Monday, May 25, 2009

The Fallacy of the Continuum

 
I once wrote an essay called "Theistic Evolution: The Fallacy of the Middle Ground." The point I was trying to make is that Theistic Evolution does not occupy the middle ground between superstition and rationalism or between science and religion. Theistic evolution is religious, it advocates superstition over rationalism—albeit a milder form of superstition than that of Young Earth Creationists.

Joshua Rosenau supports the evolution/creationism continuum shown in the above diagram [see Creation/evolution continuum, or NCSE is too nice to theists … and to atheists!]. It's from the NCSE website [The Creation/Evolution Continuum].

Josh claims that the continuum is the proper way to illustrate the differences between those who accept evolution and those who don't.
The nice thing about the continuum graphic is that, regardless of its faults, it emphasizes an easily obscured point: one need not set evolution against belief in a deity who acts in the world, and it is possible to move toward acceptance of evolution without moving out of the realm of theistic belief. The continuum oversimplifies by making it seem like there's just one path one might take in doing so, but NCSE is not in the business of endorsing particular religious philosophies, and making an exhaustive list is beyond the scope of the continuum.
He's got one thing right. It is, indeed, possible to move toward rationalism and science without moving out of the realm of theism. What Josh doesn't understand is that there's a breakpoint not shown on the continuum. I've put it on the modified version I show here.

When you view it like this, it's a different sort of diagram. There is a sort of continuum as theists move farther and farther away from the most outrageous forms of anti-science belief. But there's no continuum between science and most forms of religious belief. That's a sharp line.

Is there a reason for spinning the debate in the form of a continuum? Yes, there is ... you've heard it before.
More significantly, the continuum is helpful as a way to reach out to folks who have simply never thought about the issue before, and naively assume there are two camps: one for creationism and the other for evolution. So when forced to choose (as, for instance, by a pollster) they glom onto whichever camp they think best fits them. If the question is asked in a way that frames the decision in terms of science, they'll tend to favor evolution, if framed around religion or morality, they tend to choose creationism (at least in the US). Pointing out that there is a broad and diverse middle ground, that the choice is not nearly so stark, can help people get comfortable accepting evolution before confronting religious issues.
I understand why framing the debate in this way can be helpful to your cause. What I object to is the implication that moving from theism to atheism via agnosticism is a smooth transition. That's just not true and NCSE is very much endorsing a certain philosophical position when it promotes this diagram.
The continuum is a tool, and a useful one. It helps introduce the complexities of the interplay between science and religion to audiences who may simply think that everyone has to choose one or the other. It often surprises audiences to learn that many people do not see a need to choose, do not find an inherent conflict. (Standard disclaimer/troll repellent: Those people might be wrong, and I take no position on that topic.)
No, Josh, that's not true. You are taking a position on that topic. You are saying that one does not have to choose one or the other. You are saying that the view of evolution espoused by Francis Collins differs only in subtle degrees from that espoused by atheist scientists. You must know that isn't true.
As such, the simple tactic of drawing a bridge between what people think of as two mutually exclusive beliefs is pedagogically powerful.
There is no "bridge" between the belief in supernatural being and non-belief in such beings. How can something be "pedagogically powerful" if it's wrong?


46 comments :

  1. I have seen the continuum diagram in various forms many times before and I have felt exactly the same way about it, i.e. if you're going to show it, make it clear there is a clear dividing line between the scientific part of it and the superstitious one. There is no continuum between these things and if you somehow allow the people who aren't familiar with the matter to think there is, science loses in the end. Too bad that's not understood by the relevant people.

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  2. I thought the continuum was the home of the powerful beings from Star Trek.

    Where do these people get their drugs, I want some.

    Where do they put nihilism?

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  3. I'm seeing assertion more than evidence. Why is it the case that theism and evolution can't go together? Not as a scientific description but why is one compelled to be an atheist if one takes evolution seriously?

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  5. Dwight said...
    I'm seeing assertion more than evidence. Why is it the case that theism and evolution can't go together? Not as a scientific description but why is one compelled to be an atheist if one takes evolution seriously?


