Royal Society statement regarding Professor Michael Reiss

Michael Reiss has resigned from his position as the director of education of the Royal Society.

Some of Professor Michael Reiss's recent comments, on the issue of creationism in schools, while speaking as the Royal Society's Director of Education, were open to misinterpretation. While it was not his intention, this has led to damage to the Society's reputation. As a result, Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that, in the best interests of the Society, he will step down immediately as Director of Education a part time post he held on secondment. He is to return, full time, to his position as Professor of Science Education at the Institute of Education.

The Royal Society's position is that creationism has no scientific basis and should not be part of the science curriculum However, if a young person raises creationism in a science class, teachers should be in a position to explain why evolution is a sound scientific theory and why creationism is not, in any way, scientific.

The Royal Society greatly appreciates Professor Reiss's efforts in furthering the Society's work in the important field of science education over the past two years. The Society wishes him well for the future.

The second paragraph above is a short, clear outline of how creationism should be handled in the classroom. Reiss may have been trying to say the same thing, but unfortunately his words got all tangled in the appearance of an unwarranted accommodation to creationism.

Richard Dawkins responds:

Although I disagree with Michael Reiss, what he actually said at the British Association is not obviously silly like creationism itself, nor is it a self-evidently inappropriate stance for the Royal Society to take. Scientists divide into two camps over this issue: the accommodationists, who 'respect' creationists while disagreeing with them; and the rest of us, who see no reason to respect ignorance or stupidity. The accommodationists include such godless luminaries as Eugenie Scott, whose National Center for Science Education is doing splendid work in fighting the creationist wingnuts in America. She and her fellow accommodationists bend over backwards to woo the relatively sensible minority among Christians, who accept evolution. Get the bishops and theologians on the side of science -- so the argument runs -- and they'll be valuable allies against the naive creationists (who include a worryingly high proportion of Christians and almost all Muslims, by the way). No politician could deny at least the superficial plausibility of this expedient, although it is disappointing how ineffective as allies the 'sensible' minority of Christians turn out to be. The official line of the US National Academy, the American equivalent of the Royal Society, is shamelessly accommodationist. They repeatedly plug the mantra that there is 'no conflict' between evolution and religion. Michael Reiss could argue that he is simply following the standard accommodationist line, and therefore doesn't deserve the censure now being heaped upon him.

Unfortunately for him as a would-be spokesman for the Royal Society, Michael Reiss is also an ordained minister. To call for his resignation on those grounds, as several Nobel-prizewinning Fellows are now doing, comes a little too close to a witch-hunt for my squeamish taste. Nevertheless -- it's regrettable but true -- the fact that he is a priest undermines him as an effective spokesman for accommodationism: "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he!" If the Royal Society wanted to attack creationism with all fists flying, as I would wish, an ordained priest might make a politically effective spokesman, however much we might deplore his inconsistency. This is the role that Kenneth Miller, not a priest but a devout Christian, plays in America, where he is arguably creationism's most formidable critic. But if the Society really wants to promote the accommodationist line, a clergyman is the very last advocate they should choose. Perhaps I was a little uncharitable to liken the appointment of a vicar as the Royal Society's Education Director to a Monty Python sketch. Nevertheless, thoughts of Trojan Horses are now disturbing many Fellows, already concerned as they are by the signals the Society recently sent out through its flirtation with the infamous Templeton Foundation.

Accommodationism is playing politics, while teetering on the brink of scientific dishonesty. I'd rather not play that kind of politics at all but, if the Royal Society is going to go down that devious road, they should at least be shrewd about it. Perhaps, rather than resign his job with the Royal Society, Professor Reiss might consider resigning his Orders?

I particularly like that last point. Dawkins and I are both often slandered as being relatively uninterested in promoting good science education, preferring to fight the culture war against religion (a claim that ignores the fact that we may feel strongly that the only way to achieve a lasting investment in understanding science is by reducing the pernicious influence of religion) — we are told that we think atheism more important than science. Let us ask, though, if these brave paladins of Jesus-compatible science would be willing to set aside their religion to better endorse science…and I think we all know what the answer would be.

More like this

What were the comments that led to the resignation? Maybe I missed a post somewhere, but this is the first I've heard of him.

The Royal Society's position is that creationism has no scientific basis and should not be part of the science curriculum However, if a young person raises creationism in a science class, teachers should be in a position to explain why evolution is a sound scientific theory and why creationism is not, in any way, scientific.

Which for the trolls that is not Teaching the Controversy.

My Human Evolution professor discussed what was in the book, hands on labs with fossils, computer simulations, etc. But he also provided examples of arguments ID/Creationists use to 'discredit' the science, and why they were incomplete, wrong or misleading.

We also had an ID proponent in the class who had really strange questions, and the professor handled them effectively.

So while we weren't taught creationism, we did hear the 'criticism' and why it never amounted to anything serious in the classroom.

By Christopher (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

just wanted to post a comment

By mike myers (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Professor Reiss was earlier quoted as saying: "Just because something lacks scientific support doesn't seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from a science lesson."

There's just no excuse for that. He may be a good biologist, but he's a disaster in public. I hope he has the good sense to stay in the background from now on.

I posted this on RichardDawkins.net, shortly BEFORE Michael Reiss resigned.

Although I disagree with Michael Reiss, what he actually said at the British Association is not obviously silly like creationism itself, nor is it a self-evidently inappropriate stance for the Royal Society to take. Scientists divide into two camps over this issue: the accommodationists, who 'respect' creationists while disagreeing with them; and the rest of us, who see no reason to respect ignorance or stupidity. The accommodationists include such godless luminaries as Eugenie Scott, whose National Center for Science Education is doing splendid work in fighting the creationist wingnuts in America. She and her fellow accommodationists bend over backwards to woo the relatively sensible minority among Christians, who accept evolution. Get the bishops and theologians on the side of science -- so the argument runs -- and they'll be valuable allies against the naive creationists (who include a worryingly high proportion of Christians and almost all Muslims, by the way). No politician could deny at least the superficial plausibility of this expedient, although it is disappointing how ineffective as allies the 'sensible' minority of Christians turn out to be. The official line of the US National Academy, the American equivalent of the Royal Society, is shamelessly accommodationist. They repeatedly plug the mantra that there is 'no conflict' between evolution and religion. Michael Reiss could argue that he is simply following the standard accommodationist line, and therefore doesn't deserve the censure now being heaped upon him.

Unfortunately for him as a would-be spokesman for the Royal Society, Michael Reiss is also an ordained minister. To call for his resignation on those grounds, as several Nobel-prizewinning Fellows are now doing, comes a little too close to a witch-hunt for my squeamish taste. Nevertheless -- it's regrettable but true -- the fact that he is a priest undermines him as an effective spokesman for accommodationism: "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he!" If the Royal Society wanted to attack creationism with all fists flying, as I would wish, an ordained priest might make a politically effective spokesman, however much we might deplore his inconsistency. This is the role that Kenneth Miller, not a priest but a devout Christian, plays in America, where he is arguably creationism's most formidable critic. But if the Society really wants to promote the accommodationist line, a clergyman is the very last advocate they should choose. Perhaps I was a little uncharitable to liken the appointment of a vicar as the Royal Society's Education Director to a Monty Python sketch. Nevertheless, thoughts of Trojan Horses are now disturbing many Fellows, already concerned as they are by the signals the Society recently sent out through its flirtation with the infamous Templeton Foundation.

Accommodationism is playing politics, while teetering on the brink of scientific dishonesty. I'd rather not play that kind of politics at all but, if the Royal Society is going to go down that devious road, they should at least be shrewd about it. Perhaps, rather than resign his job with the Royal Society, Professor Reiss might consider resigning his Orders?

Richard Dawkins FRS
Oxford

He should have known better than to intrude nonsense into a scientific society. Good riddance.

It might seem hard that Professor Reiss should lose his position on the basis of a fine line of interpretation, but the Royal Society is in a very special position of responsibility.
We should all congratulate Prof. Reiss and the RS for taking such unequivocal and principled action once the unfortunate interpretation of the original comments had become widespread.
I'd take my hat off to him if I wore one.

Hopefully this puts a permanent end to the experiment of witch doctors ordained minsters as Royal Society education directors.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

*cough* Expelled! *cough*

Why do the Brits manage to handle such things so smoothly while we colonials insist on being so ham-handed?

I must admit that I am relieved by this move - I was quite worried that the RS was advocating an accomdationist perspective.

By Epinephrine (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Probably the best thing they could do. I do think Reiss was only trying to be sensible, but the whole issue got muddled up and he was somehow seen as advocating equal time or some such tosh.

Prof. Reiss did the right thing and I applaud his actions.

With regard to Prof. Dawkins' comment (#9), the NAS and the NCSE are "accommodationist" because taking an anti-religion position while fighting for the quality of public school science education would be disastrous in the context of the Establishment Clause. In practical terms, they attack and creationism (from YEC to ID) without attacking the religious majority in the United States. Other individuals and organizations can certainly take an anti-religion approach when advocating science, but for the NAS and the NCSE it's not feasible.

But you have to teach the controversy. How can you teach children to measure the surface area of a sphere without some mention of the serious controversy in science over whether 131 or 132 angels can dance on the head of a pin?

This is a disgrace, and a blot on the whole field of science.

They should be ashamed of themselves.

By Billy Daniels (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

The Royal Society did absolutely the right thing. Its name was dragged through the mud thanks to Professor Reiss' actions.

The Royal Society issued a letter to its members right after the controversial statements from Reiss. You can find the statement in DC's page here

The things is, the Society's stance is again very concise on that creationism is, well, crap, but the letter also included Reiss' "clarification":

Some of my comments about the teaching of creationism have been misinterpreted as suggesting that creationism should be taught in science classes. Creationism has no scientific
basis. However, when young people ask questions about creationism in science classes, teachers need to be able to explain to them why evolution and the Big Bang are scientific theories but they should also take the time to explain how science works and why creationism has no scientific basis.

No Blly, this:

Just because something lacks scientific support doesn't seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from a science lesson.

was a blot on the RS, and they were ashamed. It has been swiftly corrected. It is vitally important to make it clear that the scientific equivalent of "strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords" is no basis for understanding biology. Mythology is for storybooks, not science class.

By Epinephrine (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

I disagree with the RS. This is just going to reinforce the misconception of the "Darwinist Dogma". Creationists are just going to use this as another bogus example of how someone who breaks ranks or doesn't march lock-step is punished.

With regard to Prof. Dawkins' comment (#9), the NAS and the NCSE are "accommodationist" because taking an anti-religion position while fighting for the quality of public school science education would be disastrous in the context of the Establishment Clause. In practical terms, they attack and creationism (from YEC to ID) without attacking the religious majority in the United States. Other individuals and organizations can certainly take an anti-religion approach when advocating science, but for the NAS and the NCSE it's not feasible.

The don't have to be accommodationist providing they are taking a secular position. It doesn't have to be anti-religion, it just has to be anti-anything-there-isn't-any-evidence-for. Then there's no problem with the First Amendment.

For shame. This man was on our side.

By David Carnegie (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

I disagree with the RS. This is just going to reinforce the misconception of the "Darwinist Dogma". Creationists are just going to use this as another bogus example of how someone who breaks ranks or doesn't march lock-step is punished.

If we have to temper our actions based on how Creationists can misrepresent them, we will get nothing done.

Who cares if creationists will use this as an opportunity to act all victimized?? They'll use whatever underhanded tactics they can, no matter what happens. I'm glad the RS is taking a tough stance on this. Keep their foot out of the door to the science class.

I hate that we live in a world that can pick on a solitary comment from a person and cause him to be forced to resign a position because of "perceived harm". If the guy didn't mean to imply that creationism should be taught in schools, he should just be able to say "Sorry, allow me to clarify my statement." Assuming there's some kind of continuing harm to his organization afterward pretty much assumes that people are, on the whole, dumb.

I don't think we need to pretend that scientists are not expelled for stepping out of line. Professor Michael Reiss was a bad boy and he's been expelled. Those of us in the biological sciences know that if you have so much as a single doubt about Darwinian theory being able to accomplish all that it's cracked up to do, you will risk the same fate as Reiss. That is simply the way things are. The floggings will continue until everyone sees the light.

By The Clown (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

DaveB: If your job is to represent the Royal Society, you do NOT advocate the teaching of pseudo-scientific religious dogma in science lessons.

It was NOT shameful of the Royal Society to sack this man. It would have been shameful NOT to sack him.

"If we have to temper our actions based on how Creationists can misrepresent them, we will get nothing done."

Yet Reiss had to resign based on how his position was misrepresented. 'Tis a pity.

This on top of the apology to Darwin looks very good. Too bad American politicians can't be shamed into resigning for stupidity.

"For shame. This man was on our side." - David Carnegie, #28

Then it is proper that he should fall on his sword (with a little help from the Royal Society), because his statement gave aid and comfort to the forces of darkness. An "own goal" (in another venue's term) like that is not helpful.

Clown, there is a Nobel prize waiting for anyone who can show Darwin wrong. But to get it, you have to publish in refereed scientific journals. To get published, all you have to do is to follow scientific principles. Why isn't this happening?

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

To call for his resignation on those grounds, as several Nobel-prizewinning Fellows are now doing, comes a little too close to a witch-hunt for my squeamish taste.

Right. You just dance and sing while the big robot does the expelling for you. You can't fool me! I saw the video!

@Paul Burnett, 36

//Then it is proper that he should fall on his sword (with a little help from the Royal Society), because his statement gave aid and comfort to the forces of darkness. An "own goal" (in another venue's term) like that is not helpful.//

There's no glee to be had in this. If you read what Michael actually said in context you'll see he gave no such aid. In a nutshell, he wanted creationism discussed (rather than avoided) so we could rubbish it as a science. Though yes, after all this fanfare it was probably in the RS's interest to let him resign. We should be saddened we weren't quicker to challenge to journalists and saddened we have lost a comrade in the war on ignorance.

By David Carnegie (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Yet Reiss had to resign based on how his position was misrepresented. 'Tis a pity.

No pity. Reiss' statements appeared to be supporting teaching creationism in science class. As the Royal Society's Director of Education, he should have been more clear. Creationists, on the other hand, will interpret anything in such a way to make it appear to be supporting creationism no matter what you say or do. They are deliberately deceptive.

There is a very clear difference here.

@9 While reading this I stumbled half way through and got up thinking "ok, now how does this effect Harry, Hermione, and Ron and where the hell is Dumbledore?"

By bunnycatch3r (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Creationists are just going to use this as another bogus example of how someone who breaks ranks or doesn't march lock-step is punished.

Creationists were willing to used the garbled language of Michael Reiss. They are willing to tell hundreds of lies about science. Why should we ever worry about the deceitful manner in which they will attack knowledge?

I understand accommodationism and support what the NCSE does and I would never object to them because they try to find a politically workable solution that really teaches science, but there is plenty of room for hard pushback against religiously-inspired lies about science.

I have no use for religious leaders who claim that lying about science is an acceptable value.

By freelunch (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

a part time post he held on secondment

Huh? I wish they would speak English.

By Reginald Selkirk (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Those of us in the biological sciences know that if you have so much as a single doubt about Darwinian theory being able to accomplish all that it's cracked up to do, you will risk the same fate as Reiss.

Because there IS NO OTHER THEORY. Evolution by natural selection happens, in the same way we fall to earth when jumping off a balcony (perhaps you should try this, you never know, you may prove the theory wrong).

By anthropicOne (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Mine @29:

If we have to temper our actions based on how Creationists can misrepresent them, we will get nothing done.

And then, just to make my point, a scarce three posts later, The Clown @32:

I don't think we need to pretend that scientists are not expelled for stepping out of line. Professor Michael Reiss was a bad boy and he's been expelled. Those of us in the biological sciences know that if you have so much as a single doubt about Darwinian theory being able to accomplish all that it's cracked up to do, you will risk the same fate as Reiss. That is simply the way things are. The floggings will continue until everyone sees the light.

Like clockwork....

"Reiss' statements appeared to be supporting teaching creationism in science class."

Only to those whose reading comprehension levels peak at Dick and Jane. Sadly, that class includes large numbers of journalists and Pharyngula readers.

Only to those whose reading comprehension levels peak at Dick and Jane. Sadly, that class includes large numbers of journalists and Pharyngula readers.

Ad hominem.

If we have to temper our actions based on how Creationists can misrepresent them, we will get nothing done.

But thats just what the RS did with Reiss. If he just fumbled his line and it didn't appear to help the creationist's cause I doubt he would have been forced to resign.

Those of us in the biological sciences know that if you have so much as a single doubt about Darwinian theory being able to accomplish all that it's cracked up to do, you will risk the same fate as Reiss.

Just like those medical researchers who question the germ theory of disease, or physicists who argue that aetheric physics should be given a fairer hearing.

This isn't a matter of ideology, but of professional competence.

Only to those whose reading comprehension levels peak at Dick and Jane. Sadly, that class includes large numbers of journalists and Pharyngula readers.

projecting again, eh Sinbad?

Like clockwork....

ayup.

and just as tedious.

