Minor Coyne snark

John Pieret reads Jerry Coyne so you don’t have to. He notes that Coyne’s experience at a moderate church reading group sounds awfully accommodationist, and it does!

Of course, “accommodationist” is a highly mutable term, so I’m sure Jerry will say he isn’t really, and the label doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that Coyne’s experience seems to have planted at least a little doubt in his mind about the need to undo all religion. There’s a lot in there that I can agree with, and I’ll have another post about that shortly.

But rather than bridge from snark to praise, I’ll just note this from Coyne’s opening. He is invited to speak about his book Why Evolution Is True at a reading group for a Methodist church in downtown Chicago:

It always turns out that these discussions, when not rigorously guided away from the topic of religion, always wind up dealing with science and faith. That’s been my experience talking not just to laypeople, but also to college and high school classes.

As you read that, bear in mind that Coyne has, for years, criticized NCSE for having anything to do with religion. Religion, he’ll insist, has nothing to do with science, and a science education group shouldn’t talk about religion. It has never been clear what he expects NCSE to do in exactly the situation he describes, or why NCSE ought to “rigorously guide” discussions “away from the topic of religion” when that’s clearly the issue underlying attacks on evolution education.

Coyne continues:

That’s fine by me, for thanks to the Gnu Atheists religion is on many people’s minds, and I welcome the chance to speak my mind. Besides, I’ve given elebenty gazillion talks on my book and it’s boring.

Hey, he said it, not me.

Also, it’s because of gnu atheism that people in church are thinking about religion? Are gnus now arguing that religion is withering on the vine, and only through their strenuous efforts can we return discussion of religion to the public square?

Anyway, he says some things that are good and right later on, and we’ll get to that in a little while.

Comments

  1. #1 J.J.E.
    January 31, 2011

    Two things:

    1) I think your comment reveals more about the way you view Coyne and his point of view than Coyne’s actual point of view. I think you view the “Gnu Atheist” position as fundamentally impolite, or at the very least impolitic. Coyne’s visit to the church appears to display both politeness as well as political sensitivity while not burying at least two of his main points: 1) it is doubtful that religion has anything fruitful to say to science; 2) he doubts that religion is a way of knowing anything.

    2) Coyne’s commentary certainly seems polite, but it doesn’t seem accommodationist unless you take the accommodationist position to mean merely “polite”. (If that were the case, you most certainly aren’t an accommodationist in that sense, nor should you necessarily strive to be.) For example, I’ve never heard of NCSE say: “Everyone claims that a dialogue between scientists and the faithful will be useful to both of them. [The NCSE is] not sure [we] agree.” Nor have I heard them say “[We don’t] think that religion [is] a way of knowing anything.” I take these points to be contrary to accommodationist positions.

    This sort of visit encapsulates respectful criticism in a non-patronizing manner very effectively.

  2. #2 Larry Moran
    January 31, 2011

    For years we’ve been complaining that the NCSE position on the relationship between science and religion is accommodationist and probably incorrect.

    Your posting shows that you haven’t been listening to anything we’ve said. That’s very sad. In fact, it’s much more than sad, it’s disgusting.

  3. #3 Paco
    January 31, 2011

    Why should the NCSE have anything at all to say about religion? Isn’t it supposed to be a Science Education advocate? Maybe they should stick to that.

    So lots of confused people are thinking about science vs religion so what, that’s not news. That’s a GOOD thing! Science can only win in that debate. The NCSE doesn’t have to enter it.

    Are you saying it’s not OK for Coyne to talk to people about science vs religion, if that’s what they want to discuss?

  4. #4 J.J.E.
    January 31, 2011

    @ Paco

    Thanks for the reminder. I agree. To elaborate, NCSE is an organization that serves a large constituency for a specific purpose. Moreover, its financial health depends in large part on donations. If I feel like my sub-constituency is being ill-served by the NCSE, I am less likely to donate. This is why the religion point is important.

    Jerry Coyne on the other hand, has no such interests. However, the University of Chicago does. Therefore, if Jerry were to be personally invited to such a conversation, fine. But if he were to give a similar talk in a class of his (for example — the analogy isn’t perfect) it would be far less defensible.

    So yes, Josh, what the NCSE does is permissible (if not effective) in some contexts. If you or Hess were to go on a tour and preach accommodationism, fine. But if you or Hess were to do it and get paid by NCSE or were otherwise to put the NCSE’s imprimatur on such a perspective, you would (and do) lose my sympathy.

  5. #5 Saikat Biswas
    January 31, 2011

    ..Coyne has, for years, criticized NCSE for having anything to do with religion.

    No, he has criticised (rightly so) the NCSE for having advocated the very specific position that science is compatible with faith (the Christian one, in particular). No one, least of all Coyne, objects to individual members of the NCSE express their own personal views on the matter. Your views need not reflect that of the organisation you belong to professionally. And the official position of your organisation need not reflect your own. How hard is that to get?

    Also, it’s because of gnu atheism that people in church are thinking about religion?

    No, it’s because of gnu atheism that religion is on many people’s minds. Exactly as Coyne says. Exactly as you quote him. Absolutely no reference to church people in particular. Please improve your inference skills.

  6. #6 Andy Dufresne
    January 31, 2011

    This is fairly un-accommodationist:

    The “different ways of knowing” trope arose several times. One person compared religion to poetry (i.e., an emotional response to the world) and science to prose (a rational and empirical approach to the world). I mentioned—and this was difficult to say before such a group—that I didn’t think that religion was a way of knowing anything…

    If Jerry’s account is accurate, it (if anything) lends a very small morsel of credibility to the notion that you don’t have to pander to, pat on the head, or otherwise placate believers in order to productively “dialogue” with them. (Coyne’s account, like the quote above, shows him to have repeatedly and explicitly told them they were wrong—factually, even existentially wrong about every topic that came up.) I really think we often underestimate how much religious people enjoy the argument rather than regard it as some kind of insult.

  7. #7 Josh Rosenau
    January 31, 2011

    J.J.E: “what the NCSE does is permissible (if not effective) in some contexts.”

    If you’re going to assert that what I’m doing is ineffective, I’m going to ask you to back that up with something. Because I’m here on the ground, doing the work, and I can tell you that it does work. And I’ve offered data showing that it works. So kindly either support the claim or stop saying empirically false things.

  8. #8 J.J.E.
    January 31, 2011

    @ Josh

    That’s my point going right over your head. In the context of my argument, I don’t care if it is or isn’t effective. It isn’t appropriate under the auspices of the NCSE. A more careful editing of my comment would have pleased me equally: “whether or not it is effective”.

    You do seem to have big blinders on to be picking a point that I would so transparently grant you for the sake of discussion while ignoring the points that I consider much more salient.

    Ask yourself this: would my removing or conceding that parenthetical point have changed the thrust of my comment? If not (as surely you must agree, because I hereby grant it to you retroactively) why did you ignore the meat in favor of worrying on a small piece of skin with hair on it?

  9. #9 J.J.E.
    January 31, 2011

    There should have been a <whoosh> heading my previous comment.

    Blame it on preview changing the escapes to actual characters.

  10. #10 Josh Rosenau
    January 31, 2011

    Larry: See my reply to Saikat.

    Saikat: “No, [Coyne] has criticised (rightly so) the NCSE for having advocated the very specific position that science is compatible with faith”

    Here’s Coyne’s demand of NCSE in 2009:

    “leave all religion, atheism, and issues of compatibility out of it (except to show how the facts of evolution are incompatible with creationism).”

    This, more or less, has been his position ever since. Yes, he has particular objections to what he considers an “accommodationist” position at NCSE, but I think he’s been off-base in making that criticism (as pointed out in links above), and I think his definition (and many other people’s) of accommodationism is hopelessly vague.

    The reason I think Pieret has a point is that a) accommodationism is ill-defined and it’s worth pointing that out early and often and b) Coyne’s time at the church sounds no different in substance from time I’ve spent in churches or in other outreach to religious communities. If my doing that outreach makes me an accommodationist, then why shouldn’t it make him one, too?

    J.J.E: “Coyne’s visit to the church appears to display both politeness as well as political sensitivity while not burying at least two of his main points: 1) it is doubtful that religion has anything fruitful to say to science; 2) he doubts that religion is a way of knowing anything.”

    It isn’t clear to me that those two points were expressed politely, and he describes some unhappy glances after he said that, which suggests that it was not taken as entirely polite, and that he recognized the problem as it happened.

    As with all communications challenges, we have to ask what Coyne hoped to result from his meeting. If his goal was to convince them that science can’t learn from religion, that religion should be eradicated, and that religion isn’t a way of knowing, that seems not to have worked, wasn’t likely to work with this audience, and was not the topic he was invited to address anyway. So we’ll assume he intended that to be secondary to a message about Why Evolution Is True, which was the topic he was brought in to address, a topic that he was likely to influence people about, etc. Did his remarks about wanting to eradicate religion and thinking religion can’t inform science and that religion can’t inform anything else help convey his main message? If not, what did it accomplish?

    Which is to say, might he have not been more effective if he said “I personally find no value in religion, but many of my colleagues do, and I’ll try to describe not only my own views, but the views of people who do see some value in this sort of dialog”?

    Because when I talk about this stuff in public, that’s roughly how things go. Someone asks what my religious background is, and I say I’m agnostic and that religion doesn’t really move me, but that there are lots of scientists who do see value in religion, and lots of religions that respect science and try to integrate a scientific approach into their theology. I think that’s how Genie usually handles it. And for this, we get tagged as accommodationists who should not talk about religion. Or as Coyne put it: “I want religion and atheism left completely out of all the official discourse of scientific societies and organizations that promote evolution.”

    Paco: “So lots of confused people are thinking about science vs religion so what, that’s not news. That’s a GOOD thing! Science can only win in that debate. The NCSE doesn’t have to enter it.”

