Think I hurt some fee-fees

Jerry Coyne – president of the Society for the Study of Evolution, self-styled “internationally famous defender of evolution“, and professor – is miffed at my snarky comments a couple days ago. So he did what anyone would do, he made a cartoon making fun of my profile photo.

I’d call it childish, but most kids know better than that.

For the record, the photo is of me skinning a vole. The pile of powder is sawdust, used to absorb the fat so you can keep a grip on the skin. It is not nutmeg. I leave that to the fine people of Connecticut.

Coyne also can’t fathom why I titled a shortering of Sam Harris “Harris… treed.” It’s a rhyming pun on “Harris tweed,” a wool fabric and popular in jackets used by academics. I’m not saying it’s “ha ha” funny, but still. Coyne also thinks Sam Harris’s analogy of health to morality is just dandy, and I’m sure he’ll take that up with Sean Carroll, who seems to still think Harris’s bad argument is worthy of civilized discourse.

Coyne also seems to think comments that science and religion “need not be incompatible” or “Acceptance of the evidence for evolution can be compatible with religious faith” or “Many scientists and theologians have written about how one can accept both faith and the validity of biological evolution” are instances of “science organizations … asserting a compatibility of science and religion.” This is odd, since there’s a difference between saying two thinks may be compatible and saying two things are compatible. The distinction gets back to the issue of certainty, a topic Coyne hasn’t deigned to address. I hope he does.

But lest there be any hard feelings:

i-4cf7040f95929d3366bd21d1bd381f51-kissandmakeup.jpg

Comments

  1. #1 Hammill
    February 1, 2011

    If statements like the ones causing this fuss are truly as egregious as Coyne and commenters are claiming (“a disservice to science,” “downright dishonesty,” and, more bluntly, “bullshit”), why does the Society for the Study of Evolution link to groups like the NCSE, AAAS, NAS, and the many others that use such statements? Coyne is president of the SSE. If those statements are really that much of a “disservice” to science, then I don’t think they’d be cited as resources on evolutionary science for laypersons by the organization he leads, would they? It makes me wonder if this is more of a drummed-up tempest in a teapot than anything else.

    If this is really that serious of an issue to science, then let’s hammer out the details and sticking points of those statements using the thoughtfulness such a serious issue deserves! Perhaps there are even some salient points that could be brought to light, points that could result in better-phrased statements by those organizations that take into account the concerns of both parties. For example, I think that J.J.E. has had some good points about this on one of the previous threads on this topic, even though I’ve been disagreeing with him/her on those points.

    As long as arguments are being responded to with “I will bitch slap you,” though, I can only see an interest in causing a general fuss and not much of an interest in working out the details necessary to actually improve the science.

  2. #2 Michael Fugate
    February 1, 2011

    Dig, dig dig…..Josh, give it up you are out of your league.

  3. #3 Josh Rosenau
    February 1, 2011

    Michael: 1) That’ll be the day. 2) It isn’t about “league.” It’s about right and wrong, and in these instances, Coyne is wrong, and I intend to speak the truth as I see it. Sorry if that hurts your fee-fees.

  4. #4 Jambe
    February 1, 2011

    Some people hold that all their views are amenable to the insight provided by science, reason, skepticism, etc (hereafter SRSe). Some hold that some of their views are thus amenable whereas others are not.

    Would you agree?

    A strict atheist skeptic would be in the former category and religious persons in the latter. An atheist skeptic would try to change their views to be consistent with SRSe whereas a religious person could try to change their views to be thus consistent – unless the view was a core article of their faith. If they challenged the core articles of their faith and stopped believing in them, they would no longer be religious.

    Would you agree with that as well?

    If you agree on both points, I don’t see how you can have a disagreement with “New” atheists. Religious people will always hold some article of faith which they suggest is beyond the purview of SRSe. That is what it is to take something on faith. You do it just because or because of the bible or because of a spiritual experience, etc. In other words, because of anything that isn’t SRSe.

    Science and faith are not “compatible” in that they are not both effective indicators of truth. A person might well believe or suggest that the faith which underpins one of their views is an equally sound or perhaps even better indicator of truth than the SRSe which underpins another… but the mere act of believing or suggesting a thing does not make it so.

    An accommodationist suggests that a set of views informed by religion, faith, dogma, etc, can be logically compatible with with a set of views informed by SRSe. Coyne used the word reconcilable which is more germane. Accommodationists don’t merely claim that people can simultaneously hold contradictory views; they claim that the views themselves can be made logically congruous.

    They cannot. A person cannot say “I take view x on faith” and simultaneously say “my views are entirely amenable to SRSe.” Well, they can physically utter that statement, but the statement is nonetheless logically unsound.

    You clearly have a passion for these discussions but I think it’s very much wasted on this relatively trivial fluff. Accommodationists are basically intellectual wusses who won’t admit that SRSe trumps every kind of faith because they’re afraid of offending people… or they’re politickers who play the “sure, SRSe and faith are both logically consistent ways of approaching life” card to placate the religious in an attempt to win them over.

    Both types are intellectually dishonest, either to themselves or to their religious targets. In neither case is said dishonesty respectable.

    That’s really all there is to it.

  5. #5 Stuart
    February 2, 2011

    Not to burst your self-righteous little bubble but

    he made a cartoon making fun of my profile photo

    is factually incorrect. He posted a buzzkill that someone else sent him. Splitting hairs you might say but

    it’s about right and wrong

    and your wrong.

