Matt Young posted Entry 1522 on September 28, 2005 10:05 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1518

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran two amusing pieces relating to the Kitzmiller case today. They were amusing in wryly different ways.

In the first article, “All sides of the issue belong in classroom,” Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute argued with a straight face that intelligent-design creationism is not a political issue but rather a scientific issue. Since the Discovery Institute has done its damnedest to make political hay of ID creationism, Mr. Luskin’s argument is disingenuous at best (http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/editoria… ).

(Mr. Luskin’s claim that ID creationists have published three papers in the last year would also be risible if it weren’t pathetic: None of the papers received an iota of support from any mainstream scientists, one was debunked here on PT (http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2004/10/theo… ), and a second was repudiated by its journal following a scandal involving the outgoing editor.)

In a second article, “ID proponents like designer-less market,” John Allen Paulos (author, most famously, of Innumeracy) asks why “some of the most ardent opponents of Darwinian evolution … are among the most ardent supporters of the free market.” In short, why do they believe in social Darwinism but not evolutionary biology, even though “biology is a much more substantive science than economics”? Paulos does not answer, but concludes (http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/editoria… ),

What would you think of someone who studied economic entities and their interactions in a modern free-market economy and insisted that they were, despite a perfectly reasonable and empirically supported Smithian account of their development, the consequence of some all-powerful, detail-obsessed economic lawgiver? You might deem such a person a conspiracy theorist.

And what would you think of someone who studied biological processes and organisms and insisted that they were, despite a perfectly reasonable and empirically supported Darwinian account of their development, the consequence of some all-powerful, detail-obsessed biological lawgiver?

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Comment #50065

Posted by Norman Doering on September 29, 2005 1:46 AM (e)

Excuse me if I’m off topic, but I’ve got yet another amusing article I found over a Bill Dembski’s site:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-179894…
Societies worse off ‘when they have God on their side’

The first sentence is: “RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.”

Talk about counter intuitive!

Comment #50066

Posted by Alan on September 29, 2005 2:00 AM (e)

From the article Norman found:

Mr Paul said: “The study shows that England, despite the social ills it has, is actually performing a good deal better than the USA in most indicators, even though it is now a much less religious nation than America.”

He said that the disparity was even greater when the US was compared with other countries, including France, Japan and the Scandinavian countries. These nations had been the most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, he added.

I knew there was a reason for my schadenfreude!:p

Comment #50067

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on September 29, 2005 2:00 AM (e)

Wow, with dozens of fellows on the pay-roll, the DI has managed to produce three papers. Call me not impressed.

Comment #50069

Posted by Jaime Headden on September 29, 2005 2:54 AM (e)

Norman Doering writes (quoting Greg Paul): “The first sentence is: ‘RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.’”

Greg tested JudeoIslamoChristian societies, but lumps them into “religion”. I would like to see a case of Shinto, Buddhist or perhaps even Hindu societies “destroyed”. Remember it was Moslems who saved science for the future during the Dark Ages, not the secular athiests. This is Greg Paul, an athiest, attacking religion and confusing the foibles of governments that destroy themselves. It is the very wide-open democracy of the USA that causes religious people to gain a foothold, by allowing every voice to dictate policies and special interests. Then again, Japan, a country with strong Christian, Shinto and Buddhist societies, is egalitarian and very, very comfortable in allowing people to believe as they believe as long as it doesn’t dictate policy (this used to not be the case, as in during the fuedal era and as recently as 75 years ago). Japan’s success isn’t it’s limited God-head, but the fact that there is more than one “state religion” and each get equal time.

Comment #50070

Posted by snaxalotl on September 29, 2005 3:24 AM (e)

…or perhaps even Hindu societies “destroyed”.

perhaps Jaime has not considered pre-partition India or modern Kashmir

Remember it was Moslems who saved science for the future during the Dark Ages, not the secular athiests.

given that there weren’t that many secular atheists at the time, I think it’s more pertinent who science was being saved FROM: religion then, just as it is being saved from religion now by all sorts of people, including but not limited to secular atheists.

Comment #50071

Posted by Grey Wolf on September 29, 2005 3:44 AM (e)

Please note that, apart from the muslims, the other great repositorty of the acumulated knowledge of the Romans and Greeks were the monasteries, that carefully preserved the knowledge from the wantom destruction of the uneducated and warlike nobles. Monasteries were the only place you could find people even marginally educated for the better part of 8 centuries of Dark Ages, and you’ll agree that monasteries are about as religious as you can get.

