About that letter

Chad Orzel says Support the National Center for Science Education:

I try not to do any shilling for political groups on the blog, but I’ll make an exception for the National Center for Science Education. Why? Three reasons:

1) They do good and important, if not always glamorous work, supporting the teaching of evolution in public schools, both in the classroom and in the courts.

2) Josh Rosenau has a really good blog, one of the best on science-and-politics issues, and his day job is with NCSE.

3) Jerry Coyne is a jackass, whose latest bit of jackassery involves sending an open letter to NCSE complaining that Josh (among others) was mean to him on the Internet. Because, apparently, he’s twelve.

So, there you go: it’s an organization that does good work, employs good people, and pisses off the Nü Atheists. That’s an organization I’ll give money to, and encourage others to do the same.

What is this jackassery he references? An open letter making three basic complaints about how NCSE, my employer, handles issues of science and religion. They are:

  1. Mean employees: “your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists.”
  2. Policy: “The official policy of …the NCSE …is apparently to cozy up to religion.”
  3. Practices: “You have ‘faith projects,’ you constantly tell us to shut up about religion, and you even espouse a kind of theology which claims that faith and science are compatible. Clearly you are going to continue with these activities, for you’ve done nothing to change them in the face of criticism.”

i-3cdfb0f7e62e37c7618660ca62c4c4d0-NotNCSE.jpgThe line about “employees, present and former” refers to me and to Nick Matzke. Nick has not been an NCSE employee for over 3 years; he’s a grad student at UC Berkeley now. To suggest that NCSE is somehow accountable for an employee three years after he left seems more than disingenuous. As for myself, the complaint involves only the issue of how I behave here, at my blog, which contains a prominent disclaimer that this blog is not an NCSE project, and does not reflect NCSE’s views. I don’t work on it on NCSE time, and the suggestion that NCSE is in any sense responsible for this blog is ignorant, as I’ve pointed out to Coyne repeatedly. (I’ve got a screengrab to the right for clarity.)

No one at NCSE has ever told me that I should blog about a given topic, nor forbidden me from doing so. When I was first hired, I asked whether I should change this blog in any way because of NCSE, and the only suggestion was that I add the disclaimer. My comments here and at other blogs and on Twitter have never been controlled in any way by NCSE, and I have no reason to believe they ever would be. If you have a problem with this blog, there are plenty of ways to express that without going through my employer (or through Nick’s former employer, for goodness sake).

Which means that this first point is entirely irrelevant to NCSE. Neither of the people who Coyne is whining about have been doing so at NCSE’s behest, using NCSE’s resources, or in any capacity as NCSE employees.

Nor, it should be noted, do I spend “much of [my] time” on Coyne and these squabbles over gnu atheism (I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess Nick doesn’t either). I write roughly a post a day, not all my posts are about this issue, and I’m a fast writer, so they don’t take long. His claim about how much time I spend on this is, of course, given without any evidence, nor has he got any basis for making such a judgment. As far as I can tell, the gist of this complaint is that his ego got bruised and he’s upset.

It should be noted that I’ve run this blog for seven years, using it in political fights with people known for their dirty tactics and their influence, and never has anyone tried to influence this blog through any of my employers. People I’ve struggled with include Senators, members of Congress, and several state and federal attorneys general with vast resources at their disposal, reputations for smear campaigns, and the capacity and willingness to abuse their power against critics. But never in my years of blogging has anyone complained to my employer about me, nor can I fathom why anyone would complain to a former employer. This is breach of ethics no one else has dared attempt, and is deserving of special attention.

As to points two and three, they are the same nonsense Coyne and his cronies have been whinging about for years. I responded to the same points, almost verbatim, 13 months ago, and I have little to add now. I want to make clear that I’m responding based on publicly available information, and not in any official NCSE capacity or any information only available to those working at NCSE. Coyne or anyone else could have figured this out just as well.

Has NCSE got an “official policy” of cozying up to religion? No. Here’s NCSE’s official position:

What is NCSE’s religious position?

None. The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum.

To claim that the official policy is anything else is either ignorant or malicious. In neither case is there any excuse, and anyone interested in truth would do well to correct the record, not to repeat this falsehood.

The third point relates to what we might consider unofficial policy. So, Coyne claims there is an NCSE faith project (or perhaps several of them). This is false, though it was true a year or so ago. Dr. Peter Hess was formerly referred to as the Faith Project Director, but is now Director, Religious Community Outreach. A review of the Internet Archive will show that several other titles changed at the same time (over a year ago), including my own. That people are still complaining about a “faith project” over a year after that term was dropped tells you all you need to know about the care they take in gathering and evaluating evidence. Their concerns were addressed, but they couldn’t be arsed to check their facts any time in the intervening year. None of which stops them complaining that their concerns haven’t been addressed!

Coyne claims that NCSE tells people to “shut up about religion.” He offers no source for that claim and a search of NCSE’s website reveals nothing, except an article from 2 years ago saying the exact opposite:

Atheists have every right to believe that theists are woefully misguided in failing to see the obsolescence of religion after Darwin; but that is their philosophical opinion, not an infallibly proven proposition of science or logic. No one is expecting them to shut up or sign on to theistic evolution for the sake of a united front

That article appeared in NCSE’s journal, written by an author outside of NCSE, and unusually for RNCSE, it was paired with a series of responses which make clear that the issue has many facets, and complicating any claim that a single article in the journal would be taken as official NCSE policy. Other than the wingnuts who put together Expelled (and there’s happy company for Coyne), no one can seriously believe NCSE wants anyone to “shut up.”

Finally, Coyne claims NCSE “espouse[s] a kind of theology which claims that faith and science are compatible.” This is asserted blindly as if obviously true that there’s some conflict between NCSE’s official and unofficial policies. It is not obviously true, and to my eye, it is obviously not true. Coyne offers no evidence to substantiate the claim.

Assuming it’s based on the same litany of misreadings and quotemines that he usually trots out, I addressed these issues 13 months ago, and since that post stands unrefuted, I’ll simply refer you there. The only thing I’ll note is that several of the essays on the NCSE site that have generated the most criticism in this regard have been edited to reflect people’s concerns. This again refutes the claim that NCSE has “done nothing to change …in the face of criticism.” NCSE has changed essays on its site, has changed the title of a staff member, and has added new content to the site (as detailed here), all at least partly in response to criticism.

What NCSE has not done, much to Coyne’s apparent dismay, is clamp down on the free speech of someone who worked at NCSE more than three years ago, and a current employee who blogs on these issues outside of work. I don’t know what Coyne thinks NCSE could possibly do to prevent Nick from expressing his concerns about gnu atheist tactics and rhetoric. Nor do I know how he’d like NCSE to interfere in my private life. How would he approach this from behind the Rawlsian veil of ignorance? Would he accept the University of Chicago telling him to cease his online vendettas? If someone sent an ill-informed nastygram to his publisher, would he agree to curtail his blogging or would he defend himself? What would he think of an employer who caved to the sorts of tactics he is now deploying? What would he think of the people sending such a letter?

What, if anything, should I think of him?

Comments

  1. #1 Gurdur
    April 26, 2011

    The biggest irony is Jerry Coyne complaining about others (like yourself), when in fact measured up his behaviour is far worse (e.g. his pathetic meltdown where he photoshopped your avatar).

    Of course he doesn’t mention that, because it’s now a major trope amnong the Gnus to the effect they are so horribly persecuted, “thrown under the bus”, victimized if anyone dares utter a criticism of them. A woeful martyr complex.

  2. #2 Bruce Gorton
    April 26, 2011

    One of the chief complaints in that letter:

    You have “faith projects,” you constantly tell us to shut up about religion, and you even espouse a kind of theology which claims that faith and science are compatible.

    Example here:

    http://ncse.com/religion/god-evolution

    In fact, the “creation or evolution” dichotomy is needless and false, based upon a category mistake. For example, if I held up an grapefruit and asked, “Is this fruit yellow or is it spherical?”, the sentence would make no sense, because “yellow” and “spherical” are not contradictory, but complementary descriptions of the fruit.

    Suuure its only you and Nick that are at issue.

  3. #3 BenSix
    April 26, 2011

    Call me Mr Pedant, Bruce, but while evolution is scientific, it’s not “science”.

  4. #4 Orac
    April 26, 2011

    Wow. Just wow.

    Coyne’s letter reminds me a bit of an attempt by anti-vaccine loons to get me fired from my day job last year by writing to my university’s board of governors. Nice company for Coyne! Quite frankly, there is only one purpose behind letters like the one Coyne wrote, open or otherwise, and that’s to try to intimidate his opponents into silence by making trouble for them at their job. That’s it.

    You’re right. Coyne is a jackass. Of course, being tenured he doesn’t have to worry about jackasses like him trying to get him fired; so no doubt he will not understand. I do, and I think he’s utterly transparent.

  5. #5 Anthony McCarthy
    April 26, 2011

    he’s twelve

    I admit I laughed when I read it. And I have no inclination to disagree with it.

    Of course, Coyne doesn’t want the U of Chicago to tell him to can it when he says embarrassing, bigoted stuff that the university might not want to be associated with. If there’s one thing the new atheism isn’t about it’s a single standard.

    Don’t recall if the though had occurred to me before reading about his letter but his blog reminds me of Red Channels, at times.

  6. #6 julian
    April 26, 2011

    Timeout, Orac.

    Haven’t you speant a considerable amount of your blogging career chastising organisations that give to much voice to anti-vax or woo sympathizers?

    How is what Coyne’s doing any different?

  7. #7 scott
    April 26, 2011

    Orac,

    The anti-vaxers trying to get you fired had to make stuff up because they don’t have a rational argument. Coyne on the other hand hasn’t made up anything, it appears to me that he’s making factual statements that can be backed up. Big difference.

    I will also claim that the response by Josh and others actually resembles the tactics used by the anti-vaxers. Its full of straw-man fallacies.

    Take Josh’s first point above: Mean employees: “your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists.”

    The “Mean employees” part are Josh’s words, and nowhere in Jerry’s words do I see a claim of “Mean employees”. It seems Jerry is making a statement about irrational behavior. Which it is in my opinion. I don’t see it as Jerry trying to get someone fired, but rather trying to point out to the organization that some of its views are not in step with science which causes alarm among the people who recognize it. And since its a science organization they should reconsider those views in order to remain credible to their allies.

    Oh and by the way Orac, I love your blog. I read it everyday and agree with 99% of what you say. This particular subject falls into the 1% category.

  8. #8 Jim Lloyd
    April 26, 2011

    Wow, just wow.

    Orac, your ‘respectful insolence’ is nearly always more ‘dickish’ (to use the ambiguous term so often used here) than anything Coyne writes. I’ve never seen that as a problem before, but your comment here stikes me as glaringly hypocritical.

  9. #9 John Kwok
    April 26, 2011

    I posted this at Chad Orzel’s blog and I think it is worth reposting here:

    Chad,

    Thanks for supporting NCSE. I endorse completely your remarks, which are stated with most admirable brevity. Since Coyne has written an open letter to NCSE and BCSE, I eagerly await his letter to the World Science Festival for having the gall of allowing itself to become a “hostage” to the malevolent intentions of the “evil” John Templeton Foundation. Have no doubt that Coyne will write equally “distinguished” commentary. Moreover, I believe I can predict, with utmost confidence, that he, Myers, and others will rant and rave and howl with righteous indignation about how physicist Brian Greene, his wife journalist Tracy Day, and their World Science Festival staff have allowed themselves to become “intellectual whores” of the Templeton Foundation simply for accepting its financial support and for organizing yet again, a World Science Festival panel devoted to science and faith. For Coyne and Myers, their online behavior against the World Science Festival has metamorphosed into a most peculiar blend of annual religious rite and circus freakshow all rolled into one.

  10. #10 Jim Lloyd
    April 26, 2011

    I just reread Coyne’s letter, looking for the part where he is trying to get NCSE employee’s fired. I didn’t find it. I did find this: “We will continue to answer the misguided attacks by people like Josh Rosenau, Roger Stanyard, and Nick Matzke so long as they keep mounting those attacks. I don’t expect them to abate, but I’d like your organizations to recognize this: you have lost many allies, including some prominent ones, in your attacks on atheism.”

    I see the letter as simply stating the fact that NCSE policies and the private writings of various employees is having the direct affect of alienating (some unknown number of) scientists. I don’t see veiled threats.

  11. #11 John Kwok
    April 26, 2011

    @ Jim -

    Not only Coyne, but even Dawkins, have been part of a “lynch mob” over at that blog entry asserting that NCSE should condemn – or in the case of Roger Stanyard, fire – their former or current employees. While I don’t think you are mistaken in your concluding paragraph insofar as the purpose of Coyne’s letter is concerned, I do agree with Philip Kitcher’s assessment (that I had heard during a Darwin Day 2009 lecture that he gave at an Upper East Side Protestant Christian church in Manhattan) that Dawkins’s anti-religious commentary has not been helpful to those who are religiously devout and are undecided or skeptical of accepting biological evolution as both well established scientific fact and theory. Instead, as Chad Orzel (as well as someone else has observed in a private e-mail message to me) has noted, Coyne comes across as a jackass (I would amend that by inserting sanctimonious in front of jackass; my private e-mail correspondent observed that Coyne and his fellow GNUs posting at his blog entry are assholess.).

    As for Dawkins I have the utmost respect for him as a science writer and science popularizer. However, my respect for him as a person has diminished substantially due to his attacks on Matzke and Stanyard over at Coyne’s blog.

  12. #12 julian
    April 26, 2011

    Excuse me Kwok. I’m a tad daft you see and after re reading the thread I can’t seem to find the abuse Dawkins supposedly hurled at Matzke and Stanyard. Could you please be more specific, quoting him where necessary?

  13. #13 John Kwok
    April 26, 2011

    @ julian -

    Even if I were to point it out, I think you’d be clueless. But in Dawkins’s case, I am surprised he didn’t know who Matzke was, especially since Matzke had done important behind-the-scenes work on behalf of the plaintiff attorneys and witnesses (especially Barbara Forrest) both before and during the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial.

  14. #14 julian
    April 26, 2011

    The only thing I remember about that exchange with Matzke was that he mistook my praise of Ken Miller for scorn. Now that I’ve looked over the thread again andstill can’t find said abuse I’m going to have to conclude there’s none to be found.

    Stanyard I had never before heard of until that thread.

  15. #15 Ender
    April 26, 2011

    @Jim Lloyd

    Orac, your ‘respectful insolence’ is nearly always more ‘dickish’ (to use the ambiguous term so often used here) than anything Coyne writes. I’ve never seen that as a problem before, but your comment here stikes me as glaringly hypocritical.

    That’s because you have a) made an innocent mistake or b) no reading comprehension at all.

    Orac is unimpressed with Coyne contacting Josh’s employers… when has Orac ever done that?

    Right.

  16. #16 scott
    April 26, 2011

    @ julian

    You see , Kwok, Stanyard, Josh and others don’t want to answer questions concerning the actual substance of a sentence. Instead its much easier for them to call everything an attack. A good example is you suggesting that Kwok be more specific and asking for quotes, to them this type of statement is an attack. I’m sure some here will say I’m creating a straw-man, but you and I know that Dawkins was asking similar questions to Stanyard, and we also know that Kwok just referred to it as Dawkins attacking Stanyard. So the proof is in the pudding.

  17. #17 John Kwok
    April 26, 2011

    @ scott -

    Your reply is nonsensical. Because even if I were to state the obvious, I wouldn’t be believed. How? Why? More than once I have stated online that my “demand” to P Z Myers for a Leica rangefinder camera was merely a stunt of mine designed to irritate him, and that I was never serious about having him honor this request (I have told Ken Miller this in private, among others.). However, his delusional GNU fans insist on repeating this canard, even after I have posted saying that this wasn’t the case. So why should I waste my time providing julian with a link?

    Another classic example is noting how science blogger Sheril Kirshenbaum considered as a threat, a comment about stabbing and raping her with a rusty knife, which was posted at Pharyngula back in March, 2010. To this day most of Myers’s fans refuse to acknowledge it as such, and instead, have accused me of being “obsessed” over this. To which I will say that if they are “obsessed” over my Leica camera “demand” to Myers, then I have every right to remain “obsessed” over something far worse, an actual threat to kill and to rape Kirshenbaum, Mooney and their The Intersection supporters (which, at that time included yours truly).

