Friday, January 04, 2008

National Academies: Science, Evolution and Creationism

 
The National Academies (Science, Engineering, Medicine) (USA) have just published their latest book on the evolution/creationism controversy. You can download it for free on their website [Science, Evolution and Creationism].

Like the previous versions, this one is quite well done. It explains evolutionary concepts correctly and gives clear examples of the evidence supporting the fact of evolution. The book—actually a large pamphlet—describes the various forms of creationism and why they are rejected by science.

I was troubled by one part of the book describing the compatibility of science and religion. It's only two paragraphs plus three pages of quotations but it promotes the fallacy of the Doctrine of Joint Belief. This fallacy makes a virtue out of compartmentalization. It says that because scientist X is religious, it follows that religion and science are compatible. Similarly, because religious leader Y, accepts evolution, it follows that science and religion are not in conflict.

While preparing to blog about this fallacy, my daughter Jane alerted me to a piece in today's New York Times [Evolution Book Sees No Science-Religion Gap]. The article in the New York Times is written by Cornelia Dean who has previously written about the compatibility of science and religion [Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science].

In today's article, Cornelia Dean briefly reviews Science, Evolution and Creationism. She says,
But this volume is unusual, people who worked on it say, because it is intended specifically for the lay public and because it devotes much of its space to explaining the differences between science and religion, and asserting that acceptance of evolution does not require abandoning belief in God.

...

The 70-page book, “Science, Evolution and Creationism,” says, among other things, that “attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.” And it offers statements from several eminent biologists and members of the clergy to support the view.
I think it's unfortunate that the New York Times article places so much emphasis on this part of the book but the authors of the book1 must have known what they were doing. Too bad they were misguided.

Here's what they wrote in Science, Evolution and Creationism,
Acceptance of the evidence for evolution
can be compatible with religious faith.


Today, many religious denominations accept that biological evolution has produced the diversity of living things over billions of years of Earth’s history. Many have issued statements observing that evolution and the tenets of their faiths are compatible. Scientists and theologians have written eloquently about their awe and wonder at the history of the universe and of life on this planet, explaining that they see no conflict between their faith in God and the evidence for evolution. Religious denominations that do not accept the occurrence of evolution tend to be those that believe in strictly literal interpretations of religious texts.

Science and religion are based on different aspects of human experience. In science, explanations must be based on evidence drawn from examining the natural world. Scientifically based observations or experiments that conflict with an explanation eventually must lead to modification or even abandonment of that explanation. Religious faith, in contrast, does not depend only on empirical evidence, is not necessarily modified in the face of conflicting evidence, and typically involves supernatural forces or entities. Because they are not a part of nature, supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science. In this sense, science and religion are separate and address aspects of human understanding in different ways. Attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.
There are two fallacies here. The first one is the one I already alluded to (the Doctrine of Joint Belief). Just because you can find scientists and theologians who proclaim that evolution is compatible with religious faith doesn't make it so. You need to examine their understanding of evolution and also what they mean by "religious faith."

As you might have guessed, the book trots out quotations from the usual suspects, Francis Collins and Kenneth Miller2. Their words of wisdom appear on a page with the title "Excerpts of Statements by Scientists Who See No Conflict Between Their Faith and Science." The book makes some amends, in my opinion, by including the following statement on that page.
Scientists, like people in other professions, hold a wide range of positions about religion and the role of supernatural forces or entities in the universe. Some adhere to a position known as scientism, which holds that the methods of science alone are sufficient for discovering everything there is to know about the universe. Others ascribe to an idea known as deism, which posits that God created all things and set the universe in motion but no longer actively directs physical phenomena. Others are theists, who believe that God actively intervenes in the world. Many scientists who believe in God, either as a prime mover or as an active force in the universe, have written eloquently about their beliefs.
The good part about that statement is that it mentions deism, which is a form of religion where the conflict between science and religion really is minimized. The bad parts are that theists who promote interventionist Gods are touted as examples of those who see no conflict between science and religion. (The reason why Theistic Evolutionists don't "see" a conflict is because they choose to look the other way [Theistic Evolution: The Fallacy of the Middle Ground].)

The other bad part is that atheists are equated with the philosophical position of scientism. That's an unnecessary complication. It would have been sufficient, and preferable, to state that many scientists do not believe in supernatural beings. They could have gone on to state that many of those non-believers see a conflict between science and the supernatural.

The second fallacy in the two paragraphs quoted above is something I call the Fallacy of the Undetectable Supernatural. The authors of Science, Evolution and Creationism repeat the silly argument that "supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science." Why not? The only kind of supernatural beings that could never be investigated by science are those that exist entirely as figments of the imagination and have absolutely no effect on the real world as we know it. As soon as your God intervenes in the real world his actions become amenable to scientific investigation.

In this, I agree with Stephen Jay Gould's description of Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA). He states very clearly that religion violates NOMA as soon as it makes a claim for an interventionist God (Gould, 1999). In that case religion is no longer compatible with science.
The first commandment for all versions of NOMA might be summarized by stating: "Thou shalt not mix the magisteria by claiming that God directly ordains important events in the history of nature by special interference knowable only through revelation and not accessible to science." In common parlance, we refer to such special interference as "miracle"—operationally defined as a unique and temporary suspension of natural law to reorder the facts of nature by divine fiat.

                                    Stephen Jay Gould (1999) pp. 85-85
The National Academies are violating NOMA unless they specifically refer to belief in Gods that do not perform miracles of any kind. There are very few religions that believe in non-interventionist Gods who never perform miracles. Therefore, it is much more scientifically accurate to say that science conflicts directly with almost all religious beliefs, including those of Ken Miller and Francis Collins.

This is an important error in Science, Evolution and Creationism since Americans have a right to expect that the National Academies can define the proper magisterium of science. Instead, the National Academies, like NCSE, has taken the easy way out by redefining science as that field of study that is not in conflict with the religious views of Francis Collins and Ken Miller.


1. The books was produced by a committee headed by Fancisco Ayala.

2. Who appointed Collins and Miller to be the flame carriers for evolution?

Gould, S.J. (1999) Rock of Ages: Science and Religion in the fullness of Life The Ballantine Publishing Group, New York (USA).

71 comments:

  1. The authors of Science, Evolution and Creationism repeat the silly argument that "supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science." Why not?

    Give the testable criteria for telling when something was "supernaturally" caused. Heck, give a non-circular testable criteria for when something is "naturally" caused. If you succeed, you will be the most famous philosopher on the planet.