    It is not the acceptance of evolution that absolutely necessarily makes you an atheist, it is the methodology of science that is incompatible with belief. You may be a believer and accept evolution (although I think that you are a dishonest believer in this case as your holy book, whatever it is, most likely is pretty clear on the subject) but you can not be a scientist and a believer in the same time without being intellectually dishonest. And this has to be emphasized a lot more instead of using Francis Collins as an advertisement tool for an intellectually bankrupt idea.

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  6. Georgi Marinov said...

    It is not the acceptance of evolution that absolutely necessarily makes you an atheist, it is the methodology of science that is incompatible with belief. You may be a believer and accept evolution (although I think that you are a dishonest believer in this case as your holy book, whatever it is, most likely is pretty clear on the subject) but you can not be a scientist and a believer in the same time without being intellectually dishonest. And this has to be emphasized a lot more instead of using Francis Collins as an advertisement tool for an intellectually bankrupt idea.
    An honest question, because this seems to pe popping up more and more, and I've ahd this discussion on another board I frequent several times but is holding ANY theistic view while also espousing your acceptance of scientific knowledge necessarily intellectually dishonest?

    I certainly don't want to defend Collins for instance, whose latest endeavour I think smacks of intellectual dishonesty but what about what Dawkins would term an 'Einsteinian' or Spinozan God, Pantheism in general, or certain types of Deism? IMHO Scientifically these concepts are the only theistic beliefs that I can see even being valid under NOMA, whether one agrees with NOMA in general or not. One could argue of course that these sorts of theistic ideas may be meaningless, since they essentially add nothing to the debate in the first place I suppose.

    Hmm, this whole thing was a little more rambling then I intended but it does boil down to, in principle, are ALL theistic beliefs contrary to rationalism and scientific thought or are we really only dealing with a particular subset that are? Certainly if we only look at the more Dogmatic religious beliefs they tend, overwhelmingly, to conflict with science no matter which you spin it but I can certainly think of many more general theistic philosophies and ideas that seem like they may actually be completely distinct and so holding them does not make one guilty of either intellectual dishonesty or cognitive dissonance.

    Just a thought from a fellow atheist that thinks the world would be a better place if we all moved towards rationalism and intellectual rigour.

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  7. I'll admit that the idea is quite beautiful and appealing to most. Who could deny that this diagram (wrongly) addresses how science and religion are intertwined? Be that as it may, Moran is completely right in that the diagram is purely theistic due to the fact that it even considers theism as a possibility.

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  8. ... you can not be a scientist and a believer in the same time without being intellectually dishonest. And this has to be emphasized a lot more instead of using Francis Collins as an advertisement tool for an intellectually bankrupt idea.

    You do realize that, if that is true, evolution and, indeed the rest of science, cannot be taught in American public schools. If only atheists can practice science, then it cannot be taught in our public schools except in comparative religion courses.

    Sure, an argument from consequences is no reason to change your view ... but it makes for delicious irony.

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  9. DG said:
    An honest question, because this seems to pe popping up more and more, and I've ahd this discussion on another board I frequent several times but is holding ANY theistic view while also espousing your acceptance of scientific knowledge necessarily intellectually dishonest?
    There is a difference between scientific knowledge and scientific method. What defines science is not what we have learned about the world around us but how we discover the truth about it. And this is where religion and science are completely incompatible and where a scientist who is also a believer betrays science.

    Of course, if you view science as something you do from 9 to 5 or whatever time you are in the lab,
    and that you are not bound to follow its rules of reasoning once you exit the building, you can feel comfortable going to church after that. But this is not how a scientist of Collins' caliber is viewed, it is not how he promotes his views, and IMO it is not how anyone should think of science. If you are a scientist, you are a scientist 24/7/365, not part-time.