    But why shouldn’t NCSE enter it? The goal is to win, a lot of people reject evolution because of confusion regarding science/religion, having that discussion might clarify the confusion, and you’re sure science will win. So why should NCSE shy away from a discussion that it can win, and by winning, can accomplish the organization’s goals?

    “Are you saying it’s not OK for Coyne to talk to people about science vs religion, if that’s what they want to discuss?”

    No, I’m saying it’s unfair and frankly wrongheaded for him to say NCSE shouldn’t be allowed to take part in that discussion.

    Andy: In general, see my reply to J.J.E. In particular, I’d note that his observation, “this was difficult to say before such a group,” deserves to be unpacked. Why was it difficult? Could it be that it was difficult because it rejects the basic premise that got all those people into the same room together? Could it be that he worried about insulting his audience and his host, a host and audience he clearly had come to respect on some level? Might a different way of expressing himself have been more effective? These seem like fair questions, questions central to this long-standing fight, and it strikes me that Coyne’s self-described concerns at some points may have something to teach us.

  11. #11 TB
    January 31, 2011

    “My own strategy for promoting evolution, I said, had evolved into trying to “get rid of religion,” which is the source of creationism, and far worse things besides. I believe that statement shocked some folks, but I hastened to add that the types of religion I was most concerned with eliminating were those that promoted Biblical literalism or had invidious effects on society, like promoting suicide bombing, repression of women, and prohibition of birth control. I doubt that these Methodists fit into those categories!”

    :D

  12. #12 Josh Rosenau
    January 31, 2011

    J.J.E.: I singled out that one point because my main motivation in this fight has little to do with philosophy or atheism or whatever. With Coyne and Dawkins and other Gnus, the things that most consistently draw me out are a) arguments that I think are too embarrassing to let go (e.g.: people at church were talking about religion because of … atheists) and b) people trying to tell me how to do my job. I can generally ignore the latter, but not the former. If what I’m doing is ineffective, I need to know that so I can improve. But assertions about what other people think NCSE ought to be, and angels-on-pinheads debates about the philosophy behind people’s stances on science/religion stuff don’t move me (I can’t speak for NCSE as a whole).

    NCSE’s mission is to defend evolution in public schools. What matters is what works, so your now-withdrawn claim (and Coyne’s many unwithdrawn claims) that NCSE’s policies have failed is important. And if Coyne would back down on that point, I suspect we could shake hands and make up. But so long as he wants to tell me how to do my job, we’re gonna get along badly.

    For the substance of your points, see my longer comment above.

  13. #13 Hammill
    January 31, 2011

    It’s refreshing to see several of the justifications for the core arguments of “gnu” atheism from the 2009 edition of Coyne (“I don’t see much humility coming from the liberal Christians, who assert without reasons that there is a God.” and “Religious ‘moderates’ often act as enablers of religious extremists.”) reverse into the 2011 edition (“Just as we scientists can’t be absolutely confident that what we discover are timeless and unalterable truths, so several of these Methodists said they weren’t so sure about the “truths” of the Bible, or, importantly, about the nature of God.” and “My impression is that most of these people are not enablers in that sense.”). In my experience the former statements are mostly bad stereotypes (although they do occasionally apply to individuals), and dispensing with them is important. It looks like Coyne is headed in that direction. Let’s hope it sticks.

    Regardless, it’s good to see Coyne getting out to speak with religious people instead of simply speaking about them to other nonbelievers, and it sounds like the Methodists shook some of Coyne’s preconceptions, and vice versa. Gnu or Olde atheist, we could use more of that, no?

  14. #14 J.J.E.
    January 31, 2011

    “But why shouldn’t NCSE enter it? The goal is to win, a lot of people reject evolution because of confusion regarding science/religion, having that discussion might clarify the confusion, and you’re sure science will win. So why should NCSE shy away from a discussion that it can win, and by winning, can accomplish the organization’s goals?”

    This is patronizing. Who are you to tell anyone that they are confused regarding religion? If you have access to a method of determining how religion ought to be to avoid such “confusion”, by all means deploy it. I’m sure there is plenty of “confusion” to be cleared up with such a powerful epistemological tool. The attitude that you have, “tell ‘em what you want them to hear so they’ll buy your story” is patronizing at least and disingenuous at worst. If you were to substitute any epistemologically equivalent position (Olympian gods, Norse gods, the FSM, Mormonism, Scientology, Santa Claus), you could make exactly the same arguments as you do, and doing so would offend many believers by the mere implied comparison. Not only that, you’d be betraying your near complete absence of conviction based on lack of evidence that any of those possibilities are true. But you have no reason to privilege Christianity over Norse mythology or Santa Claus.

    If NCSE really wants to endorse theological positions, in my opinion, they should be honest about it. I’ve said this many times, but the most I’m willing to concede is replacing NCSE’s position that “religion need not conflict with science” with “there are many denominations that are willing to change their doctrines following conflict with science, and I hope you can too. Here’s a link to others who have done so”. Only then might I be reasonably happy. But that’s because I care about the scientific process. In order to battle vaccine denial, AGW denial, HIV denial, creationism, ID, homeopathy, astrology, etc., you have to be honest enough to say that “science abhors models without supporting evidence”, which describes most religion as well those other beliefs Christians look down upon.

    As I see it, either we can be completely honest (and chance offending some sensitive parishioners) or we can stick to the positive case for evolution and the scientific method and leave theology alone. If you want my support that is. It is clear that you don’t want support with such strings attached (as minimal and reasonable as they are) and that, much like politicians, NCSE will continue push a diet of Stuart Smalley + Evolution on its target audience. There are worse things for sure, and I’ll always appreciate the NCSE’s legal efforts. But I’ll be damned if I’ll endorse this blatant pandering.

  15. #15 Hammill
    January 31, 2011

    @#14:

    I’ve said this many times, but the most I’m willing to concede is replacing NCSE’s position that “religion need not conflict with science” with “there are many denominations that are willing to change their doctrines following conflict with science, and I hope you can too. Here’s a link to others who have done so”.”Only then might I be reasonably happy. But that’s because I care about the scientific process.”

    By extension, this implies that the NCSE doesn’t care about the scientific process, no? I think that is a bit overstated of an accusation that I wouldn’t predict many people would stand behind.

  16. #16 Josh Rosenau
    January 31, 2011

    J.J.E: First, I was talking about science/religion, not religion, and second, it’s not patronizing to say there are people confused about religion. There are! Most Catholics don’t know what transubstantiation is, and only half of Americans can identify the four gospels. Half know what Ramadan is. Half know that the Jewish sabbath starts on Friday. Of course people are confused about religion, and especially so about the interaction of science and religion!

    I do not presume to tell people which purely supernatural truth claims are really true, but it is honest and accurate to say that many religious groups accept the results of science and seek to accommodate their theology to new science. It is honest and accurate to say that many scientists, including many evolutionary biologists, are also personally religious, and see no conflict between their science and their religion.

    I searched ncse.com for the phrase “religion need not conflict with science,” and found nothing. I dispute the claim that this is NCSE’s official position. And as far as I can tell, NCSE does take the position you advocate, observing that many religious groups see no conflict with science, and work to incorporate new scientific findings into their theology, and then NCSE links to statements by those various groups explaining how they do this. How is that not precisely what you’re asking for?

    I think the pandering charge is bogus, but I think it’s a charge bound up in the issues I just addressed, so we may have to work our way back to that. But to be clear, here’s my beef with: “The attitude that you have, ‘tell ‘em what you want them to hear so they’ll buy your story’ is patronizing at least and disingenuous at worst.”

    At face value, I don’t know what I’m supposed to tell people other than “what I want them to hear.” I’m supposed to tell people what I don’t want them to hear? Did you mean “tell them what they want to hear”? Because I don’t think I’m doing that, either. They want to hear that people were magically created with souls and that people are nothing like animals. And I tell them otherwise. And to get them to hear that, it’s necessary to address concerns about religion, because they want to hear that for religious reasons, not scientific ones. So I talk about the fact, empirically demonstrable, that lots of people are religious and accept this scientific result. That gets their fingers out of their ears, and we can talk science. Otherwise, I can talk until I’m blue in the face and not get anywhere. Which is why it’s naive and wrongheaded to insist that I “leave theology alone.” Theology is at the core of the problem, and telling me to leave it alone is the same as telling me not to do my job – a job you generally seem to think is worth doing.

    Finally, NCSE does very little “legal” work. NCSE doesn’t have lawyers on staff. NCSE doesn’t sue anyone. NCSE does a lot of outreach, does a lot of quiet work to help people convince teachers or administrators or school boards do the right thing, and when all that fails, NCSE helps connect potential plaintiffs with lawyers. Most of the work at NCSE never hits the papers and never goes to court. And that’s best for all involved. I’m guessing you meant “legal” in a broader sense, but I wanted to clarify.

    Hammill: Yeah, that was a low blow, but I’m ignoring it in hopes of a productive discussion.

  17. #17 J.J.E.
    January 31, 2011

    @ Hammill

    To play devil’s advocate, it is conceivable and internally consistent to conclude that there is a tradeoff between teaching sound scientific results and lite scientific skepticism vs. sound scientific results and full-on scientific skepticism. Now, I disagree with how to sort out that tradeoff, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a reasonable tradeoff, at least in principle. I suspect Clinton and Obama serve as models of how triangulation in favor of principles can in principle be advantageous, even if I disagree.

  18. #18 Hammill
    January 31, 2011

    @#17:

    I would argue there doesn’t have to be a tradeoff. A group like the NCSE can stick to science, while pointing out that certain religious groups accept that science, and not see the science suffer one bit. Perhaps you or I might find the philosophical contortions necessary to accept that science and remain faithful logically impossible or distasteful. But the NCSE isn’t delving into the validity or invalidity of those philosophical positions. They’re simply pointing them out. That might not be a large difference, but it’s an important one.