    Rather than repeatedly getting pwned by the likes of Coyne et al. shouldn’t you be doing something about this http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6016/404.full. Perhaps you should change your tack and rather than just pointing at more “enlightened” religious theologians and religious figures that accept evolution and effectively saying

    Josh: “Look Mr. Fundamentalist, these people accept the divinity of Jesus and evolution as well.”
    Mr. Fundamentalist: “But Jesus talked about Adam and Eve and now your telling me they didn’t exist. Was Jesus wrong?”
    Josh: “Erm, erm, erm,… look at these people, they accept the divinity of Jesus and evolution as well.”

  6. #6 Josh Rosenau
    February 2, 2011

    Stuart: First, “your wrong” is spelled wrong, which is brilliantly self-discrediting on your part. And as you note, your underlying point is hairsplitting at best. The significant fact is that he felt it was appropriate to post (and to post without attribution to the author if he didn’t produce it himself, a claim with no independent evidence).

    Second, if you would take the time to read the link you attached, you’ll note that the major policy recommendation by the authors comes from citation 12, and you’ll see “J. Rosenau” is one of the authors of that paper. That’s me. If you think I’m not “doing something about this,” you aren’t paying attention.

    Third, if you think your little skit accurately describes my approach, you really aren’t paying attention.

    To summarize, then, you’re wrong.

  7. #7 Ender
    February 2, 2011

    “Science and faith are not “compatible” in that they are not both effective indicators of truth.”

    That’s not what “compatible” means. They are compatible in that you can accept and understand the scientific method and be religious at the same time (given religion that does not explicitly contradict science.)

    “They cannot. A person cannot say “I take view x on faith” and simultaneously say “my views are entirely amenable to SRSe.” Well, they can physically utter that statement, but the statement is nonetheless logically unsound.”

    Only because you have conflated Science and skepticism, and used the definition of skepticism that demands disbelief in absence of positive evidence, rather than measured agnosticism which is the rational response.
    If you say “I take x view, which does not contradict science, on faith” and “my views are entirely amenable to science” you are being logically sound.

  8. #8 Sigmund
    February 2, 2011

    Ender said:
    “They are compatible in that you can accept and understand the scientific method and be religious at the same time (given religion that does not explicitly contradict science.)”
    Well that’s as it may be but in setting this rule you’ve severely limited the amount of religions that might fit this criterion. It removes all theistic faiths for a start and only leaves us with the sort of vague deism or pantheism that hardly qualifies as a religion at all in most peoples minds.

  9. #9 Stuart
    February 2, 2011

    Touché Josh, although spotting a spelling mistake hardly discredits someone (have you never made one of those?).

    So let me get this straight. Coyne visits a church for a discussion, you are snarky about it, Coyne posts a cartoon in response (that he didn’t make, but has no signatures to verify the claim), you get riled, call him childish, then post your own kitteh picture (with an attibution of course). Nice, moral high ground and all that (although I know you don’t like the landscape metaphor).

    With regards the Science article, yes I should have read more carefully to see your article citation, but are always so smug?

    With regards the “skit”, it was merely to show in a whimsical way that you can try and teach evolution all you want to children, but if they have certain religious inclinations they will not take their fingers out of their ears. The quality of the science teacher in this respect is irrelevant.

    Any chance of some words on Blackfords post http://metamagician3000.blogspot.com/2011/02/gnu-atheist-does-not-mean-nasty.html ?

  10. #10 Neil Taylor
    February 2, 2011

    Mr Rosenau, I think you are being very disingenuous concerning the NCSE’s involvement in the “science/faith” debate.
    There can be little doubt that this is a complex debate with multiple opinions. Gnu atheists and religious fundamentalists say there is a fundamental incompatibility; some liberal theologians see fewer, or even no, issues with science and faith presiding over their non-overlapping magisterial; while others debate the size of the overlap via such issues as miracles, the divinity of Christ, resurrection etc.
    There is no consensus view, and as this debate touches upon the supernatural it cannot be resolved other than by dogma and faith.
    Looking at the NCSE website it is blindingly obvious that the NCSE takes a position in this debate. For example it only links to opinions that do not see a science/faith conflict and the website itself states that it is a “misperception that science and religion are inevitably in conflict”.
    The NCSE is not above the fray, concentrating only on the scientific evidence, it is actively involved in evangelizing NOMA from a Judeo-Christian point of view.
    It is obvious why the organization is doing this – Americans are predominately Judeo-Christian and there has been a theological shift within parts of Christianity to reconcile the incompatibilities between literal readings of the bible and the scientific evidence for the origins of life and the world. The NCSE has allied its website and material with these theological beliefs – via the Clergy Letter Project etc (with a Judeo focus via the Jewish Letter Project).
    This focus is obvious and to pretend it does not exist can only be due to a political stance.
    It can be debated whether the NCSE’s goal of increasing acceptance of Evolution is being advanced by it taking this position compared to it having a neutral position, and I would assume you will say the outreach to organizations which accept NOMA is useful.
    But that isn’t the issue here – the issue is the obviousness of the NCSE’s position, but your failure to acknowledge it. That to me is simply not credible. The NCSE is not theologically neutral in this debate – it supports the NOMA theological position – and I cannot believe you are trying to claim it does not.

