Jack Krebs posted Entry 2590 on September 13, 2006 07:33 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2584

Red State Rabble (Pat Hayes) attended the Ken Miller talk at KU last Thursday and has followed the ensuing internet discussion closely. Here in its entirety is an entry from Pat’s blog Red State Rabble in which Pat offers a reflection on the affair. Pat is a thoughtful commentator, and I felt his comments deserved a wider audience (although many people already have Red State Rabble on their list of daily blog reading.)

Uniting Against the Common Enemy
For a couple of days now, RSR has been digesting the reaction – some would say the over-reaction – to Ken Miller’s speech at KU last Thursday. We’ve exchanged a couple of e-mails with Miller, which we’ll get to in a moment, but first there’s something I want to get off my chest:

Having read the comments to a number of posts here, at Panda’s Thumb, Pharyngula, and the KCFS public discussion forum I’ve been playing and replaying a scene from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” in my head.

In the film, Brian drifts into a plot to sneak into the palace in Caesar’s Square through the underground sewer and kidnap Pontius Pilate’s wife so the Judean People’s Front can issue its demands:

COMMANDO XERXES: What exactly are the demands?

REG: We’re giving Pilate two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of the Roman Imperialist State, and if he doesn’t agree immediately, we execute her.

Once inside the palace they run into a second commando group made up of officials of the People’s Front of Judea who also plan to kidnap Pilate’s wife and issue demands.

When a fight breaks out between the two groups, the Christ-like Brian chides them all, “Brothers! Brothers! We should be struggling together! … We mustn’t fight each other! Surely we should be united against the common enemy!”

But, no one listens and they are all thrown into the Roman dungeons.

Why?

Well, as Reg told Brian back at the Coliseum when he joined the PFJ, “The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People’s Front.” And, of course, the splitters in the Judean Popular People’s Front.

As an active participant in the antiwar movement of the 60s and 70s, Red State Rabble can assure you that Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, and the other members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus have created, in the “Life of Brian” a dead-on satire of one of the worst features of an otherwise noble movement to end the war in Vietnam.

In any political movement, such as the movement to defend science education and the separation of church and state, it’s absolutely critical to be able to tell your friends from your enemies. If you can’t do that, you may as well quit fighting, because you can’t do anything.

And, you have to know what you’re fighting for.

RSR is fighting against those authoritarians who would impose their religious views on the rest of us. We don’t believe giving church-goers two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of their religious belief – or else – constitutes a workable strategy.

We’re not interested in philosophical purity, either.

We want to work closely with activists like Ken Miller to defend science education in public schools. Moreover, we respect him for his many contributions to that struggle. In fact, it’s hard to think of many people who’ve done more. We frankly don’t care what his religious views are. It’s his actions that count in our book.

In an e-mail he has given RSR permission to quote from Miller writes:

It is a self-evident fact that some of the most ardent and scientifically eminent defenders of evolution have been people of faith, including the likes of Francisco Ayala and Theodosius Dobzhansky. All of these people would take issue, as do I, with any thesis that evolution, as a matter of science, rules out God. Does that make us all “creationists” who would throw our colleagues to the wolves? Of course not.

I will continue in the future to make the same points as I did in my Kansas lecture last week, namely, that evolution can be understood in a way that is compatible with religious faith.

For our part, RSR is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with people of faith who want to defend America’s secular institutions from attacks by the radical right.

As a person with a secular outlook, RSR believes Charles Darwin got it exactly right when he wrote:

I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follow[s] from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science.

Those non-believers who don’t learn this lesson, I believe, run the danger of ceding more political power to the religious right. Although I’m optimistic about our ultimate chances for success, in the end, it all comes down to the strategy we adopt.

If we adopt a strategy that unites us with those who are willing to defend the nation’s secular heritage – whatever their religious or philosophical beliefs – we can create a powerful movement to defeat those who demand an authoritarian form of government.

Those who seek some unattainable purity, who would divide believers from non-believers in this movement, may someday find themselves, like Brian, in a dungeon of their own making.

Thanks for those thoughts, Pat

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Comment #129418

Posted by alienward on September 13, 2006 8:58 PM (e)

Miller quoted in the opening post:

It is a self-evident fact that some of the most ardent and scientifically eminent defenders of evolution have been people of faith, including the likes of Francisco Ayala and Theodosius Dobzhansky. All of these people would take issue, as do I, with any thesis that evolution, as a matter of science, rules out God. Does that make us all “creationists” who would throw our colleagues to the wolves? Of course not.

Miller in an open letter posted at Uncommon Descent 9/28/05:

Many of you accused me of “mocking God” for pointing out that remarkable frequency of extinction would make an “intelligent designer” look ridiculous. In fact, it was exactly because I do not mock God that I pointed out how ridiculous this view of an “intelligent designer” would be. It is those who advance the opposite view, in favor of ID, who must actually argue that the “designer” isn’t competent enough to make organisms that would last.

Although Miller is saying evolution doesn’t rule out the existence of a god, he is saying religious claims of a god using special creation are “ridiculous”, right?

Comment #129422

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 13, 2006 9:04 PM (e)

I would like the comments on this thread to stay on the topics raised by Pat. This old post by Ken Miller on Uncommon Descent, no matter how worthwhile a discussion it might lead to, is really not on-topic here.

Comment #129432

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 13, 2006 9:16 PM (e)

Those non-believers who don’t learn this lesson, I believe, run the danger of ceding more political power to the religious right. Although I’m optimistic about our ultimate chances for success, in the end, it all comes down to the strategy we adopt.

If we adopt a strategy that unites us with those who are willing to defend the nation’s secular heritage – whatever their religious or philosophical beliefs – we can create a powerful movement to defeat those who demand an authoritarian form of government.

Those who seek some unattainable purity, who would divide believers from non-believers in this movement, may someday find themselves, like Brian, in a dungeon of their own making.

Sounds familiar.

;)

People who want creationist taught in schools, no matter who they are, are our enemy, and deserve to be treated as such.

People who DON’T want creationism taught in schools, no matter who they are, are our friend, and deserve to be treated as such.

Fight with our enemies. Not with our friends.

Leave the arguments over ideological purity to the Maoists. They’re much better at it, and it keeps them out of our way.

Comment #129441

Posted by PZ Myers on September 13, 2006 9:38 PM (e)

I have a proposal to test this wonderful unity we’re now all going to have.

I’m also going to sit back and enjoy my new immunity from criticism by anyone else who opposes the teaching of creationism in the schools. Remember, if you disagree with me, it means we’re all going to be thrown into a Roman dungeon.

Comment #129449

Posted by Andrew McClure on September 13, 2006 9:56 PM (e)

I like RSR.

Comment #129451

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 13, 2006 10:02 PM (e)

I moved some posts to the bathroom wall. Please see Comment #129422 above.

Comment #129456

Posted by PZ Myers on September 13, 2006 10:10 PM (e)

I like RSR, too. It’s one of my regular reads.

I also like kitty cats.

This new positive attitude we’re all going to have is sure going to help us get things done.

Comment #129458

Posted by normdoering on September 13, 2006 10:15 PM (e)

PZ Myers wrote:

I have a proposal to test this wonderful unity we’re now all going to have.

So, now we sit back and wait to see what Ken Miller has to say about the pope’s last speech on evolution and secular societies.

PZ, why not put up a James Randi style clock the way he counts the days since sylvia Brown accepted his challenge to put up.

Comment #129464

Posted by PZ Myers on September 13, 2006 10:24 PM (e)

That would be antagonistic. We’re all about cooperation, remember.

Comment #129468

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 13, 2006 10:31 PM (e)

I don’t understand the flippant attitude here, and I’d like to point out that the person’s ideas which are the focus of this post are Pat Hayes’, not Ken Miller’s.

There are theists and non-theists in the world. Pat is not saying that everything is going to be hunky-dory between them. He is saying that the political reality is that those who are for mainstream science and for the secular nature of our country - one which makes room for a wide diversity of belief, need to put a higher priority on defending those things than on being divisively concerned about whether people beieve in God or not.

Comment #129469

Posted by Andrew McClure on September 13, 2006 10:36 PM (e)

PZ Myers wrote:

I have a [link blog post] proposal to test this wonderful unity we’re now all going to have.

Those are some wildly out of context quotes you’re tossing around there. Kind of like the ones you based your blog post around after Ken Miller’s speech last week, come to think of it. I can only hope you aren’t planning on making a regular habit of this.

Comment #129470

Posted by PZ Myers on September 13, 2006 10:37 PM (e)

And I am saying that if we are going to accept this diversity of belief, you’re all going to have to get used to the fact that atheists don’t believe in god. The demand for acceptance always seems to go one way.

I am also saying that the only way to work towards that unity is to recognize that there are differences of opinion, and we are free to express them. There is definitely an oppressive current here that is trying to use a demand for unity against a common enemy to suppress dissent; the members of the bland and happy majority are always going to be content to demand that we all just get along and stop complaining. This is not how we progress. This is how we stagnate.

Comment #129477

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 13, 2006 10:53 PM (e)

PZ, I don’t see anything in what either Pat or I have written that wants to “oppress atheists.” If you’ve been reading my comments here or on Pharyngula you will know that I have written that the demonization of atheists is flat out wrong, and I have agreed with you that we have to work at cutting the connection between materialism and the ills of the world.

You write,

And I am saying that if we are going to accept this diversity of belief, you’re all going to have to get used to the fact that atheists don’t believe in god. The demand for acceptance always seems to go one way.

I am also saying that the only way to work towards that unity is to recognize that there are differences of opinion, and we are free to express them.

I agree entirely with that, and I’m virtually certain that Pat does too.

Comment #129478

Posted by normdoering on September 13, 2006 10:57 PM (e)

Andrew McClure wrote:

Those are some wildly out of context quotes you’re tossing around there.

Are they? How do you interpret the pope’s speech?

Comment #129479

Posted by normdoering on September 13, 2006 11:00 PM (e)

Jack Krebs wrote:

PZ, I don’t see anything in what either Pat or I have written that wants to “oppress atheists.”

How about seeing it in deleted posts – posts not really sent to the Bathroon wall – just gone.

Why is the idea that a God that uses evolution probably not being omniscient something you need to get rid of?

Comment #129488

Posted by PZ Myers on September 13, 2006 11:17 PM (e)

You’ll have to explain further then what Pat’s post is about. What exactly is the proposal? What is the complaint? Because what seems to be driving it is that I have objected to a substantial bit of Ken Miller’s approach to combatting creationism, and in fact think that that part of his strategy is wrong and counterproductive.

Somehow, I don’t think it was a request to Ken Miller to stop blaming atheists for creationist’s opposition to evolution. It sounded more to me like a request to those who disagree with Miller to stop rocking the boat.

Comment #129489

Posted by Andrew McClure on September 13, 2006 11:21 PM (e)

PZ Myers wrote:

There is definitely an oppressive current here that is trying to use a demand for unity against a common enemy to suppress dissent;

I’m sorry, but I quite clearly remember that this cross-blog flamewar originally started with you attempting to declare Ken Miller persona non grata “here”. At least, I don’t know how else to interpret a statement like “Thanks, Dr Ken! I know what side you’re on, now…it’s you and the creationists, best friends 4ever! Did they promise to let you strike the match at the atheist-burning?”.

If you’re going to establish yourself arbiter of who is or isn’t part of the movement against creationism, I find it awfully hard to take seriously claims the next week that the same thing is being done to you.

The pope has the right to be offended by your belief in and advocacy of “secular humanism”; you have the right to be offended by the pope’s belief in and advocacy of “superstition”. But neither of these things are relevant or helpful to the “debate” between science and creationism. They are orthogonal*. You are, intentionally or not, conflating these two things. If you are being “suppressed” over this (though I have a lot of trouble seeing RSR’s ‘I refuse to stop working with the religious’ message here as “oppressive”), you are not being attacked because you disagree with the pope about secular humanism versus the god of the gaps. You are being attacked for the conflation of two separate issues, for being needlessly divisive.

* They are relevant enough to one another that the discussion of the philosophical disgreement between secular humanism vs theistic evolution can be interesting or worthwhile in an evolution vs creation forum, but this philosophical disagreement is still orthogonal to the scientific questions of whether evolution is right and whether creationism belongs in schools.

normdoering wrote:

Are they? How do you interpret the pope’s speech?

I left a comment along those lines at PZ’s blog.

Comment #129491

Posted by Caledonian on September 13, 2006 11:31 PM (e)

Those who seek some unattainable purity, who would divide believers from non-believers in this movement, may someday find themselves, like Brian, in a dungeon of their own making.

I don’t see what’s so unobtainable about not believing things without evidence, or not believing things that have lots of contrary evidence, or not believing things that make no sense. Nor do I see why it should be so hard to suggest that it’s not merely Creationism we want kept out of our societal establishments but irrationality and unreason in general.

More to the point, I don’t see how we can accomplish our goal of getting competent and accurate science instruction in schools by allying ourselves with people who flagrantly misrepresent the nature of the scientific method. That’s rather like setting the fox to guard the henhouse. Sure, he’ll keep everyone else from raiding chickens - but our goal isn’t to keep the snakes and weasels away from our poultry. Our goal is to keep the poultry safe.

Comment #129492

Posted by PZ Myers on September 13, 2006 11:37 PM (e)

If you’re going to establish yourself arbiter of who is or isn’t part of the movement against creationism, I find it awfully hard to take seriously claims the next week that the same thing is being done to you.

I expressed my opinion – rather unambiguously, don’t you think? What I object to here is the sanctimonious pussyfooting, the pretense of just trying to get along and be fair to everyone, when it’s really a veiled request to silence critics of a prominent defender of evolution.

Why not say it plainly? Ask the atheists to sit down and shut up about their disbelief, because it annoys the Christians. That’s what this is actually about.

though I have a lot of trouble seeing RSR’s ‘I refuse to stop working with the religious’ message here as “oppressive”

Funny…I don’t recall saying that I refuse to work with the religious. Why was that complaint even made? Is someone refusing to work with them?

I also reject the notion that this issue is orthogonal to the creation-evolution debate. It is central to that argument – creationists are not creationists because those annoying militant atheists drive them to it, as Miller asserts; they are creationists because their religious beliefs are the ideological basis of their disagreement, and if you bound and gagged every single atheist, agnostic, and deist in the country, they’d still be pushing the same 19th century fallacies. The fact that so many of the front-men of the evolution wars are made prominent because they refuse to address the root cause of the conflict, because of the fearful accommodationists who are afraid that an honest and consistent naturalistic philosophy would antagonize those people with irrational superstitions, is exactly why we need more people shouting out their disagreement with these failed policies.

Comment #129496

Posted by Caledonian on September 13, 2006 11:49 PM (e)

Anti-creationist movement? That’s odd, I’m part of the pro-science movement. I oppose creationism as part of my larger goal of supporting science. Why should I sabotage that goal by allying with people who oppose it, just to accomplish that minor subgoal?

If opposing creationism is so all-fired vital to the theistic evolutionists, let them learn to live with the people who oppose their theism.

After all, if the Judean People’s Front hated the other Fronts more than the Romans, the reasonable thing to do would have been to ally themselves with the Romans against the other groups. Setting aside their differences in order to take down the Romans would’ve been against their goals, and that would be madness. Methinks someone should have reconsidered their metaphor.

Comment #129504

Posted by PvM on September 14, 2006 12:19 AM (e)

PZ wrote:

Ask the atheists to sit down and shut up about their disbelief, because it annoys the Christians. That’s what this is actually about.

PZ the martyr?

When it comes down to atheists or Christians, both are wrong to conflate science and their own metaphysics.

Comment #129511

Posted by alienward on September 14, 2006 12:36 AM (e)

Jack Krebs wrote:

I would like the comments on this thread to stay on the topics raised by Pat. This old post by Ken Miller on Uncommon Descent, no matter how worthwhile a discussion it might lead to, is really not on-topic here.

I disagree. Pat and others seem to have been mislead by Miller into thinking there is some kind of unity needed between theists and atheists who already accept the fact of evolution and the theories that explain it. The old post demonstrates that the unity needed is between theists with conflicting religious beliefs. Creationists themselves are the ones claiming evolution rules out God, and the theist Miller calling their cherished special creation belief “ridiculous” is at least as insulting to them as anything Dawkins can come up with. The attempts to pin the blame for anti-theistic interpretations of evolution on atheists is pathetic and I can’t believe people like Pat Hayes are falling for it.

Comment #129520

Posted by normdoering on September 14, 2006 12:56 AM (e)

PvM wrote:

When it comes down to atheists or Christians, both are wrong to conflate science and their own metaphysics.

What metaphysics?

I think PZ is arguing ontology and epistemology which do touch on the scientific issues involved in evolution.

But I’m not saying he’s right either. If he did indeed rely on an unreliable source for the pope’s words, then maybe the pope was expressing something similar to what Steven Weinberg wrote in his book, I think it was; “Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist’s Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature,” that “the more the universe seems comprehensible the more it seems pointless.

That remark has been quoted more than anything he’s ever said, and it’s usually quote mined by the religious. He meant there is no sign of a grand plan in which humans play a starring role. The universe is an impersonal world governed by mathematical laws that are not particularly concerned with human beings, in which human beings appear as a chance phenomenon, not the goal toward which the universe itself is directed.

For some people that picture is antithetical to the view of nature and the world that their religion had given them.

That’s only one sense of meaning. What people forget is that there is another sense of meaning that Weinberg talks about next, a more personal, human meaning. It doesn’t mean there’s no point to life. Weinberg also wrote that:

if there is no point in the universe that we discover by the methods of science, there is a point that we can give the universe by the way we live, by loving each other, by discovering things about nature, by creating works of art. And that – in a way, although we are not the stars in a cosmic drama, is the only drama we’re starring in is one that we are making up as we go along, it is not entirely ignoble that faced with this unloving, impersonal universe we make a little island of warmth and love and science and art for ourselves. That’s not an entirely despicable role for us to play.

Comment #129530

Posted by Wheels on September 14, 2006 1:20 AM (e)

PZ’s words about working the religious tend to conflict with his history of attacking any theistic evolutionist who he thinks has betrayed science. I thought the Collins incident would be a hard lesson in jumping to conclusions without available information, perhaps recalling the Mims inicident on the IDist side. I guess I was wrong, because now we have PZ shooting off even harsher premature posts about how Miller is in league with the anti-evolutionists. That, to me, does not say anything about a spirit of cooperation in advocating science, it instead gives the impression that Professor Myers is more interested in attacking theists and being hostile towards religious people, regardless of their stance on science, to the point of outrageous conflations and wild accusations.
In short, this sort of thing gives the appearance of knee-jerk reactionism and prejudice, and of promoting a more extreme form of Scientism rather than a general acceptance of the sciences by the public. The fact that this kind of thing has happened not once, but TWICE, with prominent theistic evolutionists who have been outspoken against the anti-evolution movement and have made efforts to break down the religious opposition to science is very disheartening.
This sort of behavior also giving more credence to the false impression proferred by IDists that all this Evolution stuff is about staunch Metaphysical rather than methodological naturalism. It looks to the reader that Dr. Myers is saying that the first, rather than the later, is what is at stake in these Evolution arguments, not simply a popular rejection of religious objections to established facts and scientific methodology.

Comment #129577

Posted by normdoering on September 14, 2006 2:11 AM (e)

I wronte:

I think it was; “Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist’s Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature,” that “the more the universe seems comprehensible the more it seems pointless.

Nope, just checked – according to Paul Davie it was the Weinberg book called: “The First Three Minutes.”

Comment #129581

Posted by Andrew McClure on September 14, 2006 2:24 AM (e)

PZ Myers wrote:

though I have a lot of trouble seeing RSR’s ‘I refuse to stop working with the religious’ message here as “oppressive”

Funny…I don’t recall saying that I refuse to work with the religious. Why was that complaint even made? Is someone refusing to work with them?

We have here a post by RSR which I would summarize as “I refuse to stop working with the religious”. You reply to that post, in part, with “There is definitely an oppressive current here that is trying to use a demand for unity against a common enemy to suppress dissent; the members of the bland and happy majority are always going to be content to demand that we all just get along and stop complaining. This is not how we progress. This is how we stagnate.” You do not specify exactly from whom or where this “oppressive current” flows. How do you expect this to be taken by the reader?

If you do not feel that RSR’s post qualifies as among whatever it was you were referring to which is “oppresive” or “the way we stagnate” or “suppress[ing]” dissent, or feel some parts do qualify and some parts don’t, feel free to clarify.

Caledonian wrote:

Anti-creationist movement? That’s odd, I’m part of the pro-science movement.

My choice of the phrase “anti-creationist movement”, which I assume you are responding to, was solely intended to avoid unnecessary generalization, since I was referring in that sentence specifically to a comment in which Ken Miller had been labelled a creationist.

Caledonian wrote:

I oppose creationism as part of my larger goal of supporting science. Why should I sabotage that goal by allying with people who oppose it, just to accomplish that minor subgoal?

My viewpoint would be that, as someone whose viewpoint is fundamentally pro-science, my position is harmed by anyone who intertwines science with religious viewpoints. This could extend to, among other things, someone insisting that science must make accomodations for religion (for a random example, barring discussion of random mutation being “directionless” just because some people’s religion insist on life being purposeful), as well as someone insisting that acceptance of evolution requires the acceptance or rejection of certain religious (religious, not factual) propositions. When science’s separation from religion is threatened, the societal position of science (which is important not for ideological reasons, but because it is useful) is degraded.

I think nearly everyone here would agree that it is unacceptable to require certain views on religion in order for someone to “support evolution” or “support science”. The problem as I see it is that different people here disagree as to whether or not certain situations (Ken Miller, as perceived by some people, issuing attacks on materialist humanists? PZ Myers, as perceived by some people, issuing attacks on Ken Miller? RSR, as perceived by some people, issuing attacks on people who attack Ken Miller?) constitute excluding someone from “the Panda’s Thumb camp” based on a view about religion.

Comment #129630

Posted by PZ Myers on September 14, 2006 5:58 AM (e)

My viewpoint would be that, as someone whose viewpoint is fundamentally pro-science, my position is harmed by anyone who intertwines science with religious viewpoints.

It’s funny how that principle gets distorted in its operation into “my position is harmed by anyone who intertwines science with anti-religious viewpoints.” Where were all these principled objections when Miller throws the blame for creationism on atheist, and intertwines his science with his Catholicism? This is my objection: the complaints only go one way. If I hadn’t shouted out, everyone would be saying Miller’s talk was wonderful, and there wouldn’t be the slightest expression of protest anywhere that he had mixed up his Catholicism with his evolution.

Of course, perhaps what you are saying is that your position has been harmed by Miller, too, and then, boy, will my face be red as I apologize to you for failing to understand that you were agreeing with me.

Comment #129633

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 14, 2006 6:03 AM (e)

I admire PZ Myers for his bravery and honesty, and for not hiding behind any pseudonyms to advance his views. However, I can’t help but feel that he is helping create an ever deepening divide between the religious and science. Or rather I should say, justifying the disdain of religious people for any kind of science they find “problematic.”

While his quest is noble, I beg PZ and those who agree with his approach take a quick look at this link:

http://www.dhemery.com/cwd/2003/05/meet_people_where_they_are.html

Comment #129637

Posted by PZ Myers on September 14, 2006 6:27 AM (e)

That’s an interesting link…maybe a bit rich with platitudes, but OK. I don’t think it says to me what it says to you, though.

Hold onto your vision. It’s the source of your energy and passion. And just for now, let go of asking people to meet you where you are. Right now, they can’t see what you see. They hear you asking them cross a treacherous chasm into a murky, uncertain future. They hear you asking a great deal.

Instead, meet people where they are. Hear and acknowledge the confusion and risks and losses that fill their field of vision. Accept that their fears are real for them. Let them know that you will take the journey with them, supporting them in the ups and downs of Chaos.

Exactly right. I can understand that many people find atheism scary, which is why I don’t ask them to become atheists, or demand that you have to be an atheist to support evolution, or even that you have to be an atheist to be a good scientist. I am not asking much at all.

However, if I’m to help people in this journey the quote talks about, they have to see the destination. I think what we’re struggling with is a lot of people who believe the answer is to deny the existence of that journey at all, and who insist that the way to peace is through mollification–they want to maintain the status quo. In case you hadn’t noticed, that isn’t working out real well for science.

Comment #129651

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 14, 2006 7:04 AM (e)

And I am saying that if we are going to accept this diversity of belief, you’re all going to have to get used to the fact that atheists don’t believe in god.

So what. Neither do I. That isn’t the point.

Comment #129657

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 14, 2006 7:22 AM (e)

which is why I don’t ask them to become atheists, or demand that you have to be an atheist to support evolution, or even that you have to be an atheist to be a good scientist.

Don’t BS us, PZ. Your message is loud, clear and unmistakable. No one here misses it.

Comment #129660

Posted by TLTB on September 14, 2006 7:24 AM (e)

I would even argue that the only people that have a chance at ultimately defeating this ridiculous cultural movement are people like Ken Miller - scientists of faith who see ID for what it is and won’t stand for seeing science co-opted by religious fears. Since the creationists see this as a cultural war, they expect evolutionists not to listen, to be devious and dishonest in fighting back. But a blow from someone theologically aligned with them is an unexpected upper-cut.

Not only are science and faith not incompatible, but many scientists find that their works draws them to faith, as Francis Collins is so fond of saying. I know I’ve found that to be the case in my work.

Comment #129668

Posted by Pat Hayes on September 14, 2006 7:51 AM (e)

PZ has responded to my post as though it were directed at him. I was careful to write, however, that this post was prompted by “comments to a number of posts here, at Panda’s Thumb, Pharyngula, and the KCFS public discussion forum.”

As I have written elsewhere, I’m in almost complete agreement with PZ’s “Conversations With Ken Miller” post. I decided to write my “manifesto” after a fellow non-believer posted a comment to one of the threads on the debate over Miller’s KU speech referring to him as a “scumbag.” I also noticed that many other commenters, claiming to speak for reason, also used highly emotional and inaccurate adjectives to describe Miller’s beliefs.

As a skeptic who takes pride in his secularism, it embarrasses me when my fellow non-believers make themselves look foolish by making such remarks.

Science has been enormously productive, in part, because it has been able to make careful distinctions. Astronomers recently voted that Pluto, an object orbiting the Sun in our solar system, is not, as previously thought, a planet. Biologists are able to look at strands of DNA made up of millions of pairs of molecules composed of just four nucleotides. From this information, they are able to distinguish sequences that make up our genes.

That is why it surprises me that some of those who practice science as a profession – or who see its power as a method of inquiry – are unable to make careful distinctions between the varieties of religious belief.

If, as some have asserted here an elsewhere, Ken Miller is a creationist, then that term has no meaning. It’s useless and ought to be discarded.

PZ accuses me of trying to silence him. That’s not true. In the first place, s a practical matter, I don’t see how I could silence him. Then there’s the fact that, despite my disagreement with him on this issue, I think that on the whole he does an enormous amount of good.

I don’t want to silence anyone. I do want to point out that there are consequences to our actions. We are currently under attack from the religious right. They want to create a society in which many of the freedoms we currently enjoy – separation of church and state, the right to say what we think, for example – are against the law.

If they are successful, there will be enormous consequences: for teachers in the classroom, for scientists in the laboratory, for bloggers on the Internet.

That’s why I think we should set aside our differences over religion, for now, to unite against those who are determined to erect an authoritarian form of government. If we can’t do that, then we could, I think, at least be more careful with our language. Advocates for reason, I think, should take care to sound reasonable.

This strategy is based on the recognition that non-believers are a tiny minority. We can’t defend ourselves, much less prevail, without the help of believers who understand the nature and importance of secular government.

The battle between doubt and belief is a long-term battle. It’s been going on for Millennia. It’s not going to end anytime soon. The battle over science education, separation of church and state is in the here and now. If we lose, we’ll lose much more than that.

Here, in Kansas, we recently defeated the creationists on the state school board. None of the moderate defenders of science who ran for the board are atheists. If we’d waited for an atheist to be elected, intelligent design would have become a part of the standards. The defeat of the right-wingers by moderate theistic evolutionists – who very much resemble Ken Miller in outlook – means that won’t happen now.

Atheists have every right to defend themselves and to advance their ideas, but let’s tone down the name calling, and let’s make a reasonable judgment about what can be achieved in the here and now.

Comment #129674

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 14, 2006 8:09 AM (e)

Pat Hayes writes,

Advocates for reason, I think, should take care to sound reasonable.

Absolutely.

And the rest of Pat’s post is excellent, also.

Comment #129691

Posted by PZ Myers on September 14, 2006 9:46 AM (e)

That’s why I think we should set aside our differences over religion, for now, to unite against those who are determined to erect an authoritarian form of government. If we can’t do that, then we could, I think, at least be more careful with our language. Advocates for reason, I think, should take care to sound reasonable.

There’s a difficulty. Why should we set aside our differences over religion, if, as some say, it’s orthogonal to the creation-evolution fight? Why should we set aside differences, period? The claim that it is necessary to persuade people of faith to join with us has not been supported, as near as I can tell, and I don’t particularly see the value of allies who would abandon scientific principles because they object to the visible and vocal presence of unbelievers in our midst. They sound awfully fickle and shallow, you know. I don’t know if I would consider someone to be “on my side” if they accepted evolution because that nice Christian man Miller said they should (or that nice Godless man Dawkins, for that matter.)

And what is a request to set aside our differences but a request that we silence ourselves, anyway?

As I have said quite a few times now, I did not find Miller’s placing the blame on people like Dawkins and Dennett “reasonable.” I do not find his arguments for religion “reasonable.” In fact, I have a very hard time attaching the word “reasonable” to anything about religion. Perhaps we should talk about the nonsense he presents as “reasonable” in the last half of Finding Darwin’s God.

Comment #129693

Posted by SteveF on September 14, 2006 10:00 AM (e)

PZ asks:

There’s a difficulty. Why should we set aside our differences over religion, if, as some say, it’s orthogonal to the creation-evolution fight? Why should we set aside differences, period?

For purely practical reasons. For example, as Pat notes:

Here, in Kansas, we recently defeated the creationists on the state school board. None of the moderate defenders of science who ran for the board are atheists. If we’d waited for an atheist to be elected, intelligent design would have become a part of the standards.

Comment #129700

Posted by alienward on September 14, 2006 10:19 AM (e)

Pat Hayes wrote:

If, as some have asserted here an elsewhere, Ken Miller is a creationist, then that term has no meaning. It’s useless and ought to be discarded.

Are you saying that if an ID proponent speculates a god implemented a design by being sneaky and hiding in quantum mechanics to cause genetic mutations, they are a creationist, but if Miller speculates the same thing (and more), he is not a creationist?

“The indeterminate nature of quantum events would allow a clever and subtle God to influence events in ways that are profound, but scientifically undetectable to us. Those events could include the appearance of mutations, the activation of individual neurons in the brain, and even the survival of individual cells and organisms affected by the chance processes of radioactive decay.” (Miller, Finding Darwin’s God, p.241)

Comment #129701

Posted by Atheistichumanist on September 14, 2006 10:23 AM (e)

PZ Myers said

This is my objection: the complaints only go one way. If I hadn’t shouted out, everyone would be saying Miller’s talk was wonderful, and there wouldn’t be the slightest expression of protest anywhere that he had mixed up his Catholicism with his evolution.

I read what you had to say about Miller’s remarks, and I have to say I think you’re being a bit thin skinned. As I understand Miller’s remarks, he’s not talking about attacking atheists personally, but is rather discussing the war of ideas, and frankly, you seemed to take it a bit too personally. When Miller talked about shooting at targets, he was clearly talking metaphorically (after all, you can’t literally shoot at evolution). As an atheist, I recognize that evolutionary theory, by itself, is not evidence that there is no God; its the lack of evidence of a God that makes me an atheist. I whole heartedly agree with Miller that if christians have a disagreement with atheism, they should be debating metaphysical issues with atheists, rather than attacking evolutionary theory with half-baked pseudoscience. You overreacted; atheism can hold its own in the debate with theism.
Pat Hayes is saying, I think, that in regards to defending science we should put our metaphysical differences aside; it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t debate metaphysics in the appropriate context.

Comment #129703

Posted by Atheistichumanist on September 14, 2006 10:27 AM (e)

alienward wrote

Are you saying that if an ID proponent speculates a god implemented a design by being sneaky and hiding in quantum mechanics to cause genetic mutations, they are a creationist, but if Miller speculates the same thing (and more), he is not a creationist?

The difference is that Miller wouldn’t suggest that his speculation is science that should be taught in the public schools.

Comment #129704

Posted by DragonScholar on September 14, 2006 10:32 AM (e)

I am reminded of a quote from Terry Pratchett. I do not have it exactly right, but essentially

“In this city, if the Creator said ‘let there be light’ he’d have never gotten any further because people would have asked ‘what color?’”

My largest concern in dealing with the anti-science forces is that pro-science forces will fall to fighting among themselves, while the anti-science groups, with their funding, their fanatics, their political allies, will eventually march the hell over all of us while we bicker.

So the burning questions for pro-science people are not how much unity, atheism, the Pope, etc. The burning questions is how do we win, and what plan is going to work - and all else is tangental. Anything else is just handing the anti-science forces one more shot at victory.

Comment #129706

Posted by Pat Hayes on September 14, 2006 10:40 AM (e)

As a skeptic, I’m not convinced by arguments for a creator god, whether or not s/he/it uses quantum mechanics or not.

What I am saying is that Ken Miller – and theistic evolutionists like him – are unlikely to stop stem cell research in this country, de-fund various research projects in the biological sciences that have evolutionary implications, re-write science and history textbooks, try to fire university professors – like PZ – who speak out on controversial issues, try to disprove evolution by packing the Supreme Court with Neanderthals (sorry Afarensis, I don’t mean to demean Neanderthals), demonize gays, censor what we read in books or watch on television or the movies, outlaw contraception and abortion, keep our brain-dead relatives in a vegetative state against their expressed will…

On the contrary, I believe the Ken Millers of the world stand shoulder to shoulder with us in these battles. In fact, I can attest to the fact that in Kansas, some of the most active, able, and effective defenders of science education are religious – theistic evolutionists – just like Ken Miller.

Without them, we’d be dead in the water.

Comment #129707

Posted by Flint on September 14, 2006 10:43 AM (e)

There seem to be two more-or-less consistent goals being expressed here:

1) To streamline, assist, and promote the process of discovering as much about our universe as humans as a species can possibly discover, as efficiently as possible.

2) To free ourselves as a species from the scourge of irrational religious faith, which often (but not always) works against goal #1, and certainly never promotes that goal in any way.

When both of these goals are borne in mind simultaneously, Miller’s position is at the very least uncomfortable. Maybe Miller can keep his religious convictions from interfering with his science, but only through a Rube Goldberg system of distorted rationalizations Miller substitutes for letting go of a scientifically useless faith. Surely not every scientist can compartmentalize as well as Miller; religous faith remains a millstone around the neck of even the strongest.

If this model is correct, then Miller’s position becomes ambiguous. He’s unquestionably an ally in the fight to keep creationism out of science classes. But his approach to science is at least tainted, and his depiction of those scientists NOT tainted by irrational beliefs (probably a comfortable majority) as being guilty of polarizing the debate is probably driven by the faith rather than the rational side of his rather schizophrenic approach to reality.

Miller’s primary value is as an illustration that it’s possible, but emphatically not easy, to do good science while married to irrational beliefs ranging from irrelevant to dangerous to that science. We can point to Miller and say “You see, you don’t have to abandon your faith to be a good scientist; you only need to anesthetize it into irrelevance.”

Comment #129711

Posted by Sylvilagus on September 14, 2006 10:59 AM (e)

normdoering wrote:

>What metaphysics?

>I think PZ is arguing ontology and epistemology which do touch on
>the scientific issues involved in evolution.

Uuuummmm…. ontology IS metaphysics in every philosophy class I ever took and every philosophy book I ever read. Plus, my dictionary at hand says ontology is “the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of existance”. Ontology is explicitly what science does not claim to deal with, hence the whole notion of “provisional truth” as the basis of scientific knowledge. As soon as one claims to know what truly “is” as opposed to having a workable description of how what “is” manifests itself in human experience, you have stepped outside of scientific discourse. This is true, in my humble opinion, whether or not one’s claim is that “God exists” or that “God does not exist”. Regardless of what one thinks of the validity of such statements, they are clearly both metaphysical postions, not scientific ones.

Epistemology can be metaphysical as well, depending upon how it is framed.

Comment #129713

Posted by Raging Bee on September 14, 2006 11:06 AM (e)

Those who seek some unattainable purity, who would divide believers from non-believers in this movement, may someday find themselves, like Brian, in a dungeon of their own making.

“May someday?” They already are. Or, to put it more accurately, they’re in the dungeon, though they may not have “found themselves” to be in it.

For a good look at the sheer stupidity of some atheists’ arguments, not to mention their brittle, thin-skinned overreaction to any hint of respect for people not exactly like themselves, check out the response to Ed Brayton’s post on pretty much the same subject – that people who don’t agree on everything should work together to achieve important common objectives.

Comment #129715

Posted by Glen Davidson on September 14, 2006 11:08 AM (e)

I certainly think that Myers seriously jumped the gun in labeling Miller a creationist. Even as hyperbole, that is too close to fratricide, and his apologies and retractions have had caveats in them.

But what of this?

If I hadn’t shouted out, everyone would be saying Miller’s talk was wonderful, and there wouldn’t be the slightest expression of protest anywhere that he had mixed up his Catholicism with his evolution.

Well, maybe so, and what real harm would have been caused? The religious nonsense is just pablum, the kind of stuff I’d have glanced (or glazed) over had I read Miller’s speech straight. Ken was mostly arguing against religionist fratricide in the parts to which PZ objected, not really aiming at us.

Nevertheless, Myers has every right to object, and he does make legitimate points. This could easily be lost in the “can’t we all just get along rhetoric.” What is more, it does tend to cut one way, with PZ being condemned (outside of Pharyngula, anyhow) for jumping on objectionable statements, while Miller tends to receive little or no condemnation for making objectionable statements in the first place.

I thought these excerpts from Miller’s book were rather gratuitous attacks on the heathen:

These Folks are supposed to be scientists, and one might think that science–dealing with the material–should have nothing to say about religion–which deals with the spiritual.

Finding Darwin’s God, p. 184

“In the final analysis, absolute materialism does not triumph because it cannot fully explain the nature of reality” (Ibid. p. 219).

We’re not supposed to say anything about religion, because Ken thinks that we shouldn’t, and because he gives lip service to NOMA? The second quote above shows just how well he adheres to NOMA in the end, attacking the strawman of “absolute materialism” as his sock puppet for “atheism”, and denouncing it for some faulty notion that the lack of a possible “full explanation” is an actual objection to godlessness.

He attacks atheists and atheism quite a lot in his book, which ought to be understood as context for his recent speech which includes discussion of attacking atheism. So while I don’t countenance PZ’s take on the matter, he doesn’t need me to approve, and I’d say that substantively it is tit-for-tat.

We needn’t put up with misrepresentations of our own positions, or Miller’s pious claim that we have nothing legitimate to say about religion while he’s attacking godlessness via the strawman “absolute materialism.” Likewise, we really don’t need Pim’s unevidenced and unargued assertion that we have our own metaphysics (I challenged him on it, and he moved that post to the Bathroom Wall. So it’s not like he hasn’t had the chance to actually back it up his claim, he’s simply making the same false charges all over again).

Are we really supposed to let false charges pile up while we do nothing? I would not respond as PZ does, but it is also true that I probably don’t have the anger about this matter to object where at least some objections are warranted.

I would add, too, that this is mostly a tempest in a teapot. PZ Myers does not set the tone of the debate, he tries to influence it with impolite rhetoric. Then a lot of drones agree with him on Pharyngula, writing the same things that have been rehashed a thousand times. Big deal.

Essentially nobody, other than some tired drones on Pharyngula (and a very few PTers who apparently have not gotten over that religion thing), follows him in his charges or his rhetoric. Miller, of course, is unhappy with being called a creationist by Myers, yet I’m sure that he knows it isn’t so very important, in the larger view. The NCSE and PT aren’t swayed to follow Myers, and there is every chance that having one voice like Myers’s serves to check the tendency most of us have to pay no attention to the sometimes egregious claims of theists, even some coming from ardent supporters of evolution.

At this moment, there is probably a greater risk that unwarranted attacks on “absolute materialism” will go unanswered than that a significant portion of anti-IDists will start attacking each other. Indeed, we have no business turning our guns upon theistic evolutionists who stay within the proper boundaries themselves. Yet we don’t have any excuse for sitting meekly while Miller lectures us that, as scientists and/or friends of science, we should say nothing about religion, while he maligns our supposed “absolute materialism”.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #129716

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

For purely practical reasons.

Oh, right. Expediency and pragmatism.

I’m all for those. However, there also needs to be some actual, like, REASON to think something will work, and it’s especially useful if there’s some EVIDENCE. Everyone is very quick to say we need to hide the atheists away because they’ll scare off the moderates…but does this actually work? It sorta sounds like an announcement that you have a charm against tigers, and your evidence is that you haven’t been eaten by tigers yet. Except, of course, in this case the anti-creationist charm that everyone (especially Ken Miller) invokes doesn’t seem to be working at all, since we are plagued with creationists, and the problem seems to be getting worse. I don’t see how someone who falls for creationism is going to be persuaded to accept evolution because the advocate takes communion every week.

Maybe, instead of acting like we should be embarrassed by their presence, we should instead take greater pride in the significant number of atheists in our midst. Jebus knows we’re quick to trot the happy Christian evolutionists onto the stage to represent us, and we don’t mind when they babble about their precious faith. How about making an equally big deal, with no apologies, for any atheist who helps out?

For purely practical reasons, of course.

Comment #129717

Posted by Glen Davidson on September 14, 2006 11:13 AM (e)

One correction. I wrote:

We’re not supposed to say anything about religion, because Ken thinks that we shouldn’t, and because he gives lip service to NOMA? The second quote above shows just how well he adheres to NOMA in the end, attacking the strawman of “absolute materialism” as his sock puppet for “atheism”, and denouncing it for some faulty notion that the lack of a possible “full explanation” is an actual objection to godlessness.

Should be:

We’re not supposed to say anything about religion, because Ken thinks that we shouldn’t, and because he gives lip service to NOMA? The second quote above shows just how well he adheres to NOMA in the end, attacking the strawman of “absolute materialism” as his sock puppet for “atheism”, and denouncing it over some faulty notion that the lack of a possible “full explanation” is an actual objection to godlessness.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #129719

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on September 14, 2006 11:21 AM (e)

If this model is correct, then Miller’s position becomes ambiguous. He’s unquestionably an ally in the fight to keep creationism out of science classes. But his approach to science is at least tainted, and his depiction of those scientists NOT tainted by irrational beliefs (probably a comfortable majority) as being guilty of polarizing the debate is probably driven by the faith rather than the rational side of his rather schizophrenic approach to reality.

Miller’s primary value is as an illustration that it’s possible, but emphatically not easy, to do good science while married to irrational beliefs ranging from irrelevant to dangerous to that science. We can point to Miller and say “You see, you don’t have to abandon your faith to be a good scientist; you only need to anesthetize it into irrelevance.”

LOL. “Tainted”. So this really is all about the atheists demanding that everyone else accept their version of metaphysical purity. Never mind that atheism is an ambitious metaphysical extra-scientific conclusion just like theism. Never mind that it is as unprovable as theism.

As for the bit about how “it’s possible, but emphatically not easy, to do good science while married to irrational beliefs”, everyone here raise your hand if:

* Like Ken Miller, you have published research articles that made the cover of Cell

* Like Ken Miller, you have authored a half-dozen biology textbooks

* Like Ken Miller, you have been on the faculty at Harvard and gotten tenure at Brown

I suspect that Miller finds it easier to do good science than a great many people, atheists or not.

Comment #129720

Posted by Raging Bee on September 14, 2006 11:23 AM (e)

Caledonian wrote:

More to the point, I don’t see how we can accomplish our goal of getting competent and accurate science instruction in schools by allying ourselves with people who flagrantly misrepresent the nature of the scientific method.

There’s a lot you don’t see, including the need for adult social skills, which is why you got yourself kicked off of Ed’s blog. Your statement that Christians like those who opposed the creationists in Dover “flagrantly misrepresent the nature of the scientific method” proves you have no clue – and probably don’t care – what you’re talking about.

PZ wrote:

Why not say it plainly? Ask the atheists to sit down and shut up about their disbelief, because it annoys the Christians. That’s what this is actually about.

Wrong again: it’s about asking the atheists to show respect for others, treat them as equals, and stop calling people “stupid” and making wildly idiotic misstatements about beliefs they clearly don’t understand. Why are you misrepresenting the statements of others, when you have plenty of time to examine them before posting? Are you really that clueless, or is this a deliberate attempt to provoke discord?

Comment #129721

Posted by DragonScholar on September 14, 2006 11:24 AM (e)

PZ Myers wrote:

I don’t see how someone who falls for creationism is going to be persuaded to accept evolution because the advocate takes communion every week.

Actually, in a nation as religiously divided as this, that common ground of taking communion may be what’s needed to get someone to listen. People respond to people they have something in common with.

Comment #129722

Posted by Raging Bee on September 14, 2006 11:29 AM (e)

Everyone is very quick to say we need to hide the atheists away because they’ll scare off the moderates…but does this actually work? It sorta sounds like an announcement that you have a charm against tigers, and your evidence is that you haven’t been eaten by tigers yet.

That analogy is like Hitler at an ice rink.

Comment #129724

Posted by Flint on September 14, 2006 11:40 AM (e)

Nick:

LOL. “Tainted”. So this really is all about the atheists demanding that everyone else accept their version of metaphysical purity. Never mind that atheism is an ambitious metaphysical extra-scientific conclusion just like theism. Never mind that it is as unprovable as theism.

I hope you enjoy watching your knee jerk. I agree that it is possible to do good science despite being saddled with beliefs not entirely compatible with science. And if you call basing conclusions on evidence ONLY to be “metaphysical purity”, so be it. The alternative is Making Stuff Up.

Meanwhile, I was hoping someone would make an attempt to explain how irrational, non-evidence-based beliefs *assist or support* the effort to do good science. Pointing out that it is possible to do good science *despite* such beliefs isn’t quite the same thing.

Finally, I’m sure you know better than to try to tell any of us that atheism is unprovable metaphysics. Atheism is metaphysics the same way as not collecting stamps is a hobby. LACK of a conviction because there is no evidences isn’t the same thing as a conviction that no such evidence can exist. So maybe the term “atheism” has jerked your knee. Try substituting “NOT assuming someting exists, despite being unattested by any evidence.” Does that help you any? How about “not making gratuituous unsupported assumptions”? Is that any better?

Comment #129725

Posted by Jim Harrison on September 14, 2006 11:42 AM (e)

Towards the end of antiquity, pagan thinkers tried to represent themselves as more pious and monotheistic than the emerging and politically aggressive Christians. Some of their protestations were surely sincere–it was a generally superstitious era–but a lot of the swarminess reflected a strategy of appeasement. The more tough-minded philosophical schools–the skeptics, the cynics, the Epicureans–were advised to shut up since their tone was likely to alienate the people and irritate the emperor…

Sorry, have I gotten off topic?

Comment #129750

Posted by Raging Bee on September 14, 2006 12:33 PM (e)

Meanwhile, I was hoping someone would make an attempt to explain how irrational, non-evidence-based beliefs *assist or support* the effort to do good science.

You mean like childish curiosity, a sense of wonder, a desire to understand how one’s (alleged) God(s) made things work, or a belief that making people’s lives easier with new inventions is a good thing to do? Not a shred of objective evidence to support any of that, is there?

Also, good old fashioned imperialism and conquest also help the discovery process along now and then – but that’s a bit more rational than the examples above…

Comment #129751

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 14, 2006 12:34 PM (e)

Methinks PZ’s trying to say that while Ken Miller is allowed to insult and misrepresent atheists while spouting his religious beliefs, he (PZ) is not allowed to insult and misrepresent Christians while spouting his religious beliefs. Or at least he’s told to sit quietly so he doesn’t scare away the Christians, all in the name of “torelance”.

Comment #129752

Posted by Raging Bee on September 14, 2006 12:38 PM (e)

Flint: I notice you quote Nick’s “tainted” paragraph, but you completely ignore his subsequent statements about Ken Millers’ accomplishments – and thus the main point of his post. Avoiding an uncomfortable truth, perhaps?

Comment #129753

Posted by Agnostic on September 14, 2006 12:41 PM (e)

The mere existance of an atheist seems to bother a theist.. and vice versa. It’s almost that a person cannot embrace theism without hating that atheist part of himself, nagging with questions in the back of his brain. Inevitably, he attacks the atheist outside of himself who voices the questions he constantly works to keep down in his own head. And the atheist maybe likewise has to shut up his sub-conscious theist, always longing for the comforting answers. Maybe only agnostics can get along.

Comment #129754

Posted by Scott on September 14, 2006 12:42 PM (e)

There’s a difficulty. Why should we set aside our differences over religion, if, as some say, it’s orthogonal to the creation-evolution fight? Why should we set aside differences, period?

For purely practical reasons.

I’m all for those. However, there also needs to be some actual, like, REASON to think something will work, and it’s especially useful if there’s some EVIDENCE.

First, what evidence is there that a head on attack will work any better?

