New York Times readers write in on Collins

Today’s New York Times contains a spate of letters about Sam Harris’s op-ed criticizing Francis Collins’s appointment as NIH director.  As expected, most of the letters are critical of Harris, including the first one by Kenneth Miller at Brown University.  Miller says this:

Dr. Collins’s sin, despite credentials Mr. Harris calls “impeccable,” is that he is a Christian. Mr. Harris is not alone in holding this view.

This isn’t exactly true.  Harris was concerned about Collins not because he’s a Christian, but because he’s a publicly vociferous evangelical Christian who has made statements that blur the lines between science and faith.  Also, as Harris notes, Collins has made public proclamations that, if taken seriously, violate a program of empirical, naturalistic research:

Francis Collins is an accomplished scientist and a man who is sincere in his beliefs. And that is precisely what makes me so uncomfortable about his nomination. Must we really entrust the future of biomedical research in the United States to a man who sincerely believes that a scientific understanding of human nature is impossible?

I ask these questions again:

1.  If Collins were as vociferous an atheist as he is a Christian, and went around proclaiming that the “empirical facts” are evidence for atheism (which indeed they are!), and gave lectures comprised of half science, half justification for atheism, and wrote books about how atheism and science were compatible, would he have a snowball’s chance in hell of being approved as NIH director? (And would religious people write in to support the nomination in the name of freedom of religion/atheism?)

2. If Collins went around espousing a faith in Xenu and his space minions, lecturing about how humans were plagued by infestation with alien souls and how they could be cured by diagnosis with a fancy machine and expensive deprogramming — that is, if he were a Scientologist who was publicly vociferous, rather than keeping his faith to himself — would he have a snowball’s chance in hell of being approved as NIH director?  How about if he were a publicly vociferous Wiccan?

148 Comments

  1. NewEnglandBob
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    The answers to both questions is “very unlikely to be approved”.

    Many of the letter writers seem to be devout theists who have written about god and are of the accommodationist school.

  2. JefFlyingV
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    I’m wondering how much carry over will occur from Collins’ NIH appointment to the school systems in Texas, Kansas and Pennsylvania?

    In answer to both of your questions, no chance. I think the Obama administration has told us what it thinks about science.

    • MadScientist
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      I was always worried about what Obama meant by putting science “in it’s rightful place”.

    • Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      “Meet the new boss,
      Same as the old boss”

      Where Obama truly differs from Dubya, he is willing to compromise to the point of eviscerating what might have worked. Where he is the same- secrecy, treatment of detainees, etc. I am simply aghast.

  3. Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Both Collins and Miller seem to get a lot of leeway on this issue from the fact that they are seen as religious ‘moderates’. This is entirely mistaken. If we were dealing with a political question here they would be seen as being representative of a vanishingly tiny minority of the population. By any reasonable measurement compared to the bulk of the population they are religious extremists. Pro-evolution evangelicals who are prepared to speak out in public are
    dwarfed in number by God-Hates-Fags sign wavers. Millers views on evolution are likewist at extreme odds with that of the average catholic clergy, who rarely see the slightest problem with preaching the Adam and Eve story as a historical fact.
    On a slightly different point I wonder why there is so little comment on the implications of
    Collins final slide.
    “Slide 5: “If the moral law is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as good or evil. It’s all an illusion. We’ve been hoodwinked. Are any of us, especially the strong atheists, really prepared to live our lives within that worldview?”
    The clear implication of this point is the standard anti-atheist argument – if you don’t believe in God then you can have no basis for moral behavious – thus you are liable to eat babies, marry chickens etc.
    If I seriously believed a section of society behaved in such a dangerous manner then I would be obliged to intervene (more in protection of the babies rather than the chickens, I might add). Indeed its a rather regular occurrence at the moment for the state to do just that in cases where child abuse is either present or likely (the fundamentalist mormon church and various medical intervention cases come to mind).
    Do Christians like Collins not care about atheist children? If they do then why not act now to take them into the arms of religion, safe from the danger of immoral atheism?

    • MadScientist
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:57 am | Permalink

      “If they do then why not act now to take them into the arms of religion, safe from the danger of immoral atheism?”

      They absolutely do, which is why they want to Teach the Controversy ™. Collins’ objection to ID is essentially that it isn’t his own brand of nonsense being peddled. If Collins tried to put his own brand of religious teaching into schools, perhaps we’d find the Design Institute fighting him?

      • Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:09 am | Permalink

        Its very hard to put yourself in the mind of Collins. I really do think he’s on our side in the ID political debate (although I agree that theistic evolution is pretty much creationism-lite!).
        Then again, perhaps another government job beckons –
        With his level of cognitive dissonance I think he’d be the ideal person to take charge of NASA. He could simultaneously believe in the moon hoax theory as well as the true Apollo 11 story!
        (Is that more extreme than simultaneously believing in biological evolution AND the fall of Adam and Eve?)

    • Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      >Millers views on evolution are likewist at extreme odds with that of the average catholic clergy

      I don’t think that’s right. Most of the Catholic priests I’ve known (and I’ve known a lot, academic and otherwise) are at least open to evolution. The official Catholic doctrine has long been that evolution is basically OK, which is one reason why so many Catholics (but not evangelicals) have few qualms with modern biology.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        The official Catholic church’s doctrine is that evolution is true and that god started it all off.

        Of course there is no evidence of this. It is just a god-of-the-gaps argument.

      • Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        Perhaps it depends on where you are living but I was raised in a catholic household in a catholic country (Ireland) and my impression was that evolution was never alluded to in any church service I attended – in contrast to various biblical creation or Fall stories. Thats not to say it was young earth creationist – it certainly wasn’t – but the attitudes of the sort of priests that most people were exposed to in church was that Adam and Eve were real individuals and the Fall was a real event, rather than a metaphor.
        I can quite imagine that priests, nuns or lay catholics in academic environments (biology teachers or researchers for instance) would be very pro-evolution but by and large the assumption of the clergy about evolution is much more similar to Michael Behes view than Ken Millers.
        As a quick example of the sort of thinking I am talking about here’s a link to an article published by the Irish Jesuit society (about the most secular and ‘rational’ of all the catholic orders).

        http://www.studiesirishreview.ie/j/page540

        Perhaps the catholic clergy in the US adopts a more pro-evolution line (one would think this would be a plausible way to distinguish themselves from the laughable YEC antics of their evangelical protestant competitors) but the sort of rubbish that Father Jonothan Morris – the pet catholic priest of Fox News – comes out with makes me wonder whether he is more typical of what most US catholics hear from their priests http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnH0nLSpMUQ

      • Rootboy
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

        My American Catholic high school taught us evolution out of the same bio textbook they used in the public schools. That one was never an issue.

        Of course, one period later was the class on why condoms are evil and why Martin Luther was wrong.

    • Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      I do agree that Collins’ argument here is strange:

      “If the moral law is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as good or evil. It’s all an illusion. We’ve been hoodwinked. Are any of us, especially the strong atheists, really prepared to live our lives within that worldview?”

      This is the moralistic version of Al Plantinga’s bizarre argument against naturalism. Just substitute a few words here and there:

      “If science is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as truth or falsehood. It’s all an illusion.”

      Nonsense. Of course science and morality can work without God. Collins and Plantinga seem to share a low bar for what counts as an “illusion.”

      • articulett
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        I’ve been living my life quite well understanding that “good” and “evil” are collective opinions and not objective facts. I think people are childish… and/or truly delusional… if they think “good” and “evil” exist other than concepts in the minds of humans.

        I am ever surprised when seemingly smart grown ups really seem to believe this good/evil (heaven/hell) stuff. How embarrassing for them. How sad for us to have such primitive thinkers representing us.

  4. Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    A wonderful analogy drawn once again.

    (just working my through your book btw, awesome. Best chapter so far – one I thought was going to be up there – vestigial organs)

    It’s amazing how little attention this topic is getting in Australia.

  5. Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Well, at least now we know that Ken Miller reads PZ’s blog.

    Let’s see: Collins repeatedly makes bonehead statements in public presentations, PZ calls him an injit for doing thhis, and this shows how atheism is intolerant? Yep, intolerant of BS.

  6. MadScientist
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Questions [1] and [2] have the same answer: atheism and scientology are false religions, christianity is the One True religion. The USA was founded as a christian nation and therefore appointing Collins as chief of the NIH is in harmony with god’s plan for the USA.

    Have I stuffed enough painful stupidity into that? And yet that is the sort of response you’re likely to get from the religious and they wouldn’t think it stupid at all.

    Doomed! We’re all Doomed! (Which is what religion teaches us anyhow – anyone for ironic moronic self-fulfilling prophecies?)

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      MS, you forgot to mention eugenics, Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, eating babies and Islam is peaceful.

      • babel
        Posted July 30, 2009 at 8:08 am | Permalink

        PLUS U FRGOT ALLCAPS!!

  7. Notorious P.A.T.
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    “Francis Collins is a man who is sincere in his beliefs”

    Oh. Well, what more could one want?

    • articulett
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      Truly. Osama Bin Laden is a man sincere in his beliefs too, I’d say. So is the local schizophrenic. So is Tom Cruise. So is every Mormon wearing their magical Mormon underwear. So were all the people at Jonestown. Why, the Heavens Gate Crowd demonstrated exactly how “sincere in their beliefs” they were, didn’t they?

      People can be very sincere about very crazy beliefs. This is why the honest scientists repeatedly point out that belief is not something to “defer to” when one wants the truth that is the same for everybody no matter what they “believe”.

  8. Andrew
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    “If Collins were as vociferous an atheist as he is a Christian, and went around proclaiming that the “empirical facts” are evidence for atheism (which indeed they are!)”

    This is very interesting. It seems that you are saying that not only is the empirical evidence lacking for a God, but that their is actual evidence for no God.