In fact, saying that religion is trying to destroy science is as exact as saying that the United States is trying to destroy science: it is true for a ridiculous small portion of the whole group, which just happens to be very vocal, and yet nevertheless misses a further group which doesn’t actually belong in the first classification (there are creationists that are not religious -Scientology is technically not a religion, in the strict sense; there are creationists that are not American).

In fact, examining closer the issue, you realise that it is politics that are trying to destroy science, the politics of a group of extremists which are thinking that uneducated idiots are easier to control and get money out of. The nobles of the past, who feared that reading peasants were more likely to revolt and the DI who knows that they have a cushy world based on selling books to those trusting people they are lying to.

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

Comment #50081

Posted by Duke York on September 29, 2005 6:32 AM (e)

Jaime Headden wrote:

Remember it was Moslems who saved science for the future during the Dark Ages, not the secular athiests

According to the book “Doubt” by Jennifer Michael Hecht, there was a substantial community of atheists, doubters and (what we might call) humanists in the golden age of Islam. And, unsurprisingly, they were the ones who were keeping the Classical traditions alive and developing the new sciences. It wasn’t until much later that Islam started demanding total thought obedience.

Much to my surprise, there was even a strictly atheist tradition in India called the Carvaka. Why don’t we know more about them? The priests killed them and burned their books; the only records we have of them are the priestly refutations of ideas that we see are sensible and reasonable in today’s light.

I highly recommend “Doubt”; the people who want to introduce religion into the governmental square today also want you to believe the lie that, back in the “golden age” – which ever it is – everyone believed in god or the gods and that’s why things were golden. It turns out there were people who we’d call atheists throughout time, all making the same points as Dawkins and Nietzsche.

Duke

Comment #50090

Posted by shiva on September 29, 2005 7:56 AM (e)

Duke Carvakas…The priests killed them and burned their books; the only records we have of them are the priestly refutations of ideas that we see are sensible and reasonable in today’s light.

Carvaka-like thinking pre-dates Buddha and continued for about 500 years after Buddha. Unless one is willing to stretch the evidence there is none that supports your assertion. Carvaka was not a movement like “Buddhism” or “Jainism”. It is a term used to refer to the ideas of a number of different thinkers and is also used to refer to certain principles of thinkers who are otherwise considered “Hindu”.

Comment #50091

Posted by JS on September 29, 2005 7:58 AM (e)

Please note that, apart from the Muslims, the other great repository of the accumulated knowledge of the Romans and Greeks were the monasteries,

Please also note that no new knowledge was generated at the monasteries. Largely, the technological leaps made during the Dark Ages were made by experimenting craftsmen, such as the weaponsmiths, masons, etc. Few to none of these were affiliated with the monasteries. The (in a great many ways rather shoddy) philosophy of the Greek and (especially) the Romans was kept alive at the monasteries. The technology of the Greeks and Romans, as well as the will to improve and experiment was kept alive by the merchants and craftsmen.

In fact, saying that religion is trying to destroy science is as exact as saying that the United States is trying to destroy science: it is true for a ridiculous small portion of the whole group,

Which is irrelevant. You need to look at relative, not absolute numbers here. While it is certainly correct that the vast majority of Christians/Muslims/etc. are nice and reasonable people, the fact remains that so is the vast majority of Communists, and so was the vast majority of Nazis when that ideology was in the ascendant. You need to look at whether or not the ideology in question has a higher than normal occurrence of fascist ideologues and oppressive governments.

Christianity undoubtedly has. Islam certainly has. Judeaism absolutely has. Hinduism: \cough{Kashmir}. Buddhism - maybe; it had a nasty run-in with Shintoism and Confucianism which somewhat robbed it of its innocence. But Buddhism doesn’t really count either, because it has always operated in extremely hostile areas dominated by oppressive, secterian religions. As the perpetual new kid, we never got to see how it would have developed if it had been given a free run across the steppes.

Comment #50092

Posted by Eugene Lai on September 29, 2005 8:24 AM (e)

Re Comment #50071

I am drifting away from PT’s area of interest here, but people need to stop claiming credit for whatever alledged good religions have done (e.g. preserving knowledge in monasteries), and brush aside the bad/evil deeds with statement like “ridiculous small portion of the whole group”. This is hypocrisy.

Fact remains that the monasteries, even if what Grey Wolf said is true, only constitute a (very) minor portion of the religious population in the dark age. Most people back then couldn’t even read. Why don’t you call them a “ridiculous small portion of the whole group” also???

