Pharyngula

Another atheist bashing

Ho hum, it’s Madeleine Bunting, who we’ve encountered before. Her essay starts out well enough, cheering on the coming Darwin celebrations, explaining how this is a great opportunity for the promotion of science, etc., etc., etc., but—there’s always a but—oh, deary me, it’s going to be hijacked by those dreadful atheists. We have to do something about all the baggage that has been piled on poor Darwin’s deceased back.

So the first imperative for the anniversary is to strip away the accumulation of mythology that has made Darwin such a villain.

Wait…for an article that is supposedly praising Darwin, what is this about his villainy? I certainly don’t think of him as one; the scientists I know are all on his side; it’s only those crazy ideologues, the creationists, who attach such opprobrium to his name. We quickly discover what equals villainy in Bunting’s mind: atheism.

In particular, what would have baffled Darwin is his recruitment as standard bearer for atheism in the 21st century. Darwin kept his pronouncements on religion to a minimum, partly out of respect for his Christian wife. Despite continuing claims that he was an atheist, most scholars acknowledge that he never went further than agnosticism.

Yes, yes, we know. We’ve read his memoirs. We know he was unreligious, but was also conservative and cautious, and preferred to call himself an agnostic. No one knowledgeable is saying otherwise.

However, he would not have been baffled at all by atheists celebrating his ideas. He well knew himself that evolution stripped the need for a creator as a guiding force in the history of life — it’s one of the reasons he hesitated to publish, and he knew that it would be detested by the clergy. He felt that revealing his secret was “like confessing a murder,” and he knew that evolution was fully compatible with atheism but in conflict with many interpretations of religious belief. Baffled? Heck no. He expected us, even as he feared the consequences. Darwin removed one of the last obstacles to dispensing altogether with the notion of gods, and he knew it.

So certainly atheists will be celebrating this year. Is there something wrong with that? To Bunting, this is apparently deplorable.

The fear is that the anniversary will be hijacked by the New Atheism as the perfect battleground for another round of jousting over the absurdity of belief (a position that Darwin pointedly never took up). Many of the prominent voices in the New Atheism are lined up to reassert that it is simply impossible to believe in God and accept Darwin’s theory of evolution; Richard Dawkins and the US philosopher Daniel Dennett are among those due to appear in Darwin200 events. It’s a position that infuriates many scientists, not to mention philosophers and theologians.

Well? Should Dawkins and Dennett stay home this year? Should only professing Christians who are scientists be allowed to speak in praise of Darwin in public? She seems upset that atheists will actually be given a voice in the Darwin bicentennial!

Let those philosophers and theologians, and even those scientists, be infuriated. Religion is ridiculous, and we aren’t going to be silenced because a few people maintain a ludicrous deference for old myths.

Comments

  1. #1 Tony Popple
    December 29, 2008

    In other words……..

    How dare you atheists act like human beings!

  2. #2 Bronze Dog
    December 29, 2008

    There ain’t no ceiling on our holiday feeling, no matter how much bigots like this Madeline Bunting or Bill O’Reilly try to cap it.

  3. #3 gypsytag
    December 29, 2008

    they’re always upset because they can’t silence us, but really what they’re most upset about is that they just can’t go out and kill us.

  4. #4 Timothy
    December 29, 2008

    What’s funniest to me about this kind of thing and the “Darwin as religion” thing is that so many of Darwin’s ideas have been discarded over the years because of the science. I mean, gemmules? WTF? The whole theory of inheritance from before genomics is basically as hilarious as phrenology.

    Anyway, happy Darwin day, and may the Flying Spaghetti Monster touch you with his noodly appendage.

  5. #5 Zeno
    December 29, 2008

    May we please have a list of all those scientists who will be “infuriated” by the atheists who celebrate Darwin’s anniversary? Bet it’s short. Bet it trails off rapidly after Behe and Wise. (And if Wells and Berlinski and Dembski are on the list, then it’s not really a list of scientists, is it?)

  6. #6 Nerd of Redhead
    December 29, 2008

    Hmm…. I get the feeling that the old atheist just scurried around in the corners and didn’t bother anyone. Out of sight, out of mind. The new atheist will demand that other people respect his/her rights, and call people who believe in imaginary deities delusional. In sight, therefore must be acknowledged. And it scares Madeline. Sorry Madeline, neither the atheists nor the gays will go back into the closet. That is reserved for those who pray as Jebus commanded.

  7. #7 Longtime Lurker
    December 29, 2008

    Back in the closet, folks! Be happy it’s not pyres this time!

    Darwin as a villain? Funny, I thought only fools, conmen, knaves, and tyrants thought he was a villain.

  8. #8 Ian B Gibson
    December 29, 2008

    Wait a minute, PZ. You mean to say that you don’t like religion? My dear fellow, you should have spoken up earlier!

  9. #9 Doug
    December 29, 2008

    Am I a new atheist? I thought I was an old atheist. Do I have to be born again to be a new atheist? Or perhaps none of this applies to me.

    Religious people have me confused. For years the religious were associating Darwin and evolution with godlessness and Atheism. Now it’s our fault the religious people were doing this and we should knock it off? I didn’t realize we had such a huge voice for so long.

    Then again, I never accused fundies of being coherent.

  10. #10 Sastra
    December 29, 2008

    Yes, Nerd has it right: to Bunting, Darwin represents the way atheists should be — quiet, deferential, nonintrusive, and hesitant to harm anyone’s faith. We’ll let people draw their own conclusions. We won’t force anything — meaning, we won’t mention our own conclusions, except in letters to each other.

    Well. Tough. We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.

    On another thread, I just pointed out that “the basic implications involved in accepting a bottom-up, reductionist, cranes-all-the-way approach undermines theism. Religion and spirituality use a top-down, Original Complexity, skyhook approach. Once you understand that life and mind and morals and meaning evolved from objects and processes which had no mind or meaning themselves, suddenly doing an abrupt 180 and starting out with an unevolved Mind and Meaning which was just there to start everything off with should give one whiplash.” It doesn’t fit. It’s inconsistent. And this is a reasonable point.

    There will be plenty of people around to make the opposite point: that evolution only implies a God which is better and bigger and more impressive and amazing and mysterious and magical than a God-which-creates-by-magic in pieces.

    Presumably, by “hijacking” the anniversary and turning it into a “battleground,” Ms. Bunting means to say that viewpoints will be debated which she doesn’t want to see debated. It will make the Baby Darwin cry.

  11. #11 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    Why should we care what theologians think? It’s like caring what Trekkies think.

  12. #12 Dee
    December 29, 2008

    Last I checked, I’ll be attending not getting up and proselytizing my unbelief. Geesh!

  13. #13 Lee Picton
    December 29, 2008

    In about three weeks I will have a new kitten in the house. His name will be Darwin and if I can find a suitable companion I will adopt a Huxley. Should provide some conversation for 2009 and forward. Got the T-shirt already. Thinking about a bumper sticker, too. I don’t think there are too many fundies in my neighborhood, but I plan on calling some attention to myself. How I have changed in the last few years!

  14. #14 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    May we please have a list of all those scientists who will be “infuriated” by the atheists who celebrate Darwin’s anniversary? Bet it’s short.

    I recently watched a video of two scientists who said they didn’t know any scientists who weren’t atheists, except for one, Francis “The Language of God” Collins. Should atheists shut up so Collins is not offended? I don’t think so.

  15. #15 Epikt
    December 29, 2008

    Sastra:

    Yes, Nerd has it right: to Bunting, Darwin represents the way atheists should be — quiet, deferential, nonintrusive, and hesitant to harm anyone’s faith.

    Or–even better–dead.

  16. #16 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    I’m going to try and go to the Darwin exhibition that’s on this weekend at the Australian National Museum. Don’t think it’ll be anything special, but still cool. I might even wear my “Bad Religion” shirt (though it just says the band name, doesn’t have the no crucifix symbol) just to stick it to the reporter who wishes we would just sit down and shut up.

  17. #17 Erp
    December 29, 2008

    I suspect Charles Darwin would be upset about the fuss being made about the anniversary no matter whether it was by theists, non-theists, panentheists, or pantheists. Thomas Huxley probably would have insisted on the fuss for the anniversary though he would probably prefer to use the term ‘agnostic’ (as does his still living grandson, Andrew Huxley). Darwin’s descendants I think are mostly quiet atheists (one even acted in the Chronicles of Narnia movies).

  18. #18 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    I really hope she echoes the same call for any theists who are talking at the convention. Surely if she doesn’t want people saying that evolution means no God, she doesn’t want people saying “evolution is God’s way of creating life”, otherwise she’d be nothing more than a hypocrite.

  19. #19 Michael Hawkins
    December 29, 2008

    We should only celebrate ideas if we ignore their connotations and inevitable conclusions.

  20. #20 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    Back in the closet, folks! Be happy it’s not pyres this time!

    Most funny thing I’ve read today.

  21. #21 Jean
    December 29, 2008

    Some of you may enjoy these cartoons;
    http://cagle.msnbc.com/politicalcartoons/

  22. #22 Jean
    December 29, 2008
  23. #23 10ch.org
    December 30, 2008

    The reason many people are religious is for emotional comfort, after all, since it is the idea that there is some all-powerful universal imaginary friend who can always set things right, even after death. I suppose that this is why they like the interventionist god than the passive “far away” god. After all, it is not something that is just to “infuriate” people who like interventionist gods – it is, in fact, plain common sense that evolution eliminates the last meaningful intervention that any god can make, and reduces any potential god to a mere passive one.

