Pharyngula

Only a Theory

I published a review in Nature this week, of Ken Miller’s Only a Theory(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), and boy, was that a tough one. The catch was that I want the book to do well, and I definitely think it has a place as an appeal to the religious majority to support good science (you know, all those people who see my demonic visage leering out at them from the top left corner of this page and want to call for an exorcist), but it also irritated me greatly on several important points.

I think it’s a much better book than his previous, Finding Darwin’s God(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). That book had one point where it simply drove off the cliff with a bunch of handwaving about god dwelling in quantum indeterminacy, which made it virtually unreadable beyond that point. There is no cliff in this one; instead, it’s threaded with some annoying biases throughout.

The big one for me was a lot of naive American exceptionalism, and that’s the issue for which I took him to task in the Nature review. Why does the US have such an aberrant problem with creationism, while Europe does not? I would have answered with something about a tradition of religiosity and anti-intellectualism, and maybe something about a rough-and-ready credulity that allowed for the rapid proliferation of widely variant sects; the recent renascence of creationism under the guise of ID owes something to raging relativism, too. In Miller’s eyes, creationism has absolutely nothing to do with religion at all — it’s all about the American virtues of rebelliousness and disrespect, to which we also owe our eminence in science.

This is news to me, especially lately since Miller’s co-religionists have been madly flinging bricks at me for daring to disrespect their peculiar superstitions. I also don’t think the sheep flocking to the mega-churches are flaunting their rebelliousness…it’s more an expression of conformity. There isn’t one true revolutionary among the creationist hordes, only a mob trying to defend hallowed superstitions from the encroaching modernity. Any explanation for the popularity of creationism that discounts the impact of religion for the worse is like trying to explain the motion of a car while completely ignoring the engine compartment.

The other annoyance of his book creeps in gradually. He’s clearly a fan of Simon Conway Morris’s view that life roughly of our sort was inevitable, that while evolution would lead to variations in the details, a human-like mind was a consequence that was programmed into the starting conditions of the universe. If we restarted the Earth at a point 4 billion years ago, the planet would eventually cough up a pile of social animals that would start going to church and praising their heavenly creator — maybe they wouldn’t be mammals, but our molluscan or reptilian or echinoderm replacements on Alternate Earth would still be occupying a similar niche to ours, and would still be fulfilling the rough outlines of the vision set in motion by a loving god.

This is, of course, untestable wishful thinking, and not at all supported by the science, which shows a genuine role for chance. Real chance. Not the chance of Miller, which is that of a god who throws dice most of the time, but when it is really, really important, he fudges the results a little bit to make sure he wins.

Still, you should read the book. Ignore the apologetics, and don’t trust anything he says about the origins of creationism in the US, but do read it for the excellent rebuttals to common creationist claims. This is a book I’d hand to any creationist students who try to argue against evolution on religious grounds, but I think it would only take them partway to a realistic view of how life came to be.

Comments

  1. #1 Timothy Wood
    July 31, 2008

    hell… you can’t ask for perfection. but we need allies. we need all the allies we can get. (at least in my opinion) If Ken starts them to thinking… then i praise his efforts.

  2. #2 Phentari
    July 31, 2008

    Thanks for the review, Dr. Myers. I’m actually quite interested in reading books like this, because it speaks to a question I’ve found myself asking more and more often lately.

    It’s actually a question I’d like to ask proponents of “equal time for ID in the classroom”–what, precisely, do they want taught during that equal time?

    I’ve asked a couple of ID advocates this question; it seems to catch them flat-footed. The typical response seems to involve a lot of hemming and hawing and boil down to “Well…you know…intelligent design. All of it.”

    Which is well and good–but as far as I can tell, “All of it” generally boils down to “Evolution is wrong” and “Somebody designed the universe.”

    I’d like to see if there’s something more substantial–not necessarily right, mind you, but something that would amount to more than a thirty-second curriculum.

  3. #3 Dagor
    July 31, 2008

    Very nice review, enjoyed it yesterday. Thanks for defendig us Europeans :).

  4. #4 Ryan F Stello
    July 31, 2008

    In Miller’s eyes, creationism has absolutely nothing to do with religion at all — it’s all about the American virtues of rebelliousness and disrespect

    The only way he can not see the connection between creationism and religion without being deliberately dishonest is if he implicitely believes that religion is inherently rebellious and disrespectful.

    Given how many religionists call for confromity and respect around here, I can’t say I’d agree.

  5. #5 molecanthro
    July 31, 2008

    $32 to read your article? wowsers! guess i’ll wait till i’m back at my institute tomorrow where i have access…

    i suppose that i’ll read the book. i have a few acquaintances who are biologists and either religious or very accommodating to the religious. it’s hard to argue with them, but i suppose we’d have a tougher time without them. however, that point seems to be where i part ways with the leftists. it’s hard for me to ignore the apologetics.

  6. #6 Glen Davidson
    July 31, 2008

    I think there’s a kind of faux rebelliousness that latches onto anti-intellectualism, including religion, in America, as it does not in Europe. To that extent, Miller’s partly right.

    And from that you get a marketplace of religions that keeps Americans relatively satisfied with one sect or another, in a manner that you really don’t see in Europe. It’s not “independent thought”, of course, but it is a kind of independent shopping from the cornucopia of sects in America.

    Americans tend to have a kind of naive empirical view. How this compares with Europeans, I wouldn’t know. But getting back to the American view, they do want the evidence, and they think that it should be relatively easy to grasp. Due in part to religious obscurantism (“common designer”) and a lack of understanding of science, the fact that you can’t produce a simple “proof” of evolution to their satisfaction makes them believe that they’re empirically accurate.

    Miller seems to go too far in giving credit to American “independence”. Yet a naive sense of needing to be “independent” seems to underlie a lot of American quackery. In fact, we were just commenting yesterday on Bill Maher’s anti-science woo, which coincides with his dislike of religion. Not believing the experts seems to be an “American right” for many people.

    Myers is certainly right to bring the focus toward religion, but that doesn’t mean that Miller is completely wrong about the American dislike of authority.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  7. #7 PZ Myers
    July 31, 2008

    Well, though, as far as the creationists are concerned, Miller is the devil. His book is not going to derail the movement, although it might help sway some individuals, and it’s not going to work as a compromise treatment for the classroom.

  8. #8 Helioprogenus
    July 31, 2008

    This belief in directed evolution is so prevalent, that I find myself constantly at odds with people who view this as though it were inherent in the fabric of the cosmos. It doesn’t matter how reasoned the argument is, but some people cannot dissociate themselves from thinking clearly on this topic, and assume if it wasn’t Earth, another planet’s sole purpose of evolving life would be a creature intelligent enough to question the universe as we do. Some go out of their way to find an explanation that incorporates some directed process, and this is just extremely sad. It indicates a profound lack of in-depth understanding as to how evolution through natural selection works.

  9. #9 Torcant
    July 31, 2008

    Ken sounds like Francis Collins

  10. #10 Glen Davidson
    July 31, 2008

    In Miller’s eyes, creationism has absolutely nothing to do with religion at all

    Of course Miller is trying to say that real religion accepts evolution, hence creationism isn’t about religion. As advocacy of a certain type of religion (and pushing the true Scotsman) he may be correct, but it’s not an accurate description as most people understand it.

    Yet if one were to see it through Miller’s eyes, it could make sense. One might say that honest religion honestly accepts the facts, thus creationism isn’t religion, or at least it isn’t honest religion.

    The trouble is, religion simply isn’t a very honest way to interface with the world today, so from our realist perspective it doesn’t work.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  11. #11 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 31, 2008

    Ken sounds like Francis Collins

    Personally I think Dr. Miller is better than Francis Collins for our side. Yes he holds some views I disagree with wholeheartedly, but he is one hell of a persuasive speaker and defender of evidence based science when he’s on topic.

  12. #12 Phentari
    July 31, 2008

    I don’t think anything is going to work as a “compromise treatment” for the classroom–it’s not a situation where real compromise is possible or desired. Either science is methodical, skeptical, parsimonious, and testable, or it isn’t.

  13. #13 Brownian, OM
    July 31, 2008

    I’m willing to give Miller a pass on his moderate Catholicism since he’s shown himself to be willing to slug it out with the creos when push comes to shove, such as at Dover.

  14. #14 SLC
    July 31, 2008

    Prof. Myers just doesn’t understand. As the framers, numbnuts Nisbet and the Bobbsey twins Kirschenbaum and Mooney would put it, Miller is just framing the argument differently then Prof. Myers does (snark).

  15. #15 Greg Peterson
    July 31, 2008

    It’s a flawed book but a damned good one, one that I would feel comfortable giving to a creationist, and that’s not nothing. I got the sense that some of Miller’s American exceptionalst rhetoric was sort of pandering–”you’re not ignorant, you’re James Dean!” Perhaps people would rather hear that their weaknesses are really just an excess of strength rather than being confronted with the truth–at which point, they might just tune out completely. Hard-core science types are probably used to not only accepting but actually seeking out the oppositional bitch-slap, but most laypeople might need a tablespoon of sugar to get those bitter pills down. I assume that Miller is a good enough communicator for general audiences to recognize that possibility, and this is his (somewhat hamfisted) effort to keep readers reading until all his points are made.

  16. #16 NonyNony
    July 31, 2008

    that of a god who throws dice most of the time, but when it is really, really important, he fudges the results a little bit to make sure he wins.

    I just had a vision of God as Supreme Dungeon Master, sitting behind his divine DM’s Screen, throwing d20′s and cackling to himself at the results. There’s an image that’s going to stay in my brain for a while…

  17. #17 Glen Davidson
    July 31, 2008

    Personally I think Dr. Miller is better than Francis Collins for our side. Yes he holds some views I disagree with wholeheartedly, but he is one hell of a persuasive speaker and defender of evidence based science when he’s on topic.

    Plus, he’s not blathering on about the “moral law” and other non-real concepts.

    I wouldn’t dump on Collins too much either, but the woo in his writings becomes annoying, far more than Miller’s woo (like cosmological ID) does.

    We have to disagree with Miller on some of his statements, but really he stays on the topic of real science in by far the most of his public statements and speeches. In his books the woo is sometimes obnoxious. And even there, he’s properly scientific in most of his chapters.

    With Collins one is always watching out for his woo, like the triune waterfall.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  18. #18 Peter Ashby
    July 31, 2008

    Your pre-eminence in science huh? Well over here in the UK we publish more papers per head of population than you over the pond do. Granted we are relative sluggards when it comes to commercialising those ideas, but that is due to your worship of the almighty dollar and that is hardly an exception to be proud of.