Comment #50093

Posted by frank schmidt on September 29, 2005 8:56 AM (e)

I find it interesting that so many of the countries contrasted with the U.S. have some form of state religion, or state Church, sometimes (e.g., Germany) more than one. Toqueville noted that Americans, with their non-established churches, were much more religious than Europeans, even back then.

Perhaps we should allow the fundies to have their theocracy, so that it can become irrelevant. OTOH, then we’d have to go through all those religious wars and massacres. Never mind.

Comment #50094

Posted by Nick on September 29, 2005 9:04 AM (e)

(Mr. Luskin’s claim that ID creationists have published three papers in the last year would also be risible if it weren’t pathetic:

Three whole papers in a single year? That’s a pretty good record for a single postdoc. But for an entire field of “scientific” endeavor? Sad.

Comment #50097

Posted by Mattdp on September 29, 2005 10:44 AM (e)

The monasteries of Ireland specifically are credited with preserving the Greco Roman knowledge (Roman law, etc). Not those of the continent. And the Dark Ages is a misnomer that makes any good historian studying the middle ages cringe.

Comment #50099

Posted by Gerard Harbison on September 29, 2005 10:59 AM (e)

Jaime wrote:This is Greg Paul, an athiest, attacking religion and confusing the foibles of governments that destroy themselves.

My comment. Are you sure he’s athiest? he could well be athier than a lot of people, but unless you check absolutely everyone, you don’t know if he’s really the athiest.

Gerry Harbison, who is quite athy, and would like to be athier, but doesn’t know if he’ll ever be athiest.

Comment #50100

Posted by Stoffel on September 29, 2005 11:00 AM (e)

I love Paulos. I have a fondness for professionals of the nerdier sciences trying to bring joy of their art to the people. I gotta love this dig by him in the above article too:

“There are, of course, quite significant differences and disanalogies between biological systems and economic ones (one being that biology is a much more substantive science than economics)…”

He heee..

Comment #50104

Posted by Grey Wolf on September 29, 2005 11:45 AM (e)

I am drifting away from PT’s area of interest here, but people need to stop claiming credit for whatever alledged good religions have done (e.g. preserving knowledge in monasteries), and brush aside the bad/evil deeds with statement like “ridiculous small portion of the whole group”. This is hypocrisy.

PLease note that I was refuting this statement:
“I think it’s more pertinent who science was being saved FROM: religion then, just as it is being saved from religion now”

I disagree that science needs, or needed, to be saved from religion. Religion, I have shown, has not tried to destroy science, or knowledge, except in fringe, extremist cases. I provided and example. I also provided a parallel. If you want to call hypocrisy to this, so be it, but I see it not.

Please also note that no new knowledge was generated at the monasteries.

Straw man: it was never my claim. Again, I am only providing proof that science was not being attacked by religion. The fault of religion - particularly stablished religion - is resistance to change. Monasteries were, obviously, not science labs. They were more like libraries.

Fact remains that the monasteries, even if what Grey Wolf said is true, only constitute a (very) minor portion of the religious population in the dark age. Most people back then couldn’t even read. Why don’t you call them a “ridiculous small portion of the whole group” also

Your point? Were any of the uneducated peasants trying to destroy science, maybe? Or were the ones actually trying the politicians (both nobles and highest ranking churchmen, but politicians at any rate, and in my experience mostly the nobles) the ones attacking science?

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

Comment #50110

Posted by Jim Harrison on September 29, 2005 12:13 PM (e)

Paul’s paper merely shows a rough correlation between the degree of religiosity in a country and such pathologies as violence, illegitimacy, and creationism. One need not assume that irrational belief causes all these problems to think that the association is real. After all, religion may be more a symptom of societal disorder and civiliztional crisis than the other way around. Inside the United States, after all, religion is strongest among despised minorities and declining rural populations. Christianity didn’t create the distress of these people, even if, like other forms of self medication, it has sometimes made it worse.

Comment #50115

Posted by Andrew on September 29, 2005 12:33 PM (e)

OT, but (re: #50071) why exactly doesn’t Scientology “count” as a “real religion”?

Comment #50127

Posted by JS on September 29, 2005 1:10 PM (e)

I find it interesting that so many of the countries contrasted with the U.S. have some form of state religion, or state Church, sometimes (e.g., Germany) more than one. Toqueville noted that Americans, with their non-established churches, were much more religious than Europeans, even back then.

