Stranger Fruit

Data-free framing courtesy of Nisbet

Matt Nisbet has coughed up yet another post on PZ and framing. It begins:

You don’t have to be a social scientist to recognize that the distribution of opinion among people who comment at Scienceblogs is very different from the perspective found among the wider science community and even among leaders in the atheist movement.

As I pointed out:

This is a little data-free, now isn’t it? No information on views "among the wider science community" and a link to a single comment by D.J. Grothe (who may or may nor be a leader "in the atheist movement"). As I said before, the issue here is not atheism (something which, may I say, I’m ambivalent about). You just seem to think it is. And that "framing" device seems to suit your needs.

The underlying motif of Nisbet’s post is simple – people here at Scienceblogs aren’t giving me any respect, but look folks, I get to wander around the country (Princeton!) telling people about "framing" and they like me, they really really like me. So, I’ll repeat my challenge to Matt:

As a self-appointed expert on how to deal with creationists, Nisbet needs to buy a clue. He’s like that annoying person who continually says "you’re doing it wrong" without actually rolling up his sleeves and helping out. He’s convinced of his own correctness and, frankly, his condescending tone is getting annoying. While he’s wandering around the country, yapping on about "framing" and how the scientists are doing it wrong, some of us scientists are actually attempting to get something done; attempting to educate the public, to educate our students, and to work against creationist incursions into public school curricula. That is, we are actively "promoting science" – which is more than Nisbet is doing.

So what about it Matt? What about doing something practical? Something beyond "you’re doing it wrong." What about doing some grass-roots work with activists in Florida or Texas?

Comments

  1. #1 chezjake
    March 29, 2008

    Maybe it helps to *not* be a social scientist when it comes to recognizing that advocating “framing” without producing any useful “frames” is essentially equivalent to advocating the “theory” of Intelligent Design without any demonstrable evidence to back it up.

  2. #2 Coturnix
    March 29, 2008

    He caught me at a bad time – when I was in a bad mood AND had plenty of time to write a comment there…

  3. #3 John Lynch
    March 29, 2008

    And quite an excellent comment it was. Money shot:

    Then you came, Matt, and fucked up. You are the one who started talking about religion, about science, about atheism, all that crap. You are the one who turned a beautifully negative frame of Expelled into a negative frame of PZ and Dawkins. By doing this you demonstrated that you don’t know shit about framing. As you have no official expertise in anything else, your authority on anything you say now is absolutely Zero. If you posted a recipe for boiled eggs tomorrow, people would not trust you.

    Of course, he’ll do to you what he ended up doing to me … ignoring any voice that calls him out.

  4. #4 Old Bogus
    March 29, 2008

    They’re everywhere. In progressive communities. In social contact sights. Even adult communities.

    Their name in cyberspace is “trolls”; their name in meat space is “bullies”. Either way they are best ignored or ridiculed. Or banned. OTOH, I realize it isn’t easy being smarter than everyone else. Or so I’ve heard.

  5. #5 Bubba Sixpack
    March 29, 2008

    Nisbet is perfectly suited to be a Democratic Party strategist — he would fit right in: go with and even promote the other side’s frame and then blame your own side for adopting a strong frame against the other side.

    Not exactly a brilliant strategy. Look at how well it’s working out for the Dem congress.

  6. #6 Scote
    March 29, 2008

    Good ole Nisbet. Science Blog’s very own resident Concern Troll.

  7. #7 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2008

    Coturnix said,

    If you posted a recipe for boiled eggs tomorrow, people would not trust you.

    Step 1. Obtain an egg, without provoking undue grievances from the vegan community.

    Step 2. Acknowledge that people of all faiths can find common ground in the boiling of water.

    Step 3. Do not let it be known that atheists do, upon occasion, cook and eat boiled eggs, as the widespread advertisement of this fact will only drive religious moderates further into the camp of fried eggs and hash browns. . . .

  8. #8 Dana Hunter
    March 30, 2008

    Blake Stacey, I needed a belly laugh, and you delivered. Brilliant! My computer is grateful I hadn’t taken a drink before I read your comment!

