Jack Krebs posted Entry 2580 on September 9, 2006 10:28 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2574

Thursday (9-7-06) Ken Miller spoke at the University of Kansas on ““God, Darwin, and Design: Creationism’s Second Coming” as part of a great series we are having this fall entitled “Difficult Dialogues.” (Later we having Judge Jones, Dawkins, Genie Scott and Behe - a busy fall here at KU.) The next day Miller spoke at an extended question-and-answer period as a followup to his speech.

The first two thirds of Ken’s speech was about the state of ID today - an entertaining and substantial discussion centered on the Dover trial, culminating in the two conclusions that ID is totally vacuous as science and that ID has been thoroughly exposed as religious.

Then Ken tackled the difficult topic. I haven’t gone back and listened to the recording (more on that in a bit,) but here is a summary of the issue, taken from Ken’s speech but containing some of my own interpretation and language.

The creationist movement in general associates evolution with atheistic materialism, and thus blames evolution for all the ills of the world. However, materialism and atheism are metaphysical interpretations of science, not science itself, nor necessary conclusions from science. Religious people need to work to break that misconception by arguing for their own theistic interpretation. (Ken used the word interpretation: I don’t think that’s the best word choice, but that’s a matter for further discussion.)

That is, we need to shift the dialogue away from science, which has always been the wrong venue for the discussion of the real issues that motivate the anti-evolutionists, and turn the dialogue to the real issue, which is the subject of how we vary in our metaphysical and religious beliefs. This was succinctly summarized in a comment by Richard Wein over on PZ’s blog Pharyngula today when Richard wrote, “It seems to me that what he [Miller] is saying to creationists is this: if you want to argue against atheism then argue against atheism, not against evolution.”

Several places reported on the speech yesterday morning:

Lawrence Journal World: Biologist says evolution, religion can coexist

Red State Rabble

Paul Decelles

This morning PZ Myers posted a reaction on his blog that has been followed by a very interesting discussion, including both negative and positive things about Miller’s thesis. No matter where one may stand on the issues, it is clear that the subject does engender a “difficult dialogue” that tends to divide us more than it unites us.

We at KCFS recorded both the speech Thursday night and the dialogue session Friday morning, and we have Ken’s permission to distribute these. This morning I sent links to these files to various pro-science groups around the country, holding back from making them fully public in part because NPR plans on broadcasting the speech in early November. But this evening I decided that this subject is so important, and the reports on Ken’s speech has already sparked the discussion, that I ought to make the mp3 files of the speech and the dialogue session publicly available.

Listen to the speeches: So if you are interested in listening for yourself, go here. The sections in the speech folder entitled 04 and 05 and much of the dialogue session contain the religious issues, although the first part of the speech (01, 02 and 03) on ID and Dover are well worth listening to.

There are also zip versions of the files. It would probably be best for my little home server if you downloaded the zip files rather than streamed the individual files, if you would.

I look forward to contributing to this discussion. I think Ken has made a bold step in bringing up some critical issues. I also think that his remarks have been misinterpreted by some based on the news stories. Ken told me at dinner after the speech, and explained publicly at the dialogue session the next day, that he had just added the slides about the issue in question on the airplane coming out to Kansas, and that he is feeling his way about what the issues really are and how to frame them for constructive discussions. I would hope that even if one feels, after listening to the speech, that Ken is really wrong, one will try to add to a civil discussion on the issues rather than target Ken personally.

In fact, at dinner I offered what I think was taken as a contructive comment related to one of the main points in my recent post ID Moving On in Fighting the Culture War. Given (I take it as a given) that we need to frame issues as spanning a spectrum rather than as being dichotomous (lots of shades of grey rather than black-and-white), I think stating the issue as being about theistic as opposed to atheistic views leaves out a whole spectrum of religious and philosophical beliefs, including a wide variety of theistic beliefs which are quite at odds with each other. Replacing the false dichotomy of science or God with an equally false dichotomy of God or no-God will not be much of an improvement (even though it at least moves us in the right direction of addressing the real issues.)

I want to add one personal comment. The anti-evolutionists have a two step argument: science is atheistic, and atheisim leads to “devastating cultural consequences”, to quote the Wedge document. We need to counter both of those arguments, as they are both wrong. The creationists demonize the materialist, the atheist, the secular humanist - and we have to resist that just as much as we have to resist the other side of the creationist argument about evolution and science.

So I think Ken Miller has helped put the cards on the table. We may not agree with everything he said (my guess is that Ken, if he listens to the recordings, might not now agree with everything he said then,) but I thank him for standing up and putting his ideas and his beliefs out there for the public. These are indeed “difficult dialogues.” I hope many of us will be willing to contribute constructively to discussions about these religious issues in the months and years to come. Let’s move the discussion away from science - ID is dead - and onto the real issues of the religious and philosophical beliefs we hold and how we can live well in a society in which there is a wide diversity of such beliefs.

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Comment #127694

Posted by Glen Davidson on September 10, 2006 12:00 AM (e)

Could we agree with Miller that both faith and science are gifts from God? Why, or why not?

I think that a huge problem with “moving on” to matters other than scienceis that one has to confront the claims of religious evolutionists which we tolerate as meaningless in science, but which cannot be supported by science, philosophy, or epistemology. Science is limited, of course, however it follows the basic evidentiary processes that are just about all that can be considered to lead us to “factual truth”.

And of course it’s true that it isn’t about the science, and ID is “dead” in the Johnsonian sense of attempting to get academia to think well of ID (how long ago did that boat sink?). That’s why ID or some other version of creationism will be with us for a very long time, because the results of all evidence-based investigations, from science to philosophy, fail to support the beliefs of the religionists.

Many know that we’re completely willing to tolerate their beliefs, like we do astrology and alien visitations, which is exactly what they don’t like. Such tolerance is at least somewhat contemptuous, no matter what our intentions are, because we’re simply putting up with nonsense so long as it isn’t directly harmful.

So sure, argue beyond the science. Many of us do that most of the time anyway, and of course those who want science to verify their religion are unreceptive to what we say. UD writers definitely know that the issue isn’t science, which is exactly why they complain about science as atheistic–it doesn’t allow for “God” as the Cause without a good chain of evidence leading up to the “god conclusion”.

Like it or not, science is atheistic (or more broadly, non-theistic)in the sense that UD claims that it is. It doesn’t rely upon God, it doesn’t find God, and it considers the whole “God issue” to be irrelevant. In the traditional sense, this is atheistic, for past cultures did not separate spiritual claims from the rest of life, while science quite obviously does (there being no evidence for these “spirits”).

For more philosophical religionists this can be tolerable. For many Americans, the sense that science is “of God” is their operating “principle”, so that if science finds God to be irrelevant in factual matters, ipso facto this is a strike against this science. Science is judged by its agreement with their religion, and not the other way around.

So they will continue to raise the science issue even if we do not, since they are affronted by the fact that science doesn’t support religion. We will simply be stuck in the same sorts of arguments that we have been in for the last decade or so, arguing on many fronts, but with the same theme of scientifically ignorant people whining about science excluding God simply because it is “atheistic”. The fact that they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about has never stopped them in the past, and it won’t stop them in the future.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #127702

Posted by Paul Decelles on September 10, 2006 1:10 AM (e)

One thing I really liked about his talk was the revised textbook warning sticker warning students that this book deals with science etc. I liked it because often times the ID people tend to try to isolate evolution from the rest of science, as if scientific knowledge is a series of little isolated fiefdoms. For instance I have had students ask me if I believe in God at some point when I am talking about evolution. I point out to them that no where else in science do we expect God or other metaphysical concepts to enter into the discussion-we talk about cellular respiration or protein synthesis and not once is God or the soul or any sort of supernatural causation for life invoked* and if we think of what happens with evolution as an extension of the processes and laws we see here and now, then there is no logical reason to invoke supernatural causation in the past as an explanation about HOW living things came to be in their current form. The metaphysical WHY is a different sort of question.

*students may invoke their favorite deity for help with my exams though.

Comment #127709

Posted by pdecell@sunflower.com on September 10, 2006 1:28 AM (e)

Almost forgot, more good reporting on the talk is by the angry astronomer at:

http://angryastronomer.blogspot.com/2006/09/miller-at-ku-part-1.html

Comment #127723

Posted by Carol Clouser on September 10, 2006 2:25 AM (e)

“Let’s move the discussion away from science - ID is dead - and onto the real issues of the religious and philosophical beliefs we hold and how we can live well in a society in which there is a wide diversity of such beliefs.”

One of those “real” issues, indeed the elephant in the room, is the perceived conflict between a literal reading of the Bible and science. And there is much to debate in this regard, as I have pointed out many times in this forum. I am persuaded by recent scholarship that the original Hebrew version of the Bible, as opposed to the popular but demonstrably sloppy and erroneous English translations, can very reasonably be interpreted literally and yet not conflict with any tenet of science, including evolution, the age of the earth and universe, and many other issues.

This must become part of any program to heal the divide between secularists and religionists. Otherwise, it seems to me, we are just going to do more spitting in the wind.

Comment #127745

Posted by PhilVaz on September 10, 2006 4:20 AM (e)

Thanks for making this available. I have boosted the volume slightly using Cool Edit Pro and put all 8 files into one MP3 here

http://www.bringyou.to/KenMillerKS092006.mp3

Lowered the bit rate, final size is about 22 meg. Download at will.

Phil P

Comment #127755

Posted by Roland Anderson on September 10, 2006 5:33 AM (e)

The old problem of demarcation between science and religion. I think the idea of separate magisteria is correct, but that people often don’t notice when religions make scientific claims. I don’t like it when children are indoctrinated with religious ideas, but if you can prove that the ideas are false (in the “beyond-reasonable-doubt” scientific sense) then you are dealing with lies.

For example, the Catholic claim that Mary rose bodily into heaven is a scientific claim. By any scientific standards, it’s false. As are water-into-wine, the 6-day creation and any number of flood myths. The fundamentalists in the US would therefore argue that if you teach in a publicly-funded classroom that human beings don’t float in air, that water doesn’t change into wine but is only an ingredient of it, that the world was never submerged in a flood and didn’t come into existence in 6 days, that you are contradicting a religious tenet and therefore falling foul of the First Amendment.