    I certainly don't want to defend Collins for instance, whose latest endeavour I think smacks of intellectual dishonesty but what about what Dawkins would term an 'Einsteinian' or Spinozan God, Pantheism in general, or certain types of Deism? IMHO Scientifically these concepts are the only theistic beliefs that I can see even being valid under NOMA, whether one agrees with NOMA in general or not. One could argue of course that these sorts of theistic ideas may be meaningless, since they essentially add nothing to the debate in the first place I suppose.
    The problems with deism are numerous. One thing is that it does not help us at all with anything. It does not advance our understanding of the world at all and it does not really impact our lives. And it is just as unfalsifiable as any other God. The only reason the concept exists is that the much more radical concept of a God directly intervening in our lives that most people are familiar with existed before that. I very much doubt it that anyone who has never heard of any God would find it necessary to invoke deism. but again, it is not a scientifically valid concept because it is not falsifiable, it is just not in a direct contradiction with the knowledge we have accumulated since the time the Bible was written.

    The problem is that people like Collins will use deistic arguments, which one can not refute because they evade all of the contradictions of biblical creationism, then they will tell you they are Roman Catholics. A lot of people will fail to sense the breach of proper reasoning.

    I have been to one of Collins' talks presenting his book and he was talking about how God is outside the Universe, how for Him, billions of years are just an instant because time does not exist outside of the Universe, how He could have created through evolution and so on. OK, that sounds great, but where does sin fit in this, and why would such a God set us on a small planet in a remote region of a Universe so big? Or Jesus is hopping form plane to planet to save the aliens? If you use that kind of arguments to defend a specific religion, you will basically refute a lot of what your own religion teaches without realizing it. I don't think Collins is a deist, but I use him as an example of how something that is not obviously invalid (the deistic line of reasoning) but is in the same time not at all necessary or useful can be used as a tool to advance much more intellectually bankrupt and dangerous ideas.

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  11. John Pieret said...You do realize that, if that is true, evolution and, indeed the rest of science, cannot be taught in American public schools. If only atheists can practice science, then it cannot be taught in our public schools except in comparative religion courses.


    Since when is law the criteria that defines what is true and what is not, or what constitutes science and what not?

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  12. Since when is law the criteria that defines what is true and what is not, or what constitutes science and what not?

    Oooh! Dont' read very well, do you? I specifically said that it was an argument from consequences.

    Now, if a scientist has to use scientific logic only 24/7, can a scientist be in love?

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  13. I think the deistic argument is a reasonable alternative for a religion that can fit in with the scientific and rational side of the dividing line. Larry himself argued in its favor in his recent podcast interview.
    I think its much more constructive to be specific when one says religion and science CAN be compatible. Theistic evolution cannot be compatible with science because it invokes miracles - the alteration of the laws of the universe to influence the evolution of a particular species - man (think of it this way, if the Jesus resurrection story is true then this is exactly what has happened - alteration of human allele frequency due to crusades, holy wars, missionary work etc).
    A deistic non interventionist first cause can fit in with the scientific method because unlike in theistic science we do not need to worry whether any particular experimental result was a miracle or not.

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  14. I know you did not mean it serious, I just had to share the obvious objection to your argument from consequences.

    What exactly do you mean by "love"?

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  15. I think the deistic argument is a reasonable alternative for a religion that can fit in with the scientific and rational side of the dividing line. Larry himself argued in its favor in his recent podcast interview.
    I think its much more constructive to be specific when one says religion and science CAN be compatible. Theistic evolution cannot be compatible with science because it invokes miracles - the alteration of the laws of the universe to influence the evolution of a particular species - man (think of it this way, if the Jesus resurrection story is true then this is exactly what has happened - alteration of human allele frequency due to crusades, holy wars, missionary work etc).
    A deistic non interventionist first cause can fit in with the scientific method because unlike in theistic science we do not need to worry whether any particular experimental result was a miracle or not.


    Deism does us no good scientifically (i.e. it does not help us explain the Universe at all) while it can only cause harm in reality. You forget that deism is a nice concept in your mind, but what the average person on the street, who has hardly ever heard about the distinction between theism and deism, will pick from that is that there is a God and scientists accept it, then he will go to church.

