On accommodationism

Jerry Coyne is right:

Nobody who has followed Dawkins?s work and writing could possibly think he?s an accommodationist

Or rather, he’s probably right. I’ve never been clear what “accommodationist” means, it seems to adapt itself in perfect Calvinball style to suit whatever enemy someone might have. Thus, when Eugenie Scott answers the question “Are science and religion compatible?”:

I don’t have to address that as a philosophical question, I can address that as an empirical question. It’s obvious that it is. Because there are many people who are scientists who are also people of faith. There are many theologians whose life it is, whose job it is to think about religious issues, who are enthusiastic accepters and supporters of science and who are excited by the things scientists discover. So it’s empirically obvious that there’s no necessary conflict between science and religion.

This is greeted with cries that she “dissembles,” and she is charged with making an argument that is “trivial, and insulting to anyone who can think.”

When Dawkins is asked a nearly identical question, “Are those incompatible positions: to believe in God and to believe in evolution?” and answers:

No, I don’t think they’re incompatible if only because there are many intelligent evolutionary scientists who also believe in God–to name only Francis Collins as an outstanding example. So it clearly is possible to be both. This book more or less begins by accepting that there is that compatibility. The God Delusion did make a case against that compatibility in my own mind.

It’s greeted as calumny to suggest any link between his position and Genie’s. Her statement is taken as evidence that Genie is an accommodationist, a member of the Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists, and worse. But to attach any such label to Richard, even to raise the question (that’s what the squiggly thing at the end of my previous post’s title signified), is apparently the height of dishonesty.

I’ve seen definitions of “accommodationism” that mean a person is personally religious and has no problem with science. This is clearly not the sense the term is generally used it, but it is certainly the most restrictive. It clearly doesn’t apply to me, to Genie, to Chris Mooney, and to a host of other people who are generally acknowledge to be accommodationists.

I’ve seen it used to mean that a person holds the belief that science and religion are compatible, even if he or she is not personally religious. This, of course, gets to the definition of “compatible,” which is fraught. In the quotations above, Genie and Richard both use it to mean something like “beliefs not crowding one another out or preventing one another from being believed simultaneously.” (Though one might quibble over whether science is properly called “belief.”) I wrote a blog post that defended this as a reasonable definition, but it is not the one endorsed by many in the debate.

There are folks who resist this definition because they think it’s trivial, and everyone accepts it. But no, they don’t. In the British Council international survey on evolution (via) conducted this summer, a quarter (27%) of Americans denied that “it is possible to believe in a God and evolution simultaneously.” Heck, barely 19% of Britons though that. India did best at that question with 85% thinking it’s possible and 2% thinking it’s not. In all cases, “neither agree nor disagree” was a sizable bloc, 19% in the US, 27% in the UK, and 13% in India.

That 27% in the U.S. basically corresponds to the size of the creationist population, with the undecided bloc splitting itself various ways, and a few people who think you could believe that, but don’t do it themselves. A significant chunk of the resistance to evolution that I hear at NCSE and that I heard before I got to NCSE originates in exactly this belief, that it is either/or as a totally practical matter. If it were truly undisputed, we’d be in a much better position to have some interesting discussion about, for instance, the philosophy behind it. And about the evidence backing evolution. For now, a lot of people will simply refuse to pick up Jerry’s or Richard’s excellent books, because they don’t care what the evidence is, they don’t want to hear it, because they do think that if evolution gets in, it’ll instantly stop them believing in God, and then they’ll go on murderous rampages. Getting past that resistance would help Richard and Jerry sell more books (which would be good), and to critically engage with the evidence for evolution (which would be great).

For myself, I don’t know what it means to say that science and religion are “epistemically compatible,” and I think that intentionally vague definitions do a lot of the work in this debate. Efforts to just use Google turn up: a few blog posts about this same fight, some philosophy papers that are clearly not germane, and other philosophy papers that are not epistemically compatible with anything in my experience. I need an “Epistemic Compatibility for Dummies,” if there’s to be a productive dialog here. It would be helpful indeed if a number of the participants on the debate would post clear definitions, as we may find varying meanings of the term even among critics of accommodationism. Absent a definition, I’d appreciate a few examples other than science/religion where epistemic compatibility can be established one way or another, to give a feel for how the term might be used in a less fraught context.

It seems like if one uses my analogy to compatibility and incompatibility of software applications in the post linked above, epistemic compatibility would either be meaningless or trivially reduce to the empirical definition. The issue there is that a program doesn’t “mean” anything to a processor, so as long as one program doesn’t crash the computer or write to a memory location the other program relies on or hog a given resource that the two need to share, they are compatible. I don’t like it, but with Parallels I can run Mac OS and Windows simultaneously. I can run Internet Exploder and Firefox simultaneously. And when a program is glitchy or an OS lets well-formed programs do bad things, you patch the software, equivalent to revising belief.

I freely admit that analogies on the internet suck, but I haven’t give up on them.

The nice thing about this analogy is that it doesn’t force you to treat “science” and “religion” as big abstract things with an existence outside human conceptions of them. Science may be real or it may not, and religion may be real or it may not. I don’t feel the need to take a position on every philosophical question ever asked simply to be able to talk to the public about why science is good, why evolution is good, why creationism suck hard, and why fundamentalism and other authoritarian forces suck even harder. I don’t care if Carnap is right or if John Flansburgh has the better argument. Flansburgh’s music is just as good either way. Similarly, I don’t really care that much whether it’s true that religion qua religion can never avoid stepping on science’s toes, and vice versa. There are reasonable arguments on each side, and I don’t think that either answer makes my life any different. No one’s shown me why I, or NCSE, or anyone else, absolutely must adopt a position on the matter or have asinine nicknames slapped on them. There were criticisms leveled that NCSE had actually taken a position, but bear in mind that NCSE’s website had been recently renovated, so errors were inevitable, and the passages singled out all appear to have been revised as a result to better reflect NCSE’s stated policy and to avoid taking a firm stand. Accusations that it’s improper for NCSE and NCSE staff to restrict themselves to the empirical question of compatibility are, I must point out, inconsistent with calls for NCSE or NCSE staff to adopt and endorse a firm position on philosophical compatibility.

Whether religion X is compatible with science is a question that can be much easier than such abstract questions about whatever we’re supposed to mean when talking about “religion” as some sort of monolithic entity, and narrower questions are much more relevant to daily life. Young earth creationism is not compatible with science. Both make certain claims about the world which conflict. Both propose mechanisms for testing identical sorts of claims about the world, and those methods conflict. YEC belief pretty much requires you to reject science. There are things like Omphalos or Last Thursdayism that are not incompatible with scientific results, but one could construct such a philosophy in a way that would still make science as a process a useful way to test claims about the current universe. Theories derived from empirical data would continue to produce correct results, and if the illusion of age is perfect, you can never know the difference, so what does it mean to talk about whether these philosophies are compatible or incompatible? It’s like arguing about brains in a jar or philosophical zombies. Interesting if you like that sort of thing, but not the makings of a blog war that’s barely paused in 3 years.

And those examples don’t even speak to a particular religion, let alone religion qua religion; YEC isn’t a religion, it’s a particular religious belief. There are folks who sit on the same pew in the same church and pray to what they think is the same Godand who disagree completely on the topic. So YECish incompatibilty doesn’t even go to show that some particular religion (setting aside all religion!) is epistemically incompatible with science.

By this standard, one could credibly argue that supply-side economics is incompatible with science, which (by the logic that tars all religion with the sins of particular beliefs or believers) might lead you to think that Republicanism or conservatism is incompatible with science. And at this point it feels like we’re using “epistemically incompatible with science” to mean “I don’t like it,” which is surely not what people actually mean, so let’s not pursue that argument.

To return to our original topic, I don’t think that a definition of “accommodationism” which requires a particular belief about epistemic compatibility is quite right, as I’m pretty sure I’m an apathistic agnostic on the matter, as I am on pretty much any religious question. And if we adopt the simple empirical method, then Genie and Richard are both accommodationists, which seems inconsistent with how the term is used.

So where does that leave us? What does accommodationism mean that doesn’t attribute beliefs to me and others that we don’t have, that matches the actual use the term gets, and that doesn’t boil down to “people insufficiently enthusiastic about The God Delusion” or similar works?

Not that the latter is totally unacceptable. There are clearly camps who’ve divided on the topic, and each needs a name. I think, as a practical matter, that stirring up this fight within the pro-science ranks just enables the creationists to go recruiting, and I’ve occasionally used the term “enabler” to describe the folks who oppose whatever accommodationism might be. I stopped because it felt cheap, trivializing, and divisive, but if we all agree that that’s how we want to behave toward one another, who am I to argue? Maybe accommodationist and faitheist are synonyms, even, with one just more obviously insulting than the other.

Comments

  1. #1 Glen Davidson
    October 5, 2009

    Obviously the two statements are treated differently due to context, because Scott doesn’t (generally) say what Dawkins states elsewhere. Just about anyone would recognize that crucial difference.

    It’s true, though, that in isolation they’re fairly similar. And I’m not really sure why Dawkins said what he did in that interview.

    But clearly some people like Dawkins’ typical “anti-accommodationist” position for a variety of reasons, including political causes. And they don’t like Scott’s usual statements, because (among other reasons) they think that it obscures and/or ignores the philosophical problems with “accommodationism.”

    I think that “accommodation” tends to be the old “toleration,” which in fact does ignore ideological and philosophical purity for the sake of “getting along” in “civil society.” I also tend to favor such a civil society. Whether I’m right or wrong about that, I think that’s the real issue that ought to be debated–what should and must we do to get along with our neighbors and fellow citizens?

    And that is a complex issue, not the simple “right or wrong” that seems to be what most involved in the “debate” appear to want to make this matter out to be.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  2. #2 Physicalist
    October 5, 2009

    There are folks who resist this definition because they think it’s trivial, and everyone accepts it. But no, they don’t. In the British Council international survey on evolution (via) conducted this summer, a quarter (27%) of Americans denied that “it is possible to believe in a God and evolution simultaneously.”

    I think this simply shows that many people didn’t see the question as one about mere psychological co-existence of beliefs (beliefs that might be held casually). No doubt there are some people who think that everyone who accepts evolution is an avowed atheist, but I very much doubt that a quarter of Americans do.

    If the poll had run with a question like “Are there some people who think that some god exists and also think that evolution is true?” I’d think the number of positive responses would have been much higher.

    The question invites one to consider metaphysical compatibility rather than psychological compatibility, and also invites one to question whether, e.g., evolutionary scientists really believe in God (when they obviously ignore His holy book, etc. . . ).

  3. #3 Physicalist
    October 5, 2009

    Josh, let me just quickly say that I like this post. It moves the debate in the direction of clarification and hopefully understanding, rather than just more attacks.

    I don’t have time contribute much towards the project right now, but I’ll throw out a couple thoughts:

    1. While Mooney’s appeal to Pennock and philosophical naturalism doesn’t succeed, Pennock’s discussion is certainly relevant to the issue (if you’re looking for real philosophical treatment related to the topic). You should also look at Blackford’s account of philosophical naturalism, and his rejection of NOMA.

    2. Some of the relevant debate isn’t even going to be focused on science as such, but rather on arguments for atheism. Many people are going to claim that a belief in a god is not compatible with a recognition of evil in the world. (Obviously everyone will admit that theists exist, but the uppity atheist claims that such people are philosophically misguided.) So really all we need from science is confirmation of the existence of suffering, and a dismissal of any need to postulate a divine being to account for the workings of the natural world.

    3. The conversation has surprisingly not traveled far down this road, but a crucial issue for the compatibility of many religious claims with the results of science is the question of whether it is reasonable to believe in miracles. A classic starting point for this is Hume’s work (obviously there’s a huge literature on the topic).

    So these are some issues that a responsible treatment of the question of philosophical “compatibility” would have to address.

  4. #4 Blair T
    October 5, 2009

    QUOTE: “I think, as a practical matter, that stirring up this fight within the pro-science ranks just enables the creationists to go recruiting, and I’ve occasionally used the term “enabler” to describe the folks who oppose whatever accommodationism might be. ”

    Wasn’t it Eugenie Scott and Chris Mooney who “stirred up this fight” because Jerry Coyne dared to evaluate the arguments of theistic evolutionists in a book review?

    Scott and Mooney didn’t attack Coyne’s arguments but argued that it was counterproductive/impolite to critize allies on the side of evolution.

    Accommodationist to me means someone who doesn’t want to have a forthright dialogue about science and religion in order to not offend the sensibilities of the religious – and further they criticize those who do want a forthright dialogue because they think that such dialogue is counter-productive to winning over the public to science.

    Am I missing something?

  5. #5 Left_Wing_Fox
    October 5, 2009

    I tend to think the definition morphed. I first started hearing it during the initial round of Framing Wars, used to describe those who blamed “The New Atheism” for the religious rejection of evolution, and eventually grew to encompass all the arguments that Evolution and Religion are perfectly compatible.

    There are obviously some forms of Religion that are incompatable with science. The more religion demands that provably untrue facts are correct in the face of evidence, the less compatible the two are. A lot of scientists I’m certain either place their religious beliefs as subservient to evidence and the scientific method, or place the wall of ‘Non Overlapping Magesteria” between their religious beliefs and their scientific endeavors.

    While I think these beliefs only survive by lack of scrutiny, I also don’t think they are necessarily detrimental. I also don’t think they are necessarily unique, in that human beings believe or disbelieve all sorts of things without much in the way of direct evidence; political ideologies, the existence of alien civilizations, beliefs as to the nature of future discoveries or legitimate scientific controversies all come to mind.

    In that regard, I prefer the compromise position of state secularism as opposed to official atheism, so in that regard, I’m somewhat accommodationist. That said, I still believe the idea that atheists are hindering the acceptance of evolution is counterproductive and harmful to the ultimate goal of public acceptance of science.

  6. #6 Josh Rosenau
    October 5, 2009

    Blair T: I’m not sure where Genie is supposed to have commented on Coyne’s review. Maybe I missed it, but let’s at least try to keep different people separate.

    More generally, one could argue that Coyne’s review, however civil, stirred up the fight. Or that Dawkins stirred the fight up long before that by firing up the base so effectively with TGD (that’s unalloyed praise to him, FWIW). And none of that would deny that other people stirred things up in different ways, but two wrongs still wouldn’t make a right.

  7. #7 Physicalist
    October 5, 2009

    @ Blair T:

    I think it was Forrest and Mooney who started the attack on Coyne, not Scott.

    I don’t think Mooney ever did explain what Coyne was supposed to do rather than write his book review. (He’s not telling Coyne to “shut up,” so it is OK that the review was written, yet writing it was “uncivil,” and we shouldn’t be uncivil . . . )

  8. #8 Blair T
    October 5, 2009

    Josh,

    My mistake – it was Barbara Forest NOT Eugenie Scott who had commented on Coyne’s review. My memory was a bit faulty, because a video of Eugenie Scott talking more generally about accommodation had entered the debate later.

    To your second point “two wrongs still wouldn’t make a right”:

    I think the difference is that people siding with Coyne don’t think it was ‘wrong’ to critically evaluate Kenneth Miller’s book – or for Dawkins to make a jab at religious belief. It is the ‘accommodationist’ side that is stating that it is wrong to do so. The ‘wrong’ that the ‘anti-accommodationists’ are concern about is stifling discourse for the sake of appeasing sensibilities.

    Cheers

  9. #9 Russell Blackford
    October 5, 2009

    Josh says:

    “More generally, one could argue that Coyne’s review, however civil, stirred up the fight. Or that Dawkins stirred the fight up long before that by firing up the base so effectively with TGD (that’s unalloyed praise to him, FWIW). And none of that would deny that other people stirred things up in different ways, but two wrongs still wouldn’t make a right.”

    I don’t understand this. Is it seriously being suggested that Coyne’s review was a “wrong” or that Dawkins’ publication of TGD was a “wrong”? There was nothing wrong with “stirring things up” in the way that was done with these works, but plenty wrong when Coyne and Dawkins were then attacked by people who are supposed to be on the same side.

    Or was something else intended here? I just don’t get it.

  10. #10 Benjamin Nelson
    October 5, 2009

    Accommodationism: those that believe that activist atheists should stop criticizing religion in public, esp. when dealing with areas of science communication.

    Activist atheists: the “new atheists”.

    Faitheism: a) those atheists that are soft on religion; b) those who have a “belief in belief”.

    Brute force compatibility: beliefs that are sincerely held, and not crowding one another out or preventing one another from being believed simultaneously

    Epistemic compatibility: both brute force compatible, and mutually justified

    Epistemic incompatibility: cannot be epistemically compatible, either due to the imposition of artificial barriers which prevent the possibility of the extinction of one set of beliefs over another (i.e., NOMA), or lack of sincerity at attempts to reconcile, or lack of justification of either or both

  11. #11 Anthony McCarthy
    October 5, 2009

    The only honest way to attribute “accomodationism” to someone in this context is if they have explicitly adopted that name for their position. Do you know of anyone who has said, “I am an accomodationist”? I have to admit, I don’t know of anyone who has.

    In these blog brawls the term is used pretty much the way that the House Unamerican Activities Committee used the word “communist”, and with much the same tone of denunciation. It attributes some kind of vaguely awful position or belief to people, only, as noted, they never have officially adopted that position, unlike many of the victims of the red scare. If you doubt the emotional potencey of the word, just look at how wildly out of bubble Ricard Dawkins’ fans have become over a few bloggers gently calling attention to an inconsistency in Dawkins’ statements and those of his fans and friends.