Second, let’s look at this as a case of Rhetoric. Imagine you are a lawyer defending a client (science education) in front of a jury on the charge of destroying the moral foundation of society. The opposing counsel is the [capital “C”] Creationist. You aren’t there to convince *him* of the innocense of your client. He couldn’t care less about your arguments. You’re job is to convince the jury, made up of average folks who haven’t made up their minds yet.

You, the defending counsel, have a range of possible arguments you can use with the jury. One such line of argument might be:

A. You jurists have to understand that your fundamental view of the world is wrong. Once I show you how foolish you have been, you will clearly see that my client is totally innocent.

Another possible line of argument might be:

B. Now, I know you jurists have this set of fuzzy beliefs. Some of you think that my client disagrees with those beliefs. I’m here to show you that your beliefs are not necessarily in conflict with my client, and that based on his other good deeds, you should find my client innocent of the charges.

Obviously there are a range of other possible lines of argument, blending these and other ideas. But, given the dichotomy which has been defined in these posts, which of these lines of argument are more likely to work with the jury that you have in front of you?

Does choosing to use argument “B” mean that you can’t, in another forum, argue equally forcefully with another audience about the true meaning of life? And how really brain dead the jury really is? Of course it doesn’t. Does choosing to use argument “B” with one audience mean that lawyer has to change his personal opinions about either the client or the jury? Of course it doesn’t.

Remember who the audience is. We will never convince the opposing counsel: the Dembski’s and Behe’s and DI’s. Our audience is also not the client’s family, who already know he was innocent to begin with. Our audience is the large group of fence sitters, and it is our job to convince *them* that the Dembski’s and Behe’s and DI’s are wrong. You convince an audience by relating to the audience.

My point is that it can be counter productive to try to break the fundamental beliefs of an audience in order to make a point which only requires their beliefs be bent a bit.

Comment #129755

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 14, 2006 12:51 PM (e)

My point is that it can be counter productive to try to break the fundamental beliefs of an audience in order to make a point which only requires their beliefs be bent a bit.

So for pragmatic reasons Ken Miller gets to insult and misrepresent atheists while his religious views are trotted out without criticism.

Comment #129757

Posted by PZ Myers on September 14, 2006 12:53 PM (e)

So this really is all about the atheists demanding that everyone else accept their version of metaphysical purity.

No. It’s about recognizing that atheists are not at fault for creationism. That if you’re going start portioning blame, the last place you ought to start is one group that is NOT trying to get their metaphysical views into the classroom.

Also, Nick, the blatant credentialism is tiresome. I know that Miller has done good science and published good books and done good work for the evolution movement. It doesn’t exempt him from criticism or make him less fallible than us peons. It doesn’t make him the Pope of Evolution.

Comment #129758

Posted by Raging Bee on September 14, 2006 12:54 PM (e)

How did Ken Miller “insult and misrepresent atheists” exactly?

Comment #129760

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on September 14, 2006 12:58 PM (e)

Flint,

re: Comment #129724, collecting quotations is a hobby, and you made my quotations collection. LOL.

Comment #129761

Posted by Raging Bee on September 14, 2006 1:04 PM (e)

No. It’s about recognizing that atheists are not at fault for creationism.

Where did that contention enter into ANY recent dustup over atheists’ statements? I’ve not heard any such sentiment expressed in any of the on-line arguments I’ve jumped into so far.

I know that Miller has done good science and published good books and done good work for the evolution movement. It doesn’t exempt him from criticism or make him less fallible than us peons. It doesn’t make him the Pope of Evolution.

No, but it DOES make uninformed ankle-biting criticism of his religious beliefs irrelevant to the overall scientific debate. If he does good work and he’s on the right side in the important political battles, then why is anyone wasting any time whingeing about his religion?

Comment #129762

Posted by Flint on September 14, 2006 1:09 PM (e)

Raging Bee:

Am I stepping on your toes?

You mean like childish curiosity, a sense of wonder, a desire to understand how one’s (alleged) God(s) made things work, or a belief that making people’s lives easier with new inventions is a good thing to do? Not a shred of objective evidence to support any of that, is there?

I spoke of (and you quoted) “irrational, non-evidence-based beliefs”. I don’t see how anything on your list meets those qualifications. Curiosity is not a belief despite lack of what ought to be in-your-face overwhelming evidence if it were true. Nor is a sense of wonder, a desire to understand how things work (how is this different from curiosity?), nor a desire to make life easier. So I think you missed my point. Indeed, if anything I’d say that one thing many religious faiths do is STIFLE curiosity. If goddidit, why keep looking?

you completely ignore his subsequent statements about Ken Millers’ accomplishments – and thus the main point of his post. Avoiding an uncomfortable truth, perhaps?

I’ll quote what I wrote earlier, since I think you may have missed it:

“I agree that it is possible to do good science despite being saddled with beliefs not entirely compatible with science.”

I also wrote:

“Miller’s primary value is as an illustration that it’s possible, but emphatically not easy, to do good science while married to irrational beliefs ranging from irrelevant to dangerous to that science. We can point to Miller and say “You see, you don’t have to abandon your faith to be a good scientist; you only need to anesthetize it into irrelevance.””

I’ll try to translate this: Miller does excellent science. Thus, it is possible to believe things for which there is no evidence and still do good science. But the implication that such beliefs AID in doing good science is almost surely false. My claim is that Miller does good science despite, not because of, his faith. He has used intellectual legerdemain to finesse his way around his faith. It works for him.

Agnostic:

I think the notion of atheism has been given a bad rap. An atheist (in the sense I’m using it, anyway) is one who simply doesn’t believe in magical fairies for which there is no evidence. Lack of belief is NOT the same as believing in the affirmative nonexistence of specified fairies. It’s more of an indifference toward any such fairies (or anything else unsuggested by any evidence), because they are simply not relevant to anything.

Comment #129763

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 14, 2006 1:09 PM (e)

PZ writes,

Everyone is very quick to say we need to hide the atheists away.

This is demonstrably false. Not everyone is saying this, because I for one have argued the opposite in comments directly to PZ: the demonization of atheists is flat out wrong, and uncoupling creationist rhetoric from this charge is the other half of the job (the first being the uncoupling of science from materialism).

In fact, I don’ think I see anyone saying we need to hide the atheists away. What I do see people saying is that

1. we need to separate defending the validity of mainstream science from the subject of metaphysical beliefs about the relationship of science to other forms of human knowledge, and

2. we should, perhaps, from the point of view of political effectiveness, make doing 1) above a higher priority than arguing about metaphysics. (This is not an argument one needs to accept: some may feel that for themselves the metaphysical debate is more important than the other task. That’s a reasonable choice if one wants to make.)

My position is that all people, whatever their metaphysical belief system may be, should feel free, comfortable, and open about expressing what they believe. The fact that materialism, atheism, secular humanism or whatever you want to call it is being demonized by the anti-evolutionist creationists is one of the cultural issues that we need to resolve.

Comment #129774

Posted by Mike Rogers on September 14, 2006 1:28 PM (e)

Pat said it exactly right. What we need to concentrate on - first and foremost - is maintaining the openness of science and society and the integrity and credibility of science. We all can have different takes on the ultimate metaphysical lessons to take from what science tells us about the world. Beyond the apparent facts, covering laws and processes in nature, which are already somewhat underdetermined (but, I believe, are clearly determinable enough in practice and within reasonable bounds), speculative metaphysics, which can only come from integration and extrapolation from both common experience and scientific knowledge (unless you’re a strict Kantian), is vastly more underdetermined. The extra-scientific conclusion of the truth of atheism (because modern science shows that the natural world does not seem to require anything more) may seem clear enough to some of us, but it is not so clear to everybody, especially in light of its potential significance. So the important thing is to keep an open society and maintain the corresponding element of good faith between those with differing views that an open society requires. Perhaps everyone will eventually come to the same opinion on the existence of God. Perhaps not. We don’t need to force a consensus and we certainly don’t need one next week. In constantly provoking such fights now we may, in fact, simply provoke a reaction powerful enough to elevate authoritarianism above tolerance and openness among a large number of our fellow citizens and effectively discredit those liberal ideals in their minds.

Comment #129780

Posted by Steve LaBonne on September 14, 2006 1:40 PM (e)

First, what evidence is there that a head on attack will work any better?

1) The US situation- constant and dangerous religious threats to secular governance and education- is pretty much unique as far as “advanced” countries go.
2) In many other countries it took a long, hard, very confrontational struggle before the attempts of religion to meddle in secular matters were decisively defeated.
3) In the US, by contrast, appeasement rather than confrontation has been the rule.
Not nearly conclusive, of course- but suggestive.

Comment #129791

Posted by PZ Myers on September 14, 2006 1:57 PM (e)

It’s about recognizing that atheists are not at fault for creationism.

Where did that contention enter into ANY recent dustup over atheists’ statements?

You aren’t aware of Miller’s comments that started this whole thing?

Here is the chain of reasoning from his KU talk.

What’s behind the unending back and forth warfare we see everywhere in this country, and that we see exemplified in the rising and ebbing tides of creation and evolution in a state like Kansas?

Many people…draw a conclusion from evolutionary theory which is fundamentally anti-theistic: a philosophical interpretation that having a material origin for living things denies meaning and purpose to our lives and denies a deity….

Faced with such unremitting hostility to religion, and that is exactly what these books [recent books by Dennett and Dawkins] exemplify, I think the advocates of religion react, and they react in a predictable way. The creation scientists, for example, decided we’ve got to do something about it. Their solution, however, was to ignore this interpretation and go after evolution itself.

Those people who do not believe in god not only deny meaning and purpose to people’s lives, we’re behind the culture wars. It’s like we sneak up on babies and inject them with nihilism and despair, and then we goad nice Christian folk into fighting to get Genesis taught in the schools.

And you know what really bothers the atheists? It’s that Ken Miller caught on to our cunning plan.

Comment #129793

Posted by normdoering on September 14, 2006 2:05 PM (e)

Sylvilagus wrote:

… ontology IS metaphysics in every philosophy class I ever took and every philosophy book I ever read.

Then I suggest you stop reading philosophy and start learning about ontology and epistemology as they relate to neural nets:

http://www.aifb.uni-karlsruhe.de/WBS/phi/pub/hbg05.pdf#search=%22neural%20ontology%22

… my dictionary at hand says ontology is “the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of existance”. Ontology is explicitly what science does not claim to deal with, hence the whole notion of “provisional truth” as the basis of scientific knowledge.

That’s just not true any more. How could I find books on ontological engineering if it were just metaphysics?
http://www.amazon.com/Ontological-Engineering-Information-Knowledge-Processing/dp/1852335513

Comment #129794

Posted by Flint on September 14, 2006 2:14 PM (e)

my dictionary at hand says ontology is “the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of existance”.

Are you sure? Is it possible that your dictionary spelled ‘existence’ correctly and you missed it?

Comment #129796

Posted by Wheels on September 14, 2006 2:16 PM (e)

So it would be accurate, I think, to summarize things this way:
The public defense of science against capital C Creationists should be about marginalizing their claims that science inherently leads to a society that rejects God. The example for this defense would be the Millers and Collinses and the Dobzhansky, all excellent scientists and all people of faith. The importance of this tack is that the CreationIDist’s main claim that (materialistic?) science and religion cannot coexist in a person’s worldview and that science seeks to destroy religion, something which is demonstrably false.
Thus think it’s important to emphasize the non-religious, as in not-having-to-do-with-the-supernatural, aspect of science. If you remove the idea that science threatens religion rather than disagreeing with a small faction of sectarian religious beliefs about the empirical world, the job is made easier. Don’t get into arguments about the existence of God, show that the arguments used to proffer God at the expense of fact are wrong. Don’t make this a question of whether religion is viable, frame this as what it really is: dishonest advocacy of one anti-science position against myriad other religious positions that accomodate science.
I think it was Sir Toejam who told me that marginalizing the Creationists was the issue and that some thought the best way to go about this was to marginalize religion itself (correct me if I mis-remember). I think that, especially in places that have a strongly religious culture, the opposite is true: It’s easier and more effective to marginalize Creationist blowhards when you paint them as raving radicals among the larger religious subset. That way people who happen to have theistic beliefs don’t feel threatened unless they themselves are already the radicals, at which point many of them are beyond reach anyway.
Personally I’m content to point out that science doesn’t concern itself with God, and then explain why that is. If pressed further I’m content to point out two more things: first that there are no extant valid arguments for God, and secondly explain why this is the case. Using science to advance either a religious stance of theism or a religious stance of atheism is, in my view, abusing science. The supernatural is irrelevant to science, not firmly supported or firmly disproven by it. The realm of supernatural ontological discussion is not scientific but philosophical, and part of the reason why ID and Creationism have found such success in the general public is because they misinform them, playing on their ignorance of such distinctions, getting as much fallacy mileage out of Straw man and Appeal to Consequence of Belief as they can. That’s why I’ve refused to play the game of conflating supernatural beliefs with methodologically naturalistic science, doing otherwise plays into their hands and gives them the appearance of validity. As part of that effort, I also take pains to explain the distinction between science and religious ideas (of either leaning).

Man I ramble. That wasn’t a short summary at all! How about this: keep the defense of science confined to defending actual science and not religious/anti-religious ideas, since those are rendered irrelevant to science by methodological naturalism.

PZ Meyers wrote:

Those people who do not believe in god not only deny meaning and purpose to people’s lives, we’re behind the culture wars. It’s like we sneak up on babies and inject them with nihilism and despair, and then we goad nice Christian folk into fighting to get Genesis taught in the schools.

Did Miller say, implicitly or explicitly, that this was THE cause, or that this was A cause, one of perhaps several instigating aspects of an on-going “culture war?” It seems to me that you think it’s the former (in the explicit case no less), when the latter is perfectly true; there ARE those who react against the popularization of atheism based on the appeals to science. This is, I think, pretty basic human behavior; if you percieve a threat against a stance you hold, you automatically assume a defensive position against that threat and in so doing crystalize your opposition to the threat, even if you weren’t so firm in the position previously.

Comment #129797

Posted by Atheistichumanist on September 14, 2006 2:17 PM (e)

Steve Labonne wrote

1) The US situation- constant and dangerous religious threats to secular governance and education- is pretty much unique as far as “advanced” countries go.
2) In many other countries it took a long, hard, very confrontational struggle before the attempts of religion to meddle in secular matters were decisively defeated.
3) In the US, by contrast, appeasement rather than confrontation has been the rule.
Not nearly conclusive, of course- but suggestive.

I might suggest that you are not entirely accurate. The efforts of creationists to inject pseudoscience into public schools has been haphazard and defeated in the courts and by the voters in Kansas and Pennsylvania. They have been confronted, not appeased, and defeated. The United States has enjoyed a secular national government for over two hundred years. Other nations experienced bloody religious wars to get where they are. Judge Jones is not an atheist, and I doubt there are many atheists among the voters of Dover, Pa. or the GOP primary voters in Kansas. Christian fundamentalists are a minority, even in the US; there is no reason for us to accept combat on Phillip Johnson’s and William Dembski’s chosen field of battle and argue that evolutionary theory is inherently anti-christian, because it isn’t.

Comment #129799

Posted by Steve LaBonne on September 14, 2006 2:55 PM (e)

I was by no means confining my remarks to attempts to inject c’ism into public schools. The level of religiosity, the level of clerical influence on public policy, and the sacred cow status of organized religion and its mouthpieces, are all completely off the charts in the US compared to any other industrialized country. My point stands.

Comment #129800

Posted by DragonScholar on September 14, 2006 2:58 PM (e)

Steve LaBonne wrote:

1) The US situation- constant and dangerous religious threats to secular governance and education- is pretty much unique as far as “advanced” countries go.
2) In many other countries it took a long, hard, very confrontational struggle before the attempts of religion to meddle in secular matters were decisively defeated.
3) In the US, by contrast, appeasement rather than confrontation has been the rule.

Please give relevant examples to confirm these statements. Just off the top of my head:
1) You’d need to define “advanced” in this case.
2) Europe seems to have secularized through gradual evolution (or perhaps, intelligent design) in my experience - and that took centuries.
3) It seems that there’s plenty of confrontation here in the US. Take a look at the various court cases.

Comment #129803

Posted by Steve LaBonne on September 14, 2006 3:12 PM (e)

I don’t know how anyone familiar with, say, French history- or even the much milder struggles against the established churches from the 18th century on in Britain- could possibly imagine that Europe secularized through “gradual evolution”. In the latter country, intellectuals like Hume and Gibbon were at least as outspoken relative to the mores of their time as Dawkins in ours, and courted much more serious consequences if they allowed the gossamer-thin veil of perfunctory obeisance in their writings to slip too far. That took a lot more courage than is needed to oppose the influence of religion in the US our time.

Comment #129806

Posted by Mike on September 14, 2006 3:31 PM (e)

I don’t know how anyone familiar with, say, French history- or even the much milder struggles against the established churches from the 18th century on in Britain- could possibly imagine that Europe secularized through “gradual evolution”

Well, the British example does appear to have been a gradual evolution. Afterall, in science, evolution doesn’t mean it is all peace and amity. While it may not be all ‘nature red in tooth and claw’, still there’s some eating and fighting going on. As to France, if PZ, Caledonian, normdoering and yourself want to offer up The Terror as your model, I think you’ll pretty much be on your own. I don’t, though, suggest that any of you are actually looking to that model.

Comment #129807

Posted by infamous on September 14, 2006 3:31 PM (e)

PZ-
I don’t understand why you are so hostile toward those of religious faith. Science can never disprove that there is a god(s). This is why we are people of “faith.” How does it benefit science to attack faith? It doesn’t. So don’t go there. It can only harm science.
I saw E.O. Wilson speak recently on conservation. He called for an alliance between science and religion to educate the public on the need for conservation, as he recognizes religion for the social force that it is. This is very wise, and the same can be done in the evolution/creation “debate.” I’m not saying we need to “pussyfoot” and make it sound as though science proves God, I’m saying we need to educate them on the importance of understanding evolution. Whether you believe it or not, science and religion can co-exist, though one doesn’t really have anything to do with the other.

Comment #129808

Posted by Atheistichumanist on September 14, 2006 3:34 PM (e)

Steve LaBonne wrote

I was by no means confining my remarks to attempts to inject c’ism into public schools. The level of religiosity, the level of clerical influence on public policy, and the sacred cow status of organized religion and its mouthpieces, are all completely off the charts in the US compared to any other industrialized country. My point stands.

I assume you’re primarily comparing the US to european nations. I have a notion about that (I won’t deign to call it a theory, since that kind of plays into the hands of the creationist about what a “theory” is; more like complete speculation), and atheists don’t play a primary role. Most european countries had a state religion subsidized by the government, which also supressed alternative sects. As a monopoly, the state church grew fat and soft; it didn’t have to win souls. People unsatisfied with the state church had limited alternatives, so many migrated to where they could practice the faith of their choice freely (America), or simply dropped out of organized religion. In the US, otoh, churches were free to compete in the marketplace of ideas, and they had to to stay in business, since there was no government handout. If members of a church were dissatisfied, they were free to form their own sect, thus one who was spiritually inclined was likely to be able to find a church with ideals compatible with their own. Freedom of religion allowed religion to flourish in the US while it stagnated in Europe. So it may be that the way to make the US more secular is to establish a state religion, as in England, rather than aggressively promote atheism. Ironic, huh?

Comment #129809

Posted by Steve LaBonne on September 14, 2006 3:35 PM (e)

No “evolution” would have happened even in Britain without the courageous struggles of generations of free-thinking intellectuals. And as I noted, in the earlier stages of this distinctly “guided” evolution, there were genuine and serious risks being courted by such people.

You can’t reduce the influence of something without, you know, actually OPPOSING it.

Comment #129810

Posted by Mike on September 14, 2006 3:38 PM (e)

PZ,

The claim that it is necessary to persuade people of faith to join with us has not been supported, as near as I can tell,…

Well, the evidence that you need some people of faith would be that atheists are a small minority in America and the idea that this is a fruitful would seem to be supported the evidence of recent events: anti-creationist folk being elected to the board of education in Kansas and Dover, Judge Jones’ ruling in Kitzmiller. But perhaps I’m mistaken. Which of those do you ascribe to the actions of atheists, unaided by people of faith, and what is your evidence?

In the meantime, it appears likely that most of the people actually opposing creationism in the USA are people of faith, even though I’m sure atheists are represented among the foes of creationism in disproportion to their share of the population.

Comment #129811

Posted by jkc on September 14, 2006 3:40 PM (e)

PZ Myers wrote:

The claim that it is necessary to persuade people of faith to join with us has not been supported, as near as I can tell….

I don’t know what kind of evidence is necessary to support such a claim. It would be difficult to do a clinical trial where pro-evolution groups were randomized between including and excluding people of faith and then seeing which one was more successful.

Absent that, here is some anecdotal evidence. Five to ten years ago I started on a journey from being a full-fledged YEC to a theistic evolutionist. Ken Miller’s book played a very important role in that journey, not because his explanation of evolution was any better than others, but because it reassured me that I could retain my religious beliefs (irrational as they may be) and accept evolution at the same time.

One more non-scientist “converted” to evolution in the world may not seem like much, but I am also at present teaching science at a private school where the administration would prefer that YEC be the predominant paradigm. I and a few others are fighting tooth and nail to maintain the pre-eminent place of evolution in the curriculum.

Perhaps I am unique in the world, but I doubt it. I suspect the situation would be much worse for evolution education if it had not been for Miller’s book.

BTW, I would value some thoughts from the theistically-minded in the audience on Colling’s Random Designer and Falk’s Coming to Peace with Science. Colling and Falk are evangelical theistic evolutionists and may appeal to those who are exploring evolution and who prefer an approach that is more consistent with an evangelical approach to the Bible.

Comment #129812

Posted by Steve LaBonne on September 14, 2006 3:40 PM (e)

Judge Jones was doing his duty by enforcing the law. He quite properly disclaimed any influence, on way or another, of his personal beliefs.

Comment #129814

Posted by alienward on September 14, 2006 3:45 PM (e)

Jack Krebs wrote:

My position is that all people, whatever their metaphysical belief system may be, should feel free, comfortable, and open about expressing what they believe. The fact that materialism, atheism, secular humanism or whatever you want to call it is being demonized by the anti-evolutionist creationists is one of the cultural issues that we need to resolve.

Pat Hayes started his account of Miller’s talk with:

“Creationists,” biologist Ken Miller, told a large, receptive audience at the University of Kansas last night, “are shooting at the wrong target.”

Showing a slide of the cover art of “The Lie,” an anti-evolution tract by Ken Ham, that prominently features a serpent tempting us with a poisoned apple labeled evolution, Miller said creationists mistakenly take aim at Darwin’s theory because they believe science to be anti-religious.

Evolution isn’t anti-religious, said Miller. Rather, it’s the non-scientific philosophical interpretations some humanists, such as Richard Dawkins, draw from the evidence that challenges the role of religion.

Miller is telling creationists to demonize humanists. Please go tell him to get on board with what you’re saying.

Creationists have a problem with evolution because if falsifies their religious beliefs in any or all of the following: special creation, no death before the fall, Noah’s flood, and a young earth. Its evolution itself that challenges the role of religion, not people who point out that evolution is completely consistent with a lack of belief in a god or gods. Miller needs to retract his statements.

Comment #129815

Posted by Raging Bee on September 14, 2006 3:46 PM (e)

PZ: The words of Ken Miller that you quote are not a misrepresentation; they are, in fact, a perfectly fair and true description of what many atheists have explicitly and repeatedly said on this and other blogs: science leads to atheism because it can’t prove God’s existence; and atheism is supported by science and rationality. Miller did NOT say that atheists were “at fault for creationism,” as you claim he said. If anyone is “misrepresenting” here, it’s you, not Miller.

Comment #129817

Posted by DragonScholar on September 14, 2006 4:01 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'author'

Comment #129830

Posted by Raging Bee on September 14, 2006 4:16 PM (e)

Flint wrote:

I spoke of (and you quoted) “irrational, non-evidence-based beliefs”. I don’t see how anything on your list meets those qualifications. Curiosity is not a belief despite lack of what ought to be in-your-face overwhelming evidence if it were true. Nor is a sense of wonder, a desire to understand how things work (how is this different from curiosity?), nor a desire to make life easier. So I think you missed my point.

I didn’t miss anything: what I cited in answer to your question were emotions, and unspoken beliefs based on emotions. Most of the beliefs we call “irrational” are based on some emotion or other. Curiosity, for example, implies an unexamined belief or feeling that it’s important to find or learn something; therefore it meets your demand for an “irrational, non-evidence-based belief.” The same goes for all of my other examples. You asked for examples of irrationality advancing knowledge, and you got them. Stop moving your goalposts; you’re not fooling anyone. (Would “curiosity” fit your criteria if it was expressed as a religious doctrine?)

Comment #129832

Posted by PZ Myers on September 14, 2006 4:17 PM (e)

Ummm, that “chain of reasoning” I put up there? Those were Miller’s words, transcribed from the recording. He starts by asking, “What’s behind the unending back and forth warfare,” and concludes with waving Dennett’s and Dawkins’ books before us. It’s awfully hard not to see that as saying it’s the interpretations of Dawkins and Dennett and others that are “behind the unending back and forth warfare.” In his book, he calls the creationist’s response a “righteous reactionism”.

Comment #129833

Posted by Henry J on September 14, 2006 4:21 PM (e)

Re “Creationists have a problem with evolution because if falsifies their religious beliefs in any or all of the following: special creation, no death before the fall, Noah’s flood, and a young earth.”

Course, weren’t at least two of those falsified by geology (and perhaps astronomy?) before evolution even got noticed?

Henry

Comment #129834

Posted by Mike on September 14, 2006 4:21 PM (e)

You can’t reduce the influence of something without, you know, actually OPPOSING it.

You may have mistaken me. Here you and I likely have different goals. I’d like to see good science done and promulgated and properly taught, but I’m not a philosophical materialist.

But back to Britain, most of the early opposition in Britain to an established church came from religious folk who didn’t want to be part of that particular established church, and, indeed, many of whom wanted to supplant one established church for another or maintain the independence of their own established church(the Kirk). The ‘freethinkers’ were a tiny minority. In Britain, as in much of the rest of Europe, much of the turn away from religion was occasionaed by two disastrous world wars and their evocation of the problem of evil as well as the tendency of institutional religion to become entangled with governments (the latter being a reason many religious folk are for keeping church and state separate - and thus your allies in a fight against established religion). Personally, I hope the US doesn’t have to go through what Europe did in the last century to get quality science education.

To support the thesis that you atheists can defeat creationism all on your own, you need examples of atheists achieving similar ends on their own with no significant support from people of faith and doing it in a manner that you would approve today (thus ruling out the mob and the guillotine).

Comment #129836

Posted by Mike Ross on September 14, 2006 4:27 PM (e)

Maybe this is a little off subject, maybe not. A couple of years ago I visited a section of the Smoky Mountains known for synchronized fireflies. After their appearance about an hour after sunset, a woman standing next to me remarked, “I don’t know how anyone can watch this sight and not know that God designed this in all his wisdom.” The first words out of my mouth were “To each his own.” Not being a trained biologist or professional scientist, I don’t know that any other comment would have made much of an impact. But what should someone do in a public setting like this? Attack? I don’t know. Something needs to be said but you won’t be changing any attitudes about religion and science. Maybe PZ could publish a “how to” guide for encountering creationist zealots in public.

Comment #129838

Posted by Mike on September 14, 2006 4:35 PM (e)

Flint,

“We can point to Miller and say “You see, you don’t have to abandon your faith to be a good scientist; you only need to anesthetize it into irrelevance.”

How well do you know Miller personally? Well enough to know that his religion is irrelevant in his life? Please let us know your evidence for your conclusion that Miller’s faith has been anesthetized into irrelevance.

Comment #129839

Posted by Moses on September 14, 2006 4:40 PM (e)

Comment #129713

Posted by Raging Bee on September 14, 2006 11:06 AM (e)

Those who seek some unattainable purity, who would divide believers from non-believers in this movement, may someday find themselves, like Brian, in a dungeon of their own making.

“May someday?” They already are. Or, to put it more accurately, they’re in the dungeon, though they may not have “found themselves” to be in it.

For a good look at the sheer stupidity of some atheists’ arguments, not to mention their brittle, thin-skinned overreaction to any hint of respect for people not exactly like themselves, check out the response to Ed Brayton’s post on pretty much the same subject – that people who don’t agree on everything should work together to achieve important common objectives.

An absolute crock.

Comment #129840

Posted by Steve LaBonne on September 14, 2006 4:41 PM (e)

Again, Mike, if all you’re interested in is keeping creationism out of public schools, you simply need a Judge Jones to do his job, “person of faith” or not. There’s no question there of “forming alliances”, nor has the job been done by any such alliances- it’s been done by the Constitution. (Parenthetically, how far we’ve backslid since the Founders’ time! But that’s another topic.)

If however, like me, you are more generally tired of the intrusion of religion into all sorts of questions of public policy where it does not belong, you’ll get nowhere by “forming alliances” with religionists who, however much they might differ from, say, the Bush Administration on the specifics, think such influence is in principle just hunky-dory. The only way to even begin moving toward a more European situation is to actively oppose the influence of organized religion, period. Yes, that’s a struggle likely to last many generations. But it will last an infinite amount of time if we never even start! That’s been the situation in this country up till now, and the results, in comparison to other countries, are just what one would expect.

Comment #129841

Posted by Flint on September 14, 2006 4:44 PM (e)

Raging Bee:

Curiosity, for example, implies an unexamined belief or feeling that it’s important to find or learn something; therefore it meets your demand for an “irrational, non-evidence-based belief.”

No, it does not. It doesn’t even come close. But I can accept that maybe I didn’t use the right words to make my point. Curiosity is not a “belief” any more than hunger is a “belief” (though I suppose if you continued stretching as hard as you are, you might find in hunger some “implied belief” that you ought to get something to eat! Or maybe an “implied belief” that eating is a good idea?)

I understand that you are a person of faith, and you regard yourself as rational. Therefore, viewpoints of others that find these not entirely compatible need to be “liberally reinterpreted” so that words mean what you need them to mean. But I’m sorry, curiosity is not a belief. I’m not entirely sure curiosity even qualifies as an emotion, but I wouldn’t regard emotions as beliefs either.

(And I will repeat, once again, that beliefs as I intend the word are generally used as *substitutes* for curiosity)

Comment #129842

Posted by Moses on September 14, 2006 4:45 PM (e)

Comment #129715

Posted by Glen Davidson on September 14, 2006 11:08 AM (e)

Then a lot of drones agree with him on Pharyngula, writing the same things that have been rehashed a thousand times. Big deal.

Disciple of Dale Carnegie? Win friends, influence people…

Comment #129843

Posted by normdoering on September 14, 2006 4:45 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

PZ: The words of Ken Miller that you quote are not a misrepresentation; they are, in fact, a perfectly fair and true description of what many atheists have explicitly and repeatedly said on this and other blogs: science leads to atheism because it can’t prove God’s existence;

That’s a distorted telling of the tale, not “a perfectly fair and true description.” What science has done is show us a universe where man is small and insignificant in both time and space. Christianity tends to be a very anthropocentric religion. Science has contradicted beliefs that have wrapped themselves in biblical interpretations, from Galileo fighting the thought police of his day to Darwin arguing against Paley.

When the scientists win these arguments and demonstrate those who believe otherwise (because of biblical interpretations and ideas about God) are wrong, they legitimately undermine the authority of not just the theologians who say differently, but the very possibility of any theology knowing what it claims to know. If they were not right then, then why should we think they are right now when their methods have not changed?

The thing to remember is that religious people, unless they’re deists, do not so much believe in God but rather believe in what books and men say about God. God in the believer’s mind ultimately what Bibles and religions define him to be. Science thus demonstrates that God is to a large degree more unknowable than theologians and Bible writers of the past have assumed.

In that sense, science does undermine religious belief, yet does not disprove God in the broader sense of the term. It does that because religious claims are more specific than broad and general claims that theologians argue as possibilities.

If you can’t know that God even exists, then how much less can you know that he defined and hates sin, was born of a virgin, made Earth the center of the universe, walked on water or died on a cross?

Miller did NOT say that atheists were “at fault for creationism,” as you claim he said. If anyone is “misrepresenting” here, it’s you, not Miller.

PZ is claiming, I think, that Miller is saying that religious people would have more easily accepted Darwin’s theory if not for the fact that people like Huxley and Dawkins kept pointing out how it undermines the beliefs of certain theologians who have used theological arguments against science.

Sorry, but religious men have used theological arguments and biblical interpretation against science and got proven wrong. That’s just a fact. It cannot be hidden from the creationists and IDers.

The people to blame are those who use theological arguments against science. Not those who point out that this has happened.

Now, one could point out that scientists often make bad arguments and get things wrong – does that make science just as bad? No, science learns from it’s errors and moves on – but here science is correcting theology which has no other means of correction in these areas besides science.

Comment #129845

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on September 14, 2006 4:48 PM (e)

You can’t reduce the influence of something without, you know, actually OPPOSING it.

But the argument is that something can whither and die without opposition to keep it on its toes. You know, Nietzsche, “That which fails to kill me makes me stronger.” In order to be able to take credit for reducing the influence of something, you have to successfully oppose it. However, what Atheistichumanist is saying (if I may be so bold) is that without any opposition, the influence of religion in the UK diminished all by itself.

Having said that, I doubt that the experiment could be repeated on this side of the pond.

Comment #129847

Posted by DragonScholar on September 14, 2006 4:50 PM (e)

Am I out of line here in stating that the major division of the pro-science crowd as a whole is:

A) Some actively oppose religious institutions, and that in turn they see as part of being pro-science.
B) Others do not actively oppose religious institutions, or if they do, either way this does not significantly affect or is involved in their pro-science activities?

Simplistic statements, I know.

Comment #129848

Posted by Flint on September 14, 2006 4:51 PM (e)

Mike:

Please let us know your evidence for your conclusion that Miller’s faith has been anesthetized into irrelevance.

I’m basically using Miller’s book, where he strings caveats together like beads, makes claims in one place that he backs off of in others, “finds” scientific support for his god in quantum mechanics here, but finds non-overlapping magisteria over there, and so on. Indeed, there has been considerable debate among those who have read Miller’s book quite carefully, as to whether he is using science to support his faith, or finding that they don’t overlap and so cannot conflict.

I tried to boil all this down to one phrase. All these qualifications and provisions, hemming and hawing, finding in one place what he says doesn’t exist in another place, has the effect of putting his religious faith to sleep when he’s doing science. Quite a few people here have agreed that he is compartmentalizing; nobody has contested this. Maybe you’d prefer that term yourself?

Comment #129861

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 14, 2006 6:05 PM (e)

Miller was searching for the answers. He never said he had them. It is a start, though.

Don’t rule out the possibility that people can have a real personal relationship with God. It’s not about evidence to most, and they don’t give a rats ass about proving it. Faith is personal, and it is real.

Wanna be an atheist, fine. Have friends who are atheists, fine. Want everyone else to join your party, um.. they reserve the right to politely decline, and go on believing whatever irrational things they wish, if they believe they have a personal relationship with a loving God. If you don’t want that for yourself, OK.

So what does science have to do with it? I know that my husband’s sperm fertilized my egg successfully, and I know master genes directed the development that ensued. And yet I hold my baby and look into her eyes and see her as a special gift from God. I feel that a special assignment was laid upon me by a higher authority. You may say it’s not necessary for me to be a theist in order to be a loving parent, and I agree. But that is what I feel, and it is not up to anyone else but me to parent the child, so the decision rests with me because the responsibility is mine.

As someone reminded us earlier, (AtheistHumanist?) America is all about freedom of religion. We have a great constitution that allows for this. And I intend to practice that freedom as well as trust in the scientific consensus about evolution, medicine, geology, and the rest. It doesn’t change my feeling of there being a higher authority, or my need to humble myself in spite of being able to explain the mechanics of nature. Having explanations, or seeking explanations, is not necessarily related to having faith in something greater than nature.

I agree with Miller on his basic premises, but I agree with PZ that he needs to work out some kinks as well.

Comment #129865

Posted by Caledonian on September 14, 2006 6:21 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #129866

Posted by normdoering on September 14, 2006 6:21 PM (e)

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

Don’t rule out the possibility that people can have a real personal relationship with God.

How about ruling out the possibility that you can actually know if what you are relating to is God or some other thing, like a delusion or perhaps merely a trickster from the planet Zarkuba with very advanced technologies.

How would you tell the difference?

How would you know God from some other entity?

What does the God you relate to do to earn your trust, your faith?

Comment #129867

Posted by David B. Benson on September 14, 2006 6:21 PM (e)

The first 100 posts on this thread have (largely) been unusually good. I, just now, liked what ‘Meet People Where They Are’ wrote.

Yes, a “feeling of there being a higher authority”. Which for many is then their source of ethics and morals. And these latter are perhaps deontic, prescriptive, and I know of no anthropological literature which adequately describes why we have these principles, often attributed to a ‘higher authority’. But then it is probably that I haven’t even yet checked out the books that McNeil suggested…

Comment #129868

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 14, 2006 6:24 PM (e)

That’s why I think we should set aside our differences over religion, for now, to unite against those who are determined to erect an authoritarian form of government. If we can’t do that, then we could, I think, at least be more careful with our language. Advocates for reason, I think, should take care to sound reasonable.

This strategy is based on the recognition that non-believers are a tiny minority. We can’t defend ourselves, much less prevail, without the help of believers who understand the nature and importance of secular government.

Yeah, what he said.

Comment #129870

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 14, 2006 6:28 PM (e)

Why should we set aside differences, period?

Because we can’t fight creationist/IDers if, at the same time, we are busy fighting each other over everything from religion to god to democrats to republicans to liberals to conservatives to Israel to Palestine to socialized medicine to let the poor die to capitlaism to communism to anarchism to libertarianism to tastes great to less filling.

One fight at a time.

After we beat the ID/creationists, there’s plenty of time for you to charge ahead on your white horse and stamp out religion.

Comment #129871

Posted by Caledonian on September 14, 2006 6:29 PM (e)

Here, in Kansas, we recently defeated the creationists on the state school board. None of the moderate defenders of science who ran for the board are atheists. If we’d waited for an atheist to be elected, intelligent design would have become a part of the standards.

That is a blatant misrepresentation of the nature of the argument, and I believe that misrepresentation is intentional.

This debate is not about whether we should tolerate theism or ostracize theists. It is about keeping quality science education in our curricula. I don’t give a damn whether school board members are atheists or theists - I care about whether they will misrepresent the nature of science. In order for Intelligent Design Creationism to be taught in ‘science’ classes, the definition of science would need to be so weakened that all other kinds of nonsense would be included as well. That is precisely what was so offensive about it - not that the belief was religious in origin. That has no bearing on whether an idea is scientific. Personal beliefs are irrelevant. Public actions taken in the official position of board member are paramount, and those are the only criteria we’re concerned with.

To slander your opponents by impugning their motives and suggesting that they’re motivated by petty bigotry is… vile.

Comment #129873

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 14, 2006 6:36 PM (e)

I was by no means confining my remarks to attempts to inject c’ism into public schools. The level of religiosity, the level of clerical influence on public policy, and the sacred cow status of organized religion and its mouthpieces, are all completely off the charts in the US compared to any other industrialized country. My point stands.

I’m a little curious — how, exactly, will screaming “Your religion is stupid !!!!” at people gonna change any of that …. ?

Comment #129874

Posted by David B. Benson on September 14, 2006 6:40 PM (e)

Er, I meant “unusually good” in comparison to what usually happens…

Comment #129876

Posted by gloom raider on September 14, 2006 6:45 PM (e)

I can’t believe I’m jumping in this, but here goes.
The thing I notice in reading theist/atheist skirmishes (at least on forums like this, where the fundies seem to be minimal) is that theists are accused not just of irrationality, but of irrationality which MUST somehow taint their science. Whereas if a biologist in a university somewhere really believed his wife was working late every night when she’d been seen kissing her personal trainer in the middle of the Sciences building, no one would think that made him less of a biologist, even though there was excellent refuting evidence for his belief.

Everybody has irrational ideas. Yes, “faith” can be a pernicious one for science, but it doesn’t have to be. It just seems that when the topic is not religion, people are much more inclined to shrug and let others have their necessary delusions.
Okay, now everybody pile on…

Comment #129877

Posted by I can be rude right back on September 14, 2006 6:46 PM (e)

normding,

You gave me no reason to share my reasons with you, except that you demand an explanation. However, I do not owe you one.like I said, It’s personal, so find out for yourself if you wish. If not, ding off.

Comment #129878

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 14, 2006 6:47 PM (e)

Wanna be an atheist, fine. Have friends who are atheists, fine. Want everyone else to join your party, um.. they reserve the right to politely decline, and go on believing whatever irrational things they wish, if they believe they have a personal relationship with a loving God. If you don’t want that for yourself, OK.

Indeed, that is the crux of it.

It is of course common for ideological extremists to see everything in terms of black and white — either for them or against them.

The problem with PZ and his ilk is not that they are atheists, or that they hold this or that particular philosophical opinion. The problem is that, like every other brand of fundamentalist ideological extremist, they simply cannot tolerate anyone else who doesn’t ALSO hold that particular philosophical opinion. It’s not enough that THEY believe something – they won’t rest until YOU believe it too. Like the Maoists, they are the purest of the pure, and they brook no impurities whatsoever.

That is why they do not distinguish different “levels of faith”. For them, ANY faith, any at all in whatever form, makes you the enemy. For them, there simply is no difference between Miller, Falwell, the Taliban, and … well . . me. Anyone who is not with them, is against them. Everyone but them are all just irrational theists (even the ones like me who are, uh, not theists). End of discussion.

The evangelical atheists and the fundamentalist religious nutters are, underneath their feathers, the very same bird.

I would not like to live in a world run by either of them.

Comment #129879

Posted by Caledonian on September 14, 2006 6:48 PM (e)

I agree completely, gloom raider. The problem here is that Miller has made public statements that inaccurately portray the nature of the scientific method. I don’t care what else the man has done - that simply cannot be tolerated if we hope to promote quality science teaching.

If he didn’t misrepresent science, I wouldn’t care about his religion even if he were a Scientologist.

Comment #129882

Posted by Coin on September 14, 2006 6:55 PM (e)

Caledonian wrote:

This debate is not about whether we should tolerate theism or ostracize theists.

No, actually I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what it’s about.

Comment #129884

Posted by normdoering on September 14, 2006 7:09 PM (e)

I can be rude right back wrote:

normding,

You gave me no reason to share my reasons with you, except that you demand an explanation. However, I do not owe you one.like I said, It’s personal, so find out for yourself if you wish. If not, ding off.

Who are you and what the hell are you responding to?

There is no other post by “I can be rude right back” so you must be breaking the rules about posting under multiple names.

Comment #129885

Posted by AnthonyK on September 14, 2006 7:11 PM (e)

I’m an evangelical atheist, and I can say right off - as far as anyone else is concerned it’s completely irrelevant. I’d love it if all the nasty religions went away, but they won’t. Ever. And even if I could persuade people to abandon the faith they love - why should I?

Dr Miller is perfectly free to cleave to his faith, and even to use his intellectual gifts to debate atheism. But he is actively and brilliantly pro-science. And he tells Christians that you can be faithful and accept evolution and the historical record.

He says that scientific rationalism is not a department of atheism, and I would be prepared to guess that he has enlightened more Christians to the beauty of evolution than pretty much any scientist or writer contributing to this blog. Leave him alone. He is our friend…..

Comment #129887

Posted by normdoering on September 14, 2006 7:22 PM (e)

Is it really rude to suggest that no human being can know if they are relating to God or a delusion or a trickster with advanced technology?

Is it not a core assumption of all theistic religions that some men have related to God?

Does not the wide variety of different religions suggest that most of them are wrong?

If you doubt that an angel dictated the Koran or that a sun-god gave laws to Babylon don’t you have to also that God gave commandments to Moses?

I wrote:

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

Don’t rule out the possibility that people can have a real personal relationship with God.

How about ruling out the possibility that you can actually know if what you are relating to is God or some other thing, like a delusion or perhaps merely a trickster from the planet Zarkuba with very advanced technologies.

How would you tell the difference?

How would you know God from some other entity?

What does the God you relate to do to earn your trust, your faith?

Comment #129889

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 14, 2006 7:26 PM (e)

Normdoering,

I was not aware that it is against the rules to post under different names. I apologize to everyone, and will not do that again. The other names I used were: I can be rude right back, and Agnostic. Sorry.

Comment #129891

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 14, 2006 7:31 PM (e)

Your questions are rude because I told you that faith was personal and did not rest on proof, yet you ask me for proof and raise the possibility that my god could be a trickster. That is not only rude, it is insulting. Though my behavior wasn’t much better.

But if you REALLY want answers to your questions from me, we should probably a) move to the bathroom wall or b) have an e-mail exchange, so as not to fly off topic here at the PT thread. I am willing to engage in honest discourse, but for things that I feel are personal, I am not willing to put my emotions on the line so you can mock me.

Comment #129892

Posted by Caledonian on September 14, 2006 7:37 PM (e)

I told you that faith was personal and did not rest on proof

Then perhaps you should have kept such personal matters to yourself in the first place.

Comment #129895

Posted by normdoering on September 14, 2006 7:48 PM (e)

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

Your questions are rude because I told you that faith was personal and did not rest on proof,…

But religion is not personal, it’s social, it’s institutions and Bible’s and theologians with arguments and people showing up at your door trying to convince you some absurdity is true and you have to believe it or you wind up in hell.

… yet you ask me for proof and raise the possibility that my god could be a trickster.

You forgot delusion.

That is not only rude, it is insulting.

I don’t see why. You’re claiming to know something no human being can really know – thus you’re claiming to be superhuman.

… if you REALLY want answers to your questions from me, we should probably a) move to the bathroom wall or b) have an e-mail exchange, so as not to fly off topic here at the PT thread. I am willing to engage in honest discourse, but for things that I feel are personal, I am not willing to put my emotions on the line so you can mock me.

Well, if you’re emotionally vulnerable where it regards your beliefs and feel insulted by the possibilty you have a delusion then I would suggest you avoid such a conversation. I think it is a delusion. But if you want one, start a thread on “After the Bar Closes” – the bathroom wall seems broken.

Comment #129897

Posted by roger on September 14, 2006 7:51 PM (e)

infamous wrote: How does it benefit science to attack faith? It doesn’t. So don’t go there. It can only harm science.

I disagree. If thousands of scientists attacked faith every day for several years, it could only benefit science. Religion has a long history of being anti-science. The more religious a nation is, the more anti-science it is. The USA has almost the same percentage of creationists as Turkey. The USA will remain a backward country forever unless scientists and others start attacking religion.

Comment #129912

Posted by hessal on September 14, 2006 8:11 PM (e)

I have really loved watching the republican party become totally ineffectual while they clobber themselves with their infighting. It leaves a nice opening for the Democratic party.

What? I’m in the wrong place? Are you sure??

I hope Ohio passes some really stupid standards. Then we can have a trial and everyone can get back on-topic.

Comment #129915

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 14, 2006 8:16 PM (e)

With all due respect to the Rev, I don’t think PZ and his ilk are suggesting that we strategically jettison–or set out to do any other nasty things to–all those good Up With Science folk who also happen to be “down with” religion.

(However religiously-deluded PZ et al. may consider them to be.)

The intitial complaint about Miller’s remarks was that it sounded, on some level, like he was trying to sic the fundamentally-religious on the out-and-proud atheists “instead of” the evolutionary scientists (some of whom practice good science, Miller as-initially-interpreted would apparently allow, so long as they didn’t let their atheism interfere…).

As we’ve looked harder at what Miller said–and what he has since had to say about it–maybe he was only trying to get the anti-atheist Christians to distinguish between evolutionary-scientists-some-of-whom-are-incidentally-loud-atheists and evolutionary science, as such, which–from Miller’s perspective, with which I suspect most of us would agree–is not only not “atheistic,” but which says nothing at all–indeed, does not deal in or with, the whole realm of religion and morality.

(…so long as religion and morality are not foolhardy enough to make disputable claims about physical phenomena in the material world…)

If Miller was making the “larger” point that it first seemed like he may have been making, then PZ et al., it seems to this pinhead, had every reason to get a little teed off: first, because PZ, Dennett, Dawkins et al. are themselves being misrepresented when their personal atheism is improperly conflated with the claim (that none of them makes) that science/evolution somehow “prove” there is no god/spiritual world/validity to religion.

(That they may think that science and evolution are consistent with no-god/no-spiritual world/no-valid religion–and that they may likewise have concluded that religion is silly and, when perverted by the wacky and the evil, downright pernicious–are very different things, and we do neither science nor religion any favors by confusing their actual positions with their misrepresented ones.)

And, second, because whether we agree with PZ, Dennett, and Dawkins (none of whom, I suspect, would be entirely comfortable to be thus grouped together) or not, they have as much right to their opinions as Miller does to his–

and, more importantly, Miller should be, from a strategic perspective, embracing them as pro-science advocates just as heartily as most of you here say they should be embracing Miller

–rather than going out of his way to misprepresent or strategically “sacrifice” them to a bunch of folks who persist in ignorantly confusing science with atheism.

So long as we confine ourselves to verbal persuasion–and leave each other and our religious or non-religious behaviors alone–then we remain entirely free to disagree about this whole religion/atheism thing, while we are equally free to combine forces to promote science and science education.