  19. #19 Saddlebred
    July 31, 2008

    I 100% agree that “Finding Darwin’s God” totally lost its style right when we discover that Jeebus’ throne lies somewhere between QM and Chaos Theory. I put it down at that point (up until that point however, I did enjoy it). I haven’t picked it up since.

  20. #20 Mr.Pendent
    July 31, 2008

    If we restarted the Earth at a point 4 billion years ago, the planet would eventually cough up a pile of social animals that would start going to church and praising their heavenly creator — maybe they wouldn’t be mammals, but our molluscan or reptilian or echinoderm replacements on Alternate Earth would still be occupying a similar niche to ours, and would still be fulfilling the rough outlines of the vision set in motion by a loving god.

    You’d think this would upset the fundamentalists. Because, if this is actually what Miller is saying, then he’s arguing that if you were to reset the universe for a do-over, then god would change form (we were “made in His image” according to the religious, right?). So if “we” were molluscs or arthropods or what-have-you, wouldn’t God be as well?

    So, if we were “made in His image”, and they argue that human-like life was “destined” to evolve, then the only way it could evolve (in their minds) is into us.

    Which puts as back at their first supposition–”Godidit”

    I’d be willing to say that, given enough time and random chance, something approximating self-awareness was bound to show up on some planet somewhere. Likewise, given enough typewriters and monkeys…

  21. #21 Phentari
    July 31, 2008

    Nony @16:

    That would sort of explain the platypus, wouldn’t it?

    “Okay, type of critter…12. Mammal. Distinctive physical features…natural 20! That means it’s got…a bill and a beaver’s tail? Well, the dice are never wrong. Pass me the Fritos.”

  22. #22 Phil
    July 31, 2008

    PZ, while I do not agree with Miller’s hypotheses concerning the increased acceptance of ID among Americans vis-a-vis Europeans, I think your conjectures “a tradition of religiosity and anti-intellectualism” fall flat as well. Europe also has a history of anti-intellectualism. The history of socialist and labor movements, which were usually more pronounced in Europe than the United States, featured degrees of anti-intellectualism. The 1960s New Left, which was prevalent in both Europe and the United States, featured anti-intellectual trends.

    I think the main reason Americans are more religious than Europeans is the separation of church and state. In Old Europe (and a lot of the rest of the world), faith was a matter of belief AND politics. In the 20th century, religion was largely expunged from the European political sphere, and it has now become largely an underfunded bureaucracy.

  23. #23 molecanthro
    July 31, 2008

    oh yes, one other thing. while i agree that the creationist infestation is much more prevalent in the US (i grew up in and did my undergrad in tennessee so i’m quite familiar with that), it is getting to be a massive problem in europe.
    i did my MSc and and worked as a research assistant in london and oxbridge so i was there for 3 years. i saw philip johnson give a pathetic lecture in oxford to a very big crowd who followed his every word like frackin zombies. i argued with people who run the ‘noah’s ark zoo farm’ which teaches creationism to kids (and is accredited by BIAZA…whom i’ve also argued with about that) and i’ve seen that the government is in the business of funding religious schools all over the country who oppose evolution. most british friends of mine simply say that it’s an american problem and, when confronted with evidence of it’s appeal to the ordinary uk citizen, they seem shocked.

    having lived in germany the past year i can say that it isn’t quite as bad, but it is still present…even at my current ‘evolution’ institute! it’s big in poland and turkey, huge in ireland, and there are rumblings in spain and france. it has the potential to be a huge problem here as well.

    i definitely disagree with Miller, but i’d also have to warn PZ that this anti-intellectualism exists over here as well. i used to romanticize about the liberal nature of europeans and their intellectualism (until i moved here).

  24. #24 John Pieret
    July 31, 2008

    In Miller’s eyes, creationism has absolutely nothing to do with religion at all — it’s all about the American virtues of rebelliousness and disrespect, to which we also owe our eminence in science.

    Well, any virtue can become a vice if applied in the wrong way or to the wrong subject. I think Miller was referring to an American impulse to embrace (the idea of) egalitarianism and reject class distinctions … leading to the rejection of academic and intellectual “elites” (i.e. “experts”) in favor of a belief that every one’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s.

    Which is why we were pleased to see you hosting the Carnival of Elitist Bastards.

  25. #25 Blake Stacey
    July 31, 2008

    That book had one point where it simply drove off the cliff with a bunch of handwaving about god dwelling in quantum indeterminacy, which made it virtually unreadable beyond that point.

    You don’t need quantum mechanics to open the possibility of the Divine Finger nudging Earthly affairs this way or that; in fact, quantum physics makes it harder. The roll of a classical die and the spin-down of a classical roulette wheel could be adjusted by carefully tweaking their starting conditions, but quantum theory permits no hidden variables: there are no gears inside the electron that determine which way it will go. In order to carve out a place where purposeful design can fit, you have to modify the physics. Miller’s God can’t use regular quantum physics; it is only compatible with a hacked version, and thus it can only reconcile religion with something which is not modern science. Philosophically, this is hardly more respectable than the drivel from a Dembski or a Behe.

    Once upon a time, or so the fable goes, Yahweh could flood the world with water. A few centuries later, he could set a shrubbery on fire. Today, he is banished to the foggy outer shores of quantum indeterminacy, hiding amid the vague principles of nonlocal hidden variable hypotheses. What a fall from glory has there been!

  26. #26 MH
    July 31, 2008

    PZ wrote “maybe they wouldn’t be mammals, but … molluscan”

    And eventually, a messiah squid would get nailed to a bit of coral.

  27. #27 Blake Stacey
    July 31, 2008

    We have to disagree with Miller on some of his statements, but really he stays on the topic of real science in by far the most of his public statements and speeches. In his books the woo is sometimes obnoxious. And even there, he’s properly scientific in most of his chapters.

    With Collins one is always watching out for his woo, like the triune waterfall.

    Well said.

    I reserve the right to be upset, frustrated, exasperated and many participles besides whenever Miller veers into woo, of course.

  28. #28 PZ Myers
    July 31, 2008

    $32? When I follow the link to Nature, it says the same thing…but it displays the whole review. It’s not that long.

    If it’ll make you feel better, you can send me $31 and I’ll give you the text, all 6 paragraphs of it.

  29. #29 Brownian, OM
    July 31, 2008

    I just had a vision of God as Supreme Dungeon Master, sitting behind his divine DM’s Screen, throwing d20′s and cackling to himself at the results. There’s an image that’s going to stay in my brain for a while…

    That probably best explains why I haven’t yet gained any levels or magical items.

  30. #30 FishyFred
    July 31, 2008

    The catch was that I want the book to do well

    A bad review from you is like gold to the Christian community.

  31. #31 Mr.Pendent
    July 31, 2008

    Once upon a time, or so the fable goes, Yahweh could flood the world with water. A few centuries later, he could set a shrubbery on fire. Today, he is banished to the foggy outer shores of quantum indeterminacy, hiding amid the vague principles of nonlocal hidden variable hypotheses. What a fall from glory has there been!

    Keep at him boys! We’ve got’im on the run!

  32. #32 Michael
    July 31, 2008

    Why does the US have such an aberrant problem with creationism, while Europe does not?

    As one might recall, Europe was divided into the east and the west. The east being under Soviet rule which was atheistic communism and the west was democracy. When the Soviet fell (not it’s socialistic principles for an economy and control) by opening it’s doors. Europe became one, and of course if you were under Soviet rule, you were indoctrinated. 60 percent of Berlin in Germany are atheists because of the former east Germany. It’s basically a dream situation for militant atheists here and one they hope would have a similar effect in the United States…

    Also, in the US there is a better flow of information, more media outlets which are not controlled by the government.

  33. #33 Steve LaBonne
    July 31, 2008

    This belief in directed evolution is so prevalent, that I find myself constantly at odds with people who view this as though it were inherent in the fabric of the cosmos. It doesn’t matter how reasoned the argument is, but some people cannot dissociate themselves from thinking clearly on this topic, and assume if it wasn’t Earth, another planet’s sole purpose of evolving life would be a creature intelligent enough to question the universe as we do. Some go out of their way to find an explanation that incorporates some directed process, and this is just extremely sad. It indicates a profound lack of in-depth understanding as to how evolution through natural selection works.

    It’s really not surprising. Our minds incorporate powerful pattern- and meaning-detector modules, and overriding them when they’re returning false positive results is never easy. That’s one of the reasons why scientific thinking is a late and fragile feature of human history.

  34. #34 Spero Melior
    July 31, 2008

    The review is well worth the $32, just to see PZ writing with a British accent (“centre”, “defence”, “rigour”).

  35. #35 protocol
    July 31, 2008

    Someone here needs to clearly define “intellectualism” here. I think people are talking past each other. if by intellectualism it is meant deferring to so-called experts (in foreign policy, econ., science etc.) without question and accepting arguments from authority, then I think its a bad thing. But if “intellectualism” means the urge to understand both “natural” and “social” phenomena in as rational a manner as possible, then of course it is a very good thing. In fact I think that the second kind of intellectualism should conflict with the first kind, and all power to the former!!
    Incidentally I think so-called “public intellectuals” are often charlatans and serve power, so I heartily support “anti-intellectualism” when applied to this crowd.

  36. #36 Jonestein
    July 31, 2008

    I read the book and thought it was fantastic, but was annoyed by the same tings as Dr. Myers. Despite the annoyances, I highly recommend the book as Dr. Miller absolutely trounces “Intelligent Design”.

  37. #37 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 31, 2008

    It’s basically a dream situation for militant atheists here and one they hope would have a similar effect in the United States…

    Idiot.

  38. #38 JoJo
    July 31, 2008

    In one respect, fundamentalist religion is rebellious. While the rest of Western culture has accepted a modernistic (i.e., scientific, rational) view of the world, fundamentalists reach back to pre-renaissance times for their world view.

    By the 1800s, the educated classes in both Europe and North America had discarded Biblical literalness. As education became more widespread and available even to the poorest Westerners, it appeared that the bases for fundamentalism would disappear. However, a resurgence from the rational ideal occurred in the U.S. starting about a hundred years ago.

    We cannot, like H. L. Mencken, writing from the Scopes trial of 1925, dismiss the Christian right as a carnival of backward buffoons jealous of modernity’s privileges. We cannot, like Carl Bernstein in the early 1990s explain away fundamentalists as “largely poor, uneducated and easy to command.”