Part of the problem is that it was reported in the London Times as "Creationism should be taught in science classes as a legitimate point of view, according to the Royal Society, putting the august science body on a collision course with the Government." That's not really what he said, but at the same times what he did say was so vague and confused that it's not surprising that it was intrepreted that way.

Reading his blog post that I assume to be the original source for his comments, he seems to be under the impression that "not discussing Creationism in the classroom" (as the US NAS says) means avoiding it to the extent of not discussing the evidence for evolution when a student brings up creationist objections. Which, of course, is absurd.

By Midnight Rambler (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

The Clown | September 16, 2008 2:11 PM

I don't think we need to pretend that scientists are not expelled for stepping out of line. Professor Michael Reiss was a bad boy and he's been expelled.

Here comes the foil hat brigade.

The thing is (and this may bake your nugget), with his comments, Reiss slapped an unwanted veneer upon the Royal Society which made it appear as though they were giving legitimacy to the supernatural nonsense that is creationism. There is no place for creationism in real science, and the RS took the correct actions in removing a perceived ally of pseudo-science.

It's unfortunate that the man's words came off so clumsily, and he certainly does not deserve to be disgraced. I am certain that Reiss is a man of integrity, and I believe that this will not have any effect on his opinions and efforts to maintain that there is simply no room in the scientific community for the worthless nonsense that is creationism/intelligent design.

But thats just what the RS did with Reiss. If he just fumbled his line and it didn't appear to help the creationist's cause I doubt he would have been forced to resign.

When a person will deliberately distort and misrepresent everything you say, no matter what you say or how carefully you say it, they are being unreasonable and you don't worry about how they might take it. When reasonable people can misinterpret what you say, you bear some of the responsibility for how it can be interpreted.

When the Director of Education is also an ordained minister, the opinions he expresses about creationism in science class should be crystal clear.

Ad hominem.

I suggest that you do a bit of brushing up on your logic and your reading comprehension skills. Note the following.

8: "There's just no excuse for that. He may be a good biologist, but he's a disaster in public."

10: "He should have known better than to intrude nonsense into a scientific society."

18: "I must admit that I am relieved by this move - I was quite worried that the RS was advocating an accomdationist perspective."

33: "It was NOT shameful of the Royal Society to sack this man. It would have been shameful NOT to sack him."

The Clown (#32) = creationist retard.

Hopefully the next holder of this important post will not be convinced of the reality of magic and invisible bronze age gods.
I live in hope that one day such mental illness as this can be effectively dealt with. Until that hypothetical time this man has my sympathy but not my trust. He is still mentally unfit for his former position.

I suggest that you do a bit of brushing up on your logic and your reading comprehension skills.

I read no further than this.

Dawkins and I are both often slandered as being relatively uninterested in promoting good science education, preferring to fight the culture war against religion (a claim that ignores the fact that we may feel strongly that the only way to achieve a lasting investment in understanding science is by reducing the pernicious influence of religion) -- we are told that we think atheism more important than science.

As long as there are Christians trying to destroy science education and lying about science, atheism will be important. Remove religious insanity from this world and science education would be many times better than it is now. Without the religious stupidity infesting our planet there would be more competent science teachers, and there would be more students who want to understand science. With better science education there would be an explosion of human progress.

So let's promote better science education, and let's remember the best possible way to improve education is to eradicate beliefs in supernatural magic. Respecting religious idiocy is not a good way to get rid of it.

In my opinion if creationism is going to be addressed in class, it should only be as a side joke and ridiculed as an idiot notion that most of the scientifically ignorant public buy into.

I agree it's a shame, but from what I can tell there wasn't just one single sentence which was misconstrued:

Reiss said he used to be an "evangelist" for evolution in the classroom, but that the approach had backfired. "I realised that simply banging on about evolution and natural selection didn't lead some pupils to change their minds at all. Now I would be more content simply for them to understand it as one way of understanding the universe," he said.

Now, this sounds like the bogus "many ways of knowing" line taken by theists and pseudoscientists everywhere. Especially when coupled with

"I feel that creationism is best seen by science teachers not as a misconception but as a world view."

(not sure if that's a direct quote, or paraphrase.)

Still and all, Professor Reiss should probably not have resigned -- and should have been supported by the Royal Society -- because his clarifications did seem to clarify that he was not intending to teach creationism as another valid "world view." And frankly I don't see his role as minister as being relevant one way or the other.

If anything, it sounds like he wanted to throw off the usual pussyfooting around religion and attack creationist beliefs directly. That's not the usual thing one expects from a minister. It's what a scientist would do.

@#35
amen.

By Timothy Wood (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

tonyJ: Hopefully the next holder of this important post will not be convinced of the reality of magic and invisible bronze age gods.

And how do you know this? Do you have Reiss's full background, or are you just assuming that because he's a priest he believes in magic? It's perfectly possible that his religious belief is limited to Spinoza's God.

Don't be a dick. The man fell on his sword - he clearly did not intend to help creationism, and was just trying to suggest one way to get reason into kids heads.

I suggest that you do a bit of brushing up on your logic and your reading comprehension skills.

suggest you look up what an ad-hominem argument is sometime.

would do you worlds of good.

also you should familiarize yourself with its cousing, the strawman argument.

that way you would at least know what to label your two favorite forms of argument exhibited here on Pharyngula.

btw, I consider this as an INSULT directly to you, not an ad hominem.

there is a difference.

a part time post he held on secondment

Huh? I wish they would speak English.

Or that you understood it ...

By Scott Belyea (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

In my opinion if creationism is going to be addressed in class, it should only be as a side joke and ridiculed as an idiot notion that most of the scientifically ignorant public buy into.

I've always said the only place Intelligent Design has in a science class is an example of how not to do science.

or are you just assuming that because he's a priest he believes in magic?

um, whaaa?

are you actually trying to say it's an unreasonable assumption?

if so, what, exactly, is he a priest OF?

we are told that we think atheism more important than science. Let us ask, though, if these brave paladins of Jesus-compatible science would be willing to set aside their religion to better endorse science...and I think we all know what the answer would be.

See: athiesm is same as religion. Your a fundamentalist athiest!!1!!

anthropicOne@44 "Because there IS NO OTHER THEORY. Evolution by natural selection happens, in the same way we fall to earth when jumping off a balcony (perhaps you should try this, you never know, you may prove the theory wrong)."
Well there is another theory being shoved in our face and it's not being shoved in our face by people, but by 21st century science. Specifically, biopolymers appear to contain a high degree of functional information. The primary distinction between mindless processes and intelligence is the ability to produce significant levels of functional information. Thanks to Hazen et al, (PNAS, vol. 104, 2007, 8574-8581) we now have a method to measure functional information in proteins and, guess what, they are coming out at very significant levels, considerably above what background noise can generate or even genetic algorithms that use a realistic natural fitness function. We already know what can generate functional information levels like that, we see it every day .... intelligence. As for natural selection, it does an excellent job of preserving existing information but it is pathetic as a fitness function for generating significant levels of novel functional information. So, on the one hand, we have a known process for generating large amounts of functional information (intelligence) and on the other hand, we have no natural process to do it. A rational thinker is going to go where the evidence points which is, in the case of biological life, intelligence. Mess around with molecular machines and molecular computers for a few years, or even just try to build a completely novel 3-D protein structure of around 300 amino acids from scratch that is stable in vivo and you'll come face-to-face with the need for intelligence .... most certainly in the lab. Thinking that mindless natural processes can somehow cobble together a few thousand different protein families, and properly encode the regulatory information in the genome is rapidly becoming sheer quackery, at least in the 21st century.

By The Clown (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

UK readers might be interested in the BBC Horizon programme starting in 1/2 an hour:

The President's Guide to Science.
Horizon asks some of the biggest names in science to have a quiet word with the new President, be it Obama or McCain. The United States President is quite simply the most powerful man on earth, but past Presidents have often known little about science. That is a problem when the decisions they make will affect every one of us, from nuclear proliferation to climate change. Some of the world's leading scientists, from Dawkins to Watson, share some crucial words of advice.

Should be interesting.

Well there is another theory being shoved in our face and it's not being shoved in our face by people, but by 21st century science.

It always amazes me that the more ignorant a person is the more motivated he is to spreading it around. It's as if they don't want to suffer alone.

icthyic: um, whaaa?
are you actually trying to say it's an unreasonable assumption?
if so, what, exactly, is he a priest OF?

It's the Church of England, ain't it? We're not talking pentecostals here, we're talking about a regular monthly stipend to instruct the Youth Of England in Good Morals. It's probably illegal for the CoE to even ask it hires what their personal beliefs are... It would be biased hiring practice!

But seriously, you get a lot of priests whose beliefs are primarily of the Spinozan/Einstein variety, who take the Bible and Christianity as just a mythological scaffold around which to put that kind of philosophy. It's how you ended up with Unitarianism in New England, which ultimately lead to UU.

It may be a "Bad Thing", in that that kind of position ultimately may give aid and comfort to the fanatics (as Harris asserts). But let's be realistic -- these guys are surprisingly common, and they're usually not bad guys themselves.

"creationism is best seen by science teachers not as a misconception but as a world view"

Call me harsh and uncaring if you will, but in what possible sense can this man hope to maintain his position as a champion of science when he makes comments like this?

Creationism is in no way a 'worldview'. It's simply WRONG. Wrong, wrong, wrongitty wrong. The world is four and half billion years old. It is not 6000 years old. That's pretty Boolean. No shades of grey. No scope for fashionable relativism. No room for PC tolerance of cultures. It's simply a hard boiled fact.

Accommodationism is all nice and fluffy until you actually try to reconcile differences. At that stage it soon becomes apparent that the truth is sometimes not as fluffy as some would like it to be. That anyone at the Royal Society should seek to defend notions of creationism as a 'worldview' is nothing short of scandalous.

That said, kudos to Reiss and the RS for taking swift, honourable and decisive action. It's a shame he's had to suffer for what would ordinarily be a minor mistake but I'm afraid the stakes are too high for mistakes to be tolerated.

By Mike Higginbottom (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

TheClown: So, on the one hand, we have a known process for generating large amounts of functional information (intelligence)

Your handle sure does fit. Please, please, please give us a formal algorithm for "intelligence", or a complete physical description. Please! Something I can test in the lab!

It would be wonderful! We could solve everything... if we had a "known" process of intelligence. We could chuck all the religious books, all of philosophy, most of neuroscience, a hell of a lot of computer science, a significant portion of psychology and sociology...

We just need your genius to give us that knowledge, clown!

Could have been handled a bit better IMO. Reiss should have made the clarification announcement himself IMO. His resignation is not really called for, but isn't inappropriate either... It would have looked a lot better if he was allowed to clean up his own (little) mess.

The point giving up orders is great though.

It's the Church of England, ain't it? We're not talking pentecostals here

Oh, come ON.

unless the CoE has recently converted to agnosticism (it hasn't, has it??), you really can't make the argument that a bloody PRIEST in that church is not an adherent to magic sky-daddyism.

review what PZ asked of him:

...we are told that we think atheism more important than science. Let us ask, though, if these brave paladins of Jesus-compatible science would be willing to set aside their religion to better endorse science...and I think we all know what the answer would be.

I'm NOT saying that he is unable to compartmentalize the two, but really, to think someone ordained as a priest, even in the CoE, is an agnostic?

one would have to then ask the obvious question:

why become a priest to begin with?

I'm always glad to have you turn up, Icky, and I regard an insult from you as a compliment.

Based upon his subsequent and clarifying comments, there is no basis to conclude that Reiss was advocating that science instructors "teach the controversy" in any sense. My view is that no responsible reading of what Reiss actually wrote can support the idea that "teaching the controversy" makes a lick of sense, despite numerous journalists and Pharyngula readers who argue otherwise. If you disagree, I suggest that you provide at least a portion of evidence with your insult. Novel concept, no?

Creationism is in no way a 'worldview'. It's simply WRONG. Wrong, wrong, wrongitty wrong. The world is four and half billion years old. It is not 6000 years old. That's pretty Boolean. No shades of grey. No scope for fashionable relativism. No room for PC tolerance of cultures. It's simply a hard boiled fact.

Its still a worldview.
Lets say purely for example, that I believe that all humans are made of peanut butter and were farted into existence by a giant horse.

My belief would be wrong, but it would still be my worldview.

"Dawkins and I are both often slandered as being relatively uninterested in promoting good science education, preferring to fight the culture war against religion (a claim that ignores the fact that we may feel strongly that the only way to achieve a lasting investment in understanding science is by reducing the pernicious influence of religion) -- we are told that we think atheism more important than science."

In a culture that values, respects, and supports both science AND religion, people are given a mixed message.

First, they're reassured that there is nothing more important than having faith in supernatural powers above us; they shape our lives, inspire us to do good, and give us hope for an afterlife. Society agrees that you should believe in some form of magic, be it religion, the paranormal, or even actual magic. It's the sign of a wise, sensitive, caring and aesthetically mature individual. Religious belief is necessary in order to live a good life, be a good citizen, and find fulfillment. Pity the atheist. You cannot understand or appreciate the world without faith in God -- any kind of God, it doesn't really matter which. Keep faith.

But oh, but be sure your faith in the Divine has brakes somewhere; don't take it so seriously you let it effect how you LITERALLY interpret the world. It's true, and it's real, sure -- but try to use it as a metaphor when you're not actually in a church or engaged in religious exercises. You can bring God in to daily life if it's a reasonable God which inspires you to be rational, and doesn't make you do wacky things.

Of course, we respect the wacky things, too. As long as they're not too wacky .... and so forth, and so on.

Some religions come into direct conflict with the findings of science, but all of them come into conflict with the methods and approach of science unless the believer agrees there are brakes on faith which keep it from going over an arbitrary line where it is no longer a "reasonable faith." The ultimate goal is to transcend reason and surrender to faith -- but put on brakes.

I think it confuses people. They all seem to put the "brakes" on in different areas. How does one person of faith demonstrate that another person of faith has it wrong, and God wants the foot coming down sooner -- or later -- than the other guy is doing it?

It would have looked a lot better if he was allowed to clean up his own (little) mess.

On paper, that sounds good, but is that typical of the way the RS works?

I'm not sure it's been mentioned yet, but it's not like the RS doubted his ability to teach science:

He is to return, full time, to his position as Professor of Science Education at the Institute of Education.

hardly the expulsion the IDiots will try to play it up as.

I'm always glad to have you turn up, Icky, and I regard an insult from you as a compliment.

excellent, you tiresome toad.

Please, please, please give us a formal algorithm for "intelligence", or a complete physical description. Please! Something I can test in the lab!

Descriptions usually involve problem solving, memory and planning.

It's hard to come up with a testable description of intelligence that natural selection wouldn't satisfy. Maybe we could satisfy some IDiots if we just say that natural selection is the simplest form of intelligence: a purely trial and error optimization method that remembers only its most recent successes.

Wait...you barrel in here, flinging insults yourself ("Only to those whose reading comprehension levels peak at Dick and Jane. Sadly, that class includes large numbers of journalists and Pharyngula readers."), and now you want to turn up your nose and pull the affronted maiden act and whine about insults?

Bugger off, hypocrite.

I'm moving back to the third row. The splatter is about to happen.

"you tiresome toad."

Another insult, still no evidence. Excellent, Icky! You're nothing if not numbingly consistent.

I'm moving back to the third row. The splatter is about to happen.

naww, just put up the plastic sheet, just like if you were at a Gallagher performance.

Another insult, still no evidence. Excellent, Icky! You're nothing if not numbingly consistent.

numbingly consistent?

that the best you can do, you spewing ass?

Maybe we could satisfy some IDiots if we just say that natural selection is the simplest form of intelligence: a purely trial and error optimization method that remembers only its most recent successes.

I kinnda like it.

Use their own language against them, by doing so we would be using their own tactics against them.

Its fighting fire with fire on several levels!

If you follow the evidence, you have to conclude (like Prof. Dawkins) that there is no evidence for a creator.

Prof. Reiss might agree. However, as a priest in the Church of England, he has also accepted that his god created the universe, listens to prayers, violates his laws of physics through divide intervention, ...

He could have easily solved his chosen dilemma and resigned his ordained position.

The rest is then a discussion of strategy on how to enlighten the population to the value of science.

Prof. Dawkins' position is one of clarity: there is no shred of evidence for a creator. If there is something that science does not understand yet, the right answer is: "we're working on it."

I read Prof. Miller's book "Only a Theory". Some catholics may read it because he is a devout catholic. A few may even come to realize that intelligent design is utter nonsense because of it. However, a couple of chapters in his book badly smell like theology and go to great lengths to force-feed the christian god into the picture.

Mankind has invented thousands of gods, mostly abandoned by now. A significant part of the current population believes in the Abrahamic god. While we are 100% atheists (abandoned all gods), those who believe in 1 god are in effect 99.999999% atheists and the difference is 1 god.

We can dance around it but it is much healthier if scientists consistently talk about the evidence.

Pretending there is no conflict between religion and science is simply not credible.

This makes any priest (by their title) a bad spokesperson for science.

After all, life is all about integrity.

Wait...you barrel in here, flinging insults yourself ("Only to those whose reading comprehension levels peak at Dick and Jane. Sadly, that class includes large numbers of journalists and Pharyngula readers."), and now you want to turn up your nose and pull the affronted maiden act and whine about insults?