But even Miller’s “smaller” point (if that’s what it was, since I haven’t been able to track through all his rather confusing verbiage with any better success than most of you)–that his anti-evolution, religious audience needs to stop mistakenly confusing science (which has nothing to say “about” sufficiently-circumspect religion, pro or con) with some scientists (who may have a fair amount to say “against” religion)–is a questionable and dangerous one: it affords his anti-atheist audience with little reason to embrace science and every reason to scapegoat atheists, some of whom are not only hard-working scientists, but many of whom have already proven to be far more-reliable allies than the audience to whom he was speaking/mis-speaking.

Speaking out in favor of one’s atheism–or one’s religion–is NOT the same as attempting to legally, physically, or violently suppress religion or atheism.

Vocal atheists are not the same as, whatever, the Taliban, the fascists, the extreme Christian-Nation fundamentalists.

And, with all due respect to the Rev–may his pizzas always arrive hot and tasty; may his snakes all slither smoothly and slinkily–he seems to be having difficulty making the distinction between speaking up and squashing down.

Comment #129917

Posted by Katarina on September 14, 2006 8:18 PM (e)

I did not say I “know” anything. Just that I believe, and that I am entitled to that belief, as well as a belief in modern scientific consensus. And I have no reason other than your say-so to accept the scary but inevitable truth that the two are incompatible.

I did not make any testable claims, nor did I claim I made testable claims. If you wish to put questions to me, that is another matter. But if you are baiting me so you can puff up your chest and bang on it a few times, I will only nibble. And that is just what you are doing.

I do not know how to start an “After the Bar Closes” thread.If you want to have further discussions with me, start the “After the Bar Closes” thread and I will try to address any sincere questions, if you promise they are sincere. I’ll just take your word for it.

In either case, I’ve been up since before 5 this morning, and will have to stop for the night.

Comment #129918

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 14, 2006 8:23 PM (e)

By all means, sleep well!

Comment #129921

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 14, 2006 8:26 PM (e)

Oh my! I can’t beleive I did that, used another name again. After saying I wouldn’t. Now Normdoering and the rest will rightly attack my integrity. It was a slip, I’m sorry -again- and I’d better get some rest before I mess up again.

Comment #129922

Posted by Andy Groves on September 14, 2006 8:27 PM (e)

Steve LaBonne said:

Again, Mike, if all you’re interested in is keeping creationism out of public schools, you simply need a Judge Jones to do his job, “person of faith” or not. There’s no question there of “forming alliances”, nor has the job been done by any such alliances- it’s been done by the Constitution.

Well, actually no. You need a group of people who are willing to bring a lawsuit in the first place, and you need experts in the Creationism/Evolution debate who have the time and energy to work with their lawyers to win the case. In short, you need political activists.

Successful political campaigns make alliances with people who share a particular viewpoint for the purpose of winning the issue at stake. Part of the reason why the US left is in such a shambles is that they are often unable to tarnish even a scintilla of their ideological purity for the purposes of achieving a goal. Part of the reason why the US right dominates the US right now is that they care about winning, not about ideological purity. If you doubt me, have a look at the budget deficit that this supposedly conservative administration is running right now.

We are very fortunate that there are a dedicated group of activists in the US who are working to defeat creationism wherever it rears its ugly head. Not just the NCSE, but the volunteers who start “Concerned Citizens for Science” movements in states where creationism is a problem. The NCSE can’t do this on their own – the battle has to be fought at the grassroots level by organizing people locally, by talking to the press, by holding meetings, by writing to newspapers and all the other things necessary in a political campaign. Most importantly, they build coalitions of people who do not all march in step when it comes to religion, but who all agree on the dangers of creationism.

PZ, and you (and I) are not pro-evolution activists. We just read (or write) blogs. PZ does not need to make nice with Christians (or even just overlook their faith in something he thinks is ridiculous) in order to achieve a political goal, because he has no political goal. He has a general desire for the world to be a more rational and less superstitious place, but he isn’t involved in a political campaign to achieve that. If you like, he’s a pundit, not a politician. He doesn’t need to compromise. I’m on record as saying I think his approach is wrong. Specifically, I think that given the wide readership of his blog, he should tone down his rhetoric, which reached its peak (or nadir) this week when he labeled Ken Miller – one of the most dedicated political fighters against creationism - a creationist. Before he gets all thin-skinned on me, I’m not saying he isn’t entitled to criticize Miller. I’m just objecting to the tone, not the message.

If we want to defeat creationism in the US at the moment, we should go with the approach described by Pat and Jack. If we want to defeat unreason in the world, we should go with the approach of PZ and Steve. PZ’s response is to say the first approach hasn’t worked, to which I counter – if you think that’s been unsuccessful, just wait until you try it your way…….

Comment #129925

Posted by Caledonian on September 14, 2006 8:33 PM (e)

Steviepinhead wrote:

which–from Miller’s perspective, with which I suspect most of us would agree–is not only not “atheistic,”

Of course evolutionary biology is atheistic. So is all of science. So is plumbing, and car repair, and architecture…

No scientific hypothesis will ever explicitly deny the existence of God. This is because the base rules of science already rule out such existence. More to the point, although evolutionary biology does not assert the nonexistence of God, the concept of a God plays no part in it. It is resoundingly atheistic.

Comment #129929

Posted by Caledonian on September 14, 2006 8:38 PM (e)

Specifically, I think that given the wide readership of his blog, he should tone down his rhetoric, which reached its peak (or nadir) this week when he labeled Ken Miller – one of the most dedicated political fighters against creationism - a creationist. Before he gets all thin-skinned on me, I’m not saying he isn’t entitled to criticize Miller. I’m just objecting to the tone, not the message.

You just did criticize the message. And the message is correct: Miller is indeed a creationist, although he is not a Creationist. He is also willing to misrepresent the scientific method to make his creationism seem more reasonable.

Comment #129974

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 14, 2006 8:59 PM (e)

Yes, Caledonian, I agree. In the literal sense, science and a lot of other ways in which we relate to the world, are a-theistic, having nothing to do–one way or the other–with gods.

But there’s a difference–which I suspect you realize–between your correct/literal parsing of “atheism” as gods-indifferent/irrelevant and the sense in which–I suspect–Miller well knew that his audience would choose to interpret the term “atheism”: as actively god-denying (and atheists as actively promoting god-denial).

Comment #129976

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 14, 2006 9:15 PM (e)

I appreciate Andy Groves comments about political activists. I consider myself a citizen for science and a science activist. I am interested in results at the grass-roots level, and in the political outcome of those results. I am not by nature one who does political things well - I have to both learn some things about being politically effective and I’ve also had to modify some of my natural tendencies. Fortunately, I’ve discovered that most of the time doing the right thing and doing the politically correct thing can be approximately the same if one has the correct mindset.

My friend Sue Gamble, the most active of the moderate pro-science state Board members, put one of these principles this way: don’t do things that eneregize the opposition. My addition to that goes like this: don’t give people emotional hooks that give them the excuse to ignore all the reasonable things you have to say. Way too many times I’ve seen people write posts on discussion forums where after seveal paragraphs of substantial comment, they end with a personal zinger, which just gives the other person the excuse to respond to the zinger and ignore the substance.

Comment #129977

Posted by Flint on September 14, 2006 9:22 PM (e)

Katerina wrote

Just that I believe, and that I am entitled to that belief, as well as a belief in modern scientific consensus. And I have no reason other than your say-so to accept the scary but inevitable truth that the two are incompatible.

In this case, at least some of us have not explained things very well despite herculean effort. But once more into the breach…

What all of this hinges on is an underlying respect for evidence. A scientist cannot possibly do science without a profound respect for evidence, since evidence is the only raw material science has to work with. Good science must be based on evidence, replicability of evidence, evidence apparent even to those inclined to doubt one’s results. Both ignoring and fabricating evidence are regarded as flagrantly unprofessional; assumptions attested by nothing evident are quickly identified and stripped away from good science.

But even according to scripture, faith is belief *without evidence*. And this means a theistic scientist must accord total respect to evidence as a scientist, but a cavalier (and perhaps necessary and required) disregard for evidence as a theist. And as a “scientist of faith”, he is by implication somehow able to do both at once.

Uh, if this is possible, it’s an impressive trick. At the very least, it requires an Orwellian capability for doublethink. There is some (IMO justified) confusion here as to whether Miller has successfully doublethought his way through this. I’m personally willing to grant that Miller has done it well enough to perform excellent science. But this requires a liberal interpretation of what “compatible” means. How “compatible” should we consider even a virtuoso ability to be able to NOT require, yet absolutely require, evidence, all at once?

(And as a rumination, the word ‘atheist’ can be written a-theist, to emphasize that atheism is not constructed as a philosphical position itself, but rather exists only to *contrast it* with belief-without-evidence. If (just for example) 85% of US citizens believed invisible aliens look over our shoulders, then those who didn’t accept this belief would be ashoulderists. A term meaningless outside of a religious context. So if religious belief should vanish everywhere overnight, nobody would be an atheist anymore, without former ‘atheists’ changing their orientations at all!)

Comment #129984

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 14, 2006 9:38 PM (e)

Norm, you are being unnecessarily rude.

I’ve moved your last post to the bathroom wall. Please let this antagonistic set of replies to Katarina stop.

Comment #130004

Posted by normdoering on September 14, 2006 10:37 PM (e)

Jack Krebs wrote:

Norm, you are being unnecessarily rude.

???

Well, if you’re not going to explain what is and isn’t rude in your eyes you force me to repeat some of parts of my post till I figure out which one pissed you off.

And I have no reason other than your say-so to accept the scary but inevitable truth that the two are incompatible.

I find that astonishing.

We’re talking about a book with talking snakes and donkeys, a god born of a virgin, where the original writers thought the Earth was flat, with stories about Joshua making the sun stand still, a guy living in the belly of a fish for three days, and more… and it’s just my say-so that science and bible-belief are incompatible?

Imagine you never heard the Bible’s stories and someone came up to you and told you all that stuff happened for the first time. What would you think?

Comment #130008

Posted by John Farrell on September 14, 2006 10:47 PM (e)

Of course evolutionary biology is atheistic. So is all of science. So is plumbing, and car repair, and architecture…

No, it isn’t. Science pre-supposes a. that the laws of nature are rational, and b. that the world in which these laws operate is stable (the laws are dependable). Neither of these presuppositions is self-evident.

Comment #130012

Posted by Sounder on September 14, 2006 11:03 PM (e)

No, it isn’t. Science pre-supposes a. that the laws of nature are rational, and b. that the world in which these laws operate is stable (the laws are dependable). Neither of these presuppositions is self-evident.

No, just thoroughly reinforced. And completely uncontested.

Comment #130029

Posted by Jim Harrison on September 15, 2006 12:16 AM (e)

Scientists routinely deny the possibility of various things, perpetual motion, for example, or the arbitrarily accurate measurement of the position and momentum of the same particle. They can disprove the existence of such things because they can be described in scientific language. They can’t deny the possibility of God’s existence, however, because there is no conceptual or mathematical representation of God to deny. Since God isn’t in the language, neither the affirmation or the denial of his existence is in the language either. (To be accurate, I should hedge that statement. Maybe somebody does have a conceptual representation of God that would make either a theistic of atheistic science possible, and I just haven’t heard about it. Has anybody ever done a dimensional analysis of the Creator?)

Comment #130053

Posted by stevaroni on September 15, 2006 2:32 AM (e)

They can’t deny the possibility of God’s existence, however, because there is no conceptual or mathematical representation of God to deny.

Jim;

We’ve been wading into this yet again on another thread.

I think there’s a commonsense problem with this analysis.

Sometimes, absence of evidence is evidence of absence - providing that the thing we’re searching for is sufficiently large.

I can’t prove that the Loch Ness monster doesn’t exist, since it’s logically impossible to prove a negative. On the other hand, if I were to empty the loch one bucket at a time and find nothing, I would functionally demonstrate the same thing - there is no monster.

The process of elimination is legitimate if you can determine when the holes in the sieve are big enough to catch the thing you seek.

God is big. Like, um, really big, and according to most of the major J/C religions, intimately involved in every aspect of every life all the time.

Yet, in trillions of hours of searching, the worlds religions have found nothing of substance to point to and say “he was here”.

Ever.

This is really only logically conceivable if God has no interaction at all with the world - if his effects are too tiny to be sifted.

That’s the point we’re at. No, I can’t say that God doesn’t exist, it’s just that if he does exist he seems to have no interaction at all with his creation, which he built to (apparently) not need him.

Comment #130088

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 15, 2006 5:57 AM (e)

Normdoering,

Did I say I was a biblical literalist? Did I even say I was a Christian? I said I believed in a higher authority; I could be wrong, but I am hanging in there. It is a choice, and many others have made it who are also entitled to be taught the theory of evolution in the public schools.

As I said, this country is founded on ideals of religious freedom. As a kid in America, when I go to a public school, the teachers there can tell me what science has tested about the material world we occupy. But the conclusions it can offer are limited. We really don’t even know all that much; we can only test things in a forward direction because we are caught in this expanding universe. We are fish in a bowl.

One thing you guys have to realize is that the rest of us look up to you and others as leaders in defending evolution. We look to you for answers, and tools to help us win the battle against the ID snakes. If you don’t respect or acknowledge religious beliefs, some of those tools are useless in the classroom, even dangerous. If I were to teach, defending evolution and the rest of science with the argument that all supernatural beliefs are irrational, I would not remain a teacher much longer.

Of course, everyone here is free to express their views. I am not trying to get anybody to shut up, America is all about freedom of speech too. That is why I get to sit here and make you all nausious with my sandy religious statements that don’t hold up to scientific scrutiny.

I have been derided here at PT before, but I haven’t given up on reading, and I mostly simply look past insults to religion hoping I will learn something substantive about defending science in the world we live in. Ken Miller happens to be a hero in my eyes, and a great role model. He is not perfect, but who is? Luckily, I have a thick skin, unlike some atheists. I wasn’t raised religious, so I don’t take religious insults too personally. But there must be many religious folks out there wanting to learn more about this “controversy” surrounding evolution, and when they tune into PT, boy will they learn that the creationists were right to think there is a philosophical as well as a practical naturalism dominating science today!

Comment #130094

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 15, 2006 7:06 AM (e)

I don’t usually take sides in conflicts that arise in threads I moderate, and I usually try to steer discussion back towards issues and away from individuals.

But here I am going to step in in support of Katarina (who accidentally posted as “Meet People Where They Are” again.) I do this partially to highlight a difference in behavior that is perhaps central to this issue of this thread.

Katarina is telling us how she feels and what she believes. She is trying to describe herself, presumably with the hope that others will learn about how people that are different than they are look at the world.

Norm has attacked Katarina, and as she points out, has jumped to a lot of conclusions about her beliefs. He is responded angrily more to concerns that reside inside him than he is to Katarina herself.

Genuine dialogue only happens when people can listen to others without feeling threatened. That doesn’t mean one can’t forcibly defend one’s positions and it doesn’t mean one can’t state clearly one thinks the other person is wrong (accompanied, we would hope, with rationale for that.) But civil discourse requires that these things be done, well, civilly.

I expect civil discourse in the threads I moderate.

Comment #130095

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 7:09 AM (e)

I’m also going to sit back and enjoy my new immunity from criticism by anyone else who opposes the teaching of creationism in the schools. Remember, if you disagree with me, it means we’re all going to be thrown into a Roman dungeon.

Now now, it’s off topic to point out special pleading. All posts that don’t agree with Pat Hayes will be move to the Bathroom Wall (although the most recent post there is from Sept. 6).

Comment #130096

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 7:12 AM (e)

As usual, Katarina engages in personal attacks:

But if you are baiting me so you can puff up your chest and bang on it a few times, I will only nibble. And that is just what you are doing.

And Jack can’t seem to face his own blatant biases.

Comment #130104

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 7:27 AM (e)

With all due respect to the Rev, I don’t think PZ and his ilk are suggesting that we strategically jettison–or set out to do any other nasty things to–all those good Up With Science folk who also happen to be “down with” religion.

Especially since he has repeatedly explicitly stated the contrary – including several times in the long thread where Flank repeatedly made those charges (in his usual crude and rude fashion). Some people, however, are immune to evidence, and they aren’t all on the other side.

Comment #130110

Posted by Caledonian on September 15, 2006 7:40 AM (e)

Sometimes, absence of evidence is evidence of absence - providing that the thing we’re searching for is sufficiently large.

I can’t prove that the Loch Ness monster doesn’t exist, since it’s logically impossible to prove a negative.

There are two problems already with these statements.

1) Absense of evidence involves lacking observations that would demonstrate (or not) the phenomena that are being hypothesized about. If I don’t look into a room, I can’t tell if there is a chair in it. Looking into the room and not perceiving a chair is not absence of evidence - that is evidence to the contrary.

2) It is perfectly possible to prove negatives. This old canard needs to be stopped. Universal negatives cannot be proven by referencing non-universal empirical observations - to do that you need universally-applicable arguments, such as logical proofs built off of generally-accepted premises.

How can we achieve the goal of quality science education when most of the people on “our side” can’t manage even basic scientific reasoning?

Comment #130111

Posted by PZ Myers on September 15, 2006 7:42 AM (e)

don’t do things that eneregize the opposition.

That aphorism perfectly sums up how America is in the position we’re in today.

If we stand for something that some other group opposes, hush, don’t say it – it’ll antagonize the creationists/Republicans. We must maneuver to avoid annoying the largest number of people, never mind that by avoiding any opposition to the odious doings of Group X, we antagonize Group Y, and the only people we end up appealing to are the apolitical and the ignorant, and the remnant can’t bear the thought of people within their group arguing with one another.

How about someday, sometime thinking about doing things that energize your supporters? I really do think I’m doubly cursed to be both a Democrat and a supporter of evolution, because both those groups seem to be dominated by do-nothings who think the path to victory is to avoid standing up for what they do believe in, and all because of the sentiment in that quote. Here’s a shorter, pithier version for you:

Be afraid.

Comment #130115

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 15, 2006 7:50 AM (e)

Popper - Like I said, I can be insulting right back, but I only do it in response to other people’s insults. Do you recommend I sit here and say nothing while others throw stones at me?

I appreciate Jack Krebs’ defense. I started commenting on this thread as “Meet People Where They Are,” so I thought I’d stick to that. I dislike using my real name because then the attacks feel too personal, since I predicted I would be attacked for presenting a religious view, and I was right.

My primary interest is not religion, but I did want to bring my point of view to the discussion because I know it is shared by many others. Many of whom don’t even bother to give PT a second look since the tone is so anti-religious in the comments sections and sometimes in the posts as well. Which is too bad because this is the most informative - and honest - blog on the subject. The honesty is possible since atheists have their say too, I applaud that. But there is a difference between being a-religious, a-theist that is, and ANTI-religious or ANTI-theist. And the rejection of the possibility of compatibility of religion and science is in my opinion the greatest stumbling block in this whole debate. I’m not saying it’s easy to find common ground, but at least some have bravely made an attempt, while others sneer at them instead of offering something that makes more sense.

I see no reason to get into a defense of religion in general, or continue to respond to inflammatory remarks about my character. It is precisely because these issues are personal that they need to be overcome in a tolerant fashion.

Comment #130117

Posted by Caledonian on September 15, 2006 7:52 AM (e)

Yes, Caledonian, I agree. In the literal sense, science and a lot of other ways in which we relate to the world, are a-theistic, having nothing to do–one way or the other–with gods.

But there’s a difference–which I suspect you realize–between your correct/literal parsing of “atheism” as gods-indifferent/irrelevant and the sense in which–I suspect–Miller well knew that his audience would choose to interpret the term “atheism”: as actively god-denying (and atheists as actively promoting god-denial).

Science doesn’t permit even the possibility of God. Quite frankly, no one needs to stand on the rooftops and shout out that science and theism are incompatible in order for people to understand it. The fundamentalists do - that’s why they’re waging a war on scientific thought.

One way or another, eventually people will be asked whether God and science are compatible. If they answer in the affirmative, they will have changed science so that it accomodates religion, and that is not an outcome I will tolerate. It is no different than claiming that astrology is scientific, or palm reading is scientific, or phrenology is scientific.

Comment #130121

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 8:05 AM (e)

Don’t rule out the possibility that people can have a real personal relationship with God.

I don’t rule out the possibility that people can have a real fantasy about something they call “God”. I do, however, rule out that they can have a real personal relationship with Odin, Croesus, Oliver Twist, or any other fictional character.

However, I seem to have missed what these proclamations of personal belief by Ms. “I can be rude right back” have to do with Pat Hayes’s comments. IMO, the most relevant comments were PZ’s (mischaracterized as “flippant”), pointing out hypocrisy of those who moan about theist-bashing but turn a blind eye to, or engage in, atheist bashing. The fact is that the fraction of scientists who are atheists is much larger than the fraction of the general population who are atheists, and as long as the general population sees atheists as evil and UnAmerican, science will be vulnerable to attack by DI, the Bush administration, etc. The concern about theist bashing is much like the phony “war on Christmas”, the phony “liberal media” myth, men who complain that “wife abuse” is sexist even though 98% of spousal abuse is man on woman, homophobes who murder gays and then blame the gays for coming on to them, whites who blame not getting a job or a college slot on reverse discrimination, etc. Boo hoo hoo for the poor oppressed majority. The fact is that the real threat is against rational thinking and appeals to evidence and logic; talk about theist bashing is misdirection.

Comment #130126

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 8:12 AM (e)

Popper - Like I said, I can be insulting right back, but I only do it in response to other people’s insults.

“He started it, Mommy!”

Aside from it being a childish excuse, it’s often not true.

I appreciate Jack Krebs’ defense.

I’m sure you do appreciate his turning a blind eye to your rudeness, while deleting comments of those to whom you are rude.

Comment #130127

Posted by Caledonian on September 15, 2006 8:13 AM (e)

I have some question for Mr. Krebs. What exactly do Katarina’s professions of faith have to do with the text of Pat Hayes’ thoughts? How do religious apologia relate to the arguments he expressed? Given that they seem grossly inappropriate, why were they not moved to the Wall?

Is it that you don’t want to appear hostile to theists?

Comment #130132

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 15, 2006 8:25 AM (e)

If you care to re-read the post, I don’t see how my comments are off-topic. However, the comments are getting quite personal, which I admit is rather childish. If Jack Krebs wishes to move some of the rude ones to Bathroom Wall or banish them, that is his call and I won’t complain. Obviously Popper et al. would love for me to just shut up. Seems to me the discrimination goes both ways, but as far as I know this site is not set up for anti-theists to moan about how they are treated by society while attacking religion.

Comment #130134

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 15, 2006 8:29 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #130135

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 8:29 AM (e)

Katarina is telling us how she feels and what she believes. She is trying to describe herself, presumably with the hope that others will learn about how people that are different than they are look at the world.

So, Jack, do you think we’re all ignoramuses and would have no idea how people like Katarina look at the world? In particular, that there are folks who think that people like PZ are the source of all our problems? After all, in “Meet People Where They Are”’s first post, she wrote

However, I can’t help but feel that he is helping create an ever deepening divide between the religious and science. Or rather I should say, justifying the disdain of religious people for any kind of science they find “problematic.”

No wonder you turn a blind eye to her personal attacks … because they fit your own conception that intellectually dishonest people wouldn’t be intellectually dishonest if only people didn’t give them an “emotional hook”. That’s about as sensible as believing that the Republicans wouldn’t have gone after Max Cleland if only he hadn’t blown off three of his own limbs with a grenade. It brings to mind a story about a frog and a scorpion crossing a river.

Comment #130136

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 8:31 AM (e)

Obviously Popper et al. would love for me to just shut up.

Obviously you are incapable of not personally attacking people.

Comment #130137

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 15, 2006 8:32 AM (e)

I don’t rule out the possibility that people can have a real fantasy about something they call “God”.

Thanks for your permission!

Comment #130139

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 15, 2006 8:39 AM (e)

Popper - how is it an insult to point out the obvious - that I am being attacked for saying that theism and evolution are compatible? There is no need for Jack Krebs to defend me, because I am leaving the discussion.

BTW, I do appreciate all the comments made in the past by the very people attacking me now, that are relevant to our shared fight against evolution-denial. I have learned a lot BECAUSE I don’t think atheists, or even anti-theists, have nothing of value to say. So thank you. See ya.

Comment #130141

Posted by Flint on September 15, 2006 8:58 AM (e)

I am being attacked for saying that theism and evolution are compatible

I carefully explained that science requires deep respect for evidence, while theism requires acceptance despite, or in the absence of evidence. And that a “theistic scientist” is required BOTH to absolutely require and absolutely NOT require evidence, both at the same time.

I submit that these postures are mutually exclusive. I haven’t yet seen anyone explain why they are NOT incompatible. I’ve only seen the claim that the HAVE to be compatible, because some functioning scientists seem able to juggle these. And I’ll grant the obvious - people have a profound ability to lie to themselves. But lies don’t come true just because you believe them!

Comment #130146

Posted by Atheistichumanist on September 15, 2006 9:07 AM (e)

Steviepinhead wrote

But even Miller’s “smaller” point (if that’s what it was, since I haven’t been able to track through all his rather confusing verbiage with any better success than most of you)–that his anti-evolution, religious audience needs to stop mistakenly confusing science (which has nothing to say “about” sufficiently-circumspect religion, pro or con) with some scientists (who may have a fair amount to say “against” religion)–is a questionable and dangerous one: it affords his anti-atheist audience with little reason to embrace science and every reason to scapegoat atheists, some of whom are not only hard-working scientists, but many of whom have already proven to be far more-reliable allies than the audience to whom he was speaking/mis-speaking.

Speaking out in favor of one’s atheism–or one’s religion–is NOT the same as attempting to legally, physically, or violently suppress religion or atheism.

I wanted to respond to this because its fairly thoughtful and on topic. As I tried to say in my post to PZ, I don’t think that Miller was calling for personal attacks on some scientists who actively promote atheism, which you regard as his smaller point, but rather that as theists they should redirect their attack on ideas away from evolutionary theory, which does not require the nonexistence of God, to the idea of atheism, being promoted by some scientists, such as Dawkins. A debate of ideas is something we should welcome, not fear, especially if it replaces pseudoscientific attacks on quality science education. PZ took Miller’s comments as a personal attack, then insulted Miller with the worst epitaph he could think of, Creationist. Ironically, PZ seems to be telling Miller he can’t criticise atheism, then complains that Pat Hayes is trying to muzzle him!

Stevearoni wrote

God is big. Like, um, really big, and according to most of the major J/C religions, intimately involved in every aspect of every life all the time.

Yet, in trillions of hours of searching, the worlds religions have found nothing of substance to point to and say “he was here”.

Ever.

This is really only logically conceivable if God has no interaction at all with the world - if his effects are too tiny to be sifted.

That’s the point we’re at. No, I can’t say that God doesn’t exist, it’s just that if he does exist he seems to have no interaction at all with his creation, which he built to (apparently) not need him.

I can conceive of a God that is the universe, thus you wouldn’t find evidence of him interacting with it, because he is it. Now, we think thats kind of silly, but the point is most people don’t, and its not only counterproductive to tell them that what they think is silly, its also wrong to tell them science proves their beliefs are false, and it practically invites them to dislike science when we incorrectly tell them that.

Comment #130147

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 15, 2006 9:13 AM (e)

Flint, my comments weren’t directed at you. You do pose a very good problem. Someone should show why religion and science are NOT incompatible. This starts with defining the religion. This thing is difficult to do, since there is so much diversity in belief. Why can’t we be content with saying, not all religion is opposed to science? I do think that mainstream Christianity needs some modifications and more unity in order to fit the modern scientific picture better. But I admit that I myself to not have the answer.

Comment #130151

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 15, 2006 9:16 AM (e)

I don’t have time to moderate this thread today, so good luck you guys!

However, I do have some comments of my own in response to a post by PZ. This is my contribution to today’s discussion, but then I’ve got to work. Day job, you know.

=============================================
PZ quotes me as writing, “don’t do things that energize the opposition,” and then responds:

That aphorism perfectly sums up how America is in the position we’re in today. If we stand for something that some other group opposes, hush, don’t say it…… both those groups [supporters of science and Democrats] seem to be dominated by do-nothings who think the path to victory is to avoid standing up for what they do believe in, and all because of the sentiment in that quote. Here’s a shorter, pithier version for you: Be afraid.

PZ, I take that as a personal insult. I also think your own sense of anger and hostility drowns out your ability to listen and consider views different from your own.

Given who I am, what I have done, and what I am doing in the world of science activism, I don’t think I can be called a “do-nothing” who because of fear won’t take a stand for what I believe in.

My remark about not doing things to energize the opposition was accompanied, I believe with an explanation: that we need to defend our positions with reason, because when we accompany the defense of our position with emotional attacks and inflammatory rhetoric, we just push people away from the possibility of being affected by our arguments.

Here is a story about Amory Lovins, head of the Rocky Mountains Institute, as told in an article in Discover magazine. Lovins is one of the most important activists on the topics of alternative energy sources, sustainable agricultural processes, and so on.

When I give talks about energy, the audience already knows about the problems. That’s not what they’ve come to hear. So I don’t talk about problems, only solutions. But after a while, during the question period, someone in the back will get up and give a long riff about all the bad things that are happening—most of which are basically true. There’s only one way I’ve found to deal with that. After this person calms down, I gently ask whether feeling that way makes him more effective.

That’s the question an activist always has to ask himself: are my feelings helping me be more effective? If the expression of my feelings turns people off so they can’t hear my message, then my feelings are an impediment to my work.

Heres’ a related story. My friend David Burress is a KCFS founder, retired economic professor, and a long-time activist. Once, when someone told him how outraged the person was about some egregious act, David replied, “Outrage is a liberal indulgence.”

When we indulge our feelings at the expense of effectiveness we don’t further our cause. It takes some courage, I think, to learn that.

Comment #130152

Posted by Raging Bee on September 15, 2006 9:17 AM (e)

norm: first, like a typical dishonest creationist, you repeat the same old overgeneralizations that have already been addressed and refuted by more than one party on this very forum. Then you react like a bitter old spittle-spraying drunk to a perfectly civil post by a theist who –be she right or wrong – completely fails to conform to your rigid negative stereotype of theists. And you expect to be taken seriously? (Did your horoscope in WorldNutDaily predict you’d win this argument? :-D)

Grow up two decades and call us in the morning.

Comment #130153

Posted by Caledonian on September 15, 2006 9:17 AM (e)

Strange. Mr. Krebs seemed to have more than enough energy to remove Popper’s comments.

Perhaps he has enough energy to moderate some kinds of posts, but not others.

Comment #130154

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 9:19 AM (e)

Popper - how is it an insult to point out the obvious - that I am being attacked for saying that theism and evolution are compatible?

That’s simply a lie, not an insult. Although it does seem that you actually believe that criticism of or questions about your comments are “attacks” or “rude” – or that objections to one-sided censoring of others indicates an attempt to shut you up. I really think this sums up the issue: Norm attempted to engage you in the process of justifying your claims and beliefs, a process that lies at the heart of scientific inquiry and rational investigation, by asking you a series of questions, and for that he was attacked as being “rude”. No one would think it rude to ask someone why they think that psychic healing works or how they think the positions of the constellations might affect personalities, but to ask how people justify their religious beliefs is “rude”. Well, calling such inquiries rude and other attempts to shut them up won’t stop the questions from being asked.

Comment #130156

Posted by Atheistichumanist on September 15, 2006 9:21 AM (e)

Flint wrote

And that a “theistic scientist” is required BOTH to absolutely require and absolutely NOT require evidence, both at the same time.

Since I doubt Miller does research in the pew, or worships in his lab, in fact he doesn’t have to do both at the same time. Consistency is the hobgoblin of the foolish mind; different tasks require different approaches. Miller knows that in researching observable phenomenon, faith is worthless; all that counts is evidence. He also knows that if he wants to delve into the spiritual, a search for empirical evidence will be fruitless. I wouldn’t go into court and put a judge in timeout, nor would I cite case law to my toddler to get her to obey my directions.

Comment #130157

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 9:22 AM (e)

Strange. Mr. Krebs seemed to have more than enough energy to remove Popper’s comments.

They seem to all still be here. What do you think was removed?

Comment #130158

Posted by Raging Bee on September 15, 2006 9:25 AM (e)

Flint wrote:

(And I will repeat, once again, that beliefs as I intend the word are generally used as *substitutes* for curiosity)

You’re not “repeating” that, you’re stating it for the first time.

So, to sum up: you ask for examples of irrational, unproven beliefs, feelings or opinions that advance science; I provide such examples; and now you say you’re only considering beliefs that “are generally used as *substitutes* for curiosity.” In other words, you’re redefining your terms on the fly (while pretending that’s what you meant all along), to rule out answers you didn’t expect to hear.

Comment #130160

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 9:28 AM (e)

Consistency is the hobgoblin of the foolish mind

Let’s leave misquotation in favor of one’s position to the Creationists. Emerson wrote “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”.

Comment #130166

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 9:41 AM (e)

He also knows that if he wants to delve into the spiritual, a search for empirical evidence will be fruitless.

I haven’t found it fruitless at all. Everything I (provisionally) know about the spiritual, I know from empirical evidence, including the evidence of my own emotional reactions to the world and culture I live in. OTOH, I (provisionally) know that any investigation not based on evidence, including “the spiritual”, is either fruitless or produces only imaginary fruit.

Comment #130167

Posted by Flint on September 15, 2006 9:50 AM (e)

Katerina:

This starts with defining the religion. This thing is difficult to do, since there is so much diversity in belief. Why can’t we be content with saying, not all religion is opposed to science?

Because it begs the question. If it relies on evidence, it’s science. If it does not, it’s not science. So you seem to be saying, some religious belief is actually science in disguise. For simplicity, why not say it’s science?

Atheistichumanist:

So you are saying that people can successfully time-slice their beliefs, laying them aside (and pretending they don’t believe) when doing science, then forgetting the requirements of science when it comes time to pray. I admit, I had envisioned religious faith as being more pervasive than that, which is why it’s called a worldview. A worldview is *by definition* not something that can be set aside when convenient, and trotted out as necessary. It informs the basic personality. But you may be right; maybe Miller DOES exchange one personality for another profoundly different as required. I could not do this, so it didn’t occur to me.

Raging Bee:

In other words, you’re redefining your terms on the fly (while pretending that’s what you meant all along), to rule out answers you didn’t expect to hear.

Communicating with words does involve the assumption that those trying to communicate assign reasonably similar meaning to the words being used. Curiosity is not a religious belief. I doubt you could find anyone even vaguely aware of the English language who would think otherwise. So I agree, your creative (to put it mildly!) reinterpretation of the word was something I didn’t expect to hear. But I’m not redefining anything, I’m only saying that my understanding of what curiosity means accords with what any dictionary SAYS it means. I’ll concede I took it for granted that your understanding would be fairly close to everyone else’s. When I turned out to be wrong, I had to be more explicit.

So I repeat, you did NOT provide “examples of irrational, unproven beliefs.” You changed the subject. I didn’t expect you to do that. Now I know better.

Comment #130168

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 10:07 AM (e)

So you are saying that people can successfully time-slice their beliefs, laying them aside (and pretending they don’t believe) when doing science, then forgetting the requirements of science when it comes time to pray. I admit, I had envisioned religious faith as being more pervasive than that, which is why it’s called a worldview. A worldview is *by definition* not something that can be set aside when convenient, and trotted out as necessary. It informs the basic personality. But you may be right; maybe Miller DOES exchange one personality for another profoundly different as required. I could not do this, so it didn’t occur to me.

Regardless of whether Miller can set religion aside when doing science (and surely someone who has done so much good science cannot be seen as less rational in re science as a whole than any of us who have not done so), it evidently affects his thinking about science and religion. E.g., “Faced with such unremitting hostility to religion, and that is exactly what these books exemplify, I think the advocates of religion react, and they react in a predictable way. The creation scientists, for example, decided we’ve got to do something about it. Their solution, however, was to ignore this interpretation and go after evolution itself.” That cause-and-effect claim clearly goes against the evidence; Creation Science long predated those books.

Comment #130171

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 10:27 AM (e)

While it shouldn’t be necessary to do so (among intelligent informed people acting in good faith, that is), I will note that cats do not have “an unexamined belief or feeling that it’s important to find or learn something”, and yet they display curiosity. But this discussion about curiosity misses the point altogether. Flint’s original statement was

Meanwhile, I was hoping someone would make an attempt to explain how irrational, non-evidence-based beliefs *assist or support* the effort to do good science.

One can certainly address a strawman version of this and explain how arational non-evidenced-based attitudes assist or support the effort to do good science, but the critical thing to note is that these attitudes do not depend upon theism; people who are not theistic still have “childish curiosity, a sense of wonder, a desire to understand how … things work, or a belief that making people’s lives easier with new inventions is a good thing to do”. Flint’s point, not challenged by this misdirection, is that theism doesn’t add anything to science that isn’t available without it. As he said, “Pointing out that it is possible to do good science *despite* such beliefs isn’t quite the same thing”, and yet that comment was ignored and instead we were led down the irrelevant “curiosity” rabbit hole.

Comment #130173

Posted by Raging Bee on September 15, 2006 10:33 AM (e)

Flint wrote to Atheistichumanist:

So you are saying that people can successfully time-slice their beliefs, laying them aside (and pretending they don’t believe) when doing science, then forgetting the requirements of science when it comes time to pray.

No, the paragraph you quote very plainly did NOT say that. Once again, you’re completely misrepresenting what was actually said, twisting it to fit what you expect others to say; and it’s getting as tiresome as it is blatant. Who do you want to talk to – us, or your mental construct of us? If it’s us, please be advised that we didn’t get the script you seem to expect us to use, and we have no use for it anyway (so save youself the FedEx bill).

First, if a scientist’s specific religious belief allows, or encourages, or requires, him to do honest science, then he has no need to “lay his belief aside” to do science, nor does he have to “pretend he doesn’t believe.”

Second, when the said scientist is seeking guidance or strength from the voice/presence of God within himself, he does not have to “forget the requirements of science.” That’s a bit like saying I “forget” how to do basic math whenever I turn my attention to a subject that has nothing to do with math.

If you can’t understand that science is agnostic (not atheistic), and silent on questions of wants, values, morals and ethics (among the subjects people tend to pray about), then it is you who are “forgetting the requirements of science.”

Comment #130175

Posted by fnxtr on September 15, 2006 10:40 AM (e)

I’m having a hard time understanding why anyone cares how Miller reconciles his faith with science. If he’s doing good work like other theistic evolutionists, or agnostic or athestic scientists, and getting consistent results with them, his religious life is irrelevant. So he thinks you can be a Christian and still observe empirically. You disagree? Prove it. Dispute his scientific work. Show how faith has distorted the results of his scientific experiments. If you can’t, belt up. You may disagree with a lot of what he’s written in his Christian apologetic mode, but tuff darts. That ain’t science, and he’s not pretending it is.

Comment #130177

Posted by Flint on September 15, 2006 10:42 AM (e)

Popper’s Ghost:

That cause-and-effect claim clearly goes against the evidence; Creation Science long predated those books.

Your reference to the frog and the scorpion was spot-on. Miller is blaming the frog. I agree his religious faith has directed his thinking in that direction.

One can certainly address a strawman version of this and explain how arational non-evidenced-based attitudes assist or support the effort to do good science, but the critical thing to note is that these attitudes do not depend upon theism

Exactly what I was trying to say; hopefully your locution will be clearer. My protest that curiosity is not theism is handicapped by my astonishment that anyone could confuse them.

Comment #130181

Posted by PZ Myers on September 15, 2006 10:52 AM (e)

Jack, I am not calling you a do-nothing. I am saying that the sentiment in that quote, urging us to avoid energizing our opponents, is false and destructive – it only ends up weakening us.

The evidence is in the results. Republicans and creationists do not hesitate to say and do things that ought to energize their opponents, and they are succeeding, to the consternation of anyone with half a brain who looks at their idiotic ideas. Liberals and evolutionary biologists do intentionally muzzle themselves to avoid offending the mythical, elusive middle ground of wafflers and fence-sitters, and all we accomplish is to look like a weak mob of ditherers.

You don’t want mere outrage, but we do need clarity, vigor, and a very strong message – a message that will annoy and probably energize our opponents. That’s preferable to muddling about and letting the opposition win with little effort, on the shakiest ground.

Comment #130184

Posted by Flint on September 15, 2006 10:56 AM (e)

Raging Bee:

Here is what Atheistichumanist wrote:

Since I doubt Miller does research in the pew, or worships in his lab, in fact he doesn’t have to do both at the same time.

If this is not time-slicing, what is? Do you respect evidence SOME of the time, and disregard it for religious reasons SOME of the time?

If you can’t understand that science is agnostic (not atheistic), and silent on questions of wants, values, morals and ethics (among the subjects people tend to pray about), then it is you who are “forgetting the requirements of science.”

You again demonstrate your mastery of changing a subject you find uncomfortable. Science is NOT silent on the question of EVIDENCE. Irrational beliefs are beliefs that things that OUGHT to be based on evidence, are true despite the lack of any relevant evidence (or even the existence of lots of confuting evidence).

I am saying NOTHING about wants, values, morals and ethics. Please TRY to stay on topic. Your perverse inability to understand what you don’t wish to hear becomes tiresome.

fnxtr:

If he’s doing good work like other theistic evolutionists, or agnostic or athestic scientists, and getting consistent results with them, his religious life is irrelevant.

As I wrote earlier, he does good science BECAUSE he has found a way to render his religious faith irrelevant, at least while he’s doing science. He trots out his faith when it doesn’t get in the way of his science. Which is as close to discarding his faith in favor of his profession as you can come; effectively, this is what he has accomplished.

Comment #130185

Posted by Raging Bee on September 15, 2006 10:58 AM (e)

Katerina wrote:

Why can’t we be content with saying, not all religion is opposed to science?

And Flint responded:

Because it begs the question…

That’s not “begging the question;” that’s an OBSERVATION, which has been repeatedly corroborated.

If it relies on evidence, it’s science. If it does not, it’s not science.

So now you’re saying a religion can be “science” if it relies on “evidence?” How much “evidence,” exactly, before it crosses the magic threshhold? A creationist – whose job, after all, is getting HIS religion defined as “science” – would be proud of your efforts. (Or he’d shake his head and say “Nah, that didn’t work when we tried it.”)

So you seem to be saying, some religious belief is actually science in disguise.

No, YOU are saying that, and pretending someone else is saying it, by redefining others’ words out from under them and pretending everyone else is using the same definitions you choose to impose at the moment.

For simplicity, why not say it’s science?

Because a) it’s wrong, and b) it doesn’t simplify anything. (Are you channelling Carol Clouser or something? The real Carol is more convincing.)

Comment #130187

Posted by Atheistichumanist on September 15, 2006 10:59 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'blockquote'

Comment #130188

Posted by Atheistichumanist on September 15, 2006 11:01 AM (e)

Meanwhile, I was hoping someone would make an attempt to explain how irrational, non-evidence-based beliefs *assist or support* the effort to do good science.

I will then. Just as Johnathan Wells’ guru asked him to study science enough to be able to attack evolutionary theory, someone else could learn that God created a universe that we can learn about through the use of reason and observation, and that he wants us to do so. Religious memes can be created to support any position, good as well as evil.

Comment #130190

Posted by Atheistichumanist on September 15, 2006 11:21 AM (e)

Flint wrote

But you may be right; maybe Miller DOES exchange one personality for another profoundly different as required. I could not do this, so it didn’t occur to me.

Most people can, depending upon the circumstances. Let me ask you, if you were both an attorney and a parent, would you put a judge in timeout during a hearing, or would you cite caselaw to your toddler to show her that you are legally authorized to make decisions for her?

Comment #130212

Posted by Raging Bee on September 15, 2006 12:24 PM (e)

Flint wrote:

But you may be right; maybe Miller DOES exchange one personality for another profoundly different as required. I could not do this, so it didn’t occur to me.

You actually think a guy has to have two separate personalities to do both religion and science? That’s both laughable and sad at the same time. No wonder you twist everyone’s words on the subject – your mind simply can’t comprehend what we’re saying.

Comment #130216

Posted by Andy Groves on September 15, 2006 12:36 PM (e)

Quoth PZ to Jack

Republicans and creationists do not hesitate to say and do things that ought to energize their opponents, and they are succeeding, to the consternation of anyone with half a brain who looks at their idiotic ideas. Liberals and evolutionary biologists do intentionally muzzle themselves to avoid offending the mythical, elusive middle ground of wafflers and fence-sitters, and all we accomplish is to look like a weak mob of ditherers.

I think what Jack was trying to say was pretty clear, and I think you’re fooling yourself. Take the situation in Kansas - Jack is part of a grassroots movement to oppose creationism in his state. What percentage of his colleagues do you think are Christians? 1%? 50%? Do you think KCFS would work more effectively without the participation of Christians or less effectively?

Let’s be clear. A majority of adults in the US identify themselves as Christians. You may not like that, but it’s true. If you want to achieve a political objective, then you’re going to have to make an alliance with some of them, and that entails not pissing them off from the outset. As I said in my previous post, Republicans and creationists are much better at glossing over their differences to achieve a political goal than the US left. Consider Philip Johnson’s “big tent” opposition to evolution, where he consciously avoids getting into discussions about, say, the age of the Earth, and has characters as diverse as Paul Nelson and Michael behe in his corner. As Pennock writes in “Tower of Babel”

Such apparent open-mindedness makes the defender of evolution look narrow-minded in contrast to the tolerant creationist. It also serves to enlarge Johnson’s constituency, for most people will identify themselves as creationist in the minimal sense of commitment to the idea that God creates. Additionally, the broad definition helps bolster Johnson’s claim that evolution is necessarily at odds with religion, for he contrasts this mild-mannered creationism with a view of evolutionary theory that makes the latter essentially atheistic

Bingo.

The difference between you and Jack is that he has a dog in the fight in Kansas and you don’t. As a result, you can keep your ideological purity, but he doesn’t have that luxury. Think about that the next time you write about good news from Kansas/Dover/Ohio/Texas on your blog…….

Comment #130218

Posted by John Farrell on September 15, 2006 12:40 PM (e)

I was hoping someone would make an attempt to explain how irrational, non-evidence-based beliefs *assist or support* the effort to do good science.
Excellent question. With the exception of one religion, I think the answer is, irrational beliefs simply can’t.

However, let’s entertain:

Irrational belief #1. The world was created by a rational being. (see Book of Wisdom)
Irrational belief #2. Being the creation of a rational being, the world must operate according to rational, dependable laws of nature (which we can test). (see St. Paul, St. Augustine, Aquinas, etc etc etc)

Now…I know this may come as a total shock, but you can believe both of these irrational axioms…and do some pretty damned good science as a result.

Like Ken Miller.

:)

Comment #130219

Posted by Peter Henderson on September 15, 2006 12:42 PM (e)

A while back I did a short philosophy course. The tutor made an interesting point. He stated that many animal species (and some humans) were colour blind and only saw things in black and white. His point was (I think), that since many animals (and some humans) have absolutely no concept of colour, how do we know that our observable universe is the real universe ? I thought it was an interesting statement, especially in relation to science/religion.(he was not a Christian as far as I know).

Comment #130222

Posted by Meet People Where they Are on September 15, 2006 1:31 PM (e)

That’s simply a lie, not an insult.

Calling me a lier is an insult.

Although it does seem that you actually believe that criticism of or questions about your comments are “attacks” or “rude”

normdoering wrote:

How about ruling out the possibility that you can actually know if what you are relating to is God or some other thing, like a delusion or perhaps merely a trickster from the planet Zarkuba with very advanced technologies.

ahem.

I really think this sums up the issue: Norm attempted to engage you in the process of justifying your claims and beliefs

I disagree. If he was really attempting to engage me, he would have pursued the issue off the thread, but I saw no evidence of such an effort. Also, I said (as Katarina, mistakenly) that I did not offer any claims, let alone testable ones, and did not assert evidence to support any such claims, but merely stated that I believe in a higher authority, and that such a belief is personal. Now I add that it is personal as well as social. People with common beliefs come together.

a process that lies at the heart of scientific inquiry and rational investigation, by asking you a series of questions

I agree, which is why I never claimed my belief was rooted in science. My only assertion was that I am entitled to my beliefs, and the U.S. Constitution protects me, and everyone else taught in public schools, where these issues are being played out.

Well, calling such inquiries rude and other attempts to shut them up won’t stop the questions from being asked.

You can ask away, but I am not under any obligation to answer to you or anyone for my beliefs.

Comment #130224

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 15, 2006 1:33 PM (e)

the idea of atheism, being promoted by some scientists, such as Dawkins.

You know, people keep saying this, but I have yet to see any decent evidence that Dawkins spends any significant amount of his time–beyond his participation in one Brit TV show, and a couple of his shorter works and interviews–doing anything like this.

I’ve read, I think, all of his books but one. Every single one of them is spent on effectively explaining larger and smaller ideas in evolution and zoology.

He does do–in my view–useful and provocative work by attacking the arguments, and the “argument” tactics of Big-C Creationists and IDists. He evidently is a personal atheist. He is highly critical of the lack of rationality–of discontinuous thinking–that (I hope we would all agree) are characteristic of the anti-science forces.

He may well be “Darwin’s Rottweiler” (and G-d knows that Charles has needed such a vigorous defender from time to time).

But an industrious “promoter” of “the idea of atheism”?

If you are strongly convinced that tireless promotion of atheism has been anything like Dawkins’ main role in this “debate,” I’d like to see your evidence.

From this pinhead’s point of view, that’s how Dawkins has been “swiftboated” by the bad guys. By thoughtlessly accepting that as Dawkins’ defining role, you and Miller are buying into the bad guys’ mischaracterization and needlessly splintering our own forces (the very calumny which has been hurled against Dawkins and PZ here), rather than doing what we all OUGHT to be doing, which is building and maintaining bridges to all our reasonably-rational, credible, and articulate allies.

