Nick Matzke posted Entry 2741 on November 22, 2006 01:26 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2732

This is probably not news to anyone who has seen him speak before, but I’m pretty well convinced that Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, is the new Carl Sagan.

I watched some of the videos from Beyond Belief 2006 meeting, which as far as I can tell was an attempt by evangelical atheists to convert other academics to be evangelical atheists, so that eventually everyone in the U.S. will become evangelical atheists. (By the way, this plan gives a whole new spin to the term “delusion”, as the skeptical anthropologist Melvin Konner pointed out in his rambling, disorganized, but ultimately wise critique of the get-rid-of-religion folks.) The meeting was written up by the New York Times today, and the ID blogs are all happily clucking with disdain about it.

Neil deGrasse Tyson gave the final talk of the meeting, and thankfully, instead of bitter sniping at academics who have any empathy for religious people, which seems to have been the main activity of this meeting, Tyson took the only realistic route that scientists actually have to increase public support for science, and that is to explain why science is so important, cool, and amazing. I had only previously seen Tyson on PBS a bit, and recently on The Colbert Report, dissing Pluto and other pitiful iceballs.

While mocking iceballs is good fun, that short clip doesn’t get you the full picture of Tyson in action. Give him 30 minutes and a lecture hall, and watch him remind you what science is really about. (Link to huge mp4 file.)

(Note: Tyson’s talk is about the last third of the last mp4 file on this page. The mp4 file is 218 MB, so Right-Click, Save As to download, and give it a good 10-20 minutes. Maybe some friendly tech wizard could stop by, extract the Tyson lecture, put it on YouTube, and link to it in the comments.)

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Comment #145839

Posted by Al Moritz on November 22, 2006 4:26 AM (e)

Indeed, the evangelical atheists have all gone crazy.

The following excerpt from the article is revealing, I think:

By the third day, the arguments had become so heated that Dr. Konner was reminded of “a den of vipers.”

“With a few notable exceptions,” he said, “the viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?”

His response to Mr. Harris and Dr. Dawkins was scathing. “I think that you and Richard are remarkably apt mirror images of the extremists on the other side,” he said, “and that you generate more fear and hatred of science.”

Dr. Tyson put it more gently. “Persuasion isn’t always ‘Here are the facts — you’re an idiot or you are not,’ ” he said. “I worry that your methods” — he turned toward Dr. Dawkins — “how articulately barbed you can be, end up simply being ineffective, when you have much more power of influence.”

Chastened for a millisecond, Dr. Dawkins replied, “I gratefully accept the rebuke.”

*****

Indeed, you want to create hatred against science? Go on like that. How stupid.

We want that America falls behind in science and loses out to other nations? Evangelical atheism is the best weapon to achieve just that. Talking about shooting yourself in the foot with a nuclear bomb.

Indeed, as you pointed out, Nick, what a delusion some atheists suffer from, when they think they can convert the world to science by stomping on religion.

It’s not even necessary. You can be a believer and fully embrace science – I do.

Create awe for the natural world – I am all for it. But that’s all you need to do. Stick to science, and let all other things go the way they will go, one way or the other. In my case, awe for the natural world turned into more awe for God, for others it may turn out differently. But this is not the business of science.

Oh, I forgot, you cannot embrace science unless you embrace philosophical materialism. Yeah, we’ve heard that one before. If some atheists in their philosophical ignorance cannot distinguish between methodological materialism and philosophical materialim, they show that they are plain uninformed. Well, if you want to pride yourself to be a “rational” and “clear thinker”, you need to be an informed thinker, first and foremost.

Comment #145847

Posted by Al Moritz on November 22, 2006 5:32 AM (e)

Seriously, Nick, you guys at NCSE might need to write a follow-up book on “Not in Our Classrooms”: against promotion of atheism in science class, just like religion should not be promoted in science class, and also campaign with other means for that. I know, you guys probably will be very reluctant to do such thing, but if things continue this way, you might simply have no other choice in a few months.

And I can tell you that: big media attention will be guaranteed, and with this is almost guaranteed will be a hot new national debate about the issue, and science will have to rethink what it is and wants to be about: just science or primitive ideology.

Time to go big. Putting a little post on Panda’s Thumb like your above one doesn’t cut it.

Comment #145848

Posted by Michael Hopkins on November 22, 2006 5:40 AM (e)

How good is he at not saying “Billions and billions”? ;-)

Seriously, he is very good at what he does.

Comment #145851

Posted by Andrew Lee on November 22, 2006 6:43 AM (e)

I realize that of course this post will be inundated with hundreds of replies before I return from work in 12 hours, but maybe I can squeeze one in before the deluge.

What, exactly, is the import of the term “evangelical” in the post supposed to be? Inasmuch as it means anything at all – and I know for a fact that Nick Matzke is not echoing the “hurr, atheism = just another religion lol” crowd – it just seems to mean “someone who wants to persuade other people that something is true”.

Why should “wanting to believe true things and disbelive false things” be disparaged with such an epithet?

Comment #145852

Posted by Al Moritz on November 22, 2006 6:54 AM (e)

I know that the NCSE does an excellent job, I am just saying that the situation appears to be drastically changing. ID may not be the main enemy anymore, but Dawkins & Company who, in their clumsy materialistic philosophical ignorance and simplemindedness, are on their best way to quickly and swiftly destroy the reputation of science in their efforts to “promote” it. It may turn out to be much worse than ID ever was. The battle lines are clearly hardening, and reaction is needed.

To clarify: with “no atheism in the classroom” I meant not just direct promotion in the classroom, but also indirect, by atheism as the public face (ouch) of science.

Comment #145854

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 22, 2006 7:10 AM (e)

I see no need for yet another pointless 400-post religious war, so I won’t speak to that.

But I’ve heard Tyson on NPR a few times, and he is indeed an articulate, interesting and captivating speaker – a worthy successor to the much-missed Dr Sagan.

Comment #145868

Posted by davem on November 22, 2006 8:02 AM (e)

Seems like we have some evangelical agnostics as well.

Comment #145869

Posted by Al Moritz on November 22, 2006 8:20 AM (e)

By the way, just in case someone wonders if I pull the idea out of my hat that atheism in the classroom is unwanted by the NCSE:

Eugenie C. Scott wrote in a 1997 article about the Pope speaking out positively about evolution:

“I suggest that one’s personal beliefs should be kept out of the classroom whether one is a believer or a nonbeliever. Using the classroom to indoctrinate students to any belief or nonbelief is, first of all, a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution’s establishment clause; second, it will be misleading to students who will have difficulty separating science as a way of knowing from personal philosophy; and third, it is bad strategy for anyone concerned about the public understanding of evolution.”

The link was:

www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/ 1480_creationists_and_the_pope39_12_22_2003.asp

but it is now broken.

(If you doubt that she said that, just type “I suggest that one’s personal beliefs should be kept out of the classroom” or other parts of the quote into Google and see which link comes up.)

Comment #145870

Posted by Raging Bee on November 22, 2006 8:24 AM (e)

It’s about time someone gave Dawkins the bitch-slap he deserved. I’ve never heard of Tyson or Konner, but if they can publicly rebuke Dawkins – and make him like it – I’m starting to like them already.

Comment #145871

Posted by FastEddie on November 22, 2006 8:33 AM (e)

Here is what evangelical atheism means to me (and I may very well be one of them):

It’s time to *respect* people of faith by arguing with them. Here is an example. Aboriginese have an oral tradition which says they have always lived in Australia. But genetics proves they share the same haplogroups as populations living in India and SE Asia. The Aboriginese’ faith in their oral tradition has led them to a factual error.

How should a knowledgable scientist handle this if it came up in a discussion with an Aboriginal? Talk to him a sappy-sweet tone and say, “Our Western science suggests your people may be decended from others who migrated from SE Asia. Of course, science is just one way of knowing and your oral tradition is equally valid.”

Bullshit.

That approach is DISRESPECTFUL to the aboriginal in question because it treats him like a child, assuming he can’t handle a weighty discussion of one of his core beliefs. He’s wrong, period, and scientists should say so. Nobody is served by allowing a plainly wrong belief to go unchallenged.

Creationists are wrong, and scientists should say so when ever the issue comes up. We should not be treating religious beliefs as if they are off-limits for serious challenge in polite company. I’m not advocating an approach in which we call the other person an idiot if they don’t agree with us. I’m only saying we should not be shy about having such discussions.

Comment #145872

Posted by wamba on November 22, 2006 8:36 AM (e)

as far as I can tell was an attempt by evangelical atheists to convert other academics to be evangelical atheists, so that eventually everyone in the U.S. will become evangelical atheists.

I think that phrase does not mean what you think it means. If you want to see real evangelical atheists, look here.

Seriously, Nick, you guys at NCSE might need to write a follow-up book on “Not in Our Classrooms”: against promotion of atheism in science class

Strange thing; I read the entire NY Times article, and nowhere did I see mention of promoting atheism in the classroom. In fact the word “classroom” was not used in that article.

That’s the trouble with religion. It teaches people that making **** up is just as legitimate as actually providing evidence. Now if you can provide some actual evidence that the conference attendees want to promote atheism in the classroom, you come back and provide that evidence.

Comment #145874

Posted by Al Moritz on November 22, 2006 9:01 AM (e)

Wamba wrote:

Strange thing; I read the entire NY Times article, and nowhere did I see mention of promoting atheism in the classroom. In fact the word “classroom” was not used in that article.

That was not the point. It was about what the NCSE cares about, and I also had clarified:

“with “no atheism in the classroom” I meant not just direct promotion in the classroom, but also indirect, by atheism as the public face (ouch) of science.” (145852) Thus, the public face of science is (should be) very much the concern of the NCSE.

Comment #145876

Posted by Deepsix on November 22, 2006 9:06 AM (e)

Oh, I’m sorry. Seems I’ve stumbled into the Uncommon Descent forums in error. I’ll go back to searching for The Panda’s Thumb now. Thank you.

Comment #145878

Posted by Al Moritz on November 22, 2006 9:09 AM (e)

… and no doubt, certain science teachers who would already be inclined to connect science to atheism, but did not do so yet, will likely be encouraged by the recent wave of “scientific” (yeah right) anti-religion campaign to actually make that connection.

Comment #145879

Posted by Miguelito on November 22, 2006 9:11 AM (e)

Use science to teach people how to think and question using a well established mechanism in the scientific method. Evangelical atheists should understand that down the road this can only help their cause, but they seem to lack patience, which is funny because the development of science is all about patiently waiting through experiments.

While I am very sympathetic to the atheist cause (I am an atheist), bashing religion with science will indeed only turn people off of science. It will also dissuade people from looking at scientists as authority figures, which can only hurt in today’s political climate.

But, the nature of an evangelical makes it impossible for them to not bash competing religions using whatever tools are at hand.

Comment #145880

Posted by Miguelito on November 22, 2006 9:14 AM (e)

Use science to teach people how to think and question using a well established mechanism in the scientific method. Evangelical atheists should understand that down the road this can only help their cause, but they seem to lack patience, which is funny because the development of science is all about patiently waiting through experiments.

While I am very sympathetic to the atheist cause (I am an atheist), bashing religion with science will indeed only turn people off of science. It will also dissuade people from looking at scientists as authority figures, which can only hurt in today’s political climate.

But, the nature of an evangelical makes it impossible for them to not bash competing religions using whatever tools are at hand.

Comment #145881

Posted by Al Moritz on November 22, 2006 9:24 AM (e)

… and no doubt, certain science teachers who would already be inclined to connect science to atheism, but did not do so yet, will likely be encouraged by the recent wave of “scientific” (yeah right) anti-religion campaign to actually make that connection.

Comment #145882

Posted by wamba on November 22, 2006 9:39 AM (e)

That was not the point.

What is the point, Mr. Moritz? Suppose I ask, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Do you understand that it would be wrong of me to suggest that you beat your wife if I have no evidence that it is true? Do you understand that suggesting that you be stopped from continually beating your wife implies an accusation that you do indeed beat your wife? Are you getting my point, or is this too subtle?

“with “no atheism in the classroom” I meant not just direct promotion in the classroom, but also indirect, by atheism as the public face (ouch) of science.” (145852) Thus, the public face of science is (should be) very much the concern of the NCSE.

I see. So you are saying that the NCSE opposes freedom of speech, or should oppose freedom of speech.

Comment #145888

Posted by PZ Myers on November 22, 2006 9:44 AM (e)

Nick wrote:

By the way, this plan gives a whole new spin to the term “delusion”

It’s good of you to admit that the plan to convert all of America to “evangelical atheism” is delusional, since that plan happens to be something you invented entirely on your own in this comment.

Comment #145889

Posted by fnxtr on November 22, 2006 9:49 AM (e)

FastEddie:

Creationists are wrong, and scientists should say so when ever the issue comes up.

Isn’t there a difference between pointing out factual errors and trying to prove the unprovable?

Yes, observation and modern interpretation of the natural world is pushing God farther and farther away, but in the same way that we can say “We haven’t nailed down the details of the origin of life… yet”, we can also say “We haven’t proved there’s no God… yet.”

I think it’s been pointed out before that if someone is genuinely naive or duped, lashing out at them is going to just make them run away, not listen. I think we made that mistake with Evolution?, though to be fair he did come on like a troll at first.

If however, they’re being deliberately deceptive, game on.

Comment #145890

Posted by reader on November 22, 2006 9:52 AM (e)

Re: comment 145876. I agree with Deepsix. A thread filled with repeated supercilious declarations by the likes of Moritz who is so fond of instructing readers where the ulimate truth is, hardly makes PT worth reading.

Comment #145891

Posted by Raging Bee on November 22, 2006 10:03 AM (e)

Deepsix and reader: instead of merely calling Moritz’s comments “supercililious,” and hinting that differing opinions like his have no place on this forum, why don’t you try to, you know, refute them or prove them wrong? We’ve been happy to do that with creationists, so this shouldn’t be a problem – if you can prove him wrong, that is…

Comment #145892

Posted by Mark Perakh on November 22, 2006 10:08 AM (e)

Atheists are a small minority, especially in the US. Even more so are strong atheists like Dawkins or Benneth. Atheists are practically all pro-science. While not all religious people are anti-science, almost all anti-science people are religious. Therefore, attacking atheists and labeling them with derogatory epithets like “evangelical” or asserting that they are “crazy,” is hardly helpful in the struggle for ensuring science its proper status.

Comment #145893

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on November 22, 2006 10:08 AM (e)

God is the ultimate politician: all things to all people. This Baylor research gives the basic idea of it. God has the important role of validating your opinions on controversial subjects: He agrees with you! People are brought up to associate their deepest feelings, including fears, with God and church. God’s continued popularity seems assured.

