Pharyngula

At least, that’s the message I’m getting. You-know-who is once again trying to insist that the ethics of scientists includes everything except speaking the truth, and I’m not going to get into it —let Greg Laden deal with the heat from the stupid ‘framing’ argument this time.

I will say that I’m damned tired of the vapid claim that “Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world.”. It ignores the essential fact that one of those two is a useful, practical, and powerful way of understanding the world, and the other is silly, wrong, and misleading — if it is a way of understanding the world, then so is Dungeons & Dragons. Of course, no one sane pretends that D&D is a portrayal of reality.

Comments

  1. #1 round guy
    March 30, 2009

    D & D has taught me many valuable lessons about orcs, so there’s that.

  2. #2 Paul Lundgren
    March 30, 2009

    Dr. Myers,

    I seem to recall a while back you posed a means of scientifically testing for the existence of god, thus pulling the teeth from the argument that science and religion are mutually exclusive. I haven’t been able to find that blog post. Could you provide a link, please?

    Thanks.

  3. #3 Thorn
    March 30, 2009

    “Of course, no one sane pretends that D&D is a portrayal of reality.” http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0046/0046_01.asp

  4. #4 Anon
    March 30, 2009

    Oh, come on! You need to mellow out and play nice, or you’ll never get to be Humanist of the Year.

    Oh, right.

    Guess maybe your public persona has more than one possible frame.

  5. #5 t3knomanser
    March 30, 2009

    As I’ve said before, Science and religion operate in completely different domains.

    Science explains the natural world, and our place it. It gives us a perspective and explains how we relate to the cosmos. It provides comfort and meaning to our existence with its advancements.

    Religion provides meaningless entertainment for millions.

    //Non-Overlapping Magesteria is a dodge that does a disservice to everyone.

  6. #6 Epinephrine
    March 30, 2009

    So I wasted all that money on a Shirt of Smiting?

  7. #7 Pekka Pekuri
    March 30, 2009

    Oh don’t go there!

    Hail Vecna!

  8. #8 cervantes
    March 30, 2009

    I particularly love the asymmetry of this argument — believers have no comparable ethical duty to STFU and stop claiming that scientific beliefs are wrong. Obviously, science and religion are in conflict and if they’re allowed to say what they believe, so are we.

    The problem is, obviously, that they don’t have any basis for argument, so all they can do is complain that arguments from evidence and reason should not be allowed.

  9. #9 Kel
    March 30, 2009

    So I wasted all that money on a Shirt of Smiting?

    I have that shirt too. It’s awesome!

  10. #10 NewEnglandBob
    March 30, 2009

    t3knomanser, as I was reading your post, my alarm was rising until the last two lines.

    Bravo, well said!

    Let us all keep hitting NOMA until they say “No Más”

  11. #11 Goldenmane
    March 30, 2009

    D&D is a better way of forming an understanding of the world. At least the people playing recognise that it’s pretend. And it tends to encourage people to learn more about their world, because arguments about what a broadsword looks like and how archery works and the like often cause people to investigate these things in the real world.

    I never played D&D, but I did play lots of other RPGs, and I can tell you right now that we were always going out and investigating how things actually work because we desired some realism.

    Of course, I never managed to summon Nyarlathotep…

  12. #12 ddr
    March 30, 2009

    That reminds me of my favorite quote from X-Files.

    “I didn’t play D&D all those years without learning SOMETHING about courage.”

  13. #13 Kel
    March 30, 2009

    As soon as religion stops trying to claim about reality, then the problem will go away. Science has clearly showed that it’s the only tool capable in understanding reality – if they want to keep religion as fantasy they can go ahead. The problem with NOMA is that there’s always going to be overlap because God traditionally has been a god of the gaps, and most people just can’t get over that.

  14. #14 Ric
    March 30, 2009

    Damn it, stop with the D&D bashing. At least D&D taught me something useful: namely, the word “melee.”

  15. #15 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    Obviously anyone should feel free to speak up on these matters. As a liberal protestant, I will too in that I don’t think broad historic religious communities fail in providing potent and sometimes useful ways of describing and living in the world. At least there are resources within these traditions to do this.

    I can at least agree with Sam Harris when he finds some of those resources within Buddhism. And I can agree with Dennett that if religions had no touchstone with experience, with orientating oneself to the world, they wouldn’t have been successful. Assuming the competition of ideas and practices, there is something that “works” in those that win out and end up sustaining communities.

    That doesn’t mean every religious claim is valid. It does mean that to dismiss religion wholesale, without any sort of inquiry or engagement is a roadblock to inquiry. That doesn’t mean atheist natural scientists shouldn’t speak out. But it does mean that folks who are working on the intersections of science and religion should speak out too.

    But I would reject any kind of 2 magestrium theory. As a Christian I want to be able to relate to the world as adequately as possible, so of course I’m going to be constrained by the sciences. Evolution, not creationism would have to be key in such a description. That kind of traffic between science and religion already exists.

    It’s certainly evidenced in mainline protestantism. The United Church of Christ has a nifty science page, trying to do educative work in congregations over these issues. And I had a chance to talk with the fellow at Butler University who put together Evolution Sunday, which over 1000 congregations participated in this last time around.

    That shouldn’t mean you should be interested in that front. But I’m glad some folks are. And as someone who is in seminary myself, I’d like to contribute in some measure to how Christians relate to the sciences (ie not one of opposition at the least).

  16. #16 JD
    March 30, 2009

    That doesn’t sound like the D&D *I* know.

  17. #17 David Wiener
    March 30, 2009

    You cannot have a rational argument with the irrational. Um, that would be them – not us :-)

  18. #18 Stephen Wells
    March 30, 2009

    @2: a god, like the easter bunny, is nonexistent unless and until there’s evidence for its existence. All the evidence so far seems to be fictional. HTH.

  19. #19 lordshipmayhem
    March 30, 2009

    “Of course, no one sane pretends that D&D is a portrayal of reality.”

    I know some insane people. They’re harmless – they’re not trying to get D&D taught in Science class. At least, not yet.

  20. #20 Kris
    March 30, 2009

    Hey PZ did you see you can DeBaptize yourself in the UK now. Thought it was interesting an possibly worth posting. http://www.tompainesghost.com/2009/03/debaptism.html

  21. #21 Free Lunch
    March 30, 2009

    Any claim about anything within the physical universe(s) is a scientific claim. Religions need to limit their claims to everything else (possibly the empty set).

  22. #22 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    “Science has clearly showed that it’s the only tool capable in understanding reality”

    I’d tweak this. The sciences has shown that it has some of the best tools in making sense of our world.

  23. #23 Chris Richards
    March 30, 2009

    There’s no separate ‘spiritual realm’ within which people can safely inquire about religion free from science and it’s mean, all-consuming world-view. Religion and science are attempts to make sense of the world. Augustine once said that, look, science is good. It’s awesome, even. But where the bible conflicts, the bible should be interpreted metaphorically, as spiritual teaching. The bible isn’t about the physical world, it’s about the spiritual world.

    Too bad that science has come so far that we can reject even the idea of the spiritual world, Augustine. This argument was great in the 5th century…but not in the 21st.

  24. #24 rb
    March 30, 2009

    godless scientists should not shut up, but should be aware of what is being heard by those who hear them

    god-believing scientists should also not shut up, but should be aware of when they maybe be misusing science to defend their religious positions (I am talking about non-ID, non-creationist scienctists…unless your definition of creationist extends to folks like Ken Miller).

  25. #25 Pete Rooke
    March 30, 2009

    PZ Myers,

    you attended the Beyond Belief conference and delivered some comments about science from the audience. You might also have seen a man (highly qualified as a scientist, worked for NASA, developed some highly influential techniques relating to this work – although I don’t mean to make an appeal to so-called authority) called Charles Harper deliver an excellent talk on behalf on the Templeton Foundation at this conference. He spoke of this categorisation issue whereby people see the world in terms of battles (science vs religion etc.). His talk is online. He spoke of the dangers of Scientism. He rebuts your arguments put forth here. I urge everyone to watch it.

    http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-science-religion-reason-and-survival/session-8-1

  26. #26 dubiquiabs
    March 30, 2009

    Pompous? Check!
    Authoritarian? Check!

    Nisbet for Pope!

  27. #27 Epinephrine
    March 30, 2009

    Dwight – it’s encouraging that there are religious organizations that promote evolution. It could even be predicted, it’s a survival strategy – if you are in conflict with reality, you risk losing people when they are forced to confront that conflict. Minimise the conflict and you minimise those losses. It’s very self serving, from a religion’s point of view, to agree with reality; they can pick up those abandoning even more deluded religions, while minimizing their losses to reason.

    I do see religion and science as opposing though – one advocates learning through experience, while the other promotes belief without evidence. That will always be a source of conflict.

  28. #28 Jesse
    March 30, 2009

    I think the NOMA argument you posit, el, is a bit of an over-simplification. Just as religious people often over-simplify what science says, I think a lot of folks here do the same thing to religion.

    Now, I a not a believer. But I do understand that understanding reality in a scientific sense doesn’t help with certain kinds of questions about how to behave, for instance.

    Let me give an example.

    I did a lot of work around Native Americans. Now, there is no scientific justification whatsoever to respect their burial grounds or beliefs or customs. There is every scientific justification for going in and digging up every damned bone and studying it. The information would be invaluable to anthropologists and archaeologists alike.

    But would you advocate doing such a thing? Would you say to someone “Hey, all the shit visited on you doesn’t matter, I have a scientific question that needs answering, so screw you and your beliefs, they are silly anyway.”

    It’s true, native religions and beliefs about ancestors don’t describe reality well in a scientific sense. I have never met a Native person who thought otherwise, incidentally.

    But they were, justifiably I think, a bit miffed when the archaeologists and anthropologists went digging around in their graveyards without so much as a by-your-leave.

    Those same scientists, who could glean just as much information from digging around in the big cemetery in Queens (NY) to find out about the ancestors of currently living New Yorkers don’t do that there.

    Science, per se, was no help in deciding these questions, by the way. Again, there is zero scientific case for NOT being a jerk about it and digging up people’s bones, stealing their religious artifacts, and generally treating the Natives as part of the landscape. I mean, the people that did behave that way found out quite a bit of useful information, no doubt about it.

    Now, read carefully here– I am not saying that all scientists are jerks, or that science is a bad thing, just that the question of whether to go around digging up grandma’s bones isn’t always a scientific one. It’s an ethical question, and science has proven I think rather poor at deciding such questions, though it can (and I hope does) inform them.

    Whether you can build an atomic bomb, for instance, is a scientific question and is answered as such. Whether you should build one is another kettle of fish entirely.

    Science also isn’t terribly useful for deciding “objectively” if Beethoven was a great composer — you can’t construct a logical argument that makes you like his music if you don’t. “Paul McCartney is the greatest musician ever” isn’t a scientific statement, right? It isn’t even a good hypothesis. Because you’d have to come up with a definition of “greatest” that holds up, and I can’t think of a good way to do it. In fact, if it were a scientific question, there would be no music criticism — the question would have an affirmative or negative answer, just like the existence of gravity.

    NOMA exists, and works, I think, though not on the queation of god’s existence. That’s the over-simplification I am talking about. And while I don’t share a belief in god, I do understand why folks are skeptical that science offers anything like a guide to how to get along with other people. It doesn’t seem terribly well equipped for it, messy as human behavior is.

    More importantly, the kinds of questions science is designed to answer –how the world works — are fundamentally different from ethical questions. But that doesn’t mean the ethical questions go away.

    You don’t need god for those. But you do need to understand the limits of empiricism, I think.

  29. #29 PZ Myers
    March 30, 2009

    I was afraid of this — compare religion to knitting, all the knitters get upset with me. Compare religion to D&D, all the role players get upset with me. I expect that if I compared religion to ax murder, hordes of offended ax murderers would show up in the comments, saying “Hey! Don’t be so rude to my hobby!”

  30. #30 Matt Heath
    March 30, 2009

    Nisbet’s entire career is an elaborate joke right? I mean he is such fail by his own standards. He has framed his argument (about framing arguments in terms that don’t alienate your target audience) in terms that completely alienate his target audience.

    His post is double-standard bollocks. If he said that neither Dawkins nor Ken Miller can ethically use their notoriety as scientists to speak with apparent authority on gods, then there might have been a point worth discussing. If it’s free-speech for the God-squad but not the religion-baiters he can just fuck off.

  31. #31 PeterKarim
    March 30, 2009

    There is no D&D world. Don’t confuse D&D with the setting it is usually played in…(Forgotten Realms, Darksun…) [/rpggeek]

    Deism is not incompatible with science if that’s your poison, but the abrahamic religions sure as heck are, from Genesis onwards.

  32. #32 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 30, 2009

    Pete “total fool” Rooke, another foolish post by the master of foolish arguments. Surpise us one day by actually saying something cogent, like: “I have no business posting here, so I am deleting my bookmarks and will never look at this blog again”.

  33. #33 JD
    March 30, 2009

    The universe is a deeply mysterious place. The more we find out about orc interactions at the particle level, the more our data confirms the ontological interpretations of D&D. I don?t always know why it works that way? I just know that it does. I am so excited about the future of D&D and its all-encompassing, explanatory powers.

  34. #34 Ben
    March 30, 2009

    You know it says a lot about the Blog that no matter what you talk about people have some knowledge about the topic. That or us D&D nerds tend to read blogs about science. =)

  35. #35 Ouchimoo
    March 30, 2009

    Heh. I believe it was last Thursday, my other and I were a bit bored so we looked on MN atheists to see if anything was going on. Well they had a posting for a Religion and Science table topic. So we went to see what was going on thinking that MNA had something to do with it. Turns out it was some Christian group reading bullshit books on how science and religion works together. UGG! The only amusing thing that I got out of it was the constant bickering between the people on how much they disagree with said ‘evidence’. Ah yes then the usual “I hate PZ Myers” and “Dawkins is a fundy” came up. Which Matt had ‘The God Delusion’ in his pocket during the whole time. Then one guy used the movie Expelled to portray how stupid Dawkins is.

  36. #36 Technik
    March 30, 2009

    I’m not sure the claims for the descriptive qualities of religion does ignore the fact that it’s “silly, wrong, and misleading”. It simply means that religionists are credulous fools for wanting to conceptualise the complexities of the cosmos using primitive means.

    For religion to attempt to stand as an equal to mighty Science & Reason is therefore to provoke mockery and ridicule.

    Put another way, Andrew Lloyd-Weber once said of his (execrable) noise, “Like it or not, what I write is opera”. Opera lovers initially howled with umbrage, at this attack on the inherent greatness of a medium and the greats themselves. But then, one thinks, “OK Andy-boy, you want to play with the big-boys? Let’s compare you with Wagner, Strauss, et al…” At which point, he comes off very, very badly and recedes into insignificance. Clearly, his claim should have been as a scribbler of trashy, Broadway musicals, at which point he is a veritable king.

    Same goes for religions. Or is this too kind (to religion and Lloyd-Weber)?

  37. #37 Daenyx
    March 30, 2009

    I put on my robe and wizard hat.

  38. #38 Stephen Wells
    March 30, 2009

    @28: your error is in assuming that the non-science things you’re talking about- value judgements, personal preferences and the like- fall under the heading of “religion”.

  39. #39 recovering catholic
    March 30, 2009

    Christopher Hitchens (his name is given as “Hutchens” in the flyer) is going to debate Dr. William Lane Craig in my hometown of Champaign, IL next Sunday. The debate title is “Does God Exist?” It’s sponsored by the local god radio station WBGL and they say they’ve sold 4000 tickets already. Any opinions amongs Pharynguloids as to whether it’s worth going to see?

  40. #40 Matt Heath
    March 30, 2009

    Clearly, his claim should have been as a scribbler of trashy, Broadway musicals, at which point he is a veritable king.

    Hey, that’s unfair! He’s a scribbler of trashy West End musical that sometimes get transferred to Broadway.

  41. #41 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    “We wish to bring our religion at least into the same universe with our science..and to have them speak with the same voice when they verge..As surely as any one person rides one consecutive route of experience through time, so surely must all truth that belongs to one person come to the same court and enter into the same total system of his world.”
    William Ernest Hocking- The Meaning of God in Human Experience (1912)

    I think that’s ultimately what makes NOMA unsatisfying.

  42. #42 Oval Ranger
    March 30, 2009

    Hey, I resent that. D&D can teach us a lot about how the world works with all that racism and white holier-than-thou paladins smiting black unholy subhuman goblin shamans.

  43. #43 Brodie
    March 30, 2009

    Science = reasoned way to understand the universe.
    religion = unreasoned way to cope with the unknown.

  44. #44 Matt Heath
    March 30, 2009

    Pete Rooke @25: This isn’t really your best work. “Templeton” and “Scientism” are slightly amusing but I much prefer the more absurd gags about knee rolls and gluttonous lesbians

  45. #45 Dylan Gault
    March 30, 2009

    “I know some insane people. They’re harmless – they’re not trying to get D&D taught in Science class. At least, not yet.”

    I’m teaching a university class on role-playing games right now, and things are going the other way: I’m using some scientific history (and philosophy of science) to make some points about RPGs. Many scientists have influenced their work with some of their assumptions about how the world works. It’s unavoidable, and of course not fatal to the scientific enterprise, but when people take scientific results too uncritically, they may inherit the assumptions of scientists without realizing it or use the science to reinforce their own assumptions. (The bell-curve and race research might be the best example to think of on this site, along with those non-scientific media producers that picked up on the ideas.)

    RPGs do attempt to model some world, though usually not the real world and usually not with the exact physical laws of the real world. However, their modelling does rely on the assumptions of the game writers, designers, and players. Successful play can, in theory, reinforce these assumptions.

    As a participatory medium, RPGs set out groundrules for actions and behaviour (either through explicit rules or social convention) and then encourage players to take part in these norms. They have reward mechanisms associated with these norms and players generally enjoy themselves while surrendering, in part, to the rules and expectations of the game.

    Fortunately, the history of RPGs is one of generally good mental health, though the extent of the way RPGs reinforce assumptions has not been studied to a satisfying extent. This is not the case with religious beliefs. While RPGs model a world and encourage players to adopt the norms of that world, RPGs are obviously not supposed to be taken as real. Religious models of the world are not presented in this way and the results are well studied.

    And PZ, “Compare religion to D&D, all the role players get upset with me.”

    I don’t think anyone here is getting upset with you. RPG gamers tend to be pretty tolerant of other people. They really only get angry if you insult their favourite game system.

  46. #46 aratina
    March 30, 2009

    Dwight wrote:

    I can at least agree with Sam Harris when he finds some of those resources within Buddhism.

