The sky is blue. Winter is cold. Jerry Coyne is upset with NCSE. These are the implacable truths anchoring us in reality. The interesting question is not whether Coyne is upset with NCSE, but what he’s upset about this time.

Today, Coyne is upset that the award-winning, NSF-funded website Understanding Evolution addresses a common objection to evolution. (Full disclosure: NCSE assists Understanding Evolution and is listed as a co-organizer of the site. I’ve never worked on the site, but I work at NCSE. As it says in the sidebar, this blog is my own private thing, not NCSE’s. Look through the archives and you’ll see me making the same points long before I even considered working at NCSE. But the fact that I do this for a living is relevant.)

Understanding Evolution addresses anti-evolution claims that evolution and religion are necessarily in conflict:

Religion and science (evolution) are very different things. In science, only natural causes are used to explain natural phenomena, while religion deals with beliefs that are beyond the natural world.

The misconception that one always has to choose between science and religion is incorrect. Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith. Moreover, in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution.

For concise statements from many religious organizations regarding evolution, see Voices for Evolution on the NCSE Web site.

Coyne never specifies what, if anything, in this response he finds inaccurate or inappropriate. He claims that there’s something “NOMA-ish” (referring to Stephen Jay Gould’s Non-Overlapping MAgisteria, a much-criticized but widespread approach to science/religion issues), which I guess is a quibble over whether religion deals only with beliefs beyond the natural world (thus non-overlapping with science), but that’s not what it says. It says that science deals only with the natural world, and doesn’t make any exclusive claim about religion. Religion deals with stuff outside the natural world, but whether it tells us about the natural world is unspecified, hence there’s no claim about overlap or non-overlap. That’s pretty standard philosophy of science and philosophy of religion, so hardly irresponsible. Indeed, Coyne has endorsed this basic framework in the past.

The second paragraph supports its topic sentence with empirically true statements. Some religious beliefs do not accord with science, but many religions explicitly do avow a compatibility with science (rejecting or modifying those conflicting beliefs), and many scientists do see a compatibility, as do theologians and other religious folks. The site is not declaring that any of those people or groups are right, only that they exist (which they do!), and therefore it is a misconception that “one always has to choose between science and religion.” As such, it is irrelevant to the answer that some atheists agree with creationists about the incompatibility of science and religion.

Coyne whinges a bit about “pandering to religion on websites supposedly about science,” but I don’t see the pandering, and this item is on a page about misconceptions of evolution, specifically a section addressing “Misconceptions about evolution and religion.” So that part of the site is not just about science. Most of the site is focused on science, and does a brilliant job, hence the awards. But these sorts of religious objections are common problems, and you often can’t get someone to engage with the science until you deal with that objection. So the site puts a brief discussion of the issues on a page specifically focused on that issue. It makes sense.

That passage has been at the same URL since 2005, at a different URL since 2004, and only now has Coyne noticed it. Interestingly, a creationist lawyer in California noticed in 2005, and filed suit claiming that it constituted religious discrimination because his wife thought the site, funded by a government grant, was endorsing some religious views (those which claim to be compatible with science) over others (those that don’t). The case was tossed out of court, a dismissal upheld on appeal. NCSE covered it, Panda’s Thumb covered it, and Coyne missed it.

As Tim Sandefur pointed out at PT, the passage at issue is “truthful,” and:

The website makes purely factual claims that Mrs. Caldwell, for religious reasons, happens to find offensive. …The government is allowed to make factual, objectively truthful statements about any number of things, including characterizations of the religious beliefs of individuals or groups, even if readers like Mrs. Caldwell might find those statements to be offensive for whatever reasons–including religious reasons. …

These are not religious statements, but statements about religious beliefs, and government is allowed to make statements about religious beliefs. … Statements characterizing religion, or describing the beliefs of others, do not depend for their truthfulness on the content of a religious dogma or creed, and are therefore secular in nature; they are statements that the government is constitutionally free to make under the First Amendment. They are not religious statements.

Coyne isn’t filing suit, so the particulars of the First Amendment analysis aren’t germane, but Tim’s assessment is absolutely correct that the passage at issue is simply describing how certain people and religious groups deal with evolution and religion. It is not advocating (nor pandering).

Coyne’s beef is that he doesn’t want Understanding Evolution or NCSE to discuss “theology or philosophy.” These are, he insists, inappropriate for “websites supposedly about science.”

i-345f7476dd7bc4229a91443dc33baa93-decoratorcrab.jpgThis is a common refrain from Coyne, that groups like NCSE or the National Academy of Sciences, or sites like Understanding Evolution, should not discuss “theology and philosophy.” Most of the challenges to teaching evolution have nothing to do with the science, and everything to do with philosophically or theologically naïve beliefs about science and religion. Creationism is essentially a giant agglomeration of philosophical and theological errors, with some scientific errors glued to the outside for camouflage. It’s like the decorator crab here, hidden and almost invisible beneath all of the anemones and coral polyps. But if you’re interested in the crab, you don’t take on the anemones.

You can skim off the scientific errors surrounding creationism forever, but you aren’t dealing with creationism itself until you get at those underlying errors. You have to explain what a theory is. You have to explain what science is. You have to give a sense of how science works, and why it works, and why it’s different from religion. That’s all philosophy. And if you want an audience that’s ambivalent about evolution to pay attention to all of that, you have to tell them it isn’t an attack on religion, that there are a range of ways to see the issue and they can sort out those implications later with a counsellor of their choosing. That’s all philosophy of religion (or theology if you prefer), and a bit of sociology.

I know this works because I’ve seen it tried both ways and I know which one works (anecdotal evidence, yada yada), and because I’ve seen results from polling and focus groups which found the same thing. Alas, the details of those studies are confidential, but some of that research is reported by the NAS, by Chow and Labov, by Labov and Kline Pope, and by the Council of Scientific Societies.

The societies conducted polling and focus groups in preparation for a revision of the NAS pamphlet on evolution and creationism. Jay Labov provided this slide summarizing the results of two rounds of focus groups:
i-ee8ed0c063f2d989c436a5193b208e9d-LabovFocusGroup.png
That’s what the research tells us works: talking about evolution’s benefits for medical research (people have an instrumental view of what science is, so medical applications are better than other research, alas), defusing the conflict model at least enough to get the conversation going, and emphasizing how wrong it is to impose one person’s religious belief on another. Other messages that were tested had little effect, or had a strong negative effect or a strong pro-creationism effect. Those three points work, and leaving any of them out of a science advocate’s quiver is a poor choice.

Indeed, I think the point about science and religion is the only way to get past the protective camouflage. You can talk about medical research all you want, and you’ll sway some people. But many won’t listen to evidence until you get them past the fear that learning about evolution will make their kids stop going to church (better to be sick than spend eternity in hell!). And you can’t get to the point about not imposing religion without addressing the conflict issue, because otherwise the retort would be that you’re imposing evolution, and evolution is “an atheist creation myth” or some similar false equivalence reliant on philosophical errors about what “theory” means, etc. Explaining how some people find a compatibility between science and religion lets you talk about how science differs from religion, and why your audience shouldn’t let their religious views stop them from hearing more about evolution. Then you talk about evolution and why creationism isn’t science, and why evolution saves lives, and why imposing creationist lessons is immoral. They won’t hear those points without first addressing the purported conflict.

Sometimes your audience is already squared away on that front, and can go straight to evolution. University audiences are usually OK, as are many science classrooms. But not always, and the teachers and other science communicators who turn to Understanding Evolution for advice on how to deal with those situations are getting good, empirically tested, scientifically justified advice. Coyne has no reason to complain.

Gnu atheists will object that they don’t think science is compatible with religion, that the second point is wrong, and therefore they won’t say it. I think that’s short-sighted and wrong. Whatever your own philosophical position, you can still acknowledge that lots of scientists are religious, and that lots of religious groups accept evolution. It’s empirically true! And it gets the fingers out of people’s ears! The moment when they’re trying to get people to accept evolution is not the moment to launch into an attack on religion, because it makes it harder to teach about evolution, and it probably won’t do anything for their view of atheism.

Gnus prefer to emphasize that they don’t personally see that compatibility. Noting that presenting their arguments against compatibility is Not Helpful (in the context of evolution education), they often reply that their focus is on something other than science education, and the confrontational message helps that goal. Maybe so, though no scientifically valid evidence has been offered to support that claim, and what research exists seems to say the opposite. But if it does help, mazel tov.

That doesn’t matter here, because in this case Jerry is criticizing Understanding Evolution and NCSE for not adopting gnu atheist rhetoric, even though those groups have very clear goals, goals that have nothing to do with promoting atheism and have everything to do with improving evolution education. They use a message that works, which research shows to work, and he’s criticizing them not because it doesn’t help the goals of Understanding Evolution and NCSE, but because it doesn’t help the goals of gnu atheists. And that’s unfair.

Image – a decorator crab covered with anemones and coral and other sea life, to the point that the visible eye and legs are barely distinguishable – reproduced with permission of Jeff Jeffords from divegallery.com, and a slide provide by Jay Labov, NAS.

Comments

  1. #1 TB
    January 5, 2011

    groups like NCSE or the National Academy of Sciences, or sites like Understanding Evolution, should not discuss “theology and philosophy.” …

    But it’s ok for people who identify themselves as scientists on blogs with evolution or science themes to discuss that.

    Alrighty then.

  2. #2 01Jack
    January 5, 2011

    And once the believers have been converted to a brand of religion that does not deny scientific facts, perhaps they might be assisted in forming an opinion on whether women may become priests, or whether Ali or Abu Bakr is the true successor.

    I might point out that there are sects that celebrate Christ and look to redemption and salvation but that do not believe in the Trinity. That I’m just stating facts may be true, but persuasion towards unitarianism is still obviously my goal.

    It may be the most gentle form of persuasion, to say “look over here, look at this catechism.”

    But proselytizing is still the goal. And that’s the problem.

  3. #3 Hammill
    January 5, 2011

    I have the most trouble understanding why Coyne calls this a “deliberate distortion of the views of scientists.” That statement implies intentional dishonesty by members of the NCSE and UC Berkeley and is a very heavy accusation that goes well beyond personal criticism, is it not? Where is the distortion? The “Voices for Evolution” site, for example, links to a statement from the AHA that’s over 30 years old (remarkably pre-gnu atheism) yet argues strictly for science and gives absolutely no truck to the faithful, no mention of compatibility whatsoever. The rest of the UE site affirms that scientists oppose the teaching of creationism, ID and similar religious “alternatives” to evolution. How is any of that a distortion of the science? Coyne doesn’t say.

    Perhaps Coyne wants the site to promote what I understand to be his view that science and religion are fundamentally, universally incompatible. I think that the website’s statement that some religious beliefs “directly contradict science” is enough, though. Some do, and that should be stated. But others don’t, and the site mentions those as well. Whether those more compatible forms of belief are right or wrong, “true religion” or false, is beside the point, and for the website to weigh into that issue would be a true delving into theology and a breach of conduct (and constitutionality), no? Unless I’m missing some key point, this seems an unjustified amount of pot-stirring over a mostly innocuous website.

  4. #4 Michael Fugate
    January 5, 2011

    So from polling data people want to be told that evolution and Christianity are compatible…
    Apparently this will reassure them that they won’t give up Christianity if they accept evolution, but is it true? Can any of make this guarantee – especially if one’s Christianity includes a belief that Genesis is historically true? Or are we only responsible for saying it need not happen because some individuals do retain their faith?
    As an afterthought, don’t a virgin birth and resurrection directly contradict science?

  5. #5 Deepak Shetty
    January 5, 2011

    why not update your organisations statement then?

    What is NCSE’s religious position?
    None.

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    @Hammill

    I have the most trouble understanding why Coyne calls this a “deliberate distortion of the views of scientists.”

    Well how many scientists believe that science is compatible with religion (as a % , not as a number of signatories). he usually (incorrectly) correlates these with the number of scientists who are not believers. However a truer statement would be , most scientists don’t think religion is true – you wont see NCSE make this statement.

    Besides I believe Coyne is satisfied with NCSE’s no position on religion v/s science – however in practice NCSE espouses the religion is not in conflict with science stance(which is a religious position , not a scientific one) – not a no comments.

  6. #6 Josh Rosenau
    January 5, 2011

    Michael F.: No one is asking for or offering a guarantee.

    Deepak: No change in NCSE’s official position seems necessary. Care to explain how you’d change it? NCSE doesn’t advocate for one form of religion over any other, it opposes attacks on evolution, and notes that some forms of religion don’t do that.

  7. #7 Hammill
    January 5, 2011

    #5:

    “However a truer statement would be , most scientists don’t think religion is true – you wont see NCSE make this statement.”