  24. #24 Kel
    December 30, 2008

    The reason many people are religious is for emotional comfort

    Shermer cited an interesting study in Why People Believe Weird Things. Turns out that while the majority of people think others believe for emotional reasons, the majority of people believe because they think there is evidence to support their views.

  25. #25 Alex
    December 30, 2008

    She’s probably upset that a scientific idea is being associated with disbelief in god, which only makes Christians into Creationists.

  26. #26 10ch.org
    December 30, 2008

    @#24 Kel
    Of course, this only is evidence that people are not very good judges of themselves. Perhaps it could signify that many people, after believing in something (due to emotion and culture and upbringing and whatnot), try to justify it with evidence/logic after the fact, but not in deciding the belief itself.

  27. #27 Kel
    December 30, 2008

    I look at it another way. If someone is told over and over that a certain belief is true, of course it would be evidential to them. Take “The bible is a historical account of the life of Jesus and all evidence points to Jesus dying on the cross then resurrecting”, it may be an emotionally-held belief, but it’s one they would contend is evidentially true.

  28. #28 Screechy Monkey
    December 30, 2008

    And once again, the message is: SHUT UP! Why can’t you New Atheists be like that nice Darwin chap?

    By the way: “Many of the prominent voices in the New Atheism are lined up to reassert that it is simply impossible to believe in God and accept Darwin’s theory of evolution; Richard Dawkins and the US philosopher Daniel Dennett are among those due to appear in Darwin200 events.”

    Has either Dawkins or Dennett made this contention? I believe Dawkins is baffled by scientists who claim to believe in God, but I don’t think he’s ever accused Francis Collins, Ken Miller, etc. of lying about either their belief in God or their acceptance of evolution. And I find it even harder to believe that Dennett has said so.

  29. #29 H.H.
    December 30, 2008

    Bunting writes:

    Many of the prominent voices in the New Atheism are lined up to reassert that it is simply impossible to believe in God and accept Darwin’s theory of evolution…

    In fact, I actually know of no “new atheists” who would assert (let alone reassert) that it is impossible to believe in god and the theory of evolution. Creationists sometimes do, because they are insane. Even the most “strident” atheist will say that it is certainly possible to believe in god and evolution, just that it isn’t preferable, and that theistic evolution is largely an unnecessary assumption and best discarded.

    Damn I hate idiots who can’t even get the basic arguements straight.

  30. #30 Rey Fox
    December 30, 2008

    “the absurdity of belief”

    Come on you darned atheists! Quit saying that peoples’ absurd beliefs are absurd!

    You’re next on the pyres after us, Madeleine.

    “May we please have a list of all those scientists who will be “infuriated” by the atheists who celebrate Darwin’s anniversary?”

    Well, there’s Nisbet…oh wait, he’s not a scientist.

  31. #31 TSC
    December 30, 2008

    No, I say let them believe in theistic evolution and then show them how fucking stupid it is via teratology.

  32. #32 Kel
    December 30, 2008

    Has either Dawkins or Dennett made this contention? I believe Dawkins is baffled by scientists who claim to believe in God

    That’s as far as I’ve ever heard Dawkins go, I’ve seen both him and Dennett mention they think evolution is incompatible with God. (Dennett mentioned it on that PBS Nova series: Evolution in the episode named strangely enough “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”)

    It’s not really a huge stretch to see why they have both said something of that nature, though to trumpet that as atheist aggression is making mountains out of molehills.

  33. #33 shaun
    December 30, 2008

    We’re barely finished with the War on Christmas and now I have to go back to the malls to do all my War on Darwin’s Anniversary shopping. And before you know it, it will be time for the War on Groundhog Day. It just never ends.

  34. #34 Feynmaniac
    December 30, 2008

    Sorry Madeline, neither the atheists nor the gays will go back into the closet.

    I’m not going back in the closet with the gays. They had MUCH more fun in there than I did!

  35. #35 Your Mighty Overload
    December 30, 2008

    Michael Hawkins at 19 wrote;

    We should only celebrate ideas if we ignore their connotations and inevitable conclusions.

    What does this mean, Michael? Why should we only celebrate ideas if we ignore their conclusions?

    I am quite happy to celebrate the idea of evolution – it was an excellent idea which explained a problem. As far as I know, it has no consequences in and of itself, other than explaining the diversity of life. It HAS had consequences for the way we look at the world, such as driving the development of vaccines and medicines, helping to understand biodiversity and extinctions, etc etc.

    The process of evolution has consequences, such as bacterial resistance to antibiotics. I am happy to celebrate evolution itself too, though, since without the process of evolution, I would not exist.

  36. #36 KRiS
    December 30, 2008

    Off Topic:

    I think I’ve been banned from Uncommon Descent for totally pwning one of the regulars in a debate. The problem is that I have a secret fear that maybe I was wrong about his final point before I was cut off. Anyone want to help me here?

    Summary: I demonstrated logically that the results of a test of a “negative” hypothesis like “you will never find X” can never provide support for the hypothesis, but can only ever disagree or not disagree with it (not disagreeing, of course, not being the same as supporting). He agreed with this logic eventually, but then said that in “empirical science” this is considered what he called an “extreme and unwarranted logical possibility.” His claim is that every time you actually attempt to find X in the real world, a failure necessarily constitutes support for the hypothesis that X will never be found.

    Am I wrong here? Not about the logic, which we both agree on, but that empirical science can ignore the logical fallacy because it’s a real world test as opposed to a purely logical test? (I can provide the argument for the logical fallacy if you need me to)

    Sorry to be OT here, but this is bothering me, since I’m generally more of a logician than an empirical scientist. You guys seem like fart smellers…I mean smart fellers, so I figured you’d know.

  37. #37 Doug
    December 30, 2008

    She’s worried about Darwin’s Anniversary being highjacked by atheists? Dude! What about answers in genesis’ “year of Darwin”? http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers/features/year-of-darwin

  38. #38 Miguel
    December 30, 2008

    It’s a position that infuriates many scientists, …

    Who are these “many scientists”?

    … and theologians.

    *snort*

  39. #39 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    KRiS @36, there’s an issue with your terminology.
    From Wikipedia: “A hypothesis [...] consists either of a suggested explanation for an observable phenomenon or of a reasoned proposal predicting a possible causal correlation among multiple phenomena.”

    Something such as “you will never find X” is only a proposition, falsifiable by finding X. And yes, every time a genuine search (e.g. searching the same locus each time doesn’t count) fails to find X, it provides more evidence for that proposition; however, only an exhaustive search can verify the proposition*.

    * Assuming X is non-contradictory. If it is, then there’s no need to search at all.

  40. #40 Jason A.
    December 30, 2008

    Off topic:

    The initiative for national science education standards, which would bar creationists from sneaking their tripe in through local school boards, needs 110 more votes before new years to make it to the next round. I know we can drum that up around here, right?

    Vote here

  41. #41 Michael X
    December 30, 2008

    Michael Hawkins

    We should only celebrate ideas if we ignore their connotations and inevitable conclusions.

    This is simply full of WIN. I love it when someone condenses an entire absurd article into one seamless sentence.

    As for myself, I wonder at how she can continually touch upon Darwin’s own timidity as if it were a noble, natural, healthy element of his psychology when in her own article she mentions reasons why, instead of nobility or some thought out moral position being his driving factor, he would have avoided the topic because he was afraid of making waves; one example being his christian wife. Another obvious drawback being the fact that to call oneself an atheist in that day was to basically blacklist yourself. Darwin wanted none of that.

    Contrary to Bunting’s assertions, a case could even be made that Darwin was being intellectually dishonest and his timidity is something that should be criticized. But in any case, timid or not, it holds zero relevance as to where his discoveries naturally lead.

    So I say she can piss off with her concern trolling.

  42. #42 G. Tingey
    December 30, 2008

    The ghastly Bunting is well-known in Britain, unfortunately.

    Even worse, she usually writes for the paper referred to as the “Grauniad” (V. Old typo-joke).

    The Grauniad is now where the London Times was during the 1930′s.
    It openly appeases any “religious” movement as “good”, especially the “religion of peace.

    WARNING

    DO NOT, WHATEVER ELSE YOU DO, describe islam accurately in correspondence with the Guardian/Grauniad.
    You will be immediately banned for racism, and they will refuse to enter into correspondence with you.

  43. #43 Randy
    December 30, 2008

    Despite continuing claims that he was an atheist, most scholars acknowledge that he never went further than agnosticism.

    And most scholars know that agnosticism is not a halfway house on the road to either theism or atheism.

  44. #44 Heraclides
    December 30, 2008

    Excuse me from making my own brief dissection of a portion of what PZ quotes:

    Many of the prominent voices in the New Atheism are lined up to reassert that it is simply impossible to believe in God and accept Darwin’s theory of evolution; Richard Dawkins and the US philosopher Daniel Dennett are among those due to appear in Darwin200 events. It’s a position that infuriates many scientists, not to mention philosophers and theologians.

    In the first sentence, she places actions on Dawkins and Dennett well in advance of them having done anything. Given that both have written about evolutionary theory as in just about evolution, there is every reason that is what they will talk about…

    In the second, she tries to ascribe to others how they feel about something without bothering to ask first…

    Not much value in an argument if it consists of framing people with what you’d like to them to say or do ahead of time. IMO.

  45. #45 Queequeg
    December 30, 2008

    No, you are not wrong. Not in my opinion anyway. It’s a weird hypothesis, as it sounds more like a null hypothesis. How it works is that you put forward a claim “x can be found under such and such circumstances” and the null hypothesis is that it can’t be found under those circumstances. If the gathered data can find x, you can reject the null hypothesis, but there is no way of accepting the null hypothesis, because not finding x doesn’t prove that x doesn’t exist. However, lack of evidence, when you have looked in a lot of places does empirically suggest that x does not exist.