  11. #11 Hammill
    February 2, 2011

    @#5/9:

    I think the primary problem here is that people are far too interested in “pwning” each other than they are concerned with actually addressing the very important problems listed by the paper you cite from Science. If they were really interested in the latter, I imagine we’d see Josh called wrong and not a “liar.” We might see someone argue that he perhaps misunderstood a position instead of claims that he’s mentally incompetent. We might have people take what he’s written and thought about seriously – even if they think it’s very, very wrong – rather than discounting it on the grounds that he’s a “horrible writer” or that he’s only got concerns because he’s jockeying for Templeton money. And, most importantly, we might see the president of the world’s foremost scientific society for evolution (the very scientific issue at hand in that very important journal article you cite) try to respond with something more substantial than a cartoon with expletives and references to pimping and prostitution.

    I could go on. There is snarkiness on both sides here, and it’s to the point where I think the real issues are now just footholds people are using to try and rub as much salt as they can in festering, personal ego wounds. Where does that leave the science but left behind?

  12. #12 Ender
    February 2, 2011

    “Well that’s as it may be

    Yep

    “but in setting this rule you’ve severely limited the amount of religions that might fit this criterion.

    Yes… any religion that makes an empirically testable claim which we test and find not be true

    “It removes all theistic faiths for a start”

    Nope, plenty of theistic faiths do not make any empirically testable claims.

  13. #13 Stuart
    February 2, 2011

    @Hammill

    I agree that there is an element of trying to “pwn” each other but I don’t see it as a primary problem. The primary problem in this context is the willfull or accidental misrepresentation of others views. Coyne has plainly and repeatedly stated what is meant by accomodationism and still Josh doesn’t seem to get it. To be honest, you can only bang your head against the wall so many times before it starts to get annoying.

    I wouldn’t want Josh’s job trying to defend the teaching of evolution in public schools. The NCSE does a fine job defending the teaching of evolution and getting it in the neck from the religious and non-religious cannot be easy. But then I think, probably putting myself in a minority, that it isn’t essential that evolution be taught. Why? Well, I grew up in England and was never introduced to evolution at all in Biology class. Admittedly, I didn’t study Biology to an advanced level, only until I was 16. I can hear people howling “how can you teach Biology without evolution?”. Easy, just don’t mention it. I was aware of the idea and studied it in my own time. I know evolution is the starting point of any in-depth knowledge of Biology. And I know that it would be a real shame for someone to live their life and not contemplate and understand the beauty, simplicity and subtle power of evolution by natural selection. I know universities will then have to pick up the slack on the topic for the Biology majors, but that was true of math when I was studying at university (I studied Physics). I guess what I am trying to say is there are bigger fish to fry than simply the narrow scope of evolution.

    The Science article does recommend that teachers should be better trained in evolution to enable them to provide a better quality of education to their students. No doubt better training is essential but I wouldn’t narrowly pick out evolution; a broader scope that covers critical thinking, science methodology, and logic makes more sense in my eyes.

  14. #14 Jimalakirti
    February 2, 2011

    I think the kiss is a nice gesture. I hope you boys don’t make up and get too kissy-kissy though. I am enjoying this very much (it’s more fun than Fox news!) and I am being forced to review my own reasons for being an atheist.

  15. #15 Sigmund
    February 2, 2011

    Ender said:
    “plenty of theistic faiths do not make any empirically testable claims”
    All the three major monotheistic faiths make such claims.
    How can a ‘real’ theism (as opposed to a myth) arise in the first place without a direct violation of the principle of NOMA – there must be some communication or overlap – and thus an empirical effect – from the supernatural magisteria to the natural magisteria.
    A Christianity that is compatible with science is one where Jesus is reduced to a human philosopher, humanitarian and teacher, who was killed by the Romans – and stayed dead. Of his teachings, the ones that could be relied upon would be the broadly secular stuff like the Golden Rule and the commands to care for the poor. All the stuff about heaven, hell, God etc, would be regarded as entirely metaphorical.

  16. #16 Art
    February 2, 2011

    And here I am, all red faced, because I had sort of thought you were rolling a joint. I’ve been around a few people rolling a fatty but have never seen anyone ‘skin a vole’, one assumes that isn’t a euphemism, so, I guess, we all default to what we are more familiar with.

    A bit of a dolt the whole old/new(gnu) atheist thing is a little pedantic for me. Seems ‘all good’ to me. The ‘stay quiet so we don’t get stepped on’ wing, which spends a lot of time flattering itself with its superior intellectual history and position, don’t seem functionally different from the open/activist, ‘swing for the fence’, ‘damn the torpedoes’ wing. Sort of like accepting that the caterpillar and butterfly are both the same critter.

    Yes, the differences are significant, and sometimes even mildly interesting, but pretty much all the core arguments are the same, their conclusions end up in the same place, with differences being in nuance, context and energy used in delivery.

    Kiss-and-make-up is okay. But a little energetic sparring, as long as there is no serious damage, is better exercise.

  17. #17 J.J.E.
    February 2, 2011

    I suspect a bit of introspection and self awareness is in order.

  18. #18 Jambe
    February 2, 2011

    “They are compatible in that you can accept and understand the scientific method and be religious at the same time (given religion that does not explicitly contradict science.)”

    Ugh.

    I was not talking about the ability of human beings to hold contradictory or logically incompatible views! It’s blatantly obvious that people can do that – so obvious in fact that I think you’re using the notion as a strawman. I even explicitly elucidated this point later on:

    “Accommodationists don’t merely claim that people can simultaneously hold contradictory views; they claim that the views themselves can be made logically congruous.”