    I wouldn’t expect them to. Making a statement about whether or not religion itself is true would truly be engaging in theology. Whether or not religion is true, in fact, has very little to do with the current discussion or even the very purpose of the website in question.

  8. #8 G. King
    January 5, 2011

    This debate will continue until we as humans evolve :)

  9. #9 Deepak Shetty
    January 5, 2011

    Josh Rosenau

    Care to explain how you’d change it?

    Change it to what you are stating – That Religion and Science aren’t in conflict , why say one thing – then do something else?

    NCSE doesn’t advocate for one form of religion over any other

    Didnt say it advocated one over the other, it(in the form of its employees statements) advocates all! When you make a statement religion doesn’t conflict science – you actually don’t say “only a liberally interpreted watered down version of religion doesn’t conflict science”.

    and notes that some forms of religion don’t do that.

    Just as often as it notes that some religion does conflict?

  10. #10 Deepak Shetty
    January 5, 2011

    Making a statement about whether or not religion itself is true would truly be engaging in theology.

    But making a statement on what religion is compatible with is not engaging in theology?

    or even the very purpose of the website in question.

    But this is the complaint that NCSE does engage in theology (my opinion), and follows the apologist version of if you treat all the stuff in religion that is proven to be untrue as not literal then religion doesn’t conflict with science.
    This is contrary to NCSE’s stated position so it shouldn’t do it. It isnt NCSE’s business to point out whether religion is compatible with science , or that some scientists are religious (conveniently ignoring that most aren’t). It doesn’t have to make any statement about religion.

    They also should not follow a particular approach in tackling religion v/s evolution without hard evidence about the effectiveness of it (as opposed to poorly extrapolated studies of human behavior).

  11. #11 abb3w
    January 5, 2011

    Josh Rosenau: Coyne never specifies what, if anything, in this response he finds inaccurate or inappropriate.

    Speaking for myself, it would seem to presuppose that there is a valid distinction between natural and supernatural, such that “beyond the natural world” has significance as a semantically valid, non-empty referent. (More exactly, has significance in a framework still allowing any prospect of distinguishing hawk and handsaw.)

    Of course, I suppose it could be referring to “ought” questions as beyond the is-questions of the natural world; however, that merely slips us from science (which deals with is-questions) to engineering (which makes use of science to infer answers to ought-questions, such as “how think ought we make this bridge”). Both science and engineering, however, are within the natural world. For example….

    Josh Rosenau: That’s what the research tells us works: talking about evolution’s benefits for medical research (people have an instrumental view of what science is, so medical applications are better than other research, alas), defusing the conflict model at least enough to get the conversation going, and emphasizing how wrong it is to impose one person’s religious belief on another. Other messages that were tested had little effect, or had a strong negative effect or a strong pro-creationism effect. Those three points work, and leaving any of them out of a science advocate’s quiver is a poor choice.

    Thus, pursuing these methods is a design decision for (sociological) engineering in pursuit of a particular goal.

    Josh Rosenau: Noting that presenting their arguments against compatibility is Not Helpful (in the context of evolution education), they often reply that their focus is on something other than science education, and the confrontational message helps that goal.

    IE: different ultimate goal, different is-ought bridge, different design result.

    On the other hand, (doi:10.1016/j.physa.2010.04.039) might be of interest to your design analysis.

    Josh Rosenau: That doesn’t matter here, because in this case Jerry is criticizing Understanding Evolution and NCSE for not adopting gnu atheist rhetoric, even though those groups have very clear goals, goals that have nothing to do with promoting atheism and have everything to do with improving evolution education. They use a message that works, which research shows to work, and he’s criticizing them not because it doesn’t help the goals of Understanding Evolution and NCSE, but because it doesn’t help the goals of gnu atheists. And that’s unfair.

    Of course, there’s actually a third goal, between furthering evolution education and furthering atheism; to wit, furthering education about science. From that view, there may be a trade-off: short term decreased resistance to science (particular results and in general), at the cost of a long-term increase in misunderstanding what the scope of science is and isn’t.

    Despite the name “National Center for Science Education”, the NCSE’s mission appears specifically focused only on Evolution, and not on more general science education in physics, chemistry, biology, climatology, et cetera.

  12. #12 abb3w
    January 5, 2011

    s/think we/thick we/

    …sigh.

  13. #13 Hammill
    January 5, 2011

    “But making a statement on what religion is compatible with is not engaging in theology?”

    My reading of the website in question is that they mention that some religious groups have official doctrine stating that their beliefs do not exclude acceptance of the science of evolution. It may seem like wordplay, but pointing out that fact (and it is a fact, whether or not the beliefs of those faiths are true) is a far cry from the NCSE taking a position on the validity of religion itself. As Josh points out in this post, it’s what makes the difference between the NCSE/UC-Berkeley endorsing religion (which it has been legally ruled to not be doing here) and pointing out facts about religious groups.

  14. #14 Deepak Shetty
    January 5, 2011

    My reading of the website in question is that they mention that some religious groups have official doctrine stating that their beliefs do not exclude acceptance of the science of evolution.

    But not the whole truth. Again why have a position at all about any matters religious – who is NCSE representing here?

    ) is a far cry from the NCSE taking a position on the validity of religion itself.

    And no one has asked it to(besides the very same NCSE employees will argue that Genesis has no bearing on the validity of Christianity).
    It is being asked to take its stated stance that it has no position on religion – none. It is exactly this wordplay , these excuses, these apologies for religion that makes people question its honesty. As far as I can see NCSE really has two (honorable) options – They change their position in accordance with pragmatic realities or They stop commenting on religion for better or worse.

    Note that they also havent published any studies which prove that pushing “religion doesnt conflict science” helps people either a)Understand evolution or b) Accept evolution any more or any less than No Comment does. Surely this is important enough to be studied?

  15. #15 Hammill
    January 5, 2011

    “It is being asked to take its stated stance that it has no position on religion – none. It is exactly this wordplay , these excuses, these apologies for religion that makes people question its honesty.”

    But is it taking a position on religion on the website in question? If “some religous groups claim X” is a position, I suppose so. If “‘evolution and religion are incompatible’ is a misconception” is a position, then I suppose so as well….but this is a statement supported by fact (i.e. the official position statements of multiple faiths), whether the reconciliation of all those faiths is valid or not.

    I guess I’m saying I would have more trouble with a position that attempts to define what “true” religion is rather than one that simply lists what religious people think. IMO the NCSE is rather forthright about the spectrum of opinions within the religious community about evolution and staunch in its prevention of any religion making its way into a science classroom. I’ve never seen it officially endorse one form of religion over another, nor religion over nonbelief. I can’t quibble with that.

  16. #16 Marion Delgado
    January 5, 2011

    I think Jerry is accidentally “baiting,” really, and you should just note it and not dwell on it, Josh. On a day to day basis, so far, the NCSE is managing to get along with nearly everyone, and I think diplomacy and circumspection are among the secrets to its success.

  17. #17 Michael Fugate
    January 5, 2011

    Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days);

    Does the NCSE have a list of the religious beliefs that contradict science? I would think believers would want to know. Parting the Red Sea? The Battle of Jericho, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, The Virgin Birth, Walking on Water, Water into Wine, Raising the Dead, Casting out Demons?

  18. #18 J.J.E.
    January 5, 2011

    That doesn’t matter here, because in this case Jerry is criticizing Understanding Evolution and NCSE for not adopting gnu atheist rhetoric, even though those groups have very clear goals, goals that have nothing to do with promoting atheism and have everything to do with improving evolution education. They use a message that works, which research shows to work, and he’s criticizing them not because it doesn’t help the goals of Understanding Evolution and NCSE, but because it doesn’t help the goals of gnu atheists. And that’s unfair.

    I think this is a desire for scientific publications and institutions to broaden their tent so that they don’t interfere with the goals of the gnu atheists in the same way they are careful not to interfere with the goals of liberal believers. Surely, if compatibility is true, then a position can be made about science without offending the sensibilities of the target audience? If compatibility is often false, then is it not theological advocacy to encourage that the target audience adopt the “compatible” version of their faith so that they take their fingers out of their ears and listen about evolution? It seems like you want it both ways. NCSE wants to push compatibility as well as to push believers from incompatible understandings to compatible understandings.

    Why not simplify the whole mess and use boilerplate like the following for official claims from NCSE (slightly modified by me):

    [We] urge public school boards to affirm their commitment to the teaching of the science of evolution. Fundamentalists of various traditions, who perceive the science of evolution to be in conflict with their personal religious beliefs, are seeking to influence public school boards to authorize the teaching of creationism. We see this as a breach in the separation of church and state. Those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Biblical account of creation are free to teach their perspective in their homes, religious institutions and private schools. To teach it in the public schools would be to assert a particular religious perspective in an environment which is supposed to be free of such indoctrination.

    [Holy books are] the primary source[s] of spiritual inspiration and of values for [many people], though not everyone, in our society. It is, however, open to interpretation, with some taking the creation account and other content literally and some preferring a figurative understanding. It is possible to be inspired by the religious teachings of the Bible while not taking a literalist approach and while accepting the validity of science including the foundational concept of evolution. It is not the role of public schools to indoctrinate students with specific religious beliefs but rather to educate them in the established principles of science and in other subjects of general knowledge.

  19. #19 Josh Rosenau
    January 5, 2011

    J.J.E.: What you wrote looks a lot like what the Understanding Evolution answer says, and like what NCSE says. What about your proposed language do you think would defuse this issue?

  20. #20 Rob Knop
    January 5, 2011

    Josh, thank you for this level-headed, clear, and well-reasoned post.

    I don’t know what percentage of scientists are religious, but I know it’s not an infinitesimal percentage. There are a lot of working scientists out there who are religious in one way or another; some are fully practicing. The vast majority (though, sadly, not all) of the working scientists I’ve talked to that are religious have no problem accepting evolution. Indeed, most of the people at *church* that I’ve talked to about the matter have no problem accepting evolution. It is, of course, I go to a church that the “new” atheists don’t seem to think really exist, or exist only as a “watered-down” minority. In fact, a substantial fraction of the religious in the USA (again, sadly, probably not a majority, but it might be) don’t have a problem with evolution; it’s just the loud fundamentalists that do. It makes absolutely no sense to deny the existence of religious scientists (by saying that “some scientists are religious” misrepresents the beliefs of most scientists), especially since it can only help in convincing people to accept the results of modern science.

    The “Clergy Letter Project” was started by clergy who wanted to help spread the word that evolution is well-understood to be true, and that faith is not inconsistent with it. They are fighting on our side. Sadly, though, now they’re also having to fight attacks from others who are supposedly on “our side”, but are far more interested in antitheism than in promoting good science education.

  21. #21 J.J.E.
    January 5, 2011

    Well, I can’t admit to writing it, as it was lifted almost directly from the Rabbi statement from the Clergy letter project. What I think is important is that it does several things:

    1) it talks about the commitment to a fair and legal basis for teaching controversial topics such as evolution in the classroom;
    2) it doesn’t take a side in the compatibility or NOMA wars;
    3) it doesn’t pretend that atheists don’t exist;
    4) it doesn’t make any theological positions (like “the Bible can be metaphorical” or “you need not disbelieve in god to accept evolution”);
    5) it makes a strong stand in favor of evolution (and would stand in explicit contradiction to any religious perspective benighted enough to put itself at odds with evolution).

    I copied and pasted it in haste, so I did forget a few changes* I’d prefer. But basically, I’m a big fan of passing the buck onto religious organizations. The NCSE can say “Look, we’re supposed to avoid teaching religious ideas like creation. Some people feel that conflicts with their faith, but we don’t want to address their faith, only evolution. We’re happy for them to learn their own beliefs in their own places of worship. If evolution still bothers them, it might comfort them to know that it doesn’t bother everyone who shares their faith. In any event, evolution is a foundational description of biological reality that is the best humanity has to offer on such topics.”

    All factual. Any discussion of compatibility, whether passages should be interpreted as literal, whether religion is amenable to science, etc. etc., should be avoided if possible. Because if those perspectives are raised (and they often are), then it puts NCSE in the awkward position of siding with liberal theology. Since NCSE won’t (and I argue, shouldn’t) communicate the Gnu alternative, I feel it is only fair that NCSE also refuse to communicate the liberal theological perspective. “Just the science ma’am”.

    Of course, if it were implemented, this approach has consequences. Mostly, the NCSE would operate the same. But when it comes time to address religion (as the NCSE must), it would refrain from endorsing apologists from liberal religion as models for the skeptical believer. It would refrain from discussions of Biblical or Quranic or Talmudic interpretations. It would, insofar as possible, counter religious digressions (religion is a digression in science discussions) by pointing to that boilerplate. It is very respectful, true, and limited in religious scope. That’s why I like it.