Nevertheless, the God-is-a-right-winger politicians and the creationists have succeeded in provoking people to argue about God and religion. A number of thoughtful people think religion, including belief in God and the like, has major negative aspects. One certainly can not expect the latter group not to express themselves. The best place to dispute their views is Pharyngula.

How will it all play out? Only time will tell.

Comment #145894

Posted by wamba on November 22, 2006 10:08 AM (e)

Deepsix and reader: instead of merely calling Moritz’s comments “supercililious,” and hinting that differing opinions like his have no place on this forum, why don’t you try to, you know, refute them or prove them wrong?

I think it’s because I already accomplished that.

Comment #145895

Posted by reader on November 22, 2006 10:29 AM (e)

Re: comment 145891 by Raging Bee. Everybody including Moritz may post a comment on this blog, expressing whichever views he/she adheres to. However, when a commenter repeats his notions time and time again, this is a display of superciliousness and of an inflated ego. BTW, Raging Bee: please use a spellchek. Chiao.

Comment #145896

Posted by Al Moritz on November 22, 2006 10:29 AM (e)

Mark Perakh wrote:

Therefore, attacking atheists and labeling them with derogatory epithets like “evangelical” or asserting that they are “crazy,” is hardly helpful in the struggle for ensuring science its proper status.

I did not call all atheists crazy. However, I do think that those who think that they need to “replace” religion with science show a fervor that can be called nothing but “evangelical”, and yes, I do think their efforts are “crazy” - or otherwise entirely delusional. And those efforts are indeed hardly helpful in the struggle for ensuring science its proper status.

Comment #145900

Posted by Gerard Harbison on November 22, 2006 11:09 AM (e)

What, exactly, is the import of the term “evangelical” in the post supposed to be?

A rather juvenile attempt to pick a fight.

Comment #145901

Posted by steve s on November 22, 2006 11:11 AM (e)

People commonly say ‘evangelical atheist’ when they actually mean ‘hostile atheist’. I presume that these people don’t actually mean to say that atheists, unlike believers of different philosophies, should not promote their beliefs. Criticising someone as being an ‘evangelical atheist’ gives just this impression though. A little more caution when choosing words is in order.

Comment #145902

Posted by Glen Davidson on November 22, 2006 11:13 AM (e)

If the discussions were heated, and Dawkins “rebuked”, it hardly looks like a session devoted to making all Americans “evangelical atheists”. And although I doubt it was Dawkins’ intention, I think he has diverted IDists considerably from their PR about ID being science, toward nakedly religious attacks upon atheism.

ID woke a lot of (generally irreligious) scientists up to the fact that constantly making room for religion has not produced a great deal of respect for science. So they get together and take the gloves off, after a good couple of decades when their opponents had their gloves off and were fighting science to its very core (conservative) epistemology. What is wrong with that?

Many religions have accommodated science, however well or poorly. Many religious people have taken on science as if it were demonic and already militantly atheistic. The idea that somehow science is going to lose out because some few scientists have decided to take the anti-science side at their word—that science is opposed to their idiotic religious assumptions—is more than a little absurd. Religion has been long coddled, and it is time to point out that some religions are simply wrong and dishonest (or that they all are, but I myself have never gunned at those who simply add superfluous concepts without denying solid science and good epistemology).

Basically, promoting any idea, including rabid-bat religions, is okay in America—oh, except for atheism. Get out there and say the obvious, that God has no clothes, body, or mind, and you’re the bad guy. What is the rationale for that?

Tyson’s fine (I watched a bit of ScienceNow (Nova), he being the moderator), however it’s absurd to call him the “next Sagan”. Sagan was definitely more nuanced in his atheism than is Dawkins (or PZ), yet he did a good job of showing how much better science was than religion at dealing with the wonders of the universe. Tyson himself appears to do well at revealing the power and strength of science, however he shies away from doing the obvious, demonstrating that science does a much better job than do the old ways, including religion and scholasticism.

What might soften the edges of science’s inevitable conflicts with religion would be to show how the ideas of “material” evidence eclipsed superstition, including in the minds of most religious folk. That persecution of witches ended when religious people realized (among other things) that real evidence for witchcraft didn’t exist. That no one would wish to be tried according to the “tenets” of ID, indeed, that justice demands the use of science to the exclusion of “the Satan did it at the witch’s behest”, or “God did it”.

Xian people might be put on the side of science if one were adept at tapping into Xian beliefs in reason, as opposed to superstition.

What I’m saying is that the epistemology of science has to be upheld over any other way of looking at “the material world”, at least whenever factual claims come into play. I don’t see Tyson doing this as he should. Indeed, one ought to appeal to the rational side of Xianity, to put at least some Xians onto our side prior to asking them to use science to answer questions of origins. Yet the superiority of science’s methods needs to be made clear.

The atheists let off a little pent-up steam for once? Who cares? They’ve been attacked as evangelical atheists for a long time, which is what has prompted them (some of them) to for once act like militant atheists. They need some emotion in order to act upon their realization that superstitious sorts still want to repeal the Enlightenment.

Militant atheism will not be what mainly wins the day for science, of course. But it’s well past time that the dullards who mistake Darwin and Lewontin for being “militant atheists” finally learn what real religion haters are like.

It is thanks to people like Dawkins that such a solid Xian evolutionist (if cosmological superstitionist) like Collins is actually praised over on UD. A few militant atheists might make Ken Miller look pretty good to religionists, and cause them to realize that science does not automatically destroy religion (though I think it does eat away at it). The mix of some genuinely militant atheists with a spectrum of non-believers and believers has done a fairly good job of gutting ID.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #145903

Posted by jeffw on November 22, 2006 11:14 AM (e)

It’s interesting to watch Tyson at this conference. While he’s certainly a great speaker and easy to listen to, he actually has more of an evangelical demeanor than anyone else there, especially with his arms movements and speaking style.

Comment #145904

Posted by Gerard Harbison on November 22, 2006 11:19 AM (e)

However, I do think that those who think that they need to “replace” religion with science show a fervor that can be called nothing but “evangelical”, and yes, I do think their efforts are “crazy” - or otherwise entirely delusional. And those efforts are indeed hardly helpful in the struggle for ensuring science its proper status.

So, let’s see: religion frequently claims a monopoly on matters of morality. But scientific work has recently showing evidence for an innate human ‘moral’ sense’, which evolved in order to allow us to more efficiently negotiate the complicated world of reciprocal altruism and contractual transactions. The religious often call this scientific approach to studying morality ‘scientism’. If I express confidence that in fact the most successful way to deal with moral/ethical issues is a philosophical approach that begins with (but is not limited by) our scientifically determined moral sense; and that, just as religion ultimately provided no useful insight on sickness or disease, it in the end will have no productive impact on ethics, am I ‘evangelical’?

Science has, over the last 500 years, progressively seized domains that were hitherto the purview of religion. If we herald that progress (and it is, certainly, progress) and predict that ultimately the domain of religion willl be zero or vanishly small, are we ‘evangelical atheists’?

Comment #145905

Posted by Gerard Harbison on November 22, 2006 11:20 AM (e)

However, I do think that those who think that they need to “replace” religion with science show a fervor that can be called nothing but “evangelical”, and yes, I do think their efforts are “crazy” - or otherwise entirely delusional. And those efforts are indeed hardly helpful in the struggle for ensuring science its proper status.

So, let’s see: religion frequently claims a monopoly on matters of morality. But scientific work has recently showing evidence for an innate human ‘moral’ sense’, which evolved in order to allow us to more efficiently negotiate the complicated world of reciprocal altruism and contractual transactions. The religious often call this scientific approach to studying morality ‘scientism’. If I express confidence that in fact the most successful way to deal with moral/ethical issues is a philosophical approach that begins with (but is not limited by) our scientifically determined moral sense; and that, just as religion ultimately provided no useful insight on sickness or disease, it in the end will have no productive impact on ethics, am I ‘evangelical’?

Science has, over the last 500 years, progressively seized domains that were hitherto the purview of religion. If we herald that progress (and it is, certainly, progress) and predict that ultimately the domain of religion willl be zero or vanishly small, are we ‘evangelical atheists’?

Comment #145906

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on November 22, 2006 11:22 AM (e)

The new feature we are seeing in the eternal atheism/theism debate is a pretty systematic campaign attacking (1) moderate religion that knows its scientific limits and (2) moderate science that knows its metaphysical limits.

But, the main point of the post is that there is a clear path away from this, which is Tyson’s approach in this talk.

Comment #145907

Posted by Glen Davidson on November 22, 2006 11:26 AM (e)

Seriously, Nick, you guys at NCSE might need to write a follow-up book on “Not in Our Classrooms”: against promotion of atheism in science class, just like religion should not be promoted in science class, and also campaign with other means for that.

Do you somehow believe the IDist PR that atheism is being promoted in the science class? If not, where do you come up with the idea that promoting atheism in science class is a threat that needs to be taken seriously?

I know, you guys probably will be very reluctant to do such thing,

You know, you’re right. I’d look really stupid fighting against a non-existent threat.

but if things continue this way, you might simply have no other choice in a few months.

One thing about our fight for science—we demand that evidence be supplied for factual claims. I fail to see any evidence for your claim.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #145913

Posted by Al Moritz on November 22, 2006 11:48 AM (e)

Glen Davidson wrote:

Basically, promoting any idea, including rabid-bat religions, is okay in America—oh, except for atheism. Get out there and say the obvious, that God has no clothes, body, or mind, and you’re the bad guy. What is the rationale for that?

I have no problem if someone attacks religion. I can stomach that. However, I do have huge problems if someone does it in the name and under the pretense of science, or claims that religious scientists are less scientists that materialistic scientists (as if methodological materialism and philosophical materialism were the same - if my hammering on that distinction makes me sound supercilious to some, so be it). Alas, most atheists cannot disinguish between “outside the realm of science” and “unscientific”. Yes, I am angry when those two things are treated as being the same. Not everything is science. Knowledge that your wife or family loves you is not scientific either, but that does not make it “unscientific” – it is simply outside science. Sure, I agree that the notion, held by some religions, that the earth is 6,000 years old, is unscientific. But brushing over all religions as if they were all the same is not helpful – a lot of mainstream religions agree to evolution and a universe that is 14 billion years old.

It is thanks to people like Dawkins that such a solid Xian evolutionist (if cosmological superstitionist) like Collins is actually praised over on UD. A few militant atheists might make Ken Miller look pretty good to religionists, and cause them to realize that science does not automatically destroy religion.

You may have a point. However calling Collins a “cosmological superstitionist” (as if all religion can easily be labeled superstition) makes demands for a more nuanced use of the terms “evangelical” and “militant”, when it comes to atheists, ring exceedingly hollow. I guess we all need to be more careful with our words.

Comment #145915

Posted by steve s on November 22, 2006 12:05 PM (e)

Comment #145903

Posted by jeffw on November 22, 2006 11:14 AM (e) | kill

It’s interesting to watch Tyson at this conference. While he’s certainly a great speaker and easy to listen to, he actually has more of an evangelical demeanor than anyone else there, especially with his arms movements and speaking style.

Probably grew up in a black church.

Comment #145916

Posted by normdoering on November 22, 2006 12:14 PM (e)

Neil deGrasse Tyson is the new Carl Sagan

A few wise words at a meeting do not make a Carl Sagan. It’s books like “Dragons of Eden,” “A Pale Blue Dot,” “Demon Haunted World; Science as a Candle in the Dark,” and “Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science” that make a Carl Sagan.

Comment #145917

Posted by SteveF on November 22, 2006 12:21 PM (e)

Y

A

W

N

Comment #145918

Posted by Glen Davidson on November 22, 2006 12:24 PM (e)

I have no problem if someone attacks religion. I can stomach that. However, I do have huge problems if someone does it in the name and under the pretense of science, or claims that religious scientists are less scientists that materialistic scientists

By your use of the word “materialistic”, is there, can there be, any scientist that is not “materialistic”? Are Miller and Collins any less “atheistic” or more “materialistic” than Dawkins when they’re doing science? IOW, what could religion add to their science?

Science began to accelerate when it did one important thing, which was to jettison the medieval philosophies which posited a God “outside of science”. This is how and why science is used as a basis for denying religion, that it had to deny the philosophical basis for theology in order to advance.

Science does not deny Aquinas’s proofs of God, certainly. What it does is to bypass them, to treat them as worthless methods for discovering anything about the universe. We start with the observable and move, if possible, to what had not been observed before. Religion starts with the word, and reinterprets what is seen according to the word (to be fair, many do a good job of reinterpreting the word by what is observed—I don’t see the reason for keeping the word even then, but have few objections if they do so).

(as if methodological materialism and philosophical materialism were the same - if my hammering on that distinction makes me sound supercilious to some, so be it).

I don’t think it’s supercilious, I just think that “materialism” or “naturalism” (usually it is written as “methodological naturalism”) are essentially meaningless terms. Sure, they can be made meaningful by explaining them via other terms, but why not deal with empiricism without bothering with ancient terms like “nature”, as if it were opposed to supernature?

And I really don’t know how anyone can suggest that “methodological naturalism” is reasonable without claiming that “philosophical naturalism” is also reasonable. We’ll use “naturalism” because it works, while denying that this “nature” is all that we can know?

Alas, most atheists cannot disinguish between “outside the realm of science” and “unscientific”. Yes, I am angry when those two things are treated as being the same. Not everything is science.

Of course not everything is science, notably the bases for science itself. However, I do not know how one is even supposed to discuss a putative “entity” without recognizing such an “entity” to be potentially a subject for science. What meaning is to attach to this claim of an entity if it is beyond the realm of human and machine perception?

Knowledge that your wife or family loves you is not scientific either, but that does not make it “unscientific” – it is simply outside science.

The love of one person for another is not one of those things that is necessarily beyond the reach of science. Granted, much that I think or feel is beyond the reach of science, if I want it to be. However, there are ways in which even my thoughts, loves, and hates are potentially within the reach of science.

I’m objecting more to the example than the principle, however. “Internal experience” is in some ways not a part of science (I do think that mind is not beyond the reach of scientific abstraction, but abstraction is not the same as “experience itself”). But I don’t think that science is as limited as you make it out to be, and a good psychologist ought to be able to make an informed judgment regarding the love of one for another if the subject is willing.

Sure, I agree that the notion, held by some religions, that the earth is 6,000 years old, is unscientific. But brushing over all religions as if they were all the same is not helpful – a lot of mainstream religions agree to evolution and a universe that is 14 billion years old.

