…because we said so

PZ Myers responds to a podcast debate between Chris Mooney and Ron Lindsay about accommodationism and New Atheism. I haven’t listened to the podcast, so I don’t know who won or who lost, or what brilliant points were or weren’t made. I do know that the title of PZ’s post reflects the general New Atheist triumphalism about the podcast, and yet his post doesn’t match the title.

The title is: “We aren’t angry, we’re effective, which is even scarier.”

From that title, I’d expect some sort of clear statement of what effect PZ wishes to have, and then clear evidence showing that the strategy is effective. The account of New Atheism’s goals PZ offers is as muddled as any other such effort I’ve seen, and there’s literally no evidence of effectiveness offered, unless “seeing believers get angry and stomping off determined to prove I’m a colossal jackhole” is meant as evidence of effectiveness.

And PZ’s dismissal of Mooney’s argument is rather odd. It begins:

the problem revolves around a central argument for the Mooneyites: that harsh criticism of cherished beliefs, like religion, leads to an immediate, emotion-based shutdown of critical faculties by the target, and makes them refractory to rational evaluation of their ideas. To which I say, yeah, so? I agree with that. I know that happens. It’s what I expect to happen.

PZ here is not disputing anything Chris is saying. He’s not, that is, disputing that the extant psychological research supports Mooney’s point about the likely effectiveness of New Atheist tactics. If you’re expecting a “but,” you sort of get it. Mooney’s not wrong, PZ explains, but the evidence is irrelevant:

that’s all short-term thinking, and I don’t care what happens in the mind of a believer five minutes or a day after I make an argument (the usual domain of the psychology experiments accommodations love to cite in defense of their position; there’s an awful lot of psychology done in our universities with horizons no longer than the next publication deadline).

Reading that last sentence, I hoped against hope that the next sentence would begin, “However, some long-term research shows…,” but all we get next is “What I’m interested in seeing happen is … a sustained argument, over the course of years or generations, … pressing on the foolishness of faith.” No contrary evidence, no reason to think that the short-term studies don’t tell us about long-term effects. Just wishful thinking.

The problem is that the research Mooney cites, the research PZ acknowledges as valid and legitimate and expected, tells us that the head-on approach PZ advocates is unlikely to undermine any entrenched position, especially religion-based positions. No one disputes that “hitting people in the gut and telling them to open their eyes” is “a very effective way to let people know we think they are dead wrong.” But the evidence at hand also shows that forceful attacks of that sort undermine the credibility of the source, and reinforce the target’s commitment to the attacked beliefs.

No, it’s not a new idea. It’s The North Wind and the Sun from Aesop’s fables. It’s not just folk wisdom; it holds up under experimental conditions. And this extensive body of research and practical experience says that just telling someone “I think you’re dead wrong” is not likely to change them, no matter how forcefully it’s said, no matter how many metaphorical punches you deliver to the gut. The trick to persuasion is to make the person want to change their own mind. And gut-punching doesn’t do that, it just makes them want to fight back.

And if anyone wants to see this sort of motivated reasoning at work, one need look no farther than the reactions of gnu atheists to this body of research.

Comments

  1. #1 Matti K.
    May 12, 2011

    “I haven’t listened to the podcast, so I don’t know who won or who lost, or what brilliant points were or weren’t made.”

    I admire your analytical approach! :)

  2. #2 scott
    May 13, 2011

    “And if anyone wants to see this sort of motivated reasoning at work, one need look no farther than the reactions of acommodationist towards the gnu atheist.”

    There I fixed it for ya.

  3. #3 julian
    May 13, 2011

    Evidence Mooney cites?

    I can tell you didn’t listen to the podcast.

  4. #4 Anthony McCarthy
    May 13, 2011

    that’s all short-term thinking, and I don’t care what happens in the mind of a believer five minutes or a day after I make an argument PZ Myers “we’re effective” PZ Myers

    How about what’s happened in the Unites States in the past fifty years? The period which saw both the rise of organized atheism and “skepticism” – which is really post-war materialist atheism that dare not speak its name – and at the same time the reaction by religious fundamentalism which elected a string of far-right Republicans, mounted an increasingly effective attack on the wall of separation through an increasingly far-right Supreme Court and federal court system, etc. In the same period acceptance for evolution has declined and belief in occult and other practices anathema to said “skeptics” has steadily risen along with a media in which a lies is better than the truth if that will get you what you want.

    I don’t find the new atheists or the “skeptics” to be especially interested in winning, they’re more interested in building a fan base on their blogs and clubs through appealing to a clique building mindset of assumed superiority to an opponent against whom anything goes. There’s not much that’s effective in their activities that is good for much more than that. As even their fan boys grow tired of it, there’s always the temptation to ratchet up the irresponsibility of what’s said, the vulgarity with which it’s said and the stupid sensationalism of periodic publicity stunts such as the so-called, “Great Desecration” and Draw Muhammad Day. It’s appealing to their fans but is unappealing to everyone else who don’t feel much need to acknowledge or agree with their assumptions of superiority and those who are disgusted by their irresponsibility.

    History is what you need to understand the ineffectiveness of organized “skepticism”. Its only achievement is in making the discussion of several forbidden topics uncomfortable among a segment of what passes as an intelligentsia these days, leaving the wider world unimpressed. Their other great achievement is to act as a foil for creationists or right wing politicians. The thanks that creationists have given to Richard Dawkins for providing them with an effective foil-fundraising focus might also count as one of the achievements of the new atheism. Only I don’t think that’s the kind of effectiveness Myers was hoping for, though I’m sure he was hoping for more attention when he put a nail through an allegedly consecrated host and a page of a Quran.

  5. #5 Dave W.
    May 13, 2011

    I’m pretty sure that you, Mr. Rosenau, don’t understand who “the target” is.

  6. #6 Ender
    May 13, 2011

    PZ Myers is not big on critical thinking. He demonstrated that aptly in his post declaiming “No evidence could convince me Religion is true” which was widely criticised even on his own blog.

    The fact that he knows about the research showing that his approach does not reach people but continues regardless is not inherently a problem. However, it entirely undermines his consistent position that Gnus are the answer to religious people, that they have far greater impact and success than accommodationists.

    He needs to pick a side. Demagogue, popular within his own circles, good for whipping up the base but intellectually deficient and polemical, or Driver of Progress, able to reach out and engage the enemy with good humour and devastating intellectual prowess, but not someone who can indulge their childish desire to insult and denigrate people they disagree with.*

    Both will exist, it’s possible that both are needed. But this bullshit assertion that people like him are in any way the front lines ‘against’ religion, rather than sitting in the back chanting slogans to those who already agree, is shown to be false by the evidence. They are not intellectual heavyweights, or capable of taking on anyone smarter than a creationist, they are good at making jokes and snide jabs that please their fans, and shouldn’t pretend to be anything more.

    * This is not to say that you cannot be rude and use intelligent arguments too. Many of the smartest people in recent history have had awful personalities. But it takes someone really smart, well informed about the people they are criticising, and with wit to pull it off successfully (i.e. to do it without turning yourself into a liar or distorter of the truth). Much of the ‘rude’ style of arguing involves taking a True (or true enough) characteristic that’s stupid/offensive/evil and exaggerating it for rhetorical effect. To do this effectively you need to a) take an actually True characteristic, not some bullshit b) only apply the criticism to people who match that characteristic c) exaggerate it without changing it so much that it no longer describes any kind of reality. d) Be witty.

  7. #7 Marta
    May 13, 2011

    Why, this is outstanding! Six or more paragraphs disagreeing with PZ Myer’s analysis of a podcast to which you cannot trouble yourself to listen in the first place. Well done!

  8. #8 Orac
    May 13, 2011

    And if anyone wants to see this sort of motivated reasoning at work, one need look no farther than the reactions of gnu atheists to this body of research.

    Well played, sir. Well played.

  9. #9 Lotharloo
    May 13, 2011

    PZ is right that for all the claims of being evidence based, there is not much relevant evidence. First of all, I do not believe you can convince most of the religious people regardless of your approach so maybe gut-punching and giving them flowers are equally ineffective. Second, what are the effects of gut-punching vs accommodation on fence-sitters? I would argue that for those, gut-punching is better because it appears more sincere and more confident. Finally, peers are far more important so if you manage to convince the fence-sitter and also make your group “cooler”, then it will persuade more people. I don’t see accommodationists address that. Accomodationist don’t seem to excite their base much.

  10. #10 robinottawa
    May 13, 2011

    Yes, gut punching is a meant to signal confidence, and my experience with rednecks, religous and atheist, is that much of the “discussion” is about posturing, like we imagine our ancestors did a lot of on the plains of Africa (against each other and against real threats like lions).

    But I think the question really is “what does confidence look like?” If it’s about winning, the answer is, as you say, persuading fence sitters. If it’s about knowing something….well, it’s hard to imagine all this brou-ha-ha in a discussion about what an apple tastes like.

  11. #11 julian
    May 13, 2011

    @robinottawa

    There’s that atheists again. No qualifier just atheists. Atheists do nothing but posture and pretend to be confident. Atheist are no different from religious extremists. Atheists arereally just bigots.

    I can tell you belong here.

  12. #12 scott
    May 13, 2011

    Every instance I’ve seen which a debate between a new atheist and an apologist is taking place and the audience is asked about their pre-debate views on the subject and then asked again post-debate, the percentage always swings towards the new atheist position. I’m also willing to bet that if an accommodationist were substituted for the new atheist there would be less of a swing, possibly even the opposite direction.

  13. #13 TB
    May 13, 2011

    I’ve gotten to the point of Chris laughing at the implied comparison between Iran and Templeton. It really did highlight the bizarre nature of this debate.

    – Chris cites psychological research into emotional responses to attacks, but the interviewer asks for evidence that specific new atheist books and actions interfere with scientific acceptance. That implies the existing research doesn’t apply in these specific cases. What evidence is there that it doesn’t?
    – The interviewer keeps bringing up hypothetical new atheist idea of science, but when Chris brings up specifics like methodological naturalism being the guiding principal, for instance with the Dover trial, all we get is a terse “correct.” Um, yeah, so if that was correct, what was the purpose of the whole previous few minutes?
    – The whole challenge about Galileo and Newton was strange. The interviewer wanted to speculate but when Chris pointed out the facts all of sudden we don’t want to speculate. Huh?

    What else is there to do at this point than laugh?

  14. #14 scott
    May 13, 2011

    If Newton believed in Zeus it would be side that he got into science because he was inspired by Zeus, and ditto for Odin, Ra, Thor, or Juju at the bottom of the sea. He just so happen to believe in the god of Abraham when his innate curiosity drove him towards figuring out how things work. He just as easily could have lived in a secular society and had the same curiosity, just like many scientist today. And just because Newton believed in imaginary things while he was doing his research doesn’t mean those imaginary things and his research were compatible. If someone is an astrophysicist and at the same time promoting astrology, claiming they are compatible, should we also accommodate them.

  15. #15 TB
    May 13, 2011

    @ Scott

    All very interesting and a possible topic of conversation. And when Chris tried to pursue it, all of a sudden the interviewer didn’t want to talk about their beliefs. Was it because the examples were inconvenient to the interviewer’s hypothetical?

  16. #16 scott
    May 13, 2011

    @ TB

    I think Mooney didn’t get that the interviewer wanted to go in that direction. And when the interviewer realized that Mooney wasn’t getting it, he decided to move on. I personally felt that Mooney’s explanations were lame and that the interviewer should have pursued it further.

  17. #17 Anthony McCarthy
    May 13, 2011

    There’s that atheists again. No qualifier just atheists. Atheists do nothing but posture and pretend to be confident. Atheist are no different from religious extremists. Atheists arereally just bigots.

    I can tell you belong here. julian

    If I had a dollar for every time a new atheist complained that I distinguished between new atheists and most atheists I’d probably be able to buy a reasonable tablet computer. I’d look up to see if julian was one who made that complaint but it’s not really worth the effort.

  18. #18 TB
    May 13, 2011

    @Scott

    I appreciate that we may disagree here, but I think Chris understood him quite well. Rather than accepting the premise put to him, he came back with facts that questioned the assumptions the premise was built upon.

    That’s a perfectly valid rhetorical counter, even if it doesn’t appeal to someone who accepts the original premise.

    If the premise is that science and religion have been historically in conflict, then we shouldn’t be able to name two historical figures who believed in god and are recognized as great scientists.

  19. #19 PZ Myers
    May 13, 2011

    Your problem, Josh, is a total inability to appreciate any approach beyond your own. There is no surprising inconsistency in my views; all along the Gnus have been saying we need a multiplicity of approaches, so I can simultaneously endorse someone advocating a softer approach while favoring a hard core strategy myself.

    My approach works for some people — actually, it works very, very well for a lot of people. And some people run away screaming. So? I’m not the one pretending a one-size-fits-all set of tactics is the way to go.

    Yeah, we’re triumphant. The atheist movement has made great strides forward in the last decade. But you go right ahead and close your eyes and whine a lot about those annoying activist atheists. I also respect your right to follow your timid path.

  20. #20 'Tis Himself, OM
    May 13, 2011

    Josh is complaining about Mooney being misrepresented by PZ when Josh admits he hasn’t heard the podcast and PZ not only has listened to it but quotes from it.

    Shabby, Josh, very shabby.

  21. #21 Sven DiMilo
    May 13, 2011

    this extensive body of research

    Nary a link?
    Or do I have to Buy Mooney’s Book?