    Poor Harris didn’t realize how much his Buddhist exploration would backfire from misuse by religious apologists. Buddhism doesn’t get any more insightful into reality than hearing a meaningful Christian eulogy for a loved one does, which is to say that intense emotional states of consciousness have no factual content.

    Assuming the competition of ideas and practices, there is something that “works” in those that win out and end up sustaining communities.
    That doesn’t mean every religious claim is valid. It does mean that to dismiss religion wholesale, without any sort of inquiry or engagement is a roadblock to inquiry. That doesn’t mean atheist natural scientists shouldn’t speak out. But it does mean that folks who are working on the intersections of science and religion should speak out too.

    What works in religious ideas is social and introspective, not scientific. Obviously we are not arguing that there is nothing to be gleaned from religions or that the mechanisms of religions aren’t worth understanding. They are interesting objects of study as is any other human institution, but they cannot make factual claims and in that sense it is easy to dismiss them as irrelevant. So here on Pharyngula, as atheist natural scientists (or some combo of those), we are speaking out.

    I’d like to contribute in some measure to how Christians relate to the sciences (ie not one of opposition at the least).

    I’m sorry, but I don’t think we need to hear the cacophonous Christian perspective on this blog. Why is that a problem, Dwight?

  47. #47 Tulse
    March 30, 2009

    From Nisbet’s post:

    claims of a “war on science” or a “rising anti-science culture” are inaccurate

    Does this mean that Nisbet has broken with Mooney, given that the latter wrote a book entitled The Republican War on Science?

  48. #48 amphiox
    March 30, 2009

    Science cannot test for the existence of “god” per se, because “god” is too nebulously defined. Also be definition the supernatural is beyond the scope of science.

    But science can, and should, be applied to any specific claim made on behalf on any posited “god”. Any activity of a deity that can be observed or experienced by human beings would, by definition, have some effect on the natural world, and would be accessible to the tools of science.

    So, things like virgin birth, walking on water, the sun stopping over Jericho, Methuselah living to 960+ years, a global flood, etc, can and should be tested by scientific method.

  49. #49 bunnycatch3r
    March 30, 2009

    “if it is a way of understanding the world, then so is Dungeons & Dragons”.
    LOL that’s exactly what I was thinking sitting in church Sunday. A Masters of Divinity is really nothing more than Dungeon Master.

  50. #50 abb3w
    March 30, 2009

    At least most D&D players understand the word “metaphor” when they do pretend it is a portrayal of reality….

  51. #51 Matt Heath
    March 30, 2009

    Does this mean that Nisbet has broken with Mooney, given that the latter wrote a book entitled The Republican War on Science?

    I believe Mooney broke with Nisbet over the latter being a dishonest, authoritarian sack of crap and Nisbet is throwing a little tantrum in retaliation.

  52. #52 fmitchell
    March 30, 2009

    I could buy the NOMA argument if religions actually explored problems of ethics in a complex world. Science alone can’t answer certain questions of how to be a moral human being.

    What we have, on the other hand, is:

    - a celibate old man in a funny hat whose organization covers up incidents of child molestation and who himself recently stated that contraceptives spread AIDS.

    - a bunch of loudmouths who insist that bronze-age myths are cutting edge science, and some but not all bronze-age laws are inviolable moral imperatives.

    - an even more virulent bunch of men who whip and expel old women for talking to men that bring her bread, mutilate and execute other people for even suggesting their medieval laws are outdated, and tell impressionable young men and women to commit mass murder/suicide for a posthumous reward of 72 virgins.

    … and so on, for pretty much every other religion out there.

  53. #53 SC, OM
    March 30, 2009

    Importantly, in terms of ethical obligations, one of the conclusions of this body of research is that whenever possible, dialogue should be a focus of science communication efforts, rather than traditional top-down and one-way transmission approaches.

    Yeah, Nisbet. Nothing says true dialogue like the extensive use of focus groups and manipulative framing based on a marketing model.

    It’s like it’s inconceivable to him that others respect their fellow human beings enough to treat them like adults.

  54. #54 6EQUJ5
    March 30, 2009

    Science is finding things out. Religion is making shit up.

  55. #55 Deen
    March 30, 2009

    And the scienceblogs explode again… But I have SIWOTI syndrome, so… I kinda responded anyway

  56. #56 amphiox
    March 30, 2009

    Interestingly, to successfully play an RPG, the player must engage in the scientific method.

    RPG’s take place in a created game world that obeys a set of fixed laws, which are unknown to the player. In order to succeed, the player must discover and exploit these rules to his/her advantage. The player must therefore hypothesize, test, develop a model of the game world, test some more, and so on, in order to “win” the game.

    Interestingly, for some of the more popular RPGs, player will “publish” their results, which will be “peer reviewed” by other players.

    One could quite reasonable say that science is essentially playing an RPG in the real world.

  57. #57 Muffin
    March 30, 2009

    “if it is a way of understanding the world, then so is Dungeons & Dragons. Of course, no one sane pretends that D&D is a portrayal of reality.”

    NOOOOOO!

  58. #58 Matt Penfold
    March 30, 2009

    And as someone who is in seminary myself, I’d like to contribute in some measure to how Christians relate to the sciences (ie not one of opposition at the least).

    When it comes to science all Christian leaders have to do is tell their followers that they should listen to the scientists on matters scientific.

    Take, for example, the recent Vatican seminar on evolution. What was the point of it ? All the Pope should say is that he is a theologian, not a scientists and that Catholics wanting to know about evolution should listen to the evolutionary biologists, who know what they are talking about, and not theologians who do not.

    The Catholic church, nor any other church, has no more business pronouncing on the validity of scientific theories than does the supermarket you do your weekly shopping at.

  59. #59 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    Aratina
    What I’m suggesting is that religion, if it has any sway or significance, has to deal with some facts. Or otherwise it wouldn’t have the potency that it has. And to be honest I often get better descriptions of the moral life from the Talmund then from Freud.

    The last quote you had was in reference to work I hope to do in the church. But I appreciate that this blog seems to allow a broad range of folks post. Especially when talking about others, it’s helpful for those being talked about to pipe up once in a while. In the same way that folks like PZ should likewise.

    fmitchell
    There is a religious left out there. I had the opportunity to organize a Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice chapter and that was a good context to bring in religious folks who are concerned about these kinds of issues.

  60. #60 Thoughtful Guy
    March 30, 2009

    I don’t think scientist need to “shut-up” about their beliefs or non-beliefs, however. If you want to engage a religious audience you need to use tact or risk losing them entirely. Promotion of anti-religious views, through science, will certainly result in anti-science push back from the fundamentalist sect. Depending on your goals, what words you choose to describe your views can have can result in the opposite of what you’re attempting to achieve.

  61. #61 Lorax
    March 30, 2009

    “You-know-who”

    Voldemort? Actually that’s probably not too far off. He is an insidious power hungry entity.

  62. #62 Matt Heath
    March 30, 2009

    fmitchell @52 I think there are a few religious types keeping their side of NOMA (for now). I’ve not heard of Rowan Williams wandering onto scientific territory for example. How these figures would react to serious progress in the science of mind is a different matter (particularly if it damaged the possibility of libertarian free-will or maked dualism look too flat-Earthy)

  63. #63 Sigmund
    March 30, 2009

    The word ‘Religion’ is so broad that its quite possible to include beliefs that have no problem of compatibility with the world of science. This sort of pantheism, despite being an extremely minority viewpoint, provides an umbrella for religious apologists to claim that ‘religion is compatible with science’.
    What this means, in effect, is that one should be specific in ones words when describing the science versus religion question. Science ‘may’ be compatible with ‘some’ religions but it is absolutely incompatible with the vast majority of theistic beliefs.

  64. #64 Tulse
    March 30, 2009

    I’m teaching a university class on role-playing games right now

    Coolest. Job. Ever.

    Words cannot convey my envy.

  65. #65 Kobra
    March 30, 2009

    How dare you insult D&D, PZ? May Vecna… do whatever the hell Vecna does. I dare you to insult the Warhammer 40k players. But you won’t. :P

    (Let’s see. Outrage, check. Threat of divine intervention, check. Fatwah envy, check. I think I hit the important elements.)

  66. #66 Ferin
    March 30, 2009

    How dare you besmirch the valuable lessons D&D has taught me?!?!?!!?

    :p

  67. #67 Teleprompter
    March 30, 2009

    @ recovering catholic, #39

    The Hitchens-Craig debate may be worth seeing. Craig will probably win decisively. I’m just sayin’, he’s a world-class debater, even if I think he’s wrong (which I do).

    But I still think it should be an excellent debate.

  68. #68 Christophe Thill
    March 30, 2009

    “Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world.”

    Well, that’s not totally wrong. I mean, if you really, really stretch the meaning of “understand”.

  69. #69 Michael Tobis
    March 30, 2009

    “You know? That God you don’t believe in? I don’t believe in him either.”

    - Rabbi Harold Kushner

  70. #70 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    Sigmund
    I think there’s two ways of looking at this. There are religious beliefs that, as Kant says, are within the limits of reason, or experience, or nature. Pantheism might be an example. It’s something I seek after in my own religious beliefs. I don’t think it’s as rare as it’s purported to be ( I suspect there’s a decent % of folks who say they believe in God in the polls who fall into this)

    But certainly the largest bulk of religion, and the one that most concerns folks here are those dressed up in the supernatural. Some may take a hostile view of science, the best seek to leave science alone. But all claim their beliefs to be above experience, to be supernatural.

    And yet oddly enough when asked to describe such beliefs, they inevitably have to fall back onto experience. A few systematic folks might get out of this (by the time you get theologians who speak of a God outside of space and time, your out of this world literally). But for most folks, they live in this world, and so I think it’s quite possible to have a naturalistic rendering of beliefs (such that whether good ones or not, can at least be subject to inquiry, public discourse, etc)

  71. #71 aratina
    March 30, 2009

    Dwight #59: Religion doesn’t deal rationally with facts; it conflates facts with legend and supernaturalism. I’m wondering now if Freud had anything to say about circumcision?

    You’re right, atheists do need to pipe in much more (contrary to what Nisbet commands), but I just wanted you to consider that for many of us reading this blog (in the U.S. at least), we could easily travel several miles and arrive at a friendly liberal Christian evolution-accepting gay-marrying church to hear a weekly Christian perspective on science, and I’m writing this from the deep South. For atheists, though, there is nothing like this blog outside of the intertubes.

  72. #72 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    Nisbet does not appear to be learning quickly, for someone who thinks so highly of himself.

    I posted this on the relevant thread on his blog:

    Yet for many members of the public, “war on science” claims are likely ignored as just more elite rancor or only further alienate Republicans on an issue such as climate change.

    As usual, Matt seems to miss that the argument for the war on science was reactionary to activities and statements already made by those participating in the denigration of science itself.

    It hardly FURTHER alienated republicans, as they (and not just republicans, btw) were already antagonistic (and were the very reason Mooney, and MANY others, have written the books they did. Perhaps you have even forgotten the books written on the “anti science” side, like those of Coulter?

    hell, Matt, maybe you might even try going back to 1998 when Erhlich wrote Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environment Rhetoric Threatens Our Future to see how far you are missing the larger issues here.

    it hardly started with Mooney, and it hardly was the scientists that fired the first shot, or volley, or even entire attack.

    This consistent lack of viewpoint and apparent knowledge of the history of the larger issue, combined with continued egregious misuses of specific issues, for example the “Expelled” debacle, makes me agree with Marion Delgado above, and state for the nth time that you appear to be unsuited for the role you are designing for yourself as ultimate arbiter between science and religion.

    You are starting to remind me more and more of John Kwok, and that saddens me greatly.

    you need an ego check, stat.

  73. #73 aratina
    March 30, 2009

    Thoughtful Guy:

    Promotion of anti-religious views, through science, will certainly result in anti-science push back from the fundamentalist sect. Depending on your goals, what words you choose to describe your views can have can result in the opposite of what you’re attempting to achieve.

    That’s what they said about civil rights. That’s what they said about women’s rights. That’s what they said about LGBT rights. Push back from fundamentalists isn’t something to be afraid of in the long run, especially since nobody is saying they have to give up their precious beliefs.

  74. #74 Phineas
    March 30, 2009

    @PZ #29 & Dylan, #45

    PZ, I don’t think it’s that gamers are upset, just that when you say “if religion is a valid way of understanding the world then so is D&D” a great number of gamers are likely to read that as an implied criticism of them and/or their hobby. Sort of “religion is silly and so is D&D,” when your actual point is that both are clearly man-made constructs, and one group is pretending otherwise. Hint: it’s not the D&D people, we know it’s just a game, however much we enjoy it and can get wrapped up in the rules or creating a story with friends. I will admit that D&D is tremendously silly, though no more so than Fantasy Football, religion, following the private lives of celebrities, soap operas, and so on.

    Also, Dylan, my DM for our D&D game made the really good point the other day that a D&D like world, where the gods regularly intervene on their follower’s behalf and often materially appear to the populace, is a world without belief. In so much that belief is faith without evidence, no sane person would say “I believe in Moradin* and no amount of contrary evidence will convince me otherwise,” because Moradin is across the room having a beer with Kord. Or they just got actually healed by a cleric of Moradin, etc.

    *Moradin is one of the dwarf gods and Kord is the god of storm and battles.**

    **I’m a nerd.

  75. #75 SEF
    March 30, 2009

    The framer said:

    he gives resonance to the false narrative of social conservatives that the scientific establishment has an anti-religion agenda

    No. Science only has a pro-reality, anti-fantasy agenda. It’s religion’s fault that religion has an anti-reality, pro-fantasy agenda. The more anti-reality a particular fantasist’s religion is in any given area, the more they whinge that science is against it/them.

  76. #76 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    Promotion of anti-religious views, through science, will certainly result in anti-science push back from the fundamentalist sect.

    why is it so many “thoughtful guys” like yourself seem to have no fucking clue what the history of this has been?

    scientists are only recently “pushing back” against a long standing tidal wave of anti-science fervor that has only been getting bigger and doing more damage year after year after year.

    an anti-science PUSHBACK? please, just how clueless can you get?

    it’s like saying the russian counter attack against the germans in wwii will cause an “anti-russian fervor” in germans, and thus should be curtailed. This said while the germans are a hundred miles from Moscow.

    IOW, it borders on a completely ridiculous thing to say.

  77. #77 Josh
    March 30, 2009

    I see I’m not the only former (read, closet-current) rpg game player who wants to defend its title as a useful passtime.

    So, let me say something specific that D&D taught me. When I was eleven, figuring out whether it’s better to roll 2d4 vs 1d10, or 1d10+2 vs 2d6 vs 1d12, was a big deal. I remember spending hours working out the math on my summer vacations. This gave me a huge boost in math classes for years to come, and I directly attribute the interest this gave me in math to the degree (BS) I now have in astrophysics.

    Though I went to a catholic school for many years, religion gave me nothing so useful. Or, usefull at all. In fact, I see it as an impediment to my happiness, in that I now have to answer this inane question everytime I meet a superstitious idiot who’s learned about my degree: “So, you believe in astrology?”

  78. #78 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    deen @55:

    yes, you nailed it. Nisbet has been peddling the double-standard ever since he got his PhD, and it more than rankles those of us who know better.

  79. #79 Sastra
    March 30, 2009

    Dwight #70 wrote:

    But certainly the largest bulk of religion, and the one that most concerns folks here are those dressed up in the supernatural. Some may take a hostile view of science, the best seek to leave science alone. But all claim their beliefs to be above experience, to be supernatural.

    People don’t really believe that the supernatural is “above experience.” As you point out, it is inferred directly from experience, as an explanation for behaviors or phenomena. And in every case of the ‘supernatural’ we’re dealing with a belief that mind or mind-products (such as values) are distinct and causal components of reality, above the physical.

    The supernatural is familiar to us. God exists the way our own thoughts exist, or like abstractions exist — if you’re going on naive instinct and making category errors. The religious mind thinks ordinary minds are magic. No wonder they formulate the idea of a universe arranged and shaped just like a mind, complete with ESP, PK, and The Law of Similars. The only differences between the religions is how much magic they’re going to bring in to the system — not whether there is any.

    You can make a particular religious doctrine consistent with science. But you can’t make the foundation of religious belief as a whole consistent with the discoveries of modern science. It could have been. But it didn’t go that way — and now NOMA tries to change the rules.

  80. #80 recovering catholic
    March 30, 2009

    Thanks, teleprompter!

  81. #81 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    Aratina
    That’d be fantastic (not true but cool nonetheless) if there were that many progressive religious congregations. Certainly that is the case in the Twin Cities. I’ve had a few friends who live in the deep south about similar churches but outside of a few cities, it’s hard.

    I didn’t realize this blog was a safe space for atheists only. I took it to be a science blog, and when it purports to talk about folks (in this case religious folks) it seems pertinent for those being talked about to pop in every once in a while. But maybe I misunderstood the purpose of this site.

  82. #82 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    Does this mean that Nisbet has broken with Mooney, given that the latter wrote a book entitled The Republican War on Science?

    welcome to the wonderful world of Nisbet, where the fact that you might be a friend of his will hardly hinder him as he misuses your work and experiences to further his own agenda.

  83. #83 Jonathan
    March 30, 2009

    Eloquently put, sir, and a fact that is often overlooked. Not saying that religion doesn’t have its use (as an atheist, even I think that religion has its benefits), but it is not practical.

    Just like when religion is taken to an extreme, science can also be terrible when taken to an extreme (nuclear bombs come to mind).

  84. #84 Zmidponk
    March 30, 2009

    My own view is that religion can be a useful shortcut to certain fairly amorphous and nebulous things, such as morality. For example, if you’re brought up in a religion (as I was), the parents can teach the child to not do certain things because they’re sins, rather than having to get into the area of seeing things from other people’s point of view, and how something that may not appear to have a direct negative effect can have an indirect negative effect, which may be difficult for a child to grasp. I later came to the realisation that God probably doesn’t exist, but also realised there were good reasons for not doing many of the things that were ‘sins’ (though a few others were utterly senseless).

    However, when it comes to the realm of making direct claims on the nature of the universe, what happened in the past, what’s happening now, etc, religion must give way to science, simply because science starts with what is verifiable fact, and only proceeds from there using rigourously tested, solid logic, usually backed up with experimental data. Conversely, religion usually starts with taking as ‘fact’ very old books, of questionable accuracy and provenance, which sometimes even contradict themselves, jumps to a conclusion, then works backwards to build a ‘case’ using a wide variety of sources that are usually just as weak, if not weaker, as the original ‘holy text’ and is not averse, in the slightest, to just arbitrarily disregarding evidence, no matter how strong it may be, if it contradicts the presupposed conclusion.

  85. #85 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    I love typos:
    Certainly that is the case in the Twin Cities. I’ve had a few friends who live in the deep south ask me about similar churches but outside of a few cities in the south, it’s hard to find a progressive church. Some university towns are safe bets. In Mississippi the only place I could find such a church was in Oxford.