Yes, I mentioned this fact. The trouble is that religion (or anyway, religion separate from standard empirical methods) did nothing at all to establish these or any other reliable facts.

However calling Collins a “cosmological superstitionist” (as if all religion can easily be labeled superstition)

Apparently you do not know why I called Collins a cosmological superstitionist. It is because he has a soft spot for cosmological ID that I called him that, and not because he is religious per se. He does appeal to “fine-tuning” to bolster his case for God, which seems nothing more than the superstition that if observations are not explained, God did it.

makes demands for a more nuanced use of the terms “evangelical” and “militant”, when it comes to atheists, ring exceedingly hollow. I guess we all need to be more careful with our words.

Yes, you should not assume that I called Collins a cosmological superstitionist merely because he is religious, nor write words to that effect.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #145920

Posted by Raging Bee on November 22, 2006 12:34 PM (e)

It’s interesting to watch Tyson at this conference. While he’s certainly a great speaker and easy to listen to, he actually has more of an evangelical demeanor than anyone else there, especially with his arms movements and speaking style.

Excellent – if he talks about science – and the wonders of the Universe – at a church-sermon, maybe the flock will listen and understand.

Comment #145921

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on November 22, 2006 12:35 PM (e)

My $.02:

I like the notion that “outside the realm of science” and “unscientific” should not be confused. This is yet another form of what I have long viewed as the source of the religion/science conflict, and that is the failure to distinguish between objective and subjective. This failure is mostly (but not exclusively) found on the religious side, and finds another manifestation in the notion that one of the hallmarks of adulthood is the ability to distinguish between reality (objective) and fantasy (subjective). The Bible says “..when I became a man, I put away childish things,” but religion in general and Christianity in particular often insists that religious concepts (e.g. God) are objective rather than subjective. I am in complete agreement with Glen regarding “those who simply add superfluous concepts,” as long as those superfluous concepts are recognized as being subjective. (I am having difficulty imagining a superfluous concept of this sort that could be realistically construed as being objective.) The first step towards ridding the world of dangerous fundamentalism is the recognition that religious views are subjective.

Comment #145923

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on November 22, 2006 12:38 PM (e)

And, by the way, Sagan never actually uttered the words “billions and billions,” at least not in Cosmos, if ever. He did have a funny way of saying “billions” but I don’t believe he ever said it redundantly.

Comment #145924

Posted by Glen Davidson on November 22, 2006 12:39 PM (e)

Here is an excerpt from a review of Collins’s book:

For example, after this quotation he deals effectively, if less than forcefully, with the objection that introducing a supernatural designer violates Occam’s razor, too, and notes that “it could be argued, however, that the Big Bang itself seems to point strongly toward a Creator.”

His appeal to the Big Bang and the fine-tuned cosmos form two of his key design arguments. (The third, discussed below, looks at the moral law found across cultures and the fact of human altruism, features that Darwinism fails to explain but which are explained well by the claim that humans were created in the image of God.)

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=19-08-032-f

Comment #145925

Posted by Glen Davidson on November 22, 2006 12:40 PM (e)

continuing from above:

I wish Collins would simply believe in a “God beyond science”, but unfortunately he tries to argue like David Heddle did in the past on PT, that unknown probabilities are default evidence for God (though with Heddle it was strangely evidence but not “science”, in his mind).

I appreciate Collins’s efforts to support science related to his specialty, however I wish he would support scientific epistemology where the cosmos is concerned as well. I believe that the term “cosmological superstitionist” (there’s that thing about morality, too) is well-earned by Collins.

Fortunately, he probably does much more good for science in promoting its methods in the area of his competence than he does harm in substituting superstition for science in the area of his incompetence.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #145926

Posted by Raging Bee on November 22, 2006 12:42 PM (e)

Science began to accelerate when it did one important thing, which was to jettison the medieval philosophies which posited a God “outside of science”. This is how and why science is used as a basis for denying religion, that it had to deny the philosophical basis for theology in order to advance.

Excuse me, but the “medieval philosophies” that were jettisoned involved a God (and demons) actively intervening to cause plagues, crop-failures, and everything else that science has since managed to explain. Scientists didn’t “jettison” the “God outside of science,” they embraced it, either because their discoveries led them to it, or, at least, to “prove” they weren’t atheists.

So no, science does not have to “deny the philosophical basis for theology in order to advance.”

Comment #145927

Posted by Raging Bee on November 22, 2006 1:04 PM (e)

Science began to accelerate when it did one important thing, which was to jettison the medieval philosophies which posited a God “outside of science”. This is how and why science is used as a basis for denying religion, that it had to deny the philosophical basis for theology in order to advance.

Excuse me, but the “medieval philosophies” that were jettisoned were not about “God outside of science,” but about a God (and demons) actively intervening in the world to create plagues, crop-failures, bad weather, and all those other things that science has since explained without resort to “goddidit.” “God outside of science” was not jettisoned; in fact, it was, and is, the corner into which theists have been painted by science; and, at least, “proof” that science was not denying God altogether.

So no, science does not have to “deny the philosophical basis for theology in order to advance.”

…But I don’t think that science is as limited as you make it out to be, and a good psychologist ought to be able to make an informed judgment regarding the love of one for another if the subject is willing.

Such informed judgements as I’ve seen so far involve, not only scientific understanding, but other forms of understanding outside of strict methodological naturalism – including spirituality. Furthermore, it is this “non-scientific” component of the psychologist’s understanding that makes his informed judgements relevant and understandable to the non-scientific patient.

Comment #145928

Posted by Raging Bee on November 22, 2006 1:06 PM (e)

Crap – I thought my first post didn’t make it, so I typed up another, and now they’re both here. My god, man, I’m an ARTISTE – how can I create under such horrid conditions?!

Comment #145929

Posted by Al Moritz on November 22, 2006 1:50 PM (e)

Glen Davidson wrote:

By your use of the word “materialistic”, is there, can there be, any scientist that is not “materialistic”? Are Miller and Collins any less “atheistic” or more “materialistic” than Dawkins when they’re doing science? IOW, what could religion add to their science?

Your comment would not have been necessary, had you not broken up my sentence. Anyway, you ask: Are Miller and Collins any less “atheistic” [ … ] than Dawkins when they’re doing science?

This suggests that also you do not sufficiently distinguish between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism. That things work according to natural law does not in itself imply atheism, not even “atheism while doing science”. If Miller and Collins use methodogical naturalism in their science they are not “atheistic”, but simply trust that the laws of nature work like they do – with scientific precision – because they are created by God this way.

Methodological naturalism in their case, just like in the case of an atheist doing science, simply appreciates the regularity and the self-sufficiency of the natural laws without expecting extraordinary divine intervention (i.e. intervention that suspends the laws of nature) in the unfolding of the material world now and then (unlike ID does). Naturalism can then become a method, because nature works according to law – only fixed laws, not whimsical ones, allow methodological exploration. However, since Miller and Collins believe that these natural laws were created by God in their regularity and self-sufficiency, their methodogical naturalism does not translate into philosophical naturalism: they believe in a God that transcends nature, but makes nature what it is.

For an atheist, on the other hand, there is nothing beyond nature. For him/her the laws of nature work like they do, simply because they are what they are, and there is nothing beyond them that made them what they are: philosophical naturalism.

I thought I would not have had to spell it out as explicitly as I did, but your remark made me doubt that this was unnecessary.

Comment #145931

Posted by Glen Davidson on November 22, 2006 1:54 PM (e)

Excuse me, but the “medieval philosophies” that were jettisoned were not about “God outside of science,” but about a God (and demons) actively intervening in the world to create plagues, crop-failures, bad weather, and all those other things that science has since explained without resort to “goddidit.”

Where’d you get that cartoon version of medieval philosophy?

The people often did believe in those interventions, and their priests almost certainly encouraged them in those beliefs. Medieval philosophy picked up where neo-Platonism left off, though there is little doubt that they allowed for more interventionism in the past from God than the Greek philosophers allowed from their gods.

Here’s a bit from a primer that it seems you need:

Medieval Philosophy, in keeping with Augustine’s decisive move, strove to unite two different stances toward God. He was 1) a being, in fact the highest being; 2) as the successor to the neo-Platonic One, He was “beyond being.” The question is thus whether God is immanent to Being or transcendent to it. The link with the DivineNames problematic should be clear. In so far as He is “beyond being,” God resists discussion in any mundane language oriented to discussing the properties of beings. Explicating the God of Scripture, the highest being, with the Neoplatonic One/Good will thus always run the risk of 1) removing any personality from God by pushing Him too far “beyond being”; or 2) distorting the transcendence of God by use of mundane metaphors.

http://66.102.7.104/custom?q=cache:ivgRem_CXWAJ:www.protevi.com/john/SH/PDF/SomeLandmarks.pdf+god+%22medieval+philosophy%22+beyond&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=15

Comment #145932

Posted by Glen Davidson on November 22, 2006 1:56 PM (e)

continuing from above:

As I noted before, Xian philosophers did allow for past interventions, and often allowed for recent interventions too. So it is a strange amalgam, actually, between this “God outside of science” and the interventions of the Bible, and even of medieval miracles (the philosophers were not the boosters for miracle-claims, however, tending to discount present-day miracles. Aquinas definitely discussed Biblical miracles as if they really happened, though). But as the passage relates, God can even be understood as the neo-Platonic non-being in medieval philosophy (where it appears that Heidegger found his inspiration), which is definitely something outside of science as medievalists and modernists understand it to be (though we might not actually accept “being” or “Being” to be meaningful terms).

“God outside of science” was not jettisoned; in fact, it was, and is, the corner into which theists have been painted by science; and, at least, “proof” that science was not denying God altogether.

Yes, I didn’t say that “God outside of science” was jettisoned, I said that science jettisoned the philosophies which posit God to be outside of science. Catholic philosophy continued to live until recently (some would say that it still does, but not my one and only Jesuit philosophy professor), continuing to have this “God outside of science” as its focus, and with quite limited interventions of this God “from outside of science”.

And no, it was not science that painted God into the “outside of science” corner. God as transcendent was the theme throughout medieval philosophy. Al Moritz posted a useful passage a while back (might as well use it, instead of finding a new source):

“But it is important to note that, according to the Catholic understanding of divine causality, true contingency in the created order is not incompatible with a purposeful divine providence. Divine causality and created causality radically differ in kind and not only in degree. Thus, even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation. According to St. Thomas Aquinas: “The effect of divine providence is not only that things should happen somehow, but that they should happen either by necessity or by contingency. Therefore, whatsoever divine providence ordains to happen infallibly and of necessity happens infallibly and of necessity; and that happens from contingency, which the divine providence conceives to happen from contingency” (Summa theologiae, I, 22,4 ad 1).”

http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/11/random_confusio.html#comment-143995

Comment #145933

Posted by Glen Davidson on November 22, 2006 1:57 PM (e)

continuing from above:

So you’re implying that science didn’t need to throw out this notion that things happen by necessity or contingency? Who are you, Dembski? He’s the only one I’ve seen to use those nonsense terms as if they were science.

OK, of course you don’t mean that, because you don’t know what you’re talking about with respect to medieval philosophy. The other point in repeating this passage is that indeed the view was not that God must “intervene” in the daily affairs of humans, but that necessity rules and contingency modifies. God needn’t intervene, usually, because God made the universe to act according to necessity and contingency—which, however, means virtually nothing in science.

So no, science does not have to “deny the philosophical basis for theology in order to advance.”

Apparently you and Dembski think not.

…But I don’t think that science is as limited as you make it out to be, and a good psychologist ought to be able to make an informed judgment regarding the love of one for another if the subject is willing.

Such informed judgements as I’ve seen so far involve, not only scientific understanding, but other forms of understanding outside of strict methodological naturalism – including spirituality.

Like I mentioned before, I don’t actually subscribe to “methodological naturalism”. I’m continental in philosophy, and in my case that means understanding science itself to be a kind of spiritual construction, in the beginning anyway. Thus I do not in any way deny spirituality, from which I believe flows creativity and life in science (no, I am not in the least bit New Age, merely more on the side of European science and the attitudes that brought us quantum physics).

Anyhow, you seem not to have even noticed what I wrote about experience and abstraction, as I deny that science deals with “experience” per se, even though I believe that nothing knowable is beyond the reach of scientific construction (but we have to deal representationally in science with matters which are non-representational, hence the difference).

Furthermore, it is this “non-scientific” component of the psychologist’s understanding that makes his informed judgements relevant and understandable to the non-scientific patient.

What are you saying, that thoughts and judgments aren’t simply science? Clearly I don’t think that they are simply science myself, I merely disagree with anyone who suggests that such matters are in principle beyond the understanding of science. Or in other words, don’t go around arguing against your own strawman just because you don’t understand the careful distinctions that I made in my post.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #145940

Posted by Russell on November 22, 2006 2:15 PM (e)

Francisco J. Ayala, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Roman Catholic priest.

Well, at least I learned one interesting fact I didn’t know before reading this post.

But it’s time, once again, for me to post my boiler-plate complaint about Dawkins bashing.

[NYTimes:] His[Konners’] response to Mr. Harris and Dr. Dawkins was scathing. “I think that you and Richard are remarkably apt mirror images of the extremists on the other side,” he said, “and that you generate more fear and hatred of science.”Dr. Tyson put it more gently. “Persuasion isn’t always ‘Here are the facts — you’re an idiot or you are not,’ ” he said. “I worry that your methods” — he turned toward Dr. Dawkins — “how articulately barbed you can be, end up simply being ineffective, when you have much more power of influence.”
Chastened for a millisecond, Dr. Dawkins replied, “I gratefully accept the rebuke.”

[#145852] ID may not be the main enemy anymore, but Dawkins & Company who, in their clumsy materialistic philosophical ignorance and simplemindedness, are on their best way to quickly and swiftly destroy the reputation of science in their efforts to “promote” it.

[#145870] It’s about time someone gave Dawkins the bitch-slap he deserved. I’ve never heard of Tyson or Konner, but if they can publicly rebuke Dawkins – and make him like it – I’m starting to like them already.

If you all have a problem with something specific Dawkins said, then out with it! But this stereotypical “Dawkins - boo, bad” routine gets old. Look, I don’t know the guy. He may be just as obnoxious as most other celebrity scientists. But whenever I’ve taken the trouble to actually read what he’s written, it doesn’t seem that unreasonable. Perhaps the (1) conferees at the meeting in La Jolla, described by (2)the NYTimes article, referred to (3) by Nick’s blog entry, which was, in turn, (4) commented upon here… perhaps they were referring to something specific that he wrote. But here we are getting all self-righteous based on he-said-that-she-said-that-he-said-something that might be unpopular.