Let’s retire the “evil atheist” hobby horse. That’s playing their game, not ours.

Comment #130227

Posted by Atheistichumanist on September 15, 2006 2:08 PM (e)

You may be right, Steviepinhead. I’ve read more about Dawkins written by creationists then I’ve read Dawkins (I did enjoy “The Ancestor’s Tale”), so that is something I should correct by reading more Dawkins. If Miller is misrepresenting Dawkins, bad on him.

My primary point, though, was I still think there is nothing wrong with trying to convince christians that evolutionary theory doesn’t require or prove the nonexistence of god, and the battle of ideas should be between theism and atheism, and evolutionary science shouldn’t be caught in the crossfire (of argument, not actual bullets).

There also isn’t anything wrong with Dawkins promoting atheism, if he chooses to do so.

Comment #130229

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 2:12 PM (e)

Meanwhile, I was hoping someone would make an attempt to explain how irrational, non-evidence-based beliefs *assist or support* the effort to do good science.

I will then. Just as Johnathan Wells’ guru asked him to study science enough to be able to attack evolutionary theory, someone else could learn that God created a universe that we can learn about through the use of reason and observation, and that he wants us to do so. Religious memes can be created to support any position, good as well as evil.

So does religion assist or support the effort to achieve peace in the middle east because it could motivate people to love their neighbors? Or does the astrology column in the newspaper assist or support our decision making because it could coincide with what’s in our best interests? Since these memes aren’t anchored in reason, we can’t expect desirable outcomes; the mere possibility of desirable outcomes is beside the point. Surely, if we want people to be motivated to do good science, we could look toward something less arbitrary, like the effectiveness of using reason and observation to produce consistent models that make accurate predictions, which allows us to increase lifespans, reduce suffering and toil, and in various other ways satisfy our desires.

Comment #130230

Posted by Wheels on September 15, 2006 2:18 PM (e)

Peter Henderson wrote:

A while back I did a short philosophy course. The tutor made an interesting point. He stated that many animal species (and some humans) were colour blind and only saw things in black and white. His point was (I think), that since many animals (and some humans) have absolutely no concept of colour, how do we know that our observable universe is the real universe ? I thought it was an interesting statement, especially in relation to science/religion.(he was not a Christian as far as I know).

Science in general seeks to explain observed phenomena, whether the causes of those phenomena are visible and apparent or apparently invisible. It’s how we know about the inner workings of atoms (or about atoms at all) and the existence of dark matter. We look for things that can be the causes to observed effects. I like Leon Lederman’s example of the invisible soccerball, which ties in to this analogy of color vision:
Supposing we are visited by an extraterrestrial species which is, in almost all respects identical to humans except that they cannot see certain alternating patterns of black and white. In order to throw them a welcoming party we take a group of them to see one of the planet’s most widely enjoyed pastimes: soccer. Unfortunately, the aliens cannot see the ball because they can’t see certain alternating black/white combinations. To them it looks like a bunch of people running around, kicking air, leaping and jumping for no readily apparent reason which induces the crowd to cheer upon some kind of unseen event. Applying a scientific method, the could carefully plot out the movements of the players and when the crowd erupts into cheering to see if there’s any correlation. They might carefully note the sudden deformations in the goal’s nets around this time. They might find that the players are moving around as if there was some unseen object of variable speed being directed by them and which would help explain their peculiar movements, the cheering crowd, and the shaking net of a goal. Eureka, there must be some kind of roughly round object being kicked about by these players, which causes the net to billow out as the object of the game! Even though they can’t see the soccer ball, they can infer its presence.

They may not know the exact pattern of pentagons that make up a (now old-fashioned) soccerball, they may not know if it’s very round or made of flat panels but sufficiently roundish to act like a ball, they may not know what the ball is actually made of. At first they didn’t even know the ball existed and probably thought the whole thing was some kind of elaborate dance. But when there are sufficiently obervable phenomena, there’s a chance that you can infer causes that would otherwise be invisible. Science also leaves the door of possibilty open by making its knowledge provisional and readily admitting that it doesn’t have an answer for everything, that not everything has been observed, and that there can be competing answers for observations. So whether we know the whole picture or not is somewhat irrelevant to science.

Comment #130231

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 2:22 PM (e)

the battle of ideas should be between theism and atheism, and evolutionary science shouldn’t be caught in the crossfire (of argument, not actual bullets)

Yeah, and DI should dissolve itself. Seriously, it is religious zealots who put evolutionary science into the crossfire. Atheists like PZ Myers have said over and over and over and over that you can be religious and not only accept evolution but be an excellent evolutionary scientist. But a remarkable number of folks here just don’t get it, and insist on blaming their allies, like Myers and Dawkins.

Comment #130234

Posted by David B. Benson on September 15, 2006 2:29 PM (e)

Well, that’s getting better again. For a while there I thought this thread was going to completely degenerate.

Just a note: For practitioners of Bayesian reasoning absence of evidence is evidence of absence, but in the sense that there must be some means of observing the purported evidence…

Comment #130238

Posted by Flint on September 15, 2006 2:36 PM (e)

Atheistichumanist:

if you were both an attorney and a parent, would you put a judge in timeout during a hearing, or would you cite caselaw to your toddler to show her that you are legally authorized to make decisions for her?

I think you are saying that one’s posture toward a given topic should be appropriate to the requirements of that topic. And this is fairly straightforward; I don’t disagree at all.

I was suggesting that the issue of whether or not evidence matters (as opposed to what I think you are saying, that evidence matters but WHICH evidence is most appropriate isn’t always the same) is what I’m concerned with. Theism, belief in gods, *necessarily* must take the position that evidence does not matter, since there is no evidence for any gods. So I wonder what goes on inside the mind of someone for whom evidence is all-important EXCEPT when it’s somehow not required. Raging Bee’s “arguments” only serve to demonstrate what happens when evidence never matters, and Making Stuff Up is fully satisfactory. But we already knew that.

John Farrell:

Yes, I suppose you’re right. We might postulate that some rational creator created a universe such that there is as far as we know no hint that He ever did so, operating according to principles that render any such creator superfluous. Why not? Just as one can do excellent science EVEN IF one believes in life on other planets, or that there’s another planet nobody has found yet, or that someday people will outgrow war. These are all beliefs in the absence of any evidence. Maybe religious faith falls into this same category, but I suspect there is a qualitative difference somehow. The difference only surfaces when evidence either ratifies or refutes the belief. If the belief persists despite the refutation, it’s religious.

I hope you agree that such beliefs don’t increase the ability to do good science; at best, they do nothing to undermine the process.

Comment #130239

Posted by Atheistichumanist on September 15, 2006 2:48 PM (e)

So does religion assist or support the effort to achieve peace in the middle east because it could motivate people to love their neighbors? Or does the astrology column in the newspaper assist or support our decision making because it could coincide with what’s in our best interests? Since these memes aren’t anchored in reason, we can’t expect desirable outcomes; the mere possibility of desirable outcomes is beside the point. Surely, if we want people to be motivated to do good science, we could look toward something less arbitrary, like the effectiveness of using reason and observation to produce consistent models that make accurate predictions, which allows us to increase lifespans, reduce suffering and toil, and in various other ways satisfy our desires.

Sure, but we have to deal with the world as it is, not as we want it to be. Religious memes aren’t going away anytime soon, and most people are infected with one. Its infinitely preferable that they are infected with memes which promote peace, love and reason than those which promote violence, hate and irrationality. And we aren’t talking about the “mere possibility” of desireable outcomes; many of histories greatest scientists have been theists. Thus we should encourage the notion that science is compatible with a version of christianity which doesn’t demand that ancient myths be treated as incontrovertible facts.

Comment #130243

Posted by KevinD on September 15, 2006 3:00 PM (e)

I think the substance of this thread boils down to the following - empirical results vs. logical/philosophical consistency.

There is a lot argument here about whether evolutionary theism is logically consistent. I could care less. I really don’t care why people do what they do unless that is relevant to solving a problem. I care about what they do. The empirical evidence is clear that many people through history up to right this very minute have done excellent science while believing unverifiable things. I don’t see this as a problem that needs to be solved. Suicide bombing is a problem. Teaching intelligent design or young earth creationism as valid science to children is a problem. Global warming denialism is a problem. Ken Miller putting a lot of effort into an argument that religion and science have some sort of synergistic relationship doesn’t even register on my problemometer.

As far as I can tell this whole thing started because Prof. Miller made some statements that were not well thought out. Prof. Myers responded with statements that were similarly hasty. I think criticism of Prof. Miller’s remarks and a request for clarification was certainly warranted. His comments did imply a lack of respect/consideration for those who are not religious. On the other hand it is not clear to me what Prof. Myers thought he would accomplish through his intemperate reply (and general use denigrative adjectives to describe religious belief). A statement was made in an earier thread that went more or less as follows.

Of course Miller should attack atheism and Myers attack religion.

I don’t understand that at all. Attacking the opinion of another has value if you think their opinion is wrong/damaging to yourself or others and/or there exists the possiblility of a resolution based on evidence. I fail to see the value of attacking the personal religious beliefs (or lack thereof) or of attacking the general concept of religious beliefs (or lack thereof). If the beliefs include specifics that are manifestly untrue (as in YEC) or impose societal changes that are undesirable (e.g. religious coercion) than they should be vigorously resisted. However the existence or non-existence of a god is a non-resolvable issue and as a general concept I fail to see how someone holding a different opinion than yourself harms you in any way.

An obvous reply to my statements is to point to social harm caused by organized religion. Authoritarian religious organizations pose a major problem in today’s world and I believe firmly in working to oppose their influence in society. Catholics and Quakers are both Christian groups and presumably share many fundamental beliefs. However they differ in other beliefs which are not metaphysical. Quakers are non-authoritarian and do not believe in attempting to convert others. The Catholic Church is authoritarian and attempts to influence societies globally to fall into line with its moral code. What is the more effective strategy for opposing the damage caused by the Catholic Church? Attacking the central tenets of Christianity as fairy tales? Or combatting the goals of the church and its authoritarian nature?

I want my neighbor to be a tolerant and open-minded person. I could care less what they believe as long as there is no way to prove it right or wrong and they don’t want to impose their beliefs on me or anyone else.

Comment #130244

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 3:11 PM (e)

That’s simply a lie, not an insult.

Calling me a lier is an insult.

I’m sure George Bush feels insulted by it too, but that won’t stop me from calling liars liars.

I really think this sums up the issue: Norm attempted to engage you in the process of justifying your claims and beliefs

I disagree. If he was really attempting to engage me, he would have pursued the issue off the thread …

“No true Scotsman” fallacy.

My only assertion was that I am entitled to my beliefs

You seem to think that you are entitled to unchallengeable beliefs, but there is no such entitlement.

and the U.S. Constitution protects me

Red herring. The U.S. Constitution protects you from the government depriving you of your freedom to speak, which is not at issue here.

and everyone else taught in public schools, where these issues are being played out.

The U.S. Constitution protects us from the government imposing religious instruction on public school students. It does not entitle them, or their teachers, to express their beliefs, about religion or anything else; teachers must follow the curriculum or be subject to dismissal for cause, and students must be orderly and follow their teachers’ directions. The courts have been quite clear that our constitutional rights are not absolute.

Well, calling such inquiries rude and other attempts to shut them up won’t stop the questions from being asked.

You can ask away, but I am not under any obligation to answer to you or anyone for my beliefs.

Strawman. No one said you were under that obligation; heck, you aren’t obliged to post here at all. And you certainly aren’t obliged to try to stifle inquiry and challenge by callinging people rude when they hold you to the same standard as they might hold someone who believes in astrology or psychic healing.

Comment #130245

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 3:15 PM (e)

Sure, but we have to deal with the world as it is, not as we want it to be. Religious memes aren’t going away anytime soon, and most people are infected with one.

I’ll take these strawman responses as concessions to Flint’s point.

Comment #130247

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 3:23 PM (e)

And we aren’t talking about the “mere possibility” of desireable outcomes; many of histories greatest scientists have been theists.

I should have responded to this, which isn’t a strawman, but does miss my whole point, and is rather horridly fallacious logic. Many of history’s greatest scientists haven’t been theists, and many theists haven’t been great scientists. Your statement merely observes that the intersection of two sets isn’t empty; it doesn’t give any reason to think that being a theist caused them to be great scientists, and that they wouldn’t have been great scientists if they hadn’t been theists. And without such reasons, we most certainly are talking about the mere possibility that theism could motivate one to do good science.

Comment #130248

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 15, 2006 3:27 PM (e)

Challenging me on my beliefs is off-topic and requires a time-consuming, in-depth dissection of each question. That is why I asked Norm to take it off the thread if he was serious about pursuing the answers.

I do not feel obligated to post here, and the fact that you keep dropping hints that my posts here are unwanted reveals considerable hypocrisy. I have no control over the moving of other people’s comments by the moderator, nor did I ask that anyone’s comment be removed. The fact that you feel the need to point out perceived flaws in my reasoning, or character, leads nowhere that has anything to do with atheists and theists defending evolution “shoulder to shoulder.” If anything, it is off-topic trolling.

I hope someday PT will be a place where everyone can feel welcome.

Comment #130249

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 3:31 PM (e)

I’ll address these (strawmen) too:

Its infinitely preferable that they are infected with memes which promote peace, love and reason than those which promote violence, hate and irrationality.

Yes, it’s preferable that everyone, religious or no, be peaceful loving, and reasonable rather than violent, hateful and irrational. This has nothing to do with science and religion (other than that science is based on reason and religion is irrational).

Thus we should encourage the notion that science is compatible with a version of christianity which doesn’t demand that ancient myths be treated as incontrovertible facts.

We should encourage people not to treat ancient myths as incontrovertible facts, quite independent of any alleged compatibility between science and any version of christianity or other religion.

Comment #130251

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 3:39 PM (e)

Challenging me on my beliefs is off-topic and requires a time-consuming, in-depth dissection of each question.

I’m sure your concern is appreciated, despite it appearing a bit, um, self-serving. Notably, your expression of your beliefs, and your battering people who challenge them, which you have done in more than one thread, is off-topic and time-consuming.

I do not feel obligated to post here, and the fact that you keep dropping hints that my posts here are unwanted reveals considerable hypocrisy.

The hypocrisy is clearly yours, as you have insisted that the responses to your posts are unwanted and off-topic. As I already noted, my previous comment was about other people being censored; your claim that I would love to see you shut up was an unwarranted personal attack. I would only love that people not offer fallacious arguments or act in bad faith.

Comment #130252

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 3:50 PM (e)

I’ve read, I think, all of his books but one. Every single one of them is spent on effectively explaining larger and smaller ideas in evolution and zoology.

have you read this one, Stevie? The God Delusion

But an industrious “promoter” of “the idea of atheism”?

See above.

Let’s retire the “evil atheist” hobby horse. That’s playing their game, not ours.

Why is it evil to promote the idea of atheism? Whether that is “playing their game” is one of the disputes here.

Comment #130253

Posted by David B. Benson on September 15, 2006 3:57 PM (e)

Why are people motivated to become scientists or doctors?

For some, at least, their religious upbringing. Here is a (partial) list of those raised as Quakers (religious Society of Friends). That means, I believe, they received early motivation to assist everyone.

William Tuke, John Dalton, William Allen, Thomas Young, Thomas Hodgkin, Joseph Lister, Arthur Eddington, Kathleen Lonsdale, Len Lamberton, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, G. Gordon Steel.

Comment #130254

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 4:10 PM (e)

For some, at least, their religious upbringing. Here is a (partial) list of those raised as Quakers (religious Society of Friends). That means, I believe, they received early motivation to assist everyone.

Then their motivation was that they valued assisting people, as a result of their upbringing. It need not have a religious basis, and for many people who value assisting people, it isn’t. This really isn’t much different than those who claim that, without religion, there would be no morality, or that “thou shalt not murder” and “thou shalt not steal” are religious commandments. But they aren’t – they are secular commandments (the religious commandments are “do not worship any other gods”, “do not misuse the name of God”, “keep the Sabbath holy”, etc.). Religion factors out.

Comment #130255

Posted by stevaroni on September 15, 2006 4:20 PM (e)

Caledonian;

You wrote

It is perfectly possible to prove negatives. This old canard needs to be stopped. Universal negatives cannot be proven by referencing non-universal empirical observations - to do that you need universally-applicable arguments, such as logical proofs built off of generally-accepted premises.

You’ve got me curious here (and I mean that seriously, rhetorical logic is not my specialty). Can you logically prove finite negative? Something along the lines of my example “Prove the Loch Ness monster does not exist”.

I can see where my technique of emptying the loch one bucket at a time might conclusively demonstrate that is no monster, and be functionally accomplish the task, but somehow it still seems short of a logical “proof”.

Of course, I guess we don’t really “prove” the sky is blue either, we just demonstrate it.

Comment #130260

Posted by David B. Benson on September 15, 2006 4:45 PM (e)

stevaronion — In the real world, no deductive proof suffices. But for a Bayesian, absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Lets pick a better example than Nessy:

I’ve never seen a purple cow.
I’ve seen over one thousand cows.
I conclude, on that basis alone, that it is exceedingly unlikely that purple cows exist. Hence, for all practical purposes, it is simply easier to convert this to an absolute, “there are no purple cows.”

Popper’s ghost — Your first two sentences are correct. The rest is your misunderstanding of my post, simply reading into it something which wasn’t there.
Pick a couple of the scientists in that list and read their biographies. Even better, I do hope there is a Friend’s Meeting (Unprogrammed) near you. Try it out, just for itself.

Comment #130261

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 15, 2006 4:46 PM (e)

Heh! (I know you’re having some gentle fun with me–which is not the same as saying you aren’t making some legitimate points–so I’ll indulge myself in a touch of the same in my responses):

No, I haven’t read “The God Delusion.” For some ridiculous reason, they forgot to ask for an advance review from a representative pinhead–can you believe the effrontery of Houghton Mifflin? (The book will be released Oct. 18–which is still almost four weeks away in this time zone…).

The other one I haven’t read is “Devil’s Chaplain,” which omission might, admittedly, dilute my attempted point that Dawkins spends a lot more energy defending evolution than he does promoting atheism (likewise, I’ve read much of Dennett, but have not yet gotten to his latest, either).

From the linked reviews of “The God Delusion,” it appears to be more of an attack on the fallacies of religion, ID, etc., than a “promotion” of atheism, though I recognize that I may now be splitting hairs.

Finally–well, probably not, but for this little box anyway–I’m seeing a difference between the fundy insistence that atheists are evil and your rephrasing, which was:

Why is it evil to promote the idea of atheism?

I don’t think atheists are evil; I also don’t think that it’s evil–or otherwise incorrect, immoral, or fattening–to promote the idea of atheism.

More importantly (so much for “finally,” eh?), I still haven’t been convinced–shown evidence–that Dawkins anywhere claims that science (or evolution) “proves” there is no deity/supernatural realm/etc., etc.

But, as noted above, I haven’t yet read the as-yet-unpublished “God Delusion.”

Comment #130264

Posted by Keith Douglas on September 15, 2006 5:10 PM (e)

Pat Hayes: I have said here and elsewhere that Miller is such. However, I have also stressed that creationism comes in degrees of incompatibility with findings and methods of science. The current Catholic position (asserting the special creation of human psychological faculties) is much more mild than (say) 6000 year old Earth/global flood of Noah, etc. guys. I am relying on an intuitive principle that perhaps results in genuine disagreements as to some orderings, but I don’t see the need to discard it altogether for that reason.

normdoering: One of the founding documents in ontology and knowledge representation as it is used in computing was published in a volume Studies on Mario Bunge’s Treatise. The aforementioned treatise is a work of philosophy designed to be compatible with and mutually support / be supported by scientific research. Subsequently the metaphysics volumes are not fuzzy-headed musings of Germans, but exact, scientifically respectable hypotheses of a very general nature. It is for this reason that they became congenial to computing people. Ontology (used by Bunge as a near synonym for metaphysics) in the philosophical sense is not alien to the computing usage at all.

wheels: “not scientific but philosophical” you said. Once again, what is the argument to the effect that they are seperate? (See the above aside to normdoering for an example.) If we want a consistent world view (to avoid cognitive dissonance if nothing else), we’re best to adopt a philosophy continuous with and supported by / supporting the best scientific research of our time.

Popper’s ghost: It is worse than that for the believer, since many of the great scientists in question were heretics. (Newton, Leibniz, Descartes, Galileo, Kepler …)

Comment #130266

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on September 15, 2006 5:32 PM (e)

What PZ offers is more transparent and honest and has less of the stench of hypocrisy than what Pat Hayes advocates.

PZ Myers wrote:

Ask the atheists to sit down and shut up about their disbelief, because it annoys the Christians. That’s what this is actually about…..

There is definitely an oppressive current here that is trying to use a demand for unity against a common enemy to suppress dissent;

Hear hear. I hope PZ does not back down, but rather continues to speak what’s on his mind and be himself. His transparency is refreshing.

Comment #130267

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 5:44 PM (e)

Stevaroni:

Caledonian seems to have been arguing that you can prove some universal negatives – for instance, there is no greatest prime. But that’s a strawman, as there are no “logical proofs built off of generally-accepted premises” that there is no Loch Ness monster. His statement about “evidence to the contrary” in regard to absence of evidence is also somewhat off-base, because “absence of evidence” means absence of evidence for the claim under discussion, but the negation of that claim is a quite different claim. To be precise, your “Sometimes, absence of evidence is evidence of absence” means “Sometimes, absence of evidence of X is evidence of absence of X” – specifically in the case where X is the Loch Ness monster. However, you would have to stipulate that evidence of X had been sought – and failure to find such evidence would indeed be “evidence to the contrary”; Caledonian is right about that. Your “providing that the thing we’re searching for is sufficiently large” doesn’t really meet that; the supposed size of the Loch Ness monster isn’t alone sufficient that we can expect to have seen it if it existed, beyond the anecdotal sightings that have been reported over the years. But people have sought evidence at some length, with complete sonar scans of the Loch, and did find evidence, on more than one occasion, of large aquatic creatures. However, the most thorough investigation, by the BBC in 2003, found nothing (according to Wikipedia). The whole question of what is evidence and what would constitute absence of evidence is rather tricky, because anything that supports a claim, no matter how weakly, can be taken as evidence for the claim. In the case of Nessie, even photographs that people have admitted to staging can be taken as weak evidence (the photo might be real and the people may have lied about staging it for unknown reasons).

David Benson:

I disagree that I misunderstood your post, and that you suggest reading biographies suggests that you misunderstood mine. My statements that you say were reading something that wasn’t there weren’t reading anything; they were part of an argument that “religion factors out”: that your examples don’t demonstrate what they purport to demonstrate, or they are addressed to a strawman. No one has claimed that there are no scientists who have been motivated by their religious upbringing; the claim from Flint, as I understand it, was that religion brings nothing that couldn’t be had without it. Effectiveness, sense of curiosity, and ethics are more than adequate secular motivations for doing good science.

Steviepinhead:

“I know you’re having some gentle fun with me”: not as much as you’re having with me. :-) As for “Why is it evil to promote the idea of atheism?”, I was just responding to your two phrases “an industrious “promoter” of “the idea of atheism”” and “the “evil atheist” hobby horse”; if the latter doesn’t refer to the former, then I don’t get what it does refer to. As for Dawkins claiming that science or evolution proves that god doesn’t exist, he’s explicitly said otherwise – we had this conversation recently. But promoting the idea of atheism, or arguing that science as incompatible with religion, doesn’t imply such a claim (or proof), certainly not for Dawkins’s
a-teapot-orbiting-Mars type of atheism.

Keith Douglas:

I agree that non-believing great scientists + heretical great scientists is a larger set than just non-believing great scientists. :-)

Cordova:

Eff off with your concern trolling.

Comment #130270

Posted by normdoering on September 15, 2006 5:59 PM (e)

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

Normdoering,

Did I say I was a biblical literalist?

It doesn’t matter if you are or you aren’t. What matters is, is if the Bible’s writers were because no matter what some people may take from that book if they are wrong about its intensions, if they don’t consider the writer’s intensions, and insert their own intensions by calling a story a metaphor that was not intended to be one, they err. It’s seems to me the Bible writers meant to be believed about things like the flood and Joshua making the sun stand still.

Did I even say I was a Christian?

It doesn’t matter if you are or you aren’t because what you say about relating to God is also said by Christians like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell. Because it is said by them you are as credible as they are when you say it.

You’re not the only one in this world claiming to have a relationship with God, so what you say falls into the Christian context of our culture.

It’s also said by some Muslims, Moonies and others and occurs in a world wide context too.

I can not credit the possibility of you talking to God without crediting the possibility that these others who make that claim do to. And neither can you. If they are saying things you have a hard time swallowing and they credit this information to their relationship with God, then to be consistent you have to question your own relationship to question theirs.

If you’re going to claim you have a relationship with God you better take a close look at those who claim a similar relationship and see if you think they’re relating to the same God.

Comment #130271

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 15, 2006 5:59 PM (e)

Have fun with (yet another) pointless and silly religious war, guys.

Oh, and hey, Sal, I have some questions for you to answer.

Whaddya say?

Comment #130273

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 15, 2006 6:01 PM (e)

Ever notice that every time we have this silly and pointless religious war, it’s always the same five or six people?

Ever wonder why?

Comment #130276

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on September 15, 2006 6:14 PM (e)

Popper’s Ghost wrote to Cordova:

Eff off

Hiya Popper!

I think you mis-spelled the word you intended to say. :-)

Anyway, I thought you’d be glad to see me support the freedom of expression of your guy, PZ. Sheesh, I guess I can’t even put in a good word for the free speech rights of cyberspace’s #1 science blogger without being told off. Man, what’s the world coming to.

PZ’s right, you guys suppress dissent around these parts on account of trying to appease the religious right and the moderate middle. You all ought to allow atheists to speak their mind around here.

Comment #130278

Posted by normdoering on September 15, 2006 6:21 PM (e)

“Where they are” wrote:

I said I believed in a higher authority;

No, you said first: “Don’t rule out the possibility that people can have a real personal relationship with God.” Then you felt insulted and said that you had a relationship with God.

I merely pointed out that people could be mistaken when you had never even included yourself in your first comment.

I have even more of a problem with this “higher authority” concept. Does your higher authority also have authority over me and do you intend to order me about according to his aurthority? That’s what Moses did.

Comment #130279

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 15, 2006 6:29 PM (e)

Yes, my higher authority is going to send you straight to hell:)

I don’t know, Norm. I just don’t know. I go between agnosticism and theism at least 3 times a day. Personally, I cannot claim to have the answers, but I do admire those who seek them.

What I DO know is that the defenders of evolution should be neutral about the issue of religion when educating the general public. Because a) the majority of them are theists, in this country, of one kind or another, and b) science does not speak about thing it can’t test, and evolution is science.

Comment #130280

Posted by normdoering on September 15, 2006 6:31 PM (e)

I could be wrong, but I am hanging in there. It is a choice, and many others have made it who are also entitled to be taught the theory of evolution in the public schools.

Yes, you could be wrong, and so could I be.

You have the right to hang in there, but when it comes to religion I do not think it wise to do so.

Yes, you’re entitled to be taught the theory of evolution in the public schools. I think you’re also entitled not to be lied to about there not being a real conflict between religion and science.

Since we’re divided on the issue here, there obviously is an argument to be had about that issue. Those who want to suppress the argument do so for political reasons. Those who want to advance it do so because they think it is a truth you cannot sweep uder the rug and con people into not seeing.

Comment #130282

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 15, 2006 6:38 PM (e)

You are right, the argument needs to go on. That is clear. And the claims have to be honest on both sides, and examined on both sides, just as you are trying to do. Everyone should have a say, so long as they engage in civil discourse, and have something substantive to add to the discussion.

Comment #130283

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 6:39 PM (e)

I think you mis-spelled the word you intended to say. :-)

You left out the most relevant words: “concern trolling”. Y’know, some jackass who gives his enemies “advice”.

PZ’s right, you guys suppress dissent around these parts

PZ doesn’t claim that dissent is suppressed here. He can and does post here, whereas few of us can post at UD, you lying sack of hypocrisy.

Comment #130284

Posted by normdoering on September 15, 2006 6:43 PM (e)

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

You are right, the argument needs to go on. That is clear. And the claims have to be honest on both sides, and examined on both sides, just as you are trying to do. Everyone should have a say, so long as they engage in civil discourse, and have something substantive to add to the discussion.

Thank you.

My job is done for now.

Comment #130287

Posted by David B. Benson on September 15, 2006 6:51 PM (e)

normdoering — Maybe you want to change that to “conflict between SOME religions and science”. First, there cannot be a conflict between Zen and science, since Zen isn’t about anything, according to Lenny. Does this mean Zen is not a religion, or anyway, a part of one? Remember I once knew a Zen Quaker…

More seriously, I just posted a list above of scientists raised in the Quaker tradition. I know something of Quaker ways and sayings. Whilst it grows out of Christianity, little attention is placed on the traditional literature.
Much more important is: “What sayest thou?”

Hence an emphasis on honesty, right (or fair) dealing, a great appreciation of the natural world. And none on traditional authority. Yet the Religious Society of Friends is ordinarily considered to be a religion. Yes?

Comment #130291

Posted by normdoering on September 15, 2006 6:59 PM (e)

David B. Benson wrote:

normdoering — Maybe you want to change that to “conflict between SOME religions and science”.

Split your hairs anyway you want, I’ve got other work to do today.

Comment #130293

Posted by Caledonian on September 15, 2006 7:05 PM (e)

Popper’s ghost: I may have been thinking of another thread, or I may have been confusing you with normdoering. My apologies if this is the case.

Popper's ghost wrote:

Caledonian seems to have been arguing that you can prove some universal negatives – for instance, there is no greatest prime. But that’s a strawman, as there are no “logical proofs built off of generally-accepted premises” that there is no Loch Ness monster

That’s a little harsh - I never suggested that one could prove that there is no Loch Ness monster anywhere in the universe through logical observations alone. (Granted, this requires a sufficiently liberal interpretation of ‘Loch Ness Monster’, but even limiting things to one particular lake in Scotland doesn’t mean that pure logic suffices without other empirical observation.)

Universal negatives cannot be disproven by local observations, only by examinations of the consequences of logic (which are universally applicable even while we can only known them through observations of our mental processes).

Comment #130295

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 15, 2006 7:07 PM (e)

Yeah, Sal, now that you’ve done your monthly drive-by, drivel on off.

Okay, getting back to rational commentors.

We have here a several-cornered problem: atheist, agnostic, or at least non-religious science promoters in one corner; religious-but-rational, tolerant, etc. science promoters in another; and wacky, ignorant, deluded, politically-motivated, or religiously-motivated, or otherwise-motivated anti-science cranks in a distant third corner. Of the latter, a reasonably noisy and largely-disingenous subset is made up of the fundy religious cranks (with a fair smattering of sincere but ignorant/misled non-cranks).

“Can’t we all just get along?”

Well, yes and no.

I see no reason that the two groups of science promoters can’t effectively ally for at least the limited purpose of opposing the anti-science cranks and dimwits (I would hope the same two “groups” could likewise combine to oppose the over-the-top fundy religious hate-mongers on other issues too, though this isn’t critical for the pro-science focus), even while some of those erstwhile allies indulge themselves in the occasional side-debate about the virtues vel non of (non-cranky) religious belief or lack thereof.

In allowing for the side-argumentation about religion and atheism, though, it would be my hope that the pro-science/pro-religion crowd would avoid the temptation to flog the (to my mind) crank-religious/anti-science “atheism=evil” hobby horse. Atheism may or may not be wrong, or unprovable, or unfulfilling, or a waste (in the sense of “spiritually-unrewarding”) of an otherwise productive life, or subject to abuse, perversion, or political hijacking, but I would hope most rational pro-science religious folk would avoid the obvious error of automatically equating “atheism” or “atheists” with Evil.

And that’s the basis for (one of) my problem(s) with (what still appears to be a tenable, though perhaps not a charitable, interpretation of) Miller’s remarks here.

Likewise,it would be my hope that the less-religious pro-science crowd would refrain–even while questioning religious belief as silly, lacking in logic, evidence, consistency, and subject to well-documented instances of abuse, perversion, hijacking, whatever–would yet manage to refrain from indicting all the religious believers or religiously-tolerant as cranks, idiots, morons, rascals, and drooling fundies.

Despite various hot-under-the-collar threads we’ve all known and loved, I think most of us, most of the time, remember that “our” atheists–however silly and deluded–aren’t actively evil and are still on “our” side and that “our” religious–however silly and deluded–aren’t actively evil and are still on “our” side.

Except, of course, when we temporarily don’t manage to remember those things.

Which is what some of “us” initially (and I would argue understandably–even if ultimately, perhaps, incorrectly) thought Miller had done here.

And which–to my mind, but I’m still willing to stand corrected–some on this thread are still doing in re PZ, Dawkins, and Dennett, since I still haven’t seen the evidence that any of these folks are either (a) claiming that science “proves” atheism (in the sense that I’m talking about, as opposed to what Flint and Caledonian or some others may be talking about) or (b) rejecting the aid of the rational religious in combatting the wackos.

So, no, it’s not “evil” to promote atheism, any more than it’s “evil” for the-person-posting-as-Katarina to believe in a “higher authority” or for someone else to affirm the goodliness of Quaker scientists. But equating atheism with evil is an evil, not to mention several different kinds of logical fallacy, one in which the “other side” engages but which the “allied” religious ought, I would hope, to avoid.

Even whilst wincing–or chuckling, counterattacking, or whatever–under the slings and arrows of PZ’s (or Dawkins’ or Dennett’s) purely-verbal barrages.

Comment #130298

Posted by Caledonian on September 15, 2006 7:15 PM (e)

Can you logically prove finite negative?

Short answer? Yes: as long as you have a local environment with some properties that can be defined logically, you can prove at least one negative existent about that environment. You may not be able to demonstrate the negatives you’re interested in, but that’s life.

More commonly, you can produce arguments which fall short of true formal proof, but are extremely convincing inductive proofs. This is what science is all about (and technically, logic as well, since we assume inductively that we will come to the same conclusions if we apply the same methods to the same data - sometimes we screw this up. Uncertainty is irreducible, unfortunately).

Comment #130309

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 7:36 PM (e)

Yet the Religious Society of Friends is ordinarily considered to be a religion. Yes?

Use the word “theism” and you can avoid these confusions/red herrings. No one is objecting here to pacificism or altruism.

Comment #130310

Posted by Caledonian on September 15, 2006 7:37 PM (e)

There seems to be some confusion here about the nature of science. It is true that there is no necessarily contradiction between the findings of science at any one time and religious tenets in general. Obviously a specific religion might have tenets that were incompatible with current scientific understanding, but this isn’t inevitable.

Science, however, is ultimately not its findings. Science is a method, and that method is how we justify its findings - they have no credibility taken by themselves alone, only through passing the gauntlet of the method (and being able to do so next time, and the next time, etc.).

The method of science is inherently incompatible with the essence of religion. Religions permit belief (and in some cases mandate it) without the standards that science requires. A sufficiently stringent ‘religion’ is actually part of science by definition, and a sufficiently accepting ‘science’ is really a religion. (See astrology, phrenology, and palm reading for examples - none of those practices are logically impossible in general, but the evidence is very, very strongly against them, so they survive not as scientific theories but beliefs held on faith.)

Science and religion are thus not compatible. They are necessarily incompatible. The key principles that define those two concepts are mutually exclusive. I could say it a hundred different ways, but the truth is constant.

Comment #130316

Posted by Caledonian on September 15, 2006 7:48 PM (e)

There seems to be some confusion here about the nature of science. It is true that there is no necessarily contradiction between the findings of science at any one time and religious tenets in general. Obviously a specific religion might have tenets that were incompatible with current scientific understanding, but this isn’t inevitable.

Science, however, is ultimately not its findings. Science is a method, and that method is how we justify its findings - they have no credibility taken by themselves alone, only through passing the gauntlet of the method (and being able to do so next time, and the next time, etc.).

The method of science is inherently incompatible with the essence of religion. Religions permit belief (and in some cases mandate it) without the standards that science requires. A sufficiently stringent ‘religion’ is actually part of science by definition, and a sufficiently accepting ‘science’ is really a religion. (See astrology, phrenology, and palm reading for examples - none of those practices are logically impossible in general, but the evidence is very, very strongly against them, so they survive not as scientific theories but beliefs held on faith.)

Science and religion are thus not compatible. They are necessarily incompatible. The key principles that define those two concepts are mutually exclusive. I could say it a hundred different ways, but the truth is constant.

Comment #130318

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 15, 2006 7:56 PM (e)

But, Caledonian, of the possible places that takes us, isn’t one of them straight to Miller-Gould’s “separate magesteria”?

Comment #130325

Posted by David B. Benson on September 15, 2006 8:12 PM (e)

Ok, Popper’s ghost! The Religious Society of Friends is oddly theistic and certainly pacifist. Perhaps the most important point is that it is one of the least authoritarian of the Christian sects. It seems clear enough to me that the practices are such as to encourage careers in science and especially medicine.

Whatever theism there is does not seem to stand in the way of the practice of good science and good medicine. None of the Friends I know find any contraction whatsoever between their ‘faith’ and the conduct of their science.

Comment #130340

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 15, 2006 8:32 PM (e)

Whatever theism there is does not seem to stand in the way of the practice of good science and good medicine. None of the Friends I know find any contraction whatsoever between their ‘faith’ and the conduct of their science.

That’s because “theism” is not the enemy of science — FUNDAMENTALISM is.

Some people can’t tell the difference. Or don’t want to. Black, white and all that.

Comment #130342

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 8:35 PM (e)

That’s a little harsh - I never suggested that one could prove that there is no Loch Ness monster anywhere in the universe through logical observations alone.

Let’s grab some context. Stevaroni wrote:

I can’t prove that the Loch Ness monster doesn’t exist, since it’s logically impossible to prove a negative. On the other hand, if I were to empty the loch one bucket at a time and find nothing, I would functionally demonstrate the same thing - there is no monster.

He’s wrong about it being logically impossible to prove a negative, or a universal negative, as there certainly are logically provable universal negatives (e.g., there is no largest prime). But he’s talking about the universal negation of a metaphysical possibility – there could be a Loch Ness monster – and that isn’t provable. But then he allows for a proof by limiting the existence of a Loch Ness monster to a finite search, making it not a universal negative after all. Normally one speaks of universal negatives like “no duck is orange”, with the assumption that it isn’t possible to prove that every duck has been accounted for.

You responded

It is perfectly possible to prove negatives. This old canard needs to be stopped. Universal negatives cannot be proven by referencing non-universal empirical observations - to do that you need universally-applicable arguments, such as logical proofs built off of generally-accepted premises.

But there are no such logical proofs that there is (universally) no Loch Ness monster, which was the case at hand, so I don’t see how it was “harsh” for me to say so (I say a lot of harsh things, but I honestly don’t think that’s one of them). Nor is there a logical proof that no canard … er, duck is orange.

When it comes to harsh, I think your

How can we achieve the goal of quality science education when most of the people on “our side” can’t manage even basic scientific reasoning?

qualifies. I’m not saying there isn’t some truth to it, but it is harsh.

Comment #130345

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 8:39 PM (e)

Ok, Popper’s ghost! The Religious Society of Friends is oddly theistic and certainly pacifist.

Sigh. The point is that one needs to separate the theistic and non-theistic aspects of theses organizations. Again, people can be motivated to do good science by raising them to value assisting mankind, without necessarily also raising them to have theistic beliefs.

Comment #130348

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 15, 2006 8:43 PM (e)

Conjoint but separable magesteria?

(Don’t mind me. Like Katarina said last night, it’s *yawn* time to call it an evening, go round up the pizza, and herd them back into their pizza-stalls, where they’ll be cozy and warm–but hardly safe from predation!–for the night.)

Comment #130349

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 15, 2006 8:46 PM (e)

Cripes!

Make that “magisteria…”

Now to rustle up some pizza!

Comment #130350

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 8:47 PM (e)

Whatever theism there is does not seem to stand in the way of the practice of good science and good medicine. None of the Friends I know find any contraction whatsoever between their ‘faith’ and the conduct of their science.

This is a strawman. Again, the issue we were discussing was Flint’s point that theism doesn’t add anything that can’t be had without it. And that Quakers don’t find any contradiction between their faith and conducting science does not mean there are no such contradictions to be found upon careful examination.

Comment #130352

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 9:10 PM (e)

More commonly, you can produce arguments which fall short of true formal proof, but are extremely convincing inductive proofs. This is what science is all about (and technically, logic as well, since we assume inductively that we will come to the same conclusions if we apply the same methods to the same data - sometimes we screw this up. Uncertainty is irreducible, unfortunately).

The turkey was well fed and his health maintained by the big bipeds, every day, day in and day out. On Wednesday, November 22, he was thoroughly convinced that this would last a good long time. (This example courtesy of Bertrand Russell.)

Science is based on inference to the best explanation, not the powerless confirmation of instances that is induction. Induction is the most naive sort of idea that was hatched by philosophers but doesn’t reflect anything that has ever actually happened in science. Physicist David Deutsch explores this in some depth in his book The Fabric of Reality.

Comment #130372

Posted by Caledonian on September 15, 2006 10:24 PM (e)

steviepinhead wrote:

But, Caledonian, of the possible places that takes us, isn’t one of them straight to Miller-Gould’s “separate magesteria”?

No, no, ten thousand times no.

The concept of ‘magisteria’ is one of domain, the idea being that 1) science and religion concern themselves with different things and 2) different methods are appropriate for the sets of things that they study, so that even though religion is incompatible with the standards of science, the two can coexist without conflict.

Short answer: it’s a lie. Religions do virtually nothing but make claims about things that are within the domain of science. When they occasionally say things which are truly untestable, they assert that their statements are meaningful; however, the consequences of things which cannot be tested are the same whether they are true or false, so they are meaningless. Religions assert that the concept of ‘supernatural’ is coherent, which it is not - it can only make sense if we establish rigid criteria for determining what is ‘natural’ and then show that there are phenomena that don’t fit within those boundaries. Science requires its practitioners to change their conceptions if they’re found not to match observations - we redefine our understanding of what the natural world includes when we find new things. Most phenomena we take for granted nowadays would have to be considered ‘supernatural’ if we kept our idea of ‘natural’ constant since science was formulated.

Religion and science both make statements about the real world. Even when religion makes meaningless statements, it presumes that those statements do in fact have meaning and are about real concepts.

The methods are different. The domains are the same, or are at least presumed to be the same.

Comment #130380

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 11:11 PM (e)

the consequences of things which cannot be tested are the same whether they are true or false, so they are meaningless

This is the fallacious verifiability criterion of meaning that was the basis of logical positivism, which was brought down when it was observed that the criterion can’t satisfy itself, and thus asserts itself to be meaningless. On top of that is the problem that negative existentials (e.g., there are no 10-leaf clovers) and universal positives (e.g., all ravens are black) aren’t verifiable.

Non-verifiable statements can be meaningful, but meaningfulness is a very weak criterion.

Comment #130381

Posted by Caledonian on September 15, 2006 11:15 PM (e)

Incorrect statements. Negative existentials and positive universals can both in theory be verified empirically - it’s just so difficult to do in practice that it’s generally not feasible.

The statements are still testable. Untestable statements cannot even potentially be verified or falsified, and that is only possible if they have no consequences whatsoever. A statement that has logical consequences can be shown to be incompatible with evidence and thus falsified.

Comment #130383

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 11:21 PM (e)

My “incorrect statements” are widely held to be true, and appear prima facie true. But if you say otherwise, hey, whatever.

Comment #130384

Posted by Caledonian on September 15, 2006 11:25 PM (e)

Um… no, no they don’t.

For example, identifying meaning and truth value as equivalent itself has logical consequences which can be shown to be true or false. It doesn’t contradict itself.

Comment #130385

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 15, 2006 11:34 PM (e)

Whatever you say. After all, you apparently consider statements to by true by virtue of your having stated them.

Comment #130386

Posted by Caledonian on September 15, 2006 11:40 PM (e)

Please provide an example of a meaningful yet nontestable statement.

Comment #130399

Posted by normdoering on September 16, 2006 12:52 AM (e)

Caledonian asked:

Please provide an example of a meaningful yet nontestable statement.

I love science fiction.

There are other life forms like us in other galaxies.

Comment #130400

Posted by normdoering on September 16, 2006 12:54 AM (e)

Please provide an example of a meaningful yet nontestable statement.

Pink Floyd is better than Kizz.

Comment #130401

Posted by normdoering on September 16, 2006 12:57 AM (e)

Please provide an example of a meaningful yet nontestable statement.

No one really expects the Spanish Inquisition no matter how many times they’ve been warned by Monty Python.

Comment #130404

Posted by Shalini, BBWAD on September 16, 2006 1:23 AM (e)

[The fact is that the real threat is against rational thinking and appeals to evidence and logic; talk about theist bashing is misdirection.]

Misdirection is one thing, playing right into the creationists’ hands are another thing altogether.

Comment #130426

Posted by Scott Hatfield on September 16, 2006 4:19 AM (e)

Caledonian: In a reply here, you wrote that “negative existentials and positive universals can both in theory be verified empirically - it’s just so difficult to do in practice that it’s generally not feasible.”

I’m intrigued. How would one go about testing the proposition ‘at this very moment, there are no 10-leaf clovers in the universe?’ It seems to me that any problem with a Heraclitean attachment is not merely difficult, but impossible to really test in any framework, naturalistic or otherwise.

Comment #130466

Posted by Caledonian on September 16, 2006 8:15 AM (e)

Sorry, normdoering, but that statement has logical consequences that permit us to differentiate between its truth and its falsehood. In theory, it could be checked merely by examining… everyone.

We don’t know that the population of the universe is infinite, or even unbounded. It’s possible that the population is in fact limited to Earth.

Hatfield: finite empirical data in an infinite universe wouldn’t cut it; not even in a finite universe with significant unknowns. But as long as the truth of the statement makes a difference from the falsehood of the statement, it can in theory be shown to be true or false. Some practical problems are so immense that their solution isn’t humanely possible in any imaginable timeframe, but they’re still possible.

If the consequences of truth and consequences of falsehood are identical, those possibilities are really identical, and that means that asserting one over the other carries no implications whatsoever.

Comment #130476

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 16, 2006 8:44 AM (e)

the consequences of things which cannot be tested are the same whether they are true or false, so they are meaningless

I know I am gonna take the heat for this here, but I have to say it, someone has to. Religion is about more than just providing good reasons why people should believe. So much more. It has helped so many people who were otherwise unreachable, especially drug addicts. I know of at least one case where I am certain nothing would have reached the person other than someone who believes that what is inside of her is a soul that is special, loved, and can still be forgiven. I don’t know if humanism can reach that deep to save people, but I have seen it with religion. So it is nto meaningless, it is not useless, and it is not without value. It gave me my sister back from an abyss to which I thought she was lost forever.

I know you all deride me for being too personal, but religion is just that way, it is felt deeply, personally. It doesn’t have to be a social organization that disrupts the enlightenment of society, but unfortunately it has been guilty of that too. However, it’s not meaningless.

Comment #130485

Posted by Christian on September 16, 2006 9:20 AM (e)

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

I know I am gonna take the heat for this here, but I have to say it, someone has to. Religion is about more than just providing good reasons why people should believe. So much more. It has helped so many people who were otherwise unreachable, especially drug addicts. I know of at least one case where I am certain nothing would have reached the person other than someone who believes that what is inside of her is a soul that is special, loved, and can still be forgiven. I don’t know if humanism can reach that deep to save people, but I have seen it with religion. So it is nto meaningless, it is not useless, and it is not without value. It gave me my sister back from an abyss to which I thought she was lost forever.

Well, of course it is not useless or without value but the problem is that there is not “religion” but different religions that contradict each other. And the fact that you can use many of these different religions to achieve the same goal only proves that religion is a powerful psychological tool no matter whether the claims a particular religion makes are true or not. The only thing that matters is that they are believed to be true and not that they are true.

Comment #130545

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 16, 2006 11:44 AM (e)

I agree. It’s psychological power is immense, and can be used for both good and evil. It’s presence in human life has been a constant in all of our history. I think we should acknowledge its value though, as we explore ways in which it is, and is not, compatible with the practice and philosophy of science. Not just as a matter of political correctness, but as a matter of truth.

Comment #130559

Posted by stevaroni on September 16, 2006 12:35 PM (e)

Christian wrote, quite reasonably…

Religion is about more … It has helped so many people … it is not useless, and it is not without value.

Of course religion is usually a good thing.

For millennia faith has provided billions with solace in times of anguish, inspiration in times of adversity, and a moral polestar when the going got gray.

Usually, this has been a force for good.

Although people have certainly done all manner of bad things in the name of God, the central message of most faiths is all about treating people like people.

Jesus, whatever you may think of his divinity, was an inspired ethical leader, who taught peace and love in a time of unimaginable brutality.

Likewise Buddha, and even to a large extent, Muhammad.

The problem with religion is that there is a large subset of some churches which believe their faith compels them to pretend that a simple, easy to confirm law of nature does not exist.

Were that the end of it, it would still be OK. One thing that freedom gives you is the freedom to be stupid.

But that’s not the end of it.

They feel that it’s their mission to compel everybody of the same thing, using whatever means possible.

When it leaves the circle of private faith and starts to play in the arena of public policy, using compulsion, coercion, and frankly, fraud to advance it’s agenda, well, it’s this part of religion, the “anything for God” part, that I object to.

