Pharyngula

Sometimes, conflict is the only answer

Mooney says that because polls show that Americans are so blinded by religion that they would choose the words of a bloody-handed Middle Eastern sky god over the evidence of science, Dawkins and all us uncompromising atheists are wrong in our tactics. We are henceforth to heed the words of Nisbet and stop confronting people on their religious biases.

Huh?

But that’s exactly the problem that we’re addressing — that people will foolishly prefer “white-beard-in-the-sky-guy” over reality. And the message he takes home from this is that we’re wrong? This is nuts. I read that poll and it says we have a serious problem that we cannot simply ignore any more; this rather craven avoidance that Mooney/Nisbet propose is not working and will not work.

I’m definitely siding with Jason on this one.

Those attitudes, and the unflagging respect for religious faith that they entail, must be weakened. Can that be done? I don’t know. It certainly isn’t easy, but other Western countries have managed to do it.

But I am definitely certain that you can not weaken those attitudes by refusing to attack them.

These polls represent the state of affairs today. What got us here was not the vocal opposition to religion served up by Dawkins and the others. They are newcomers on the scene. Instead, what got us here is years of Republican pandering to the religious right, coupled with Democratic cowardice in the face of increasing challenges to church-state separation (among other factors, of course). As I have written before, it is the nicey-nice strategy of non-engagement endorsed by Mooney and Nisbett that is refuted by these polls. The strategy where you publicly attack bad religious ideas has barely been tried.

I have this suspicion that Mooney and Nisbet are drinking too deeply of the kool-aid of public approval. They’ve got a message that says do nothing, avoid criticizing people on their deeply held beliefs, and instead try to smuggle little bits of good policy past them by actively pandering to them by “framing” your proposals in their terms … and of course audiences love that and eat it up and congratulate them on their wise and sensible perspicacity afterwards, because nothing they say will ever confront the root of the problem, and those people will never feel the need to change. Nisbet/Mooney provide a feel-good façade for inertia on our side, and reinforcement for the destructive beliefs of the religious right.

You are doing something wrong if the purveyors of ancient lies and dumb dogma are thanking you for your conciliatory position; we should be making them angry and worried, and if you have deep differences with someone, you are doing neither you nor them any favors if your sole strategy is conflict avoidance. You might as well just surrender and be done with it.

Comments

  1. #1 Gimpy
    September 1, 2007

    Why can’t we do both? I do agree with you that it needs to be confronted. At the same time I think it makes sense to work on the framing they endorse since it isn’t going to be an overnight transformation and we may as well do our best to improve legislation and policy in the meantime.

  2. #2 John Morales
    September 1, 2007

    I admire the way PZ uncompromisingly states his position. And, after reading many a post by him, I’ve not noticed any hypocrisy.

    That’s unusual.

  3. #3 MartinC
    September 1, 2007

    I was actually interested in the idea of framing from the outset. I guess most of us scientists don’t actually mind a little constructive criticism or some helpful advice about how to communicate science to non-scientists. Unfortunately seeing the result of framers trying to frame ‘framing’ itself hasn’t given me much confidence in their abilities to teach me a positive way to frame science.
    Come on, cut out the crap, its really just spin isn’t it?

  4. #4 Gimpy
    September 1, 2007

    Nevermind, I just realized that would be counter-productive…

  5. #5 Jeb, FCD
    September 1, 2007

    Did 9/11 bring the religion problem to the forefront, or exacerbate a religion problem that was going away?

    Nothing is ever going to change until people realize that the GWoT is a problem of religion and that are religions are equally stupid and useless.

  6. #6 Bob Ramsey
    September 1, 2007

    I think the whole debate on framing needs to be re-framed. :) Framing, done right, is the good rhetorical practice. Understand and know the audience you are addressing, understand the kinds and forms of arguments that will be most persuasive to that audience. There is some good, solid science that shows how an idea is expressed influences what a person thinks about that idea.

  7. #7 Felicia Gilljam
    September 1, 2007

    Although I’m not saying the current situation in the US is anything like Sweden in the fifties, it may still be interesting to note that the intense cultural debate that eventually led to the separation of the Swedish state and church was sparked by a book by the philosopher Ingemar Hedenius, in which he attacked Christianity and picked it apart. He criticised the church’s truth claims and its position in Swedish society – and what do you know, it worked…

  8. #8 Josh
    September 1, 2007

    It should be kept in mind that in a public debate, the goal is NOT to convince your opponent. Most people won’t learn about science and probably have no strong opinions about it; the hop on board with whoever appeals them the most at the moment. The only way to win them is to show them that the anti-science crowd is deluded, then they won’t want to be associated with those people.

  9. #9 Sailor
    September 1, 2007

    Felicia – what separation? Last time I was there, Sweden had a goverment supported and operated church. Good thing too! We all know governments are pretty hopeless at running anything properly, so once the church is government-run it dies. Thusthe Swedes are some of the most educated, sensible and non-religious of people. The UK is following suite. The US founding fathers made a big mistake, churches in the USA are way to profitable to ever die of their own inertia.

    Mooney is nuts. We are way to kind fundamenalist believers – talking will get nowhere. They should not be given modern medical treatments, they should be made to use a horse and buggy and they should be sold special religious computers with an abbicus inside. If they lived within the limits of their faith and outside science most would quickly come round.

  10. #10 Matt Penfold
    September 1, 2007

    SLC,

    You have hung around here long enough to know that is not what PZ is saying. What PZ is saying is that he will not pander to people’s religious sensibilities. Should such people choose to support causes that PZ supports then I am sure PZ will welcome such support whilst being clear that such support cannot be contingent on PZ moderating his views on religion.

  11. #11 Jon Eccles
    September 1, 2007

    If the question is what causes public attitudes on a great issue to shift, then the answer is normally a strong political campaign, in suitable social conditions.

    In the UK where I live, and elsewhere in northern Europe, two thirds of people consider themselves not to be religious. Those shows a massive secularisation over the last hundred years. We need to understand why this happened here and not in the US. It might for instance be a result of free health care and the Welfare State. The decline in religion certainly accelerated when these policies were introduced in the UK in 1945.

    Most US liberals would probably agree that these were good policies anyway, and if they undermine religion that would be an excellent bonus.

  12. #12 mndarwinist
    September 1, 2007

    You get it all wrong, SLC- of course no one has said anything of the sort. But if I ever met Miller I would ask him, on what basis he decides what parts of religious texts are symbolic and what parts are not. So, that genesis nonsense is symbolic. How about virgin birth, resurrection, or bodily ascent? And if such things actually happened, how about Mohamad chatting with angel Gabriel in his cave and then going to visit God riding a winged horse? Is he accepting the first set of “extraordinary claims” and rejecting the second solely on the basis of his parents having brought him up as Catholic? He is a scientist. Where is the critical thinking in that?

  13. #13 dogscratcher
    September 1, 2007

    “I have this suspicion that Mooney and Nisbet are drinking too deeply of the kool-aid of public approval.”

    I do not agree with Nisbet/Mooney, but I think Bob Ramsey (#6) points out the real crux of the matter: persuasion.

    Unfortunately, the very people we are trying to persuade, are people who evidently value emotion over reason. Religion is after all emotively driven. Reason alone won’t persuade them, so I do think how the issue is “framed” will determine the success of the endeavor.

    As “Luna the Cat” expressed over on Jason’s thread, these people latch onto the emotively charged words like “deluded,” stop reasoning and become defensive. These people are already “rationally challenged,” using words with derogatory personal connotations like “deluded” just exacerbates the very problem that I’m assuming we’re trying solve: helping people become more rational.

  14. #14 Matt Penfold
    September 1, 2007

    One has to wonder how long it would have taken women to get the vote in the UK if it were not for “militant” suffragettes like the Pankhursts. Had they followed the advice offered by Nisbett and Mooney would they have been voting sooner ? Somehow I doubt it. I suspect those in authority who were opposed to allowing women to vote would have been able to ignore them: As it was their campaign took a form that simply could not be ignored.

  15. #15 dzd
    September 1, 2007

    The fact of the matter is that it’s the position we’re advocating that offends them, not our choice of words. Look at how often Dawkins gets compared to Ann Coulter, despite the fact that her writing style is about 6.02e23 times more poisonous than his.

    “Framing” is irrelevant when the essence of the position is anathema to them.

  16. #16 Matt Penfold
    September 1, 2007

    Dogscrather,

    I rather doubt the more fundamentalist believers are reachable, at least not in significant numbers. If they really are so put off by their views being described as deluded then they really would seem to be unreachable.

    I would point out however that your initial premise is a false one. Dawkins has no problem working with believers here in the UK to fight the teaching of creationism. Thus it is simply untrue for you, Luna, Nisbett and Mooney to claim that his approach alientates potential allied in the evolution/creationism battle.

  17. #17 Matt Penfold
    September 1, 2007

    Dzd,

    And that is in fact what Nisbett and Mooney are saying. It is not the tone they seem to be objecting to, although I am sure they would have something to say about it, but the message.

    Dawkins, PZ et al are saying loud and clear that belief in a god is not a rational position and is not compatible with a rational worldview without the holder of those views making serious compromises in order to accommodate the conflict. They further point out that these compromises are damaging not only to the individual but to society. It is not clear if Nisbett and Mooney think that belief in god in compatible with a rational worldview or they just think we should not say it is not.

  18. #18 SLC
    September 1, 2007

    Re Matt Penfold

    “You have hung around here long enough to know that is not what PZ is saying. What PZ is saying is that he will not pander to people’s religious sensibilities. Should such people choose to support causes that PZ supports then I am sure PZ will welcome such support whilst being clear that such support cannot be contingent on PZ moderating his views on religion.”

    Unfortunately, I am less sure of this position then Mr. Penfold is. Given the vitriol spewed by Prof. Myers at Miller and Collins, my take is that he would indeed prefer that they take a hike as he apparently finds their support of good science teaching in the schools somewhat embarrassing.

    Re mndarwinist

    “You get it all wrong, SLC- of course no one has said anything of the sort. But if I ever met Miller I would ask him, on what basis he decides what parts of religious texts are symbolic and what parts are not. So, that genesis nonsense is symbolic. How about virgin birth, resurrection, or bodily ascent? And if such things actually happened, how about Mohamad chatting with angel Gabriel in his cave and then going to visit God riding a winged horse? Is he accepting the first set of “extraordinary claims” and rejecting the second solely on the basis of his parents having brought him up as Catholic? He is a scientist. Where is the critical thinking in that?”

    Just for the information of Mr. mndarwinist, Miller was confronted with his views on the virgin birth by Richard Dawkins at a symposium in New York in 2004. I found his response to the challenge to be rather weak, consisting of a statement that he wished he had a sample of Joshua of Nazareths’ DNA to determine where his Y chromosome came from.

  19. #19 Matt Penfold
    September 1, 2007

    SLC,

    It is not Miller’s and Collin’s support for good science education that PZ disagrees with, it is their claim that good science is compatible with a belief in god.

  20. #20 Burt Humburg
    September 1, 2007

    You know what audiences really love PZ? The ones who are steeped in religion and have steeped their children in it to the point that they think that all of morality and goodness and apple pie proceeds fundamentally from a love of God? Those guys?

    Turns out, they absolutely love it when “2 + 2 = 4″ comes coupled with “Therefore, there is no god.” Man, I can’t tell you how many creationists I’ve won over with a message purely steeped in the data alone. That’s all they’ve been missing, PZ. You’re the first person to ever think of such an approach! If they just hear the facts about evolution, they’ll adopt it. That’s what they’ve been missing! Go, PZ! Spread your message of science and data-driven conclusions, resting assured that a data-centered approach without regard to whatever beliefs they’ve held to that point will see them through to adopting science!

    Umm, you know those kids in your class who you’ve presumably used that approach on? They want to be in your class. And they vote. But that population is dwarfed by the population of people who aren’t interested in understanding the data behind our conclusions and are foremost concerned about a science that bespeaks atheism.

    By the way, PZ, that population votes too.

    We’ve discussed this before. Coupling strong science education to the proselytizing of atheism just is a nonstarter in places like Kansas. It’s just not politically astute. And you’re calling Mooney and Nisbet craven for recognizing this? How politically insensate can you be?

    When I go to creationist revivals and I talk to people about what evolution really is about and they respond by saying, “That’s evolution? I thought evolution meant I couldn’t love God anymore…” Well, PZ, I’ve had some success in getting Christians to relax about science education with that approach. And it’s not like “Let’s look at the data” hasn’t been tried in presentations to creationists.

    Frankly, man, I find it very difficult to distinguish your message here from the same kind of deluded, inability to deal with reality, willingness to support any argument that preserves your cherished beliefs you see in creationists. In areas like Kansas and others where good, open-minded people are ready to learn about science but are steeped in religion, why would you require us to couple strong science education to atheism? (Or approach science softly to those concerned about science’s erosive effects to religion.) How could you be so blinded to the potential for people to therefore avoid strong science education in preference to maintaining their beliefs in God? Have you not heard of homeschooling?

    I summarize my views thus: If Mooney and Nisbet’s position is craven and they are Chamberlainist appeasers for their approach, your approach is an asinine political nonstarter and you are an ivory tower scientist who ought to work a bit getting people to buy into public policy they aren’t necessarily inclined to support a few times before you tell those who’ve been having success influencing public policy for the benefit of science and everything good and virtuous that they ought not be so craven in their approach.

    You know I love your blog. You know I have the deepest respect for you. But this drum you’re beating – not just “evolution” but “evolution” coupled inseparably with “why the hell are we even listening to these christians when we could be selling a message of evolution that obliterates their cherished beliefs without a whit of concern for their likely reactions to that message when it comes time to vote” – doesn’t really gel with reality too well. It’s data driven, sure, maybe in the lab. But it’s not reality driven. And you’re deluding yourself if you think it’s gonna work.

    BCH

  21. #21 Dahan
    September 1, 2007

    So here’s my 2 cents. To use an old but very true statement; it’s put upon us to be the change we want to see. How can we expect others to accept a naturalistic and theistic-free world if we don’t openly do the same. If we aren’t willing to attack the sky-daddies, etc. for fear of angering some folk why should we expect others too? It’s hypocritical to do anything else. Do you honestly think that the TV evangelists are out there saying to themselves “Man, I’d better not say this, people will latch onto a couple of phrases and make me look bad.” Of course not. Most of them live what they believe (f*ucked up as their beliefs are) and people respect that. Anyways, a lot of people do.