    Religion can accommodate science and it often does. Unless it’s some kind of absolutist religion that holds basic, foundational beliefs that are incompatible with all of science, all religion does accommodate itself to science. Though not necessarily all of science. There are people who work in science that don’t accept evolution, even some rather extreme fundamentalists. There are people within Al Qaeda who are known to have extensive training in science, some of whom flew planes into buildings here in 2001. Religion has no problem with accepting that both the findings of science about the material universe and whatever supernatural experience has led them to conclude. It can do that because it is broader and more flexible than science.

    If you think the impossibility of biblical fundamentalism accepting evolutionary science negates all of religion, you might have a problem. Consider that not all evolutionary scientists accept all aspects of what is held to be valid science. Not even within their own branch of science. Most relevant to this discussion, the famous struggle between Gould, Lewontin et al and the Sociobiologists shows clearly that not all of what is held to be evolutionary science is accepted by all evolutionists. Which branch of biology does that render beyond redemption?

    Reading a lot about Eddington this year, I’m wondering what Lawrence Krauss and his group’s recent work about black holes will do to the large body of widely accepted science dependent on black holes. Can they really exist and not exist at the same time?

    Can those positions be accommodated? No, and science hasn’t collapsed under the weight of this internal non-accomodation. Clearly, scientists can also hold ideas that become superannuated and are discarded, yet they aren’t held to be irredeemably unscientific. The existence of two, opposing, mutually exclusive ideas within science isn’t unknown. The existence of that non-accommodation doesn’t invalidate science.

    I’ll forgo the social sciences because people get very emotional when that gets brought up, just let’s say that entire schools are junked with alarming regularity in the behavioral sciences.

    So, differing, sometimes opposite views can unhappily or even happily co-exist within science. So it is quite absurd to contend that religion, which deals mostly with topics beyond science, can’t exist quite happily with science, especially when people don’t experience any problem with any of science and their religious belief.

    Science, however, is a very restricted activity made to find reliable information about those parts of the MATERIAL universe which can be sufficiently observed, quantified, analyzed and published in a peer review process. It can’t accommodate religion because the scope of religion is broadly outside of it’s only, possible area of activity. As Eddington said, science can’t even tell you why it’s better to give the right answer to a multiplication problem, it can only tell you that one is the real answer and another one isn’t. It can’t deal with most of human experience which falls outside of its scope.

    Science has to be protected from political ideologies, racial, ethnic, gender, bias, fraud, reliance on bad habits,… it has to be protected from all kinds of extraneous influences and distortions including religious ones. It has to be protected because it can’t absorb things like that and remain scientific. But science isn’t the only important thing in life, it can’t tell you everything you need to know, it can’t even tell you most of what you need to live a decent life.

  12. #13 Skeptico
    October 5, 2009

    …I’ve occasionally used the term “enabler” to describe the folks who oppose whatever accommodationism might be.

    Not this again Josh. I called you on this piece of projection before. As I wrote then, you (the accomodationists) tell the addict (religious believer) that their religious delusions are OK and totally not inconsistent with science at all.  You (the accomodationists) are the ones who actually do enable the addicts (religious believers) by providing them with their drugs (reasons why religion and science are compatible).  I realize you are acting out of love for the religious people you come into contact with, but in reality, you’re making the problem worse.  That’s up to you, but you really should stop this dishonest labeling of the non-accomodationists with what you are actually doing yourself.

    If you’re not going to respond to this, then you should at least have the intellectual honesty to stop parroting this nonsense.

  13. #14 Sigmund
    October 5, 2009

    Goulds idea of NOMA would be fine if the magisteria were indeed treated as separate. In reality theistic religious people don’t accept NOMA. Their religion requires an interaction between the supposedly different realms (otherwise their would be no divinely dictated religious books, no burning bush, no son of God, no prophets, no flying horse, no miracles.)
    What the religious need is SOMA – slightly overlapping magisteria.
    Gould made the mistake of saying that the religious magisteria alone deals with the subject of morality when in fact there are plenty of naturalistic interpretations and comments on that particular question. The religious should of course take part in the discourse but it was a huge mistake of Gould to suggest it was their subject alone and it is quite right that Gould is criticized for this error.
    The real clash between accomodationists and anti-accomodationists is in the question of whether you are prepared to accept supernatural miracles within your framework of the scientific method.
    Anti-accomodationists suggest that acceptance of miracles (supernatural intervention in the natural world), which would include prophesy and dictation of holy books as well as the usual notions of the temporary suspension of the known laws of physics (to allow someone to be born from a virgin or to return to life) makes the scientific method philosophically unworkable. We can never be sure that the result of any experiment is a miraculous intervention rather than a result consistent with unchanging laws of nature.

  14. #15 Matti K.
    October 6, 2009

    Religions are collections of irrational beliefs. It is very difficult to draw lines between “bona fide” religions and fairy tales and folklore that emerged for other use, like f. ex entertainment.

    Then why isn’t the discussion more general? Why aren’t we discussing about the compatibility of science and irrational beliefs in general? Obviously a large chunk of the irrational beliefs within human populations are not compatible with science. And equally obviously, scientists should speak out in cases of incompatibility. For example, they should say to christians that according to science, virgin birth is not possible, there was no resurrection and that most stories in the Bible are pure fiction. Isn’t it the duty of scientists to try to weed out beliefs that contradict scientific views?

    However, it seems that most accommodationists are happy to skip the details and just proclaim the simple mantra “religion and science are not necessarily incompatible”. OK, but then it would be honest to say that they are not thinking analytically, just executing a political agenda. Short: luring religious people into studying science is so important that one can relax a bit on strict scientific accountability.

    It is unscientific to make sweeping statements about the compatibility of science and religion (or other irrational belief systems). Therefore, scientists and scientific organizations should leave these compatibility questions to people who have more interest in religion. After all, scientists do not need religion one bit to succeed in what they are doing, whereas also religious people benefit from scientific knowledge.

  15. #16 Anthony McCarthy
    October 6, 2009

    —- Religions are collections of irrational beliefs. Matti K

    New atheism is a collection of inaccurate claims about religion, science, history and current events, among other things.

    You’d obviously include the idea that you should treat other people the way you would want to be treated as an irrational idea, evidently. Or that people have the right to be treated fairly, that the poor and destitute have a right to justice, that it is the right thing to tell the truth, all of which are beliefs contained in religions and are found no where in science or through empirical evidence.

    — It is very difficult to draw lines between “bona fide” religions and fairy tales and folklore that emerged for other use, like f. ex entertainment. Matti K

    Only if you want to pretend it’s difficult. Religious believers don’t seem to have that problem. I’ve made speculations about the new atheism as the manifestation of reading problems and the inability to look honestly at various philosophical and epistemological issues, maybe it’s just a matter of not being willing to tell the truth. A trait they share with religious fundamentalism.

    — However, it seems that most accommodationists are happy to skip the details …. Matti K

    Irony abounds. In focusing on the mote in the eye of your opponent you miss the beam in your line of vision. As noted in the post and by many critics of new atheism, there isn’t any one thing that is “religion”. “Religion” isn’t the made to your order entity set up to be knocked down, it’s an abstract conglomeration of an enormously varied set of beliefs and practice held in an extraordinarily varied number of ways by billions of individual people which is unfixed even for the lifetime of any of those individuals. How’s that for a skipped detail.

    —- and just proclaim the simple mantra “religion and science are not necessarily incompatible”. MK

    Far less simple than the new atheist slogans that depend on the phony, uniform entity “religion” just mentioned and some howling lapses in its depiction of science.

    — OK, but then it would be honest to say that they are not thinking analytically, just executing a political agenda.

    Since you’re saying this about your ideological opponents, no, that would be dishonest and dogmatic to say this, not an analysis of any kind. Though it would be a far closer match to the new atheism and other fundamentalist faiths.

    As to “just executing a political agenda”, let me break this to you, there is a political dimension to every ideological dispute, to ever assertion of a set of beliefs to every description of human interactions and to those interactions themselves. New atheism is inherently political, just as Gould’s proposal is. Just as biblical fundamentalism is.

    Politics is the way that people handle large scale interactions with each other. If you can’t face that fact, it’s no wonder that the new atheism is so lousy at politics. It’s a dishonest, shallow intellectual fad set up by a would be elite that likes nothing more than to express its disdain of the hoi polloi through conceited disregard and mockery of their thinking and experience. It’s repeated and clear disdain for The People is proof that it is silly, futile and that it will ultimately fail politically.

  16. #17 Anthony McCarthy
    October 6, 2009

    — We can never be sure that the result of any experiment is a miraculous intervention rather than a result consistent with unchanging laws of nature. Sigmund

    You can’t be certain that the result of an experiment isn’t an anomalous manifestation of any unknown origin, natural or supernatural.

    I’ve never understood why these proposed “miracles” are any more of a problem for science than outliers it deals with regularly. Miracles, if they exist, are held to be rare, they’re held to be outside of the natural order of things, they’re held to be the result of some kind of supernatural intervention to alter the natural course of events. If they were regular enough to intrude regularly on science they wouldn’t be held to be miraculous, they’d be the normal course of events.

    There are proposed miracles that can be debunked successfully with science or other means, I’d guess perhaps most of them can be. But for those which can’t be, science has seemed to co-exist with those beliefs from the beginning. Clearly if they are real, it would have to.

    I don’t know if it’s ever occurred to a new atheist, but their position is dangerous to science. If both miracles and science can’t be valid then even one, verified miracle would destroy all of science. And verification isn’t only a social phenomenon, individuals get to decide what they deem valid. What the new atheists are saying to people who believe they’ve experienced a miracle is that they don’t have to care about science because it’s invalid. Which is essentially what the most extreme religious fundamentalsts hold as well.

    This is at heart, a fundamentalist position held by new atheism.

    I’ve also wondered about research scientists who gamble in casinos or while playing cards. Shouldn’t that expression of a belief in “luck” disqualify them from the practice of science. How come the new atheists aren’t up in arms about that crime against reason and the natural order of things? Not to mention the possible invitation to commit fraud that a large gambling debt might motivate.

  17. #18 Matti K.
    October 6, 2009

    Russell #9: “There was nothing wrong with “stirring things up” in the way that was done with these works, but plenty wrong when Coyne and Dawkins were then attacked by people who are supposed to be on the same side.”

    I don’t think there is anything fundamentally wrong in criticising one’s “own”. However, playing the victim after receiving countercriticism is pathetic. It is a pleasure to read the rebuttals of Myers and Coyne,for example. They waste no time for self-pity and produce their substance most concisely. I hope the accommodationists could do the same.

  18. #19 abb3w
    October 6, 2009

    And at this point it feels like we’re using “epistemically incompatible with science” to mean “I don’t like it,” which is surely not what people actually mean, so let’s not pursue that argument.

    As alluded to by the initial quote of Eugenie Scott, “Science” actually refers to more than one thing. It refers both to the anthropological practice, but also to the philosophical discipline underlying. (It also can refer to the body of knowledge accumulated by these, but that’s peripheral here.)

    Anthropological practices do not need to be self-consistent. Philosophy, however, requires noncontradiction of its manifestations; that FALSE and TRUE are distinct values in whatever system of philosophy you work in. (Yes, yes; there are weirdos like Graham Priest. He’s evidently unaware that Boolean Algebras need not be binary.) The two, thus, are fundamentally different questions.

    Those who argue incompatibility are arguing from a philosophical context; that the ultimate premises of science-as-philosophy, taken together with those of religion-as-philosophy, lead to inference of P-AND-NOT-P contradiction. Those who observe compatibility are arguing from an anthropological one: “Look! See what the humans are doing!”

    Of course, Eugenie’s makes a mistake in claiming that “empirically obvious that there’s no necessary conflict between science and religion”. The data she points to indicate that no conflict is observed in these individuals; and thus, the degree of conflict varies. Indeed, it clearly diminishes as anthropological-practice-of-science and anthropological-practice-of-religion keep to anthropologically separate magistera. Depending on the particular religious and scientific disciplines, and the degree of separation, the conflict levels might well be asymptotically low. (EG: the Dalai Lama’s Buddhism, and Materials Chemistry.)

    However, Eugenie’s observation does not support the claim of NO conflict. What she is saying merely supports that conflict may be below the measurement accuracy threshold; and that is a fairly large crack under the door for cockroaches of philosophical doubt to crawl in through.

  19. #20 Anthony McCarthy
    October 6, 2009

    Those who argue incompatibility are arguing from a philosophical context; that the ultimate premises of science-as-philosophy, taken together with those of religion-as-philosophy, lead to inference of P-AND-NOT-P contradiction. Those who observe compatibility are arguing from an anthropological one: “Look! See what the humans are doing!”

    You neglect the possibility that the either/or you point to might be invalid. And it is in many of these cases. If a religious person holds that the way that the physical universe is, in its reality, in its totality, is according to the will of a god then that position is entirely consonant with science. And that position is held by quite a number of religious people. I’d guess most, if you put it to them plainly.

    How would that position NOT be fully in accord with science? This is a real question, not a rhetorical one so feel free to answer it.

  20. #21 abb3w
    October 6, 2009

    YEC belief pretty much requires you to reject science.

    Anthropologically? More exact to say it requires splitting “science” into Operational and Historical subdivisions, to prevent the overlap of magisteria. The problem (leaving aside the monstrous distortion from the ordinary anthropological practice) is that “Operational” science requires implicitly taking philosophical premises sufficient for the construction of the scientific method.

    Thus, Ken Ham’s dislike of those who lack the acceptance as obvious and unquestionable of some basic points, such as Epicurus question of how we know anything — EG: the copy of the Bible on my bookshelf — exists. In Ham’s terminology, those who lack such acceptance and who ask questions are “Greeks”; he wants more “Jews”.

  21. #22 gillt
    October 6, 2009

    Rosenau: “Accusations that it’s improper for NCSE and NCSE staff to restrict themselves to the empirical question of compatibility are, I must point out, inconsistent with calls for NCSE or NCSE staff to adopt and endorse a firm position on philosophical compatibility.”

    You need to be more specific here. Name people who are accusing the NCSE of improperly restricting themselves to the “empirical question of compatibility” and who’s calling for the NCSE to endorse a “firm” position on “philosophical compatibility.”

    What about the people who are asking the NCSE to remain neutral on all the above? It sounds like the first group of accusers are the New Atheists, but that would be seem to misrepresent what they’re asking for, don’t you think?

  22. #23 Anthony McCarthy
    October 6, 2009

    — It sounds like the first group of accusers are the New Atheists, but that would be seem to misrepresent what they’re asking for, don’t you think? gillt

    Misrepresentation of positions represents a good percentage of this discussion.

    I notice you don’t seem to have any problem using the term New Atheists, which I’ll save for future reference.

  23. #24 rx1
    October 6, 2009

    You neglect the possibility that the either/or you point to might be invalid. And it is in many of these cases.

  24. #25 abb3w
    October 6, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy: How would that position NOT be fully in accord with science?

    The potential point of conflict is that it posits the Deity — an additional philosophical entity. If what you mean by the philosophical discipline of “science” includes premises sufficient to (provisionally) reject the description involving this additional entity as “probably wrong”, there is a conflict.

    Oversimplifying for brevity, taking as assumptions propositional logic, set theory, and the assumption that experience has a pattern produced by reality, one may get a philosophical criterion (aka “science”) apparently sufficient to induce this exact rejection of reality of the deity.

    For the math underlying the criterion, see (doi:10.1109/18.825807).

  25. #26 gillt
    October 6, 2009

    The term was thrust on me without my consent by you McCarthy. You are, in fact, the only one who has ever called me a new atheist. Please add that to your reference.

  26. #27 Anthony McCarthy
    October 6, 2009

    —- The potential point of conflict is that it posits the Deity — an additional philosophical entity. If what you mean by the philosophical discipline of “science” includes premises sufficient to (provisionally) reject the description involving this additional entity as “probably wrong”, there is a conflict. abb3W

    So, anything that cannot be contained within science is in conflict with science?

    You know you’ve just put huge parts of human life in conflict with science. You have, in fact, put the new atheism in conflict with science because it is an assertion of values. Any assertion that the relative value of science over religion, is the assertion of an unscientific concept. The entire range of political life, the arts, literature, all personal preference, much if not most of philosophy, would have to be in conflict with science by your assertion. None of those things are anything other than an “additional entity” when you treat them your way.

    — Oversimplifying for brevity, taking as assumptions propositional logic, set theory, and the assumption that experience has a pattern produced by reality, one may get a philosophical criterion (aka “science”) apparently sufficient to induce this exact rejection of reality of the deity. abb3w

    This sets up an argument by analogy of the kind that traditional (and I’d assert really bad) “proofs” of God. You can only try to squeeze God into set theory, or any other part of science or logic, by ignoring that many if not most religious people specifically assert that God is beyond and over the natural universe. My question, containing the assertion that God controls the natural universe and its operation is a result of God’s will, would necessitate that condition. God is not subject to set theory, your assertion doesn’t answer the question about what many if not most religious believers believe about God. The traditional assertion that God is omnipotent would mean that God can surpass the restrictions of logic, which, I’ll also point out, is an entirely human invention made to address the material universe according to our experience and within the boundaries of our limits. We don’t have any idea if there could be other, perhaps more efficacious, ways to address and understand the material universe.