It reminds me of pronouncing the name “Michael Moore” at a Republican convention. Guaranteed to get the desired chorus of “boo, bad” but has any information actually been communicated?

Comment #145941

Posted by Steviepinhead on November 22, 2006 2:31 PM (e)

What Russell said.

Comment #145942

Posted by Glen Davidson on November 22, 2006 2:33 PM (e)

Your comment would not have been necessary, had you not broken up my sentence. Anyway, you ask: Are Miller and Collins any less “atheistic” [ … ] than Dawkins when they’re doing science?

Actually, I asked if they were any less “atheistic” or “materialistic”. And no, boilerplate comments about the supposed “difference” between “methodological materialism” [sic] and “philosophical materialism” [sic] shed no light upon this or any other matter.

This suggests that also you do not sufficiently distinguish between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism. That things work according to natural law does not in itself imply atheism, not even “atheism while doing science”.

Why do people not actually read what is written, or anyway, why do they act like it and continually pound away on their single point as if it hasn’t been discussed?

I can as easily call empirical “objects” spiritual, material, or natural. They’re all bits and pieces of mind when constructing its perceptions (that is, they are that “to the mind”), and your “distinctions” do not have any apparent meaning.

Things don’t work according to natural law, they simply are known to exhibit certain regularities that we, in our inadequate language, call “natural law”. Collins and Miller may claim to be doing God’s work, or to understand science “spiritually”, but I cannot detect any difference between “their science” and “our science”.

I wasn’t asking if they construe what they’re doing as “non-atheistic” (or even as atheistic—I used scare quotes around both “atheistic” and “materialistic” because these are also problematic terms). I was asking if religion made any sort of difference (and I mean religion, not spirituality) when they are indeed doing science.

If Miller and Collins use methodogical naturalism in their science they are not “atheistic”, but simply trust that the laws of nature work like they do – with scientific precision – because they are created by God this way.

OK, so religion doesn’t make any difference in the way they do science.

Methodological naturalism in their case, just like in the case of an atheist doing science, simply appreciates the regularity and the self-sufficiency of the natural laws without expecting extraordinary divine intervention (i.e. intervention that suspends the laws of nature) in the unfolding of the material world now and then (unlike ID does).

No, there is no assumption of “self-sufficiency” of the “laws” in the thoroughly scientific scientist. You’re sneaking in theological concepts into this discussion, even as you claim to accept science on its own terms.

Naturalism can then become a method, because nature works according to law – only fixed laws, not whimsical ones, allow methodological exploration.

Read some Hume or Nietzsche. Grief, you are not talking about science here, you’re bringing up metaphysics and claiming that this metaphysics justifies the science which works well without it (see also Kant).

However, since Miller and Collins believe that these natural laws were created by God in their regularity and self-sufficiency, their methodogical naturalism does not translate into philosophical naturalism: they believe in a God that transcends nature, but makes nature what it is.

Miller and Collins may believe that, however, if they do, they have simply added metaphysical beliefs onto an empiricism that operates more elegantly without that baggage.

For an atheist, on the other hand, there is nothing beyond nature. For him/her the laws of nature work like they do, simply because they are what they are, and there is nothing beyond them that made them what they are: philosophical naturalism.

So I tell you that I don’t even accept “naturalism”, and you blithely repeat the charge that following the “laws of nature” is philosophical naturalism.

And again you show your misconceptions of what science is. “Laws of nature” is a human construct, meaning that no one can say that there is nothing beyond them. Which is why science has indeed gone beyond so-called “laws of nature”, looking for particles that give rise to mass (“material”, more or less) and thus to “laws” of motion, etc. The second “law” of thermodynamics is another area where the “law” has been largely explained, and exists today as more of a high probability of increasing entropy rather than as a “law”.

So far your differentiation between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism suggests that the theists refuse science when it comes to physics. I am sure that not all theists are so hidebound as you make them out to be, however.

I thought I would not have had to spell it out as explicitly as I did, but your remark made me doubt that this was unnecessary.

What is necessary is for you to demonstrate that “naturalism” is a sound concept at all, except as it is defined in other terms.

Thus far your conceptions of what “atheist science” is, and what “theist science” is, rest upon decidedly unscientific bases, such as your belief that atheists deny that anything exists beyond “natural law” to make them that way. Your entire view of science is flawed, which is not very helpful to your thesis that science is compatible with religion (though I think that it can be).

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #145943

Posted by Glen Davidson on November 22, 2006 2:37 PM (e)

So I tell you that I don’t even accept “naturalism”, and you blithely repeat the charge that following the “laws of nature” is philosophical naturalism.

Should have written “charge that following ‘the laws of nature’ is either methodological naturalism or philosophical naturalism.”

Comment #145952

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 22, 2006 2:59 PM (e)

But, the main point of the post is that there is a clear path away from this, which is Tyson’s approach in this talk.

Then, Nick, you should have done a far better job of clarifying the path itself, rather than play fan boy to Tyson by proclaiming him the next Sagan, and spend time discussing the non-concept of “evangelical atheism”.

Reallly, this is how your contribution boils down:

Tyson is neat!

Dawkins sucks!

here’s a link to something I haven’t spent any time analyzing for you to prove my point:

link

discuss.

IMO, you need to completely rewrite this to include some sort of analysis of the approach tyson proposes itself, rather than commentary on the diatribes that prompted Tyson to formulate an approach to begin with.

otherwise, I completely agree with SteveF’s cogent remark:

Y
A
W
N

Comment #145953

Posted by Tiax on November 22, 2006 3:02 PM (e)

It took Tyson two minutes into his talk before he said the word “cosmos”, he’s going to have to cut that time in half if he wants to be a proper Sagan.

Comment #145954

Posted by Raging Bee on November 22, 2006 3:07 PM (e)

Russell: I’ve described my problems with Dawkins in my own blog, in two entries that are now WAY down the list. In short, he over-generalizes about “religion” and “supernaturalism,” as if all such beliefs could be treated as one and the same; and trashes religious moderates with the lamest guilt-by-association tactic I’ve ever heard.

AS I’ve repeatedly admitted on Ed Brayton’s blog, my opinions of him are based entirely on what he said in an interview with Salon, and on similar comments in a Wired article on atheism.

I have not read any of his books, because based on his interview comments, his opinions on religion are ignorant, bigoted, and not worth my time. If I’ve misunderstood Dawkins’ thoughts based on his words, it’s Dawkins’ fault, not mine.

Comment #145956

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 22, 2006 3:11 PM (e)

I have not read any of his books, because based on his interview comments, his opinions on religion are ignorant, bigoted, and not worth my time. If I’ve misunderstood Dawkins’ thoughts based on his words, it’s Dawkins’ fault, not mine.

ROFLMAO!

congratulations, I think that may be this single dumbest thing anybody has said in this thread.

Comment #145957

Posted by Al Moritz on November 22, 2006 3:13 PM (e)

Glen Davidson wrote:

No, there is no assumption of “self-sufficiency” of the “laws” in the thoroughly scientific scientist. You’re sneaking in theological concepts into this discussion, even as you claim to accept science on its own terms.

Of course the laws of nature (or the principles of nature, or whatever) are self-sufficient if they work on their own. What are you talking about?

And again you show your misconceptions of what science is. “Laws of nature” is a human construct, meaning that no one can say that there is nothing beyond them. Which is why science has indeed gone beyond so-called “laws of nature”, looking for particles that give rise to mass (“material”, more or less) and thus to “laws” of motion, etc. The second “law” of thermodynamics is another area where the “law” has been largely explained, and exists today as more of a high probability of increasing entropy rather than as a “law”.

Well, the term “laws of nature” is still frequently used, also in publications in Nature and Science. So I use it too – and?

As for the rest of your post, good grief, I won’t even reply. Of course it is easy to claim that “my entire view of science is flawed”: if you want to run the discussion that easily, I will gladly have you the last word, be my guest. I am confident that the few moderate people who read it will find my post entirely reasonable.

“Why do people not actually read what is written?” Indeed.

Comment #145958

Posted by Buridan on November 22, 2006 3:40 PM (e)

I have not read any of his books, because based on his interview comments, his opinions on religion are ignorant, bigoted, and not worth my time. If I’ve misunderstood Dawkins’ thoughts based on his words, it’s Dawkins’ fault, not mine.

Not a finer statement from a religious believer could one find. Well done!

Comment #145966

Posted by Glen Davidson on November 22, 2006 3:52 PM (e)

Of course the laws of nature (or the principles of nature, or whatever) are self-sufficient if they work on their own. What are you talking about?

I’m talking about science, which evidently passes you by every time it’s brought up. The second law of thermodynamics doesn’t “work on its own”, it is simply a statement about what happens during gas expansion, etc. It isn’t even “something” on its own, it’s merely a statement of a sort of “regularity” that exists throughout a variety of phenomena.

2LoT depends upon the physical state of the universe, and is not a “self-sufficient law” in any normal sense of that term.

And again you show your misconceptions of what science is. “Laws of nature” is a human construct, meaning that no one can say that there is nothing beyond them. Which is why science has indeed gone beyond so-called “laws of nature”, looking for particles that give rise to mass (“material”, more or less) and thus to “laws” of motion, etc. The second “law” of thermodynamics is another area where the “law” has been largely explained, and exists today as more of a high probability of increasing entropy rather than as a “law”.

Well, the term “laws of nature” is still frequently used, also in publications in Nature and Science. So I use it too – and?

And you don’t even understand what I wrote. One trouble is that you don’t recognize what “laws of nature” mean to science.

As for the rest of your post, good grief, I won’t even reply.

Yes, good grief, you haven’t a clue.

Of course it is easy to claim that “my entire view of science is flawed”: if you want to run the discussion that easily, I will gladly have you the last word, be my guest.

I pointed out where your view of science is flawed, but then you wouldn’t understand any better than you did my point about how “laws” have been explained by matters “beyond” those laws.

I am confident that the few moderate people who read it will find my post entirely reasonable.

I am sure that Dembski would find most of it reasonable, since both you and he subscribe to useless metaphysical claims.

“Why do people not actually read what is written?” Indeed.

Yes, I read your mindless boilerplate. It’s the kind of nonsense we studied to understand what later philosophy was reacting against, and why. You have yet to respond to anything I’ve written as if you both read it and understood.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #146025

Posted by Coin on November 22, 2006 4:19 PM (e)

People commonly say ‘evangelical atheist’ when they actually mean ‘hostile atheist’. I presume that these people don’t actually mean to say that atheists, unlike believers of different philosophies, should not promote their beliefs. Criticising someone as being an ‘evangelical atheist’ gives just this impression though. A little more caution when choosing words is in order.

Personally I am going to continue to oppose anyone who insists on shoving their religion in my face, and I’m not making an exception for people whose religious views are identical to mine. I don’t see any particular reason to be polite about this, and “evangelical atheist”, while not a perfect description of the situation, describes things far better than “hostile”– the problem isn’t that these people are hostile, the problem is that they proselytize.

I do have to say I find the touchiness over language a bit funny. I can see in this discussion people who consistently refuse to respect others then getting all huffy when people turn around and decline to respect them. Well, forget it.

Of course, though I say I “oppose” such things, it isn’t something I particularly care about or consider a problem. As I see it it’s just something to bicker about on internet messageboards. What I do actually see as a real-world problem is people like Richard Dawkins or Francis Collins who try to use the trappings of science to promote some external religious agenda. These philosophical entanglements jeapordize the neutrality of science, and I think it’s important to make it publicly clear that when people do this they’re not speaking “on behalf of” science or rationality, they’re just expressing their own philosophy.

…But I don’t think that science is as limited as you make it out to be, and a good psychologist ought to be able to make an informed judgment regarding the love of one for another if the subject is willing.

Such informed judgements as I’ve seen so far involve, not only scientific understanding, but other forms of understanding outside of strict methodological naturalism – including spirituality. Furthermore, it is this “non-scientific” component of the psychologist’s understanding that makes his informed judgements relevant and understandable to the non-scientific patient.

That’s a bit different here because “non-scientific” in this context does not mean “supernatural”. Meanwhile, while being a good psychologist would surely require understanding spirituality because spirituality is important to some of their patients, but would bear no requirement that the psychologist share or believe in any of that spirituality.

Comment #146026

Posted by Al Moritz on November 22, 2006 4:28 PM (e)

Glen,

whatever. Not worth my time. And no, Dembski is not a moderate.

Al

Comment #146028

Posted by Raging Bee on November 22, 2006 4:56 PM (e)

So…I base my opinion on Dawkins on what he actually said, and freely admit the limits of my knowledge of Dawkins’ work, and honestly explain the reasons for my limited reading…and that makes me wrong…how?

I don’t read Dawkins’ books for the same reasons I don’t read Ann Coulter’s: what I’ve heard of those two inspires (to put it charitably) no trust in what either of them have written. So far, I’ve heard no evidence that I’m missing anything important in either case.

And even if Dawkins’ books about religion were smarter than his comments in the interviews, I’d still be asking why he misstated his thoughts so badly in the interviews.

(Also, according to another post here on PT, Dawkins did not dispute the rebuke he received for his outspoken opinions, nor did he claim his thoughts had been misunderstood.)

If someone here were to quote a statement of Dawkins’ about religion that did not square with what he said in the interviews, then that would merit another look. So far, however, that has not happened.

Comment #146029

Posted by 386sx on November 22, 2006 5:08 PM (e)

Maybe some friendly tech wizard could stop by, extract the Tyson lecture, put it on YouTube, and link to it in the comments.

There you go, kid:

Part 1
Part 2

Now beat it, kid.

Comment #146031

Posted by Russell on November 22, 2006 5:11 PM (e)

If someone here were to quote a statement of Dawkins’ about religion that did not square with what he said in the interviews…

But the remarkable thing is that, with all this rancorous back and forth,
nobody here has quoted a single statement he’s made, at all, about anything!

Comment #146032

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on November 22, 2006 5:11 PM (e)

“Will faith and dogma trump rational inquiry, or will it be possible to reconcile religious and scientific worldviews?”

A meeting discussing science and religion is only a threat to personal religion if one feel it is. Attacking the organizers using such demeaning epithet as “evangelical” or accusing them of an imaginary “plan” is no help for either science or religion.

Comment #146033

Posted by Gerard Harbison on November 22, 2006 5:20 PM (e)

I don’t read Dawkins’ books for the same reasons I don’t read Ann Coulter’s: what I’ve heard of those two inspires (to put it charitably) no trust in what either of them have written.