    In science (I should say biology, or even animal behaviour, as that is my field) you usually deal with probability, and you calculate your results using the probability of your data being “accidental”, that is: If you provide two different diets to two groups of practically identical animals and weigh them two weeks later, you can test a null hypothesis such as “Animals on Diet A will NOT gain more weight than animals on Diet B” (the actual hypothesis being that they will gain more weight). You will get a probability from your test, which will tell you how likely it is that your data ended up looking like they do by chance. Often the null hypothesis (that your data are not caused by the different treatments, which is diet A and B in this case) is rejected, when the probability is less than 1 in 20 (P<0.05)that the data could be random. This varies, and we really ought to determine the best cut off probability for each individual test (according to some statisticians, anyway).

    Point in case: A lot of science does not employ logical proof, but empirical probability, which is also the reason why we like to say that God does almost certainly not exist (if we are atheists. The believers just have to put up with that small probability, I suppose). I know of no null hypothesis such as “God does NOT rescue believers more often than atheists in car accidents”, which has ever been rejected. However, it can’t be accepted unless we sample the entire population on earth (Christians and atheists anyway) for the entire human history.

    Hmm, I wonder if I just muddied the waters even more with this post. If that’s the case, I apologize.

  46. #46 Queequeg
    December 30, 2008

    Sorry, my post @ #45 was for KRiS @ #36.

  47. #47 Richard Harris
    December 30, 2008

    10ch.org @ # 23 wrote, “The reason many people are religious is for emotional comfort, after all, since it is the idea that there is some all-powerful universal imaginary friend who can always set things right, even after death.”

    I was recently talking to a highly educated (MSc) Muslim, & she said that she feels the imminence of a god or spirit force, & she believes that events in the universe are interconnected, even in a moral way. I took this to mean ‘what goes around comes around’, to which she assented. In other words, there would have to be a moral field operating like a gravitational field.

    So long as significant numbers of people believe this sort of nonsense, there will be religion, because they conflate their feeling of the imminence of a god with evidence for its existence. In other words, their having the feeling of imminence is evidence of the god’s existence.

    I suspect that many of the religious, & New Age woo mongerers, have such feelings, We can only hope that by ridiculing such nonsense, it will gradually, through social contagion, lose its hold over people, as has gradually been happening since the Enlightenment.

  48. #48 Matt Heath
    December 30, 2008

    The ghastly Bunting is well-known in Britain, unfortunately.

    Even worse, she usually writes for the paper referred to as the “Grauniad” (V. Old typo-joke).

    The Grauniad is now where the London Times was during the 1930′s.
    It openly appeases any “religious” movement as “good”, especially the “religion of peace.

    Ah yes, the Guardian. A newspaper that certainly wouldn’t go employing AC Grayling, Susan Blakemore or self-described “Islamophobe” and “Christophobe” Polly Toynbee as regular columnists. Definitely not the paper where Charlie Brooker wrote “spirituality is what cretins have in place of imagination” and that has had Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne and Philip Pullman write for it.

    O wait.

    The Graun does all right. It has a wide-range of commenters. Some are bloody awful: Bunting, Brown, Inayat Bunglawala, Simon Jenkins. Others are kickass: Grayling, Brooker, Ben Goldacre, Steve Bell (the cartoonist).

  49. #49 Notkieran
    December 30, 2008

    Richard Harris, I don’t mean to be nitpicky, but do you mean “immanence”?

  50. #50 Matt Heath
    December 30, 2008

    I don’t mean to be nitpicky

    Has that phrase ever been expressed by someone who didn’t, in fact, mean to be nitpicky?

  51. #51 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    Notkieran @49, obviously yes.

    Matt @50, possibly so. It could be that Notkieran was trying to politely allude to the malapropism.

  52. #52 Emmet Caulfield
    December 30, 2008

    Something such as “you will never find X” is only a proposition, falsifiable by finding X.

    Yes, but it’s not at all a simple proposition: first, it’s has a temporal component, and second it implicitly presupposes that X exists and is “findable” in principle if not in practice. If X is “God”, reasonable given the context, then it’s by no means certain that it is falsifiable, since “God”, as most often conceived by theists, is immaterial and does not exist in the material sense (IMO, the only meaningful sense) and is findable neither in principle nor in practice. Indeed, if they maintained that God had a volume of at least a cubic metre, a mass of at least 100kg, was bright green, and lived on a rock in the Kuiper belt, it would at least be possible to find him/her/it in principle if not in practice with current technology, but this is not the kind of claim that is made.

    It is perfectly reasonable to say that “you will not find an apple in this box right now” is falsifiable (definitions are clear and it’s temporally and spatially bounded), but is it not (IMO) even moderately sensible to maintain the same for “you will never find a god in the universe” (unclear definitions, effectively temporally and spatially unbounded) because there are so many cop-outs and it’s infeasible to test; even if it were and you carefully searched every grain of sand in the universe with a microscope and failed to find God, you know they’d say “that’s not the kind of god I meant” or “he moves in mysterious ways” or somesuch nonsense.

    And therein lies the rub: to believe in supernatural god(s) fundamentally requires that you adopt an absurd and useless definition of “exists”, free of the usual requirement of existing things: that they have some reliably detectable manifestation in the world. This stark difference in the very definition of existence makes issues of falsifiability inconsequential.

  53. #53 MH
    December 30, 2008

    @G. Tingey #42

    Oh, come on. The Guardian isn’t perfect, but it’s substantially better than most British newspapers.

    Bunting started out writing for the Guardian, back when she was half-sane. Over the years, she’s veered increasingly rightwards, and now regularly writes for the Daily Mail.

    What would you call “a good newspaper”? The Torygraph?

  54. #54 Richard Harris
    December 30, 2008

    Notkieran @ # 49 do you mean “immanence”?

    I was actually thinking in terms of the feeling of the spirit thing’s involvement with the believer being imminent, but if it (supposedly) permanently pervades the whole universe, then “immanence” would be appropriate too.

  55. #55 Richard Harris
    December 30, 2008

    Notkieran @ # 49 do you mean “immanence”?

    The way these people think, “immanence”, would be a more appropriate word. I’d forgotten this word, probably because it’s manifestation is outside of my own awareness.

  56. #56 RyRy Cooter
    December 30, 2008

    Matt Heath @50,

    I don’t mean to be nitpicky, but PURPLE MONKEY DISWASHER!

  57. #57 Matt Heath
    December 30, 2008

    #56:Win

    #53:

    Bunting started out writing for the Guardian, back when she was half-sane. Over the years, she’s veered increasingly rightwards, and now regularly writes for the Daily Mail.

    The Mail let her write? Do they know about her liking teh Moslems?

    Does anyone know for certain what, if any, supernatural beliefs Bunting actually has? All I can get from her columns is that she really, really believes in belief in any religion.

  58. #58 ConcernedJoe
    December 30, 2008

    There was a day that god or gods manifested themselves. Usually in anger — that bolt of lightening, that sudden illness, that lost battle, you know all those things that one could not possibly really explain correctly at the time, OR that needed a cover.

    Good things occurred but it was a tough life back then and the bad outweighed the good for most in most everyday situations so some formulation for keeping on the gods’ good side seemed wise. Also some expert in the ways and means of the gods seemed valuable to have around. So religions were formalized.

    Once started the clever ones recognized the power that can accrue from being a religious leader. It was a perfect storm. The fear that stems from ignorance and helplessness that most would have back then (not that long ago actually) and the quest for power that burns in some.

    Today you have to make a conscious and willful choice to be ignorant, at least in a large part of the world. The reason and the rational for the existence of gods so pale and thin today.

    However the power of religion as a social force and a source of power for “leaders” (being institutionalized through the ages and today still) and the comfort factor of believing in something beyond the physical and the need for about 30% of us (RWA’s) to be in a black and white World lead by strong and assertive “leaders” makes religion a keeper for awhile.

    Our job: speak to truth and reason in general and especially as educators, and insist on rational candidates who will attack only real problems and who are really for freedom, and vote vote vote so that the 30% do not LOOK like a majority. Does this sound devious and evil????

  59. #59 articulett
    December 30, 2008

    I think it was the fundies who call all those who accept evolution “atheists”, whether it was true or not.

    I wear the label proudly.

    Rock on Dawkins!

  60. #60 Jud
    December 30, 2008

    So long as significant numbers of people believe this sort of nonsense [that "God is nigh"], there will be religion, because they conflate their feeling of the imminence of a god with evidence for its existence. In other words, their having the feeling of imminence is evidence of the god’s existence.

    Story from my teen years: In a shopping mall I am approached by a young lady who is evidently what we then referred to as “a Jesus freak.” She begins The Spiel. I tell her that I’m quite content being Jewish. She says, delightedly, “Oh, I’ve never talked to a real Jew before!” I ask if she speaks to Jesus. She replies, “Yes, he lives inside me.” (I resist the temptation to make a wiseass remark about how uncomfortable that must be, etc., etc.) I say, “Then you’ve spoken to a real Jew.” She begins to say something about how no, this is different, when the implications begin to set in….

    I left her there mulling it over.

    So re this “imminence of God” stuff: I think the folks who tell you they feel the Force certainly are sincere and have themselves convinced it’s real, unless something penetrates the constructed worldview, and suddenly they realize, wait – this really isn’t the same as when I feel the presence of an actual person/being nearby.

  61. #61 Vole
    December 30, 2008

    My faith in logic is sorely troubled. I remember Martin Gardner once making the point that the statements “all crows are black” and “all not-black objects are not-crows” are equivalent. Therefore you could find evidence for the proposition that “all crows are black” by looking around and spotting, for example, a red book – which is definitely a not-black object that is a not-crow.