    Of course, the NCSE could broaden its mandate or spin off a religiously oriented organization. (Something better than the Templeton, one hopes.) If the NCSE officially broadened its mandate to include religious outreach that goes beyond mere scientific consultation for religious organizations, I wouldn’t feel comfortable supporting it. If it spun off its faith aspect (different budget, perhaps), then I wouldn’t support that branch, but I would the “pure science one”. As it is, the NCSE appears to be dancing ever closer to a perspective that makes me feel invisible while rewarding liberal theology. They haven’t gone whole hog yet, but they are practically supporting NOMA (in a descriptive not a prescriptive sense). That makes me uncomfortable. Because while I see NOMA as a fine prescriptive goal (in other words, religion should stay within their supernatural world and avoid making claims about reality) NOMA is most certainly not an empirical reality for billions of believers.

    *[Followers of various holy books do however have different interpretations of the same books], with some taking the creation account and other content literally and some preferring a figurative understanding. It is possible to be inspired by the religious teachings of [holy books] while not taking a literalist approach and while accepting the validity of science including the foundational concept of evolution. It is not the role of public schools to indoctrinate students with specific religious beliefs but rather to educate them in the established principles of science and in other subjects of general knowledge.

  22. #22 J.J.E.
    January 5, 2011

    @ Rob Knop

    For church-going Americans, those that attend weekly are pretty creationist. 60% of them believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago. 41% of remaining regular church are still creationists. And since 35% of Americans are weekly attendees and 19% are “almost weekly or monthly” attendees, the weighted average of strict creationists is 53% of regular church attendees. (This excludes people that “seldom” or “never” attend church.)

    I couldn’t find all this information in one survey, so I had to draw from two:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/145286/four-americans-believe-strict-creationism.aspx

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/141044/americans-church-attendance-inches-2010.aspx

  23. #23 Deepak Shetty
    January 5, 2011

    I guess I’m saying I would have more trouble with a position that attempts to define what “true” religion

    Ah but then neither can the NCSE say religion is compatible with science if noone knows what *true* religion is.

    IMO the NCSE is rather forthright about the spectrum of opinions within the religious community

    Thats not my impression. They push one particular view(for understandable reasons). See the quote from Understanding Evolution

    some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days);however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith. Moreover, in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution.

    Most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution?. Whats the percentage of religious people who dont accept evolution(and no theistic evolution isn’t evolution)? Can you really say most?

    Many religious people feel a deeper understanding of nature enriches .. – This could actually mean anything. An ID guy could claim this as well as could a creationist so there is no actual indication whether they are talking about a scientific understanding.

    In the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are religious – whats the %? . This statement may be literally true but what impression is it meant to convey? v/s what the actual data is?

    Note also the token well some beliefs contradict – like 6 literal days -why add literal? Isnt it ha ha you really shouldnt take the
    days as literal only fundamentalists (religious or atheists) do that because obviously the writers had some higher meaning in mind.

    These are the type of views that NCSE has and really it doesn’t have to. Whats the harm in stating it doesn’t have any views on religion v/s science because it only deals with science.

  24. #24 Brian
    January 5, 2011

    “The second paragraph supports its topic sentence with empirically true statements.”

    “most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings”

    (I suppose it is technically true that most religions can find at least one scientific finding they have no conflict with. However, that’s not the most natural reading of the sentence.) This clearly intends to say that most religious groups have no conflict with either the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. I hadn’t realized that it is *empirically true* that *most* religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution, much less with the theory of human fertilization, which does not contain a moment of conception, etc. What is the evidence that most think this way?

    It also surprises me that you imply “avowing” compatibility is sufficient to back up that claim, regardless of the quantity of groups making it. Suppose I start a religion that explicitly avows compatibility with science, rejects all forms of the Omphalos hypothesis, and believes in 6 literal days of creation. Would that religion be “compatible” with science?

    Speaking of which, I’m not sure how the NCSE justifies picking on creationists, who frequently resort to Omphalos, as having unscientific beliefs without also calling out those who believe that a supernatural force directed the *natural* selection component of evolution. It seems to me that arbitrarily criticizing some religious beliefs (a trickster God made the universe recently, such that it misleadingly looks old) and defending others (a herd manager God selected among creatures deliberately to produce humans as a planned outcome of the process such that it would merely look like we evolved) is taking a religious position.

    “In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith. Moreover, in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution.”

    Psychological compatibility has nothing to do with whether the claims of any or all religions are logically compatible with science. At best, a naive person could think this portion of the site is disgustingly incomplete in that it ignores the more relevant question and only answers the psychological one, and is so grossly negligent that it should be defended by no one. It is clear they are deliberately misleading people by equivocating with the word “compatible”.

  25. #25 Brian
    January 5, 2011

    “The case was tossed out of court, a dismissal upheld on appeal.”

    It is misleading for you to have the following sequence in your blog:

    a) a lawsuit was filed
    b) the lawsuit was dismissed by the judge
    c) the lawsuit’s substantial arguments were baseless

    This implies that the dismissal had something to do with the arguments. Yet according to the Panda’s Thumb, it was dismissed simply for lack of standing, without the argument about religion being addressed at all. By withholding that fact, the reader is invited to assume the judge ruled the arguments were wrong. For shame.

  26. #26 Anton Mates
    January 5, 2011

    Deepak,

    Well how many scientists believe that science is compatible with religion (as a % , not as a number of signatories).

    Based on Elaine Ecklund’s research, about 65% of academic scientists at major US research institutions believe that science is compatible with religion.

    However a truer statement would be , most scientists don’t think religion is true – you wont see NCSE make this statement.

    Actually, that statement’s false. About half of the scientists in Ecklund’s study are religious, and the majority consider themselves “spiritual” to some degree. (This doesn’t mean, of course, that they’re theists. Consistent with earlier research, 64% are atheists or agnostics, and another 8% “believe in a higher power, but it is not God.”)

    So probably a good idea to stay away from that particular statement!

    Just as often as it notes that some religion does conflict?

    Nope, not nearly as often. The NCSE probably expends more ink on creationism than on any single other subject, so of course it discusses science-conflicting religion much more often than science-compatible religion.

  27. #27 Anton Mates
    January 5, 2011

    J.J.E.,

    (Disclaimer: I didn’t work on the Understanding Evolution site either, but I was working at the NCSE when some of its material on religion & evolution was written, and I helped with that to some degree. So it’s just barely conceivable that I might be a teensy bit biased.)

    2) it doesn’t take a side in the compatibility or NOMA wars;
    3) it doesn’t pretend that atheists don’t exist;
    4) it doesn’t make any theological positions (like “the Bible can be metaphorical” or “you need not disbelieve in god to accept evolution”);

    I agree that these are good things, but I don’t see that the NCSE/Understanding Evolution material satisfies them less than your statement. Yours says that “It is possible to be inspired by the religious teachings of the Bible while not taking a literalist approach and while accepting the validity of science including the foundational concept of evolution,” which (it seems to me) is as strong an endorsement of compatibility and “the Bible can be metaphorical” as anything the NCSE’s written.

    As for not pretending that atheists don’t exist, your statement doesn’t mention them at all, while the NCSE material does. This Understanding Evolution excerpt doesn’t mention atheists either, but it does link to Voices for Evolution, which contains statements from several secular humanist groups in its “Religious Perspectives” section.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think your statement would be fine too. They seem pretty equivalent to me.

  28. #28 Deepak Shetty
    January 5, 2011

    Anton
    well then admit they do have a stance on religion v/s science.
    Its this we dont have a stance but here it is anyway that silly.

    (64+8) 72% of scientists don’t believe in religion then (so obviously they don’t think its true). That’s a filibuster majority.

    65% of academic scientists at major US research institutions believe that science is compatible with religion.

    Not all religion right. A non literal , metaphorical, non – contradictory to science religion.

  29. #29 Anton Mates
    January 6, 2011

    Anton,

    well then admit they do have a stance on religion v/s science.

    Of course they have a stance on religion vs. science: namely, sometimes the two conflict and sometimes they don’t. What they don’t have is a religious position.

    Religiously neutral organizations take stances on factual questions concerning religion all the time, without compromising their neutrality.

    (64+8) 72% of scientists don’t believe in religion then (so obviously they don’t think its true). That’s a filibuster majority.

    No, 72% of those scientists don’t believe in God. Only 52% are non-religious. That ain’t a filibuster majority.

    And don’t forget–this is a sample of academic faculty at “elite research universities.” The set of all US scientists is almost certainly more religious.

    Not all religion right. A non literal , metaphorical, non – contradictory to science religion.

    “Non-literal/metaphorical” and “non-contradictory to science” aren’t the same thing, of course; a religion can be literal but compatible with science, or metaphorical but conflict with science. That aside, yep, I imagine most of those scientists know that some religious positions conflict with science.

  30. #30 Hammill
    January 6, 2011

    “Ah but then neither can the NCSE say religion is compatible with science if noone knows what *true* religion is.”

    I don’t believe that follows. Even if no religion is “true,” the NCSE can still point out the empirical fact that there are many faiths that have adopted official positions stating that they have no issue with evolution. That certainly doesn’t settle any debate about the compatibility of science and religion, but it’s far from the intentional dishonesty that the site was originally accused of in the post that started this conversation.

  31. #31 Deepak Shetty
    January 6, 2011

    @Anton

    What they don’t have is a religious position.

    Are you saying that religion doesn’t conflict with science is a scientific position? Because if so then there a lot more evidence you have to provide ( including a clear definition of religion). I’d have said it is a political position(designed to appease the religious) but Josh thinks that word can be used everywhere so it kind of loses its meaning. Science doesn’t care or really have a position on religion it has a position on claims. So if you want to make a statement of the form religion doesn’t conflict science you are taking a religious / theological stance.

    My earlier statement was most scientists don’t think religion is true (and excepting buddhism and some other outliers) if you don’t believe in God then you dont think religion is true. You can still be socially/culturally religious but that isn’t the same as saying that you think the religion is true. I find it interesting that you object to my use of most but do not similarly object to uses of most when it favors the religious.

    In the end though , what I find objectionable isn’t NCSE’s religion is compatible with science NOMAish stance (because it is actually an insult to the religious!) – Coyne originally objected to NCSE taking any stance at all in these matters and preferring them to deal with only science(from memory) – is that really so objectionable(you can disagree ofcourse)? . But look what it has been framed into

    That doesn’t matter here, because in this case Jerry is criticizing Understanding Evolution and NCSE for not adopting gnu atheist rhetoric, even though those groups have very clear goals, goals that have nothing to do with promoting atheism and have everything to do with improving evolution education.

    Did anyone ask NCSE to *promote* atheism? Why is this argument repeatedly framed as Coyne et al want NCSE to promote atheism? What’s the motive?

  32. #32 McWaffle
    January 6, 2011

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find the following quote a bit ironic here:

    “You can skim off the scientific errors surrounding creationism forever, but you aren’t dealing with creationism itself until you get at those underlying errors.”

    I’d agree, but I think Josh and I have very different ideas as to what the underlying errors are and how they should be dealt with.

    I do find the NCSE’s position a touch absurd. I don’t see the value in saying things along the lines of, “Some religious claims are false, but some believers have learned to conveniently ignore those things. You can too!” Yeah, it’s true that many people manage to believe both, but that’s not really an honest answer to “are they compatible”. If the question was: “Is belief in a hollow Earth and lizard men compatible with modern science?” you wouldn’t answer, “many people believe in both modern science and crazy delusions.” It would be true, but misleading.

    It kinda reminds me of how as Christianity spread to new areas of the world, it kinda globbed onto the existing religions in the areas it reached. You know, Virgin of Guadalupe = Aztec creator goddess, Christmas = Solstice, kinda stuff. This feels very similar to me, but globbing science onto Christianity. Look guys, it kinda fits! Just trim out all the bits about Adam and Eve, and the Flood, and God… Still compatible though, yup. Just look at all these people who believe it somehow!

  33. #33 McWaffle
    January 6, 2011

    I just finished reading a few other recent posts, and I’ve noticed quite the recurring theme here lately: Taking things either PZ, Coyne, or Benson said, and then kinda misrepresenting them and refuting a point nobody made.

    I mean, posting a dictionary definition proving that “militant” has a meaning besides being literally violent? That just seems like passive-aggressive sniping to me. Especially followed by a “well, I never said it myself, just saying…” defense. Come on. Or misrepresenting OB on “politics” and again making some whiny definition-based argument? Jeez.

