Friday, February 07, 2014

Jason Rosenhouse agrees that evolution is a threat to religion

Jason Rosenhouse also read the accommodationist article by Phil Plait [The Creation of Debate] and he also sees the problem.

I argued that, contrary to what Phil Plait believes, evolution is a threat to all superstitious beliefs, including those of theistic evolution creatinists (see my post at: The real war is between rationalism and superstition).

Read Jason Rosenhouse's post at: It’s Not Just Fundamentalist Religion That Has A Problem With Evolution. Here's the important part ....
So, after all, that, let us return to Plait’s argument. He tells us that the problem is too many people perceiving evolution as a threat to their religious beliefs. Indeed, but why do they perceive it that way? Is it a failure of messaging on the part of scientists? Is it because Richard Dawkins or P. Z. Myers make snide remarks about religion? No, those are not the reasons.

It is because these people have noticed all the same problems the scholars of Darwin’s time were writing about. It is because evolution really does conflict with their religious beliefs, but not because of an overly idiosyncratic interpretation of one part of the Bible. It is because the version of evolution that so worried the religious scholars of Darwin’s time, that of a savage, non-teleological process that produced humanity only as an afterthought, is precisely the version that has triumphed among modern scientists. And it is because the objections raised to that version of evolution in the nineteenth century have not lost any of their force today.

So I think the issue is just a tad more complex than Plait suggests. It manifestly is not the case that only the most narrow of fundamentalists has a problem with evolution. Evolution challenges the Bible, refutes the argument from design, exacerbates the problem of evil, and strongly challenges any notion that humanity plays a central role in creation. These are not small points, and Plait needs to acknowledge them.
I hope Phil Plait is listening.

I hope Ken Miller, Francis Collins, and Simon Conway-Morris are listening. They are not on my side in this war.


39 comments :

  1. I understand and respect your point of view. As a matter of fact, I am inclined to concur that religion constitutes superstition, but not entirely.

    But let’s say you are correct and that when push comes to shove evolution and religion will prove irreconcilable antipodes.

    I do not want to go there… at least not yet! I will not allow myself to follow that line of reasoning which I consider a distraction to the main issue here!

    First let us push the point that evolution is both fact and theory (as good as it gets in science).

    Our first priority is the education of our children and the powers-that-be that have undue and undeserved influence on curriculum. If we declare ourselves at the outset as enemies of religion, we are taking on too many fronts in this war (and as a German I cringe at the mention of two front wars)

    Instead let us declare ourselves champions of truth allowing the truth lead us where it will. Do not declare at the outset religion is superstition… that only raises hackles and alienates those whom we desire to convince otherwise.

    Also - We must not fall into the enemies' trap!

    Under no circumstances dare we permit the FALSE dichotomy that religious and empirical POVs are mutually exclusive. It is possible to simultaneously embrace religion and embrace evolution.

    As I mentioned earlier, By alienating mainstream religion - we are making a tactical error of brobdingnagian proportions!!!! We need to think like chess masters. Do not be lured by the enemy into debating traps that would lose our cause valuable public support.

    Would it not be better to demonstrate dignity and class with soft suasion and gently entice gainsayers into our camp?

    ITMT – let us examine this question.

    I have repeatedly read here on this forum that IDiots are foolhardy and that empirical method cannot address the super-natural. Sauce for the Empircal Goose is sauce for the Religious Gander. Religion is by definition super-natural and according to Karl Popper’s criterion of falsifiability science is in fact neutral regarding religion.

    Scientists may have anti-religious opinions… fair enough – as do I. The fact remains that these opinions are just that… opinions and by no means founded in the empirical method. How could they be!?

    ITMT – many who do profess to spiritual inclinations sincerely profess that (again in their OPINION) faith does not contradict evolution. As a matter of fact, some spiritual traditions embrace evolution as a basis of faith! I refer you to a very interesting read that claims spirtuality and evolution are flip sides of the same coin: http://tinyurl.com/mdtk978

    So I strongly urge you to employ forbearance and pick and choose your battles carefully.

    My last thought… I am begging you please not to make my job in the high school classroom more difficult than it already is.

    I tell my students – “Hey I am not trying to convince you your religious beliefs are incorrect. I am only asking you to hear me out and wrap your heads around what evolutionary theory really is and what it is not. If you want me to respect your POV – you owe me that much. BTW - science is neutral on the subject of religion."

    I have found by long experience that I have “won” more students over by this approach than by alienating them at the outset as I was once wont to do.

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    1. Instead let us declare ourselves champions of truth allowing the truth lead us where it will.

      Sounds good to me.

      The first rule of critical thinking is "question everything!"

      Your rule seems to be "question everything except religious beliefs." Are there any other questions that are out-of-bounds in your classroom?