  19. #19 J.J.E.
    January 31, 2011

    > Finally, NCSE does very little “legal” work.

    Well, if NCSE gets tarred with the bad (individuals getting called out for inappropriate advocacy when they are speaking as individuals) it is only fair to get tarred with the good (it has been a long since I checked, but I know that at least Nick Matzke, Barbara Forrest, Kevin Padian, and Genie Scott participated. I’m probably leaving tons of people out).

  20. #20 J.J.E.
    January 31, 2011

    First: I meant to say “…and Genie Scott participated in Dover.” in #19 above.

    <“religion need not conflict with science,”

    Josh, c’mon. I’m not going to go into a discussion of database queries and exact matches to you. You’re being obtuse. This is what I mean: http://ncse.com/religion/how-do-i-read-bible-let-me-count-ways

    Anybody who reads that and comes away saying “Gosh, he’s not advocating theology. He’s simply discussing history, which just so happens to come to our desired conclusion. Isn’t that something? Wow!” is either very naive or disingenuous.

    < A group like the NCSE can stick to science, while pointing out that certain religious groups accept that science, and not see the science suffer one bit. Perhaps you or I might find the philosophical contortions necessary to accept that science and remain faithful logically impossible or distasteful.

    But NCSE doesn’t stick to science. At the very least, they have on staff (is that the same thing as on payroll?) one person who is trained in the history of theology and the church. And that very same person (a very pleasant fellow, I’m sure) has also penned some important things for the NCSE which talk about how to interpret the Christian Bible, for example. If I were to donate to the NCSE, could I be guaranteed that my donation wouldn’t go towards reconciling science and religion? Because, in my mind, reconciling science and religion is a corruption of science.

    < I would argue there doesn’t have to be a tradeoff.

    I tend to be sympathetic. It is possible that that there isn’t a tradeoff. But, to riff off of Josh’s comments:

    < And to get them to hear that, it’s necessary to address concerns about religion, because they want to hear that for religious reasons, not scientific ones. So I talk about the fact, empirically demonstrable, that lots of people are religious and accept this scientific result.

    Josh certainly seems to be describing a tradeoff. This is why I don’t totally dismiss him. I think many of his convictions are honestly held, though in my mind misguided. I have had a great deal of success in convincing people to give evolution a second look, not by invoking religion, but by discussing real-world applications and things that would be harder to deny than the fact than some of their brethren in faith accept evolution: e.g. antiobiotic resistance, human phenotypes (a good recent one is Tibetan high altitude tolerance), photocopying course-notes as an analogy for descent with modification, genetic algorithms, etc. Sure, it is hard work to talk about those things, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it, and to be honest, when trying to describe this stuff, it a whole heck of a lot easier to get a hold of a circuit board or describe Sherpas versus us wimpy lowlanders than it is say “Well, Bob the Presbyterian believes it.” But then again, perhaps you didn’t grow up in a raving fundamentalist literalist Christian home like I did. Those sorts of people (I know from experience) are quite comfortable in throwing the denomination of the “model Christian” in your face, sometimes going so far as to call the Pope the anti Christ. Quite frankly, I’m not sure traversing that minefield is a very general approach.

    But I’m quite certain that I can demonstrate with tangible examples how evolution works. And in doing so, I can avoid talking about religion.

    One final note: I think it is not good to encourage adopting a belief just because it is convenient. And pointing out examples of religious denominations that accept particular aspects of science is doing that. There is a long way between “Bob accepts religion, maybe you should believe what Bob believes” and “Science encouraged Bob the Christian to drop beliefs about creationism and I encourage you to drop them too.” Surely you must see that the former is tacit encouragement while the latter isn’t?

    PS

    Re: I stick by my guns regarding the scientific process. If you’ve ever argued against homeopathy or intelligent design or astrology on scientific grounds (and not legal grounds) you engage in precisely the same reasoning that makes religion so unlikely as to require hard agnosticism (or alternatively ignosticism). To give a pass to religion in general is not privileging the scientific process. Unless of course religion is an amorphous, undefinable, vague (dare I say ineffable?) framework of awe upon which one often hangs bad hypotheses. In that case, no number of disproved hypotheses could ever conceivably question that vague religion framework. That’s a rather question begging definition of religion, in my opinion. And of course, we’re still left with the complete lack of any evidence for anything divine. So no, any organization that will apply the acid of skepticism to some classes of myths (ID and homeopathy and AGWD eg) but not others (the resurrection of Christ) has: a) an appreciation of the scientific method and its application; b) refused to apply it equally. This constitutes what I think is a calculated “soft sell” for science which sacrifices the scientific method (but only occasionally) and substitutes a distraction (look, Pastor Bob accepts evolution) in its place. I could stomach keeping religion out of bounds, but it is the encouraging other religious beliefs that gets to me.

  21. #21 Hammill
    January 31, 2011

    “But NCSE doesn’t stick to science. At the very least, they have on staff (is that the same thing as on payroll?) one person who is trained in the history of theology and the church. And that very same person (a very pleasant fellow, I’m sure) has also penned some important things for the NCSE which talk about how to interpret the Christian Bible, for example. If I were to donate to the NCSE, could I be guaranteed that my donation wouldn’t go towards reconciling science and religion?”

    I’ll assume that you’re referring to Peter Hess, who penned the essay you link to above. I don’t think, however, that simply having someone trained in religion on staff necessitates that the NCSE is trying to reconcile science and religion. (In fact, I think that if you’re fighting a conflict waged in part by religious people, having a go-to guy on staff that knows the territory is a very smart idea.) I just don’t think that having a religion scholar on staff holds any water as an argument against the scientific rigor of the group.

    In fact, considering the essay by Hess that you exhibit as evidence, I don’t see an explicit endorsement of reconciliation anywhere in the piece. (Although, by your own assessment above, that automatically makes me either naive or lying.) Parts of the piece, in fact, sound remarkably like the distinctions between literalists and moderates that Coyne draws in the post Josh links to in the OP.

    As I say in #17 there is a difference between saying “some religious people believe X” and “Belief X is the correct way to view religion. In fact, we officially endorse X.” It’s a very large reach to move from the former to the latter, and IMO doing so requires much more than the fact that the former is simply being said.

  22. #22 J.J.E.
    January 31, 2011

    @ Hammill

    Let me take you at your word that there is in fact an important distinction between: 1) “some religious people believe X”; and 2) “Belief X is the correct way to view religion. In fact, we officially endorse X.”

    If the point is to avoid promoting belief X, then obviously nobody wants to promote #2. So far so good. I ask you, would you be O.K. forgoing #1? If you answer “no”, then can you tell me why you would prefer to have #1 in your arsenal rather than leave it behind?

  23. #23 Rieux
    February 1, 2011

    This post is nasty and dishonest, and Russell Blackford (quoting Coyne at length) lays the beat-down on it that it deserves here.

    Goodness. It takes an incredible amount of gall to mock Coyne for abandoning (Rosenau’s ridiculous caricature of) Gnu Atheism by conducting a polite conversation with a religious organization… and then, nearly in the same breath, attacking him for deigning to give honest, forthright, and direct answers to the parishioners’ questions about the relationship between religion and science. As Blackford points out, Gnus cannot possibly win under the heads-I-win-tails-you-lose algorithm Rosenau has stacked up.

    Josh, not all of us are interested as you are—nor do we have an obligation to be—in answering honest questions with soothing and disingenuous pabulum. And your absurd twisting of Coyne’s “thanks to the Gnu Atheists religion is on many people’s minds” line is just stunningly dishonest. Shame on you.

  24. #24 Oneiric
    February 1, 2011

    Wow. It really seems like you’ve just been sticking your fingers in your ears all this time singing ‘nananana I can’t hear you!’.

    That, and/or you don’t know what accomodationism is.

  25. #25 https://me.yahoo.com/a/1k5uK4I3h50CSG_um9JiQ8kNMA--#f0b6c
    February 1, 2011


    It always turns out that these discussions, when not rigorously guided away from the topic of religion, always wind up dealing with science and faith. That’s been my experience talking not just to laypeople, but also to college and high school classes.

    As you read that, bear in mind that Coyne has, for years, criticized NCSE for having anything to do with religion. Religion, he’ll insist, has nothing to do with science, and a science education group shouldn’t talk about religion.”

    Others have pointed out how this is a dishonest misrepresentation of Coyne’s position, so I’ll skip over that. However, discussion on that point has taken attention away from the other issue: that the selective citation left out important context.

    “As I said, the discussion was supposed to be about my book, so I expected to talk a lot about evolution. It didn’t turn out that way.

    The discussion group actually has a topic: the interface between science and religion. And that’s what we talked about. (It always…classes.”

    Using religious methods does not bring one to an accurate understanding of anything, including evolution. This is an appropriate topic if someone mistakenly thinks that they do or that religious ideas have even a scintilla of informational value where (he or she believes) science has not reached. They don’t.

    “…the things that most consistently draw me out are a) arguments that I think are too embarrassing to let go (e.g.: people at church were talking about religion because of … atheists)”

    The most embarrassing argument I’ve seen in a while is the suggestion that when Coyne said “…thanks to the Gnu Atheists religion is on many people’s minds,” in the context of having his discussion of evolution derailed by people who wanted to discuss science’s interface with science, he meant that if not for Gnus, religion wouldn’t be discussed in church.

    “I searched ncse.com for the phrase “religion need not conflict with science,” and found nothing. I dispute the claim that this is NCSE’s official position.”

    “Evolution can certainly be compatible with religious faith. Because the evidence for evolution is so overwhelming, we must consider it to be a truth about the natural world — the world which we as people of faith believe was created by God, and the world made understandable by the reason and natural senses given to us by God. Denying science is a profoundly unsound theological position.”

    http://ncse.com/news/2009/06/ncses-hess-at-faith-004842

    It’s possible that the best way to advance the public understanding and acceptance of evolution is to not be a dick (or be one), stymie people’s critical thinking skills (or foster them), cast away stones (or gather them), lift weights (or eat potato chips). I’m open minded about it all.