    Speaking of grass-roots work, John, I was just thinking it’s time we started knocking on doors and handing out little pamphlets. What pushed me over the edge tonight was having my best friend, a reasonably smart and rational person, spout an IDiot talking point at me, courtesy of his “rational and logical” church. These poor folks in the pews are getting their heads stuffed with outrageous nonsense. And being sweet-natured and accomodating and careful not to offend won’t do a damn thing to counter the lies.

  9. #9 Matthew C. Nisbet
    March 30, 2008

    John,
    I’ve worked directly with a number of activists, not-for-profits, and government agencies on this topic.

    And over the last year, in articles, talks, blog posts, and media interviews I have been detailing a very specific strategy for effectively engaging the public on evolution. My recommendations reflect directly the strategy researched and tested by the National Academies. For a quick summary, see this link:

    http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/2008/03/at_the_national_academies_rese.php

  10. #10 Scote
    March 30, 2008

    Nisbet is continuing his call at his blog for PZ and Dawkins to shut up. His choice of spokesperson? Francis Collins. Yup. He wants the person who saw a frozen waterfall as proof of Jesus and considers atheism “irrational” to be the spokesperson for rational belief and evolution…

    We are trying to get people to be rational about evolution. Francis Collins rationality goes out the window when God enters the picture, so he may not really be the best ally and spokesperson. Heck, smart as he his he may decide that man was ID’d, based on his religious convictions.

    It’s hard to tell if Nisbet really wants to teach evolution or if he has a pro-religious, anti-atheist agenda. His choice of Collins, who considers atheists “irrational,” suggests the latter.

  11. #11 Scote
    March 30, 2008

    If you can’t say it in a sentence, it isn’t a frame.

    Note that the master framer can’t frame his position or sum up his proposed frame in his post.

  12. #12 Scote
    March 30, 2008

    I don’t usually cross post, but Nisbet annoys me, so this is the additional musing on frames I posted at his blog:

    A frame is a way of making people see your position in a favorable light, and of putting your opponent at a disadvantage. Frames are rhetorical devices, tools that know neither right from wrong. And frames must be simple and clear.

    Frames can be invoked by the choice of a single word: Pro-Life, Pro-Choice. Each is a frame. Who could be against life or choice?

    Creationists have a frame for evolution: Godless. It isn’t a rational frame, but then, frames don’t need to be rational to be successful. It’s short and its all they need. Everything else is just piled on top of that one frame.

    What’s your frame for Evolution? Quick. Make it one word, if you can. But obviously you can’t, because you haven’t. Your suggestion? Follow “the best communication strategy, as the National Academies concludes through focus groups and polling” and “emphasize evolution in terms of medical and social progress and to reassure the public that there is no conflict between evolution and the majority of religious traditions. ” Mmm…what a great frame…So short and concise… Don’t get me wrong, that data is useful, but it isn’t a frame, and this is “Framing Science,” after all.

    So, what’s your frame? Is it “there is no conflict between evolution and the majority of religions?” Are you ignoring the studies that show repeating accusations tend to re-enforce them? And people forget the negation? Aren’t you the communication expert? How could you be so sloppy? So far, you haven’t proposed a real and useful rhetorical frame.

    What’s my perfect frame? I don’t have one! And I don’t have to. I’m not the academic who runs the “How to Frame Science” blog and who’s trying to tell everyone else they are doing it wrong and that he has the answers! So, please, please put your framing where your blogging fingers are–or, perhaps better for science, don’t.

  13. #13 Thony C.
    March 30, 2008

    Mr Nisbet keeps posting unsubstantiated claims about how, all over the US of A, he has wonderful discussions with lots and lots of very important people who all think that he is the one true carrier of the flame, for somebody who is a professor of communication he displays an incredible level of naivety. If one goes to a punk rock concert the vast majority of people in the audience are punk rock fans, if you go to see the good old Grateful Dead then chances are you are going to be surrounded by Dead Heads, if you go to an invited lecture by Professor Dr. Matthew C. Nisbet then almost certainly most of the people in attendance are going to be people who agree with the very publicly stated views of Professor Dr. Matthew C. Nisbet! It’s the way these things work, the same is true of a public appearance of PZ, John Lynch or anybody else who has a public profile.