      If you teach science correctly, your students will quickly see that the "truth" that comes from the scientific way of knowing conflicts with what they are told in church. Don't they ever ask you about that? If not, why not?

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  2. Excellent rebutal with a kernel of truth therein...

    ... fact is I am by law and contract not to mention porfessional code of conduct constrained from questioning religious belief in the classroom as a highschool teacher.

    ... the second fact is that even if I were able to do so, I wouldn't. I consider such questions posed at the outset, as distractions to more improtant questions that should take priority, as I mentioned above.

    I agree - you pose valid questions. Your own answers still constitute non-empirical opinion (again as explained above). Ands as far as important and valid questions go... I repeat there is a time and place for everything
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Y7P4n2uT0w

    ;-)

    best regards,
    as always I am in your debt.

    ps - who won last monday's contest? (... he asks hopefully) ;-)

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  3. Consensus among all but hard-core YECs is that Nye did better than expected, but really Ham lost it more than Nye won it. Instead of answering Nye's many arguments against a 6000-year-old creation and an Ark, Ham kept going back to the Bible and making it clear how little he valued evidence. I think he alienated any undecideds.

    Creationist debaters are in general dangerous, because the debate format inherently gives them a strong advantage. But in this case Ham proved either klutzy or constrained by his followers, so most commenters have given the win to Nye.

    The video is easily findable online, so watch it yourself and tell us your thoughts.

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    1. Hi Joe,

      I did not bother to watch and have no intention of watching the Nye Ham debate. I have been there – done that and frankly I have better things to occupy my free time with.

      Here is one opinion from a Canadian perspective, which cites a POV I completely agree with

      “Jerry Coyne, an evolution professor at the University of Chicago, wrote on his blog that "Nye's appearance will be giving money to organizations who try to subvert the mission Nye has had all his life: science education, particularly of kids." Coyne pointed out that the Creation Museum will be selling DVDs of the event.”

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/bill-nye-debates-creation-museum-s-ken-ham-on-evolution-earth-s-origin-1.2523756

      I agree with Coyne, IDiots are playing us all like fiddles in the public forum.

      שייגעץ ;-)

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    2. שייגעץ

      I knew your pseudonym sounded familiar ;-)

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  4. Laurence, you wrote: "I hope Ken Miller, Francis Collins, and Simon Conway-Morris are listening." I am always listening. I just disagree with you on this important point.

    - Ken Miller

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    1. My point is that many New Atheists are opposed to all beliefs in gods. Therefore it makes no sense for us to team up with certain Christians in order to fight against religion.

      What part of that do you disagree with?

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    2. Dunno about Ken Miller, but I disagree with your monolithic "us or them" rhetoric. There are degrees of religious absurdity, not a simple line with us on one side and them on the other. And while I think that Ken Ham needs to be confronted, I don't think it's as important to confront Ken Miller. And yes, he's a valuable ally against the creationists. He clearly isn't a valuable ally against religion in general, but there are many battles, and the sides may not always be the same.

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    3. I agree that there are many battles. If the most important battle for you at the moment is to keep extreme forms of creationism out of American schools then it might be good tactics to form an alliance with those who advocate weaker versions of creationism.

      I don't fight that specific battle so those accommodationist tactics don't interest me. The point I'm making is exactly the same as the one you make. I resent it when people like Phil Plait assume that there's only one battle and every atheist has to be on his side.

      But there is another issue. While it may be good tactics to ally with moderate Christians it some cases, it means that all the alliies have to agree on what they say. The have to present a common front. If the Christians insist on saying that there's no conflict between science and religion then some athiest allies are going to disagree. If the Christian allies testify in court that science can't answer certain questions that only religion can answer then that's a problem for some atheist allies. If the Christian allies quote the Pope as an authority on evolution then they aren't being very good members of the alliance because they are putting their atheist allies in an awkward position.

      Finally, if the Christian allies insist that there's scientific proof for the existence of god(s) and that miracles don't conflict with science, what are the atheist allies supposed to do? It turns out that the accommodation is very one-sided in such an alliance and it makes for a difficult relationship.

      Some atheists are comfortable with that relationship and they are able to bite their tongue when their Christian allies are making claims that atheists know to be false.

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    4. I see no real problem with occasional disagreements among allies. We agree on some things and disagree on others. I for one can deal with that, and also see no need to bite my tongue. Nor do I see why one has to fight only the single battle one thinks is most important.

      Ken Miller, for example, does make the occasional claim that I'm pretty sure is false (I hate to go with "I know", but that's scientific caution for you), and I'm perfectly willing to argue such claims at any relevant time. Doesn't keep him from being good at beating on creationists.

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    5. Re: “My point is that many New Atheists are opposed to all beliefs in gods. Therefore it makes no sense for us to team up with certain Christians in order to fight against religion.