  22. #22 horse-pheathers
    May 13, 2011

    What are these “New Atheists” you speak of? If you’re referring to those who take a confrontational approach to religion, that’s no newer than Voltaire.

    Being nice doesn’t work. All that happens when you treat rank superstition with respect is you lend it credence it doesn’t deserve. If polite, rational argument stood a chance of swaying the believers, we wouldn’t be living in a world where over 80% of the population is some form of theist.

    As H.L.Mencken observed in 1925, “The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous. Is it, perchance, cherished by persons who should know better? Then their folly should be brought out into the light of day, and exhibited there in all its hideousness until they flee from it, hiding their heads in shame.”

    We’re not going to make much headway with this generation of believers. By keeping up a barrage of ridicule, we’ll hopefully be able to get through to the next — maybe they’ll see how stupid the edifice of belief is before they become a fixed part of it.

  23. #23 nina
    May 13, 2011

    Amazingly, that your title “because we said so” matches your article, that you are just saying so without bothering to understand or even listen to the podcast

    doesn’t make your article consistent or true.

    so that the title of Meyer’s article doesn’t match the text, only appears true, because you didn’t bother to expose yourself to the context of the article.

    and what’s really dangerous about beleivers, is how often they stumble onto a truth themselves, but won’t listen to themselves, in perference to what someone else told them that the bible said.

    if you actually read it and learned anything about the history of the times it was written in, you wouldn’t be a beleiver either.

    so you can listen to what you’re told and just beleive
    or you can do the work and be able to think and understand for yourself.

    and maybe then, you could see truths and not just stumble and gloss over them.

  24. #24 Rob M
    May 13, 2011

    The problem with accommodationists like Mooney is he believes that otherwise normal people live in a vacuum where they have no exposure to dissonant information already. Talk radio, faux news, the interwebs, etc, are filled with believers going crazy over manufactured controversies about the faithful being besieged by evil secularists. And its usually followed by a story about how Islam needs to be banned.

    The horrible backlash has already happened, its called the religious right, and its numbers are far from the majority of believers. Confrontational activism by atheists has worked rather well in recent years. The problem arises when people who dont want to be confrontational claim that gnu atheist need to be nice so religious people will like them

  25. #25 TB
    May 13, 2011

    This is rich! One commentor – tis himself – takes Josh to task for not listening to the podcast (even though he was commenting on Pee Zee’s post, not the podcast), and the next commentor – Sven – asks for evidence then admits not having read the book.

    The lack of self-scrutiny is amazing.

  26. #26 Paul
    May 13, 2011

    This is rich! One commentor – tis himself – takes Josh to task for not listening to the podcast (even though he was commenting on Pee Zee’s post, not the podcast), and the next commentor – Sven – asks for evidence then admits not having read the book.

    The lack of self-scrutiny is amazing.

    So TB, you’re claiming there is real evidence that New Atheism hurts science acceptance in UA? Not hearsay and anecdote?

    Hey, guys, looks like Mooney’s White Knight hasn’t even read the book he so tirelessly defends. That’s something.

  27. #27 TB
    May 13, 2011

    “Not hearsay and anecdote?”

    That’s right Paul, define it away. It can’t be evidence because evidence is something other than whatever is offered.

    But since you insist on using the word “hearsay,” we know you’re referring to evidence in a legal sense, in which case – yes, I do say there’s evidence and personal testimony cited in UA that says some things new atheists claim would interfere with science acceptance. Make sure to read the endnotes!

  28. #28 scott
    May 13, 2011

    TB:

    “If the premise is that science and religion have been historically in conflict, then we shouldn’t be able to name two historical figures who believed in god and are recognized as great scientists.”

    The reason they were considered great scientist was because of their discoveries and applying rational thought to the subject they were studying. The reason they were religious is because of childhood indoctrination into a worldview that was imagined by people who couldn’t think of a better explanation for how things were. Science and religious belief are two different things that need not be connected, correlation does not mean causation.

    We’ll never know how Newton would have taken to someone like the new atheist. We do know that a lot of people who started off as believers became non-believers after discovering science and all that it implies. I think new atheism first attempts to raise awareness of science using a soft approach by explaining critical thinking, logical fallacies, and the scientific method. When someone decides to ignore the writing on the wall when it’s right in front of their face because they want to hold on to the irrational beliefs they were indoctrinated into, they get offended when the fallacies are pointed out. Next thing you know the new atheist are considered bad guys. Which is kind of ironic because they’re actually the good guys.

  29. #29 TB
    May 13, 2011

    @Scott
    We also know that people accept and support science and stay religious at the same time. It would be great if they’d become allies.

  30. #30 horse-pheathers
    May 13, 2011

    @TB; Experience tells me that our allies in that camp will remain allies no matter if some of us use ridicule and direct confrontation against the ludicrous, and the majority who are religious and accept evolution? They’ll continue to ignore the creationists unless prodded to say something about them, and again, in my experience the only way to get them to take a solid position is to bluntly call them out on apologizing or dismissing their creationist kin.

    You and most of the “accommodationists” keep making the mistake of treating these people as if they were rational about their beliefs, as if reasoned debate was going to sway them. IT ISN’T. The vast majority actively resist applying rational thought to their beliefs and so playing nice-nice and being gentle at least by itself) is doomed to fail.

    Now….send in a brigade with emotional sledgehammers, pound them down with ridicule and approbrium and the refusal to treat their irrational beliefs as anything more valid than the Easter Bunny to sap the walls they’ve built around those beliefs and _then_ take the gentle approach to help them toward rationality as they claw their way out of the rubble? I think it reaches more people in the end. I certainly know that it helped me on my own journey from fundamentalist belief.

  31. #31 Dave W.
    May 13, 2011

    TB @29 said, “We also know that people accept and support science and stay religious at the same time. It would be great if they’d become allies.”

    Allies on which front? Increasing the popularity of atheism? Fat chance. Accepting and supporting science? They are already allies.

  32. #32 Josh Rosenau
    May 13, 2011

    PZ: It’s all well and good to say we need a multiplicity of approaches, but that’s only valid if the alternative approaches actually work (ideally, work better). So far, no one has offered any empirical evidence that New Atheism works, let alone works better.

    You say “my approach works for some people – actually works very, very well.” By what standards? What, other than trivial anecdotes, supports that claim? If you have no such evidence, and will not bend to the evidence others are offering, I don’t think you’re in any place to claim others “close [their] eyes and whine.”

  33. #33 Anthony McCarthy
    May 13, 2011

    I think anyone who mentions unicorns, Easter Bunnies, tooth fairies or straw men should be fined for beating a cliche to death.

  34. #34 scott
    May 13, 2011

    Anthony Mcarthy:

    “I think anyone who mentions unicorns, Easter Bunnies, tooth fairies or straw men should be fined for beating a cliche to death.”

    I like it, make your own rules day. Don’t use perfectly reasonable analogies to show how ridiculous it is to believe in other equally imaginary things. No one should be able to ask difficult uncomfortable questions that require mental gymnastics to answer. And if someone creates a mischaracterization of someones words we shouldn’t be able to call them out on it. Brillant. It sure makes it easier that way, you won’t have to tie your brain in knots trying to answer difficult questions. I love it.

    My new rules:

    No one should be able to mention god as a reasonable explanation for anything without being fined. And if anyone is caught harboring someone with those beliefs should be double fined. Yes, I think I like this game. Thanks for starting it Anthony.

  35. #35 TB
    May 13, 2011

    ” and the majority who are religious and accept evolution? They’ll continue to ignore the creationists unless prodded to say something about them, and again, in my experience the only way to get them to take a solid position is to bluntly call them out on apologizing or dismissing their creationist kin.”

    Yawn. And then there was the Dover trial, where the religious defended good science education against creationists. No atheists had to call them out to get them to take action.

    “Allies on which front? Increasing the popularity of atheism? Fat chance.”

    Why not? How about helping to defend your right to be an atheist, like in the military? Or changing people’s minds about atheists serving in public office? Why is that more farfetched than a white person defending the rights of a black person, or a heterosexual person defending the rights of a homosexual?

  36. #36 scott
    May 13, 2011

    Josh @ 32

    Have you read the Converts Corner on Dawkins’ website? If not heres the link: http://richarddawkins.net/letters/converts

    Of course you’ll probably just consider them all trivial anecdotes. That’s because if they’re true it would be the evidence you were looking for. And we can’t have that now can we?

  37. #37 TB
    May 13, 2011

    So it’s OK for personal anecdote to be accepted as evidence? Because I got criticized in @26 for that same thing. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but you can see where there seems to be a conflict in standards here.

  38. #38 Mandrellian
    May 13, 2011

    Rosenau, to PZ’s claim that his harder-style to the faith v reason debate works well:

    “What, other than trivial anecdotes, supports that claim?”

    What, other than your own endless trivial anecdotes, tiresome misrepresentations & flat-out lies can you (and Mooney and the other self-proclaimed judges of this debate) provide to support *your* claim that PZ’s approach is counterproductive?

    Your hypocrisy is really quite astounding.

  39. #39 Riman Butterbur
    May 13, 2011

    Alternative approaches to what? All the Gnutheists are interested in, is converting everybody to atheism.

  40. #40 scott
    May 13, 2011

    TB:

    “So it’s OK for personal anecdote to be accepted as evidence?”

    The problem we have with proving that the new atheist position is sometimes successful, is that the only evidence we will ever be able to get could be viewed as anecdotal. There is a problem with this though. If a lot of people claim that reading or listening to new atheist helped them to convert from their religious belief, and you say that that is anecdotal and therefore not acceptable, it would be easy to say then that everything that was ever read or any lecture that was ever listen to on any subject that gave anyone any knowledge whatsoever should then be consider anecdotal and therefore not accepted a reason for becoming more knowledgeable.

    When looked at this way it seems, at least to me that rejecting the hypothesis about new atheist success simply because you think its a trivial anecdote when a convert says that’s what happened, is tantamount to me telling someone that claims reading Darwin helped them understand evolution to be true, is just a trivial anecdote.

    Testomonials are really what we have here and they tell us why someone has taken a particular view, It doesn’t mean their view is correct, but the way they came to the conclusion may have happened the way they claim.

    Take the antivax crowd for instance, they give testimonial and anecdotal evidence for why they came to their conclusions on how dangerous vaccines are. Of course they sucked down bad information hook, line and sinker. But the way they claim to have came about their conclusions is probably true. If they claim to have gotten their information from The Age of Autism website, I’d believe them. If they claimed to have gotten it from Orac, I’d say they were batshit crazy.

    If someone claims to have converted from religious beliefs because of a new atheist I have no reason to doubt them. It seems perfectly reasonable to me.

  41. #41 TB
    May 13, 2011

    Scott, read what I said again

  42. #42 scott
    May 13, 2011

    TB,

    I’m sorry for the confusion, I addressed it to you because you asked a question that I felt needed some clarifying. But most of the content of my post was directed at what I considered a poor argument from Josh. I realize you understand how a testimony can be a way to know how a person came to their conclusion, whether that conclusion is correct or not is a different question.

    The double standard claim that you make is that someone claims that Josh should not critique PZ’s post without at least listening to the interview. I think we all agree that it would be difficult to assert PZ was wrong without knowing the content of the interview first hand. Then Sven who did listen to the interview ask for a link somewhere that proves Mooney’s point about how new atheism doesn’t work, and then sarcastically ask if he needs to buy Mooney’s book. Indicating that he hasn’t read it. And I guess you take that as a criticism on Mooney’s book without reading it first. I don’t see a good correlation between what Sven or Josh did like you do, so I don’t see a good argument for a double standard claim. I do however see a lot of double standard thinking from the accomodationist side of the debate and I’d be willing to take on that conversation if anyone wants.

  43. #43 Dave W.
    May 13, 2011

    Rosenau @32 said, “PZ: It’s all well and good to say we need a multiplicity of approaches, but that’s only valid if the alternative approaches actually work (ideally, work better). So far, no one has offered any empirical evidence that New Atheism works, let alone works better.”

    How bizarre. A multiplicity of approaches is desirable if they all work about the same, or if some work well in some situations but other approaches work well in others, or if we just don’t know how well any of them work. If one approach demonstrably “works better,” then it would be best to use it all the time – if one approach were a clear winner overall, then diversity be damned.

    Of course, “works better” is relative, and is relative to one’s goals. Does everyone in this “debate” have the same goal? No. Does a method in which religious beliefs are treated with respect and deference “work better” to win public acceptance of atheism than the Gnu approaches?

  44. #44 Josh Rosenau
    May 14, 2011

    Scott: I addressed those letters here: http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2010/12/jerry_coyne_agrees_while_being.php As to the general issue of those personal testimonies (as they’re called in churches), I’d note that the question isn’t just how many are converted, but how many are driven away. If the number driven away exceeds the number of converts, then it doesn’t sound like an effective strategy. Valid evidence would consider both sides of the equation.

    Dave W.: I agree that a multiplicity of approaches would be fine if they all worked equally, but where’s the evidence that they work at all? My point is that there’s no evidence New Atheism works at all, and good theoretical and empirical reasons to think it won’t work.