    The best strategy might even be to argue that those who disagree are blasphemers, as the NCSE’s theologian does. http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2010/04/at_odds_with_the_bible.php

    However, those who seek to advance evolution by abandoning critical thinking and supporting confabulatory apologetics have no right to call themselves the National Center for Science Education. Tell theists who inquire that some people believe that they can reconcile their religion and science, do not tell them that anyone has actually done so short of the reconciliation that is the peace of the grave.

  26. #26 Mike Haubrich
    February 1, 2011

    Josh – I am curious about why you think that you are the only one “on the ground” so only you know what works with regards to the issue of acceptance of science.

    There are hundreds of people, nay, thousands who do seminars, teach classes, argue in front of school boards, lobby legislators, write letters, &c. Jerry is not the first gnu to go to a church as an invitee to talk about evolution and for the conversation to turn to religion and science.

    The complaint from the gnu’s about the accommodationists isn’t that you shouldn’t be doing outreach to the religious, but that you:

    1. Shouldn’t be teaching them how their religion fits with science. That is something that they need to martial their intellect to crossover. NCSE endorses a specific framework of religion for accommodating the divide between science as a way of discovery vs. religion as a way of “knowing.” We can’t bridge it for people, and it isn’t a function of science education.

    2. Shouldn’t, without non-anecdotal solid, social scientific research be deciding “what works and what doesn’t work” in the mission of the NCSE. There is no solid research that says that the Gnus are not effective, but you maintain that position.

    What you do for the NCSE is important, and we appreciate it; but in the process of telling atheists that they need to only use your model you are pissing off a group who would otherwise be your allies. The position that you take, that Chris Mooney takes, and so forth is that because you are “Friendly” to the religious viewpoint, that the atheists should leave the driving to you and not approach the subject with religious unless we are willing to bend science to meet religion. If we can’t do that, then we need to be quiet.

    I’m on the ground, too. Even if it is not as an official spokesperson for science education, I am talking to co-workers, to my roommate, to friends who “think that Intelligent Design may have something to it.”

    I have no reason to think that Jerry Coyne felt the need to back off of his previously stated positions on science and religion in order to talk to the group. He is still who he is, and we need him. We need him more than we need the people who were so willing to side with Tom Johnson’s sick “You’re Not Helping” load of bullshit directed towards PZ, Coyne, Laden, Benson, Dawkins and Harris.

    I find instead that the attitude that the accommodationists have about “we know how to do it” is much more abrasive and unfriendly and patronizing than anything that the Gnu’s do. We don’t criticize the accommodationists for not screaming that religion is wrong, we criticize you for saying that only you know how to “do it” and that if we don’t do it your way we are being dicks.

  27. #27 Hammill
    February 1, 2011

    @#22:

    My willingness for forgoing #1 would likely depend on a number of things, such as the context of the situation (are we discussing science and religion or are we in a biology classroom, etc.?), the composition of the target audience, the nature of an preconceptions that have been voiced by the target audience, and so on. I think it would be unfair for me to assume that there’s a universal right/wrong angle on the use of that information.

    @#23:

    I personally can’t take Blackford’s post all that seriously since it automatically accuses Rosenau of intentional dishonesty, which is a rather serious charge. That kind of thing just has a tendency to obliterate the possibility of any kind of useful debate or clarification of issues before it ever has a chance to get started.

    Regardless, I’m a bit confused by those, like Blackford, who see this as an unmitigated attack on Coyne. Reread the OP at the top. Rosenau is praising Coyne in several places for saying “good things,” so it’s hardly the cheap shot you and Blackford seem to be making it. My interpretation of the OP isn’t that Rosenau said that Coyne was doing anything wrong in his meeting with the religious group; it’s that Rosenau found it humorous that Coyne was giving himself a bit of a pat on the back for doing and saying things that he has roundly and vociferously criticized others for doing in the past. I believe there is some validity in that. I do understand that what Coyne was doing was not “accommodationism” in the philosophical compatibility sense, but accommodationism has been used as a kind of pejorative, catch-all term (including by Coyne) to the point where I think it’s arguable that it’s meaningless.

    I see that Rosenau has a second post up top. Maybe he expands on some things.

  28. #28 J.J.E.
    February 1, 2011

    @ Hammill #25

    Since you are uncomfortable forgoing option #1 universally, let’s focus on contexts when you feel it would be appropriate and/or useful to use it. What effect do you hope to achieve by telling people “some religious people believe X”? In other words, what do you hope that telling them that accomplishes that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to accomplish without telling them that? What effect do you hope it has on someone you would tell that?

  29. #29 Jeff
    February 1, 2011

    Josh, it’s hard to believe that you are really this thick. After all this time, you still misunderstand the point being made by Jerry et al. about the NCSE’s relationship with religion, and now you mistake Jerry’s interactions with a Methodist group for accomodationist behavior? I’m sorry to resort to insults, but either you are really stupid, or you are not even trying to understand Jerry’s point of view anymore.

  30. #30 https://me.yahoo.com/a/1k5uK4I3h50CSG_um9JiQ8kNMA--#f0b6c
    February 1, 2011

    “I’m sorry to resort to insults, but either you are really stupid, or you are not even trying to understand Jerry’s point of view anymore.”

    Don’t be so closed minded. He could easily be both.

  31. #31 TB
    February 1, 2011

    “Josh, c’mon. I’m not going to go into a discussion of database queries and exact matches to you. You’re being obtuse. This is what I mean: http://ncse.com/religion/how-do-i-read-bible-let-me-count-ways

    Anybody who reads that and comes away saying “Gosh, he’s not advocating theology. He’s simply discussing history, which just so happens to come to our desired conclusion. Isn’t that something? Wow!” is either very naive or disingenuous.”

    Anyone who reads that and comes away understanding that it’s simply a look at how different believers read and interpret the bible are showing they know how to read and comprehend what they read.

    Calling them names because you want them to think about it differently doesn’t change that.

  32. #32 Tulse
    February 1, 2011

    Anyone who reads that and comes away understanding that it’s simply a look at how different believers read and interpret the bible are showing they know how to read and comprehend what they read.

    That is hugely disingenuous — the piece is clearly slanted against literalist interpretation (just look at how little room is given to explaining that view). In other words, it has a particular theological take on biblical interpretation, a take that makes it ostensibly less difficult for the religious to accept certain scientific claims.

  33. #33 Kyuss
    February 1, 2011

    Man, why do you even bother? Jerry Coyne humbles you every single time you write this vapid crap.

  34. #34 Hammill
    February 1, 2011

    @#32:

    “Disingenuous?” I’d be careful with that kind of descriptor, since it levels a charge of intentional dishonesty. It is possible for someone to have a differing view than yours (even an incorrect one) without it being sinister in nature, is it not? There is ocasionally this odd attempt to paint those on one side of this debate as not only wrong but morally bankrupt and crooked – claims of malicious dishonesty, accusations of doing great harm to science, suggestions of mental incompetence, the whole bit – that I find curious and mostly unsupportable by any available evidence.

    Regarding the essay in question, I think the motivations behind it are impossible to know without getting inside the mind of the author. It does not, however, explicitly push compatibility, does it? Even if it does, it’s heavily implied, which is far from a clear slant.

  35. #35 Kirth Gersen
    February 1, 2011

    “NCSE’s mission is to defend evolution in public schools. What matters is what works, so your now-withdrawn claim (and Coyne’s many unwithdrawn claims) that NCSE’s policies have failed is important.”

    This is always the crux of the gnu/accommodationist disagreement. It’s not about what works in the specific context of evolution in schools, but about what’s next after that. The Gnus’ position is that, if you succeed in winning some acceptance for evolution by pandering to people’s antiscientific faith, you’re making the next battle (over the next quantum discovery or whatever) that much more difficult — one step forward, two backward. Instead, the Gnu View is that attacking faith-based, anti-reality, antiscientific beliefs in general can, if eventually successful, help defeat all faith-based non-acceptance of evidence in the future as well — not just this one specific example, right now.

  36. #36 J. J. Ramsey
    February 1, 2011

    Kirth Gersen:

    The Gnus’ position is that, if you succeed in winning some acceptance for evolution by pandering to people’s antiscientific faith, you’re making the next battle (over the next quantum discovery or whatever) that much more difficult

    And that’s a position that, IMHO, hasn’t been supported or even articulated all that well. One can argue that the steps that the faithful take to accommodate evolution, such as avoiding conflict with the science through non-literal interpretation of their scriptures, can be applied to accommodate other issues.

  37. #37 Tulse
    February 1, 2011

    One can argue that the steps that the faithful take to accommodate evolution, such as avoiding conflict with the science through non-literal interpretation of their scriptures, can be applied to accommodate other issues.

    Why restrict this to the religious? There are a lot of people who believe in homeopathy — surely the medical establishment should toward some way of attracting those people by accommodating their beliefs, perhaps suggesting some metaphorical notion of dilution. And think of all those who read their horoscopes daily — there must be some way astronomers can accommodate those views, by offering a non-literal interpretation of constellations.

    Don’t you see how utterly patronizing your suggestion sounds? We should somehow shelter the religious from the empirical contradictions of their theology, rather than explain that their theology is in conflict with reality?

  38. #38 Josh Rosenau
    February 1, 2011

    Tulse: No one wants to “shelter the religious from the empirical contradictions of their theology.” And many religious people don’t want to be sheltered from empirical contradictions. They want to know about those so they can correct their theology. And the others still need to be confronted with empirical contradictions. But “God exists” is not a claim amenable to empirical contradiction, and how to deal with beliefs like that are at the heart of the disagreement between me and my peeps and Coyne and his.