    The only viable option is to directly confront any sort of religious belief, simply for the sake of making it clear that you can not be an educated person and a believer in God in the same time. The radical anti-intellectual and anti-science type of people will choose god no matter whether you try not to hurt them or not

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  16. Georgi Marinov said...

    If you use that kind of arguments to defend a specific religion, you will basically refute a lot of what your own religion teaches without realizing it. I don't think Collins is a deist, but I use him as an example of how something that is not obviously invalid (the deistic line of reasoning) but is in the same time not at all necessary or useful can be used as a tool to advance much more intellectually bankrupt and dangerous ideas.
    I should point out that I am not trying to defend any particular religious or theistic views (not that I think that you thought I was, just stressing). I acknowledged that one could argue that Deism/Pantheism/etc are pointless/meaningless, at least in a scientific context (which is the way I lean as well) but, I think others could legitimately disagree on philosophical grounds.

    And not to put too fine a point on it but there seems to be a general confusion between religious belief and theism. Religion, and specific religious beliefs, are not necessarily the same thing as theistic beliefs in general, which was my point in the first place.

    As an atheist myself I generally tend to think that many of the philosophical arguments for theism are meaningless to me but I still think it is somewhat unfair to lump theism into religion generally. One is a subset of the other, they overlap quite extensively, but they are not equivalent.

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  17. I should point out that I am not trying to defend any particular religious or theistic views (not that I think that you thought I was, just stressing). I acknowledged that one could argue that Deism/Pantheism/etc are pointless/meaningless, at least in a scientific context (which is the way I lean as well) but, I think others could legitimately disagree on philosophical grounds.

    And not to put too fine a point on it but there seems to be a general confusion between religious belief and theism. Religion, and specific religious beliefs, are not necessarily the same thing as theistic beliefs in general, which was my point in the first place.

    As an atheist myself I generally tend to think that many of the philosophical arguments for theism are meaningless to me but I still think it is somewhat unfair to lump theism into religion generally. One is a subset of the other, they overlap quite extensively, but they are not equivalent.


    I generally agree with that, however, I just want to point out again that while philosophically religion is a subset of theistic and deistic ideas, culturally and historically it is exactly the opposite - the latter exist only because there was religion before that and it had to be somehow accommodated into the new world.

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  18. I know you did not mean it serious ...

    Oh, I was quite serious about the consequences. That is the law in the United States.

    What exactly do you mean by "love"?

    Just call it an "emotion," whatever the source ... hormones, neurons firing, whatever. Can a scientist acting as one 24/7 say that she loves another person without being intellectually dishonest? Are the expression of emotions part of the logic of science?

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  19. If one takes the view that a true scientist can only use a strict evidence-based scientific method to approach every aspect of life, then science and religious belief are difficult to reconcile. That's only one opinion, however - I suspect that there are plenty of scientists who are prepared to take a different, non-scientific approach when it comes to certain religious, ethical, moral, philosophical, emotional, and personal questions - areas where science might not offer much guidance. If you excluded all such people from the ranks of true scientists, I think that the number of scientists would shrink greatly.

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  20. "Are the expression of emotions part of the logic of science?"
    Seriously, are you joking here?
    Are you actually arguing for some sort of Cartesian dualism whereby emotions are manifestations of some supernatural entity called a soul that is not amenable to experimentation, rather than the scientific consensus - they are functions of an entirely materialistic brain.

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  21. Interestingly, according to your taxonomy, Ronald Fischer, Theodosius Dobzhansky and Charles Darwin would fall "outside" your "rationalism theshold". I guess that's the kind of thing you come across when all you see is "us (brights)" and "them".

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  22. I think it is more useful to divide the continuum into belief and practice with respect to evolution, in other words:

    young earth creationism: supernaturalism
    old earth creationism: supernaturalism
    intelligent design: methodological supernaturalism
    theistic evolution: methodological naturalism
    philosophical naturalism: methodological naturalism

    I'm borrowing "methodological supernaturalism" from a post by Greg Mayer. There are some aspects of methodological supernaturalism in YEC/OEC, like belief in "microevolution," but most of it hinges on outright denial of science.