    And as a side note, I don’t believe in magic. Though I do seem to play mages a lot in D&D

  86. #86 www.10ch.org
    March 30, 2009

    “Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world”
    Of course, there is only one world. If they are indeed different ways of understanding the world, only one can be right. They are different indeed, and science negates religion.

  87. #87 Badger3k
    March 30, 2009

    I had a sort-of-discussion with a rather sad biology teacher about the lack of evidence for a god, and her reply was that listening to the arguments of theologists showed the detail of their views, and I guess that meant that there was reality behind it. I replied that I could make detailed argments about D&D, but that didn’t mean it reflected reality. She never did get the point I was making.

    But, PZ, does this mean that the +4 sword I bought for 10000 gold pieces is worthless? Damn gnomes!

  88. #88 Tulse
    March 30, 2009

    I didn’t realize this blog was a safe space for atheists only.

    This blog is only a “safe space” (whatever that means) for reasoned argument. Everyone is assumed to be a thinking, rational grownup until proved otherwise. Atheism is no more “safe” here than any other topic, as long as one’s statements about said topic can be rationally defended.

    If you want unconditional cuddles and teddy bears, find another blog.

  89. #89 Screechy Monkey
    March 30, 2009

    Ho hum. So Nisbet’s traffic is down, and he needs to get it back up by picking a fight with other ScienceBloggers again? (With the inevitable sighing and pearl-clutching by him about how he really really hates having to deal with the Pharynguloid hordes descending on him.)

  90. #90 Matt Heath
    March 30, 2009

    via Michael Tobis @69

    “You know? That God you don’t believe in? I don’t believe in him either.”
    - Rabbi Harold Kushner

    I’ve heard the same from liberal Christians; it’s inane. I don’t know anyone who identifies as atheist because they don’t believe in a specific god; they don’t believe in gods.

    If you believe that there is a thing worthy of the name “God” which cares in the slightest what we do, or is in any sense a concious entity, you believe in a God I don’t believe in. Further, if you believe there is anything worthy of the name “God” (say you’re a pantheist of some kind) you either believe in a God I don’t believe in or we disagree on the use of words (depending on the details of your “God”).

  91. #91 Glen Davidson
    March 30, 2009

    It ignores the essential fact that one of those two is a useful, practical, and powerful way of understanding the world, and the other is silly, wrong, and misleading

    Of course, many would say that science and religion were the same thing, once. Religion had its measure of empiricism, while science partook of metaphysics and woo, along with empiricism.

    When modern science developed, however, religion was left with inefficient and inappropriate empirical methods, while science had the good ones. At that point, religion became either “a different way of knowing,” or a pathetic empirically incorrect sort of empiricism/superstition.

    And it’s actually true that religion can be a “different way of knowing,” so long as one has very low standards for “knowing.” Meaning, yes, of course religious people can go with their gut instincts, believe the world is designed, etc., and do quite well.

    So then you have to decide if your “different way of knowing” involves empiricism. And if it doesn’t, then it’s more or less a kind of attitude toward the world. Which is okay, but unimportant. Or, one takes the IDiots’ tack, and decides that religion is in fact a better way of knowing the world (at the core is always a kind of anti-scientism), at which point it’s a dangerous piece of anti-intelligence.

    I actually believe that one could be a highly competent person and scientist while being religious, simply by dealing with the world scientifically where that works well, and sort of being instinctual otherwise. Not so much compartmentalization, as specialization. I still find it to be inconsistent with the philosophy of science, but it could make sense within their own limits (many don’t really know epistemology, except in their specialty).

    The IDiots, at least in their ideal, really think that religion is a “different way of knowing” that makes instinct and woo superior to mere “materialistic empiricism.” They are the ones who are truly a potential menace.

    Yet there’s no reason to pretend that the religious persons who see scientific methods as a “specialty” actually get these matters right. They don’t.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  92. #92 www.10ch.org
    March 30, 2009

    “As I’ve said before, Science and religion operate in completely different domains.”
    Indeed. Science is about reality, religion is about fiction. Popular fiction for the masses, but fiction regardless.

  93. #93 Bryn
    March 30, 2009

    Hey….waaaaait just a minute, here! Whaddya mean D&D isn’t a valid way to understand the world??!?? I’ve got several D20 dice that totally disagree with you. And the D4′s make dandy caltrops which automatically makes them more useful than religion.

    On a more serious note: some see it as a way to defend science without pissing off the religious. The danger, however, is it gives religion a gravitas it’s not entitled to and reinforces the whole “it’s my religion, so you have to respect it” nonsense. Can we just flush the whole “framing” bullshit down the nearest toilet? What the hell is so wrong with just dealing with reality?

    Yeah, yeah, I know: it’s scaaaaaaaary.

  94. #94 SEF
    March 30, 2009

    a useful shortcut … the parents can teach the child

    Of course religion is a shortcut of that form. It’s a shortcut to a lot of things that way (fake morality, fake knowledge, fake power, fake self-worth, fake humility etc etc). But it’s a bad shortcut. One for the lazy and incompetent (and intellectually dishonest). It means all the important stuff is externalised rather than internalised and, because religions tend to be self-contradictory (as well as being contradicted by reality!), it allows people to easily be monsters (and find plenty of justification in their “holy” texts for whatever they want).

  95. #95 Ric
    March 30, 2009

    Badger3k: A +4 sword for only 10gs? Damn, I wish I had your DM.

  96. #96 Badger3k
    March 30, 2009

    From reading the (mostly) well reasoned posts, I can see that there is some disagreement with Nisbett…so when will he go to censoring comments?

  97. #97 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    Tulse
    Aratina seemed to imply it was an atheist only blog. I didn’t know if that was the case or not.
    Matt
    That may be the case with you, and if so we could have a genuine disagreement (as in is there anything in nature and experience that could be understood as divine, would we want to use that language, etc?) But usually theist/atheist exchanges seem to be battling over an old guy in the sky who seems to have given one group some “strategic” bits of info that we argue today whether it’s valid or not.

  98. #98 Danio
    March 30, 2009

    Ho hum. So Nisbet’s traffic is down, and he needs to get it back up by picking a fight with other ScienceBloggers again? (With the inevitable sighing and pearl-clutching by him about how he really really hates having to deal with the Pharynguloid hordes descending on him.)

    Exactly. His blog languishes in obscurity for months on end, punctuated by traffic spikes every time he broadcasts this “New Atheists are mean poopyheads” whine.

    In the immortal words of Gunnery Sgt. Tom Highway, Don’t give the prick the satisfaction.

  99. #99 FlameDuck
    March 30, 2009

    I will say that I’m damned tired of the vapid claim that “Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world.”.

    That’s just another quote mine. The full bit goes; Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world, in the same way not having sex and raping young boys are just different ways of sexual abstinence.

    And yes, D&D is every bit as suitable a fantasy as Christianity, which is probably why the Jack Thomas Chicks of this world are so scared of it. Which reminds me Thorn@3, we were specifically talking about sane people.

    Assuming the competition of ideas and practices, there is something that “works” in those that win out and end up sustaining communities.

    The problem is that historically the competition of ideas and practices have been at the point of a sword (or gun in more recent history), rather than on the merits of the ideas themselves. Only recently has science and engineering entered the fray, because a steel sword vs. a bronze sword, does not have the technological disparity of an Abrams Tank vs. a Toyota pickup. So yes, science and engineering are here to stay, because they provide the weapons with which the religious/idealogical wars are fought, and weapons are the determining factor in a war.

    Once China starts catching up to the west, (which is going to be sooner rather than later), you’ll see all these religious morons quietly going back in the woodwork. Because there’s only one thing scarier than an atheist scientist. And that’s a Chinese Atheist Dictator For Life, with a larger military, and better weapons than us. And they want us building their weapons, because as deluded as they are, they understand that their freedom to spout their inane vile bullshit, is bought with our superior firepower.

    I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. Indeed.

  100. #100 ddr
    March 30, 2009

    D&D showed me a use for the Pythagorean Theorem. Sure I learned it in high school, I just never saw a use for it until I played D&D.

    ?The tunnel your Ranger has followed leads to an overhang near the top of a large cavern. Below, you can see that the Orc shaman is about to cast a spell on the villager that you are trying to rescue.?

    Ranger: ?I draw my bow and try to take out the Orc. What is the range??

    ?Well, let?s see. You are 30 feet above the floor and the shaman is about 30 feet away from the wall of the cavern. So 30 squared is 900. 900 plus 900 is 1800. The square root of 1800 is 42.something, so your range is about 42 feet.?

    D&D has taught me more than religion, and has been a source of more joy.

    ddr, 5th level government employee.

  101. #101 Deen
    March 30, 2009

    From reading the (mostly) well reasoned posts, I can see that there is some disagreement with Nisbett…so when will he go to censoring comments?

    I think he can’t right now: too many people are crossposting their comments right now (for instance on the Greg Laden thread), and you can’t very well start blocking comments when you attack a person’s ethics, can you?

    My prediction: he just won’t respond to any comments, until people start to get frustrated with that and stop bothering being civil and reasoned. Then he’ll reply, cry persecution, and claim to have reasons to start blocking comments.

  102. #102 Holbach
    March 30, 2009

    Richard Dawkins is much too mild in his comments concerning the religion demented. I still prefer clinteas’s description as “brain rot by religion”. Rot has its uses, but when applied to the mind the whole barrel is infested and can never be put to useful purposes. Even a sane mind, an atheist, will not engender enough reason to forestall brain rot in the religious afflicted.

  103. #103 Michael Tobis
    March 30, 2009

    Heath:

    Fundamentalism is incompatible with science. Theism is not.

    You say “you either believe in a God I don’t believe in or we disagree on the use of words”. Fine. Perhaps it is the latter. This is no grounds for injecting atheism into science any more than it is grounds for injecting fundamentalism into science. Science is a process and not a belief structure OR a disbelief structure. The question of religion is properly orthogonal to science, even if the question of fundamentalism is not.

    This is consequential in two ways. For one, you are implicitly asking people in the sciences to forego spiritual development, on the grounds that it must be delusional. The ways in which that is wrongheaded are too complex for this venue, but let me just state that you have some work to do to defend that position.

    The second problem is political.

    If you ask people to choose between God and reason before their reason is developed, they will not say “my religion is actually a reasoned philosophy based on evidence”. Most people can’t think clearly at all. They will say “I am a good person and you must be a bad one”.

    This is not a good strategy if it is not necessary. Not only is it unnecessary, it is wrong, and is based on a view of religion that is uninformed and naive, and based on only the most unsophisticated ideas of what theology is about.

    It’s just a bad idea to use science as a platform to promote atheism, unless you value your atheism more than you value science.

  104. #104 Sam C
    March 30, 2009

    Matt Nisbet has produced a clear and incisive analysis of the communication difficulties of the new atheist movement, which he cogently ascribes to an unduly and unproductively aggressive approach which has alienated the target audience and thus led to many public relations disasters, such as the huge success of the insightful documentary, Expelled.

    That will be $10 please, Matt.

    What? No?

    Oh, OK, I’ll revise my opinion then! More soupy sneering “waaah! they won’t play nice with my dollies!” grumbling from the author of Framing for Failures who is currently researching his next epic: Richard Dawkins, My Part in His Downfall.

    Atheism framed and Nisbetted: “er, if it’s all right with you, I’m not exactly 100% sure that god does everything you say, if that’s all right with you, sorry if I’ve offended”.

  105. #105 PZ Myers
    March 30, 2009

    OK, gang, you’re taking it wrong.

    I played D&D throughout college. I bought the original set of manuals in 1975 — the little beige pamphlets that poorly described a game that was almost impossible to play. Seriously: I’m a bigger nerd with a longer history with the game than most of you. Admittedly, I haven’t played it since college, but I did play computer games built on similar premises (Wizardry and Ultima), and even now play World of Warcraft now and then. Just so we’re all clear on this, I’m not criticizing D&D. ‘K?

  106. #106 Stephen Wells
    March 30, 2009

    @103: if your theos has any observable properties then your theism may or may not be compatible with science and all known theisms aren’t.

    Also your use of “spiritual development” elides multiple concepts: if you mean “spiritual development of the “yoga and meditation have made me a calmer, happier person” then there’s no scientific problem, and if you mean “scientology has allowed me to clear my Thetans” then hell yes there is a problem.

  107. #107 Matt Penfold
    March 30, 2009

    Micheal Tobis,

    Theism is compatible with science only when theism the form of theism in question does not permit any form of divine intervention in the Universe. Just so we are clear, this means no miracles, no prayers being answered, no gods having a role in starting things. So long as the god in question does absolutely nothing then, yes, that god is compatible with science.

    Of course there is also not point at all in such a god. A god does do nothing, has not done nothing in past and cannot do anything in the future does not exist in meaningful sense.

    Once you allow this god a role in the Universe, then you have conflict with science. “Goddidit” is not a scientific answer, and yet that is what those theists who allow for an interventionist god must accept is sometimes the answer. Not all theists may be creationists, but all those who accept dogma such as immaculate conception, or ressurection, are just in conflict with science just like their creationist co-religionists.

  108. #108 SteveM
    March 30, 2009

    fmitchell @52:

    I could buy the NOMA argument if religions actually explored problems of ethics in a complex world. Science alone can’t answer certain questions of how to be a moral human being.

    Why can’t science answer certian questions of how to moral? Where does religion get this “knowledge” of how to be moral that is inaccessible to science? If science was just physics or chemistry, I could see how you could say that. But science is not just the various fields of study normally identified as “science”. Science is a way of applying reason to the world. Morality, ethics, etc. are certainly products of the human mind and subject to rational analysis. When religion says something is moral, there has to be a better reason then “because God (or an old book) says so”. And when you justify a behavior as moral rationally, then you are essentially using science to answer moral question.

  109. #109 Holbach
    March 30, 2009

    Michael Tobis @ 103

    I don’t use my atheism to promote science. Science is there, and only enhances my atheism which in turn elevates science to the degree that religion does not. I love Science; I just happen to be an atheist and this is all the more uplifting.

  110. #110 Bryn
    March 30, 2009

    Just so we’re all clear on this, I’m not criticizing D&D. ‘K?

    No, no; the humor was quite clear. It’s just that many of us are a little defensive of our drug…I mean, game of choice. And I, too, have that lovely little blue and white pamphlet somewhere. Yay! Another D&D old fart.

  111. #111 Der Bruno Stroszek
    March 30, 2009

    It’s been the first time in ages that I’ve looked at Great Hair Online, and the thing that struck me as the most outstandingly hypocritical was his post on how we should use humour and satire to communicate science. Yet when Religulous came out, just the fact that the movie was trying to make people laugh was enough for him to dismiss it entirely. Further proof that, for Nisbet, any method of communicating atheism is invalid.

    In any case, I think the funniest writer on Scienceblogs is almost certainly Abbie Smith, and I don’t think her posts really meet Nisbet’s exacting standards of communications.

  112. #112 Matt Heath
    March 30, 2009

    Dwight, You’re clearly right that theist/atheist arguments are usually about the most simplistic Sky-Daddy type of a god. I think this is for a good reason. More subtle ideas of gods might be interesting from philosophical points of view, but they don’t matter much day-to-day. Whether “divine” is a useful word for the most wonderful things of beauty or imagination or emotion can be a nice debate but it’s not a pressing issue in the way that attempts to dictate public policy or enforce morality based on ancient texts is.

    As much as the more sophisticated religious thinker may wish it otherwise, crude Sky-Daddy gods are the ones with all the power.

    For what it’s worth, I think “divine” carries too much baggage of being related to person-like gods to be useful for anything that exists.

  113. #113 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    This is no grounds for injecting atheism into science any more than it is grounds for injecting fundamentalism into science.

    false equivalency.

    science is atheistic in practice, if not apriori.

    it’s also aunicornic, aFSMic, etc.

    It has to be.

    certainly even you can see that?

    if not, do tell us how science can address something I just now made up in my head.

    er, the thing I made up, that is, and not the mechanism I used to make it up to begin with.

  114. #114 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2009

    Does this mean that Nisbet has broken with Mooney, given that the latter wrote a book entitled The Republican War on Science?

    Maybe he thought Mooney needed a haircut.

  115. #115 Matt Penfold
    March 30, 2009

    Can anyone suggest someone who is still supportive of Nisbett and his framing agenda ?

  116. #116 CrypticLife
    March 30, 2009

    With due respect to PZ’s protests that he’s not criticizing D&D, I have to also weigh in.

    One of the classes in D&D (as some may know) is “cleric”. A cleric follows a god or pantheon of gods as a priest, shaman, whatever. They grant the cleric daily powers depending on experience and how well the cleric exemplifies deific ideals.

    The prospective cleric has a huge host of selections (pre-4th edition, anyway) to choose from, everything from Bast to Kuan Yin to Meilikki to Tezcatlipoca and Loviatar. Oh, and male, non-breast-baring deities too.

    At the very least, familiarity with the way Gygax designed his system suggested to any adolescent that these were legitimate deities for some culture. This could quite easily lead one to question proposed deities in real life which do not actually grant magical powers. You know, even beyond exposure to normal life.

    Of course, to back up PZ’s point, this doesn’t really make D&D a way of understanding the world. It’s just that it has side benefits which might lead one to a greater understanding of the world.

  117. #117 Richard Harris
    March 30, 2009

    Michael Tobis @ #103 Fundamentalism is incompatible with science. Theism is not.

    Yes it goddam well is. Theism assumes a revealed god or gods that actively intervene in the universe & in human affairs. This necessarily entails suspension of the laws of physics & chemistry.

    Maybe you meant Deism?

  118. #118 Matt Heath
    March 30, 2009

    Can anyone suggest someone who is still supportive of Nisbett and his framing agenda ?

    Nisbett himself? maybe?

  119. #119 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    Matt Heath
    I think for the purposes of the debate over creationism, sky daddy types of religion are the threat. Indeed. And of course atheists should be there on the front lines to confront such a threat. But so should folks whose religious sensibilities are not with a sky daddy. They should be there too. And while the latter group may not be as significant they do exist and can have an effect on the debate, as evolution sunday suggests,

    Matt Penfold
    Or a third option. what is being called God is not an extra outside entity but is an evaluative judgment on particular activities, events, in the world. So yes God can do things in the world and it need not clash with science, because it’s a difference over a word (and maybe the sort of response called forth by the word) not over what entities populate the world.

  120. #120 Marcus Ranum
    March 30, 2009

    NOMA is great. As long as the religious don’t make claims about objective reality, there’s no need for conflict at all. They can argue about angels dancing on the heads of pins or whatever, until their imaginary hell freezes over.

