Just one more note on Expelled

Many of my fellow bloggers, and many fellow Michiganders, have noted a breath of fresh air out of (ironically) the Motor City. This quote from Real Detroit Weekly's review of Expelled hits on an important point. By way of background, the following quote refers to the incident where biologist PZ Myers (who happens not to believe in any gods) was kicked out of a screening of the movie:

Mathis laughs before offering two reasons why he told the security guard at the screening not to let Myers in. First, Mathis says, "He has viciously attacked me personally and attacked the film." Just to clarify, Myers did not break into Mr. Mathis' house in a drunken rage with a bowie knife--he has simply been critical of Mathis' arguments.

And here, my friends, is a chasm that may be too hard to cross, no matter how we frame the issue. When someone attacks, say, my belief that beta blockers prolong survival in heart failure, my response is, "Really? Prove it." If they prove it, OK. If they don't, OK (more or less). No hard feelings. When you tell a Creationist, "Your beliefs are not science, and should really stay out of the classroom," they feel viciously attacked. Their "scientific" ideas aren't scientific at all, but religious ideas to which they are emotionally attached. When you tell a Creationist that their beliefs aren't science, you might as well be telling them that their god is dead. And that's a problem.

Many religious people are scientists, and many scientists are religious. There is no inherent conflict. Humans are perfectly capable of holding multiple contradictory ideas simultaneously---unless they are a Creationist. For the religious extremists, there can only be one "truth" and to criticize it is to be worse than wrong, it is to be heretical, and we all know what they do to heretics...

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I have similar experiences having grown up in a Creationist family, but turning to Science as an adult. It's as if my very existence (i.e. that of a non-believer) is a threat to their "way of life". I feel for PZ.

Anonymous - It's generally really creepy when people go around capitalizing the word "Science" ... as if were somehow a religion in and of itself. And that is why some people (i.e., Creationists) freak out.

That review made my day! I've read far too many positive/appeasing reviews for that garbage...
I think you've hit the nail on the head though. I wonder if theres any predisposition to being unable to switch mindsets like the rest of us.

Many religious people are scientists, and many scientists are religious. There is no inherent conflict. Humans are perfectly capable of holding multiple contradictory ideas simultaneously---unless they are a Creationist.

I don't think I can agree with this. Just because people can survive internal mental conflict does not mean that such conflict does not exist. And while it may be possible to hold multiple contradictory ideas simultaneously, it is not necessarily a good or healthy state to be in. Also, Creationists seem to do just fine contradicting themselves; for example their emphasis on the 10 commandments and their persistent bearing of false witness. Your entire last paragraph is problematic.

By Reginald Selkirk (not verified) on 02 May 2008 #permalink

I disagree that there isn't an inherent conflict. I hear this statement made a lot. In fact, I think there is a conflict for both the scientist and the religious.
If you hold a fundamentalist christian perspective, where you believe that the bible is the inerrant word of god, that the world and everything in it was created in a certain order over six literal days, then any idea that conflicts with that perceived reality is discarded. For the progressive christian, or other various religions, there may be no conflict. But for the fundamentalist, there is.
For the scientist, believing in a supernatural power is contrary to everything the scientist uses to draw conclusions. Scientist draw conclusions based on what they DO know. However, belief in a higher power (god) is based upon an absence of information. God belief is an answer to a question with no correlation between the two.

To be fair to Mathis - or at least, as fair as the toad deserves - PZ did more than just criticize his ideas. PZ also called Mathis a bald-faced liar and manipulative asshat.

Well, not so much "called" as "concluded," since Mathis did in fact lie extensively and repeatedly to secure interviews with the likes of Professors Myers and Dawkins, and has continued to lie extensively and repeatedly (and often with a flare for glaring self-contradiction) on a near-daily basis since.

Reg and Deep6, of course your points are valid; perhaps my belief in a modified NOMA is itself an internal contradiction, but really, people are perfectly able (usually) to be religious (sometimes) and be good scientists (occasionally).

...but really, people are perfectly able (usually) to be religious (sometimes) and be good scientists (occasionally).

Agreed, and there are many such examples of people holding contradictory ideas. That is why it does not follow that producing examples of people holding two ideas at once is not evidence that those ideas are not contradictory.And now, to Godwin out the thread, I will illustrate my point with an example: If I could produce evidence that at least one Jew served as an officer in the SS, would this prove that Judaism and Nazism are compatible? Search on "Eleke Scherwitz."

By Reginald Selkirk (not verified) on 04 May 2008 #permalink

Correction: "is not evidence" should be "is evidence."

By Reginald Selkirk (not verified) on 04 May 2008 #permalink