  18. #18 scott
    April 26, 2011

    Kwok,

    Thanks for proving my point. No where did I mention a camera, or a rape with a rusty knife. Julian and I were specifically talking about your comment mentioning that Dawkins was attacking Stanyard on Coyne’s blog. It was very specific. You have now invoked another fallacy “moving the goalpost” instead of sticking to actual subject matter.

    And another thing, since you brought up the completely irrelevant rusty knife thing from March of 2010 when asked to provide information confirming that Dawkins was indeed attacking Stanyard, maybe, just maybe, you are obsessed with it.

  19. #19 Orac
    April 26, 2011

    Re: accusations of “hypocrisy.”

    What Ender said. As to Jim Lloyd:

    Hypocrisy. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    To all:

    Yes, I can be “insolent.” There’s a difference, however. I try to keep work and blogging separate, and I do that even for those who consider themselves my enemies, such as the entire crew at Age of Autism. I have never tried to make trouble for anyone at their job by either complaining to their bosses directly or by putting pressure on them to muzzle their employee. The latter is exactly what Coyne appears to me to have done with his “open letter.” Maybe, having been on the receiving end of more than one active campaigns to make trouble for me at my job–or even get me fired–I’m a bit more sensitive to these things than the average person, but I don’t think my interpretation is off-base. There really is only one purpose to such letters: To try to silence opposition by either embarrassing them in front of their employers or by embarrassing their employers for having them as their employees.

    I will point out that there is one exception to my never having tried to cause trouble for someone at his job. I’ve called for the firing of a certain news correspondent. Here’s the difference. This news correspondent, Sharyl Attkisson, promotes anti-vaccine views while doing her job. She does reports for CBS News rife with anti-vaccine propaganda. Josh does his own blogging on his free time and makes it quite clear that his views do not necessarily reflect those of the NCSE. There’s a big difference there. In fact, I’ve even gone so far as to tell people who wanted to try to get Jake Crosby, the college student who in essence libeled me and got the whole letter writing campaign started, into trouble with his dean to lay off the kid.

    So, yes, out of the blogs, it’s full blog contact. Game on! However, the line is crossed when bloggers start trying to drag other bloggers’ employers into the fray.

  20. #20 John Kwok
    April 26, 2011

    @ scott -

    Only a delusional dunce such as yourself would make such a pathetic bleating. But if you want proof, there here it is:

    “As I just posted on WEIT, there are two separate questions here:

    (1). Did I in fact ‘play the Nazi card’?

    (2). Would I have been right to do so if I had?

    It is absolutely clear that the answer to (1) is no. In other words, Matzke is a liar. But he seems to think he can wriggle out of it by arguing that some people on this thread give a ‘yes’ answer to (2). He has inanely gone about counting ‘votes’ for (2), scoring them as though they somehow justify his lie about (1).

    It should be clear to anyone of the smallest intelligence that (1) and (2) are completely separate questions, that (2), though interesting in its own right, is irrelevant to the question of whether I “played the Nazi card”, and that Nick Matzke is a liar. Is it really so difficult to do the decent thing and simply apologise?

    Richard”

    That’s from Pharyngula and it was posted again at Why Evolution Is True:

    39.
    Richard Dawkins

    Posted April 22, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    There are two separate questions here:

    (1). Did I in fact ‘play the Nazi card’?

    (2). Would I have been right to do so if I had?

    It is absolutely clear that the answer to (1) is no. In other words, Matzke is a liar. But he seems to think he can wriggle out of it by arguing that some people on this thread give a ‘yes’ answer to (2). He has inanely gone about counting ‘votes’ for (2), scoring them as though they somehow justify his lie about (1).

    It should be clear to anyone of the smallest intelligence that (1) and (2) are completely separate questions, that (2), though interesting in its own right, is irrelevant to the question of whether I “played the Nazi card”, and that Nick Matzke is a liar. Is it really so difficult to do the decent thing and simply apologise?

    Richard

    And no, Scott, I haven’t “obsessed” at all regarding the rusty knife incident. In fact, someone else made this observation regarding it recently:

  21. #21 Physicalist
    April 26, 2011

    However, the line is crossed when bloggers start trying to drag other bloggers’ employers into the fray.

    I tend to agree in principle, but it’s relevant here that the employer itself is one of the targets of the complaint in this case.

    It probably would have been better if Coyne’s letter to NCSE had addressed only NCSE actions (he can continue to draft separate noted calling out off-duty individuals for being divisive d*cks); although I do wonder when it is appropriate to inform an organization that some employee is alienating a group of supporters.

    I just have to draw attention to the delicious irony: On the one hand, the gnus are upset that their views are not being accommodated.

    On the other hand, the accommodationists are stridently and divisively attacking the gnus — and thereby potentially undermining important political alliances.

    I think the accommodationists are the New Gnus. (Somebody alert Phil Plait!)

  22. #22 Ophelia Benson
    April 26, 2011

    Quite frankly, there is only one purpose behind letters like the one Coyne wrote, open or otherwise, and that’s to try to intimidate his opponents into silence by making trouble for them at their job. That’s it.

    Nonsense. The point of the open letter is what the NCSE does, as an organization; it’s about “official policy.” It’s telling everyone there: you have lost a lot of allies. Of course it’s not about getting them to fire anyone; the whole point is that the alienating policy is that of the organization!

  23. #23 scott
    April 26, 2011

    From Kwok: “Only a delusional dunce such as yourself would make such a pathetic bleating”

    Wow! ad hominem attack. You sure are a work of art.

    And know where do I see an attack by Dawkins in your response, especially not an attack on Stanyard. As a matter of fact I don’t even see Stanyard’s name mentioned. My part of this conversion has been consistent, I have asked specific questions. You have given irrelevant answers and you’ve been all over the board, dancing around the question. Or you’ve given answers that don’t support your original claim about Dawkins that I questioned. If you think its cool to call me names instead of having a rational conversion, yet insist that you’re being unfairly persecuted and attacked, then I can only describe you as a hypocrite.

  24. #24 John Kwok
    April 26, 2011

    @ scott -

    Your prior comment (@ 23) proves the validity of my assessment. You wanted proof that Dawkins was attacking Matzke, and I just provided it. Where I might agree with Dawkins is that maybe Matzke should have rephrased what he said, but I think it was perfectly legitimate to raise the questions he did, without being called a “liar” by Dawkins.

  25. #25 John Kwok
    April 26, 2011

    Here’s my open letter to Jerry Coyne that was sent to him over a year ago, but I never received a reply:

    Jerry,

    If I didn’t have ample respect for your demonstrated excellence as an evolutionary biologist and as a brilliant critic of creationism, especially Intelligent Design creationism, I would have never written this as the opening paragraphs of my Amazon.com review of “Why Evolution Is True”:

    “’Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’. That classic quote from the great Russian-American evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky is replete with far more truth now than when he uttered it in 1973. Thousands of scientists around the globe are using the principles of evolution towards understanding phenomena as simple as bacterial population growth to those as complex as the origin and spread of such virulent diseases as malaria and HIV/AIDS, and the conservation of many endangered plant and animal species. There is no other scientific theory I know of that has withstood such rigorous, and repeated, testing as the modern synthetic theory of evolution. The overwhelming proof of biological evolution is so robust, that entire books have been written describing pertinent evidence from sciences that, at first glance, seem as dissimilar from each other as paleobiology, molecular biology and ecology. But alas this hasn’t convinced many in the court of public opinion, especially here, in the United States, who remain skeptical of evolution as both a scientific fact and a scientific theory, and who are too often persuaded by those who insist that there are such compelling ‘weaknesses’ in evolution, that instead of it, better, still ‘scientific’, alternatives exist, most notably, Intelligent Design creationism. Distinguished evolutionary geneticist Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution Is True” is not just a timely book, but it is quite simply, the best, most succinct, summation I can think of on behalf of evolution’s scientific validity.”

    “No other modern evolutionary biologist has attempted to convey, with such excitement, and enthusiasm, a comprehensive, quite compelling, proof of biological evolution, unless you consider the notable literary careers of Coyne’s graduate school mentors; Ernst Mayr and Stephen Jay Gould. Coyne’s achievement is especially noteworthy for covering virtually every major evolutionary aspect of biology in a treatment that barely exceeds two hundred and thirty pages. In essence, ‘Why Evolution is True’ can be viewed as an updated, modern rendition of Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’, but encompassing those biological sciences, such as population genetics, molecular systematics, evolutionary developmental biology – better known as ‘evo – devo’ – and, indeed, even paleobiology, which were unknown to Darwin; to put it bluntly, this is ‘one long argument’ on behalf of evolutionary biology, told via Coyne’s respectable, occasionally lyrical, prose and compelling logic.”

    However, I am greatly perplexed, and distressed, by your recent criticism of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). I feel this way especially since you yourself have noted NCSE’s key role in “manning the barricades” against irrational foes like the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis. So since you do recognize this, then how can you reconcile your support for NCSE’s sterling work on behalf of both the scientific community and scientifically literate public with your assertion that NCSE should refrain from seeking some kind of compatibility with religion? When there are many mainstream religious organizations, and others, such as the Templeton Foundation, which not only seek such compatibility, but, more importantly, recognize that evolution is valid science. When these very organizations recognize that it is quite risible to claim that “belief in evolution EQUALS denial of GOD”. What you are advocating is not merely bad philosophy, but also one that merely confirms all the worst instincts of Evolution Denialists. To put it most succinctly, you are merely allowing yourself to fall into the philosophical trap that creationists have set for scientists and others who accept valid mainstream science like evolutionary biology, by giving them yet another example that only those who reject religion can accept evolution.

    Neither the NCSE nor other major scientific organizations like the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) are overreaching by insisting that there can be some kind of compatibility between science and religion. This is an opinion recognized by major religious leaders like Buddhism’s Dalai Lama, and by organizations that promote this compatibility, such as, for example, the Templeton Foundation. It is a view that is reflected in academia through institutes like Columbia University’s Center for Science and Religion. For these very reasons, it is quite reasonable for NCSE and NAS to issue statements supporting compatibility between science and religion.

    Neither you nor PZ Myers, or any of your fellow militant atheists, have had the decades-long experience that Eugenie Scott and her NCSE colleagues have had in countless successful efforts at science advocacy both within the courts and legislatures of the United States. One of the reasons why NCSE has succeeded is by adopting the very philosophy which is the unofficial “official” policy of the American Museum of Natural History; by reminding its visitors that it is not in the business of changing their religious views, but instead, it is interested only in teaching them the principles and facts of valid mainstream science like evolutionary biology. One of the reasons why NCSE may be succeeding is by refusing to attack religious faith, and by seeking instead, some kind of accommodation with those religious faiths that recognize evolutionary biology as sound mainstream science.

    I agree with you and Myers that it is a worthwhile goal to have a society in which rational beliefs have a preeminent role in forming public opinion. However, it is a goal that will remain elusive as long as militant atheists like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins insist on mocking and humiliating those who are religiously devout. Instead of offering persuasive evidence on behalf of atheism and evolutionary biology, Richard Dawkins’s writings, lectures and television appearances, may have contributed substantially to strong negative opinion in Great Britain towards Darwin’s life and work and the acceptance of evolutionary biology as sound mainstream science. Depending upon which poll you believe, nearly forty percent of Dawkins’s fellow Britons now reject evolution as valid science. Are you certain that you wish to continue writing criticism that may prove to be as counterproductive as Dawkins’s writings and Myers’s outrageous acts – like the infamous “cracker incident” – have been?

    Sincerely yours,

    John Kwok

  26. #26 TB
    April 26, 2011

    Orac: “However, the line is crossed when bloggers start trying to drag other bloggers’ employers into the fray.”

    I agree, but how does one put a cat back into the bag?

  27. #27 scott
    April 26, 2011

    Kwok,

    If you read my comments you will see that I was asking only about Stanyard, not Matzke. I never brought up Matzke’s name once. Julian asked about Matzke, not me.

    And what you consider proof of an attack by Dawkins on Matzke is kind of lame in my opinion. It might be easy for you to think I might be committing an authority fallacy in favor of Dawkins. But, as you can see I also am an Orac fan, in whom I disagree with on this subject. So the authority fallacy would be a wash in this case.

    I understand that there is a difference between a liar and being misinformed. But the correctness of an argument should in the end stand on its substance. Just because someone was misinformed instead of lying doesn’t add more weight one way or the other to the actual correctness of a statement. I do feel that if someone was simply misinformed that they should be given more respect than someone who is lying, and I think Standyard was given ample opportunity come clean one way or the other.

  28. #28 John Kwok
    April 26, 2011

    scott -

    You were asking for evidence of a “lynch mob” attack on Matzke. I provided you with one example. What you are doing now is merely changing the goalposts. Your comments are irrelevant since I wasn’t critiquing you on your replies to Stanyard (Though now that you mention them, I have fouhd his remarks at Coyne’s blog far more reasonable than any by the GNUs who posted, including both Coyne and Dawkins.).

  29. #29 scott
    April 26, 2011

    scott -

    “You were asking for evidence of a “lynch mob” attack on Matzke.”

    No I wasn’t. I specifically asked about Dawkins attacking Stanyard.

    “I provided you with one example.”

    A poor example of something I didn’t even ask for.

    “What you are doing now is merely changing the goalposts.”

    Where have I moved the goalpost?

    “Your comments are irrelevant since I wasn’t critiquing you on your replies to Stanyard”

    What does that even mean?

  30. #30 Jim Lloyd
    April 26, 2011

    @Ender:

    “Orac is unimpressed with Coyne contacting Josh’s employers… when has Orac ever done that?”

    Ok fair point. But why does he and anyone else thing that Coyne was contacting the employer with the intent of getting employee’s fired?

    “That’s because you have a) made an innocent mistake or b) no reading comprehension at all.”

    Perhaps I should have expressed my criticism directed at Orac using your exact words. It’s beyond me that anyone would think that Coyne was trying to get the NCSE to fire its employees for speaking on their own in ways that are entirely consistent with the NCSE’s official policies. The point was not to get employees fired, but to criticize the policies. But claiming that Coyne was trying to get employees fired is an excellent way to make him look dickish, isn’t it?

  31. #31 Mike from Ottawa
    April 26, 2011

    What, if anything, should I think of him?

    Should? I can’t say. Could? On his record, you could justifiably think of Jerry Coyne as a small and petty person who isn’t above dishonesty in his attempts to silence opposition to his program of polarizing opinion as a way to force people to choose between science and religion.

    I wonder if next he’ll be writing to your Mom to complain.

  32. #32 John Kwok
    April 26, 2011

    @ scott -

    You are being disingenuous and obtuse. You brought up Stanyard, I didn’t. Your recent comments merely illustrate my point that even if I were to show you every quote uttered by Dawkins against Myers, that you would wave them away as being “unimportant”. IMHO you are no better than the delusional creos I have debated elsewhere online.

  33. #33 julian
    April 26, 2011

    @ John Kwok

    Maybe liar was to strong an accusation (but then again so’s playing the nazi card. Especially when all you have to point to is a couple of slides) but that’s hardly an attack anywhere near the magnitude you’ve been accusing Dawkins of. Is that really the worst you can find?

  34. #34 scott
    April 26, 2011

    From Kwok @32

    @ scott -

    You are being disingenuous and obtuse. You brought up Stanyard, I didn’t.

    From Kwok @11

    “As for Dawkins I have the utmost respect for him as a science writer and science popularizer. However, my respect for him as a person has diminished substantially due to his attacks on Matzke and “Stanyard” over at Coyne’s blog.”

    It appears you did bring up Stanyard, you do realize that you can go back and review previous comments don’t you.

    I was willing to have a rational conversion with you, but when you don’t even remember how the conversion started and I have to point it out to you, well then, its kind of tough to carry on.

    I made it clear that I was questioning your statement of Dawkins attacking Stanyard, I mentioned it multiple times. You have yet to answer those questions. Instead you’ve given poor examples of answers to questions I didn’t even ask. And you think I’m delusional, wow! Your probably right that I wouldn’t accept any answers you give, seeing how all over the place you are. But I did in this circumstance attempt to see your reasoning simply because its the first time chatting with you. But from now on I will consider anything you say as suspect. You’ve proven to be irrational, and disrespectful.

  35. #35 Barry
    April 26, 2011

    Josh, why does the NCSE even have a section on its website devoted to “Science and Religion”? Please tell me how this – http://ncse.com/religion/how-do-i-read-bible-let-me-count-ways – is scientific? The NCSE is an outstanding organization for all of the obvious ways I would want to cheer and support – primarily through the courts. It seems to me that Coyne is right to ask why NCSE is making any commentary on religion at all? NCSE should be advocating science.

