    June 2, 2007

    Janet Leslie Blumberg,

    You write so many words, and yet you don’t say anything.

    Here’s the thing: You claim there are “ways of knowing” other than science and reason. I deny this. I deny that there is any method for producing knowledge other than science and reason. This doesn’t mean that knowledge consists only of facts about the natural world. (“Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States” is not a fact about the natural world, but it can certainly be known, and is provable using the methods of social science.) But it does mean that assertions such as “I know through faith that God exists” are FALSE.

    So what are these “other ways of knowing” and what knowledge have they produced? I’m especially interested in what you consider to be knowledge regarding God, Jesus, morality, what happens to us after we die, and other matters about which religions typically make claims of truth. What knowledge do you think you have of these things, and how did you acquire that knowledge? (And please try to address this question clearly and concisely, without yet another digression into quantum physics or music or whatnot).

  193. #194 ken
    June 2, 2007

    Problem is, all this faith-based “knowledge” is inevitably in conflict with somebody else’s faith-based “knowledge”.

    You don’t see scientists killing scientists over research disputes.

  194. #195 Rhampton
    June 3, 2007

    Janet Leslie Blumberg,

    You did not address the most important point in my previous post: “It’s obvious that musical and religious truths are human-centric creations of based on self-importance.”

    You continue to describe music and religion as endeavors specific to human researchers, and hence, human thinking. Because of this ego-centric approach, you have made God human-specific, and thus limited God.

    If God exists, then this universe is testament to the fact that creation is certifiably knowable through observation and measurement (the Scientific Method). In turn everything within, including music and religion — which you seem to regard as knowable without science — is rational and knowable EXCEPT that which is supernatural.

    But to truly study music, you must first begin with the study human psychological response to human physiological senses. And to be honsest, you must therefore identify those musical “truths” that are human or mammalian specific and those that are universal in nature.

    When you speak of harmony, for example, you must do so within the constrains of human perceptions. We “hear” harmony as expressed within a very limited range of frequencies as transmitted through a certain density of air and interpreted by the limitations of a network of biochemical synapses.

    But Truth is universal, and thus harmony must exist beyond human experience — and so too God. God, therefore, must be knowable to any rational being any where within the universe — and that means God must be evident by means of Science and Mathematical analysis.

  195. #196 Renaisauce
    June 4, 2007

    I think I may be one of the few scientists who think that this is a stupid debate altogether. I am so tired of this so-called struggle between academics and theologians. I’ve never had a problem with religion, and I’ve never had a problem with science, and it’s very hard for me to understand why both sides get so worked up over their differences. I will say the following:

    1. I agree that faith shouldn’t be part of evolutionary study, because it won’t get anyone anywhere. It doesn’t matter what you believe about the creation if you can’t prove it.

    2. I don’t agree that faith and reason are opposites. My own experience with faith is that there is quite a bit of thinking and pondering that goes into it, and I’ve found that scientists take leaps of faith quite often. I’m sick of people implying that people of faith use their brains, and that people in love with the scientific method only use their brains, because that simply isn’t the case.

    3. The original article cites increasing evidence that there is no God. That surprised me since I thought the basic premise of the so called faith/reason dichotomy was that God couldn’t be “proved” or “disproved”. I think there are a lot of assumptions by Rhampton in the last paragraph of the post just before me. One of the big assumptions is that we are truly rational beings, which I think we’ve all called into question.

  196. #197 LanceThruster
    June 4, 2007

    Anytime I’ve seen Sen. Brownback pontificate on anything, it becomes clear that the man wears his ignorance as a badge of honor. His latest appeal to the base seems no different.

  197. #198 Jen Phillips
    June 4, 2007

    Damn, Lance, I just have to comment on your excellent porno name 🙂

  198. #199 alcatholic
    June 6, 2007

    PZ Myers wrote:
    “This is a general criticism of any attempt to squeeze faith or religion into science…”

    I’m just not sure that non-fundamentalist catholics (and I’m not talking idiot pandering politicians, or any politically motivated groups) try to squeeze faith or religion into science. We have theologians, we even have scientists (Jesuits and the like) and I just don’t see anyone making stupid attempts to squeeze faith and religion into science. Ethics, morality, even politics, unfortunately, yes. But science?

    Your post gave examples of creationist non-sense, but I’m not aware of much if any non-fundamentalist, Faith-based science, heh. I guess I just don’t see what sins against science Catholics have committed, so maybe someone could let me know what you are talking about.

    Again, if this is a smear against Faith and religion in general, I apologize for wasting your time.

  199. #200 tom chastain
    January 28, 2009

    sam brownback is going to run for governor of kansas. his book is power to purpose it would make a great gift idea for a friend or family member please letmothers know about his book

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