    The only things that conflict with science are things which negate the validity of what science discovers about the material universe. If the natural order of things is a reflection of divine will, then any religious believer who asserts that belief, is in COMPLETE accord with science.

    You’re within your rights to reject the existence of such a God, but your assertion that belief in that God is in conflict with science is absolutely and clearly wrong.

    gillt, well, if I’ve got that much power over you, why can’t I get you to tell the truth about what I said?

  27. #28 IanW
    October 6, 2009

    You couldn’t say “I was wrong”?

    Instead, you say “Jerry Coyne was right”, but then dilute that as much as you possibly can with a 2,000 word blag disseminating on the nuances of “accommodationist”. This is exactly what your average ID advocate would do when caught in the same kind of mistake.

    Almost as bad as that is that the disseminating once again deliberately ignores what people like Coyne, Dawkins, and Myers have been saying about religion and science incompatibility in favor of once again riding your hobby horse which is apparently named “some people can hold paradoxical views, therefore claiming the NCSE should be neutral on science is militant atheism”?

    Just as an experiment, do try saying “I was wrong”. You can do it when you’re alone and no one else can hear. Just try it. You might be able to accommodate it.

  28. #29 José
    October 6, 2009

    Thus, when Eugenie Scott answers the question… This is greeted with cries that she “dissembles,” and she is charged with making an argument that is “trivial, and insulting to anyone who can think.”

    When Dawkins is asked a nearly identical question… It’s greeted as calumny to suggest any link between his position and Genie’s.

    That’s because there is no link. Scott was asked if science and religion are compatible. Dawkins was asked if it’s possible for someone to believe in evolution and God. They’re very different questions.

    Dawkins (and everyone else in the world) agrees that there are scientists who believe in god.
    Scott is using this fact to argue that there is no conflict between science and god, which is the illogical leap many disagree with.

  29. #30 José
    October 6, 2009

    Sorry. I needed a do-over. I think my italics problems made my response unreadable.

    Thus, when Eugenie Scott answers the question… This is greeted with cries that she “dissembles,” and she is charged with making an argument that is “trivial, and insulting to anyone who can think.”

    When Dawkins is asked a nearly identical question… It’s greeted as calumny to suggest any link between his position and Genie’s.

    That’s because there is no link. Scott was asked if science and religion are compatible. Dawkins was asked if it’s possible for someone to believe in evolution and God. They’re very different questions.

    Dawkins (and everyone else in the world) agrees that there are scientists who believe in god. Scott is using this fact to argue that there is no conflict between science and god, which is the illogical leap many disagree with.

  30. #31 Josh Rosenau
    October 6, 2009

    Replying to comments as of 10 am.

    Sigmund: I’ve been unclear how you think I and others are treating science not as method, and this comment helps: “We can never be sure that the result of any experiment is a miraculous intervention rather than a result consistent with unchanging laws of nature.”

    In science, we can never be sure of anything. That’s the nature of science as a process. We test claims and reject bad ideas, and conditionally accept good ones, but we can never know that a given result resulted from the proposed unchanging laws of nature rather than: a) magic b) equipment failure c) human error c) stochastic fluctuations d) as-yet-identified natural laws. The scientific process accepts that uncertainty, recognizes that outliers happen, and moves on with confidence in uncertainty.

    Skeptico: In re: “enabler,” I should note first that I’m freely admitting it was “cheap, trivializing, and divisive,” and that I stopped doing it for those reasons. One can certainly object to the term, just as I object to “accommodationist,” “faitheist,” and other terms of opprobrium tossed at me. My objections seem not to have stopped others, and it’s fair to ask why. The fact is, creationists are currently invested less in advancing some particular scientific claim as in attempting to revise our definition of science to include the supernatural. The results are harmful, and it’s obvious how rhetoric by Dawkins or Coyne could be abused to support that view (Dawkins freely admits this, so it’s no slander on him). Am I equally culpable for “enabling” religion? A case could be made, but one would have to show that religion qua religion is as harmful as creationism, a point I dispute.

    Matti K: “Why aren’t we discussing about the compatibility of science and irrational beliefs in general?”

    I agree. Why not invest the same effort going after anti-vaxxers and supply-siders, who also display an evidence-averse desire to promote personal ideology, but not in a religious framework.

    Matti K: “Isn’t it the duty of scientists to try to weed out beliefs that contradict scientific views?”

    Not necessarily. Scientists are people, and have duties to their family (vaccinate your kids, teach them to use the toilet, be responsible with money), to their community and nation (vote, serve on juries, drive safely, report crimes), and to society more broadly. Weeding out ideas that contradict evidence certainly falls into that realm.

    A scientist also has certain professional obligations, whether to administrative procedure (file grants, get students), to the academic field (teach classes, advise students), and to the discipline (identify interesting questions and develop testable hypotheses to investigate them, conduct research, publish).

    There’s no obligation as a scientist per se to weed out bad ideas from society at large. Nor is that an obligation of scientists alone, it can fall equally on anyone.

    And shifting from “irrational belief” to “beliefs that contradict scientific knowledge” is no small step. Some such beliefs do contradict science by making empirical claims which are false. Other things which people describe as irrational are simply untestable: e.g., God exists. A God which exists and does nothing we can test is certainly conceivable, arguably irrational, but not contradictory to science.

    Abb3w: “Those who argue incompatibility are arguing from a philosophical context; that the ultimate premises of science-as-philosophy, taken together with those of religion-as-philosophy, lead to inference of P-AND-NOT-P contradiction. Those who observe compatibility are arguing from an anthropological one: “Look! See what the humans are doing!””

    I don’t think that’s quite right. I think there’s also a philosophical dispute about philosophy of science, where some people think science is omnicompetent and philosophically invasive, and others don’t. That is, some people seem to be saying that everything (or everything interesting? meaningful? I get fuzzy on this point) is testable by scientific means (not necessarily falsifiable, but probabilistic evidence can be adduced, hence omnicompetence), and therefore anything which is not at all testable is either nonexistent or not-relevant. Science can either test claims of other fields, or those fields are not genuinely relevant to anything, hence invasive.

    Others argue that science operates by certain rules, and that those rules impose limits on what science can speak to. Things beyond those limits may or may not be valid, but science cannot speak to them. This seems to be where philosophers of science stand. That matters to scientists as much as the opinions of ornithologists matter to birds, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

    This account of science gives science an official agnosticism about certain claims, though scientists may personally want to take a position on them. Thus there’s no way to say that Democrats or Republicans are the scientifically superior party, but yet the overwhelming majority of scientists are Democrats.

  31. #32 Josh Rosenau
    October 6, 2009

    Ian W: On the original post here, I added this update: “Jerry Coyne has a response from Dawkins, describing either this post and Chris’s or at least Jerry Coyne’s as ‘utterly ridiculous,’ and comparing himself to a politician who must worry about his words will be ‘misused by somebody with an agenda.’ My intent was not to misuse his words, nor to bring ridicule or ridiculousness to him, and I’ve written Dawkins a note apologizing and asking for additional clarification, so that the needed correction is … correct.

    I note in passing that I dispute various things about Jerry’s characterization of my views, but I’ve got to finish an article that is way past deadline before I return to blog drama. Thanks to Jerry for getting some answers from the horse’s mouth, though.”

    The full details of my apology to Dawkins are between me and him, at least for the moment.

    Jose: I see the distinction you’re drawing, but it’s a pretty fine line. And it doesn’t capture people’s full objection. People also criticized an NCSE page which states: “The science of evolution does not make claims about God’s existence or non-existence, any more than do other scientific theories such as gravitation, atomic structure, or plate tectonics. Just like gravity, the theory of evolution is compatible with theism, atheism, and agnosticism. Can someone accept evolution as the most compelling explanation for biological diversity, and also accept the idea that God works through evolution? Many religious people do.”

    That’s literally the same argument as Dawkins’s, but it was met with the same calumny.

  32. #33 Tyro
    October 6, 2009

    Young earth creationism is not compatible with science. Both make certain claims about the world which conflict. Both propose mechanisms for testing identical sorts of claims about the world, and those methods conflict.

    Setting aside your analogies, this seems to be the one example I could find where the rubber met the road in a practical case. I think you’re saying that science and a religion are in conflict (I know you qualify and say that YEC is a “religious belief” not a religion, yet a given belief does not propose mechanisms for testing claims so your two statements are in conflict and I’ll go with the criteria as authoritative). And yet, some YEC are scientists or accept (some) scientific conclusions. Wouldn’t the ability of some people to hold these two beliefs simultaneously mean that they are not in conflict?

    Let’s look deeper: you say that YEC have a methodology for evaluating claims. This isn’t unique to YEC, all religions have a methodology. Do you imagine that the methodology that a YEC uses to decide the age of the earth is so different than the methodology used by a liberal Catholic to decide whether Mary was a virgin, Jesus arose from the dead or saints miraculously healed people?

    Since you seem to be arguing that YEC are somehow special and that general Christians have beliefs and methodologies that are compatible with science, can you take one example and show how this compatibility works in practice? Why not explain how the scientific and religious methodologies agree on some basic questions, such as whether a communion wafer can become Jesus’s body or Jesus arose from the dead.

  33. #34 Anthony McCarthy
    October 6, 2009

    — God exists. J.R.

    There was a time I used to think that statement or its opposite were a straight forward assertions but over the years their meaninglessness has become more obvious. de Chardin has pointed out that to hold that “God exists” contradicts the concept of an infinite God because it puts the category existence over God. I don’t think he asserted this but it could be that the question, itself, prejudices the answer because a God which “exists” would be a limited God, certainly not a God who created the universe and maintains its operation, the God most monotheists believe in.

    But that wasn’t the end of the problem, what does “existence” mean? It’s certainly not a scientific idea, not in the sense that term is taken today. How can you falsify the existence of existence?

    Here’s what Eddington said in his Philosophy of Physical Science.

    I gather one of the main sources of division between different schools of philosophy is the question whether certain things exist or not. But I cannot even begin to understand these issues, because I can find no explanation of the term “exist”.

    The word “existence” is, of course, familiar in everyday speech; but it does not express a uniform idea — a universally agreed principle according to which things can be divided into existing and non-existing. Difference of opinion as to whether a thing exists or not sometimes arises because the thing itself is imperfectly defined, or because the exact implication s of the definition have not been grasped; thus the “real existence” of electrons, aether, space, colour, may be affirmed or denied because different persons use these terms with somewhat different implications. But ambiguity of definition is not always responsible for the difference of view….
    Chapter X The Concept of Existence

    Later in the book he made this provocative observation.

    Eighteen years ago I was responsible for a remark which has often been quoted:

    ” It is one thing for the human mind to extract from the phenomena of nature laws which it has itself put into them; it may be a far harder thing to extract laws over which it has no control. It is even possible that laws which have not their origin in the mind may be irrational, and we can never succeed in formulating them.”

    This seems to be coming true, though not in the way that then suggested itself. I had in mind the phenomena of quanta and atomic physics, which at that time completely baffled our efforts to formulate a rational system of law. It was already apparent that the physical laws of molar physics were mind-made — the result of the sensory and intellectual equipment through which we derive our observational knowledge 00 and were not laws of governance of the objective universe. The suggestion was that in quantum theory we for the first time came up against the true laws of governance of the objective universe. If so, the tas was presumably much more difficult than merely rediscovering our own frame of thought.

    Since then microscopic physics has made great progress, and its laws have turned out to be comprehensible to the mind; but, as I have endeavoured to show, it also turns out that they have been imposed by the mind – by our forms of thought — in the same way that the molar laws are imposed.
    Chapter XI The Physical Universe

    I’d guess, since our thinking is so controlled by our experience of the physical universe, in which the things we sense exist in a rather straight forward way, there is no reason to think we could comprehensively deal with the existence of a God. Certainly not one that is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, eternal and a lot bigger than our minds can encompass.

    You certainly don’t have to believe in a god like that, no one can make you and no one should try. But to dismiss the belief in it on the basis of science and logic violates both of those tools created by our minds to suit our limits.

  34. #35 José
    October 6, 2009

    I see the distinction you’re drawing, but it’s a pretty fine line.

    It’s not a fine line to me. One is simply a statement of facts. The other is drawing an illogical conclusions from those facts.

    As far as the NCSE statement goes, it’s one thing to state that it’s possible to believe in god and evolution, but this statement is practically a scientific endorsement of theistic evolution.

  35. #36 Anthony McCarthy
    October 6, 2009

    —- As far as the NCSE statement goes, it’s one thing to state that it’s possible to believe in god and evolution, but this statement is practically a scientific endorsement of theistic evolution. Jose

    I read it as an admission of fact, that it’s possible to believe in God and in evolution, a position that most people who accept evolution clearly hold since most of the people who accept the fact of evolution also believe in a God. That wouldn’t be an endorsement of the idea but an admission that situation objectively exists.

    Doesn’t matter how offensive you take it, most evolutionists are religious while they’re being evolutionists. Some might even state that they believe that God created life by the mechanism of evolution. Which is a religious idea, science can’t endorse it though religion can endorse evolution. When they deal with evolution scientifically, they leave that part out. Just like they might leave out their political affiliation, their gender, ethnic, gender-preference, taste in literature or movies, etc.

    It’s all a lot simpler than the new atheists would like it to be. Their extreme dislike leads them to all kinds of illogical and dishonest contortions of the truth, while most other people choose not to join their toil.

  36. #37 Tyro
    October 6, 2009

    I read it as an admission of fact, that it’s possible to believe in God and in evolution, a position that most people who accept evolution clearly hold since most of the people who accept the fact of evolution also believe in a God. That wouldn’t be an endorsement of the idea but an admission that situation objectively exists.

    It isn’t an endorsement, seriously?

    Eugenie Scott and Rosenau happily point to all of the areas where YEC beliefs conflict with evidence and scientific methodologies but even liberal Christian beliefs conflict with science and they either defend this as valid (other ways of knowing, NOMA, etc) or doggedly refuse comment. Virgin births, dead to life, water to wine and wine to blood conflict every bit as much with science and evidence yet from reading Rosenau and Scott you’d think that these remained legitimate scientific disagreement.

    It’s pretty clear that they are endorsing a position and implying that it’s scientific when it most definitely is not.

  37. #38 Josh Rosenau
    October 6, 2009

    Tyro: “Do you imagine that the methodology that a YEC uses to decide the age of the earth is so different than the methodology used by a liberal Catholic to decide whether Mary was a virgin, Jesus arose from the dead or saints miraculously healed people?”

    Yes. YECs apply a twisted version of the scientific method and/or simply reject certain scientific results outright. Breaking science or outright rejecting it is incompatible with science. Thinking that the rules got suspended 2000 years ago so that a dead body could disappear, or so that a baby could be born to a virgin, is different. They don’t base the statement on empirical claims, they are forthright that there’s no way to test the claim by scientific means, they accept that it is impossible naturally, and indeed think that’s what makes it a miracle. As we agree, religion involves a methodology, and that methodology differs from science’s (in general, religions differ widely). YECs think that their methodology should replace science, or be enshrined within it. So do ID creationists and old earth creationists. It’s one thing to say “I’m going to make some inherently untestable claims now, claims that science can’t do anything with,” and another to say, “I’m going to make some claims now, and they are testable claims in a scientific framework, and you just have to modify science as a process to let these claims stand.” One is incompatible with science, the other might be compatible.

    José: “As far as the NCSE statement goes, it’s one thing to state that it’s possible to believe in god and evolution, but this statement is practically a scientific endorsement of theistic evolution”

    Practically being a key word there. The fact of the matter is that evolution is a theory about processes driving the diversity of life on earth. It does not make claims about God’s existence or non-existence. Many people accept evolution and believe in God. Do you dispute any of those claims? If not, where’s the “scientific endorsement of theistic evolution”?

    I don’t see where the comments by Genie Scott are an illogical conclusion or in any logical sense different from those by Dawkins. Scott was asked about science and religion, and she answered that lots of people find them compatible, and that’s good enough for him. Dawkins was asked about science and evolution, and he said that lots of people find them compatible, and that’s good enough for him.

  38. #39 José
    October 6, 2009

    Many people accept evolution and believe in God. Do you dispute any of those claims? If not, where’s the “scientific endorsement of theistic evolution”?

    It’s worded in such a way that many people will come away thinking it’s an endorsement of theistic evolution. And why say anything? I’ve never heard any new atheist try to deny or hide the fact that someone can believe in evolution and religion. Of course you can. It’s a no-brainer. Anyone who thinks this is a concession begrudgingly made by new atheists never understood their position in the first place.

    I don’t see where the comments by Genie Scott are an illogical conclusion or in any logical sense different from those by Dawkins.

    Genie Scott say’s science and religion are compatible because many scientists are religious. A new atheist would argue that all it shows is that a scientist can believe in something that is incompatible with science.

  39. #40 Josh Rosenau
    October 6, 2009

    José: “Why say anything?”

    It’s not about new atheists. NCSE isn’t about disagreeing with new atheists, it’s about why creationist attacks on evolution education are wrong. And creationists will say that evolution and religion are incompatible. It’s sort of their central claim. That’s why it’s necessary to make the point.