  22. #22 Don
    September 1, 2007

    The constellation of religion, far more vast than the black holes of anti-intellectualism (a small subset of which is Creationism) is culture. The belief of most people who claim religious foundations is in their tribe, in people with whom they identify. For most people on earth, there is virtually or absolutely no alternative to their religious (read cultural) identification. Given the poverty, authoritarian domination, and homogeneous societies in which most humans live, only a vanishingly small fraction have the education or experience on the outside to even consider apostacy. Now consider the tiny fraction from authoritarian religious societies who do have the opportunity to know alternatives. On street of any college town in North America, Australia, northern Europe, etc., consider what the young woman in head scarf, levis, tee shirt, and jogging shoes will think about PZ’s and Dawkins direct frontal assault on “religion.” She will think, they are attacking me, who I am, my kind, my tribe. She will not be inclined to read or think further about what is found on the Scarlet Letter blogs. The same applies to members of my extended family who belong to fundamentalist churches. More subtle arguments apply to the highly educated following of Ken Miller (the lion’s of whom aren’t Catholics, by the way). Religion is culture. The assault on religion is an assault upon who people are. Ken Miller has the right tack.

  23. #23 caynazzo
    September 1, 2007

    Compared to the religious noise machine belching forth from churches, synagogues, mosques, AM stations, cable shows, billboards, tent revivals, etc., 24/7, doesn’t the noise of a handful of vocal atheists sound more like a fart in a hurricane?

    It is unreasonable to critique these few atheists, right out of the gate, for attempting to level the playing field.

    Nisbet/Mooney need a reality check

  24. #24 Matt
    September 1, 2007

    Burt,

    I am afraid you all into the same trap that Mooney and Nisbett do in thinking the only conflict between reason and faith is the teaching of evolution. It is not, unless things like the rights of gays to marry or adopt do not matter to you, or you do not think the use of faith to justify killing is a bad thing. You also fall into the trap of assuming this is just about the US. Again you join Nisbett and Mooney in this failing. Nisbett is so bad I am not sure he knows there are places outside the US.

  25. #25 Matt Penfold
    September 1, 2007

    Don,

    Religion is the problem so your answer is to fight it with …. religion ? Sorry but that really is a stupid idea.

    The problem is not fundamentalist religion, although that is the worst, it is religion in toto (excepting Spinoza style religion which I assume we are). Religion has the idea that faith can trump reality, and no pussy-footing around will make that the idea that it can not and does not any more palatable to the religious.

  26. #26 MartinC
    September 1, 2007

    I’m never quite sure whether this blog is an international orientated website, providing science related topics for readers around the world to comment upon, or alternatively whether its a local blog of Hicksville Kansas. Quite frankly a lot of us actually live in the 21st century. We read calls for silence of rationalism for fear of offending fundamentalists and all we hear is the twang of dueling banjos. I thought the US had some sort of amendment to allow free speech after all.
    If someone thinks believing in religion is a delusion then why should they be made zip up?
    I don’t care if someone thinks my belief of evolution or scientific rationalism is a delusion. I don’t care if they say so out loud, just so long as they don’t try to make me squeal like a hog.

  27. #27 Burt Humburg
    September 1, 2007

    >>I am afraid you all into the same trap that Mooney and Nisbett do in thinking the only conflict between reason and faith is the teaching of evolution. It is not, unless things like the rights of gays to marry or adopt do not matter to you, or you do not think the use of faith to justify killing is a bad thing.

    Let me lead off by saying that I agree with you that gay rights is important. My argument above doesn’t mention it, but I excuse myself via appeal to a bit of synechdoche here: working with believers about evolution is similar to working with them regarding gay rights, abortion rights, not selling their children into slavery, etc. The fact I don’t mention, for example, gay rights in my argument doesn’t mean it’s not also a serious issue with which I’m also very much concerned.

    >>You also fall into the trap of assuming this is just about the US. Again you join Nisbett and Mooney in this failing. Nisbett is so bad I am not sure he knows there are places outside the US.

    How do I fall into the trap of assuming this is just about the US? We address other cultures in ways that other cultures will understand also. We don’t soften the data but we soften our approach, helping them to understand the data that underlies our conclusions in ways that don’t discontribute to our rapport.

    So despite what you’re written, I’m sorry that I’m not able to see your point. “Science approached with cultural competency” >> “Science alone” is my viewpoint in a nutshell. PZ calls this approach craven. I call it politically sound. The approach seems applicable worldwide. I’m sorry but I don’t understand your objection.

    BCH

  28. #28 PZ Myers
    September 1, 2007

    doesn’t really gel with reality too well.

    But it’s not reality driven.

    I have to laugh. This is your defense of why we must not attack religion, the ultimate unreal irrationality?

    I say go ahead and send Ken Miller to deepest, darkest Kansas to missionize for a conciliatory version of science — let him and his kind do their work to weaken the grip of religion (but don’t be fooled: the people of Kansas aren’t stupid, and they know he’s making cracks in the religious fabric).

    But some of us will continue to point out that all of religion, every bit of revelation and made up nonsense and archaic myth, doesn’t “gel with reality” and isn’t “reality driven”. I know it makes them cry out in horror, but I won’t lie about my position because it makes Ma and Pa Fundamentalist squirm.

    I also think you sell Kansans short. There are lots who happily embrace godlessness, there are more who, while they don’t want to give up their cherished beliefs, will also appreciate the frank and outspoken opposition to the fucking insane Christianists that are dominating their politics. We need to grow those two populations. We won’t do that by making nice with the Kansas Taliban.

  29. #29 dogscratcher
    September 1, 2007

    Matt Penfold,

    It is more than likely true that many fundamentalists are beyond reason (literally), but I am seemingly more idealistic than you. I think many people at least in the US hold irrational beliefs simply because they don’t know any better, and I think those people can be persuaded with the proper approach.

    I thought I made it clear that I don’t agree with Nisbet/Mooney. I actually think people like Dawkins and Myers perform an essential service to society, one that will persuade some people to question faith. But one size doesn’t fit all. When your only tool is a hammer, eventually everything starts looking like a nail.

    I think there are many out there who are persuadable that the Dawkins approach will alienate, but I both don’t think we should give up on them, nor censure Dawkins.

    In my previous comment I over-generalized when I said, “the very people we are trying to persuade….” and I should have qualified it as “one segment of the very people we are trying to persuade…” because I don’t think it is as simple as rational/irrational people.

  30. #30 Graculus
    September 1, 2007

    You also fall into the trap of assuming this is just about the US.

    We have to fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here.

  31. #31 Blake Stacey
    September 1, 2007

    Has anybody else noticed the tagline for the latest “Speaking Science 2.0″ post?

    Applying science to public communication.

    What? Where?!

    One fringe benefit of working in physics is the disdain one can summon for any “result” claimed to have been found in the social “sciences.” In this case, I think that disdain is justified. Certainly, the people who advocate “framing” don’t seem to be treating their description of human nature as a hypothesis which can be falsified or revised based on incoming data. In addition, we’ve been treated to a massive confusion between description and prescription. The discussion of this survey is only the latest example: we see that people are reacting emotionally, rather than rationally, to ideas beyond their experience, but that just indicates the extent of the problem — it doesn’t by itself specify a solution.

    Remember way back, when a few of the SciBlings were defending “framing” because it sounded like a logical extension of what professors do every time they lecture to freshmen? “You simplify and gloss over the details in your introductory bio class,” the argument goes, “so you should be willing to do a little more of the same thing for the general public.” Sounds plausible, doesn’t it?

    But after trying to read through the anthropological roots of the subject, I have to say. . . that’s not framing!

    When lecturing to students, even freshmen taking their first semester of biology, a professor naturally assumes that they and the students are operating within the same mental arena. Empirical and rational statements rule. Evidence is in, arguments from authority are out. When a subject is simplified, you will be told so, and you will often be informed about when you’ll get the full story. Facts matter, and these facts will be on the test. Skipping over the details of pair-rule genes and MADS boxes doesn’t change the basic expectation that both the teachers and the students will be operating in the scientific mindset from Day 1.

    Getting people outside the university into that mindset is the problem!

  32. #32 Matt
    September 1, 2007

    Ok then, I can show your objection is invalid by a simple example.

    Here in the UK Dawkins is seen as both a leading atheist and a leading scientist involved in evolutionary theory. As you might imagine he is strongly opposed to the teaching of creationism as science and a year or so ago there was a suggestion that a state funded school would be doing just that. If your assumption was correct and religious people did not want to deal with Dawkins then please explain why he was able to sign an open letter to the Government calling on them to ensure creationism had no place in the science classroom. The interesting point about the letter in the context of this discussion is who the co-signatories were. There were other scientists, as you might expect, but also leadiing Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists and Jews. This shows that the claim Dawkins’ position makes it impossible for atheists holding the views Dawkins’ does, opposed to the teaching of creationism to work alongside believers is quite simply untrue.

    The usual rejoinder I see when I make that point is that the UK is not the US. Well that is true, but then proves my point that Nisbett, Mooney at are insular and parochial.

  33. #33 CalGeorge
    September 1, 2007

    Dawkins: Hey! Wake up! Religion is delusional.

    Mooney/Nisbet: Now, now. Be nice to the deluded people.

    PZ: BLEEP. THAT.

    Woo-hoo!

  34. #34 Dahan
    September 1, 2007

    Martin C,

    Well, of course you’re right…to some extent. But you see, I think there are very few of us here that believe in making the theists “zip-up”. However, there are quite a few of us who would like those that are trying to cram theism down our throats to zip-up. Unfortunately, those trying to do just that are the ones in the front of the band, so to speak. Admittedly, some are more attuned to the “Black Panther” ideology of change than the MLK variety. I think you might agree, though, that without both of those types of confrontation, the civil rights movement would still be even further behind in it’s work of equality. It’s the same now with this fight. Were the Panthers trying to curtail free speech of the KKK, etc? No, not really, except when it was a true threat to African Americans. You still can’t yell fire in a crowded theatre (unless there is one). That isn’t an attack on free speech. This from a ACLU member, by the way.

  35. #35 Burt Humburg
    September 1, 2007

    >>I have to laugh. This is your defense of why we must not attack religion, the ultimate unreal irrationality? [That it is a political nonstarter.]

    I like how we’ve changed from “Let’s approach science in a way that’s culturally competent” to “Let’s force the atheists shut up.” Nice straw manning there, PZ.

    I agree with you though about the rest. Make your message of atheism as loud as you wish and unite with me in the support of Miller, et. al., who push for strong science education.

    BCH

  36. #36 writerdd
    September 1, 2007

    Alas, Nisbet and Mooney seem to have totally misunderstood and distorted the concept of framing.

  37. #37 Matt Penfold
    September 1, 2007

    Burt,

    The message Nisbett and Mooney are putting across is that atheists like Dawkins and PZ should shut up. You seem to not have grasped that.

  38. #38 Burt Humburg
    September 1, 2007

    Sorry. Just now parsed what you wrote correctly…

    I said: “[PZ's position] doesn’t really gel with reality too well” and “But [PZ's position] is not reality driven.”

    PZ wrote: “I have to laugh. This is your defense of why we must not attack religion, the ultimate unreal irrationality?”

    LOL! An amusing antiparallel, to be sure. But of course you’ve seen the data that show atheists are dwarfed by people of faith, especially out in Kansas. However irrational faith you consider faith of all kinds to be, there’s no arguing that there’s more theists than atheists.

    It’s amusing to consider the irony of using rational thinking to arrive at the conclusion that one must approach the teaching of rationality in a culturally competent fashion to successfully get purchase in a population of people with irrational beliefs. That irony, though, doesn’t make the conclusion any less true.

    Your other paragraphs suggest you agree with me, but you’re point is well taken. It was an amusing antiparallel.

    BCH

  39. #39 Burt Humburg
    September 1, 2007

    >>The message Nisbett and Mooney are putting across is that atheists like Dawkins and PZ should shut up. You seem to not have grasped that.

    Mooney is an atheist and says as much in his post. It is difficult for me to understand how you “grasp” that Mooney feels atheists should shut up when he announces his atheism on the very post you’ve supposedly read. Are there other data to which you appeal to support this conclusion? (Some other post perhaps where Mooney says for atheists to not be atheists or something?)

    Now, there is a difference between atheism like Mooney’s and atheism “like Dawkins and PZ”‘s. Namely, Monney’s is culturally competent and Dawkins and PZ’s is culturally insensate.

    Science taught/given/etc. in a culturally competent manner >> science given without regard to culture.

    This would seem to be Mooney’s argument. It is, at least, mine. PZ and Dawkins can (and should) put out their message, but I think the idea that Mooney is craven for being politically and culturally sensitive discredits PZ when he says it.

    BCH

  40. #40 Matt Penfold
    September 1, 2007

    Burt,

    Please go read what Mooney and Nisbett are actually saying, rather than what you think they are saying.

    They are NOT, as you claim, telling Dawkins to shutup because he is an atheist. That is the point you either cannot or will not understand. The issue they have with Dawkins (and PZ) is that Dawkins and PZ say that religious belief and a rational worldview are not compatible unless the holder of those views makes serious compromises, and that in doing the holder damages not only themselves but society. It is that point they do not want Dawkins and PZ to make as they think it damages the fight against creationism.

    I hoped you would at least have grasped what this is all about. It seems not though.

  41. #41 Matt Penfold
    September 1, 2007

    And please explain what you mean by:

    Science taught/given/etc. in a culturally competent manner >> science given without regard to culture.

    It makes no sense.

  42. #42 Burt Humburg
    September 1, 2007

    >>If your assumption was correct and religious people did not want to deal with Dawkins then please explain why he was able to sign an open letter to the Government calling on them to ensure creationism had no place in the science classroom.

    I’d love to see this open letter. My guess is that it would engender much more support sticking to a pro-science message or affirmation than it would if it were anti-religious.

    Without seeing the letter, I’d prefer not to comment on your conclusions regarding Mooney and Nisbet, but my guess is that Dawkins wrote a statement to which people could co-sign that didn’t really mention atheism as much as it mentioned pro-science. That’s a message anyone could agree upon, even if the statement in question were written by an atheist.

    BCH

  43. #43 Matt Penfold
    September 1, 2007

    Burt,

    “Without seeing the letter, I’d prefer not to comment on your conclusions regarding Mooney and Nisbet, but my guess is that Dawkins wrote a statement to which people could co-sign that didn’t really mention atheism as much as it mentioned pro-science. That’s a message anyone could agree upon, even if the statement in question were written by an atheist.”

    I have read the letter. I have been unable to find it online as yet. You are correct, there was nothing contentious in it unless you were a creationist but your point, and that of Nisbett and Mooney is that Dawkins’ so alienates religious people he ensures that they will not co-operate with him in fighting the creationism. The fact that this letter exists, and Dawkins has worked with religious leaders on other occasions to fight creationism shows their, and your, claim to be a false one.

  44. #44 F1ken
    September 1, 2007

    As H.L. Mencken said, “One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms.”

  45. #45 PZ Myers
    September 1, 2007

    Is this the new tagline? Dawkins/Hitchens/Harris/Myers are “culturally insensitive,” while “Mooney/Nisbet/Miller/Humburg” are “culturally aware”?

    Screw that.