    How does a reasonable, rational person make the jump from saying “no evidence for God” to “their is no God?”.

    That is like sa

    • Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      “It seems that you are saying that not only is the empirical evidence lacking for a God, but that their is actual evidence for no God.”
      No it doesn’t mean that.
      Atheism doesnt necessarily mean you believe there is no God. Most ‘new atheists’ don’t claim there is definite proof that God doesn’t exist or that they are absolutely certain that God doesn’t exist.
      Atheism can also be defined as lack of belief in theistic claims and as such the paucity of evidence underlying theistic beliefs can certainly be used as evidence that theism is wrong and provide reason for adopting atheism.
      As a quick example, Jesus said he’d return in the lifetime of some of those living then.
      He didn’t.
      Therefore we have reason to question his other claims since he was wrong at least once.

      • Andrew
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:18 am | Permalink

        Well, I think you may be an agnostic, Sigmund, on the fence.

        When you make up your mind (no God, God), you will be an atheist or a theist.

        Havok, their is also no evidence that everyone isn’t secretly plotting to take advantage of me. Because their is no evidence for this conspiracy not happening, can a reasonable, rational person make the jump from this negative statement to the positive one “Everybody is secretly plotting against me”.

        I mean, we can both come up with examples or analogies or hypotheticals that prove our point. The truth is much more complicated.

      • Invigilator
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        No, no — St John is still alive and hiding on Patmos, just to make sure the prophecy comes true.

    • Havok
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      In the same way a reasonable, rational person makes the jump from saying “There is no evidence for unicorns” to “there are no unicorns (with a high degree of confidence)”.

      Change ‘unicorns’ to whatever fairy tale you may prefer :-)

      • Havok
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        Andrew, without reasonable evidence to think people are plotting against you, why would you believe they are?
        Similarly, without reasonable evidence that unicorns (or Yahweh) exist, why would you believe they do?

        Of course, we could sit around all day and come up with contrived examples if we chose to do so :-)

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      Andrew, you need to learn logic and how to read words. You blatantly misstate what people say.

    • articulett
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      There is evidence for “no god” in the same way there is evidence for “no demons” , “no thetans”, no invisible pink unicorns, no purple space dinosaurs, etc.

      Absence of measurable evidence is evidence for absence when one is claiming that something exists.

      What makes gods distinguishable from non existent entities. If there was any actual empirical evidence, I think scientists around the world would be refining it and honing it for their own benefit just like they have done with DNA, magnetism, atomic theory, gravity, and electricity.

      Duh.

      • Invigilator
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        “What makes gods distinguishable from non existent entities?”

        Why, more people do more stupid things in the name of gods than in those of non-existent entities, that’s what, by a quantitative difference so large it becomes qualitative.

  9. Andrew
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Havok, I agree with you.

    It is irrational to believe something if you do not have evidence for it. Therefore, it is irrational to believe their is no God simply because their is no evidence for it. You must have evidence supporting the conclusion that their is no God, not just a lack of evidence for their being a God.

    That said, I believe evidence exists for God.

    • Havok
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      Andrew: Therefore, it is irrational to believe their is no God simply because their is no evidence for it.

      You’d be making a case against so called “strong atheism”. I see no evidence to support the existence of a general sort of god concept, therefore I have no belief in a general sort of god concept. I’m a “weak” atheist as regards the general concept of god(s).

      Andrew: You must have evidence supporting the conclusion that their is no God, not just a lack of evidence for their being a God.

      All of the inconsistencies, errors and problems with the bible and Christian belief in general is very good evidence against the existence of the Christian god, therefore I’m a strong atheist regarding Yahweh :-)

      Andrew: That said, I believe evidence exists for God.

      I’m sure you do. That doesn’t mean it’s good or reasonable evidence :-)

      Sorry if I’m derailing the thread

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink

        No Havok, YOU are not derailing this thread.

        Andrew is derailing it with his illogical statements and his gaping lack of any evidence to back up anything he says.

      • Havok
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        But NEBob, he believes evidence exists for God! :-)

    • Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      That’s bassackwards, my man.

      No evidence is required to disbelieve something. Lack of belief in something in which there is little or no credible evidence is the default position.

      Further: in the many, many places where religious doctrines, if taken seriously, predict we should see evidence of God, we see nada. This indicates that those doctrines are not true and the God they talk about isn’t real.

      Yes, there are still logically possible hypothetical gods that might exist, but these aren’t the ones most religions talk about.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      Once again Andrew fails to use logic.

      • KevinC
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        Andrew:

        It all depends on how you define “God.” If the term is defined loosely enough to include everything from Zeus to some nebulous “Ground of Being,” of course it’s impossible to have evidence that “God” doesn’t exist. You’ve got the goalposts on wheels.

        Now, if we define “God” as the dominant deity portrayed in the Bible (i.e. Yahweh), who created the cosmos 6,000 years ago, rains fire down from the sky on cities, worked the various special effects described in the Exodus story, etc. then we do have vast amounts of evidence that this God does not exist.

        Modern science has discovered a Universe and a terrestrial biosphere that are completely incompatible with Biblical statements about the world in which we live.

        Of course, theologians and believers like Francis Collins can start bobbing and weaving and retconning their “inerrant Word of God” to make it fit the facts.

        Ultimately, they and every Christian who is not delusional enough to let their child die waiting for a divine miracle rather than take them to a hospital must go through their everyday lives as if they don’t have an omnipotent superhero for their best friend.

        Even the most devout believers and theologians acknowledge this fact by coming up with all sorts of intricate explanations for why their alleged God never does anything, and why the Cosmos looks and behaves exactly the way atheists expect it to.

        You live in the same godless Universe we do.

      • KevinC
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        Oops, I clicked on the wrong “Reply” link. Obviously my post was meant to debunk Andrew, not NewEnglandBob, who appears to be a much more clear-thinking individual. :)

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        Thanks kevinC for the complement, but of course the baseline is very low. I knew to whom you were responding.

    • Stephen
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Andrew: You need to learn the difference between there, their, and they’re …

      • Andrew
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        I agree, I alway get those messed up.

    • Stephen
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      “It is irrational to believe something if you do not have evidence for it. Therefore, it is irrational to believe their is no God simply because their is no evidence for it.”

      Andrew: Here, let me fix this for you …

      It is irrational to believe something if you do not have evidence for it. Therefore, it is irrational to believe in God because their is no evidence for God’s existence.

      “That said, I believe evidence exists for God.”

      Hmmm … and what might that be?

    • Invigilator
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      Have you ever heard Francis Collins sing? Strong evidence for the non-existence of God if you ask me.

  10. Jean K.
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    In the editorial Harris made it seem as if Collins’ religious ideas could interfere with the way he does science or oversees science. That does make sense, in principle, but in fact, as far as I know, Collins’s religion has never had any impact on his work as a scientist. So to object to him as head of the NIH on the basis of his religion really would be to make religion itself a litmus test. Surely atheists, who are the most likely to be victimized by such a test, shouldn’t want that.

    • Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      But isn’t Harris objecting to Collins making wild-ass conjectures and implying that science supports these conjectures?

      I’m a former Christian myself, but some of Collins’ statements would have embarrassed me even in my religious days.

      • Jean K.
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        Harris tries to explain why we ought to care about Collins’s beliefs, but has a hard time explaining. He says religion makes it hard to think like a scientist, but Collins is living counterevidence! He worries that Collins’s religious ideas could affect the way he oversees brain research, but he can’t substantiate that, because there’s nothing in Collins’s record as a scientist to make us suspect he’s going to turn any brain issues over to theology schools.

        I think the worse thing you could say about Collins is that his religious beliefs themselves are daft. But then, it’s hard to say why that disqualifies him for this public position. Heck, Obama is a Christian. Should I have not voted for him because he believes in an interventionist God? Because he might spent time praying instead of consulting advisers? If Harris is right, there’s a problem with both Collins and Obama.

  11. SeanK
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Awww, the poor persecuted Christians are whining again.

    • KevinC
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Well of course! Everyone knows that saying publicly that believing in talking animals and wizards is daft = throwing virgin Christian maidens to lions. How could atheists be so mean and intolerant as to assert that the story of Jacob doing genetic engineering with striped sticks is incompatible with science? For shame! ;)

  12. Posted July 29, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    The reason Collins’ Xianity is an issue is simply that he makes it an issue.

    No one went looking to see whether or not he were Xian. Even if he’d just said he was Xian and proud of it, fine.

    When he goes around denying that our moral sense evolved, his religious beliefs are affecting science, including his own area of expertise.

    I wouldn’t necessarily refuse to appoint him anyhow, but there’s no question that such matters are relevant to his position.

    Glen Davidson

    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  13. Josh Caleb
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Harris:
    “‘Must we really entrust the future of biomedical research in the United States to a man who sincerely believes that a scientific understanding of human nature is impossible?'”

    Science examines only the physical. There are clearly aspects of human nature that are non-physical (morals, love, reason, concepts of justice/truth).
    Thus science is necessary and sufficient to characterize those physical aspects but insufficient to characterize the non-physical aspects. So science is a wonderful, albeit incomplete, guide in fully understanding human nature.
    It is here that Karl Popper warned against a kind of “promissory materialism” which posits that “we don’t yet know, but science (i.e. materialism) will one day vindicate”. A proper understanding of science does not make such faith claims, rather bases conclusions (however provisional) on current evidence. Current evidence does not support a material explanation for all human nature. Thus Harris makes a miss-step here.

    • Stephen
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      “Science examines only the physical. There are clearly aspects of human nature that are non-physical (morals, love, reason, concepts of justice/truth).”

      You’ve made two assumptions here: first, that the world is divided into “physical” and “non-physical” and second, that morality, love reason, etc belong to the “non-physical” category.