    I don’t want the NCSE to advocate an “atheist” position, whatever that might be, and I certainly don’t want it to be offering paliatives to religion. It is a science organization and should stick to the science. If it did that I would resubscribe. Being a slightly more sciencey “Biologos” isn’t what I expect from NCSE.

    Just a few other points. Matzke was using his NCSE signature last year on some blogs. Maybe that’s something he should correct. Coyne’s criticism of the amount of time that you might spend blogging, wasn’t with reference to how long your blogging takes (although I’m really impressed that you are such a fast writer), it is the balance of your blogging attacking atheists compared to creationists. He has a valid point. Also, your egregious response to whether NCSE actually has a policy called “cozying up to religion” is a joke. What do you think Coyne meant by the inclusion of the word “apparent”? The whole point is that, whatever NCSE state, THEY APPEAR to be cozying up to religion. I would have been more specific and singled you out on this specific point.

    It is clear that you prefer lying and deceiving to religious people as your primary tactic of persuasion…at least you are on record on this point. I just don’t understand why you spend so much time slamming those who would support you if only you’d keep true to the scientific credentials you claim.

  36. #36 Laurence
    April 26, 2011

    I honestly think both sides in this argument are acting silly. I think both Coyne and Rosenau are acting like assholes and sneering children in just about all the posts I’ve seen related to the accomadationist/gnu battle. Although I will say that I think Rosenau often acts a little more rational than Coyne although there have been topics where I thought Coyne was right. The sanest voice I think through all of this is Russell Blackford who makes very reasonable posts and comments without that much emotional appeal.

    Personally, I think the NCSE would be better off taking a completely neutral position when it comes to religion and science. Unfortunately, it seems as if the NSCE may say that they take this position, but that it ultimately does not. I could be wrong however.

    Finally, I think there is a bit of groupthink going on both sides. It is very easy to fall into a group and not question what’s going on and just accept what is said. I’ve seen it on both sides as a neutral observer. I think both sides need to step back and not just immediately assume that they are right. I hope all of you have a wonderful day!

  37. #37 J. J. Ramsey
    April 26, 2011

    Barry: “Josh, why does the NCSE even have a section on its website devoted to ‘Science and Religion’?”

    That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Equating evolution with atheism is one of the pillars of creationism, and the NCSE’s sections on science and religion are aimed at knocking down that pillar.

  38. #38 Josh Rosenau
    April 26, 2011

    Barry: “It is clear that you prefer lying and deceiving to religious people as your primary tactic of persuasion…at least you are on record on this point.”

    Bullshit. I’ve never said any such thing. I’d ask you to substantiate the claim or else withdraw it and apologize.

    “Coyne’s criticism …is the balance of your blogging attacking atheists compared to creationists.”

    While I appreciate your effort to read Coyne’s mind and restore some coherence to his complaint, I don’t think it’s constructive to debate what he meant with a third party. If you’re right, he can clarify that point himself. That said, this reading would be no improvement. I work 8+ hours a day fighting creationists. What I write about here has no relationship with what I do during work hours at NCSE. Indeed, this is my place to let off steam about things I couldn’t deal with during work hours, and thus my focus here is likely to be negatively correlated with how much I write about creationism for work purposes. I find it odd that you’d think there’s “a valid point” that NCSE deserves criticism over what I do in my free time in any event.

    You say that Coyne’s qualifying “official policy” as merely “apparent” saves that claim. I find that it renders the sentence incoherent. NCSE has an official policy, and it is not what Coyne describes. If there were a different policy which was “apparent” but unwritten, that would not properly be called “official” policy. I’ll not be held responsible for Coyne’s unclear writing.

    You ask “why NCSE is making any commentary on religion at all?” I’ve addressed this before (including at the link from 13 months ago above), but simply put: NCSE’s main focus is on creationism, and creationism is a religious idea. To address creationism, one must address religious ideas, at least from an anthropological/sociological standpoint (e.g., “some people think X, other people think Y, and certain component of X and Y are not amenable to scientific testing, while others are”). Saying that NCSE shouldn’t discuss how pro-evolution theists read the Bible would cut NCSE off at the knees, making it less effective at the work you (and Coyne) praise. I discussed these issues at length here: http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2011/01/dealing_with_conflicts_over_ev.php

  39. #39 Mike from Ottawa
    April 26, 2011

    @Ophelia Benson

    Quite frankly, there is only one purpose behind letters like the one Coyne wrote, open or otherwise, and that’s to try to intimidate his opponents into silence by making trouble for them at their job. That’s it.

    The point of the open letter is what the NCSE does, as an organization; it’s about “official policy.” It’s telling everyone there: you have lost a lot of allies. Of course it’s not about getting them to fire anyone; the whole point is that the alienating policy is that of the organization!

    You simply whiffed, deliberately or not, on the issue within that quesiton of what is the point of slagging Joshua to his employer (I highlighted a bit you may not have read). Coyne did not simply criticize what the NCSE itself does but the actions of its employee, Joshua (how did you fail to spot that in Coyne’s letter?). Even if NCSE were to agree to implement Coyne’s ideas on strategy, what would they have to do to address Coyne’s concerns about what Joshua gets up to in his own time?

  40. #40 Mike from Ottawa
    April 26, 2011

    @ scott

    “Coyne on the other hand hasn’t made up anything

    Actually, scott, Coyne has made up most of what he asserts as the positions of the NCSE, Josh and Nick. You might try reading Josh’s post where he demonstrates that on some specific points.

    I’ll add that Coyne’s:

    “This apparently comes from your idea that if evolutionists also espouse atheism, it will hurt the cause of science education and turn people away from evolution.

    is a pretty obvious false conflation of atheism and the view of some atheists that you can’t be an evolutionist without being an atheist. It’s not the only spot where Coyne trots out that particular falsehood, which features in:

    Nevertheless, your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists.

    I don’t know if Coyne is conscious of his attempted deceptions, but whether conscious or not, they do him no more credit than does his attempting to get Joshua’s employer to pressure him over what he does in his spare time.

  41. #41 Josh Rosenau
    April 26, 2011

    Ophelia: “The point of the open letter is what the NCSE does, as an organization”

    Crap.

    If the point is about the organization, why make any note of what I do in my private time, or what a former employee does in his private time? Why, indeed, make it a recurring theme of the letter? No, this is about intimidating critics, and it won’t work.

  42. #42 scott
    April 27, 2011

    Mike from Ottawa states:

    Actually, scott, Coyne has made up most of what he asserts as the positions of the NCSE, Josh and Nick. You might try reading Josh’s post where he demonstrates that on some specific points.

    I’ll add that Coyne’s:

    “This apparently comes from your idea that if evolutionists also espouse atheism, it will hurt the cause of science education and turn people away from evolution.

    “is a pretty obvious false conflation of atheism and the view of some atheists that you can’t be an evolutionist without being an atheist.”

    Listen Mike, my comprehension skills might not be that great, but they sure as hell are a lot better than yours. Your understanding of Coyne’s sentence doesn’t match what it says. You’ve decided it says something else. That seems to be an ongoing theme from your side of this debate.

  43. #43 julian
    April 27, 2011

    “”This apparently comes from your idea that if evolutionists also espouse atheism, it will hurt the cause of science education and turn people away from evolution.””

    Mike you are going to have to explain to me where in that sentence Coyne is conflating evolution with atheism because I don’t see it. He’s talking about atheist (who happen to accept evolution) speaking in favor of atheism being accused of hurting the ’cause.’

    Maybe I need gnu glasses or something…

  44. #44 Ender
    April 27, 2011

    Barry

    “It is clear that you prefer lying and deceiving to religious people as your primary tactic of persuasion…at least you are on record on this point.” [in reference to Josh]

    Hey Barry. Remember our last encounter where I humiliated you with your own words? Showed where you were distorting my argument with specific quotes when all you could do was sputter and throw out un-evidenced objections without any quotes?

    This is another one of those kinds of occasions.
    You know the word Lie right? You know that one of the main components of lying is that one has to intend to deceive when one does it? – Like it’s not a lie if I tell you in good faith that the ball is in the box even if I’m wrong and someone has moved it?

    Your characterisation of Josh’s position is wrong, tendentious and stupid. You are an absolute incompatibilist with all sorts of stupid views about religion. Josh is not.
    You want to say that he promotes lying about religion and science to religious people, merely because he doesn’t think you have to say the things you think he ought to say as an atheist and a scientist. He of course doesn’t promote lying. He just doesn’t hold the same inane and childish views that you do, and therefore isn’t lying when he refuses to promote them, or says they aren’t true.
    He may be wrong but he isn’t lying. You see how that works?

    If you feel differently how about providing some quote of Josh advocating lying? Or will you, once again, fail to substantiate your bullshit?

  45. #45 TB
    April 27, 2011

    These last two remarks by Scott and Julian demonstrate how the line gets crossed and stays crossed. Both continue to focus on the debate about whether two groups can have similar but competing goals, and so imply that it’s perfectly OK for Coyne to be protected by academic freedom, but Josh should be reported to his employer.
    I hope the NCSE resists this obvious attempt at intimidation, because I don’t believe it will be withdrawn, nor will it be the first instance.
    It’s not necessarily surprising, however. I did wonder when the New Atheists were finally going to go “Galt” on the NCSE. This would be a first step on a path that should have been obvious.

  46. #46 Anthony McCarthy
    April 27, 2011

    The question is if Coyne or his supporters would like to have their employers both be answerable for and so have an interest in regulating what they say on their blogs.

    I think Coyne assumes that the U of C won’t do that but he hopes the NCSE can be pressured into doing it.

  47. #47 Boopsie
    April 27, 2011

    @ 2

    Why is that link a problem?

    What do you expect them to say about religion and evolution? For example, would you like to see something more like this:

    “Evolution and religion are not compatible. Anyone who believes in evolution cannot also believe in religion without experiencing cognitive dissonance.”

    Personally, I don’t think that’s a true statement, but perhaps you don’t either. It’s likely I haven’t captured what you think with those sentences. So if that doesn’t suit you, what do you expect them to say about God and evolution?

    Or do you expect an organization that concentrates on making sure that evolution is taught and taught well to make no mention of the societal conflict regarding the teaching of evolution and it’s effect on the religious faith of many people?

  48. #48 Barry
    April 27, 2011

    “Bullshit.”

    I love it when you talk dirty to me Josh. I regard it as a badge of honor seeing that Ophelia only deserved a meagre “crap”. Your fixation is duly noted.

    ” I’ve never said any such thing. I’d ask you to substantiate the claim or else withdraw it and apologize.”

    Very happy to substantiate Josh.

    http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2010/10/a_prak-tical_guide_to_confront.php#comments
    “The point being, it’s impossible to constantly be telling “the whole truth,” and no audience really wants you to do that. You pick and choose which truths (as you see them) you want to expound. Part of the way you do that is by thinking about how much of the truth you can express without driving your audience insane. Hopefully you also select your slice of the truth based on what will convince your audience that your central point is, in fact, true. Omitting parts of the truth that will drive your audience away (or insane) is not dishonest, and may well be the best service you can do for the truth.”

    Josh, in your OP you wrote…

    “Nor, it should be noted, do I spend “much of [my] time” on Coyne and these squabbles over gnu atheism (I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess Nick doesn’t either). I write roughly a post a day, not all my posts are about this issue, and I’m a fast writer, so they don’t take long. His claim about how much time I spend on this is, of course, given without any evidence, nor has he got any basis for making such a judgment.”

    To which I responded…

    “Coyne’s criticism of the amount of time that you might spend blogging, wasn’t with reference to how long your blogging takes (although I’m really impressed that you are such a fast writer), it is the balance of your blogging attacking atheists compared to creationists. He has a valid point.”

    You then challenge my assumptions with this comment…

    ” I work 8+ hours a day fighting creationists. What I write about here has no relationship with what I do during work hours at NCSE. Indeed, this is my place to let off steam about things I couldn’t deal with during work hours, and thus my focus here is likely to be negatively correlated with how much I write about creationism for work purposes. I find it odd that you’d think there’s “a valid point” that NCSE deserves criticism over what I do in my free time in any event.”

    Maybe you are just working too hard Josh, but Coyne’s argument is that most of your blogging is attacking atheists. It’s really not that difficult to understand. I, like he and many others, are puzzled why you do this.

    “You say that Coyne’s qualifying “official policy” as merely “apparent” saves that claim. I find that it renders the sentence incoherent. NCSE has an official policy, and it is not what Coyne describes. If there were a different policy which was “apparent” but unwritten, that would not properly be called “official” policy. I’ll not be held responsible for Coyne’s unclear writing.”

    What an excellent point you make Josh. However, the word “apparent” does not “…render(s) the sentence incoherent.” How an organization behaves, and what its written policies state, ought to align. In the case of the NCSE this is palpably not the case, hence a perfectly legitimate use of the word “apparent.” Either the written policy is in error, or the policy isn’t being followed, but the policy and the behavior are at odds.

    “You ask “why NCSE is making any commentary on religion at all?” I’ve addressed this before (including at the link from 13 months ago above), but simply put: NCSE’s main focus is on creationism, and creationism is a religious idea. To address creationism, one must address religious ideas, at least from an anthropological/sociological standpoint (e.g., “some people think X, other people think Y, and certain component of X and Y are not amenable to scientific testing, while others are”).”

    This is where you make a fundamental error. Is the way to address creationism a theological or scientific argument? Are you arguing that NCSE should attack creationism for theological reasons? You can certainly use a sociological argument regarding creationism, but the refutation of the claims of creationism are purely scientific. Isn’t that the ground on which NCSE is qualified to battle? Or are you happy pretending to be social anthropologists as well as theologians?

    “Saying that NCSE shouldn’t discuss how pro-evolution theists read the Bible would cut NCSE off at the knees, making it less effective at the work you (and Coyne) praise. I discussed these issues at length here:…”

    Not at all. Just let the pro-evolution theists deal with the theological points and have NCSE stick to the science.

    I used to read your science posts avidly over the years. You wrote one of the blogs I used to log onto first each day. Until you started this ridiculous assault on those who would otherwise support you. Now…you’re just a waste of space. From a personal perspective you can hardly count discrediting atheists who want you to stick to science as an effective tactic in building support. Quoting Orac (the mutual adoration is wonderful to see by the way) renders you guilty of the “tone’ allegations you make against NA’s.

    Tell me Josh, do you approve and support Orac’s description of Coyne as a “jackass”?

  49. #49 Barry
    April 27, 2011

    Sorry. In my post above I referenced Orac when I intended to write Orzel.

  50. #50 Josh Rosenau
    April 27, 2011

    Barry: You try to support the claim that I “prefer lying and deceiving to religious people as [my] primary tactic of persuasion” by quoting me advocating telling the truth (but noting that one cannot ever tell all the truth). Epic fail. Again, you should apologize and withdraw the false claim. Or cite something that actually supports your claim.

    You state: “Coyne’s argument is that most of your blogging is attacking atheists.” But no, his letter falsely states “your employees…have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists.” That’s not just about my blogging, it’s about how I spend my time as an NCSE employee, or possibly how I spend my time over all. The letter is not to me, but to NCSE, and if the only complaint is about my private blog, then why is he writing to my employer about it? That’s my point in the post, and nothing you’ve said even addresses it, except to try to rewrite Coyne’s letter. If he wants to know why I do what I do, he’s free to write to me directly and ask, but going through my employer is absolutely unacceptable. And if you have to rewrite his letter to make it make sense, then take your complaint up with him, not me.

    For all your focus on the word “apparent,” you seem to be skipping my point about the equally obvious meaning of the word “official.” An official policy cannot be merely “apparent.” My post draws exactly the distinction you are trying to make by distinguishing official and unofficial policy, and discusses both issues. You ignore the discussion of “unofficial policy” which would be germane to your points, instead trying to again rewrite Coyne’s letter to make it coherent. Take it up with him.

    You claim, without evidence, that “the refutation of the claims of creationism are purely scientific.” But the point of the NCSE page you linked above is exactly that there are theological refutations of creationism as well. Which is why it’s a legitimate part of the NCSE website.

    You respond to my description of what works for NCSE by saying “Not at all.” But you don’t seem to have any idea what NCSE does, nor do you give any evidence of having read the post I referred you to for more details, so your dismissal doesn’t impress me.