  39. #39 Tulse
    February 1, 2011

    But “God exists” is not a claim amenable to empirical contradiction

    Right, so Deism is a go. But all other forms of religion have at their heart empirical claims that violate our understanding of the natural world, usually very profoundly.

  40. #40 gillt
    February 1, 2011

    …Most Catholics don’t know what transubstantiation is…”

    j

    God, you are one pompous dickbag. You sit there with an agnostic fence-post up your butt telling others that they’re confused about their faith? You’re lack of self-awareness is pathological.

  41. #41 Josh Rosenau
    February 1, 2011

    Gillt: I’m just reporting what the survey found. Half of Catholics, when given two options for the definition of transubtantiation, chose the wrong one.

  42. #42 Verbose Stoic
    February 2, 2011

    Tulse,

    “Why restrict this to the religious? There are a lot of people who believe in homeopathy — surely the medical establishment should toward some way of attracting those people by accommodating their beliefs, perhaps suggesting some metaphorical notion of dilution. And think of all those who read their horoscopes daily — there must be some way astronomers can accommodate those views, by offering a non-literal interpretation of constellations. ”

    I think you’re missing the thrust of most attempts by religious people to use non-literal interpretations of the Bible to accomodate scientific views like evolution. In most of those cases, it’s about focusing on what’s really important to the believer. Is it important for a religion or religious beliefs that God created the world in seven days and that humans were created as is with no adaptation at all? Well, the non-literalist says “No”. What’s important to religions is generally the existence of God and what moral/social rules follow from that, and that’s what they focus on. In that sense, they’re perfectly willing to allow science to do all the empirical work and come to all of those great conclusions, as long as it doesn’t actually disprove those keys. And so far, as far as I can tell, science hasn’t, in fact, actually disproven those keys yet.

    The same can’t be said for homeopathy and astrology. What metaphorical interpretation can you use to show that those specific homeopathic cures work? What interpretation of the constellations can actually show that those constellations actually impact behaviour? I can’t see any, and so that’s the difference.

    Now, one could say that prayer fits into that, and that science has demonstrated that prayer doesn’t work. Putting aside that that’s not as clear as it might seen — there are massive potential confounds in those studies — all that does is open up the philosophical/theological question about whether prayers not being answered in a way that science can study means anything to religions. To some, it certainly will. To some, it won’t. Again, that’s not the case for homeopathy (where actually making people healthier is the key) or astrology (where actually impacting the behaviour of people) is key.

  43. #43 Ender
    February 2, 2011

    “Right, so Deism is a go. But all other forms of religion have at their heart empirical claims that violate our understanding of the natural world, usually very profoundly.”

    Bullshit.

    God, you are one pompous dickbag. You sit there with an agnostic fence-post up your butt telling others that they’re confused about their faith? You’re lack of self-awareness is pathological.”

    And your lack of having read the evidence is self-evident. Unfortunately that only leaves you looking like a dickhead.

  44. #44 James Sweet
    February 2, 2011

    Josh, you are fucking crazy. I mean, you’ve really gone off the deep end this time.

    In Jerry’s original post, he describes being in a room full of Methodists, and telling them straight to their face that he doesn’t think religion has anything to offer science, that the only thing science offers religion is the ability to disprove its dogmas, and that faith doesn’t offer a “way of knowing” anything at all. Right to their face.

    And you call that accomodationism? Wow.

  45. #45 Ender
    February 2, 2011

    “And you call that accomodationism? Wow.”

    Yes, there are different levels of accomodationism.

    There’s philosophical accommodationism – religious beliefs that do not contradict science are compatible with it

    There’s pragmatic accommodationism – there aren’t any religions that don’t contradict science somewhere, but as the evidence clearly shows religious scientists can do perfectly good science, and we can call them on it when they don’t.

    And there’s the bare minimum of accommodationism – Even though I think you’re wrong, and religion is harmful, I will respect your intelligence and believe we can still have a good dialogue. I will not insult you or your intelligence egregiously.

    Until recently Coyne has shown none of the latter. Now he has.

  46. #46 gillt
    February 2, 2011

    Gillt: I’m just reporting what the survey found. Half of Catholics, when given two options for the definition of transubtantiation, chose the wrong one.

    You are not “just reporting.” Just reporting does not include being dogmatic about terms then explicitly implying that someone is confused about their religion because they failed a questionnaire. That’s called opinion-making and your opinion signifies ignorance about variations of belief within even a particular religious sect (re Catholicism, liberation theology to opus dei) and a lack of self-awareness as I and others have already pointed out.

    I wouldn’t really care if you held this strange opinion, but then you use it to justify instructing thousands of the faithful that their unique belief system ought not contradict anything science has to say and if it does, well, well, they should just amend their faith or something.

    So you NEED there to be a lot of moderate AND confused or apathetic religious people out there for this plan to even be considered plausible. And you’re hoping to show these religious sheeple that others like them–not their pastor, peers or family members–but some famous scientists they never heard of before, who is also a Christian–nevermind what sect or anything else–believes science and religion are compatible because science is what that person does.

    If I’ve summarized your thinking on this correctly I’m afraid you are naive.

  47. #47 Tulse
    February 2, 2011
    “Right, so Deism is a go. But all other forms of religion have at their heart empirical claims that violate our understanding of the natural world, usually very profoundly.”

    Bullshit.

    How so? Christianity is based on the notion that a god became a real, living man via virgin birth, and came back to life after he died — without the Incarnation and Resurrection, one doesn’t have the Salvation of Man, a central tenet of Christian theology.

    Judaism likewise holds various beliefs that violate our empirical understanding (the Egyptian Captivity, for example, the basis of Passover). Ditto for Islam, Hinduism, etc. etc. etc.

    Which religion would you argue doesn’t hold beliefs that violate our understanding of the natural world?

  48. #48 Josh Rosenau
    February 2, 2011

    gillt: “you’re hoping to show these religious sheeple that others like them–not their pastor, peers or family members–but some famous scientists they never heard of before, who is also a Christian–nevermind what sect or anything else–believes science and religion are compatible because science is what that person does.”

    No. The beauty of things like the Clergy Letter Project and religious statements in Voices for Evolution is that people can find a local clergy member from their own denomination, or a statement issued by their own denomination’s leadership, supportive of evolution and evolution education. And how could “a … scientist no one ever heard of before” be “famous”? The author of the most widely-used biology textbook has been heard of before, as is the director of the NIH and head of the Human Genome Project. People remember Collins, and when asked an open-ended question, cite the HGP as the top scientific accomplishment of the last few decades. That’s not “never heard of before.”

    As to my comment on transubstantiation, note that I followed it with a range of other data on people’s failure to understand basic facts about various religions. What interpretation do you prefer for those data? The most obvious is that most people are confused about the basic theological facts of their religion, and affiliate with that religion for reasons other than theology. I’m not aware of any differences of opinion about transubstantiation, or the names of the Gospels, among Catholic movements, so I fail to see the relevance of liberation theology, Opus Dei, etc. To return to the point, lots of Catholics also don’t know that several popes have endorsed evolution, and that evolution is generally taught in Catholic schools (at least in the US, don’t know about other countries).

  49. #49 gillt
    February 2, 2011

    Evolution is taught in most Catholic schools? Where are you getting this data from? You’re probably confusing Evolution with Mendelian Genetics, which, yes, is often taught in many high school classrooms (public and private) because it’s not controversial.

    This half ignorance and half-assed acceptance of evolution also pertains to the Clergy Letters Project and the Pope’s so-called acquiescence to the reality of the theory. Theistic evolution is not evolution. It’s evolution plus another thing. Francis Collins’ version of human evolution involves silly crap like quantum fluctuations and other things way outside his area of expertise. In fact evolution is outside his area of expertise.

    You also misquoted me. I said famous scientists the average religious person in America has never heard of before. That’s what I said and you changed it to look like something I said was nonsensical.

    There’s what the Catholic Catechism says about transubstantiation and there’s what people actually believe and oftentimes they’re two different things. That’s why I listed two extreme views in Catholicism: opus dei and liberation theology. Many Latin American versions of Catholicism are for all intents and purposes a polytheism. Point being religion is whatever you want it to be. It’s personal, familial and cultural history and it’s different for everyone. There is no standard Catholic anymore than there is a standard Muslim or Jew. I think saying people are confused about their religion as your justification to set them straight when it comes to science is arrogant and naive. If most people don’t care about theology, as you say, why would they care what you or some clergyman says about NOMA?

    For the record, does your science outreach and education master plan hinge on your audience being ignorant/apathetic about their personal religious beliefs? Is that why you made a point of bringing it up? And is the solution to educate them in science or to have them merely accept what some authority figures (clergy, Pope, Francis Collins) tell them to believe?

  50. #50 Josh Rosenau
    February 3, 2011

    Gillt: I’m getting this from many students I’ve spoken with, and biologist parents who prefer to send kids to Catholic schools “because I know they’ll learn evolution there.”

    “Theistic evolution is … evolution plus another thing.” Which is why Ken Miller and others reject the term.

    “famous scientists the average religious person in America has never heard of before”

    How famous can they be if the average religious person in American (which is to say, the average American) has never heard of them? My point was that I think lots of people have noticed the author of their kid’s biology textbook, and lots of people know Francis Collins, or at least his works.

    “There’s what the Catholic Catechism says about transubstantiation and there’s what people actually believe and oftentimes they’re two different things.”

    Yes, which was a point I expressed in terms of people being confused. I doubt most people have a firm opinion on transubstantiation; I’m guessing they were given two choices, and people guessed. Interesting that slightly more guessed wrong than right. “Confused” really seems fair. As it does for the majority of Christians who can’t name the Gospels. And frankly, Catholicism outside of Latin America is a functional polytheism, too. But while there is no more a standard Catholic than there is a standard anything, there is a standard Catholic theology.