    Applying the same approach to the proposition that “God exists”, this is logically equivalent to “all non-existent objects are not-Gods”. So if I sit here thinking of non-existent objects, such as a purple cow, or a unicorn, or the bugblatter beast of Traal, I have to admit that none of these is God, and therefore each is a confirming instance of the hypothesis that God exists.

    This does of course show that the more nonsensical ideas one has in ones head, the more likely one is to believe in God. But it still worries me.

  62. #62 MH
    December 30, 2008

    matt #57 “The Mail let her write? Do they know about her liking teh Moslems?”

    Oops, I was thinking of that other religious nutter, Melanie Phillips.

  63. #63 Andrew
    December 30, 2008

    The thing is, evolution is fully compatible with theism too — since atheism preaches exactly nothing, the only reason atheists promote any idea (evolution, science, reason) is if theists attack it first.

    That they get arsey when we point out they’re talking nonsense is sadly entirely predictable.

  64. #64 Richard Harris
    December 30, 2008

    Jud, I started having conversations about this feeling some people have that a god is inhabiting a place, such as a church, from the age of eight. I could never believe it, but some folks do, presumably due to social contagion, because their relatives, particularly parents, believe it, or they get brainwashed at school, etc.

    When there’s no evidence for it being there, why should they think that it is? I have difficulty understanding this, but I presume they must really ‘feel’ this spirit presence, in what seems to them to be a real experience. This feeling, I guess, (& experience suggests), is totally resistant to rational argument.

  65. #65 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    Vole @61, I think you’ve either misremembered or misinterpreted Gardner. Here is the piece to which you refer, you may wish to review it.

    I note this relates to KRiS’s comment @36 (BTW, thanks for the clarification, Emmet (though I was aware of the temporal component, I didn’t address it).

  66. #66 Wowbagger
    December 30, 2008

    I remember during Religious Instruction class at school (I think I was 7 or 8) the minister-type explaining that God was ‘inside all of us’ and me having a hard time accepting it. I think that from that point on there was no way I was going to grow up to be a believer.

  67. #67 Vole
    December 30, 2008

    John @65 (sorry, still can’t find “hash” on my Mac keyboard): No, I haven’t misremembered, and I don’t think I’ve misinterpreted. In Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions (first published 1959), chapter 5 “Probability Paradoxes” (which will be a reprint from a Scientific American article), he writes of Hempel’s Paradox, which is, I think, exactly as I described in my earlier post. And it still bothers me. Though only a bit.

  68. #68 SLC
    December 30, 2008

    Darwin kept his pronouncements on religion to a minimum, partly out of respect for his Christian wife.

    It is my understanding that Ms. Darwin was a Unitarian.

  69. #69 Jeff
    December 30, 2008

    I think its funny that Bunting seems to be the one wanting to turn it into a battle ground. I assume the atheists speaking will talk about.. oh I don’t know, Darwin. I don’t see a reason why Religion would even enter into a discussion on Darwin, unless some fundamentalist decides to take the moment to spew their ignorance all over everyone.

  70. #70 Matt Heath
    December 30, 2008

    Darwin kept his pronouncements on religion to a minimum, partly out of respect for his Christian wife.

    It is my understanding that Ms. Darwin was a Unitarian.

    Yeah but Victorian Unitarian = modern UU.

    They held that Jesus was the messiah, even the son of God, just not that he was God. They were Christians, heretics as most Christians would see it but not infidels.

  71. #71 conelrad
    December 30, 2008

    All non-existent objects are not-Gods.

    Right on! This the first
    tenet of magick ignosticism. Or anyway, it must be one of them.

  72. #72 RyRy Cooter
    December 30, 2008

    Wowbagger,

    Reminds me of how my little brother (who’s way smarter than me) almost got held back in kindergarten. Our parents were sending us to a rather conservative Jewish school at the time, which obviously included religious ‘instruction’ (read: indoctrination). I don’t know how it came up exactly, but my brother asked about prayer: “How do we know we’re not just praying to atoms and molecules?” The dumb@$$ teacher didn’t have a good answer, so she wanted to hold him back. I’m glad to say that she wasn’t successful, the next year our parents took us out of that school, and my brother just graduated college with a double major in biology and international relations (like I said, way smarter than me).

  73. #73 Moggie
    December 30, 2008

    #67:

    sorry, still can’t find “hash” on my Mac keyboard

    Option-3?

  74. #74 RyRy Cooter
    December 30, 2008

    Vole @67:

    Did it fall between the keys?

    (Serious answer: it’s next to the “@”)

  75. #75 Peter Mc
    December 30, 2008

    #53:
    Bunting started out writing for the Guardian, back when she was half-sane. Over the years, she’s veered increasingly rightwards, and now regularly writes for the Daily Mail.

    She left the Guardian to head up a thinktank, had barely sat down in the place when she found out she wasn’t as bright as her own columns suggested, threw some crockery round and the Guardian took her back.

    MH: Melanie Philips (AKA “Mad Mel”) Used to be a Guardian columnist too. She’s an IDiot and global warming denier, based on no science education since her teenage years at school.

  76. #76 Feynmaniac
    December 30, 2008

    Vole #67,

    I personally like the Standard Bayesian Solution to Hempel’s paradox.

    According to this resolution, the conclusion appears paradoxical because we intuitively estimate the amount of evidence provided by the observation of a green apple to be zero, when it is in fact non-zero but very small.

  77. #77 strangest brew
    December 30, 2008

    Does this definition of New Atheist correspond to being ‘born again in rationality’?

    Well…well…well… Beelzebub bless my cotton/rayon/polyester socks better get ya feet up in the air and praise dat ding!’

    I have heard some truly mendacious crap recently…Godbots playing silly sunbeams with atheist signs…presidential vice idiot candidate convinced the Earth is only 6000 years old…and Fruit fly research being a waste of money…Zoo’s being used as a scientific cover for cretinist museums…. but this is about as ridiculous as it gets…

    ‘New Atheist’ threat…indeed…just wish some bugger would stop the stupid…it is beginning to seriously impede my sense of decorum!

  78. #78 Angela K
    December 30, 2008

    It is no surprise that Ms Bunting et al spout this type of nonsense but dismaying that the popular Press continue to allow them a vehicle in which to spread their disease. The rants of Ms Bunting and her deluded chums are increasingly strident because they want to attack us nasty atheists for picking holes in their beloved fairy tales. Furthermore, the believers know they are arguing from a position of weakness and that they have no evidence to support their ridiculous claims, but are too arrogant and stupid to admit it.

  79. #79 Psychodigger
    December 30, 2008

    I´m a scientist and an atheist and I say fuck Madeleine Bunting and shits like her!

  80. #80 Vole
    December 30, 2008

    @74, 75 Thanks, but that’s the pound sign (£). Don’t worry about it – Hempel’s paradox is more interesting.

    @76 Many thanks for that, Feynmaniac – I am less worried now (by an infinitesimal amount).

  81. #81 Moggie
    December 30, 2008

    #80: shift-3 is the pound (Sterling) sign, option-3 (aka alt-3) is the hash sign.

  82. #82 Cuttlefish, OM
    December 30, 2008

    I thought I saw an atheist, who dared to speak aloud,
    Who did not meekly bow his head–oh, no, this man was proud!
    Who, rather than–like Darwin–hold his tongue and keep his place,
    Demanded equal membership among the human race!

    I thought I saw an atheist–a scientist, as well–
    Who dared to mention Darwin in the stories he would tell!
    Whose glib association with the noble Darwin name
    Would tar it with comparison to atheistic shame!

    I thought I saw an atheist who read what Darwin wrote,
    Who did not have agenda or religion to promote,
    Who, on this anniversary, will stand in line to thank
    A man who saw a view of life inside a tangled bank.

  83. #83 Psychodigger
    December 30, 2008

    And what is this NEW Atheism? I don´t understand. Is there an old an a novel way NOT to believe in imaginary beings?

  84. #84 clinteas
    December 30, 2008

    I reckon the ones that have made Darwin the standard bearer for atheism are not so much the atheists,but the religionists themselves,just look at Expelled or the utterings from the DI and AIG.

    The “absurdity of belief” does not follow from the fact of evolution alone,it was just another nail in the coffin really.

    Talk about a strawman.If only we would teach logical thinking and fallacies in school,there might be hope for mankind…..

  85. #85 RyRy Cooter
    December 30, 2008

    @80,81:

    I almost added a qualifier about non-US keyboards, but then I thought “eh, screw it.” Very provincial of me. Mea culpa.

  86. #86 Emmet Caulfield
    December 30, 2008

    I remember Martin Gardner once making the point that the statements “all crows are black” and “all not-black objects are not-crows” are equivalent…

    Yes, but it’s something of a misrepresentation, deliberate or otherwise, confusing syntax and semantics, proofs and models. In a classical proof-theoretical sense, it is a universally quantified implication — ?x C(x)?B(x) — so in any set that is a model of such a theory (“all X are Y”) crows must be a (perhaps improper) subset of black things and, indeed, all not-crows must be not-black. If some other thing in a model is not black, it cannot be (perhaps amongst other things) a crow, but that doesn’t make a red book evidence for “all crows are black”, it merely means that red books can appear in sets that are models of the theory that “all crows are black”. Whether any given model corresponds to reality or not is something that can only be established by empirical evidence. For example, the set of blue sheep is a (trivial) model of “all crows are black”, but that doesn’t mean that it bears any correspondence to reality. This is why so-called proofs of God’s existence are fatuous: they may establish the existence of a mathematical structure that the proponent has chosen to label “God”, but they have still not established that such a structure bears any relationship to something that exists in reality.