  14. #14 John Lynch
    March 30, 2008

    My recommendations reflect directly the strategy researched and tested by the National Academies.

    You’ve run polls and focus groups, or as you put it “audience research” into “frames of reference”. All of which amounted to “you’re doing it wrong”. Nothing concrete (beyond kill PZ & Dawkins).

    So again I call for some practical involvement. Surprise me … Tell me that somewhere you called the creationists out about their lies and distortions. Tell me that somewhere you actually argued for science education.

    *chirp*

    Didn’t think so.

    You are like the only other communications ‘expert’ we’ve seen weight in on this issue – John Angus Campbell. For you guys it’s all about rhetoric and “framing”.

  15. #15 Matthew C. Nisbet
    March 30, 2008

    John,

    You write: “Tell me that somewhere you called the creationists out about their lies and distortions. Tell me that somewhere you actually argued for science education…”

    If you knew anything about my professional background before graduate school, you would know that I have done exactly what you call for.

    But you also miss the point. On Expelled, I’m not the person nor is PZ the one to be delivering the frames that are likely to be effective. You have to match the frame with the right opinion leader or spokesperson.

    In this case, some ideal candidates would be NCSE, the National Academies, Francis Collins, Ken Miller…

  16. #16 PZ Myers
    March 30, 2008

    Matt, think about your audience.

    You’re on science blogs. This is a community of people specifically interested in communicating to the public; if there is one thing we’re selected for, it’s our willingness to participate in public outreach. We care about this stuff. We were all enthused about having a communications expert join the group. We were receptive to what you had to say.

    On the other hand, I’m just another guy with a point of view here. About a third of the Sbers can’t stand me, another third (this may be an underestimate) find me tolerable but also find me incredibly annoying at times. Our host here would probably back up that assertion for you.

    Yet look at what you’ve done! You’ve got this audience largely supportive of me, and you’ve managed to alienate most of them from your position. If I were in your position, I wouldn’t be at all bothered because I’m one of the local loose cannons and I’m happy to charge into a fray solo…but you’re the guy whose supposed to have the skill to steer opinion, to show by example how to shape the discourse. And so far you’ve been an embarrassing flop at it.

    All I can say is…keep talking, Matt. You’re soaking up a lot of criticism that might be coming my way, otherwise.

  17. #17 Monado, FCD
    March 30, 2008

    My one-word frame: “Evidence.” And I’ll take a side bet on “hypocrites” (ID folks, that is).

  18. #18 John Pieret
    March 30, 2008

    There is zero chance PZ or Dawkins are going to follow Nisbet’s “advice” to shut up. So Nisbet, instead of whinning about them and alienating the people who are presently communicating science to the public, should be searching for a frame to explain how a few active atheists do not speak for the scientific community as a whole or, more importantly, for science itself. His present “frame” is having the exact opposite effect by uniting so many behind the people he wants to isolate.

  19. #19 J. J. Ramsey
    March 30, 2008

    Scote: “If you can’t say it in a sentence, it isn’t a frame.”

    Says who?

    Also, I’m not sure that it’s really true that Nisbet isn’t offering concrete advice. Look at the advice that he has offered:

    * Let religious scientists, not atheists, be the spokespersons for evolution.
    * Emphasize how evolution ties into medical advances

    That is fairly straightforward. Whether it is good advice is another story, as is whether it is backed up by data.

  20. #20 Matti K.
    March 30, 2008

    Nesbit said:

    “But you also miss the point. On Expelled, I’m not the person nor is PZ the one to be delivering the frames that are likely to be effective. You have to match the frame with the right opinion leader or spokesperson.

    In this case, some ideal candidates would be NCSE, the National Academies, Francis Collins, Ken Miller…”

    Then why not pull strings so that these fine scientists speak out in a frame you like? I’m sure none of the atheist scientists (not even the “fundamentalists”) will tell them to shut up for the common good.

    Ordering scientists to shut up about their worldview will certainly not shut up those scientists (especially not PZ). Moreover,such naive and paternalistic attitude pisses off even those scientists, who find PZ an obnoxious know-it-all. Is gaining antipathy among scientists absolutely necessary for your cause or for your career?