    Of course, not overlapping with science would mean that religion has nothing to say about medicine, technology, public policy, global warming, criminology, or ANY other real-world things that can be examined scientifically.

  121. #121 SC, OM
    March 30, 2009

    Can anyone suggest someone who is still supportive of Nisbet and his framing agenda ?

    Hmmm… Where’s SnOrzel stand?

  122. #122 Stephen Wells
    March 30, 2009

    Great, now I’m visualising PZ on World of Warcraft as an Atheist Paladin. I revive you by the invocation of Defibrillator and Adrenaline.

  123. #123 Gra
    March 30, 2009

    “On issues such as climate change, nanotechnology, and evolution, research in the area of framing is being used to design and plan communication initiatives and to craft novel, accessible, and relevant narratives for nontraditional audiences across media formats.” Nisbet

    Huh? What’s a non-traditional audience? One that sits on the floor? And why is it that when I hear the word “narrative” I want to reach for my revolver?

  124. #124 Patricia, OM
    March 30, 2009

    OT –
    Rev.BigDumbChimps champion cootie – 1
    Patricia’s computer repairman – 0

    Now we enter round two.

    If we catch the cootie Chimpy I’m dicing it up for gumbo. :D

  125. #125 Matt Penfold
    March 30, 2009

    Or a third option. what is being called God is not an extra outside entity but is an evaluative judgment on particular activities, events, in the world. So yes God can do things in the world and it need not clash with science, because it’s a difference over a word (and maybe the sort of response called forth by the word) not over what entities populate the world.

    This is just drivel. Just putting a load of words together that are syntatically correct does mean those words actually convey any meaning. You are as waffley as the Archbishop of Canterbury on the nature of god, and that is not a good thing.

  126. #126 CalGeorge
    March 30, 2009

    “…they employ framing unethically…”

    Off with their frames!

    What a maroon.

  127. #127 James F
    March 30, 2009

    Dwight @119, etc.

    You would appreciate the point made by Ulrich Kutschera of the University of Kassel (“Dogma, not faith, is the barrier to scientific enquiry,” Nature 443:26, 2006):

    In about 1950, Dobzhansky and Mayr founded our modern “atheistic” evolutionary theory. Their work showed that Christians and atheists can cooperate to develop scientific theories, as long as religious dogma is not mixed up with facts and experimental data. Unfortunately, this is exactly what young-Earth creationists and intelligent-design theorists are doing. They should read the 1973 essay in which Dobzhansky, an open-minded, non-dogmatic theist, thoroughly refuted their irrational claims.

    NB: The essay in question is the famous ?Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” Am. Biol. Teach. 35:125?129, 1973.

  128. #128 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    Matt
    It’s been meaningful for not just myself but any number of religious groups, congregations, and theologians over the last century or so. To speak of what is holy in nature, in experience is not meaningless. You may disagree with it but that’s a different thing all together.

  129. #129 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    as long as religious dogma is not mixed up with facts and experimental data

    IOW, as long as one is able to completely compartmentalize.

    hurrah!

    *rolleyes*

    It’s like some people just don’t get why Miller’s theology is worth criticizing, and why we look at religion as at best a mental handicap.

    why compartmentalize if you don’t have to?

    just drop the nonsense and all fits together nicely.

  130. #130 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    To speak of what is holy in nature, in experience is not meaningless.

    the “holy” part IS useless. OTOH, to speak of reverence to the wonders we constantly find as we research nature is like appreciating art.

    you can feel a great sense of appreciation, quite well without any need to resort to divinity.

  131. #131 Freidenker
    March 30, 2009

    @ 20#

    I’m an atheist Jew. Too bad I can’t de-circumcise.

  132. #132 Matt Penfold
    March 30, 2009

    It’s been meaningful for not just myself but any number of religious groups, congregations, and theologians over the last century or so. To speak of what is holy in nature, in experience is not meaningless. You may disagree with it but that’s a different thing all together.

    It is simply post-modernist garbage. It is something employed by those theologians who have realised that science causes severe problems for the tradional notion of an interventionist god but who lack the moral courage to let go of religion. By being so waffley statements such as the one you gave can be made to mean anything, and thus mean nothing. Just what is a “an evaluative judgment on particular activities” ? Sounds to me like you are claiming your god is just like a person’s conscience. In which case the question arises, that since conscience is something science can investigate, why do you insist on inserting your religion into the matter ?

    I will ask you some simple questions.

    Can you your god intervene in the Universe ?

    If so, do youy accept that such interventions are things that can be explored by science ?

  133. #133 Master Mahan
    March 30, 2009

    That’s a bit of an unfair statement. D&D is clearly a better representation of reality than religion. Christians don’t even try to calculate Jesus’s Challenge Rating. Besides, it’s not like Wizards of the Coast claims that their spells are real.

  134. #134 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    Matt

    It’s not post modernism. If anything I’m relying 19th century German theologians; Troeltsch, Ritschl, Schleiermacher, etc.

    An evaluative judgment is what it says it is, we make an evaluation about some features of human experience and the world. In the Christian tradition that has been those things we experience which act in ways to save and transform life for the better.

    Does that make a difference in the world? Certainly. Can the sciences investigate it? Yes. Will they call it God? No. That’s a word religious communities in the west have used for such realities.

  135. #135 Brownian
    March 30, 2009

    Careful, Dwight. If you continually redefine the word ‘God’ to make it consistent with observable evidence, you end up a pantheist, a deist, or an atheist. There’s just no way to continue to believe in any meaningful way in a deity that does its level best to appear as a cold, uncaring universe. If the answers to How does this deity act? What does it think? What does it want? are exactly the same as they would be for a deity that doesn’t exist, then what is there to find holy in? So, Inscrutable Uncaring God made the universe; so what? Is that more worthy of reverence than an ant who has dug a hill? Is holiness then a mere function of scale?

  136. #136 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    In the Christian tradition that has been those things we experience which act in ways to save and transform life for the better.

    any of these the result of observable actions of an identifiable deity?

    no?

    then you’re seriously deluded.

  137. #137 Rowan
    March 30, 2009

    I seem to remember from the science classes I took in high school that there were scientific discoveries which were made by priests/monks, i.e. Mendel and heredity.

    I did a Google search and heh, came up with a link to a post on Pharyngula that listed a number of contributors to science who apparently were catholic.

    The person posting seems a little bit hot under the collar about some crackers though.

  138. #138 Seth
    March 30, 2009

    You mean D&D isn’t real?
    That explains why no one takes this halfling paladin seriously when I go out in full mail.

  139. #139 Matt Penfold
    March 30, 2009

    Dwight,

    Why do you insist of talking of “god” at all ? It is clear you do not view god as an entity that is capable of acting independantly. Is English your first language ?

    An “evaluative judgement” could be an appraisel carried out by an employer on an employee. Do you really consider your “god” to be nothing more than something akin to form of appraisel ? Not much of a god is it ?

    Really Dwight, you are just showing how vacuous your theology is.

  140. #140 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    Brownian
    I suppose if the whole of the universe was “cold” or hostile then we wouldn’t be here. Presumably there are some things in our environment that prove to be hospitable. Those are worth relating to it seems. Maybe even in a religious way.

    Ich
    I’m not saying God caused these things which transform us. I’m saying God is those things which transform us.

  141. #141 Alex
    March 30, 2009

    So for thousands of years, magic has been used to explain the unexplainable. Certainly fire, lightning, disease, even breathing, at one time, were magical. So then a systematic way of knowledge-building was developed – science – and where ever it’s energies were focused, magical explanation disappeared.

    For far too long magical thinking has run interference, as a way of protecting itself, regarding the pursuit of knowledge. Religion and dogma are not just non-productive annoyances, they are self-serving egotistic enterprises that have shown they will stop at nothing for their self preservation.

  142. #142 Rowan
    March 30, 2009

    Strange. The link with the list in my comment #137 didn’t post using HTML tags.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/karl_giberson_strikes_back.php#comment-1022594

  143. #143 Matt Penfold
    March 30, 2009

    Can I ask the regulars here if I am missing something of what Dwight is saying to me ?

    To me is just sounds like a load of garbage, with no substantive meaning. Is that just me, does he have something meaningful to say, or is just (as I suspect it is) a load of bollocks ?

  144. #144 Nominal Egg
    March 30, 2009

    Dwight,

    Perhaps it would be helpful if you define your versions of “God”, “holy”, and “divine”.
    Then we may be able to understand where you are coming from.

    …and rip it apart accordingly.

  145. #145 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    I suppose if the whole of the universe was “cold” or hostile then we wouldn’t be here.

    oops.

    presuppositionalism appears to be your strong suit.

    what if there were no anthropogenic projections on to the universe?

    not cold, not hostile, not benevolent, not loving…

    just.

    is.

    then what?

  146. #146 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    Matt
    I believe God acts in the world, not outside of it. Is that vacuous? How does one propose that anybody, regardless of their religious stripe, has an experience of God apart from the world of experience and nature? Also an evaluation is not something just in our head, it’s in relation to a real situation, real objects, real events, etc. If I evaluate you as a worker, it can’t be just what’s in my head. Presumably it’s in response to what kind of job you’re doing. I could be mistaken in my judgment. Of course. And of course theology can be likewise in relation to it’s object of concern. But to speak of God apart from the human would be well, odd. And to speak of God as if it was just in our heads would equally be odd.

  147. #147 CatBallou
    March 30, 2009

    Matt Penfold @ 107 suggests that the dogma of immaculate conception is in conflict with science. I beg to differ! And I’ll go further: Not only was Mary conceived without the stain of original sin, we all were!

    OK, it’s not exactly science, but it’s certainly atheism.

  148. #148 Stephen Wells
    March 30, 2009

    He’s using “god” in a sort of panentheistic way to mean anything good that happens. Since this “god” concept doesn’t have anything to do with any traditional god-type entity, it’s unclear why “god” is a good word for it.

  149. #149 Alex
    March 30, 2009

    Matt,

    Apologetics is always wrapped snuggly is evasive, imprecise language.

  150. #150 Nominal Egg
    March 30, 2009

    And to speak of God as if it was just in our heads would equally be odd.

    But true nonetheless.

  151. #151 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    I’m not sure what is difficult to understand. God describes a reality in the world. For salvation based religions, it’s been what has acted to save, transform human life for the better. What acts in that way? I bet folks on here can come up with some good ideas on that score. How is it God? Because that’s the word from Plato onwards that has described such a reality. Now some folks have used anthropomorphisms, others from even ancient times have not. But it’s still meaningful to talk about such a thing in this way in religious communities.

  152. #152 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    Also an evaluation is not something just in our head, it’s in relation to a real situation, real objects, real events, etc.

    that are all taken into account when you evaluate something or someone.

    yes, all your experiences relating to any given evaluation are indeed all in your head.

    that you have convinced yourself otherwise makes you no different than your standard football player, who points to the sky when he scores a touchdown.

  153. #153 Matt Penfold
    March 30, 2009

    I believe God acts in the world, not outside of it. Is that vacuous? How does one propose that anybody, regardless of their religious stripe, has an experience of God apart from the world of experience and nature? Also an evaluation is not something just in our head, it’s in relation to a real situation, real objects, real events, etc. If I evaluate you as a worker, it can’t be just what’s in my head. Presumably it’s in response to what kind of job you’re doing. I could be mistaken in my judgment. Of course. And of course theology can be likewise in relation to it’s object of concern. But to speak of God apart from the human would be well, odd. And to speak of God as if it was just in our heads would equally be odd.

    Dwight, would you care to translate this into English for those of us who do not speak jibberish.

    Just say something that is actually meaningful and stop reproducing this crap. If you cannot do that, admit it, and leave the discussion to the grown-ups.

  154. #154 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    I’m not sure what is difficult to understand

    therein lies the rub, but it is not we who are failing to understand.

  155. #155 Holbach
    March 30, 2009

    Matt Penfold @ 143

    Dwight is trying as simply as he can to convey to you that his imaginary god is the cause of it all, and nothing else need be said or analyzed in the acceptance of this unarguable dictum.

  156. #156 Stephen Wells
    March 30, 2009

    @146: it’s not odd to speak of fictional characters as being entirely in your head. Which is your gods are. HTH.

  157. #157 Screechy Monkey
    March 30, 2009

    “Since this “god” concept doesn’t have anything to do with any traditional god-type entity, it’s unclear why “god” is a good word for it.”

    Because it spares him the ignominy of having to call himself a (*gasp*) atheist.

    Part of me just finds it amusing that so many people adopt this “atheism in drag” kind of theology, but it still has irritating consequences. When people declare themselves “religious” because they have a sense of wonder about the universe, or believe in “something bigger than ourselves,” they are implicitly adopting the tired and untrue stereotype that atheists lack those traits.

  158. #158 Hap
    March 30, 2009

    Has Dr. Nisbet managed to actually frame any arguments in his (alleged) field of expertise successfully? One would figure that if you presume to write a “How To” article, you might actually have done it (successfully) at least once.

    Oh, and speaking the truth would seem to be a necessary part of the way adults are supposed to treat one another. If marketing and focus groups are the model from which you intend to derive a successfully framed argument, truth would seem to be the furthest thing from your arguments.

    Dr. Nisbet’s ambition seems to be to get his picture in the dictionary next to the definition of “concern troll”. I think we can safely consider his ambition fulfilled. Maybe now he can move on with his career.

  159. #159 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    But it’s still meaningful to talk about such a thing in this way in religious communities.

    duuuuuhhhhh.

    kind of a circular argument, though, dontchyathink?

    *sigh*

    I can see this is going nowhere fast.

  160. #160 Nominal Egg
    March 30, 2009

    God describes a reality in the world. For salvation based religions, it’s been what has acted to save, transform human life for the better.

    I’m sorry, but you’ve got to do better than this.
    The reality I live in has nothing that can be described as “God”. What has transformed human life for the better have been things like altruism, and compassion, and empathy, none of which are “divine” in origin (whatever “divine” means).

  161. #161 Nominal Egg
    March 30, 2009

    Dwight,

    How long have you been in that seminary?
    It may not be too late to go to a real school where you can learn something useful.

  162. #162 Alex
    March 30, 2009

    For any discussion to be meaningful, word-meaning must be fixed and not movable. Terms like holy, salvation, sin, soul, etc. are just props used by the religious to make it seem like they have something real, but extraordinary, to talk about. Those terms evaporate under scrutiny and effort to pin them down.

    Belief and faith, are not virtues. They encourage intellectual laziness and promote a false sense of confidence in unfounded assertion. Using contrived language to evoke feelings of awe and inspiration is how charlatans operate. To have certitude of such a creature (deity), that has no parallel or exemplar in reality, to exist, is delusional.

  163. #163 AdamK
    March 30, 2009

    Shastra @79 — That was a great post.

  164. #164 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2009

    Dwight (#151):

    How is it God? Because that’s the word from Plato onwards that has described such a reality.

    “If English was good enough for Plato’s Academy, it’s darn sure good enough for me!”

  165. #165 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2009

    Dwight (#151):

    How is it God? Because that’s the word from Plato onwards that has described such a reality.

    “If English was good enough for Plato’s Academy, then it’s darn sure good enough for me!”

  166. #166 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2009

    Yes, that joke was so good, the Internet decided to repeat it for emphasis!

    Rule #1 of Humour: If it’s funny, repeat it until it isn’t.

    Rule #2: If it’s not funny, repeat it until it is.

  167. #167 Dwight
    March 30, 2009

    Matt
    What couldn’t be understood? Evaluations rely on the total situation. Not just what’s in my head or the thing being evaluated. Is that too hard of a concept to work with?

    For other folks

    If you don’t want to call it God. Fine. But the point is, some folks who are theists do just that. You can join the debates of theologians over whether they should or not. But just like the word atom, universe, etc. the word God has shifted through the centuries too (even if we could find continuities with it’s usage in the past).

    One other point. If any religious community over a given period of time was utterly disconnected from reality, they don’t last. And so whatever grasp of reality these traditions and communities have had, should not be tossed out a priori because they are religious.

    I think people use words as a way to prevent investigation. Oh that’s religious. Oh that’s post modern. Oh that’s scientistic or reductionist. In every way, it’s a nice word to say “I don’t have to look at this anymore.” There’s something fundamentally not liberal about this. And unfortunately many “new atheists” make that same move.

  168. #168 James F
    March 30, 2009

    Ichthyic @129

    why compartmentalize if you don’t have to?

    just drop the nonsense and all fits together nicely.

    Freedom of expression, I’d say. If they’re not violating the Establishment Clause or breaking secular laws and ethics, they’re entitled to their beliefs. As for discussing the validity of holding such beliefs in open debate, have at it – I hardly need to tell this crowd. ;-)

  169. #169 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    You can join the debates of theologians over whether they should or not. But just like the word atom, universe, etc. the word God has shifted through the centuries too (even if we could find continuities with it’s usage in the past).

    false equivalency.

    fail.

    suggest you take a course in logic.

  170. #170 Alex
    March 30, 2009

    Regarding any god concepts, there’s just nothing of substance to look at.

  171. #171 Nominal Egg
    March 30, 2009

    I think people use words as a way to prevent investigation. Oh that’s religious. Oh that’s post modern. Oh that’s scientistic or reductionist. In every way, it’s a nice word to say “I don’t have to look at this anymore.”

    What are we supposed to be looking at again?
    I forgot.

  172. #172 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    If they’re not violating the Establishment Clause or breaking secular laws and ethics, they’re entitled to their beliefs.

    and if over-compartmentalization leads to mental breakdown?

    should we not simply recommend avoiding the cause?

    or should we just shrug and laugh at the likes of Michael Egnor, without even bothering to suggest that his condition is entirely avoidable?

  173. #173 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2009

    If any religious community over a given period of time was utterly disconnected from reality, they don’t last.

    The ability to farm successfully has few implications for the truth value of claims about the origin of the Cosmos.

    And so whatever grasp of reality these traditions and communities have had, should not be tossed out a priori because they are religious.

    No, they should be tossed out a posteriori when they fail to accord with a closer examination of reality.

  174. #174 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    The ability to farm successfully has few implications for the truth value of claims about the origin of the Cosmos.

    LOL

    er, wait…

    few?

    you mean it might have some?

  175. #175 Alex
    March 30, 2009

    And so whatever grasp of reality these traditions and communities have had, should not be tossed out a priori because they are religious.

    No. But religious thinking is dangerous and suspect. It does not lead to knowledge better than the scientific method. It does, for the most part, operate in a way that is contrary to the scientific method. It makes mysterious claims about reality in an effort to explain it, yet is never able to back those claims up. It is self serving and egotistical. It’s comfort food for the ignorant. It’s time to move beyond the magical thinking of childhood and refrain from religion and concepts of god.