    I appreciate your feedback on the direction of this blog, and I will take it into serious consideration. That said, I and others have expressed similar thoughts to PZ in the past (regarding his shift from scienceblogging to atheismblogging, e.g.), and I think I’ve seen others make that point to Jerry about his blog, too, and you see how effective that’s been.

    Do I think Jerry’s letter is, as I quoted Chad Orzel saying, “jackassery”? Yep, that’s why I quoted it. Mostly because I think it’s unethical to go whining to my employer about my behavior outside of work, and I can see no ethical justification for that act. Does engaging in jackassery make Coyne a jackass? Not necessarily.

  51. #51 circleh
    April 27, 2011

    I used to read your science posts avidly over the years. You wrote one of the blogs I used to log onto first each day. Until you started this ridiculous assault on those who would otherwise support you. Now…you’re just a waste of space. From a personal perspective you can hardly count discrediting atheists who want you to stick to science as an effective tactic in building support.

    Maybe Mr. Rosenau simply does not want to appeal to atheist fanatics anymore. After all, which is worse, a Christian who accepts and supports evolution, or an atheist who hates all religion and uses evolution as his main reason to bash religion, no matter what form it takes?

    Hint: Who would have fewer friends and allies in the end? The more support from the public the NCSE has, the better.

  52. #52 circleh
    April 27, 2011

    I used to read your science posts avidly over the years. You wrote one of the blogs I used to log onto first each day. Until you started this ridiculous assault on those who would otherwise support you. Now…you’re just a waste of space. From a personal perspective you can hardly count discrediting atheists who want you to stick to science as an effective tactic in building support.

    Maybe Mr. Rosenau simply does not want to appeal to atheist fanatics anymore. After all, which is worse, a Christian who accepts and supports evolution, or an atheist who hates all religion and uses evolution as his main reason to bash religion, no matter what form it takes?

    Hint: Who would have fewer friends and allies in the end? The more support from the public the NCSE has, the better.

  53. #53 Gurdur
    April 27, 2011

    Hi, guys, my name’s Gurdur and I’m an atheist. And I love science.

    And I utterly despise some of the mealymouthed deceitfulness going on here.

    So Jerry Coyne spits the dummy, writes a childish letter off to the NCSE, and in that letter he makes an attack on that organization about the behaviour (never actually detailed) of its employees, about what (unsaid) those employees get up to in their free time.

    Because everyone knows that’s what you do when you want to …. what, exactly?

    So Ophelia Benson wants tol pretend it had nothing to do with harrassment or intimidation. Except, as we all know from her myriad cries of martyrdom, had the shoe been on the other foot, Benson would be screaming blue murder. So much for Benson’s integrity then. Oh, and the lesser minions around, can’t even be bothered with you lot today.

    Except one. Barry!
    >i>”It is clear that you prefer lying and deceiving to religious people as your primary tactic of persuasion”

    Barry, you are full of it. You disgust me.

    And one more last thing to you minions all: I’m a atheist, I love science, and you need to ram your wish to be the Spanish Inquisition up your own self-righteous arses.

  54. #54 Riman Butterbur
    April 27, 2011

    “Hi, guys, my name’s Gurdur and I’m an atheist.”

    Welcome to Atheists Anonymous, Gurdur :)

    I’m new to this feud, don’t know who started it, still trying to sort out all the issues. But what I’ve seen so far seems to bear out your assessment pretty well.

    I wonder — Did these Gnutheists come to atheism from a fundamentalist christian background? They strike me as someone who have dumped all the supernaturalist beliefs of fundamentalism but still retain the presuppositionalism, intolerance, arrogance, paranoia, and the other fundy character flaws.

  55. #55 Anthony McCarthy
    April 28, 2011

    Does engaging in jackassery make Coyne a jackass? Not necessarily. Josh

    I’d say his letter is “jackhalfassed”, at least.

    That minstrel dialect thing he posted a few days back certainly would qualify him as one.

  56. #56 Ender
    April 28, 2011

    “Barry, you are full of it. You disgust me.”

    Quoted for truth.

    So Barry? Unable to defend your accusation about Josh? Unwilling to respond to me because you are scared you will look like a fool again?

    “Again, you [Barry] should apologize and withdraw the false claim. Or cite something that actually supports your claim.”

    Quoted for truth.

    Where are your quotes Barry? Could it possibly be that you have no evidence for your position?

    “So Ophelia Benson wants tol pretend it had nothing to do with harrassment or intimidation. Except, as we all know from her myriad cries of martyrdom, had the shoe been on the other foot, Benson would be screaming blue murder. So much for Benson’s integrity then. Oh, and the lesser minions around, can’t even be bothered with you lot today.”

    Quoted for truth.

    “I wonder — Did these Gnutheists come to atheism from a fundamentalist christian background? They strike me as someone who have dumped all the supernaturalist beliefs of fundamentalism but still retain the presuppositionalism, intolerance, arrogance, paranoia, and the other fundy character flaws.”

    Quoted for… wait… no… this is true for a certain subset of Gnutheists. Not all of them. That subset is an embarrasment to rationality.

  57. #57 TB
    April 28, 2011

    Barry: “Not at all. Just let the pro-evolution theists deal with the theological points and have NCSE stick to the science.”

    A deceptive description of what the NCSE does. The NCSE is a political advocacy group that needs to try and address the concerns of all possible American constituencies. Not doing so means not being able to effectively talk to that constituency, which does not serve the NCSE’s mission.

    It does, however, address the mission of the New Atheists who seek to isolate and marginalize any and all religious constituency. It is dishonest for anyone to pretend otherwise.

  58. #58 TB
    April 28, 2011

    And really, why is Coyne et al even bothering with the NCSE? Even if they succeed in changing the NCSE’s mission to be just science, isn’t that still intellectually dishonest by their standards? Isn’t the reason they want to talk only about the science because god is a delusion? To not say so is to hide their motivations, like any creationist wanting to “teach the controversy.”

    To only talk about the science is no compromise, it’s simply a in the direction of New Atheism, but an intellectually dishonest step.

    I like the NCSE the way it is because for such a tiny organization, it works. They have a proven legal track record, their legal arguments have been successful. I don’t accept the standard of success that New Atheists put on the organization – it’s unreasonable for it’s size and the scope of the debate. Applying an unreasonable standard for success allows them to rationalize that the approach isn’t working, and that something new must be tried.

    If New Atheists want to be intellectually honest, there’s no reason they can’t also create a legal arm of the Reason Project and assert their perspective in court: that science can and does evaluate supernatural explanations for observations; and can and does pass judgment on the truth or falsity of supernatural explanations. That to truly be intellectually honest, in order to fully accept science one must be an atheist.

    This intellectual honesty is not my argument, btw, this is one that’s been thrown in my face countless times in blog comments by self-identifying new atheists.

    Hire lawyers, file briefs, make your case in the battle. Go to Louisiana, Texas and other places where religion tries to insert itself as science into the classroom. Don’t back off just because the NCSE shows up, you have a competing message and it needs to be asserted. Show me the legal victories – where, for instance, courts adopt the principal that god is at least probably a delusion.

    It’s unreasonable to seek change in the mission of the NCSE until you’ve tested that legal strategy. And if it’s concluded that right now it doesn’t make sense to waste time on that effort because of the political atmosphere in the U.S., that’s an entirely reasonable decision. But then, you would need to admit the NCSE strategy may be the reasonable alternative, and accept the fact that the message they communicate will sometimes be contradictory to the New Atheist position (whatever that is – there’s not actually a central committee with a platform we can check all this against).

    If, as the argument is put forth, we need a multitude of voices and opinions, then it’s time the New Atheists invested in making their opinion heard on the legal front.

  59. #59 Ender
    April 28, 2011

    “And really, why is Coyne et al even bothering with the NCSE?”

    Unless he was formerly employed by them, or has some other connection I’m unaware of, I’m guessing tribalism. He’s on the side of science, they’re on the side of science. So he feels they’re on the same team, and they should be on the same page about the intersection of science and religion.

    There’s no reason that someone can’t start an NCSE style organisation but with NA or incompatibilist principles. Coyne or any of the et al could do it right now.

    But the NCSE is not a hard line incompatibilist organisation. Its mission statement is not to spread the word of New Atheism, and the Truth! that science is immiscible with religion.

    Its mission statement is: “something something defend the teaching of evolution and science in the classroom, oppose creationism”. – And one of the things that some religious people say is “I can’t accept evolution, I’m a Christian” or “Teaching evolution is teaching atheism”, therefore it’s entirely reasonable that the NCSE should provide evidence that many Christians have no problem with evolution. Facts, evidence – remember the things we’re meant to appreciate.
    It may be the case that all those Christians are wrong to continue being Christians in the light of the rest of science. It’s also entirely irrelevant. The NCSE is not the “Council on Science/Religion Compatibility”, it’s defending the teaching of evolution and it is an undeniable fact that you can accept evolution and be a Christian

    Maybe you’re accepting evolution and have other unscientific beliefs, but the NCSE is not the “Council on RightThink” either, it’s “The Council for Protecting the teaching of evolution” (approx) so it doesn’t matter!

    There is no reason that the NCSE should promote Coyne’s incompatibilist position. It is not relevant to their aims. He has no reason to demand they adhere to his line of philosophy or promote his views outside of some sort of tribalism.
    And his claim “You have lost your natural allies. And this is not just speculation, for those allies were us, and we’re telling you so.” is absurd. They haven’t lost those allies on the issue that is important – that evolution is true. And if they lose some political, financial support or whatever kind of support Coyne is taking away (what kind of allies were they again?) from some New Atheists then that’s not good, but the good they’ll do protecting the teaching of evolution by giving Christians factual information about other Christians outweighs that immensely.

  60. #60 Ender
    April 28, 2011

    “Unless Coyne was formerly employed by the NCSE, or has some other connection I’m unaware of, I’m guessing tribalism.”

    No, I have reconsidered my position and now disagree with myself. I don’t think it’s necessarily tribalism, that’s a negative choice from many possible reasons he could have for doing what he does, I’m not a mind reader.
    It’s entirely possible that Coyne is just so convinced that he’s right, so absolutely caught up in his position defending evolution on the web by attacking religion with science, that he has forgotten that there are other ways to defend evolution.
    He may have become fixated on the Truth that science has done away with religion, and feel that it is the duty of every scientific organisation to spread that Truth, regardless of whether it is relevant to their mission statement.
    He might be so fixated on the Truth! of the incompatibilist position that it feels like lying to say “These Christians are not incompatibilists” even though this is a demonstrable fact.
    He might feel that science is under such great threat from all religious people that all scientific institutions must stand together lest they be swept away in a tide of Dark Age superstition. Regardless of whether the scientific institution agrees and regardless of what it was actually set up to do.
    Or any other reason.

    There’s all sorts of reasons that Coyne might have for feeling the NCSE must promote incompatibilist positions to defend evolution, but there are none that actually make a lick of sense when “promoting evolution” is the aim not “ensuring correct beliefs about the overall compatibility of science and religion”

  61. #61 John Kwok
    April 28, 2011

    Jerry Coyne is a noted evolutionary geneticist and one of our foremost experts with respect to understanding speciation. However, unfortunately, he indulges in “jackassery” whenever he posts a screed against NCSE and AAAS’s penchant for “accomodationism” or objects to financial support of the World Science Festival by the John Templeton Foundation. His “open letter” to NCSE and BCSE is as pathetic as his public rejection from World Science Festival founders – and directors – physicist Brian Greene and his wife journalist Tracy Day – to participate as a panelist during the 2009 festival in a program discussing the intersection between science and faith. His behavior pales in comparison with the charm, wit and superb diplomacy displayed by the likes of other notable evolutionary biologists like Franciscon J. Ayala and E. O. Wilson.

  62. #62 Barry
    April 28, 2011

    “Epic fail. Again, you should apologize and withdraw the false claim. Or cite something that actually supports your claim.”

    Epic fail? You admit deliberate deception. Selective communication. Witholding. We know how courts view this Josh and hiding behind ” one cannot ever tell all the truth” is a complete strawman because that was never my accusation. No withdrawal. No apology.

    “That’s not just about my blogging, it’s about how I spend my time as an NCSE employee, or possibly how I spend my time over all.”

    Well, the letter doesn’t name you…although I don’t doubt you are the target. But I didn’t read Coyne’s sentence the way you interpreted it. ” “your employees…have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists.” “Their” in this sentence I took to mean “their time” as opposed to NCSE time. Only Coyne can clarify, but that was the basis of my criticism of your point.

    “nothing you’ve said even addresses it, except to try to rewrite Coyne’s letter. If he wants to know why I do what I do, he’s free to write to me directly and ask, but going through my employer is absolutely unacceptable. And if you have to rewrite his letter to make it make sense, then take your complaint up with him, not me.”

    Please point to exactly where I rewote Coyne’s letter…or just quit whining.

    “You claim, without evidence, that “the refutation of the claims of creationism are purely scientific.” But the point of the NCSE page you linked above is exactly that there are theological refutations of creationism as well. Which is why it’s a legitimate part of the NCSE website”

    It’s claims like this that worry me about you Josh. It’s not that there aren’t refutations of creationism that aren’t scientific, but why NCSE sees itself as qualified to make them. Isn’t it better to allow theological evolutionists (whoever they are) to argue theological points?

    “Do I think Jerry’s letter is, as I quoted Chad Orzel saying, “jackassery”? Yep, that’s why I quoted it. Mostly because I think it’s unethical to go whining to my employer about my behavior outside of work, and I can see no ethical justification for that act. Does engaging in jackassery make Coyne a jackass? Not necessarily.”

    This is why you lose so much credibility. Your tone accusations directly against Coyne and PZ specfically and NA’s generally, are completely undermined when youy fail to admonish all examples of that behavior. It’s no different to complaining about bad language and then telling people who transgress to “fuck off.” And, of course, your complete failure to deal with the imbeciles posting around this thread for open ad hominem attacks points to inconsistency. By the way, I don’t particularly care to see limits to what people say…I just ignore them…but it’s your blog not mine.

    So the big question Josh, is not to do exactly what you criticize in others, but to think of how to recreate a blog that I recall enjoying because of some spectacular expositions of evolutionary research. I really regret this switch and I don’t enjoy your tone.

  63. #63 Josh Rosenau
    April 28, 2011

    Barry: You quote me repeatedly urging people to tell the truth, and then claim that that’s proof I advocate lying, or “deliberate deception.” Again, epic fail.

    When you tell someone “your employees spend their time doing X,” it’s not generally a complaint about their home life, but about your interactions with them in their capacity as employees.

    You say the letter “doesn’t name” me, but the 4th graf opens: “We will continue to answer … people like Josh Rosenau….”

    Yesterday you wrote: “the refutation of the claims of creationism are purely scientific” and now you insist “It’s not that there aren’t refutations of creationism that aren’t scientific.” Which is it, then? And why, given that there are theological refutations, should NCSE simply ignore a viable avenue for refuting creationism, especially when theological issues – not scientific issues – are at the root of creationism’s persistence in the population? You ask “why NCSE sees itself as qualified to make [non-scientific refutations].” Well, the much-maligned Religious Community Outreach Director is a theologian (I suppose that makes him a “theological evolutionist,” whatever you mean by that), so I’d say he’s well-qualified to do that work.

    I’ll take your concerns seriously regarding my tone just as soon as you stop making false statements about what I wrote, what Coyne wrote, and even what you wrote.

  64. #64 Barry
    April 29, 2011

    ” You quote me repeatedly urging people to tell the truth, and then claim that that’s proof I advocate lying, or “deliberate deception.” Again, epic fail.”

    You’ll need to point me to that quote Josh. I’ve been looking for it, but can’t find it.

    “When you tell someone “your employees spend their time doing X,” it’s not generally a complaint about their home life, but about your interactions with them in their capacity as employees”

    Pure speculation. But it isn’t what Coyne wrote. To be fair, it is wide open to interpretation, as i posted above…but you can’t critize my interpretation and assume yours is right.

    “You say the letter “doesn’t name” me, but the 4th graf opens: “We will continue to answer … people like Josh Rosenau….” ”

    Correct, the later paragraph does name you…but the one we are dealing with doesn’t. Again, as I wrote above, this isn’t exactly a disagreement because I assumed he was referencing you.

    “Yesterday you wrote: “the refutation of the claims of creationism are purely scientific” and now you insist “It’s not that there aren’t refutations of creationism that aren’t scientific.” Which is it, then?”