    We are fully aware and are sensitive to the fact that broad swathes of the population credulously believe in outright nonsense that not only makes them look dumb as rocks (when I know they’re better than that), but also blocks science and education, and sends political policy looping off into destructive insanity. That’s reality. That’s what we need to address.

    On the other hand, your side seems to think that we must tiptoe around the fact that these people believe in a wrathful deity who peeps at what they do with their genitals and wants to kill them if they do not bow and scrape to him. You self-proclaimed “sensitive” ones seem to think the answer is to put your blinders on, ignore the giant phantasmal freak in the living room, and suck up to the farmers by pretending that we’ve achieved greater crop yields because America is a Christian nation, plus a little bit of discreet help from science.

    You guys go ahead. “Frame” the issue as one of utility and productivity, for instance, so that we can sneak a little science in on the side while being “culturally sensitive” to the bone-in-the-nose kooks running the deluded tribes of Kansas. I think some of us will take a different tack. We’re going to proudly declaim our freedom from superstition, and with a clear eye and a loud voice, we’re going to invite everyone in the fine state of Kansas to join us in the 21st century.

  46. #46 Burt Humburg
    September 1, 2007

    Matt, that’s our problem then. I don’t think that Dawkins so alienates people that he’ll never be able to collaborate with believers. I think that a message of science that entails atheism will have more purchase in the public mind than a message of science that doesn’t make any particular claim about atheism. I suspect Mooney and Nisbet would agree. I suspect you do as well, given post #47.

    As for what cultural competency means, imagine you were a pro-lifer physician and you held the view that as long as someone’s heart were beating, without regard to quality of life or futility of treatment. Now imagine your patient is a person with end-stage, widely metastatic cancer and let’s make this person bed-bound with minimal ablities to perform activities of daily living. However, your patient is alert, oriented, and competent to make medical decisions. Your patient, in full awareness of the consequences of her reasoning, requests that she not be revived if her heart were to enter a dysrhythmia.

    Your motivation, given the above (and just go with me here – I’m sure you’re not any of the things I’ve said), is to extend this patient’s life. And you’re insensate to her values of quality of life over quantity. How do you propose to convince her appealing only to the data? You could regale her for hours about epinephrine boluses and calcium supplementation in codes and you could support your reasoning with all the data in the world. But your patient’s values go beyond the data. It’s her decision and patient autonomy governs medical ethics in this case: the data are important, sure, but here they just aren’t paramount.

    In a roundabout way, that’s what this creation/evolution issue is like. These people aren’t idiots. (Dembski’s got 2 Ph.D.’s for heaven’s sake.) These people aren’t ignorant of the data. (Though they certainly write like it.) Their values are different. Maybe they’re in fear of evolution. Maybe they’ve got a financial stake in creationism. Maybe they’ve just listened too long to Pastor Yokel who has managed to convince himself (despite the teaching of most seminaries my friends I correspond with have attended) that evolution is of the devil.

    I’m trying to argue that science given without regard to cultural pressures that might go against that science just isn’t going to be effective in convincing the masses. At least, it won’t be nearly as effective as a version of that selfsame science that *is* culturally sensitive.

    I think that’s Mooney and Nisbet’s point as well. I don’t think Mooney is seeking to stifle PZ when he argues in favor of atheism. I do think, and I agree with the idea, that PZ is hurting the cause of science education if he says that evolution entails atheism. If it’s not cultural insensitivity that explains PZ’s description of Mooney and Nisbet’s data-consistent appeal to be culturally sensitive to believers as simply “craven,” then it’s that PZ values atheism more than he does science education.

    BCH

  47. #47 Nathan
    September 1, 2007

    I think we’re being side-tracked here a little bit. The question is not “should the Dawkins crowd or the Mooney crowd shut-up?” It’s not even “should science be taught in a culturally relevant way?” It’s “should elements of science be glossed over in order to appear more compatible with a highly religious worldview?”

    To me, this last question is a no-brainer: Absolutely not. (My opinion on the first two questions: “Neither” and “absolutely.”) To do so would be, fundamentally, to lie about the discoveries of science and our current understanding of the world. Science is a very peculiar type of human thought, one that strives to be as neutral, empirical, and logical as possible. It has worked remarkably well — better than any alternative view so far — in explaining the world around us and producing usable technology and policy. That is why we value and teach it. And if you’re looking for a frame, that’s it.

    There is absolutely no reason to bring any gods or religions into the picture here. Personally, I don’t buy Gould’s whole “on-overlapping magisteria” thing, but ultimately when it comes to teaching science, the question is irrelevant. There is no need to talk about god in a science classroom, either in the context of existence or non-existence. Such questions can be simply answered by saying that “they’re not relevant to the topic at hand” (which they aren’t). What we do need to assure is that science is taught in a way that respects the facts and best ideas of the time, and does not simply become an exercise in lying by omission.

    Personally, I suspect that a better understanding of science (and even more importantly, the scientific method and it’s applications to every aspect of our lives!) does inevitably weaken religious resolve. This is exactly why many religious leaders are bent out of shape about the subject. But the answer to their challenge is simply to say that science is not about god, and to fight for the highest standards. Whether they want to believe in a god or not is their choice, and I don’t think any of us want to take that away from them.

  48. #48 Fox1
    September 1, 2007

    Ya know, if it wasn’t for Dawkins, PZ and the other cajones-bearing science advocates pushing the cultural envelope and taking the heat for it, all these kinder-gentler positions would be the current “militant atheism.”

    Not that many decades ago, even these weak-sauce god/science synthesis positions were heretical, anti-religious stances that people in this country had to put their ass on the line for. But the panderers insist on focusing on the gradual nature of the change, and completely ignore the people who were pushing like hell that whole time, as if that had nothing to do with it.

  49. #49 Gene Goldring
    September 1, 2007

    Culturally insensitive? Christians are battling the ignorance of Voodoo in Haiti. Are they subjected to the same scrutiny as atheists battling the ignorance of Christian belief?

    I can’t see the difference. Can you?

    My battle against religion is based on the religious promotion of ignorance. I allow one option for religious ignorance in my battle and that is the personal religious belief in a god. This they can keep this to themselves.

    Dropping a bible in place of Voodoo beliefs serves to further the “Us and Them” mentality where a guide to humanist values would serve to bring folks together.

  50. #50 bigTom
    September 1, 2007

    I’m with gimpy, we should have (and do) both approaches. We need the majority of citizens to feel sufficiently unthreatened by the majority of scientists that science is allowed to survive. At the same time the PZs, and Dawkins will lead the 100year conversion effort.

    I would suggest (without data, just my gut feeling), that a key difference between Sweden/UK and America, is that the former are not anti-intelectual cultures. Anti-science in the US is highly correlated
    with anti-intellectual, anti-expert opinion, as well as anti-liberal. It is well known that the USA electorate has a bias against any candidate whose manner suggests they are smarter than the voter.

  51. #51 Nathan
    September 1, 2007

    BCH — I think Dawkins and Myers have become something of scape-goats for the failure of scientists to effectively oppose the forces of ignorance here in the U.S. Dawkins in particular has become a bit of a household name, but I somehow doubt that the thought process at work is “ZOMG, Dawkins says evolution leads to atheism, therefore the scientists must burn!” Instead, it’s driven by a very real understanding that a better grasp of the fruits of rationality, well, makes people less religious.

    This is the reason science is a threat to religion. Religion here in the U.S., by and large, understands this. And there’s not a lot that advocates of science can do except to refuse to play by their rules.

    If anything, I think Dawkins and Myers are to be commended for their strong support of science education. If I’m going to fault anyone, it’s neither them nor the militant theists (who I may strongly disagree with and find completely nuts, but I can respect the tenacity that they cling to a dying worldview), but the more general population of scientists who have about as much spine when it comes to pushing high standards as your average nematode.

  52. #52 thalarctos
    September 1, 2007

    I can’t see the difference. Can you?

    Oh, I see a huge difference. Atheists are *not* promoting the spread of HIV/AIDS by telling lies about condoms to Haitians in the name of Jesus.

    That alone should get the Christians who participate in it a great deal more scrutiny, because it establishes a track record. I’m not planning to hold my breath waiting for that wholesale scrutiny, though.

  53. #53 Ebonmuse
    September 1, 2007

    Burt:

    It is difficult for me to understand how you “grasp” that Mooney feels atheists should shut up when he announces his atheism on the very post you’ve supposedly read. Are there other data to which you appeal to support this conclusion?

    You could consider this column of his from the Washington Post:

    There will always be a small audience of science enthusiasts who have a deep interest in the “mechanisms and evidence” of evolution, just as there will always be an audience for criticism of religion. But these messages are unlikely to reach a wider public, and even if they do they will probably be ignored or, in the case of atheistic attacks on religion, backfire.

    Mooney may be an atheist, but he’s clearly saying that atheists should not criticize religion. I disagree.

  54. #54 Matt Penfold
    September 1, 2007

    I can only imagine that Burt must think that science is different for different people. I suppose in his world evolution only happens for those who do not have a religious belief that it does not. I wonder if creationists ever get infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria ?

  55. #55 Don Cox
    September 1, 2007

    “Religion has the idea that faith can trump reality”

    It has the idea that faith trumps logic. This is explicitly stated in many places.

    Therefore, no amount of logical argument or data can convince a person who has faith. You can bury him in a million syllogisms, and he will still believe.

    What might work is humor and satire, as HL Mencken says. But we know what happens to people who make jokes about Islam.

  56. #56 Burt Humburg
    September 1, 2007

    >>Mooney may be an atheist, but he’s clearly saying that atheists should not criticize religion.

    I wholeheartedly disagree with your conclusion. What Mooney is saying here, and I’m pleased to say that without communication between us I reached the same conclusion, is that when you’re attempting to advance science to an audience who wouldn’t necessarily be interested in the data behind the science (and for example would be more interested in how, say, evolution doesn’t mean that they’re going to hell or that everything they’ve ever believed in is bogus), talking about the data or the science might not be the best approach. Instead, talk about the things that are really at play, which for theists would be the theism or the theological barriers that would be preventing them from getting the conclusion your trying to get them to make.

    So, for example, David Berlinski offered a few questions that supposedly challenge evolution. The response that was printed in the Wichita Eagle (and you’ll have to trust me here since the link is now broken) simply answered the questions as asked, like the writer were a student dutifully answering a teacher’s questions on a test. This was an absolutely boneheaded mistake.

    No one on any side or in the middle of the creation/evolution issue was going to be convinced by an appeal to the data. And just to save some time, there are seven people in the entire universe who give a crap about peppered moths, there are eight who care about the flagella, and somewhere in Ireland there’s a dachshund who takes a passing interest in eye evolution. Everyone else cares about these issues because of what they represent – they were or are offered up as examples of creationism. So when Wells talks about Peppered Moths or Behe blathers about flagella, it is important to know the actual answers to the questions being asked, but most people won’t care or wouldn’t be convinced if they heard those answers. So don’t focus on them.

    Instead, when Berlinski talks about moths, pro-science activists should talk about experts in multiple fields have independently used the conclusions of evolution to prevent disease and make our lives better. When Behe delivers an address on flagella in a forum designed to support a creationist effort to hijack a science standards revision, pro-science activists should answer instead that the accepted processes of science do not normally include the appeal of scientists to non-peers or high schools prior to being accepted by those who work in the field.

    In short, Mooney and Nisbet have got it right, which means in a sense I agree with me. I think their (our?) perspectives deserve another look. It’s not an attack on atheism: it’s telling otherwise one-trick scientists (who know how to talk about the data) to learn some new tricks and learn how to reach people who don’t have truck with the ways scientists reach their conclusions. (And mutatis mutandis for those who come from a religious standpoint towards science.)

    Take another look at the article. I hope you’ll find new meaning in their language.

    BCH

  57. #57 Burt Humburg
    September 1, 2007

    1) It’s worthwhile to point out that PZ dissected Berlinski’s crap soon after he shat it. The link is here.
    http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/berlinski_i_cant_believe_im_wasting_time_on_this_guy/#comments

    2) >>I can only imagine that Burt must think that science is different for different people. I suppose in his world evolution only happens for those who do not have a religious belief that it does not. I wonder if creationists ever get infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria?

    That argument cuts both ways, dude. I suppose in your world, public health measures like immunizations and a science-enlightened citizenry only help those who are immunized and science-enlightened. I wonder if you’d prefer a world in which only those voters who are atheists supported science (good luck getting that grant) or a world in which science were favored by people of any belief or demographic. Maybe you’d like a world in which you, the science-enlightened (presumably atheist) had to pay for hospitalizations for those who didn’t get their kids immunized as well. Good luck with that atheism purism thing you and PZ have going. The rest of us will try working with people of faith to support strong science.

    And, just to clear up the record, evolution affects everyone, even those who don’t believe in it. You’re addressing me as though I were a creationist. Google my name if you think I’m in league with the likes of Wells or Behe.

    BCH

  58. #58 Felicia Gilljam
    September 1, 2007

    Matt, while I agree that Burt is wrong, I don’t really see the point of misrepresenting arguments. Burt’s saying we should remove the connection some people see between evolution and atheism, not that we should remove evolution. Now, I don’t think his argument is strong enough to warrant atheist heroes like Dawkins and Myers shutting up. We need rallying, we need people to make us stand up. Nothing’s preventing milder people like Burt to reason with religious people and, I dunno, tell them whatever they want to hear so they don’t ban the teaching of evolution in schools…

  59. #59 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 1, 2007

    I read that poll and it says we have a serious problem

    Exactly my reaction.

    Burt Humburg:

    Shorter PZ Myers: As someone who has no interest or experience promoting science to believers,

    There did you get that idea? Read some of the blog posts first, especially those where PZ relates his out-of-blog experiences of promoting science to Joe Public, SB (Sometime Believer).

    I suspect those experiences has forged his strategy as much as arguing with weak willed whiners.

  60. #60 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 1, 2007

    I read that poll and it says we have a serious problem

    Exactly my reaction.

    Burt Humburg:

    Shorter PZ Myers: As someone who has no interest or experience promoting science to believers,

    There did you get that idea? Read some of the blog posts first, especially those where PZ relates his out-of-blog experiences of promoting science to Joe Public, SB (Sometime Believer).

    I suspect those experiences has forged his strategy as much as arguing with weak willed whiners.

  61. #61 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 1, 2007

    Felicia Gilliam:

    We need rallying, we need people to make us stand up. Nothing’s preventing milder people like Burt to reason with religious people

    Very true. I think some persons feel threatened, personally or in their work, by vocal skeptics and atheists trying to make breathing space for those who still haven’t found their public voice. That is unfortunate and could lead to alienation for emotional and practical purposes.

    That risk is the prize to pay for free thinking though, and I am willing to accept that any day over kneeling in front of others beliefs.