    Though I guess you’ve gotta give as much as you get, and you do get quite a bit from them. Though lately it seems a lot of it has been them criticizing your criticisms of their posts.

  34. #34 Anton Mates
    January 6, 2011

    Deepak,

    Are you saying that religion doesn’t conflict with science is a scientific position?

    In itself, it’s just a fact claim. It can also be a scientific position, in the same sense that “being a rodent doesn’t conflict with living in trees” is a scientific position. (“And now I present my evidence. Squirrel?” “Hi, I’m a squirrel!” “Thank you, squirrel.”)

    Because if so then there a lot more evidence you have to provide ( including a clear definition of religion).

    If you’re performing or publishing scientific research, that’s quite true. If you’re doing education/outreach, though, things are different. Concrete examples are more helpful than definitions, and you mustn’t provide more evidence than your audience’s attention span allows.

    Science doesn’t care or really have a position on religion it has a position on claims.

    It has positions on claims about religion. Religion encompasses a variety of human thoughts and behaviors. Ergo, sociology, psychology, and anthropology have a lot to say about it.

    My earlier statement was most scientists don’t think religion is true (and excepting buddhism and some other outliers) if you don’t believe in God then you dont think religion is true.

    That may be your religious position, and you’re totally entitled to it. But I don’t think a religiously neutral organization could agree with you. They can’t declare that only religions with a God are proper religions, and the rest are outliers or pretenders or something.

    You can still be socially/culturally religious but that isn’t the same as saying that you think the religion is true.

    Sure, but if you’re still identifying with a religion even in an anonymous survey, I think it’s relatively unlikely that you even-more-secretly think the religion is false.

    Anyway, it’s a moot point. Upon further review, I see that Ecklund did directly ask her subjects about truth in religion. Over three quarters agreed that “there are basic truths in many religions (73.3%) or that “the most truth is in one religion” (3.7%). Only 22.8% agreed that “there is very little truth in any religion.”

    So that clinches it, IMO; most scientists think there’s truth in religion. In fact, even half of Ecklund’s scientists who aren’t religious think that.

    I find it interesting that you object to my use of most but do not similarly object to uses of most when it favors the religious.

    I find it interesting, in turn, that you reduce the issue to whether we should “favor” religious people.

    Anyways, it’s not about whether the statement is pro- or anti- compatibility. I just think that “most” implies “significantly more than half,” and your use doesn’t fit with that. If you can find a similar usage by an accommodationist, I’ll gladly criticize it too!

    Did anyone ask NCSE to *promote* atheism? Why is this argument repeatedly framed as Coyne et al want NCSE to promote atheism?

    It’s not–by Josh, at least. I’ve seen a few commenters frame it that way, though.

    Josh didn’t say that Coyne wants the NCSE to promote atheism; he just said that Coyne is promoting atheism while the NCSE isn’t, so the justifications Coyne has for employing gnu rhetoric don’t apply to the NCSE.

  35. #35 Deepak Shetty
    January 6, 2011

    In itself, it’s just a fact claim.

    No. The claim that a religious person can accept science is a fact claim(Or as someone put it Catholicism is compatible with pedophilia. “And now I present my evidence. Catholic Priest?” “Hi, I’m a Catholic priest!” “Thank you, Catholic priest”).
    The claim that religion is compatible is not a fact claim without a lot of if and buts.

    If you’re doing education/outreach, though, things are different

    I didn’t know that scientific claims changed based on education/outreach

    They can’t declare that only religions with a God are proper religions, and the rest are outliers or pretenders or something.

    You objected to my use of most. Im merely stating that a person may identify as Christian and perform the rituals, but if he doesn’t believe in God , then he doesn’t think Christianity is true(Do you actually disagree?). I said buddhists/outliers because such cases would be rare and shouldn’t interfere much with the 72%. Ill rephrase it to a majority of scientists instead of most.

    So that clinches it, IMO; most scientists think there’s truth in religion.

    Love , compassion , yadda yadda.
    I believe evolution has truth except for that Natural Selection part or that irreducible complexity part or that macro evolution part. Would that clinch the argument that creationists/ID’ers accept evolution?

    that you reduce the issue to whether we should “favor” religious people.

    No should. Its an observation – thats what you did.

    Here’s one for you to criticise.

    however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution

    If you wont criticse it then Please provide a total number of groups and a % of them that have no conflict with theory of evolution(and also whether we are looking at the official position or whether we measure the number of followers in that group and their beliefs). please also specify if theistic evolution is evolution and whether the belief that God injected a soul into humans at some point in time is also evolution (and if so , how does it differ from god injected the irreducibly complex eye sometime is not evolution)

    Josh didn’t say that Coyne wants the NCSE to promote atheism; he just said that Coyne is promoting atheism while the NCSE isn’t,

    No he said Gnu’s criticise NCSE for not adopting gnu atheist rhetoric (which I assume is the promotion of atheism or the incompatibility of science/religion)

    he’s criticizing them not because it doesn’t help the goals of Understanding Evolution and NCSE, but because it doesn’t help the goals of gnu atheists.

    As far as I know Coyne wants either
    a. NCSE adopt no stance when it comes to science/religion compatibility OR
    b. If it wants to mention that some people think religion is compatible with science then it should also point out that some people don’t.
    Me I’d be fine with a).

  36. #36 Anton Mates
    January 6, 2011

    The claim that a religious person can accept science is a fact claim(Or as someone put it Catholicism is compatible with pedophilia. “And now I present my evidence. Catholic Priest?” “Hi, I’m a Catholic priest!” “Thank you, Catholic priest”).

    Well, yeah, in that same sense Catholicism is compatible with pedophilia. Also with schizophrenia, lawn bowling, liking puppies, winning the Nobel Prize, feeding the poor, wearing sassy red shoes and murdering people with axes. It’s compatible with a crapload of things, which is kind of what you’d expect from a religion of several hundred million people.

    Of course, the NCSE’s mission is not to encourage pedophilia, and there isn’t a large contingent of Americans saying, “Well, I’d kind of like to start being sexually attracted to children but I’m not sure if I can reconcile it with my faith,” so…wait, what was the point of that analogy again?

    The claim that religion is compatible is not a fact claim without a lot of if and buts.

    Nope, you need merely make it clear that you’re characterizing “religion” by reference to religious people. The NCSE and UE material does that quite clearly.

    I didn’t know that scientific claims changed based on education/outreach

    They don’t. But the way we express them does, and I’m almost certain you did know that!

    You objected to my use of most. Im merely stating that a person may identify as Christian and perform the rituals, but if he doesn’t believe in God , then he doesn’t think Christianity is true(Do you actually disagree?).

    Certainly I disagree. He may simply think you’re wrong that Christianity requires belief in God.

    I said buddhists/outliers because such cases would be rare and shouldn’t interfere much with the 72%.

    Except that they evidently aren’t rare, and knock it down to 52% in this sample alone.

    Ill rephrase it to a majority of scientists instead of most.

    Still likely wrong, as I pointed out; this sample is almost certainly unusually non-religious, and the slight majority of nonbelievers within it is probably a minority (though a very significant minority) within the scientific community as a whole. Admittedly I don’t have any direct data on that point, though; I’m just guessing based on the studies of NAS fellows.

    Love , compassion , yadda yadda.

    I can’t help hearing that in the voice of Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor.

    I believe evolution has truth except for that Natural Selection part or that irreducible complexity part or that macro evolution part. Would that clinch the argument that creationists/ID’ers accept evolution?

    Bad analogy. Creationists themselves believe that natural selection and “macroevolution” are important parts of the theory of evolution. And the scientific community agrees with them on that. So, since creationists reject those parts, they don’t “accept evolution” by their definition or ours.

    that you reduce the issue to whether we should “favor” religious people.
    No should. Its an observation – thats what you did.

    Ah, I see. Then strike the “should” and my comment stands. I can’t see Ken Ham or Casey Luskin feeling too favored by my position, though….

    however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution

    Sure, I so criticize. I have no idea how the UE site defines “religious groups,” let alone how to figure out if more than half of them have a problem with evolution, so I find that statement vague and unjustified. I prefer Josh’s rephrase of “many.”

    No he said Gnu’s criticise NCSE for not adopting gnu atheist rhetoric (which I assume is the promotion of atheism or the incompatibility of science/religion)

    You assume incorrectly. “Rhetoric” refers to the style or art of communication, not the reason for communication, such as the promotion of atheism.

    As far as I know Coyne wants either
    a. NCSE adopt no stance when it comes to science/religion compatibility

    Which it can’t do without abandoning its mission, because science/religion compatibility is one of the primary reservations Americans have about evolution.

    OR
    b. If it wants to mention that some people think religion is compatible with science then it should also point out that some people don’t.

    Which it does, frequently.

  37. #37 J.J.E.
    January 6, 2011

    @Anton Mates

    Fur what it’s worth, my initial comment on Jerry’s site indicated that I thought this wasn’t very NOMA ish. Just a little. My comment here was mainly directed at Josh’s concluding remarks instead of the Berkeley site.

    Anyway, I have done some fairly careful parsing of the language in my quotes above and I believe it isn’t NOMA at all. It does point to the fact that NOMA people exist. And I agree, that’s a very fine distinction. However, it is at the borderlands of what I’m willing to support. I’d rather that NCSE not go around telling religious people that their faith need not be a barrier to begin with. However, if they have to do so, I prefer that they walk that fine line and avoid doing anything other than pointing to religious people who can do the apologetics themselves. Certainly I don’t want them to employ a staff member who goes to churches explaining the history of Christian theology or what the Bible does and doesn’t say. Ay least not on the NCSE’s dime.

  38. #38 RBH
    January 7, 2011

    JJE wrote

    I’d rather that NCSE not go around telling religious people that their faith need not be a barrier to begin with.

    Though a life member of NCSE I’ve criticized NCSE for some of its writings on religion; I’m closer to a gnu atheist than ‘accommodationist'; and I’ve worked actively for years at the local and state level on defending the honest teaching of evolution in the public schools. I’ve used NCSE’s resources heavily over the years.

    I have never seen NCSE tell to religious people that “their faith need not be a barrier.” I have seen NCSE tell religious people that there exist religious people who do not regard their religious faith as a barrier. I have myself done so, for example recommending Kenneth Miller’s and Francis Collins’ books to religious people as the views of scientists who do not regard their religious faith as a barrier.

    I see no contradiction between my own view that the existence of a personal interventionist deity akin to the Christian god is wholly inconsistent with scientific explanations of the world and pointing out that there exist people–scientists–who don’t share my view.

  39. #39 Deepak Shetty
    January 7, 2011

    Which it can’t do without abandoning its mission, because science/religion compatibility is one of the primary reservations Americans have about evolution.

    And if that reservation was can a religious person be both scientific and religious then it would be pretty easy no?
    Im not sure what you’ll expect – There is this creationist who doesn’t know that some people are religious and still accept science, decides to hear an NCSE seminar , and changes his mind because NCSE helpfully points out that well yes a religious person can accept science? What happens when the same guy subsequently reads Mohler?
    And are you really serious?. If NCSE decided to answer every question on religion with No Comment it would be abandoning its mission?

    Which it does, frequently.

    Oh come on. If some religious people accept science implies Religion is compatible with science then some religious people don’t accept Science implies Religion is incompatible with science. where do you see this on say NCSE’s site. what you actually get is some interpretation of some parts of religion(the not important ones) might contradict science BUT yadda yadda.

    Onwards to the petty quibbles.

    It’s compatible with a crapload of things,

    Then add compatible to the list of words like political rendered meaningless by accomadationists. The point of the analogy was that no one uses compatible in the sense that it is being used when you say “religion is compatible with science”. If you want to say some religious people accept science then state that why change the statement to religion is compatible with science. atleast Coyne defines what he means by compatibility instead of letting it mean anything.

    But the way we express them does

    But not to the point that you change its meaning.

    sample is almost certainly unusually non-religious

    Isn’t that the point? that scientists are non religious(in the belief sense as opposed to a social or cultural sense) to a higher degree than non scientists?

    Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor.

    Meh for the movies. id rather read Paul Cornell.

    Bad analogy.

    Uh no Im a creationist and I accept evolution but I dont think macro evolution is true and I dont think its a major part of evolution. See because I say Im a creationist Im one (just like a christian!), and because some creationists now accept evolution creationism is compatible with evolution. Im sure I can recruit some FSM’ers to say the same to you. It is really that silly. you would not make the same concessions to anything other than religion.

    “Rhetoric” refers to the style or art of communication

    No not the impression I get. Only Josh knows I suppose.