Then what you’ve heard has done you a great disservice. You should certainly read The Selfish Gene. The Ancestor’s Tale is a pretty good review of the modern phylogenetic tree of life; and I’ve heard some excellent things about The Blind Watchmaker and River out of Eden (though I haven’t read the latter two.)

And, frankly, I’d avoid comparing any of them with anything written by Ann Coulter, or people who are actually familiar with both will write you off.

Comment #146034

Posted by Steviepinhead on November 22, 2006 5:32 PM (e)

Dawkins seems capable of distinguishing between sets of beliefs in the excerpt quoted here:
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/11/chopra_again.php#comments.
You may still not agree with him, of course, but it does seem a trifle unfair to attack his views based on a few bits here and there cherry-picked by others to advance their own agendas.
More generally, commentators in this and other threads where the subject of “evangelical atheism” has come up seem to me to have offered very little evidence that those explicating their views, in print or on the internet, have in doing so approached anything like the behaviors of the obnoxious door-to-door “proseletyzers,” or of missionaries seeking to “convert” the heathen, or of radical fundamentalists–of whatever sect or religion–who attempt to legally or physically impose their views on others, or of those who preach hellfire and eternal damnation as the price of failing to submit to this or that version of The Truth, or of those who foment violence of terror to spread the The Faith.

Attempts at verbal persuasion, which you are free to attend or not, are none of these other things. Conflating verbal persuasion with in-your-face proseletyzation, missionization, and the other, more extreme means of imposing one’s views upon others is not only incorrect, and imprecise, but the silliest sort of resort to a strawman.

One may certainly argue whether scientists who unapologetically “flaunt” their atheism are–from a strategic point of view–helping or hindering acceptance of evolution and other legitimate science.

But to go beyond that is to go beyond any reasonable construction of the words or behavior of these atheist scientists.

Comment #146035

Posted by tomh on November 22, 2006 5:35 PM (e)

I have not read any of his books, because based on his interview comments, his opinions on religion are ignorant, bigoted, and not worth my time.

Since you are so ill-read, let me help you. Dawkins promotes rational thinking. Religious thinking is irrational. Therefore… well, maybe you can figure out the rest. The other point Dawkins makes, that seldom seems to be mentioned, is that forcing irrational thinking on children is child abuse. I have never seen a coherent refutation of this.

Comment #146036

Posted by jeffw on November 22, 2006 5:43 PM (e)

Then what you’ve heard has done you a great disservice. You should certainly read The Selfish Gene. The Ancestor’s Tale is a pretty good review of the modern phylogenetic tree of life; and I’ve heard some excellent things about The Blind Watchmaker and River out of Eden (though I haven’t read the latter two.)

I’ll vouch for all of these. I’d like to try The Extended Phenotype when I get the chance - Dawkins thinks that’s his best book.

Comment #146037

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on November 22, 2006 5:46 PM (e)

“the problem isn’t that these people are hostile, the problem is that they proselytize.”

Being hostile and arguing that another cause is better is proselytizing. No more or less than when scientists argue the qualities of science over lack of knowledge. It is their right.

I agree that it would be beneficial if one could separate science and philosophy. However, there is no clear demarcation possible. Many arxiv papers with speculations based on physics could as well be marked philosophy when they can’t provide detailed testable predictions.

What one can do is state what is known, what is possible, and what is unknown. I think Dawkins makes an excellent job of that, while for example Collins don’t (“A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief”).

Comment #146038

Posted by normdoering on November 22, 2006 6:06 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

So…I base my opinion on Dawkins on what he actually said, and freely admit the limits of my knowledge of Dawkins’ work, and honestly explain the reasons for my limited reading…and that makes me wrong…how?

They didn’t say you were wrong. They said you were dumb. You’re not good enough to be wrong.

And don’t claim that calling you dumb is calling Christians dumb when we know you’re not a Christian, you hellbound pagan.

After all there may exist non-dumb Christians, or perhaps non-dumb theists, just like their may exist fairies and leprechauns, since we can’t prove a negative.

Comment #146039

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 22, 2006 6:13 PM (e)

(By the way, this plan gives a whole new spin to the term “delusion”, as the skeptical anthropologist Melvin Konner pointed out in his rambling, disorganized, but ultimately wise critique of the get-rid-of-religion folks.)

Thanks for the heads up Nick. I really enjoyed listening, particularly to Konner.

I am afraid that nearly all anthropologists talk like he does. I hadn’t noticed that we were so “rambling, (and) disorganized.” The wisdom is not as common.

Comment #146040

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 22, 2006 6:16 PM (e)

I don’t read Dawkins’ books for the same reasons I don’t read Ann Coulter’s: what I’ve heard of those two inspires (to put it charitably) no trust in what either of them have written. So far, I’ve heard no evidence that I’m missing anything important in either case.

now you’re comparing Coulter to Dawkins???

You’re just digging yourself in deeper.

better quit while you’re behind.

Comment #146041

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 22, 2006 6:17 PM (e)

or people who are actually familiar with both will write you off.

too late.

Comment #146042

Posted by Coin on November 22, 2006 6:35 PM (e)

Let’s say I’m actually kind of interested in reading Dawkins’ SCIENCE books. What’s the difference between “The Selfish Gene” and “The Extended Phenotype”? From looking at their descriptions, the two books kind of sound like variations on the same idea. Is one of these books kind of a sequel to the other? Does one of them replace or update the other? If I were going to read just one which would it be, or do you need to read both to get the full picture? It kind of sounds like “The Selfish Gene” is the one that’s gotten more widespread attention.

Comment #146044

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 22, 2006 6:46 PM (e)

the Selfish Gene is the original work where Dawkins popularizes the generally accepted premise of selection acting on the individual, rather than the group, and by extension, makes a theoretical argument based on an analysis of various cases in the literature that phenotypes are merely expressions for increasing the ratio of a specific genotype within a given population.

It’s the one to start with to understand the arguments that go into selection theory in general, as he does a great job of eloquently explaining what goes into it.

Blind Watchmaker is a bit more philosophical outlook, premised on the accptance of how evolution produces complex traits from simple processes.

I’d read this AFTER the selfish gene.

both books are excellent bits of logic applied to examples, and contain decent overviews of general theory explained so most can understand the concepts readily enough.

his prose is excellent, as well, and you will rarely find yourself skipping pages.

Comment #146046

Posted by B. Spitzer on November 22, 2006 7:05 PM (e)

Steviepinhead:

More generally, commentators in this and other threads where the subject of “evangelical atheism” has come up seem to me to have offered very little evidence that those explicating their views, in print or on the internet, have in doing so approached anything like the behaviors of the obnoxious door-to-door “proseletyzers,” or of missionaries seeking to “convert” the heathen, or of radical fundamentalists–of whatever sect or religion–who attempt to legally or physically impose their views on others, or of those who preach hellfire and eternal damnation as the price of failing to submit to this or that version of The Truth, or of those who foment violence of terror to spread the The Faith.

tomh:

Dawkins promotes rational thinking. Religious thinking is irrational…. The other point Dawkins makes, that seldom seems to be mentioned, is that forcing irrational thinking on children is child abuse.

I think it’s this sort of pronouncement– that if I bring my children up in my own religious tradition, I am a child abuser– that falls under the heading of “evangelical atheism”. Steviepinhead, it surprises me a little bit that you don’t see a parallel. Certainly such pronouncements sound as obnoxious to religious ears as the Jehovah’s Witnesses sound to yours.

Coin:

What I do actually see as a real-world problem is people like Richard Dawkins or Francis Collins who try to use the trappings of science to promote some external religious agenda. These philosophical entanglements jeapordize the neutrality of science, and I think it’s important to make it publicly clear that when people do this they’re not speaking “on behalf of” science or rationality, they’re just expressing their own philosophy.

The ID movement is constantly trying to stir up the embers of their mythology, in which mainstream science is a stalking horse for atheism. The less they are allowed to conflate the two in the mind of the public, the more quickly that mythology will starve.

Very good post, Coin, by the way.

Comment #146048

Posted by Steviepinhead on November 22, 2006 7:53 PM (e)

tomh gave you a piece of his mind, on an internet thread.

A bit different from knocking on your door and being very difficult to send on his way.

A bit different from kicking your door in with jackboots.

Were I your kid, I’d prefer you saw to it that I learned to think for myself, examined the panoply of religious and non-religious thought, and allowed me to make up my own mind. Beyond expressing myself, however, I don’t plan to interfere in your child-raising in any way. Nor, as I’m sure you realize, does tomh, whatever form of words he uses.

But even if I were tipping-tapping away on these little keys in order to send off words to your screen to label you abusive–which I am not, by the way–you’d still have the right to ignore me, scroll past me, turn to another site, all without having to eject some obnoxious person from your premises.

Likewise, it’s up to you whether you want to invite Dawkins–in the form of video or words in a book–into your home. Or not.

Science allows atheism. It doesn’t require it, and Dawkins doesn’t claim that it does, and the Creationists’ claims that he does remain lies which should be rejected by all of us.

Words aren’t jackboots, or boorish doorbelling ignoramuses. Nor are they lawsuits, legislation, or theocracies backed by governmental, national, or military force.

Falling into the Creationists’ invitation to conflate those things by buying into the bogus “evangelical atheists” meme should be just as revolting to you as allowing tomh to affix the child abuse label to you. Only you can allow him to do that, however, if he confines himself to words.

The scientific atheists may be verbally ardent and you are certainly within your rights to disagree with them vodiferously, but they have shown no sign that they intend to deploy anything other than words to promote their message. Theocratic fundamentalists won’t be confining themselves to words. They’ve said so themselves, many times. That’s where the danger lies, not in a confected “evangelical atheist” boogy-man.

Comment #146056

Posted by steve s on November 22, 2006 8:26 PM (e)

This ‘I don’t like evangelists of any stripe’ bit is just bizarre to me. Why on earth would someone declare a subset of philosophical beliefs unfit for promotion? I prefer to live in a bubbling cauldron of ideas, and I hold it against no one that he finds his ideas to be exemplary and worth transmitting.

Comment #146057

Posted by B. Spitzer on November 22, 2006 8:55 PM (e)

Steviepinhead:

The scientific atheists may be verbally ardent and you are certainly within your rights to disagree with them vodiferously, but they have shown no sign that they intend to deploy anything other than words to promote their message. Theocratic fundamentalists won’t be confining themselves to words. They’ve said so themselves, many times. That’s where the danger lies, not in a confected “evangelical atheist” boogy-man.

Fair enough. Though I am inclined to think that, in my neighborhood at least, theocrats with jackboots are rather a boogy-man as well. If I had to choose one or the other to dread, I suppose I’m more afraid of theocrats than I am of evangelical atheists. But I think that painting one extreme as black and the other as blameless is to be avoided. I think there are more flaws on the other side, but there are excesses and errors made by our team too.

Comment #146058

Posted by Russell on November 22, 2006 9:01 PM (e)

As I continue to be frustrated by the continued misrepresentation of “religion can be child abuse” position, I offer this link . If you want to rail, fine. Point to the specific statements that are offensive. The way I read it, “bringing your child up in your own religious tradition” isn’t “child abuse” just because it’s a religious tradition. But at the same time, just because it is a “religious tradition” doesn’t mean it’s not child abuse. Look at “Jesus Camp”, for christ’s sake! ;)

Comment #146066

Posted by tomh on November 22, 2006 11:37 PM (e)

B.Spitzer wrote:

I think it’s this sort of pronouncement– that if I bring my children up in my own religious tradition, I am a child abuser– that falls under the heading of “evangelical atheism”…. Certainly such pronouncements sound as obnoxious to religious ears as the Jehovah’s Witnesses sound to yours.

I’ve still seen no coherent refutation of the charge that religious brainwashing of children is child abuse. Whether black robes threatening them with hell, children begging on street corners as some religious traditions have them do, or Jehovah’s Witnesses with children trailing behind them it’s all part and parcel of the same abuse. And the same justification throughout all religions, they’re my children and I can do what I want. Sadly, this is the way of the world.

Comment #146068

Posted by Anton Mates on November 23, 2006 12:32 AM (e)

B. Spitzer wrote:

I think it’s this sort of pronouncement– that if I bring my children up in my own religious tradition, I am a child abuser– that falls under the heading of “evangelical atheism”.

Hmm. Did you know that Dawkins also thinks bringing young children up as committed atheists is child abuse? As well as training them to commit to any religious, political, economic, etc. ideology before they’re old enough to understand?

How can you possibly describe a child of four as a Muslim or a Christian or a Hindu or a Jew? Would you talk about a four-year-old economic monetarist? Would you talk about a four-year-old neo-isolationist or a four-year-old liberal Republican?

What I think may be abuse is labeling children with religious labels like Catholic child and Muslim child. I find it very odd that in our civilization we’re quite happy to speak of a Catholic child that is 4 years old or a Muslim of child that is 4, when these children are much too young to know what they think about the cosmos, life and morality. We wouldn’t dream of speaking of a Keynesian child or a Marxist child. And yet, for some reason we make a privileged exception of religion. And, by the way, I think it would also be abuse to talk about an atheist child.

This isn’t evangelical atheism, or evangelical anything; it’s blanket anti-evangelism. I can think of at least one case where I think Dawkins was blatantly unfair to a certain class of belief system–when he blamed the 9/11 attacks on belief in an afterlife–but his “child abuse” position is scrupulously fair.

To underline that, he famously waited until his daughter was ten to even write a letter to her explaining his position on religion. Now unless he’s incredibly restrained at home or she’s a rather oblivious ten-year-old, I’m pretty sure she’d figured it out by then, so you can argue over how sincere this was…but he’s clearly saying you shouldn’t train your kids to be atheists.

Comment #146078

Posted by ah_mini on November 23, 2006 3:12 AM (e)

Woo, the usual bunfight.

Rather than second guessing people, I will simply retell an experience of mine then people can “interpret” it as they see fit.

About 3 years ago I lived in a shared house of 5 people. Next door to the house was a church. For a year at least I ignored it (mainly due to laziness), then the death of my grandmother (a committed Christian) prompted me to get off my behind and attend.

The reaction amongst my housemates was intruiging. All of them were atheists/agnostics of varying degree. A couple didn’t care and didn’t really comment. However, the other two housemates had a very strange reaction. Without me ever bringing the subject up, they’d suddenly start conversations bashing Christianity and/or religion in general (9/11, Hitler was a Christian, all that lot). Comments that stick in the mind were as follows:

1) Christians are always ramming their beliefs down people’s throats (ironic given said atheist started the religious discussion in the first place)
2) You just use your “sky pixie” as a crutch, atheists are intellectually stronger (whatever “intellectual strength” is)
3) So when are you abandoning science and becoming a creationist?