      What part of that do you disagree with?”

      Answer: I disagree with your unnecessary focus on “certain Christians” and your false dichotomy… I think it dangerous to be unnecessarily cornered into a trap:

      “…You're either with us, or against us!”

      This constitutes an informal fallacy (as the Jesuits would term it) …
      … not to mention an explanatory response to steve oberski’s puerile “Kemo Sabe shit” retort above.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You're_either_with_us,_or_against_us

      As I have been saying along, there exists the third (and IMHO only cogent) option – science is patently neutral on religion. How could it be otherwise!?

      As mentioned above: Idiot arguments are specious because the empirical method cannot address the super-natural. However, sauce for the Empirical Goose is sauce for the Religious Gander. Religion is by definition super-natural; so, according to Karl Popper’s criterion of falsifiability science is in fact neutral regarding religion. All we can say – questions regarding religion and spirituality cannot be addressed by the empirical method.

      ITMT - PZ Myers beautifully demonstrated the problem that has become a real crisis in America (although according to my thesis, PZ is part of the problem and an impediment to the solution)

      http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/01/27/an-understated-map-of-the-problem/

      Consider, IDiots like Egnorant who are successfully managing to portray the teaching of Evolution in the curriculum as an overt attack on religion.

      If school administrators are convinced this argument has merit, they would have no choice but to accede to the remainder of the Idiot thesis.

      Ergo the IDiot’s salient premise justifying the introduction of so-called alternative theories to BALANCE "Evolution as an anti-religious POV".

      For G-d’s sake (irony intended) do not grant the IDiots this easily avoidable loop-hole – a most generous gift on our part for their illicit cause!

      Consider this alternative for just one instance: Science in general and Evolutionary Theory in particular are patently neutral regarding religious belief. It is logically possible to simultaneously embrace both and as a matter of fact, most mainstream religions/denominations do just that.

      Now convince school boards that this statement is true.

      Egnorant and his ilk would be left in a most vexing predicament. On what basis now, could IDiots possibly justify their cause to powers-that-be who would prefer not to rock any administrative boat unnecessarily?

      BTW – why your focus on “certain Christians”?

      Your unfortunate turn of pharse could a priori be interpreted as predjudice.

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    6. Re Larry Moran

      Sometimes, when one is up against it, one has to aline oneself with allies who may not be entirely to their liking. For instance, Churchill, who was a strong anti-Communist, when he was up against it in 1941 found it expedient to ally Britain with the former Soviet Union against the more dangerous enemy, Nazi Germany.

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    7. colnago80

      Ironically – to his credit, Larry is exhibiting a paradigm of scriptural imperative: Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof... loosely interpreted that when confronted with "wrong" - inaction constitutes complicity with "wrong"... or ... Inaction is not an option when confronted with evil.

      I respect and admire Larry and other like-minded champions of truth who refuse to be indifferent when confronted with silly superstition.

      The prime directive still remains

      Primum non nocere

      ITMT - I object to your WW II metaphor: either you are part of the Resistance or you are a Collaborator.

      There is another option to "accomodation"... its called indifference or neutrality vis–à–vis religion

      (N.B. religion is not to be confused with silly superstition)

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    8. @ Larry

      Re: “While it may be good tactics to ally with moderate Christians it some cases, it means that all the alliies have to agree on what they say. “

      Why do you say that? To continue with WW II metaphors, The Soviet Union and America proved good allies against Hitler. Surely you do not suggest their success was contingent on agreement with everything each other said?

      Re: “The have to present a common front. If the Christians insist on saying that there's no conflict between science and religion then some atheist allies are going to disagree.”

      Yeah so what?… are you suggesting that unanimous consensus on each and every item on each and every agenda is required to move forward on important questions?

      Re: “ If the Christian allies testify in court that science can't answer certain questions that only religion can answer then that's a problem for some atheist allies. If the Christian allies quote the Pope as an authority on evolution then they aren't being very good members of the alliance because they are putting their atheist allies in an awkward position.”

      I remain most perplexed: Why not defy the Idiots with the Vatican’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species where Pentecostal and Evangelical IDiots were specifically told they were most unwelcome to attend.

      Exactly what is your issue with EDWARD M. DE ROBERTIS inaugural lecture on evodevo upon his admission into the Pontifical Academy of Sciences?

      http://www.hhmi.ucla.edu/derobertis/EDR_MS/Evo-Devo_page/EVO-DEVO.html

      But your points are moot!

      In our common battle against IDiocy, if others are comfortable with so-called “accommodation” (whatever that is supposed to mean)… let it be.

      In our common battle against IDiocy, if you are uncomfortable with so-called “accommodation”… so be it… just disregard them and ignore the distraction.



