Pharyngula

I bumped into Chris Mooney a couple of times this past weekend at ScienceOnline 2010. I tried to talk to him — I honestly don’t have any personal animosity to the guy — but he was mostly rather dour, and the most I got out of him was a claim that the arguments will start up again soon, when the paperback edition of his book comes out. I tried not to roll my eyes and say that no, we’re pretty much through with his book now (see how nice I am in person?). Anyway, he didn’t seem to be very happy any time I saw him, but maybe he was much more cheerful when I wasn’t in the same room.

He’s still trying to stir up the same foolish dead accommodationist debate, though, and while I don’t want to waste any more time on it, since I was the target of much of the complaint before, I thought I’d at least point you to Larry Moran and Sean Carroll and Jerry Coyne. I agree with their take on it. Battle it out on their blogs, just for fun.

Comments

  1. #1 Sven DiMilo
    January 21, 2010

    Deep into time-wasting mode, I spent some time this afternoon over at The InterDungeonSection. It’s unbelievable. The level of just-don’t-get-it-ness (or dishonesty) on display is impressive.

    In my opinion, Paul W. deserves an honorary Molly for Service on Foreign Bandwidth for his work in the comment threads over there.

  2. #2 Sven DiMilo
    January 21, 2010

    I see I was not the first to suggest accolade for Paul W.

  3. #3 Rorschach
    January 21, 2010

    Accomodationist debate ? Sounds intriguing, could someone briefly summarise the different positions in this debate ?

    *runs*

  4. #4 Caine
    January 21, 2010

    I imagine Mooney’s trying anything and everything to get the accommodationist debate back up; he falls completely off the radar without it.

  5. #5 WowbaggerOM
    January 21, 2010

    …but he was mostly rather dour…

    But faitheism is supposed to fill you with joy and love for your fellow humans, be they sensible and rational or a woo-soaked idiot; it’s the mean, nasty ‘new militant’ atheists who are angry and unsatisfied who should be looking miserable.

  6. #6 Jadehawk, OM
    January 21, 2010

    I see I was not the first to suggest accolade for Paul W.

    wait… Ophelia Benson is banned at the Intersection? that’s… some sort of awesome :-p

  7. #7 SC OM
    January 21, 2010

    I see others are talking about Paul W. I read the Snorzel thread he linked to a couple of weeks ago, and was impressed with him there:

    http://scienceblogs.com/principles/2010/01/a_statement_of_fact_cannot_be.php

    Good to see people appreciating him here, even though he hasn’t been around here much of late.

  8. #8 MadScientist
    January 21, 2010

    There is no debate, so the debate (or controversy if you prefer that) can never end. Bwahahahaha!

    Like Sean Carroll I’m one of those old fogeys who think the truth does matter. Mooney appears to me to be a disciple of I. Kristol: lies are fine as long as they propagate your own view. So Mooney is championing fundamental dishonesty. We can see quite clearly what that has accomplished in politics, and I believe it is fundamentally opposed to science where we seek to establish facts rather than lie to gain a large following. Leave the lying to religions and politicians (but do expose their lies – with any luck people will have less tolerance for lies).

  9. #9 MadScientist
    January 21, 2010

    Oh, by the way, I hope he hates your guts because he thinks you hurt his book sales. :P

    How about CrackerGate2 with a cracker stapled to Mooney’s photograph and tossed into the bin with Stephen Meyer’s latest load of hooey?

  10. #10 Louis
    January 21, 2010

    The accomodationists seem to think that the “problem” is “amount of acceptance of science” in the general population, and that the way to combat this is to present an image of science that is non threatening to specific religious mindests*. They seem to think that increasing this amount of acceptance is a worthy goal.

    However, the manner they wish to do this is not to create actual acceptance of science, but to create superficial acceptance of science. The appearance of acceptance. To actually accept science you have to accept the fact that one day some aspect of science might, with ugly fact, slay your beautiful hypothesis. It’s that that those of certain religious mindsets cannot accept. Worse. It’s that that certain religious mindsets cannot accept has already happened in many cases. It’s that that the accomodationists are seeking to protect people from.

    Seems daft to me. I don’t think the accomodationist tactic will work at all. At best it will create an illusion, acceptance of science by bowdlerising science’s greatest attribute, the fact that it is a universal ideological acid.

    Louis

    *Whether or not science is threatening to specific religious mindsets. Or indeed whether science and religion are epistemologically compatible at all. The latter is a separate question, and one it seems many people want to avoid/obfuscate. I wonder why.**

    **Actually I don’t wonder why. I know why. I don’t like it!

  11. #11 howard.peirce
    January 21, 2010

    Sometimes I think Mooney is perfectly aware of the Overton Window and the respective roles that the two of you play in moving it in our direction. It’s like he’s Bizarro World Broder to your Bizarro World Limbaugh.

    So he’s perfectly content to have you run nails through crackers and ride the triceratops, because otherwise he wouldn’t be able to say, “At least I’m not like him!”

    But heaven forbid he make the whole process open and transparent. The first rule of Fight Club, blah, blah, blah. It’s pure magical thinking.

    Either that, or he’s a True Believer in High Broderism.

  12. #12 Glen Davidson
    January 21, 2010

    Good grief, it’s time for everybody to just do what each thinks best.

    Even if anti-accommodationists are wrong, they’re going to do what they want anyhow. Likewise with the accommodationists.

    Time to sit back and watch what happens. I just hope that some relatively impartial analysts will work out how well each faction is doing.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  13. #13 Sven DiMilo
    January 21, 2010

    thanks a lot, SC, I just clicked over to Chad’s.

    “schoolboy sniggering” haw haw haw

  14. #14 MadScientist
    January 21, 2010

    @Sven: Wow – gotta respect people with the tenacity to spend time on the M&K blog (McCarthy and Kwok blog) and try to educate people. I’ve decided months ago that it’s like trying to teach Ken Hovind evolution.

  15. #15 Sven DiMilo
    January 21, 2010

    oh, well, in my case it’s more rubbernecking a trainwreck.
    Paul W. is doing the heavy lifting over there. SC’s right: he is on point in the Orzel thread too.

  16. #16 WowbaggerOM
    January 21, 2010

    @Sven: Wow – gotta respect people with the tenacity to spend time on the M&K blog (McCarthy and Kwok blog) and try to educate people. I’ve decided months ago that it’s like trying to teach Ken Hovind evolution.

    I gave up trying to reason with McCarthy after he wouldn’t stop insisting that PZ had banned him and deleted his posts when his name wasn’t on the dungeon list and the posts were exactly where he posted them. After having this pointed out to him he insisted that PZ had reinstated him and his posts in order to avoid looking bad.

    There’s no way to deal with a mind that closed.

  17. #17 IaMoL
    January 21, 2010

    Paul W. seems to be a marriage of TruthMachine, without the personality disorder, and David Marjanovi?.

  18. #18 Sven DiMilo
    January 21, 2010

    fwiw, McCarthy doesn’t seem to have participated in the last couple of Interdungeon horse-beating threads. Kw*k I think popped in only once or twice briefly.

  19. #19 IaMoL
    January 21, 2010

    Kw*k I think popped in only once or twice briefly.

    He’s too busy brown-nosing Eugenie Scott on Facebook.

  20. #20 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 21, 2010

    I gave up on the Intersection after Kw*k flat out lied to me about the demand for the camera.

  21. #21 Sven DiMilo
    January 21, 2010

    He’s too busy brown-nosing Eugenie Scott on Facebook.

    Haw! I can imagine. I am sure that a job writing blog comments, press releases, and Amazon reviews for the NCSE would suit J*hn just fine.

  22. #22 Kel, OM
    January 21, 2010

    To me it looks like Mooney is doing the ultimate injustice, trying to bridge the gap between science and religion by turning science into a religion. As soon as one starts bending the truth to gain converts they have become ideologues.

  23. #23 A. Noyd
    January 21, 2010

    Heh, I ran across The Genesis Engima by Andrew Parker poisoning the biology section of the bookstore today. I hadn’t heard of it before and this post reminded me to look it up on Amazon. From the few reviews, it doesn’t look like religious nitwits like bullshit attempts to reconcile science and religion either.

  24. #24 Azkyroth
    January 21, 2010

    Just refer people to the YouTube video of the debate.

  25. #25 PalMD
    January 21, 2010

    As a humanist, i might, on noting his dourness, inquire politely as to his state of mind and health, like, “Chris, you look down. How ya doin?”

  26. #26 jcwelch
    January 21, 2010

    Chris Mooney is pulling a Dvorak.

    When you find something that jacks your hit count, you make damned sure to bring it up every chance you get. it’s a total New Media Douchebag move, cynical as hell, but that’s what the point is.

    No one gives a fuck about his book, but if you mention “New Athiests”, your hit count goes up. Stroke it Chris, stroke it fast and hard, because New Media Douchebag fauxtroversies are all you have.

  27. #27 NewEnglandBob
    January 21, 2010

    The battle does not need to be fought. It is over and Chris Mooney lost the battle and the war.

  28. #28 Darren Garrison
    January 21, 2010

    #9 “How about CrackerGate2 with a cracker stapled to Mooney’s photograph…”

    For some reason, I was thinking that statement was going to be “cracker stapled to Mooney’s forehead.”

    I gotta say, I’d paypal a pretty good chunk of change to see PZ do that on Youtube…

  29. #29 Skeptic Tim
    January 21, 2010

    Accommodating religion and science? Yeah – it’s a bit like accommodating “Lord of the Rings” and gardening. Lord of the Rings was a real good story… Real good… Now, in the middle of January, I can eat my cabbages but Bilbo Baggins “There and Back again” doesn’t do much for my hunger. Still, Lord of the Rings was a real good story!

  30. #30 Cuttlefish, OM
    January 21, 2010

    http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2010/01/accommodationism-parable.html

    I wanted to learn how to play violin;
    I also wanted to swim.
    I queried the maestro, who told me flat out
    My chances were frankly quite grim:
    A musical instrument gets in the way
    And they don?t perform well, wet;
    And as for tone, some soggy notes
    Are all you?re gonna get.

    But one accommodationist
    Was there to give me hope:
    He said they were compatible,
    And not to give up hope!
    So I?m in the pool, most every day,
    With violin in hand;
    I practice my scales till my fingers prune up,
    But I guess I don?t understand?

    It just doesn?t sound like a violin sounds,
    And it?s harder and harder to swim!
    I?m starting to think that the maestro was right
    And I?m wishing I?d listened to him!
    There are times when two things simply don?t go together,
    That?s the story I?ve come here to tell?
    You can play a violin under the water;
    You simply can?t play it too well.

    (actual video of underwater violin playing at link)

  31. #31 Darren Garrison
    January 22, 2010

    OT: a Jewicide bomber?

    http://www.myfoxphilly.com/dpp/news/local_news/report%3A-situation-at-philadelphia-airport

    (no offense to any Jews was intended with my pun– though I do point at and mock your head boxes)

  32. #32 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    January 22, 2010

    Oh, sweet fuck-all. Won’t someone put Chris Mooney out of my misery?

  33. #33 llewelly
    January 22, 2010

    OT: a Jewicide bomber?

    Please find a different term.

  34. #34 Andyo
    January 22, 2010

    I’m starting to think that the faitheists are dishonest.

  35. #35 Strangest brew
    January 22, 2010

    The bottom line seems to be that accommodationists are flogging a dead donkey anyway!

    There is not one fundamentally impaired religionist on the face of the planet that wants to cosy up with science, not one.

    Superficially maybe sensing that advantage might be gained by basking in the glow of scientific reality.

    They would not mind the gravitas of science being theirs, and will and have tried all scams to purloin it.
    But they do not want science in their world per se, it is undoubtedly a very serious palpable threat to their supernatural gobbly gook.

    Claims and dogmatic assertions could not be delivered straight faced and sustainably under the microscopic examination that would be unavoidable when both protagonists inhabit the same space.

    What Mooney et al is conducting is a half assed exercise in attempting to save religious blushes because they are in some kind of awe of the deity addled.

    They, for some unfathomable reason, do not want the religious to become laughing stocks in front of the world, prob is methinks that attempt is far to late and will, by default and supported by history, not be aided by religious pontifications on the matter.