  176. #176 Stephen Wells
    March 30, 2009

    @Dwight: it’s not illiberal to note that it’s possible for some ideas to be _wrong. And it’s not wrong to describe fictional characters as fictional.

  177. #177 JamesR
    March 30, 2009

    Frame and Reframe.
    Seems to me that we have comvered this ground before. The churches have insinuated themselves into science in ways that are dishonest and ignorant. They have taken bits of science for their own purposes(framing) and have used those bits to disguise themselves as to being scientific. The Wolf in sheeps clothing frame. I applaud and fully expect any bonified scientist to stand up and state the facts and the truth. To sit down and shut up is nothing more than giving into the thugs who would rule the world. We are not a people who need nor seek to be ruled.

    We are not a people who need the religious to agree with us nor do we need them to give us permission to move forward. Those who think framing is needed are simply mistaken. The religious have lied their way through the millenia and are now faced with the facts and must give in or perish. I say lets keep it up and maybe bump it up a notch or two. We need to be more vocal and more proactive in our communities. Write more letters, comment on more blogs, post more essays about the facts and how those facts apply to our current lives.

    Also off topic a bit
    Hillary Clinton In Mexico. She is a politician and regardless what you or I think of her she has ahh?Well take a look.

    The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted by Mary on the tilma, or cloak, of St. Juan Diego in 1531. The image has numerous unexplainable phenomena, such as the appearance on Mary?s eyes of those present in the room when the tilma was opened and the image?s lack of decay.
    ————————————————————
    Mrs. Clinton was received on Thursday at 8:15 a.m. by the rector of the Basilica, Msgr. Diego Monroy.

    Msgr. Monroy took Mrs. Clinton to the famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which had been previously lowered from its usual altar for the occasion.

    After observing it for a while, Mrs. Clinton asked ?who painted it?? to which Msgr. Monroy responded ?God!?
    ————————————————————
    The entire article Here:
    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=15511

    The fact is that we do not know if she knew that the catholics believe that the object was an imprint supernaturally imprinted by the Divine Mother Of God. HMMM??? Curiouser and curiouser.

    I laughed my ass off about that.

  178. #178 Alex
    March 30, 2009

    And just a note regarding my #175 comment, there’s nothing wrong with ignorance. It’s a humble beginning. Admitting it is the first step to defeating it. It is science that always tries to start the search for truth by admitting ignorance. It is religion that typically has its adherents smugly proclaim that they know the answers to start with.

  179. #179 Adam C.
    March 30, 2009

    Would it help if I pretended I was really a level 11 dwarven bard?

  180. #180 Sili
    March 30, 2009

    Umpteenth verse, same as the first.

  181. #181 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2009

    Ichthyic:

    I was aiming for litotes, or meiosis, or perhaps mitosis.

  182. #182 Tezcatlipoca
    March 30, 2009

    d&d is not a portrayal of reality? *rolls d20 to check*

  183. #183 Nominal Egg
    March 30, 2009

    bonified scientist

    LOL

    May also be referred to as a “Natural Phallosofer”

  184. #184 SC, OM
    March 30, 2009

    What acts in that way? I bet folks on here can come up with some good ideas on that score.

    Why don’t you help us out? What are some examples of the things you are denoting “God”? If it’s worthwhile to relate to them, how do you relate to them, practically speaking? What is the relationship of this view to that of “salvation-based religions”?

  185. #185 CJO
    March 30, 2009

    I Sense Motive.

  186. #186 No One Of Consequence
    March 30, 2009

    [kwok]PZ better not bad mouth D&D or the next time I run a game I’m going make the nemesis a Squid-loving Paladin that the players have to destroy.[/end kwok]

  187. #187 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    I Sense Motive.

    I see dead people.
    ;)

  188. #188 cicely
    March 30, 2009

    But D&D is one of the best ways for the layman to put a few tentacles into his/her daily life, on a budget! Besides, where else will the kiddies have the chance to learn the names of all those arcane polearms and the different types of armor? (Okay, the SCA; but shush!)(And besides, the amount of overlap between the RPG community and the SCA is incredible.) Also, I never got more use out of my math skills than when I applied it to D&D. What volume of stone will your mage need to create to make a dome of a given diameter and thickness? How many spells would that require, at his current level? How much of the 10′x10′ hallway will that fireball fill with toasty-hot death, and is your character far enough back in the marching order to be safe?

    More seriously, I suspect that one of the reasons why some very religious people get so hot under the collar (read, “hysterical”) about D&D is fear that impressionable young minds might compare the RPG gods’ (mostly nicked from history) reality/unreality to contemporary deity, and draw conclusions that they don’t approve of.

    Kobra @ 65:

    (Let’s see. Outrage, check. Threat of divine intervention, check. Fatwah envy, check. I think I hit the important elements.)

    No Comic Sans, no gloating about how you’ll laugh while the “infidel” burns in Hell (or other netherworldly plane), no “I’ll pray for you”, no “sincerely” at the end?

    On the subject of NOMA, IMO it’s not so much that the Magesteria are Non-Overlapping, as that they are No Longer Overlapping. I see religion and science as arising from the same human desire for an explanation of “Why?”. In the absence of any knowledge of air currents and high- and low-pressure areas, a pissed-off god is as reasonable an explanation for that freak blizzard as any. Misunderstood cause and effect, a little anthropomorphism, and Bingo! Then the religion takes on other useful purposes–providing a group larger than the family unit with a common cultural context (so useful in distinguishing “us” from “them”), an in-group to out-breed with, and of course, explanations for all of those large and little inequities that reality hands out so liberally. Over the length of human history, we’ve invested a lot of time, effort and material into these systems, so it isn’t surprising to me that a lot of people are unwilling to just “throw it all away” on something (science) that is relatively new and untested.

    I think that, in the long haul, science will out-compete religion, but that it’ll be a gradual process (like, why, evolution!), and probably leave a lot of vestigial bits on our societies.

  189. #189 windy
    March 30, 2009
    The ability to farm successfully has few implications for the truth value of claims about the origin of the Cosmos.

    you mean it might have some?

    That depends on what you farm, doesn’t it?

  190. #190 Smidgy
    March 30, 2009

    Dwight #151:

    I’m not sure what is difficult to understand. God describes a reality in the world. For salvation based religions, it’s been what has acted to save, transform human life for the better.

    So, when the religious folk say ‘God is good’, they mean that quite literally – ‘God’ is, basically, anything that’s good, and anything that’s good is ‘God’.

    What acts in that way? I bet folks on here can come up with some good ideas on that score.

    Well, it would differ in each individual case.

    How is it God? Because that’s the word from Plato onwards that has described such a reality.

    Nope. The nearest thing in Plato’s time, once translated to modern English, was ‘gods’ – plural and noun (as opposed to singular and proper noun). You forget, Plato was an ancient Greek. The Greeks of that time had a polytheistic belief system incorporating many gods, none of whom were actually called ‘God’, and, basically, were simply more powerful, immortal versions of humans, complete with love, hate, jealousy, anger, compassion, etc, etc, etc. The concept you may be thinking of is the demiurge, which is only really similar to ‘God’ in two respects – they are both supposedly responsible for the creation for the universe and they are both supposedly inherently good.

    Now some folks have used anthropomorphisms, others from even ancient times have not. But it’s still meaningful to talk about such a thing in this way in religious communities.

    I think that comes under the heading, ‘No shit, Sherlock.’

  191. #191 Hyperon
    March 30, 2009

    Part of the problem, I think, is that feminists don’t sufficiently acknolwedge that WOMEN THEMSELVES are perhaps even more to blame than men for cultural misogyny. Many women are delighted when complimented on their looks, and spend most of their spare time browsing fashion magazines. It’s hard to blame the guy who made the unwelcome comment about Sheril when so many women encourage this behavior.

    And this isn’t just an insignificant fraction. Have any of the feminists posting above taken a trip to msn.com or the AIM dashboard? Those cringe-inducingly shallow ads that you see about beauty products and female celebrity are so obviously targeted at average girls and young women. This is not the design of a worldwide conspiracy of male oppressors.

    It’s seen as normal for boys to play with Mechano, Lego, and computers, whereas many mothers will consciously discourage their daughters from those activities. If things stay like this then it won’t surprise me, in the slightest, if the next two Einsteins — hell, even the next five Einsteins — are all male.

    So be more subtle, feminists. All the inequality you see is not necessarily the product of outright discrimination by men.

  192. #192 Daenyx
    March 30, 2009

    PZ,

    The D&D players aren’t pissed off. We’re deeply amused, and in my case now fantasizing about gods that give me a daily arsenal of spells with which to smite -

    … Okay, you got me, I’m a bard, not a paladin. But still!

    (Just you wait. Gary Gygax will rise again, more powerful than ever before, laying waste to the masses of infidels with his Beholder army, and bringing the faithful into the divine era of the Final Edition.)

  193. #193 Sven DiMilo
    March 30, 2009

    windy, @#189, F yet another W

  194. #194 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 30, 2009

    So I wasted all that money on a Shirt of Smiting?

    GAAAH!!! I don’t know how I ever managed to get out of that site again!!!

    “There is no place like 127.0.0.1″
    “?you only have to outrun the halfling.”

    ????????????????

    Pete, that video takes 2:12:02, and that’s time I haven’t got. Couldn’t you summarize what scientism is supposed to be?

    ????????????????

    I was afraid of this — compare religion to knitting, all the knitters get upset with me. Compare religion to D&D, all the role players get upset with me. I expect that if I compared religion to ax murder, hordes of offended ax murderers would show up in the comments, saying “Hey! Don’t be so rude to my hobby!”

    Priceless. Just? priceless. :-D :-D :-D

    ????????????????

    [?] One could quite reasonable say that science is essentially playing an RPG in the real world.

    :-o

    Fascinating.

    ????????????????

    And to be honest I often get better descriptions of the moral life from the Talmu[?]d then from Freud.

    If you want to talk about science, why do you talk about Freud?

    ????????????????

    why is it so many “thoughtful guys” like yourself seem to have no fucking clue what the history of this has been?

    Because “thoughtful” and “knowledgeless” can, unfortunately, coexist and often do so.

    ????????????????

    science can also be terrible when taken to an extreme (nuclear bombs come to mind).

    Ehem.

    That’s not science. It’s an application of science. What you do with the knowledge science has given you can be terrible; science itself is Chaotic Neutral.

    ????????????????

    For one, you are implicitly asking people in the sciences to forego spiritual development, on the grounds that it must be delusional. The ways in which that is wrongheaded are too complex for this venue,

    O RLY?

    but let me just state that you have some work to do to defend that position.

    You are the one who’s making a claim here (namely that such a thing as “spiritual development” exists). You are the one, therefore, who has to defend something.

    Come on, we’re waiting?

  195. #195 Braiden
    March 30, 2009

    For a professed atheist, Nisbet doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of us.

  196. #196 Paper Hand
    March 30, 2009

    I work with someone who is religious. He’s also a Star Wars fan. I’ve noticed with some amusement that there is little difference in the way he argues points about Star Wars – where there is conscious suspension of disbelief and make-believe – and the way he argues points about the Bible – where there is NOT a conscious suspension of disbelief, but rather a genuine belief.

  197. #197 Matt Heath
    March 30, 2009

    Smidgy@190: I don’t know what word he used, or whether it translates to “God” in English but I’m quite sure Plato did write of a creator god and considered it to be quite different to the pantheon of popular ancient Greek religion.

  198. #198 Calladus
    March 30, 2009

    Driving and teleporting are two different ways of getting across town.

    What, you don’t believe in teleportation? I feel so sorry for you. But just to be fair, you should keep quiet about that driving business.

  199. #199 JamesR
    March 30, 2009

    Nominal
    Imagine my horror. Damn
    Bona fide = credentialed, genuine, real.
    And I previewed too.

  200. #200 Matt Heath
    March 30, 2009

    me@197: Actually, looking around the web I’ll pull back from that a bit. Maybe, it was just later (but still pre-Christian) followers of Plato that talked about a creating mind or whatever.

  201. #201 Nominal Egg
    March 30, 2009

    Imagine my horror. Damn

    No worries.
    It really did make me laugh.
    Personally, I like being bonified.

    And bacon.

  202. #202 PZ Myers
    March 30, 2009

    Great, now I’m visualising PZ on World of Warcraft as an Atheist Paladin. I revive you by the invocation of Defibrillator and Adrenaline.

    Never. I only play an undead warlock. The one thing they never do is heal or resurrect or any of those goody-two-shoes things…curses and pain and soul-sucking evil, always.

  203. #203 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 30, 2009

    Hyperon, stop using an RSS feeder. It makes you post comments on the wrong thread.

  204. #204 Sastra
    March 30, 2009

    Dwight #119 wrote:

    what is being called God is not an extra outside entity but is an evaluative judgment on particular activities, events, in the world. So yes God can do things in the world and it need not clash with science, because it’s a difference over a word (and maybe the sort of response called forth by the word) not over what entities populate the world.

    You’re defining God as “an evaluative judgment?” If I admire a painting, or love a child, that’s “God?” In other words, that’s “good.”

    “Goodness” is not a thing. It is not a being. It is not a person, and it is not self-aware, and it does not create things or relate to people. It wasn’t there before the universe began, and it does not cause behaviors. It’s an abstract description of an attitude. So it makes no sense to say that Goodness can “do things in the world.” Speaking like that and actually meaning it is a clunky form of literalism. It’s like talking about Beauty making things pretty.

    Generally speaking, many atheists seem to recognize and appreciate abstractions, metaphors, and nuance for what they are. Theists — I’m not so sure. They appear to blur distinctions, looking for superficial resemblances between ideas that they can connect and thereby create some meaning. Daniel Dennett calls them “Murkies.”

    I suspect they’re going back and forth in their heads, explaining a God that’s very different than the God they actually think about. The part of the brain that analyzes and rationalizes their description of God is not the same part they use when relating to it to their lives. There, they think of it as a person or force, but pretend that they’re only doing this as a crutch for a God that is otherwise unthinkable.

  205. #205 robinsrule
    March 30, 2009

    But just like the word atom, universe, etc. the word God has shifted through the centuries too (even if we could find continuities with it’s usage in the past).

    No – words like atom and universe have been refined through the ages because they refer to things that exist. The definition of god continues to shift because god is a mental construct.

  206. #206 Clare
    March 30, 2009

    Goldenmane @ 11 – “D&D is a better way of forming an understanding of the world. At least the people playing recognise that it’s pretend. And it tends to encourage people to learn more about their world, because arguments about what a broadsword looks like and how archery works and the like often cause people to investigate these things in the real world.”

    People hate being associated with things they don’t want to be. Like deluded. Or religious. Moderately religious people are very much like people who enjoy D&D, they’re perfectly reasonable until you start tampering with Important Business (I’m sure that many of us can agree that, at least at times, D&D is Important Business). Or comparing it to nuisances like religion and underground clubs full of people engaged in the slaughter of virgins, or just a bunch of personality-void spotty nerdlings – all of which is clearly preposterous.

    I feel like I should be leading up to an argument against outspoken atheism but I would have to disagree with myself if I did so instead I propose that being an athiest is akin to living in a world full of the kind of mad people who can pin you to a wall with their spittle during a half-hour, breathless froth about precisely how wrong you were to dismiss D&D as just ‘some silly game’.

    Disclaimer: Goldenmane, I do not think you are a frothing lunatic, please do not be mad, it was just your comment that sparked the thought-train that ran to such a terrifying vision of the world we live in.

  207. #207 JamesR
    March 30, 2009

    Godless scientists have an ethical imperative to sit down and shut up.
    Actually if we frame it logically it should be:

    Godless scientists have an ethical imperative to stand up and present the facts, the truth and the whole truth unabridged. Especially when those who do not rely on the facts have opinions that are contradictory to those facts.

  208. #208 Iain Walker
    March 30, 2009

    Matt Penfold (#143):

    Can I ask the regulars here if I am missing something of what Dwight is saying to me ? To me is just sounds like a load of garbage, with no substantive meaning.

    It sounds like more-or-less standard Christian post-theism, in which the term “God” is no longer used to refer to a supernatural agent, while still retaining the notion of God (including a lot of the God-as-agent talk) as a symbol. Think of it as a form of theological instrumentalism – the term “God” plays an important role in making sense of certain kinds of experience (e.g., the emotional highs and psychological transformations associated with a religious life), but there’s no implication that “God” should be thought of as anything real over and above the experiences and their actual mundane causes.

    So yes, it means something (I think), but once you spell it out, it’s not really theism any more. It’s atheism with a strong (but arbitrary) attachment to the myths and symbols of a particular religious tradition. Or as Screechy Monkey so aptly puts it, atheism in drag.

  209. #209 ArchangelChuck
    March 30, 2009

    PZ, I take D&D very seriously, and I’m deeply offended about your condescending, pompous claim that Dungeons and Dragons does not portray reality. You’ll be hearing from my lawyer.

  210. #210 SC, OM
    March 30, 2009

    Hyperon, stop using an RSS feeder. It makes you post [your inane] comments on the wrong thread.

    Please don’t feel the need to repost on the correct one, Hyperon. We were having an intelligent discussion over there.

  211. #211 AdamK
    March 30, 2009

    PZ — Axe murderers do not assemble into “hordes.” We are individualists and you are dead wrong not to treat us as individuals!

    I am gravely offended, and so is my whetstone.

  212. #212 qball
    March 30, 2009

    While I can think of no reason why scientists should be respectful of religion, I can think of a few reasons why scientists might want to be respectful of religious people?s feelings. Calling religious people ?delusional?, may be as accurate as calling stupid people ?stupid?; however, the offensive nature of such views may hinder efforts to improve public opinion and the status of science.

    If we wish to effectively combat religious intrusion into the domains of science and education, we should recognize that strategies that stir up anger and other negative emotions may be counterproductive.

  213. #213 Holbach
    March 30, 2009

    Pete Rooke @ 25

    I have watched that session of the Beyond Belief many times, and this clown did nothing but interject religion into his whole talk. His talk stank of religious overtones and undertones. What a waste of time to the real scientists present, listening to that drivel along with Roughgarden’s deplorable babble. That was supposed to be a science meeting, and yet we get prattle of their ever-present imaginary god. Dreck.

  214. #214 Grendels Dad
    March 30, 2009

    Heh heh, science is chaotic neutral, hehe. Thanks DavidM, I?ll be stealing that line.

  215. #215 Smidgy
    March 30, 2009

    Matt Heath

    Smidgy@190: I don’t know what word he used, or whether it translates to “God” in English but I’m quite sure Plato did write of a creator god and considered it to be quite different to the pantheon of popular ancient Greek religion.

    me@197: Actually, looking around the web I’ll pull back from that a bit. Maybe, it was just later (but still pre-Christian) followers of Plato that talked about a creating mind or whatever.