So if Catholic little Johnny asks his science teacher “Did Mary rise bodily into heaven?”, then the teacher should be able to say “no”. It seems to me that the definition of religion for First Amendment purposes must exclude any reference to the possibility of gods/spirits etc having any effect on the physical world. Any such religious claim should be permitted to be contradicted in a science classroom. That includes Christ physically coming to life again after being crucified. Fine, he can live on in our hearts or in heaven or wherever, but did that man really come back to life? No. Is there any contemporaneous evidence for his existence? No.

Does praying help you get better? No. Is Kennewick Man one of our tribe? No. Is science a gift from God? I object to that question as it presupposes God’s existence, but science won’t give you the answer.

A religion shorn of any reference to the physical world has nothing to fear from science.

Comment #127761

Posted by PhilVaz on September 10, 2006 6:03 AM (e)

Roland: “For example, the Catholic claim that Mary rose bodily into heaven is a scientific claim.”

No it is not. It is a historical and faith claim. The Catholic teaching is that she probably died although this part is not explicitly defined (the Latin has expleto terrestris vitae cursu or “having completed the course of her earthly life”), and that she was taken to heaven immediately after her death. It is called the dogma of the Assumption of Mary celebrated August 15. No Catholic claims to be able to demonstrate that using the scientific method. It is not a scientific claim. Yes, I understand Dawkins thinks it is. I have read where he talks about the Assumption in Devil’s Chaplain or his other books and articles.

Roland: “So if Catholic little Johnny asks his science teacher ‘Did Mary rise bodily into heaven?’, then the teacher should be able to say “no”.”

The Catholic science teacher at a private Catholic institution should be able to answer, “Yes, I accept it as a matter of faith. But science can say nothing about such miracles.”

Same with the resurrection of Jesus. It is a historical claim, and argued on historical grounds by folks like William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas. It only presupposes that God exists.

Biologist Darrel Falk explains in Coming to Peace with Science:

“The fact is that Christianity has core beliefs that are not accessible to the scientific method….The resurrection, existence of the Holy Spirit and immortality are all beyond the realm of scientific testability. Even testing the power of prayer will probably not bring scientists to their knees. The history of life on earth, however, is in a much different category. It has been possible to explore this using scientific methods….For the past century and a half, thousands of scientists from disciplines as diverse as physics, geology, astronomy and biology have amassed a tremendous mass of data, and the answer is absolutely clear and equally certain. The earth is not young, and the life forms did not appear in six twenty-four-hour days. God created gradually….We now know more about the nature of divine action. We now know a little about how God created life, and any time we understand something new about the activity of God, it brings us one step closer to God.” (Falk, Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology, page 213, 214)

Phil P

Comment #127765

Posted by Corkscrew on September 10, 2006 6:46 AM (e)

Carol wrote:

One of those “real” issues, indeed the elephant in the room, is the perceived conflict between a literal reading of the Bible and science. And there is much to debate in this regard, as I have pointed out many times in this forum. I am persuaded by recent scholarship that the original Hebrew version of the Bible, as opposed to the popular but demonstrably sloppy and erroneous English translations, can very reasonably be interpreted literally and yet not conflict with any tenet of science, including evolution, the age of the earth and universe, and many other issues.

Right. Whatever. Good for you.

However, most of the people on this forum either don’t believe that the Bible is holy scripture or, if Christian, don’t accept its literality on other grounds. As such, we are precisely the wrong audience to be discussing this with. Why not argue it out with a more relevant audience like Answers In Genesis? If you do, please stick the dialogue up on a website somewhere - I for one would find that argument genuinely interesting.

Comment #127767

Posted by Call me what you want, you will anyway on September 10, 2006 7:06 AM (e)

Jack, what you have made clear, and what is also clear from posts from Brady, Les Lane, et al, at your site, is that the idea that science and religion are compatible is just lip service for the massess.

And it is doubly aburd that you are putting a spin on Kens remarks by saying that “he might not agree with everything he said then”.

Baloney!!! We are supposed to rely on some remarks that “he told you at dinner” and your claim that he just slapped some of this together on the way out here?

I don’t believe it. I lack belief in your claim.

But as far as civil discussions, that is not going to happen as far as most of the atheists are concerned.

Just look at PZ Myers tone over at his site, and the tone of the aforementioned posts at your site.

Although I thought at one time that ther could be accomodation, it is clear that the atheists are the ones who will have no respect for opposing views and that this so called “reconciliation is a joke”.

If the atheists ever get control, they will try to bend us all to their will, just have they have always done historically. Atheism is, in the end, an irrational belief.

Comment #127777

Posted by Caledonian on September 10, 2006 8:07 AM (e)

Materialism and atheism are not “metaphysical” conclusions that don’t necessarily follow from the nature of science. They’re necessary consequences of the application of logic to our attempts to understand our world.

The scientific concept of ‘material’ extends itself every time a new discovery about the composition of the world is made. Everything that we know about is ‘material’. The things which we don’t know about right now, but that interact with the material world (that is, the things that exist in some way), are material. If a thing exists, we call it material, and thus it is logically impossible for an existant thing to be nonmaterial. One is just another way of talking about the other, and vice versa.

As for god – the traditional conception of gods makes as much sense as an immovable object meeting an irresistable force. The very category is logically inconsistent. Concepts of divinities that do not discard reason are available, and those gods are certainly possible – but there is absolutely no evidence that any of them exist, in the same way that there is absolutely no evidence that the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus exist, despite both being logically permissable, though perhaps not compatible with current physics.

If Miller thinks he can cause his irrational faith to become rational by asserting that it is over and over again, he’s a fool. We need to reject his false arguments as invalid; no matter how beneficial his correct arguments about evolution are to our cause, we cannot value truth while pandering to convenient falsehood.

Comment #127778

Posted by Caledonian on September 10, 2006 8:17 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'i'

Comment #127781

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 10, 2006 8:38 AM (e)

To Call me what you want: Panda’s Thumb policy is that “Posting under multiple identities or falsely posting as someone else may lead to removal of affected comments and blocking of the IP address from which those comments were posted, at the discretion of the management.”

You need to pick an identity and stick with it rather than changing your posting name at will.

Comment #127784

Posted by Lurker on September 10, 2006 8:45 AM (e)

If the best strategy atheists have come up with to combat 1) intolerance towards scientific theories and 2) intolerance towards atheists, is to stoop to stereotyping and name-calling their Christian pro-science counterparts, then I am afraid this whole endeavor, as embodied by PT, is a complete failure.

PZ wants Ken Millers of the world to tell their fellow religionists that “we’re not threatening to you.” LOL

Come on atheists. Do you realize just how stupid and naive that sound?

Comment #127785

Posted by lurker on September 10, 2006 8:53 AM (e)

Let me ask for a clarification. It is not ok for Ken Miller to redirect the focus of Christians towards combating atheists. It is, however, quite ok for PZ Myers to redirect the focus of atheists towards combating Christians?

Comment #127792

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 10, 2006 9:02 AM (e)

To lurker: Several things. One is civility - you need to find a less antagonistic way to express your thoughts if you want to particpate in this thread.

Second, your statement about PT is out of line. PT is a group of people who don’t agree on everything, and we’ve made it very clear that the thoughts of any one poster do not speak for the whole PT group.

Last, of course atheists and theists disagree with each other. Whether any particular person feels threatened by the existence of people with other metaphysical beliefs is an individual matter - it is not a necessary consequence of having different belief systems.

Comment #127811

Posted by Peter Henderson on September 10, 2006 9:20 AM (e)

I’ve just listened to Ken Miller’s main talk and, speaking as a Christian, I agree with everything he has said. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, this is not a debate about whether or not God exists. Those are philosophical arguments. This debate is about science/reason versus religious dogma.

I had no problem with the geology I learned at school, or the astronomy I studied through the Open University. It came as a total shock/surprise to me that many of my fellow Christians believed in young Earth creationism etc. From when I first heard Carl Baugh talking nonsense on TV through to reading anti-science rubbish on the AIG website, I soon realised that YECism was something I could or never will accept. It still mystifies/puzzles me that so many well educated people in the church so willingly accept this (YECism). I am also appalled as to why so few leaders in the evangelical wing of the church cannot see why this so wrong and I am surprised that so few speak out against groups like AIG, ICR etc. Mark my words, the church will lose this battle, in the long run.

In a fairly recent TV series by the BBC, Journeys to the centre of the Earth, Dr. Iain Stewart talked a little bit about the history of science. One of the events that changed the thinking of scientists, apparently, was the great earthquake in Lisbon in 1755:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1755_Lisbon_earthquake#Social_and_philosophical_implications

Seemingly, every church in Lisbon was destroyed. If phenomena like earthquakes were acts of God, then why did God destroy the very places that were erected to worship him ? It had huge philosophical implications across Europe.

Comment #127812

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 10, 2006 9:21 AM (e)

Lurker, to whom are you addressing your comment? Who in this thread has made the statements about it being OK to do X or Y?

My point, and I beleive Ken’s point, is that people of different metaphysical positions need to address those issues directly with each other rather than making evolution the target of the discussion. Discussing things with people is different than “combatting them.”

This thread is not about PZ Myer’s post - it is about my post. If you want to respond to PZ, you should go comment there, I think.

Comment #127838

Posted by Lurker on September 10, 2006 10:24 AM (e)

Well, Jack, you wrote regarding defaming atheists:

“We have to resist…”

Who is “we?” That’s quite my point. Why does a Christian have to resist attacking atheists as the scourge of society?

You also had mentioned PZ twice in relation to Ken Miller. Clearly those statements aren’t devoid of context. So why suddenly are we not allowed to discuss the context of this post?

Comment #127839

Posted by Lurker on September 10, 2006 10:27 AM (e)

“Second, your statement about PT is out of line.”

What statement? I said that if we condone members of PT bashing, then whole proscience enterprise of PT is doomed to failure.

What is terribly uncivil about that observation, when in the previous post, we had a poster claim that theists were irrational?

Comment #127845

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 10, 2006 10:55 AM (e)

Lurker, you make some reasonable points here, and I’ll try to answer.

You wrote, “Well, Jack, you wrote regarding defaming atheists: “We have to resist…” Who is “we?” That’s quite my point. Why does a Christian have to resist attacking atheists as the scourge of society?”

