Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, considers the confrontationalist/accommodationalist disagreement:

Here’s the difference between the two sides: You know that courtroom phrase, “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”?

Both Mooney and PZ want to tell the truth about science and evolution.

Only PZ is willing to tell the whole truth — that the logical conclusion of accepting science fully is that you must dismiss any notion of gods, miracles, and the supernatural.

Mooney thinks it’s bad PR for us to admit that — and he may be right — but it’s wrong to let Christians keep thinking science and religion are perfectly compatible when they really aren’t.

I’m clearly on PZ’s side of the spectrum, but I don’t think anyone could realistically call me a “confrontationalist.” I’m not looking to pick fights with theists, I frequently get invited by churches to help Christians understand our perspective, and I’m not calling religious people names just to underscore my point. PZ revels in that.

So the downside of the accommodationist/confrontationalist dichotomy is that it leaves a lot of people with no label. What do you call those of us who might lean to one side but aren’t in one camp entirely?

Where do you place yourself on the spectrum?

Set aside that Chris’s point isn’t just about PR. Set aside that not everyone agrees that PZ’s “whole truth” (in this formulation) is the truth at all. Set aside the dubious notion that anyone has “the whole truth” anyway, or that anyone claiming to have it is trustworthy about anything. Set aside that the truth PZ and Chris agree on is a scientific consensus based on empirical data, while PZ’s extension of that claimed truth is not, and therefore is epistemically different (though it may be true, it’s true in a different way). Set them aside even though those are central to the dispute.

Accepting that spectrum as Mehta says it is, I place myself with Douglas Adams (to whom The God Delusion is dedicated). From Life, the Universe, and Everything, part 4 of the Hitchhikers trilogy:

“I was covering a trial,” he said at last, “on Argabuthon.”

He pushed himself up onto his thin and wasted shoulders; his eyes stared wildly. His white hair seemed to be waving at someone it knew in the next room.

“Easy, easy,” said Ford. Trillian put a soothing hand on his shoulder.

The man sank back down again, and stared at the ceiling of the ship’s sick bay.

“The case,” he said, “is now immaterial, but there was a witness…a witness…a man called…called Prak. A strange and difficult man. They were eventually forced to administer a drug to make him tell the truth, a truth drug.”

His eyes rolled helplessly in his head.

“They gave him too much,” he said in a tiny whimper, “they gave him much too much.” He started to cry. […]

“And when the trial continued,” he said in a weeping whisper, “they asked Prak a most unfortunate thing. They asked him”–he paused and shivered–”to tell the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth. Only don’t you see?”

He suddenly hoisted himself up onto his elbows again and shouted at them.

“They’d given him too much of the drug!” […]

“What happened?” said Zaphod at last.

“Oh, he told it all right,” said the man savagely, “for all I know he’s still telling it now. Strange, terrible things…terrible terrible!” he screamed.

They tried to calm him, but he struggled to his elbows again.

“Terrible, things, incomprehensible things,” he shouted, “things that would drive a man mad!”

He stared wildly at them.

“Or in my case,” he said, “half-mad. I’m a journalist.”

“You mean,” said Arthur quietly, “that you are used to confronting the truth?”

“No,” said the man with a puzzled frown,” I mean that I made an excuse and left early.”

The point being, it’s impossible to constantly be telling “the whole truth,” and no audience really wants you to do that. You pick and choose which truths (as you see them) you want to expound. Part of the way you do that is by thinking about how much of the truth you can express without driving your audience insane. Hopefully you also select your slice of the truth based on what will convince your audience that your central point is, in fact, true. Omitting parts of the truth that will drive your audience away (or insane) is not dishonest, and may well be the best service you can do for the truth.

Comments

  1. #1 J. J. Ramsey
    October 18, 2010

    I’d be very careful with this:

    Omitting parts of the truth that will drive your audience away (or insane) is not dishonest

    If you are stuck with a touchy audience, and mentioning certain “land mines” will drive them away and keep them from listening to the truths they need to hear, then not mentioning the “land mines” is probably the least worst option. However, your line of thinking can easily be used to justify telling half-truths in order to deceive.

  2. #2 Saikat Biswas
    October 18, 2010

    “The point being, it’s impossible to constantly be telling “the whole truth,” and no audience really wants you to do that.”

    Is that a general truth about all audiences? Or just the Sunday-morning crowd?

  3. #3 Don Monroe
    October 18, 2010

    I think there are actually three sides.

    The PZ side challenges religious people that their beliefs are incompatible with science (the “whole truth” in the above formulation, but you don’t have to buy that).

    The Mooney side (just for identification purposes; he’s not the worst) reassures religious people that their beliefs (well, maybe not theirs, but someone’s) are compatible with science.

    The third side doesn’t think a non-religious person has any business telling religious people how to think about religion, but does ask that the scientific facts be respected.

  4. #4 Idlethought
    October 18, 2010

    Omitting parts of the truth that will drive your audience away (or insane) is not dishonest

    Now, that’s not entirely true now is it?

    It’s not always dishonest, but it often and easily can be.

    For example the fact that evolution is incompatible with what would normally be understood by a ‘loving’ God might be omitted when trying to suggest that evolution is compatible with someones beliefs. However, if you know or believe that the particular God the believe in is that sort of ‘loving’ God then you are, in fact, being a little dishonest. You are passing them information you know or sincerely believe to be false by omitting part of the truth.

  5. #5 Egbert
    October 18, 2010

    If science is not finding truths, then what is the point in teaching it.

    Someone has veritaphobia.

  6. #6 J. J. Ramsey
    October 18, 2010

    I’m not sure what relevance Prak has for accommodationism. Then again, I can’t think of anything an accommodationist would need to withhold with regard to evolution. For example, I can answer Idlethought’s bringing up the Argument from Evil by pointing out that the evils of evolution are irrelevant or redundant (*). Also, I find the “confrontationalist” arguments for incompatibility to be lousy, so I wouldn’t feel any need to hind the “truth” of incompatibility, since I don’t think it’s true. I can’t think of a truth I’d want to hide that pertains to evolution.

    (*) Footnote: The various counterarguments to the Argument from Evil are designed to work against an indefinite number of evils. If those counters hold, they hold for the evils (i.e. animal suffering) involved in evolution, making those evils irrelevant. If they fail, they already fail on present-day evils, making the evils of evolution redundant.

  7. #7 Deepak Shetty
    October 18, 2010

    that the logical conclusion of accepting science fully is that you must dismiss any notion of gods, miracles, and the supernatural.

    which you interpreted as

    Set aside the dubious notion that anyone has “the whole truth” anyway,

    This is where sometimes I don’t understand whether you really mean what you write or whether this an example of framing.
    The logical conclusion of accepting science is that you wont accept a book as evidence of miracles , that you will want independent testing of the supernatural claims and you will treat those claims as a hypothesis till you actually get some proof. This is the whole truth being referred to (not that no miracles could possibly exist!).

  8. #8 Deepak Shetty
    October 18, 2010

    Don Monroe

    The third side doesn’t think a non-religious person has any business telling religious people how to think about religion, but does ask that the scientific facts be respected.

    what about a fourth side that thinks the religious have no business demanding their particular idiosyncrasies be respected in public, or that their rules should be societies laws? This fourth side is also sick and tired of people like you who keep misrepresenting their position.

    You should also think carefully about your position. When a [choose religion that is not yours] man mistreats his wife say by insisting that she cover up and not work as demanded by his religion , do you really want to say “No comment – it is not my business to tell this guy how to interpret his religion”?

  9. #9 Mike McRae
    October 18, 2010

    It’s beginning to seem as if the debate is a dichotomy between either Mooney (who I disagree with immensely) and PZ (who I disagree with even more immensely). This is such a rich issue, there are many angles worth considering.

    Both Mooney and PZ are product-based communicators. Mooney thinks you have a better shot at convincing a person if you frame a message in such a way that they can find metaphorical connections between their metaphysical beliefs and the science. PZ thinks you have a better shot at convincing a person if you frame their belief in such a way it seems ridiculous. Both rely on the assumption that learning proceeds like punctuated equilibrium, where their message is the ‘light bulb’ moment. Rather, education is gradualist, and epistemology far more social.

    Mooney’s correct in that we model our beliefs on those we like and respect and will polarise our opinions to remove ourselves from those who we dislike. But while there is a necessity in finding common ground in symbolic language to communicate, this needs to progress from the metaphorical to the denotative. In other words, while it’s not ‘untruth’, analogical thinking can leave a lot of room for false assumptions unless it progresses. On the other hand, PZ’s approach of shame-based communication only works to silence questioning, and changes minds mostly in instances where the fundamental values are already present and a relationship already formed with a science-valuing community.

    What is needed is a better understanding of the ongoing processes of epistemological change, not unfounded bickering over how any single message is likely to be more successful at converting hearts and minds.

  10. #10 Anton Mates
    October 18, 2010

    Josh,

    Omitting parts of the truth that will drive your audience away (or insane) is not dishonest, and may well be the best service you can do for the truth.

    Or to put it another way, the goal of telling the truth and the goal of causing your audience to know or believe the truth are logically independent, and don’t always line up perfectly.

    OTOH, as J.J. Ramsey said, people most often omit parts of the truth for far less noble reasons, and in many contexts a “tell-the-whole-truth” policy is the best way of making sure a community isn’t being deceived by cheaters. But for that you need a community which could actually abide by and enforce such a policy. The scientific community does so, albeit imperfectly; local/state/national communities definitely could not.

    JJR,

    I can’t think of a truth I’d want to hide that pertains to evolution.

    Mehta is taking that Mooney quote to mean that he can think of such a truth, though. I think it’s ambiguous, but the quote certainly could be read as saying, “Evolution does conflict with Christian beliefs, but don’t say so directly.” (I’m not sure whether this is Mooney’s actual position at the moment.)

    But yes, regardless of Mooney’s position, I think Mehta is wrong in believing that most accommodationists agree with confrontationists on what the “whole truth” actually is. As Josh says, that’s a central point in the dispute. (Of course, there are lots of internal disagreements on each side about the “whole truth” as well, such as PZ’s disagreement with Jerry Coyne on the scientific testability of theism.)

    The various counterarguments to the Argument from Evil are designed to work against an indefinite number of evils. If those counters hold, they hold for the evils (i.e. animal suffering) involved in evolution, making those evils irrelevant. If they fail, they already fail on present-day evils, making the evils of evolution redundant.

    I’ve discussed that issue several times with Jason Rosenhouse. His argument–which I’m sure many conservative believers would agree with–is that the Fall story provides a specific counterargument which does not work against an indefinite number of evils, but only against the evils in a young and humanocentric universe. My response is that most liberal believers already think the Fall is a lousy explanation for evil, for the reasons given in the article you cite, so evolution doesn’t particularly threaten their preferred counters.

  11. #11 Deepak Shetty
    October 18, 2010

    Then again, I can’t think of anything an accommodationist would need to withhold with regard to evolution.

    a. That you shouldn’t hold the bible as literally true (if talking to YEC’s). I believe most accommodation would avoid commenting on the Bible preferring to stick to discussing evolution.
    b. The lack of evidence for a soul. An accommodationist would probably not go anywhere near this topic.

  12. #12 Sean
    October 18, 2010

    I think it’s rather irrelevant whether science is compatible with religion “in general”. What is much more salient is that a) science is incompatible with specific religions embraced by millions, b) other specific religions embraced by millions are opposed to necessary social progress, and c) most, and probably all, religions are wrong.

    I would find it horribly condescending to go to people and say “You can believe in Christianity, just go ahead because I’m sure you can explain away the bits about creation here, and the bits about gay people here, and the bits about the firmament here, and the bits about demons causing illness here, and the bits about the equality of women here…” I would not be able to accept that kind of behavior from myself. It has to be, at a minumum, “Evolution is true, certain facts about cosmology are true, and certain actions towards unbelievers and women and gays are bad, and I can tell you why, and I don’t care whether or not that disproves your religion, because I would think your religion was wrong even if there was no science to provide alternative viewpoints, because that religion doesn’t make sense.”

    I’m simply not dishonest enough to try to use the “the Bible is compatible with evolution” thing as leverage. I don’t think it’s true, nor did I think it was true when I was a Baptist (I knew that evolution was good science, and I also believed in the infallibility of the Bible, and I was very uncomfortable with this conflict, although it played only a minor role in my deconversion). How could I say something even vaguely supportive of this false compatibility, just to favor my own views?

    This is not to say that I have to be as stubborn or angry with “moderate” or “liberal” Christians as with the raging fundamentalists. The latter do a lot more damage and deserve a lot more opposition. But moderate Christianity strikes me as more, not less irrational, in that it is usually even more compartmentalized and fuzzy and less interested in consistency. I would bet that this extends quite easily to other major religions (particularly Islam). It would be intellectually dishonest for me to pretend that I find becoming “moderate” in religion a satisfactory response to the challenges of science.