    You’re probably referring to the notion of the demiurge I mentioned. The simple fact that a different term was used to describe the idea of some kind of creator entity, and that the term ‘god’ (as it is after translation) refers to the greek pantheon of gods, destroys Dwight’s point that what he describes must be ‘God’ as ‘that’s the word from Plato onwards that has described such a reality’. In addition to that, if I understand him correctly, Dwight was trying to argue that God was, generally, everything good that happens, but not necessarily an entity responsible for the creation of the universe, but Plato’s argument, as regards the demiurge, was that this was a mind, or entity, of some kind, that was inherently good, who was responsible for the creation of the world and everything on it from pre-existing chaotic matter (which is why everything created by this inherently good entity is not, itself, universally good – the chaotic nature of the stuff it is made from), so, even if Plato had called this entity ‘God’, it would still be markedly different from what Dwight is saying ‘God’ is.

  216. #216 frog
    March 30, 2009

    PZ, I’ll say it again — you are very wrong. Science has little or nothing to say about how we should relate to each other. The subjective world is 99% of our lives, and it is much too complex to reasonably expect it to be reduced to formulae for thousands of years.

    There are separate worlds — but religion refuses to stay in its proper realm, which is outside of objective reality. It is a form of literature or art, and just as those are basically outside the purview of science, so is religion — as long as they remember that they are purely subjective, they are about how we experience the world, not about how the world really is. There is no pleroma, but it may be true that we live as if there were one — it may even be necessary for us to pretend that there is one.

    You are playing their game, just as much as what’s his name — you know, that idiot that I can’t remember that you mentioned.

  217. #217 Michael Tobis
    March 30, 2009

    Y’all are hairsplitting. There seem to be a dozen fussy meanings of “theist” about. I mean, by theist, “not atheist”, which seemed obvious to me, but I guess not.

    Science is necessarily agnostic, and necessarily not atheist.

    Here is how I think about it:

    ===

    Science cannot possibly find spooky miracles, but nevertheless one’s consciousness is somehow injected into a material universe. It is fashionable to shrug and wave hands frantically and say something about “emergent processes” but I find any such argument spectacularly weak because it attempts to explain subjective phenomenology using objective methods, a pursuit as doomed to failure as its converse.

    Consequently consciousness itself is miraculous, in the sense that it is irreducible to physics. Consequently, a model of science that asserts the impossibility of miracles is faith-based, at least until it somehow objectively describes subjective experience, which I consider a category error.

    Now I take a Spinozist position that God is everything, including the reason that consciousness can exist in a mechanical universe. I choose to express gratitude to this agent. I see no reason to believe that the agent that makes consciousness possible in a mechanical universe can’t be in some sense conscious. In what sense I cannot know.

    ===

    I have long since given up trying to convince others of my point of view; I don’t believe my or your eternal salvation depends on it. It’s useful to me. Perhaps it’s not useful to anybody else, though I do run into people who have ended up in somewhat similar positions.

    What I’m taking issue with is the naive statement that science is atheist. Religious experience is real enough to those of us who have had them.

    Note that it is the experience itself that has value. The point is not about some underlying theory; the point is coping sensibly with a world in which there is some possibility of exaltation, where there are degrees of consciousness as have been experienced by mystics throughout all time.

    That is not an alternative hypothesis, it is an actual type of experience, one which cannot be unhad and which alters one’s relationship to the world.

    Feel free to be an atheist, and feel free to be a scientist. I’m not trying to stop you. They are certainly compatible positions. But they address different questions.

    Scientism as opposed to science, the smug belief that the universe contains no mysteries except intellectual ones holds no appeal for most people, myself included. Please do not assume that to be a scientist is to be an atheist. I think it’s not true. OK, fair enough, we can disagree. But I would like you to make room for my beliefs and my philosophy.

    I would also point out that the science as identical to atheism position is a politically disastrous step for science. And its also intellectually incoherent. How can science take a position on something that it is incapable of investigating?

    So put a lid on it, okay?

  218. #218 oriole
    March 30, 2009

    I know this is a point that’s been made before, but if Nisbett is such a brilliant framer, how come he can’t manage to express himself in such a way that he’s not hated by most of the people he claims to represent? He comes across as a pompous, self-aggrandizing blowhard, and when he pontificates about Dawkins using his position to pursue personal agendas, I think he ought to take a long look in a mirror – his attacks on Dawkins and Myers are very unfair, based on distortions and give off a strong whiff of personal animus against the two.

    At least Dawkins and Myers are honestly expressing what they believe in and deeply care about, not playing political games by trying to attack imagined rivals for the imaginary post of science-explainer-in-chief.

    And when Nisbett says ?both scientists and journalists must respect the uncertainty that is inherent to any technical question?, he really betrays his witlessness as a framer, since that?s precisely the language creationists tactically employ in their attempts to water down the teaching of evolution.

  219. #219 Tulse
    March 30, 2009

    consciousness is somehow injected into a material universe. It is fashionable to shrug and wave hands frantically and say something about “emergent processes” but I find any such argument spectacularly weak because it attempts to explain subjective phenomenology using objective methods, a pursuit as doomed to failure as its converse. [...] Consequently consciousness itself is miraculous

    Wow. I don’t understand how we get from epistemic limits to “miracle”. Just because we can’t understand it doesn’t mean goddidit. There are plenty of things that we in principle can’t know (such as the exact position and velocity of particles), but no one suggests that those things are “miracles”. (For the record, some folks like David Chalmers suggests that consciousness is simply a fundamental property of the universe, which would certainly be a “naturalistic” way of describing it that doesn’t require “miracles”.)

  220. #220 SC, OM
    March 30, 2009

    It is fashionable to shrug and wave hands frantically and say something about “emergent processes” but I find any such argument spectacularly weak because it attempts to explain subjective phenomenology using objective methods, a pursuit as doomed to failure as its converse.

    Ignorance, probably willful, in action.

    Consequently consciousness itself is miraculous,

    Wrong.

    Note that it is the experience itself that has value. The point is not about some underlying theory; the point is coping sensibly with a world in which there is some possibility of exaltation, where there are degrees of consciousness as have been experienced by mystics throughout all time.

    …How can science take a position on something that it is incapable of investigating?

    Scientists have been investigating consciousness, including altered states of consciousness, for some time now, and making progress. Keep clinging to the tiny gaps, though, by all means.

    But I would like you to make room for my beliefs and my philosophy.

    Make room where? What does that even mean? And for what – your belief that scientists can’t investigate something they are quite plainly in the process of fruitfully investigating?

  221. #221 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2009

    I mean, by theist, “not atheist”, which seemed obvious to me, but I guess not.

    Funnily enough, most people I’ve met use atheist to mean “not theist”.

    I see no reason to believe that the agent that makes consciousness possible in a mechanical universe can’t be in some sense conscious. In what sense I cannot know.

    If we know so little about it, how can we presume that it is in any meaningful sense an “agent”? If the basic strictures of epistemology forbid us from learning about it in the same way we learn about the exotic phenomena of Nature — from quarks to quasars, as the saying has it — what basis have we for conflating this consciousness-inducing entity/property with any deity ever worshipped by the human species? What does it do for us to describe the mystery in religious terms, except to summon up a musty atmosphere?

  222. #222 windy
    March 30, 2009

    So put a lid on it, okay?

    Post title, QED

  223. #223 CJO
    March 30, 2009

    Science cannot possibly find spooky miracles, but nevertheless one’s consciousness is somehow injected into a material universe. It is fashionable to shrug and wave hands frantically and say something about “emergent processes” but I find any such argument spectacularly weak because it attempts to explain subjective phenomenology using objective methods, a pursuit as doomed to failure as its converse.

    Consequently consciousness itself is miraculous, in the sense that it is irreducible to physics. Consequently, a model of science that asserts the impossibility of miracles is faith-based, at least until it somehow objectively describes subjective experience, which I consider a category error.

    What about subjective experience would you want science to explain objectively? I swear, consciousness gets people so tied up in epistemic knots. It would be enough to have a robust testable model of how neurological processes give rise to conscious excperience, wouldn’t it? It would be enough if we were talking about any other physiological process. You’ve ruled one of the most interesting material phenomena in the universe that we know of out of bounds to empirical investigation, on nothing more than your say-so; what you call “doomed,” what you “consider a category error” based on categories you apply by fiat. I, for one, reject the category “miraculous” altogether. What then? Make an argument for why I should consider consciousness a miracle, rather than simply not perfectly understood.

    Ever heard of vitalism? The now well-understood molecular bases of metabolism and reproduction used to be considered “spooky miracles” and “irreducible to physics” too. You mysterians are just the 21st Century’s vitalists, destined to be viewed in the 22nd as just as timorous and blinkered as your forebears.

  224. #224 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2009

    For that matter, the overbearing majority of the observable universe does not in any way display the properties we associate with “consciousness”. Neither do the basic physical laws which underlie natural phenomena. To attribute “consciousness” to something so inhuman is to broaden the term beyond all meaning. It generates mystery through vagueness, makes a spurious reverence out of verbal fog. Go ahead and play that game, if you think it’s fun. To me, it’s deadly dull.

  225. #225 CJO
    March 30, 2009

    gah. forgot about the formatting glitch there. 1st plaintext para in #223 should be italic and goes with the quote from #217.

  226. #226 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2009

    The point is not about some underlying theory; the point is coping sensibly with a world in which there is some possibility of exaltation, where there are degrees of consciousness as have been experienced by mystics throughout all time.

    1. The world is not obligated to be a place which we humans can cope sensibly with.

    2. Those “degrees of consciousness” were also available to the majority of people who have ever taken 100 micrograms or more of lysergic acid diethylamide. And if you don’t take their descriptions of those higher planes at face value, why believe any other stories from self-described mystics?

  227. #227 Stephen Wells
    March 30, 2009

    Consciousness is exactly as immaterial and mysterious as “velocity” or “turbulence”. Are they injected into a material universe? All hail the divinities Velox and Turbulon!

  228. #228 Hache
    March 30, 2009

    I just had to re-view the WONDERFUL Chick comic on the evils of D&D, and found there a link to another absolutely amazing text, Straight Talk on
    Dungeons and Dragons
    , which includes the following:

    A Clash of World Views!

    This is another, broader issue here. The values of the game are not only pro-violence and death; they also entrain the player in an entirely different way of looking at life: what is called by anthropologists the “Magical World View(MWV).” This MWV is far outside the cultural norms of most societies, and certainly outside the realms of Biblical values. Let me explain:

    1. The MWV teaches that there exists in the universe a neutral force, like gravity, which is magic. In this worldview, there is no sovereign God; but rather the universe is run like a gigantic piece of machinery. Magic’s application is the understanding of how to manipulate the universe to get what you want. The analogy would be of putting a right coin in the slot of a vending machine and pushing the button. You automatically get your candy-assuming you used the right coin and pushed the right button. The MWV is like that. If you know the right technology (spell, ritual, incantation, etc.) the universe must respond-just like the light must go on if you flip the switch. It is automatic, and scientifically repeatable.

    2. The Judeo-Christian Worldview (i.e. from the Bible, and held by most cultures in the Western world to some degree) teaches, on the contrary, that the universe is in control of a sovereign Person, God. To get “results,” He must be asked. Thus, it is more like a child going up to a parent and asking for candy, than getting it from a vending machine. The parent may say “yes,” “no,” or “Wait till later.” Similarly, in the Bible, there is no way to automatically manipulate God to get what you want, because He is an omnipotent Person. Additionally, God says that magic is deep and abominable sin (see above).

    ____________________

    To paraphrase: “Get this, accursed heathen! ‘Causality’ is an abominable restriction on God’s illimitable whim!”

  229. #229 Russell Blackford
    March 30, 2009

    PZ, you are so wrong about this, as I explain gently over here: http://metamagician3000.blogspot.com/2009/03/praise-lord-for-matt-nisbet.html

  230. #230 Holbach
    March 30, 2009

    Michael tobis @ 217

    No, the lid will never be kept on and ignored to you and others of your ilk. Your statement alone is worth the ridicule it engenders: “Religious experience is real enough to those of us who have had them.” No, your thinking them real does not make them real, just as I thinking I am Plato does not make me Plato no matter how much I rant to this belief. Saying and believing there is an imaginary god does not bring it into existence, just as praying to it does not cause it to alter the natural world.
    Science can take a step on investigating whether a god exists, and I can offer this as a somewhat indirect test to prove that no gods exist except in the brains of humans who gave birth to them. We know Jupiter and its moons exist because we can see them, we have sent space probes to them and photograph them and know their physical and chemical composition. But never have we seen this imaginary god who is supposed to have created it all. Science may never prove that a god exists, neither will prove definitely that it does not exist. Science is concerned with the real, relgion with the imaginary, and so science has better things to do than to bother with made-up nonsense. I can see Jupiter; you will never see your god, in reality or in your mind. The lid is on your mind.

  231. #231 Anton Mates
    March 30, 2009

    Does this mean that Nisbet has broken with Mooney, given that the latter wrote a book entitled The Republican War on Science?

    Looks like. Just before the bit you quote, Nisbet specifically names and criticizes that book:

    In 2005, journalist Chris Mooney’s best-selling The Republican War on Science helped crystallize the public accountability train of thought, turning the “war on science” into a partisan rallying cry.

  232. #232 Anton Mates
    March 30, 2009

    Hache @ #228,

    That’s awesome. Basically, Schnoebelen condemns D&D magic because it’s too much like science.

  233. #233 Cath the Canberra Cook
    March 30, 2009

    I like “atheism in drag” – great phrase!

    The many liberal Anglican types who I know and like have pretty much got this down pat. Their god looks to me like an anthropomorphic personification of good, with the Jesus story uncomfortably retconned onto it. And a nice community, with colourful ritual and gorgeous music – the music is where I come in.

  234. Imagine if Francis Collins or Behe or some other religious scientist came out and said all atheists and secularists suffered from delusions and mental illnesses. He then proceeded to accuse PZ and all other atheists that they were abusing their children for raising them without religion , all the while saying that secularism was evil and vile. How would you guys feel?

    I hate those kinds of rhetoric and falsehoods and it is even worse when it comes from the mouth of a perceived scientific authority. Scientists should stay away from rhetoric like that.
    I hope this “Pop Atheist” meme passes away soon and people can replace the flaming rhetoric and falsehoods woth cool rational discourse.

  235. #235 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 30, 2009

    Yawn, Facilis, still the pointless fool. This is an atheist blog, off in its little corner of the world. This isn’t national TV or the like. And frankly, you have no business posting here. Just toddle along and take your misinformed godbotting with you. Thank you for leaving.

  236. #236 Janine, Insulting Sinner
    March 30, 2009

    Um. Facilis, for once in your short sighted life, please take of those mental blinders. Atheists are always accused of being selfish, evil and self serving. It is not a hypothetical idea rattling about in your thick skull.

    And yet again, if you are going to play my morphing game, show a little wit.

  237. #237 Josh
    March 30, 2009

    and all other atheists that they were abusing their children for raising them without religion , all the while saying that secularism was evil and vile.

    You aren’t really deluded enough to think that this isn’t happening, are you? Seriously?

  238. #238 DuWayne
    March 30, 2009

    I was afraid of this — compare religion to knitting, all the knitters get upset with me. Compare religion to D&D, all the role players get upset with me. I expect that if I compared religion to ax murder, hordes of offended ax murderers would show up in the comments, saying “Hey! Don’t be so rude to my hobby!

    Actually, I think that this would tend to be a net positive. I mean hell, you got folks getting pissy because you compare religion to something they like to do.

    That said, don’t you dare compare religion to axe murderin’ because you really don’t want to piss me, err, I mean axe murderers off!!!

    (me, I like to play a really badass wizard who is impetuous and tends to die a lot – but is beloved enough that he never seems to stay dead)

  239. #239 Kel
    March 30, 2009

    Imagine if Francis Collins or Behe or some other religious scientist came out and said all atheists and secularists suffered from delusions and mental illnesses. He then proceeded to accuse PZ and all other atheists that they were abusing their children for raising them without religion , all the while saying that secularism was evil and vile. How would you guys feel?

    Have you not heard preachers? Atheists are called: immoral, evil, scum, etc. all the damn time. They are constantly being told they are going to hell and there’s a serious political effort to try and stop all forms of dissent towards organised religion.

    I hate those kinds of rhetoric and falsehoods and it is even worse when it comes from the mouth of a perceived scientific authority. Scientists should stay away from rhetoric like that.

    You are perceiving that scientists are authorities when it comes to matters of not-science. Even Ken Miller advocates drawing philosophical conclusions from scientific knowledge. There’s no reason that someone like Miller or Collins should be allowed to say there is a God while Dawkins and Coyne cannot say the opposite.

    I hope this “Pop Atheist” meme passes away soon and people can replace the flaming rhetoric and falsehoods woth cool rational discourse.

    Cool rational discourse? You mean like “How can you say my postition is circular when you cannot account for logic?” discourse?

  240. #240 Kel
    March 30, 2009

    I’ll explain this really simply to you. Atheists constantly have insults hurled against them by theists – they are constantly referred to as immoral and told persistently that they’ll burn in hell for eternity. Why is it wrong for an atheist to speak out on it, be he well-educated in science, humanities, philosophy or even just a fed-up layman? It seems you are the one taking the authority of science.

    When Dawkins talks on religion, it should not matter about his scientific credentials – that’s appealing to authority. Rather it’s what he says that counts. Likewise for Dennett, Hitchens, Harris, Coyne, Avalos, Loftus, Grayling, or the people posting here. By complaining about the scientific background, you are appealing to authority. Stop that, it’s the arguments that matter not the qualifications.

  241. #241 Philip Kahn
    March 30, 2009

    Now, now ? don’t diss D&D, or I’ll have to Gate a Balor in your direction. Besides, without D&D, how would you know that a longsword will deal on average 80% more damage to a target than a dagger? (Though you’re absolutely right, of course. Just had to flex some nerd muscles, since my STR score isn’t that great).

  242. #242 Sastra
    March 30, 2009

    Facilis #234 wrote:

    Imagine if Francis Collins or Behe or some other religious scientist came out and said all atheists and secularists suffered from delusions and mental illnesses. He then proceeded to accuse PZ and all other atheists that they were abusing their children for raising them without religion , all the while saying that secularism was evil and vile. How would you guys feel?

    It wouldn’t matter how we felt, if the hypothetical theist were making a scientific and reasonable case for the existence of God. Our criticisms would have to be placed on the evidence and argument — not on whether our feelings are getting hurt. And, when such cases are made, that is exactly where we place our objections. The case for the truth of the supernatural is not so strong, that those who disagree are guilty of willful misconduct.

