Sheril seems like a well-intentioned person, but when she decides to step into the science/religion wars, it’s a horrendous mistake to label atheists as “fundamentalists” (a term I despise) and compare me to Rush Limbaugh. Without even saying a word about her position on the issue, it’s quite clear where she stands.

While giving us that great big clue, though, she also fails to explain anything about how religion and science are supposed to interact — she just calls for a “discussion”. You cannot get a productive discussion if one side hides their point of view.

Shorter me: Sheril violated Blake’s Law.


  1. #1 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 16, 2007


    Sheril loses.

    Nothing to see here; move along now.

  2. #2 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 16, 2007

    Well, now my traffic is spiking. What’s next, my own Wikipedia article?


  3. #3 Adrienne
    July 16, 2007


    I generally lean towards your viewpoint (don’t attack religion unnecessarily so as to avoid alienating religious people) as compared to that of PZ/Dawkins, et al, but this comment of yours really jumped out at me: “I mainly advocate tolerance and respect for others beliefs universally.”

    Tolerate other beliefs? Well, yes, I can go along with that to some extent. But there are beliefs out there which most emphatically do NOT deserve respect. Others on here have pointed out a few already: alien abductions, creationism, belief in fairies.

    Bottom line: I don’t think there’s any reason to universally *respect* other people’s beliefs, or to grant other beliefs respect a priori. Respect must be *earned*.

  4. #4 Brownian
    July 16, 2007

    I want to add to Adrienne’s comment:

    Tolerate other beliefs? Well, yes, I can go along with that to some extent. But there are beliefs out there which most emphatically do NOT deserve respect. Others on here have pointed out a few already: alien abductions, creationism, belief in fairies.

    What about the innate superiority of men and whites? Children as sexual partners?

    These are beliefs that I suspect the majority here would agree do not deserve respect. Should we call someone a fundamentalist if they stand up against sexism?

    Or have we all tacitly agreed that sexists and racists are ‘wrong’, but the jury’s still out on the existence of [your mythology deity(ies) here].

  5. #5 Brownian
    July 16, 2007

    Damn, my point was made a few times while I was trying to figure out the strikeout tag.

    Also, please do not criticise my replacement of a question mark with a period at the end of my previous comment.
    It’s a religious belief, not a typo.

  6. #6 Brownian
    July 16, 2007

    “I have the impression that many of the posters on this blog believe that one cannot truly believe or understand science concepts and processes if he or she were to harbor any spiritual or religous beliefs.”

    I can’t presume to answer for everyone, but I suspect the feeling held by most posters here is that spiritual/religious beliefs are non-scientific and lack a basis in evidence.

    It’s up to the individual to reconcile whether or not he or she can hold religious beliefs as a scientist. What we will not allow is for people to play at science to justify their religious beliefs, nor will we allow religious beliefs a special exemption from the criticism that all other ideas are subject to.

  7. #7 Brownian
    July 16, 2007

    “Megalomaniacal,nonsensical, patriarchal blather”

    Please give examples of the above, JJ, lest you sound like Rush himself (or even worse, O’Reilly.)

  8. #8 Brownian
    July 16, 2007

    It is PZ’s opinion that religion is kooky.

    Respect it.

    By its refusal to provide evidence to the contrary whatsoever, we can conclude it is in fact the universe‘s opinion that religion is kooky.

  9. #9 Zarquon
    July 16, 2007

    Brownian #57, the universe doesn’t have opinions. (And it hates it when you anthropomorphosise.)

  10. #10 Colugo
    July 16, 2007

    Stephen Jay Gould was a pioneer in injecting the term “fundamentalist” into intra-science debates, coining “Darwinian fundamentalism” to describe Dawkins and Dennett.

  11. #11 Kagehi
    July 16, 2007

    Sheril, how about reading this, which brings up some of the same issues, and also gives lie to your classification of fundamentalism in atheists:

    Just ran across is today when I bought the magazine and thankfully you can read it online too. And just to be absolutely clear, I don’t like people using the term *respect* when talking about beliefs. You can respect people, you can respect actions, you can’t **respect** the intangible, you can only tolerate, ignore or appose it. I respect a lot of religious people, I tolerate their less absurd and dangerous emissions, but I can neither respect their views, which assumes acceptance of some of their value judgments about their positions, nor can I simply tolerate those beliefs, when they are perceptibly dangerous.

    In that much I actually disagree with the sentiments of Dawkins and Krauss in the article above, as started at the end of the article. But otherwise, our positions are identical. Including with regard to the silly concept that PalMD brings up in this thread early on about believing silly shit being “hardwired” into us.

    Needless to say, this is why **they** write books and the like on the subject, while I don’t, since I doubt I could have said the same things that they did without putting my foot in my mouth up to the knee at some point out of shear frustration.

    Had the funny thought today of rewriting the lords prayer (I think its called) with secular concepts, starting with, “Give me the serenity of Dawkins that I may…”. lol

  12. #12 Ichthyic
    July 16, 2007

    But there are other truths than mathematics, these are ethics and morals,

    so the only truths other than mathematics are relative?

    ’cause, damn, ethics and morals sure are relative to the society you live in.

    essentially, probably without realizing it, you just conceded the point.

    you’ve made the first step towards realizing you are little more than an insane relativist.

  13. #13 Kagehi
    July 16, 2007

    Oooh.. And on a side note, the same issue of Scientific American that included the article with Krauss and Dawkins has one on memory. They can’t “map” specific cells to each fragment of a memory yet, but they have discovered that memories are encoded in hierarchies. That is, two memories that involve startlement are mapped by the “meta” state of all things startling, then on additional levels of specificity, down to the specific detail of “what” the cause was. Not specifically relevant to the issue here, but interesting.

  14. #14 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    July 17, 2007

    Enjoyable thread, much more so than Rob’s odious post or Sheril’s faulty one.

    Wilkins actually managed a great post (see Sherils’ post for links), but petered out into the same lame conclusion as the above mentioned: “We want to see guaranteed respect, not tolerance.” Doubly addled because not only can they not find support for such a policy in social matters, but they will certainly never get it on (or from all of) the subject(s) of religion.

    So your answer is truth does not exist, and if it does, no one knows what it is.

    I’m not sure why you are surprised by the problems here since we can’t agree on the nature of reality, and truth is a much less valuable concept.

    But for what it’s worth, I think it is definable. Truth values are commonly attributed to (models of) facts and theories. And this knowledge is consistent with (a slightly modified) philosophical definition of knowledge as “validated belief”, where observations respectively tests within some scientific method gives the validation. Presumably it is this truth we are discussing.

    The problem with “truth” is that it is contingent. (Which, if it wasn’t obvious before, hints that this isn’t the idealized Truth of dogma or philosophy.) First, both when we measure and theorize we will start from a usually dismissed knowledge value of “don’t know”. Second, there is no guarantee that theories never will be replaced with better ones – in fact, it would be surprising if they weren’t.

    Truth values are by construction better associated with an idealized static or even full knowledge than the one we deal with. So I rather discuss facts and reality than truths.

  15. #15 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 17, 2007

    OK, who did it?

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