    Errrr…the first one. It’s moments like this that cause my jaw to drop Josh, particularly when you add…”And why, given that there are theological refutations, should NCSE simply ignore a viable avenue for refuting creationism, especially when theological issues – not scientific issues – are at the root of creationism’s persistence in the population?”

    That you don’t see a problem with your reasoning reveals why there will always be a gulf between us. There certainly are “theological refutations to creationism”, but unfortunately we have no way of adjudicating which theological position is right. It’s not exactly like your theologically moderate friends have some biblical hotline to the truth…sure, they disagree with creationist wingnuts, but there is no means through which theology can resolve Noah’s flood, for example, or creation in 7 days. All your moderate religious friends are far happier using science for this purpose. Going back to Kitzmiller v. Dover, ask yourself why, if these theological “refutations” of creationism (expressed as ID in this case) are “a viable avenue for refuting creationism”, didn’t NCSE position these arguments alongside the scientic evidence that was presented? I think both you and I know the answer to that question.

    “I’ll take your concerns seriously regarding my tone just as soon as you stop making false statements about what I wrote, what Coyne wrote, and even what you wrote.”

    So this looks a silly statement. I don’t expect you to take my comments seriously because I don’t think you’ve thought through the issues you are dealing with. Claiming I have made false statements doesn’t make the statements false, particularly when I can use your own words as evidence.

    Quoting Orzel reveals duplicitous behavior. When you attempt to occupy the high ground, as you do when admonishing NA’s for tone, and at the same time fail to behave consistent to this high ground, you lose credibility. I note your complete failure to deal with this…” It’s no different to complaining about bad language and then telling people who transgress to “fuck off.” “…because there is no way for you to deal with it. Everytime you allow something like “jackass” to be quoted about Coyne on your blog…and you posted the frickin comment…it means that YOU are a jackass (and please note that it’s not me that is calling you a “jackass”, but you). How do you square this, Josh, with your bashing of NA’s?

    I do think there is a solution to NCSE’s problem regarding accommodationism and religious “outreach” (as you put it). Call yourself an anti-creationist lobby and stop pretending you are advancing science education. Whatever the political expedient you see in religious outreach surely you can agree that there is no place for religion in science? Even Ken Miller is on record on that point. It’s really strange that an organization attempting to further the place of science education in the curriculum fouls its own nest in this way.

  65. #65 Barry
    April 29, 2011

    Johhny: “I love the smell of Atheists Bashing Atheists in the morning.”

    Careful. Don’t accuse Josh of being an atheist. He gets all tetchy about it. If you read here http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/blackford-what-is-new-atheism/#comments (Comment 25)
    …you will see that Josh is an “apathist agnostic”. Clearly much superior to being just a common atheist who rejects belief in God. Clear?

  66. #66 John Kwok
    April 29, 2011

    @ Barry -

    I think Johnny Mills was being sarcastic (The line is a paraphrase from a classic quote in Francis Ford Coppola’s
    Apocalypse Now”.).

    On a more serious note, I endorse Josh’s rebuttal (@ 63) to your remarks so lacking in their profundity.

  67. #67 Anthony McCarthy
    April 29, 2011

    It’s official now, the new atheists are so hard up for converts that they’ve got to browbeat agnostics to try to get the to pretend to be atheists.

    Since it’s clear that Josh has thought out the issue more than Coyne or PZ seems to have, I’d trust him to know his own mind. But the new atheism is a direct descendent of the “skeptics” who always knew just how everyone should be allowed to think, from the start. They’d probably condemn Flora Purim because she was encouraging people to jump off of buildings in a denial of Newton.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvMO-73Rw4k&feature=related

  68. #68 Barry
    April 29, 2011

    Kwok: “On a more serious note, I endorse Josh’s rebuttal (@ 63) to your remarks so lacking in their profundity.”

    Of course you do. It’s called the “herd” instinct.

  69. #69 Barry
    April 29, 2011

    It seems that I have a 50% chance of my posts going through Josh’s “moderation”. No complaints…but responses are going to be out of sequence. Of course, if this post goes through “moderation”, then this post will be out of sequence.

  70. #70 John Kwok
    April 29, 2011

    @ Barry -

    Speaking of “herd” instinct, I have seen far more comments of the kind that regard Coyne, Dawkins and Myers as being those scientists on the “front lines” of “evolutionary research” from you and your fellow New Atheists than those who know better (which includes yours truly, Josh and Anthony McCarthy; this doesn’t mean that I endorse everything that Josh and Anthony McCarthy write anyway). Such observations fly in the face of these unfortunate facts:

    1) Of the three cited, only Coyne is now a prominent evolutionary biologist, known for his excellent research in evolutionary genetics, especially on speciation. Dawkins was a fine evolutionary biologist until he opted to devote his time to writing full-time; he hasn’t published any important papers since the late 1980s. Myers has admitted that he is a mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist.

    2) Neither Coyne or Dawkins or Myers have done as much work in actively fighting creationism as has Josh, his NCSE colleagues, or Ken Miller, this year’s recipient of the Society for the Study of Evolution’s Stephen Jay Gould Prize.

    3) NCSE has had a substantial track record of political and legal success in challenging creationism in the USA. Among its notable successes include the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial. Those who contend that the Richard Dawkins Foundation might do a better job of that than NCSE as it is currently constituted should remind themselves that the Richard Dawkins Foundation can’t keep track of its own employees like Josh Timonen, as noted here:

    http://www.rfcexpress.com/lawsuits/copyright-lawsuits/california-central-district-court/66861/the-richard-dawkins-foundation-for-reason-and-science-v-josh-timonen/summary/

    and here:

    http://dawkinssuestimonen.com/

    and here:

    http://friendlyatheist.com/2010/10/23/drama-at-the-richard-dawkins-foundation/

    and here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/10/rdf_v_timonen.php

    I regard as sanctimonious and hypocritical, efforts by Coyne and Myers to dictate what NCSE is and what it can or can’t do with regards to educating those who are religiously devout and skeptical of biological evolution as valid mainstream science, when they are more concerned with NCSE’s “behavior” than with what apparently has been gross financial mismanagement at the Richard Dawkins Foundation (Please note that while I still retain ample respect and admiration for Richard Dawkins as a writer, I am amazed that he would heap scorn on Matzke, especially when he has far more serious financial issues with someone he has worked closely with in the recent past; Josh Timonen.).

    4) Given the Richard Dawkins Foundation’s recent financial and legal issues, can anyone realistically contend that it, not NCSE or BCSE, could do a better job in fighting creationism?

  71. #71 Josh Rosenau
    April 29, 2011

    Barry: Oh, FFS. If you can’t keep basic facts straight, this isn’t worth my time.

    “Going back to Kitzmiller v. Dover, ask yourself why, if these theological “refutations” of creationism (expressed as ID in this case) are “a viable avenue for refuting creationism”, didn’t NCSE position these arguments alongside the scientic evidence that was presented?”

    Did you not notice the testimony of Jack Haught, a pro-evolution theologian who NCSE recruited as an expert witness? Judge Jones cites him frequently in his decision. And Kevin Padian and Ken Miller (who offered the scientific expert testimony you reference) have praised his testimony as essential to the case.

    Your other factual claims are as false, and your interpretations as meritless, and are thus not worth my time to continue addressing at length.

  72. #72 Anthony McCarthy Leveler
    April 29, 2011

    It’s turned into an Orly Taitz kind of thing.

  73. #73 Barry
    April 29, 2011

    “Your other factual claims are as false, and your interpretations as meritless, and are thus not worth my time to continue addressing at length.”

    Meaning…I’m a bit stuck as to how to answer thse issues.

    You’re right…you aren’t worth the effort.

  74. #74 Mike from Ottawa
    April 29, 2011

    @ scott

    Your understanding of Coyne’s sentence doesn’t match what it says.

    I’ve been wrong before and hope to be again before I die, but I’m afraid you provide no reasoning or evidence on which any reasonable person might be persuaded. Where I come from “scott says so” on its own isn’t very persuasive, but by all means explain the basis of your claim and you might get somewhere.

  75. #75 Mike from Ottawa
    April 29, 2011

    @ julian

    [Coyne] This apparently comes from your idea that if evolutionists also espouse atheism, it will hurt the cause of science education and turn people away from evolution.

    Mike you are going to have to explain to me where in that sentence Coyne is conflating evolution with atheism because I don’t see it.

    I did not say that Coyne was, in that sentence, conflating evolution with atheism. The conflation I allege is not that of atheism and evolution but that of “… atheism and the view of some atheists that you can’t be an evolutionist without being an atheist.” [highlighting added]

    If you’re challenging whether or not Coyne holds that one can’t be an evolutionist without being an atheist, that’s another matter. I was being brief. Coyne is marginally more nuanced than that formulation, but his out consists of allowing for a compatibility of acceptance of evolution with such a vague form of deism as to be pretty much meaningless, a deism scarcely to be distinguished from agnosticism. That is why he gets so worked up at NCSE telling people there are folk out there who feel that it is possible to both accept evolution and have a more substantial form of religious belief than that vague deism.

    If I were to re-do that comment now, with the experience of your query, I would be a bit more precise and say Coyne’s sentence there is a pretty obvious false conflation of atheism and the view of some atheists that you can’t be an evolutionist and be religious in any meaningful way.

    He’s talking about atheist (who happen to accept evolution) speaking in favor of atheism being accused of hurting the ’cause.’

    The folk who Coyne is going after have not been saying that merely speaking in favour of atheism is hurting the cause. I’m sure some folk have been saying the mere fact that some folk who speak out for evolution also speak out for atheism hurts the cause, but those people aren’t among the folk Coyne has set his sights on in his open letter.

    Coyne is trying to make it look like Josh and others have been mean to him just because Coyne speaks in favour of atheism when Coyne knows perfectly well it is his insistence on a dichotomy between supporting evolution and being religious in a meaningful way that is the basis of their disagreement.

  76. #76 Anthony McCarthy Leveler
    April 29, 2011

    Beyond dispute Jerry Coyne does equate science with atheism. He’s published articles and blog posts saying that.

    Science and faith are fundamentally incompatible, and for precisely the same reason that irrationality and rationality are incompatible. They are different forms of inquiry, with only one, science, equipped to find real truth. And while they may have a dialogue, it’s not a constructive one. Science helps religion only by disproving its claims, while religion has nothing to add to science.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2010-10-11-column11_ST_N.htm

    As I said, Barry’s argument is a lot like Orly Taitz, for whom dozens of citations wouldn’t make any difference. I find that’s pretty much what you get with these people. 20,000 quotes wouldn’t be enough to escape the declaration that you’ve “cherry picked”, set up “straw men” committed whatever logical fallacy the name of which they remember from reading Carl Sagan or one of the half dozen or so intellectual dodges that are in the current repertoire of the fraternity.

  77. #77 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 30, 2011

    Maybe a nitpick: The quote above from Coyne doesn’t equate science with atheism. Rather finds that they are compatible, or not mutually contradictory.

    And FWIW: I am a loud, obnoxious atheist. Nonetheless, I recognize that NCSE does important and necessary work.

  78. #78 Josh Rosenau
    April 30, 2011

    Barry: I don’t see any comments from you in moderation.

  79. #79 Barry
    April 30, 2011

    Post 65 appeared half a day after post 70. No problem.

  80. #80 supratall
    May 1, 2011

    Beyond dispute Jerry Coyne does equate science with atheism. He’s published articles and blog posts saying that.

  81. #81 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 1, 2011

    supratall: Maybe Coyne does, and maybe he doesn’t. I don’t read Coyne’s blog. I already know why evolution is true. Maybe you could provide a link or two?

  82. #82 J. J. Ramsey
    May 1, 2011

    Antiochus Epiphanes, “supratail” is a spambot repeating text from post #77 by “Anthony McCarthy Leveler.”

  83. #83 Anthony McCarthy
    May 1, 2011

    Leveler is my usual Blogger political suffix. I must have typed in in after my name here where I don’t use it.

    “Supratail” I didn’t know what to make of it except it seems a little bit weird. Didn’t know it had a name either. Is it a bot or someone making believe they’re a bot? Not that the bot is for aught.

    If Coyne doesn’t believe that being a coherent supporter of science is the equivalent of being an atheist someone should tell him that it’s the logical conclusion to just about his entire blogging and even some of his journalistic production.

  84. #84 Barry
    May 1, 2011

    Joker McCarthy initially states…

    “Beyond dispute Jerry Coyne does equate science with atheism. He’s published articles and blog posts saying that.”

    We get no links to the evidence supporting this claim, just an extract that says something completely different, as Antiochus Epiphanes pointed out at post 78.

    Joker then equivocates and now says…

    “If Coyne doesn’t believe that being a coherent supporter of science is the equivalent of being an atheist someone should tell him that it’s the logical conclusion to just about his entire blogging and even some of his journalistic production.”

    Over on YouTube, Thunderf00t has a series of videos entitled “Why do people laugh at Creationists”. For the tactics he criticizes in Creationists, Joker McCarthy is guilty of very similar behavior – sweeping generalizations, inaccurate attacks, no evidence, and criticizing others for asking him to provide evidence.

    I’ve no problem with him hating Coyne, but at least get the criticism and evidence aligned.

  85. #85 Anthony McCarthy
    May 1, 2011

    Barry, maybe you should hustle yourself over to Coyne’s blog and put it to him, does science require atheism, and see what he says. If he doesn’t then his contention that science is incompatible with religion is meaningless. I would but he doesn’t like me much, not that I mind.

    If you think I care if new atheists call me names they intend to wound me. I’d be worried if they didn’t.

    Coyne has taught me a lot about how someone who is habitually many pennies short of a dollar can, somehow, hold it together when they figure they have to. Don’t confuse hate for an emotion that’s far less serious. It’s Hitchens I despise.

  86. #86 John Kwok
    May 1, 2011

    @ Barry -

    McCarthy and Josh Rosenau have mad some valid points regarding Coyne and his behavior that you refuse to address. Let me note that Coyne has described Myers in most glowing terms, claiming that Myers is “brilliant”. If that is indeed the case, then why is Myers teaching at a third rate state university in MN, not at one of the world’s great universities like Coyne’s employer, the University of Chicago?

    I am amazed that Coyne has shown ample “concern” over the positions and policies of NCSE, BCSE, AAAS and the World Science Festival with regards to what should be the proper relationship(s) between science and religion, and yet, I don’t recall him expressing similar concern with respect to the Richard Dawkins Foundation’s current legal woes with one Josh Timonen as noted here:

    http://www.rfcexpress.com/lawsuits/copyright-lawsuits/california-central-district-court/66861/the-richard-dawkins-foundation-for-reason-and-science-v-josh-timonen/summary/

    and here:

    http://dawkinssuestimonen.com/

    and here:

    http://friendlyatheist.com/2010/10/23/drama-at-the-richard-dawkins-foundation/

    and here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/10/rdf_v_timonen.php

    Do I detect maybe more than a whiff of hypocrisy from Coyne when he has failed to devote as much space or time to the Richard Dawkins Foundation’s ongoing legal problems?

  87. #87 J. J. Ramsey
    May 1, 2011

    John Kwok:

    Let me note that Coyne has described Myers in most glowing terms, claiming that Myers is “brilliant”. If that is indeed the case, then why is Myers teaching at a third rate state university in MN, not at one of the world’s great universities like Coyne’s employer, the University of Chicago?

    That’s a cheap shot, and not a very good one. Place of employment is a dodgy proxy measurement of one’s skills, and it’s a one-way measurement at best. If you do get to work at, say, MIT, it’s probably a good sign, but if you don’t, well, there could be a whole host of reasons, such as proximity to place of residence.

    And bear in mind that the one who is saying this is someone who has no great love for PZ Myers, to say the least.

  88. #88 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 1, 2011

    Barry, maybe you should hustle yourself over to Coyne’s blog and put it to him, does science require atheism, and see what he says.

    To say that science requires atheism is not the same as to say that science is atheism. The latter is a semantic issue that is easily resolved by agreeing on the definition of these terms.

    Again, I don’t read Jerry’s blog, but I am somewhat familiar with his position from his commentary at Pharyngula. I think his position is more complex than “Science requires atheism” and is more along the lines of “Science is incompatible with theism”…This is baldly true in that science doesn’t admit supernatural claims. If you have come to believe that a supernatural explanation is optimal, you certainly cannot have come to that conclusion via the scientific method.

    Why is this controversial?