    That the religiously befuddled have only one agenda is quite plain, the overthrow of science as a cosmological constant.
    The denigration and replacement of the endeavour by xian dogmatics.
    And, as history has revealed, these bunnies are not to clever in disguising their intent.
    For a start they cannot resist the proselytism and they love to brag almost as much as the difficulty they have in keeping pants zipped up.

    This is not a winning strategy.
    At one time they were indeed given the benefit of the doubt, that time has long gone, anyone not naive enough now know instinctively what they are about…all that is except apparently Mooney et al!

  36. #36 Orac
    January 22, 2010

    bumped into Chris Mooney a couple of times this past weekend at ScienceOnline 2010. I tried to talk to him ? I honestly don’t have any personal animosity to the guy ? but he was mostly rather dour,

    And you’re surprised by this….why?

    If I were him and you approached me, I’d be dour too.

  37. #37 jdmuys
    January 22, 2010

    Some respected people are not that dead against the accommodationist position.

    For example, I remember Phil Plait at badastronomy.com actually recommending Chris Mooney’s book with some praise (unless my memory fails me. It was in his Xmas present suggestion list IIRC).

    Personally, I think a case might be made that it’s possible to accomodate without compromising.

    In any case, It’s probably counter productive to antagonize the sensible people among the believers.

  38. #38 Andyo
    January 22, 2010

    The BA has indeed defended Mooney and Kirshenbaum, at least on one post I read.

  39. #39 SC OM
    January 22, 2010

    And you’re surprised by this….why?

    If I were him and you approached me, I’d be dour too.

    Me too, seeing as I would have written a lame book in which I misrepresented and attacked him and made arguments I’ve been unable to defend against his and others’ criticisms. In fact, I’d be downright ashamed.

    (Frankly, if I were Mooney I would be pretty offended by my “allies” treating me like a helpless puppy rather than an adult capable of taking responsibility for my actions.)

  40. #40 Matt Penfold
    January 22, 2010

    And you’re surprised by this….why?

    If I were him and you approached me, I’d be dour too.

    Interesting that you seem to think being dour is an appropriate way to respond to someone who has pointed out serious flaws in a hypothesis you developed. Given the way Mooney has delibertly misreprensted PZ over “crackergate” and over what is meant by science and religion being incompatible(*)And you’re surprised by this….why?

    If I were him and you approached me, I’d be dour too. a more reasonable person might think it was PZ who had the right to be dour towards Mooney. At the very least he has the right to expect Mooney to apologise.

    (*) For some reason, even though he has been correct numerous times, Mooney still seems to think PZ and other are saying people cannot be religious and do science. Given how often he has been correct on this there is little doubt he is being wilfully dishonest in continuing to say they are.

  41. #41 Sigmund
    January 22, 2010

    This is only going to lead to the Downfall of Chris Mooney………….
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfoQfL8vJXQ

  42. #42 Daniel
    January 22, 2010

    Once upon a less democratic time, when learning was restricted to few, compatibilism was simply social etiquette, courtesy and decency, i.e useful hypocrisy. And atheism was synonim of rudeness, public scandal and social anarchy. Thus a gentleman could be openly irreligious within his circle without being an atheist. There was no need to offend the vulgar, lest it became a rebellious reactionary mob knocking his castle’s door.

    In the XXI c., however such antidemocratic anachronism as compatibilism could only be defended by the patronising hypocrite who thought their audience was too stupid to receive science pure and unadulterated. The masses would surely find it unpalatable. As they tried to accommodate popular taste they ended up presenting a ridiculous and horrible pastiche, they made a truly disguting cheesy mess.

  43. #43 Strangest brew
    January 22, 2010

    #37

    “Personally, I think a case might be made that it’s possible to accomodate without compromising.”

    You might well think so, what the religiotards think, or not whatever the case may be, could well be a whole lot different.

    This is easy really the point is the religious do want accommodation, they want a way in to being ‘blessed’ with being taken seriously, but they do not want to compromise…full-stop!

    For a start there is nothing in their nonsense they can compromise with without jeopardizing the rest of their shaky fairy story…simples!

    They want in but only on their terms…otherwise they will just carry on caterwauling and hand wringing and reporting the ‘bhabbi jebus’ tears situation outside the gates of secularism much like they have for 2000 years.

    “In any case, It’s probably counter productive to antagonize the sensible people among the believers.”

    There are no sensible people among ‘believers’ in utterly crass fantasy.
    There are sensible people that abide by the spirit of ‘thou shalt not kill’ & ‘thou shalt not steal’ even ‘thou shalt not covet ya neighbours arse’ or whatever…but that is just a general sensible meme that even atheists abide by.

    It is up to the ‘belivers’ to present their case with evidence as to why their nonsense should be given respect, and that they have failed to do for over the same 2000 years.

    They have not earned anything near respect…just derision for their constant and pathetically transparent lies.

  44. #44 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    jdmuys:

    Some respected people are not that dead against the accommodationist position.

    Yeah, but so what?
    (I hear the Pope and the Dalai Lama are well-respected.)

    Personally, I think a case might be made that it’s possible to accomodate without compromising.

    A case might be made for any proposition; how meritorious that case might be is another matter. :)

    Can you adumbrate what such a case might be?

  45. #45 F
    January 22, 2010

    Darren Garrison @ 28:

    How odd, the same exact thought had completed that sentence for me as well.

    howard.pierce @ 11

    I often wonder who may actually be trying to engineer society by using the Overton Window effect intentionally. Shades of Foundation.

  46. #46 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    (no offense to any Jews was intended with my pun– though I do point at and mock your head boxes)

    Let’s not, please. Being Jewish can describe ethnicity as well as religiosity. Judaism is as open to mocking as any other religion, but comments just involving “Jews” are too ambiguous.

  47. #47 Scott
    January 22, 2010

    When Mooney’s “The Republican War on Science” first came out, I wanted it bad, but didn’t have enough money to buy the hardcover, and by the time the paperback came out, I didn’t really have enough money to buy even that anymore.

    Fast forward to now, when I *do* have enough money, and Mooney’s bizarre promotion of “Unscientific America” turned me off on him so hard, that when I recently saw the hardcover of “Republican War on Science” in our local used bookstore, I decided I wouldn’t be able to stand reading it anymore.

  48. #48 Simon Bishop
    January 22, 2010

    Chris Mooney has inspired Jesus & Mo:

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/2010/01/22/deny/

  49. #49 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    I think I have a bit of a brain crush on Paul W.

  50. #50 Anri
    January 22, 2010

    Accommodating religion and science? Yeah – it’s a bit like accommodating “Lord of the Rings” and gardening.

    Actually, that wouldn’t be all that rough, given the gift the Galadriel gave Samwise Gamgee… (and the geekiness comes crashing down upon me..)

    As for accomidationism, I’d suggest we start in the field of medicine – there are folks who believe, as an article of faith, against all evidence, that vaccination is bad for a child.

    So, let’s compromise, right down the middle – kids should only get half as many vaccinations as they do currently.
    No?
    Ok, then let’s give the kids the vaccines, but only in the context of religious ritual. Wrong religion, no shot.
    Still no? Picky, picky…
    Give them the shots, but make it very clear that they would be utterly innefective without the happy thoughts and faith of the people holding the needle.
    Am I on the wrong track here…?

    On a related note, I’ve been trying to come up with a pun involving being defenstrated through the Overton window, but I’m not smart enough to crank out anything funny.
    Thoughts?

  51. #51 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    In any case, It’s probably counter productive to antagonize the sensible people among the believers.

    Why? The “sensible people” are the ones who tell us “oh we’re not Ken Ham, we believe in evolution and the big bang and all the other stuff you guys believe in.” In other words they’re expanding their woo to include science, but it’s still woo. “But we know that evolution is proved, that’s why we believe in it, just like we know Jesus is proved to be our savior.”

    The accommodationists make a big wail about how we shouldn’t be mean to the liberal goddists. “Pope Benedict has given his imprimatur to evolution, if we piss him off he could withdraw it.” The Pope also protects child rapists and sanctions the spread of AIDS, if we denounce him for these actions will he back off of supporting evolution?

  52. #52 JBlilie
    January 22, 2010

    I recently heard Greg Epstein (Secular Humanist “Chaplain” of Havard U.) speak on my local NPR affiliate.

    I know P.Z. has been hard on him in previous posts and I expected the worst. He was brilliant, IMO. He never backed down from atheism is a perfectly legitimate world view, that he was one, and he even defended Dawkins against the “strident” and “fundamentalist” charges. he spoke up for all people accepting all kinds, including atheists. He stated that it is ridiculous (and says more about the person making the statement than about atheists) to state that atheists have no need for comfort in times of trouble, etc. (the Chaplain’s job at HU).

    His only demurral was from agressively pressing his opinion upon others. Which seems perfectly legitimate to me (as long as he doesn’t criticize others for being more in-your-face). He defended Dawkins and Hitchens in their free speech rights and did not run them down. (At least during the parts I heard, which was about 80% of it.)

    I haven’t read his book, though I think I will after hearing that interview. Maybe he is critical of the (so-called) “New Atheists” in his book.

    His main point was that he didn’t want to say what he’s not (a theist) but rather state what he does positively believe in (and what other atheists believe in) which is the point of his book and seems like a very good idea to me.

  53. #53 Free Lunch
    January 22, 2010

    “oh we’re not Ken Ham, we believe in evolution and the big bang and all the other stuff you guys believe in.”

    Great, but that isn’t all there is to religion and the supposed accomodationists who are accomodating themselves to those who have already accomodated themselves to the fact that their religion had errors in it are not much of a problem.

    I want to know why accomodationists are so eager to support compatibility between science and religion when they always hedge their claims. Is there a single accomodationist who really means that there is no conflict?

    I could call myself an accomodationist, too. As long as you don’t adhere to any religious doctrine that has been shown to be false by science, I don’t care what your religion is, but it would be foolish for me to support any religion that is anti-science or ignores scientific discoveries. Sure, that may mean that most believers in the United States do not fit into what I am willing to accomodate, but does that matter?

    Does Christ Mooney really think that scientists need to accomodate Ken Ham? If not, why doesn’t he speak up and let us know that he thinks that there are religions and religious doctrines that cannot be accomodated and that there is no reason to hide that fact or try to accomodate them.

  54. #54 Sigmund
    January 22, 2010

    Chris Mooney is the Joe Lieberman of the pro-science community. He has admitted his about-face on the issue of atheism is down to political rather than any scientific consideration. He tries to dress it up as ‘moderation’ but his own arguments are constantly exposed as allowing all kinds of pseudoscience – even creationism – if applied evenly to other contentious issues (does the fact that some scientists are creationist make creationism compatible with science? How about astrology or homeopathy?)
    One of the key points of the Dover trial was when Behe had to admit his definition of science would allow astrology into the science class. It’s hard to believe that the author of ‘The Republican War on Science’ would be so casual in allowing the same thing to happen.

  55. #55 AJKamper
    January 22, 2010

    I’m with Free Lunch there–a proud “faitheist,” if you will. In other words, I think religion is fine up to the point at which it contradicts scientific beliefs. Moreover, I’m _extremely_ skeptical of any religion that makes testable predictions at all.

    But I think there nonetheless can exist a narrow gap that religion can conceivably describe accurately, but science cannot.

    Imagine, for example, a truly unpredictable phenomenon. Not QM-unpredictable, where the probability curve ends up being super-precise, but one that fundamentally can’t be predicted at _any_ level. (I like to call this behavior “perverse,” a la _Neuromancer._) There is no _a priori_ reason that this could not exist; however, science would be unable to describe this phenomenon for lack of testability!

    Now, if someone had direct experience of that phenomenon, what is a more rational choice–that they believe they are crazy, or that they believe the phenomenon exists?

    If you accept this argument (and I’m sure most of you will not!), then we can see how science and religion can be compatible. Science can reign completely over all testable predictions; religion can handle the world of the untestable.

    (If you’re curious, I’ve worked out this argument in much greater detail than I’ve gone into here, but I wanted to start simple.)