  40. #40 Devon Fredericks
    January 7, 2011

    When scientists can create life from nothing, I may believe in evolution. Many juggle things around a bit, create amino acids, but at most no life. I trust a book maligned by most, but it contains hundreds of prophecies that have come to pass already. The book, the Christian Bible, has influenced millions in the past and present and gives a better solution to creation. It definitely takes an outside force (God)to create something from nothing.

  41. #41 Deepak Shetty
    January 7, 2011

    @Anton
    and heres a chance for you to demonstrate using Devon how effective the religion is compatible with science strategy is.

  42. #42 J. J. Ramsey
    January 7, 2011

    “and heres a chance for you to demonstrate using Devon how effective the religion is compatible with science strategy is.”

    That’s like using the recent weather to challenge global warming.

  43. #43 Deepak Shetty
    January 7, 2011

    J. J. Ramsey
    Josh said he has anecdotal examples (read his post). I just want to see how its done.

    If it fails he can still argue that is effective most of the time or more effective than other strategies or on average(same as global warming) but in order to do that he’d have to provide scientific evidence (same as global warming).

  44. #44 J.J.E.
    January 7, 2011

    @ RBH

    I agree. But it is a stretch for me to get to that agreement. I’m really not interested in agreeing to anything further. For example, I’m confused as to why they need an expert in religious history and theology (Peter Hess). Anybody could simply point to the existence of religious evolutionary scientists (or Churches, etc) and move on. That’s my point. I don’t know if Hess is on payroll or if he volunteers, for example, but if he were paid by NCSE, that would seal the deal and I wouldn’t want my money going to pay a religious expert on religion.

    But what makes me antsy isn’t whether or not they’ve crossed that fine line (I think they have on occasion) but that they are consistently dancing on it. Anybody who wasn’t devoting a lot of time to carefully parsing what the NCSE is saying would find it easy to take their advocacy when viewed as a whole as endorsing NOMA. And I don’t want to take my limited paycheck and contribute some of it to an organization that gives succor to NOMA.

  45. #45 Anton Mates
    January 7, 2011

    J.J.E.

    Certainly I don’t want them to employ a staff member who goes to churches explaining the history of Christian theology or what the Bible does and doesn’t say. Ay least not on the NCSE’s dime.

    That’s a reasonable and consistent position. I still disagree with it, though, and to my knowledge the NCSE’s staff and governing board find such a staff member well worth their salary. In the brief time that I worked with Peter, I found his connections with faith communities incredibly useful in helping pro-science activists get local support. But, of course, you’re entitled to disagree.

    BTW, I’d point out that Peter also goes to skeptical organizations to discuss the same issues, and I’m pretty sure he’ll happily go to atheist or secular humanist groups if they invite him, so I’m not much worried about religious favoritism there.

  46. #46 Josh Rosenau
    January 7, 2011

    Deepak: If you read the post, you’ll see that I provided evidence already, in the form of focus group results, and peer reviewed papers cited previously looking at communications strategies. If you actually read the post, you’d also see that my focus is not on the committed creationists, but on the folks in the middle. Devon isn’t in the middle, and looks to have come here looking for an argument. That’s a testable hypothesis, though.

    Devon: You’ll find that there are quite a few people who accept evolution as the best explanation for life’s diversity and who also take the Bible seriously. Have you looked at Francis Collins’s writing about evolution from an evangelical perspective? Collins (formerly the head of the Human Genome Project, now the director of the National Institutes of Health) is one, and there are quite a few other books by evangelical and other Christian scientists that lay out the reasons that they do not think the Bible needs to be treated as a different explanation than that offered by science. You might also consider the view of almost 13,000 Christian clergy who agreed with a statement:

    Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts. … the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. … To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris.

    You might also see if your own denomination has a statement about evolution. Lots of them do, and few take the hard line you’re adopting.

  47. #47 Brian
    January 7, 2011

    “To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity…”

    His plan, eh? Were humans necessary for his plan? If so, did humans evolve by natural selection, or God directed selection that he misleadingly made look like natural selection?

    That old trickster…created light beams ~6,000 years ago that look millions or billions of years old! None more than ~14 billion years old, though.

    My religion is far superior. It’s core dogmas are: a) never disbelieve a scientific or philosophical theory due to any religious dogma, b) without god there can be no objective morality but with god there can be objective morality, and this must be believed regardless of advances in philosophy, c) gravity has a limit in space equal to the size across of the solar system, any further and it’s power is exactly zero. This belief must be believed despite advances in science, and d) give lots of money to Brian.

    My religion clearly says religion cannot impinge upon science with a). Is that good enough?

  48. #48 Deepak Shetty
    January 7, 2011

    If you read the post,

    Are you implying I didnt?

    You’ll see that I provided evidence already, in the form of focus group results, and peer reviewed papers cited previously looking at communications strategies.

    You said
    a. you have seen anecdotal evidence
    b. The studies are confidential
    c. Here are some summarized findings
    Lets assume we could trust you and you haven’t interpreted the data to suit your biases and that the sampling is fair etc etc.
    If you say the strongest message needed the emphasis of compatibility between religion and faith you atleast need to tell us a- What was said for compatibility b- What was said for incompatibility. I assume it’s much more than a single sentence.

    but on the folks in the middle.

    Aren’t the folks in the middle the moderates who supposedly accept evolution/science? Do you know any non committed creationists?

  49. #49 Josh Rosenau
    January 7, 2011

    Deepak: “Are you implying I didnt [sic]?” Were you implying that when you told JJ Ramsey “read his post”?

    I not only described the studies I’ve seen, but provided the summary slide from the NAS. You don’t have to trust my summary, and if you don’t trust the National Academy of Sciences (who commissioned the surveys from a reputable firm, and described the methodology in papers I linked), there are bigger issues to address. I can’t tell you the exact language tested, which actually was a sentence or two, because it’s confidential.

    “Do you know any non committed creationists?”

    Sure. Lots of people kinda-sorta think God must have done it, and thus are creationist in at least some broad and vague sense. The folks who’ve thought about it enough to have a firm position on evolution/science are usually fairly committed one way or another already. But lots of people in the middle have a muddled and not-yet thought through position which can still be shaped by thoughtful dialog.

  50. #50 Deepak Shetty
    January 7, 2011

    Were you implying that when you told JJ Ramsey

    Yes. You said you have anecdotal examples – so demonstrate. Dont give me a survey asking people how they feel – show me how you convince the middle of the road people.
    And even though it was phrased as a taunt to Anton(that’s generally to see how much I can provoke him without him ever being anything but polite – I think I have to give up though) – I’d be genuinely interested in seeing how he would answer what he would tell a creationist (on science v/s religion).

    I not only described the studies

    Not to any level of detail. The Elaine Ecklund study has already proved that you need to see the data before you can judge the extrapolations.

    Lots of people kinda-sorta think God must have done it, and thus are creationist in at least some broad and vague sense.

    Ha! So the Pope is creationist and the Vatican stance (since we are always told that the Vatican officially recognises evolution) is creationist in some broad and vague sense?
    Now I have to add creationist to the list of terms which accomodationists render meaningless.

  51. #51 Anton Mates
    January 7, 2011

    Deepak,

    And if that reservation was can a religious person be both scientific and religious then it would be pretty easy no?

    No easier than any other endeavor in public education. Demonstrating that a religious person can fully accept science is easy; gaining the attention and the trust of the public so they’ll hear and accept your demonstration is not.

    Teaching is a pretty hard job. Usually that’s not because the facts you’re teaching are hard to prove.

    Im not sure what you’ll expect – There is this creationist who doesn’t know that some people are religious and still accept science, decides to hear an NCSE seminar , and changes his mind because NCSE helpfully points out that well yes a religious person can accept science?

    More accurately: there is this liberal Catholic high school senior who already accepts that Genesis is mostly metaphor, and finds most of what she knows of evolutionary theory to be plausible, but also thinks that the theory explicitly claims that god doesn’t exist. That’s a deal-breaker for her, until she finds out that evolutionary theory doesn’t say anything of the sort.

    Or: there is this devout mainline Protestant hospital tech, who wouldn’t have a problem with schoolkids learning about an old earth and natural selection and Australopithecus and all the rest of it, but is worried that if biology teachers spend a lot of time discussing evolution, they’ll end up preaching to their students about how belief in God is wrong and stupid. That’s a deal-breaker for him, until he finds out that biology teachers don’t (usually) do that kind of thing.

    These aren’t hypotheticals, these are actual people who were wrestling with the issues and came to me for advice when I was working at the NCSE. And the NAS research suggests that they’re representative of a large chunk of the American public.

    Like Josh said, this is anecdata, but you did ask what I expect.

    Oh come on. If some religious people accept science implies Religion is compatible with science then some religious people don’t accept Science implies Religion is incompatible with science.

    Hardly. For religion and science to be compatible means that they can coexist without conflict, not that they always do. If some religious people accept science, it does’t particularly matter to the compatibility thesis whether other religious people don’t. You only need one black swan, so to speak.

    where do you see this on say NCSE’s site.

    Really, have you read the thing? Half the site is about creationism, and it is said over and over and over again that creationism is a religious movement that rejects modern science. Furthermore, the site points out here and here that there are also nonbelievers who think that religion and science are necessarily incompatible, and it lists some of the relevant books of those nonbelievers in its bibliography for theology and evolution, and includes a link to the incompatibilist arguments of the Center for Naturalism to boot.

    what you actually get is some interpretation of some parts of religion(the not important ones) might contradict science BUT yadda yadda.

    No, you do not get that. Nowhere does the site say that religious beliefs which contradict science are “not the important ones.” In fact, we make it quite clear that many believers, like Ken Ham and Duane Gish and Phil Johnson, consider their science-contradicting beliefs to be really freakin’ important.

    Then add compatible to the list of words like political rendered meaningless by accomadationists. The point of the analogy was that no one uses compatible in the sense that it is being used when you say “religion is compatible with science”.

    Nonsense; words aren’t rendered “meaningless” just because you find their meanings unpalatable. Even Coyne agrees that accommodationists are using “compatible” in a meaningful and correct sense; he just dismisses that sense as “trivial” and uninteresting. Other gnus refer to it “psychological compatibility.” Clearly they understand the meaning being conveyed there.

    But if you have evidence that a bunch of people are reading the NCSE’s references to “compatibility” and coming away horribly confused, please provide it. That would definitely be something they’d want to fix!

    If you want to say some religious people accept science then state that why change the statement to religion is compatible with science. atleast Coyne defines what he means by compatibility instead of letting it mean anything.

    Again, have you even read the site? Where it refers to “compatibility”–which is not all that often–it explains quite clearly the meaning used.

    “Can one believe in God and accept evolution? Can one both accept what science teaches and engage in religious belief and practice?”

    “Can someone accept evolution as the most compelling explanation for biological diversity, and also accept the idea that God works through evolution?”

    You may not like that usage, but it’s hardly unclear.

    Isn’t that the point? that scientists are non religious(in the belief sense as opposed to a social or cultural sense) to a higher degree than non scientists?

    Why would that be the point? That’s common knowledge, and has been since the Victorian era. Neither the NCSE nor the NAS is trying to deny it. Our point is simply that–in contrast to a common and harmful misconception–scientists and science advocates are not all non-religious, nor even mostly so.

    Uh no Im a creationist and I accept evolution but I dont think macro evolution is true and I dont think its a major part of evolution.

    Like I said, a bad analogy. Evolution–in the sense that the NCSE is concerned with–is a scientific theory, so we can say on the basis of scientific authority that macroevolution is a major part of it, whatever you may think. Christianity is not a scientific theory, and there is no scientific authority on whether it demands a particular view of God.

    Of course, if the NCSE were to abandon religious neutrality, it could choose a religious authority to follow, and declare that nobody’s a True Christian unless they believe in God as described by Thomas Aquinas or somebody. But that’s probably not gonna happen.

    See because I say Im a creationist Im one (just like a christian!), and because some creationists now accept evolution creationism is compatible with evolution.

    Oh, is that what you meant? Well, sure. Creationism is just a word, and there are self-labeled creationists whose beliefs are fully compatible with evolution. Look up “evolutionary creationism” here.

    A couple of the pro-science Ohio school board members, who were really instrumental in keeping creationist/ID material out of the curriculum, called themselves “creationists.” What they meant, basically, was that they were theistic evolutionists but wanted to emphasize the theistic part.

    Unfortunately, most American creationists aren’t that particular kind of creationist.

  52. #52 Anton Mates
    January 8, 2011

    By the way, for those who find NCSE’s accommodationism to be a deal-breaker for your support, I encourage you to write to them and tell them so. They’re a member-supported organization, and if they’re really losing or alienating a big chunk of potential supporters, it’s good for them to know that, whatever they decide to do about it.