      I will not say that you are wrong in either assumption, only that I will not accept either without proof/justification/evidence. Why do you uncritically accept this “frame” of reference, to the extent that you don’t even question these assumptions? It’s almost as if, to you, these are “common sense” posits that no rational being could ever disavow … but they’re not!

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        sooo, you won’t accept my “non-wrong” assumptions… hmmm

        “but they’re not!”

        why don’t you think so? can you support your claim that they are not?

      • Stephen
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        There you go again with your dualistic assumptions! Did I say “non-wrong”? In your mind, does saying, “I will not say that you are wrong” = “You are right”?

        The very fact that I do not take these as “common sense” and obvious to any rational being is an indicator that these assumptions are NOT assumptions made by everybody everywhere.

        Why so defensive? Why don’t you just try to address my comments?

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        sorry i made my case below, but i’ll repeat it for clarity.

        Its axiomatic for me that physical and non-physical things exist in the world such as morals, love, truth, logic, consciousness. I won’t provide any justification for such clearly “faith-based” assertions.
        Guess what, that means I give up. You won. I lost. I’m also a delusional, irrational liar according to the Coyne fan club.

    • Hansen
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      “Current evidence does not support a material explanation for all human nature.”

      Nothing but twisted and unsound logic on your part. Basically, you are making an argument from ignorance. It is correct that we do not have a material explanation yet for all of human nature. But that is not the same as saying there can be no such explanation. And perhaps more important, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest anything other than natural causes.

      Fifty years ago we knew very little about the causes of mental illness. Now we know a lot more about conditions such as depression, psychosis, and schizophrenia. We still have a lot to learn. But there is no reason to think that science cannot help us understand the brain better.

      Love is non-physical? What are you talking about? Love manifests itself physically all the time. Has anybody ever told you that they love you? That’s physical evidence right there. Not bullet-proof evidence. Such a thing does not exist. I don’t think we will ever be able to give a full explanation of love – and that may even be a good thing. But stop saying that it is non-physical when there is no evidence to support such claim.

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        I retract my assertion, my thinking is clearly twisted and unsound.

  14. Posted July 29, 2009 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    There are clearly aspects of human nature that are non-physical (morals, love, reason, concepts of justice/truth).

    Just like those words are “non-physical” parts of a computer file.

    Glen Davidson

    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

    • Josh Caleb
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      the display of the words is physical, in as much as electrons, photons, etc. are physical, the information content of them, however, is not.

      • Posted July 29, 2009 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        Of course the information content is “physical” (a term that could be dissected, certainly). The etymology itself (not always reliable, but I believe it’s relatively accurate here) tells you reasonably well what the word entails, “in-form,” a very physical aspect of energy/matter.

        In some conceptual sense one could always say that “words” or “numbers” are abstractions and non-physical, however that would seem to be a (useful)fiction not telling us about the “reality” of words in an empirical sense. We think of words and numbers as something “beyond the physical,” yet all evidence points to them being aspects of brain, reality, and computers.

        That is to say, it is useful to think of numbers and words as if they were independent of matter/energy, so that we can translate our brain’s conception–something as-yet poorly understood physically–into working computer analogs of our own neural representations and manipulations of same. Nowhere do words and numbers actually fall out of the “physical,” at least not so far as anyone can demonstrate.

        The brain is far too responsive to drugs, electrical shocks, injuries, etc., for there to be any meaningful legitimacy to the idea that a “soul” is responsible for idealistic separations of concepts, emotions, and symbols from the very physical brain.

        Glen Davidson

        http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        that’s your position… that everything is material.

        Its pretty axiomatic for me that numbers are immaterial, and numerals are material representations.
        I won’t offer any justification for that faith-based assertion. So you can now discount my reasoning based on a false premise. (if you really want to die on that hill, so be it)

      • H.H.
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        All “immaterial” things–like numbers, language, justice, love, art appreciation–are concepts which exist solely within human consciousnesses (or hypothetically within the consciousnesses of other intelligent beings). I know of no immaterial thing which exists independently of people, as in the claim made for an incorporeal god. But if theists want to argue that their immaterial god is all in their heads, I’d be inclined to agree.

      • Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        that’s your position… that everything is material.

        That’s not what I said. Why do you have to lie?

        My position is that you need evidence for your claims, and you have no evidence for the “non-physical.” Rather than merely admitting that you have faith in an unevidenced claim, you attack with dishonesty, the only weapon you have.

        Its pretty axiomatic for me that numbers are immaterial, and numerals are material representations.

        Of course it is, since you don’t care about the evidence to the contrary.

        I won’t offer any justification for that faith-based assertion.

        “Won’t” is true, but “can’t” is the fully honest statement.

        <blockquoteSo you can now discount my reasoning based on a false premise.

        Yes, that’s a false premise, and I referred to the evidence that shows that it’s a false premise when I wrote:

        The brain is far too responsive to drugs, electrical shocks, injuries, etc., for there to be any meaningful legitimacy to the idea that a “soul” is responsible for idealistic separations of concepts, emotions, and symbols from the very physical brain.

        That’s the (incomplete) positive evidence for the “mind” being physical, but at least as important is that any “non-physical” claims are not only not backed up, they’re contrary to what we know about causality, and the conservation of energy. I know that you prefer to ignore what you can’t properly address, but it’s a dishonest tactic.

        (if you really want to die on that hill, so be it)

        I want truth, something that you can’t handle.

        Glen Davidson

        http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        that’s actually not true, there have been studies performed in honey bee scouting for pollen sources which suggest bees know how to count the number of objects away from the hive a pollen source is. I apologize, I don’t have the reference.
        (Then again, I’m a theist, so I’m probably just making it up)

      • Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        there have been studies performed in honey bee scouting for pollen sources which suggest bees know how to count the number of objects away from the hive a pollen source is. I apologize, I don’t have the reference.
        (Then again, I’m a theist, so I’m probably just making it up)

        No, you have no conception of what that evidence means.

        No one here is going to dispute that insects may be able to count. It’s useful to organisms.

        If you could think in sequiturs, Josh, you might be able to make some sense.

        Glen Davidson

        http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        @GD,

        gosh, even when i surrender, you still have to get all uppity on me. chill out.

        “contrary to what we know about causality, and the conservation of energy. I know that you prefer to ignore what you can’t properly address”

        out of curiosity, would this reasoning apply to the cause of the big bang as well?

        “but it’s a dishonest tactic.”

        So, on your view, I can be blamed for being dishonest if I give up the argument?? You’re a nutcase! (yes, guilty, ad hominem)

      • Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        As you make no sense, Josh, I’m not going to respond to anything except the rather blatant lie that you “gave up.”

        You were clearly disagreeing with with somebody by saying “that’s actually not true.” It’s hard to know with whom you were disagreeing, since you can’t respond in a rational manner, but clearly you’re just being dishonest in your more recent post by claiming otherwise.

        The problem isn’t that you’re a theist, it’s that you neither tell the truth nor think logically.

        Glen Davidson

        http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        …wow, i guess i’ll just have to shut up now, Glen Davidson just told me what was up!

        Glen Davidson:
        “I know that you prefer to ignore what you can’t properly address, but it’s a dishonest tactic.”

        “I’m not going to respond to anything…”

        don’t fall on your own sword there…

      • Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        “I’m not going to respond to anything…”

        don’t fall on your own sword there…

        So, you resort to the usual dishonest tactic of quote-mining. Is there any despicable tactic you won’t use for your god, Josh?

        Glen Davidson

        http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

      • H.H.
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Josh Caleb wrote:

        that’s actually not true, there have been studies performed in honey bee scouting for pollen sources which suggest bees know how to count the number of objects away from the hive a pollen source is

        What is this in response to and how is it remotely relevant to the case for immaterial spirits? This only reiterates the point that that physical brains are capable of abstract conception. We know this already, but this does not support the claim that an immaterial god exists outside of physical brains apart from our mental constructions.

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        H.H.
        I agree, it was an unfortunate red-herring. I retract the “bee” comment.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        Glen Davidson to Josh Caleb:

        The problem isn’t that you’re a theist, it’s that you neither tell the truth nor think logically.

        That sums it up exactly. It makes conversations with Josh Caleb meaningless.

      • H.H.
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        Josh Caleb wrote:

        H.H., I agree, it was an unfortunate red-herring. I retract the “bee” comment.

        Good. Do you now also admit that your entire argument regarding immaterial information is not evidence for immaterial spirits? Clearly you must see why it does not follow.

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        Not at all.
        my initial comment was pointing out Harris’ materialistic assumption about understanding human nature.
        Non-physical things have the same types of causality that physical things do. So if things like morals, love, consciousness, justice do exist, then something other than science may provide a better explanation of those non-physical things as they apply to the manifold “problems” we humans seem to inflict on each other.

        Its not clear to me that science provides the type of solution these issues require, precisely because they are not born out of physical laws, but moral ones.
        Was it Hume that formulated the “is” / “ought” problem of induction?

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        So if things like morals, love, consciousness, justice do exist, then something other than science may provide a better explanation of those non-physical things as they apply to the manifold “problems” we humans seem to inflict on each other.

        1. It has not been established that these are non-physical things.

        2. “…something other than science may provide..”

        There is no evidence of that. There is no evidence that there IS something other than science that could. It also has not been established that science may not provide it.

        Its not clear to me that science provides the type of solution these issues require, precisely because they are not born out of physical laws, but moral ones.

        1. “It is not clear to me…”

        This is the argument from ignorance.

        2 “..precisely because they are not born out of physical laws…”

        This has not been established and there is no evidence of that statement.

        3. “…but moral ones”

        Where did there “moral laws” come from?

        There is more evidence (but not yet conclusive) that these come from evolution (kin selection, in-group altruism) than from anywhere else.