    "Thou shalt not mix the magisteria by claiming that God directly ordains important events in the history of nature by special interference knowable only through revelation and not accessible to science."

    Was Gould saying that you "shall not" mix the religion magesteria into science by trying to claim a miraculous cause as a scientific explanation (as he certainly seems to be saying, pending my getting home to check)? In which case, compartmentalizing one's religious beliefs from one's scientific positions is acceptable to Gould's version and it is, in fact, your "Doctrine of Joint Belief" that violates NOMA by mixing the magesteria together by demanding that scientists can only engage in one or the other.

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  2. Good post.

    Of course theistic scientists don't see any conflict between their religion and science - if they were consciously aware of their doublethink they would be forced to either give up their religion or stop being scientists.

    So that statement is almost trivially true; only those scientists who cannot see the conflict between theism and science will remain as theists!

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  3. Ian, that only makes sense when there actually is a conflict between whatever religion a person believes in and science. For instance, I am a biologist who has never doubted evolutionary theory and has devoted much time and effort into teaching others about it. I also believe in a god and I am well aware that I have no evidence to back up my belief, but that in no way deters me from my belief. The only time a problem would arise in this situation is if I needed some sort of evidence of god's existance. They call it "
    belief in God" for a reason; if you need evidence, then maybe you shouldn't hold that belief.

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  4. Chad, does your God ever have an effect on the natural world? In other words, do you believe in an interventionist God?

    The only time a problem would arise in this situation is if I needed some sort of evidence of god's existance.

    Every miracle is presumed evidence of God's existence. Do you believe in any miracles? If so, can those "miracles" be explained naturally as science requires?

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  5. John Pieret asks,

    Was Gould saying that you "shall not" mix the religion magesteria into science by trying to claim a miraculous cause as a scientific explanation (as he certainly seems to be saying, pending my getting home to check)?

    No, that's not how I read it. Gould says that if you postulate miracles by revelation ... not accessible to science then you are violating NOMA because the miracle is an event that takes place in the real world and is therefore always accessible to—and refuted by—science.

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  6. Of course “miracle” means different things to different people, but my basic assumption has always been that whatever I witness can always be described by natural means.

    However, this does not mean that there may be some force out there making immeasurable changes in our world that we cannot perceive. I haven’t given such philosophical notions much thought because once the supernatural is thrown into the mix all standard rules are thrown out the window and such questions, while interesting, I think take away from much more critical questions that need to be answered.

    In the end, I believe that all things can be described using science, but I also believe that I may be wrong. The fact that I may be wrong will never deter me from trying to find a natural cause for any phenomenon nor should it, because the search to find those causes is what science is all about.

    So, Larry, to finally answer your question (in a much less roundabout way): no, I do not believe in an interventionist god, but I also do not deny the existence of such because in the end it will not change who I am or what I do.

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  7. Thanks for responding, Chad.

    So, if I understand you correctly, you believe in a god but your god doesn't do anything that's detectable.

    Strange.

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  8. C'mon, Larry! The very paragraph before the one you quoted:

    Quote:

    Scientists with strong theological commitments have embraced NOMA in several styles -- from the argument of "God as clockwinder" ... to the "bench-top materialism" of most religious scientists today (who hold that "deep" questions about ultimate meanings lie outside the realm of science ... while scientific methods, based on the spatio-temporal invariance of natural law, apply to all potentially resolvable questions of about facts of nature). So long as religious beliefs do not dictate specific answers to empirical questions or foreclose the acceptance of documented facts, the most theologically devout scientists should have no trouble pursuing their day jobs with equal zeal. (Emphasis added)

    Close Quote.

    The "spatio-temporal invariance of natural law" is a philosophical assumption, not a scientific result. Applying it as a methodological assumption does not rule out the possibility of some sort of intervention by God in the universe, it just rules out such intervention as a scientific explanation. I'm not sure that Gould was all that great as a philosopher (you already know my opinion of your talents in that area ;-) ) but his "bench top materialism" and the distinction between religious scientists "day jobs" and their beliefs clearly point to his understanding that the distinction was, as I said, that religious scientists cannot mix the religion magesterium into science by trying to claim a miraculous cause as a scientific explanation, not that they are barred from holding to some notion of an interventionalist God by NOMA.

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  9. Religious faith, in contrast, does not depend only on empirical evidence, is not necessarily modified in the face of conflicting evidence

    Such behavior would be counted as counter-productive to advancing knowledge in any other arena. Why does "religious faith" get a pass?

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  10. Ian Gibson announces:

    Of course theistic scientists don't see any conflict between their religion and science - if they were consciously aware of their doublethink they would be forced to either give up their religion or stop being scientists.


    Somehow, that suposed "conflict" between Christianity and science was not clear to all the founding fathers of many branches of modern science (Newton, Pascal, Maxwell, Faraday, Mendel, Galileo). Only today, thanks to the atheist scientists, we know that science and Christianity are at war with one another (suposedly).


    So that statement is almost trivially true; only those scientists who cannot see the conflict between theism and science will remain as theists!

    Perhaps they can't see any conflict between Christianity and Science because there is none?

    Larry, who doesn't know jack about Christian theology stipulates:

    Every miracle is presumed evidence of God's existence.

    Not really, Larry. Who told you that? You shsould educate yourself on CHristian theology before making such mistakes. Not all miracles are done by God, Larry. I don't know if you have a Bible or not, but check on the account where Moses faces the Pharaoh. The magicians the Pharaoh had were able to duplicate the miracles of Moses, however their miracles were not caused by YHWH.

    I can't believe that people who speak so much against Christianity don't know the Sunday-School basic theology of the Bible. Goodness!


    Larry adds:
    Do you believe in any miracles? If so, can those "miracles" be explained naturally as science requires?

    Science doesn't require that you explain things naturally. Science requires you to explain the truth about the world, and how it operates, and specially how it came into existence. The restrictiion you put on science is something that comes from your atheistic worldview, not from the enterprise of science itself.



    So, if I understand you [Chad] correctly, you believe in a god but your god doesn't do anything that's detectable.

    Strange.


    Well, for once, I agree with Larry on this one. A Supernatural God whose actions are not detectable is just as good as a non-existing one.