    But note that, unlike Dawkins and Meyers, those theists who do try to argue that atheists and atheism are “evil and vile” don’t try to make a scientific case for this. In science, all conclusions are tentative, and open to debate. Instead, they make a religious argument, and rest it all on intuition, on faith, and on artificial divisions between those who “choose” faith, and those who “reject God.”

    None of the so-called new atheists think the religious are all “mentally ill.” That would be silly — it’s the norm. But they do think that religious belief is a form of self-delusion similar in many ways to superstitions or pseudoscience, aided and abetted by psychological, cultural, and even biological factors.

    (By the way, why are you changing your nickname?)

  243. #243 frog
    March 30, 2009

    Anton Mates: In 2005, journalist Chris Mooney’s best-selling The Republican War on Science helped crystallize the public accountability train of thought, turning the “war on science” into a partisan rallying cry.

    So is this entire matter one of Nisbet trying to protect his political flank? In other words, is he a republican who is dishonest with himself in order to keep his political alliance, or is he simply a witless liberal, the kind who thinks that Kumbaya will end all conflicts?

    Those are the only two interpretations of a statement like that I can come up with — he is either a delusional right-winger who wants to pretend that the war on science hasn’t been part of a populist right wing stance since the Cold War (getting much stronger after the post-Goldwater “Southern Strategy”), or he thinks that if we just pretended that there wasn’t one, the cold-warriors would become good boys and girls — really, we made them do it.

  244. #244 frog
    March 30, 2009

    Hache: To get “results,” He must be asked.

    You’re using big words you don’t understand such as “Magical World View”. A magical world view is a world which responds to your wishes and desires — aka, you have to “ask” to get results, rather than manipulating the world rationally. That world can get angry at you, or love you, or even be cruelly indifferent.

    And please, don’t blame the Jews for your own magical thinking — a God to which you pray for personal or communal blessings is not most of Judaism, outside of some small neo-Orthodox sects. That may be Christian, but it is not “Judeo-Christian” — that’s a great lie phrase.

  245. #245 Sastra
    March 30, 2009

    In some ways, the science vs. religion controversy mirrors that of science-based medicine vs. “alternative” medicine.

    On one side you’ve got the imperfect but cumulative knowledge we’ve gained based on trial, error, hypothesis and test, all of it consistent with the findings of modern chemistry and physics. On the other side, you’ve got people talking about the Wisdom of shamans and ancient peoples, the personal stories and testimonies, and unscientific modalities based on vitalism, magic, and the open-minded willingness to look for confirming evidence for phenomenon which go against the findings of modern chemistry and physics.

    There are those who try to bring them together by talking about “integrative medicine,” and they emphasize that alt-med doesn’t have to be about quackery: alt-med deals with prevention, and good nutrition, and the benefits of exercise and relaxation. So why not try to use what’s good, accept alt med, and let them weed out the quackery from their own ranks?

    Because what’s good is not exclusive to alt med, that’s why. Science-based medicine doesn’t ignore or throw out prevention, nutrition, etc. But once you cede that common ground to alt med, it’s not going to stay nice and warm and practically science-based. It has no rules.

    Joining up with the people who take homeopathic cold medicine because, with them, we can better fight the cancer quacks, is self-defeating in the long run. Everybody has a different definition of what form of alt-med is reasonable and harmless. If it works, it’s just medicine.

    Just as everyone seems to have a different place they draw the line on “reasonable” religion. If it works, it’s just reality.

  246. #246 Kel
    March 30, 2009

    Also I find it hilarious that someone would appeal to a society for a proof of God where God’s first commandment was to have no other gods but him, and the society’s first right is that to guarantee freedom of religion.

  247. #247 Kel
    March 30, 2009

    Whoops, wrong thread

  248. #248 frog
    March 30, 2009

    Sastra: Science-based medicine doesn’t ignore or throw out prevention, nutrition, etc.

    Not philosophically, no. But in practice, it does. There is a real problem with traditional medicine — most of it is economic, but some is even scientific. Some aspects of health are so complex that there’s not a chance to capture it scientifically, but they are (scientifically) real.

    The best you can do in terms of science is to say we just don’t know — we just don’t know what a “healthy lifestyle” is, because the number of variables make it unanalyzable with current techniques. On the other hand, some folks do have a good intuitive feel for this — if it wasn’t a natural talent that could be developed, we wouldn’t have survived to this point.

    In practice, much of medicine is autistic to the overall health of the individual, for both economic and scientific reasons. It’s a nasty problem — but all I know is that you can recognize diabetes much quicker by scent than by any of the standard diagnostic methods.

    With problems like this, it’s inevitable that woo gets activated. Many folks who have intuitive talents lack the introspection to recognize that it’s just athletics and skills; just check out how many great athletes believe that magical rituals are what keep them on their game. Their talent is still real; knowing the physics of throwing a baseball would not help them one bit — and in fact, the physics are still a bit controversial.

  249. #249 Holbach
    March 30, 2009

    Facilis @ 234

    I give as much credence and attention to Collins and Behe as I give to the tooth fairy, and the only reason I give attention to you is to answer and ridicule your irrational thinking. You, and definitely atheists, know that we are not delusional or suffer from mental illness, and this just pisses you off because you know we are smarter than you because you do not have the mental acuity and guts to rid yourself of that insane crap in your head. You and Collins and Behe may disparage us with your stupid remarks but the truth of the matter still stands and will endure as long as there are religious nitwits who insist on irrational thinking.
    I doubt very much if Collins and Behe would come to Pharyngula and debate us, knowing that they will be in for the ride of their delusional lives. I bet they are sane enough to avoid this, even as accredited scientists, for they are sure to know that their religious bent will be denigrated irrespective of their scientific credentials. Science is highly regarded by us here, and speaking for myself and assuming for others, I will most assiduously ignore their science and disparage their religious tenets. To do science is one thing, but to do it in the stultifying shade of religion is another, and at the least, most disingenuous, and at the worst a debasement of the very science that is supposed to dispel such unreason. You picked two examples of quasi-scientists to represent your irrational life which is worth as much as their flagrant ideas.

  250. #250 windy
    March 30, 2009

    frog to Hache:

    You’re using big words you don’t understand such as “Magical World View”. A magical world view is a world which responds to your wishes and desires — aka, you have to “ask” to get results, rather than manipulating the world rationally. That world can get angry at you, or love you, or even be cruelly indifferent.

    Hache was quoting someone else. And although that person is some anti-D&D kook, he is not the first to contrast magical thinking and theism this way – his definition seems close to James George Frazer’s view of magic as pre-scientific attempts at manipulating the universe:

    “In so far as religion assumes the world to be directed by conscious agents who may be turned from their purpose by persuasion, it stands in fundamental antagonism to magic as well as to science, both of which take for granted that the course of nature is determined, not by the passions or caprice of personal beings, but by the operation of immutable laws acting mechanically. In magic, indeed, the assumption is only implicit, but in science it is explicit. It is true that magic often deals with spirits, which are personal agents of the kind assumed by religion; but whenever it does so in its proper form, it treats them in exactly in the same fashion as it treats inanimate agents, that is, it constrains or coerces instead of conciliating or propitiating them as religion would do.”

  251. #251 frog
    March 30, 2009

    I guess in short — there are gaps, there will always be gaps, and most of life will be composed of the gaps. It would be insane to drop our intuitive responses and pretend that an empirical, rational response to life in most domains is possible (in fact, it’s suicidal).

    But that doesn’t mean that there is a God of the Gaps — that’s an error of attribution. We have to act on limited knowledge — our guesses in some domains are better than any amount of computation. When the wolf is at the door, don’t stop to do a scientific analysis of what that means.

    It’s unfortunately inevitable that many will think this “talent” is magical, from forces beyond; it’s even more unfortunate that it appears that such magic may actually help people loosen up enough to listen. It’s just a full-sensory impression and response to the world, whittled by biology and life experience.

    On the other hand, depending on intuition for domains where we do have adequate science is even more insane. Which domains is even more problematic — people believe that medicine in general is a scientific domain, when only a subset of it is amenable as of yet to scientific analysis. Biology is a nasty, nasty, nasty problem.

    Sometimes a quick-and-dirty approximation is better than the truth, practically speaking.

  252. #252 Sastra
    March 30, 2009

    “”In so far as religion assumes the world to be directed by conscious agents who may be turned from their purpose by persuasion, it stands in fundamental antagonism to magic as well as to science, both of which take for granted that the course of nature is determined, not by the passions or caprice of personal beings, but by the operation of immutable laws acting mechanically.”

    The laws in magic, however, are not mechanical, but based on connections of meanings and intentions. Passions and caprice are forces themselves. It’s all mind-based.

    The funny thing about the passage Hache quotes is that both views are Magical Thinking. In the second one, God is in charge of the magic.

  253. #253 frog
    March 30, 2009

    Windy: In so far as religion assumes the world to be directed by conscious agents who may be turned from their purpose by persuasion, it stands in fundamental antagonism to magic as well as to science, both of which take for granted that the course of nature is determined, not by the passions or caprice of personal beings, but by the operation of immutable laws acting mechanically.

    Never read Frazer. I found trying to do in-depth analysis on the basis of bits of myth and tradition without significant knowledge of the practice of people’s lives to simply be bullshit. Lack of sufficient data leads one to simply create one’s own fantasy world with bits you do have. Frazer sure as hell ain’t used as an authority in anthropology for a century.

    I’d argue he is quite wrong. There is some magic which acts that way; but that would just be archaic science (and explains why so much early science was mistaken for malevolent magic in the pre-scientific period). Most of magic assumes that the universe is composed of conscious entities — they can be manipulated or coerced by rituals and actions, but they are as free and independent as the magician, they have independent wills.

    The only difference between that and prayer is that the spirit in theistic prayer is uncoercable — he can only be manipulated but his hand never forced. It’s splitting a hair in order to distinguish “our” theism from “their” magic; deeply, it’s just the Courtesan’s reply all over again.

  254. #254 Smidgy
    March 30, 2009

    frog #244:

    Hache: To get “results,” He must be asked.

    You’re using big words you don’t understand such as “Magical World View”.

    You’re missing that those words aren’t Hache’s. They are the words of William Schnoebelen, who is somebody who was, suposedly, at one time or another, a fairly advanced follower of just about every brand of occultism/religion going, including, “Freemasonry, cultural spiritualism (Voodoo, etc.) Thelema (the Aleister Crowley cult), Rosicrucianism, the Catholic priesthood, Mormonism, and various Eastern philosophies”, before becoming a Satanist, then an ‘underground Satanist’ (whatever that is), then being ‘saved by Christ’. However, severe doubts exist as to the truthfulness of his claims, caused, in part, by such things as him claiming to have been part of the ‘Palladium Masonry’, which was a hoax created by Leo Taxil in the 1890s, and never actually existed. In addition, if you collate the various claims he has made, when he was ‘saved’ in 1984, he was simultaneously a Mormon, a Mason, a Wiccan and possibly a Catholic.

  255. #255 frog
    March 30, 2009

    Yes, yes, I elided the first paragraph and I am completely responsible for the error. Hache may very well know what a “Magical World View” is…

    However, magical world view is a commonly use ansatz in a number of fields, meaning a view of the world where the world responds to the needs and desires of the actor; basically, a pre-5-year-old mentality. If you use “magical world view” to distinguish theism A from other-theisms B, you’re BS’ing. Magic isn’t like science. Magic is about desire — it’s about what you see, what you want, what you sacrifice, not what everyone sees, not mechanical responses of systems to inputs.

    Usage by Frazer, occultists and Christians are fairly silly, an attempt to count angels on a pinhead.

  256. #256 ambrose
    March 30, 2009

    Man, I’m offended… I’ve been playing D&D since I was 12. I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when I was 14. I’m still rational enough to not believe in God.

    *Removes tongue from cheek and laughs hysterically*

  257. #257 Ciaphas
    March 30, 2009

    I’ve noticed a trend among thiests to simply try to define god into existance. Find something real and point to it shouting “that thing right there, that’s god! God exists!”. It’s so easy anyone can do it. I know god exists because I have defined god as being my cell phone.

    So end of debate everyone; god is real and a Blackberry.

  258. #258 No Guy in the Sky
    March 30, 2009

    Hey do not knock D+D. My 15th level Barbarian worships FSM. He kills all who denies the noodley appendage.

  259. #259 Smidgy
    March 30, 2009

    frog #255

    However, magical world view is a commonly use ansatz in a number of fields, meaning a view of the world where the world responds to the needs and desires of the actor; basically, a pre-5-year-old mentality.

    Actually, the magic that exists in most fantasy fiction, like D&D, isn’t like that. Whilst there’s some exceptions (such as magic done by God-like figures), generally, it is the case that, to get what you want, unless it’s something relatively minor, you need to put a lot of effort into getting it, and, if it’s something REALLY big, there’s usually a big sacrifice, of some kind, needed. The main reason for this is that having a character that can give you what you want for free, basically, makes for very boring fiction.

    If you use “magical world view” to distinguish theism A from other-theisms B, you’re BS’ing.

    Well, actually, this guy didn’t – he used the idea of a ‘Magical World View’ to argue that D&D was ‘unChristian’.

    Magic isn’t like science. Magic is about desire — it’s about what you see, what you want, what you sacrifice, not what everyone sees, not mechanical responses of systems to inputs.

    Actually, this is the one way fantasy magic IS like science – it holds fast to cause and effect. The only differences are that the relationship between the two isn’t as obvious in fantasy magic (such as being able to make fireballs shoot from your fingertips by holding your hands a certain way and saying a particular phrase), and that what is possible in fantasy magic is much more than is possible in reality, which is what science deals with.

    Religion, conversely, denies cause and effect, in essence, by saying things like you can pray to God for what you want in life, but he might say ‘no’, so nothing need be read into the fact that you carried out the cause (praying to God), but there was no effect.

  260. #260 Michael Tobis
    March 31, 2009

    Holbach #230 does such a good job of missing the point as to be exemplary. Perhaps Holbach should learn the word “qualia”.

    I don’t want you guys to shut up about your atheistic opinion as such. I want you to stop advocating that your atheistic opinion is part of the fabric of science. Else, perhaps you’d prepare to posit how it might be falsifiable?

    I understand that you have a consistent world view, but having a different one is not incompatible with science. So why don’t you separate your concerns and stop making gratuitous enemies for science? I really don’t get it.

  261. #261 Michael Tobis
    March 31, 2009

    Re #257:

    Define God into existence. Yes indeed. It takes doubt out of the equation.

    Of course, using your cell phone thinks a bit small and fails to get sufficient use of the term. It really doesn’t map onto religious tradition in any useful way. Especially if it is not an iPhone.

    Defining God as a name for all that exists, with emphasis on the experiential or spiritual aspects of existence, is a useful idea, and helpful in connecting with the best thought of the deep past. You are left in doubt as to who or what God is, but you are left in no doubt that God exists.

    This was, I suspect, the standard intellectual habit of the enlightenment. Obviously God exists and obviously God is mysterious and obviously there’s no reason getting grandma too upset about the details, maybe we can chat about it over an ale when the day’s work is done.

    Now let’s move on and declare that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights and other useful stuff and get that done, and not dwell so much on purposefully irritating the rabble.

    Fundamentalism is an enemy of science. Religion is not.

    And sorry, PZ, but religion is a way of understanding the world. Not a competitive way, simply a completely orthogonal way. Those of us prone to introspection find little value in Maxwell’s equations.

  262. #262 Ciaphas
    March 31, 2009

    Now let’s move on and declare that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights and other useful stuff and get that done, and not dwell so much on purposefully irritating the rabble.

    Perhaps I’m looking at this wrong, but it seems like you’re pretty much saying “we need to keep up the idea that god exists because some of them just can’t handle it otherwise”

    Are you arguing your ideas are true, or just useful?

  263. #263 windy
    March 31, 2009

    Never read Frazer. I found trying to do in-depth analysis on the basis of bits of myth and tradition without significant knowledge of the practice of people’s lives to simply be bullshit. Lack of sufficient data leads one to simply create one’s own fantasy world with bits you do have. Frazer sure as hell ain’t used as an authority in anthropology for a century.

    I didn’t say he was; just that Schnabel-whatshisname was expressing a similar idea.

    And The Golden Bough is probably about 98% wrong, but it’s still a classic of skeptical literature, and it’s also pretty funny in a dry way.

    The only difference between that and prayer is that the spirit in theistic prayer is uncoercable — he can only be manipulated but his hand never forced. It’s splitting a hair in order to distinguish “our” theism from “their” magic; deeply, it’s just the Courtesan’s reply all over again.

    A Courtesan’s reply would be a nice change ;) Frazer seems, if anything, more critical of theistic religion than magic.

  264. #264 Peter
    March 31, 2009

    Those of us prone to introspection find little value in Maxwell’s equations.

    *facepalm*

    The fact that somebody sitting at a computer, connected to the ‘Net, could say something like this boggles the mind.

    Michael, why don’t you attempt to access this blog using your introspection, instead of a PC? Then you can let us know how useless Maxwell’s equations are.

  265. #265 AJ Milne
    March 31, 2009

    Else, perhaps you’d prepare to posit how it might be falsifiable?

    I am, as always, deeply amused by this one…

    T: I believe there’s an odourless, invisible, weightless, silent dragon standing right there.
    A: Erm… how could you even tell?
    T: Are you saying you don’t believe me?
    A: Do I look like a sucker?
    T: But saying my unfalsifiable claim is false is unfalsifiable.
    A: Okaaay… And whose fault is that?
    T: Also, atheism is a religion.
    A: Oh, go falsify yourself.

    (/Mind you, of course, this is just a terribly naive, coarse, jejune understanding of theology. Actually, it’s not a dragon. It’s more like the a symbol that represents a dragon. And the symbol of the dragon doesn’t care if you believe in it. Or in the dragon. Anyway, it’s the conscious act of contemplating the dragon that isn’t a dragon that’s important. And the dragon is within you, is within all of us, except possibly in certain gameshow hosts… And the important thing is, I had an onion hanging from my belt. Or something… No… Wait… The point is: we’re very deep. Honest. It may look like we’re just making shit up that’s hilariously all over the map because the cultural institutions that once carried water for this sort of obscurantist bafflegab are fragmenting in the teeth of cultural upheaval and leaving us to freelance this bullshit, and regrettably most of us aren’t even terribly good at coming up with this stuff, but really… we’re incredibly deep. Introspective, even… Trust us. It’s, like, totally mindblowing, being us…)

  266. #266 Screechy Monkey
    March 31, 2009

    “So is this entire matter one of Nisbet trying to protect his political flank? In other words, is he a republican who is dishonest with himself in order to keep his political alliance, or is he simply a witless liberal, the kind who thinks that Kumbaya will end all conflicts?”

    Neither.