    Mandrellian: I addressed some of the evidence that accommodationism works here: http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2011/01/dealing_with_conflicts_over_ev.php and suggested a plausible experiment that someone could undertake with a relatively small amount of effort to address the merits of New Atheism. I’ve not seen anyone take up that challenge. http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2010/07/prolegomena_to_any_future_soci.php

  45. #45 Anonymous
    May 14, 2011

    I read the news today oh boy…

    Man sentenced to life for killing 5 family members
    Prosecutors say he was angry they wouldn’t convert to Islam

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-05-04/news/ct-met-quintuple-murder-sentence-20110504_1_demond-larry-twanda-thompson-keyshai-field

    Superstition is hurting people, and needs to go!

  46. #46 jeremy
    May 14, 2011

    Josh – you say that “there’s no evidence New Atheism works at all”.

    Why isn’t someone’s testimony that they lost religion because of a new atheist’s writing and approach evidence that the approach does work in some cases? Are they lying?

  47. #47 Ignostic Morgan
    May 14, 2011

    Josh and PZ, I use both approaches. I don’t know which works in my many blogs.

  48. #48 Anthony McCarthy
    May 14, 2011

    Superstition is hurting people

    Anonymous, just think of the many billions of religious people who go their entire life without killing anyone, not to mention close family members.

    I wonder if we should get rid of cars because people kill other people with them. Or, maybe, we should get rid of science because so many scientists spend their careers thinking up ways to kill more people more easily. Science is hurting people….

  49. #49 Dave W.
    May 14, 2011

    Rosenau @44 said, “I agree that a multiplicity of approaches would be fine if they all worked equally, but where’s the evidence that they work at all?”

    If one person says that they cast off their theism because of something that Myers, Dawkins, Coyne, Hitchens, Benson, Harris, Dennett (etc.) said, then we know – empirically – that their approach “worked” in at least one case. It’s undoubtable that their approach has met (and even exceeded) the “does it work at all?” standard.

    “My point is that there’s no evidence New Atheism works at all, and good theoretical and empirical reasons to think it won’t work.”

    How do you, personally and specifically, define “works?” By what standard do you, Mr. Rosenau, measure the success or failure of the “New Atheism” movement?

  50. #50 TB
    May 14, 2011

    OK, thanks Scott

    But here’s my point, and I’m not accusing you of this.

    First, I think the idea of out atheism is fine – it normalizes relationships in a way that works for gays and, actually, people concerned about their relationship with their boss (make sure they know you’re more than just a cog in a wheel). That’s a lot different than confrontational behavior, which I think is the point of contention. How effective would open atheism be, I wonder, if it included the knowledge that science must destroy religion, as Sam Harris has said? And Josh makes a good point, this measures only success – does it count opportunities lost? One of the most extreme examples of that is Vietnam War body counts.

    I’ll even submit that there’s a conflict in the goals of open atheism as opposed to new atheism – one being to be equal partners in society, the other to defeat religion.

    Second, the reason I’m highlighting personal anecdote – or testimony – is that it wasn’t accepted by new atheists because it wasn’t empirical evidence – they demanded elaborate studies before they would change their minds. Josh’s point is that there are no elaborate studies to support their position either, and yet they proceed on and even declare themselves winning. Well if you constantly redefine your standards of success and ignore any counter evidence, sure. Open atheism didn’t used to be part of the critique of new atheism.

    But what about personal anecdote, especially as to how it applies to confrontational atheism? Why are your conversion stories more valid than the testimony cited in UA of a geography teacher who says in her own experience teaching in the south, she has to deal with students entering the classroom convinced that they either have to accept science or religion. Or the biology teacher who says that “students who feel that evolution is a threat to their beliefs will not “want to learn…” ”

    And why isn’t Phil Plait’s personal testimony about being a dick relevant? He’ll, I could even give you personal testimony about that – ever have anyone scream at you “just wait for the rapture to come, then you’ll see!” I kid you not, I’ll never forget that quote. But I’m also never going to get through to her or her kids either.

    So my point is that once you allow personal testimony you have to allow all of it – you can’t set yourself up as a judge and declare parts you don’t like as heresy and not admissible. That’s not what Josh is doing, he has a long history in this debate and is pointing out the hypocrisy of the other side.

    And you can look at this comment thread for more evidence of that. No evidence in UA? Most critics I’ve heard from haven’t even read the book and one prominent New Atheist claimed to have but then it was discovered that the person hadn’t read the extensive endnotes.

    Nice talking to you, though.

  51. #51 scott
    May 14, 2011

    I can tell you without a doubt that it was Dawkins that inspired me to take up science research as a personal hobby. He also raised my consciousness about religion and childhood indoctrination. I know more about biology, geology, physics, chemistry, politics, and world religions then I would have ever imagined myself knowing, and I give all the credit to Dawkins and his ability to take my personal curiosity to higher levels. It inspired me to read many different books by an assortment of different authors. It lead me here to this blog and the conversation we are having.

    The funny thing is this, I could say it was my curiosity of religion that inspired me to do some research, and it was through that research that I became familiar with Dawkins. Hence religion was the initial trigger, therefore making religion my inspiration. And since it was specifically Mormonism that I initially was researching I guess I could, in a way, give credit to Joseph Smith and his imaginary discussions with angles as my inspiration for my new found love of science and skepticism. But that kinda of sounds a little batshit crazy me thinks.

    I have made a conscious decision to teach my children and their friends {if I can get away with it} critical thinking skills and how to interpret evidence using science. By me doing this it will me difficult if not impossible for these children to be indoctrinated. Which will be a slight change in the right direction for the next generation. And believe me I’m not the only person out there doing this through the inspiration of a British scientist and new atheist. Its a spreading phenomena that I’m happy to be a part of.

    Hows that for a testimonial? And could it be true? Or is it just my imagination that in the long run there will be a few less delusional people doing things and making laws based on irrational beliefs?

  52. #52 Anthony McCarthy
    May 14, 2011

    And believe me I’m not the only person out there doing this through the inspiration of a British scientist and new atheist. Its a spreading phenomena that I’m happy to be a part of. scott

    You might want to read this before you go off the deep end, Dawkinswise.

    http://mechanism.ucsd.edu/teaching/philbio/readings/wilson-wilson.Rethinking%20Sociobiology.inpress.pdf

  53. #53 TB
    May 14, 2011

    Again, Scott, please read what I wrote. I’m not questioning your testimonial – but based on what you wrote it does seem that you went searching for answers, you and your beliefs weren’t the target of a confrontation.
    And your personal experience doesn’t necessarily trump someone else’s, right? Like, say, the plaintiff in the Dover trial who defended good science education but still retain their religious beliefs? Is it wrong for me to respect your personal beliefs and theirs at the same time?

  54. #54 Verbose Stoic
    May 14, 2011

    “If one person says that they cast off their theism because of something that Myers, Dawkins, Coyne, Hitchens, Benson, Harris, Dennett (etc.) said, then we know – empirically – that their approach “worked” in at least one case.”

    We don’t know that. At best we know that their approach didn’t get in the way in that case. After all, they all cite common and to be honest ancient arguments against religion, and to cede it all to their “approach” as opposed to the actual arguments does disservice to those arguments.

    Additionally, Dennett was I think explicit in “Breaking the Spell” that he took great pains to make his book as inoffensive as possible to religious people who might read it. That, therefore, fits more of an accommodationist strategy than a Gnu Atheist one which aims at confrontation. Dennett is explicitly non-confrontational in the book, in fact, so much so that while I wanted to comment on it originally my thought after reading it a second time was to dub it “Let’s start thinking about thinking about religion”. He’s not a good example of a confrontational approach.

    I also didn’t find “The God Delusion” that strident either, and certainly not something in the vein of Hitchens and Myers. At worst, he really needs to pick up the trait from philosophers and ensure that he presents the views of his opponents in their BEST light before refuting them, as opposed to their worst … which Harris needs to learn as well, only more so.

    If Dawkins and Dennett were the worst examples, there’d be little to complain about.

  55. #55 Dave W.
    May 14, 2011

    Verbose Stoic @56: “We don’t know that. At best we know that their approach didn’t get in the way in that case.”

    So we cannot take someone at their word when they say things like “Dawkins opened my eyes.”

    “After all, they all cite common and to be honest ancient arguments against religion, and to cede it all to their “approach” as opposed to the actual arguments does disservice to those arguments.”

    One’s “approach” includes both arguments and tone, obviously. I’d say that someone who just rails against religion without supporting argumentation isn’t a “New (or Gnu) Atheist.” (While exactly this charge is leveled at, for example, PZ Myers sometimes, it seems to be from people who didn’t read past the opening salvos.)

    People can read those standard anti-religion arguments in a zillion places. What are the odds that someone who is open to those arguments first encounters them on a Gnu’s blog or other writings or speeches, thus making the tone irrelevant or potentially harmful? Of course, if such a person goes to see/read Dawkins, Myers or the others because they heard about how controversial these people are, then the approach “worked” in that mere notoriety got someone exposed to the arguments, whether they agreed with the tone or not.

    “Additionally, Dennett was I think explicit in “Breaking the Spell” that he took great pains to make his book as inoffensive as possible to religious people who might read it.”

    Good for him. Why is he regularly included as one of the “Four Horsemen” of the New Atheism? Just because of when his book was published? I certainly don’t know that he’s ever adopted the label of “Gnu Atheist,” like several others.

    “That, therefore, fits more of an accommodationist strategy than a Gnu Atheist one which aims at confrontation.”

    Gnu Atheists aim at frank, open and honest criticism of religion. Why aren’t we having this discussion about tone with regard to Hollow Earth theory, geocentrism, leprechauns or the Loch Ness monster? Does accommodating astrology lead to better science education?

  56. #56 horse-pheathers
    May 14, 2011

    @32 wrote “It’s all well and good to say we need a multiplicity of approaches, but that’s only valid if the alternative approaches actually work (ideally, work better).”

    Actually, it’s probably a bit more complicated than that. The important thing is the combined result of the methods employed — it’s quite possible that method A appears to work on its own, as does method B, but combined they fail work worse than either approach alone. It’s also quite possible for method A to appear counterproductive on its own, yet have it hugely boost method B’s performance when they are used together. So, generally speaking, you can’t judge alternative approaches in a vacuum, you have to look toward the big picture.

    Getting more specific to the discussion at hand, we’ve got a lot of complicating factors that don’t appear to be addressed, such as what, exactly, “works” is. If the goal is to promote science alone, “works” is one thing. If the goal is to promote rational thinking across the board, it’s another. If the goal is to promote acceptance of atheism, it’s something else yet again. What is _your_ “works”?

    It’s also well and good to call for some evidence beyond anecdotal that each method we are to consider is effective…..but we lack data for _any_ method. Your “accommodationist” approach has just as little hard data backing it, so far as I know, as the “gnus” more confrontational approach does (and I’m still confused by this whole “New Atheist” thing, as if being vocally critical of religion was some recent development.)

    When it comes to promoting rational thought over all, my personal experience is that ridicule combined with gentle education _works_. My own personal journey from the ranks of fundamentalist belief is proof of it — without the ridicule and scorn my beliefs provoked, I would have been much slower in my deconversion. Anger impelled action, driving me to research the “other side” in order to prove them wrong, prove that my beliefs were rational…..only to find my beliefs collapsed under the weight of what I’d learned.

    Screw treating religion as anything other than the insane, irrational bullshit that it is. I refuse to dignify it with respect, as my experience tells me all that achieves is reenforcing the status quo.

  57. #57 Josh Rosenau
    May 14, 2011

    Jeremy (and others raising the same point): That testimony is as meaningful as someone’s testimony that homeopathy cured their asthma. How do we know that person wouldn’t have lost religion anyway due to other factors? It’s the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, and science advocates should know better.

  58. #58 scotty
    May 14, 2011

    “Is it wrong for me to respect your personal beliefs and theirs at the same time?”

    First of all, sorry for the delayed response. I’m a little league coach and we just had a game. We won 16-3, yay!

    Now,you don’t have to respect what I accept as being true, You can call it “personal belief” if you’d like. I would be surprised if you didn’t accept the same things I do, but its your choice. If you wanted to debate with me about the things I consider true it wouldn’t bother me one bit. But as I said, you and I probably accept the sames things so the debate probably wouldn’t be very exciting.

    On the other hand, if someone accepts much of the same knowledge as I do, such as evolution for example. Yet they want to throw a monkey wrench into by claiming that god did it, without presenting any evidence whatsoever to back it up, well then the level of respect drops accordingly. I don’t care what led them to believe what they believe, I care about whats true. And if during a conversation about evolution they decide to suggest “god did it that way”, well then I’m going to question them on it and I won’t let them off the hook. Next thing you know I’ve got them painted into a corner and I’m the bad guy somehow.

    I personally won’t respect irrational beliefs or irrational arguments for those beliefs, just like the antivax crowd. You on the other hand kind accept whatever you’d like, but please don’t go around claiming that my way is wrong. I’m certainly not going to do that to you.

  59. #59 scott
    May 14, 2011

    my comment @ 58 s/b scott not scotty, must have accidentally caught thy Y while hitting the T’s

  60. #60 horse-pheathers
    May 14, 2011

    @57: “That testimony is as meaningful as someone’s testimony that homeopathy cured their asthma.”

    There’s one major difference: in my transition from theist to atheist, I _saw_ my own thought processes evolve and I _know_ what influenced my thinking. It’s not some blind correlation, A happening in conjunction with B with no clear link between them. It’s the fall of dominoes, a clear line of influence that I experienced from beginning to end.