  53. #53 Anton Mates
    January 8, 2011

    Deepak,

    And even though it was phrased as a taunt to Anton(that’s generally to see how much I can provoke him without him ever being anything but polite – I think I have to give up though)

    Oh, I’ve definitely been provoked into rudeness online, though I always regret it afterwards; unlike Hitchens, when I get rude I get stupid. It happened quite a bit when arguing with IDers at the Panda’s Thumb.

    That was before the NCSE’s rigorous political training regimen molded me into a steely-eyed, invincibly mild AccommoDroid, of course. Now you can put a hollowpoint through my kneecap and I’ll merely smile faintly and express my deep respect for your faith tradition.

    Ha! So the Pope is creationist and the Vatican stance (since we are always told that the Vatican officially recognises evolution) is creationist in some broad and vague sense?

    Ayup.

    Now I have to add creationist to the list of terms which accomodationists render meaningless.

    Humans are diverse and complicated beasts, and so is the terminology they use. You can condemn that reality, or you can–well–accommodate it.

  54. #54 Deepak Shetty
    January 8, 2011

    @Anton
    You left out one bit from your anecdotes. In your opinion , giving an answer of the form Im not qualified to give an opinion on religion , but I can help you out with the science would have caused the Catholic senior/Protestant hospital tech would have caused them to reject science?

    gaining the attention and the trust of the public

    But it sounds like you want to be able to argue from authority (I know you don’t mean that). People shouldn’t be listening to the NCSE because they lovable and trustable. Besides you would always have religious/political figures that the people also trust who dont accept science so this will always be a losing battle.

    I confess that I only skimmed over the Peter Hess stuff finding it more of the same old nonsense(In my opinion) but Im not the target I suppose. In any case even on a more careful reading my impression is evidently not the same as yours.

    You only need one black swan, so to speak.

    But that works both ways. Suppose you have two scientific hypothesis that have overlap(say one about energy and one about matter). How many conflicts do you need before you say they are incompatible with each other?

    molded me into a steely-eyed, invincibly mild AccommoDroid,

    Bah. It was meant as a compliment.

    Ayup

    So the pope/most catholics are creationists when it suits you and accept evolution when it suits you.

  55. #55 Anton Mates
    January 9, 2011

    Deepak,

    You left out one bit from your anecdotes. In your opinion , giving an answer of the form Im not qualified to give an opinion on religion , but I can help you out with the science would have caused the Catholic senior/Protestant hospital tech would have caused them to reject science?

    Yes. To the degree that I did help them accept science (which I think and hope I did, but let’s be realistic–I’m not history’s most persuasive communicator and I can’t be sure that I changed their lives forever or anything), giving that sort of answer would not had the same impact on their thought. In my opinion.

    See, their basic error was in thinking that evolution wasn’t purely science, but was an atheistic, anti-religious movement with some legitimate science attached. As long as they believed that, they were leery of studying it further, and they were opposed to having it taught as fact in schools. And if evolution really was a political or religious movement with scientific trappings, that would be a pretty reasonable reaction.

    If I’d dodged the religion issue, they would never have changed their minds on this. In fact, they would probably have been strengthened in their opinion–it would have seemed like evolution really was explicitly antireligious, and I was just trying to avoid admitting that to get on their good side.

    But it sounds like you want to be able to argue from authority (I know you don’t mean that). People shouldn’t be listening to the NCSE because they lovable and trustable.

    I know you and I have argued over this point before, but: educators and politicians have to work with how people do think, not how they should think. If you’ve ever had a job as a teacher or a tutor, you know that it’s critical to seem likable and trustworthy to your students. Yes, they should be better critical thinkers, and they should be able to recognize a good argument even when it’s presented by a shifty-looking asshole. And one of an educator’s duties is to help her audience learn critical thinking skills. But you can’t open the conversation or walk into the classroom expect your audience to have those skills already.

    (The two people I mention above were actually unusually reasonable; they started out thinking the NCSE was probably in favor of a war on religion, and they still thought it was worth contacting us to learn more about evolution. Most people wouldn’t do that–if you want to change their minds you have to go to them.)

    Besides, I think you overstate your claim a little. To some degree, it’s okay to listen to people because they seem likable and trustworthy. All of us hear hundreds of competing claims and arguments every week, and none of us have the time or energy to make a detailed analysis of everything we hear. Listening to nice, reasonable-seeming people over nasty fanatic-seeming people is a decent rule of thumb, even though it can go horribly wrong sometimes. Would you go to your neighbor for advice on much of anything, if he was an ultra-conservative Hindu who liked to kick puppies and rant about the joys of the caste system?

    Besides you would always have religious/political figures that the people also trust who dont accept science so this will always be a losing battle.

    No, that just means that it will always be a battle, period. One way to guarantee it’s a losing battle is to refuse to fight.

    Suppose you have two scientific hypothesis that have overlap(say one about energy and one about matter). How many conflicts do you need before you say they are incompatible with each other?

    Only one, but it has to be a conflict which always occurs. If conflicts only appear for, say, certain values of the constants in each hypothesis, then there could be hundreds of them and you still couldn’t say the hypotheses are actually incompatible.

    Bah. It was meant as a compliment.

    Thanks; that’s how I interpreted it, honestly! My response was poking fun at myself, not at you.

    So the pope/most catholics are creationists when it suits you and accept evolution when it suits you.

    Most Catholics are broad-sense creationists who accept evolution all the time, whether or not it suits me. I don’t know this Pope’s personal views, but I imagine he is too.

  56. #56 Anton Mates
    January 9, 2011

    Well, I think my communication skills have been amply demonstrated by

    giving that sort of answer would not had the same impact

    and

    walk into the classroom expect your audience

    and a blockquote fail at the end. Sigh.

  57. #57 Deepak Shetty
    January 10, 2011

    educators and politicians have to work with how people do think, not how they should think.

    But shouldn’t one of the goals of an educator be changing how people think?

    Would you go to your neighbor for advice on much of anything, if he was an ultra-conservative Hindu who liked to kick puppies and rant about the joys of the caste system?

    Well I ask you , dont I? Just kidding.

    One way to guarantee it’s a losing battle is to refuse to fight.

    No , no one proposes this , it has always been a difference in methodology. The disagreement has always been over
    a. Effectiveness – with a specific stance from some accomodationists that gnu’s are a negative (rather than having no effect).
    b. In principle disagreements . Science educators should not have to care about hurting people’s feelings (assuming that all they are doing is explaining their science rather than picking fights). They shouldnt have to frame their message to appeal to the religious.
    Pragmatically yes of course I can see why you might need to do this but it seems people are too ready to accept the status quo.
    For e.g. suppose NCSE finds out that opening a seminar with a prayer conveys the strongest message(constitutional problems aside) – would you do it? when do you draw the line.

    One of the reasons it makes it so hard for me to identify with the American situation is that it seems some Americans think strict science is promoting atheism – whereas in the culture I grew up people compartmentalize well – school you do science and no one wants or expects deference to religion in school – religion is something you do at home/temple. And no one thinks about the conflicts because no one cares.

  58. #58 Anton Mates
    January 10, 2011

    But shouldn’t one of the goals of an educator be changing how people think?

    Absolutely. (It’s one of the goals of a politician, too.)

    Well I ask you , dont I? Just kidding.

    Only because of my lovable trustworthiness!

    No , no one proposes this , it has always been a difference in methodology.

    I was referring to the specific battle that you called a losing one–the battle to seem friendlier and more trustworthy to the general public than the opposition seems. I did think you were suggesting that we abandon that battle; apologies if I misunderstood.

    But yes, gnus in general don’t oppose this. Dawkins and Dennett certainly appreciate the value of cuddliness.

    The disagreement has always been over a. Effectiveness – with a specific stance from some accomodationists that gnu’s are a negative (rather than having no effect).

    I’m aware that some accommodationists say that, and (as I’ve said before) I think it’s totally false. Gnu atheist figures include some of this era’s most gifted and celebrated popular science educators, and their choice to target religious irrationalism is very much a good thing in a culture which still gives that irrationalism a pass. It would not be helpful to the NCSE’s particular role to do the same, that’s all. Different roles, different tactics.

    Science educators should not have to care about hurting people’s feelings (assuming that all they are doing is explaining their science rather than picking fights). They shouldnt have to frame their message to appeal to the religious.

    I still don’t understand why they shouldn’t have to, though. They certainly have to frame their message in a hundred other ways, to appeal to sports fans and people who like sci-fi movies and people afraid of technological disasters and people who only care about medical advances and people who don’t want the government spending tax money on research. Why should religion be the one area where educators don’t acknowledge the beliefs and biases of the public?

    For e.g. suppose NCSE finds out that opening a seminar with a prayer conveys the strongest message(constitutional problems aside) – would you do it? when do you draw the line.

    In my experience, the NCSE draws the line at anything that implies endorsement of a claim about the non-natural world. Prayer would certainly qualify! Conversely, of course, it wouldn’t open a seminar with a statement that prayer is useless because there are no gods to hear you.

    This isn’t just a constitutional thing, it’s a personal thing. Both our membership and our staff are extremely diverse religion-wise, and nobody wants to pretend to be something they’re not.

    One of the reasons it makes it so hard for me to identify with the American situation is that it seems some Americans think strict science is promoting atheism – whereas in the culture I grew up people compartmentalize well – school you do science and no one wants or expects deference to religion in school – religion is something you do at home/temple. And no one thinks about the conflicts because no one cares.

    Yep, pretty much. I think that’s largely because Americans are exceptionally anti-compatibility; for instance, only 53% of them agree that it’s possible to believe in God and evolution by natural selection simultaneously, whereas 85% of Indians agree with that.

    Americans are really cynical about the notion of “strict science” in general. Conservatives assume that every scientist has an angle–evolution is atheist propaganda, vaccines are pushed by the evil medical companies, global warming’s a ploy of the environmentalist movement, and so on. Even moderates and liberals often seem to feel that most science has a significant ideological component. With that kind of mindset, even if you don’t actually want deference to your own religion in school, you still end up fearing/expecting deference to somebody else’s religion. Or anti-religion.

  59. #59 Anton Mates
    January 10, 2011

    Oh, and let me point out again that I haven’t worked at the NCSE for over a year, so it’s conceivable that they’ve suddenly started holding revival meetings. I kind of think someone would have told me, though.

  60. #60 Deepak Shetty
    January 11, 2011

    They certainly have to frame their message in a hundred other ways, to appeal to sports fans and people who like sci-fi movies and people afraid of technological disasters and people who only care about medical advances and people who don’t want the government spending tax money on research. Why should religion be the one area where educators don’t acknowledge the beliefs and biases of the public?

    Because its not the framing , it seems to be that you must imply a different meaning or not mention certain facts. It isn’t how to explain evolution so that a layman might understand or how to best clear common (scientific) misconceptions about evolution – Its how not to offend the religious person so that he trusts us. And no matter how pragmatic that approach is , it will always seem tainted.
    I don’t see the global warming folks taking care to not offend conservatives and I dont see compromises made for anti-vaccine folks and I dont see the same compromises being made for
    anything else – Do you have examples?

    the NCSE draws the line at anything that implies endorsement of a claim about the non-natural world.

    Make it a moment of silence if you want. the principle is the same. Where do you draw the line – Its not always about the strongest message.
    I havent of course mentioned the standard disclaimer – we know the NCSE does good stuff. But as you might have guessed we love arguing.

  61. #61 Anton Mates
    January 12, 2011

    Deepak,

    Because its not the framing , it seems to be that you must imply a different meaning or not mention certain facts. It isn’t how to explain evolution so that a layman might understand or how to best clear common (scientific) misconceptions about evolution – Its how not to offend the religious person so that he trusts us.

    It’s about both. When you explain that evolution is not an atheist plot, you are clearing up a common misconception about the content of evolutionary theory, and showing yourself to be more trustworthy. (And that’s not the same as not “offending” people–although, all other things being equal, horribly offended people don’t usually learn very well.)

    And no matter how pragmatic that approach is , it will always seem tainted. I don’t see the global warming folks taking care to not offend conservatives

    Sure you do. Every educational document on global warming, from the IPCC reports to An Inconvenient Truth, could say lots of nasty things about how conservatives work to obstruct policies which might mitigate climate change. Most of the time, they don’t. And when conservative figures support sensible environmental policy, educators don’t hesitate to publicly acknowledge it.

    and I dont see compromises made for anti-vaccine folks

    Again, you actually do. Not for the hardcore anti-science zealots like Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy, of course–but because a lot of ordinary parents have been to some degree taken in by their crap, health educators have to spend that much more time explaining that, no, your kid’s shots will probably not cause autism.