    If you look back at my original comment, I treated the issue of people being confused about religion as a sidebar, with the main point being that lots of people are genuinely uninformed about their own church’s position on science/religion issues, which is empirically true, but is not essential to any outreach. This is one arrow in the quiver. Also, I’m not advocating for NOMA, nor does NCSE.

    The issue you raise about authority figures is an interesting one, and trickier than you make it seem. Ideally, yeah, everyone would accept evolution because they independently evaluated the molecular, morphological, biogeographic, behavioral, and fossil evidence, and concluded based on that intensive study that it is good science. In practice, lots of people accept it because an authority figure – a teacher or a scientist or a documentarian with a soothing British accent – told them it was good, and lots of people reject it because a religious authority told them to, or because they think a religious authority would tell them to reject it so they never even bothered to ask. I’m not going to ignore the latter pathway’s existence, and the ways it can be turned around, when doing so can help me take pressure off of a teacher who is being urged not to teach evolution, and who can in turn lead a generation of students (and perhaps through them their parents) to a deeper understanding of evolution.

  51. #51 Ender
    February 3, 2011

    “Right, so Deism is a go. But all other forms of religion have at their heart empirical claims that violate our understanding of the natural world, usually very profoundly.”

    Bullshit.

    “How so? Christianity is based on the notion that a god became a real, living man via virgin birth, and came back to life after he died — without the Incarnation and Resurrection, one doesn’t have the Salvation of Man, a central tenet of Christian theology.”

    Sorry, my bad. The simple interpretation of your words: “claims that violate our understanding of the natural world” is of course correct.
    I was responding as if your response was related to what Josh originally said:

    “But “God exists” is not a claim amenable to empirical contradiction”

    Exactly what part of “a god became a real, living man via virgin birth, and came back to life after he died” do you think is amenable to empirical contradiction, and how would you go about contradicting it?

    “Judaism likewise holds various beliefs that violate our empirical understanding (the Egyptian Captivity, for example, the basis of Passover). Ditto for Islam, Hinduism, etc. etc. etc.”

    The Egyptian Captivity is amenable to empirical investigation, but is only relevant if it has been disproved.
    You assert that Islam and Hinduism claim things that are amenable to empirical investigation but don’t give any examples so I don’t know exactly which claims you’re talking about.

    “Which religion would you argue doesn’t hold beliefs that violate our understanding of the natural world?”

    Well if we assume you are still on topic and what you mean is “amenable to empirical investigation” rather than an expanded claim “contradict metaphysical naturalism” (which is not what we were originally talking about):
    I’m no expert on the minutiae of all religions, so I’m sure there are obscure claims that I haven’t heard, but many versions of Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, numerous Neo-Pagan sects, Gnostics (maybe?), many Buddhists etc etc.

  52. #52 Ender
    February 3, 2011

    “Evolution is taught in most Catholic schools? Where are you getting this data from? You’re probably confusing Evolution with Mendelian Genetics, which, yes, is often taught in many high school classrooms (public and private) because it’s not controversial.”

    He is right, and you are wrong about them only teaching Mendelian Genetics. Evolution is not particularly controversial to Catholics. God created the world, the way he created the world is amenable to empirical investigation and the results of that empirical investigation (Evolution) is how he did it.
    Not all Catholics know this, some – particularly the older generation – are confused about the Church’s position, but they are wrong.

  53. #53 Hammill
    February 3, 2011

    ” In fact evolution is outside (Francis Collins’) area of expertise.”

    Shirley, you can’t be serious.

    Perhaps if the only way you’re defining “expertise” in evolution is as someone doing groundlaying theoretical work, but then a ton of very qualified applied evolutionary biologists are excluded from that picture. Even though Collins has some twisted views regarding his philosophical applications of evolution, I think it’s very much within his expertise as NIH director, unless an understanding of evolution is somehow now irrelevant to one’s expertise in the health field.

  54. #54 Hammill
    February 3, 2011

    He is right, and you are wrong about them only teaching Mendelian Genetics.

    I’m afraid Ender is right. I’m sure there are individual schools that might ignore evolution, but evolutionary theory has been taught in some parochial schools for decades, and if I’m not mistaken the Church even sent out an official decree that schools teach evolutionary theory and not dicsuss creationism whatsoever a while back.

    If your argument is “well, they teach evolution but still believe in god so it’s a form of creationism,” you’re arguing a bit different point than the rest of us. Maybe you’re not, but some of the wording of your post suggested this.

  55. #55 gillt
    February 3, 2011

    He is right, and you are wrong about them only teaching Mendelian Genetics. Evolution is not particularly controversial to Catholics.”

    You’re talking to someone who went to a private Catholic school for 12 years. It’s been my experience that Catholics are no different than any other random Christian in their acceptance of evolution, which is to say barely or not at all. That’s why I was asking Josh for some data because his accounts of what people told him and my first-hand account plus actual data are at odds. See below.

    Perhaps if the only way you’re defining “expertise” in evolution is as someone doing groundlaying theoretical work, but then a ton of very qualified applied evolutionary biologists are excluded from that picture. Even though Collins has some twisted views regarding his philosophical applications of evolution, I think it’s very much within his expertise as NIH director, unless an understanding of evolution is somehow now irrelevant to one’s expertise in the health field.

    Wait, Collins’ twisted philosophy on evolution is very much within his expertise as NIH director? What are you saying here? I’m expressing the opinion of what evolutionary biologists working at the institute he was a former director of (NHGRI) have to say about his expertise in evolution. It’s an embarrassment to some and an outrage to others.

    If your argument is “well, they teach evolution but still believe in god so it’s a form of creationism,” you’re arguing a bit different point than the rest of us. Maybe you’re not, but some of the wording of your post suggested this.

    My point is that evolution as it’s been taught in Catholic schools (and elsewhere) sticks to the uncontroversial work of a Franciscan monk while common descent, natural selection and the rest are largely avoided. This is not news either. Perhaps you’re in denial or not aware of the issues.

    Here’s a quote from an article in Science discussing the findings of a recent study on evolution education.

    “based on a nationally representative probability sample of 926 public high school biology instructors (2, 6) (see the figure). [See supporting online material (SOM) for details.] The data reveal a pervasive reluctance of teachers to forthrightly explain evolutionary biology.”

  56. #56 Josh Rosenau
    February 3, 2011

    Gillt: In addition to my own conversations with teachers and current and former students (and students), my colleague Peter Hess has done quite a bit of outreach to Catholic schools, and finds the same thing. He also found high support for evolution education and a conference of Catholic parochial educators (and yes, FFS, he and know the difference between evolution and genetics).

    You say your experience is that “Catholics are no different than any other random Christian in their acceptance of evolution.” Your personal experience is contradicted by surveys, which find Catholics to be the most accepting of Christian denominations: http://pewforum.org/Science-and-Bioethics/Religious-Differences-on-the-Question-of-Evolution.aspx

    You do know that the Berkman paper you’re citing is about public school teachers, not about Catholic schools, and thus not really germane to whether Catholic schools do better or worse than public schools. Also, note the third author on Berkman’s citation 12.

  57. #57 gillt
    February 3, 2011

    You’re implying that Catholic schools are better at teaching evolution (and science in general) than public schools? Possible, but I find that hard to believe.

  58. #58 Tulse
    February 3, 2011

    What interpretation do you prefer for those data? The most obvious is that most people are confused about the basic theological facts of their religion, and affiliate with that religion for reasons other than theology.

    I think that’s probably right, but I think that also makes it clear that religion need not be an entrenched feature of society, that people are religious not because of their supernatural commitments, but because of other, more mundane/secular reasons (such as community support, feelings of affiliation, etc. etc. etc.). And there is evidence of that, in that countries with greater social safety nets tend to be less religious.

    So given that, it is so terrible for the gnus to suggest that religion as a whole might have problematic aspects when it comes to creating a rational, evidence-based society, and that it should therefore be fought?

  59. #59 Tulse
    February 3, 2011

    Exactly what part of “a god became a real, living man via virgin birth, and came back to life after he died” do you think is amenable to empirical contradiction, and how would you go about contradicting it?

    Again, my argument is that it is an empirical claim that profoundly violate our understanding of the natural world. I did not say I could produce a direct empirical “contradiction”, no more than I could directly “contradict” that T. rexes drove around in magic ’57 Chevys that all dissolved millions of years ago.

    If you insist on allowing “miracles”, and claim that such are outside of empirical test, then all bets are off — literally anything is allowable, including a 6000-year-old earth that was completely flooded (a god has merely miraculously made the world look as if it is 4.5 billion years old, but that is a deception). That is why my argument was phrased as it was — the issue is not just about the directly empirically testing, but about ruling out the miraculous. If you want to declare naturalism out of bounds philosophically, then you simply have no basis to rule out any claim that anyone makes — indeed, the whole notion of empiricism is tossed out.

  60. #60 Verbose Stoic
    February 3, 2011

    Tulse,

    “Again, my argument is that it is an empirical claim that profoundly violate our understanding of the natural world.”

    Well, so did relativity and so does quantum mechanics, but I don’t see anyone consider them to be contradict science at all in any interesting way. In fact, science has adopted them. If the things you cite turn out to have actually occurred, science will update its models and go on as before.

    “(a god has merely miraculously made the world look as if it is 4.5 billion years old, but that is a deception). ”

    I actually think, though, that this really is a contradiction that’s a problem. It essentially says “You can do science, but whatever it says is wrong if it fails to conform to theology.” Or, to put it better: “Science is not reliable”. That in fact has profound impacts on science and is incompatible with it, since it makes science, well, irrelevant. I see arguments like that as being cases where a religion says that they simply aren’t going to accept science, on any level. Yeah, incompatibilist. But most religions don’t do that.

    “If you want to declare naturalism out of bounds philosophically, then you simply have no basis to rule out any claim that anyone makes — indeed, the whole notion of empiricism is tossed out.”