    Many fundamentalists are middle-class and educated (usually in the liberal arts). Their objections to modernism are cultural. They are rebelling against the rest of the Western world. So Miller’s comments about rebellion are not as far fetched as they might appear at first glance.

  39. #39 Tack
    July 31, 2008

    $32 to read a single article is insulting, I don’t care what magazine it is.

  40. #40 Nick Gotts
    July 31, 2008

    Michael@32,
    Your idiocy is truly breathtaking. How does your “explanation” cope with the high proportion of non-believers in much of western Europe? For anyone interested in the demography of atheism,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism is a starting point.

  41. #41 Mr.Pendent
    July 31, 2008

    Many fundamentalists are middle-class and educated (usually in the liberal arts).

    Do you have any proof of this assertion?

  42. #42 Ollie
    July 31, 2008

    Granted we are relative sluggards when it comes to commercialising those ideas, but that is due to your worship of the almighty dollar and that is hardly an exception to be proud of.

    Because we wouldn’t want people to actually benefit from knowledge, now would we…

  43. #43 Jordan
    July 31, 2008

    Why does the US have such an aberrant problem with creationism, while Europe does not?

    I’ve often wondered about the flip-side to this question, which is this: Why does Europe have such a problem with homeopathy? It’s very mainstream in Europe — much more so than in North America — and it’s just as pseudo-scientific as creationism. It’s the placebo effect gone wild and it results in millions of euros wasted every year. What is it about Europe (especially France, in my experience) that results in otherwise enlightened and educated people whole-heartedly embracing quackery?

  44. #44 JoJo
    July 31, 2008

    Do you have any proof of this assertion?

    Proof? No, I don’t. I know a fair number of fundamentalists, mainly Mormons, and most of them are middle-class and college educated. But anecdote ? data.

  45. #45 Brian
    July 31, 2008

    It seems like Miller has fallen for the imagery in Ben Stein’s Expelled film. Creationism, as PZ pointed out, is not the rebellious stance, it is the establishment. Well, it was the establishment anyway. While Stein tried to appeal to the American sense of rebellion by trying to dress creationists as “rebels,” that doesn’t make creationism a rebellious cause. It’s simply a sly new tactic from the creationist bag of tricks, but not the overall philosophy of the movement.

  46. #46 Dervin
    July 31, 2008

    you are missing the impact of Social Darwinism* in the late 19th, early 20th century of America. American Capitalists took “survival of the fittest” as the justification for having children work in the mines, killing striking workers, locking emergency exit door, and so forth. And of course you have the unapologetic racism in the scientific elites so elegantly written about by Gould.

    Carnegie and his brethren were doing fulfilling their Darwinian moral duty by punishing the poor and the colored.

    With the US Government on the side of the powerful.

    The Churches were fighting for the little guy. It’s not an accident that Jennings was a Progressive arguing against the business interest of America and a creationist at the same time.

    In Europe, they had the good fortune of WWII totally devastating their institutions of Capitalism, Government and Church. Thus changing the dynamic.

    *Yes, I know that term wasn’t coined until 1944.

  47. #47 Hap
    July 31, 2008

    ##4: I don’t think it’s Prof. Myers – I think Nature does full editing on documents – fixing grammar and spelling, etc., so they may simply have modified the draft to fit their standards. I wish more journals would actually do that – I’m really tired of seeing misspelled titles on 2 page communications.

  48. #48 andrew
    July 31, 2008

    After your post about Bobby Jindal’s imminent signing of the anti-smrt bill, i sent an email to everyone in my address book basically giving some high level points about the voracity of evolution and the illegitimacy of ID and the importance of church/state separation.

    one girl in my grad school class, who I believe is quite religious, offered to lend me a book that took an unbiased and independent look at evolution. i was expecting Darwin’s Black Box, but she handed me The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel. Strobel isn’t a biologist and not even a scientist, but a writer with experience in law. i was a bit disappointed.

    im struggling to get through the first 100 pages (of about 400). but i’m writing down as many eroneous points as i possibly can…..and trust me there are a TON.

    I plan on writing a thorough rebuttal to it and talking with her afterwards.

    Also I am going to offer to lend her Only a Theory since I thought it would have enough good information that I can feel good recommending it, yet its soft enough for someone religious to read.

    So, in short, I’m glad you seem to feel the same way.

  49. #49 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 31, 2008

    PZ I’m not sure you’ve seen it or not but you have a porno spammer by the name of Porno Izle and his homepage link is well… porn.

    I’ve seen him / her on a number of threads.

  50. #50 Blake Stacey
    July 31, 2008

    andrew:

    Strobel has done quite a bit to win himself a bad reputation among the reality-based community, hasn’t he?

  51. #51 Paul W.
    July 31, 2008

    Mr. Pendant, JoJo,

    Here’s some data from the General Social Survey:

    http://sda.berkeley.edu:8080/quicktables/quicksetoptions.do?reportKey=gss04%3A1

    You can use the online graph-generator to plot things like income or education level vs. religiosity or fundamentalism.

    In general, income and education are substantially negatively correlated with religiosity and/or orthodoxy, but the correlations aren’t overwhelming.

    People with postgraduate degrees are about half as likely to be fundamentalists as high-school grads who didn’t go to college. That’s a big difference, but there’s still a whole lot of educated fundamentalists.

    You get much more striking effects if you start looking at education in science (as opposed to, say, business), and at scientific achievement. The higher you go in science, the less orthodox and less religious people are.

  52. #52 Sastra
    July 31, 2008

    Like several others, I think American history demonstrates the rise of a strange combination of both authoritarian religion AND rebelliousness as a virtue.

    The Puritans left their country because they were rebelling against the Churches that had forgotten God. The charismatic sects of the “Great Awakening” were rebels against the churches that had forgotten God. When the “established” religion disagrees with you, then it’s easy to frame yourself as being just like that little band of rebels who followed Jesus. They didn’t follow the mainstream, and forget that it’s all about God.

    As people spread westward, there were no trained theologians to act as ministers. Doctor of Divinity? No need. It was anyone with a Bible, the common sense to read what it said, and the inner conviction they were getting it all right from the Holy Spirit of God — who would of course make sure that everything you needed to know would be easily understandable, from the Bible to science.

    I’ve often felt that this belief that the world was set up for the sole purpose of finding God is at the bottom of the Creationist mindset. Why else would you have homeschooling moms with a two-year degree in liberal arts routinely thinking they can outsmart and out-think postgraduate experts and researchers in, say, cell biology, in their own subject?

    “I am personally sure the cell couldn’t evolve. You just have to think it through to see that.” It’s as if reality is a great big giant playpen, and God made it all child-proof and child-friendly, filled with toys which are going to be easy to operate without any hard instructions.

    God gave the instructions, in the form of morality tales and simple stories about people who went against the sinful ways of their community, and got sneered at, and yet were right in the end. They love to think of Noah, and how the people who laughed at him drowned as his ark went by. Or Jesus, whom the crowds mocked, but he rose again in glory. The Left Behind series is nothing more than an extended expression of “who’s laughing now, smart asses?”

    Someone mentioned the Separation of Church and State as one factor, and I suspect the lack of an Official Religion contributed to the competition between religions. Who is more like Jesus? I am, I am.

    Both the liberal and the conservatives often like to disavow “religion” as “man-made institutions” and “man’s way of bringing God down to his level.” No, TRUE religion (or “spirituality”) is when you go DIRECTLY to God, and don’t buy into what “they’re” trying to tell you. Listen to God instead.

    Religion seems to have a built-in conspiracy generator. It isn’t always used, but I think it’s part of the functional equipment of anything that forms a Grand Narrative which separates the wheat from the chaff, and the sheep from the goats, through what they choose to have “faith” in.

  53. #53 BlueIndependent
    July 31, 2008

    I too am not sure I agree with Mr. Miller’s assessment as to why creationism remains as popular as it is. I would say it’s partly a function of how the religion has evolved in marketing itself for every new generation. The religion evolved to incorporate rock music, rap, metal, even death metal. It evolved to make it seem mostly entirely benevolent to science. It evolved in how it presented its traditions (can you go into a single church anymore that doesn’t have an electric band with percussion?). It evolved its facilities and its naming schemes to become more savvy for the ever-evcolving society in which it resides. These are all changes meant to mass-market the message and the movement; to make it seem new and non-traditional, while maintaining all or most of the traditions.

    And as is their “caling”, they evolved their political writings to try and bring in others that were once objectors to their cause. Another example of the evolution can be seen in how the DI insists its not biased towards what the Designer is (even when we know who their hinting at). Whether the evolution is honest or sleight of hand, it is an evolution of strategy in order to remain as relevrant as possible, in order to maintain survival. The church uses airs of rebelliousness and hip disrespect to seem like it’s breaking molds it in point of fact is trying to keep filling. The appeals to rebellion and disrespect are vehicles or avenues of attack, not the soul cause. Maybe for some people they are what compels disrespect, but for the vast majority, it’s the direct challenge faced by uncomfortable realities and facts that drives the counter movement. It is not rebelliousness, but repackaging of a centuries old conflict.

    “Why does the US have such an aberrant problem with creationism, while Europe does not?”

    I wonder if in Europe religious institutions are as heavily marketed as they are here. Here I see logos, tag lines, huge “campuses”, worship rooms and buildings with Starbucks and other consumer services, TV commercials, etc. Does anything like this happen in Europe, as heavily as it does in the US? My guess is it doesn’t. Europe also knosw a hell of a lot more about strife involving religious sectarianism. The entirety of Europe has seen conflicts steeped in r eligious divides. Recent events have driven home the point that religion has caused division over centuries; it has not mended them.

    The US by contrast has but a handful of events to gain experience from, and not nearly enough of it, to know that religious conflicts spread far and wide across the populace will breed previously unknown levels of discontent and conflict. The US is also quite stubborn to recognize the folly of attempting to go the theocratic route, to proud of itself to see what ends it intends to bring upon itself in broken states with theocratic Muslim regimes.

  54. #54 Kristina
    July 31, 2008

    “It’s actually a question I’d like to ask proponents of “equal time for ID in the classroom”–what, precisely, do they want taught during that equal time?”

    Well, as long as it’s not some evolutionistic dogma that has been spouted so many times before and with more cult-like vigor that is worst than any religiuos group, I think, it’s ok by me. And I hope from this statement you will not assume that I am religious. I do not believe in creationism and I do not believe in evolutionism…I guess I’m in limbo at the moment…hahaha. I am tired of evolutionists that are fanatically trying to defend their ‘scientifically derived’ theory of evolution. Sorry to tell, but you cannot prove it, same as religious people cannot prove that God exists , it is just a theory. I do agree though, that there should be another option for students in schools, and if the only other choice is ID theory, so be it.
    P.S. Sorry for any mistakes, English is my 3rd language.