  62. #62 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 1, 2007

    Felicia Gilliam:

    We need rallying, we need people to make us stand up. Nothing’s preventing milder people like Burt to reason with religious people

    Very true. I think some persons feel threatened, personally or in their work, by vocal skeptics and atheists trying to make breathing space for those who still haven’t found their public voice. That is unfortunate and could lead to alienation for emotional and practical purposes.

    That risk is the prize to pay for free thinking though, and I am willing to accept that any day over kneeling in front of others beliefs.

  63. #63 Matt Penfold
    September 1, 2007

    “And, just to clear up the record, evolution affects everyone, even those who don’t believe in it. You’re addressing me as though I were a creationist. Google my name if you think I’m in league with the likes of Wells or Behe.”

    Well that is good. You do seem to be doing a very good impression of being as ignorant as those two gentleman though. the last time I saw the “culture” argument being used was by post-modernists who talk of “different ways of knowing”. That is of course bollocks and whilst what you are saying is not the same, it is still bollocks. The simple fact of the matter is the earth is NOT 6000 years ago and no “cultural considerations” will change that.

  64. #64 dwarf zebu
    September 1, 2007

    I think that this whole argument is a non-starter. If any studies have been done on which method is more effective, I have not heard about them, but I am confident that both are valid at least some of the time and with certain demographics.

    Why not just do what you need to do they way you feel it needs to be done, stay out of each other’s way and stop wasting time and energy arguing about it?

    I think, if anything, more different approaches are needed because you can’t lump all believers into one box, or even just two or three. I really don’t believe that diversity can hurt us here.

  65. #65 Texas Reader
    September 1, 2007

    I’m in agreement with Chris. Due to how emotionally strong people’s beliefs in the supernatural are, we’re better off supporting evolution with the science than we are by attacking their beliefs. The truth is that the most likely way for them to end up giving up their supernatural beliefs is to inculcate in them an appreciation for science and reasoning. Let them come to their own conclusions about their supernatural beliefs after they learn the science. That’s how it happened for me, and if anyone had just attacked my religion I would have tuned them out. This isn’t a matter of APPEASEMENT, its just a common sense way of approaching the matter based on recognizing the emotional allure of the supernatural for so many people.

  66. #66 Burt Humburg
    September 1, 2007

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, TexasReader.

    As for DwarfZebu’s request for the “data” that the pro-science (as opposed to anti-religion) strategy works, I would refer you to the votes in Kansas (both of them) and Dover, Pennsylvania in which the pro-science majorities unseated the anti-science majority. The people running ran on pro-science, not anti-religion, platforms. In fact, I think I recall PZ lamenting about the politically non-starter platform atheism is in this country.

    So it’s fun to demand data and a randomized controlled trial or whatever, but I think we’re allowed to simply appeal to common sense and experience at some point. Atheism just doesn’t sell, guys. Maybe you think it ought to, but you go to the polls with the citizenry you’ve got, not with the citizenry you want, to repurpose a little Rumsfeldian wisdom.

    BCH

  67. #67 David Marjanovi?
    September 1, 2007

    Why can’t we do both?

    Nothing is ever going to change until people realize that the GWoT is a problem of religion

    I hope that will never happen, because it is not a problem of religion. It is a problem of politics. Read OBL’s own words on why 9/11 didn’t happen in Sweden (Sweden is his example).

    abbicus

    Abacus.

    But you’re right in that having a big clunky government-run church certainly helped in making Sweden as a whole rather apathetic when it comes to religion, which certainly would’ve facilitated the debate Hedenius caused.

    Probably it was enough that everyone had the same denomination, unlike in the US. Austria has had the separation of church and state since 1918, and although it took longer than in Sweden, 1/3 of adolescents “don’t believe in God” according to a poll published a month or two ago.

  68. #68 David Marjanovi?
    September 1, 2007

    Why can’t we do both?

    Nothing is ever going to change until people realize that the GWoT is a problem of religion

    I hope that will never happen, because it is not a problem of religion. It is a problem of politics. Read OBL’s own words on why 9/11 didn’t happen in Sweden (Sweden is his example).

    abbicus

    Abacus.

    But you’re right in that having a big clunky government-run church certainly helped in making Sweden as a whole rather apathetic when it comes to religion, which certainly would’ve facilitated the debate Hedenius caused.

    Probably it was enough that everyone had the same denomination, unlike in the US. Austria has had the separation of church and state since 1918, and although it took longer than in Sweden, 1/3 of adolescents “don’t believe in God” according to a poll published a month or two ago.

  69. #69 Tulse
    September 1, 2007

    Texas Reader:

    Due to how emotionally strong people’s beliefs in the supernatural are, we’re better off supporting evolution with the science than we are by attacking their beliefs.

    Did you not read the poll?

    When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll. Indeed, in a May 2007 Gallup poll, only 14% of those who say they do not believe in evolution cite lack of evidence as the main reason underpinning their views; more people cite their belief in Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%) as their reason for rejecting Darwin’s theory.

    How can you possibly think that these empirical findings support your view that “supporting evolution with science” is a winning strategy? Don’t these results suggest just the opposite, that religious belief trumps scientific claims, and that the best approach is not to promote science that the religious will ignore, but instead to reduce religiosity?

    If religious individuals said that they changed their religious beliefs based on science, then an accommodationist, “just teach the science” approach might make sense. But here is solid empirical evidence that such an approach will not work, that this is not an effective mechanism for changing opinion and molding public policy. This is damning counter-evidence to the whole “framing” approach pushed by Mooney and Nisbet (an approach, I will also note, that provides scant empirical evidence for its own claims).

    The religious will believe what they believe regardless of the rational evidence. The most effective way to change the influence of religion in the public sphere is reduce religiosity, not to spin science.

  70. #70 Ebonmuse
    September 1, 2007

    would refer you to the votes in Kansas (both of them) and Dover, Pennsylvania in which the pro-science majorities unseated the anti-science majority. The people running ran on pro-science, not anti-religion, platforms.

    And yet the star witness in the Dover trial, Barbara Forrest, is an outspoken atheist who’s argued that metaphysical naturalism is the “only reasonable” conclusion, given the evidence.
    Do you think that undermines these simplistic claims about how to win this kind of fight?

  71. #71 Jakey
    September 1, 2007

    The problem with the framing debate in science is fairly simple. Science is based in rationality and logic. Anti-science is not. Never the twain shall meet. There is absolutely no point in contorting your point to address some bizarre superstition. You will not change the mind of anyone who is in the anti-science brigade. All it does is lend credence to the views of these cretins when you are talking in their terms.
    The ranks of the converts (in either direction) are thin. You are speaking to the uncommitted. Therefore the brighter and harsher the light of cold rationality that is shone upon the ignorant, the better.

  72. #72 poke
    September 1, 2007

    It’s impossible for Mooney, Nisbet, et al, to see the problem because they really do believe that there’s no conflict between religion and science. That’s their starting premise. We need to realize how radical this position is. NOMA, instrumentalism, “methodological naturalism”, etc, all amount to the same thing: they all deny that science is true. They agree that science is useful but they deny it has metaphysical consequences, which is to say it doesn’t correspond with reality, which is to say, in lay terms, that none of it is true. This is a radical position. We don’t see it as radical because, unlike Creationism (which is actually far less radical), it’s already being taught in our schools and is already believed by our politicians and even a lot of scientists accept it. This extreme denialist philosophy is the default philosophy of science in the public sphere. It needs to be attacked.

  73. #73 John Morales
    September 1, 2007

    Burt, you wrote (#23)

    [...] You know what audiences really love PZ? [...] they absolutely love it when “2 + 2 = 4″ comes coupled with “Therefore, there is no god.” [...] Umm, you know those kids in your class who you’ve presumably used that approach on? [...]

    Which, to put it bluntly, is not consistent with what PZ wrote.

    I make a loud, clear disclaimer on the first day of class (I have to, because of the well-known godless liberal stuff): no student will be judged on the basis of their political or religious views. Biology 1111 is all about the biology, nothing else. They won’t get mocked or attacked in my classroom, but they will get confronted with the evidence and the real world

    You seem to think he can’t separate out his professional and personal activities.

  74. #74 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 2, 2007

    The Swedish Church is now a private organisation. However, it does get special treatment – for example, its membership fees are collected by the national tax board.

    Not to mention its only slightly modified name The Church of Sweden, which irks me 42 ways. (That people has to actively disengage from the church is less provocative, as long as you lower your tax that way.)

    David Marjanovi? is probably correct, that a single denomination of some kinds may be enough. But I don’t think catholicism or islam engenders the same apathy.

    Before Sweden adopted a lutheran state church it was almost exclusively catholic. What broke the back of its influence was the new king (Gustav Vasa) who needed to collect capital and thus changed his religious allegiance to accomplish some of that.

    But Hedenius acquired a great legacy in Sweden. He single handedly shamed the clerics for their pitiful lack of factual and academic knowledge, and showed why rationality is the light in the darkness. It is still impossible for a church to debate secular matters in Sweden in practice, even 2-3 generations after Hedenius.

    As I’m always pushing for learning from different national experiences, I’m glad someone introduced Hedenius. I know very little of him, exactly because he was so influential and killed all debate.

  75. #75 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 2, 2007

    The Swedish Church is now a private organisation. However, it does get special treatment – for example, its membership fees are collected by the national tax board.

    Not to mention its only slightly modified name The Church of Sweden, which irks me 42 ways. (That people has to actively disengage from the church is less provocative, as long as you lower your tax that way.)

    David Marjanovi? is probably correct, that a single denomination of some kinds may be enough. But I don’t think catholicism or islam engenders the same apathy.

    Before Sweden adopted a lutheran state church it was almost exclusively catholic. What broke the back of its influence was the new king (Gustav Vasa) who needed to collect capital and thus changed his religious allegiance to accomplish some of that.

    But Hedenius acquired a great legacy in Sweden. He single handedly shamed the clerics for their pitiful lack of factual and academic knowledge, and showed why rationality is the light in the darkness. It is still impossible for a church to debate secular matters in Sweden in practice, even 2-3 generations after Hedenius.

    As I’m always pushing for learning from different national experiences, I’m glad someone introduced Hedenius. I know very little of him, exactly because he was so influential and killed all debate.

  76. #76 Tim B.
    September 2, 2007

    About an all-out attack on superstition (religion): would it be helpful to examine the “background radiation,” perhaps unconsious, that goes into such belief systems, in general?

    I agree with the atheist, rational viewpoint up to about 99%. That leaves a smidgen of doubt about blind, meaningless nature being behind all of existence. I suspect the doubt-free, 100% natural rationalists might be a little aesthetically challenged regarding the surrealness of Being, as such. Focusing exclusively on things and local cases (the scientific enterprise) tends, I think, to lull one out of awareness about the extreme weirdness (hauntedness?) of those things and local cases. They are, I assert, permeated with actuality (something akin to Schopenhauer’s numious Will), and their bare presence is a mystery vibrating to a pitch above pragmatic frequencies.

    Anyway, when one attacks the justified targets of religious ignorance and intolerance, one might also try to appreciate an underlying, hoary irritation: the large existential question requiring, ultimately, something reasonably irrational to answer.

  77. #77 sailor
    September 2, 2007

    “Sailor, when were you last in Sweden? ”

    It was before 2000. I think maybe you Swedes are making a mistake. My experience is that religion is best(i.e.most harmless) when it is run by the government, and thus civil servants. And note this is quite different from having a governmnet run by religion which is very bad…
    I thought the Swedes when I was there had perfectly put religion its place. You could use the church for ceremonies even if you did not believe, and a pastor I knew was fired because he could not agree with the ordination of women. Way to go.

  78. #78 Felicia Gilljam
    September 2, 2007

    Sailor; Perhaps you’re right. There is a small but increasingly vocal movement of the louder kinds of christians in Sweden. I suspect they are mostly influenced by evangelicals and fundamentalists in the US though, rather than being encouraged by the decline of the CoS. But personally I’m hoping that as long as we stay out of war and keep welfare intact, Swedes in general won’t feel a need for religion. Like they don’t today.

    That said, there are plenty of Swedes who are into all sorts of other woo woo. Let’s just say I think the topics of “Enemies of Reason” are more pertinent over here than “The Root of All Evil?”.

  79. #79 Chris Mooney
    September 2, 2007

    Well, just when I was trying to enjoy my Labor Day weekend…I am now called to task for what I wrote last week. Darn. I thought nobody would notice ;>

    I agree with Burt Humburg. It’s not about surrender. It’s about a politics of gradual gains and change on the margins. Let’s take this in steps. Let’s get the kids learning evolution first. I just don’t think the kind of change PZ wants can come over night, and in America you never succeed if you try to do too much too fast.

  80. #80 Tulse
    September 2, 2007

    Chris Mooney:

    It’s not about surrender. It’s about a politics of gradual gains and change on the margins. Let’s take this in steps. Let’s get the kids learning evolution first.

    Chris, how is science supposed to make “gradual gains” when the very poll you cite clearly states that the religious will reject conflicting worldviews out of hand? This poll is one of the few hard datapoints I’ve seen that relates to the issue of framing and strategy, and it pretty clearly is counter-evidence.

  81. #81 Ken Cope
    September 2, 2007

    poke,
    [Mooney, Nisbet, et al] agree that science is useful but they deny it has metaphysical consequences, which is to say it doesn’t correspond with reality, which is to say, in lay terms, that none of it is true. This is a radical position.

    Such behavior has consequences. Framers have ceded the argument before it’s begun. It encourages the default position of the extreme religious: their way of “knowing” is infallible, and science is wrong where it contradicts their religious beliefs. For fear of upsetting extremists like that, we are urged to abandon the playing field. You don’t win if you don’t play, and framers insist we surrender the game.

    Why do framers quake in their boots, too timid to challenge religious ignorance? Are they terrified they’ll be wished into the cornfield by Billy Mumy in that Twilight Zone episode? Do they look at the status quo and think it’s a good life? The only power religion has is ignorance.

    Framing is cowardly pandering to ignorance, when ignorance can be corrected; worse, it diagnoses religious ignorance as stupidity and refuses to engage it. Framing is everything that science isn’t.

  82. #82 Arnosium Upinarum
    September 2, 2007

    MISTER Tim B. #77 says, “I agree with the atheist, rational viewpoint up to about 99%. That leaves a smidgen of doubt about blind, meaningless nature being behind all of existence.”

    What makes you think that nature is “blind and meaningless”? Where did you get such a lousy characterization from?

    More to the issue, WHY is that pesky 1% of doubt in your mind reserved for the preservation of the preposterous notion in the FIRST place? AND, if you go along with as much as 99% of the rational viewpoint, why in the flying fuck stop there?

    You continue, “…I suspect the doubt-free, 100% natural rationalists might be a little aesthetically challenged regarding the surrealness of Being, as such. Focusing exclusively on things and local cases (the scientific enterprise) tends, I think, to lull one out of awareness about the extreme weirdness (hauntedness?) of those things and local cases. They are, I assert, permeated with actuality (something akin to Schopenhauer’s numious Will), and their bare presence is a mystery vibrating to a pitch above pragmatic frequencies.”