      • H.H.
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        Josh Caleb:

        Not at all. my initial comment was pointing out Harris’ materialistic assumption about understanding human nature.
        Non-physical things have the same types of causality that physical things do. So if things like morals, love, consciousness, justice do exist, then something other than science may provide a better explanation of those non-physical things as they apply to the manifold “problems” we humans seem to inflict on each other.

        What is this “other something” that provides better explanations and by what means is it evaluated?

        Its not clear to me that science provides the type of solution these issues require, precisely because they are not born out of physical laws, but moral ones.
        Was it Hume that formulated the “is” / “ought” problem of induction?

        Again, everything suggests that the immaterial things which you mentioned are born out of physical processes. You keep speaking of abstract concepts as if they aren’t necessarily dependent upon a physical brain to do the conceiving. This is a glaring error on your part. And continuing to conflate mental abstractions with non-material entities is a category error.

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

        what about Hume’s guillotine?

      • H.H.
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

        Josh Caleb:

        what about Hume’s guillotine?

        What about it? How does theism solve the problem exactly? Or is this just another one of your red herrings? You keep making the argument that science isn’t capable of solving certain philosophical dilemmas, but this doesn’t mean you have a method that does solve them, or indeed whether or not certain dilemmas are even solvable. Whatever deficiencies inherent in science or a “materialistic” worldview are still there when you make unwarranted assumptions regarding the existence of the supernatural, so you haven’t provided any reasons to ever make them. A failure of science to explain X is not evidence that some non-science can explain it any better. We know science works. What have you got and what is its track record?

  15. Posted July 29, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    “If science is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as truth or falsehood. It’s all an illusion.”

    Perfect!

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Perfectly daft.

  16. Andrew
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Davidson,

    You must have like three or four Word documents stored on your computer, each one of them full of sayings like “you are not rational”, “your thinking is illogical”. Then you just copy/paste into whatever post you are making.

    What you do not understand is that simply making assertions, does not make them true. This seems elementary, but you do not seem to get it.

    Alternatively, maybe you understand this principle, but do not believe that the other people posting here know that principle. Well, I know it, you can’t fool me!

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Here is yet another one “the pot calling the kettle black”.

      Andrew, you simple can not comprehend logic and evidential statements that Glen makes. I am so sorry for you. Go back and play with the children. Let the grown-ups talk.

    • Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      I documented every instance of dishonesty of which I accused Josh.

      You’re simply lying through your teeth, Andrew, and projecting the loathsomeness of your inability to back up what you say onto those of us who do back up our claims.

      What did Jesus say about motes and beams? Except that there’s not any evidence that there is a mote in my eye, while the beam in yours precludes any sort of honest conversation with you.

      Glen Davidson

      http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

    • Josh Caleb
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Andrew, i do think you’re on to something there…
      its funny because its so true.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        What is funny Josh? You and Andrew lying in comment after comment?

        Yes the lying is true.

        Maybe what is funny is that Josh and Andrew fail to use logic and evidence?

        Yes, that failure is funny.

        Maybe what is funny is the use of magical woo nonsense>

        Yes, that is hilarious! I continue to laugh and laugh.

      • Andrew
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        Where did I lie NEB? I thought you backed up your assertions?

        where was I illogical? I thought you backed up your assertions?

        If what I just said was illogical, please tell me how.

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        Andrew,
        case in point: NewEnglandBoob
        !
        He hit the trifecta! (lying, illogical, no evidence)!

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        Andrew, that has been shown to you over and over again by several people on these threads. The incriminating evidence is mountainous.

        I am so sorry you are incapable of recognizing the myriad places this has already been pointed out to you, over and over, ad nauseum.

        You and Josh are specialists at these tactics and I am still laughing up a storm. You two do not even see how absurd you appear to all here, except each other.

  17. Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    The answer is, if Collins did either of those things, BUT had the scientific and administrative record of achievement that he does, *then he would still be a qualified candidate*. Because his scientific and administrative work at Michigan or the NIH, as far as anyone has reported so far, has NOT been ‘contaminated’ by his religious beliefs.

    That he would likely not be considered for the post if he were doing either of the hypotheticals, yet had his real-world CV, is a measure of what’s wrong with American politics, NOT what’s wrong with Collins.

    • articulett
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      Wouldn’t we like it if that were true– but we all know it’s not.

      Moreover, there’s ample evidence that FC’s theism DOES affect his science as demonstrated in Jerry’s previous post.

      It can affect how you understand and treat mental illnesses, for example, FC apparently believes symptoms can be caused by messages from gods or demons.

      Seeing signs from invisible people in natural phenomena is not a sign of mental health. But FC believes in all sorts of crazy supernatural scientifically unsupportable things because of a feeling he got while looking at a waterfall. Now, if that waterfall was message from “Xenu”, do you really think people in the public would be defending his faith? You are lying to yourself if you think so.

      And, yet Francis Collins’ supernatural beliefs are equally unscientific and unsupportable. It’s your own biases which have you imagining that this is no big deal and that “politics” is to blame.

      When the people in scientific offices make up a representative sample of scientists as a whole, then you might have a point. But there are few rationalists in office even though they make up the highest I.Q. group in the country.

      You are giving christian insanity a special privilege as does much of America, and then calling others “bad guys” when they point out the obvious: we all know full well that no one would give such respect or deference to a similarly unsupportable faith– and even less to those who lack faith completely… even thought not having a vested interest to support makes for much better science. We have never solved a problem in the natural world looking towards a supernatural method. If we still believed in Zeus, we’d never have understood lightening. And as long as people believe in immortal souls, they are unlikely to understand how the brain gives rise to consciousness. They will also be stuck living this live for some imaginary afterlife eternity based on who can convince them that they know how guarantee salvation.

      When you look the other way as people glorify the voices in their heads claiming messages from gods, then you are to blame when those voices tell them to do something that ends up causing suffering to others. And it does… all too often.

      Exorcism is not a recognized treatment for mental health, but it is for “spiritual problems”– do you understand now, why FC may not be the best choice? Or perhaps you just need some clearing on an e-meter… or maybe a good dose of talking in tongues will fix you right up.

      • articulett
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Suppose FC was a known follower of horoscopes… suppose he thought your problems were that your moon was in Jupiter and your Chakras weren’t aligned.

        You are fooling yourself if you think his faith doesn’t affect his science. Christians and their apologists friends have just blinded themselves to their own wacky beliefs though they’d have a field day if he exhibited any of the other sited examples.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        My Deepak Chopra’s are very misaligned :)

      • Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        ‘Suppose’ all you like, articulette. As a scientist, I prefer to start from observation of the real world — the science Collins has done — and when I look at that I see a scientific career that doesn’t *even remotely* resemble the crazed cartoon of a closet theocrat who longs to halt the use of scientific method at the NIH and substitute exorcism and horoscopes instead — the sort of ludicrous picture knee-jerk ranters like yourself are drawing above. *That’s* quite insane.

    • Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Frankly, articulett, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

      First, no, ‘we’ don’t ‘all know it’s not’ true. I’m sure ‘we’ can find plenty of good scientists who support Collins’ appointment; I’m sure ‘we’ can find plenty of rational people — including scientists –who would argue that a theist of any stripe, or an atheist, CAN still be qualified for such a post *IF* their scientific/administrative work has been exemplary — the latter is the litmus test, not the former. And thus the only reason the scientifically accomplished theist of unusual stripe or the atheist would NOT be so considered — the reason why ‘the public’ would balk – is due to our particular political and cultural baggage (including our religious biases towards Judeo-Christianity). That’s what ‘we’, the enlightened atheists, are supposed to *FIGHT*.

      Btw, in my scientific career I’ve personally known and worked with Wiccan, Mormon, Hindu, Christian, and Jewish scientists, as well as agnostics and atheists like myself.
      This wasn’t in backwaters, this was in well-known institutions. Do *you* therefore assume that they aren’t good scientists and administrators? If so, you’re simply prejudiced.

      Jerry C. did NOT demonstrate that FC’s theism has ‘affected’ his scientific work in the way that would matter: which is to say, injecting religion into his *research* and his administration of the HGP. Jerry demonstrated that Collins is willing to give invited talks on ‘Religion and Science’ wherein he is free to explicate his silly (to me) but not-all-that-unusual Christian beliefs, and explain why he thinks they complement his science. But you won’t find any mention of God or Jesus in his research papers. You’ll only find science.

      • articulett
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

        Wrong. Way to miss the point, faitheist. That’s your prejudice not mine.

        When you think that faith can lead you to truth then you are not being scientific. When you believe in an immortal soul that needs to believe a certain story to be “saved”, then you have a vested interest in making sure you don’t understand how the mind give rise to consciousness. These are embarrassing unprovable beliefs… not the sort of thing we want folks evangelical about (at least not when they conflict with our own delusions). A Buddhist who was an evangelical reincarnationist would probably not be well received, and you know it! Would he tell people their mental problems are due to bad karma? Because Collins does believe that lack of faith in Jesus is a cause of such problems. He might miss a brain tumor while showing waterfalls to the ill hoping that they get the same revelation he did for all you know. Irrational people are not predictable.

        Collins believes and uses his feelings upon viewing a waterfall to assert that all the supernatural crap in Christianity is “the TRUTH”. A waterfall was a sign from God that told him so! Really! Moreover, he shows purposeful ignorance in understanding how morality can and does evolve. He shows purposeful ignorance on a number of things. He believes that some humans are in touch with some invisible entities, and yet he has no way to differentiate those communications from delusions of communications. None. He gets these same delusions–only to him they really truly are messages from the invisible undetectable creator of the universe who likes FC especially, apparentluy-so much so, that he designs waterfalls to influence him. FC imagines signs from beyond telling him that god really killed his kid (who was him)to save mankind from original sin… how he’s worked the fact of evolution into this wacky supernatural incoherent faith story is anybody’s guess… though he gives lots-o-clues in his video and Biologos.