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  11. Religious faith, in contrast, does not depend only on empirical evidence, is not necessarily modified in the face of conflicting evidence

    This is why that, after years of research, and the total absence of confirming evidence, the darwinian faith still lives on. Why? Because it is not dependent on the evidence, but on the apriori philosophical assumption (Naturalism).


    Such behavior would be counted as counter-productive to advancing knowledge in any other arena.


    I agree. Such a mindset is a hindrance to the advancement of knowledge, and that is why that the darwinian fairytale has to go.

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  12. A Supernatural God whose actions are not detectable is just as good as a non-existing one.

    Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

    Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

    Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof ...

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  13. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

    This would be an impressive response- IF the words actually came from the mouth of your imaginary friend upstairs rather than from the pen of an (extremely talented) ancient Hebrew writer. Under the actual circumstances it's just silly.

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  14. Speaking of changing your mind, years ago I used to think that the accomodationist position exemplified in this NAS statement was prudent public relations and that people like Dawkins were unwise to associate atheism with science. (I recall saying as much on t.o.). I have since come around to agree completely with Larry for all the reasons that he has repeatedly explained on this blog. We need to tell the unvarnished truth, and we need to do it forthrightly so as to open the minds of people who have never been challenged to question the dogmas on which they were reared. The apologist position does not even have the PR value it pretends to have, since no amount of bending over backwards short of complete capitulation will ever satisfy the hardcore religious, whereas if anything it will only solidify the waverers in thinking that they needn't question their indoctrination.

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  15. Mats said:
    The magicians the Pharaoh had were able to duplicate the miracles of Moses, however their miracles were not caused by YHWH.

    So, perhaps Larry should have claimed instead that miracles are caused by supernatural actors. Of which God is one. Those miracles were caused by the one of the "other, false Gods." We know that they exist because they are in the Bible and caused some miracles. Fun.

    But that is not the odd part of your reply, Mats. This is:

    Science doesn't require that you explain things naturally. Science requires you to explain the truth about the world, and how it operates, and specially how it came into existence. The restrictiion you put on science is something that comes from your atheistic worldview, not from the enterprise of science itself.

    I am curious about how you come to this. It isn't science which explains the world, scientists do. When they want to explain things through the results of scientific work, then they use data and analysis. I think you are confusing science with theology, which is the proverbial house built on sand.

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  16. IF the words actually came from the mouth of your imaginary friend ...

    Wrong possessive.

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  18. Wrong possessive.

    Which makes your response only that much more pointless. When the Devil quotes Scripture it's supposed to be for HIS purpose, not the other guy's. ;)

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  19. When the Devil quotes Scripture it's supposed to be for HIS purpose, not the other guy's.

    Showing Mats' ignorance serves HIS purpose, I think.

    The apologist position does not even have the PR value it pretends to have, since no amount of bending over backwards short of complete capitulation will ever satisfy the hardcore religious, whereas if anything it will only solidify the waverers in thinking that they needn't question their indoctrination.

    Doesn't that rather assume that the people who wrote the report share your atheism?

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  20. By the way, Larry, isn't Science, Evolution and Creationism rather selectionist for you? I don't see any discussion of drift or other mechanisms. Or have you changed your mind about that?

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  21. Doesn't that rather assume that the people who wrote the report share your atheism?

    Given the pretty consistent survey results about the large proportion of atheists among practicing scientists, it's a fair assumption that at least some of them did.

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  22. Given the pretty consistent survey results about the large proportion of atheists among practicing scientists, it's a fair assumption that at least some of them did.

    And since Francisco J. Ayala was the Chair of the revision committee, we know some of them did not.

    What would your solution be then? Kick Ayala off the committee? ... out of the NAS? ... shall we deny anyone who is not an atheist the right to practice science?

    If (as I hope) that isn't your position, then shouldn't any statements by the NAS about the nature of science be one that encompasses the broadest spectrum of philosophical views on that issue that is consistent with the actual workings of science?

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  23. No, I just think that maybe the people on the committee who aren't priests (not to mention the NAS membership at large which I guarantee is nonreligious in large majority) shouldn't have hypocritically gone along for the sake of framing (did you notice that Nisbet is listed as an adviser?)

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  24. ... maybe the people on the committee who aren't priests (not to mention the NAS membership at large which I guarantee is nonreligious in large majority) shouldn't have hypocritically gone along for the sake of framing ...

    I'm sorry, but doesn't that rather assume that no atheist can honestly believe that religious people can do science? Don't Ayala and Miller and many others empirically refute that claim? So why do you assume your fellow atheists are being hypocritical? Is everyone who disagrees with you dishonest?

    And does it logically follow that just because Nisbet was an advisor, that atheists on the committee suddenly couldn't help giving up their integrity?

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  25. So, Larry and Mats can agree that gd must be detectable to believe in him.
    Which is a mockery of both faith and science.
    "new atheists" and creationist are about at the same level of stupidity.

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  26. People who think that something claimed to be totally undetectable can meaningfully be said to exist are calling others stupid? That's rich. That bit of logically incoherent bullshit may be the only position in the entire "debate" that deserves cursory dismissal without even the feigning of the slightest respect. It's a truly pathetic dodge.

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  27. shall we deny anyone who is not an atheist the right to practice science?

    John, the "thought" process that could lead from anything I actually said to this gem suggests that attempting to have a rational discussion with you is futile. Are you always so dishonest? No wonder you admire intellectual dishonesty in others.

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  28. John Pieret asks,

    What would your solution be then? Kick Ayala off the committee? ... out of the NAS? ... shall we deny anyone who is not an atheist the right to practice science?

    If (as I hope) that isn't your position, then shouldn't any statements by the NAS about the nature of science be one that encompasses the broadest spectrum of philosophical views on that issue that is consistent with the actual workings of science?


    My solution would have been to state the truth.

    I would have said something like ...

    There are many scientists who see a conflict between science and modern religions. That's why many of the most prominent scientists are atheists, especially those in other countries.

    Some scientists, on the other hand, claim that there is no conflict between their religion and science. On the following pages we present quotations from scientists on both sides of this controversy.

    Keep in mind that these scientists are not theologians and we present their opinions here merely as an example of the diversity of opinion about the existence of God and the conflict between science and religion.

    In previous editions of this pamphlet we presented quotations from religious leaders who accept most of the scientific evidence for evolution. We did not quote from prominent atheist philosophers who have investigated the conflict between science and religion. In this edition we rely entirely on scientists as the experts on scientific knowledge and we confine our quotations to the opinions of scientists who practice science and are members of the academies.