  89. #89 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 1, 2011

    OK…poked around a little on Coyne’s site and this is one passage I found that addresses compatability

    All we have to show—and have shown—is that religion and science use different and incompatible ways to “understand” the universe, and that the religious way isn’t really a way of understanding at all. All we have to show is that there is only one science, which is practiced by researchers of all creeds and nationalities, but that there are elebenty gazillion religions, all of which disagree about their “truths.” All we have to show is that religious “truths”, like resurrection and parthenogenetic humans, violate scientific ones. All we have to show is that we know a lot more about physics and biology than we did 200 years ago, but don’t know a jot and tittle more about the nature of supposed gods. And all we have to show is that faith is considered a virtue in religion, but a vice in science. We’ve already shown these forms of incompatibility. QED.

    What is controversial about this?

  90. #90 John Kwok
    May 1, 2011

    @ J. J. E. Ramsey -

    Regardless of my own personal bias against Myers, I have made a fair point (I was cognizant of that when I wrote my most recent comment.). If Myers truly had a first-rate mind, he would be as productive as his more prominent colleague in evolutionary developmental biology, Sean B. Carroll of the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute – or be a colleague of Coyne’s at Coyne’s department, one of the world’s finest in evolutionary biology. By his own admission Myers has said that he is mediocre compared to someone like Carroll.

  91. #91 John Kwok
    May 1, 2011

    @ Antiochus -

    If those were the only words of Coyne’s, then even I would find myself in complete agreement. However, instead, he has waged quite literally a “jihad” against faith, denying that there is a possibility that science and faith can co-exist. He has condemned notable science and science advocacy organizations like AAAS, NCSE, BCSE, and the Clergy Letter Project, for being “accomodationist” toward faith, ignoring the facts that they are led primarily by fellow atheists (e. g. Genie Scott and Barbara Forrest at NCSE; Michael Zimmerman at the Clergy Letter Project). He has denounced the World Science Festival for receiving support from the John Templeton Foundation, and, two years ago, publicly refused an invitation by the World Science Festival’s founders – and still directors – physicist Brian Greene and journalist Tracy Day – to appear on a World Science Festival panel devoted to science and faith.

  92. #92 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 1, 2011

    f Myers truly had a first-rate mind, he would be as productive as his more prominent colleague in evolutionary developmental biology, Sean B. Carroll…

    If these are the criteria that must be met for one to have a “first-rate mind”, I doubt many commenting here (myself included) would pass muster. Nonetheless, whether Myers has a “first-rate mind” or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is the substance of his arguments; if we are going to admit argument from authority, many with first-rate minds agree wit PZs arguments, and feel that he makes them so well, that they invite him to speak at international scientific conferences.

    Also, Morris is hardly third rate. It is primarily a teaching university, Myers position and reputation indicate that he is a talented and dedicated lecturer.

  93. #93 John Kwok
    May 1, 2011

    @ Antiochus Epiphanes -

    When compared to schools like Michigan State, Arizona State, Stony Brook and Binghamton (both branches of the State University of New York), UC Riverside and UC San Diego, Morris is third rate.

    As for Myers’s intellectual excellence, it wasn’t “noted” until he started Pharyngula back in 2004 (or was it 2005). Had he never embarked on creating it, I strongly doubt any of us would be interested in reading about his political and religious views. I am emphasizing this simply because too many of his fans have contended that he has done far more important work fighting creationism than has Ken Miller, Genie Scott, Josh Rosenau, Barbara Forrest and yes, even Nick Matzke.

  94. #94 John Kwok
    May 1, 2011

    @ Antiochus Epiphanes -

    Whether you wish to admit this or not, PZ Myers has not had the decades-long track record of public outreach to science that Genie Scott, Sean B. Carroll and Ken Miller have, which, I may suggest, is why they have been the first three recipients of the Society for the Study of Evolution’s Stephen Jay Gould Prize, which was awarded first back in June, 2009 to Genie Scott, then a year later to Sean Carroll, and now, this June to Ken Miller.

  95. #95 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 1, 2011

    John Kwok: You haven’t done any of those noble things either. Nor have I. WTF does this have to do with anything?

    Also

    When compared to schools like Michigan State, Arizona State, Stony Brook and Binghamton (both branches of the State University of New York), UC Riverside and UC San Diego, Morris is third rate.

    Depends on the criterion. If you want a bachelors degree, none of these places is especially prestigious. Furthermore, you are unlikely to get much face time with a professor at any of the state universities because 1) many classes are taught by instructors, and 2) class sizes are enormous. On the other hand, Morris follows the liberal arts model with small class sizes and professors who are actually held to account for what happens in a classroom. I would have chosen Morris as a bachelor institution over Arizona State or Michigan State for these reasons alone.

    But so what. One could be a second grade clerk working in a patent office in Bern, and yet obtain insight. Where one gets their degree is much less important than how they do so.

    Your criticism lacks substance entirely.

  96. #96 J. J. Ramsey
    May 1, 2011

    Antiochus Epiphanes: “What is controversial about this?”

    More than you might think.

    “All we have to show is that religious ‘truths’, like resurrection and parthenogenetic humans, violate scientific ones.”

    This is facepalm-worthy. No religion teaches that the dead normally rise and that virgins normally give birth. That would not only contradict science but everyday human experience. One can argue that miracle stories are probably untrue by indirect argument, such as pointing out that it is generally far more probable for someone to lie or be mistaken than for the normal ways of nature to be violated or suspended, and that the sources of miracle stories are far from unimpeachable.

    Coyne ought to be slapped on the side of his head with a copy of Robert J. Fogelin’s A Defense of Hume on Miracles, which helps explain Hume’s classic and oft-misunderstood argument. Better yet, he should read it.

    “All we have to show is that we know a lot more about physics and biology than we did 200 years ago, but don’t know a jot and tittle more about the nature of supposed gods.”

    That would presume that religion is supposed to give knowledge about physics and biology, which is far from universally true.

    “And all we have to show is that faith is considered a virtue in religion, but a vice in science.”

    Again, this is far from universally true. Indeed, in the vast bulk of religions, supernatural beliefs aren’t self-consciously taken on faith, but rather are treated like beliefs about everyday things, as simple facts about the real world. (Thank you, Pascal Boyer.) Of course, such forms of religions, where supernatural and everyday beliefs aren’t in separate mental compartments, are easily incompatible with science, even from an accommodationist perspective. Oddly enough, the idea of having faith opens up the way to a kind of compatibility through compartmentalization, where one consciously holds a set of religious beliefs by faith that are not subject to empirical verification and thus stay out of the way of science, which handles the everyday, real-world beliefs.

  97. #97 John Kwok
    May 1, 2011

    @ Antiochus Epiphanes -

    Whether you or I have done any of the notable work in suppport of public outreach from science is irrelevant. WHAT IS RELEVANT is that Myers hasn’t accomplished anything remotely comparable to what Scott, Carroll and Miller have done. WHAT IS RELEVANT are claims by those who insist that Myers has done far more important work in fighting creationism than any of those I have cited, including Josh Rosenau. That isn’t borne out by facts (e. g. appearing before state education boards, witnesses at trials like Kitzmiller vs. Dover, etc.).

    I think you’ve misunderstood me. I have been stressing high quality research universities and mentioned only state schools, but if you wish, I would suggest that Myers hasn’t made as an important contribution to his field that, for example, invertebrate paleontologist Roger D. K. Thomas (Franklin and Marshall) has; or vertebrate paleobiologist Donald Prothero (Occidental).

  98. #98 John Kwok
    May 1, 2011

    @ Antiochus Epiphanes -

    Elsewhere I have noted that there are some – including professional scientists – who believe that Coyne, Dawkins and Myers are on the “frontlines” of “evolutionary research”. With the notable exception of Jerry Coyne – a distinguished evolutionary geneticist noted for his work in studying speciation – that belief is both false and misleading. Once Dawkins was a promising young evolutionary biologist, but he hasn’t published any notable papers since the late 1980s if not before (I have the utmost admiration for Dawkins’s literary skills and he remains one of my favorite authors.). Again, Myers has admitted that his own research output in evolutionary developmental biology pales in comparison to the likes of Sean B. Carroll.

  99. #99 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 1, 2011

    JJ Ramsey: The argument is about compatibility. Accepting resurrection or parthenogenesis*, violates scientific principles, namely the principle of parsimony**. Even accepting that such an event only occurred once is a strident violation of these principles. The reasoning behind such a decision is at odds with a scientific approach.

    That would presume that religion is supposed to give knowledge about physics and biology, which is far from universally true.

    No, no, no….read Coyne’s passage again:

    “All we have to show is that we know a lot more about physics and biology than we did 200 years ago, but don’t know a jot and tittle more about the nature of supposed gods.”

    Coyne isn’t saying that religion is incompatible because it fails to discover anything about the real world, but that it fails to discover anything at all. Science is fundamentally a method of discovery. Religion is fundamentally a method of avoiding discovery.

    And regarding the connection between faith and religion, you said:

    Again, this is far from universally true. Indeed, in the vast bulk of religions, supernatural beliefs aren’t self-consciously taken on faith, but rather are treated like beliefs about everyday things, as simple facts about the real world.

    A distinction without a difference.

    Oddly enough, the idea of having faith opens up the way to a kind of compatibility through compartmentalization,…

    That’s not compatibility. That’s cognitive dissonance. One might simultaneously believe that only natural explanations are necessary to explain the origins of life on earth, but that the universe was created by an intelligent demiurge. The principle that informs the first belief is completely at odds with the principle that informs the second. That someone can hold conflicting ideas in their head says more about the complexity of the psyche than it does about the compatibility of those ideas.

    John Kwok: What I object to is your argument that Myers occupation indicates that his mind is not “first-rate”. The rest of it is a matter of opinion. I (for one) find the contributions of the NCSE of great importance; the personal beliefs or level/prestige of education of those working for the NCSE are irrelevant when noting this distinction. Myers plays an important role as well in educating the public. As the author of one of the most read science blogs on the planet, his outreach is considerable. But whatever.

    *Or whatever it was that happened to the human mother of Jesus.
    **And probably methodological naturalism, if a supernatural hand is invoked.

  100. #100 John Kwok
    May 1, 2011

    @ Antiochus Epiphanes -

    I strongly doubt Myers has had the impact that Carl Sagan, Neil de Grasse Tyson, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins has (or had in Gould and Sagan’s cases) since he’s been around only for a few short years. Under no circumstances has he become as much a phenomenom as, for example, Frank McCourt or J. K. Rowling, with their respective literary bestsellers. You are merely trying to assert your claim is right on some kind of “vox populi” argument, not on the actual record – which is virtually nil in Myers’s case – in successfully fighting creationism on legal and political grounds.

  101. #101 John Kwok
    May 1, 2011

    @ Antiochus Epiphanes -

    Under no circumstances could Myers be considered a “first rate mind”. As an advocate for atheism, his comemntary often lacks the considerable thought and superb literary quality I have seen from the likes of noted philosophers and historians Austin Dacey, Susan Jacoby and Massimo Pigliucci. As a scientist, if Myers was indeed a “first rate” mind, then he would have made important contributions to evolutionary developmental biology; he has admitted that he is a mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist not worthy of comparison with Sean B. Carroll.

  102. #102 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 1, 2011

    Under no circumstances could Myers be considered a “first rate mind”.

    Comprehension fail. The argument isn’t that Myers has a first rate mind. It is that his institution of employment offers no evidence that would confirm or deny such a proposal.

    As an advocate for atheism, his comemntary often lacks the considerable thought and superb literary quality I have seen from the likes of noted philosophers and historians Austin Dacey, Susan Jacoby and Massimo Pigliucci.

    That’s like, your opinion, man. Nonetheless, thank you for mentioning Dacey and Jacoby…I have not read either, but now would like to.

  103. #103 John Kwok
    May 1, 2011

    @ Antiochus Epiphanes -

    Myers excels at being an intellectual lightweight and blowhard, with regards to anti-religious bias. Although I give him credit for his rare science reporting, even then he’s been “scooped” by the likes of Carl Zimmer and others who had done a better job reporting important scientific discoveries in biology and explaining their significance to the general public.

    Don’t quote me, but I have been told by others that Dacey and Jacoby are important writers on atheism. Having read some of their work, I concur with that assessment.

  104. #104 Barry
    May 1, 2011

    “Barry, maybe you should hustle yourself over to Coyne’s blog and put it to him, does science require atheism, and see what he says”

    Anthony, I don’t have to do this because you already claim certainty in knowing that Coyne equates science with atheism.

    All you have to do is point to the evidence where Coyne says exactly this. If you are so certain, why is this so hard?

  105. #105 Barry
    May 1, 2011

    Kwok…

    “@ Barry -

    McCarthy and Josh Rosenau have mad some valid points regarding Coyne and his behavior that you refuse to address. Let me note that Coyne has described Myers in most glowing terms, claiming that Myers is “brilliant”.”

    I’m having a hard time taking you seriously…are you a troll? Exactly what “valid points” have I refused to address?

    And what is the relevance of the comment on Myers? I’ve not mentioned Myers…why is he relevant?

    Why do you keep referring to the RDFSR legal case? What relevance does it have to the Coyne letter? And as for this…

    “Do I detect maybe more than a whiff of hypocrisy from Coyne when he has failed to devote as much space or time to the Richard Dawkins Foundation’s ongoing legal problems?”

    I know what whiff I detect, and it isn’t hypocrisy from Coyne. Do you know what the term “sub judice” means? Dawkins’ lawyer references this…so does the link to Pharyngula that you provided. Sensible and reasonable people know not to comment much on cases that are going through the system. Reading your posts it looks like you’re not the kind of person to be troubled too much by evidence, it is clear you already know what is going on. You have plenty of relatives on this site. The rest of us hold others…and ourselves…to a much higher standard.

  106. #106 John Kwok
    May 1, 2011

    @ Barry,

    Don’t play the dumb fool with me. Here’s an example where you are aping Coyne hook, line and sinker:

    “I do think there is a solution to NCSE’s problem regarding accommodationism and religious ‘outreach’ (as you put it). Call yourself an anti-creationist lobby and stop pretending you are advancing science education. Whatever the political expedient you see in religious outreach surely you can agree that there is no place for religion in science? Even Ken Miller is on record on that point. It’s really strange that an organization attempting to further the place of science education in the curriculum fouls its own nest in this way.”

    The only ones who think there is a problem called “accomodationism” are Coyne, Myers and Dawkins. It is relevant for NCSE to have some sections devoted to religion is to show how certain faiths have twisted and distorted sound mainstream science to support their twisted and tormented version of Christianity. Moreover it is also relevant for them to note where religiously devout scientists and others, including clergy, recognize the validity of biological evolution as sound mainstream science.

    As for what Ken Miller has said, I heard him say that those who espouse faiths hostile to science should reject them. He did not say that those who are religiously devout scientists – who recognize the validity of mainstream science like biological evolution – should reject their faiths. But he does believe that it is possible – and this is a viewpoint shared by Vatican Astronomer Guy Consolmagno – to be both a religiously devout person and a dedicated scientist, provided that when one works as a scientist that he (or she) think solely of science; in private, when one has time to devote to religious devotion, then religious matters should be considered only.

  107. #107 John Kwok
    May 1, 2011

    As for legal matters, are you serious? People comment on cases quite often (And if you doubt this, then consider the media circus surrouding the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial, for example.). While I understand quite well why it wouldn’t make sense – legally speaking – for the Richard Dawkins Foundation to comment on its ongoing case against Josh Timonen, Coyne should have been more perceptive than he was when he went after Nick Matzke, realizing that his comments could be viewed as an opportunity to comment on the Josh Timonen case implicitly, if not explicitly.

  108. #108 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 1, 2011

    Myers excels at being an intellectual lightweight and blowhard, with regards to anti-religious bias. Although I give him credit for his rare science reporting, even then he’s been “scooped” by the likes of Carl Zimmer and others who had done a better job reporting important scientific discoveries in biology and explaining their significance to the general public.

    You have made your opinion clear in previous posts. I completely believe that this is your opinion. Therefore, you don’t need to repeat it unless you would like to include the train of thought that led you to it.

    Don’t quote me…

    Don’t worry. I’m giving those authors the benefit of the doubt despite your endorsement.