    “A new atheist would argue that all it shows is that a scientist can believe in something that is incompatible with science. ”

    Fine, and a creationist would argue that all Dawkins’ example of Francis Collins shows is that Collins isn’t a real Christian. Neither person is defending the beliefs of the people they are describing, they are saying that there is this sort of compatibility (brute compatibility is the term people keep using, alas). That’s why Scott sets aside the philosophical question. It’s why NCSE’s page is written in a way not to justify compatibility as a philosophical matter, but as an empirical result.

    And so long as creationists keep disputing the point (disputing the brute compatibility, not even the broad philosophical point), it’s necessary to keep pointing out that they are wrong.

  40. #41 Tyro
    October 6, 2009

    YECs apply a twisted version of the scientific method and/or simply reject certain scientific results outright. Breaking science or outright rejecting it is incompatible with science. Thinking that the rules got suspended 2000 years ago so that a dead body could disappear, or so that a baby could be born to a virgin, is different. They don’t base the statement on empirical claims, they are forthright that there’s no way to test the claim by scientific means, they accept that it is impossible naturally, and indeed think that’s what makes it a miracle.

    Apart from the obvious political differences, I don’t see what the difference is. You say that YECs are wrong and their beliefs and methods are clearly incompatible because they reject scientific results, yet liberal Catholics reject the scientific results that virgins don’t give birth and water does not turn into wine. And flipping it, would you say that YEC beliefs were compatible with science if they said that a divine creation was impossible naturally and there was no scientific means of testing their beliefs? Because I hate to break it to you but this is exactly what many creationists do say. I don’t see how this gets them off the hook any more than it does for liberals.

    And what are we to make of the defence that there’s no way to test the claims by scientific means? Surely you must know that there is a whole industry devoted to trying to prove these miracles happened using empirical, scientific means. Strobel and Craig are two popular figures that work hard at this and they certainly don’t act as if these events cannot be studied. And what do you think a biologist would say if you asked her if virgin women could give birth to a man, or a chemist if you asked if water could become wine? These aren’t difficult questions and they aren’t “out of bounds”, and the answers are resoundingly negative. When Christians say that there’s no scientific means of verifying their claims they are wrong and you are wrong when you endorse these claims.

    Scott was asked about science and religion, and she answered that lots of people find them compatible, and that’s good enough for him.

    You’re talking only of what she says initially. At the :40 sec mark, she elaborates and makes it very clear how her views are dramatically different from Dawkins. Instead of saying that people may hold religious views and be a good scientist, a feat that can be done with compartmentalization, she goes on to give examples of how Creationists have views which are contradicted by science without noting that the miracles of liberal Christianity are also contradicted by science or that Creationists may accept scientific conclusions and even use or do science where it doesn’t conflict with their religious views, just as liberal Christians do. If holding the two beliefs is sufficient to show liberal Christianity is compatible with science, why isn’t it sufficient to point out that IDers also believe in science and religion while holding a few events to be outside the scope of science? Is miraculously creating genes so different than creating whole new chromosomes with which to impregnate Mary?

    It’s a bait and switch or double standard. For your allies you look only whether they can hold two beliefs simultaneously (religion and science), but for your enemies you critically evaluate their specific beliefs and claims and how they stack up scientifically. If you’re going to open your mouth and say that Creationists have unscientific beliefs because their beliefs are contradicted by all evidence and theory, it’s only honest to point out the very same flaws in other religious beliefs.

  41. #42 Matti K.
    October 7, 2009

    Josh: “A God which exists and does nothing we can test is certainly conceivable, arguably irrational, but not contradictory to science.”

    OK. You are speaking about the eternally evasive God.

    The creationists and most “mainstream” religionists have one thing in common: scientific findings will (most likely) not affect their religious beliefs. For example, it is not likely that the following paper has much effect on the religious practices of the religious relatives and friends of bypass-patients:

    http://www.ahjonline.com/article/PIIS0002870305006496/abstract

    Creationist statements(as well as ID) can be shown with rational arguments to be bad science, so they can be refuted without bringing in religious issues at all.

    Mainstream irrational beliefs can be harmful, too, so I see no reason for a scientific organization to tolerate some irrational beliefs above others. Like: belief in virgin birth and resurrection – OK, belief in a 6000-year old world and A&E – not OK.

    Separating irrational belief systems into benign and malign forms leads easily to a play of political correctness, where BS (as judged scientifically) from “usefull allies” is tolerated, whereas stuff with equal scientific truth values from “enemies” is strongly condemned. Keeping track of one’s statements in such a quagmire can be very challenging.

  42. #43 Matti K.
    October 7, 2009

    Josh: “And so long as creationists keep disputing the point (disputing the brute compatibility, not even the broad philosophical point), it’s necessary to keep pointing out that they are wrong.”

    I assume that the creationists do not dispute the scientific credentials of Collins. If they dispute “brute compatibility”, they are saying that Collins is not really religious. Are they? Or are they just saying that Collins is not a true Christian?

    Anyway, I don’t think that a scientific organization like NCSE has any compentence to judge anybody’s religious status. Of course, it makes sense to handle the subject (religion) under topics of “Science and Religion” or “Evolution and Religion”. Here, people could be introduced to interesting cases, like Collins and Miller. Personally, I feel that it would not harm to include the views of Coyne and Dawkins, as well. All the gentlemen are competent scientists who have interesting views on the relationship of science and religion.

  43. #44 Anthony McCarthy
    October 7, 2009

    I read Tyro, Matti K, others here and see that no amount of reasoned explanation, pointing out the situation in the population that objectively exists will persuade them. The new atheists are emotionally unable to accept reality, that most people who accept science are also religious, that these terrible conflicts between the two apparently aren’t universally experienced. And they can’t accept that people who have heard their arguments don’t find them convincing.

    Take this from Tyro’s comment # 36:

    Virgin births, dead to life, water to wine and wine to blood conflict every bit as much with science and evidence yet from reading Rosenau and Scott you’d think that these remained legitimate scientific disagreement.

    Not being a Christian, I don’t happen to believe any of those religious doctrines, but I can objectively look at history and biography and see that Fr. Gregor Mendel, the man who came up with the missing and essential genetic basis of the Darwinian model of evolution and see that there was no problem for that important figure in science. I have to conclude that there was no problem for Galileo, since he remained an observant Catholic, even after his famous trial. There was no problem for Nicholas Steno, another extremely important figure in early modern science, who became a Bishop. You could name a huge list of people who produced important science for whom belief in these doctrines hasn’t hindered their work in science. There is no real life conflict.

    Can anyone point to a research project which has gone unfunded or was shut down due to belief in any of those three beliefs? I’ve never heard of one. Can they point to any scientist who cited their belief in any of those three doctrines as a hindrance to their work? Because I’ve never heard of one of those either.

    What belief in these and many other doctrines of religion do is offend the sensibilities of new atheists just as belief in many aspects of Catholic belief offend traditional biblical fundamentalism. Traditionally, some of the arguments used against Catholicism sound remarkably like some of the most used lines of today’s new atheists. The tone is remarkably similitude too.

    There are religious beliefs that do conflict with some aspects of science, creationism, most famously. As I think was pointed out above, a biblical creationist couldn’t work in science in much of anything to do with evolution. “Scientific ID” produces what it purports to be science but it’s science that is clearly warped by their desire to insert their religious beliefs into science, which can’t accommodate them. Whether any of their work stands up is for their peers to decide, I tend to doubt it will. But religious believers, even biblical fundamentalists can and have worked in science. Some of them have had careers that aren’t insignificant.

    Those who want science to bend to their cults have to deny some aspect of reality to make that happen. The new atheists have to deny these realities to support their dogma of absolute incompatibility of all religion and science. I’d go into how they also distort science and logic as well as history and biography in the process but that’s a really long argument. They have to be as dishonest as the ID industry is in making their arguments. They distract people from doing important work and their distorted philosophy doesn’t do much for the reputation of science in the general population.

    I really don’t think it’s an intellectual fashion that’s grounded in reality and because of that it isn’t going to stand the test of time.

  44. #45 Anthony McCarthy
    October 7, 2009

    You know what every blog needs is one of those 15 minute go back and edit your grammatical mistakes options. For some reason I’ve got to see it posted to see the mistakes.

    A man who acts as his own editor has a blogger for a client, the first thing I learned when I kept up a blog.

  45. #46 rx1
    October 7, 2009

    I think was pointed out above, a biblical creationist couldn’t work in science in much of anything to do with evolution.

  46. #47 José
    October 7, 2009

    It’s not about new atheists. NCSE isn’t about disagreeing with new atheists, it’s about why creationist attacks on evolution education are wrong.

    People who believe in evolution already know why, so they don’t need to be convinced. Creationists believe in the infallibility of the Bible, so you need to refute that if they’re going to to believe in evolution. Pointing out that that there are scientists who believe in god doesn’t do that.

    Fine, and a creationist would argue that all Dawkins’ example of Francis Collins shows is that Collins isn’t a real Christian.

    Why should science concern itself with whether or not creationists think Francis Collins is a real Christian?

    And so long as creationists keep disputing the point (disputing the brute compatibility, not even the broad philosophical point), it’s necessary to keep pointing out that they are wrong.

    Science doesn’t prove there’s no god, but it’s not like science and evolution have nothing to say about religious beliefs. Why does proving creationists wrong need to involve claiming that science and religion are compatible? How does that help?

  47. #48 Anthony McCarthy
    October 7, 2009

    — Science doesn’t prove there’s no god, but it’s not like science and evolution have nothing to say about religious beliefs. Why does proving creationists wrong need to involve claiming that science and religion are compatible? How does that help? Jose

    Any religious belief that asserts something about the subject matter of science, of those things that science can address using it’s tools and methods can be the subject of science. Any religious belief that falls outside the ability of those tools and methods are as safe from scientific debunking as political opinions or preferences in movies.

    Science can’t do what science can’t do, it’s not given that ability by people pretending that their personal preferences are synonymous with science. ID industry creationists want to make their preference, biblical literalism, impinge on science. Demonstrating that they are wrong is part of promoting science in the general population.

    New atheist dogma about the total incompatibility of science and religion is also an extra-scientific, personal preference. The new atheism also attempts to distort science and logic, as well as other parts of reality, to serve their dogma. Looking around the new atheist and “skeptic” blogs, it’s pretty clear that they’ve sewn a lot of pseudo-scientific clap trap around the culture. Objecting to that is necessary if you care about scientific and intellectual integrity just as it is in countering the ID industry.

    That’s why it’s important to correct those beliefs of the new atheist fad.

  48. #49 bexley
    October 7, 2009

    The new atheists are emotionally unable to accept reality, that most people who accept science are also religious, that these terrible conflicts between the two apparently aren’t universally experienced.

    Interesting phraseology – turning it around do most religious people accept science?

    Its all very well to say that scientists can be both religious and do good science but such people do not make up the majority of the religious.

    Religous beliefs have certainly contributed to restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

    In the UK the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church and other religious organisations campaigned against legislation that allowed hybrid embryos to be created for research. These are not fringe religious sects arguing against scientific research – these are mainstream religions in modern times. The problem is far worse if we were to delve into history or look at other forms of religion.

    My own thoughts are that if you are going to say religion and science are compatible then you should be clear about what kind of religion you are talking about. Even mainstream religions currently come into conflict with science.

  49. #50 Anthony McCarthy
    October 7, 2009

    bexley,You’re confusing a political disagreement with incompatibility with science.

    What’ you’re talking about isn’t a scientific dispute over the use of embryos in science and medicine, it’s a political dispute over a practice. Do you have the CE or the Catholic church officially on record denying the reliability of the science behind that use?

    If some atheists don’t accept some aspect of medicine or science, does that mean that “atheists don’t accept science”? You could as easily point to people opposed to the use of atomic weapons on moral grounds as an analogy for what you are proposing. Were all of those atheists who opposed the use, proposed use and stockpiling of nuclear weapons, many of them scientists, many of them who worked on atomic weapons research, “opposed to science”?

    —- if you are going to say religion and science are compatible then you should be clear about what kind of religion you are talking about bexley

    I did: Any religious belief that asserts something about the subject matter of science, of those things that science can address using it’s tools and methods can be the subject of science. Any religious belief that falls outside the ability of those tools and methods are as safe from scientific debunking as political opinions or preferences in movies.

    Religion that doesn’t deny what science is able to demonstrate isn’t in conflict with science. Religion that holds that the universe as it is,is the result of the will of their deities go farther than that. Where the problem arises in that case is in understanding the universe as it is instead of how we have believed it to be.

    — Even mainstream religions currently come into conflict with science. bexley

    Well, even science comes into conflict with science, conflict is endemic to science just as it is with every other area of human activity, politics, etc. Look at how ecological science regularly comes into conflict with other areas of applied science which generally with some financial motivation attached to it. The new atheists don’t address this because their program is a lot more about hating on religion than it is in facing reality or promoting science.

    I think if you look at your assertions more closely, you’ll see that you haven’t described a conflict between science and liberal religion but between some religious authorities and the decisions made about the application of science.

    There are many Catholics, Anglicans, even Mormons who are in favor of stem cell research with possible application of it in mind. “Religion” isn’t something that is uniform and exists outside of the individuals that believe in it. But that’s a more complex argument to make and I’ve got a lot of work today.

  50. #51 Tyro
    October 7, 2009

    Anthony,

    I have to conclude that there was no problem for Galileo, since he remained an observant Catholic, even after his famous trial.

    As has been said and repeatedly ignored, unless you can present some evidence that Galileo and other scientists cannot hold two mutually incompatible beliefs then listing religious scientists is a red herring. I fully acknowledge that there are religious scientists, I just don’t see how it establishes that there are no conflicts between religion and science. (It also doesn’t help that you are listing so many ancient names.)

    So yes, you’re right that this won’t change anyone’s mind but not because we’re closed or unwilling to consider new evidence but because what you’re presenting isn’t useful in deciding your case.

    Can they point to any scientist who cited their belief in any of those three doctrines as a hindrance to their work? Because I’ve never heard of one of those either.

    If you want an admission that liberal Christians are generally allies for good science funding, you have it. Doesn’t mean that their beliefs are compatible with science but rather their incompatible beliefs are less consequential than Creationists. However the Catholic church’s work fighting condom distribution in Africa has done far more harm than anything the Discovery Institute has ever done. These unscientific, dogmatic beliefs can be harmful even if they appear benign.

    And must I repeat that this doesn’t mean that this religion is compatible with science? Revelation, scriptural interpretation, dogma and tradition are how religions decide on issues, none of these are compatible with science. At best you could show that their specific beliefs are congruent with scientific conclusions, but even this is restricted to deist, non-interventionist gods.

    As Josh spelled out in the first post, compatibility is a question of conclusions and methods. You agree that virgin births aren’t compatible conclusions and I bet you’d agree that personal revelation isn’t a compatible methodology. So except in the trivial case that one may hold religious views and practice science, in what other way are religions compatible with science? It looks like these “distortions” as you call them are accurate depictions of reality.

  51. #52 gillt
    October 7, 2009

    Jose: “Science doesn’t prove there’s no god, but it’s not like science and evolution have nothing to say about religious beliefs. Why does proving creationists wrong need to involve claiming that science and religion are compatible? How does that help?”

    This is a good question that should be addressed by Rosenau. Namely, what was the reasoning behind the NCSE’s use of this strategy.

    The NCSE’s purpose is science education AND debunking creationist ideas; two worthy endeavors. NCSE’s statement that science and religion are compatible, according to Rosenau, falls into the latter category of debunking creationism. But statements like this–“These are complementary rather than conflicting perspectives”–does a disservice to science education because science is in no way compatible or complementary with claims made by those who insist they are untestable.

  52. #53 Anthony McCarthy
    October 7, 2009

    — I fully acknowledge that there are religious scientists, I just don’t see how it establishes that there are no conflicts between religion and science. Tyro

    What do you want? Some kind of imaginary, conclusive evidence based on fMRI or something? I’m sorry, but you’re stuck with what those people said and did, it’s never going to get any more physical than that. You’re going to have to take them on their word because they are the only legitimate authority on their state of mind. Just as contemporary scientists, religious and not religious, are. If you get a name for yourself as a scientist and find religion, you can tell us if you experience this asserted “conflict” because you’d have to be both before you’d know.

    — (It also doesn’t help that you are listing so many ancient names.)

    Now this is rather interesting. It’s out of bounds to cite Galileo when you’re noting his religious belief but I’d guess it’s in bounds to cite him when you’re telling, often mythical, stories about his prosecution by the Vatican. Or have you criticized the frequent recourse to fables about him and other figures in the past, one of the mainstays of new atheist lore.

    You think that Darwin’s an ancient name? Because Gregor Mendel was born about 13 years after he was and lived a couple of years longer.

  53. #54 Anthony McCarthy
    October 7, 2009

    I forgot.

    First, Deists. I am sorry to have to report to you that I’m very skeptical about the existence of deists, never having met one.

    You agree that virgin births aren’t compatible conclusions and I bet you’d agree that personal revelation isn’t a compatible methodology.

    I deny that the Christian doctrine of The Virgin Birth of Jesus is a belief that is open to scientific study because of how it is defined in the two gospels where it originated and because there is absolutely no physical evidence to study.

    I think that J. D. Crossan’s idea of the possible origin of that doctrine as a response to the widely disseminated political propaganda about the alleged divine origin of Augustus Caesar is far more credible than all of the allegedly scientific debunking of it I’ve ever read. As I noted, I don’t happen to believe in it, I do believe in the methods of science and don’t like to see them asserted when they can’t be applied.