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  23. John Pieret asks,

    Can a scientist acting as one 24/7 say that she loves another person without being intellectually dishonest?

    That a really stupid question, even for a lawyer! :-)

    The answer is "yes."

    Not only that, I can observe others and conclude that they are in love without being intellectually dishonest.

    And to make it even more obvious, I can observe other animals and conclude that they care for each other. It's not being intellectually dishonest to reach such a conclusion.

    I have even more extraordinary powers when I'm being scientific. I can also say when I'm angry, sad, happy, lonely, bored, stressed, frightened, hungry, and content. I can do all of those things and still be intellectually honest.

    Isn't that amazing?

    I can even make predictions. Right now, I predict that you are frustrated. :-)

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  24. Marc says,

    Interestingly, according to your taxonomy, Ronald Fischer, Theodosius Dobzhansky and Charles Darwin would fall "outside" your "rationalism theshold".

    Yes to Fischer and Dobzhansky, no to Darwin.

    I'm not saying that people who believe in superstitions are completely incapable of having rational thoughts from time to time. What I'm saying is that there has to be a word to describe the state of those people who eschew superstition all the time.

    If that word is "rationalism" then theists do not fall into that category.

    We could substitute the word "materialism" but that wouldn't be nearly as much fun. :-)

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  25. I go to church and am a naturalist who believes in evolution. I'm not a deist as in a remote God, but some variation of pantheism (or at least that some features of our natural world can be understood as divine, as holy). Where's the superstition in that? Certainly God impacts as as much as the world does if they are one and the same at some level. And yet it is not a recourse to the supernatural.

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  27. That a really stupid question, even for a lawyer! :-)

    The answer is "yes.
    "

    Is that a "scientific" answer? Aren't you just reporting a personal "feeling"? Have you conducted tests to discover the cause? Have you done a scientific investigation? Is your answer publishable in a peer reviewed journal?

    I can even make predictions. Right now, I predict that you are frustrated. :-)

    Not particularly, since I am trying to find out what your definition of "science" is. So far, it apparently means anything you want to call it ... which isn't very scientific.

    What I'm saying is that there has to be a word to describe the state of those people who eschew superstition all the time.

    If that word is "rationalism" then theists do not fall into that category
    .

    So emotions are rational?

    And no, Martin, I'm not talking about any sort of Cartesian dualism. I'm exploring a claim that a scientist must be a scientist 24/7.

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  28. Dwight said...
    I go to church and am a naturalist who believes in evolution. I'm not a deist as in a remote God, but some variation of pantheism (or at least that some features of our natural world can be understood as divine, as holy). Where's the superstition in that? Certainly God impacts as as much as the world does if they are one and the same at some level. And yet it is not a recourse to the supernatural.


    A belief in a deity without evidence for its existence is a form of superstition. And the idea that "some features of the world can only be understood by invoking the supernatural" is exactly that. It is also anti-scientific.

    Also, I can not understand why you say that you believe in pantheism and in the same time go to church. Last time I checked the God worshiped in churches was of quite different nature

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  29. John Pieret says,

    Not particularly, since I am trying to find out what your definition of "science" is.

    That's an attempt at humor or sarcasm, right?

    I've answered that question a dozen times already. Check my previous posts.

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  30. This continuum may be helpful to some I suppose, but it's a pretty incomplete model of what's actually out there. Kinda like Dawkin's belief scale. There are probably as many different belief-system models as there are people. For example, I don't see instances of philosophical Idealism (which has many types) on the list - some types are impossible to prove wrong, and yet can be entirely compatible with science. If I was a Christian (which I am not), I would probably choose some form of Idealism, and then no one could argue with me. Of course, then I'd have to give up realism, but the latest QM experiments seem to point in that direction anyway.

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  31. I've answered that question a dozen times already. Check my previous posts.

    Sure, but there is always the question of whether you are being consistent. The question was asked in the context of Georgi's assertion that "If you are a scientist, you are a scientist 24/7/365, not part-time."