    Applying the same approach to the proposition that “God exists”, this is logically equivalent to “all non-existent objects are not-Gods”.

    But you simply cannot do that because existence is not a predicate. You cannot treat existence as a property of something in the same way as, say, colour. AFAIR, in a classical first-order logic, the bare existential quantification of a variable — ?x — is not even a well-formed formula (i.e. it is not syntactically admissible) any more than “xxfgzt” is a word in English: the quantified variable must be quantified over some expression. This is a problem with trying to do formal logical reasoning in plain language: it allows one to construct plausible-sounding expressions in English that have no valid counterpart in any logic.

    This does of course show that the more nonsensical ideas one has in ones head, the more likely one is to believe in God.

    I think it’s a matter of clarity of thought and insistence on empirical evidence. The sloppier one’s thinking, the more likely one is to draw, or be led to, false conclusions if one does not, at bottom, insist on empirical evidence connecting the “proof” to reality.

    But it still worries me.

    It shouldn’t. A correct proof doesn’t mean jack shit without establishing the connection between its models and reality with empirical evidence. Gödel’s formalisation of St. Anselm’s ontological proof is correct in the sense that its conclusion is true if its premises are true (i.e. it correctly applies the rules of inference of a particular modal logic), but that doesn’t mean that it corresponds to reality in any way or that its axioms are all sensible. Occasionally, creotards pop in here brandishing Gödel’s proof as if it were the atheism-slayer and it takes the wind out of their sails when people here say, “yes, it’s a correct proof in modal logic, now show us the evidence that connects it to reality”.

  87. #87 Samuelo
    December 30, 2008

    What shrill ignorance in both the original post and many of the arse-licking comments!

    This article was set in a British context, where creationism has little influence. Quote-mining efforts in US blogs pick up occasional comments and lapses and exaggerate their significance, but creationism is not really a serious issue except in the context of faith-based schools, which is another issue (and an important one).

    However, we do have huge wells of ignorance in the population. The important issue in the UK is NOT evolution v. creationism, it IS evolution v. ignorance.

    Ms Bunting was not saying that atheism v. religion is not an issue, she was pointing out that a heavy god-or-no-god argument would distract from the evolution-or-ignorance campaign.

    She’s saying that it would be a good idea to restrict the Darwin push primarily to the biological context, rather than let religion cloud the issue. That birds, insects, plants, fish etc would get readers, viewers and listeners engaged, whereas a pro/anti-religion bunfight have them looking for something else to do.

    Congratulations on a superbly arrogant and ignorant misrepresentation. You guys really don’t get it, do you?

  88. #88 guthrie
    December 30, 2008

    Prompted by noting Samuelo’s comment, being a UK native who has participated in the creationism wars, especially about “truthiness in science”, I thought I’d read the Bunting article.

    My first comment is, where did this weird idea that Marx, Freud and Darwin shaped modernity come from? What about James Clerk Maxwell, or Willaim thomson? Darwins idea was a scientific one, Freud and Marx, despite protestations to the contrary, mever were. Thus the fact they always get brought up together really annoys me.

    Then, I wonder what on earth she is on about as Darwin being recruited as a standard bearer for atheism? Certainly its not the atheists who blame Darwin for atheism, its the fundies that do that.

    But there is a relevant point about Darwin being about much more than atheism etc. Thus Samuelo has a point, although they plainly don’t actually get this blog in the first place.

  89. #89 RyRy Cooter
    December 30, 2008

    Riiiiiiight, Samuelo. She doesn’t want religion to cloud the issue, so obviously it’s important to consider what theologians think. And certainly having, say, Reverent Michael Riess speak on “the relationship between science and Christianity” is not, by any means, letting religion cloud the issue.

    I may be too parochial to consider British keyboards, but I still do follow the news, so I know your claim of a lack of creationism in the UK is bollocks. I also have some basic reading comprehension skills:

    A poll for the BBC in 2006 found that less than half the British population accepted the theory of evolution as the best description for the development of life.

  90. #90 RyRy Cooter
    December 30, 2008

    Oops, typo… it’s Michael Reiss.

  91. #91 Elliott
    December 30, 2008

    What is horrifying to me a Brit is the source of this article.

    The Guardian newpaper is pretty the most liberal of all the UK newspapers. It is one of the 4 ‘broadsheets’ and would in the US be read by “the latte drinkin’, museli eatin’, volvo drivin’, pinko-commie-athiest types”. I find it strange that the position of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ – a much more politically conservative paper if far friendlier to the New Athiesm as opposed to the Fox-New owned ‘Times’

  92. #92 Vole
    December 30, 2008

    Thanks, Emmet@86, for your very full reply. The whole of mathematics is a vast edifice of abstractions, any resemblance of which to physical reality is purely coincidental. The trouble with logic is that we do expect it to be directly applicable to reality. That looks, at first sight, as though that is what it is for. The “clarity of thought” you call for is not easy when the English language itself does treat existence as a predicate (insofar as I understand that concept). I point this out not to justify my own imperfections, but to suggest that some purported proofs of God’s existence – such as St Anselm’s – will be honest mistakes, rather than deliberate attempts to mislead. (I think St A’s is also the one that assumes, in effect, that any set of values must have a maximum, which still seems to me to be the more obvious flaw in it!)
    But none of this has much to do with the original topic of the thread, so maybe it’s time to drop this discussion.
    Thanks too to Moggie @#81 (hurrah!) for reasons which should be obvious. But I’m afraid I’ll probably have forgotten by the next time I need it…

  93. #93 Nick Gotts
    December 30, 2008

    Samuelo@87,
    You write complete crap. I read Bunting’s ramblings regularly, and her dislike of atheism is a constant theme – any irrational belief-system is to be preferred to none, and she will use any handy stick to beat atheists and atheism. What she is demanding is that atheists SHUT UP – and it is this demand that is constant, not the alleged reasons for it.

  94. #94 Matt Heath
    December 30, 2008

    Hey, SamuelO! I’m a Brit too; lots of us here. Now remind me, which country was it that allowed a born-again used car salesmen who sponsored state schools force creationism into the curriculum?

  95. #95 Nick Gotts
    December 30, 2008

    The obvious person to “front” the year of Darwin in the UK is David Attenborough, one of the most respected people in the country, without known political or religious affiliations, and already strongly associated with evolution. However, no-one should feel obliged to keep quiet in order not to interfere with the message that evolution is real, relevant and utterly fascinating; and Bunting’s demand that atheists do so is disgraceful.

  96. #96 Marc Abian
    December 30, 2008

    I don’t read the guardian, I’m not English, but I know it has George Monbiot (I think the man’s a hero) so it can’t be that bad.

    But seriously, everyone…

    http://www.change.org/ideas/view/create_nationally_required_science_standards

  97. #97 Emmet Caulfield
    December 30, 2008

    Thus spake Vole @92:

    The trouble with logic is that we do expect it to be directly applicable to reality. That looks, at first sight, as though that is what it is for.

    Well, it can be. My problem is that theists often represent that a proof either is, or does away with the need for, empirical evidence. It’s not and it doesn’t.

    I point this out … to suggest that some purported proofs of God’s existence … will be honest mistakes, rather than deliberate attempts to mislead.

    Sure, I accept that. I think much of the time it’s ignorance rather than malice, but very often with generous toppings of intellectual dishonesty and laziness — it regularly happens here that a religious apologist, creationist, or somesuch will post and feign knowledge of a lengthy screed (Gödel has come up more than once) in an attempt to bamboozle or intimidate people who aren’t confident of their knowledge of a particular subject area, with mathematics and philosophy being favourites. They expect this to be a winning tactic, but they back down very quickly when challenged by people who are either knowledgeable or diligent enough to engage with the substance of the screed.

    That’s not to suggest that this is always the case: occasionally moderate theists show up who are genuinely interested in discussing a particular argument and are open and honest about their level of understanding, but that appears to me to be the exception rather than the rule.

  98. #98 Allytude
    December 30, 2008

    Why is a creating god needed? Why do the believers make it important for the omnipresent, omniscent, omnipotent lord and master of all that he/she/it/they/them surveys need a purpose and that purpose be something like creating live. Why do they even care? They can go on and worship that creator, without actually figuring out the hows of creation and certainly without teaching bad science. Isaac Newton liked alchemy, does that reduce his scientific credentials in Optics? So why should Darwin’s belief or lack of it be an advertisement for anything? Just wondering.

  99. #99 Vic
    December 30, 2008

    Atheists aren’t allowed to celebrate Christmas, atheists aren’t allowed to celebrate Thanksgiving, now we can’t celebrate Darwin?

    It seems that if anyone who is an atheist so much as acknowledges the existence of anything, then it has been “hijacked” by atheists. This is ridiculous. This plainly shows the feeling of entitlement that these Christian persecutors have.

  100. #100 Matt Heath
    December 30, 2008

    The whole of mathematics is a vast edifice of abstractions, any resemblance of which to physical reality is purely coincidental.

    I’ve thought about this a fair amount (I’m a mathematician) and I am of the opinion that you are very wrong. Mathematical abstractions have been, since before mathematics was named as a discipline, abstractions of things, of our notion of multiplicity or of space. There is no metaphysical relationship linking maths to the real world but there are non-coincidental, reasons in the history of mathematics tying the together. I wrote a blog post on this sort of stuff if you want to check it out. Admittedly it’s a response to someone coming from the other side (that mathematics is connected to the universe in a way beyond human action) but I think it applies as much to what you have said.