    I also don’t think there is any real life problem with a lot of people believing in The Virgin Birth, it’s a silly distraction.

  54. #55 czrpb
    October 7, 2009

    Anthony: Your comment kinda scares me: “Any religious belief that falls outside the ability of those tools and methods are as safe from scientific debunking as political opinions or preferences in movies.”

    Are you saying that the “tools and methods” of science have no place in politics or political debates? Is all politics mere opinion? Goodness, but I hope not.

  55. #56 Anthony McCarthy
    October 7, 2009

    czrpb, let me put your mind to rest. How do you propose to fit democratic government into the methods of science?

    History has had a few of what purported to be “scientific” political regimes, from the period after the French Revolution to North Korea, the results haven’t been less that a complete and bloody disaster.

    If you mean that people making political decisions have to consult with valid science, yes. Of course. When it’s done right science gives us the most reliable information we have about those parts of the material world that science studies. It would be irresponsible to not consult it when making political decisions.

  56. #57 José
    October 7, 2009

    What do you want? Some kind of imaginary, conclusive evidence based on fMRI or something? I’m sorry, but you’re stuck with what those people said and did, it’s never going to get any more physical than that.

    We understand that individuals are able to believe two contradictory things. That’s doesn’t mean the things aren’t contradictory. How can you not get that by now?

  57. #58 Tyro
    October 7, 2009

    What do you want? Some kind of imaginary, conclusive evidence based on fMRI or something? I’m sorry, but you’re stuck with what those people said and did, it’s never going to get any more physical than that

    Does this mean that you accept the claims of Creationists who say there is no conflict between their religious beliefs and science? You haven’t done any fMRIs so you’re stuck with what they say and do, right?

    Rosenau has already illustrated one way of critically examining whether YEC is compatible with science and concluded that it isn’t. And he didn’t have to do fMRI or anything, instead he actually looked at their claims and methodologies.

    Shocker, I know. Bigger shock would be if he or you would apply the same critical methodology to examining the claims of other groups.

  58. #59 Bexley
    October 7, 2009

    — I fully acknowledge that there are religious scientists, I just don’t see how it establishes that there are no conflicts between religion and science.

    I noticed that your response to Tyro was the following:

    What do you want? Some kind of imaginary, conclusive evidence based on fMRI or something? I’m sorry, but you’re stuck with what those people said and did, it’s never going to get any more physical than that. You’re going to have to take them on their word because they are the only legitimate authority on their state of mind. Just as contemporary scientists, religious and not religious, are. If you get a name for yourself as a scientist and find religion, you can tell us if you experience this asserted “conflict” because you’d have to be both before you’d know.

    Mainstream religion quite often conflicts with science – I quoted two examples in post 48 and that wasnt even entering the territory of stuff like wahabism. Im guessing (I wasnt around for the “framing wars”) that this is more what is meant by conflict of religion and science. ie either the YEC fringe trying to distort science or mainstream religion telling science what its allowed to do.

  59. #60 Anthony McCarthy
    October 7, 2009

    — Does this mean that you accept the claims of Creationists who say there is no conflict between their religious beliefs and science? Tyro

    No, of course not, read my comment to you at # 43. Their belief in biblical literalism and so creationism is a conflict between that and science which has massive amounts of contrary evidence.

    Whether or not they experience a conflict over believing in a God, something which science can’t deal with honesty, isn’t something you can know unless they tell you. Would geologists who were evangelical Christians with a somewhat less literal understanding of the Bible have any problem between their science and religion? I’d guess it would vary but they’d have to tell you. You’re not the expert on their experience, neither am I.

    Jose, any if not most religious beliefs aren’t in conflict with science because they deal with separate areas of life. Science can’t touch those anymore than religion can touch the evidence for the real age of the Earth and the fact that evolution happened.

    You guys are trying to characterize the experiences of large numbers of people holding a large number of different religious beliefs in a monumental attempt to simplify it so you can dispose of it. Well, don’t be surprised when they don’t fit your model and refuse to cooperate.

  60. #61 Anthony McCarthy
    October 7, 2009

    bexley, I posted an answer to that point which seems to be under review. If it doesn’t get posted I’ll try another way.

    Here’s a bit of it, though, you were mischaracterizing a political dispute as a scientific one.

  61. #62 José
    October 7, 2009

    Jose, any if not most religious beliefs aren’t in conflict with science because they deal with separate areas of life.

    The fact that there are scientists who are religious is not evidence that science and religion don’t conflict, as you maintain. Just because science can’t disprove a claim doesn’t mean it doesn’t conflict with science. I can’t test or disprove the existence of Bigfoot, but with what I know of science, I know it’s highly unlikely. Therefore, the likelihood that Bigfoot exist conflicts with what we know of science. The same goes for religion. Saying religion is a special case that can’t be addressed by science is a cop out.

  62. #63 Anthony McCarthy
    October 7, 2009

    – Just because science can’t disprove a claim doesn’t mean it doesn’t conflict with science. Jose

    It does if it is outside the subject matter which science was invented to study, the material universe. It does if it’s an aspect of the material universe which science, for some reason, can’t investigate.

    The possible existence of Bigfoot isn’t something I’m awfully familiar with. I have no idea whether or not it’s likely. But as Bigfoot is supposed to have a physical body, whereas God isn’t restricted to one, you are mixing things a lot farther apart than apples and oranges. Which is very common to the surprisingly illogical new atheist crowd.

    — Saying religion is a special case that can’t be addressed by science is a cop out. Jose

    I didn’t happen to say that, I said that science can only do what it can do and a lot of what new atheists would like it to be able to do with religion, it can’t do no matter how much you want it to or what words you apply to what those pointing that out say.

  63. #64 Larry Moran
    October 7, 2009

    Josh says,

    That’s why Scott sets aside the philosophical question. It’s why NCSE’s page is written in a way not to justify compatibility as a philosophical matter, but as an empirical result.

    Speaking of empirical results. We all know there are scientists who are also Young Earth Creationists. Therefore Young Earth Creationism is compatible with science.

    Q.E.D.

    To hell with philosophy.

    Everybody happy now?

  64. #65 Josh Rosenau
    October 7, 2009

    Larry: in the original post I wrote: “Young earth creationism is not compatible with science. Both make certain claims about the world which conflict. Both propose mechanisms for testing identical sorts of claims about the world, and those methods conflict. YEC belief pretty much requires you to reject science.”

    YECs can do one of three things with science and religion. They can say that the scientific results are wrong, and propose a new scientific method which confirms their biases. They can say that the scientific results say exactly what science says they do and explicitly reject that and proclaim that one day they’ll have the scientific upper hand. Or they can pull a Last Thursdayist stunt and declare that science says what it does because everything was made to look exactly like it would if the world had been evolving for billions of years. The first two claims attack science explicitly and are not compatible on a brute level. The latter could be, depending how you work it.

  65. #66 czrpb
    October 7, 2009

    Hi Anthony! Ok, so I heard you say that during ‘politics’ one ought to use information derived via science as much as possible yes? That is your 3rd paragraph I believe. I think that is good also.

    In your 1st though you ask: “How do you propose to fit democratic government into the methods of science?” Can we not use the *methods* of science to help us decide between alternative policies?

  66. #67 Tyro
    October 7, 2009

    Their belief in biblical literalism and so creationism is a conflict between that and science which has massive amounts of contrary evidence.

    Whether or not they experience a conflict over believing in a God, something which science can’t deal with honesty, isn’t something you can know unless they tell you.

    You examine the claims of creationists using evidence and say they’re wrong yet you absolutely refuse to examine the claims made by liberal Christians possibly because you know they conflict with evidence. What methodology can this be, harsh scrutiny for one group, unquestioning acceptance for another?

    I couldn’t place your double standard in starker contrast than you’ve done by yourself, congrats.

  67. #68 Anna K.
    October 7, 2009

    Hmmmm. What claims by “liberal Christians” were you thinking could be tested by science, Tyro?

  68. #69 Tyro
    October 7, 2009

    Josh

    YECs can do one of three things with science and religion.[…]They can say that the scientific results say exactly what science says they do and explicitly reject that and proclaim that one day they’ll have the scientific upper hand

    What if they say, to quote you, “that there’s no way to test the claim by scientific means, they accept that it is impossible naturally, and indeed think that’s what makes it a miracle.”

    Would that make YEC compatible with science? Why is that option only open to liberal Christians but not Creationists?

    Here’s one explanation by a Creationist: Now what about creation? Is it a natural process? No, it was a miracle. A special discontinuous event. As such, is SC subject to normal empirical evaluation? The scientific method? No! (http://www.reformed.org/creation/blind_fools.html)

    He says its a miracle, says that it’s not subject to scientific scrutiny. Hands up, how many people accept this claim without question because we can’t evaluate religious belief?

  69. #70 gillt
    October 7, 2009

    Rosenau: “Or they can pull a Last Thursdayist stunt and declare that science says what it does because everything was made to look exactly like it would if the world had been evolving for billions of years”

    Then the YECs god and Francis Collins’ gods are the same. Both of their gods are behind the scenes, undetectable, making man in god’s image. The only difference is that one uses evolution as a facade and the other a divine tool. Collins is a moderate Christian by most accounts.

  70. #71 Tyro
    October 7, 2009

    Hmmmm. What claims by “liberal Christians” were you thinking could be tested by science, Tyro?

    Water to wine, dead rising, cure blindness with spit, evil spirits into pigs, walking on water, wine into blood, wafer into flesh. There are secondary claims such as omnipotentence and omnibenevolence, humans as designed beings and any number of saintly miracles. Pretty elementary chemistry, physics, and biology rejects the first list and the second group is almost certainly wrong as well.

    Nearer and dearer might be claims of “the breath of life” to oppose all abortion and stem cell research and deny condoms even if it means contracting AIDS. Some otherwise liberal Christians argue that the bible says the earth is for us to use and so environmentalism and global warming must be wrong.

    Even if the consequences of these beliefs are benign (who gets hurt if they believe Jesus walked on water?) it doesn’t mean they are any more compatible with science. If “miracle” or “goddidit” is good enough for water walking, it’s hypocritical to say it’s not good enough for divine creation as both use the same methodology.

  71. #72 Sigmund
    October 7, 2009

    Josh, you do realize that your argument against Larry’s point uses a point about the scientific method that equally applies to theistic religions, don’t you?
    Asking creationists to come up with a different scientific method presupposes that theistic evolutionists have views about the natural world compatible with the same scientific method. Is this really true? Is belief in a conscious soul (present in a fertilized egg or maybe, in the not too distant future, in a fibroblast used to clone a human) compatible with the scientific method? How about the idea that every now and then the laws of nature are completely suspended to allow miracles to occur such as virgin birth and resurrection? It is usually claimed by the likes of Francis Collins that these sorts of ancient miracles are not testable, however it wouldn’t take much to make standard creationism just as untestable. Perhaps just remove the explicit claims surrounding flood geology. What is left is for the most part claims of miracles occurring in the past that cannot today be tested (pretty similar to the situation regarding the miracles of Jesus).

  72. #73 abb3w
    October 7, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy: So, anything that cannot be contained within science is in conflict with science?

    It’s contained. Some of it is merely evaluated as “probably wrong”.

    If being “probably wrong” doesn’t cause you psychological conflict, then you’re an anomaly, but that’s fine.

    Anthony McCarthy: You have, in fact, put the new atheism in conflict with science because it is an assertion of values.

    Values are not that hard, once you cross the is-ought problem divide to a starting point. The crossing is also pretty easy. What’s tricky is getting people to understand that the bridge across actually heads in the direction they think “ought” lies.

    Anthony McCarthy: None of those things are anything other than an “additional entity” when you treat them your way.

    They’re compositional entities; that is to say, groupings of the underlying minimal entities. This is distinct from being an additional entity. It’s the difference from allowing an entity composed of 123221231 when you have concluded there is 1, 2, and 3 from having 123 22 and 1, versus insisting there is also 4.

    Anthony McCarthy: You can only try to squeeze God into set theory, or any other part of science or logic, by ignoring that many if not most religious people specifically assert that God is beyond and over the natural universe.

    Bare assertion that “You can’t do that!” is not sufficient to preclude the existence of the correspondence. Set theory is depressingly powerful.

    There’s also the question of what is meant by “natural universe”.

    Anthony McCarthy: your assertion doesn’t answer the question about what many if not most religious believers believe about God.

    That’s an issue of anthropology, not of philosophy.

    Anthony McCarthy: The traditional assertion that God is omnipotent would mean that God can surpass the restrictions of logic

    Which requires he be able to achieve simultaneous Assertion and Refutation, such as creating a catalog listing all catalogs that do not list themselves, and thus P AND NOT P, making the deity a FALSE god — by the (Robbins construction) definition of FALSE.

    Josh Rosenau: I think there’s also a philosophical dispute about philosophy of science, where some people think science is omnicompetent and philosophically invasive, and others don’t.

    I would consider this an anthropological dispute within philosophy, since they are not working from mutual philosophical priors.

    Josh Rosenau: That is, some people seem to be saying that everything (or everything interesting? meaningful? I get fuzzy on this point) is testable by scientific means

    Perhaps “everything purporting to describe experience”; and with some horribly mathematical qualifiers on “testable”.

    Josh Rosenau: Others argue that science operates by certain rules, and that those rules impose limits on what science can speak to.

    However, one question is, do those rules arise anthropologically by “You can’t do that!” bare assertion, or as a philosophically necessary consequence of prior premises?

    The other part is that the limits are result of premises that define the context, and shift only with those premises. (Anthropologically, they also shift with the local attitudes to vigilante justice.) Which means to claim that X is outside the limit, you have to show this limit results from those premises; or select a premise to take Refutation of — and abide ever after by the consequences of that Refutation.

    So, for example, Anthony McCarthy does not like God being bound by logic. I prefer a Robbins construction; so, he may select any one of the three Axioms (commutativity of logical inclusive disjunction, associativity of same, or the Robbins Axiom) as not applying Universally, holding propositions involving God are an exception. Which is fine… but having made this rejection, he no longer has a means to connect philosophical propositions of any kind, and can’t get to talk about God, either.

    Much of the YCDT crowd seem to want to have their cake and eat it, too.

    Josh Rosenau: This seems to be where philosophers of science stand.

    The problem is that most philosophers have not paid close enough attention to understand what the mathematicians have done since 1900; however, that’s hard to discuss without making “English Major” cracks.

  73. #74 Bexley
    October 7, 2009

    bexley, I posted an answer to that point which seems to be under review. If it doesn’t get posted I’ll try another way.

    Here’s a bit of it, though, you were mischaracterizing a political dispute as a scientific one.

    Err what? I wasnt characterizing it as a scientific dispute – the scientists in the field were in agreement that the research should be allowed and funded.

    I was pointing out clear examples where mainstream religion had tried to tell science what science should be allowed to do solely on religious grounds. These are clear examples of a conflict between science and scientists on the one hand and religious leaders on the other.

  74. #75 Bexley
    October 7, 2009

    Sigh blockquote fail. Lets try this again.

    bexley, I posted an answer to that point which seems to be under review. If it doesn’t get posted I’ll try another way.

    Here’s a bit of it, though, you were mischaracterizing a political dispute as a scientific one.

    Err what? I wasnt characterizing it as a scientific dispute – the scientists in the field were in agreement that the research should be allowed and funded.

    I was pointing out clear examples where mainstream religion had tried to tell science what science should be allowed to do solely on religious grounds. These are clear examples of a conflict between science and scientists on the one hand and religious leaders on the other.

  75. #76 Anthony McCarthy
    October 7, 2009

    — Speaking of empirical results. We all know there are scientists who are also Young Earth Creationists. Therefore Young Earth Creationism is compatible with science. Larry Moran

    What a silly thing to say and to no purpose. Clearly you don’t believe that because a genuine scientist holds erroneous ideas that means that they are compatible with science by virtue of that. And no one else I’ve read on this blog does either. At least,not when the question is some religious belief and science, I suspect if some of the scientific controversies that prominent new atheists have been involved was brought up, exactly that assertion would be made. I suspect that because it’s been my experience of arguing about the behavioral sciences with new atheists.

    — Can we not use the *methods* of science to help us decide between alternative policies?
    Posted by: czrpb

    I don’t understand what you mean. If you mean something like a says, b says and deciding which one to go with, that’s not how science works is it? Scientific methods aren’t based in democracy.

    Democratic institutions have developed to deal with political decision making, just as the methods of science, those grew out of human experience. Those don’t work unless people have sufficient information to make a good decision. I think that’s the place that science comes into it, providing reliable information about those things it can. A lot of times, though, other areas of study are more informative than science. History is certainly one of those. The Separation of Church and State was developed through a knowledge of history, science can’t do anything at all with it, for example.

    —- You examine the claims of creationists using evidence and say they’re wrong yet you absolutely refuse to examine the claims made by liberal Christians possibly because you know they conflict with evidence. Tyro

    Don’t blame me if liberal Christians’ beliefs don’t include things that have been refuted by science. How do you think they became liberal instead of fundamentalists? I’d have thought this would be something that the supporters of science would be glad to find out.

    As for the three that you listed and I talked about in
    # 43, what motive do you think I’d have for protecting them from legitimate scientific refutation? I don’t happen to believe in them. You think I’d mind losing ideas I don’t happen to have?

    abb3w, you seem to be more of a numerological mystic than someone who’s interested in logic and science.