    That's not what the committee choose to do. Instead they presented their case as though there was widespread consensus among scientists that science and religion do not conflict.

    Anyone reading this pamphlet would be justified in assuming that every member of the committee—and most scientists in the National Academies—believed that science and religion were not in conflict. They would assume that most scientists accepted the explanations of Francis Collins and Ken Miller in defense of their personal, Christian, religious faiths.

    As you know, John, that would be an incorrect assumption.

    Now, whether you agree with me or not about the conflict between science and religion, you have to admit that Francis Collins and Ken Miller do not represent the dominant philosophy of American members of the academies.

    Thus, I conclude that the pamphlet is guilty of "framing" in the worst sense of the word. The authors are deliberately stating something that they know is misleading. They're doing this in order to advance the political agenda of appeasement at the expense of scientific accuracy.

    In this case the "truth" about the actual beliefs of many (most?) scientists needs to be hidden from the general public because it plays into the hands of the creationists.

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  29. I don’t accept Gould’s idea of NOMA but (and this is the big but) I accept that reality presents us with diverse ontological categories with differing levels of epistemological tractability, therefore demanding different standards of practice in investigation: history, sociology, economics, archeology, meta-science (philosophy of science), evolutionary theory all proceed with less ease and formalization than say solid state physics, whose objects are relatively ‘simple’ in character. This spectrum of ontological categories, with simple objects giving way to increasingly complex and exotic ontological objects allows theism to ‘sneak’ in at the upper for people like myself.

    Ken Miller has remarked on the possibility that the Divine will might exploit the apparently random perturbations on a chaotic reality to encode His will. This allows a subtle theist like Miller to be both an interventionist and a deist at the same time – he can have his cake and eat it! These theists can be crafty!

    The existence or non-existence of Diety (or at least the Deity of the Judeo-Christian kind) is a question that does impinge upon observation: e.g. the issue of evil and suffering. Tell you what Larry, why not try praying for something and see if you get an answer? This video of one your usual suspects should give you some hints on how to pray.

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  30. "If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time."

    -Bertrand Russell

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  31. Steve:

    John, the "thought" process that could lead from anything I actually said to this gem suggests that attempting to have a rational discussion with you is futile. Are you always so dishonest?

    I'm sorry if my way of getting at your thought processes annoys you but the simple fact is that you were suggesting that it was hypocritical for an official NAS publication to even acknowledge that there are honest people who might think that science and religion are compatible. What is the reductio ad absurdum of that position?

    (And I've never been impressed with Russell's teapot.)

    Larry:

    That is a fair proposal for alternative language but (you knew there was a "but"):

    ... you have to admit that Francis Collins and Ken Miller do not represent the dominant philosophy of American members of the academies.

    I certainly agree that Collins' and Miller's religious beliefs are not the dominant philosophy of members of the academies (if polls are to be believed) but do you have any evidence of any sort that the dominant philosophy in the academies is that science and religion are incompatible? Specifically, do you have any evidence that the dominant view is that the following is untrue:

    Because they are not a part of nature, supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science. In this sense, science and religion are separate and address aspects of human understanding in different ways. Attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.

    Is your complaint that the booklet didn't state that the majority of NAS members are atheists? If so, what exactly does that that fact have to do with science education and the issue of teaching creationism in science classes?

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  32. What is the reductio ad absurdum of that position?

    If there is one, it certainly isn't the garbage you dishonestly tried to put in my mouth. I'm well aware that the impressive human capacity for cognitive dissonance permits people to be absolutely first-rate scientists while clinging to irrational beliefs that really aren't compatible with science. The issue was very clearly laid out by Larry- that pamphlet now contains a passage that used not to be there and doesn't need to be there, and which gives a false impression that the scientific community as a consensus position sees no problem of incompatibility between science and religion. There is no such consensus, not even close.

    The teapot quotation was not addressed to you but to the people claiming to believe in an existent but empirically undetectable "god". (Not that I care what impresses you or doesn't.)

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  33. Now that twit Nisbet is promoting on his blog the idea of Francis Collins as the next Presidential Science Adviser as a sop to religious loonies (who are unlikely to be impressed). If there's stupid and/or dishonest thing to be said about the public presentation of science, Nisbet can be counted on to say it. It's rather sad that the NAS gave him the time of day.

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  34. ... it certainly isn't the garbage you dishonestly tried to put in my mouth.

    I specifically questioned whether that was your position.

    I'm well aware that the impressive human capacity for cognitive dissonance permits people to be absolutely first-rate scientists while clinging to irrational beliefs that really aren't compatible with science.

    Good! Now, can you explain what you mean by 'incompatible with science' if 'absolutely first-rate scientists' can hold those beliefs while doing good science? Empirically, those beliefs would not appear to be incapable of being held while, at the same time, doing good or even great science. What meaning of "incompatible" do you intend, then?

    The fact that you find it mystifying that honest, capable people can do this is neither empiric evidence nor a cogent philosophical argument for the notion that the ideas aren't compatible.

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  35. Which part of "cognitive dissonance" did you not understand? The well-known ability of people to keep incompatible ideas in their heads simultaneously does nothing to show that the beliefs really are compatible after all.

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  36. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun

    There are thousands or even millions of china teapots orbiting the sun between the Earth and Mars at any given time. They just happen to be anchored to this planet ;)

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  37. Which part of "cognitive dissonance" did you not understand?

    "Cognitive dissonance: a theory of human motivation that asserts that it is psychologically uncomfortable to hold contradictory cognitions. The theory is that dissonance, being unpleasant, motivates a person to change his cognition, attitude, or behavior."

    Now what evidence do you have that people like Miller and Dobzhansky are psychologically uncomfortable enough with their beliefs that they have changed their cognition, attitude, or behavior? Or were you just throwing around a psychological term you don't understand?

    Let's assume you meant something like "able to hold mutually contradictory ideas without changing their behavior." But that's just begging the question by assuming that they are mutually contradictory, i.e. incompatible. I asked if you could defend that assertion. Want to try again?

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  38. Larry has been doing exactly that quite ably since he started this blog, and it shouldn't be necessary for me to repeat his arguments. (Feel free to search his archives.) Let's see YOUR argument that believing in fairy stories for which there is no credible evidence is consistent with the thought processes at work in scientific investigation. Good luck.