  13. #13 Pseudonym
    October 18, 2010

    Deepak Shetty:

    When a [choose religion that is not yours] man mistreats his wife say by insisting that she cover up and not work as demanded by his religion , do you really want to say “No comment – it is not my business to tell this guy how to interpret his religion”?

    For the purpose of this discussion, what’s important is that this person’s religious beliefs are compatible with science. Science has no opinion on what you should or should not wear, possibly beyond medical concerns (e.g. cover up if it’s snowing).

    What you’re bringing up here is a moral question. Unless you’re in Sam Harris’ camp (which would admittedly give him someone to talk to), science has little to say about what we should or should not do.

    Sean:

    I’m simply not dishonest enough to try to use the “the Bible is compatible with evolution” thing as leverage.

    I think you might be confusing the typical religious moderate position with the typical religious position. Moderates may “compartmentalize” (disclaimer: I’ve never heard that word used in this context by anyone with any psychology qualifications) where liberals will usually concede (sometimes happily, sometimes reluctantly) that the Bible often reflects the knowledge and prejudices of the times and places in which it was written, and hence is not necessarily “inerrant” in the fundamentalist sense, and hence no reconciliation or compatibility is required.

  14. #14 J. J. Ramsey
    October 19, 2010

    Deepak Shetty:

    a. That you shouldn’t hold the bible as literally true (if talking to YEC’s). I believe most accommodation would avoid commenting on the Bible preferring to stick to discussing evolution.

    Ahem: http://ncse.com/religion/how-do-i-read-bible-let-me-count-ways

    Note that I can find that link straight from the NCSE’s “Science and Religion” web page, so it’s hardly hidden, and it has an extensive discussion on non-literal reading of the Bible. It even bluntly says, “The Bible reflects the specific pre-scientific world-view of the ancient Hebrew people. As shown in Fig. 1, the ancient Hebrews conceived of an Earth-centered cosmos where the Sun, Moon, and stars were small objects located below a solid dome, or firmament (Hebrew raquia) held up by pillars or columns.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement for literalism.

    b. The lack of evidence for a soul. An accommodationist would probably not go anywhere near this topic.

    I’d hardly see the topic as relevant. Sure, you can argue that the evidence is against the idea that we are ghosts that animate flesh bodies, but the concepts of a “soul” have rarely been that simple and are pretty much immune to empirical testing.

  15. #15 Anthony McCarthy
    October 19, 2010

    The idea that PZ’s rigid materialist, ideological, definition of science and what that entails is “the whole truth” is so absurd that only people who are either too busy to think it through or too superficial to make the effort would mistake it as any kind of truth.

    If science is incompatible with ideas for which there is no evidence and those ideas are inevitably damaging to science then religion is far from the most serious impediment to it. No one lives only within the limits necessary to perform science, not PZ, not anyone. Our lives are full of acceptance of ideas which require foundational concepts which are without evidential foundation, our political assumptions certainly among the most important of those. There is no evidence that the right to trial by an impartial jury of your peers is valid, though few would go so far as one of PZ’s pals once did and call for disposing of that practice in favor of some fMRI based mumbo-jumbo.

    Looking in my morning paper and seeing an article about the number of Harvard Medical School faculty who are taking lots of money from big Pharma I’d point out that there is no empirical support for the idea that they have a right to do that and much to suggest that letting them do it might have a damaging effect on science based medical teaching and practice. Yet PZ is all worked up over a largely ill defined problem of a segment of biblical fundamentalism which opposes the teaching of genuine science in public schools, a problem of fundamentalism in politics, and which is almost no problem within the formal practice of science. And PZ does it for, largely, ideological reasons, which aren’t part of science. Though I would think he derives quite a bit of non-scientific prestige and, perhaps, income from it as well. And I could go on for many comments in this vein.

    See how much of “the whole truth” that gets left out of it?

  16. #16 Tyro
    October 19, 2010

    Josh,

    I’d like to understand you but I think I’m missing something.

    Are you saying that some subjects are naturally complex and we should simplify things sort of like how we would tell a child that solids melt when they get warmer without explaining sublimation, plasmas or Gibbs free energy? Or are you saying that some audiences would be shocked, offended, revolted, horrified or otherwise turned-off if we told them that they were wrong? Or is there something else that you’re saying and I can’t parse it?

    If it’s the former then well okay but I don’t understand what is so sophisticated that it would fly over the heads of any reasonable adult.

    If it’s the second then I’m a little shocked. What could be more paternalistic and prejudiced than by saying a large group of people need to be sheltered from contrary opinions or information which may upset their beliefs? I don’t want to believe you’re saying this but I fear you are. If so, I would need some very strong evidence that these people are so blind and weak-minded that they deserve such poor treatment.

    And if it’s something else entirely then what is it because I’ve tried re-reading several times and I can’t see it.

  17. #17 Tyro
    October 19, 2010

    The idea that PZ’s rigid materialist, ideological, definition of science and what that entails is “the whole truth” is so absurd that only people who are either too busy to think it through or too superficial to make the effort would mistake it as any kind of truth.

    I think this is not a good reflection of the opposing views. People like PZ or Larry Moran aren’t saying that they hold the one true Truth, rather they’re pointing out that the NCSE and Josh have deliberately and knowingly misrepresented the truth. In a non-controversial example, by presenting science and evolution as compatible with religion without mentioning that many (perhaps most) scientists and and philosophers of science even some theologians disagree. It can be by hosting presentations, seminars, editorials and outreach which represent only this minority view without giving time (or even acknowledging) contrary views.

    At this point it’s not about who is right or wrong in this debate, but by pretending there isn’t a debate at all, they are acting in ways many find deceptive or untruthful.

  18. #18 Mark Thyme
    October 19, 2010

    One word for you: coward.

  19. #19 Yahzi
    October 19, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy syas: “Yet PZ is all worked up over a largely ill defined problem of a segment of biblical fundamentalism which opposes the teaching of genuine science in public schools, a problem of fundamentalism”

    Apparently McCarthy has never heard of the Texas School Board of Education.

    Of course, he’s just singing the accomadationist’s tune: let’s all pretend that religion is nice and safe and comfy, and the only danger is if those noisy Gnus wake daddy up and make him mad. Then he’ll hit is, but it will be our fault because we woke him up after he had been out drinking all night!

    Amazing that the Pope can preach on a weekly basis that atheists deserve every imaginable torment, yet it’s the atheists that are rude for saying… “you’re wrong.”

  20. #20 Yahzi
    October 19, 2010

    Josh, how can you not see that your position is a thousand times more insulting than PZs?

    PZ thinks they’re foolish, and wants to educate them. You think they’re too stupid to learn, and you want to lie to them to get your way.

    Your contempt for these people is astonishing. Here’s a hint, Josh: they aren’t as stupid as you think. For instance, they know perfectly well that you look down on them as sub-human animals incapable of understanding truth. They will treat you accordingly, just as soon as you stop being of use to them.

  21. #21 K Dub
    October 19, 2010

    But Yahzi, PZ really DOESN’T want to educate them. You don’t educate anyone by telling them how stupid they are. Especially if that charge also applies to a person’s family, friends, and community. It doesn’t work, you know it, and so does PZ.

    The difference between your position and Josh’s is that you see everything as black and white, and you need it to stay that way. You (and PZ) seem to get off on the conflict. Actually, I take that back, PZ does not just get off on the conflict, he profits from it. How many seminars would PZ get to speak at, were he not the Gnu Atheist PT Barnum, pulling wacky stunts of communion desecration, just to rile up the crowd? PZ is actually the perfect Gnu Atheist for our reality TV, short attention span culture – all flash, little substance; all drama, little thought. PZ’s worst nightmare would be if everyone woke up Darwin-loving Gnu Atheists tomorrow – he’d lose his soapbox, and his fans, and his chance to hobnob w/ Dawkins et al. He’d have to go back to being a science teacher at a small backwater satellite campus of a second-tier state school.

    There is a difference between admitting there is tension between two viewpoints, but emphasizing points of agreement; and lying to people. Never did Josh say that he thought he needed to lie. He merely suggested avoiding points of greatest conflict, so as to encourage dialogue. If you can’t see the difference between that and lying, then perhaps it is pointless to discuss it any further, as your absolutism has distorted your reason.

    Besides, how can Josh be insulting a group’s intelligence, if you a priori state that they are all fools?

  22. #22 Tyro
    October 19, 2010

    K Dub,

    But Yahzi, PZ really DOESN’T want to educate them.

    It sounds an awful lot like Josh is saying that we should only tell religious folk things which either agree with their beliefs or at the very least will not make them uncomfortable. How is it even possible to educate people and change their views if you rule out challenging them? You may be confused by PZ’s activism and mistake it for how he goes about educating people but Josh’s approach can’t ever be the answer since it precludes change and growth, the very purpose of education.

  23. #23 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    @JJ Ramsey
    a. The article you cite describes the ways you can read the bible described in terms like “While the literal meaning is naturally to be sought first, one should not insist upon it if so doing contradicts either other parts of scripture, observed reality, or logic” . I would expect a much simpler The bible cannot be literally true when it comes to Genesis.
    In any case my statement was what accomodationists would avoid(As opposed to never or cant)
    b. The topic of a soul is important because atleast some religious are willing to accept evolution if you concede that humans have a soul that is somehow magic’ed into them. There is no empirical evidence for this and scientifically then , we would say that the probability is low. Again the point is you would not discuss such a thing if you could avoid it.

  24. #24 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    Pseudonym

    For the purpose of this discussion, what’s important is that this person’s religious beliefs are compatible with science.

    Uh no. I’m responding to a specific statement of the form “you are not(or dont believe in) X so you have no business commenting about X”. That is an extremely harmful principle to follow.

  25. #25 Anthony McCarthy
    October 19, 2010

    rather they’re pointing out that the NCSE and Josh have deliberately and knowingly misrepresented the truth. In a non-controversial example, by presenting science and evolution as compatible with religion without mentioning that many (perhaps most) scientists and and philosophers of science even some theologians disagree. tyro

    Apart from those religions that specifically reject evolution, there is no inherent conflict between religion and evolution. In fact, one of the things that PZ, Coyne, etc. are most incensed at are those religious people who assert that their religion can include the most up to date, non-ID-industry, non-theistic holdings of evolutionary science, as their personal belief. Which is no more of a barrier to being a professional scientist than being a member of the Rotarians or a political party – Chris Mooney’s work effectively proves, by the way, that the Republican Party is far more of an obstacle for science than being religious.

    Your statement about what you assert “most of” the members of several professions in and around science believes has nothing to do with the evidence or reasoned consideration of the issue, though I think I’d want to see your evidence, in any case. The fact that most of the people who accept evolution in the United States are also Christians would certainly be a problem for the argument.

    Yahzi, Mr. McCarthy is well aware of the Texas Board of Education and is vehemently opposed to mixing fundamentalist religion into the public school curriculum in any class, which is why I pointed out that is an area where biblical fundamentalism is a problem. He is also sorely tempted to make an observation about the need for remedial reading being as crucial a problem as the protection of the several topics dealing with evolution in the average H.S. biology class but won’t at this time.

    Show me where I, Josh, or Chris Mooney has ever advocated religion being introduced in a science course or the formal literature of science. The “accomodationist” line in this discussion is a fantasy cooked up by ideologues in place of evidence or rational argument.
    I’m not responsible for what the Pope says on any day, but I’d be surprised if he bothers doing what you claim he does. Show me your quotes and references.

  26. #26 Anthony McCarthy
    October 19, 2010

    Deepak, any religious person I’ve ever encountered who had even a somewhat sophisticated knowledge of theology and of science would ever consider it legitimate to introduce the idea of a soul into science. Any of them would know that would be a violation of the requirements of science and entirely useless because science couldn’t tell you anything about a soul.

    Blanket statements such as yours are part and parcel of the literature of bigotry, attributing things to people on the basis of identity when there is no basis in reality to support that. It’s sort of a religious equivalent to what Gould talked about in The Mismeasure of Man.

  27. #27 Anthony McCarthy
    October 19, 2010

    Here’s another news item about a real, serious and largely ignored danger to the integrity of science while the phony crisis gets massive attention.

    http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2010/10/big-oil-u

    And notice the parts about big oil violating peer review and other issues essential to the integrity of science. Apparently those taking the money are quite willingly compromised, as are their departments, colleagues and publishers.

  28. #28 Egbert
    October 19, 2010

    A question: Is the geocentric model compatible with the heliocentric model? It’s a scientific theory, there is data to support it. So if they’re both science, then there can be no conflict. They should both be taught as true.

  29. #29 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    @Anthony

    any religious person I’ve ever encountered who had even a somewhat sophisticated knowledge of theology

    Oh true scotsman , how I miss you in your various forms.