    I’d like to know how the methods of science deal with questions of moral or ethical values, in something other than a metaphorical way, in which things are symbolically substituted for those undefined, indeterminate entities. I completely reject that practice, it’s juggling symbols, not dealing with reality.

    — Anthony McCarthy does not like God being bound by logic. abb3w

    Anthony McCarthy is quite agnostic on that issue and always tries to remember to say that the assertion that God or any other aspect of a proposed supernatural can be bound by logic, mathematics or science is of entirely unknown and unknowable validity. I’ll go so far as to say I don’t believe that God would be bound by logic because logic is a human invention made from our experience of the material universe, for our own purposes.

    I will also tell you, that anyone who holds that God is omnipotent would have no problem with pointing out to you that all powerful would include the power to supersede all of them, especially if they held that God created the universe. Do you think they’d suspect he didn’t leave the workings where they could be tinkered with?

    — Anthony McCarthy: “You can only try to squeeze God into set theory, or any other part of science or logic, by ignoring that many if not most religious people specifically assert that God is beyond and over the natural universe”.

    Bare assertion that “You can’t do that!” is not sufficient to preclude the existence of the correspondence. Set theory is depressingly powerful.

    Well, I’d suspect it’s up to you to formally show how you can subject the traditional God of the three major Monotheistic traditions to set theory. Since I’m listening to Moses und Aron let me ask you to subject the God held by Moses to be “One, eternal, all present, invisible and unimaginable” to any kind of mathematics of your choice, though I’d exclude Bayesian probability, been done, didn’t work.

    More generally, this back and forth over well covered ground is futile. I think it’s time to confront the new atheists’ dilemma on the real grounds it covers. They want people who believe in religion to stop believing what they do believe. Yet they always, always deal with phony pretended issues that don’t answer what people do, actually believe and the ways in which they believe them. Which is another reason they are bound to fail in their great project.

  76. #77 Tyro
    October 7, 2009

    Clearly you don’t believe that because a genuine scientist holds erroneous ideas that means that they are compatible with science by virtue of that. And no one else I’ve read on this blog does either.

    Really? Your, Scott’s and Rosenau’s words imply exactly the opposite. When discussing whether religion is compatible with science, you merely cite a list of scientists who are also religious and say directly that we must believe them. This has been repeated time and time again.

    I can’t square what you say here with what you’ve said elsewhere in this discussion. Please clarify.

    —- You examine the claims of creationists using evidence and say they’re wrong yet you absolutely refuse to examine the claims made by liberal Christians possibly because you know they conflict with evidence. Tyro

    Don’t blame me if liberal Christians’ beliefs don’t include things that have been refuted by science.

    Liberal Christians hold many beliefs that are refuted by science – the resurrection for one! What are you thinking?

  77. #78 Anthony McCarthy
    October 7, 2009

    — I was pointing out clear examples where mainstream religion had tried to tell science what science should be allowed to do solely on religious grounds. These are clear examples of a conflict between science and scientists on the one hand and religious leaders on the other. bexley

    Now you’re shifting goalposts. I thought that wasn’t something you guys were supposed to do. Here is what you originally said before you got into the stem cell issue:

    Its all very well to say that scientists can be both religious and do good science but such people do not make up the majority of the religious.
    Religous beliefs have certainly contributed to restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

    I pointed out two things, first that the suppression of governmental funding for stem cell research wasn’t a negation of any science, it was a political attempt to prevent public funds from being used to fund the research. That’s not a conflict between religion and science, though it’s mighty inconvenient to scientists who want to do research in the area.

    The second thing I pointed out was that there were many members of the Catholic, Anglican and even Mormon churches (I recall almost choking when I heard Orrin Hatch on the subject) who favored funding embryonic stem cell research, not to mention major bodies of other religions who publicly supported public funding for stem cell research. I believe that the polls showed a majority of the people in the United States supported it. Most of whom would have been religious believers.

    In any case, as even the opponents didn’t deny the science behind it, they weren’t in opposition to science, in every case I was aware of their opposition was political, not scientific.

  78. #79 Anthony McCarthy
    October 7, 2009

    — When discussing whether religion is compatible with science, you merely cite a list of scientists who are also religious and say directly that we must believe them. Tyro

    Who the heck am I supposed to believe about their personal experience? Larry Moran? PZ Myers? You?

    I know fundamentalists like to pretend that they get to decide these things for other people but, yet, they are constantly shocked when those people go right on deciding for themselves what they’ve concluded from their own experience.

    — Liberal Christians hold many beliefs that are refuted by science – the resurrection for one! Tyro

    What’s the scientific refutation of the belief in the resurrection? I don’t just mean that a lot of scientists don’t like the idea, I mean the actual, scientific refutation of it as it’s actually believed by the people who believe it. I will warn you I’ve had this argument many times before and haven’t seen one yet.

  79. #80 Anna K.
    October 7, 2009

    Tyro @ #70,

    Thanks for responding to my question. Here are my thoughts in return, fwiw.

    I don’t know of any Christians at all, liberal or conservative, who claim that communion wafers turn into literal human flesh or that communion wine turns into literal human blood. If that were the case, that claim could be tested scientifically.

    I have to say however that if all of a sudden a piece of bread and a sip of wine suddenly turned into raw meat and blood in people’s mouths next Sunday, I’ll bet there would be a lot of Christians spitting it out in shock and disgust. So most Christians must mean something else by that claim. If they’re not claiming that wafers turn into physical flesh and wine turns into physical blood, are they still making a scientifically testable claim?

    I don’t know how you would scientifically test for omnipotence or omnibenevolence. I don’t even know how you would scientifically test for plain old benevolence. Determining values like “benevolence,” or “evil,” for that matter, is outside of science’s purview. We can use scientific methodology to record or measure the effects of altruistic behaviors or atrocities (after all, all those behaviors are observable), but once we start making values claims by naming some behaviors “benevolent” and other behaviors “nonbenevolent” we’re no longer doing science.

    As far as miracle stories, how religious people define ‘miracle’ depends on their theologies. I know Christians who consider miracle stories to be metaphors, and metaphors are not of course testable by science.

    I’ve also seen definitions of miracles that deny the idea that miracles break the laws of nature. (Keith Ward or possibly Polkinghorne talks about this, but I’m not sure – going on memory here.)

    I also know religious people who claim that the birth of a child and beautiful sunsets are miracles; that the fact that anything exists at all is a miracle.

    And I also know Christians who make room for the possibility of miracles as exceptional events – anomalous healings, for one thing. If miracles in the sense I take you to mean them are possible, I’m not sure how science would detect them, as they are considered to be exceptional events and science relies on repeatable observations. (How would you scientificallly test an historical event that’s claimed to be singular, like the resurrection?) Miracle is a very slippery word, even among religious people. Personally, I’m agnostic on miracles. Miracle stories are not why I am religious.

    Some Christians might be climate deniers or environmentally unaware but those folks probably aren’t involved in the various Christian environmentalist and anti-poverty movements (seeing as the poor are usually the ones whose communities get stuck with the toxic waste and the mountain-topping). Most Protestants, for one large group, have no problem with contraception, and many think abortion ought to be legal.

    You’re making a slippery slope argument at the end. It’s not hypocritical to make distinctions. People do it all the time. I don’t see any conflict between my accepting scientific conclusions about the natural world and thinking that God ultimately sustains the whole shebang, and perhaps throws in the occasional miracle. Why not? As I said, I’m agnostic on the miracle thing. I am also a methodological naturalist but not a philosophical one. So I’m not going to see incompatibility or hypocrisy in thinking that science works great when it comes to describing the natural world, but that what science tells us isn’t the whole story about what comprises reality. It seems likely that your mileage, however, will vary.

  80. #81 José
    October 7, 2009

    It does if it is outside the subject matter which science was invented to study, the material universe.

    Science can address if there is evidence of something outside our universe that has ever, or is currently influencing our universe. If a god can’t or doesn’t influence our universe, it’s not what most people consider god.

    But as Bigfoot is supposed to have a physical body, whereas God isn’t restricted to one, you are mixing things a lot farther apart than apples and oranges. Which is very common to the surprisingly illogical new atheist crowd.

    No. I’m applying identical criteria to both. There is evidence, or there isn’t. If you’re not happy with bigfoot, substitute ghosts, leprechauns, or the magical being of your choice.

  81. #82 Skeptico
    October 7, 2009

    Josh wrote:

    In re: “enabler,” I should note first that I’m freely admitting it was “cheap, trivializing, and divisive,” and that I stopped doing it for those reasons.

    You’re missing my point, which means I obviously didn’t explain myself very well. I’ll try again.  I wasn’t objecting to the word because it was cheap, or whatever. I was objecting to it because your use of it was incorrect. The word “enabler” has a specific meaning. For example, see this explanation:

    An enabler in most definitions is a person who through his or her actions allows someone else to achieve something. Most often the term enabler is associated with people who allow loved ones to behave in ways that are destructive. For example, an enabler wife of an alcoholic might continue to provide the husband with alcohol. A person might be an enabler of a gambler or compulsive spender by lending them money to get out of debt.

     

    Consider that explanation and think about this.  Take a drug addict, say – consider these two people:

    1) One who helps the addict get drugs, lends him money to get drugs, who tells him drug addiction is not that bad, tells him you can do drugs and live a normal life, would never tell him to give up, or

    2) One who tells the addict to stop doing drugs, says doing drugs is stupid, hides his drugs, hides his drug money, points to studies saying drugs are bad, gets angry at the addict when he’s high.

    Which is the enabler – #1 or #2? Check out any other psych sites – it’s clear that #1 is the enabler..

    Now, which one (# 1 or # 2 above), by analogy, is the accommodationist, and which the new atheist? Surely you can’t think that #1 is the new atheist? If anything, the accommodationists are the enablers.

    The fact is, creationists are currently invested less in advancing some particular scientific claim as in attempting to revise our definition of science to include the supernatural. The results are harmful, and it’s obvious how rhetoric by Dawkins or Coyne could be abused to support that view (Dawkins freely admits this, so it’s no slander on him).

    But is there evidence that new atheists are assisting creationists more than the accommodationists? I see plenty of claims this is the case, but no actual evidence. You are the one saying that other ways of knowing are as good as science, which to me opens up the door to including religious ways of knowing within science. To quote my source on what an enabler (accommodationist) actually is:

    …though the enabler may be acting out of love and trying to help or protect a person, he or she is actually making a chronic problem like an addiction worse.

    It’s hard to see how new atheists are supporting that.

  82. #83 Skeptico
    October 7, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    The new atheism also attempts to distort science and logic, as well as other parts of reality, to serve their dogma. Looking around the new atheist and “skeptic” blogs, it’s pretty clear that they’ve sewn a lot of pseudo-scientific clap trap around the culture.

    Examples of this please.

    The new atheists don’t address this because their program is a lot more about hating on religion than it is in facing reality or promoting science.

    You can now back up that assertion for what you are claiming motivates the new atheists? Also that they are not interested in facing reality or promoting science? You can support that too, right?

    I think it’s time to confront the new atheists’ dilemma on the real grounds it covers. They want people who believe in religion to stop believing what they do believe. Yet they always, always deal with phony pretended issues that don’t answer what people do, actually believe and the ways in which they believe them.

    Again, evidence please that they “always, always” do this.

  83. #84 Matti K.
    October 8, 2009

    Josh:
    Josh said the following on PZ:s forum, but I think it is relevant here, too:

    “I would argue one shouldn’t analyze claims which are not scientific claims as if they were.”

    I wonder what is Josh’s take on speculations where God is seeing operating hidden in quantum mechanics:

    http://biologos.org/questions/evolution-and-divine-action/

    It seems that BioLogos is not just happy believing there is a God, the organization is clearly looking for rational explanations.

  84. #85 Anthony McCarthy
    October 8, 2009

    Ah, we’ve come down to the “evidence” game part of the program, one in which you could provide example after example to the new atheist, only to be told that it isn’t sufficient. It’s kind of like how they use “quote mining” and “cherry picking”, in which nothing short of quoting the entire oeuvre of one of their heroes might, and you should emphasize that “might”. inoculate you from the charge.
    In an exact parallel to their religious fundamentalist cousins’ practice of declaring that no amount of evidence supports the fact of evolution, no amount of evidence in this matter will shift the new atheist. Not even when you point out that they are doing exactly what you’ve said they do as they defend their ideology from what you’ve said about it. At least that’s been my experience of arguing with new atheists.

    —- Examples of this please. Skeptico

    Well, on this thread you’ve had attempts to subject God to set theory, of an alleged sort, the assertion that “science” had refuted the religious beliefs in The Virgin Birth, The Resurrection, transubstantiation, and a host of other religious ideas. But, oddly, whenever you press a new atheist on where these scientific refutations are or for a demonstration of the subjugation of God to set theory, these aren’t anywhere to be found. Some attempt to substitute a phony “belief” that isn’t what the people who believe in these actually believe but which is easy to knock down can be done or some symbolic substitute for God, one so shoddy it might shame an ungifted Aristotelian theologian to put it before the public, plugged into some Boolean looking construction.

    Practically every new atheist attempt to debunk the existence of God, either goes for the easiest targets or it makes up one of these fictitious gods. Or they make wildly broad assertions about “religion”, “the religious” or “theology” that amount to guilt by association, stereotypical depiction, and the characterization of something they’re either scantily or totally innocent of having read.

    The new atheism constantly talks about “religion” attributing all kinds of things to this “religion”, though huge parts of the “religious” don’t believe in or do some of these things. And, in the absence of the crime of thinking or doing this, those folks are still denounced as guilty as the most guilty perpetrators because they “create an atmosphere” in which these fundamentalist ideas incubate.

    As seen on this thread one of the favorite current themes of the new atheism is the idea that there is a huge and disabling conflict between science and religion. Most popularly it takes the form that unless you are one of these “deists” who, I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never encountered, you can’t be religious and accept science without being guilty of some kind of hypocrisy, dishonesty or it’s more than suggested, mental illness. The three large monotheistic religious traditions are held to be the greatest offenders against the good and true in this regard.

    When someone raises the fact that there are large numbers of Jews, Christians and Moslems who have successfully practiced science, some notably more significantly than many of the Bright lights of the new atheism, that fact is discounted with many dodges. You can see that in the bizarre insistence that these people, oh, so intellectually rigorous in their science, would be incapable of understanding if they were conflicted or that there was a problem, a RELIGION problem in their life and reporting it authoritatively. You see it in the repeated implication that the new atheists are more able to speak authoritatively on their mental states and health than they are. When you ask for evidence of mass mental illness in these so horribly afflicted folk, you generally could hear a pin drop.

    When you note that it was in exactly the places where these three monotheistic religions were held that modern science first arose and held sway, my experience is that they go silent, they refuse to give examples of their claims or to explain these gaping inconsistencies between their claims and the actual evidence of history. That is when they don’t imitate Henry Ford and discount the merely historical and biographical on the clearly accurate but even more clearly irrelevant basis that it’s not science.

    As noted at the beginning, you could present evidence and examples for weeks at a time and it would get you no farther than explaining the record in favor of evolution to a fundamentalist. I’m not going to try to convince a new atheist, I’m just letting others know that their experience of arguing with them probably matches by that of someone else.

  85. #86 Peter Beattie
    October 8, 2009

    Completely baffling. See my comment over at Jerry’s blog.

  86. #87 Anthony McCarthy
    October 8, 2009

    —- Science can address if there is evidence of something outside our universe that has ever, or is currently influencing our universe. If a god can’t or doesn’t influence our universe, it’s not what most people consider god. Jose

    As I’ve said before on this thread, most religious believers believe that God is responsible for the normal operation of the natural universe, I’d even include Theravada Buddhists in this because they believe in a system of laws such as the Doctrine of Dependent Origination that amount to an impersonal, undefined, though quite present, something of the sort.

    That God would have provided evidence that would look to the unbelieving exactly like the natural universe as it really is, though the more reflective would note that our knowledge of even that physical reality was always incomplete and in need of adapting to new knowledge. They might go on and acknoweldge that there is no way to know if what we know about the physical universe can tell us anything about a supernatural. As God is said to have said, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, God’s ways are not our ways.

    While you are perfectly within your rights to reject that god, you might consider that you would find it impossible to distinguish their work from the physical universe that believers have said, from the beginning, that is God’s creation. Don’t expect they’re going to kow tow to your preferences in the matter.

    The creationist’s God is fairly easy to tip over because they tie him (and it is a him) to a rather narrow range of literal and rather limited beliefs, which they happen to hold.

    — No. I’m applying identical criteria to both. There is evidence, or there isn’t. Jose

    You don’t see that you would need to treat the existence of an animal, not claimed to be “magical” or supernatural by those who believe in it, differently than God? That’s remarkably sloppy thinking for someone who purports to be the champion of science and logic, though typical in my experience.

    If I was in the mood I’d bring up memes, Paleolithic behaviors, and a host of other things believed with no or the most ambiguous and self-serving “evidence” by a host of new atheists. Every single person continually acts and believes things without evidence.

    I’ve quoted A. S. Eddington on the problem of dealing with questions of existence at #33 above. If you want more than that you should go to the library and read chapter 10 of his “The Philosophy of Physical Science”, though the entire book is worth going through. You might want to read his lecture “Science and the Unseen World” in which he makes some of the same points in less detail.