  109. #109 J. J. Ramsey
    May 2, 2011

    Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained, pp. 9-10:

    Many people in the world would find it strange if you told them that they “believe in” witches and ghosts or that they have “faith” in their ancestors. Indeed, it would be very difficult in most languages to translate these sentences. It takes us Westerners some effort to realize that this notion of “believing in something” is peculiar. Imagine a Martian telling you how interesting it is that you “believe” in mountains and rivers and cars and telephones. You would think the alien has got it wrong. We don’t “believe in” these things, we just notice and accept that they are around. Many people in the world would say the same about witches and ghosts. They are around like trees and animals–though they are far more difficult to understand and control–so it does not require a particular commitment or faith to notice their existence and act accordingly.

    Antiochus Epiphanes, your response to my condensed version of the above claim is “A distinction without a difference.” That shows that you really were not paying attention. Religions are not generally about faith, let alone about making it a virtue, and perhaps somewhat ironically, the religions that are about faith are the ones with the potential to ball themselves up into their own separate sphere out of the way of science. We’ve seen that happen in practice.

    Antiochus Epiphanes: “That’s not compatibility. That’s cognitive dissonance. One might simultaneously believe that only natural explanations are necessary to explain the origins of life on earth, but that the universe was created by an intelligent demiurge.”

    Gee, sounds like deism. Now there’s a religious belief that’s really gotten in the way of science. *snark* Seriously, if a religious scientist feels weird about his/her separating out religious beliefs from empirically based ones, then he/she can talk to a therapist, go lurk on FRDB, or whatever. As long as the religious beliefs stay out of the way and don’t become fuel for pseudoscience, I don’t care that much.

  110. #110 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 2, 2011

    Religions are not generally about faith, let alone about making it a virtue, and perhaps somewhat ironically, the religions that are about faith are the ones with the potential to ball themselves up into their own separate sphere out of the way of science. We’ve seen that happen in practice.

    You asserted that supernatural beliefs are not generally about faith, “but rather are treated like beliefs about everyday things, as simple facts about the real world.”
    OK. Based on what? How are these facts arrived at? Maybe this is semantic, but I believe that Coyne is using the term faith in the same sense that I am, as an ungrounded and uncontested belief”. You haven’t said anything to contradict this. You just make assertions.

    What “religions without faith” are you talking about?*

    Gee, sounds like deism. Now there’s a religious belief that’s really gotten in the way of science.

    It hardly matters though, and I chose a harmless example on purpose. Perfectly excellent scientists are capable of arriving at ideas through means that are in opposition to the scientific process. Whether you regard this practice as harmless or not, has nothing to do with my argument; I don’t find all such beliefs harmful either, but that doesn’t make them any more compatible with science.

    *I would point out that faith is such an intrinsic component to religion that we often use the word “faith” as a substitute for “religion”. I’m trying to think f religions that are not based on faith components. Not the big Abrahamic trio. Hinduism (and its daughters) lacks a unified creed, but practitioners are certainly faithful. Buddhism, Shinto, Animism…again, what are you talking about?

  111. #111 John Kwok
    May 2, 2011

    @ Antiochus Epiphanes -

    Dacey and Jacoby are prominent writers on Atheism. If you are truly committed to Atheism, then you need to read them, regardless of my own recommendations.

  112. #112 J. J. Ramsey
    May 2, 2011

    Antiochus Epiphanes: “You asserted that supernatural beliefs are not generally about faith, ‘but rather are treated like beliefs about everyday things, as simple facts about the real world.’ OK. Based on what? How are these facts arrived at?”

    I arrive at those facts the same way most laymen arrive at the facts regarding evolution or climate change. That is, I look for the relevant experts in the field (who publish things like Religion Explained), and these experts in turn do the appropriate research. In this case, the research involves looking at a wide variety of religions around the world, including tribal religions.

    Antiochus Epiphanes: “Maybe this is semantic, but I believe that Coyne is using the term faith in the same sense that I am, as an ungrounded and uncontested belief.”

    Except that’s not how you are using the word when you say, “faith is considered a virtue in religion.” Here the implication is that someone is consciously choosing to believe in something without good evidence. By contrast, “an ungrounded and uncontested belief” can simply refer to factoids such as Isaac Newton getting hit on the head with a falling apple, or that people assumed the world was flat in the time that Columbus sailed. Such things are not usually described as “faith.”

    Antiochus Epiphanes: “I would point out that faith is such an intrinsic component to religion that we often use the word ‘faith’ as a substitute for ‘religion’.”

    And I would argue that the reason that we often use “faith” and “religion” interchangeably (and I’ve been guilty of that, too) is because we think in terms of the religions which with we are familiar, especially Christianity. Christianity, of course, does have faith as a central notion. Assuming that what is familiar is representative is an easy mistake to make.

  113. #113 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 2, 2011

    Except that’s not how you are using the word when you say, “faith is considered a virtue in religion.” Here the implication is that someone is consciously choosing to believe in something without good evidence.

    Hebrews 11:1 is cited widely enough. It begins:
    “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for”, and gets worse from there.

    By contrast, “an ungrounded and uncontested belief” can simply refer to factoids such as Isaac Newton getting hit on the head with a falling apple, or that people assumed the world was flat in the time that Columbus sailed. Such things are not usually described as “faith.”

    The distinction is that these could be contested because they are amenable to falsification. Religious beliefs rarely fall into that category. When they do (example: God made the world in 4004 BCE) they are no more likely to be accurate than a guess.

    And I would argue that the reason that we often use “faith” and “religion” interchangeably (and I’ve been guilty of that, too) is because we think in terms of the religions which with we are familiar, especially Christianity.

    True enough. I have asked you for examples other than the big mainstream religions, and you haven’t responded. That request is in good “faith” as it were. I’d like to know what you are talking about. A brief summary of religions of the world* indicates that more than 4.5 billion people are practitioners of one of the following: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, or Islam. This was roughly 70% of the worlds population.

    There are elements of “faith” in the sense that we are discussing in each of these major religions. The Buddhists call the unreflected acceptance of the teachings of Buddha “saddhā”. While experience is expected to eventually confirm saddhā**, saddhā is always the beginning of the path to enlightenment. While Hindus have no central theological dogma, the teachings of a guru cannot be understood before the supplicant agrees to suspend doubt…and further, as in any polytheistic system, there are simply more unsubstantiatable proposals of which one may ascribe belief. The first pillar of Islam is a profession of faith.

    Please explain what you mean.

    *2006 World Almanac
    **How, is quite beyond me.

  114. #114 Barry
    May 2, 2011

    Kwok…

    “Don’t play the dumb fool with me. Here’s an example where you are aping Coyne hook, line and sinker”

    I think it’s important to take an argument on its merits…which is what I am trying to do with you, rather than just attempt to smear me in an underhand way. Let me put it this way “here’s an example of where you are aping Rosenau hook, line and sinker.” Get it? It doesn’t actually mean anything. It isn’t an argument. It’s the reason you are a troll. You have nothing to add, you just smear. You don’t even smear intelligently by including references that might lend support to your smear. You are not worth the effort.

  115. #115 J. J. Ramsey
    May 2, 2011

    Antiochus Epiphanes:

    Hebrews 11:1 is cited widely enough. It begins:
    “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for”, and gets worse from there.

    First, again we’re talking about people choosing to put confidence in someone or something, so this doesn’t help your claim that you were really talking merely about “ungrounded and uncontested belief.” It actually gets worse when you notice that what comes after Hebrews 11:1 is a purported track record of God coming through for those who had confidence in him. The implication is “Yeah, we have confidence in what we don’t see, but that confidence is grounded in past results.” That knocks away at the notion that “faith” is intentionally supposed to be about ungrounded belief.

    Antiochus Epiphanes:

    A brief summary of religions of the world* indicates that more than 4.5 billion people are practitioners of one of the following: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, or Islam. This was roughly 70% of the worlds population.

    Which doesn’t help you when you are making a generalization about all religion.

    Antiochus Epiphanes:

    Please explain what you mean.

    There’s not much more explaining to be done. It’s pretty obvious that when you talked about “faith” being a virtue or vice that you meant it in the same sense that Boyer meant in that long quote from him above. Diluting your working definition of faith or talking vaguely about “elements” of faith is just moving the goalposts.

  116. #116 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 2, 2011

    First, again we’re talking about people choosing to put confidence in someone or something, so this doesn’t help your claim that you were really talking merely about “ungrounded and uncontested belief.”

    One can choose to believe a proposition based on no evidence or logic whatsoever. One can choose not to expose one’s beliefs to refutation. If one chooses not to challenge one’s own beliefs with reason or evidence, how does this make those beliefs anything other than “ungrounded and uncontested”?

    It actually gets worse when you notice that what comes after Hebrews 11:1 is a purported track record of God coming through for those who had confidence in him.

    Seriously? The examples given are from mythical figures*, and presupposes that the listener already has faith in OT characters.

    So, let me fix this for you.

    The implication is “Yeah, we have confidence in what we don’t see, but that confidence is grounded in past results, which we also believe without reason or evidence.”

    Moving along…

    Which doesn’t help you when you are making a generalization about all religion.

    Every instance of religion that we have discussed treats faith as a virtue. There may be a non-white swan out there, and I would hate to behave as a naïve inductivist. Nonethless, I feel comfortable saying that so many religions treat faith as a virtue, that this is a general property of religion. Further, I can think of few other institutions that treat it as a virtue. In other words, if I met a person who claimed to be religious, I would likely be willing to bet the farm that at least one of their most cherished beliefs was ungrounded and untested.

    There’s not much more explaining to be done. It’s pretty obvious that when you talked about “faith” being a virtue or vice that you meant it in the same sense that Boyer meant in that long quote from him above. Diluting your working definition of faith or talking vaguely about “elements” of faith is just moving the goalposts.

    The Boyer quote demonstrates little other than that most epistemologies are unreflective. I say “ungrounded and uncontested”, but these really amount to the same thing, don’t they?

    But what does it matter, given the original argument? Beliefs that are unreflective, ungrounded, uncontested, unexamined, etc. are not considered to be viable explanations in the scientific process. And that is the core of the argument. Treating them as viable is not compatible with the scientific approach.

    My definition of “faith” hasn’t changed a smidge. Given that the discussion is about the compatibility of science and religion, it would seem that you are the one moving goal-posts.

    *To be precise: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, David and Samuel. Of these, there is historical evidence of a Davidic line of Kings, but little is actually known about David other than that he was likely the founder of this line.

  117. #117 John Kwok
    May 2, 2011

    @ Bsrry -

    Only a delusional twit like yourself would regard me as a troll. I point to something specific and yet you’re the one who engages in “smear tactics”. You haven’t tried addressing this important point of Josh’s, and, like him, I don’t think you’re worth the time or trouble in trying to have a “meaningful” dialogue:

    Barry: Oh, FFS. If you can’t keep basic facts straight, this isn’t worth my time.

    “Going back to Kitzmiller v. Dover, ask yourself why, if these theological “refutations” of creationism (expressed as ID in this case) are “a viable avenue for refuting creationism”, didn’t NCSE position these arguments alongside the scientic evidence that was presented?”

    Did you not notice the testimony of Jack Haught, a pro-evolution theologian who NCSE recruited as an expert witness? Judge Jones cites him frequently in his decision. And Kevin Padian and Ken Miller (who offered the scientific expert testimony you reference) have praised his testimony as essential to the case.

    Your other factual claims are as false, and your interpretations as meritless, and are thus not worth my time to continue addressing at length.

    Posted by: Josh Rosenau | April 29, 2011 9:31 AM

  118. #118 Barry
    May 2, 2011

    Kwok…

    “Only a delusional twit like yourself would regard me as a troll.”

    This is typical behavior on this website. Apparently posting information that is offtopic…repeating substantive posts that have been made on other threads…and failing to keep posts to the topic being discussed – all of which you are guilty – apparently isn’t “trolling” in your eyes. I therefore wear the badge of “delusional twit” as some kind of honor.

    As for Haught’s testimony. Well, I really don’t know Josh’s argument, because it certainly wasn’t an answer to mine. Haught’s testimony was to establish ID as no different from historical positions on God as designer. Haught didn’t refute creationism/ID on theological grounds, he simply explained how the designer implicit in ID was no different from the designer God previously described by Aquinas and Paley. Joshs’s reference to Haught was so wide of the mark it was embarassing. You repeating it just makes it worse. Unless, of course, you can point exactly to the trial transcript where you can show Haught destroying ID (a scientific claim) on theological grounds.

    “Your other factual claims are as false”

    Please reference one factually false claim. And try to be civil.

  119. #119 John Kwok
    May 2, 2011

    @ Barry -

    Haught was called as a witness for the plaintiffs. His purpose was to explain to the court that the “Designer” in Intelligent Design Creationism is the very same Christian GOD specified in Paley. His testimony helped Judge John Jones realize that the Dover School Board’s endorsement of the teaching of Intelligent Design creationism was really a blatant attempt at trying to teach Christian beliefs in a high school biology class.

    I don’t think you understand, Barry.

    Stop displaying the same kind of “jackassery” that I can expect from the likes of Coyne and Myers please.

  120. #120 John Kwok
    May 2, 2011

    @ Barry -

    In case you still don’t understand, the Sensuous Curmudgeon has this excellent post summarizing Haught’s importance as a witness on behalf of the plaintiffs:

    http://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/john-haught-witness-in-the-dover-case/

  121. #121 J. J. Ramsey
    May 2, 2011

    Antiochus Epimenes:

    One can choose to believe a proposition based on no evidence or logic whatsoever. One can choose not to expose one’s beliefs to refutation. If one chooses not to challenge one’s own beliefs with reason or evidence, how does this make those beliefs anything other than “ungrounded and uncontested”?

    You’re not addressing my point. Originally, you wrote of faith being a virtue of religion and a vice in science. That implies that you were speaking of “faith” in the sense of choosing to believe something. When I pointed out that religious beliefs are often no more chosen than normal beliefs about the everyday world are, you tried to use “ungrounded and uncontested belief” as an overly broad definition of “faith.” The fact that your overly broad definition happens to include your original definition as a subset is irrelevant.

    Antiochus Epimenes:

    Seriously? The examples given are from mythical figures

    I know that, and you know that, but the author of Hebrews probably didn’t, and as far as he knew, he was just quoting history, and probably expended as much effort verifying what he was taught as history as you have verifying what was taught as yours. The fact remains that the idea that the author of Hebrews was recommending blind faith, as opposed faith based on a presumed track record, doesn’t follow from the text.

    Not that this really matters much. In any case, the notion that faith is a virtue just isn’t a universal part of religion, not even close.

    Antiochus Epimenes:

    There may be a non-white swan out there

    Judging from Boyer, if religions are swans, then most of them are black. It’s just that we’re mostly familiar with the white ones.

    Of course, you can choose to rely on the non-expert opinions of yourself and Coyne on what religion is like, but I prefer to consult an expert on the matter.

  122. #122 Anthony McCarthy
    May 2, 2011

    And here I thought this thread was Barrying out.

    That’s a cheap shot, and not a very good one. Place of employment is a dodgy proxy measurement of one’s skills, and it’s a one-way measurement at best. J. J. R.

    I would agree in most cases that place of employment isn’t generally relevant. PZ does have some credibility problems when he criticizes scientists with much more credible careers than he does, though. His research CV is notably skimpy, as is Dawkins’ for someone who gets as much buzz as he does. They open themselves up for comparison with more accomplished scientists when they go after them. Coyne does have the CV to avoid that, though his criticisms of, for example, Francis Collins is all cheap shot at times veering into the deranged. There are things about his blogging that must give his colleagues pause, as does PZ’s.

  123. #123 Anthony McCarthy
    May 2, 2011

    Make that

    than he HAS, though….

    I seem to get worse with editing all the time.

  124. #124 John Kwok
    May 2, 2011

    @ Anthony -

    Apparently PZ’s fans don’t consider his mediocre career as a research scientist to be much of a liability, since they believe that he is on the “front lines” of “evolutionary research” and has done more to fight creationism than Ken Miller or NCSE or anyone else (just fill in the blank), period. He has had the temerity to criticize Ken Miller more than once, even though Ken has had a far more credible career as a biological researcher than PZ, and especially, has had far more success in public outreach with regards to science (which is why Ken will be the third recipient of the Society for the Study of Evolution’s Stephen Jay Gould Prize, receiving the same honor that Eugenie Scott (2009) and Sean B. Carroll (2010) earned).

  125. #125 Barry
    May 2, 2011

    Kwok…

    “I don’t think you understand, Barry.”

    I certainly don’t understand you. So, to refresh the purpose of my point, I originally asked Josh….