  55. #55 The Adamant Atheist
    July 31, 2008

    “Spirituality” may be less immediately menacing than organized religion, but insofar as it makes claims beyond one’s personal experience it is just as kooky and baseless as any religion.

  56. #56 Sigmund
    July 31, 2008

    The small amount of organized anti-evolution in Europe is almost exclusively associated with US based evangelical church groups that have set up branches here. The idea that the local populace here (in every country) are deferential to those with degrees is ludicrous and is obvious just a cheap rhetorical ploy to pander to the religious readers.
    As for its historical origin in the US the best explanation I have heard is that the evangelical protestant movement grew as a backlash against catholic immigration in the 19th century. I guess thats not something Miller would find too interesting to dwell upon in a book aimed at non catholics.
    There are two problems with Miller talking about religion. One, he falls into the usual trap (Francis Collins is the same) of not admitting that what he is really advocating is for people to take up HIS version of religion and drop their own foolish interpretations of scripture.
    Second, he unfortunately sounds a bit loopy when he starts talking about his belief in the truth of things like transubstantiation and the miracles of Jesus – that clearly defy the laws of physics.
    If he and Collins could stick to science then I’d have no problem.

  57. #57 Dave in Escondido
    July 31, 2008

    PZ, how long is your review? If it’s five paragraphs, yes, I’m seeing it all. If it is more, then I’m not. In that case, I’ll bet you are probably being automatically logged in to the Nature website, while most of us are not.

    When I click on the link, I get the following near the top of the page: “Access — To read this story in full you will need to login or make a payment (see right).”

    Then I get five paragraphs of the review, ending with “Only a Theory is a useful overview of a perilous political attack on the nature of science.”

    Which is then followed by “To read this story in full you will need to login or make a payment (see right).”

  58. #58 Chris
    July 31, 2008

    Michael @ #32 wrote:
    the west was democracy.

    What you been smoking? Especially (West-)Germany in particular is a role model of a typical oligarchy.

    Also, in the US there is a better flow of information, more media outlets which are not controlled by the government.

    You obviously need to get out of your parent’s basement every now and then, boy.

  59. #59 yakaru
    July 31, 2008

    #31 said: “60 percent of Berlin in Germany are atheists because of the former east Germany.”

    – I live in Berlin, and that does not tally at all with the reality. There is a church on nearly every corner here. Church tax is still collected by the tax office, and outside of Berlin in the supposedly atheistic communist east, religious holidays are happily respected everywhere.

    There is a strict separation of church and state, however, and any attempt to teach religion in schools would be vigorously opposed by many religious groups. (Admittedly because it would involve also having to allow Muslims to wear head scarves.)

    Die Zeit newspaper, which quite openly holds conservative Christian values, described creationism a while ago as a bizarre set of beliefs held by an extremist cult. They just don’t like stupidity.

    “Also, in the US there is a better flow of information, more media outlets which are not controlled by the government.”

    Ummm….you don’t read any non-US papers, do you?

  60. #60 Arnaud
    July 31, 2008

    I haven’t read all the comments yet but I have to agree with Jordan. There are places in Europe as religious as the US, there is also in some countries a tradition of “anti-intellectualism”. I really think we shouldn’t be too complacent in the Old Continent, we have a lot of kooks and irrational beliefs too. Homeopathy in France, said Jordan, but to that you can add acupuncture, astrology and quite a weird cults. The UK is a hotbed for the anti-vaccination crowd.
    I think it’s more a function of history, the churches in America, sorry the US, latched early on the theory of evolution as a convenient bogeyman to frighten their flocks with and keep their power (and their income). I have no doubt that most of them don’t believe for a minute the shit they are peddling to their parishioners.
    In France we are for the moment protected by the language barrier and a (for me) healthy tradition of anti-clericalism mixed with public (as in: government-funded and controlled) school ethos. But in the UK the ID crowd has been becoming more vocal for the past few years and I am starting to fear for the future. This guys have money and the government is always on the lookout for people to help fund the schools…

  61. #61 Glen Davidson
    July 31, 2008

    Sorry to tell, but you cannot prove it, same as religious people cannot prove that God exists , it is just a theory. I do agree though, that there should be another option for students in schools, and if the only other choice is ID theory, so be it.

    So you’re stupid, but not for even the flimsy excuse of religion.

    Get a clue, dimwit–science isn’t about proof. How many times do you morons have to be told this?

    If you want to show that evolution isn’t scientific you have to demonstrate that it isn’t a good organizer of facts, providing explanations for otherwise disparate phenomena, and facilitating research.

    Because you don’t even care enough to educate yourself as to the criteria of science, it’s clear that you’re just an arrogantly ignorant bozo.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  62. #62 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 31, 2008

    Well, as long as it’s not some evolutionistic dogma that has been spouted so many times before and with more cult-like vigor that is worst than any religiuos group, I think, it’s ok by me. And I hope from this statement you will not assume that I am religious. I do not believe in creationism and I do not believe in evolutionism…I guess I’m in limbo at the moment…hahaha. I am tired of evolutionists that are fanatically trying to defend their ‘scientifically derived’ theory of evolution. Sorry to tell, but you cannot prove it, same as religious people cannot prove that God exists , it is just a theory. I do agree though, that there should be another option for students in schools, and if the only other choice is ID theory, so be it.
    P.S. Sorry for any mistakes, English is my 3rd language.

    You language was fine, your content however was drivel. Just because you are either to lazy to do your research or unable to understand it does not make what you say anywhere near the truth.

    What parts of the Theory of Evolution do you dispute?

  63. #63 Nick Gotts
    July 31, 2008

    Kristina,
    It’s not poor English that’s your problem – yours is not bad – but sheer ignorance. The “it’s just a theory” line gives you away: no-one who understood anything at all about how science operates would ever say anything is “just a theory”. A scientific theory is a coherent explanation of a body of facts or data – thus we refer to “relativity theory” or “quantum field theory”, just as we do to “evolutionary theory”.

  64. #64 Matt Sn
    July 31, 2008

    Within the group of friends that I have who are also religious, the average opinion seems to be that Americans are mostly religious, and both rebellious and nonconformist. Some of these friends are even into the whole megachurch phenomenon as well. I’ve never understood how they can hold these beliefs together at the same time. I suspect that it speaks to a misunderstanding of history, which is well fed by religious leaders in this country, and goes something like this: 1) we came here from England to be left alone with our religion, 2) they didn’t like that, 3) our overtly religious forefathers fought England merely to keep their religious beliefs, and 4) ergo, religion in America magically makes us dissidents. Hard to follow? Yes, but this seems to be a real part of this odd doublethink by religionists.
    It makes me want to start talking about Thomas Paine and how powerful his influence was on us actually going to war with England.

  65. #65 Sastra
    July 31, 2008

    Kristina #54 wrote:

    “It’s actually a question I’d like to ask proponents of “equal time for ID in the classroom”–what, precisely, do they want taught during that equal time?”

    Well, as long as it’s not some evolutionistic dogma that has been spouted so many times before and with more cult-like vigor that is worst than any religiuos group, I think, it’s ok by me.

    But that doesn’t answer the question. Intelligent Design proponents claim to want “equal time for ID” to be taught in science class. Yes, we KNOW that you don’t want evolution taught.

    So what would be taught? Remember, you can’t just bring up evolution, not even to complain about it. You have to explain what ID is, how it works, describe the model. Provide the details of the alternative.

    If all you do is “something else” then that’s cutting science class down for knitting lessons or something. You can’t mean that.

  66. #66 E.V.
    July 31, 2008

    I know a fair number of fundamentalists, mainly Mormons, and most of them are middle-class and college educated. But anecdote ? data.

    That is also my experience; and yes, this is anecdotal. I have many educated affluent clients who are evangelical christians. JoJo is also describing roughly 20%-30% of my graduating class in liberal arts. Fundamentalism may be a tiny minority view if you are sequestered in the science community, but everywhere else it has a larger presence. You might want to step outside your Ivory Tower once in a while Mr. Pedant and put a wet finger in the air

  67. #67 frog
    July 31, 2008

    In Miller’s eyes, creationism has absolutely nothing to do with religion at all — it’s all about the American virtues of rebelliousness and disrespect, to which we also owe our eminence in science.

    Does Miller even bother to think about history, or does he just introspect like the has-beens of philosophy? Why are Americans preeminent in science? Well, let’s think:

    1) American preeminence in science is a post WWII phenomenon.
    2) A staggering number of preeminent American scientists are immigrants, or the children of immigrants.

    Those two things indicate that it has little to do with our culture, and everything to do with our funding. The American portion of victory in WWII was in no small part due to the US bringing in foreign scientists and mathematicians, and funding them adequately. After that, we began massive science funding in order to win the Cold War. It’s only in the 70s and 80s that anyone else (aka Europe) had gotten their economic standing to the point that they were able to heavily fund science and had become attractive to technocrat-class immigrants. But Europe has still avoided creating a huge defense establishment that would be a mover behind creating massive science funding.

    Now, this doesn’t require a deep historical analysis — just an honest look at when and how the US developed it’s scientific superiority. Anyone with the faintest clue about scientific history knows that Germany was preeminent before WWII in the 20th, preceded in the 19th by England and France. It takes no genius to see the trend.

    American exceptionalism (aka jingoism) is always a sign of either intellectual stagnation or self-delusion. Just one more god…

  68. #68 Troy
    July 31, 2008

    I disagree about PZ’s contingency counter-argument.

    I think the morphology/intelligence underpinnings of evolution are important, as the process explores via mutation and selection the contours of the physical environment — both the limitations and advantages.

    My general position on this is that since we have knowledge of one successful sample — us — our general attributes should be taken as the mean, median, and mode of distribution of putatively equally accomplished forms from parallel trials.

    IOW chances are we’re closer to the mean than further from it, since while we have only one successful sample to model, we also have a multitude of competing forms on this planet that have NOT approached our technological and intellectual achievements.

  69. #69 The Adamant Atheist
    July 31, 2008

    Kristina,

    How on earth can anyone place creationism on par with evolution as an explanation for the development of life? Evolution is massively supported by the fossil record, comparative anatomy, embryology, molecular biology and a host of other sources of evidence. Creationism has absolutely no factual basis, just arguments from ignorance and wishful thinking.