    1. The word is “NUMINOUS”.

    2. What the hell moves you to equate irrationality with aesthetics???

    3. As for “pragmatic frequencies”, I think you had better consult Tom Cruise about that. Or, marginally better, perhaps, an accredited psychiatrist.

    You say, “Anyway, when one attacks the justified targets of religious ignorance and intolerance, one might also try to appreciate an underlying, hoary irritation: the large existential question requiring, ultimately, something reasonably irrational to answer.”

    By GUMBO! How smitten with armchair philosophy you are. Read any good books lately? How about trying the dictionary and reacquainting yourelf with the word “rational” and its antonym. Trust me, it may open up a whole world of possibility for you.

    If, however, you have acquired this profound “knowledge” from professors (and I would frankly not be a bit surprised, although I am nevertheless warmly engaged by the absence of the use of tacky “post-ism” terminology in your tract) then you have the sympathy that I regularly accord to road killed critters.

    Jesus Fucking H. Christ Almighty already.

    (If there’s ONE thing that’s actually useful from religion, its in the contribution its made to the subtle art of cursing).

    Otherwise, this tiresome argument (to be or not to be bluntly critical, lest one hurt the oh so fragile feelings of that very group that has honed and polished hatred and intolerance of any others who do not see it their way to a fine art for centuries and centuries) is getting mighty old.

    You know what? Sometimes one DOES have to shout back louder at loud assholes…if only to be heard. Is that crude behavior? You betcha. But we didn’t start it.

    What I find exceedingly strange and peculiar is that so many folks find that somehow unfair or intemperately unkind. What I want to know is why these folks so easily side with and identify with the original assholes. What I want to know is why these folks historically haven’t raised a peep in defence of the victims the religiously righteous have targeted for millennia.

    But I suspect the reason: its because one needs to abrogate one’s rationality in order to ingratiate oneself to the cozy feeling of any group that demands a PRE-SCRIPTED worldview of reality that admits absolutely no modification from natural reality. It is a mass insanity of global proportions, and they will take us all down with them.

  83. #83 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 2, 2007

    Sailor:

    You could be right. As Felicia notes there is a social inertia that the system partly relies on.

    This reliance could be enhanced. Representatives for the Swedish Humanist Association recently went public with a proposal to remove explicit regulations concerning religious freedom. According to them, at least in Sweden, the laws and regulations concerning freedoms of speech and organization covers the same ground. So all the regulation achieves is to give (as usual) religion a special acknowledgment.

    On your other points, AFAIU we can still hire churches for ceremonies such as burials, with the religious paraphernalia removed. OTOH secular weddings are long since divorced from churches.

    I don’t think later development detracts from what Hedenius achieved though. We can’t say that this experience is repeatable elsewhere, but we can note that it worked.

  84. #84 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 2, 2007

    Sailor:

    You could be right. As Felicia notes there is a social inertia that the system partly relies on.

    This reliance could be enhanced. Representatives for the Swedish Humanist Association recently went public with a proposal to remove explicit regulations concerning religious freedom. According to them, at least in Sweden, the laws and regulations concerning freedoms of speech and organization covers the same ground. So all the regulation achieves is to give (as usual) religion a special acknowledgment.

    On your other points, AFAIU we can still hire churches for ceremonies such as burials, with the religious paraphernalia removed. OTOH secular weddings are long since divorced from churches.

    I don’t think later development detracts from what Hedenius achieved though. We can’t say that this experience is repeatable elsewhere, but we can note that it worked.

  85. #85 R. Paul Wiegand
    September 2, 2007

    False dichotomy. One can confront and be assertive and not be rude an insulting.

    That PZ and others choose to be is their affair, but it will take a logical argument or some evidence to convince me that their way is at all useful.

    Until that time, I will continue with what I believe are more constructive ways to confront these issues and leave PZs ways to those of you who believe it is somehow useful.

  86. #86 R. Paul Wiegand
    September 2, 2007

    Also: A rational person is suspiscious of anyone saying “X is the only answer.”

    Do what you will, but to convince me that behaving offensively is useful, you will have to prove it. To convince me that is the “only” option, you will have to prove it.

  87. #87 Ken Cope
    September 2, 2007

    Also: A rational person is suspiscious of anyone saying “X is the only answer.”

    Do what you will, but to convince me that behaving offensively is useful, you will have to prove it. To convince me that is the “only” option, you will have to prove it.

    Why do you dishonestly claim that PZ has said “behaving offensively” is the only option? Read the title of his post, please.

    A bronx cheer is, sometimes, the only answer to arguments like yours, the one from personal incredulity.

    Framers would do nothing to challenge ignorance, when it claims a religious dispensation, for fear of offense. Perhaps they should be the subject of another verse for the old Phil Ochs’ song, Outside of a Small Circle of Friends, one that is quite offensive to its targets in order to make its point.

  88. #88 Tim B.
    September 2, 2007

    Arnosium Upinarum,

    I started to call you a jerk, then realized you must surely know that already and enjoy being your sarcastic self.

    To your first question: see *The Blind Watchmaker* (and by “meaningless,” I intend the lack of meaning apart from human invention of such).

    To your second: because only an intellectually crippled person would think a world could ever explain itself.

    To your third: 1.) To nitpick over a typo exposes you as an inelegant and unsavory type. 2.) for instance, the Surrealist movement, with its far-subtler-than-your probing of reality via painting and poetry. 3.) oh, wait…perhaps you’re not really philosophically infantile but merely a pathetic comedian.

    To your “By Gumbo!”: you seem to have missed the whole point of my post that has to do with the eventual absurdity (irrationality) of Being as being, however meticulously its elemental parts are examined or relationally construed (for example, the irrational results of quantum mechanics with its interpolation of causation).

    To your concern about my being professorially influenced: I didn’t attend college.

    To your concluding speechifying: I’ll assume it’s a general venting and does not require a response from me.

  89. #89 Steve_C
    September 2, 2007

    Calling bullshit when you see bullshit is not being rude.
    It’s being honest. I’m really tired of these people being so “concerned” about offending people when we’re just being honest and straightforward.

    Yes, we may be a little smug and dismissive, but when it’s so bloody obvious, patience wears thin.

  90. #90 Keith Douglas
    September 2, 2007

    Felicia Gilljam: Wow, my (once) fellow philosophers doing something good! Can you tell us more about this guy?

    Blake Stacey: Also – to promote transferrence, so the lucky few that attend university classes can apply what they learned in their life more generally. As I am sure we are all aware, this doesn’t happen as much as one might like.

    poke: Indeed. I suspect, but don’t know beyond gossip, that the reason that some promient anti-realists in philosophy of science hold such a position is for religious reasons. (E.g. Bas van Fraassen.) IMO, antirealist science is oxymoronic, but that’s a long story.

    Speaking of philosophers of science, I think one attitude that we have to teach our kids, etc. is that criticizing ideas is a very caring thing to do, if done rationally, with evidence, etc. “I care about how you see the world, care about you being right or at least less wrong.” This, I am told, is an essentially Popperian point – perhaps his greatest legacy.

  91. #91 Felicia Gilljam
    September 2, 2007

    Keith, Unfortunately I’m anything but an expert on Hedenius, preferring biology to philosophy. One day if I have the time I’ll probably read his book “Tro och vetande” (“Belief and knowledge”), the one that sparked the whole debate, but until I have done, I’m afraid I’m gonna have to refer to other sources than myself. Wikipedia is as good a start as any: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingemar_Hedenius

    One thing I do know and that is that he was influenced by Russell, and especially seemed to like the doctrine that “it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true”, which Hedenius called “the maxim of intellectual morality” – he thought it was morally wrong to believe something without good reason.

  92. #92 Chris
    September 2, 2007

    I hope that will never happen, because it is not a problem of religion. It is a problem of politics. Read OBL’s own words on why 9/11 didn’t happen in Sweden (Sweden is his example).

    Assuming for the sake of argument that bin Laden isn’t lying about his motivations: do you really think that those politics weren’t influenced by religion? Or to put it another way, why is it the US and not Sweden who’s been Israel’s silent partner for 50 years?

    In 1948 the British robbed Peter to pay Paul – and Peter’s family is still pissed off about it. That’s hardly surprising. It’s hard to deny that our Middle East policy has been, literally, to perpetuate a decades-old injustice. That doesn’t justify killing thousands of innocent people who weren’t even involved in the decisions to do so, but it *is* worth asking why we have such an insane policy in the first place. Our unconditional support of Israel is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder; so why do we persist in it?

    Religion is what made the Israelis leave their homes to go to a place they had never seen, where the inhabitants would resent their presence. Religion is what keeps both sides from negotiating in good faith (ha) and agreeing on something that is better than bloodshed. Religion is what keeps the United States firmly on one side, depriving us of any credibility as a peace broker and earning us more resentment each time we demonstrate our obvious favoritism. And religion is what impelled 19 desperate young men to the belief that sacrificing their lives to kill others was the right thing to do for their god and country (most definitely in that order). Not one of these causal steps was the result of some kind of Bismarckian calculation of national interest.

    I suggest looking up Dawkins’s essay “Religion’s misguided missiles”, which appeared in the Guardian shortly after 9/11. *That’s* confrontational firebrand writing for you.

  93. #93 R. Paul Wiegand
    September 3, 2007

    Ken Cope:

    I’ve read the title of the post, and the post itself, and many other posts on this and other site. PZ’s tactics are to not only confront theistic behavior that foists ideology on us, but to be as agressively offensive as possible.

    Since he repeatedly conflates “confrontation” with “being offensive”, my response was in no way dishonest. Perhaps you disagree with my interpretation, but there’s no basis for claiming I am being dishonest.

    Then you turn around and demonstrate my point precisely. Decide what your goals are Mr. Cope. If you are trying to convince another non-theist, another epiricist, to join your cause, you are behaving in precisely the opposite way you need to do accomplish this goal.

    Indeed, when I first started reading Dawkins, Hitchens, et al. many moons ago, I was closer to PZ’s behavior. Nothing has done more to convince me that it is useless than his own blog and the response of people like you.

    Again: Behave how you like; however, if you want ME (and other reasonable people) to AGREE that your tactics are useful, you will have to demonstrate evidence that it is a functional approach.

    Take your “framers” and “accomodationist” ad hominem and peddle them to people who are swayed by emotional arguments. I am persuaded by reason.

  94. #94 Ken Cope
    September 3, 2007

    R. Paul Wiegand:

    You are trying to say that P. Z. Myers tactics are always to be offensive, which is bullshit. If you are going to try to claim that PZ’s every post on his blog is an offensive call to blaspheme with rude noises and foul behavior, you are going to have to ignore a lot of the content on this blog, or are do you want to claim that posts on cephalopods, pirates and biology are also part of his offensive tactics? When I say sometimes, and you say always, while waving the banner of reason, and sneering that you’ll never be convinced, no, I’m not going to bother with trying to convince you, when I’ve convinced at least two other fence-sitters that reason has nothing to do with your position. Lose one, win two.

  95. #95 R. Paul Wiegand
    September 3, 2007

    I never said that every post was offensive; however, many clearly are. Specifically, I was saying that calling the response of the rangers “insane” (his word) was insulting … and it is. Pointlessly so, in my opinion.

    I never said “always”. Where did I say “always”? Where did I imply “always”?

    You, on the other hand, have accused me of dishonesty (twice now). Who is being offensive in our conversation? Which of us is being dishonest?

    I am saying that “confrontation” and “offensiveness” are not the same thing (and they aren’t).

    And yes, I am saying that PZ’s general view seems to be often to confront people in a willfully insulting manner (e.g., “delusional”, “accomodationist”, “insane”, “framer”) is a poor tactic in my view, and I’ve yet to see any reasonable evidence that it is effective.

    I am saying that his proposal that the park rangers (in this specific case) engage the arguments of these fundamentalists directly each time they are brought up will take away from their real purpose, and will pointlessly engage in arguments that will lead nowhere.

    If you want to convince me otherwise, you will have to stop misrepresenting my position, stop accusing me of of things I haven’t done, stop throwing around words meant to insult me … and, of course, start providing some evidence that his proposal has any utility to it.

    You’re angry. I get it, and I understand why; however, the POINT of PZs post was to highlight what he believes is the wrong tactic by other scientists in dealing with fundamentalist confrontation. I am responding to THAT POINT: Rather than call those of us who think that this response is reasonable “insane”, he might actually provide some logical evidence that his proposal will be more useful.

    I am not convinced by the insult. I might be convinced be a reasoned position.

    And let’s be clear about who is calling whom what: I don’t think PZ is “insane” (or you, for that matter). I don’t even think he is foolish. I just think his tactics are not useful.

  96. #96 Steve_C
    September 3, 2007

    Religion should be openly mocked.

    Woo should be laughed at.

    Creationism should be ridiculed.

    It should ALSO be argued against with reason.

    Both tactics are useful.

  97. #97 Ken Cope
    September 3, 2007

    I never said “always”. Where did I say “always”? Where did I imply “always”?

    Also: A rational person is suspiscious of anyone saying “X is the only answer.”

    Do what you will, but to convince me that behaving offensively is useful, you will have to prove it. To convince me that is the “only” option, you will have to prove it.

    When I reminded you that the title of the post is, “Sometimes, conflict is the only answer” your response was:

    I’ve read the title of the post, and the post itself, and many other posts on this and other site. PZ’s tactics are to not only confront theistic behavior that foists ideology on us, but to be as agressively offensive as possible.

    And when confronted, you start backpedaling:

    I never said that every post was offensive; however, many clearly are.

    You, on the other hand, have accused me of dishonesty (twice now).

    Make that three times.

    You’re angry. I get it, and I understand why;

    Do you find that being patronizing is a useful tactic? I’m not angry at you, I am laughing at and openly mocking you for what it is you advocate and your ineptitude. Your position and tone of high dudgeon deserves nothimg more than rhetorical pie in the face. If you and Mooney and Padfoot and Prongs are going to wring your hands and go, “tsk tsk” because Darwin still has bulldogs, then you don’t have the stomach for this fight. Go over and console poor Soapy Sam. Dawkins can write like, well, Dawkins, but he can also mock like Mencken. We need more Menckens, not more concern trolls.

  98. #98 R. Paul Wiegand
    September 3, 2007

    Steve_C

    You provide a list of assertions. Let’s clarify a bit.

    “Religion should be openly mocked….”

    By you? By PZ? By the rangers? By all non-theists?

    If you believe openly mocking religion is a useful tactic to achieving reasonable behavior and policy, please behave in the way you think is best.

    However, I don’t see how this behavior will lead to those ends. I’ve already stated on another point my view that concentrating on how people behave and our public policy appears more productive to me. I choose more constructive routes.