    “”Going back to Kitzmiller v. Dover, ask yourself why, if these theological “refutations” of creationism (expressed as ID in this case) are “a viable avenue for refuting creationism”, didn’t NCSE position these arguments alongside the scientic evidence that was presented?””

    Josh mentioned the evidence given by Haught, but failed to reference where he theologically refuted creationism. And I don’t need a comentary on Haught’s evidence when the trial transcript can be read here – http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/day5pm.html

    So, I repeat the question I asked of Josh and also of you in the last post – point to where Haught theologically refutes creationism.

    “Stop displaying the same kind of “jackassery” that I can expect from the likes of Coyne and Myers please.”

    And unless you can converse sensibly you can go fuck yourself.

  126. #126 John Kwok
    May 2, 2011

    @ Anthony -

    Apparently PZ’s fans don’t consider his mediocre career as a research scientist to be much of a liability, since they believe that he is on the “front lines” of “evolutionary research” and has done more to fight creationism than Ken Miller or NCSE or anyone else (just fill in the blank), period. He has had the temerity to criticize Ken Miller more than once, even though Ken has had a far more credible career as a biological researcher than PZ, and especially, has had far more success in public outreach with regards to science (which is why Ken will be the third recipient of the Society for the Study of Evolution’s Stephen Jay Gould Prize, receiving the same honor that Eugenie Scott (2009) and Sean B. Carroll (2010) earned).

  127. #127 Josh Rosenau
    May 2, 2011

    Barry: I don’t mind cursing, but make it creative, and don’t make it personal.

  128. #128 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 2, 2011

    Epimenes? Please. If you are going to use my crazy name, it is “Epimanes”.

    Originally, you wrote of faith being a virtue of religion and a vice in science. That implies that you were speaking of “faith” in the sense of choosing to believe something.

    This is important for understanding our disagreement. The words are Coyne’s, and I wasn’t explicitly implying anything about choice in the word “virtue”–I don’t think Coyne is either. The only definition that I have considered for faith is an uncontested or ungrounded belief, with the understanding that such a belief is regarded by most religious people as a virtue. You may well consider this definition too broad. I won’t quibble over definitions. I’m curious to know what you mean when you say faith. If I understand you correctly, you think that faith isn’t really a separate phenomenon from basic (or primitive) cognition?

    The fact that your overly broad definition happens to include your original definition as a subset is irrelevant.

    What original definition? I looked back through the thread, and the one above is the only one that you can attribute to me.

    I know that, and you know that, but the author of Hebrews probably didn’t, and as far as he knew, he was just quoting history, and probably expended as much effort verifying what he was taught as history as you have verifying what was taught as yours.

    If I should doubt the track record of science as a scientist, it would be a virtue. Should one of Paul’s followers doubt the scriptural track record (even presuming that it represented an attempt at historical accuracy), this would have been considered a vice. It would clearly be considered a vice among many people today*. This doubt alone would also have eviscerated Paul’s commandment to be faithful**. …

    Judging from Boyer, if religions are swans, then most of them are black. It’s just that we’re mostly familiar with the white ones.

    Because the white ones are the most common and have the greatest impact on recent world history. Why shouldn’t we be preoccupied with these? This is where the rub lies, no? When we speak of the conflict between religion and science, aren’t these the religions that we are talking about? Obviously, people who have never been exposed to science don’t experience conflict. But how many people in the world are in this category?

    Religions that espouse faith as a virtue are those that represent the most successful memes. I don’t dispute that this is a result of the way that the mind has evolved. Unfortunately, scientific thinking (which is new, difficult, and learned) is at odds with religious thinking (which is old, easy, and intuitive). As a science educator, I can tell you that science functions terribly as a meme because scientific thinking doesn’t come naturally.

    Of course, you can choose to rely on the non-expert opinions of yourself and Coyne on what religion is like, but I prefer to consult an expert on the matter.

    I don’t think Boyer is speaking to the discussion at hand***. Nonetheless, if you are asserting that people generally have good reasons for believing the things they do (rather than believing things without reason or evidence), there are a number of other writers who would disagree (March, Hacking, Simon, and others that are not springing to mind)…and from my brief reading this would include Boyer.

    Maybe this is all a lot of talking past each other. Is it your position that science, as a method of understanding the world, is compatible with religion, as a method of understanding the world?

    Kwok:

    Apparently PZ’s fans don’t consider his mediocre career as a research scientist to be much of a liability, since they believe that he is on the “front lines” of “evolutionary research” and has done more to fight creationism than Ken Miller or NCSE or anyone else (just fill in the blank), period.

    I pretty much take his arguments at face value, as I would yours, or Josh’s, or JJ Ramsey’s****. Should you decide at some point to present an argument, I will disregard the fact that you are an insufferable kook. I promise :)

    *Although not all of them; these little concessions are like mayonnaise on a dry turkey sandwich, aren’t they?

    ** Paul wrote a lot about faith, and had a decidedly anti-intellectual bent. Such as his reference in first Corinthians to Isaiah, “ “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

    ***I confess, that what I know about the work of Boyer comes from your quote (which seems irrelevant to this discussion) and from the internet.

    ****I appreciate the time you have taken to make an argument. This has been interesting.

  129. #129 Barry
    May 2, 2011

    Josh: “Barry: I don’t mind cursing, but make it creative, and don’t make it personal.”

    This comment was deliberate. It is duly noted that you have ignored and failed to address several ad hominem attacks directed at me on your blog over several threads. I half expected the double standard, but it supports my point to you earlier that you (in the broadest sense and through this blog) are guilty, directly and indirectly, of negative tone and personal attacks that you frequently criticize in NA’s.

    I know your rules…thank you for clarifying…I will adibe by them, and I will do so in the knowledge that you will completely ignore ad hominem attacks directed at individuals like me whose position you disagree with…contributed by those who do agree with you.

  130. #130 J. J. Ramsey
    May 2, 2011

    Antiochus Epiphanes: “The words are Coyne‚Äôs, and I wasn‚Äôt explicitly implying anything about choice in the word ‘virtue’–I don‚Äôt think Coyne is either.”

    (Note of pedantry: “explicitly implying” is an oxymoron. Moving along …)

    When you pair the word “virtue” with “vice,” it’s pretty clear that you are talking about moral choices, in this case, willful commission of what you’d see as intellectual dishonesty.

    To put it another way, Coyne seems to be using Mark Twain’s definition of faith, “believing what you know ain’t so,” or to be more precise, “believing what you know you can’t show to be so.” That’s a far more conscious process than believing a factoid or incorrect conventional wisdom.

    Antiochus Epiphanes: “If I understand you correctly, you think that faith isn’t really a separate phenomenon from basic (or primitive) cognition?”

    As you can see from the above, you understand me exactly backwards.

    Antiochus Epiphanes: “When we speak of the conflict between religion and science, aren‚Äôt these the religions that we are talking about?”

    If you are saying “faith is considered a virtue in religion,” then the obvious meaning is that you are talking in general about religion, not just about a subset of all the world’s religions. If there were only one small, obscure religion that your generalization didn’t cover, that wouldn’t be a big deal. However, when your generalization is only kinda sorta true when talking about Christianity and Islam, really dodgy when talking about Hinduism, false for the Buddhists who follow the Kalama Sutta (which advices some skepticism), and false for the multitude of obscure tribal religions (because they have no notion of having a faith commitment), then your generalization is badly flawed.

    Further if your basis for science-religion incompatibility is your generalization “faith is considered a virtue in religion,” then your whole concept of incompatibility is incoherent.

    Antiochus Epiphanes: “Is it your position that science, as a method of understanding the world, is compatible with religion, as a method of understanding the world?”

    No, because religion just isn’t a method, period. As a category, it’s barely even coherent. “Religion” is used to refer to supernatural beliefs that a tribal community takes for granted, which may or may not be tied to a set of morals or concerns, and which don’t even have a label to describe them. “Religion” is also used to refer to more systematic packages of beliefs and practices that often don’t have that much in common with one another.

    Nor would I make a sweeping statement that all of religion is compatible with science. Some religions are better at staying out of science’s way than others. As you can gather, I think of compatibility as, well, staying out of science’s way, that is, not interfering with the doing of science or acceptance of scientific facts. That’s a practical notion with practical consequences, and it can be fairly well-defined.

  131. #131 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 2, 2011

    JJ Ramsey: I’m going to think about your last comment, especially your last two paragraphs. I think I understand your point of view on this now, and I’m not sure that I disagree with you. At least I can say that I disagree with you less than I thought I did.

    (Note of pedantry: “explicitly implying” is an oxymoron. Moving along …)

    Doh!

  132. #132 Anthony McCarthy
    May 2, 2011

    J. J. R, there is virtually no religion that is incompatible with all of science, though there are some that are incompatible with evolutionary biology and the related geology and even physics based on their contradiction of a literal reading of some scriptures. There are fundamentalists whose careers in science are at least as accomplished as P.Z. Myers, though I wouldn’t think they’d ever have anything valuable to say about evolution.

    There are some religions and, especially, religious people who have no conflict with science, though they might have some problem with some applications of science. But, then, so do some atheists and even agnostics.

    Ironically, enough, the Epistle to the Hebrews is widely considered to be by someone other than Paul. One of the things that has been cited in favor of a different author was the more elegant Greek as compared to that of the Epistles that are generally agreed to be by Paul.

    Also ironic, in context, is that the author of the Gospel according to Luke is believed to have been a well educated physician and historian. The author of Luke is generally considered to be closely associated with Paul. If it was possible to compare Paul to your typical blog atheist I wonder who would come out as more cultured. Though I doubt such a comparison is possibly meaningful. It is possible to look at what’s been preserved of the intellectual culture of the time, maybe Paul wasn’t impressed with the ambient culture of his time, but, then, I doubt anyone now would be impressed with someone who embodied that culture if they were among us. But, of course, all that is speculation since it isn’t possible to reconstruct even the documented culture of that period in a living person. Shows how difficult it must be to imagine undocumented cultures and mindsets. Doesn’t stop many a “scientist” from pretending they can.

  133. #133 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 3, 2011

    here are fundamentalists whose careers in science are at least as accomplished as P.Z. Myers, though I wouldn’t think they’d ever have anything valuable to say about evolution.

    I have this drinking game where I do a shot every time you miss the point. I lost.

  134. #134 John Kwok
    May 3, 2011

    @ Antiochus Epiphanes -

    Maybe you shouldn’t take Osama bin Myers’s arguments at face value. IMHO he started losing credibility when he had ridiculous Pharyngula posts like this one:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/09/ken_miller_creationist.php

    I strongly doubt Myers might distance himself from that risible screed, especially now after hearing about this:

    http://ncse.com/news/2011/04/kenneth-r-miller-to-receive-gould-award-006647

    and this is the official press release from the Society for the Study of Evolution:

    http://www.evolutionsociety.org/awards.asp

    And before you accuse me of being an “obsessive kook”, that early screed of Myers is typical behavior of the kind that he indulges in all too frequently at Pharyngula.

  135. #135 Anthony McCarthy
    May 3, 2011

    A. E. what makes you think I care about your point, at this point. There’s something so uniform about undifferentiated prejudice.

  136. #136 John Kwok
    May 3, 2011

    @ Anthony -

    More likely delusional zealotry on behalf of his favorite GNU “prophet” if you ask me.

  137. #137 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 3, 2011

    There’s something so uniform about undifferentiated prejudice.

    In the same way that there is something so tall about very tall things.
    ;)

    JJR: I think that our disagreement stems from the fact that the term “religion” is so poorly defined. Our discussion about the role of faith in religion demonstrate this.

    I can accept (provisionally, because in fact I don’t know any better) that many religions are not really “faiths”, but are world views…they are the sum of the knowledge of a culture. However, a world view can be in conflict with science if it makes truth claims that are not based on testing hypotheses with evidence. But, big deal (sometimes). Most truth claims are in conflict with science in this regard; when I say that I left my cell phone at home today, I haven’t done an experiment as much as I have come up with a simple and plausible explanation for why my cell phone isn’t in my pocket. In any case, I suppose that one could make the argument that all truth claims that are made unscientifically are made through a process that is incompatible with the scientific process…if you were to argue that this point is entirely trivial, I would have to agree.

    When I think about religious thought, I am not concerned with small personal revelations that provide no general interpretation of how the real world is (feelings of warmth that Anthony McCarthy might experience from being accepted by his high-brow NE church community, etc.). In the long term, I suppose such small revelations make all the difference to those who experience them, but not to me, so I don’t really care. I concede that not all religions regard faith as a virtue*. However, the ones that do are of grave concern to me because religious faith is often used to motivate public policy; I don’t want to be governed by any policy that isn’t decided by reason and evidence. Maybe we don’t all carry baggage into these kinds of discussions, but I will admit that I do. In particular, my personal baggage consists in part of being an evolutionary biologist. I deal with people all of the time who want to undermine my career goals because of their unreflective, unreasoned, and uncontested beliefs. This irks me.**

    Allow me to present a quibble.

    However, when your generalization is only kinda sorta true when talking about Christianity and Islam, really dodgy when talking about Hinduism, false for the Buddhists who follow the Kalama Sutta (which advices some skepticism), and false for the multitude of obscure tribal religions (because they have no notion of having a faith commitment), then your generalization is badly flawed.

    I’m not an expert in world religions. However, I have a lot of experience with Christianity, and that experience extends beyond the bible belt (where I live now) to places around the world that I have lived or at least visited extensively. Faith (unreflective, uncontested, and ungrounded acceptance of dogma) is the cornerstone of Christian belief. You may know Christians who deny this, but reflective and undogmatic beliefs comprise far too little of the Christian platform for a “kinda-sorta” assessment, in my opinion. Many people who believe that intelligent supernatural forces interact with the real world (regardless of religion), have faith in the sense that no reasoning was employed in the acceptance of that belief***. Where these beliefs contradict experience or provide explanations for phenomena that can be explained more simply by natural causes, they are in conflict with science and can be dismissed, regardless of whether they constitute faith or are motivated by an actual line of reasoning, however flawed. Belief in reincarnation, the afterlife, chi, demons or angels, djinns or leprechauns, out-of-body experiences, the tooth fairy, &cetera belong in this category.

    Given these concessions, I’d like to revise my stance. Religion is only incompatible with science if it makes general claims about the way that the world is. Otherwise, religious thinking is either not general (and therefore trivial) or is incoherent.

    *Given my poor understanding of religions of the world, I’m in no position to do anything else.
    **And is also one of the reasons that I have a positive opinion of the NCSE. We would be fscked without them.
    ***If reason and evidence were used to arrive at that position, we can actually have a discussion about the validity of the process without anyone storming out in a huff.
    ****Virtue and vice do have moral connotations that I hadn’t considered. I simply thought of them as describing acts that were beneficial (e.g. exercising regularly is a virtue but is neither moral or immoral) or harmful (e.g. smoking is a vice but not immoral).

  138. #138 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 3, 2011

    And before you accuse me of being an “obsessive kook”, that early screed of Myers is typical behavior of the kind that he indulges in all too frequently at Pharyngula.

    Ummm. I never called you an “obsessive kook”. Maybe you are thinking of someone else. I wrote that you were an “insufferable kook”. The point was that I don’t hold this against you, and would gladly read your argument should you ever decide to present it.

    Maybe you shouldn’t take Osama bin Myers’s arguments at face value.

    I’m a little ashamed now of having ommitted “obsessive” from my description of you. Actually, you are more obsessive than insufferable, aren’t you? I retract my former assessment, and apologize.

  139. #139 Anthony McCarthy
    May 3, 2011

    I did read your earlier jape at JJR, nothing exceeds like excess.

  140. #140 John Kwok
    May 3, 2011

    @ Antiochus Epiphanes -

    I think you’ve done a far better job demonstrating “obsessive” behavior than I could dare imagine here. Clearly another one who has noticed this is Anthony McCarthy (with whom I’m not always in agreemment).

  141. #141 Antiochus Epiphanes
    May 3, 2011

    Anthony: I made you this owl.

    o,O

  142. #142 Anthony McCarthy
    May 3, 2011

    O O
    V

  143. #143 julian
    May 3, 2011

    ‘Osama bin Myers…’

    Jesus, you and your crew are a riot Mr. Rosenau. Guess I’ll have this thread to think about if you ever get on your high horse again.

  144. #144 Anthony McCarthy
    May 3, 2011

    Josh, don’t look now but you’re getting Mooneyed by the NAmen choir. Happens when you diss their gods.