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  39. OK, so let me recap and get this straight. Steve and Larry are arguing that the alleged cognitive dissonance is not necessarily about contradictory ideas, but about allegedly contradictory thought processes. Specifically, thought processes concerning scientific investigation vs. religious beliefs. Am I in the ballpark of what you're getting at?

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  40. Larry has been doing exactly that quite ably since he started this blog, and it shouldn't be necessary for me to repeat his arguments. (Feel free to search his archives.)

    And if you go to the comments of those posts you may find my counter-arguments there, as well as in talk.origins. Larry and I have been at this for a while.

    But really! An argument from authority that you can't even outline? I thought you atheists were alleged to be the rational ones.

    Let's see YOUR argument that believing in fairy stories for which there is no credible evidence is consistent with the thought processes at work in scientific investigation.

    I've already given one ... the empiric evidence of people who can function exactly that way. Your furious handwaving about "cognitive dissonance" in no way (rationally) countered that.

    Another is the very nature of science which is not, despite the desires of the advocates for scientism, a lifestyle nor a philosophy (though it is based on philosophy); it is a method applied when actually doing science. As long as someone follows the method while doing science, s/he is doing science, despite, or perhaps because of, whatever faults and foibles s/he might otherwise have.

    All you or Larry have offered against the NAS statement is your own personal beliefs that manage to ignore the empiric evidence. What company does that put you in?

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  41. Religion is here to stay. To think it will disappear is to badly underestimate human imagination. Further, it is inserted in the truly complex network of social human interactions and circumstance. A little knowledge of history quite patently reveals how new religions, creeds, and "topic emphasis" are created by the human circumstance (which of course, nothing but the true "substrate" from which religion is derived).
    Religion can find itself fulfilling a role of historical-social changes, for good or for bad (to say only bad is just an assertion with no truth value)
    It is not be subestimated, or stupidly reduced to a superstition such as not opening an umbrella indoors.

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  42. Yes, Sanders, I think we’re stuck with religion – or at least I am even if you’re not!

    Cognitive Dissonance: even closed systems like mathematics and physical models are so ramifying in their consequences that contradictions can lay hidden for a long while. This, I feel, is likely to be even more true for human cognitive systems that are open ended in content and work in a far more fuzzy way than mathematical logic, not to mention all those human factors like loyalty, reputations, ego and connection etc that impinge upon thinking. Therefore there is plenty of scope here to explain why human cognitive systems are far more resilient to the contradictions we think see in others thoughts, before recourse is made to the ‘malign idiot with sinister ulterior motives' theory. I can’t help feeling the latter is often imputed in order to justify a cathartic release of anger.

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  43. I've already given one ... the empiric evidence of people who can function exactly that way.

    Let's look more closely at this by actually examining the published apologetics of such as Collins and Miller. Are they actually functioning on the basis of compatibility (as you claim) or of simultaneously holding beliefs they realize at some level to be incompatible (as I say)? Notice how they are VERY careful to circumscribe the empirically detectable activity of their God to phenomena that 1) are not yet fully understood and b) conveniently lie outside the range of what they themselves study professionally.

    This is very damning evidence. These guys obviously recognize that holding a joker which allows "goddidit" to be proffered as the explanation for any observation, would destroy their credibility and ability to function as scientists. So they are able to hold only a God-of-the-gaps theology, and moreover one which only makes use of gaps conveniently removed from their immediate professional purview as scientists. This cannot have happened by accident.

    Thus we see that a scientist's belief in suposedly eternal things, if he is to continue to be a scientists, must in fact be carefully conditioned on two highly contingent facts: 1) the scientific knowledge base at the time he happens to be living and 2) the field of science in which he happens to be professionally active. This is very strong evidence that I am right and that at some level the religious believers among practicing scientists KNOW I'm right.

    (See also the recent post of Larry's entitled "Changing your mind- are science and religion compatible?" Your argument fails to impress others as well. Is that all you've got?)

    To Sanders- I'll go you one further and point out the obvious fact that we'll never eliminate irrational beliefs IN GENERAL, not just the religious variety. But just because an evil is ineradicable, that doesn't excuse us from the effort of trying to ameliorate its effects. Progress is possible- Christians have stopped burning "witches".

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  44. Ayala has an editorial in an upcoming PNAS on "Science, evolution and creationism":

    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/0711608105v1

    It's pretty much more of the same, but still worth a read.

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  45. Of course, I leave for the weekend and the forum explodes... Unfortunately I don't have time right now to read all of the posts after my last one so I'll just give a quick clarification to Larry.

    I never really said anything definitive on what a god may or may not do. I’m simply leaving the door open because I don’t know, and quite frankly don’t care, what any god does since I will go about my business assuming everything can be explained naturally.

    I have my reasons for believing in a god. They are mine and mine alone and since that is the nature of faith I do nothing to impose my beliefs on anyone else. It may be completely illogical to everyone else, but what seems to be getting lost in this whole conversation is that logic doesn’t necessarily matter in questions of faith. I feel there is a god; I don’t know exactly what that god does, but that doesn’t keep me from believing, nor should it.

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  46. Who said you can't believe whatever you take it into your head to believe? Nobody proposes to deny you that freedom. Just don't expect everybody to congratulate you on your choice.

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  47. Should atheists expect any congratulations?

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  48. First, I was simply trying to make the point that faith needs no evidence (a fact that seems to be lost to most people). Second, I never proposed that anyone would deny my right to believe what I want for whatever reasons I want. Finally, when in the hell did anyone like me ask to be congratulated for the beliefs they hold?

    I swear I'm beginning to hate militant atheists just as much as I hate creationists...

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  49. Should atheists expect any congratulations?

    Did I ask for any? Did Larry? It's religionists who are always whining about lack of what they imagine is due deference to their silly beliefs. (More power to Chad if he doesn't, but then why is he so anxious that other people should pretend they think those beliefs are compatible with science?) Me, I'm prepared to DEFEND what I believe in (or don't)against all comers.

    Look, if you believe in sky fairies and you're a biologist, you'd better damn well be ready to explain how they evolved if you want to be taken seriously when you maintain that your scientific and religious belief don't conflict. In biology we don't just posit the existence of sentient beings, you know.(People who are specifically Christians of anything more than utterly wishy-washy stripe have even more 'splainin to do, like how a male was conceived parthenogenetically.)

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  50. Collins and Miller. Are they actually functioning on the basis of compatibility (as you claim) or of simultaneously holding beliefs they realize at some level to be incompatible (as I say)?