I'm going to have to invent a term for deliberately pissing people off so you can complain about how rude they are. How about "assholing"?

... before you continue using insults best applied to yourself (like numbingly consistent inane), try to self-examine a bit first.

I have to go out for a bit, so you have plenty of time.

TheClown: On the contrary, we have plenty of evidence that intelligence as a mechanism is insufficient and incapable of explaining much of biology.

Never has an intelligent agent ever been observed to be capable of manufacturing a system capable of self-replication, let alone one that has proceeded, uninterrupted for over 4 billion years.

Never has any known intelligent agent ever been shown to be capable of manufacturing anything substantially complicated on a molecular scale.

No intelligent agency has ever been shown to be capable of designing, constructing, or maintaining any system of multiple interdependent components even halfway approaching the least complicated ecosystem, for anything more than three or four centuries (five if you want to be generous) before having the whole thing collapse into total chaos.

Intelligence is demonstrably good at generating moderate amounts of functional information, but large amounts? At levels equivalent to even a tiny fraction of what is found in even the most basic biological systems? I'm afraid not. The mechanism is simply too feeble.

Finally, there is no known method of producing an intelligent agent, except through a biological system. The first cannot be responsible for the second if the second is required to produce the first.

This type of witch-hunt is what Expelled exposed to a wide audience.

**You shall conform to the orthodoxy or you shall be cast out from our society**

Not a bad thing necessarily, if you believe that science and religion have not enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship over the years.

This however, would be in opposition to the truth and for an organization that prides itself on its rationality it seems particularly irrational step to take. It takes a certain type of fervour to adhere to your orthodoxy in view of sensibility on your side - you might even call it a faith..

If the Pope says he believes in God - well he's doing his job. If your Pope says he's believes in God you expel him and imply a conflict of interest - anything to get to sleep at night though, eh?

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Clown, how were you even hired to "work in the biological sciences"? My pet rock has more knowledge of biology.

My guess is you're a part-time lab tech who washes putrid flasks, cleans the rat cages, and takes out the trash, probably at some bible belt college. If you study really, really hard, you may graduate to Media Maker, though based on what we've seen thus far, you have a long way to go.

All in not lost, however, on weekends everyone in the revival tent is blown away that they have a "real" scientist in their midst. You're there to "scientifically" explain all those falling bodies (post preacher hand placement) and how polymerization makes speaking in tongues possible.

Yeehah!

By anthropicOne (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

"Wait...you barrel in here, flinging insults yourself ("Only to those whose reading comprehension levels peak at Dick and Jane. Sadly, that class includes large numbers of journalists and Pharyngula readers."), and now you want to turn up your nose and pull the affronted maiden act and whine about insults?"

Hi, Peezy. You might want to read what I wrote again. I didn't complain about Icky's insults (indeed, I enjoy a good row) and I'm not affronted by them in the least. I simply noted that they come with no evidence.

"Bugger off, hypocrite."

Et tu, Brute?

It's not so much that I mind picking the splatter out of the cleavage, Ichthyic, but when you bite of those blog whores in half, sometimes I get the naughty bits in my hair.

How about "assholing"?

Oh, I think it's already covered under the broad definition of "trolling".

Sinbad is a quintessential troll.

again, that is not an ad-hominem argument, because it is demonstrably accurate.

one - dammit.

Oh, I think it's already covered under the broad definition of "trolling".

It happens often enough in real life that it needs its own word.

You might want to read what I wrote again. I didn't complain about Icky's insults

that would apply, if you could read your own damn comments.

PZ wasn't responding to OUR exchange, he was responding to your FIRST volley.

you pretend to being as slippery as an eel, but in reality, your slime has been treated with surfactants for a long time now.

You aren't fooling anyone.

Oh, you didn't complain. Just like I didn't complain: I merely noted that you are a dishonest hypocrite. And now I will simply note that you are a transparent sophist. And then I will lightly comment on the fact that you are an obnoxious troll.

But no, I'm not complaining, and I'm not insulting anyone. I'm just noting things.

By the way, your brand of inept casuistry does annoy me to the point I consider banning its promoters. But I'm not threatening you, oh no — I'm just idly mentioning something.

Icthyic: I'm NOT saying that he is unable to compartmentalize the two, but really, to think someone ordained as a priest, even in the CoE, is an agnostic?
one would have to then ask the obvious question:
why become a priest to begin with?

It's unsurprising that somone at 20 believe, take the ordination, then change their minds (I'm sure they think of it as "fine-tuning"). They just see no reason to give up their pulpit and paycheck -- they see it as an opportunity to influence the community.

Yes, there's an argument about integrity. But I think there's a surprisingly large number of agnostic or even atheistic priests. Some give it up -- in the Catholic church to marry. But some like the job as "community organizer", and they're more than willing to wrap their philosophical positions with a little story-telling, and they don't see the contradiction.

Strange but true. They can even avoid the agnostic label by "believing" in Spinoza's God, which is no god at all by traditional Christian standards - it's definitely not the Bronze-age Yahweh throwing stones from the sky! It's like accusing a Buddhist of being a Hindu.

And then I will lightly comment on the fact that you are an obnoxious troll.

"...lightly killed, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope and lovingly frosted with glucose."

;)

Prof. Dawkins' position is one of clarity: there is no shred of evidence for a creator.

Rev. Dawkins, who is essentially a demigod to the craven, has no evidence. That is diff. to saying there is no evidence - look around you to see the evidence (with your eyes in all their complexity), watch your child grow up, watch the sunrise, and celebrate life in the presence of God.

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

"PZ wasn't responding to OUR exchange, he was responding to your FIRST volley."

Icky, you're even further off the rails than "normal." Read all of my posts in this thread. Where, precisely, did I, as Peezy alleges, "turn up [my] nose and pull the affronted maiden act and whine about insults?" Take your time.

Comment by Sinbad blocked. [unkill][show comment]

Killfile rules.

"...lightly killed, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope and lovingly frosted with glucose."

"You don't even take the bones out?"

"Well, then it wouldn't be crunchy, would it?"

Yes, there's an argument about integrity

you don't say?

:)

But I think there's a surprisingly large number of agnostic or even atheistic priests.

learn something new every day. an atheistic priest.

I just don't see how one could not view that as being at least a bit hypocritical, if not taking it to the level of a discussion of integrity.

but then, I don't live there, do I.

Are you saying that the majority of CoE members would be perfectly happy with a local parish priest announcing he is an atheist?

If so, I feel tremendously I'll informed about the British Psyche...

Damn you Monty Python!

Rev. Dawkins, who is essentially a demigod to the craven, has no evidence. That is diff. to saying there is no evidence - look around you to see the evidence (with your eyes in all their complexity), watch your child grow up, watch the sunrise, and celebrate life in the presence of God.

*groan*
I watched my child grow up. I have seen sunrises. I belive they are awesome displays of the beauty and complexity of nature but they are not evidence of anything. I think it is far better to know that lightning is a caused by explainable natural forces than to try and figure out what the gods are pissed off about.

I'll = ill.

take that, Rev BDC!

While Sinbad is being troll-ish in this particular thread, he is not a quintessential troll, because he is capable of non-trollish conversation, discussion, and argument.

This doesn't meant that he is not usually wrong (on the internet), but again, not usually a troll.

I'm just sayin', is all.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

It's an example of natural selection - stupid mistake leads to falling down the pecking order as it were.

Actually the Anglicans treat god rather like a senile relative who is kept out of the way less they embarras the guests.

"...lightly killed, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope and lovingly frosted with glucose."

"You don't even take the bones out?"
"Well, then it wouldn't be crunchy, would it?"

Well, never mind that. We have to protect the public. People aren't going to think there's a real troll in chocolate. The superintendent thought it was an almond whirl. They're bound to think it's some kind of mock troll!

Last call, Sinbad. Straighten up from your twisty, scurvy course, or I'll smack you right out of here. You are playing a game of shallow sophistry. You insult people here, then you get all snooty and pretend that your insults are warranted, but everyone else can't back up their opinion of you.

Liar. This thread right here is a wonderful example of your sleazy, trolling tactics, and it's typical behavior by you. You're a freaking godbot, yet you complain that no one else has a logical or evidential leg to stand on: your whole life is built on a lie, and your only defense seems to be to pretend that everyone else's premises are as bogus as yours.

And every time you post here you pull this same annoying stunt of pretending you are so far above the fray...when everyone can see that you're a fraud. It is getting very tiresome and very predictable, and as I warn on the dungeon page, the greatest peril to the posting privileges of one of your kind comes from boring me.

Rev. Dawkins, who is essentially a demigod to the craven

So you, a craven, consider Dawkins to be a demigod? How astonishingly idolatrous.

(Pete Rooke, on the other hand is a troll, and nothing else.)

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Pete Rooke #106:
Oh, please, not the eye argument again. That one predates Darwin, and died with the publication of Origin.

Everything you mention has a perfectly adequate non-supernatural explanation. No it doesn't prove the non-existence of some deity. But it sure isn't evidence for the necessity of any deity.

Well, never mind that. We have to protect the public. People aren't going to think there's a real troll in chocolate. The superintendent thought it was an almond whirl. They're bound to think it's some kind of mock troll!

Mock troll? We use no artificial preservatives or additives of any kind!

the presence of God

Which one? Zeus? Thor?

By anthropicOne (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

@anthropicOne

I am a Catholic, although not a particularly ardent one. The God I worship is the God of the Bible.

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Michael Reiss will soon be reinstated after Britain adopts Sharia Law. So, this little gesture only serves to exacerbate an already impossible situation.

By bunnycatch3r (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

The God I worship is the God of the Bible.

The one who claimed to create the earth, and humanity, then claimed to destroy nearly all of them in a global flood? The mass-murderer, the deliberate near-omnicide? That God?

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Icky, you're even further off the rails than "normal."

Oh?

here's the comment PZ directly quoted from you:

("Only to those whose reading comprehension levels peak at Dick and Jane. Sadly, that class includes large numbers of journalists and Pharyngula readers.")

now then, was that included in a comment directed at me, or not?

hint: that's a rhetorical question.

While Sinbad is being troll-ish in this particular thread, he is not a quintessential troll, because he is capable of non-trollish conversation, discussion, and argument.

Show me the threads where he hasn't STARTED OFF with a statement that's obviously constructed to be bait. For this thread, I give you #46 to compare/contrast to.

that he might followup with more substantive commentary (rarely), hardly excuses him from being a troll to begin with.

Having seen how the "discussions" with him go - endless goalpost moving, mis and redirection, etc., even if not a quintessential troll, I would hardly think there is value in engagement.

and yes, that's even watching your engagements with him, which in reality were a waste of time if you look at his position statements at the beginning and end of those, and his positions coming in to the next thread.

He's a tiresome troll, sorry to say.

you can have the "quintessential" qualifier if you wish.

learn something new every day. an atheistic priest.

Here's one from Denmark!

"God belongs in the past. He is actually so old fashioned that I am baffled by modern people believing in his existence. I am thoroughly fed up with empty words about miracles and eternal life."

Must be one of them militant atheist priests.

By windy, OM (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Mock troll? We use no artificial preservatives or additives of any kind!

Nevertheless, I advise you to in future to replace the words "crunchy troll" with the legend "crunchy, raw, unboned, real, dead troll" if you want to avoid prosecution.

(Pete Rooke, on the other hand is a troll, and nothing else.)

can I add quintessential to that one?

;)

Frog@76 said, "Please, please, please give us a formal algorithm for "intelligence", or a complete physical description. Please! Something I can test in the lab!"

Well, we test for intelligence all the time, at least where I grew up. However, since you seem to have thrown up your hands in despair, let me do some of your work for you. Recall that a fundamental attribute of intelligence is the ability to produce significant amounts of functional information. Recall, also, the equation for functional information published in PNAS that I mentioned earlier. To test for intelligence, all we need to do is to decide what constitutes a 'significant' level of functional information. After all, it is entirely possible to generate a very low level of information accidentally within the background noise of any system. So 'significant' should be high enough such that it does not yield any false positives. It is not difficult to calculate what that significant level is for a given physical system. For biological life, given 4 billion years, a fast mutation rate, a fast replication rate, and about 10exp30 life forms, 140 bits of functional information is a generous upper limit. So we could construct a process for testing for intelligent design as follows:

Step One; calculate the amount of functional information (Inf) required to produce the effect using Hazen et al's equation in PNAS
Step Two: If (Inf)>140 bits, then ID

Example: Venter Institutes artificial genome contains five watermarks
Step One: Using Hazen et al's eqn., (Inf)=259 bits for the five watermarks
Step Two: Watermark (Inf)>140 bits, therefore the watermarks were created by intelligence (in this case, employee's of Venter Institute).

Now we know intelligence can produce the watermarks. In fact, if you will look at PZ's write-up and crunch the numbers, he just demonstrated the ability to produce a lot more than 140 bits of functional information. The big question is, can natural selection do it? I have written a lot of evolutionary algorithms and on the basis of my experience, I think anyone who thinks natural selection can do it has their work cut out for them. 'Natural selection diddit!' is one of the greatest unsupported cries of our time. It is the modern filling of the gap .... the 'natural selection of the gaps' argument when it comes to biology. We can't test it in the lab, or computationally simulate it, but 'natural selection diddit'.

Well, it's time to go home. Been nice stirring the pot once again.

By The Clown (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Must be one of them militant atheist priests.

AT LAST!

we've finally found the militant atheist priests all the fundies have been looking for!

:p

seriously, though, this concept of atheist priest is hard for me to wrap my head around.

Nevertheless, I advise you to in future to replace the words "crunchy troll" with the legend "crunchy, raw, unboned, real, dead troll" if you want to avoid prosecution.

What about our sales?

@ amphiox

Everything you mention has a perfectly adequate non-supernatural explanation.

Judging from your taken name you are an Evolutionist and believe that matter is all there is.

How then do you explain the enduring mind? How do you get from the physical brain to our thoughts, emotions, feelings, beliefs, desires, sensations.. How do you explain consciousness and mental phenomena in general?

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

can I add quintessential to that one?

I'll see that and raise you sextessential.

Reiss:

"Just because something lacks scientific support doesn't seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from the science lesson... There is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts they have -- hardly a revolutionary idea in science teaching -- and doing one's best to have a genuine discussion."

If students can raise doubts about religion, so should teachers be able to raise doubts about religion.

Open season on trashing religion in the science classroom!

Or any classroom!

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

What about our sales?

I get to be the one to say it!

"Fuck your sales!"

I'll see that and raise you sextessential.

In fact I'll go so far as to say he is a nonessential troll.

That is diff. to saying there is no evidence - look around you to see the evidence (with your eyes in all their complexity), watch your child grow up, watch the sunrise, and celebrate life in the presence of God.

Apophenia

If poor petey had even one burning bush ala Moses that we could examine for signs of divinity, he might make some sense. But he just talks nonsense with no solid physical proof. Poor deluded guy.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

The Clown @ 128:

Presumably, in your studies of evolutionary alorithms, you've run across the work of Holland or Langton (among many others). Their *earliest* works (we're talking in the 60s and 70s for Holland) produced far more than 140 bits of "functional information", as you've loosely used it. Hell, turbulence in fluids produces functional information; please define your terms.

There. Troll fed.

That's it. I'm moving to the back row. First splatter, now pooh. >:o(

@ Owlmirror

The one who claimed to create the earth, and humanity, then claimed to destroy nearly all of them in a global flood? The mass-murderer, the deliberate near-omnicide? That God?

I was once like you and was told something very profound: "you can't be angry with a God and not believe in him at the same time."

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

One quibble over the "giving up of orders". While I'm not sure of the exact Anglican position, under Roman Catholicism I was taught that the Sacrement of Ordination for the priesthood (like the other sacraments) was an indelible mark on the soul. A priest might be ordered to stop performing priestly duties, might be relieved of the obligations of his vows (such as of celibacy, permitting a one-time Catholic priest to later go off and get married), or might become a heretic and become excommunicate... but he remains is some theological sense "sacerdotum aeternitas", a priest for all eternity.

Of course, from a secular point of view, relief from the obligations and duties of priesthood by the ecclesiastical hierarchy suffices, since there is no material significance to a claimed "mark upon the soul". Contrariwise, from a political viewpoint the significance of such is somewhat restricted by this point of religious doctrine.

Since he resigned from the Royal Society position, the point is somewhat moot.

How then do you explain the enduring mind?

"enduring mind?" You mean, you've never changed yours? Good grief, no wonder you sound so.... yeesh.

How do you get from the physical brain to our thoughts, emotions, feelings, beliefs, desires, sensations.. How do you explain consciousness and mental phenomena in general?

Argument from ignorance.

GO TO FAIL.

PS: Read a book, for pity's sake.

http://www.amazon.com/Soul-Made-Flesh-Discovery-Brain/dp/0743272056/

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Seems C. of E. clergy can't open their mouths without inserting at least one foot. Reminds me of a cartoon that came out shortly after Rowan Williams made a fool of himself over sharia, showing Williams blathering preaching, and simply captioned:
"There abideth these three: faith, hope and clarity. But the greatest of these is clarity."
Reiss was in a highly responsible position, where he could expect his every word on such an issue to be (mis)reported. He screwed up. He had to go.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

@ P. Rooke, #106

A non sequitur, if there ever was one.