  101. #101 AndrewC
    December 30, 2008

    Jesusfuck, it’s not like we take authority arguments. Darwin didn’t do what atheists do, thus you shouldn’t. I mostly respect and accept Darwin’s thoughts, obviously doesn’t mean I should do everything he did. Not to mention he did it precisely because religious people were all around him including his wife.

    As for the last part, seriously? philosophers or scientists? Theologians ok, their job is pointless, but philosophers have been against religion and at the most deists since like the 17th century, or really since the Renaissance took root; and what proper scientist will not see that Darwin shows the improbability of a creator and impossibility of one that did it with life.

  102. #102 RamblinDude
    December 30, 2008

    However, we do have huge wells of ignorance in the population. The important issue in the UK is NOT evolution v. creationism, it IS evolution v. ignorance.

    You mean people over there don’t necessarily have beliefs and biases–formed by a long history of mythical, superstitious and religious thinking–that conflict directly with scientific findings? They’re just blank-headed ignorant?

    Wow, I guess your situation is different.

  103. #103 Sastra
    December 30, 2008

    What they really don’t like about the New Atheists is tone. You can make the very same points and hedge and murmur while you’re doing it, throw in some flattery and admiration, smile and nod that of course this doesn’t apply to the better versions of religion, and everyone wonders why the “New Atheists” can’t be as reasonable as this form of atheism.

  104. #104 BrightonRocks
    December 30, 2008

    Samuelo

    What poppycock you write, if Madeline Bunting doesn’t want to let religion cloud the issue why is she effectively stirring up that which she claims to want to avoid by stating in a comment piece that ‘prominent voices in the New Atheism are lined up to reassert that it is simply impossible to believe in God and accept Darwin’s theory of evolution’ before the event has even occurred?

    Maybe her tolerance for the open atheism of Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett is so low that she can’t help but put words into their mouths to rail against before they have even opened them?

    Also, it’s rather amusing that you call PZs post ‘shrill’, ‘ignorant’ and ‘superbly arrogant’ (without pointing out exactly how and why), yet display such timidity, knowledge and humility in stating that many of the comments are ‘arse-licking’ and telling all and sundry that ‘You guys really don’t get it, do you?’.

  105. #105 Patricia, OM
    December 30, 2008

    On a purely selfish level, what tickles me most about this is that men are being told to shut up too. That’s quite unchristian of her.

  106. #106 Matt Heath
    December 30, 2008

    On a purely selfish level, what tickles me most about this is that men are being told to shut up too. That’s quite unchristian of her.

    Is she actually a Christian? She writes a lot about religion in general being a good thing and a fair amount about Islam. I never saw her actually nailing her colours to the wall. I assume she is some sort of Christian because, well it’s the default setting for a white Englishwoman who likes religion but if it’s so important why doesn’t she write about her own faith rather than faith in general? She makes my head hurt.

  107. #107 Emmet Caulfield
    December 30, 2008

    Matt Heath @100,

    I’m not a mathematician and I know you weren’t referring to my post at all, but if I had to generalise the problem I was trying to identify, I’d say that it’s easy and tempting for people with limited experience of mathematics to assume that every solution has a physical interpretation that is real and meaningful. The reason, I think, is that the basic mathematics that almost everyone learns in school or college is really like this. As a mathematical tool-user (like a physicist or an engineer), rather than a mathematician, you actually have to get to a moderately advanced level in before you encounter non-physical solutions. But, in general, a mathematical solution must be experimentally verified to correspond to something physical — we know there’s no such thing as an “expansion shock” in spite of it falling out of Burger’s equation, and we don’t simply assume that quarks exist because an appealing mathematical theory predicts them, we test it by smashing particles together. I think this point is easy to miss (not that I’m suggesting you did, of course).

  108. #108 dogmeatib
    December 30, 2008

    Despite continuing claims that he was an atheist, most scholars acknowledge that he never went further than agnosticism.

    This makes people like Bunting feel better, to them:

    Atheist = bad, can’t re-convert, a “lost soul.”

    Agnostic = misguided soul that believes in some sort of God and can be saved. (IE they seem to think, Deist)

    The problem is, they don’t bother to ask agnostics what their actual opinion is. I’ve taken to referring to myself as a “highly skeptical agnostic” because so many believers simply interpret agnostic as “Deist.”

  109. #109 Matt Heath
    December 30, 2008

    Emmett Caulfield @107: That sounds almost like a problem of people assuming that specific bits of mathematics are almost magically linked to the physical universe. I’m very far from that position. I’m basically a formalist with regards maths, thinking of it as a game of formal rules. But I do think it is false to say that any relationship with the real universe is coincidental. The rules of the formal games we choose to play in mathematics are usual chosen to abstract out real-world things. People put the relationship between maths and the universe there as they made maths.

  110. #110 Emmet Caulfield
    December 30, 2008

    Thus spake Matt Heath:

    That sounds almost like a problem of people assuming that specific bits of mathematics are almost magically linked to the physical universe.

    Possibly, but I think it’s probably a fairly reasonable extrapolation for them to have made in the sense that one apple plus one apple does, indeed, yield two apples and if you integrate power over time you do, indeed, get total energy over the interval. Most people are used to getting an answer with a clear physical interpretation, so I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable for them to just assume that all mathematics is like that, that all structures have a physical counterpart and all solutions have a real physical meaning. They don’t know any better, so they just assume that all mathematics is like the rather concrete answer-oriented mathematics they’re familiar with.

  111. #111 KRiS
    December 30, 2008

    Talkin’ ’bout the logic thing again…

    The original statement being analyzed was something like “You will never see a machine create new Complex Specified Information (CSI).” Putting all the other obvious arguments aside (I emphasized that so we don’t get off on a tangent with those other arguments here), I pointed out that any test of this statement in the form of a program attempting to create new CSI algorithmically, as opposed to intelligently, does not logically constitute support for the theory of ID, even if it failed to create new CSI (please don’t bring up things like Ev right now…it’s irrelevant to my point). In fact, it’s not really a complete test at all. Here’s why, and I’ll generalize the argument to all negative statements:

    Take the statement “You will never see X.” A more precise restatement would be “Given the set of all possible Y, no particular Y will be found among them that exhibits the properties of X.” Stated in this way it should be obvious that the test of the statement is necessarily incomplete until all possible Y’s have been tested for X, or until one has been found which is, in fact, X. This means that any one attempt to find X is not itself a test of the statement, but is rather a single step in the overall test looking for X. In other words, the original statement is not supported by the failure to find X…it simply does or does not disagree with it.

    Now, if you are working with a limited set of Y, this can still be considered effective support, if not necessarily actual support, for your statement once a majority of Y has been tested, or possibly even a significant minority. However, when the set of Y is all possible algorithms usable by a machine (as in the CSI statement above), I think that set is effectively infinite, or at least an unknowable quantity. Especially since the guy really did mean “never,” rather than “never with current computers,” or “never in the next 10 years.” What of quantum computing? I can’t even imagine what types of algorithms will be possible if that ever becomes viable. The fact that we cannot know even in theory how large a set Y is in this case means that we cannot say that any failed attempt to find X is really effective support for the statement, though we can say that it is definitely not actual support.

    Sorry for such a long post.

  112. #112 Matt Heath
    December 30, 2008

    Emmett: I think I agreeing with you but not making myself very clear. Thinking that maths simply is the same as the thing as the systems they describe is indeed very natural. It’s much easier in mathematics to isolate knowledge from how that knowledge came to be and present it as a fait accompli. Indeed in most cases it’s rather convenient to do so. That particular maths only fits the physical world to the extent that people have put work into making it fit is a non-obvious fact. Actually I guess for most people using mathematical machinery, “Why can we use maths to do this” is a non-obvious question.

  113. #113 Emmet Caulfield
    December 30, 2008

    Matt,

    I don’t disagree with you at all. I wasn’t in any sense disputing your view of mathematics. I was making a clarification in the light of a comment rather than seeking to raise a point of contention. To be honest, the philosophy of mathematics isn’t something I’ve know much about or that I’ve thought about a great deal, so I don’t consider myself sufficiently well-informed to express an opinion about it one way or another. Your position seems entirely reasonable and sensible to me but, of course, someone who disagrees with you might say something that seems reasonable to me too! I really don’t know enough to take sides: as an engineer and scientific computing wonk, I’m rather ashamedly utilitarian, but with formalist hankerings ;o) I don’t even know to what degree different “isms” are considered mutually exclusive. I think my point about people expecting universal applicability of mathematical results to physical reality is essentially orthogonal to any philosophical issue of empiricism vs. formalism vs. (whatever).

  114. #114 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    Emmet @86, the conditional symbol didn’t render in your post. Instead of using unicode, you could use escape codes.

    &forall; ∀
    &exist; ∃
    &rarr; →

  115. #115 Mewtwo_X
    December 30, 2008

    Hey Prof. Myers,

    Isn’t it a little misleading to say that the “villan” quote in this article was referring to Atheists and Atheism? I mean, that line was quite clearly referring to the Creationist attempts to associate Darwin with Racism and Hitler. Discussion about those attempts and the rebuttals from new books touting Darwins motive as Abolition are close to the “villan” comment.

    I think the whole Atheist Vs. Theist issue was a whole other point altogether along the lines of what Samuelo was saying.

  116. #116 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    KRiS @111, if you were discussing CSI, you made an error in granting validity to the concept. MarkCC addressed it a couple of years ago.

  117. #117 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    Mewtwo_X:

    Isn’t it a little misleading to say that the “villan” quote in this article was referring to Atheists and Atheism? I mean, that line was quite clearly referring to the Creationist attempts to associate Darwin with Racism and Hitler.