    Your soul is supposedly part of this world as well is it not? It guides your moral decisions does it not? and since the brain is part of the natural world- the soul interacts with the natural world and should be detectable.
    But yes you and JJ Ramsey illustrate my point – you’d rather not go near this topic scientifically – instead preferring the standard not part of science retort.

    And yes *sophisticated* theologians do know better , just as they also know the precise conditions under which people go to limbo or as they know precisely what parts of their favorite book are literal and what parts are allegorical.

  30. #30 Tyro
    October 19, 2010

    Anthony,

    Apart from those religions that specifically reject evolution, there is no inherent conflict between religion and evolution.

    First, that is definitely not an established fact and many people on both sides would disagree with you. Second, since Josh is trying to reach out to those people who DO reject evolution, acting like there is no conflict seems especially disingenuous.

    In fact, since Josh is defending his stance on the grounds that some truths should not be told, it seems like he’s tacitly acknowledging these facts. For you to say that there is no conflict seems to both deny the views of many scientists and believers but Josh R himself.

    In fact, one of the things that PZ, Coyne, etc. are most incensed at are those religious people who assert that their religion can include the most up to date, non-ID-industry, non-theistic holdings of evolutionary science, as their personal belief.

    I don’t think this is at all a fair characterization of their writings or speeches. They’ve said repeatedly that their problem with Josh and the NCSE is the way they go out of their way to present a one-sided, distorted view of science and religion, essentially defending and supporting a theological position not a scientific one. An honest portrayal would say that some scientists do accept evolution and say they have reconciled this with their religious beliefs, many (if not most) scientists do not. Better still would be to present the theories and let believers manage their own theology. They are not “incensed” by believers and have said that they think religious scientists should be doing outreach.

    The fact that most of the people who accept evolution in the United States are also Christians would certainly be a problem for the argument.

    In case you genuinely misunderstand the arguments, PZ and Coyne are saying that the NCSE should not pick sides as they have been doing. They also argue that religion and science are incompatible, not that individual scientists can not also be religious, a fact they’ve dealt with repeatedly before delving into the heart of their arguments. As they’ve said, if this indicates compatibility then science is compatible with astrology because individuals can believe in both. It’s a trivial sort of compatibility that they acknowledge repeatedly without, it seems, anyone noticing.

  31. #31 J. J. Ramsey
    October 19, 2010

    Deepak Shetty:

    The article you cite describes the ways you can read the bible described in terms like “While the literal meaning is naturally to be sought first, one should not insist upon it if so doing contradicts either other parts of scripture, observed reality, or logic” . I would expect a much simpler The bible cannot be literally true when it comes to Genesis.

    Oh, yes, it’s obviously evasive to make a general statement that not only obviates taking Genesis literally but also bars taking other parts of the Bible literally as well if they conflict with the facts.

    atleast some religious are willing to accept evolution if you concede that humans have a soul that is somehow magic’ed into them. There is no empirical evidence for this …

    … because there is no empirical evidence that could be used to confirm or falsify it, and because of that, I deny your claim, “The topic of a soul is important.”

  32. #32 daniel.lavine83
    October 19, 2010

    Also, I find the “confrontationalist” arguments for incompatibility to be lousy, so I wouldn’t feel any need to hind the “truth” of incompatibility, since I don’t think it’s true. I can’t think of a truth I’d want to hide that pertains to evolution.

    It’s rather difficult to argue for incompatibility when you’re never supplied with anything but a trivial definition of “compatible” no matter how many times you ask. It’s almost like you’re trying to set up a moving target.

    The origin of the debate, as far as I can tell, was when the NCSE adopted the unequivocal position that “science and religious faith are compatible.” Full stop. No explication of what is meant here by “religious faith” or “compatible.” The GNU objections to this were as follows:
    a) Not all members of the NCSE, let alone all scientists, would affirm this proposition.
    b) Under some interpretations of “religious faith” and “compatible” the proposition would be outright false
    c) It’s not clear to gnus under which interpretations the proposition would be true, if any
    Therefore, “science and religious faith are compatible” should be considered an open question and shouldn’t be adopted as a position by an organization devoted to science education.

    Now, as far as an actual argument for incompatibility (as opposed to simply pointing out that there are such arguments), we do have to start interpreting the claim one way or another. Now, it’s obviously true that there are possible religious faiths, either believed or not believed, that are compatible with all current scientific knowledge. But scientific knowledge is necessarily provisional — if the religious beliefs are not similarly provisional, then that faith is not really compatible with science but with particular scientific findings which may or which may not turn out to be false. On the other hand, if the religious beliefs are provisional, what has to happen for them to get updated? Are we assuming that any time scientific methodology is used to update scientific findings, the beliefs derived from this faith are automatically updated?

    “Ways of knowing” only work if they’re consistent with other “ways of knowing” so that the results can be confirmed independently. If there was a religion that was compatible with science and was actually a “way of knowing,” it would not be a faith, it would be a variety of scientific methodology. I have no doubt that anyone can cook up a religion consistent with current scientific findings. I very much doubt anyone can cook up a religion (that would be recognizable as such) consistent with scientific epistemology and methodology.

  33. #33 J. J. Ramsey
    October 19, 2010

    Deepak Shetty: “the soul interacts with the natural world and should be detectable.”

    Um, the God of Last Thursdayism supposedly interacts with the natural world, but that hardly means that we can detect him.

  34. #34 daniel.lavine83
    October 19, 2010

    … because there is no empirical evidence that could be used to confirm or falsify it, and because of that, I deny your claim, “The topic of a soul is important.”

    It is important if one takes it as a given, as in my experience many religious believers do, that the soul is a causal necessity for moral and ethical behavior, personhood, use of language, etc. To me, human behavior and language are facts about the natural world. If I can’t understand them without knowing about souls, then souls are a scientific fact about the world.

    A simpler way of putting the “causal souls hypothesis” is that true AI is impossible. One cannot construct a person or a mind because there is something else (the soul) that is required for a person/mind. For those of us atheists who actually care about metaphysics and phenomenology and so forth (not to mention AI), the question about whether there is such a thing as a soul is actually very important.

  35. #35 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    J. J. Ramsey
    “One should not insist upon” it is a fairly loose statement. You’ll notice he is saying that you shouldn’t insist upon something instead of making a harmless Genesis cant literally be true – a statement on the Bible rather than the practitioner. It is these silly word games that an accomodationist has to play and indeed wants others to play as well.

    I deny your claim, “The topic of a soul is important.”

    Im merely pointing out that it is , to some religious people. Its obviously not important to the science behind evolution because we haven’t found any proof of any such thing.
    As to the question of empirical evidence that’s a standard dodge. You either believe the soul has some influence in the natural world (most believers would say it does , that’s where they get their guidance they get) – in which case it is in principle detectable by science.

  36. #36 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    @JJ Ramsey

    Um, the God of Last Thursdayism supposedly interacts with the natural world, but that hardly means that we can detect him.

    Well exactly. Know any other things that interact with the natural world that we can’t detect (in principle)? The only examples I know of are stuff that *sophisticated* theologians come up with

  37. #37 J. J. Ramsey
    October 19, 2010

    daniel.lavine83:

    A simpler way of putting the “causal souls hypothesis” is that true AI is impossible.

    I think you are assuming that the various concepts of the soul are clear-cut enough to be treated as hypotheses.

    And what does this have to do with evolution again?

    Deepak Shetty:

    Well exactly. Know any other things that interact with the natural world that we can’t detect (in principle)? The only examples I know of are stuff that *sophisticated* theologians come up with

    Ok, you made the claim that things that purportedly interact with the natural world are empirically detectable in principle. When given a counterexample, you respond with sarcasm but cite further counterexamples. Bizarre.

  38. #38 matt
    October 19, 2010

    What a patronizing load of crap. It’s called a “lie of omission” for a reason.

    What do you possibly mean by “how much of the truth…”? Do you fill in the rest with lies? WTF?

    Do you think people need to be spoonfed small amounts of the truth so you don’t overload their poor brains, or challenge their world views? How compassionate. Maybe you could start with the women-folk or the coloreds. I hear they need taking care of.

    Give me a break

  39. #39 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    JJ ramsey
    My position is that everything that interacts with the natural world is in principle detectable. Your position seems to be no , that’s not necessarily true. Im responding back that the only exceptions that I know off are all religious (And that obviously I hold these to be nonsense).
    Your example illustrates this point too , God interacts with our world but is undetectable?

    I’m also pointing out that even you probably know this to be nonsense because you wouldn’t make these exceptions for anything other than religion. What exactly is bizarre?

    if a climate change denier said well actually God controls the temperature and would ensure that nothing would happen to earth, would you buy it? How would you scientifically prove that such a premise is false – given that God can do anything and everything and has his own mysterious plan.

  40. #40 Marconi
    October 19, 2010

    Omission of *details* when they do not undermine the facts is perfectly fine. All other kinds of deliberate omissions is tantamount to deception. Even if the intent of the deception is superciliously good.

    “You pick and choose which truths (as you see them) you want to expound.”

    This is precisely what pastors do. They pick and choose, as they see them, the truths they want their flock to hear.

    Sounds too bizarre a stance to take for an atheist. Unless one is running for political office, it is inexplicable.

  41. #41 Marconi
    October 19, 2010

    @Egbert”A question: Is the geocentric model compatible with the heliocentric model?”

    No.

    @Egbert: “It’s a scientific theory, there is data to support it.”

    And there is data that falsifies *it*, whatever that *it* is

    @Egbert: “So if they’re both science, then there can be no conflict. They should both be taught as true.”

    The above makes no sense, please rephrase.

  42. #42 Marconi
    October 19, 2010

    Evolution is incompatible with the Bible, specifically as the Genesis account shows the origin of species.

    Please consider how you’d go about winning over a room full of very social, extremely polite, church-going folk who have been inculcated the Genesis version.

    Also, will you be suggesting that the theories of evolution are compatible with the Bible?

  43. #43 daniel.lavine83
    October 19, 2010

    I think you are assuming that the various concepts of the soul are clear-cut enough to be treated as hypotheses.

    And what does this have to do with evolution again?

    I included “hypothesis” in the scare quotes to make it clear that to even be considered a hypothesis, the notion of a soul would need to be made much more precise. See, I use language to communicate, not to signify. I can use “hypothesis” in a fairly loose and fuzzy way because language is loose and fuzzy; if more precision is required, we can define terms as it becomes an issue. Here, “causal soul hypothesis” is just meant “any sort of claim that personhood is impossible without a soul.” Perfectly ordinary English language. Nothing confusing or tricky about it.

    And I explained very clearly why it’s relevant to evolution — human beings can’t evolve if souls are required for personhood. I don’t see how you could miss that from my last post unless you missed it intentionally.

  44. #44 Anthony McCarthy
    October 19, 2010

    Oh true scotsman , how I miss you in your various forms. Deepak

    First, I’m Irish-American.

    Your soul is supposedly part of this world as well is it not? DS

    Well, that depends on what you mean by “part of this world”

    It guides your moral decisions does it not? and since the brain is part of the natural world- the soul interacts with the natural world and should be detectable. DS

    You assume that a soul would be bound by the characteristics of physical objects and forces when there is no reason to believe that it would be. And you assume that you know the nature of the physical world to the extent that you could exclude the possibility that what we see is intrinsically bound up with such entities. I look at the fact that everything we know about the physical world, all of science, all of mathematics and logic, etc. is inseparable from human consciousness, the pretense that science is separable from human consciousness is clearly an irrational pretense. If you doubt that is true, point to where science exists outside of human beings. But that’s only an observation about the pretenses of materialist objective view of things. The belief in a soul isn’t the same kind of thing as the belief that there are molecules and atoms but to pretend that one is independent of human consciousness, which, itself, isn’t defined or understood, is superstitious. Sorry for the sketchy outline of a far larger argument, but there are time and space restrictions.

    First, that is definitely not an established fact and many people on both sides would disagree with you. tyro

    In order for you to assert that is a conflict between “religion”, as a general category and science, you would have to produce evidence of that conflict. I’d like you to point to any area of science in which someone who professes religious belief couldn’t successfully do research or publish work that stands up to peer review. I’d be surprised if you could find a general area of science to which religious believers haven’t contributed crucial research and analysis. The fact that religious people have successfully produced science that stands up to the regular standards of science is irrefutable proof that there isn’t any such conflict.

    PZ and the like want science to be an ideology instead of a set of methods that produce reliable information about the physical universe, in order to do that you have to change science to include ideas and holdings that aren’t supported by data and review. Seems to be the dirty secret of the new atheism that they, indeed, want to change the meaning of science in exactly the way they are always suggesting or accusing religious scientists of doing, which no one I’ve challenged has ever been able to produce evidence of it having been done.

  45. #45 Anthony McCarthy
    October 19, 2010

    Evolution is incompatible with the Bible, specifically as the Genesis account shows the origin of species. Marconi

    Evolution as a science can’t look at the idea that the universe was produced by God because God is an idea outside of the possible subject matter of science.