  21. #21 HP
    March 30, 2008

    Scote, I’ve got your one-word frame right here. It’s simple, blunt, and anyone can use it:

    Scientist = honest

    Every time you use the word scientist, use the word honest.

    For example: Scientists with the NOAA today released their latest honest appraisal of the evidence for anthropegenic global climate change.”

    And the great thing about scientist = honest as a frame is that it works even if you say something negative:

    “Divisive and caustic scientist PZ Myers once again alienated millions of Americans when he expressed his honest opinion of religion.”

    It doesn’t even have to be true. Just keep linking the word scientist with the word honest.

  22. #22 TomH
    March 30, 2008

    “Also, I’m not sure that it’s really true that Nisbet isn’t offering concrete advice. Look at the advice that he has offered:

    * Let religious scientists, not atheists, be the spokespersons for evolution.
    * Emphasize how evolution ties into medical advances”

    OK, where are they? Where are they speaking out? I don’t read them in the paper, I don’t hear them on the TV news. Where are the rational voices when the IDiots show up at the school board meetings demanding another book be banned or another ‘view point’ be taught? (Or Post-It notes be put in textbooks.) Where are the producers of that new movie, ‘Bamboozled!”? You know, the one that shows how the creationists are twisting science and lying to the public?

    I don’t see them and many other folks don’t see them either. All I see is Ann Curry trotting out the old anti vaccination ‘debate’ on Today. Where is the letter that was sent to the producers of Today to explain what a mistake that was?

    It’s not like speech is some sort of zero-sum game where one person has to be quiet before someone else can talk. If Nisbet feels that we need to have someone besides PZ or Dawkins speak, then have them jump up on their favorite podium and get to it. And whoever they are, their audiences will be a diverse mix of folks who will respond to different ‘frames’, so that will require many speakers or, at least, many different frames.

    It seems to me there needs to be more talking and less talking about how to talk.

    TomH

  23. #23 Jim RL
    March 30, 2008

    I just don’t understand how we are supposed to get anything done if only a handful of people are allowed to speak for the pro-science side. If my school board is considering adopting ID proposals, am I supposed to sit back and wait for Ken Miller or Francis Collins to show up so I don’t inadvertantly upset religious folks in the audience? I guarantee the yokels arguing for ID won’t wait for their superstars to show up.

    It’s naive to think that there can be some top-down overarching strategy. Let each pro-science advocate discuss the evolution/creationism debate in a frame that resonates with them. Odds are others will agree with it. Shutting up won’t get us anywhere.

  24. #24 Karst
    March 30, 2008

    From Comment #21:

    “Scientist = honest
    Every time you use the word scientist, use the word honest.
    For example: “Scientists with the NOAA today released their latest honest appraisal of the evidence for anthropegenic global climate change.” ”

    Interesting idea. But it is liable to lead to the average person who distrusts science and evolution quickly responding to the word “honest” with a revulsion and a substitution mentally of the word “dishonest” for the word “honest.”

    Just think about the fact that the Fox News frame of “fair and balanced” now is instantly translated as “unfair and unbalanced” by most of the reality-based community.

  25. #25 decrepitoldfool
    March 30, 2008

    Good point about FOX, Karst. I’ll never be able to use “Fair and balanced” again – they’ve ruined it.

    Matt, you’re arguing with success. RD and PZ are obviously reaching a LOT of people, communicating effectively. Have you missed the whole trend in advertising towards edgy and offensive? Communication specialists with a lot more zeros on their paychecks than you are getting good results for major corporations that way.

    I spent some not-so-good years of my life in fundamentalist churches, did some preaching back then. Wish I could have those years back, or at least undo the damage I did. Inspired by this thread, here are my former fundamentalist preacher’s tips on communicating with fundamentalists. If anyone finds any of them useful, feel free to swipe them.

  26. #26 J. J. Ramsey
    March 30, 2008

    TomH: “OK, where are they? Where are they speaking out?”

    I said Nisbet was offering concrete advice, not whether it was being heeded (or even if it was good advice).