And so on…

So, I am intruiged as to why people should behave in this way without any prompting? Clearly some housemates had no issue and others had a big problem. I don’t like loaded terms like “evangelical atheist”, so what sort of atheist does the latter group fall into?

No really, it’s an honest question! :P

Andrew

Comment #146083

Posted by ah_mini on November 23, 2006 5:10 AM (e)

3 years ago? I mean 6 years ago. My memory is fading in my old age *sob*

Comment #146096

Posted by normdoering on November 23, 2006 10:38 AM (e)

ah_mini asked:

so what sort of atheist does the latter group fall into?

I would suggest the term “angry atheist,” or “revolted atheist.” Someone who is angry at and revolted by religion because of what they think it is doing to the world they have to live in.

The statements made are not really arguments, their expressions of anger.

Comment #146104

Posted by Russell on November 23, 2006 11:43 AM (e)

Anton Mates wrote:

This isn’t evangelical atheism, or evangelical anything; it’s blanket anti-evangelism.

That’s his problem! He’s an evangelical anti-evangelical!

Seriously; see how when you look at his actual words, the guy doesn’t seem like such a boogeyman?

Thank you, Anton Mates!

ah_mini wrote:

I don’t like loaded terms like “evangelical atheist”, so what sort of atheist does the latter group fall into?

Hmmm. How about “rude atheist”? “overbearing atheist”? or maybe, “insecure atheist”? Come to think of it, maybe those adjectives are more appropriate than “evangelical” for the christian behavior that annoys some of us.

Of course, there is a difference, though. The word “evangelical” comes from the Greek for “good news”. For at least some strains of christianity, there is a doctrinal mandate to spread the “good news”. Atheists tend not to be so organized. But if there are strains that have a mandate to spread the news that the “good news” of the christians is all hogwash, perhaps they could be dysangelists (“bad-newsers”).

Comment #146106

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 23, 2006 1:02 PM (e)

I’ve still seen no coherent refutation of the charge that religious brainwashing of children is child abuse.

we had a bit of an interesting discussion on this topic a while back in the ATBC area:

http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi?s=4565f01e2fff2a3e;act=ST;f=14;t=2055

Comment #146107

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 23, 2006 1:04 PM (e)

so what sort of atheist does the latter group fall into?

reactionary.

yeah, it’s just that simple.

Comment #146109

Posted by Anton Mates on November 23, 2006 1:27 PM (e)

ah_mini wrote:

So, I am intruiged as to why people should behave in this way without any prompting? Clearly some housemates had no issue and others had a big problem. I don’t like loaded terms like “evangelical atheist”, so what sort of atheist does the latter group fall into?

Honestly? Probably “Atheist who formerly belonged to a conservative religion.”

Pharyngula had a thread recently on a Dawkins talk where someone asked him whether deconversion normally leads to anger. Both from the post and the following comments (and from my own circle of acquaintances), it appears that atheists/agnostics/freethinkers tend to be much more angry at religion in general if they started out in a particularly conservative one, or were raised in a conservative religious family. Which is hardly surprising, since they generally experienced both the most wrenching change in worldview and the most negative reactions from friends and family when they came out of the closet about their lack of belief.

Comment #146110

Posted by Anton Mates on November 23, 2006 1:33 PM (e)

ah_mini wrote:

So, I am intruiged as to why people should behave in this way without any prompting? Clearly some housemates had no issue and others had a big problem. I don’t like loaded terms like “evangelical atheist”, so what sort of atheist does the latter group fall into?

Honestly? Probably “Atheist who formerly belonged to a conservative religion.”

Pharyngula had a thread recently on a Dawkins talk where someone asked him whether deconversion normally leads to anger. Both from the post and the following comments (and from my own circle of acquaintances), it appears that atheists/agnostics/freethinkers tend to be much more angry at religion in general if they started out in a particularly conservative one, or were raised in a conservative religious family. Which is hardly surprising, since they generally experienced both the most wrenching change in worldview and the most negative reactions from friends and family when they came out of the closet about their lack of belief.

Comment #146122

Posted by Anton Mates on November 23, 2006 2:14 PM (e)

Al Moritz wrote:

The following excerpt from the article is revealing, I think:

“By the third day, the arguments had become so heated that Dr. Konner was reminded of “a den of vipers.”

“With a few notable exceptions,” he said, “the viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?”

His response to Mr. Harris and Dr. Dawkins was scathing. “I think that you and Richard are remarkably apt mirror images of the extremists on the other side,” he said, “and that you generate more fear and hatred of science.”

That’s certainly revealing of Dr. Konner’s own intolerance. Dawkins and Harris may make overgeneralized criticisms of religion, but I don’t recall them ever calling moderately religious scientists “extremist vipers generating fear and hatred of science,” even while drunk.

However calling Collins a “cosmological superstitionist” (as if all religion can easily be labeled superstition) makes demands for a more nuanced use of the terms “evangelical” and “militant”, when it comes to atheists, ring exceedingly hollow.

As others have said, Collins isn’t simply a “superstitionist” because he’s religious. His support for cosmological ID’s already been mentioned, but he’s also explicitly asserted that morality is unique to humans; that morality cannot be explained by evolutionary theory; and that it therefore provides evidence for the Christian God.

This is exactly parallel to the creationist argument. Falsely claim that science is totally unable to explain a certain phenomenon; support that claim with false or unprovable assertions about the phenomenon in question; then say “Therefore, God.” We’re fortunate, of course, that Collins doesn’t make such an argument about common descent, and in fact openly opposes any attempt to do so; but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call him on it when he takes the creationist line in another area of science.

Now most science-friendly religious moderates claim not to do that sort of thing, and so far as I can see, they don’t. But they should be first in line to criticize Collins, because he’s not being a science-friendly religious moderate when he makes such statements.

Comment #146124

Posted by Robert O'Brien on November 23, 2006 2:37 PM (e)

The phrase ultracrepidarians is more properly descriptive than evangelical atheists.

Comment #146125

Posted by Robert O'Brien on November 23, 2006 2:50 PM (e)

They didn’t say you were wrong. They said you were dumb. You’re not good enough to be wrong.

And don’t claim that calling you dumb is calling Christians dumb when we know you’re not a Christian, you hellbound pagan.

After all there may exist non-dumb Christians, or perhaps non-dumb theists, just like their may exist fairies and leprechauns, since we can’t prove a negative.

I would suggest the term “angry atheist,” or “revolted atheist.” Someone who is angry at and revolted by religion because of what they think it is doing to the world they have to live in.

The statements made are not really arguments, their [sic] expressions of anger.

Norm, your attempts at grown up discourse are precious, but you might want to learn the difference between “their” and “they’re” for the next round.

Comment #146187

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 24, 2006 12:26 AM (e)

two one-liners in a row.

more redundant and useless than usual, RO.

Comment #146243

Posted by Wing|esS on November 24, 2006 10:26 AM (e)

This is exactly parallel to the creationist argument. Falsely claim that science is totally unable to explain a certain phenomenon; support that claim with false or unprovable assertions about the phenomenon in question; then say “Therefore, God.” We’re fortunate, of course, that Collins doesn’t make such an argument about common descent, and in fact openly opposes any attempt to do so; but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call him on it when he takes the creationist line in another area of science.

He probably thinks it’s likely - and to him morality is proof enough for the existance of a Christian God. Now, whether morality can be explain by evolutionary theory with a convincing not the normal “co-relation exists thus the cause is proven” story remains to be seen. I do not think it’s wise to assume that such an explanation will definately be found in future.

Science is anti-religious in a sense because it’s a kind of journey of disillusionment - yet I think it’s foolish to assume that we will know everything before we actually do. Breeding a group of authoritarian know-it-alls who can hardly explain why they have free will and are yet able to claim that they know the truth of the world is a worrying trend in the scientific establishment.

Comment #146250

Posted by Darth Robo on November 24, 2006 10:55 AM (e)

Wingless, once again making it obvious as to why he can’t fly.

Comment #146258

Posted by tomh on November 24, 2006 12:07 PM (e)

Sir_Toejam wrote:

we had a bit of an interesting discussion on this topic a while back in the ATBC area:

http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi?s=4565f01e2fff2a3e;act=ST;f=14;t=2055

Thanks.

Comment #146269

Posted by stevaroni on November 24, 2006 1:05 PM (e)

Wing|ess opined…

Science is anti-religious in a sense because it’s a kind of journey of disillusionment

“Journey of disillusionment”? Most of us would call it a “voyage of discovery”.

The word “disillusion” itself means nothing more than “dispelled of illusion”. Did you ever stop to consider that you can’t even be disillusioned if there wasn’t an illusion there in the first place?

Illusion is better than fact?

Are we supposed to stick our heads in the sand whenever investigating the world might show a beloved assumption might be wrong? Was it worth the “disillusionment” you felt when you found out that your parents were the ones who actually put those Christmas presents under the tree, or would you rather go into adulthood still thinking that a plump old man with a thing for reindeer and red felt did the job?

Is it “anti-religious” to acknowledge that the Easter Bunny” doesn’t exist because it might “disillusion” somebody out there who doesn’t feel like growing up?

I think it’s foolish to assume that we will know everything before we actually do. Breeding a group of authoritarian know-it-alls who can hardly explain why they have free will and are yet able to claim that they know the truth of the world is a worrying trend in the scientific establishment.

Oh, I get it; A group of authoritarian know-it-alls who claim that they know the truth of the world is OK if they wear robes and vestments, but bad if they wear labcoats.

It all makes sense now.

Science, with it’s long track record of putting evidence on the table, can’t be trusted because it admits it doesn’t know everything.

Meanwhile, religion can be trusted because it does claim to know everything, even though lots of what it claims has been shown to be factually wrong.

Comment #146276

Posted by Anton Mates on November 24, 2006 2:59 PM (e)

Wing|esS wrote:

He probably thinks it’s likely - and to him morality is proof enough for the existance of a Christian God. Now, whether morality can be explain by evolutionary theory with a convincing not the normal “co-relation exists thus the cause is proven” story remains to be seen. I do not think it’s wise to assume that such an explanation will definately be found in future.

Great. Now Collins is getting creationist endorsements. Yep, he’s a great asset for the cause of science education. Sigh…

Comment #146291

Posted by David B. Benson on November 24, 2006 5:38 PM (e)

Should the tolerant be tolerant of intolerance?

Comment #146293

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 24, 2006 6:34 PM (e)

I think Myers put it best in the title for the trackback below:

“That guy, Larry Moran…he seems to have been the final straw to tip a whole lot of people into twitterpated consternation”

yeah, that’s how it seems from my end too, a lot of “twitterpated consternation”, that is mostly reactionary and not terribly helpful to furthering discussion from any angle.

claims that Dawkins is an “evangelical atheist” are patently and logically absurd, and appear only to be reactionary to thinking that what Dawkins is doing is “preaching his own religion” which of course, he is doing nothing of the kind.

a lot of the cricism of PZ follows similar ill-logic.

Comment #146294

Posted by RL on November 24, 2006 6:41 PM (e)

Dr. Weinberg, who famously wrote toward the end of his 1977 book on cosmology, “The First Three Minutes,” that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless,” went a step further: “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”

This quote, which I have heard before comes from the NYT. Regarding the universe as pointless. Time as we commonly understand it is not at all what it seems. Consciousness and autonomy are in all likelihood somewhere between non-existent and a mere shadow of how we perceive them. Freedom of will, causation, and the reality of our perceptions are likewise somewhat of a wisp-o-the-will. Despite beings a believer I generally concur that the pointlessness of it all has a very strong case.

Question therefore: It it is all (mostly pointless) what is the necessity of accepting faith or truth or beauty or virtue as anything but some sort of biological/evolutionary imperative? I myself am quite welling to consider anyone’s construction of meaning. And if that construction includes a search for truth, fairplay, compassion for others I generally find their construct admirable. So why attack this religion or that, atheism, agnosticism, or another sort of system that produces nice people and nice children? (is that last item my genes slipping a little evolution in there?)

Comment #146309

Posted by PvM on November 24, 2006 7:57 PM (e)

claims that Dawkins is an “evangelical atheist” are patently and logically absurd, and appear only to be reactionary to thinking that what Dawkins is doing is “preaching his own religion” which of course, he is doing nothing of the kind.

Even if you were correct, that hardly means that there are no evangelical atheists.

And I am not sure that Dawkins is an “evangelical atheist”. PZ Myers’ ‘response’ to Ed Brayton seems to avoid the excellent points Brayton raises. In addition the personal attacks seem unnecessary to say the least. Myers’ seems to have lost it in his latest attacks. What a waste of talent.

Comment #146328

Posted by Anton Mates on November 25, 2006 12:07 AM (e)

PvM wrote:

Even if you were correct, that hardly means that there are no evangelical atheists.

Yep, they’re out there somewhere, Pim, lurking, and you’ll find ‘em! Just like the Commies!

C’mon now. Just about the most religion-hostile atheist I can think of within ten miles of PT is Norm, and even he doesn’t espouse anything more extreme than pointing and catcalling whenever religious people make assertions of faith in the public square. Ain’t nobody on the godless side of the fence trying to do the equivalent of what the conservative religious folks are trying to do–nobody’s asking bio teachers to teach their students about how science has disproved God. Ain’t nobody saying religious scientists should be punished just for being religious–although, okay, Norm thinks they should at least be mocked heartily. But he’s not trying to legislate that.

And I am not sure that Dawkins is an “evangelical atheist”. PZ Myers’ ‘response’ to Ed Brayton seems to avoid the excellent points Brayton raises.

Oh yes, he completely avoids the issue.

PZ wrote:

I think it is entirely reasonable for a university to say, for instance, that you need to be able to read with a certain level of competency, or know the basics of algebra, before you will be admitted to the university. In fact, I think we should enforce higher standards across the board, because what happens all the time is that unqualified students come in, fork over tuition money for a year or two, and slowly discover that they are paying a lot of money to be handed a lot of work that they are incapable of doing, and they fail. Expecting incoming students to have some minimal understanding, of the kind that is mandated by most state high school science standards, is not onerous. Expecting biology majors at UCSD to know the basics of evolution, or flunking them out, is no more dogmatic or vile than expecting math majors to know what the binomial theorem is, and kicking them out of the program if they can’t do algebra.