    What?
    MB writes: “There have been plenty of other reasons to be suspicious. Darwin’s ideas have been taken up and used by a litany of crooks and villains for their own purposes. “Survival of the fittest”, the phrase most closely associated with Darwin and more properly credited to his contemporary Herbert Spencer, hatched a host of pernicious theories in the 20th century from eugenics to social Darwinianism.
    So the first imperative for the anniversary is to strip away the accumulation of mythology that has made Darwin such a villain.”
    Then she writes “In particular, what would have baffled Darwin is his recruitment as standard bearer for atheism in the 21st century.” and “Yet bizarrely, the whole 19th-century collapse of faith is now pinned on Darwin.” and “The fear is that the anniversary will be hijacked by the New Atheism as the perfect battleground for another round of jousting over the absurdity of belief (a position that Darwin pointedly never took up).”

    Comparing “other reasons” with “in particular” and “the fear is” makes it pretty clear to what her emphasis is. So, no, it’s not misleading, even a little, unless one lacks comprehension.

  118. #118 Sigmund
    December 30, 2008

    Matt Heath #106
    “Is she actually a Christian? ”
    She’s Roman Catholic, as far as I can recall. They had her on a bbc radio ‘debate’ with Richard Dawkins a few months back where she totally embarrassed herself. She talked about the rationality of catholic belief and was promptly put on the spot by Dawkins who asked her did she believe in the virgin birth, whereupon she was quite unable to answer a simple yes or no.

  119. #119 Mewtwo_X
    December 30, 2008

    Uhh… John Morales, didn’t you skip something there?

    “So the first imperative for the anniversary is to strip away the accumulation of mythology that has made Darwin such a villain. After speaking to five scholars of Darwin, who between them have accumulated a small pile of books on the subject, the one common refrain was that far too much has been dumped on the man. He was a brilliant scientist, but he was not a philosopher, nor a political or social theorist. He never claimed that his theories could explain everything, and certainly not everything about what it was to be human; on the contrary he himself maintained a very Victorian sense of moral accountability that he never sought to justify in terms of natural selection.

    In particular, what would have baffled Darwin is his recruitment as standard bearer for atheism in the 21st century. Darwin kept his pronouncements on religion to a minimum…”

    Seems to me from reading this passage the “particular” part a new train of thought branching off from the conclusion of the previous point about Darwin not being a social Darwinist and Racist for “higher” reasons.

    I just don’t see this article labelling Atheists as “crooks and villains”.

  120. #120 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    Mewtwo_X:

    I just don’t see this article labelling Atheists as “crooks and villains”

    Who said it did?

    The quote is “the accumulation of mythology that has made Darwin such a villain”, and the mythology it includes is claimed to be, in particular, that Darwin was “[recruited] as [the] standard bearer for atheism in the 21st century”.

    The worry expressed in the article is “The fear is that the anniversary will be hijacked by the New Atheism as the perfect battleground for another round of jousting over the absurdity of belief”.

    Much as you are doing, the article attacks straw men.

  121. #121 Mewtwo_X
    December 30, 2008

    After a reread of the essay, I guess I could see how people could interpret this essay as including the New Atheists in with Social Darwinists and Racists of various stripes, but I don’t think that was the intention of the writer at all.

    She seems concerned with the whole Atheism Vs. Theism issue clouding up the real importance of the celebration of Darwin, but I don’t get the feeling from reading this article that she was lumping Atheists (even the “New Atheists”) in with the Social Darwinists as “crooks and villains”. That was what I thought was misleading with PZ’s response.

  122. #122 Mewtwo_X
    December 30, 2008

    John Morales:

    I’m talking about this response by PZ

    “We quickly discover what equals villainy in Bunting’s mind: atheism…”

    I think this sentence was unfair.

  123. #123 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    Mewtwo_X @122, that’s a much more reasonable opinion, and I think it has some merit.

    Specifically, the article rails against “the accumulation of mythology that has made Darwin such a villain”. It has an offhand mention of “pernicious theories in the 20th century from eugenics to social Darwinianism”, but the bulk of it (and the focus) is on the claim that Darwin has been made a standard-bearer for atheism – and it’s implied this was done by “new atheists”, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

    In short, the villainy is claimed to be the misrepresentation of Darwin’s claims, and the putative culprits the article rails against are the “new atheists”.

    Would you have complained if PZ had written “We quickly discover what equals villainy in Bunting’s mind: atheism atheists’ misrepresentation of Darwin…”?

  124. #124 Emmet Caulfield
    December 30, 2008

    Thus spake John Morales:

    Emmet @86, the conditional symbol didn’t render in your post…

    Ack! Unfortunately, it’s pot-luck whether anything beyond ASCII (OK, slight exaggeration) will render after going through the browser and the webserver a couple of times. I confess that I have in the past written output filters for webservers to “entify” (from utf8 to “common-usage” escapes) certain common characters on the way out to make it more likely that they’d be rendered correctly, but to be honest, I entered utf8 and anything that can’t handle that correctly by now is a lost cause. You have to draw a line somewhere, and well beyond mine is guessing what’s going to render correctly after input and output mangling by Movable Type (which, inter alia, insists on turning perfectly good m-dashes into two minus signs) plus the idiosyncrasies of a random browser of unknown crappiness and font issues, etc. I had to cater for such ass-backward crap for a living for 10 years and now I just don’t give a shit. Unicode or bust!

  125. #125 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    Emmett, your frustration is understandable.

    You gotta admit, however, that there’s a certain additional gravitas (not just clarity and succintness) when symbolism rather than natural language is used to express a concept. Posers’ eyes tend to glaze over on encountering such :)

  126. #126 melior
    December 31, 2008

    Next year there will be no escaping one man and his legacy – 2009 will be marked by television series, books, debates, conferences and exhibitions devoted to Charles Darwin and his two anniversaries: the 200th of his birth; and the 150th of his book, On the Origin of the Species.

    My fear is that Darwin would be baffled if the anniversary were to be hijacked by a finger-wagging idiot who even after “speaking to five scholars of Darwin” apparently read too few of the actual pages of On the Origin of Species to know the correct title of the book.

  127. #127 heleen
    December 31, 2008

    Madeleine Bunting is quite right: the empirical fact is that the association with atheism has done biology no good at all in the popular view, and is superfluous for the science. Science requires methodological naturalism. To go from there to assert that science requires philosophical naturalism or atheism is reasoning beyond empirical content, and should be abolished in science.
    As to Dawkins + other atheists versus creationists: same mentality, and a plague on both your houses.

  128. #128 John Morales
    December 31, 2008

    heleen, the empirical fact is that creationists have associated “Darwinism” with atheism. Blame them (the culprits), not atheists (the bystanders).

  129. #129 melior
    December 31, 2008

    To go from there to assert that science requires philosophical naturalism or atheism is reasoning beyond empirical content, and should be abolished in science.

    What a tired strawman argument. Religion is, both historically and presently, particularly inimical to the free practice of science. This is reason enough to conclude that non-religion does biology “some good”, and to eschew any association between religion and biology.

    When religion ruled the world, we called it The Dark Ages.

  130. #130 Emmet Caulfield
    December 31, 2008

    John,

    Yes, but it’s more than that too. At least in principle, you define what symbols are allowed, define a grammar that expresses how those symbols can appear with respect to one another, and manipulate them according to a strict set of purely syntactic rules, without regard to the interpretation (of course, in practice some of the steps are customarily skipped or shortened as being well-known or implied from context and the semantics inform the rules that one applies). That strictness serves the indispensable purpose of separating syntax from semantics, which allows you to reason about things without any of the baggage of interpretation — you’re much less likely to inject an error while simply syntactically manipulating X’s and Y’s than you are while writing of gods and leprechauns, and you can’t inadvertently or implicitly introduce something new because it “seems reasonable” as you so easily can in natural language, you must be explicit at all times. So, yes, there is clarity and succinctness, but also extreme precision and safeguards against many human frailties.

    Posers’ eyes tend to glaze over on encountering such :)

    In all honesty, as a late convert to mathematics, I greatly lack mathematical maturity and have a good deal of catching up to do, and I admit that my knowledge of logic is very basic indeed, but even at that, my duels with the kind of liars and pretenders who waltz in here brandishing a shiny proof usually amount to cold-blooded slaughter — my sword may be short, rusty, and blunt, but it is a real sword, not a cardboard cut-out covered in tinfoil.