    I've asked before what you meant by "incompatible" but you haven't elaborated yet, though maybe that "simultaneously holding beliefs they realize at some level to be incompatible" qualifies. Let's look at the part of the NAS statement you claim is hypocritical:

    Because they are not a part of nature, supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science. In this sense, science and religion are separate and address aspects of human understanding in different ways. Attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist. (Emphasis added)

    There is nothing in that which says one must look at the universe in a consistent manner. I like both football and baseball. But if I was picking fantasy teams, I wouldn't be trying to evaluate my quarterback by whether he can hit a major league curve ball or my catcher by whether he can scramble. Essentially, you are demanding (as Larry does) that scientists only apply science's standards to every aspect of life. That is, of course, unrealistic. Unless all scientists hook themselves up to a blood pressure monitor and an EEG every time they make love to their significant other and meticulously record and publish the results, no scientist meets that standard.

    For the kind of theist we are talking about, there is no conflict because empiric investigation cannot detect God. I know Larry claims it can, but he only gets there by making nonscientific theological claims about the nature of God (as in his theodicy).

    Note that any contention that we don't presently know what will be empirically testable in the future isn't itself a scientific claim. You may think that it is bad theology/philosophy to think anything is beyond empiric investigation but your philosophical conclusions aren't scientific results either. (I'll just note that Hume showed 200+ years ago that empiricism can't justify empiricism, so you don't have a basis to claim everything is amenable to empiricism, unless you go outside empiricism, which is self-defeating.) In short, what is incompaible here is theism and your philosophy, not theism and science.

    Re Clay Shirky's piece Larry cited, he fails, as you do, to accept the empiric evidence. How can "religious belief [be] a special kind of thought, incompatible with the kind of skepticism that makes science work" when great scientists have made science work spectacularly despite having religious beliefs? His analogy:

    Saying that the mental lives of a Francis Collins or a Freeman Dyson prove that religion and science are compatible is like saying that the sex lives of Bill Clinton or Ted Haggard prove that marriage and adultery are compatible.

    ... is cute but does anyone think that Bill Clinton's or Ted Haggard's marriages compare in quality or importance to the scientific work of a Theodosius Dobzhansky? Maybe if theists produced, on average, less competent science than atheists do, you might have an argument. Do you have any such evidence? Bare assertions about what can and can't be done when someone has religion are, themselves, nonscientific claims, which also self-defeats your claim about what theists must do to be good scientists.

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  51. John Pieret says, in response to someone else's comment ...

    Let's see YOUR argument that believing in fairy stories for which there is no credible evidence is consistent with the thought processes at work in scientific investigation.

    I've already given one ... the empiric evidence of people who can function exactly that way. Your furious handwaving about "cognitive dissonance" in no way (rationally) countered that.


    John, let's examine the logic of your argument.

    You claim that because Miller and Collins are religious, and scientists, then this is evidence that science and religion are compatible. Right?

    That has always seemed to be the essence of your position.

    Your main point is that it's religious people like Miller and Collins who are in the best position to judge whether science and religion are compatible. Since they see no conflict then there mustn't be a conflict.

    This is not a good argument. Using that logic you would have to say that Intelligent Design Creationism and science are compatible since there are scientists who adhere to Intelligent Design. You would also have to defend the idea that astrology and science are compatible since I'm sure there are scientists who believe in astrology.

    It's not good enough to just find religious scientists and use them as proof that there is no conflict. You have to go beyond that observation and ask whether their understanding of "science" is the same as yours and mine. Clearly in the case of Michael Behe and Scott Minnich, their version of a science that's compatible with Intelligent Design Creationism doesn't cut the mustard. Right?

    This logic applies to people like Miller and Collins as well. We have to look at how they resolve the compatibility issue and not just take their word for it.

    In the case of Miller and Collins (and Conway Morris) they felt that there was enough of a problem that they needed to write a book explaining how their personal religious views are compatible with science. That, in itself, in an indication that they see a conflict.

    So, the "empirical" fact that people can function as scientists while believing demonstrably silly things such as Young Earth Creationism—Duance Gish was a biochemist—seems to indicate that the logic of your argument is suspect. Unless, of course, you only mean for your argument to apply to certain religious scientists and not others. In that case you'd better explain why it applies to Miller and Collins but not Behe and Minnich.

    In an earlier comment you said,

    I'm sorry, but doesn't that rather assume that no atheist can honestly believe that religious people can do science? Don't Ayala and Miller and many others empirically refute that claim?

    As you know, I think there is a conflict between science and most organized religions. I've explained why miracles. for example, are not compatible with science.

    I have never said that religious people can't do science. That would be a silly position to take since both Micheal Behe and Jonathan Wells, for example, have published scientific papers.

    Just because Behe and Wells can do science cannot be taken as evidence that there's no conflict between religion and science. I'm sure you would agree.

    Behe and Wells resolve the conflict by making up their own definition of science—one that's compatible with their religious beliefs. Now we need to examine whether other religious scientists do the same thing in order to avoid cognitive dissonance.

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  52. You claim that because Miller and Collins are religious, and scientists, then this is evidence that science and religion are compatible. Right?

    Subtly wrong. It actually has two effects: as positive evidence, it provides some support for the position that science and religion are compatible (for some definition of that word). As negative evidence, it is a strong objection to the claim that "believing in fairy stories for which there is no credible evidence is [not] consistent with the thought processes at work in scientific investigation."

    Your main point is that it's religious people like Miller and Collins who are in the best position to judge whether science and religion are compatible. Since they see no conflict then there mustn't be a conflict.

    Not even close, Larry! What I'm arguing is that, if your contention that, as Clay Shirky put it, "religious belief [is] a special kind of thought, incompatible with the kind of skepticism that makes science work," is to be accepted you must first explain why very good scientists like Miller or even great scientists like Dobzhansky can both think in that "special way" and still be skeptical enough to do great science. (As for Collins, as I said some time ago here, he may not be in the same category as those others for the reason RPM gave in that article you just linked to, namely his claim that "moral law" can never be explained by biology.)

    Anyway, after all these years, Larry, how could you ever think that I'd contend that scientists are the best people to ask if science and religion are compatible? ;-)

    But this is valuable:

    Using that logic you would have to say that Intelligent Design Creationism and science are compatible ...