Oh, wait. I guess he did address the issue of whether higher standards for bio students are feasible. And he does so several more times in the comments. Never mind. Well, at least he admitted that this is all part of his fanatic quest to make the entire world bow to atheism, by any means necessary, right?

PZ also wrote:

There are two problems with Pat’s claim. First, I want better science teaching in the schools, and that is the mechanism I propose to defeat religion. Educated people tend to shed religious beliefs more readily, or adopt religious beliefs that do not conflict with reality. I really do not understand how someone can suggest that I would advocate letting people become more ignorant about the real world as part of my strategy for winning my “war on religion”.

Second, I’d really like to know how I’m supposed to be fighting this “war on religion”. Are there guns involved? Because I don’t like violence. Am I supposed to be pushing to legislate what people are allowed to believe? Because I don’t think that’s possible, and if it were, I’d oppose it even more strongly than violence. As near as I can tell, the way I’ve been fighting this “war” is to express my opinions as loudly and clearly as possible, and encourage other like-minded people to openly state their positions as well. I also insist that beliefs about religion should not be a litmus test used to discriminate against people (there is, of course, a great deal of self-interest there, since non-Christian beliefs are the ones discriminated against most).

(Oh, and in case you’re worried: that doesn’t mean we start preaching atheism in the classroom, either. I don’t, and would also point and scream at someone trying to do so.)

Yes. Teach people to think, and let ‘em make up their own minds. I’m confident that more, if we strip away the lies and propaganda of religion, will make a sensible decision. And if they don’t, well, there isn’t anything more I can do. We’ll just have to chalk it up to people’s inherent irrationality.

Oops, no, that actually sounds like he just wants to keep the classroom free of any evangelism, atheist or non-atheist, and outside the classroom he wants to limit evangelism to the usual reasoned argument anyone’s free to make on behalf of their viewpoint.

But hey, he’s an atheist, and he thinks he has good reasons to be, and he’s not shy about sharing them, so that makes him scum, right?

Comment #146341

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 25, 2006 1:21 AM (e)

Even if you were correct,

???

are you saying I’m not?

are you too trying to paint Dawkins as as “evangelical atheist”?

what has happened to you man! did somebody kidnap you and brainwash you or something?

since the thread you made after Allen’s course, it seems something has decidedly changed in you, and not for the better.

remember that deep breath, Pim?

you really need to take a break and figure out what’s going on in that head of yours - and I mean that in the most encouraging way, not as a denigration.

YOU are doing far more harm than good in following Brayton’s lead as he spins tales of divisiveness that simply don’t exist.

Comment #146345

Posted by Robert O'Brien on November 25, 2006 2:10 AM (e)

Great. Now Collins is getting creationist endorsements. Yep, he’s a great asset for the cause of science education. Sigh…

“Bad company” pseudo-argumentation.

Comment #146348

Posted by normdoering on November 25, 2006 3:12 AM (e)

Anton wrote:

Norm, and even he doesn’t espouse anything more extreme than pointing and catcalling whenever religious people make assertions of faith in the public square.

I like the idea of getting to the point where publicly being religious is as bad as publicly being a racist. They’re two of many irrational beliefs that have bad consequences when they infect the group think of a culture.

Comment #146373

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on November 25, 2006 10:49 AM (e)

“anyone’s construction of meaning”

Exactly. Purpose, meaning and free will are folk psychology, without any meaningful measurable definitions as you point out. But it is also obvious (not least from an evolutionary perspective) that such constructions aren’t only convenient but often necessary. Otherwise we would not be able to act effectively or in a timely manner in real life.

The problem is when such constructs are meaningless or hurtful. Which constructs are slightly hurtful or fully meaningless is often a matter of debate…

“doing far more harm than good in following Brayton’s lead”
Over on the Pharyngula thread the post-analysis is starting to converge onto the problems of Brayton’s action. It is clear something must be done with education.

“educational efforts on a much larger and more fundamental scale over a much longer time period rather than Dover-type court battles- including the very efforts the “moderates” are so eager to denounce- are the only route to bringing about real change. To put it bluntly, Ed Brayton is part of the problem and Richard Dawkins is part is the solution.” (Steve LaBonne)

It seems clear this case does harm. A case where Brayton’s selfprofessed group keep blurring the borders between religion and science (by projecting an attack on beliefs instead of an insistence on not rejecting knowledge). It is a double failure since they are confirming what they attack - that science must be a secular practice.

Comment #146394

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 25, 2006 1:15 PM (e)

A case where Brayton’s selfprofessed group keep blurring the borders between religion and science (by projecting an attack on beliefs instead of an insistence on not rejecting knowledge). It is a double failure since they are confirming what they attack - that science must be a secular practice.

well, all of this is likely tied in with a bit of ego stroking as well, as Brayton often jumps on things to attract attention to himself (could be said of most bloggers, actually), so i tend to think the basis for all the hysteria is a bit overblown, but yeah, that said, the direction the Brayton crowd, and now Pim, seem to be going really isn’t doing the furtherance of science any real favors in the long run.

Comment #146401

Posted by todds cat on November 25, 2006 2:07 PM (e)

sceintists without God scare me……nuclear weapons, WMD’s, human cloning, species mixing, euthanasia, gender/human trait selection, a little learning is a dangerous thing, science without God will destroy us faster than religious squabbles ever will, Western Civikization has done pretty well for itself with Christianity, it it aint broke dont fix it……be careful when throwing things out that have worked so well in diffcult times……some of the North Korean and Nazi scientists were very smart….too smart by half!!!!!

Comment #146402

Posted by Anton Mates on November 25, 2006 2:07 PM (e)

Robert O'Brien wrote:

Great. Now Collins is getting creationist endorsements. Yep, he’s a great asset for the cause of science education. Sigh…

“Bad company” pseudo-argumentation.

Exactly one post before your first one on this thread was the explanation of why Collins is a member of that company based on his own arguments.

Of course, if I’d just said “Collins is probably Dutch, so nuts to him,” I’d have the O’Brien Seal of Approval in a heartbeat.

Comment #146403

Posted by Anton Mates on November 25, 2006 2:10 PM (e)

normdoering wrote:

I like the idea of getting to the point where publicly being religious is as bad as publicly being a racist. They’re two of many irrational beliefs that have bad consequences when they infect the group think of a culture.

But I take it you don’t think either should be legally punished in and of itself? Just socially frowned upon.

Actually, plenty of religions are considered as bad as racism, or worse, in much of America. Wicca, for instance, or Islam. It’s only the long-established majority religions to which society gives a pass.

Comment #146404

Posted by Anton Mates on November 25, 2006 2:14 PM (e)

todds cat wrote:

some of the North Korean and Nazi scientists were very smart….too smart by half!!!!!

North Korea?? I’ve never thought of North Korea as a hyperscientific dystopia before….

Comment #146405

Posted by normdoering on November 25, 2006 2:31 PM (e)

Anton Mates asked:

But I take it you don’t think either should be legally punished in and of itself?

That’s correct. However, it also shouldn’t be an excuse for crime – and I’m not talking about just flying airplanes into skyscrapers. Faith healers of the type James Randi exposed are committing fraud and they should be arrested on those grounds – including Pat Robertson. Things like in that “Jesus Camp” movie do seem to qualify, to me, as something we can legally define as child abuse.

It’s stupid to fight about putting the ten commandments up in a public building when you can’t arrest a fraudulent faith healer. We need to go there first.

Comment #146410

Posted by Russell on November 25, 2006 3:42 PM (e)

Faith healers of the type James Randi exposed are committing fraud and they should be arrested on those grounds…

Ya know, for all the eye-rolling and tongue-clucking this kind of exchange induces, that’s a really interesting question.

There must be some legally savvy people following this discussion. Have there been such cases? I suppose it raises some of the same issues as “Christian Science” parents refusing medical treatment for their kids. As long as the “faith healer” conceals any venal motives under a plausible piety, I bet a conviction would be hard to obtain.

Comment #146414

Posted by tomh on November 25, 2006 5:04 PM (e)

“Fundamentalist atheist”, “evangelical atheist”. It’s always fun to make up terms to demonize those whose views don’t coincide with your own, and they will certainly appeal to someone who is terrified of “scientists without God” as the recent poster ‘todds cat’ claims to be, but these two phrases are truly ludicrous. One might as well speak seriously of “biblical science” or “christian charity”. They are oxymorons, one and all.

Anyone interested in what an actual thinker has to say about atheism and evolution should read the little essay, “Atheism and Evolution,” by Daniel Dennett found here, under 2006.
http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/incpages/publctns.shtml

Comment #146421

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on November 25, 2006 5:59 PM (e)

sceintists without God scare me

Actually, what scares me is scientists without morality. How, in a post-9/11 world, anyone can consider God or religion to be the wellspring of morality is beyond me.

Comment #146429

Posted by Anton Mates on November 25, 2006 6:46 PM (e)

Russell wrote:

There must be some legally savvy people following this discussion. Have there been such cases? I suppose it raises some of the same issues as “Christian Science” parents refusing medical treatment for their kids. As long as the “faith healer” conceals any venal motives under a plausible piety, I bet a conviction would be hard to obtain.

Even piety isn’t necessary. I know my great-grandmother (okay, so this isn’t very good evidence for the modern American legal system) venerated a faith healer who said he could cure cancer at a distance for a fee, and he was eventually brought up on charges of fraud–but the case was dismissed because the prosecution couldn’t prove he couldn’t cure cancer at a distance. He didn’t need to look particularly holy to be legally untouchable.

And think of all the alt-med products that can be legally sold so long as it says “Not FDA-approved–not intended to diagnose or cure any disease” somewhere on the label in 2-point font. This isn’t really a religious issue at all–it’s more that we have very little legal protection against dangerous lies.

Comment #146433

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 25, 2006 6:59 PM (e)

Actually, what scares me is scientists without morality. How, in a post-9/11 world, anyone can consider God or religion to be the wellspring of morality is beyond me.

There are those who would argue that, in a post-Hiroshima world, the very idea of using “scientists” and “morality” in the same sentence is ludicrous.

“Science” itself is (and should be) utterly completely amoral.

“Scientists”, though, should not be.

But I suppose that is another debate entirely ….

Comment #146435

Posted by Anton Mates on November 25, 2006 7:01 PM (e)

normdoering wrote:

Things like in that “Jesus Camp” movie do seem to qualify, to me, as something we can legally define as child abuse.

That’s a difficult one. You could definitely outlaw the children being used as part of political protests, and probably also being taught demonstrable lies about prenatal development. But the nastiest parts of “Jesus Camp” show kids being driven to extreme fear and guilt, by unverifiable statements told them with the full consent of (and in the presence of) their parents. Is that something we could could even describe objectively enough to pass a law against?

The only legal remedy I can think of is simply to raise the standards on home-schooling. We might not be able to prevent parents from telling their children how the Muslim kid next door is going to burn for eternity, but if it was harder to isolate children completely from a public space where statements like that are considered vicious and unreasonable at a minimum, they might not have as many nightmares as a result.

Comment #146438

Posted by stevaroni on November 25, 2006 7:10 PM (e)

scientists without God scare me……nuclear weapons, WMD’s,

I dunno. It strikes me that if you’re talking about controlling WMD’s and the like, religious fervor might not be such a good thing.

After all, Pakistan recently tested their first nuclear weapon, widely heralding it as “the Islamic bomb”.

They were reacting in large part to the Indian bomb program, which is widely fueled by the schism between Muslim Pakistan and militant Hindu factions in India.

Scientists of all stripes have provided weapons for wars throughout history, many fueled by the best of religious intentions. Cortez slaughtered the Aztecs because they were godless heathans, and the Crusaders and their Ottoman foes chopped each other to bits for centuries in the name of their Gods.

Many good Bible-thumpin Christians all over the South thought the KKK was a good idea not so long ago and Timothy McVeigh blew up a building full of kids because it was a good, godly thing to do.

I think I’d rather see a large, diverse group of beliefs that tend to moderate out the more radical fringes. History seems to bear out that once any faith gets a dramatic majority, that it’s really easy to find ourselves itself inside an echo-chamber where those in power start to see the world as us-and-them.

Comment #146465

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 25, 2006 9:01 PM (e)

It strikes me that if you’re talking about controlling WMD’s and the like, religious fervor might not be such a good thing.

Speaking as someone who was demonstrating against the nuclear arms race twenty years ago, I can state categorically that (1) virtually the entire leadership, and nearly all of the rank and file, of every anti-war group I’ve ever been involved with, have been religious people associated with churches, and (2) I don’t recall meeting more than five or six atheists (other than the usual contingent of Revolutionary Communist Parrots) at any such rallies or demonstrations.

When it comes to religious fervor, nobody beats the Quakers. I have nothing but respect and admiration for them. Few of us, I think, would willingly go through what I’ve seen many of them go through in the name of their religious fervor.

Comment #146466

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 25, 2006 9:02 PM (e)

Timothy McVeigh blew up a building full of kids because it was a good, godly thing to do.

Um, McVeigh was an atheist.

He blew up a building full of kids because he was at war with the “Zionist Occupation Government”.

Comment #146486

Posted by normdoering on November 25, 2006 11:30 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

McVeigh was an atheist.

Yea, that’s what they said about Hitler, but his book is full of religious views.

I’m not taking your word on that, Lenny. You gotta prove it.

Comment #146488

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 25, 2006 11:42 PM (e)

There was a special on the history of McVeigh on the History channel just a couple of weeks back.

McVeigh was closely tied to a number of psuedo-militia groups that were very pissed off at what the FBI pulled at Ruby Ridge.

McVeighs stated reasons, and what the evidence pointed to, was that the Oklahoma bombing was mostly motivated as a “revenge” for Ruby Ridge, and to send a message to the Feds that they stepped over the line. I don’t recall nay mention of religious motives involved in that specific case. However, you could still be right that there were religious motifs associated with the militias he was invovled with.

Comment #146489

Posted by tomh on November 25, 2006 11:47 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

Um, McVeigh was an atheist.

Why would you say that? He was raised Catholic, he was visited by a priest while in prison, and he received Last Rites. He also gave a recorded interview with Time magazine where he said he believed in God. Why do you say he was an atheist?

He blew up a building full of kids because he was at war with the “Zionist Occupation Government”.

He claimed he did it as revenge for Waco and Ruby Ridge.

Comment #146491

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on November 25, 2006 11:48 PM (e)

Um, McVeigh was an atheist.

Where does that information come from? I wonder why an atheist would deliberately choose the anniversary of Waco to do his deed.

Comment #146494

Posted by Anton Mates on November 25, 2006 11:54 PM (e)

'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank wrote:

Um, McVeigh was an atheist.