By dubiquiabs (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Since there is no soul, and since this 'mark' is similarly nonexistent, telling a bunch of atheists that a priest has invisible magic juju of some sort is not going to impress. Sure, he can stop being a priest. Once he does, the imaginary bonds don't matter any more.

I was once like you

#19 in the list of dishonest debate tactics:

Claiming membership in a group affiliated with audience members: debater claims to be a member of a group that members of the audience are also members of like a religion, ethnic group, veterans group, and so forth; the debater's hope is that the audience members will let their guard down with regard to facts and logic as a result and that they will give their alleged fellow group member the benefit of any doubt or even my-group-can-do-no-wrong immunity

http://www.johntreed.com/debate.html

I was once like you and was told something very profound: "you can't be angry with a God and not believe in him at the same time."

That's moronic, not profound.

God does not exist.

People who believe that evil is good and that false is true, did and do exist.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Oh sure Nerd, I was gonna offer Pete a turnip so he'd get all happy and return to his village. But noooooooooo! You had to mention a burning bush.
It's gonna take a number nine scoop to clean this up. ;o)

Sure, he can stop being a priest. Once he does, the imaginary bonds don't matter any more.

but evidently, in the CoE, one can maintain ones position and title as a priest, and yet shed the imaginary bonds at the same time.

like i said, I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around that one.

How then do you explain the enduring mind? How do you get from the physical brain to our thoughts, emotions, feelings, beliefs, desires, sensations.. How do you explain consciousness and mental phenomena in general?

How does believing in a supernatural being explain it? How is such an "explanation" not merely an argument from ignorance, one that shuts down all possible further understanding?

The one who claimed to create the earth, and humanity, then claimed to destroy nearly all of them in a global flood? The mass-murderer, the deliberate near-omnicide? That God?

I was once like you and was told something very profound: "you can't be angry with a God and not believe in him at the same time."

I note that you didn't actually respond to the original question...

I am a Catholic, although not a particularly ardent one. The God I worship is the God of the Bible.

I was a Catholic as well - most of my life, I'm truly embarrassed to say. I can't believe I bought into the delusion for such a long time. However, the brainwashing ran very deep in my family. To this day, I'm surrounded by "believers". "Yes Virginia, there is a hell. It's living with believers." Thus, I find Pharyngula a welcome sanctuary (despite the occasional troll).

Carl Sagan plated the seeds of doubt in my mind. It was Richard Dawkins who finally opened my eyes for good. It's not the case of one delusion substituting for another. Rather, it's the beauty of rational thought clearing the fog of superstitious nonsense, born in a time when people struggled to explain the physical world.

So Richard, if you are reading this: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!

The God I worship is the God of the Bible.

I did too, until I realized that there was no evidence for one. Look, you can "believe" what you want, but at least try this (can't hurt): Go to the library and check out "The God Delusion" and read it with an open mind. Lightning will not strike you dead. Trust me.

Or if that's too big of a step, try "Climbing Mount Improbable". I'm not trying to convert you. I'm trying to get you to think for yourself and not swallow dogma hook, line, and sinker.

If I could do it so can you.

By anthropicOne (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

#70

Thanks to Hazen et al, (PNAS, vol. 104, 2007, 8574-8581) we now have a method to measure functional information in proteins and, guess what, they are coming out at very significant levels, considerably above what background noise can generate or even genetic algorithms that use a realistic natural fitness function.

Robert Hazen, who describes how ID isn't science here? No, that paper provides zero support for ID.

@ Ichthyic

Thank you for the link. It isn't purely incidental or meaningless. These experiences define us as unique. No other creature exists, or has ever existed, with our power to reason and sacrifice and love. Chance is not an explanation. If a scientist were to develop life through abiogenesis that was capable of reason and love (and become a God in name) in the lab then perhaps you would have an explanation. The best they can do however, is "on the backs of crystals."

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

plated = planted.

Aaaargh!

By anthropicOne (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Clown: Well, we test for intelligence all the time, at least where I grew up.

It zipped right over your head, didn't it Clown? Don't give me a test for intelligence, give me a definition of an intelligent process. How it works - the algorithm. Don't just point your finger in a general direction!

If 140 bits of "functional information" is all that's required, then your "designer" is no more intelligent than a sieve. No, I want a real definition, otherwise all your giving me is apophenia.

You know, a program for an entity that would qualify as your intelligent designer. Then we could actually test whether it's particular pattern of production matches the data. Otherwise, by definition there exists some kind of mind that would produce any pattern you see at all.

That's what we work with, you see, in science. Strict definitions with all entities defined, not just hand-waving about what could possible be. Defining their inter-relations so we can predict. Not just pulling crap out of our orange noses.

Evolution is fact, the rest is magic.

The only reason to include any mention of the magic would be to supply a handout with ways to refute the magician's claims. This could include point by point, concise statements (The fossil record supports....) as well as generalizations. (Any scientific theory must be testable...) Tailoring the handout for the grade and course level would be an effective way to give the science-minded but debate challenged individuals ammunition to defend science on their own.

The magicians certainly do this.

The problem is in reporting (as in the London Times) rather than in the actual text by professor Michael Reiss. Michael Reiss said that in class creationist objections to evolution voiced by the children should should be answered, and not denigrated. The press reporting clearly distorted what he said.
Nothing in any statement by Michael Reiss can be called 'accommodationist'. Reiss did not remotely discuss the topic. The statement by Richard Dawkins above is in the worst possible taste and shows an essential lack of judgement.

I was once like you and was told something very profound: "you can't be angry with a God and not believe in him at the same time."

Who's angry? One doesn't have to be the least bit emotional to characterize your imaginary friend as an utter twat. I'll even smile as I do it. Here you go:
=)

The problem is in reporting (as in the London Times) rather than in the actual text by professor Michael Reiss. Michael Reiss said that in class creationist objections to evolution voiced by the children should be answered, and not denigrated. The press reporting clearly distorted what he said.
Nothing in any statement by Michael Reiss can be called 'accommodationist'. Reiss did not remotely discuss the topic. The statement by Richard Dawkins above is in the worst possible taste and shows an essential lack of judgement.

No other creature exists, or has ever existed, with our power to reason and sacrifice and love.

SANCTIMONIOUS TROLL IS SANCTIMONIOUS

Chance is not an explanation.

No, it's not.

Random variation and selection, though, is.

If a scientist were to develop life through abiogenesis that was capable of reason and love (and become a God in name) in the lab then perhaps you would have an explanation.

Funny how you gush on and on about "reason" and "love" when God does not demonstrate any of those qualities. Or indeed, any qualities at all...

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

If 140 bits of "functional information" is all that's required, then your "designer" is no more intelligent than a sieve.

yeah? so?

:p

a giant colander in the sky...

I'm not sure how I feel about this, if he truly misspoke then he shouldn't have had to resign and should have gotten a chance to rephrase. But maybe they offered him that chance and he refused.

These experiences define us as unique.

then you entirely missed why the term was developed to begin with.

sad.

Seems like a bit of overreaction. Reiss was careless and mischaracterized.

By itself creationism/ID could be considered quaint and humorous, like the flat earth, geocentrism, phlogiston theory, Bigfoot, or that Apollo Helios drags the sun across the sky on a chariot every day.

However, in the USA millions of rabid fanatics believe it and try to use it as a wedge issue to destroy our educational system, science, and society.

With little success so far but if they gain control of the government again, the USA may well go down hard.

The Europeans have seen what happened to us and the other fundie countries--the Moslem ones, and sensibly decided not to go that route. They've already been through the Dark Ages once, and really, some people simply don't want to sit on a pile of rubble, gutting a rat for dinner, while chanting, "Jesus loves us, the earth is 6,000 years old, Noah had a Big Boat".

James #163
Reiss did issue a clarifying statement, quite clear, but the row was too large already, due to misleading press reporting.
This is a quite superfluous row, and not in the interest of science.

@ anthropicOne

Been there done that, and I have the books to prove it. I unlike you started out without God and found Him. I respect, although I regret, your position. I know many people like you who have come full circle find God again, be it the result of a transcendental experience, some type of general awakening or just contemplation. I actually respect most on here more than those who simply refuse to engage with the issue. We must fight going through life half-asleep. It seems criminal to simply shut our eyes and ears and pretend that it doesn't concern us.

"I have a great love and respect for religion, great love and respect for atheism. What I hate is agnosticism, people who do not choose."

Orson Welles

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

The problem is in reporting (as in the London Times) rather than in the actual text by professor Michael Reiss.

The actual text was, at best, vague. Reiss should have known better.

Michael Reiss could argue that he is simply following the standard accommodationist line, and therefore doesn't deserve the censure now being heaped upon him.

I don't think he DID follow the standard accomodationist line... ô_o

#166
Not to mention the other side of the coin. What wonders is our species capable of when we put childish belief behind. When mankind discards faith in the supernatural for trust in reason, I may get my own holodeck!

History should erase all evidence of Albert Einstein's work. After all, he was wrong once.

No other creature exists, or has ever existed, with our power to reason and sacrifice and love.

I have to protest at that. Animals have shown all these traits, and more. Chimps, elephants, rats, to name just three, have been seen to use reason and intelligence to solve problems. Ants regularly sacrifice their individual lives for the sake of the colony. And plenty of animals (particularly mammals) can show all the signs of affection and love, and even mourn for their dead. In short, I can't think of a single human trait that hasn't been seen in some other animal. Laughter, grief, anger, homosexuality even. We're not so special.

@ raven

"Jesus loves us, the earth is 6,000 years old, Noah had a Big Boat".

Intelligent Design is a long, long way from what you've described and that's unfair. Shelley spoke early of the horrors science is capable of and much like this is an inappropriate brush with which to tar all of science and some of the good its done (as would mention of Thomas Midgley be inappropriate) it is inappropriate of you to so link the reasonable with the extreme in such a blasé manner.

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Darth Wader #164:

I have been thinking about becoming a militant atheist, do we get issued the guns, or get a voucher or what?

You might get issued with a cyberpistol here, if you're lucky.

Darth Wader #164:

I have been thinking about becoming a militant atheist, do we get issued the guns, or get a voucher or what?

You might get issued with a cyberpistol here, if you're lucky.

"No other creature exists, or has ever existed, with our power to reason and sacrifice and love."

This sentence implies that you are everywhere and have always existed - otherwise you would not be able to have such knowledge. I guess, then, based upon the definitions I keep hearing, that YOU are this God you keep mentioning?

I feel decidedly underdressed, suddenly. Um, praise be?

By bernard quatermass (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

#174
Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. It has no explanatory, or predictive properties. There is no evidence (regardless of what the clown thinks) of it.
ID is an intellectual dead end.
Science is not capable of horrors. Man is though, when he abuses science.

Apologies for the double post; I got a message saying "Push 'Post' twice and win a free trip to NY!" so I figured, "what the hell?".

Cheater.

#174

ID is part of the creationist pseudoscience movement, perhaps the most dishonest and pernicious version because it only exists to place antievolution material into public school science classes - it certainly has no validity as science. I refer you to the opinions of a few Catholics who have spoken out against ID: Prof. Ken Miller of Brown University, Director Emeritus of the Vatican Observatory Prof. George Coyne, and Templeton Prize winner Prof. Michał Heller (the last two happen to be priests).

No Pete. You don't get by with that.
You said you believe in the gawd of the Bible. Either stick with it or take your nice turnip and return to the dung heap.

Yeah, Dawkins didn't backtrack far enough there. Suggesting that Reiss resign his Orders? What the hell? Is the goal to make the Royal Society an atheism-required organization? This is no different than the bad old days when things like the Royal Society were theism-required organizations.

And if the Royal Society gets public money, and I imagine it gets a lot of it, then there is a further what-the-hell factor. If you are going to complain about the fact that the Church of England is government-sponsored (a legitimate thing to complain about, at least if you believe in the disestablishment of religion), then you can't very well go around the corner and suggest imposing a religious test for another government-sponsored institution.

All you folks who go around bashing the nasty "accommodationists" had better ask yourselves what you really want instead. Accommodationists just want good science taught, and want the government to be neutral on religion. But that doesn't seem to be enough for some of you. Government *intolerance* of religion seems to be your goal. Do you really want to go there?

If not, you're an accommodationist too, so shut up and stop bashing us.

Cheers,
Nick

By Nick Matzke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Intelligent Design is a long, long way from what you've described and that's unfair

Absolutely, a horrid comparison. The naive creationism above is the pure ignorance of the gullible rube. ID, on the other hand, is deliberate pseudoscientific posturing gauged to convince the scientifically illiterate that evolution is "only a theory", rather than a well supported scientific theory.

ID and the cdesign proponetsists are MUCH WORSE than plain old vanilla creationism/ists, as they use deceit and the implication of scientific inquiry to support the ignorance of the already converted and to act as a wedge to push unfounded religiously derived bullshit into the school system.

By Epinephrine (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Pete Rooke @168,

unlike you started out without God and found Him.

So where was he? Do you have pictures up on Flickr? I looked under the couch, under the bed, behind the TV, and he wasn't there. Where's the evidence?

Seriously, why did you choose to abdicate reason, apart from the fact that you don't understand anything how evolution by natural selection works (based on your completely naive posts above)?

Oh wait! It's all about "belief", isn't it. Well, in that case I believe there are exactly 2,357 angels on the head of an average pin. Oh, and tooth faeries really do leave money under your pillow at night. And gravity is ONLY a theory; We can simply wish to fly and up, up and away we go - just like Peter Pan.

By anthropicOne (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

"Last call, Sinbad. Straighten up from your twisty, scurvy course, or I'll smack you right out of here."

It's your "house," Peezy. You can ban and censor to your heart's content.

"You are playing a game of shallow sophistry. You insult people here, then you get all snooty and pretend that your insults are warranted, but everyone else can't back up their opinion of you."

Actually, I merely showed how and why various readers' and journalists' reading comprehension skills failed them in relation to Reiss, who in no way advocated "teaching the controversy." If you think I'm wrong, simply produce the goods.

"Liar. This thread right here is a wonderful example of your sleazy, trolling tactics, and it's typical behavior by you. You're a freaking godbot, yet you complain that no one else has a logical or evidential leg to stand on: your whole life is built on a lie, and your only defense seems to be to pretend that everyone else's premises are as bogus as yours."

Liar backatcha. If you think the Reiss attack squad represented him fairly you need simply point out how. I recognize that everything I say is suspect to you because I'm a "freaking godbot" and thus irrational, delusional, mentally ill, yadda, yadda, yadda, but I'm no post-modernist. My general view is that we are all much less rational than we tend to think (as readily demonstrated by the research). That is not to say that no premises are sound and that no viewpoints are warranted to the exclusion of others. For example, I think that the arguments for evolution are sound.

"And every time you post here you pull this same annoying stunt of pretending you are so far above the fray...when everyone can see that you're a fraud."

Res ipsa loquitar.

The problem is with your dogma -- the idea that every religionist (each a member of the unwashed masses) is necessarily either a dupe or a fraud. You can't support the claim, of course, but you sure seem to enjoy wallowing in it.

"It is getting very tiresome and very predictable, and as I warn on the dungeon page, the greatest peril to the posting privileges of one of your kind comes from boring me."

It's your "house," Peezy. You can ban and censor to your heart's content. Let the cleansing of "our kind" commence on your command.

And gravity is ONLY a theory; We can simply wish to fly and up, up and away we go - just like Peter Pan.

No, everyone knows that the secret of flying is to throw yourself at the ground and deliberately miss.

Dear Pete Rooke #131: Judge not lest ye be judged, my friend.

Though granted what you have done with me is not that egregious.

I am not an evolutionist. I hold to the opinion that there is no such thing as evolutionist, and that the term is an insult invented by creationists. There are only those who acknowledge reality, and those who don't.

I reason I chose this handle is purely because I think lancets look pretty, and I like the sound of three-syllable words that begin with "a". No other reasons. I do not even know particularly much about them, certainly not to the degree of many others who post here.

I most certainly do not think that "matter" is all there is. There is also energy, and time, and space, and the things which are combinations of these, including thoughts and feelings. Ethics and morals are subsets of thoughts.

Accommodationists just want good science taught, and want the government to be neutral on religion. But that doesn't seem to be enough for some of you. Government *intolerance* of religion seems to be your goal. Do you really want to go there?

Yeah, I want to go there. I want it to be illegal to raise a child to hate another group, especially because of some 2000 year old scribblings. I want every child to have the ability and right to have appropriate medical care, not to have it denied because of some bizarre interpretation of a "holy" text. I want mythology of all sorts, whether the stories of the ancient Greeks or the bible to be viewed as exactly that - stories. I want nobody to be satisfied with answers like "it was God's will", as that's simply a non-answer.

By Epinephrine (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

"You can't be angry with a God and not believe in him at the same time."