As part of my personal comment I said, and I’m willing to expand on this, that the demonization of materialism and atheism as the cause of all of societies ills is flat out wrong. You may “attack atheists as the scourge of society” if you wish, and you may think that is a Christian thing to do, but I think that doing so is in fact part of the problem, not part of the solution.

You wrote, “You also had mentioned PZ twice in relation to Ken Miller. Clearly those statements aren’t devoid of context. So why suddenly are we not allowed to discuss the context of this post?”

I mentioned PZ blog in passing, but I didn’t discuss his thesis. If you want to respond specifically to what he wrote you should do that on his site.

You wrote, “I said that if we condone members of PT bashing, then whole proscience enterprise of PT is doomed to failure.”

Not at all. People who support science differ on other issues. In fact part of the “proscience enterprise” of PT might in fact be making that clear. Note also the PZ moved all comments to his own site because he thought that was a better place for responses to take place. All of us PT’ers have a life beyond PT: PT doesn’t rise or fall based on any one person or one event.

You wrote, “What is terribly uncivil about that observation, when in the previous post, we had a poster claim that theists were irrational?”

I didn’t make clear what part of what post I was referring to, but I’d like us to move on rather than drag my concerns back up. Your comments are welcome if we can stay on issues.

Comment #127850

Posted by Flint on September 10, 2006 11:14 AM (e)

The rationality of faith is something I find fairly slippery. There are beliefs based on evidence (I believe it’s raining), beliefs based on the inability to prove otherwise (I believe there are precisely 117 gods), and beliefs in flat defiance of all known evidence (I believe evolution never happened). Which of these categories of belief is irrational?

My reading is that nearly everyone here (but by no means everyone) considers the first sort of belief to be rational, and the third sort to be irrational to the point of pitiful (meaning, those trained to actually believe this have been intellectually crippled).

So the real focus is on the category of beliefs inaccessible to science. And the issue then becomes not what posture science should adopt toward such beliefs. They lie outside the scope of science. Instead, the issue should be how helpful, useful, supportive, or whatever such beliefs are to those who hold them.

An effort is being made here, as I read it, to distinguish between non-science and anti-science. And this distinction hinges on the concept of evidence. Does evidence matter? Is the claim that Mary ascended bodily to heaven an evidence-based claim, or a statement of pure faith to which evidence is irrelevant?

Conversely, if evidence both matters and is rejected because it violates faith-based doctrine, this position can only be regarded as irrational. If it is not, rationality itself loses all meaning and utility.

Comment #127862

Posted by Peter Henderson on September 10, 2006 11:39 AM (e)

Surely there are many scientists who are not atheists (whether it be Christian, Hindu, Muslim or whatever) ? Conversely, not all evangelical Christians are anti-science/anti-evolution/pro YEC.

In my opinion, a person’s faith is irrelevant (despite what AIG says) in this debate, and a private matter for that individual.

Comment #127882

Posted by Lurker on September 10, 2006 12:03 PM (e)

“Instead, the issue should be how helpful, useful, supportive, or whatever such beliefs are to those who hold them.”

And who else should evaluate this sort of beliefs in the manner you propose than the person who holds them?

“if evidence both matters and is rejected because it violates faith-based doctrine, this position can only be regarded as irrational.”

But that says nothing about how this form of irrationality is not “helpful, useful, supportive, or whavever”. Denial is a very human trait, precisely because all of us need time to absorb the impact of a supposed framework shattering piece of evidence. Parents have faith in their children. They want to believe that they will succeed. So, go to a PTA meeting sometime to see how parents act irrationally when told their child is a delinquent, or an underachiever.

Here’s another example. It is not rational to antagonize the majority with an offensive minority viewpoint. It is not helpful, useful, supportive, or whatever. But yet PT members do it all the time. And then they hide behind the escape clause that their views do not represent all of PT. But, how does one rationally deduce this? What is different about the credibility or universality of a PT member’s debunking an ID claim vs. a PT member’s debunking of Christians? Nothing, except for the voice of the commenters who make it explicit. Such vigilance should neither be viewed as uncivil nor as undesired.

Comment #127889

Posted by GvlGeologist, FCD on September 10, 2006 12:22 PM (e)

Posted by Flint on September 10, 2006 11:14 AM (e)

The rationality of faith is something I find fairly slippery. There are beliefs based on evidence (I believe it’s raining), beliefs based on the inability to prove otherwise (I believe there are precisely 117 gods), and beliefs in flat defiance of all known evidence (I believe evolution never happened). Which of these categories of belief is irrational?

My wife, a non-scientist, points out often (when I’m complaining about the efforts of anti-evolutioners) that we really shouldn’t use the term “belief” when it comes to the first of your statements. “Believing” that it is raining based on evidence isn’t really a belief at all, it’s accepting the evidence. Unfortunately, English language has several different meanings for words dependent upon context (as anyone trying to teach what the word “theory” means to scientists and to the lay public knows). In this case, we should be very careful to be clear about what we mean.

When talking about evolution or the age of the earth, I try never to say that “I believe in” either of those concepts. Instead, I try to put it something like this: “I acknowledge that the evidence supports” or “I accept the evidence for”. We could even say simply “The evidence supports” to get the personal aspect out. I know it’s a bit wordier, but it’s more precise, and we do need to separate the concepts of belief (in the absence of or even contrary to evidence) and acceptance of evidence based knowledge.

Any time we say that we believe that evolution is true, we play into the hands of creationists/IDers who try to portray science as religion. Let’s make it clear that we base our conclusions on evidence.

Comment #127890

Posted by normdoering on September 10, 2006 12:26 PM (e)

Richard Wein over on PZ’s blog Pharyngula … wrote, “It seems to me that what he [Miller] is saying to creationists is this: if you want to argue against atheism then argue against atheism, not against evolution.”

So, what is Miller’s argument against atheism?

It would be easier to make that case if he had one. Then we could all have a real argument here instead of dancing around this issue.

Comment #127894

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 10, 2006 1:47 PM (e)

In my opinion, a person’s faith is irrelevant (despite what AIG says) in this debate, and a private matter for that individual.

I quite agree.

The basic problem is that we have two groups of people here, the fundie Christians and the evangelical atheists, who not only believe what they believe, but won’t rest until **everyone else** believes it too. And they both mis-use “science” to justify what are, in essence, philosophical opinions.

Much as they fight with each other, under the feathers they are the very same bird, with the very same squawk.

And in the end, none of this has anything to do with creationism/ID, which is a POLITICAL issue, not a scientific or religious one.

Comment #127895

Posted by alienward on September 10, 2006 1:47 PM (e)

Jack Krebs wrote and quoted:

This was succinctly summarized in a comment by Richard Wein over on PZ’s blog Pharyngula today when Richard wrote, “It seems to me that what he [Miller] is saying to creationists is this: if you want to argue against atheism then argue against atheism, not against evolution.”

In his book and slick PowerPoint presentations Miller is saying to the creationists; “Your beliefs that a god specifically created humans and there was no death before the fall have been falsified by evolution.” That’s why Miller’s attempt to placate creationists is really lame on his part. They’re going to continue to see him as an atheist heathen posing as a theist.

Comment #127896

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 10, 2006 1:53 PM (e)

Here’s another example. It is not rational to antagonize the majority with an offensive minority viewpoint. It is not helpful, useful, supportive, or whatever. But yet PT members do it all the time. And then they hide behind the escape clause that their views do not represent all of PT. But, how does one rationally deduce this?

It’s quite plain that you’ve not been here for very long.

;)

Go back in the archives and look for all the threads with 500-plus comments. They’re all, um, about the same topic. We have this silly religious war between the hyper-Christians and the uber-atheists every few weeks, and most of us think it doesn’t help.

Just because this is the first one you’ve seen, doesn’t mean it’s the first one.

(And at this point, PZ’s Puppy Dogs will begin barking loudly at me.)

Comment #127904

Posted by Pat Hayes on September 10, 2006 2:28 PM (e)

I’d like to pick up on Jack’s point that, “we need to frame issues as spanning a spectrum rather than as being dichotomous.”

Creationists want to frame all evolutionists – indeed all scientists – as atheists. That’s part of their Wedge Strategy. To do this, they are compelled to ignore scientists such as Ken Miller who combine faith with reason.

Unfortunately, some of my fellow skeptics are guilty of conflating all religious belief with biblical literalism, as well.

We non-believers need to recognize there’s a wide range of belief on both sides of this divide. There is a difference – a real difference – between Ken Miller and Michael Behe, Reinhold Niebuhr and Jerry Falwell, John Danforth and Rick Santorum.

For skeptics to do so concedes nothing to faith. This strategy is both consistent with reality and an unanswerable refution of the creationist’s Wedge Strategy.

At bottom, the creationist challenge to evolution isn’t scientific. It’s a political and cultural battle between authoritarians on the one hand, and proponents of tolerance, free inquiry, and democracy on the other.

The art of politics is in uniting your friends and dividing your enemies. To do that, you have to know which is which.

To defeat authoritian fundamentalism, skeptics and believers must find common ground.

Comment #127910

Posted by Anton Mates on September 10, 2006 2:49 PM (e)

PhilVaz wrote:

Roland: “For example, the Catholic claim that Mary rose bodily into heaven is a scientific claim.”

No it is not. It is a historical and faith claim.

Same with the resurrection of Jesus. It is a historical claim, and argued on historical grounds by folks like William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas. It only presupposes that God exists.

Why would historical claims be outside science? There wouldn’t be much point in learning history or arguing about it if nothing in it could be scientifically verified. Indeed, as Darrel Falk says in the quote you gave, the history of life on earth is quite amenable to scientific investigation.

Certainly the existence of, say, the Holy Spirit would be impossible to prove or disprove–but not so the historical existence of a bunch of people who spoke in tongues, were immune to snakebite, performed healings and so forth, who claimed that the Holy Spirit was responsible for their gifts. Likewise, you can’t do much with the claim that Mary’s soul was taken to Heaven after death, but if she ascended bodily and disappeared from observers’ view, if Jesus physically got up after death and walked around and had people touch his wounds, that’s scientifically investigable.