    Do you think you can be a scientist and be one less than 24 hours a day? If not, does loving your wife count as being within your definition of what is "science"?

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  32. John Pieret said...
    I've answered that question a dozen times already. Check my previous posts.

    Sure, but there is always the question of whether you are being consistent. The question was asked in the context of Georgi's assertion that "If you are a scientist, you are a scientist 24/7/365, not part-time."

    Do you think you can be a scientist and be one less than 24 hours a day? If not, does loving your wife count as being within your definition of what is "science"?
    You are using "love" as a fallacy to imply that somehow one can not be free of irrational behavior. This is absolutely true, one can not be completely free of irrational behavior because we are wired to behave like that in certain situations.

    The more important question is whether one is allowed to behave irrationally when he can just as well behave rationally, especially if one's vocation is to think and act rationally. Again, if you view science as a job, you are perfectly free to think and do whatever you want when you are not doing science, as long as you are being rigorous enough when practicing it. However science is not a job, it is a method of discovering the truth about the world around us, with jobs being associated with it being necessitated by the structure of the society we live in, and because of that it is intellectual dishonesty and nothing else to claim that two different incompatible ways of viewing and thinking about the world can peacefully coexist in your mind.

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  33. However science is not a job, it is a method of discovering the truth about the world around us, with jobs being associated with it being necessitated by the structure of the society we live in, and because of that it is intellectual dishonesty and nothing else to claim that two different incompatible ways of viewing and thinking about the world can peacefully coexist in your mind.

    So, I repeat, is the personal emotion of love experienced by a scientist, unexamined by scientific means, an incompatible method of discovering the truth about the world, specifically himself and those around him/her from science?

    Enough playing at Socrates: Georgi has made an absolutist claim about scientists that no human being can accomplish. No human being is a "rationalist" (in Larry's formulation) all of the time ... perhaps not most of the time. You have to go further and show why theists' irrationalism is somehow different in kind from your own.

    Whatever arguments you can make against the compatibility of science and religion, this one is obviously false and merely make you look silly and ... well ... irrational.

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  34. I don't know if it was deliberate or not but you just committed the dreaded crime of quote-mining....

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  35. I don't know if it was deliberate or not but you just committed the dreaded crime of quote-mining....

    I'm more than willing to listen and correct it if I have. More interesting would be an explanation of how I've misrepresented your position ... if I have.

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  36. I clearly stated that there are situations in which we are biologically wired to behave in certain ways. And we are in the process of understanding the mechanisms behind these in greater and greater detail.

    It is the situations in which you can think and act rationally but you choose not to that I am talking about. I explained this above.

    If you want my honest opinion, I will tell you that 'love' as it is portrayed in our culture is an artificial concept that does not really exist in reality, and that when you view the process on a molecular and biochemical level, your question becomes meaningless.

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  37. If you want my honest opinion, I will tell you that 'love' as it is portrayed in our culture is an artificial concept that does not really exist in reality, and that when you view the process on a molecular and biochemical level, your question becomes meaningless.

    So, any scientist who thinks she or he is in love, can think and act rationally but chooses not to by continuing to think they are in love, is not a scientist in your opinion? Dang, you just reduced the ranks by quite a lot. Larry, are you willing to keep your status as a scientist and rationalist by denying that you are in love with your wife and daughter?

    For reasons that should now be obvious, I don't think I quote mined you at all.

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  38. That's absolutely not what I said, read it again

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  39. @ John Pieret,

    Yes, one can be a scientist without using the scientific method in every possible situation.

    That said, your implication that believing oneself to be in love is an example of non-scientific and/or irrational behavior is wrong. We've been through that before.

    Of course, it depends on how one defines love. If love is thought to be some supernatural force that exists independent of humans, then belief in that would obviously be non-scientific (since there's no evidence for such force).