Perhaps we should allow the fundies to have their theocracy, so that it can become irrelevant. OTOH, then we’d have to go through all those religious wars and massacres. Never mind.

If you look at the systems in question, you’ll realize it’s more like the other way around: The government (i.e. the parliament) is the chief religious office of the religions in question and pays the salaries of the clergy. This construction means that, de facto, the clergy of these countries has sold its right to make fundamentalist or overtly political statements from the pulpit in return for a monthly paycheck from the government (which, incidentally, makes all the Catholic whining about the unfairness of the Danish state sponsored church system pathetic and hypocritical: Good luck getting the Papacy to obey the restrictions on doctrine that is part and parcel of the deal).

Whether this is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing is, I believe beyond the scope of PT to debate.

Please also note that no new knowledge was generated at the monasteries.

Straw man: it was never my claim. Again, I am only providing proof that science was not being attacked by religion. The fault of religion - particularly established religion - is resistance to change. Monasteries were, obviously, not science labs. They were more like libraries.

And since a library full of books is no more science than a pile of rubble is a house, you have refuted exactly nothing with your example. Science is a process. The knowledge it accumulates is both good for technological development and a requirement for further scientific progress, but not the be-all and end-all aspect. For science, the unexplored is more interesting than the explored (although, of course to explore the unexplored you almost always have to use the explored - or at least know what has gone before).

I believe that we should close the meta-debate down here and take it over to After the Bar Closes instead.

- JS

Comment #50130

Posted by Leung Shu Ren on September 29, 2005 1:29 PM (e)

Re: Jaime Headden said: “…, Japan, a country with strong Christian, Shinto and Buddhist societies, is egalitarian and very, very comfortable in allowing people to believe as they believe as long as it doesn’t dictate policy (this used to not be the case, as in during the fuedal era and as recently as 75 years ago). Japan’s success isn’t it’s limited God-head, but the fact that there is more than one “state religion” and each get equal time.”

There is no christian society in Japan: there are isolated christian churches. Every year, there is a survey done by various christian organizations as to whether Japanese consider themselves believers. In 2004, just as every year for the past 6 that I have lived here in Tokyo, 88 % or more of the Japanese people identify themselves as athiest. They believe Shinto and Bhuddism are ways of living, not belief systems, and the Kannon (what westerners call Gods), are manifestations of nature, not of the supernatural.

Most of the Japanese people don’t believe in theology anyway, they’re just useful and fun stories. Also, I personally know many Japanese who attend Mormon or Catholic Churches for the beauty and choirs. They still drink, smoke, gamble, and engage in extra-marital sex, since they don’t attend church except for the fun part.

Comment #50137

Posted by Arden Chatfield on September 29, 2005 1:50 PM (e)

OT, but (re: #50071) why exactly doesn’t Scientology “count” as a “real religion”?

I was going to ask that too. While I’m certainly no fan of Scientology, from what I can tell, its followers really do consider it their religion.

In a hundred years, it’ll have the same social standing as Mormonism, which also started out as a despised cult with roots in bad science fiction novels, once upon a time.

Comment #50138

Posted by Arden Chatfield on September 29, 2005 2:03 PM (e)

Buddhism - maybe; it had a nasty run-in with Shintoism and Confucianism which somewhat robbed it of its innocence. But Buddhism doesn’t really count either, because it has always operated in extremely hostile areas dominated by oppressive, secterian religions. As the perpetual new kid, we never got to see how it would have developed if it had been given a free run across the steppes.

Not sure I agree – in India, Buddhism had to compete with established Brahmanism (the ancestor to Hinduism), and in China, it for sure had to compete with Confuicianism, but Buddhism seems to have been the first ‘organized religion’ introduced into countries like Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Mongolia, and Tibet. In those countries it mostly just competed with the indigenous ‘pagan’ traditions of those areas, and the transition was pretty peaceful.

Comment #50143

Posted by Arden Chatfield on September 29, 2005 2:17 PM (e)

Carvaka-like thinking pre-dates Buddha and continued for about 500 years after Buddha. Unless one is willing to stretch the evidence there is none that supports your assertion. Carvaka was not a movement like “Buddhism” or “Jainism”. It is a term used to refer to the ideas of a number of different thinkers and is also used to refer to certain principles of thinkers who are otherwise considered “Hindu”.