  56. #56 JackC
    January 22, 2010

    The BA has indeed defended Mooney and Kirshenbaum

    As have at least some of the folks at RealClimate :frown:

    My only thoughts are that perhaps these folks are not as careful at reading as our host and can only get the gloss.

    JC

  57. #57 Rorschach
    January 22, 2010

    If you accept this argument (and I’m sure most of you will not!), then we can see how science and religion can be compatible. Science can reign completely over all testable predictions; religion can handle the world of the untestable.

    So science is “testable”, religion is not, and that makes them compatible?
    Word salad.

    Now, if someone had direct experience of that phenomenon, what is a more rational choice–that they believe they are crazy, or that they believe the phenomenon exists?

    Maybe you need to look up the meaning of “rational”.

  58. #58 Stephen Wells
    January 22, 2010

    So religion is supposed to handle the realm of things where you can’t tell if you’re wrong? Convenient!

  59. #59 Andyo
    January 22, 2010

    Gah! Why do I read these threads. I just got myself into an “argument” over why atheists aren’t hypocrites for celebrating christmas, over at the Cosmic Variance post. I think I’ll just leave it as it is now.

  60. #60 Free Lunch
    January 22, 2010

    So religion is supposed to handle the realm of things where you can’t tell if you’re wrong? Convenient!

    Not only is it convenient, but it is practically the definition of religion, though some religious practice concerning ethics can be very useful and might even be somewhat testable.

  61. #61 AJKamper
    January 22, 2010

    @Rorschach:

    Ah, good substantive commentary. You do your people proud, I’m sure.

    @Stephen Wells: Yep, exactly. And your skepticism is well-taken; given exactly how often religion has been wrong about things that are testable, why should I believe it about things that aren’t? Put another way, are there any actual religions that actually keep their beliefs only in the realm of the untestable?

    I’ve met a couple people that do this; it’s tough not to believe that their insistence that these religious phenomena are totally untestable is a little ad hoc, “God-of-the-gaps”-ish. Still, especially not having access to their direct experiences, I don’t have standing to say that they are necessarily wrong.

  62. #62 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    Ha!
    J & M vs. Orzel.

  63. #63 Rorschach
    January 22, 2010

    Put another way, are there any actual religions that actually keep their beliefs only in the realm of the untestable?

    More word salad.

    And you answer you own confused hypothetical question with :

    I’ve met a couple people that do this

    Weren’t you just talking about religions ?

    Is there a point here?

  64. #64 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    AJKamper #55

    Imagine, for example, a truly unpredictable phenomenon. Not QM-unpredictable, where the probability curve ends up being super-precise, but one that fundamentally can’t be predicted at _any_ level. (I like to call this behavior “perverse,” a la _Neuromancer._) There is no _a priori_ reason that this could not exist; however, science would be unable to describe this phenomenon for lack of testability!

    Imagine, if you will, something truly unimaginable. Something truly unimaginable would be really unimaginable, so you can’t imagine it, but if you could imagine it then you could imagine something that couldn’t be imagined. However, for argument’s sake let’s imagine that you could imagine something unimaginable.

    So come on, use your imagination to imagine the unimaginable. You can do it, if you’re really trying hard to squeeze religion into some sort of compatibility with science. What, you can’t do it? What an unimaginative faitheist you are.

  65. #65 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    Sigmund @#41, that was funny as hell. Godwinstrasse and the Dembski/Stalin juxtaposition were my personal faves.

  66. #66 Matt Penfold
    January 22, 2010

    Put another way, are there any actual religions that actually keep their beliefs only in the realm of the untestable?

    There is an element within the Church of England, concentrated in the more learned and higher echelons that would seem to keep their beliefs within that realm.

    I say “would seem” advisedly, since actually trying to understand what they believe is an exercise in frustration. They use English words, put together in semantically correct sentences but they are sentences that when parsed are totally devoid of meaning.

    I heard an excellent example the other day on the Today program (Radio 4). The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, was being interviewed by John Humphries about why a loving god would have allowed the earthquake in Haiti to kill and maim so many. Rather than he did not have a clue, Sentamu waffled on for five minutes at the end of which Humphries made it clear he had not understood a word of the answer. Nor had I.

  67. #67 AJKamper
    January 22, 2010

    @Rorschach:

    Oddly, others seem to be understanding my “word salad” well. Why don’t you actually directly address my argument? To claim that everything with which you disagree is “word salad” is pure avoidance.

    Or, if you prefer, I can simply ignore you. Your call.

    Same goes for ‘Tis Himself, really. You got a claim? Make it clear. Enlightening discussion doesn’t take place by arbitrarily rephrasing someone’s words.

    @ Matt Penfold: Awesome. I can handle some aspects of religion, but the “loving omnipotent deity who for some reason allows untold misery to occur” leaves me pretty cold.

  68. #68 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Oddly, others seem to be understanding my “word salad” well.

    I understand your word salad. Like Rorschach I think it’s a bunch of sophistic bullshit. If you don’t like me parodying your words then suck it, faithiest boy.

    Your basic argument is: There are things that don’t exist in the real world and don’t interact with the real world. Science can’t describe these things because science only concerns itself with the real world and things that interact with the real world. So if there are things that aren’t in the real world and don’t interact with the real world, then religion might describe these things. Oh yes, I know a couple of people who know about stuff that’s not in the real world.

    I believe philosophers call that unreal world stuff “metaphysics.” Not being a trained philosopher I prefer the term “bullshit.”

  69. #69 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    January 22, 2010

    AJ Kamper@55,
    What you are describing is a truly random process. The problem with such a process (or even a random sequence of numbers) is that it is impossible to determine randomness without an infinite sequence of trials.

    This is one of the things that stood in the way of Kolmogorov’s Frequentist interpretation of statistics. The point is that just because you think you can imagine something doesn’t mean you really can.

  70. #70 Deen
    January 22, 2010

    @AJKamper:

    Now, if someone had direct experience of that phenomenon, what is a more rational choice–that they believe they are crazy, or that they believe the phenomenon exists?

    Actually, since we have plenty of scientific evidence of the sort of tricks your brain can play on you, I’d say that the rational choice would be to indeed assume that you may be mistaken. Only when independent verification is available should you believe that something more is going on.

  71. #71 https://me.yahoo.com/hairychris444#96384
    January 22, 2010

    Free Lunch @ 60

    …, though some religious practice concerning ethics can be very useful and might even be somewhat testable.

    Not exactly, IMO. All religious moral/ethical systems that I’m familiar with have, to some degree, a human or supernatural ‘law giver’. When it comes to origin of the system it’s actually the source of the ethics that is as important as, if not moreso, then the system of ethics themselves.

    A religious system may have the most perfect set of morals that we can imagine, but if they are held because the Invisible Pink Unicorn is never wrong isn’t that a case of right actions, wrong reasons?

    Personally I’m very much of the anti-accomodationist thought. That doesn’t mean that religious folks can’t be rational about everything else in their lives (or do science or anything else), but they really need to accept that caveat. Them, and all those people who we class as modern or non-serious or non-fundamental believers.

    I do worry about those believers who say that a belief in faith is fully compatible with reason. They are not seeing a fundamental difference in how they reach their conclusions in different areas of their lives. The gung-ho fundie loons are at least consistent however dangerous they might be.

  72. #72 Matt Penfold
    January 22, 2010

    Actually, since we have plenty of scientific evidence of the sort of tricks your brain can play on you, I’d say that the rational choice would be to indeed assume that you may be mistaken. Only when independent verification is available should you believe that something more is going on.

    I think that pretty much sums up the difference between a scientific worldview and a religious one.

    A person with a scientific outlook would look for rational explanations for phenomena. The religious viewpoint looks first to supernatural explanations.

  73. #73 AJKamper
    January 22, 2010

    @TH:

    Isn’t it cute when people think that taking sides in a conflict is more important than discussion? I’m apparently the enemy, now. Nice.

    At any rate, if that’s your interpretation of what I’ve said, then you don’t understand it after all! my bad. Tell you what, in my original post, change “imagine” to “hypothesize.” That is, there _is_ a force that interacts with the real world, but it’s completely random.

    @ a_ray:
    Agreed, we can’t ever _know_ if something is absolutely random, but that doesn’t prevent the existence of such a thing, does it?

    @Deen:

    In cases where such verification is unavailable, is that the most rational choice? You’ve hit one of the main issues with this argument, and I’m glad. But this is the problem with Cartesian skepticism or Hume’s argument against induction–at some point, in order to make any rational statements about the world at all, we need to have the core premise that our experiences have meaning. Therefore, asking someone to say that “No, even though I’m sure there’s something there, since someone else can’t verify it I must be mistaken” may force someone to give up all hope of understanding the world. If we’ve accepted the possibility of untestable phenomena in the first place, then believing in their existence would be more rational in the sense of allowing someone to make any conclusions about the world at all.

  74. #74 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Yawn, sophist idjit being a sophist idjit. Just like eric. Show physical evidence for what you are talking about. That takes away the inane philosophy and gets down to real cases. Then, and only then, can an intelligent discussion happen.

  75. #75 Randomfactor
    January 22, 2010

    Religion and science are completely “compatible” so long as they’re kept in absolutely separate jars.

  76. #76 Celtic_Evolution
    January 22, 2010

    Oddly, others seem to be understanding my “word salad” well. Why don’t you actually directly address my argument? To claim that everything with which you disagree is “word salad” is pure avoidance.

    I don’t think “word salad” means what you think it means. It’s not a problem of comprehension. It means that you said a lot of stuff that is ultimately devoid of substance.

    And frankly, the people that “understand” your word salad don’t think it has much substance, either.

    You said:

    If you accept this argument (and I’m sure most of you will not!), then we can see how science and religion can be compatible. Science can reign completely over all testable predictions; religion can handle the world of the untestable.

    It sounds pretty and nice and “accommodating”, but it’s ultimately meaningless… it’s “word salad”. Science does reign over the testable, observable, and falsifiable (also known as reality). The world of the untestable, whether it’s covered by religion or by popular fiction, has no bearing on science whatsoever… science is ambivalent to the “world of the untestable”… to science, if it’s untestable it isn’t reality and can simply be ignored.

    The problem with religion, and the thing that makes it so different from other mediums in the realm of the “untestable” (like popular fiction or Saturday morning cartoons), is that religion has a tendency to insist upon having a seat at the “reality” table… and accommodating this position, even by simply refusing to put up a fight against the very argument, lends credence to the effort to include religion at that table.

    They have no place at that table and I will not accommodate any action, argument or thought process that tries to allow it.

  77. #77 Celtic_Evolution
    January 22, 2010

    Isn’t it cute when people think that taking sides in a conflict is more important than discussion? I’m apparently the enemy, now. Nice.

    Do we really need to have yet another discussion about the silliness of complaining about tone?? I’m soooooo tired of it.

  78. #78 Celtic_Evolution
    January 22, 2010

    That is, there _is_ a force that interacts with the real world, but it’s completely random.

    And therefor undetectable? How would you know the difference between a force / phenomenon that interacts with the universe but leaves no trace and has no effect, and nothing at all? Why even consider its existence?

    The most parsimonious explanation is that there is no such force / phenomenon.

  79. #79 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    Religion and science are completely “compatible” so long as they’re kept in absolutely separate jars.

    Kind of like potassium and water.

  80. #80 Steven Mading
    January 22, 2010

    @AJKamper: The problem with your type of claim of compatibility of religion and science is that it totally misses the point of the claim of WHERE the incompatibility between the two allegedly is, and thus it ends up being a bit of a strawman fallacy. It’s not “Make a bullet-point list of all the stuff science has discovered, make a bullet-point list of all the truth claims of the religion, and if the two lists don’t intersect, then that religion is compatible with science.” That seems to me to be the gist of the accomodationist position, and it’s rubbish and here’s why: Those lists represent the output of the thought processes of religion and science, and the incompatibility that’s under discussion isn’t an incompatibility between the outputs of the two thought processses (although that incompatibility sometimes exists too). It’s an incompatibility between the thought processess themselves that generated those lists of believed-to-be-true things. The core incompatibility is this: “Is it acceptable to use faith to conclude what is real, and therefore it’s okay to use faith as part of the reasoning process by which you learn about things?” The accomodationist claim is that the answer to that is both yes and no at the same time, which is the incompatibility we’re talking about.