    So far, there’s no conflict between us.

    But PZ is advocating that others should adopt his (and your) philosophy of mocking people’s religion. For that to pass muster with me, you’ll have to give me evidence that this is a useful course of action. I wont just accept your assertion.

    “Both are useful tactics.”

    Really? How so? I don’t agree.

    Religion doesn’t deserve my unquestioning respect, I agree. But, in general, I don’t care about what people believe, and I’ve yet to see any convincing argument that I should. I am fully capable of neither respecting nor disrespecting someone. Moreover, I am capable of confronting someone without calling them names in the process.

    I firmly believe that the best default behavior in general is civility (which requires neither respect nor disrespect). Until a sufficient argument is provided, I do not see the utility in openly mocking religion.

    But the crux of this particular debate is not whether PZ (or you) should or should not mock fundamentalists. Rather, it is the way PZ is treating those of us who view that tactic as a poor one. It is clearly not “insane” to find a more constructive approach.

    So your clarification is important here: If you believe mocking religion is a productive tactic … fine. If you believe the rangers should, or I should, also mock religion, then insults are insufficient. An actual justification is necessary.

  99. #99 PZ Myers
    September 3, 2007

    Yes, yes, yes. We’ve seen you express your discontent how many times now?

    I’ll turn it around on you. Why should we continue to grant unwarranted deference to silly beliefs? Begging us to be nice to inanity is exactly what they want, to continue and promote this unforgivable cultural tradition of treating the most absurd beliefs daintily as long as they bear the label of “religion”.

    The brutal and uncompromising approach is necessary to break down that barrier. You’ve got to use a sledgehammer to knock down that wall, and holy moly, but it is a tall and thick. Once that’s down, once people realize that they can’t avoid the discussion by hiding behind the excuse of “faith”, then we’ll be able to talk.

    Will it work? I don’t know yet. I do know that the policy of tip-toeing around religion has been an abysmal failure, so we need to change. You’re promoting the status quo.

  100. #100 R. Paul Wiegand
    September 3, 2007

    Ken Cope:

    You provided a quote from my text. Again, where did you see “always.” You are misreading me or misrepresenting me (or both. I can’t help it if you are incapable of reading properly.

    I repeast. I never said “always”. I never implied “always”. I have not back peddled. I did generalize (which I indicated in my last response), but never universally.

    Perhaps I am patronizing. For that I am sorry. My tone is of no consequence whatsoever.

    You tactics are poor; you are providing no logical arguments; you are just being insulting without purpose or utility.

    If Darwin has his bulldogs, let us all hope for evolution’s sake you are not among them. I would prefer evolution’s advocates are capable of reason and logic, rather than simple and easy derision.

    Again, I repeat, for the I-don’t-know-how-many-times, have EVIDENCE that openly mocking people’s belief will lead to useful ends? Feel free to mock … please … but if you want ME to mock (or the rangers to mock) … you’ll actually have to apply your brain a bit, rather than simply your mouth.

    I read PZ’s blog as a rallying call for non-theists to join together. I like that idea. But if you just want more people in your army to sling feces then you’ll excuse me if I’ve better things to do than feed your ego.

    Do you really believe mocking me, or these park rangers, is helping your cause in any way? Let’s see if the rangers change their tactics as a result…

  101. #101 Ken Cope
    September 3, 2007

    If you believe openly mocking religion is a useful tactic to achieving reasonable behavior and policy, please behave in the way you think is best.

    Do you, along with Seneca and Strauss, subscribe to the utility of religion over the utility of challenging it? That is a political difference that reason will not settle.

  102. #102 R. Paul Wiegand
    September 3, 2007

    PZ: I’m sorry for my repetiion. From my reading of the blog posts and comments, I didn’t think that was out of norm. If I am becoming tedious, I’ll leave and let you have your choir of supporters back.

    Again, you present a false dichotomy. I never said be nice. I never said respect. I just question the utility of being openly insulting.

    But, if you want to mock … go right ahead. I didn’t say don’t do it. If you find it to be a useful experiment … go right ahead.

    I said, I don’t see why you find the rangers “insane” (or me, by projection) if they don’t see the utility in it. It’s just not convincing, that’s all.

    Moreover, I don’t understand why you feel it necessary to divide us by turning your derision on those of us whose world view is very similar to yours. Mock theists, but don’t ask me to do it (without evidence of its utility) and don’t insult me.

  103. #103 R. Paul Wiegand
    September 3, 2007

    Ken Cope:

    Good, a productive question.

    Not necessarily. I don’t think religion is useful. But I think if we work to convince people to behave more rationally, there will be fewer religious people — whereas, if you convince more people to be against religion, you wont necessarily have more rational people. I would advocate taking a firm, positive and vigorous stands, on rationalist points … and ignore people’ religious beliefs as much as it is feasible to do so.

    At any rate, I’ve said more on this on another thread, and it is not germane to this point (which is about how your crowd behaves toward my crowd, rather than about how either of us behaves toward theists), and PZ’s clearly already annoyed that I am becoming repetitious.

    My main goal with ALL of my posts is to lodge a request for a bit more solidarity among non-theists. I honestly did not expect that this would go so badly here.

    When I first started reading various atheist blogs, I expected something more inclusive than this. Here it seems that you either fall lock-step in line with this aggressive confrontational style, or you receive exactly the same treatment.

    So much for solidarity. And I’ve clearly overstayed my welcome here. My apologies for disturbing the board.

  104. #104 PZ Myers
    September 3, 2007

    Your first comment in this thread:

    I will continue with what I believe are more constructive ways to confront these issues and leave PZs ways to those of you who believe it is somehow useful.

    You charged in rather aggressively with the implication that the particular block of atheists are unproductive and useless, and then you whine that you did not expect to see such dissension in the ranks. You do recognize the irony of your complaint, do you not?

    For further irony, note that you make a plea for further solidarity among non-theists…and then complain that everyone here is in lock-step. How silly. This is a fairly typical example of how passive-aggressive appeasers act — don’t be surprised at the vigor of the response against you. I’m sure, though, that you can find some ineffectual group of like-minded people who will sit on the sidelines, simultaneously deploring the gains of those damned annoying uppity atheists while feeling snootily superior because you avoid confrontation. You’re welcome to take a seat with them.

    What you are discovering is that atheists are not in lock-step. There are different strategies and all kinds of conflict within this highly disorganized group, and this is our strength. New ideas and better tactics will emerge from the turbulence. I can’t predict which approaches will work best, and neither can you — but I’m pretty confident that the call for solidarity in being respectful of bad ideas ain’t one I’m going to support, myself. Let someone else try it. You, for instance. I won’t stop you.

  105. #105 Ken Cope
    September 3, 2007

    You provided a quote from my text. Again, where did you see “always.” You are misreading me or misrepresenting me (or both. I can’t help it if you are incapable of reading properly.

    I repeast. I never said “always”. I never implied “always”. I have not back peddled. I did generalize (which I indicated in my last response), but never universally.

    No, you didn’t use the word always, you said that you needed to be convinced that offensiveness was the only option, as if PZ had advocated universal offensiveness, which he had not. Truly Clintonian parsing, pal.

    “I would advocate taking a firm, positive and vigorous stands, on rationalist points … and ignore people’ religious beliefs as much as it is feasible to do so.”

    I’ll look forward to reading your letter in The Times, then. I think it was George Carlin (don’t you think he’d have a bigger audience if he was just a bit more nice to people?) who hosted SNL during the Iranian hostage thing. He led the audience in a chant: “What do we want? Restraint! When do we want it? Eventually!”

    I expected something more inclusive than this.

    Hey, we’ve even got some token theists (cough SH OM) who can wield the mighty hammer of not-niceitude even more scathingly than PZ at times.

    So much for solidarity. And I’ve clearly overstayed my welcome here. My apologies for disturbing the board.

    Don’t worry, we won’t run out of Margaret Dumont impersonators any time soon.

  106. #106 Ken Cope
    September 3, 2007

    This news account of clowns mocking the Klan appears to be a missed opportunity to engage the minds of the fence-sitters with rationalism. The citizens of Knoxville may have fewer Klansmen, but– what was the problem again?

  107. #107 R. Paul Wiegand
    September 3, 2007

    Ken Cope:

    I don’t agree with your interpretation of what I’ve written. I meant what I said; it was not dishonest. You feel differently. We will have to disagree.

    PZ: Let me step the intensity down a level, may I?

    I did not intend to charge in aggressively. If that is how it appeared, I apologize.

    In my defense: I did not assert what you should do in your stance toward theists, I merely responded when you referred to what OTHER NON-THEISTS should be doing in response. I defended, not attacked. It was more a parry than a charge, I think.

    And yes, that parry was meant to lead toward more solidarity. I never expected you to agree with my tack, I just thought I might convince you that my tack didn’t warrant insult.

    We (non-theists) don’t have to agree, and we don’t have to use the same tactics, but it would be nice if we weren’t calling each other names.

    I think you are an intelligent person, that your blog is a really good idea, that non-theists do need to work together, and that we should all strive to be as rational as possible — and to convince others to be so, as well.

    My protestations regarding evidence were not meant to suggest that you are being foolish in your tack. I grant that you may be right that it is a useful way … and perhaps some of my prior comments have been overstated. I merely wanted to emphasize that it isn’t unreasonable for me to require evidence of this to be convinced of your tack.

    You are right that I know no better than you, and that ideas should succeed or fail on their own merits. But Ken Cope, for example, hasn’t challenged any ideas … he has attacked me personally. Your calling rangers “insane” is not a challenge on their idea, it is an attack on their mental capacities.

    If someone has an intellectual challenge, lodge it. I’m a scientist and (like you) receive lots of those. It’s no skin off my nose. If one just wants to call me names (“accomodationist”, “framer”, “enabler”, “insane”) because one believes my ideas are bad, then I am closer to thinking that it is not a productive conversation.

    I’m not asking you to stop challenging my tack. I’m asking you to put away the ad hominem when dealing with fellow non-theists. Surely one point in favor of rationalists is that we are capable of engaging in reasonable debate while still disagreeing with one another, no?

    At any rate … it’s your blog, not mine. I’m sorry if my comments were too charged, and I am very disappointed that they are unappreciated. Such is life.

  108. #108 Ken Cope
    September 3, 2007

    I don’t agree with your interpretation of what I’ve written. I meant what I said; it was not dishonest. You feel differently. We will have to disagree.

    I don’t care whether you agree or disagree, anybody still bothering with this thread can see for themselves that you tried to backpedal out of a sloppy mischaracterization of PZ’s position and cried ad hominem when I called bullshit, which you are still doing. Nonsense, pearl-clutching and calling for the wahmbulance, are invitations to mockery, as offensive as that my be. Your assertion that PZ’s or anybody else’s failure to convince you proves that the tactic of offensiveness cannot be a useful strategy deserves nothing more than a bronx cheer. That is the idea I engaged. Your offensive behavior in eschewing offensiveness just adds that frosty icing of hypocrisy.

    Ad hominem? Who cares who you are, any more than you care who I am? It’s your ideas and the way you express them that are worth attacking. When you say, My tone is of no consequence whatsoever then neither is PZ’s offensiveness, nor mine.

    Yet you get the vapors when somebody uses the term framers. You’d better thicken up that skin. Waltz in urging us to shun conflict while shouting, “Ho! Haha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!” and somebody’s going to be reminded of Daffy Duck, so I wouldn’t act all surprised.

    You’re not the first concern troll here, nor will you be the last.

  109. #109 R. Paul Wiegand
    September 3, 2007

    Ken Cope:

    I agree that most still reading this thread will have a clearer view of things. I also agree that our discussion has demonstrated our respective points. I am comfortable leaving it to them to decide which of us is being more reasonable if you are.

    And I am not offended. I really don’t care what you think of me. I just think the tactic is not productive.

    As an aside, I did not tell you to avoid conflict. Never did I, nor would I say that. There’s simply more than one way to engage in it. I requested that you not be pejorative. And I think my posts have all been consistent with this philosophy (with the exception of one, where I questioned your ability to read … and I should not have). At least I never called you silly little names.

    But, alas, I guess we will not agree on these points.

    At any rate, I apologize for intruding. It’s clear we’ve nothing to learn from one another. It’s disappointing, to me, as I enjoy a good debate, as long as it is civil.

  110. #110 David Marjanovi?
    September 3, 2007

    It’s impossible for Mooney, Nisbet, et al, to see the problem because they really do believe that there’s no conflict between religion and science. That’s their starting premise. We need to realize how radical this position is. NOMA, instrumentalism, “methodological naturalism”, etc, all amount to the same thing: they all deny that science is true. They agree that science is useful but they deny it has metaphysical consequences, which is to say it doesn’t correspond with reality, which is to say, in lay terms, that none of it is true. This is a radical position. We don’t see it as radical because, unlike Creationism (which is actually far less radical), it’s already being taught in our schools and is already believed by our politicians and even a lot of scientists accept it. This extreme denialist philosophy is the default philosophy of science in the public sphere. It needs to be attacked.

    That is a strange position.

    The idea is that science is a narrow discipline. It cannot deal with untestable ideas; they are “not even wrong”. Such ideas are outside of science; they are, the idea goes, on the other side of the NOMA line.

    As long as religion stays on that side of the NOMA line, I honestly don’t see where the problem is.

    Of course, problems immediately ensue when religion spills over. Most, if not all, religions make lots of claims that are in fact testable and have been tested, from the power of prayer to the necessity of sacrificing hearts every day so the sun will rise on the next morning.

    Religious claims on this side of the NOMA line should be tested. Religious claims on the other side should be commented with “I don’t know, and I don’t care”.

  111. #111 David Marjanovi?
    September 3, 2007

    It’s impossible for Mooney, Nisbet, et al, to see the problem because they really do believe that there’s no conflict between religion and science. That’s their starting premise. We need to realize how radical this position is. NOMA, instrumentalism, “methodological naturalism”, etc, all amount to the same thing: they all deny that science is true. They agree that science is useful but they deny it has metaphysical consequences, which is to say it doesn’t correspond with reality, which is to say, in lay terms, that none of it is true. This is a radical position. We don’t see it as radical because, unlike Creationism (which is actually far less radical), it’s already being taught in our schools and is already believed by our politicians and even a lot of scientists accept it. This extreme denialist philosophy is the default philosophy of science in the public sphere. It needs to be attacked.

    That is a strange position.

    The idea is that science is a narrow discipline. It cannot deal with untestable ideas; they are “not even wrong”. Such ideas are outside of science; they are, the idea goes, on the other side of the NOMA line.

    As long as religion stays on that side of the NOMA line, I honestly don’t see where the problem is.

    Of course, problems immediately ensue when religion spills over. Most, if not all, religions make lots of claims that are in fact testable and have been tested, from the power of prayer to the necessity of sacrificing hearts every day so the sun will rise on the next morning.