After all, it’s possible to investigate much less dramatic and smaller-scale historical questions. How intimate was Julius Caesar’s relationship with Cleopatra? What was the nature of Mary Lincoln’s mental illness? We might never answer such questions with 99% certainty, but theories can be formed about them and tested by looking for historical corroboration and refutation. There’s no reason why most of Jesus’ miracles (which often had lots of witnesses) couldn’t be treated similarly.

Comment #127919

Posted by Peter Henderson on September 10, 2006 3:09 PM (e)

The basic problem is that we have two groups of people here, the fundie Christians and the evangelical atheists, who not only believe what they believe, but won’t rest until **everyone else** believes it too. And they both mis-use “science” to justify what are, in essence, philosophical opinions.

You’ve hit the nail on the head Lenny ! As an example, I seem to remember Richard Dawkins presenting the Royal Society’s Christmas children’s lectures a number of years ago (I think it was in the late eighties). Professor Dawkins injected some of his philosophical views into the lectures and it drew quite a lot of criticism from evangelicals at the time, particularly in these parts. This gentleman in particular was highly critical of him:

http://www.christianfocus.com/contributor/show/121/-

I’ve heard Derick Bingham preach on many occasions and I certainly wouldn’t describe him as being on the extreme end of the Christian spectrum here, although he could be dogmatic at times.

Comment #127931

Posted by normdoering on September 10, 2006 3:57 PM (e)

alienward wrote:

… Miller is saying to the creationists; “Your beliefs that a god specifically created humans and there was no death before the fall have been falsified by evolution.” That’s why Miller’s attempt to placate creationists is really lame on his part. They’re going to continue to see him as an atheist heathen posing as a theist.

Of course, that doesn’t shoot down a general theism, like a Deist or gnostic theism or many other weird beliefs about God. So, some vague idea of a God that uses evolution to create whatever that God wanted to (or still wants eventually to) create is still a possibility – just like we use genetic algorithms to design things. Evolution only knocks out one supporting line of evidence for that “General Theism”: The “Life appears to have been designed like a watch” Paley arguement. Only one highly specific belief about how God worked is invalidated by the evidence for evolution.

What line of argument is left for them? The anthropic universe?

Miller, like the IDists, is trying to create a big tent that the creationists can fit into. But I don’t see him having anything to build that big tent with. Where is his argument against atheism? He needs that to make a big tent. He could still have an argument against creationists and have them on his side in other arguments – but without any arguments he has nothing.

Comment #127937

Posted by normdoering on September 10, 2006 4:16 PM (e)

Pat Hayes wrote:

… some of my fellow skeptics are guilty of conflating all religious belief with biblical literalism, as well.

Name one.

That straw man is used against me all the time.

I have argued against metaphor and allegory models of interpretation as not being a good enough model and as not being properly historical (knowing what the original authors intended to express well enough). Metaphor and allegory models are the most obscure and flexible model man can concieve of.

Metaphor and allegory are always subject to multiple interpretations. For every shade of literal interpretation there will be a thousand more metaphorical and allegorical interpretations. Thus you’ll always have a surplus of meaning for the signs in your text and if you can’t come up with any, you put it aside and just believe there is one you don’t know about yet. Making the Bible out as metaphor and allegory makes it easy to slide between different definitions and evade being pinned down to any meaning.

No metaphorical or allegorical meaning can ever give you certainty.

Used that way, the Bible is as malleable as the inkblots in a Rorschach test. Stanley Kubric and Author C. Clarke, two atheists, were interviewed about the making of 2001 a few decades ago and they talked about all sorts of Christian metaphorical or allegorical meanings people were seeing in their film that they just didn’t intend to be there. Just like a Rorschach test.

[note: I took part of that from a post I made here and plagerized myself:]
http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/08/the_politically_15.html#comment-127352

Comment #127944

Posted by PvM on September 10, 2006 4:26 PM (e)

Lenny wrote:

The basic problem is that we have two groups of people here, the fundie Christians and the evangelical atheists, who not only believe what they believe, but won’t rest until **everyone else** believes it too. And they both mis-use “science” to justify what are, in essence, philosophical opinions.

Well said, as Ruse and others have reminded us, both sides use science to support their faith or beliefs and as such often mis-use science.

Comment #127946

Posted by Keith Douglas on September 10, 2006 4:31 PM (e)

Phil P: And why is historiography not a science? (Or, more broadly, why cannot it not make use of it?)

A few people said things like “but X is not science, it is instead a philosophical view”. Well, okay, maybe, but why shouldn’t one’s philosophy be consistent with one’s science? (Or better, mutually supporting with it?)

Comment #127947

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 10, 2006 4:41 PM (e)

I have argued against metaphor and allegory models of interpretation as not being a good enough model and as not being properly historical (knowing what the original authors intended to express well enough). Metaphor and allegory models are the most obscure and flexible model man can concieve of.

Metaphor and allegory are always subject to multiple interpretations.

For every shade of literal interpretation there will be a thousand more metaphorical and allegorical interpretations. Thus you’ll always have a surplus of meaning for the signs in your text and if you can’t come up with any, you put it aside and just believe there is one you don’t know about yet. Making the Bible out as metaphor and allegory makes it easy to slide between different definitions and evade being pinned down to any meaning.

No metaphorical or allegorical meaning can ever give you certainty.

My, my, authoritarians certainly don’t like people having different interpretations, do they ….

They much prefer “certainty”. And naturally, THEIR opinions are always pretty damn certain.

Like I said, under the feathers, the fundies and the hyper-atheists are the very same bird.

Comment #127948

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 10, 2006 4:43 PM (e)

Oops, misplaced a quote marker there.

Sorry.

Comment #127950

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 10, 2006 4:45 PM (e)

I have argued against metaphor and allegory models of interpretation as not being a good enough model

“Not good enough” for WHOM … ?

You?

Who the hell are you, again …. ?

Comment #127953

Posted by normdoering on September 10, 2006 5:01 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank asked:

“Not good enough” for WHOM … ?

It’s not good enough for anyone who wants to communicate with precision.

It’s not good enough to account for evidence of anything because the evidence being referred to as well as the meaning is purposely obscured.

It’s not good enough for it’s original meaning to survive 2000 years.

Comment #127966

Posted by normdoering on September 10, 2006 5:32 PM (e)

Keith Douglas on September 10, 2006 04:31 PM (e)

… but why shouldn’t one’s philosophy be consistent with one’s science? (Or better, mutually supporting with it?)

Because you’re assuming we have enough philosophy and science today to answer all sorts “ultimate” questions.

It’s not the possibilty of something god-like existing I’m against. It’s people telling me that I must have “faith” and “belief” in an answer to some ultimate questions that I object to. You don’t need faith and belief, you can say “I don’t know.”

I call myself an atheist. But for those who don’t understand what “atheist” means – I might be defined as a militant agnostic: I don’t know and neither do you, no matter what you care to claim without proof or evidence.

Comment #127995

Posted by KL on September 10, 2006 7:02 PM (e)

“For every shade of literal interpretation there will be a thousand more metaphorical and allegorical interpretations. Thus you’ll always have a surplus of meaning for the signs in your text and if you can’t come up with any, you put it aside and just believe there is one you don’t know about yet. Making the Bible out as metaphor and allegory makes it easy to slide between different definitions and evade being pinned down to any meaning.

No metaphorical or allegorical meaning can ever give you certainty.”

Ah, but here’s the rub: Why must we be “certain”? One of the problems I see with teaching science is that students ask for “truth”. I tell them there is no “truth”, just an explanation or explanations that best fit the available evidence. Sometimes Christians (and those of other faiths, too) are “certain” that what they know is right. Most things are subject to interpretation. Even scientific theories, as they explain the best available evidence, but can change as new evidence emerges. We need to let go of our demand for “certainty”. Although most people would see that as “squishy” when it comes to morals, I see it as humility in the face of much that is unknown.

Comment #128012

Posted by normdoering on September 10, 2006 8:09 PM (e)

KL wrote:

… here’s the rub: Why must we be “certain”?

Why we must we have faith? Why must we believe?

… students ask for “truth”. I tell them there is no “truth”,

But there is truth. And there are lies. And there are mistakes. And there are illusions and delusions too.

…just an explanation or explanations that best fit the available evidence.

No, there’s more than that. There are explanations that give you the power to accomplish things that have never been accomplished before.

And when you go into space and come back with with a picture of Earth that is obviously spherical there is no room for flat earth belief left. No room for Ptolomey either. The evidence has told us the truth from the mistake.

There may be more details to learn – but what we are learning is truth, just not all of it. There is room for surprises.

Sometimes Christians (and those of other faiths, too) are “certain” that what they know is right. Most things are subject to interpretation.

Not to the degree religious texts are. Consider, no one argues about most of what Aristotle meant when he expressed a flawed theory gravity that stated all bodies move towards their natural place and, I think, heavier things fell faster than lighter things. Galileo proved him wrong and there’s no arguing about interpretation. 2000 years later people are still arguing about what the Bible stories mean. Aristotle gave us a clear expression of his belief. The Bible writers did not.

Even scientific theories, as they explain the best available evidence, but can change as new evidence emerges. We need to let go of our demand for “certainty”.

Not entirely. We need to learn how to act in this world effectively to achieve our goals and not kill ourselves.

For example, a lack of some minor degree of certainty about global climate change is not an excuse not to act to prevent excessive global warming.

There’s a balance to strike here.

Comment #128015

Posted by normdoering on September 10, 2006 8:20 PM (e)

I wrote:

Why we must we have faith?

That should be: “Why must we have faith?”

Sorry about the gramatical slips – I posted too fast.

And beyond just that – most religion I’m exposed too is simply incohorent and it’s a lie to claim it is coherent in modern forms.

Comment #128018

Posted by Liz Craig on September 10, 2006 8:36 PM (e)

Seems to me plenty of the “evils” creationists associate with “evilution” existed in abundance even back in the Old Testament days.

Homosexuality, abortion, incest, murder, war, tyranny, divorce, and most of the “evils” they list as stemming from evolution were around long before 1859, when Darwin published “Origin of Species.” All of these things are just part of the human condition.

If something pre-existed Darwin, how could it be caused by his ideas?

Not that rationality has anything to do with it.