    One of the reasons the issue gets muddied up is that humans are capable of cognitive dissonance, and therefore they are capable of holding logically incompatible thoughts in their head at the same time. This then leads to the fact that even though religious thought (faith) is not compatible with scientific thought, there are still plenty of people who behave as if they are.

  81. #81 Matt Penfold
    January 22, 2010

    Kind of like potassium and water.

    Except when science and religion come into contact there is a lot of heat and smoke, but afterwards science remains unscathed and religion is left a smouldering turd with minimal substance.

  82. #82 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    In cases where such verification is unavailable, is that the most rational choice?

    Yes, of course it is. We know somehting about how brains work (not much, but something), and it is crystal clear that individual subjective perception is extremely unreliable. If I experience a phenomenon that is to me unexplainable, and nobody else is around to corroborate my experience, I will conclude every single time that I was mistaken. So should you; it’s by FAR the most likely and parsimonious explanation of any such event.

    Don’t make me haul out the Jerry-Garcia’s-space-helmet analogy.

  83. #83 https://me.yahoo.com/hairychris444#96384
    January 22, 2010

    Celtic Evolution…

    The problem with religion, and the thing that makes it so different from other mediums in the realm of the “untestable” (like popular fiction or Saturday morning cartoons), is that religion has a tendency to insist upon having a seat at the “reality” table… and accommodating this position, even by simply refusing to put up a fight against the very argument, lends credence to the effort to include religion at that table.

    They have no place at that table and I will not accommodate any action, argument or thought process that tries to allow it.

    Bravo!!

  84. #84 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Isn’t it cute when people think that taking sides in a conflict is more important than discussion? I’m apparently the enemy, now. Nice.

    You can stop playing martyr. I don’t think you’re the enemy. I think you’re a sophist trying to peddle dumber than dirt bullshit.

    At any rate, if that’s your interpretation of what I’ve said, then you don’t understand it after all! my bad. Tell you what, in my original post, change “imagine” to “hypothesize.” That is, there _is_ a force that interacts with the real world, but it’s completely random.

    I see. You’re postulating something in the real world that can’t be detected in any reliable fashion, is subject to random change without notice, that may only exist for brief moments of time, and may only exist in one person’s imagination. I apologize for misunderstanding you. Instead of being a sophist trying to peddle one particular brand of bullshit you’re a sophist trying to peddle a slightly different kind of bullshit.

  85. #85 Celtic_Evolution
    January 22, 2010

    Steven Mading –

    The core incompatibility is this: “Is it acceptable to use faith to conclude what is real, and therefore it’s okay to use faith as part of the reasoning process by which you learn about things?” The accomodationist claim is that the answer to that is both yes and no at the same time, which is the incompatibility we’re talking about.

    Beautifully stated…

  86. #86 Deen
    January 22, 2010

    In cases where such verification is unavailable, is that the most rational choice?

    Yes, especially where the phenomenon goes against everything else we understand about how the world works. Is it really more likely that you (and you alone) have just witnessed a truly singular event, or that you are somehow mistaken, deceived or maybe even hallucinating, something that happens all the time to people all over the world?

    Therefore, asking someone to say that “No, even though I’m sure there’s something there, since someone else can’t verify it I must be mistaken” may force someone to give up all hope of understanding the world.

    Nonsense. It may stop you from understanding that one singular event, but not from understanding the world in general. Most of the world appears to be perfectly verifiable – which is why science works in the first place.

    If we’ve accepted the possibility of untestable phenomena in the first place, then believing in their existence would be more rational in the sense of allowing someone to make any conclusions about the world at all.

    Believing that some unspecified untestable phenomena may exist is not irrational. Believing in a very specific untestable phenomenon is what is irrational.

  87. #87 martha
    January 22, 2010

    The US supreme court is not going to overturn prop 8. These disputes need to stay away from the Supremes, this is why lawsuits generally argue that state laws banning gay marriage violate state constitutions, rather than the federal.

    Okay, you folks are a bunch of science nerds, yes? I am a lawyer with no science background. But I understand proof. I understand evidence. And I am an atheist. My issue is that I do not have the knowledge to make scientific arguments much less evaluate arguments that are made by others. I am married to a Hindu who has gone religious on me and talks a lot about the absolute and confusing stuff about quantum mechanics as supporting notions of god. Anyone have any suggested reading? Is there a quantum mechanics book for dummies? Or Debunking Advaita Vedanta for Idiots?

    (Pleaz gods, don’t let my husband be a lurker on this forum!)

  88. #88 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    AJ Kamper #55 wrote:

    But I think there nonetheless can exist a narrow gap that religion can conceivably describe accurately, but science cannot… Science can reign completely over all testable predictions; religion can handle the world of the untestable.

    And how do we know that religion is handling the world of the untestable accurately?

    It seems to me that you’re basically saying that, if we can get the right answer for the ‘wrong’ reasons, then those reasons aren’t really wrong, are they? Not in those cases where you get the right answers, they’re not. In those cases — the ones similar to the one described in my hypothetical — then using religious leaps of faith would be the way to go.

    How very nice that the hypothetical handed us, in advance, the fact that we were coming to the right conclusions in an untestable, subjective, purely personal situation. That way, we see how nicely it all works. In theory. Religion satisfactorily handles all those situations where we already know we’re right, before we start.

    Now, do the exact same hypothetical, only put in where the person having the direct experience interprets it wrong. It’s fun to play around, and see what happens.

  89. #89 jdmuys
    January 22, 2010

    OK let me try to elaborate what I mean when I wrote that it might be possible to accomodate without compromising.

    A religion can be compatible with science to the extent that it accepts the validity of scientific findings. For example, the Catholic Church readily accepts evolution now.

    For that to hold, it means the religion mostly has to eventually drop any affirmation on the nature of the physical world and stay within the bounds of the supernatural. This is not a cop out, it’s the only place it’s left.

    Clearly this is a very narrow place for the religion to be left in. To a large extent the Catholic Church has always accepted to “water down” their teaching in the light of new scientific findings. I don’t hear any catholic around here try to use their religion as an explanation for any natural phenomenon.

    Conversely, science is not relevant to, nor interest in the supernatural, almost by definition (since there can be no evidence for supernatural, lest it starts being natural).

    (sorry for mentioning only the Catholic Church. It’s my past faith, and I don’t know enough about any other religion to claim anything about them).

    Another point is that this debate I find interesting is that it’s mostly, if not an entirely, an American one. In my country (France), this is a no-issue. Here, Religion is *irrelevant* to science. Period. To the extent that the teaching of religions does not apply to science at all, they become fully compatible with science. When a religious doctrine is incompatible with science, it’s just that the religion is wrong. Nothing more. Religions can be wrong, no problem.

    So either the “American” vision is primitive and silly, giving far too much weight to religions (reflecting the American society overall), or the “French” vision is primitive and silly, ignoring a real problem that might eventually blow up in our face because the conditions for its realization are not met [yet|anymore]. I don’t know which is which.

    In any case, accommodation as I tried to explain it above is what is happening here. No muss, no fuss.

    I hope I managed to convey what I meant by accommodate without compromising, despite struggling with my English.

  90. #90 destlund
    January 22, 2010

    The US supreme court is not going to overturn prop 8. These disputes need to stay away from the Supremes, this is why lawsuits generally argue that state laws banning gay marriage violate state constitutions, rather than the federal.

    What? Prop 8, and all the state constitutional bans, and DOMA violate the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Why is this any different than Loving vs Virginia?

  91. #91 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Having reread AJKamper’s posts, I know think I understand the specific bullshit he’s trying to peddle.

    Let us suppose that something happens. We don’t know what it is because it’s random and untestable, but we know something happened. Science cannot deal with this sort of something because science needs to be able to examine it and such examination is impossible. If we call in the local theologian and/or guru to explain the unexplainable then there may be an explanation.

    Of course the problem with this idea is that a different theologian and/or guru will have a completely different explanation. A third, fourth, fifth, etc. theologian/guru will each have different explanations. So we have our something that science is incapable of explanation and we can take our pick of an almost infinite number of explanations from our friendly, neighborhood theologians/gurus.

  92. #92 Blake Stacey
    January 22, 2010

    martha:

    I am married to a Hindu who has gone religious on me and talks a lot about the absolute and confusing stuff about quantum mechanics as supporting notions of god. Anyone have any suggested reading? Is there a quantum mechanics book for dummies?

    Richard Feynman had a couple good explanations of what quantum physics is actually about and how we use it. The Character of Physical Law is a nice place to start, and QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter is a great follow-up. (Advances in science have made both books a little dated, but QED catches up with lots of what happened since TCoPL was published. The only things I’d add to QED are that, yes, we discovered the top quark, and that work on renormalization group methods has somewhat drawn the fangs of the troublesome infinities mentioned in the last chapter.) James Gleick’s biography of Feynman is also a good survey of twentieth-century fundamental physics.

    For introductions to physics in general, there’s always the Cartoon Guide to the subject, by Gonick and Huffman.

    I don’t know of too many explicit debunkings of “Vedic science”, but Prophets Facing Backward by Meera Nanda might be a good start.

    If you mentioned quantum physics at a cocktail party ten years ago, no one would invite you back. More recently a woman approached me and said, “Isn’t quantum physics just what Eastern mystics have been saying for the last two thousand years?” I had to summon every ounce of dignity and told her, “No!”

    — physicist Sidney Coleman, quantum field theory expert, in 1989

  93. #93 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    martha #87 wrote:

    I am married to a Hindu who has gone religious on me and talks a lot about the absolute and confusing stuff about quantum mechanics as supporting notions of god. Anyone have any suggested reading? Is there a quantum mechanics book for dummies? Or Debunking Advaita Vedanta for Idiots?

    Yes, I have a good suggestion. Go to the Butterfly & Wheels website

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/

    scroll down to the bottom of the page, and put “Meera Nanda” into their search engine. You will get a lot of great links to excellent analyses and take-downs of the whole “Vedic Sciences” nonsense.

    It is an excellent place to start, I think. You may find other links connected to those, with different writers.

    Physicist Vic Stenger also wrote a book called Quantum Consciousness which specifically deals with the misuse of quantum theory by Hindus (among others.) If you search his name through a general search engine, you will probably find some of his essays on line as well.

    Hope this is useful …

  94. #94 Deen
    January 22, 2010

    @martha: try this article by Steve Novella about QM woo: http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=1231
    I’m sure others will have helpful suggestions too.

  95. #95 Recovered Catholic
    January 22, 2010

    #10 Louis: “…science’s greatest attribute, the fact that it is a universal ideological acid”

    Nice!

  96. #96 robinsrule
    January 22, 2010

    If we’ve accepted the possibility of untestable phenomena…

    If an untestable phenomenon were to occur, why would it be evidence that a god exists?

  97. #97 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    January 22, 2010

    Kamper: “Agreed, we can’t ever _know_ if something is absolutely random, but that doesn’t prevent the existence of such a thing, does it?”

    No. It merely prevents us knowing whether it exists. That makes it rather hard to carry out productive study.

  98. #98 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    I tried to talk to him ? I honestly don’t have any personal animosity to the guy ? but he was mostly rather dour…

    Geez PZ, get over yourself. Did it ever occur to any of you that he was simply having a bad hair day?

  99. #99 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    jdmuys #89 wrote:

    For that to hold, it means the religion mostly has to eventually drop any affirmation on the nature of the physical world and stay within the bounds of the supernatural. This is not a cop out, it’s the only place it’s left. …Conversely, science is not relevant to, nor interest in the supernatural, almost by definition (since there can be no evidence for supernatural, lest it starts being natural).

    No, I think this form of accomodation misses the point on what the so-called New Atheists are saying about science and religion. We are denying the assertion that science is “not relevant to” the supernatural because, by definition, anything with evidence would be natural, so that science can say nothing either way about whether there’s a supernatural.