        That’s wacky. You have to be indoctrinated or brainwashed to think that faith is good or not to understand how wacky those beliefs are. They are wackier than Greek Myths. As wacky as Scientology. As unsupportable by science as belief in alien visitation. Not only that, Collins religious fervor has him making very biased and unscientific statements about non belief, materialism, and atheists. I’d prefer not to know what supernatural beliefs my fellow scientists have… just as I’d prefer not to know their fetishes. I’d like to assume we are all rational people until they speak up and reveal otherwise. Faith should be private… but when there is no evidence to support a belief the faith filled are stuck spinning out the delusion to others to reinforce the belief in themselves.

        If FC wouldn’t want a vocal Scientologist to be head of the NIH or proselytizing or advertising the wacky things he feels saved for believing… then he ought not do it himself. This non believer feels the same way towards Collins wacky beliefs as Collins feels towards the brainwashed in Scientology, pentacostalism, Jonestown, Moonies, etc. It’s all lies disguised as “higher truths” and none of it is supported by science anymore than the burning of witches is.

        Increasingly, it is becoming obvious that “souls” are a perceptual illusion. From a scientific perspective, belief in souls IS like belief in fairies… belief in gods is the same as belief in demons. It’s a misperception… like the earth being flat. And honest people should be the ones to point this out. It’s dishonest and cruel to enable these delusions in adults… to allow them to feel humble and glorified for such childish self-important beliefs. It’s time to stop so actual scientific progress is not delayed.

        Francis Collins is too busy lying to himself. His faith does conflict with his science. He choose ignorance rather than learning evidence which fills in the gaps where he inserts his god. He uses QM fuzziness to support belief in his brand of delusion though it’s just as wrong as when new agey types do it or Muslims or Scientologists. It’s just as much of a pseudoscience.

        And I don’t want people in power who BELIEVE that they can know real things through faith or feelings. Such people have no tools for separating truth from what they WANT to be true. How arrogant!

        All the belief in the world can’t make demons real or the earth flat or rain dances work. And the same goes for god belief. It’s time honest people spoke up and quit letting you faitheists bully us and pretend we are saying something we aren’t saying.

        If FC was the same type of scientist but had magical beliefs that conflicted with Christianity (that the Quo’ran was the word of God, for example), you know full well, the theists and faithests woud have a field day.

        You can fool yourself; I imagine I once sounded like you, but you aren’t fooling me at all. Try Andrew or Robocop.

        My vote goes with the truth tellers, not the faitheists. Until such people are as representative in office as they are in the population, I won’t show much concern for imagined prejudiced against christians which they use to foster actual prejudice against those who don’t share their faith.

  18. articulett
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Shouldn’t Andrew and Josh Caleb do their cheer-leading for Jesus and Collins at a creotard site with others of their ilk and quit infesting a science blog with their self aggrandizing woo –since they can’t seem to follow the conversation anyhow?

    Santi has a blog, you know– he’s an “accomodationist” he believes in “affirmative action” for you “faitheists”. Go there. You are way out of your league here, and if you weren’t so daft, you’d be as embarrassed for yourselves as the rest of us are for you (and the looney tunes FC).

    It’s not that everyone else is mean; it’s that you guys truly have no clue as to how stupid and brainwashed you sound to sane people.

  19. articulett
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Now is the time for Collins to prove his “do unto others” philosophy by being as private in his beliefs and letting them affect his science as seldom as he’d expect a Muslim, Atheist, or New Ager to do if appointed instead.

  20. articulett
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Ken Miller pisses me off, because he is rightly critical of creationists– but when it comes to his own brand of woo, any criticism suddenly become “hate speech” even if people use identical arguments to the ones he uses to knock down the discovery institute’s propaganda.

    I know Miller and Collins are desperate to believe that science doesn’t conflict with faith… but they become the people they fight against when trying to combine the two, and their lying to themselves does affect their science. They have a vested interest in remaining scientifically ignorant where they’ve inserted their god into the gaps, and a vested interest in treating all criticism as “Christian hate speech” so they can pretend to be martyrs for their faith instead of regular old delusional theotards like the folks at DI.

  21. articulett
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Steven, it’s you who don’t know what you are talking about. You are hearing things that no one said and imagining motives that aren’t there while covering for Collins’ wacky statements about things he really truly believes– and feels SAVED for believing. You imagine motives in me, while missing FC’s clearly stated fantasies.

    I suggest you examine your own biases. Read what is actually being said. I don’t think you’d be hearing the same thing if we were talking about a believer in Scientology… and yet FC’s faith is no more scientifically valid. He’d expect a Scientologist in his position to be far more private in his supernatural beliefs than he, himself, is willing to be. It would worry people including Francis that the guy believed in things like Thetans that are not evidenced by science. But FC believes in “free will” and immortal souls and those are equally unevidenced! Equally. That means that there is an equal probability that such entities are “real”. They are equally “scientific” (pseudoscientific) concepts just like all proposed immeasurable forces and entities that people “believe in”.

    You also would be less blind to the actual wackiness of the beliefs if you hadn’t, like me, grown up in a culture where we all learn to protect certain brands of wacky belief from scrutiny because we are told they are “good” or virtuous. But god belief is no more virtuous than demon belief… and they often go hand in hand. Does Collins believe in an actual Devil and Hell? Don’t you think that’s pretty crazy if he does? I think it’s crazier than if he believed he was the reincarnation of Napoleon. And for the same reasons really.

    There is no evidence that faith can lead to anything verifiably true. The only method known to actually give verifiable results is science. But FC imagines there are “higher truths” and he follows “higher laws” in his mind. Just like every other “true believer”.

    If you are going to be a believer, I’d prefer you keep it silent, because I find people crazy when they seem to really REALLY believe stuff that is indistinguishable from what really crazy people believe.

    Plus, if you hear voices in your head, I do think you’re crazy if you imagine they are signs or messages from invisible undetectable entities. I think that’s even crazier than imagining the government is trying to manipulate you through hidden television signals that can be blocked by tinfoil hats.

    At least radio waves are material… measurable. Gods aren’t.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      At least radio waves are material… measurable.

      Not if you are wearing the tin foil hat!

      articulett, I am enjoying your posts and your passion in writing them and I concur with nearly all of what you have written.

      • articulett
        Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        (blush)

        *Thanks*

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted July 30, 2009 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

      Fact: Scientology is far more plausible than the Abrahamic faiths.
      It entails far less supernatural elements for a start.

      That doesn’t mean that it isn’t whackaloon batshit crazy, but that Xtianity, Judaism, and Islam are are several orders more insane.

  22. Josh Caleb
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    @H.H.
    “What about it? How does theism solve the problem exactly?

    Theism provides an explanation for the prescriptive statements rather than the descriptive statements science provides.
    Thus Hume’s guillotine argues against the materialist explanations and CS Lewis’ argument from universal moral codes (for example) argues in favor of theism. (i.e. existence of objective moral law suggests a universal law giver).

    To clarify: I’m not preaching my view here, rather responding to H.H.’s inquiry as to theism’s role in resolving the ills of human nature that Harris, above, seems to suggest scientific understanding will solve.

    • Darek
      Posted July 30, 2009 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Theism provides an explanation for the prescriptive statements rather than the descriptive statements science provides.

      What does this even mean?

      How do we determine which ‘prescription’ is most useful? Or correct? What criteria are we using to discriminate you’re prescriptions from mine? Or is a prescription sufficient simply on fideistic terms – which simply begs questions – and if so, what is the difference in ‘prescribing’ someone Christianity or Islam from making something up that’s just as useful?

      And thats just giving a pass to the fact that you’ve inserted theism without any means of justification or substantiation.

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 7:15 am | Permalink

        “How do we determine which ‘prescription’ is most useful? Or correct? What criteria are we using to discriminate you’re prescriptions from mine?”

        Well, it being a non-physical paradigm we’d expect some type of communication, but this communication still might happen in time-space in a way we could validate by some means.
        If a supreme being exists, we would look for evidence that he/she/it has revealed anything to man. Standard epistemological guidelines of logical consistency, empirical adequacy and experiential resonance would apply.
        Christians claim the best textual evidence (typically orders of magnitude greater) for their scripture (in comparisons to any other religion) in addition to other historical or archeological validations of the old and new testament accounts and people, specifically the historicity of Jesus of Nazereth.
        I’m sure i’m not telling you anything new. But it remains to be seen if people regard historical and textual scholarship in the same light as scientific scholarship. Admittedly it is different in method but no less rigorous in application. Scientists tend to not like history because of its obvious un-repeatability, thus we are stuck with a “weight of evidence” claim that Christianity makes and has flourished by since the time of Jesus.

        (bring on the name calling and snide dismissals…)
        Again, i’m not preaching my view here, just responding to a question. If that is not allowed I won’t answer questions.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 30, 2009 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      What does this even mean?

      It does not mean anything. It is just one of those nonsense general statements. It uses its own importance to mimic authority. It appeals to nonexistent laws.

      Thus Hume’s guillotine argues against the materialist explanations

      Hume’s argument does not then argue for theism. It is a warning about materialism.

      CS Lewis was a Christian apologist who wrote well known fiction. His apologies were not so good. He did write a lot about fairies and other whimsical characters.

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 7:18 am | Permalink

        “Hume’s argument does not then argue for theism. It is a warning about materialism.”

        I never suggested it did.

        On the contrary, CS Lewis wrote one of the most popular and effective Christian apologies. I personally know many who were persuaded to Christianity specifically through his work “Mere Christianity”.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 7:35 am | Permalink

        Snake oil sales has always been good. Christian apologies mostly fool the ignorant and the desperate.

  23. Gingerbaker
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    “…existence of objective moral law suggests a universal law giver).”

    Just for laughs, then, what does the fact that there has never been a universal objective moral code suggest about the existence of a universal law giver?