  131. #131 vaibhavmicron
    December 31, 2008

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    - Successful traders buy into bad news and sell into good news.
    - Successful traders are not afraid to buy high and sell low.
    - Continually strive for patience, perseverance, determination, and rational action.
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    - Remember that a bear market will give back in one month what a bull market has taken three months to build.
    - Don’t ever allow a big winning trade to turn into a loser. Stop yourself out if the market moves against you 20% from your peak profit point.
    - Expect and accept losses gracefully. Those who brood over losses always miss the next opportunity, which more than likely will be profitable.
    - Split your profits right down the middle and never risk more than 50% of them again in the market.
    - The key to successful trading is knowing yourself and your stress point.
    - The difference between winners and losers isn’t so much native ability as it is discipline exercised in avoiding mistakes.
    - Speech may be silver but silence is golden. Traders with the golden touch do not talk about their success.
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    - You are greedy …You will lose.
    - You place all your eggs in the same basket …You will lose.
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    For any query contact us:–
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  132. #132 sharehottips
    December 31, 2008

    Golden Rules of Trading
    - Plan your trades. Trade your plan.
    - Keep records of your trading results.
    - Keep a positive attitude, no matter how much you lose.
    - Don’t take the market home.
    - Forget your College degree and trust your instincts.
    - Successful traders buy into bad news and sell into good news.
    - Successful traders are not afraid to buy high and sell low.
    - Continually strive for patience, perseverance, determination, and rational action.
    - Limit your losses – use stops!
    - Never cancel a stop loss order after you have placed it!
    - Place the stop at the time you make your trade.
    - Never get into the market because you are anxious because of waiting.
    - Avoid getting in or out of the market too often.
    - The most difficult task in speculation is not prediction but self-control. Successful trading is difficult and frustrating. You are the most important element in the equation for success.
    - Always discipline yourself by following a pre-determined set of rules.
    - Remember that a bear market will give back in one month what a bull market has taken three months to build.
    - Don’t ever allow a big winning trade to turn into a loser. Stop yourself out if the market moves against you 20% from your peak profit point.
    - Expect and accept losses gracefully. Those who brood over losses always miss the next opportunity, which more than likely will be profitable.
    - Split your profits right down the middle and never risk more than 50% of them again in the market.
    - The key to successful trading is knowing yourself and your stress point.
    - The difference between winners and losers isn’t so much native ability as it is discipline exercised in avoiding mistakes.
    - Speech may be silver but silence is golden. Traders with the golden touch do not talk about their success.
    - Dream big dreams and think tall. Very few people set goals too high.
    A man becomes what he thinks about all day long.
    - Accept failure as a step towards victory.
    - Have you taken a loss? Forget it quickly. Have you taken a profit? Forget it even quicker!
    - You don’t invest …You will lose.
    - You don’t manage risks …You will lose.
    - You follow tips …You will lose.
    - You don’t investigate before you invest …You will lose.
    - You panic …You will lose.
    - You want to speculate …You will lose.
    - You don’t understand your finances …You will lose.
    - You don’t use cost averaging …You will lose.
    - You want to play …You will lose.
    - You are greedy …You will lose.
    - You place all your eggs in the same basket …You will lose.
    - You don’t know when not to invest …You will lose.
    - You don’t know when not to exit …You will lose.
    - You can’t afford to lose …You can’t afford to make a profit.
    http://www.Sharehottips.com
    http://www.vaibhavmicron.com
    Vaibhav International
    25, cement Gali, Dholi Bawri, Udaipur(Rajasthan)-India
    Email : info@sharehottips.com, sharehottips@gmail.com, sharehottips@rediffmail.com
    For any query contact us:–
    Ph.: + 91 94142 33706, 93524 97766 (After 4 PM to 9 PM)
    Yahoo messenger Id is sharehottips@ymail.com

  133. #133 Nerd of Redhead
    December 31, 2008

    Hopefully the new SciBlog software will stop this inane spamming.

  134. #134 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 31, 2008

    I love Spam

  135. #135 Ed Darrell
    December 31, 2008

    Better Dennett and Dawkins than almost anyone else, since they have been celebrating Darwin’s ideas for a couple of decades at least.

    Where does this woman get off in assuming that those who celebrate Darwin are only atheists?

    Here’s what I suggest: If any church wants to run a Darwin Day celebration, let ‘em.

  136. #136 Steve G
    December 31, 2008

    The very term “militant atheist” that a lot of Christians have been throwing around a lot recently is – really – nothing more than Christians using rhetorical framing to denigrate atheists for speaking up. According to these Christians, any person who is not a theist should be embarrassed and ashamed and should certainly keep his [insert expletive here] mouth shut. “Unrepentant” atheists, like “unrepentant” homosexuals, should stay in the closet and shut up about their “lifestyle” and should certainly shut up about it and say nary a word against Christian superstitions… er, uh… I mean, religious faith.

    When I see a Christian use the term “militant atheist,” I just tell him that when he and his buddies stop being nakedly antagonistic against atheism and atheists and using all kinds of bogus prejudice-pandering anti-atheist rhetoric in their religious propaganda – i.e., being militantly anti-atheist and unashamed about it – then perhaps we have some basis for discussing the so-called “militancy” of atheists for actually daring to open their mouths in public. But until then he can at least help me breathe a little better by stopping his ridiculously blatant hypocrisy so I’m not laughing so much over its sheer irony.

    - SteveG

  137. #137 shaman sun
    December 31, 2008

    It’s not just “a few people.” Many people are spiritual, or religious. They may be wrong, they may be right. I agree on your point that atheists should have a voice in the scientific community. This is somewhat silly. They should be allowed to propose and interpret the data in ways they deem most logical, and it can be debated or ignored. Science doesn’t posit any greater meaning, not yet at least, but it does challenge mythical belief systems. Nevertheless, that is not all what spirituality is. Not by a long shot.

  138. #138 Nick Gotts
    December 31, 2008

    As to Dawkins + other atheists versus creationists: same mentality, and a plague on both your houses. – heleen

    What a loving, tolerant person you must be, heleen, to wish epidemic ddisease to annihilate those you disagree with.

  139. #139 phantomreader42
    December 31, 2008

    heleen @ #127:

    Madeleine Bunting is quite right: the empirical fact is that the association with atheism has done biology no good at all in the popular view, and is superfluous for the science. Science requires methodological naturalism. To go from there to assert that science requires philosophical naturalism or atheism is reasoning beyond empirical content, and should be abolished in science.

    No, Madeline Bunting is quite an idiot, the association with atheism is a fabrication of creationist liars as part of a propaganda campaign against reality.

    heleen’s selective outrage:

    As to Dawkins + other atheists versus creationists: same mentality, and a plague on both your houses.

    I’m curious, when was the last time you stood in front of the CREATIONISTS house and screamed this? Because I see this kind of sentiment a lot, the claim that atheists are so “militant” and no better than the fundies (a claim that is idiotic on its face), but only the atheists actually get the criticism for it. It seems if you actually have a legitimate problem with BOTH sides, you should criticise BOTH sides. But I doubt you will, it’s just an excuse to whine about how horrible those godless bastards are being speaking up for themselves as if they were human beings.

  140. #140 KRiS
    January 1, 2009

    John @ #116

    Yeah, I knew that going into it, but I figured I’d assume it’s validity for the sake of argument. I have to admit that it was actually a fruitful debate for me. I, like many I’m sure, harbored a secret hope that ID Theorists really were simply mistaken. That if you could demonstrate where their mistakes were, that you could convince them. This was a case where it was so clear where he was wrong in his logic that he forgot for a second that we were analyzing one of his statements as opposed to one of my own, and in the rush to prove me wrong he accidentally proved himself wrong. He even added at the end of that post “Shouldn’t you check your logic?” as if to reinforce his “winning” argument. When he realized his mistake, he simply restated his previous position and pretended that it was a refutation of the logic. This has convinced me that they aren’t simply mistaken, but actually know that they are wrong, and simply refuse to admit it, especially to themselves.

  141. #141 John Morales
    January 1, 2009

    KRiS, thanks for that clarification.

    I suspect most of us who spend any time arguing with those who hold untenable positions find the bulk of the claimants are being willfully obtuse.

    When he realized his mistake, he simply restated his previous position and pretended that it was a refutation of the logic.

    Sigh. Yes, that’s very common.

  142. #142 Mark Pallen
    January 2, 2009

    Loathe though I am to get involved in this thread (I have two grant proposals to write!!), I cannot stand entirely aside from the fray. I am not best pleased that the first media exposure for The Rough Guide to Evolution, officially published today, has occurred in this context. Nor do I appreciate that the only quotation from me used by Madeleine Bunting is the one one she did use. But please let us accentuate the positive in our celebrations of Darwin’s two anniversaries and not, as several others have pointed out, allow those of a religious persuasion to hijack this event by accentuating Darwin’s supposed negative influence on religion. Atheism doesn’t need Darwin and Darwin doesn’t need atheism. See my own recent blog posting here:
    Darwin: a new anniversary and an old atheism

    And PZ, please stop parroting the old non-evidence-based rubbish spouted by certain Darwin biographers (especially James Moore) that Darwin delayed publication of his work on evolution because of fear of the consequences for religion and public opinion. Please read carefully this article from my friend John van Wyhe on this subject:

    MIND THE GAP: DID DARWIN AVOID PUBLISHING HIS THEORY FOR MANY YEARS?
    HTML via Darwin Online or as PDF

    And then debate this issue on the facts of the matter, if you still think there is anything left to debate. And don’t get me started on the Annie’s death and Darwin’s crisis of faith myth!!

    Cheers

    Mark Pallen, author, The Rough Guide to Evolution

  143. #143 John Morales
    January 3, 2009

    Mark, thanks, that was interesting.

    I am not best pleased that the first media exposure for The Rough Guide to Evolution, officially published today, has occurred in this context.

    Pharyngula counts as media exposure?! I suppose so…

  144. #144 John Morales
    January 3, 2009

    Doh, it was The Guardian of course. Sigh.

  145. #145 Dr M.Wainwright
    January 14, 2009

    It’s Not Darwin’s Or Wallace’s Theory
    They got the wrong Man! Neither Darwin, nor Wallace, originated the idea of natural selection.How do we know? Simple. They both admitted that they were beaten to the idea by Patrick Matthew and Charles Wells.(Search Google for “wainwrightscience” for details) Matthew would make a far better icon for atheists, as he was far more solid and vocal in his disbelief than was Darwin, who like myself and T.H.Huxley, was an agnostic.

    Dr Milton Wainwright,Dept. Molecular Biology and Biotechnology,University of Sheffield Sheffield,UK

  146. #146 clinteas
    January 14, 2009

    Some dude called Dawkins seems to disagree with you…..

    And does it really matter who discovered it first?Sure,the creationists would have to edit their books and movies,but it doesnt really matter for science,does it?

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