    On the contrary, we can readily imagine possible evidence — good, strong, convincing scientific evidence — for phenomenon which are considered “supernatural.” If we had this evidence, it wouldn’t make ghosts or ESP or magic or God “natural” — it would show us that the supernatural is true, and part of reality. The fact is, however, that the lack of such evidence is good reason to conclude that there IS no supernatural realm or phenomenon. Science can indeed say something about whether or not God exists.

    The accomodationists instead want to say that the lack of evidence for the supernatural means that we should place the supernatural in its own, special category where we use “other ways of knowing” to confirm it. “God exists” uses the same epistemology as “I love my mommy” or “I need a hug.” It just happens to be a fact claim about the nature of reality which can be handled like this.

    That’s bunk.

    I think then that this means that New Atheists agree with Behe that astrology is included in science — in the sense that, unlike aesthetics or values, it is something that we ought to be able to objectively study if it were true. But it’s not. It’s not included into the scientific model, or body of knowledge — because it fails, on multiple levels.

    So does religion.

  100. #100 Deen
    January 22, 2010

    When a religious doctrine is incompatible with science, it’s just that the religion is wrong. Nothing more. Religions can be wrong, no problem.

    Except that religions have a hard time admitting this when that happens. Has the French Catholic Church actually given up on transubstantiation? On virgin birth? And on Jesus’ bodily resurrection after being dead for three days?

  101. #101 destlund
    January 22, 2010

    Why would something exist in reality that was untestable? Things that exist are testable, and are frequently predicted even before they are proven to exist (black holes?). Something that both defies the laws of reality and is undetectable should be assumed to not exist until evidence of its existence arises (at which point it would be detectable and therefore testable). To postulate such a thing without evidence would seem to simply defy reality. Am I missing something?

  102. #102 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Sastra #99 for the win (not to my surprise).

  103. #103 robinsrule
    January 22, 2010

    @jdmuys:

    …religion mostly has to eventually drop any affirmation on the nature of the physical world and stay within the bounds of the supernatural.

    What makes you think that there is such a thing as the supernatural?

  104. #104 Anri
    January 22, 2010

    AJKamper sez:

    That is, there _is_ a force that interacts with the real world, but it’s completely random.

    Are the reactions of everyone and everything that experiences this ‘force’ utterly random as well?
    If not, it is not utterly random.
    If so, how can we posit they are experiencing a single thing?

    If I understand what you are suggesting, if any two people experiencing this ‘force’ agree on anything – even “We are all experiencing some force mutually” – then this thing is not utterly random.
    In other words, if it caused the same belief in any two people that encountered it, then it has established some pattern, however small, and is not ‘utterly’ random.

    Do I understand your concept of this ‘force’?

  105. #105 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Can the accommodationists please learn to stick to talking about religions that actually exist (or could at least plausibly exist)? This god who is untestable because it never interacts with the natural universe and/or is completely random is no god that anybody we’re talking about in the science vs. religion issue actually believes in. Would such a never-interacting god be testable by science? Of course not, but neither would such a god be believed in, never having interacted with the real to let potential believers know it exists to be believed in. Would such a random god be testable by science? Of course not, but neither would such a god be worshipped, since such a god might reward worshippers one day, smite them the next, ask them to cut of their foreskins the day after, and demand they augment their uncut foreskins with tattoos and jewelry the day after that.

    So you got us. Good job. You’ve successfully argued the Philosophy 101 claim that we can’t know the unknowable. There are possibly some things that no real individual seriously worships as part of a religion that science couldn’t test. Well done. You’ll get full marks for your mid-term paper.

    But every single god who’s ever told a follower to kill others, avoid red meat on Fridays, or worship as the creator of the universe has made testable claims, and those are the gods that most people who claim to be theists believe in.

  106. #106 Deen
    January 22, 2010

    @deslund:

    Why would something exist in reality that was untestable?

    I suppose it depends on what you’d term “reality”. Did you watch the Laurence Krauss lecture that was posted here a few months ago? Cosmologists predict that the rate of expansion of the empty space between the galaxies may accelerate beyond the speed of light (while information and matter can’t move faster than light, empty space likely can). Anyone born at that time would no longer be able to observe any other galaxies outside of our own, because they’d seem to be moving away faster than the speed of light.

    Does that mean that no other galaxies exist anymore? That sounds somewhat silly.

    Although, in a sense, you could say they indeed no longer exist, as those galaxies are no longer a part of the observable and reachable universe. So for all practical purposes, they aren’t there anymore. They might as well not exist.

    So it depends on whether you limit the definition of “reality” to the observable, reachable universe, or if you’d also want to include that which possibly exists beyond that. That doesn’t mean you are free to believe whatever you want about things beyond our horizon, of course. It does mean that it is totally irrelevant to us what’s out there, since it will never affect us.

    Same thing for a posited supernatural realm. If it’s completely unreachable for us, it might as well not exist.

  107. #107 Legion
    January 22, 2010

    Tis Himself:

    Let us suppose that something happens. We don’t know what it is because it’s random and untestable, but we know something happened. Science cannot deal with this sort of something because science needs to be able to examine it and such examination is impossible. If we call in the local theologian and/or guru to explain the unexplainable then there may be an explanation.

    Thanks for translating that.

    AJ’s exercise fails because the existence of an awareness that something has happened, means that the UT (unknown thing) has left “footprints,” in the physical world, which we can detect with our senses and our tools.

    We should then be able apply the scientific method to exploring and understanding the UT.

    This is why stories about ghosts and visits to the afterlife, etc. are always explainable as incidences of illusions, trickery, or brain chemistry gone bad, because the “footprints” are detectable, testable, and ultimately predictable.

    Thus, in order for AJ’s concept of a UT to be true, the UT would have to be undetectable in the physical world — and if that is the case, then that is the same as not existing.

    CliffNotes:
    1. If it exists in the physical world, even for a moment, science is the tool we use to understand it.
    2. If it is completely undetectable, then, it amounts to nothing, which means theists are qualified to handle it.

  108. #108 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    Brownian OM #105 wrote:

    This god who is untestable because it never interacts with the natural universe and/or is completely random is no god that anybody we’re talking about in the science vs. religion issue actually believes in. Would such a never-interacting god be testable by science? Of course not, but neither would such a god be believed in, never having interacted with the real to let potential believers know it exists to be believed in.

    You know, I think there are a lot of people who believe in a God like this — or think they do — because they’re exempting their thoughts and feelings from the natural world, and acting on the assumption that the human mind is basically supernatural. That means that a God which can be known through a “sense of transcendence” or a capacity to love or a moral compass is automatically beyond science, because it’s not interacting with the physical, material world. It’s interacting with the non-physical, immaterial, spiritual world of the Mind. All our thoughts … are little miniature versions of God.

    Obviously, the problem here is that science doesn’t grant that the mind is a spiritual realm beyond science’s ability to grasp or study. So the “God who doesn’t intervene in nature,” does.

    And it gets to be wrong, too.

  109. #109 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Anyone born at that time would no longer be able to observe any other galaxies outside of our own, because they’d seem to be moving away faster than the speed of light. Does that mean that no other galaxies exist anymore? That sounds somewhat silly.

    You’re absolutely right Deen.

    But I think I can safely say that those galaxies probably won’t start telling Africans that condoms spread HIV/AIDS anytime soon or that we categorically shouldn’t eat lobsters or shrimp. Let us know when the GalaxiesWeCanNeverKnowAboutists build a creation museum and claim evolution leads to Hitler.

  110. #110 jdmuys
    January 22, 2010

    @Sastra #99: “the lack of such evidence is good reason to conclude that there IS no supernatural realm or phenomenon”.

    I agree, but this is not my point. My point is that believing otherwise is not incompatible with science, in the sense that I defined.

    Astrology on the contrary makes specific assertions about the world that are factually false. Those assertions are not compatible with science. Some (maybe all) religions make specific assertions about the world that science has shown to be false. The assertions are not compatible with science. To the extent that said religions drop those assertions, they stay compatible with science.

    @Deen #100 “Has the French Catholic Church actually given up on transubstantiation? On virgin birth? And on Jesus’ bodily resurrection after being dead for three days?”

    I cannot speak for the Church, but the catholic I’ve discussed with, including priests, have given up on a physical “transubstantiation”. “Virgin birth” I’m not sure, and “resurrection” I guess not. Nor other miracles. I suppose these are a few gaps left for their god.

    @robinsrule #103: “What makes you think that there is such a thing as the supernatural?”

    Nothing. But if other people want to believe otherwise, I cannot, as a scientist, claim this belief is incompatible with science.

    In a way, it boils down to the old “absence
    of evidence is not evidence of absence”. Therefore it’s not incompatible, however unlikely it would be.

  111. #111 destlund
    January 22, 2010

    Same thing for a posited supernatural realm. If it’s completely unreachable for us, it might as well not exist.

    Well, then it could be argued that such a realm would be reachable for supernatural beings (God/gods/our immortal souls/etc.) by supernatural means. I can’t really argue against that, except that no religion but deism/pantheism is willing to exclude the supernatural from acting in the natural world (except by existing as the natural world).

  112. #112 Legion
    January 22, 2010

    Sastra: #108

    You know, I think there are a lot of people who believe in a God like this — or think they do — because they’re exempting their thoughts and feelings from the natural world, and acting on the assumption that the human mind is basically supernatural. That means that a God which can be known through a “sense of transcendence” or a capacity to love or a moral compass is automatically beyond science, because it’s not interacting with the physical, material world.

    But then they turn right around and ask beg this transcendent entity to intervene in the physical world, in a physical way, by smiting those godless heathens.

  113. #113 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    apples, oranges

    The idea that there could conceivably be a supernatural realm is arguably compatible with science.

    But a belief in the existence of such a realm is not. It cannot be. Science (as a process of thought and deed that produces verifiable knowledge) will not, can not by definition, lead to such a belief. And such a belief will not, can not, lead to any verifiable knowledge whatsoever.

  114. #114 negentropyeater
    January 22, 2010

    jdmuys #89,

    what you write is simply not true ; the catholic church still makes many stupid statements about the natural world that are incompatible with science.
    Here are 3 obvious examples :
    1. do not use condoms
    2. homosexuality is a sin
    3. abortion is a crime against that specially created soul made by God
    In other words, some elements of morality are dictated by God, and only by God.

    As long as religions make such statements about the real world, about ethics, they’ll be incompatible with science.

    Talking about France (I’m French), the catholic church still has some influence on public policy. How can they ifluence public policy if they don’t make statements about the natural world ? Why do you think we still don’t have gay marriage ? Why do we still have those abortion laws ?

    So the situation in France is better than in the US, but we are still not where we should be. And that’s due to the fact that there are far less religious people in France who vote than in the US. Not because the catholic church is the only dominant church and it is supposedly more compatible with science.

    If the current demographics trends continue in France, the religiots (those who say that religion is important in their lives – how can that not be a statement about the natural worlf ? catholics and muslims) will increase as a % of the population, because religiot women have a higher fertility rate and the abandonement of religion is saturating. By 2035, you’ll see how the french public debate is even more poluted by religion as it is today.

    btw, tonight 22:30 on France 2 (the main french public TV channel), there is a debate “Dieu contre la science” (God against science). It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of it, in probably what is one of the least religious country i the world.
    A replay will certainly be viewable on the web, for those francophones amongst you.

  115. #115 Anri
    January 22, 2010

    jdmuys sez:

    For that to hold, it means the religion mostly has to eventually drop any affirmation on the nature of the physical world and stay within the bounds of the supernatural. This is not a cop out, it’s the only place it’s left.

    Clearly this is a very narrow place for the religion to be left in. To a large extent the Catholic Church has always accepted to “water down” their teaching in the light of new scientific findings. I don’t hear any catholic around here try to use their religion as an explanation for any natural phenomenon.

    Conversely, science is not relevant to, nor interest in the supernatural, almost by definition (since there can be no evidence for supernatural, lest it starts being natural).

    I’m not sure I can follow your argument unless I am given a cogent definition of ‘supernatural’. It appears that you are using it to mean ‘things that there is no evidence for but people believe anyway’.
    Unfortunately, given that definition, I’ve never been able to determine the difference between ‘supernatural’ and ‘wrong’ – they seem equivalent.