    Way to quote mine!

    Are religion and science compatible in the sense that a person can simultaneously believe both are good indicators of truth? Of course they are. But that’s not the point. That has NEVER been the point! The core of this issue is the belief systems themselves. Science properly practiced (this implies SRSe) and religion are logically incompatible.

    Cripes. You people grasp at straws as if there’s a thousand irresistible slurpees in front of you. Skepticism is bloody intrinsic to honest science. I cannot fathom why you all twist yourselves into such knots over the notion that the two concepts are inherently related.

  19. #19 herp n. derpington
    February 2, 2011

    I HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO THAN TO GAINSAY YOU ON YOUR BLOG.

    RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE.

    NOW I WILL BANG ON THE KEYBOARD AND HOPEFULLY AN ARGUMENT WILL EMERGE.

    ASHIULARHAEPICG359AXGPAEGROPUJL;GAEJ; ;LAEG ;AEG;OAWE8AT7GCNPGP8 AERG7AE5GP98GHAGHFKDJGFDHG974W7AJNAV ;;AEGRO9P8A5E;-2=A4O;AG ;OU208024T[08

    GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME. PROVE ME WRONG MR. SCIENCE!

  20. #20 TB
    February 2, 2011

    “Well that’s as it may be but in setting this rule you’ve severely limited the amount of religions that might fit this criterion. It removes all theistic faiths for a start and only leaves us with the sort of vague deism or pantheism that hardly qualifies as a religion at all in most peoples minds.”

    I was going to reply to this, but Ender did it nicely. You what was good and admirable? Coyne taking the time to go, meet and learn about people who believe in something he doesn’t.

  21. #21 Hammill
    February 2, 2011

    @#13:

    “The primary problem in this context is the willfull or accidental misrepresentation of others views”

    I just can’t buy this. Reread the original post, made long before this one, and you’ll see that Josh acknowledged the many, muddled definitions of accommodationism. Then read the second post Josh made, where he clearly defines what he means by Coyne being “accommodating.” Then feel free to go back through past posts of Coyne’s where he has disparaged others for doing and saying many of the same things that he himself said and did at the Methodist chruch. This is what I took away from Josh’s post: that Coyne is doing what he has said in the past was detrimental, and perhaps that version of “accommodationism” is null and void based on Coyne’s change of views. The important part is that this in no way deals with the philosophical definition of accommodationism; it’s an entirely separate issue. There may be a disagreement between what Coyne calls accommodationism and what Josh is arguing, but calling it “willful misrepresentation” is a stretch. (This kind of language, by the way, is what I meant above where I referenced people not only saying that Josh or someone like him might be wrong, but just assuming that they’re lying instead. There’s a big difference there, and I’d wager that this kind of language is used, maybe even unconsciously, only because it ilicits emotion and keeps the conflict stoked. A person ‘willfully misrepresenting” their opponent paints an infinitely more “pwning” picture than someone simply having a difference of opinion, no?)

    I essentially agree, word for word, with your second and third paragraphs; evolution should not be dealt with in a vacuum. My mention of it was merely to point out how the group Coyne himself is in charge of prominently recommends laypersons to the very groups Coyne is accusing of doing a gross “disservice to science.” My point in highlighting this was to display how disproportionate from reality, IMO, the argument has become. I’d wager that if Coyne is willing to let the very organization he presides over recommend these groups as sources of info on science and evolution, the situation isn’t quite as hyperbolically egregious as is being claimed. It’s a fundamental disagreement of views that needs addressing, yes, but not the crime against humanity a blog war would have one believe.

  22. #22 Tulse
    February 2, 2011

    plenty of theistic faiths do not make any empirically testable claims

    Do any not make claims that are deeply contrary to our understanding of the natural world?

  23. #23 Matt Penfold
    February 3, 2011

    Jerry Coyne – president of the Society for the Study of Evolution, self-styled “internationally famous defender of evolution”, and professor – is miffed at my snarky comments a couple days ago. So he did what anyone would do, he made a cartoon making fun of my profile photo.

    No he did not. It was not Jerry’s work as he makes clear.

    I think you need to stop lying.

  24. #24 Ender
    February 3, 2011

    @Sigmund

    “All the three major monotheistic faiths make such claims.”

    Like what? Specifics please. And not ‘miracles’ or anything facile like that. Miracles as one off events are inherently unfalsifiable and therefore do not contradict science.
    If you disagree with this, please propose a test that would falsify the existence of a specific miracle.

    “How can a ‘real’ theism (as opposed to a myth) arise in the first place without a direct violation of the principle of NOMA – there must be some communication or overlap – and thus an empirical effect – from the supernatural magisteria to the natural magisteria.”

    Yes, indeed, at some point ‘God’ needs to communicate if a religion is to be formed. If you can show me the peer-reviewed scientific evidence that he has never done that then there may well be a problem.
    Otherwise (and it is otherwise as there is no such evidence) this does not contradict science, it is merely untestable by science.

    “A Christianity that is compatible with science is one where Jesus is reduced to a human philosopher, humanitarian and teacher, who was killed by the Romans – and stayed dead. Of his teachings, the ones that could be relied upon would be the broadly secular stuff like the Golden Rule and the commands to care for the poor. All the stuff about heaven, hell, God etc, would be regarded as entirely metaphorical.”