  27. #27 Scote
    March 30, 2008

    Scote: “If you can’t say it in a sentence, it isn’t a frame.”

    Says who?

    Also, I’m not sure that it’s really true that Nisbet isn’t offering concrete advice. Look at the advice that he has offered:

    * Let religious scientists, not atheists, be the spokespersons for evolution.
    * Emphasize how evolution ties into medical advances

    Yes, you are right, I oversimplified the concept of framing. Generally, I think good framing is so simple it fits into a sentence. –Now you may note that I just did something Nisbet hasn’t been doing, I admitted error, made a correction and moved on. he should try it sometime, if he’s capable of admitting error at all.

    However, the advice he gave isn’t framing, per se, but a strategy. Part one may be though, because many scientists are atheists–far more than the general population. Nisbet’s answer is to use religious scientists. Yes, really. He proposes that Francis “a frozen waterfall proved the trinity to me” Collins. The idea of silencing atheist scientists is abhorrent and anti-scientific, not to mention anti-atheist. But, you say, perhaps it’s necessary to make our point? If we have to make our point by locking all the atheist scientists in the closet then, I say, we’ve lost our point and our way.

    Science works.

  28. #28 MRW
    March 30, 2008

    Of course we need to frame our arguments – it’s hard to make an argument without doing so, but I have a problem with Nisbet and Mooney as voices of authority on this.

    Nisbet’s broad advice basically boils down to using common ground to persuade. One would think that he would have quite a lot of common ground to work with in persuading other science bloggers. They tend to be on the same side of many issues (evolution/creationism, global warming…). They are interested in communication (after all, they’re blogging). Yet, Nisbet can’t build on this common ground. Why are we to believe that he can advise others on how to do this with people with whom they have less common ground?

    Nisbet also criticizes actions that mostly energize the base and arm it. Repeated targets are PZ Myers and Al Gore.

    While Nisbet seems unable to effectively use the strategy, Mooney seems to advocate it while ignoring it in some of his own writing and talks. Mooney’s book’s title (The Republican War on Science) seems to contradict all the rules. The title clearly sets up a “conflict frame”, and the book seems to do little more than energize and arm the base. I enjoyed the book, but I’m part of Mooney’s base on that issue.

  29. #29 scote
    March 30, 2008

    errata: “Part one may be though” should read “Part one may be tough”

  30. #30 dubiquiabs
    March 30, 2008

    Respect where respect is due:
    Nisbet for pope !

  31. #31 Aerik
    March 30, 2008

    The hard part about using common ground to persuade: there actually has to be common ground! Or if there is, you have to be able to find it. Sad fact is, most religions are not compatible with science. By the sheer basis of faith. Faith is incompatible with science and Nisbet had better well learn to live with it.

  32. #32 michaelf
    March 30, 2008

    It seems Nisbet and the framers are looking for a short term acceptance of science by the public – as if it were a political candidate running for office or some product that can be bought, but scientists are looking for a long term scientific literacy of the public. You cannot sell science, you have to learn it. A shallow understanding of science doesn’t contribute anything to society – just as soundbites don’t contribute anything to the political debate.

  33. #33 J. J. Ramsey
    March 30, 2008

    Aerik: “Sad fact is, most religions are not compatible with science. By the sheer basis of faith. Faith is incompatible with science and Nisbet had better well learn to live with it.”

    Careful here. “Faith” is one of those words that is so fuzzy in meaning that it is practically worthless to bandy it around in criticism of religion. If you want to say “belief without evidence,” say “belief without evidence.” If you want to say “trust,” say “trust.” Of course, you then need to establish that whatever you mean by “faith” is a necessarily part of religion, which may not be as trivial as you think.

    As it stands, your complaint is too vague to be useful.

  34. #34 Tyler DiPietro
    March 30, 2008

    J.J.,

    I don’t want to irritate John by further hijacking the thread, but I suppose you could concrete-ify the critique of “faith” thusly: religion and science are fundamentally different in that they reason in different directions. Religions reasons backwards from the prior assumption of its own correctness, which is in most respect the opposite direction of scientific reasoning. For instance, most Christian theologians would agree that a non-negotiable tenet of Christian “faith” is the truth of the ressurrection, and thus no argument or contrary evidence can defeat that basic proposition. Science, however, has at best a few minimal epistemological assumptions behind its operation, with everything else dependent upon strenth of evidence.