      Here is a little Gedankenexperiment: I think there is little question that Bill Nye would always prove a better protagonist in public debate against IDiots than either yourself or PZ Myers, even though both of you have a far superior command of science than Nye by far! Ask your fans and followers here…

      Remember, I say this all to both your credit in hope that together we can in future better oppose a common foe…

      All I am suggesting – is that you stop and reflect. What are your goals? Are your actions the best way to achieve the most important goals? If not, what could be done differently?

      That’s it… I am out of here. I got more important things to do with my time. Family beckons.

      I’ll keep following you on twitter and jump back in when you start discussing science again.

      Best,warmest and grateful regards,

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    9. @colnago80

      Are you saying that there's such a desperate situation in Canada that I have to seek an alliance with a group that's as despicable as Stalin's USSR was in 1941? What comparable group are you thinking about?

      And what kind of situation am I "up against" that would justify such an action?

      BTW, I don't need history lessons on World War II. Let me remind you that the reason why Churchill was so desperate in June 1941 was because his preferred ally was ignoring Hitler and wouldn't enter the war for another six months.

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    10. Re Larry Moran

      Are you saying that there's such a desperate situation in Canada that I have to seek an alliance with a group that's as despicable as Stalin's USSR was in 1941?

      Not at all. I apologize for not making it clear that I was referring to the situation in Canada's southern neighbor. AFAIK, the creationists have far less influence in Canada then they do in the US (although I don't know about the situation in Alberta) so there is no need for Prof. Moran to ally himself with folks like Ken Miller and Francis Collins whose philosophical views differ radically from his own. The situation in the US is quite different where the creationists have far more influence. Obviously, the analogy with Churchill and Stalin is an exaggeration, although the presence of fascist theocrats like the followers of Rouses Rushdoony in the creationist movement in the US is not something to be taken lightly. I would point out that the Dishonesty Institute is partially funded by one of Rushdooney's followers, Howard Ahmanson Jr. who inherited a fortune from his father. To put it another way, we need all the help we can get and although the situation is slowly improving down here, we're not out of the woods yet.

      I would also point out that there is some backsliding going on in Great Britain where religious schools supported by the government are teaching creationism.

      http://goo.gl/xcfKzk

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  5. There has been 5 million people watch the historic debate between Ham and Nye.
    I understand it might go to 10 or 20 million.
    This teaches that many people care to ponder over science and religion .
    This because in certain subjects certain conclusions are said to prove the bible wrong or God not in evidence in nature.
    In the old days it was said in obscure circles but now through technology its preached that the bible is wrong etc.By TV and everything.
    So a reaction too this happened and here we are with a revolution that will sweep away evolutionism and company.
    Yes taking on Protestant and Catholic christianity was a big deal.
    Friends of evolution try to say its not opposed to God or even the bible but of coarse it is.
    Everyone stop bellyaching and settle down for a dogfight.
    This means no hiding. Come out and debate. Ham clobbered nye, as usual, and is a watershed in YEC aggression
    It was a disaster for anti-bible people.
    Ham is the new celebrity in origin subjects in America. He is a historical person. Nye is just a protagonist in the story.
    I can truly say its almost embarrassing how successful this debate was for creationism. Only bigger debates on network tv could top it.
    Its the talk of the science world.

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  6. John, I agree with you.

    When I gave a presentation on ID to the religious freedom committee of a large Jewish Reform temple here, and they cheered me, was I supposed to say "No, stop. You have to give up religion first."

    When we are organizing people against some noxious attempt to sneak creationism into public school biology classes, and an Episcopalian shows up and wants to help, are we supposed to say "Oh yeah? What about the Virgin Birth?"

    Why aren't evolutionary biologists constantly having to beat off waves of attacking Unitarians, Quakers, and Buddhists?

    An approach that kisses off all these people doesn't make sense to me. And no, I am not arguing that science has discovered evidence of a Deity.

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    1. This is a bit of a straw man.

      There is indeed no need to pick up a fight with everyone religious at every opportunity.

      However:

      1) The accommodationist position goes much further than just rejecting this kind of behavior - it claims that while it is OK to battle young earth creationism it is never OK to fight religion. The problem with this (one that should be obvious to everyone) is that there is no religion that is not creationist in one way or another - theistic evolution can be made consistent with evolutionary theory but the consistent propositions are views nobody really holds in practice. The two main classes of theistic evolution propositions - "God had it all planned and wired in the fabric of the universe from the very beginning" and "God intervened numerous times to guide the process by inserting mutations and ensuring their fixation" are pure creationism, just not of the young earth kind. What exactly is the difference between these views and intelligent design? You have spent that last 50+ years studying population genetics - how would you react if I told you that if is an illusion that those equations you've worked with and on all that time really describe the process and that instead God is working in an invisible way to guide it towards whatever outcome he desires? That would be a complete rejection of the whole discipline, wouldn't it?