    According to the Bible to pick just one book of ‘universal moral truths’, the value of a fetus was a few shekels, women were property fit to be offered to crowds of men intent on rape, it was all right to murder non Jews, children should be slaughtered by bears if they are rude, and slavery was perfectly fine. Objective moral code? You have got to be joking.

    And what does the fact that moral codes have always been broken by most people say about that ‘universal law giver’?

    That he can fine-tune the Universe, but is powerless to help the C Street Republicans to keep their pricks in their pants!

    Of all the dumb things Collins said in his slide presentation, surely this is the most stupid?

    • articulett
      Posted July 30, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Indeed! And if there is a universal moral law, then why do so few people agree with the details of that law in regards to what it means?

      And why the hell wasn’t the lawgiver clearer so as not to invite so much suffering over interpretation?

      The idea of a “universal moral law” is so arrogant, because every believer must imagine that they have the inside scoop on that law as they tell themselves how all those who have conflicting views are deceived!

      The biggest irony is that this supreme arrogance is seem as HUMILITY in the mind of the believer. Doublespeak at it’s most grotesque. Will humanity ever wake up from this nightmare?

    • Josh Caleb
      Posted July 31, 2009 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      you may disagree on the application of the moral codes, but to deny that all people in all times have held to moral standards is to strain credulity.
      i.e. killing innocent human life has never been acceptable.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 7:40 am | Permalink

        …all people in all times have held to moral standards is to strain credulity.

        I fixed this statement for you:

        some people in all times have held to moral standards is to strain credulity.

        Hitler, Atilla, the Turks, Darfur, etc. – these people did not hold to moral standards.

        killing innocent human life has never been acceptable

        Yes, even before religions co-opted it.

      • Josh Caleb
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 7:49 am | Permalink

        thus the modifier “innocent”, those killers believed those people deserved to be killed.

        morality is never displaced, rather one’s view of justice is maligned.

        I’m sure if one of the SS stole one of Hilter’s boots, he’d find it morally wrong.

  24. Posted July 30, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    “Wrong. Way to miss the point, faitheist. That’s your prejudice not mine.”

    Actually, I’m an atheist. Have been since my teens, several decades ago. Obvious from my posts to Pharyngula, I’d hope. Supporting — or at least not being hysterically anti — the choice of Francis Collins for NIH head does not automatically make one a ‘faithist’, ‘accomodationist’, or whatever juvenile us-or-them label bloggers are pushing this week. I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in god(s).

    Some weird form of blinkers makes you fail to see that I’ve called Collins’s religious beliefs ‘silly’ and his apologetics unconvincing several times. His beliefs are, however, rather pedestrian in the Christian American spectrum of religious belief — meaning that lots of other otherwise sane, successful people hold to them too. This shows clearly that success in diverse academic professions — including high-level science — is not *necessarily precluded* by such beliefs, regardless of how goofy you and I find them to be. Such success may be rare (most, but not all, NAS members are atheists). But it’s still real, whether you like it or not.

    For me this will be the end of discussion with you. We’re clearly just talking past each other at this point and now you’re just making up goofy desperate shit about me and babbling about increasingly contrived hypotheticals rather than looking at Collins’ scientific and administrative results, which have been religion-neutral. Your ‘faith’ is that he will now, after years of keeping his religion and his science compartmentalized, change course and start co-mingling them in a manner detrimental to science. Mine is that he won’t.

    • articulett
      Posted July 30, 2009 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Wrong again… but congratulations for hearing what you want to hear as the faitheist is wont to do.

      I’ve made no bets about FC’s future. I only noted that if he’d been identical in his science but had different supernatural beliefs, everyone (including you) would be more concerned. They’d see him mixing his science and religion, whereas now… they (like you) are blind to it.

      It’s problematic in science when you make statements like “you are right to reject materialism” as FC has. Science IS materialism… there is no reason to add supernaturalism, and it often keeps people from understanding the real answers.

      But keep on hearing what you want to hear so you can pretend that FC is being discriminated against for his Christianity by those mean old atheists.

      There are lots of people as competent or more competent than FC without the vocal supernatural evangelical beliefs. Why weren’t they considered for the job?

      Hearing what you want to hear and missing the main message is a form of dishonesty, you know.m So is accusing people of holding positions they do not hold such as your bizarro last paragraph about my “faith” which has nothing to do with what I said or believe. I have said that FC is irrational, and that it’s hard to predict what irrational people will do, however.

      All believers and their faitheist supporters engage in this mishearing so they can feel noble fighting straw men that have nothing to do with anything anyone actually said. What a big boy you are to have knocked down so many straw men today and declared yourself some sort of diplomat for doing so! Have you met Santi, the agnostic? He has his own blog, you know!

      Silly you. You’re as silly as Collins and his big clown shoes. (Note: this doesn’t saying anything about what I believe you will be “co-mingling” in the future.)

      I suppose it IS best you don’t read my posts, because you are hearing things that aren’t there while repeatedly missing the main point in order to see yourself as someone more reasoned than you appear to others here. Besides, wasn’t your first post just a silly piece where you knock down a few straw men views about Jerry and sing the praises of Collins so you can feel however Chris Mooney feels when he talks about those “shrill new atheists” that supposedly “hurt the cause”?

      Your first post was a disaster of mishearing of what was actually said and a defense of FC against charges no one made. It reeked of “be more like me” arrogance. And I don’t think anyone here wants to be more like you and others who fight imaginary battles so they can feel like “super men” in their own minds.

      You do illustrate the problem of mixing, faith, faitheists, and science, however. You guys are endlessly missing the point and fighting fake battles which can lead you to miss real solutions as well. Your need to be heroic in your minds keeps you from seeing and admitting your mistakes in reality.

  25. Posted July 30, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Final questions:

    Does Collins’ religious beliefs — which he’s held all along his career — invalidate the science he’s done to date? Does it render his running of the Human genome project suspect?

    If not, how has he managed to do it?

    *Before* you knew he was an evangelical Christian, did you have concerns about his scientific or administrative ability? Did you suspect they were contaminated with ‘faithism’? Did you even know who he was and what he has done?

    • articulett
      Posted July 30, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      No. But did others without magical beliefs do more or better? Is Francis Collins vocal about some very suspect beliefs that are unscientific–YES! Is a person who believes that humans have immortal souls the best person to run the NIH in the year 2008– I think not. What will he do with studies that increasingly show how the brain gives rise to consciousness? What will he do with the science that fills the places where he inserted his god with actual evidence of “not god”?

      If there are no such things as gods and souls and demons, and these things are no more worth believing in than fairies, specters, and Thetans, then shouldn’t we have leaders that are able to prepare future generations for this knowledge? FC is the equivalent of a guy who thinks the earth was the center of the universe in Galileo’s time. Would such a person be a wise choice to lead scientists?

      I know you’ll miss the point again. Your insincere questions confirm it. But you really are only fooling yourself here. No one but you hears Jerry, me, etc. as saying what you imply… and you can’t seem to acknowledge that FC’s beliefs are wacky… though we all know that if they weren’t the Christian brand of wacky, you’d see this clearly.

      I am both a scientist and science teacher. You never asked me of my experience–you just assumed you know more than everyone here. I choose my own role models, and to me, you are similar to Santi and Mooney. I shan’t waste my time. I can read more honest people and actually understand the words you have a need to mishear.

      I’m sure someone intelligent will respond if you ever have anything of value to add.

      • articulett
        Posted July 30, 2009 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

        (2009 not 2008)

        Ugh. But enough of my talking to a self important faitheist troll.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 30, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        Damn, and I was going to buy articulet a new calendar for our “New Atheist” yearly holiday, the baby eating festival

  26. bilbo
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Who cares, Jerry? Let’s all hope that Collins, despite his disconcerting blur between science and religion, will show the ability to disconnect his beliefs from science as NIH director. Were he an atheist, a Wiccan, a Scientologist, or whatever (and still an “impeccable” scientist), I would hope he would do the same. In your own words, give the guy a chance. You’re headhunting a little too much here about something that hasn’t happened yet.

    • articulett
      Posted July 30, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      Or maybe you are confusing valid questions with “head hunting” in order to miss Jerry’s point while overlooking some of the disconcerting things Collins has said.

      We all are compelled to give Collins a chance… why don’t you give others a chance to voice their concerns without jumping to the conclusion that they are “head hunting” or whatever other horrors you imagine yourself speaking out against? I think you know as well as everyone else that you wouldn’t be telling us to give Collins a chance if it was Xenu whom he got a message from in a waterfall. That makes you a hypocrite. I think even Collins would be concerned by someone using the same arguments to support a conflicting belief system (and one could)if they were appointed in the role he now has.

      Faitheists and other hypocrites do not speak for me. Jerry doesn’t need to give FC a “chance”–you guys need to give others a chance to voice their valid concerns without imagining that they are “head hunting” or “not giving chances” or discriminating against Christians. You imagine these things to avoid acknowledging your own hypocrisy, and it gets old.

      You’re not a person that should be giving advice to Jerry; you’d be better off working on your own flaws.

    • Posted July 30, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Exactly, bilbo. Since we’re allowing free speculation — what if Collins were a Scientologist?? or heaven forbid, a *Wiccan*?? — we can freely speculate that Collins would have been just as good at keeping his Scientology, or Wicca, or Odin-worship, out of his science, as he has been at keeping his Jebus-worship out of it. And we’d be on firmer evidentiary ground than some others here.

      No one is preventing anyone from having a chance to voice their concerns about Collins, or advocating that they be prevented from doing so. The concerns have already made it to Science magazine, for pete’s sake. They aren’t being suppressed.

      Some, like me, are suggesting that you concerns be measured against Collins’ scientific and administrative career record. Does he have a record of interfering with science — his or others’ — when it conflicts with his beliefs? Has he ever ‘violated a program of naturalistic empirical research’ as Jerry puts it? Do we see that in his research? Would we have even known he was deeply religious — or what religion he espoused — from his scientific/administrative record?