    In fact, there are even certain facts they choose not to mention. One kid in a million actually does suffer from serious complications after a vaccination. Does the responsible health educator volunteer all the gruesome details about each of the last few kids who got brain damage or died from an allergic reaction? Of course not, that would be silly. It would freak parents out, and it would actually give them a less accurate sense of the risks involved.

    I know it’s shocking–you aren’t telling the public the whole truth!–but information always has to be filtered if you want people to learn.

    Make it a moment of silence if you want. the principle is the same.

    No, I can’t imagine the NCSE doing that. We spend too much time working with ACLU and AU folks not to know what “moments of silence” are code for.

    But as you might have guessed we love arguing.

    Of course! It’s the internet, and we’re atheists. That’s a double play of argumentativeness.

  62. #62 Deepak Shetty
    January 13, 2011

    Every educational document on global warming, from the IPCC reports to An Inconvenient Truth, could say lots of nasty things about how conservatives work to obstruct policies which might mitigate climate change. Most of the time, they don’t. And when conservative figures support sensible environmental policy, educators don’t hesitate to publicly acknowledge it.

    Which isn’t the same as some Global warming body having its employees state that the conservative philosophy is compatible with global warming. It isn’t the same as having a section on a scientific website where a conservative mentions how compatible global warming is and how multiple interpretations of the conservative philosophy are possible and there isnt a one true interpretation.

    but information always has to be filtered if you want people to learn.

    No I dont believe that. Explained yes, filtered no. The Bush government probably felt this way too.

    not to know what “moments of silence” are code for.

    And the problem is that NCSE’s current message seems to be code as well(which ofcourse is an impression rather than fact).

  63. #63 Anton Mates
    January 15, 2011

    Deepak,

    Which isn’t the same as some Global warming body having its employees state that the conservative philosophy is compatible with global warming. It isn’t the same as having a section on a scientific website where a conservative mentions how compatible global warming is and how multiple interpretations of the conservative philosophy are possible and there isnt a one true interpretation.

    It’s still what you asked for: an example of educators not mentioning information which might offend conservatives.

    But yes, of course it’s not the same. There isn’t a “global warming body” analogous to the NCSE–there should be, but there isn’t. And even if there were, global warming educators don’t have the same problem to deal with. Conservatives reject climate change theory for a lot of reasons, but incompatibility with conservative philosophy usually isn’t one of them. Nobody claims that you can’t believe in radiative forcing and The Wealth of Nations at the same time.

    No I dont believe that. Explained yes, filtered no. The Bush government probably felt this way too.

    So what about the examples I gave?  Should educational material on vaccination come with the hundreds of pages of available info on all the kids who had a life-threatening reaction to their shots?  Should material on global warming come with an exhaustive list of all the predictions by climatologists which were later revised or shown to be in error?

    Or should some of that be filtered?

    And the problem is that NCSE’s current message seems to be code as well(which ofcourse is an impression rather than fact).

    You’ve a right to that impression, of course. But I know the staff don’t find it to be code, and (in my experience) neither does our target audience.

  64. #64 Deepak Shetty
    January 15, 2011

    Conservatives reject climate change theory for a lot of reasons,

    As the religious do for evolution. No specific allowances are made for Conservative philosophy as they are for religious philosophy. If I make a statement like Republicans are nuts for considering Palin or listening to Limbaugh – Most democrats or independents wont really say oh well the republicans are a diverse bunch, its only a minority who listen to these people. But if I say Catholics are nuts for following the Pope there are so many excuses made by non-catholics.

    Should educational material on vaccination come with the hundreds of pages of available info on all the kids who had a life-threatening reaction to their shots?

    No – but it should provide a link to get the information. How is this any different from medicine having a disclaimer about the side effects? Are you seriously saying if you had to have some treatment you don’t want to know the probability of complications (however small) so you can weigh the benefits against the potential harm? What you are complaining about is that people dont seem to be able to make informed choices and you should fix that rather than feeding them data that lets them make the *right* choice.

  65. #65 Anton Mates
    January 15, 2011

    Deepak,

    Conservatives reject climate change theory for a lot of reasons,
    As the religious do for evolution.

    But not for all the same reasons. “Climate change theory is explicitly anti-conservative” is simply not as popular a belief as “evolutionary theory is explicitly anti-religious.”

    I mean, I could be wrong on that and I’d welcome evidence to the contrary. But I’m pretty sure that’s the case.

    No specific allowances are made for Conservative philosophy as they are for religious philosophy.

    Like I said–there’s no comparable educational organization to make the “allowances,” in the case of climate change, and there’s no comparable educational need for it. If there was, personally, I’d be all for it.

    If I make a statement like Republicans are nuts for considering Palin or listening to Limbaugh – Most democrats or independents wont really say oh well the republicans are a diverse bunch, its only a minority who listen to these people. But if I say Catholics are nuts for following the Pope there are so many excuses made by non-catholics.

    I assume you’re not really talking about what the NCSE should or shouldn’t do here, since no serious educational organization would accuse any significant chunk of the public of being “nuts.”

    People object in the Catholic case because, as Josh has demonstrated before, it’s simply not true. Western Catholics don’t “follow the Pope,” in the sense of consistently agreeing with his political/social/religious positions. Whereas Republicans did consistently support Palin for VP; 90% of Republicans who turned out voted for the McCain-Palin ticket, after all.

    So non-Catholics aren’t making excuses for Catholic behavior, they’re just pointing out errors in your knowledge of that behavior.

    No – but it should provide a link to get the information.

    Just like the NCSE links to and reviews studies on scientists’ religious beliefs, and surveys on the public’s take on evolution, and writings and websites of both compatibilist and anti-compatibilist authors?

    How is this any different from medicine having a disclaimer about the side effects? Are you seriously saying if you had to have some treatment you don’t want to know the probability of complications (however small) so you can weigh the benefits against the potential harm?

    Of course I do. But what’s a probability? A number calculated by someone else, an expert, who knows all the detailed information about the individual complications, and how to mathematically combine it all. I don’t know any of that, and neither do you, unless you’re an epidemiologist.

    Are you saying that you’d rather be given all available medical info so you can try to compute the probability yourself? Don’t you find the filtered, summarized version more informative, not less?

    What you are complaining about is that people dont seem to be able to make informed choices and you should fix that rather than feeding them data that lets them make the *right* choice.

    So we need to grant people superhuman powers of data analysis and infinite amounts of free time? Hey, if I could….

  66. #66 Deepak Shetty
    January 17, 2011

    So non-Catholics aren’t making excuses for Catholic behavior, they’re just pointing out errors in your knowledge of that behavior.

    All you are pointing out is that Western Catholics are hypocrites as well – which we shouldnt supposedly do , because these are moderates who are on *our side*. yes I do know that Catholics use birth control no matter what the Pope thinks – but he is the head of the religion that they claim to follow – either they follow him (in which case nuts!) or they don’t (in which case they should be protestants , no?).

    Just like the NCSE links to and reviews studies on scientists’ religious beliefs, and surveys on the public’s take on evolution, and writings and websites of both compatibilist and anti-compatibilist authors?

    If I start at http://ncse.com/religion where are the links to anti-compatibilist authors? I can see plenty of compatibilists. Again I do not expect to see much anti-compatibilist since it goes against the NCSE’s stand – but it doesnt seem to be true that the NCSE links to websites of anti-compatibilists (like the gnus’)

    But what’s a probability? A number calculated by someone else, an expert

    In your day to day life its usually high, medium , low, very low , very high etc . No one is asking you to calculate the probability to four decimal places. And besides what you really want is a comparison between two probabilities which is fairly simpler.

    So we need to grant people superhuman powers of data analysis and infinite amounts of free time? Hey, if I could…

    And yet people do it all the time. Inspite of knowing that there is a very small probability of complications, both you and I would probably still vaccinate children. How do we arrive at this v/s/ someone who would reject vaccination if he knew there was some chance of complication and would accept vaccination if he didn’t.

  67. #67 Anton Mates
    January 19, 2011

    All you are pointing out is that Western Catholics are hypocrites as well – which we shouldnt supposedly do , because these are moderates who are on *our side*.

    “Supposedly” according to Nisbet, not me.  I’m fine with you calling whoever you want hypocrites, although, again, that’s not exactly the sort of rhetoric that the NCSE should be employing toward any part of the general public.  

    I still think you’re wrong, though.  For Catholics to be hypocrites (at least, more hypocritical than the rest of us), they’d have to explicitly agree that you should obey the Pope in all things. AFAIK, Western Catholics generally don’t do that. (I’m not sure Catholics anywhere else do either.)

    yes I do know that Catholics use birth control no matter what the Pope thinks – but he is the head of the religion that they claim to follow – either they follow him (in which case nuts!) or they don’t (in which case they should be protestants , no?).

    What do you mean “should?”  Is there some universal Law of Religious Fidelity which says that people should only be members of a religion if they blindly agree with the guy at the top?  Personally, I like having more dissent and independent behavior within organized religions.  I like having more of that in just about any community. If Catholics want to buck the Pope while staying Catholic, more power to them.

    If I start at http://ncse.com/religion where are the links to anti-compatibilist authors? I can see plenty of compatibilists.

    Well, if you go to the links page in that section, you’ll see the Center for Naturalism listed.  And if you head to the bibliography, you’ll see books by Dawkins, Dennett, Edis and Stenger, among others, all of whom take an anti-compatibilist stance.

    Again I do not expect to see much anti-compatibilist since it goes against the NCSE’s stand – but it doesnt seem to be true that the NCSE links to websites of anti-compatibilists (like the gnus’)

    Back in the day, I actually went looking for anti-compatibilist websites to put on that list.  It was pretty hard to find any that fit the bill, Center for Naturalism aside.  Appropriate resources need to be a) relatively static, b) not focused on political issues outside of science, and c) not focused on personal issues either.  Most of the gnu web presence, in my experience, doesn’t fit those criteria.  

    There’s nothing wrong with that, of course–they’re not writing for us, they’re writing for them–and most of the religious web presence doesn’t fit those criteria either.  But the NCSE needs sites dedicated to public educational material on the topic, “What does modern science mean for worldview X?”, and the vast majority of those sites are either religious or compatibilist secular.  Honestly, I’d love for Project Reason or somebody to make a competing site.  

    In your day to day life its usually high, medium , low, very low , very high etc . No one is asking you to calculate the probability to four decimal places.

    It hardly matters.  Most of the probabilities that govern my life, I’m not competent to calculate to any number of decimal places, including the first one.

    And besides what you really want is a comparison between two probabilities which is fairly simpler.

    Simpler?

    And yet people do it all the time.

    No, they don’t. Most people rely entirely on the statistical expertise of others–whether or not it’s legitimate.

    Inspite of knowing that there is a very small probability of complications, both you and I would probably still vaccinate children. How do we arrive at this v/s/ someone who would reject vaccination if he knew there was some chance of complication and would accept vaccination if he didn’t.

    Dunno. I’m not sure I’ve ever met such a person.

  68. #68 Deepak Shetty
    January 19, 2011

    I still think you’re wrong, though. For Catholics to be hypocrites (at least, more hypocritical than the rest of us), they’d have to explicitly agree that you should obey the Pope in all things.

    They do that when they identify themselves as Roman Catholics
    A coin collector should identify as a numismatist. it makes no sense for a coin collector to call himself a philatelist(assuming he doesn’t also collect stamps) – nor would we do anything but laugh were this the case. if Roman Catholics do not believe in, do not follow the pope then they should simply abolish that position, no? Its this having your cake and eating it too attitude that gets so irksome.

    The Bibliography’s last section seems to be the only place that’s balanced. the links page , not even close (again I can understand why this is the case) – But the claim that NCSE links to anti-compatibilist sites isn’t true (again I understand you have other criteria that may disqualify a site that has nothing to do with the anti-compatibilist stance , but then it only means that the jury is still out). Naturalism as I understand it isn’t the same as science-religion compatibility – nor do I see the site discussing the issues that we argue over (but i might be wrong). and 1 link in 20 makes you the token liberal on fox news.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever met such a person.

    But thats the example you gave. You want to selectively show/hide some data related to vaccination because you believe that gives you a higher chance of the person doing the right thing.

  69. #69 Anton Mates
    January 20, 2011

    Deepak,

    They do that when they identify themselves as Roman Catholics

    No, they do not. Even the Vatican itself doesn’t define membership in the church that way. Formally, you’re a Roman Catholic if you’ve partaken of the sacraments–baptism, at minimum–and that’s pretty much it. According to the Vatican, you can’t actually stop being Catholic no matter what you do or believe.