      2) One does have a duty to call out BS as BS every time someone tries to peddle it. In you example, people did not bring up the BS they believe in so there was no need to react to it. But that does not mean they do not believe in BS.

      3) This is indeed a battle of superstition vs rationalism, not a battle of Young Earth Creationism vs the acceptance of the fact of evolution (nobody really talks much about the theory in these debates). In fact I will go as far as saying that making sure that there is no creationism in schools is on its own completely futile and pointless - even if this is achieved it will remain true that most people who go through those classes will exit school with close to zero understanding of the subject, simply because this is how most people exist school in general in all subjects (because very few people go to school with the goal of actually learning something), and it will remain true that people will be susceptible to all sorts of other superstitious nonsense.

      4) People get really uncomfortable talking about these things and as a result nobody ever really talks about them (and I perhaps should not be raising the issue under my real name) but this goes much much deeper than "Let's stop the teaching of creationism in schools" in another way, critical to the survival of the human species. If you want to go really deep into the real problems, unless some very radical rethinking of what it means it be human, where the species as a whole is going and where we would like to be in the much more distant than the next election cycle future happens very soon, there will not be much of a future to speak of. Unfortunately, the single biggest impediment to that shift in worldview is religion, even in its mildest forms and even among the majority of people who are nominally not religious at all (because they are still born and raised in a culture deeply rooted in millenia of religious tradition). As long as even the most liberal version of the Abrahamic religions retain a serious influence over society, we will remain paralyzed and unable to make these changes.

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    2. @Joe

      I was going to write a response but Georgi Marinov said it all.

      I'm pretty sure that many of the members of your temple believe in some version of intelligent design. It must have been very diffucult for you to frame your presentation in a way that attacked one version of intelligent design without threatening another. How did you manage to pull that off?

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    3. I don't think either Joe or I is suggesting accommodationism. I merely say that the simple, binary view of "us and them" is not useful. Religion isn't monolithic, and some forms are more pernicious than others. And of course biology can make no real statement regarding any sufficiently wimpy religion, deism for example, though other aspects of the world can.

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    4. Georgi Marinov & Larry Moran

      re: "This is a bit of a straw man..."

      I respond with respect. I understand where you are coming from, because I understand your sense of frustration in your repeated responses to obtuse IDiots.

      The fact remains – you yourselves are guilty of egregious ingnoratio elenchi… in fact you present the worst of all strawman arguments.

      Your portrayal of ALL religious belief as a complete, total and literal embrace of mythology as fact - is WRONG!

      I chuckle to think what Joe Felsenstein’s response to your post would be… but I can conjecture.

      I am guessing he could possibly attempt an appeal to the Rambam – i.e. Maimonides' theology which tells us more about what God “isn't” than what God “is”!

      According to the Rambam’s "negative theology" Georgi just cited four prime exemplars of what belief G-d could NOT possibly entail.

      G-d is not some celestial Santa Claus, outside and separate from the universe, voyeuristically curious about goings on in temporal creation, and even prepared, every once in a while, to pull a cosmic string or two just to remind mortals that he remains the boss.

      Risible… now that is a straw man! OK – granted this is what IDiots believe. I am amazed that they have managed to convince you that spiritual belief can be distilled to such dregs (drek actually).

      Yet sadly, that is what pitiable Egnor and his ilk would want us to believe.

      They are presenting you a false target they would have you label “religious belief”. By correctly destroying their silly superstitions, they are then able to play the martyr and shout out to the world that you are an enemy of religion.

      Allow me an empirical metaphor: From my limited reading; it would appear that spiritual traditions are exhibiting convergent evolution; to the point that they are all beginning to mirror Gautama Buddha’s rejection of the existence of a creator deity as portrayed in mythology aka scripture.

      Brahmin mythology is just that – mythology not to be taken literally. BTW - In science “theory” is not a denigration implying “Imperfect Truth”, similarly in religion Mythology is not to be denigrated as “Fable”.

      Well-read Jews who understand the notion of PaRDeS know what I am talking about. There exist bookshelves of commentary on how the Book of Genesis actually starts: "In the beginning” (Heb. בְּרֵאשִית בָּרָא).

      Since time immemorial, Jewish sages (from Akiva to Rashi) understood the literal sequence of the Creation (as written in Genesis) to be impossible! The authors of scripture never intended to write a history nor a science text. Mythology was always understood to be meta-mataphor.

      Remarkably, IDiots who pretend to embrace scripture have no idea of what they are talking about.

      At one time I addressed such questions in the classroom but gave up. I discovered that doing so was counterproductive. I soon figured out that adopting a “neutral” stance on religion and then gently inviting closer scrutiny of evolution on the part of the students proved far far more successful in “winning over converts”.