    You discredit yourself by placing them side by side as though they are equally compelling explanations.

    Do you think astrology is just as legitimate as astronomy?

  70. #70 broxster
    July 31, 2008

    pz – i finished “only a theory” late last week and think your review fair.

    there are some beautiful refutations of the “irreducible complexity” argument that i have not come across before (mainly because i had not looked). there was (to me) some tortured logic in the more metaphysical discussions, but his main concern about the redefinition of “science” is one i echo.

  71. #71 Tristan
    July 31, 2008

    renaissance

    Otherwise, an enjoyable read.

  72. #72 BobC
    July 31, 2008

    Well, though, as far as the creationists are concerned, Miller is the devil.

    I noticed creationists say Ken Miller is not a real Christian, which is more evidence for the idea that sucking up to creationists accomplishes nothing.

    Trying to convince a creationist to give up creationism is like trying to cure a symptom of a disease while completely ignoring the disease.

    Creationism is a symptom of a disease called Christianity. The only possible solution to America’s ignorance of science is the eradication of all supernatural beliefs. Christians need to be told their religion is childish insanity.

    What about the moderate Christians like Ken Miller who completely accept evolution? They are part of the problem. The extremists need the moderate Christians. They think their idiotic ideas, like the Resurrection, are normal because even pro-science Christians have these beliefs. I’m in favor of ridiculing the beliefs of all Christians. There’s no excuse for believing any of their medieval death cult nonsense. Until America completely rids itself of Christianity, there will always be extremists trying to destroy public school science standards and harassing biology teachers.

    In addition to relentless ridicule of all Christian beliefs, a better effort must be made to get all creationist biology teachers fired. It’s not fair to students to get stuck with a science teacher who doesn’t even know what science is. Creationist science teachers need to be ridiculed, fired, and never allowed to teach science again.

  73. #73 truth machine, OM
    July 31, 2008

    Daniel Dennett has the same view about the inevitability of human-like intelligence, and his certainly isn’t based on religious thinking or God-guided dice rolling.

  74. #74 truth machine, OM
    July 31, 2008

    Argh … “religious thinking” -> “wishful thinking”. (An understandable slip, yes?)

  75. #75 sng
    July 31, 2008

    molecanthro,

    I have to agree. The American self loathing on this subject has never seemed really realistic to me. Hell. The Canadians are nearly as bad as the Americans. And I don’t think the sense of denial that self loathing breeds is very useful at all.

  76. #76 Nick Gotts
    July 31, 2008

    Kristina,
    It’s not poor English that’s your problem – yours is not bad – but sheer ignorance. The “it’s just a theory” line gives you away: no-one who understood anything at all about how science operates would ever say anything is “just a theory”. A scientific theory is a coherent explanation of a body of facts or data – thus we refer to “relativity theory” or “quantum field theory”, just as we do to “evolutionary theory”.

  77. #77 Alex
    July 31, 2008

    Troy @ 68

    I tend to agree with your opinion. I always think about convergence. I’m aware of the idea of stasis and it makes sense to me. If there is no pressure to evolve higher intelligence, or whatever trait, then the chances are that it won’t develop. But I think the Earth has many environments that could act as incubators for all kinds of “trials”. Why is it that we only see the active levels of intelligence and ability for human-like achievement in terrestrial animals? Why are they bipedal? Why do they have large craniums? I think these are all questions that can ultimately look to physics and chemistry as the guides that dictate the traits we think are necessary for human-type achievement. This is all my opinion and I state it humbly. Of course I don’t mean to imply that intelligent creatures will always look “humanoid” – but I haven’t seen a convincing argument as to why, or how, there could be a large deviation from what has developed here on Earth already. Perhaps someone can offer a link on the discussion.

  78. #78 Phentari
    July 31, 2008

    Kristina @54:

    Thanks for beautifully illustrating my point.

    “Well, as long as it’s not some evolutionistic dogma that has been spouted so many times before and with more cult-like vigor that is worst than any religiuos group, I think, it’s ok by me.”

    So in other words: it’s not that there’s a theory you want taught, it’s that there’s a theory you don’t like and DON’T want taught. That’s about where most of the ID crowd fall. Ask them what they want taught, and they’ll start telling you all about why they don’t like the theory of evolution. Ask what it should be replaced with, and they draw a blank.

    “And I hope from this statement you will not assume that I am religious. I do not believe in creationism and I do not believe in evolutionism…I guess I’m in limbo at the moment…hahaha.”

    I’d say so. So…what? You don’t believe life began? You believe it began, but wasn’t created by a god and didn’t evolve?

    “I am tired of evolutionists that are fanatically trying to defend their ‘scientifically derived’ theory of evolution.”

    I have to be honest: I’m a little tired of people who don’t know a lot about science putting quotes around “scientifically derived.” And before you protest that you know a lot about science…

    “Sorry to tell, but you cannot prove it, same as religious people cannot prove that God exists , it is just a theory.”

    …nobody…and I do mean nobody…who has a solid understanding of science uses the phrase “just a theory.” Nobody with even a basic understanding of science argues that if it can’t be proven, it’s not scientific.

    “I do agree though, that there should be another option for students in schools, and if the only other choice is ID theory, so be it.”

    What theory is that, pray tell? Please: we’re right back to where we started. You don’t like evolution; right. Got it. So: let’s assume you get your wish, and evolution is banished from the classroom. What do you want to see replace it? If you don’t think evolution is scientifically derived, then what do you see as a REAL scientifically derived theory?

    Please. I’m all ears.

  79. #79 Jordan
    July 31, 2008

    PZ,
    Could you address the inevitability of human-like intelligence in a later post? I’ve never heard anyone argue for or against it but I’ve always sort of been sympathetic towards it. It seems to me that in nearly all scenarios a more flexible nervous system will be selected for because in a chaotic biosphere it is much cheaper to change a learned behavior than change genes. I’m assuming that here overspecialization is gets punished in the turbulent times of mass extinction to the benefit of the smart species that can adjust.

  80. #80 frog
    July 31, 2008

    Pieret: . I think Miller was referring to an American impulse to embrace (the idea of) egalitarianism and reject class distinctions … leading to the rejection of academic and intellectual “elites” (i.e. “experts”) in favor of a belief that every one’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s.

    See my point? That’s purely delusionary — Americans are not egalitarian or rebellious in practice, it is purely an ideological cover. Just look at the stats on social mobility — the US is more class bound than most European societies, being more akin to our neighbors to the south. Germany is one of the least class-bound societies — contrary to American intuition.

    I remember reading about some problems on the ISS, cultural problems between the Americans and the Russians. The problem was surprisingly that the Russians did everything on the fly — their idea was to train the best astronauts possible, and let them solve problems as they came on. The American approach is to write massive manuals describing procedures for every possible contingency and train the astronauts to follow protocol to the letter.

    Who’s the cowboy? Who’s rebellious? And who’s the socialist robot? Maybe our adamant belief that we are a “freedom-loving people” is simply a reaction formation against the fact that our culture is the automata model?

    Maybe we react so strongly against the idea of experts precisely because of our authoritarian tendencies — we accept them in practice, but not in theory! We just refuse to call them experts.

    Take an honest look at our society and our history. Compare dates on ending slavery, for example, or full equal rights for all citizens. Everybody has their problems, of course, but an objective look would greatly diminish these mythologies.

  81. #81 frog
    July 31, 2008

    Jordan: It seems to me that in nearly all scenarios a more flexible nervous system will be selected for because in a chaotic biosphere it is much cheaper to change a learned behavior than change genes.

    Beetles. And bacteria.

    Nuff ‘said.

  82. #82 Patricia
    July 31, 2008

    PZ – Did you ever finish Sword of Constantine? I’ve just started Hector Avalos’ new book, and was considering what to read next.

  83. #83 sng
    July 31, 2008

    Sigmund #56,

    Actually polls indicate that nearly 40 percent of the population in the UK rejects evolution in favor of either ID or creationism. Blaming it all on those nasty Americans is really less than productive.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4648598.stm

  84. #84 PZ Myers
    July 31, 2008

    I haven’t finished it yet. It’s agonizing to plow through. There are some good bits of history sprinkled throughout, but you have to suffer through the author’s frequent, lengthy declarations of his Catholicism. Trust me, he’s very Catholic. So Catholic that he feels guilty about his guilt over guilt.

    You can actually skip the first 60 pages altogether, which consists of nothing but his personal history and his loud protestations that he is deeply Catholic. I have never before read a book where the author intrudes so obnoxiously.

  85. #85 Lord Zero
    July 31, 2008

    I doubt sapience its so obvious, so inevitable.
    There were billions of years before its appeared
    in the face of the earth.
    But mechanisms for flying are common, no less
    their complexity than the brain.
    I fear than in fact, we are kinda unique, special
    maybe more than we used to believe.

    Anyway, im angry at the remark about america/europa.
    I really hate anecdotary claims, they have no value
    at all. Anyway, in southamerica, no one could believe
    in something so silly as Creationism, its doesnt make any sense at all for a half-brained person.

    Most of the world doesnt buy that nosense, and
    in fact most people didint know than americans believe
    it a fact. Rapture its a more obscure issue even.
    In fact i only got to know about this phenomena last
    year.

  86. #86 Zonotrichia
    July 31, 2008

    Despite their tendency to take scientifically unsupportable leaps of faith now and then, Ken Miller and Frances Collins may do more to inject some sense into the national discussion about origins than anyone since Darwin himself.

  87. #87 Mrs Tilton
    July 31, 2008

    The problem with Finding Darwin’s God is not that it falls off a cliff at one point, but that it is two books, one atop the cliff and one at the bottom.

    The first book (conveniently, it makes up the first part of the overall volume) is masterful. Miller doesn’t quite have Dawkins’s stylistic gifts (but then who besides Dawkins does?), but the first part of FDG richly deserves a place next to The Blind Watchmaker as a refutation of creationism and, especially, the creationist argument from design. Indeed, Miller (being religious) does something Dawkins doesn’t (and possibly can’t): he offers a powerful argument that creationism is not only bad “science” but blasphemy as well. Surely it is this part of FDG that earned Dawkins’s warm praise in The Ancestor’s Tale.

    And just as surely Dawkins passed over the second part of FDG in silence, perhaps out of politeness. That bit that PZ mentions about God using quantum indeterminacy to jigger results embarrassed even me (and I was a theist when I first read FDG!). Lots of the rest of the second part is not as awful, but nor is it very impressive. If one were shooting the shit with a decent but religious catholic friend, it would do just fine as his half of the conversation. But as a book, it’s hardly worth the price of admission. (No matter: the first part is easily worth twice the cover price, so it’s a wash.)