Comment #128024

Posted by Liz Craig on September 10, 2006 9:01 PM (e)

Someone here objected to what s/he thought Ken Miller was saying: that creationists ought to stop attacking evolution and attack atheists instead.

In fact, that is not what Ken said. What I believe he was saying is that some anti-theists (like Dawkins) like to claim that their science led them to atheism. In fact, science is silent on the subject of religious faith. Those who, like Dawkins, claim that science supports their atheism, are wrong. Science supports neither belief or non-belief in philosophical or religious ideas.

What Ken was emphasizing was that a clear distinction needs to be made between that which is scientific fact and that which is personal belief, whether theistic or non-theistic.

He also alluded to the great strength of science: that an atheist, a Buddhist, a Catholic and an evangelical could work together harmoniously in science, because regardless of personal faith beliefs, they all adhere to the same scientific standards.

Ken was not suggesting anyone attack atheists. He was suggesting that anti-theism supposedly based on science is a canard.

Comment #128031

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 10, 2006 9:24 PM (e)

It’s not good enough for anyone who wants to communicate with precision.

It’s not good enough to account for evidence of anything because the evidence being referred to as well as the meaning is purposely obscured.

It’s not good enough for it’s original meaning to survive 2000 years.

Says you. (shrug)

Oddly enough, those who do take the Bible metaphorically and not literally (the majority of Christians worldwide, by the way) don’t seem to think any of those things are problems.

And why on earth would you be demanding “evidence” for what is essentially a philosophical opinion? What sort of “evidence” can demonstrate that, say, a metaphorical approach to the Bible is an incorrect approach, other than this opinion or that one?

Comment #128033

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 10, 2006 9:28 PM (e)

Not to the degree religious texts are. Consider, no one argues about most of what Aristotle meant when he expressed a flawed theory gravity that stated all bodies move towards their natural place and, I think, heavier things fell faster than lighter things. Galileo proved him wrong and there’s no arguing about interpretation. 2000 years later people are still arguing about what the Bible stories mean. Aristotle gave us a clear expression of his belief. The Bible writers did not.

Um, Norm, you DO understand that there is a difference between “science” and “religion”, right?

Right?

Comment #128034

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 10, 2006 9:31 PM (e)

He was suggesting that anti-theism supposedly based on science is a canard.

And he’s right. Science is a method. It’s not a philosophy, not a worldview, and not a way of life. And those why try to turn it into one, are abusing and mis-using it every bit as much as the ID/creationists are.

Comment #128035

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 10, 2006 9:35 PM (e)

2000 years later people are still arguing about what the Bible stories mean.

People are still arguing today about what the symbolism in the last scenes of “2001: A Space Odyssey” means, too. Literature is, ya know, like that. They, um, mean different things to different people, under different circumstances. Interpretations, ya know.

Unless, of course, you think that you have the One True and Correct Interpretation©™, and that everyone else should just shut up and listen to you …. ? You know, kind of like the fundies ….?

Comment #128036

Posted by RBH on September 10, 2006 9:35 PM (e)

The single most important thought in this thread so far (in my less-than-humble opinion) is Pat Hayes’:

At bottom, the creationist challenge to evolution isn’t scientific. It’s a political and cultural battle between authoritarians on the one hand, and proponents of tolerance, free inquiry, and democracy on the other.

RBH

Comment #128040

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 10, 2006 9:58 PM (e)

Norm and Lenny: I moved one post of each of yours to the bathroom wall. Please don’t get into personally antagonistic back-and-forths here. I want the discussion stay on issues, not people.

Thanks

Comment #128048

Posted by normdoering on September 10, 2006 10:20 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

People are still arguing today about what the symbolism in the last scenes of “2001: A Space Odyssey” means, too.

Um, Lenny, you DO understand that there is a difference between “art” and “religion”, right?

Right?

Stanley Kubric isn’t promising that the people who believe in and accept the monolith will get to go to Jupiter and be reborn as cosmic fetuses. Stanley Kubric doesn’t really believe in the monolith that gave apes intelligence. I’m sure he was quite amonolithic. You don’t get any prize for figuring out any metaphors except for your enjoyment of a film. Kubric doesn’t promise you’ll handle snakes, drink poison, cast out demons, heal people and go to heaven. No one claims Hal was a real historical computer or Dave Bowman is a historical savior you must believe in.

I don’t know any Christians who treat the Bible the way Kubric fans treat his films. Art only requires a temporary suspension of disbelief – just enough for you to engage yourself emotionally.

Now, you can treat the Bible as such a story and enjoy it as art, but that’s not faith, that’s not belief, that’s not being a Christian in any meaningful sense.

That is only being a fan of ancient Hebrew fantasiests.

Real belief and faith do require evidence. Real faith has to be earned that way. So, in that sense religion is more like science, it’s propositions should be subject to the same rules of evidence.

Comment #128058

Posted by alienward on September 10, 2006 10:55 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #128059

Posted by alienward on September 10, 2006 10:57 PM (e)

normdoering wrote:

Of course, that doesn’t shoot down a general theism, like a Deist or gnostic theism or many other weird beliefs about God. So, some vague idea of a God that uses evolution to create whatever that God wanted to (or still wants eventually to) create is still a possibility – just like we use genetic algorithms to design things. Evolution only knocks out one supporting line of evidence for that “General Theism”: The “Life appears to have been designed like a watch” Paley arguement. Only one highly specific belief about how God worked is invalidated by the evidence for evolution.

You replied to a post that lists two specific beliefs that evolution falsifies; special creation and no death before the fall. Do you see those as just one belief for some reason? And the evidence supporting evolution also falsifies the global flood and young earth beliefs. Miller does a good job falsifying all of those beliefs in his book.

What line of argument is left for them? The anthropic universe?

That and a god still showed up as a human and turned some water into wine and other magic tricks that Miller calls miracles.

Miller, like the IDists, is trying to create a big tent that the creationists can fit into. But I don’t see him having anything to build that big tent with. Where is his argument against atheism? He needs that to make a big tent. He could still have an argument against creationists and have them on his side in other arguments – but without any arguments he has nothing.

That’s because is argument is against some theistic beliefs, not atheism, and why his attempt to placate creationists isn’t going to work. He did do an awesome job falsifying special creation in that Kitzmiller trial though.

Comment #128061

Posted by misanthrope101 on September 10, 2006 11:28 PM (e)

The basic problem is that we have two groups of people here, the fundie Christians and the evangelical atheists, who not only believe what they believe, but won’t rest until **everyone else** believes it too. And they both mis-use “science” to justify what are, in essence, philosophical opinions
———————————————–

Well, the “evangelical atheists” are indeed in a strange and uncomfortable position. If you walk into work and find yourself surrounded by people who believe that invisible faeries orbit Neptune and telepathically send them messages of purpose and comfort, then the obvious, instinctual gut feeling would be that these people are loonies, and you definitely wouldn’t consider their beliefs to be reasonable and intelligent. Ditto for “aliens talk to my cat” or “my goldfish knows math.” There is a wide swath of beliefs that we wouldn’t consider rational, normal, or intelligent if a co-worker confided them to us, even if they assured us that they knew in their “heart.” Revelations are not generally accepted means of information gathering, but all of a sudden….

But when 90% of the population believes it, then suddenly norms change and you have to “respect their beliefs.” Suddenly you can’t be dismissive. To say “we shouldn’t believe in entities for which there is no physical evidence” suddenly makes you a bigot, because now you’ve gone and hurt the feelings of people who believe that benevolent angels watch over them. To say “you can’t possibly expect me to believe something just because you told me that God spoke to you” offends pepole who do, in fact, believe that Jesus guides them in everything down to their daily shopping decisions. Belief in God is just as rational as belief in Santa Claus, but when we come to this one subject, we are expected to, instantly and on demand, suspend our normal rational faculties and not call a ridiculous belief ridiculous.

Obviously believing “in your heart” that there are leprechauns doesn’t mean a lot as to the actual existence of any leprechauns, but somehow “God” is a magical word and we can’t point out the glaringly obvious once that word is used. So “evangelical atheists” are a bit abrasive and intolerant at times, because they don’t understand why this one subject is off-limits to rationality, and they aren’t good at shutting down the part of their consciousness (i.e. their reason) on demand. So they occasionally find themselves in the difficult position of pointing out something that is both obvious and unwelcome, which of course makes them incredibly unpopular.

Comment #128063

Posted by normdoering on September 10, 2006 11:31 PM (e)

alienward wrote:

You replied to a post that lists two specific beliefs that evolution falsifies; special creation and no death before the fall.

You’re right. I’m wrong.

Do you see those as just one belief for some reason?

Not really, but I do see them as necessarily linked to the same Genesis story. I was thinking of one story disproved, not in terms of beliefs disproved. I was wrong.

And the evidence supporting evolution also falsifies the global flood and young earth beliefs.

Yes, part of the evidence is geology which encodes something of a historical record we should accept over the stories in a book. But geology isn’t evolution.

And there’s no doubt good evidence to be had that the tower of Babel never happened either and I think we might venture to say the same about Joshua making the sun stand still. That’s why so many people are apt to consider those metaphors and not factual truth claims.

Miller does a good job falsifying all of those beliefs in his book.

Not good enough for some creationists it appears. The question is why not? Why isn’t that evidence good enough for them? What holds them back from doing the rational thing?

That and a god still showed up as a human and turned some water into wine and other magic tricks that Miller calls miracles.

Does Miller believe all that is historical and true, not metaphor like Lenny Flank would claim? How does one separate what is disproved claim from what is factual claim? How does he separate what he believes is myth from what he believes is fact?

Does he set those claims before us as truth propositions to consider as facts? Are they up for scientific examination?

Comment #128074

Posted by K.E. on September 11, 2006 12:35 AM (e)

Does Miller believe all that is historical and true, not metaphor like Lenny Flank would claim? How does one separate what is disproved claim from what is factual claim? How does he separate what he believes is myth from what he believes is fact?

Does he set those claims before us as truth propositions to consider as facts? Are they up for scientific examination?

He has a guy with a funny hat and a wearing a dress come on the stage first and offer a prayer to an ancient deity. That seems to keep the ignorance pedlars in the audience quiet long enough for him to give some science to those who may actually want to listen or more correctly the revelations from reason and inquiry.