      There – you see – me too! I deliberately just fell into a trap! By phrasing my last sentence in such fashion, I inadvertently provided more ammunition to the enemy.

      Allow me to rephrase, I soon figured out that adopting a “neutral” stance on religion and then gently inviting closer scrutiny of evolution on the part of the students eventually allowed my students to realize that evolutionary theory did not constitute a contradiction of faith.

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    5. How is this in any way relevant to what I posted above?

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    6. Hi Georgi

      re: "How is this in any way relevant to what I posted above?"

      I apologise for attempting to shoe-horn too much into a quick sound bite.

      Let's cut to the case...

      You take issue accomodation and liken its defense to a strawman argument

      ... but then you present a series of strawman arguments of your own.

      For example - you claimed:

      "...there is no religion that is not creationist in one way or another ..."

      Your claim is patently false! …which I attempted to address. You made other patently incorrect claims about religious belief.

      That said - I am myself by no means spiritually inclined and I am by no means a champion of religious belief. To the contrary, I too am most impatient with traditional faith-based POVs.

      I guess the message what I was attempting to convey was that different religious beliefs entail subtleties and nuances you apparently do not appreciate. You are causing harm to our common cause by tarring all religion as superstations.

      In the meantime, we should focus on the real task at hand.

      We should not be providing Egnorant and his ilk any ammunition to justify their cause… i.e. the notion that Evolutionary theory is ipso facto an attack on religion permits Egnorant to justify a counter-balance of some alternate theory such as ID in school curricula.

      Egnorant and his ilk should be denied this opportunity.



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    7. Your claim is patently false! …which I attempted to address. You made other patently incorrect claims about religious belief.

      I really don't see how it's false - creationism is not limited to young earth creationism, and acceptance of the fact of evolution does not equal acceptance of evolutionary science - there is also the theory, which is just as important.

      Now would you please tells us which widely practiced religions are not incompatible with the theory of evolution and more importantly why? One could probably claim that Buddhism is an example, but this is simply because the subject never really features there, and it is still quite at odds with science in general - there is no place for spirits in modern science, and not because they are dogmatically rejected a priori, but because so much of what we have learned about the universe will have to be completely wrong for them to exist that it is at present infinitely more likely that there simply aren't any such non-material entities:

      http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2011/05/23/physics-and-the-immortality-of-the-soul/

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    8. We should not be providing Egnorant and his ilk any ammunition to justify their cause… i.e. the notion that Evolutionary theory is ipso facto an attack on religion permits Egnorant to justify a counter-balance of some alternate theory such as ID in school curricula.

      But evolutionary theory is an attack on religion. Not a direct or an intentional one, but the fact remains that if you want to keep God in the picture, you have to perform the kind of convoluted mental acrobatics that make the God hypothesis extremely non-parsimonious.

      If I understand you correctly, you are saying that we should never say that understanding of evolution leads to atheism because if we do so, it may give creationists legal grounds to claim that teaching evolution constitutes a religious freedom violation. This is absurd - not necessarily legally, but intellectually it definitely is. If a well-established set of scientific ideas leads to the abandonment of faith then that's a sad day for those holding such beliefs, not a reason to keep them in a cocoon perpetuating their delusions. And these are not merely some harmless superstitions - I don't think you read the whole of my post, but irrational religious beliefs have very very serious real-world implications, and teaching creationism in schools, the treatment of homosexuals, or even islamic terrorism are very very far from being the most serious ones - it goes down to the very heart of how we view our place in the universe, how we have built our socioeconomic system with respect to the ecosystems of the planet, and the inevitable consequences of that.

      I have said this before here several times in the past - from the perspective of a someone from a different country, the first amendment does not at all look friendly to the teaching of science and the raising of rationally thinking generations of students. Sure, it has kept creationism out of schools, but it has also prevented exposing the absurdity of religion, which is a negative that IMO outweighs the positive. Kids spend a few hours a day in school but they spent a lot more time at home, including the critical first few years of their life when they don't even go to school, and they, as a rule, learn very little of what they are taught. So by keeping religion out of school, all you achieve is perpetuation of religious misconceptions about how the world works through the family, which has much bigger influence over the intellectual development of children. If you want a truly scientifically literate population, you have to actively root out religion, and all sorts of superstition in general, in schools - this includes not just creationism, but belief in souls and spirits, astrology, homeopathy, etc. etc.. Note that I am not suggesting that we should teach atheism as yet another dogma - this was tried in the Soviet Union, and it failed miserably. Developing critical thinking, presenting the different cosmological models people have built in different times and places, their origins and the rationale behind them, exposing the logical and factual problems with the specifics of particular religions - this is how you do it. Classes in comparative religious studies and philosophy of religion (of the non-apologetic kind) would be great. But this is currently impossible for the same reason it is not legally allowed to teach creationism (which has nevertheless failed to stop a rather large minority of schools from teaching it unofficially).