    Religious claims on this side of the NOMA line should be tested. Religious claims on the other side should be commented with “I don’t know, and I don’t care”.

  112. #112 David Marjanovi?
    September 3, 2007

    Assuming for the sake of argument that bin Laden isn’t lying about his motivations:

    Precisely because he’s so religious, I don’t think he’s lying. Why should he? He’s bragging!

    do you really think that those politics weren’t influenced by religion? Or to put it another way, why is it the US and not Sweden who’s been Israel’s silent partner for 50 years? [...] Our unconditional support of Israel is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder; so why do we persist in it?

    Oh, that’s what you mean. On that I agree.

    And religion is what impelled 19 desperate young men to the belief that sacrificing their lives to kill others was the right thing to do for their god and country (most definitely in that order). Not one of these causal steps was the result of some kind of Bismarckian calculation of national interest.

    No, but religion isn’t required for suicide terrorism, unless you include all political ideologies that people agree to die for. Don’t forget the Stalinist suicide bombers (many of them women, BTW) of the PKK — they were Stalinists who firmly believed that death was The End(tm). The German propaganda formula in WW I about fallen soldiers was “they died so that Germany might live”. Any nationalist can feel like that. So we get plenty of suicide bombers for the freedom of Kurdistan, lots and lots of suicide bombers for the freedom of Tamil Eelam, and suicide plane-hijackers for the freedom of Saudi Arabia — perhaps Palestine too, but first and foremost freedom of Saudi Arabia from the tyranny of its seven thousand US-supported princes.

  113. #113 David Marjanovi?
    September 3, 2007

    Assuming for the sake of argument that bin Laden isn’t lying about his motivations:

    Precisely because he’s so religious, I don’t think he’s lying. Why should he? He’s bragging!

    do you really think that those politics weren’t influenced by religion? Or to put it another way, why is it the US and not Sweden who’s been Israel’s silent partner for 50 years? [...] Our unconditional support of Israel is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder; so why do we persist in it?

    Oh, that’s what you mean. On that I agree.

    And religion is what impelled 19 desperate young men to the belief that sacrificing their lives to kill others was the right thing to do for their god and country (most definitely in that order). Not one of these causal steps was the result of some kind of Bismarckian calculation of national interest.

    No, but religion isn’t required for suicide terrorism, unless you include all political ideologies that people agree to die for. Don’t forget the Stalinist suicide bombers (many of them women, BTW) of the PKK — they were Stalinists who firmly believed that death was The End(tm). The German propaganda formula in WW I about fallen soldiers was “they died so that Germany might live”. Any nationalist can feel like that. So we get plenty of suicide bombers for the freedom of Kurdistan, lots and lots of suicide bombers for the freedom of Tamil Eelam, and suicide plane-hijackers for the freedom of Saudi Arabia — perhaps Palestine too, but first and foremost freedom of Saudi Arabia from the tyranny of its seven thousand US-supported princes.

  114. #114 Ken Cope
    September 3, 2007

    I enjoy a good debate, as long as it is civil.

    Civility is overrated. Culture, such as it is, would be the poorer without satire, caricature and lampoon, but then, that’s just my jaundiced opinion as an animator. I’m used to seeing the humor in everything, and laughing at it.

    You wouldn’t have Swift, (early) Mad Magazine, Monty Python, Firesign Theatre (Millions of months passed, and 28 days later, the moon appeared.) Gerald Scarfe, nor any other fool to point to the naked dangly bits on the emperor that everybody else is too civil to comment upon.

  115. #115 R. Paul Wiegand
    September 3, 2007

    Well, we have more in common than I thought. I agree that satire and humor are important. I too value Monty Python, and pointing at dangly bits.

    These things certainly have there place (humor and dangly bits).

    I’ll exit on agreement, then.

  116. #116 Arnosium Upinarum
    September 4, 2007

    MISTER Tim B., #88 in lovingly understanding response to my comments (#83) says,

    “To your first question: see *The Blind Watchmaker* (and by “meaningless,” I intend the lack of meaning apart from human invention of such).”

    Hey, bub, I read Dawkins’ “The Blind Watchmaker” within 24 hours of its first appearance, and I’ve read that magnificent book and referred to it frequently since then, so don’t tell me what the hell YOU “think” I’M supposed to think what Dawkin’s meant, alright?

    I don’t care a wet rat’s ass about YOUR definition of “meaninglessness”. All I did was respond to that characterization as it conflicted with MY interpretation of that term.

    Do you mind? Who the fuck cares if you did?

    You know, there ARE alternative ways of looking at things that are entirely consistent with the facts and the good sense of folks like Richard Dawkins, and if I choose to tackle a particularly narrow-minded (if unimaginative) statement such as yours with a spicy treatment, well, boo fucking hoo. That’s just too damned bad.

    Maybe next time you’ll remember to be careful what you say, and avoid ridiculous all-encompassing assertions that presume to characterize what everybody else thinks.

    But lets look at YOUR intended meaning (how kind of you to supply it after the fact, BTW):

    OH!!! How stupendously STUPID of me!!! I see now. Of COURSE!!! In my “intellectually-crippled sarcastic jerk” manner I suppose I must have missed your TOWERING POINT, yes?

    Sarcastic? Whuh, don’t you think

    Well, let’s just take a look at what YOU SAID (NOT me, what YOU said) yet again:

    “…By MEANINGLESSNESS [you] INTEND the LACK of meaning APART from HUMAN INVENTION OF SUCH.”

    GEE FUCKING WHIZ, MAN. By GOLLY, you DO have a KNACK for philosophical simplification posing as profundity, don’t you?

    And all I was saying – in my “intellectually-crippled sarcastic jerk” manner – is that its entirely possible for human beings to get their complete quota of “meaningfulness” from a completely indifferent NATURE.

    BUT, I THINK that’s about the only and sufficient source we humans get any meaning at all. Got it now?

    DO YOU KNOW WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT? DID YOU EVEN TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT?

    No. You’d rather bask in your own blindingly glorious aura of self-satisfied certainty, a certainty that you – and ONLY you – have it right.

    Better check your batteries, pal, because the sheen on your aura is fading fast.

    YOU say, “To your third [question???]: 1.) To nitpick over a typo exposes you as an inelegant and unsavory type.”

    Oh, I am, pierced to the heart. Have mercy on me!

    Hey, all I meant was to help you, just in case your READERS (just like me) didn’t understand exactly what-you-were-trying-to-say.

    On the other hand? I’ll gladly accept those interesting characterizations from anyboy as foolish as you self-evidently are.

    AND, YOU say:

    2.) for instance, the Surrealist movement, with its far-subtler-than-your probing of reality via painting and poetry.

    Shucks, man, you carve right down to the bone-marrow. Me, a nitwit on the subject of art and scientific illustration when I guess all along I’ve been just pretending to win prestigious awards and honors from the very finest scientific institutions and individuals in the world over the last 30-odd years.

    OBVIOUSLY, according to YOU, I must not know what the hell I’m talking about. But YOU, my dear little sugarplum, DO know what you’re talking about, don’t you, my sweet, and you have all the answers, don’t you? OH HOW SIMPLE IT IS. How SPECTACULARLY SIMPLE-MINDED YOU ARE.

    “3.) oh, wait [YOU SAY]…perhaps you’re not really philosophically infantile but merely a pathetic comedian.”

    No, I’m just afflicted with a rather low bullshit tolerance level, that’s all. I don’t need to inject any extra humor where it already exists in painful abundance. All I have to do is point at it, and the original funny stuff gets another outrageously funny look-see. You know, just for laughs.

    “Philosophically infantile”. My goodness gracious alive. You know? You just might have a point on that particular score. But I don’t like the “philisophical” part of that. that’s really and truly a low blow.

    YOU say, “…you seem to have missed the whole point of my post that has to do with the eventual absurdity (irrationality) of Being as being, however meticulously its elemental parts are examined or relationally construed (for example, the irrational results of quantum mechanics with its interpolation of causation).”

    Nope. So very sorry to disappoint you. I didn’t miss your point at all. I got it quite clearly.

    And your response here handsomely confirms my first take: 1. You capitalize “being”. Wow, that’s really interesting, deeeoood. Must mean that you mean something there. 2. “Irrational” results from quantum mechanics??? “With its interpolation of causation”???

    Seriously now. I mean it: go back to my previous comment and check out that psychiatrist. Or, at least check out Tom Cruise. (Hiya doin’ Tom! Ain’t this shit amazing?).

    YOU say, “To your concern about my being professorially influenced: I didn’t attend college.”

    I can tell. I do not hold it against you, but it explains quite a bit. So you must have READ those oh-so “learned professor’s” books who so charm their readers into hippity-hoppity following them along the bozo-bunny-trail of new-age bullshit. That’s cool. I’ve read the baloney too. Its quite okay to be curious, even about transfixingly ludicrous notions.

    I personally know HUNDREDS of people JUST LIKE YOU. I tell them what I’ll tell you here: you do NOT have to pretend you understand something just because you read what an idiot wrote in a popular book claiming THEY understand what they’re talking about.

    No, really. Seriously. You DON’T have to. Leave that stinking shit alone. You are better than that.

    I’M not the one who swallowed that gunk down without understanding what it ACTUALLY IS they’re asking their readers to swallow. Obviously, you have.

    And at LONG FRIGGIN’ LAST, the FINALE!!!

    YOU SAY, “To your concluding speechifying: I’ll assume it’s a general venting and does not require a response from me.”

    Well, fucking touche, man. You got me there. Thank you EVER SO MUCH for your wonderfully INSIGHTFUL [DRUM ROLL]…

    R-E-S-P-O-N-S-E.

    For a fraction of a second there, I ALMOST thought you had me.

    Hey, no offense. Really. You are probably a fairly personable fellow. But just because its so flipping easy to make one’s ideas known on the internet doesn’t automatically absolve you of the responsibility of knowing what the heck you are talking about.

    You may resume your usual position in your philosophical armchair.

  117. #117 John Morales
    September 4, 2007

    re: #114 A. Upinarum.

    That is a rant.

  118. #118 Ken Cope
    September 5, 2007

    Here is post #114 translated for Tim B.:

    DA DA DA DA DA DA DA DA DA DA

  119. #119 memestryker
    September 5, 2007

    Addendum to #118: We already have the Unitarian-Universalists, Brights, Secular Humanists, Ethical Culture, etc. organized. Let’s start our own schools and get some of that U.S. taxpayer voucher money–and start pumping out the faith-based services, too, so we can suck up some taxpayer funds. There is absolutely nothing stopping us. They created the game. All we have to do is play.

  120. #120 Jerry
    September 5, 2007

    The problem with the scientific right is they quote too much theory as facts and that makes a lot of people shy away. No matter how you cut it your judgment of the religious is wrong when you base it on theory. Science has presumed too much only to have been mistaken too often. The religious and science have put too many lives on the line. The religious have done it because they hear from God and science does it because they are smarter than anyone else and that alone gives them the right. Now which is the most arrogant????

  121. #121 Steve_C
    September 5, 2007

    The religious. That was easy.

  122. #122 Don
    September 5, 2007

    everything you see came from the ground cars boats machines computers tv most everything you see and god is the nature of all things the big and the very small where all just dumb monkeys trying to make sences of what nature is or what I think god is nature and nature goes into the farthest places of our universe so is god look there and you will find out what god is he is both big and small

  123. #123 Jerry
    September 5, 2007

    Actually Steve your answer describes a minority of both groups. But it is evident that neither side can really prove any of what they say with rock solid proof. There is a popular book that was written by a deceased but popular atheist who said “Even though there is no God, one should live his life as if there was a God.” He recognized that the bible described the way life should be and pointed out mans errors of his arrogance. If everyone lived by the book there would be no wars,famine,greed,envy,etc. Believers in their arrogance thought God needed help in punishing the unjust. Sort of like the scientific who think that with their supreme intelligence they couldn’t possibly be wrong. If both groups are gagged and could only be observed by their actions, you couldn’t tell them apart. So I guess that leaves us all equally arrogant. Good day!

  124. #124 Scientist/Philosopher
    September 5, 2007

    I consider myself a scientist and logician. The theory of evolution is nothing more than a theory; it requires as much faith as creationism. It can be likened to the “great debate” that has raged for years over why the bottom of a shower curtain sweeps inward from the edge of a bathtub when the shower runs… there are numerous theories as to why, but no consensus or proof. In fact, there is not even a firm scientific explanation for why a two-liter bottle of soda erupts when mixed with a pack of Mentos candies. If we can’t explain moving shower curtains and geyers of soda, how do we expect intelligent people of faith to accept our ever-changing theory of evolution?

    Recent discoveries of sub-human fossils prove that the “theory” of evolution is at best flawed and off by millions of years. So, science is no more exact that religion claims to be.

    I will be interested to see the “open-mindnesses” that science claims to possess, when reviewing the responses to this posting. The so-called scientific “objectivity” seems to be lost in this forum.

    Respectfully yours,
    Believing scientist

  125. #125 Ken Cope
    September 5, 2007

    Scientist/Philosopher,

    Does your mom or dad know you’re using their computer to post to blogs?

  126. #126 Steve_C
    September 5, 2007

    HEHE.

    Ok I’ll bite… what KIND of scientist are you?

    What degrees do you hold?

    Jerry. So far you’ve essentially seemed to argue for the lack of need for religion and for better science. So thanks! and… GOOD DAY!

  127. #127 Scientist/Philosopher
    September 5, 2007

    Dear Ken Cope,

    Exactly the level of intellectual response and objectivity I expected. Thank you for proving my point.

    Steve C.,

    Your HEHE confirms your similar lack of forethought and intellectual maturity. Your reliance on degrees and “credendtials” makes you little more than a follower, not a free thinker as you likely promote yourself to be. Just because one holds advanced degrees from an atheistic, anti-faith university does not make one right, any more than an advanced degree from a seminary makes a theologian right. Your credibility was greatly reduced by your immediate correlation bewteen the number of years brainwashed by any particular school of thought, to the degree of correctness of one’s thinking.

    Our founding fathers formed this great nation on the principal of freedom of religion. Your distortion of their philosophy does not mean that they ever intended the stifling of faith as you purport.

    Respectfully,
    Believing Scientist

  128. #128 Steve_C
    September 5, 2007

    I was just looking for a little evidence or admission of some kind. You do say you’re a scientist. That takes a certain level of education. Are you an astronaut and a surgeon too?

    Maybe you’re a wizard! That would be impressive.

    I’m a jedi. Prove I’m not.

  129. #129 Scientist/Philosopher
    September 5, 2007

    Dear Steve,

    You once again prove my point.

    Whether you held a PHD from Oxford or were a high-school dropout should hold no sway with anyone who is open-minded and free-thinking, as most of the subscribers to this blog likely consider themselves to be. To have to defend your biased attitudes with levels of degrees proves nothing whatsoever.