    Nisbet is a member of the Nisbet Party. His goal is the promotion of all things Nisbet, and converting others to the idea that they should consult Nisbet before making any statements about science and/or religion. (Unless it’s pro-religion statements, in which case, have at it, of course.)

    It’s really a sensible marketing move on his part. “Can’t we all just get along” will always be a popular position on science/religion issues, so he’s ensuring himself a large constitutiency while piggybacking off the popularity of Dawkins et al.

  267. #267 WhatIsWrongWithYou
    March 31, 2009

    Comments like this are just ignorant. If it weren’t for religion, there’d be no science… or civilization. Lest we all forget, religion was a critical component of the first forms of social order that humans had.

    It’s kind of like instead of putting an old and ailing parent in a home, taking them out back and shooting them.

  268. #268 Stephen Wells
    March 31, 2009

    @267: it’s more like leaving the scaffolding up after the building is complete, even if it’s now blocking the entrances and obscuring the view.

  269. #269 Sastra
    March 31, 2009

    Michael Tobis #260 wrote:

    I don’t want you guys to shut up about your atheistic opinion as such. I want you to stop advocating that your atheistic opinion is part of the fabric of science. Else, perhaps you’d prepare to posit how it might be falsifiable?

    Our argument is that naturalism is itself a theory with scientific support, and supernaturalism is not — and it should be, if people are going to take it seriously. The existence of God should be approaches as a hypothesis, just like similar claims such as Vitalism. Naturalism (and therefore atheism) could be falsified through good evidence for the paranormal, for example, or anything else that demonstrates mind or values as separate from the physical.

    I understand that you have a consistent world view, but having a different one is not incompatible with science. So why don’t you separate your concerns and stop making gratuitous enemies for science? I really don’t get it.

    There are superficial conflicts between science and religion, and more significant ones at the deeper level. Of course you can use God to inspire a respect for science. But people don’t arrive at their belief in God through objective, rational, scientific study and conclusion; they believe in a supernatural God for very different reasons, ones considered more important. Once you grant special status to the method of faith, there’s no reason to draw a reasonable line which brings your religious doctrine in line with science.

    Not everybody we disagree with is an “enemy.” We’re not necessarily the ones elevating the conflict.

  270. #270 frog
    March 31, 2009

    ScreechMonkey: Nisbet is a member of the Nisbet Party. His goal is the promotion of all things Nisbet, and converting others to the idea that they should consult Nisbet before making any statements about science and/or religion

    That’s everyone’s agenda — replacing Nisbet with your own name, and the field with your own field. That explains nothing — it’s the trivial explanation that people act out of their own interest. My question is how that links into the rest of his ideological interests — I didn’t doubt that he was a Nisbet, I was questioning how a Nisbet is distinct from a PZ, …

    The question is specifically about his statement regarding the War on Science, and how it’s a liberal creation that is responsible for it’s own self-propagation.

  271. #271 frog
    March 31, 2009

    WhatIsWrongWithYou: Lest we all forget, religion was a critical component of the first forms of social order that humans had.

    So was human sacrifice, cannibalism, slavery, dictatorship, patriarchal domination, mutilation, ….

    So what’s your point? Should we bring everything back from the Iron Age and preceding eras? I nominate you for our first sacrifice to the Corn God to guarantee our fertility — remember, without that, we would never have had SUV’s.

  272. #272 John Phillips, FCD
    March 31, 2009

    I have felt for a long time that Nisbet’s bog, rather than being titled framing.science, should more accurately be titled framing.scientists. I gave up reading him a long time ago when he started blocking replies that were even mildly critical of his posts, such as a couple I tried to post there. As others have noted, for someone whose expertise is supposedly communications, he is woefully bad at it. Yet ironically, all the ones he attacks as being bad at it have proven much better at it than he has. Maybe that is at the root of his real problem with the new atheists.

  273. #273 zeroangel
    March 31, 2009

    Not long ago, someone who was trying to make a point about thier own religion and who knows I am an atheist, asked me if I had to choose a religion as the “best,” which one would it be?

    I told them I would worship Tyr, Helm, or some other similiar deity from Forgotten Realms (Dungeons and Dragons). I reasoned that:

    1) The relevant mythology is written much better and at least consistent since it is a fairly recent invention.

    2) In contrast to fictional omnipotent beings, the case can actually be made that Tyr is, in fact, “good” as ooposed to argueably “evil.”

    I got more or less a blank stare *smile*.

  274. #274 Screechy Monkey
    March 31, 2009

    frog: “That’s everyone’s agenda — replacing Nisbet with your own name, and the field with your own field. That explains nothing — it’s the trivial explanation that people act out of their own interest. My question is how that links into the rest of his ideological interests — I didn’t doubt that he was a Nisbet, I was questioning how a Nisbet is distinct from a PZ, …”

    What I was trying to say was more than just the fact that he acts in his own self-interest; I agree that that would be a trivial explanation. My point is that I don’t believe that Nisbet really has any strong ideological interests, at least not in the science/religion/communications areas on which he writes. It’s not just that he’s a self-promoter; it’s that he is — as far as I can tell — only a self-promoter.

    PZ is a good comparison. I don’t think anyone starts and maintains a blog without a healthy ego and desire for recognition. I suspect he does enjoy the publicity and/or notoriety he’s achieved. But I don’t think that PZ would seek out publicity and/or notoriety solely for its own sake. Heck, I don’t even need to come up with a hypothetical: I have no doubt that PZ could win the Templeton Prize if he suddenly claimed to have had an “epiphany” about the compatibility of science and religion. That would bring him additional fame and a not inconsiderable chunk of change. But I don’t think his principles would allow him to do that. I won’t say the same of Nisbet.

  275. #275 fmitchell
    March 31, 2009

    SteveM @ 108

    Religion has no privileged knowledge or methods to answer moral or ethical questions, at least no more than purely secular philosophy. My point, apart from the failures of current religions, is that scientific inquiry alone, even reason alone, can’t bridge the gap between what we actually do and what we should do.

    Science can explore how other species form social groups, model strategies for cooperation and competition, and compare previous and current societies. Mankind desperately needs such research to understand our behavior. However, there’s a difference between description and proscription, what is and what should be. We aren’t a perfectly rational species by any means; we need something — an act of will, an emotional response, even a useful delusion — to avoid lapsing into selfish and destructive behaviors.

    How do we socially engineer a better world? What does ‘a better world’ even mean? What’s the ideal balance between freedom and safety? I doubt science can give definitive answers to questions that have plagued mankind throughout history.

  276. #276 frog
    March 31, 2009

    ScreechyMonkey: It’s not just that he’s a self-promoter; it’s that he is — as far as I can tell — only a self-promoter.

    But why this particular self-promotion? Why blame liberals for concocting the War On Science? Are you saying that Nisbet is a stupid self-promoter? By making such a statement, he’s either making an alliance with the Republican-cluster, or trying to “contain” the Liberal-cluster that he aims to control.

    As such, it’s more than just self-promotion — unless he’s an imbecile who says whatever sounds good to him at the time.

  277. #277 frog
    March 31, 2009

    fmitchell: Religion has no privileged knowledge or methods to answer moral or ethical questions, at least no more than purely secular philosophy

    I’d just expand that to be secular philosophy and poetry. It’s that lack of privilege that they need to learn — my poesizing on a blog has just as much authority on how to live as Israbaalshem…. of the 5th century BC has.

  278. #278 Screechy Monkey
    March 31, 2009

    frog:

    But why this particular self-promotion? Why blame liberals for concocting the War On Science? Are you saying that Nisbet is a stupid self-promoter? By making such a statement, he’s either making an alliance with the Republican-cluster, or trying to “contain” the Liberal-cluster that he aims to control.

    I’m not sure that this is as much about politics as your posts imply. But if we’re going with that “frame,” I think Nisbet is analogous to a David Broder (derisively referred to by many liberal bloggers as the “high priest of moderation [or bipartisanship].”)

    Nisbet is carefully cultivating the position as the reasonable, moderate guy in the middle. He’s obviously not a fundamentalist or social conservative, so he doesn’t need to try to distance himself from that group. But by attacking so-called “militant” atheists, he positions himself as a sane voice of moderation between the dogmatic theists and the “dogmatic atheists.” (Ditto for attacking liberals and the “war on science” meme.)

    Being the Moderate Man of Reason is an easy position to occupy. The articles and op-ed columns practically write themselves: criticize people on both extremes of the issue, and express a hope that people will see the wisdom of the middle ground.

    And there’s a huge market for that, because most people like to see themselves as the voice of reason and moderation on issues. Most theists like to think of themselves as more reasonable than their fundamentalist counterparts. Most atheists like to think of themselves as more reasonable than their “militant” counterparts. Ditto on political issues: most people love to describe themselves as “moderate.”

    As such, it’s more than just self-promotion — unless he’s an imbecile who says whatever sounds good to him at the time.”

    Whatever else I may think about him, Matt Nisbet is not an imbecile.

  279. #279 Tulse
    March 31, 2009

    it’s more than just self-promotion — unless he’s an imbecile

    Put me down for that option.

  280. #280 frog
    March 31, 2009

    ScreechyMonkey:

    So you’re going with: he’s trying to “contain” the Liberal-cluster that he aims to control. Basically, he aims to be the labor rep who’s in cahoots with management as a tool to control labor. Or, in leftist language, he’s an agent of hegemony, coopting the opposition.

    I’m talking about the function he plays; if he’s not an imbecile, he must know it, regardless of how he rationalizes the reality away — much as the great mass of “moderates” do every day, pretending to hold one position while in practice supporting a radical agenda the opposite of their ostensible position. But most of them are imbeciles…

    And by imbecile, I mean run-of-the-mill abilities. Frog is prone to hyperbole.

  281. #281 noodles
    March 31, 2009

    Re: Deism?

    Does the deist god have a physical mass, a body, or exist in a defined area? Some have asserted that the deist god is immaterial and incorporeal: has no physical body and does not consist of matter. What then? It is routinely asserted that this deist god is intelligent and aware. What exactly allows for a “brain” to exist? I suppose the deist god could be a StartTrek-esque creature composed of energy, having a conscious mind and intelligence, existing partially in our dimension but partially in a different dimension. Since even energy is physical the limitation in detecting the physical nature of this creature is the limitation of the sensors in the space ship Enterprise.

    Still, if the deist god is a pulsing orb of energy possessing intelligence while existing only partially in our physical dimension: we should still be able to study and analyze this creature. We should be able to devise instruments and tests to establish the nature of this space being.

    Even if all this were true – that an incorporeal being with intelligence exists (rather then the more reasonable conclusion that it’s all just make-believe) – I don’t understand why it would be called a “god” and what that means. Perhaps there are dozens of these “god” things consisting of differing types of energy inhabiting differing galaxies – a “god phylum” as it were. We might then create classifications such as DeusAndromeda, DeusOmega, DeusTriangulum, etc.

    Finally, I don’t see why placing an incorporeal being with a conscious intelligence in the phylum “deus” means anything at all or creates any obligation upon me to worship or praise said creature. Actually, I would most interested in inquiring why this alien space creature thinks it has the right to poke its noodly appendage (consisting of Auric Energy of course) in our business at all.

  282. #282 Deen
    March 31, 2009

    @frog, #270:

    I didn’t doubt that he was a Nisbet, I was questioning how a Nisbet is distinct from a PZ, …

    The biggest difference that I can detect is in the way they handle criticism. PZ confronts it, Nisbet avoids it.

  283. #283 Monado
    March 31, 2009

    Holbach, religion isn’t not brain rot. It’s brain pollution.

  284. #284 Monado
    March 31, 2009

    Richard Harris [116], there’s one way in which a deity could intervene intervene in human affairs without breaking the laws of physics and chemistry. I think that’s why the Romans had Fortuna, goddess of chance: if the arrow’s flight could wobble or the bread fall butter side up, you want things to fall out in a way that’s fortunate for you. So, she’s breaking the laws of probability, but who can tell? Random chance has to be lucky for somebody and unlucky for some other poor bastard.

  285. #285 Badger3k
    April 1, 2009

    Re – a long way back – the 10,000 gp was meant to imply that I actually bought a real “+4 sword” and I spent really a ton of gold. If I was going to get one in the game for 10k, it would be easy since I’m the GM. Hopefully we’ll be back up and running soon.

    re – 259, if you look back at fantasy and magic through the ages, it goes from “anything goes” in medieval times, up to more scientific fantasy of more recent times. I think it goes along with naturalism and the scientific worldview, where people want structure and order. For myself, I try to maintain some level of consistency and (as much as possible) reality in my fantasy. It doesn’t help a game or story if the mages can do anything, except for dramatic story reasons.

    For a recent “magic” use, look at comics. The Legion of Super-Heroes has been going since the 70s (IIRC, with Superboy & the LSH), but when you have a legion of characters who can literally do anything, the story gets harder to write or get into, and thus the comic has been cancelled and rebooted several times. Same thing with Superman, who used to be able to move the Earth, but now…not so much. A hero who can do anything fails just for the reasons you say.

    Anyway, that’s my addition to this, except to add to the replies to “Facile” (sorry, but I almost wrote Facial), what do you think that these theistards have been doing all along? Thanks to these morons, if I wanted to run for office here in Texas, I’d be barred by the Constitution (yeah – I could definitely challenge this as unconstitutional, but I’m not sure if I could do this, at least now. But it’s an idea worth considering, though). We atheists have always been insulted, ridiculed, and persecuted for being different. Welcome to the real world.

  286. #286 Emil
    April 1, 2009

    I read most of these comments but not all, just a lurker throwing in my 2 cents here:

    To the self-identified Spinozian (if that’s a word) above–if your definition of God includes everything, then does that make science God, too? And if God is everything, how is that a meaningful definition? If I choose the word “universe” instead of “God” does that mean your religious belief is a matter of semantics?

    As far as preferring some notion of “mystery” in a metaphysical sense as somehow more attractive than “purely intellectual mysteries”, hey, whatever you’re into; but I think you are mistaken to undervalue the emotional rewards of intellectual mystery, not to mention the aesthetic rewards of contemplating the beauty and wonder of the universe–or “God” if you prefer–without this completely unnecessary deist filter.

    As to the person defining God as “good” or “goodness”–do you also believe that God is omnipotent? If so, how do you reconcile the fact that “goodness” (apart from being a completely human invention of judgment, as already stated) is not omni-present?

    It reminds me of a quote from J.B. by Archibald MacLeish–I’m going from memory here, my apologies to the author–

    If God is God he is not good,
    If God is good he is not God,
    Take the even, take the odd,
    I would not stay here if I could,
    Except for the little green leaves on the trees
    And the wind on the water.

    (didn’t see this one in the list of quotes, P.Z.-maybe I missed it?)

  287. #287 SteveM
    April 1, 2009

    We aren’t a perfectly rational species by any means; we need something — an act of will, an emotional response, even a useful delusion — to avoid lapsing into selfish and destructive behaviors.

    That is bullshit. It is those undefinable “acts of will”, “emotional responses” and “useful delusions” that gets us into those destructive behaviors in the first place. No we aren’t perfectly rational creatures, that is why we developed the methods of science ensure rationality when analyzing phenomena. And this whole “science is descriptive not proscriptive” is little more than “non-overlapping magisteria”. The “sciences” (as in physics, chemistry, etc) may be descriptive only, but the methods of science are perfectly applicable to the qestions of morality, ethics, etc. that beset mankind. Once one realizes that the “Holy Books” were not written by gods, but by man then everything becomes a subject of reason. That is not to say that emotions are ignored, no, they are part of the system and must be accounted for. But it we who determine (and have always determined) what is moral. The only thing religion brings to that determination is the declaration “God said so”. Science and reason actually gives us methods to let us fairly determine what really is the greatest good for the greatest number.

  288. #288 Tulse
    April 1, 2009

    Science and reason actually gives us methods to let us fairly determine what really is the greatest good for the greatest number.

    Of course, utilitarianism is not the only defensible ethical system…

  289. #289 SteveM
    April 1, 2009

    Of course, utilitarianism is not the only defensible ethical system…

    Yes, I did not mean to imply that it was. I did not phrase that last sentence as well as I should have. I was not trying to declare any particular ethical philosophy superior, just that the methods of science are also applicable to designing (or evaluating) systems of morality. Anytime you want to declare “this is bad” and “this is good”, there is a reason for doing so. “God says so” is not a reason. Even “because it hurts” or “it makes me sad” are better reasons than “God said so”.

    What I find amazing is that even small children soon demand that their parents give a better reason than “because I said so”, yet so many adults are willing to accept “because God said so” for so many things that really don’t make any sense at all.

  290. #290 Independent observor
    May 13, 2009

    No scientist can describe what his soul IS?How can he then describe about the reality?
    They touch ice its melts away!
    When Icy hand of death overtakes them, then they immensly weep for there is no return.
    All fools think Religion is war !
    But Religion is a code of life .Its a system of life.
    There were advent of 124000 Holy Prophets in this universe !
    All came to impart the knowledge of the unity of ALMIGHTY GOD! The self Creator & the Creator of the vast Universe.
    HE is all alone, no partner .HE is the Omnipotent & most omnipresent. nothing escapes from HIS glorified knowledge.
    WHY Jews persuaded Romans to crucify holy Jesus?
    Jesus himself said ” I have spoken the truth, and therefore they want to kill me”
    The truth was: He told Jews high Priests: The first son of Holy Abraham is Holy Ishmel and not Holy Ishaq, Jews
    started pelting stones,Holy Jesus escaped first day,
    Finally He stated the the comforter is Holy Mohammed who will come as the blessing to Mankind.
    Please read Gospel of ST Barnabas . Its not fabrication true
    details what Holy Jesus said & How Jesus was bodily taken away like Holy Ecoch.
    Holy Jesus wept as some of his disciple called him “son of GOD” for ALMIGHTY GOD has no partner. ALL Alone.
    Science could not stop Aging, cannot stop death, cannot
    walk in darkness. Can create artifitial light but not darkness.
    Let us look at ourselves & think for a moment who are WE?
    Beyond doubt science failed to apprehend ALMIGHTY GOD, for ALMIGHTY GOD is beyond space, beyond time .
    HE is the Supreme ruler of the Vast Universe!

    If all human being listened to this teaching, there would have been Peace all over this earth. Thank you

  291. #291 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    May 13, 2009

    Independent observor, you cited no scientific literature. You showed no physical evidence for your imaginary deity. You showed no physical evidence that the bible is true. So, your god doesn’t exist, your bible is fiction, and you post is totally worthless as anything of interest to us other than making fun of your stupidity. Have a nice day.

  292. #292 Ben in Texas
    May 13, 2009

    Gabby Johnson?

  293. #293 Watchman
    May 13, 2009

    It certainly worked wonders in 20th-century Northern Ireland and 16th-century France.

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