This is sanctimonious sentiment that is only superficially correct as for one to rail against the heavens one must believe their is someone up there listening. The real problem is that with this statement Mr. Rooke shows that he has missed the point entirely. Atheists are not prodigal sons (or daughters) who are going through a spat with the almighty. For us God is a non-entity. Our frustration stems from watching billions of people spending untold amounts of time, money and energy that could be invested in bettering there understanding of the world and humanity with it wasted prostrating themselves before something that simply is not there.

To test for intelligence, all we need to do is to decide what constitutes a 'significant' level of functional information.

Wrong. That way you could distinguish random from intelligence, as well as random from evolution, but you couldn't distinguish intelligence from evolution.

After all, it is entirely possible to generate a very low level of information accidentally within the background noise of any system. So 'significant' should be high enough such that it does not yield any false positives. It is not difficult to calculate what that significant level is for a given physical system. For biological life, given 4 billion years, a fast mutation rate, a fast replication rate, and about 10exp30 life forms, 140 bits of functional information is a generous upper limit.

But don't you notice that you assume random instead of evolution here? Evolution is not random. Yes, mutation is random, but selection is not, selection is determined by the environment.

Why do you come in here without understanding the uttermost basics and pretend you could teach us something?

The rest of your "argument" is just as pathetic. You believe there's an upper amount of information that can evolve? So you don't even know gene duplication exists?

You should get out less and spend more time reading.

--------------------------------

Rev. Dawkins, who is essentially a demigod to the craven, has no evidence. That is diff. to saying there is no evidence - look around you to see the evidence (with your eyes in all their complexity),

You know, you have just majorly embarrassed yourself. Darwin explained how eyes can evolve in 1859, and you still haven't got it. Just look it up. Google is your friend, and Wikipedia is usually a great first start.

Evolution can also explain a few things that intelligent design cannot. For example, why are our eyes inside-out (the light has to pass through the layer of nerves and blood vessels and then through the whole length of the light-sensitive cells to be absorbed at their far ends), with consequences such as the blind spot? There's no physical necessity for that: cephalopod eyes are the right way around, for example. Or why do our eyes start, in the embryo, as one eye in the middle that then splits (with very few exceptions -- there's a photo of a cat online where that hasn't happened)? Or why are the color-sensitive molecules that are most sensitive in the green and the yellowish part of the spectrum, respectively, so similar, while the one most sensitive in the blue part is so wildly different? Or why do the cells that measure the light level for purposes of the day/night rhythm have a completely different architecture and light receptor than the cells we use for seeing? Or why don't our eyes correct for chromatic aberration -- except in the laughably crude way of having almost no blue-receptors? Lenses that correct for chromatic aberration were invented hundreds of years ago, yet that's not what we have in our eyes.

watch your child grow up,

You can't appreciate half of that if you don't know any development biology. That's where the fascination really starts. Did you know, for instance, that turtles... sort of... don't suppress limb formation between the fore- and hindlimbs, and the resulting ridge catches the tips of the growing ribs, leading them to grow above the shoulder and hip girdles and forming the shell on the back? Isn't that amazing?

watch the sunrise,

Take a lightbulb and a prism. Gaze in wonderment. You will understand why sunrises are beautiful. Simple, utterly simple, crushingly simple -- and beautiful.

and celebrate life in the presence of God.

Evidence for said presence, please.

And if you're a Catholic, why do you talk about evidence? I grew up Catholic and had religion lessons at school. The teacher told us that a god who could be proven would be pathetic. Do you understand why?

Also, have you noticed that John Paul II acknowledged evolution as the explanation for the origin of the human body in a very public action?

The best they can do however, is "on the backs of crystals."

If that were a bad explanation, how would you find that out?

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Holy shit, there's something huge in the water! Run away!

Pete #174: If your reference to Shelley is to Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, then I must disagree with your interpretation of that piece of literature.

The process in which the monster is created is described with celebratory language, and the motivation for the creation was benign. The monster began innocent and innately good, only its outward appearance was horrific. I see no condemnation of the "horrors" of science there.

The tragedy unfolds not because Dr. Frankenstein makes the monster, but because, after making it, he cannot accept its imperfect nature, and abandons it, failing in his duty to care for, nurture, and teach the intelligent being he has brought into being.

If there is any moral to the tale at all, it is a condemnation of the type of god which deist thinkers had proposed in the preceding century, the deity that creates and then abandons/ignores its creation. (This is, incidentally, of all the deities ever conceived by human minds, the only kind whose existence would be consistent with all the available evidence.)

Won't we atheistic sciencemongers feel foolish when CERN reveals that the fundamental building blocks of matter are well-nigh innumerable tiny Christs, all speaking in chipmunk-like high-pitched voices.

amphiox: I agree. Pete misses the point that matter, energy, time, space and their actions are more than enough to make us. We are, in a sense, what the universe "does" (among many other things,) just as our "minds" are what our brains do. Knowing that makes us no less wonderful...if anything, more so. Unweaving the Rainbow was Dawkins' stab at that one.

My own is a bit clumsier, but here goes: I promise you that knowing every minute detail of the parts, assembly and functioning of a Boxster will not make me want one any less, or diminish my enjoyment of driving it. I recently heard someone (Dennet, possibly?) say this far more eloquently, but alas, I can't remember the exact quote.

I think there are a LOT of Petes out there, and it's going to be very interesting to watch what happens as human neuroscience flowers in the coming years. I think the efforts to stifle it will dwarf those on stem cells.

@ amphiox

True, although perhaps it's not the perfect scientist who creates and abandons the monster (or like Midgley invents CFCs) but the imperfect one. And perhaps it is also the imperfect religionist who claps their hands to a literal belief in an ark and crashes planes into buildings.

As to the deist God, a response would simply be why? Why create and abandon (assuming he is God and is capable of the three O's).

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

re: #190
So long as there are people who believe in the idea of "God" and act in its name, and these acts have real world, measurable effects, then the idea of "God" most certainly can be said to be real. And inasmuch as so many of these real world effects are so damnably destructive to any reasonable notion of simple human decency, then yes, it is perfectly acceptable and reasonable to be angry with the idea of "God", and the people professing these beliefs, aiding and abetting the negative consequences, while also not believing in the existence of a "God".

Pete #197:
Why indeed? How could we know? An intelligent and presumably all powerful entity could chose to do whatever it wanted, take however long or short to do it, and make it look like whatever it wanted in the end. If some deity chose to create a universe than subsequently developed solely on natural laws, obviating any need for it to intervene again, we could never know, and by definition, could never know. It's existence or non-existence becomes a question beyond the realm of science, but also one that is practically irrelevant.

But if there exists a deity that does in fact intervene, and if those interventions have effects on natural portions of the creation, then those effects can be measurable. If there exists then some source (such as a holy book) claiming to be an accurate description of the deity's interventions in the world, then the claims of that book can be investigated. They are within the purview of science, as specific claims, and can be falsified. The existence or non-existence of the specific deity as described by the specific holy book is then a question fully within the purview of science.

The Abrahamic deity, as described in the holy books of all three Abrahamic religions, is thus open to scientific inquiry, and has been soundly falsified.

RE: 198

Yes, I agree with you and thank you for stating what was essentially my point, only more clearly. Atheists are not angry at a god(s) they are angry at the fact that people insist on believing in gods and the horrendous calamities that this insistence brings about.

"You can't be angry with a God and not believe in him at the same time."

Can I be annoyed with Jar Jar Binks without believing in him?

Pete Rooke - In #121 you state "The God I worship is the God of the Bible." Are you backing down from that god now?

Colugo #195:
I suspect it wouldn't be so bad if such a "Jesus-particle" were actually found.

It would mean that "god" is measurable. Instantly, by definition, "god" would cease to be supernatural but instead be proven to be fully natural. "God" would then become the purview of science. A fruitful line of scientific inquiry into the properties and real-world effects of "god" would instantly be born. Big grants and nobel prizes would follow. Religion would be rendered instantaneously obsolete. Science would take over both of Gould's magisteria (if it has already not done so).

That could only be a good thing. And why should any atheist have any problem accepting the existence of a wholly natural, scientifically proven entity?

(And if it should turn out that "god" possesses some form of recognizable, communicable intelligence, then such a CERN result would open up the possibility that we could "talk" to "god" directly and possibly get answers from it, instead of relying on middle-men of questionable motive.)

Both read the Bible day and night, But thou read'st black where I read white

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

#203

The LHC is Deep Thought?

Well, I think the whole thing stinks. This borders on a witch-hunt and the words and actions of those scientists who brought this about are a disgrace to the profession.

Professor Reiss was guilty of nothing more than recommending that teachers should discuss students' religious objections to evolution in an open and courteous manner. He did NOT say that they should be taught to other students. He did NOT say that they should form part of the science curriculum. He said they should do what scientists are supposed to do, talk about subjects honestly, openly and rationally.

As for his being an ordained minister of the Church of England if any of the scientists who have condemned him for this have a SHRED of evidence that he allowed his faith to interfere with his science then put it forward for us all to see and I, for one, will admit you have a case. If not, if there is no such evidence - and I understand scientists are supposed to place great store by evidence - then it is nothing more than ad hominem, a nasty little smear.

And on this question of respect, no one is saying you have to respect creationism as a belief but you do have to respect the right of others to believe it. If someone treats me with common courtesy then I will be more than happy to do the same to them. If, on the other hand, someone comes after me like some kind of intellectual bully or thug then - whether it is coming from creationist or atheist, keyboard yahoo or professional scientist, knobhead or Nobel-prizewinner - I am going to respond in kind.

I had hoped that there would be those in such an august body as the Royal Society who would have the backbone to stand by their man and stand up for the principles of honesty, integrity, freedom of speech and thought, reason and free and open inquiry conducted without fear and favour which underpin the scientific enterprise. Sadly, I was wrong. Both the Royal Society and science itself have been diminished by this sorry and mean-spirited little episode.

By Ian H Spedding FCD (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

And there you go again, Sinbad, pulling the same stunt you're accusing others of.

The problem is with your dogma -- the idea that every religionist (each a member of the unwashed masses) is necessarily either a dupe or a fraud.

Wrong, and irrelevant. I was addressing YOUR behavior. Perhaps you have mistaken yourself for every other Christian on the planet (or, at least, Jesus), but I wasn't talking about them -- only your hypocrisy and trolling.

You're done. I recommend you find some jebusblog where you'll fit right in. After all, you've noted that you're all dupes and frauds.

#204 - Ahhhh, As a dog returneth to it's vomit, so doth a fool to his folly.

Posted by: Colugo | September 16, 2008 5:58 PM

Won't we atheistic sciencemongers feel foolish when CERN reveals that the fundamental building blocks of matter are well-nigh innumerable tiny Christs, all speaking in chipmunk-like high-pitched voices.

ROFL! :D

Nominated for post of the month.

By Arbutus_bark (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

"Both read the Bible day and night, But thou read'st black where I read white"

A book is man's best friend outside of a dog. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read.

Can I be annoyed with Jar Jar Binks without believing in him?

Jar Jar Binks is real, I've seen him on a movie. I wish both the movie and Jar Jar didn't exist, but we've got George Lucas to thank for that abortion. The Downs baby rule should have applied to episode 1

Ian @206,

Science teachers should not have waste one nanosecond debating anything about creationism. It simply IS NOT SCIENCE. The only thing a teacher should focus on in science class is teaching science.

If there is a conflict with the student's holy book, then too damn bad. Science is what it is.

By anthropicOne (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Ichthyic #129 wrote:

seriously, though, this concept of atheist priest is hard for me to wrap my head around.

Since the definitions of "God" go all over the place -- and include vague and nebulous ones like "Ground of All Being" and "symbol of mystery" -- it's not hard to come up with atheistic priests and even atheistic theists. It's just rarer for them to call themselves "atheist." Usually, like Bishop Spong, they'll claim they only reject the theistic kind of God -- or a small God, or an anthropomorphic God, or whatever. God, they love.

I suspect Daniel Dennett would say that they don't believe in God, but they do believe in belief in God. That's what they love. They love being believers.

One Anglican bishop defined God as "the sum of the finest human values, such as love, justice, joy and peace." From what I can tell, that's atheism, dressed up in sacred rhetoric.

They don't much seem to mind dressing up atheism -- as long as they get to keep calling it "God." And then religion gets to be dressed down into "whatever inspires us to the highest we can achieve."

"I think we all believe in the same God, but assign different characteristics and see different facets." (Bishop John Shelby Spong)

Uh huh. With that sort of precision and clarity, I think you can kid yourself into being an atheist priest.

Damn you David Marjanović, you said most of what I was going to say and worse yet you did it better! Bounder!

look around you to see the evidence (with your eyes in all their complexity)

I guess I'll just point out that the 'design' of the human eye is a wonderful counter-example to the idea of 'intelligent design' since it is such a lousy design. It loses focussing range in a laughably short period (at least, mine have and I'm the only one that matters), it doesn't handle a wide enough range of lighting conditions, bits of it fall off and cause clouding of sight, pupil expansion reactions are autonomous and give you away when you need to not allow people to see if you're fascinated or scared, it can't detect polarisation information, can't even cover an octave of frequency (running merely from ~400 to ~700 nm and thus we can't see an important range that causes us damage) and is generally a pretty crappy instument. Great Ghu, there is a damn *shrimp* that gets better eyes than us!

Anyone thinking that such a poor instrument is any sort of evidence - let alone conclusive proof - of any sort of intelligent design is clearly not capable of understanding good design. Why, they'd have to be some sort of biologist rather than a properly trained engineer! ;-)

By tim Rowledge (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Just as "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion," then the Director of Education for the Royal Society must look like he's promoting science, not religion pretending to be science. I've no doubt that Professor Reiss didn't intend to promote teaching of ID and creationism. However, his comments were so poorly worded that it appeared he was recommending teaching ID and creationism. What made it worse was that his "clarifying" comments didn't clarify, but rather enhanced the view that Reiss was endorsing creationism and ID teaching.

Quite frankly, his departure from the Royal Society's education directorate is quite reasonable. If he cannot express himself clearly and concisely, then he should not be making recommendations on behalf of any organization. I just hope, for the sake of his students, that Professor Reiss is a better teacher than his public comments might imply.

I always wonder what would happen to a science teacher truly addressing the controversy. As in starting the lesson with the relevant lines of Genesis, followed by a thorough scientific explanation on why it's wrong. The churches would have a communal apoplexy.

The press reporting clearly distorted what he said. Nothing in any statement by Michael Reiss can be called 'accommodationist'.

Bullocks. Did you read his submission for his speech? Did you listen to his speech? It's all up linked from RichardDawkins.net. Go see for yourself. The very title of his lecture was something like "Does creationism belong in the science curriculum." At no point did he firmly say "No, it does not, but teachers should handle this topic this way when students bring it up..." Even when his first statements were "misconstrued" and he had a chance to say unequivocally "No, creationism does not belong on the curriculum..." he did not say it. He still chose to muddy the waters and talk about irrational beliefs as "alternate world views" that demand as much respect as science and reason. He couched it in terms of "respecting students" but he clearly was - as Prof. Dawkins said - too accomodating of the ten per cent of british schoolchildren brainwashed by their parents into believing hogwash.

By Arbutus_bark (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

For all that I admire and support Dawkins' work, it is painfully obvious that he spends no time "in the trenches". I teach in a moderately rural part of NC, and to take a hard line of "that's ignorant and stupid" is simply not practical and is counter-productive. I agree that efforts should be made to ensure that this contagion should not appear on school boards and the like, but to be effective, I have to be able to deal with creationist issues in class in a rational and (yes) respectful manner. Otherwise I won't be there for long, and in the end, isn't it more productive that I remain in place and play the (restrained) agitator? It is all well and good that those in academe can take the extreme view when there is little professional threat (and, c'mon, you know this is true), but down here in the mud, we HAVE to take a "accomadationist" stance, if we're to do any good.

Sorry for multiple postings: I thought I should provide you with a link. these are his own words:

Science lessons should tackle creationism and intelligent design
Teachers need to accommodate the differing world views of students from Jewish, Christian or Muslim backgrounds - which means openly discussing creationism and intelligent design as alternatives to evolutionary theory.

Read the whole sorry mess here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2008/sep/11/michael.reiss.creati…

By Arbutus_bark (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

tim Rowledge: That reminds me of the Red Dwarf episode where Kryten (the android) gets turned into a human being, and immediately starts complaining.

Lister: Any problems?
Kryten: Well, just one or two. In fact I've compiled a little list if you'll indulge me. Now then, uh, my optical system doesn't appear to have a zoom function.
Lister: No, human eyes don't have a zoom.
Kryten: Well then, how do you bring a small object into sharp focus?
Lister: Well, you just move your head closer to the object.
Kryten: I see. Move your head ... closer, hmm, to the object. All right, okay. Well, what about other optical effects, like split screen, slow motion, Quantel(tm)?
Lister: No. We don't have them.

Here's the full text.

Nick Matzke #183 wrote:

All you folks who go around bashing the nasty "accommodationists" had better ask yourselves what you really want instead. Accommodationists just want good science taught, and want the government to be neutral on religion. But that doesn't seem to be enough for some of you. Government *intolerance* of religion seems to be your goal. Do you really want to go there?