  35. #35 Aerik
    March 31, 2008

    Tyler gets it. I think we’ve been going by the “belief without evidence” definition (you know, the right one) for a long time on scienceblogs. So, uh, yeah. Don’t think I confused anybody. Even you knew what I meant specifically, so how exactly was it so vague to begin with?

  36. #36 J. J. Ramsey
    March 31, 2008

    Tyler DiPietro: “For instance, most Christian theologians would agree that a non-negotiable tenet of Christian ‘faith’ is the truth of the ressurrection, and thus no argument or contrary evidence can defeat that basic proposition.”

    That’s not quite true. A Christian, especially a conservative Christian, could easily say that “Jesus resurrected from the grave” is in principle a falsifiable position, and that it just so happens that there has not been sufficient contrary evidence.

    Aerik: “Don’t think I confused anybody. Even you knew what I meant specifically, so how exactly was it so vague to begin with?”

    I knew what you meant because I know that most atheists take for granted that “faith” means “belief without evidence.” However, “faith” isn’t always used to mean that, and historically, that isn’t even what it means in the Bible (or to be more precise, what the corresponding Greek in the Bible means). Hence, if you try to use that argument with a Christian, there’s a good chance that the response will be “That’s not what ‘faith’ means.” Not much point in having an argument where the key term has different meanings for both sides.

  37. #37 scote
    March 31, 2008

    “That’s not quite true. A Christian, especially a conservative Christian, could easily say that “Jesus resurrected from the grave” is in principle a falsifiable position, and that it just so happens that there has not been sufficient contrary evidence.”

    And by tenet, there never will be, no matter how strong the evidence is.

    Christianity starts and ends with the proposition that it is true–with different sects defining exactly what must be considered true to be “Christian”–but science is not allowed to contradict fundamental tenets within a sect.

  38. #38 J. J. Ramsey
    March 31, 2008

    Scote: “And by tenet, there never will be, no matter how strong the evidence is.”

    Not by tenet, no. I doubt that you’ll find a doctrinal statement that says that there will never be sufficient contrary evidence for Christianity. Obviously, if someone believes that a particular position is true, then he or she does not seriously expect it likely that evidence will turn up that contradicts the position. That, though, applies equally to religious beliefs and more mundane ones, e.g. that the war in Iraq was a mistake, that evolution is a fact.

  39. #39 Scote
    March 31, 2008

    “Not by tenet, no. I doubt that you’ll find a doctrinal statement that says that there will never be sufficient contrary evidence for Christianity.”

    Hmm…It depends on how you define tenet. Perhaps I won’t find the exact phrase “there will never be sufficient contrary evidence for Christianity,” but I do think that many sects have tenets that amount to the same thing. I was in a group quizzing the Discovery Institute’s Paul Nelson. He admitted bluntly that he was a Christian first and scientist second and there was no evidence that could contradict his Christian beliefs (I forget, but I think he’s a young earth Christian…) Granted, he’s only one example but I think his position is not uncommon.

    tenet |╦łtenit|
    noun
    a principle or belief, esp. one of the main principles of a religion or philosophy : the tenets of classical liberalis

  40. #40 J. J. Ramsey
    March 31, 2008

    Scote: “tenet: a principle or belief, esp. one of the main principles of a religion or philosophy”

    If that’s the definition of tenet that you are using, then I think you’d have a hard time establishing that the pigheadedness that you see in Paul Nelson has been elevated to a main principle. It is not unusual, to be sure, but one could say this and be none the less a Christian: “To discover that everything that I had ever believed about the foundations of Christianity was in error would affect me deeply. But the danger of such a discovery in no way relieves me of my duty to examine the evidences honestly and evenly.”

  41. #41 Scote
    March 31, 2008

    “but one could say this and be none the less a Christian: “To discover that everything that I had ever believed about the foundations of Christianity was in error would affect me deeply. But the danger of such a discovery in no way relieves me of my duty to examine the evidences honestly and evenly.””