I call it compartmentalized duality…”I think therefore I dream..and I can still drive a car”

The mere fact that he has to do that in a country that boasts itself to be the pinnacle of modern civilization is a sad indictment on Man’s ability to sheepherd knowledge let alone manage sheep people incapable of original thinking for themselves.

If facts of nature and therefore what goes into biology textbooks are to be decided by a few Mullahs at the DI and their political backers (you know who they are) who claim to know “The One True Word Of GodTM” then they will have succeeded in one of the greatest crimes in history, where no test for the truth will be immune from the political power of those who have the ability to decide what truth is, for the hoi polloi, and are not afraid to wield it, no matter how untrue it is. In other words replace democracy with theocracy. There is nothing quite like the aphrodisiac of power.

The story is as old as civilization itself.

Comment #128133

Posted by KL on September 11, 2006 7:02 AM (e)

This thread expanded a lot after I crashed last night; please let me explain a little of what I meant by my statement:

I don’t see the word “truth” as terribly useful in science, as our ideas must change and grow the more we know. I hope my kids are beyond even considering really old outdated ideas like “the earth is flat” to making statements like “the earth is not flat” useful (is it a perfect sphere? THAT is an interesting question). The use of the word “truth” in religion is a problem, as people have “faith” in what they believe, absent of evidence. If you call one person’s belief “truth”, then someone else’s belief, if different, becomes “lie” or “untruth”. When a particular denomination, group, tribe decides that their belief is truth and that they alone have the key to salvation, they feel compelled to either judge others who are different, convert them, or in extreme cases, hurt or kill them. All based on belief? Or based on the reading of a text that has been edited, modified, translated, etc for centuries? Here is where “truth” leaves no room for diversity of ideas or the possibility that one can expand or adjust their belief system as they learn more about the great variety of people and cultures on this planet.

I am not a religious scholar or a philosopher, so I may be approaching this with only my own interpretation of the word “truth”.

Comment #128137

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 11, 2006 7:18 AM (e)

Now, you can treat the Bible as such a story and enjoy it as art, but that’s not faith, that’s not belief, that’s not being a Christian in any meaningful sense.

Says you. (shrug)

As already noted, the vast majority of Christians do indeed treat the Bible as metaphor.

The fundies, of course, don’t like that.

Sorry if you don’t, either.

The fundies, of course, are not the arbiters opf who is or isn’t a “Christian in any meaningful sense”. Neither, of course, are you.

Comment #128139

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 11, 2006 7:29 AM (e)

FYI: I deleted a recent post because it is against PT policy to post under multiple names.

Comment #128181

Posted by JB on September 11, 2006 11:03 AM (e)

All this has shown is that atheists no more want reasoned discussion than any fanatic does.

Fundamentalists come in all guises.

Comment #128184

Posted by JB on September 11, 2006 11:06 AM (e)

By the way Jack, I am gratified that you have admitted that you are deleting posts.

When Dembski or someone in that camp takes that action, they are excoriated for a sin against open discussion.

Of course, when your side does it, that is somehow different.

Right?

Comment #128193

Posted by Raging Bee on September 11, 2006 11:37 AM (e)

In the process of trying to set a world record for “most consecutive posts trying to beat a dead horse that has nothing to do with what the rest of us are talking about,” norm wrote:

Aristotle gave us a clear expression of his belief. The Bible writers did not.

Um…not quite. Aristotle gave a clear expression of his understanding of an objective, real-world phenomenon. The Bible writers gave us a broad mess of insights into subjects far more complex, contradictory, and subjective than physical phenomena, such as human nature and Man’s relationship to God; and we’re still arguing about them because our understanding is both evolving and terminally imperfect and incomplete.

…most religion I’m exposed too is simply incohorent and it’s a lie to claim it is coherent in modern forms.

If it’s coherent to someone else, then his/her claim that it’s coherent is not a lie; and if you said he/she was lying, you’d only look like a twit. (REMINDER: Argument from incomprehension is a logical fallacy.) Besides, just because you can’t get a coherent and meaningful message out of a religious message, does not mean the rest of us have to share your limitations.

It’s not good enough for anyone who wants to communicate with precision.

Speak for yourself, norm. I’ve known plenty of persons of various faiths, who are quite capable of communicating both moral and factual messages with precision. Not that all important ideas are “precision” in their nature…

You really have trouble with non-literal ideas, don’t you? You need to get out more. Ever take a literature course?

Comment #128196

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 11, 2006 12:10 PM (e)

to JB:

1. You can’t generalize to “all atheists” based on the behavior of a few. I’m sure there are many atheists, including many who have posted here or on Pharyngula, that have engaged in reasonable discourse.

2. I deleted a post for the clear reason that I have warned both you and another person about: posting under multiple identities is against PT rules. That’s not censorship.

Comment #128199

Posted by Shaffer on September 11, 2006 12:26 PM (e)

Lenny,

Way back up, you wrote:

The basic problem is that we have two groups of people here, the fundie Christians and the evangelical atheists, who not only believe what they believe, but won’t rest until **everyone else** believes it too.

I’m curious. Could you provide some evidence that the more vocal atheists here, or elsewhere on some of the other anti-anti-evolution sites, are actually trying to convert people away from Christianity or other forms of theism? This strikes me as a particularly bizarre claim.

“Vocal” is, in most usages, not synonymous with “evangelical.” While the most vocal of atheists will ridicule god-belief as irrational superstition (and that is what seems to cause a lot of the ridiculously long comment threads here), that is not the same as what the other side is doing. Ridicule is one thing and proselytization is another. I’m an atheist and I think that belief in an invisible man living in the sky is quite ridiculous. Does that qualify me as an “evangelical atheist” by the definition you’re using? If so, know that I don’t give a flying fig whether or not anyone agrees with me.

Comment #128201

Posted by Raging Bee on September 11, 2006 12:35 PM (e)

I call myself an atheist. But for those who don’t understand what “atheist” means – I might be defined as a militant agnostic: I don’t know and neither do you, no matter what you care to claim without proof or evidence.

Sorry, norm, but your “militant agnostic” pose is pure BS: if you don’t know which belief is right, then you cannot possibly know whether others know, either. All you’re doing, in effect, is rejecting other people’s beliefs and understandings out of hand, and pretending, almost as a matter of – dare I say it? – religious faith, that everyone else is blinded by the same fog as you are. Your intellectual posture constitutes a form of know-nothingism, in an almost literal sense of the phrase; and it mirrors almost exactly the know-nothingism of the fundie theists.

Comment #128203

Posted by Raging Bee on September 11, 2006 12:50 PM (e)

Actually, Shaffer, there have been plenty of instances in which some atheists have explicitly called for large-scale efforts to “educate” (“re-educate?”) people away from all forms of religious belief; and have said that all religious beliefs should be ridiculed and debunked at every opportunity. These atheists (normandoehring and Caledonian come to mind at this moment, though there are others) have repeatedly asserted that “science” and “religion” are not at all compatible, and that “religion” must therefore be defeated in order that “science” and “rationality” be upheld. They have also, on occasion, repeatedly and deliberately misrepresented others’ religious beliefs (or, at the very least, grossly oversimplified them), in the manner of wartime propagandists, to support their claims.

One prominent example of such an atheist is a guy named Harris, who recently published a book in which he pretends, among other things, that the most brutal and deranged acts of the Taliban can be said to represent “the true face of Islam.”

But then, if you “don’t give a flying fig whether or not anyone agrees” with you, then why are you posting here?

Comment #128211

Posted by LT on September 11, 2006 1:32 PM (e)

Please, let’s not forget that we face a serious challenge.

It’s not just the young earthers and IDers and their ilk who frame the debate as science vs religion - we’ve been doing so here as well.

But the YECs and IDers flourish because we have a scientifically illiterate society.

If we wish to change that we have to educate children and adults.

Given that most Americans identify themselves as persons of faith and that most of those are theists, framing issues in their terms may well produce good results.

You don’t have to agree with him or them.

Comment #128217

Posted by normdoering on September 11, 2006 2:10 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

As already noted, the vast majority of Christians do indeed treat the Bible as metaphor.

And that is still dead wrong and it’s proven by the polls.

This poll contradicts you, but considering the sources is WorldNetDaily it’s probably skewed:
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=37148
A poll that shows at least six in ten Americans believe the Bible stories of the Red Sea parting, Noah’s ark and a six-day creation are “literally true, meaning it happened that way word-for-word.

But word-for-word literalism isn’t the biggest problem, that’s probably only 30 percent after you filter off their skew.

You do not know the Bible and so you don’t know what you are talking about. There are metaphors in the Bible not meant to be taken literally, the most obvious examples being Jesus’s parables, but on the whole the Bible does make explicit and repeated truth claims that are dangerous and doubtful as this poll highlights and it is less likely to be skewed by American politial spin:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/wtwtgod/3518221.stm
According to an ICM poll in January 2004, Americans believe in the supernatural (91%), an afterlife (74%), “belief in a God/higher power makes you a better human being” (82%), God or a higher power judged their actions (76%), and perhaps most tellingly “would die for their God/beliefs” (71%).

Comment #128220

Posted by normdoering on September 11, 2006 2:33 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

…there have been plenty of instances in which some atheists have explicitly called for large-scale efforts to “educate” (“re-educate?”) people away from all forms of religious belief;…

So, are you taking a stand against education? Are you taking a stand against educating kids in skeptical investigation and critical thinking?

…and have said that all religious beliefs should be ridiculed and debunked at every opportunity. These atheists (normandoehring and Caledonian come to mind at this moment,…

Are you saying crazy sounding beliefs shouldn’t be “debunked.” Should we stand by while people we know send their money off to someone in Nigeria because of some spam email too?

Do you feel that I have ridiculed you?

… though there are others) have repeatedly asserted that “science” and “religion” are not at all compatible,…

In what way are they compatible? Part of the scientific method is the use of skeptical investigation and critical thinking. Do you see people applying those things to their religious beliefs?

… and that “religion” must therefore be defeated in order that “science” and “rationality” be upheld. They have also, on occasion, repeatedly and deliberately misrepresented others’ religious beliefs (or, at the very least, grossly oversimplified them), in the manner of wartime propagandists, to support their claims.