    Molecanthro @5,

    Nature is scandalously expensive, but they didn’t make me pay anything to read PZ’s review. I’m not in the US; is it possible they make reviews like PZ’s available elsewhere but stiff the Yanks? Meanspirited, if so.

    Spero @34,

    PZ’s British orthography is probably meant as a personal insult to Andrew Schlafly.

    TM @74,

    “religious thinking” -> “wishful thinking”. (An understandable slip, yes?)

    Very understandable. I don’t know whether you ever had religious beliefs, but I did. And I am strongly convinced that most well-meaning people who are religious (i.e., not those who are religious because they hope their God will torture people they dislike) are religious precisely because of wishful thinking. (I know I was.) Not everything that every religion teaches is evil. Some of it would be lovely if true. After a time, though, I came to see that I had no better reason for thinking those things true than that they would be lovely. More importantly, I came to see that something being lovely is not an argument for its being true. (How could it be? If that were the case, I’d be able to juggle, Ireland would take the Grand Slam every spring and my hollandaise would never curdle.) In a way, Belle Waring’s mocking “… and a pony!”, though not written about religion at all, gave my former beliefs the coup-de-grace. So what you wrote might be less a slip than mere synonym.

  88. #88 Mrs Tilton
    July 31, 2008

    The problem with Finding Darwin’s God is not that it falls off a cliff at one point, but that it is two books, one atop the cliff and one at the bottom.

    The first book (conveniently, it makes up the first part of the overall volume) is masterful. Miller doesn’t quite have Dawkins’s stylistic gifts (but then who besides Dawkins does?), but the first part of FDG richly deserves a place next to The Blind Watchmaker as a refutation of creationism and, especially, the creationist argument from design. Indeed, Miller (being religious) does something Dawkins doesn’t (and possibly can’t): he offers a powerful argument that creationism is not only bad “science” but blasphemy as well. Surely it is this part of FDG that earned Dawkins’s warm praise in The Ancestor’s Tale.

    And just as surely Dawkins passed over the second part of FDG in silence, perhaps out of politeness. That bit that PZ mentions about God using quantum indeterminacy to jigger results embarrassed even me (and I was a theist when I first read FDG!). Lots of the rest of the second part is not as awful, but nor is it very impressive. If one were shooting the shit with a decent but religious catholic friend, it would do just fine as his half of the conversation. But as a book, it’s hardly worth the price of admission. (No matter: the first part is easily worth twice the cover price, so it’s a wash.)

    Molecanthro @5,

    Nature is scandalously expensive, but they didn’t make me pay anything to read PZ’s review. I’m not in the US; is it possible they make reviews like PZ’s available elsewhere but stiff the Yanks? Meanspirited, if so.

    Spero @34,

    PZ’s British orthography is probably meant as a personal insult to Andrew Schlafly.

    TM @74,

    “religious thinking” -> “wishful thinking”. (An understandable slip, yes?)

    Very understandable. I don’t know whether you ever had religious beliefs, but I did. And I am strongly convinced that most well-meaning people who are religious (i.e., not those who are religious because they hope their God will torture people they dislike) are religious precisely because of wishful thinking. (I know I was.) Not everything that every religion teaches is evil. Some of it would be lovely if true. After a time, though, I came to see that I had no better reason for thinking those things true than that they would be lovely. More importantly, I came to see that something being lovely is not an argument for its being true. (How could it be? If that were the case, I’d be able to juggle, Ireland would take the Grand Slam every spring and my hollandaise would never curdle.) In a way, Belle Waring’s mocking “… and a pony!”, though not written about religion at all, gave my former beliefs the coup-de-grace. So what you wrote might be less a slip than mere synonym.

  89. #89 Nick Gotts
    July 31, 2008

    Jordan@79, frog@81,

    If you look at the “most encephalized” vertebrates through the last few hundred million years, I think the trend is almost monotonically upward. You don’t need selection always or even usually to be pushing in one direction to get this trend – a kind of higher-level drift will do it, if you start out (as you do) at one end of the scale. So I think it’s arguable that once there were animals with some sort of CNS, the likelihood of a tool-making and language-using animal evolving eventually was quite high (note that there are tool-making birds, and birds with remarkable ability to imitate and to some extent understand and speak human language, so if the mammals hadn’t produced such an animal, the birds might have done so). The really difficult steps may have been earlier – the evolution of eukaryotes, and then metazoa and bilaterians.

  90. #90 frog
    July 31, 2008

    LordZero: I really hate anecdotary claims, they have no value at all

    I really hate this kind of oversimplistic statement. Statistical data is next to useless for extremely complicated phenomena. Give me a statistical interpretation of literature!

    Incidents, within a critical framework, can be extremely valuable when analyzing culture. Look at what a mess a statistical approach to economics has made — we simply don’t have the statistical tools or the high level theory (yet) to do anything with them. More thinkin’ and less number crunching could do wonders there.

  91. #91 Damian with an a
    July 31, 2008

    sng:

    Actually, far more detailed studies have shown that acceptance in the UK is roughly 70%, and that it is the over 55′s that are most likely to claim that T.O.E. is false.

    When included with those who say that they are “not sure”, it goes up to roughly 85%. That is one of the highest acceptance percentages in the world.

    This was from a study done science magazine, rather than a MORI poll.

  92. #92 sng
    July 31, 2008

    Damian,

    Fair enough. But the main point remains. Even if we accept that “not sure” should count as a win, I don’t think it should, that means that somewhere between 30 to 15 percent of the population reject evolution. That can’t really be accounted for by blaming “US based evangelical church groups”.

  93. #93 Colugo
    July 31, 2008

    molecanthro: “i used to romanticize about the liberal nature of europeans and their intellectualism (until i moved here).”

    I have myself noted Euro credulity on anti-fluoridation, anti-vax, anti-vivisection, homeopathy, 9/11 conspiracy theories, all kinds of goofiness.

    Western European countries are more illiberal than many think – and often more illiberal than US policy – on things like immigration, abortion, and surveillance.

    In other news, that ballooning priest’s body was found. Sad.

  94. #94 LisaJ
    July 31, 2008

    I read your review in Nature yesterday, PZ, and I could sense your love-hate(ish) relationship with the book. I already made a comment last night to you in the Karl Giberson post.

    Perhaps I will pick this book up and give it a read sometime. The thing that astounds me though, is how can someone write such an apparently fantastic book on the topic of countering the ridiculous claims of creationists, but then also ascribe to their view in even the smallest way? I just do not get it.

  95. #95 Lorax
    July 31, 2008

    So does this mean the IDiots creationists can no longer use the phrases “no publications in XX years” and “second rate institution” as the publishers of Nature actually requested Dr. Myers review the book? I mean I published recently and hail from a self-reportedly tier 1 institution and Nature has not called me yet.

  96. #96 Patricia
    July 31, 2008

    Thanks PZ, I’ll hold off on it. Perhaps the county library will buy it.

  97. #97 Longtime Lurker
    July 31, 2008

    Hopefully, this book will serve as the “gateway drug” to reason for many Americans- the “red pill”, if you will.

    I do not believe in creationism and I do not believe in evolutionism…

    Evolutionism? Does… not… compute…

  98. #98 truth machine, OM
    July 31, 2008

    So what you wrote might be less a slip than mere synonym.

    That was kind of my point in saying it was understandable, but you fleshed it out nicely. :-)

  99. #99 Pierce R. Butler
    July 31, 2008

    Phil @ # 22: In … Europe … it [religion] has now become largely an underoverfunded bureaucracy.

    Fixed that for ya.

  100. #100 fyreflye
    July 31, 2008

    If you liked Ken Miller you’ll love http://tinyurl.com/6d8c3g

  101. #101 Benjamin Franklin
    July 31, 2008

    I just picked up a copy of “Just a Theory” at the library this afternoon, so I will wait until I read it to comment about PZ’S review,

    However,I will address PZ’s comment #7

    as far as the creationists are concerned, Miller is the devil. His book is not going to derail the movement, although it might help sway some individuals, and it’s not going to work as a compromise treatment for the classroom.

    I would agree that Miller is reviled by many, if not most of the bat-shit insane YEC’s and wackaloon creationists. Arguably, they represent a small but vocal minority in the US. But if he were so generally considered the devil, don’t you think that it would have been Miller interviewed in Expelled instead of you? Assprod Mathis said Miller would have confused the movie, you drove the knitting needle through the hearts (and brains) of many.

    I remember in a “debate” between you and Miller, Miller argued against “attacking” religion. Which is more effective in addressing a junkie’s heroin addiction, cold turkey or a methadone program? Time will tell which is the best approach, but you shouldn’t condemn it because you feel it may only sway “some” individuals. Perhaps that is preferable to causing an opponent to batten down the hatches, and lob a considerable larger amount of fire power against the friendlies.

    As to a compromise treatment in the classroom, don’t you think Miller advocates a straight science program?

  102. #102 Kel
    July 31, 2008

    Nice review there PZ, it is good to see Ken Miller fighting for the heartland of america, and he’s got the advantage over the likes of Dawkins or yourself purely by being a believer. It’s sad, but it’s a reality we must wake to. In a society where atheists are the 2nd least trusted group (damn you Scientology!), having believers in the public eye pushing biology is priceless.

  103. #103 Chris/0
    July 31, 2008

    Tristan@71:

    Renascence is a synonym for renaissance. It’s similar to nascent.

  104. #104 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 31, 2008

    Nice review there PZ, it is good to see Ken Miller fighting for the heartland of america, and he’s got the advantage over the likes of Dawkins or yourself purely by being a believer. It’s sad, but it’s a reality we must wake to. In a society where atheists are the 2nd least trusted group (damn you Scientology!), having believers in the public eye pushing biology is priceless.

    Sometimes yes… until the dreaded “F” word starts being tossed around.

  105. #105 Nick Gotts
    July 31, 2008

    Which is more effective in addressing a junkie’s heroin addiction, cold turkey or a methadone program? – Benjamin Franklin

    Come come, you can’t compare an intrinsically fairly benign substance like heroin with a deadly stupefying agent like Christianity!

  106. #106 AMStrange
    July 31, 2008

    Violator
    Desecrator
    Turn around and meet the hater
    Violator
    Desecrator
    Turn around and

    Demonoid phenomenon
    Get it out
    Get it on

  107. #107 frog
    July 31, 2008

    Colugo: Western European countries are more illiberal than many think – and often more illiberal than US policy – on things like immigration, abortion, and surveillance.