      These are legitimate questions.

      It is also legitimate to ask how Collins, who’s kept his faith and science functionally separate so far, will manage to do so as NIH head…and for that matter, to ask whether a ‘big science’ guy like him will be as enthusiastic and supportive about the ‘little’ science that NIH funds.

      It’s a straw man to argue as if someone defending Collins’ strong career qualifications for the job against dark speculations, or merely asking that he be given the benefit of doubt, must think Collins is the only or best possible choice for the job.
      (I don’t think that. I’d prefer Harold Varmus again, for one. I wouldn’t care if he turned out to be waiting for the return of Great Cthulhu on his off hours. He’s a great scientist and administrator.)

      Steven Sullivan
      NYU Langone Medical Ctr.
      Dept of Medical Parasitology

      P.S. Anyone flinging accusations that I’m a ‘troll’, a ‘faithist’, ‘insincere’ , or a ‘hypocrite’, can kindly take them and shove them up back up his/her ass.

  27. articulett
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I think the concerns you avoid addressing speak volumes as do the ones you imagine people are making so that you can feel that poor FC is being discriminated against.

    Why not look at what was actually said by Coyne, Harris, PZ, etc. instead of imagining motives and criticizing them so you can feel all Mooney-esque in your straw man attacks. Why not critique the actual concerns from actual scientists who reasonably wonder how someone with strong supernatural views can lead a naturalistic enterprise without letting those supernatural views keep him from understanding naturalistic explanations?

    That which you accuse others of, is more evident in yourself, Mr. Sullivan.

    If the faitheist misses the basic argument and can’t understand a simply expressed concern, then what hope is there that FC can do so? If the faitheist purposefully and repeatedly misses the blatant examples where FC’s faith conflict with naturalistic explanations, then what can they possibly add to the conversation except a furtherance of their own self-aggrandizing bias. If the faitheist can’t grapple the concerns of the majority of rationalists, then I don’t consider them to be on the side of reason nor spokesmen for any cause that I want to be a part of.

    I think you might want to examine what is actually being said so that you are spokesperson for reason you imagine yourself to be rather than criticizing those who sound much more reasonable than yourself.

    Go tsk-tsk those who are actually saying what you are imagining in your head or the those who, like Francis Collins, feel ennobled for “belief” rather than demonstrable knowledge. You aren’t capable of addressing the actual statements of others it appears. But I bet Ken Miller would find your response super duper.

    You’re fighting a fake battle while missing the actual reasons people are expressing concern. You are putting others down to feel diplomatic and well reasoned– and you’ve misread your audience, because you’ve failed to distinguish yourself from faitheists like Mooney and Miller. You are blaming the wrong people for the wrong thing and imagining yourself some sort of diplomatic peachekeeper in doing so. I don’t want to know or care what peoples magical beliefs and opinions are any more than they care about my beliefs and opinions. I want to be represented by those who are concerned with the truth– the singular objective facts that are the same for everyone no matter what they believe. If you can’t see how someone’s need to believe in gods, demons, and souls, might affect their understanding of human consciousness, experience, and health– then you are missing the obvious.

    Attributing poor health to spiritual stuff is a way to miss the correct diagnoses. Duh. It’s a way humans have been wrong each other for eons. Jesus is not a cure though FC seems to imagine that he is–not just for this world, but for some eternal one that he truly believes exists and is more important than this one.

    We should not have to know or defer to the superstitions of our leaders. If this crap were true, then our probing should reveal it, right? If it’s not, we have a right–even a responsibility to reveal that as well. We should be as free to criticize their superstitions as you feel to criticize those who are supposedly being “unfair” per your imaginary scenario involving “headhunting” and who knows what else.

    Your free to be as faitheistic as you want and kiss whatever theist asses please you, but don’t imagine that you are coming off as giving anything more than giving the smarmy Courtier’s Reply to the audience here. It’s a well worn rhetorical devise in those who imagine that faith is something to be revered or a means of actually knowing something true.

    If there were magical robes on the damn emperor you wouldn’t need to waste your stupid time putting down those who are point out that there are not. Instead, you could get on board with the honest folk who are helping other people see that those who promote such views are delusional. You understand that FC has delusional beliefs–but you prefer to cover and enable them… and ensure that others remain beholden to the lie as they promote prejudice against those who speak the truth.

    • articulett
      Posted July 30, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      “You’re” not “Your” in second to last paragraph.

      And, yes, I do think Mr. Sullivan fits Jerry’s definition of faitheist quite well. I find the people they criticize far more honest, eloquent, and well reasoned than them. I don’t consider such people spokesmen for reason, atheism, nor science. I consider them apologists for liars giving the equivalent of the “Courtier’s Reply” to boost their own egos since they have no actual real evidence or arguments to bolster their “belief in belief”.

      • articulett
        Posted July 30, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

        BTW, I think Jerry’s questions were legitimate. You avoided them. I find Steven Sullivan’s questions typical of the ways faitheists avoid answering such hard questions. They are specious and self serving since they have nothing to do with the original questions or views expressed and they imply that people hold positions they do not hold. They are straw men designed to make folks like Mr. Sullivan feel good for knocking down.

    • Posted July 31, 2009 at 12:34 am | Permalink

      And again: “Why not critique the actual concerns from actual scientists who reasonably wonder how someone with strong supernatural views can lead a naturalistic enterprise without letting those supernatural views keep him from understanding naturalistic explanations?”

      Perhaps they should ask themselves how Francis Collins had managed to do it so well so far. I guess he’s been fooling everyone by using ‘naturalistic’ explanations in the results sections of his research papers. Maybe it’s time to haul him before the ORI for fraud.

      Yeah, that’s the ticket.

      I’m content to let the record of our exchange sit here for revisiting in a year or two when Dr. Collins has doubtless either been run out of Bethesda, or triumphally overthrown the use of naturalistic explanations at the NIH. Or not.

      And btw it’s “Dr.” Sullivan — not the medical kind.

      • articulett
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 2:53 am | Permalink

        I guess you didn’t read FC’s Biologos website. Or perhaps you just blind yourself to what Xian nutters are actually saying while imagining their critics are saying things they aren’t.

      • articulett
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 3:40 am | Permalink

        If you want people to answer your questions, ask them at your own blog… don’t ask them here while avoiding the questions that reveal your biases. Your first smarmy post avoided Jerry’s questions and attacked a straw man version of what he said and then you got all pissy because no one answered your silly loaded questions meant to imply something smarmy about Jerry and others who point out FC’s evangelical nuttiness.

        What better illustration of a faitheist can there be? And lets, be real… you are adept at denying the instances where FC’s faith has conflicted with scientific facts, so it’s not like any answer would register with you. Just as a creationist uses his own ignorance of evolution to deny the compelling evidence, you use your ignorance of FC’s statements to assert that he never let them affect his science! When people expressed real concerns with some actual anti-science things FC said you pretended people were calling for his head and then fought that straw man!

        Perhaps FC made it this far because faitheists like you blind people to Christian brand superstition and spread prejudice via straw men of their critics –even though such critics use the same arguments theists use to oppose conflicting faiths!

        I think Jerry’s point is that we all know FC never would have made it this far if he was that outspoken an atheist nor if he was evangelical about some other faith based nuttery that he believed was true because of a “sign” he got in nature. Even you know this. That makes everyone who avoids the question afraid of the hypocrisy it reveals as far as I’m concerned. FC was hired because his superstition was the one socially acceptable superstition that we are scolded for questioning

        Maybe your own “faith in faith” delusions that kept you from answering Jerry’s original questions are just the clue you need if you actually want to understand why people like FC get where they are while more qualified other folks do not.

        Confirm your obnoxious biases on your own blog. The truth needs protecting; I’m not sure FC does. After all, he’s got the creator of the universe sending him personal signs in nature! Plus, he’s got the job. And no matter how much his wacky beliefs influence his job, people like you will ensure that no one will guess that it has anything to do with his faith.

        In fact, I bet that any scientific ignorance that comes from his faith will be blamed on “shrill atheists” by faithesists like you when you aren’t blaming politics or blowing smoke regarding some other straw man you need to knock down to feel like a “mighty defender of the faith” once again.

      • articulett
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 3:59 am | Permalink

        Oh, and your last sentence is another straw man. No one said anything about FC getting kicked out of anywhere. Bush ran the country into the ground with his message from god… Reagan ran the country while showing symptoms of Alzheimers, and look at C street.

        I think you can get away with all sorts of lunacy provided you attribute it to Jesus.

        I’m more than content to let my words stand too. Because they show very clearly how faitheists like you fail to hear what was said. Moreover, they show that your first post failed to answer the questions and pretended that Jerry had said something else so you could imagine yourself a spokesman for reason. I think it’s a fabulous example of the “courtier’s reply”. Plus all your posts make an excellent example of the “straw man” fallacy.

        You are a fabulous example of a garden variety faitheist as well. I think it’s hysterical that faitheists don’t like the term “faithiest” since it’s way nicer than the straw man allegations they are so quick to make about anyone who dares criticize faith as a means of knowledge.

        Look at all the prejudice you’ve spread about things people never said here in order to avoid what was actually said. I guess it’s the only way to feel good about yourself when your reasoning sucks so bad and you know that if you actually answered Jerry’s questions, it would reveal your hypocrisy to yourself.

        I think you were transparent from your first post; I don’t think you’ve fooled anyone here with your pretenses about what I or others have said. I think the only one who doesn’t think you are a faitheist is you.

  28. articulett
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    If dead people are really just souls beginning to start their “happily ever after”, why would Francis Collins want to be involved with an organization dedicated to delaying the start of these eternal rewards?