    I got pissed off at ridicule in talk.origins, I did research to try to bolster my own arguments, I found out I was wrong about evolution. The anger at the ridicule impelled the research, when respectful dialog repeatedly had not.

    Finding out I was wrong about evolution launched me down the road to examining my religion as a whole.

    Clear cause and effect.

  61. #61 tuibguy
    May 14, 2011

    PZ: It’s all well and good to say we need a multiplicity of approaches, but that’s only valid if the alternative approaches actually work (ideally, work better). So far, no one has offered any empirical evidence that New Atheism works, let alone works better.

    You say “my approach works for some people – actually works very, very well.” By what standards? What, other than trivial anecdotes, supports that claim? If you have no such evidence, and will not bend to the evidence others are offering, I don’t think you’re in any place to claim others “close [their] eyes and whine.”

    You know, there isn’t even an agreement on what we are working towards; is it a general acceptance of the scientific process or is it just to get people to agree that they can accept evolution if they are religious?

    This atheist accommodationist vs gnu atheist issue isn’t even well enough defined for you to be telling New Atheists that what they are doing doesn’t work. Doesn’t work at what? Once you even have some sort of stated and agreed goal then you can tell PZ and Jerry and Russell and Ophelia and Sam and everyone else that they are doing it wrong.

  62. #62 horse-pheathers
    May 14, 2011

    And to clarify — no, I don’t know I wouldn’t have found my without the ridicule. I _do_ know that it accelerated my journey down that road. And I, for one, am thankful for it, as I’d already wasted twenty years of my life on faith.

    I also no that up to the point where my faith cracked, all the people treating my beliefs in a respectful manner managed to do was enable my faith. Remember, the faithful have honed confirmation bias to a fine art. When someone said to me “I respect your faith, but….” what I really took away from it stopped at the comma.

    So please don’t tell me not to confront people and try to shake them up — respecting lunacy just enables it.

  63. #63 scott
    May 14, 2011

    Josh:

    “Jeremy (and others raising the same point): That testimony is as meaningful as someone’s testimony that homeopathy cured their asthma. How do we know that person wouldn’t have lost religion anyway due to other factors? It’s the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, and science advocates should know better.”

    I don’t think this is a good analogy, as I’ve stated before. Would you consider it a reasonable testimony if someone claimed they gave up their belief in homeopathy after reading a post by Orac. Or would you say something like ” how do we know they wouldn’t have given it up any way due to other factors” And then imply the post hoc fallacy against them. We both know Orac presents some pretty hard evidence, I would suggest its good enough to turn at least some woosters around on its own.

    Which is actually kind of ironic, because Orac is on your side of this debate, yet when it comes to throwing the scorn around at the CAM crowd or the antivaxers he really pours it on, similar to what you claim the new atheist are doing. Of course that doesn’t bother me or you because were both on his side in those arguments, proudly cheering him on. But when it comes to religion you both do a 180, it baffles the mind.

    Trying to insert a logical fallacy in a place where it doesn’t really fit by wording the statement in a way that isn’t being suggested is probably a fallacy of its own.

  64. #64 Anthony McCarthy
    May 14, 2011

    I personally won’t respect irrational beliefs or irrational arguments for those beliefs, scott

    Someone should compile a dictionary of constantly repeated new atheist locutions.

    If you insist on disrespecting people and their ideas, 1. don’t be surprised when they don’t express respect for you and your ideas, 2. don’t be surprised when they don’t care, 3. don’t be surprised when the only influence you have on them is the kind you’d rather not have.

    There’s some saying about repeating actions that have repeatedly failed and expecting different results.

  65. #65 scott
    May 14, 2011

    Sorry about all the misplaced words and poor grammar in my comments. I sometimes forget the review prior to hitting post.

  66. #66 scott
    May 14, 2011

    See what I mean.

  67. #67 horse-pheathers
    May 14, 2011

    @64 — if my beliefs are ludicrous, then you’d be doing me a favor by ridiculing them. Can’t talk for Scott, of course, but I, for one, say if my beliefs are unsupportable, go to town with the harsh rhetoric.

  68. #68 Anthony McCarthy
    May 14, 2011

    horse-pheathers, well, if you believe in memes or that genes determine behavior I’d think those are two of the more widely believed ludicrous ideas around these days.

  69. #69 scott
    May 14, 2011

    Anthony,

    My comment about being surprised was directed at TB, If I were in a conversation with you I wouldn’t be surprised to find out you disagreed with me. And it wouldn’t bother me if you did. I’m with horse-pheathers, bring it on I won’t be offended. You on the other hand seem to be the type that is extremely concerned about criticizing religion and above in comment #33 you even tried to make some rules on which words or fallacies atheist should be able to use in this debate. If you don’t like it leave. I like how you think that repeating a perfectly reasonable question somehow makes it less worthy of consideration.

  70. #70 Anthony McCarthy
    May 14, 2011

    scott, I wasn’t aware anyone needed a written invitation to post a comment on an open comment thread.

    The locution I commented on was a statement, not a question.

  71. #71 scott
    May 14, 2011

    Anthony:

    “if you believe in memes or that genes determine behavior I’d think those are two of the more widely believed ludicrous ideas around these days.”

    Any level of respect I may have had for you just dropped dramatically downward into the burning abyss of stupidity. Like I said I wouldn’t be surprised if you disagreed with me. I’m not offended by what you said I’m bewildered.

    First the existence of memes is not up for debate, they are cultural transmissions of ideas from one mind to another. Why would you think that’s ludicrous? Maybe because Dawkins coined the term? Its also seems reasonable to me that behavior, at least in humans and possibly some other mammals, is both cultural and genetic. Yes that right, genetic and cultural. Part nurture part nature not just one or the other. And that’s what most of the evolutionary biologist, sociobiologist and other prominent scientist I know think. But you can believe whatever you want. Considering humans, if someone was to say its all genetic and nurture doesn’t play any role then I would disagree with that. If someone were to say its all nurture and genetics don’t play a role, I would disagree with that also.
    Considering the behavior of baby chick cuckoo birds, Tossing the foster birds eggs out of the nest after birth, if someone were to say their behavior is all genetic and nurture doesn’t play a role, I would agree with them.

  72. #72 scott
    May 14, 2011

    Anthony:

    “scott, I wasn’t aware anyone needed a written invitation to post a comment on an open comment thread.”

    I wasn’t either, that’s why I’ve never suggestion any such thing.

  73. #73 jeremy
    May 14, 2011

    There is no known mechanism to suggest that homeopathy cures asthma. Testimony to the success of a new atheist in turning someone away from religion is plausible, would anyone disagree?

  74. #74 Dave W.
    May 14, 2011

    Rosenau @57 wrote, “That testimony is as meaningful as someone’s testimony that homeopathy cured their asthma.”

    So you’re saying that people’s own self-reported thought processes are as opaque as the complex internal biological processes which must occur if homeopathy were to cure asthma.

    “How do we know that person wouldn’t have lost religion anyway due to other factors?”

    There’s an argument from ignorance if ever there was one. It’s especially significant because it undoes pretty much every finding in sociology – including those which might suggest that the Gnu approach won’t work – simply by insisting that any person persuaded in any way by any approach might have been persuaded in that same way by some other unknown factors, so the results are irrelevant.

    “It’s the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, and science advocates should know better.”

    And some science advocates know that a study isn’t needed to determine cause and effect in some cases. Or would you demand a study on whether screw drivers can drive screws?

    I’d also still like to see how you, Josh Rosenau, define “works” regarding Gnu Atheism. Is it a testable standard or not?

  75. #75 Anthony McCarthy
    May 14, 2011

    First the existence of memes is not up for debate scott

    There isn’t the first scrap of evidence that they are real, the idea explains nothing that the idea of an idea doesn’t do. It’s an idea that is full of contradictions and, despite what you seem to believe, it is quite open for debate.

    So what happened? Do we have a Darwinian explanation of our brainchildren or not? Are we left with a science of cultural evolution or a vaguely interesting half-analogy between genes and memes? The answer is clear: Dennett neither describes nor is confident of a Darwinian science of culture. He is in good company; Dawkins backed off his meme-talk long ago. Indeed his more recent (and very sensible) views on the limited usefulness of memes should be required reading for all would-be cultural Darwinists.8 Although Dennett never quite admits it, he has also backed off, as can be seen by comparing his 1990 article on “Memes and the Exploitation of Imagination” (see note 1) and his 1991 book Consciousness Explained 9 with chapter 12 of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. Although he still talks up memes ad libitum, he now feels compelled to mention that maybe they’re not so much like genes after all and (gulp) maybe they’re not even Darwinian. They just provide a “valuable perspective.” Given this denouement, Dennett’s habit of ridiculing humanists for their reluctance to face the cold, hard facts of cultural Darwinism is incomprehensible. The fact is there is no such science.

    http://bostonreview.net/BR21.3/Orr.html

    Also:

    Runciman views the “selectionist paradigm” as a “scientific”“puzzle-solving device” now validated by an “expanding literature” that has successfully modeled social and cultural change as “evolutionary.” All paradigms, however, including scientific ones, give rise to self-validating “normal science.” The real issue, accordingly, is not whether explanations can be successfully manufactured on the basis of paradigmatic assumptions, but whether the paradigmatic assumptions are appropriate to the object of analysis. The selectionist paradigm requires the reduction of society and culture to inheritance systems that consist of randomly varying, individual units, some of which are selected, and some not; and with society and culture thus reduced to inheritance systems, history can be reduced to “evolution.” But these reductions, which are required by the selectionist paradigm, exclude much that is essential to a satisfactory historical explanation–particularly the systemic properties of society and culture and the combination of systemic logic and contingency. Now as before, therefore, we conclude that while historical phenomena can always be modeled selectionistically, selectionist explanations do no work, nor do they contribute anything new except a misleading vocabulary that anesthetizes history.

    http://www.jstor.org/pss/3590779

    As for the other point, I doubt that “nature-nurture” either singly or together can possibly contain something as complex as human, or likely animal behavior. In the case of humans reason plays a large part in determining behavior. I doubt that even three possibilities are adequate to explain it all.

    But you are wrong if you don’t believe that the superstition that genes are the origin of behavior is rampant in the world today. You can read that somewhere in the media just about every other day. And for that I do blame sociobiology and evo-psy just as the superstition that people were the results of their conditioning and that they could be manipulated any which way was the fault of behaviorism.

    You wonder if it is just because Richard Dawkins invented memes that I think it’s ludicrous. When I first read Sociobiology one of the biggest problems with it was that a lot of the “behavior” that was supposed to be expressed clear across the taxonomy was the result of reification that was far too convenient. That’s what I think memes are, the identification, really, creation of a “thing” that wasn’t really there. And it was a very convenient thing in the context of The Selfish Gene. Unfortunately, as Orr also explains as well as I’ve ever seen it explained, the idea is full of contradictions and double talk.

  76. #76 scott
    May 14, 2011

    It sounds like you, nor the reviews you site know what a meme is, or why Dawkins brought it up in the first place while writing The Selfish Gene. He was just showing it as an analogy for another type of replicator. There no doubt that ideas(memes) can go from one mind to another by various means. They can go from one mind to many minds by various means. Sometimes when a person receives an idea (meme) and in turn offers that idea to someone else, sometimes the meaning of the idea changes either by mistake or by a different interpretation than the original Idea (meme). The analogy between genes and memes was that the change in the meme was like a mutation in a gene. A big difference being that memes can mutate and be passed on not only to our children but to anybody during our lifetime. If you come up with an idea and you keep it to yourself then it won’t get passed on. The entire population of our planet can receive and transmit memes and while doing so the memes mutate from their original form. Kind of like a game of Chinese whispers. As the memes spread over time they change so much that that two memes with a common ancestor, so to speak, no longer resemble each other. Whereas the genetic changes that take place only happen to the sex cells or through variation during the reshuffling process during conception. It seems perfectly logical to me. Also memes that are written down or recorded in some way have a good chance of not changing much since there is some type of template to replicate them from and individual memories aren’t given much of a chance at causing a mutation to those memes. Thats why we can still read the books of great philosophers from centuries ago and feel fairly confident were reading their words. If those ideas were just passed down by storytelling and then centuries later we found the actual writing of the author, I would be surprised if the storytelling versions resembled the written words at all. It would probably be like hearing two separate stories.

  77. #77 idahogie
    May 14, 2011

    This really is a worthless debate.

    Accomodationists: Keep going with your efforts to fight creationism with allies from the ranks of the faithful. You’re doing good work, and NOBODY is complaining about it. Except when certain organizations step over the line by claiming that science and faith are compatible. There’s no reason at all to make such a claim, and that is presuming to speak for many members who don’t accept that view. In any event, you will make some progress towards turning people away from faith.

    Gnu Atheists: Keep going with the larger goal of pointing out the irrationality of faith. Your goal is noble, and larger than that of the Accomodationists. Don’t be a dick about it. But then, as there really aren’t any examples of that, it appears not to be a problem.

    Accomodationists: Stop whining about the Gnus. It serves no purpose whatsoever.

    There. Everyone please carry on.

  78. #78 Matti K.
    May 15, 2011

    I second “Idahogie”.

    The default in western societies is free expression. Compatibility of science and religion is a valid topic for rational discussion. So are the policies of institutions involved in scientific research and education.