    And one could say that. Christianity is a nebulous thing. Since Christianity is not strictly hierarchical, Christians are who ever says they are Christian. Is there any tenet that can be said to be universally true of Christians? Some self-described Christians don’t even believe in the divinity of Christ.

    However, for all of that, I think it is generally true that Christians are expected to believe in the Resurrection of Christ regardless of whether literally bringing an actual 3 days dead, rotting corpse back to life is at all possible. It is not given all known laws of physics and biology. Therefore most Christians do reject all forms of evidence vis-a-vis the Resurrection as part of their Christian faith.

    There are, of course, exceptions, but I posit my characterization is the rule rather than the exception.

    Let’s say you are a Christian, as you well may be, could you say that there is there any scientific evidence to believe that a 3-day-old rotting corpse (sorry to be blunt, but an evocative image makes the point starker) can be brought back to full life and health? Or, instead, does such a position violate everything we know about science? And if you continue to believe in the Resurrection must it not be because you reject science when it conflicts with fundamental tenets of faith?

  42. #42 J. J. Ramsey
    March 31, 2008

    Scote: “And one could say that. Christianity is a nebulous thing. Since Christianity is not strictly hierarchical, Christians are who ever says they are Christian. Is there any tenet that can be said to be universally true of Christians?”

    Bingo! That is one of the biggest problems in talking about whether Christian beliefs interfere with science–and it only gets tougher when you talk about religion in general.

    Scote: “Let’s say you are a Christian, as you well may be, could you say that there is there any scientific evidence to believe that a 3-day-old rotting corpse (sorry to be blunt, but an evocative image makes the point starker) can be brought back to full life and health? Or, instead, does such a position violate everything we know about science?”

    I actually blogged about this a little over a year ago, so I’ll just point to my old post:

    Why Reject Miracles?

    This will make more sense after you read the post, but your line of thinking is closer to reflecting Remsberg’s misquote of Hume’s argument than Hume’s actual argument.

  43. #43 Scote
    April 1, 2008

    “Bingo! That is one of the biggest problems in talking about whether Christian beliefs interfere with science–and it only gets tougher when you talk about religion in general.”

    True. But that doesn’t make the issue go away. And one can avoid proof by contradiction by talking generalities and rough percentages rather than absolutes. Just because some Christians can accept science doesn’t mean the majority of those in the US do.

    As to Hume, I haven’t read Hume but I think my argument stands on its own and providing a link is not refutation. I still contend that beleiving something we know to be scientifically impossible means you are rejecting science in favor of your religion. You argue about the credibility of those who reported the miracle and such but when someone reports something we know to be impossible then either the person is wrong or science is wrong. Both are possible, but in the case of extraordinary claims extraordinary evidence is required. The tales from the Gospel are not such evidence. Even today we hear claims about current religious leaders performing miracles. I have no reason to believe that Sai Baba can magically materialize wrist watches even though there are many witness to that effect.

    The default scientific position for miracles is no. The reason people believe in the Resurrection of Christ is because of religion. If any other book told you of a similar miracle you would not believe it even if there were more and better witness.

  44. #44 J. J. Ramsey
    April 1, 2008

    Scote, the obvious response to your contention is that miracles are events that are supposed to be impossible without an explicit intervention of fill-in-the-blank deity (or demon, or fairy, etc.). All you are doing is pointing to what happens when there is no such intervention, which on its own isn’t that helpful.

  45. #45 Scote
    April 1, 2008

    “Scote, the obvious response to your contention is that miracles are events that are supposed to be impossible without an explicit intervention of fill-in-the-blank deity (or demon, or fairy, etc.). All you are doing is pointing to what happens when there is no such intervention, which on its own isn’t that helpful.”

    Actually, no. I said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This applies to miracles. There is no extraordinary evidence for miracles, so there is no reason to presume they are true.

  46. #46 J. J. Ramsey
    April 1, 2008

    Scote: “Actually, no.”

    Actually, you were inconsistent. Saying that a miracle “violate[s] everything we know about science,” which is what you said in post #41, is met with the obvious response that I mentioned. Saying that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence is a much different–and much more solid–line of argument. You muddled those two arguments together.