    Just as your partner-in-thought, Ken, proves nothing with immature insults, other than his inability to construct a meaningful position or engage in a meaningful conversation.

    I was taught that scientists were to be open to ideas that contradicted their teaching and thinking. Perhaps you were taught something different… that scientists should endorse only what they were led to believe by their professors and their political leanings.

    Respectfully,
    Believing Scientist

  130. #130 Ken Cope
    September 5, 2007

    Scientist/Philosopher,

    (BTW, did you know the k3wl kids use hyphens instead of slashes?) I have a scientifical philostophy poser for you.

    If Pepsi Girl ate Mentos with her cola in the shower, would you have any idea where your towel is?

  131. #131 PZ Myers
    September 5, 2007

    You are being mocked, and deservedly so, because your second sentence (after declaring yourself a scientist and logician) is this: “The theory of evolution is nothing more than a theory; it requires as much faith as creationism. ”

    That “nothing more than” is a dead giveaway. You’re not a scientist. You don’t even know the proper scientific meaning of the word “theory”! Your grand entrance begins with a pratfall, and if there’s something we love around here more than a creationist tripping up right from the beginning, it’s a pompous, pretentious chowderhead of a creationist exposing his own ignorance while preening.

  132. #132 Stanton
    September 5, 2007

    I was taught that scientists were to be open to ideas that contradicted their teaching and thinking.

    Actually, scientists are taught to think, gather data, and process that data. Unlike you, they are not taught to be stupid.

  133. #133 Stanton
    September 5, 2007

    I will be interested to see the “open-mindnesses” that science claims to possess, when reviewing the responses to this posting.

    Do realize there is a subtle difference between being open-minded, and so stupid so as to have your brains fall out in a slight breeze.

  134. #134 Scientist/Philosopher
    September 5, 2007

    I am deeply honored to have earned a response from the learned professor of atheism himself. I suppose I should consider it surprising that someone who is paid with public dollars to educate our children would so quickly jump to such intellectual heights as “chowderhead” to dispute anyone who dares to raise a question in his forum. How far our universities have apparently fallen since my years there. Do you call your students “chowderheads” when they attempt to present something other than your personal idea of political corrctness? Or are they so worried about your automatically failing them, that they are forced to sit in silence as you pontificate before their unworthy presence?

    You may not have yet learned that there are many definitions of most words in our English language, my dear friend. Since you jumped to the tactic of diversion by questioning my understanding of the term “Theory”, rather than engaging anything that I actually said, I offer the following definitions of the term from a dictionary:

    1. a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena: Einstein’s theory of relativity.
    2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
    3. Mathematics. a body of principles, theorems, or the like, belonging to one subject: number theory.
    4. the branch of a science or art that deals with its principles or methods, as distinguished from its practice: music theory.
    5. a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles.
    6. contemplation or speculation.
    7. guess or conjecture.

    I would submit to this forum that the Theory of Evolution falls within the definition as defined in #’s 2, 6, and 7 above. Sorry of those don’t meet with your personal use of the term. Merely calling something a “theory” does not prove its hypothesis.

    Also sorry that you offered no proof to prove your “theory” other than calling me childish names. Your thought-partner, Stanton, surpasses your intellectual capacity by spewing the word, “stupid”, which as we all know proves that his opponent MUST be wrong and he MUST be right, just as your use of “chowderhead” already proved beyond debate. You further proved your point by stating that I was being mocked… as if that wasn’t obvious. I am honored to be “mocked” just as the Nazarene philosopher was “mocked” by your forethinkers some 2,000 years ago.

    Does everyone on this forum actually believe that their are no scientists who hold a deep and personal faith in God? If so, you are greatly disillusioned. Your name-calling rants only lend credibility to your enemies.

    Respectfully,
    Believing Scientist

  135. #135 Ken Cope
    September 5, 2007

    For the umpteen zillionth time, proof is for math and whiskey; science doesn’t do proof. Leading with that, followed by arguments from ignorance (Bernoulli, you asshole!), followed by using a dictionary to support your mangling of the word theory, doesn’t make you very special at all. Giving yourself a big title is kind of funny, but, otherwise, cutting straight to the, “Look, look, I’m being repressed!” would be funny if it weren’t so pathetically unoriginal.

  136. #136 Steve_C
    September 5, 2007

    Ohhh lookie. He knows how to use a dictionary.

    I doubt any of us think you can’t be a scientist and be religious.

    Ain’t the creationist cute? Do have us a young earther or an old earther?

    Maybe he’s really really old and was a scientists in the 1800′s.

  137. #137 John Morales
    September 5, 2007

    Scientist/Philosopher – please, please do yourself a favour and desist from further embroiling yourself, if you value your self-esteem!

  138. #138 Scientist/Philosopher
    September 5, 2007

    All,

    Thanks for your comments. I will in fact cease posting or reading your esteemed forum, as it offers nothing more than grade-school level name-calling in support of what you claim as “truth”. I wonder how many debates the vast intellectual masses of this forum ever won with such persuasive techniques. At least you may be able to sit here and convince yourselves that you are somehow more worthy of thought than anyone who dares to differ.

    I never claimed a big title other than that which all of you seem to claim for yourselves… scientists and philsophers… both of which, those who have bothered to respond, have proven yourselves woefully unworthy of.

    Most disappointing to me was a public university professor who, right out of the gate, stooped to elementary school name calling when someone dared to even submit a position different than his. What intellect, what maturity, what infinite powers of persuasion he posseses! His students must be amazed.

    I am proud to be mocked by such a highly regarded group such as yourselves. If the esteemed “professor” has the integrity to leave these postings up for his students and others to see, it will have sevred my purpose beautifully… to expose his and your reactions to anyone who does not fully comply with your opinion of political correctness. Not one shred of thoughtfulness or even reason, only child-level mockery. Quite amazing, really.

    Now you may go back to considering how to rid the planet of people like myself. carry on.

    Believing Scientist

  139. #139 PZ Myers
    September 5, 2007

    The dictionary gambit is awfully silly, especially when you’re going to pick and choose arbitrarily. Yes, words have many meanings. The meaning of “theory” in the context of “theory of evolution” demands the scientific meaning — entry #1 in your list. This is not a “personal use of the term”. This is the way scientists use it.

    You are admitting that you use it in the sense of entry #7: a guess. That is the colloquial meaning.

    Scientists use it in the sense of #1. You, self-declared scientist, use it in the sense of #7. Therefore, we can immediately detect that your title is inappropriate and inaccurate. It’s actually one of the most common tells for creationists — so next time you troll a site, I recommend you avoid making that revealing error.

    Goodbye and good riddance. We really won’t miss you at all — you have nothing to contribute but dishonesty and pretension.

  140. #140 Ken Cope
    September 5, 2007

    Now you may go back to considering how to rid the planet of people like myself. carry on.

    It’s too late to do anything to the people who so damaged you. Still, I wouldn’t despair. The human brain is sufficiently elastic that it can rebound from all sorts of trauma. You may consider that many people on this blog who can muster a small measure of pity for you, at best, had been been misled by people every bit as ignorant and malicious as those who have lied to you. There’s hope for you yet. Keep fighting to understand what’s really going on.

    Look at the bright side. Already, your presence in this thread raises Tim B.’s apparent IQ by one, maybe two points. So, it’s a win for everybody all around.

  141. #141 Steve_C
    September 5, 2007

    Wow. That one was a doozy.

  142. #142 Jerry
    September 5, 2007

    My hat off to you Mr. Believing Scientist. And Mr. is used out of respect for you and what you have said. Steve has misunderstood what I said or he is as irrational as I thought.

    I would like your thoughts to this question: Do you think the original carbon dating method is more accurate than the one they use now or should I say how do you compare the old carbon dating method with the new carbon dating method. I’m not kidding. I have always wanted to ask this question to a scientist.

  143. #143 Tim B.
    September 6, 2007

    When on the receiving end of invective, snideness, and profanity, my first impulse is to strike back. Later, I usually second-guess myself, wondering if I actually deserved such treatment. On rereading my initial post, I discovered an insult of my own directed at those who are not open to the possibility of a quasi-mystical complexion to existence, as distinct from a purely scientific naturalism. And the fact that I didn’t realize at the time that I was, in effect, slapping others in the face lends credence to the accusation that I possess merely an apparent IQ (or have an ugly side I wasn’t aware of). My intention had been to only interject something different into the discussion. I was way too preachy and pretentious.

    Such an insult on my part was in very bad form, and I wish I could undo it. Surely there was/is a better way to stimulate colloquy between those with different general perspectives than the strident, oracular way I chose.

    Notwithstanding my original impoliteness, I did learn a decisive lesson: 99% atheist won’t cut it here; that 1% in suspense is met with 100% ridicule.

    I’m not fishing for any lessening of disregard about my opinions or person. I’m acknowledging that strong rebuttal to my lack of etiquette was justified (even if I wonder about the voluptuous strength of those counterattacks).

  144. #144 randy
    September 6, 2007

    Evolution seems to require at least as much faith as any religion of note. True, we have many in both camps promoting agenda and citing reasonings, but no proof. That is correct, I said no proof. In science we can only believe what can be measured and observed, and evolution has neither nor can faith or love be measured.

    So now, what position one takes seems to default to basic human agenda. Does this one hope there is no creator thus relieving him of accountability for his actions? Does that one hope there is a creator so that his stated purpose will eventually be fulfilled?

    At any rate, endless words mean nothing of lasting value while men puff themselves up with pride and place themselves as adversaries of the intelligence evident in the expanse of the universe.

  145. #145 Steve_C
    September 6, 2007

    This post sure attracts the goofy ones.

    They really don’t understand atheism or evolution.

    Deluded godbots.

  146. #146 AC
    September 6, 2007

    Tim B. is definitely preferable to the boilerplate that showed up recently. But I suppose at this point it would feel a bit weird if we didn’t get our daily drive-by dose of such wisdom: “In science we can only believe what can be measured and observed, and evolution has neither nor can faith or love be measured.”

    I did learn a decisive lesson: 99% atheist won’t cut it here; that 1% in suspense is met with 100% ridicule.

    My only comment would be that your reasons for that 1% (as described in post #77) don’t make much sense to me. My 100%-ness doesn’t prevent me from appreciating the “surrealness of Being” or existential matters. I don’t think it does for most of us. It is often complained that science doesn’t answer the “big” questions, but those questions are usually incoherent, or their motivations irrational.

    “Where did we come from?” The histories of life on Earth, Earth itself, and ultimately the very universe answer this. “What is our nature?” Science provides a similarly humbling answer. “Why are we here? What is our purpose?” These questions are faulty. As far as we can tell, we have no purpose, in the sense of something imposed from without. So the first question is answerable only in terms of history.

    If these answers do not satisfy, satisfaction can be pursued in many other ways. But it is madness, in so doing, to let that 1% overshadow the other 99 and lead us to deny the facts of observation that led us to it. You don’t seem to have gone so far, but many have.

  147. #147 Scientist/ Philosopher
    September 6, 2007

    Our esteemed professor PZ,

    My point is, precisely, that the “Theory” of eveolution is no more than a theory in the colloquial sense. My choice of words and meaning was intentional. There is, in fact, evidence supporting the theory (hypothesis if you insist) of evolution, but far from any proof. There is also evidence of intelligent design. A theory is far from a law. The law of gravity is provable by repeated experimentation with predictable results.

    The “theory” of evolution has never been proven. In fact, much of the evidence in its suuport has recently been determined to be incorrect by the introduction of new evidence.

    I personally do not hold the ideas of evolution and intelligent design to be mutually exclusive. I also do not hold either to be proven by any scientific standards.

    Your logic seems to follow your emotions. The only evidence you offered against anything I said, was to attempt to attach my credibility by “proving” that I am not a scientist because of my use of the word, “theory”. Therefore, because I suggested that the theory of evolution was not really a scientific theory at all, merely a theory in the colloquial sense, I must not be a “scientist” (by whatever definition you hold) and therefore any ideas I might have are categorivcally absurd.

    How unscientific! To apply your “logic” to yourself, one would have to conclude that you cannot certainly be a professor of any worthwhile university, nor a scientist by any standards, simply by your choice of the word “chowderhead” to explain how someone else’s ideas are supposedly incorrect. We all know that no “scientist” would offer elementary school name-calling in defense of their hypotheses and, if they were in fact a university professor, would most certainly offer a much more mature approach to dfiffering opinions, especially in such unproveable areas of dissent.

    Therfore, by applying your logical progression to yourself, you cannot popssibly be a scientist or a college professor, and therefore, carrying your logic further, none of your ideas can carry any merit whatsoever, and you must in fact be a “chowderhead”. At least I am in good company.

    Your thought-brethren, Steve and Ken, likewise have proven themselves incapable of offering anything more convinving than such enlightened arguments as “that was a doozy”, “deluded godbots”, and even the argument to trump all arguments, “Ohhh Lookie”. I am humbled.

    Dear Mr. PZ, you accused me of “trolling” in your sacred forum. The subject matter, as I understood it, related to how one might best present the ideas of evolution to those who are as yet undecided on that topic. I thought one way to shed illumination on that topic would be to question why you believe what you believe. I never actually stated what I personally believe, you simply jumped to conclusdions, along with your offensive positions, and started hurling names and insults.

    I guess you have now answered your own question. How best to address someone who is not yet sure of evolution? Insult them, apply completely illogical arguments, and ask them to leave.

    Very convincing, professor.

    Respectfully,
    your guest contributor

  148. #148 Steve_C
    September 6, 2007

    Uhg.

    Who talks like that? Bad dramatic actors and old fools.

    Oh theeee drahhhmaaaa.

  149. #149 Stanton
    September 7, 2007

    The “theory” of evolution has never been proven. In fact, much of the evidence in its suuport has recently been determined to be incorrect by the introduction of new evidence.

    Please produce this alleged new evidence that has overturned the Theory of Evolution.

  150. #150 John Morales
    September 7, 2007

    P/S:

    Therfore, by applying your logical progression to yourself, you cannot popssibly be a scientist or a college professor, and therefore, carrying your logic further, none of your ideas can carry any merit whatsoever, and you must in fact be a “chowderhead”.

    How can such cogency and erudition fail to sway?

  151. #151 Ken Cope
    September 7, 2007

    Richard Dawkins, and his notion of a meme treats the affliction with too much courtesy. “Scientist/Philosopher” has been abused by religiously-motivated sadists as surely as if somebody had taken an icepick and jammed it through his tearducts, swirling his frontal lobes around like an omelette. S/P may get better, but until such time, he’ll work as hard as he can to damage others every bit as severely as he was. He and his fellow cultists are a danger to themselves and others.

  152. #152 John Morales
    September 8, 2007

    What, P/S a liar?

    #138 I will in fact cease posting or reading your esteemed forum.
    #147 My choice of words and meaning was intentional

    OK. Granted.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.