    Can you clarify?
    Thanks.

  116. #116 jdmuys
    January 22, 2010

    Brownian, Yep but being wrong is OK. What is incompatible with science is being wrong while insisting that you are right.

    To a large extent, the Catholic Church has changed its position a number of time to align it with science.

    Is that religion compatible with science today? Probably not when taken 100% at face value. It has some catch up to do. But many catholic simply decide to disagree with their church when they think it’s wrong.

    So not much change would be necessary for the Catholic Church to become fully compatible with science. The accommodationist position is that it’s more likely to help bring about that change than the antagonist position.

    Or simply that we don’t care. Religion is simply irrelevant, since it doesn’t interfere (it doesn’t around here).

  117. #117 Pastor Farm
    January 22, 2010

    Ladies and gentlemen, I have observed a severe lack of accommodation here. Accomodation of the accommodationists, that is. This is a major concern for me, my friends, as accommodation is–and stay with me here–the work of the Lord.

    Now, I do not need to quote scripture because, frankly, I can’t think of any; but I can quote Benjamin Fanklin. Sadly, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” doesn’t apply in this matter.

    Based on my observations and several anecdotal stories, I do know as an indisputable fact that everyone who worships the God of Abraham has ridiculously different perceptions of Him. This proves that, if nothing else, God is an accommodationist. He patiently puts up with every odd and often perplexing view regarding His politics, gender, and sexual preference. But, do you know who else was an accommodationist? That’s right, Charles Darwin.

    What does this all mean? No, Charles Darwin wasn’t God. What it means is that we are all meant to accommodate. I accommodate your ragged appearances and odd smells when you show to church, the least you could do is accommodate your brothers’ views that Jesus was a sexy bikini model who traveled with 12 men and a hooker. Who’s to say he isn’t right? Who’s to say the Creationists aren’t right? Reality? Ha! Let me tell you friends, I’ve worked in a mental facility and if there’s one thing I may or may not know it is this: reality is a luxury that does not come standard with every vehicle purchased.

    The important thing is that no matter what you believe, God hasn’t smited…smit? smitten?…whatever–He hasn’t killed you yet, so I guess it’s O.K. And if accommodation is good enough for God, then it’s good enough for you.

    Thank you for your time and please don’t forget to tithe. A lot. Seriously, I’m hurting here. Almost as badly as Rick Warren.

  118. #118 jdmuys
    January 22, 2010

    negentropyeater # 114,

    I totally disagree with you: all moral claims are compatible with science. Science is morally neutral.

    (and I’ll make sure to watch TV tonight)

    Anri #115: “I’ve never been able to determine the difference between ‘supernatural’ and ‘wrong’ – they seem equivalent.”

    Hmm do I really have to clarify? You seem to imply that if there is no evidence for an explanation, then it is necessarily wrong?

    Yes supernatural is to me something for which (or against which) there is no evidence. Its truth value is undecidable.

  119. #119 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Sastra wrote:

    You know, I think there are a lot of people who believe in a God like this — or think they do — because they’re exempting their thoughts and feelings from the natural world, and acting on the assumption that the human mind is basically supernatural. That means that a God which can be known through a “sense of transcendence” or a capacity to love or a moral compass is automatically beyond science, because it’s not interacting with the physical, material world. It’s interacting with the non-physical, immaterial, spiritual world of the Mind. All our thoughts … are little miniature versions of God.

    This is why we’ve got to highlight people like VS Ramachandran and other neurologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and sociologists as well as those in the ‘harder’ sciences. All science is not atoms and asteroids, beakers and beaks.

    I think it’s also useful, especially with the soft wooists you’re describing (and I’m not meaning that as perjoratively as it sounds, having been one of those myself), to remind them that many scientists were just like them once and concluded that gods and Bigfoot probably don’t exist after years of looking for them.

    Somewhere on this blog I think PZ linked to a talk/interview/show with a guy who was talking as a skeptic about Bigfoot or UFOs or the Bermuda Triangle but had gone into the study primarily because he was fascinated by such things as a child, teenager and then young man. It was precise his search for evidence of their existence (and finding none) that caused him to be a vocal skeptic.

    Hmm, looking back I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten all the details of this man and his work wrong, except for his being a skeptic as a result of his studies, rather than the close-mindedness we’re often being accused of.

  120. #120 https://me.yahoo.com/hairychris444#96384
    January 22, 2010

    Isn’t there a subsidiary issue of being able to describe supernatural events in meaningful ‘natural’ terms seeing that these are the only ones that we, um, use..?

  121. #121 destlund
    January 22, 2010

    Pastor Farm,

    Rick Warren’s doing just dandy… He came up $900,000 short, but all he had to do was shout that he needed money and $2.4 million rolled in. It’s just further proof that you’re right, though.

  122. #122 jdmuys
    January 22, 2010

    Just one example regarding morality and science:

    “homosexuality is a sin”

    As a scientist I don’t agree nor disagree with that sentence. The word “sin” has no meaning that science can recognize. It simply doesn’t parse.

    In any case it’s not incompatible.

  123. #123 Anri
    January 22, 2010

    Hmm do I really have to clarify? You seem to imply that if there is no evidence for an explanation, then it is necessarily wrong?

    I’m sorry if I gave that impression. To clarify: the belief in something for which there is no evidence is nonsensical.

    Yes supernatural is to me something for which (or against which) there is no evidence. Its truth value is undecidable.

    Do you consider the fact that god has never been detected in any way to be evidence (not conclusive, merely probalistic and circumstantial) that god does not exist?
    If you do, would that move god out of the realm of the supernatural for you?

    Howabout the case where evidence for something exists, but all of the evidence is crap? At what point can one take the statement ‘Hunh, that’s another experiment with zilch effect for ESP’, and move on to ‘Looks like ESP probably doesn’t exist – let’s stop funding it!’ ?

    To put it another way – we have shown that there are some things that ESP does not do. This is evidence. Not complete evidence, not definitive evidence, but evidence nonetheless.

    That’s my take on it at least.

  124. #124 negentropyeater
    January 22, 2010

    jdmuys,

    all moral claims are compatible with science. Science is morally neutral.

    So you mean for example “humans can be divided into races, certain of which are inferior to others” is a moral statement that is compatible with science ?

    You think that “homosexuality is a sinful choice that should be acted against” is a moral statement compatible with science ?

    You don’t think that science has had, especially since the enlightenment, a great deal of influence in the developement of modern ethics ? It hasn’t educated public policy ?

  125. #125 destlund
    January 22, 2010

    The word “sin” has no meaning that science can recognize.

    I would imagine that some anthropologists and etymologists would disagree. Although the word “sin” has a myriad of subjective and personal meanings, its application can be objectively studied. To simply state that homosexuality is a sin an abomination on biblical authority is unscientific, whether incompatible or not; however, religious individuals and institutions almost always shore up these claims with further claims to objective reality, which are (or at least thus far have been) all incompatible with science.

  126. #126 negentropyeater
    January 22, 2010

    jdmuys,

    “homosexuality is a sin”

    As a scientist I don’t agree nor disagree with that sentence. The word “sin” has no meaning that science can recognize. It simply doesn’t parse.

    Ok, so what about :
    Homosexuality should be regarded as being shameful, deplorable, and utterly wrong.

    As a scientist, do you agree with THAT statement ?

  127. #127 Stogoe
    January 22, 2010

    destlund@90:

    Prop 8, and all the state constitutional bans, and DOMA violate the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Why is this any different than Loving vs Virginia?

    Four reasons:
    Alito
    Roberts
    Thomas
    Scalia

  128. #128 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    January 22, 2010

    jdmuys says: “I totally disagree with you: all moral claims are compatible with science. Science is morally neutral”

    Absolute horse puckey! Science is a human endeavor. Humans are social animals whose morality derives from our social nature. We can no more divorce science from our morality than we an divorce it from our cognitive capabilities!

  129. #129 irarosofsky
    January 22, 2010

    Brad Pitt may be compatible with Angelina Jolie, but I don’t have to pay him any attention to be turned on by her.

  130. #130 destlund
    January 22, 2010

    Stogoe,

    *Headdesk* I know you’re right, especially because of what they did yesterday (I’m still aghast). I just can’t understand how they could support such a stance. Legislators make laws and executives enforce (or do not enforce) laws based on politics. The Supreme Court exists for the sake of putting politics aside and judging the constitutionality of those laws. Legislators can make the constitution more just by amendment; how can the judiciary make it less so? These should be rhetorical questions, but they’re obviously not.

  131. #131 windy
    January 22, 2010

    Imagine, for example, a truly unpredictable phenomenon. Not QM-unpredictable, where the probability curve ends up being super-precise, but one that fundamentally can’t be predicted at _any_ level.

    If there is a completely random and unpredictable force that interacts with the physical universe, why don’t we see completely unpredictable things happening at least some of the time? Things occasionally falling up instead of down? Macroscopic objects zapping in or out of existence? Or things exploding without cause? What’s to stop the force from causing nuclear explosions going off randomly, or destroying whole areas of the universe?

    If this “completely random” force is conveniently limited from causing these kinds of effects, does it even make sense to call it completely random?

  132. #132 jdmuys
    January 22, 2010

    negentropyeater #126: “Homosexuality should be regarded as being shameful, deplorable, and utterly wrong”.

    There is no assertion in that statement. It’s a moral judgement. I can’t see anything non-trivial that science can say about it.

    I disagree with it, but not on scientific ground. Of course, the justification of that statement might be a scientifically wrong statement such as “other species do not exhibit homosexual conduct”.

    In that case, science might be used to try and undermine such statement with their believers.

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space #128: “We can no more divorce science from our morality than we an divorce it from our cognitive capabilities!”

    This is unsubstantiated, and even possibly devoid of meaning. If you mean “science sans conscience n’est que ruine de l’Ôme”, maybe, but that’s beside the point.

  133. #133 destlund
    January 22, 2010

    “Homosexuality should be regarded as being shameful, deplorable, and utterly wrong”.

    There is no assertion in that statement. It’s a moral judgement. I can’t see anything non-trivial that science can say about it.

    Science might not be able to agree or disagree with the statement because it is a moral judgment; however, science would be very useful in measuring the effects of such statements on homosexuals, our families, and society at large. Science can help us understand what shame is and whether it is actually of value, in general and in specific situations such as this. The example of homosexuality is a perfect one, because obviously most people find it distasteful or even alarming, and only evidence can show them that their fears are unfounded. Science has plenty to teach us regarding morality.

  134. #134 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    I would also interject to ask if the idea with this currently little discussion is to trivialize religion itself as little more than a series of moral judgements?

    ’cause if so, you’ve gone a long way from addressing whether accomodationists are correct or not.

    just saying.

  135. #135 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    “Homosexuality should be regarded as being shameful, deplorable, and utterly wrong”.
    There is no assertion in that statement. It’s a moral judgement.

    “should be regarded as” = assertion
    “I regard as” = moral judgment

  136. #136 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    especially because of what they did yesterday

    ??

    *runs off to look*

  137. #137 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    … wait, so the upshot of the latest SCOTUS declaration is that now corporations have the same rights as individuals to free speech??

    you’re kidding me?

    why isn’t THAT a pharyngula thread!

    would be way more interesting to discuss.

  138. #138 Strangest brew
    January 22, 2010

    #89 jdmuys

    “A religion can be compatible with science to the extent that it accepts the validity of scientific findings. For example, the Catholic Church readily accepts evolution now.”

    The roman catholic church under PJ2 did, or at least muttered a broad acceptance, with many caveats though!
    Under Benny baby there has apparently been a back peddle somewhat, he likes Intelligent Design as a preference.

    His crony Cardinal Sch÷nberg has been hobnobbing with the Discovery institute almost as soon as the silver hammer fell on JP2′s bonce for the third time!

    Got so gung ho about it he fired the Vatican astronomer in chief because he dared inform Benny baby that ID was in fact a load of cobblers!

    Since then a few pot shots had been taken at Bennies predecessor from the Vatican hierarchy accusing him of making pontifications without all the relevant source material now available.