I think the big problem from our perspective is that the government does indeed have to be neutral on religion -- but, technically, science is not neutral on religion. Its theories have implications which cut against the existence of God.

So there is a rock and a hard place. If government-funded public schools are to stay out of the atheism/theism debate, then they can't allow its science classes to address the existence of God. But if they justify staying out of the debate by teaching that there is NO conflict between science and religion, then they're not really staying out of the atheism/theism debate. They're taking the theological position that 'science can say nothing about the existence of God.'

And that's a theological position which argues against an atheism grounded in the discoveries of modern science.

So no, I do not want government intolerance of religion as such. As I said above, I don't think Prof. Reiss should have resigned, and I do think the RS should have stood behind him. His being a priest was irrelevant, because he kept his theology away from his science.

But science really can't keep away from theology. You can shove it under the rug, and refuse to bring up the implications of what's entailed with a universe which turns out to be bottom-up instead of top-down. But you can't make it come up with another result, or insist that there's nothing to see.

It's a problem.

Brown - from what experience and knowledge of Richard Dawkins are you speaking?
First of all, Prof Dawkins and Rev Reiss are in the UK, not the U.S. Things are different there.
Secondly - go to richarddawkins.net and watch any one of his TV series. Start with Genius of Darwin. Work backwards. He never shies away from speaking with the most virulent theists. In the latest series he goes into a science class and takes on their magical beliefs: firmly, unaccomodating and with the utmost respect for the students as human beings. I wish I'd had him as a science teacher in high school.

By Arbutus_bark (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Science teachers should not have waste one nanosecond debating anything about creationism. It simply IS NOT SCIENCE. The only thing a teacher should focus on in science class is teaching science.

No, but simply because it isn't science doesn't invalidate it, per se. Religion does however, invalidate, if true, much of cosmology/biology.

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

"Creationism can profitably be seen not as a simple misconception that careful science teaching can correct. Rather, a student who believes in creationism has a non-scientific way of seeing the world, and one very rarely changes one's world view as a result of a 50-minute lesson, however well taught."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2008/sep/11/michael.reiss.creati…

I'm glad he resigned. He's basically taking the position that students cannot be taught to see the world differently! He seems to believe that teachers cannot help kids to unlearn the idiotic beliefs they get from their homes and the community. For shame!

He's giving up on what education is all about - leading kids out of themselves to embrace more intelligent, more learned perspectives on the world.

I trust that most kids go to school to learn and be challenged, not to have their preconceptions confirmed or validated by their teachers, and certainly not to listen to a bunch of creationist whiners complain about what they are being taught in science class.

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Peter Rooke, do you have any physical evidence for you god that will stand up to scrutiny of scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers? If no, you sir, are a liar a bullshitter. Time to go home.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

No, but simply because it isn't science doesn't invalidate it, per se. Religion does however, invalidate, if true, much of cosmology/biology.

Huh?

The fact that the 7 day creation isn't scientifically viable doesn't invalidate it?

bollocks

Religion does however, invalidate, if true, much of cosmology/biology.

Good thing cosmology and biology have the evidence on their side then.

...to take a hard line of "that's ignorant and stupid" is simply not practical and is counter-productive.

Well, I remember back in my RC primary school being lectured all about the Virgin Mary by the teacher (who was also a nun), and me being a totally naive 9 year old innocently putting my hand up and asking "Please miss, what's a virgin?"

The result? I was whacked round the head, told I was an "ignorant stupid filthy child" or words to that effect, and promptly sent to the headmaster for a caning.

So, yes I agree with you, it was totally 100% counter-productive, seeing how that incident marked the start of my inevitable slide into atheism.

Somehow though, that wasn't the conclusion I was initially aiming for in this post...

All you folks who go around bashing the nasty "accommodationists" had better ask yourselves what you really want instead.

We want to continue having a public discussion about what we perceive as a conflict between science and religion.

Accommodationists just want good science taught, and want the government to be neutral on religion. But that doesn't seem to be enough for some of you. Government *intolerance* of religion seems to be your goal. Do you really want to go there?

If not, you're an accommodationist too, so shut up and stop bashing us.

Don't be silly. There are plenty of positions on religion one can have in *addition* to supporting good science education and secularism. It's a slippery slope argument that they all amount to "government intolerance of religion". Do you think the RS is lead by some sort of atheist cabal?

By windy, OM (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

If 140 bits of "functional information" is all that's required, then your "designer" is no more intelligent than a sieve.

If this statement was offered as a critique of evolution, it would be insipid. The 'designer' of evolution doesn't NEED to be more intelligent than a sieve, since the 'sieve' is interactive, dynamic and continuous.

Conversely, if this statement was a riposte aimed at some ID enthusiast, it may not be insipid, but it certainly is ironic.

"I have a great love and respect for religion, great love and respect for atheism. What I hate is agnosticism, people who do not choose."

Orson Welles

Methinks you should do some research into what kinds of agnostics there are. For example, "I don't know, and you don't know either -- you only believe" is a pretty strong claim, don't you think? And what about "unknown and unknowable"? What about, even, about "I don't know, and I don't care"?

That said, because these people do not believe, they are atheists by the definition that is most popular here on Pharyngula.

Can I be annoyed with Jar Jar Binks without believing in him?

Very good point.

Jar Jar Binks is real, I've seen him on a movie. I wish both the movie and Jar Jar didn't exist

Even better point! LOL! :-D

Perhaps you have mistaken yourself for every other Christian on the planet (or, at least, Jesus)

:-D

Great Ghu, there is a damn *shrimp* that gets better eyes than us!

Eleven color receptors, for example. Not merely three. Are you familiar with the Discworld novels? The eighth colour octarine? That is nothing, folks. Nothing compared to what a mantis shrimp sees.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Peter Rooke, do you have any physical evidence for you god that will stand up to scrutiny of scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers? If no, you sir, are a liar a b*******. Time to go home.

Please call me Pete. This is a serious question: do I need physical evidence? Surely non-physical evidence would suffice. As a Cartesian dualist I am of the opinion that the soul is the mental phenomenon that makes us human (and who we are). I am home.

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

This is a serious question: do I need physical evidence? Surely non-physical evidence would suffice. As a Cartesian dualist I am of the opinion that the soul is the mental phenomenon that makes us human

Let me paraphrase yourself: how do you get from the non-physical soul to our thoughts, emotions, feelings, beliefs, desires, sensations..?

By windy, OM (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Let me paraphrase yourself: how do you get from the non-physical soul to our thoughts, emotions, feelings, beliefs, desires, sensations..?

Am I repeating myself? I do that sometimes, sorry.

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Pete, you are posting at a scientific site. Do you have any physical evidence as science requires? If you don't, you are sputtering nonsense. Time to go home.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Not sure I understand your point there, Pete. What's non-physical evidence? You suggest religion could invalidate much of known science, but how might it do so other than through the scientific method?

"The primary distinction between mindless processes and intelligence is the ability to produce significant levels of functional information." - TheClown

Says who? Hazen's research uses "functional information" to measure complexity, not intelligence. If you're saying that intelligence = ( any complexity > arbitrary boundary) - which I suppose is as good a definition as any - the most intelligent system in the universe is the system whose complexity exceeds all others... aka. the universe itself. Your definition doesn't lead to your thesis of an intelligent creator, or that the theory of evolution is wrong, but to the conclusion that the universe itself is an ultimate intelligence to whom we are but dumb agents.

As a fringe benefit, if intelligence = ( any complexity > arbitrary boundary) then an intelligent designer is impossible. If intelligence emerges from complexity, one first needs complexity from which intelligence can emerge, rather than an intelligence to create complexity. Congratulations on answering the chicken and the egg problem (it's the egg... just in case anyone is wondering).

"I feel that creationism is best seen by science teachers not as a misconception but as a world view."
The point Reiss was trying to make, I think, is that for kids steeped in Creationism, the science class is too much of a shock, and they aren't ready to deal with it.

Reiss may not be advocating teaching Creationism, but he is advocating not confronting students when their beliefs contradict reality. His reasoning is that students become defensive, which is reasonable. But the problem is not the fault of the science teacher, it is that the student is coming into a class totally unprepared to accept teaching about facts.

To improve science education, it is important to get the word out to the community that it is NOT OK to undermine science education by telling lies to children, to the point where these kids can't even be reached by a science teacher teaching the plain facts.

Religions are part of society, and need to take some responsibility for this child abuse. I used to think that this term was excessive, but it really isn't. Would science teachers be expected to respect the world view of someone who believed the earth is flat, or that the world is made of four elements, water, fire earth and air? Of course not. Our knowledge is better than that, and nobody has the right to damage the prospects of the children replacing truth with nonsense.

Please call me Pete.

Can we call you Pistol Pete?

Azdak #180: I didn't understand your post until I read just now about the "Win a trip to New York" thing. To be honest I couldn't care less about that; if I win I'll happily hand over the prize to someone else. New York isn't on my must-see list.

New Zealand however, that's different...

atheistic theists

shakes head.

logic malfunction.

Oh what a brave new world...

@rrt

For example, a transcendental experience phenomenologically experienced.

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

This borders on a witch-hunt

It does?

how?

because he now has a full time position teaching science education?

*sigh*

For example, a transcendental experience phenomenologically experienced.

Or a phenomenological experience transcendentally experienced. Either way. Really doesn't matter.

For example, a transcendental experience phenomenologically experienced.

something tells me Pistol Pete has misread too much Carl Jung.

Could you translate that, Pete? No offense, but is that a fancy way of saying "warm fuzzies and voices in my head?"

No, but simply because it isn't science doesn't invalidate it, per se.

that's why you've got churches to preach to teh sheep there, pistol pete.

now that you've agreed that religion isn't science, doesn't belong there, and shouldn't be addressed there, why don't you run along to afore mentioned church where you can spew your inanities all day long and nobody will be the wiser.

As a Cartesian dualist I am of the opinion that the soul is the mental phenomenon that makes us human (and who we are)

So you've come up with your own definition of a soul, which differs from what the Catholic church teaches. You made it up. How convenient. This is an example why religion is a bunch of nonsense. Everyone makes stuff up to suit the moment. And each religion springs up from some other "belief" and changes to what's convenient at the time an place. So we have:

Soul as the ghost in the machine.
Soul as energy.
Soul as love.
Soul as yada yada yada.

Pathetic.

News Flash: We are who we are because we have a highly evolved brain. Mind = brain. Animals have brains too and can solve problems. Chimps, crows, etc.

There is no other self looking out from inside, waiting to die in order to live like some sort of spiritual spare tire. There is no such thing as a soul. If you say there is, prove it. And "belief" or the mumblings of some ancient book are not proof. Evidence is. Data. Facts. Reproducibility.

And guess what: Your consciousness will cease to exist once your body ceases to function, because there is nothing left to do the thinking. No cerebral cortex. "You" will be as you were 120 years ago. Nothingness.

By anthropicOne (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Yeah Pete, I saw gawd too. BFD.

"warm fuzzies and voices in my head?"

Would language ever do justice to said experience and would it really be transcendental if it could? The experience I'm thinking of might leave you with an overwhelming presence of God. Such an experience could clearly not be described coherently or meaningfully.. For now we see through a glass, darkly

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

a transcendental experience phenomenologically experienced.

IE, a "dream". Or a "hallucination". Or a "drug trip"

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

more @ Ian:

Professor Reiss was guilty of nothing more than recommending that teachers should discuss students' religious objections to evolution in an open and courteous manner.

wasting class time on nonsense is just that: wasting time. fine for outside of class extra curricular activities.

He did NOT say that they should be taught to other students.

Defacto, taking the time to flesh out the inanities in class means he is taking time away from those who already know better. I think there are remedial courses to address the concerns of the grossly ignorant, yes?

He did NOT say that they should form part of the science curriculum.

but again, it would take a significant chunk OF the science curriculum to address all creationist concerns. If nothing else, you should at least realize by now that it takes 5 pages of well-reasoned text to dismiss a single line of creationist inanity at times. If not, suggest you read some of the analyses of Jonathan Wells' books on Pharyngula. How many pages did PZ spend having to explain exactly why Wells' was incorrect in both his interpretation and usage of Haeckel?

He said they should do what scientists are supposed to do, talk about subjects honestly, openly and rationally.

subjects IN science, not OUTSIDE of it. therein lies the problem. As a history teacher, how much time would you spend trying to debunk the holocaust deniers in your classroom? how much "respect" do you really think that position deserves, and how appropriate is it as a subject for history class when there really is all of history to cover within a secondary educational course on history?

I've already agreed with those who think this might have been "better" handled, at least on paper, but you have failed to address the real criticisms of his argument, which are hardly new.

IE, a "dream". Or a "hallucination". Or a "drug trip"

Lucy in the sky, with diamonds...

The experience I'm thinking of might leave you with an overwhelming presence of God. Such an experience could clearly not be described coherently or meaningfully.

They have medications for that. Please find help.

By anthropicOne (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Looks like someone needs to visit NeuroLogica.

They have medications for that.

yeah, we were just mentioning that...

OH, you mean medications to CURE delusions.

sorry.

:p

Would language ever do justice to said experience and would it really be transcendental if it could? The experience I'm thinking of might leave you with an overwhelming presence of God. Such an experience could clearly not be described coherently or meaningfully..

Kind of like a dream. Or a hallucination. Or a drug trip. Oh, or maybe a seizure.

"It was, like whoa! And I felt God. And I rode a unicorn. And then I turned into a tree, and then my arms got really, really, long. And there were these colors, like you wouldn't believe. Dude, I can't explain it."

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Pistol Pete sounds eerily like a Roman Catholic version of a slightly wacko new-age woo-woo friend I have, although my friend's ramblings tend toward the post-modernist. I wouldn't worry though, I went from Cartesian dualist to feminist pomo to Anglican Spong-ite to rational athiest. My mind - you could say - evolved. Intelligently.

By Arbutus_bark (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

For now we see through a glass, darkly

or a glass onion, right Pistol Pete?

Pete doesn't need to take medication, he needs to stop!

seriously Pete, lay off the acid.

Dude, I can't explain it.

and, I mean, like, have you ever really LOOKED at the back of your hand, man?

And a desire for greasy cheesburgers and aspirin the next day.

ROFLMAO

As others have pointed out, Pete, that's nice, but it's a very human, biological capacity to have experiences of that sort. Lots of people have them, with and without the aid of drugs, neurosurgery or religion. Why should we grant an exception to an emotional experience just because it happens to be a really strong one? If as part of your experience you were made to know that an asteroid would smack Ibiza tomorrow, and you told everyone, and then it did, and furthermore other people had similar experiences and similarly made such testable predictions as a result, you might be on to something, even if it's natural. But instead, all you've got is "but it felt really real!" When Lisa Simpson said "I AM THE LIZARD QUEEN!" it felt really real to her too, but her claim was not supported by evidence.

And given the drug references here, I can't resist:

"drug trip
it's not a drug trip so you feel a bit insulted
space walk
it's like a space walk with the corresponding weight loss"

"Wouldn't you like to see a positive LSD story on the news? To hear what it's all about, perhaps? Wouldn't that be interesting? Just for once?
"Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration. . . that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There's no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we're the imagination of ourselves... Now here's Tom with the weather!"
-- (Bill Hicks)

Mystical experiences can't be considered objective evidence for God, because they can be induced in other ways, are reproducible in labs, and are explained as unusual brain states.

Now, subjective evidence for God is all over the place. That's evidence that's "good enough" to convince someone who wants to believe that they're right to believe it. Of course, subjective evidence supports every position and religion, because it's grounded in the biased interpretation of the person themselves, not in anything "out there."

ion. Why should we grant an exception to an emotional experience just because it happens to be a really strong one?

Well the experience would not necessarily convince anyone else. Despite this if enough people shared a similar experience it might begin to constitute evidence. As to charges of hallucinogens, that could be levelled against anyone's comprehension of anything taken as fact. It only seems real because etc.. Merely because the experience is by definition privileged does not seem to make it invalid.

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

"Despite this if enough people shared a similar experience it might begin to constitute evidence." - Pete Rooke

How would people know if they had a similar experience if the experience can't be done justice with words?

@154

No other creature exists, or has ever existed, with our power to reason and sacrifice and love. Chance is not an explanation.

If you look at the animal kingdom, there is NOTHING that we humans do that cannot in some form be seen in other species.
Also, chance is NEVER an explanation. The process that give rise to us is the opposite of chance.

How then do you explain the enduring mind? How do you get from the physical brain to our thoughts, emotions, feelings, beliefs, desires, sensations.. How do you explain consciousness and mental phenomena in general?

Through the process of evolution.
* Emotion / feelings - can dictate our behaviour. Sadness and empathy can help form social ties and form morality, fear can lead us away from dangerous situations, happiness can be a reward for something that makes the organism feel good
* beliefs - these are how we understand the world, they are memories that help us better survive.
* desires - these are our drives, they also dictate behaviour. When our body is low on energy, our body sends signals to our brain in order to find food. When we see an attractive mate, our body sends signals in order to copulate.
* sensations - these are how we experience the world. Our senses send signals to the brain which interprets them into meaningful patterns in order to survive

* consciousness - this could simply be a feedback loop on a neural network. If you look at the way a brain makes a decision, certain areas light up well before we consciously think to do it. It seems that our higher reasoning comes in after a decision is made.
* mental phenomena - Now this is a general statement, got any in particular you want explained? Or are you simply using it as a point of personal incredulity to believe that you are a clay golem animated by a magic sky daddy?