    No. That’s a Christianity that’s compatible with Metaphysical naturalism. You appear to be conflating science with metaphysical naturalism.
    Metaphysical naturalism is not compatible with religion, for all the reasons you are giving. Science is compatible, except where directly contradicted.

  25. #25 Ender
    February 3, 2011

    “””They are compatible in that you can accept and understand the scientific method and be religious at the same time (given religion that does not explicitly contradict science.)””

    “Ugh.

    I was not talking about the ability of human beings to hold contradictory or logically incompatible views!”

    And neither was I. If “religion… …does not explicitly contradict science” then is it logically compatible and does not contradict science. The word ‘contradict’ in the quoted sentence should have been a clue.

    “The core of this issue is the belief systems themselves. Science properly practiced (this implies SRSe) and religion are logically incompatible.”

    And this is where you make your fatal mistake. Science properly practiced does not imply SRSe. If you want to make the case for SRSe or metaphysical naturalism, then do that! Don’t pretend that science is the same thing as SRSe. It clearly isn’t. Otherwise you wouldn’t have to keep calling it SRSe, you would just call it science.

    SRSe and metaphysical naturalism are both incompatible with religion. Is this supposed to shock anyone? The only shocking thing is the ease with which you elide the two of them and science.

    “Cripes. You people grasp at straws as if there’s a thousand irresistible slurpees in front of you. Skepticism is bloody intrinsic to honest science. I cannot fathom why you all twist yourselves into such knots over the notion that the two concepts are inherently related.”

    Load of bollocks. Skepticism is skepticism. Science is science. They are compatible but not the same thing. It’s really simple.

  26. #26 Ender
    February 3, 2011

    @Tulse

    “Do any not make claims that are deeply contrary to our understanding of the natural world?”

    It depends, by ‘our understanding’ do you mean metaphysical naturalism?
    If you do, then religion does make claims that are deeply contrary to your understanding, but you are not basing your understanding on science but on metaphysical naturalism.

    If you mean ‘what science has shown us’ then no, many religions do not make claims that are deeply contrary to what science has shown us.

  27. #27 Sigmund
    February 3, 2011

    Ender, YOU are the one making the claims of miracles and interacting Gods, not me.
    The burden of proof is on YOU to back up the existence of either. Proof of a single miracle will be enough to get you the million dollars from James Randi – surely it’s worth your while.
    I do not claim that no miracle has ever happened.
    I simply say that no sufficient evidence has ever been forthcoming that proves a single miracle occurred, anywhere or at any time.
    It is widely accepted that science functions through the application of methodological naturalism to the natural world. Even religious scientists like Ken Miller and pro-religious science organizations like the NCSE advocate this. Miracles form no part of methodological naturalism. If we were prepared to accept (without proof) miracles as occurrences within the natural world then science would be in the situation depicted in this famous cartoon.
    http://www.webamused.com/blogosophy/archives/002064.html

  28. #28 Ender
    February 3, 2011

    “Ender, YOU are the one making the claims of miracles and interacting Gods, not me.”

    No I am not. I am making the claim that not all religions make empirically testable claims. Please try to stay on topic.

    “The burden of proof is on YOU to back up the existence of either”

    No it isn’t. It doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference to my argument if there is no evidence for any kind of miracle ever. We appear to be talking at cross purposes, please re-read my post and look for an argument about empirically testable claims, not whether miracles have ever happened, which is irrelevant.

    “It is widely accepted that science functions through the application of methodological naturalism to the natural world. Even religious scientists like Ken Miller and pro-religious science organizations like the NCSE advocate this.”

    Yes. Methedological naturalism, which is entirely compatible with religion. Not metaphysical naturalism, which is not.

    You appear to have completely misread me. I do not care about miracles, I attempted to head you off at the pass before you attempted to argue that miracles are amenable to empirical investigation, which of course most are not. (On-going miracles are a different matter)

    Miracles are irrelevant to the question. The only question is – do all religions make empirically falsifiable claims. The answer is, they do not.

  29. #29 Hammill
    February 3, 2011

    The only question is – do all religions make empirically falsifiable claims

    I agree. And further hindering an empiricist argument against religion is the fact that many religious people rely on religion as a means of obtaining knowledge through personal introspection and experience. In the philosophy world there are cases for and against whether or not this sort of thing is “knowledge,” but the cases for it are rather strong, if not separate from empirically-testable knowledge. So beyond what religions themselves claim, religion can be (like many other things) an avenue to a type of knowledge that is neither supernatural nor empirically falsifiable in nature.

  30. #30 Matt Penfold
    February 3, 2011

    Still no apology from Rosenau for his blatant dishonesty.

    The man has zero integrity.

    Tell me Josh, does the NCSE condone your lies ?

  31. #31 Sigmund
    February 3, 2011

    Ender said:
    “The only question is – do all religions make empirically falsifiable claims. The answer is, they do not.”
    I already said as much in post number 8. You’ve clearly never read anything that that anti-accomodationists have written on the matter over the past few years since they draw a distinction between some religions (deism, pantheism) that are compatible with science and others (all the ones that violate NOMA) that are not.

  32. #32 Tulse
    February 3, 2011

    many religions do not make claims that are deeply contrary to what science has shown us.