    Although no details on that material have been released publicly for independent assessment.(Methinks I can sense the murky sticky little fingers of the Discovery Institute leaving dirty great big paw marks over any such mysterious but apparently ‘relevant’ evidence)

    They have not reversed the JP2 edict, they cannot, Papal infallibility or something but they are watering it down as much as they are able!…Mainly by not advertising it.
    ID has been back burnered as a “cultural phenomenon”…they are in somewhat of a muddle !

    Stuck with a theory that they basically detest but grudgingly having to accept as reality.
    They or rather Benny still is holding back from full embrace of ‘Charlie is me darling’!

    He said evolution did not answer all the questions:

    ?Above all it does not answer the great philosophical question, ?Where does everything come from???

    Gloriously vague and uttered more as a dog whistle to his flock!
    Methinks a little introduction to Stellar theory BB physics and Inflationary theory might be a theoretical ‘manage a toi’ to far for most religiotards, and Benny is not the wisest among men, but certainly the slyest!
    Sometimes playing dumb is a wise manoeuvre if not sly!

    “For that to hold, it means the religion mostly has to eventually drop any affirmation on the nature of the physical world and stay within the bounds of the supernatural. This is not a cop out, it’s the only place it’s left.”

    Erm! do they not already?
    They have been leaping for the gaps for several years now trying to stuff their deity down them. Problem is the gaps are getting smaller and Yahweh is a portly fellow!

    “Clearly this is a very narrow place for the religion to be left in. To a large extent the Catholic Church has always accepted to “water down” their teaching in the light of new scientific findings.”

    Grudgingly and protesting all the way.
    Galileo was a case in point…

    It took 23 years for a committee to decide that after 359 years they were at fault, sort of!

    ” Pope John Paul II officially declared that Galileo was right. The formal rehabilitation was based on the findings of a committee of the Academy the Pope (JP2) set up in 1979, soon after taking office. The committee decided the Inquisition had acted in good faith, but was wrong.”

    Impressive!

    “I don’t hear any catholic around here try to use their religion as an explanation for any natural phenomenon.”

    Around here…assuming you are referring to Phayngula… they know better, or should, but that is the problem all major religions are facing, those pesky gaps are diminishing at an alarming rate.

    “Conversely, science is not relevant to, nor interest in the supernatural, almost by definition (since there can be no evidence for supernatural, lest it starts being natural).”

    Yes that is true!

    “(sorry for mentioning only the Catholic Church. It’s my past faith, and I don’t know enough about any other religion to claim anything about them)”

    Fair enough and honest!

    “Another point is that this debate I find interesting is that it’s mostly, if not an entirely, an American one. In my country (France), this is a no-issue. Here, Religion is *irrelevant* to science. Period. To the extent that the teaching of religions does not apply to science at all, they become fully compatible with science. When a religious doctrine is incompatible with science, it’s just that the religion is wrong. Nothing more. Religions can be wrong, no problem”

    Not entirely sure religions would lie down easy with that point!
    And certainly not the RCC.
    If religions are irrelevant to science anyway how can they be compatible?

    The premise can be dismissed leaving just the science fine, but that is not a definition of compatible, if so it is a very draconian one!

    Does that mean that King Arthur and his round table are in themselves compatible with Quantum Thermodynamics?

    “So either the “American” vision is primitive and silly, giving far too much weight to religions (reflecting the American society overall), or the “French” vision is primitive and silly, ignoring a real problem that might eventually blow up in our face because the conditions for its realization are not met [yet|anymore]. I don’t know which is which.”

    Well neither really then again a bit of both.
    I think there are massive pressures in the US from religiotards with a twisted sense of reality but that American society is coping and managing to keep a loose fitting lid on the most strident of excesses, maybe only just but the constitution can help and in some cases hinder….complicated.

    France is more rational in some areas and in others not so much, they have a greater sense of egalitarianism methinks, but they seem to handle it better then most.

    “In any case, accommodation as I tried to explain it above is what is happening here. No muss, no fuss.”

    Yes but the debate is not so much accommodation of religion with science in a odd partnership it is the usurpation of science in total that is the threat.

    And certainly the creationists will fly under the skirts of organised religion in any accommodative procedures to get their delusional bollocks into school science lessons, that is their stated aim after all!

    “I hope I managed to convey what I meant by accommodate without compromising, despite struggling with my English.”

    I think the English is fine but the grasp of what the situation actually is might be a little misunderstood.

  139. #139 destlund
    January 22, 2010

    I’m guessing because it’s simultaneously outrageous and cripplingly depressing. It’s hard to type in the fetal position.

  140. #140 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    The roman catholic church under PJ2 did, or at least muttered a broad acceptance, with many caveats though!
    Under Benny baby there has apparently been a back peddle somewhat, he likes Intelligent Design as a preference.

    this points out the obvious distinction between “people” and “religion”.

    there is NOTHING in the dogma of catholic religion that in and of itself tends to set the ground rules for making catholicism compatible with anything, let alone science.

    it’s entirely dependent on the whim of whoever is at the current helm, one would suppose.

    so, no, the fact that one Pope decided he likes a bit of science on his plate does NOT make Catholicism inherently compatible with science.

    please, if you’re going to make arguments like this, at leas recognize their limitations:

    a person=/religion

    ‘k?

  141. #141 negentropyeater
    January 22, 2010

    jdmuys,

    There is no assertion in that statement.

    READ THE STATEMENT !

    Of course, the justification of that statement might be a scientifically wrong statement such as “other species do not exhibit homosexual conduct”.

    What justification for that statement can you think of that would be scientifically correct ? Or let’s say, what justification could you find with an empirical basis ? If you can’t find of any, why would you think that that statement is justified ?

  142. #142 tomh
    January 22, 2010

    jdmuys wrote:
    But many catholic simply decide to disagree with their church when they think it’s wrong.

    So true. And, at least in America, one of the main things that garden-variety Catholics disagree with Rome on, is evolution. Recent polls show that 42% of American Catholics deny evolution. While this is below the national average of 52%, it still shows that the “official” position doesn’t carry much weight with many Catholics.

  143. #143 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    jdmuys #118 wrote:

    Yes supernatural is to me something for which (or against which) there is no evidence. Its truth value is undecidable.

    I think this is a terrible definition. Or, perhaps, it’s a bad description. For one thing, people who believe in the supernatural — whether it’s ghosts, ESP, God, or cosmic consciousness — never say that they do so for no reason at all, nothing suggests it, nothing counts for it or against it, they just thought they’d do so for kicks and giggles on the spur of the moment, etc. This is what your statement here seems to imply.

    Instead, they will talk about an experience they had, or explain why a supernatural cause is more plausible and convincing to them, than a natural cause, for some existent or event. They’ve considered the world around them, thought about it, and drawn conclusions.

    From the broader perspective, “something which has a truth value which is undecidable” could refer to anything from “which ice cream tastes best” to super-string theory — neither one of which is considered ‘supernatural.’ Would an untested hypothesis automatically be ‘supernatural?’ What about shouts and expressions? I think you need to refine the distinctions better.

    Seems to me that all religions and supernatural beliefs — even the vague and nebulous ones — make claims about the nature of reality which are supported by evidence, and derived through reason. I can’t think of any contrary examples. Can you? (Mind you, I didn’t say the evidence is good, or the reasoning sound — just that the attempt is made.)

    You really can’t hide empirical beliefs from Occam’s Razor, and then say that they’re now ‘compatible with science.’ No. They are hiding from it, to try and duck obligations.

  144. #144 Kel, OM
    January 22, 2010

    It’s possible to be accommodating without being dishonest about it. The problem seems to be that Chris Mooney et al. are distorting the truth or even downright lying in order to get people to support his position. That shouldn’t be what is aspired to.

  145. #145 Kel, OM
    January 22, 2010

    This is only going to lead to the Downfall of Chris Mooney………….
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfoQfL8vJXQThat was hilarious, I laughed pretty hard in parts.

  146. #146 Strangest brew
    January 22, 2010

    #140 Ichthyic

    ‘this points out the obvious distinction between “people” and “religion”.’

    Point of order…
    When one of those “people” happen to be the Papal boss…he is the “religion”

    ‘k?

  147. #148 Steven Mading
    January 22, 2010

    Seems to me that all religions and supernatural beliefs — even the vague and nebulous ones — make claims about the nature of reality which are supported by evidence, and derived through reason. I can’t think of any contrary examples. Can you? (Mind you, I didn’t say the evidence is good, or the reasoning sound — just that the attempt is made.)

    (I’ll use “X” as a standin for your full phrase “are supported by evidence and derived through reason” so I can keep my point below more concise.)

    I think you need to be more clear in what you mean. When you say “all religions [...] make claims about the nature of reality which are [...X...]” A very literal reading of that could simply mean “I’m not implying that everything religions say is [...X...]. I merely mean that for each religion there exists at least two (because you used the plural “claims”) claims that religion makes about the nature of reality which are [...X...]. The religion might also make other claims about reality that are not X, but it makes at least two that are.”

    Now, that’s what the words literally mean, but I don’t think that’s what you meant because if it was then it wouldn’t really have anything to do with the claim that religion and science are compatible. For it to have something to do with the claim that they’re compatible, your statement has to be the much stronger, bolder statement that is tighter than just saying there exist some religious claims in each religion that are “X”. You’d have to say that all the claims the religion makes are X, not just that some exist that are X.

    And that’s where I don’t agree. Does every religion say SOME things that are supported by evidence and derived through reason? Sure, I’d agree with that, simply because every religion, among the other things it says, also says mundane things in addition to its fantastical claims. Sure, the claim that Muhhammed rose to heaven on a winged horse is not reasoned and not evidenced, but the claim that he lived in Medina for a while is, as is the claim that he lived in Mecca for a while.

    Religions make many claims. All it takes for there to be an incompatibility with science is for SOME of those claims to be against reason and against evidence. Not all the members of two sets have to be mutually exclusive in order to call the two sets mutually exclusive. All it takes is one member from each. (In this case, “member” being “a single claim” and “sets” being “the set of all claims that this religion makes.” and “the set of all claims tha science makes”.)

  148. #149 Azkyroth
    January 22, 2010

    What is it with all the “faitheist” stuff?

    I think “invertebratheists” is a much apter label.

    (No offense to our host, of course… :P)

  149. #150 Steven Mading
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: ‘Tis Himself, OM Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 12:13 PM

    Having reread AJKamper’s posts, I know think I understand the specific bullshit he’s trying to peddle.

    Let us suppose that something happens. We don’t know what it is because it’s random and untestable, but we know something happened. Science cannot deal with this sort of something because science needs to be able to examine it and such examination is impossible. If we call in the local theologian and/or guru to explain the unexplainable then there may be an explanation.

    Of course the problem with this idea is that a different theologian and/or guru will have a completely different explanation. A third, fourth, fifth, etc. theologian/guru will each have different explanations. So we have our something that science is incapable of explanation and we can take our pick of an almost infinite number of explanations from our friendly, neighborhood theologians/gurus.

    Here here.

    The way I summarize this idea is this:

    “Of course there’s things science can’t explain (yet?). But in these situations nothing else rally can either. The only difference between scientists and religionists in these situations is that the religionists are more willing to tell the lie that they have the answers that in reality both they and scientists lack.”

  150. #151 swinebro
    January 22, 2010

    @AJKAmper
    Ah, the old god of the gaps. If current science can’t explain it then goddit. How original.

  151. #152 swinebro
    January 22, 2010

    Why can’t we just look on in wonder and do our damdest to find out what’s going on?

  152. #153 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    Steven Mading #148 wrote:

    Does every religion say SOME things that are supported by evidence and derived through reason? Sure, I’d agree with that, simply because every religion, among the other things it says, also says mundane things in addition to its fantastical claims.

    I’ll clarify: religious people believe that the fantastical claims are supported by evidence, and derived from reason. It’s not “faith” all the way down. Why do they believe that Muhhammed rose to heaven on a winged horse? They have the evidence of their book, where the witness wrote the testimony down. Or, perhaps, they have the evidence of the mystic who had a reliable vision (not all that up on that particular example.) There’s the evidence, and there’s their reasoning. It is persuasive. They are persuaded.