    Since God is believed on the basis of personal experience I don’t think you’re going to get far with this “no evidence” line, it’s so notably failed in the general public so far. Why would a God that permeates existence, and us as part of existence, depend on evidence to make them self manifest to our least personal thoughts?

  87. #88 José
    October 8, 2009

    As I’ve said before on this thread, most religious believers believe that God is responsible for the normal operation of the natural universe

    No they don’t. Most people don’t pray and go to church believing what they do has no effect on the world other than what would happen naturally anyway. That’s as good as having no god at all.

    That God would have provided evidence that would look to the unbelieving exactly like the natural universe as it really is

    It might look the same, but if the supernatural is acting on the natural world, we should be able to observe it.

    You don’t see that you would need to treat the existence of an animal, not claimed to be “magical” or supernatural by those who believe in it, differently than God?

    Nope. There is evidence for something, or there isn’t.

    Every single person continually acts and believes things without evidence.

    Even if this is true, so what? That someone would believe one thing without evidence, doesn’t argue for the existence of something else there is no evidence for.

    Since God is believed on the basis of personal experience I don’t think you’re going to get far with this “no evidence” line, it’s so notably failed in the general public so far.

    Who cares if the general public doesn’t believe something. That doesn’t make it wrong.

  88. #89 Skeptico
    October 8, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy:

    Ah, we’ve come down to the “evidence” game part of the program, one in which you could provide example after example to the new atheist, only to be told that it isn’t sufficient. It’s kind of like how they use “quote mining” and “cherry picking”, in which nothing short of quoting the entire oeuvre of one of their heroes might, and you should emphasize that “might”. inoculate you from the charge.

    In an exact parallel to their religious fundamentalist cousins’ practice of declaring that no amount of evidence supports the fact of evolution, no amount of evidence in this matter will shift the new atheist. Not even when you point out that they are doing exactly what you’ve said they do as they defend their ideology from what you’ve said about it. At least that’s been my experience of arguing with new atheists.

    …Evidence free drivel.

    —- Examples of this please. Skeptico

    Well, on this thread you’ve had attempts to subject God to set theory, of an alleged sort, the assertion that “science” had refuted the religious beliefs in The Virgin Birth, The Resurrection, transubstantiation, and a host of other religious ideas.

    Specific examples please. I’m not going to read 80 comments to try to justify your claim.  Your claim / you support it.

    You also wrote:

    Looking around the new atheist and “skeptic” blogs, it’s pretty clear that they’ve sewn a lot of pseudo-scientific clap trap around the culture.

    Evidence please from new atheist and “skeptic” blogs of the “pseudo-scientific clap trap” that you refer to. Not just some cherry picked piece. Something substantive. From Jerry Coyne, say, or PZ, or even me if you like.

    Practically every new atheist attempt to debunk the existence of God, either goes for the easiest targets or it makes up one of these fictitious gods. Or they make wildly broad assertions about “religion”, “the religious” or “theology” that amount to guilt by association, stereotypical depiction, and the characterization of something they’re either scantily or totally innocent of having read.

    “Practically every new atheist attempt…”?” Really? Again, some examples please.

    The new atheism constantly talks about “religion” attributing all kinds of things to this “religion”, though huge parts of the “religious” don’t believe in or do some of these things. And, in the absence of the crime of thinking or doing this, those folks are still denounced as guilty as the most guilty perpetrators because they “create an atmosphere” in which these fundamentalist ideas incubate.

    More evidence free drivel.

    As noted at the beginning, you could present evidence and examples for weeks at a time…

    Except you didn’t.

    And you didn’t answer these questions:

    2) You can now back up that assertion for what you are claiming motivates the new atheists? Also that they are not interested in facing reality or promoting science? You can support that too, right?

    3) Again, evidence please that they “always, always” deal with phony pretended issues that don’t answer what people do.

  89. #90 Tyro
    October 8, 2009

    Anna K

    I don’t know of any Christians at all, liberal or conservative, who claim that communion wafers turn into literal human flesh or that communion wine turns into literal human blood. If that were the case, that claim could be tested scientifically.

    Donahue, that famous Catholic windbag, claimed that walking away with a consecrated communion wafer was kidnapping so Catholics (some at least) must imagine something happens yet we both know there’s no detectable change at all, yet they still believe. Is this belief scientific?

    And the bible stories of the water to wine and of the loaves and fishes are accepted as literal miracles with real fish flesh, real bread and real wine. In direct violation of many well-established theories.

    I don’t know how you would scientifically test for omnipotence or omnibenevolence. I don’t even know how you would scientifically test for plain old benevolence.

    This of course dates back to Euthyphro’s dilemma as you probably know. I won’t rehash the argument here, suffice it to say that observations of the natural world display far more suffering than is congruent with the belief in a powerful, benevolent agent which cares for human suffering. Indeed, the evidence strongly indicates that suffering is natural, purposeless and even an integral part of evolution. Forming a fixed belief in an omnipotent, omnibenevolent being is at the very least held in the absence of evidence but more accurately held despite the strong negative evidence. The fact that we don’t distil and mix benevolence in test tubes doesn’t negate this point.

    If miracles in the sense I take you to mean them are possible, I’m not sure how science would detect them, as they are considered to be exceptional events and science relies on repeatable observations. (How would you scientificallly test an historical event that’s claimed to be singular, like the resurrection?)

    Science regularly deals with singular and historical events so I think you’re working off some very flawed conception of science.

    As for the resurrection in particular, that should be clear. We have a large and growing body of evidence and theories which inform us about how living organisms operate and the chemical changes which occur after death. Coming back to life is not possible and there’s no reason to think this changed in the recent past. If Christians chose to ignore this and imagine that these theories have gaps and exceptions then clearly these beliefs and the method by which they were formen are not compatible with science.

    Where is the controversy here? You as much admit that these events are unscientific and argue (fallaciously, IMO) that they can’t be scientific so why then do you imagine that anyone should say that these beliefs are compatible with science? Your own argument is that they are NOT.

  90. #91 Anthony McCarthy
    October 8, 2009

    — I’m not going to read 80 comments to try to justify your claim. “Skeptico”

    Why not? Afraid you’ll lose your faith?

    Feel free to enhance my point, “Skeptico”, not only won’t any amount of evidence be enough for the new atheists, they’ll refuse to look at it if you go to the bother of providing it.

    If you can’t be bothered to look over this blog thread with ample evidence to back up my claim, I’m not going to recapitulate it only to have you pull the fundamentalist “insufficient evidence” trick that I’ve seen hundreds of times before.

    The new atheism is a fundamentalist, intellectual fad.

  91. #92 Anthony McCarthy
    October 8, 2009

    – No they don’t. Most people don’t pray and go to church believing what they do has no effect on the world other than what would happen naturally anyway. That’s as good as having no god at all. Jose

    You think that people who ask for miracles outside of the natural order of things don’t believe God controls the natural order of things? No wonder you’re confused about what religious people believe. Not to mention obviously having absolutely no familiarity with scripture.

    — It might look the same, but if the supernatural is acting on the natural world, we should be able to observe it. Jose

    Oh, really. If the supernatural was responsible for the natural order of the universe every event, every object, every measurable force, you wouldn’t have anything to compare it with that wasn’t controlled by the supernatural. How would you tell the difference?

    You tell me the answer to that one and maybe I’ll bother with the rest of your comment tonight.

  92. #93 Tyro
    October 8, 2009

    Anna K

    Just an addendum – the most obvious and fundamental incompatibility between science and virtually all religions including liberal Christianity is through methodology. Religions develop dogma, through revelation and eschew or reject evidence and reason. This is how all of the very unscientific beliefs arose in the first place and is fundamentally incompatible with science.

  93. #94 José
    October 8, 2009

    You think that people who ask for miracles outside of the natural order of things don’t believe God controls the natural order of things?

    No. You’re the on that is claiming most people believe that God is just “responsible for the normal operation of the natural universe” in response to me saying “If a god can’t or doesn’t influence our universe, it’s not what most people consider god.”

    No wonder you’re confused about what religious people believe.

    I know what religious people believe just as well as you do, except I’m not trying to minimize what people actually think in order to win an argument.

    Not to mention obviously having absolutely no familiarity with scripture.

    I’m not familiar with scripture? How did you arrive at that? We haven’t talked about scripture. Or is this just an example believing in things with no evidence that I’m not allowed to question?

    Oh, really. If the supernatural was responsible for the natural order of the universe every event, every object, every measurable force, you wouldn’t have anything to compare it with that wasn’t controlled by the supernatural. How would you tell the difference?

    I’m not concerned with trying to prove or disprove the existence of a god that only controls the natural order of things. As I’ve said, most people believe that god does more than just control the natural order of things. Your contention that they don’t is BS.

    You tell me the answer to that one and maybe I’ll bother with the rest of your comment tonight.

    Oh please, please, please do respond. I can’t wait to hear how you’ll once again talk around the issue.

  94. #95 Anthony McCarthy
    October 8, 2009

    =It might look the same, but if the supernatural is acting on the natural world, we should be able to observe it. Jose

    — Oh, really. If the supernatural was responsible for the natural order of the universe every event, every object, every measurable force, you wouldn’t have anything to compare it with that wasn’t controlled by the supernatural. How would you tell the difference? A. M.

    — I’m not concerned with trying to prove or disprove the existence of a god that only controls the natural order of things. As I’ve said, most people believe that god does more than just control the natural order of things. Your contention that they don’t is BS. Jose

    Jose, I never made a statement that most people believe that God only controls the natural order of things, I said that most people believe that God does that and other things, such as possibly performing miracles. Who knows what else there is to be done by a deity?

    Now, why don’t you stop trying to pretend that I said that and tell us how you’d be able to tease out God’s hand in the normal workings of the natural universe. I’m really curious how you would because I don’t see any way to do it.

  95. #96 Anna K.
    October 8, 2009

    Hi Tyro,

    Here’s a response to your replies before I’m offline for a few days — I think we are talking past one another.

    You write, “Catholics (some at least) must imagine something happens yet we both know there’s no detectable change at all, yet they still believe. Is this belief scientific?”

    Of course it is not scientific. I wondered why you thought it should be considered scientific, or why you should think that because no detectable physical transformation happens, it means that nothing happens at all. Religion is not science. And science is not religion. Religious statements are not scientific propositions. If you are expecting that they should be, then you share a belief with YECers and other religious literalists which moderate and liberal religious believers do not share; since you brought up liberal Christians this is problematic because you are treating these statements in ways few liberal Christians would treat them. You are expecting religious claims to be claims about the physical world that are scientifically verifiable. If they are not, you seem to think that means religion, all religion, all expressions of it, must be intellectually suspect because religious statements are not scientific, rather than religion not being scientific because it is a very different enterprise using very different methodologies engaged in dealing with questions that science does not address.

    So where I suspect we disagree, if I understand you correctly, is that you think anything unverifiable by science must therefore be false or stupid, whereas I look at the relationship between religion and science, as analogous to the relationship between art and science or philosophy and science. I don’t see art or philosophy as incompatible with science (or false or stupid even though they are not scientific) because artists and philosophers are addressing questions whose answers cannot be determined by scientific methodologies. As far as I’m concerned, religions like the arts and philosophy address matters that aren’t and really can’t be resolved by doing science, though — also like the arts and philosophy — religions can and do use scientific knowledge as material in the questions they address.

    I’m not sure why you think revelation is so contrary to science; scientists take advantage of revelations all the time, only they call them hunches or intuitions or ideas and then they test them out.

    And the same thing happens in religions. Revelations are tested, refined, revised, and thrown out by cultures all the time: if a culture can’t engage with and live out a particular religious or spiritual revelation, it changes or dies. Religions are constantly evolving and being born and dying off, like any other aspect of culture.

    Also you wrote, “Science regularly deals with singular and historical events so I think you’re working off some very flawed conception of science.”

    Sure, but the way science deals with such events is to find observations around them which can be tested, repeated and confirmed. We can’t directly observe or repeat the Big Bang or the emergence of the first pterodactyl, but we can presume those things happened because so many physical effects of those singular, historical occurrences are accessible to scientific methodologies.

    But you bring up the resurrection, and that is not really analogous. You write: “As for the resurrection in particular, that should be clear. We have a large and growing body of evidence and theories which inform us about how living organisms operate and the chemical changes which occur after death. Coming back to life is not possible and there’s no reason to think this changed in the recent past. If Christians chose to ignore this and imagine that these theories have gaps and exceptions then clearly these beliefs and the method by which they were formed are not compatible with science.”

    What is clear is that whatever happened to make people believe that Jesus was resurrected, they didn’t think he was resurrected in a body which acted like a normal living organism. He appears, he disappears, sometimes seems solid, sometimes shows up as a bright light and a disembodied voice, and occasionally walks through walls. The resurrected Jesus sounds to me much more like what one hears in a ghost story. What scientifically testable evidence would there be to confirm that the resurrection ever happened? Let alone that it was something physical? It certainly had effects: without something happening that people took to be the resurrection, there would be no Christian religion. But that religion was established on something very like a ghost story. With the Big Bang and pterodactyls, there are physical effects today for scientists to examine. Not so with the resurrection.

    You also wrote, “This of course dates back to Euthyphro’s dilemma as you probably know. I won’t rehash the argument here, suffice it to say that observations of the natural world display far more suffering than is congruent with the belief in a powerful, benevolent agent which cares for human suffering. Indeed, the evidence strongly indicates that suffering is natural, purposeless and even an integral part of evolution. Forming a fixed belief in an omnipotent, omnibenevolent being is at the very least held in the absence of evidence but more accurately held despite the strong negative evidence. The fact that we don’t distil and mix benevolence in test tubes doesn’t negate this point.”

    Since we both know of Euthrypho, I’ll assume we’re also both conversant with the God of Athens versus the God of Jerusalem. If we’re still talking about Christianity, then we’re dealing with the latter, not the former. The God of Jerusalem repeatedly promises and delivers extreme suffering as well as the redemption of it. Any notion of benevolence when it comes to the God of Jerusalem has to include the existence and indeed often the embrace of suffering.

    Thanks for the discussion. I’ve enjoyed it.

  96. #97 Bexley
    October 8, 2009

    Jose, I never made a statement that most people believe that God only controls the natural order of things, I said that most people believe that God does that and other things, such as possibly performing miracles. Who knows what else there is to be done by a deity?

    Now, why don’t you stop trying to pretend that I said that and tell us how you’d be able to tease out God’s hand in the normal workings of the natural universe. I’m really curious how you would because I don’t see any way to do it.

    What? You just said that most people believe “God does other things, such as possibly performing miracles.”

    This sounds like “God’s hand outside the normal workings of the natural universe”. Are you being purposefully dense here? People believe that if they pray to God he will intervene – if this is true then you should be able to measure it by comparing against the results when you don’t pray.

    The Templeton Foundation even sponsored a study looking at whether prayer could help people recovering from heart surgery (the results were no it doesn’t).

  97. #98 Bexley
    October 8, 2009

    Following post by you took a while to appear hence why I didnt address it earlier:

    bexley,You’re confusing a political disagreement with incompatibility with science.

    What’ you’re talking about isn’t a scientific dispute over the use of embryos in science and medicine, it’s a political dispute over a practice. Do you have the CE or the Catholic church officially on record denying the reliability of the science behind that use?

    Well close, i have a clear lie about the relative promise of adult vs embryonic stem cells for producing therapies in documents produced by the US Catholic Church:

    http://www.americancatholic.org/NEWS/StemCell/

    ‘It closes with a reminder that the use of adult stem cells and umbilical-cord blood have been shown to offer “a better way” to produce cells that can benefit patients suffering from heart disease, corneal damage, sickle cell anemia, multiple sclerosis and many other diseases.’

    While most of the material produced by the church here deals with the percieved ethical problems it includes something that most scientists in the field would disagree with. Namely their claim adult stem cells are “a better way” to produce therapies.

    If some atheists don’t accept some aspect of medicine or science, does that mean that “atheists don’t accept science”?

    Well if atheists were to systematically reject certain areas of science due to their atheism that would probably be a fair characterisation. The issue here isnt only that certain groups amongst the religious reject science – its that they do so because of their religion, suggesting that for many (and in large parts of the world, most) people religion and science are in conflict.

    NB I can certainly point to atheists who are anti science. A topical example would be Bill Maher – however it isnt at all clear that his anti-vax, pro-disease stance is inspired by his atheism. Therefore it would be hard to argue that its the atheism that is anti-science.

    You could as easily point to people opposed to the use of atomic weapons on moral grounds as an analogy for what you are proposing. Were all of those atheists who opposed the use, proposed use and stockpiling of nuclear weapons, many of them scientists, many of them who worked on atomic weapons research, “opposed to science”?

    I take your point here – refining my thoughts here I’d say that at least part of the problem is religion willing to lie/ignore scientific results when it suits their purpose in these arguments (see my example above).

    Moreover the problems the church has with stem cell research flows from a disagreement on scientific truth. namely the existence of souls.

    The Catholic Church believes that souls are immaterial, immortal and the seat of our will. Also we are supposedly ensouled at conception. IMO scientific findings throw doubt on this model. I’ve listed 3 below:

    a) Identical twins. As far as i know the church has never cleared up how souls work with them given their belief in ensoulment when the egg is fertilised.

    b) Chimeras. Some humans have developed from two zygotes that fused. Whats going on with the extra soul?

    c) If souls are immaterial and the seat of our will why does damage to specific areas in the brain affect people’s personalities?