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    9. Hi Georgi,

      I'll just cut and paste from an earlier post above:

      "As a matter of fact, some spiritual traditions embrace evolution as a basis of faith! I refer you to a very interesting read that claims spirtuality and evolution are flip sides of the same coin: http://tinyurl.com/mdtk978 "

      I also suggest that spritual traditions are experiencing convergent evolution and bear little resemblance to the naive lampoon version you represented above.

      I am not saying this by way of criticism. Your arguments are right on target when discussing the theology of IDiots like the Egnorator.

      I am merely suggesting your criticisms are off target when considering the audience Joe Felsenstein mentioned above and other like-minded denominations such as unitarian universalists mentioned earlier on another thread as happening to be Pete Seeger's affiliation.

      Here in Canada I am intrigued with the evolution of the Canadian United Church wondering how long it will take to converge on the Unitarian Universalists.

      I also suggest you examine the Old Catholics of the Union of Utrecht which are conspicuously different from their equivalent in the Vatican.

      It would appear that some of these so-called Christian denominations are beginning to resemble Joe Felsenstein's Reform version of Judaism... where some wags were prompted to joke: Extremely Reform Jews maintain that there were never really "Commandments" at all but merely the "10 Suggestions".

      ;-)

      but - hey, I am a High School Biology teacher and am definitely beyond my level of expertise and comfort level.

      best regards,

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    10. @ Georgi

      Re: “If I understand you correctly, you are saying that we should never say that understanding of evolution leads to atheism because if we do so, it may give creationists legal grounds to claim that teaching evolution constitutes a religious freedom violation”

      That is not my intent at all. I have repeatedly said that IDiots are foolhardy because empirical method cannot address the super-natural. Sauce for the Empirical Goose is sauce for the Religious Gander. Religion is by definition super-natural and according to Karl Popper’s criterion of falsifiability science is in fact neutral regarding religion.

      Read my first post:

      “Our first priority is the education of our children and the powers-that-be that have undue and undeserved influence on curriculum. If we [UNNECESARILY] declare ourselves at the outset as enemies of religion, we are taking on too many fronts in this war (and as a German [GENTILE] I cringe at the mention of two front wars)”

      Editorial inserts added for emphasis and explanation of my pseudonym

      I also said:

      “Consider this alternative for just one instance: Science in general and Evolutionary Theory in particular are patently neutral regarding religious belief. It is logically possible to simultaneously embrace both and as a matter of fact, most mainstream religions/denominations do just that.”

      “Now convince school boards that this statement is true.”

      “Egnorant and his ilk would be left in a most vexing predicament. On what basis now, could IDiots possibly justify their cause to powers-that-be who would prefer not to rock any administrative boat unnecessarily?”

      Now do you understand?

      All I am suggesting is that we are muddying the waters unnecessarily. I have no problem with individuals who both:

      1 - embrace evolution
      2 - are hostile to superstitious incarnations of religion

      That said, we still dare not conflate these two separate goals and thereby confuse the simple-minded folk (frequently represented on school boards and in Ministries of Education) who would address some misconceived apparent injustice by resorting to misguided "balance".


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    11. Leaving aside what teachings of Maimonides I might invoke (as I am actually quite ignorant of them), let me try a quick reply to Larry and to Georgi, by noting how I spoke to the Reform temple some years ago. I am not religious, and not a member of the temple.

      I just talked about the ID movement, its local incarnation in the Discovery Institute. I explained what kind of arguments they made and in particular I explained William Dembski's arguments, of which I had made a study. (This turned out to be too complex a discussion for the audience, unfortunately).

      I did not go into whether a Designer might be implied by the religious beliefs of Reform Judaism -- over the years I have had no success in telling religious people what their faith's doctrines implied. They will come to a position on that themselves, thank you.

      The Religious Freedom committee of the temple was not stupid -- they knew that ID was the thin edge of the Wedge for creationism, and that in the context of the Religious Right's strength in the U.S., this was a Bad Thing for anyone whose religion was in any way outside that milieux. So they gave me a very warm and supportive reception. (The other speaker was David Domke, a Seattle academic studying the communication styles and messages of the Religious Right.)

      The audience was very happy with the evening's talks and discussion, even though I had bungled my explanation of Dembski's arguments and why they were wrong.

      So the only major difficulty was how to explain technical evolutionary arguments, not how to deaL with naturalism/materialism versus Reform Judaism. So Larry, why did you think it was going to be "difficult"? And Georgi, was I remiss in not launching into a major dispute with these folks over their worldview?

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    12. And Georgi, was I remiss in not launching into a major dispute with these folks over their worldview?