Strenuously.

Comment #130564

Posted by Scott Hatfield on September 16, 2006 1:01 PM (e)

Caledonian: Thanks for your reply, it was helpful. OK, it seems to me that we can identify certain categories of claims and how they would be evaluated according to your framework:

1) Claims which are falsifiable on the basis of direct contradiction (the moon is made of green cheese)

2) Claims which are falsifiable on the basis of their consequences (special creation)

3) Claims which are non-falsifiable, because they can not be directly contradicted nor can their consequences be examined

I further assume that, from your point of view, claims of type #3 are also meaningless and can be treated as if they have been falsified? If I misread you, or if you disagree with the categories in some way, please let me know.

Given that, let me ask you this: with respect to the alleged existence of a 10-leaf clover, what are the consequences of this statement being true versus being false?

It seems to me that the consequences of either are trivial, and that your criteria of meaning has more weight when we’re being asked to evaluate some claim that has sweeping implications, such as special creation

I’m wondering, therefore, if meaning implies a certain degree of predictive or explanatory power? Comments?…Scott

Comment #130587

Posted by normdoering on September 16, 2006 2:00 PM (e)

Christian wrote:

… problem is that there is not “religion” but different religions that contradict each other.

Indeed, and that needs a little more depth of exploration before you rattle off the common answers you get on TV.

Take a look at these programs:

Rational recovery (no use of religion at all):
http://www.rational.org/

Scientology also brags about its drug recovery program:
http://www.drugs-information.net/

And the fact that you can use many of these different religions to achieve the same goal only proves that religion is a powerful psychological tool no matter whether the claims a particular religion makes are true or not. The only thing that matters is that they are believed to be true and not that they are true.

If Rational recovery has the same success rate as the others then it’s not religion that is a powerful tool for drug recovery, but rather that drug recovery is a powerful tool for religious recruitment and conversion.

Comment #130613

Posted by Christian on September 16, 2006 4:07 PM (e)

@normdoering

OK, maybe my first post wasn’t very clear but actually I agree with you and I’m also aware that there are non-religious drug recovery programs. However, that was not quite the point I was driving at.

My point was that you can use different religions - religions that contradict each other - to achieve the same goal i.e. getting people off drugs (whether they are better off afterwards is a different matter).
But as these religions disagree with each other on crucial points, they cannot all be true at the same time, so this only proves that a false religion can have the same effect as The One True ReligionTM (whichever that may be, if any at all).
So in other words it only proves that religions can have a lot of power over people’s minds but not that their doctrines make any sense at all.
And people usually don’t believe a religion because it is useful in some way or an other but because they think it is true.

Comment #130616

Posted by normdoering on September 16, 2006 4:35 PM (e)

Christian,

If you agree with this: “…then it’s not religion that is a powerful tool for drug recovery, but rather that drug recovery is a powerful tool for religious recruitment and conversion.”

Then why are you saying this: “… it only proves that religions can have a lot of power over people’s minds …”

I’m not saying that religion isn’t a powerful psychological weapon, but only that drug recovery doesn’t prove it. How could it if there are non-religious methods to get off drugs? Maybe the religious methods burry non-religious tools in their methodology.

All drug recovery programs require you to:

1) admit you have a problem
2) focus your insight on that problem
3) watch your behavior
4) give you insights from others who have quit

That alone may be the powerful force at work.

Comment #130618

Posted by John Farrell on September 16, 2006 4:50 PM (e)

Science and religion are thus not compatible. They are necessarily incompatible. The key principles that define those two concepts are mutually exclusive. I could say it a hundred different ways, but the truth is constant.

No. At least, not in terms of Christianity. Xty is different as a matter of historical/philosophical record from other religions in its attitude to the natural world. And Science inherited its presuppositions about the natural world directly from Christianity. Christianity is a worldview. Science (quite correct) is a methodology. The methodology indeed may contradict aspects of the faith that some Christians (fundies) are dumb enough to insist are demonstrable. See Stanley Jaki’s book The Bible and Science for the many examples of Christians down through the ages trying to explain Genesis (as one example) in terms of fact. St. Augustine had harsh words for this kind of concordism. And yet it has been a temptation over and over again.

In the larger picture of other religions, I would say Caledonian is correct. Let’s face it, you’re not going to see science as a methodology growing inside a culture whose religion basically asserts that the world is a miasma generated by the battle between two or more pissed off dieties.

Comment #130619

Posted by normdoering on September 16, 2006 4:51 PM (e)

stevaroni wrote:

Of course religion is usually a good thing.

How do you know that?

I think it’s an assumption that needs to be questioned – and it has been questioned quite often. Here’s a book by Ludwig Feuerbach:
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/feuerbach/works/essence/index.htm

First it must be pointed out that just endorsing good things doesn’t create good things and that if you get your causes for those good things wrong then you may actually hamper their creation.

Comment #130626

Posted by normdoering on September 16, 2006 5:09 PM (e)

John Farrell wrote:

Christianity… is different as a matter of historical/philosophical record from other religions in its attitude to the natural world. And Science inherited its presuppositions about the natural world directly from Christianity.

Smells like more Christian propaganda to me.

China and India before Christ were not scientific pikers and their attitudes are not so easily estimated or assumed to be anti-scientific.

The Greeks developed a lot of the basics of scientific and mathematic thought long before they encountered Christianity. Christianity inherited that from pagans.

Indians or Muslims invented the zero, but we got that from the Muslims no matter where it came from.

Science was developed in pieces in all cultures and if Christianity never existed I think science would have continued to develop.

Comment #130633

Posted by Caledonian on September 16, 2006 6:05 PM (e)

Xty is different as a matter of historical/philosophical record from other religions in its attitude to the natural world.

No, it isn’t. Ask a Christian about the concept of Transubstantion, or whether God is subject to physical law, just for fun.

Comment #130642

Posted by David B. Benson on September 16, 2006 6:51 PM (e)

Ok, now maybe we are all ready to properly defend science. Science established contingent universals. That is, ‘laws’ which can, in principle, be falsified by evidence. (Yes, yes, I know I am taking the Popperian view only. It is to ask a question coming up.)

But to practice science requires that scientists behave ethically (no lying or cheating, not even fudging data).

And now to the question raised in a short address by a nearby philosophy professor who teaches the bioethics class required of all pre-meds and pre-nurses:

From whence comes ethics? If we establish that ethical principles are deontic, prescriptive, then these are not contingent truths. So these do not come from the practice of science itself. Besides, these have to pre-exist in order for science to be conducted. (He makes a very good case for ethical principles being deontic. I am sure I have not done him full justice.)

Well, one possibility is that the scientist just follows the rules laid down by some organization. Indeed, many engineers do not think so much about ethics, just following the guidelines of their professional organization. But this begs the question. For the writers of the ‘code of ethics’, from whence came these ethical laws? (End of his address)

Worse, being deontic, prescriptive in terms of the necessity to do certain things (be honest) and lack of permission do to others (certain experiments of mammals), these are authoritarian. We have seen, in this thread, that some authoritarians (FUNDIES) oppose the scientific method. So how to distinguish? And still, from whence cometh our ethical principles?

Comment #130656

Posted by normdoering on September 16, 2006 7:33 PM (e)

David B. Benson asked:

From whence comes ethics?

From a recognized need for ethics.

The science around us is not the product of any single man or even a single culture. It is built up slowly over generations and handed down to us. We not only get information from this cultural heritage we also inherit its ethics which have culturally evolved over thousands of years.

People do cheat and lie in science and they are punished for it. Remember that Korean guy, the disgraced Hwang Woo-suk who had to resign from Seoul National University for his cloning/stem cell fraud?

It’s hard to cheat and lie in science and not get caught.

And let me head you off at the pass if you want to connect ethics to religion.

A scientists ethics only have to be good for science, Galileo is a scientific hero in spite of being a proud liar – he lied about inventing the telescope to get money and he lied to the inquisition when he put his hand on a Bible and recanted his theory.

Several well known scientists were far worse than Bill Clinton when it came to adultery – it doesn’t get them impeached or blacken their scientific accomplishments.

Scientists do not need Christian ethics, they only need to respect science and follow the example of those scientists who have gone before.

Comment #130663

Posted by David B. Benson on September 16, 2006 7:47 PM (e)

normdoering — Of course a ‘recognized’ need. I think his point was that we cannot use the scientific method to establish ethical principles. Worse, these are deontic. How do we recognize a ‘true’ deontic statement? Can’t use the scientific method.

Worse yet, these are authoritative. By whose authority?

Still, you have made a fine start. I don’t have an answer that satisfies even me. I am certainly under the impression this remains an outstanding problem in philosophy. Neither the philosophers not I will be satisfied with the authoritarian answer: MY RELIGION!

Still asking, as I think everyone who supports the practice of science needs some sort of temporary, somewhat unsatisfactory answer. Why? Well, one reason is to point out that IDiots are behaving unethically…

Comment #130681

Posted by normdoering on September 16, 2006 8:19 PM (e)

David B. Benson asked:

Worse yet, these are authoritative. By whose authority?

By the authority of over a thousand years of resolved conflicts. By the authority of recorded experience, measured and debated in each culture that uses science.

Like I said, “…we also inherit its ethics that have culturally evolved over thousands of years.”

Not all cultures have the same scientific ethics once you get past the most necessary and obvious ones. Reason alone is authority enough to say you shouldn’t claim false results for your experiments. That obviously gets people to believe a lie about how nature works. So you can’t say all ethics can’t be arrived at rationally.

But there are some situations where experience informs our reason. In Galileo’s time the church didn’t want their interpretation of the Bible contradicted. Galileo changed our ethical rules – we can contradict the local religion now.

And there are some areas where you need a certain set of cultural values. The Nazi’s did experiments on concentration camp prisoners while we in the US won’t easily experiment on death row inmates even though some of our scientists secretly did experiments on some black men in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

Pushing on known ethical boundaries is how ethics evolve, for good or ill. Law makers are the authority for those ethics. Those laws start in a history to distant to see – it’s a kind of ethical abiogenesis from a time older than Christianity or Judaism.

Comment #130694

Posted by David B. Benson on September 16, 2006 8:29 PM (e)

Maybe some ethical principles can be found via reason alone, but I fear your example fails to qualify. Under the tenants of utility theory, if lying to people brings me sufficient utility ($$$) then I ought to do it.

I do like the thought of using ideas of cultural evolution (of memes) from some ethical amemegenesis…

Comment #130719

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 16, 2006 8:40 PM (e)

“amemegenesis” - intersesting. Did you just make that up, or is that really a word?

Comment #130722

Posted by normdoering on September 16, 2006 8:43 PM (e)

David B. Benson wrote:

Maybe some ethical principles can be found via reason alone, but I fear your example fails to qualify. Under the tenants of utility theory, if lying to people brings me sufficient utility ($$$) then I ought to do it.

That gets down to values and what qualifies as true utility. You may get your money by lying, but you’ll live in a world that has become a little more blind to how nature works because you were not honest. Which do you want more, the money or a world with better science and technology?

In general, you should learn not to automatically trust people who are too desperate for money because such selfish utility equations rationally do exist. Money only has limited utility and when you get as much as Bill Gates you have to figure out how to give it away.

I do like the thought of using ideas of cultural evolution (of memes) from some ethical amemegenesis…

It’s probably older than humanity. You can see some ethics and morality in chimp societies.

Comment #130752

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 16, 2006 9:47 PM (e)

Like I’ve said before, science is a method. It ain’t a philosophy, it ain’t a worldview, it ain’t a social/ethical/political system. And those who, like Norm, attempt to turn it into one, are abusing and mis-using science just as surely as the creationuts are.

Comment #130779

Posted by normdoering on September 16, 2006 10:53 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

And those who, like Norm, attempt to turn it into one, are abusing and mis-using science

So, I’m trying to turn science into a social/ethical/political system?

Did you arrive at that conclusion using the same method you used to arrived at the conclusion that Christians, except for fundies, mostly don’t think the Bible is any more true than they do Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey? Or the method you used to determine that the Dalai Lama didn’t really believe in reincarnation?

When evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers provided a Darwinian basis for understanding complex human activities and relationships was he also trying to turn science into a social/ethical/political system?

http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2006/09/noam_chomsky_robert_trivers.php

Comment #130840

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 17, 2006 5:09 AM (e)

Under the tenants of utility theory, if lying to people brings me sufficient utility ($$$) then I ought to do it.

The longer you keep lying, the more likely people are going to find out you are lying, and expose you, so it’s a high-risk method for gaining wealth. At best a short-term method. For this same reason, lying to the public about the anti-religious implications of science, (if you believe science is anti-religious but argue the opposite) is also a short-term solution.

I don’t think we need to get into a lengthy dissertation about the general value of religion to humanity. Obviously ethics can be independent of religion. Ethical behavior makes sense in a social group. As interesting as it is, it is beyond the scope of the discussion we’re supposed to be having in this thread.

Whether religion does more good than evil, or more evil than good, whether we can undertake the enormous task of demonstrating which way the balance leans, it is here to stay. Further, I don’t think there is anyone here who would rather withhold science instruction from religious students than acknowledge that religion and science can co-exist without conflict. After they learn the methods and the findings, they can be free to re-think their religion, or not. As far as I know, there is no scientific theory that explicitly points out there is no god, or that there is no tooth fairy, or that there is no Santa Claus. So science is atheistic, in the simplest sense of the word. Which is to say, it doesn’t have any definite findings about whether or not there is something beyond the humanly observable.

Ultimately, we need to be able to teach science without religious or anti-religious implications.

If you disagree with this, we have a long way to go before reaching a unity.

Comment #130863

Posted by Caledonian on September 17, 2006 7:05 AM (e)

Like I’ve said before, science is a method. It ain’t a philosophy, it ain’t a worldview, it ain’t a social/ethical/political system. And those who, like Norm, attempt to turn it into one, are abusing and mis-using science just as surely as the creationuts are.

What does constitue a philosophy, worldview, or social/ethical/political system in your view? If the idea that there is no authority on matters of fact but the facts themselves isn’t a philosophy, what is?

Comment #130865

Posted by Caledonian on September 17, 2006 7:13 AM (e)

Ultimately, we need to be able to teach science without religious or anti-religious implications.

That’s a contradiction in terms, and as such isn’t even possible in theory. Not that I expect that fact to dissuade you.

Comment #130866

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 17, 2006 7:29 AM (e)

Sorry, normdoering, but that statement has logical consequences that permit us to differentiate between its truth and its falsehood. In theory, it could be checked merely by examining… everyone.

It is not possible, in theory or in any other way, to confirm that we know what comprises “everyone”.

We don’t know that the population of the universe is infinite, or even unbounded. It’s possible that the population is in fact limited to Earth.

This gets the burden completely backwards. It’s possible, but not confirmable. “We’ve tested everyone … as long as there isn’t anyone other than those whom we’ve tested” – a lovely circularity. And even if we could prove that we had identified the entire population, we can’t examine them all simultaneously – not even in theory. After somehow identifying every single logically possible location in the universe of a clover or raven, we then search them all and determine that there are no 10-leaf clovers or non-black ravens – but we can’t establish that, before completing our examination, some 11-leaf clover didn’t lose a leaf and no 10-leaf clover sprouted and no albino raven was born and no raven got caught in a paintball volley.

Comment #130868

Posted by Roger Rabbitt on September 17, 2006 7:38 AM (e)

I’m having a hard time understanding why anyone cares how Miller reconciles his faith with science.

Because some have a philosophical precommitment to the position that they can’t be reconciled. For those so motivated, Miller’s efforts in this regard are counter-productive. Those efforts confuse symptom with underlying cause, from their perspective.

Comment #130872

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 17, 2006 7:57 AM (e)

But to practice science requires that scientists behave ethically (no lying or cheating, not even fudging data).

So someone like Jonathan Wells, whose life’s work is to destroy science, can do so by lying, cheating, and fudging data? Hardly. Science is a process that infers from evidence causal models that provide accurate predictions. If the model is based on a lie about what the evidence implies, it won’t make accurate predictions. Liars, cheaters, and fudgers are eventually found out because they can’t fudge the reality against which all scientific claims are tested.

Comment #130875

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 17, 2006 8:14 AM (e)

with respect to the alleged existence of a 10-leaf clover, what are the consequences of this statement being true versus being false?

A logical consequence of there being no 10-leaf clovers is that we will never encounter one. But the former is not a logical consequence of the latter. Thus, the claim that, because these statements have logical consequences, they are testable, rests upon a fallacy of affirmation of the consequent.

Comment #130878

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 17, 2006 8:22 AM (e)

And Science inherited its presuppositions about the natural world directly from Christianity.

What rot. Science didn’t get anything from Christianity. And while various scientists may have various presuppositions about the natural world, none of them are intrinsic to science.

Comment #130879

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 17, 2006 8:31 AM (e)

Thus, the claim that, because these statements have logical consequences, they are testable, rests upon a fallacy of affirmation of the consequent.

For anyone not familiar with this:

P->Q, P => Q is valid reasoning (modus ponens)
Q->P, P => Q is invalid reasoning (affirmation of the consequent)

So confusing the direction of an implication is equivalent to the fallacy of affirmation of the consequent. This error is committed very frequently, and most people seem to have no grasp that it even matters which way the implication goes.

Comment #130881

Posted by Caledonian on September 17, 2006 8:46 AM (e)

“We’ve tested everyone … as long as there isn’t anyone other than those whom we’ve tested” – a lovely circularity.

Uncertainty about the things we intend to check does not present a logical obstacle. Your position is absurb, as demonstrated:

“We’ve looked throughout the room and are certain there’s no black cat within it - unless there’s someplace we haven’t looked” - another lovely circularity. There could always be some hideaway, some gap in the planks, some higher-dimensional fold that could conceal the kitty. Even if we could define the dimensions of the room, we couldn’t examine all of it simultaneously - not even in theory. Therefore, we can never know what’s in the room, or conclude that it doesn’t contain a cat.

What rubbish!

Comment #130884

Posted by Caledonian on September 17, 2006 8:53 AM (e)

It’s not a matter of “If P, then Q.” It’s a matter of “If P, then Q; if Q, then P.”

If there are no instances of a thing to be found anywhere, then that thing does not exist. If a thing does not exist, then there are no instances of that thing to be found anywhere.

It’s not possible to prove a universal negative with less than universal data. If that universal data is possessed, though, it’s possible.

You’re not a professional philosopher by any chance, are you, Popper’s Ghost? The only people I’ve known to be so bad at it were professionals.

Comment #130890

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 17, 2006 9:11 AM (e)

That’s a contradiction in terms, and as such isn’t even possible in theory.

Which term is contradicted?

Comment #130937

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 17, 2006 12:47 PM (e)

Geez where is everyone? Am I the only person here not interested in watching football?

Comment #130968

Posted by Scott Hatfield on September 17, 2006 3:36 PM (e)

OK, Popper’s Ghost, let me make sure I understand your critique of Caledonian’s position:

In essence, you claim the argument “if something doesn’t exist, then you can’t find it” is valid; whereas, “if you can’t find something, then it doesn’t exist” is affirming the consequent, and invalid.

Is that a fair summation of your views, and is that in fact what Caledonian is saying, in your opinion?

I look forward to your reply…Scott

Comment #130977

Posted by David B. Benson on September 17, 2006 4:19 PM (e)

“amemegenisis”: I made it up. But than “abiogenisis” is also a made-up word, just made-up sometime ago.

In deductive logic, “if you can’t find X, then X does not exist” is not valid reasoning unless you can also fairly state that you have looked everywhere that an X might be.

However, in Bayesian reasoning, the more you look without finding a X, the less likely that X exists. After looking long enough most simplify the language to “X does not exist”, leaving off qualification of “with probability of 0.9999…”

Comment #131026

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 17, 2006 7:57 PM (e)

It’s not a matter of “If P, then Q.” It’s a matter of “If P, then Q; if Q, then P.”

The whole point of the fallacy of affirmation of the consequent is that it mistakes “Q if P” for “Q iff P”. But while “the logical consequences of P> if P” is necessarily true, “P if the logical consequences of P” is not.

If there are no instances of a thing to be found anywhere, then that thing does not exist.

That’s true, but failing to find an instance of something does not mean that there isn’t one. Sheesh. And there is no way to verify that every instance has been found. But I already said that, and you ignored it.

It’s not possible to prove a universal negative with less than universal data. If that universal data is possessed, though, it’s possible.

There’s no such thing as “univeral data” outside of your fevered imagination.

You’re not a professional philosopher by any chance, are you, Popper’s Ghost? The only people I’ve known to be so bad at it were professionals.

a) No, I’m not a professional philosopher. b) Look in the mirror.

Comment #131040

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 17, 2006 8:55 PM (e)

In essence, you claim the argument “if something doesn’t exist, then you can’t find it” is valid; whereas, “if you can’t find something, then it doesn’t exist” is affirming the consequent, and invalid.

Yes.

Is that a fair summation of your views, and is that in fact what Caledonian is saying, in your opinion?

IMO, Caledonian is committed to logical positivism, and will say whatever he needs in order to try to justify it, including that I must be wrong because I’m a professional philosopher (which I’m not) and all professional philosophers are dunces (something he frequently asserts). He is now asserting, groundlessly, that it’s theoretically possible to establish that every possible instance has been examined – to have “universal data” – and if the thing doesn’t exist within the universal data then it doesn’t exist. But the claim that one can have “universal data” is just another way of naysaying the impossibility of verifying an existential – the argument is circular. This access to “universal data” is only possible when the “universe” is some known finite set; for instance, to determine whether my car has a flat tire, I can examine all of its tires; the “universe” is comprised of the tires on my car. But in the case of positive existentials and negative universals, the universe isn’t some known finite set. And, as I noted earlier, even in case of my car tires, I can never be certain that none of them is flat because one might have gone flat since I started checking – and this fellow named Einstein showed that I can’t check them all simultaneously (and another fellow name Szilard showed that’s why Maxwell’s demon – who would be able to defy the 2nd law of thermodynamics – isn’t possible).

It’s ironic that Caledonian, who professes immense disdain for philosophy as a useless exercise, is here promoting a theory of meaning. That’s a particularly useless exercise, because that theory of meaning was shown decades ago to be hopelessly flawed. The claim that a statement is meaningful if and only if it is verifiable is not itself verifiable. Yes, it has logical consequences, but it isn’t a logical consequence of its logical consequences ([Q if P] doesn’t imply [P if Q]) and thus can’t be verified by verifying them – even in theory; affirmation of the consequent is a logical fallacy.

That existential positives and universal negatives cannot be verified in theory of course entails that they can’t be verified in practice. And the latter is what led Karl Popper to promote falsifiability, not verifiability, as the basis of science.

Comment #131043

Posted by Caledonian on September 17, 2006 9:15 PM (e)

Popper's Ghost wrote:

The whole point of the fallacy of affirmation of the consequent is that it mistakes “Q if P” for “Q iff P”. But while “the logical consequences of P> if P” is necessarily true, “P if the logical consequences of P” is not.

Your point is correct, but your argument is wrong. You seem to be misunderstanding the nature of the point I’m making. If a thing is shown to be nonexistent everywhere, we can conclude that it doesn’t exist anywhere. Our inability to find a thing locally as opposed to universally most certainly doesn’t imply that thing’s nonexistence, a point I have never disputed.

That’s true, but failing to find an instance of something does not mean that there isn’t one.

It does if you look everywhere.

And there is no way to verify that every instance has been found.

That is a practical and pragmatic objection. It simply doesn’t apply to logic, in which all examples of a thing are frequently described and manipulated symbolically.

There’s no such thing as “univeral data” outside of your fevered imagination.

Except, of course, in the universe itself. The practical difficulties of performing universal searches do not restrict our ability to discuss such possibilities logically.

I’m so sorry that you feel that way. Perhaps you should seek professional employment in the field.

Comment #131046

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 17, 2006 9:19 PM (e)

That existential positives and universal negatives cannot be verified in theory of course entails that they can’t be verified in practice.

Oy, scratch that – I’m obviously not a professional philosopher. A positive existential can be verified by an instance, and a universal negative can be falsified by an instance. The relevance to Popper is that scientific theories pertain to universals, not existentials, and thus can be falsified by contrary instances, but cannot be verified by any number of instances.

Comment #131047

Posted by normdoering on September 17, 2006 9:21 PM (e)

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

Ultimately, we need to be able to teach science without religious or anti-religious implications.

That’s impossible. Evolution does have religious implications and it’s up to the religious to understand and deal with them when such apparent contradictions arise. Find whatever help you want from Miller or Collins, but if you come to us asking about them don’t expect us to agree.

The theory, and even less so the fact, of evolution doesn’t rule out all ways of being religious or all religious ideas but it does force some believers to reconsider their Bibles. And just because an idea isn’t directly proven wrong by current science is not evidence it is true. On the whole modern science has several times weakened the credibility of the Bible.

And there’s something else, when you say teach you only mean in school, right?

You do believe in the freedom of people like Sam Harris to write his books and articles, right? It is a form of teaching people can reject and ignore or take into account.

By the way – Harris has got a new article up on truthdig:
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20060916_sam_harris_rottweiler_barks/

Comment #131049

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 17, 2006 9:23 PM (e)

You seem to be misunderstanding the nature of the point I’m making. If a thing is shown to be nonexistent everywhere, we can conclude that it doesn’t exist anywhere.

I could only seem to be misunderstanding it to someone with his eyes closed, as I have explicitly addressed it several times.

It does if you look everywhere.

I’ve already pointed out that it isn’t possible to verify that you have looked everywhere.

It’s really pointless to discuss this with you when you insist on being so thick.

Comment #131054

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 17, 2006 9:32 PM (e)

C: “We can theoretically verify that there are no 10-leaf clovers if we look everywhere and don’t find any.”

P: “How do we theoretically verify that we have looked everywhere?”

C: “We look everywhere.”

P: “And how do we theoretically verify that we have looked everywhere?”

C: “You seem to be misunderstanding my point. We look everywhere.”

P: “And how do we theoretically verify that we have looked everywhere?”

C: “It’s logically possible to look everywhere.”

P: “So you claim, but how can we verify that we have?”

C: “You must be a professional philosopher, you’re so bad at this.”

P: “Goodnight and good luck, bozo.”

Comment #131056

Posted by normdoering on September 17, 2006 9:39 PM (e)

Caledonian wrote:

…If a thing is shown to be nonexistent everywhere, we can conclude that it doesn’t exist anywhere.

The problem with your point is that you want to assume god-like powers of investigation. We can’t do what you ask. Nor can we know how a creature that could do as you ask would formulate an epistemology and system of logic.

We human beings are stuck with only about three pounds of grey matter in our skulls and we have to take that limitation into account. That’s why you get Bayesian reasoning instead of those absolutes you want.

Comment #131059

Posted by Caledonian on September 17, 2006 9:45 PM (e)

The problem with your point is that you want to assume god-like powers of investigation. We can’t do what you ask.

Since the point was being made about logical arguments, not actual investigation, it doesn’t matter that we can’t do what I spoke about. I asked nothing.

More importantly, Popper has been arguing against the wrong point. Whether we possess the capability to verify something is irrelevant; if the negation of a condition has the same implications as the assertion of the condition, then the condition has no implications. It follows that the condition is meaningless.

Even ignoring the fact that logic is unconcerned with our limited capacities, even a being with an arbitrarily great skill in detection and investigation cannot detect implications that don’t exist!

Comment #131060

Posted by normdoering on September 17, 2006 9:53 PM (e)

Caledonian wrote:

Since the point was being made about logical arguments, not actual investigation, it doesn’t matter that we can’t do what I spoke about.

Then your point is nothing but a tautology.

Comment #131080

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 17, 2006 10:56 PM (e)

Normdoering,

Your response is right on target. I wish religious leaders would do more. I really hate to interject into your philosophical conversation here, or nag you, nor am I anywhere near as smart as you guys (though it seems to me Popper’s Ghost is making the most sense). I am not looking for what you think though, I don’t care if you ever become religious, or acknowledge anything positive about religion.

I want people to see PT as religiously neutral, and most of the time I feel compelled to comment here it is toward that goal. Oh well, fail again.

Comment #131082

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 17, 2006 11:10 PM (e)

BTW, Sam Harris sounds just like normdoering, Popper’s ghost and caledonian. Coincidence?

Comment #131148

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 18, 2006 5:19 AM (e)

Popper has been arguing against the wrong point.

No, I’ve been arguing against someone who is acting in bad faith, is incapable of reading, and is astoundingly dense.

Whether we possess the capability to verify something is irrelevant

Nor I have referred to any pragmatic limitation we have; sheesh. I have repeatedly made the point that it isn’t logically possible to verify a negative existential or universal positive, because there is no way in theory to verify that every logically possible instance has been checked. When we talk about something being logically possible, we mean that all pragmatic limitations are ignored, not that the conditions are ignored. For instance, it isn’t logically possible to construct a Turing Machine that can determine, for every possible Turing Machine, whether it halts, despite there being a fact of the matter as to whether each Turing Machine halts. This isn’t a pragmatic limitation due to our limited capability for constructing Turing Machines, its a logical limitation due to the nature of Turing Machines. Similarly, there are logical limitations on searches for confirming or disconfirming instances.

if the negation of a condition has the same implications as the assertion of the condition, then the condition has no implications. It follows that the condition is meaningless.

First, this has nothing to do with verifiability, which based on observation statements. Second, it’s a rather gibberish way of putting things. If a condition is meaningless, then we can’t discern its implications, and so we certainly can’t discern whether its implications are the same as those of some other condition. All you need to say is that a statement that has no discernible implications is meaningless – I wouldn’t argue with that. But that’s a totally different criterion than verifiability. And there’s no need to mess with verifiability, which is an empirical matter, if we can settle whether a statement is meaningful simply by examining its discernible implications.

Even ignoring the fact that logic is unconcerned with our limited capacities, even a being with an arbitrarily great skill in detection and investigation cannot detect implications that don’t exist!

There seems to be another fallacy of affirmation of the consequent lurking here. Of course a meaningless statement, one with no discernible implications, isn’t verifiable, but it doesn’t follow that a statement that isn’t verifiable is meaningless or has no discernible implications.

Comment #131150

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 18, 2006 5:25 AM (e)

BTW, Sam Harris sounds just like normdoering, Popper’s ghost and caledonian.

Everyone sounds just like everyone else to someone sufficiently lacking in powers of discernment.

Coincidence?

14, 5, 63, and -1 are all integers. Coincidence?

Comment #131155

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 18, 2006 5:50 AM (e)

I want people to see PT as religiously neutral, and most of the time I feel compelled to comment here it is toward that goal. Oh well, fail again.

It’s ironic that you complain about people wishing you would shut up when the only way you could achieve your goal is by having people – certain people in particular – stop saying certain things. And how you could imagine that any comment you could make could further that goal is beyond me, especially when a) some contributors to PT, people with moderation powers as well as considerably more respect and rhetorical skill than you have, have made similar pleas but have failed miserably, and b) many of your statements ironically invite responses opposed to various religious claims. If you want some blog to be seen as religiously neutral, then start your own and moderate it mercilessly; it can only be achieved by force

Comment #131168

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 18, 2006 6:26 AM (e)

Then your point is nothing but a tautology.

“I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

Not only isn’t his claim trivially necessarily true, it isn’t true at all.

Consider that even someone with “god-like powers of observation” cannot observe two space-separated events simultaneously because, as Einstein showed, simultaneity is meaningless for such events. It’s not as though two events are “really” happening “at the same time” but we just can’t look fast enough due to our human limitations.

Consider also that even someone with “god-like powers of observation” cannot prove that she has looked everywhere for a 10-leaf clover. It wouldn’t do for her to simply assert that she can do that by definition – that that’s what “god-like” means in this case. Then it would be a tautology. What if we asked her to verify that there are no 10-winged angels; is she also defined so as to be able to do that? If “god-like” means “not limited to the physical world and its laws” then this is a rather useless sort of verifiability, where “there are no 10-winged angels” is as verifiable as “there are no 10-leaf clovers”, and “all demons are red” is as verifiable as “all ravens are black”.

Comment #131175

Posted by Caledonian on September 18, 2006 6:56 AM (e)

Goodness gracious, all of my symbolic logic textbooks include a symbol that pertains to all of something! They foolishly assume that they can discuss every instance of a thing, when Popper has elegantly demonstrated that Einstein (Einstein!) showed that to be impossible. I’d better write to the publishers and have that changed.

Oops, did I say all of my symbolic logic textbooks said that? I meant the textbooks which were available to me and could be detected.

Comment #131188

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 18, 2006 8:01 AM (e)

They foolishly assume that they can discuss every instance of a thing, when Popper has elegantly demonstrated that Einstein (Einstein!) showed that to be impossible.

The “for all” symbolrefers to every instance. This has nothing to do with whether every instance can be observed. You really are quite an idiot.

Comment #131200

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 18, 2006 8:44 AM (e)

Popper’s ghost-

Yeah, thanks for the friendly advice. Such nice people as you are hard to find.

Comment #131243

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 18, 2006 11:52 AM (e)

This has nothing to do with whether every instance can be observed.

I think this was PG’s point all along (though I admit I didn’t get it until after the sock-puppet type recreation of the dialogue between P and C).

It’s impossible to know that the observable Universe is not a proper subset of the actual Universe.

But so what? Restrict your discourse to the observable Universe, and now you “only” run into pragmatic problems. So now you can verify Universals in theory, as long as you restrict your search to that part of the Universe which can affect the observer in some way.

Though at this point I’d like to point out that you end up running into non-decidability issues.

Comment #131300

Posted by Mike on September 18, 2006 1:23 PM (e)

“The difference between you and Jack is that he has a dog in the fight in Kansas and you don’t. As a result, you can keep your ideological purity, but he doesn’t have that luxury.”

I believe this is mistaken. On the basis of various posts at Pharyngula, it seems PZ is active in the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. If that is so, I’m sure when he attends their meetings and undertakes any other activities on their behalf, he expresses his contempt for religion and the religious as vociferously as he does here and at Pharyngula. Unless, that is, he can compartmentalize his life enough to lay aside his hostility to religion for a time in pursuit of other aims. Of course, if he’s compartmentalizing like that, I’m sure he’ll get the same denunciation here as a hypocrit that Miller is suffering.

Comment #131301

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 18, 2006 1:27 PM (e)

that part of the Universe which can affect the observer in some way

Unfortunately you have to decide ahead of time what “observable” means; you’ll need axioms of causation, such as those given by the laws of physics, to decide when you can terminate your search.

Comment #131302

Posted by Mike on September 18, 2006 1:27 PM (e)

Flint,

“I carefully explained that science requires deep respect for evidence, while theism requires acceptance despite, or in the absence of evidence. And that a “theistic scientist” is required BOTH to absolutely require and absolutely NOT require evidence, both at the same time. I submit that these postures are mutually exclusive. I haven’t yet seen anyone explain why they are NOT incompatible.”

Here you are carefully avoiding the evidence that folk like Ken Miller present when they do good science yet profess religious faith. In the face of this you earlier invented the notion that Miller had anesthetized his faith into irrelevance in order to do good science. This does not show the respect for evidence that your posts seem to claim for you.

“Communicating with words does involve the assumption that those trying to communicate assign reasonably similar meaning to the words being used.”

As in ‘anesthetize into irrelvance’ being just another way of saying ‘compartmentalize’? Your condescending tone doesn’t go well with your own lax approach to words.

“Theism, belief in gods, *necessarily* must take the position that evidence does not matter, since there is no evidence for any gods.”

Asterisks. Always the sign of reliability. Or not. Actually, belief in a god (or more, if you like) must take the position that evidence, going to its root (i.e. being evident), does not matter for this particular belief. I suspect you are aware that actual theists do not reject evidence in all areas. Indeed, folk like Ken Miller prove that is not so by doing good science. Given the condescension you have show in your posts to others over the use of words, I’m afraid I can only conclude your misrepresentations have been deliberate.

Comment #131320

Posted by normdoering on September 18, 2006 3:12 PM (e)

Popper’s ghost wrote:

BTW, Sam Harris sounds just like normdoering, Popper’s ghost and caledonian.

Everyone sounds just like everyone else to someone sufficiently lacking in powers of discernment.

Indeed, I think most of us atheists here would disagree with Harris here:
Head-in-the-Sand Liberals:
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-harris18sep18,0,1897169.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

We’re not as politically united as fundies who actually do move in lock step and sound exactly the same to me. But that’s probably because to me their differences don’t matter as I don’t care if communion wine becomes real blood or is just symbolic blood.

Comment #131325

Posted by Wheels on September 18, 2006 3:52 PM (e)

Keith Douglas wrote:

wheels: “not scientific but philosophical” you said. Once again, what is the argument to the effect that they are seperate? (See the above aside to normdoering for an example.) If we want a consistent world view (to avoid cognitive dissonance if nothing else), we’re best to adopt a philosophy continuous with and supported by / supporting the best scientific research of our time.

I used “philosophical” in the sense of something that isn’t limited to the scope scientific methodology, which leaves a whole lot for philosophers even today. The supernatural isn’t supported by any science, and science has its own explanations for many supernatural claims, but to me this doesn’t say that there isn’t any supernatural at all, just that science has a more useful approach to explaining things (many of which are probably true!). I personally haven’t heard of science directly contradicting a supernatural claim of, say, a Deist God, even if it offered a more useful explanation. Even with things like the nature of the world, its age, and the life on it, science gives you an extremely useful way to explain things using natural processes without some kind of Intelligent Designer and thus Ontological arguments to positively support the idea of such a Designer are faulty, but this does not mean that there ISN’T a supernatural Designer who can break the laws of nature at will and thus leave no trace of direct intervention behind. You can effectively disregard the idea when investigating something and say “it may as well not exist,” but to me that’s philosopically different from saying “it does not exist.” (I feel I should also point out that science doesn’t give us a rebuttal or refutation to things like the Cosmological Argument, but logic does. If science does have its own rebuttal, I haven’t heard of it.)
From the little philosophy of science I’ve read it looks like I fall more towards Instrumentalist views, and my personal agnosticism is probably coming into play so I take a more pragmatic approach.

About consistent world views, I don’t see why this is such an issue when a person’s worldview doesn’t interfere with their professional ability to conduct scientific work. If somebody can accomodate science along with their personal religious views, then cognitive dissonance or not there doesn’t seem to be a problem. It seems that the problem in this instance is that Dr. Miller pointed out that most anti-Evolutionists are really anti-humanist/atheist/whatever and are shooting at the wrong target/and or actually attacked those positions as harmful the way such anti-Evolutionists would, so in effect he was seen as stepping beyond having personal views to espousing his personal views in a way that contradicted science or atheism? Another point seems to be that Miller claims something more than mere compatability between science and his religious views. I haven’t heard the speech or read the books in question so I can’t quite comment on that.

-(Aside: It’s interesting to me when I talk to some of my friends who are Asatruar or Hellenic Reconstructionists or whatnot and they don’t even have [apparently] conflicting religious and scientific ideas. I started a thread in another forum about the relationship between religions and the natural world as part of an attempt to find out more about such conflicts. Some viewed the supernatural as an inherent part of the natural, some hold that the worlds of magic and men were separated in the past and don’t cross over anymore. For some of them the entire idea of religion is said to be very different and doesn’t have so much to do with capital F Faith. The thread was mainly about the difference between nonattachment to the world and actual Dualist Gnostic ideas [which hold that the natural world is evil and the product of a malign, ignorant deity] so focusing on all religions wasn’t quite the point. It did give me food for thought though.)-

Also, sorry this is such a late reply. I hope the conversation hasn’t been drowned already.

Comment #131326

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 18, 2006 3:59 PM (e)

Nah, we don’t drown conversations of this kind.

We ship them off on a train. On a track that’s already got another train coming the other way…

Even that doesn’t necessarily wind things up. PT evolves very hardy conversations.

Comment #131345

Posted by Caledonian on September 18, 2006 5:18 PM (e)

Here you are carefully avoiding the evidence that folk like Ken Miller present when they do good science yet profess religious faith. In the face of this you earlier invented the notion that Miller had anesthetized his faith into irrelevance in order to do good science.

The definition of science requires that faith not be brought into things - if Miller is able to carry out proper scientific inquiry in a specific field, it follows that either a) his religious faith had no implications within that field, or b) he was able to negate his faith for the duration of his inquiry.

Believing in abduction UFOs won’t necessarily impair one’s ability to perform experimental physics, but believing in N-rays most certainly will.

Comment #131347

Posted by David B. Benson on September 18, 2006 5:26 PM (e)

Unless you only believe in N-rays on Sundays…

Comment #131355

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 18, 2006 6:26 PM (e)

The definition of science requires that faith not be brought into things - if Miller is able to carry out proper scientific inquiry in a specific field, it follows that either a) his religious faith had no implications within that field, or b) he was able to negate his faith for the duration of his inquiry.

Maybe you haven’t considered all the possibilities. What about

c) he was able to believe in a god who made nature behave in a predictable, regular way, and limits himself to studying those kinds of events, as he must.

We can only observe what we are able to observe, and we can only verify or falsify what is verifiable or falsifiable. Is everything in reality verifiable and falsifiable? It requires a leap of faith in our own powers to assume that all of reality is accessible to our observation.

Comment #131371

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 18, 2006 7:12 PM (e)

c) he was able to believe in a god who made nature behave in a predictable, regular way, and limits himself to studying those kinds of events, as he must.

Your c) is equivalent to Caledonian’s a).

Comment #131373

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 18, 2006 7:17 PM (e)

It requires a leap of faith in our own powers to assume that all of reality is accessible to our observation.

In fact I would go so far as to say that it requires a leap of faith in our own powers to assume that any of reality is accessible to our observations.

Comment #131376

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 18, 2006 7:38 PM (e)

Your c) is equivalent to Caledonian’s a).

No, my c) doesn’t limit the scientist to “within that feild” with none of “his religious implications.” My c) permits the scientist to do all kinds of science that is observable, predictable, etc. He can produce falsifiable results like anyone else practicing science.

His faith will not lead him to create supernatural data. If his data is falsified, it has more to do with his character. And that can’t all be blamed on faith or lack of it. And whatever the case may be, falsified data will be peer reviewed and thrown out, so it doesn’t make a difference. Science is faith-proof, if everyone practices accordingly.

Comment #131377

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 18, 2006 7:43 PM (e)

So, I’m trying to turn science into a social/ethical/political system?

Yes.

Did you arrive at that conclusion using the same method you used to arrived at the conclusion that Christians, except for fundies, mostly don’t think the Bible is any more true than they do Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey? Or the method you used to determine that the Dalai Lama didn’t really believe in reincarnation?

If you say so, Norm. (yawn)

Comment #131379

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 18, 2006 7:45 PM (e)

In fact I would go so far as to say that it requires a leap of faith in our own powers to assume that any of reality is accessible to our observations.

I think therefore I am?? Maybe if many people can use the same methods, and have the same findings about the nature of something they have all independently observed, that thing is “real.”

Comment #131383

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 18, 2006 7:58 PM (e)

I think therefore I am?

We’ve done this in another thread. It’s either a tautology or a non-sequitur. Either way it’s vacuous.

Comment #131391

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 18, 2006 8:11 PM (e)

Well, “I think therefore I am,” never did it for me. I am convinced there is a reality. I am not convinced we can observe all of reality.

Comment #131392

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 18, 2006 8:12 PM (e)

My c) permits the scientist to do all kinds of science that is observable, predictable, etc. He can produce falsifiable results like anyone else practicing science.

Maybe I get what you’re saying: without a “predictable” and “regular” universe, the scientific method doesn’t work. God could’ve made the Universe this way, (i.e. experiments repeated in different places and times by different people will yield the same results), and I suppose an a-priori belief in this would cause you to pursue science.

What the attack dogs are saying is that such a belief (God caused the Universe to work) is not a requirement for doing good science. In fact, a belief in God entails letting go of one’s skepticism, so it makes one a worse scientist.

I’m thinking that’s the jist of the argument here.

Comment #131396

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 18, 2006 8:16 PM (e)

I am convinced there is a reality

That’s another tautology, but I assume you mean that our observations accurately reflect reality. Can I ask why you think so? And why it is that “I think therefore I am” is therefore unconvincing?

Comment #131414

Posted by normdoering on September 18, 2006 9:33 PM (e)

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

Maybe if many people can use the same methods, and have the same findings about the nature of something they have all independently observed, that thing is “real.”

Unfortunately, no. Read up on Blondlot and n-rays:
http://skepdic.com/blondlot.html
http://mikeepstein.com/path/nrays.html
http://blake.montclair.edu/~kowalskil/cf/07patholog.html

A lot of people experienced the N-ray effect, but it didn’t exist.

And then also different religions confirm different things through “experience.” Is being “born again” confirmation of Chistian doctrine? Is being guided by dreams to the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama confirmation or reincarnation? Those experiences are even less connected to their doctrine than what Blondlot thought he saw.

Comment #131420

Posted by normdoering on September 18, 2006 10:31 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

So, I’m trying to turn science into a social/ethical/political system?

Yes.

What in your mind constitutes a social/ethical/political system?

What do you think is my social/ethical/political system? How is it different than others?

What makes my system different than the one you would rather have?

Comment #131464

Posted by Alan Fox on September 19, 2006 2:42 AM (e)

@ Popper’s ghost

I am really curious to know if you are related to ts and Morbius. Your wit and lightness of touch seems so similar.

Comment #131515

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 19, 2006 9:15 AM (e)

@ Popper’s ghost

I am really curious to know if you are related to ts and Morbius. Your wit and lightness of touch seems so similar.

The same has occured to me.

Comment #131516

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 19, 2006 9:16 AM (e)

Sorry for the delay, I had a busy morning.

“I think therefore I am” is very convincing. It just isn’t enough, it’s only a starting point. It tells me I exist, but fails to say anything about the rest of the universe. Science tells me others exist too. In addition, it tells us as a group, “at least we can know events a, b, c, d, e, and f with a high degree of certainty. As for the rest of the alphabet, maybe we’ll find out about it someday too.”

The practice of science only verifies events that are both observable and repeatable or observable by anyone who wishes to observe the same object/event in different ways. It can answer simple questions one at a time. Then the review of many experiments can yield a reasonable conclusion about a question like, “are chimps and humans related?” Many such questions about different species answered in the affirmative can lead to the reasonable conclusion that “All species studied so far are related.” There still could be some deep-sea ecosystem that has no genetic similarity with anything else we’ve observed. We can only make conclusions about the few species on Earth we have observed, though.

The practice of science itself is only a series of repeatable experiments. You can’s travel back in time to witness evolution, but you can sequence and compare DNA again and again, you can study and compare fossils again and again, etc.

What about observable events that are not repeatable? A comet only you witnessed. The presence of God only you felt. The demonstration of a miracle only a few people saw. These things could be delusions, mass delusions, or even fabrications. But to the people who witnessed them, they are observed events. There is no sure way of knowing whether those events are real. Each person who’s had such an observation has to decide whether to accept it as part of reality or to just forget about it because it cannot be verified/falsified/repeated. Enter religious beleif, vs. scientific belief.

Maybe I get what you’re saying: without a “predictable “ and “regular” universe, the scientific method doesn’t work.

Just about. But I meant more what the scientific method can do than how it works. The scientific method allows us to say “At least we know this much,” But it doesn’t allow us to further extrapolate, “..and that is all there is.”

God could’ve made the Universe this way, (i.e. experiments repeated in different places and times by different people will yield the same results)

Yes, it’s possible.

What the attack dogs are saying is that such a belief (God caused the Universe to work) is not a requirement for doing good science.

I think they have it right.

In fact, a belief in God entails letting go of one’s skepticism

I’m not sure that is true for every kind of religious belief. Not that this is sufficient to answer such a dilemma. I’m not sure how to answer it.

I assume you mean that our observations accurately reflect reality>

That is a way of summarizing it, if our observations follow the scientific method. Why do I think so? Short answer: Because science works.

Comment #131517

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 19, 2006 9:17 AM (e)

normdoering,

I will get back to you when I read your links.

Comment #131522

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 19, 2006 9:35 AM (e)

self-correcting nature of science.

Yes, isn’t it wonderful? Even when an event is claimed to have been observed by several independent scientists, it was still proven false. The process of peer review didn’t end there, it kept going on an international level, and the delusion was eventually uncovered. That is the power of science.

Religious belief, in contrast, can result from an event that has been observed, but cannot be repeated many, many times. Those scientists could have founded a N-ray religion, silly as it seems. Religions can be silly, wrong, and hilarious. There isn’t a high degree of certainty. But since N-rays were expected to be part of the natural world and didn’t show up with any predictability, they were proven false. For something that isn’t necessarily a part of the predictable natural world, it cannot be proven false. Like I said. it depends on the claims made by the religion.

Comment #131525

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 19, 2006 9:51 AM (e)

Also notable in this extraordinary example provided by normdoering is that it was the skeptics that pursued the issue to the end. Yes, skepticism is a great asset to science. Are religious people by nature less skeptical? Perhaps.

If the argument goes

religiosity = lack of skepticism

skepticism = science

It does follow that religiosity cannot equal science. No one is trying to make that argument though. The argument is that religiosity and science can peacefully coexist.

Comment #131526

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 19, 2006 9:55 AM (e)

But since N-rays were expected to be part of the natural world and didn’t show up with any predictability, they were proven false. For something that isn’t necessarily a part of the predictable natural world, it cannot be proven false. Like I said. it depends on the claims made by the religion.

I muddled this a little. Instead of “they were proven false,” I should have said, “they were shown to be outside of science.” That would have made the explanation that follows it uneccesary. Sorry.