    And when people identify themselves as Roman Catholics, they’re usually making a statement of family history and social affiliation. Whether or not they agree with the Pope is barely relevant; they’re telling you where they go for weddings and funerals and communion, and for friendship and counsel. In some vague sense they usually respect the Pope (well, I’m not sure about “usually” in the case of liberal Catholics)–but respect is a social emotion, not an intellectual act of agreement.

    Religion is not always what you think it is, and it’s silly to accuse people of hypocrisy just because their behavior doesn’t match your understanding of their own faith. The Principle of Charity was developed for a reason.

    The Bibliography’s last section seems to be the only place that’s balanced. the links page , not even close (again I can understand why this is the case)

    Yeah, “fair and balanced” is Fox’s job. The NCSE’s links page has to reflect the material that’s actually out there. But again, I’d love for there to be more educational sites from an incompatibilist angle that we could draw on. Incompatibilists are a minority in the scientific community, but you’d still expect more educational material being produced than there apparently is.

    But the claim that NCSE links to anti-compatibilist sites isn’t true (again I understand you have other criteria that may disqualify a site that has nothing to do with the anti-compatibilist stance , but then it only means that the jury is still out). Naturalism as I understand it isn’t the same as science-religion compatibility – nor do I see the site discussing the issues that we argue over (but i might be wrong).

    Well, look at the articles on this page.. A number of them argue that supernaturalism is scientifically testable, and/or that naturalism beats supernaturalism from a scientific perspective. That’s incompatibilism in a nutshell, so far as I can see.

    and 1 link in 20 makes you the token liberal on fox news.

    Or the token libertarian.

    But thats the example you gave. You want to selectively show/hide some data related to vaccination because you believe that gives you a higher chance of the person doing the right thing.

    That’s half right. I want to selectively show data, just as it was selectively shown to you and me. I don’t want to hide anything; I’m simply aware that most data will never get looked at (let alone understood) by you, me or any other individual person unless it’s selected and shown to us.

    And no, I don’t think your description matches the example I gave. I wasn’t talking about “someone who would reject vaccination if he knew there was some chance of complication and would accept vaccination if he didn’t.” I was talking about about someone who would accept vaccination as long as the chance of complication was small, but who wouldn’t know it was small unless that fact was pointed out to him, because he doesn’t have the expertise to figure that out on his own.

    In other words, someone like you and me.

  70. #70 Deepak Shetty
    January 22, 2011

    Even the Vatican itself doesn’t define membership in the church that way.

    Only when they want to inflate their numbers. There are specific things that Catholics MUST believe (though it doesn’t clearly spell out what happens when they dont).

    nd it’s silly to accuse people of hypocrisy just because their behavior doesn’t match your understanding of their own faith.

    How so? You could make this statement of say Hinduism or even Buddhism which dont have a clear or specific doctrine. But Roman Catholicism is pretty specific on what its followers believe or should believe, what is a sin and what isn’t, who one must marry and what one must do in that marriage and so on. So many are catholics in name only , because of the social cost they would pay were they to renounce the faith they dont believe in (They would still be christians) – And as much as it is silly to call these people hypocrites and cowards(and I acknowledge I shouldnt because I have done similar things) – That is an honest appraisal(as it would be of myself). A catholic cannot absolve himself of responsibility of the Vatican’s actions. The Vatican has power precisely because so many people claim to be catholics – so a catholic can either (try to) change his religion (and I know there are some), or leave it , but he/she shouldn’t be part of it and say well I dont believe the nonsense.

    But again, I’d love for there to be more educational sites from an incompatibilist angle that we could draw on.

    I can take your word for this. But Im not sure I could say the same of say Josh or that NCSE would link to these sites. Time will tell I suppose.

    number of them argue that supernaturalism is scientifically testable,

    Does an accomodationist argue otherwise? If so there is a Sathya Sai Baba with a million plus followers who magic’s stuff out of thin air that they be following. Clearly the incompatibilists also acknowledge that some supernatural claims like deism arent testable either. This isn’t a conflict.

    I want to selectively show data, just as it was selectively shown to you and me. I don’t want to hide anything;

    Then there isnt disagreement. I thought your earlier statement implied that you would make it harder for someone to get at data related to complications.

  71. #71 Anton Mates
    January 24, 2011

    Even the Vatican itself doesn’t define membership in the church that way.

    Only when they want to inflate their numbers.

    Not so; they’ve never done it that way. They’ve held that the sacraments confer an indelible mark of membership in the Christian community since the Middle Ages. Formalized at the Council of Trent, Professor Wikipedia tells me.

    Starting in the 80’s, the Vatican decided to give people a formal way of quickly renouncing church membership, for the sake of pleasing secular governments; twenty years later, it (mostly) took that back. (Maybe to inflate their numbers, like you say.) But the official position was always that you were still “ontologically” part of the Church, even if you cursed out your old congregation and ran off to marry a Lutheran.

    There are specific things that Catholics MUST believe (though it doesn’t clearly spell out what happens when they don’t).

    Sure there are–according to the Vatican, at least. But failing to believe them just makes you a bad Catholic; it doesn’t make you not a Catholic. You can be denounced and excommunicated and dead and in Hell, and you’re still just a Catholic who screwed up.

    But Roman Catholicism is pretty specific on what its followers believe or should believe, what is a sin and what isn’t, who one must marry and what one must do in that marriage and so on.

    Rather, the Vatican is pretty specific on all those issues. Roman Catholicism is not so specific…unless you accept that Roman Catholicism is whatever the Vatican thinks it is, which is begging the question, since that’s precisely where so many actual Catholics disagree with you.

    So many are catholics in name only , because of the social cost they would pay were they to renounce the faith they dont believe in

    But by your definition they already have renounced that faith, because they’re already publicly disagreeing with (and voting against) Vatican dogma. Whatever cost there is to that, they’re paying it.

    The Vatican has power precisely because so many people claim to be catholics – so a catholic can either (try to) change his religion (and I know there are some), or leave it , but he/she shouldn’t be part of it and say well I dont believe the nonsense.

    I’m sure any conservative Protestant would agree with you on that. But charges of hypocrisy still fail unless liberal Catholics agree, and I don’t think they do

    But Im not sure I could say the same of say Josh or that NCSE would link to these sites. Time will tell I suppose.

    I can only say that they were perfectly willing to do so when I was there.

    Does an accomodationist argue otherwise?

    Sure, I do, and many others.

    If so there is a Sathya Sai Baba with a million plus followers who magic’s stuff out of thin air that they be following.

    IMO, what’s testable there is not the supernatural bit. Whether stuff regularly pops out of thin air around Sai Baba is quite accessible to science. But if it does pop out, that doesn’t tell us whether it’s happening because of magic or angels or advanced quantum whosis, and if it doesn’t pop out, that doesn’t tell us whether Sai Baba’s failure is due to physical or spiritual factors.

    Clearly the incompatibilists also acknowledge that some supernatural claims like deism arent testable either.

    Not always. A number of incompatibilists–Dawkins and Stenger, for instance–hold that you can use scientific knowledge to estimate the likelihood of deism.

    Then there isnt disagreement. I thought your earlier statement implied that you would make it harder for someone to get at data related to complications.

    Nope. If they actually have the time and interest and knowledge to trawl through all that data, more power to them! But for those who don’t, which is most people, I want to give them a short and comprehensible summary.

  72. #72 Deepak Shetty
    January 24, 2011

    Rather, the Vatican is pretty specific on all those issues. Roman Catholicism is not so specific…unless you accept that Roman Catholicism is whatever the Vatican thinks it is

    Isn’t it? A roman catholic accepts the authority of the church with its head as the pope(even if he disagrees with current policy). If he doesn’t then he can be any variation of christian that suits his views. it just doesnt make sense to say he is a roman catholic which has the vatican as its official church and then say well he wants to have nothing to do with the vatican.

    But by your definition they already have renounced that faith, because they’re already publicly disagreeing with (and voting against) Vatican dogma.

    No I think you misunderstood. Some catholics do disagree publically and try to change their religion and I have no problem with them. The issue I have is with people who either no longer believe or disagree but keep quiet – that is hypocrisy, cowardice.

    But charges of hypocrisy still fail unless liberal Catholics agree

    Again it depends on whether they take a public stance(in whatever form) for it or not. if you support say gay marriage but sit quietly in church when the priest preaches against it , then it is hypocrisy no matter how liberal you are.

    I can only say that they were perfectly willing to do so when I was there.

    Ill take your word for it then.

    So let me get it right. According to you there is no way for us to know that the Sathya Sai Baba has/or has no supernatural powers?

    But if it does pop out, that doesn’t tell us whether it’s happening because of magic or angels or advanced quantum whosis

    Not even if you could tell the mechanism by which it does? If you could prove that its a common parlor trick then doesn’t it rule out(for all practical purposes) the supernatural? You only have a problem when there is no explanation for the behavior.

    hold that you can use scientific knowledge to estimate the likelihood of deism.

    A likelihood is just that – a likelihood. Dawkins believes the creation of life is an unlikely event as well , doesnt mean he thinks it can’t happen or isn’t true no?

  73. #73 Anton Mates
    January 29, 2011

    A roman catholic accepts the authority of the church with its head as the pope(even if he disagrees with current policy).

    But that does’t mean he renounces his right to disagree. I mean, I accept the authority of Obama as president of the US–I even voted for the guy, whereas Catholics didn’t vote for the pope. But that doesn’t mean I have to accept Obama’s vision of what it means to be an American. Authority isn’t infinite or universal…not for most of us, anyway.

    Again it depends on whether they take a public stance(in whatever form) for it or not. if you support say gay marriage but sit quietly in church when the priest preaches against it , then it is hypocrisy no matter how liberal you are.

    Now that I agree with. Of course, I grew up with Catholic friends whose priests were preaching for same-sex equality, and a lot of Catholics don’t have priests preaching one way or the other.

    According to you there is no way for us to know that the Sathya Sai Baba has/or has no supernatural powers?

    Not if our only way of gaining knowledge is science. No way to know whether my dog has supernatural powers, for that matter.

    Not even if you could tell the mechanism by which it does?

    Nope.  To the degree that the mechanism can be discerned by science, it must be regular and predictable, and so can always be folded into an updated understanding of natural law.  Conversely, we can never be certain that we’ve discerned the whole mechanism, and believers can always say that the missing bits are supernatural.

    If you could prove that its a common parlor trick then doesn’t it rule out(for all practical purposes) the supernatural?

    Nope.  Baba could argue (as charlatans often do) that he really does have magic powers, they just fail sometimes so he has to cheat to pick up the slack. (Perhaps the powers don’t like to be tested?

    Or he could get more sophisticated and argue that even his parlor tricks are actually supernatural–whatever obvious trickery he’s doing, it still subtly requires magic powers to work. Since you’ve never actually seen him without magic powers, you can hardly disprove this!

    Course, you might say that these loopholes automatically torpedo the claim for all practical purposes, but pragmatism is subjective. Baba’s followers would say it’s still practically meaningful and useful to them. And I’m sure it’s incredibly practical for the purposes of increasing the good Baba’s bank account, and the number of teenagers he can try to seduce.

    You only have a problem when there is no explanation for the behavior.

    No problem then either.  Events occur without any known mechanism or explanation all the time; physics is full of them.  That doesn’t mean they’re produced by magic or angels.

    A likelihood is just that – a likelihood. Dawkins believes the creation of life is an unlikely event as well , doesnt mean he thinks it can’t happen or isn’t true no?

    I’m not sure he does believe that the creation of life is unlikely, actually.

  74. #74 Deepak Shetty
    January 29, 2011

    @Anton
    On the Catholic bits – Yes you voted for Obama and you voice your opinion when you disagree. Thats all Im saying that a Catholic must do in order for me to not consider him a hypocrite. Make his disagreement known in public. It seems a few do and some don’t.

    On the supernatural bits – If you really believed what you are saying then you could never convict someone of say a crime – all he has to do is say wasnt me , twas the supernatural! and according to you, you could never prove it one way or the other. In life as in law most of us follow the beyond reasonable doubt principle. Im sure you do as well.

    Do you have a blog or some other site you visit? I’m done with this blog.

  75. #75 Anton Mates
    January 29, 2011

    On the supernatural bits – If you really believed what you are saying then you could never convict someone of say a crime – all he has to do is say wasnt me , twas the supernatural!

    Ah, but precisely because the supernatural is undetectable, you can’t invoke it to convince me that it wasn’t you. I don’t actually care whether supernatural forces conspired to make it look like you committed the crime; they might do it next time too. Either way, it’s prudent to convict you, so that neither the angels nor the laws of physics will help you commit more crimes.

    Do you have a blog or some other site you visit?

    Slacktivist, mostly. I doubt you’d find that a more congenial community than TFK, though….

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