There were numerous offshoots of Brahminism (Hinduism) in India back then. In a way, Buddhism and Jainism fit that description. Most of these religious schools of thought that sprang up in India haven’t survived to the present day. It might not be the case that ‘priests’ destroyed the Carvaka texts. The main way ancient religious texts survived in India was by being endlessly recopied, usually by priests and monks. Most of the surviving texts are relatively new copies, only a few hundred years old. So it might have just have been that once the religion died out, no one bothered to copy the texts anymore. Or alternately, the Carvaka texts might have survived in libraries but been burned by the Turks and Persians when the Moslem invasions hit India. The vast majority of Buddhist texts in India were destroyed this way.

Wikipedia has not-too-bad intro to Carvaka. It sounds like they were an interesting bunch. According to them, Carvaka survived in India til around 1400 CE. Shame we know so little about them, the stuff that the rival sects said about them might not be all that accurate.

Comment #50193

Posted by Eugene Lai on September 29, 2005 5:54 PM (e)

I disagree that science needs, or needed, to be saved from religion. Religion, I have shown, has not tried to destroy science, or knowledge, except in fringe, extremist cases. I provided and example. I also provided a parallel. If you want to call hypocrisy to this, so be it, but I see it not.

Just about *every* major contribution or destruction of humanity contributed attributed to “fringe, extremist cases” IF you choose to word it that way. Newton is only one person. So is Einstein, Mother Teresa, Hitler….. you get my drift.

Your parallel shows that there are religious people who protected knowledge. Nothing more.

You are content to attribute *all of* religion’s attack on science to a small extremist group. That’s fine, but take a look at the other side of the coin. The monks/nuns(or others) in monastries are an equally small group of people, extremists at the other end of the spectrum (the good end). Religion as a whole must own up to both. You should not credit one to religion and dismiss the other. If that is not hypocrisy to you, I don’t know what is, although that’s fine too.

Your point? Were any of the uneducated peasants trying to destroy science, maybe? Or were the ones actually trying the politicians (both nobles and highest ranking churchmen, but politicians at any rate, and in my experience mostly the nobles) the ones attacking science?

Please stop and consider for a second, that “nobles and highest ranking churchmen” are the same group of people. Are these nobles and politicians not religious people at the same time? Are the highest ranking churchmen not politicians by the way they wield real power and rule above ordinary people? Do you think that it is just a coincidence? I don’t think so.

The exact same selective thinking that I pointed out earlier gets the better of you again.

As for uneducated peasants, I am merely saying that it is *they* that was the majority in the aptly name dark age (and you wonder why it was dark). If you wish to apply the “minority should not count” rule, do it consistently.

Comment #50238

Posted by Tom Rossen on September 30, 2005 12:02 AM (e)

Grey Wolf,

One of the all-time most egregious attacks on science was the destruction of the library of Alexandria. Remember who did that?

Admittedly, that was a matter of writings and not scientific process.

Consider instead Galileo Galilei and Giordano Bruno. Their tribulations can hardly be laid to “fringe extremists” - the perpetrator was an extremist religious establishment.

Comment #50298

Posted by James Taylor on September 30, 2005 11:40 AM (e)

Tom Rossen wrote:

One of the all-time most egregious attacks on science was the destruction of the library of Alexandria. Remember who did that?

I don’t think there is substantial evidence detailing who was responsible for the destruction of the Library of Alexandria. Most conclusions appear to have been drawn from suppositions. I have suspicions, but there are several contradictory accounts of the sacking and destruction of the Library itself.

Wikipedia: Library of Alexandria

Comment #50439

Posted by Tom Rossen on October 1, 2005 1:02 AM (e)

The Wikipedia page you cite is a bit more definite about this than you imply: There is a growing consensus among historians that the Library of Alexandria likely suffered from several destructive events, but that the destruction of Alexandria’s pagan temples in the late 4th century was probably the most severe and final one.

The section entitled Destruction of the pagan temples by Theophilus goes into detail on this church-organized “cleansing”.

There would seem to be less controversy on the murder of Hypatia, the last librarian of Alexandria, and a mathematician of some repute:

Hypatia came to symbolise learning and science which the early Christians identified with paganism…. according to one report, Hypatia was brutally murdered by the Nitrian monks who were a fanatical sect of Christians who were supporters of Cyril. According to another account (by Socrates Scholasticus) she was killed by an Alexandrian mob under the leadership of the reader Peter. What certainly seems indisputable is that she was murdered by Christians who felt threatened by her scholarship, learning, and depth of scientific knowledge.