  47. #47 scote
    April 1, 2008

    Again, no.

    I wrote “you argue about the credibility of those who reported the miracle and such but when someone reports something we know to be impossible then either the person is wrong or science is wrong. Both are possible, but in the case of extraordinary claims extraordinary evidence is required. ”

    This allows for the possibility science is wrong. But without extraordinary evidence there is no reason to presume any miracle is true, especially given the extremely sound evidence we have for science.

    Let’s turn this back around. Under what circumstances should miracles be accepted at face value? And how is that a rational or scientific viewpoint?

    We know human perception is subject to all manner of perceptual errors. We also know that people just make stuff up some times–so much so that we pay people to do so for our entertainment. Whereas actual incontrovertible evidence that the laws of physics are mutable at the will of an omniscient being is, well, non-existent.

  48. #48 J. J. Ramsey
    April 1, 2008

    Scote: “This allows for the possibility science is wrong.”

    No, it allows for the possibility that the rules that science finds normally hold have exceptions, which is not even close to the same thing.

    Scote: “Let’s turn this back around. Under what circumstances should miracles be accepted at face value?”

    Richard Packham illustrated an example of such circumstances in his article “The Man With No Heart”. Note that in this example, the science regarding what hearts and the circulatory system normally do hasn’t changed. This hypothetical man is an anomaly.

  49. #49 J. J. Ramsey
    April 1, 2008

    Scote, more to the point, here are the two arguments that you have given me:

    * Argument #1: “could you say that there is there any scientific evidence to believe that a 3-day-old rotting corpse (sorry to be blunt, but an evocative image makes the point starker) can be brought back to full life and health? Or, instead, does such a position violate everything we know about science?”

    Here, you seem to be asking for evidence that there are natural mechanisms that could revert a “3-day-old rotting corpse” to its former living state. You aren’t explicit about the “natural mechanisms” part, but it’s hard to see any other interpretation. Actually, it is a bit difficult to determine what your line of argument is because the premises are hidden, and you seem to rely on–sorry to be blunt–a vague, hand-wavy idea of what science is.

    * Argument #2: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Not only do I agree with this argument, but it is a big chunk of Hume’s own argument–which I pointed out in the blog post to which I linked!

    It seems like what you’ve been doing is to start off with Argument #1, and then when it’s challenged, veer into some vague tangling of Argument #1. To your credit, you’ve been shifting focus onto Argument #2, but you act as if I had never brought that argument up.

    The catch with Argument #2 is that it isn’t very good at showing that religion conflicts with science on some general principle, but rather that too many religious have not thought out very well how to weigh evidence for miracles. It certainly doesn’t help that most laypersons don’t really just how easily even well-meaning people can mislead or be misled, or that it is easier to take for granted that something is true if one was raised to believe it.

  50. #50 scote
    April 1, 2008

    “Richard Packham illustrated an example of such circumstances in his article “The Man With No Heart”. Note that in this example, the science regarding what hearts and the circulatory system normally do hasn’t changed. This hypothetical man is an anomaly.”

    I’d like to hear what you have to say, even if it is quoting the parts you find pertinent. I do not find a link to be a sufficient answer anymore than “you should read such and such a book.” Your answer to the question really should offer some insights into the issue.

    You bring up some interesting nuances but I remain unconvinced. Probably best to consider it an impasse at the moment.

  51. #51 J. J. Ramsey
    April 1, 2008

    I’d like to hear what you have to say, even if it is quoting the parts you find pertinent. I do not find a link to be a sufficient answer anymore than “you should read such and such a book.”

    The reason I used links is that I saw no reason to reinvent the wheel. Also, there is a big difference between pointing to a short article that can be accessed immediately and read in a few minutes, and pointing to a book, which is harder to access and takes orders of magnitude longer to read and find the relevant material.

  52. #52 RationalSheep
    April 3, 2008

    Honestly, Nisbet, Grothe, and all those ad-men of atheism/humanism are the smarmiest, most self-righteous group of know-nothings. They barely understand the science, and dare to preach to scientists how to do their job. They love to snipe at everyone and then claim to be “positive” in their approach. Give me a break.

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