Thursday, August 12, 2010

AAAS Accommodationism

 
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) sponsors a program called DoSER (Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion). As you might imagine, it's basically a cover for presenting the accommodationist position. There's very little "dialogue" going on.

On June 16th they held a forum to honor the new director, Jennifer Wiseman, an astronomer, a Christian, and a member of the American Scientific Affiliation. In order to belong to this group you must agree to the following statement ...
I believe in the whole Bible as originally given, to be the inspired word of God, the only unerring guide to faith and conduct. Since God is the Author of this Book, as well as the Creator and sustainer of the physical world about us, I cannot conceive of discrepancies between statements in the Bible and the real facts of science.
William Phillips was awarded the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics. Here's his talk from the June 16th meeting.



The main theme is civility. A good example of civility is when Phillips accuses New Atheist of saying that Francis Collins was unfit to be director of NIH solely because he believes in God. Like many accommodationists, Phillips is confused about the difference between civility and dialogue. If you oppose religion, then you are uncivil. If you are religious, then you can say anything you damn well please about atheists without being uncivil, as long as you say it with a gentle, soothing, voice.


12 comments :

  1. thousands of years of war, bigotry, and anti-science is civil, while criticism of it is uncivil?

    I encourage Larry to begin grouping Collins with the rest of the IDiots. He may give lip service to the compatibility of evolution and Christianity but he offers a supernatural act of creation of the human soul and "free will". Also he believes in the strong anthropic principle. Both are intelligent design, both are unscientific, so he's unfit for NIH on those grounds, not because he believes in God (although that is unscientific also)

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  2. This doesn't really wash. Criticizing Collins's religious views is fine. Calling for, basically, his head (job), and basically arguing that a Christian, otherwise eminently qualified, shouldn't head the NIH, basically just because he's Christian, was and is beyond the pale. It was uncivil, and worse, if the recommendation had been acted on, it would have been illegal under the U.S. Constitution and under laws banning religious discrimination in the workplace, and particularly the public governmental workplace.

    A fair amount of this kind of rhetoric really was coming from the New Atheist crowd, and it deserves to be rebutted and critiqued.

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  3. NickM,

    Please provide evidence that Collin is "eminently qualified". He nearly bungled the human genome project. Now he runs the NIH. Add to this his creationist stance, and there are real reasons to feel he not the best person to be influencing science policy in the US.

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  4. Calling for, basically, his head (job), and basically arguing that a Christian, otherwise eminently qualified, shouldn't head the NIH, basically just because he's Christian, was and is beyond the pale. It was uncivil...

    If it had actually happened that way, perhaps it would have been considered uncivil. But that's not what I saw. I saw Collins criticized not for being a Christian, but for being a proselytizer who had used his previous position as head of the Human Genome Project to back up his proselytization, and writing a book purporting to present scientific evidence for the existence of his god; a book which showed a very poor understanding of fields of science in which Collins is not an expert (e.g. cosmology and the study of morality), and for his involvement in BioLogos, which has published some very stoopid things concerning science.

    It is a pity that so many apologists for Christianity are so profligate in bearing false witness. It makes me want to use a word that begins with 'H.'

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  5. NickM says,

    A fair amount of this kind of rhetoric really was coming from the New Atheist crowd, and it deserves to be rebutted and critiqued.

    Please name some prominent New Atheists who did this. I don't know of any.

    On a related note, do you think it's civil to tell atheists to shut up because they might be hurting the cause of accommodationism?


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  6. If it had actually happened that way, perhaps it would have been considered uncivil. But that's not what I saw. I saw Collins criticized not for being a Christian, but for being a proselytizer who had used his previous position as head of the Human Genome Project to back up his proselytization, and writing a book purporting to present scientific evidence for the existence of his god; a book which showed a very poor understanding of fields of science in which Collins is not an expert (e.g. cosmology and the study of morality), and for his involvement in BioLogos, which has published some very stoopid things concerning science.

    That's not the only problem with the book. Now, admittedly, this isn't exactly my field, but anyone with basic understanding of the neutral theory of molecular evolution can see that there is absolutely no way to reconcile with Christian theology without either:

    1) Reducing it to "God did it" through divine intervention on the molecular or, as they were claiming on the BioLogos website, on the "quantum level". Which is different from creationism only in that it allows for common descent and change through time, other than that it is as anti-scientific as things get

    2) Completely discarding God from the process, which basically makes the whole edifice of Christianity crumble.