"How would people know if they had a similar experience if the experience can't be done justice with words?"

They might all share the same beliefs and indicate similar reasons holding them (accurately expressed or not).

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

"Well the experience would not necessarily convince anyone else."

Has it never occurred to you that this strongly suggests you should doubt the experience?

Yes, if enough people shared a similar experience you might be on the road to something, but what? How many Americans see God, and how many Afghans see Allah? It's not enough for there to be a consistency among the experiences; consider the cultures in which they occur, let alone the confounding factor of them all occurring in the same species. It's quite possible that humans may be prone to seeing certain kinds of transcendental visions in the same way that we often have similar hallucinations before seizures.

As I suggested before, you need something more than "it felt really real" and "Bob saw our specific sect's version of god too!" You need "and He gave us both winning lottery numbers!"

They might all share the same beliefs and indicate similar reasons holding them

again, it sure sounds like Pistol Pete has been misreading Jung's theory of the collective subconscious.

Is it true, Pistol Pete? are you a fan of old Carl?

It's not enough for there to be a consistency among the experiences

Indeed. The world really is NOT flat.

the sun really does NOT orbit the earth.

etc, etc, etc.

I need sleep and will have to think about some of the objections raised.

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

I need sleep and will have to think about some of the objections raised.

Yes, sleep off that high, Pistol Pete. If you manage to avoid imbibing the beast tomorrow, likely we won't be seeing you.

ITMT, have you considered AA?

Pete Rooke #265 wrote:

Despite this if enough people shared a similar experience it might begin to constitute evidence.

Similar psychological states under similar brain conditions constitute evidence for similar psychological states under similar brain conditions. If you want to establish that the people with shared experience are experiencing something outside of their heads, then you're going to need the kind of evidence rrt suggested in #263. Paranormalists have been trying to establish this sort of claim for years, and they've not been successful.

As to charges of hallucinogens, that could be levelled against anyone's comprehension of anything taken as fact.

No, we have public ways of testing to see if something is a hallucination or not. What we can't test is the claim that "everything is a hallucination" -- there's nothing to test it against. Of course, that sort of vacuous claim doesn't get you or anyone else anywhere, and I don't think you'd make it.

There are certain areas in the brain which, when stimulated, make the person feel as if they have encountered something of deep and meaningful significance. They are absolutely, positively convinced that they've gotten a great insight into reality -- even when they can't articulate what that insight is. Minor things seem critically important. Neurologists have even been able to replicate this effect on subjects.

Sometimes theists ask atheists if they would believe in God if Jesus actually appeared to them and told them He was real. When we say "no," they think gotcha! See, the atheist wouldn't believe even with clear, direct, convincing evidence!

But the problem is that visions of religious figures (or ghosts or space aliens) which appear in private are NOT clear, direct, or convincing -- because we have very good evidence that people have hallucinated such visions. We have excellent evidence that mystical experiences are the experiences of unusual brain states. For the atheist to say "oh, those people hallucinated -- but sure, if it happened to ME, then that's totally different. I would have to trust myself!" would be hypocritical and inconsistent. No, we do NOT "have to trust ourselves."

Science forces us to doubt our own reliability. It's premised on the belief that all humans make mistakes: we need cross-checks.

Faith is premised on the belief that you need to trust what seems real and true, intuitive and instinctual -- because other people make mistakes, but not you, not in this case.

Subjective evidence is suspect.

Rev. Dawkins, who is essentially a demigod to the craven, has no evidence. That is diff. to saying there is no evidence - look around you to see the evidence (with your eyes in all their complexity), watch your child grow up, watch the sunrise, and celebrate life in the presence of God.

Ahh the "Atheism is a religion" insult and the "life is too complex" argument. How meek...
Atheism is not a religion, it isn't now, nor has it ever been. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in a God. What you are rebelling against is the empirical rationalists who look at the universe and say "that's enough". Dawkins advocates that position; there's no doctrine to it, and the facts of the universe and contingent solely on evidence.
Here's one I prepared earlier

Now onto the complexity argument. Yes, life and the world is indeed complex. We are 1 of around 6 million species on this planet, all built with the same building blocks, all replicating and mutating creatures. Now we sit on one rock orbiting one sun. It sits on an outer spiral arm of the milky way galaxy. In that galaxy there are between 200,000,000,000 and 400,000,000,000 stars; many like our sun. And that's just in one galaxy. There are an estimated 125,000,000,000 galaxies all containing millions to billions of stars. Now this whole universe was built for one species on one planet?!?
Again, here's one I prepared earlier

What's worse is not only do you conclude that the complexity shows a divine hand, it shows the divine hand of Jesus. That by seeing the complexity of the ecosystem, you are using it as a justification that God came down to earth in human form to redeem mankind by sacrificing himself on a cross. Even if complexity did mean a divine hand (since all complexity can be created by natural processes, there's no reason to think so) there's nothing at all to suggest that the divine hand is the divine hand of the god of the bible.
And again, here's one I prepared earlier

Not to mention, for near death experiences; an unconcious, oxygen deprived individual in critical condition does not exactly make for an ideal witness (probably a notch below a severely dehydrated individual wandering the desert).
Other religious experiences can also be associated with forms of epilepsy [spelling?]

Not to mention, for near death experiences

For fuck's sake man. Don't say that. Kenny might hear you and return to continue his campaign to rot all of our brains.

Thinking is always good. :)

And yeah...science is very much about "How do I minimize the possibility that I'm fooling myself?" Faith seeks out those places where such minimizing is difficult or impossible.

For fuck's sake man. Don't say that. Kenny might hear you and return to continue his campaign to rot all of our brains.

beetleguese!
beetleguese!
beetleguese!

*ducks*

'Atsa no good.

It's either "Betelgeuse", the star, or "Beetlejuice" the... whatever the hell he was.

/pedant

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

"this has led to damage to the Society's reputation"

Can we get Bush to do that?

# 223.

Point taken concerning UK vs US. I SAID I am an admirer of Dawkins and I AM familiar with his work. Though I am loathe to criticize his methods, it's one thing to visit classes now and then esp. on camera, to the day-to-day exposure of teaching a class, most esp. when you live in the same town as the families of your students. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't point out that this poses a certain degree of "pressure". The trick is to walk a somewhat blurred line between effectively opening the student's minds and remaining in a position to continue to do so.

Did someone call me?

I felt a strange disturbance in the Force, as if a billion voices cried out "No, really, we so much want to hear about Near Death Experiences as proof of the existence of God!!!!"

#283

There's never a Death Star around when you want one.

Holy shit. You christian fools truly cannot learn.
Pete, we keep telling you - many of the posters here have seen gawd too. It isn't real. It isn't "by definition privileged". That's horse shit. Read some Robert Anton Wilson.
If you had a brain you would look into what the human brain does. Your bible is full of unicorns, ever seen one Kenny? er...Pete?

/pedant

"I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to shoot you."

"righto, sir"

*bam*

"What a senseless waste of human life"

/pedant"I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to shoot you."

Come see the violence inherent in the system!

Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

/peasant

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

"...bloody peasants!"

Despite this if enough people shared a similar experience it might begin to constitute evidence.

Kenny used to use the same argument here for near death experiences; people saw a bright light/tunnel, felt an "infinite love", etc. That so many people feel they are in the presence of God must be evidence for it, right?
However, the same symptoms are also readily explained physiologically. Hypoxia can cause a sensation of euphoria; neurons in the eye fire to signal "dark", and when starved of oxygen may stop firing, causing a bright spot in vision; and so on.

An experience felt entirely without external evidence can't readily be relied on to be an objectively true event. Even if that experience is felt by multiple people doesn't mean it might not simply have a common physiological cause.

As to charges of hallucinogens, that could be levelled against anyone's comprehension of anything taken as fact.

It often is. If one person claims something without any evidence to back it up, the claim should at best be taken with a grain of salt. If the claim is supported by multiple people, it may gain more weight. If it can be verified independently by anyone under the same circumstances, it can probably be considered true.

The extreme form of your argument is solipsism. It's at least a logically consistent position to hold, but it's unfalsifiable, and not a very pleasant way to go about your day.

Aw man, most of my point was already made by the time I finished writing it. :P

I'm not being redundant guys, honest! I'm just a slow typer...

Ah, I've missed the whole thread, and even though every other post there for a while reads:

Comment by Pete Rooke blocked. [unkill][show comment]

, I can see that I missed an excellent opportunity to repeat yet again my little parable of Jerry Garcia's space helmet. If anyone is, still at this late date, interested, I'll --wait a minute--
here's one
And another
So nice I posted twice
One on some other guy's blog
And my favorite version.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Hey Brown:

it's one thing to visit classes now and then esp. on camera, to the day-to-day exposure of teaching a class, most esp. when you live in the same town as the families of your students.

Word up.
I grew up in a small town in Canada's midwestern bible belt.
/fist on chest twice
/peace sign

By Arbutus_bark (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

You know, even after I tune out the really insipid remarks — and believe me, the killfile script definitely helps with that — the discussion still keeps coming back to the same tiresome argument: "I reserve the right to be indignant that you stepped on somebody else's toes!" "I calls 'em as I sees 'em!" "You're hurting The Cause!" "You don't understand why radicals are necessary to bring about social change!"

Etc.

All the blog's a stage, but it's no fun when everybody has their part assigned and their lines pre-written. Yep, he will accuse Dawkins of crass scientism and insist that gods are rigorously undisprovable, while I will sing a little ditty about Russell's Teapot, short and stout. . .

At least Bill Hicks got brought out this time.

Almost on-topic: This is a news item from a hick county called Brunswick County in a hick state called North Carolina in a backward country called America: Brunswick school board to consider creationism teaching

"It's really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism," county school board member Jimmy Hobbs said at Tuesday's meeting. "The law says we can't have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists."

"The law says we can't have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists."

Who has failed here. The schools who don't stress enough that evolution isn't atheist doctrine, the scientists who have isolated themselves in academia and aren't reaching out to the public enough, or society in general? There seems to be critical failure going on at some level.

I'm probably way too late for this, but I had to ask.

Pete Rooke says this:

I was once like you and was told something very profound: "you can't be angry with a God and not believe in him at the same time."

and then this:

I unlike you started out without God and found Him.

So, Pete, please explain to the audience how one can be angry at a god that one has never had a "relationship" with. See, most people who can be characterized as "angry at god" believed in that god in the first place and then something happened to piss them off and, perhaps, make them lose their faith.

How could that first quote have meant anything to you (apparently enough to help make you a theist)? How could you have been angry at a god you never believed in since you "started out without god." Why would that statement make any sort of sense to your particular situation.

Unless, of course (and I'm leaning towards this), you are a liar. Liars often have a hard time giving a consistent story. Show me I'm wrong.

By Pimientita (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Ugh. Forgive the atrocious grammar in my last post. I posted too soon. I really should go to sleep...

By Pimientita (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Jason @ 276

I have epilepsy. In the course of that my brain has done some interesting back-flips - it's cheaper than acid, man - but I have never experienced them as having a religious significance nor sought a god-based explanation for the individual experience or the whole condition, even when I was still a christian.

A temporary biochemical malfunction is a good enough explanation for me. It also has the merit that someone outside my head can both observe and measure it scientifically.

What more does anyone need?

Ian Spedding @206

"This borders on a witch-hunt and the words and actions of those scientists who brought this about are a disgrace to the profession."
"Both the Royal Society and science itself have been diminished by this sorry and mean-spirited little episode."

The most sensible remarks in all of the thread and the post.

'Atsa no good.

It's either "Betelgeuse", the star, or "Beetlejuice" the... whatever the hell he was.

Actually, Owlmirror, Betelgeuse spelled his name "Betelgeuse" as evidenced by the flyer and the tombstone in the model graveyard.

/pedanting the pedant :)

By Pimientita (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

What intrigues me is the mentaility of the Science world to be so ignorant as to excuse the idea of Creationist yet boast of their own theories of things not proven. Ironic isn't it? It's not necessary to convince Science that creation exisit and science can not prove it doesn't. Does that disregard that the Master plan included things evoling? Not at all. Things do evole. Yet man was 'created' for this earth. Too many are so vain as to deny that because it goes beyond their hearts understanding. Time is moving fast and should the secrets of earth be revealed I wonder, would the Scientist then support creation? I give long heartfelt claps to Professor Reiss for standing with his convictons because he is right on and shame to the Society to put blinders on- effectively making themselves a Scientific religion.

By S Callahan (not verified) on 17 Sep 2008 #permalink

What intrigues me is the mentaility of the Science world to be so ignorant as to excuse the idea of Creationist yet boast of their own theories of things not proven. Ironic isn't it? It's not necessary to convince Science that creation exisit and science can not prove it doesn't. Does that disregard that the Master plan included things evoling? Not at all. Things do evole. Yet man was 'created' for this earth. Too many are so vain as to deny that because it goes beyond their hearts understanding. Time is moving fast and should the secrets of earth be revealed I wonder, would the Scientist then support creation? I give long heartfelt claps to Professor Reiss for standing with his convictons because he is right on and shame to the Society to put blinders on- effectively making themselves a Scientific religion.

yawn.

Science dismisses things that have no evidence to support them. Creationism is one of those things.

Arguing that because science doesn't have the answer now then we have to insert god is argumentum ad ignorantiam.

Do you give the Chinese creation myths equal weight? What bout Norse myths?

Professor Reiss said this:

"Just because something lacks scientific support doesn't seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from a science lesson."

This was an ridiculous statement for the Director of Education for the Royal Society to make. He has done the honourable thing in resigning.

As the Director of Education for the Royal Society a significant part of Reiss' job is dealing with the media. In this case he seems to have done a rather poor job. Creationism being taught in schools has been an issue here in a UK for a while now (check out Emmanuel School) and so Reiss should have predicted media interest in what he had to say on the matter and have made sure he was clear and unambiguous. "Just because something lacks scientific support doesn't seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from a science lesson." does not strike me as being either clear or unambiguous.

The simple fact is Reiss did not do a very good job. Whether that should have led to his resignation is another matter.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 17 Sep 2008 #permalink

Seems to me that those castigating Reiss are guilty of the same dogmatism they accuse religious believers of. Words are important and to "sound bite" his nuanced argument is beneath you otherwise intelligent people. He stated unequivocally that the problem with a student that supports the creationist view is that they have a fundamentally broken way of evaluating their own beliefs. As an educator, what would you suggest he do? Apparently, you believe the only reasonable course is to tell that student that his beliefs are "stupid" and move on. How is that any different than a religious argument? Since you can't incontrovertibly prove evolution is correct, you can only offer evidence supporting it. Our benighted student will do the same for his viewpoint (in his own mind) and, as Reiss noted, be unconvinced. What have you achieved?

By analogy, imagine you are standing on dry ground and someone is a short way off, up to his waist in a dismal swamp. The swamp is all he's ever known and he thinks it's just fine. For all the evidence you show him about how much better dry ground is, he is unconvinced because he's never felt anything but muddy and soggy. How do you convince him the swamp is an unhealthy place and he should join you on dry ground? Shout derisive comments at him? Or do you try to persuade him to try dry ground for a change and see how he likes it?

Convincing someone of a, to them, foreign way of thinking requires you begin on their ground and lead them out of their mental swamp. In the end, they may decide your version of the world is too scary and go back to their swamp. At least you tried. But, you never implied the swamp was equally wonderful, did you?

Let's continue the analogy. The older our swamp dweller gets, the deeper he sinks and the harder he is to extract. When are you most likely to successfully lead him out? The kids Reiss is talking about are only in the swamp up to their ankles. Getting them out is important, even if you have to muddy your own shoes in the process.

As educators, it is vastly more important that you teach your students HOW to think than WHAT to think. That's what Reiss has in mind. He can't teach his creationist student ANYTHING until he opens that young person's mind. If he can't engage that student and try to move his mental processes, he might as well send him home. He will NEVER be a scientist or even scientifically literate. This is true of every student. They each have limitations in how they view the world. To treat religiously derived limitations as uniquely contemptible is to blame the victim (the child).

Knee-jerkism and snobbery are as distasteful in an academic or an atheist as it is in a religious zealot. The fact that the media and the usual suspects cashiered Reiss should automatically give you thinking beings pause that maybe YOU have it wrong. THEY almost always do.

Just curious PZ - are Minnesota taxpayers funding all of your trips and travel/bar tabs? Your teaching schedule looks pretty light - I guess you're due for a sabbatical and prob. 2 years from your pension - ahh the life for a trough-feeder in our university towers...
It's cool to know despite your best efforts, about half our country doesn't buy the Darwin fairy tale. You were intelligently designed, then mutated...

By Cut-the-budget (not verified) on 17 Sep 2008 #permalink

It's cool to know despite your best efforts, about half our country doesn't buy the Darwin fairy tale. You were intelligently designed, then mutated...

oh really.

Care to show your work?