    Now, the accommodationists are arguing that part of this discussion should be toned down. They recommend the use of kid gloves towards religion in a society where just about everything else is free game for rational (and science-based) critique. This kind of extraordinary treatment of specific ideologies requires extraordinary justifications, IMHO. Yet the only justification the accommodationists present for an universal soft approach on religion is their hunch that outspoken atheist scientists have a harmful effect on science acceptance and science education. There certainly is no extraordinary evidence for this, is there?

  79. #79 Riman Butterbur
    May 15, 2011

    #75

    Dennett is not shy about identifying the obstructionists. Noam Chomsky is a ringleader, along with the biologists Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould, and the philosophers John Searle and Jerry Fodor.

    I haven’t read Dennett’s book, so I don’t know who’s fault this is, his or the reviewer’s — but this claim about Gould is completely false. In his last book The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, he says a great deal about evolutionary processes in cultural institutions — all favorable.

  80. #80 Josh Rosenau
    May 15, 2011

    Dave W.: Anecdotal evidence, as I’ve said before, is subject to confirmation bias, to lack of verifiability (not to say they aren’t true, but for all I know they’re made up), and to self-delusion. The people who say reading Dawkins turned them atheist may have already been atheist to begin with, which may be why they were reading Dawkins to begin with, and reading the book just convinced them to come out. If not for that, something else might have brought them out of the closet instead, and indeed something else might make more people more likely to come out of the closet (if that’s the goal) or convert more people (if that’s the goal). Other strategies may well make more people respect atheism (if that’s the goal).

    Personally, I’m not invested in any of those goals, and to the extent those are the goals of New Atheism, I’m simply indifferent to it. But New Atheists often hold their strategy out as a better way to promote science literacy, and that’s where we get into trouble. As I’ve said, the extant research suggests that forceful attacks on religion are counterproductive to science outreach, and that noting the existence of religious scientists and pro-science religious leaders is one of the most effective tools for science outreach. It has the merit of being empirically true, unlike metaphysical claims about incompatibility of science and religion, which are rooted in dubious philosophy and are not subject to empirical testing. That’s what I think accommodationism is, and that’s what I think it means for it to work, and the testable empirical evidence is how I know it does work.

    Saying we don’t know what would have happened but for the experimental treatment is not “an argument from ignorance,” it’s an observation of unaddressed flaws in your purported data and a demand for some more rigorous study methodology than self-reported, unverified altar calls. The point is that we need some sort of controlled study (even if it’s a statistically controlled epidemiological study). And if you think self-reported thought processes are reliable, you need to read more of the psychology literature. People delude themselves about the reasons why they do all sorts of things.

    And how do you propose that we know whether a screwdriver works without someone having studied the matter at some point?

  81. #81 Riman Butterbur
    May 15, 2011

    Matti K. #78:

    hunch that outspoken atheist scientists have a harmful effect on science acceptance and science education. There certainly is no extraordinary evidence for this, is there?

    Are you kidding? Look at the state of science education in the US! Do you live in another country?

  82. #82 Riman Butterbur
    May 15, 2011

    idahogie #77:

    You’re doing good work, and NOBODY is complaining about it. Except when certain organizations step over the line by claiming that science and faith are compatible. There’s no reason at all to make such a claim, and that is presuming

    I’m glad I saved you for second, because while I was getting around to you, Josh answered you more clearly than I was going to.

    It is you who are being presumptuous. It’s the height of arrogance to tell other people what ideas they may or may not hold in their heads. The existence of people who accept both science and religion is all the reason needed, not to “make a claim”, but to recognize the fact.

    And SOMEBODY has complained. It was Jerry Coyne’s complaint that the NCSE was “cozying up to religion” that started this controversy in the last two or three threads.

  83. #83 Anthony McCarthy
    May 15, 2011

    he says a great deal about evolutionary processes in cultural institutions — all favorable. Riman

    I didn’t read that book yet but if Gould had suddenly turned around in favor of memes and Just So stories I don’t think the evo-psy crowing would have escaped my notice.

    I did read Dennett and Orr, a pretty accomplished population geneticist who has published with Jerry Coyne, is certainly fully equipped to do the demolition job on Dennett’s Daffy Idea in that book. The idea that natural selection is “substrate neutral” is wackier than cold fusion. I can’t imagine an informed Charles Darwin would have had much to do with it.

  84. #84 Matti K.
    May 15, 2011

    #81: Are you truly claiming that the shortcomings of science education in USA are due to atheist scientists speaking out? I don’t quite follow.

    I repeat: rational critique, even harsh rational critique of different ideologies is essential in a dynamic society. If one argues for toning down such critique, he/she must have damn good reasons.

  85. #85 Anthony McCarthy
    May 15, 2011

    The default in western societies is free expression. Compatibility of science and religion is a valid topic for rational discussion. Matti K

    What isn’t open to refutation, though, is that both freedom of expression and science arose in societies in which Christianity and Judaism were the predominant sources of morals and values. Several people have pointed out that even the moral values espoused by Dawkins had their known first expression in Europe in terms of Jewish and Christian religion, which would have played the major role in transmission up to us, today. It’s unfashionable to acknowledge that but its historically inescapable. That those values are always more honored in word than in deed doesn’t change that fact of history, entirely more a fact than any made up story about our ancestors in the Paleolithic period.

  86. #86 Matti K.
    May 15, 2011

    #85: So? What does your lecture have to do with anything that was previously discussed in this thread?

  87. #87 Anthony McCarthy
    May 15, 2011

    No, MattiK, you don’t get to bring a topic into the conversation and then to make believe that you didn’t do it. I answered a statement you made:

    The default in western societies is free expression. Compatibility of science and religion is a valid topic for rational discussion. So are the policies of institutions involved in scientific research and education.

    Those “western societies” are the same societies which were explicitly Christian in religion even as they developed the ideas of free speech – often appealing to religious ideas derived from the Jewish and Christian scriptures and traditions – and science, which was founded almost if not exclusively by scholars who were professed Christians, several of whom were Christian clergymen. You don’t get to pretend that history isn’t a fact because it is a fact.

  88. #88 TB
    May 15, 2011

    @ Scott

    “First of all, sorry for the delayed response. ”

    No worries – it’s a blog comment section. Unlike many here, it appears I had something else to do on Saturday night. ;)

    “Now,you don’t have to respect what I accept as being true, You can call it “personal belief” if you’d like.”

    I am not disbelieving your personal experience, although Josh seconded my observation a bit more pointedly – it does seem you were searching.

    But I’m not as interested in that as I am about the point I’m trying to make. Regarding the content of the podcast – which I’ve listened to – the post Josh refers to and now these testimonials, it’s ironic that there are, to be nice, “higher standards of evidence” demanded for assertions of New Atheism not being effective than there are for assertions that New Atheism is effective.

    Experienced teachers in the classroom saying that students in the classroom would resist giving up their religion if they think that’s what they need to accept science vs. personal testimony of people who may be giving up religion anyway. Psychological studies that say reason is a secondary reaction to, and is guided by, emotion vs., well, doesn’t seem to be anything.

    Why is one more valid than the other? It does seem to me that it’s “well you may have a point but we’re going to do what we want anyway because it makes us feel good.”

    Scott, again: “And if during a conversation about evolution they decide to suggest “god did it that way”, well then I’m going to question them on it and I won’t let them off the hook. Next thing you know I’ve got them painted into a corner and I’m the bad guy somehow.”

    That’s interesting. And you’ve done this? In person or on a blog? If in person (because I think online discourse is a completely different way of communicating), have you been effective in changing their minds?

    “I personally won’t respect irrational beliefs or irrational arguments for those beliefs, just like the antivax crowd. You on the other hand kind accept whatever you’d like, but please don’t go around claiming that my way is wrong. I’m certainly not going to do that to you.”

    Are you comparing all religious beliefs to antivaxxers? That’s where the point of contention is.

    If you are, then sure there are fundamentalists and beliefs that fly in the face of science. I don’t respect those – I’ve said that. But for other beliefs, you have no more evidence that there is no god than do people who believe in god. I distinguish between beliefs that science can disprove and beliefs that it can’t.

    Those beliefs are harmless. They’re not the antivaxxers, the “pray instead of going to the doctor,” the “voices in my head telling me to kill.” They also put their money where their mouth is, risked ostracizing in their communities and stood up for good science education in Dover.

    They’re the good guys, And no one has ever, EVER come up with a good argument for why I should disrespect them.

    So, are you saying someone like the folks in Dover is the same as an antivaxxer?

  89. #89 TB
    May 15, 2011

    Matti K: “I repeat: rational critique, even harsh rational critique of different ideologies is essential in a dynamic society. If one argues for toning down such critique, he/she must have damn good reasons.”

    What would you say to the religious people in Dover who defended good science education? If they did that and say they believe in god, would you attack their beliefs?

  90. #90 Anthony McCarthy
    May 15, 2011

    There isn’t anything illegitimate in someone saying they believe God created the universe and that evolution is how God did the development of species on Earth, as long as it’s presented as belief outside of science. Of course, the idea has no place in science, but, then, neither do assertions of ideological materialism.

    There is also nothing wrong with an atheist arguing about that with the person who says that, though trying to argue against someone who accepts evolution as described by science can’t be done on the basis of science, it has to be on the basis of whatever ideological stand that atheist takes. For either of them to believe that a stand that goes beyond science and into philosophy or ideology is a scientific stand is wrong.

    Science can inform either religion or atheism but neither religious belief nor atheism is a scientific position.

  91. #91 Dave W.
    May 15, 2011

    Rosenau @80 wrote, “But New Atheists often hold their strategy out as a better way to promote science literacy…”

    Name one. Link to one saying that. Even if we were to eliminate religion entirely (the most extreme goal possible), science literacy wouldn’t necessarily improve an iota.

    So you’ve stated that you don’t care about the New Atheists’ actual goals, and so judge their actions based on goals you set for them. Essentially, you’re saying that you think they shouldn’t be known as the “New Atheists,” but instead the “New Science Educators,” despite them not saying that one follows from the other.

    You also wrote, “And how do you propose that we know whether a screwdriver works without someone having studied the matter at some point?”

    The mere idea and implementation of a screw and screwdriver is an application of design and engineering, not science, and whether or not it works is determined by simply driving a single screw. Whether a particular design of screw/screwdriver pair works better than some other design is something that can actually be studied scientifically, but whether it “works at all” (your words) is empirically determinable with a single successful turn.

    You made the claim that you don’t think the approach of the New Atheists “works at all,” but to make such a claim, you need to assume that every single testimonial is either fake, due to self-delusion, or irrelevant (it would have happened for other reasons anyway), all the while holding the New Atheists to a standard that they don’t (so far as I’ve seen) promote.

  92. #92 scott
    May 15, 2011

    TB,

    Yes I have painted people into a corner in person while debating their beliefs. Painting someone into a corner doesn’t mean I was being aggressive, It just means I had the better evidence on my side, for which they weren’t able to counter. Most atheist I know aren’t aggressive, as a matter a fact their a quite focused on sticking to the facts and avoiding ad hominid attacks or other fallacies. Its usually my opponent that would engage in that type on behavior. I can’t say anyone ever came out of the corner a accepting my views, at least not on the first go around. But I know of at least 4 people who over time, after quite a few rounds, did eventually change their minds. I could tell I was making headway each and every time we debated. Now those 4 people and I see eye to eye, and they question the reasons for holding their old religious views. They also now, question most supernatural claims and ridicule them in conversations with me. I’ll confess though that most of the people I’ve debated with did not budge, which is a psychological response that I understand and expect from personal experience and observation over time.

    I’ve also had the pleasure of converting at least one Mormon into a deist. Which isn’t a complete victory, but that debate is still going on, I’m not confident I’ll get further, but maybe. That debate started with the Mormon professing their deep belief that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet and so was the current leader of the church. So I’m pretty happy with the results so far. I don’t seek out these debates, but if something comes up in conversation its certainly on my radar. Or if two young missionaries knock on my door, then its game on.

    And no I don’t equate all religious people with antivaxers. I was just using the analogy because I new we would both agree that the antivaxers were irrational.

    Also, its important to remember that science shouldn’t have to disprove gods existence, Its up to the person making the claim for gods existence to give proof for their claims. I have yet to here of any evidence that would persuade me to accept the existence of any god. It appears, to believe in god requires faith, and that’s about as lame as it gets when it comes to evidence. Why is that all they’ve got? Oh that’s right, god is imaginary. Which means he’s unfalsifiable just like all the other imaginary things people dream up.

    It should also be known that I play golf multiple times a week with two golf buddies. One is a catholic and a right wing fox news republican, the other is a new age holistic alt/med woomeister. Luckily for our sanity and desire to hit descent golf shots we don’t have discussions about their beliefs while playing. We’ve decided to make it off limits. But if were of the course and something comes up, well then, hear we go again.

  93. #93 Matti K.
    May 15, 2011

    #89: “What would you say to the religious people in Dover who defended good science education? If they did that and say they believe in god, would you attack their beliefs?”

    I don’t think one should refrain from criticizing an ideology one finds faulty just because some nice and competent people prefer that ideology. Of course, all criticism has its time and place.

    I think everyone should grow up and realize that an “attack” on beliefs is not a personal attack. In a pluralistic society one just must tolerate (non-violent) “attacks” on one’s beliefs, even if these beliefs are very dear.

  94. #94 Riman Butterbur
    May 15, 2011

    Matti K. #84:

    I didn’t say outspoken atheists are the cause of the sorry state of public education in the US. That problem has been going on for a very long time. But people like creationists or Gnutheists saying that science and religion are incompatible, are certainly not helping.