    ... because it highlights the real demand you are making, which has nothing to do with science and everything to do with your scientism. Of course, IDC is incompatible with doing the biology of flagella or determining why the moon is "just right" for total eclipses. That's the point of Gould's NOMA. Thou shalt not try to answer scientific questions with goddidit. But believing that God somehow designed the world, if not imported into the science being done, is no more relevant to the believer's science than the person's political affiliation or whether s/he irrationally believes that her spouse is handsome and her children paragons. You are demanding more of your fellow scientists than merely that they do good science; you are demanding that they think like you do.

    ... they felt that there was enough of a problem that they needed to write a book explaining how their personal religious views are compatible with science. That, in itself, in an indication that they see a conflict.

    Oh, Jeez, Larry! With guys like you and Phil Johnson around, loudly proclaiming that there is a conflict, do they need to feel conflicted themselves in order to try to explain why they don't feel conflicted? If some student of yours tried in one of your classes to make a claim of causation while ignoring such obvious alternative explanations, what would you do to him/her? Give yourself the same mark for that one that you'd give the student.

    In that case you'd better explain why it applies to Miller and Collins but not Behe and Minnich..

    It applies equally to Miller, Collins, Behe and Minnich. In order to do good science, you have to follow the scientific method while you are doing it. To the exact extent and degree that you follow the method, you have done good science.

    Just because Behe and Wells can do science cannot be taken as evidence that there's no conflict between religion and science. I'm sure you would agree.

    Again you're mixing up (at least) two different claims. One is that religious explanations are in conflict with scientific explanations, which is trivially true and the reason they should not be mixed. The other is that there is necessarily a philosophical conflict between doing science and doing religion. It's in the latter claim that I think you've failed to support.

    Behe and Wells resolve the conflict by making up their own definition of science -- one that's compatible with their religious beliefs. Now we need to examine whether other religious scientists do the same thing in order to avoid cognitive dissonance.

    Well, gee, Larry ... after all the brouhaha you've whomped up, you're finally going to go look for some evidence for your proposition? Why, how ... scientific ... of you!

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  53. John, you've completely failed to deal with the point that both Larry and I have made- Collins and Miller have both had to carefully tailor their religious beliefs so as not to let them interfere with there science, and they have both felt called upon to publish elaborate apologias explaining how they can be both religious believers and scientists. This is clear prima facie evidence that they themselves DO perceive a real philosophical conflict, and a need to try to work around it (and to explain how they did so). All your reams of bullshit cannot conceal the fact that you have no counter-argument to this very obvious and devastating fact.

    Since all you've got is more of the same boring bullshit, I shall commence ignoring you.

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  54. To sum up: religious belief involves the making, with zero supporting evidence, of existential claims of a kind so implausible that, if made within science, they would require MASSIVE amounts of evidence even to be given a hearing. Religious thinking is pre-scientific and largely even pre-rational. To claim that it is philosophically compatible with the scientifc worldview is ludicrous. And the fact that both kinds of thinking can exist in the same head only serves to make the familiar point that the human capacity for tolerating cognitive dissonance is remarkable.

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  55. I think the "rationalism" of some is just silly. The limitations to our use of reason are obvious and scientifically, well-documented at all levels, from the neurobiological-cognitive to the historical. To go on a crusade against religion (or against science, if you are an ID fan) in order to purify the world of unreason, reveals more about a fanatic personality and a shortage of reason rather than actual use of it.
    An inability of acknowledge any personal irrational bias, towards atheism or theism, is typical.of both neoatheists (read "merely antirreligious" atheists) as well as of creationists, despite their "torch and burn" style of argumentation.

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  56. The limits (which are constantly being extended) of what we can learn by reason and observation should be used as license for making shit up? There's a hell of a logical lacuna in that 'argument". This very defective mode of "reasoning" is typical of apologists for irrational, unsupported BS. Really, it's all they'e got.

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  57. "The limits (which are constantly being extended) "

    You mean reason will "fill out" someday? There are INTRINSIC limits to reason.

    "should be used as license for making shit up?"

    No. it's a eminder that wahtever you say, you say form a point of view, as a strcturally limited organism ina specific historical-cultural circumstance. It is not "reality" itself, even if if you can argue that your way of approaching it is best.
    We have no choice but to "make shit up". The point is, are you smart enough to acknowledge that you too make shit up? or do you have a miniaturized exact representation of the universe sitting in your head and are thus the owner of the ONE reality?

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  58. There are INTRINSIC limits to reason.

    1. You know this how? Via reasoning? There are tricky logical traps awaiting you if you try to flesh this out.

    2. Science does not proceed by pure reasoning (that was the mistake of the ancient Greeks).

    In any case, it's a truism that we almost certainly never will, and can't, know everything about the universe. You still need to provide the argument that THEREFORE we have a license to indulge in wishful thinking to fill the "gaps". Care to try again?

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  59. Oh, and if by making shit up you mean postulating the existence of inherently implausible entities for which there is no credible evidence, in order to fill lacunae in current explanations (or to fill my emotional needs)- then no, I don't do that.
    What kind of shit do you imagine that I make up?

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  60. Obviously you don't know you are talking to an atheist. You are a merely antiriligious atheist, you see the god menace everywhere, which explains why you only run skin-deep.
    All I'm sayong is that ultimate reason is a stupid idealization which has only been argued to exist by theologians who mumble about an "all-seeing, all-knowing" god. We, humans are organisms that can only produce rational explanations wtihitn a sea of irrational (mere experience to begin with, which is i great deal made up, study color vision for example)
    I'm talking as a biologist. "Rationalism" is but a caricature. Reality, and our neurobiological-social construction of reality as organisms, are different things and will never be the same.

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  61. Of course I know, that I'm talking to what Larry aptly calls a "Bendict Arnold atheist". There's even less excuse for that position than there is for theism. And by the way, never in my life have I invoked "Ultimate Reason"- whatever the hell that is. Seems to be some projection going on here.

    Once again, it's very simple. Acknowledgment of the limits of what we know does not in any way license an indulgent attitude toward fairytales (at least, ones purporting to be taken seriously by grownups.) The latter simply does not in any way, shape or form follow from the former.

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  62. By the way, you're a nice example of the intellectual damage done to many people by the half-baked neo-Kantian epistemology that was popular among philosophers until recently (but which now seems mercifully to be going out of fashion). Analogous, though different in kind, to the damage earlier wrought by naive Popperism.