    Most of the people in the United States who accept the fact of evolution are also religious believers, at least if the surveys are to be believed at all. Most religious believers who accept evolution clearly don’t mistake Genesis for a science or history textbook. Given that, making believe that to be religious means that you have to be a biblical fundamentalist is a demonstration of ignorance, at best, but, I’d guess, is just more likely a dishonest debating stand.

    If you want to convert biblical fundamentalists to accept evolution the Dawkins-PZ program would seem to be a demonstrable failure since they seem to drive more people away from science than to it. But I doubt that’s the real motive of the effort, which I think has more to do with clique formation and market building than science.

  46. #46 daniel.lavine83
    October 19, 2010

    Evolution as a science can’t look at the idea that the universe was produced by God because God is an idea outside of the possible subject matter of science.

    Who says? Science Pope?

    I don’t see how anyone can know a priori what the possible subject matter for science is. I would think you could only find that out by going out and doing science.

  47. #47 Sean
    October 19, 2010

    “I think you might be confusing the typical religious moderate position with the typical religious position.”

    Well, my criticism in general is of everyone who sees the Bible as the word of God. I think that it’s quite a minority of Christians that do not take this position, and I think that the position does not sit well with the idea that large swaths of the Bible are merely time-and-place-bound or metaphorical.

    I don’t know what you think the “typical religious position” is. I don’t know that any particular position on reliability/interpretation of the Bible is has an actual majority. My assertion was simply addressed towards a range of positions that I think do constitute a majority of Christians who see evolution as a religious issue (the people who believe that each book in the Bible is very closely tied to God’s intent or who see most of the Bible as being accurate history, aside from occasional parables).

  48. #48 Sean
    October 19, 2010

    Note: my comments are obviously rather particular to the US.

  49. #49 Anthony McCarthy
    October 19, 2010

    Daniellavine83, well, if you think you can do science around God, go ahead, make your observations and do your math, write it up and send it to a legitimate, peer reviewed journal, I’d insist in the physical sciences and not the social sciences, and see if you get it accepted.

    I will warn you though that as soon as it’s in review, PZ, Coyne, Dawkins, etc. will attack with all claws bared.

    I’d like you to show me where it’s been done before, and I don’t mean the bloviation of pro and semi-pro atheists which isn’t science.

  50. #50 J. J. Ramsey
    October 19, 2010

    daniel.lavine83:

    “I included “hypothesis” in the scare quotes

    Hint, if you want your quotes to be treated as scare quotes, then they should surround a word or phrase with a previously known meaning. Otherwise, you look like you are using quotes to highlight a phrase that you are defining.

    Here, “causal soul hypothesis” is just meant “any sort of claim that personhood is impossible without a soul.” Perfectly ordinary English language. Nothing confusing or tricky about it.

    Um, except that “personhood” is horribly vague without a definition or context to make its meaning clear.

    And I explained very clearly why it’s relevant to evolution — human beings can’t evolve if souls are required for personhood.

    That’s a strange claim to make. The process where ancestor primates evolve into the primates that we call homo sapiens is the same regardless of whether or not a deity has “magic’d” in a soul into said homo sapiens.

    Deepak Shetty:

    My position is that everything that interacts with the natural world is in principle detectable.

    And your position is clearly wrong, since one can posit any number of things that interact with the world but hide all traces of their interaction. Whether those things are religious or whimsical or whatnot is irrelevant to the truth of your position.

    I’m also pointing out that even you probably know this to be nonsense because you wouldn’t make these exceptions for anything other than religion.

    I’m not the one making the exceptions. Religious beliefs are what they are, and if they are unfalsifiable, so be it.

    if a climate change denier said well actually God controls the temperature and would ensure that nothing would happen to earth, would you buy it? How would you scientifically prove that such a premise is false

    I couldn’t scientifically prove such a premise is false except by waiting until the temperature got too hot. Any evidence I point to before then could be dismissed as “God will cap the temperature when the time is right.” Yes, that kind of sucks, but that’s the breaks. However, I could certainly say, “Well, technically you could be right, but I’m not betting the farm on your say-so.”

    How your example is even relevant is unclear.

  51. #51 Michael Fugate
    October 19, 2010

    Supernatural? What supernatural? Why would anyone even bother with something that is undetectable? Unverifiable personal experience is not transcendent, it is not evidence of the supernatural.

  52. #52 Anthony McCarthy
    October 19, 2010

    My position is that everything that interacts with the natural world is in principle detectable.

    Are numbers detectable? Do you understand their interaction with the natural world? Do they exist in the natural world, do they exist at all? And how would you account for their seeming and uncanny relevance to the natural sciences?

    If you’re a materialist I’ll have to warn you that I’ve given the idea a lot of thought and have read a bit on it and I’m a lot more impressed with Reuben Hersh than I am the neo-platonists, both of which sides present problems which I’d advise dogmatic ideologues of the materialist type to think twice before they enter. Especially since I don’t heed the typical dodge inherited from the logical positivists, declaring that embarrassing questions are meaningless.

  53. #53 Marconi
    October 19, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy
    “Evolution as a science can’t look at the idea that the universe was produced by God because God is an idea outside of the possible subject matter of science.

    Most of the people in the United States who accept the fact of evolution are also religious believers, at least if the surveys are to be believed at all. Most religious believers who accept evolution clearly don’t mistake Genesis for a science or history textbook. Given that, making believe that to be religious means that you have to be a biblical fundamentalist is a demonstration of ignorance, at best, but, I’d guess, is just more likely a dishonest debating stand.

    If you want to convert biblical fundamentalists to accept evolution the Dawkins-PZ program would seem to be a demonstrable failure since they seem to drive more people away from science than to it. But I doubt that’s the real motive of the effort, which I think has more to do with clique formation and market building than science.”

    I don’t find anything in that addressing what I asked. Perhaps I was unclear. Let me try differently.

    How does an accomodationist go about summarizing the theory of evolution for the origin of species to a room filled with church-going, extremely polite and civil people who have been inculcated with the Genesis version of the origin of species. I also asked if an accomodationist should tell them that the theory of evolution is compatible with Genesis.

    As far as I know PZ and Dawkins are not accomodationists, so what their approach WILL NOT do is of little use.

    Answering “How can you get steel from iron ore?” with “Well, you will fail miserably if you bombarded it with electrons” does not help.

  54. #54 Anthony McCarthy
    October 19, 2010

    Marconi, to start with, I don’t accept that science can include religion, which I’ve already stated. Science is strictly limited in its abilities to examine physical evidence and to analyze it. It comes up with assertions about what the present knowledge of that is and that is the changing thing that is called science. It doesn’t deal with religious matters except those which include the physical evidence that can be treated with the methods and procedures of science. If I could get the new atheists to accept that much of the argument, it might stand a chance with biblical fundamentalists. Though quite a number of biblical fundamentalists have had successful careers in science, Richard Lewontin, in his review of Sagan’s Demons talks about young Sagan and Lewontin going to debate a fundamentalist with a PhD in biology from the U. of Texas, as I recall (you can find it online).

    As long as they hold the idea that the bible is literally true, however, they won’t accept the fact of evolution, though many of the will go for the ID industry line on it.

    But religion can include all of science. Much of it does, almost all of it accepts at least some science.

    I’m not interested in converting every last fundamentalist, I’m interested in an effective, voting majority who want to protect the wall of separation. Though no where near as much as I do an effective majority in favor of protecting the environment and cutting carbon emissions. I’d say that the climate change skeptics, including some well known and self proclaimed atheist, champions of reason and science are a lot more dangerous than people who refuse to accept evolution. How do you propose to convert them? Evolution denial is annoying and obnoxious but it’s not dangerous in the way that climate change denial is.

  55. #55 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    @Anthony

    First, I’m Irish-American.

    So?

    You assume that a soul would be bound by the characteristics of physical objects

    I made no such assumption. I didnt say the soul is bound to the natural world. I merely state that if it interacts with the natural world it is detectable – the characteristics of physical objects are known and hence any interaction that causes them to change can be detected.

    you could exclude the possibility that what we see is intrinsically bound up with such entities

    How is that relevant ? Whether we are intrinsically bound has no bearing on whether we could detect something.

    I look at the fact that everything we know about the physical world, all of science, all of mathematics and logic, etc. is inseparable from human consciousness,

    What exactly are you including (and excluding ) from Science here? As a set of principles then we are practitioners – the principles would exist whether or not we existed. In a two dimensional space a circle divided by its diameter gives PI independent of whether there is a human to actually measure it.If you are saying you need consciousness to practice science , ok , im not sure how that means anything.

    Seems to be the dirty secret of the new atheism that they, indeed, want to change the meaning of science in exactly the way they are always suggesting or accusing religious scientists of doing, which no one I’ve challenged has ever been able to produce evidence of it having been done.

    Ooh look an irish american strawman!. The accusation made of religious scientists is that they dont practice science when it comes to their religion. So Collins can talk about how he doesn’t think morality could have evolved or how the universe is fine tuned. Someone else believes in virgin births without having evidence to back it up.

    In what way are you suggesting that Im changing the meaning of science? The only assertion I have made that if something interacts with the natural world , it is in principle, detectable. Are you suggesting that this is changing science?

  56. #56 daniel.lavine83
    October 19, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy:

    I’d like you to show me where it’s been done before, and I don’t mean the bloviation of pro and semi-pro atheists which isn’t science.

    Not all science has been done before. There’s a lot of science that hasn’t been done yet. I don’t think it will ever have anything to do with God, but I don’t claim to know that a priori. Also, you’re equivocating between two senses of the word “science” here, but I don’t feel like going into it right now.

    Are numbers detectable? Do you understand their interaction with the natural world? Do they exist in the natural world, do they exist at all? And how would you account for their seeming and uncanny relevance to the natural sciences?

    I’ve never detected a number. According to my understanding, they don’t interact with the natural world. They don’t exist in the natural world. They do “exist” in the sense that I can conceive of number as an abstraction from the more concrete notion of “quantity.” To the extent that science deals with quantities, one would expect the abstraction dealing with what’s common to all quantities to be useful.

    In the same sense a “resistor” as in a wiggly line on a circuit diagram doesn’t “exist” per se. If I want something with 1000 ohms of resistance, I could use a really, really thing wire, a really really long wire, a guitar pickup (which is basically a really, really long wire), a water solution with the precise salinity to provide 1000 ohms of resistance — the resistor itself isn’t a thing, it’s the abstraction of the common behavior of any one of a huge set of things within a particular context. The guitar pickup (for example) is the thing that exists. Saying that the resistor exists (or that numbers exist) seems to me like saying that in addition to birches, elders, ashes, and all other species of tree there are these things called “trees” which also actually exist apart from the exemplars of the individual species. I don’t think “trees” exist apart from the actual trees that make up the class; I don’t think “resistors” exist apart from those things which exemplify resistors; and I don’t think numbers exist apart from the quantities which are enumerated (which could themselves be abstractions as long as there’s a floor somewhere).

    Good questions. That’s the clearest I’ve ever explained that to myself; thanks for the inspiration.

    @J.J. Ramsey:

    That’s a strange claim to make. The process where ancestor primates evolve into the primates that we call homo sapiens is the same regardless of whether or not a deity has “magic’d” in a soul into said homo sapiens.

    No, that’s the point. If the soul is necessary for human behavior such as it is, we could not have evolved into human beings such as we are. We could have evolved from ancestor primates into bipedal apes that behave like something, but that something wouldn’t be us. This follows from the assumption that the soul is actually doing something.

    I think it was pretty clear that I didn’t mean “hypothesis” in some narrow technical sense. I think it was fairly clear that I put quotes around the phrase in question to indicate that it should be read fairly loosely. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, feel free to ask for clarification, but your quibbling about my semantics comes across to me as an attempt to willfully misunderstand what I’m saying so that you can dismiss it without actually considering it.

  57. #57 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    And your position is clearly wrong, since one can posit any number of things that interact with the world but hide all traces of their interaction.

    Sure. Dragon , Garage, meet JJ Ramsey.

    I couldn’t scientifically prove such a premise is false …How your example is even relevant is unclear.

    Its illustrative of what your thoughts are.
    you say you cannot categorically tell someone that God doesnt change the temperature? What next ? You cant tell someone that thunder/lightning isn’t caused by God? Just because Anthony can argue that God is intrinsically linked to thunder and lightning , hence undetectable?

  58. #58 Egbert
    October 19, 2010

    Marconi,

    We’re on the same side of the coin. The example was sarcasm. Clearly, the geocentric and heliocentric theories are incompatible.

  59. #59 Egbert
    October 19, 2010

    “God is an idea outside of the possible subject matter of science.”

    Not to the confrontationist. Everything is open to scientific inquiry, because the naturalist worldview includes everything.

    The reason you separate science from other worldviews is because you’re approaching the naturalist worldview from a position of metaphysical naturalism.