  29. Josh Caleb
    Posted July 31, 2009 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    I would hope the goal of such blogs would be to persuade others to your perspective using good thinking and civil dialogue.

    articulett, NEB and Glen D. prefer to spew epithets and call people (and invent) silly names and shout that they are liars and illogical.
    Guys, this is not persuasive and not doing your position any favors. Your decrying of “accomodationism” actually paints you all into a very small corner of childish irrelevance. 99% of the public would consider you nutcases for very good REASON. TRY to be persuasive rather than childish.

    bilbo and Steven Sullivan at least show some modicum of fairness (what you call “faitheism” i guess…)

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 31, 2009 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Nonsense. Take opposing views for what they are – critiques upon your silly pronouncements to be the honest views of the people who hold them. Your words are what is being criticized. Get a backbone.

    • Posted July 31, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      These attempts at black and white drawing up of sides tend to fail. People can be more complicated than that.

      For example, from my POV of this thread:

      Caleb = tedious theist apologist

      articulett = tedious atheist hothead

      NEB = “+1!” supplier for tedious atheist hothead

      GlenD = reasonable atheist (I like his posts on Pharyngula too)

      Me = reasonable atheist (IMHO)

      Jerry C. today calls Robert Wright a faitheist. From what I’ve read of Wright, my views of him accord with Coyne’s: Wright’s contorted arguments amount to special pleading for religion, not only in others’ lives but in his own (even though he claims to be atheist!). It’s not far from Collins’ arguments on the same subject. I find them as unconvincing as Jerry does — I certainly don’t think we *need* god(s) to make us moral, or to have grounds for moral behaviour — so I can’t possibly be a ‘faitheist’. I appear to just be a plain old atheist…albeit one not driven to distraction by the idea of a highly successful NIH scientist (who’s also an evangelical Christian) running the NIH.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        wow, such a humble opinion of yourself, Sullivan.

        I actually see you as synthesis man who wears blinders.

        I have produced dozens of comments but you characterize me by a few.

        Actually, I will modify my characterization of you to “pathetic synthesis man who wears blinders”.

      • articulett
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        I’ve stopped reading the self-aggrandizing S.S. I’m tired of being a wall for him to bounce his masturbatory self -delusion off of.

        He’s one of those dudes who repeats his opinion over and over illustrating wire’d magazines: “pugilistic discussion syndrome.”

        http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/commentary/alttext/2007/06/alttext_0620

        In this curious form of aphasia, the subject is unable to distinguish between a discussion and a contest. The subject approaches any online forum as a sort of playing field, and attempts to “win” the discussion by any means necessary. The rules of the imaginary contest are apparently clear to the individual as he or she will often point out when others break them, but when asked to outline these rules the individual is reluctant, perhaps not wishing to confer an “advantage” on any “opponents.” The conditions for winning are similarly difficult to pin down, although in some cases the individual will declare himself the winner of a discussion that, to all others, appears to be ongoing.

        I guess if he ever says anything worthwhile, someone smart will quote him. If only the faitheists would be as silent with their opinions as they wish their critics would be. I guess they think “do unto others” means “only others that think as they do”.

  30. Hameer
    Posted July 31, 2009 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    JC: 1. If Collins were as vociferous an atheist as he is a Christian, and went around proclaiming that the “empirical facts” are evidence for atheism (which indeed they are!), and gave lectures comprised of half science, half justification for atheism, and wrote books about how atheism and science were compatible, would he have a snowball’s chance in hell of being approved as NIH director? (And would religious people write in to support the nomination in the name of freedom of religion/atheism?)

    So people like Dawkins and Stenger (and it seems yourself) constantly rant and rave about science and evolution implying atheism (a PHILOSOPHICAL perspective not based on any empirical data!) and thats okay??? But if Collins or Miller explain how they have reconciled their faiths with science, and how Science to them is suggestive of God’s existence (their PHILOSOPHICAL perspective), it sets your pants on fire???

    This is ridiculously hilarious Dr. Coyne, especially coming from a man with your level of education and intelligence.

    • Havok
      Posted July 31, 2009 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Hameer: So people like Dawkins and Stenger (and it seems yourself) constantly rant and rave about science and evolution implying atheism (a PHILOSOPHICAL perspective not based on any empirical data!) and thats okay???

      I believe this point was addressed up thread.
      The ‘empirical data’ weighs heavily against the existence of Yahweh and his ilk :-)

      • Hameer
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        No it does not. A diest God, an idealist God, as well some notions of a theistic God are philosophically quite compatible with ‘empirical data’ as much as atheistic philosophy is compatible. To each his own philosophy. Why is Dr Coyne making such a fuss? It’s ludicrous.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 31, 2009 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      wow, the stupidity displayed in one comment can be mind boggling.

      “empirical facts” are evidence for atheism (which indeed they are!)

      atheism 101:
      atheism is the lack of belief in any god. you can not have empirical facts to show the lack of evidence.

      Hameer, you are the one ranting and raving. The people you cite show that there is no evidence of any gods. Stenger shows that some materialistic evidence shows there is UNLIKELY to be a god. Have you actually read his book?

      • Hameer
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob,

        Atheism is not lack of belief in any god, but rather the BELIEF that there is NO God. It is a philosophical perspective, not something deduced from science (just as theism, deism, idealism, and agnosticism are philosophical perspectives).

        Are you that THICK in the head?

      • Hameer
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        The comment you quote is Dr. Coyne’s, not mine! Hardy har har!

      • articulett
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        Re: Hameer.

        Remember Dunning-Kruger: the incompetent folks are too incompetent to realize they are the incompetent folks.

        The stupider they are, the more unlikely it is that the stupidity can be remedied. Use such people for entertainment purposes only. Or send them to Santi’s blog… he thinks his “acomodationism” can remedy scientific ignorance. Bwahahahahah

      • Havok
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        Atheist/atheism is derived from the Greek atheos (ἀΘεός)
        a – without
        theos – god.

        So, anyone who is without god is an atheist, whether it’s the denial you’re claiming it must be or the simple lack of belief most everyone else here seems to be claiming.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        Hammer, you are so ignorant. Don’t try to tell me what an atheist is. You are being a mere ignorant fool.

        You would not know philosophy if it hit you in your empty head. I continue to laugh and laugh at your ignorance.

      • Notagod
        Posted August 1, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink

        Hameer,

        Do you hold a BELIEF that your brain isn’t the size of a walnut or are you able to understand that it isn’t without resorting to belief?

        I don’t need belief to understand that the christian god idea is nonsense. The same goes for any other god idea that has been created.

  31. articulett
    Posted July 31, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    My lack of belief in gods is identical to my lack of belief in demons, fairies, and alien visitors.

    It’s identical to the nonbelief theists have for other myths, religions, superstitions, and supposed invisible overlords named something other than “god”.

    (But I do find it telling as to how they go out of their way NOT to understand that… to hear something “different” instead.)

  32. Posted July 31, 2009 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    “wow, such a humble opinion of yourself, Sullivan.”

    Wow, out of my whole post you concerned yourself with exactly one line: the one about yourself. And I’m the one who’s not humble.

    /rolleyes

    Yes, I’ve followed the rest of your work on this thread. I don’t see much in the way of nuance there. Meanwhile GlenD writes:

    “I wouldn’t necessarily refuse to appoint [Collins] anyhow, but there’s no question that such matters are relevant to his position.”

    Seems a reasonable stance to me, even if perhaps I don’t agree 100%. I wonder, does Glen’s willingness to not automatically reject Collins make him a ‘faitheist’ ‘accomodationist’* hypocrite troll etc, to articulett, or to you?

    (Sorry, but whenever I write these lables I can’t help being reminded of the scece in ‘Life of Brian’ where the fire-breathing zealots of the ‘People’s Front of Judea’ cast contemptuous aspersions on the ‘People’s Judean Front’)

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 31, 2009 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      …you concerned yourself with exactly one line…

      The other people can defend what they said, they don’t need me to do it for them. You dished out crap on several people.
      /disgusted with his arrogance and his blindness

      Collins pronouncements are scary. I would certainly not appoint him because his words are wacky and frightening.

    • Notagod
      Posted August 1, 2009 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Just because Collins is qualified to do the job doesn’t mean that he isn’t capable of doing harm. As it is based on what he has said already, he is giving plenty of fertile ground to those who do harm. His statements do have consequences far beyond the words that he says or writes.

  33. astrounit
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    “Must we really entrust the future of biomedical research in the United States to a man who sincerely believes that a scientific understanding of human nature is impossible?”

    It’s incredible, but there is a man who managed somehow to conduct a program to acquire a full accounting of the human genome (more or less). Not that anybody else would certainly have performed the same task in due course, but this PARTICULAR man, warmly awarded accolades for having accomplished this feat first, was thus encouraged to equate his wherewithal in managing the effort with his personal faith. That would have been fine and dandy had it stopped short right there. But Collins had to go ahead and “demonstrate” his “scientific conclusions” – through the most audacious public forums – that an agency beyond scientific scrutiny was and is responsible for all such scientific discovery.

    That man is a nut case, and it should be repeatedly shouted out from every hilltop until he is removed. His alleged management skills are completely overshadowed by his allegiance to supernaturalistic explanations. That guy isn’t a scientist any more than the local reverend who will teach precisely the same thing…that science never acheives any understanding of human nature. Religion, of course, understands EVERYTHING.


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. [...] Jerry Coyne also makes the point that the tolerance always goes only one way: if the nominee were aggressively atheist…oh, never mind. A person who was as vocal an atheist (or Muslim, or Scientologist, or Hindu) as Collins is a Christian would never even be considered for nomination. The kind of behavior exhibited by Collins on his BioLogos website, if done in service of any other belief than evangelical Christianity, would be a great big waving red flag to anyone vetting the nomination. [...]

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