    Well, it’s a really mixed bag, isn’t it? Britain has continuous universal surveillance — but Germany doesn’t, and recently relieved the head of an intelligence services for bugging a journalist. Britain has abortion rights, and in Germany it’s state by state. France bombs activists — while Spain is still digging up their dead from the ’30s.

    Europe seems to be much less unified system — which is it’s strength. The US is too unified — yes, it avoids some of the worst (the South was forced at the end of the gun to give up defacto slavery a few generations ago), but it also destroys the best.

    Decentralization can suck — but then you can at least move. Centralization means that the same crappy Bush surveillance happens in Florida, California and North Dakota. I’d be perfectly willing to let some Southern states rot in their own juices, if I didn’t have to put up with their national policies — otherwise, I’ve got to move to another continent for significant opportunity.

  108. #108 Screechy Monkey
    July 31, 2008

    This is a good example of the difference between PZ and many of his detractors. PZ can disagree with Miller’s views, yet recognize that Miller’s approach helps reach some people that he can’t. And you certainly don’t see PZ telling Miller that he’s hurting the cause and should “shut up.” (Nor, I hasten to add, has Miller said such a thing as far as I know.) Interesting that the “intolerant”, “militant”, cyberpistol-wielding atheist is the one who appreciates a diversity of views, while the tolerate, moderate, friendly atheists want to control what other people say.

    On a different note: here’s what I find amusing about the whole “just a theory” argument. Who do they think decides when a “theory” is “good enough” to become a “law”? Would that be the same scientific community that they think is conspiring to promote “Darwinism” and suppress contrary evidence? And if so, why wouldn’t this conspiracy of atheist commie scientists just give the Official Recognition of “lawhood”?

    Yes, I know, I’m trying to apply logic to creationist arguments — always a mistake.

  109. #109 AMStrange
    July 31, 2008

    oops, wrong thread

  110. #110 raven
    July 31, 2008

    Proof? No, I don’t. I know a fair number of fundamentalists, mainly Mormons, and most of them are middle-class and college educated. But anecdote ? data.

    Mormons aren’t fundies. To the fundies, they aren’t even Xians. Remember what the Huckster said about them.

    They also are big on education and don’t have a problem with evolution. It is taught at BYU.

    Your typical US fundie is a Death cultist from the south central USA and neither educated nor middle class. Fundamentalism falls off with distance from Florida and Texas and with increasing education.

  111. #111 raven
    July 31, 2008

    I noticed creationists say Ken Miller is not a real Christian,

    That is because he is a Catholic. According to fundies, the Pope is the servant of the Antichrist and the RCC is the Church of Satan.

    But Catholics shouldn’t feel persecuted. All mainstream Protestants and the Mormons and Unitarians aren’t Real Xians(tm) either. You have to remember, these people are very, very good at hating. If it wasn’t evolution or atheists they would be going after the apostates and heretics of other sects.

    For some subset of xians, any time is a good time to have a sectarian religious war. Why we no longer allow them access to heavy weapons, fighter planes, and nukes.

  112. #112 Wowbagger
    July 31, 2008

    re Nick Gotts, #105

    (singing)

    I never thought you’d be a christian because be-lie-ving is so passe…

    /dandy warhols>

  113. #113 shonny
    July 31, 2008

    The other annoyance of his book creeps in gradually. He’s clearly a fan of Simon Conway Morris’s view that life roughly of our sort was inevitable, that while evolution would lead to variations in the details, a human-like mind was a consequence that was programmed into the starting conditions of the universe.

    made me remember the Jacques Monod quote in Larry Moran’s Sandbank:

    I believe we can assert today that a universal theory, however completely successful in other domains, could never encompass the biosphere, its structure, and its evolution as phenomena deducible from first principles….

    In a general manner the theory would anticipate the existence, the properties, the interrelations of certain classes of objects or events, but would obviously not be able to foresee the existence or the distinctive characteristics of any particular object or event.

    The thesis that I shall present in this book is that the biosphere does not contain a predictable class of objects or of events but constitutes a particular occurrence, compatible indeed with first principles, but not deducible from those principles, and therefore essentially unpredictable.

    Let there be no misunderstanding here. In saying that as a class living beings are not predictable upon the basis of first principles, I by no means intend to suggest that they are not explicable through these principles–that they transcend them in some way, and that other principles, applicable to living systems alone, must be invoked. In my view the biosphere is unpredictable for the very same reason–neither more nor less–that the particular configuration of atoms constituting this pebble I have in my hand is unpredictable. No one will find fault with a universal theory for not affirming and foreseeing the existence of this particular configuration of atoms; it is enough for us that this actual object, unique and real, be compatible with the theory. This object, according to the theory, is under no obligation to exist; but it has the right to.

    That is enough for us as concerns the pebble, but not as concerns ourselves. We would like to think ourselves necessary, inevitable, ordained from all eternity. All religions, nearly all philosophies, and even a part of science testify to the unwearying, heroic effort of mankind desperately denying its own contingency.

    which in turn resulted in getting Monod’s Chance and Necessity

  114. #114 JD
    July 31, 2008

    Your typical US fundie is a Death cultist from the south central USA and neither educated nor middle class.

    Yes, the area known as the South or more aptly called Dumbfuckistan.

  115. #115 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 31, 2008

    Yes all us dumb rednecks here in da south is stupid.

    Where are you from JD?

  116. #116 may
    July 31, 2008

    has anyone done a book on the evolution of creation as a political force in USA?
    Starting with the Millerites in the mid 1800′s?
    just wondering.

  117. #117 Mr.Pendent
    July 31, 2008

    @Paul #51
    Thanks for the link–I’ll check it out. My experience was different than JoJo’s, but I thought he might have a survey. And JoJo, thanks for the reply–my doubt is only anecdotal as well, so I was hoping you had more data.

    That is also my experience; and yes, this is anecdotal. I have many educated affluent clients who are evangelical christians. JoJo is also describing roughly 20%-30% of my graduating class in liberal arts. Fundamentalism may be a tiny minority view if you are sequestered in the science community, but everywhere else it has a larger presence. You might want to step outside your Ivory Tower once in a while Mr. Pedant and put a wet finger in the air

    Wow. You might want to switch to decaf, E.V. As a matter of fact, my degree is in English with a strong minor (nearly a BS) in Biology (arthropod ecology). But, when the time came to make the decision for the degree, I was as close to an English degree as to a biology degree. I chose to do the creative thesis over animal phys. So I have experience in both the Ivory and (I presume) Ebony towers, thank you very much.

    In addition, not only am I one of the few people in my extended family to have graduated from college, but I am also probably the only atheist. None of my family are truly fundamentalist, but I have seen and heard some strange and frightful things from them.

    But, as JoJo so rightly said, anecdotes are not evidence–they are anecdotes. So whatever your experience is, until you begin to “experience” several thousand people in a representative sample, record all your observations and then look, objectively, for statistically significant correlations, all you have are anecdotes.

  118. #118 JD
    July 31, 2008

    The Rev. BigDumbChimp wrote,

    Yes all us dumb rednecks here in da south is stupid.

    Redundancy noted.

    Where are you from JD?

    The North and since my family tree contains branches, my genealogy rules out any Southern ancestry.

  119. #119 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 31, 2008

    So you’re ok with large sweeping generalization, even when they are incredibly wrong.

    Got it. It’s a real sign of intelligence.

  120. #120 Jors
    July 31, 2008

    The big one for me was a lot of naive American exceptionalism…

    Am I the only one who read that as

    The big one for me was a lot of Native American exceptionalism…

  121. #121 JD
    July 31, 2008

    The Rev. BigDumbChimp wrote,

    So you’re ok with large sweeping generalization,
    even when they are incredibly wrong.

    Got it. It’s a real sign of intelligence.

    Sorry Rev, you seem a little sensitive. For someone who uses the word “dumb” as part of his nickname I would’ve expected a better sense of humor.

    BRW, your argument is a strawman. That most “Fundies” are from the South is well known. That the area has been called “Dumbfuckistan” is a reference to a description from a famous SNL skit:

    “Santa and the States”

    You need to lighten up and embrace your predicament.

  122. #122 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    August 1, 2008

    ok fine. I’ll lighten up, but I get sick of the south always being the kicking dog when someone wants to make a broad generalization about stupid people. I’ve personally lived across the country and there are dumbasses everywhere (including the north).

    It’s the same as saying any group of people are dumb, or untrustworthy or tight with money or you chose the stereotype.

    I’m not a fan of those jokes either.

    And I am aware of where Dumbfuckistan comes from.

  123. #123 Tristan
    August 1, 2008

    #103:

    Renascence is a synonym for renaissance. It’s similar to nascent.

    Well, there you go. You learn something new every day!

  124. #124 aleph1=c
    August 1, 2008

    @Tristan

    Yeah, like I was going to call someone on misspelling minuscule as miniscule. Right before I hit Post I thought maybe I’d look it up just to be sure. Turns out miniscule is an accepted variant spelling. Well, there you go!

  125. #125 llewelly
    August 1, 2008

    Rev. BigDumbChimp, FWIW, Richard Dawkins said in a point of inquiry interview that the most enthusiastic receptions he received anywhere were in the bible belt.

  126. #126 Sigmund
    August 1, 2008

    sng #83,
    Read what I said again. I was talking about the organized antievolution movement in Europe, not the question of whether evolution is understood or accepted by the population (In the UK for instance there is a pretty sizeable amount of anti-scientific thinking – look at the amount of woo medicine that goes on there – but there is little interest in promoting an ID philosophy in education – apart from in evangelical run schools). The local groups that seek to promote anti-evolution or pro ID teachings all seem to have strong links with either Answers in Genesis or the Discovery Institute. Its not a question of American bashing, its pointing out the blindingly obvious, the US based evangelical movement is the biggest enemy of evolution in the world today. They are not the only enemies. I guess some islamic groups also fall into this trap but their resistance to evolution is not so ‘fundamental’ as that of the evangelical movement.

  127. #127 Chris Davis
    August 1, 2008

    As a dedicated outlaw, it seems to me that rebelliousness and/or defiance of authority have two big problems:

    1) they’re only actually productive if that authority is pretty rotten – just sub-optimal is insufficient grounds for complete defiance; and 2) they’re seriously open to abuse by the unscrupulous, who may pay lip-service to the cause while actually suborning it for their own much nastier ends.