  60. #60 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    @Anthony

    I don’t accept that science can include religion,

    See heres where you play games. There are certain religions and certain claims of religion that are beyond empirical verification e.g. deism. no one , not even Dawkins denies this.

    However other claims are made by religion and are verifiable and science can, has and will continue to verify those. You squirm out of these by stating well no sophisticated religious person actually believes those claims , ignoring that actually a large majority used to and that a significant percentage still does (e.g. Adam and Eve being literal).
    Science can verify specific claims that a religion makes about our world.

  61. #61 Yahzi
    October 19, 2010

    K dub says “But Yahzi, PZ really DOESN’T want to educate them. You don’t educate anyone by telling them how stupid they are. Especially if that charge also applies to a person’s family, friends, and community. It doesn’t work, you know it, and so does PZ.”

    Look at all the fallacies you can pack into one paragraph.

    1. Amazing that you know what PZ’s inner-most desires are. Mind-read much? Also, nice slander against his integrity and motives.

    2. Dawkins et. al. do the same thing PZ does – point out the tragic stupidity of these beliefs – and various people have in fact asserted that did educate them.

    3. PZ does not insult all religious people. He insults religious ideas and particular religious people – specifically, the conmen pedaling the con. Pretending that he smears everyone is either ignorant or dishonest; since you are directly addressing PZ’s case, ignorance is not an option (go read his site if you’re unclear).

    4. You don’t educate people by lying to them. If you deliberately avoid difficult points because they’re too contentious, you are lying.

    Is that what this comes down to? Are you and Josh so morally challenged you just don’t realize that lies by omission are still lies? Let me sum it up for you: you are not allowed to lie simply because it gets you what you want.

  62. #62 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    @daniel.lavine83
    I enjoyed reading your explanations , but I guess it would be preaching to the choir

  63. #63 Marconi
    October 19, 2010

    @AnthonyMcCarthy:

    You state “I don’t accept that science can include religion”, and then also state “But religion can include all of science”, and yet when I ask you to attempt how religion can include the theory of evolution, specifically within Genesis adhering religion, you seem either incapable or unwilling to even attempt it.

    Thank you for your time, I’ll keep looking to find someone who will at least attempt an answer to my question, since Of course, I could be wrong about you, but I feel that I have made the best attempts I can in asking, and subsequently clarifying my question.

  64. #64 Marconi
    October 19, 2010

    @Egbert, I have to plead thickness for not getting your sarcasm previously, which I now get :-)

  65. #65 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    Marconi

    when I ask you to attempt how religion can include the theory of evolution, specifically within Genesis adhering religion

    Oh havent you heard? its all allegorical.

  66. #66 J. J. Ramsey
    October 19, 2010

    daniel.lavine83:

    If the soul is necessary for human behavior such as it is, we could not have evolved into human beings such as we are. We could have evolved from ancestor primates into bipedal apes that behave like something, but that something wouldn’t be us.

    I think I see what you are trying to say, but you are underestimating just how fuzzy and protean the concept of the soul can be. There is no guarantee that a theistic evolutionist would think that a soul grants us, for example, language ability, or that we’d appear obviously different with or without a soul.

    Deepak Shetty:

    Sure. Dragon , Garage, meet JJ Ramsey.

    I can safely say that I am apathetically agnostic about Carl Sagan’s garage dragon. :)

    Its illustrative of what your thoughts are.

    Probably, but not necessarily in the way you think. You might as well have asked me to scientifically prove false the claim that all green things will turn magically turn orange in 2012. Obviously, until 2012, there’s no possible evidence that can be mounted against the claim. Now obviously, I don’t have to trust the claim or take it seriously, but that is not the same as disproof — and remember that you were the one who asked me to “scientifically prove that [your proposed] premise is false.” What you’ve illustrated is that I took the unfalsifiability of your proposed claim seriously, and didn’t make inflated claims about what science could or couldn’t say.

  67. #67 Egbert
    October 19, 2010

    Marconi,

    Good to see. And Deepak Shetty is correct about the games being played. The accommodationists take an ideal or principled approach to naturalism where there is a separation between science and religion. This means that they can never criticise religion and so instead criticise other naturalists.

    The confrontationists throw this ideal out, there is no separation, so religious claims become simply claims open to criticism and falsification. That religious people persist with their now false claims shows intellectual dishonesty and delusion. The conflict is between truth and falsehood.

    Accommodationists want to pretend there is no conflict. Good luck with that. But that’s head-in-the-sand denial.

  68. #68 Marconi
    October 19, 2010

    @DeepakShetty: Oh havent you heard? its all allegorical.

    Yes I have, but only from a theist.

    I already know the confrontationalist version. (“Genesis is simply incorrect, is verified to be incorrect, the theory of evolution is the only explanation we have that is verifiable”)

    I just want to hear the accomodationist version, because the accomodationists often insist that the confrontationalist version in ineffective, often because it is offensive to the audience.

    I do not dispute that; however, I find the confrontationalist version to be honest. So if an accomodationalist can present his version, which is honest, effective, and does not have the deficiencies of the confrontationalist’s, that might beideal.

    If not ideal, I still want to see what tradeoffs can be made.

    The problem is that I have NO version at all from the accomodationist.

  69. #69 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    @Marconi
    I believe their version is the well of course all parts of a religion are not literally true and neither do most believers hold to a literally true version (I havent actually heard what they think about people who hold Genesis as literally true)

  70. #70 J. J. Ramsey
    October 19, 2010

    Marconi

    I already know the confrontationalist version. (“Genesis is simply incorrect, is verified to be incorrect, the theory of evolution is the only explanation we have that is verifiable”)

    I just want to hear the accomodationist version

    The accommodationist version is not much different: “A literal reading of Genesis contradicts the facts, the theory of evolution is the only explanation we have that is verifiable.” The accommodationists, however, make clear that accepting evolution does not entail accepting atheism.

  71. #71 Marconi
    October 19, 2010

    @JJRamsey

    The accommodationists, however, make clear that accepting evolution does not entail accepting atheism

    To what end? If anything it would be more ineffective to add information that lets them rationalize the dissonance.

    A confrontationalist would not jump to that implication anyway, he might however make it clear though that accepting evolution entails rejecting the origin of species as described in Genesis.

  72. #72 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    J J Ramsey
    Id add that for me the two statements “Genesis is not literally true” is the same as “Genesis is incorrect”.
    However you would probably use only the first form. Im curious to the why.

  73. #73 Marconi
    October 19, 2010

    The latter, i.e., “Genesis is incorrect” is more precise. The former is not.

    I’d probably be more precise and use “The origin of species as described in Genesis is incorrect”

    Imagine a defendant who has been accused of killing his wife, and his lawyer asks

    “Mr. Simpson were you in the vicinity of the restaurant at the time in question?”

    “No, I wasn’t” is precise

    “No, not at the time in question” is not

    The goal is to have people understand that scientifically examined, significantly held positions in the Bible are untenable. The origin of species is one such position.

    It serves no purpose in the advancement of science to replace a scientifically untenable position with a position that scientifically cannot even be examined – whether the intent of unknown authors was literal or not, and if not, what was it really?

    The goal in this specific instance is to make clear that species originated as explained by the theory of evolution, and no competing explanation exists today.

    There is no benefit in soothing or aiding the cognitive dissonance.

  74. #74 Egbert
    October 19, 2010

    “The accommodationists, however, make clear that accepting evolution does not entail accepting atheism.”

    But this argument really isn’t to do with atheism but naturalism. Atheists are free to have all sorts of religious beliefs and ideologies. Of course one small group of atheists, the naturalists or gnus, follow the methodological approach to naturalism.

    Confrontationism and accommodationism are two types of naturalism.

  75. #75 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    There is no benefit in soothing or aiding the cognitive dissonance.

    But this is where the accomodationist disagrees with you (and he would probably argue there is no cognitive dissonance!). They do believe there is some benefit. From what I can tell, they believe, this allows a religious person to grant you some credibility.

  76. #76 daniel.lavine83
    October 19, 2010

    I think I see what you are trying to say, but you are underestimating just how fuzzy and protean the concept of the soul can be. There is no guarantee that a theistic evolutionist would think that a soul grants us, for example, language ability, or that we’d appear obviously different with or without a soul.

    I would argue that such a theistic evolutionist is either using the word “soul” metaphorically or isn’t making sense. In order to assert an entity as a cause of some effect you need to be able to show that events would transpire differently in the absence of that entity. Otherwise there is no effect and therefore no cause.

    If you’re talking about some form of epiphenomenalism or property dualism, I’m of the opinion that those lines of thought are unfalsifiable wastes of time.

  77. #77 MarconiDarwin
    October 19, 2010

    @Deepak

    From what I can tell, they believe, this allows a religious person to grant you some credibility.

    Again, to what end? It is not as if I am auditioning to be their pastor.

  78. #78 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    @MarconiDarwin
    Seems to matter to the NCSE folks. Again this is my reading of the disagreement (and Im ignoring some accomodationists who I find to be well not exactly dishonest but a word close to that)
    Im not an accomodationist :).

  79. #79 MarconiDarwin
    October 19, 2010

    A question that I ask theists, and never get an answer for is the object of a metaphor.

    As I understand it, a metaphor is a figure of speech that substitutes a concept for an object.

    For example, when we use the metaphor The camel is the ship of the desert, often we use it to express that traveling through the desert, you need a vehicle, and the camel has other characteristics like requiring fewer resources that you would if you were to swim in a own instead of using a ship, etc.

    So I wonder if an accomodationist who concedes that Genesis is non-literal to the theist, bothers to ask

    “OK, what is Yahweh making a woman from a man’s rib, when the man is sleeping, a metaphor for?”

  80. #80 Anthony McCarthy
    October 19, 2010

    You state “I don’t accept that science can include religion”, and then also state “But religion can include all of science”, and yet when I ask you to attempt how religion can include the theory of evolution, specifically within Genesis adhering religion, you seem either incapable or unwilling to even attempt it. Marconi

    One of the problems of talking about “religion” is that we are always pretending that “religion” is one thing when it’s a very large grouping of collections of ideas, many of which are at odds with each other. If that wasn’t the case there would probably not be thousands of organized religious bodies but one, world wide religious body.

    If someone believes that the description of creation in Genesis is literally true, the words having the same meaning as we commonly use them, then that person cannot also believe in what we’ve found out about evolution. Not without containing a series of contradictory holdings and living with the logical disconnects.

    If someone believes that Genesis story isn’t literally true but is an explanation which contains ideas useful to thinking about other issues, then that person might not have any problem with the scientific description of evolutionary science. That person might believe a wide range of things about Genesis, but they could also accept the fact of evolution. I’d guess that the majority of people in the United States who accept evolution would fall into this general category. The problem is the question of literalism, which has religious and historical problems as well as scientific ones, not in whether or not you think that Genesis can be useful in your religious practice. I don’t think the creation story contained in that book is the most interesting or useful part of it.

    I grew up as a Catholic, I remember being in catechism classes before the Second Vatican Council discussing evolution as fact with nuns in full habit. My Catholic mother has a degree in Zoology earned several decades earlier, she always accepted evolution as fact. I’ve never not accepted it and I’m religious, though no longer Catholic.

  81. #81 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    MarconiDarwin
    If it comes to that I have never understood how people are able to differentiate metaphor from non – metaphor. My personal reading of the religious texts I have read (including Hinduism) is that they are quite clear when they are narrating a parable or story or metaphor and when they are reporting literal events. Im not quite sure why we have non religious people arguing for Genesis as allegory or metaphor when it isnt written that way.I had to go through a marriage prep course which included questions like why did Adam and Eve hide when God returned and why woman must suffer the pain of childbirth. I can understand why the religious do this – it just doesnt make sense when a non religious person does.

  82. #82 TB
    October 19, 2010

    Daniel.lavine83: ” I very much doubt anyone can cook up a religion (that would be recognizable as such) consistent with scientific epistemology and methodology.”

    M-theory?

  83. #83 Anthony McCarthy
    October 19, 2010

    —I merely state that if it interacts with the natural world it is detectable – the characteristics of physical objects are known and hence any interaction that causes them to change can be detected.
    you could exclude the possibility that what we see is intrinsically bound up with such entities

    How is that relevant ? Whether we are intrinsically bound has no bearing on whether we could detect something.
    Deepak

    First, you assume that any interaction of a soul with the physical body would have the same characteristics of the interactions observed in two physical objects. If a soul isn’t physical, there isn’t any reason to expect that its interaction with the physical body (which, I’ll point out in passing is living and so not inert) would have the same characteristics as the interaction of two physical bodies. The nature of that physical interaction is dependent on the physical character of the two bodies interacting. That physical nature is what produces the interaction that is observed. So the interaction of something which isn’t physical with a physical body would, logically, be expected to possibly have a different character. But that’s speculative and about as far as the question can be carried without evidence which is unavailable and I’d guess always will be.