Comment #131535

Posted by Raging Bee on September 19, 2006 11:01 AM (e)

Yes, norm, we’re all quite aware that many religious people have said stupid and/or dishonest things. No one here disputes that, even habitual liars like Fafarman and Cordova. Your insistent citing of such stupid and dishonest things does not refute, nor does it even address, anything that Meet People Where They Are actually said.

In response to Meet People, who said:

Did I even say I was a Christian?

norm “answered:”

It doesn’t matter if you are or you aren’t because what you say about relating to God is also said by Christians like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell. Because it is said by them you are as credible as they are when you say it.

Really? I missed the bit where Meet People said that 9/11 was God’s punishment of the US for letting gays live.

You sound like a racist insisting that “those people” all look alike to him. Do you have trouble telling one Oriental from another as well? Your repeated insistence that people who are visibly different from each other are really exactly the same, is a sure sign of bigotry. Way to advance the cause of honest secular education, nimrod.

This is an adult science blog. Can’t you at least TRY to act like an adult?

Comment #131536

Posted by Raging Bee on September 19, 2006 11:04 AM (e)

Another thing, norm – you said:

It doesn’t matter if you are or you aren’t because what you say about relating to God is also said by Christians like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell. Because it is said by them you are as credible as they are when you say it.

Does this mean that the credibility of all atheists can be judged by the dumbest statements of the dumbest atheist?

Comment #131543

Posted by Raging Bee on September 19, 2006 11:56 AM (e)

David B. Benson wrote:

normdoering — Maybe you want to change that to “conflict between SOME religions and science”.

And norm dodged thusly:

Split your hairs anyway you want, I’ve got other work to do today.

So you weren’t too busy to tell us that you’re too busy to address a simple point that cuts to the heart of the credibility of nearly all of your statements about religion. And you weren’t too busy to post seventeen more replies since then, but you’re presumably still too busy to address Benson’s point.

Running away from something, are we?

Comment #131563

Posted by Mike on September 19, 2006 2:26 PM (e)

“It doesn’t matter if you are or you aren’t because what you say about relating to God is also said by Christians like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell. Because it is said by them you are as credible as they are when you say it.”

Ahh, it’s the old ‘Hitler Was a Vegetarian’ trick. Second time I’ve fallen for that one this week.

Comment #131575

Posted by normdoering on September 19, 2006 3:18 PM (e)

Mike wrote:

“It doesn’t matter if you are or you aren’t because what you say about relating to God is also said by Christians like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell. Because it is said by them you are as credible as they are when you say it.”

Ahh, it’s the old ‘Hitler Was a Vegetarian’ trick. Second time I’ve fallen for that one this week.

No. It’s not.

What you saw was raging bee’s quote mining. Bee chops off the rest of what was said. I didn’t mention just Robertson and Falwell, I mentioned some Muslims, Moonies and others. Because so many contradictory things are said about god by those who think they’re in touch with him we can know that none of them are actually in communication with him.

Think of it in this simplified way; you’re testing for a psychic power some people claim they have, you’re given a card in a sealed envelope that you are not allowed to open. You ask a few dozen psychic claimers to divine the card in the envelope and what you get is a statistically random bunch of answers. Without even looking into the envelope to see if anyone was right you can already tell from the wide variety of answers that probably no one in the group that thinks they’re psychic really is. Even if you open the envelope and one of them was right you should attribute it to coincidence. All of the psychic claimers have the same credibility, zero.

The wide variety of answers to a question that can only have one right answer tells you that most of them are wrong even when you don’t have the answer yourself.

Comment #131595

Posted by Raging Bee on September 19, 2006 3:36 PM (e)

Because so many contradictory things are said about god by those who think they’re in touch with him we can know that none of them are actually in communication with him.

First you attempt to trash Meet Others’ credibility on the grounds that what she said was (according to your notoriously shabby logic) somehow similar to things Falwell and Robertson said. Now you’re saying that religious people can never be believed because they all say different things.

You’re a hypocrite and you know it.

Comment #131600

Posted by David B. Benson on September 19, 2006 4:06 PM (e)

Earlier ‘Meet People’ posted something about not knowing all of reality. Yes, certainly. For example, there was not a germ theory of disease before microscopes. Currently there are the mysteries of ‘dark matter’ and even ‘dark energy’.

Scientists cannot begin to offer potentially satisfactory explanations, i.e., contingent universals, without data to be explained…

Comment #131618

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 19, 2006 4:41 PM (e)

The wide variety of answers to a question that can only have one right answer tells you that most of them are wrong even when you don’t have the answer yourself.

I’ve struggled with this question before, and it is a good one. All I can say to it is that not everyone is wrong all the time, not even the people you mention. And not everyone is right all the time. I always have to think hard to find a way to interpret what I think God is saying to me, if I think he is communicating at all. And much of the time, I don’t get a clear message, just a feeling that He is there.

Scientists cannot begin to offer potentially satisfactory explanations, i.e., contingent universals, without data to be explained…

I am glad some people understand what I said.

First you attempt to trash Meet Others’ credibility

Thanks for the defense, but actually most of the trashing was done by Popper’s ghost/ts/morbius, as usual. Also, in hindsight I do believe I was a bit too touchy about norm’s questions, and now see that he is sincere. His questions aren’t all that offensive, but they’re still beyond the scope of the thread, I think.

Comment #131636

Posted by Raging Bee on September 19, 2006 5:52 PM (e)

Meet People: Please forgive me if this sounds disrespectful, but I wasn’t really trying to defend you, since I haven’t followed what you’ve said closely enough to know whether I agree with all of it or not. (I’m a Pagan, and I’m not sure how well the voices in my head square with those in yours.) My main objective, truth be told, was to point out norm’s dishonest thought processes, pig-ignorant overgeneralizations, and totally unnecessary insulting behavior toward non-wacko persons of faith like yourself who – whether they’re right or wrong – deserve to be treated with more respect than norm seems capable of showing. All of this is embarrassing to people like myself, who look to this blog for mature and informed discussion of issues relating to evolution and science education, and for discussion that actually tries to engage open-minded persons of faith, rather than simply brushing them all off as idiots, and making enemies out of people who could easily be allies.

You may think norm is being sincere, since Popper’s Ghost makes him sound sincere by comparison, and since you’re seeing his thoughts for the first time. I’ve been here awhile, and his arguments are nothing new – most of his “questions” have been repeatedly answered long ago, and he’s been repeatedly called on his uninformed overgeneralizations, but he hasn’t changed his tune one bit. For all I know, norm and his ilk are really Christian fundies trying to reinforce their own worst stereotypes of atheists and secualrists. But don’t let me stop you – if he actually listens to what you say (as opposed to what his prejudices expect you to say), and acknowledges your points without distorting them, then perhaps we should consider that a miracle. Hey, stranger things have happened.

Comment #131646

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 19, 2006 6:36 PM (e)

I share your wishes for PT, and it makes my life easier that other people defend the idea of tolerance too. I don’t blame you for not reading through all the comments… this thread is way too long.

I have conversed with Popper’s ghost before, not norm. The behavior you describe is typical of Popper’s ghost and his predecessors ts and morbius. If norm is now attempting to correct some hasty behavior from pervious comments or on previous threads, maybe he should have the benefit of the doubt. He said he could be wrong. He helped me see that honest, critical conversation is needed to really examine if science and religion can co-exist. If we just yell past each other we’ve already given up on communicating and are only throwing fuel on the fire. I hope the merits of arguments can be separated from the people making them and whatever their motives may be.

I did my best to explain my point of view in this thread, and hopefully the “attack dogs” will hear some of it. If not, at least onlookers can know that not everyone agrees with their rigid view of the world.

Comment #131649

Posted by normdoering on September 19, 2006 6:44 PM (e)

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

The wide variety of answers to a question that can only have one right answer tells you that most of them are wrong even when you don’t have the answer yourself.

I’ve struggled with this question before, and it is a good one. All I can say to it is that not everyone is wrong all the time, …

Like they say, a broken clock is right twice a day.

Random guessing will get you some small odds of guessing a card, 1 in 52 if you use a deck of 52. Then there is always the vagueness ploy used by psychics, “I sense that it’s a red card” which gives you 50/50 odds, or you can get a hundred percent with “I see some sort of number or letter in the upper left corner.”

…not even the people you mention.

Pat Robertson has a huge track record of being wrong and of claiming to hear god’s message. He’s an old guy who has been writing books since the 70’s.

How old are you? I was in high school in the 70’s and there was this book kids passed around at that time called “The Late Great Planet Earth” which predicted the end of the world in the 80’s. That book was bigger then than those left behind novels are now. Robertson got on that bandwagon and they’ve been pushing back the date ever since.

I always have to think hard to find a way to interpret what I think God is saying to me, if I think he is communicating at all. And much of the time, I don’t get a clear message, just a feeling that He is there.

I lightly touched on that a decade ago in my own published writing:
http://www.totse.com/en/religion/christianity/notcrst1.html

Ask yourself if this describes your own experience and the subconscious places where you think God’s voice is coming from:

What goes into the Bible reader’s imagination, those highly emotional and secretly irrational processes within the subconscious, may just be objectively collected there at first as he tries to determine for himself what the truth is. The Bible reader tries to learn, but secretly wants to dream of a supernatural realm where his deepest desires might be fulfilled, and also where his darkest fears might come true. Fantasy may be a natural and healthy way to explore our desires and fears, and so discover their nature, and then develope realistic plans for getting what it is we desire and avoiding what we fear, but Christian fantasy is almost totally detached from any contact with reality. The desires and fears generated by the biblical texts are ambiguous, extreme, and unrealistic. The Bible, and especially New Testament, is bewildering, difficult, obscure, and confusing. The Bible creates an unhealthy uneasiness, it stimulates fear and hope with both subtle and direct threats and promises. The New Testament aims to turn the truth seeker inward and work on his subconscious mind. A seed is planted within the prospects subconscious. Any objective determination about the truth or falsity of Biblical claims is difficult for those who do not understand the psychology.

The Christian finds that he is dependent on priestly authority in order to understand his faith. The material that goes in to the mind, Biblical stories, rituals, impressive church structures, the herd instinct, mass media support, and peer pressure can be analyzed and so tell us something about this psychology and how the final effect is produced, and even something of the purposes that lay behind its design.

Supernatural fantasies are generated when the Bible reader speculates on the meaning of the text. And these fantasies are given implicit support by a media that tells us our politicians, presidents, generals, and celebrities are mostly Christian. A media that rarely contradicts the Christian assumptions of our culture. As the Bible reader reads of miracles, the promise of life everlasting, supernatural powers, angels, transcendent realms, and magical healings his desire and fantasy, his fears and hopes, will motivate, develop, and grow as he continues his studies. (One of the darkest aspects of religion’s appeal to hope is its appeal to the desperate. To the terminally ill who seek to be healed.) Talk to any Christian and you’ll find out that they’ve created a very personal vision, a private reality map that is uniquely their own. While different Christian groups with different labels, such as Pentecostal, Fundamentalist, Charismatic, or Evangelical will advocate different interpretations of this supernatural fantasy each individual creates his own particular vision out of the mix of possibilities.

For some people, once the Biblical seed of unreal hope and uncertain fear has been sown, a process of desire, expectation, and imagination begins in the hidden workings of the unconscious mind, in a secret world of mystical ideas, a world of ignorance and enormous possibility. The Bible reader begins to develope a murky image of his supernatural expectations and he seeks to clarify that image with further study. Instead of having his murky ideas clarified he is instead drawn further and further in to the trap. In time those things merely imagined, but still either feared or desired, may become part of our potential believer’s reality map. The ideas are no longer just possibilities and speculations he entertains in his mind but are now ‘real’ to him. But ‘real’ only in the sense that they are emotionally loaded concepts that influence his desire and aversion behavior. The believer can no longer imagine, comfortably, a world view without his faith, his illusions. The emotion attached to these religious ideas is stronger than the emotion attached to the concepts and ideas in a more rational mind. While I have little experience with it, there seems to be a drug like emotional kick of joyous expectation associated with this process. At least this is what many Christians seem to claim when they talk about being ‘born again.’

None of us use logic and reason alone to create our theories and reality maps, or even to solve problems. The ideas seem to just come to us, popping into our heads, or picked up out of books we’ve sought out, or welling up out of some dark and mysterious depth within our minds. Sometimes when this happens we want to scream ‘Eureka!’ because we have solved an important problem, as did Archimedes when he discovered a way to determine the purity of gold. We use logic later, to check the work and put it in presentable order after the new ideas and insights have been attained. This does not invalidate the use of reason and logic as tools for understanding our world because the insights and ideas must survive the checking and ordering process which makes them valid, at the very least, if not demonstratably true.

A gestation process seems to be involved in genuine conversion. New insights, beliefs, concepts, and perspectives emerge days, weeks, perhaps even years after exposure to the information. The fuel for the Christian transformation is obviously those deep seated hopes and fears that biblical psychotechnology exploits. The computer programmer’s jargon of “garbage in, garbage out” applies to the human mind as well. Cram your head full of scientific data about a problem that needs to be solved and you’ll arrive at a technological solution to the problem. Cram your head full of Biblical mysticism and you’ll find yourself with superstitious fears of damnation and a desperate quest for salvation. It’s the checking and ordering process that is often not carried out when it comes to religion, or if it is, it’s carried out improperly. In most cases, it’s not even possible to carry out this checking process. Much of the information given to us by our trusted authority figures, our priests and politicians, goes unchecked, for checking is a hard and time consuming process. It’s a lot harder to think for oneself than it is to just trust our culture’s properly accredited experts, be they priests, politicians, or scientists. The Bible discourages this checking process and asks for faith, and that’s one good clue to its false nature.

And as for Raging Bee defending you – as he now admits, he wasn’t even paying attention to what you were saying and he is merely stalking me. Ignore him.

Comment #131657

Posted by normdoering on September 19, 2006 7:18 PM (e)

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

And much of the time, I don’t get a clear message, just a feeling that He is there.

Michael Persinger might be able to replicate that experience with a magnetic helmet:
http://www.geocities.com/satanicus_2/GodHelmet.html

Magnetic fields generated by his helmet produced this kind of reaction:

One woman believed her dead mother had materialized beside her. Another felt a presence so powerful and benign that she wept when it faded. British journalist Ian Cotton understood that he was, and always had been, a Tibetan monk. Psychologist Susan Blackmore, writing in New Scientist, said she felt something “get hold of my leg and pull it, distort it, and drag it up the wall…

Comment #131660

Posted by David B. Benson on September 19, 2006 7:31 PM (e)

Norm — THAT is an excellent link! Thank you!

Comment #131707

Posted by Raging Bee on September 19, 2006 10:28 PM (e)

Wow, so many generalizations, so little time…

Any objective determination about the truth or falsity of Biblical claims is difficult for those who do not understand the psychology.

First, we’ve already established that the truth or falsehood of most Biblical claims cannot be objectively determined at all, psychology or no. Second, the idea that only someone who understands psychology can determine whether said claims are true for themselves is just silly. What about people who just have a way of understanding people, but no psychological training?

The Christian finds that he is dependent on priestly authority in order to understand his faith.

That’s different for different denominations. The entire Reformation began as a rejection of “priestly authority” and its abuses, and a claim that (with the invention of the printing press at least) every adult could interpret the bible for themselves.

Supernatural fantasies are generated when the Bible reader speculates on the meaning of the text.

That really depends on what speculation each “Bible reader” engages in, doesn’t it?

And these fantasies are given implicit support by a media that tells us our politicians, presidents, generals, and celebrities are mostly Christian. A media that rarely contradicts the Christian assumptions of our culture.

Ah yes, that ever-present, non-specific Monopolistic Mainstream Media Monolith, making sure everyone thinks the same thoughts at the same time. That meme had more resonance back when we only had three or four channels to watch on TV. Care to tell us WHICH “assumptions of our culture” are specifically “Christian” (as opposed to, say, “capitalist”)?

Also, if “the media” are so busy reinforcing “Christian assumptions of our culture,” then why do so many Christian groups spend so much time attacking the pernicious influence of “the media,” and explicitly advising their followers to avoid watching it?

As the Bible reader reads of miracles, the promise of life everlasting, supernatural powers, angels, transcendent realms, and magical healings his desire and fantasy, his fears and hopes, will motivate, develop, and grow as he continues his studies.

Again, it’s different for different Christians. Some go whole-hog for the “supernatural” stuff, while others flatly reject such “fantasies” as parts of everyday life. (My Catholic father and kinda-sorta-non-denominational mother both told me in no uncertain terms that there were no such things as ghosts, demons or psychic powers; and none of the Christians I grew up with contradicted that.)

(One of the darkest aspects of religion’s appeal to hope is its appeal to the desperate. To the terminally ill who seek to be healed.)

It’s only “dark” if it leads to dark thoughts or wrong or dishonest actions. There’s a difference between promising an eternal afterlife and promising that your terminal illness will be cured by giving money to Pat Robertson.

Talk to any Christian and you’ll find out that they’ve created a very personal vision, a private reality map that is uniquely their own.

Which means that all of the preceding generalizations about Christians and their spiritual experiences are untrustworthy.

Comment #131792

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 20, 2006 6:56 AM (e)

No, norm, that doesn’t describe my religious experiences. Though I enjoy reading the bible because of it’s poetry, it’s savagery at times, and Jesus’ still controversial views about loving one’s enemy and turning the other cheek, it wasn’t the source of my religious belief. And neither was a magnetic helmet.

I can’t understand the point of your tiresome presentation. Even if I told you why I am religious, I doubt it would help our conversation to be productive. I hesitate to do so here anyway, lest I be accused of preaching.

Your reference to Pat Robertson is likewise pointless. I am no fan of the man. I first heard what he had to say in the late 1990s. I came to this country in the late 1980s as a child and had no idea what kind of hate and stupidity was inside its politics and religion. These people have nothing to do with me.

But even Hitler was right about something: finding a scapegoat, a common enemy, united Germany. And I’m certainly no fan of his either!

Comment #131818

Posted by Raging Bee on September 20, 2006 8:51 AM (e)

The fuel for the Christian transformation is obviously those deep seated hopes and fears that biblical psychotechnology exploits.

Please define the word “psychotechnology,” and describe the differences between “biblical psychotechnology” and, well, someone else’s “psychotechnology.” It sounds like something that archaeologists might find traces of in the Holy land. Where’d those wily Hebrews get it from – space aliens?

Comment #131831

Posted by Flint on September 20, 2006 9:56 AM (e)

Because so many contradictory things are said about god by those who think they’re in touch with him we can know that none of them are actually in communication with him.

Wouldn’t it be just as reasonable to suppose that each person is in touch with a different god?

Now, what might be testable, at least someday, is to determine what is occurring in the brain, which has the subjective effect of “seeming like”

I don’t get a clear message, just a feeling that He is there.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if our knowledge of the human brain becomes detailed enough to elicit this response with well-placed electrodes or designer drugs. Such knowledge might lead directly to a cure.

What I think is important here, is that the particular god with which each person claims to be in touch, never seems to correct even the most thoroughly refuted or self-serving opinions. Nor do any of these gods give any concrete testable predictions of the future, or even provide any (accurate) information not known to the person hearing the Voice.

I’m less interested in why Miller needs to find some way his particular Voice can sneak into reality through the interstices of scientific knowledge, than I’m interested in why Miller is inspired even to make the effort. People who really NEED to, can convince themselves of nearly anything. As Saul Bellow wrote, “A great deal of intelligence may be invested in ignorance if the need for illusion is deep.”

Comment #131833

Posted by normdoering on September 20, 2006 10:00 AM (e)

Raging Bee asked:

Please define the word “psychotechnology,” …

Didn’t you know there were dictionaries online?
http://www.tiscali.co.uk/reference/dictionaries/difficultwords/data/d0010569.html

psychotechnology
n. practical use of psychology in solving problems etc. psychotechnological, a.

Bee also asked:

and describe the differences between “biblical psychotechnology” and, well, someone else’s “psychotechnology.”

Psychotechnology includes a wide variety of technical means by which to shape beliefs, control behavior and get what you want from people. Psychiatric drug therapy, behavior mod, electric shock therapy, electronic implants, electronic surveillance, psychosurgery, aversion therapy and “counseling” would all be psychotechnologies. All of these techniques work to obtain changes in thought and/or behavior desired by a professional elite. It’a all about using our knowledge of psychology to create techniques to manipulate people.

If you want a real comparison, check out the old book “Battle for the Mind: A Physiology of Conversion and Brainwashing” by William Sargant.

http://www.amazon.com/Battle-Mind-Physiology-Conversion-Brainwashing/dp/1883536065

Sargant compares techniques used in religious conversions, especially the “great awakenings” in America, with Soviet and Chinese brain washing and re-education.

Comment #131836

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 20, 2006 10:27 AM (e)

Raging Bee,

You may think norm is being sincere, since Popper’s Ghost makes him sound sincere by comparison

Can you back this up? I’ve found PG to be acerbic yet honest. Can’t say the same for norm who I’ve seen move several goalposts.

Comment #131837

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 20, 2006 10:28 AM (e)

This conversation can only keep going in circles, it seems. So your opinions are justified by rationality, while someone else’s opinion is delusionary to the point of mental illness and requires a cure. Great, I hope society will someday cure itself of this virus called religion that infects the brain of otherwise intelligent people. Fortunately, I am leaving for a long car trip.

Ciao!

Comment #131840

Posted by normdoering on September 20, 2006 10:41 AM (e)

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

No, norm, that doesn’t describe my religious experiences.

How does it fail to describe your experiences?

You’ve never used your imagination to try to picture your future experiences? Your imagination doesn’t use your religious beliefs?

You don’t find the Bible ambiguous, extreme, and full of fantastic events? The Bible has never inspired your desire, expectation, and imagination?

You don’t have religiously informed desires and fears?

You make use of no priestly authority in order to understand the Bible? You just read it and get it right away?

Your reference to Pat Robertson is likewise pointless. I am no fan of the man.

Yet, so far, your basic experience of God has not been described differently than Pat Robertson has described his own experience.

I came to this country in the late 1980s as a child and had no idea what kind of hate and stupidity was inside its politics and religion. These people have nothing to do with me.

If you’re a Christian, then you must realize that Robertson, Falwell and Hinn also call themselves Christian. Supposedly Robertson is experiencing the same God you are.

Comment #131842

Posted by normdoering on September 20, 2006 10:51 AM (e)

Flint asked:

Wouldn’t it be just as reasonable to suppose that each person is in touch with a different god?

How many gods do you think there are? Are all these little gods liars that claim to be the one true God?

Comment #131844

Posted by Raging Bee on September 20, 2006 11:00 AM (e)

psychotechnology
n. practical use of psychology in solving problems etc…

ALL of psychology is used to solve problems; therefore, by the above definition, there is no practical distinction between “psychology” and “psychotechnology.” You’re using a new word where the old one suited just fine, and it adds nothing to the dialogue. (Do we distinguish between “physics” and “physiotechnology?”) And no, it doesn’t make you sound smarter – not here, at least. Creationist chicks might dig it, though, especially the ones who read WorldNutDaily. :-D

Psychotechnology includes a wide variety of technical means by which to shape beliefs, control behavior and get what you want from people.

So now you’re using the word differently from the definition you yourself quoted. That’s either careless at best, or knowingly dishonest at worst.

So tell us, norm, which “technical means” did the ancient Hebrews employ in their nefarious mind-control program?

“Technology” is understood, by the vast majority of English-speaking people, to mean man-made physical tools, such as travertine, swords, cars, computers, drugs, etc. Any use of the word outside this context, twists the word well beyond its understood meaning. And no, you don’t have the right to redefine words on the fly – words mean what the vast majority agree that they mean, not what one person says they mean; that’s what makes them useful for communication between people.

Flint wrote:

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if our knowledge of the human brain becomes detailed enough to elicit this response with well-placed electrodes or designer drugs. Such knowledge might lead directly to a cure.

It might just as easily lead to a “cure” for atheism – or for whatever opinion is out of favor at any given moment (subject to change without notice).

Treating differing opinions as “illnesses” in need of a “cure” is pure bigotry, no better than racism or homophobia. Did you even intend that to be a serious statement? I’m surprised that anyone would post such crap in an adult science blog without a trace of shame or irony. This is what the KGB used to do to dissidents in the old USSR. Getting tips from the pros, are we?

Comment #131845

Posted by Raging Bee on September 20, 2006 11:01 AM (e)

GuyeFaux: if “acerbic yet honest” means “falling back on name-calling whenever one loses an argument,” then I concede your point.

Comment #131846

Posted by Raging Bee on September 20, 2006 11:06 AM (e)

norm, if you knew anything about religion, you would know that not all of the Gods and Godesses we’ve worshipped claim to be “the One True God.” You really don’t understand what other people really believe, do you?

Comment #131847

Posted by normdoering on September 20, 2006 11:07 AM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

(One of the darkest aspects of religion’s appeal to hope is its appeal to the desperate. To the terminally ill who seek to be healed.)

It’s only “dark” if it leads to dark thoughts or wrong or dishonest actions.

No, it’s dark because people die when they believe a faith healer has cured them and stop going to the doctor.

Charges follow faith-healing death:
http://www.rickross.com/reference/firstborn/firstborn13.html

It’s dark when religious belief shapes government policy towards faith healers who are con men.

It’s dark because it kills.

Comment #131849

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 20, 2006 11:12 AM (e)

falling back on name-calling whenever one loses an argument

I’ll have to take your word for it. To be honest I haven’t bothered to read any of the flame-wars (they can go on for a long time), so I may have missed this.

Comment #131851

Posted by normdoering on September 20, 2006 11:29 AM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

norm, if you knew anything about religion, you would know that not all of the Gods and Godesses we’ve worshipped claim to be “the One True God.”

If you knew anything, you’d know I was talking about Christianity and people who call themselves Christian. Christianity, supposedly, does not believe in that many gods and no Christian thinks they’re talking to the devil, they think the other guy is.

You really don’t understand what other people really believe, do you?

Actually I don’t – and neither do you.

But I can see what they say and see how it jibes with the world I see around me.

You’re missing just the point. You don’t want to see the point though, you just quote mine for any attack you can make and take out of context.

Talk to any Christian and you’ll find out that they’ve created a very personal vision, a private reality map that is uniquely their own.

Which means that all of the preceding generalizations about Christians and their spiritual experiences are untrustworthy.

No. The generalizations are just a general guide to how supernatural beliefs can become believed in spite of the evidence against them. It’s general outlines cover everything from fundy Christianity to new age psychics or Carlos Castaneda or Muslim miracle workers. It points out the essential features of supernaturalism.

It’s a general theory about how desire, fear and imagination work to fuel supernatural belief systems that don’t reflect reality. It’s based on my experience with the fundy Christians I grew up with.

Being general does not make a theory useless.

Darwin’s theory of evolution was just a general outline too. Darwin didn’t even know about DNA and I’m sure there are hidden neural mechanisms as essential as DNA is to evolution that are not yet understood that are at work in the human mind fueling something along the general outlines I observe.

My theory is based, like Darwin’s, on observation. I observe what religious people say and notice the patterns.

Comment #131865

Posted by Raging Bee on September 20, 2006 12:38 PM (e)

Actually I don’t [understand what other people really believe] – and neither do you.

So why is your opinion worth anything? If you don’t understand this, then how can you possibly judge others’ understanding? (A quantum physicist can tell me whether I understand quantum physics; a plumber cannot.) What you’re basically saying is: “I’m clueless, and I refuse to admit the possibility that someone else may know something I don’t.” Who died and made you George W. Bush?

And why should we allow you to dumb this debate down to your admittedly low intellectual level? If you can’t keep up in an adult forum, then find someone else to teach you remedial logic and manners; don’t expect us to slow down and wait for you to catch up.

It’s general outlines cover everything from fundy Christianity to new age psychics or Carlos Castaneda or Muslim miracle workers.

No, the “theory” you quoted only talked about “Bible readers.” Get your generalizations straight.

My theory is based, like Darwin’s, on observation. I observe what religious people say and notice the patterns.

Don’t kid yourself, boy. Your “theory” depends on the knowing and deliberate exclusion of facts and observations that contradict your prejudices – facts and observations that have been repeatedly pointed out to you here for several months, at least. As Lloyd Bentsen might have said, “You’re no Charles Darwin.”

Comment #131869

Posted by Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little on September 20, 2006 1:18 PM (e)

Hello, all. Long-time reader, very infrequent commenter here.

A point was made awhiles back that … (let’s see if I can get this right) … the power of religious thought cannot be proven by religious addiction-recovery programs, because non-religious addiction recovery programs also have a successful track record.

It reminds me of my friend’s assertion that Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t work–at all. When pressed to reconcile this statement with its documented successes, he said that since AA has a 5% success rate, and not using AA has a 5% success rate, that proved that AA was no more successful than anything else.

The problem with both statements is they presume that each kind of program’s successful track record describes the same set of people, as if the 5% for whom AA worked were the same 5% for whom another program worked. If Betty tried AA and that worked, and then she got hooked on heroin and a non-religious program helped her kick that addiction, then you could possibly say (albeit by jumping to conclusions regarding the interchangeability of alcohol and heroin) that both sorts of programs worked equally well for Betty. But generally the people who succeed with AA are not the same people who succeed in other programs. Saying religious programs are no better than non-religious programs is perhaps true when applied to the entire society, because the one helps out no greater a percentage of the population than the other. But it’s manifestly untrue when applied to most individuals.

For some people, a religious program works better, because religion for them is a powerful thing. For others, a non-religious program works better, because religion is a turn-off for them or at least not relevant. For some, AA is a bust because they’re not Christian, but a program based on the religion they do follow works well. The power of religious thought is in the minds of the people who believe in a religion, and the power it has in the mind of a believer cannot adequately be denied by the lack of power it has for a non-believer–no more than my finding brussel sprouts delicious can be invalidated by my husband’s finding them yucky.

Now, I grant you that if I tried to force him to eat brussel sprouts, there’d be trouble. But there’d equally be trouble if he said that my taste for brussel sprouts rendered me incapable of cooking a good dinner for him or for anyone else who doesn’t like them, and that before I set foot in the kitchen I must vow never to eat a brussel sprout again. I may get unadulterated bliss out of eating them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to refrain from putting them in every meal….which metaphor is probably trying to address too many points at once. I’ll stop there.

Comment #131871

Posted by stevaroni on September 20, 2006 1:30 PM (e)

How many gods do you think there are? Are all these little gods liars that claim to be the one true God?

How do gods percieve other gods?

Maybe there’s something in god psychology that prevents them from percieving other gods as their equals.

Or maybe they do percieve the other gods as equals and therefore no big deal.

Maybe gods are atheist, so in the best traditions of powerful rulers everywhere, they feel the only god worth worshiping is themself.

Comment #131873

Posted by Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little on September 20, 2006 1:40 PM (e)

stevaroni wrote:

How do gods percieve other gods?

Maybe there’s something in god psychology that prevents them from percieving other gods as their equals.

Or maybe they do percieve the other gods as equals and therefore no big deal.

Maybe gods are atheist, so in the best traditions of powerful rulers everywhere, they feel the only god worth worshiping is themself.

I’m fond of the parable of the blind men and the elephant, myself. I tend towards the belief that physical, mortal brains are insufficient for full comprehension of Deity, making us the blind men who only feel a long ropy thing, or a thick stumpy thing, or a snake-like thing rather than the whole pachyderm. If one of the other blind men arrive at a truth (“watch out for the snake-like thing; if you make it mad it’ll spank you”) that doesn’t necessarily invalidate the truths arrived at by the other blind men (“woah! the stumpy thing moves! Better not wind up under it!”).

Of course, that belief has a lot to do with how I define Deity, and how I define Deity has a lot to do with “it just makes sense to me,” so that’s not going to convince anyone. But then it’s not meant to.

Comment #131877

Posted by normdoering on September 20, 2006 1:48 PM (e)

stevaroni asked:

How do gods percieve other gods?

Apparently through other people and apparently not that often. It seems like they live as fragments, some sort dissociated ego fragment, in the minds of believers but think they rule the universe.

Maybe there’s something in god psychology that prevents them from percieving other gods as their equals.

That might explain a lot of religious wars starting with the ones described in the Old Testament and going on to Osama bin Laden today.

Or maybe they do percieve the other gods as equals and therefore no big deal.

That might explain universalist unitarians.

Maybe gods are atheist, so in the best traditions of powerful rulers everywhere, they feel the only god worth worshiping is themself.

That might explain Stalin and Pol Pot.

Comment #131880

Posted by Raging Bee on September 20, 2006 2:11 PM (e)

By the way, norm, have you found the time to address Benson’s point about using the word “some” in your statements about religion?

Comment #131881

Posted by normdoering on September 20, 2006 2:15 PM (e)

Raging Bee asked:

So why is your opinion worth anything?

Apparently my ideas aren’t worth anything to you since you have no use for them, but that may be your fault, not mine.

They are worth what they are worth to those who find them useful tools for thinking about what is happening to people in the world around us and putting it into a frame of reference.

Your big mistake is that you think I’m making grand pronouncements on reality rather than just doing what I’m doing, making observations from a frame of reference – and that frame of reference is militant agnosticism: It’s not just me that doesn’t know, it’s every human being on this planet.

My agnosticism is informed by science in a way nicely expressed by this blog, “Through a glass darkly,” here:

http://www.sciencemusings.com/2006/09/through-glass-darkly.html

Karl Popper wrote: “The more we learn about the world, and the deeper our learning, the more conscious, specific, and articulate will be our knowledge of what we do not know, our knowledge of our ignorance. For this, indeed, is the main source of our ignorance – the fact that our knowledge can be only finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.” The physician/essayist Lewis Thomas went further: “The greatest of all the accomplishments of twentieth-century science has been the discovery of human ignorance.”

This new awareness of our ignorance should not be taken as permission to indulge the superstitions we are born into. Rather, it should cause us to to be modest and skeptical, parsimonious in our creeds, ever richer in reliable knowledge but ever more demanding in the caliber of proof.

For me to think otherwise would be for me to give up my own authority over my life and perception to people who may be delusional or lying.

I certainly think that “Battle for the Mind: A Physiology of Conversion and Brainwashing” by William Sargant should be a must read for anyone who wants to understand what’s happening in Muslim countries where their are laws against apostacy.

Sargant’s observation about religious conversions during the “great awakenings” in America and the Soviet and Chinese brain washing and re-education programs would seem to apply to them too.

His insights would be useful in the “war on Terror.”

Comment #131882

Posted by normdoering on September 20, 2006 2:23 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

By the way, norm, have you found the time to address Benson’s point about using the word “some” in your statements about religion?

No. If Benson’s experience is differenn than mine he can split hairs any way he wants.

As far as I can tell my experiences tell me my observations have application to religion in general. You can make all the claims you want about how they don’t – but if you can’t back them up, I’ll ignore you.

Comment #131886

Posted by Raging Bee on September 20, 2006 3:05 PM (e)

The physician/essayist Lewis Thomas went further: “The greatest of all the accomplishments of twentieth-century science has been the discovery of human ignorance.”

That’s only an “accomplishment” if it leads to a spirit of HUMILITY – the idea, learned by most of us at the grade-school level, that since we don’t know everything, we should therefore listen to others with an open mind, because we never know who might have some insight we missed.

Without that humility, your “militant agnosticism” is nothing more than an admission on your part that you have no real authiroty to talk about anything – and you won’t listen to anyone else, either, which means you won’t get any less ignorant.

Refusing to admit that others may know something you don’t is closed-minded and counterproductive; it contributes nothing to any debate; and admitting your own ignorance doesn’t make it any better – it just proves that you know what a hypocrite you are.

For me to think otherwise would be for me to give up my own authority over my life and perception to people who may be delusional or lying.

How does treating others with respect constitute “giving up authority over your life?” You can’t treat others with respect because they might be wrong or lying? That sounds downright paranoid. Have you considered professional help?

You can make all the claims you want about how they don’t – but if you can’t back them up, I’ll ignore you.

That’s nothing new; like those fine folks at WorldNutDaily, you’ve ignored every statement that debunks your prejudices, and simply repeated the same old falsehoods without modification in thread after thread. Even Larry Fafarman showed more mental agility than you: at least he was responsive enough to switch from one bogus argument to another as they got debunked.

Comment #131890

Posted by Flint on September 20, 2006 4:05 PM (e)

How many gods do you think there are? Are all these little gods liars that claim to be the one true God?

I made an effort to frame this question as “How many illusions are there”, with the obvious implication that each of us hosts a great many of these. But I suppose stevaroni may be correct, and gods just by godly nature all consider themselves the One True Version, and all the others are imposters. Then again, maybe there is only One True God, but His personality is split seriously enough to have a flavor for every supplicant.

My personal answer is, there are as many different gods as there are people who need one. Or maybe more, for those who need multiple gods.

Comment #131896

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 20, 2006 4:23 PM (e)

A bigger mystery to me–and one which I’m fully aware has been addressed by mightier mind’s than mine–

–is what the heck do they need us for?

Comment #131897

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 20, 2006 4:24 PM (e)

Er, that shoulda been “minds” plural, not possessive, in the pinhead’s latest comment.

Comment #131899

Posted by normdoering on September 20, 2006 4:24 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

The physician/essayist Lewis Thomas went further: “The greatest of all the accomplishments of twentieth-century science has been the discovery of human ignorance.”

That’s only an “accomplishment” if it leads to a spirit of HUMILITY – the idea, learned by most of us at the grade-school level, that since we don’t know everything, we should therefore listen to others with an open mind, because we never know who might have some insight we missed.

It’s important to know the difference between bald assertions and real, framed insights from someone who knows they don’t know.

Keep your mind too open and people will just throw garbage into it.

Without that humility, your “militant agnosticism” is nothing more than an admission on your part that you have no real authiroty to talk about anything –

That’s your biggest failure. You didn’t read the rest of the “Through a glass darkly” blog post:

On the other hand, consider all the questions for which we have answers. Why does the sun go dark at midday? Why does the comet appear in the sky? Why the plague? Why the drought? Why the infestation of locusts? Why the mountains and the valleys? Why the fossils on the mountain top? How did the universe begin? And on and on.

As long as our answers to these questions invoked the gods – as they did for thousands of years – no reliable public knowledge was possible. Only when a few curious people said “I don’t know” did science begin. Admission of ignorance is a prerequisite of scientific discovery, and by the same token, the more we learn, the more we are aware of what we do not know.

I have no more humility than any scientist. My theories and their predictions could fail, I could be proved wrong. By your attitude you’d have to reject any scientific theory that contradicted your’s or anyone’s religious belief because you give religion more authority.

… and you won’t listen to anyone else, either, which means you won’t get any less ignorant.

But I am listening to you and you’re not doing anything but demonstrating that you actually reject the scientific method. You want authorities that have, figuratively at least, talked to God and claim superhuman knowledge.

Comment #131905

Posted by Henry J on September 20, 2006 4:38 PM (e)

falling back on name-calling whenever one loses an argument

I’ll have to take your word for it. To be honest I haven’t bothered to read any of the flame-wars (they can go on for a long time), so I may have missed this.

People do say that sometimes, but it’s not a reliable way to judge who’s winning the argument. An opponent who’s lost but keeps going anyway can also cause the other arguer to start throwing insults around.

Henry

Comment #131907

Posted by Raging Bee on September 20, 2006 4:40 PM (e)

norm: the blog post you quote does not justify your attitude.

I have no more humility than any scientist.

You have a lot less than most scientists, and it shows.

By your attitude you’d have to reject any scientific theory that contradicted your’s or anyone’s religious belief because you give religion more authority.

Now you’re just lying about my statements to conceal your inability to deal with what I actually said. Even you should know that I never said anything of the sort – if I had, you would have quoted it.

Why don’t you just admit that you’ve lost the argument, and you’re way out of your depth, and go to bed?

Comment #131913

Posted by Scott Hatfield on September 20, 2006 5:08 PM (e)

normdoering:

I’d like to learn more about your views, as I have not been a frequent reader of comments at PT. Thus I lack the context to enter the conversation. Can you direct me to a source that would summarize your position here, or else send me an e-mail?

It would be much appreciated, if you can spare the time:

epigene13@hotmail.com

Sincerely….Scott

Comment #131914

Posted by David B. Benson on September 20, 2006 5:11 PM (e)

steviepinhead asks, “What do they need US for?” I like Susan Blackmore’s explication of ‘memes’. Some memes are helpful, some not actively deleterious. The latter are just along for the ride, so to speak.

See her book “The Meme Machine”, Oxford, 1999.

Comment #131921

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 20, 2006 5:46 PM (e)

I’ve read Blackmore, thanks (not claiming that the pin-sized head grew any as a result, mind you).

The meme approach is a possible explanation for what existing-in-this-material-world beliefs in god(s) get out of riding around in our minds, but it doesn’t adequately deal with that portion of the spectrum of thought–possibly represented here by Meets People and Raging Bee, though I certainly wouldn’t be presumptuous enough to speak for them–that “some” pro-science people’s beliefs respecting god(s) and/or spritual/supernatural “higher authority(ies)” could actually (and so long as they don’t make scientifically-falsifiable truth-in-the-material world claims) be valid.

That is, if we hypothetically entertain the position that “some” people’s god(s)-beliefs could be valid, (regardless of whether they are buried in a cultural cloud of vacuous meme-driven god(s)-beliefs) and we, therefore, extend provisional respect–or at least tolerance–or at least non-aggression–to such believers, then–as to the god(s) of “some” such people–my mystery remains:

What do “some” people’s god(s) need with the likes of us?

Most of the “theories” I’ve heard come down–in effect–to entertainment value, of one form or another (some with flavors of sadism or quasi-scientific experimentalism, some on the rocks).

But it continues to puzzle me how genuinely *entertaining* such as us’ns could realistically seem to such as them. I mean, we’re talking “higher” entities of some exceptional degree of awesomeness here. How entertaining is “Go Fish” when you know how to play Bridge or Poker? How entertaining is checkers when you’ve got chess? How entertaining is “The Young and The Restless” when you’ve got “King Lear”?

Just sayin’.

Comment #131924

Posted by Caledonian on September 20, 2006 6:01 PM (e)

By treating Raging Bee as a person whose ideas are worth listening to and debating, you’ve already lost, normdoering. She’s repeatedly taken advantage of your good faith to twist and misrepresent your argument, deny basic logic, and promote her own personal version of reality.

The only way to win this game is not to play.

Comment #131925

Posted by normdoering on September 20, 2006 6:03 PM (e)

Scott Hatfield asked

I’d like to learn more about your views, as I have not been a frequent reader of comments at PT. Thus I lack the context to enter the conversation. Can you direct me to a source that would summarize your position here, or else send me an e-mail?

I got your email copied. I may get something to you by the weekend.

In the meantime here are some links to two essays (one already linked) that were supposed to be chapters in a book I never finished and are two decades old:

http://www.totse.com/en/religion/christianity/notcrst1.html
http://www.totse.com/en/religion/christianity/notcrst2.html

That’s the essential direction I was going, but after more than a decade my ideas have evolved and I haven’t got them all organized yet.

I think today, because of knowing a little bit more about the brain, that I can make some predictions based on the ideas. For example, because religion exploits fear and hope in a natural way rather than a supernatural way the fear would show up in the Amygdala of believers during hellfire and brimstone preaching if they’re attracted to that even if they don’t know they are afraid:

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro98/202s98-paper2/Holt2.html

There shouldn’t really be the kind of “God spot” some people talk about, a special area of the brain focused on religion alone. Religious emotion would be normal emotion focused on unreal rather than real possibilities, but stronger than emotions attached to things we have reason to fear. Religious thought should be normal abstract thought that uses the same brain structures .

Comment #131926

Posted by David B. Benson on September 20, 2006 6:16 PM (e)

steviepinhead — I won’t follow your hypothetical. As has been hashed and rehashed and corn-beef-hashed, science deals only with observable, recordable data. I, at least, am aware of no such data. Only a bit of data about ‘memes’ or ‘beliefs’ or whater-you-want-to-call these subjective experiences.

Comment #131931

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 20, 2006 6:29 PM (e)

No sweat, David.

It’s not really a mystery that requires explanation from your POV, in any event.

Nor, lacking an “explanation” that makes sense to me, would I necessarily fail to extend respect/tolerance/mutual non-aggression to an otherwise science-sensible believer.

Which is saying something different than respecting the unevidenced belief(s) it/themselves.

Comment #131965

Posted by Carol Clouser on September 20, 2006 9:20 PM (e)

Norm,

I read your linked essays with interest. It saddens me that as a product of your upbringing you, like millions (if not billions) of others, consider christianity to be the only religious approach to the Bible, at least the Old Testament part. You seem to never have considered the views of the people who created and nourished that document for millennia long before Jesus even put on diapers. These are the folks who are primarily responsible for the Bible’s existence. If you got to consider their religious views of the original (Hebrew) Bible, you would at least be exposed to the stark alternative view - that the christian interpretation and understanding of the Bible is nothing but a gross distortion, both as to content and form.

How disappointing.

Comment #131980

Posted by Henry J on September 20, 2006 9:52 PM (e)

Steviepinhead wrote:

A bigger mystery to me – and one which I’m fully aware has been addressed by mightier mind’s than mine–
–is what the heck do they need us for?

I kind of like the answer from a sci-fi novel I read several years ago - “God split it/his/her-self into a multitude in order to have friends” (or words to that effect).

Henry

Comment #131989

Posted by jeffw on September 20, 2006 10:14 PM (e)

–is what the heck do they need us for?

According to some sci-fi, we are needed to build him/her/it/them. We are enzymes catalyzing the formation of something, perhaps resulting in the eventual existence of “god”, somewhere/somewhen. So the atheists are right when they say god doesn’t exist - as long as they qualify that with the word “yet”. Of course, most current religions would probably perceive this idea as the ultimate form of idolatry.

Comment #132008

Posted by normdoering on September 20, 2006 10:35 PM (e)

jeffw wrote:

–is what the heck do they need us for?

According to some sci-fi, we are needed to build him/her/it/them.

Have you read “The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov?
http://infohost.nmt.edu/~mlindsey/asimov/question.htm

Comment #132026

Posted by Scott Hatfield on September 20, 2006 11:31 PM (e)

normdoering:

Thanks for the links, and I look forward to whatever you can send me. Peace…Scott

Comment #132031

Posted by Wayne Francis on September 20, 2006 11:40 PM (e)

Comment # 130121

Popper's ghost wrote:

Comment #130121
Posted by Popper’s ghost on September 15, 2006 08:05 AM (e)
Don’t rule out the possibility that people can have a real personal relationship with God.
I don’t rule out the possibility that people can have a real fantasy about something they call “God”. I do, however, rule out that they can have a real personal relationship with Odin, Croesus, Oliver Twist, or any other fictional character.
However, I seem to have missed what these proclamations of personal belief by Ms. “I can be rude right back” have to do with Pat Hayes’s comments. IMO, the most relevant comments were PZ’s (mischaracterized as “flippant”), pointing out hypocrisy of those who moan about theist-bashing but turn a blind eye to, or engage in, atheist bashing. The fact is that the fraction of scientists who are atheists is much larger than the fraction of the general population who are atheists, and as long as the general population sees atheists as evil and UnAmerican, science will be vulnerable to attack by DI, the Bush administration, etc. The concern about theist bashing is much like the phony “war on Christmas”, the phony “liberal media” myth, men who complain that “wife abuse” is sexist even though 98% of spousal abuse is man on woman, homophobes who murder gays and then blame the gays for coming on to them, whites who blame not getting a job or a college slot on reverse discrimination, etc. Boo hoo hoo for the poor oppressed majority. The fact is that the real threat is against rational thinking and appeals to evidence and logic; talk about theist bashing is misdirection.

This is what annoys me. Katarina says religion is something personal to her and does not effect her outlook on science and she’s told she’s an idiot. The topic is science. It was asked how someone can believe in God and she responded and pointed out that it has nothing to do with her belief in science. Instead of accepting this from her she gets attacked about her response that it doesn’t effect what so many atheist say it does.

As an agnostic I can understand both sides beliefs. What I can’t accept from either side is saying the other person is wrong about their belief or non belief in a god when this belief/non belief shouldn’t matter if it doesn’t skew the person’s belief in science.

I don’t give a shit about your belief/non belief in god if it doesn’t affect you view on science. If you use your belief/non belief to help get people on the side of science fine but when you just use it to attack someone with an apposing view on religion but believes as you do in science you are just stupid and not doing any good. Honestly I see more atheists attacking theist about their religious beliefs then theists attacking atheists about their non belief.

Basically if a theist uses science and their religion to sway other religious people to the side of science so what. As long as they are not making false statements. Miller pointing out things like quantum uncertainty “could be” or “is how I believe” how a “God” interacts with the universe isn’t a false statement.

Both sides need to just shut up about other peoples religious beliefs/non beliefs if it doesn’t effect the scientific issues.

Comment #132032

Posted by Raging Bee on September 20, 2006 11:48 PM (e)

Keep your mind too open and people will just throw garbage into it.

I guess that’s your fundie upbringing talking: openmindedness is weakness; new ideas are dangerous because they might be wrong; contradiction and complexity cannot be tolerated; allowing others to be your equals lets them take advantage of you; you can’t trust yourself to process and assimilate new ideas while holding onto your concept of your self, therefore you must keep them all out instead. Beneath all your attacks on the narrow religious mindset, all you’re able to do is replace one narrow religious mindset with another, because that’s all you learned.

Keep your mind too closed and you’ll have no way to throw garbage OUT of it.

You need help, norm. I mean, you really really really need help.