    I reckon the US rebellious instinct has in many instances a severe case of both of these ills.

  128. #128 Nick Gotts
    August 1, 2008

    According to fundies, the Pope is the servant of the Antichrist and the RCC is the Church of Satan.

    Reminds me of a story (20-30 years ago) about a correction appearing in (IIRC) the Belfast Evening Telegraph, a northern Ireland Protestant paper:
    “In yesterday’s edition, the Pope was referred to as “His Satanic Majesty”. This should have read “The Roman Antichrist”.”

  129. #129 Liberal Atheist
    August 1, 2008

    Wonderful ally. What’s the next step in defending science? Perhaps a book on General Relativity by a physicist who is a moderate TimeCubist?

  130. #130 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    August 1, 2008

    There you go again Legion.

    Your weak attempts at wit shine through every time.

    idiot

  131. #131 Randy
    August 1, 2008

    re #44 (way back there)

    Jojo, mormons are usually enigmatic in many sociological data (and are better placed in high religiosity rather than fundementalism). They tend to be higher educated then other high religiosity groups. Children tend to achieve higher (even from the larger families) and higher income (rather than lower income) associates with larger families. (this is my memory of 10 year old data, so some of it could be wrong.

  132. #132 TomJoe
    August 1, 2008

    I’m willing to give Miller a pass on his moderate Catholicism since he’s shown himself to be willing to slug it out with the creos when push comes to shove, such as at Dover.

    Wow, that’s might big of you Brownian, OM.

  133. #133 MattB
    August 1, 2008

    RE #43 (if not creationism, why homeopathy?)

    Two words – socialized medicine. Its a very good thing, in my opinion, but very expensive and with limitless demand.

    Governments who have to administer such a system will therefore, quite rightly tend to encourage anything which stops people abusing the system by wasting the time of proper doctors with complaints such as itching or sadness. Homeopathy is cheap to fund (no expensive drugs), and extremely ‘effective’ on the kind of self-limiting, largely psychosomatic conditions that people tend to go and see homeopaths for in the first place

  134. #134 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    August 1, 2008

    Homeopathy is cheap to fund (no expensive drugs), and extremely ‘effective’ on the kind of self-limiting, largely psychosomatic conditions that people tend to go and see homeopaths for in the first place

    But 100% ineffective against anything real and therefore a waste of funds. But more so than that, it gives a false sense of legitimacy to a treatment shown to have little to no efficacy in actually treating real problems. Doing this breeds a culture when people start to relay on these woo cures instead of seeking treatment that may actually be helpful.

  135. #135 MattB
    August 1, 2008

    Doing this breeds a culture when people start to relay on these woo cures instead of seeking treatment that may actually be helpful.

    Indeed. But the solution to this – which the UK adopts to a certain extent, is paradoxically to legitimise it further by making it medically accountable. That way if the itching turns out to be malignant melanoma, or the sadness becomes clinical depression, you can legally force these charlatans to refer their patients to an actual doctor

  136. #136 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    August 1, 2008

    That way if the itching turns out to be malignant melanoma, or the sadness becomes clinical depression, you can legally force these charlatans to refer their patients to an actual doctor

    I don’t know enough about the situation in the UK to comment but how effective is this tactic?

    I wonder what Orac would know about this?

  137. #137 MattB
    August 1, 2008

    Some brief furtling about on Google suggests that the answers are semi-encouraging.

    Homeopaths aren’t quite under the NHS umbrella yet, but looking at the equally made-up discipline of Chiropractors, which does actually have a public oversight body, is instructive. One of their surveys (http://www.gcc-uk.org/files/link_file/ConsultTheProfession.pdf
    , see pp37-38) seems to suggest that a slim majority of them will refer at least some of their patients back to a GP or other health professional if their hoodoo isn’t working.

  138. #138 Jack
    August 1, 2008

    Psalm 3

    A psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.

    How many are my foes, LORD! How many rise against me!

    How many say of me, “God will not save that one.” Selah

    But you, LORD, are a shield around me; my glory, you keep my head high.

    Whenever I cried out to the LORD, I was answered from the holy mountain. Selah

    Whenever I lay down and slept, the LORD preserved me to rise again.

    I do not fear, then, thousands of people arrayed against me on every side.

    Arise, LORD! Save me, my God! You will shatter the jaws of all my foes; you will break the teeth of the wicked.

    Safety comes from the LORD! Your blessing for your people! Selah

  139. #139 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    August 1, 2008

    Thanks for nothing Jack.

  140. #140 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    August 1, 2008

    seems to suggest that a slim majority of them will refer at least some of their patients back to a GP or other health professional if their hoodoo isn’t working.

    Humm. I’d love to see a study, and I’m sure this would be tough to do, that showed the increase in medical costs associated with those that visit the Homeopaths first then have to eventually be treated by actual medicine.

  141. #141 CJO
    August 1, 2008

    Ah, bandit poetry. It’s like yodelling to my ears.

  142. #142 JoJo
    August 1, 2008

    Randy #132

    Jojo, Mormons are usually enigmatic in many sociological data (and are better placed in high religiosity rather than fundamentalism). They tend to be higher educated then other high religiosity groups. Children tend to achieve higher (even from the larger families) and higher income (rather than lower income) associates with larger families. (this is my memory of 10 year old data, so some of it could be wrong.

    When I was in the Navy I knew a fair number of Mormon officers. For some reason, they’re particularly drawn to the submarine force. A college degree is almost mandatory for a commission in the U.S. military and career officers are strongly encouraged to get graduate degrees.

    As to whether or not Mormons are fundamentalists, I suspect that comes down to what particular definition of fundamentalism one uses. Mormons are certainly evangelists, given their strong missionary efforts. They have a high regard for Biblical authority as well as the authority of the Book of Mormon. They accept the doctrine of substitutionary atonement (Christ died for their sins), the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the imminent personal return of Jesus Christ. All of these are hallmarks of fundamentalism.

    The Mormons I know are not Biblical literalists. However, given the massive amount of woo in the Book of Mormon (an almost unreadable book, written in a parody of the King James style), they have to come pretty close if they accept the Book of Mormon.

    Mormons may not be fundamentalists, but they display many tendencies found in more orthodox fundamentalists.

  143. #143 Robert Byers
    August 2, 2008

    Myers not knowing why creationism is very [powerful in North America shows why the failure to see evolution as unsupported speculation.
    The difference withe the Anglo-American civilization and Europe is the historical Puritan/Evangelical influence. More of us and more of a impact.
    The Englishman was more intelligent pound for pound then other people. This from the Puritan/Evangelical people and impact. America more so because the Puritan Yankee is the soul of the country.
    Therefore with the substantial bible-believing percentages and a generally more sceptical population, because more intelligent, half of the States says no to evolution.
    Off the record we Evangelical Christians are less then 20% if that. So much of the disbelief in evolution comes from folks who don’t really, or don’t, believe in Genesis.
    Keep it under your hat.
    A great percentage of Yanks just smell and figure out that evolution is not based on evidence but on the authority of small numbers of people in these fields that study it. They smell its speculation about great conclusions where no good proof is offered.

    The true faith folk(20%) and sharp common sensical main street yanks (30% and rising) are head and shoulders above Europeans who are less sharp and lean servile in their thinking to any authority presented to them. So all movements of the last century reveal this inability to see through error from the top. Hot and cold wars show the inferior intellectual ability of greater percentages of Europeans to get it right.
    America (and Canada) are simply smarter, and smarter people make error work harder to get accepted. Evolution has to work hard and get state support and state censorship of opposition.
    If evolution is wrong and not supported by the evidence then why wouldn’t the most intelligent people/nations be less evolutionist???
    its just the way creationists and True faith Christians would expect.
    Why is this Myers guy scratching his head? Somthing upset his thinking/ Something he ate?

  144. #144 truth machine, OM
    August 2, 2008

    Robert Byers represents a failure of some school system.

  145. #145 Sastra
    August 2, 2008

    Robert Byers #144 wrote:

    A great percentage of Yanks just smell and figure out that evolution is not based on evidence but on the authority of small numbers of people in these fields that study it….The true faith folk(20%) and sharp common sensical main street yanks (30% and rising) are head and shoulders above Europeans who are less sharp and lean servile in their thinking to any authority presented to them. So all movements of the last century reveal this inability to see through error from the top.

    Well, here’s a useful example to use to test the competing theories on why Creationism is unusually popular in the United States.

    PZ Myers hypothesis: a tradition of religiosity and anti-intellectualism; rough and ready credulity; raging relativism.

    Ken Miller hypothesis: American virtues of rebelliousness and disrespect.

    Looking at Mr. Byers’ post, I discern elements from both. Although he’s clearly religious, here he’s emphasizing Myers’ point on anti-intellectualism (the ability to “just smell” that a scientific theory is wrong; “sharp commonsensical main street yanks.”)

    But he’s also combining the anti-intellectualism with Miller’s “rebellionism.” (Americans are “less sharp and lean servile in their thinking to any authority presented to them.”)

    Of course, he’s also adding in an elitist claim of higher innate intelligence (“Americans … are simply smarter”) which at the very least verges on racism.

    Very interesting.

  146. #146 AlWest
    August 2, 2008

    “the American dislike of authority.”
    I guess everyone means the “human dislike of authority”, right? America is not a special case. Orwell tried to make a case that Britain has an innate distrust of authority, and plenty of people in all parts of the world have tried to make similar arguments. It’s nonsense. No one group has a monopoly on independence and distaste for authority. Plenty of Germans believe in the power of homeopathy against the evidence – how could anyone, ANYONE, make the claim that Germans are rebellious anti-authoritarians as part of their tradition and nature?
    The reasons for which creationism is popular state-side are probably quite complex, but come down to the difficulty, perhaps, of educating people in far off corners of the country as it grew. It is, of course, a big country, with a big population, widely dispersed. Qualified teachers, teaching modern science and using modern methods, would not necessarily end up in poorer areas with small populations. Europe is smaller, more densely populated, with plenty of teachers, schools, universities, etc, close to one another. The same phenomenon would probably exist in Australia (and there’s a country that should have a natural streak of rebellion if one exists) if the population were bigger and didn’t cling to the coasts. Creationism and religion seem to be popular in America because the local teachers, who would have been the only teachers, in the boonies didn’t want to pass on the modern information if they even knew what it was.
    And hey, America is a much more dangerous place in terms of weather and climate than Europe. There’s an impetus to be scared, conservative and attached to tradition if one exists.

  147. #147 World
    August 3, 2008

    Great article, very informative. Thanks and greetings!