One prominent example of such an atheist is a guy named Harris, who recently published a book in which he pretends, among other things, that the most brutal and deranged acts of the Taliban can be said to represent “the true face of Islam.”

Provide the quote and the source.

But then, if you “don’t give a flying fig whether or not anyone agrees” with you, then why are you posting here?

Why are you posting here?

Comment #128224

Posted by CJ O'Brien on September 11, 2006 2:53 PM (e)

As regards Harris’s The End of Faith and references to the Taliban, specifically, I find two of relevance, but neither contains the phrase “the true face of Islam.”

Sam Harris wrote:

“For a modern example of the kind of society that can be fashioned out of an exclusive reliance on the tenets of Islam, simply recall what Afghanistan was like under the Taliban”

The emphasis is mine. What is objectionable or misleading about this?

“Life under the Taliban is, to a first approximation, what millions of Muslims around the world want to impose on the rest of us.

Again, Raging Bee, is this untrue in your view?

Comment #128225

Posted by mike syvanen on September 11, 2006 3:04 PM (e)

There are three issues here. Science, religion and politics. The first two become one in the third. Ken Miller has gained prominence because of his actions in the political arena. He is respected by me because he is politically effective in combating the Christian fundamentalist assault on our public schools.

Having said that it is disconcerting to see that he is urging his fellow Christians to not attack science but instead go after atheists. This might make him more politically effective with his fellow Christians, but there are dangers down that road and he deserves critism for doing this.

Comment #128227

Posted by normdoering on September 11, 2006 3:14 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

I call myself an atheist. But for those who don’t understand what “atheist” means – I might be defined as a militant agnostic: I don’t know and neither do you, no matter what you care to claim without proof or evidence.

Sorry, norm, but your “militant agnostic” pose is pure BS: if you don’t know which belief is right, then you cannot possibly know whether others know, either.

But I can tell when people are not applying skeptical and critical thought processes to their beliefs. I can tell by how they present them and what they’ve written in their books. For example, a simple claim made by evangelical Christians is that they believe that “salvation is a free gift given through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any works since all mankind is sinful and cannot do anything to cleanse themselves of their evils.” It’s a simple sentence full of so many logical contradictions and unsupported assumptions about the unknowable I could write a book on what is wrong with it and why no subjective “born again” experience could support it.

Also, just because I don’t know the answers to some really big questions no one can know the answers to, doesn’t mean I don’t know a few things about skepticism and about human psychology and science.

We can make certain claims about the non-existence of supernatural phenomena because of work done by James Randi who offers his million dollar prize for anyone who can present evidence:

http://www.randi.org/research/index.html

And who has investigated faith healers and found them to be frauds, thus proving that some believers are being scammed at least on one level:

http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Healers-James-Randi/dp/0879755350

All you’re doing, in effect, is rejecting other people’s beliefs and understandings out of hand,…

Not entirely. I’ve looked into religion seriously. I have religious family members, including my mother. But my hopeful curiosity about religion has waned after seeing so many patterns of credulity and bad thinking repeat themselves in people I know. I simply have no expectations for any religious explanation making rational sense any more.

… and pretending, almost as a matter of – dare I say it? – religious faith, that everyone else is blinded by the same fog as you are.

Well, something is sure blinding you.

Your intellectual posture constitutes a form of know-nothingism, in an almost literal sense of the phrase; and it mirrors almost exactly the know-nothingism of the fundie theists.

I don’t even know what that means. What is “know-nothingism” in your mind?

Comment #128228

Posted by CJ O'Brien on September 11, 2006 3:19 PM (e)

In fact, a quick skim of Chapter Four of The End of Faith, entitled “The Problem with Islam,” does not reveal the phrase “the true face of Islam” at all.

It is certainly true that Harris pulls no punches in his examination of Islam. But when one attributes a quotation to an author, one ought to be actually quoting the source. Harris makes his arguments extremely explicit. There’s no advantage to be gained putting words in his mouth.

Comment #128232

Posted by normdoering on September 11, 2006 3:47 PM (e)

CJ O’Brien wrote:

In fact, a quick skim of Chapter Four of The End of Faith, entitled “The Problem with Islam,” does not reveal the phrase “the true face of Islam” at all.

Try plugging the phrase, in quotes; “the true face of Islam”, into google and you’ll see that what comes up is not Sam Harris, but rather what looks like several Christian and Republican articles and books together with Islamic sites, articles and books.

Add “Sam Harris”, like this: [ “the true face of Islam”, Sam Harris ]

What you get is a Salon article first.
http://www.salon.com/books/int/2006/07/07/harris/

Then a truthdig article.

Maybe Harris uses the phrase there?

Comment #128237

Posted by Shaffer on September 11, 2006 4:20 PM (e)

Raging Bee:

These atheists (normandoehring and Caledonian come to mind at this moment, though there are others) have repeatedly asserted that “science” and “religion” are not at all compatible, and that “religion” must therefore be defeated in order that “science” and “rationality” be upheld.

That is as loaded a statement as I think I have ever seen. I have witnessed many of the arguments between yourself and people like norman and Caledonian, and I have never heard any of them make any statements that you suggest … no calls to atheist arms, no cries to defeat or destroy religion, nothing of the sort. Rather I see them making a statement such as “science and religion are not compatible” and watch as you and, occasionally, others in your camp derive the world from it. I’ll try to eschew anything that resembles a personal attack, but the phrase “persecution complex” has crossed my mind many times upon observing these arguments.

The key phrase itself is quite vague. In my mind, saying “science and religion are not compatible” should be uncontroversial; it’s a way of recognizing that, as far as the scientist is concerned, the two play in completely different ball fields. It’s a way of saying that science discusses what we can see and touch and measure, while religion deals with what we cannot (and indeed, that religion is very ill-suited to making observations of the physical world). It’s a statement made in response, mostly, to the claims of (particularly) the antievolution crowd, who insist that their religious interpretation of reality be able to trump whatever scientific observations that they find inconvenient (evolution included). It is not used as a way of saying that the two cannot coexist within the same mind, or to imply that a religious person is incapable of scientific thought. It would be no more ridiculous to say that a native speaker of Japanese would be incapable of learning English (even though the two languages could be argued as “incompatible”, lacking many common words or syntax).

My own belief is that we should teach all children to think critically, rationally, and skeptically. Those that consider these tools a threat to faith must have very little faith in faith, so to speak.

Moving on:

One prominent example of such an atheist is a guy named Harris, who recently published a book in which he pretends, among other things, that the most brutal and deranged acts of the Taliban can be said to represent “the true face of Islam.”

Amazing that you segue so jarringly into this random example. What’s the relevance? Are there a few militant atheists that believe that belief in the supernatural must be eradicated? Probably. There are enough general nutcases in the world that there must be a few. Maybe this guy is one of them (although your example is so poor as to leave that in doubt). So what? The point is, however, that that does not represent atheism as a whole, and the fact that you so readily equivocate that with what posters like Norman and Caledonian are saying is, quite frankly, a little scary.

It also makes your comment:

They have also, on occasion, repeatedly and deliberately misrepresented others’ religious beliefs (or, at the very least, grossly oversimplified them), in the manner of wartime propagandists, to support their claims.

…so filled with irony as to bust another one of my meters. Projection?

Oh, and to answer your question:

But then, if you “don’t give a flying fig whether or not anyone agrees” with you, then why are you posting here?

When I said I didn’t care if people agree with me, I’m speaking specifically about my own atheism: I don’t care whether or not you, or anyone else, shares my lack of belief in an invisible man living in the sky. It’s a way of saying, I’m not trying to convert you. Pick your superstition and roll with it. Doesn’t affect me. I don’t really care.

I do care, though, whenever atheists or atheism in general are attacked. One such method of attack is to equivocate vocal atheism with evangelical atheism. That equivocation is lazy, illogical, and insulting, and in every case that I’ve seen in my time lurking and posting on this site, in my mind it’s been undeserved.

Comment #128239

Posted by CJ O'Brien on September 11, 2006 4:25 PM (e)

Google. What a concept.
Sam Harris indeed uses the phrase in this interview on truthdig.

Sam Harris wrote:

…the true face of Islam, which is: apostasy is punishable by death. That is a fact that no liberal exegesis of Islam is going to change. We have to find some way to change it, of course. Islam needs a reformation. But at present, it’s true to say that the real word of God in Islam is that if you change your religion, you should die for it.

Raging Bee said:

…a book in which he pretends, among other things, that the most brutal and deranged acts of the Taliban can be said to represent “the true face of Islam.”

A few points:
He does not, as far as I can tell, use the phrase in his book.
In the interview, where he does use the phrase, he does not refer to “the most brutal and deranged acts of the Taliban.” He is, in fact, referring to the post-Taliban government of Afghanistan.
A hadith specifically calls for apostasy to be punished by death, grounding his assertion in fact.

I engage in this otherwise pedantic excercise because I have often seen Harris’s work demonized with just this sort of vague pseudo-quote/paraphrase. There is plenty to be argued in his thesis, but there are those who will not engage with the actual ideas, but seem to prefer to tilt at a straw-man.

Comment #128274

Posted by Raging Bee on September 11, 2006 6:15 PM (e)

Part of the scientific method is the use of skeptical investigation and critical thinking. Do you see people applying those things to their religious beliefs?

Actually, norm, I do: many Christians and Pagans have, over time, explicitly changed their opinions, and their interpretations of their holy texts or other received wisdom, to accomodate new knowledge and experiences. Furthermore, those persons of faith whom I have encountered show, in general, no less capacity to think critically or assimilate new information than the atheists I’ve encountered. (The fact that Chiefly could post so many links to the publications of established Christian churches on this subject, right here on PT, and get no acknowledgement from you, speaks volumes about your own ability to think critically.)

So, are you taking a stand against education? Are you taking a stand against educating kids in skeptical investigation and critical thinking?

No, I’m taking a stand against uninformed and defamatory assertions about others’ religious beliefs disguised as “education.” You sound – again – like a bigoted fundie accusing all of his critics – including the Christian ones – of being “anti-God.”

re Harris: yes, he said that in the Salon interview. Then he contradicted himself in the very next sentence, without acknowledging there was a contradiction. Harris is a shameless bigot, twisting what little he knows of religion to suit his own prejudices.