Comment #132033

Posted by Wayne Francis on September 20, 2006 11:50 PM (e)

Comment # 130184

Flint wrote:

Comment #130184
Posted by Flint on September 15, 2006 10:56 AM (e)

As I wrote earlier, he does good science BECAUSE he has found a way to render his religious faith irrelevant, at least while he’s doing science. He trots out his faith when it doesn’t get in the way of his science. Which is as close to discarding his faith in favor of his profession as you can come; effectively, this is what he has accomplished.

Flint religion should be irrelevant when doing science. So you have a problem with him doing good science by doing so but when he tries to influence others, that can’t make their religion irrelevant, by pointing out how science and religion can coexist without making religion irrelevant?

Perhaps he shouldn’t even try and let all those fence sitters fall over to the non science side of the fence.

If I misunderstand your position then sorry. I know others do have this view. They think its better to hold some stupid uncompromising position when there is really no compromise being made by Miller and other theists.

Comment #132042

Posted by Raging Bee on September 21, 2006 12:06 AM (e)

Hi, Caledonian, thanx for joining us. Learn any new social skills since you got kicked off of Dispatches?

By treating Raging Bee as a person whose ideas are worth listening to and debating, you’ve already lost, normdoering. She’s repeatedly taken advantage of your good faith to twist and misrepresent your argument, deny basic logic, and promote her own personal version of reality.

The only way to win this game is not to play.

I guess that would be “no.” You giving advice on how to relate to others is either a huge joke, or an artfully crass insult to norm. Sort of like Carol talking down to him and actually sounding sensible.

Regarding your last sentence, are you saying that people like norm can only “win” by refusing to engage with people who disagree with him? What does he “win” exactly, and why wasn’t I told about the prize earlier?

And what makes you think I’m female? If it’s my writing ability, I’ll take that as a compliment, even though you’ve guessed wrong. Not that I’m surprised, given how wrong you’ve been about so many other things, and how eager you are to jump to conclusions without admitting your data is insufficient.

Comment #132043

Posted by Wayne Francis on September 21, 2006 12:09 AM (e)

Comment # 130249

Popper's ghost wrote:

Comment #130249
Posted by Popper’s ghost on September 15, 2006 03:31 PM (e)

This has nothing to do with science and religion (other than that science is based on reason and religion is irrational)…

Is loving someone based on “reason”? Should you not love someone because it is not based on “reason”. “Religion is irrational” is your opinion because, like IDers, you feel that religion needs to be have a scientific basis.

Much of what we do as humans has little to do with “reason”. Some people might feel that it is also “irrational” but you seem to think your opinion should be law.

Your no better then any of the IDers we are fighting agianst.

Comment #132048

Posted by Wayne Francis on September 21, 2006 12:31 AM (e)

Comment # 130350

Popper's ghost wrote:

Comment #130350
Posted by Popper’s ghost on September 15, 2006 08:47 PM (e)
Whatever theism there is does not seem to stand in the way of the practice of good science and good medicine. None of the Friends I know find any contraction whatsoever between their ‘faith’ and the conduct of their science.
This is a strawman. Again, the issue we were discussing was Flint’s point that theism doesn’t add anything that can’t be had without it. And that Quakers don’t find any contradiction between their faith and conducting science does not mean there are no such contradictions to be found upon careful examination.

So Popper’s ghost now dictates where people’s motivation comes from. It is not valid to have a motivation from a religious source.

I on the other hand say if religion motivates some people to do good things I’m happy. Popper says that their source of motivation is invalid and thus useless.

Popper what motivates someone is very personal. Sure they can be motivated by non religious sources like a gun being held to their head but is the gun to the head better then believing in a “God” in your eyes because you don’t like religion?

Comment #132049

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 12:42 AM (e)

Wayne Francis wrote:

This is what annoys me. Katarina says religion is something personal to her and does not effect her outlook on science and she’s told she’s an idiot.

No, she said what Popper quoted, “Don’t rule out the possibility that people can have a real personal relationship with God.”

A real personal relationship with God is not the same as “religion is something personal.”

Before Popper commented I suggested ruling out the possibility that you can actually know if what you are relating to is God or some other thing, like a delusion or perhaps merely a trickster from the planet Zarkuba with very advanced technologies. How would you tell the difference? How would you know God from some other entity? What does the God you relate to do to earn your trust, your faith?

Unless you’ve got a way to do that, some “true God test,” to eliminate tricks and delusions then you might as well rule out other people’s claims unless they can demonstrate them or at least demonstrate that they can think seriously and critically about them.

When I suggested it, she felt insulted, but all I suggested was thinking critically and skeptically. She only slowly opened up to the possibility that her religious experience might be subject to the same sort of critical inquiry that anything else in nature is. I don’t think she ever fully opened up to that.

It was asked how someone can believe in God and she responded and pointed out that it has nothing to do with her belief in science.

But it does have to do with science and her belief in what kind of questions science can answer. If it doesn’t you are artificially cutting off religion from scientific investigation.

Why do that if not trying to protect an illusion?

Human experience, religious or not, is open to science now. Because of new brain scanning technologies and possible Persinger’s helmet we can answer questions about what happens in the brain when we experience such things.

Comment #132052

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 1:14 AM (e)

Wayne Francis asked:

Is loving someone based on “reason”?

That might at least be partially possible for some people. After my first few irrational crushes when I was very young I started getting a handle on my own desires. In some ways I do make rational choices and even chose against my basic instinctual drives. In other ways, I’m still partly a slave to an animal instinct which is mostly limited to fantasy expressions.

Should you not love someone because it is not based on “reason”.

You put reason in quotes, but which reason do you mean? The reasons that are the answer to why did evolution make us this way and give us this instinct? Or reason like in “I choose to love person X rather than person Y because that is a more rational choice”?

“Religion is irrational” is your opinion because, like IDers, you feel that religion needs to be have a scientific basis.

Let’s just say it should have a reason for existing. As scientists we assume a natural, rather than supernatural reason.

Much of what we do as humans has little to do with “reason”.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t “reasons” we do them, just that we’re not always conscious of how our desires form.

Some people might feel that it is also “irrational” but you seem to think your opinion should be law.

No. We are not lawyers. We do not make laws. We ask scientific questions and examine things skeptically, critically and rationally.

Comment #132094

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 21, 2006 4:58 AM (e)

steviepinhead wrote:

Nor, lacking an “explanation” that makes sense to me, would I necessarily fail to extend respect/tolerance/mutual non-aggression to an otherwise science-sensible believer.

Which is saying something different than respecting the unevidenced belief(s) it/themselves.

That’s good enough for me.

Comment #132097

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 21, 2006 5:18 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #132101

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 21, 2006 5:34 AM (e)

normdoering,

No BS. Yes I am open to having my religious experiences examined. Like I told you I go between agnosticism and theism an average of 3 times a day. Some things happened to me that I have trouble forgetting. I feel like God made some things possible for me when I took a chance on praying, even though I was raised atheist, and told never to believe in something beyond nature. As a child, I wasn’t indulged about Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, or any of it. Which I appreciate. But then I went through some difficult times, prayed, and my prayers were answered in such a way that may have been just eery coincidence. More than once.

An observation doesn’t necessitate belief. I am not sure about whether I believe or not. But I am afraid to insult a God that may have been the hand that moved my life into order. May not have been. But may have been. Why should I take the chance? I feel grateful.

If you are interested in a full description, then you may e-mail me at katarinaaram@yahoo.com

I doubt you are qualified to examine my experiences, but if you are really curious, I am willing to disclose them.

Comment #132121

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 7:12 AM (e)

The only way to win this game is not to play.

Great idea.

Why don’t *all* you hyper-atheists try this, for a few years?

Comment #132126

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 7:21 AM (e)

Both sides need to just shut up about other peoples religious beliefs/non beliefs if it doesn’t effect the scientific issues.

I quite agree. But the problem is that the hyper-evangelists, on both sides, don’t care a rat’s ass about science. Their only aim is to stamp out the other side.

As I noted before, Norm and the other ober-atheists don’t make any distinctions. It simply doesn’t matter to them if a theist lets his/her theism affect his/her science or not. All that matters is that they HAVE theism. To Norm and the others, that in itself is simply intolerable. Heck, I don’t even have any theism, and THAT doesn’t make any difference to Norm and the others either — it’s enough for them to know that anyone who isn’t for them, is against them. The standard attitude of any ideological extremist.

That is what really pisses me about PZ and his Puppies. They not only don’t really care about the agenda of the anti-creationists, but they insist on imposing their OWN agenda at every opportunity. Whether we like it or not, whether it helps or not. All they want is to preach, and all they want is for the rest of the world to shut up and listen. Just like the Maoists. Or the fundies.

I see no need whatever to allow them to turn PT into their own private soapbox where they can wage their own private war to stamp out religion. It’s simply not what this blog is all about, and all they do is get in the way of PT’s real purpose.

Comment #132129

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 21, 2006 7:22 AM (e)

I’ll have to take your word for it.

That’s neither generally nor specifically a good strategy.

Comment #132135

Posted by Caledonian on September 21, 2006 7:31 AM (e)

Lenny wrote:

As I noted before, Norm and the other ober-atheists don’t make any distinctions. It simply doesn’t matter to them if a theist lets his/her theism affect his/her science or not. All that matters is that they HAVE theism.

You haven’t been paying attention very well, I see. A religionist is theoretically capable of utilizing science, just as long as he turns off his faith-justified beliefs for the period of time it takes to do the science. His faith is still not compatible with basic scientific principles, including but not limited to the utter rejection of supernatural events, but humans have a remarkable capacity to compartmentalize. Thus science can be accepted as well as faith at the cost of some sanity and general intelligence.

The issue that we’re objecting to is the idea that religious faith is somehow ‘compatible’ with science, which it is not.

Comment #132137

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 21, 2006 7:42 AM (e)

A religionist is theoretically capable of utilizing science, just as long as he turns off his faith-justified beliefs for the period of time it takes to do the science. His faith is still not compatible with basic scientific principles, including but not limited to the utter rejection of supernatural events, but humans have a remarkable capacity to compartmentalize. Thus science can be accepted as well as faith at the cost of some sanity and general intelligence.

Maybe you haven’t been paying attention.

The point you ignore is that it is possible to have both religious faith and scientific faith because they are two “ways of knowing” our universe. The two don’t need to overlap, etc. Like someone else said, it’s been hashed and re-hashed. Why is that point so difficult to remember? I understand atheist objections to the nature of God, and that if we accept the possibility of one god, then we may as well accept the possibility of many gods, or even sophisticated manipulative aliens, and all that, but these musings are beside the point already made. The anti-theists gave plenty of examples of bad religious people, and a range of possibilities about what is really behind religious experiences.

So what? The point that religious belief and scientific belief can be separate and non-overlapping still hasn’t been refuted logically.

Comment #132138

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 21, 2006 7:43 AM (e)

So now you can verify Universals in theory, as long as you restrict your search to that part of the Universe which can affect the observer in some way.

And how do you verify that you have examined everything that can affect you? Remember that meaningful was equated with verifiable, so everything about a claim must be verifiable, else the claim is meaningless (by this questionable theory of meaning).

Unfortunately you have to decide ahead of time what “observable” means; you’ll need axioms of causation, such as those given by the laws of physics, to decide when you can terminate your search.

And why should meaningfulness be so restricted? Aren’t statements about other possible worlds, with other laws of physics, meaningful? Deciding ahead of time what “observable” means places ad hoc limits on what is “meaningful”, but that doesn’t fit our notions of meaning, which are about semantic coherence, not empirical contingencies.

And, as I noted, by the laws of physics we know of, verification isn’t possible; we can never be sure, at the moment that we claim that there are no 10-leaf clovers, one hasn’t come into existence but the signal indicating its existence hasn’t reached us yet. It does not good to talk about the presence of “for all” quantifiers in logic books; all that means is that “all ravens are black” and “all clovers don’t have 10 leafs” are expressible, and perhaps even logically possible, but it has no bearing on verifiability, which is an empirical matter and is normally defined in terms of observation statements.

Comment #132142

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 21, 2006 7:48 AM (e)

religious faith and scientific faith because they are two “ways of knowing” our universe.

Science generates models that produce interpersonally verifiable claims – thus, there is some justification to use the word “knowledge” in regard to such models for which the claims prove accurate. But to call religious faith “knowledge” is sheer arrogance; it is to assert that one’s personal and unsubstantiated opinions are actually facts about the world.

Comment #132157

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 21, 2006 8:07 AM (e)

This is what annoys me. Katarina says religion is something personal to her and does not effect her outlook on science and she’s told she’s an idiot.

What annoys me is that you are a liar. I didn’t tell her she was an idiot, in the text you quoted or anywhere else. But considering your apparent complete inability to grasp what I wrote, I’m willing to call you one.

Comment #132160

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 21, 2006 8:13 AM (e)

This has nothing to do with science and religion (other than that science is based on reason and religion is irrational)…

Is loving someone based on “reason”? Should you not love someone because it is not based on “reason”. “Religion is irrational” is your opinion because, like IDers, you feel that religion needs to be have a scientific basis.

Much of what we do as humans has little to do with “reason”. Some people might feel that it is also “irrational” but you seem to think your opinion should be law.

A non sequitur about a parenthetical aside.

Your no better then any of the IDers we are fighting agianst.

At least I can spell and I don’t drool on my keyboard.

Comment #132163

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 21, 2006 8:31 AM (e)

Popper's ghost wrote:

…to call religious faith “knowledge” is sheer arrogance; it is to assert that one’s personal and unsubstantiated opinions are actually facts about the world.

I concede the point. In my haste to sum up the issue I didn’t take care to use precise words. Allow me to revise my statement. Religious and scientific belief are different ways of perceiving. Scientific belief is based on more rigorous criteria. Religious belief is based on things we aren’t sure about, and which we’ll never be sure about. Such as whether something that appeared to be chance was actually a supernatural event. I’m not saying we need Dembski’s filter to figure it out!!! NO NO NO! It (any chance event) simply leaves open a window for belief.

Then you will naturally follow with the question: If evolution is conceivable by chance alone, why do we need supernatural intervention at all? It is useless.

Excellent question, (though by now I am having a cooky conversation with myself) to which a conceivable answer would be: If we could be sure that evolution didn’t rest on chance alone but needed intervention, then we would have no choice but to acknowledge the existance of god(s), and faith would become irrelevant. At least that is one possible answer, as Dr. Miller sees it.

Comment #132172

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 21, 2006 8:58 AM (e)

Let me just clarify that last comment a little. The first part of it refers to individual chance events. The second part (answering my own question) refers to all the chance events of evolution combined, producing just another species, us, after all the countless trials and errors of a few billion years.

Not sure if that helps to clarify it or not… Let me know if this is confusing.

Comment #132186

Posted by Flint on September 21, 2006 10:08 AM (e)

Katerina:

Allow me to revise my statement. Religious and scientific belief are different ways of perceiving.

Allow me to suggest yet another locution here: Scientific “belief” is a misleading phrase that seems to be confusing you. So try this: the scientific approach (basing tentative explanations on actual evidence subject to test) and the religious approach (Making Stuff Up) are different ways of satisfying normal human curiosity.

You can’t say religious faith is a “way of perceiving” because there is nothing to be perceived beyond the imagination of the faithful. If there were, science would test it. Stuff people make up is not knowledge in the generally accepted sense. No depth of sincerity of belief in what they make up, makes it knowledge.

Comment #132189

Posted by Raging Bee on September 21, 2006 10:18 AM (e)

Popper’s ever-less-substantial ghost wrote:

…to call religious faith “knowledge” is sheer arrogance; it is to assert that one’s personal and unsubstantiated opinions are actually facts about the world.

That’s YOUR personal and unsubstantiated opinion. Care to back it up with something more than name-calling and brittle verbal bullying?

It’s also demonstrably wrong: to call religious faith “knowledge” is to assert that one’s personal and unsubstantiated opinions are facts about ONE’S OWN WORLD, affecting ONE’S OWN ACTIONS in pursuit of ONE’S OWN VALUES AND NEEDS. That, at least, is what nearly all of the theists I’ve talked to (Christian and Pagan) say, along with a good many of the atheists. If the theists in your life say otherwise, then you’re hanging with the wrong peeps.

(Many of those personal opinions aren’t “unsubstantiated” either, but let’s not go too far above your level of debate in one day.)

Your talent for name-calling – limited though it is – far outstrips your talent for understanding what other people believe. It also has no place on an adult science blog. Perhaps you’ll find a warmer welcome in the far-right or far-left dittosphere. (Free Republic maybe? Ankle-Humping Pundits?)

Comment #132195

Posted by Raging Bee on September 21, 2006 10:29 AM (e)

Flint wrote:

You can’t say religious faith is a “way of perceiving” because there is nothing to be perceived beyond the imagination of the faithful.

In my experience, religious faith – including personal understanding of what’s right and wrong, important and umimportant – is, in fact, based on, and daily modified by, one’s personal perceptions and experiences – which are far from “imagination.”

Perhaps the phrase should have been that religious faith is a way of processing what one perceives and ordering all of it into a useful picture for personal decision-making purposes. It’s not “scientific,” as in objectively testable and repeatable; it’s personal and idiosyncratic; and is not repeatable because people are all different in too many ways. That alone does not make it any less “true” or “valid.”

Comment #132198

Posted by Flint on September 21, 2006 10:44 AM (e)

Raging Bee:

In my experience, religious faith – including personal understanding of what’s right and wrong, important and umimportant – is, in fact, based on, and daily modified by, one’s personal perceptions and experiences – which are far from “imagination.”

While I agree that such things are not imaginary, I certainly would never regard our individual mental models of the world around us as “religious faith”. If this were true, even slugs and ants would have “religious faith”. Such creatures “know” what’s right and wrong, important and unimportant, within the context of their own lives.

I guess I need to be more specific to try to head off these misunderstandings. By religious faith, I’m talking about the propensity to take for granted the “reality” of the supernatural (whatever that phrase might mean). Specifically, the belief that there are gods or that forces “outside” of nature (whatever that means) have effects on the natural world.

Your definition strikes me as too broad. Under that definition, a preference for chocolate is religious faith. More to the point, normal curiosity or a preference for evidentiary support are religious faith. But we’ve been around this block before, so let’s keep it simple. Belief in the existence of gods, OK?

Comment #132226

Posted by Raging Bee on September 21, 2006 12:57 PM (e)

Flint wrote:

While I agree that such things are not imaginary…

Then why did you choose to use the word “imagination?”

…I certainly would never regard our individual mental models of the world around us as “religious faith”.

I clearly did not say the two were equal or the same. I didn’t even come close to implying it. You are misinterpreting my statements by such a wide margin (as in changing the subject altogether), that I have to question your honesty.

I guess I need to be more specific to try to head off these misunderstandings. [*Chortle*…sorry…] By religious faith, I’m talking about the propensity to take for granted the “reality” of the supernatural (whatever that phrase might mean). Specifically, the belief that there are gods or that forces “outside” of nature (whatever that means) have effects on the natural world.

So you ‘guess’ you need to be more specific, then you explicitly fail to do so. Not only that, but the very validity or usefulness of your “definitions” depend entirely on how one defines the very terms you refused to define (noted in bold text).

Either you don’t really care about heading off misunderstandings, or you can’t because you don’t understand the issues yourself.

Your definition strikes me as too broad…

Now you’ve gone and made me spew tea out my nose all over my keyboard. You owe me a new keyboard – not to mention a new irony-meter (preferably the kind used by the military).

Comment #132227

Posted by Raging Bee on September 21, 2006 1:04 PM (e)

Oh, and…

…so let’s keep it simple…

Sorry, pal, but human nature, and human spirituality, are not simple things. Once you start experiencing real life for yourself, you’ll see this, whether or not you end up believing in this or that pantheon. You want to keep things simple? Stick to simple subjects on a simple blog.

Comment #132236

Posted by Flint on September 21, 2006 1:28 PM (e)

Raging Bee:

Consider your own words:

religious faith – including personal understanding of what’s right and wrong, important and umimportant – is, in fact, based on, and daily modified by, one’s personal perceptions and experiences

How many times do how many people have to repeat to you before you understand that religious faith does NOT include ANY of these things? These are not “religious faith” and they are not “included” in religious faith. People devoid of any and all religious faith nonetheless have a sense of right and wrong, based on personal experiences. That’s because these things are not included in religious faith.

We’re talking about the supernatural here. Period. If it’s not supernatural, it’s not religious. Period. But I guess even this is too difficult for you (or alternatively, it might involve admitting error, something even MORE difficult for you).

But whatever. You are wrong. And no longer worth talking to, since I can see you aren’t making any attempt whatsoever to discuss anything in good faith. Whatever you decide that means today, of course.

Comment #132240

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 1:39 PM (e)

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

Yes I am open to having my religious experiences examined. Like I told you I go between agnosticism and theism an average of 3 times a day.

Sounds like a weird state of mind. Sometimes you feel its there, and other times you’re not so sure, eh?

Some things happened to me that I have trouble forgetting.

I’ll email you for that bit over the weekend.

… then I went through some difficult times, prayed, and my prayers were answered in such a way that may have been just eery coincidence. More than once.

In that case, pray for me to get a check for a couple million dollars from a publisher when I send my novel out.

Seriously, have you heard of the Templeton Foundation prayer study:
http://blog.atheology.com/2006/03/31/templeton-prayer-study-flawed/
http://www.templeton.org/spirituality_and_health/step.asp

They arranged for Christians to pray for 1800 heart patients and tracked the results. Prayer was not effective.

But I am afraid to insult a God…

How can you possibly insult God? Do you tell him that you think polio, mosquitoes and measles were bad ideas? What kind of God gets insulted? That’s just so anthropomorphic it sounds absurd.

…Why should I take the chance?

In order to know reality as best as humanly possible.

Comment #132248

Posted by Raging Bee on September 21, 2006 2:04 PM (e)

How many times do how many people have to repeat to you before you understand that religious faith does NOT include ANY of these things? These are not “religious faith” and they are not “included” in religious faith.

Really? People who actually HAVE religious faith have explicitly repeated, to me and others, that their faith does indeed include – or interact with – these things. And since they’re the ones who actually have the faith, and actually incorporate it into their daily actions, their word on this subject is more reliable than yours.

People devoid of any and all religious faith nonetheless have a sense of right and wrong, based on personal experiences. That’s because these things are not included in religious faith.

That is a non-sequitur. Just because “these things” are not included in one person’s faith (because he has none) does not mean they’re not included in someone else’s.

Generalizing about theists from the beliefs of atheists is just beyond ridiculous. What’s next – “The Pope says [x], therefore Shintoists believe [Y]”?

Comment #132253

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 2:12 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

…to call religious faith “knowledge” is to assert that one’s personal and unsubstantiated opinions are facts about ONE’S OWN WORLD, affecting ONE’S OWN ACTIONS in pursuit of ONE’S OWN VALUES AND NEEDS.

So, why not make an effort to substantiate your opinions?

Consider, someone here said, “I am afraid to insult a God.”

What kind of a God can be insulted? That version of God sounds like that kid on the Twilight Zone episode, played by Billy Mummy, who would send people out to the cornfield. It was a nightmare scenario.

Comment #132256

Posted by Raging Bee on September 21, 2006 2:26 PM (e)

norm wrote:

Consider, someone here said, “I am afraid to insult a God.”

What kind of a God can be insulted? That version of God sounds like that kid on the Twilight Zone episode, played by Billy Mummy, who would send people out to the cornfield. It was a nightmare scenario.

Are you for real? Some woman mentions God and you get nightmares? Like I said before, you REALLY need help. You actually sound like a character from Chick Publications: the rigid atheist who freaks out at any mention of God because he can’t help thinking he might actually be dead wrong and HEADED FOR HELL!!!

Comment #132265

Posted by Raging Bee on September 21, 2006 2:43 PM (e)

Sounds like a weird state of mind. Sometimes you feel its there, and other times you’re not so sure, eh?

It’s called being open-minded and letting new ideas and experiences influence your thoughts, even when they endanger your core assumptions about God and reality. You should try it sometime, instead of making fun of it and pretending it makes you superior.

Comment #132267

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 2:50 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

Consider, someone here said, “I am afraid to insult a God.”

What kind of a God can be insulted? That version of God sounds like that kid on the Twilight Zone episode, played by Billy Mummy, who would send people out to the cornfield. It was a nightmare scenario.

Some woman mentions God and you get nightmares?

Whoa! Did you just project your own fear on to me?

I don’t get nightmares about Twilight Zone kid gods and I have no fear of insulting God, let me demonstrate: God is a psychotic killer, an immature child emotionally, he/she/it is the supreme asshole of the universe who needs worshippers to kiss its ass constantly because its so insecure about being loved.

Can you insult god? Or are you afraid too?

Comment #132274

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 21, 2006 3:03 PM (e)

I’m pooping out. When people start getting into endless semantics and picking apart each other’s sentances with a toothpick, I start feeling tired.

Flint- I am not confused. Belief is just as good as approach. OK, use approach if you want to. They don’t mean the same thing, but I don’t see a problem with using either one. My religious beliefs are not as substantiated as my scientific beliefs. My religious approach is not as well defined as my scientific approach.

Also, your “whatever that means.” You just keep typing, but are getting no closer to logical refutation of the main point. Let’s type just to amuse ourselves. I am getting so tired… maybe that’s the point.

Comment #132278

Posted by Raging Bee on September 21, 2006 3:22 PM (e)

Can you insult god? Or are you afraid too?

Why should I? Is this a test of manhood where you come from? It sure didn’t make YOU sound manly – I was able to say the same things before I hit puberty. So what?

Why is your superior ability to insult God relevant to us again?

I thought you said you were going to ignore me. Can’t get enough of me?

Comment #132289

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 3:35 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

Can you insult god? Or are you afraid too?

Why should I?

To demonstrate that you’re not afraid of what you accuse me of being afraid of – a God who can be insulted.

Do you think you’ll get on God’s good side by defending him agaist us atheists?

Can’t get enough of me?

Well, now that some of your fear is slipping through inadvertently it’s getting more interesting. Your real motives seem to be peeking through your mask.

If you won’t do it – I am going to think you’re afraid to.

It’s up to you whether you care about that.

Comment #132295

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 21, 2006 3:43 PM (e)

I am said I was afraid to insult God, but norm, you took it out of context. I would be afraid to insult anyone who has done me huge favors. Not because I fear the reprocussions, but because it would be ungrateful. Fear of not showing gratitude when it’s due.

I hope this clears things up for you.

Comment #132298

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 21, 2006 3:46 PM (e)

Sorry, that was supposed to be

I am the one who said I was afraid of insulting God

I wasn’t kidding when I said I was getting tired.

Comment #132302

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 4:13 PM (e)

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

I am said I was afraid to insult God, but norm, you took it out of context.

I took it to a logical extreme, but not out of context. You still think God has a human emotional nature because you think he does you favors:

I would be afraid to insult anyone who has done me huge favors.

Does the sun need gratitude when it shines on the Earth and keeps us all alive? Sun-worshippers in South America used to slice the hearts out of people in an effort to show their gratitude to the sun.

Not because I fear the reprocussions, but because it would be ungrateful. Fear of not showing gratitude when it’s due.

Just in case their might be a God up there who appreciates gratitude and might do you more favors?

Comment #132305

Posted by David B. Benson on September 21, 2006 4:21 PM (e)

Wow! All of that about this memeplex versus that memeplex…

Maybe, as was the original point of this thread, we can simply ignore all those not-actively-deleterious memes to concentrate on defending the actively helpful memes which constitute the scientific method.

Whew! I’m tired just reading all this…

Comment #132306

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 21, 2006 4:22 PM (e)

Things are getting intense down in the Psychodrome:

A hush steals over the often-raucous crowd.

The flung gloves smack the blood-soaked sand.

The tired toes dig deep for firmer footing.

Tired muscles twitching, forearms swipe blood and sweat from glazed eyeballs. Futile effort: as fresh adrenaline spikes the blood, a red haze suppresses all vision but that of the foe.

Even the paeans of the peanut and beer vendors fall away to guttural grunts.

Will any be left standing in the ring after this final cataclysmic clash?

Suddenly, a fragile figure vaults the wall and, with deceptive speed, steps between the gladiators:

Surely every slack-jawed onlooker feels the same chill as the theme from A Fistful of Dollars cuts across the straining silence…

Will the idealistic interloper pacify the two titans before yet more claret stains the dust?

Or will the combatants rend her to stray tatters as they slam together in a final orgy of enmity?

Don’t miss next week’s exciting episode of Panda-monium! And, if we’ve whetted your appetite and stirred your spirits, don’t forget to patronize our day-sponsors, Flank’s Fabulous Pizza Emporium and Popper’s Tricks & Illusions!!

Comment #132307

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 21, 2006 4:23 PM (e)

Religious and scientific belief are different ways of perceiving. Scientific belief is based on more rigorous criteria. Religious belief is based on things we aren’t sure about, and which we’ll never be sure about. Such as whether something that appeared to be chance was actually a supernatural event.

But then it simply isn’t true that these don’t overlap; they address the same phenomena. And science is based on things we aren’t sure about and will never be sure about; it’s a tentative epistemology. OTOH, religious claims are often asserted as certainties (and people get killed for not agreeing to these certainties). Science is a method, religion is belief.

And they really aren’t different ways of perceiving; they are different ways of weighing, evaluating, and interpreting perceptions. One way tends to lead to accurate predictions abou future events, and the other doesn’t.

And “supernatural event” is incoherent, because all events in the physical world are, by definition, natural. And, by definition, all causes are natural. Perhaps you mean to say that there are things that appear to happen by chance that are uncaused, but that’s a rather empty claim, and you seem to be saying more than that, but it’s not discernable what. Of course, science is a method for determining the causes of events; it allows us to go beyond “by chance”.

In some cases, at least, religion results from being poorly informed or from employing a faulty conceptual framework.

Comment #132310

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 21, 2006 4:28 PM (e)

…to call religious faith “knowledge” is sheer arrogance; it is to assert that one’s personal and unsubstantiated opinions are actually facts about the world.

That’s YOUR personal and unsubstantiated opinion.

No, it’s prima facie true. No honest person would dispute it. Note that Meet People Where They Are didn’t.

It’s also demonstrably wrong: to call religious faith “knowledge” is to assert that one’s personal and unsubstantiated opinions are facts about ONE’S OWN WORLD, affecting ONE’S OWN ACTIONS in pursuit of ONE’S OWN VALUES AND NEEDS.

That’s prima facie false. “There is a God”, “this didn’t happen by chance, it was a supernatural event”, etc., are assertions about the world, not just “one’s own world”.

Comment #132312

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 4:40 PM (e)

Popper’s ghost wrote:

“There is a God”, “this didn’t happen by chance, it was a supernatural event”, etc., are assertions about the world, not just “one’s own world”.

At least they become that when you post them in the comments section of Panda’s thumb. It’s no longer a private suspicion then, it becomes a claim or a hypothesis due to the context of making it public.

Comment #132314

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 21, 2006 4:47 PM (e)

We’re talking about the supernatural here. Period. If it’s not supernatural, it’s not religious. Period. But I guess even this is too difficult for you (or alternatively, it might involve admitting error, something even MORE difficult for you).

But whatever. You are wrong. And no longer worth talking to, since I can see you aren’t making any attempt whatsoever to discuss anything in good faith. Whatever you decide that means today, of course.

Flint, Norm: It seems we can boil this down to: are bad faith and/or animism incompatible with science?

Comment #132315

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 4:52 PM (e)

Meet People Where They Are wrote:

I said I was afraid to insult God, but norm, you took it out of context.

Just to be clear, I get that you think God is a nicer, more mature guy than the kid in the Twilight Zone movie. Remember, I said that stuff about the Twilight Zone episode to Raging Bee to provoke a reaction and tried to leave your name off.

Still, if you think God is such a nice guy what do you make of the Old Testament where he’s slaughtering people left and right and wants sacrifices of burning flesh?

Are your beliefs not based on anything in the Old Testament?

Comment #132316

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 21, 2006 5:01 PM (e)

At least they become that when you post them in the comments section of Panda’s thumb. It’s no longer a private suspicion then, it becomes a claim or a hypothesis due to the context of making it public.

Even as private suspicions, they are private suspicions about the world, not “one’s own world”. Meet People Where They Are contrasted “scientific belief” with “religious belief” – public vs. private was not the issue, nor was she referring to such things as moral judgments, but rather judgments as to whether things happen “by chance” or are “supernatural events”. Of course, that’s a false dichotomy, based on an apparent misunderstandings of scientific epistemology and Bayesian statistics, and the ontological implications of a term such as “supernatural”. These mistaken beliefs all have significant public consequences, and indicate just how seriously we are in need of improved education, not just in science, but in the foundations of modern thought.

Comment #132317

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 21, 2006 5:05 PM (e)

Are your beliefs not based on anything in the Old Testament?

He beliefs are apparently based in part on confirmation bias and mistaking a priori for a posteriori probability: she prays, her prayers come true, this provides evidence that God exists. A good education in Bayesian statistics might help.

Comment #132318

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 5:09 PM (e)

Popper’s Ghost wrote:

Flint, Norm: It seems we can boil this down to: are bad faith and/or animism incompatible with science?

Certainly, but I think we’ve gone beyond that simple generalization into more interesting territory.

Comment #132322

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 5:33 PM (e)

We ask scientific questions and examine things skeptically, critically and rationally.

Norm, please explain to us how to use the scientific method to answer moral or philosophical questions.

Go ahead, Norm. Show us how your scientific worldview works. Be as skeptical, critical and rational as you like. Just make sure you list each step of the scientific method and demonstrate to us how you use it to answer such questions.

(sigh)

Just like the fundies, Norm wants to claim the cachet of “science” for his philosophical opinions. And for the very same reasons. HIS philosophical opinions are rational, logical, critical, skeptical. Everyone ELSE’s are irrational, illogical, held by credible gullible unquestioning people. How fortunate for Norm, huh.

Like I said, Norm, science is a method. It’s not a worldview, not a philosophy, not a way of life. And those (like you) who try to use it as one, are mis-using and abusing science every bit as much as the creationuts are.

Science simply doesn’t give a flying fig about your philosophical opinions, Norm.

If it makes you feel any better, science doesn’t give a flying fig about anyone ELSE’s philosophical opinions, either.

Comment #132323

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 5:39 PM (e)

The issue that we’re objecting to is the idea that religious faith is somehow ‘compatible’ with science, which it is not.

Says you. (shrug)

However, since so many people DO have religious faith and also do science, and see no incompatibility between them, your statement is trivially wrong, on the face of it.

But of course, you know their own views far better than they do, right … ?

But let’s assume for a moment that your pronunciomento is in fact correct — religion and science are utterly absolutely totally one-thousand percent incompatible.

So what? As long as someone’s religion doesn’t interfere with their science, then why do you give a flying fig about their religious views? How do they pick your pocket, or break your leg?

Or do you simply object to the fact that ANYONE, ANYWHERE has a religious opinion? Or, as I put it earlier, is it the mere fact that they are a theist, intolerable to you?

Comment #132324

Posted by Caledonian on September 21, 2006 5:42 PM (e)

Science thrives on precise and clear definitions. Without them, it can’t function.

Notice that Lenny doesn’t define ‘moral’, ‘philosophical’, ‘worldview’, ‘way-of-life’, or even ‘method’. Without definitions, we cannot analyze his statements, nor can we affirm or negate them. We can’t attack them, because he can simply deny that we’re using the term properly. To defend, he doesn’t need to explain, he can simply state the same point over again.

According to the definitions I’ve found, science is most certainly a philosophy - in several senses of the word. It can be a worldview and/or way-of-life. It is most certainty a method. It includes both morality and ethics.

Shame Lenny can’t argue against those points…

Comment #132325

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 21, 2006 5:43 PM (e)

And, after that brief word from one of our day-sponsors, we return for another exciting segment of…

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The show that dares you to put your money where your thumb is…!

Comment #132334

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 5:56 PM (e)

Science thrives on precise and clear definitions. Without them, it can’t function.

Notice that Lenny doesn’t define ‘moral’, ‘philosophical’, ‘worldview’, ‘way-of-life’, or even ‘method’.

Um, YOU are the one claiming your views are “science”. How about YOU go ahead and define them, and show us how to apply the scientific method to questions concerning them, using whatever definitions you like.

Or, you could just continue making your ex cathedra pronunciomentos concerning your philosophical opinions, and loudly declare to everyone that they are “science” because … well … because you SAY they are. (shrug)

Comment #132337

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 6:01 PM (e)

According to the definitions I’ve found, science is most certainly a philosophy - in several senses of the word. It can be a worldview and/or way-of-life. It is most certainty a method. It includes both morality and ethics.

Cool.

Please use the scientific method to answer the question “is murder wrong” for us. And, to avoid your predictable hand-waving about “definitions”, please feel entirely free to define those terms in any way you see fit.

Please be sure to label each step of the scientific method as you apply it to that question.

After that, you can explain to us, if it’s such a simple moral and ethical question that can be dealt with as a scientific question, why people have been arguing over it for thousands of years, when all they have to do is listen to you and perform a simple scientific experiment and apply the simple scientific method — as you are about to describe for us.

You have the floor, sir …. …. .

Comment #132338

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 6:02 PM (e)

So what? As long as someone’s religion doesn’t interfere with their science, then why do you give a flying fig about their religious views? How do they pick your pocket, or break your leg?

Or do you simply object to the fact that ANYONE, ANYWHERE has a religious opinion? Or, as I put it earlier, is it the mere fact that they are a theist, intolerable to you?

This is not a rhetorical question, by the way. I’d like an answer.

Comment #132340

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 6:06 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

We ask scientific questions and examine things skeptically, critically and rationally.

Norm, please explain to us how to use the scientific method to answer moral or philosophical questions.

Go ahead, Norm.

Sure, easy. Just read up on how it has already been studied.

There’s the work of Stanley Milgram:
http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psychology/milgram_obedience_experiment.html

Lawrence Kohlberg has a theory of moral development:
http://www.nd.edu/~rbarger/kohlberg.html

Just how ignorant of what’s actually going on in science are you?

The psychological and neural basis of moral reasoning is a rapidly expanding topic of investigation within cognitive science. We’re learning to probe ever deeper into the structure of human thought. You might want to read up on it.

Comment #132341

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 6:06 PM (e)

It can be a worldview and/or way-of-life.

Reeeaaaallllllyyyyyy.

Tell me, then, according to this worldview way-of-life, should I be a Democrat or a Republican? Should gays be allowed to marry? Is abortion OK? Is infanticide OK? Should we invade Iran? Should I marry this girl, or that one over there? Should I keep my current job, or move to another one?

Show us all, please, how this worldview way-of-life works, and how we can apply it to make ethical and moral decisions.

Be as specific as possible.

Comment #132349

Posted by David B. Benson on September 21, 2006 6:15 PM (e)

Just want to second Popper’s ghost statement to the effect that an increase in Bayesian reasoning is going to help, before we now start digging into the irrational (physiological and neurological basis for morality, ethics and all that…)

Looks like we are going to solve ALL the world’s problems, just on this thread ALONE! Now if everybody would just BELIEVE us…

Comment #132350

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 6:16 PM (e)

Norm, please explain to us how to use the scientific method to answer moral or philosophical questions.

Go ahead, Norm.

Sure, easy. Just read up on how it has already been studied.

There’s the work of Stanley Milgram:
http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psychology/milgra…

Lawrence Kohlberg has a theory of moral development:
http://www.nd.edu/~rbarger/kohlberg.html

Just how ignorant of what’s actually going on in science are you?

Well, Norm, perhaps, unlike you, I understand the difference between using science to STUDY HOW ethical decisions are answered, and using science to ANSWER ethical questions. And perhaps, unlike you, I don’t use rhetorical bait-and-switch to avoid answering the simple question “how do we use the scientific method to ANSWER MORAL OR PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTIONS?”

Notice the capitalized words in that question, Norm.

Notice that you didn’t answer them, Norm.

Notice that science CAN’T answer them, Norm.

See, Norm, even if I can specify right down to the specific amino acid in this particular gene why this person thinks murder is wrong, that doesn’t tell us IF murder is really wrong – it just tells us why this particular guy THINKS it’s wrong. If I have a gene that makes me like brunettes, Norm, that doesn’t mean that brunettes are ACTUALLY cuter than blondes.

Understand the difference, Norm?

Interesting, though, that you seem to take such a “biological” view of ethical/philosophical decisions, Norm. Does this mean, in your view, that your own atheism is simply the result of particular genes or proteins in your brain, and that if you had been born with different genes or proteins, that you’d be a Catholic or a Zoroastrian instead? After all, if science can, in your view, answer ethical/philosophical questions just by studying brains and the genes which produce them, then there wouldn’t seem to be much place in your world for all this “rational evidence and argument” that you think you are giving to everyone, eh? It all comes down to what genes are in their brains, right Norm … ?

Time to wave your arms all around, Norm.

Comment #132351

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 21, 2006 6:16 PM (e)

And for a relatively-modest contribution to the TalkOrigins foundation, you too can be a Panda-monium day-sponsor!

Is that cool, or what?

Aint’ [insert polity of your persuasion] great?

Comment #132366

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 6:52 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

Well, Norm, perhaps, unlike you, I understand the difference between using science to STUDY HOW ethical decisions are answered, and using science to ANSWER ethical questions.

Then perhaps you should have asked that question instead. But it does have to start with how people already use moral and ethical reasoning and seeing how effective that is. Stanley Milgram discovered some huge flaws in authority based moral systems and that’s exactly what religious moral systems are. Only the authority god’s desires/values matter.

The first task is to realize that our ethics and morality are here to serve us, not some God.

The next task is harder, and that’s deciding what people want from life and ethics. That gets you a wide spectrum of answers and then universal normatives seem impossible since we value different things.

Ultimately, every society has to struggle with its idenity through sorting out its values.

So, while I can answer my own moral and ethical questions through rationally reasoning through the results of my actions, I cannot impose my values on others.

And perhaps, unlike you, I don’t use rhetorical bait-and-switch to avoid answering the simple question “how do we use the scientific method to ANSWER MORAL OR PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTIONS?”

By experimenting with different ethical choices and seeing the results. Do you get you the results you want? Kids are doing that experiment all the time.

Notice the capitalized words in that question, Norm.

Notice how vague and open ended your question is. Do you want me to answer every possible moral problem for you with some definitive answer? When did I ever claim I could do that? You’ve created a strawman. Religion can’t do that either.

Why don’t you start with a narrow example of a single MORAL OR PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTION and I’ll show you how to use it in one instance.

Notice that science CAN’T answer them, Norm.

Not all of them in one post on panda’s thumb. But one or two examples, your choice, might point the way.

Comment #132370

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 21, 2006 7:05 PM (e)

Meet People Where They Are contrasted “scientific belief” with “religious belief” – public vs. private was not the issue, nor was she referring to such things as moral judgments, but rather judgments as to whether things happen “by chance” or are “supernatural events”. Of course, that’s a false dichotomy, based on an apparent misunderstandings of scientific epistemology and Bayesian statistics, and the ontological implications of a term such as “supernatural”.

Heh? I wouldn’t say I tried to separate “chance” from “supernatural events.” At least I didn’t mean to. I meant that everything that looks like chance to us, may in fact not be. But there is no way of knowing. I think of a chance event as something we can’t predict, like where an electron is at any given moment, or where exactly a mutation will strike, unless we are using cloning techniques to create one in the lab. I don’t see us developing scientific tools powerful enough to control and predict everything. There will always be logical room for god.

As for the rest, I admit you lost me starting at “scientific epistemology and Bayesian statistics, and the ontological implication of a term such as ‘supernatural.’” I admit I never studied Bayesian statistics, though I had an introductory logic course and vaguely remember Bayesian logic. I am going to have to study Wickepedia before I get back to you on that one.

Comment #132371

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 7:08 PM (e)

Well, Norm, perhaps, unlike you, I understand the difference between using science to STUDY HOW ethical decisions are answered, and using science to ANSWER ethical questions.

Then perhaps you should have asked that question instead.

Message Number 132340:
Norm, please explain to us how to use the scientific method to answer moral or philosophical questions.

Which part of that was unclear for you, Norm?

Do you want me to answer every possible moral problem for you with some definitive answer?

Nope, Norm. Just one will do. Your choice which one.

When did I ever claim I could do that?

Don’t BS me, Norm. Your message comes shining through loud and clear. If your philosophical/ethical/moral opinions aren’t “scientific”, then why the hell do you keep crowing to every theist in sight that your views are “scientific”?

Can you use the scientific method to answer philosophical, moral or ethical questions, or can’t you.

If you can’t, then what makes your philosophical, ethical or moral opinions any better than mine, my nexct door neighbor’s, the kid who delivers my pizzas, or any theist in this forum? Other than your say-so?

By the way, Norm, I’m still waiting to hear an answer to this:

Interesting, though, that you seem to take such a “biological” view of ethical/philosophical decisions, Norm. Does this mean, in your view, that your own atheism is simply the result of particular genes or proteins in your brain, and that if you had been born with different genes or proteins, that you’d be a Catholic or a Zoroastrian instead? After all, if science can, in your view, answer ethical/philosophical questions just by studying brains and the genes which produce them, then there wouldn’t seem to be much place in your world for all this “rational evidence and argument” that you think you are giving to everyone, eh? It all comes down to what genes are in their brains, right Norm … ?

If it’s all just simple scientific study of genes and brain biochemistry, Norm, then why do you bother arguing with anyone? Can your arguments change their genes or their biochemistry, Norm?

Comment #132372

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 7:10 PM (e)

So what? As long as someone’s religion doesn’t interfere with their science, then why do you give a flying fig about their religious views? How do they pick your pocket, or break your leg?

Or do you simply object to the fact that ANYONE, ANYWHERE has a religious opinion? Or, as I put it earlier, is it the mere fact that they are a theist, intolerable to you?

This is not a rhetorical question, by the way. I’d like an answer.

And I am still waiting ….

Comment #132376

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 7:15 PM (e)

It can be a worldview and/or way-of-life.

Reeeaaaallllllyyyyyy.

Tell me, then, according to this worldview way-of-life, should I be a Democrat or a Republican? Should gays be allowed to marry? Is abortion OK? Is infanticide OK? Should we invade Iran? Should I marry this girl, or that one over there? Should I keep my current job, or move to another one?

Show us all, please, how this worldview way-of-life works, and how we can apply it to make ethical and moral decisions.

Be as specific as possible.

I’m still waiting for an answer to this one, too, Caledonian.

I will, of course, simply keep asking again, and again, and again, and again, as many times as I need to, until I get one.

And Norm, you can feel free to weigh in too, with your, uh, scientific opinion on the matter.

Comment #132382

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 21, 2006 7:40 PM (e)

Meet People:

I am going to have to study Wickepedia before I get back to you on that one.

Good on ya!

And exactly why you got the Ennio Morricone fanfare…

While none of us here should be exempt from searching questions and hard-edged logic, we ought in the main to reserve our more churlish histrionics for the trolls.

Comment #132383

Posted by Jack Krebs on September 21, 2006 7:49 PM (e)

This appears to be the thread that will never die! :-)

I haven’t read all of the last 200 posts or so, but it does look like you guys have managed to keep at it without erupting into flames. I consider that a plus.

Carry on.

Comment #132384

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 7:51 PM (e)

Not all of them in one post on panda’s thumb. But one or two examples, your choice, might point the way.

Is murder wrong?

Please go ahead and use the scientific method to answer that question.

Please note, Norm, that I don’t give a rat’s ass about the scientific study of HOW PEOPLE DECIDE whether or not murder is wrong. That is not the question. I want to know if murder IS wrong, or is NOT wrong. Yes it is, or no it isn’t. And I want you to use the scientific method to answer that question for me.

And before you go bitching and moaning too about “definitions”, please go ahead and feel entirely free to define “is”, “murder” and “wrong” in any objective scientific manner that you find necessary to answer the question. (Note those words carefully, Norm.)

Go ahead and show us your, uh, scientifically definitive answer to that question, Norm.

Comment #132386

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 7:53 PM (e)

This appears to be the thread that will never die! :-)

Indeed, *all* the 400-plus threads at PT are always about the same topic.

Not surprising. Most people, after all, don’t give a rat’s ass about science. But EVERYBODY is always more than willing to put forth their religious (or anti-religious) opinions.

Comment #132387

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 21, 2006 8:00 PM (e)

Answering that question will require two more definitions, one for “question” and one for “mark” (the little squiggle-dot thing at the end of the question).

And then there’s defining each of the words used in each of the definitions.

And then each of those words, until we run out of new words.

At which point someone will accuse someone else of using “circular” logic, because some of the words used to define some of the words were themselves defined by some of the words…

Uhh, I can see this could take a while. I’ll check back in after dinner, if that’s okay.

Comment #132390

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 8:07 PM (e)

Posted by ‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

Norm, please explain to us how to use the scientific method to answer moral or philosophical questions.

Which part of that was unclear for you, Norm?

Since when does “how to” imply a perfectly correct or normative answer? Milgram did tell us how a significant percentage of people answered a moral question. It’s a “how to” you can use in a similar situation: trust that the authority knows what he’s doing and go ahead and shock the guy.

But should you? That depends on your values. Before anyone can tell another person how, they have to assume shared values.

Do you want me to answer every possible moral problem for you with some definitive answer?

Nope, Norm. Just one will do. Your choice which one.