      Based on your description, it seems that their worldview was never actually discussed in depth, and neither were the scientific details. So basically all points of conflict were avoided. And here is where we're talking past each other - you are going back to that particular occasion when you did not have to explore the conflict at all, I was talking about how that does not mean there isn't a conflict.

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  7. No matter which Reply buttopn I push here at Sandwalk, it always seems to be the wrong one. The previous comment was a follow-on to John Harshman's in that subthread.

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  8. I think context matters. I used to teach a lot of non-majors biology classes. I could have avoided teaching evolution in some classes but always did because it's important. We talked about religion and science (the students bringing up the religion). The following were two main points I tried to make:

    1. I won't test you on whether you believe evolution is true or not, but I will test your knowledge and understanding of it. You need to understand it, if only to try to refute it without looking like an idiot.

    2. Yes, evolution theory does disprove the possibility of a recent creation and it does disprove some ideas about God. (If your idea of God doesn't have room for reality, your idea is too small. The problem is with you, not with God.) There are ideas of God that can't be disproved. Lots of people accept both evolution and God. You can too.

    Introducing the idea of error and questioning into my students' world views might have interestingly negative effects on their religious views in the long run. However, in the short run, arguing against all religion would simply have shut them off, made them unable to learn. And after all, in my classroom, my goal was to teach them about science and evolution, not force them to loose their religious views.

    I wouldn't have been as blunt if I were teaching high school. (In fact, if students objected to what I did say, I pointed out, "You're not in high school any more. You're mature enough to handle disagreement with me.") And there are groups in which I might have been more argumentative against Christianity, at least.

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  9. "Evolution challenges the Bible, refutes the argument from design, exacerbates the problem of evil, and strongly challenges any notion that humanity plays a central role in creation."

    This reflects my own experience. I was raised Catholic and taught special creation. While growing up it was the learning and acceptance of evolution that destroyed my faith. Particularly the belief in a soul, which is fundamental to Christianity. I still strongly feel that evolution and the central tenets of Christianity are incompatible. In my opinion, Christians who accept evolution simply aren't thinking hard enough.

    One religion where I feel siding with liberals/moderates should take precedence is Islam. I'm no fan of the religion in general, but there exist serious injustices against moderates from fundamentalists. People Tarek Fatah, Maajid Nawaz, Raquel Saraswati, etc. are consistently fighting on the side of human rights. Nawaz recently expressed the opinion that cartoon portrayals of Mohammad do not offend him, and was attacked by fundamentalists insinuating the death penalty. For me to say something like, "well, it says it in the Hadith" would be irresponsible. Siding with moderate Muslims should be a priority here as the alternative is highly undesirable.

    This is a nice piece on the Nawaz situation and illustrates my point: http://jacobinism.blogspot.ca/2014/02/isolating-dissent.html

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    1. Correction: Penalty for apostasy is death in the Hadith. Not sure what it says about depictions of Mohammad. But point remains.

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    2. Here we must be cognizant of category differences. Everything here is an intellectual debate and that falls away in the case where basic human rights, security, and justice comes into it. There really aren't enemies (in the usual sense) in this debate, except for those so deranged by their religion or other ideologies so as to be a clear and present danger to others. Most religious people at any given time are not like that and almost certainly none of the commenters here tend to fall into that category. This is because we live in a comparatively safe and organized society (though there will be people here who have good reason to dispute that idea).

      Meanwhile, I just read a news story about muslims being evacuated from Bangui, Central African Republic and one of them, having the misfortune to fall off the vehicle, was killed by what were called christians in a most violent way.

      In the end, this underscores why so many of us oppose religion and other irrational belief systems of any kind (from more than just a philosophical perspective) despite the fact that many in our own countries are rather peaceful. It is because when irrationality is allowed to flourish and is even celebrated, it is only a matter of time and circumstance where that irrationality manifests itself in violence. This is the story of every religion at various times and places throughout history.
      As Sam Harris wrote (paraphrasing poorly because I don’t have time to find the exact passage right now): “look behind the curtains of every human atrocity and you will find it was motivated by irrational beliefs each and every time.”

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  10. In origin wars the only religious group that matters is Evangelical Protestant Christians.
    Everyone else is hardly motivated by their particular faith. They all just have ideas about a creator.
    The target should be my group. Knock us out and the rest will faqll like dominos save for the creator stuff.
    i see no passion, conviction, energy, expertise, intelligence or money in any religious group save Evangelicals.
    We welcome all but always they are motivated by very personal conclusions on these matters.
    Thats why north america leads and dominates in creationist intellectual activity.
    ID things are for general creator believers.
    We are effective out of proportion to our numbers.
    We are the man.
    Evolutionists should aim at us BUT if they do and bring us into the arena THEY will get what happened in the late great debate.
    The wrong guys just can't win.
    Put a fork in it ITS over.

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