    However, if love is simply a term that describes a particular human state and set of behaviors, there's nothing unscientific about it. You seem to imply that because a scientist must observe his own feelings and actions to judge whether he is in love, that any conclusion he reaches is non-scientific. I don't agree at all. His conclusion may well be tentative, given the potential bias in his observations, but so what? Scientists have to deal with bias every day, and reach the best conclusion they can despite that bias. This case is no different.

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  40. That's absolutely not what I said, read it again.

    Heh. The non-answer. The only explanation I can see is that you think Larry and other scientists are biologically wired to behave as if they're in love and cannot act or think rationally about it. But you have been able to think rationally about it. Why couldn't they?

    In any event, now that you have revealed the "truth" to him, if he goes on thinking he loves his wife or even continues to speak to her as if it is something more than a molecular and biochemical phenomena, but chooses not to tell her the truth despite the fact that he could act rationally, does he forfit his status as a scientist? Isn't absolute honesty part of science?

    And, anyway, to take it from another direction, how did you determine that love is biologically wired but belief in a god isn't? The fact that some people aren't so wired doesn't demonstrate that all people aren't. Not all people have blue eyes but that doesn't mean blue eyes isn't biologically wired. If you cut Larry slack about love, why not Ken Miller about belief in a god?

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  41. Not again, please.

    We maybe wired with certain predisposition to religious thinking, but we are by no means so wired with it that a good education and, most importantly, sparing the child the indoctrination into it in the early years of his life, can't overcome.

    100% of people were religious back in the days, now it is around 90%. The most parsimonious explanation for that is that it simply became culturally possible to not believe, not that those 10% somehow became unwired.

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  42. ... we are by no means so wired with it that a good education and, most importantly, sparing the child the indoctrination into it in the early years of his life, can't overcome.

    And your scientific evidence for that is? A peer reviewed paper would be nice.

    100% of people were religious back in the days, now it is around 90%. The most parsimonious explanation for that is that it simply became culturally possible to not believe, not that those 10% somehow became unwired.

    Oh, please! The hypothesis that there has always been some percentage of unwired people who culturally could not safely express their unbelief and therefore hid it is just as parsimonious. In fact, I'd say that is by far the most reasonable explanation unless you can demonstrate any other complex trait that 100% of humans demonstrate.

    If you want to be scientific while maintaining that belief in god is susceptible to being overcome by reason while love is not (or, conversely, that love is not just a biologically wired predisposition that is as easily overcome by reason), you are going to have to do better than bare assertions.

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  43. You are positing the existence of a wiring for religion, while I am not. This automatically makes your hypothesis less parsimonious than mine, and because hard data in support or refuting any of the two is scarce, I will have to go with mine

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  44. A few quick thoughts

    If I'm appealing to something in nature as holy then I'm not appealing to anything supernatural. Also if I'm appealing to some feature of nature then there is not a question of existence or non existence. And yes there are more liberal churches where my thought is fully in line with it. So again, I'm not sure where this necessary rupture between evolution and religion must happen. I know it can, ie creationism. But your claim is stronger than that.

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  45. Dwight, the disconnect between science and religion occurs when you have a belief that invokes either miracles or the intervention of a 'supernatural' being into the natural world. Miracles would mean we cannot trust the results of scientific experiments (any result could be a miracle rather than a reproducible result of natural laws). A supernatural being intervening in the natural world, through revelation etc, would certainly break the known laws of the universe since it would involve some new energy impacting our neurons for us to detect and 'feel' this intervention.
    A religion that doesnt believe in supernatural beings or miracles or revelation is much closer to being in harmony with the scientific method than the standard religion we see in modern societies.

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  46. You are positing the existence of a wiring for religion, while I am not.

    No, I am asking why you attribute some irrational behavior to biological wiring and not others. Even you have admitted that humans may be wired with "certain predispositions" to religious thinking (and there is a fairly extensive evolutionary psychology literature, such as from Pascal Boyer, Dan Dennett and others, on biological origins of religion).

    Simply asserting that there is no such biological origin because hard data in support or refuting either is scarce is not parsimonious ... or scientific. You have to at least demonstrate some difference between them.

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