    Schools in the US are controled by local boards. Elected boards. Boards manned by politicians who often have no expertise in educational affairs, and usually are more interested in their own political careers. Those careers depend on the local electorate, who also had lousy educations, and who’s idea of “education” for their children is to indoctrinate them to think and behave just like their parents. Among other things, they want their children to be indoctrinated into their religion. So when they are told that science education will turn their little darlings into atheists —

    Nobody that I know of is proposing to take away your freedom of speech. If you feel that you couldn’t reconcile science and religion in your own mind, you’re perfectly free to say so. But declaring that they are inherently irreconcilable, for everybody, that kind of talk — besides being pure balderdash — creates a huge PR problem for the teachers.

  95. #95 Riman Butterbur
    May 15, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy #83:

    “memes” — “Just So Stories” — “evo psy” — “substrate neutral” —

    I speak English. And so did Gould.

    If Orr is such an accomplished population geneticist, then he ought to stick to population genetics. He’s no good at thinking about the evolution of human behaviors.

  96. #96 TB
    May 15, 2011

    Scott: “Yes I have painted people into a corner in person while debating their beliefs. Painting someone into a corner doesn’t mean I was being aggressive,”

    Oh! So you were simply conversing with them. I don’t see that as being confrontational.

    Scott: “It just means I had the better evidence on my side, for which they weren’t able to counter. Most atheist I know aren’t aggressive, as a matter a fact their a quite focused on sticking to the facts and avoiding ad hominid attacks or other fallacies.”

    Most atheists I know are the same way. I’m going to snip and bounce a bit here because I lost track of how I’m replying to your post.

    Scott: ” I’ll confess though that most of the people I’ve debated with did not budge, which is a psychological response that I understand and expect from personal experience and observation over time.

    I’ve also had the pleasure of converting at least one Mormon into a deist. Which isn’t a complete victory, but that debate is still going on, I’m not confident I’ll get further, but maybe. That debate started with the Mormon professing their deep belief that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet and so was the current leader of the church. So I’m pretty happy with the results so far. I don’t seek out these debates, but if something comes up in conversation its certainly on my radar. Or if two young missionaries knock on my door, then its game on.

    And no I don’t equate all religious people with antivaxers. I was just using the analogy because I new we would both agree that the antivaxers were irrational.”

    I do agree.

    Scott: “Also, its important to remember that science shouldn’t have to disprove gods existence, Its up to the person making the claim for gods existence to give proof for their claims.”

    Depends. Remember, taking a position on the supernatural – belief or disbelief – is ultimately taking a philosophical position. In theory, both are valid. One way to weed out the claims is to test them against science. Philosophical naturalism has far less problems with science, but it’s still a philosophical claim.

    I guess I have a deeply-held skepticism about ultimate certainty. Whether it’s missionaries or an atheist at the door, game on. (Atheists coming to the door and preaching would be kind of funny though “Have you heard the word of Dawkins today?”).

    Snip

    Scott: “It should also be known that I play golf multiple times a week with two golf buddies. One is a catholic and a right wing fox news republican, the other is a new age holistic alt/med woomeister. Luckily for our sanity and desire to hit descent golf shots we don’t have discussions about their beliefs while playing. We’ve decided to make it off limits. But if were of the course and something comes up, well then, hear we go again.”

    Well, if I were to give that a label from this whole debate, that’s accommodationism – not a term I endorse. I know people want to paint it as making atheists shut up, but that’s not what you’re doing. You’ve identified a more important goal – playing golf with two friends – than the goal of advancing atheism and defeating religion.

    I just don’t see anything wrong with that. But I’ve run into others who insist they have no friends among the faithful. They probably don’t golf, either.

  97. #97 TB
    May 15, 2011

    Rosenau @80 wrote, “But New Atheists often hold their strategy out as a better way to promote science literacy…”

    Dave W: “Name one. Link to one saying that. Even if we were to eliminate religion entirely (the most extreme goal possible), science literacy wouldn’t necessarily improve an iota.”

    How about Sam Harris?

    “The goal is not to get more Americans to merely accept the truth of evolution (or any other scientific theory); the goal is to get them to value the principles of reasoning and educated discourse that now make a belief in evolution obligatory. Doubt about evolution is merely a symptom of an underlying problem; the problem is faith itself—conviction without sufficient reason, hope mistaken for knowledge, bad ideas protected from good ones, good ideas occluded by bad ones, wishful thinking elevated to a principle of salvation, etc. ”

    Or in other words, get rid of religion and it will be replaced by science. Gosh, that didn’t take long to find. Hey Dave, there’s this this cool site called “google” …

  98. #98 TB
    May 15, 2011

    MattiK: “I don’t think one should refrain from criticizing an ideology one finds faulty just because some nice and competent people prefer that ideology. Of course, all criticism has its time and place.”

    So, the answer is no? You wouldn’t go up to the science defenders in Dover and criticize their beliefs to their face?

    MattiK: “I think everyone should grow up and realize that an “attack” on beliefs is not a personal attack. In a pluralistic society one just must tolerate (non-violent) “attacks” on one’s beliefs, even if these beliefs are very dear.”

    So the answer is yes? You would go up to the science defenders in Dover and criticize their beliefs to their face, and if they’re offended by that it’s just their own damn fault?

    So, regardless of who they are you

  99. #99 idahogie
    May 15, 2011

    TB,

    Your last comment to MattiK is disingenuous. You have deceptively juxtaposed quotes and then created a straw man that there was some contradiction — first no, then yes.

    In fact MattiK’s position was quite clear. All ideas are open to criticism in the appropriate time and place. You are being deceptive.

  100. #100 idahogie
    May 15, 2011

    #82 Riman Butterbur,

    Your comment makes no sense. Yes, Jerry Coyne did complain that the NCSE shouldn’t make the claim that science and faith are compatible. That’s an organization that represents the interests of many people, some of whom disagree strongly with that statement. It’s an entirely different thing when a small chorus of Accomodationists set out to tell other individuals that they’re doing it wrong, especially when there’s no evidence that the Gnus are doing any harm.

    I still say that Accomodationists should keep doing what they want and are good at. And the Gnus should do the same. And the Accomodationists are wasting everybody’s time by complaining.

  101. #101 Anthony McCarthy
    May 15, 2011

    I speak English. And so did Gould. Riman

    I believe that Gould was the one who first called the narratives of Sociobiology “Just So Stories”. At any rate, he wrote this piece.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=tRj7EyRFVqYC&pg=PA530&lpg=PA530#v=onepage&q&f=false

    I’m surprised a Gould scholar such as you clearly believe you are are wouldn’t be aware of it.

    Here, I’ll make it easy for you and type out the relevant passage:

    Yet in one area, unfortunately a very large part of evolutionary theory and practice, natural selection has operated like the fundamentalist’s God — he who maketh all things. Rudyard Kipling asked how the leopard got its spots, the rhino is wrinkled skin. He called his answers “Just So stories”. When evolutionists study individual adaptations, when they try to explain form and behaviour by reconstructing history and assessing current utility, they also tell just-so stories — and the agent is natural selection. Virtuosity in invention replaces testability as the criterion for acceptance. This is the procedure that inspired von Bertalanffy’s complaint. It is also the procedure that has given evolutionary biology a bad name among many experimental scientists in other disciplines. We should heed their disquiet, not dismiss it with a claim that they understand neither natural selection nor the special procedures of historical science.

    He’s no good at thinking about the evolution of human behaviors.

    Well, neither is Dennett, who is even professionally farther removed from the topic.

    Making up stories about behaviors long enough ago to have had a present day evolutionary impact is no different from what the authors of Genesis did, the creation of explanatory myths.

    As I recall, Gould also commented on memes calling them a “meaningless metaphor”.

    I don’t know if he used the shorthand evy-psy or not. I’ve read a lot of Gould but not everything he wrote. Clearly we’re in the same boat, that way.

  102. #102 Anthony McCarthy
    May 15, 2011

    I’m curious, Riman, which of the social sciences I offended you in doubting?

  103. #103 TB
    May 15, 2011

    @ idahogie – no, it’s not disingenuous or dishonest. MattiK needs to clarify his answer. What I’m doing is not letting him off the hook. I asked him about a very specific set of believers and he answered with generalities.

    I assume he’s a big boy, idahogie, he can answer for himself.

  104. #104 Dave W.
    May 15, 2011

    TB @97 wrote, “Or in other words, get rid of religion and it will be replaced by science.”

    Saying that faith is the main problem with getting people to think scientifically is not the same thing as saying that eliminating religion will improve science literacy. Nowhere close. Lifting my foot off the brake pedal won’t necessarily make the car move forward (otherwise, there’d be no need for the gas pedal or even an ignition switch). Eradicating faith won’t magically make people embrace science, since neither of the two are obligatory. And suggesting that that’s what Harris was saying is part of the problem, TB.

    ‘Gosh, that didn’t take long to find. Hey Dave, there’s this this cool site called “google” …’

    Apparently, being anti-Gnu doesn’t mean that one will abstain from being a dick. If the rudeness of the Gnus is holding back science literacy, TB, then so are you.

  105. #105 Anthony McCarthy
    May 15, 2011

    The main problems with teaching people science are TV and schools that can’t compete with the mass media in sucking up the hours of attention available to learn science. That’s not something that’s only true of science but for every academic subject. Americans are as ignorant of history and language and the humanities as they are of science and mathematics. Trying to blame that on religion is absurd, there are hardly any students spending more time on religion than they do on their science classes and few who don’t spend more time watching a video screen or tube than they do with either science or religion.

    Snooki has more to do with lousy knowledge of science than biblical fundamentalism. Ignoring that reality is one of the things that clinches the case that the new atheists are unfamiliar with reality.

    being anti-Gnu doesn’t mean that one will abstain from being a dick

    No, but it’s mandatory for being a new atheist.

  106. #106 idahogie
    May 15, 2011

    TB,

    Whether or not you asked for clarity, you were deceptive in pretending that MattiK was being contradictory. That was a bogus tactic. It is also rude and immature to include this: “I assume he’s a big boy, idahogie, he can answer for himself.”

    Whether or not MattiK wants to answer for him- or herself is immaterial. You are being deceptive. I pointed that out.

    Are you modeling the kind of behavior that Accomodationists are always insisting that Gnu Atheists should practice? You know: don’t be rude, don’t be a dick? It seems nastier and more rude than any encounter I’ve ever seen between a Gnu Atheist and a believer.

  107. #107 idahogie
    May 15, 2011

    No, but it’s mandatory for being a new atheist.

    For example, Anthony McCarthy seems to be the model for “dickish” behavior. Is that how you Accomodationists want Gnu Atheists to behave?

  108. #108 Anthony McCarthy
    May 15, 2011

    Idahogie, you’re not going to hold me to a standard you and your pals don’t practice, yourselves. Other people might have a scruple against brawling, I don’t.

  109. #109 scott
    May 15, 2011

    idahogie,

    Anthony is not an accommodationist, he’s religious. He’s actually an apologist. He’s here not only as an aplologist for religion, but also as an apologist for accommodationism.

    How about you TB, are you religious? or strictly an accommodationist? Just curious.

  110. #110 Dave W.
    May 15, 2011

    I wrote @104, “…being anti-Gnu doesn’t mean that one will abstain from being a dick.”

    McCarthy wrote @105, “No, but it’s mandatory for being a new atheist.”

    Hehehehe. The natural referent for the pronoun in your sentence is “being anti-Gnu.”

  111. #111 Anthony McCarthy
    May 15, 2011

    He’s here not only as an aplologist for religion, but also as an apologist for accommodationism. scott

    Scott is here as a fan boy of Richard Dawkins. He confessed.

    If you were able to understand @90 you would know that I reject the idea that science can accommodate religion and you might twig onto the idea that I also reject the idea that science can accommodate atheism. I also reject NOMA because religion can accept some of science or even all of science and when that happens there is no non-overlapping anything. It is clear that many scientists have been and are religious while they produce valuable and legitimate science, both residing in their one mind. In a very real sense the idea that science and religion are non-overlapping is obviously wrong.

    Instead, I see a door with a very discerning, though not infallible, guard standing at it. The guard can let only information about the physical universe – information that meets the requirements to enter into science — pass through to science. Ideally, nothing which doesn’t fulfill those requirements should ever be let into science. But science can be let out and there isn’t any restriction in science entering into religion or any other area of thought. Mostly that system works, though it isn’t perfect and all kinds of ideology is inserted into science and when it does science suffers, sometimes disappearing. Eugenics was an instance when class, race and ethnic bigotry was allowed to be inserted into science. The injection of sexism into science was and is an ongoing problem. Religion, though, has been effectively kept out of science, just about alone of all possible extraneous content, religion is entirely absent from the formal literature of science and legally barred from being inserted into public school science classes. That’s the case, despite what the bigotry of the new atheism holds.

    I challenge you to produce instances when the formal literature of science has had religion successfully inserted into it, published in a legitimate peer reviewed journal.

  112. #112 Anthony McCarthy
    May 15, 2011

    Dave W. it is mandatory for a new atheist to be a dick. It is a defining trait of new atheists. If they aren’t a dick, they aren’t a new atheist. Your ripost is rather flaccid and impotent and a temptation to come up with some rather cruel puns which I will try to resist because I don’t want to act like a dick. Though I’m rather fond of puns.