    Presuming that naturalism may not apply to all phenomena does not, in fact, toss out the notion of empiricism nor does it take away other options like, say, philosophical examination or a field that does not make a naturalistic presumption ruling out some things. In short, if philosophy can rule out naturalism in at least some cases, it can also build the replacement to science that you can’t rule out to study supernatural things.

  61. #61 Tulse
    February 3, 2011

    I actually think, though, that this really is a contradiction that’s a problem. It essentially says “You can do science, but whatever it says is wrong if it fails to conform to theology.” Or, to put it better: “Science is not reliable”. That in fact has profound impacts on science and is incompatible with it, since it makes science, well, irrelevant.

    Good, so we agree about that, which means that any religion that postulates miracles is incompatible. Right?

  62. #62 Verbose Stoic
    February 3, 2011

    “Good, so we agree about that, which means that any religion that postulates miracles is incompatible. Right? ”

    Wrong. Science can’t rule out miracles because to do so it would have to claim that it knows what all the natural laws are and that there exists nothing supernatural. Science can’t do that. However, science can indeed cry foul when someone says “Whatever data you’re getting was deliberately faked, so much so as to be totally unreliable”.

    To put it in the context of what others have said, the case I gave attacks methodological naturalism: you can’t in any way act as a naturalist if all the data you could possibly ever gather is supernaturally permeated. Miracles only attack metaphysical naturalism, that the natural really is all there is.

  63. #63 Tulse
    February 3, 2011

    science can indeed cry foul when someone says “Whatever data you’re getting was deliberately faked, so much so as to be totally unreliable”.

    How can it do so if you are willing to accept the possibility of miracles? Miracles make literally anything possible, so how can science rule out anything if they are allowed?

    Miracles only attack metaphysical naturalism, that the natural really is all there is.

    How so? If one admits miracles, then even methodological naturalism is out the window, and we have no way to assert (for example) that a trickster god didn’t make a 6000-year-old world look 4.5 billion years old. The possibility of miracles make science impossible (or, perhaps more accurately, makes literally any empirical claim unreliable).

  64. #64 Ender
    February 3, 2011

    “How can it do so if you are willing to accept the possibility of miracles? Miracles make literally anything possible, so how can science rule out anything if they are allowed?”

    Because science can say “In the absence of miraculous intervention (or aliens with superadvanced science) we have ruled out X”

    That’s methodological naturalism… we work as if naturalism is universally true even though it is beyond the ability of science to prove that is the case.

    “How so? If one admits miracles, then even methodological naturalism is out the window, and we have no way to assert (for example) that a trickster god didn’t make a 6000-year-old world look 4.5 billion years old. The possibility of miracles make science impossible (or, perhaps more accurately, makes literally any empirical claim unreliable).”

    No, you may want to check out methodological naturalism again. To follow it correctly you do your experiments as if it is impossible that a trickster God was involved. And get the right results.
    Methodological naturalism it’s grrreat

    If this is still problematic for you ask yourself how can we possibly do science even though it is possible that super-advanced trickster aliens are fucking with our heads? How can we still do science if it’s possible we’re all trapped in the matrix, or are actually butterflies dreaming that we’re a man?

    The answer to those two problems is the same as the answer to the trickster God problem.

  65. #65 Hammill
    February 3, 2011

    @#55:

    “I’m expressing the opinion of what evolutionary biologists working at the institute he was a former director of (NHGRI) have to say about his expertise in evolution. It’s an embarrassment to some and an outrage to others.”

    This is slowly getting closer to the point I was aiming at. Are you saying that these collaborators are embarrassed and outraged at his understanding of the scientific field of evolutionary biology (his true scientific expertise) or are you saying that they are embarrassed and outraged at his applications of evolution outside the laboratory to his personal worldview (their personal opinion of his faith)? If you are arguing the first, you are accusing Francis Collins of being an incompetent scientist, which I hope you understand would be a rather serious claim (against anyone, not just Collins) that requires more than the opinion of those who know him. If you’re arguing the latter, well, it’s really not an argument against his capability as a scientist but more an argument that you disagree with his personal worldview.

    “This is not news either. Perhaps you’re in denial or not aware of the issues…Here’s a quote from an article in Science discussing the findings of a recent study on evolution education.”

    As Rosenau has correctly pointed out, the study you cite is of public high schools, which inherently excludes the vast majority of parochial schools, which are private. Perhaps I’m not as dense (or “unaware”) as you claim but simply reading the literature a bit more carefully. I believe there was a call in the literature not too long ago to study private schools more rigorously out of anecdotal concerns that they do not exhibit parallel trends to public education.

    “You’re implying that Catholic schools are better at teaching evolution (and science in general) than public schools?”

    No, I think he’s implying that the data you used to justify your previous claim are inapplicable (i.e., a dataset that excludes most Catholic schools is not a reliable source of information on the performance of said schools – see above).

  66. #66 Tulse
    February 3, 2011

    Because science can say “In the absence of miraculous intervention (or aliens with superadvanced science) we have ruled out X”

    And because all religions demand the possibility of miraculous intervention, they all in principle are incompatible with science.

    If this is still problematic for you ask yourself how can we possibly do science even though it is possible that super-advanced trickster aliens are fucking with our heads? How can we still do science if it’s possible we’re all trapped in the matrix, or are actually butterflies dreaming that we’re a man?

    The answer to those two problems is the same as the answer to the trickster God problem.

    Why do you use the qualifier “trickster”? In other words, why is a belief in any god not equivalent to believing we’re in the Matrix?

  67. #67 gillt
    February 3, 2011

    You do know that the Berkman paper you’re citing is about public school teachers, not about Catholic schools, and thus not really germane to whether Catholic schools do better or worse than public schools. Also, note the third author on Berkman’s citation 12.

    I was aware. And I’m operating from the safe assumption that private religious schools would fair equal or worse. That Catholic schools don’t is yet to be determined. In my experience they do not do a better job of it.

    Are you saying that these collaborators are embarrassed and outraged at his understanding of the scientific field of evolutionary biology (his true scientific expertise) or are you saying that they are embarrassed and outraged at his applications of evolution outside the laboratory to his personal worldview (their personal opinion of his faith)?

    Francis Collins is not an evolutionary biologist. He’s just not. So that’s part of the embarrassment of him speculating wildly and unscientifically on things outside his training but not so far out he shouldn’t know better (He’s not an engineer or computer scientists). At one time Collins did great science, so it’s only natural to balk at these philosophical bumblings now. Also, Collins hasn’t been in the “laboratory” for a long time. He’s been doing high-profile administrative work at NHGRI and now NIH. And these aren’t ONLY his personal views when he chooses to make them public and tie them directly to his profession.

    No, I think he’s implying that the data you used to justify your previous claim are inapplicable (i.e., a dataset that excludes most Catholic schools is not a reliable source of information on the performance of said schools – see above).

    That’s really not half of what Josh is implying. Refer to post 56. The quality of evolution education among students is a completely different question from acceptance of the theory by adults. Is the observation that Catholics are generally more accepting of evolution as an explanation for life on earth a result of their quality of education on the topic? Maybe. Maybe not. For lack of data, I’d be interested to hear more of what Peter Hess has to say about it.

  68. #68 Ender
    February 3, 2011

    Allow me to stick the exchange back together so you can see what we are talking about:

    Tulse: “How can it do so if you are willing to accept the possibility of miracles? Miracles make literally anything possible, so how can science rule out anything if they are allowed?”

    Ender: Because science can say “In the absence of miraculous intervention (or aliens with superadvanced science) we have ruled out X”

    Tulse: And because all religions demand the possibility of miraculous intervention, they all in principle are incompatible with science.

    Do you see how your response doesn’t make any sense in context? If you want to respond to what I said, respond to the words in context. If you want to start a tangent about miracles and their compatibility with science, start a tangent and explain exactly how miracles are incompatible with science, mentioning the specific empirical evidence obtained scientifically that shows they are impossible/do not happen

    “Why do you use the qualifier “trickster”? In other words, why is a belief in any god not equivalent to believing we’re in the Matrix?”

    I’m not entirely sure you know what we’re talking about, so this is risky, but I’m going to proceed as if you do and hope you don’t take this as some kind of admission of something it is not.

    In this context belief in a God that maintains static rules about the universe is exactly the same as believing we’re in a Matrix which maintains static rules about the universe because they are both entirely compatible with science. In both cases science measures the rules of the universe, just like it does in an atheist universe.

  69. #69 Hammill
    February 3, 2011

    Francis Collins is not an evolutionary biologist. He’s just not.

    Of course not, but then again I didn’t say that he was (and the original claim by yourself that started this quasi-argument wasn’t specificially about that, either). He is an internationally-recognized researcher in internal medicine, human genetics, and genomics, his discoveries and research in the latter two intimately linked to tools and methodologies used by evolutionary biologists. And let’s especially not neglect his numerous publications on the use of model organisms for investigating the genetic basis of human disease (in Science, for crying out loud) – something that simply cannot be grasped if one lacks the amount of “expertise” in evolution required to comprehend the conservation of certain aspects of organisms necessary for such comparisons to even be theoretically feasible. To claim that one can accomplish, let alone even scientifically understand the gravity of, the preceding accomplishments while simultaneously saying that evolution is “outside their area of expertise” displays either a bewildering naivete with regards to the ubiquity of evolutionary theory in the natural sciences or a willing decouplement from reality to chase down what is slowly seeming to manifest itself through subsequent comments as an oddly intense vendetta, for whatever reason, against the reputation of an individual.

    I’m comfortable admitting that Collins’ philosophical views may be off the rails while defending that the man likely has a very firm grasp of evolutionary theory. Unless someone is grossly fradulent, scientific records have a way of proving themselves, and Collins’ is one of the best. And the topics he has focused upon are practically impossible to understand without at least a moderate level of “expertise” in evolutionary theory. To claim that “evolution is outside his area of expertise” is, IMO, laughable, at least in the connotation with which the statement was originally used.