    Science has shown us that mammals do not give birth parthenogenically, especially to males. Science has shown us that dead humans cannot be revived after three days, much less spontaneously re-animate. Science has ruled out horses that can fly, and that a flood covered the earth, and (if we extend science to include archeology) that there was ever a large presence of enslaved Jews in Egypt.

    Do you argue with these conclusions?

  33. #33 Ender
    February 3, 2011

    “I already said as much in post number 8″

    Yes, but there are far more than Deism that don’t break NOMA. Many theistic faiths do not make empirical claims.

    “You’ve clearly never read anything that that anti-accomodationists have written on the matter over the past few years since they draw a distinction between some religions (deism, pantheism) that are compatible with science and others (all the ones that violate NOMA) that are not.”

    Getting testy are we? The question is not what I have read, but your unevidenced assertion that all religions apart from Deism (and now Pantheism) make empirically testable claims.

    Try and follow the conversation more closely, it is not about miracles or Deist faiths that are compatible with Science, but all the others that are also compatible.

  34. #34 Ender
    February 3, 2011

    “Do you argue with these conclusions?”

    Yes. Science has not shown that miracles can not happen. If it has, please source your claim, peer reviewed research would do.

  35. #35 Sigmund
    February 3, 2011

    Ender, given the huge numbers and varieties of religions it is impossible to make a blanket statement of compatibility or incompatibility but, in my opinion, violating strict NOMA principles should be one criterion for incompatibility. In other words if the religion posits no contact between the natural magisterium and the supernatural magisterium then it may be compatible with science.
    Perhaps you would care to name a current theistic faith that fits this description?

  36. #36 Ender
    February 3, 2011

    In fact I’ll adjust that and say it’s not even in the purview of science to say that miracles cannot happen. That’s the job of metaphysical naturalism. Science involves the collection and interpretation of evidence and falsification of hypotheses. Can you propose a falsifiable hypothesis for miracles?
    If it’s not falsifiable then you can’t use science to disprove it. Just like science cannot speak to whether the internal angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees in Euclidean geometry, it cannot speak to any miraculous events. By definition. Metaphysical naturalism exists to do that.

  37. #37 Hammill
    February 3, 2011

    @#23:

    Instead of carping endlessly about lies, it might be of assistance to you to read in entirety what Josh has really said regarding this issue that you seem to find so disproportionately important to any actual argument in the OP.

    Or, I suppose, you can just keep trying to stir whatever pot it is you’re boiling.

  38. #38 Ender
    February 3, 2011

    “Ender, given the huge numbers and varieties of religions it is impossible to make a blanket statement of compatibility or incompatibility but, in my opinion, violating strict NOMA principles should be one criterion for incompatibility. In other words if the religion posits no contact between the natural magisterium and the supernatural magisterium then it may be compatible with science.”

    Either you misunderstand the idea of NOMA or I do. NOMA posits that Religion speaks about matters of faith and morality and that Science investigates the natural world empirically. Where these boundaries are violated is when religion says “the earth goes around the sun”, “prayer cures aids”, “the rain dance always brings rain”. Not when religion says “we believe miraculous events can happen” because that is not a part of the natural world which is amenable to empirical investigation. Therefore it’s not stepping into scientific territory.

    So contact between the supernatural and natural realm would not violate NOMA but claims that religious beliefs can substitute for empirical investigation of the natural world would.

    “Perhaps you would care to name a current theistic faith that fits this description?”

    I can name ones that do not make any empirically testable claims that are contradicted by science.
    I can’t say I know a huge amount about the minutiae of any faith but off the top of my head I don’t know of any articles of faith in Judaism, many Christian sects, Catholicism, Buddhism, or most varieties of Neo-Pagan that make empirically testable claims that have been falsified.

  39. #39 Tulse
    February 3, 2011

    I can name ones that do not make any empirically testable claims that are contradicted by science.

    Right, but only because the empirical claims they do make have been isolated from testing by special pleading (i.e., “miracles”). Oddly enough, we only accept such pleading in the cases of religion, and not, say, in the case of those who claim to be Napoleon, or that aliens are beaming thoughts into their heads via CIA satellites (claims which, with acceptance of similar “miracles”, are just as isolated in principle from empirical falsification).

    I don’t know of any articles of faith in Judaism, many Christian sects, Catholicism, Buddhism, or most varieties of Neo-Pagan that make empirically testable claims that have been falsified.

    If that’s the case, it is only because the empirical claims curiously stop at the spots in history where we could actually test them, just as they have done throughout history (e.g., age of the earth, evolution, heliocentrism, etc. etc. etc.).

    However, it’s not actually the case that extant religious beliefs make no falsified claims. For example, there is absolutely no evidence in the copious written records of Egypt that thousands of Hebrews were enslaved, that all the firstborn of the country died, and that a pharaoh and his army were completely wiped out. (You can argue that such does not count as a “falsification” of the events commemorated as historical at Passover, but then I would wonder what you would count as historical falsification.)

  40. #40 Tulse
    February 3, 2011

    (And I wish I knew why my paragraphing is continually munged…)

  41. #41 Ender
    February 3, 2011

    “If that’s the case, it is only because the empirical claims curiously stop at the spots in history where we could actually test them, just as they have done throughout history (e.g., age of the earth, evolution, heliocentrism, etc. etc. etc.).”

    When do you think the young earth claims originated and why do you think they are gone? What were the pre-evolution empirical claims? Heliocentrism was indeed an overstepping of NOMA and an incorrect theological claim. They corrected it. How is this a bad thing?