  113. #113 Dave W.
    May 15, 2011

    McCarthy @111 wrote, “I challenge you to produce instances when the formal literature of science has had religion successfully inserted into it, published in a legitimate peer reviewed journal.”

    Do you mean like when The Journal of Reproductive Medicine published “Does Prayer Influence the Success of in Vitro Fertilization–Embryo Transfer? Report of a Masked, Randomized Trial” (J Reprod Med 2001;46:781–787) with positive results, and hasn’t formally retracted the paper despite the problems with it and its authors?

  114. #114 idahogie
    May 15, 2011

    Idahogie, you’re not going to hold me to a standard you and your pals don’t practice, yourselves. Other people might have a scruple against brawling, I don’t.

    I don’t intend to hold you to any standard. I just asked the Accomodationists here, who you seem to be defending, if you were an example of proper behavior. I see the same “dickish” behavior in TB, and used his behavior as well.

    I don’t see any Accommodationists complaining about the rude behavior of either you or TB. Yet rudeness is the thing they most complain about.

  115. #115 scott
    May 15, 2011

    Anthony assembles a dick out of straw and then argues against that straw-dick with childish dick like emotions. And doesn’t even seem to know it.

  116. #116 TB
    May 15, 2011

    DaveW: “Saying that faith is the main problem with getting people to think scientifically is not the same thing as saying that eliminating religion will improve science literacy.”

    Yeah, sure Dave.

  117. #117 Anthony McCarthy
    May 15, 2011

    Do you mean like when The Journal of Reproductive Medicine published “Does Prayer Influence the Success of in Vitro Fertilization–Embryo Transfer? D.W.

    Dave, you will notice that the stipulation was that it be successfully inserted into science. I wouldn’t think that the furor over that article constituted successful insertion into science, though I’m sure it’s been picked up by other hucksters. It certainly didn’t escape detection as the furor wouldn’t have happened if it had. Is it cited in the formal literature? Has any other journal reported replication of the reported results? Has it entered into the processes of science?

    A few years ago I wrote a post critical of the idea of studying “prayer” with science. I’m inclined to think that a study that asserts it can find something about “prayer”, which can’t be defined, a standardized form of “effective” prayer determined and the presence of that “right kind” of prayer reliably detected in any run of the experiment, not to mention reliably making certain that a control group wasn’t prayed for. Nor that there was any way to determine if God didn’t have plans at variance with the intentions of the researchers, overcoming their protocol in a way quite out of their control.

    Clearly, the oversight of peer review at that journal was broken, something which is the responsibility of scientists and not religious folk. Do you have some information on the status of the report? About the only thing I’ve seen is that the Dr. Lobo who signed onto the thing (in a rather shady manner) withdrew his name from it.

    I wonder how many reputable journals or papers cite the study except as a scandal, an aberration, an instance of the failure of peer review. You have that information or just what’s written up by ideological hacks?

  118. #118 TB
    May 15, 2011

    Idahogi: “Whether or not you asked for clarity, you were deceptive in pretending that MattiK was being contradictory. That was a bogus tactic. ”

    Uh, no, I wasn’t being deceptive I was being quite straightforward with my problem regarding his answer. You’ll notice however, I didn’t simply rewrite his answers and pretend that’s what he meant. I put them in the form of a question – Notice the question marks? I’m also not assuming that he intended to be contradictory – but that he happen to be unclear is not my fault.

    “It is also rude and immature to include this: “I assume he’s a big boy, idahogie, he can answer for himself.” ”

    Well you accused me of dishonesty – what civility do I owe you? And yes, that was directed at you, not MattiK.

    “Whether or not MattiK wants to answer for him- or herself is immaterial. You are being deceptive. I pointed that out.”

    Yes, twice now. And I’ve pointed where you’re wrong. Twice.

    “Are you modeling the kind of behavior that Accomodationists are always insisting that Gnu Atheists should practice? You know: don’t be rude, don’t be a dick?”

    You know, that’s always been a strawman argument. If someone is legitmately and deliberately rude, hurtful or insulting to you I don’t expect you to just take. You shouldn’t expect that I’m going to take it either.

    On the other hand, if you approach me like, say, Scott has in this thread I imagine I would respond quite differently. But you chose a different approach, so i’ve allowed my emotions to guide my reason like any normal human would and treated you in kind.

    Would you like to rephrase your accusation in such a way that we could have a more reasonable discussion?

  119. #119 Dave W.
    May 15, 2011

    TB @116 wrote, “Yeah, sure Dave.”

    I guess you can go back to the bigger battles against your straw-men New Atheists, now that you’ve irrefutably rebutted my argument with those three words.

    McCarthy @117 wrote, “…Is it cited in the formal literature? Has any other journal reported replication of the reported results? Has it entered into the processes of science? … Do you have some information on the status of the report? … You have that information or just what’s written up by ideological hacks?”

    Apparently, if I ask for clarification (“Do you mean like…”) it means to you that I’m invested in the example I cited being a good response to your challenge. You could have saved yourself a lot of typing by answering “no” and elaborating.

  120. #120 TB
    May 15, 2011

    Scott: “How about you TB, are you religious? or strictly an accommodationist? Just curious.”

    I’m agnostic, so I piss everybody off. Although I am aware that I’m only a guest on this blog and do try to behave. I’m not always successful.

    Specifically, I count believers and non-believers as friends and I’m not afraid to mix them. I have no problem attending a liberal church if the sermon is thoughtful and company is good – and it frequently is.

  121. #121 TB
    May 15, 2011

    Scott: “How about you TB, are you religious? or strictly an accommodationist? Just curious.”

    I’m agnostic, so I piss everybody off. Although I am aware that I’m only a guest on this blog and do try to behave. I’m not always successful.

    Specifically, I count believers and non-believers as friends and I’m not afraid to mix them. I have no problem attending a liberal church if the sermon is thoughtful and company is good – and it frequently is.

    So, I stand up for my friends – the broad brush of anti-religious or anti-atheist just does not apply to the people I know. Don’t know any Mormons, though, so don’t know your situation.

  122. #122 TB
    May 15, 2011

    @DaveW

    Oh, there was something to refute? You basically said “no it isn’t.”

    Yes it is.

    There, your turn.

  123. #123 Dave W.
    May 15, 2011

    TB @122 wrote, ‘Oh, there was something to refute? You basically said “no it isn’t.”‘

    Hey, it was your claim. You support it. Email Harris and ask him whether by that passage, he meant to state or imply that the New Atheist “approach” would increase science literacy, as Rosenau claims the New Atheists “often” say. I don’t think Harris is as dumb as that. I think he’d point to other impediments to science literacy – such as bad political priorities or even entrenched “math is hard” attitudes – and tell you to not be daft. After all, eliminating all the obstacles on a road doesn’t ensure that anyone will drive down it.

  124. #124 scott
    May 15, 2011

    TB:

    “On the other hand, if you approach me like, say, Scott has in this thread I imagine I would respond quite differently.”

    Thanks TB, and I would like to take this moment to accept a victory, albeit it small, for the new atheist. My debating skills have been developed from reading and listening to new atheist and watching how they do it. So, once again I’ll take this as a sign that new atheist can be successful with their approach.

  125. #125 Matti K.
    May 15, 2011

    #94: “Nobody that I know of is proposing to take away your freedom of speech. If you feel that you couldn’t reconcile science and religion in your own mind, you’re perfectly free to say so. But declaring that they are inherently irreconcilable, for everybody, that kind of talk — besides being pure balderdash — creates a huge PR problem for the teachers.”

    Honest scientists do not “declare” things, they discuss them using rational arguments and expect their opponents to do the same. If such protocol is a PR problem for science education in USA, then, well, it is really f****d up.

  126. #126 Matti K.
    May 15, 2011

    #98: “So, the answer is no? You wouldn’t go up to the science defenders in Dover and criticize their beliefs to their face?”

    No, I wouldn’t knock on their door and force them into a debate about the compatibility of religion and science. They have no obligation to participate in such a discussion.

    #98: “So the answer is yes? You would go up to the science defenders in Dover and criticize their beliefs to their face, and if they’re offended by that it’s just their own damn fault?”

    You should maybe clarify what you mean by “going up to”. Do you think anti-religious blogs, newspaper articles or books are offences against these defenders and religious people in general?

    It is quite easy for a religious person to decline from participating in a discussion where his/her dear beliefs are questioned. It is also easy to turn one’s head when seeing an atheist ad. Where is the problem?

  127. #127 Riman Butterbur
    May 15, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy #101:

    I’ve read a lot of Gould but not everything he wrote. Clearly we’re in the same boat, that way.

    No we’re not. I think about what I read.

  128. #128 Anthony McCarthy
    May 16, 2011

    Riman, you don’t seem to have read or understood what Gould consistently wrote about Just-so stories or that his early and continuing opposition to Sociobiology-evo-psy was an important part of his thinking.

    I really doubt you’ve read much of any of his writing and seem to be quite unaware of his position in one of the most important debates in evolutionary science, at least the part of it allegedly studying behaviors.

    You read this?

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1997/jun/12/darwinian-fundamentalism/

    And his answer in exchange with Daniel Dennett?

    http://www.stephenjaygould.org/reviews/dennett_exchange.html

    Not content to making up stuff about our pre-historic ancestors, you’re making up a version of S.J. Gould to suit your ideological purposes, against the evidence of that the real one left. I guess you figure what’s you can get away with calling “science” is good enough to be biography and history.

  129. #129 Anthony McCarthy
    May 16, 2011

    Apparently, if I ask for clarification (“Do you mean like…”) it means to you that I’m invested in the example I cited being a good response to your challenge. Dave W.

    I asked for an example of religion being successfully inserted into the formal literature of science. You provided a scandal and a huge furor over some lazy reviewers allowing a crappy study done by a few shady characters (temporarily?)to be published. I know of exactly one other instance in which the attempt to insert religion into a scientific publication was made and, as in this instance, the scientific community immediately jumped in and kicked up a ruckus. Which is what should have been done.

    You could contrast that to my favorite recent scandal, that of Marc Hauser, who is still, I believe, at Harvard though he was found to have published entirely made up stuff which went on to be cited by others in the alleged science he practices.

    http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2010/08/hausergate-scientific-misconduct.html

    Or Kevin MacDonald whose infamously antisemitic “science” didn’t keep him from being an editor of a Journal and a professor at a real university.

    http://www.slate.com/id/1004446/

  130. #130 Anthony McCarthy
    May 16, 2011

    Apparently, if I ask for clarification (“Do you mean like…”) it means to you that I’m invested in the example I cited being a good response to your challenge. Dave W.

    I asked for an example of religion being successfully inserted into the formal literature of science. You provided a scandal and a huge furor over some lazy reviewers allowing a crappy study done by a few shady characters (temporarily?)to be published. I know of exactly one other instance in which the attempt to insert religion into a scientific publication was made and, as in this instance, the scientific community immediately jumped in and kicked up a ruckus. Which is what should have been done.

    You could contrast that to my favorite recent scandal, that of Marc Hauser, who is still, I believe, at Harvard though he was found to have published entirely made up stuff which went on to be cited by others in the alleged science he practices.

    http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2010/08/hausergate-scientific-misconduct.html

    Or Kevin MacDonald whose infamously antisemitic “science” didn’t keep him from being an editor of a Journal and a professor at a real university.

    http://www.slate.com/id/1004446/

  131. #131 Ender
    May 16, 2011

    Italics people!!!! Or blockquote. I don’t care, but I can’t read this page if I keep having to stop and work out whether it’s a quote or a reply I’m reading!!!

    By royal fiat I declare all of your arguments wrong until you invest in a shiny pair of italics tags.

  132. #132 TB
    May 16, 2011

    DaveW: “Hey, it was your claim. You support it.”

    Uh, no, it’s clear what Harris and Josh both meant – at least to me. You want to define it differently, that’s fine.

  133. #133 TB
    May 16, 2011

    Scott: “Thanks TB, and I would like to take this moment to accept a victory, albeit it small, for the new atheist. ”

    LOL! Sorry, no, Scott, you’ve been quite accomodating in this conversation! But since there isn’t a central authority on what new atheism really does and says, you’re free to self-identify as a new atheist.

  134. #134 Dave W.
    May 16, 2011

    TB @132 wrote, “Uh, no, it’s clear what Harris and Josh both meant – at least to me. You want to define it differently, that’s fine.”

    Okay, since I can’t read minds and you obviously don’t want to explain where I’ve gone wrong in my reading of Harris and/or Rosenau, more time spent here will clearly be wasted.

  135. #135 TB
    May 16, 2011

    MattiK: “I repeat: rational critique, even harsh rational critique of different ideologies is essential in a dynamic society. If one argues for toning down such critique, he/she must have damn good reasons.”

    You maintain this. But now you’re hedging. The exact scenario is unimportant. If you were face-to-face with one of the faithful from Dover who nonetheless went to court to defend good science education, do you challenge their beliefs?

    They don’t volunteer anything, but someone asks them about Dover and their faith. Do you jump in with “rational critique, even harsh rational critique?”

  136. #136 TB
    May 16, 2011

    Geez, DaveW, no one’s saying there’s only one step to science literacy. But Harris clearly thinks a major hurtle on that path is religion, which is all Josh was referring to. It’s all about competing goals which has been discussed ad nauseum here and elsewhere.

    But please, go on pretending that they’re all talking about something else.