    —As a set of principles then we are practitioners – the principles would exist whether or not we existed. In a two dimensional space a circle divided by its diameter gives PI independent of whether there is a human to actually measure it.If you are saying you need consciousness to practice science , ok , im not sure how that means anything. DS

    There are no principles of nature which are known which are known to exist independent of human minds. We don’t have any principles of nature which aren’t the product of human minds, it’s impossible for us to escape that fact. Our minds are intrinsically the containers of all of our science and mathematics and logic and language. As of this evening, pi is the product of human reasoning, for all we know we might be the one and only species which has ever discovered it or the only one for which it seems like a coherent concept. The belief that it is universal is the kind of thing that Reuben Hersh said could only be believed on the basis of religion. It might be true but it isn’t a fact that is established by any thing other than belief.

    The wider point is that like your questions about a soul’s possible interaction with the physical world, our most basic experience is that out consciousness interacts with the physical universe, which we couldn’t even perceive without our conscious minds, and that mind is not an entity whose physical nature is known. And if it was known, it still wouldn’t be understood. Though the usual assertion is that of course, it’s just chemical reactions in the brain, that’s not established in evidence or data so it, also, is an expression of faith. I’ve been calling it materialism in the gaps recently. I doubt that is the case, I don’t hold that faith. Though I don’t claim to have an answer to the question in the first place.

    I might go into the mathematical issues tomorrow or not.

  84. #84 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    Anthony

    If someone believes that the description of creation in Genesis is literally true, …

    So you are indeed admitting that for such religious cases Science and Religion are in fact, in conflict?

    If someone believes that Genesis story isn’t literally true

    You have atleast two further cases here. The religious person actually believes Genesis is wrong (just as he also knows Noah’s ark never occurred as a historical event) or that he believes there is a Greater truth in Genesis(and variations thereof).

    If a religious person holds that Genesis is incorrect/false , it should logically follow that any part of the bible may be incorrect (especially the Jesus bits). Note Im not saying that it has to be , just that it might be. This would be logically consistent. And if you include logic as part of science , here too you find conflict (since a lot of these same people think that doubting JC is a sin)

    If a religious person holds that Genesis contains greater truth or “an explanation which contains ideas useful to thinking about other issues” as you put it – Ive yet to come across one concrete example of the above. Care to oblige? – usually I can only conclude this is a dodge to avoid having to reach the same conflict that one reaches if you say Genesis is incorrect.

    Im also aware of that there are people like John Shelby Spong who ruthlessly cut out all the supernatural aspects of religion. (which to me is then indistinguishable from say following Gandhi’s principles)

  85. #85 Deepak Shetty
    October 19, 2010

    Anthony

    First, you assume that any interaction of a soul with the physical body would have the same characteristics of the interactions observed in two physical objects.

    Ill leave the question of how someone else knows anything about how these supernatural objects like souls behave.

    Im only assuming the characteristics of the physical objects – for e.g. If God wanted me to *see* something there is only one way to accomplish that task right(loosely speaking there are different stages at which you could accomplish this but each of those is detectable) ? Even if God can do anything he damn pleases , I can’t and there is a fixed way to interact with me.

    There are no principles of nature which are known which are known to exist independent of human minds.

    Given the age of the universe , are you really telling me this? That gravity doesn’t exist without humanity to measure it?

    As of this evening, pi is the product of human reasoning

    No it is the product of human observation. And as such could be observed by a machine we create too.

    . The belief that it is universal is the kind of thing that Reuben Hersh said could only be believed on the basis of religion

    nah , empirical truth, scientific truth , mathematical truth. Easily falsified, independently verified.

  86. #86 Anthony McCarthy
    October 20, 2010

    If someone believes that the description of creation in Genesis is literally true, …

    So you are indeed admitting that for such religious cases Science and Religion are in fact, in conflict? Deepak

    Of course some religious ideas can conflict with science, some political ideas can, some economic interests can, there are scientists who deny the science produced by other scientists, in many cases, they deny science produced by scientists in fields far removed from their area of expertise. Yet you boys want to concentrate on one slice of religious denialism in order to attack all religious believers, including those who don’t deny the validity of science. As the two stories in the news I point to above, it’s the economic interests that pose a clear danger to science, yet you boys ignore that real, demonstrable danger to formal science in order to carry on your war against religion. And that’s not mentioning the political attacks on science. I think it’s fairly clear that your PZs and Richard Dawkins are providing the political-fundamentalist side with some very useful ammunition with which to attack science.

    I’m impressed with how clueless the anti-religious “defense” of science is. I mentioned Richard Lewontin’s review of Sagan’s Demons above,

    http://www.drjbloom.com/Public%20files/Lewontin_Review.htm

    I’d suggest reading it because Lewontin has always been so far ahead in his understanding of that issue, he refuses to give a dishonest over-simplified view of it even though it’s clear that, being easier to digest on a superficial level, it is the one that will develop more of a popular following.

    I’d get into Spong, who I don’t really have much respect for, but it’s a side show.

    —Given the age of the universe , are you really telling me this? That gravity doesn’t exist without humanity to measure it? DS

    Given Hawkins’ strange idea that seems to assert that, somehow, gravity precedes the physical universe
    — something that I think would surprise a large number of modern physicists — I’d say there doesn’t seem to really be a good idea of what gravity is. But it wasn’t the existence of objects or physical forces that I was talking about in that comment, it was the human conception of them. Science, all of it, in its entirety, consists of human concepts about the physical universe, there isn’t any possible formal address of the physical universe that isn’t mitigated by the fact that it is done by humans, with human equipment, within the confines of human ability. Our conscious minds are an intrinsic and undeniable part of science, there is no non-human view of anything available to us. It’s the habit of materialists and the faithful of scientism to ignore or deny that’s the case but that doesn’t change the fact. It’s quite possible that if there are other kinds of life, arising in different conditions than ours, with different means of perceiving the universe, that our ideas about gravity might be entirely incomprehensible. It’s possible that our conception of gravity imposes a limit on our understanding of the physical universe, though, absent testimony of some other kind of life, I don’t see how we’d ever know that. Though, if those scientists for hire and the folks hiring them don’t succeed in killing us, maybe sometime our line of life or some other one, will evolve or develop those abilities.

  87. #87 Anthony McCarthy
    October 20, 2010

    DS, if you think that falsifiability is a universally accepted, uniformly practiced, observed and defined rule of scientific validation you are ill-informed. And if you tried to put it into practice in other areas of life, I’d imagine you’d find it hard to get out of bed in the morning, or to stay in bed. You’d be in a real pickle. But such is the pretense of the new atheism, which is no less full of contradictions than fundamentalist Christianity or Islam.

    I really did mean it about the new atheism wanting to radically alter the meaning of science, turning it into an ideology. I’ve also been shocked, since reading Hawking’s latest ideas, to observe that many of the scientists in it also seem to want to exclude their specialties from the requirements of having evidence and data, which, considering the part that claimed requirement plays in their anti-religious invective, should be scandalous but for some odd reason isn’t. I’d love to hear what other scientists really think of the scientific integrity of evidence free science as promoted by them. Though I suspect they might be afraid to come out and say it.

  88. #88 Egbert
    October 20, 2010

    “Yet you boys want to concentrate on one slice of religious denialism in order to attack all religious believers, including those who don’t deny the validity of science.”

    You are in denial that there is no conflict between religion and science. You are also in denial if you think that religious beliefs are not held as true.

    Religion is in conflict with everything. If a religious person manages to compartmentalize or resolve or make their beliefs compatible, it doesn’t mean that their beliefs are compatible. Science certainly does not see compatibility between its truths and religious claims of truths.

    “As the two stories in the news I point to above, it’s the economic interests that pose a clear danger to science, yet you boys ignore that real, demonstrable danger to formal science in order to carry on your war against religion. And that’s not mentioning the political attacks on science.”

    I don’t think anyone is ignoring the other dangers to science. What you’re doing is ignoring the danger of religion to science.

    “I think it’s fairly clear that your PZs and Richard Dawkins are providing the political-fundamentalist side with some very useful ammunition with which to attack science.”

    You’re creating the falsehood that Dawkins and PZ ‘started it’ or have created the conflict between religion and science. When in fact, creationism sprang up to oppose Darwin immediately after his works were published. Dawkins is clearly a reaction against the conflict of religion against science, especially Creation Science and other manifestations.

    “I’m impressed with how clueless the anti-religious “defense” of science is.”

    Nothing about your arguments and continued denial is impressive. You have the state of mind of a true believer. No argument or evidence is going to make you admit that there is a conflict between science and religion.

  89. #89 Anthony McCarthy
    October 20, 2010

    Egbert, you are in denial that your assertion that there is a conflict between “religion” and “science” is sufficiently imprecise as to make it absurd. Your assertion that “religion” is in conflict with “everything” is even more absurd.

    If the anti-religious method of addressing the denial of evolution was a success, the problem would have disappeared a hundred years ago. It’s been going on since the time of Thomas Huxley and as it’s intensified in the past thirty years, things have gotten worse.

    In light of what you said, I’m unimpressed with your finding my arguments unimpressive. And, in any case, I’d rather appeal to reasonable people who can handle complex arguments without that kind of rote, defensive, dodge.

  90. #90 Tyro
    October 20, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy,

    In order for you to assert that is a conflict between “religion”, as a general category and science, you would have to produce evidence of that conflict. I’d like you to point to any area of science in which someone who professes religious belief couldn’t successfully do research or publish work that stands up to peer review.

    As has been said many times, this only shows compatibility between religion and scientists, not science.

    Science is incompatible with religion in method, philosophy and conclusions. I’d say that more than trumps your trivial counter especially as we know many places where humans hold incompatible beliefs.

  91. #91 Egbert
    October 20, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy,

    Sooner or later, you’re going to have to come face to face with your denial. But like a true believer, you do not wish to face it, but will persist on and on claiming you’re right, there is no conflict. I can do nothing to persuade or reason with you that there is. Nor can anyone else.

  92. #92 Egbert
    October 20, 2010

    Christine O’Donnell does not think there is a conflict between the state and religion:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miwSljJAzqg

    She is either correct, there is no conflict or she is ignorant and in denial.

  93. #93 Tyro
    October 20, 2010

    Anthony,

    I said this before but I’ll re-iterate it as my last words on the subject: you may be right but there’s an active debate and many people who disagree with you make a compelling case. These people are drawn from both science as well as philosophy and religion. It is absolutely not a firm, settled fact as you so blindly assert and by presenting only one side – and a minority one at that – they are actively suppressing information which is deceitful at best.

    Religious believers are smarter than Josh patronizingly imagines. They can see through it, they know there are conflicts and since he’s reaching out particularly to those who DO think there are conflicts, it’s doubly ridiculous to tell them there is none. His deceptive tactics won’t convince them and are most likely to foster the belief that science is dogmatic and ideological and essentially another theological stance. Because that IS what NCSE is doing.

    In short, it’s transparently untruthful, patronizing, and quite probably unprofitable.

  94. #94 J. J. Ramsey
    October 20, 2010

    Tyro:

    Religious believers are smarter than Josh patronizingly imagines. They can see through it, they know there are conflicts and since he’s reaching out particularly to those who DO think there are conflicts, it’s doubly ridiculous to tell them there is none. His deceptive tactics won’t convince them and are most likely to foster the belief that science is dogmatic and ideological and essentially another theological stance. Because that IS what NCSE is doing.

    I’m probably about ten years too old to be asking this question, but … are you cereal? Because the things that you claimed that Josh and the NCSE are saying bears almost no resemblance to what they’ve actually said.

  95. #95 Anthony McCarthy
    October 20, 2010

    As has been said many times, this only shows compatibility between religion and scientists, not science. Tyro

    There is no place in the known universe where science resides except in the minds of scientists and those who have studied their work. You seem to believe that there is some disembodied entity which is science. Which is a very common, unexamined assumption of just about every new atheist I’ve ever read or argued with. It could just be the number one faith holding of new atheism. I’d think just about any of the typical questions that you pose about God would be as easily applied to this unseen, all knowing, all powerful entity, “Science”.

    If science was incompatible with religion it would be impossible for religious people to produce science and when they attempted it, the results would be inferior to that science produced by atheists. Which would be mighty inconvenient for those atheists who have built their work on the foundations of religious scientists of the past and present. If that’s not the case, as it obviously isn’t, then your “incompatibility” is a figment of your imagination similar to the defects in Einstein’s work detected by “Deutsche Physik”, ironically revived by Conservapedia and its allies (which would make an excellent blog post, Josh).

    Egbert, what true belief? All I’ve done here is take a hard, skeptical look at the claims and assertions of new atheism, which doesn’t seem to be able to withstand real skepticism. You’re the guys who are insisting on accepting beliefs uncritically. I’ve been looking hard at the new atheism for the past four years and just find layer, after shallow layer of contradiction and doublespeak.