    You asked me to name religions that do not make empirically falsifiable claims. Not religions that have never been wrong, or do not have other sects that believe insane young earth theories.
    Do you have any evidence that any of the ones I mentioned make empirical claims amenable to testing? Be specific.

    I haven’t read about the Egyptian claims, it depends really, is there absence of evidence or evidence of absence? Any links you have would be useful.
    None of the sects of Christianity I was talking about believe in Biblical literalism (an absurd idea in a translated document) and many of them do not believe in Biblical inerrancy. They understand that the Bible was written by fallible human beings, even if divinely inspired. Most of them also realise that interpretation and understanding of an enormous document written between two thousand or so and five thousand(?) or so years ago, is difficult, a constantly evolving process that leads us steadily towards a more perfect understanding, and thus are happy to inform their beliefs with the latest scientific evidence and theological thought.

  42. #42 Tulse
    February 3, 2011

    I haven’t read about the Egyptian claims, it depends really, is there absence of evidence or evidence of absence? Any links you have would be useful.

    A good overview of the various issues can be had at (what else?) Wikipedia. I’m not sure how one could have actual “evidence of absence” in such a case, although given how much the Egyptians documented their culture, and their pharaohs’ lives, I’d suggest that no record of close to 40% of the residents of Egypt leaving, no evidence of massive plagues, including the death of every first born male (a demographic catastrophe that would be hard to recover from), no evidence of the Egyptian army being wiped out and a pharaoh killed (and the extreme social and political chaos that would cause), no evidence of a migration of hundreds of thousands of people across the Sinai, is about as close to “evidence of absence” as one can get.

    You asked me to name religions that do not make empirically falsifiable claims. Not religions that have never been wrong, or do not have other sects that believe insane young earth theories.

    If one can’t rule out miracles, why are young earth theories insane? What makes such a theory crazy, but the notion that a man could re-animate after three days dead simply a matter of faith? This isn’t a rhetorical question — I am really trying to understand the distinction you (and more “liberal” believers) are drawing.

    Most of them also realise that interpretation and understanding of an enormous document written between two thousand or so and five thousand(?) or so years ago, is difficult, a constantly evolving process that leads us steadily towards a more perfect understanding, and thus are happy to inform their beliefs with the latest scientific evidence and theological thought.

    But, if their god can literally do anything, why would they feel obligated to “inform their beliefs with the latest scientific evidence”? Surely they could treat any evidence like they do the Resurrection and the Virgin Birth, simply as miracles that are not actual reflections of physical laws. Again, I’m not making a rhetorical point here — I am genuinely confused as to why, if one believes in miracles, one can’t be a philosophically consistent biblical inerrantist.

  43. #43 Sigmund
    February 3, 2011

    Tulse said:
    ” why, if one believes in miracles, one can’t be a philosophically consistent biblical inerrantist.”
    Indeed. Albert Mohler, one of the leaders of the Southern Baptists, recently suggested that the biblical timeline is entirely consistent with the results produced by modern science for the simple reason that God made it to look old. Does this make creationism compatible with science Ender?
    If not then why not?

  44. #44 Ender
    February 4, 2011

    “I’m not sure how one could have actual “evidence of absence” in such a case”

    Evidence that the Jewish people actually migrated via India would do it, or any other evidence to suggest they were elsewhere for the entire period the Exodus could have happened.

    “given how much the Egyptians documented their culture, and their pharaohs’ lives, I’d suggest that no record of close to 40% of the residents of Egypt leaving, no evidence of massive plagues, including the death of every first born male (a demographic catastrophe that would be hard to recover from)”

    That would contradict the literal interpretation but it’s only 40% if you read the Bible literally or inerrantly and if you accept the translation as 600,000 men not 600,000 families. Ditto the death of ‘every’ firstborn male, I doubt the fleeing Jews did a house to house survey.
    Other sects that are not contradicted by this evidence are those that consider the tale religious rather than historical. Again these are compatible with the evidence and therefore science.

    “no evidence of the Egyptian army being wiped out and a pharaoh killed (and the extreme social and political chaos that would cause)”

    I’m not sure that it said that the Pharoah was killed, nor the ‘entire’ army. The army claim is irrelevant anyway to these sects as even if it did say ‘all of the army’ they would be happy to understand that as ‘all of the army chasing the Jews’, ‘all of the army as far as the author was concerned’ etc.
    If the Pharoah’s death claim is in Exodus (which I looked for but did not see) then strong ‘evidence for absence’ would be an unbroken history of the Pharaohs of the time, with evidence for how each of them died. This would still not contradict those who don’t believe in Biblical innerancy nor those who believe Exodus is religious rather than a historical record.

    “If one can’t rule out miracles, why are young earth theories insane?”

    Because they are neither compatible with science nor with any Christian theology (because they would require a trickster God)

    ” What makes such a theory crazy, but the notion that a man could re-animate after three days dead simply a matter of faith? This isn’t a rhetorical question — I am really trying to understand the distinction you (and more “liberal” believers) are drawing”

    Thanks, I’m happy to elucidate.
    Science shows that in the absence of a trickster God, trickster aliens or a universe that appeared fully formed ten seconds ago the age of the Earth is vastly greater than 6000 years or whatever. Christianity shows that God, if their God exists, is not a trickster God.
    So to be a Christian and accept a young earth theory is either to reject science (crazy, violation of NOMA) or to accept a trickster God (crazy because you claim to be a Christian and that’s not a Christian belief)

    Science has not shown that miracles can’t happen. So believing in miracles does not contradict science. Therefore you can be a Christian who doesn’t reject science (sensible) and believes in miracles (an acceptable interpretation of Christianity.)