  137. #137 Pierce R. Butler
    May 16, 2011

    … just telling someone “I think you’re dead wrong” is not likely to change them, no matter how forcefully it’s said, no matter how many metaphorical punches you deliver to the gut.

    What a remarkable statement from someone who very recently typed, “…as absurd as pretending that OJ Simpson didn’t kill Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.”

  138. #138 Matti K.
    May 16, 2011

    #135: They don’t volunteer anything, but someone asks them about Dover and their faith. Do you jump in with “rational critique, even harsh rational critique?”

    I they are having a discussion with someone else, why on earth should I interfere? But let’s say this “someone” is a reporter who publishes the views of these Dover heroes. I see nothing wrong in publishing countering arguments, if one finds these views faulty. Why should religions get a special treatment compared to other ideologies?

    This may come to a surprise to you, but in addition to shouting face-to-face, there are far mor nuanced means of criticism. The “scenario” may be important, after all.

  139. #139 Anthony McCarthy
    May 16, 2011

    MattiK, do you think a reporter should take it on themselves to counter the religious belief of people who brought the Dover case in the context of reporting on the case? That would be a pretty odd thing to do in a news report of the case. What relevance would it have in describing the actual facts of the case as it was brought?

    It’s not a reporter’s job to act as a PR agent of atheism. It’s a reporters job to find the facts and to report them.

  140. #140 TB
    May 16, 2011

    Got it MattiK. You’ve had a couple of chances to talk about what you would do in person, but you seem to prefer not to communicate directly. You seem to imply that you desire to avoid direct confrontation – certainly a reasonable position, but one seemingly at odds with your first statement.
    I believe we tend to communicate differently in person than online. Tough talk gets moderated in person for a lot of good reasons.
    That’s why I appreciate Scott’s openness about his history. We’re not going to be ideologically pure every minute if the day – toning down our critique all the time, so why set that as the standard? Scott’s own example of making peace to continue a friendship is a good example. And I tend to talk the same way online as I do off.
    As for critiquing at a distance, well, I for one am grateful to those folks who stood up for science education.

  141. #141 TB
    May 16, 2011

    Got it MattiK. You’ve had a couple of chances to talk about what you would do in person, but you seem to prefer not to communicate directly. You seem to imply that you desire to avoid direct confrontation – certainly a reasonable position, but one seemingly at odds with your first statement.
    I believe we tend to communicate differently in person than online. Tough talk gets moderated in person for a lot of good reasons.
    That’s why I appreciate Scott’s openness about his history. We’re not going to be ideologically pure every minute if the day – toning down our critique all the time, so why set that as the standard? Scott’s own example of making peace to continue a friendship is a good example. And I tend to talk the same way online as I do off.
    As for critiquing at a distance, well, I for one am grateful to those folks who stood up for science education.

  142. #142 scott
    May 16, 2011

    TB:

    “Scott’s own example of making peace to continue a friendship is a good example.”

    That’s not really what I meant said, sorry. I was saying it made the golf game much less stressful. I pointed out that off the course Its a different story. I’ll go round and round with them. As a matter of fact the new age wooster claimed to be an agnostic when we first met. It took almost no time at all to change his mind using information I attained from new atheist.. He now claims that he’s always been an atheist, which isn’t true, but I let him get away with it. Now, the funny thing, I also read Orac’s blog and when it comes my buddies woomiester views I try to use Orac’s approach. I even convinced him to read some of Orac’s stuff, but all I get in return from him is “science doesn’t know everything”. We go round and round to the point of him getting angry and me being bewildered by the whole thing. So I wouldn’t call that keeping the peace.

    As far a my catholic right wing fox news buddy. Well as soon as a conversation starts that is critical of Fox news or his faith, he immediately gets angry and short with me. When I tell him Glenn Beck is full of it, and I give specific examples, he raises his voice in an angry manner and tells me that its my opinion. And he claims that Beck backs up everything he says with facts. I asked him what he thought about the Koch brothers or David Barton and he said he had never heard of them. At that point I know I’m dealing with someone who hasn’t looked into jack squat. And I realize I’m just winning an argument against an idiot.

  143. #143 scott
    May 16, 2011

    Here’s a song that describes what I have to go through all the time, I feel like I could have written it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPs_j1EEplI

  144. #144 TB
    May 16, 2011

    Huh, well, it’ll be interesting to see if it lasts. In my experience, unless you’re family, you just say the he’ll with it.

    And by the way, they probably don’t think you’re winning.

  145. #145 Anthony McCarthy
    May 16, 2011

    Gee, scott, you might ask your friend how he could square being a FOX bound ditto head with Rerum Novarum or Mater et Magistra or Pacem in Terris or any number of Catholic encyclicals setting out moral stands that would give FOX a hissy fit.

  146. #146 Riman Butterbur
    May 16, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy #128:

    Not content to making up stuff about our pre-historic ancestors, you’re making up a version of S.J. Gould to suit your ideological purposes, against the evidence of that the real one left. I guess you figure what’s you can get away with calling “science” is good enough to be biography and history.

    You’re projecting again. You’re the one making stuff up. Every Gould quote you’ve shown me is entirely consistent with what I already knew about him. He’s been my favorite scientist for years, and I think I understand virtually every word of his I’ve ever seen, and agree with more than 9/10 of it.

    I think you’ve projected your own prejudice against sociobiology onto Gould. He was criticizing some people’s methodologies as unscientific, and you went overboard thinking he was denying the status of the whole field as a science.

    And from whatever recesses of your mind you dredged up that notion that I was “making up stuff about our pre-historic ancestors,” that’s the epitome of faith-based making stuff up.

    I wasn’t interested in discussing sociobiology, anyway. You went ballistic over one casual remark I made about innate behaviors that we obviously have (without venturing any opinion on the exact nature of the DNA behind them). Up to then, I was talking about the evolution of behavior. Sociobiology, as I understand it, is about genetic evolution.

    Thanks for the nybooks link, anyway. It was a joy to read, as Gould always is.

    #130:

    Can I borrow your crystal ball? I’d like to know what Mark Hauser did, too.

  147. #147 Matti K.
    May 16, 2011

    #140: “You’ve had a couple of chances to talk about what you would do in person, but you seem to prefer not to communicate directly. You seem to imply that you desire to avoid direct confrontation – certainly a reasonable position, but one seemingly at odds with your first statement.”

    I see no point confronting individually supporters of an obnoxious ideology. It is far more effective to oppose it in the public square, where, in addition to the true believers, there is a large population of fence-sitters.

  148. #148 Ender
    May 17, 2011

    “Gee, scott, you might ask your friend how he could square being a FOX bound ditto head with Rerum Novarum or Mater et Magistra or Pacem in Terris or any number of Catholic encyclicals setting out moral stands that would give FOX a hissy fit.”

    He can’t. American Right-wing Catholics are an oxymoron. Or just morons. Certainly paradoxes.

  149. #149 TB
    May 17, 2011

    Reconsidering, it was off base for me to judge Scott’s relationship to his friends – I don’t know anything about that. If I offended Scott my apologies.

  150. #150 Anthony McCarthy
    May 17, 2011

    Riman, you might go look up where one of the students working at Hauser’s lab said that they didn’t see the behaviors he published. Nor did the people who reviewed the evidence. Nor did one of his “co-authors” who said he’d reviewed the conclusions but didn’t look at any of the data. Which I thought was interesting because standards of review in the humanities tend to be higher than that.

    There’s this thing called google. You could hardly avoid finding lots of information if you use the search terms “Marc Hauser misconduct”.

    Re, Gould Here’s what you said @95

    “memes” — “Just So Stories” — “evo psy” — “substrate neutral” —

    I speak English. And so did Gould.

    Anyone who didn’t happen to associate Stephen Jay Gould with the mocking phrase “Just So stories” is not very familiar with Gould’s writing. Not to mention the other lapses in your claimed scholarship.

    You’re wasting my time with your two step.

  151. #151 scott
    May 17, 2011

    TB states:

    “Reconsidering, it was off base for me to judge Scott’s relationship to his friends – I don’t know anything about that. If I offended Scott my apologies.”

    Non issue really, I’m comfortable in my own skin and it take a lot to make my feel offended.

  152. #152 scott
    May 17, 2011

    I really need to start editing my comments before I post them.

  153. #153 TTT
    May 18, 2011

    McCarthy: “western societies” are the same societies which were explicitly Christian in religion even as they developed the ideas of free speech – often appealing to religious ideas derived from the Jewish and Christian scriptures and traditions – and science, which was founded almost if not exclusively by scholars who were professed Christians, several of whom were Christian clergymen. You don’t get to pretend that history isn’t a fact because it is a fact

    It’s a fact, but of the decidedly Trivial Pursuit pie-slice variety.

    Those Jewish and Christian societies were themselves the heirs of older human civilizations, from one pagan tribe to another, back through to smelly savages who made cave paintings, set some food aside for the sick and old, and wondered what happened when you die. Your faith is nothing but one part of the spectrum of human cultural history–if you want to get special credit for the human ability to figure out the true cause of an eclipse, you’ll have to share some with the fellows of Ur as well.

    Some of us lost the appeal of merit badges in our youth.

  154. #154 Anthony McCarthy
    May 18, 2011

    TTT, I’m always so impressed with the ease with which people like you can airy dismiss the religious character of Western culture when it comes to any intimation of positive results while at the same time blaming religion for just about every ill that happened at the same time. Remarkable, especially, since you’re talking about the same people and institutions in both case.

    I suppose it might be trivial to you and your pals that education was kept alive exclusively by religious institutions for most of the history of Western culture, that those institutions were responsible for the educations of just about all of the people who invented and developed science for the first few centuries it existed as well as for the far longer development of mathematics and logic in the West. I suppose it’s trivial that the beginnings of liberty and freedom in the United States were among religious thinkers and dissidents, not to mention many of the European pioneers of freedom. I suppose it’s entirely unimportant that many of those people developed their ideas from religious beliefs and an assertion of religious liberty.

    Do you people have the slightest knowledge of Western history and culture or do you just say the first thing that comes to mind?

    Smelly savages

    How utterly 19th century of you. I’m also always impressed at what snobs you guys are. Those “smelly savages” aren’t the folks who produced nuclear weapons, modern armaments, artificial pollutants and global warming. That, kid, is your modern science and technology mostly the product of quite secular societies many of the scientists developing them atheists. But I’d guess they mostly bathe often and use deodorant so the gore and guts don’t stick.

  155. #155 TTT
    May 18, 2011

    So science came from Christianity when it was good, but science came from atheism when it was bad.

    The most pathetic part is that you seem to have convinced yourself to listen to yourself. I’m so sorry.

  156. #156 Riman Butterbur
    May 18, 2011

    #150:

    Anyone who didn’t happen to associate Stephen Jay Gould with the mocking phrase “Just So stories” is not very familiar with Gould’s writing. Not to mention the other lapses in your claimed scholarship.

    Now you’ve told two lies about me.

    As I said, Gould wrote English. Your own quote confirmed that, where Gould explains what he means by the term “Just-so stories — something you had never done. In fact, you hardly ever give any decipherable meaning in any of your babblings.

    I am far more familiar with Gould than you could ever be, because I think about what I read.

    And I have never claimed any kind of “scholarship”. Tho I have a distinct impression that you are trying to create an impression that you are a scholar. Lotsa luck with that.

    You’re wasting my time with your two step.

    I hope you mean that, because I am definitely tired of you wasting mine.

  157. #157 Anthony McCarthy
    May 18, 2011

    TTT, thank you for the insight into how your dishonest thinking works. Though it’s not that much of a surprise.

    where Gould explains what he means by the term “Just-so stories — something you had never done. Riman

    I do tend to assume that people are familiar with such well known works of literature and culture, if that was paying you and others here a compliment that was unwaranted, I guess I should apologize for assuming that.

    I am far more familiar with Gould than you could ever be, because I think about what I read. Riman

    Well, I was the one who was familiar with the several items I linked to. Apparently you hadn’t read those, whereas I had. I remain surprised that as fine a Gould scholar as you believe yourself to be could have avoided his frequent reference to “Just-so stories”. Googling “Stephen Jay Gould Just So Stories” I get “About 96,200 results (0.11 seconds)” Apparently a few references to that association exists in the general culture. I wonder if you’ve read The Spandrels of San Marco And the Panglossian Paradigm.

    You began the discussion of S. J. Gould by saying: In his last book The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, he says a great deal about evolutionary processes in cultural institutions — all favorable.

    I said that I hadn’t read that particular book yet, but I have read quite a bit of him and in no place did I ever find anything that said an evolutionary theory of culture might be desireable but that the Dawkinsite model was seriously flawed. I also said that if the Dawkinsites were able to point to one of their most strident and persistent critics had had a death bed conversion, as it were, I didn’t think I could have missed their crowing. So I doubted that your point could be relevant to my rejection of sociobiological-evo-psy would-be-science. I have been looking around and haven’t found any trace that I was mistaken.

    It’s probably futile, but you might want to read this

    http://cogweb.ucla.edu/Debate/Gould.html

    You might find # 19- 21 especially worthy of your especially acute reading skills in light of your dismissal of H. Allen Orr’s demolition job on Dennett’s exposition of “memes” You might notice, especially, what Gould said about “substrate neutrality” .

    And about your claim that you read with more care than I do, I haven’t seen any evidence of that. Why don’t you present some?

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