    These problems rule against the model of the soul that the Catholic Church holds. Yet the church has neither explained how it gets round these problems not modified its model. Instead it continues to oppose research on the grounds of its dubious model of the soul.

    Finally and slightly more lightheartedly:

    First, Deists. I am sorry to have to report to you that I’m very skeptical about the existence of deists, never having met one.

    You sound like a new atheist talking about god ;)

    Here is some evidence of their existence:

    http://www.deism.com/

  98. #99 Anthony McCarthy
    October 8, 2009

    Well close, i have a clear lie about the relative promise of adult vs embryonic stem cells for producing therapies in documents produced by the US Catholic Church:

    Not close enough for them to be denying the science that has been produced with embryonic stem cells, which would make it a religious vs. science issue. And I doubt their arguments about adult vs. embryonic stem cells are theological.

    Well if atheists were to systematically reject certain areas of science due to their atheism that would probably be a fair characterisation. The issue here isnt only that certain groups amongst the religious reject science – its that they do so because of their religion, suggesting that for many (and in large parts of the world, most) people religion and science are in conflict.

    Wait a minute. You are blanketing all religious believers, attributing things to them on the basis of what less than a majority of them believe, there isn’t any reason for atheists to get the benefit of a different standard. If you can get away with attributing actions and beliefs to people who don’t happen to hold with them on the basis of their being religious, atheists have to answer for each other to. I’m not going to let anyone get away with practicing a double standard.

    Moreover the problems the church has with stem cell research flows from a disagreement on scientific truth. namely the existence of souls.

    Give me a break. The existence of souls is a disagreement about science? You want a good reason why this is a truly wrong assertion, look at your c. Souls are immaterial. Science is made to deal with the material universe, its methods and tools can ONLY deal with the material universe. It can’t deal with any aspect of the supernatural, which is why ID “science” can’t be science. Your list has nothing to do with science, I doubt most philosophers would eagerly wade into the mass of things you assert, some of which I can assure you many religious people would disagree with in the terms you’ve used.

    If you want to argue about souls with Catholics, you should go to Catholics with the background to give you your money’s worth. But none of those issues is remotely a question of science.

    a) Identical twins. As far as i know the church has never cleared up how souls work with them given their belief in ensoulment when the egg is fertilised.

    I’ve asked this question before in regard to abortion, the real issue that the Catholic church is interested in. It becomes even dicier with cloning, if it produced a viable human being. Would that mean that every cell of our bodies potentially were “life”?

    You should be aware that there are many millions of Catholics who have their own ideas on these and other issues. They’re not all the same.

  99. #100 Tyro
    October 8, 2009

    Anna K

    Of course it is not scientific. I wondered why you thought it should be considered scientific, or why you should think that because no detectable physical transformation happens, it means that nothing happens at all.

    This whole long debate is about whether religion is compatible with science. I contend that it is not; several people here have argued that it is. If you agree that it is not, then we’re happily in agreement.

    I’m not sure why you think revelation is so contrary to science; scientists take advantage of revelations all the time, only they call them hunches or intuitions or ideas and then they test them out.

    I doubt that many Christians would view divine revelation as comparable to a hunch or an intuition. That said, you’re wrong about the compatibility. In religion, revelation is not just the starting point but the entirety of the evidence. And whereas in science a hunch is treated as a starting point and not considered valid ground for belief, religion treats revelation as their “gold standard”. Very different, incompatible methodologies.

    And the same thing happens in religions. Revelations are tested, refined, revised, and thrown out by cultures all the time: if a culture can’t engage with and live out a particular religious or spiritual revelation, it changes or dies. Religions are constantly evolving and being born and dying off, like any other aspect of culture.

    Tested? How would you test between the Christian and Muslim revelations? They’re both popular and have lasted a long time.

    There are multiple mutually incompatible views of God that are popular today and everyone believes that they are right and the others are wrong, totally out of keeping with the available evidence. This is totally opposite to any scientific methodology where, if there were multiple possible explanations people would refrain from drawing conclusions.

    The comparison to culture is telling. If there exists a god, its characteristics actions and miracles wouldn’t vary with the culture. Its desires would be real, regardless of whether people can “engage” or not. If popularity and “engagability” were criteria in science, the US Civil War wouldn’t have happened for many Americans and if Holocaust denialism becomes popular enough then it will cease to have happened also. Whatever world that is, it isn’t reality and it certainly is antithetical to science.

  100. #101 José
    October 8, 2009

    Jose, I never made a statement that most people believe that God only controls the natural order of things, I said that most people believe that God does that and other things, such as possibly performing miracles.

    Why did you make your statement which did not include anything remotely like “possibly performing miracles” in response to me saying “If a god can’t or doesn’t influence our universe, it’s not what most people consider god?” Do you just enjoy making obvious statements for no reason?

    Now, why don’t you stop trying to pretend that I said that and tell us how you’d be able to tease out God’s hand in the normal workings of the natural universe. I’m really curious how you would because I don’t see any way to do it.

    You really can’t see any way to test whether or not the supernatural has an effect on the natural world?

  101. #102 Skeptico
    October 8, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy

    Why not? Afraid you’ll lose your faith?

    Feel free to enhance my point, “Skeptico”, not only won’t any amount of evidence be enough for the new atheists, they’ll refuse to look at it if you go to the bother of providing it.

    If you can’t be bothered to look over this blog thread with ample evidence to back up my claim, I’m not going to recapitulate it only to have you pull the fundamentalist “insufficient evidence” trick that I’ve seen hundreds of times before.

    The new atheism is a fundamentalist, intellectual fad.

    Translation – you made a load of claims you can’t back up, and now you’re hiding this shortfall, and your inability to support anything you’re written, behind a load of assertion and bluster.

    You made the claims / you’re the one who has to back them up. I’ve read the thread and since I don’t know which bits you think support your case I asked you to show what you meant. You can’t do it. Furthermore, you also referred to new atheist and “skeptic” blogs (“it’s pretty clear that they’ve sewn a lot of pseudo-scientific clap trap around the culture”), and yet despite asking twice now, you can’t link to one post on even one blog that supports your ridiculous assertion. Nor can you support your claim for the new atheists’ motivation. It’s not my job to go looking for evidence to support your claims. I don’t know what planet you’re from where “you go look” and “you wouldn’t believe me anyway’ are considered valid arguments, but I can assure you, you’ll have to do better than that if you’re going to debate me.

    The truth is, you overreached and made ridiculous claims. You even wrote that new atheists “always, always” deal with phony pretended issues – the second “always” presumably to indicate you really really mean “always” literally. Obviously ridiculous (very few groups of people “always” do the same thing.) Of course, you could have drawn back, said it was hyperbole, “I really meant that some atheists sometimes do that” or something.  And I would have agreed – yeah, some do, sometimes. But you didn’t. You didn’t because you’ve constructed this ridiculous straw man new atheist that simply has to exist for your position to make sense. In actuality, you’re far worse than the caricature ridiculous, “fundamentalist” atheist you’ve created.

    I’m happy for anyone else to read this thread and note that Anthony McCarthy made numerous claims about new atheists, that he was unable to support. Why should anyone take this bozo seriously after this?

  102. #103 Anthony McCarthy
    October 9, 2009

    —- despite asking twice now, you can’t link to one post on even one blog that supports your ridiculous assertion. “Skeptico”

    Good Lord, of course I could, that evidence is abundant on most of the new atheist and “skeptic” blogs on the web, but why should I bother? You said you wouldn’t even scroll up this thread to see the evidence here.

    You want to know why I put “skeptics” in quotes, because you’re not skeptical about anything. You know exactly what you’re certain of and are absolutely certain everyone owes you total agreement. Yet you’re outraged when someone expresses skepticism about your positions.

  103. #104 Anthony McCarthy
    October 9, 2009

    —- You really can’t see any way to test whether or not the supernatural has an effect on the natural world?

    There is absolutely no way for science to falsify the assertion that God is responsible for the normal operation of the natural world.

    There, refute that assertion by showing how science could do that.

    Just as if there is a supernatural “designer” of life, science would not be able to process the idea because it would be unable to evaluate it in material terms. That’s why, though most of the people in the world are, extra-scientifically, “theistic evolutionists”, science can only include the evolution part of that phenomenon. If more people understood that it would be a lot easier to debunk the ID industry that wants to inject religion into science classrooms in public schools.

    Of course, another reason it’s complicated is that the new atheists don’t really care about the integrity of science, they want to turn it into an ideological weapon, something else science isn’t able to contain and remain science.

  104. #105 Skeptico
    October 9, 2009

    Good Lord, of course I could, that evidence is abundant on most of the new atheist and “skeptic” blogs on the web,

    Except funnily enough, you can’t show me one example.

    but why should I bother? You said you wouldn’t even scroll up this thread to see the evidence here.

    No, I said I had looked and it wasn’t there. You’re the one claiming it’s there but can’t show where.

    You want to know why I put “skeptics” in quotes, because you’re not skeptical about anything.

    More assertion.  More overreach. 

    You know exactly what you’re certain of and are absolutely certain everyone owes you total agreement. Yet you’re outraged when someone expresses skepticism about your positions.

    That’s called “projection.”  Thanks for playing though.

  105. #106 Larry Moran
    October 9, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy says,

    Speaking of empirical results. We all know there are scientists who are also Young Earth Creationists. Therefore Young Earth Creationism is compatible with science. Larry Moran

    What a silly thing to say and to no purpose. Clearly you don’t believe that because a genuine scientist holds erroneous ideas that means that they are compatible with science by virtue of that. And no one else I’ve read on this blog does either.

    Thanks for clearing that up.

    Now we can put to rest the silly argument that science and theistic evolution are compatible merely because there are theistic evolutionists who accept evolution (e.g. Ken Miller, Francis Collins, Simon Conway-Morris).

    As Anthony and Josh agree, the claim has to be independently evaluated based on other criteria. We can’t just take the word of a scientist or else we’d be in the difficult position of having to admit that science and Young Earth Creationism are compatible.

    Let’s hope we never see another example of someone claiming that science and religion are compatible just because Francis Collins exists.

    I’m not holding my breath.

  106. #107 Larry Moran
    October 9, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy says,

    When someone raises the fact that there are large numbers of Jews, Christians and Moslems who have successfully practiced science, some notably more significantly than many of the Bright lights of the new atheism, that fact is discounted with many dodges.

    I can’t speak for all the other evil atheists but I only use one dodge (not “many”) to refute such a silly argument.

    You can read about it in my earlier comments.

    Anthony, are you really as ignorant as you appear to be or are you just getting a bit overexcited?

  107. #108 Bexley
    October 9, 2009

    Not close enough for them to be denying the science that has been produced with embryonic stem cells, which would make it a religious vs. science issue. And I doubt their arguments about adult vs. embryonic stem cells are theological.

    Sure – they dont say that embryonic stem cells wont produce cures. Instead they conflict with scientists in the relevant field and say that they are less promising than adult stem cells. This seems a clear conflict with science. Scientists think embryonic stem cells are more promising because they are pluripotent unlike adult stem cells while the religious state their claim about the science based on no scientific evidence at all.

    You are blanketing all religious believers, attributing things to them on the basis of what less than a majority of them believe, there isn’t any reason for atheists to get the benefit of a different standard.

    No im not – I specifically have already stated that very liberal religion does not necessarily conflict with science. My point is that the majority of believers do not believe in such a religion.

    To make my point up to now I have restricted myself to mainstream religion in the west to show that even that isnt wholly compatible with science.

    However Islam, for example, is the second largest religion in the world and I doubt many of its adherents subscribe to the kind of religion you are talking about.

    Consider the views of the physics students here on what caused an earthquake!

    http://web.archive.org/web/20060426230059/http://www.globalagendamagazine.com/2006/Hoodbhoy.asp

    And these are postgraduate science students – the situation is unlikely to be better for the general population.

    Give me a break. The existence of souls is a disagreement about science? You want a good reason why this is a truly wrong assertion, look at your c. Souls are immaterial. Science is made to deal with the material universe, its methods and tools can ONLY deal with the material universe. It can’t deal with any aspect of the supernatural, which is why ID “science” can’t be science.

    Wrong wrong wrong! If the only claim about the soul is that its immaterial then yes it would be truly outside science’s grasp. But the church does not stop there they argue that souls actually do things in the real world. Their model of souls and how they interact with the world is inconsistent with the data.

    Why do you insist that immaterial things cant be tested by science?

    As soon as you claim your supernatural bits and bobs are affecting the real world then you start moving into the realms of testability. For example the Templeton Foundation sponsored a study looking at whether prayers improved recovery for patients following heart surgery (it didn’t).

    The majority of the religious pray and ask for God to carry out actions in the real world. Placing this activity fairly and squarely in the realm of science. The majority of the religious don’t only believe that “God is responsible for the normal operation of the natural world.” They believe he intervenes outside the normal operation of the natural world.

  108. #109 José
    October 9, 2009

    There is absolutely no way for science to falsify the assertion that God is responsible for the normal operation of the natural world.

    Here we go again. As I’ve clearly already said, I’m not concerned with trying to prove or disprove the existence of a god that only controls the natural order of things. An impotent god that only controls the natural order of things is not what most people consider god. What science can say about such a god is that there’s absolutely no reason to believe such a god exists, just as there’s no reason to believe any other random, imaginary entity that can’t do anything exists.

  109. #110 Anthony McCarthy
    October 9, 2009

    — I can’t speak for all the other evil atheists but I only use one dodge (not “many”) to refute such a silly argument. Larry Moran

    What a cute thing it is when an avocational atheist attributes a locution such as this to their opponent, I don’t think I’ve ever used the phrase “evil atheists” in this way, in fact I don’t think I have ever used it. But I’m familiar with that kind of rhetorical new atheist anti-jinx move enough to wonder why you’d think it was worthy of your position.

    Only one dodge to overturn the fact that many very accomplished scientists have been religious, some of them very religious while producing good science? Let us in on this potent argument.

    Anthony, are you really as ignorant as you appear to be or are you just getting a bit overexcited?

    You familiar with Blake’s Proverbs From Hell?

  110. #111 Bexley
    October 9, 2009

    Let us in on this potent argument.

    He’s already explained in post 105.

    His point was that you refused to accept YEC is compatible with science even though there are scientists who hold these views.

    Yet you claim that religion is compatible with science because there are scientists who are religous.

  111. #112 Anthony McCarthy
    October 9, 2009

    Larry, I just read up the thread. If #105 is this argument you are talking about, where’s the argument?

    —- Let’s hope we never see another example of someone claiming that science and religion are compatible just because Francis Collins exists. Larry Moran

    What do you expect when your argument is essentially “They’re incompatible because we say so”? Although that is a rather silly characterization of what I said. If I was a new atheist I’d call it a “straw man”, even a new atheist could use that phrase accurately, perhaps just as a matter of chance.

  112. #113 Anthony McCarthy
    October 9, 2009

    bexley, “Why do you insist that immaterial things cant be tested by science”?

    Because there is no way to know in what way something that is immaterial would be bound by what we know about the material universe. What tools do you propose to use and how can you verify that they are effective when dealing with these proposed immaterial entities?

    How do you know that all of these immaterial entities have the same properties as each other or that their possible interaction with the material universe we are able to subject so science is consistent or of sufficient frequency or uniformity or predictablity to show up in a way to be analyzed…. We don’t even know if logic applies outside of the material universe, we don’t even know if it’s something peculiar to our species as a means of dealing with the material universe. You can go on from there with difficulties.

  113. #114 Bexley
    October 9, 2009

    Although that is a rather silly characterization of what I said. If I was a new atheist I’d call it a “straw man”

    Actually he was responding to your comment below – ie you state that because there are/were religious scientists then that creates a problem for the position that science and religion are incompatible (and we’re not talking some ultra liberal religion here where god doesnt intervene and break natural laws etc).

    When someone raises the fact that there are large numbers of Jews, Christians and Moslems who have successfully practiced science, some notably more significantly than many of the Bright lights of the new atheism, that fact is discounted with many dodges.

    This is your own words and your own damn argument – where is the strawman?

    People can claim that religion is not compatible with science despite the existence of religious scientists in the same way that you claim YEC is not compatible with science despite the existence of scientists who hold YEC beliefs.

  114. #115 Anthony McCarthy
    October 9, 2009

    bexley, I was reading up the thread, as I habitually do. I was going to answer you first but was surprised to see Larry’s name addressing me.

    YEC is incompatible with science because science has produced an enormous amount of evidence that refutes it. All of religion isn’t YEC, not all of religion has been refuted by an enormous body of, or even any, science. In this argument, here, to try to equate all of religion, especially the religion held by scientists and others who are not fundamentalists with YEC is clearly to set up a “straw man” that will be easily knocked down. Especially as no one here had made any assertion that even implied that, especially as no one here so far has supported that idea.

  115. #116 bobby
    May 7, 2011

    How do you know that all of these immaterial entities have the same properties as each other or that their possible interaction with the material universe we are able to subject so science is consistent or of sufficient frequency or uniformity or predictablity to show up in a way to be analyzed.

    Cursos de ingles en el extranjero

  116. #117 Marion Delgado
    July 14, 2011

    By and large it’s seemed Genie Scott has avoided much controversy with Gnus. I think modeling is good, including modeling your behavior towards people who disagree on how to behave

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