    “The quality of evolution education among students is a completely different question from acceptance of the theory by adults.”

    I see your point, but this is not necessarily true. The quality of science education generally tends to have consequences on the scientific literacy of those students when they become adults (and, in the reverse direction, students’ opinions are shaped by those of authority figures, such as their parents, even in the presence of the highest quality educational system). The two groups do not exist in a vacuum by a longshot.

    Is the observation that Catholics are generally more accepting of evolution as an explanation for life on earth a result of their quality of education on the topic? Maybe. Maybe not.

    We can agree here, and I’d too like to see some comprehensive data on that subject. I’ll keep my fingers crossed since it’s a fairly narrow demographic in the context of such studies, but one can hope, no?

    I will note, however, that is refreshing to see your early opinion of Catholics having a “half-assed acceptance of evolution” based on something that is “not evolution” in #49 change to a bit more realistic “Catholics are generally more accepting of evolution as an explanation for life on earth” in #67. At least it seems we’re now on a bit more level playing field, which is a good thing.

  70. #70 Tulse
    February 3, 2011

    If you want to start a tangent about miracles and their compatibility with science, start a tangent and explain exactly how miracles are incompatible with science, mentioning the specific empirical evidence obtained scientifically that shows they are impossible/do not happen

    Gosh, Ender, no wonder you’re confused — you’ve missed my point entirely. Science can’t provide evidence that miracles are impossible, precisely because if miracles are possible, then all of science is out the window. In other words, no empirical evidence could be trusted, and no regularities in nature could be reliably identified, because they all could simply be the manipulations of some deity.

    So yeah, miracles are incompatible with science as a mode of understanding the universe. Not that science “disproves” the possibility of miracles, but that the very practice of science is only possible if there are no miracles.

    In this context belief in a God that maintains static rules about the universe is exactly the same as believing we’re in a Matrix which maintains static rules about the universe because they are both entirely compatible with science.

    I agree, so….excellent! But see that part in bold — that’s what’s at issue. A god that maintains static rules about the universe is one that does not interfere with the universe, a Deist god. We both agree (along with most gnu atheists) that such a god is compatible with scientific belief. But once you believe in a god that can twiddle the dials, and produce any outcome it wants, well then, why would you trust any result of science? How could you possibly know that any finding, any apparent regularity, wasn’t the result of direct supernatural intervention?

    (Can I suggest we consolidate our discussion in this later thread, since we seem to be addressing the same basic issues in two places?)

  71. #71 gillt
    February 3, 2011

    He is an internationally-recognized researcher in internal medicine, human genetics, and genomics, his discoveries and research in the latter two intimately linked to tools and methodologies used by evolutionary biologists.

    All the more reason for the embarrassment then, no?

    And let’s especially not neglect his numerous publications on the use of model organisms for investigating the genetic basis of human disease (in Science, for crying out loud)

    Don’t be dramatic. Science has been slipping for a while–1,000 genomes project–and is overrated.

    something that simply cannot be grasped if one lacks the amount of “expertise” in evolution required to comprehend the conservation of certain aspects of organisms necessary for such comparisons to even be theoretically feasible.

    Not really, many bioinformations barely qualify as biologists for instance. Modern biology is far too balkanized to simply assume proficiency across even nearby fields.

    Your transparent taunts that I have a personal vendetta against Francis Collins must mean you’ve run out of things to say, so I’ll ignore the rest of your Rosenauian word-scape. As someone who’s met him, it’s very hard, if not impossible, not to like Francis Collins. He’s one of the most personable, lighthearted and charismatic people I’ve ever talked to…which isn’t saying a lot though since my social circle is filled with scientists.

  72. #72 Ender
    February 4, 2011

    “(Can I suggest we consolidate our discussion in this later thread, since we seem to be addressing the same basic issues in two places?)”

    If you would rather, then reply to this post in the other thread. But I am actually finding it quite useful as we are discussing slightly different things in each thread, and this helps prevent them being conflated. Also if I address everything here and there in one post it might be even longer than some of these posts have been already.

    “Science can’t provide evidence that miracles are impossible, precisely because if miracles are possible, then all of science is out the window. In other words, no empirical evidence could be trusted, and no regularities in nature could be reliably identified, because they all could simply be the manipulations of some deity.”

    I addressed this above. That’s not the case, it’s a misunderstanding of the belief in miracles. The belief in miracles states: God has created an orderly and rational universe which operates according to scientific laws, occasionally God may manipulate or supercede these laws in one off events but this is an unusual event (a miracle!) the rest of the time the laws of nature can be reliably identified. Therefore science is not out of the window, and miracles are compatible with science in the absence of scientific evidence that miracles cannot happen.

    “I agree, so….excellent! But see that part in bold — that’s what’s at issue. A god that maintains static rules about the universe is one that does not interfere with the universe, a Deist god.”

    A God that maintains static rules about the universe and never intervenes or interacts with the universe is a Deist God. A God that maintains static rules about the universe and does intervene or interact from time to time but maintains those rules otherwise is a Theist God that is compatible with science.

    “But once you believe in a god that can twiddle the dials, and produce any outcome it wants, well then, why would you trust any result of science?”

    Because that what the evidence shows… If all our experiments work, and are repeatable, and consistent, then the results work, will remain true and are consistent. Clearly if this God exists he is not fucking with your experiments. Even though he could

    If all of a sudden every new study and all classic studies start coming back with God’s middle finger as a result or simply constantly different fluctuating results, then it is time to abandon science, and God is clearly no longer maintaining the scientific laws of the universe.
    Until that happens a God that maintains the laws of the universe but can intervene when he wants is entirely compatible with science.

    “How could you possibly know that any finding, any apparent regularity, wasn’t the result of direct supernatural intervention?”

    I don’t want to confuse the issue, and I’ve managed to do that in several recent internet questions, but I’m going to try again. Essentially seperate to the rest of our conversation, consider this:

    Who do you think maintains the regularity of findings?
    If you’re an atheist, you just think it’s regular. It is, and that is how it is, it doesn’t need an explanation, it is a simple brute fact. And that’s a perfectly valid position.
    If you’re certain kinds of Christian, you think it’s regular. It is, and that’s how it is, because that’s how God wants it. It’s a simple brute fact, maintained by God. And that’s a perfectly valid position too.

    Atheists can do science because they are not interested in what ’caused’ the laws and regularities, but merely what they are.
    Christians can do science because they are not interested in what ’caused’ the laws and regularities*, but merely what they are.

    *They think they know. It’s God. But that’s irrelevant to studying what those laws are.

  73. #73 Ender
    February 4, 2011

    CORRECTION!

    “The scientifically compatible belief in miracles states: God has created an orderly and rational universe which operates according to scientific laws, occasionally God may manipulate or supercede these laws in one off events but this is an unusual event (a miracle!) the rest of the time the laws of nature can be reliably identified. There are plenty of ways to believe in miracles which would not be compatible with science.

  74. #74 Hammill
    February 4, 2011

    OK, I’m beginning to realize that your interest lies less in actually having an honest discussion and more in just simply trying to shift the argument. I make a point about a general topic’s relevance to evolution, you ignore that point altgoether and counter it only by carping upon the reputation of Science. Two things are interesting here: (i) the fact that you apparently seem so above one of the world’s foremost peer-reviewed scientific publications, and most importantly, (ii) the absolutely devastating irony that you’d criticize someone for referencing Science while you were touting it yourself in this very same thread (see here – I’ll provide the link in case you’ve forgotten and for others who might be curious). I would find the irony of the latter humorous if I thought it was intentional.

    Reagrding your first point in #71, I’ll also point out that I earlier mentioned (see here – I’ll provide this link for the same reasons) that you’ve repeatedly made charges here against the scientific competency of one of the nation’s top scientists. (At least I think that’s what you’re doing; without elaboration one is left to their own interpretation.) That’s a serious charge (as I also said earlier, for anyone and not just Collins) that I think requires more than personal opinion and should be backed by something substantial. I’ve offered you a chance to provide something substantial, but as noted above you’ve evaded actually having a real discussion on this point and simply repeat the claims about his record being “embarrassing” and the like, without evidence to really support this. I think that’s telling.

    Lastly, if you’re concerned with me interpreting your comments as a vendetta, I really don’t know what I’m supposed to think. It’s good that you like Collins as a person and I suppose I can take you at your word for that. However, you’ve made repeated charges against one’s scientific competency without any hard evidence, when pressed you’ve ignored the request for evidence, and now given some of the selfcontradiction in the first paragraph I’ve written above, I’m inclined to think that you’re here simply to argue and not discuss. You refer to me as “Rosenauian,” and seeing some of the absolutely disgusting and childlike language you’ve used to describe your opinion of Rosenau on this thread, I don’t think we’re going to get any further. Consider my role in this back-and-forth done; if that’s your opinion of me, I can’t imagine even wanting to engage in further discussion

  75. #75 gillt
    February 4, 2011

    Saying Collins published in Science has no bearing on his expertise in evolutionary biology. It’s funny that a Science publication wows you so much.

    That’s a serious charge (as I also said earlier, for anyone and not just Collins) that I think requires more than personal opinion and should be backed by something substantial. I’ve offered you a chance to provide something substantial, but as noted above you’ve evaded actually having a real discussion on this point and simply repeat the claims about his record being “embarrassing” and the like, without evidence to really support this. I think that’s telling.

    OMG, I’ve leveled a “serious charge!” as you say which requires more than my opinion.

    Was it when I said this? “Francis Collins’ version of human evolution involves silly crap like quantum fluctuations and other things way outside his area of expertise. In fact evolution is outside his area of expertise.”

    After you wake up from your fainting spell, maybe you should file a defamation suit on his behalf.

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