He blew up a building full of kids because he was at war with the “Zionist Occupation Government”.

Agnostic (for a while) and lapsed Catholic, actually; he got a priest to administer extreme unction before he was executed.

Regardless, yeah, he didn’t blow anything up for God.

Comment #146501

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 26, 2006 12:21 AM (e)

Well, anyone who thinks McVeigh was a fundie can correct their misunderstanding with ten minutes of Google.

It’s nice to know, though, that fundies aren’t the only ones who want to re-write history.

Comment #146509

Posted by tomh on November 26, 2006 12:34 AM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

Well, anyone who thinks McVeigh was a fundie can correct their misunderstanding with ten minutes of Google.

It’s nice to know, though, that fundies aren’t the only ones who want to re-write history.

You mean the way you claim he was an atheist on zero evidence? In spite of evidence to the contrary?

From the Time interview before the trial:

TIME: Are you religious?

MCVEIGH: I was raised Catholic. I was confirmed Catholic (received the sacrament of confirmation). Through my military years, I sort of lost touch with the religion. I never really picked it up, however I do maintain core beliefs.

TIME: Do you believe in God?

MCVEIGH: I do believe in a God, yes. But that’s as far as I want to discuss.
http://www.time.com/time/nation/printout/0,8816,109478,00.html

Doesn’t really sound like your average atheist.

Comment #146532

Posted by Scott Hatfield on November 26, 2006 3:03 AM (e)

Nick: You’ve done a lot more to defend science education than this high school biology teacher probably ever will do, so I hope you know that the following criticism is not personal and comes from the heart.

Since Dover, there’s been an increasing tendency for PT and similar-minded on-line communities to splinter on questions of tactics, usually triggered by a radical atheist response to some perceived apostate to science. It’s sad and counter-productive, and it worries me when an NCSE associate feels they have to defend themselves from unjust criticism. That shouldn’t happen.

It makes me crazy that people who agree on the importance of evolution education would start flaming each other over ideology, as some folk have done. I hope this doesn’t sound impertinent, but I hope NCSE staff members will think twice before posting any item that could devolve into more schism.

We have to remember that our friends who are atheists typically have one salient virtue that many creationists lack: namely, despite how fiercely they might oppose some of our tactical choices, the vast majority would never attempt to compel us to push their viewpoint exclusively.

Respectfully submitted…SH

Comment #146533

Posted by Kristjan Wager on November 26, 2006 3:10 AM (e)

McVeigh was closely tied to a number of psuedo-militia groups that were very pissed off at what the FBI pulled at Ruby Ridge.

McVeighs stated reasons, and what the evidence pointed to, was that the Oklahoma bombing was mostly motivated as a “revenge” for Ruby Ridge, and to send a message to the Feds that they stepped over the line. I don’t recall nay mention of religious motives involved in that specific case. However, you could still be right that there were religious motifs associated with the militias he was invovled with.

McVeigh was associated with people in the Christian Identity movement, and the general Patriot/militia movement. There is no evidence that he was religiously motivated, or even involved with Christian Identity.
As a matter of fact, I could make a much better argument for Kent Hovind being Christian Identity, than I could for McVeigh being it.

Comment #146536

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on November 26, 2006 4:03 AM (e)

Nick: You’ve done a lot more to defend science education than this high school biology teacher probably ever will do, so I hope you know that the following criticism is not personal and comes from the heart.

Since Dover, there’s been an increasing tendency for PT and similar-minded on-line communities to splinter on questions of tactics, usually triggered by a radical atheist response to some perceived apostate to science. It’s sad and counter-productive, and it worries me when an NCSE associate feels they have to defend themselves from unjust criticism. That shouldn’t happen.

It makes me crazy that people who agree on the importance of evolution education would start flaming each other over ideology, as some folk have done. I hope this doesn’t sound impertinent, but I hope NCSE staff members will think twice before posting any item that could devolve into more schism.

We have to remember that our friends who are atheists typically have one salient virtue that many creationists lack: namely, despite how fiercely they might oppose some of our tactical choices, the vast majority would never attempt to compel us to push their viewpoint exclusively.

Respectfully submitted…SH

Thanks for the comment.

An aside: Just to be clear, I am speaking for my personal views on PT, not for the NCSE organization.

Responding to your point: Actually, we (“we” equals the “religion per se is not the enemy” camp) mostly do our best not to antagonize the in-your-face atheists, just like we do our best not to antagonize people with other views on religion. Live and let live, we say.

But what are we supposed to do when this position itself is being attacked by the in-your-face atheists as being craven compromise with the enemy? If we make no effort to distinguish our position, then theirs will dominate.

Even so, I will note that I just made a few brief remarks, compared to a series of long screeds over the last few weeks from PZ Myers et al. going after everyone up to and including Eugenie Scott. (Eugenie Scott, for chrissakes!).

I am pondering doing an essay on the Holy Wars tomorrow but I’m dubious if it will improve matters.

Comment #146552

Posted by stevaroni on November 26, 2006 10:56 AM (e)

OK guys! Enough with McVeigh! I admit I got that wone wrong, I though he was associated with fundie militias. I was wrong.

But my point, even if I phrased it inarticulately, was that religion isn’t an automatic barometer for morality, as Todds Cat implied.

There are plenty of agnostics who do good in the world. Bill Gates describes himself as “not very religious”, nonetheless, he’s spent billions of his own dollars to fight disease in the third world. Regardless of what you think of his business practices, that’s a pretty decent thing to do.

On the other hand, Eric Rudolph, a devout Christian, spent much of his adult life bombing abortion clinics and killing doctors.

TC’s assertion was that somehow religion automatically makes you more trustworthy. My reply was meant to point out that it does no such thing. Yes, there are plenty of Mother Theresa’s out there, but there’s also a whole lot of Ted Haggards.

If you had your choice, who do you prefer develop the worlds next nuclear bomb, devoutly religious Iran, or virtually agnostic Sweden?

Comment #146560

Posted by Scott Hatfield on November 26, 2006 11:43 AM (e)

Nick: You asked what folk in your ‘camp’ should do when the ‘camp’ itself is directly attacked?

I would say three things: 1) ignore any criticism which is personal / ad hominem as unworthy of response

2) share selected bits of relevant criticism with ‘on-the-fence’ theists; it gives us ‘street cred’

3) remind those who are caviling about tactics that we are practicing outreach, not accomodation, and challenge them to engage in outreach of their own; since most of them are not actually interested in doing the hard work of ‘evolution evangelism’, but just want to complain, that will pretty much neuter their complaints.

Respectfully submitted…SH

Comment #146561

Posted by tomh on November 26, 2006 11:58 AM (e)

stevaroni wrote:

I was wrong.

Congrats! First time in the history of the net anyone has admitted being wrong :)
Now if that other guy would admit he just made up the bit about McVeigh being an atheist the world would be a better place.

Comment #146598

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 26, 2006 3:36 PM (e)

It makes me crazy that people who agree on the importance of evolution education would start flaming each other over ideology, as some folk have done.

Nothing new here. Fratricide has long been the favorite hobby of the progressive movement. (shrug)

Which explains a lot about how the right-wingers are able to run roughshod over it, despite the fact that nobody supports the right-wing political agenda.

Comment #146602

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 26, 2006 3:44 PM (e)

OK guys! Enough with McVeigh! I admit I got that wone wrong, I though he was associated with fundie militias. I was wrong.

No, you weren’t wrong — he WAS associated with militias, some of them fundie, some of them not. The militias are not an unbroken monolith, any more than “theists” are. Some militias are Christian Identity, some are Christian Patriot, some are not religious at all and are just John-Birch-type loony rightwingers.

But McVeigh was not a fundie, and was not motivated by any religion. Indeed, while in jail, he told the press that he was an agnostic and didn’t think there was any afterlife or heaven or hell – and when asked what he would do if he were wrong about that, he replied with a typical military aphorism, saying that he would “adapt, improvise, and overcome”.

Comment #146716

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on November 26, 2006 8:38 PM (e)

But what are we supposed to do when this position itself is being attacked by the in-your-face atheists as being craven compromise with the enemy? If we make no effort to distinguish our position, then theirs will dominate.

Ironic, since your post is attacking that scientists are freely discussing science and religion in a meeting, and calling some of them evangelical atheists. That is the most in-your-face theist oppression attitude as I’ve seen in a long while. Those scientists were discussing a larger context, and this post is confirming why they did so.

Comment #146805

Posted by Anton Mates on November 27, 2006 2:07 AM (e)

Torbjörn Larsson wrote:

Ironic, since your post is attacking that scientists are freely discussing science and religion in a meeting, and calling some of them evangelical atheists. That is the most in-your-face theist oppression attitude as I’ve seen in a long while. Those scientists were discussing a larger context, and this post is confirming why they did so.

And they did so very well, to judge from YouTube. Dawkins did a great bit on why labeling not just little kids but whole regions of the Earth as belonging to one belief system or another is nonsensical…and yes, he repeated that calling kids “atheist,” “agnostic” or “secular humanism” would be abusive as well. And I loved Vilayanur Ramachandran’s discussions of neurology and religious feelings. Not shilling for atheism at all, just some very interesting science. (Ramachandran’s one of the researchers whose work on the temporal lobe got spun into a “God module” by the media; he wasn’t very happy about that.)

Tyson was very entertaining too…and if you actually listen to him, he’s just as “evangelically atheist” as most of the other attendees. (Not that I have a problem with that.) A few of his remarks on theism are below.

Following Ramachandran’s talk, and responding to a comment from a Templeton Foundation representative:

“You said, is there a shred of scientific evidence that refutes a personal god?…I think there are tests that have been conducted….For example, most people who would claim a personal god, would claim that that god answers prayers. So you can do prayer studies and ask, is what you prayed for under these controlled circumstances replied to?…And from my read of prayer studies, they consistently come up negative when they’re done in a controlled way.”

“If you’re going to say that the same person who made the cosmos cares about your life on this Earth, then the bigger we know the cosmos to be, the more of an expression of hubris or of ego that represents…and then you end up drifting away from the idea that the person who made the universe cares about your prayers. And so it’s a plausibility argument; I wouldn’t call it a scientific experiment. But in science you always have to make a judgment as to what is sensible, given the information, and what is not. And the bigger is the universe, the less sensible a personal God seems.”

During Tyson’s “Incompetent Design” talk:

“That’s the universe. Then Earth! Volcanoes, tsunamis…floods, tornadoes…none of this is any sign that there’s a benevolent anything out there.”

He doesn’t seem inclined to attack religion on grounds of ethics or utility, as Dawkins does–and that’s probably a good thing, since Dawkins’ arguments there are often pretty shaky–but he’s definitely not going to be pulling a Templeton grant any time soon.

Comment #146815

Posted by 386sx on November 27, 2006 4:27 AM (e)

During Tyson’s “Incompetent Design” talk:

“That’s the universe. Then Earth! Volcanoes, tsunamis…floods, tornadoes…none of this is any sign that there’s a benevolent anything out there.”

This is because he is not familiar enough with the philosophical basis for theology. If he were more up to speed on the theological arguments then he wouldn’t be talking like such a Mr. smartypants. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you that anyone would pay any attention to him on anything he has to say regarding religious matters. Obviously he knows as little of theological philosophy thingies as Mr. Dawkins does. Shocked I tell you. Stop denying the philosophical basis for theology Mr. Tyson!

Comment #146994

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on November 27, 2006 9:04 PM (e)

Anton:
Thank you for your report - I didn’t take the time to listen so it is appreciated.

“And so it’s a plausibility argument; I wouldn’t call it a scientific experiment. But in science you always have to make a judgment as to what is sensible, given the information, and what is not.”

Hmm. And I just claimed that such judgment calls on gods were considered outside science of today on another PT thread. Apparently not everyone would agree.

Comment #146997

Posted by Anton Mates on November 27, 2006 9:21 PM (e)

Torbjörn Larsson wrote:

Hmm. And I just claimed that such judgment calls on gods were considered outside science of today on another PT thread. Apparently not everyone would agree.

Yeah, I think Tyson overstepped his bounds a little there. I don’t see why a universe-managing yet personal god is either “sensible” or “not sensible;” it’s merely an unnecessary hypothesis.

Comment #147255

Posted by brightmoon on November 29, 2006 8:31 AM (e)

DEFINITELY OFF TOPIC BUT I THOUGHT YOU GUYS AND GALS WOULD BE INTERESTED

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/28/opinion/28tue1.html?n=Top%2fOpinion%2fEditorials%20and%20Op%2dEd%2fEditorials

The Bush administration has been on a six-year campaign to expand its powers, often beyond what the Constitution allows. So it is odd to hear it claim that it lacks the power to slow global warming by limiting the emission of harmful gases. But that is just what it will argue to the Supreme Court tomorrow, in what may be the most important environmental case in many years.

A group of 12 states, including New York and Massachusetts, is suing the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to properly do its job. These states, backed by environmental groups and scientists, say that the Clean Air Act requires the E.P.A. to impose limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted by new cars. These gases are a major contributor to the “greenhouse effect” that is dangerously heating up the planet.

The Bush administration insists that the E.P.A. does not have the power to limit these gases. It argues that they are not “air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act.

Comment #149126

Posted by normdoering on December 8, 2006 8:27 PM (e)

If anyone still reads this thread, there’s some new Neil deGrasse Tyson comments on UnDe:
http://www.uncommondescent.com/archives/1847

Comment #149224

Posted by Anton Mates on December 9, 2006 6:56 PM (e)

Quite a bit of irony there. Tyson seems to believe (incorrectly, to judge by Krauss’ response) that Krauss is an “evangelical atheist” who wants a 100% conversion rate, he makes an argument on the implausibility of that, and as a result Dembski decides that Tyson wants a 100% conversion rate. Discuss this topic long enough and someone’ll call you a fundie, no matter what you actually say…

Interestingly, it does look like Tyson, unlike most of the other attendees, views religious feelings as often harmful to good scientific practice. He spent a while talking about various scientists whose religion eventually became an obstacle to their research. By contrast, at least when I’ve heard Dawkins talk about that issue, he tends to trust scientists to compartmentalize or diminish their beliefs enough so that they don’t become a problem.

Comment #152348

Posted by James on December 30, 2006 11:27 AM (e)

What people hate about Richard Dawkins is that he show that irrational belief makes no sense. If people want to believe in something for which there is absolutely not one shread of evidence, then they can do so. But don’t try to tie it in with science or rational thinking.

Is is just as rational to think Krishna or a fairy did it as Jesus of the generic gawd.