    Tyro, again, there are religious believers who are a lot smarter than you seem to assume they are and who have dealt with questions far more troubling than the ones raised here. A lot of them were written about by James, Bowne, Eddington and a number of others who would seem to be well overdue for revival. I have been reading them and I think they were suppressed only because the fashions went with their opponents, and philosophy in these areas have been chasing materialism in the gaps for most of the past century.

  96. #96 Tyro
    October 20, 2010

    JJ – Really? I’m always open to the possibility that I’m mistaken but from my reading of Josh and the NCSE I thought that was pretty accurate. Before I go searching for citations, can you tell me specifically where you think I’m off base? If I’m wrong on this, perhaps that would explain some (but not all) of my concerns with Josh’s argument here.

  97. #97 Tyro
    October 20, 2010

    Anthony,

    Argh, I swore I’d stay away but…

    there are religious believers who are a lot smarter than you seem to assume they are and who have dealt with questions far more troubling than the ones raised here

    Duh. Everyone has acknowledged this in several posts, can’t you read? Scan forward to my next sentences where I point out that equally intelligent people on both sides see a conflict, especially including the people that Josh and the NCSE is trying to reach out to.

    Talk about unimaginative trolling.

    If science was incompatible with religion it would be impossible for religious people to produce science and when they attempted it, the results would be inferior to that science produced by atheists

    Again, how ignorant do you have to be to not understand that humans can compartmentalize and can handle mutually incompatible beliefs.

    Your juvenile complaints would show the compatibility between science and astrology, vax-denialism, fairies, YEC, and pretty much every other whacked belief out there. Think through the consequences of your arguments you troll.

    It’s one thing to disagree but to be so persistently blind and quote mine from people when their replies are still visible takes a dedicated troll.

  98. #98 Anthony McCarthy
    October 20, 2010

    I specifically said they had dealt with questions far more difficult than the ones mentioned here.

    “Compartmentalization”. I’d like to see your evidence that there really is such a thing. It’s a theoretical model constructed out of convenience but I doubt that the same mind holds large masses of information and thought independent of each other. I don’t believe it.

    As for your stream of insults and taunts, none of those apply to anything I’ve said.

    Quote mine? I believe I cited one review which I gave a link to. Strawman, quote mine. It’s been something that I’ve learned over the past four years that the typical new atheist using those terms generally indicates that they can’t go any farther in an argument and it’s just what they say in that case.

  99. #99 Deepak Shetty
    October 20, 2010

    J J Ramsey

    Because the things that you claimed that Josh and the NCSE are saying bears almost no resemblance to what they’ve actually said.

    Josh’s words

    Omitting parts of the truth that will drive your audience away (or insane) is not dishonest,

    If you take away this particular disagreement and apply this principle in *general* that you should omit parts of the truth because you believe they will drive your audience away – it would be considered deception by most reasonable people (if you have a doubt about that, try an experiment with your spouse)
    I’ll be charitable enough to say Josh probably didn’t mean what he phrased the sentence as , but that’s his problem, you can hardly fault others for taking his words at face value.

  100. #100 Deepak Shetty
    October 20, 2010

    Anthony
    Unfortunately Im not off today so i cant quite respond to everything except

    As the two stories in the news I point to above, it’s the economic interests that pose a clear danger to science, yet you boys ignore that real, demonstrable danger to formal science

    One I dont deny that science faces other dangers (nor do other people – but if you want to talk about ignoring clear dangers than why restrict yourself to science? for e.g. religious driven female infanticide which is a serious problem in my country far outweighs any teaching of evolution or any other threat to science no? i dont see you saying anything about. So if we are boys are you a toddler?

  101. #101 J. J. Ramsey
    October 20, 2010

    Tyro: “Before I go searching for citations, can you tell me specifically where you think I’m off base?”

    Simple. The NCSE is dead clear that a literal reading of Genesis is a no-go, so obviously they aren’t saying that science-religion conflicts are nonexistent. The NCSE is certainly saying, of course, that conflict isn’t necessary, since believers have the option to not take their texts literally to avoid clashes with scientific knowledge, but that is hardly the same as saying that there is no conflict.

    As for the bit about “His deceptive tactics … are most likely to foster the belief that science is dogmatic and ideological,” I hardly know where to start because it doesn’t even seem like a distortion of our host’s words.

    Deepak Shetty: “I’ll be charitable enough to say Josh probably didn’t mean what he phrased the sentence as”

    I wasn’t too fond of his “Prak” bit, as you can see from my very first comment, but bear in mind, too, that he wrote this as well:

    Set aside that Chris’s point isn’t just about PR. Set aside that not everyone agrees that PZ’s “whole truth” (in this formulation) is the truth at all. Set aside the dubious notion that anyone has “the whole truth” anyway, or that anyone claiming to have it is trustworthy about anything. Set aside that the truth PZ and Chris agree on is a scientific consensus based on empirical data, while PZ’s extension of that claimed truth is not, and therefore is epistemically different (though it may be true, it’s true in a different way). Set them aside even though those are central to the dispute. [emphasis mine]

    He hasn’t conceded that the confrontationalists are right on anything, so interpreting him as saying that we shouldn’t tell the audience the “truth” that science and religion generally conflict (as opposed to science conflicting with particular religious beliefs) is dodgy at best.

  102. #102 Anthony McCarthy
    October 20, 2010

    for e.g. religious driven female infanticide which is a serious problem in my country far outweighs any teaching of evolution or any other threat to science no? i dont see you saying anything about. Deepak

    As my regular blog writing is for a feminist blog which deals with that and a large range of crimes against women, you are mistaken. As to the “religious” motivation of people who do that, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and a host of other religions forbid the killing of children, so your designation of what is, usually, a social-economic crime as religiously motivated is ill-informed. The few cases in which there is some alleged religious excuse for it, I don’t think there are many religious people who wouldn’t oppose that, condemn it and think it was a crime that should be punished severely. But, as in the use of the medical neglect of children, which is made illegal by legislators who, in the United States, are overwhelmingly religious, I’ve never seen that the typical new atheist take on it is honest or an instance of “telling the whole truth”.

  103. #103 whatev13
    October 20, 2010

    @ Tyro

    “You may be confused by PZ’s activism and mistake it for how he goes about educating people”

    Wow, and you think Josh is condescending….

    I’m not confused. PZ’s activism and his education techniques are all part of his shtick, which is to belittle the religious and, increasingly, those atheists who would “accommodate” the religious by not calling them stupid all the time. His followers, yourself apparently included, like this game, because you get a good chuckle about how stupid the common rubes are. No attempt, however, is made to engage with the middle ground – people of less than fundamentalist religious devotion, but not quite ready to to chuck religion altogether, and smart enough to hear you out. That’s the mindshare we should be aiming to influence – but snarky condescension (I’m referring to PZ’s, not yours) does nothing to accomplish that goal.

  104. #104 MarconiDarwin
    October 20, 2010

    Any thoughts on how to accommodate Glen Beck’s latest salvo on evolution?

  105. #105 Deepak Shetty
    October 20, 2010

    @JJ Ramsey

    He hasn’t conceded that the confrontationalists are right on anything,

    Your misreading his statement. He’s saying even if the confrontationalists are right(hence the leave aside) .. you should omit the truth if it drives your audience away. Its right there in the post.

  106. #106 Deepak Shetty
    October 20, 2010

    @Anthony
    If you do indeed point out issues in your blog (which I havent seen) then apologies , however my statement still holds in general .

    s to the “religious” motivation of people who do that, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and a host of other religions forbid the killing of children,

    So two things
    a. You now claim that the religious do as their religion tells them? Again Im not making a claim that religion is the only factor , but it is a highly significant factor. The socio-economic conditions that women face are also a consequence of the role they are supposed to play which in turn was got from religious justification. The concept that a bloodline is carried from the male side is also religious.

    b. There was an interview I had once seen in UK, where a muslim who supports Hamas and their actions was asked how come he supports suicide bombing when innocents die and the Quran specifically forbids killing of innocents. He replied that anyone who isnt a muslim isnt innocent.

  107. #107 Deepak Shetty
    October 20, 2010

    Any thoughts on how to accommodate Glen Beck’s latest salvo on evolution?

    Well of course he didn’t meant it literally because Beck is inerrant. His views are completely compatible with science and anyway the people who follow Glenn Beck don’t really follow him for his views on evolution.

  108. #108 Anthony McCarthy
    October 21, 2010

    Any thoughts on how to accommodate Glen Beck’s latest salvo on evolution? Marconi

    I’d never advocate accommodating Glenn Beck, believing he is a liar for hire, a con man, a shill and any number of other things, none of them good.

    I support the return of the Fairness Doctrine and believe that it should cover cable and other sources which reach a large segment of the population who vote. The cabloids, especially FOX, whose viewers are significantly more likely to be misinformed than the general public, are a danger to self-government because they are in the business of misinformation. The experiment of lassie faire media has been run and the results are a disaster. I think they should also be liable for deliberately slandering public officials and public figures. Allowing them to lie is another failed, judicial experiment.

    —- You now claim that the religious do as their religion tells them? Again Im not making a claim that religion is the only factor , but it is a highly significant factor. DS

    If you’re going to blame “religion” for infanticide, which every major religion in the world which I’m aware of condemns as a sin, you can’t hold them responsible when people do what they tell them not to. You might as well blame science teachers for people who believe in creationism when they’ve given them accurate information about the current state of the legitimate science.

    Where are these cases of deliberate, religiously motivated, infanticide you’re referring to. Unless you have actual cases you are talking about then what you’ve done is told a story, which might fit your narrative style and which a number of people will buy but it’s got about as much to do with reality as what Glenn Beck says.

    Your citation about what one Hamas supporter said about his excuse for supporting terrorism and murder is a story about one person, perhaps representing a number of people. It doesn’t tell you anything about people who don’t share that point of view. To attribute it to other people isn’t any part of a whole truth, it’s a contradiction of the real situation, in other words, it is untrue. Would you like to have to explain some of Christopher Hitchens’ or Sam Harris’ more blood thirsty statements? Hitch was especially eloquent what he said were the virtues of cluster bombs.

  109. #109 Anthony McCarthy
    October 21, 2010

    Since it’s so important and such a frequently cited weapon of the new atheists, the relatively few cases of religiously motivated medical neglect of children is a crime. As mentioned, it was made a crime by legislators who are, largely, religious, almost certainly motivated to make it illegal by their religious understanding and their understandings of civil rights.

    In contrast to those few cases, the widespread medical neglect of children resulting from the lack of universal health care is an enormous problem, one which many religious organizations and individuals have struggled to change and, in the meantime, many of them have tried to provide to part of the population which is denied medical care by the quite secular insurance and medical industries.

    I figured that part of the whole truth should also be mentioned in light of how this discussion has developed.

  110. #110 TB
    October 21, 2010

    “religious driven female infanticide which is a serious problem in my country far outweighs any teaching of evolution or any other threat to science no? i dont see you saying anything about. Deepak”

    I wondered about this – Deepak, you’re arguing from a cultural perspective far different from mine. Your situation is not my situation. That’s not to say you don’t have serious problems where you live, but that our fundamentalist problems are different than your fundamentalist problems by scale.

    I’m concerned our fundamentalists might gain the kind of public power traction that allows them to do the things they do in other countries, which apparently they’re doing in yours.

    “Any thoughts on how to accommodate Glen Beck’s latest salvo on evolution?”

    Why should we? It’s a strawman argument to say that the other position wants to coddle every viewpoint. If a viewpoint is wrong, there’s nothing wrong with saying that. Loud demonstrations might also be effective.

    But, it’s just as wrong to lump every religious person into Glen Beck’s camp.

  111. #111 Anthony McCarthy
    October 21, 2010

    The murder of female infants is certainly condemned by most, if not every, major religious tradition in the world, though I’d never make a blanket statement that you couldn’t find someone who used religion as an excuse. It’s a product of economic decisions made under a patriarchal social structure. In China it’s persisted throughout the last sixty years of active suppression of religion.

    If I was not going to be busy today I’d mention that trying to find a moral basis from which to condemn it in materialism wasn’t possible. So if materialists are going to oppose it they’ve got to go outside of their ideological faith to do so, whereas religion doesn’t have to do that. I’d bet that you could find some evo-psy kind of argument that it was a favorable adaptation, anyone seen one? I’ve certainly read something close to that in explaining murder by step-parents.

  112. #112 Anthony McCarthy
    October 21, 2010

    TB, considering Glenn Beck’s campaign against those religions which promote social justice, I’d say he’s clearly at odds with the majority of modern religion. I could point to statements by “humanists” and other atheists that condemn the practice of charity. I seem to recall a recent post on a CFI blog that seems uncertain as to whether or not charity is a good idea, maybe I’ll look for a link if I get a break later. I’ve read and have known a few highly principled Hegelian cheap skates who loftily declare themselves to be scientifically opposed to charity because it inhibits the movement of the dialectic. At least one notable case of that migrated from Marxism to being a neo-con so I’d imagine he’d have more in common with Glenn Beck than your typical member of Maryknoll or the American Friends Service Committee.