    The problem is that as the head of the Human Genome Project and coauthor on many papers that explicitly deal with evolution, there is now way that he isn't aware of that. And in general, all the arguments in the book are of the "Fine tunning, therefore Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior", which defy basic logic. So how he is handling the cognitive dissonance is completely beyond my ability to understand.

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  7. So Wiseman, the new DoSER director, belongs to an organization which seeks to convince ignorant YECs to become relatively enlightened OECs and perhaps even TEs. Well, I suppose that is better than nothing.

    I thought that Wiseman's talk was moderately interesting. Apparently, the DoSER program had been moribund for 3 years, but then the AAAS got a grant from (guess who!) Templeton, so the program is starting up again. Wiseman showed a slide listing three possible relationships which might exist between Religion and Science:

    * Conflict
    * Contrast (aka NOMA)
    * Contact

    She favors Contact which she defines as a dialog allowing Religion to learn from Science. Yes, on her slide the information flow was one-directional. But later in her talk she slipped up and used language suggesting that both sides have something to learn from the dialog.

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  8. I can't say I'm surprised that the level of extremism here. Perhaps you should all just get to the main issue and argue that anyone who supports the "Jewish influence" should be censored, fired, etc.

    The irony of nature based paganism these days:
    ...but he offers a supernatural act of creation of the human soul and "free will". Also he believes in the strong anthropic principle. Both are intelligent design, both are unscientific...

    So it would seem that whatever is natural is scientific and so on. But what if Collins said that free will had to do with another universe and that the Creator was another sentient universe and so on? Would that be natural enough? Somehow I doubt it given that the real issue seems to be the elimination of Jewish creation stories and nothing else.

    Or is it simply that all the stories that biologists tell are scientific and all the stories of others mere superstitions?

    E.g.…Lee Smolin added an ingenious Darwinian spin which reduces the apparent statistical improbability of our existence. In Smolin’s model, universes give birth to daughter universes, which vary in their laws and constants. Daughter universes are born in black holes produced by a parent universe, and they inherit its laws and constants but with some small possibility of random change–’mutation’. Those daughter universes that have what it takes to reproduce (last long enough to make black holes, for instance) are, of course, the universes that pass their laws and constants to their daughters. ….
    So universes that have what it takes to make stars are favoured in this cosmic Darwinism.
    (The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins :91)


    Will you argue that there's a big difference between "scientific" stories of that sort and other creation myths?

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  9. So it would seem that whatever is natural is scientific and so on. But what if Collins said that free will had to do with another universe and that the Creator was another sentient universe and so on? Would that be natural enough? Somehow I doubt it given that the real issue seems to be the elimination of Jewish creation stories and nothing else.

    Last time I checked, Hindu creation stories were dismissed by scientists in exactly the same way Jewish creation stories are. Regarding your question - anything that's claimed as true and for which there is no evidence, i.e. is pretty much made up, will be attacked on the basis of it being made up.

    Lee Smolin's model is exactly that - a model. He isn't going around claiming "See, that's how the universe works, case close, you aren't allowed to question this view, let's stop waisting time doing research and all start praising the multiverse". No, he presents a model for how things may be, a hypothesis.

    He doesn't use faith anywhere to justify it. Now find the differences...

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  10. Please name some prominent New Atheists who did this. I don't know of any.

    E.g.
    The openly religious stance of the NIH director [Francis Collins] could have undesirable effects on science education in the United States.
    ("Of faith and reason," Nature Immunology, Vol. 11(5):357 (May 2010)


    The publication of the book has great potential to reignite some nagging doubts over the election of Francis Collins as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Many hoped that after his nomination he would refrain from publicly discussing his religious convictions and step down from projects such as Biologos [Actually he did, although it's not clear why he should have to.], which attempts to reconcile evolution with the idea of God. This, however, has not been the case, and although most agree that Francis Collins is a skilled administrator, there are justified concerns that such public embrace of religion from an influential scientist may have negative consequences on science education.

    ....
    . . Given that US culture has a tendency to blur the distinction between man and office, the nomination of someone with strong evangelical convictions as the director of the NIH can further muddle the creationist versus- evolutionist debate in science education.


    This is actually illegal thanks to the principles typical to supporters of ID like the American Founders. It's interesting how those with the Darwinian urge to merge seem to tend toward control and censorship of language and thought, naturally.

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  11. Last time I checked, Hindu creation stories were dismissed by scientists in exactly the same way Jewish creation stories are.