Alright, let’s use the Milgram example. The moral problem is this, you’re hired as a “teachers” and getting $4.50 for one hour’s work. You’re, supposedly, investigating memory and learning. A stern looking experimenter in a white coat and to a friendly co-subject who was also presumably recruited via the newspaper ad are with you. The experimenter says that one subject would be assigned the role of “teacher” and the other would be assigned the role of “learner.”

You’re led to believe that your role as “teacher” had been chosen randomly. You’re given a sample 45-volt electric shock from an apparatus attached to a chair into which the “actor-learner” was to be strapped. You think the experiment is intended to explore the effects of punishment for incorrect responses on learning behavior.

It’s understood that the electric shocks are to be of increased by 15 volts in intensity for each mistake the “learner” made during the experiment. Switch are labeled with a voltage ranging from 15 up to 450 volts. The last switches say “danger: severe shock,” and have warnings. So, as you’re teaching you’re delievering increasingly severe electric shocks in response to the mistakes made by the “learner”.

You’re verbally encouraged by the experimenter to continue giving greater shocks after your learner is getting worse. You’re up to the 450-volt scale… and its time for some rational reflection on your ethical choices.

What are the results of not giving the shock?

You should ask about that. Will you get your money? There’s a value you won’t get if you refuse. AND IT’S THE ONLY ONE if even that. Can you tell me any other rational reason to continue the experiment? And it costs to keep going too. That learner who is pleading with you to stop is not going to like you if you keep going (and if he survives). You might turn out to be one the few who don’t stop and you’ll get a reputation in the psyche lab for that.

What do you get by refusing? Well, your learner is going to think better of you if you pay attention to his protests. The experimenter will know you can’t be bought cheaply which is what you’re proving. Those are values in the impressions they make on others that could matter later if the situation reverses. And that knowledge may not just stay with him, he might tell others about the guy who refused.

You’re told that the experimenter assumes full responsibility, but it’s obvious that they can’t do that if you’re willingly going along.

Before Milgram did that experiment he got predictions and most people predicted that virtually all the subjects would refuse to obey the experimenter and not go beyond 150 volts, when the victim makes his first explicit demand to be freed. They expected that only 4 percent would reach 300 volts, and that only a pathological fringe of about one in a thousand would administer the highest shock on the board.

They made that prediction because they thought people would make a rational choice and see that it wasn’t worth going all the way for minimum wage. Nothing else was gained. When you do think about it there is more value to be had in refusing. The experiment is producing bad will towards others and that comes back around.

It’s more easy to see that cost than the benefit.

So, even vaguely, there is nothing to gain by going on.

The Milgram experiments illustrated that people chose not to think.

Where the experiment was conducted in a nondescript office building rather than within the walls of a prestigiously ornate hall on Yale’s old campus the percentage of subjects who were prepared to administer the maximum voltage dropped to 47.5%.

The more symbols of authority, the more people gave up their moral choice.

So, in many ways Milgram’s results do tell us how to answer the ethical question, as he meant to, by shocking us with the answer he discovered. We don’t want to think of ourselves that way, so we shouldn’t be that way.

Comment #132393

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 8:21 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

Is murder wrong?

Please go ahead and use the scientific method to answer that question.

Depends on your values. Do you want to live in a society where anyone can shoot you for any reason and walk away unpunished?

I don’t.

Since murder is a legal concept more than a moral one, I’ll agree, it’s wrong to murder. There should be laws against it. That law makes society function better.

But to aswer that scientifically, you’d actually have to conduct an experiment no one wants to conduct or be part of and create a society where anyone can kill anyone else and go unpunished. One might assume it was the results of not having enfoced laws that made us create them though. I think the results might look like Iraq today.

Comment #132396

Posted by Raging Bee on September 21, 2006 8:46 PM (e)

In some cases, at least, religion results from being poorly informed or from employing a faulty conceptual framework.

Wow, at least one atheist has learned how to use the word “some.” It took you guys long enough – what, a year or more? There’s hope for the religion-bashers yet.

Notice how the word “some,” in bold in the quote above, leaves me completely unable to refute the statement in which it appears? The effect is almost magical. Oh wait, atheists don’t believe in magic. There must be a perfectly rational explanation for this effect, but I’m an irrational theist, from a preliterate religion at that, so I can’t quite put my finger on it just yet. I guess I’ll have to ask the Gods about it at our Fall Equinox ritual during the animal sacrifice…

Comment #132402

Posted by Caledonian on September 21, 2006 9:05 PM (e)

Please use the scientific method to answer the question “is murder wrong” for us. And, to avoid your predictable hand-waving about “definitions”, please feel entirely free to define those terms in any way you see fit.

That’s not hand-waving, that’s SCIENCE! Y’know, the thing you’re always accusing others of not valuing… and that you seem to know surprisingly little about.

I’m really not interested in putting forward an argument, then having you trash it because it doesn’t match what you think words like ‘murder’ and ‘wrong’ should mean. If you really want an answer, you have to ask the question properly. All scientists know that. Provide me with useful definitions of those terms, and I will analyze them and provide you with a conclusion.

Science is a method, and it is that particular method because it is also a philosophy, and the philosophy exists because of a worldview, and that worldview defines and justifies a way of life. Disagree? Try putting out definitions and reasoned arguments in support of your position, and let others try their best to knock holes in them. Don’t just keep saying ‘Nuh-huh!’

Comment #132411

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 9:30 PM (e)

Is murder wrong?

Please go ahead and use the scientific method to answer that question.

Depends on your values. Do you want to live in a society where anyone can shoot you for any reason and walk away unpunished?

I don’t.

Since murder is a legal concept more than a moral one, I’ll agree, it’s wrong to murder. There should be laws against it. That law makes society function better.

But to aswer that scientifically, you’d actually have to conduct an experiment no one wants to conduct or be part of and create a society where anyone can kill anyone else and go unpunished. One might assume it was the results of not having enfoced laws that made us create them though. I think the results might look like Iraq today.

I see. So that would be, “No, Lenny, I can’t use the scientific method to answer that moral question.”

Got it.

Which once again raises the question, what, then, makes your philosophical/ethical/moral opinions any better than mine, my next door neighbor’s, or any theist in the world – other than your say-so?

A few other questions you’ve neglected to answer for me, Norm:

So what? As long as someone’s religion doesn’t interfere with their science, then why do you give a flying fig about their religious views? How do they pick your pocket, or break your leg?

Or do you simply object to the fact that ANYONE, ANYWHERE has a religious opinion? Or, as I put it earlier, is it the mere fact that they are a theist, intolerable to you?

This is not a rhetorical question, by the way. I’d like an answer.

nteresting, though, that you seem to take such a “biological” view of ethical/philosophical decisions, Norm. Does this mean, in your view, that your own atheism is simply the result of particular genes or proteins in your brain, and that if you had been born with different genes or proteins, that you’d be a Catholic or a Zoroastrian instead? After all, if science can, in your view, answer ethical/philosophical questions just by studying brains and the genes which produce them, then there wouldn’t seem to be much place in your world for all this “rational evidence and argument” that you think you are giving to everyone, eh? It all comes down to what genes are in their brains, right Norm … ?

If it’s all just simple scientific study of genes and brain biochemistry, Norm, then why do you bother arguing with anyone? Can your arguments change their genes or their biochemistry, Norm?

Comment #132412

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 9:32 PM (e)

That’s not hand-waving, that’s SCIENCE! Y’know, the thing you’re always accusing others of not valuing… and that you seem to know surprisingly little about.

How dreadful. I notice, though, that you haven’t answered my question yet. So I’ll ask again.

*ahem*

It can be a worldview and/or way-of-life.

Reeeaaaallllllyyyyyy.

Tell me, then, according to this worldview way-of-life, should I be a Democrat or a Republican? Should gays be allowed to marry? Is abortion OK? Is infanticide OK? Should we invade Iran? Should I marry this girl, or that one over there? Should I keep my current job, or move to another one?

Show us all, please, how this worldview way-of-life works, and how we can apply it to make ethical and moral decisions.

Be as specific as possible.

Any time you’re ready …. .

Comment #132416

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 9:35 PM (e)

The Milgram experiments illustrated that people chose not to think.

How dreadful.

Alas, I didn’t see anything anywhere in your big long post that answered my question about how to, ya know, use the scientific method to answer moral or ethical or philosophical questions.

Perhaps you could underline that part?

Comment #132420

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 9:46 PM (e)

Provide me with useful definitions of those terms, and I will analyze them and provide you with a conclusion.

The Great Oz has spoken, huh.

YOU are the one claiming to be able to use science as a worldview or a philosophy or a way of life. I am simply asking you to show me how.

It’s not MY fault if you can’t. (shrug)

How, exactly, do you plan on, uh, “analyzing them”? Through what methods do you, uh, propose to reach a “conclusion” to “provide” me with?

Or is it all a great big secret?

Comment #132422

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 9:52 PM (e)

Gee, all the hyper-atheists like to crow to all the theists about how “scientific” their opinions are, but it seems that when pressed for some details of their “scientific” decision-making process, they get, uh, kind of vague all of a sudden …. .

Kind of like the fundies …. .

Like I said, under their feathers, they are the same bird. Both want science to support their philosophical opinions. And both mis-use and abuse science by doing so.

Science simply doesn’t give a flying fig about their philosophical opinions. If it makes them feel any better, science doesn’t give a flying fig about anyone else’s philosophical opinions, either.

Most people don’t mind that. Some people, apparently, do.

Comment #132424

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 10:04 PM (e)

Depends on your values.

I’m curious now, Norm — what makes one person’s values better than another’s?

The source of those values? If one person says their values come from their grandmother, and another person says their values come from their religious views, and another person says their values come from reading “Aesop’s Fables”, how do we determine which of these values is better than the other? Are values rank-able according to their source?

Whether you agree with them? Are values that you agree with, inherently more valid than those you disagree with? Are values held by the majority inherently better than those held by a minority – or a minority of one?

Whether the person who holds them ranks higher in society than you do? If the President holds one set of values, and your shoeshine boy holds another, are the President’s values inherently better?

How, precisely, can we determine whose values are better than whose?

Other than your say-so?

Comment #132436

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 10:22 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

I didn’t see anything anywhere in your big long post that answered my question about how to, ya know, use the scientific method to answer moral or ethical or philosophical questions.

Then you don’t know how to ask the question you really want to ask.

You’re attaching way more meaning to “how to” than is really there.

You seem to want not “how to answer a moral questions” but “how to get the perfect, absolute for all, normative answer” or something like that. Any time someone shows how anyone resolves a moral question you’ve got a “how” answered.

Milgram by making you react to his scientific data gets as close to answering the question “what should you do” as anyone can get. If you don’t like those people who thought they shocked others to near death – then don’t be like them when you find yourself in that situation.

Comment #132438

Posted by normdoering on September 21, 2006 10:34 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

Depends on your values.

I’m curious now, Norm — what makes one person’s values better than another’s?

The extent to which I can live with them, or the extent to which the bulk of humanity can live with them, depending on your frame of reference.

The source of those values?

What ain’t brainwashing and indoctrination is just being human.

If one person says their values come from their grandmother, and another person says their values come from their religious views, and another person says their values come from reading “Aesop’s Fables”, how do we determine which of these values is better than the other? Are values rank-able according to their source?

You don’t.

As long as they don’t want you dead because you don’t worship their God or something like that there’s not really a big deal with multiple values.

Whether you agree with them? Are values that you agree with, inherently more valid than those you disagree with?

From a personal frame of reference, yes.

Are values held by the majority inherently better than those held by a minority – or a minority of one?

From a democratic frame of reference, yes.

Whether the person who holds them ranks higher in society than you do?

From an elitist frame of reference, yes.

If the President holds one set of values, and your shoeshine boy holds another, are the President’s values inherently better?

Not from any frame of reference I know of.

How, precisely, can we determine whose values are better than whose?

Other than your say-so?

I would suggest by which are the most naturally and universally human. That would be a humanistic frame of reference.

Comment #132455

Posted by fnxtr on September 22, 2006 1:33 AM (e)

Hey, Norm:

As long as they don’t want you dead because you don’t worship their God or something like that there’s not really a big deal with multiple values.

So explain why it matters what religion someone has or has not, if it doesn’t affect their ability to do science like everyone else?

Comment #132473

Posted by Wayne Francis on September 22, 2006 3:30 AM (e)

normdoering : Can you insult god? Or are you afraid too?
Raging Bee : Why should I?
normdoering : To demonstrate that you’re not afraid of what you accuse me of being afraid of …

Why didn’t you just say “I double dog dare you”

I’m agnostics. Why would I insult a “God” I don’t even believe in? Better question would be why would I. I don’t walk out side and shout obscenities about aliens either. The proof of aliens is as good as the proof of “God” in my mind. If aliens have just as much power in my mind to do harm to me as “God”. Me not swearing at them isn’t me being afraid of aliens but me being grown up enough to say to myself “why would I do something childish like that?”

Comment # 132157

Popper's ghost wrote:

Comment #132157
Posted by Popper’s ghost on September 21, 2006 08:07 AM (e)

This is what annoys me. Katarina says religion is something personal to her and does not effect her outlook on science and she’s told she’s an idiot.

What annoys me is that you are a liar. I didn’t tell her she was an idiot, in the text you quoted or anywhere else. But considering your apparent complete inability to grasp what I wrote, I’m willing to call you one.

No you are right you didn’t say she is an idiot. You just called her belief “irrational” and all while she never claimed that her belief is scientifically rational. I fully grasp what you write. Over and over you write that people that are theist are akin to having a psychotic disorder.

I’d probably find some/all of your choice in partners “irrational”. Does that make them “irrational” for you?

Try this popper, if you have a current partner, go up and explain to him/her and say that the reasons why you are with them is purely scientific and not based on any “feelings” for if you can’t scientifically explain those feelings they must be irrational and thus irrelevant. Explain to your partner how sex with them is completely a physical thing between you two because any euphoria you get is strictly shifts in chemical levels in your brain.

It amazes me how people can call people “irrational” “liars” “self-serving” “hypocrites” etc can expect us to believe that they don’t imply that the people that they disagree with are idiots.

You’d claim that your open minded. You’ve thought about “God” and have been open minded and you’ve determined anyone believing in a “God” is deluded.

Comment # 132160

Popper's ghost wrote:

Comment #132160
Posted by Popper’s ghost on September 21, 2006 08:13 AM (e)

This has nothing to do with science and religion (other than that science is based on reason and religion is irrational)…

Is loving someone based on “reason”? Should you not love someone because it is not based on “reason”. “Religion is irrational” is your opinion because, like IDers, you feel that religion needs to be have a scientific basis.
Much of what we do as humans has little to do with “reason”. Some people might feel that it is also “irrational” but you seem to think your opinion should be law.

A non sequitur about a parenthetical aside.

Your no better then any of the IDers we are fighting agianst.

At least I can spell and I don’t drool on my keyboard.

Perhaps you don’t have an ability to grasp what I and others have tried to point out to you. I’m done trying to show you how your opinion about “irrational” feelings is just that “YOUR opinion”.

And it shows you are really grasping as straws to claim that a simple transposition error while typing on my part constitutes me being a drooling idiot. What is your excuse Popper’s Ghost? Lets look at a few of your postings in this thread….

Comment # 131026

Popper's ghost wrote:

Comment #131026
Posted by Popper’s ghost on September 17, 2006 07:57 PM (e)

There’s no such thing as “univeral data” outside of your fevered imagination….

That would be “universal data” Popper’s Ghost

Comment # 132307

Popper's ghost wrote:

Comment #132307
Posted by Popper’s ghost on September 21, 2006 04:23 PM (e)

One way tends to lead to accurate predictions abou future events, and the other doesn’t….

Hmmm last I checked there was a “t” at the end of the word “about”

Comment # 132317

Popper's ghost wrote:

Comment #132317
Posted by Popper’s ghost on September 21, 2006 05:05 PM (e)
Are your beliefs not based on anything in the Old Testament?
He beliefs are apparently based in part on confirmation bias and mistaking a priori for a posteriori probability: she prays, her prayers come true, this provides evidence that God exists. A good education in Bayesian statistics might help.

“posteriori” a new word Popper?

Seems your typing errors are fully forgivable but my transposition error is a sign that I should be committed to a mental institution with anyone who is religious. Do you think they can cure my irrational behaviour type occasionally transpose, and god forbid, occasionally actually spell a word incorrectly?

Some guy claiming to be John wrote:

John 8:7 He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her

Comment #132477

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 22, 2006 4:33 AM (e)

Wayne, if you were trying prove that I was right that you’re an idiot, you’ve done an excellent job of it.

Comment #132487

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 22, 2006 5:12 AM (e)

I wouldn’t say I tried to separate “chance” from “supernatural events.”

You explicitly wrote “whether something that appeared to be chance was actually a supernatural event”. That’s a dichotomy; it asserts that there are events that are either chance, or supernatural, but not both.

At least I didn’t mean to. I meant that everything that looks like chance to us, may in fact not be.

Again, there is the dichotomy. Here is how you defined chance: “I think of a chance event as something we can’t predict”. Ignoring whether that’s a good definition of “chance event”, if we plug that into the sentence above, it says that everything that looks like we can’t predict , may in fact not be something we can’t predict. But that surely isn’t what you meant to say – and it certainly says nothing about “supernatural events” or what might be meant by that. The problem is that you have more than one vague notion of “chance” that you switch between. This makes your thoughts, or at least your presentation of them, incoherent. When I try to address what you write, you say you didn’t mean that, then attempt to clarify it with statements that alternately repeat what you just said you didn’t mean and contradict it. With such an approach to concepts and content, it isn’t possible to make progress, and its quite frustrating from this end. My observation that “chance event” and “supernatural event” aren’t mutually exclusive alternatives (aside from my observation that “supernatural event” is incoherent – at least it’s hard to determine what it might mean), something that your previous claims hinged on, gets waved away by the claim that you didn’t mean to say that, but you don’t replace it with anything that makes your previous claim make any sense. I don’t think that you mean to make your statements impervious to rational inquiry and thus to possible falsification, but that’s the end result.

As for the rest, I admit you lost me starting at “scientific epistemology and Bayesian statistics, and the ontological implication of a term such as ‘supernatural.’” I admit I never studied Bayesian statistics, though I had an introductory logic course and vaguely remember Bayesian logic. I am going to have to study Wickepedia before I get back to you on that one.

Well, perhaps that will help some, but it’s just barely a start.

Comment #132488

Posted by normdoering on September 22, 2006 5:21 AM (e)

fnxtr wrote:

As long as they don’t want you dead because you don’t worship their God or something like that there’s not really a big deal with multiple values.

So explain why it matters what religion someone has or has not, if it doesn’t affect their ability to do science like everyone else?

Because some of those religions effect people’s desire to fly airplanes into skyscrapers. Thety start to value death. And if that’s not enough, that “or something like that” phrase actually has a lot more in it I could ever talk about.

Because the religious moderates can’t really deal with the fundies and only help mask their deep insanity by making bat-shit crazy people like Robertson seem less crazy when they debate obviously bat-shit crazy books like the Bible with them.

Because this world would probably be a much better place if people faced reality, rather than escaping into religious delusions.

Because religion in general, if not always in specifics, incorporates incredible absurdities and as Voltaire said, “those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Because religion in general, if not always in specifics, is a destructive force.

Comment #132491

Posted by normdoering on September 22, 2006 5:27 AM (e)

Wayne Francis asked:

Why would I insult a “God” I don’t even believe in?

Because you have a sense of humor.

Same reason you might insult aliens this way: “So, these greys came half-way across the galaxy to give you an anal probe. You must think you have one hell of an ass-hole. Don’t let it go to your head.”

But since you don’t have a sense of humor, I guess you wouldn’t say that.

Besides, saying; “God is a psychotic killer, an immature child emotionally, he/she/it is the supreme asshole of the universe who needs worshippers to kiss its ass constantly because its so insecure about being loved,” is also an accurate description the Old Testament regardless of it being an insult or joke. Have you ever bothered to read it? The Old Testament version of God is a lot like that kid from the Twilight Zone episode I mentioned.

He is portrayed as stern, hard, resentful, jealous and cruel, but in the New Testament he’s supposed to be the opposite… gentle, merciful, forgiving, loving. He’s really much crueler than he was in the Old Testament… Meek and gentle? That’s sarcasm in light of the hell which he invented.

The gods offer no rewards for intellect. There was never one yet that showed any interest in it…
- Mark Twain’s Notebook

Comment #132500

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 22, 2006 6:26 AM (e)

I don’t see us developing scientific tools powerful enough to control and predict everything. There will always be logical room for god.

And yet you infer, post hoc ergo propter hoc, from the things you pray for happening that god had something to do with it; that’s some hefty prediction tool you must have. If you want to believe that god had something to do with it that’s one thing, but the reasons you offer for that belief aren’t logically valid because the conclusion isn’t warranted, nor are they scientifically valid because the evidence doesn’t support any correlation between praying and getting results, but it does support the view that people who think it does are under the sway of confirmation bias – they give greater weight to confirming instances than to disconfirming instances.

On the “logical room” issue, you would need to offer some logically coherent idea of what god is and how it operates such that it can cause things. If I sit here thinking about the sun rising, and then the sun rises, surely there would be no logical basis – or “room” – for asserting that I caused the sun to rise. If god, which doesn’t even have a brain to think with, thinks (or “wills”) something to happen and then it happens, what logical basis is there to say that god caused it? It doesn’t appear to be logically possible for something immaterial to affect something material, which is why Cartesian dualism is a dead concept in philosophy, and the vast majority of professional philosophers (far more than biologists or other scientists) are atheists.

You can believe as you wish. But when you make assertions about what is logical or logically possible or what logical possibilities one must accept you go beyond merely having a personal belief to making a disputable claim, and I have every right to dispute it. When you demanded “Don’t rule out the possibility that people can have a real personal relationship with God” and I countered with “I don’t rule out the possibility that people can have a real fantasy about something they call “God”. I do, however, rule out that they can have a real personal relationship with Odin, Croesus, Oliver Twist, or any other fictional character”, you responded “Thanks for your permission!”, which is rather odd since you had just denied me permission to rule out what I do rule out. Denying that you can have a real personal relationship with God does not deny you permission to do anything, it denies that it’s possible for you to do it. If I deny that you can fly to the middle of the sun and back, I’m not denying you permission to do so. And if you claim that you can do so, I have every right to dispute that and to argue that it’s an irrational belief.

Comment #132506

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 6:53 AM (e)

So explain why it matters what religion someone has or has not, if it doesn’t affect their ability to do science like everyone else?

Yeah Norm, how about it.

What is it about that simple question that you don’t like?

Or is it just that you don’t want to admit out loud that all your bitching here has nothing whatever to do with “science” – you simply find it intolerable that anyone, anywhere, has religious opinions different from yours?

Kind of like, ya know, the fundies?

Comment #132507

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 6:56 AM (e)

I would suggest by which are the most naturally and universally human. That would be a humanistic frame of reference.

That’s nice.

It seems that belief in gods is pretty universal and natural.

Right?

Comment #132508

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 6:58 AM (e)

The definition of science requires that faith not be brought into things - if Miller is able to carry out proper scientific inquiry in a specific field, it follows that either a) his religious faith had no implications within that field, or b) he was able to negate his faith for the duration of his inquiry.

So what. Why do you care about either of those? How do they pick your pocket or break your leg?

Or is the mere fact that Miller (or anyone else) has theist beliefs, intolerable to you?

Comment #132509

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 7:00 AM (e)

You can believe as you wish.

Odd, then, that you spend so much time bitching about what he believes.

Why do you care? What’s it to you? How does it break your leg or pick your pocket?

Comment #132511

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 22, 2006 7:02 AM (e)

Because this world would probably be a much better place if people faced reality, rather than escaping into religious delusions.

Hmmm … did you read the GodHelmet page you posted? And I certainly wonder whether the belief-justifiers did, and if so why they didn’t quote it:

He’s an atheist, says religious belief is “a cognitive virus” and proclaims on his web page that his research has been “encouraged by the historical fact that most wars and groups degradations are coupled imlicitly to god beliefs.” But he wants to be clear: he is worrid not about religion itself, but about the way it polarizes society. In fact, he says, being religious might be a valuable adaptive strategy, letting us “minimize the fear of death,” through “the possibility of immortality.” It has to be, or we wouldn’t have evolved the capacity for it.

“Suppose you can anticipate your personal demise. Well, that precipitates tremendous anxiety, and anxiety is devastating to cognitive processes. So from a natural selection point of view, you can see why individuals would have been selected if they could minimize that anxiety,” he explains. “The minute a person can affiliate themselves with this concept of infinite and forever, there is no personal death, and consequently there is no reason to have anxiety. You can see why people become addicted to it.” When Karl Marx wrote that religion is the opiate of the masses, he thought he was being metaphysical. Persinger thinks there’s a good chance that Marx was writing the literal neurochemical truth.

Comment #132512

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 7:03 AM (e)

Because religion in general, if not always in specifics, is a destructive force.

Says you. (shrug)

How well did atheism work in, say, the Soviet Union or Kampuchea? How did those, uh, universal natural human values work out there?

And before you start foaming at the mouth and yelling “theist!!!!!”, Norm, let me remind you once again that I do not assert, and do not accept, the existence of any god, gods, goddesses or any other supernatural entity of any sort whatsoever.

Comment #132513

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 22, 2006 7:04 AM (e)

(shrug) (sigh) (snicker) (belch) (fart) wrote:

[something inane and uncomprehending]

Comment #132514

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 7:08 AM (e)

Hey Popper, if religion is simply a matter of biochemistry, and beliefs are just the result of genes, then why do you spend so much time offering your, uh, rational and scientific arguments against religion? What’s the point? Can your arguments change someone’s biochemistry? Can your arguments change someone’s genes? If your arguments are effective against religion, then it seems biochemistry is irrelevant, and you are just flapping your gums by bringing them up. If your arguments are ineffective against religion because it’s all genetic, then it seems that all your gum-flapping is pointless, so why waste everyone’s time with it?

Which is it?

Norm doesn’t want to answer that question. How about you?

Comment #132515

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 7:10 AM (e)

Posted by Popper’s ghost on September 22, 2006 07:04 AM (e)

(shrug) (sigh) (snicker) (belch) (fart) wrote:

[something inane and uncomprehending]

Yah, Puppy, that’s about the level of “response” I’ve come to expect of you.

But then, being an asshole is probably genetic anyway, right?

Oh, and just for you ——–> (shrug)

Comment #132516

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 7:16 AM (e)

Because some of those religions effect people’s desire to fly airplanes into skyscrapers. Thety start to value death. And if that’s not enough, that “or something like that” phrase actually has a lot more in it I could ever talk about.

Because the religious moderates can’t really deal with the fundies and only help mask their deep insanity by making bat-shit crazy people like Robertson seem less crazy when they debate obviously bat-shit crazy books like the Bible with them.

Because this world would probably be a much better place if people faced reality, rather than escaping into religious delusions.

Because religion in general, if not always in specifics, incorporates incredible absurdities and as Voltaire said, “those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Because religion in general, if not always in specifics, is a destructive force.

So once again, at the end of all of this, we see that the aim of PZ and his Puppies Norm and Pupper have nothing to do with ‘science’, and not even anything to do with fighting creationists or IDers. All they want is to stamp out religious views that differ from theirs. Indeed, they find the very EXISTENCE of those views, intolerable. And when they backpeddle and say otherwise, they are just BS’ing us.

Under their feathers, they and the fundies are the very same bird. No different.

I would not like to live in a world run by either of them.

Comment #132517

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 22, 2006 7:19 AM (e)

Yah, Puppy, that’s about the level of “response” I’ve come to expect of you.

They’re your responses.

But then, being an asshole is probably genetic anyway, right?

Why, were your parents assholes too?

Comment #132518

Posted by Wayne Francis on September 22, 2006 7:25 AM (e)

Comment # 132477

Popper's ghost wrote:

Comment #132477
Posted by Popper’s ghost on September 22, 2006 04:33 AM (e)
Wayne, if you were trying prove that I was right that you’re an idiot, you’ve done an excellent job of it.

Ah so your typing errors are excusable but if anyone, with any opposing views to yours, makes a mistake it is a sign that they are an idiot…I got you. Like I said if that is all you’ve got then you are grasping at straws. How about just addressing my actual statements?

Comment # 132491

normdoering wrote:

Comment #132491
Posted by normdoering on September 22, 2006 05:27 AM (e)
Wayne Francis asked:

Why would I insult a “God” I don’t even believe in?

Because you have a sense of humor.
Same reason you might insult aliens this way: “So, these greys came half-way across the galaxy to give you an anal probe. You must think you have one hell of an ass-hole. Don’t let it go to your head.”
But since you don’t have a sense of humor, I guess you wouldn’t say that.
Besides, saying; “God is a psychotic killer, an immature child emotionally, he/she/it is the supreme asshole of the universe who needs worshippers to kiss its ass constantly because its so insecure about being loved,” is also an accurate description the Old Testament regardless of it being an insult or joke. Have you ever bothered to read it? The Old Testament version of God is a lot like that kid from the Twilight Zone episode I mentioned.
He is portrayed as stern, hard, resentful, jealous and cruel, but in the New Testament he’s supposed to be the opposite… gentle, merciful, forgiving, loving. He’s really much crueler than he was in the Old Testament… Meek and gentle? That’s sarcasm in light of the hell which he invented.

The gods offer no rewards for intellect. There was never one yet that showed any interest in it…
- Mark Twain’s Notebook

Ok so let me try this humor of yours.

Your partner is a cheating whore bag that needs a frontal lobotomy for being with you and any kids you may have/are going to have should be neutered at birth as to assure your genes never get passed on any further.

So do you like going up to a stranger that is Polish and telling polish jokes to them? Or how about going up to someone poor and telling them jokes that equate them to “white trash” How about joking to some widow/widower from 911 that their partner had a race with someone by jumping out a 97th floor window and didn’t realize until the end that if they won they still lost.

See I don’t know about your partner or if he/she actually exists just like I don’t know about “God” or if “God” actually exists. So by your logic it is fine for me to joke about your partner and who cares about anyone’s feelings I might hurt.

I see no need to joke about things that people feel very strongly about to their face when I know it won’t do any good. It is a trait called consideration. This is a trait you seem to be lacking in.

While I know I have a sense of compassion and consideration for other peoples feelings you seem to think your own private amusement is more important….got you.

Yes I’ve read the bible. I’ve actually read a few different versions of the bible. I was born a Roman Catholic. I believe I was about 8 or 9 when I started to become an agnostic. I tend to read the bible about every 3-4 years just as I read other religious text like the Torah, Qur’an, Tao Te Ching, Dhammapada, Papyrus of Ani and a few other slightly more obscure texts. All while being an agnostic. I also realize that what I derive from all these texts in no way invalidates other people’s individual spiritual beliefs. I know many Christians that don’t worship the bible thus don’t hold the old testaments stories against their god. I’m more then happy to debate bible thumpers and I fully realize it will most likely get me or them no where. I’m happy to talk religion to non bible thumpers as well but in all cases I will not insult them. I respectfully place my views out, listen to theirs, try to understand their relationship with their god and learn from the whole experience. As of yet none of my learning has made me more of a theist but it has made me much more tolerant of other peoples in most cases. When I become intolerant is when I feel a person pressures others into their way of thinking on spiritual matters. This includes atheist that feel it is ok to insult anyone with any type of spiritual belief.

Comment #132524

Posted by Flint on September 22, 2006 7:48 AM (e)

Popper:

You wrote:

My observation that “chance event” and “supernatural event” aren’t mutually exclusive alternatives (aside from my observation that “supernatural event” is incoherent – at least it’s hard to determine what it might mean)

and in so doing, you seem to be guilty of the sin you are critiquing. If you have not or cannot define what a supernatural event IS, how can you possibly know if it is or is not mutually exclusive with anything?

I think you have passed close to the underlying problem without quite hitting it. The word “supernatural” itself lacks any referent. Maybe it refers to chance, maybe to magic, maybe to events whose cause is not currently known, maybe it’s a justification for irrational beliefs. There doesn’t seem to be any event or phenomenon anyone can point to and say “this is supernatural.”

Bottom line: ANY discussion of “the supernatural” is guaranteed to be fundamentally incoherent; the term doesn’t REFER to anything.

If god, which doesn’t even have a brain to think with, thinks (or “wills”) something to happen and then it happens, what logical basis is there to say that god caused it? It doesn’t appear to be logically possible for something immaterial to affect something material

Here you rather inadvertently illustrate the limits of logic: logic provides rules of inference from assumptions to conclusions valid iff the assumptions are valid. If we assume that there are gods, and that they will stuff to happen, and their will becomes materially effected, then what can logic say except that this is true if the assumptions about the nature and abilities of the gods are true?

I suspect what you’re actually doing here is falling back on evidence. If there is no known evidence of any gods or any “immaterial forces”, then the position that there are no such gods or forces is most consistent with the known evidence. Or perhaps you are saying that “immaterial forces” is a contradiction in terms - which leads straight back to the problem of the supernatural.

Comment #132548

Posted by Raging Bee on September 22, 2006 9:16 AM (e)

norm wrote:

Because religion in general, if not always in specifics, is a destructive force.

Translation: “My generalization is true except in (uncounted, unspecified) specific instances in the real world when it is false.”

Or, in the racist’s parlance, “Hey, don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are…”

In response to this question:

How, precisely, can we determine whose values are better than whose?

norm wrote:

I would suggest by which are the most naturally and universally human. That would be a humanistic frame of reference.

Bigotry, tribalism, laziness, refusal to accept change, closed-mindedness, irresponsibility, greed, disregard for others, the drive to propagate our DNA by fucking whoever we can, and, yes, religion – these are among the values that are “naturally and universally human:” they’re found all over the world, and they’re natural to the human animal. In fact, these values are more universal than freedom of speech, freedom of religion, rule of law, and rational inquiry – so what does that say about which values are “better?”

So much for your science-based “humanistic frame of reference.”

The idea that science can answer moral questions is, IIRC, called “scientism,” and is flatly rejected by most real grownup scientists, who, unlike you, have enough real-world experience (and HUMILITY) to know their own limits. Most scientists would be appalled to think that they were expected to tell the rest of us how to live our lives. (Don’t they have enough on their plate already? Can’t you appreciate what they’ve done without demanding they do more?)

First you reject Gods as “sky-daddies.” Now you’re trying to pretend that science is the new sky-daddy who will make all the rules, settle all the arguments, and protect you from the big bad chaotic world you’re not grown up enough to handle yourself. That’s not just ridiculous, it’s pathetic.

Comment #132552

Posted by Raging Bee on September 22, 2006 9:29 AM (e)

Bottom line: ANY discussion of “the supernatural” is guaranteed to be fundamentally incoherent; the term doesn’t REFER to anything.

Say what? “Supernatural” refers to any alleged event or ability that science and reason deny or can’t explain: telekinesis, astral projection, ghosts and hauntings, miracles, creation of whole universes out of nothing, etc. etc.

Just because YOU can’t be coherent about something, does not mean it’s “guaranteed to be fundamentally incoherent” to anyone else.

Comment #132570

Posted by fnxtr on September 22, 2006 10:48 AM (e)

Norm:

I should have spelled out that my question about why religion matters if it doesn’t affect science was to be taken in the context of the original thread, which was, I think, the question about why a scientist’s (specifically Miller) religion matters if it doesn’t affect his/her (Miller’s) science.

Your answer is that Religion is Bad whether it affects science or not?

Is that an accurate summation of your response?

Comment #132583

Posted by normdoering on September 22, 2006 12:57 PM (e)

fnxtr asked:

… about why religion matters if it doesn’t affect science was to be taken in the context of the original thread, which was, I think, the question about why a scientist’s (specifically Miller) religion matters if it doesn’t affect his/her (Miller’s) science.

Your answer is that Religion is Bad whether it affects science or not?

Partly. But you can’t say “religion” doesn’t effect science because Miller is the exception, not the rule, (in America at least). Polls show a majority of people in America reject evolution.

Comment #132584

Posted by Raging Bee on September 22, 2006 1:04 PM (e)

Whose polls, norm? WorldNutDaily’s?

Comment #132585

Posted by normdoering on September 22, 2006 1:18 PM (e)

Wayne Francis wrote:

So do you like going up to a stranger that is Polish and telling polish jokes to them?

Wow! What a context shift.

Raging Bee is no stranger, he’s been chasing after my comments with logic so twisted Stephen Colbert could use it. You’re the one who walked into it.

Popper’s Ghost was right about you.

Comment #132589

Posted by normdoering on September 22, 2006 1:32 PM (e)

Raging Bee asked:

Whose polls, norm? WorldNutDaily’s?

How about the National Center for Science Education:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/rncse_content/vol24/7937_the_latest_polls_on_creationis_12_30_1899.asp
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2004/US/724_public_view_of_creationism_and_11_19_2004.asp

How about GALLUP NEWS SERVICE:
http://www.unl.edu/rhames/courses/current/creation/evol-poll.htm

Comment #132592

Posted by Meet People Where They Are on September 22, 2006 1:48 PM (e)

Popper’s ghost,

You’ve correctly pointed out that I need to work out exactly how to present my case that the supernatural and the natural can, but do not necessarily, overlap. My idea was partly inspired by Miller’s book.

Kenneth Miller in Finding Darwin's God (p. 241) wrote:

Even the most devout believer would have to say that when God does act in the world, he does so with care and with subtlety. At a minimum, the continuing existence of the universe itself can be attributed to God. The existence of the universe is not self-explanatory, and to a believer the existence of every particle, wave, and field is a product of the continuing will of God. That’s a start which would keep most of us busy, but the Western understanding of God requires more than universal maintenance. Fortunately, in scientific terms, if there is a God, He has left Himself plenty of material to work with. To pick just one example, the indeterminate nature of quantum events would allow a clever and subtle God to influence events in ways that are profound, but scientifically undetectable to us. Those events could include the appearance of mutations, the activation of individual neurons in the brain, and even the survival of individual cells and organisms affected by the chance processes of radioactive decay. Chaos theory emphasizes the fact that enormous changes in physical systems can be brought about by unimaginably small changes in initial conditions; and this, too, could serve as an undetectable amplifier of divine action.

Now, I know some of you have found problems and contradictions in this book, but I think the case he makes in this particular paragraph is as good as any I’ve heard so far.

Someone earlier made a reference to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This really was hilarious, and eased the heart a little. But to make it clear, I don’t see this thread as a showdown. Learning new things usually requires a little bit of pain. I hope in this discussion, everyone can walk away a little wiser, even the person that loses. Which is always me, if Popper’s ghost is involved.

Comment #132601

Posted by Raging Bee on September 22, 2006 2:50 PM (e)

norm: all three of your links refer to the same poll, whose results do NOT support your assertion that “a majority of people in America reject evolution.”

Why are you repeating the fundies’ lies, and using the fundies’ style of dishonest misrepresentation of data to reinforce them?

Two words: Get Help.

Comment #132603

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 22, 2006 3:03 PM (e)

Hmm.

Meet People (sorry, but every time I type or think that, my brain goes off on a tangent involving the grunge rockers, the Meat Puppets), I wasn’t intending to portray you as involved in a showdown, but as attempting to head one off.

Now if others here find the Stetson fits, of course, they are welcome to tickle their ears.

Popper’s Ghost, of course, is perfectly capable of defending itself (as long as we are treading where science won’t, do ghosts have gender?), but I somehow doubt that it has been its intent to portray you–personally–as a “loser.” Popper, it seems to me, is taking you seriously and would not–given his notoriously “acerbic” character–still be dealing with you if he didn’t find something of continung interest to him in your discussion.

While I appreciate Lenny’s points–more, certainly, than does Popper–I do think there is a difference between “the fundies” and “our” atheists. Our guys seem content to expound their opinions via verbal persuasion and do not seem to me to be attempting to enforce their opinions by way of violence, overthrow (or illegitimate overtaking of) the government, etc. Equating them is, therefore, a tad hyperbolic.

But then, if some of us were less hyperbolic and/or acerbic, then we wouldn’t work up these excellent appetites for our virtual pub’s virtual pub grb ‘n’ glub…

On with the show!

Comment #132604

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 22, 2006 3:07 PM (e)

Er, “continung” ==> “continuing.”

“Grb” ==> “grub.”

Seems to be some kind of a problem with the “u” on my keyboard.

Possibly all that drool.

Comment #132606

Posted by fnxtr on September 22, 2006 3:10 PM (e)

Norm:

Partly. But you can’t say “religion” doesn’t effect science because Miller is the exception, not the rule, (in America at least). Polls show a majority of people in America reject evolution.

My original question/request was: So explain why it matters what religion someone has or has not, if it doesn’t affect their ability to do science like everyone else?

45% of Americans accept the idea of Special Creation. Sad, in my view, but that’s not a majority. How many of these are scientists? Or, conversely, how many scientists believe in God? I would like to see that poll before I believe that Miller is the exception.

fnxtr

Comment #132607

Posted by normdoering on September 22, 2006 3:10 PM (e)

Raging Bee claims:

norm: all three of your links refer to the same poll, whose results do NOT support your assertion that “a majority of people in America reject evolution.”

45% of people agreeing with this: “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?”

Plus 38% agreeing with this: “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process.”

According to Bee that (45+38) equals less than 50%

You need math help Bee.

Having God guide evolution is a rejection of the sufficiency of evolution.

Comment #132610

Posted by normdoering on September 22, 2006 3:18 PM (e)

How many of these are scientists? Or, conversely, how many scientists believe in God? I would like to see that poll before I believe that Miller is the exception.

http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/sci_relig.htm

Comment #132616

Posted by Raging Bee on September 22, 2006 3:27 PM (e)

First, norm, the correct term is “plurality,” not “majority.” Second, belief (by non-scientists, mind you) that God guided the process of evolution is not a “rejection” of evolution, any more than a different interpretation of the Bible is a “rejection” of Christianity. (There’s that fundie absolutist mindset again…) Third, according to this poll, those who favored God-guided evolution and those who favored the unguided kind, together OUTNUMBERED the YECs. That is not “rejection of evolution” by a majority.

Comment #132622

Posted by David B. Benson on September 22, 2006 3:45 PM (e)

‘Meet People’, I find you are doing jus’ fine. It is quite a subtle, difficult point you raise. I’ll simply say, that like most scientists, there are some questions for which we have no data, hence no means to posit ‘scientific laws’.

Popper’s ghost — A slight change to your brief description of deductive logic. The rules of inference have to be sound. I have previously given the example of the Law of the Excluded Middle, which is no longer considered to be a universally permissible rule of inference.

Carry on, carry on. But please DO try not to be repetitious. This thread is finally becoming a bit boring, I am sorry to say…

Comment #132728

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 7:10 PM (e)

… about why religion matters if it doesn’t affect science was to be taken in the context of the original thread, which was, I think, the question about why a scientist’s (specifically Miller) religion matters if it doesn’t affect his/her (Miller’s) science.

Your answer is that Religion is Bad whether it affects science or not?

Partly. But you can’t say “religion” doesn’t effect science because Miller is the exception, not the rule, (in America at least). Polls show a majority of people in America reject evolution.

Don’t strain your arms while waving them, Norm.

Why don’t you just man up and say out loud what you really think — religion is stupid, no matter WHO believes in it.

Why be so circumspect about it NOW?

Or is there after all, buried deep deep within your brain, the beginnings of the realization that pissing people off who are on your own side is, well, awfully stupid?

Comment #132731

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 7:15 PM (e)

While I appreciate Lenny’s points–more, certainly, than does Popper–I do think there is a difference between “the fundies” and “our” atheists. Our guys seem content to expound their opinions via verbal persuasion and do not seem to me to be attempting to enforce their opinions by way of violence, overthrow (or illegitimate overtaking of) the government, etc. Equating them is, therefore, a tad hyperbolic.

Well, unlike the fundie Christians, our favorite fundie atheists here don’t have the OPPORTUNITY to stamp out religion as they’d like to.

Give them that power, and *then* watch what happens.

coughcoughsovietunioncoughcough

Ideological extremists always act the same way when they’re in power. No matter the ideology.

It’s why I don’t like ideological extremists. Of any sort.

Comment #132736

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 7:19 PM (e)

my brain goes off on a tangent involving the grunge rockers, the Meat Puppets

“Some things will never change”.

;)

Comment #132739

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 7:26 PM (e)

45% of Americans accept the idea of Special Creation. Sad, in my view, but that’s not a majority

You might also want to mention to Norm that at least 2/3rds of the people in the US who accept evolution and reject ID/creationism, are theists.

Norm tends to forget that.

Of course, Norm doesn’t CARE if they accept evolution or not. Norm doesn’t CARE if their religion affects their science or not. To Norm, a theist is a theist is a theist is a theist, and all theists are the enemy.

Heck, I’m not even a theist, and Norm considers *me* the enemy because I don’t agree with Norm’s demonization of theists. And if you’re not with Norm, you’re against him. That, after all, has always been the battle cry of ideological extremists.

Right, Norm?

Comment #132740

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 7:28 PM (e)

There’s that fundie absolutist mindset again

You noticed that too, huh.

Norm is more fundie than the fundies are.

Comment #132746

Posted by normdoering on September 22, 2006 7:41 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

Give them that power, and *then* watch what happens.

Well, there are a few European countries with a lot of atheists – what have they done?

http://www.adherents.com/largecom/com_atheist.html

Sweden has about 85% non-believers in God, Denmark about 80%, Norway 72%. Oh, my Gawd! What horrible results! Sweden and Norway didn’t even get rid of their state churches! What horrible repression of religion! In Denmark Theo van Gogh was killed by a radical Muslim and look what happened to the poor Muslims in that country!

Horrible! Shocking! Horrible!

Comment #132750

Posted by Henry J on September 22, 2006 7:47 PM (e)

Steviepinhead (#132603) wrote:

Hmm.
[…]
On with the show!

Hey, don’t encourage them! ;)

Henry

Comment #132753

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 7:51 PM (e)

I find it just as revealing to look at the posts that Norm does NOT respond to, as the ones he DOES respond to….

Comment #132755

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 22, 2006 7:55 PM (e)

Sweden has about 85% non-believers in God, Denmark about 80%, Norway 72%.

And unlike you, none of them have made it their mission in life to stamp out religion. In fact, Norm, I am not aware that any of those vast majorities makes any effort at all whatsoever to stamp out the rest. There’s a lesson in there somewhere for you, Norm.

But gee, Norm, what countries HAVE made it their mission in life (officially as government policy, no less) to stamp out religion …… . ? Can you name a few for us …. ?

Comment #132912

Posted by Wayne Francis on September 23, 2006 3:02 AM (e)

Comment # 132585

normdoering wrote:

Comment #132585
Posted by normdoering on September 22, 2006 01:18 PM (e)
Wayne Francis wrote:

So do you like going up to a stranger that is Polish and telling polish jokes to them?

Wow! What a context shift.
Raging Bee is no stranger, he’s been chasing after my comments with logic so twisted Stephen Colbert could use it. You’re the one who walked into it.
Popper’s Ghost was right about you.

Why is it a context shift? Why is making fun of someone’s god ok but making fun of someone’s ancestry not? Do you personally know the theists that you’ve made negative statements about their god? How is telling “Meet People Where They Are” that her relationship with her god any different then walking up to a Polish man on the street and telling bad polish jokes? Why should that Polish man get upset any more then a theist would get upset about you degrading their personal spiritual beliefs?

I’ll take it from your reaction that you wouldn’t approve of any of the “humorous” situations I suggested.

So it is not ok to joke about your partner and kids who you care about.
It is not ok to joke about someone’s nationality.
It is not ok to joke about someone’s dead relative.
BUT it IS ok to joke about someone’s spiritual beliefs?

Funny you should have picked the nationality one to focus on. For out of all of them “national pride” is the least tangible of all the conditions I put forth.
Is it logical to be patriotic? I can say I’ve very patriotic. It’s the reason I joined the USMC when I was younger. It is my patriotism that made me proud to be an American and a U.S. Marine. It is my patriotism that makes me ashamed of the butchery the current administration is doing to the US Constitution.

Yet how is my patriotism really any different then someone else’s spirituality. My patriotism is my personal relationship with the history of America. I’m not proud of all the history but there are ideals there that I hold on to. I could get those ideals from other sources but my choice is to ground them in patriotism. Much like many religious people ground their ideals from their spiritual beliefs.

The only thing different between making a joke about someone’s god and someone’s nationality, at least if they are Polish, is that you don’t like the concept of “God” but have no problem with the concept of being “Polish”.

Comment #132969

Posted by Stephen_Elliott on September 23, 2006 6:29 AM (e)

Posted by normdoering on September 22, 2006 07:41 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

Give them that power, and *then* watch what happens.

Well, there are a few European countries with a lot of atheists – what have they done?

http://www.adherents.com/largecom/com_atheist.ht…

Sweden has about 85% non-believers in God, Denmark about 80%, Norway 72%. Oh, my Gawd! What horrible results! Sweden and Norway didn’t even get rid of their state churches! What horrible repression of religion! In Denmark Theo van Gogh was killed by a radical Muslim and look what happened to the poor Muslims in that country!

Horrible! Shocking! Horrible!

It isn’t what people personally believe that generally causes problems. Disaster comes when people decide everyone else should believe the same (as they do) and take action to make it so.

Comment #134618

Posted by Caledonian on September 27, 2006 7:42 AM (e)

It isn’t what people personally believe that generally causes problems. Disaster comes when people decide everyone else should believe the same (as they do) and take action to make it so.

Such as when weak-minded people decide that the only acceptable attitude is a “tolerance” that involves acceptance of any new claim or idea as long as it doesn’t produce unpleasant emotional responses, then try to impose that attitude on others through social feedback?

Is *that* the kind of situation you’re describing?