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  63. If I say there are intrinsic limits to reason, that it will never "fill out", and you just don'yt get it...what am I to think? All I can guess is that your are NOT SURE if there is a limit to reason...of course, becuase you are a "fan" of reason, aren't ya, Steve.


    If I tell you that our biological construction of reality, and reality itself, will never be the same, yet you refuse to take the point....what do you want me to think? All i can guess is that you badly confuse them.

    And all of this relates to the whole attack on religion., becuase it's you phony "rationalists" who think that no unreason must be tolerated, while at the same time, you are loaded with irrationality. Shallow types who think that in the name of science and reason thye can claim to be oners of the the ONE true reality, on just any topic.

    But his is very broing, you know, talking to another "already know it all" smartass. It's the same as debating a creationits. ONE truth. THEIR truth.

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  64. You're just repeating your schtick without adding any substance. Apparently that's all you've got. Good luck with it.

    Once more, NOBODY is claiming "to own the one true reality", That's your own, rather pathetic, projection. I'm saying nothing more startling or more comprehensive than this: when people grow up they ought to put away their fairy tales along with their toys.

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  65. Including the fairy tale of phony scientism and rationalist idealization, Stevie. That one too has to go, but first, see, you have to truly grow out of it. You haven't.Good bye, Stevie

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  66. Ah yes, "scientism", that inevitable meaningless insult hurled by the utterly clueless. How predictable.

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  67. John, you've completely failed to deal with the point that both Larry and I have made- Collins and Miller have both had to carefully tailor their religious beliefs so as not to let them interfere with there science, and they have both felt called upon to publish elaborate apologias explaining how they can be both religious believers and scientists.

    Well, you may not like my answer, but I did deal with that.

    This is clear prima facie evidence that they themselves DO perceive a real philosophical conflict, and a need to try to work around it (and to explain how they did so). All your reams of bullshit cannot conceal the fact that you have no counter-argument to this very obvious and devastating fact.

    My argument is that you are quite correct that this is, as you say, a philosophical conflict, specifically one between scientism and theism. "Scientism" (sometimes called "Positivism"), BTW, is not an "insult," is a perfectly respectable -- but to my mind, flawed -- philosophy, about which reasonable people can disagree. The point I have been making is that scientism -- the notion that science can and must be applied to everything, especially to everything a scientist does or thinks in order for him/her to be a "true scientist" -- is not, itself science. Scientism, the philosophy, is, indeed in conflict with theism.

    As to the supposed "cognitive dissonance" (I still do not think that means what you think it means) of people like Miller based on the fact that they adjust their religious beliefs to scientific facts, what would you have them do? It isn't like scientists don't do the same thing, adjusting their understanding of the world to new information. Are you demanding that they remain a stationary target so they'll be easier for you to make fun of?

    And as far as the writing of elaborate books, explaining in detail the authors' beliefs, being a sign of internal conflict, should we be trying to stage psychological interventions with Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris?

    Since all you've got is more of the same boring bullshit, I shall commence ignoring you.

    Oh, my! That stings! Oh, hold on a sec ...

    Religious thinking is pre-scientific and largely even pre-rational. To claim that it is philosophically compatible with the scientifc worldview is ludicrous.

    Oh, so now science isn't merely a philosophy, it's a "worldview"! What next, science as a religion? You do know the history of Auguste Comte, don't you? Oh, that's right! You're ignoring me. Never mind!

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  68. You're still not facing up to your big problem, John. Miller and Collins claim to believe in supposedly eternal religious truths, yet have to engage in careful trimming so as not to contradict anything in current scientific knowledge. Worse, the trimming they and their like have to do will change over time as science advances. And note that this is NOT at all analogous to the changes in scientists' opinions as their research advances; Collins and Miller and their future epigones are changing in a merely passive, reactive way- grudgingly giving ground to science, not attaining new clarity in their religious so-called knowledge. For all the fancy talk of "compatibility", this is actually nothing more or less than our old friend the god of the gaps. I would not bet a lot of money on that god having a bright future if I were you- he's been in full retreat for quite a while now and revival looks unlikely, to say the least.

    By the way I know what cognitive dissonance is. As I pointed out earlier, what Collins and Miller are exhibiting is TOLERANCE for high levels of it. The dissonance itself is clearly on display in their tortured arguments. (Which have no counterpart at all in the books by Dawkins et al. who have no need for similar contortions.)

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  69. You're still not facing up to your big problem, John.

    That I don't think science is either a philosophy or a "worldview"? Or is it simply that I don't agree with you?

    Miller and Collins claim to believe in supposedly eternal religious truths, yet have to engage in careful trimming so as not to contradict anything in current scientific knowledge.

    In other words, you find their theology unsatisfying. Am I supposed to take that as some sort of argument? I certainly can't take it as any surprise.

    As I pointed out earlier, what Collins and Miller are exhibiting is TOLERANCE for high levels of it. The dissonance itself is clearly on display in their tortured arguments.

    Which you can diagnose, at a distance and without benefit of actual evidence, because they can articulate their positions in ways you don't like. As I said before, I'm not defending Collins (whose book I haven't read but who has made goddidit claims about altruism) but I found nothing "tortured" about Miller's discussion of science or of his beliefs, even though I don't find the latter convincing. You do know that Dawkins said in his book that "I frequently recommend Miller's book, Finding Darwin's God, to religious people who write to me having been bamboozled by Behe".

    (Which have no counterpart at all in the books by Dawkins et al. who have no need for similar contortions.)

    Dawkins' response to the anthropological argument was pretty strange. Telling cosmologists that they need to have their "consciousness raised" by natural selection is not what I would have expected. And he handwaved away the cosmological argument but that is a tough one.

    If nothing else, both Miller's and Dawkins' books shared the fact that I didn't find the philosophical/theological claims of either very convincing.

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  70. Some people who are commenting on this blog may be doing so without having had the opportunity to read our book, "Science, Evolution, and Creationism." This conversation might be enhanced and clarified by reading the book online or downloading it in pdf for free at http://www.nap.edu/sec.

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  71. Barbara says,

    Some people who are commenting on this blog may be doing so without having had the opportunity to read our book, "Science, Evolution, and Creationism." This conversation might be enhanced and clarified by reading the book online or downloading it in pdf for free at http://www.nap.edu/sec.

    I gave the link in my blog posting above.

    The part we're interested in is the defense of religion as not being in conflict with science.

    This conversation might be enhanced if you would care to defend that assertion instead of just asking us to read the book.

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