    They are not dismissed, most scientists do not care or treat it as a matter of personal faith for historical reasons. In contrast, evolutionists have made a habit of claiming that their creation myths are superior to all. In fact, some claim that they are scientific. Indeed, some have even claimed that they are the epistemic equivalent of scientific facts like the earth being round or scientific theories like the theory of gravity.

    Regarding your question - anything that's claimed as true and for which there is no evidence...

    Even if there were no scientific evidence to support one creation myth over another that would not mean that there was merely "no evidence."

    E.g.
    Perhaps a simple illustration will help convince us that science is limited. Let us imagine that my Aunt Matilda has baked a beautiful cake and we take it along to be analyzed by a group of the world’s top scientists. I, as master of ceremonies, ask them for an explanation of the cake and they go to work. The nutrition scientists will tell us about the number of calories in the cake and its nutritional effect; the biochemists will inform us about the structure of the proteins, fats etc. in the cake; the chemists, about the elements involved and their bonding; the physicists will be able to analyze the cake in terms of fundamental particles; and the mathematicians will no doubt offer us a set of elegant equations to describe the behaviour of those particles.
    Now that these experts, each in terms of his or her scientific discipline, have given us an exhaustive description of the cake, can we say that the cake is completely explained? We have certainly been given a description of how the cake was made and bow its various constituent elements relate to each other, but suppose I now ask the assembled group of experts a final question: Why was the cake made? The grin on Aunt Matilda’s face shows she knows the answer, for she made the cake, and she made it for a purpose. But all the nutrition scientists, biochemists, chemists, physicists and mathematicians in the world will not be able to answer the question — and it is no insult to their disciplines to state their incapacity to answer it. Their disciplines, which can cope with questions about the nature and structure of the cake, that is, answering the ‘how’ questions, cannot answer the ‘why’ questions connected with the purpose for which the cake was made. In fact, the only way we shall ever get an answer is if Aunt Matilda reveals it to us.
    (God’s Undertaker:
    Has Science Buried God?
    by John Lennox :40)


    ...i.e. is pretty much made up...

    It seems that in your view there is science, whatever it is, and everything else is pretty much made up.

    Lee Smolin's model is exactly that - a model.

    Actually it's a story, much like other stories. In fact, you could compare it to other creation myths quite easily.

    He isn't going around claiming "See, that's how the universe works, case close, you aren't allowed to question this view, let's stop waisting time doing research and all start praising the multiverse".

    The history of science shows that Jewish creation stories are not the "science stopper" that some portray them to be. And it's odd how some of the most fervent supporters of evolutionary creation myths have a history of pseudo-science, e.g. the Nazis and the eugenics movement. If anything Jewish tradition seems to benefit science, not stop it. It's not as if the Nazis discrimination against Jewish physicists helped them. You and the rest of your Herd have asserted it often enough but where is the actual historical evidence that Jewish creation stories, i.e. creationism, stops science?

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  12. Criticizing Collins's religious views is fine. Calling for, basically, his head (job), and basically arguing that a Christian, otherwise eminently qualified, shouldn't head the NIH, basically just because he's Christian, was and is beyond the pale.

    So is spewing ignorantly about what happened. Presuming you aren't lying about what happened.

    Collins wrote The Language of God which was a tour-de-force of Christian-Ignorance, Christian- apologetics and intellectual/science-bankruptcy verging on suicidal.

    Collins argues for (in the book and elsewhere):

    (1) Fine tuning, that is the universe was specifically created for human life.

    (2)Theistic evolution, that is evolution was designed and controlled by God.

    (3) When humans were sufficiently "evolved" God gave the souls, free will and the knowledge of good and evil.

    (4) All that crap about Jesus is true.

    (5) Morals (moral law) all come from God.

    Or, as Collins actually said:

    As believers, you are right to hold fast to the concept of God as Creator; you are right to hold fast to the truths of the Bible; you are right to hold fast to the conclusion that science offers no answers to the most pressing questions of human existence; and you are right to hold fast to the certainty that the claims of atheistic materialism must be steadfastly resisted…. (Collins, 2006, p.178)

    e.g. The claims of science, which is materialistic and atheistic in it's approach, must be resisted.

    Seriously, the guy is anti-science and going through the motions. He's the equivalent of the atheist preacher who continues to preach in the ignorance he no longer believes.

    And this is why Francis Collins should not be the head of the NIH. It'd be like making me the Pope.

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