  113. #113 J. J. Ramsey
    October 21, 2010

    Deepak Shetty:

    Your misreading his statement. He’s saying even if the confrontationalists are right(hence the leave aside) .. you should omit the truth if it drives your audience away. Its right there in the post.

    Um, I looked in the post, and what it said isn’t quite that sinister, even though it’s phrased in an uncomfortably borderline way (as I noted in my first comment above). First, he’s saying that the confrontationalists have an impossible standard, because, as he put it, “it’s impossible to constantly be telling ‘the whole truth’,” yet “the whole truth” is what the confrontationalists are supposed to be telling. Second, in his scenario, he is still trying to convey truths to the audience, so attempting to simplify his words by saying that he advocates omitting the truth is misleading.

  114. #114 TB
    October 21, 2010

    And I’m not trying to pick on Deepak here, I’m trying to understand what’s informing his point of view. A non-religious person’s general situation in the U.S. isn’t the same as a specific non-r person’s situation in the U.S.’s southern bible belt. And neither of those situations are the same as those in other countries.
    Knowing that puts some things in context for me – the church down the street from me isn’t advocating killing female babies, for one thing. Deepak’s point of view seems to be fueled by circumstances far different than mine.
    Doesn’t mean his view is valid in all circumstances, though.

  115. #115 Tyro
    October 21, 2010

    JJ,

    The NCSE is certainly saying, of course, that conflict isn’t necessary, since believers have the option to not take their texts literally to avoid clashes with scientific knowledge, but that is hardly the same as saying that there is no conflict.

    As I think I’d said before, even the position that says “there doesn’t have to be a conflict” is highly debatable. It is, in fact, this very debate that Josh and the NCSE is covering up. The people saying that religion and science can not be reconciled aren’t just scientists but also theologians and, as I’d said, the audience that the NCSE is ostensibly reaching out to.

    As well, by taking this position the NCSE is taking a theological stance not a scientific one. They even have a guide to reading the bible up on their web site.

    As for the bit about “His deceptive tactics … are most likely to foster the belief that science is dogmatic and ideological,” I hardly know where to start because it doesn’t even seem like a distortion of our host’s words.

    I was referring to his tactics and talking about what I though the consequences would be. I don’t know how this was distorting anything he said.

    He’s said repeatedly that he’s opposed to giving the whole, unvarnished truth which I presumed was to help advance the NCSE’s advocacy mission. Do you think I’m wrong in that? I’ve asked politely for clarification here an on other posts and received nothing. In that absence, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable conclusion.

    As I said, I think his audience isn’t stupid and they will see what’s going on here and when they do, what conclusions will they reach? It’s certainly patronizing and paternalistic, to think so little of people that they have to be protected from the truth. Just as Lying for Jesus rightly offends atheists, is it so strange to imagine that believers will learn to mistrust Josh and the NCSE when they learn that the information is biased and filtered to create a specific impression?

  116. #116 Deepak Shetty
    October 21, 2010

    @ J J Ramsey
    Sigh.
    Omitting parts of the truth that will drive your audience away (or insane) is not dishonest,”

    You’ll notice Josh uses the word truth , not supposedly true or controversially true or potentially false. If you still cant read it , I suggest you visit an optometrist.
    Thats it for me.

  117. #117 Anthony McCarthy
    October 21, 2010

    If any church in the world is encouraging the murder of female infants I’d certainly like that to be publicized and condemned and stopped. I doubt there is one but if there was it’s as important it has to be brought out.

    As to the situation of atheists in the United States, they have had civil rights protections since the adoption of the U.S. Civil Rights act of 1964. It is illegal to discriminate against atheists in all of the categories that the law recognizes. Being a member of a group which isn’t covered by the civil rights act, that’s not in inconsequential thing.

    Having had this discussion numerous times, I’m sure the surveys that say that an open atheist can’t be elected president, I’m sorry but there is no right to be elected president. The person who wins an election has a right to assume the responsibility of the office but winning an election isn’t a right. Atheists who choose to annoy religious people are certainly delaying the day when being an atheist is a non-issue with religious voters who will probably always be in the majority.

    It’s pretty funny to hear people who are repeatedly leaving out large parts of the truth in this discussion repeatedly complaining about that line in the post. Maybe if Josh specified the kind of thing he meant it might be possible to get past it. If that “truth” is that there is no God, then that’s not part of “the whole truth” it’s a belief.

  118. #118 Deepak Shetty
    October 21, 2010

    @Anthony
    My last post (all work related reasons).

    I’d never advocate accommodating Glenn Beck,

    But what if 50 years down the line he is stated to be a prophet, that he got his views from the angel moroni? what if its the mormons who say they dont accept evolution because their prophet, glenn beck, said it wasnt true? Wouldnt you’ll then be arguing that ofcourse it wasnt literal and its only the silly miltant atheists who take all his words literally? And this really for me is the chief difference – youll change your views based on the person/institution advocating it rather than the view itself.

    Im blaming some religion and some religious for the attitudes they have fostered towards women which have caused a girl child to be seen as a burden. Im blaming some religion for creating the attitude that a persons bloodline carries on through his/her son (I believe this is a cause for the chinese to have a similar problem because of the 1 child policy – again china is now not a religious state but where the heck did it get this concept from?). that religions condemn such killing isn’t enough – they have to be able to change this attitude towards the women if they wish to absolve themselves from the blame. Culture, Tradition, Religion are all interlinked – you can’t say oh its cultural!

    The example of the muslim was merely mean to illustrate what we all know , the religious can rationalize anything. Sometimes it works for the better , Sometimes for the worse.

  119. #119 Deepak Shetty
    October 21, 2010

    @TB
    Since our last conversation ended with you calling me a troll, dont feed me.

  120. #120 J. J. Ramsey
    October 21, 2010

    Tyro: “He’s said repeatedly that he’s opposed to giving the whole, unvarnished truth which I presumed was to help advance the NCSE’s advocacy mission. Do you think I’m wrong in that?”

    Yes, I think you are.

    Tyro: “I’ve asked politely for clarification here an on other posts and received nothing. In that absence, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable conclusion.”

    First, our host has a life that can get awfully busy. Assuming that he’s not answering because he’s refusing to answer rather than because he’s got more important things to do is a bad idea. Second, you accused both him and the NCSE of dishonesty, and you based that accusation on shoddy evidence at best. That comes across as acting in bad faith, which hardly make conversing with you inviting.

  121. #121 Marion Delgado
    October 21, 2010

    I think this is a good start. Any meta-discussion is going to become a bit tangled, but a good start.

    I find the narrow world of the self-appointed “Bright” spokesmen completely unacceptable, and that’s done it for me. Many of them – Randi and Jilette come to mind – don’t even understand science, even a little bit – what they practice is scientism, in Jilette’s case, selectively around his Objectivist quasi-religion. Nearly all are very ignorant of the breadth of philosophy – ask, say, John Searle about that. Frankly, they don’t know much beyond Daniel Dennett’s modified logical positivism. And politically, they push a very false and simplistic view of the world (as a group) which completely buys into, e.g., capitalist and imperialist and Zionist propaganda and whitewashes all economic, historic and colonialist issues. I realize that PZ Myers and DJ Grothe don’t do that, but they also don’t confront this in, e.g., Hitchens or Harris, not ever. Neither does Richard Dawkins. Good luck getting them to acknowledge, for instance, that in most cases the violence over the anti-Muslim cartoons in the fascist (pro-Nazi during WW II before Denmark was invaded, in fact) Jyllands-Posten was Third-World people protesting, doing property damage, then being shot dead or wounded by their repressive, mostly US-supported governments.

    Moreover, the spillover at Chris and Sheril’s blog from PZ’s blog and Jerry Coyne’s blog is almost uniformly aggressive, stupid, insulting, bullying, and indicative of boosterism and tribalism as opposed to intelligent analysis.

    I also still maintain that Chris was firmly on the fans’ s__tlist long before chapter 8 of Unscientific America – specifically when he pointed out (“Not too Bright”) the obvious, that the whole “Bright” debacle proved that the self-proclaimed atheist spokesmen, the new atheists, were truly tin-eared about communicating with the public. That smarted, and was the real basis for all the anger, not principled objections to his actual message.

    The only ground I will give that argument is that, yes, the likelihood is that as the years go buy, more and more “God of the Gaps” stuff will go away, so the so-called accommodationists in that scenario may appear to be playing Good Cop/Bad Cop with the confrontationalists, with both of them having a goal of secularizing society and attacking belief. But the difference is more, as this post indicates. There’s also the sense of not anticipating the future. Just insisting we all play by the same rules to get along, and not changing them if things happen to go a way we don’t want.

    As long as people need planes to fly and medicines to work, the simple fact is that science in some form is going to win out.

  122. #122 Anthony McCarthy
    October 21, 2010

    DS 118 That’s just silly.

    I’m unaware of any religious scripture which advocates the murder of female infants. You ask where China would have gotten the idea but that’s hardly the same thing as producing evidence that would back up your claim that the origin is religion. I’d say that economics is the more likely motive.

  123. #123 Anthony McCarthy
    October 22, 2010

    Marion Delgado, that’s a pretty good analysis of the situation. About the only thing I might take issue with is the very last thing, “that science in some form is going to win out”, not because I think that it’s possible or in anyway desirable for science to go away but that it is in some kind of competition with the belief in God. The only incompatibility between any religion and science is in the areas where claims made about religion are contradicted by actual science and in that case science can usefully modify the ideas people have about religion. Religion changes for the same reason science or politics or general culture does. All of them consist of ideas people have based on their experience and both ideas and experience changes and, when considered carefully, other ideas follow.

    In the part of this discussion where I said that I doubted that compartmentalization was a real thing, that our minds contain separate bodies of knowledge and thought that weren’t interconnected I should have been more clear and said that it was possible to select parts of our thoughts in order to make our expression of them seem as if there was a wall of separation between, for example, science and religion. But that’s the result of a conscious choice. You wouldn’t expect to find a science paper all of the sudden discussing the authors various tastes in food or their favorite novels and you don’t expect their religious ideas to suddenly pop up either. I’m impressed with how mechanistically the new atheists are in thinking about how peoples’ minds work and their unawareness that their model is just that, an artificial construct that isn’t, itself, validated by science.

    A lot of science doesn’t have to deal directly with the fact that everything we do is the product of our minds and the resultant ideas are not a direct expression of the natural universe but are the expression of our ideas about it. That fact became relevant to physics in the early part of the last century and some of the things that physicists wrote about that seem to me to contain some of the deeper insights into our minds that any science has managed to come up with. I think that as more of evolutionary biology is known that the fact that natural selection is a model constructed to give a narrative account to the physical evidence and that it isn’t the last word, explaining everything, will become an inescapable fact. How that will develop is for the future to deal with but I doubt natural selection will remain as the explanation for the enormous range of life forms over the period of billions of years. I doubt that the development from Malthus, which is itself the expression of class expectations, will remain as the preferred explanation. I even doubt that any successor will remain as the preferred model if the science goes on for even several hundred more years. It’s unfortunate that the antagonism between biblical fundamentalism and the fundamentalist Darwinists has caused everyone to dig in for trench warfare but that’s the present day situation.

    I’m a lot more interested in the damage to leftist politics that result from the new atheism than I am in the arguments that will never be settled because science can’t address more than the physical evidence and biblical fundamentalism can’t address the actual nature of the conglomeration of texts that make up the book of Genesis. Other religions have long ago accepted evolution and science and don’t have much of a problem with science, though as mentioned, since even scientists have problems accepting some of science, religious people quibbling is hardly a disqualification of their scientific respectability. The new atheism is a demonstrable failure in its stated goals and has done little to improve things. I’d recommend looking at the analysis that Guy Playfair did of the history of CSICOP for some clues as to what to expect the new atheism to look like in a few years, it’s pretty much just a continuation of the same thing, only more winningly rude and obnoxious.

    http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/Observeskeptics/CSICOP/30yearswar1.html

  124. #124 J. J. Ramsey
    October 22, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy: Citing a page from the “Skeptical Investigations” site is not a good idea. It’s one of Rupert Sheldrake’s sites.

  125. #125 Anthony McCarthy
    October 22, 2010

    JJR, I knew that someone would mention something like that. I looked at the piece by Playfair and his citations are accurate. I wonder, considering how many of the CSICOPs published pieces in FATE magazine, why who else gets published there should matter. I’m not especially bigoted about that in the area around “skepticism” because they’ve never been exactly fussy about publishing in some pretty dodgy places. Any intellectual movement that can accommodate James Randi and operates by intimidating more establishment critics and kick out its internal critics will lead to this kind of situation.

    I don’t think “Skeptical Inquirer” is pristine in this regard. Yet I don’t think it would be used to impeach the credibility of any of the big names of “skepticism” or the new atheism who publish there.

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