CTB, PZ has a heavy teaching load since he works at a primarily teaching college, versus a research university. He has no teaching assistants to help him with grading. The first thing that happened when I left academia was that my hours dropped from 60 per week to 40 per week. PZ also does more than just teaching. He reviews papers and books, some of which show up here as posts. He is one busy man.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 17 Sep 2008 #permalink

He is one busy man.

He also seems to be able to get by on about 2 hours sleep a night!

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 17 Sep 2008 #permalink

I have a standard small college 3/2 teaching load. Look it up. "Looks pretty light"? That's from a moron who hasn't even looked.

I agree with the first sentence but disagree with the second. Just because something lacks scientific support doesn't seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from a science lesson. When I was taught physics at school, and taught it extremely well in my view, what I remember finding so exciting was that we could discuss almost anything providing we were prepared to defend our thinking in a way that admitted objective evidence and logical argument.

So when teaching evolution, there is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts they have (hardly a revolutionary idea in science teaching) and doing one's best to have a genuine discussion. The word 'genuine' doesn't mean that creationism or intelligent design deserve equal time.

And the clarification:

So how might one teach evolution in science lessons, say to 14 to 16-year-olds? Many scientists, and some science educators, fear that consideration of creationism or intelligent design in a science classroom legitimises them.

Professor Reiss has issued the following clarification. "Some of my comments about the teaching of creationism have been misinterpreted as suggesting that creationism should be taught in science classes. Creationism has no scientific basis. However, when young people ask questions about creationism in science classes, teachers need to be able to explain to them why evolution and the Big Bang are scientific theories but they should also take the time to explain how science works and why creationism has no scientific basis. I have referred to science teachers discussing creationism as a worldview'; this is not the same as lending it any scientific credibility."

WAI:

You and many like you keep repeating the claim that we want educators to tell students they're stupid. That is a gross mischaracterization of our position. None of us, or damn near none, wants that and this has been made clear many times. Telling a student he's stupid and mocking him in class is as bad as it sounds. We may use free language and mockery here, but this is notbthe classroom, and we are not so stupid as you seem to assume.

You are equating a willingness to challenge and correct a student's misunderstandings--to educate, in other words--with calling them deliberately hurtful names in the classroom. STOP IT.

Whatever Reiss may have meant, the ambiguity of his original comments make clear that he is a lousy communicator, and thus a lousy Director of Education for the Royal Society. And that's pretty much what the Royal Society said: "Some of Professor Michael Reiss's recent comments, on the issue of creationism in schools, while speaking as the Royal Society's Director of Education, were open to misinterpretation. While it was not his intention, this has led to damage to the Society's reputation. As a result, Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that, in the best interests of the Society, he will step down immediately as Director of Education."

Reiss' problem was not his views, but that he could not communicate them clearly, and thus gave an opening to creationism.

Pete Rooke (#250):

The experience I'm thinking of might leave you with an overwhelming presence of God. Such an experience could clearly not be described coherently or meaningfully.

From which it follows you have no grounds for describing the experience as one of "an overwhelming presence of God" in the first place. You contradict yourself, Mr Rooke.

By Iain Walker (not verified) on 17 Sep 2008 #permalink

Pete Rooke (#265):

Merely because the experience is by definition privileged does not seem to make it invalid.

The experience may be real - it's the interpretation of its cause (the presense of God) that is being attacked as invalid.

Funny how defenders of the argument from religious experience habitually fail to make the distinction.

By Iain Walker (not verified) on 17 Sep 2008 #permalink

You were intelligently designed, then mutated.

No, that's not how I did it.

I note the RS was careful to limit their statement to describing Reiss as having failed in his role as communicator. That's true, of course, but the underlying truth is that, as an ordained clergyman, Reiss was conflicted.

As the Director of Education of the RS, it was inappropriate for him to write at length about how to discuss creationism in science classes, yet as a clergyman he was unable to stop himself trying to justify respect for religious beliefs and worldviews, and it led him to such statements as "Just because something lacks scientific support doesn't seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from a science lesson."

I personally do not think Reiss failed to communicate his views, but rather that he revealed them a little too well, after failing to realise that his views were unacceptable for someone with the job title of "Director of Education" of a society dedicated to science!

Wow, RRT. Literal much?

OK. I'll try this again...

The position here seems to be that creationism has no place in the classroom. That's patently absurd. Every idea has a place in the classroom. The debate is really about WHAT place creationism should have. Reiss believes it should be given enough space to be dealt with in the context of science so all students have the opportunity to see it is NOT science (and even his lament -- that the best he hopes for is that the creation-minded will at least allow that evolution is worth consideration -- is warped to the argument). This is so profoundly opposed to the ID community's agenda (that creationism be shown as a parallel "world view") that it boggles my mind that anyone would conflate the two. Yet, the indignant here have done just that.

So, RRT, I will put this challenge to you:

What do you say to the creationist student that does not involve conversation about creationism (Science forbid!) yet is better than telling him his ideas have no place here (i.e., they're STUPID)?

Every idea has a place in the classroom.

your projecting.

THIS is the idea that's patently absurd.

yet is better than telling him his ideas have no place here (i.e., they're STUPID)?

it's your "i.e." that fails you here.

that something is not appropriate for a science classroom has nothing to do with whether it is or is not appropriate OUTSIDE of the classroom, nor does it equate with any measure of intelligence.

it's just that, coincidentally in this case, it does, though that's only the secondary reason why it's an inappropriate discussion for a science class, just like a discussion of holocaust denial apologetics would be a waste of time for a history class, especially at the secondary level.

btw, most secondary teachers I'm aware of simply redirect any inane creationist questions in ways similar to this:

"It doesn't matter whether you philosophically agree with the material being presented in this class or not, my job is to teach the theory of evolution, and your job is to learn it. You can leave the debate over whether you like it or not for home"

Personally, for the secondary level of education, this seems pragmatic to me, even if not the ideal solution.

We tend to spend a bit more time ripping into "objections" at the level of creationist inanity at the Uni level, for those that haven't already managed to dump that baggage.

Remedial freshman biology tends to weed out a lot of them, and even then, we typically save any "serious" debate for the T.A. sessions instead of wasting primary lecture time.

It seems we are going backwards, folks. Surely the time to tell kids the basic idea of evolution is when they are in junior school and long before they have had time to get uptight about it or develop the social skills (sic) to disrupt a senior class. I certainly knew by the time I was eight.

What I was taught in junior school certainly backed it up but who actually told me about Darwin, evolution, the punch-ups after the man finally published? My mother, that's who! A Northern Ireland Presbyterian, born 1907, and not a teacher - she's just been good at science at school.

Putting off telling kids something so basic until they are inclined to be both anti-social and hormonally disrupted seems like a very bad strategy but I'd love to hear what some practicing teachers think about this.

Sorry - "she'd" of course.

Just curious PZ - are Minnesota taxpayers funding all of your trips and travel/bar tabs?

If they do, they should fund an Australia trip. Apparently there is a mountain here made up of a billion fossils all the size of a dog.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K65wuHKbIfo

Also, PZ is all your free time allowed by the university? I mean, if you aren't spending 16 hours a day in a lab, is the taxpayer funding this blog? ;)

"There seems to be critical failure going on at some level."

Whoever we are
Wherever were from
We shoulda noticed by now
Our behavior is dumb
And if our chances
Expect to improve
Its gonna take a lot more
Than tryin to remove
The other race
Or the other whatever
From the face
Of the planet altogether

They call it the earth
Which is a dumb kinda name
But they named it right
cause we behave the same...
We are dumb all over
Dumb all over,
Yes we are
Dumb all over,
Near n far
Dumb all over,
Black n white
People, we is not wrapped tight

Nerds on the left
Nerds on the right
Religous fanatics
On the air every night
Sayin the bible
Tells the story
Makes the details
Sound real gory
bout what to do
If the geeks over there
Dont believe in the book
We got over here

You can't run a race
Without no feet
n pretty soon
There wont be no street
For dummies to jog on
Or doggies to dog on
Religous fanatics
Can make it be all gone
(I mean it wont blow up
n disappear
Itll just look ugly
For a thousand years...)

You cant run a country
By a book of religion
Not by a heap
Or a lump or a smidgeon
Of foolish rules
Of ancient date
Designed to make
You all feel great
While you fold, spindle
And mutilate
Those unbelievers
From a neighboring state

To arms! to arms!
Hooray! thats great
Two legs aint bad
Unless theres a crate
They ship the parts
To mama in
For souvenirs: two ears (get down!)
Not his, not hers, (but what the hey? )
The good book says:
(it gotta be that way!)
But their book says:
Revenge the crusades...
With whips n chains
n hand grenades...
Two arms? two arms?
Have another and another
Our God says:
There aint no other!
Our God says
Its all okay!
Our God says
This is the way!

It says in the book:
Burn n destroy...
n repent, n redeem
n revenge, n deploy
n rumble thee forth
To the land of the unbelieving scum on the other side
cause they dont go for whats in the book
n that makes em bad
So verily we must choppeth them up
And stompeth them down
Or rent a nice french bomb
To poof them out of existance
While leaving their real estate just where we need it
To use again
For temples in which to praise our god
(cause he can really take care of business!)

And when his humble tv servant
With humble white hair
And humble glasses
And a nice brown suit
And maybe a blond wife who takes phone calls
Tells us our God says
Its okay to do this stuff
Then we gotta do it,
cause if we dont do it,
We aint gwine up to hebbin!
(depending on which book youre using at the
Time...cant use theirs... it dont work
...its all lies...gotta use mine...)
Aint that right?
Thats what they say
Every night...
Every day...
Hey, we cant really be dumb
If were just following gods orders
Hey, lets get serious...
God knows what hes doin
He wrote this book here
An the book says:
He made us all to be just like him,
So...
If were dumb...
Then God is dumb...
(and maybe even a little ugly on the side)

By Frank Zappa (not verified) on 17 Sep 2008 #permalink

#319

You were intelligently designed, then mutated.

No, that's not how I did it.

I beg your pardon:
I'm not quite clear about what you just spoke
Was that a parable, or a very subtle joke?

WAI:

As Ichthyic points out, you've just repeated yourself when you say: "What do you say to the creationist student that does not involve conversation about creationism (Science forbid!) yet is better than telling him his ideas have no place here (i.e., they're STUPID)?" Again, you equate challenging and correcting the student's misconceptions, informing him that they're not science, with calling him stupid. Moreover, you again seem to be saying we want educators to literally make the word "creationism" taboo.

If I want to be generous here (and I'm a generous guy!) then I'll assume you're just not paying attention. It's clear both in this thread and countless others that most of us don't think the way you're assuming we do. It might help to point out that I'm pretty sure most of us here also don't think Reiss' position is quite the way you're portraying it...indeed, I think most of us wouldn't have a problem with your version of Reiss, which seems in line with the statement made by the Royal Society. But at least on my end, that's irrelevant to my complaints that you're mischaracterizing us.

Sure, there's a spectrum of opinion. Again citing Ichthyic's example, some of us would rather have teachers defer the question entirely, to the effect of "this isn't the place for that conversation," especially when the teacher will have a hard enough time fitting the curriculum into his time without spending a day explaining why creationism isn't science. But some of us also believe that creationism (or more precisely creation science and ID as scientific claims) should be brought up as an educational example of bad science, just as you suggest. And some of us think either approach is fine. I tend to favor a situational approach, though I'd lean towards deferment and TRY (I've never taught, so I don't know how practical this is) to offer some of my out-of-class time, or at least point out some resources to explore.

It seems obvious we roughly agree, and certainly I understand that you think Reiss was the gnat meeting the F1 race car. It's only your assumptions about our uncouth treatment of hypothetical students that I bristle at.

#323

Ichthyic says:

"It doesn't matter whether you philosophically agree with the material being presented in this class or not, my job is to teach the theory of evolution, and your job is to learn it. You can leave the debate over whether you like it or not for home"

Your classes must be very dreary. You apparently are content to produce what Pope (Alexander, that is) called "the bookful blockhead, ignorantly read with loads of learned lumber in his head."

Your approach may indeed be pragmatic, but that doesn't make it right. Only convenient.

Interestingly enough, Twain agreed with Reiss's complaint:

"All schools, all colleges, have two great functions: to confer, and to conceal, valuable knowledge. The theological knowledge which they conceal cannot justly be regarded as less valuable than that which they reveal. That is, when a man is buying a basket of strawberries it can profit him to know that the bottom half of it is rotten."

-Mark Twain, notebook, 1908

He wasn't being complimentary either. Argue with HIM if you dare.

#329 RRT

If teachers are, in fact, "challenging and correcting the student's misconceptions, informing him that they're not science," then they are engaging in exactly what Reiss suggested they do (although I prefer 'showing' to 'informing'). That's NOT what the most vocal detractors here are claiming should be done. I refer you to the original thread about Reiss. There was much pearl clutching, mostly by people who appeared to be reacting to 2nd and 3rd hand accounts. Not very scientific for a bunch of scientists. I'm not wielding a tarry brush here. There were many who cried foul on the mob and defended Reiss after taking the time to read him in the original and give him the courtesy of trying to understand his intent.

Yes, I...already said that.

Like I said, I appreciate that you're ticked about Reiss' treatment. I think you may still be wrong about him. And many of the people initially "clutching pearls" have expressed significant discomfort (though not outright disagreement) with the resolution of the situation, including Dawkins. I know the feeling. You gripe about something that's wrong, clamor for action, then see the results and think "oh...wait...that was a little harsh, no?"

But forget Reiss for a moment. My primary concern here is that people stop with the "stupid" thing.

Shame on the Royal Society for its craven firing of Professor Reiss. Here's the Guardian's editorial:

* Editorial
* The Guardian
* Thursday September 18 2008

When Prof Richard Dawkins refers to the hounding of a man who apparently called for creationism to be taught in science lessons as a "witch hunt", all is not what it seems. Last week Prof Reiss, who was until two days ago the Royal Society's director of education, said that simply dismissing the creationist views of some children as unworthy of discussion was counterproductive and not likely to make them engage with the scientific evidence for evolution. Prof Reiss, who is a church of England minister, said teachers should use their classes as an opportunity to discuss the overwhelming evidence for evolution by natural selection, and the lack of evidence for a world created 6,000 years ago. He did not say that creationism was scientific. He did not advocate including it in the science curriculum. And he categorically denied that creationism and evolution deserved equal time. The subtlety of Prof Reiss's position was lost in some media reports, while the headlines in many newspapers- including this one - did not convey the nuance of his message. This appears to have cost him his job. The Royal Society should champion the scientific case for evolution and help us to steer clear of specious US-style "teach the controversy" arguments. But Prof Reiss's shabby treatment smacks of an organisation that is frightened of a debate about how creationist views should be tackled by teachers. If that is the conclusion people draw from this episode, it will be the worst possible outcome.

My primary concern here is that people stop with the "stupid" thing.

why HERE?

why should you be concerned that we flesh out creationist inanity HERE as exactly that?

In short, you really have no legitimate concerns that I can see.

bye.

Shame on the Royal Society for its craven firing of Professor Reiss.

*sigh*

some people just don't understand what the word "fire" means.

He kept his job as a science educator, you know.

offer some of my out-of-class time

I'd make it a detention - mandatory for the creationist/wise-guy who tried to disrupt the lesson in the first place, but also binding on the rest of the class (have to invoke that handy peer pressure thing which is apparently such a big factor for kids/teens) except for anyone who, by the end of the day, can come up with a written paragraph explaining (ie requiring a valid argument and at least one piece of evidence) why the creationist was wrong on whatever the point was (no obvious duplicates accepted).

Anything which might take longer to put together would become an additional homework (ie beyond whatever the actual topic homework was going to be) - again binding on everyone, not just the trouble-making ignorant/dishonest creationist. Might as well force the lot of them to do some research, become less ignorant and thus learn to protect themselves better against any creationist nutters they encounter in the future.

Ichthyic: Sorry? I don't think I understand what you mean, and possibly you misunderstood me. Let me clarify that statement: The thing that pissed me off about WAI's comment is that it's yet another in a long series of claims that by daring to tell students creationism is wrong, we're being big fat meanies who call them stupid and mock them, and that's no way to teach a class. Or in WAI's case, apparently that we don't dare to talk about creationism at all, yet still plan to name-call and mock in class.

@Peter Rooke
Intelligent Design is a long, long way from what you've described and that's unfair. Shelley spoke early of the horrors science is capable of and much like this is an inappropriate brush with which to tar all of science and some of the good its done (as would mention of Thomas Midgley be inappropriate) it is inappropriate of you to so link the reasonable with the extreme in such a blasé manner.

Intelligent design is at best a conjecture - an analogy without proof. There is no evidence of God; the God described in the Bible is logically incoherent and cannot exist given the world we observe; and your arguments are based on ignorance, willfull blindness and sloppy thinking.

Why on earth would you think people who disparage the intellectually simplistic mindset you have adopted as "angry", I'll never know. Projection, I suppose.

By Rilke's Grandd… (not verified) on 18 Sep 2008 #permalink

Good one there Sesli.

Way to come into two month old thread and say something astoundingly useless.

Oh it's just stupid spam.

Either way ID supporter or stupid spam bot. Both utterly useless.