    “But, if their god can literally do anything, why would they feel obligated to “inform their beliefs with the latest scientific evidence”? Surely they could treat any evidence like they do the Resurrection and the Virgin Birth, simply as miracles that are not actual reflections of physical laws. Again, I’m not making a rhetorical point here — I am genuinely confused as to why, if one believes in miracles, one can’t be a philosophically consistent biblical inerrantist.”

    For the same reason as above. You can’t believe in a trickster God if you’re a Christian. You can believe that God will sometimes intervene.
    If the scientific evidence says A, then A, unless God is tricking us.
    There is no scientific evidence that the Virgin birth did not happen, and there cannot be, by definition. But where there can be, and is, evidence they must accept it or reject Christianities non-trickster God. Or reject science, which makes them one of the sects we’re not talking about.

    Also: “>”But, if their god can literally do anything” most of the sects that are compatible with science do not believe this. There is a variety of opinion which varies from “God is logically bound” to “Logic is Godly bound” via “Omnipotent – can do all that can be done (i.e. is possible)”

  45. #45 Ender
    February 4, 2011

    “” why, if one believes in miracles, one can’t be a philosophically consistent biblical inerrantist.”

    Indeed. Albert Mohler, one of the leaders of the Southern Baptists, recently suggested that the biblical timeline is entirely consistent with the results produced by modern science for the simple reason that God made it to look old. Does this make creationism compatible with science Ender?”

    It’s not compatible with Christianity, for the aformentioned trickster God reason.
    No, that claim is incoherent. Creationism posits a lack of evolution, unless you posit a faked-evolution trickster God, which they claim they don’t, the evidence shows that evolution is how we came about. They either have to admit they believe in a supernatural trickster or accept the conclusions of science.

    The difference between these sects and the ones I’m talking about which are compatible with science, is that the compatible sects believe that God created the universe with rational rules that can be discovered through empirical investigation, and these guys believe that whatever they believe regardless of science is true, and it must be justified even if you have to posit an absurd trickster God or reject science.

  46. #46 Ender
    February 4, 2011

    “Indeed. Albert Mohler, one of the leaders of the Southern Baptists, recently suggested that the biblical timeline is entirely consistent with the results produced by modern science for the simple reason that God made it to look old. Does this make creationism compatible with science Ender?”

    Damnit. Also science posits that the Earth is old because that’s the result of empirical investigation, not that the Earth looks old due to the magic of God. To believe the latter is to contradict science.

    The difference between that and miracles is that science does not posit anything about the existence of miracles, and people who believe in miracles believe in them. To believe in the latter does not contradict science.

  47. #47 Ender
    February 4, 2011

    @Tulse, I’ve also replied in the other thread, in case you miss it.

  48. #48 Sigmund
    February 4, 2011

    Ender said:
    “It’s not compatible with Christianity, for the aformentioned trickster God reason.”
    But Christianity is a diverse collection of differing interpretations of the same core scriptures. Who are you to tell people what interpretations are correct and which are false? I suspect Albert Mohler is rather better versed in these scriptures than you and he finds such a trickster God scenario possible.
    How do you know he is wrong?

  49. #49 Ender
    February 4, 2011

    “But Christianity is a diverse collection of differing interpretations of the same core scriptures.”,/i>

    Yes the same core scriptures

    “Who are you to tell people what interpretations are correct and which are false?”

    The same as any well informed layperson backed up by many experts. Have you never held an opinion about something in which you are not highly qualified? I’m not an evolutionary biologist but I could also tell him a lot about evolution.

    “I suspect Albert Mohler is rather better versed in these scriptures than you”

    Ha!

    and he finds such a trickster God scenario possible.
    How do you know he is wrong?”

    Oh, you were serious. I could go on a tangent about the theological fallacies, misunderstandings, and basic incoherence of his position, but I suspect you are not actually that interested. I sure as hell am not.
    For a primer in the theological incoherence of many a fundamentalist position, wrapped around a savaging of one of the worst series ever written try: http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/left_behind/
    It’s awesome.

    I don’t know that there isn’t a trickster God any more than I know whether we’re in the Matrix, whether the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct, or that there isn’t a God at all. These are all faith positions (until such time that evidence is discovered), but the trickster God is not compatible with any coherent internally consistent historical Christianity.

  50. #50 Tulse
    February 4, 2011

    Ender, I’ll be AFK for a while, and I’d like to try composing a more coherent and unified response, rather than just a point by point reply. So it may be a bit of time before I respond in full, but I am interested in continuing our discussion. I’ll try to pull something together this evening.

  51. #51 McWaffle
    February 4, 2011

    Josh, can you not edit your own posts? Just correct the “he made it” to “he posted it”. It’s not really quibbling, I think there’s a clear distinction there. I think this sort of thing is why you’re often accused of dishonesty. Just correct the post and then it won’t be an issue.

    Especially when it explicitly states it was sent in by a reader, it isn’t vague or misleading at all. There’s no watermark on the image, but that’s almost certainly because it wasn’t ever posted anywhere else.

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