    Bad evidence, and bad reasoning. And we can take it apart, analyze it, and show the flaws and problems. And try to persuade them the other way.

    The accomodationists, on the other hand, want special rules for religious beliefs: they’re like values, or ideals, or emotions, or preferences, or a sense of identity and belonging — anything and everything that can’t be taken apart, analyzed, and shown to be wrong. Nobody should attempt to form consensus through persuasion, because religious people can’t handle that sort of thing.

    Sure they can. They’re not babies. Not all of them.

  153. #154 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    Is that religion compatible with science today? Probably not when taken 100% at face value. It has some catch up to do. But many catholic simply decide to disagree with their church when they think it’s wrong.

    This is the argument that really makes me want to rip out my hair from frustration. Religious apologists point to “moderate” religions and say “See? They don’t believe many weird things. They agree with science on most of it.” Then if you do point out a more extreme sect, they come back with “Sure, but the majority of the practitioners don’t actually believe all of those things; they know better than that.” Then why are they adherents of that religion in the first place? If they have already gone so far as to decide that the truth of individual statements within the creed of the religion they follow is subject to what they feel like believing, why bother with any of it? That is self-contradictory compartmentalizing delusion in as pure a sense as it can get. A Catholic saying that they think the Pope is wrong about birth control is admitting that they think they know more about truth than the Pope. So why listen to him on anything else? Why follow any religion after you’ve admitted that you listen to just the cherry-picked rules that you like the best?

    I honestly don’t get it. It’s like saying that the Emperor has no clothes, going up to him and feeling his bare skin, noting that he has no shirt, no pants, no underwear, and then…getting into a fight with someone else because you would rather describe his belt as brown instead of black.

  154. #155 Andyo
    January 22, 2010
    #154

    Posted by:
    Carlie Author Profile Page |
    January 22, 2010 6:41 PM

    Then why are they adherents of that religion in the first place? If they have already gone so far as to decide that the truth of individual statements within the creed of the religion they follow is subject to what they feel like believing, why bother with any of it? That is self-contradictory compartmentalizing delusion in as pure a sense as it can get. A Catholic saying that they think the Pope is wrong about birth control is admitting that they think they know more about truth than the Pope. So why listen to him on anything else? Why follow any religion after you’ve admitted that you listen to just the cherry-picked rules that you like the best?

    I honestly don’t get it. It’s like saying that the Emperor has no clothes, going up to him and feeling his bare skin, noting that he has no shirt, no pants, no underwear, and then…getting into a fight with someone else because you would rather describe his belt as brown instead of black.

    I ask myself the same question, but I understand why at least the ones I know do. I mean I don’t think anyone here is saying that people can’t compartmentalize (in fact it’s the basis of the faitheists’ disingenuous straw man), but they obviously do because they hope for something “more”. I know that much is obvious, but specifically, I think many people are concerned of loved ones who died, more than their own salvation.

  155. #156 WowbaggerOM
    January 22, 2010

    Carlie, #154

    Yep, that’s pretty much how I look at it as well. I find the whole ‘Well, I believe in some of it, but not other bits of it’ to be more than a little mindboggling – though not half as perplexing as the rationalisations that those lined up for pick-cherries at the Christian Cafeteria use to justify themselves.

    [cough] genre defence! [cough]

  156. #157 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Andyo #155

    I mean I don’t think anyone here is saying that people can’t compartmentalize (in fact it’s the basis of the faitheists’ disingenuous straw man), but they obviously do because they hope for something “more”. I know that much is obvious, but specifically, I think many people are concerned of loved ones who died, more than their own salvation.

    Fine, they can hope that Great Aunt Tilly is squatting on a cloud plucking a harp. That’s all fine and good. It does not explain why having your kid’s foreskin cut off or insisting on a 6000 year old Earth is necessary for some of these people.

  157. #158 Andyo
    January 22, 2010
    #157

    Posted by:
    ‘Tis Himself, OM Author Profile Page |
    January 22, 2010 9:05 PM

    Andyo #155

    I mean I don’t think anyone here is saying that people can’t compartmentalize (in fact it’s the basis of the faitheists’ disingenuous straw man), but they obviously do because they hope for something “more”. I know that much is obvious, but specifically, I think many people are concerned of loved ones who died, more than their own salvation.

    Fine, they can hope that Great Aunt Tilly is squatting on a cloud plucking a harp. That’s all fine and good. It does not explain why having your kid’s foreskin cut off or insisting on a 6000 year old Earth is necessary for some of these people.

    I could be wrong, but I think Carlie was talking about the wishy-washy ones, not the fundamentalists. I also agree with her, in weird sense, I respect the fundamentalists for being more consistent, but I can see why the “moderates” refuse to renounce their own diluted religion altogether. One of my more religious aunts (catholic) had her teenage son die, I don’t even want to have a conversation on religion with her.

  158. #159 Andyo
    January 22, 2010

    btw sorry for the long blockquotes, I’m fine-tuning my quoting. It’s easier to quote from the page source cause it preserves all formatting.

  159. #160 swinebro
    January 22, 2010

    @151. Um, that’s goddidit. Have another drink.

  160. #161 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    When one of those “people” happen to be the Papal boss…he is the “religion”

    as any good catholic will tell you, and have told us here on occasion, papal infallibility is NOT part of current catholic dogma.

    so.. not the best example to use.

    hmm, maybe Sun Myung Moon is closer…

    still, exceptionalism doesn’t warrant retraction.

  161. #162 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    Andyo – basically, yes. The wishy-washy ones, but also the ones who do belong to fundamentalist groups but sneak around on the side getting birth control and drinking and all because well, the church just isn’t right about those particular things. I’m sure it’s partly a function of my early fundamentalist training that “either it’s all true or none of it is”, but it seems so weird to believe that on the one hand these are universal truths handed down by the Almighty God, but on the other hand you can just pick and choose which ones are really true because you know more than the entire history of your religion and all its authority figures, yet then again you still stick with them. Either the tenets of your own religion are true or they’re not, right? And if you think they screwed one up, how do you have any confidence in the rest?

  162. #163 Rorschach
    January 23, 2010

    Lets hear it from the horses mouth shall we !

    PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins on accomodationism

  163. #164 Strangest brew
    January 23, 2010

    #161

    “The Vatican Council has defined as “a divinely revealed dogma” that “the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra ? that is, when in the exercise of his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians he defines, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church ? is, by reason of the Divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed in defining doctrines of faith and morals; and consequently that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of their own nature (ex sese) and not by reason of the Church’s consent” (Densinger no. 1839 ? old no. 1680).”

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm#IV

    Ichthyic…

    I apologise if my comprehension is awry….but this seems to indicate the state within the Holy Roman Catholic Church with regards to the premise of the Pope and infallibility being certainly very much the current catholic dogma.

    Shorter version…

    What Benny say’s goes!

  164. #165 Paul W.
    January 23, 2010

    I posted something over at The Intersection that people here might be interested in.

    It’s an framing analysis of Orzel’s argument—why, despite its patent invalidity, people think it makes sense, because they automatically interpret it as an argument from authority.

    Matti K.,

    So, according to Mr. Mooney, the existence of religious scientists is an argument for the compatibility of science and religion.

    Yes, except that it?s pretty clear that Chad?s argument, as stated, doesn?t actually work. Chad himself acknowledged as much when I said that his argument works fine to show that astrology is compatible with science, too. He turned around and asked for a significant number of prominent and respected scientists who believe in astrology.

    He was implicitly acknowledging that his simplistic argument isn?t at all what it purports to be?–it?s not just a matter of what ?compatible? means, and the fact that some people manage to do both science and religion.

    I think it?s obvious that?s what?s really going on is an appeal to authority?–and that Chad himself reflexively thinks of it that way. He doesn?t believe his mis-definition of ?compatibility? or his superficial argument any more than I do, or it wouldn?t matter whether the scientists in question were prominent or respected.

    What people who don?t see the invalidity of the argument are doing is ?filling in? that argument for him, automatically, without him having to state it and be responsible for it. It?s framing, not logic.

    What they?re really thinking (IMHO) is that a bunch of smart scientists can?t all be wrong about whether science and religion are compatible.

    Well, there are plenty of scientists who think that the mainstream religions are not compatible with science. Could this be used as an argument for anything?

    Yes, if we tease out the presuppositions that make people think Chad?s argument is anything but dopey, as I just tried to do.

    It?s really an intuitive appeal to the authority of numerous smart scientists, reinforced by Chad talking about how insulting it would be to those smart religious scientists to say that science and religion are incompatible, as though that were relevant. (Who are we to judge those good people and say not-nice things about their beliefs?)

    If we make that appeal to authority explicit, then what you?re asking about becomes entirely relevent?–the central issue, even.

    The obvious counterargument is an even better appeal to authority. The majority of top scientists are atheists, and many of them think that science and religion are not compatible.

    Who is Chad or Chris to disagree with those numerous prominent and respected scientists?

    I?ll happily stack scientists like Hawking and Stephen Weinberg up against folks like Collins and Miller any day.

  165. #166 SC OM
    January 23, 2010

    Paul W., well said, and I think you’re quite right.

  166. #167 Knockgoats
    January 23, 2010

    Some respected people are not that dead against the accommodationist position. – jdmuys

    No accommodation with the accommodationists!
    No accommodation with those promoting accommodation with the accommodationists!
    No accommodation with those promoting accommodation with those promoting accommodation with the accommodationists!
    No accommodation with those promoting accommodation with those promoting accommodation with those promoting accommodation with the accommodationists!
    ……..

  167. #168 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 23, 2010

    Knockgoats,

    Be careful, you’re allowing a little wiggle room for those promoting accommodation with those promoting accommodation with those promoting accommodation with those promoting accommodation with the accommodationists!

  168. #169 Walton
    January 23, 2010

    Ichthyic is wrong above. Papal infallibility is a part of Roman Catholic dogma, and has been so since the nineteenth century.

    However, it is also important to understand that the Pope’s statements are only deemed infallible when he speaks ex cathedra. Infallibility, accordingly, does not apply to the vast majority of the Pope’s statements. In fact, the dogma of papal infallibility has only once been invoked by a pope since the nineteenth century; in 1950, to proclaim the perpetual virginity of Mary.

    It’s complete lunacy, of course, but it’s important to understand the boundaries of the lunacy.

  169. #170 Knockgoats
    January 23, 2010

    ‘Tis Himself@168

    Hence the “…….”! Intended to represent indefinite continuation.

  170. #171 Paul
    January 25, 2010

    Walton @169 is correct, and damn him for beating me to pointing that out! I kid, nice contribution.

    However, Ichthyic isn’t wholly wrong, either. If you go up to a lay Catholic and present them with the following hypothetical, I am pretty sure they’ll come up with a variation of Ichthyic’s “infallibility isn’t dogma anymore”:

    The Pope has declared ex cathedra that using birth control is a Mortal sin, being the same as murder, morally.

    It’s true that according to dogma, Papal Infallibility only applies when the Pope speaks ex cathedra. However, due to the lack of exercise of this right, many lay Catholics don’t even know about this specific requirement in invoking infallibility. It’s also unclear if they would accept a pronouncement (or schism) if the Pope actually acquired the guts to use it on something that might be in any way controversial to the lay public. I think one could make a good argument that current Catholics would not accept the Pope as infallible on many issues even if he did the proper song and dance, much like they ignore the Vatican’s stance on contraceptives.

  171. #172 Paul W.
    January 25, 2010

    SC et al.,

    Thanks for all the kudos earlier in the thread. You may be interested in this comment I posted in the Comity and Reconciliation thread.

    It summarizes how I think “New Atheists” generally see science and religion, and how accommodationism is bogifying two central ideas of science. (About falsifiability, and the significance of unfalsifiablity—it doesn’t mean you should be “agnostic” toward the unfalsifiable.)

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/01/comity_and_reconciliation.php#comment-2225963

    I argue that the accommodationists are basically denialists about the science relevant to religion, and misrepresenting both particular science and deep scientific principles in a way that they’d normally be aghast about, i.e., if somebody was defending anything but mainstream religion in that way.

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