[doubletake]Bloody ‘ell, norm, you’re actually citing a WorldNutDaily poll as evidence to support your opinions? Then you’re saying the rest of us “don’t know the Bible?” (“You do not know the Bible” is a standard refrain of fundies, wingnuts and religious simpletons, and your repeated use of it, again, speaks volumes about your own mind-set and where it comes from.)[/doubletake]

CJ O’Brien wrote:

Sam Harris wrote:

“For a modern example of the kind of society that can be fashioned out of an exclusive reliance on the tenets of Islam, simply recall what Afghanistan was like under the Taliban”

The emphasis is mine. What is objectionable or misleading about this?

First, Sam Harris has not demonstrated enough knowledge of the Koran, or of how Muslims interpret it, to tell us which “kind of society that can be fashioned out of an exclusive reliance on the tenets of Islam.” Second, I’ve heard, from sources I consider more reliable than HArris, that a lot of what the Taliban do (specifically, their treatment of women) doesn’t really come from the Koran, but from the “soft Hadiths,” which not all Muslims consider central to their faith. All this leads me to believe that there is more than one interpretation of the tenets of Islam (just as there are more than one interpretation of the Bible), and Harris’ use of Afghanistan, on the war-torn fringes of the billion-strong Islamic world, is ignorant at best, and bigoted at worst.

Comment #128280

Posted by Robert O'Brien on September 11, 2006 6:37 PM (e)

Caledonian wrote:

Materialism and atheism are not “metaphysical” conclusions that don’t necessarily follow from the nature of science. They’re necessary consequences of the application of logic to our attempts to understand our world.

Pull the other leg.

Comment #128281

Posted by jeffw on September 11, 2006 6:39 PM (e)

Having said that it is disconcerting to see that he is urging his fellow Christians to not attack science but instead go after atheists. This might make him more politically effective with his fellow Christians, but there are dangers down that road and he deserves critism for doing this.

Yes, he does deserve it. But hey, it’s a free country and anyone can express their opinion about anything. Since that applies to atheists as well, maybe they should be encouraging atheist scientists to go after christians. Enter PZ. It’s only fair. This *is* a war, after all. It’s a battle for your mind, and it won’t be ending any time soon.

Comment #128284

Posted by Gary Hurd on September 11, 2006 6:47 PM (e)

I found fairly little objectionable in Miller’s talk, at least the first 50 minutes or so. From 52:10 to 55:30, I was irritated that he was oblivious or dismissive of the efforts of Nick Matzke, and Barbra Forrest in the Dover trial, particularly as they were central in exposing the creationist antecedents for “Of Pandas and People.” He did admit in passing that he had opposed attempting subpoena for early manuscripts of “Pandas.” Happily his advice was ignored, and yet in his presentation one could almost imagine it was all his idea. I was rather amused by the “soto voce” (Jack?) at about 53:32 that makes the observation that Nick had been ignored.

The controversial stuff does not even start until 55:30 “Why is Evolution Under Attack?”

Did any of you actually listen carefully? Did you take notes? I have not seen anyone making even an undergraduate effort at commentary.

Comment #128286

Posted by Anton Mates on September 11, 2006 6:52 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

Sorry, norm, but your “militant agnostic” pose is pure BS: if you don’t know which belief is right, then you cannot possibly know whether others know, either.

Huh? I don’t think you understand the agnostic position. The militant agnostic holds that no human is capable of knowing which (theological) belief is right. The agnostic’s own lack of knowledge is just a special case of that universal ignorance.

Comment #128290

Posted by CJ O'Brien on September 11, 2006 7:03 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

First, Sam Harris has not demonstrated enough knowledge of the Koran, or of how Muslims interpret it, to tell us which “kind of society that can be fashioned out of an exclusive reliance on the tenets of Islam.” Second, I’ve heard, from sources I consider more reliable than HArris, that a lot of what the Taliban do (specifically, their treatment of women) doesn’t really come from the Koran, but from the “soft Hadiths,” which not all Muslims consider central to their faith.

What would Harris have to do to demonstrate to you that he had “enough knowledge of the Koran” to criticise Islamist interpretations of it?
In The End of Faith Harris is careful to note when he is quoting or referring to the hadiths vs. the Koran. And the treatment of women, though one of his themes, is by no means his most damning indictment of Islam.

All this leads me to believe that there is more than one interpretation of the tenets of Islam (just as there are more than one interpretation of the Bible), and Harris’ use of Afghanistan, on the war-torn fringes of the billion-strong Islamic world, is ignorant at best, and bigoted at worst.

Harris certainly never claims that there are not “more than one interpretation” of the tenets of Islam. But he does note, correctly, in my opinion, that a parallel to the liberal protestant religions of the west has not arisen in the Muslim world, and so even what one might call “moderate Islam” is much closer to what we would call fundamentalism, were it a flavor of Christianity.
And I cannot see what difference it makes that Afghanistan is “on the war-torn fringes.” A certain set of beliefs was given free reign, for everyone to see. Wherever, however, it happened, it still happened, and it happened under the banner of Sharia. Are you apologizing for the Taliban? Would you like to live under Sharia law, however “liberally” interpreted it was? Can you see the difference between ‘bigotry’ and reasoned criticism of a value system, however taboo such criticism has become in our “tolerant” society? Because I’m practically wiping spittle off my screen here, your hatred of my values is so palpable.

Should I conclude that you are a bigot? Or is it only okay to hate unbelievers?

Comment #128291

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 11, 2006 7:09 PM (e)

As already noted, the vast majority of Christians do indeed treat the Bible as metaphor.

A poll that shows at least six in ten Americans

(sigh) Norm you DO realize that most Christians live outside the US, right?

You DO also realize that Christian fundamentalism, creationism, etc etc etc is almost exclusively an American phenomenon, and barely exists elsewhere (except where supported by American funding and support)?

Comment #128297

Posted by Anton Mates on September 11, 2006 7:13 PM (e)

'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank wrote:

As already noted, the vast majority of Christians do indeed treat the Bible as metaphor.

The majority of Christians in Northern Europe, perhaps, but certainly not worldwide. If you trawl through the data of the World Values Survey, it seems pretty clear that the majority of Christians worldwide have a quite literal belief in, for instance, the existence of Hell and Heaven and the resurrection of Jesus.

Which is not to say they’re strict Biblical literalists, of course.

Comment #128305

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 11, 2006 7:29 PM (e)

no calls to atheist arms, no cries to defeat or destroy religion, nothing of the sort.

Oh, come on. Their message shines through loud and clear. I doubt ANYONE here misses it.

BTW, before you get your panties all in an uproar towards me, I do not assert, nor do I accept, the existence of any god, gods, goddesses or any other supernatural entity whatsoever. They are all, without exception, man-made.

Comment #128306

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 11, 2006 7:34 PM (e)

A certain set of beliefs was given free reign, for everyone to see. Wherever, however, it happened, it still happened, and it happened under the banner of Sharia.

Perhaps you’d prefer those nations where “atheism” was given free reign, for everyone to see? Like, ya know, the Soviet Union, or Kampuchea?

Wait, wait — let me guess ————–> they weren’t “Real Atheists©™”, right?

However, it still happened, and it happened under the banner of “atheism”.

Does that argument sound, um, at all familiar to you ….?

Comment #128311

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 11, 2006 7:39 PM (e)

Are you apologizing for the Taliban?

Um, is it your opinion, therefore, that ALL Muslims, worldwide, are no different than the Taliban? Are ALL Muslims, worldwide, potential terrorists?

I happen to know quite a few Muslims. None of them, I noticed, have horns on their heads. Nor do they have prison cells in their basements for all the infidels.

Perhaps you want to wipe the spittle off your computer screen, sit down, take a deep breath, and THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE SAYING.

Comment #128312

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 11, 2006 7:49 PM (e)

Lenny, I’ve already asked you to stop the attacks on individuals, and then moved one of your posts to the Bathroom Wall.

And to everyone: the conversation about Muslims, the Taliban, this Harris guy, etc. have wandered pretty far off topic. Unless someone has something new and hopefully constructive to say, I’ll close this thread soon and we’ll move on.

Comment #128326

Posted by alienward on September 11, 2006 8:48 PM (e)

normdoering wrote:

Yes, part of the evidence is geology which encodes something of a historical record we should accept over the stories in a book. But geology isn’t evolution.

And there’s no doubt good evidence to be had that the tower of Babel never happened either and I think we might venture to say the same about Joshua making the sun stand still. That’s why so many people are apt to consider those metaphors and not factual truth claims.

There’s no need to nit pick. I said “evidence supporting evolution”. With his complete dismantling of ID and his explanations of radiometric dating and all that in his book “Finding Darwins God”, Miller tells creationists of every stripe their beliefs in any or all of the following; special creation, no death before the fall, a global flood, and a young earth have been falsified by science.

Not good enough for some creationists it appears. The question is why not? Why isn’t that evidence good enough for them? What holds them back from doing the rational thing?

No evidence that falsifies this or that claim in this or that holy book will be accepted by some creationists because they believe their holy book is the word of a god or gods and not some cutesy compilation of metaphors.

That and a god still showed up as a human and turned some water into wine and other magic tricks that Miller calls miracles.

Does Miller believe all that is historical and true, not metaphor like Lenny Flank would claim? How does one separate what is disproved claim from what is factual claim? How does he separate what he believes is myth from what he believes is fact?

Does he set those claims before us as truth propositions to consider as facts? Are they up for scientific examination?

Miller, like a lot of theists, is selective about the parts of holy books he believes represents reality and what parts are cutesy metaphor. He thinks a god really did get a virgin human pregnant and that same god likes it when dudes walk around in churches swinging hollow metal balls with holes on the outside and burning incense on the inside.

Comment #128329

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 11, 2006 9:05 PM (e)

Lenny, I’ve already asked you to stop the attacks on individuals

I have not attacked any individuals.

Comment #128333

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 11, 2006 9:12 PM (e)

Lenny, remarks like “Perhaps you want to wipe the spittle off your computer screen,” are inappropriately aimed an individual as opposed to an idea. I appreciate many of your comments on PT, but these feuds with individuals are not interesting to the rest of us.